Next chapter up! Horaaay! Thank you all for sticking with me, as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to waht lies ahead." Philippians 3:13
"Ouch! Ow! Oof! Agh!" And all sorts more sounds of that variety popping from Alicia's mouth as they skidded down for who knows how long. They were finally spat out onto some basket that so did not look like it was going to catch everyone. Miraculously it does though. Else it would have been another terrible fall probably to their deaths. Alicia's head was spinning, muscles sore and achy, and a terrible stench filling the air as everyone struggled to right themselves.
Beside her Bombur looked as if he was about to have a heart attack, eyes bulged with fear. Ori flailed his arms beside her trying to find balance. She shifted to help push him upwards. At first it was nothing but grunts and yells from each other, next those sounds were drowned out by unearthly screeches. Alicia gasped, flinching and looking for zombies habitually. What came however was not banshees or undead, but shorter scrambling ugly creatures like orcs but of a different tribe or region.
"Goblins!" She heard someone cry out as the dwarves redoubled their efforts in trying to get into defensive positions. The goblins however rushed them far too quickly. They moved much faster than the orcs she met on the surface. Crawling over each other like bugs in an eagerness to get to them.
"Gross." Alicia muttered as Bofur looked behind him, reached over and pulled her hood down. "No matter what happens you keep that on yer head." He hissed before goblin hands yanked him away.
she was also roughly grabbed, pulled forward with the others and barely getting her legs under her. She walked in a stooped manner in some measly effort to make herself smaller. The putrid things were everywhere, smacking and prodding harshly to keep them all moving.
Alicia was not really able to get very good footing no matter where she put her feet, and with all the shoving and separating happening, shaky bridges and obscured vision, one of her feet did not find solid ground. She made a sharp inhale as she careened down into the dark chasm, the screams of goblins and friends rapidly fading.
She had no idea how long she fell or how deep, she tried desperately to grab onto something. Her descent however was thankfully cushioned by something surprisingly soft. When her head finally stopped spinning, her eyes adjusting to the dim light, she could see she was surrounded by large fungi on the ground. "Oh thank God almighty…." She sighed out. What were the odds of her landing on these things anyway. Slowly she got up, looked up at the dim lights of where she used to be.
Around her was nothing but the rock walls and only two ways to go, left or right. With another sigh, she picked left. Odd feelings of never seeing open air again started to set in. What if she never got out of the dark like this?
No no. She couldn't allow herself to start panicking like that now. For some reason, the solitude gave her some semblance of peace too. So she pressed on. Alicia knew very little about caves and subterranean life, only the generals that they taught in school.
On she pressed, looking for some semblance of guidance. Very vaguely, if she concentrated, she could hear echoes of some raspy voice. Echoing off the rock walls, she tried to identify it. Her hands reaching for any weapon she may still have. Still she followed it. If anything it will help her navigate her way out of this place. The echoes stopped suddenly, only frustrating her more, so she picked up her pace till the cave tunnel opened up to some subterranean lake. She stared at the place stupidly.
"Well, now what?" she grumbled to herself still looking around for another way out.
Small tremors had her freezing in place and looking about. On the other side of the little lake, bursting through the softer walls, was a giant greyish worm like the kinds in the movies that tear up towns. The minute that thing started swinging around, Alicia bolted.
"That is a 'NOPE' worm. Commonly found in the 'I-WILL-NEVER-GO-THERE' Lake, under the 'SCREW-THIS-PLACE' mountain range." She rambled to herself as she ran. The tunnel she inadvertently chose was a steep upwards slope, at sometimes getting steep enough to use her hands as well. She was winded at the near end of the tunnel. It gave her some hope that she was making it back outside or to her friends.
The tunnel widened again, and she heard echoes coming down again. Looking up she could only barely see firelight. Was she going further away?
She was suddenly pitched to the ground as her leg was taken out from under her. She grunted in pain at the smack and her hands getting scraped. Then a terrible smelly and screeching thing came climbing over her. It kicked her and hissed. Alicia rolled to see that it was one of the disgusting goblin creatures.
"Grossgrossgrossgross!" She chanted in revolt, kicking and scratching and bashing at this thing. Luckily it was only the one and was easy enough to get off. "Yucky, nasty, funky waste of space.." she kept growling out as she pulverized the thing that stubbornly refused to leave her alone until she ended it. "Ohhh I touched it!" she flicked her hands when she realized her fists collided with its greasy skin.
She quickly scrambled away from it, now aware of anymore nooks or crannies she passes by.
