Happy Wednesday everyone and welcome back to Halfway to Hegg! I am having a blast writing this story and am just churning out chapters right now. Really because I haven't got much else to do but write which is okay because I enjoy doing it. I start college back on August 17th so I am trying to write as many chapters as I can before then so that there are no delays in the story if it isn't finished before then, but as we are already up to the Woodland Realm, it very well might be.
I'll be sad when it is over too.
As always, any descriptions of Mirkwood are taken straight from the Hobbit and anything from the Hobbit belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien, not me. If it did, well...I'd be far richer.
Please enjoy this chapter. There are plenty more where that came from. And um...I'm gonna go hide in a corner again.
We walked single file, the entrance to the path was like a sort of arch leading into a gloomy tunnel made by two great trees that leant together, too old and strangled with ivy and hung with lichen to bear more than a few blackened leaves. The path itself was narrow and it wound in and out amongst the trunks of the trees in a never ending trail.
Soon the light at the gate was little more than a bright hole far behind us and the quiet was so deep around us that our feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over us and seemed to listen to us. As our eyes became used to the dimness we could see a little way to either side in a sort of darkened green glimmer.
Occasionally a slender beam of sunlight that had the luck to slip through an opening in the leaves far above us and still more luck to not be caught in the tangled boughs and matted twigs beneath, stabbed down around us, thin and bright, but this was a seldom occurrence and soon ceased altogether.
There were black squirrels in the wood and I watched them as I walked, catching glimpses of them whisking off of the path and scuttling behind tree trunks. There were queer noises amongst the trees. Grunts, scufflings, and hurryings in the undergrowth and amongst the leaves that lay piled endlessly in thick piles on the forest floor, but whatever made these noises I didn't see. The occasional smell of rotting leaves reached my nose or the smell of moss which was not an unfamiliar smell to me.
The most surprising thing that we had come across were cobwebs. Whilst walking on the trail I had stumbled slightly over a bit of the cobbled path that was uneven and had tripped to the side, stepping slightly off the path and had walked face first into something that draped over my face like a veil. I had reached up, scrubbing frantically at my face as Dwalin pulled me back onto the path and I shrieked as I tried to get the sticky substance off my face. Dwalin reached up and helped me pull it away and it clung to both of our hands, dark and dense.
"What is this shit?" I said, swearing in my fear as I continued to scrub at my face until Dwalin grabbed my hands in his own to still them as I rubbed my face raw.
"It's just spider web," Dwalin told me, raising an eyebrow at me and staring at me curiously as everyone watched us having stopped when they heard me shrieking. "Surely, you know what a cobweb is," He said and I shook my head frantically.
"No. I've never seen a spider before. I've well...I've seen them in pictures but never in person. Hegg was spider free," I told my husband and he nodded in understanding once I explained.
"Well this is their webbing," Dwalin explained to me, showing me the dark web that was still stuck on his hands before he wiped it away on his trousers. "It's alright. Just startled the lass," Dwalin called to Thorin before he slid his hand into mine and ushered me back in front of him so that I could walk before him. "Come on lass," Dwalin told me and I nodded, starting forward once more while shooting glances at the side of the pathway feeling a bit more unsettled.
I saw more spider webs the further we walked into the forest. The threads were extraordinarily thick and they often stretched from tree to tree or tangled in the lower branches on either side of us. None stretched across the path thank Mahal, but this was either because some magic lay over the pathway to keep it clear or for some reason I couldn't think of.
It wasn't long into our trek before we began to hate the forest as much as we had hated the goblin tunnels and it offered even less hope of ever ending and we had only just started our journey. It was hard to tell time beneath the trees so we had to go on and on long after we became sick of the sight of the trees and longed to feel the wind on our faces once more. I mourned the loss of the feel of the sun on my face the darker the undergrowth grew and I shivered more and more as a deep chill seemed to set into my bones.
