The Assualt on Dol Guldur
Thanks for all the reviews. Standard disclaimer applies. Let me know what you think. Still have Alexandre Dumas on the brain, but I also recommend Fanny Burney's novel Camilla. She's as witty as Jane Austen and it's been fun to read.
“I don’t think man was meant to attain happiness so easily. Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.” Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo
Chapter 15 The Assault on Dol Guldur
2996 Third Age
“There are some things in this world, Faramir, that you wont understand, and that’s ok. Willow is one of those things. When you find that you love her, it’s best not to overthink it. When we first met, she was everything I wasn’t. Thin, pale, horribly dressed, and freakishly smart, but above all she has the power of goodness in her, rightness that all of us want. It draws in good and evil. The funny thing was, she thought I was doing her a favour. I sometimes think she knew better, but she’s denied it claiming that she was young too, but it’s hard to imagine Willow was ever that young.”
“Sometimes you meet that person that will save your life, and even though you don’t know it yet, you still feel like something profound is happening. I could feel it, even as a teenager I knew Willow was important, but I didn’t know what for. The trick is to pay attention. You’ll know when someone shows up to change your life, but be weary. Not everyone will change it for the better. A vampire with a soul, is still a vampire. Where I come from, the people were plagued with drugs, and bad spirits that rotted their souls and bodies. There was this phrase they used, Meth, not even once.” She laughed and went on. “Remember Faramir, you can’t go back. Every step you take is final, and it’s best to have someone like Willow to stumble with.”
“When can I meet her?”
“Soon, we just have to avoid these rangers again. I think they’re gaining on us. You’re father must be livid.” She smiled as if the thought gave her pleasure, and Faramir couldn’t help but chuckle.
About 1101 or 1102 of the Third Age
In another life, Buffy watched Willow wither with age and slowly die. She saw her go through the slow process of gaining wisdom to go along with all that intelligence Willow was known for in youth, and then watched as her face became lined with wrinkles and her body began to fail. No amount of power could keep Willow from death, even she would yield. The one thing that Buffy never forgot about Willow, that others seemed ever ready to ignore, was that Willow was human, or born that way. Great power or not, Willow still needed friends, love, and no amount of power could change the fundemental core that lay in humanity. Even when she transformed into one of the Maiar
When Buffy visited her in Lorien, in her dreams Willow always had a timeless quality to her. Not old, but not quite young either. Wisdom and youth is a funny combination in people and she always seemed to have a shiney glowey auroa like the other beings in Aman. Now, sent to Middle Earth, Willow lacked the glow of the Gods of the west, but she retained that middle aged appearance of both wisdom and youth. But what stood out in Willow, what would always stand out, was her humanity. No matter how well Gandalf loved his friends, or how often their goals aligned, on a base level, he couldn’t understand them as Willow could. He was never human, and it showed in their interactions. He always felt more at home with Hobbits, and Radagast was obviously more concerned with animlas, and they all connected more to the elves than humans, but not Willow. She might live with the elves more often, but that was simply matter of conveinience and practicallity. They lived long, as she did, and struggled less to survive. Life was always easier hidden in the elven realms, and like Buffy, Willow settled in Greenwood for the first part of her life in Middle Earth.
She wore a green cloak and dress much like the long wiccan gowns she’s worn since her earliest days as a witch in Sunydale, but not quite as flashy. The material was plain and the dress had few embellishments, but not as plain as Radagast or Gandalf’s was. Her hair was very long and usually kept plaited away from her face, she wore soft leather boots and carried a staff. She looked at home amid the woodland elves and was given instant respect both because of what she was, but also who she was friends with. The elves thought of her and the other wizards as a kind of gift from the Valar, like Buffy, and Willow and Radagast were welcomed as honoured guests.
Her title was an important part of the way the elves interacted with her. They didn’t call her a witch claiming it to be the name for paltry human crones with little power that were as far from Willow and the other wizards in power and reverence as Buffy was to a normal human. They called her Tathareth Calen, which is Willow the Green in their preferred Sindarin though she would have many names, like all those long lived people whose name changes with time and distance. Some called her Angoliel, or daughter of the deep lore or magic. Others preferred Ruinien which means fiery red one, and even Buffy liked to call her Carangureth or red death, which, though always said with affection often received scowls from the elves if they heard her. Her other titles came later, and with her travels and battles, but for the first few years she was simply known as Willow, Tathareth.
