Helluin was walking amidst the depths of the forest where the air was still and cool and the light dimmed through countless branches and leaves. Running water sang in soft whispered choruses from myriad freshets skipping upon pebbled beds. It was late summer, and elsewhere in the outside world crops were high, the air hot and hazy, and the day aggressively bright to the eyes. She was happy for the restraint the trees forced on their surroundings. Greenwood was peaceful and mature for the most part. Within its borders things changed slowly and comfortably and time passed lightly with tiptoe steps. The forest was a place with many mysteries and much ground to cover. Unfortunately Helluin was on a mission, hastening to the Avari in the north. Trouble had been brewing of late in Calenglad i'dhaer*.*(Calenglad i'dhaer, Greenwood the Great Sindarin).
Since coming to Greenwood, Helluin had quartered the forest and walked most of the southwestern quadrant. She’d quickly found that it was simply too big to traipse around in without any direction. In this, Grinda had been correct. In the early years of the Second Age, Greenwood the Great extended west to the banks of Anduin, to the north ‘nigh the foothills of the Ered Mithrin, and to the east it encompassed Erebor, and much of the lands between the River Running and the River Carnen that flows down from the Emyn Ang. Helluin’s first walk west to east had taken her seven years, going at her own pace. Since then, she had spent another 194 years exploring.
The land revealed itself thick with life of all kinds when one took the time to look and seek it out. Yes, there were spiders, just as Grinda had once warned her of, but in truth these more often fled than troubled her. A few of the bolder ones even spoke with her, enduring her presence from a safe distance, though they were untrustworthy and she seldom believed what they had to say. More interesting were her chats with the older trees, some of whom claimed to recall the passage of the Eldar west under the stars. But most interesting of all was the ongoing dialog she maintained with those of the Onodrim whom she’d met. Helluin's first meeting with them had initially been a surprise.
She had been in Greenwood for forty-three years at the time, and had spoken at whiles with a number of the trees. They had been slow to waken and slower to harken, but eventually they had begun to whisper and finally to speak to her. One, a decrepit beech, had told her of the long passing of years under the stars, during which many of Helluin’s kind had marched through as if in the blink of an eye, (though these were probably Nandor rather than Calaquendi). It made her feel good to know that that the ancient times were still a real memory to some besides herself. Their “conversation” was a slow one, for oft the tree fell into a stupor of sorts and didn’t surface from it to complete its sentence for a day, or a week, or sometimes even a month. Helluin had soon learned the futility of waiting. There were trees upon whom she was still waiting for the completion of a train of thought after many years. It had been on just such a day, when a myrtle tree had “dozed off” mid-sentence and she had groaned in exasperation, that a soft airy chuckling had come to her ears from all too close by. She had found that the quality of the voice was strangely familiar.
Helluin had remained still but had examined every shrub nearby very closely, hoping to discern the sad eyes she had once seen on the slopes of the Ered Wethrin near Vinyamar. She soon found that she had been looking far too low.
“Hoooo-hoooom, the wandering Elfling who listens to the trees,” a deep basso had said. “I have long marked your presence, but you seem to do no harm, and so you have been indulged.” Unlike the shrubs, this voice spoke an Elvish tongue even more antique than the Nandor of Lindórinand. If anything, it was closer to the archaic speech of Cuivienen. Yet the sentences were constructed with a light-hearted informality, sounding almost like a childhood vernacular to her ears.
Helluin looked upwards. Two body lengths to her left stood an ancient “tree” of a type unknown to her. This in itself was astonishing, for Helluin had long ago learned the habit and growth of every living species in the north and west. The creature that had spoken to her regarded her with calm focus from a stature of about six body heights to its eyes, although it had a crown of branches that rose another two body heights above them. The eyes were large, but dark and bright, similar in this to the shrubs. But though they also bore a familiar knowing ancientry, they weren’t in the least bit melancholy or lost. Indeed, they seemed to be right at home and solidly in command of their situation, while at the same time taking few things overly seriously; perhaps it was simply a natural spirit of lightheartedness, or evidence of an irreverent sense of humor.
“Thou seem to know about me,” Helluin replied, leaning back to more easily meet his eyes, “and I would know of thou as well. I am Helluin of the Noldor, called also Maeg-mormenel. Pray tell me thy name.” It was only polite to ask.
“Hooooo-hooooo, a hasty name for one of such age,” the Ent admonished, “for among our kind, a name grows with the thing named and time changes both. In my own language it would take several days to properly introduce myself, but in the language of the Elves in these parts, I am called Oldbark, Chief Caretaker of Greenwood.” He looked down at Helluin apologetically. “I suspect that I’m being hasty, but it’s only polite to answer a polite question…ummmm, politely. And you did introduce yourself first…which I consider polite since you are the visitor here in the forest after all.”
He seemed to lean back on his long sturdy "legs" and placed a pair of "arms" on his “waist” or what would have passed for one, and regarded her. Now Helluin had known somewhat of the temperament of the Onodrim from meeting their wives, and so she too waited and composed her thoughts. Anything further worth saying should be worthy of spending time to say and she wanted to make the most of her time. Finally she decided on a simple question about the state of the forest. She switched over to the speech she’d learned in the Ered Wethrin centuries before and addressed Oldbark in his own tongue. This brought a widening of his eyes and a lean forward as he harkened to her more carefully. Now she was really speaking, and it had always seemed that few even of the Elves knew how to properly phrase a question!
The question encompassed many words, many details that rendered it precise, and it contained many qualifying phrases. It went on for some time, while Oldbark grew accustomed to Helluin’s “accent”, but long story short, she asked if the forest was expanding, contracting, or stable in its borders. The question was greeted with an approving nod and a long pause for consideration of a precise answer. Now Oldbark was willing to give the Elf a serious response, for her question was a serious one…at least to him. By the end of his discourse, the sun was setting and he had told her that the forest seemed stable but might actually be contracting…he’d let her know for sure in a millennium or so. Helluin nodded in appreciation and prepared to pose a second question, but Oldbark held up a “hand” and asked in the local Silvan dialect if she wouldn’t prefer to accompany him to his home for the night. He needed to keep an eye on a grove of willows close by that had developed a negative attitude and were doing their best to choke off a stream. It was unbecoming and greedy, he muttered. He’d intended to do this yesterday but had instead spent the day breathing a changed air brought north by a wind from the sea. How he loved sea air. Helluin rolled her eyes and pretended to think about the options. Finally she nodded and agreed to accompany him. They set off together, moving west at a good pace.
