2. Of Singing Orcs and Butterflies
To relieve their consternation and the tingle of apprehension they couldn’t quite shake – somehow they knew Thranduil would find out and then he would turn his anger onto those who had neglected to alert him to the Dwarves’ presence in his realm – they began to play tricks on the Dwarves, trying to frighten them into fleeing away at a much accelerated pace.
Bilbo shuffled through the dead leaves underfoot, not noticing the color changes as autumn came on. The air was stifling and close. He wiped his brow with a red handkerchief, one of Elrond’s, and glanced about. They were traveling through a grove of beech trees, the shadows not so deep here, nor so dark. But the sigh of the wind that wound through the line of trees sounded sad and lonely. Lost.
: Bothersome Dwarves! : He thought glumly. : I wish I had never come on this adventure. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable thing! Oh, why did I ever agree to come? :
Suddenly the sound of singing drifted to them. They froze in their tracks, Ori nearly plowing into Nori.
“Not again.” Thorin muttered, trying not to show how disconcerted he truly was.
Sometimes it was laughter and sometimes, as now, it was singing. They stared into the trees but saw nothing.
“Goblins!” Oin hissed, his hand moving to his axe. “Or Orcs.”
The others reached for their weapons as well and Dori and Kili lay Bombur on the ground where he snored quite happily.
“It can’t be.” Bilbo said. “Goblins don’t sound like that when they sing.” He remembered them singing as they surrounded the trees that he, Gandalf and the Dwarves had climbed to escape the Wargs just before the Eagles rescued them. “And I don’t know if Orcs sing. I doubt it. But…” He drew his sword a few inches from its sheath to see if it was glowing. It wasn’t and he heaved a sigh of relief. “Let’s go on. Please.”
Thorin agreed and they were soon moving forward for the music was eerie and strange.
Tavor clapped one hand over his mouth to keep from laughing as they hustled off. He followed them silently for a time then went to find Brethil and Legolas.
Legolas was seated on a tree branch high above the ground singing, his fair voice raised in a song that mocked the Dwarves’ heavy footfalls, their beards, and their fears.
“They have moved on.” Tavor said, grinning at Brethil who was seated beneath the tree checking his arrows.
Legolas finished his song and gazed down at his two friends, smiling with delight.
“Did they like it? I made it especially for them.”
Tavor smirked up at him.
“The strange Dwarf with furry feet knows you are not a Goblin.” He paused until Legolas snorted, then said slyly, “But he thinks you might be an Orc.”
“What?!” Legolas’ eyes widened in horror and he nearly tumbled from his perch in disbelief. “An Orc?! Don’t be ridiculous, Tavor. Orcs don’t sing.” He scowled, feeling highly insulted and dropped to the ground.
Brethil was giggling, trying to stifle the sound, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“An Orc!” He chortled. “Legolas, Prince of the Singing Orcs.” He rolled on the ground, howling with delight.
“Oh, shut up, Brethil. It’s not that funny.” Legolas muttered then turned to Tavor whose lips were twitching with amusement. “Which way did they go?”
“Im alcar gar gul, Caun ned Yrch.” [I do not have (that) knowledge, Prince of Orcs.] He said, bowing slightly.
Legolas glared at him, growling in Sindarin. He grabbed up his bow and quiver and stalked away.
Brethil sat up, still laughing.
“Is he going the right way?” He asked, watching Legolas retreating form.
“No.” Tavor grinned, folding his arms over his chest.
“When are you going to tell him that he is going the wrong way?”
“Oh…I don’t know. It would appear that Orc princes don’t have a good sense of direction.”
Brethil laughed again, standing and taking up his own weapons.
“Oh, well.” Tavor sighed, then grinned again suddenly. “I know how to stop him.”
As Bilbo and the Dwarves trudged on, another voice sang into the trees. But then they hurried away at yet a greater speed as a yell of outrage shattered the air.
“O Caun ned Gliriel Yrch!
Le rinciel I raeg athrad.
I Anfang drega amrun - u annun.”
[O Prince of Singing Orcs!
You (are) moving the wrong way.
The Dwarves flee east – not west.]
Two days later, with weary feet, Bilbo and the Dwarves stumbled downward into a small valley of oak trees. One of the trees was larger than the others, the leaves on the spreading branches not yet turned to the bright copper color they would wear later in the season.
: You should be in the Shire. : He thought with wonder, moving to brush the mottled bark with his fingers.
“Is there no end to the accursed forest?” Thorin growled suddenly, his eyes sweeping the seemingly endless circle of trees surrounding them. Then his gaze fell upon Bilbo who was smiling up into the oak tree’s interlaced branches high above his curly head.
“Somebody must climb a tree and see if he can get his head above the roof and have a look round. The only way is to choose the tallest tree that overhangs the path.”
