3. Hunger, Thirst, Singing Orcs, and Bombur Snoring
“Would you please not talk about food, Bilbo.” Gloin called to the Hobbit.
They were all in a bad mood that morning as they prepared to set out again. They had eaten the last bite of food the evening before and now far overhead they could hear rain pattering on the leaves. But only the occasional drop made its torturous way to the forest floor. This only served to remind them of their thirst.
“Accursed forest.” Thorin croaked as he pulled his hood up about his face.
“It’s your turn to help carry Bombur.” Dwalin said to Bifur as they surveyed their still slumbering companion.
“Will he ever wake up? How many days has it been? My arms and back are still sore from the last time I carried him.”
Dwalin snorted adjusting his pack straps.
“I don’t recall. All the days seem much the same to me. Hunger, thirst, Orcs singing, Bombur snoring.” He shrugged.
“Who is snoring?”
Everyone started and turned to stare at the sleeping Dwarf who had just spoken.
His eyes popped open and he sat up, scratching his head.
“My goodness!” he exclaimed. “Where are we? Why are we sitting in a forest?”
They gaped at him in ill concealed astonishment.
“You’re awake!” Ori squeaked, dropping his pack to the ground.
“Of course I am. Where are we?” he repeated climbing to his feet. “What is there to eat, Mr. Baggins? What have we left in your cupboards? Is there any pork pie left? It was quite excellent.” His brows furrowed. “Why are you all staring at me? When did we decide to have a picnic?” He glanced about in bewilderment. “Rather a gloomy place for a picnic really.”
Thorin was the first to find his voice.
“Bombur, don’t you know where we are?”
The fat Dwarf blinked, his eyes scanning the trees.
“The woods near Mr. Baggins’ house, is my guess. But why are we picnicking? I do believe it is starting to rain.”
“Bombur, don’t you remember falling into that black stream? When the deer jumped over your head.”
“What black stream? What are you speaking of, Thorin?”
The other Dwarves and Bilbo glanced uneasily at one another.
“You don’t remember the Trolls, Bombur?” Gloin asked his face troubled.
“Or the Goblins?”
“Beorn’s house? Surely you remember that. We ate quite well there.”
Bombur stared at them stupefied.
“I am certain that if we ate well there, I would remember it.” he said after a moment, feeling rather cross.
“I guess we’d better tell him everything.” Bilbo suggested, settling on the ground wishing he had something to chew on as they told the Dwarf the long tale of their adventures since leaving Bag End. He wondered how oak leaves tasted.
After all was told, and a long exciting tale it was, and Bombur was informed that they were out of food, he dropped heavily to the ground and began to weep into his hands.
“Why did I ever wake up! I was having such beautiful dreams. I dreamed I was walking in a forest rather like this one…”
“You were being carried through a forest rather like this one.” Dori said under his breath. Being the strongest one had its drawbacks.
“Only lit with torches on the trees and lamps swinging from the branches and fires burning on the ground; and there was a great feast going on –“
Several of Bilbo’s companions groaned at this and the Hobbit’s stomach rumbled unhappily at this reminder of the depravity it was suffering. The oak leaves were starting to look rather tasty.
“Going on forever.” Bombur smiled slightly, though he clutched his own empty stomach. Dream food wasn’t very substantial. “A woodland king was there with a crown of leaves, and there was a merry singing – “
“He heard the Orcs, too.” Oin whispered, tugging nervously at his beard.
“…and I could not count or describe the things there were to eat and drink.”
“You need not try.” Thorin interrupted with a fierce scowl. “In fact if you can’t talk of something else, you had better be silent. We are quite annoyed enough with you as it is.”
There were many rumbles of assent to this statement and an especially loud snort from Dori.
“If you hadn’t waked up, we should have left you to your idiotic dreams in the forest; you are no joke to carry even after weeks of short commons.” Thorin stood suddenly and pulled on his woefully light pack.
The others followed suit, ignoring poor Bombur who complained that his legs didn’t fell quite right and he wasn’t certain that he could go on. After all, he reminded them. They had eaten food that rightfully should have been his. They all turned and glared so fiercely at him that he whimpered and picked up his own pack and slung it disconsolately over his shoulder. Suddenly several packs hit him in the back. Twelve to be exact. Only Bilbo had kept his, not wanting to take a chance at loosing what few things he still possessed in case Bombur fell into another stream.
“Why did you do that?” Bombur whined.
“Because you are going to carry them all.” Thorin said, with a grin. “You owe us that much for making us carry you for so long.” And with that he strode off with great purpose.
The other Dwarves grinned at one another, a few slapping Bombur on the back as they passed him, rather harder than was necessary in some cases. Bilbo couldn’t suppress the smile that teased at his lips as he walked by the whimpering Dwarf who had bent to pick up the packs and was trying to arrange them suitably.
“This isn’t fair.” he moaned. “I haven’t eaten for days. Please, Thorin. I am too weak to carry all these packs.”
“Then go back to sleep and maybe Oin’s singing Orcs will come and feed you. That is if they don’t eat you.”
“Singing Orcs?!” Bombur gasped, straightening suddenly and staring wildly into the trees. “Eat me! Wait! Wait!” He threw the packs round his shoulders and hurried after them, stumbling in his haste as he looked back over his shoulder as though he feared an entire hoard of Orcs was chasing him.
“That poor Dwarf.” Brethil breathed, staring after Bombur with pity. “Couldn’t we just give – “
“No!” Both Legolas and Tavor hissed, gazing at him in disgust.
“Why not? I just thought – “
“Don’t think, Brethil. It will be your undoing.”
The younger Elf glared at Tavor.
“You at least should feel sorry for him. After all you fell into Morn Nen [Black Stream] once yourself.”
“What are you talking about, Brethil?”
