Chapter 16: Khuzdul
I grip Bofur's waist and he clicks his tongue thrice, leading the pony to turn on its tail and head back towards camp.
When we get there, the others are nowhere to be found; we wander aimlessly for a minute before Dori spots us through the trees and calls us over. When we reach the spot we find that half of the group are inside a cave. Dori informs us that it is occupied by the Troll's treasure, and Bofur jumps down to get a look. I think to myself that it is probably best for me to stay up here seeing as it took me forever to get on the pony in the first place, but my curiosity gets the better of me and I climb down the stirrup awkwardly.
"You haven't changed your clothes yet," Kili notes, gesturing to my mud-streaked ensemble. I grab one of the heavy cotton dresses he paid for back at the farmer's house, run off into the woods as far as I dare and change into the dress. It's a little loose, seeing as it is made for a fully-sized woman, and not a Dwarf-sized moi, and it is far too long. I drag myself back through the forest, fighting with the too-high neckline of the dress which is currently choking me, and ask Kili for his blade as he adjusts one of the pony's loose shoes.
"Here," he says, turning to me and crouching before me. He takes a handful of my skirts and shears it clean off, tearing through the fabric, cutting the dress in a jagged pattern just above my ankles. I side-glance at Fili, who watches the pair of us with a half-amused, half-confused expression, and I feel myself blush again. He wraps his arms around the side of my legs and pulls free the last shed of fabric; I step out of it, gather up the fabric and throw him a smile.
Kili smirks up at me slyly and stands. He turns back to the pony, mumbling to her soothingly as she kicks out her leg to avoid his handiwork. For lack of anything else to do and in order to escape the bemused expression of Fili, I poke my head into the mouth of the cave.
The dingy cave stinks to high heaven, but I pay no notice the smell due to what lies inside. The cavern sparkles with gold and silver, a hoard of weaponry and treasure beyond measure. We gather a few things, swords and the like; Gandalf hands one to me, complete with a strap, and I pull it over my shoulder gratefully. Thorin soon demands that we leave the hole, and we emerge back into the daylight. Kili stands admiring some of the treasures Bifur has brought forth, smiling and laughing with the older Dwarf.
"That was amazing," I say to no one in particular. "If this mountain of yours looks anything like that, then I cannot wait to get there."
"Erebor holds a thousand times what lies in that filthy cave," Dwalin smiles proudly.
"What's that?" Kili says, gesturing to the scabbard at my shoulder; I glint my sword in his direction with a smirk.
"It's a sword," I chime. "I carry a sword now. Swords are cool."
Kili raises his eyebrows, pretending to be impressed. I stick my tongue out at him and adjust the strap on my shoulder.
"That's a little big for you, isn't it?" Fili teases from behind me, that glazed smug smile still on his face. I throw him a look over my shoulder which shows that I am not amused, and he moves around me, stops in front of my face in what I assume to be mock-intimidation (though it feels like actual intimidation), smirking as he unsheathes the sword at my side, holding it between us and running his fingers across its blade.
"It's nice, this." He eyes the blade with an envious wince. "All we have to do now is teach you how to use it."
"Would you like some peanut butter to go with that look, Fili?" I ask him, grabbing the hilt of my sword- my sword- and attempting to pull it back towards myself, "because I can see that you're jelly."
"I have no idea what you just said, but I am certain that I did not like it," the Dwarf smirks, leaning into my face a little as he pushes the blade back into its holster by my side. I wince a little at its weight, but try not to show my discomfort to the languid Dwarf. He backs up with a mock bow and says,
"Mine is bigger, though."
"Overcompensating," I mutter as he walks away.
There is a sudden noise that startles the entire company; all weapons are drawn, even my own. I unsheathe my blade sharply for the first time and feel a sudden wave of bad-assery. I could definitely get used to this. Thorin roars,
"Something is coming! Stay together! Hurry now, arm yourselves!"
"Thieves!" someone yells through the bush, "thieves!"
Oh, brilliant, I think. Just what we need; more trouble.
"What have you stolen this time, Nori?!" Dori yells to his brother, before the bush rumbles again with speech.