Eventually they came to Oldbark’s home, a dell ‘neath the slopes ofLaiquadol*, and there they stayed their pace. Here a bubbling freshet skipped merrily down slope on a bed of quartz, white marble pebbles and glittering mica. During the daytime it would catch the sunlight in flickering silver, white, and gold, as it ran out of a pool fed by a small waterfall. The falls came over a wall of schist, (beside an upward path that continued from the entrance), and formed one side of Oldbark’s home. An aisle open to the sky above traced the stream through a clearing overhung with the branches of many species, oak, maple, rowan, poplar, hornbeam, hickory, and beech among others. All were encircled by a perimeter of ancient yews that formed a living palisade that ran out from the cliff and back to it, forming a wall so dense that ‘nary a mouse could have squeezed betwixt the trunks and woven branches. Only the entrance was unblocked. The entire enclosed space was about the same size as King Lenwin’s hall and the trees within it stood as if holding court. Helluin looked around in admiration, then knelt by the stream and drank thirstily from a cupped hand. She found the water delicious and chill, and it gave her a tingling sensation that quickly progressed from her mouth to the furthest tips of her fingers and toes. She would have sworn that she could even detect the effects in her hair. It left her feeling thoroughly refreshed. *(Laiquadol, the "Green Head or Hill", the name of that isolated height that would later be renamed Amon Lanc (Sindarin) after losing its crown of trees, and finally Dol Guldur for the fortress Sauron built there after Greenwood had come to be called Mirkwood. Quenya)
Helluin spent several paragraphs of monologue praising the draught in Entish, much to Oldbark’s delight. In response he gave a lengthy retort espousing the nourishing virtues of the fluid, warning obliquely that it left none unchanged. This struck Helluin as potentially ominous, but she detected nothing untoward save the suddenly tighter fit of her battle dress and armor. She put the thought aside as Oldbark announced that it was time for rest. He promptly took up a position alongside the stream, dipped the “toes” of one "foot" into the water, and became immobile. In fact he looked indistinguishable from any other tree. Helluin lay down where she could see the sky and viewed the stars overhead. In the peace of the darkness, Helluin belatedly realized that a dim bluish glow emanated from the water in the stream. Enchanted certainly, she thought, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and Oldbark undoubtedly believed it a blessing. Just before letting her mind drift to that place that serves the Eldar as an equivalent of sleep, she noticed that her blanket no longer reached beyond the ends of her boots.
Their conversation had continued the next day, and the next, and the next. On the fourth day, Helluin finally got around to revealing to Oldbark that she had seen some of the Entwives in the Ered Wethrin, in West Beleriand, about 270 years before. The Ent had reminisced through the afternoon about the greater forest that had once been, and how to the west it had stretched beyond mountains Helluin had known as the Ered Lindon. Some of his kin had populated those woods…Ossiriand and perhaps even Taur-Im-Duinath. Next, Oldbark had looked at her and slowly composed a question concerning just what she had seen. She had replied…thoroughly. The next day they had taken up the topic again with what she had said and heard. That just about finished their fifth day together. On the sixth she had revealed that Beleriand had been inundated following the War of Wrath. The explanation of that war had taken the better part of another day. Finally, at the end of all that, Oldbark had asked if she thought those Entwives were still anywhere to be found. Helluin spent several hours weighing the evidence. She couldn’t simply say, no, as she would have done days ago with anyone else. Instead, she “hedged” the topic, providing no definite answer, since in truth she hadn’t seen them meet their end. Furthermore, there had been but a finite number that she had ever met and in all likelihood, there were more that she hadn’t. Oldbark had seemed satisfied with that. By then, Helluin had barely been able to fit into her clothes and had taken her leave, somewhat confused and very amazed.
Since that time, she had spoken to Oldbark and several other of the Onodrim at times as she made her way through the Greenwood. For the most part they'd came to regard her as harmless. As the decades had passed, she'd grown able to discern their presence and was no longer surprised by their seeming materialization amidst the normal trees. Certain of these "normal" trees as well spoke to her on sight, though as has been said, they would often drop into torpor and fall silent in mid-conversation. She'd grown accustomed to it.
Now it was S.A. 415 and Helluin had noticed things changing in the forest. Over the proceeding decade the spiders had fallen silent and grown secretive. They no longer taunted or spoke lies to her, but instead fled at the rumor of her coming. Now they gathered in darkened places deep in the northern woods and about the eaves of the Emyn Duir. The Avari in the northern precincts had even more disturbing news to tell at her last meeting with them. Indeed it was from their halls nigh the Forest River that she was returning south to Laiquadol to find Oldbark and his kin.
She found his hall deserted and went in search of the Tree Shepherds. Around her all the forest it seemed, was unsettled. Leaves quaked in the absence of wind. Indeed some fell, still green in summer. There was a hush in the air that felt stifling amidst the confines of the forest and it gnawed at her nerves. At night the wood groaned. She went to and fro in her search. It took her several weeks to find any of the Onodrim at all, and when she first came upon Leaflock he warned her that Oldbark had become ”hasty” and “concerned”. Helluin returned at once to his home at Laiquadol, and this time she waited until he arrived, though she had taken the precaution of bringing her own water.
When Oldbark finally appeared he seemed frayed, with leaves disordered and branches disarranged and spiky, like a towering vegetable hedgehog. She began to speak her tidings immediately and Oldbark answered her in Elvish. Thereafter they conversed in the Elven tongue and she could see now why Leaflock had claimed that Oldbark was being hasty. They spoke at the normal flow rate of ideas for a conversation among the kelvar! Indeed they traded more news than they had in the last thirty years.
