A soft spring breeze ruffled the topmost leaves in the trees, breaking the long held silence held within the circle. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Gandalf. Merry noticed how old he had become. He looked tired and worn.
“He needs a vacation,” thought Merry.
Finally Gimli spoke.
“Gandalf…what you are saying is madness. Sauron was defeated. The War of the Ring is over. What is this new evil you speak of?”
“I don’t know Gimli. All I know is that there is a darkness surrounding the Misty Mountains. There is a dark energy pulsing through its caverns. Orc’s are massing and building a new army.”
“I thought all the Orcs were destroyed,” said Pippin.
“Apparently not, there were many still hiding in the mountains. They probably were biding their time until the Dark Lord rose to power.”
“Too cowardly to choose a side and fight. Waiting until others did the hard part for them,” Nien shook her head, a disgusted look on her face.
“If these Orcs were so cowardly why have they all decided to create a massive army?” asked Legolas.
Gandalf looked at him, “my guess is that someone is controlling them, motivating them, someone powerful and intelligent. Orcs are hard beings to rule. They only follow people of pure evil and cunning.”
“Who?” asked Merry.
“That’s the real mystery, my dear hobbit. I’m afraid that may remain unsolved for the time. But we have more important matters to discuss. The army is growing quickly. We must build an army of our own to defeat them once and for all. Finally purging Middle Earth from evil forever,” Gandalf had a determination in his eyes that they had never seen before.
There was a long pause until Merry asked slowly, “but Gandalf…who will fight? The men of Rohan and Gondor are tired and weak from fighting such a long battle with Isenguard and Mordor and the elves are all leaving.”
Pippin was startled by his best friend’s wisdom. Sometimes he forgot all they had been through.
“Dwarves will fight!” roared Gimli, “it’s our turn to show what we’re made of.”
“That’s what I’d hope you say, Gimli. We will be very grateful for the steadfastness of the dwarves. As for men, they are a proud and noble race now that they have a new ruler. They will help in the fight and give all their strength for the cause. And elves,” Gandalf took a deep breath and looked at Nien; she looked hard back at him.
“Nien…” he began to say.
“You must for Middle Earth…”
She looked at him and everyone saw the stubbornness in her eyes. They stared at each other for a long time until finally Nien looked at the ground.
“I will do it, but only for my forest, for the Ents and for Treebeard. The forest is the first thing they’ll go after when the war is done. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if they tore Fangorn to shreds,” she looked up and there was a trace of fear in her eyes coupled with a deep sadness.
There was a long silence after Nien finished speaking. Everyone waited for an explanation of the mysterious conversation but when nothing came Legolas broke the silence.
“I will go to the house of Thranduil. My father will offer us help even if only a small troupe will come. From the sounds of things every little bit will be needed,” Legolas said resolutely.
“Good,” smiled Gandalf. “It appears Middle Earth actually stands a chance.”
But everyone who looked at him could see the fear in his eyes and become fearful themselves at the prospect of war.
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