8. Chapter 8
"There it is!" Pippin called.
Eomer looked in the direction Pippin was pointing, into a valley full of trees. In the center of it was a tall, gray tower. Orthanc. He got a thrill in his stomach at the site of the tower, where his dad and Pippin had joined the Ents in their war against Saruman. He'd been here once before, when he was young, but it still set his heart racing as if he was seeing it for the first time.
He looked at his brother and his smile faded. Theo didn't seem to even notice the tower. He was slumped in his saddle, staring at the ground. Eomer sighed. This trip to Rohan and Gondor was supposed to cheer Theo up. His brother had been moping around since August, since that lad from Greenholm had started courting Rose.
They hadn't seen much of the Gamgees since then. The families had decided it would be best to keep Theo and Rose apart. At least parties weren't a problem--Theo didn't feel like going to any anyway. Eomer always stayed home with him--he had to be loyal to his brother, after all, and he didn't feel much like seeing Rose either. He'd probably say something rude to her.
They did see Frodo, who would often make the trip to Buckland to visit Theo. Frodo wasn't too happy with his sister, either. He'd confided to Eomer that he thought Rose wasn't telling the truth about her feelings. She just didn't have the same spark in her eyes when she looked at Mattas, like she had when she'd look at Theo. She'd become quiet and withdrawn, and prone to sudden tears. Frodo thought she still loved Theo.
It didn't matter to Eomer what Rose really felt. She was hurting his brother and that was all that mattered. They'd thought time would heal Theo's heart, but if anything he got worse as the weeks passed. Finally, Eomer's dad had talked to Pippin this winter and they'd decided that Theo needed to get away for a while. Theo hadn't wanted to come, and had argued against it, but their dad had finally threatened to tie him to a pony and he gave in. But it didn't seem to be working. Theo was still moping and had been for the entire trip.
They rode down into the valley. The road was surrounded by forest, but all of the trees were young, not much older than him. Between the slender trunks, Eomer occasionally glimpsed a blackened stump, remnants of the great forest that Saruman's orcs had destroyed. At the base of the great tower they were met by Rohirric soldiers. Eomer snickered at their sudden change of demeanor--from cold and suspicious to pleasant and welcoming--when they realized Ivy was the king's niece.
They had planned to spend a night or two in Isengard before moving on to Edoras. Eomer got off his pony and started to help with the baggage, but Pippin pulled him aside. "Why don't you and Fari take Theo for a walk," he said quietly. "See if you can find Treebeard or any of the other Ents. That might cheer him up."
So Eomer and Fari pulled Theo away--it was easy as he didn't seem to care where he was going--up the hill towards the older forest that had escaped the destruction. The old forest was dark, a drastic change from the light greens and grays of the young trees. The sunlight dimmed quickly as they got further under the thick canopy. Eomer was a little nervous about entering the forest, remembering his father's tales of the Huorns and what they had done to the orcs. He hadn't known about them on his first visit to Isengard, being too young yet for that particular story.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when Fari called out, "Treebeard?"
"Shush!" Eomer scolded.
"Why?" Fari shook his head, brows furrowed. "We have to let him know we're looking for him."
"I know. But..." He looked around the dark forest. "There might be... things in here."
"And what things are those, little Hobbit?"
Eomer yelped and tripped over a branch as the voice boomed above him. Theo actually snickered.
"Hello!" Fari said cheerfully, walking up to the Ent. "We're looking for Treebeard. He's our fathers' friend. Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck."
The Ent shook himself--perhaps they had woken him from a nap?--and haroomed and harumphed for a moment. "Oh, yes," he finally said in his deep, raspy voice. "I remember them. It's how I knew you were hobbits. We'd never seen hobbits before they came to the forest." The Ent bent over--as much as an Ent could--and looked at Fari with large, golden eyes. "We thought they were orcs when they first came here. But we held a moot, and-- "
Fari coughed. "Yes. Well. We are in a bit of a hurry, as we have to be back to Orthanc before dark. Do you know where Treebeard is?"
Eomer cringed at Fari's rudeness, but the Ent didn't seem to notice. "I had forgotten hobbits were so hasty," he said and made a noise that Eomer thought might be a chuckle. He smiled and raised a spindly hand. "He is just over that hill there, near the stream."
"Thank you," Fari said and gave a polite bow. Then he grabbed Theo's arm and dragged him off into the direction the Ent had pointed.
Eomer bowed as well, then followed after him. When they were out of earshot--he guessed--he whispered to Fari, "Weren't you a little rude? You didn't even ask his name!"
Fari just shrugged. "Dad said Ent names can take hours. And we are in a hurry."
Eomer sighed. At least the Ent didn't seem to have been offended.
Treebeard was somewhat farther than "just over that hill". Perhaps it was nearby for an Ent, but for their short hobbit legs, the stream was quite a bit further, maybe half a mile by Eomer's best guess. But they found Treebeard.
"Hobbits!" the Ent exclaimed as they crunched their way through a thick bed of leaves towards the stream.
"Hello, Treebeard!" Fari exclaimed. "Do you remember us? I'm Faramir Took. And that's Theoden and Eomer Brandybuck."
"Took and Brandybuck!" he rumbled happily. "You are Peregrin and Meriadoc's young ones?"
"We just got to Isengard," Fari said, nodding. "Our dads will come visit later, with all my brothers and sisters. But we came right away." He patted Theo's shoulder. "Theo needed a walk to cheer him up." Theo scowled at Fari.
"Why are you sad, Master Theoden?" Treebeard inquired.
"I'm not--" Theo started, but Fari cut him off.
“He’s pining for a girl,” Fari said.
"Fari..." Eomer warned, watching Theo's scowl grow darker. What was it with Tooks, that they had to open their mouths before thinking?
“Hoom-baroom... I know how you feel, young Master Theoden,” Treebeard droned. “The ents and entwives parted ways and I haven’t seen my beloved Fimbrethil in a powerful long time.”
That got Theo's attention. His scowl melted away. “How long?” he asked.
“Why...” Treebeard paused for a moment, “I don’t really remember. At least an Age, give or take a century or two.” He bowed his massive head. “I only wish I could remember what she looked like.”
Theo's jaw dropped. "You... You don't remember what she looks like?" He turned to Eomer, his face pale. "What if I forget what Rose looks like?"
“Erm...” Eomer whispered a curse, then wracked his brain, trying to think of something--anything--else to talk about. "How are the new trees doing, Treebeard?" he asked, casting a worried glance at Theo's stricken expression. Perhaps coming to visit Treebeard wasn't such a good idea after all?
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.