Brethil looked at Legolas who was smiling widely. Tavor also turned to his prince and was not amused by what he saw in those sparkling blue eyes.
“I did not fall into Morn Nen.” he stated. “Don’t you think I would remember if I had?”
Both Legolas and Brethil burst into amused laughter.
“You are making this up.” Tavor declared in an insulted voice.
“No, we are not. Don’t you remember when you, Legolas, Glamren, Darthannan, and I tied a rope across Morn Nen and dared each other to walk across it?”
Tavor’s eyes widened, his nostrils flaring. He searched his memory frantically for any glimmering that what Brethil was saying was true – or as he fervently hoped – not true. He studied their fair faces intently.
“I don’t believe you.” he said finally, turning away from them. “You are both enjoying this far too much for it to be true.” : Or, : he thought glumly. : Are they enjoying themselves so much because it is true? :
“I told you that he wouldn’t remember, Brethil.” Legolas grinned, his eyes suddenly gleaming with a wicked light. “And to think that you were so worried that he would recall that you pushed him in just as he reached the edge.”
“What?!” Tavor wheeled on Brethil, his eyes narrowing in anger.
“Legolas! You said you wouldn’t tell him!” Brethil backed slowly away from Tavor who began to advance on him slowly, his fist clenched.
“Oops! I guess I forgot.”
“Brethil! How could you push me into Morn Nen! You will pay for that!” Tavor leapt after the younger Elf.
“But Tavor! You don’t even remember it!” Brethil sprinted away, running as hard as he could, knowing that he could never outrace his friend. He never could.
Legolas laughed loudly, feeling that the debt they owed for calling him a singing Orc prince was paid. He loped after them laughing and singing.
Bilbo was walking behind the Dwarves, his smoke the day before and the memory of his time in the top of the tree having worked to calm his frayed nerves. And of course Bombur’s awakening. It was a relief not to hear his snoring after so long. Though now he was whimpering and complaining.
:Ah, well. : Bilbo though cheerily. : At least he is awake and the others will stop complaining about carrying him. One Dwarf complaining is a lot better than twelve. :
He had been humming snatches of songs to help keep his mind from his groaning stomach. He thought of songs sung in the Shire, happy folk tunes that made him bounce as he walked; then the songs of the Dwarves so different and stirring. That was partly to blame for his being here now: the stirring of his Took blood that night so long ago in May when he had an unexpected party with thirteen Dwarves and a Wizard. Then his mind turned to the music he had heard while they were at the Last Homely Home in Rivendell.
Elves’ music was different from Hobbit music; or Dwarf music; or for that matter Goblin music. And as Bilbo turned this over in his mind, something struck him. The Elves of Rivendell were always full of laughter and merriment. And singing. He tired to recall some of the words that the “Orcs” had sung, comparing them to words he had heard and in some cases learned in Elrond’s valley.
“What is it, Mr. Baggins?”
“What is the Elvish word for Dwarves?”
“Elvish word? What makes you think that I know any Elvish words?”
“Such a well traveled person as yourself must surely have picked up a few words here and there.” Bilbo allowed himself a small smile. He was learning how to handle these Dwarves. And flattery never hurt.
“Well, perhaps I have. Let me see.” Thorin furrowed his brows in deep thought.
“Would it by any chance by – uh – Anfang?”
“Well, yes. I do believe that you are right. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I was just thinking. Do you remember the singing Orcs?”
“No.” Bombur muttered. He had just managed to catch up to the others and was panting slightly. Even nearly empty packs could be oppressive if one hadn’t eaten in what seemed like a lifetime.
“Well, I was wondering if perhaps it wasn’t Orcs at all.”
“Of course it was.” Oin spoke up, nervously eyeing the trees.
“I hate to disagree with you, but I don’t think it was, Oin. I think it was Elves.”
“Elves? What makes you think that?” Thorin asked.
“Well, I was remembering all the wonderful songs we heard in Rivendell. Beautiful songs in Elvish. It seems very similar to what Oin’s Orcs were singing. The words, I mean, not the tunes. And well I thought there was one word that figured rather prominently in one of the songs we heard here. Anfang. And you just said that was the Elvish word for Dwarves. I think they were singing about us.”
“About us? Whatever for? I think that is ridiculous.”
“I don’t know, Thorin.” Gloin said, as Kili and Fili nodded in agreement. “Perhaps he is right.”
Balin and Dwalin glanced at one another then shrugged.
“We did hear Elves singing in Rivendell and they sounded nothing like that.” Oin said, not liking the fact that his grand thought about singing Orcs was proving to be wrong. Not that he wanted there to Orcs about, singing or otherwise.
“That is not surprising.” Thorin interjected. “Not that I am saying that it was Elves singing, mind you. Only that any Elves living in this horrid place would not sound the same as Elves living in Rivendell. Their music would be – “ he paused.
Strange and eerie. The words drifted through his brain.
: Hmph! :
But then a rather disturbing thought presented itself to him.
: Old wicked Thranduil’s people. That doesn’t surprise me. Perhaps the Burglar is right after all.: But then another thought surfaced, much more unsettling. : If he finds out where we are headed and why he will want a part of it, that greedy Elf! Probably think it is due to him or something. Well, we must avoid that at all costs then! :
“Well, yes,” he finally said. “Strange and eerie. Perhaps it is Mirkwood Elves after all.” He snorted suddenly. “And that’s just as bad as singing Orcs in my book.”
“What did he just say?” Tavor bristled.
“I think he said that we are just as bad as singing Orcs.” Brethil whispered.
Legolas scowled. He had been impressed that the furry-footed one had figured out that it was Elves chasing them with laughter and strange and eerie songs. But really!
“I hope my father does find them.” He growled, his eyes following them filled with great dislike. “ Just as bad as singing Orcs indeed.”