Chapter 27: Into the Fire
AN: It's another one of those chapters... when you see le Lenny face -( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) it's time for youtube- 'The Prodigy- Fire-starter'
Into The Fire
A wolf howls, and my heart turns to ice in my chest.
Thorin stares up at the mountain, eyes wide. "Out of the frying pan..."
"-And into the fire," Gandalf finishes, gathering up his robes and turning for the forest. "Run. Run!"
"You don't need to tell me twice!" I yell, charging down the hill at full speed with the wind in my knotted hair and the breath ragged in my throat. Our pursuers are Orcs, lead by a gargantuan scarred creature atop a white wolf-like beast; as the others surround me, the callings of the dogs becomes louder and louder, mingled in with the speech of the Orcs riding them; curses fill the cold air, arrows fly and axes screech as we stampede on, heading towards a cliff.
...Wait a minute.
"There's no where to go!" I yell, but it's too late; the quickest of the group are already at the edge of the headland, their boots scuffing in the dirt; they turn to the old Wizard for guidance.
"Go! Up into the trees, all of you! Come on, climb!"
I stumble up to the nearest tree, Kili beside me; he practically springs up into it, one sharp movement of his foot against the bark, and he is crouched up on a branch. I grapple with the tree trunk, realising just how useless at life I really am. I was never an adventurous child; I have never climbed a tree before.
"Lavender, climb!" Fili roars from behind me, "quickly, they're coming!"
"Yes, I can see that!" I yell as I struggle to get my footing, "oh, I am absolutely fricking useless-!"
"Yes, you are, but we're not abandoning you just yet!" Kili says, his hand hooking swiftly under my right arm; I feel Fili's hands cup beneath my foot and he throws me up like we're some patched-together circus act. Between the two of them the brothers get me up with relative ease, and Kili's other arm around my waist guides me to the relative safety of the branch above. I stare above me at the nearest branch as Kili scrambles onto it.
"Go, higher!" Fili calls from beneath us, clearly panicking; I hesitate.
"She doesn't like heights!" Kili says, registering how new I am to this and how panicky the prospect of climbing this huge tree is.
"It's not the height," I try, palms sweating, "it's the falling- the dying- I'm scared of."
"Well, I'm not particularly fond of becoming a Warg's breakfast myself, so get a move on, both of you!"
Kili tries for a smile, nimble as a monkey up in the thickets of the branches, and reaches out to me. "Take my hand."
I do, and quick as a wick and he guides me up. I can't help but think how much faster- and how much safer- these two would be without me around. Maybe I should just jump into the Wargs' mouths now and be done with it.
"Hang on!" Balin calls encouragingly as we clamor higher, "hold on, brothers!"
"Here," Kili says in a whisper, drawing me up beside him on the next branch we come across- thirty foot or so in the air, he arches his back against the tree trunk, balances his foot on a lower branch and holds me in front of him, both arms locked around my waist.
"Keep quiet," he whispers in my ear. My one hand clings to his, the other to the branches above us. Fili stops on the branch below, poised as a cat, and we wait in the silence as the Wargs appear. They swarm beneath like a sea of white fish, shimmering in the fading light of the moon as they sniff the dirt and growl to one another. Kili's grip on my waist tightens through the layers and layers of fabric I'm wearing as a pale figure emerges on top of a low cliff-face; Thorin growls something beneath his breath from one of the trees across from us, and the Orc astride the whitest of the Wargs, the one with the thick lacerations all over his muscled chest and the claw for a hand, begins to address him directly in his warped, guttural language.
The leader of the creatures roars a command and the beasts, Warg and Orc alike, charge. They hack at tree roots, fire arrows and scramble up the trees so that their colossal weight causes the ancient trunks to groan and bend; branches snap and roots rip free, and soon enough our tree is wavering.
"What do we do, what do we do?!" I yell, clutching desperately at Kili as the trunk swings slowly in a circle and one of the Wargs snaps for Fili's feet; Kili rains arrows down upon them and Fili sets loose his throwing axes. Weaponless, I pull loose a pine-cone and fire it down at the beast; it has little effect, not surprisingly, but I try this repeatedly anyway, shrieking like a mad woman the whole time.
Suddenly, the tree gives way; my breath catches in my throat as it swings forwards.
"Lavender," Kili says, seeing what is about to happen,"...jump."
He pushes me, and I jump, arms reaching for the branches of the next tree where Dwalin and Nori hang; I miss. And now I'm falling. Third time unlucky, I guess...
The moment I hit the floor, one of the beasts is upon me; the Warg snaps its jaws and growls, taking a bite at my leg; I scream as it's teeth puncture the leather of my boots and kick it away, flaying my arms around and desperately attempting my escape. There is a roar from above, and Dwalin drops from the tree, straight onto the creature's back; one hand tight in it's fur as he bucks, he raises his axe in the other and drives it into the creature's head, ripping it away again with a flash of blood and an animalistic roar. Before I know what's happening he has me my the torso and is wrangling me up into the tree he fell from, carrying me over one arm as he clambers upwards.
"I told you to jump!" Kili yells from somewhere above, arrows flying from his bow as he perches precariously on a branch with Fili by his side.
"I tried!" I shriek, securing myself tightly around the thickest branch I see like a baby sloth, "I was hardly expecting-"
There is another crunch, and the tree we are sat in begins to cave in to the next one; this time the others are prepared, which is more than can be said for me; Fili and Kili grab one of my wrists each and swing with me into the next tree, yelling as they do so, pulling me up onto the branch they have secured and telling me to be ready for the next fall. I try to mentally prepare myself, but then-
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
"Here it comes!"