After the tunnel started widening again, a quiet fell upon the pathway. She started to spot jack-o-lantern mushrooms and fluorescent looking moss. She looked oddly at it but kept going. Then after ducking under a low underpass, the tunnel opened up into an otherworldly underground garden. Weird flowers and small ferns sprouting about that she wished she could take a picture of actually, and a hole up further that she could probably crawl out of if she put forth the extra effort. However, all she could do was stare. It felt as if she was at a crossroad. If she went this way, she would be home free, perhaps literally. Behnd her, was the dark and dank goblin homes that the others must still be. Memories of Dori's story flashed in her mind as well as her old colony friends. She needed to make a choice and quickly.
Flexing her fingers, she forced herself to pivot and run back into the dark.
Just keep going.
Hurry don't stop.
Look for your friends.
"Woah!" She pulled up short when some goblin bodies came flying across from the left. Blue magic sparks winking about.
Then came the familiar figure of Gandalf, frowning as he trudged by her.
"Gandalf!" She yelped.
The wizard turned to her, his face full of deep wrinkles in concern. "Alicia? You've returned. Where are the others?"
"I fell down this chasm and lost them. The goblins still had them, last I saw." She said in worry too.
The wizard hummed. "That way is the way I came from. I am going to find them and lead them back this way. You keep the way clear till we return."
"Okay." She said and watched him leave. She shook her hands, hopping on her feet a little to shake off the fatigue while waiting. "Wait a minute….I've returned…?"
Freaking wizards. She will ask him about what he was doing while they were being abducted by goblins. She rotated, swinging her arms, jumping a few more times to get warmed up, even leg stretches and lunges, though she only did two of those. She wasn't a professional athlete after all.
Another tremor and gurgly roar did have her stop though. "Oh no…" she sighed now approaching more carefully.
She stared down the other end of the tunnel, until the scary face of the 'NOPE' worm came ramming down the route.
And that spurred her into motion again. Running away from the giant worm as it barreled down the tunnels as easily as a car driving against a little wind. The only theory she could think of this thing wanting to chase her is that this was something akin to the movie series Tremors…..Chumps.
As fast as she could before getting winded again, she ran till the end that opened up into the underground village where they first came.
The survivor saw that the bridge that would lead back to this tunnel was barricaded by a pile of rubble and goblins. They saw her and immediately screeched and pounded. Alicia backpaddled the other way and out came the giant worm, roaring, careening, snapping up any goblins it could and causing more chaos in the midst of the goblins.
"Alicia!" Someone yelled at her from below.
She looked down in time to see Dwalin and Nori throwing down some broken post, looking at her with mixed expressions along with some cheers. The giant worm must have cleared the way for them to escape.
"Come on lass! No time for dawdling!"
Alicia jumped back into action, running down the end of her bridge that joined with their as they jogged past. Alicia was put somewhere in the middle where half the group ahead of her cleared the way while the other kept the rear guard. The zig zagging bridges had some members separate which ended up working for the better. Now they had plenty of room to showcase their own skills.
Oin spun like a rodeo cowboy, no one ablet to get close to him without getting smacked by his staff. Balin not far from him spinning his mace around like some ninja master.
Not to mention even Gandalf got in on the action with his sword and staff whirling and stabbing.
Actually, from her place, she did not need a weapon, as none of the dwarves allowed a goblin to get past them. She just needed to keep moving. At this point though,
Alicia felt like she could not get enough air, her body felt sluggish again and head was fuzzy. She was far too tired. Had it not been for Bofur, or Fili, or Gloin helping her, she no doubt would have gotten captured by goblins. Onward they still kept pressing.
It was hard to tell if they were making any progress to escape at all until they rounded a corner with Gandalf and one last bridge was there. Dori, Gloin, then Balin and Gandalf lead the way to the last bridge. Suddenly at the last minute, out came the biggest most grotesque of all the goblins Alicia had ever seen. She felt revolted and mortified just by it's very presence. The thing swung it's own staff about wildly, Dori and Gloin ducking back. Gandalf being caught by Nori and Ori to right the wizard back on his feet.
Dwalin stood protectively like a gate in front of all those behind him, which included Alicia.
"Ha! You thought you could escape me?" The creature taunted as he swung about to try to hit one of them. "What are you going to do now wizard?" The thing glared at him with it's bulging left eye.
Though it seemed even Gandalf had enough of that thing. He stepped forth quickly, jabbing his staff in one of it's eyes and slashing at it's open ungaurded stomach, bringing the thing to it's knees.
The giant goblin paused to look at his stomach and back to the wizard. "That'll do it."
Gandalf made one last horizontal slash to slit the creature's throat. Alicia wondered how the thing's extra throat flab didn't bust open all over the place, though she appreciated Gandalf's accuracy.
