The sinking Sun mirrored in a little lake, hidden in one of the quiet valleys of the Northern Mirkwood. A hot and hazy summer day was coming to an end, stepping back to let in the cool breath of the night.

It was a wonderful quiet evening: a pleasant breeze rustled in the leaves of the old Forest, each and every living thing enjoying it.

Although it seemed that the Wood was dark and bushy and tangled, it was full of animals and birds, full of a secret life.

The valley was not deep, rather small and quiet; the silence was accompanied only by the rush of the wind in the leaves and the song of a stream, trickling down its stony bed to a lake, and then falling softly from a little height, running away to meet some far-off wood-river.

The Eastern side of the lake was sheltered by several old and gnarled willow-trees, one of them leaning over the smooth surface, almost touching the water.

The Forest encircled the valley; the trees were so tightly tangled by root and branch that it was almost impossible to get through. That is why, perhaps, no Man has ever reached this peaceful corner of Mirkwood.

As the Sun sank ever lower, some beasts left their shelter and went off hunting: a family of silver foxes crossed the valley, busy to try and pick the trail of some mouse or hare. Black squirrels hopped along in the tree-tops, playing. Some of them ventured to the bank of the stream , to take a well-earned shower, no doubt. There were noises of flapping wings and large birds flew out of the dark-green leaves of the tree-tops.

The Forest lived and breathed, following the course settled long ago, during many lives of Men.
But, somehow, wariness overcame the merry squirrel company: they left their games and became watchful and tense. They heard a new sound, and every little head topped with pointy black ears turned to one direction – where this sound came from. It was plain that someone was coming, and it was no beast. The squirrels hid back in the tree-tops, not daring to stay and see the stranger.

In the shadowy foliage of an immense old oak-tree two large amber eyes flickered suddenly and gazed at the Forest-edge.

The light steps of the stranger were barely audible, and as there was no sound of broken branches, only that of rustling leaves , it seemed like the Forest itself let the unexpected guest pass.
At least an indistinct shape came out of an opening among the trees, which disappeared almost immediately after that . the stranger made a few steps forward, then stopped, looking around. He was cloaked and hooded, even though the days was hot, and the coming evening warm. Then he made up his mind and walked to the great oak nearest to the banks of the stream. He seemed unaware of the watchfulness around him.

All his movements were being closely followed by the silent watcher, settled in the very tree under which the stranger chose to rest.

The visitor seemed accustomed to the ways of the Forest, for he left his bag under the tree and went off looking for dry wood to light a fire. In ashort while he was back, bearing a fagot of broken branches and twigs. Soon enough, a little fire cracked merrily near the foot of the tree. The stranger sat on the ground, his back propped to the great oak-trunk, his legs crossed, looking at the flames dancing at his feet.

As he sat, the Forest seemed to wake: the tense watchfulness faded, – the strange visitor was welcome. The squirrels left their hiding places, too curious to stay there. The bravest ones jumped on the tree under which the evening visitor sat, and climbed down the trunk to get a closer look.
The amber-eyed watcher seemed less wary, his glance became less keen, but he didn’t lose vigilance.

The last rays of the Sun stroked the smooth surface of the lake, lingered a little, sparkling and flashing, and then faded. The golden light was steadily turning into silver, the first star appeared on the dark blue sky.

The stranger, it seemed, was waiting for the sunset, for he only got up when the last remainings of the daylight melted away. As he did so, the squirrels scrambled back to the tree-top hurriedly. He heard them rushing, loked up at the tree, then laughed softly. This sound made the squirrel family peep out of the leaves and two amber circles shone in wonder from the depths of the shadowy foliage.

Still laughing, the stranger cast back his hood, and let his long grey cloak fall on the grass beneath his feet.

“Do not be afraid, my little friends, I mean you no harm!”, – spoke a clear voice.

A maiden was looking up at them, smiling. She held out her hand and the boldest ( and the most curious ) squirrel went down it and settled itself promptly on her shoulder. The others did not dare to follow, they only left their refuge to sit on the lower branches of the oak.

In a short while darkness settled on the shoulders of the Forest, there was no Moon to be seen, yet bright stars shone on the black dome that was the sky.

The Elf-maiden ( for indeed she was one of the immortal folk) turned and looked up. She saw among the others a larger and brighter star and said softly: ” A Earendil, Gil-Esthel……oiorandir, alata thindome…” Then she stood, lost in thought, recalling a far-off memory, and the stars reflected in her eyes. Moments later, Rana the Wanderer appeared in the velvety-black sky, casting his soft silver light over the valley. The Elf stirred.
Finding the little squirrel still perched on her shoulder, the maiden smiled slightly and gently let it go down onto the grass. Then she walked to the bank of the lake, stepping into a ray of moonlight. As the Moon shone brightly, not only a dim outline of the evening guest was visible, but her whole appearance.

Tall and slender she was, her long dark hair held by two laces in Mortal-women fashion – to prevent it falling to her face. Her skin was slightly tanned and her face never wore the same expression too long. Yet deep in her eyes, greyish-blue, like the stormy Sea, sadness was set.

She was clad more as a hunter or a rider than as one traveling on foot: she wore no robes, her garments were shadowy-grey, only the high-collared shirt was made of fine silvery-blue silk. There were short laced boots on her feet and on her belt hung a leather-sheathed dagger. A single jewel held on a thin silver chain shone on her breast – a sea-star beset with many little pearls of which the largest glistened in the middle.

****A few explanations:
1. The silver foxes do exist.Don’t trust to the name, their fur is dark-brown and very shiny.They are mostly found in Europe and Russia nowadays.And I’m shure they lived in Mirkwood!

2.Rana – the Elvish name for Moon.

3.The phrase is a rather bad Elvish, so I’m sorry, Quenya-Sindarin speakers, if I translated it too wrongly to exist.It means : “Ah, Earendil, Star of hope…the ever-wandering shining in the twilight”

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