Oldbark had seen the aftermath of chopping! To the north, nigh the Ered Mithrin, there had been a felling of sound trees! Worse, these had been left to rot where they’d fallen, cut down to no purpose! He was both horrified and angry; such as he hadn’t been in a very long time. The perpetrators of this crime had borne axes. He had just come from there and had seen no homesteads, no settlements, and some of the victims had been fruit trees. And so he suspected not the activities of Men, of whom none lived nearby. The same was true of Dwarves. No, what he had seen reminded him of the predations of Glam!
Just so, Helluin had agreed, for she had taken counsel with the Avari, (and this was the result of a story in itself). Evidence of Glam and their mischief had been discovered deeper in the forest, west of the Wood Elves’ realm, (they had said), and still north of the Forest River. There the Wood Elves had seen holes dug deeper than any beast was wont to dig, piles of foul leavings beside them, and the poisoning of streams. At night, spiders gathered in the trees nigh these dens. Some trees had been cut in the forest and left. The Avari hadn’t seen such doings since the First Age of the Sun ere the downfall of Morgoth, of whom they knew but little. Even so, his minions had ranged even as far as their old realms in the eastern woods and they had shot no few with their bows in those days. Now they feared that the evil was returning. Therefore they had set sentries about the dens and hunters in the forest. So far they had shot only spiders.
“Bru-hoooom! Foul-mouthed, black-hearted, hasty-handed, fire-starting, axe-wielding, wretched spawn of Melkor!” Oldbark fumed. “Having them back in the forest feels like grubs boring ‘neath my bark! Those creatures do nothing but destroy, and oft as not for no reason but the twisted joy of ruining. If ever there were a race that shouldn’t have been, it is they. Never was a good Glamog born!”
“And the only good Orch is a dead Orch,” Helluin mused, recalling the words of her friend, Narin, Captain of the Host of Khazad-dum. “Yet so long as it is but Yrch alone and few of them at that, they can be mastered,” she asserted, “Especially if all those standing to suffer hold together against them.”
Oldbark looked at Helluin a while, his gaze calculating.
“Your words are spoken from experience, perhaps,” Oldbark finally said, “yet this is Greenwood the Great, wherein there are many places to hide, and it is the chief realm of the Onodrim. Yavanna herself appointed us its caretakers. Though many kindreds now dwell amongst the trees, it is our duty to safeguard this land’s green life. And we have never allied ourselves with any among the kelvar.”
“In the depths of time there were naught but the Onodrim to guard the olvar of wood and field and to care-take the land,” Helluin agreed. “Yet now there art those of other kinds who hath a stake in the defeat of any Yrch in Greenwood. Would thou deny them the responsibility to do their part in bringing low the common enemy?”
“Nay, Helluin, I would bar none from combat for it is not my place to do so, but in the end, even they would not be safe if the Onodrim go to war. It has been long since such occurred and perhaps beyond the memory of those of other kindreds, yet not beyond mine. Under the stars, dark things walked amongst the trees; things of uncertain shape, shadowy in substance, but evil of spirit. They did many fell deeds here and elsewhere. Did your own people not fear them in Cuivienen ere Orome’s riding? I have heard tell that it was just so. Here in Greenwood they were eaten by the trees.”
The Ents' words struck home. Her family had lost kin to those very shadow spirits in the earliest days ere they'd set out on the Westward March. By now Helluin had become accustomed to Oldbark’s illustrative metaphors and similes, but still his current claim left her confused. She reminded herself that Oldbark, even when speaking “hastily” in Elvish, tended to be quite precise about saying what he meant. And he had claimed that, “…they were eaten by the trees.” This was wholly different from claiming that the Onodrim had defeated them in battle. In all her years she had never heard of, nor suspected that such a thing could be. The trees had “eaten” the shadow creatures of Melkor? Just how had that come to pass? Other than the Onodrim, she had never seen a tree with a mouth or teeth, and she had never seen any of the Onodrim take solid food. She had never actually thought about it before, but she realized now that the shadows, which had harried and snatched her people in Cuivienen, had indeed disappeared ere the Noldor’s return to Middle Earth. Here she had been traipsing about alone for over 400 years and she’d never even thought about it. In the Middle Earth that she had traveled in the time of the stars, the dark ones would’ve taken her for sure.
(Now indeed most of these shadow spirits had been destroyed by the Valar during the War of the Gods against Melkor in the north. Yet afterwards, though Melkor was judged and imprisoned in the Halls of Mandos and his fortress of Utumno was broken, still many of his minions persisted undiscovered in Middle Earth, and it was upon some of these that the Onodrim had made their war.)
“Oldbark,” Helluin finally asked, “what doth thou mean, the trees ate them?”
“Ooo-hoooom…they were mulched and absorbed by root and stock,”* Oldbark answered with certainty, “to the very last crumb of dust. Sour of flavor some complained, yet in the end, all were content to take their bitters.” *(Which was probably Oldbark's way of saying that they had been absorbed, both fea and hroa, if any).
Helluin could only stare at Oldbark in utter shock. All around her trees stood silent and still, and save for some drowsy conversations, never had she seen any evidence that they could do more. In no place she had ever been, not in any lore encountered, nor from the mouths of any of the wise had she heard tell of such a thing. Here was a mystery of the first order, no less a thing than the first discovery of Men or the first meetings with the Naugrim. She eyed the trees about her with a growing misgiving.
“How could such a thing come to be?” She asked softly.
“It is the belief of my kind that once long ago all trees were aware, and they sang together in great choruses, praising the Valar. This was when the Valar still lived amongst us in Middle Earth, ere the Lamps fell and the world changed. But later, in the passing of their slow and uneventful lives, most fell into a sleep. Perhaps Yavanna herself set the sleeping spell upon us during the Dark Ages that followed. My memories don't stretch back that far, and yet I have dreams of that time ere we were awakened, again it seemed, 'neath the new stars. It cannot be proven yea or nay, but it is a comforting thought to us. And so even in these latter days, just as you and the Elves have done, some trees can be reawakened to speech. We rouse them as well, to wakefulness and more,” Oldbark told her, “and then they are known as Huorns. Wild and dangerous to others they become and at whiles it takes but little effort, for their wrath is primed by the foul deeds done upon them. It grows so even now.”
