Forest Assault

By Nieriel Raina

Thranduil looked down at the rock at his feet. It had landed there after nearly hitting him. He cast his senses outwards, searching for any possible assailant. There was nothing — nothing but the steady hum of life from the forest. On this incline, it was possible the rock could have just come lose and rolled down the hill, he supposed, but the thing had been airborne, as if thrown.

He shrugged and continued on his way, ignoring the nagging doubt at his having insisted on traveling without an escort. His reasoning had been that he would move faster and with less notice. Now he was jumping at shadows that were not even there! Bah! Been away from this part of the forest too long is all.

The forest had matured and become more beautiful since the fires that had nearly destroyed parts of it ten years ago. With the burning of all the thick undergrowth, the trees had more room to grow. Small flowers painted the dappled spots of sunlight along the sides of the path, where before had only been gloom and darkness. So much had changed. These places had once been murky and covered in Shadow, though the trees here, just south of the Mountains, had not been twisted to their cores as those closer to Dol Guldur. To see them full of light and green again brought great joy to his heart.

How he wished he had time to stop and commune with all of Eryn Lasgalen as he passed through! The weather was perfect, too early for the heat of summer but far enough into spring and the Awakening that life rejoiced and flourished all around him. But his meeting with Celeborn could not be delayed. His kinsman would be leaving East Lórien to dwell with his grandsons in Imladris. They needed to discuss what would become of the southern wood. Thranduil had no wish to extend his protection that far south, past the parts of the wood given over to the Woodmen and Beorings. The Shadow of Dol Guldur, — that broken tower that had stood on the spot where Oropher had built their first home — still lingered in his heart, if not at Amon Lanc. Just a pile of rubble on a hill now, but forever tainted to his mind. He wanted nothing to do with it.

A pinecone bounced off his shoulder and rolled to a stop a short distance ahead of him. He froze for a split second then spun around, his sharp eyes searching among the trees. Nothing. Not a sound, not a breath of wind stirred the branches. Not even a hint of birdsong… Thranduil narrowed his eyes. It was tooquiet.

And then a wind gusted over the wood, stirring the trees, bringing with it the song of birds, the stirring of small creatures and the rustling of the trees. Odd. Could it be he had become too used to traveling with an escort? Was he reading too much into these small interruptions to his journey? Was it so unlikely a pinecone would fall and land on him? He snorted and resumed his trip south, picking up his pace and keeping his thoughts more closely attuned to his surroundings. Peace they may have, but the forest still hid many dangers.

The acorn that smacked him between the eyes was a bit less likely than the pine cone — as was the branch that popped him on the backside a moment later. He stopped and glared around him. He was not imagining things. The forest itself was assailing him!

"I do not have time for this," Thrandul grumbled aloud.

The closest fir tree rustled indignantly. Thranduil crossed his arms and glared at it. "I have business to attend to!" he said.

A nearby oak groaned in resentment. He threw up his hands in exasperation. "I have a meeting!"

Another acorn bounced off his head, followed by a high pitched chatter. Glancing up, he blinked as an irate squirrel shook its paw at him. A splat sounded on his tunic as a bluebird dove back up into the trees. He could have sworn he heard a beech laughing.

"There is no need to assault me," he said dryly, using a fallen leaf to remove the bird dropping. Of all the things he had anticipated on this journey, being attacked bythe forest had not been one of them! "I am just passing through. I shall be gone before you know it and will not trouble you on my retur—"

A stag materialized from the wood, his antlers lowered. It snorted, pawing at the ground. Thranduil stepped back against the oak, glancing up to see the closest limb if he needed to take to the trees. He held out his hand in a placating manner. "Now, there is no reason for hostility. I have done nothing…"

And then it hit him — that was it: he had done nothing. He and his people had abandoned this part of the wood. Could it be the wood resented that? The oak pushed him forward. A badger grunted near his feet. A swallow darted past his ear.

"Is that it?" he asked. "It is not that you resent my presence so much as you resent the lack of it?"

The trees began rustling and swaying. The squirrels chattered. The birds dove and sang. The stag raised his head and gazed at him, the dark noble eyes agreeing. Thranduil felt his heart pound painfully.

"Forgive me, my friends." He stepped forward, a hand outstretched. The stag met Thranduil's hand with his cold, wet nose. A bluebird landed on his shoulder. The trees echoed with a joyful song…

Celeborn would just have to wait.


Thanks for reading. Please review?