Five Reasons To Love Sheep

Chapter 5: Barrels, Vanishing

Chapter Five:

Barrels, Vanishing

It's less than five minutes before I'm hurling weeks of frustration and fear at Josie through the walls which divide our cells; she takes it for quite some time without saying a word in retaliation. After I've roared the dungeons down with outbursts about her pulling such a stupid move as coming here, how worried we all were, how she's in the hospital hooked up to saline solution and nutrients as some medical phenomena and a thousand other problems that have or could have arisen from her deciding to, as she later puts it, 'pop along for the ride.'

"You two were out here having all this fun-"

"Fun?! You call being nearly hacked to pieces by Goblins and being roasted over a fire by Trolls fun-?!"

"Alright, alright, but the two of you are always coming back and talking about all of these fantastical things, and there I was stuck at home. I just wanted a taste of the adventure at last. I never thought I'd end up in some random place rather than with you and Dwarf-boy, though... besides, it's not like there's anyone at home to miss me, is it?"

"I missed you, and Kili! I was worried sick, and it was all my fault that you were gone. It was stupid, so stupid, of both of us... I should have known. And my Mom; every day she's been at that hospital, Josephine, Every single day-"

"What about my Mom?"

I loose my train of thought then. "...What?"

"Did she come and see me?"

I find my mouth dry. I struggle for words, but cannot find any. Josie sighs.

"Not even once? No card, no flowers, nothing?"

"Josie..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know."

Neither of us talk for a long while then. Time passes, the afternoon comes, and I get my apology.

"I'm sorry, Al. I get that it was a sort of stupid thing to do... can you blame me for wanting to slay Dragons and hunt for gold rather than writing essays and toiling part-time at Tesco?"

I close my eyes in frustration, trying to make her understand. "Josie, It's... it isn't like I was trying to keep this magical world from you. It isn't safe here. You haven't seen half of the things which go on here; Orcs, Wargs, Trolls, every other race of people wanting to eat you or kill you for the fun of it. I never asked for this, remember."

"Maybe not," Josie says. "But if you could change any of it- go back in time, let it all happen to someone else- would you?"

I shake my head though she can't see, smiling in spite of myself. "Of course not."

"See, you love it really. How did you end up in here, then?"

"How did you end up here?"

She laughs. "It's a looooong story."

"Oh, how unfortunate that we have to rush off," I spout sarcastically. "Go on, then, I haven't got all day... well... never mind."

Josie gives me her version of what she supposedly got up to, though, as with everything she does, 99% of it sounds fictional. When she finishes her tale I stare blankly at her, utterly flabbergasted. Josie rolls her eyes. "Jesus, Alice, it's not that weird."

I blink forcefully. "Oh, of course not. Not weird at all."

"Hey, you're the one who started all this freaky shizzle, remember. It's not my fault that you made a bridge between worlds or sent us back into the past or something."

"'Back into the past?' Come on Jos, don't be stupid. There were never Dragons and Wizards and Dwarves on Earth."

"How do you know? You never knew they existed full stop until all this happened."

"That's because they don't... not in the real world."

She goes quieter. "You still think this might not be real? That it's all be some crazy dream?"

"I... No, of course not. ...maybe. How can it be real? None of it makes any sense..." I sigh. "But then I look at this place, I look at these people, and..." I think of Fili and Gandalf, of Bilbo and the others. Kili's face burns into my mind. He feels real.

"They all feel so real."

Josie smiles. "Don't kid yourself, Ali-bear. It feels real because it is real."

She asks how I came to be locked in this dungeon with her, and I explain everything that has happened in Middle Earth since her disappearance.

"So where is Dwarf-boy now, then?" She asks once I finish. I shake my head.

"I don't really know. I blacked out after the Spider bit me and that Elf woman carried me off. We were all in the forest together, so the others could all be here, locked up in another part of the dungeon. Or maybe they escaped."

Josie sounds brighter. "He and the others could be on their way here now to rescue us!"

"Yeah, maybe. That would be good." Unless...

I've been trying my best not to worry about what could have happened, but it's difficult. They could have escaped the Elves; they could all be dead.

I dwell on that thought for hours, and when one of the guards comes to bring us an unappetizing meal of Lembas bread and leafy salad, I ask her about the others. Either she does not speak the common tongue or she flat-out chooses to ignore me. It wouldn't surprise me if they have been ordered not to speak to us.