She had marked the tense and waiting air in the forest of late. It felt as though a storm was slowly brewing unseen, a wrath abuilding that would be unleashed in its own time. Of Oldbark's beliefs, Helluin could only accept them as lore. They spoke of Ages so far in the past that they had been history long before any Elf had lived; ancient times only sketched in the myths of Aman. Yet for a moment she had to wonder, could the life of the trees really be so very ancient a thing…well 'nigh 29,500 years or more? If so, then with for Manwe's Eagles, they would be amongst the eldest living beings upon Arda.
“How soon?” She asked, pulling her thoughts back to the problem at hand.
“Oh, very soon,” Oldbark said, “in no more than a century, I should think.”
A century, she thought, no need to be hasty. A sigh of relief escaped her. To the Onodrim a century truly was “very soon”. But to the kelvar, even those of immortal race, a century was time enough for much to be done. In that century there was a lot she could accomplish.
“Then in the meantime, while we wait,” Helluin told him, “I think I shalt go north and consult again with the Wood Elves. We may be able to slow things down a bit, upset the plans of the Yrch so that naught by your kind needs to be done in haste.”
Oldbark gave her a thankful look. The Glam seemed to be few and perhaps the Elves could handle them alone. It would be just as well. Recently large numbers of trees had become ever more wakeful and they were beginning to agitate. Getting them to move when they were enraged was much less difficult than herding them all back to where they’d come from after the battle was done. The Huorns tended to doze off once the threat abated and stay wherever they ended up. There was much about the distribution of resources that came with responsible management of a forest. Greenwood was not the least bit random so far as Oldbark was concerned. It simply wouldn’t do to have his trees spreading willy-nilly across strange terrain.
“I would greatly appreciate your efforts, Helluin,” he said, adding a qualifying, “if they succeed. Come back in a decade or two and let me know.”
Helluin nodded and set out.
Several weeks later she was in northern Greenwood, walking silently down a path a league north of the Forest River. The trip had been less pleasant than in the past. Near the dark, fir covered Tundor Móreo¹ she had slain a nest of spiders for the first time. They’d thought themselves safe in their numbers and had actually attacked her. She had cut them to ribbons and then drowned their egg sacks, weighing them down under stones in a streambed. Now, having crossed the river by going branch to branch high amidst the overhanging boughs, she was searching for the people of King Telpeapáro². They were of the Avari, though in later times any remnants of their realm came to be absorbed by the Nandor, and the Sindarin tongue was spoken among them. Helluin thought back to her initial meeting with them, about fifty years after coming to Greenwood. ¹(Tundor Móreo = tundo(hill) + -r(pl) + mórea(dark) +-o(gen), Hills of Darkness, Quenya, in Sindarin, Emyn Duir. Later called the Emyn-nu-Fuin, the Hills Under Shadow, Sindarin. In 3rd Age Westron, the Mountains of Mirkwood.) ²(King Telpeapáro, King Silvery Bark = Telpe (silver) + -(e)a (-y, silvery) + páro (tree bark). Quenya)
She had been following the main tributary of the Forest River, which flowed northward from the Tundor Móreo¹, and for the last dozen miles she’d noticed a drop off in the spider population. Whereas before there had been a predictable concentration of the creatures for every square mile throughout Greenwood, here the creatures were almost completely absent. The change had occurred as she’d come nigh the Forest River, and after crossing it that first time she’d noticed a wholesomeness pervading the woods. It wasn’t anything she could point to, simply a feeling. ¹(This tributary of the Forest River is the same that was much later called the Enchanted River. See numerous references in The Hobbit)
Helluin was walking north beyond the river and evening was falling, but for one born in the time of the stars, this was no reason to stop, merely a change in the conditions. She had always liked walking in the forest at night and so she continued on another couple of leagues. Soon the light had faded completely. The forest was peaceful, silent, and for a short time Helluin wandered in her memories of the forests of over 4,000 years before, happy at that moment to have returned to Middle Earth. Even deep in her reveries, she was aware of a fire coming to life a couple miles away as it was kindled. It was a clear sign of habitation and something that needed to be investigated.
Soon the fire was a furlong away, but Helluin had marked many figures moving in its flickering light when she’d gotten within a mile. Few in the Hither Lands but the Eagles could claim sight sharper than that of the Calaquendi. She’d moved forward in silence and at a half-mile had taken to the trees. By approaching from above, Helluin was able to espy those guarding the gathering long ere they marked her, for though they checked the trees for spiders, their watch was on the ground. She passed above them unseen and made her way closer. At a hundred yards, Helluin was certain that they were Elves, but of such a rustic kindred that at first almost she mistook them for a gathering of Men.
In a cleared grove they had set a table and benches beside a bonfire in a circle of rocks. Silver lanterns hung from the branches of the surrounding trees. Many sat there supping and drinking, while to one side a harp was softly played, though as yet none sang. A tapped keg rested at the grove’s edge and a spitted boar turned over the flames. Helluin found the scent was mouthwatering.
In the place of honor at the table’s head sat a figure wearing a crown of green leaves and tulip tree flowers, for it was high summer. At such times, and in fine weather, the King of the Wood Elves and his folk were wont to come and dine outdoors under the stars. Of all the Elves in Middle Earth, no others had such a strong affinity for the night sky and the hours of darkness. Their joy at feasting outside their halls was a form of thanksgiving and a tradition of their cultural. Helluin had stumbled upon them during the fortnight of festivities they celebrated for the Valar’s generosity at the Solstice of Anar.
Looking down and listening from her perch in a tall oak, Helluin was struck by the simplicity and sincerity of their celebration. She could feel their sentiments thick in the air, rising to the heavens as a sweet fragrance of joy, the honest emanation of heartfelt thanks for the gifts of the Valar with which they were blessed; a world in which to live and in which they had a place. They belonged to Middle Earth in a way she didn’t, for having seen Aman and returned to the Mortal Lands, Helluin had always felt more like a visitor. She realized that she had always felt that her abiding in any one place was a temporary state. Sooner or later she would be gone to the next land beyond her sight. Not so these of the Umanyar, for having never seen the Light of Aman, they thirsted not for that which they had never seen. They were content. She was homeless.
