Mainly Concerning a Hobbit – Part Five

Mainly Concerning a Hobbit – Part 5

Looking around the bank, now that it was decided that they would be attacking the goblin encampment, Beldrieth frowned. “You should not stay here,” she cautioned. “I mean to let none escape us, but if they should, I do not want to risk driving them straight into your little camp. Although,” she cast an eye over the goblin corpse in the grass and then looked at Celebarad meaningfully, “clearly they are less dangerous to you than they were to an Elf without the sense to keep his wits about him when wandering a strange wood.”

Standing up herself, so as not to feel quite so small compared to the three big-folk who towered over her, Brassica picked up the silver knife from where she had dropped it in the grass when Beldrieth had appeared. “That was mostly luck, ma’am…if I hadn’t had this, he’d have skewered me for certain.” Still a little shy around Celebarad, particularly now that he stood at twice her height, she offered the knife back to him once more, holding it gingerly by the blade.

To her surprise, he knelt to take it, murmuring, “Gen hannon, mellon.” He then reversed the blade and offered it to her across his arm, hilt first. “Na Elbereth veria le, nin megil i lin.

Llythne laughed softly in the darkness and Beldrieth’s expression remained unchanged, but Brassica looked up for help. “What did he say?” She wasn’t certain what to make of the action–clearly Celebarad meant to make a gift of the knife, but she hoped that he didn’t mean for her to actually fight with it. One goblin had been more than enough, her knees felt watery at the thought of a whole camp of them.

He swears his sword to you,” Llythne answered, still smiling. “I don’t have much Elvish and I read it better than I speak it, but I can make that much out, at least. I shouldn’t laugh, he’s perfectly serious. It’s just such a queer sight, an elven knight pledging his blade to the service and defense of a hobbit.” She laughed aloud again. “On a riverbank, in the middle of the night, on the borders of the Shire! We live in strange days, truly.”

Take the blade,” Beldrieth advised. “Mayhap you’ll have it more ready about you than he did, and perhaps elven steel will fill your head with wariness–as opposed to pretty oaths. Now, the night grows short, and when dawn comes, the yrchlingswill creep back into their holes and we will not be able to reach them.”

Well, thank you,” Brassica said, self-consciously taking the silver knife. “How do I tell him thank you?” Llythne bent down and cupped a hand around Brassica’s ear, whispering the elvish phrase, which she shyly repeated to Celebarad’s plain delight.

Beldrieth had unslung her bow from behind her back and reached a hand over her shoulder, absently counting the arrows in her quiver. “Come,” she said suddenly, turning on her heel and striding up the bank. “We will mount the ridge and take their camp unawares. Halfling,” she addressed Brassica, who had scrambled to keep up with the rest of her long-legged party as they followed the archer, “you should find a place where you may remain unseen. Goblins inevitably fall into panic and disorder when roused. Keep your blade and your wits about you, and do not let them stumble upon you unawares.”

Swallowing nervously as she trotted to match Beldrieth’s long strides, Brassica nodded. “Yes’m.”

Above all, do not be afraid. They know the scent of fear and they may be drawn to it.” Glancing at Celebarad, Beldrieth issued a sharp command in Elvish, and then returned her attention to Brassica and smiled gently. “But that is not why I tell you not to fear. I imagine this is the first time you will witness a battle, short and small though it shall be. Much will seem to happen at once. But know that we will remember you, and watch for your safety; you will not come to harm while we have blade or bow to hand.”

Another brief nod was all Brassica could manage in response, knowing that her voice would betray the fear she couldn’t help but feel, though she believed and trusted the huntress. Her stomach flipped and fluttered as she tried to squelch down the anxiety that bubbled deep inside her, sitting queasily atop her mushroom pie.

Llythne had jogged ahead, clambering up the ridge before the rest of the party to peer over the edge. She was smiling grimly in the moonlight as she slid slowly back down and rejoined them at the base of the rise. “It’s a fair sized camp. There’s perhaps two dozen of them, maybe three. It’ll have to be quick work, and brutal, if we don’t want them to scatter,” the woman advised, resting an open palm speculatively on the hilt of one of her daggers and indicating Brassica with the other, “We’ll want our halfling friend well out of sight.”

…I could stay down here?” Brassica suggested timidly, thinking it was a good idea to be as far from the fighting as possible.

Nay, little mistress,” Llythne disagreed, shaking her head. “That seems a good plan, but only until a terrified goblin comes flailing over the ridge and lands on your head. We want you within line of sight, where we know where you can be found, and can reach you easily. There’s an oak tree up top with a bit of a hollow in the bole. A safe place to stash a hobbit if ever I saw one.”

