Days and weeks passed that Scaldo could not count. Surely there was no one from the beginning of time to the present that had gone longer without seeing a hot stove. He missed his whole kitchen and hated the evil fire he and the Dwarf cooked with; the fire bit his fingers as he "tasted" dinner, and the food was so bland, consisting of whatever the Dwarf sniffed out. Berries, roots, twigs – well, the last was Scaldo's idea but it did not work out so well – and furry animals. Scaldo could not figure that one out, for he had always thought ham, chicken carcasses, and the like grew on trees.
On those rare moments when his stomach was moderately full, he was able to think about a few things more than food, and usually he came to the agonizing thought of Tintil, felled by a stone, and who had been so nice to him. Guilt festered in his insides like sour milk. If only… at this point his stomach would growl and the sentence went incomplete.
"I wish I'd stayed with Chamsar."
"Why, flab face? Yeh'd be dead! An' he wouldn'tve cared. Get the fire goin'!"
Scaldo remembered Tintil's warning: any doings with the Dwarf or Chamsar would bring trouble. And he remembered another thing.
"But Tintil said you two were… almost… friends."
"Bla, bla, bla! Be stupid somewhere else!"
The rest of the night, Scaldo slept under a bush, far from the fire, for if he got into the light, the Dwarf threw a rock at him. It was cold and miserable; no light even came from the moon, which had a week since been devoured by whatever does eat it in the sky.
The bush he slept under, as it turned out, was a thistle bush. Scaldo's breaches were so faded and frayed, his poor vest so tattery, a few more rips did not matter.
The Dwarf was gone and so was the fire. Breakfast, as hard as Scaldo tried to think it into being, did not appear. So he sucked on a twig and thought: Misery is me. What would they say in Bobbing? Then it slowly occurred to him, picking bark from between his teeth, that he never had cared what they said. And I wonder, should I have? Was I miserable there, like here, but in a different way? At home I only cooked much and ate much and… yes… Out here I walk and other nasties and eat little. But at home I was always alone. Out here I have, well, mingled. Poor Tintil! The Dwarf is not so nice company, though I wonder if he really means to be so rude. And mean.
Something hit the back of his large head, and he ate the something, without further inquiry.
"Good news, Chubb." The Dwarf's rough voice was so amiable, Scaldo choked. "We're almost there, with time to spare. Everything's ready."
The Dwarf kicked Scaldo, which may or may not have had helpful intentions, but anyway, Scaldo swallowed his mouthful.
"Now listen, fatty. Don't run off and do wha' I tell yeh." The Dwarf's protruding nose sniffed at the sky. "An' yeh best 'ope the weather 'olds."
Scaldo's lips started to form a "w" word, and then decided better.
Two more days the Dwarf stomped down the last of the summer's growth and Scaldo trudged behind, stubbing his toes and wheezing in the heat. The morning of the third start the beginning of the end. That day, Scaldo came to the end of everything he knew and all he could say was: "Sweet muffins."
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.