The Return of the King (Page 87)
Treebeard gave Gandalf a long look, almost a cunning look, Merry thought. ‘Ah!’ he said. ‘I thought you would come to that. Weary of Orthanc? Very weary at last; but not so weary of his tower as he was weary of my voice. Hoom! I gave him some long tales, or at least what might be thought long in your speech.’
‘Then why did he stay to listen? Did you go into Orthanc?’ asked Gandalf.
‘Hoom, no, not into Orthanc!’ said Treebeard. ‘But he came to his window and listened, because he could not get news in any other way, and though he hated the news, he was greedy to have it; and I saw that he heard it all. But I added a great many things to the news that it was good for him to think of. He grew very weary. He always was hasty. That was his ruin.’
‘I observe, my good Fangorn,’ said Gandalf, ‘that with great care you say dwelt, was, grew. What about is? Is he dead?’
‘No, not dead, so far as I know,’ said Treebeard. ‘But he is gone. Yes, he is gone seven days. I let him go. There was little left of him when he crawled out, and as for that worm-creature of his, he was like a pale shadow. Now do not tell me, Gandalf, that I promised to keep him safe; for I know it. But things have changed since then. And I kept him until he was safe, safe from doing any more harm. You should know that above all I hate the caging of live things, and I will not keep even such creatures as these caged beyond great need. A snake without fangs may crawl where he will.’
‘You may be right,’ said Gandalf; ‘but this snake had still one tooth left, I think. He had the poison of his voice, and I guess that he persuaded you, even you Treebeard, knowing the soft spot in your heart. Well, he is gone, and there is no more to be said. But the Tower of Orthanc now goes back to the King, to whom it belongs. Though maybe he will not need it.’
‘That will be seen later,’ said Aragorn. ‘But I will give to Ents all this valley to do with as they will, so long as they keep a watch upon Orthanc and see that none enter it without my leave.’
‘It is locked,’ said Treebeard. ‘I made Saruman lock it and give me the keys. Quickbeam has them.’
Quickbeam bowed like a tree bending in the wind and handed to Aragorn two great black keys of intricate shape, joined by a ring of steel. ‘Now I thank you once more,’ said Aragorn, ‘and I bid you farewell. May your forest grow again in peace. When this valley is filled there is room and to spare west of the mountains, where once you walked long ago.’
Treebeard’s face became sad. ‘Forests may grow,’ he said. ‘Woods may spread. But not Ents. There are no Entings.’
‘Yet maybe there is now more hope in your search,’ said Aragorn. ‘Lands will lie open to you eastward that have long been closed.’
But Treebeard shook his head and said: ‘It is far to go. And there are too many Men there in these days. But I am forgetting my manners! Will you stay here and rest a while? And maybe there are some that would be pleased to pass through Fangorn Forest and so shorten their road home?’ He looked at Celeborn and Galadriel.
But all save Legolas said that they must now take their leave and depart either south or west. ‘Come, Gimli!’ said Legolas. ‘Now by Fangorn’s leave I will visit the deep places of the Entwood and see such trees as are nowhere else to be found in Middle-earth. You shall come with me and keep your word; and thus we will journey on together to our own lands in Mirkwood and beyond.’ To this Gimli agreed, though with no great delight, it seemed.
‘Here then at last comes the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring,’ said Aragorn. ‘Yet I hope that ere long you will return to my land with the help that you promised.’
‘We will come, if our own lords allow it,’ said Gimli. ‘Well, farewell, my hobbits! You should come safe to your own homes now, and I shall not be kept awake for fear of your peril. We will send word when we may, and some of us may yet meet at times; but I fear that we shall not all be gathered together ever again.’
Then Treebeard said farewell to each of them in turn, and he bowed three times slowly and with great reverence to Celeborn and Galadriel. ‘It is long, long since we met by stock or by stone, A vanimar, vanimálion nostari!’ he said. ‘It is sad that we should meet only thus at the ending. For the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air. I do not think we shall meet again.’
And Celeborn said: ‘I do not know, Eldest.’ But Galadriel said: ‘Not in Middle-earth, nor until the lands that lie under the wave are lifted up again. Then in the willow-meads of Tasarinan we may meet in the Spring. Farewell!’
Last of all Merry and Pippin said good-bye to the old Ent, and he grew gayer as he looked at them. ‘Well, my merry folk,’ he said, ‘will you drink another draught with me before you go?’
‘Indeed we will,’ they said, and he took them aside into the shade of one of the trees, and there they saw that a great stone jar had been set. And Treebeard filled three bowls, and they drank; and they saw his strange eyes looking at them over the rim of his bowl. ‘Take care, take care!’ he said. ‘For you have already grown since I saw you last.’ And they laughed and drained their bowls.
‘Well, good-bye!’ he said. ‘And don’t forget that if you hear any news of the Entwives in your land, you will send word to me.’ Then he waved his great hands to all the company and went off into the trees.
The travellers now rode with more speed, and they made their way towards the Gap of Rohan; and Aragorn took leave of them at last close to that very place where Pippin had looked into the Stone of Orthanc. The Hobbits were grieved at this parting; for Aragorn had never failed them and he had been their guide through many perils.
‘I wish we could have a Stone that we could see all our friends in,’ said Pippin, ‘and that we could speak to them from far away!’
‘Only one now remains that you could use,’ answered Aragorn; ‘for you would not wish to see what the Stone of Minas Tirith would show you. But the Palantír of Orthanc the King will keep, to see what is passing in his realm, and what his servants are doing. For do not forget, Peregrin Took, that you are a knight of Gondor, and I do not release you from your service. You are going now on leave, but I may recall you. And remember, dear friends of the Shire, that my realm lies also in the North, and I shall come there one day.’
Then Aragorn took leave of Celeborn and Galadriel; and the Lady said to him: ‘Elfstone, through darkness you have come to your hope, and have now all your desire. Use well the days!’