The thing slumped forth, breaking the bridge to pieces and Alicia's heart went beating like a jackhammer again. She fell to her knees too, clinging onto anything she could grab as her stomach went to her throat once more. Splinters and goblins cascading about them as they once again fell down the unpredictable chasm. Her ears rang with screams. The falling came to an abrupt stop that spit Alicia out into the rubble of the ground. The screams also died down to moans.
Alicia saw Gandalf get up first, mentally grumbling at how easy it was for him to get up after that. She achingly rolled onto all fours to force herself up again.
"Well, that could have been worse." Bofur perked up from the second level of rubble.
Alicia had a ghost of a smile, that didn't get a chance to grow as suddenly the body of the dead giant goblin fell on the top of the rubble, on top of most of the company.
The survivor winced. That must have hurt. She shakily went back to help dig them out. Alicia cleared some planks aside to help Bombur roll to his feet.
Kili not far from them yelled out in panic for Gandalf. She followed their gaze and her eyes went wide at seeing goblin crawling down the walls at them like ants.
"We cannot fight them!" Dwalin yelled from the side as he hoisted a dizzy looking Nori and Bifur gingerly climbing down from behind them.
"Only one things will save us now, daylight! Come on!" The wizard ordered as he reached down to help Oin up. From Oin, Balin popped up grabbing Gandalf's staff for extra support.
Thorin assisted his men, not leaving until everyone was on their feet first and running. " Go! Go!" he urged.
Alicia felt like her body was about to fall right back down again. This was more than Alicia was really used to. She was so winded that her throat was dry, and at this point she was lucky enough to keep up with the shorter strides of the dwarves.
Though luckily it did not take them long to get outside now. Just one last little rocky hallway and suddenly the evening light welcomed them, a golden hue over the sparse woodland. They jogged a little bit more downhill of the forest until Gandalf finally slowed to a stop, Alicia also pulled up short and slid haphazardly to the ground. How she wished she could get some water right now.
Gandalf pointed as he did a headcount while everyone else started slowing down, though they did a lot better than her, still standing. She felt like she couldn't get enough air.
"Where is Bilbo?" She heard the wizard say.
That's when she looked up too in alarm.
"Where is our hobbit?!" He demanded.
The others also started looking around dumbly for him.
"Confound him! I thought he was with Dori!" Dwalin burst out. "Now he's lost too?!"
"Don't blame me!" Dori defended.
"I wish you hadn't lost him! Where did you last see him?"
"Bother but can you ask!" Dori yelped out even more flustered. " First you come in with an 'everyobody follow me' and have us helter skelter out of there behind you." The eldest Ri harrumphed.
"I thought I saw him slip away when they first collared us." Nori added.
Thorin finally stomped forth. "I'l tell you where he went. Master Baggins saw his chance and he took it. He's though of nothing but his soft bed and warm hearth ever since he left. Our burglar is long gone!"
Alicia's shoulders dropped completely, she didn't want to believe that. Rather, he was still running away or captured by the goblins before he ever gave up like that. She couldn't get enough of a breath to verbally defend that though.
"No he's not. I'm right here." Suddenly his voice called out and he seemed to materialize from right behind the tree.
"Bilbo.." Alicia sighed out in relief.
The others shared their own expressions of relief and joy.
"I've never been so gladt to see anyone in all my life." The wizard also chimed in.
"We'd given you up." Kili smiled, though glad hat he was wrong about his own suspicions.
"How on earth did you get past the goblins?" Fili asked bewildered.
"How indeed?" Dwalin rumbled.
Bilbo merely chuckled drily and shuffled his pockets some.
"Well what does it matter? He's back." Gandalf tried to move the subject along.
The hobbit looked around and made a double take at Alicia on the ground still sitting. She smiled tiredly up at him.
"Miss Alicia. Are you alright?" the hobbit moved to stand beside her, a concerned hand on her shoulder. "What happened to your face?" He whispered turning her head to get a better view of her right face. She wasn't sure exactly what he was talking about, maybe a bruise or whelp that showed up.
"Tired, but happy to see you Bilbo." Alicia answered, her own hand coming to clap his forearm.
"It does matter." Thorin interrupted. "I want to know, why did you come back?" The would-be king challenged Bilbo.
The hobbit however did not back down at all. He looked at him squarely. "Look, I know you doubt me, and you're right to. I often think of my home." He shrugged helplessly. "See that's where I belong, that is my home. Yours was taken from you wrongfully. But I will help you get it back if I can."
