Chapter 1: Introduction
“Imagine knowing your favourite dwarf has a crush on you but not saying anything about it because you don’t know how to deal with it.”
– Prompt taken from ImagineXHobbit on Tumblr
For Jade, who dared me to write something Hobbity,
and Rachel, who told me I should write a Fantasy novel someday.
On pronunciations and pronoun use…
(From Quenya, Et-tel-ee-ah)
Meaning ‘foreign’ or perhaps ‘stranger’. This is Glorfindel’s ‘pet name’ for the protagonist, and also her name which serves her as Elf-friend to the Eldar.
Dwarf, Dwarves, Dwarrow, Dwarrowdam and Dwarven
Tolkien specified in his introductory notes that the plural of ‘Dwarf’ was in fact ‘Dwarves’, though he also alluded to ‘Dwarves’ being “…a piece of private bad grammar”. He instead, would have used ‘Dwarrow’ to refer to ‘Dwarf’ in a pluralistic manner, but the only noted time of him doing thus in his writings is in allusion to the Ancestral Dwarven home of Moria, as he called it ‘Dwarrowdelf’. Tolkien instead used ‘Dwarves’ to conform with the pluralisation of ‘Elf’ to ‘Elves’.
In this story, ‘Dwarf’ is the singular pronoun form, with ‘Dwarves’ referring to the race as a whole. Smaller numbers, or referring to Dwarves in a more intimate and friendly manner, will be shown through the inclusive pronoun ‘Dwarrow’. ‘Dwarrow’ also provides some distinction between the gender of the Dwarves, with ‘Dwarrow’ being masculine, and ‘Dwarrowdam’ as the female equivalent (the suffix ‘-dam’ the denotation of the female persuasion).
‘Dwarven’ and ‘Dwarfish’ relates to how nouns are classified, much in the same way for Elves, ‘Elven’, and ‘Elvish’ and are plausibly interchangeable- though I feel that ‘Dwarvish’ and ‘Elvish’ is technically reserved for the respective languages of both races; for example, “Dwarven sword” notates that the sword is crafted by the Dwarves.
A full Glossary will be provided at the end of the story.
All characters and places appearing in this work are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, and places, is purely coincidental.
All rights go to J. R. R. Tolkien,
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, and Warner Bros. Pictures.
This includes the rights to the screenplay written by Peter Jackson,
Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro.
Dialogue and sequences that may seem familiar to those in the script,
film, or book, as well the characters, as well as quotes sighted at
the start of each chapter, belong to either the aforementioned
or other individual parties.
Erin Walsh and other fictitious constructs, do not belong
to the aforementioned, as they are created by myself for this work.
Chapter 2: Afternoon tea and advice
“When the voices came, you cut your hair
But you're still confused
But I'm the one with a heavy heart
Cause I'll follow you”
– ‘Joan of Arc’, Arcade Fires
“Mr Grey, you always seem to know what I need.”
No, this wasn’t the start to some cheap and smutty prose, nor was it intended to be an innuendo. Poor little Erin had rather fortunately knocked upon Mr Grey- her neighbour’s door, just as the old man had been preparing a pot of tea.
“Knowing what you need aside, I thought it to be your prior knowledge that afternoon tea is served at half three in my household.” Mr Grey was a mind-bogglingly tall person in comparison to the diminutive figure of Erin. Even after knowing him since she was an infant, and despite her growing taller, his height was never diminished, and was perhaps even emphasised as she grew older. He stooped in the low doorframe of his tiny cottage, nearly folded over as he stared down at the girl, who wriggled from foot to foot on his doorstep. Caught in the act of playing ignorant, Erin grinned up at him sheepishly, and he relented; stepping aside to let her pass.
“What’s in the pot this time?” she inquired, striding quickly to the kitchen. “I quite fancied some Earl Grey this afternoon. Help yourself,” He motioned to the obscenely patterned tea pot on the kitchen table that was accompanied by equally ugly cups and saucers: all of which were mismatched.
“Now, what is it that has caused you to become a gibbering wreck on my front door mat- forgetting afternoon tea times are not usual for you, my dear.” Erin’s hands shook as she poured generous amounts of tea for both herself and her companion. Whilst she was doing this, Mr Grey lit his pipe and settled into a chair across from the girl, then began to wait patiently for her explanation.
“I don’t know what to do,” she began tentatively, after a few sips of her tea, “They’re so happy for me, but what if I don’t make it?”
“Ah, university troubles I take it?” Erin nodded, “Well, there’s certainly no need to worry, I’m sure you’ll do just fine- after all, I’ve never known you to spontaneously fail in all the years we’ve been acquainted, and I am quite sure your parents feel the same as I.”
“It’s not my grades I’m worried about, Mr Grey,” she replied, and if you did not know her well you would assume the former was uttered with an air of arrogance. Erin, was an incredibly intelligent child- one however, that Mr Grey worried about in particular. Intelligence was of course sometimes no match for experience, and the girl was sheltered from the latter by her parents more often than not. “I’m worried for myself, as selfish as that sounds. I’m worried I won’t make it.”
“Whatever do you mean, my dear girl?” Mr Grey wonders, sputtering round the thick, acrid smoke ascending from the end of his pipe.
“I don’t feel ready- it doesn’t feel…” she stopped and huffed out a breath, causing the steam rising from her cup to dance erratically, “It doesn’t feel real. Two years ago, I was a child- granted, a child taking exams who wanted to go to college and university, but a child none the less. I wasn’t sure about myself then, so how could two years of constant studying help me to…”
“Develop?” finished Mr Grey, raising his eyebrows.
The two sit in silence, Erin helping herself to another cup of Earl Grey, and her elderly companion taking a few more huffs of his pipe. At one point a thick screen of smoke concealed his face; Erin watched, entranced from behind her cup- raised to her lips in preparation for a sip, as figures she was certain her eyes had fabricated fluctuated within the great grey cloud.
She was convinced she saw the swooping form of an eagle, the finesse of its wingspan cutting through darker patches of smoke and swerving down to meet the manicured bearded chin of Mr Grey. But that was preposterous, a trick of the light perhaps, or just a stroke of luck that her eyes had captured this significant shape at all. Erin decided not to fixate on the ludicrous figures in the pipe smoke- she had far too much that needed to be dealt with rather than this absurd ideal her overly stressed mind must have created.
“I think, my dear, that you are right.”
Mr Grey sighs, “I think that intellectually, you are ready to move on- but you yourself? You are not ready. You are... afraid.”
“I am,“ Erin replies, her chin dipping towards her chest in resignation.
“However, I do believe that it can be remedied. Do not give up my dear girl; the summer is ahead of you.” Erin conveys her doubt, as her parents expected her to find part time work over the summer in preparation for funding her student life at university. Juggling that and anything else she was expected to do over the summer, as per their instruction would be a hassle, and also left her with little time for herself.
“My final exam is in two days, Mr Grey. They’ll be lenient and give me Saturday and Sunday off, and then I’ll be back to it again on Monday.”
Mr Grey set down his pipe on a nearby saucer that was missing its cup, and slowly stood. “Wait here for me; I may have just the thing…”
Whilst he had gone off in search for the mysterious ‘thing’, Erin helped herself to a third and final cup of tea. A trickle of liquid fell from the spout of the obnoxious teapot as she poured, signalling that afternoon tea would soon come to an end. Whence the pot had emptied, and she had thanked her host, Erin would trudge back up the village lane to her home and commence her revision for the evening.
“Here we go!” Mr Grey wandered back into his kitchen holding what seemed to be a very dusty old book. A large exhalation of breath and a few forceful swipes of his gnarled hands helped to clear the years of debris that covered the book, and once the front had been cleared, Mr Grey looked down upon it fondly. “I remember reading this a lot in my youth,” he mused, depositing the clearly cherished volume in front of Erin.
Its faded blue and green dust jacket was crinkled and ripped along the spine of the book, though the pages remained clean and crisp, even if well thumbed. “Mr Grey, thank you- but when am I going to have a chance to read this?” Erin’s brow was scrunched up in mild irritation; she had exams to study for and soon-to-be little time spent on herself: when would she find the time to read a book?
“Read it at any pace you wish, my dear. Just promise me you’ll use it well, and that you’ll learn from it.” The two share a glance;
When Erin returned home that evening, her mother stared disdainfully at the book cradled in her left hand. “He’s been talking nonsense to you again, has he?” she inquired, gesturing to the book.
“Mr Grey has kindly lent this to me until I finish it; he thought I might enjoy reading it.”
“You have exams to study for Erin; you can’t read that simultaneously with studying. If it wasn’t charitable enough of you to go and have tea with him nearly every afternoon, I’d insist that you didn’t visit the old coot anymore. You’ve got your future to focus on.”
Erin bristled, “I happen to enjoy afternoon tea-”
“Erin,” her mother warned.
“-and Mr Grey is lovely-“
“Erin, enough. We’ll talk about this later. In the meantime, shouldn’t you start revision before I call you down for dinner?” The irritation the girl felt at her mother’s dismissal of her tea-time companion deflated, and sullenly she marched upstairs to her room. She placed the book on the back right corner of her desk- just in reach but far enough away so that she wouldn’t be tempted to begin reading whilst she should be studying. Then, she picked up her textbook from where she’d left it the night before, and commenced her revision.
After another two days of note taking, her final exam passed quickly, and Saturday was upon her. Erin spent most of the morning sprawled under the covers on her bed, snoozing through the day in comfort- her mother had left for work earlier, allowing Erin a trifling portion of peace and quiet. That was until her father appeared in the doorway at around eleven, struggling to knot his suit tie and telling her that he had been unexpectedly called by the office, and he had to leave in order to sort another’s blunder before the situation got too out of hand.
“I know you’re relieved that your exams are over, and that you deserve a break, but try not to waste your day, dear,” her father kissed her on the cheek before he left for work.
I won’t, she thought, I’m going to spend it reading.
When she was certain that no one would interrupt her focus- by sneakily angling the blinds in the downstairs windows to allude that no one was home and locking the windows and doors, Erin slipped back upstairs, gathered Mr Grey’s battered old copy of ‘The Hobbit’, and swaddled herself in the covers on her bed. Then she carefully opened the fragile front cover and began to read. By evening, Erin had demolished the book, and contemplated reading it again- she just didn’t understand why Mr Grey had suggested that she would like it.
The ending was truly terrible, as Erin had expected it to end on a less poignant note. Subtle signposts in the book however had caught her attention; the allusion to darkness at Bag End, and Thorin’s eventual descent into the gold-sickness she had predicted beforehand just through reading between the lines. It angered Erin that the book ended in such a way; angered her to the point where she would like to alter the events depicted just because the story had not developed. Though she knew she would just have to live with the ending she was given, even if in her mind the line of Durin had endured after the battle. Still, conflict was waged between reality and her own illusions, and confused her mind to the point where she felt her head spinning.
There was only one thing for it, Erin threw back the covers on her bed and swung her body into action. Only Mr Grey would be able to answer her queries, and that he also happened to have excellent taste in tea only made the thought of getting the solutions to her questions appear more enticing to her. Splendid summer afternoon sunshine; the heat the blinding rays emancipated had slowly raised the temperature in Erin’s small room, and she sluggishly changed out of her frumpy pyjamas and into jeans that clung to her heat swelled skin snuggly. The stonewashed fabric about the knees had a hole appearing atop the appendage from how often she wore them. Next came a baggy t-shirt and her trusty pair of flats.
Carefully, she grabbed for ‘The Hobbit’, made her way downstairs, and ensuring that she’d locked the front door made her way down the lane towards Mr Grey’s cottage. The road was quiet, the trill of birds and the buzzing lull of bees were the soundtrack to Erin’s short walk. She lazily turned her head to look at the small house Mr Brown used to occupy before he was forced into a home. Mr Brown was extremely supportive of animal and welfare charities; the gardens surrounding his home were once luscious and overflowing with local wildlife, but now, it had fallen into disrepair; brambled and nettle sprawling over the once trimmed hedgerows, the birds and other small mammals having to look elsewhere for protection against predation. It was a shame, Erin thought, as Mr Brown had been kind hearted if a little eccentric. Finally at Mr Grey’s door, she knocked, but upon rapping it gently the painted green wood swung slowly open.
“Hello?” Erin stepped inside, lightly wiping her feet on the doormat, “Mr Grey? Hello!”
No reply met her call, so Erin trod lightly further into the house, fearing the worst. It wasn’t often that in a village as small as where Erin lived for break-ins to occur, but when they did happen, it was generally because the owner of the building was elderly and an easy target for theft. Despite Erin’s initial pejorative thoughts, what met her was not the massacre of her elderly friend, or the carnage of his belongings, but a thick blockade of smoke originating from the kitchen, which she swept from her path by flailing her arms madly. There she found Mr Grey, smoking his pipe with their customary afternoon tea set spread on the table top.
“Ah, Erin my dear, sit- sit!” he gestured with the hand clutching his still smoking pipe to her seat adjacent to his, and sputtered as the acrid smoke he banded about tickled his nose.
“Uh… Mr Grey, why are you…?”
“Why am I what, my dear Erin?”
“Dressed so unusually,” she asked, a confused frown settling across her features at the change in her elderlycompanions attire. His usual tweed suits, waistcoat or cardigan- depending on whether he felt like making the effort, tasteful bow tie or cravat, and gaudy patterned shirts had been traded for ambiguously shaped grey robes that hung dourly across weary shoulders. A ridiculously large grey hat sat on the kitchen worktop by the kettle, a grey satchel slung carelessly across the back of her chair.
“And how else should I be dressed?” he replied, raising his bushy eyebrows. Erin startled, as Mr Grey’s change in livery was not the only thing about him to have transpired since she saw him last; his short shaven beard and maintained hair had grown out long into uncontrollable wiry tangles. She opened her mouth to reply, but closed it so swiftly that her teeth clicked together. It just wasn’t plausible for this elderly man she had known from childhood to have grown his hair and beard out in such a manner in only two days. Scepticism narrowed her eyes and clouded her thoughts; surely it had to be a wig and a fake beard- and the grey robes a costume. Perhaps her neighbour had a newfound love of theatrics?
“You are thinking far too loudly, my dear girl. Why, I can hear your brain ticking over!” Mr Grey chortled, “No, I am not in costume, and I can quite assure you my beard is in fact real.”
He must have read her mind:how did he know-
“I have not read your mind child, no, it’s far simpler than that. My girl, I’ve known you since you were tottering about my knees- I can read your face clearer than any book.”
Wordlessly, and still in befuddled stupor, Erin began to pour tea for both of them. She cleared her throat: “Ah, what’s in the pot this time, Mr Grey?”
“Chamomile, my dear. I thought it useful in calming you down. I assume that all of this new information must be overwhelming?”A strangled sound escaped her in confirmation. “What did you make of ‘The Hobbit’ then? I take it you’ve read it from cover to blurb since you’re here…” Mr Grey inhaled sharply on the end of his pipe, and harshly blew the smoke away.
Placing his copy of the book on the table beside her cup and saucer, Erin ran her index finger down the cracked spine of the dust jacket before pushing it away from her towards the centre of the table top; “Why did it have to end that way, Mr Grey? I hated the ending,” she said bitterly, her mind cast back into the battle of the five armies and the unfortunate demise of the line of Durin.
“Why, things end the way we don’t like them all the time, child. Just like the way your life will if you don’t, as we said the other day ‘develop’.” Mr Grey nodded sagely at this, “Thorin’s stubborn nature, and his unyielding pride came before his fall. Though his initial desire was to reclaim his homeland, his once noble quest went awry the closer his company and Master Baggins came to Erebor- if not before then. It was unfortunate that his nephews had to follow his fate, for they were young and impressionable, just like you.” A crease was beginning to form between Erin’s eyebrows from her deepening frown. Mr Grey Sighed; “Thorin was unable to change- to ‘develop’ until his time drew to a close. If he had valued cheer and good food over wealth, perhaps his death and that of his nephews, along with others from the ranks of the elves and men would not have come to pass. Though, perhaps we’ll never know.”
“Still, it isn’t fair. Dain was just shoved on the throne like nothing happened! He didn’t even want to aid the company- only arrived when they had reclaimed Erebor, and then got put on the throne because his cousin popped his clogs.”
“Life is rarely fair, Erin,” Mr Grey warned her, and she puffed out her cheeks in indignation, “Though, we are often given second chances to rectify the wrong-doings it provides.” At this moment, his eyes had begun to twinkle, and Erin shifted in her seat aware that something would now be asked of her.
She was right: “I’d like to offer you a chance Erin. A chance to change the wrong-doings of Middle Earth, and of the company of Thorin Oakenshield. It may also provide an opportunity for you to develop into the lionhearted young woman I know you will become in the future. Do not let such trivialities like the expectations and will of your parents hinder you, my dear. Do something unexpected, something daring- something that will push you out of this meagre existence you live in now, because you are so much more!”
Erin’s eye’s had to have matched the size of the saucers their teacups were placed on, as Mr Grey reached across the table to pet her hand. He seized the handle of the tea pot, and poured a generous drop of chamomile in her cup; “Drink up, dear. You’ll need it more than I will,” he said humorously.
“Mr Grey… are you… forgive me, but… are you having me on?” Erin inquired dumbly. “Whatever makes you think that?”
“You’ve just asked me if I want to change what happens in a story as though it were an actual real-life event.” Mr Grey watches her like a hawk surveys its prey. His eyes narrow on her bewildered state, fixating on her deliberation, on that small fragment of weakness and figuratively pounces.
He stands, slowly and judiciously, like he had done the last time they had had tea together before he went in search of his dratted copy of that book. This time, he strides to the pantry, snaffles hold of a warped length of wood- a staff, Erin’s mind supplies, and then reaches inside the larder for a second item that is very familiar.
“Is that my backpack?” Mr Grey nods,"Why is it here? It should be in my room, dumped in the corner I kicked it to after I got home and realised I never have to go to college again-“
“Clearly nothing is as it appears, because I have summoned your bag here, child. You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in, which I cannot allow you to presume that I or others will willingly provide for you whilst we’re on our travels.”
“What do you mean? What travels?” a hysterical tone hitched in Erin’s speech.
Mr Grey loosed a long-suffering sigh, “This is going to be most amusing for me, I think- and most beneficial for you!” He turned and thrust the bag into her hands, pulled her to her feet and swung the grey satchel slung across the back of her chair crossways his torso. The remainder of the chamomile tea was tipped down into the sink, the cups, saucers and teapot left on the side, with the dilapidated copy of ‘The Hobbit’ also forgotten on the kitchen table. Mr Grey swept about the kitchen, pulling on his wide brimmed hat and stretching his spine to stand at his full height.
“It is time for us to go now, my dear-“
“I’m not going anywhere with you!” Erin shook her head and stepped away from his now outstretched hand, clutching her backpack defensively.
“You’re mental! Mum was right-“
“To think that the nonsense Catherine Walsh spouts could ever prove true! For shame!” With one last lunge at Erin, Mr Grey manages to grasp one of the hands twisted in the material of her bag.
When Erin’s parents return home from work, their house is suspiciously empty. Both Peter and Catherin Walsh share a concerned look, and ruminate as to where their eighteen year old daughter could possibly be. They decide she is visiting her elderly tea time companion, and merely shrug off the anxiety that grew in her absence. When it finally grows dark and Erin does not return, Mr G. Grey’s home is the first place they go to in their search for her. Unfortunately, all they find are empty tea cups, discarded in the kitchen. That and a curiously fresh looking novel where there once was a worn and well-read copy before. A new copy of ‘The Hobbit’ replaces its predecessor, it previous marring and yellowed edges rejuvenated and pure, as it is now time for a different adventure to begin- one that will no doubt dog ear the pages and rip the dust jacket in time.
Chapter 3: Conflict
“Conflict cannot survive without
- Wayne Dyer
Erin Walsh, whom you may know locally as the girl who disappeared without a trace has now been missing for over two years.
Police have found no evidence to support theories that neighbour and long-time friend of the Wlash family, Greyhame Grey is behind the disappearance, despite going missing himself roughly around the same time as Erin; and investigators have not found any other suspicious or incriminating evidence though village locals and Erin’s parents claim otherwise: “He was always filling her head with nonsense- lent her books and the like,” Catherine Walsh, Erin’s mother told us, “I can’t understand why she would just leave…”
Despite pleas from the Walsh family, the local constabulary have deemed this a ‘cold’ case, and that both Erin Walsh and Greyhame Grey are either both alive and well, or either of the pair have possibly both been killed.Grey is said to be the key to finding Erin, though he is not under suspicion.
Erin, who would have been going on to University the same year of her disappearance, was a valued student at her local college, and is sorely missed by friends and family. However, with many missing person’s cases yielding no results, such as Erin’s case, many people are going unaccounted for.
“We are doing all we can,” says DI Hunt, “But with a lack of evidence or leads, there’s nothing for us to follow. We hope that Erin or Mr Grey are both alive and well, and if they are aware, can come forward confidently to alert us to where they are.”
Until that time comes, however, the case will be closed- if new information or sightings occur, they may be a chance to restart operations. If not, the girl who disappeared without a trace will remain as she is, her elderly friend also lost.
– taken from the Winwhich Chronicle, June 19th 2017
“The Valley of Imladris,” Gandalf the Grey stated, looking tenderly upon the Hidden Valley, “In the common tongue it has another name-“
“Rivendell,” Bilbo Baggins uttered in a breathy voice. The Company murmured and muttered rather crossly in deep grumbling tones at having been led to an Elven settlement. The Last Homely House East of the Sea seemingly opened out towards the Hobbit, the wizard and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield. Expanses of rock and flowing drapes of rushing water stretched seamlessly from the sky to the earth, and there, at the heart of it all, lay an invitation of respite wrapped endlessly in overflowing Elven magic.
Thorin Oakenshield was not so entranced by the inhabitants of this place: “This was your plan all along - to seek refuge with our enemy?”
“You have no enemies here, Thorin Oakenshield. The only ill will to be found in this valley is that which you bring yourself,” Gandalf felt the urge to sigh hopelessly build inside of him. He had hoped that perhaps Thorin would be less prejudiced to seek help from Lord Elrond and his kin- even more so after the incident with the orcs and wargs that had recently occurred. Apparently, that was not to be.
“You think the Elves will give our quest their blessing? They will try to stop us!” The Dwarf King in exile spat towards the wandering wizard.
“Of course they will. But we have questions that need to be answered. If we are to be successful this will need to be handled with tact, and respect, and no small degree of charm, which is why you will leave the talking to me,” Gandalf replied, calmly stepping down the path taking them closer to Imladris.
Reluctantly, they followed him. After wandering for a few minutes, a lilting voice punctuated the tranquillity of the gushing water falls:
“A Elbereth Gilthoniel, silivren penna míriel!” The voice was too unrefined to belong to that of an Elf, but in its quiet disposition retained a certain quality of accuracy and surety in its being sung.
Gandalf straightened dramatically upon having heard this, and quickened his pace down the slope on which he was walking; “Erin! Erin my dear!” he cried.
Whence the slope had levelled, and the company had caught up to the long striding wizard, they met the source of the singing: A small girl, sat upon a boulder with her legs crossed beneath her. To the Dwarrow’s disgust, she was dressed in elven clothing, barefooted, and her hair hung close to her chin.
An Elf-child, Oakenshield presumed, for she was delicately built just like they even if she were only half their height.
“Erin, my dear girl what are you doing out here?” Gandalf asked the newcomer.
“I’m hiding,” she replied, shrugging her shoulders and smiling impishly, “Erestor’s marked an essay I wrote on some banal topic of his choosing- and no doubt he's going to pitch a fit at my handwriting…again.”
“At least your singing is better than your penmanship my dear, especially if you feel like flattering your Elven companions with a rendition of ‘A Elbereth gilthoniel’.”
She blustered at this, mumbling about how she had forgotten to bring something to read whilst being incognito, and that she had little else to do but practice Elvish hymns.
“Hm, and it looks as though that practice has paid off. You didn’t waver on the higher notes his time Ettelëa.” Erin flinched at another critique on her singing- this time from Glorfindel, who had joined the ensemble on the slopes of the Hidden Valley in hope of finding his missing charge. Evidently, he had succeeded.
“Drat…” Erin hissed. She looked imploringly at the golden haired Elf, casually leaning against a nearby tree surveying the restless company of Dwarves on the hillside as they caressed their weapons in an attempt to threaten him- for they were startled at his sudden appearance. “How did you manage to find me?”
“Look for the source of trouble and you’re sure to not be too far from it,” Glorfindel snorted lightly out of his nose in a decidedly un-Elven gesture, “Come, we must be at Erestor’s study soon or we will both be facing his ire.”
“Can I not just hide out here until say, nine? That way, he’ll be tucked up on one of the shelves in the library in his nightgown,” that resulted in a smile, which tugged at her Elven guardian’s lips.
“I’m afraid not, Ettelëa. That is only delaying the inevitable. As you can see, Mithrandir is not one to delay events that set all sorts into motion. Why not use him as a role model?” Glorfindel cast a speculative glance over the wizard and the trail of Dwarves with the addition of one Hobbit that followed behind the towering grey Maia like ducklings shadow their mother.
“I told you the Elves would not approve of our quest, Tharkûn,” Thorin quipped smugly.
“I do believe that I told you to leave the talking to me, Thorin Oakenshield,” was Gandalf’s retort. Both the Elf and the girl bite their lips in an attempt to hide their laughter from the scandalised Dwarf, whose expression had become pensive once more at the wizard’s slight on his person.
“We must go, Ettelëa. Erestor is waiting, and I am not fond of receiving his ire. If you do not arrive for your lesson, it is I who must placate him in your stead, so it is only fair we face his irritation together.”
“You’ve slain a Balrog, and yet you can’t face itty-bitty old Erestor?”
Glorfindel moves closer to his young charge, and cups a slender hand on her shoulder; “I would prefer the Balrog over an irate Erestor any day.”
Erin grins, “I think I’d have to agree with you on that, though I’ve never met a Balrog…”
“They are not the most pleasant of companions, I can say from experience.”
Erin turns to Gandalf and the Company, “I think we’ll have to catch up later Mr Grey…” She catches Thorin’s gaze, “It was lovely meeting you all!”
“We have minutes before we are both late, Ettelëa! Up on my back, quickly now!” Erin scrambles to do as he says, looping her arms round his neck and locking her legs about his torso as he lifts her higher with ease.
As Glorfindel begins to jog down the valley, no doubt going to take a short cut by leaping amongst the trees and boulders on route to Erestor’s study, Erin twists and waves to the group they are swiftly leaving behind; “Ta-ta!”
The Dwarves and Master Baggins look to Gandalf in search of an explanation.
“And who,” sneers Thorin, “Were they?”
Gandalf begins to lead the Dwarrow closer to Imladris, “Respectively, they are Lord Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, of Rivendell, a Balrog slayer, and Erin- a daughter of man, whom I hold in great esteem. She is growing to be a fine young lady under their tutelage.”
“The lass is no Elf-child then?” Inquired Balin, his utterance mimicking the thoughts of many in the Company.
“No, perhaps she remains a child in the eyes of Elves and Dwarves, a tween in that of a Hobbit; but to the race of men she is a grown woman, whom oddly to her own race chooses to further her education rather than conform like others of her gender to the wills of a husband.” Gandalf says, with only a slight fabrication to the true nature of Erin’s arrival. He sighs, “After knowing her since she was but a babe, I brought her here two years ago, with Lord Elrond placing her under the care of Lord Glorfindel and the guidance of Erestor. I admit that I have not had chance to check on her progress as often as I would have liked, but she seems to be doing just fine on her own.”
“Just fine indeed,” Thorin snips surveying the disappearing figure of a blonde Elf with a dark haired child clinging to his back, “She has coped well without the hand of a meddling wizard to guide her, even if she is under the care of Elves.”
Gandalf suddenly missed the tranquillity his life had lost two years ago with both his and Erin’s arrival to Middle Earth; the afternoon tea and relaxing conversation, of Radagast being sent for a scant few years to assure him that this task was not going off course before he had to return to the Greenwood he called home. He knew Erin missed the presence of Mr Brown, whom she believed to be in a nursing home for the elderly- if only she knew who he truly was. Gandalf missed how for well over a decade all his duties included were to watch over a child, and guide her into shaping the fate of the world far more smoothly than he could have. The Valar had chosen Erin Walsh to complete what was once his task, Aulë predominantly supporting this feat in favour of saving those of the Line of Durin, for Gandalf was most likely to err when it came to the greater good of Middle Earth. Eru begrudgingly set this task into motion, and so it came to be that for near fifteen years Gandalf the Grey dwelt in a close knit community on Earth, waiting so patiently for the time he was bid to return with Erin in tow. Why the Valar chose her in particular, Gandalf was not sure; only time would tell if this venture would succeed, or if she, like he, would find the stubborn and brash nature of Dwarves too much to handle, and throttle Oakenshield like he so wished to do at times. The latter was exceedingly common for Gandalf recently.
“Well now, let’s quicken our pace shall we? I do believe that dinner, an opportunity to bathe and a comfy bed shall lighten our spirits.” Or, at least, Gandalf hoped. There might not be much chance for the Dwarf King in exile’s mood to brighten, adding no end of annoyance to the wizards growing exasperation.
After the disastrous dinner, the Company of Thorin Oakenshield gathered on the balcony that adjoined to one of Rivendell’s guest rooms. A knock resonated, and the Dwarrow turned to find its source.
“Hello?” It was the not-Elf-child, Erin, and her golden haired carer. Cradled in her arms was a large tray, the Elf similarly holding another platter; “We thought that you might not have appreciated the salad-“ she wrinkles her nose, “So Glorfindel and I have brought you some sausages and the like, and desert!” she thrusts out her own tray so they can see it clearly.
Dori, a rather fussy Dwarf spies a tea pot, cups and saucers amongst the items upon it; “What’s in the pot?”
Erin smiles at the irony, “Chamomile, I think. Though it could be green tea? I’m not too sure what blends the kitchen staff had chosen for today, sorry.”
“Don’t apologise lass, I’m sure it will be fine,” says Dori, softening his features at her contrite expression. She reminded him far too much of young Ori- the latter of whom was currently peeping out from behind his journal, torn between listening to the newcomer’s conversation or continuing his documentation of their quest.
“What are ‘ye doin’ ‘ere, Elf?” Growls Dwalin, glaring at the Balrog slayer and watching as the not-Elf-child clutches the tray she’s carrying with a wince.
“After the display of manners you gave us at dinner, I am merely accompanying the whims of my charge, Master Dwarf,” Glorfindel replies as lightly as he could without angering the Dwarves.
“You think we’d cause her harm?” The old warrior gripes, partially appalled and taking offence at Glorfindel’s utterance.
Erin gulps; Elves and Dwarves truly fought like cats and dogs most of the time, but one thing they could agree on was the protection of their young. Due to the long lives of the Elves, their children were born sparsely, and parents guarded their young with jealous ferocity. The Dwarrow behaved in such a way too, though the scant rarity of Dwarrodams and their desire to pursue a craft rather than start a family meant that few Dwarflings were brought into the world. Though, if there was ever an end to the conflict between the Elves and Dwarves, they would find defending their children to be a stalemate.
“No-No! Glorfindel was helping me carry the trays up here; they’re rather heavy you see…” Erin says, trying to placate both parties. It was true though; while her arms had grown stronger over the two years she had trained with Glorfindel, they still shook under the weight of the tray. Awkward tension fills the air as the Glorfindel and Dwalin begin to stare each other down, neither party willing to submit.
Bofur clears his throat, “Did’ya say something about desert lass?”
“Oh-oh, er, yes I did…” Erin startles, trying to juggle the heavy platter. “Maethlin let me rummage about in the pantry, so I’ve got a large variety of cakes and biscuits and whatnot. There’s a stigma about Elves only eating the greenery, so the kitchen staff thought it pretty funny to keep with the act. Apparently their prank was in quite poor taste, so I’m here to rectify that with this,” she said, the tray still wobbling in her small hands, “It should see the- uh, fourteen? Yes fourteen of you, very well.” She wanders to the centre, close to where they have lit a fire using Elven furniture. She winced; Lindir was going to flip if he discovered they had defaced priceless pieces.
Glorfindel mimicked her, gave them all a polite swift bow and retreated to the door. “I shall leave you in their capable hands, Ettelëa. Remember to not stay up too late, for tomorrow you have the duty of assisting Erestor catalogue the books in the library, in the morn.”
“Please, don’t remind me of that… Night Glorfindel!” she calls to his withdrawing figure. The Dwarves begin to feast.
“Why does he call you that?” Ori blurts, and promptly hides behind his journal when Erin turns.
She smiles slightly, and deftly moves through the congregation of hungry Dwarrow that have amassed on the floor to sit beside the young scribe.
“Hm… ‘Ettelëa’?” she asks, and he nods, “In the language of the Elves, it means ‘foreign’. I come from rather far away, where things are incredibly different from here- or foreign I guess you could say. Perhaps that is why. Or Gandalf divulged the meaning of my given name to them.”
“And what does that mean, lass?” It was Balin who queried her this time.
“’Erin Walsh’ is the name I went by before Gandalf left me under the care of Lord Elrond and his kin. ‘Erin’ meaning ‘peace’, and ‘Walsh’ meaning ‘foreign’. Huh, maybe he did tell them then… it seems too uncanny for it to be coincidence.”
“Foreign peace?” Says Kíli jokily, “That is what your name means?”
Erin scowls, “May I ask why you find that humorous, Master Dwarf?” A crackle of tension mirrors the sound of a log settling deeper into the fire.
“Jus’ wanting to make sure you’re not truly an Elf –child, with such a poncy name is all…” he grumbles, in return as Erin’s ire grows:
“I know that the strife between Elves and Dwarves has not resounded, but one day your prejudices will lead to misfortune- most probably your own, Master Dwarf. You both are so stubborn… and there are… ” She sighs as she stands, pulling at the skirt of her dress to lift the hem and she tackles the obstacle course of Dwarves blocking the way to the exit of the balcony, “I hope you enjoy the tea and cakes... Goodnight.”
The Dwarrow are shocked by this sudden shift of behaviour- why should one of the race of men confront the faults of long-claimed enemies when neither endear themselves to her species?
“Well, Kíli lad,” chimes Bofur with a disbelieving snort, “I think you’ve just made a friend.”
They are silent as they snack on the treats she had brought them, and spent the remainder of the night huddled in their makeshift camp roasting sausages and polishing off the cakes until not even crumbs remained. When Bombur’s weight crushes another priceless Elven table, they add it as fuel to the campfire without a second thought for its craftsmanship.
Even if both races would never truly get along like Erin had hoped, Dori in particular admired the Elves’ taste in tea.
Some days pass, with the miscommunication between the two races growing.The Dwarves decide to bathe in one of Rivendell’s fountains, or to them, a glorified bathing pool.
Lindir and Lord Elrond’s dismay at the water feature being defaced in such a manner only fuels the need to interrogate Gandalf as to why there are a company of Dwarves, running round the Hidden Valley.
“It shall all be explained in time,” the wizard stammers around his pipe, and the two harried Elves share a unimpressed look, because after knowing the wizard for Ages- quite literally in their case, they know that particular statement to mean he’ll never truly explain it to them, or that the will of those above them restrain the Maia from talking.
Though the Dwarves found merriment in bathing rather publicly, Bilbo Baggins was more of a shy, retiring creature. Instead of passing the time with his Dwarven companions, he wandered the numerous halls of Imladris, mapping every nook and cranny of Lord Elrond’s rehabilitating home in his mind.
I could quite surely stay here forever, he thinks, drifting down another corridor and fining a spectacular array of Elven history.
A statue of an Elven maiden, holding a plinth; on which silken, smooth fabric draped- weighted down by something Bilbo’s height could not quite allow him to identify, as he bounced on the large balls of his feet in an attempt to see it. He then turned to a painting, the brushstrokes and dichotomy of colour pulling him in to the scene of the battle depicted. It was as though he could hear the clash of weapons, the war cries, the destruction of it all- and there, above the mass of rival forces, a hulking dark figure demanding nearly half of the space the canvas had to offer, a golden band slid firmly onto one of his fingers. The sight of it nearly consumed the bewitched Hobbit.
With a shudder, Bilbo resumed his trails, the sounds of battle fading. This time he found a small reprieve from the endless halls and corridors; another balcony. A soft breeze ruffled his curly hair.
“Not with your companions?” Bilbo jumps.
“Ah, I shan’t be missed,” he replies to Lord Elrond’s question, and the Elf Lord raises his eyebrows enquiringly, “The truth is most of them don’t think I should be on this journey…”
“Indeed? I have heard that Hobbit’s are very resilient.”
Bilbo laughs at this, though sobers when he finds the Elf is being sincere; “Really?”
Lord Elrond makes a sound of affirmation, “I’ve also heard they’re fond of the comforts of home.”
“And I’ve heard that it’s unwise to seek the counsel of elves, for they will answer both yes and no,” Bilbo’s attempt to be humorous wavers, the distinct feeling that he has offended the recipient of his remark floods the Hobbit with shame, that is, until mirth crinkles Lord Elrond’s lips.
The aforementioned pats Bilbo on the shoulder; “You are very welcome to stay here, if that is your wish,” he hesitates, “Master Hobbit, would you like to see Rivendell’s library?”
Erin and Erestor had been cataloguing books since the first slips of sunlight had crept over the valley. By now, it was mid-afternoon and they were not even a quarter of the way through the extensive collection of books Rivendell had amassed through the Ages.
Erin panted as another set of books were passed up the library ladder to her. She had just dusted and wiped down the shelf they sat upon whilst Erestor checked their contents and sorted any books that were placed incorrectly in that section or looked to be damaged into one pile, the remainder being given to Erin to place alphabetically back on the shelf.
“For some reason, we’ve got two identical books on arable farming techniques…” the scholarly Elf murmured.
“Okay then? Is one of them a replacement?”
“No they both look brand new- it seems I penned them myself fifty years ago.” Erin rolled her eyes making sure that Erestor could not see the action. The longevity of Elves worried Erin, and though they lived long and experienced much, it gave the impression that something so simple such as two novels penned half a century ago was insignificant. There was a lot of time to pass that held many memories, and those that were more important jostled for a place in the forefront of the Elves’ minds. Vital parts of history were recorded, the fall of Gondolin, the Silmarils, and the War of the Last Alliance to name a few that Erin had learnt about in her studies.
But what of her?