...Well, unless Nori is secretly an arsonist with an insatiable blood lust as well as a kleptomaniac, the voice might not be speaking about our group.
A sled pulled by rabbits- yes, I'm just going to breeze over that one and pretend it's completely normal- suddenly appears through the bush, a man barely taller than the Dwarves riding on it; I can only assume that he is the vegan alternative to Father Christmas. He blusters down from his podium and Gandalf releases a sigh of combined joy and relief.
"Radagast!" the Wizard cries happily, "It's Radagast the Brown!"
I side-glance at Kili, his bow drawn, and he shrugs; he too appears to be flummoxed by the appearance of veggie Santa Claus.
The two Wizards talk about Wizardy-type things for a while; I find that I'm far too distracted by the appearance of this brown warlock to register what they are babbling on about. From beside me, Dwalin begins to chuckle.
"You've noticed the bird refuse, then, Lass," he grumbles; I nod, staring at the streak of white within Radagast's wild, bramble-filled hair, and Dwalin gives another quite terrifying laugh that practically shakes my bones. I glance over to him; I don't know whether to be absolutely terrified of the Dwarf who first saved me or to treat him like Barney the Dinosaur, my own Bear in the Big Blue House. He is hard and scary, yet soft, too; crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, like a bubble-gum filled lollipop... somehow I don't think Dwalin would appreciate being compared to a gum-pop if he knew what one was.
Just then there is a terrible howling sound; immediately our entire group draw arms again. I relish in the sound of the blade leaving it's holster; I feel like Beatrix Kiddo without the Katana and the latex.
"Was that a wolf?!" Bilbo stutters, "are there wolves out there?"
"Wolves?" Bofur murmurs, raising his mattock, "no, that is not a wolf."
The growling gets suddenly closer, and I practically feel the sound at the back of my neck; I turn to see a huge grey-white beast, yellow teeth gnashing and narrow eyes glinting. It bounces forwards and the group of us pounce out of its way; Thorin strikes it across the back of its head, leaving it unconscious.
Another appears behind him.
"Kili!" Thorin yells; the young Dwarf jumps to attention, reaching behind his back for an arrow. "Your bow!"
Thorin's younger nephew obliges and shoots an arrow with surprising accuracy right into the eye of the creature. Dwalin thwacks the beast over the head thrice with his mallet, and it howls no more.
I feel a pang of sadness as the creature mumbles, despite the fact it was probably about to tear my head clean off my shoulders. It lies there howling like a wounded dog. I step forwards to kneel before it to try and offer it a little comfort; Kili creates a barricade across my front with his arm, shaking his head.
"Leave it, Lavender."
"It's just an animal-"
"Leave it, I said."
The harshness in his tone silences me, and I step back a little. His eyes soften and he looks away.
"That is no animal. They are Warg scouts, which means an Orc pack is not far behind!" Thorin growls, finishing both beasts off with a sharp strike of his blade. I wince as the second beast whimpers aloud then goes still.
"Orcs?!" I squeak... as in the attack-in-the-night-no-screams-just-blood-hack-your-Grandfather's-head-off Orcs?!
Gandalf and Thorin begin to argue; Dwalin stamps between the pair and barks, "We have to get out of here!"
"We can't!" Ori cries from atop one of the hillocks, "we have no ponies, they've bolted!"
Radagast offers to draw the beasts away, on some claim that his rabbits are of a particular breed, Rustabell or Roshgobble or something along those lines, so there is no way the huge wolves will stand a chance against he and his merry sled. Gandalf agrees, a little reluctantly, gathering his robes around him and preparing for flight as the brown Wizard and his troop of rabbits dart off through the forest.
"We need to move," Thorin declares. "Run, all of you. Run!"
The next thing I'm aware of is the running; running, running, running, and lots more running. For the first time in my life, I find myself wishing I'd actually put in a little effort during Physical Education lessons or listened to my Mother's constant whimbreling about my disdain for exercise; I try my best to control my breathing, but the impulse to just run as fast as I can and think about the consequences later proves far more effective as I follow the troop of Dwarves through the forest. They are quicker than me, every single one of them, even Balin; I marvel over the fact that Bombur has overtaken each and every one of us, his beard bouncing around his shoulders against the wind. Despite my panic I find myself hoping that Dwarves are somehow superior to humans with regards to athletics and pray that I'm not just being outrun by a very, very old Dwarf and a very, very obese one.