Next was silence, a kind that the survivor could not really place or describe. One that their leader Thorin was stood and even dipped his head, in a subtle show of respect towards Bilbo's simple but strong message he had to share. The whole company shared in this, odd yet intimate moment of a newly forged companionship.
Alicia knew that this was some kind of important moment, and yet, she could not find herself able to share in the syndicate. She felt an unusual quiet though, almost, an emptiness. Her brows furrowed. Maybe it was that she did not really feel like a part of this. No, she was the one who was supposed to have left. Everything Thorin said about Bilbo would have been true for her. Yes she really was going to leave them to the goblins in order to go home herself. It dawned on her like an iron bell. She looked downcast at the rocks around them.
Though the echoes of howls resounding from the top had everyone on high alert again.
Thorin looked at Gandalf. "Out of the frying pan.."
"And into the fire. Run. Run!" He yelled and turned. No one had to be told that twice, since everyone was well aware of what those howls belonged to.
"Come on Alicia." Thorin urged as she hooked a hand under her arm to help pull her to her feet. "We must keep moving." Thorin pulled her along until she could keep up with him herself. Quickly they sped down the slope, glad of the incline to make it easier to run. Nori already had the biggest lead, though then he pulled up short.
"Stop! It's a cliff!" He called out turning around and flailing his arms.
The rest of the party had caught up with him, now looking panicked, until Gandalf ordered them up in the trees. Then it was brother helping brother. Dwalin hoisting Balin in the air to the nearest branch, then being used as a platform for Nori, Bofur and Bifur helping Bombur up and Gloin helping Oin up.
Alicia slowed down when she couldn't find Bilbo but Bifur took her arm next. He stopped at the base of the tree turning around and grumbling as he weaved his fingers together. Quickly she put her foot there to be boosted up the tree. She turned around to try to help Bofur also pull his cousin up.
Just in time too, as the wargs quickly took their place on the ground, confused at first, sniffing about until they looked up and snapped their jaws in agitation.
Everyone scurried even higher up the trees, as far as they could up the pines. The wargs tried jumping and climbing too, thank goodness they didn't have collarbones and so that was not possible for them. Still their leaps had everyone gasping in fright. Even more so when the trees started tilting.
Alicia lost balance, nearly falling to the ground until another strong arm caught her. Thorin held onto her as they rode onto the next tree, scrambling on it quickly. However that one also started tilting like dominos until they were all gathered onto the very last tree. This tree however was already hanging over the cliff edge and Alicia's heart beat rapidly in fear.
Something bright fell down onto the wargs, scaring them off. Alicia looked up to see that Gandalf was setting large pine cones on fire, sharing them with the dwarves and everyone throwing them down at the wargs and orcs. Alicia only stared mouth agape in horror. "Dude…we're in an old tree. Surrounded by dead and dying wood. Why are we throwing fire?"
"Got a better idea?" Kili said beside her.
"Maybe, using the magic to launch the fire a little further?" Alicia offered while already looking for a way down.
"Oi, where are you going?" The younger prince reached for her hand.
"We need to get down now." Alicia said urgently.
Dori who was beside Kili also looked at her like she was crazy. "There's still orcs down there lass!"
Most everyone cheered until the tree started cracking and leaning down even more. Now most of them were dangling over the edge. Panic had Alicia scrambling to move. Though at this angle, it was difficult.
She grappled the tree, eyes darting everywhere for some semblance of a plan and she saw Dori now just pulling himself up until Ori lost his grip and now dangled on his elder brother's leg, pulling Dori down to his hands again. "No!" Alicia whimpered. 'Think think think!' she mentally berated herself.
"Master Gandalf!" Dori called for help. To which the wizard extended his staff down for them to catch. Now Dori dropped a little more to grip onto the end of the wizard's staff. However this also rendered him unable to aid any further.
Alicia wiggled over to where they dangled, laying flat on the branch and hooked her hand around the staff. With extreme effort that reminded her how weak she was in comparison to everyone else…even an old man able to hold to two dwarves on the end of a staff by himself….she tried to use leverage to pull Dori back to the branch. She strained her muscles to pull, no doubt with the help of Gandalf, Dori was finally hoisted back to the branch. Alicia had to give her arm a break now before it threatened to tear right off. Gandalf got his staff back for now.
"Ori." She called down to him, reaching with her other hand. "Come on Ori. Grab my hand. Use Dori and I to pull yourself up." She requested, though the poor dwarf was stricken with terror he barely moved. "Come on Ori. You got this!" she tried frantically to encourage him. Dori managed to pull up just a little more and now Ori finally reached for her hand, his brother's belt and so forth till he climbed up, having to step on Alicia's back to get over to the middle of the tree.
