Mainly Concerning a Hobbit – Part 2
A shriek of triumph had erupted from the goblin as he charged at Brassica, his spear held high above him, ready to stab down into her soft flesh, but instead there was a sudden, solid impact against the object she’d grabbed in the grass. The shriek abruptly died away into a wet, rasping moan, then a gurgle, and then the night was silent and the cool metal in her hands was suddenly too heavy for her to hold.
Opening her eyes, Brassica gaped at the slender silver blade protruding from the monster’s narrow chest, dark blood oozing around the point where it had slipped between the goblin’s ribs and pierced its heart. Scrambling backward in the grass, chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath, Brassica looked around for her brother and spotted him, sprawled in the grass, staring at her with wide eyes above tear-streaked cheeks.
“…are you hurt, Dilly?” she managed between breaths, struggling to her knees and crawling over to her little brother.
Mutely, her brother shook his head, then whimpered, and Brassica pulled him into a tight hug, whispering reassurances and patting his curly hair for a few minutes. The excitement that had thrilled through her in the chase was starting to wear off and the little curious voice in the back of her mind was babbling a hundred questions a minute, Where are we? How do we get home? Are there more goblins coming? Since when are there goblins in this part of the Shire? Did I really kill it? Where did that knife come from? Was it really glowing, or was that just the moonlight?
Brassica patted Dill on the head one more time, then gently disentangled herself from her brother and stood up, still a little shaky, to get a look around. What she saw left her breathless and stunned again, and answered at least one of her questions. She knew where the strange silver knife had come from. An elm tree stood alone on the wide, grassy bank of the Brandywine where they’d fallen and slumped against the trunk, eyes closed and unmoving, was an elf.
A hundred more questions sprang into her mind, Is he dead? Where did he come from? Maybe he’s just sleeping, but isn’t this an odd place to sleep? Anyway, you’d think we would have woken him, with all that noise. Why is he here? I wonder if he fell like we did? Did the goblins kill him? Can goblins kill an elf? She had never laid eyes on an elf before–there were no Elvish lands to the north of Oatbarton, and the elves of Ered Luin far to the south rarely had cause to travel northward.
Dill reached up and grasped her hand, just as shocked and awed as she was. “One of the big folk,” he whispered softly.
“An elf,” Brassica whispered back, and suddenly sadness washed over her. This elf wore intricate armor of blue leather, accented with silvered mesh, the moonlight gleaming white off of the finely-linked mail and the slender sword at his hip. His hand still rested lightly on the hilt. A deep gash had been torn through the leather, and some blade had pierced his right side, and the blood that had flowed from the wound looked black. In the white light of the moon his face was ashen pale, and the darkness of his short hair only made him appear more so. There were many tales of elves to be heard, and she’d heard many of them. In all the stories, they were a gay and beautiful people, strong and proud and ancient. To see one brought low on the banks on a river so far from his home made Brassica’s heart ache.
Unthinking, she began to creep towards him, hardly daring to breathe, almost more frightened of the elf than she had been of the goblin. He seemed so still, yet Brassica thought she saw his chest rising and falling slowly, and hoped she wasn’t imagining it. She was almost near enough to reach out and touch his hand, when his fingers suddenly tightened about the hilt of his sword and his eyes opened, gleaming bright blue even in the darkness. Brassica leapt back warily and stood still as the elf’s gaze fell upon her. His expression had first seemed weary, and then faintly surprised. He spoke before Brassica could think of what to say, a lyrical phrase in elvish. When she looked back at him blankly, he smiled a little sadly, and said something more, though Brassica had no idea what it might have been.
Only one word caught in her mind; “perian”, and she only knew it because she had learned it at Mr. Bilbo’s party, when she had gathered with other fascinated young hobbits and shouted words at the scholarly old adventurer to hear them translated into elvish. “Perian,” she repeated eagerly, and pointed to herself and to Dill for good measure. “Hobbit. Halfling. Perian.”
