“So began a battle that none had expected; and it was called the Battle of Five Armies, and it was terrible. Upon one side were the Goblins and the wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves.”
J. R. R. Tolkien: The Hobbit or There and Back Again.
Chapter XVII: ‘The Clouds Burst’.
“The elf-host was on the march; and if it was sadly lessened, yet many were glad, for now the northern world would be merrier for many a long day. The dragon was dead, and the goblins overthrown, and their hearts looked forward after winter to a spring of joy.”
The Hobbit, Chapter XVIII ‘The Return Journey’.
Taur-nu-Fuin, 49th day of Rhîw, 2941 T.A.
A grey, overcast sky hung low over the treetops of the forest, heavy with snow. Everything was covered in a thick coat, but it was not the brilliant white of unblemished snow; no, a grey mass, virgin, perhaps, but coloured by the darkness that soaked the soil and clung to the trees, the darkness that permeated the whole forest.
The tall, lithe shape of an elf emerged from a hidden entrance, seemingly out of nowhere, stepping out onto a small clearing. He looked haggard, exhausted, his eyes dull, his shoulders stooping. Wrapped in a thick coat of fur, he made his way through the snow, looking around. Thranduil, King of the Woodland elves, raised his head, tasting the air, assessing the atmosphere. There was danger, even so close to his Halls; nothing had changed. It did not matter that they had fought back the orcs and their spawn at Erebor and that the dragon had been slain.
The death of the dragon had been cause to celebrate among his people, and many new tales were told and songs sung at the fires. Thranduil huffed, moving the left side of his jaw without being aware. True, they had lived under the very real threat of that fire-drake for about a yén. He knew about dragons, better than most, knew about the danger and terror they could evoke. He was the only one of his people still here who had ever seen one from close up, and very close at that. Yes, he had faced and killed a dragon, and lived to tell the tale. Only a small one, allegedly; after all, they were not easy to kill. But Thranduil had paid the price, had been badly injured by its fire. Not many knew, though, for he had found the means to appear unblemished from all but close distance, and had overcome the disability of the vision loss in one eye through sheer stubbornness and endless training. But he had seen the horrors the enemy could work, far more than a sky darkened by the scaled wings of these beasts.
What was one dragon against the impalpable threat of the cursed darkness which took over more and more of the forest, of their home, day by day? They had achieved victory in these long-gone days when his homeland had been devoured by the Sundering Seas, they had achieved victory again and again in the ages since. And still Sauron existed, still he poisoned the land, and still his cursed darkness imbued Thranduil's beloved Greenwood which was not green any longer, but dark. The Lady and the others might have expelled Sauron from Dol Guldur, but he was not gone, and probably never would be. The forest, this forest told another tale, and its guardian, Aran Thranduil, was only too aware of it. Taur-nu-Fuin, they called it now, the Mirkwood. It was a name that pained him deeply, but still a name he could not contest.
His forest was darkening, and so was he. What would happen to his people when the darkness would overcome him? Who would protect them? Who would continue the fight? Or would they all be slowly devoured by the poison of the land, if the blasted spiders did not get them first?