Friday 25 May 2012

Friend of animals

The forests once more cover the lands, from coast to mountain in every direction. Two thousand seasons have come and two thousand seasons have gone, acorns grown to saplings and thence to mighty tree.

Fed by sun, rain and the great corpsefields, the forests grew and the memory of the deed that was done faded. The treeherders roam far and wide, the threat of axe and fire long faded from this world. In the shadow of the boughs, joyous birdsong fills the world, a choir to please the ear of every elf and wizard.

Yet I still recall the day of the great council and a night never passes without dreams of what could have been had my journey been delayed. There were great tidings brought to me on the wings of my friends, bestirring me to leave the long watch at Rhosgobel. The great evil had been banished from this world and the race of orcs broken on the field of battle. Human, dwarf and elf had stood together and some even sang of hobbit-deeds of bravery and endurance. It was a time of great change, the end of an age and an opportunity to set the great ship of history on a new course.

When I arrived at the council the elves were talking of sailing west, making room for the age of man and letting their race fade from memory. The treesingers had grown weary and sought peace in exile, with hope that mankind could grow and mature, to become stewards of the east. Truly the elven capacity for self-delusion was amazing and at first the shock at such dereliction of duty nearly sent me fleeing back to the vales of Anduin.

It was that night that Corvus came to me. Long had he served as my eyes in the south, a trusted friend and true heart. His wings were sooty black, not just of feather but also with ash from the pyres of the orcs, and his tales of human deeds were of equally dark nature. He spoke of the strife among the different races of men, how great numbers of them had sworn loyalty to the shadow. He reminded me of how easily the old kings of man had fallen, to become wraiths that scoured the land, and spoke of a new king that had made alliance with the dead of ages past.

Corvus spoke also of the Mûmakil, great tusked beasts and wisest among all my friends, that had been forced to serve in war by man and now lay slain on Pelennor Fields. The herds that once roamed Harad had been reduced by the ravages of man and it became clear to me that in just a few short centuries our majestic friends would no longer shake the earth with their passing.

By dawn, my mind was fixed on the task ahead. Fiery words sang in my mind and I knew that tomorrow would be neither autumn nor winter for the elves, but that they would rise to my challenge and embrace a new spring. I knew that the first singers had not been forgotten in these halls and that if I could evoke their spirit then the elves would rally to my cause.

Six days and six nights the council argued, some crying for what had been lost and others for what might never come. Many had set their minds, one foot already on the ships to the west. Others were less certain and could hear the reason in my voice. Iron, fire and strife were the signs of both man and orc, two sides of the same coin. Death and despair ever walked at the side of man, to think otherwise was madness.

To leave man as stewards of the east was to condemn the forests and animals to extinction or servitude. War would consume the lands until one day man found the means to sail west in pursuit of new lands to destroy. What then would remain for elvenkind but eternal damnation, having forgotten the song and their duty? On the sixth night, as the stars glimmered above, the decision was made.

The leaders of man were summoned, given guidance and encouragement. It was announced that the elven hosts would leave, set sail for the lands of the setting sun. A great celebration was held, a coronation and a wedding sealed the pact and gifts were solemnly exchanged.

Twelve great founts were brought forth by the elves, gifts of parting to the new stewards of the land. From each there flowed, on call, all the food and water a man might need, sufficient to feed a city of any size. The tendency for man to huddle together and live in great proximity was well known and this gift suited them well, for it would free them of the labour of the fields.

In the years to come, mankind continued to till some fields and keep some animals for they did not fully trust the power of the founts. There was ever a minority who sought to keep apart and sustain themselves, but over the years suspicion eased and the easy life offered by flocking to one of the great fount cities, as they were now known, became irresistible to most.

Fields lay fallow for a time, but as the seasons turned they became overgrown and became lost from sight. Years passed and cities grew, becoming ever more vast with stone covering the old fields as roads, monuments and buildings sprang up. Generations passed and man began to forget the lessons of agriculture, relying ever more fully on the founts even as their numbers grew beyond reckoning.

Then came the day when the founts produced nothing but ash. At first they thought that it was only temporary and they called wise men to determine how to restore the flow of food and water. When their spells and prayers failed to bring forth sustenance there was a great panic and people fled, seeking to make their way to other cities that might yet have a working fount.

As hosts of refugees met in the wild, rumours travelled far and wide. Some claimed that all the founts had failed, that mankind was cursed and abandoned by the gods. Others claimed that at least one fount was still working but that the city controlling it was keeping it for their own exclusive use. Truth, as always among men, became irrelevant as the first among them drew steel and slew a man from another city.

The slaughter that took place over the next few months was far beyond anything seen in the war of the ring. Blood turned rivers red and fields were lined with corpses over distances beyond reckoning. To sustain themselves for battle the warriors turned to feasting on the red meat of their enemies, bathing themselves in blood and chanting to dark gods for strength and victory. Among the elvenkind, any doubt about the virtue of man was removed when those rituals were revealed by farseeing stones.

When winter came the hardship among men became so great that not one in a thousand survived. Hunting and gathering sustained a few, cannibalism lent strength to others but despair and hunger stole the strength from the multitudes and they lay down to a rest from which they never awoke. The spirit of man had been broken irrevocably.

With the first spring rain, the elven hosts landed on the eastern shores again. Their splendour was great, a host such as had not been seen since the first age. United by desire to wipe the stain of humanity from middle earth, they marched forth with spears shining in the sunlight. The campaign would last less than a year as the remaining bands of mankind were destroyed on the field of battle or hunted like animals in the forests and mountains.

Thus my plan was brought to fruition and the brief interregnum was ended. The kings of man had enjoyed prosperity in the absence of the great shadow and the elvenhost, but had shown their true nature and been punished for it. It would take two thousand seasons before the last of the human cities sank beneath the canopy of the vast forests, but the ship of history was firmly on the new course I had plotted.

Birds and animals roam free once again, free from harness and fear of the hunter's arrow. The great trees provide shade and shelter, with elf and treeherder lending a guiding hand when needed though their numbers remain few. The lessons of ages past has been well learned and the world shall forever remain free of the taint of the plow and forge. The nightmare of the taming of the lands and rise of industry has been banished for eternity, replaced with the the free spirit of the wild.

Mankind lives on only in my dreams and memories, indistinct and foggy reminders that evoke the haze that ever gathered over their camps and cities. Sometimes Corvus speaks to me of them, warning me that just as orcs and man once rose out of obscurity others could come. Perhaps the dwarves might one day leave their mines and use their mastery of fire to destroy the vast forests. Corvus counsels me to craft a ring and store much of my essence in it, thereby ensuring my immortality and also enhancing my powers. Only through such means can I truly ensure that this age will last forever.

I am Radagast of Many Colours, friend of animals.


This is a non-commercial derivative work, written for the RPG challenge. Apologies to the late J.R.R. Tolkien for borrowing one of his characters without permission.

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