As far as she knew, Erin was one of the scant few persons of men that had resided with the Elves outside of their own kin. Those remaining within the Dúnedain bloodlines were discredited from this, as they had a longer life span, and thus were different from Erin’s kind.
When she left- and she would leave eventually, Gandalf would surely make sure of that, considering he had brought the Company here, would they forget her? Two years is not even a blink of an eye for an Elf, would she be overlooked like Erestor’s arable farming books: a mere part of history that they would never fully remember?
On the topic of being forgotten, she had not yet had chance to speak with Gandalf. She knew of his purpose behind bringing the Dwarrow to Imladris, of course she did- she’d read the book and knew the story, even if that had been two years ago and she had learnt much in-between. But she needed to know why she was so important, why effectively the Elves had unknowingly (though Erin suspected that they had an inkling as to why), prepared her for a journey two years prior to its coming to pass.
I will have to find him later, Erin thought-
“-rin? Erin!” she flinched, and the ladder wobbled precariously, “Lord Elrond is here and asking for you,” Erestor’s disapproving glance made her flush, “Honestly, where had your thoughts led you to? You’ve been staring at the shelf for a good five minutes now.”
“Sorry,” she glances at the Elf Lord and the Hobbit who stood beside him, wringing his hands nervously, and she scrambles down, handing the pile of books she has cradled under one arm to Erestor, who ‘tuts’ at her handling of them. “What is it that you need, Hir nin?”
A smile graces Lord Elrond’s lips, “Master Baggins wished to see the library, though as Erestor is occupied with his task, I thought you would be able to accompany him around and perhaps show him the way back to his companions.”
“Of course, Hir nin!” Erin beams, realising the Elf Lord had taken pity on her and released her from Erestor’s clutches for now, “Well, Master Baggins, where shall we start?”
Said Hobbit fumbles, “Oh, well-“
He is interrupted by a strange growl, one that sounds familiarly like the pangs of hunger. Erin rubs a hand over her stomach in embarrassment, “Oh dear… we’ve not stopped all day truthfully. I think perhaps that our exploration must start in the kitchen Master Baggins…”
“Not a problem at all,” replies Bilbo, “We Hobbits enjoy food, what is one more snack between meals? And please, I am known as Bilbo to my friends.”
“Then I am Erin to you.”
As the sun draws to a close, and night descends upon The Last Homely House, Gandalf finds himself in a bit of a pickle:
It had all started off somewhat swimmingly, with Thorin finally swallowing some of his overwhelming pride and ingesting enough of its bitter crusade that he allows Lord Elrond to read the map to Erebor, much to the condemnation of Balin.
The instructions left by the moon runes are hardly helpful- except for the reminder that the Company must reach the hidden door before the last light of Durin’s day. Once this is revealed, Elrond turns to Gandalf, discovering that the true purpose of the Dwarves is to enter the mountain and reclaim their home.
“There are some who would not deem it wise…”
“What do you mean?” Gandalf replies in a blasé tone.
“You are not the only guardian to watch over Middle Earth.”
That was how Gandalf found himself clarifying to Saruman the White that the enemy of old may not be entirely vanquished, with both the Lady Galadriel and Lord Elrond nonchalantly remaining neutral throughout the two Maiar’s disagreement, that was, until Gandalf procured the relic of Mordor Radagast had handed to him before Gandalf led the Company to the safety of Imladris.
The meeting of the White Council drew to a close with the Dwarrow slinking out of the Hidden Valley- taking the path they had took towards it only a few days ago; a panicked Lindir rushing to find his Lord in order to announce their departure, and with Saruman dismissing any allegation of a ‘human sorcerer’ to be a poorly conducted rumour that had simply spiralled out of control. Yet both of the Elves and Gandalf could only feel fear that the evil wrath of Sauron may not be truly vanquished. The One Ring, despite being lost, had not been destroyed, and lost things do so often come to light in the unlikeliest of places.
It was when he affirmed his worries to the Lady of Lorien that he noticed their council may not have been so secret.
“She has been there for some time Mithrandir. Do not scold her, she deserves to know all she can,” Lady Galadriel tipped her head towards the pillar Erin crouched behind,
“Come out, child.”
Slowly, Erin revealed herself.
“I’m sorry, but Lady Galadriel is right- you’ve brought me here to finish what you’ve started, and I need to know all I can. There are certain happenings I’ve noticed that weren’t included in the book I read two years ago, I need every drop of information I can get.”
“I don’t mind, my dear,” Gandalf says with a sigh, “I just didn’t expect this to all be so hurried.”
The Lady of Lorien turns to the Maia; “You are right to help Thorin Oakenshield, but I fear this quest has set in motion forces we do not yet understand. The riddle of the Morgul blade must be answered. Something moves in the shadows, unseen, hidden from our sight. It will not show itself, not yet...but every day it grows in strength. You must be careful,” Gandalf nods candidly, “Mithrandir, why the halfling?”
Surprisingly it is Erin who answers, “Bilbo Baggins is crucial. You are right, it will set forces into motion, but I feel that he is the key to the undoing of your riddle.”
Gandalf continues on from Erin, “That, and I've found it is the small things; everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay... simple acts of kindness, and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid... and he gives me courage.”
With whispered words of assurance, her slight hands curled around his gnarled and tattered gloved ones, and an Elvish promise to bring aid, should Gandalf need it, the Lady of the Golden Wood vanishes from grasp, like smoke through closing fingertips.
“She needs a lover, escape a father and mother
She offers some other way out of the whole
She’s overachieving, chasing her dreams
And coming down slowly, it’s out of control”
- ‘Moaning Lisa smile’, Wolf Alice
“I think it is time that I explained what it is I brought you here for. I know that perhaps by now you have worked most of it out for yourself, though perchance not the whole truth.”
Erin wrinkles her nose, “I think that giving me a book to read and asking me if I liked the ending was enough of a clue, Mr Grey.”
Gandalf smiles at the use of his ‘Earth name’. Nostalgia shoots through him, as when he first brought Erin to Rivendell and revealed himself to be Gandalf the Grey, the eighteen year old merely nodded. She knew his exact identity then, but still insisted on calling him ‘Mr Grey’, though she admitted about always wondering what his first name was:
“I thought I would go under the guise of Greyhame, like the people of Rohan have taken to naming me. Why did you never ask for my first name, dear Erin?”
“I had seen your initials on your letters when I brought the post in off of the doormat for you once, and thought your parents had an unusual taste for alliteration, and that perhaps it would hit a nerve if I brought it to your attention…”
That exchange was over two years old and never ceased to amuse him- just as the young woman now sat adjacent to him never failed to amaze him too. Under the Valar’s instruction, he watched over her from when she was a toddler, until the moment arrived when he must remove her from all she had known. It was cruel he supposed, to take her from her family, to rob Peter and Catharine Walsh of their only child. Cruel but necessary. The rising affliction between Erin’s parents and herself unknowingly aided his necessary task; a rift had grown, a rift that he could use in order to lure her into reading ‘The Hobbit’- thus giving her the bare bones of fate to work with.
“What have you pieced together on your own then, my dear?” Gandalf lights his pipe and wiggles in one of the high-backed Elven chairs, settling in for a long awaited conversation.
“Well the basics, really. I didn’t like how the novel was shaping, loathed it to the point of disbelief, or changing it.”
“Ah,” he frowns, “There you have stumbled upon on of the defining factors: change. When I first went on this quest-“
“Whoa, hold up! ‘First went on this quest’?” Erin interjects.
“Yes, the will of the Valar works in mysterious ways, as you fully well know, my dear. I have been on this quest once before, and it failed, unsurprisingly. The second time another joined Thorin’s cause and the Company followed much the same steps it took before. His name was-“
“J. R. R. Tolkien…” Erin breathed, wide eyed in astonishment, “He made it back and wrote about Thorin’s quest?”
“Yes, though he did not remember ever participating in it, subtle clues were left to ensure he would eventually write the story, and I followed him to Earth shortly afterwards to ensure his task was completed. The events that followed after the reclamation of Erebor and the Battle of the Five Armies were catastrophic; though evil was driven out of Middle Earth once and for all, so much was lost. The Eldar had lost hope in the land, and wished to return to Valinor, to abandon the land they had for Ages dwelt in, Tolkien saw this- he lived through it, though when he returned it was but a simple idea for a story that was the catalyst for his writings. The Ring Bearer left with Eldar, as did I before the Valar pulled me from the ship and sent me to Earth.”
“No, not Bilbo. By then he was older and the Ring had taken its toll upon him. He shared his burden with his nephew Frodo, who volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor in order for its destruction.”
“Oh, well… I understand that it’s crucial Bilbo takes the Ring from Gollum, but if events work out fine, then why am I needed?”
Gandalf felt his frustration grow, “Because my dear, so much can be spared: Bilbo’s story started with just a mere hole in the ground, yet Frodo was left to try and cross a canyon in comparison. The Eldar left- though a few chose to remain, as did I, Frodo, and Bilbo. The race of men were left to govern Middle Earth. The Dwarves were seldom seen, and it is plausible that their declining race left them open to near extinction. Hobbits all but vanished too! Uniting the land was what was needed, my dear- to form alliances between all races so that Middle Earth was never susceptible to great evil ever again. Unfortunately this never happened, I presume, due to what had happened prior acting as a promoter for distrust between races. Tolkien and I never could alter the fate of the Line of Durin; we could only observe and see where things could be tweaked. I am an over viewer, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien a documenter of past grievous mistakes, and now there is you.”
“And you want me to be the one to make those changes?”
“Your very being here changes everything; it is only one of many paths you can take. The two attempts made prior were unsuccessful, but who’s to say that this time, one little diversion on the journey to Erebor may alter everything. It can either make or break this land, Erin.”
She sighs, “So no pressure then?”
Gandalf chuckles, “Third time is the charm, or so I’m told.”
He takes a large puff from his pipe, and the smoke takes the form of an eagle. Its wings lay flat, allowing the smoke figure to drift on the currents of the air for a while, before strong determined strokes send the bird of prey shooting skywards, diving behind Erin’s head and back towards Gandalf, where it dissipates as easily as it was formed.
It’s nice to know I wasn’t going crazy, Erin thought, suddenly taken back to when she had seen the finesse of an eagle in the pipe smoke in Mr Grey’s kitchen.
“I think for now, you understand why you are here- and the purpose you have gained. It is all too easy to allege yourself to claiming you will change fate, and then falling short.”
“Will there ever be a chance of going back?” Erin queried.
“Back to where, my dear?”
“Back home, you said that Tolkien returned- could I, eventually, go home when all of this is done and dusted?”
A small fragment of hope lodged itself within Erin’s heart. Though she did love being amongst the Elves of Rivendell, and though she didn’t miss her parents nearly half as much as she felt she morally should have done, she knew that one day the glorious adventure would end. Perhaps she could pick up from where she left off, or maybe no time had passed at all in her absence? She would only know once she returned.
“In time, you’ll know how easy or difficult your task is, and what is necessary and what can be reformed. Perhaps you will my dear, though you must be sure of heart if the opportunity arises for your departure. But for now, do not think on it, and to bed with you.”
“It’s the early hours of the morning, Mr Grey. There’s not much point in sleeping now,” Erin whines, though moments later she raises her hand to her mouth to stifle a yawn.
“We shall follow after Thorin tomorrow at first light. It is best you get all the rest you can while you remain within the comfort of Rivendell and prepare to leave.” She nods gently, and slopes off to the room she’s been situated in since she first came to Middle Earth.
Gandalf remains as he is; seated in the unyielding wooden chair, pipe slung sadly in the right corner of his mouth. He grabs at it, and huffing and puffing and stuttering around the potent Old Toby he’d been smoking. The Maia did not know what to think. On his previous quests, the trip to Imladris had been met with the same speculation and distrust on behalf of both the Dwarves and Elves- with Gandalf acting as a mediator between the two. Of course, the Dwarves had been disrespectful to Elrond and his kin as was expected, though Radagast’s parcel that contained the Morgul blade and Saruman’s obvious premature signs of treachery were much more alarming. He had known that despite the defeat of Sauron at the Battle of the Last Allaince by the hand of Isuldur, and the disappearance of the One Ring, the evil inhabiting Middle Earth was not truly vanquished.
Why else would the Valar request him to stay? For him to live through a quest so blatantly doomed to fail twice and possibly now for a third time?
Things were much more transparently displayed for him this time round, the meeting of the White Council, an evil relic being uncovered- the resurgence of the Pale Orc, whom in both previous attempts to reclaim the Lonely Mountain had been replaced in the stead of his son Bolg leading the Orc army. Things had been set into motion by Erin Walsh’s arrival, and Gandalf wasn’t entirely sure if these things would turn out for the best, or if they would indeed as he had feared go spectacularly wrong.
Glorfindel was being stubborn.
“No, definitely not.” The golden haired Elf shook his head sullenly, as Erin shifted in an irritated manner from one foot to the other in front of him.
“I need that back so I can pack my things though,” the girl told him, and though she was far from losing her patience, she wasn’t entirely sure how long it would be before she snapped and wrestled her pack back off of him.
“No you don’t Ettelëa because you’re not going!” He snapped childishly. Currently, he was holding Erin’s backpack that Mr Grey had flung at her shortly before they had left Earth in the same way a child clings to a cheap, oversized teddy bear they’ve won from the village fair that’s bound to lose its stuffing and beady plastic eyes in the next few days. The sturdy fabric looked no less for ware than it did before she had kicked it to the corner of her room after her last exam: the maroon colouring not lost after two redundant years in one of Rivendell’s finest cupboards- the leather edging and cord that formed the shape of leaves on the flaps of its back pockets not worn of ripped. She was certain that nothing had been taken out of it during her absence of needing it daily- her A-Level books and notepads were sure to be still inside.
She was right; her English Language book stared back up at her, the students from the photograph on the front cover of the textbook smiling up at her in pseudo happiness as she fingered the clean cut edges of the pages.
Thinking upon it, Erin pondered if she had managed to pass her A-Levels, and a wave of tension shook through her. She’d never know if she had or not.
Suddenly, she felt nauseous. It occurred more often or not, when she was alone or kept awake by her thoughts; the ‘What if’s and ‘Maybe’s span around and around inside her skull, rattling off her cranium painfully- sharp splinters of intense, guilt like, shards of fine glass at leaving behind her parents stabbing into her stomach. She would reassure herself that she had no choice, and that she was here to do something, but the remorse never subsided.
It most probably never would.
For two years now, she had been in a place so estranged from her home, and yet, Imladris, its occupants, and what few sights of Middle Earth she sometimes experienced felt like home to her too.
She had been kicking and screamed repeatedly in order to be released from Mr Grey’s grip on her as they shifted from one world to another- not that Erin knew she had just done so, per se, for she was caught in the hysteria of an alleged mad man trying to abduct her over the sake of a book.Sometime later, when she had calmed down significantly and found herself to be stood next to her elderly companion in the middle of an unknown wilderness, Erin sat with a thud on the dry yellow grass in horror. Mr Grey leant down to pat her head in what he most likely thought would be a reassuring manner to her, but she couldn’t help but choke on the sob rising in her throat that manifested itself into one big, gloopy globule. She felt sick to her stomach, and then to add to her utterly wretched state, the tears came thick and fast.
When a loud horn sounded close by, and the ground began to shake under her legs, Erin looked up from her hands that were still clutching her backpack so tightly. There came a party of eight horses, seven of them had riders, bar one lone white horse that led the group towards where she was sat. It had no saddle and bridle, and Erin was more than shocked when Mr Grey leapt spritely onto its back, resting his staff on the top of his foot and splaying out his grey robes so they draped like flowing water over the horses ribs.
One of the men (because they were men, even if they looked far too pretty to be handsome and had hair longer than hers, Erin realised), dismounted and led his own horse closer to where she sat.
“Come, little one. You shall ride with me,” The blonde extended a glove-covered hand, and helped her to her feet. She followed cautiously, her eyes still blurred with tears. He lifted Erin with ease onto the back of his steed, and mounted up behind her; and when they reached the home of these strange men, Erin began to weep- because places such as what she would later know to be Rivendell, didn’t exist where she was from. It was a beacon of light so radiant and mythical to witness her teary eyes hurt, and Erin knew that she wasn’t anywhere near her home; the magic of the last Homely House east of the sea to rich and intoxicating for her to take in, as she came from an area where only illusion served as an inferior substitute for such an enchanting power the Elves possessed.
Elves, she had soon learnt, were only the start of the once fabled creatures she read about as a child and in Mr Grey’s absurd book.
There were Hobbits, Dwarves, Skin changers, Dragons, Giant Eagles, Men, and others that she ought to wary of; the Orcs, Wargs, Goblins and Trolls to name a few of evil’s mutilated creations. In the beginning, after Mr Grey had left her with these strange, tall, proud and painful to look at people, Erin didn’t believe that these races existed. She denied it vehemently, noting that their pointed ears were merely glued on prosthetics like they used in movies and that the strange people who ran about in forests waving a sword and pretending they were warriors wore, and that the Elves were all in fact supermodels masquerading about in very convincing makeup and costumes.
One day, Erin saw her chance and took it: Glorfindel (the blonde Elf who she rode into Rivendell with, that now cared for her) had sat beside her on the smooth stone benches of one of the extensive gardens, so she leaned up and pinched the tip of his ear, tugging it vertically slightly. When he yelped indignantly, and swatted her hand away none to gently- the skin she had held under her finger tips turning a bright and tender scarlet, something sunk in- something that told her everything around her was real, and not just a strange fabrication.
Glorfindel eventually forgave her for pulling on his delicate ear, and over the two years Erin spent with the Elves, they grew ever amicable- growing closer and closer, until irreproachable familial style bonds were formed. Bonds that to Erin, felt stronger than those she shared with her parents.
Imaginary guilt-ridden shards of glass twisted painfully in her abdomen when she lingered upon the latter thought. How could she ever think to replace Catherine and Peter? Still she would no longer fit with her parents if she were to ever go back home, but now she didn’t quite belong here either- she was indeed forever going to foreign to the peoples of Middle Earth.
It wasn’t right to think about this, she was an interloper both in name and rather literally. Her talk with Mr Grey- or Gandalf as she had eventually learned to call him, gave her hope. Hope that she could return, apologise to her parents, gather up the pieces of her life, and then start again. There were plenty of ‘mature’ students going to university, so what would it matter if she started late? She could fill a long piece of parchment with the numerous things she missed; all past, present, and future events, objects and places she may never know if she stayed or went home. The juxtaposition between the two was an ache Erin didn’t like to dwell on in her thoughts.
There was a part of her that scoffed at that list, a part of her she’d only just discovered and started to refine over the two years she had been here. This fragment of ‘Erin’ or ‘Ettelëa’, for they were one and the same, weaved the belief that she could pick up a sword or a bow and command the world like a warrior, that she could clamber astride a warhorse and gallop along the open spaces of Middle Earth as though she meant business.
For a while, she humoured this- as did the Elves, who found her attempts endearing and more than a little humorous.
Glorfindel made sure that alongside of her language and history classes with Erestor; she also knew how to survive. It wasn’t unheard of for Elven women to take up the sword or bow, they had the immortal life span to do as they pleased, and more often than not they knew how to fell an enemy. One just wouldn’t expect it from the flowing hair and lilting dresses they paraded about in.
However, now she had decided to act upon the skills she had learnt, now that she had found her purpose for being in Middle Earth, the Elf denied what he once indulged her with.
“No. It’s far too dangerous.”
“I have to do this though,” Erin sighed, feeling that this was only the start of a long slog through a massive battle.
“No,” Gorfindel shakes his head, grasping her canvas backpack tighter in his clenched fists and raising it above his head, an unfair move in Erin’s opinion, “I knew Mithrandir had concocted another fantastical scheme whilst he was here, but you don’t have to follow him into the madness.”
Erin snorts, “He’d clout you with his staff if he heard you say that!” She wilts, “I know that it is folly-“ she winces at the use of the archaism, two years around Elves has irreproachably altered her speech, “- But Glorfindel, I may just have a chance to put something right. You did it yourself; slew a Balrog of all things, and then your reward was reincarnation.”
“You forget that I am of the Eldar, the children of Eru have long been favoured by him, and you are of the race of men-“
“And chosen by the Valar to see this through.” She watches as his arms waver, slightly lowering the pack, and she lunges for it. He relents, slowly sinking to the floor and crossing his long legs, watching as she flits about, placing items she needs to pack into two piles: ‘necessity’ and ‘luxury’.
Erin hums, placing soap and a wash cloth into the necessity pile.
“You do know that the chances to bathe whilst journeying are few?” Glorfindel says, humour creeping into his voice.
“Just because you Elves always look perfect when you travel doesn’t mean that I have to slum it. I’ll wash when I can,” Erin replies, matter-of-factly and wrinkling her nose at the prospect of not being clean.
“You’re travelling with Dwarves, they revel in being dirty.”
“Now you’re just being silly. I’m pretty sure they’re decent folk-“
“You’ll be the only female among them-“
“Like I said; decent folk. They look at me like I’m a child- nothing’s going to happen. The most likely thing will be that I’ll get mothered. Can’t be any worse than the fine job you’re doing,” she snorts. Glorfindel doesn’t answer, mulishly stewing on the floor as he watches her prepare her belongings and neatly place them in her backpack.
Erin stops after a coil of Elven rope is concealed amongst the items, tugging on the skirts of the silken dress she wore that day. A smile splits her face, and she runs to one of dressers where her clothes are stored; “At least one good thing has already come about from this quest.”
“And what is that?” says Glorfindel tilting his head to one side, intrigued by her sudden optimism.
“As much as I love the Elven dresses, I can finally wear my jeans again!” she holds up the trousers, the faded stonewashed denim with the rip over the right knee. Erin knew that the maids who first attended to her itched to fix the tear, so she sneakily hid them in her dresser.
“I don’t understand why you find enjoyment in them…” Glorfindel tried to hide his contempt.
“If I ever manage to introduce you to denim, surely then you’d understand.”
I'm sorry this wasn't posted yesterday. I'm aiming to update every Thursday and Friday, though Yesterday was A-Level results day and I had absolutely no time to do anything else. On the upside, I'm off to University in September.
Erin's backpack was inspired by LeaflingBags on Etsy.com
Chapter 5: Abominations?
“Mysterious hooded man watches
(from a distance)
Take a second to look awesome
Time to go…”
- ‘Literal Assassin’s Creed Trailer’, Toby Turner and Tobuscus
It was strange for Erin to be back in her clingy jeans. After such a long time wearing dresses and on the off chance she got to change before leaving her lessons with Erestor to go onwards to training with Glorfindel, the dress was swapped for a pair of leggings and a long tunic- it felt different to be clothed in what she once considered ‘normal’.
Granted, her jeans looked odd paired with a billowing Elven shirt and padded leather armour to protect her torso, but the ensemble reinforced Erin’s very being. The jeans were a representation of her foreignness, the Elven garb her connection to Middle Earth- and though they were extremely different, they co-existed. However, the slit across the knee of the faded blue fabric let in a peculiar draft that prickled the skin coolly, and the odd feeling of her legs being constricted made her fidget uncontrollably- though she knew she would settle back into wearing them again, or she’d be stubborn enough not to give in until she was extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, she’d packed more Elvish clothing in her bag after a begrudging Glorfindel suggested she should place more shirts and pairs of leggings in her ‘necessity’ pile, after that the Ellon decided to back off for a bit. He still tried to persuade her from leaving the safety if Imladris later on in the evening, when she emerged from her rooms for dinner, and presently, he was behaving no better than an Elfling- sulking with his lower lip as he fussed over the buckles determining he length of Erin’s backpack straps. Mr Grey, unamusingly, was no better:
“We must make haste!”
“No, I’ve decided she’s not going,” the Ellon states in return, his lean hands curling around the top of Erin’s shoulder’s and clenching ever so slightly as though he is tempted to pick her up this way and just run.
“Enough!” Erin shouts at the squabbling pair, “I am going, and that is final...” Gandalf began to scuttle off to the path the dwarves had left on, leaving Erin to catch up. A small group were gathered to see them off, Erin’s tutor and guardian, Lord Elrond, Maethlin from the kitchens who indulged Erin frequently with snacks, and Lindir- she had struck a tentative friendship with Lord Elrond’s steward over the two years. “I will miss you all,” she cried back to them with a smile.
“But you’ll be coming back in no time,” Erestor stated.
Erin felt her smile slip, “O-of course I will…” she lied.
But will I?
She had no time to dwell on that thought, following Gandalf out of the Hidden Valley. She didn’t dare to stop for one last longing look over her shoulder, knowing her resolve would break and that she would be sprinting back to the safety and comfort of Imladris if she did. To help the wave of homesickness pass, she placed her hand on the pommel of the Elven short blade attached to her waist with a thick leather belt. It helped steel her nerves.
No, I won’t be turning back, Erin thought, I have a job to do and denim to ambassador!
The jeans were beginning to give around her legs now, as she and Mr Grey broke through the boundary of Rivendell and out into the wilderness beyond.
Erin quite rightly regretted the latter proclamation, for who would want to be an ambassador for denim when it becomes absolutely unbearable in the rain?
Puddle on the floor-
Drip-drip-drop onto the table top-
The fabric clogged with rain water chafed against her legs, and on Erin’s first night in the wilderness she was chilled through to the bone even right next to the fire Gandalf had lit. From then on, the travelling duo had realised they wouldn’t be able to follow after Thorin and his Company if the squall continued, and resolved to trudge on through day and night until they could trace the Company of fourteen.
Promptly, Erin decided to change into her other clothing as they ventured higher up into the Misty Mountains, and the weather became more visceral. A long cloak had been provided for her before she left Rivendell, and she wrapped herself inside the warm expanses of the fabric that was evidently meant for someone nearly double her size. It smelt of safety, of comfort and the genteel scented soaps the Elves washed their garments in. Her constant shivering stopped when hence, so she snuggled deeper into the cloak as she walked closely behind Gandalf.
The wizard halted on the narrow path they had been following in the miserable rain, and gestured to enter a cave nestled into the side of the rock face. Rubble surrounded its vicinity, as though the mountainside had collapsed, though a chancing look upwards and an imminent attack of rainwater assaulting her face proved that no rocks had dropped from the jagged edge of the rock above. A crater above the cave entrance demonstrated the brutal force of boulders being lobbed about. Erin shuddered as she followed Gandalf through the cave entrance, as she remembered how she had read about the Company being caught up in the stone giant’s thunder battle; and she pondered on her luck at not having to share that experience with them.
Inside the cave they were met with the remains of a makeshift camp, multiple boot prints and Hobbit-shaped footprints left in the silt that covered the entrance to the cave, alongside one forgotten Dwarven pack that was left strewn on crudely carved steps into the deeper parts of the cavern; these were the only things unscathed; as now where the floor should have been situated hung open to reveal a gaping chasm underneath.
“That’s not good…” Erin murmurs, squatting down and scooping up the pack that escaped the fall. She ran her fingertips across a Dwarven pattern tooled into the leather strap, before rising and placing it on her shoulder.
“Indeed,” huffed Gandalf, “I told them to wait for me before they attempted to cross the mountain paths, but it seems that Oakenshield is proving to be the most insufferably stubborn Dwarf in the known entirety of Middle Earth! They are at the mercy of the Goblins now…” Thorin Oakenshield would have cause to answer to Gandalf the Grey if he and Erin were able to rescue them from whatever penance the Goblins had thought to conjure. Perhaps once Gandalf was done seething at the Dwarf in question the King in Exile would wish he hadn’t been spared torture via Goblin in the first place
The pair survey the drop, and respectively wince. It mustn’t have been a mild drop to what lay wait at the bottom.
“Through what follows next, we must exact extreme caution my dear…” and giving her no time to reply, Gandalf sends Erin tumbling with one hefty shove between her shoulder blades down the darkened chasm.
There is no end to this drop-
Thud-pain-ow-moveNOW! No time to dawdle-
There’s a dent in the front cover now.
“Catchy, isn’t’ it?” says the Goblin King proudly, “It’s one of my own compositions”
“That’s not a song, it’s an abomination!” Balin cried, his fellow Dwarrow chattering behind him in agreement. They sincerely hoped there wouldn’t be any ‘Bones shattered’ or ‘Necks wrung’ during their impromptu visit down in the deep of Goblin Town.
“Abominations, mutations, dee-vee-ay-shons! …that’s all you’re ‘gonna find down here,” the Goblin King replies, losing his patience with the intruders and refraining his urge to sniff indignantly. He’d worked tirelessly on his welcoming song, and to his fellow goblins it was quite the hit. Impertinent visitors just didn’t understand culture and good taste- that’s why many of them ended up dead.
“No, I do agree,” a small voice calls from behind the masses of goblins and Dwarves, “Indeed, I think it’s beginning to grow on me!”
As the melee jostles for a view, the voice is revealed as a small hooded figure, shouldering both their own pack and another. A short sword is strapped to their small waist, and any other weapons are concealed by the pooling fabric of the navy blue cloak that swims on this stranger’s diminutive frame.
“Really?” Crows the Goblin King, a trail of spittle hanging from his lips from the shock of this new revelation. He preens, wiggling on his throne; thick tree trunk-like legs pressing upon the backs of his living goblin footstool, causing them to screech under his humongous weight.
“Oh yes,” from what little light there is in the caverns, the Dwarrow can see the smirk on this newcomer’s lips, “I’m sure to remember it for some time.”
While the Goblin King appears placated- even a little flustered from the gesture, the Company remain suspicious; the voice seems to far familiar to them… though whoever they are, they were doing a fine job of diverting the attention of the enemy.
“Memorable, is it not?” The Goblin King calls.
“Quite.” The sarcastic bite in this person’s voice is as sharp as steel.
“I was just about to begin torturing one of these useless rats; starting with the youngest-" He points to poor Ori and the Dwarf whimpers, Nori and Dori bristling beside him, "- if you’d like to join us,” the Goblin King asks the cloaked figure, rubbing a meaty hand over the back of his skull to smooth the straggly remaining strands of hair there, “You and I seem to have a mutual interest in composition after all…”
Whilst this exchange had started, an underling of the Goblin King had begun greedily sifting through the amassed weapons they had compiled on the floor after confiscating them from the Dwarrow. The goblins often scavenged what they could off of unsuspecting travellers who fell through the front porch, but so far, all they had found on the Dwarves was useless trinkets and priceless pieces of silverware from Rivendell, that had been crafted during the Second Age. A complete disgrace, nothing they could use there at all. The silverware may well just be tipped over the side of the platform into the depths of the Misty Mountains. The goblin conducting the search of the Dwarrow’s belongings dared to take hold of Orcrist, and upon unsheathing the blade, drops it and kicks the Elven sword away in fear:
“I know that sword! It is the Goblin-Cleaver, the Biter, the blade that sliced a thousand necks,” The Goblin King scuttles further up on his throne, terrified at the sight of the Elven forged sword, “Slash them! Beat them! Kill them! Kill them all! Cut off his head!” he yelps in retribution for the offense the blade brings him and his subjects. The Dwarves shift nervously as the goblins brandish their crude leather whips at them, and try to dodge any incoming hits.
The cloaked figure swears loudly in Elvish (though if you ask the Elves of Rivendell they would defend to their last breath that they taught the person no such thing, even if Elladan and Elrohir look slightly suspect during any supposed inquisition), hands whipping from out under the cloak to throw a dagger at the grotesque goblin upon the throne, which shifted at the last moment. The dagger, instead of striking the Great Goblin square between the eyes, hit the edge of a growth on the flaccid wattle of the Goblin King that had wobbled upwards in lieu of his lateral motion. The Great Goblin howled and pulled away from where the skin was pinned to the back of his crude throne, ripping open the fleshy innards of the flab for them all to see.
Before he can order both the stranger and the Dwarves’ demise, a searing flash of white light stuns them all, with a great many of the goblins being blasted away in the process. Then it dims, and in its place, there’s the arrival of Gandalf:
“Take up arms. Fight. Fight!”
So they do- the cloaked figure dashing forward through the tussling scuffle of goblins and Dwarves to retrieve the dagger thrown earlier. If the Goblin King’s wattle is hanging a little looser after they kicked him their sharply as they pulled the dagger from the wooden back of his throne, the figure geld it as a small triumph- even if they did receive a painful bruising blow to their ribs for their trouble.
Chapter 6: Before the fall
“Pride, envy, avarice - these are the sparks have
set on fire the hearts of all men.”
- Dante Alighieri
“Five, six, seven, eight...Bifur, Bofur...that’s ten... Fíli, Kíli...that’s twelve...and Bombur - that makes thirteen. Oh! Erin- fourteen. Where’s Bilbo? Where is our Hobbit? Where is our hobbit?!” Panting from her run out of the caverns, Erin spares a smile for Gandalf, rounding up stray Dwarves like a fussing mother hen.
“Curse the Halfling! Now he’s lost?!” Hissed Dwalin, his voice growling low.
“I thought he was with Dori!” said Gloin, delegating the blame efficiently to another member of the Company. It is well known that you do not want the wrath of a wizard upon you, and from prior experience, Erin knew Mr Grey was rather quick to ire; more so by Dwarves, she had noticed.
Dori cries out it indignation; “Don’t blame me!”
“Well, where did you last see him?” Asks Gandalf, concerned for the Shireling.
Nori bravely replies; “I think I saw him slip away, when they first collared us.”
There is a lull in which they pause to catch their breath, and reflect on the happenings inside the goblin infested caverns of the Misty Mountains. It is Ori who next ventures to speak: “When you were counting before, Mister Gandalf, you said Erin. Surely-“
“Oh no, Ori. She’s right here…” He gestures to her, from where she’s been trying to hide away from the growing irritation of Thorin. That Bilbo had gone astray from the Company was enough to earn the Dwarf King in exile’s anger, and she wasn’t quite ready to face it herself- seeing as Gandalf hadn’t cleared her travelling alongside them with their brooding leader yet. It seemed as though she had little choice but to face his ire though, thanks to the meddling wizard’s unhelpful slip of the tongue and Ori’s observational skills.
“You-!” Thorin whipped round to face her, and she flinched under the long hood of her cloak.
Gingerly, she pushed it off of her head, and Elven fabric trickled down her back, covering both of the packs she had still managed to keep hold of during the skirmish with the goblins. “Me,” she said breathlessly, running a delicate hand through her grubby hair. As Glorfindel had predicted she didn’t have much chance to bathe whilst travelling, and the venture in Goblin Town had left her sweating. The sweltering summer evening heat didn’t exactly help either; the added weight of her weapons and two packs straining the ribs where the blow from the Goblin King had landed. “What was that stunt you pulled Mr Grey? ‘Exact extreme caution’? Shoving me down that gaping hole for a front porch really helped, didn’t it?”
“Well you managed to stall the Great Goblin before I could aid you all,” the wizard replies in fond exasperation as Erin huffs and puffs.
Thorin Oakenshield doesn’t take too well at being ignored by the pair, “What is going on? First you give me a worthless excuse of a burglar, and now you’ve brought along a girl-child on this quest?”
“Speaking of which, where is Bilbo Baggins?” Gandalf places extra emphasis on the poor Hobbit’s name, disliking how bitterly Oakenshield spits the word ‘burglar’ in his speech, as though the gentle Shireling left a sour taste in his mouth. None dare to reply. “What happened exactly? Tell me!”
Thorin bristles, “I’ll tell you what happened. Master Baggins-“
“Has been stood behind me for the last five minutes, Master Oakenshield,” Erin states calmly.
Bilbo materializes from behind the draping lengths of fabric that enclose on Erin, giving her a bemused look. Biting his lip worriedly, the Hobbit shuffled forwards reluctantly on his comically large feet. The Company draw breaths of relief upon sight of the Shireling, though some are suspicious of how he came to re-join them after they were separated earlier:
“Why have you returned?” Snarls Thorin, contempt dripping from the curling sneer on his lips as he speaks, “You wished to return- to the Elves of all places, so why are you here, Master Burglar?!”
“Look, I know-“ But Bilbo’s assuredly maudlin speech is quenched by Thorin’s ever growing impatience:
“And you!” He yells, rounding on Erin- whom had been trying to hide behind an unsuspecting Bombur; “Why are you here?”
The sonorous aria of Warg-song that so often accompanies disaster for the Company of Thorin Oakenshield splits the evening air.
Erin’s eyes widen; “I do believe that my purpose for being here can wait until later as for us all now, I’m afraid it’s-“
“Out of the frying pan…” mumbles Gandalf.
“And into the fire,” answers Thorin.
Erin is partially mystified; “…Exactly… How did you know I was going to say th-“
The howls resound ever closer. “Run,” says Gandalf gravely, “Run!”
Erin ran straight for the third and final tree, the one closest to the sheer cliff drop. She didn’t do this purposefully, though perhaps a masochistic side of her would disagree that her penchant for trouble left her in all kinds of dangerous situations, such as the one she found herself in now. No, it was the small factor of thirteen dwarves, one Hobbit and one wizard occupying the two trees closest to the one Erin was situated in. Knowing that there was positively no space, at that point she made the correct decision of nearly being run down by Wargs just to find a clear tree she could scramble up into.
However, this did not remain so, as the Wargs launched themselves towards those huddled in the other trees, bringing them down and causing the occupants to leap from one limb to another. This repeated until both trees had been felled and one woman in a pine tree became a mixture of sixteen.
Sixteen birds in one fir tree! Erin’s mind screamed in terror as the Wargs began attacking the final tree.
If they succeeded, there would be nothing but certain death to befall them all, as from what Erin had surveyed from her perch prior to the felling of the two pine trees, was an extraordinary drop of what height she couldn’t quite estimate. Her mind rung through with the notion of falling, as she struggled to keep hold of the branch to which she clung.
She had nearly been crushed by a flying Dwalin, who flung himself with such vigour to the tree limb she was sat upon that the Dwarf just about knocked her clean out of the tree. “Sorry lass,” He’d grumbled, one arm flailing to catch hold of something- anything, and inadvertently hitting her in the ribs with a knuckleduster covered hand. That would no doubt leave an even bigger bruise atop the one she already had, and Erin found that despite of the padding and protective leather armour she wore perhaps she wasn’t as safe from injury as she first thought. Then as if to complicate matters more, the tree began to fall.
‘Into the trees!’ Mr Grey had cried, but now this seemed a poor idea in retrospect. As did Erin’s influence on the world, invoked by the Valar; for now, an enemy long thought dead rallied them self for revenge. Plus it was one that she had no idea how to counter, at that. A pale Orc astride a white Warg, flanked by other disgusting creatures of the same ilk, appeared on the horizon.