They had never discovered her that night, nor on either the next night or the one after that. Helluin took to watching the Wood Elves’ celebrations from the trees, looking down as if she were some sort of “Peeking Tom”, peeping through a window from the darkness at a warm room and the family within. During that time she came to understand from whence came Oldbark's Elven dialect. She absorbed their language. By the fourth night she could stand it no longer. She made herself known.
Wrapped in her cloak she lowered herself from the branches outside the firelight and edged closer until she stood just outside the grove. As the harp player strummed the notes of a song she’d heard each night, Helluin added her voice, soft at first, singing the words she’d composed to accompany the Wood Elves’ melody.
Gently from the clouds in spring,
The warm rains come to find me.
Bringing life for which I sing.
To flower, root, and tall tree.
I see, I see all things that grow,
Softly ‘neath the summer moon,
The night breeze serenades me.
Bringing songs of thrush and loon,
Their notes upon the wind free.
I hear, I hear, all that is sung,
Welcome ripens autumn fruit,
Its bounty there to feed me.
Seed and nut grown from the root,
Blessings all ‘round do I see.
I taste, I taste all offered here,
And thank thee yet for more.
Deeply sinks the winter’s chill,
Frost’s fingers seek to find me.
With plant and beast I’ll rest until,
Yavanna’s breath awakes thee.
I wait, I wait the greening time,
And wonder all the more.
By the end of the second verse the fire had gone out, the feast had disappeared, and the Wood Elves had fled. Helluin finished her song. There was naught to be seen in the grove save that which had grown there over many years, and yet she knew she was not alone. From a sack she withdrew a flute and played the song in the instrument’s haunting breathy voice, as if the wind itself sang with her. The notes of the melody rose and fell, whispering on the night air as they made their way among the trees. When she was done she put the flute away and lay down in the dark. Conveniently the grove was open to the sky and Helluin could see a patch of stars overhead and she took inspiration from them.
In the stillness she raised her voice again, but this time she sang in the Quenya of Aman, a song of Valinor about the stars of Varda. In her song the same stars seen from Middle Earth are also seen in Aman, for they were created by the same hands that bless both the Undying Lands and the Mortal Realm. With her words Helluin wove a vision of Valmar, the city of the Valar, and Taniquetil, the mountain throne of Manwe. The song grew to encompass the ancient days, when the Two Trees, Telperion and Laurelin, grew upon hallowed Corollaire, and the mound of Ezellohar was awash in their Blessed Light. She sang of the Hill of Tuna and the Eldarin city of Tirion the White, and of Mindon Eldalieva, the tall, fair Tower of Ingwe. And last, she sang of the Light of the Trees at the hour of their mingling, blending gold and silver as in a lantern beam shining through the Calacirya, illuminating a glittering path across the Bay of Eldamar, above which Varda’s stars yet shone in the deep vault of the sky. Her own heart’s awe lived in every word she sang.
Long ere she finished, the dark grove was filled with the company of the Wood Elves, hanging entranced, in silent anticipation of every word she sang. They had never before encountered a song of power and couldn’t resist the calling spell Helluin had woven into it. Indeed, it was the most compelling and wondrous music any of them had ever heard. When she finished they stood silent and stunned, as if they still lived in the vision she'd conjured of that far away place and time. Helluin roused herself from her memories and looked about her. A smile curled her lips. They couldn’t have understood half the words she’d sung.
The Wood Elves would have stayed just as they were for a very long time had she not gotten up and commanded their attention. Even among mortals ages hence, the power of music remains a potent force that can alter the behavior of whole civilizations and affect the minds of the masses. This is but a much-diminished hint at the effects of Elven music, and the music of the Calaquendi most of all.
In the Elder Days, a song of power was a thing of surpassing potency. Finrod Felagund had almost laid low Sauron himself in the First Age, and much evil would have been averted had he triumphed, but on that day the corrupted Maia had the mastery and Finrod, King of Nargothrond was worsted. Yet Sauron himself fell before the power of Luthien, and so too his master, for Morgoth was laid to sleep by her singing and a Silmaril recovered from his grasp. Ere the form of Ea was made, it had been with music that the Ainur had dreamt the world through the themes of Iluvatar. Now when Helluin sang to the Avari, they were powerless to resist the spell that she wove.
Helluin first kindled a fire, and in its light she’d appeared before them as a mirage materializing. Still they didn’t move. She spoke to them in Silvan, weaving a sense of reassurance and presenting herself as a long sundered sister who desired their friendship and company. Slowly she roused them with her words, shifting the spell so that they came to their senses without any thoughts of suspicion or reprisal. Yes, she had tricked them, but she’d held no dark intentions towards them. She desired neither their treasures nor their servitude, and no bonds of any sort did she desire to lay upon them. It was just simpler and faster for her to gain their acquaintance and trust in this way, and few of them ever understood just what she had done. In the end they accepted her among them as the wandering explorer she claimed to be and they traded tidings and histories and learned much from each other. As it turned out, they’d had only the rarest of dealings with the Nandor since coming west, and of the Sindar and the Noldor, they’d heard not even rumors.
To them, Helluin was little less than a goddess. Her knowledge gained in the Undying Lands astonished them. Her weapons and armor they deemed enchanted. Her travel experiences were a constant source of amazement. She was taller and more beautiful and more fell than any of them, and the light in her face seemed like that of a Valier. Indeed some among them wanted to accept her as a queen of their realm. Their king had drooled at the prospect of having her to wife. Helluin had rolled her eyes and apologetically refused the “honor” on the grounds that she was dedicated to traveling and couldn’t stay. In the end they settled for her friendship. In only one thing did they find real common ground; they had all suffered from and despised the Yrch.
