The company stopped at the edge of the grey and menacing forest that loomed above them. None of them wanted to enter the shadowed forest, knowing that this was no ordinary forest. All eyes turned upon Gandalf as he glanced over his shoulder at the uncertain company and then proceeded into the forest. The company watched as he rode through the arched branches and into the gloom. Reluctantly, the company followed behind him in pairs, their eyes darting around the forest as the sense of unease settled over them. Gandalf led them through the forest, along a small stream that trickled along the side of the path as it splashed over the dark stones. Fallen leaves floated down the stream on the cool, clear water.
The company rode in silence for a long time and Legolas continuously glanced from side to side at the trees.
“I have never seen any trees with the likes of these.” Legolas said, his eyes taking in the strange appearance of the dark trees.
“They seem vaguely familiar to me.” Silvren muttered as she rode next to him, thinking that the trees resembled the ones from Fangorn Forest. She glanced over her should and saw that Eanil was also glancing about at the strange forest.
“How I wish to walk among them and listen to their conversations.” Legolas said dreamily.
“No!” Gimli shouted. “Not while I ride with you! Leave the trees alone!”
Silvren sighed to herself as she listened to Gimli describe the Glittering Caves to Legolas. Even though she wore the tunic Eówyn had given her, she wore her leggings beneath it and rode astride her horse. She couldn’t stand riding what Men call side-saddle.
It wasn’t long before the company came to a spot where the road branched off in two directions. The road going east led to Edoras and the road going north led to Isengard. They took the road towards Isengard.
As they passed under the overhanging branches of the trees and were leaving the woods, Legolas halted and cried out, “There are eyes in the trees!”
The others turned in surprise and stared at the trees and golden eyes that seemed to have disappeared. Legolas turned Arod around, desiring to go back into the woods.
“Legolas.” said Silvren.
“No, no!” Gimli shouted. “You must let me down before you go off into that forest. I don’t want to see any eyes!” fretted Gimli.
“Now is not the time, Legolas.” Gandalf said. And even as he spoke, three strange figures as tall as trolls came out from the trees, not paying attention to the riders as they passed by.
“What are these strange creatures?” Théoden asked Gandalf.
“Herdsmen, Shepards of the Forest.” answered Gandalf. “Also called Ents.” He glanced back at Silvren who smiled in return. “Come, let us be on our way.” He turned back around and nudged Shadowfax forward.
The company rode out of the woods and out upon the plains under the sinking sun that cast an orange glow across the sky. They rode even under the full glow of the moon, covering as much ground as possible as they followed the road which dipped between rising hills. The road wound its way to the river’s edge where rushing waters usually flowed over the rocks but was now deprived of water.
“The river has dried up.” Silvren muttered to herself and then glanced back at Míriel who rode behind her. Silvren rolled her eyes at Míriel who was staring dreamily at Éomer.
“Saruman.” Éomer hissed as his eyes followed the dry riverbed, taking in the rocks and cracks that had been left exposed.
“More than likely.” Gandalf answered as he glanced about the open plains. “But this is our road. Come.” he said and led the company across the dry riverbed and then rode more swiftly until about the middle of the night when they finally stopped to rest.
Darkness lay about them as they rested by the foot of the Misty Mountains, for the moon was hidden behind the peak of the mountain. A tall spire of smoke rose from the distance and caught the moon’s pale light as it grew higher. The smoke billowed above them and covered the starry sky. The company camped beside the empty riverbed, but only some were able to sleep, if any.
It was late in the night and Silvren slept curled up next to Legolas with Aragorn a few feet away from her. Míriel lay asleep at her and Legolas’ feet. Silvren’s eye flashed open at the sound of a watchman’s cries; Legolas and Aragorn also woke from their sleep and sat up. They gazed up at Gandalf who stood in the middle of the camp as a dark mass rolled towards the company.
“Stay where you are!” Gandalf commanded in a loud, stern voice. His voice was just as threatening as the mysterious mass which was quickly approaching them. “Draw no weapons, wait and it will pass!”
Silvren scooted closer into Legolas’ embrace as the dark mist gathered about them. They could hear the voices and whispering and groaning as the ground began to shake beneath them. Silvren shuddered as her eyes darted about her, watching the darkness creep by them.
It wasn’t long before the mist had passed and the ground stopped shaking but it seemed to last a long time. No one slept anymore that night even though nothing strange was to be heard or seen except that water came rushing into the riverbed beside them.
The next day, they rode up to a great ring shaped wall constructed of stone and bore only one entrance. A great archway formed in the southern wall with two mighty iron doors to keep out unwanted guests. There, next to the gate upon a heap of rubble, stood a hobbit with another one sitting beside him.
A smile spread over Silvren’s face when she noticed the hobbits. It had been some time since she had last seen them.
“Welcome, my lords and lady to Isengard.” The one standing up said as he pointed to Orthanc and held his pipe in his left hand. “I am the door-warden, Meridoc, son of Saradoc.”
“You young rascals!” Gimli cried out from behind Legolas as he peered around the elf’s arm. “We tire ourselves in battle and running league after league to rescue you and we find you feasting and smoking!”
“We are sitting on a field of victory and came across some well-earned comforts.” Pippin said with a full mouth and Merry leaned forward, breathing smoke out of his mouth as if to torment Gimli.
“The salted pork is particularly good.” Pippin added.
“Salted pork?” Gimli asked with widened eyes, his mouth beginning to water just at the thought of food.
“Hobbits.” Gandalf muttered, barely shaking his head.
“We are under orders from Treebeard, who’s taken over management of Isengard.” Merry told them.
“And where is Treebeard?” asked Gandalf.
“I believe he is on the north side.”
“Thank you, young Meridoc. Come, Théoden, we shall go meet with Treebeard.” Gandalf said and rode towards the northern side of Isengard with the king and the rest of his company.
“Show us to the food, you villains.” Gimli smiled as he and the other companions dismounted.
“Follow us.” Merry as he and Pippen climbed down from the pile of rubble. The two hobbits led the hungry companions under the arch and through a wide doorway.
They came into a large chamber with several smaller doors on the other side of the room. A small hearth and chimney was on one side of the room; a small fire burning upon the logs.
“I built the fire to cheer us up.” Pippin piped up with a wide grin. “A fire is quite handy. I will make some toast for you, though the bread is a few days old.”
Aragorn and the other three companions seated themselves at one end of a long table that stood in the middle of the room. The hobbits disappeared through one of the doors on the far wall, but weren’t gone for long.
“There’s a store room in there.” Pippin said as they returned carrying dishes and utensils and food. They bought salted pork, bacon, butter, honey, and bread.
The four companions ate the small meal that the hobbits had generously prepared for them. When they were finished, they six of them walked outside for some fresh air. The two hobbits climbed up on a large pile of rubble and the others seated themselves on different pieces of rubble. Gimli, Aragorn, and the hobbits smoked in silence while Silvren and Legolas lay upon a large stone, gazing up at the sun and blue sky. Legolas sang softly in elvish as Silvren quietly listened to the smooth, comforting melody of his voice.