“Azog…” The plangent tone of Thorin’s voice carries to the entire occupants of the unstable tree. Erin began to panic, as the mentioned fate of the world began to unravel like an unstable piece of thread.
They were supposed to be goblins- goblins that had braved the fading light in order to track us down and attack as the sun sets-
Singing mars the pages of chapter six, deep black around the edges.
Darkened and curling.
So tender and sore and raw but still whole and undamaged,
legible- RIP OUT A PAGE AND SEW IN A NEW ONE!
Mutation bubbling, binding loosened, changing- its now all changing.
She screams as one Warg gets too close for comfort and decides that her ankle is the perfect starter before the main course of mauling and bloodied, raw Dwarves began.
“Yes my dear?” The wizard calls.
“Use the pine cones-“
“Use the pine cones-“ the Warg lunges again, and Erin quickly draws her knees up; Dwalin cuffing an arm around her back to stop her from falling out of the tree for a second time, “Use the pine cones and kill it with fire!”
“Right-o!” He cries; doing as she says and hurling it towards the Wargs, who had cockily begun to congregate at the tree roots, knowing their prey had been cornered and that it was only a matter of time before the feast began.
Figuratively, Erin could see their eye’s shine bright with a glint similar to that of fine polished dining cutlery, and that if they could, the Wargs could have quite leisurely gone and dressed for dinner while she and the Company floundered about in the branches. She was expecting bits of tattered fabric to be withdrawn from the Warg’s thickened patches of mangy fur by the Orcs, and tied like bibs around the Warg’s muscled necks. The pine cone makes contact with one expressively smug muzzle, rebounds and falls onto fallen pine needles, setting the sparse forest floor alight.
Soon more follow, as the Company distribute pre-lit pine cones and spread the flames to others before utilising the blazing projectiles. The Wargs thrash as more impromptu bombs follow suit, and they flee with their tails between their legs- quite literally, back to their master.
This new revelation does helpfully fend off the Wargs, and creates a blazing barrier that the Orcs will not pass through willingly; however, it also isolates the Company. If the flames did not die down, and their pursuers do not call off their hunt, the only option they will have is to meet an unfortunate end; one that Erin had hoped to avoid. Falling to death sounded much less spectacular than being left open as a target to dragon fire.
As Gandalf summons old friends, Dori and Ori lose their grasp on the branch they gripped to, and begin to fall. But having heard their yelps, the steely wizard quickly shoves his staff for them to grab hold of. The struggle to cling on begins for both Dori and the Maia, with Ori desperately clutching his elder brother’s boots and willing himself not to look down as they swing precariously over the cliff drop.
The Pale Orc seems terribly amused by their pyrotechnic and near death display, and to Erin’s horror, begins to taunt them. It is not the wretched ‘Sixteen birds in one fir tree’ as she had so appallingly thought of earlier, but more of a mockery of her new companions;
"Nuzdigid? Nuzdi gast…” the Pale Orc caresses his Warg with an unsophisticated metal hand. It’s wickedly sharp talons raking through the mats and snarls of white fir audibly.
Erin franticly turns to Dwalin, who looks on, bewildered by the sight of someone thought long defeated in battle; “What is he saying?!”
“Ganzilig-i unarug obod nauzdanish, Torin undag Train-ob.” Dwalin falls out of his stupor, giving him enough time to answer Erin with an incredulously hasty “I don’t understand Black Speech lass,” before Azog gives another order:
“Kod,” his scared lips twisting in a smirk at Thorin, “Toragid biriz. Worori-da. Sho gad adol!”
The true meaning of his crude and blackened language is universally understood, when one of his followers dismounts from his Warg and sets off in the direction of their pine tree; almost languidly admiring his Orcish weapon as he nears his destination. Azog wants Thorin alone, and the Company dead.
Additional panic settles in Erin, who was desperately thinking that this wasn’t what she was expecting, and that she prayed Oakenshield wouldn’t be so stubborn and prideful enough to fall straight into the enemies trap. Erin, like her Maia companion, had put far too much belief in Thorin. The realisation that his old enemy had lived, and that he now wished to inflict death upon the Line of Durin once more, had at first been a blow to the Dwarf.
Now, as the shock subsided and Azog’s wicked taunting commenced, only angered remained. The embers of smouldering past grievances are once more alight; the loss of a grandfather, a father, and a brother to the monster before him, are like sharp jabs of a metal poker in his heart, which stoke the growing flames of revenge. The Dwarf King pulls himself up onto the fallen trunk of the pine tree, and readying Orcrist, he charges.
“No!” Balin exclaims, “Thorin no!” But Oakenshield ignores his long trusted adviser, and sprints down the slanted tree.
"Your pride will come before your fall, Thorin Oakenshield,” says Erin almost inaudibly as he passes her by, though Dwalin hears and rumbles dangerously by her ear, “He’s going to get himself-“ She winces, as Azog’s mace makes contact, the Dwarf king dropping to the ground in pain. The white Warg grips him in his jaws, raggedly carrying him with all the care of a toddler lugging their favourite stuffed animal about, “-Killed… Oh dear…”
A stand is made, Thorin’s last ditch attempt at not becoming Warg fodder leaving him defenceless to Azog’s underlings.
“Biriz torag khobdudol!” The Pale Orc commands and orc that had dismounted earlier advances on the fallen Dwarf.
“Why are we still in this bloody tree?!” Erin yells to the Company, watching as Bilbo streaks past with his small blade at the ready- tackling the Orc about to slay Thorin, and plunging the small Elven blade with vigour multiple times into its degenerative torso, “Can you steady me while I try and get up?” She inquires of Dwalin, who nods in return.
Ever so slowly, Erin pushes herself upon the tree branch, so that she can straddle it. Then she nimbly attempts to stand, wobbling slightly at the sudden shift in her balance, and a hand reaches out to steady her- “That’s rather inappropriate, Master Dwarf!” she cringes as a solid Dwarven palm collides quickly with her legging-clad backside.
“Sorry lass,” Dwalin replies, though he doesn’t sound at all so sincere. He manoeuvres his way onto the main trunk of the tree as she did, a close call as the branch they had both been clinging to suddenly snapped under his sudden shift of weight.
Erin’s unexpected movement inspires the Company to follow suit, and so those who can charge to push the Orc ranks back, with the exception of Dori and Ori who cling to Gandalf’s staff frantically still.
For minutes, battle cries and the shrieking sound of metal ringing in collision with metal are all that is known. A satisfactory spray of black blood liberally coats Erin’s short sword as she cuts through another Orc. The visceral dance between the Orcs, the Dwarrow and Erin continues; the felling of the Wargs with well-placed cuts to the legs and strikes to the necks aids to diminish the number of the enemy. Then follows another cry; this time of a different timbre to the bloodthirsty yells of the Dwarrow.
Even though Erin was expecting it to happen at some point, the thought was ludicrous to a fault.
Giant Eagles, it seemed were pernickety creatures.
Or at least, the one that carried Erin was.
It seemed quite content to try and unseat her from its back when she clutched the oversized bird’s feathers in terror too tightly.
She flew alongside Gandalf’s eagle, and he shot her what he thought would be a reassuring grin when he clocked her stricken expression. It did absolutely nothing to ease the tension Erin felt, and that the wizard seemed so at ease mid-flight perturbed her even more. Just exactly what kind of psycho frequented Giant Eagles as a mode of transportation? Gandalf’s eagle screeched, dipping away from the formation that had formed- It was leading them somewhere, Erin realised, when the bird suddenly swooped back into line with Gandalf crouched low beside its head, and she watched his mouth move rapidly whilst one gnarled hand ran along the fine feathers of the eagle’s neck. No, Gandalf is directing it…
“Where are we going?” She yelled to wizard, her fists clenching in the feathers again, and the eagle she was astride squawked heatedly.
He called back in return, “They wanted to take us back to the Eyrie, but I’ve persuaded Gwahir to drop us off at the Carroc-“
“Thorin!” It was Fíli who cried out to his Uncle, the latter of which hung loosely in the talons of one of eagles, Orcrist tight to his chest, but the significant Oakenshield that formed his moniker missing.
Things were going terribly for Erin so far, as many differences had arose from the version of the book she had read so carefully two years ago on Earth. The difficulty of Erin’s task had finally reared its ugly head: keeping control and watching over the journey was going to be no easy feat for her, as shown only moments prior. What if she couldn’t keep them all alive before they reached Erebor?
Thorin was certainly looking a bit peaky, enclosed in the eagle’s talons like an odd little hairy mouse the giant bird had caught for dinner. If he didn’t make it during the flight, the journey would be over before it had truly even begun, and the need for Erin to guide them all abolished.
Soon, the Carroc came into view, and the Company were deposited on the rock.
When her feet hit the Carroc, she threw a glare at the oversized bird that had carried her, and if her eyes didn’t deceive her it returned the motion, taking off again with a haughty flap of its wings that sent her sprawling to the ground, flat on her front. Erin rested there for a moment simply breathing in and out, ignoring the worried murmurs of the Dwarrow as they watched Gandalf revive their leader.
Her heartbeat soon calmed from its incessant beating, and she rose to her hands and knees, kissing the Carroc below her in joy.
Erin did not enjoy flight. When she had been younger, her parents took her on holiday abroad, and the eight hour trip on the plane was enough to send her into hysterics.
Two weeks passed in a sunny foreign country, before it was time for the flight back and the terror reawakened in the small girl. Her parents had given up trying to pacify her fears in the first hour of the trip back, instead letting her bawl and scream on the seat between them, as though they didn’t want to acknowledge the frenzied child as theirs. It seemed that childhood trauma was a predominant feature in life.
While Erin ruminated on this, Thorin had lashed out at poor Bilbo Baggins again:
“You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say that you would be a burden? That you would not survive in the wild and that you had no place amongst us?” Bilbo wilted. “I’ve never been so wrong in all my life!” The Hobbit was engulfed in a bone crushing embrace that smelt plainly of Warg saliva, sweat and the metallic tang of blood simultaneously. “I am sorry I doubted you,” Thorin said earnestly, and Bilbo made to reply, though like earlier his speech was stunted, “Where’s the girl?”
The Company turn every which way to find Erin knelt on the rock, her legs beneath her and her head tilted skywards, as she watches the clouds dance across the dawn lit sky and the rest of the eagles flapping away (much to her relief). A thrush flits by and she smiles widely as it twitters and flaps its small wings furiously, soon becoming nothing more than a fine dot in the skyline as it flies eastwards.
“You…” States Oakenshield, though he is disregarded. Erin is far too busy watching the clouds and trying to stay awake; her initial terror during the eagle’s fight and the adrenaline fuelled charge made on the orcs leaving her drained.
Gandalf clears his throat and Erin’s head snaps down to see fifteen pairs of eyes looking towards her with varied expressions; “Oh… Hello…?” she says simply.
“You have a lot to answer for,” Thorin growls balefully.
“No, no! The adventures first,
explanations take such a dreadful time.”
― ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland &
Through the Looking-Glass’, Lewis Carroll
Following much coercion from Gandalf, Thorin and the Company allowed Erin’s explanation to remain in the making until they had reached safer ground. The nature of Dwarves meant they felt quite comfortable upon the stone Carroc; the material was comforting to them, and though not a mountain, affiliated within them was their deity Mahal’s own appreciation of stone. They could not however remain in the open, and the Carroc was not a suitable place to linger.
It was left unsaid that the Orcs would certainly pursue them, so leaving as much distance between them was the Company’s priority, not the fanciful explanation of a child. That partly stung Erin, for she knew that Oakenshield’s quest was no placid picnic in the garden; that, she knew only too well. But to be dismissed altogether before she had even given an excuse for her aiding them? Well, that had to be the biggest insult of them all.
Erin knew that she would be regarded with suspicion; the race of Dwarves were insular, borderline xenophobic perhaps to others, especially when in the vicinity of the Eldar. Being under the care of Elves, even for as little time as she had been, would surely isolate her from them further. Mr Grey would have probably done better leaving her with the Dwarves so that she could learn their ways and earn their trust, but with the Elves he placed her. Still, the history and language lessons, as well as learning survival skills and basic weaponry from those who had been alive for over two-thousand years (if not more!) had to count for something.
Erin had unquestionably been in good hands over the two years. She couldn’t help but feel some separating differences beginning, like how the Dwarves would huddle closer to one another on their hike down the Carroc to keep away from her.
Dori was explicitly fussy around his youngest brother. Ori had taken a shine to the not-Elf-child during the short reprieve from life on the road that had been Rivendell, when she sat beside him and shared her knowledge. Once that hunger had just begun to be sated, the nourishment had been ripped away by discourtesy- the latter of which rested on Kíli’s conscience.
A curious Ori was an unbearable Ori, or so Dori and Nori had come to learn.
What remained was an unquenched desire to learn; and though Ori was no hardened warrior, he still possessed the legendary stubbornness of Dwarves. He would acquaint himself with Erin, befriend her, and divulge his own learnings with hers- Dori knew his brother inside out, and predicted this to happen soon. But Dori also knew that there was nothing he could do to stop it: mothering and fussing like a hen over young Ori would only spur him on, such as the unyielding nature of the Dwarrow denoted. The elder Ri brother shared a concerned glance with Nori, who raised one braided eyebrow in return.
The not-Elf-child may have good intentions, and she may humour Ori’s questioning, but they certainly wouldn’t trust her- not around the youngest Ri at least. He was there’s to protect, as the youngest of their family; and Dwarves guarded their young fiercely. Bilbo could sympathise with Erin; to endure the malign snubbing the Dwarves unleashed around strangers was no small feat. Her heroics in Goblin Town and assisting against the Orcs would somewhat endear her to them, just as it had endeared him to Thorin, but the little knowledge they had of her would render her an outcast until they decided she was worthy.
The steps of the Carroc were steep ledges, obviously crafted by someone with a larger stride than the Dwarves. Gandalf could manage the descent in hopping leaps, leant upon his wizarding staff for support so that he did not go plummeting after losing his balance. The Dwarrow took longer, having to slide off of the edge of the huge steps on their bottoms or stomachs, slowly sliding down or jumping quickly, then turning back to assist those behind them because of their smaller and less agile stature than that of the wizard’s.
Bilbo and Erin hung near the back of the Company: “I shall go down first Master Baggins, and then if it’s okay with you, hoist you down?” The steps were still taller than Erin, though she was loftier in height than most of the Dwarves- only falling an inch or so below Dwalin’s uncommonly tall yet intimidating frame.
“That sounds just fine, Miss Erin,” The Hobbit replied, wringing his hands as he peered over the lip of one of the steps. Erin grinned, and began to lower herself down, extending her arms up to Bilbo when her feet made contact with the stone below. For well over and hour this continued, and by the time they had all reached the bottom of the Carroc, the Company were tired.
The venture in the Misty Mountains and by the cliff face had left them bereft of energy, and now traipsing down the steps had just about done them all. The wandered further. Finding a clump of trees to disclose themselves from prying eyes, they decided to make camp with the meagre possessions they had remaining.
“Will this help at all?” Asks Erin: slinging the Dwarven pack off of her shoulder and extending it towards the Company.
“Tha’s mine tha’ is!” Cries Bofur, tipping his hat to her as he collects his bag; “Thank you Miss.”
Gloin groans irritably; “Of course it would be your pack she finds, not someone else’s that’s useful-“
“Wha’ do ‘ye mean by tha’?” Bofur responds tersely, a frown pulling his mouth down from its usual chipper smile. Behind him, Bifur glares threateningly at the son of Groin, making a rather rude gesture with his hands.
“Only that if it were Oin or Bombur’s pack the lass had rescued it would help. More than yours would at least.”
Petty squabbling ensues, with family members defending their kin and other familial units deciding to take sides. Erin wishes she hadn’t said anything, or that she hadn’t picked the pack up in the first place.
“Enough!” Thorin’s shout demolishes the rising argument between the Company. No rest and fraying tempers had sparked the conflict, and only respite could sedate it. Thorin’s bellow causes him to cringe; the action had left strain on the ribs that had been subjected to Warg teeth. Oin naturally rushes over to fuss needlessly over him.
“If its food and medical supplies you need, then why didn’t you say? I’ve got provisions from Imladris in my bag…”
“We do not need your Elf supplies, girl. We can manage on our own,” is the Dwarf Kings rebuking reply.
Gandalf sighs deeply; disappointed with the discourtesy the Dwarrow were displaying towards Erin; “Come now Thorin, surely some supplies are better than nothing. Your wounds are inflicted by Wargs and Orcish weapons that hold all manner of atrocities on their teeth and blades. Surely it would be better to at least fend off infection using what the Elves have provided.”
Though the Dwarf grinds his teeth in silent protest, he relents.
Erin quickly rummages through her rucksack, fishing out the small bag of Elven salves and passing it to Oin, who grunts to her in thanks.
“Who’s hungry?” Erin asks. Many eyes turn her way. “Ah… I’ve, um- I’ve got lembas, if you don’t mind-“ The eyes that survey her roll or narrow at her nervous disposition, “It’s a bit bland, but a bite will tie you over well enough.”
“Just one bite?” Ori says in astonishment.
Erin blinks, “…Yes.”
Suspicious muttering is raucous around the camp, with many of the Company concurring that Elf-magic was to blame and that one bite of anything couldn’t satisfy the insatiable appetite of Dwarves. Bilbo felt much the same way of Hobbits, though after enduring most of the journey without the proper seven meals that he was accustomed to and losing more weight than was considered respectable among his kin, the Shireling had reached the point where anything that could fill his stomach would do; he still privately mourned the loss of his extra mealtimes. On the upside, if he could take bites of the lembas roughly around the normal times he would have had second breakfast, elevenses, afternoon tea and supper; he would most probably feel much more comfortable. Though he had become acclimatised to the schedule that came with travel, and understood that they couldn’t stop for food frivolously, it didn’t stop the wild growling in his abdomen alerting him that surely it was time for a snack. Bilbo had just had to grit his teeth and continue walking so far.
“May I try some?” The Hobbit asked.
“Me too!” Yelped Ori, brushing off Dori’s hand that was clamped on his shoulder in alarm.
Erin dipped her head kindly; “Of course you may,” she reached inside her trusty backpack again, fishing out two wrapped parcels of the Elven travel bread, “Usually, they are wrapped in leaves from the Mallorn tree to keep them fresh- at least they were when I had the chance to visit Lothlorien. Unfortunately, Maethlin was pushed for time with the haste Mr Grey and I had to leave Imladris, and in her ingenuity decided that unused cheesecloth would suffice in keeping them fresh, but not swamped in wrappings.”
Tentatively, the Dwarf and the Hobbit nibbled on the corner of the bread.
“How is it laddie?” Said Balin.
“It’s… odd, but not bad, Master Balin,” Ori replied, still chewing.
“I can’t see why you only need one bite though,” Bilbo mused, “Why not the whole thing?”
Erin chuckled, “I asked much the same thing of one of Lorien’s wardens. He was old enough to remember the recipe being penned, and the trials that came with testing it out. Apparently one of the greener members of the Galadhrim thought it a good idea to eat two in a row whilst on a long patrol. He was sick to his stomach, and for days he felt that stodged up and bloated. Eventually, it was rationalised that one bite per meal time was enough to sate hunger.”
“I didn’t know you had ever visited Lothlorien, my dear,” Gandalf rumbled around the lit pipe in his mouth.
Erin made a noncommittal noise; “Only after I had proved myself to Glorfindel and Lord Elrond was I permitted to travel outside Rivendell’s borders. They allowed me to join a party of Elves whom were a travelling escort for Lady Arwen.”
“I’m surprised your guardian let you out of his sight. Glorfindel was very much your champion when you first came to Rivendell, and so he remains,” the wizard huffed, remembering how the Elf bristled at the thought of his young charge being snaffled out from under his reach.
“Oh, you are very much mistaken if you thought he let me go by myself. He was there every step of the way!”
Kíli snorted, “That sounds just like how Uncle was on my first hunting trip. But still… who is this ‘Arwen’ you speak of, and why does she demand such protection.”
Erin smiles malignantly, “If you seek to woo her in the same disastrous manner you decided to with ‘Elf maids’- oh yes, I heard all about that before I brought the trays up! I think you may fall short-“
“Why,” growled Oakenshield defensively, “Because we are inferior to Elf-kind?”
“Because Arwen- like her late mother, her grandmother, and also her father- whom are all related to the firstborn, has the gift of foresight. It may be weaker in her than her predecessors, but she knows her heart belongs to only one, though he may not have been born yet. The Evenstar is waiting, and knows he will come.”
“How romantic,” Ori sighed, his fingers twisting into his knitted cardigan, the lembas balanced on his knee.
“I think so too,” Erin confirmed, “Although, it is also sad- that she may have to wait for so long…”
“Such is the nature of Elves,” Scoffed Gloin, “Still, you spin a good tale lass.”
Erin’s eyes narrow, “It is no tale, Master Dwarf. Arwen Undomiel is the only daughter of Lord Elrond, and the granddaughter of Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien- and how dare y-“
Gandalf coughs sharply, “Pass me some lembas, won’t you dear Erin. I’m quite peckish.”
“Eat what you will, wizard. But let it be known that none of my Company will be eating that tasteless Elf-filth.” Thorin Oakenshield’s word was apparently law, and Nori discreetly knocked Ori’s slightly chewed bread to the floor with a subtle nudge to his younger brother’s leg.
Weatherworn and weary, so tired and well-thumbed look the pages-
And lo’ a solitary crack has formed in the spine with a snap-
“I’ve messed up another chance, again, haven’t I Mr Grey?”
“Kingdom’s are not established in a day, and neither are good relations with Dwarves,” the Maia replied knowingly, as the pair walked some distance away from the Company the following morning. It had been a tenuous night in the camp.
"Still, how am I supposed to help them if they don’t trust me? They’re not going to believe that the little- what was it they called me again, ah yes, ‘not-Elf-child’ is here to change the future.”
“Things have a way of sorting themselves, my dear Erin. Let them fall into place naturally.” She ponders on this, her face twisting as she thinks, “Though… if all else fails, I’ve heard from various sources that sometimes you must be cruel in order to be kind.”
When the cry of Wargs is heard not so far away, Bilbo is sent ahead to scout.
“How close is the pack?”
“A couple of leagues, or uh-“
“That is not good Tharkûn- we must find shelter or we will all perish before reaching the mountain.”
“Do you not think I have presumed this, Master Oakenshield- and that all I have between my ears is smoke from Old Toby?” Gandalf had officially had enough of Durin’s folk. Again. “There is one place I know of in which we can take refuge. It is not far from here, and well protected. The only problem is-“
“-There was something else out there with the pack, Gandalf! If you would just listen!” Yelled Bilbo. He had reached the end of his tether; first Thorin and now Gandalf interrupting his speech. Whatever was a poor Hobbit to do in order to be listened to?
“What form did it take? Like a bear?”
“Yes-well-“ The Hobbit stutters under such intense scrutiny.
Erin gasps, “One of Beorn’s kin?”
“’Ye knew about this beast?” Bofur says in a panic, his eyes wide underneath the furry brim of his hat.
Gandalf meets her eyes, “Let us hope that it is one of the others and not Beorn himself. He’s rather ferocious in bear form, and I’d much rather talk to the man.”
“By Mahal, what are you talking about wizard?” Demands Thorin, and the rest of the Company seem similarly shaken.
“The lodgings we are to take respite in belong to a skin changer. Beorn is his name, and he will either help us… or he will kill us.”
“What chance do we have?” Hisses Gloin. The howls of the Wargs grow closer, and the ‘None’, goes unsaid.
“So help me Tharkûn, when we reach our queer lodgings you and the girl will explain your selves.”
“Understood, Thorin. But for now, might I suggest we all run?”
It seemed to Erin that all she had done since leaving Rivendell was run; it was a sprint to catch up to the Dwarves in the Misty Mountains, another adrenaline fuelled charge through Goblin Town, and a dash for survival by the cliff face. Now there was to be another cross country jaunt, and it was beginning to take its toll on her. She was red faced and puffing when they finally reached pastures on the outskirts of Beorn’s property: clutching at the painful stitch in her side (unfortunately it shared the same vicinity of her sorely abused ribs), and sucking in deep, gasping breaths of humid late summer air.
“We’re getting near,” Gandalf huffed, as they stopped to catch their breath, “We’re on the edge of his bee-pastures.”
Bilbo squealed as one busy bee whirred past his pointed ear. If one was to sting me, he thought gravely, I should swell up as big as I am!
Erin also cringes as another humble bee buzzes past. “I shouldn’t like to be stung by one of them,” she says decisively, mimicking the Hobbit’s prior thoughts.
They wander through the bee-pastures, making sure to remain in a line formation, less they come a cropper of one of the bees in the long growing grasses and flowers that surrounded the track on which they trudged. Soon, they came to a belt of tall oak trees, and Gandalf pulled them to a halt.
“I think it best you wait here, while I talk to our host. As I mentioned earlier, he can be quite volatile- Radagast enlightened me that he is not overly fond of Dwarves too…”
“And yet you’ve brought us here?” Balin snipped tersely. By now, it was mid-afternoon, and the heat from the sun had addled many of the company’s temperaments.
Gandalf decides not to warrant that with an answer; “I will signal for you, when the time comes. Our host is fond of small gentle creatures, so Erin and Bilbo shall go with me. He is also fond of stories; and you will play your parts in pairs- only when I give the signal though!”
The wizard grabs hold of both the Hobbit and the not-Elf-child and went off along the hedge until he came to a wooden gate that towered above even Gandalf’s head. Behind it laid a quaint house; with a thatched roof similar to those in the village where Erin had lived. She swallowed the pang of homesickness and continued to survey the surroundings. There were stables and all manner of creatures wandering freely. A cluster of well-groomed horses tossed their head and nickered at their arrival, watching them intently with both intelligence and fear. They snorted and stomped, and quickly galloped off into one of the buildings.
“They have gone to tell our host of our arrival,” Gandalf breathed.
“You’re nervous,” the Hobbit said knowingly, feeling some apprehension himself and absently pulling on his waistcoat as though to fasten it; though many of the brass buttons that once adorned it were missing, and the one’s that remained he had either plucked off and placed in his coat pocket, or hung insecurely by weakened strands of cotton. His face twisted at the thought of his neighbour’s scandalous gossip at his descent from respectability.
“With good reason,” the wizard replied with a quaking hitch in his throat. Beorn had appeared; an axe in his hand that the three of them respectively hoped was only used for chopping wood and not for making travellers disappear. The horses from earlier followed him cautiously, their punctuated whinnies and snorts conveying in an equine tongue that they were unsure of these persons standing in the gate way. “
They don’t look dangerous!” The huge man grumbled to the horses who nuzzled at the knotted muscles on his arms, “Off with you now!” and they did as he bid.The man leant down on the handle of his axe, his bare arms tensing- and if possible, the great thick black beard and hair on his head and face prickled, “Who are you, and what do you want?”
“I am Gandalf.”
“Never heard of him,” Erin smothered her giggle discreetly behind her hand.
“Perhaps you have heard of my cousin, Radagast, who lives near the southern borders of Mirkwood?” The skin changer growls in acknowledgement. He then notices the two with the wizard, “Who is this little fellow- and the girl?”
“This is Mr Baggins, a hobbit of good family and unimpeachable reputation, and that is Erin; Elf-friend to the Valley of Imladris.”
“Hm,” rumbled Beorn, “Titles indeed. But the fact remains that I do not know what you are doing on my lands.”
“W-well,” Gandalf stutters.
“We were travelling with our companions across the Misty Mountains,” Erin said.
“Go on, little lady,” the skin changer encourages.
“But we were ambushed by goblins and orcs. Several of us-“
“What did you go near goblins for? A stupid idea, and several? Do you call three several?”
“We didn’t mean to,” Gandalf defends her, “They were ambushed, and Erin and I were just in time to save them all. It is a long story, I’m afraid.”
“And where might your companions be, so that I can see the truth of this tale?” Out marching come Thorin, Dori, Nori and Ori through the gate.
“Thorin Oakenshield at your service,” says the Dwarf with an incline of his head.
“I don’t want your service!” Bellows Beorn.
Gandalf smiles thinly, “Where are the rest of your companions, Thorin?”
“More companions, wizard. I thought you said you travelled with seven? Seven I see before me, so seven there are of you!”
“Seven?!” Cried Bilbo, “Oh no, you’re very much mistaken sir. We travelled with eleven, you see.”
Right on cue, appeared Balin, Dwalin, Fíli and Kíli, and Beorn lifted his axe in both of his meaty hands, raising it to his stomach defensively, though his stomach was far higher up than any of the Dwarrows could reach.
“Ah, good of you to join us,” drawled Gandalf, drawing his pipe out of his sleeve and lighting it Leisurely, “But what had happened to those you travelled with, Balin, Dwalin, Fíli and Kíli?”
“There are more of you?!” Now the skin changer was becoming angry, all but pacing in front of his home.
“Yes, sixteen in total,” the wizard remarked lightly.
“Yet I only see eleven!” Beorn howled, and with that, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin and Gloin all came tumbling through the gateway, and Erin had had just about enough of her elderly companions manipulations.
“I’m sorry if we’ve startled you, Master Beorn,” she said sweetly, wishing she could lay a reassuring pat on his arm but finding herself too short to do so, “But we have lost most of our belongings in the Goblin Tunnels after their ambush, and many of us have minor injuries from when the Orcs and Wargs attacked shortly after. We haven’t had decent lodgings and meals since Rivendell, but I suppose that if you’d rather we not stay on your lands we can move on…”
If anything, Beorn wilted, “It is no problem at all, little lady. Come, we shall have you and the little bunny fattened up on bread, and cream, and honey!”
Gandalf smirked triumphantly around his pipe at Thorin, who shot the wizard a conspicuous trademark glare.
Settled in Beorn’s halls, they were waited on by their host and his menagerie of animals. Dogs stood proudly tall on their hind legs and carried platters, collecting cutlery the sheep had gathered on their backs.
“So you are the one they call Oakenshield?”
“What of it,” the Dwarf King in exile sneers.
The skin changers expression morphs from gentle gracious host to threatening predator in an instance; “I don’t like dwarves,” Beorn replies in his low grumbling voice, “They are greedy, and show no consideration for those they think below them… But I hate Orcs more. What is it that you are doing so far east, Oakenshield? What are you doing that has brought more Orcs to my land?”
“We go to Erebor,” said Balin.
“And the Hobbit?” the skin changer asks.
Erin coughs, a piece of honey comb graciously supplied by one of the sheep sticking in her throat.
“That is what we’d like to know,” Dwalin interjects, “Though we were not told earlier.”
“Both Bilbo and I have things we wish to say,” Erin says snootily, “But how am I to tell you of myself if I know nothing of you expect for Mr Grey and Bilbo. I know more about of host than all of you!”
“Then explain it to us all, lass,” Bofur says evenly.
“I am also intrigued as to why you would travel with Dwarves of all creatures,” Beorn helpfully plied.
Erin looks to Gandalf for confirmation, and through the smoke of his pipe that had once more clouded about his face, she can see his eyes twinkle. She clears her throat and takes a deep breath; “Two years ago, I lived in a little village. I was in my last year of standard education, and was just about to take my final exam in two days’ time when Mr Grey approached me and made me an offer. I took my exam, and thought long a hard over the following day about what he had told me. He spun a tale of a lost home waiting to be reclaimed, of a dragon inside a hoard, and of a girl who was lost and alone… just like the once occupants of the mountain were. I told him that I wasn’t alone, because I had my parents; and although they sometimes pushed me into things I didn’t really want, they loved me. It was only natural that they would work me hard, if that was what would benefit me the most.”
She pauses to take a sip out of the disproportionate flagon of milk Beorn had provided her, and looks around: all eyes are still on her. “But it wasn’t what was best for me, and Mr Grey knew this. Why would I go through another five or so years of studying when I could see the whole world? Not everything can be learnt from books, I know this now. I was educated about the finer workings of the world and greater histories by the Elves of Rivendell, who indulged me in my wish to learnt their language and treated me better than my own parents had cared for me when I was a child. I had never wanted for nothing with Peter and Catherine, but the Elves hold a special precedence- they make me feel, well, like me. I am a named Elf-friend to Lord Elrond and his kin, and those who spurned you, Master Oakenshield are different from the Lord of Imladris. I will help you find your home again, because I know what it is like to find one- it is the greatest feeling in the world when you do.”
“I want to help too,” Bilbo uttered, “You interrupted me, twice, both you and Gandalf, Thorin. Once after the Goblin Tunnels, and then again on the Carroc. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, my bed, and my comfy armchair. Because that’s home for me, like Erin says her home is in Rivendell, with her new-found family. And you don’t have one, a home that is…”
“We’re going to do everything in our power to help you reclaim it, if you’ll let us.”
A sheep bleated as it trotted past, carrying an embroidered cloth that for the Dwarves, Bilbo, and Erin would serve as a lap blanket or a small table cloth. Beorn plucked the fabric from its curly mass of wool, and swiftly blew his nose with a disgusting sniffle.
There's a large debate still over whether Aragorn would be alive during the time of the Hobbit, and it was speculated that there would be a cameo appearance in the movies at one point- though it came to little avail.
Peter Jackson managed to conveniently cut nearly twenty years of the One Ring being 'secret' and 'safe' in the Shire which was originally in the book, and Thranduil and Legolas' conversation near the end of 'The Battle of the Five Armies' movie (for those of you who have seen it) implies that because of this missing twenty years Aragorn would be in his twenties and be off doing his Ranger duties. The aforementioned is entirely misleading, though fits with Legolas' support and defense of Aragorn during the Council of Elrond in 'The Fellowship of the Ring', but I just can't picture it no matter the convenient plot convergence.
If you follow the time scale of the book, Aragorn would be roughly the age of ten at the time Thorin's quest takes place- making it impossible to be known as 'Strider' yet, because essentially he's just a child.
My canon involves Arwen (who is shown to have some foresight in the movies) to know about what is to happen in her life and who she could come to love. Galadriel, as a descendent of the Noldo, and her daughter Celebrian (Elrond's wife and Arwen's mother) both would have had the sight, as immensely powerful descendents of High Elves. It is also disputed that Elrond had some foresight too.
Therefore, Arwen has an idea of whom Aragorn is; or rather, who he is going to be- thanks to her foresight, and that he is the one she will love for eternity.
Quite romantic, really.
That little anecdote about the Lembas is completely mine also.
It made me laugh thinking about curious Elves behaving like Merry and Pippin in 'The Fellowship of the Ring' and eating too much of the waybread- though of course, they know better now.
If that story does exist somewhere, I have not intended to infringe on it- it was purely an idea I had to fit with Erin's dialogue.
Chapter 8: Diphthongs and cruelty
“I must be cruel, only to be kind”
– ‘Hamlet’ (Act Three Scene Four),
“Tha’s beautiful tha’ is, lass. You too Bilbo…” Bofur says hoarsely and Beorn blows his nose once more in the background.
Mumbles of agreement are given from the rest of the Company. Erin and Bilbo look to one dwarf in particular, wanting his approval. When Thorin Oakenshield inclines his head regally, they grin.
“Do you know what? We’ve not all been formally introduced,” Erin says, “Erin Walsh, at you and your families service.” She bows her head whilst uttering a formal Dwarven greeting.
“Bifur, Bombur and Bofur at yours Miss Erin,” replies the hatted Dwarf; a rotund specimen of Dwarf nature nodding as he nibbled on a piece of honeycomb, and a dwarf with a small Orcish axe part embedded in his skull grunting his affirmation.
“Bilbo Baggins, madam,” Bilbo said with a smile, having already been acquainted with Erin at Rivendell.
“Balin and Dwalin, sons of Fundin, at yours,” a pleasant gravel flecked voice spoke, and Erin identified it to an elderly looking Dwarf with a forked beard and twinkling eyes that reminded her so much of Mr Grey’s mischievous ones. Erin realised she would have to be careful around this one; as if being in a group of burly warriors wasn’t intimidating enough, there was now a cunning Dwarf with a wry mind to contend with. Dwalin she already knew; her ribs especially- they groaned at where he’d accidentally hit her with his knuckledusters, and she was fairly certain she would have a large handprint on her bottom if she were so inclined to check.
“’At your service!’” The two younger Dwarrow said in unison, bowing their respective blonde and brunette heads in greeting.
“Ori no!” Wailed Dori, and flinched as the youngest Ri shot him a glare.
“Ori, Nori and Dori- at your service,” the young scribe squeaks, still glaring at his brothers until they relent petulantly.
“Oin and Gloin, sons of Groin, at yours,” mutters Gloin in the stead of his older brother; the latter turning to everyone and inquiring ‘Flowing? Who’s flowing?” and cupping a hand round his right ear. “No one’s flowing you deaf old bat!” Gloin witters in irritation, “We need to get you a new ear trumpet, and fast…”
Thorin does not offer his service, which Erin takes as a sign that he is tolerating her presence and will do no more should she push her luck.
“You said you were in your last year of studies, lass,” Balin queries, “What was it that you were learning?”
“Sewing, no doubt, and house duties…” Gloin says, “My wife learnt those amongst her craft. A finer jeweller you will not meet…”
Erin grits her teeth and smiles through the jab at her gender, “Perhaps you could tell me about her another time, Master Gloin. I studied literature and linguistics up until the age of eighteen, and through the duration of my stay with the elves, Sindarin, the histories of Middle Earth, weaponry and animal husbandry.”
“Impressive lass, but at eighteen? That’s a might too young, that is,” Balin appraises with a frown, for if she were a Dwarfling, Erin would not be expected to leave her family's side until she was far older- the race of Men aged far differently than Dwarves did though, he remembered, “That would only make you but twenty years of age now, would it not?”
“Closer to twenty one than that,” she says, wrinkling her nose.
“We shall have to celebrate the occasion, my dear!” Gandalf exclaims, pipe smoke stuttering about him, “For you shall turn twenty one but only once.”
“Does it hold some significance?” Dori sniffs.
Erin thinks upon this, “In some cultures back home, there are different deliberations of when one comes of age. For women in some areas, their maturity begins when they first… um… ‘bloom’ into woman hood. It’s barbaric, as every female child is different, and some mature early. It is not pleasant at the age of nine to be considered as a mature female, when you should still be behaving like a child. Other cultures celebrate the sixteenth birthday; the ‘sweet sixteenth’ they call it. The majority of adolescents are considered to be mature at the age of eighteen, and then fully approved as ‘responsible adults’ at twenty one.”