In the years since then, Helluin had at times come among them and they had continued to welcome her. They valued her counsel and she saw them improve their lot with her advice. Yet she was wise enough not to try to change their hearts. Though they struck her as naïve, (though not truly innocent), their very ignorance engendered a connection to Middle Earth that she and the Calaquendi had lost long ago. The Avari were solidly bound to the forest and by extension, bound to the Hither Lands as well. She had found a part of herself longing for their sense of belonging to their land, for Helluin had no place to call home. This realization weighed on her more and more heavily the longer she remained in their company and eventually she always found herself needing to leave.
So now, Helluin had followed the tributary to the Forest River and crossing over, made her way to the Wood Elves’ realm. As always, the land seemed deserted, but she knew better from experience. Like any Elves whether Calaquendi or Moriquendi, the Wood Elves could remain undetected by most at will, and the Avari were close to the Laiquendi in this, though their woodscraft was natural more than studied. Once she came to the spot where she usually met them, she simply put her fingertips between her lips and produced a piercing whistle.
It was several moments before her summons was answered and when it was, instead of drawing the attention of a cadre of sentries, this time but a single hunter materialized from the trees. He was a young Elf dressed in the multi-hued mélange of fabric, bark cloth, and skins that provided the almost perfect camouflage of the Wood Elves. She actually saw him only when he moved. He approached her slowly while at the same time continuing to scan their surroundings as if expecting an attack at any moment. Though the Wood Elves had always seemed touched by paranoia to Helluin, his behavior told her that not only were the times less certain than in the past, but he was almost certainly alone at his post. She looked about to make sure no others of his people were at hand.
“What is thy name and whyfore art thou alone upon thy guard?” She asked. The young Avari regarded her with more curiosity than suspicion. They had never met.
“First I must ask thee thy name, m'Lady,” he stated, respectful if a bit overly formal.
“I am Helluin of the Noldor,” Helluin replied indulgently. The question was a typical opening query, but she’d hoped to meet with a company already known to her.
“Then I hath marked thee aright,” he said, visibly relaxing, “for thou appears’t much as tales describe.” He continued with a statement he’d obviously committed to memory. “I honor thee and proffer welcome from my lord, to Helluin, renowned and esteemed explorer of the Noldor. May'st I not convey thee hence unto the halls of King Telpeapáro? The days darken and many would welcome thy counsel.”
He turned and made a modest bow accompanied by a sweeping arm gesture directing her east. Helluin nodded but continued to stand still and appraise him. He fidgeted.
“I pray thee forgive my trespass, m'Lady,” the young hunter finally said as if recalling his manners and answering her earlier question. “I am called Halatir*. Empty now lie’th this precinct, for 'tis deemed in jeopardy. None come'th hither save for to keep watch.” *(Halatir, Kingfisher, Quenya)
That the area was also deemed lost or not worthy of serious defense she could infer by the fact that only a single young hunter had been assigned this post. Helluin nodded and moved to follow Halatir. He led them from the spot at a good pace, heading east towards King Telpeapáro's halls. They traveled quickly the rest of the afternoon, trading conversation in soft careful voices. What Helluin had suspected was excessive formality on Halatir’s part she soon recognized as the nervousness of a developing crush. Many times during their walk she caught him glancing sidelong at her and quickly turning away with a blush when noticed. His discomfort was mirrored by her mirth and both did their best to conceal their reactions to each other. As evening fell they finally reached the gates of King Telpeapáro's halls, deep ‘neath the forest in a great natural cave through which the Forest River ran underground for a mile.
Helluin had been to these caverns several times before, and though they were a far cry from Nargothrond or Khazad-dum, they were far more wholesome than any Yrch lair. The air within was clean and fresh. The chambers had been widened into comfortable halls, while the passages had been evened out and all had been made smooth of wall and floor. Many hearths there were for heat and for the cooking of food, and many lanterns hung throughout to give light. The halls were a formal setting, a treasury and a fortress, and the king had there his throne, yet all of the Wood Elves including the king spent more time outside amidst the forest than within, save in the depths of winter’s chill. That the king and his advisors sought to meet with Helluin deep in his halls told her that the Wood Elves were not at peace. It was yet another bad sign.
It was not a celebration or a feast to which Helluin came that day. The king and his advisors were grim. Around a large table they sat, and they welcomed Helluin gravely and offered her a seat. She noted that several maps were strewn about and that upon them many black Xs had been drawn. The king spoke to inform Helluin of their status.
“Dark hath become the days, Helluin, for since thou was’t last among us the Glam hath grown numerous and spread destruction. Wherefore the north wood yon the Forest River now host’th many foul dens and wickedness doth spread apace. Hither realm doth stand embattled as hast not been since the Evil Years of the Great Enemy in the west of which thou hast spoken aforetime. Many counsel thence to fight, yet many woulds't flee.”
“Lord, thou doth stand upon the brink ere the storm,” Helluin said gravely, “and Yrch threaten many beyond thy realm. War ye shalt have, declared or not, for if yonder evil stand’th not defeated, to flee thou shalt be forced. Mark me, O King of the Wood, for the Onodrim shalt marshal and the very trees shalt march to war. Any that doth stand in their way shalt be swept aside as but so many fallen leaves. No kingdom do they honor, nor kith or kin save those of the olvar. Woulds’t the kelvar solve the problem of the kelvar, then only shalt the Onodrim stand down to peace.”
At these tidings many around the table stood and began voicing their shock, outrage, and astonishment. Helluin’s news spoke of consequences win or lose, and little choice to be made. The Onodrim would call the very forest to war, and the trees would treat all those upon two legs as their enemy, and grind all into the dirt, good and bad alike. After several minutes of pandemonium the king called his counselors to order.
“Wherefore come thee upon such dire tidings, Helluin?” He asked.
“I come'th to thee from Oldbark of the Onodrim, Lord of Greenwood. He is wroth. Of the Yrch he know'th and he doth speak of the forest arising in its wrath against them. Not the Onodrim alone would march to war, but Huorns too, treespirits, limb-lithe and consumed with hatred, would soldier forth to consume all save their own.” Helluin paused, assessing the horrified attention her words commanded. She leaned forward over the table and continued in a softer voice. “So died the evil shadows two ages ago, of which I recall great fear, amongst the Quendi under the stars. Now such wrath pends release again. I fear thy kingdom shan’t stand.”
