Fangorn Forest. The name sent shivers of awe and fear up the spines of the three hunters, who were traking their way through the maze of hulking trees and knarled roots. A man, an elf, and a dwarf.
“Orc blood!” Gimli said in disgust, after tasting the sticky black substance dripping off a leaf.
Aragorn ran forward to examine something on the ground.
“These are strange tracks…” He mused.
Gimli peered into the shadows and shapes of the forest.
“The air is so close in here.” He said.
“This forest is old. Very old.” Legolas looked up and around. “Full of memories…and anger.”
The trees groaned and shook. The three looked up in apprehension.
“The trees are speaking to each other. The elves started it…waking up the trees…teaching them to talk.” He finished quietly.
“What do trees have to talk about?”
Legolas turned suddenly.
“Aragorn, nad no ennas!”
Aragorn quickly moved over to stand deside the elf.
“The White Wizard approches.” Legolas answered quietly. Aragorn drew in a breath.
“Do not let him speak, he will put a spell on us. We must be quick!”
He drew his sword halfway out of it’s sheath, Legolas notched an arrow, and Gimli gripped his axe.
Suddenly they turned with a yell. They were imedaitly blinded by a bright light. Legolas let loose an arrow, but it was deflected by the Wizard’s staff. The same happened to Gimli’s axe. Aragorn’s sword became too hot to hold. They all stood, trying to see into the light.
The Wizard spoke, though none recognized the voice.
“You are traking the footsteps of two young hobbits. They passed this way, the day before yesterday. They met someone they did not expect. Does that comfort you?”
“Who are you? Show yourself!” Aragorn shouted.
The Wizard stepped forward and the light faded some. The three stared, open mouthed at the person before them.
“It cannot be…” Aragorn breathed.
Legolas was the first to really find his voice.
“Forgive me. I thought you were Saruman.” He said, kneeling.
“I am Saruman…or at least Saruman as he should be.”
Aragorn stepped toward the wizard. “You fell!” He said, almost accusingly.
“Through fire and water.” Gandalf got a faraway look in his eyes. “From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought him, the Balrog of Morgoth. Untill at last I throw down my enemy and smote his ruin on the mountainside.”
“Darkness took me and I strayed out of thought and time. Stars wheeled overhead and each day was as long as a life age of this earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back untill my task is done.
Aragorn still wore a shocked and emotional expression on his face.
“Gandalf?” The wizard suddenly brightened as he remebered the name. “Yes…that’s what they used to call me. Gandalf the Grey. That was my name…” He mused.
“Gandalf!” Gimli said to choked up to say anything more.
“I am Gandalf the White now. And I come back to you now at the turn of the tide.”
Gandalf turned and started to make his way through the forest.
“Come quickly now. One stage of your journey is over, another begins. War had come to Rohan. We must ride to Edoras with all speed.”
They moved quickly through the forest with Gandalf leading them. When they reached the end of it, Gandalf whistled two long notes. They heard a horse call back accross the plains. Then they heard another call.
Two horses came galloping over the fields. The leading one was white and held his head high. The other was a ruddy brown with black mane and tail.
“Those are of the Mearas, unless my eyes are sheated by some spell.” Legolas said in awe. The white horse came to a halt right in front of Gandalf.
“This is Shadowfax. He’s the lord of all horses and he’s been my friend through many perils.”
So awed by the lord of horses standing in front of them, they barely noticed when the other horse stopped beside them. Gandalf looked up to the other horse and smiled.
“So, you made it at last…” He said warmly. It was then that they noticed the horse was carrying a rider, cloaked in dark grey.
“Well I wasn’t going to let you have all the fun!” The rider said and Gandalf chuckled. The rider reached up and pulled back the hood of the cloak. To the surprise of the three hunters, deep crimson waves of hair tumbled down to the shoulders of a woman! For the second time that day, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli were dumbstruck. The girl let out a tinkling laugh and her grey eyes sparkled with delight.
When Aragorn was finally able to think clearly, he turned to Gandalf.
“What is going on here?” He asked, bewildered, looking between the wizard and the girl. “Who is this?”
The old wizard smiled again.
“Oh, I suppose you haven’t met yet. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, this is my daughter, Rahne.”