18. The End Gets Closer
"Well, they were in combat when I left. But I was in a hurry..."
Scaldo did not wait for Hildifons; he waddled at full speed, stubbed his toe, and slowed down again. It did not, however, take long before he saw a cloud of grainy stuff in which one tall figure and a small, normal sized figure ran around. A ways off from them, near the big water, huddled the men with Tintil.
Scaldo went to them first.
"Aren't you going to do anything?"
"Nay! Chamsar said to not interfere," said one man.
"Besides, we dare not move lest the sun burn out again," added another.
Tintil alone hardened up. He turned to the others.
"It matters not. All of Chamsar's orders are void. He broke seventeen himself just now."
The men did not respond.
"Then what do we do?" said Scaldo, rather hoping Tintil would suggest they make dinner.
"I'll tend to Chamsar, you to the Dwarf," said Tintil.
"I disagree with that idea."
"Have you another plan?"
"Then there is naught else to be done."
Around this time, Chamsar kicked grain stuff towards the Dwarf's eyes (which did not work) and the Dwarf kicked grain stuff towards Chamsar's eyes (which did work). As Chamsar cursed and scratched at his face, the Dwarf stomped on his leather-shoed foot. Chamsar yelped and hopped on one leg like a deranged rabbit.
It was even harder than Scaldo thought it would be to get close to the two fighters. Most of the reason for difficulty was that the ground was littered with missiles they had intended for each other: knives and smooth stones.
Tintil slipped behind Chamsar (still hopping, with half his mustache missing) and hit his older brother in the head with a stone. Chamsar dropped his foot, swayed, and fell backwards on top of Tintil.
Scaldo tried likewise. He picked up a stone and snuck close to the Dwarf with hobbit silence, but his right toes got tangled in his left toes, and he fell onto his stomach. The Dwarf, fresh from laughing at Chamsar, turned to Scaldo.
"Now, now." Hildifons finally appeared, walking steadily from downhill. "Let's not be rash. I have an idea: let's have some tea and talk it over."
"How he says," said Scaldo.
"Yes," chorused Tintil muffly.
"The big idjit's too thick for talk."
"Never mind that, never mind. Today's a day for us to celebrate. The dwarves are humiliated once more. Just a little bit of tea, for old times' sake."
"Awright. But just a little tea."
The Dwarf, Scaldo, and the men carrying their leader followed Hildifons as he led the way into the tunnels through the stone door. Back in his room, it was cramped: the men sat on chairs with their knees drawn to their chins, trying to drink from hot tea cups. Tintil tended to Chamsar. He was slumped against a wall, still out cold, with his single mustache drooping.
The Dwarf and Hildifons slurped tea with much noise. Scaldo, though, could not manage to sip his cup without scalding his chins, for he still shook from the overburden of information and frights from the day. Right then, he wondered why he even bothered to stay here, with Chamsar and the Dwarf, when both obviously did not care whether he died or not as long as they irritated the other.
"Why do they hate each other so much?" Scaldo whispered to Tintil, who had stripped half the bandages from his own head and wrapped them on Chamsar's. "But you cannot say anything."
"My oath is void."
"So what happened that their friendship crumbled?"
"The Dwarf made a deplorable insult of Cham's mustaches."
"But... but... that's stupid!"
"Nay, tisn't even all. This insult was made in the company of the Lady Penhíril."
"Ohh..." Scaldo was beginning to see where this was going.
"After this, Chamsar retaliated with a beardlessness jibe, and ere long both were in fisted battle. It happened this took place in a street recently rained upon, and the Lady was toppled and muddied, and that, as they say, was the end of that. Chamsar's honor was destroyed; he changed his name and fled into the wild. Along with the men who came to him, he took guarding Sarn Ford as his purpose, besides hating the Dwarf. I came to look after him, else he do something foolish."
"The Dwarf should not have quarreled with him at all, then."
"My brother has a way of remembering deeds he did, even if he did not do them. Perhaps the Dwarf thought Cham had gotten too highbrowed."
"Ahh, he is very tall."
Tintil scratched his sparsely haired chin. "That too."
"If Chamsar hates the Dwarf so much, why did he come all the way here?"
"I suggested we track you and the dwarves. That was only the proper thing to do; however, I think Cham had more than that in mind. He did not want the Dwarf to win, nor the other dwarves. He does not like them either."
"Here is to glorious victory," said Hildifons loudly, draining his tea cup and smacking his lips. He got up and filled the kettle for the seventh time. "Hm-mm. Nothing like a good joke to end the day."
"A joke!" squealed guess who.
"Oh yes! We irritate the dwarves, they try to kill us. What could be more fun? They started it, you know."
"How did they ever find out about me, anyway?"
"I told 'em, flabby."
Scaldo had never been this angry. His eyes narrowed as he seethed over the awful adventures he had endured: the destruction of his pantry, the cow muck, the ravenous water, the scares, the aches, the hunger, just to name a few. "Then that's it! That's it! Those mad dwarves almost killed me three or four times because you wanted to play a joke on them!"
"An' get five sacks of goods." The Dwarf patted the bursting bags.
"I told you before, they would have tried to kill you sooner or later; we just pushed things along."
"And they'll really never bother me again."
"Not unless you do not stick up for yourself."
Scaldo looked at his fists, realizing they were quite sizable indeed.
"I think I will. Now, about my going back home..."
"But before that, I want to show you around," said the Took. "Maybe you will came back when I'm gone and put the secrets to better use. Those dwarves out there are petty and they'd just as soon eat the manuscripts than read them, for all their talk about dwarven honor."
Scaldo resisted the urge to say I don't think so! to the offer but decided it was better to humor the old one.
"I object!" Chamsar stood up, rubbing his head. "He was and is still my prisoner of battle, so says the unwritten laws of Eriador."
"But I won 'im out of battle."
"I traded him..."
Gurrglegrowl! "Sorry everyone, but I cannot stand this any longer. I will go and do as I please. Don't dare try to stop me. If you simply must argue, be it over something less ridiculous!" (He did not dare add "and be friends" because he was sure that would have overdone it).
Everyone shurruped, except the Dwarf.
"You ain't so dumb, Chubb."
Compliment or not, Scaldo felt pleased at his aptitude for diplomacy. He looked around at the men, dwarf, and hobbit and smiled.
"I don't know about you, but all this almost dying makes me hungry!"
One more chapter to go!
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