Mainly Concerning a Hobbit – Part 3
“Perian,” the elf whispered, and even though he spoke softly, the sound of a voice so near her ear snapped Brassica from her dreams and into wakefulness.
She rubbed her eyes and squinted up to see the moon was higher than it had been when she’d last closed them. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep, and looked around hopefully, thinking that perhaps Dill had returned, but he was nowhere to be seen. A little discouraged, she sat up and shifted to sit next to the elf, wondering what he wanted. “Perian, yes. Me. What’s wrong? What can I do for you?”
He didn’t appear to understand, but once he had her attention, he looked pointedly around the little hollow where they rested, and then pointed to her again. “Tad. Tad perian. Halfling. Man sad lin mellon?”
Brassica stared helplessly and tried to remember what ‘mellon’ meant. “Mellon,” she repeated slowly. “Mellon…friend.” Smiling, she touched her chest and nodded. “Yes, mellon. I’m your friend.”
“Nin mellon,” the elf agreed, nodding in turn, but then continued in a torrent of elvish that she couldn’t follow, holding up two fingers and then pointing at her again.
She puzzled for a few moments, and understood suddenly. “Oh, my friend. My brother. He went…” and here Brassica paused and waved her hand away, “…away…for help. He’ll come back.” She made a beckoning motion in the same direction.
The elf appeared to follow, or at least Brassica hoped he had. It seemed to her, now that the moon was higher, that he looked worse than he had at first, his pale cheeks seemed flushed, his eyes were rather brighter and she could clearly see the pain in them. He hadn’t removed the hand that he pressed against his side, and blood had oozed through his fingers.
Seeing where she looked, the elf sighed heavily and spoke at length in his own tongue. Brassica listened as best as she could, though she couldn’t pick out any words she knew. She guessed that he was explaining what had happened, but had no way to be certain. He seemed weary when he finished, gesturing towards the stars overhead and looking imploringly upward. “O, Elbereth,” he murmured, so quietly that Brassica could barely hear him, “Im vanwa, Im gosta.”
Concerned, but uncertain what to do, she patted his hand comfortingly, then stood up and paced back and forth a little bit. “I’m sorry I don’t know about healing,” she apologized, though it did no good. “Are you cold? I’m cold. It’s a chill night, and it can’t be good for you that it’s so brisk. I’ll make a fire.”
She had spied a few pieces of driftwood along the banks, and spent the next little while retrieving them and making a small neat pile. The elf had drifted off again and didn’t react when she began to lay her fire. Once she had arranged a neat pile of logs, Brassica went to work with flint and tinder from her pack and soon had a serviceable blaze going. She huddled near to it and hoped that Dill would be back soon. With the fire kindled and burning brightly, she could see that she’d been wrong about the elf’s armor–only the moonlight had made it look silver, by the firelight it gleamed its true golden. Brassica wondered again about where he’d come from and why, and what had hurt him.
Inching closer to the elf, she gently touched her fingers to his cheek, surprised and worried when he didn’t stir in response, and wondering if elves got fevers. If they did, it seemed to her that he might have one. Leaning closer, she peered at the wound in his side, carefully pulling his fingers away. Though she didn’t know much about these kinds of things, it didn’t appear to be very serious–it wasn’t terribly deep, and while it had clearly bled, it had stopped since. Frowning, she tilted her head to the side and looked more closely. With the firelight to aid her, she could see that a sharp splinter of wood, about the width of her index finger, protruded from the wound, and she saw a jagged barb had hooked itself into the flesh. It explained why it seemed to hurt the elf when he attempted to move. Sitting back, Brassica debated briefly with herself. She guessed that it might be the shaft of an arrow, or maybe even a javelin or spear given the size of goblin weapons, broken off during whatever altercation had landed the elf in his current predicament. Obviously, the object needed to come out, but she knew it would be painful and difficult to remove, and she wasn’t sure she could stand to put the elf in more pain, even to help him.