“Only nine?” Whispers Bombur, thinking of his wife and multiple children; three of which were daughters, whom he had had to leave behind at Ered Luin.
“It’s rare,” Erin states, her hand stretched out in a calming motion, “But it does happen. Time’s change- as does what society expects of women. At the moment, women are considered equal to their male counterparts where I live, as they fought for independence for many, many years. We do not force children to grow up. I spoke mainly of the past and… less, ‘civil’ environments.”
“You study literature and linguistics?” Ori says in awe, his cheeks reddening with a fierce blush.
“Yes, I remember having to recall theorists, studies, quotes from stories and books… it was challenging but I enjoyed it very much.”
The youngest Ri looked like he was about to keel over in a dead faint, his flushed face rivalled the colour of Bilbo’s prize winning tomatoes back in the Shire.
“If you’d like, I think I’ve got one of my books in my rucksack. I can lend it to you?”
“I’ll take that as a resounding yes then?” One of Erin’s eyebrows arched.
“Miss Erin, what is a diphthong?” Erin was currently answering Ori’s questions about the text book she had passed along the table to him earlier.
Gandalf had chortled around his pipe smoke, because she had kept the dratted thing with her and not left it in Rivendell. Despite his good humour, he felt apprehensive that she had chosen this book. It was bound differently than any other texts in Middle Earth, the pages were glossy, and there were dates included inside the text that didn’t quite match up to those of this lands’. Erin and he might be explaining more than they’d like to give away if attentions turned from learning about diphthongs and intonation to this foreign object and it’s owner.
“It’s known as a vowel where there is a change in the perceptible quality in which it is pronounced during a syllable. So, for instance, if you take the word ‘sow’. There’s a gliding sound at the start made up from ‘ess’, ‘oh’ and ‘wuh’, and when combined, they make a diphthong. ‘sss-ohwuh’, ‘sow’- see how it gets that glide when spoken?’”
Ori nods in understanding, jotting down her explanation in his journal.
“There’s an awful lot more explanation than I can give if you look in the book. They contain helpful hints and extra facts- look at the boxes at the side, and my annotations if you need further clarification. If there’s terminology you don’t understand, then there’s a glossary at the back,” Erin enlightened the youngest Ri brother. She withdrew from Beorn’s huge dinner table to sit by Gandalf, still smoking his pipe but this time by a roaring fire the skin changer lit earlier, in a chair that is still much too big for him.
“You should be more cautious, my dear Erin. It was a kind thing to do; lending young Ori your book, but it may prove to usurp you from your task.”
“What do you mean?”
“The dates are in the book Erin. Won’t it look strange to them if they see ‘first published in 2009’ and that it doesn’t match this Age? For now, the difference in quality and printing can be explained by your coming from a very faraway place, and that your people are insular about advances in technology. But should they discover what you are here for, I fear no part of compulsion from myself will endear you to them again,” Gandalf murmurs lowly.
“…Bother.” Is the curse that meets his statement.
“Indeed, my dear. Indeed.”
“I’d have to tell them… everything, wouldn’t I?”
“Most likely, yes. Though you could always try to embellish details to make them seem less than they are.”
“But-but, the deaths-“
“I know, my dear I know,” Gandalf reaches down to where she sits beside his chair, and pats the top of her head, “Then again, perhaps telling them of their fate would be fair kinder than cruelly omitting it.”
No one must know.
No one can know-
It doesn’t exist; there’s nothing to link
otherworldliness- No, NO-
Chapter 9: A knight upon his horse and a damsel not so in distress...
“Against logic there is no armour like ignorance”
– Laurence J. Peter
“I'm a damsel, I'm in distress,
I can handle this. Have a nice day!”
― Walt Disney Company
Meanwhile, back in the Valley of Imladris, many of the Elves were growing weary of the particular incessant fretting of one of their kin:
“What if something happens and I’m not there?”
“Glorfindel, Mithrandir will look after her, he promised you thus,” Erester said tartly in return, taking a quite undignified swig from a chalice containing some excellent Dorwinion wine Thranduil had sent to Lord Elrond as an afterthought gift some centuries ago. It kept quite well in the cellars of Rivendell, the cool and crisp alcoholic sting appreciative to the Elves' palate, as their disposition as the first born left them almost exempt from the clutches of inebriation. At the moment, Erestor was glad for Thranduil’s carelessly given gift, intended for Lady Arwen as she passed another significant milestone in her immortal life, but lay forgotten; the Elves of Imladris and of the House of Elrond did not put stock into selfish frivolities like their kin in the Greenwood of old. The wine was certainly blurring his senses, and he found he could quite easily ignore Glorfindel’s moping with a healthy rose coloured blush clouding his sanities. If not, he would have surely snapped and smacked the Balrog slayer around the head with a heavy tomb from the library by now.
“It’s the grey wizard- the one that wreaks havoc wherever he goes. Those in the Shire have labelled him a ‘disturber of the peace’! If he can alienate the Halflings, then there’s no stopping him.”
“Well my friend, if you’re so worried, why don’t you go after her?” Lord Elrond says, having also had enough, he nodded to acknowledge his great thanks to Erestor who poured him a large drop of Dorwinion wine.
Both Erestor and Lord Elrond grimaced at the enlightened look in the Balrog-slayer’s eyes; “I could go after her, couldn’t I?” Glorfindel says all too innocently, closing his right hand and surveying his (perfect) nails idly.
“Yes, mellon-nin, but that does not mean you should,” Erester replies hastily. Glorfindel sighs, “I fear for her though. Mithrandir thought us ignorant, but it is plaintive to see what he is trying to do.”
“Mithrandir feels he is justified, and as he serves a higher power than we, we have no reason to dispute with his choices,” Elrond chastises.
“She is a child! She would follow him to the edge of Valinor boat or no if she could- “
“And that is why you must let her proceed,” the Elf Lord concedes. The three sit quietly for a while, musing upon the strange behaviour of wizards and the trusting ignorant bliss of the children from the race of men.
“I know Ettelëa has a purpose here, she has told me as such. We cannot remove the destination she and fate must reach on this journey, whether it be for the benefit of Middle Earth or its downfall. The Valar would not forgive us for meddling… though, perhaps they wouldn’t mind if we gave her some aid?”
“What are you suggesting, Glorfindel?” Asks Erestor.
The Lord of the House of the Golden Flower turns to the Lord of Rivendell; “Are your son’s still restless from their last patrol?”
Lord Elrond scoffs with dignity over the rim of his raised chalice, “When are my sons not restless?”
“May I take them with me? Do I have your permission to follow Mithrandir and Erin?”
“When did you need my blessing? You were already set on leaving should I have said no,” responsds Elrond, “If you can take Elladan and Elrohir with you on the journey, all the better. Lindir will be welcome of the respite- they target him frequently in their folly, and I’d rather not wait another age for a new suitable squire.”
Glorfindel laughs with mirth that chimes like bells, and grabs an empty wine goblet; “Is there any of that Dorwinion swill left, or have you both supped the three barrel’s Thrandy sent dry?”
“Only you, Glorfindel, would dare call Thranduil Oropherion by such a name…” Muttered Erestor; pinching the bridge of his nose, “Don’t you think it best not to sup tonight? After all, you’re going to need all your wits about you with Elladan, Elrohir and Asfaloth to control.”
Merriment is flooding Glorfindel’s features for the first time since young Erin had left with the wandering wizard near two weeks ago. Wherever she was now, under the protection of the Maia and a troupe of Dwarves, Lord Elrond wished her safe. He wasn’t so sure his old friend would survive the blow of losing a child of his hearts choosing, whom he held so dearly.
“I do not trust her, Dwalin,” Thorin seethed, “Look at how she has enthralled them all with pretty words and assurances. The wizard is no better!”
“She was willin’ ‘t fight on the cliff face, Thorin. Though I agree tha’ she’s no’ truly revealed the truth o’ why she is here.”
“Keep an eye on her,” Thorin ordered, grasping the top of his old friends arm tightly, tense and suspicious.
“As y’ wish,” Dwalin concedes with a nod, though his brow furrowed slightly. Why would one girl, who posed about as much of a threat as a wet kitten, force Thorin into such a foul mood? Dwalin wasn’t entirely sure, and perhaps that made her even more dangerous. It wasn’t that Dwalin questioned his king’s sanity; it was highly likely that if they took back the mountain shadow and death would lurk in every hallway and corner waiting for a chance to strike at the royals; a healthy dose of paranoia every now and again kept a Dwarrow still standing on his steel toe capped booted feet instead of dead and returned back to the stone.
The lass was hardly a hazard, he could snap one of her slender arms easily if he so required.
Not that he would, or should have to.
Still, Dwalin did as he was bid to do, and over the following days before they left the skin changer’s halls onward to Mirkwood, he watched from afar. She sat beside young Ori and Master Baggins in the warm sunshine outside, observing as Fíli and Kíli sparred. Dis’s youngest child had run out of arrows, and instead of bothering to craft more, he took up the sword- honing his skills alongside his brother.
It made Dwalin's mind whirl, obviously the lass had some formal training- she was following their movements rapidly with her eyes and didn’t flinch like the Shireling sat next to her when the blades collided with an ostentatious clamour. She was no stranger to swords; her reflexes in the Misty Mountains were supreme- having hit the fat lard of a Goblin King right on his fourth chin, and she carried (much to his distaste) an Elven bow and quiver. The plan was formed in his mind, and he grunted, pleased with his quick thinking:
“Fíli, Kíli, get Master Baggins’ blade – no, a stick off o’ the skin changer f’er sparring. Teach him the basics. Girl, yer’ with me. Let’s put tha’ fancy Elvish blade of yours to work.”
He was fairly certain he heard her gasp and Ori gulp, but bravely- or even foolishly, she stood and withdrew her short sword from its hilt and walked evenly towards him, where he lazily swung Keeper in a circular motion. Grasper remained faithfully on his back, a reminder that using both of his axes might scare the poor girl. She took a stance, and the blade rose defensively in front of her.
Good, Dwalin thought, and then he swung.
Erin groaned as she settled into one of Beorn’s huge chairs. The skin changer chuckled as he passed her a sweet bread roll slathered in honey.
“You didn’t disgrace yourself, little lady,” the huge man rumbled, running a hand through his wiry beard, “I think you surprised many of them.”
“I’ve got pains and aches in muscles that I didn’t knew I possessed,” Erin whined, “He could have just stopped once I stopped the damned axe from cleaving me in two, but no, let’s get the girl sparring with both of my axes!”
“Truthfully lass,” Bofur chimed, patting her on the shoulder none too gently and receiving a hard look and a hiss from Erin, “Dwalin was surprised ‘ye could put up such a fight. Why yer’ all skin and bone ‘ye are!” The hatted dwarf laughed.
“I’m not going to be able to move tomorrow. I’ll just be one giant bruise”
Ink spreading-brusing soft like fruit over the pale pages, No words to describe a gentle torrent blooming like deathly petals in chapter seven.
Beautifully obscure and painfully
unreadable- good, good…
“Aye, but you’ll be a sight better looking than Bilbo lass…”
Erin did feel a shred of sympathy through her aching muscles for the small Hobbit. Fíli and Kíli, while quite comfortable and confident sparring with each other were not suited to teaching. Poor Bilbo struggled to keep up with their instructions, and instead of taking the inexperienced Shireling through the correct stances, blocking and parrying techniques, they ploughed straight into offence, obviously expecting the Hobbit to know all of the aforementioned already. It was fortunate Dwalin had suggested using sticks instead of blades for his training, as Bilbo was likely to have a shiner of a bruise across his right eye for some time.
Dwalin had been surprised; he expected the not-Elf-child to be weak and simply fall under the strength of his blows, yet she had held her ground and met him blade for blade- sometimes even finding the force to push back his offence. By the time he thought of drawing Grasper, they’d drawn in quite the crowd and Kíli had nearly beheaded a Hobbit. Whence he did use the full force of his axes, Erin was ailing, sweat beading on her forehead and down her back. Her breath came in shallow pants and one final swing from Dwalin that was met with her short sword had her knees buckling. When the other axe followed, the blade was ripped from her hands, and she huffed in breaths staring up at a rather incredulous looking Dwarven warrior.
“And what was all that about? ‘I see the Elves have finally done something right’? That’s what he said to me!” Bofur chuckled nervously, tipping his hat and leaving her to eat her bread and mope sullenly about the Dwarf’s snide comment.
Who does he think I am? Erin thought crossly. But that was entirely the point, she soon realised; Dwalin and the rest of the Company didn’t know her- not as well as Mr Grey did at least, and even then their amount of faith in the wizard dwindled.
That settles it, she thinks, biting forcefully into the honeyed bread again, I’ve just got to prove myself.
Unfortunately for poor Erin, both of her predictions had been right.
Bilbo had a dark puffy bruise enclosing his eye, making him look like a very small yet large-footed Pirate; and she found that very amusing, much to Bilbo’s chagrin. She had been right about the aches in her own body, finding that she could only hold herself stiffly and walk exceptionally slowly to Beorn’s table the next morning to gather her breakfast.
Dwalin looked remarkably smug as he watched her hobble across Beorn’s halls and slowly lower herself into an oversized chair next to Oin.
“What’s wrong with you, lassie?” The partially-deaf healer inquired Erin glared across the table at Dwalin in response.
Said Dwarf just smirked, and took a bite out of his breakfast.
With a sigh, Erin turned her attention to Oin, who was still waiting on her explanation; “I don’t think sparring yesterday did me any favours. I was going to ask you Master Oin if you could check my side later, seeing as you’re a better judge of injuries than I.”
“I got kicked in the ribs by the Goblin King, and then on the cliff face Dwalin nailed me in the same place with his fist.” Here, Dwalin looked quite guilty. “I just wondered if you could check it for me, I’m having some slight difficulty sleeping on it- more so than I would have if it were just a bruise.”
Oin hummed thoughtfully, “Right then, lift your shirt.” He rolled his eyes when Erin began to sputter about propriety, “It’s on your ribs right? Not a lot to see there.”
She does as she is told, and the healer sucks in a breath at what he finds. Across from them Dwalin cranes his neck nosily, in order to see the damage to Erin’s ribs. Feeling gently along her ribs for any fractures or multiple breaks, Oin frowns. “There’s no break lassie, but Mahal’s hammer, how have you been moving about with a bruise like that?”
It had been a few days since the debacle with the goblins and orcs, yet the staining on Erin’s side seemed very fresh- with splotches of mottle black and blue enclosing round the middle of her waist. Now, Dwalin felt extraordinarily guilty, having forced her to spar whilst not knowing the true extend of her injuries.
“Looks like you’ve bruised them lass. I’ll fix you some tea later that should take the sting off,” the healer grunts, and quickly finishes his breakfast to find his medical supplies.
“I didna’ know ‘ye were injured lass,” Dwalin said, his tone surprisingly contrite.
Erin- mid way through chewing her first bite of a bread roll, smiles at him with her cheeks full and pouched like a hamster’s. Swallowing a large hunk of partially champed bread, she coughs as it scratches its way down her windpipe; “No harm no foul, Master Dwarf. Even I didn’t think I was that bad. Still, at least they’re not broken and I can continue on.”
“Why are ‘ye wanting to come wit’ us in the first place?” Dwalin says sceptically.
“I heard you have a map; one that has left you a puzzling clue.”
The Dwarf glared across the table at her again, no doubt the wizard had been spreading truths when he should instead be keeping them secret; “An’ wha’ are you going t’ do about it?”
Erin winced as she reached across the wide table to pluck some fruits Beorn had laid out on a platter for them to pick at- though the Dwarrow regarded them with suspicion; as she bit into a tartly sweet berry she smiled; “I don’t know whether you cared to listen the other day, but I studied Literature and Linguistics. I think I’m more than capable for what the message on Thorin’s map can throw at me, provided that I know what it is?”
Chapter 10: Secret Keeper
“Three may keep a secret,
if two of them are dead.”
― Benjamin Franklin
The Dwarves (mainly, Thorin) were reluctant to let Erin view the legacy of their people- despite the blatant fact that she already knew of the existence of the map and key, which due to their ignorance on how Erin came to be in Middle Earth, the Dwarrow blamed on the wizard.
“It’s mine to protect!” Thorin had spat, and Gandalf bristled in return.
The pair had been hissing and spitting barbed comments at one another since they had gotten wind of Erin’s interest in the map from Dwalin. Thorin wanted, nor needed (in his own words), help from a woman from the race of Men and an Elf-sympathiser. In return, Mr Grey simply told him he was being ridiculous and behaving like a petulant child. The Dwarf King in did not take the latter entirely well, and so left to sulk in the corner in the exact manner of a spoilt toddler being denied a treat. Three hours later, after the stewing and brooding period had lowered to simmering rather than boiling, Thorin returned with a new vigour to his case as to why Erin should not be allowed to see the map. He helpfully called all of the Dwarrow, Bilbo, and Gandalf to attend an impromptu council in the skin changer’s kitchen, and reluctantly let Beorn nosey in on the proceedings.
“May I remind you though,” Erin interjected, after yet again rejecting false claims of wanting to steal away all the rightful shares of the treasure the Company were entitled to with her, ‘dirty little Elf-grubbing hands’, “That my Lord Elrond decoded the hidden runes on the map for you, and yet you have no idea how to proceed when you reach the mountain, other than there’s a hidden door that you must find and open before Durin’s day.”
“What of it?” The Dwarf King in exile growled.
“Have you even stopped to look at the intricacies? Yes, you need to open the door on Durin’s day- that is vital, but what about everything else in the instructions? Surely they’re not for embellishment; they’re other little clues to help you find the door.”
This stunned the Dwarrow for a moment, before the cries of denial and accusations of ‘What proof do you have?’ began.
“Think about it: ‘Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the key-hole,’” Erin recited, for what seemed like the fiftieth time in the scant hour they’d been debating her importance and the map. “Don’t you see it?”
The Dwarves turn to look at her, blinking owlishly. They didn't.
“How can you not see it? It’s really obvious…” Erin mumbles peevishly.
“Perhaps you should just tell them, my dear,” Mr Grey said, lighting his pipe and taking a well-deserved drag of Old Toby to settle his irritated nerves. Never again would he agree to aid the Dwarves or try and reclaim a mountain from a dragon: he made a mental note, just to make certain.
Erin takes a deep breath and holds it, puffing out her cheeks. She lets it all go and then begins her reasoning: “’Stand by the grey stone’- okay, I presume that the mountain is predominantly one colour, so that rules out one large body of the rock, looking for individual stones is also a waste of time, but when you look at ‘Stand by the grey stone where the Thrush knocks’, this narrows the search down considerably,” She pauses to make sure the Dwarrow are still following her, “Therefore, we can assume that if we find the vicinity of where a Thrush goes to ‘knock’ (not entirely sure what it means by that, but it could be something to do with nesting or food…), we’ll find the grey stone and therefore the doors keyhole.”
“What about the light though?” Bilbo inquires. Erin gives him a look, one that screams of his disbelief in her abilities; “That’s easy! ‘Setting sun with the last light of Durin’s day will shine upon the keyhole’. We need to find the grey stone before the sun sets, and then the last light will reveal the keyhole.”
“Aye, but how do we do ‘tha when there’s no light?” Bofur says.
No wonder Mr Grey’s always smoking that blasted pipe, Erin thought, I’m inclined to start myself if this continues… “What did Lord Elrond tell you about the map when the runes were written?”
Gandalf sputters out his pipe smoke, “They can only be revealed and read during the same moon they were written under.”
“So if the map is run off of moon runes, it’s fair to say that the keyhole will only appear when the moon is out.”
The Dwarves begin to argue again, and Erin resists the urge to scream by shoving a large bread role Beorn passed to her in her mouth.
Theoretically speaking, the lass did have a point about the map. Bofur wondered where all of the intellect came from, though.
The elder Dwarves among the Company, such as Balin and Oin, who were very much invested in reclaiming Erebor seemed inclined to agree with Erin’s interpretation of the map’s directions, yet those who were more stubborn, such as Thorin and Gloin, didn’t really care about what she had to say. Getting to the mountain before Durin’s day was all that mattered to Thorin.
Anything else was dismissed, even if it could potentially help them.
The Dwarves argued near to sunset, and Bofur noticed that Erin had escaped some time before. He set off in search of her, and found her wandering round the grounds, stooping to look at the massive bear tracks left behind by Beorn’s kin.
He quite liked the lass; she was quiet- unlike Dwarflings who constantly swung between behaviours such as mischievous and ready to take on the hordes of Mordor, apart from little Ori; who’d always been the quiet sort. She thought more, and although she had the mannerisms of an Elf, she was polite and respectful. Then again, if she were anything else, Bofur doubted Thorin would allow her to travel with them further, even if the Wizard had every confidence in her.
“’Ye might want ‘t come in soon, with it bein’ so close t’ sunset an’ all,” Bofur told her, thinking of how the Skin-changer had warned them not to be out in the evening, lest they be mauled by giant bears.
“I know,” Erin replied with a sigh, “But I don’t think I can handle much more of the yelling and derogatory remarks…”
“’Ye seem t’ be doin’ just fine. S’not many people I know who aren’t Dwarves who can stand up ‘t Dwalin of all people in a spar.”
Erin rubs her waist nervously; the tea Oin had given her earlier had taken away some of the pain, and she’d been given a disgusting bruise paste to help remove the soreness of her skin. “I don’t know about that, I’m still covered in bruises.”
“Ye’ll fit in jus’ fine with other Dwarrow once we get the mountain back then; we’re always getting into scrapes. Bruises and scars are good- makes ‘ye more attractive!”
Erin wrinkles her nose: “Excruciating pain isn’t though.”
They make their way to the entrance of Beorn’s halls as it grows darker, and Erin asks sadly, “You really think you’ll reclaim the mountain?”
“I hope so. Not too keen on all this dragon business though, eh?” He wiggles his eyebrows under the furry brim of his hat optimistically, “Still, as long as I get the free ale I was promised I’ll be happy.”
“That’s why you joined?”
“Aye.” They cross the threshold and close the wooden door.
“I hope you get your free ale, Bofur. I really do.”
Then she thought, It’s just a shame I won’t be here much longer to see you enjoy your new home- oh, and your ale.
When the time comes for the Company to leave Beorn’s halls, they move somewhat reluctantly. It had been the first respite they had enjoyed- taking up with the Elves for a few nights did not count, according to the Dwarrow if asked later; a strange and distrustful lot, Kíli had told her- how could they truly relax around the ‘pointy-eared, tree-shaggers’.
The last comment made Erin blush, and stumble to defend her Elven friends. Luckily, Gandalf was there to rap him on the head for his impertinent remark.
Beorn kindly lent them some of the horses and ponies from his menagerie, and made sure that they were all well supplied for the continuation of their journey through Mirkwood: “The Elves of the Greenwood of old are not like their kin; they are less wise and more dangerous,” the incredibly large man gives them a toothy grin and pats the neck of Gandalf’s horse. Some of the ponies nicker and snort, anxious to be off, “Go now, while you have the light. Grimbeorn informed me your hunters were not so far behind…” He slaps the rump of Gandalf’s horse, and with a jolt, the animal begins to bolt away, with the equines carrying the Company and Erin following not shortly after.
The gallop across hills was long and tedious, and though she had been taught to ride (albeit on a feisty Asfaloth), Erin found herself quite out of practice. No doubt for the next few days she would be walking oddly again, with both the aches from her spar with Dwalin and now the cross country rough ride to boot.
Throughout the gallop, Erin kept a watchful eye on the heirs of Durin.
“No sign of the orcs. We have luck on our side,” the aforementioned sadist warrior (or rather, Dwalin) said.
Spying some large tracks that no normal animal aside from a Mûmakil could make hidden amongst the fresh green grass, Erin mildly stated; “It’s more likely the Beornings have been tailing us. The orcs won’t dare follow if we have a pack of larger-than-normal bears at our back.”
“What d’ye mean?” Gloin asked.
“Look at those tracks. They are not from a normal bear, and Beorn mentioned a Grimbeorn. Logically, there must be more than one skin changer out there.”
“Indeed, my dear Erin, there is. Grimbeorn is Beorn’s son, and will take over from his father as chief of the Beornings in due time,” Gandalf was still perched atop his horse, and the Dwarrow and the not-elf-child had to crane their necks up to look at him as he spoke, “Beorn had called together his kin, and they have been patrolling the land between the Carroc and the borders of Mirkwood. It was rather fortunate you didn’t see the warg they found and nailed against one of the oak trees… well, I believe it was once a warg- or rather, it resembled one when it was still living.”
Feeling a bit green, Erin looked down and kicked at the ankle length grass with the toe of her boot.
“Well, I hope it was a warg,” Gloin sniffed, “That’s about as good as any place they can be put.” It earned him a few jeers and wallops on the back, though the long suffering wizard just huffed and wondered why on Middle Earth he had ever suggested Thorin Oakenshield should retake Erebor in the first place if this as the type of behaviour he would be receiving.
“Set the ponies loose. Let them return to their master,” Gandalf commanded, looking over his shoulder to a faraway outcrop of rock. A Beorning stood proudly upon it- though whether it was one of Beorn’s kin or the chieftain of the skin-changers himself, he was not sure.
Bilbo, Ori and Erin turned to look at the Elven path. It curled in on itself with a melancholic mystique and dour greenish grey foliage, something that made the Hobbit wrinkle his upturned nose at.
“This forest,” he remarked to them both, “Feels sick… as though a disease lies upon it.” Erin grunted in agreement, though Ori seemed confused. It is known that Dwarves have affinities for the rock; for gems precious metals found in the mountainside, the earth and plant growth was another thing entirely.
Bilbo went to speak his concern to Gandalf: “Is there no other way round?”
Looking closer at the gateway now, Erin discovered that the ornery that towered in front of the path and blurred into the twisting trees were the sculptures in impression of antlers.
“You know,” she said to Ori, “I’ve seen Lothlorien- and its motif is the mallorn leaves, or the resemblance of the two trees of Valinor that the Lady Galadriel and her kin sing of longingly. Imladris has its curved archways, statues in the likeness of Elven maidens and warriors, and a feeling of fluidity like the waterfalls that surround it.”
Ori hummed sceptically, wondering where her speech was taking her.
Erin grimaced, “I’ve got the sinking suspicion that the Elves of Mirkwood use antlers in all their decorations.”
Gandalf was still sat upon his horse when they turned their back to the gateway, though he had leant to the side, reaching down to pat Bilbo on the shoulder; “I’ll be waiting for you at the overlook, before the slopes of Erebor. Keep the map and key safe. Do not enter that mountain without me,” his eyes latch onto Thorin as he says this, and the Dwarf bristles- folding his arms across his chest. “This is not the Greenwood of old,” the wizard continues, looking forlornly at what was once verdant beauty that is now dark and obscure, “The very air of the forest is heavy with illusion. It will seek to enter your mind and lead you astray.”
“What d’ye mean?” Bofur blanched. “I mean Master Dwarf that you must stay on the path; do not leave it. If you do, you will never find it again. I must go now, there are other matters in which I must help- otherwise I would have led you through Mirkwood easily enough…” He ignores the frightened yelp of ‘You’re leaving us?!’ from Bilbo, “Keep an eye on Erin for me, won’t you Bofur?” The last part is uttered in a low and quiet voice, full of concern.
The hatted Dwarf nods; “O’ ‘course I will!” He’d quite grown to like the lass, and she was no trouble to watch over. Gandalf kicks his heels into his horse’s sides, and the glossy flanks shudder and flinch at the intrusion as they jaunt in an unsteady lope away from the Company; “No matter what may come, stay on the path!” Is the last thing the wandering grey wizard will tell them for a while.
Thorin calls for the Company to hurry up and follow him, as they must reach the mountain before Durin’s day. Erin hangs back, watching as Oakenshield and his nephews take to the front. She worries her lip between her teeth, feeling the skin begin to chap.
Gandalf’s departure troubled her. She felt safe with him there, and the assurance of his guidance made her options for the outcome of her task and Thorin’s quest seem all the brighter and more likely that her meddling will alter fate significantly for the greater good. Without him, how would she know where she was going wrong? She knew that he couldn’t help her all the way, that she must find one possible approach of changing fate she alone would be responsible for. However, no aid from Gandalf increased the difficulty of getting the Dwarves to cooperate twofold; they at least tolerated his interfering, but they would most certainly not tolerate her with him gone.
She didn’t realise it, but she had been staring at the heirs of the line of Durin for a good while now.
“What are ‘ye doin’?” She jumped at the harshness of Dwalin’s voice by her left ear.
“N-nothing…” She swallowed as his eyes narrowed in an indifferent gesture that certainly translated into distrust.
“Keep your secrets then, lass.” With that, he stomped off through the Elven gateway, “Though I’d keep up if I ‘wer you.”
Someone who kept secrets was what Erin had become. Though what a large burden to bear: with Mr Grey helping her, it had been shared. But now, as she followed the Company of Thorin Oakenshield down the warped paths of Mirkwood, it felt as though that burden was the whole of Middle Earth and its inhabitants on her shoulders, when in fact, it was just three lives that lay upon her conscience.
“O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!”
- William Shakespeare, ‘Macbeth’
(Act three, Scene two)
Mirkwood is a desolate place full of bitter destruction… or that is how it appears in Erin’s literary mind.
Her heart cried out to Gandalf and J. R. R. Tolkien for having to tread these treacherous paths before.
She lagged behind the Company, not that they cared for her distance. The forest was devouring their minds, slowly twisting, corrupting, the darkness and evil brewing in their heads…
She felt dizzy…
A fog so thick she was certain she could swim through it had been poured into her head. It was deceitful; it wanted her to be helpless.
She knew this.
She knew this!
Then why was it happening to her still?
The taint of Mirkwood and the Necromancer were strong- and Erin had the sneaking suspicion that this was why Gandalf had whisked away when they first entered the Elven wood; the riddle of the Morgul blade Radagast had discovered was still unsolved after all. What if it had something to do with the taint upon this forest?
Her eyes blurred and she rubbed at them harshly with tight fists, as if brute force could scour away at the delirium she felt. Simple thoughts caused her head to pound and her eyes to water, and she was often scrubbing at her face with the backs of her hands to clean up the salty tracks left behind.
Where is Thorin leading us? She wondered, frowning lethargically as the company drift father and father away…
... they are gone…
The Dwarves had discovered a Tobacco pouch, which Bilbo- the only one who seemed to have some of his wits about him,
starchily helpfully informed to Bofur that it was his, that they were going round in circles… and, upon doing a quick headcount, that Erin was missing.
The rest of the Dwarrow didn’t seem to fuss over the not-Elf-child, with the exception of Dwalin and Bofur. The former blanched upon hearing the news, and the latter began to cry “Where is she?! Oh Mahal, the wizard is going to flay me alive!”
Erin is now alone, the path twisting with unstable stone to her left- unknowingly to her; it was the same paths the Dwarves and Bilbo had chosen to follow moments earlier.
Another path, cleaner and clearer cut through the forest lays to her right. Her clutches at the short clumps of her hair- hair that was once clean but now, after wandering through accursed Mirkwood lies lank and matted against the sides of her head.
‘Stay on the path!’ Mr Grey had cried, ‘Do not drink the water’ Beorn had told them; for the streams running through Mirkwood were under a deep and dark enchantment. She has lost the company, and can do no more than to let them befall their fate to the spiders.
Stupid! Stupid- I could have-
Erin feels immensely guilty- only she can do what is asked of her, and if she can’t amend the trip through Mirkwood and the imprisonment in the Elvenking’s dungeons, then how will she be able to protect them?
A selfish part of her, one she is determined to believe is crafted from the darkness of the forest’s influence suggests that she can be selfish just this once: that it was their own fault for allowing Thorin to lead them…
Long and lost, the words containing fliders and spies-
Wait, that… that isn’t-
Tumbling, falling, kaleidoscope of madness in the never-ending spiral of letters that fall and fall and fall and-
The page is lost, screaming out in mass of swirling vowels and consonants that turn ever on in a twisting path-
Erin shakes her head, dispelling the cruel ideal before it has time to settle and take root in the deepest recess of her mind. She feels uneasy in this place, tendrils of doubt latch on and never let go once they have hold of your mind, and she has to reason with herself to sort her on beliefs from those implanted by evil. The fight to regain her own control over her thoughts begins; and this time, Erin is winning.
Feeling her head clear somewhat, Erin pats down her sides until she finds where her water skin was hung; she had attached it to her back pack in the hopes that she could reach it quickly rather than having to shuffle through the items in her bag. She rolls it between her hands: it’s still quite full. Taking a sip of the fresh cool liquid and then reattaching the vessel to her bag makes her feel monumentally better. She feels less like a kaleidoscope of emotion, and more like herself again.
Erin surveys the path.
The one to her left if gnarled, and now that she is thinking clearer, it is presumptuous to believe that anyone would try and follow it. The path to her right is tiled with pale flagstones, similar to those of Rivendell. Pale stone, a buttery sand coloured yellow against the vapid green and brown ornamentation of the forest surrounding it. It is a welcome sight, the colour so bold against the gloom it reminds of how she once saw rays of light hit between clusters of towering trees; casting dark shadows, but in between the gaps, strips of sunset poured through. It is welcoming to her, like she’s walking a path of light.
She takes the path on the right.
Walking a fair distance- made easy by the beautifully laid stone tiles and a linear road to follow, she makes camp when she feels tired and it appropriately feels like night may have fallen. She cannot tell how long she has wandered; the canopies of leaves above make it too difficult.
Erin settles on the path, gladdened that she has something flat to lie on for once while she snoozes fitfully. She takes a meagre sip of her water and a large bite of Lembas; her supply of the Elven way-bread from Rivendell had hardly depleted, with only Ori and Bilbo taking pieces initially, the stock had largely been left untouched.
Being separated from the Dwarves and Bilbo made her task incredibly difficult; she knew that it was only a matter of time whilst they were lost in Mirkwood that they would come across the Elves feasting, become even more disjointed from one another, and be attacked by the spiders. Then they would wind up in the halls of the Elven king, only to be locked away. Erin only had one choice; though she could have turned back to where she had become estranged from the Company, she doubted her supplies would outlast the wandering the enchantments wove in one’s conscience.
She preferred her mind to be her own, so continuing down the safe Elven path until she passed nearer to the Elven kingdom was the only conclusion she could make in her plans.
She slept in disorderly fits and spurts throughout the ‘night’, if that was indeed the time. Sounds of snapping twigs, the flutter and rustle of foliage under the weight of something predatory made her eyes snap open with fright. She knew the path she rested on would keep her safe, so long as she remained on it- only if she strayed from her course would the things that went bump in the night claim her.
Not that knowing this helped ease the tension Erin felt.
After tossing and turning for five or so hours, she rose. Fatigue hindered her, but she could no longer dwell here and close her eyes.
She continued walking, taking a reluctant mouthful of water and breaking off the corner of a Lembas loaf to tie her hunger over until later. This routine of hardly getting enough sleep and walking until she could no longer physically do so continued for three days. She feared the worst for the Company, as if she could only trudge dutifully with a clear mind, how would they fare in the frenzy the Woodland realm provided? Her water was beginning to run low, so she took to sucking on small chunks of Lembas to make sure her mouth didn’t run dry in the absence of liquid.
Erin’s perseverance was rewarded; she had reached a long curving bend in the path when she heard the unmistakeable sound of multiple bows being drawn:
“Do not think I won’t kill you, Dwarf. It would be my pleasure.”
She rounds the corner, walking quickly and feather light on the balls of her feet. She huddles behind a gnarled tree root, thicker and taller than she, and easily concealing her form. The Company look worse for wear: tired eyes, hollowed cheekbones, and covered in sticky strings of spider webs-
“Help!” Erin’s eyes widen- apparently Bilbo didn’t manage to kill or distract all of the giant spiders like he had done in the book. One was about to devour Kíli.
“Kíli!” The Dwarves’ brother cried in vain, twisting in the hold of the Elf that had detained him.
An Elleth is the one to aid him, shooting down three of the spiders in rapid succession with her bow and arrows, and ignoring Kíli’s pleas for a weapon in order to defend himself, she throws her own blade; piercing the fell creature’s face, much to the surprise of Kíli.
Erin watches closely, her eyes wide. Kíli looks… enamoured…
That certainly didn’t happen in the book, Erin thought, eyes narrowing as the Elleth grins, flicking the black spider blood off of her remaining blade, throwing her fiery hair back over her shoulders and retrieving her other weapon- still lodged in the spider’s face.
Erin takes a quick head count, Bilbo is missing, as he should be, and the company are all accounted for. Even Thorin.
That shouldn’t be happening, Erin realises, Thorin was supposed to be captured already by Thranduil when they encountered the lights. Just how much has my being here changed things? The prior knowledge she had was now skewed, and it dawns on her that she may have just altered something, even if it is the smallest of things. At that, Erin feels immensely proud, even if it isn’t exactly the appropriate time to feel as such.
“Search them,” ordered a tall Ellon, lowering his arrow strung bow. The party of armed Elves follow suit. They begin by stripping the Company of their weapons, the blonde Ellon taking Orcrist from Thorin, and gasping when he unsheathed the blade: “Echannen i vegil hen vin Gondolin. Magannen nan Gelydh,” He turns sharply to Thorin, disapproval evident on his face, “Where did you get this?”
“It was given to me,” The Dwarf replied sourly. Though he once had disdained the Elven blade, he had grown used to its weight across his back and wielding it.
“Not just a thief, but a liar as well,” the Ellon reproaches, “Enwenno hain!”
Erin wills herself to move: “Daro!” She steps out from the shadows cast by the roots, “Mae govannen, mellyrn nin…”
The Elves and Dwarves tense, the formers moving to string arrows to their bows as Erin reveals herself to them, clambering out from behind the twisted tree roots less gracefully than an Elf, yet still fairly light on her feet. Dwalin, at her reveal, breathes a discrete sigh of relief.
“Ma le?” The tall blonde Ellon calls.
“Im Ettelëa,” Erin pleads, stating the Elven name given to her by the inhabitants of Imladris, “Elvellon O Imladris!”
This stops the Elves in their tracks. This small child, with tangled hair and dirty smeared clothes proclaims to be accepted by their own kin?
“Peditham hi sui vellyn?” Erin inquires, warily ogling the arrows aimed towards her.
The Ellon raises his hand, and the threat of weaponry withdraws: “You speak boldly, little Elf-friend. Do you worry for the Dwarf-scum? These liars and petty thieves, who filch from our kin?” He gestures to the Dwarrow as those in question jostle at the insult.
