8. Slaying Spiders and Retaliation
“O! Why did we not remember Beorn’s advice, and Gandalf’s! What a mess we are in now! We! I only wish it was we: it is horrible being all alone.” He said quietly, gazing about him for some sign of the dwarves. In the end he slipped on his ring, made a good guess at the direction from which the cries of the Dwarves had come in the night. And because he was born a rather lucky Hobbit he guessed rightly – more or less.
He moved silently through the trees, for Hobbits at need can move more quietly even than Wood Elves, when he noticed a place of darker shadows ahead. As he drew closer he saw why.
The place of darkness was made by spider-webs all tangled, matted and crossing over one another again and again. And then he saw the spiders: horrible and loathsome, too many of them. They were squatting in the branches above him.
He trembled with fear and disgust and hoped that they could not see him. He turned his ring on his finger, as if to assure him that it was indeed there. Then something chilled him even more: the spiders were speaking to one another in creaky, hissing voices and they were talking about the Dwarves – his Dwarves!
“It was a sharp struggle, but worth it. What nasty thick skins they have to be sure, but I’ll wager there is good juice inside.”
“Juicy! Juicy!” A young one squeaked.
“Aye, they’ll make fine eating when they’ve hung a bit.” Another announced.
“Fine eating! Fine eating!”
“Don’t hang ‘em too long. They’re not as fat as they might be.” A third adult commented. “Been feeding none too well of late, I should guess.”
Bilbo shuddered, sharply reminded of the three Troll’s discussion on how to eat the Dwarves. He wondered if Gandalf would show up to save them this time. Somehow he doubted it.
“Kill ‘em I say.” Another hissed. “Kill ‘em now and hang ‘em dead for a while.”
“They’re dead now, I’ll warrant.” The first said.
“That they are not. I saw one a-struggling just now. Just coming round again, I should say, after a bee-autiful sleep. I’ll show you.”
One of the fat spiders ran along a sticky rope till it came to a high, thick branch with a dozen bundles hanging from it in a neat row.
: Oh no! : Bilbo thought as he stared up, seeing a Dwarvish foot sticking out here and there. Or the tip of a nose, a beard, or the end of a hood.
The spider went to the fattest bundle.
: Poor Bombur, I’ll bet. : Bilbo thought and watched with growing horror as the spider nipped at the protruding nose. A muffled yelp was heard and a toe shot up and kicked the spider hard. The spider hissed and fell from the branch, catching itself by a thread just before it hit the ground.
The others laughed at it.
“You were quite right, the meat’s alive and kicking!”
“I’ll soon put an end to that.” The spider hissed and started to climb toward Bombur once more.
: Oh, no! : Bilbo thought. : What am I to do? : He stared up at the spiders knowing that it was impossible for him to climb up to them. And what could he do clinging helplessly to a branch? He glanced about and saw many stones lying in what appeared to be a now dry stream. Bilbo was a fair shot and soon had a nice egg-shaped stone that suited his purpose. Bilbo was quite good at throwing with great accuracy. He had practiced throwing stones at things from the time he was a boy, stemming from the time that a carelessly thrown stone had broken out a window of his father and mother’s house. He was now a rather deadly shot. The spider reached for Bombur and Bilbo threw. The stone struck the spider squarely on the head and it fell to the ground stunned, all its legs curled up.
More stones flew and the spider colony grew greatly agitated. They could not see what was throwing the stones, but they could guess what direction they came from. They began their lightning fast descent, flinging strings in all directions.
Bilbo soon slipped silently to another place, leading the spiders further and further away from the Dwarves. When a group fifty had gone off to a place where he had stood, he threw more stones at them, and at others that had stopped behind. They were angry and excited, hissing violently at one another. Bilbo laughed quietly, suddenly remembering the Elves singing to the Dwarves, frightening them. So he sang to the spiders:
Old fat spider spinning in a tree!
Old fat spider can’t see me!
Won’t you stop,
Stop your strutting and look for me?
Old Tomnoddy, all big body,
Old Tomnoddy can’t spy me!
Down you drop!
You’ll never catch me up your tree!
Soon all the spiders were after him. They obviously didn’t like his song. They swung down from the branches, casting strings over the open spaces as they went.
Bilbo moved to a new place, but the spiders had moved about their home and were fencing him in, spinning their strings between the trees as quickly as they could. Standing in the middle of the spiders he sang one more song.