"Move yourself, Lavender!" Fili shouts back, a hoarse roar in his breathless voice; I try my hardest to keep up, but it's pretty much impossible. Curse you, childhood asthma!
If you don't hurry up, you're going to die, I think to myself, and find that my legs suddenly think that speeding up is a very good idea indeed; adrenaline charges through my veins and I find myself back amongst the others, even overtaking a few. I feel an arm on my own and look up to see that it's Kili; he pulls me onwards, taking a little of the weight off my own feet, and we find ourselves at the front of the group, behind only Nori, Bombur and Gandalf now.
"There are more coming!" Thorin shouts to us all. I glance over to see that he is right; there are at least half a dozen of the Warg creatures, being ridden by large greyish-white beings which I can only reason to be the Orcs. They are chasing Radagast left and right around the fields, and I get the sudden horrifying vision of chunks of rabbit and peat-covered Wizard flying into the air if the procession are caught. Thorin halts us all behind a large rock, and we freeze as one of the Wargs and its rider come to a stop on top of our hillock. Thorin gives Kili a glare and an expectant nod that says quite clearly; 'what are you waiting for?! Shoot it!'
The young Dwarf understands the gesture, drawing his bow and leaning away from the rest of us; he shoots two arrows up at the creature and its rider, bringing the pair down before us, where Dwalin and Bifur set about bludgeoning the two. Kili has his eyes on me as I watch in blunt horror, before drawing an arrow and shooting it through the Warg's eye, killing it immediately as the two older Dwarves continue to chop.
"You should not feel sympathy for them," he instructs me, voice as cold as it had been earlier. "They'd sooner rip out your throat than find sympathy for you."
"Move!" roars Gandalf, and I see that the others are now pursuing us, and Radagast is nowhere to be seen. "Run!"
We sprint across the fields again, and I have the sudden horrifying visualisation of myself pulling some horror-movie style fall and holding up the entire group, probably killing myself and a good few of the others in the process. I do not, by some miracle, enact that terrible cliché as I did on my first night here; I continue to run as quickly as I can, Kili once again pulling me along, his grip more painful this time. He is far quicker than I ever will be; I know that that I am only slowing him down and try to shrug him off.
"What are you doing?!" he roars, exhausted, squeezing painfully tighter at my arm, "run!"
"This way!" Gandalf calls; we follow his order, but the group soon finds itself dispersed as the Wizard seems to disappear.
"Where did he go?!" I yell. "Gandalf!"
"He's abandoned us!"
"There's more coming!" Kili yells, releasing me and fumbling for his bow.
"Kili," Thorin roars, "Shoot them!"
"We're surrounded!" Fili yells, backing up towards his uncle. Kili fires arrow upon arrow at the oncoming creatures, but it is no use; soon enough, they will be upon us. We gather in around one of the larger rocks, prepared to meet our doom with full force; I draw my sword, utterly petrified, give an adrenaline-fueled battle cry and pray that we all die as quickly as possible.
"Hold your ground!" Thorin yells to us all, his own sword bared in front of him. The Wargs and their riders draw in, and I suck in a deep breath, closing my eyes.
It is then that, once again, Gandalf saves the day at the very last minute. "This way, you fools!" The Wizard hollers, popping his head out from over the large rock expanse behind us, "come on, move, quickly!"
"Move, all of you!" Thorin orders, hopping atop the rock and beckoning us all closer; we don't need telling twice. The entire company charges at the rock, and as I reach its edge, I realise that it is the mouth of another cave and freeze for a second in surprise; Thorin growls and shoves me down into the hole, and I skid down the side of the rock's face with a yelp, landing on top of Oin and Bilbo. Gandalf begins counting us all as we gather in the abyss; from above, I see Thorin still swinging his sword.