There was no movement of air under the roof of the forest and it was everlastingly still and dark and stuffy and we all soon began to feel like we were suffocating. Our first night was the worst. Once we had travelled for hours it seemed, Thorin called for us to make camp, which we did so right on the path so as not to lose it. It was so pitch dark that you could see nothing, not even your hand in front of your nose.
We could see one thing though...eyes. Eyes amongst the trees. We had to sleep closely huddled together and the others took turns taking watch. Dwalin kept me close to him, watching both me and the forest at the same time and I snuggled up to my cousins before Dwalin joined me. When I woke up in the middle of the night I could see gleams in the darkness around us and sometimes pairs of yellow, red, or green eyes would stare at me and then disappear before slowly reappearing in another place, closer than before.
Sometimes the eyes gleamed down in the branches above me and that was the most terrifying of all and had me shutting my eyes in terror and hoping that they would just go away. We had tried to light a fire that night, but we had soon given up when it had seemed to bring in hundreds and hundreds of eyes all around us, though whatever creatures they belonged to were smart and they were careful to never show their bodies in the light of our little flickering flames.
The worst thing was that the fire brought thousands of dark grey and black moths, some nearly as big as my hand, flapping and whirring around our ears. The moths were bad, but the bats that showed up to feast upon them were worse and so we had given up on fires and had sat in the darkness and dozed in the enormous darkness. My sleep was filled with unease and nightmares of dark things creeping about unseen.
It seemed as if everything in this forest was inhospitable. Our moods sank as we continued on like this day after day and then came the hunger for we were always careful with our provisions, eating less than normal in order to try and make them last. As days followed days, the forest remained the same and we all began to grow anxious.
We knew that the food would not last forever and in fact it was already beginning to get low. I was given a new bow and Kili, Thorin, and I tried shooting at the squirrels and we were forced to waste many arrows before we brought one down over the path. When we roasted it though, the meat proved to be horrible to the taste and so we shot no more down.
We were always thirsty too because we didn't have much water and in all the time we had been walking through the forest we had not seen a spring or a stream. We began to lose all sense of time, unable to tell night from day. We began what we thought was our third week of our trek into the forest when I began to feel really sick. One of the mornings I woke up feeling extremely nauseous and the feeling did not subside. I ended up heaving over a bush, retching up stomach bile. Dwalin was at my side in an instant rubbing soothing circles on my back and when I rose to my feet his expression was one of deep concern.
"I'm okay. It's just this place," I assured my husband, putting a hand on his arm and he pulled me into his arms and hugged me tightly, kissing the top of my head.
"Come on, let's get yah something to eat," He told me, deep lines etched into his face. For the rest of the day he watched me closely and wouldn't let me leave his side. I ended up throwing up twice more that day, retching up whatever water and meager food I had eaten. The forest was really getting to me now, saping me of strength. I was tired all of the time and nauseous and I just felt off.
I drank tea until our supplies ran out and then I sipped at what water we had left for the rest of the time. Dwalin always looked uneasy and worn and I tried to comfort him and put him at ease, but I barely had enough energy to keep my feet moving forward. I kept my head down and watched my feet and tried to ignore the things I thought that I was seeing in the woods. I remembered what Gandalf had told us, that there was an enchantment over this wood that would seek to lead us astray.
Just over three weeks into our journey by our reckoning we found our path blocked by running water, having found the remains of the bridge that Gandalf had told us of, but it was impassable. The water flowed fast and strong, but it was not very wide right across the way and it was very black or at least it looked that way in the gloom. Bofur suggested that we could swim across the water, but Thorin reminded him of Gandalf's warning that we should not touch the water as it carried an enchantment upon it.
I remembered Beorn's warning to us too of this river and so we tried to find another way across. If it wasn't for Beorn's warning I was sure that the others would have tried to drink from the stream, but my quick reminder of his warning stopped them in their tracks. Bilbo knelt down and peered forward into the gloom as we tried to find a way across without getting wet before the Hobbit cried out, "There's a boat against the far bank! Now why couldn't it have been this side!"