Buffy offered to build her a flet, but Willow preferred to stay in the underground halls. Even after several months of travel she was not accostomed to living outside, not the way her friend was, and was much happier to dwell in something like she was used to in Aman. She was, however, very happy to walk in the woods with Buffy, Radagast, and elves as she got to know them. While Buffy slaughtered the orcs and spiders pushing ever south, Willow and Radagast helped to heal the trees and animals of the forest. Radagast had an affinity for the animals, so Willow, thinking it fitting took care of the trees that were poisoned enough to need help healing. It would take decades for the forest to look something like it used to, but with the help of wizards the process would be easier on the forest.
Although she had known that trees had spirits, that they could speak, there is something special about Greenwood. They were more alive than in other places. The elves believed it was their presence that kept them from regressing, but Willow knew it was more than that. The forest grew from a place of power. It was perhaps the reason evil was called here, and would always seek to have control of the natural well that sprung from the earth. Was Mordor once like this? No one alive lived in that region before Sauron except Shelob, and she wasn’t telling. If there were men there once, they have all gone, or been tainted by his evil, and there is no knowing if the land always had an evil quality, or if he tainted it, like he did everything else, wielding it for his own purposes. Nobody knew if left alone, it might have turned into a place like Greenwood.
The friendship between Buffy and Willow was not the kind that could dissipate with centuries apart, but it would need a kind of reintroduction period. Willow may have had information on what happened in Middle Earth, and Buffy did talk to her when she sought rest in Lorien, but keeping up with the events that shape a friends life, is very different than being in their presence, and hearing the tales from her own lips. Seeing the effects first hand of a life made up of love and war, friendships, service, and loss is a far cry from hearing things from Varda and Manwё.
Willow too had tales to tell. She completed a transformation into a Maia and was trained in the magic of Arda and more than that she learned to adapt her own knowledge to that of this dimension. She learned languages, spoke with the people Buffy knew of as legend in Middle Earth, knew the histories of Arda and all the creatures within and without. Her life had been much more peaceful than Buffy’s, but none the less interesting.
“So you’re immortal now, like me?” Buffy asked.
“No, not like you. Even at the end of this world, dimension, I will still exist.”
“But I won’t?” Buffy responded caught off guard.
“Well yeah, but not in the same way.”
“You’re one of the Gods now, aren’t you?”
“Not quite, though I suppose if I were I would be like a demi god. If Manwё is like the primordial gods before the Titans, I would be like the granddaughter of an Olympian. Still powerful in my own right, but I don’t create worlds, or sing into being the plants and people. I do what I always did, borrow power from what others created.”
“But you are more powerful now, right?”
“Yeah, think of my power on Earth as a sort of water balloon. I could only fill it so much before it exploded, but becoming a Maia the balloon is irrelevant. In this form I do have a limit, and it is much like the one I had on Earth, but bigger, and in a different shape. Does that make sense?”
“Yep, and as long as your still my Will it doesn’t matter, but I need to know what you can do. If Middle Earth had a Slayer General against evil I would be it, and I need to know what you’re capable of.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t asked about the Scoobys.”
“I wanted to, but I’ve been focusing so much on the eight legged freaks building their webs in my territory that I figured it could wait.”
“You’ve changed.” Willow responded thoughtfully.
“Well they’ll still be there, in Mandos’ heavenly realms right? I want to listen to what you have to say when I have time to savour it. To think of only them, and not the battle we have to fight.”
“Too bad, I’m going to tell you a little now, because who knows what’s going to happen, and you’ve been waiting too long to do things. That’s one of the things Dawn wanted me to tell you. Stop stalling and go find that golden haired Adonis of an elf and let yourself love and be loved.”
“Dawn said that?” Buffy asked.
“Well, it was crasser than that, but yeah.”
“I can imagine.” Buffy smiled and shook her head. “She has to know that I can’t just settle down. I have people to protect.”
“She said you’d say that, but that this martyr bit is getting old, literally. Her words, not mine, and she thinks you could, and I quote in the wisdom of Faith, “Get some and get gone.”
