Hello! Well, here it is- the sequel to Blades in the Dark! If you haven't read it, you don't have to, as they are not really going to relate much ^^
This chapter is a little short, but it sets everything up nicely :)
The gloom of the forest pressed into the company, making them nervous and agitated. Each walked in a silence permeated by mist and low sun. Bilbo was at the front, eyes wide as he followed Thorin down the brick path that was going to lead them safely though Mirkwood.
The forest seemed to press in on them from all fronts, the mist suffocating them with every step- even Thorin himself seemed hesitant as he led the others down the path. He glanced down the other routes leading off the path, but each was shrouded in darkness- the Wizard had warned them of the perils of straying from the road; the words were still ringing in each of their ears.
Kili was walking between his brother and Bofur, who was uncharacteristically solemn. His eyes widened as he looked upon the change that had befallen the others, even his own brother. Fili was sombre, his eyes only on the way ahead- 'Tis only a forest,' Kili muttered to him, earning a look from the dwarves in front of him for speaking out loud. 'What is there to fear so much?'
'We don't know, that's the point.' Fili replied, voice low as he looked around. 'It's best if we just pass unnoticed.'
Kili supressed a chuckle, shaking his head, 'Scared, brother?' he whispered, only low enough for him to hear- Fili rounded on him for that, eyes narrowed. 'I'm a little nervous, as should you be!' he snapped, before shaking his head at Kili's somewhat hurt face and turning away.
Kili sighed, consigning himself to a walk in strained silence as the others kept up their march.
Much of the forest was dead, it seemed- brown, spider like branches curled in on them, a mist reaching out towards them like a skeletal hand as the day wore on. His breath fogged in front of him, a coldness creeping under his tunic like he had never felt before. The air smelt…wrong. Like choking soil and biting wind- he didn't much like it.
They walked like that for a while longer, their legs growing weary at the continuous walking, before Thorin stopped them with a clenched fist to the air. Kili brightened, hoping he was giving the order to rest, or eat, but the look on his Uncle's face heralded nothing like that.
'The path, we've lost it!' his deep voice called. A ripple of sound suddenly erupted as each dwarf started to mutter in dismay.
'We must find it!' one of them called.
'Gandalf told us not to stray!'
'We should never have come this way at all! We should hav-'
'Silence!' Thorin barked, sending the others into muted quiet. Their leader's eyes were wide, almost…fearful? 'We must have lost it not so long ago- I took my eyes off it for but a moment….' He said, shaking his head. Kili and Fili picked their way to their Uncle, something dark settling into their stomachs as they stopped before him. Thorin shot them a look, a look Kili couldn't fathom; it looked a cross between allowed fear and bewilderment. 'We will find it again,' Fili muttered, nodding his head to his Uncle. 'We just need to go back and retrace our steps.'
'And if we get more lost? The Wizard warned us not to stray.' Thorin retorted, feeling slight anger bubbling.
Fili stepped back, shrugging. 'Then I do not know what to suggest- but we cannot stay here for too long…it feels wrong to be here.' He said, Kili nodding beside him.
'Aye, I'll agree with that alright!' Bofur called, earning a nod and more muttering from the rest of the group.
'Hush!' Thorin barked, now acutely aware of the forest around them; it seemed to exude malice, an invisible force of darkness was bound here in the trees, waiting to snare unsuspecting travellers. The silence seemed alive, like a ghostly shadow.
'So what do we do?' Split up?' Kili muttered, shuddering as coldness bit into them.
'No, we must not do that- that is sure way to get lost. We may never find each other again…' Thorin dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand.
'So what do you suggest we do?' Gloin growled, hand already round his weapon.
Seconds passed. Bilbo shivered- the forest was eerie, an aura of discontent wafting between them as they each waiting for their leader's plan.
Fili breathed in deeply, nerves creeping into his veins- he dismissed them, knowing he had to be on his guard in this place. Suddenly- 'We double back to that clearing we passed, then we try and find it from there- it is the last place I remember seeing the path.' Thorin said, and without another word he started walking. The others couldn't disagree, and even if they wanted to they wouldn't- they turned and followed, the darkness enveloping them as they made their way back into the forest.
Twilight was now upon them, but it was difficult to tell- the great branches and leaves of the uppermost trees obscured most of the light. The group was now talking in whispers to those closest, just to make the walk seem a little less daunting. Fili and Kili were now at the front with their Uncle, who nonetheless was walking in silence. Every little sound set Fili's teeth on edge, sent his arm to his weapon- he didn't like it here one bit. Finally they reached the clearing that they had walked through before- the air was now colder, biting into their skin as they stopped. 'Should we make a fire?' Kili muttered, shivering a little.
