Hear me, O Kementári, Yavanna. For who other has the length of years to hear my lament, and who other has the desire?
Will you send your sister, the grey-cloaked, the sorrowing, to walk among us, in our lomendánar, our gloaming?
Even the tears of the Valar are not our tears. Even your long years are not ours.
I will tell my tale in mine own tongue, for the Children of Ilúvatar who gave us their language come no more beneath our branches. The Firstborn are no longer in their power, and the Secondborn are no longer young, so I perceive our doom is near at hand.
Would only that we could only pass away with our charge fulfilled, and the trees we loved no longer endangered by careless axe and cruel design. Alas, I fear they shall suffer even more in the ages to come without us.
Let me tell you what I have known. I beg of you to listen to me, Lady, for I know you have more years to spare than even I.
In the tongue of those called the Firstborn – though, truly, were we not there before even they?—I was known as Fladrif. I cannot tell you how much I loved the land that was mine in the olden days, when the forest covered all of Beleriand….oh, I do remember, a great flood and a great sorrow, mighty enough to reach even the kind of You who begged to see us born. Little did either you or I truly understand how deep that grief might reach, for did the Sundering Seas not part you and I? When have you last walked the lands beneath my branches, tall and fair in your green gown?
You must pardon me. I wander in my talk. I am Fladrif—Skinbark, in the strange new tongues—and I am old, very old indeed. I had no complaints in my being for many ages of the world, you must understand. I dwell upon a lovely mountain, and the soil is black and wet around my roots. The sensuous mists, cool and lovely, settle about my leaves in the springtide, and the warm green winds of summer are strong in my leaves, and when winter comes, I do not fear, for I am the Shepherd of the Birchfolk and the snow well suits me. When I was young and dashing, my bold and slender trunk wore Winter's colours, white and black, and they suited me, with my lingering pale gold crown of Autumn still clinging about my head. I am grateful for all of this, my lady. For shoes of grass and jewels of frost. Think you never that I am not grateful.
And yet I grow big. I grow bloated. I grow twisted boils of age upon my trunk. It is now not so easy to do my work, whatever that may be. I long for nothing more than rest, and as I well know, that is the temptation of my kind – to simply relax into the feel of the sun upon my leaves and the wetness of the soil within my roots until, as you know, I sleep.
Before I sleep, I will tell you that even in the current age, I remember well, how my forest stretched from here across the Misty Mountains, even to Mithlond. Few of us are left from these days, but my dear friend Fangorn can tell you how well he remembers.
Fangorn. Ah, Fangorn.
[Fifty years pass while Skinbark thinks of how best to phrase this. Yavanna bides.]
More than three thousand years, by the reckoning of the First- and Second-born, have passed since Fangorn last lay eyes on his beloved Fimbrethil. I remember her in spring, lean and spry, crowned in white flowers.
Where have the Entwives gone? What is the cause of my friend's great sorrow? I have heard whispers from far lands of lovely tree-women who are said to walk when the short-lives sleep, and I have hope, and I have also heard tales from far away of burnt-out wastes where once the Entwives grew their gardens, and so I also have dread. Has there not been enough grief?
Rarely now does Fangorn rouse to action, or to ire. He grows stubborn in his loneliness. Finglas is worse – he barely murmurs in his fitful sleep.
And I? Oh, Lady, I too have a love I have lost, and he did not go a-wander. Once many years ago, our forest was unbroken, our stands uninterrupted, and the fair winds of Manwë carried our hearts in his hands – our whispers, our pollen. Lady, our roots grew and entangled deep within your rich black soil, and we knew no sundering, no separation of our thought. He stood, my Riverhair, beside a small river to the North, watching over his trees, and they drank deep of the Baranduin and its little children. He loved the wet places, the little fens, the soft warm summers of dragonflies and frogs. He wore soft green moss, and small black snakes about his branches and darting silver fish between his toes. He bent his long locks to trail in the cool water, and all the spirits of the moist places were with him.
In those days, even the great Misty Mountains were no barrier. We wandered, and I, the cool hill-dweller, came to see my summer love in his swampy bower. And when the ice chilled his toes and his beloved frogs and fish went to sleep, and his willows drowsed, he came to my high meadows and told me I was handsome – in my lingering yellow leaves, my white cloak of snow. He admired my birch trees and learned to hear their talk.
You will pardon me if I speak of him in my language: green-silver-slender-twigged-strong-trunk; linking-branches-and-breathing-in-the-air-drinking-deep-his-pollen-my-root-tangles-piercing-intertwine-in-warm-soil-together-we-made-spring-come-whenever-we-wished-together;he-was-he-who-heard-my-thoughts-without-speaking.
[Far away, in a little house, a golden-haired woman in green sits in her kitchen, with her bare feet resting in a bowl of water and lilies. She may be the only other one who remembers. She weeps.]
I do not think I need to tell you how he came to be no longer counted among the Eldest. You know that this is not uncommon among our kind, as the forests that bound us were cut and the great unity of the forest that once bound our hearts was sundered.
He is there still, but will no longer come to see me. He has not gone completely tree-ish; it would be a mercy perhaps, if he did, and perhaps there is a wisdom in those we guard that we shepherds have lost in our anger for those who would do our charges harm. He has lost all love for scampering and swimming things; he has gone black-hearted. The trees that surround him have come to share his hate.
Lady, we did not feel these things before the two-leggeds and their axes. Long ago, I took long counsel with my love and tried to persuade him that there were different kinds, and different hearts, and with care they could be sorted. He would have none of it.
He is more lost than Fangorn's Fimbrethil, I fear, although I know the place where he still stands. It would avail me none if I brought all my brothers to find him. And there would be no Entings from he and I at any rate, and so the healing of our hearts would not change our people's doom.
When all the world was one forest, there was never any parting, for our thoughts were the thoughts of the forest. And then came the cutting. And the Entwives left us and were lost. And there is an Elven song that promises that when we have lost all, perhaps we shall be reunited upon a bitter road. I know tales of the Sundering Seas, lady, and the ships that cross to never return to Middle-earth. But we are Middle-earth, and what ship can bear our kind? Even the Elves make ships of our broken bodies.
Well I know that there were long years of talk about me. That my anger grows faster than my branches. That my roots delve into darkness. That I have forgotten the ancient songs of summer, and in my winter I stand menacing all travelers and make no distinction between the bearers of iron and the bearers of good will. That I have become the companion of those who do not care for things that grow, for I have lost all love for things that walk upon Arda.
I have seen too many of my trees destroyed. Even the Istari betrayed us. Even the new King cannot restore what we have lost.
["Hey dol, merry dol, what for this constant pining?
A young morn comes, though we are old –
And the sun is shining!"]
"There you are!" came a strong, young voice, deep and slow and yet not quite so slow as an elderly Ent might prefer. Skinbark was at first enraged to be interrupted—again—and yet, far from hasty, he swallowed his anger to slowly consider the sight of Quickbeam, waving his branches excitedly and displaying his jewels of bright red berries. "It's just---my rowans are growing again, and the Entdraught is rising. I would like you to come and see."