The rest of the day passes slowly in the dungeons of the Wood-Elves. Unable to see each other, Josie and I can do little but talk; I lie on my cot, nursing my stinging arm and picking at the crumbling poultice, praying for the pain to ease off a little more. Eventually I drift off to sleep; still weak from the last of the poison in my body, I am half-aware of being back home, waking in darkness, wrapped in warm blankets, curled up on the sofa. I can feel the warmth of Kili's hand in my own, and just the knowledge that he is there, even if only in body, is more of a comfort than words can say. I hear the faint blurr of the television in the background, and vaguely recognise the theme tune before drifting again into the bliss of dreamless sleep. When I awake I'm back in the dungeons, and darkness has once more descended.

"...Josie?"

"Oh, you're up, then. Any news from back in the other world?"

"I wasn't properly awake; I think it's because I'm still ill. But I think we've missed Doctor Who."

"No worries, we've got a series link."

"How long have you been here, in the cell?"

"I dunno- six, maybe seven days. Mind you, I'm not complaining. It's warm, the food's not bad if a little too green, and I couldn't ask for a more beautiful captor, could I?"

"Oh, Josie, no. You are not allowed to fangirl over the man who had us locked up."

"But he's not a man, is he? He's an Elf. A sexy Elf."

"Yes, a miserable, up-him-self "sexy" Elf who, in case you haven't remembered, had daggers set at our throats this morning."

"Oh, he's just sassy. I can forgive a little thing like that when his eyebrows are so phenomenal. He has a perfect face."

"Perfect face or not, you... look, we're not having this conversation. I'm not having it."

"You've got to admit he's beautiful, though. Don't deny it. Hey, did you hear what he said about me earlier? Keep that one in chains... a little kinky, don't you think? I'm all yours, Thrandy-baby!"

"Please stop."

There is a rushed sort of whispering from outside and a flurry of footsteps; I strain to hear what's going on, and Josie catches it, too.

"Did you hear that?"

~oOo~

The appearance of Bilbo Baggins at the cell doors of the Dwarves was more than welcome. As the hobbit undid the hinges of the last few cell doors, the Dwarves who had been released made their way down the steps to make their escape. All but Kili.

The young Dwarf stood at the door of his cell, his face contorted. Seeing his brother behaving so aimlessly, Fili took action and grabbed hold of his younger brothers arm, pulling him to his senses. "Come on, Kili, we have to get out of here!"

"I'm not leaving without her!" the young Dwarf answered, pulling away from his brother's grip. It was not hard for the others to guess who the young Dwarf meant.

"The lass was bitten by an Ungoliant," Oin tried to reason, his voice heavy with sympathy but quickened by desperation, "the chances of her coming out of that, with no medicine... it's already too late. She'll be gone, Laddie."

"No. She's alive. I know she is, Taur... one of the Elves told me so."

"An Elf?" Thorin seethed from the bottom of the steps, anxious to move on with Dwalin at his side, "you would trust the word of an Elf?"

"Why would she lie?"

Thorin's face tightened into a stone mask. "It is in their nature. They are untrustworthy, deceitful, faithless... ah, enough of this. All of you, quickly! FOllow the burglar!"

The other Dwarves thundered onwards after Mr. Baggins, who had boldly claimed to have a plan. Although his mind begged him to go onwards, Fili found that his heart kept him firmly rooted by his brother's side.

Kili closed his eyes tight. Above he could hear the sound of the Elves feasting once again, just as the Elf-woman had said they would be; she had come to him again in the early hours of the morning, and they had talked for a long while. She told him of the wonders of the wood where she had spent her first few years of life, and he had told her of Ered Luin, of the things he had seen and the wonders he had beheld. He asked after Lavender. He spoke of her for a long while, of the quiet strength he saw in her.

"That's how she's fought through it," he had told the Elf. He found once again that his mother's Rune-stone was in his hand. "She is strong, I think. Stronger than she knows."

"I do not doubt it. But she is not of this place; she looks somewhat Dwarven, but even the blind could see that she is not. What... who is she? Where did the two of you meet?"

Kili shook his head a little. He held his mother's token the light, watch beams of yellow light dance about its edges and eclipse the glorious green of the stone.

