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A Brief Respite

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They didn't meet often. Gandalf rarely stayed in one place for long, and Radagast, for his part, rarely traveled west of the Misty Mountains.

"And then, of course, there are the times when you hide yourself from me." Gandalf puffed on his pipe, his eyes gleaming with amusement.

"I wouldn't call it hiding," Radagast replied, filling cups with a redolent blend of tea. "Sometimes I don't wish to be disturbed."

"So you plant yourself in the ground and let the birds make a nest of your hair."

"How else would you suggest I commune with them?" He sat abruptly, hunched over his cup, breathing in the steam.

Gandalf laid his pipe to one side, taking a long sip of the amber liquid. He always felt comfortable here, surrounded by his friend's pots and potions, drying herbs hanging from the rafters, the occasional scratch and scrabble of some woodland creature making use of a hutch or burrow within the walls. For all the urgency, purpose and curiosity in which he lived his life, he hadn't found the time to create a permanent home, making due with temporary accommodations as needed. If he ever decided to settle in one place, he liked to think it would be less like the cool austerity of Isengard and more like the rich warmth of Rhosgobel. It might be nice to make his own hobbit hole, scaled up of course, set out in the wild beneath a giant tree.

But such thoughts would have to wait for another day. He'd been waiting to see Radagast since yesterday evening, sensing the Maia was near, and it had only been when the sky began to soften with dawn's early light that his friend made himself known. But now Gandalf's time was short, and this visit by necessity would have to be curtailed.

"What do you hear of Dol Guldur," he asked, getting straight to the point.

"Is there anything to hear?"

On another day, the casualness with which Radagast pursued their mission would be amusing, but not when ominous whispers had been emanating from the tower's blackened stone.

"I will travel there today, once I take my leave of you. Will you ask the animals what they have seen and heard? Send them to intercept my path and bring their news to me so that I may enter the stronghold better prepared for what may lie within."

"Yes, of course, Gandalf. If it would help you, I will do so at once."

"Thank you, my friend, although I fear I already know what they will tell me."

"You believe Sauron has returned."

Gandalf nodded in reply, drinking solemnly from his cup.

"Do you wish me to get a message to Saruman? One of the Eagles could swiftly do so."

"No, not yet. Let me see what there is to find, but we must stay in readiness. We may need to be more vigilant in our duties."

Radagast snorted a laugh. "And by 'we' you mean 'me'." He downed the remainder of his cup in one big gulp. "I will be more alert and do what I can. Now," Radagast declared, quickly getting to his feet, "I should go and begin spreading the word. But stay and finish your tea; take some rest. You have a difficult road ahead of you."

"I will not linger long, but a quick respite in such an agreeable home may just be what I need."

"If you are still here when I return I will make you one of my ginseng and reishi cakes for the road; energize your hröa, soothe your fëa. And perhaps before you leave we'll already have some news from the beasts and birds."

Gandalf smiled as Radagast practically fled from the room, moving faster than he'd seen him move in ages. He felt time pressing down on him, but a small delay could not do much harm. And it'd been too long since he'd allowed himself the pleasure of stillness and the delight of enjoyable company. He re-lit his pipe, settled back in his seat, and waited for his friends return.