"How far away do you think it is?" Thorin asked Bilbo as I stepped forward, Dwalin wrapping an arm around my waist quickly as I stumbled forward slightly, still not steady on my feet since I began to feel sick.
"Not at all far. I shouldn't think about twelve yards," Bilbo answered Thorin who seemed surprised by this answer.
"Twelve yards! I should have thought it was thirty at least, but my eyes don't see as well as they used to a hundred years ago. Still twelve yards is as good as a mile. We can't jump it, and we dare not try to wade or swim," Thorin said and I frowned slightly in thought as I considered that my uncles might be farsighted. It certainly would explain why he had gotten lost in the Shire...twice.
"Can any of you throw a rope?" Bilbo asked, looking back to the rest of us.
"What;s the good of that? The boat is sure to be tied up, even if we could hook it, which I doubt," Thorin asked the Hobbit and I sighed heavily as they debated the best way to get across the enchanted river.
"I don't believe it is tied," Bilbo told Thorin as he looked back across the river at the boat. "Though of course I can't be sure in this light; but it looks to me as if it was just drawn up on the bank, which is low just there where the path goes down into the water," Bilbo said and I squinted into the gloom, seeing what Bilbo meant.
"I can see it too. It's worth a shot. We've nothing to lose and even more to gain if we can snag it," I told Thorin who nodded in agreement.
"Dori is the strongest, but Kili is the youngest and still has the best sight," Thorin said before he turned to my cousin. "Come here, Kili, and see if you can see the boat Mr. Baggins is talking about," Thorin said and Kili stepped carefully forward and peered into the gloom, squinting with a trained archers gaze.
"Aye, I see it idad," Kili told Thorin and when he had stared long enough to ger an idea of the direction of the boat, Fili brought him a long rope. On the end of it he had fastened one of the large iron hooks which we used for catching our packs to the straps around our shoulders and Kili took the roop and balanced it for a moment before he flung it across the stream. We heard a splash as it fell into the water and Kili swore under his breath.
"Not far enough," Bilbo told Kili, the Hobbit peering forward. "A couple of feet and you would have dropped it onto the boat. Try again. I don't suppose the magic is strong enough to hurt you, if you touch a bit of wet rope," Bilbo said and I frowned, blowing out another deep breath as my stomach did anxious flip flops.
Kili pulled the rope back in and picked the hook back up when he had and looked down at it rather doubtfully before he tried again to throw the rope. This time he threw the rope with a great strength and I held my breath for a moment, biting my lip, but I didn't hear a splash. I squinted into the gloom and saw that he had thrown it onto the wood on the other side of the bank.
"Steady," Bilbo told Kili. "You have thrown it right into the wood on the other side now. Draw it back gently," Bilbo told Kili who began fishing in a way as he hauled the rope back slowly, Bilbo and I directing him. "Carefully!" Bilbo said after a while. "It is lying on the boat, let's hope the hook will catch," He added and I sent a silent prayer up to Mahal which was answered.
The hook caught on the boat and the rope went taunt and Kili pulled in vain. Fili came to his aid and then Oin and Gloin and they tugged and tugged before suddenly falling over onto their backs. Bilbo and I lunged forward at once and quickly caught the rope as the little black boat came rushing across the stream towards us. "Help!" Bilbo shouted and Dwalin was just in time to seize onto the boat before it floated off down the currant.
"It was tied after all," Bilbo said, looking up at the snapped painter that was dangling from the boat. "That was a good pull, and a good job that our rope was the stronger," Bilbo complimented the others as Fili and Kili rose to their feet and wiped themselves off, Gloin and Oin also standing. I straightened up and handed the rope off to Thorin a bit frazzled and ran a hand through my scruffy red fringe. "Who'll cross first?" Bilbo asked as he looked at us all.
