For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 43, Part 184
The Entwife's Tale
June 20, 1452
Helplessly the Entwife stood before the cave, guarding the lovers within. A soft rain wept down upon her, dripping from her twigs. As the wind built up and the rain turned hard, she writhed a bitter dance, wildly swaying her limbs and even her trunk. The tunics that hung from her boughs fluttered and whipped around each other until the gale at last tore them away, to fly up for a space, then tumble down into the mud. She whom Frodo had misnamed Hazel turned her face up to the lightning--the barklike skin, long split and ravaged by more than time and weather, now drenched in storm--and defied the bolts to strike her, to strike and burn away the memories!
Oh yes, she recognized the Unworthy One whose wedding to Frodo Gardner she had witnessed. She did recall the climber of her boughs, how she had sensed the love within the creature and so had let her pass. And then came the poisoning after, Frodo all but dead--she remembered that, too. Typical, that she would not recognize, until too late, the worm of sickness within the budding love, blighted by Annatar, the King of Gifts.
Ever had she recognized the truth too late. Oh, but she did know Annatar of old, and how he tortured the best of things into strange shapes, and so she had refrained from strangling Unworthy One on the day they met again, even though the creature, obviously ailing now, had no defenses left. Instead “Hazel” had witnessed love suffusing Frodo’s face–answered in Unworthy One’s own hectic features--and it stabbed her to the core, so she had stood unmoving, let them pass, even guarded them together, and mourned her own tormented loves.
It had all begun so well! Had not Annatar and the entwives prized the same goals, desiring only to bring order and plenty to Middle Earth? Had they not begun with farms so prosperous that every bough on every tree groaned and cracked with fruit, turnips grew the size of pumpkins and pumkins the size of carriages, and fields stretched out like nations, endless miles of grain as far as the eye could see? Had not all good things seemed possible, for any who had the courage to seize control of the land and make it do her will?
She and the other entwives had treasured Annatar and all of the marvels that he promised them. At first Annatar had walked mainly with their husbands, and the entwives left them to their ramblings together, while they themselves tended the more important business of teaching the Speaking Peoples everything needful and fair of the granger’s arts. But as time went on, Annatar turned more and more to the entwives, as though fed up with the uncouth ents, interested now in the labors and joys of the succulent fields.
Whenever it amused him, Annatar could rise up in their midst like a handsome ent taller than them all, strong yet flexible of trunk, crowned in a verdant blaze of leaves. The entwives stood about his roots and gazed up like entings learning ancient lore. Long he spoke to them, lingering in the land he gave to them. While the real ents stomped about in messy wilds, leaving themselves disheveled and unpruned for year on year, forgetting hearths and farms, the entwives listened to the counsel of someone like them only so much better.
It happened in the spring. At first the entwives, bedecked in their gayest flowers, wandered by ones and twos to the western border of the gardened lands, calling for their husbands. All creatures loved the luscious, woody voices of the entwives singing. They waited for the proud trumpeting of the ents to waft back to them across the distances. Their blossoms opened wide, eager to receive the pollen that the songs would bear, floating on the wind, each blossom knowing and finding her own beloved’s blessing. Yet no one answered, for the ents had wandered far, so far that even the winds of that place did not breech the miles, and no song came to them. So the entwives turned around, their crowns a little bowed, and returned to Annatar to hear him teach.
One fine spring day soon after, Annatar, in entlike form, held forth on the virtues of cross-pollinization, of the hybridizing of seeds and ideas and more, so much so exquisitely more. To their amazement and delight, blossoms burst forth on Annatar, all within a day, blossoms so rich in color that they seemed black to a casual glance, but the entwives gazed in and saw color upon color within, hypnotized by the infinite layers and swirls that they imagined there. They leaned closer and closer, forgetting all words, utterly under the spell. Then, unexpectedly, with intoxicating fragrance, the sweetest pollen puffed from deep within, and they all swooned in a ring around the King of Gifts. While the ents explored the wilds and laughed about the freedom of camping far from the bother of their wives, for as long as they should please and let no one nag them otherwise, the wives learned infidelity.