"Kili!" he yells to his nephew, still firing arrows at the oncoming storm, "Run!"
Fili slides in then and lands on top of me with a muted yell; Oin and Bilbo growl in pain, and the pair of us try our best to stand, that is before Fili's younger brother and uncle slide inside, and we are all thrown to the cave floor in a heap. Gandalf finishes his head count and sighs with relief as we struggle to find our feet, apologising left right and centre.
"That is everyone."
Through the slit in the rock, a new sound emerges... that of a horn blowing. The Orcs and their Wargs cry out in agony as arrows fly above. We watch, dizzied, as a dead Orc comes soaring down the rock's crevice and crumples before us. Thorin draws the arrow from its chest and glares darkly at its metal head.
"I cannot see where the pathway leads!" Dwalin yells from a little further into the ravine, "do we follow it or no?"
"Follow it, of course!" Bofur scoffs, heading down the thin pathway, hat askew on his head. The group of us make haste after him, but Kili lingers, staring up at the sky and commotion above. He pokes the dead Orc with his foot, perhaps checking to see if it is really dead.
"Come on," I say, grabbing his shirt sleeve gently and tugging him onwards. The group of us head through the thin crevice, its tall grey alley walls preventing any light from shining in.
"Ooh... I'm feeling a little claustrophobic," I wheeze from the back of the line, squeezing through the thin slits in the rock.
"It's not that tight," Kili says from ahead.
"It's alright for you," I murmur, breathing in as we pass through the narrow route, "you haven't got a breast issue going on."
Kili smirks. "Just think how poor Bombur feels."
"Not long now!" Dwalin calls from the front, "I can see some light ahead!"
Sure enough, he is right; the ravine ends and opens out onto a series of steps carved into the rock. I stare ahead, breathing in the clear air with relief, and gasp at what I see. There is a city carved into the cliff face adjacent to us, a beautiful town of sculpted rock and ornate buildings, running water and apple-green light dancing across the shimmering faces of the rock.
"Wow," I say, breathless; by the faces of the others, it is apparent they are not thinking the same.
"The Valley of Imladris," Gandalf proclaims. "In the common tongue it's known by another name; Rivendell."
"It's beautiful," I say, staring at the breath-taking sight with utter wonderment.
"Here lies the last homely house east of the sea," Gandalf continues. I feel a hard hand on my shoulder, and Thorin shoves me out of the way roughly that he might get to the Wizard.
"This was your plan all along," the Dwarf King growls at Gandalf, "to seek refuge with our enemy!"
"You have no enemies here, Thorin Oakenshield! The only ill will to be found in this valley is that which you bring yourself."
"You think the Elves will give our quest their blessing? We discussed this already, this was to be your mission alone!"
"They will bring us no ills... perhaps the phrase two birds one stone has not reached Ered Luin as of yet."
"They will try to stop us."
"Of course they will, but we have questions that need to be answered. If we are to be successful, this will need to be handled with tact, respect and no small degree of charm... which is why all of you will leave the talking to me, Master Oakenshield."
There is a long trek down to the beautiful valley then, in which I am held utterly captivated by the landscape and architecture of the place. We cross a final bridge after our long walk, feet aching, and make our way into a stone courtyard surrounded by grey sleet and evergreen moss. Each and every Dwarf looks incredibly uncomfortable, most shaking their heads and with their weapons still drawn. Two figures of stone stand over the passage, and I assume them to be representative of Elven soldiers; these Elves aren't going to be Dobby look-a-likes, it seems. As three of the Elven men appear atop a tall stone staircase, my presumptions are affirmed. One of them, dressed in a mauve tunic, plum-coloured cloak and a circlet in the shape of a widow's peak, begins to descend the steps with all the grace of a gliding swan. I stand enchanted by his appearance; his elbow-length russet hair flinches gently in the warm breeze, and the glow of his immaculate skin and narrow features is more than a little captivating.
"That's an Elf, then," Fili says from behind me, whispering with his younger sibling; and then, quieter, "looks like a woman."
"An ugly woman," Kili adds, and the two struggle to stifle their laughter.