“Halfling,” the elf echoed dutifully, though his slight accent made the word sound queer. He gestured to himself. “Im Edhel. Celebarad eneth lin.” He shifted, grimacing, and pressed a hand against his side as he began to push himself up, but faltered and sagged against the tree again. Sighing, he pulled his hand away from the wound in his side and displayed his bloodied palm by way of explanation.
Brassica winced at the sight, and nodded, reaching out to pat the elf on the knee. “I see you’re hurt. Don’t try to get up,” she said, though she realized that he probably didn’t speak the Common Tongue. Sliding the pack off her back, she sat down beside him, and began to rummage inside.
By this time, Dill had worked up the nerve to approach, though he kept behind Brassica and would go no closer to the elf. Hobbits as a rule were mistrustful of big folk, and Dill was especially so. “What happened to him?” he asked in a hushed voice, looking sidelong at the elf, avoiding meeting his gaze.
“I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was goblins.” Brassica didn’t look up from searching through her pack, pulling out clothing to get to the food she’d packed in the bottom. “I think he only speaks elvish, I don’t think we can ask him. He needs help anyway.”
“What do we do?” Dill questioned. “We don’t know anything about healing.”
“Go get his knife for him,” Brassica suggested, more to make Dill stop pestering her than for any other reason.
Dill balked immediately at the thought. “But you stuck it in a goblin,” he protested, horrified. “I don’t want to touch it.”
Rolling her eyes, Brassica pressed her pack into his hands instead. “I’ll get it,” she said shortly. “There’s a flask at the bottom of my pack, find it and bring it out.” Getting to her feet and leaving Dill to the pack, Brassica approached the goblin’s corpse cautiously. It had fallen on its face when it died, twisted at an awkward angle by the blade protruding from its chest. Trying not to think about it, Brassica nudged the corpse onto its back with her foot, then grasped the handle of the knife and tugged it free, thankful that it slid loose easily. Gingerly, she wiped the blood from the blade on the grass, and then carried it back to the elf who had watched her curiously the whole time.
“Perian maethor!” he declared, when she presented him with the dagger, and then smiled again. As he reached to take the knife though, he cried in pain and clasped his bloodied side again, coughing a little and then settling back against the bole of the tree.
Brassica bit her lip anxiously. “We need to find someone to help him,” she told Dill, who had retrieved the flask from the bottom of her pack, and pulled the top off to sniff its contents. “Hey!” she scolded.
“This is Brandy Wine!” Dill accused. “Da brought that all the way up from Stock! You stole it from the cellar!”
Flushing, Brassica shrugged and snatched the flask away. “So what if I did? I would have shared. Anyway, I’m giving it to the elf now, so it’s not like it matters.” Taking only a moment to sniff at the heady contents of the flask and briefly mourn that she wasn’t going to get to have any, she proffered the small leather vessel to the elf. He accepted it and drank gratefully, murmuring his thanks, though it was even smaller in his hand and was probably only a mouthful or two to him.
“Can you tell where we are?” Dill asked, peering across the river, trying to find a landmark. “It’s so different here in the dark…”
“I don’t think we’re far from the dunes,” Brassica said hesitantly, though she really wasn’t certain. She strolled around the small bank, trying to determine if it were familiar at all. In the daylight, she knew the Bullroarer’s Sward as well as anyone, but by night it was a different matter.“If we just walked upriver, we’d get to them eventually, and then it’s not far to Uncle Hob’s place, he’d know how to help.” Looking north, she thought she could see the beginning of the sandy banks where the Brandywine widened and curved around a region called Barandalf. She pointed and beckoned to Dill. “Does that look like where the white sands start?”
Dill got up and stood next to his sister, squinting into the darkness. “If it is, then I think I might be able to figure out where we are…” He took a few steps along the narrow bank, then looked back towards his sister and the elm tree. His eyes widened as he suddenly recognized it for the landmark that it was. “Yes! I know where we are. The ridge up top keeps going for a way, and then it’s the Bleakleaf Crest. We’re not far from Uncle Hob’s at all.”