As the seasons wore on and still no ents came home, the entwives thought it a blessing that the husbands stayed away. None must see the dark and swelling fruit, heavier and heavier until their own boughs broke, no birth ever so painful to them before. None must see the flesh rot from the seeds, so bitter that no animal would touch it. Especially none must see the entwives do the most terrible thing of all, in shame and fear: sweep the seeds into the deepest, darkest caverns they could find, where no rain reached and no sun blessed, in cracks of stone where nothing could take root.
But while they toiled in those subterranean places, the mountains fell on them! For Annatar, revealed as Sauron now, had commenced the riving of the land. Nor did it displease him to capture here such useful slaves--as he had intended all along.
Deep beneath the ground, never knowing day from night, nor the phases of the moon, nor the turning of the seasons, the entwives nevertheless knew the moment when the entings should have sprouted. For their bosoms ached and wept with sap, a nourishment that dribbled useless to the ground, until their breasts dried up again, shriveling like hearts that gave up hope. Oh how they wished to die and join their young!
Sauron did not permit them death. Foul draughts he gave them, in miserly measure, and artificial lights he shone on them at times, that burned their leaves along the rims although it kept them fed. Yet they had to work for even so little as that--hard work, grim and long. And instinct made them do it, for the body usually wants to live, even when the mind despairs.
The light shone only in his laboratories, where they crushed his ores until their toes and fingers blistered and then bled, and after this they concocted from his rocks and the earth’s black blood such potions as could force a plant to grow according to their master’s will, or poison any creature that displeased him. Sauron pried from them all that they knew of growing things, blended with his own artifice--thus did he achieve the hybridization of ideas that he had praised before–and he made them bring it into fruition, forcing them to fashion sharp-stinking substances that made them sick to breathe the fumes. The entwives grew wan and wilted and thought their lot a bitter one indeed. But the worst was yet to come.
Sauron suffered a setback. The entwives thought that their fortunes had turned, for the guard upon them--stone-made creatures without independent mind--failed at once to see or move, becoming mere statues at the doors. Painfully the entwives wrenched their way out of their dungeons, ripping up through the earth like seedlings that will climb though anything to reach the sun. And sun they did find, of a dim and smoky sort, and long they stood, leaned this way and that, just soaking up that light, building up their strength, till they could walk again.
All creatures fled the disheveled things who lumbered now across the land, and the Entwives noted this. They saw no respect anywhere they turned, not what they had become used to in their former days. It seemed to them likely that Sauron had boasted of their downfall far and wide, that folk must speak of entwives only in derision, that none would ever again seek the wisdom of such soiled beings. How could they even hope that the ents would bother to seek the fate of wives who could only now disgust them? Indeed, the entwives thought it best to avoid all decent company evermore.
It took them months, in their weakened state, to return to the home that they had made for themselves on the outskirts of Sauron’s territory. They longed to see its greenness once again, all of the gardens, all of the fields, the orchards soon in bloom, the wells and pleasant little cottages for men who sought to study under them, the meadows and the granaries, in all the wealth of colors that the sun after a rain could show. They hoped to make it there by spring. They thought the scent of flowers would guide their final miles. They limped on, bowed and withered, towards their heart’s desire.
They traveled several miles through it before they recognized their own domain. The Brown Lands men now named it--an endless, rolling waste where nothing grew. When they realized where they were they sank deep roots and howled--howled so loudly and so long, and with so much pain of soul, that men could hear them miles away, and shuddered, and barred their doors. Yet this did not plumb the nadir of the entwives’ sorrows. Not quite yet.
They found the Children. They found the heartless, evil Children, sprouted in the dark, raised without love. Their father had located them all, rescued them and steeped them in his ways. The Children hated and tried to slay the mothers who had tried to slay them. Some of the entwives let them succeed, without a fight, despairing in their shame. Others barricaded themselves in lifeless fortresses of rock, yet could not bring themselves to attempt to harm a second time the entings that now turned on them. And so the Children lived on for a little while, weakened by the hatred that consumed them from within till one by one they shriveled and they died. Yet even so, these existed long enough to take on mates far stranger than their mothers ever did.