Deciding that the best thing to do would be to see what the elf wanted, Brassica gently shook his shoulder. “Elf…hey, wake up,” she said softly, wishing she’d thought to try and learn his name. “C’mon, open your eyes…”
Eventually he did, though he seemed somewhat groggy, and blinked dazedly in the light of the fire. He smiled wanly at her anyway, and shifted to sit up a little straighter, wincing as he did so. When his hand went again to his side, Brassica reached out and guided his fingers to the sharp splinter, wondering if he had noticed it before. The pained expression on his face flickered into confusion and then surprise as he realized what he touched, seeming to indicate that he had not.
“Don’t, don’t, don’t!” Brassica exclaimed as he grasped the splinter and gave an experimental tug, then a sharp cry of pain. “Well, of course it hurt, you dummy, don’t do that!” she scolded, tsking and batting his hand away. “Honestly, you might be a thousand or a hundred or however old elves get, but you certainly don’t have much sense!”
Apparently the tone of her outburst conveyed her meaning well enough, and even surprised the elf to the point where he momentarily forgot the injury and stared at her, his expression halfway between shock and bemusement at being lectured by someone less than half his size.
Blushing as she realized that she was chiding someone who might be a hundred times her age as though he were a small child, Brassica decided to ignore the fact and gamely maintained her tone. “You can’t see what you’re doing; it’s caught and you’re just going to make it worse,” she said firmly.
“Goheno nin,” he offered, apologetically, and held his hand away to indicate that he’d been appropriately chastised. He looked down at the wound, and then back at her and nodded his permission.
“Yes, well. It’s still going to hurt,” Brassica warned, getting up onto her knees and positioning herself at a better angle to remove the splinter. She grimaced at the sight of the gash, and after a moment of thought turned to retrieve a small bottle of water, and the cloth that her mushroom pie had been wrapped in. “I wish I hadn’t given you that Brandywine right off the hop, you’re going to need it after this,” she muttered.
To his credit, the elf managed not to utter a sound as Brassica washed away as much blood as she could with a few gentle splashes of clear water. He responded with only a hiss of breath through clenched teeth as she draped her cloth over the splinter end and gripped it firmly in her short fingers. Out of the corner of her eye she saw his fingers tighten on a handful of grass. And then, with a deft twist and a firm tug, she had a cruel, ugly looking spear point, wrapped in gingham cloth in the palm of her hand and the elf had crumpled onto his side in the grass, insensible and bleeding freshly, having cried out only once before passing out.
Gingerly laying the spear point aside, Brassica quickly folded up the cloth and pressed it against the elf’s side, hoping to staunch some of the blood. Already he seemed to be breathing more easily, without the splinter preventing him from filling his lungs, and Brassica took it as a good sign. Biting her lip anxiously, she found herself wondering how far the sound of his voice had carried in the still night air and began to worry that the smoke from her fire might attract the attention of the goblins who, by now, she was certain had attacked the elf in the first place. She sat for a few more minutes, applying firm pressure to the wound, before setting the cloth aside for another examination and then replacing it carefully when she saw the bleeding had slowed to a trickle. Picking up her water bottle again, she carefully rinsed the bloodstains from her palms and then wiped her hands in the thick grass, and found herself wondering about the broken tip of the weapon.
Carefully picking up the spearhead again, Brassica examined the point, noting with some concern that it had been smeared with a tarry black substance. Holding it up in the firelight, she peered closely at it for some time, listening to the crackling flames and the splashing of the river against the banks.
Had she not been abstracted by the object in her hand, Brassica might have noticed sooner the sound of hands paddling in the river, and the faint splashing of someone approaching the shore. As it was, she recognized what she was hearing only after it had gone on for a few minutes, and her head was immediately filled with images of goblins emerging from the river, dripping wet and waving their spears and rusty swords. With a startled shout, she dropped the spearhead, and scrambled to find the elf’s knife and get her back to the tree.
“Stay back!” she yelled, once she had the silver blade firmly in hand again. She brandished it before her, pretending that it wasn’t only the second time in her life that she’d ever held a sword, and hoping that her voice didn’t sound as shrill as she thought it might. “I’m warning you, goblins, I’ll cut you all into bits!”
She stifled a shriek of terror as there was further splashing as some rocks clattered down the face of the bank and into the river, and a pale, mud streaked hand slithered its way over the edge of the bank and grasped a tuft of grass, making to pull up the body it was attached to.