“The so called ‘scum’ travel with me. I wished to visit the Iron Hills, and my Lord Elrond indulged me. The Dwarves were travelling that way to meet with their kith and kin, and agreed to help guard my journey in return for the aid they received from the Elves of Imladris after an Orc ambush.”
“What of the Elven blade this one carries,” the Ellon inquired, jauntily angling his head to the Dwarf King in exile.
“A gift, blessed by my Lord Elrond. He is approved to carry and wield a blade forged in Gondolin.” The Elves are pensively calm, looking towards their leader- whom Erin was trying to persuade, “If it is not so rude of me to ask, but to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to?”
“Im Legolas Thranduilion,” he replies, and then sighs sharply through his nose. Erin resists groaning; Erestor had made sure she was well versed in prominent Elven figures, and Legolas Thranduilion was one.
“We take them to my father,” he commands, and though the Elves have not bound the Companies hands, they grip articles of the Dwarves’ clothing tightly in restraint.
Erin walks freely, beside the Elleth who had rescued Kíli from the spider, and watches Thranduil’s son lead the spider hunting party back to his halls.
“Echannen i vegil hen vin Gondolin. Magannen nan Gelydh.” “This is an ancient Elvish blade. Forged by my kin.”
“Enwenno hain!” Roughly – “Take them!”
“Mae govannen, mellyrn nin…” “Well met, my friends…”
“Ma le?” “Who (are you)?”
“Im Ettelëa… Elvellon O Imladris!” “I am Ettelëa (Erin’s nickname) … Elf-friend of Imladris (Rivendell)”
“Peditham hi sui vellyn?” “May we speak as friends now?”
“Im Legolas Thranduilion” “I am Legolas, Thranduil’s son (Son of Thranduil)”
Pardon my Elvish. I've had to cobble utterances together from all over the shop.
Also, as to why Chapter Nine wasn't released yesterday; it was because I'd been feeling a bit under the weather. I had the Meningitis vaccine necessary for all those going to Uni this year a few days ago, and it totally wiped me out yesterday.
Chapter 12: I am not a child!
“Remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence.”
– John Lydon
They are frogmarched for roughly half an hour until they reach a narrow bridge across rushing water. In front of them towers the entrance to the Woodland realm, its gates sharp and precise- as are many designs in Elven architecture, but here it seems imposing and dangerous. The foliage here grows densely, its colouration a richer green to the rest of the forest. Elven magic, it seems, is prevalent near close quarters of Thranduil’s kingdom, but he makes no effort for the rest of the ailing woods.
They are brought inside the gates, Legolas calling to the guards to close it behind them.
“What do we do with them?” The red-haired Elleth asks, casting her eyes over the dwarves and Erin.
Legolas hesitates, a nervous gesture for an Elf, Erin notes. Usually they are much more composed, having had many millennia to smooth out imperfections, and twitches that display their weaknesses. “Take them to the cells, they were caught trespassing in our kingdom and so should be treated accordingly for their crimes. The one with the Elven sword and the Elf-friend will be escorted to my father.”
Shouts of anger rise from the Dwarves as they are forced away from their King and the not-Elf-child, the red haired Elleth taking hold of Kíli, and Legolas following the proceedings. Another Ellon, with the nondescript yet classic Elven features looks down at Thorin and Erin from his lofty height, and gestures for them to begin walking up a twisted beam of wood, only just wide enough to catch yourself on if you were to lose your balance.
To this day, Erin had sorely missed bannisters to hold on to as she walked; life in Rivendell made it easier, the flowing designs of the Last Homely House were wide, made to accommodate many Elves and horses entering and leaving the valley across one main bridge; the stairwells and structures made to be sturdy and non-life threatening to those without Elven grace and balance. Lothlorien was also considerate to those not of Elf-kind: the structures built into the tall trees, although steep and curving, had helpful railings- maybe to support the spiral staircases, or maybe to keep visitors from veering off the edge? Erin wasn’t sure. Mirkwood gave no such courtesy, it was as backward as Beorn had warned them it would be; Erin felt no welcome here, even though she had been declared Elf-friend.
There upon an antler clad throne, in his silver robes, and long Sindar shaded hair adorned with a woven woodland crown, sat Thranduil Oropherion, King of the Woodland realm:
“Some may imagine that a noble quest is at hand. A quest to reclaim a homeland and slay a dragon... I myself suspect a more prosaic motive: attempted burglary, or something of that ilk,” he rose from his throne, descending down the steps seamlessly. There was something predatory, a subtle leonine trait in his movements, and it unnerved Erin. She had witnessed the refined poise of Elves for two years, and had become desensitised to their soundless footsteps and fluid motions, yet Thranduil was something else.
Something rapacious, and sublime… with a secret that writhed beneath his skin. The Elf king looked at Thorin, benignly crossing an arm across his chest so that his right palm lay on his heart, “You have found a way in. You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule: the King’s Jewel, the Arkenstone. It is precious to you beyond measure. I understand that. There are gems in the mountain that I too desire. White gems of pure starlight. I offer you my help.”
Erin fidgeted beside Thorin, watching with worry as the Dwarf smiled bitterly and replied; “I am listening,” he turned away, “A favour for a favour.”
“You have my word,” Thranduil uttered effortlessly, “One king to another.”
Now Erin’s anxiety reached a crescendo, so much so she nearly shook from the tension between the two rulers. She was right in her actions to back away closer to one of Thranduil’s guards as the Dwarf King in exile’s temper exploded; his shouts of disloyalty and lack of honour resounding off of the open caverns of the Woodland realm.
“Imrid amrad ursul!” Thorin spat, with a sneer on his face.
Erin was no expert on Dwarven languages, her proficiency lay in Sindarin, aspects of Quenya, and butchering writing essays in Tengwar for Erestor. However, Thorin’s exclamation did not sound so courteous.
She cringed into the Elven guard’s side; the latter looked down at the small woman as she flinched away from the clash of the two kings. Thranduil was now reminding Thorin that he had first-hand witnessed the wrath and ruin of dragon fire. The left side of his face contorted and twisted, losing its glamour and revealing ruined flesh beneath. As quickly and painfully as it first left, the façade is reinstated; the skin weaving together to hide the marring of dragon fire to retain the once again perfect mask the Elvenking wore.
More tense words ensued, with both of the arguing parties’ tempers reaching their limits; Thranduil summoned for one of his guard to take Thorin away, “Stay here if you will, and rot,” he said languidly, traversing up the stairs to his throne felinely, “A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an Elf. I am patient, I can wait.”
For a good five minutes, Thorin Oakenshield’s unimpressed and livid shouts can be heard slowly getting dimmer as he is escorted to a cell in Mirkwood’s dungeons. Thranduil seemed amused by this.
“Where is the girl?” The Elvenking demanded, his head slowly surveying from side to side.
The guard Erin was stood by gives her a sharp push forward which sends her tumbling to her knees. She stands quickly, brushing off her knees as nonchalantly as she could, and gives the Elf that shoved her one quick, but very nasty look.
“So Elrond allows children to be Elf-friends now, does he?” Thranduil smirked.
“I am not a child, sir. My Lord Elrond saw it fit that I am accepted as Elf-friend-“
“Hold might you be, child?”
“Nearing one and twenty sir,” she replied cautiously, remembering to give her age in an archaic sense like Erestor had instructed her to and not rising to his barb.
The Elvenking chuckles bitterly, the sound holds no humour; “One and twenty? The progenies of the Edain shall always be children in the light of the Eldar,” he places one unhurried hand beneath his chin, eyes narrowing in on Erin, “Tell me, why it is you travel with Thorin Oakenshield of all Dwarves.”
“As I told your son, we are travelling to the Iron Hills. Erestor who has been conducting my studies showed me many maps and histories of the colonies of Middle Earth; the Iron Hills was one such place that greatly intrigued me. I wished to visit, and Master Oakenshield’s company sought refuge after an Orc attack at the Hidden Valley…”
“Oh, and he just happened to be going this way to visit the Iron Hills? Somehow, I don’t believe you,” Thranduil surmised with a sarcastic pout.
“I did not question his route, sir. I only wish to be safe on my journey…”
“Of course, and anything to do with Erebor and the dragon Smaug is not within relation to your fictitious journey?”
“Wha-What do you mean, sir?” Erin is starting to feel a bit sick, her stomach begins to churn with worry.
“What I mean, is that you lie for that Dwarf. I know his sights are only set on the Lonely Mountain; certainly, for there are much safer paths to walk in order to reach the Iron Hills. What I don’t understand is why he would bring a child along with him…”
“I am not a child! And I do not lie for him!”
“You must be, to retort in such a petty fashion. An Elf-friend denouncing her status to covert with Dwarves… pity…” with a flick of his wrist, the top of Erin’s arm is gripped tightly by one Elven guard, and she is forcefully led away, “If you will not tell me of their true purpose, then you can rot with them. Let’s see how they can cope with a corpse in the cells before they all perish.”
As Erin is walked down the paths to the cells, she tries not to break down in tears.
She knew that most probably Bilbo would arrive to release them all- but what if she had changed that? What if Thranduil was right and the legendary stubbornness of Dwarves kept Thorin from agreeing to the deal the Elvenking had struck. The Elf was right, she had a shorter life span than they did, and if the Company remained where they were for many years, she would be the first to perish. She would quickly age; her youthful skin furrowing and sagging, turning sallow. Her dark hair would flow from midnight to salt-and-pepper shades, before turning the purest of silvers or falling out. She would be left to die, and the Dwarves with their longer lives, would be forced to watch on as she passed away; a shell of her former self.
She willed herself not to cry until the guard had left. A hand on her shoulder forces her to halt, and she’s unceremoniously thrown into the nearest cell. Like earlier, she is unbalanced by the strong movement, and expects that she is to go tumbling to the ground. Except, as the metal barred door is slammed behind her and locked, hands reach to steady her; she feels large palms fold around her shoulders.
Erin looks up with blurry tear brimmed eyes.
A hiccupping sob is released, so she cries, and cries and cries…
Salt crystallises in thick, dangling tracks from the top of the page to the bottom.
The ink smears, running in all shades of blue and indigo and purple.
Oh, how the page weeps…
Dwalin wasn’t quite sure what to do. The lass was still crying, her face a streaming mess; and all the while, he holds her frail little shoulders in his hands.
They’re thin, he notes. Too thin and brittle, like shoddy metal: he could snap her in two if he twisted his hands apart differently and carelessly. All of the lass is too thin, pointed and Elf-like. He would have thought her one of them if it weren’t for her rounded ears- something that made her just about tolerable to he and his kin.
“Lass…” she’s silent now, tears simply running down her cheeks, “Lass wha’d ‘e say to you? What did you say to ‘im?”
Balin had called to Thorin after he’d been shut in his cell, asking if he’d been offered a deal with the poncey blonde Elf. It was revealed that Thorin had told him where he could stick his offer. Dwalin, though amused by this, couldn’t help but feel the worry they would not be released in time to reach the mountain burble within him. He took to slamming against the bars; and even if they wouldn’t bend to his will, it would annoy any of the Elves on duty guarding them.
“He…” she takes a shuddering breath, and pulls away from where his hands hold her, “He knows that we’re not going to the Iron Hills. I didn’t say anything to him I swear! But, he knew I was lying, and- and said that we’re all going to stay down here- and I’m going to die first because I won’t live as long as dwarves do and-“
“Whoa, lass, whoa.”
“…He said that you’re all going to have to cope with a corpse in the cells,” as she says this, Erin is so full of doubt. Doubt that this will come to pass, and doubt that Bilbo will rescue them, and therefore Thranduil’s plausible jest could come true and it’s all her fault because she’s here to change things!
Dwalin’s eyes are hard, “So he feels bigger now that he’s threatened a child,” he growls.
“I am not a child!” Erin snarls, sinking to the floor near the barred door of the cell. Meagre light from the walkway outside illuminates half of her face, the visible tear tracks reminding him of seems of unmined metals in the rock. There’s something precious about them, the trails as translucent as Mithril; something so precious Dwalin has seen rarely, and the tears like rounded globules of crystal he and his brother were given to play with as Dwarflings.
“No, ye’re no’ a child. But I don’t understand why ‘yer here, lass.”
“Trust me, Mister Dwalin; I’ve been wondering why Mr Grey brought me here for a very long time.”
The Elves have provided thin cots and blankets to rest on, and Dwalin sits with a grunt, “Then why don’t you explain it from the beginning lass?”
Erin ponders on this: would it be beneficial for him to know? ‘A burden shared is a burden halved’, could prove to be correct in this instance, and having Dwalin alongside her trying to save the heirs of Durin- with him being a trusted and valued member of their Company, could help her along the way for this task. She swallows; “It all started when an elderly friend of mine invited me round for tea and a chat…”
Glorfindel had had just about enough of Elrond’s sons. The Balrog slayer knew that they were a rambunctious pair, but he only had to deal with them every now and again, usually on patrols or formal events when they needed to be controlled and alert, or had been threatened about being on their best behaviour by their father. That and he could hide from them for over a century until he was ready to be in their presence again. How Elrond had coped for over two thousand years with these two rascals and not pulled out his decorative braids or lost his eyebrows as they rose ever towards his hairline was beyond Glorfindel.
He now knew that his second life would now not include meeting a pretty little Elleth and having children of their own if this was how they would grow up.
No, he was quite happy to watch over Erin.
The things he had done for that child over the two years she resided at Rivendell were humorous to his brethren. The Balrog slayer both literally and metaphorically bent over backwards to aid her ever need and keep her safe, which left him prey to the sharpened edge of Erestor’s tongue in many lectures, and the cornered and slightly bemused raised eyebrows of Lord Elrond. He taught her all he knew about the bow and the sword, though her physical capabilities were less than those of an Elf-child, and joined in with her Sindarin and history lessons with Erestor; watching as she grasped different sounds to create speech in their illuminated and lyrical language.
Glorfindel also taught her to respect and ride horses, though Asfoloth probably wasn’t the best choice he could have made for her initial lessons. The grey steed was certainly far too feisty, and Erin had ended up in the dirt many times before she got the hang of it. When she appeared for breakfast the next morning, walking oddly and complaining of bruises, Glorfindel felt the guilt of putting her through this stab straight into his heart. From then on he would do anything for the child, to the amusement of his kin. Though, perhaps having tea with a giant bear was one of the stranger things to do.
Elladan and Elrohir had both been stung inside the bee pastures, which Beorn was currently raving about as he applied salves to the twins’ stings. Glorfindel couldn’t quite decide whether Beorn resembled an oversized woodcutter, with his bushy black beard and uncontrollable eyebrows, or a bear; for all his posturing and grumbling- and a sweet tooth for honey and cream.
“Master Beorn,” Glorfindel says, taking a sip from the large tankard of milk, “Did a company of Dwarves, a Wizard, a Hobbit, and a woman pass through here?”
“Who wants to know?”
“I am Glorfindel of Rivendell, and they are Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Lord Elrond the Lord of Imladris. We follow after the woman.”
“I would have thought that Elves would know better than to antagonise the bees,” the skin changer grumbles, slathering the salve rather roughly on Elrohir’s neck with his chunky fingers, “And what do you want with the little Lady?”
“They are still young for our standards, unfortunately… and the girl is my charge. I worry for her safety, and thought it best to follow after them. I do not trust the wizard to protect her.”
Beorn smiles thinly, bearing his pointed canines, “You were right not to place your faith in him- he left them at the Elven gate. As for the little Lady? She can take care of herself; fared well against the bald dwarf in a fight- the one with two axes?”
Glorfindel feels himself pale.
“Tha’ still doesn’t tell me why you’re here lass,” Dwalin mumbles. The lass had told him all of how she had gotten here, and what she had been preparing for during the last two years, but had essentially skirted round the aforementioned topic.
“Wha’?” He was starting to lose his patience now, after about five different Elven tales she’d happily told him (much to his displeasure…) he was unlikely to now forget.
“Do you remember when I brought the trays up in Rivendell?” Her eyes were so wide and open, shining like glass from the tears she’d shed earlier.
“O’ course I do, kept us from starving ‘ye did.”
She hesitates before whispering, “I told Kíli that his stubbornness and prejudice would end up being his downfall. The three of them, Thorin in particular, need to change and fast… or…”
“Or?” Dwalin is worried now, the lass is frantically checking over her shoulder; though nothing but what little light fills the cell is there, flickering on the floor and walls.
She leans in closer to his ear: “Or I won’t be able to save them…”
“Imrid amrad ursul!” (Khuzdul) Roughly translates to “Die a death of flames!”
Chapter 13: Barrels and adventures beyond the forest…
“Hae ephadron theri thaur…
…am na dhû ias fîr i ambar
A trehil i 'alad 'lân uir tri 'wilith."
"I go walking beyond the forest…
Take me with you… …
Where the world falls away
And the white light of forever fills the air."
– ‘Feast of Starlight’, Howard Shore,
'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
(Lyrics written by Philippa Boyens,
translated into Elvish and Khuzdul by David Salo.)
For an immeasurable amount of time, the Company of Thorin Oakenshield dwelt in the Woodland Realm’s dungeons. During this void of stasis and boredom, Dwalin did not attempt to speak to Erin, despite their mutual sharing of a cell. She had not told him explicitly of her knowledge being from a book; only what she knew of Gandalf and J. R. R. Tolkien’s combined prior experiences that had not ended triumphantly.
She told him of the impeding nature of their faults, but not what it would bring about; in other words, he had taken to the idea of Thorin and his nephews falling to the gold sickness soon after they had reclaimed Erebor, and knew nothing of the bloodbath that followed almost instantly after the defeat of Smaug. She did not have the heart to tell him, as his face had lost all lines of previous worry after hearing the news that they had eventually reclaimed their home- how could she divulge the knowledge of their deaths?
Sharing the burden of her task was more difficult than Erin had first thought, after she collapsed into a grievous fit from Thranduil’s manipulative speech. When Erin mumbled bleakly about the gold sickness, the joy on Dwalin’s face drained, leaving a bitter twist to his mouth and eyes.
He’d roared at her so fiercely, submerged in his denial, that she cowered closer to the cell’s bars; hunched low and curled in on herself to look like less of a threat or a target for his frustrations to be released on. It worked, because he barrelled past her, hitting the bars with force that sent them clattering, though they did not bend to his will. He continued his posturing and shouting for all who could hear; it was intelligible growling, deep and throaty with a rasp like stomping feet on gravel- maybe his native tongue. Whatever it was that had him raving, spittle flying from his mouth in his uproar, it had the Elf guards on duty scrambling to find the source of the commotion. Upon finding an extremely irate Dwarf slamming against the bars of the prison that caged him, they looked on with amusement and raised eyebrows; simply choosing to back away to what they were originally doing, or observing on for entertainment.
After a long period of his ranting Dwalin’s anger cooled to the point where it simply simmered under his skin rather than bubbling over and out of him in long strings of shouting and violence. Now he paced the cell, Erin making sure to stay out of reach from the vicinity of his legs and sturdy boots, less she receive a kick for her impudence. Dwalin was silent, apart from the occasional disbelieving snort and grumble about ‘deluded’ not-Elf-children and meddling wizards who should know better than to spread false accusations about members of Durin’s line.
The fractious relationship between cell mates continued, with them alternating from looking forlornly through the bars out onto the walkway, or sitting and sleeping on the small cot supplied by the Elves. It was tenuous, but they fell into a routine of one taking up each and swapping over frequently with an added combination of slight courtesy and barely veiled animosity and caution on the side.
On one unknown day, when she thought Dwalin was dozing on his side facing the back of the cell, Erin asked the red haired Elleth on duty what date it was.
“It is currently the fiftieth day of Iavas,” the Elleth replied, and the calculations began in Erin’s head. Middle Earth’s inhabitants each kept different calendar’s to those she was used to from Earth, which partially made it more difficult for her to keep track of the time she spent there. “May I inquire as to why you wish to know?”
“Ah, if my mental maths is right, today is my birthday!” Erin remarked, drawing a gasp from the Elleth.
“What age have you reached?” She responded, eyes wide with curiosity.
“This will be my twenty-first year,” said Erin, “Though that pales in comparison to the lives of the Elves, it’s quite an achievement for me. I’m considered a full adult now, Miss?”
“Tauriel- just, Tauriel,” the Elleth smiled.
“Mae govannen, Tauriel. Im Erin.” Tauriel nods, and leaves to go about her duties. Erin sighs; today is a triumph and a failure. She has reached her majority, but it’s another year closer to her death in Thranduil’s dungeons if Bilbo doesn’t come soon: ‘if’ being the deciding factor. The hope she had in the little Hobbit breaching their imprisonment dwindles with each passing immeasurable day. When she knew he was missing in the forest she presumed it was because of his involvement in killing the spiders and the influence of the ring; however, she may have arrived too late, and Bilbo may have already fallen on the road through Mirkwood. If that was the case, then they would all perish if no other route of escape could be found.
“It’s your birthday lass?” Dwalin rumbles, and Erin starts. Evidently, he had not been asleep like she first thought.
“Y-yes.” It is but little, this frigid exchange, but a gap has been bridged from it. Dwalin lacks the hostility he once held.
Tauriel returns some time later with their evening meal; hard chunks of grainy bread that are most probably remainders of loaves baked freshly that morning, and the stiffened rinds of once creamy cheese. Both Dwalin and Erin move closer to claim their food, the former reluctant but begrudgingly hungry, the latter with a small smile.
“Erin?” Tauriel says lightly as the girl begins to wander away from the bars, “Here…” the Elleth reaches into the almost invisible pockets of her forest green tunic; her hand emerges with a cloth wrapped parcel. “It’s not much,” Tauriel blusters, “But happy birthday.”
The package is lightly placed into Erin’s free palm, as the Elleth makes a swift and embarrassed retreat. Bravely, Erin goes to sit beside Dwalin on the small Elven cot, absently nibbling on the bread as he gobbles his food beside her; taking hefty chunks out of both the bread and the cheese.
“Wha’s tha’?” He asks with his mouth full, specks of partly chewed food spraying outwards onto the cold stone floor.
“I don’t know,” Erin answers truthfully, staring at the package resting on her left knee. She balances her bread and cheese on her right thigh, and carefully begins to pick apart the fabric wrapping. What lays inside makes her grin: “It’s a sweet of some sort, like a sticky bun, though not much of the glaze remains. How did she know?” Most of the honey glaze spread across the bun was stuck to the napkin it had been wrapped in; though some of the sweetness remained.
“Where I’m from, its tradition to have some form of cake or sweet for your birthday. The Elves of Imladris are the only ones to know of that gesture… maybe it was a lucky guess, or meant to be a present then-“
“Yer’ ramblin’, lass,” Dwalin growls, though it doesn’t sound so fierce to her; it was Dwalin’s nature to growl and grumble roughly.
“Sorry…” Erin blinks. Then she splits the small cake in two, handing half to the Dwarf beside her.
Crumbs, hiding in the creases of the page, and burrowing into the book’s spine.
One smeared sticky fingerprint trailing close to excavating them, with no such luck.
A trail of golden glaze remains.
At some point after their dinner and sharing Erin’s birthday cake, the pair must have dozed off. Quite comfortable sharing the cot: the Dwarf sprawled on his back and the not-Elf-child pillowed on his chest, curling into his side. They wake in a tangle of confused limbs and awkward exclamations as a commotion concurs outside of their cell on the walkway.
They quickly unscramble from one another’s proximity, clumsy and blushing as they rush to their feet and pat down their clothes to look somewhat presentable. It is uncertain who’s face is redder; Erin with rosy cheeks and averted eyes, or Dwalin, who’s flush is hidden behind his beard. His larger ears are an interesting shade of scarlet, Erin notes, though it’s not as if she’s really looking! When Bilbo appears, jangling the keys to their cells with a smug look on his face and a mischievous glint in his eyes, Erin nearly weeps in relief.
She and Dwalin hurry to the bars in haste, and she ends up squished between the searing cold metal and solid Dwarf.
“Oof! Bilbo!” She exclaims in a ‘loud’ whisper, “You’re here… you’re here!”
“Well, yes…? Why are you both so red?” He jangled the keys again, and unlocked the door; both of its prisoners piling out onto the walkway and following the line of Dwarves that have already been freed in front of them. Dwalin and Erin do not answer, so the Hobbit shrugs and leads them away from the prison to the cellars.
“I don’t believe it! We’re in the cellars…” Kíli hisses, looking around wildly as Bilbo ushers he and the others past the snoozing drunken Elves sprawled face-down on a nearby table. One of them snorts in their sleep, and Erin jumps skittishly. Complaints soon follow from members of the Company, and Bilbo shushes them, feeling quite snubbed after he has spent the best part of an indescribable length of time trying organise their escape from the Woodland realm.
Next time, Bilbo thought peevishly, they can get out by themselves!
“Bilbo,” Erin calls in a concerned tone, “There aren’t enough barrels for the fifteen of us; and they’re not exactly large enough for two to a barrel…”
The Hobbit’s answer is quite blasé; “Oh, well, I was just going to hold onto the outside of one of them.”
“No! Absolutely not!” Thorin rumbles, “You must share with another.”
Bilbo’s growing ire is finally released from its straining tethers: “And just how exactly do you propose I release the lever while I’m stuck in a barrel?” The Shireling’s testy humour has the Dwarf king in exile flinching.
“He’s right Bilbo, you can’t just hold onto the side of a barrel,” Erin sighs. “I’ll stay behind to release them and Bilbo can go in the fourteenth barrel.”
“No chance,” Dwalin rumbled, fixing her with a fierce glare that promises an angry lecture later.
“What other choice do you have? I’m not part of your Company. Sure, I helped with the map, but in the end, Bilbo takes precedence over me.” She narrows her eyes at Dwalin, hoping to return the sentiment.
“Are you sure lassie?” Balin frowns.
Erin nods in return, “They’ll be more lenient on an Elf-friend than to someone who’s been skulking around their halls unseen for who knows how long,” and she almost paused on ‘unseen’ when Bilbo jolted as though he were struck by lightning, “Hurry! You don’t have much time-“
“Do as she says,” Thorin commands, and they scramble to find a barrel each.
Once they are situated and wiggling around trying to get comfortable in the cramped space the barrels had to offer, Erin begins to place the lids back on to conceal the Dwarrow and Bilbo from prying eyes. Sufficient holes had already been made in the top, thanks to the all-consuming Mirkwood Elven fervour in the pursuit of Dorwinion wine. When she goes to enclose the last- Dwalin’s, barrel, one of his large hands stops her progress: “I still ‘don get why ‘yer here, lass, an’ why ‘yer doin’ this for us.”
“Believe me, I’m not so sure anymore either… Please wait for Mr Grey to join you before entering the mountain, or at least try to keep Thorin safe. Promise me that?”
“Aye, I promise ‘ye. You’re a brave one, lass. Not sure I could sacrifice mysel’ to them pointy-eared bastards,” he sends her a lopsided smile, releases her hand, and is closed inside.
Erin steels her breath.
Then she pulls the lever.
In the confusion of the Dwarrow disappearing, Orcs storming the outer walls and gates of Mirkwood, and the Elves retaliating with slewing the majority of the foul creatures- the Elves were none the wiser that the Dwarves were quite happily bobbing along the river beyond their line of sight.
Tauriel and Legolas arrived back after the hunt with one of the Orcs alive, forcing it to kneel before their King; Legolas presses one of his knives to the Orc’s filthy neck.
“Such is the nature of evil. Out there in the vast ignorance of the world it festers and spreads; a shadow that grows in the dark. A sleepless malice as black as the oncoming wall of night… So it ever was; so will it always be. In time, all foul things come forth,” Thranduil states, pacing around his son and the captive: his long robes dragging wearily across the floor.
Legolas speaks brusquely; “You were tracking a company of thirteen dwarves. Why?”
“Not thirteen; not any more. The young one, the black-haired archer, we stuck him with a Morgul shaft. The poison is in his blood. He’ll be choking on it soon,” The captive bites smugly, twisting in a lupine manner that all of Orc-kind adopts, and speaking with gutturally thick inflections; as though he wished to spit excessive fluid whilst talking to the three interrogating him.
Something drops in Tauriel’s stomach; a sinking realisation that chills her blood and widens her eyes in abject horror.
Kíli, she thinks, I have to-
Erin was feeling rather proud of herself. She’d fled the cellars after releasing the barrels, and in her wandering, had discovered the armoury without being discovered herself. The Dwarf’s and her own packs and weapons were still there, so she salvaged as much as she could and attached her own short sword to her hip. She rummaged through a stack of bows until she found her own, and helped herself to a fresh quiver of arrows that lay amongst the numerous weapons in the room.
Nodding to herself in determination, she now knew she had to find her own way out of the Elven kingdom quickly and discreetly, and didn’t fancy taking the hinged door out of the cellar and into the river currents below. Just as she is about to leave the armoury, someone walks in.
A red-haired Elleth, in particular.
“We must follow them- Kíli did something incredibly foolish. You got them out of the cellars, but the gates barring the river were not open, he opened the lid on his barrel and climbed out, and was shot trying to pull the lever that opened them down-“
“Tauriel what do you mean, they were sealed inside he couldn’t just-“ Erin starts.
“-He was shot with a Morgul shaft, Erin. He won’t survive that poison if we can’t get to him in time-“
"-Tauriel slow down! I’ve only got short legs!”
The Elleth stops so suddenly Erin nearly crashes into her back; “Mellon-nin, I am sorry, but we must hurry. I… I can’t lose him.” The fear of losing the other half of her heart and this new sense of freedom that came from loving unconditionally and so fluently scared her. If she lost him, Tauriel would not have long left in this world before she faded. There was no one to anchor her here if Kíli did pass, no family or children that would hold her to Middle earth in his stead. She would not sail, her deep connection to the Greenwood of old could not allow a voyage across the sea. She would slowly wither, drowning in her melancholy, splintered by the shattered fragments of her heart and soul. Tauriel knew she must try to save him, for both of their sakes, if not just her own- no matter how selfish it would be to just save her from fading, she would not- could not go on without him.
“…Understood,” Erin says with clear, determined eyes, “You might end up carrying me though, I’m much slower than you. They’re heading to Lake Town, do you know the way?”
“I have never been beyond the forest, though I presume if we follow the river…”
Erin grimaces, “Looks like this is going to be an adventure in its own then.”
Legolas was worried: at this given time, he would willingly jump into Sauron’s custody if only to escape the fractious exchange before him:
Thranduil’s eyes narrowed.
Elladan and Elrohir shifted closer to Legolas, exchanging nervous glances with the Mirkwood prince.
“Have you seen thirteen Dwarves, a Hobbit and a woman recently?” Glorfindel asked, quite sincerely, given the previous conversations that had occurred before between he and the Woodland monarch.
Thranduil’s eye twitched in irritation; “As a matter of fact, fourteen have just escaped from my dungeons, though no Halfling was among them. One of my guard; an Elleth, has also gone rogue. We suspect she is tracking them down.”
“Oh?” Glorfindel exclaimed with forged surprise, “You left the woman, an Elf-friend, to rot in you cells?” Thranduil tries to answer, “You showed discourtesy to my daughter in all but blood?”
Legolas and the brothers gulp, respective variations of repugnance on their face: things were about to get a whole lot worse for the Elvenking.
Chapter 14: Limpet
“Well, they said it changes when the sun goes down
Over the river going out of town
And they said it changes when the sun goes down
– ‘When the sun goes down’,
Tauriel and Erin make quick work of following the river.
The messy tracks the Orcs had left, fleeing down the nearest trail after the barrels ended on a platform of rock by the riverside where the current dropped could be easily traced. The servants of Sauron had left the remains of the pour being they’d devoured raw; the blood spilling into the cracks and crevices of the craggy surface, not an entirely subtle effort.
“It’s still slightly warm,” Erin says, discreetly dipping her finger into a collected pool of blood, which felt disgustingly clammy on her fingertip.
“Then they did not stop for long then, or have only just set out,” Tauriel replied. She tilts her head slightly: “Get down!” Before Erin has chance to fully dive to the ground (marginally missing the pool of blood), Tauriel has her bow drawn and an arrow strung: “Ingannen le Orch!”
“Cí Orch im, dangen le,” is Legolas’ reply as they both lower their drawn weapons, “The pair of you cannot hunt them down by yourselves.”
Erin chuckles, “Ah, is that why you’re here?”
“Why did you not mention you are the ward of Glorfindel, the resurrected Balrog slayer of Gondolin?” Legolas scrutinises Erin with suspicion-slit eyes as Tauriel’s widen in surprise.
“How did you find out?” Said ward challenges haughtily.
“He’s currently belittling my father. Hunting down a pack of thirty Orcs seems like a more beneficial use of my time than trying to hide from their ire.”
Erin sputters; “Glorfindel’s here?!”
“Elladan and Elrohir too,” the three wince in unison.
“Elbereth be merciful,” Erin breathes, cringing at the thought of all three coming after her.
The sun is beginning to set: “We must move,” Tauriel declares, “The Orcs are slipping away as we speak.”
“Well, we’d better get a move on then- and fast too!” Erin gives the red haired Elleth a lopsided smile, knowing that the Orcs are not the only ones slipping away from them. Tauriel looked remarkably calm compared to earlier, when her hysterics over the potential loss of Kíli overwhelmed her.
Legolas and Tauriel look dubiously at Erin; the next thing the latter knows is that she is being thrown across the shoulders of the blonde Ellon, and her Elven companions are sprinting as fast as they can in pursuit of the Orcs and Dwarves. As she blows silken soft Elven hair away from her face, Erin’s tinkling laughter can be heard over the plummeting timbre of the river currents, as it eddy’s into a river.
However, upon their arrival in Lake-town, it appears to be far too quiet.
The Elves had run mostly through the night and day just to follow the Orcs closely, only slowing or stopping to take sips of water or rations of Lembas from Erin’s pack. Surprisingly a few pieces of the way-bread remained, and the Elf-friend quite happily shared with them. Lake-town was quiet place in general- the inhabitants of the town did not receive many visits from outsiders, and the markets would only be full of hustle and bustle during the day. It was far too quiet for a place supposedly hosting Dwarves- Dwarves that had Orcs hunting them down to be precise. The place should have been in uproar from the drunken feasts or burning to the ground because of the orcs. Instead only the slight ripple of water as the boats rocked back and forth in the slight currents gently rose to their ears, or the slight steps of someone walking across the boarded walkways.
“Legolas, I see them!” Tauriel gasps, her eyes glued to the top of the rickety wooden houses, “They’re going across the roofs-“
“Gwaem!” He answers. Screams split the air, so off the Elves race; Erin clinging to Legolas’ back like a limpet.
As Tauriel surges through the forced open doorway, slicing at the attacking Orcs with her knives, Legolas (and Erin, still faithfully clinging on despite a slightly bumpy ride) drops through an Orc-made gash in the roof of the simple little home. They begin to dispatch the attackers, Erin drawing her short sword and joining the fray, helpfully decapitating an Orc reaching under a partially overturned table- it was trying to grab at the ankles of a small red-haired child.
“You killed them all…” Said a brunette haired youth; huddling beside the small child Erin had rescued and another girl, plausibly only a few years younger than Erin herself; though this girl was taller than the Elf-friend.
“There are others. Tauriel, come,” Legolas demanded.
It was then the other occupants of this quaintly furnished house made their presence known, with a certain dwarf that had taken an arrow to the knee- that wasn’t in the book, Erin thought desperately, groaned in pain, writhing on the ground like an agitated snake. Oin and Fíli, whom were also here (- where are the rest of the Company?) worked quickly to get the invalid onto a solid surface, though they struggled to keep him still.
Legolas grew impatient; “Tauriel, Erin.” When they did not move, he shook his head and quickly strode away to resume the hunt.
“Stay here if you wish, mellon. I will help him dispose of the rest,” Erin pats Tauriel’s leather bracer covered forearm, “Nesta hon.” Erin walks to the doorway in the hopes of catching up with the Mirkwood prince, but is nearly bowled over by Bofur, who is carrying a large bunch of greenery. “Bofur, is that a weed?” She asks.
“Wha- Erin! Why, am I glad ‘t see you. No I believe it’s called Kingsfoil- “
“Athelas,” murmurs Tauriel, appearing through the doorway behind Erin and snatching the bunch from Bofur’s grasp, “…Athelas…”
“What’re ye’ doing?” The hatted Dwarf says weakly.
Tauriel smiles and it is though starlight has permeated through the bleak darkness: “I’m going to save him… Odulen an edraith angina…” The latter is murmured more to herself or Kíli than for anyone else.
Athelas, or Kingsfoil as it is known in the common tongue, is a miracle of a plant or weed- depending on your view.
Remarkable, Erin thinks. The small plant with hardy little white blooms can do so much. In the hands of the Elves, it heals many maladies, counteracting that of the poison the Orcs use to coat their blades and the tips of their arrows. To other races, it counts as food for grazing animals. For Shirelings, the plant is a nuisance, always cropping up unwanted in the neatly kept flowerbed rows amongst the prize-winning roses.
That diminished the properties of Athelas somewhat; however now, it is healing not only wounds, but the suffering calls of a heart in pain.
A soft glow encapsulates Tauriel as she chants an Elven healing prayer, preparing the Athelas and applying it to Kíli’s festering wound.
Erin leaves the house.
There are Orcs to hunt, after all.
“Ingannen le Orch.” “I thought you were an Orc.”
“Cí Orch im, dangen le.” “If I were an Orc, you would be dead.”
“Gwaem!” “Lets go!”
“Nesta hon.” “Heal him.”
“…Odulen an edraith angina…” “…I’m here to save you...”
Chapter 15: Abandonment and Desolation
“I am in blood
Stepped in so far that,
should I wade no more…”
– William Shakespeare, ‘Macbeth’
(Act three, Scene four)
Legolas had rid Middle Earth of some more orcs, helpfully shooting them down or giving them a merciful slash with his knives, when he came across another.
This one was taller, and most definitely stronger than the other’s he’d dispatched before. It was positively one of the most repulsive creatures he’d ever had the misfortune to lay his eyes upon: a puckered mouth that looked like it had been sewn up and ripped apart like a seam of clothing, one eye that had a milky white glaze strewn across it, and layers upon layers of scars and wounds half-heartedly sealed back together with crude black Orc metals. The strips looked like stringy formations of hair at first to Legolas, but as he advanced upon it, drawing Orcrist- which Erin had not been able to snaffle off of him in order to return the blade to Thorin at some point, he noticed that the metal strips seemed to inlay on indentations of the skull that mimicked the excruciatingly bone breaking grip of a hand.