Relieved and thankful to have her bearings back, Brassica sighed. “All right. Then you stay here, and I’ll go get help. How long would it take me to get to Uncle Hob’s?”
Dill blanched at this suggestion. “I don’t want to stay here. I’ll go for help.”
Brassica shook her head. “No, it’s too dangerous. There might be more goblins, and there’s been talk of bandits on the road. You’ve heard them talking in the common room. Ma would have my head if I let you go off on your own.”
“If you think Ma won’t already have your head for getting us lost and chased by a goblin in the middle of the night, then you’re a feather-headed fool,” Dill retorted stubbornly. “I don’t want to wait here alone in the dark, while you blunder around and get lost again.”
“I didn’t get us lost,” Brassica snapped back. “You left the path. And you wouldn’t be alone. Someone needs to stay with the elf.” A little ashamed to be seen bickering with her brother, Brassica glanced over her shoulder at the elf. He had closed his eyes again and didn’t appear to be listening. Brassica wondered if he was even awake.
Dill shook his head. “You should stay. I don’t know what to do with him. And anyway, I’ve got the better sense of direction and you know it.”
Brassica felt compelled to argue, but faltered. She didn’t like to admit it, but he wasn’t far wrong, and she wasn’t completely confident in her ability to navigate in the dark. She wrestled silently with the problem for a few minutes, and then asked tentatively, “…are you sure you can find Uncle Hob’s place?”
Turning and pointing, Dill gestured along the narrow river bank, “It gets sandier as you go here, but it’s not quite to the dunes yet. You follow the ridge until it runs back into the hills, and then you cut northeast over the hills until you get to the road to Dwaling. Then it’s easy. I can do it.”
Brassica bit her lip. “You’re not scared?”
“Of course I’m scared,” Dill answered candidly. “But I’d be more scared to sit here in the dark with one of the big folk and not know where you were or when you were coming back.”
When she thought about it that way, it did seem the more frightening of the two options. As the older sibling Brassica realized it was probably her duty to take it, but it didn’t make her feel any better about the prospect of her brother striking out alone when there were goblins about. “If you’re really sure…oh, Dilly, be careful. I didn’t know there were goblins, or I’d have made us hurry to Uncle Hob’s. I’m sorry about the firework, I know you shouldn’t have got in trouble, it was all my fault, really,” she apologized miserably.
“It’ll be fine,” Dill answered, patting her shoulder kindly. “You were awfully brave to get us away from that goblin. And then you skewered him! When we get home, they’ll be telling that story all the way down in Needlehole! Brassica the Goblin-Spitter!”
Laughing in spite of herself, Brassica clasped her brother’s hand for a moment, then let go. “You’d better hurry along, then. You’ll be back sooner that way.”
Dill nodded and then pulled his cloak tight around himself. “Take care!” He padded quickly down the grassy bank, and then around the curve of the ridge. Brassica watched until he was out of sight, and then for a few more minutes after that, and hoped she’d made the right choice. Hobbits were sturdy creatures, and could be tremendously brave when bravery was called for, but the whole situation had thus far been more of an adventure than Brassica had ever had. And, though the small Tookish part of her was thrilled and delighted, she still had enough good hobbit sense to wish that she was snuggled in bed at her Uncle Hob’s place with a full belly, and not a thought of goblins.
But then, of course, no one might have come upon the elf and Brassica didn’t care for that thought either. She finally looked away from the place where she’d last seen her brother and walked back to the tree. The elf hadn’t moved or reopened his eyes, and Brassica sat down next to her pack again. Quietly, she sorted her things, putting the clothing (with the exception of her own cloak, which she wrapped about her shoulders against the chill of the evening) back into the rucksack, and then unwrapping a cold mushroom pie. If nothing else, she could at least manage to have a full belly. She sat munching in the dark for a while, watching the stars overhead and listening to the lazy lap of the Brandy against the banks. When she finished, she dusted her hands on the cloth the pie had been wrapped in, and then shook it out. With nothing left for it but the waiting, she settled against the trunk of the tree and closed her eyes.