6. Much Wet
"Move yer flab!"
Scaldo narrowly avoided a hard poke, only because he stumbled on a stone for the umpteenth time. His toes were coming to resemble warty cucumbers. Another breath and he was on the ground, trying to cram his foot's end into his mouth and finally dismaying in that his stomach was in the way and that the cucumbers were, indeed, his toes.
A sigh of both weariness and disappointment jiggled outward from his chest. The Dwarf's boots had stomped a path in the undergrowth and his blue hood was disappearing down it. Scaldo set about heaving himself up; he was getting good at this extreme, albeit before unneeded, exercise. Falling into the dirt was something that went along with journeying, right next to hunger and exhaustion. Three heaves was all it took this time and he followed the Dwarf's trail. He could not see the Dwarf but began to hear a great rumble. He felt his stomach, remembering last time. It was not the same, though. Was this yet another phase in the hunger-torment?
Scaldo's soles began to sweat and he would have before long called for the Dwarf (loath though he was to do so) when he reached the end of the trail to his old friend, the creek bed.
Scaldo nigh died of relief. They followed the rocky bed a ways, dodging larger and larger puddles, and meanwhile, the rumbling grew louder. The trees parted and the red, red setting sun set off the glow - of the river. How it roared, as if with a hunger it could never satisfy. Scaldo could not help but pity it.
"Get in there!"
"Whereahh!!" Scaldo felt himself shoved into the starved waters.
Scaldo's dead weight instantly sunk like a rock, or more accurately, like a boulder. Confusion and panic followed, though he still retained sense not to open his wide mouth, which would have been his end for sure. He thought, So this is how it is like to drown in soup! He had often wondered. A shame it isn't, for I should like to be eating that in which I am dying!
This thought stirred him deeply from within. (Or otherwise it was just his stomach rumbling.) He would not die on an empty stomach. He would not. So he set his will, which was strong when set, as you have seen. Scaldo opened his piggish little eyes to the sting of water and threw himself to the rocky floor. Immediately he sprung back up, his bottom surfaced, and rolling and sputtering, he righted himself.
Scaldo took in air and for a moment it tasted sweeter than all pies, tarts, and cakes in heaven or under. Suddenly he wished he could dip the air in cream.
He kicked the thick posts he called legs and earned two scraped feet as they met with gravel. He could stand! He raised his arms in joy, resembling a bloated duck.
The Dwarf stood on shore, in usual unamusement, keeping all senses alert to possible eatables, but never seeming to shift his shadowed eyes from the duck of a hobbit.
"Yer unstinked enough! Come 'ere!"
Scaldo's tribulations crawling up from the river bed defy descriptions. In short, he got up and stood before the Dwarf, certainly less berried, cow pied, and muddied. Scaldo scratched his much deformed and water blocked nostrils.
"Listen careful, Chubb, 'cause I ain't sayin' it twice. Yeh will stay by me and do as I say. Or yeh won't live long enough to learn different. Understand?"
"Excuse me," said Scaldo, trying to raise a finger, but getting it tangled in his left nostril. "I'm still confused about this whole business. You invaded my home, kidnapped me, framed me, and tried to murder me. What is it that we are running from?"
The Dwarf studied his fingers, saying, "We got some time now. I'll make it quick. But keep yer fat mouth shut. Yer here 'cause yeh ain't got a choice. I'm here 'cause I got to keep yeh from dyin' on the way. An' everything else ain't yer business."
Scaldo freed his finger, unimpressed, and perhaps more confused than before. Not that he had much longer to think. The Dwarf at that moment produced an axe and tossed it his way. Scaldo squeaked and leaped onto a tree trunk.
"Get choppin'. Got to make a raft while it's still daylight."
Scaldo, who never lifted a feather-duster if he could help it, stared hard at the axe, hoping it would do its own work so he would not have to use his own energy. And maybe munch on something while it chopped. Then it hit him like a pot to the head.
"Ummm... did you say raft?"
Scaldo did not think he liked it at all. He would rather walk to the end of the earth then raft there. Boats were unnatural and impractical. He could not eat them. And a mere layer of wood separating him from a wet doom did not settle well in his stomach.
Even as he thought these things on one side of his brain, the other side yawned and started to wake. It seemed his whole life he had had only one side alert, the other side being fat and lax. Of late, this side had begun to free itself from the greasy goo and rub away sleep crud. So it was that he thought with un-Scaldo like observation that if they were building a raft, they were going west, downriver. And why? What in the name of cherry tarts lay down there?
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.