Looking up at the ridge Llythne had climbed, Brassica voiced her other concern, “It’s only…well…I don’t see how I’m meant to get up there.” Beldrieth and Celebarad had already begun their ascent, climbing swiftly and silently and with remarkable ease. Watching the pair stretch and reach from hold to hold, Brassica couldn’t even begin to imagine how she would follow.

Llythne smiled and crouched down at the cliff face, looking back over her shoulder at Brassica. “Well, it’s my unfortunate duty to inform you that there’s not really any way which spares your dignity. Mount up, little hobbit, and hold tight. Quickly now!”

Blushing at the prospect of being carried like a rucksack, but recognizing the need for haste, Brassica did as she was told, and clasped her arms firmly about Llythne’s neck, and did her best to clench her knees against the Burglar’s sides. She felt a brief flash of embarrassment at not having thought to remove her pack, but Llythne seemed hardly to notice the extra weight as she followed the two elves up the ridge face. She climbed quickly and expertly, and within only a few minutes, they had reached the top, and Celebarad had reached down to grasp the back of Brassica’s pack and lift her, by the straps, to stand on the top of the ridge.

Brassica was about to comment on how she wasn’t a sack of potatoes, and didn’t intend to be toted around like one, but the sight of the goblin camp struck her dumb. A single goblin was one thing, but the sight of an entire camp of them set Brassica trembling like a leaf. The camp had been made around a raised mound, and ringed about with short, thick spikes, cut from trees–the Shire’s trees–whose stumps were dotted around the perimeter. Several watch fires smoked wetly as the green wood burned, snapping and crackling in the darkness. Somehow, it was worse that she couldn’t actually see any of the goblins, but knew they were there by the quiet mutterings in some horrible language, just on the verge of her hearing. Not for the first time, she wished desperately to be back home, and looked up to her companions for reassurance.

No trace of a smile was visible on Llythne’s friendly face, and Beldrieth wore the grim mask of an elf on the edge of battle. Even Celebarad seemed solemn, and Brassica found she had been relying on his gentle smile, and was dismayed not to see it.

To your oak, Brassica,” Llythne whispered, touching Brassica’s head lightly and pointing at the tree in question, a short distance from the edge of the camp. “Beldrieth, with me, and stay close. We’ll slip in between the barriers and get behind them, while Celebarad takes the main gate. Tell him to wait by the tree and make a count of two hundred, and then to charge and draw their attention.”

As Beldrieth related this command, Llythne gave Brassica a little nudge towards the tree, and crouched alongside the hobbit as she mutely nestled her back up against the bark, and tightened her sweating palms on the hilt of her new knife. “It’ll be over before you know it,” Llythne whispered reassuringly, as Beldrieth drew her bow and set an arrow on the string. And then with a nod from the huntress, the pair drew away, and seemed to melt into the darkness.

Once again alone with Celebarad, Brassica shivered involuntarily, and pulled her cloak tight around her, hoping to hide the fact that she was hugging her arms close to her chest. Squeezing her eyes shut, she sighed heavily, and decided just to wish as hard as she could that the dawn would come. Without really thinking about it, she guessed what she thought was a reasonable number, and silently joined Celebarad in his countdown.

As she reached one-hundred-and-eleven, and reflected that that had been Mr. Bilbo’s age on the night of the Party, she felt a gentle tap on her shoulder, and opened her eyes.

Celebarad had crouched down, and offered in the palm of his hand was an acorn. Brassica looked dumbly at it for a moment, before realizing it had been notched and carved. Celebarad lifted it to his lips–holding it deliberately a few inches away–and mimed blowing. Then he held it out to her again, and nodded when she took it.

Nin megil i lin,” he said again, solemnly stepping back and holding his sword upright before him in salute.

And then he smiled, and more than Beldrieth’s grave promises and Llythne’s friendly reassurance, Celebarad’s smile and pledge were what made Brassica feel safe. She smiled back and grasped the acorn whistle tightly, offering back a few words from her small but growing vocabulary of elvish as he rose and turned to charge the entrance of the goblin camp, “Le hannon.”

Celebarad had shattered the silence of the night with a war cry as he lowered his sword and advanced on the ramshackle gate of the goblin camp, but the explosion of noise from the goblins as the battle was properly joined was enough to make Brassica stuff her fingers in her ears to shut out the horrible shrieks and screams. In the relative quiet inside her head, the small Tookish voice at the back of her mind–the voice that instructed her to climb windmills and to buy fireworks, to leave the safety of the road and to go skidding down cliffs when pursued by goblins–that voice was insisting that if she wasn’t going to listen, she should probably scoot around to the front of the tree and watch the only fight she hoped to see in her life.

