My answer to Lizmybit's challenge, by Avondster
This story just told itself to me, all I had to do was write it down. ;-)
“Come on, Faramir, keep up!”
The young lass graciously jumped from a treeroot over a stream and looked back to see why her friend was taking so long. Her reddish blond curls danced on her shoulders and her sparkling brown eyes scanned the area.
Finally, a slender youth with sweaty brown curls climbed over the treeroot, breathing with effort. How his friend could be so fresh and fit after a night’s walk was a mystery.
“Athelas, I really don’t know about this. I think we’re gonna be in trouble when we get back.”
Athelas threw her head back and laughed out loud. “No, we won’t. Trust me,” she said with more confidence than Faramir thought he had. If Uncle Merry would have been his father, he’d be shaking on his furry feet. The Master of Buckland was nearly twice his height (but then, he was small for his age), and you wouldn’t want to be near him when he was angry, but Athelas was afraid of nothing and stood up to her father with Brandybuck pride.
They had climbed out of their bedroom windows that night. Their parents were visiting the Gardners, and Athelas and Faramir had agreed it would be an adventure to explore the area in the Northfarthing. Folk said strange things were going on there, and that was exactly what they were after. It would be just like having an adventure.
Their ‘Quest’ had seemed really exiting to Faramir when they had sneaked out of Bag End in the dark, but now, several hours later, with painful feet and an empty stomach, he thought he’d rather be at the quite unadventurous, yet comfortable breakfast table.
‘The Terrible Twins’, Thain Peregrin always called his son and his friend’s daughter, because they were born in the same week and always in trouble together. But at this very moment, Faramir did not feel so terrible. Well, he felt terrible, but not in that way, anyway.
Athelas’s enthusiasm, however, could not be lowered by cold, discomfort or lack of food. She rejoiced at the freedom and exitement, being away from all the dull things. For three days she had been listening with the other children, to stories she already knew by heart. That was no fun. Why should you listen to stories about adventures if you could have them?
But as they reached the so-called queer place everyone in Hobbiton was talking about, it did not look very dangerous or exiting. It *was* beautiful, though.
Faramir stood next to Athelas, his mouth open in awe. He sighed deeply at the beauty of nature that lay before them. “Oh, I always imagined Ithilien to be like this,” he muttered.
And indeed, this little piece of paradise looked more like a garden than a forest. Faramir felt like any moment Princess Eowyn and her Prince, the man he was named after, could jump out of a bush and invite them for tea in their lovely home. Appareantly, they did not feel like it, because it stayed quiet.
Athelas sank down on a treeroot. “It doesn’t look like Ithilien to me,” she grumbled. “There are no Oliphaunts here, no archers jumping out of trees, no blood-thirsty Easterlings… Just a bunch of boring flowers and bushes. It would be better to be in Fangorn Forest!”
“Hoom, I think I may disagree with you on that, young Hobbit,” a low voice behind her rumbled. “And would you mind getting off my foot?”
Athelas leapt off her seat as the treeroot – or at least she had thought it was a treeroot – pulled itself from the ground and a long branch swept away a few leaves to reveal an ancient face of something definitely not human.
Faramir’s face turned a bright white at the same time Athelas’s reddened with delight, when two endlessly deep, yellow eyes examined them with keen interest.
“You’re an Ent!” Athelas squealed with pleasure.
The creature looked as if it was surprised. “Hroom, strange, for someone as young to know such things,” it said slowly. “Most of your kind run away when they see us make a move.”
“Us?” Faramir now dared to speak as he could clearly see the Ent was not hostile. “There are more of you here?”
“Hoom, there are, little Hobbit,” the Ent said. “Though not as much as there once were,” it added sadly. “Many of them have gone to sleep, and there are no…”
“Entings!” Athelas added immediately. “My Da told me that story. But he never told me there were Ents living in the Shire!”
“That is what you call it?” said the creature. “Hroom, well, there are no Ents here, indeed. It is why we are sad, and lonely sometimes.”
Athelas looked stunned, but Faramir understood. “Then… you must be the Entwives!”
Now that the two tweenagers looked more closely, they could see that there was indeed something feminine about the creature.
The Entwife nodded. “That is true. You are young yet smart.”
“I am Athelas Brandybuck,” said the young lass eagerly. “This is my friend, Faramir Took.”
“I would be pleased to tell you my name, but you would probably fall asleep before I was half way through,” said the Entwife. “But some would once call me Fimbrethil.”
Athelas’s eyes grew wide. “Treebeard mentioned you a few times!”
“Hmmm, I did not know I could be surprised anymore, but I am. How do you know Fangorn, little one?”
“Well, we don’t actually know him, but our fathers are friends of him,” said Faramir. “They often tell stories about him.” He suddenly looked up to Fimbrethil. “I have never understood why you left the Ents, back then.”
Fimbrethil looked in the distance with melancholy in her deep eyes. “You are young, and you would not understand. Sometimes I wonder if we ourselves understand.”
“They miss you, you know,” said Athelas.
“Hoom, and we miss them. But such is the way of things, young Hobbit,” said Fimbrethil. “Maybe one day we will meet again under the sun, and it will be a merry meeting. But when, one cannot say. But now I think this is goodbye for us, young Hobbits,” she suddenly said. “For I can feel running footsteps in the earth, and hear worried voices in the air.”
Both of the young Hobbits looked back, and it seemed as if they could hear their fathers’ voices floating through the air towards them.
It was midday now, and the sun was hot. Sleep overcame them, and they lay down in the shadow of Fimbrethil’s comforting presence.
Merry and Pippin sighed with relief as they saw their children sleeping peacefully on the grass. They were too preoccupied to even see the beauty that surrounded them.
Merry looked down at the sleeping face of his daughter and nudged Pippin. “Why is it that she is only quiet and peaceful like this?” he sighed as he lifted her in his arms without effort.
The Thain stooped and looked at his son as he picked him up. “They seem to be having a good dream.”
“Not for long, if I can help it,” said Merry with a frown.
Pippin chuckled. “Ooh, are they going to be in trouble when they wake up!”
Merry nodded. “Ooh, yes. You bet.” He looked down at the sleeping girl. “It’s going to be a long summer for you, young lady.”
When the two tall Hobbits walked away, carrying their children, a dozen pair of yellow eyes looked after them. The leaves rustled.
For as long as they lived, Athelas and Faramir never found out if their encounter with the Entwife had been real or they had just dreamed it. And no matter how hard they looked, they never found the little paradise again.