“Dawn didn’t say that did she?” Buffy asked scandalised.
“She did, and then rolled her eyes and said that she knew you wouldn’t do that, but stalling wasn’t the answer either.”
“I’m just not ready yet! I mean, with Valandil I knew he’d die. It didn’t make it easier, but until death does you part has a different meaning for me. I knew we wouldn’t be together forever, but with Glorfindel, it’s the forever kind in more than just words.”
“Buffy, you know I’m not going to try and push you at a man, but I will say fear is a stupid reason to avoid what you know will make you happy, especially for you or brave mystical warrior.”
“Looks like I’m not the only one who’s changed. Where’d that sarcasm come from? Anyway, I know I need to do something about Glorfindel, and maybe after this big bad is squashed I’ll go talk to him, but I want to spend some time with you and my new brother first. I know everyone thinks their own children are the cutest, or but by the Valar, he is cuter than any other elf baby I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, elf children are adorable, and really smart. They pick stuff up so fast the last time I was teaching one, he had to keep reminding me that he already knew all that.”
“Elves have children in Aman?” Buffy asked curiously.
“Of course, they don’t die, so why not?”
“I just never thought of it like that, you know? I sort of pictured it like heaven, but it’s home for them, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, they have way more elves there than here. One day I think you’ll see it.”
And so they talked of power and men, and eventually Sauron, and how they might get rid of him and Willow saved her other messages for later.
The assault on Dol Guldur could not happen quickly. Thousands of acres needed to be retaken and held before they could even consider an attack on the fortress. Gandalf was sought and warriors from Lothlorien and Imladris were requested and even men from Gondor and Rhovanion came. The fortress itself was a problem. Ironically, Built by Oropher in the Second Age upon Amon Lanc it was meant to withstand an assault from Mordor and would be difficult to take. Difficult, but not impossible, and that wasn’t really the problem anyway. It was Sauron that they had to worry about. There was no knowing what he was capable of though if the size of his army was any indication, he was still very powerful.
The others weren’t so sure that Sauron was the necromancer living in the old fortress, but Buffy knew better. She remembered hearing the first part of her own prophecy from Tara, and the explanation about Isildur and the ring, and there was no doubt in her mind that Sauron was behind the darkness in her forest. It was his modus operandi after all to darken and taint, and use orcs and spiders. She knew he would show up some time or another, but the quickness with which he spread his evil webs through the forest surprised her. She thought he would be weaker, slower, and less overt.
Gandalf and Willow agreed with her, and it became clear that Radagast would defer to their judgement in matter such as these. Healing animals was a different story and he’d often argue the properties of one plant over another with Willow for hours until he either accepted her view, or she his. Curunir as the elves called him, or Saruman as he was later known by most, was still in the far west, learning from Cirdan, or so it was believed. He was much less fiery than Mithrandir, and made his moves and thoughts slowly, but as their leader, he was respected and advice sought. However, it could not be obtained before Buffy fought her way to the outer defences of the castle.
What they found as they fought south of the mountains was devastating. As they neared Amon Lanc Buffy, in shocked disbelief, hurried the heartbroken elves on. Grief must wait, though she knew a sad song or two couldn’t. The trees or what was left of them thinned to almost nothing. Huge areas had been cleared away around the mountain. All that was green was gone away, and everything was grey under the haze that still blocked out the sunlight in this part of the forest. No signs of life remained except that perverted half-life of orcs. Remnants of human villages remained only as sickening caution for those who might wander near. Their heads on spikes, still twisted in agony as they rotted were scattered through orc encampments. Everything else was destroyed. They didn’t even retain the houses for use, but burnt them to the ground, using only those things that might be useful; water skins, weapons, and tools.
By the time they neared the ruins of Oropher’s castle, something Buffy was very surprised to see not only intact, but built upon and remodelled with demons and scenes of torture carved into the stone, Buffy was more than angry. She was furious with herself for leaving Greenwood as long as she did, enraged at the nerve of Sauron, and unbelievably sad over the loss of so much life. Corporeal or not, Buffy was going to find a way to make Sauron suffer one way or another. The first thing she knew she could do was push him out of the forest and get him back on the run.
