24. The Problem With Dwarves
"It had better be soon, Mr. Invisible Baggins," Thorin had said. "It is still some way yet to our.destination." He ended in a whisper, ever fearful that sharp Elven ears might hear any carelessly chosen word he uttered.
"I am working on it, Thorin," Bilbo assured him. His plan was fairly simple and should - he hoped - work quite well. It was the Dwarves' willingness to leave that troubled him. He sighed as he crept away from Thorin's cell. Most were more than ready to be rid of this place, but Bombur and Gloin were reluctant to depart. He decided to visit them first and perhaps persuade them that it was indeed time to flee the hospitality of King Thranduil.
Bombur was alone for once, humming happily to himself.
"Bombur! Bombur! Can you hear me?"
The Dwarf turned then stood, a smile lighting his face.
"How are you, Bilbo?" he asked politely.
"I am quite well, thank you. How are you?"
"Oh, I am very well," Bombur said sounding very pleased and excited as he came top whisper at the keyhole. "You will never guess what is going to happen!"
"Well, no. I don't suppose that I could." A feeling of apprehension filled the Hobbit. He was certain that it would mean the Dwarf would be even more reluctant to go.
"Then I will tell you! Oh, Bilbo," he gasped, clapping his hands together in glee. "The Elves have asked me to make something for the King's feast!"
"What? The King's feast? But, Bombur," he spluttered, blinking rapidly in surprise. "When is the King's feast? My goodness! Those Elves certainly do like their feasts! Not that I blame them, but Bombur.we will be leaving soon!"
"Oh, yes. I know that. You don't suppose the others could be convinced to stay? Just a little longer," he said hopefully.
:Oh, bother! Here we go again! : Bilbo thought wearily.
"No, Bombur. I can't see them wanting to stay locked in their cells any longer than is absolutely necessary."
"That is too bad. I have rather enjoyed it here." The Dwarf heaved a great sigh. "We will be here for the feast, won't we? It will be in just a few days." That wasn't entirely true, but Bilbo wouldn't know that.
"Well, I suppose we will," Bilbo conceded, frowning slightly. "Bombur, is this to be a big feast?"
"Oh, yes! A wondrous feats! With lots of singing and music and dancing! And food!" He sighed, clasping his hands together in delight. "Oh, I am so excited! The Elves have promised me that I may sample everything!"
Bilbo was only half listening to the raptures of the Dwarf. He knew that if it were a large feast then there would be plenty of empty barrels to float down the river; plenty of barrels for the Dwarves to ride all the way to Lake Town in. He felt a swell of excitement himself.
"I am very happy for you, Bombur. I am sure the King will be quite thrilled with whatever it is you will prepare for him."
"Oh, yes! I am quite adept in the kitchen, you know. You must excuse me, Bilbo. I must decide what to fix. Oh! Please tell the others about it. I am sure they will feel honored that I was chosen to do this!"
Being dismissed Bilbo moved on to speak with each of the Dwarves, bearing messages from one to the other.
Balin was pleased to hear of their imminent release. He spoke at some length on what he would do once they had rid themselves of the Dragon.
".and then I should like to reclaim Khazad-dum," he finished with a wistful sigh. Ever his thoughts seemed to turn to the other lost kingdom.
:I only hope I won't have to help you reclaim that one!: Bilbo thought wryly.
Just as he was turning to leave the white bearded Dwarf called softly to him.
"Are you quite sure, Bilbo, that the fair maiden is really the King's son?"
Bilbo grimaced at the slight quaver in the other's voice. Really! Perhaps their privations in the forest had affected their eyesight.
"I am quite certain, Balin. I am so sorry, but he is the King's son."
Balin sighed deeply and shuffled away from the door.
"That is really too bad. He is quite pretty though, isn't he?"
Bilbo shook his head in amusement. These Dwarves were really rather funny at times.
"Yes, Balin. I suppose he is." Shaking his head in dismayed amusement Bilbo moved off down the corridor and back to his storeroom to consider his plan more carefully.
Gwibess studied her three masters, trying to keep the rather bored expression from her face. Since they had run away three days earlier they had camped out under the stars enjoying the peace and quiet of the forest. Camping was fine, she had decided, if one didn't have to do it for more than a few hours at a time. There were no sparkly things to amuse here out here at all! She had not been very pleased to flee the palace at such great speed either, with Thrumb Dumb shrieking after them and the other Elves looking at them with strange expressions on their faces. She had become rather fond of her quiet life as a tame spider and even this small departure from it was wearying.