The orc advances, as do two more under the orc’s command that the Ellon did not see.
The fight begins.
Before he knows it, Legolas has to let go of Orcrist, and he is slammed in the ribs repeatedly, tussling with the orc until the Elf is suddenly thrown into the wooden side of a house. The orc moves away, satisfied that the Elf is injured enough.
However, Legolas stands again, pride and a duty to rid Middle Earth of Sauron’s filth driving him forward unsheathing an Elven knife and slashing the tall orc across his stomach. He is grappled in return, and twists and turns in the orc’s hold- eventually finding the strength to escape it, though he is unleashed into the oncoming path of the other tall orc’s subordinates.
This time the tall orc leaves and Legolas wishes to groan in frustration. It had managed to slip away while he was preoccupied by the filth he was currently duelling with. One of the subordinates took his attention away from the other, and though he eventually gets rid of one, the other is creeping up behind him- sloppily forged weapon raised and ready to kill.
He is shot down by a foreign arrow, as Legolas collapses against the wall of a house in pain.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” apologises Erin, lowering her elevated bow, “Bofur turned up at the last minute with Athelas.”
“So she stayed to heal the Dwarf then?” The Ellon says hoarsely, wiping at his nose and discovering blood on his fingertips.
Erin reaches inside her the front pockets of her backpack, surprisingly she still carried it after everything, and hands him one of the last remaining tissues she had brought with her from Earth. He gratefully staunches the bleeding with it.
“She did, and she is happier for it,”
Legolas frowns at her account: “For over six hundred years my father has protected her, favoured her- as did I, and then she betrays us both for this Dwarf,” he states, “If she returned with me now he might forgive her-“
“Tauriel is in love with him Legolas, it is clear to see that she won’t be returning with you; she’ll perish if she does,” Erin soothes, watching as the Ellon becomes more agitated, a hurt look on his face.
There sounds the chilling clack of claws clicking against a hard floor, and they both turn to see the tall Orc sitting astride a Warg.
Legolas bristles; “I must go.”
“I could have sworn at one point he looked just like…”
“Like who?” The Ellon questions.
“Like Azog- Azog who is meant to be dead but isn’t, so that must mean that he’s Bolg...”The Ellon glances at Erin, “That is Azog’s son,” she informs him, and they both grimace at the specifics behind creating an heir. That Azog should have a son is a physically repulsive notion to them both.
Legolas wanders until he finds a horse kept amongst some livestock nearby; though what use the Lakemen could have for what looked to be an Elven-bred mount was beyond him. Quickly, he takes the tacked mount and vaults astride it.
“Do not do anything stupid,” Erin warns, “Tauriel might not reciprocate to your feelings in the way you want her to, but she is still fond of you Legolas. Don’t throw it all away because of who she loves now.”
The Ellon doesn’t answer, giving the horse a sharp kick to the ribs and flying off after the warg and its rider, galloping along the pier.
Erin watches him go.
It is utterly dark now, and moonlight reflects off of the ripping waters of the lake; Erin makes her way back to the house she had left, traversing through the labyrinth of rickety houses and uneven wooden walkways.
Despite the obvious flaws, Lake-town was a quirky settlement- then again, to Erin most things were quirky in this land; Elves, Dwarves, Dragons, Orcs, Wargs. All mind blowing creatures and places to venture to. It was a shame however that Smaug would ruin Lake-town, something that Erin had not quite taken to heart as she had discovered some of the Dwarves earlier.She presumed that the others must have been milling about through the town or at an inn while Fíli, Oin and Bofur stayed to watch over an injured Kíli.
Tauriel has finished healing him when Erin returns: “He’s gone after Bolg,” she informs the Elleth.
“Who’s Bolg?” Fíli questions.
Erin makes a disgusted noise in the back of her throat, “He’s the spawn of Azog the defiler- do not ask me for the specifics behind it, I don’t really want to know how that’s become possible either. How’s the patient then?”
“Mending,” Tauriel answers, “Any later and the poison would have claimed him…”
“I’ve heard tell of the wonders of Elvish medicine,” Oin crows, “Though I have not witnessed it for myself. That was a privilege to observe, lassie,” he thumps Tauriel on the back, and the Elleth smiles thinly, pushed forward by the force of the strong blows slightly, “Thought we might have lost young Kíli there for a moment.”
“Such a good thing that we have impeccable timing then,” Erin mutters, “Where are the others?”
“They’re gone,” Bofur quips.
Erin feels like she may have an apoplexy, or that she should scream and scream until someone finally takes notice and listens to her for once, “’Gone?’ Where did they go?” her senses are screaming: notgoodnotgoodnotgood-
“To the mountain o’ course,” the hatted Dwarf replies, “They stayed behind t’ heal Kíli, an’ I missed the boat.”
“I told Dwalin while we were in the cells and then again in the cellars that it would be a bad idea to, no, never mind- you were all supposed to wait for Gandalf!”
“They might be waiting for him still,” Fíli defends in a crotchety manner.
“This is your Uncle leading the Company; do you think he’d wait for a wizard’s permission to enter his own mountain?” Erin retorts bitterly.
Tremors rock the house, an incredibly strong breeze forcefully pushing through the exposed cavities such as the hole in the roof and the open windows and doors. The breeze is not cold though it chills them to the bone; it is blazing hot and dry, roasting them inside of the house.
“To answer, ‘yer question lass… No, Thorin wouldn’t wait,” Bofur says unsurely.
The three children from before shuffle awkwardly on their feet: “Mister Thorin wouldn’t do that would he?” The youngest utters with childish naivety.
“We hoped he wouldn’t, but he has- and he’s just woken Smaug up in the process,” Erin spins on her heel, pushing down on the anxiety working its way up like bile before a sickness in her stomach can follow it: there is no time for her to be afraid, fear is a costly paralytic, and she cannot afford to freeze now, “Tauriel we need to get them out of here- into the boats, and head towards Dale,”
“Where are you going mellon-nin?” Tauriel calls.
“I’ve got to find Bard-“
“What do you want with our Da?” The middle child, the boy, asks.
“Your father is Bard? The Captain of the guard?” Erin says incredulously.
“No!” Yelps the youngest, “Da’s a bargeman.”
This time, Erin does not restrain her urge to scream, and clutches at the tangled ends of her short hair- biting her lip to muffle the frustrated sound.
There are cries of ‘Fire!’ and ‘Dragon!’ alongside screams of agony filling the town, the torment of fire in a town predominantly constructed out of timber a cruel irony. Smaug’s wing beats rock the wooden buildings precariously, any stronger and the danger of dragon fire might not be the only cause of mortality; the shoddy construction another way to trap those who are fleeing the town.
“We have no time, we must leave!” Tauriel urges. They scramble to the boats docked beside the houses.
That they have been left to their fate, is all Erin can think and feel. A despondent sense of desolation veils her as she witnesses the fires start to rise and the heat from Smaug’s burning ire accost her- tearing through her Elvish clothes as easily as a hot knife through butter. The heat licks at her skin, causing it to prickle, as the screams rise and fall as some other’s life is endangered and anothers passes in the inferno.
“We’re not leaving. Not without our father,” the middle child says stubbornly, “He needs this-“ and here the boy rips a cloth from the bottom of the boat to reveal one of the most hope filling things Erin has seen for a while since Tauriel slipped her the sticky bun back in the Mirkwood cells and Bilbo jangling some keys.
“A black arrow,” Oin mumbles, shocked.
Erin starts, making the boat rock as Tauriel paddles it along, “One that we must get to your father- uh?”
“Bain,” Erin sighs, “Let’s do this!”
She and the boy struggle ashore to a wooden walkway: “Where are ‘ye goin’?” Bofur yells worriedly, the threat of the wizard flaying him alive resurfacing if he didn’t keep his end up the bargain to watch over Erin up.
“We’ve got a dragon to shoot down!” Erin screams back to him in return.
“They have unleashed the wrath of one of Morgoth’s creations on the innocent, all in the pursuit of gold and gems,” Thranduil states, serene to the untrained eye- though his behaviour is false to Elves around him.
The ground had begun to rattle in Mirkwood, a sign recognised from the hurricane strength of a dragon’s wing beats.
“We must go-“ Glorfindel starts.
“By all means, if you wish to burn with them: go. My army and I head to the mountain, towards Dale. Long have we treated with the Lakemen, they have been our allies since the fall of Erebor, and we shall honour them in their time of need.”
“So you would help them, but not the Dwarves?” Elladan states with a frown.
“Do not presume to know me, youngling,” Thranduil says smoothly, “Dwarves think of their gold and precious gems, and not for the lives of those outside of their race.”
“Yet they travelled with a woman and a Hobbit,” Elrohir moves to defend his brother.
Thranduil smirks, and releases a strained chuckle, “Ride out with us on the morrow, and we shall see how well the Dwarves, especially Thorin Oakenshield treat those who are not their own kind.”
The Elves from Rivendell watch with hardened eyes as the Elvenking saunters away.
Ripping agony- the spine breaks fully; ridges on the outer cover-
Surges against the heart- a needle binding in more fresh pages that await the print of a story in the making-
Kindled hope- tear it down, it’s not real, none of it is-
Pages are torn into tiny little fragments, falling like fresh snow on a winter morning.
It should be beautiful but all that can be seen is destruction.
It should not be like this.
It should have never have changed.
Why does it change?
Chapter 16: Cometh the Dragon
Happy Birthday to me~!
“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin,
‘A Wizard of Earthsea’
“I seriously hope you know where to find your father!” Erin pants as she runs closely behind Bain; the young boy keeping a tight grip on the black arrow.
“I can see him ahead! Da! Da!” Bain collides with his father hugging with a short-lived embrace.
The man is worried and slightly shabby around the edges, Erin notes, but he cares for the safety of his children: “Bain, what are you still doing here? Where are Sigrid and little Tilda? Who is this?”
Bain gapes, but shoves the black arrow into his father’s awaiting arms when he’s released from the hug. Erin answers Bard: “He needed to find you and give you that, your eldest and youngest are as safe as can be in a boat with four Dwarves and an Elf, and I am Erin- I’m here because one stubborn Dwarf couldn’t do as I asked of him. Listen to me; you need to get to higher ground and shoot that… thing down. Now!”
“He’s demolished the wind lance,” Bard states, “The bell tower is our best bet, but how long it will stand under his wrath I do not know.”
“It’s worth a try though?” Erin says desperately, flinching as the dragon roars.
“Aye, it is the only chance we have,” Bard replies grimly.
Scorching, searing so hot. It burns-
The pages are devoured
- Licked by hungry flames-
Devouring- gobbling up the story like a monster does its prey.
Gnashing tearing crackle pop, how it smoulders and churns, until, nothing…
“Who are you that would stand against me?!” The dragon Smaug’s voice is deep, and what little remains of Laketown trembles beneath it. The water’s lap at the burning walkways, desperate to help quench the flames thirst, but it is not enough to sate the appetite of dragon fire.
“Any time now would be lovely thank you Bard!” Erin snipes as she keeps her arrows and Elven bow trained on the hulking volatile mass of one of Morgoth’s creations.
“My bow is snapped,” he retorts just as exasperated, “What else am I to do? Launch it by hand like a spear and hope for the best?”
“Get creative! I would offer to lend you my bow, but I doubt it would have the strength to fire a black arrow.”
As Bard flounders to attach his bowstring to adjacent collapsing halves of the bell tower, Erin shoots another desperate projectile at the dragon. It bounces off of his reinforced scales pathetically, snapping in two as it falls.
“Bain stay still, I’ve almost got it, but I need you to stay still!” Bard pleads to his son, as he rests the arrows across his middle child’s shoulder- to the latter’s shock. The string is taught as Bard draws it, hands being dug into by the tough metal. He hisses from both the stinging pain and rapidly mounting frustration: “I can’t get a clear shot to his chest. Stay still Bain!”
“How much time do you need?” Erin inquires, squinting as the dragon begins to rock from side to side, a golden glow trailing form his breast, and up up up his neck to his gullet-
“Until I can definitely release the arrow with a clear shot? Who knows?”
“And if I can do that? Get the clear shot ready, that is-”
“-How?!” Bain cries, looking between the two adults as they quickly converse, head snapping back and forth with each sentence. He’s quickly told to stay still.
“Is that your child? You cannot save him from the fire. He will BURN!” Though Bard grimaces and Bain’s eyes widen to astronomical proportions at the dragon’s- in Erin’s own opinion prat-ish proclamation, they stay put on top of the bell tower as the dragon drags himself on his clawed feet ever closer; his folded wings crushing the buildings of Laketown with each thudding step.
“I don’t think my arrows can do much, they won’t pierce his scales or the gap in his chest, but they can irritate him,” Erin replies with a gulp, and quickly climbs down the side of the bell tower. As she races through the burning remains of Laketown, Erin grasps at her quiver for an arrow. When she reaches a distance that is far too close for comfort near the dragon, she notches it, draws the string and takes aim and cries: “Oi!”
The dragons head shifts in a serpentine loop, slow and languid, surveying the wreck he has caused in order to locate the one solitary voice calling for his attention.
“Over here, you witless worm!”
“Strange, that you should use words I have heard so recently. Perhaps you know those who tried to take my mountain?” The dragon rumbles, jaws snapping and clicking defensively as he speaks. Little sparks of heat flow from between his teeth like spittle; though to be spattered with it would be to burn surely. “You should know then that they burned just like those around you!”
“You lie,” Erin releases her arrow. It bounces off of the corner of Smaug’s nostril, doing no harm.
The dragon releases a dark chuckle, amused at this small woman’s tenacity; “Your arrows cannot harm me, child. My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane; you can do me no harm…” He rumbles, the ground quaking as he shifts on his feet, “After all, I am fire! I am death!”
“I. Am. Not. A. Child.” She says through gritted teeth.
The dragon rears it’s head laughing darkly, and watching Bard upon the bell tower still scrabbling to take aim with the black arrow. Erin quickly grabs for an arrow and notches it while Smaug is preoccupied with Bard and Bain faffing about with the bow string again -“Tell me, wretch - How now shall you challenge me?!” -She sends it reeling without much pause or aim, and seem surprised as it shoots past where it was deflected before- this time, going straight up one huge, darkened nasal cavity; like a rabbit down it’s burrow when fleeing from a predator.
It seems to clink, as it flies further into the unknown, and Smaug stills. The dragon roars- or is it a cough? It perhaps would be a ticklish sound if Smaug were much smaller- and in an almighty whoosh, fire and brimstone pours from his nostril, like water from a jug, in a most unbecoming manner. One fleck of molten liquid catches Erin on her left forearm, and burns through her leather bracer, and the two layered tunics below.
“You have nothing left, but your death!” Smaug sputters, as if he were in dire need of a handkerchief.
Erin cannot tell whether her distraction has at all paid off, all she feels is panic, and fear, and the burning pain on her arm. The dragon comes closer, crushing a building across from where she is standing. The ground beneath her feet is so unsteady-
The books flips open, pages cartwheeling so quickly the words printed are but a blur.
Fire and water.
Life and death.
A large hole, piercing the entirety of the chapter’s pages slices cleanly through the paper. The ink bleeds like an unstoppable wound, pooling out and around the novel left on the kitchen table that is battered and burned and torn and worn and oh so alone on the table top. The blood- the ink, spreads and surrounds.
A life has been taken and drained here, wrapped around the paper that soaks up its own dark liquid like a man dying of thirst.
But still, the chapter keeps bleeding, the wound curling in on itself as the pages become more obscure and saturated with black.
It is all dark now.
With nowhere else to go, the ink spills like a waterfall over the side of the table, dropping-
-onto the cold tiled floor below.
Chapter 17: All that is gold...
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien,
‘The Fellowship of the Ring’
Residents are in shock after the home of Gandalf Greyhame exhibits some form of life. Lights were seen emitted from the windows, ‘Like fire, it was’, one neighbour who chose to remain anonymous told us- he had been on his way back from the local Public House when he witnessed these mysterious ‘lights’.
Greyhame, who is still being treated as a link or partially involved in the disappearance of Erin Walsh nearly three years ago, is still to be found. No witness sightings or those caught on security cameras of neither the elderly man nor his young companion, whom he shared afternoon tea with most afternoons, have been discovered. The Walsh family has grown desperate in their search for their daughter: “We’re not angry,” says Peter Walsh, Erin’s father, “We just want our daughter back, and safe in her own home. That way, life can go back to normal…”
After the lights were seen inside Greyhame’s home, the local constabulary and Erin Walsh’s parents were contacted; they conducted a full search of the property, but found it suspiciously empty. When questioning the anonymous witness, the latter became enraged- believing that the police did not find his account at all truthful. He spent the night in a cell, and was bailed the next morning from charges of assault against an officer, and drunk and disorderly behaviour.
The forensics team, fronted by those who had first worked on this baffling case from its beginning, were stupefied by what they found: “We left most of the belongings as they were after taking fingerprints and other samples. I remember there was a book left on the table- brand new and never been read. Only, when we were called to the scene, ink had spilt on the pages, the table and the floor…”
Perhaps this is someone’s cruel idea of amusement; to torment a community in hopeless mourning for two of its citizens? If it is, or if there are any witnesses who know who is causing this, or have seen the ploy being extracted are encouraged by Winwhich police to come forth with any evidence they may have- no matter how small or vague it might be.
-Taken from the Winwhich Chronicle, May 20th 2018
The dragon was dead.
After Bard had released the arrow, and it had found its mark deep in Smaug’s breast where a scale had been lost, a fine frenzy descended on the dragon. The long barbed tail swing put above Erin’s head, crashing into roof tiles and causing them to lift like the scales off of a fish being gutted. They rained down above her, and panicking, she ran back to the bell tower for safety. Yet she, Bard and Bain were not yet exempt from the dragon’s wrath; he careered into the tower, Bain clutching onto his father for security.
“Get down from there!” Erin screamed up at the pair, clutching at her left arm with her right hand. The fire she felt radiating from the blistering skin was absurd, and she hissed as she cradled her forearm limply. As the tower began to collapse, and the father and son plummeted into the icy waters of Lake-town beneath them (with Erin rushing to fish them out of the canal promptly after, despite her injury), Smaug took flight with great wing strokes that made the air around it pulsate and the already growing flames devouring Lake-town rise taller, until most of the still standing buildings were consumed.
It was a fruitless endeavour; the arrow had pierced his heart, and with what few weak wing beats he could conjure, he rose slightly, and then stilled: falling in an almost angelic manner, as an armoured creature that was once seen spotted ruling the skies that now held no dignity for a being of his evil standard, Smaug the golden was vanquished, and the lake greedily swallowed his carcass.
Bard and Bain by this time as Erin watched Smaug’s fall in her pain induced stupor, had managed to wangle a loose boat and panels of broken wood that would serve dutifully as oars. They ushered her into the small vessel, and began to paddle after the others who had evacuated.
They took turns paddling towards the shores of the Long Lake, and the survivors welcomed them; swarming around Bard, murmuring their congratulations for him having felled the dragon, and generously patting Bain and Erin strongly on their back for their general assistance in the whole affair. One heavy handed pat caught the burnt section on Erin’s arm, and she cried out as metaphorical flames lick at the sore skin. The burn was a ragged red colour, oozing fluid that entrapped sections of frayed threads from her tunic and flecks of leather from her vambrace.
“Let me see!” It is Tauriel, whom is leading Bard’s youngest and eldest children to their father, and Oin, Bofur, Fíli and Kíli to the shore. The Elleth grasps Erin’s forearm, making the Elf-friend hiss, “How did you get this?”
“Oh,” Erin supplied woozily, “Shot a dragon up the nose…”
“’Ye did wha’ now?” Bofur blanched, “Gandalf asked me t’ look a’ter you he did- and ‘ye go around shootin’ dragons up their noses?! Oh Mahal, I’m dead fer’ sure…” He groaned.
Erin giggled weakly, “I needed to help Bard get a clean shot… You’re leaving aren’t you?”
Tauriel had gone off in search of any meagre medical supplies she could snaffle in order to use them on Erin's arm, Kíli trailing after her. Oin and Fíli were readying a boat.
“Aye… We need ‘t get to the mountain,” Bofur replied.
“Tell Dwalin when you see him, that by time I’m through with him, he’d wish Smaug had eaten them all.”
Bofur winces, “Mahal above, what ‘as he done to deserve tha’?” Still with Kíli in tow (which reminded Erin of a puppy trailing behind its master), Tauriel returns with a salve of sorts and some clean cloth to bind Erin’s wound. When her arm is securely wrapped, Erin nods her thanks to the Elleth whom smiles back. The four walk along the bumpy shore to where Fíli and Oin wait in the boat.
“He didn’t listen to me when I told him to wait outside the mountain. They will not be the same Dwarves you remember. Few will retain their minds- the others will be lost to the gold sickness,” Erin warns them.
“Uncle will never fall to it!” Kíli spat hotly, ignoring Erin’s caution. His nudges his way onto the boat, giving one last longing look to Tauriel; the Elleth averts her tear swollen eyes, her fingers trailing over something he’d left in her dainty palm. Bofur nimbly clambers aboard too, smiling sadly at Erin. They begin to row away, and soon, are out of sight. With one hand, Tauriel grasps a smooth green stone that has been worked and polished and carved to perfection, the other hand is empty, so Erin slides her own into it- squeezing the long tapered fingers lightly.
“He will not be coming back to me, will he?” The Elleth says sadly.
“Not unless I can help them, no.”
Tauriel had departed shortly after the Dwarrow rowed away, mounting up behind Legolas on a brilliant white Elven steed that galloped away through the hills, leaving Erin to meander around the unfamiliar refugee folk of Lake-town on her own. Bard had (unwillingly) led them to the ruins of Dale, where they made camp for the night amongst the rubble and partially erect buildings.
It was bitterly cold; the first nips of winter pulling through the carcass of a once great city; and if it weren’t for the sheer number of people huddled together for warmth, Erin was quite certain many would have frozen to death with the insufficient blankets that had been gathered.
“We cannot go on like this,” Bard told her as they meandered round the ruins in search of Alfrid. The sleazy ex-adviser of the once Master of Lake-town was one person Erin had had the misfortune of meeting as she joined the survivors of Lake-town on their journey to Dale. He had tried to cosy up to Bard, smarmily smiling his way through yellowed teeth and spouting benign comments that he hoped to pass off as complimenting.
Many turned their noses up in disgust at him; other’s rolled their eyes at his behaviour- it was how he had curried favour with the last Master, after all, and the people of Lake-town, though burned, were stronger now than they had ever been in the sixty years Smaug had reigned supreme in the Lonely Mountain. They no longer had a wobbling, pathetic leader to submit to- now they followed the guidance of a dragon slayer. Though some of the refugees were angered, angered by the loss of their home, their loved ones, they were angry that a slimy shell of humanity was trying to worm his way back into the graces of society, so soon after they had all lost so much- though Alfrid’s attempts led to little avail.
Bard, though he disputed his title as leader, decreed that no one should harm Alfrid, imploring that there had been enough hatred and bloodshed shared recently.
Reluctantly, the survivors of Lake-town agreed; though Alfrid was still treated with distrust.
For good reason too- Bard had left the duty of night watch to the former, and it was a miracle that any potential enemies hadn’t slipped past the crumbling boundaries of Dale and slaughtered them all as they slept, for Alfrid had fallen asleep.
“How was your shift, Alfrid?” Erin inquired sweetly with a wide, uncontrollable smile.
Alfrid frowned, “Absolutely fine: Nothing to report sire,” he hastily added to Bard, “Nothing gets past me!”
Bard snorted, “Except an army of Elves, it would seem.”
Erin can no longer contain her laughter, as she follows Bard down the steps. How anyone could have missed a legion of Elves clad in golden armour is beyond her, because for all their stealth and wisdom, Elves did enjoy finery and the occasional indulgence of the ostentatious variety- Thranduil of course, was not exempt from her ruminations on the Elven race.
As the proverb of Earth says, ‘speak of the devil and he doth appear’, only for this instance it was instead Thranduil riding atop a large elk. He came to a halt before his army, and dismounted to greet Bard and Erin.
“I heard you needed aid,” the Elvenking told them, with his smooth lilting voice. As he spoke, two Elves who were guiding a horse drawn cart arrived, and began to help as others unloaded the cargo. It was laden with provisions the refugees of Lake-town needed, and Bard felt gratitude towards the Elvenking deeply. “I did not come on your behalf. There a gems in the mountain I desire, just as you desire compensation for the destruction the Dwarves-“ Thranduil said the word bitterly, like he had tasted something sour upon his tongue, “-have caused by unleashing a dragon on your home.”
“You’d go to war over something so petty?” Erin said aghast, she knew of course that Dwarves and Elves had never fully gotten along- she had warned Kíli of the prejudices he and his kin held, though she would have thought that Eru’s first creations would also know better than to partake in petty squabbles over jewellery, considering the longevity of their lives and how events in time seem to repeat themselves; it would be obvious that the Elves could learn from prior mistakes.
“The heirlooms of my people are not so lightly forsaken,” The Elvenking informed her, “I also happen to know of specific Elves that would go to war for something as insignificant as you.”
Here, Erin began to tremble- the verbal lashing she had received from him during their stay in Mirkwood’s dungeons reappearing in her mind. She clenched her fists tightly to her side, willing herself not to burst into pathetic tears like she had done when shoved into a cell with Dwalin.
Bard tried to reason with the Elf, “We are allies here! We both have a claim- Let… Let me speak with Thorin.”
“You would try to reason with a Dwarf? Impressively foolhardy of you,” and if Bard should fail, the unspoken ‘I told you so’ would most likely be uttered. “As for you,” he said to Erin, “Your guardian is here.”
The clatter of cantering hooves upon stone walkways ricocheted through the crumbling ruins. Tall and stern in the saddle, and clad in fine silver armour was Glorfindel. Flanked on each side of Erin’s guardian were Elladan and Elrohir, also armed and ready should a battle commence.
“Erin!” Her golden haired guardian called. He swiftly leapt from Asfolath’s back, rushing to wrap the girl in a long overdue hug. It was strangely calming, even though her face was smushed against a very cold silver breastplate.
Bard borrowed one of the pure white Elven steeds, and once settled in the saddle, rode across the harsh, scraggly ground between Dale and Erebor; manoeuvring his steed around patches of ice that were beginning to thaw from whence they had frozen during the night. Erin stayed behind within the ruins of Dale, Glorfindel still gripping her tightly to his breastplate.
“I have been so worried about you child,” he murmured, his pointed jaw resting on the top of her head.
“He has,” Elladan said, “Ada and Erestor eventually had enough of his moping and sent us along with him to catch up with you.”
“Yes a good thing too- who wrapped this for you?” Elrohir scolded, tugging at the bandage on her arm and staring at it critically.
Erin sighs, “Tauriel, the Captain of the Guard in the Woodland realm bandaged it with what she could and put some sort of salve on it. It was all she could salvage I suppose when we reached the shore line.” Elrohir still looked sceptical, staring at the bandage as though it truly offended him; though as the son of Lord Elrond, who was renowned for his skill in healing, it might have done just so: “I will change that for you and inspect the damage when Glorfindel releases you.”
As if in reply, the Ellon hugs Erin tighter, and she snorts; “I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, Elrohir…”
“How on all of Middle Earth did you injure yourself to warrant a bandage of that size?” Elladan asks, curious, as the scrounged fabric wrap covers all of the lower part of Erin’s left arm.
“Oh, I shot an arrow up Smaug’s nostril,” Erin replies indifferently.
The Elves tense.
“You did what?!”
Glorfindel insisted that her arm be tended to straight away after she admitted where the wound originated from. Tauriel’s salve had halted any preliminary infections that wished to spread through the burst blisters in the skin, but failed to take away the tender and raw twinges that accompanied the blistering.
“We’ll need to burst the larger blisters and clean the burnt sections before we can wrap them,” Elrohir sates and Elladan nods in agrrement. In Bard’s absence, the Mirkwood Elves have been productive; erecting tents for their people and king. Glorfindel paces from the side of one cloth all to the other, as Erin sits on a camp bed with her arm being assessed.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to pop blisters?” Erin said.
“You shouldn’t really, but these are so large-“ and they were, “-that they’ll most likely pop on their own and the fluid will irritate the burns. It’s best we deflate them via aspiration and leave the excess skin to peel rather than dealing with one huge infection later.”
“It’s pretty nasty Erin,” Elrohir says softly, and Glorfindel winces.
“How bad?” The Balrog slayer demands.
Elladan closes his eyes slowly, “The blisters and burns will heal with time, but there will most likely be some severe scarring.” He turns to Erin, “You’re quite lucky you weren’t burnt down to the muscle and bone, otherwise we could be having a very different conversation right now.”
Elrohir gleefully mimed chopping his arm off from below the elbow. Both Glorfindel and Erin pale.
“Still, they’ll be honourable scars. There are not many beings out there who can say they’ve survived dragon snot.”
“’Erin, the dragon snot survivor’,” Elladan says, snorting at his brother’s earlier comment.
Glorfindel, not stilling his pacing, muses; “’Ettelëa, the Lady of fire and brimstone.’”
“Do you know, I rather like that one,” she says with a small happy hum, “Though it’s all a bit over the top, don’t you think? Elrohir’s right about the dragon snot, truthfully.”
Bard returns without any triumph.
Thranduil seemed entirely too smug, “Such a pity. Still, you tried.” He turns to his army, “We attack at dawn-“ and to Bard he says, “Will you join us?”
The dragon slayer nods gravely in return.
They retreat into Thranduil’s tent, to plan their warmongering. Erin and the Elves of Imladris had watched on sadly, the former leaning into Glorfindel’s side heavily.
“I was supposed to help put a stop to this,” she whispers, and the golden haired Elf starts.
“I knew you had been sent here for a reason, and Mithrandir taking you along with him after the Dwarves confirmed my suspicions. You cannot change fate, Ettelëa. The way of the world and the will of the Valar imply that blood must be shed to regain equilibrium- so it must be, so it will come to pass. If evaded, and without proper payment to the higher powers of Middle earth in reimbursement, fate will always realign itself.”
“But I knew of this! I knew how it began and how it could be stopped, and well… now my being here seems useless if events are going to turn out the way they once did.”
Elrohir gasps, “You had foreknowledge of this quest?”
“How much did Gandalf fully reveal to you upon my arrival to Rivendell?”
“Not an awful lot,” Elladan says “That you came from far away, and were to be left in our care until the time came that you must leave.”
Erin sighs, “Typical. I do come from far away Elladan, Mr Grey was right in saying that. If you count a different world being so very far away, a world where all of this happening around is written down in detail just like the books in Erestor’s collections.”
The Elves stare at her.
“So you knew about this all along, and were asked to change it?”
“Indeed she was-“ A tired, gravelly voice interrupted.
“No, No, NO! Oi! You - pointy hat!” Gandalf ignores the attempts of Alfrid Lickspittle to remove him from Dale, just as some large animals choose to ignore the flies buzzing about them that land on their faces- they simply just do not wish to exert the energy to remove them.
“Who is in charge here?” Gandalf the Grey inquires.
Elladan and Elrohir helpfully point to Bard, who has exited Thranduil’s tent to find the source of Alfrid’s fussing.
He narrows his eyes at the grey wizard; “Who’s asking?”
The next morning, Erin follows the Elves and men as they converge on the mountain, ready for war if a deal cannot be struck between them and the Dwarves.
The Elves of Mirkwood’s armour glints in the morning light, just as surely as the treasure inside of the Lonely Mountain waxes and wanes and ensnares Thorin Oakenshield deeper into his madness. Though the men stand unsure and awkward with the weapons they could scrounge from Dale’s decrepit armouries, their fighters ranging from those who are beyond their time, and those whose time will be cut off far too shortly.
They hold their swords, shields and spears clumsily; they are not fir for the slaughter of war.
But there is no going back now, events have been determined and must be played out. The armies are settled ready on the battlefield like chess pieces on a game board: though Erin is not sure who is which piece, and if they are all not just pawns in the greater scheme of things?
She swallows deeply, knowing that she must do what she can, that one move of her own could send what should happen tumbling and any other allowing the game to be played out as it should have been- and though she is unsure as to whether her best efforts at changing the fate of the world will have much effect, Erin knows all she can do is try.
“Wizards are always troubled about the future.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien,
‘The Two Towers’
The lass had been right.
They shouldn’t have entered the mountain without the wizard present, even if its reclamation had been a success.
They had left innocents- left Fili, Kíli, Bofur and Oin to burn in the wrath of the dragon in their impatience. Then the dragon had perished. When the heirs of Durin, the whittler and the healer had turned up at the ruined gates of the mountain, singed but no worse for wear hope flooded Dwalin again; they had survived, and would survive through anything else that the world could throw at them, for Erebor was a mighty protector. They brought news of how two Elves, and the not-Elf-child (something inside him surged at the mention of Erin) had saved them and Bard’s young children from an Orc attack, and how one of them had saved Kíli from poisoning, preventing him from a fate much worse than death.
The mountain that would not yield no matter how hard a storm raged before it, that had resided patient against a dragon, however, could only protect them from the forces outside its bounds. Like a poison in the blood, partially undetectable from outside the shroud of flesh, sickness writhed in secret inside the stone walls of Erebor. A sickness that was corrupting none other than their leader:
Thorin withdrew from their company to spend it wandering through Smaug’s hoard, and worked them hard to find the heart of the mountain- the Arkenstone. His eyes were rapacious, and lost their usual clarity- they were shaded, and unseeing. The tender smiles and crinkled glances reserved for his nephews all but vanished. When the King’s jewel could not be located, Thorin grew even more desperate and paranoid in order to covet it, demanding vengeance on any sole who denied him his right to rule. The Company of Thorin Oakenshield now lived in highly volatile times; the strain of working hour after hour toiling through Smaug’s glorified nest for one stone that could tip the balance should a battle lay on their front door and force them into a siege.
Dwalin could no longer recognise this gold-lusting Dwarf he once called his friend, whom he would gladly follow into death, and protect as though he were his own brother; and as loath as he was to admit it, he did not think that Thorin could be saved. Least of all by himself, or the whims of one terribly young girl who should be safe and protected and not gallivanting from one side of the land to the other after a group of Dwarves with a death wish.
He watched on worriedly as Thorin brandished a bow at Thranduil and the lippy lake man’s amassed armies: “I will put the next one between your eyes!” Their leader had cried, as the arrow landed harmlessly at the feet of the oppositions two leader’s steeds. It grew tense, as the Elves and men gave them one last chance to parley, with Thorin refusing to acknowledge any claim the other two races had upon the treasure hoard. The sickness inside the Dwarf King was stirring, its hold taking root even deeper- then to add insult to injury, the Arkenstone was revealed in the grasp of the bowman, shocking the Dwarrow as they looked on from above.
Dwalin shared a glance with Balin, knowing that one of the Company had betrayed their King to ultimately save them all.
It was the Halfling, the brave little thing nearly being tipped over the battlements in an attempt to plead with Thorin about his being ‘changed’. It did little good, and now Bilbo Baggins was banished from Erebor, and should he ever have cause to return, it would only lead to his end and for the Dwarves that wished for justice over his treason and slight of their monarch would not be swift in punishing the Hobbit for his crimes.
That was the price of betrayal; your own blood split just as easily as a goblet full of wine.
That was who the sickness-corrupted Thorin had become, no better than a ruthless tyrant.
“Cursed be the Wizard that forced you on this Company!” Thorin spat, glaring at the Halfling as he scrambled for a piece of rope to scale down the side of the mountain.
“If you don’t like my burglar!” Gandalf shouted, pushing his way through the ranks of armoured Elves, “Then please don’t damage him. Return him to me! You’re not making a very splendid figure as king under the mountain, are you? Thorin son of Thrain!”
Rushing behind him (to the Dwarves and Dwalin’s upmost surprise) was the not-Elf-child and three Elven companions, one clad in silver armour atop a white horse and two more that blurred and blended together like symmetrical patterns on a tapestry. Twins.
“DWALIN SON OF FUNDIN!” The not-Elf-child; Erin- his mind corrected giddily, bellowed up to them, and said Dwarf startled, “You completely ignored my warning- nin gwerianneg! Gwaur Orvelethron!” She forces her way past Gandalf and a startled Bilbo Baggins to lay into his once more: “I am so angry I want to – to, aníron gen haded min noer Orodruin-“ Many of the Elves gasp, “-Baw, gen hedithon min noer Orodruin!”
To Dwalin, with her thick leather armour, one shirtsleeve missing, a bandaged left arm, and her hair sticking out like a stack of straw freshly harvested from the field, Erin didn’t appear threatening. Though he knew better- the lass had held up in a spar against him after all, and only broke down in tears once in the cell after a no doubt less than inspiring chat with the tree-shagging King after all, she looked about as intimidating as a soggy kitten.
Dwalin buried the urge to snort, yet the Elves were all staring at the not-Elf-child in shock as she continued her reprimanding, various cusses in both Sindarin and Common slipping from her mouth as easily as a bar of lathered soap from one’s palms. The Elf in silver armour looked on in accusation at the twins behind him, who shared wide grins in response. Still Erin continues. The golden haired Elf in the Silver armour, who Dwalin now recognises as the one who accompanied her in Rivendell delivering the trays, dismounts from his horse and tries to take hold of her arm and force her to stand down. The identical members of her entourage are laughing silently behind their hands as one of her slender index fingers rises to find Dwalin from the floor below and point to his bulky form as she cries one final time: “Thiach uanui a naneth gín gen hamma!”
“I think that’s quite enough, Ettelëa,” The blonde Elf states, firmly wrapping a gloved hand around the girls lower face, effectively silencing her creative mouth and dragging her behind him, shooting the Elves a pinched smile.
“Oh no-“ One of the symmetrical Elves calls, stifling his chuckle with a loud cough.
“Please let her continue,” the other half chunnered in, “’Tis most amusing...”
Dwalin and the rest of the Company can only watch on with wide eyes as Erin is dragged behind the ranks of Elven warriors- Bilbo pulled along in tow with the wizard. When the Dwarrow next look upon their King, he is smiling haughtily. A raven has landed bearing glad tidings from the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. Soon, a battle will commence.
“Is it just me,” Bilbo said quietly, though Erin heard him quite clearly, “Or do you hear clanging?”
The Hobbit, currently shaking in his thin coat- though it was unknown whether this was due to the plummeting temperatures or his near-death experience over the ramparts, tilts his head complaisantly. Sure enough, a rumbling was sounding just over the hill, hiding what was to come from the sight of the Elves and Men.
