Gandalf Visits Bombadil

by Vison

VII

Gandalf and Bombadil in the Old Forest……..

Master Tom made a fire in the firepit and he and Gandalf ate their evening meal by its warm light. They spoke little, yet it was a companionable sort of quiet.

Gandalf smoked a pipe after his supper, sitting on the rough bunk with his legs stretched out. Tom lay on his bed with his arms folded behind his head. The firelight played with shadows on the walls and roof, flickering, then fading and fading until the embers glowed only in a little heap in the centre of the hearth.

After a time Gandalf knocked the ashes out of his pipe and unfolded his Elven cloak. He drew it over himself like a blanket and quickly fell into sleep.

Some hours later he woke. He lay very still on the fragrant cedar boughs and looked up into the darkness. The dark seemed as deep as the dark in Moria, he thought. Though he stared and stared he saw nothing, not light nor deeper shade, just blackness. He turned his head to where he knew the hearth was, but even there was nothing, for Tom had carefully banked the embers. Again he looked up into the darkness and he could not tell whether or no his eyes were open, except that he saw the little pinpoints of light that your own mind makes your eyes see at such times. He closed his eyes hard, wrinkling up his face, then opened them and looked further into the dark.

What had wakened him? He lay very still, wondering, and not wishing to disturb Master Tom. He could hear Tom’s slow, steady breathing across the room, but naught else.

Until he heard it again, and knew it for the sound that had waked him. There were noises in the Trees. It was not the sound that the wind makes in the trees, nor was it the sound of falling rain. It was the sound of the Trees themselves, and it was such that it made the hair on the back of Gandalf’s neck stand up. Even Mithrandir, one of the Istari, felt the prickle of unreasoning fear along his bones.

Were the Trees speaking one to the other? Were they saying, “Here, here are intruders, they are asleep and unwary, let us fall upon them, let us rend them, let us bury the remnants at our roots and so feed our hatred for another Age……….”? Gandalf forced his blood to run slower, made his heart beat more softly, calling on all his wisdom to dispel this foolishness. No, if the Trees were indeed speaking, Gandalf could not understand their speech, and not understanding it, was that reason to lie there and long to leap up and run shrieking into the dark! No! “No! For then would they be upon me!” he thought.

“Be at ease,” Bombadil said.

Gandalf’s long body leapt, then sagged into his bed. “Thunder and lightning!” he hissed. “It is not enough that the trees wake me with their chatter, but then thou must startle me into an apoplexy by speaking out without warning!”

“Mayhap I should have coughed first,” Tom said, his voice light with amusement. “Calm thyself, Mithrandir. For though the Trees are speaking their hatred of me, and of thee, they cannot harm us. For am I not Master?”

“So I have been told,” Gandalf said crankily. “If thou art indeed Master of those things out there, then there is more to thee than I had ever understood before. Why, the fury of the Ents and the hatred of the Huorns is naught to that! I hear my death in their voices, I hear them long to grind my bones and drink my blood, so that their leaves might unfurl and their boughs might wriggle like snakes upward to the sunlight!”

“Fear no nightly noises, Mithrandir. They do not know who thou art, but they know that thou art with me. And as well, their hatred is as much for each other as for us who go about on our feet. Think you that you have seen war? The battle of the Forest is War such as thou hast never known! For it has lasted from the beginning and will last until the end. Until there is only one tree left, and it has all the world for its standing.”

“I believe thee,” Gandalf replied. “Dost thou understand their speech? Or is this a guess on thy part?”

Again there were noises from outside, rustling and creaking noises, and long, thin high-pitched sounds like wailing, far off and menacing.

Once more the hair on Gandalf’s neck rose, and goosebumps shivered on his flesh, for the sounds were answered. From Bombadil, across the room, only an arm’s length away, came answers to the voices of the forest. A low, nearly unheard sound that Gandalf could feel in his chest rather than hear with his ears.

The banked embers flared as Bombadil stirred them and lay a bit of dry wood down. The red light showed his face, in it his eyes were pits of shadow. He turned to Gandalf and those eyes met the wizard’s eyes.

Gandalf drew a long uneven breath and felt all his blood run cold and thick. Here was the Master Tom Bombadil, Iarwain Ben-adar, Forn, all those old names, some older than the hills, older than the rocks and the waters that spilled down from the heights. Peering out at Gandalf from Tom’s friendly face was the other being Bombadil, the Old One, the Eldest, as he had been in the beginning. Gandalf was not frightened, but awed. He leaned forward, a question in his own eyes.

“Fear not,” Bombadil said. “I am Master. Return to thy dreams, Mithrandir.”

The wizard lay back, and closed his eyes. “Tom?” he asked. “Will you put another stick or two on the fire before you go out?”

“Be sure I shall, Mithrandir.”

There were those little noises, the dry wood crackling, the hiss of the fire catching a vein of pitch. Then there was a draught, and the sound of the door opening and closing…………



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