And so against what she considered her better judgment–and yet quite sensibly, for if one cannot hear what might be coming, it’s best at least to be able to see it–Brassica peered out around the trunk of the oak tree she had sheltered behind, and watched, transfixed, her hands falling from her ears, as Beldrieth, Llythne and Celebarad swept through the goblin camp like a scourge.

There had been no need to fear for the safety of her new companions, Brassica realized almost immediately. She had worried that if an elf could be taken unawares by a goblin and wounded as Celebarad had been, then Goblins must be fierce creatures indeed. If they were, they were nowhere near as fierce as the three warriors who spun and feinted, parried and twisted, and cut down goblin after goblin in the smoky firelight.

As new and strange as the sight of a battle was, Brassica was surprised to find that she could perceive a certain logic to the fight. The goblins clustered around Celebarad, who made himself a large and obvious target, though the sweeping range of his sword kept them too far back to do any real harm, while Beldrieth kept her distance and grimly let fly arrow after arrow, drawing her own blade only when a goblin got close enough to dispatch. Llythne seemed hardly to be seen at all, though occasionally Brassica caught a glimpse of her ducking between shadows, both daggers always in hand, lashing out with the occasional kick or punch if any goblin turned to face her.

And then something peculiar happened. As the smoky fires flickered before her and the clash of steel and cries of rage and pain rang in the air from the goblins, Brassica felt anger welling up inside her. To think of the audacity, the sheer rudeness and recklessness and bloody great cheek of any goblin who would come into her her home and think they could just set up camp! Deep down inside, Brassica felt some part of her snap awake.

Not realizing what she was doing, Brassica took one step away from her tree, and then two, and then she was sprinting over the few dozen feet to the camp entrance, Elven knife gleaming sapphire and silver, reaching down to snatch up a fallen goblin javelin, and bellowing to the slowly brightening skies overhead. Far, far back, and long, long ago, the Tookishness that her family both extolled and vilified had sprung from the Great Bullroarer Took, and it was in his footsteps that Brassica found herself following and his blood that was boiling up inside her as her feet pounded on the ground and her grip tightened the weapons she’d chosen.

Brassica was no warrior–and the Colewort voice was pleading within her head for her to remember that fact–but as the last few goblins were pushed back and forced outward by the relentless press within their own camp, Brassica met them coming in the gate, slashing and stabbing and shouting, “The Shire! The Shire! Bullroarer! RARGH! YOU GOBLINS WITH YOUR BLOODY GREAT CHEEK!”

Then with a slash and a stab and a narrowly dodged lunge, as silence fell again, it was over. In the light of a breaking dawn, as sunlight began to pour across the Brandywine River and creep up the Bleakleaf Crest, Brassica stood panting above three fallen goblins, before three dumbfounded Big People, who had clearly expected her to just wait by her tree.

Blood still pounding in her ears and face flushed so brightly red it was impossible to make out her freckles, Brassica fumbled in her pocket for a moment, and then held out Celebarad’s acorn whistle. In a voice that shook only a very little bit, Brassica announced, “I think you can have that back now.”


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2 Comments

  1. DarkJackal

     /  March 24, 2012

    “Take the blade,” Beldrieth advised. “Mayhap you’ll have it more ready about you than he did, and perhaps elven steel will fill your head with wariness–as opposed to pretty oaths.”

    LOL! Poor Celebarad!

    Love the description of the battle (and the “logic” of it = class role in-jokes). It’s just a nice, small, personal battle. A hobbit-sized battle. Or so it begins, but then it gets EPIC by throwing Brassica into it with the blood of Bullroarer pounding in her ears! Brilliant!!!

    “Brassica was no warrior–and the Colewort voice was pleading within her head for her to remember that fact–but as the last few goblins were pushed back and forced outward by the relentless press within their own camp, Brassica met them coming in the gate, slashing and stabbing and shouting, “The Shire! The Shire! Bullroarer! RARGH! YOU GOBLINS WITH YOUR BLOODY GREAT CHEEK!””

    Oh god that is so funny and perfect!

    Reply
    • preludeinz

       /  March 25, 2012

      Haha, can’t you just hear her little hobbit /roar? That was what was in my head when I wrote that line. I had no idea how shouty wardens were when I rolled her, but in retrospect, I think she’s the only toon I could have tolerated it on. It’s still just so cute!

      Reply

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