"I shall," Thorin said and then he looked to us all as he seemed to think it over. "And you will come with me and Fili and Balin and the Elf. That's as many as the boat will hold at a time. After that Kili and Oin and Gloin, and Dori. Next Dwalin and Nori with Bifur and Bofur, and lastly Ori and Adaira with Bombur," Thorin said and Dwalin instantly shook his head and stepped towards Thorin.
"No, I'm not crossing without Adaira," Dwalin all but growled and Thorin raised an eyebrow before placing a hand on Dwalin's shoulder.
"We need to be smart about this brother. Adaira and Ori are the lightest of our Company. That's why they must cross with Bombur. She'll be right behind you," Thorin told Dwalin who growled and looked extremely agitated as he fisted a hand into his hair.
"Azaghâlûh," I said and I stepped closer to Dwalin and placed a hand on Dwalin's arm and his body relaxed as he turned to look at me. "I know this isn't easy. It's not been easy on me either, but I'll be okay. I'll be right behind you and you'll know it's safe because you'll have gone first," I told Dwalin and he sighed heavily before pressing his forehead against mine.
"Don't take any risks," He told me fiercely and I nodded in earnest.
"I promise," I assured him and he nodded before gesturing to the boat.
"Let's get this over with," Dwalin grumbled and Thorin nodded before we got ready to cross the river.
"I'm always last and I don't like it," Bombur complained petulantly as Thorin inspected the boat for leaks and finding nothing wrong with the boat, he declared it safe to use.
"You should not be so fat. As you are you must be with the last and lightest boatload. Don't start grumbling against orders, or something bad will happen to you," Nori quipped back, all of us in a bad mood and tired of listening to each other complain at this point.
"There aren't any oars. How are you going to push the boat back to the far bank?" Bilbo asked and I frowned thoughtfully before coming up with an idea.
"Kili, take another length of rope and a hook and try to catch it to a tree on the other side. Then we can use it to pull ourselves back and forth," I told my cousin who nodded and I earned a slightly proud smile from my Uncle and my problem solving. Once the rope was ready, Kili cast it into the darkness ahead and as high as he could throw it and since it did not fall down again, we all assumed it must have gotten stuck in the branches above.
"Get in now," Kili told them as he gave an experimental tug on the rope.
"One of you needs to haul on the rope that is stuck in the tree on the other side and one of you must keep hold of the hook we used at first, and when you are safe on the other side you can hook it onto the boat, so we can draw in back over here," I explained and Thorin took the rope for Kili before the first group all piled into the boat.
Everyone made it safely across the enchanted stream and then it was my turn. Bombur was first to settle into the boat just in case it were to rock and then Ori got in before he turned back around to help me inside. Once I was settled inside the boat, Ori and I began hauling on the rope to pull ourselves across the stream, ombur having complained that he was too tired to help. I decided that it wasn't worth the fight and despite the fact that I felt sick, especially with the rocking of the boat, I kept pulling on the rope even as it dug into my hands.
We finally reached the other side and Dwalin stepped forward quickly and he and Dori pulled the boat up onto the low bank and I found myself in Dwalin's arms within the blink of an eye as he lifted me from the boat and set me safely down onto my feet on dry land. Dwalin pressed his forehead to mine and I gripped both his arms to hold myself up, my legs feeling weak and then I felt the nausea well up and I quickly moved away to retch up over a bush.
Dwalin rubbed soothing circles onto my back as I retched and when I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and straightened up he pulled me into a hug, a worried look on his face.
"Oin should see to yah lass," Dwalin told me and I shook my head stubbornly refusing once more to let Oin take a look at me.
"It's always been my response to stress to be nauseous. I don't usually throw up, but it's this forest. It makes me feel sick. It's made me feel sick since day one," I assured my husband, shaking my head. "Why would anyone want to live here?" I asked myself more than him.
