Chapter One: When the Trees Don't Know Your Name
The forest where I found myself was definitely *not* Mirkwood, nor was it Lothlorien, Fangorn, or any other woods I had ever visited. Here, the trees rose high and dark, shadowing the heavy, dusky carpet of last year's leaves. Shafts of late afternoon sunlight occasionally pierced the canopy, flooding some hollows with golden light. I stepped lightly into one of these sun shafts, making not a sound and leaving no traces of my boot prints in the spongy soil. I turned, running my hands over the trunk of the massive tree, through the fallen leaves, searching my mind for answers. The air smelled of mould, of sap fresh as blood, the ochre-damp smell of bark...
I frowned, assessing my situation. Panic was useless, and quite premature. I knew I was no longer in Mirkwood, where I had been when last the sun had set. But exactly *where* was I? Such was the puzzle. The forest felt odd; it was too quiet, lacking birds, insects, and the small animals that give character to a woods. There was also a distinct menace, something rooted deep down, where I couldn't decipher it; it made the hair on my neck stand on end, and made me keep one hand on my bow. I was well equipped, thank the Valar, with the bow I had received from the Lady Galadriel, my embroidered leather quiver, and my beautiful, prized Elven blades. I smiled. These knives were my favourite set, smooth leather grips, blades honed to razor-sharp precision. My bow might be my chief weapon, but there is always a special place in my immortal heart for my elegant knives. They'd seen me well through my quest with the Fellowship, through the battles we saw, even to the gates of Mordor themselves; my beautiful blades had soaked themselves in the blood of many Orcs.
But back to the mystery at hand. I was growing frustrated with the trees themselves. I whispered, called to them, but they would not answer me. The only sound from them was the rustle of wind in their leaves, a quiet symphony that underscored the first glimmers of fear. Then:
"Who are you..."
I answered them. "An Elven-warrior, forever beholden to you, my brethren, should you reveal your secrets to me."
Silence. Then, "Leave, Elf, remnant of the ages. We will not speak with you."
I called out in Elvish again, but the trees were silent once more. I closed my eyes and sank to my knees, willing back my anger; the trees chose not to speak, this was their right. But no tree had denied its secrets to me for millennia, and I was confused. Remnant of the ages, they had called me. Why?
Since the trees denied me the knowledge I sought, I must turn to another source of information. I sized up a tall, sturdy tree, and then shot up as fast as I could climb, leaping from branch to branch, enjoying the cool, rough bark under my palms, the stickiness of the sap. I climbed to the uppermost branches; then, clinging to the trunk, I thrust my head out through the thick foliage.
An explosion of Light. Late afternoon sun that dazzled my eyes, but I didn't blink. Rather, I let myself slowly adjust, drinking in my surroundings. I was perched atop a fragrant evergreen tree, swaying slowly in the warm breeze. Beneath me, I saw the thick spread of forest, stretching off over the horizon towards the north, east, and south. But I could see open land to the west, and what appeared to be the glimmer of water.
Now I had a quandary; what to do now? The forest provided good cover, and, as a Sylvan elf, I'd alway felt more comfortable under a canopy of trees. But I was alone, and there was the feeling of menace, of creeping darkness, that grew in my mind. If I had to spend the night in this unsettling forest, I'd prefer to be nearer to the border. So I decided to go west. Ha! How ironic.
Leaping from branch to branch, tree to tree, I began to feel a little better. A warm breeze in your hair, the swaying trees under your body, heaving and dropping, then leaping just when the tree dipped too low for comfort; all this lightened my heart. To cheer myself, I began to sing an elven song, about the trees, the sea, and our destiny in the west. My voice carried on the wind, and a curious crow stopped and stared as I leapt past, my long blond hair streaming behind me. Then, a slightly melancholy song, from Lorien:
"I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew,
of wind I sang, a wind there came, and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the moon, the foam was on the Sea,
and by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
in Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years,
while here beyond the Sundering Seas now fall the Elven-tears.
Oh Lorien! The winter comes, the bare and leafless day;
the leaves are falling in the stream, the River flows away.
Oh Lorien! Too long have I dwelt upon this Hither Shore,
and in the fading crown have twined the golden elanor.
But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
what ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?"
Great. Now I'd gone and gotten all depressed.
The sun was dropping in the west when I reached the fringes of the forest, the land settling into a dusky twilight. I dropped from the tree, landing lightly on my feet. Not far away, I could see the reflection of the first stars on water, so I ran in that direction, pleased that my feet made no sound on the short grass. Then I pulled myself up abruptly. Short grass meant a tended area, which meant habitation. And since I was certain that there were no Elves around, for none had answered my calls, meant that I should tread carefully. Most likely, there was a human settlement nearby, but caution wouldn't go astray.
I had reached the edge of the water, and perceived it to be a vast lake, shining in the silvery light of the moon and stars. I sat for a moment, tilting my head back to admire them, my eyes searching instinctively for...
Eärendil was missing.
The bright Elven-star was not twinkling in the heavens where it belonged. By the Valar...
I heard a loud splash, and my head snapped around in time to see a massive tentacle arcing towards me. Three more were waving and thrashing, trying to knock me over, wrap themselves around me, drag me into the water...
I bit back a curse and whipped out my bow, firing an arrow straight into the centre of the mass of tentacles. It didn't deter the horrible creature, so I fired again and again. Then, I threw aside my bow, and drew my knives. Slashing and chopping anytime a tentacle came within reach, my blades flew in a blur. I was soaked to the skin, and bleeding where the beast's clawed suckers had grazed my arm and shoulders. But, the tentacles were starting to ooze blood from the slashes I'd been inflicting, and, with a loud groaning sound, the creatures vanished back into the water, trailing blood and gore. I retrieved my bow, sheathed my knives and quickly retreated from the water's edge, my body aching and my mind whirling, and not merely from being attacked by the Watcher in the Water-like creature.
The stars were different here, the trees didn't know me...I was afraid, really afraid for the first time. This wasn't my world. I was somewhere...else.
I ran, looking for a safe place, if one existed in the cursed place. But I froze, seeing movement out of the corner of my eye. Slowly, very slowly, I turned.
A tree. A massively tall tree, its limbs waving back and forth against the wind. The tree was moving by its own accord. An Ent, perhaps? I prayed it was so, creeping towards it.
The tree sensed my intent, and sent out a query. "Who are you?"
I saw no harm in being brutally honest. "Legolas Greenleaf, an Elf of Mirkwood, and the night is dark, and the stars are strange to me, and I am bleeding, and cold, and three thousand years of immortality do me no good, for I am so, so afraid..."
A wave of warmth and comfort emanated from the tree, a giant willow. "An Elf...my mother's great-great grandsire spoke of Elves as friends and brethren, though I have never met one. Come to me, small one, and let my waving arms protect you from harm."
If you cannot trust a tree, who can you trust? I climbed quickly, and felt the willow slow her boughs into a soothing, rocking motion. Trying to quash my terror at this unknown world, I let my mind slip into the gentle pathways of Elvish dreams.
Next chapter: When Prof. Sprout finds a tall, gorgeous man asleep in the Whomping Willow, what will she do? Is Hogwarts ready for a meeting with a full-blooded Elven-lord? Review and find out!