“Lazy Lob and crazy Cob
are weaving webs to wind me.
I am far more sweet than other meat,
But still they cannot find me!
Here am I , naughty little fly;
you are fat and lazy.
You cannot trap me, though you try,
in my cobwebs crazy.”
Then Mr. Baggins turned and pulled out Sting, he slashed through the last space between two tall trees with only a thin webbing between them. The spiders saw the sword, though they didn’t know what it was and all rushed after the Hobbit, hairy legs waving, eyes popping, full of rage. He lead them a merry chase into the forest until he dared go no further for fear of becoming lost and never finding the Dwarves again. He hid behind a tree and watched as the spiders rushed past, then quiet as a mouse he crept back to rescue the Dwarves.
He climbed up one of the spiders’ sticky ropes, thinking of how to free the Dwarves. But at the top he met an old, slow, wicked fat spider that had stayed to guard the dinners and had been pinching them to see which was juiciest. But before it realized that it had company, Sting flashed and the spider rolled off the branch dead. Bilbo smiled with satisfaction, slipped off his ring, and began to free his friends.
Before Bilbo had even begun his morning adventure, three young Elves of Mirkwood stood shaking before their very irate king. Thranduil glared down at them, breathing harshly as he sought some sort of control over his anger before he had them all pitched into Morn Nen headfirst.
“You wanted my necklace for a spider.” he said, through clenched teeth. “A spider!”
“We…we thought, your Majesty,” Brethil began. “that perhaps if pushed the spider into Morn Nen it would fall asleep and then we could put the necklace on it. Because it might forget that it was a spider. And it would make a wonderful pet. But…well…” He gazed at Tavor and Legolas for support. “Legolas overbalanced and - nearly fell in, but the necklace went in instead and the spider floated away and –“
“Brethil, be quiet!” Legolas moaned.
The people of Mirkwood stared at their king and thanked Elbereth that they weren’t the ones standing before him. The three young Elves were constantly doing things that brought them to Thranduil’s attention, but they had not seen him this upset with them before. They had heard quite clearly about the spider and the necklace. But, they wondered, what had this to do with the Dwarves. They shifted uneasily and waited.
Thranduil looked over at Tanglinna, who hastily rid his face of the wide – inappropriate – grin.
“Tanglinna, escort them back to Gladaran Thamas. And make certain there are no – mishaps – on the way.”
“Yes, your Majesty.” Tanglinna moved to gather the bag with Legolas’ clothing in it and waited for the three to follow him.
Brethil stood with his head down and Tavor’s usual smirk was absent. The three needed to have their impetuosity curbed at times, but the Master Archer felt a stab of pity for them. And it amused him that the three still chased after spiders for fun.
“Father, I – “
“Go, Legolas. I will deal with you later.”
Legolas sighed, and bowed gracefully. Then he turned to join the others.
“Let’s go.” Tanglinna said, hoping his voice didn’t betray his uncharacteristic sympathy.
Thranduil watched them go, scowling fiercely. Celebross and Aralith even felt a pang of regret for their brother.
“I really wasn’t going to tell.” Aralith whispered. “I thought it was rather funny.”
“It doesn’t matter now. Brethil told everything he knows.”
“He always does. That’s why father always goes after him like a hawk after a rabbit.”
Thranduil turned to them, effectively halting their conversation.
“Return home.” He said, including not only his sons, but the others as well. “This night’s festivities are over.”
The Wood Elves quietly vanished into the dark trees. Aralith and Celebross exchanged glances and moved away from their father.
“I don’t think they’ll get out of this one so easily. I almost feel sorry for them.”
Thranduil remained in the empty clearing, staring at nothing. His beautiful necklace was lost in Morn Nen.
“One of the ones you didn’t want to pay the Dwarves for making.”
Brethil’s words rang in his head. There had been wars with the Dwarves in the past and accusations had run high on both sides.
:I paid them what was owed them. : he thought, frowning.
But it angered him to hear the old argument, especially from the lips of one of his own subjects.
“I don’t owe the Dwarves anything.” He stated aloud, striding out of the clearing, green robes billowing about him. “And why are there Dwarves in Mirkwood anyway? Up to no good. I will get to the bottom of this. They had better not be here to rob us.” He walked for a time in silence and then growled again. “I don’t owe them anything.”
