1. An Unexpected Parley
“A letter, Milord. The courier said it was most urgent.”
Curiously, for the seal was unfamiliar, Thranduil opened the message and read it swiftly. Then he read it again, more slowly, and looked at the messenger in silence for a moment before responding. And when he did, his response was wordless and strange. For the king had spent the day peaceably, within doors, talking boat fees with the mayor of Lake-town.
But when he finished the letter, Thranduil thrust the parchment into a candle flame. His other hand went to his side, searching for his sword.
Midsummer Eve, 2941. A mighty bard once remarked that Elves’ singing in the moonlight, in June, is not to be missed, if you like that kind of thing. So when the business of the map was done, the Hobbit and Dwarves went down to the riverbanks for the music. The two loremasters remained above. Elrond made a fast, silent tour of the Hall of Fire. Finding no one about, he returned to the high porch where Gandalf waited with two stemmed glasses of dark wine.
“May the West prevail,” Gandalf said. They touched glasses and drank. “The Council meets in August.”
“It will be a war council you know. Galadriel has persuaded Saruman to come.”
“Good. Maybe we can persuade him further, to take action finally. If he agrees, we must be ready then and there. You must be ready to wield Vilya.”
“As best I can. Her strength is not in war.” Elrond raised his hand and on it Gandalf saw, reflecting the light of the setting crescent moon and stars blazing like fireworks, Elrond's Ring of Power. “It is in understanding, powers of air, and therefore its stone is ….colored like the sky.”
Then Elrond turned away from Gandalf, looked upward, and uttered the only words of complaint he would ever say.
“The Elves have a word for a color I have never seen. Tin-lúin. It is the same word in all the Elven tongues. For it is the color of the sky when the Quendi awoke in Middle-earth by the waters of Cuiviénen. And to Cuiviénen there is no returning. All that is left is the memory evoked by this gem and the lore and wisdom preserved by Vilya. Why must I lose this, Gandalf?”
“You know many good things will be lost in this coming fight with Sauron. The big fight, I mean, of which Dol Guldur is only a part. If we find and destroy the One Ring, the powers of the Three will end. If Sauron recovers the One, then ….”
“May that day never come.“ They touched glasses again. “Well, let us be as merry as we may and take delight in the music of Midsummer. I will join you at the Council meeting soon, Gandalf. With luck, that is. I will need it to get through the mountain passes.”
“And I will hurry ahead with the Dwarves and the Hobbit. We also must face the mountain passes.”
“Then do me a favor,” Elrond said. “Try not to rouse the Orcs?”
***August 4, 2941.***
On Mirkwood’s western edge, halfway between the Carrock and the Old Forest Road, the forest thinned out and became a coppice called Rhosgobel. In the middle of the coppice someone had grown a house. It began with a large circle of twelve shrubs, the kind known in those parts as Yavanna’s Paintbrush for its size and its russet foliage in autumn. The sturdy limbs of this plant had grown upward and had been trained to come together at a place about twelve feet from the ground., where they interlaced together like a dome of shapely fingers. At intervals the woody limbs separated to form window openings, and doors. But passersby could scarcely see the harmony of form and function, for the broad leaves of the Paintbrush grew like shingles on a roof, and in late summer, the house was as green as if the forest canopy had decided to settle on earth.
Gandalf the Grey stood leaning on his staff at the edge of the deserted coppice, He had traveled the twenty leagues from the Elf Path to Beorn's keep by borrowed horse, grateful for the convenience and even more for the speed. Then Beorn had taken him the dozen miles to the river’s edge and showed him a punt, old but floating.
"What do you know about boats?" Beorn had asked Gandalf.
"That I will not drown if I stay inside them."
"That is my understanding too," Beorn had admitted. "Good luck."
Gandalf had had the luck, and so the passage downriver had gone well. Except that once past the Carrock the water flowed so swiftly that Gandalf thought he might be carried far past the Old Ford at the Forest Road.