"It wasn't always like this," Lyssaria said behind me then and I turned and looked at my cousin who looked very pale and worn out. The forest was affecting us all in different ways. It was as Bilbo had said when we stood before Mirkwood. It was like a sickness lay upon the forest.
Third Person POV
Ori and Bombur had just scrambled out of the boat when the sound of flying hooves came from the path ahead. Out of the gloom came the shape of a flying stag. It charged into the Comapny and Dwalin and Adaira were forced to jump apart as it bowled everyone over before it reared up and then fell back down on its hind legs. Thorin had been the only one to have kept his feet and his wits and as soon as the stag had landed on its feet he had bent his bow and fitted an arrow into it.
"What are you doing?" Bilbo asked Thorin quickly as Thorin and the stag locked eyes and Thorin sent his arrow towards the beast in a swift sure shot, but he missed as the stag sprung away, spooked by a snapped twig.
"You shouldn't have done that. It's bad luck," Bilbo told Thorin, biting his lip slightly.
"I don't believe in luck. We make our own luck," Thorin told the Hobbit, fear striking his heart and dousing him like cold water when he heard a very feminine and familiar scream. He turned around just in time to see Adaira slip and go falling backwards. Dwalin lunged forward but he wasn't quick enough and before anyone could get to her Adaira went splashing into the water of the enchanted river. Thorin had seen it happen. Bombur had slipped as he tried to pull himself to his feet and when he reached out he had grabbed onto Adaria which caused her to fall backwards.
Dwalin was instantly at the edge of the water and he had to be held back by both Dori and Gloin to stop him from wading into the water himself. Adaira coughed and spluttered as her head broke the surface of the river and she quickly sprang from the water, wading out of it as fast as possible. She fell forward slightly and Thorin was there to catch her from falling on her face as she said something with slurred words and Thorin hooked his arms under her armpits and dragged her out of the water the rest of the way while staying clear of it himself.
Dori and Gloin released Dwalin then and he rushed to his wife's side as Thorin laid her on her back. Oin came over and laid an ear to her chest, turning Adaira onto her side and thumping her on the back which got her to cough up some water. Adaira's eyes were glassy as she looked up at them, seeing but unseeing.
"Dwa…," She slurred out and Dwalin gripped her hand tightly as her eyes rolled back in her head and then her eyes closed and a soft snore escaped from her lips.
"What's wrong with her?!" Dwalin demanded of Oin who was examining her carefully.
"Nothing it seems. She's...sleeping," Oin answered Dwalin and the two looked up to Thorin seeking guidance.
"We'll camp here for now. Perhaps the enchantment will wear off," Thorin said for lack of a better idea and so Dwalin picked up his wife and gently laid her in her bed roll and let her sleep as they all got some much needed rest.
Even hours later Adaira was still sleeping with no change and Thorin decided to stay for the night there and then move on, hoping by morning there would be a change in his niece. The next morning, Adaira again would not wake and so Dwalin carried his wife a worried expression etched onto his face. As they left from their campsite beside the enchanted river, Bilbo made the mistake of tugging at a spiderweb, sending vibrations up into the trees.
They continued on the path which seemed to struggle on just as before and in the forest they could see no change. Dwalin refused to let anyone else carry his wife and so the others helped by carrying his and Adaira's packs to lighten his burden. In a few days time there was practically nothing left to eat or drink. Nothing wholesome grew in the wood any more, only funguses and herbs with pale leaves and an unpleasant smell.
About four days after they had crossed the enchanted stream they came to a part of the forest where most of the trees were beeches. They were at first inclined to be cheered by the change, for here, there was no undergrowth and the shadow was not so deep. There was a greenish light about them and in places they could see some distance to either side of the path. Yet the light only showed them endless lines of straight grey trunks like the pillars of some huge twilight hall.