The battle for Greenwood was already won in a way. It was fought in the woods, and on the Emyn Duir and south. Dol Guldur and the surrounding area was simply the last holdout, but between Buffy, three wizards, and hundreds of warriors, there was little doubt of success. The trick was, not to lose her people in the process. There were still a sizeable number of orcs left to guard the castle, and spiders weaved in and out of the windows and open doorways of the castle, but even if they were outnumbered, Buffy’s warriors far out classed the remaining defences.
The castle itself, like a Cathar castle and those sometimes wrongly called Cathar castles in France was set upon the top of the mountain in a very defensible spot. If there was an upside, it was that Amon Lanc was not steep except on the south side, and it wasn’t difficult to get to the main gate facing the west. The other benefit Buffy and the elves had was that apart from the new construction, they knew the castle and the area well. Elves had long ago abandoned it as a home, but it was always minimally maintained, and often used as a meeting place for elves still living in the southern half of the forest, or it was before Sauron came.
After scouting the area for a week to make sure there were no surprise armies lying in wait, Buffy directed her people to attack the army at the base of the mountain first. There would be casualties, but it couldn’t be helped. The orcs stationed inside the castle, and along the mountain would be able to shoot down at them while the elves and men killed off the orcs below but Buffy had archers too. The only problem was, that Sauron had cut enough of the forest so that they would have to come out of the trees to shoot within range of the army and the lower defensive walls. They couldn’t even hit the castle unless they were well on their way up the mountains, but the arrows shot from behind the outer walls of the castles defences could reach the battle below. Fortunately, this would also take out many orcs as well. Shooting from such a distance did not lend to accuracy, especially with the often poor quality of bow used. The elves of Greenwood had much better eye site, and their long bows could shoot farther.
Arrows shot from the elves at the waiting army at the base of the mountain, from the orcs at the castle and from below, and for a while it seemed that, like battles of old, it would be a fight to see who could last the longest, but Buffy had a strategy. It was chaos with so many arrows shooting from both sides, and Buffy knew a simple battle of archers wouldn’t win the castle. Certain groups would rush the enemy line shielded as well as possible, and as they began taking orcs out from behind, several other groups would rush at the front. They needed to penetrate the line of archers if they wanted to gain ground. Buffy led the first team, and before the orcs could regroup, the second, third, and fourth ran at the waiting orcs.
As a group of spiders ran down the mountain toward the battle, Buffy got her first glimpse at what would become known as an Olog-hai the first torog (troll) that could withstand sunlight. They followed the spiders shaking the ground as they ran. Buffy stopped, looked up at these new foes, and yelled a warning to her fighters. Even amid the clash of hundreds of swords they could hear her. Most had already noticed them, or felt the slight vibrations, but Buffy didn’t want to take chances. She pulled out the scythe holding it in her left hand, as she used Ringil in her right and fought to be the first to try her hand at these new foes.
Trolls by nature were violent and used for killing, but they were unpredictable, and though supposedly created by Morgoth, they did not always follow orders, and often scattered during battle killing as many from their own side, as the other. On first appearance Buffy realized these new trolls were more focused than others she’d fought. They didn’t become side tracked by orcs or what was happening behind the wall. They ran straight for the wizards, and Buffy sped up to intercept them.
Trolls were very large, heavy and strong, and could take out a lot of men in one swipe with their usual giant hammer or axe. They were also difficult to kill without either very good accuracy so as to shoot them in the eyes, or incredible strength to penetrate their stone like skin. Buffy was good at both. The trick was to get behind them, and not let them crowd you. More importantly, don’t get hit with their clubs, hammers, and axes. She would probably survive, but it would be a painful recovery.
While Tauriel couldn’t be counted on to stand in one place and guard the wizards, Buffy had ordered Mablung and several others to stand with them, and make sure they weren’t touched. Buffy was to lead the physical assault, the wizards began chanting their spell to banish Sauron from Dol Guldur. It was a good plan, as long as the wizards didn’t get ground up into little wizards pieces for trolls to eat. Buffy came at the first troll from the side leaping in the air as she sliced into its neck with her scythe using the momentum to swing around carving a line through the thick skin and slid Ringil through an eye. Leaping away before it could fall, she just barely rolled out of the way of the second troll. Her element of surprise gone, she prepared to face it head on.