King Telpeapáro gulped and regarded Helluin as she straightened. He saw that her countenance was set, for she at least believed all that she’d said. His people had at whiles witnessed tall creatures, like in form unto trees, moving through the forest, but the Wood Elves had always fled and hid from them. Now he found that his people owed these Onodrim a debt, if only indirectly. It had only been with the disappearance of the evil shadowy ones that his people had ventured west from their far-off land. Against such a power as had disposed of such fell enemies, his kingdom would never stand.
“Think’th thou that I should order our flight?” He asked Helluin seriously.
“Nay, O King,” Helluin told him. She could feel the lust for battle rising in her blood in anticipation of warring against the Yrch. “Rather to war I would urge thee, for if thou doth prevail o’er thy enemies, then no need shalt the Onodrim have to rouse the forest.”
At these words some looked to the king with hope, and others with horror.
“No middle ground doth there now be,” Helluin continued, “for Yrch unopposed breed evil without respite. Proceed thou to flight, then doubtless the war of the Onodrim shalt come. Only if thou destroy’th the evil shalt the forest know peace and thy realm be spared.”
“Yet why hence to battle,” another asked, “when to flight for a time woulds't bring forth the Onodrim and visit doom upon the Glam? In some year to come, back to Greenwood we could return in peace.”
“Indeed,” Helluin agreed, “yet to what doom? Changed would thy land be and others may abide in thy halls. Woulds’t thou then fight to reclaim them? Then too, the Onodrim may be less disposed to treat thee with sympathy, no aid hath thou given the forest in its time of need. For do ye know that Greenwood is the realm of the Onodrim, and that their governance come’th down from Yavanna herself, their Creator? Thy realm stands naught but at their indulgence.”
The councilors and the king together sat in thought. The forest they’d thought open for the occupying was in fact a sovereign realm long established by divine right. They were but tenants, living as squatters in another’s halls. And no liege lord they’d ever heard of would reward cowards with fiefs following a battle from which they’d fled. They could stand and fight or flee without defending their own. On the one hand they might win the continuity of their lifestyle and realm against the Glam. On the other, they would be swept away by the Onodrim. They could either gain powerful allies or dishonor themselves, becoming craven refugees. Regardless of whether they had a stomach for war or not, the Wood Elves had come to love their homeland in Greenwood and they valued their honor.
Finally the king looked at Helluin and said, “This is our home. We shalt fight.”
Helluin nodded in approval. “And I shalt fight beside thee,” she promised. “Let us take counsel then, for there is time yet to prepare.” She'd never told the Avari that they’d had a century to act.
The Avari, Helluin had long before discovered, were armed only with bows and spears. Their weapons were more suited to hunting than battle, for they had never before fought more than isolated skirmishes against enemies few in number. Mostly these had been against disorganized bands of Glam during the dark years of the 1st Age; their enemies little more than the deserters of Morgoth’s forces that were concentrated far to the west in Beleriand. It took Helluin seven years ere she deemed the Wood Elves capable of acting like a coherent force. A chain of command had to be forged. The king and his advisors had to be taught to think like military strategists. What little iron the Avari possessed had to be forged into weapons, spearheads and arrow points mostly, and the bowyers and fletchers had to be taught the craft of making tools of war. Helluin instructed and drilled and taught. She was busy from sun up until deep into the night and during those years she'd had little energy for anything else.
One area in which she found the Wood Elves well supplied was in scouts and sentries. The Avari were naturally inclined to be silent and to remain unseen. They were hunters by nature. In the woods they could go undetected even when at close range, and so watchers were kept all about the dens of the Glam. They counted their numbers, noted the kind of their arms, and identified their leaders. Helluin spent hours a day sifting through intelligence reports from the scouts and sentries. Soon she came to understand the Glam’s movements and their routines and could even predict somewhat of their intentions. They were building their strength and consolidating their foothold in the Greenwood, but more ominously, they waiting for something. In response, she ordered the Avari to make a coarse net wide enough to span the river, and to collect at a certain spot beside the river, every fallen limb, trunk, branch, or clump of brush, damaged by the Glam or dead of natural causes. Rather than wood fires, they burned the compressed black plant matter¹ excavated from an area in the Long Marshes where the Forest River emptied into the Long Lake. They thought her insane. It went on thus for five years, until S.A. 422. ¹(peat or maybe even a low grade coal such as lignite).
In the spring Helluin deemed the Wood Elves’ forces ready and she counted their numbers three and a half thousands ready to do battle. The reports that had come to her placed the count of the Glamhoth at no less and perhaps slightly more, but they were spread over the entire northern precincts of the forest in lairs holding no more than several hundreds apiece. Helluin thought victory very likely. They had a plan.
On the first new moon of spring when Tilion tarried ‘neath Arda and came not bearing Isil into the heavens, the Wood Elves came in force to the Forest River. There they strung their net from bank to bank and then moved into the rushing waters all those logs and stumps and branches they had long collected and those also that the Glam had cut nearby. In so doing, they dammed the river just downstream from its tributary. Swiftly the flow backed up, overtopping the banks in minutes, for the river was heavy with the runoff of spring rains from the Ered Mithrin. Long ere dawn broke, the leagues ‘nigh the river lay under a shallow, spreading lake, and those of the Glamhoth dens nearest were flooded deep. The Wood Elves had little to do but shoot those who made their way to the surface. In few places did the Glam actually meet the Avari in battle and there Helluin’s training paid off. Being greater in numbers at each engagement and better armed for such encounters, the Wood Elves slaughtered them all. For three days and nights there was battle as the flood spread, and fully half the area north of the Forest River was cleared of the enemy. By then the area underwater had grown so large that the new lake advanced too slowly to trap any more Glam, and the survivors of the more distant dens came together to fight the Elves.
The great battle took place in the northwest of Greenwood where the Forest River took a slight jog to the south from its southeasterly course. Here there were some low hills and the wood about them grew thinner. The Glam made their stand upon one of those hills, a good position, but their numbers by then were reduced to less than a thousand. The Wood Elves had lost but few of their host and outnumbered their enemies by over three to one. Helluin and the Elves anticipated victory, while upon the hill the Glamhoth quailed in fear.
