5. A Tumble
First instinct was to dig a hole and stick his head into it.
"Gerrup!" shouted the Dwarf, overruling the hobbit's instinct. Scaldo tried but his bottom weighed more than his stomach and he fell over, just as another knife hit the ground where he had been sitting.
Scaldo did not know what was happening. There were shouts from the Dwarf and more whistling of knives. Shock took over his senses. "Gerrup, Chubb!" came the voice through the haze. But Scaldo simply could not.
Boots landed by his side. "Move!" Scaldo felt a hard shove against his sagging middle. Before he knew it he was rolling. Rolling down hill.
Leaves and stems smacked his fat face leaving it stinging. They were soon flattened. The world became a swirl of greens-blues-greens... he started to feel sick. plop! His descent ended in squishiness.
For a moment Scaldo lay still on his stomach. Numerous cuts and bruises throbbed. He got onto his chubby knees in the mud. He had rolled into a creek bed, fairly dried up from the hot summer. In a daze his mind wondered... who were those attackers... what if they decided to find him?
What was needed was a plan. No time to waste, Scaldo Chubb! he told himself. I must find somewhere to hide.
He tried to stand, but slipped back in. Again and again and again, till he was unrecognizable as a troll-faced hobbit.
Finally, with a tremendous heave, he was upright. He reflected that, after this, he would need to devote a fortnight to solid eating to regain equilibrium of forward and aft. If there would be an after this.
Worry that he had lingered too long forced him to quickly decide his course, that is, to follow the creek upstream. Partly because it was rocky and he would not be so easily followed. Mostly because food grew near water.
After some minutes of walk, the drying mud on his flab began to itch. Under the itchiness, he ached from his tumble. He peeled off a leaf that was plastered to his face, then stubbed a toe on a rock. Oh, misery, misery, misery. Scaldo sighed. Perhaps I might loose those mad knifers and the Dwarf. That cheered him. It did not last.
A terrible cry, akin to defeat or outrage split the forest. It rang from tree to tree, through the valleys and off the hills, till it faded. Scaldo again found himself on the ground, whimpering with his fat fists clamped over his eyes.
It was a long time before he had the courage to uncover his eyes and even longer to get into an upright position. Had the attackers fled? And what of the Dwarf? He could forget about them and keep going. He would probably come to someone's house and... yet he was still considered a criminal with no means to prove it untrue. An outcast he would remain, forever lonely and hungry. That would not do. He decided to find the Dwarf. And the first place to look would be back up the hill.
An awful time he had trying to find a part of the slope not so steep. Where it was not treacherously vertical, it was rocky and loose. Slowly and painfully he ascended, grabbing overhanging plants to counterbalance himself. This was the most wretched of Scaldo's ventures up to then. For one, he was increasingly tired and hungry. For another, round objects have a tendency of going down, not up.
Better than any clock, his stomach told him it was time for elevenses. And not a mutton pie or cup of tea in sight!
The next plant he grabbed reacted with a vengeance. Scaldo yelped and pulled back his hand, sucking where thorns had pricked. His pain turned to glee, for he recognized the small red orbs on the hateful bush as berries. The very same his Grandma Chubb stuffed him with on summer visits.
Fear of poison, then, was no hindrance as he ripped and stuffed the berries into his mouth. (Whether poisonous or not, he would have eaten them anyway.) He grabbed more thorns than berries and more than once came close to eating his own hand; nonetheless, that could not spoil the rich sensation of eating. Satisfaction came long after, for there were many more berry-bushes nearby. When he remembered his task, he thought it would be good to shove some in his pockets, for later. Recall, his heart lay in his stomach and the will is in the heart. Thus he found much will to make it up the rest of the hill.
One constant law to hobbits, small or gargantuan, is that they are silent footed. So was Scaldo able to come to yesterday's campsite quietly, dodging (stumbling, rather) from tree to tree for cover. Coming to a large tree, he found that he recognized it from the previous frightful night. Camp should be right behind it. He closed his eyes and held his breath, then peeked around the trunk. He opened his eyes.
The Dwarf was sitting on a fallen tree, picking his teeth with a dark knife. The tree had been perfectly upright before. The undergrowth was trampled and looked almost scorched. There was no sign of anyone else. Scaldo was not sure what to make of it: was he relieved or... afraid. At last the Dwarf acknowledged him.
"Where've yeh been? I can't sit 'ere all day!"
With the timidity of a mouse, Scaldo came into the open. The Dwarf gave him a glance from under the blue hood.
"Blood, yer ugly! Give me some of those berries."
Scaldo took a handful of squashed berries from his bulging pocket and held them out. Then something in him snapped, as though a spell broke, for he pulled his hand back. The Dwarf seemed nonchalant, though there was a shadow underneath it, that unpredictableness that Scaldo had grown to dread. Scaldo somehow gulped down his apprehension and adopted a no-nonsense manner.
"See now," his voice sounded squeaky even to his own ears. "I think I deserve an explanation. Those attackers and - and that yell and what happened to them and - err things..." he finished, his toes making circles in the dirt.
"Ain't time for that now, Chaldo! An' yeh reek. We've got to keep schedule and reach the river before dusk." The Dwarf shoved the knife into his boot, jumped off the tree trunk, and snatched the berries from Scaldo's pink hands.
"The river..." Scaldo's knees felt weak. Natural to hobbits, he had a fear of all things large and wet. Still more, the river Brandywine was the boundary of the Shire... and beyond who knew what kind of strange food.
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.