An arrow from behind her took out the second troll, and she used its body as a springing point to leap for the next flying straight at its eyes, which did the job, but was difficult to pull out before the thing fell down. She was always afraid the sword would one day break, but even penetrating the back of the skull and skin of these creatures didn’t bent or chip the blade. The next troll had watched her take out the others, and was more cautious, but Buffy didn’t feel the need to focus on their heads, and taking it by surprise, cut into the back of its heal with the scythe, and while it stumbled, she jumped up and plunged her sword into its open mouth.
In battle, there were moments when Buffy could hear and see and feel everything that happened in real time with almost painful intensity. Her senses were honed and so heightened that she might become overwhelmed. At other times everything slowed down and turned off. Even colour seemed to disappear, and her sense of touch was muted as if she had control of her limbs, but they were numb and tingly like novocaine. The only thing that mattered was what she was doing, the outlines of these beasts, and killing them.
In this state, she often thought she controlled gravity, or at least manipulated it. Everything around her was white, formless, groundless, except the trolls which became slick angry black demons as if made up of the black blood beneath their stone skin. Flying at them with slow motion cartoon liquid grace, she twirled around in the air, part of air, like a fast wind cutting through the trees bowling them over. Like a spring river tossing rocks and trees as it drives away from the melting mountains. Pivoting from one slash to another she jumped around so fast the elves quit trying to help for fear they might hit her. One after the other trolls fell, and soon Buffy was left alone blinking the thick white liquid air away, allowing her senses to return she rushed to help the others shaking off the shiver that ran up her spine like colder air after a bath in a warm spring.
After killing so many orcs and spiders during the months preceding the battle, Sauron’s forces were down, and he couldn’t sustain a long battle. There would be no need for a siege, but that didn’t mean he would give up easily. The elves advanced up to the castle as the wizards chanted following behind and Buffy felt something vile and ancient rising from the inner walls of the castle. The ground began to shake, and words of an old black language echoed through the forest and fought against the wizards.
Willow began to rise and her own chanting became more commanding as she pointed her staff toward the castle. Grey and black smoke rolled out of the donjon, but it was more than fog. Murky evil vapours sprouted out in tendrils poisoning the air and choking elves and orcs alike. Many fled back, at least away from the roiling haze. Buffy was feeling rather more sick than brave as the evil penetrated her system. It latched onto the slayer part of her and slowly, within her head she began to hear sinister laughter, and a tug at her power. She could feel a pull as if from the very cells she was made of and fearing that it might actually be possible to separate her from her powers, she began to focus her energy trying to hold up a shield with Narya.
The laughter only increased, but the ring began to do its job, and Buffy began to push away whatever evil consciousness was attempting to pull her apart. Willow, noticing the battle Buffy was fighting, instantly focused her power on Buffy banishing what she was sure was Sauron, and pushing him away from her friend. Just as Buffy collapsed, Mablung dragged her back as far from the smoke as he could, and Willow turned back to the castle. She rose again above the battle avoiding a few feeble attempts by the remaining orcs to shoot her down and descended on the castle glowing brightly. Gandalf, with his huge purposeful strides marched toward the gates as well, though Radagast remained attempting to contain the tendrils of evil that still tried to work their way into the elves and men that had already retreated.
When Gandalf reached Willow, she dropped down to his level and grasping his hand, they started chanting again, and in an earth shaking scream drew out the evil within. At first it was a vast black cloud without distinguishable form, but as Willow contained the evil, it condescended, though no less tall, into a compact humanoid smoky form, not solid but contained. It would not yield to Willow, no matter how powerful she was and continued to speak its own spells of resistance. They echoed throughout the valley below the mountain in the chaos of power and thundering voices. Willow’s voice, clearer than the others and brighter, higher and more melodious, and it was almost as if she fought all the voices. As if the corruption of Melkor’s voice was being brought back around to the divine song of Eru. That old war new again in Willow and Sauron.
Radagast cowered beneath it. Gandalf stilled and listened while Willow and Sauron fought a battle of wills, and with only one other voice to contend with Willow began slowly to win. She was fatigued physically, but not yet magically. As the symphony reached its crescendo Buffy stood up, rushed over to Willow, and grabbing onto her hand, Willow drew on the extra power Buffy had, and howling with rage and explosion of rock, smoke, and fire Sauron was expelled from Greenwood.