That will not do, thought Gandalf. We must have a care for spies. So he looked for a place to ground the punt when he was still five leagues away from Rhosgobel. Making landfall - and splintering the punt in the process - Gandalf had covered the remaining distance on foot.
Now he was weary. And in haste. But he spared a moment to admire the abode of Radagast.
While he was doing that, a gust of wind blew from the east. Immediately all the sounds of the forest vanished. The summer air lost its warmth, and Gandalf shivered. He turned sharply this way and that. He saw nothing.
The more reason to stop wasting time, Gandalf told himself. Summon him. But somehow he did not feel like calling aloud for Radagast. He felt that someone’s attention might be attracted. Or someone’s spy might hear, and already secrecy was his greatest care.
Gandalf had an idea. He searched through his robe and cloak for his pipeweed pouch. Next he took out his fire kit – a firestone, piece of steel, char cloth and a palmful of fire fuzz. He settled on the grassy ground and laid out the char cloth, preparing to light the pipe. Finally, with a satisfying sniff of the Old Toby but not much hope of getting to smoke it, Gandalf filled his pipe, struck a spark that landed on the fire fuzz, and thrust a dry twig into the resulting flicker.
He had time for three deep puffs, and one good smoke ring, before birds and squirrels began deserting the clearing. Then Radagast appeared at the edge of Mirkwood, with a brown swirl of robes and more dismay than the animals.
“Greetings, Gandalf,” he said, and Gandalf was glad to note that Radagast did not shout. No matter what Saruman might say, Radagast the Brown was no fool. “Is it courteous of guests to frighten the inhabitants of this place with a smell like a firestorm?”
“I am well, thank you,” said Gandalf. “As for the inhabitants of this place, that touches on the reason for my visit. We have not talked for a long time.”
“My business often takes me from this place.”
“Come, old friend, you must have guessed why I am here. Let us talk inside where I can rest my tired feet and cool my throat. The way from the Carrock is dusty. See, I will put away my pipe.”
Inside the hut the air was cool and fragrant with the flowers that grew near all windows. Radagast had paved the floor with brown and grey flagstones brought by cart from the Great River. As Gandalf settled into a wicker chair he studied the flagstones. He marked that they formed a pretty mosaic pattern, suggesting the flowing of river water that had worn them smooth over the ages.
Radagast brought a cup of water. Gandalf said gently, “I would leave you be in this peaceful place if I could. But you have forsaken your charge and you know it.”
“Yavanna would not say so. How can it be wrong for me to nurture the creatures of the world?
“If neglecting your duty allows the West to fall to Sauron, then it is wrong. Why are you not at Fangorn Forest at this moment, exhorting Treebeard to rouse the Ents? You were tasked to alert such folk who love the works of Arda. Yet here you sit with your eyes closed while Sauron’s power grows at your very doorstep.”
“Ninety leagues is hardly is hardly on my doorstep, supposing you mean Dol Guldur.”
“Saruman calls you simple. Do not prove it. Dol Guldur is on your doorstep, and if you do not believe me now, you will after hearing the White Council.”
"The Council is meeting?” said Radagast. A dreadful suspicion suddenly grew in his mind. “When? Where?”
“Why, here. Now. As soon as they arrive. Elrond should be here any moment. Galadriel and Celeborn are coming, and Saruman will be with them. Why, I have even summoned Thranduil.” Gandalf reflected a moment on the note he had composed, and Beorn had carried. “I directed him to come alone, or with only one page, and to cut directly through the forest to save time. The last thing I wanted was to have Thranduil meet up with thirteen Dwarves on the Elf Path!”
Radagast was speechless at the thought of hot-tempered Thranduil and thirteen stubborn Dwarves.
Gandalf stood up, clapped Radagast on the shoulder, and carried his cup to the window, where he dumped the water onto the flower beds. “Now,” he said, “where do you keep your cakes and ale?”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.