Of Travel and Talk

The company was traveling, at the moment, without a wizard. And, more unfortunately, without ponies. This led to much in the way of grumbling amongst them which only succeeded in annoying them all further. Even the terrain seemed determined to make this leg of their journey as miserable as possible. It was just smooth and grassy enough to lull one into a sense of security, and then a rock would find its way up out of the ground and in front of one's foot. This usually resulted in more grumbling on the part of the owner of the foot. In short, they were not specially happy at this time.

They continued on their cheerless way, when suddenly the stillness was broken by a hiss from their burglar as his foot struck a rock. This was followed by a sharp yelp when he lost his balance and tumbled backwards into the dwarf behind him who was also unable to regain his balance and soon all the dwarves behind Bilbo (which was most of them) had been knocked over like so many dominoes. And their packs had popped open sending the smaller items flying everywhere, and into everyone.

After everyone had picked themselves up Bofur spoke up "It's not going to be easy to find all our gear around here. The small things will be hiding under every rock and plant around. And it would be just our luck if sprites or brownies were to live around here."

While the dwarves agreed about the difficulty of finding their possessions again mot of them laughed at the idea of faye creatures residing in the area, especially considering they hadn't shown up yet. This was said with many winks and elbow nudges, but Bilbo didn't notice that and asked "What are sprites and brownies?"

The dwarves stared at him in shock. Nori asked the question first. "You don't know what sprites and brownies are?" Their shock was beginning to wear off and most of them were inclined to laugh at this odd lapse in their new friend's knowledge.

"Well if I did I wouldn't be asking, now would I?!" Bilbo asked, a little annoyed with them.

"Well," Bofur began, "Sprites are small winged people, no bigger than your hand. They are said to play tricks on people who disturb them or poke them with their sharp wands until they go away. Brownies, on the other hand, are small earth dwellers who will put spells on their homes and the surrounding area to cause rashes and similar problems for potential intruders."

"But they're not real, everyone knows that!" Kili piped up after a short conference with Fili.

"They're just legends made up to liven up travelers' tales. No one has ever actually encountered either before." Fili added.

"Well, just because no one has seen them doesn't mean their not real." said Nori with a wink at Bofur.

"Um, that doesn't seem...too bad." Bilbo said uncomfortably aware of being the center of attention. "Just pricks and rashes, after all one can get worse hanging pictures and gardening." Though Bilbo did wonder if magical pricks and rashes might not be worse than ordinary ones.

By this time they had mostly finished gathering up their scattered items when Bilbo suddenly yelped very loudly and jumped nearly twice his height in the air. "I just was pricked!" he exclaimed, worry tinging his voice.

"No, you're just imagining things after all that talk of sprites." Bofur said. "They're not real you know." He continued, trying to sound comforting.

"I am not imagining things, look!" Bilbo said indignantly, showing them the tiny drop of blood on the back of his hand.

"I expect you caught it on some brush while you were searching." Balin suggested reasonably. Though a few of the dwarves were shifting uncomfortably, not entirely sure of the mythical status of such creatures. And soon a discussion (argument) broke about about whether it was a fireside tale to keep children from wandering or if such things really existed. This argument stopped abruptly when Fili and Kili could no longer contain their laughter and gave themselves away. The fact that their packs contained the sewing supplies for patching trousers and shirts did not help their case in the least.

Thorin was not at all amused by the proceedings and made his displeasure known quite vocally. "As if it were not enough that we had to stop to redo our packing," he glared a little at Bilbo here, "you two found it necessary to bring up bedtime stories!" He sighed and stomped off back to the lead of their company and the stared to walk again. Fili and Kili, feeling suitably chastised went to the back and stayed quiet for a little while until Bofur broke the silence yet again. "Well, sprites and brownies don't exist maybe; but will o' the wisps do for certain."

Thorin let out a small groan and resigned himself to his fate, trying very hard to ignore the heated discussion going on behind him.