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Taking Readings II by Himring

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Author's Chapter Notes:

Before Mirkwood, there was another great forest that fell under nightshade and Sauron himself, who was in those days but the servant of the Black Foe in the North, invaded it with fire and darkness and corrupted it. Treebeard knew it, before its fall, and sings with regret of the pine trees of Dorthonion. It was here that Beleg, who had once wandered freely in all the forests of the land, found Gwindor, who had only just escaped from thralldom in the Iron Hells of Angband, and, aiding him, persuaded him to turn around, in an attempt to rescue another man from the threat of the same thralldom.
Here is a conversation between them.

Written for the B2MeM 2017 prompt: “It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.” Stephen King
I was originally aiming to follow the spirit of the prompt quite straightforwardly, but I ended up giving it a bit of a twist.

Rating: PG (Teens) for references to darker canon background

'I'm glad you are with me, Gwindor', said Beleg. 'I used to know these woods well long before they fell under deadly nightshade. It is sad too see them now.'

He spoke truth, from the heart--seeing the the land so changed was like seeing the face of a friend, disfigured, after long separation--was indeed as disturbing as seeing Gwindor's own face utterly changed by his imprisonment in Angband. But nevertheless his words were chosen deliberately, also, for he hoped that Gwindor's resolve would be strengthened if he felt more clearly that he was lending support as well as being given it.

'I, too, used to know the highlands well, if perhaps not so well as you,' said Gwindor, lifting his head where he sat drooping with exhaustion.  'In the days of the long peace, I was often sent to Dorthonion. I remember the resinous scent of tall pine trees and the water of the tarns shimmering under the open sky. I even spent a winter up here once--days of snow and whiteness and a harsh, clean wind sweeping among the branches...'

Briefly, his memory seemed to have carried him away. But then he looked around, at their present surroundings, and grief and fear settled back into the lines of his face.

'Thinking of all that whiteness does make it seem darker,' said Beleg, sympathetically. 'But the oldest trees still remember those winters, I feel it. Only, the memory has retreated deep inside...'

And indeed he felt that although outwardly  the woods seemed to have utterly succumbed to the onslaught of the enemy,  trees black and grim, roots tangled and groping like claws, the land had not quite given up the desperate struggle against Sauron even now, although its last defender had long fled.

'The memory of whiteness may make it seem darker,' said Gwindor. 'But, Beleg, even night in the forest of deadly nightshade seems very bright, compared to the darkness in the depths of Angband. I know I seem much changed to you and you perceive the shadow of fear in me, but I am not as afraid, now, here, as you think. I was dying under nightshade, when you found and aided me, but--to me, it seemed I was dying happy, having escaped into the light.'

Chapter End Notes:

Taur-nu-fuin (an Elvish name also given to Mirkwood) is translated as "Forest under Nightshade". The forest also has the Elvish name Delduwath, which is translated as "Deadly Nightshade". These are Tolkien's own translations of the names, although in the glossary to the published Silmarillion text, Christopher Tolkien has rendered them as "Forest under Night" and "Horror of Night-Shadow", which is apparently more literal (and avoids association with the name of the plant).

Some of the description of Dorthonion and Taur-nu-fuin in the text above draws on Tolkien's own words.

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