When she was first growing up in Minas Tirith, Laramir was never an early riser, preferring to let the sun rise without her and join it later. But after returning from Kaänawe’s farm she could often be seen in Ecthelion watching the sun rise. Maybe she picked up the habit from Boromir and Faramir, who out of necessity usually beat the sun out of bed. Maybe her near-death experience in the river had given her a new appreciation for life, not to waste even one moment. But most agreed it was Gandalf: his teaching her of far away peoples gave her an interest in sunrises and sunsets, because that was when her attention was drawn to the far-away horizon where these half-myths might live. Of course Gandalf didn’t teach just Laramir but also her brothers Boromir and Faramir. Faramir loved the stories and seemed to sense there was some truth in them. Sometimes he would join his sister but usually he’d go outside the city and sit under his favorite tree, smoking his pipe. This pipe-smoking was a curious thing: at first you could often see him sitting on the city wall smoking, but word got back to Denethor, and the steward was dismayed to learn that all three of his children had picked up that vulgar habit. He convinced Boromir to give it up by appealing to duty: a future Steward had to maintain appearances. But Faramir refused because it was one of the few things his father had taught him to do. And Denethor couldn’t bring himself to ask it of Laramir, because sitting on the city wall or under a tree smoking a pipe and talking with Gandalf gave her more joy than anything else.
Whether Laramir would have actually beaten the sun that morning, we’ll never know, because Gandalf beat them both. He shook the girl gently and slowly her world came into focus. Beside him, he had two packed bags.
“Yes, I am here.”
“What are those?”
“Ah. The bags. Well, one is for me and one is for you. There’s clothes, and cloaks, and blankets, and foods–fruits, dried meats, and breads, that sort of thing–and water bottles of course. Everything for our journey. I couldn’t pack your pipe because you and Faramir were out smoking last night when I packed. Do you have it now?”
“Yes, of co–what trip, Gandalf? What are you talking about?”
“Ah, that. Your father thought you might like a trip out of the city. We have talked about the Shepherds, of course. We–your father and I–have decided it is high time you met one.” Laramir sat there dumbstruck for a moment. “Well, don’t you want to meet him? Then get dressed. We have to be out of eyeshot of town by the time the people start to wake up. Meet me in the stables at the Fifth Circle Gate when you’re ready, but no later than twenty minutes from now.”
Fifteen minutes later Laramir was hurrying toward the stable, where Gandalf held the bridles of two horses, groomed, fed, saddled, and ready to go. He took the pipe and weed from Laramir’s hand, opened her saddle bag, and placed it securely inside.
“Well, your turn. Up you go. We need to hurry now.” So Gandalf helped Laramir into her saddle, then hopped onto his own horse and with one “Hyah!” the two rode out of the stable and through the city at full force.
At first Laramir was content to let the hills roll by. The going was slow at first, what with the mountains immediately near Minas Tirith, and then the forests they had to pass through, thick with undergrowth. Not to say that it wasn’t in-teresting and beautiful, and full of lessons, as Gandalf insisted on telling her about each tree, flower, or bird that caught his eye. And Gandalf’s horse thought the terrain easy enough, as he had crossed it many times going to and fro the city, on his many adventures and errands that took him away from Minas Tirith. But Laramir’s horse seemed to find every misplaced stone and all of the undergrowth, and the sun was high in the sky by the time they hit the open plains.
Gandalf’s horse was fast, a gift from the king of Rohan, but Laramir was an able rider, and for some time she kept up with the wandering wizard. After some time, though, she could feel her horse panting under her, and his stride was forced, not fluid like it was in the wee hours of the morning. So finally Laramir said:
“Gandalf, we must either rest or slow down. If we don’t, this horse might fall from the heat, right out from under me, and wouldn’t that slow us down more?”
With a powerful laugh, the wizard nodded. “You’re right, of course. As always. Let’s make for that grove of trees–slowly, your horse really is overworked–and we’ll rest for breakfast. It’s near the fourth hour in your city: breakfast is overdue, especially for travelers like us. I believe we’ve put in more miles this morning than most men do in a week.”
