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Missing the Forest for the Trees
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One good fall day, a traveler robed in brown stumbles upon the most unusual encampment.

"By my beard!" he cries, almost dropping his staff in the astonishment. "But if it isn't an Elf and a Naugrim! I knew something must have been afoot."

"Afoot?" asks the Dwarf, making as if to rise while sending his worry in his glance to his companion, who merely lifts a curiously amused eyebrow. The Dwarf sits back.

"Why, yes, if you must know," replies the traveler, sitting himself within their circle and helping himself to a serving of roasted cheese. "The Eagles suddenly disappeared one day. All of the Eagle-lords at once! A most unusual occurrence by all accounts, but coupled with the excessive noise in the forest..."

"Noise?" asks the Elf, leaning slightly forward.

"Every leaf!" the old man cries amid mouthfuls, reaches for an apple. "They were all so noisy I could not make up a word of what they were saying."

"What did you do?" asks the Dwarf, perplexed.

"I set out to discover the reason at once." He licks his fingers, takes out a pouch from under the folds of his robe. "Have you any water?"

The Dwarf hands him a wine flask.

"I do not indulge, good chap."

The Elf passes him a cup. The old man pours a finely-ground powder onto it, stirs it with his fingers, and downs it in a gulp.

"Well?" asks the Dwarf.

"Well what?"

"What did you discover?"

"About what?"

"The noise in the forest," the Elf supplies, a smile firmly in place by now.

"Oh. Well, I do not know," the old man said, returning his pouch to its former place. "I discovered a curious plant on my way there and stopped to study its properties. As it turns out, it makes a wonderful substance that, according to my experiments, can supply a man with nourishment from sun-up to sun-down if drank upon rising, tasting differently every time it is ingested, according to the drinker's desire--"

"Could've used some of that..." the Dwarf mutters.


The Elf waves his hand. "Never mind that. What is your destination, at present?"

"Well, I cannot stray far, you know. Very important matters are being decided as we speak. The world's balance hangs by a thread and my intervention might be required in the coming months, my friends among the wise may have need of me and my location is so remote..." he shakes his head. "I may not fail them."

"Of course not," says the Elf.

The Dwarf scratches his head.

"But I may still attempt to reach the root of the disturbance."

"Have you tried Greenwood?" the Elf asks, leaning back against a tall oak.

"Greenwood?" asks the man, almost entranced. "There is a name I have not heard in a long time. No, I never go there. Too many spiders on the way."

"The spiders are gone."

"And the black squirrels?"

"All of them."

"Well, I'll be--"

"You should try it," says the Elf, stretching. "The Elven King there may have need of your services now."

A puzzled look from the man. And the Dwarf.

"Well, I might. What is going on, exactly?"

"Oh, it's a massive rebuilding project," the Elf replies before hoisting himself up, soon disappearing amidst the foliage.

"If you climb high enough," the traveler calls behind him, "sometimes the wind brings with it echoes of the distant sea at sunset."

"We know," mutters the Dwarf.

Later that evening, the Elf finally makes his way down.

"Oh, is he gone?" he asks.

The Dwarf mutters an unintelligible reply.

The Elf grins. "Father will be surprised to see him."

"If he ever makes it!"

~the end


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