As they rode swiftly towards the Old Ford, Thranduil released a silent sigh. It had saddened him to have to fight the Beornings, a people who had been so valiant and brave in times past. He could only guess at what had possessed them to allow darkness into their hearts. How their leader Grimbeorn the Old had perished, the Beornings only knew, but somehow he doubted the betrayal had started there. Grimbeorn and his father had been ever honourable, keeping both the High Pass and the roads to Mirkwood safe for travellers. They had had Thranduil’s every respect for their efforts. He hoped those that remained would see how they had been manipulated by the darkness and reject it now, but regardless – messages would have to be sent to Lorien and Imladris to ensure that they knew to be wary of those they once called friends.
The one question that remained, that he wished they knew the answer to, was – had the Beornings been told to stop them specifically or were they just stopping any travellers that passed by? Or that had not been picked off by the orcs amassing on the banks of the Anduin? He doubted they would find out anytime soon, but maybe the mystery would be revealed before it was too late for them to act. For now they would have to forge on and try to complete the mission they had taken on, with every hope that it hadn’t been discovered by the enemy. Whatever – it wasn’t worth worrying about right now.
For him – he now felt the call of home. All along the Anduin he had felt it just within reach, almost like it was calling out for him. There was nothing like the sensation of being under the trees, their familiarity and friendship. He very much doubted any of the others, bar Radagast, would be able to sense anything, but despite the decay brought by the darkness, he could still feel the life pulsing throughout. When they reached the eaves of the forest where the main Elven path emerged, he intended to take a moment to listen and take in the atmosphere. To find out what the forest wanted to share with him or perhaps warn him of.
Soon, soon they would be there if all went well. He made a mental note to reiterate the rules of the forest to his companions before they entered, as he doubted they had remembered them with all they’d had to contend with. This might be his realm, but it was wild and dangerous to outsiders. Whilst he would have the darkness banished from his boarders instantly if he could, he would not tame this land and turn it into some farmer’s orchard. Eru meant it to grow free and he would fight to keep it that way. It was his responsibility.