Still holding onto Buffy’s hand, Willow descended to the ground, and walked wobbly over to a fallen stone, plopped herself down in exhaustion. Buffy rushed down to the elves and men grabbing a water skin and quickly made her way back to Willow. Gandalf was already there doing the universal tests, ‘how many fingers am I holding up,’ and looking at Willow with surprise and affection. In the span of his life, he had only known Willow for a brief period, but she always managed to surprise him. Her power was often used in ways he didn’t know. It was a matter of education. Gandalf was as powerful as Willow, probably more so but he channelled it in his unique way, just as she did. Radagast, though somewhat less powerful, too had his own way of using power for good.
Gladly accepting the water, she looked at Buffy curiously. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, he just tried to rip my power out of my body, no big.”
“How did he know to try that?”
“It’s a long story, but I think, have you heard of Melian? Do you know the prophecy?”
“Oh, of course we talked about it after the balrog explosion. Sauron knows what you are and where your power comes from.”
“Yeah.” Buffy, seeing the elves advancing on them decided this discussion was best left for another time, and went about ordering the elves and men find and tend to the wounded and pile up the orcs for burning. A small group went into the castle itself with Gandalf and Buffy and they quickly dispatched the remaining orcs, spiders, and trolls. What was once a beautiful old castle now felt scary and dirty and they crept along expecting traps and poisons at every turn, and they were not wrong.
It took a week to clear the castle of magical objects, and dark creatures. Buffy was secretly hoping for a vampire, but none were forthcoming. However, there were plenty of orcs hidden south of the mountain to be killed, and she spent the next several weeks cleaning it out as the injured were healed and carried to their homes. There would always be a spider presence in Greenwood after Sauron was kicked out, but they were few and Buffy kept their numbers down, though the orcs were completely eradicated for at least a short time.
Fearful that this portion of the ancient forest would become like the Brown Lands, Buffy consulted with the wizards and elves about replanting the forest. Apparently Radagast took that as an invitation, and from that very day with Willow’s help he began trying to heal animals and trees and land of the taint of evil.
Things changed quickly then. Gandalf, thinking his services no longer needed said his goodbyes, and promised to spend more time with Willow and Buffy later. He wanted to explore more of the world and was gone before the last bodies were burned. Willow, on the other hand, decided to make Dol Guldur her home. This was once the beautiful home of Oropher, and in the span of seventy five years the orcs had created a frightening castle out of the ruins of an old elf kingdom. They must have toiled day and night like slaves to transform and enlarge it. Originally the focus had not been on size, but rather aesthetics, and closeness and openness with the mountain and nature. Sauron seem to have a need to make it bigger. Windows and doorways were now closed up, carvings of elves and the Valar were disfigured and destroyed completely in favour of tributes to Sauron and the might of orcs and trolls, or humans and elves dying in battle. It was horrific, but Buffy was sure if anyone could fix it, it would be Willow.
Willow didn’t explain why she would want such a place, but as nobody else had any desire to take control of the area, she had no one to argue with her, and Thranduil would not deny her the use of such a place. He would be only too happy to have a powerful wizard keeping watch on the southern portion of the forest. Willow’s presence would invite others back to the forest too. Galadriel would spend many years there, and a strong bond of friendship would be made with the elves of Lothlorien. Amroth, though not often able to leave his own kingdom, invited Willow to spend much of her time with him, and they became close friends as well. Many of the elves forced north with the invasion of Sauron returned south, and Willow had friends close enough to her whenever she wanted company.
She was well placed to meet with many people in Middle Earth, and late one afternoon while walking through the new grove that she and Radagast lately planted, came upon a wandering tree, or more precisely an ent. She watched it approach and stop to examine the new trees transplanted both from Lothlorien and in the unspoiled parts of Greenwood. She wasn’t sure but it looked almost happy, and patting the top of the tree affectionately, continued to examine the newly restored area.
She had heard of such creatures, and always wanted to meet them, but hadn’t the chance yet to seek one out. Buffy had returned north to make sure with the army diverted that nothing attacked there, and Radagast was always wandering through the forest bumbling around healing animals and talking to himself, so except for the elves not very far away, Willow was alone as she approached the ent.