“I do…” Murmured Erin.
“Right…” Bilbo said slowly, “Any idea what it might be?”
Erin gulps; it could be one of two things. A Dwarven army; or an Orcish one, and neither would she like to encounter. The rumbling and the clanging noise of armour draw closer, scaling the peak in the distance; they were led by someone sat atop a pig (of all things) that was saddled ready for battle. Erin hears either Elladan or Elrohir snort behind her at the ludicrous sight, and the rattling sound of an armoured arm slapping one of the twins around the back of the head- obviously Glorfindel doling out a reprimand for their impertinence.
“Who is that?” Bilbo inquires, squinting and standing on the tips of his furry little toes to get a better view past the Elven army, “He doesn’t look very happy…”
“That would be Dain Ironfoot then,” Erin replied, “He’s the Lord of the Iron Hills. Thorin must have called to him for aid.”
Bilbo winces, drawing his coat tighter around his body, “And are they alike?”
Gandalf sputters, “I’ve always found Thorin to be the more reasonable of the two.”
“Splendid,” the Hobbit chirrups in a bitter manner.
Dain draws his marching army to a halt: “Good morning! How are we all?” (Unsurprisingly, no one answers…) “I have a wee proposition, if you wouldn’t mind giving me a few moments of your time. Would you consider...just sodding off!”
Gandalf, assuming that if he could somehow wangle Thorin Oakenshield into taking up a suicidal death wish of a quest and succeed, thought that he could also coax the stubborn Lord of the Iron Hills into doing his bidding too. Yet the Dwarf in question was steadfast and ready for battle, with the other leaders like Thranduil baiting the Dwarf into action:
Gandalf then moved to the brutish Lord a command; “There is no need for war between Dwarves, Men and Elves! A legion of orcs march on the mountain; stand your army down!”
“I will not stand down before any Elf!” Roared Dain, as Thranduil watched on with a self-satisfied smirk, “Not least this faithless woodland sprite!”
Posturing proudly atop his mount, Dain orders something and his soldiers move into position and Thranduil commands the same of his own army; the clamour of shields forming barriers, of swords being drawn, bow strings being pulled taut and arrows knocked, was drowned out by a rumbling of another kind. One that shook the earth, not unlike the dragon as it paraded through Lake-town, so sure that he would not be slain by its inhabitants. All armies look on in shock as Wereworms plough skywards through the rock and earth just a short way from the ruins of Dale.
Then out come the orcs, hoards of them pooling onto the battle field like spilt ink on a fresh page or blood from a fatal wound.
Glorfindel snatches Erin’s shoulder, forcing her to face him: “Go back to Dale,” he says sternly, “Stay there and be safe.”
“I am not going to Dale, I’m needed here!” She cries.
“I will not let you stay here just to die; you will be safe in Dale. Take Master Baggins with you, and stay out of harm’s way.”
At the mention of Bilbo Baggins, he was currently querying the Grey wizard; “Uh, Gandalf… Is this a good place to stand?” The Elves around him were marching to battle.
A horn sounds not far away, one that does not belong to the Elves, the Men, or the Dwarves.
It belongs to the Orcs, and upon its being heard, their forces split into two factions; one that traverses the yellowed grass towards the mountain, and another that marches upon the defenceless ruins of Dale. The fighting inhabitants of Lake-town, Bard, Gandalf and Bilbo all rush to try and cut the orcish forces off before they can infiltrate the city; Erin being pushed along by a fretting Glorfindel in hot pursuit of the group, with the twins leisurely loping behind the Balrog slayer and his young charge. Now they have no choice but to fight, and the Elves of Rivendell want answers.
“You will explain yourself immediately, why you would wish to remain on a battlefield is beyond me,” Glorfindel demanded of his charge as he drew his sword ready for an imminent attack from the orcs.
“Mr Grey brought me here to change things. You know of Thorin’s quest I take it?”
“You have mentioned it before, and yes, I knew it wouldn’t end well considering Mithrandir is involved,” Thranduil’s troops tense, as do the trio of Rivendell natives. The orcs will be upon them soon, and Erin must work quickly to thread together a plan. Three lives, out of the countless many that would be lost, would be the worst to befall this battle. For a family, a mother left in Ered Luin to worry over her sons and only remaining brother, and a Royal line of succession, desolation would befall them all if Erin couldn’t stop the blood of three very important individuals from being spilt amongst the ranks. She draws her sword at the sound of panicked screams rising in the distance. The orcs have breached the city walls. They will soon be upon them, and the slaughter will commence. Elladan and Elrohir step in front of the Balrog-slayer and the Elf-friend, giving them more time to talk and to protect them from the incoming enemies.
“The three of them- Thorin and his heirs- they’re going to die in this battle. I have to stop it from happening,” she says, eyes widening as Thranduil’s troops begin to hack down the orc forces as though they were weeding a garden quite leisurely one sunny afternoon.
“The Valar won’t take kindly to being duped; though they and Mithrandir have brought you along to change the course of events, equal payment must be offered in return for their survival,” Glorfindel states, eyes hardening.
“This was where the quest failed before. All three died before others could step in, they’ll be up on the Ravenhill shortly, but it will only lead to their doom.” Elladan and Elrohir push back some of the orcs that have slipped through the twirling and whirling blades of Thranduil’s soldiers; slashing and ultimately ending the evil spawn before they can wreak more havoc in the ruins of Dale or on the battlefield before the front gates or Erebor.
“Were they warned?”
“I don’t know, but they must have been lured their by something!” Erin replies, thrusting out her short sword and piercing it through an orc’s jugular as it slithers past Elrohir’s reach.
“Good jab,” the twin commends her, decapitating the next orc that comes too close.
Erin shakes the black blood off of the tip of her blade, her face contorting into a wry smile; “Will the three of you be able to help me then- I know you heard everything, Elladan, Elrohir; I’m going to need your help if I want to succeed.”
For the next few minutes they fight as a well-tuned quartet, protecting one another from harm.
“How-“ Elladan starts, but cuts off his speech to block the falling blade of yet another countless orc, using quite some force to make it stumble back with its grubby arms flailing and sending a quick stab to the weak point in its armour- just in the underarm. “-Are we going to get to the top of Ravenhill?”
After pondering on this, Glorfindel begins to whistle.
“…nin gwerianneg!”, “You betrayed me!”
“Gwaur Orvelethron!”, “Filthy Orc lover!”
“…aníron gen haded min noer Orodruin!”, “I want to hurl you into the fires of Mount Doom-”
“-Baw, gen hedithon min noer Orodruin!”, “-No, I’m going to throw you into the fires of Mount Doom!”
“Thiach uanui a naneth gín gen hamma!”, “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you!”
I admit to having way too much fun finding those insults...
Chapter 19: The Battle of the Five Armies
“Have you thought of an ending?"
"Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant."
― J.R.R. Tolkien,
‘The Fellowship of the Ring’
Through the skirmishing Men, Elves and Orcs, one shrill cry is heard.
The single war cry of a horse obeying his master…
As Erin and the Elves of Rivendell kept pushing back their enemies, dealing them lethal blows when they could, and merely incapacitating them when they were too close for comfort, Glorfindel’s trusted steed and the two horses Elladan and Elrohir had ridden, cantered brusquely through the fighting; leaping over carcasses and tall walls of battling masses in smooth, effortless bascules. Asfolath lead the other two horses, and they filed directly towards the quartet where they were cutting down the orcs, their hooves clattering on the stone walkways.
“This is how you’re planning on getting us up the mountain?” Erin said dubviously.
“Have you ever known Asfaloth to fail in carrying me anywhere?” Glorfindel replies, his sword quickly swinging up to block the blow of an oncoming orcish blade; swiftly, a small Elven dagger is released from its decorative hilt, wrapped about his waist with an equally patterned leather belt. It jabs soundlessly into the orc he was fighting’s throat, and the attacker stumbles backward, gargling and grasping his neck.
“No, but he’s probably not galloped up a steep mountainside without a path before.”
“Oh, so you doubt him?”
“Never-“ Erin slashes her short sword, felling the orc nearest to her, and her golden-haired guardian takes advantage of her momentary distraction.
“Good!” Glorfindel says cheerily, dispatching another orc.
The horses are close now, their nostrils flaring, and feet stamping impatiently. Their tack jangles, and it is a delicate sound compared to the clash and harsh reality of battle. This was it, Erin thought, this is the Battle of the Five Armies.
“When will they head towards Ravenhill?” Ellrohir calls over his shoulder. Black blood has sprayed across the left half of his face.
“Ravenhill? Who’s going to Ravenhill?” Erin, unbecomingly, jumps at the voice beside her; and a quick glance to her left confirms that it was indeed Bilbo Baggins whom had snuck up on her.
“Thorin and Co, Bilbo-“ she eventually replied, tussling with another orc. No reprieve from the constant fighting seemed to be coming, and despite the short time in which the battle had progressed, Erin felt her breath come in fits and starts; her strength slowly sapping away.
“How do you know where they’re going to be?” The Hobbit inquires, drawing Sting from his waste and waving the small Elven blade wildly in the hopes of fending off an orcish attacker.
“I…” Erin is at a loss. She had not told them of her otherworldliness, and the presentation of her foreknowledge to Glorfindel earlier confirmed her suspicions that Mr Grey had not truly informed the Elves of why she was there, in Middle Earth, fighting on this very day for change. “I can‘t exactly explain it all now Bilbo- I can’t. Soon though.”
The Hobbit frowns, “Why not?”
“I just can’t! What I can explain is that Bolg- or rather Azog now (why does he still exist?!) is going to lure them to Ravenhill. We’re going to lose them all if we don’t manage to stop them Bilbo.”
Asfaloth, finally closing near to his Master, shrilly cries out again. The heart-wrenching sound makes the hairs on Erin’s arms stand erect, and a shiver tremor through her spine.
“We must leave soon, Ettelëa; if we are to reach the top before them,” Glorfindel states, eyes fixed on a solitary snow-capped peak in the distance, also known as Ravenhill. Asfaloth whinnies impatiently, and Elladan and Elrohir’s horses stamp their feet in unanimous agreement. Above the rage of battle, the screams, the clank of weapon meeting weapon, a horn sounds. As one, the Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, Men, a solitary wizard and one Hobbit; the latter of which was very far from home, look towards the source of the sound.
There stands a Pale Orc. Fearsome, relentless, and patiently apprehensive about felling his enemies, he surveys the battle and commands it with levers, pulleys and signals atop a high nook where the battlefield can be viewed like one can survey a game board. He places his pieces, his troops, in position as the wooden contraptions contort- signalling to specific squadrons of his forces or to areas they must be in.
“We must leave now, mount up,” Glorfindel hisses, reaching to snag Asfaloth’s reins with his right hand.
Bilbo discreetly moves away from Erin and the Elves of Imladris in order to find Gandalf, whom was watching on as a monstrous troll is felled by one inexperienced survivor of Lake-town with a single spear; “We may yet survive this yet…”
“Gandalf!” The Shireling cried, “Its Thorin!”
The Maia looks quickly at his small friend, then into the distance, through a small gap in the crumbling outer wall of the ruins of Dale, and he spots four riders atop large horned rams bred for battle, heading up the mountainside towards Ravenhill: “And Fili, Kíli...and Dwalin. He’s taking his best warriors!”
“To do what?” Bilbo exclaims.
“Exactly as Ettelea told you, Master Hobbit,” said Elladan, or was it Elrohir- Bilbo wasn’t sure, “He’s going to try and get rid of Azog and his son. But he cannot do it alone.”
“It is time then for Erin to do her job?” Gandalf inquired solemnly.
“Yes, Mithrandir.” He watches as Glorfindel lifts Erin onto Asfaloth, and as the golden haired Elf swiftly mounts up behind her. He watches Elrohir try to hold his brother’s horse steady in the melee of fighting Men, Elves and Orcs.
Gandalf painfully takes one last look at the young girl he had brought forth to change everything, and winces furiously, turning his head away. He sucks in a deep breath; “You must go with them, Bilbo.”
“They need your help, Bilbo Baggins. More than they could possibly know…” Bilbo looks impossibly small, his coat is too large; the meagre amounts of food given on the journey, as well as a lack of seven Hobbit mealtimes meant he had lost far too much weight for one of his race.
With impossibly rounded eyes, the Hobbit asks: “Why do they need my help?”
Gandalf answers gravely; “Because they are going to die.”
This page no longer exists. It is far too painful to ever be read, so therefore, it should never be read.
And if it shouldn’t be read, it shouldn’t exist.
This page is blank, and mind-numbing- as should voids be. Should this page have been torn out of the book, it is an acknowledgment of something prior, something so unwanted that it has to physically be ripped away.
It is not acknowledged, and so meticulously slowly each letter, punctuation mark, and page number, has slid from whence it was first printed, from where it was bound inside the hardcover book.
They slipped from out of place, like how silk slinks off of a surface; suspended precariously, then suddenly as though a heavy weight was forcing this irreproachable mark on the paper to fall from a peculiar source of grievous gravity.
Like decayed blossoms on a spring-time tree descend, each vowel, consonant, number, and piece of punctuation float away; never to be seen again.
All that is left is white.
“They’re going to what now-?” Bilbo manages to screech before he’s plucked from the ground and tucked under Elladan’s arm, then hastily placed in front of Elrohir atop his horse, as the former tin mounts and settles himself into the seat of his saddle.
“Good luck to you, Erin Walsh!” Gandalf calls as the trio of horses gallop away, bounding through the ruins of the city of Dale, and joining an uncharted path in the mountains in pursuit of Thorin, his heirs and Dwalin. “You’re going to need it.”
The brusque wind and sections of Asfaloth’s main whipped Erin’s face as they travelled as fast as they dared up the mountainside. The horses were not as nimble as the rams, and so the pursuit riders quickly lost sight of the four they were tracking. As Asfaloth encountered another section of rock he would have to leap over, Erin was thrown back in the saddle and knocked her head against Glorfindel’s silver breastplate.
“What is your plan?” Her Elven guardian murmured in her ear, leaning lower in his seat in order to do so.
“We’ll need to keep them safe. I presume the twins can watch over Fili and Kíli?” She felt Glorfindel shift in the saddle behind her, and took that as her cue to continue, “That leaves Bilbo, you and myself to keep Thorin and Dwalin safe.”
“A good plan indeed. But what about the Pale Orc?” Glorfindel said, thinking back to the tall brute he’d seen signalling to the orc forces on the battle field, “He will not be so easily defeated.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes, I suppose,” Erin replied loudly, for though the rider behind her had wondrous Elven hearing, she still felt she should raise her voice against the violent winds that swept away her speech before it was fully heard.
“That may be sooner rather than later though, Ettelea-“
“Speaking of sooner, we’re going to lose them if we don’t hurry up.” Glorfindel sighs, though his young charge does not hear it. He leans forward, bending stiffly around Erin’s small frame (his armour was restrictive, and so he lost some of the fluency his movements and actions held). Relinquishing the reins to his left hand, the right hand reaches to pat Asfaloth’s neck, and the steadfast steed flicks his ears back as if to listen. “Noro lim, Asfaloth,” Glorfindel commands, “Noro lim!”
He was stumbling home half drunk when it happened:
His wife had clonked him roughly round the head with one of his own slippers he’d begged her to fetch from the hall the same morning the papers released the article. She hadn’t been so happy that he had been drinking that night; and that he had made a fool of himself too… she had been so ashamed.
It didn’t stop him from nipping to the pub occasionally though.
Okay, maybe not occasionally, perhaps more frequently than his wife would have liked.
On this particular night, he was incredibly sloshed, and had stumbled from the local Public House and made his way up the lane- wobbling in the middle of the road as he went. “Lahk fyre ih t’was,” he slurred as he stood outside and looked upon the house where Greyhame Grey once resided.
Now the old goat was gone and that youngster of Cathy and Pete’s lost with him.
He’d caused this public humiliation.
The man snorted, which tipped his head just a might too far back- setting into motion his flailing arms as his balance wavered. It was to little avail, as his wind-milling arms could not keep him from falling backwards into the road and landing spread eagled on the tarmac. He giggled to the stars; “Lahk fyre ih t’was!” He shouted it this time. Then came a cry, so sharp and piercing, accompanied with incessant beating of twelve individual drums. Horse hooves, not drums, his inebriated mind informed him. Lazily, the man turned his head, and watched three horses race up the road. His mind was beginning to scream that he should move, roll out of harm’s way at least, but instead, he stayed put. There was something familiar about the person sat in front of another rider, the one of the scarily large grey horse currently barrelling towards him.
“Eye know yoooou!” The drunk man screamed, still on his back in the middle of the road but pointing at the tall blonde haired rider- was it a woman?, and the smaller dark haired rider in front of the blonde. “I know you…”
The trio showed no intention of stopping, the grey horse carrying the blonde and the dark haired person realising that leaping over his prone form was the only way past him released what sounded like the equestrian equivalent of a war-cry and lunged over his body boldly, with the other two following suit. The drunken man rolled on his other side, wanting to watch the horses touch down again; wanting to see if he was right that it was Cathy and Pete’s daughter that the grey horse was carrying. But by the time he had done so, the horses had gone…
...If they had even landed from their short flight at all.
Chapter 20: A splitting thread
“Most gods throw dice,
but Fate plays chess,
and you don't find out ‘til too late t
hat he's been playing with two queens all along.”
– Terry Pratchett
“Oh, the queen of peace
Always does her best to please
Is it any use?
Somebody's ‘gotta lose
Like a long scream
Out there, always echoing
Oh, what is it worth?
All that's left is hurt
Like the stars chase the sun
Over the glowing hill,
I will conquer
Blood is running deep
Some things never sleep…”
– ‘Queen of Peace’,
Florence + the Machine
Asfaloth’s hooves slip on the smooth ice, his hocks near parallel with the treacherous surface as Glorfindel pulls him to a halt.
The Elves, Erin and Bilbo dismount, the former three drawing their weapons instantaneously, and scouring the surrounding for enemies lurking on the snow topped crags of rock that enclosed Ravenhill.
“Will you please explain to me what is going on?” Bilbo demanded shakily. The brisk gallop and rough ride up the mountainside had rattled him; the knowledge of three imminent deaths another cause of his unease.
“We don’t have the time to explain it all Bilbo,” Erin sighed, “But trust me on this- we have to save them. We have to before it’s too late.”
Elrohir lazily twirls his sword in his hand, admiring how the sunlight glances off of the silver blade; “What do you need us to do?”
“If you and Elladan can keep an eye out for Fili and Kíli- the youngest ones, they’re blonde and brunette-“ she stops as they nod. “Go now, we’ll watch over Thorin and Dwalin… and… Thank you.”
The twins grin and sprint away, their footsteps silent and deft on the ice.
Dwalin felt uneasy.
Battle was never a place to underestimate your fear; fear kept you sane, it kept you alive. But being uneasy was never a good prelude to incoming combat. It foretold something stronger than fear, something that one cannot control. It was that what made him uneasy.
Fili and Kíli believed that Azog had fled, and yes, the theory did make sense; Ravenhill was deserted whence they dismounted the battle rams, but unlike the deathly atmosphere of a ruin, the nooks and crannies and tunnels all spoke of suspicion. When a drop of melted ice collapsed after being heated by the sun, Dwalin spun and drew his axes so quickly he was panting. His eyes were wide and steeled; Ravenhill was not deserted. It was a trap- he could feel it!
“Scout out the towers. Keep low and out of sight. If you see something; report back, do not engage - do you understand?!” Thorin warned his nephews, and they nodded tensely in affirmation.
Out of the corner of his eye, Dwalin saw the blur of one large- or was it two- dark figure, and tightened his grasp on his axes. They were fleeting shapes, but passed by without harm, so he dismissed them as enemies; he chalked it down to his vision from the periphery not being clear, and one of the rams they had taken to scale the mountainside off on another jolly without a rider to control it.
Then the scuttling commenced, and Dwalin knew he was right to be unnerved by Ravenhill: “We have company; goblin mercenaries. No more than a hundred.”
Thorin, who was watching his nephews run as gracefully as they could over the frozen river, prepared to meet the hordes. His mouth made a grim line.
“Remenu…” Thorin murmured, drawing his own sword and missing the weight of Orcrist in his hand.
“Remenu,” Dwalin agreed, and with a swing of his arm, the goblin that was nearest had his head cleaved.
The pair fought back to back, protecting one another, the goblins coming thick and fast. It seemed that they would be overwhelmed soon, but salvation was on its way.
“Bilbo draw your sword now!” Erin shouted, grasping for an arrow from her quiver, loading it to her bow and letting it fly. It hits a goblin that had lunged at Dwalin, who was too preoccupied by the others to notice the opportunistic attacker.
“Wha’ was that!” Dwalin roars.
Thorin does not answer straight away; too busy fending off the goblins before they are both over run.However, when he looks towards where the arrow was shot, he sucks in a deep breath. “Help,” Thorin replies, and smiling viciously, he slashes outwards with his sword.
Elladan and Elrohir were watching.
The Dwarven- blonde and brunette as Ettelea had told them, brothers were scouring through the tunnel networks of Ravenhill, but they had not noticed the orcs milling about them. The brothers conversed, the golden haired Dwarf dropping his head closer to the others’ ear and whispering something, and then he heads off deeper into the tunnels. The other Dwarf, the brunette looks on worriedly, but soon shakes himself and stalks away in the opposite direction, looping around to what the twins thought to be the other side of the rock face.
One brother however had ascended, and the other descended.
“I think it ample time to depart, Elladan.”
“Top or bottom?” Elladan replies.
“Top, of course,” says Elrohir, and lopes off after Fili.
It was as though engaging in combat had become engrained in Erin’s very bones.
Nock the arrow.
Draw the string back.
Anchor your finger beneath your chin or at the corner of your mouth.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Ever so gradually she was running out of arrows, because as one goblin fell, another took its place almost instantly; and quivers didn’t automatically refill, much to Erin’s chagrin. Crafting arrows didn’t happen via magic either, as she knew fully- having made arrow shafts and fletched them with Glorfindel when he felt especially sadistic. The goblins would swarm and she would shoot them down one by one as another came for her-
Until, however, one didn’t.
Erin felt numb. Apart from the targets in the training grounds of Imladris, or when on slow periods of their journey to Lothlorien where Glorfindel had taught her how to track and hunt down game, Erin had not used her bow in a defensive manner- not in battle, at least. It was disgusting, and bloody; if she didn’t get a clean shot at weak spots in their shoddy armour or on their sparsely protected bodies they were cleaved by Dwalin, Thorin or Glorfindel. Severed limbs and corpses littered the icy floor of Ravenhill, black blood seeping into the frozen ground in the same manner a sponge absorbs water- like a parched throat starved of water and desperate to drink.
It made her feel nauseous, and with her stomach churning, she went to grasp one last arrow but a gentle hand on her shoulder stayed the action.
“They’re all gone Erin,” Glorfindel said gently, looking into her wide eyes; the pupils fully dilated in the midst of a battle-haze, “You can stop now, little one. They’re gone.”
Erin closed her eyes, inhaling slowly so that her lungs shuddered and her body began to shake.
“They’re gone, everyone’s safe,” Glorfindel continued, wrapping an arm around her, “They’re safe.”
“Not yet,” she replied in a mere whisper.
The lass was rattled, Dwalin could see that. But she was here helping them, and it made him feel warm.
Well, warm in a sense, he supposed- though he had no idea as to why. It wasn’t the same warmth you’d feel if you’d just stepped in front of a roaring fire after escaping the cold, nor was it the same burn you felt if you rushed drinking tea or caught yourself on the glowing red embers when forging. It was like nothing he’d felt before; like blushing crimson but the shame not appearing on your cheeks or turning your ears scarlet. This warmth wasn’t embarrassment or shame though- it felt good, and that was why he was left so confused. The blonde Elf was still speaking to her, waiting for her glassy eyes to return to their normal dark and soft state.
Not that Dwalin stared into her eyes.
Nor would he admit he rather got used to looking in them while they shared a cell in the Elvenking’s dungeons.
“It’s okay, I’m okay now,” he heard her say to the Elf, whom squeezed her tighter in return. Dwalin bristled, angry for some reason beyond him.
“They are gone for now,” Thorin said, clapping him on the shoulder and causing him to start, “But no doubt that more will come. We must find Fili and Kíli.”
“That’s why we’re here,” Bilbo (who had been watching on for some time, his little letter opener stained black with goblin blood) said, “Azog had lured you here, planned to kill you all whilst you didn’t have your Iron Hills-backup to hand.”
Dwalin felt a the weight of a stone sink inside of him. His prior worry had been just, and now they had left Fili and Kíli to fend for themselves whilst scouting out the Pale Orc. Thorin realised as much, shock making all of the colour drain out of his face, and he murmured his nephew’s names though what good that would do.
“Elladan and Elrohir are on it,” the not-Elf-child reassured them, and Dwalin felt some small sense of relief.
“Who?” Thorin inquired desperately.
“They are the sons of Elrond,” the blonde Elf told him, and Dwalin recalled the twin blur that he saw before, but passed off as one of the rams, “We split up, and they are currently tracking your heirs.”
“We need to get moving though, and see if they’re alright,” Erin said, and Thorin nodded gravely. He turned and stalked off over the goblin carcasses, Bilbo and the Elf trailing behind him. Dwalin made to follow, but a small hand snagged his arm, “I need to talk to you.”
“You wer’ right,” he suddenly blurted, and felt his face flush. Erin raised an eyebrow.“You wer’ right- about Erebor, and I-“
“Should have listened to me?”
“Aye.” They survey the ruined bodies of the goblins, and listen as the battle rages below.
Then Erin says, “I lied.”
“About Thorin falling to gold sickness. That wasn’t the worst that could happen, because its happening now if I don’t do anything about it.”
“Wha’ are you talking about, lass?” Dwalin frowned.
She took in a great deep breath and released it, and he took a great delight in watching as how the cold air reacted to the warm puff escaping from her frail little body; forming a weak misty cloud before dissipating into nothing again.
“I mean, that while we’re here to stop proceedings from happening the way they should with Azog, there’s a chance I could fail and it will happen again.”
“I mean, that my plan could fail, and the line of Durin will be wiped out.”
Dwalin felt angry, just like he had been when she told him about the gold sickness in the cell, but now no bars could contain him, and instead of pacing around his prison he had all the space to storm off and leave Erin’s delusions behind. She may have been right about Thorin’s impending madness, but there was no way that his leader, his friend would fall now. He didn’t at Azanulbizar, and he certainly wouldn’t now when home was so close in his grasp. The not-Elf-child was delusional, and he would have no part of this, warm feeling she gave him or no.
In his rage, he’d turned his back on the girl, and didn’t notice her picking up a small rock; concealing it in her palm. Erin now knew she had been wrong to divulge her knowledge with Dwalin, the way he had reacted in the Elvenking’s cells had been an indicator; but she had hoped that wanting to save his King and the heirs would take precedence over his rage. She now knew better than to trust him with sensitive information, for Dwarves were brash and stubborn, unlike the Elves who were wise and pliable. Because she had been so utterly foolish, she would now have to rectify her mistake; though she never thought she’d have to do it in such a savage manner.
“I’m so sorry Dwalin,” Erin said far too loudly, walking quickly to him- and as he turned, no doubt to shout at her in frustration, she smacked him on the temple with the rock.
He dropped like a stone; the goblin corpses cushioned his body’s descent. “I’m sorry, but I need you safe just like them- and I can’t keep all of you safe if you’re distracted… I’m sorry, I’m so, so, sorry...” She tells his unconscious form.
Erin drops the rock she’d bludgeoned Dwalin with giving it a look of contempt, draws her short sword and marches off to find Glorfindel and the others- trying not to let the guilt of felling one she once considered a potential aid get to her, though she knew he was only concussed and not dead.
Dwalin’s temple begins to bleed, a steady trickle gracing the frozen ground that isn’t contaminated with goblin blood. It is sucked into the earth with not even a faint rosy stain left on the snow. The Valar are appeased.
Black ink momentarily mixes red. The page looks rather different. Red. It is red like love and passion and danger and a bloody death. Then it shimmers away, like the sighting of fish scales under water, or a magpie’s treasure, and soon the black ink returns.
“Where is Dwalin?” Thorin asks, as Erin re-joins them, and she winces, trying not to think of how easily she picked up a rock and struck the warrior with it.
“He said something about scouting around in case there were other goblins that had remained hidden,” she lied somewhat convincingly, though from the corner of her eye, she saw Glorfindel stiffen, “He told me to go on ahead and help you.”
Thorin however, did seem convinced by his old friend’s bogus thoughtfulness, and accepted Erin’s duplicities. The Dwarf marched on ahead over the ice, with the Hobbit shadowing him nervously.
“Where is the Dwarf?” Glorfindel said quietly, his eyes not leaving the horizon.
“Unconscious. He didn’t react well to the news so I thought it best to incapacitate him before the plan became a shambles.”
Glorfindel made an appraising noise in the back of his throat, his lips twitching into a smile. “He won’t be happy with you when he rouses.”
“But at least his King and the heirs won’t be dead.”
“True, true,” the Balrog-slayer concedes.
The Elf and his charge stride quickly after Thorin and Bilbo, who stand stock still staring up at an overhang of rock. As Erin’s eyes focus in on the figures above them, dread fills her.
Elrohir had doubled back, after finding that the blonde Dwarf had been captured by large Gundabad orcs. He would have to find an area with a clear vantage point in order to save him- his bow and arrows no use inside the twisting stone hallways of Ravenhill- the passageways altogether too narrow to do any damage with his sword.
Elladan had been slightly more successful, having tracked down the youngest Dwarf and made contact. Dwarves being the stubborn creatures that they were however, the youngling when discovering his brother was in danger refused to move from the spot he was standing in- so Elrohir resorted to throwing the Dwarf over his shoulder and swiftly running away to find Glorfindel and the others. This proved to be the correct thing to do, as he deposited the young Dwarf next to his Uncle.
“Fili is still up there!” The Dwarf cried, clutching at his Uncle’s braids; not realising that his brother hung above him in the precarious grip of Azog the Defiler.
“I know, I know- it’s a trap- it’s”
“He’s still up there Irak’Adad! He’s still up there with them!”
“As is Elladan, my own brother, Master Dwarf,” Elrohir tells them gravely, “But I must trust in his ability not to get himself killed.”
Azog, still watching from the overhand of rock laughs darkly; and Fili, whom was attached to the Pale Orc’s grasping metal hand is thrown back and forth in Azog’s humour. Then the Pale Orc begins to speak, in a dark gravelly tone that makes them all want to shiver. Fili is shook again, just to show those watching him below how weak and helpless he is in the Pale Orc’s clutches.
“Go!” Thorin’s first heir shouts, feeling tears brimming in his eyes. Kíli was down there- Kíli was safe now, as was Thorin. They were safe, and Fili could die now happily knowing they wouldn’t be harmed. Thorin, instead of fleeing, took a step forward. “No!” Fili screamed, and Azog laughed cruelly again, “No! Run!”
With Thorin and the others- KíliBilboErinElfElfKíliKíliKíliWhere’sDwalinKíliThorinKíli- still watching, Azog began to lift his free hand; the hand that held a sword and attempted to stab the oldest heir through the neck with it.
Or he would have done, if two arrows hadn’t hit his sword arm and then almost instantaneously his left ankle.
It was the work of Elladan, whom had found a nook in the rocks in which to take aim with his bow- causing the Pale Orc’s distraction. The Pale Orc began to stumble, roaring blindly in pain, and dropped Fili. Too quick for Erin and the other’s eyes, Glorfindel raced to catch the blonde Dwarf. Scooping him up in his arms before Fili had chance to hit the ground, Glorfindel breathes a sigh of relief. They had managed to save two of them so far; now all Erin had to do was find a way to remove the threat of the Pale Orc forever more. The elf carried him to the others where promptly Kíli clung to his brother, and Thorin engulfed the embracing pair in his own arms and inhaling deep, reassured breaths.
Soon, Elladan re-joined the others on the ground, silently evading the raging orcs whom were stationed above him.
“Thank you,” Thorin said to the Elves, his throat oddly choked with gratitude; something he never thought would happen in the presence of Eru’s first creations.
“It was no trouble,” said Elf replied, as his brother embraced him in relief. Azog, still roaring in Black speech, but missing the arrows once lodged in his forearm and ankle, due to the Pale Orc ripping them out the instance that he realised he had been robbed of an easy opportunity to kill off one of the heirs of Durin, barked out a garbled command to his forces. He gesticulated wildly with his hooked metal hand to where the Elves, Dwarves, Bilbo and Erin were stood.
“Ooh-“ crowed Elrohir.
“That can’t be good,” summarised Elladan.
Erin swallows thickly, “No… Whatever it was he’s just told them to do, it most certainly won’t be pleasant for us.”
“Let him come,” Oakenshield rumbled with a fire in his voice; his arms still wrapped around his nephews in the fiercest of hugs, “I’ll kill the bastard before he can ever think about ending Durin’s line.”
Glorfindel shares a terse look with Erin, who winces.
She then turns to Thorin and says; “You won’t be the one to slay the defiler; he’ll be after you, Fili and Kíli the moment he gets down here.”
“You cannot deny me of this-“ Thorin spat.
Glorfindel bristles, “She is here to save the lives of both your nephews and yourself; I suggest you do as she instructs!”
The Dwarves freeze.
“What… what do you mean?” Kíli asked slowly.
Erin locks eyes with him, in the same manner she had when he first insulted her in Rivendell over the meaning of her name; “It means that if not for Elladan’s interference on my instruction before, your brother would already be dead-as would you be.”
They can see that she is serious, and for Kíli the realisation that he nearly lost his brother, and in fact should have lost him solidifies the tense wavering trust placed in Erin Walsh and pacifies his worries for now, the ‘Foreign Peace’ he’d met and snubbed in the Last Homely House East of the sea dissuading his need to fight and prove himself, and instead now all Kíli son of Dis wanted to do was protect those he held close. He gulps, not looking at his brother or uncle, for surely they are feeling the same resignation that he does: “What will you have us do?”
Erin smiles, “I need someone to wipe out Bolg and the other orcs. I was going to suggest Glorfindel help me take down Azog, but he’s going to have to go with you all to help even out the numbers.”
“You cannot fight the Pale Orc on your own,” Glorfindel snaps.
“I don’t have a choice- and Dwalin isn’t here, so he might arrive on time to give me some help.” There is a commotion to their right. The orcs Azog had summoned to Ravenhill with him are on their way to dispatch them. They are in view, and ready to charge at the eight of them. “Go, quickly. The Pale Orc will be here next, and the sooner you’re out of his way, the better.”
“How do you know he’ll come straight for you?” Was the worried question of Bilbo.
“I just know, so go!” Erin calls with a twisted smile, her arms flapping in a shooing motion.
When the seven of them depart, Erin chances a glance up to the ledge where Azog was stood before. He is still there, breathing heavily as though he were inhaling the rage that was so evident on his face. Blood dripped from his arm and ankle, forming a morbid pool around his feet. The fate of Middle Earth was now held by a splitting thread- one that unless properly sorted and woven anew would continue to fester and knot, and reassert itself into a great tapestry of being. There was no going back for Erin; though she knew the Valar would want equal payment in blood for the lives of the Line of Durin, she had no idea whom it meant. The blood of three who were worthy in replacement of those destined to die. She would be one of the three; she did not know whom would be the other two to offer their blood.
Still, Erin had other things to dwell on than angry deities, surviving the wrath of Azog the defiler was a priority she held in a cue before blood payment. Erin smirked, and the Pale Orc bared his teeth in return.
The fight had begun.
Dwalin had the mightiest of headaches.
It was as though Mahal had smote him with his hammer, or as though he’d been trampled by a heard of Oliphaunt’s. With a grunt he sat upright and upon feeling his head spin, he released the most pitiful of whines. Using his clumsy fingers, he felt for the source of his discomfort and discovered a large bump by his temple. It was wet, and warm. He looked at his hand. Blood. He checked the ground beside him, and there was no pool of the liquid where his head had been lain. So where had it come from- Erin. He distinctly remembered sharing heated words, turning his back, her soft apology, then nothing. A sharp pain was all he had felt before his vision turned black.
When I see her again I’m going to kill the little shi-
But where was Thorin? Where was Bilbo, and dare he say it, the Elf?
Surrounding him were the corpses of the goblin mercenaries, and the sounds of battle raging on he could hear even over the hazy ringing in his head. There was no other sign of life.
I’ve got to find them.
In hindsight, Erin should have asked Glorfindel to stay. The Elf she had come to see as a parental figure, and not just a temporary guardian had far more battle experience than she, and was utterly right in thinking that the Pale Orc was someone she could not fight on her own.
Erin was thoroughly outmatched.
As she had expected, Azog wanted revenge for her scuppering of his plans, and had bypassed the skirmish of orcs, Elves, Dwarves and one Hobbit, heading directly to where she waited. The frozen river was their fighting arena, albeit a slippery one and soon they started to circle one another; Azog with his sword in hand, and an already swinging mace attacked to his shabby metal hook. Erin had drawn her short sword, took a deep breath, and ducked under the chain of the mace as it passed over her head in its revolution.
With the speed that can only be outmatched by an Elf, and something Erin did not think she possessed though she had trained with the former, she slashed out when close to the Pale Orc; slicing across his left thigh quite deeply. He stumbled, dropping his mace with such a force it cracked through the thick ice with such finality- like a bone snapping or a dropped glass that has shattered on the floor. He roared, and the sound was both disturbing and deliciously rewarding to her. She went in for the kill, in Azog’s preoccupation she was partially unnoticed, and-
Bilbo Baggins, a once respectable Hobbit of the Shire whom came from a family of impeachable character, had become many things during his time with Thorin’s Company on the road to Erebor. He had come from under the Hill, and on his journey walked over and under his fair share of hills even bigger than the one his family smial was built in in the Shire. He had become one who walked unseen, a clue-finder, a web-cutter, and a barrel rider to name a few.
One thing he had never adapted to however was the constant need to fight.
There were many orcs swarming them, but they were cut down quickly by the Elves or the Dwarves, leaving Bilbo quite redundant. Every now and then though, he would need to assist one of the others, a quick slice to the lower more reachable parts of the orcs while the one he was aiding lopped a limb off or slit a main artery was the extent of Bilbo’s involvement in the skirmish.
