Of Entwives And Hobbits
Chapter 4 - Mosshair
Pippin did not move. He glared furiously through the dark, hearing his cousin pause on the road and turn around.
"Are you coming or not?" demanded Meriadoc Brandybuck impatiently.
Peregrin took a tinsy step forward and spoke with a tremble, "I'm kind of afraid of the dark."
Merry made a noise in his noise, sounding a cross between amused and annoyed. He grabbed Took's arm and dragged him forward into the first line of trees. Almost immediately, a wind swept up, blowing through the trees and leading loose leaves a dance. Pippin gulped, mentally scolding himself. Oh great, he thought angrily, I wasn't freaked out by evil people trying to nick a piece of jewellery but get thwarted by the dark.
While Pippin was struggling with his inner turmoil, Merry was continuously dragging his cousin into the forest, pausing every so often as if to listen for giant footsteps. Peregrin found this actually quite funny, considering there didn't appear to be any Ents around. Maybe they'd just done it to get their attention, play a joke...
Pippin cursed loudly, earning himself a slap on the shoulder. His cousin was listening intently and, for a moment, Merry doing this reminded him of a rather short Legolas. Brandybuck looked up suspiciously at a neighbouring tree.
"Pippin," he said quietly. "I think we have company."
The fool of a Took went red in the face, usually a trait which Merry was guilty for. He said loudly, "Well, DUH! Big bad Ents stomping around the Shire, my cousin nicking off with my pipe - I've had enough! Yoo hoo, Ents! Are you out there? Hello!"
He wasn't really expecting an answer, only letting off steam. It was quite a shock when a tree nearby blinked and rumbled softly, "Yes?"
Pippin's mouth dropped open and he jumped back a step. Merry gave him a sideways glance then squared his shoulders, facing the Ent. Already branches were bending at man-like joints and the tree was standing up an extra few feet. Pippin muttered darkly to himself about the annoying habits of cousins and forests who liked to scare poor innocent Hobbits such as himself.
"Hello," Meriadoc said carefully, keeping his voice light. "I, that is, we want to know why you are here."
His cousin was rocking on his heels, shooting the darkness around a terrified glance. What appeared to be the Ent's beard swayed a little as the tree herder studied the two Hobbits intently. Finally, it said in a quiet, mellow rumble, "We do not know why, it is only the will of the wind pushing our branches and fronds away."
Peregrin Took snorted rudely, but managed to sound mildly curious, "Not meaning to be blunt, but Ents here aren't exactly a common thing."
"There is no need for them to be here," the squatting tree replied neutrally. "It amazes me that you, short-men, know of the Ents. No, we are not them."
It subsided into a thoughtful mumble, eyes darting from Hobbit to Hobbit in apparent studious amusement. Merry frowned at a distant spot over the tree line, confused. Well, if it wasn't an Ent, then what was it? Not many species were trees and happened to walk, when one thought about it. He opened his mouth, then shut it. Questions poised on his lips, but none seemed of any relevance. Finally, it was Pippin who demanded, "If you're not an Ent then what are you?"
Brandybuck shot him a warning look, clearly expressing that no insolence was to be demonstrated. The tree blinked its bulbous eyes, replying without offence, "We are not the tree herders, but the wives of tree herders."
It took a moment for this to sink in.
"Y-You're an Entwife," Merry stammered, stunned.
Thoughts raced across his mind. First, rational voices telling him that this was only a dream, then more intelligent voices telling him that this was a most remarkable find. Standing to full height, the Entwife was surprised. It now became clear that what both Hobbits thought was a beard of moss was, in fact, strings of hair lining the cheeks and scalp of the Entwife. She inclined her large head. "You know what I am, short-man?"
Before Merry could respond, Pippin jumped in, "Well, of course we do! Met a few Ents, didn't we Merry, down in Fangorn Forest a while back. Don't happen to know Treebeard do you?"
The Entmaiden blinked slowly, deliberately. "You speak of the Great Tree Herder, do you not? The others and I have not laid eyes of him or his folk for more than a century or longer. I cannot tell - time has never been seen as important amongst us."
"When you say us..." Meriadoc looked around expectantly. "Do you mean other Entwives?"
The tree raised its head and answered with as much grace as possible, "It is only they to call me Mosshair, for the Ents are far gone. You have seen Treebeard? Which way does he lie?"
Took busied himself with pretending to look for a map of Middle-Earth, which he knew he didn't have, then clawed through his bag in search for a compass, which he also knew he didn't have. However, it only took his cousin moments to locate the direction in his mind. Merry gazed imploringly up. "Southwards in, as we say, Fangorn Forest of Rohan."
The Entwife settled down again into a crouch, seemingly uncomfortable with any position to maintain it for long. She opened and closed her eyes tiredly, as though conversation was exhausting.
"We are not headed that way," Mosshair murmured quietly. "The wind takes us elsewhere. Southwards is another time."
Merry reached his limit and burst out, "But you summoned us! Why else would you than to know of where the Ents are?"
Peregrin grinned at him appreciatively, silently applauding with his bag tucked under one arm. Mosshair lazily looked at Merry, the starlight from above reflected in her tired eyes. "It is only the minds of curious Hobbits that brought you here, then, short-men."
Then the Entwife had frozen in position, lids rolling over eyes, leaving Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took staring in disbelief at her sleeping form.