Alicia also took this time, praying profusely over and over for God's grace and favor. Dori's head was next to hers looking at her oddly again as she muttered her prayers.
"Thank you father God for your grace and mercy. I pray for strength and guidance. Help us escape in one piece-"
"Thorin no!" Dwalin yelled out as their leader decided to descend down the tree, sword and shield in hand.
Many cries of horror went after him. Alicia groaned. Though in her head, she still prayed and now forced herself up. She looked around for whoever was easiest to help get down for her. Monkeying around the branches, she found Nori. "Give me your hand!" The brunette did dos and with careful effort, she pulled him to the center tree and patted his back to keep going down. She went to Fili to do the same thing. Then Gloin and Balin. She hardly had any strength to help Balin, her body screaming at her to stop.
"Go on lassie…" Balin wheezed. "…get out of here." He nearly begged, but she ignored him.
"You get up or we both fall." She growled back. She felt his eyes on her for a second but ignored it too. Especially when Bilbo managed to get himself up and running down the tree after Thorin. His form disappeared into the smoke though. Finally Balin got to his belly and Alicia left him to do the rest. As now Dwalin's branch had broken, leaving him in a dangerous swing.
Half the company was still dangling on the branches, she felt this familiar helplessness again that had her gripping her hair as she tried to drown out past memories.
Looking back down the tree, the wargs had once again cornered the dwarve sthat made it down there with Thorin no where in sight. She hoped Bilbo at least found him.
Then screeches filled the air. " Shut up." The survivor gritted out. Though she was the one to be silent as now, out of nowhere, eagles of unmatched proportions descended upon the scene. They grabbed wargs and orcs to throw them off the cliff, or push down trees on them. Once they made quick work of the orc pack, with one very large orc yelling in rage left behind, they started plucking everyone from the ground or the tree. Either being carried in talons or on their backs, they were all air born within seconds.
Flying out into the night that was now being lit by a soft light of the sun.
She looked behind her, the fiery cliff rapidly shrinking, around her, the other eagles carrying the company effortlessly. "Amazing…Praise God.." she breathlessly let out. It worked, praying and acting all paid off. Finally, she could allow herself to rest. Alicia actually enjoyed heights, so this flight was wonderful to her. The view only got more and more spectacular to her.
Soaring as if sailing, into the sky with nothing obscuring their vision, the ultimate form of freedom and the wind in her face. From this vantage point, the world looked so peaceful and serene. What man made structure could compare to this?
Her lips twitching into a smile as her spirits lifted, forgetting her aches and pains. The eagle that bore her seemed to sense her brightening mood as it let out a call and flapped energetically along. For a moment, nothing else mattered, and she wondered if all flying creatures felt this carefree when they were in the air. They flew long enough for the sun to rise to mid-morning, or at least that's what it seemed. They flew to some other secluded large hills that could be mini mountains. There the eagles glided down, depositing the company onto flat and safe rock. Once everyone was there, patting themselves down and smiling at each other, Gandalf and Thorin were the last to be dropped.
"Thorin!" The wizard called out. He rushed to the feinted dwarf's side, a hand on his forehead. The others gathered around in concern for their leader.
Gandalf looked asif he was muttering to himself and suddenly Thorin gasped and his eyes popped open. The first thing he said as he stood up. "Bilbo…where is he?"
"It's alright. He is here safe as the rest of us." The wizard answered.
Dwalin and Kili leaned down to help him up, and once he was on his feet he shrugged them off like some angry drunk, yelling at Bilbo as soon as he laid eyes on him. "You! What did you think you were doing!? You nearly got yourself killed!"
Bilbo, already looking crestfallen, sighed to himself as his shoulders dropped, ready for another berating. "Did I not say from the beginning that you had no place amongst us? That you were a burden to us, not able to survive in the wild…?"
Bilbo did not answer, didn't even look him in the eye.
Thorin suddenly closed the gap between them to embrace the hobbit in a hug. "Never have I been so wrong in all my life." Bilbo, now surprised, hugged back with a ghost of a smile. The others cheered once again. Even Nori, who usually kept himself apart from the others, embraced his brothers both in a rare hug. Though rightly so since he was about to lose both of them over the cliff. "I'm sorry I ever doubted you." Thorin finished.
"No, no. I would have doubted me too. I'm no warrior, actually I'm not even a burglar." Bilbo gave Gandalf a pointed look to which the wizard chuckled.
The company embracing each other, happy again and the morning sun on everyone's faces was the last thing Alicia saw before her eyes closed of their own accord.
Surprisingly this one was very easy to write, the next chapter I seem to be having some trouble with, but I hope to get it done by next week. You guys are aweome, see ya next time!