“Steady,” Helluin ordered, rallying her troops, “for the end comes ‘nigh. A few hours of bloodshed and all shalt pass. Thou shalt have wiped this evil from the forest and thy homes shalt know peace again. Show no mercy, for from yonder Glam thou shalt receive none. By dawn we shalt be restoring the river and ere tomorrow eve, feasting in celebration.”
The Elves gave a great cheer, for they too could taste the victory, their first in a real battle. It seemed that Helluin would bring victory to the Avari, but she had also brought to them the waging of war. That fact she marked, and it saddened her to have cost them another shade of their innocence and taken them a step further from their nature. She had changed them surely, yet it had seemed the best way to preserve them and their way of life. So far casualties had been very light and it was easy to be hopeful about the cost being worth the sacrifice. Later she would wonder if she had been right after all.
The battle was joined at nightfall and though the Wood Elves had the victory it came not as they had hoped. The Glam were armed mostly with pikes and swords as well as a few axes. The Avari, as has been told, were armed mainly with bows and spears. At first the Elves had the mastery, shooting their foes with great volleys of arrows and dropping them by the scores. But desperation lent the Glamhoth a fey courage, and they charged when their numbers had been diminished by but a quarter. The remainder came forward at a dead run, pikes at the fore, swords behind. They crashed the Elves’ lines so quickly that the archers could get off only two shots ere they clashed. The spears held the pikes at bay but a short while, and then the terrified fury of the Glam gave them strength enough to break the Elven lines. Thereafter it was close-quarters battle, a fight for which the Avari were poorly armed. In the press it was swords against spears and many of the Wood Elves died. Their spears proved too unwieldy against enemies so close at hand and the Elves had almost no swords among them. Indeed their only close-quarters weapons were the few axes they’d used to chop wood for the dam. She couldn’t have prepared her forces for this kind of combat, for they’d had too little iron to forge enough swords. Helluin saw her troops falling to the Glamog blades and knew that a slaughter was to come. It was the one situation she'd desperately hoped to avoid. Yet it was a kind of battle she herself was all too familiar with. Helluin ceased being a general and reverted to being a warrior.
In that hour Helluin’s rage exploded into bloodlust and she bathed the ground in the blood of the Glam. In her hand Anguirel drank thirstily and yet ever thirsted for more. Helluin fought as she had upon the field of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, falling into a murderous rampage that could not be assuaged by any number of deaths. Glamog and Elf alike fled from her in horror as her blue eyes blazed in the darkness under the trees. Pike and sword alike failed to bite upon her armor and she laughed cruelly as she slew foe after foe, tirelessly seeking for the next. Akin were Helluin and Anguirel, each feeding on the other’s dark spirit and both were fell beyond the pale of Mortal Lands. No count of those who died at her hand could be made, yet the black blood of the Glam smoked and blistered upon Anguirel as the steel heated. And as always when she became crazed by her battle mania, Helluin screamed, “Beltho Huiniath!” at the top of her lungs.
Unlike the Naugrim, the Wood Elves didn’t echo her war cry. Indeed, most fled the field in terror of her, not even tarrying to collect their own dead. More died there than the bodies of their friends and enemies. War tainted the fea with bloodshed in an irreparable loss of innocence…blood innocence. This was nothing like a hunt. The Avari had come face to face with the horror of war at last, and yet they knew in their hearts that what they’d seen was naught but a shred of the horror that had walked in the western lands an age before. And most terrifying of all, it was obvious that Helluin was reveling in it, more alive during her acts of slaughter than they had ever imagined her. She was well nigh hysterical, insane, possessed, and the Elves feared her mania might take them too. What the Avari saw of victory was more akin to defeat then not, for both victor and vanquished wallowed in blood. Both sides did violence previously unimaginable. And they wanted nothing more to do with it. They had seen enough.
When the field lay silent save for her battle cry, Helluin finally came to a heaving stillness as her lungs fought for breath. Being of the Eldar of Aman, she could have continued fighting thus for a day, but at last there was naught left to fight. All about her lay the dead, Glamog and Avari alike. The sun stood upon the eastern horizon…mourning. Her eyes swept the field as their blazing blue light faded, and as they swept they counted. 934 Glam and 762 Elves lay slain there, never to rise again. Not a single Glamog had survived and not a single Elf had remained…all the living had fled the horror of war…of bloodshed…of her. Helluin found cloth and wiped clean her sword.
“Hail to thee, Helluin,” the blade’s cold voice said, “for great is thy prowess and fell is thy hand, yet more deadly is thy spirit. In pride shalt I serve thee for our hearts are as one.”
“Hail to thee, Anguirel, deadly Iron from the Star,” Helluin answered, “fell is thy edge and peerless thy balance. In pride shalt I wield thee, most steadfast of allies.”
At her words the sword chuckled as if reveling in a secret kept and said, “Maeglin’s hand was inherently unacceptable.” At that time Helluin thought no more of it.
It took her until well 'nigh sunset, but she gathered the bodies of the fallen Wood Elves, all the dead who had followed her faithfully into battle. In rows she laid them on a nearby and untrammeled hillside, well separated from their place of dying. It was a site where they would have a final view of their beloved stars, blooming in the night sky o’er Middle Earth, as they lay ‘neath the few trees that grew there, and she marked their names in her memory. The Glam she dragged away and heaped on the far side of the battle hill, out of sight of those who might come later to honor the dead Avari. As the night came down she waited with the fallen. Then under rising Isil’s slender, waxing crescent she raised her voice in a dirge, fare-welling the spirits of the dead with praise for their valor, and wishing them safe passage to the Halls of Mandos.
“Thou too shalt see Aman, whether in life or in death,” she whispered sadly at the end.
Then turning away,
Helluin began her trek southwards. She had no intention of returning
to King Telpeapáro’s halls for she had wrought damage enough upon
his people. Instead she struck for Laiquadol, seeking to bring her
tidings to Oldbark and the Onodrim. On she walked through the night,
grim of mood and silent as a shadow. She felt as though she had lost
a war to win a battle.