"Oh, in another world."

"Kili," came Fili's voice, pulling the young Dwarf from his memory. "Come, brother."

"I... I can't-"

Fili brought a hand up to his shoulder, eyes ever understanding. "You must. Khâzash... come."

Reluctantly, Kili began to follow. He searched left and right with his keen eyes as the group weaved through halls silently and slipped beneath archways; the place seemed all but deserted of guards, most of whom could still be heard upstairs. As Bilbo lead the group down a winding staircase, Fili placed a hand on his brother's shoulder once again, and a finger to his own lips. The others carried on, oblivious to the loss of the two members at the back of the party. For a moment Kili was confused; when he began to understand his brother's plan, he grinned.

"Do not pull that face, it makes you look stupid," the golden-haired Dwarf snuffed quietly, watching the others disappear into the darkness leading to the cellar. He lead his brother away from the steps, eyes nervously glancing left and right for any sign of Elves or the other Dwarves taking notice of their absence. "We do a sweep of the other cells, together, and as quickly as we can, no splitting up. If we cannot find her..."

Kili swallowed hard and nodded. He understood the meaning, and was pleased beyond words to have his brother by his side. Fili eyed the paths to their left and right, and nodded for his brother to begin down the latter of the two. The brothers began their quiet search through the silent halls, vividly aware of their lack of weapons and what the consequences of them being caught could be; line after line of cells they hunted, each more fruitless than the last.

"She has to be somewhere," Kili hissed desperately, "Tauriel promised she was alright!"

"'Tauriel?!' Now you're on familiar terms with Elves-?!"

"Leave it, will you? Perhaps they've got her in their healing houses-"

"And how do you expect us to find their healing houses, Kil-?!"

Fili's sentence trailed off as he saw what lay before them; an Elf in forest green garb with a dazed look in his eyes had just turned around the corner. For a moment he didn't seem to register the two Dwarves wondering the halls, but when he did his eyes blazed wider and he took up a cry in Elvish, spear at the ready and his hand on the horn at his hip.

"Run," Fili instructed his older brother, backing away from the Elf as quickly as possible. "Run!"

~oOo~

A horn sounded from above the cellar, sending the Dwarves into a panic. The sound was enough to rouse the three Elves asleep on the table in the other room; Bilbo heard the scraping of their chairs as they began to come to their senses, and found his hand clamped over the lever to release the caskets into the rushing river below.

"We need to go!" Gloin balked, stuffed into one of the twelve barrels along with his comrades; two spare barrels sit above his own, waiting impatiently for the two young Dwarves who seemed to have disappeared. "We're going to get caught!"

"Where are they?! Why would they run off like that?!"

"Where's this plan of yours, Baggins?!"

"We have to wait for Fili and Kili!" Ori cried over the others, wriggling himself in an attempt to escape the barrel and go and find them, "we can't leave them here! We have to go after them!"

"There's no time," Balin said, ever practical; Thorin said nothing, eyes burning with rage and fear as he sat wedged in the barrel. Footsteps began to move in the other room; Bilbo pulled the lever.

"I'll find them," he said, directly to Thorin; "I'll bring them back to you." It was a promise. As the tower of barrels began to tumble into the river below, Bilbo watched the rage in his somber friend's face turn to confusion and a glimmer of trust. As the last of the Dwarves vanished beneath the deck, Bilbo slipped on his enchanted ring and vanished himself, with no idea how we was going to keep the promise he had just made. Just then the three drunken Elves stumbled into the room, hands on the hilts of blades and silky hair all in disarray. The Elf who appeared to be the youngest asked in a slurred, confused voice,

"...Where did all of the barrels go?"

AN: Guys, I must ask you a favour; I am thirsty for OST's. Instrumentals are my favourite things ever, so if any of you have any recommendations, let me know. Currently I'm obsessed with the Child of Light, Attack on Titan, Alice: Madness Returns and the Black Butler soundtracks*o*

Originally I was going to have Jos tell Alice the story in this chapter, but it ended up making everything focused on dialogue and made this chapter way too taxing to read. Instead, The tale of Josie's adventures will be up soon in the form of a one-shot from Josie's POV... expect lots of silliness. It is Josie, after all ;D

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