He was very tall, nearly three times the average human height, had a beard, brown eyes that seemed shine green in places, and though his body was like a tree with bark and pointed twigs at the top, his arms and hands were smooth freeing them for use that a tree might otherwise not have. With a gasp Willow noticed his feet, and got the attention of the ent. They were huge with seven toes and carried mud and sticks and leaves from walking all day in the forest.
“Hello.” He said very slowly, but happily. “Who are you?”
“I am Willow the guardian of this castle and the southern part of the forest under the protection of Thranduil’s kingdom.”
“Now don’t be hasty, Willow did you say? Hmmmmmm.” He peered down at her and extending a hand to her plaits said, “You do not look like any Willow I have met before.” Continuing slowly he added, “But I haven’t met them all.”
“It’s just my name, I am a wizard, here at the behest of the Valar.”
“A wizard hmmmm, I did see another, Gandalf was his name. Hmmmmmmm.”
“What’s your name?” Willow asked.
“I am called Treebeard by some and Fangorn by others, but I have many names and each one added to the next tells a story, too long for today.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Treebeard, I’ve heard a lot about you. Would you like to come in for something to eat, or drink?” Suddenly she realized she had no idea what kind of things it ate. Soil? Water? It must take something.
“Let’s not be hasty. There are fine young trees to speak to, but I wonder what has become of the old trees that lived here? Have you cut them all down?” His tone began to cool, and Willow took a step back.
“No! We tried to save them, but Sauron had already cut down the trees here, so we transplanted these from another part of the forest in the hopes that we might bring new life.”
Fangorn almost looked like he wasn’t paying attention to her, or that he was lapsing into a silent meditation, but he was simply reaching out to the trees around him and listening to their tale. It was true of course, that she had transplanted them, and the whole forest seemed to respond to his question and suddenly he was filled with images of orcs, evil and battle. Eventually the voices turned to love, and they spoke to him of Willows gentle treatment and healing powers. She had rescued so many poisoned trees almost dead that she had earned a permanent home in their forest.
“Hmmmmm.” He repeated it several times and Willow wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say, but then he scoffed and laughed a hard barking laugh so foreign to Willow she took several more steps back. “Hmmmmm, the Gilrin was here. A great lover of trees and a fine teller of tales, but it is you that heals the trees here. Birch and beech alike they sing of you this morning. Hmmmmmm.”
“Well I have always loved trees too, and Yavanna asked me to watch over them, and we couldn’t live without them. I can’t understand why Sauron always cuts them down, his minions would die without air, and it is the trees that make air, well sort of, and here the trees are so friendly and smart, I can’t imagine cutting one down.”
In a mysterious, ancient, knowing sort of way, he smiled at her and bowed his head slightly.
“Do you think they will survive? Buffy, uh, the Gilrin, was worried that the land would become like the Brown Lands.”
“Hmmmmm, don’t be hasty, don’t be hasty the land is fine, and the trees grow. They could do with some rain, but they are quite happy here.”
Willow visibly sighed in relief. “We were so worried that he cursed the land, and my powers are still developing in this body. I am not nearly as sensitive as I was before I came here, so I wasn’t sure, and-“
He laughed again and the trees around them gently rustled their leaves in response. Willow calmed down some more and said, “So Mister Treebeard I was just about to walk back for afternoon tea, but I’m completely at a loss for what to offer you, but I invite you to stay and dine with me if you will.”
“Hmmmmm, I haven’t had tea in a very long time, but perhaps a small draught of water. This dry weather is hard on us ents especially when we travel.”
A small ‘draught’ of water turned into several buckets, and tea turned into many hours of talking. Treebeard wanted to hear about the battle, and every time Willow began to rush through a particular part he’d stop her, and make her explain certain points in detail. It was frustrating to her story telling, but by the time Treebeard wandered north several days later, they were on very friendly terms, and to help better heal the trees he taught her to make ent and tree draughts. They were interchangeable for regular trees if they can be called that, though ents preferred their own special blend.
With a promise to visit Wellinghall, Willow waved goodbye to her new friend as he slowly clomped his way north through the forest. He took so long examining and communing with the trees that he was still in sight the next morning. He certainly lived up to his motto.
Next up, more Legolas, and I think it’s time something happened with Glorf.