"He's beautiful," I say, breathless. The two of them look back at me, both a little disgusted. The immaculate Elf glides down before us, hand on heart, and bows to Gandalf.
"Ah, Lindir!" Gandalf smiles warmly, bowing in polite response. The two begin to witter away in a gentle foreign language, and I turn to Fili and Kili with a confused expression.
"Elvish," Fili explains.
"It sounds amazing," I breathe, listening in wonderment as the two practically sing their speech. The two brothers once again look offended.
"You haven't heard proper Dwarvish yet," Kili intrudes, "it's far better. A very old language. It's true name is Khuzdul."
I nod and ask, "do you two speak it?"
Fili smirks. "Gaubdûkhimâ gagin yâkùlib Mahal, Mukhuh turgizu turug usgin, san-inh."
"...What does that mean?" Whatever he said, it sounded angry, almost Germanic, but the light expression on his face would suggest otherwise.
"May we meet again by the grace of Mahal," Kili translates, grinning, "and may your beard continue to grow longer, perfect lady."
I grin. "Well, that was... enchanting. I'm flattered."
Kili nods proudly. At the head of the party, Gandalf and the Elf begin to speak again in the common tongue.
"I must speak with Lord Elrond."
"Lord Elrond is not here," Lindir explains.
"Not here? Where is he?"
There is a sudden thunder of hooves, and we turn about to see a platoon of Elven horses and riders heading right towards us; they charge across the bridge and begin to circle us.
"Close ranks!" Thorin demands. I feel Dwarven hands on my shoulders, and find myself being pushed in to the centre of the group as they form a cheap alternative to a Roman Tortoise Shell maneuver; a reluctant Kili is pushed into the centre with me, along with Ori and Bilbo. The four of us stand in the middle of the group like huddled penguins as the Elves swarm around us, riding high on horseback; they swirl in a whirlpool of silver and raven hair, sunlight and shadows, and come to a stop once their leader notices the Wizard in our company. He is taller than most of the others, dark hair windswept from his travels, wearing an oxblood-coloured suit of armour and wielding a glinting sword. He dismounts his steed and smiles at our company.
"Gandalf," the Elf calls with a gentle bow, oozing grace.
"Lord Elrond," the Wizard stoops, lower than a man of his age ought be able to bend.
"Strange for Orcs to come so close to our borders," the grand Elf drawls, "something- or someone- has drawn them near."
Gandalf frowns. "That may have been us."
The Elf nods, and turns to the leader of our company. "Welcome, Thorin, son of Thrain."
Thorin looks up at him darkly. "I do not believe we have met."
"You have your grandfather's bearing," Lord Elrond explains, "I knew Thror when he ruled under the Mountain."
"Indeed?" Thorin drawls, as reserved as he can keep himself. "He made no mention of you."
Ooh, burn. Someone give that Dwarf a cookie.
Elrond looks away with a faintly amused smile, turning back to Gandalf. The two converse in Elvish again, tongues twisting and rolling their 'r's in a quite magnificent way. I flex my own tongue, trying to recreate the sound in the back of my own throat.
Kili nudges me sharply, his expression damning. "Stop it."
"What is he saying?!" Gloin demands in a voice like rock being splintered, charging forwards with an accusing finger pointed at the Elf Lord, "does he offer us insult-?!"
"No, Master Gloin," Gandalf proclaims in a dry tone, "he is offering you food."
The Dwarven company freeze a moment, then gather about my head, murmuring.
"I am rather peckish."
"Well I'm starving-"
"Why is this even open to discussion? It's food! We haven't eaten since that stew last night."
"Perhaps they'll have chicken!"
The group disperse again, and Gloin clears his throat.
"Well," he grumbles, "in that case, lead on."
AN: Oh, the joys of hunting the internet for Khuzdul phrases- fun and very absurd fact, the American-English auto-correct on the FF site will allow me to use several words in Khuzdul, and yet will not allow me to spell 'realise', 'theatre' or 'armour' the British way. I have to add all of these to the dictionary because the little red 'YOU CANNOT SPELL!' lines drive me bezerk... Tally Ho!