“I am so sorry.” Brethil said as the three trudged ahead of Tanglinna.
“I think you’ve said that quite enough for one night.” Tavor replied dispiritedly. He glanced at Legolas who was walking silently at his side.
“What do you think he will do?” Brethil asked.
“I don’t want to think about it.” Tavor answered. “Why did you have to tell him everything, Brethil. He might not have noticed that particular necklace was missing for quite sometime.”
“I don’t know.” The young Elf sighed, shaking his head and tugging on one long, blonde braid. “I just couldn’t seem to stop.”
“You never can. That is why he pounces on you. You need to learn to use more discretion like Legolas and I.”
Tanglinna snorted behind them.
“Someone wasn’t being very discreet when he mentioned the Dwarves earlier.”
“You see, Tavor. No one can stand before the king and keep his composure. Not even his own son. If he can’t, then what possible chance do I have?”
“None.” Tavor and Tanglinna said together. The two glanced at one another and almost smiled.
Legolas was silent as they walked and a scowl graced his face beneath his rather askew wreath.
: He’s taking this rather hard, poor princeling. : Tanglinna thought. : Usually he manages to laugh it off. :
Tavor had noticed the unusual silence as well.
“Legolas, he won’t do anything too…uh…too horrible to us.” he said. : I hope he doesn’t do anything horrible to us. : he thought, with a slight shudder.
“I wonder where our spider is.” Legolas said quietly.
“What?” Tavor gazed over at him in amazement. “Our spider?”
“The poor thing looked rather scared when it floated away. I wonder where it came ashore.”
Tanglinna halted in his tracks and stared at him.
“Your father is ready to take your head off for losing his valuable necklace and all you can think about is that silly spider?”
“It was a very nice spider. I think it would have become quite tame.”
“You never cease to amaze me, young princeling. Are you so cocky that you think nothing will happen to you over this?”
“It’s not just the spider. Our boat is gone, too. It was a particularly nice boat.” He sighed and shook his head.
“What of the necklace, my prince? Perhaps you could escape the king’s wrath over the Dwarves, but not over this.”
“If only it hadn’t fallen into Morn Nen. Any where else and we could have recovered it.” Brethil breathed sorrowfully.
“I don’t see what all this fuss is about.” Legolas said, he took his bag of clothing from Tanglinna. “It was only a necklace. He has lots of them.” Slowly he moved ahead of others. “It made him forget the Dwarves for a time at least. And Brethil, why did you tell father that I overbalanced. I know you tried to push me in.”
“I…Well…Yes. But it was Tavor’s idea.”
“Legolas, really. This is not the time to think of that.” Tavor commented. “There are more serious things to think on.” : Like what is going to happen to us. :
“What? Do you fear I will retaliate?”
“Hmph. You always find a way to retaliate.”
“I know. Do you suppose that you have been paid back in full yet?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I mean, poor Brethil telling father everything that he knows. Or thinks he knows - as he always does. Shaking like a leaf in the wind. Father loosing his temper at us over a necklace lost in Morn Nen. And you - looking like you were about to faint on the spot. Is that retaliation enough?”
Tavor’s face reddened, fists clenching.
“What are you talking about, Legolas?” he growled.
Grinning wickedly, he turned and pulled the necklace from his bag where it had been tucked inside his hunting tunic.
“What?! Where did you get that?! Legolas! You’ve had it the whole time?!”
“I only told you that I dropped it because you tried to push me in.”
“But…But…how did you know Brethil would tell your father about it? Why did you stand there and let him yell at us in front of everyone!”
“I know. Revenge is quite a wonderful thing, don’t you think.” He shrugged. “Brethil always tells everything.”
“I do not!” Brethil spluttered. “Well…I try not to, but –“ He glanced at the amused face before him. Then he shook his head, relief washing over him. The necklace wasn’t lost. Thranduil wasn’t going to punish them. He laughed.
“Really, you should thank me.” Legolas continued, staring at Tavor who was not so forgiving.
“Thank you! I should strangle you!”
“Father didn’t get angry about the Dwarves, did he? Now he’ll probably forget them.”
Tavor stared at him with his mouth open, for once not certain what to say.
Then the sound of muffled laughter caused them to turn. Tanglinna was bent over, shaking with mirth.
“That one is worthy of your father, princeling.” He stood, eyes sparkling. “And just for that I will help you catch another spider.”
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.