Bilbo had mourned for the loss of his red jacket, as it had been sullied with all manners of frightful and disgusting things, and now, the blue jacket he had been gifted in Lake-town- with its tattered patches and long sleeves he’d rolled up a few times in order to be able to move freely, was more black with each spray of hot orc blood that fell than its original dark blue. He was happy to help the others when he could, but when an orc snuck through their swishing swords and axes, they didn’t seem to notice his struggle.
The orc had him disarmed and fumbling on the icy ground trying to reach Sting, before the orc then sauntered over slowly in reach of him. It was futile, and the orc new this; snarling gleefully as Bilbo shivered on the floor, defenceless. The Hobbit closed his eyes, and lifted one of his overly large feet as a means of protection. The orc’s blade cut through the thick leathery sole of his foot in a rugged gash, causing Bilbo to squeal piercingly.
Glorfindel, upon hearing this, pivoted with all the grace of a dancer and lopped the orc’s head off. The Elf bent down and scooped the Hobbit up, placing Bilbo on his feet.
“Find some shelter, and wrap your foot. Quickly go, we are almost done here,” Bilbo was told, and weakly he nods, collecting Sting from nearby and hobbling gingerly to safety.
As he walks, the blood flows thickly from the arch of his foot- a most painful location in which to be injured. Though the wound is flowing steadily, and Bilbo tries to distribute the weight on his foot so that his movement is not so painful, no blood marks his footsteps on the ground. The earth – the Valar, are thirsty. With one more sip their thirsting will be quenched, and the desire for blood payment sated.
A quick punch in Erin’s ribs- directly on the spot where she had been hurt not so long ago, though it seemed awfully like a lifetime away, had her folding in half on the cracking ice and Azog snarling over her. Her attempt to kill the Pale Orc swiftly while he had dropped his mace had failed, and now she faced a struggle to survive; as neither party was determined to fail.
Scrambling back and only just managing to bring her sword up in time to block the attack Azog launched at her, Erin began to panic. There was no ways she could defeat him on her own; and despite being injured in three places, the Pale Orc still stood tall and fierce- ignoring the blood dripping from his ankle, arm and thigh as though he had not been wounded in the first place. Yet though these injuries had an invisible effect on him, they were shallow; and it was unlikely that she could distract him and not get killed for long enough, so that he inadvertently exhausted himself and bled to death on the ice.
Erin would have to strike again, quickly and deeply, if she was to make it out of this encounter alive.
She steeled herself, and began to run, both hands clutching the grip of her sword tightly in anticipation. With a cry, she ducked below a swing of Azog’s sword and thrust the blade into his belly; using as much strength as she could muster to force it through the Pale Orc’s thick torso so that it exited his back.
He roared in pain, and Erin smirked, yanking her sword back out and twisting it with a slight movement of her wrist so that it churned the insides of Azog the Defiler even more. As the sword was fully withdrawn, Erin began to laugh and tipped her head back to show the sky the tasteless mirth she was experiencing as Azog began to gargle, blood trailing from his mouth.
But the Pale Orc still had fight left in him, and during his little remainder of life, he made sure to stab Erin Walsh through the chest.
“Remenu…” (Khuzdul) “To arms…”
“Irak’Adad!” (Khuzdul) “Uncle!”
Chapter 21: Rasup gamut
“I saw the light fade from the sky
On the wind I heard a sigh
As the snowflakes cover
My fallen brothers
I will say this last goodbye
Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Over hill and under tree
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the sea
Under cloud, beneath the stars
Over snow and winter's morn
I turn at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me,
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell
Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don't regret
Nor will I forget
All who took that road with me
Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Over hill, and under tree
Through lands where never light has shone
By silver streams that run down to the sea
To these memories I will hold
With your blessing I will go
To turn at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me,
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell
I bid you all a very fond farewell”
– ‘The Last Goodbye’,
It was as though a heavy weight had been lifted from the earth they stood on. The orcs the Dwarves, Elves and Bilbo had been fighting hesitated and trembled, feeling the unknown force so different to the darkness they had become seduced with wash over them. Those whom the orcs were battling against embraced it, feeling warm and protected, and moved against their foes; cutting them down easily in their distraction. There was a finality about this sensation- as though a decision to take one path instead of the other at the fork in the road had been made, or as if a thread had been cut.
There was no going back.
“She has done it,” Glorfindel said gravely, “Though what it has cost her I cannot tell.”
“Who’s done what?” Fili asked, whiping sweat and orc blood from his face. Corpses littered the floor around the six; three Elves and three Dwarves united and waging war on the opposition as tenuous allies.
“Erin has defeated the Pale Orc, she has saved you, but I do not know what she has bartered in exchange for your own fate,” the Balrog slayer told them all, in a morose tone of voice. The Dwarves exchange worried glances, Elladan and Elrohir looking to the Balrog-slayer pensively.
“Please, explain,” implored Thorin, uncertainty softening his voice. He wanted answers, but after seeing the dejected expression on the golden-haired Ellon’s face, thought better of brash interrogation. There, was the picture of a concerned parent, or of a relative whom only moths before wished their love one off to war safely, knowing that they would not return as they once went, or if they said person would come back at all. Thorin knew that face well; it had been Dis’s, as they went to fight before the long forsaken gates of Moria, and then later as she watched him lead her sons on what many thought a fruitless journey to reclaim a kingdom of old.
“In order to save you all, payment must be offered of equal value to the Valar- the forces of Middle Earth that are beyond you or I, especially your own creator Aulë demanded you be saved; hence why Ettelëa was brought here in the first place. She was chosen, and watched over by Gandalf the Grey, whom travelled between worlds to bring her here in order to assist you.” Glorfindel scans the surroundings, examining the crags carved into Ravenhill for enemies they have not yet dispatched. When he deems the area safe, he continues speaking: “The blood of three which are worthy in replacement of you and your heirs blood being shed, are the charges for saving lives and changing fate. This is what Erin has done. Bilbo Baggins, whom fought beside you and is currently hiding, was one of those to offer payment; though he does not yet know it. His foot was cut, and the Valar deemed him worthy. I do not know who else was sufficient enough to meet the Valar’s standards, but I believe Erin was the third.”
“You said that Bilbo only had a cut on the bottom of his foot?” Kíli inquired, “So why are you so worried for Erin?” It was plausible that if Bilbo had managed to escape with superficial wounds, that, although mildly irritating would heal quickly, that Erin had befallen the same fate.
“You forget who she was battling against,” Glorfindel stated to him, “It is likely that she has more than a scrape like Master Baggins achieved.”
All is quiet for a few moments, then:
“I know who the first was, to give their blood.”
All eyes turn to Thorin.
“Dwalin is not here, he may also be wounded.”
Glorfindel tried his best not to smirk, knowing that his young charge had knocked the Dwarf unconscious. Then, he turned in the direction to where they had left her, and he frowned.
Like water from a draining bath through the plughole.
There’s so much blood.
As though the taps have been turned on, or the flood gates opened- they are broken and irrevocably damaged.
There is no stopping the draining now.
Water now rose-pink, the water having diluted the pigmentation of the blood seeps into Mr Grey’s kitchen, spilling from the overflowing sink and flooding the floor. The tables and chairs are swept away in the torrent. The ugly mismatched tea service set dashed against the cupboards and shattered.
The book, once clean and fresh, that is now so tattered and torn and dirty, that at first survived but whose fate hangs in the balance is picked up by the rising current.
It is drowning. It is lost.
Pain lanced through Dwalin’s skull with each step he took, yet he was determined to find Thorin and the other’s before it was too late. He would battle on, even though his head pounded incessantly and his eyes felt fuzzy. From what he could tell, the group had moved on from the goblin mercenaries and engaged another foe in battle, because surely his kin wouldn’t leave him behind and Elves that rally to the aid of Dwarves can’t be all that bad?
For a while, all he found in his staggering exploration were empty open spaces filled with snow and ice, though what he eventually stumbled across was something so entirely different, and utterly unexpected. The corpse of the Pale Orc was strewn across the cracked ice that gently bobbed under the added weight that had started to separate into individual plinths; and also the all too familiar and far too still form of Erin Walsh. Black blood spilt over the frozen ground thinly, making the area look grey and disturbed, rather than the usual clarity and sparkle of ice; but the area around Erin was clean, no blood had been spilt.
His hopes rose; she had killed the Pale Orc and perhaps collapsed from exhaustion?
However, Dwalin felt something sink inside of him, felt the realisation of what had so obviously occurred in this place strike in his conscience like the plangent twang of a string instrument being plucked; Erin Walsh had most certainly not fainted after tousling with Azog the Defiler. She was most likely already dead.
“No…” he murmured lowly, making his way carefully across the broken floating sections of ice where moments before Azog’s mace had struck and then sunken into the deep waters below. Beyond that, the ice was more stable, and Erin was protected thus. Soon, the ice underneath the Pale Orc would give way to his weight, or melt; and then the corpse of an old enemy would sink to forgotten depths whilst Erin’s was upheld proudly on a stable, unspoilt plinth. Dwalin surveyed her body. She had one arm thrown over an entry wound on her chest, just below her heart, and it had stained her fingers red. Now closer than he was before, he could confirm that no blood however had spilt the ground on which she was situated, which Dwalin found strange.
She was too pale, too still, and dread filled him; was it only scant minutes before that he had vowed to exact revenge for her rendering him unconscious? Was this why she had done it, to throw away her life in battle in his stead?
“Lass, can ye’… ‘Ye can’t be… Erin, lass… Erin?”
She coughed weakly, and the action rattled her entire diminutive frame.
“Erin lass, come on, you- ye’re!”
“I am still so angry with you,” she said to him weakly, slurring through loss of blood.
“I should’a listened to ‘ye, I know tha’ now. But ye’… Was it worth it?” He asked. Undoubtedly, he meant the fighting, and her eventual slaying of Azog the Defiler, but then paying the price for her deeds. Erin groans, and coughs again, this time the sound of it is thick and wet; it is at that moment she knows that the clogging feeling she is experiencing in her throat is not unexpected emotion of being found by someone she knows and feels safe with as an alternative of another enemy, but instead blood that has worked its way from below her heart and up her trachea.
“Yes… They’re safe Dwalin… They’re all safe now. I changed it. Now they’re safe.”
“Who are safe?” He questions in return.
“Thorin. Fili. Kíli. All safe, thanks to me.” She smiles, and it is a gruesome thing for him to witness. A bloodied wide grin, brilliant and morbid, but Erin does not care. She has fulfilled her task.
“You… ‘changed it’?”
“They were meant to die. I stopped that, and now I’m… They’re safe, my task is finished. I can go home now.”
Dwalin swallows thickly, “I don’ think ye’re going home lass. No’ unless we can get you healed in time.”
Erin shakes her head narrowly from side to side, or so Dwalin thinks, it could just be her limbs shuddering from a lack of blood and screaming out in their atrophied state for sustenance. “There’s no time for that. I was so angry with you, but it’s all over now.”
“I noticed. Ye’ weren’t exactly subtle lass, shouting in front of everyone like tha’.”
Her attempt at laughter is weak; “I told you that you’re ugly and that your mother dresses you, before an army of Elves.”
“I hope ‘ye don’t think that truly,” he teases, though it lacks his usual strength. She watches him with darkened eyes that are becoming drained of their splendour, that will soon turn glassy and still and dead-
“No. No I don’t.” All Dwalin can do for a few moments in kneel beside her and breathe in and out deeply. Erin’s breathing has become shallow; she coughs again and a trickle of blood escapes from the corner of her mouth, drawing a line from her chin to her neck where it hits the ground and promptly vanishes.
The Valar are appeased.
“Will you…” she makes a humming noise, that to Dwalin sounds partially like the whine of an injured animal, “Will you stay with me- through this, I mean?”
This? Death, he thinks, she means death.
He grunts in affirmation, plucking the hand that isn’t stilling the blood from her chest wound up and cradling it between his two large palms; “O’course I will, lass.”
It is hand attached to the same arm that had been wrapped up in bandages, from where the dragon had lethally burnt her. But Dwalin didn’t know of its origins, only wondered why her arm was swathed in strips of linen in the first place. He may soon know of the legacy of Ettelëa, the Lady of Fire and Brimstone.
“And… And will you, um...” If she weren’t so ashen, Erin feels she would have blushed the brightest crimson hue at this point. Perhaps it was silly of her to ask, and she didn’t exactly know why it was her intention to do so in the first place, yet she had done and the irrevocable could not be revoked in this instance. Without a way to turn back, all one could do is push on, Erin knew this; had read about Bilbo’s reasoning in the goblin tunnels and found his ideals to suit her own whence she was brought to Middle Earth. There was no going back for her, she could only move forwards, wherever it led her.
“Yes?” He says with raised eyebrows, “Wha’ do you want me to do?”
With a rasping breath, she quickly manages to say: “Will you kiss me goodbye?”
“A kiss to say goodbye, Master Dwarf. Surely that’s not too hard for someone whose mother still dresses them?” She tells him breathlessly with a wavering, and thin smile. Dwalin doesn’t answer, but he swallows again and dips his head to meet hers where it rests on the ice. She raises her bloody palm from where is held pressure on her bleeding armoured chest, and lays it against his cheek; half on the soft downy start of his beard, half on the weathered skin; making sure to imprint the feeling in her fingers for the first and final time.
“Is tha’ another one of your weird traditions then? Like tha’ bun in the tree-shagger’s cells?”
It wasn’t exactly a tradition from where she came from, just courtesy she supposed between family and lovers, though other parts of Europe and certain cultures may have held it as theirs- but she wasn’t going to let him know that. Instead, she nods blithely; feeling almightily light headed, and murmurs ‘Yes’ to him, and felt Dwalin clutch her hand tighter; steeling himself. As he commits his mouth softly against hers, in a miniscule and feather-light gesture, the small hand falls gently from his jaw, and Dwalin quickly lifts his head; and though he would not like to shatter the façade of a hardened warrior, tears fill his eyes.
“Menu gamut khed,” he says hoarsely, though she doesn’t understand him.
Whilst he begins to mourn her impending loss, Erin Walsh closes her eyes and sighs- and through her weary, failing senses, she hears; “Rasup gamut, azaghâlithûh…”
“Menu gamut khed” (Khuzdul) Roughly, “You are a wonderful person.”
“Rasup gamut, azaghâlithûh…” (Khuzdul) Roughly, “Farewell, my warrior that is young.” Or literally, “Goodbye, young warrior.”
Chapter 22: Glossary
A list of terms used in 'Foreign Peace' that some may not be familiar with...
Glorfindel's horse as mentioned in 'Fellowship of the Ring' though for purposes of his own, he's here in 'Foreign Peace' nearly eighty years before he's meant to appear…
A medical method of removing the fluid from a blister. Used when the blister is in danger of popping and causing infection.
Where the final battle between the Orcs and Dwarve's took place. This is where Thror was defeated in the movies, and where Thrain and the Ring of Power were captured by the Orcs.
Balrogs were once spirits of the Maia that were seduced and corrupted by Melkor into doing his service. Glorfindel fought a Balrog during the Fall of Gondolin to give his friends a chance to escape.
Known as an arcing shape a horse's back makes when going over a jump or hurdle. If the horse has a good bascule it helps create flexability in the spine, which is better on the horse and certainly more comfortable for both horse and rider. It's a beautiful thing to watch or experience (think of how Dolphins jump out of the water and arch their bodies).
Chunner or Chunnered
To mutter or mumble under ones breath.
Also known as a 'gliding' vowel sound; it occurs when to adjacent vowel sounds occuring in the same syllable.
Dorwinion or Dor-winion was renound for it's high quality wines, which the Elves of Mirkwood imported into their lands.
A time of celebration for the Longbeard Dwarves, and the day on which the Company of Thorin Oakenshield must openthe hidden door of Erebor.
Dwarf, Dwarves, Dwarrow, Dwarrowdan and Dwarven
Tolkien specified in his introductory notes that the plural of ‘Dwarf’ was in fact ‘Dwarves’, though he also alluded to ‘Dwarves’ being “…a piece of private bad grammar”. He instead, would have used ‘Dwarrow’ to refer to ‘Dwarf’ in a pluralistic manner, but the only noted time of him doing thus in his writings is in allusion to the Ancestral Dwarven home of Moria, as he called it ‘Dwarrowdelf’. Tolkien instead used ‘Dwarves’ to conform with the pluralisation of ‘Elf’ to ‘Elves’.
The race of Men.
Male Elf/ female Elf
Also known as the Blue Mountains, this is the place where the refugees of Erebor settled after the loss of the mountain, and where Thorin’s Halls are situated.
(From Quenya, Et-tel-ee-ah) Meaning ‘foreign’ or perhaps ‘stranger’. This is Glorfindel’s ‘pet name’ for the protagonist, and also her name which serves her as Elf-friend to the Eldar.
Elves of mixed descent living in the woods of Lothlorien. It also labels Lothlorien's military force.
A hidden Elven city that stood for nearly four-hundred years, until it was attacked by Morgoth's forces.
Grasper and Keeper
Graham McTavish, (the actor who portayed Dwalin in the recent Hobbit trilogy) suggested that his (Dwalin's) axes were named 'Grasper' and 'Keeper', because "That one grasps your soul… and this one keeps it". He was inspired to name them such after Emily Bronte (who penned 'Wuthering Heights') as she had two dogs named as such.(I absolutely love his idea~!)
Meaning 'My Lord' in Sindarin.
House of the Golden flower
A 'House' in Gondolin that held Glorfindel as it's leader. This is given more thought in 'Quenta silmarillion' by Tolkien, as the History of Middle Earth is explored.
The autumnal season of the Elves' calander.
Also known as 'Rivendell'; the home of Elrond and his kin.
Located in the north-eastern range of Middle Earth, and east of Erebor. The home of Dain II Ironfoot and the Dwarves of Durin's Folk.
Also known as 'Elven bread' or 'Waybread', it is a special food made by the Elves and not easily given to those outside of the Elven race. Turin Turambar (See 'The Children of Hurin' for more detail) was one of the first to receive such a gift.
'Aulë', a member of the Valar whom created the Dwarves. The spouse of the Valar Yavanna.
Maia / Maiar
Spirits that the Valar sent to Middle Earth to help shape the world.
Meaning 'My friend' in Sindarin.
A pipe-weed speciality of Hobbit's in the south farthing of the Shire.
Glorfindel's very disrespectful nickname for Thranduil, the Elvenking of Mirkwood. Truly he should be named as Thranduil Oropherion (Thraduil son of Oropher- the suffix of 'ion' meaning 'Son' in Sindarin). Therefore, Legolas would be Legolas Thranduilion (Legolas son of Thranduil); I use this archaic method of introduction, because 'Legolas Greenleaf' makes me cringe...
The Higher Powers of Middle Earth.
Valinor Also known as 'The Undying Lands', where immortals such as the Elves and Maiar left Middle Earth- though some exceptions, such as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee and Gimli son of Gloin were made.
The fictional Hometown of Erin Walsh. If such a place does exist, let it be known that it is not modeled in any way on an already existing location.
Chapter 23: Author's Note
‘Foreign Peace’, my first ever venture into the Tolkien fic fandom, was never supposed to happen.
I’d sworn to myself that after writing some (crappy, in my own opinion) fics before that I’d now just focus on my own original works- though that is easier said than done. In December 2014, I was emailing one of my closest friends over the Christmas holidays. A group of us had recently gone to see ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ in our local cinema. Yes, I laughed, and I cried- and I damn well nearly died when Billy Boyd’s “The last goodbye” started blaring in the cinema’s speakers.But I still couldn’t help the same dissatisfaction creeping in that I had felt when reading the book. (Why all the deaths?! Why?!) Jade, whom I was emailing, suggested I write something Hobbit-y for a creative outlet.
I did; we’d already had the longstanding joke that if we walked into the woods one day, we might experience the whole stumble into Middle Earth and find a wild Thorin Oakenshield bobbing about looking #Majestic (I need to get that on a t-shirt or a wristband or something...) on his dashing pony cliché, so why not send the four of us on a self-indulgent self-insert short-fic, under the clever guise of going camping and then not waking up the next morning in the same field of cows we’d pitched up in? Needless to say, it was never going to be published; at one point, the Dwarves were threatened with beard waxing via duct tape, so however humorous it may have been, I’d rather not have that floating about on fan archives…
My friends found my story plenty hilarious, and for a couple of months that was that. Then I wrote a short fic concerning Dis’ (Fili and Kili’s mother, and Thorin’s sister) reaction to the deaths of her last remaining family. I always wondered what happened to her, whether she would tolerate Dain being king, or whether she would go mad with grief. I chose the latter, because Dwarves cannot retire to Valinor in their grievance as easily as the Elves can (with the exception of Gimli- though that was because of his services concerning the One Ring), I felt that Dis would slowly waste away; and I hated every minute of writing down my ideas: though it had to be done. That was around March, and once I had done with a short fic I aptly named ‘Dis’, I stopped writing altogether.
But the problem with Tolkien’s works and their recent embodiments into films, is that they sink in deep and cling on forever, leaving a little fragment behind like the snapped of section of a Morgul blade.
If you’ll excuse my hyperbole, I only fixated on writing something fantastical that could never hope to achieve the same loyalty and backing of ‘The Hobbit’. I simply wasn’t prepared enough, never truly getting past 15,000 words or so before I had to stop and rethink my whole plot and characters. I did this three times, and as A-Level exam season drew closer, I decided it wasn’t worth the stress of balancing my time doing both.
For my independent investigation coursework in English Language, I had to write a sort of mini thesis. I chose to look at how what is known as a ‘Critical Period’ – the optimal time period in which children can learn and acquire languages, which is between the ages of two and seven, with its final closing period roughly around the age of eleven or thirteen, when puberty begins. I wanted to see if it was possible for those outside of the critical period to be able to acquire a new language, but needed a language that my two test-subjects hadn’t been exposed to before. So I chose to teach them Elvish.
The Tolkien bug had taken hold, yet again.
I just knew a lot more about Sindarin than before…
Roughly around the middle of June, I was perusing on Tumblr. I’d seen on AO3 that people wrote stories based on prompts by ImagineXHobbit, and I was curious. I then found the plot point I’ve been working with throughout the entirety of ‘Foreign Peace’:
“Imagine knowing your favourite dwarf has a crush on you but not saying anything about it because you don’t know how to deal with it.”
I could work with that.
There’s one slight hitch.
I love the line of Durin, Thorin especially, despite all of his negative traits I’d like to sit across from him and pick his brains. (That sounded much better in my head than when I typed it down, I swear I’m not some kind of cannibal, honest…) But there’s that many Thorin/OC, Kili/OC, and Fili/OC fics out there. How was I supposed to do something original? Personally I’d love to be acquainted with the Dwarf King in exile himself, but for Erin Walsh, I had a different path in mind.
I started to look at lesser developed characters; Nori, Ori, Bofur, and Dwalin were shortlisted. For Erin’s personality, Ori was too timid, Nori too brash- and although she’d get along swimmingly with Bofur, he’s a might too akin to a cheerful uncle and overprotective guardian than a potential love interest. Dwalin it was.
I was constantly emailing Jade throughout my drafting process, often sending her odd titbits. The Elvish insults in Chapter 17 made us both titter, and promise to learn them off by heart… At one point, she asked me ‘Why Dwalin?’, and I told her about when I was thinking up Erin Walsh. Erin is this small, fragile young woman; she makes up for it in her underlying ‘lionhearted’ spirit, just as Mr Grey predicted, but for the chief part, most- if not all, of the Dwarves could probably crush her by accident. Short, dark hair, cropped to just below her jawline in a jaunty little bobbed style- wayward and slightly untidy. She’s too pale, her eyes seem too large, and to the Dwarves, she appears to be a child. Yet I imagined her walking hand in hand with Dwalin, the biggest and most intimidating member of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield; and it was the sweetest, fluffiest thing. Ever. How could you not write a story like that? The woman-child and the warrior-brute; I give you one of Middle Earth’s most dysfunctional couples, listed in the ranks far far below Azog and the mysterious and unfortunate (then again, who knows?) dam of Bolg.
As for my prompt, I couldn’t move too quickly. I wanted Erin to be awkward and have no clue towards a certain Dwarf’s feelings- and from the looks of it; Dwalin hasn’t got any idea of what attraction is either. Chapter’s 19 and 20 by far see the most action; plot prompt-wise that is, they are quite… explosive. They were also the most difficult to write. I remember hesitating on Chapter 16 and then struggling from then on.
You see so many fics online, and it’s like sorting the chaff from the wheat. There are good and bad stories. Well no, perhaps it’s not right to sort them so dichotomously; every story is good in its own way, it is how they are executed and paced that determines if it is an enjoyable reading experience. Some can go on for fifty chapters without anything truly significant or mind-blowing ever happening, and others only take the first few paragraphs for an injection of action. ‘Foreign Peace’, I’d like to think, is somewhere between the two. Erin and Dwalin’s choices are impulsive, and slightly elusive; and it takes a while for their relationship to evolve. When the latter does happen, it’s explosive and instantaneous.
Erin makes a choice, and then must deal with her decision.
Dwalin just happens to be there.
One thing I was struck by when writing this, is how utterly detached Erin feels to me- I usually develop quite a bond with my OC’s, more often than not they have some of my own traits or instances of my own zany behaviour imbedded in them; Erin for one is a Literature and Language A-Level student like I (was), but ultimately that’s where our comparison stops.
She doesn’t turn up right from the start of the quest, nor does she gain a fancy sword from the Troll hoard or possess mad skills: Erin Walsh lives off of the Elves’ hospitality for two years and tries to pull herself together after one constant (Mr Grey) she’s known deserts her.
Sometimes, I think Erin seems a little flat as a character; but then my dangerous creative mind comes up with the perfect excuse: Erin isn’t part of that world, as an interloper who doesn’t quite mesh with the fate of Middle Earth, why should she integrate as easily as you see some OC’s doing in other fics? Why should she be allowed any special privileges? It was an honest surprise when I started writing Glorfindel to stand in as a parental figure for her: as I told Jade in one email “[Glorfindel and Erestor] …it’s almost like they’re a married couple with a newly adopted child.”
Perhaps I haven’t used my plot as a crutch then, because it certainly doesn’t seem to be all that present in my story. Then again, I guess it’s up to reader interpretation now. There have been some trials and tribulations, like struggling to get through certain chapters or the word processer I was using trying to correct ‘Erestor’ to ‘Erector’; which would have changed the story completely, and not entirely for the better…
Still, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading ‘Foreign Peace’ as I have enjoyed writing it; thank you for all your support (it is extremely appreciated), and hopefully now, I can start working on an original story of mine that has been left at a standstill for about eight months now.
Chapter 24: The music of 'Foreign Peace'...
(In songs per chapter order)
A full working playlist can be found here:
If that link doesn't work please search for 'FP - IxH Prompt Fill Soundtrack' on Spotify. Some songs won't be available, as they are from my own music files- though they can easily be located on YouTube.
1) Afternoon tea and advice:
“Joan of Arc “ – Arcade Fires
“History eraser” – Courtney Barnett
“Secrets of the castle” – John Williams, ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’
“The Hidden Valley” – Howards Shore, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
“A Elbereth gilthoniel” – Martin Romberg
“Phantasy Quintet: I prelude. Lento ma non troppo” – Ralph Vaughn Williams
“Lothlorien” – Howard Shore, ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’
3) Gaining a purpose:
“Moaning Lisa smile” – Wolf Alice
“Lord of the Rings” – The Piano Guys
“Shine” – Years and Years
“Underhill” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
“Goblin Town Song” – ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
“Literal Assassin’s Creed Trailer” – Toby Turner and Tobuscus
5) Before the fall:
“Many meetings” – Howard Shore, ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’
“Canon in D Minor” – Thomas Bergersen and Two Steps From Hell, ‘Battlecry’
“No honour in blood” – Thomas Bergersen and Two Steps From Hell, ‘Battlecry’
“She looks so perfect” –5 Seconds of Summer
“Ship to wreck” – Florence + the Machine
“Shiver” – Coldplay
“Mozart’s House” – Clean Bandit featuring Love Ssenga
“Like a fox” – ME the band
7) Diphthongs and cruelty:
“Call me “ – Blondie
“Juliette” – SHINee
8) A knight upon his horse and a damsel not so in distress…:
“Far Horizons” – Jeremy Soule, Crouch End Festival Chorus and Andrew Skeet, ‘The Elder Scrolls – Skyrim’
9) Secret keeper:
“Dragon racing” – John Powell, ‘How to train your Dragon 2’
“Mirkwood” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
“God rest his soul” – David Arnold and Michael Price, ‘Sherlock: Music from Series Three’
10) A twisting path:
“He’s all me me me” – Hans Zimmer, ‘Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows’
“Theme from Poldark” – Anne Dudley
“Devil’s Spoke” – Laura Marling
“Flies and spiders” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug’
“The Woodland realm” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
11) I am not a child:
“Spellbound” – Siouxsie and the Banshee
“Time to pretend” – MGMT
“Bitch” – Meredith Brooks
“Grounds for divorce” - Elbow
“Youth” – Daughter
“The Vikings have their tea” – John Powell, ‘How to train your Dragon’
12) Barrels and adventures beyond the forest… :
“Addicted to you” – Avicci
“Red socks pugie” – Foals
“The look” – Metronomy
“Feast of Starlight” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
“The forest river” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
“The Island” – Aleksander Debicz
“When the sun goes down” – Arctic Monkeys
“Dancing Queen” – ABBA
“String Quartet No.1 in G minor II. Minuet and trio. Tempo di minuetto – The English String Quartet” – Ralph Vaugh Williams
“Kingsfoil” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
14) Abandonment and Desolation:
“El Dorado” – Thomas Bergersen and Two Steps From Hell
“Snape and the Unbreakable Vow” – Nicholas Hooper, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
“Flight from Edoras” – Howard Shore, ‘The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’
15) Cometh the Dragon:
“Smaug” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’
“Opening” – Craig Armstrong, ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’
“White Witch” – Nick Phoenix and Two Steps From Hell, ‘Classics, Vol.1’
“Miserere” – Gregorio Allegri, The Sixteen and Harry Christopher
16) All that is gold:
"Pages of Gold” – Flo Morrissey
“Sweet Ophelia” – Zella Day
“Opening” – Craig Armstrong, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’
“Shores of the Long Lake” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’
“This is Sally Hatchet” – Father John Misty
“Coronation” – Harry Gregson-Williams, ‘Kingdom of Heaven’
17) Wizards! :
“Ironfoot” – Howard Shore, ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’
“How deep is your love?” – Calvin Harris featuring Disciples
“Vampire!! Vampire!!” – ME the band
18) The Battle of the Five Armies:
“Forth Eorlingas” – Howard Shore, ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’
“Woman” – Wolfmother
“Battle at Hoback” – Nick Phoenix ‘Colin Frake on Fire Mountain’
“Talia’s theme” – Thomas Bergersen ‘Colin Frake on Fire Mountain’
19) A splitting thread:
“Uninvited” – Freemasons featuring Bailey Tzuke
“Aniron” – Enya
“Slughorn’s confession” – Nicolas Hooper, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
“Queen of Peace” – Florence + the Machine
“Land of Shadows” – Audiomachine, ‘Trilogy’
“A knife in the dark” – Howard Shore, ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’
“In Noctem” – Nicholas Hooper, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
“The East Wind” – David Arnold and Michael Price, ‘Sherlock: Music from Series Three’
“Namarie” – Martin Romberg
20) Rasup gamut:
“Long and Lost” – Florence + the Machine
“Houses of Healing” – Howard Shore, featuring Liv Tyler, ‘The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’
“Love in the eyes” – Ramin Djawadi, ‘Game of Thrones’
“When Ginny kissed Harry” – Nicholas Hooper, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
“The Last Goobye” – Billy Boyd
“Lacrimosa” – Zbigniew Preisner
“Dumbledore’s farewell” – Nicholas Hooper, ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’
SPECIFIC CHARACTER THEMES
“Moaning Lisa Smile” – Wolf Alice (Inspired my plot, and the quote in chapter three determined it.)
Erin and Dwalin:
“Various storms and Saints” – Florence + the Machine (It’s very morose, but if you listen to the lyrics I think they fit well with Erin and Dwalin’s ‘relationship’)
Kili and Tauriel:
“The Island” - Aleksander Debicz (I heard this listening to Classic FM, and thought it fit Kili and Tauriel very well!)
“Bitch” – Meredith Brooks (Suitable, no?)
"Dancing Queen" - ABBA (Purely for his stunt in the movies where he barrel-hopped. I can't watch that anymore without 'Dancing Queen' playing in my head...)
Chapter 25: Bibliography
‘The Hobbit’ – J.R.R. Tolkien
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Joureny’, ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, and ‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ movie transcripts – Transcribed by gplus.to/TheHobbitMovies with corrections from www.council-of-elrond.com and www.theonering.net and provided dialogues from www.elendilion.pl.
Leafling Bags – Etsy.com
AQA English Language B textbook (2009)
‘Useful Elvish phrases’ – arwen-undomiel.com
‘Phrases’ – Ask the House of Elrond
Taramiluiel’s tome of Middle-Earth
Dwarf.it (‘The Language of Khuzdul’)
Teiravon - Dwarven language
Quotes and Song lyrics belong to whom are sited in the quote/lyric extract
As specified in the introductory chapter, all rights go to those referenced/cited, this is a work of fiction, and places/characters that do not appear in the Movies/Book most likely have been created by myself.
Chapter 26: Epilogue
Nah, just kidding. This is only an update.
Okay, maybe not the best thing I could have done- but I’m having so many messages through like this from emoXchick123456:
There needs to be an epilogue!
I NEED CLOSURE DAMMIT!
At least give me reactionssssss!
While I’m really, really glad ‘Foreign Peace’ is tugging at your heartstrings, I must admit that I’m not going to write an epilogue for this story.
I’m not writing this update to be cruel, or to dash your hopes; I’m writing this because, well… because you’ve forced my hand.
I wasn’t going to mention anything until a bit later on, say, around May or June, but I’m actually planning to re-write ‘Foreign Peace’ altogether.
As you may have noticed in the 'Author’s Note', and various comments I’ve received and replied to, I really don’t like the original story. Erin, in my own opinion, wasn’t very developed, and the story was half-baked. That is why I want to re-write the whole thing from scratch, because looking back on it now makes me cringe a little.
It’s amazing what University can do to you, because I really feel like I’ve progressed as a writer.
I’ve already written up a Beta version of the new Chapter One, because I got so excited and inspired. Said Beta chapter may or may not make it into the final cut, once I’ve started fleshing out more chapters. For the most part though, I’m happy with how that first trial went- Erin is more developed, Gandalf is less forced and entering that ‘grey area’ solely reserved for characters like Albus Dumbledore. There’s a lot more content this time too, and a hell of a lot of research and work going into this.
Overall, the characters will be more developed, as will be the relationships between them and the main plot.
This re-write, however (unless I chip away at it in my free time), will have to wait until late June, and will hopefully be released for the late Summer/Autumn. All I’m asking is that you are patient in the meantime; while I study study study, finish my first year at Uni, and then write my socks off over the Summer.
Thank you again for your reviews and kudos- hell, just for even reading this story. It means a lot, truly, it does. I’ll probably announce it closer to the time, but keep your eyes peeled for ‘Rabbit Heart’ popping up on A03, and possibly even FanFiction.net.
[As of 06/09/2016: I did say above that I would start re-writing this story in May/June, and believe me, I gave it my best shot. At the moment though, I've lost my muse for this fandom. I've got caught up in life and other things, and just generally did not feel like writing about Erin's journey. That's not to say that 'Rabbit Heart' won't happen, because I really want it to, but it's going to take a while. Like, ages. Stay tuned, and why not have a look at my other works on Fan Fiction.net while you're waiting? You'll find me under 'Yuilhan' on that site.]
I will leave you now with a snippet of my Beta chapter, because it would be cruel not to~!
“So,” Erin broached, “What do you want me to do with all of these?”
“I thought we had already answered that, my dear,” Mr Grey told her over his raised tea cup, “I want you to read them.”
“All of them?”
“What do you think?” He inquired with pursed lips and a frown.
Bemusedly, Erin smiled, “I guess so. How long do I have- I assume you’ll want them back before you move.”
Mr Grey hummed, “You have one week. I know that it may be difficult with your job, but you must read these Erin; you must read them and more importantly know them.”
Erin felt something shift, something cold that curled around the nape of neck that trickled slowly down her spine. Apprehension perhaps? She did not know; yet begrudgingly she stretched out an arm and grasped one of the books with caution.
She mouthed the book’s title slowly, memorising how the exotic formations mapped out on her tongue:
For some unknown reason, it frightened her; “Are you sure you don’t want my help with the packing instead?”
“Quite sure, my dear. You must trust me on this.”
“It…” Erin sighed, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, per se. The problem is that I don’t see much point in reading books when I can help.”
Mr Grey bristled: “Much point? Much point! My dear that is the point! This is my last way to help you, Erin Walsh- and I did not think that you would be so ungrateful.”
“What do you mean?”
The elderly man flexed his gnarled hands; fists opening and closing. “When Ralph and I were lads, we used to run around this village. Meadow Bank? The housing estate?” Erin nodded, “In my youth, there were no houses there; only green fields and towering trees.”
Mr Grey sighed fondly; “We- Ralph and I, that is, both read those books. We spent many a happy day running through the fields and the trees, pretending that we were wizards and battling against the evil documented in these books. But then it all changed. We grew older, grew apart, and when we’d both returned; the land was developed into that abdominal estate.”
“Shouldn’t it be you reading these then? To relive it all?”
“We went by Radagast and Gandalf, you know,” said Mr Grey. His eyes were glazed- he had not heard her suggestion, “They were some of the best times of my life, to escape into the world crafted by these books. I would pass that experience on to you now. You may be too old to play pretend, you may not have fields to run through; but if I can give you a way to escape, then I think my duty is done.”
Erin felt her eyes watering, “Mr Grey…”
“I can retire happily and at peace, if you do this. Share this with me Erin, please.”
Chapter 27: Update - Rewrite
The rewrite of 'Foreign Peace', called 'Rabbit Heart', is now up on both FF.net and AO3!
Updates for this will be super slow, as I'm working on other things as well as dealing with life. Still, while I had the chance to I thought I should upload the one (and only) chapter I have ready.
My thanks, eternally, to MerlinOfTheShire of FF.net for Beta-ing this first Volume for me. They've really helped me to improve this story so far.
Thank you to you all for your patience. I know I said that a rewrite would come soon, but I've been putting it off for a while. While I can't offer steady updates for this new story, I can at least, provide you with what I've already written until inspiration strikes next.