For, long before, Morgoth had attempted Aule’s feat, creating beings of his own from the rocks and metals that he loved more dear than living things. Yet unlike Aule he would never stoop to submitting them to Illuvatar for judgment, and so they had no souls. Mere toys, puppets to his will, they walked the earth whenever darkness fell and he desired that they prowl, but he had to order their every move, and soon he tired of their drain on him.
Ages later, Sauron came across a cavern filled with dumb and motionless ranks of Morgoth’s misbegotten toys, abandoned in the dark. Sauron learned the power to make them move and act, to his delight. He had used such things as guards, in fact, upon the Entwives in their long imprisonment, for no other creature had the strength to hold in check such mighty slaves.
Yet Sauron found another use for others of the walking rocks, while the entwives toiled in the dark. The entings had never known love, and so did not notice its absence when their father gave them wives and husbands without mind nor heart. Helplessly the entwives watched the proliferation of the Grandchildren--stony creatures who inherited mere fragments of a soul apiece, and barest slivers of an independent wit, yet enough for Sauron to do his work upon and then set loose.
Most astonishing of all, some did resemble ents indeed, and in more than just their looks. Some retained a capacity to love, if given half a chance. The entwives sought out as many of these special ones as they could find, stole them back to cherish and to teach. The Grandchildren could never understand as much as a normal ent. They couldn’t master Entish, for one thing, though they managed a brutal version of the Common Tongue. But some could respond to kindness like a flower turning towards the sun.
Their grandmothers loved them, and kept them near, repenting their sins against the Children. Even so, the entwives found this difficult, for the Grandchildren, like their rock-forged parents, could not abide the sun, and took their nourishment in fashions strange to their maternal line. Reluctantly, loathing what they did, the Entwives learned to hunt for them, and brought them flesh to eat. But a grandmother will do anything for a child with special needs. After awhile the Grandchildren learned to hunt on their own, venturing out into the night, strangling whatever sleeping animals they could find. It didn’t matter. For some their natures remained sweet indeed, in spite of everything.
Sauron, of course, found out. Sometimes by ones and twos, sometimes in packs, he trapped the traitors, the most entish of the trolls, out in the open fields that the fools seemed to love so well, chaining them with adamant that even they could not wrench free. And then he left them to the Sun, for it amused him that his old enemy should kill for him. These throwbacks among the Grandchildren might appear like ents, but in the sunlight they reverted to the rocky nature of their other parents. Ever after men would find, and wonder over, what seemed like trees or groves or even forests of fallen trunks and branches made entirely of stone. The entwives knew where every one of them had fallen, and in their wandering they would pause at times to weep over their dead.
In the meantime Sauron bred the rest of his brood into the trolls that all folk came to fear. Less and less like ents they looked and acted with every generation. As ents grew more treeish the longer they lived among trees, so these bastard entings resembled the stones that they crouched among whenever the sunlight threatened them. Sauron took their education into hand, steeping them in cruelty and brutishness. Some few he even managed to breed that could tolerate the light--exploiting an elusive gene from their entish foremothers--though he never quite achieved the armies of daylight trolls that he desired.
The storm raged on, over the cave by Poros Pass. Long did the entwife called Hazel weep in the dark, and her tears mingled with the rain that whipped her. It had not all been so cut and dried as she had wanted to remember it. That had hurt the worst. Yes, some of the Grandchildren loved indeed, while others had seemed half-capable of love, yet without a grasp of the entire concept. She never quite could tell when they would lie to her, and when they genuinely cherished her. She never knew what spiteful things they might surprise her with, for reasons they themselves could seldom say. And some who loved all wrong inflicted terrible injuries on her in the belief they did her good, gashing at her in a mad attempt to prune, poisoning her with what they took for wholesome food, or going into jealous rages against others in their midst for her name’s sake.
She found she could not help but love them anyway. She would have crushed to death anyone who tried to stop her from cherishing the Grandchildren.
And so she understood, oh she understood too well, Frodo’s love for the Unworthy One. Who was she to interfere? He would have to suffer, even as she did. She could not spare him that. He would not want her to. Soon or late, all things grew tangled in the gardens of Fair Annatar!
HERE ENDS VOLUME V.