There was a breath of air and a noise of wind, but it had a sad sound. A few leaves came rustling down to remind them that outside autumn was coming on. Their feet ruffled amongst the dead leaves of countless other autumns that drifted over banks of the path from the deep red carpets of the forest. Still Adaira slept and they grew very weary. Two days later they found their path going downwards and before long they were in a valley field almost entirely with a mighty growth of oaks.
"Is there no end to this accursed forest?" Thorin asked to the air as he stared up at the trees, his temper ever increasing as the days progressed.
That night they ate their very last scraps and crumbs of food; and the next morning when they woke the first thing they noticed was that they were still gnawingly hungry. The next thing they noticed was that it was raining and that here and there the drip of it was dropping heavily on the forest floor. That only reminded them that they were also parchingly thirsty without anything to relieve them of that thirst.
Their only scrap of comfort came from Adaria, but that comfort was short lived. She woke up suddenly, her eyes opening and she gasped before she shrieked and pushed herself away from Dwalin, rocking herself sideways until she fell out of his arms and onto the ground with an ooph sound. She scrambled away from him, a terrified look on her face and the Company all froze in their tracks.
"Amrâlimê," Dwalin said in relief as he knelt down, a frown on his face as he looked to Adaira who scrambled away from him again before she looked around and caught sight of the rest of the Company. "Adaria…," Dwalin tried again, not understanding why she seemed so afraid of him and he reached out towards her only to get whacked with a stick that she grabbed off the forest floor and used to wallop him with in the knuckles.
"Who the hell are you!?" Adaria shouted as she pointed her stick at him before she scrambled to her feet, bending down and grabbing another stick which she held in her other hand, her legs bent in a defensive position.
"Mizimith?" Thorin asked as he walked towards her and Adaira pointed her sticks at him.
"Stay back!" She shouted at him and Thorin held up his hands frowning in confusion. "Where the hell am I?!" Adaira demanded to know and Dwalin looked to Oin who stepped forward.
"Give the lass some space," Oin told them gruffly and Dwalin growled under his breath, refusing to leave his wife and Oin gave him a stern look. "We don't know what kind of enchantment it was. Best not scare the lass too much. She's worked up enough," Oin said pointedly to Dwalin in a low voice and he begrudgingly took a few steps away from his wife, the others also taking several steps back, whispering amongst themselves in concern.
"Where am I?" Adaira demanded once more and Oin raised both his hands to show her he had nothing in him and he stood far enough back from her to give her space.
"Mirkwood lass," Oin answered her and Adaira frowned deeply, her face taking on a pained expression.
"Who are you?" She asked in almost a whisper and Oin frowned at that.
"Don't you see anyone you recognize lass?" Oin asked her and Adaira looked at him before scanning the faces of the Company. Her eyes lingered over Dwalin only briefly and then she shook her head.
"No, why should I?" She asked and Dwalin felt his heart break in two as his own wife couldn't even recognize him.
"What's the last thing yah remember lass?" Oin asked Adaira and she frowned deeply, looking pained once more.
"Some stupid sheep got it's foot stuck in a rabbit burrow," Adaira answered the healer after a moment of silence.
"Humor me for a moment lass. Where were you when this happened?" Oin asked her and Adaira snorted.
"Hegg. Where else would I be?" She asked him and Oin turned and looked at Dwalin with a grim look on his face.
"Well lass, you're far off from Hegg," Oin said, turning back to Adaira who frowned and shook her head.
"Amrâlimê," Dwalin said in a broken voice and he stepped towards his wife, only to have her raise her sticks once more. "Don't yah...don't yah know who I am?" Dwalin asked her and she stared at him, no signs of recognition on her face.
"I'm sorry... no," Adaira answered him after a moment, a look of confusion on her face and she shook her before looking towards the rest of the Company. "I don't know who you are. Any of you," Adaira told him and Dwalin's face fell, his heart broke in two and a tear leaked out of his eye as his wife, his One, stared back at him looking both scared and confused.
Azaghâlûh- My warrior
Amrâlimê- My love
Mizimith- Little jewel