As one the Dwarves turned to look at Bilbo.
The Hobbit turned to them, looking bewildered.
“What? Oh, dear. My good Dwarves, surely you cannot mean for me to _”
“Mr. Baggins, that is precisely what we mean.” Thorin continued. “You are the only one who is light enough to climb to the top and see exactly where we are. And hopefully see the way out of here.”
: You mean that I am the expendable one. : Bilbo thought bitterly as the Dwarves clustered about him and hoisted him into the lower branches. : And if I fell it wouldn’t really matter to the rest of you as long as I told you the way out before I hit the ground. : But he merely sighed and grabbed at the branches. It did no good to argue with Thorin Oakenshield. Since Bilbo didn’t have much experience climbing trees it wasn’t that easy at first. He clambered his way upward, hands and feet slipping on the greenish bark.
: What if one of those web spinners lived up here? : He wondered with a chill of fear running up his spine. But as he gazed upward, he saw nothing furry or hairy or large enough to be the creature that had made the thick webs. So he continued on.
Once he slipped altogether and barely managed to stop himself from plummeting to the ground. He stood on a stout branch hugging the tree’s trunk, panting with fear.
“Hobbits are not made for this.” He moaned, squeezing his eyes shut when he made the mistake of looking down. But finally – after what he was sure was hours and hours of climbing – he poked his head through the topmost leaves and felt the sun on his face for the first time since they had entered Mirkwood. He smiled, blinking at the sunlight that embraced him. He even laughed, when at last his eyes adjusted to the brilliance, at the small spiders that did inhabit these top branches.
“To think I was afraid of what I might find here.” He chuckled watching them scurry away from him.
And – oh! The butterflies! Hundreds of butterflies floated all about him born on the air by their dark velvety black wings.
Oh, it was glorious up here. He could barely hear the calls of the Dwarves below. It was quite easy to ignore them at this height. A cool breeze ruffled his hair and caressed his face. Glorious indeed.
But eventually the cries of the Dwarves intruded and he opened his eyes once more and peered about, remembering why he was here in the first place.
As far as he could see in any direction was an endless green sea.
“Oh, bother.” He muttered, listening to his stomach growl. “Maybe there is no way out of this forest and we will just wander about forever until we collapse from hunger and thirst.” He sighed, watching a butterfly flit about his face and finally settle on his hand. When it fluttered away he began his descent.
As he reached the ground, he dug Elrond’s handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his hot face. He noticed the scratches on his hands, but thought nothing of them. Misery at his report overwhelmed him. All the joy he had experienced in the sun and breeze, surrounded by butterflies and green leaves, was gone. He quickly told the others what he had seen, and their hope died as well.
“The forest goes on for ever and ever and ever in all directions.” The Dwarves complained. “Whatever shall we do? And what is the use of sending a Hobbit!” They muttered, frowning at their burglar.
They didn’t seem interested in the butterflies or the cool breeze, which only seemed to upset them more.
“You could climb up there for yourselves.” He said at last. “Perhaps one of you might see the way out.”
But the Dwarves only glared at him and continued to complain.
Bilbo shook his head in consternation.
“Bothersome Dwarves.” He mumbled, heading away from them and plopped down beneath another tree and pulled out his pipe. He didn’t fill the bowl as full as he would have liked, since he wanted his pipeweed to last a while longer yet. But as the smoke filled the air, his eyes closing, he enjoyed a little of what he had felt in the top of the oak tree return. He smiled.
“Why are they always smoking?” Brethil said, wrinkling his nose as the three watched from their perch not far away.
“And complaining. And bickering. And – “
“Enough, Tavor. I think we understand what you are saying.” Legolas sighed, shooting a glance at his friend.
Tavor smiled lazily and shrugged.
“They do make an inordinate amount of noise you must admit. And I needn’t remind you, my prince, that they are getting awfully close to – “
“I know, Tavor. I know.” Legolas scowled down at the Dwarves. Why hadn’t they left the forest yet? They were getting too close to his father’s Hall for comfort.
Thranduil enjoyed his excursions to the east and his hunting forays deeper into Mirkwood. He usually came in this direction, south of his Hall. What would happen then? Could he trust that he, Tavor, and Brethil would all be able to keep silent about their knowledge of these Dwarves, if his father happened them upon? His eyes slid to his two friends. Tavor would probably be able to keep from saying anything incriminating, but Brethil…
Legolas frowned and looked away. Discretion was not one of the younger Elf’s strong points. He could easily let slip everything he knew. And if confronted by Thranduil outright…
: We don’t stand a chance. : He thought despairingly. : Why don’t they just leave the forest?! :
Below them the Dwarves continued their growling and gripping. And Bilbo puffed quietly away on his pipe, content at least for the moment, remembering the sun, the breeze, and the butterflies.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.