Gandalf opened one of his saddle bags and produced a grand breakfast: fresh-baked white breads, and a little bit of butter, and fresh fruits, the best of early summer. He took their water-bottles and went and filled their water bottles at a near-by stream. When he returned he saw that Laramir had sliced some of the bread, and buttered it, and was waiting on him to start. He handed her a bottle and nodded for her to begin, and they were quiet for some time. When finally she’d had her fill and packed the left-overs into Gandalf’s saddle-bag, Gandalf said:
“While you’re over there, get my pipe, and yours too. I can see you’ve got questions on your mind.”
She took her time answering. First she stuffed her pipe full of weed and lit it, then blew several rings while she looked at the horizon, where she imagined great forests loomed, though she couldn’t see them yet.
“Just one, actually. Why are we really going?”
“Well, I told you that. Your father and I agree it’s high time you got out of the city and saw some of the world.”
“Ha! You, I believe, but papa? For him, the world ends with the ancient borders of Gondor. And he cares nothing for trees, and distrusts your `elvish magic’. Talking trees, yeah, right! I can hear him saying right now. And why now?”
“My dear Laramir. Your curiosity and frankness will get you in trouble some day. But to answer your question, for myself at least: I need to see Treebeard. I have read nearly all of the scrolls in your father’s libraries that could possibly be useful to me, but I’m at a dead end. I need direction, and advice. And Treebeard is a good help to an old wizard in these manners. He is wise beyond count, and more importantly he will give me the whole truth, not just what he wants me to hear. So I want to see the Ents, and this is a good opportunity for you to see them as well. Iluvatar knows, you’ll never meet him through anyone else living in Minas Tirith.”
“He has his reasons. But to explain them, I’d have to tell you much of this Treebeard, and that’s best coming from him in his own words.” He paused.
With that, he blew his last smoke-ring. “Now, it’s time to go. We have miles to go before the sun sleeps.”
So they rode, many a mile over the plains. Past farms, villages, fording rivers, over hills and through valleys. How many days, Laramir lost count. They slept, ate, and rested, all of the normal things one does for a long journey, but Laramir asked no more questions about the Ents, since Gandalf had clearly said all he had to say on the subject.
At last Gandalf slowed to a stop in front of a great wall of trees, and turned to Laramir. “You’ll see many things,” he said to her, “that you’ve never seen before, nay, even dreamed. Remember: they are different, not wrong. No matter how frightened you are, remember that nothing can hurt you so long as you are with me. And let me speak first.”
They crossed the line of trees, and rode in a short way before they were blocked by a line of trees, their limbs grown tightly together and their roots sticking up through the undergrowth. Laramir turned her horse to the right, and started to go around, but when she reached what she thought was the edge of the walls, she looked up and found that as far as she could see, the wall now extended even further. Finally one stepped forward, and grabbed her, placing her on one of its upper limbs. Another did the same to Gandalf, and before long they were rushing through the forest at canopy-level. Laramir couldn’t have said how far they traveled, because she couldn’t see the sun through the thick overhead. In fact, time stood still (so she thought), until at last the trees dropped her and Gandalf in front of a great tree. Gandalf stood up, and the tree seemed to change its shape, extending its branches, at last until blinking eyes appeared on its trunk. Gandalf turned to the waking tree and said, “Good morning, Fangorn. I am most sorry to disturb your rest, but there is someone here you should meet.”
Treebeard looked down at the little girl. “Hrum-ha-rum-rum, who is this, this, … you will have to excuse me. I have not seen one in half an age. What is it called in your tongue?”
“She is a child of Gondor.”
“A child, well that is something. Never seen a child of Gondor. But we must not be too hasty.”
He reached down slowly, and Laramir backed up frantically, but not quickly enough. Treebeard grabbed her by her collar and held her up to the light, peered at her, then set her back down.
“And–and what might you be?” Laramir finally sputtered.
“I… am an Ent.”