BANG! The next tree breaks under the efforts of the Orcs and Wargs below, and we are forced to scrabble for the next tree... the final tree. Oh dear. We cling to the branches for dear life, and soon enough the laughter of the Orcs reigns.
Then the fire begins.
Flames appear from nowhere, licking the ground and the creatures alike; I look up to see Gandalf in all his majesty, throwing down blazing acorns. Why didn't I think of that?! One of the flaming balls makes it to me, and I fling it down at our enemies. More and more come our way, and we laugh with hysterical relief as we rain fire down upon the Orcs.
"Eat fire acorns, bitches!" I roar, hurling the burning seed pods down as they parade before us on their Wargs.
"Yes, taste them, bitches!" Fili yells after me, throwing another; I grin with elated mirth and fist pump his shoulder, whooping up at the sky.
"Burn baby, burn-!"
"Holy shit!" I shriek as the tree creaks again; in seconds we're practically horizontal, hanging over the edge of the cliff; I'm screaming, and so is Ori, and Dori too, by the sounds of it; Dwalin's hand reaches down to mine and he yanks me over a more secure branch beside the two princes. Dori and Ori are hangin off the edge of Gandalf's staff, swinging in the early morning breeze; I yell down to them, but their own screams drown mine.
"Mr. Gandalf! Help us!"
"What's going on up there?!" I yell, desperately trying to see through the breaks in the foliage; I hear one of the Dwarves cry out Thorin's name, and struggle harder to see the source of the chaos.
In the heart of the flames, Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror, King under the Mountain, is marching out to meet the commander of the Orcs. He runs at the monster with a mighty roar, sword high above him, and as the two clash it is all over; a mace smacks the Dwarven King clean in the skull, and he falls. A Warg clamps its jaws around his shield, and lifts him high into the air before throwing him away like a broken toy. Thorin Oakenshield falls, and does not stirr.
"Uncle, no!" Kili roars, scrambling with the branch he is clinging to, his feet loosing their hold as he desperately tries to reach land; Fili is doing the same, and Dwalin, all of them struggling to reach their King. Blades crash between Orc and Dwarf out in the fiery blaze, and I cry out as one of the Orcs advances upon Thorin, blade in hand and ready to swing; and then Bilbo is there, alone in the fight, his glowing sword glazed with blood; Orc blood. Fili scrambles up from the tree, his feet thumping the earth, pulls his little brother over with him and the two begin running into the thick of the fight. Thorin, Nori and several of the others manage to reach land, creating a chain in order to help one another along, but the chain is broken by the time it reaches me; I watch from the branches, frozen into stone, as the war rages on.
It is difficult to see anything through the rising flames. They lick up at the sky, orange and red and gold, sending smoldering tendrils up to the sky and through the fallen trees. There is a yell from behind me, and I turn to see that Ori and Dori are no longer holding on.
"No!" I scream, and just as I do my cry is met by another; the smoke clears a little and an enormous bird rises through the grey like a phoenix, the two fallen Dwarves clinging to it's back; more of the creatures appear, their great wings shining copper in the light of the fire, and begin to pick up Warg and Orc alike, tossing them from the mountain's edge and into the dark abyss below. One of the birds swoops dangerously close to me, snapping off the branches above my head and sending them down in a rain; one of the larger arms hits my own branch on the way down, and the wood splinters before giving way; suddenly I'm falling again, arms flailing and scraping against branch after branch as I try to grab hold, and suddenly there are no more branches, only the swirling ink of the early morning sky and the screams of the dead and dying all around me...
But now I am no longer falling. I am flying.
The bird's talons appear before me in an enveloping darkness, and I feel the bony leather of it's claws as they clasp around my body, suspending me in the air. Morning stretches ahead of me, and I realise that the flock of birds around me no longer carry Wargs and Orcs in their jaws- they carry Dwarves, on their backs and in their tallons, and the grand Wizard riding ahead of us all, guiding the way to freedom. I glance behind at the burning forest, the Orcs now scattered and howling, and whoop with triumph.
"Taste that, you bastards!" I yell, reaching a hand through one of the birds claws and flipping my middle finger up at the beasts on the hillside, "yeah, tastes good, doesn't it?! Birds... flipping birds! Whooo! I love birds!"
"They're Eagles!" Nori calls from above his own winged beast, and I laugh again, the euphoria making me dizzy.
"I love birds!" I scream, hanging from the creature's hardened talons like a rag-doll, my arms swinging freely in the breeze, "all the birds! Ravens, Robins, Pigeons... oh, let it rain down on me!"
The bird throws me in the air without warning, and I land with a yelp on the neck of the creature below it; hands dug deep into its feathers I lie close against it's golden back as the wind pushes against my cheeks and we soar through the stars.
"I'm flying, Jack!" I yelp, "I..."
That is when I see it; the reason that I'm the only one rejoicing.
"Thorin!" Fili is yelling at his uncle, who lies limp within the talons of one of the great Eagles. "Thorin, can you hear me?!"
"He's not moving!" Kili cries to Gandalf, his fists tight in the feathers of the bird he rides with his brother. "You have to help him, Gandalf!"
"Here!" the Wizard roars, his hand pointing down at a high clifftop a little way in the distance. "We must make land, and quickly!"
The Eagle he rides screeches in affirmation, and we slowly begin to descend towards the mountain top, silent as we glide through the coming morning.