Who the heck plants a tree right smack in front of their door?

That was what Number Nine was thinking as he exited Isenguard. No sooner had he exited that disgusting pool and rung out his robes then he walked right into the trunk of a tree, which he swore was not there when he went in, because if it had been there, he wouldn't have been able to get in in the first place. It was apparent to Number Nine that this forest foliage was taunting him (he hated when they did that). "Out of my way, you stupid deciduous plant life!" (Nine had to dig into his thesaurus for that one.)

In all honesty, the Ringwraith hadn't actually expected the tree to respond. Trees only talk in low budget animated films, and unless everything Number Nine knew was wrong, this was not one of those. But respond the tree did; indeed, it opened its eyes (which, Nine was forced to admit, was slightly terrifying if you weren't expecting it) and gazed down at the Nazgul. "Deciduous?" it said in an agonizingly slow voice. "Never heard that one before. Sounds… hasty."

Scared as he was, Number Nine made the quick assumption that if this thing wanted to, it could probably turn him into an Ex-Wraith (or a Naz-Gone. Nine was particularly proud of that one.) He decided to clarify. "Oh, well, deciduous is just another word for a tree that has leaves instead of needles."

The thing scratched his head with a long branch like hand (oh yes, it had arms too. And, as Nine looked more closely, legs.) as it digested this bit of information. "Hmm… that's very interesting indeed. Very interesting. But then, I suppose what you were implying was that I was a tree, hmm?"

Nine raised his hands in protest. "No, sir, of course not. I was temporarily mistaken. You look nothing like a tree, honest."

Ever so slowly, the thing, which was most definitely not a tree, bent down to examine this new visitor. "Hmm, that's good. I'm not a tree, you know. You wouldn't believe how many people make that mistake." He gave a small chuckle, as if he had made a joke. Nine responded with a nervous giggle, not wanting this thing to think that his joke (what ever it had been) wasn't funny. His giggling soon trailed off, as the thing leaned in for closer inspection. "But now then, little napkin, what if I had been a tree? You weren't thinking of harming me, were you?"

There is nothing as annoying as being referred to as a napkin to a Ringwraith. But, since Nine had called this thing a tree, he let it slide. "Oh, heck no, sir," he stammered. "I love trees! Love them! I had a pet tree when I was little! I buy fuel efficient horses! When it's cold out, I put on a sweater rather than make a fire! I tried to marry a pine when I was younger, but her parents stopped the wedding…"

The thing interrupted. "Well, that's good. If you had been planning to harm my trees, I would have been forced to kick you from here to Lothlorien."

Nine gazed up at the thing. "You can do that?"

It nodded. "Oh yes, I can kick things quite far, when I need to. I used to play foot ball for the University of Fangorn, you know."

"…really."

"Oh yes, we had quite a good team. Won the Silmaril Bowl one year, if I recall. What year was that…?"

Number Nine could see the thing was starting to reminisce, and tried to excuse himself politely. "That's very fascinating, but I really must be going…"

It was too late. The thing was still talking. "Hm, what year did Moria close down? Must've been in the 1690's, Second Age."

"You don't say. Now then…"

"Yes, I remember now. The Fangorn Ents versus the Angband Dragons. A good little University, Angband was. They finally had to close down though. Apparently they hadn't been paying their bills for centuries."

"Super. Now…"

"I can see it all now, you know. It was the fourth quarter, game all tied up, with two seconds to go. We had finally gotten into field goal range."

"Lovely. But…"

"The coach came up to me, and he said, 'Treebeard, how would you like to win this game for us?'"

"Well, he was quite a guy…"

"And I responded, 'You didn't name the University after me for nothing.' So I tied up my shoes and went out on to that field."

"What an effort. But really…"

"Well, I gave that ball a good kick. Flew straight and true. And just like that, we had won the Silmaril Bowl! Ah what a game that was."

"Uh huh. But…"

"Of course, the playing fields were five hundred yards in those days…"

"WILL YOU SHUT UP!" Nine yelled, forgetting he was very small and Treebeard very big. Treebeard looked at Nine with amazement, as if he was surprised he was even still there. Acting quickly, Nine adopted a more civil tone. "That is, I already know of your exploits. In fact, I was sent here by the University. It seems you forgot to claim your Championship Ring after you won, so I've been sent to deliver it to you."

The ent looked questionably at the Ringwraith. "Hmm, I thought I had gotten it ages ago. Oh well, better have it now."

Nine was overcome with glee as he handed Treebeard the dwarven ring. Finally, someone was taking this ring! Now he could go home and relax and not have to worry any more about…

"Hmm, it won't fit." Number Nine's joy ceased as he saw the ring was too small for the ent's finger. He handed it back to the Nazgul. "Better have it replaced."

Number Nine stammered. "No, no, we can make it fit! We'll just get you a new finger, that's all! Here, I'll cut off a thin branch from one of these dumb trees, and then we'll…"

WHAM!

It was a good thing the fields were five hundred yards in those days, Nine thought as he hurtled through the air. Otherwise the games would be over very quickly…