'No, it is best if we keep moving, we just need to find the path- everyone spread out and find it!' Thorin ordered, walking forwards, eyes to the ground.
Everyone fanned out, heads bent low as they searched for the faded brick path, suddenly- 'Got it! We must have just missed it…' Bofur shouted, pointing to the floor next to him. A collective heave of breath greeted the words as they surged forwards.
'Good work, Bofur,' Thorin smiled, 'Right, we just need to k-'his voice stopped as an almighty crack of wood met their ears, followed by a growl so deep Kili thought it had erupted from the depths of hell itself. The dwarves drew together, each raising their weapon- Fili pushed Kili to his side, a palm out in front of him to shield him somewhat.
'Be silent- it may just pass us by…' Thorin whispered, eyes to the closed forest in front of them. Kili, eyes wide, held his sword tightly, hoping that Thorin was right- but they never did have such good luck. Suddenly, something burst into the clearing, something huge, with foaming jaws and glinting teeth. The wolf-like creature was thin but muscular, the grey pelt almost glowing in the darkness. Its red eyes surveyed its prey, before it made its move- with its strong legs it pounced, sending the company in different directions to get out of its path.
Fili pushed Kili to move him out of harm's way, before swinging his sword at the creature as it ran towards them- the glint of iron reflected in its eyes, but the weapon hardly made a dent. Fili's eyes widened as it turned its great head towards him- he slashed again and again, driving it backwards as others began attacking it from behind. With a great swipe of its paw it flung the dwarf to the ground, winded.
'Hey!' another voice called from behind- Kili loosed an arrow into its pelt, but it merely bounced off. It now turned to him, teeth bared-suddenly another growl was added, and then another- two more had heard the call of its kin, and had come searching for prey also. The original creature still had its eyes firmly on Kili- Kili had notched another arrow in his bow, but the creature was too quick, causing him to yell out and throw himself out of its path; a shadow fell upon him as they creature stepped closer- a claw reached out, batting the dwarf on the ground. Kili yelped as the sharp claw dug into his leg- he scrabbled upwards, retrieving his dropped dirk, before turning and burying it deep into the creature's side. A roar rang out as Kili backed away- even with one injured it seemed that these creatures just wouldn't give up; they needed to get out of here…
Thorin and Gloin were busy with another of the creatures, its great jaws foaming as it lashed out at them. Despite the force that they were putting on them, the creature kept on coming, before its great claw caught Thorin in the chest, sending him to the floor, blood on his face.
'No!' Kili shouted, running to his uncle to defend him- he slashed and stabbed at the creature, his blade sinking to the hilt- this now seemed to have an effect- it reared up, sending Kili up with it as he tried to pull his sword away. With a cry he fell to the floor again as the creature shook its great head- its snout caught him in the side, sending him careering to the side.
'Run! Into the forest, run!' Thorin shouted, now up and helping Balin up also. Kili raced to his brother, with Bofur not far behind. 'Boys, you're with me- let's go!' he said, helping Kili pull his brother to his feet. 'But Thorin…' Kili muttered, but he saw that Thorin was preoccupied with the others- finally their faces met. 'Go! We will find each other again!' he shouted, and Kili nodded.
Suddenly one of the creatures ran into view, its jaw inches away, so close that Kili didn't have time to reach his weapon- the creature suddenly balked, a high wine forcing itself out of its great mouth. Kili turned and saw and axe embedded into his pelt, with Thorin standing with an arm outstretched.
Fili grabbed his brother's tunic and pulled, and together they followed Bofur into the dense woodland off the path, the darkness enveloping them.
'We'll be able to find the others well enough…' Bofur promised, blood smeared into his face.
Fili hoped he was right- it already seemed like they were alone in the forest. He winced as he felt pain in his arm; reaching up his felt blood on his palm- Kili saw, and his wide eyes met his own. 'I'm ok, I promise….' He smiled, putting an arm around him and walking with him.
Quietly, the three of them picked their way through the forest, before turning left in the hope of coming across the others, keeping a close eye out for movement.
Something, it seemed, was also keeping a watch on them in the darkness of the forest….
I hope you liked it!
Expect hurt/comfort, action and (hopefully) some Durin feels in the upcoming chapters!
Thank you very much for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!