"Masters? When are we going home?"
But the three Masters were engrossed in their own worries. Tavor was looking rather dejected and throwing bits of grass and dead leaves into their small fire; Brethil for once, was quiet, staring into the woods beyond them; Legolas was scowling at nothing. Things had not worked out well. They had brought no food with them, or water. And only Brethil had a bow. The three sighed simultaneously.
"Can we go home yet?" Brethil asked. "I really don't want to stay out here anymore." He glanced at their spider. "Gwibess wants to go as well." He smiled over at her and she moved to stand beside him gratefully.
Tavor looked hopefully to Legolas. He didn't want to be the first to broach the subject, but since Brethil had he was ready to agree.
Legolas gazed at his two friends and the spider, amazed at the pitiful looks on their faces. He sighed again, digging in the ground before him with a stick.
"Yes. We will go home. But first," he interrupted their cries of happiness. "We have to go and get the jewels the other spiders took. Perhaps that will lessen the punishment we are going to get."
Tavor grimaced. Not again. How many times could they be punished in such a short amount of time? In one lifetime?
"Your father must surely be out of punishments by now." He muttered, rising gracefully to his feet. "Even he cannot possibly think of any more ways to humiliate us."
"Oh, I am sure he could, Tavor." Brethil began, standing also and stretching then scratching Gwibess on the head. He drew a breath and opened his mouth.
"Shut up, Brethil." Legolas and Tavor moaned.
"Come on. We need to find the spiders. Do you have any idea where they are?" Legolas asked, looking at the others.
Gwibess raised one spindly leg.
"I do, Master." She said reluctantly.
"Really? Where are they?"
"They are near the Magic Water. Where your boat floated away and I fell in."
"Good! That is not too far." Legolas stopped and looked at her. "You remember that?" His eyes slide to his friends. He wasn't certain what would happen when the effects of Morn Nen wore off.
Tavor frowned, brows knit.
"How can she remember? The effects can't wear off."
"Yes, they do eventually." Legolas stared at the spider. She looked abashed and regretful about having spoken out. She feared they would send her away now.
"They do not! Brethil pushed me in and I still don't remember it."
Legolas smiled for the first time in days. Brethil giggled, covering his mouth with his hand.
"What are you two laughing at?"
The two grinned at one another. Having decided that the little trick had served several purposes they decided the game was up.
"You never fell in. We just made that up. We had that game planned for some time. When Brethil called me a Prince of Singing Orcs I decided to start it. He took the blame and the fun began!" Legolas said, then he began to laugh.
"What?! What?!!" Tavor spluttered glaring at them. "You made it up! Why I ought to -!" He leapt at Brethil who was the slower of the two, but Gwibess blocked his way and Brethil managed to escape into the trees, trailing after Legolas. Tavor growled at Gwibess. "Get out of my way, Gwibess!"
"May I go home now, Master Ta Worm?" She asked, ready to pin him to the ground if he refused her. Though she feared that he would then tell her not to return home. Ever. That she could not bear.
"Yes. Go home. Just.just stay out of trouble!" He danced around the spider and sprinted into the trees.
Gwibess gleefully headed in the opposite direction, glad to be on her way back to her sparkling nest at last. She hissed and creaked merrily as she trotted along, then took to the trees. She failed to see the small group of Orcs that were hunting for a place to rest for the day as the dawn approached.
"Are you sure this is where she is?" One asked, looking about him. "It was quite a while ago when she was heard."
"It was here somewhere. I thought I heard voices earlier, but no one was singing."
"Won't it be wonderful when we find her," a third one sighed happily.
"Yes," the fourth and fifth agreed. "We have been hunting her for quite some time now."
"She has the most beautiful voice. She really scared those stupid Dwarves away! Fools! How could they not like her singing? Though they should throw themselves at her feet and thank her for saving their miserable lives. To think we had tracked them all the way from the Misty Mountains to here only to let them go." The Orc smiled recalling the eerie voice they had heard singing in the woods. "I will throw myself at her feet when we find her."
"I wonder what she looks like?" The sixth and final one said, a silly grin on its ugly face.
"Let's go," the leader called "Hopefully this night we will find our Singing Orc Princess!"