Traude quietly made her way into the room, feeling like she’d burst with joy any second. She sighed breathlessly as she looked up at the stone walls around her. It was like she’d traveled back in time to when she was a princess under the mountain by her father’s side. And now she had the chance to relive that dream. The rooms walls glimmered in the moonlight thanks to some exposed silver in place of cracks.
“T-Traude…” Barbara said from behind as her voice broke.
Traude turned to her friend, who had started crying. She put her hand on Barbara’s shoulder and smiled comfortingly.
“I know.” she replied softly.
The groups eyes then focused Brianna who stood quietly to the side. Brianna smiled shyly. She felt nervous having all the attention drawn to her.
“You did good, kid.” Bridget said smiling “You did good.”
“M-My lady?” Beate piped up.
Everyone turned and looked at Beate who had stepped forward and was now next to Brianna who was behind Barbara on her left side.
“I never had the chance to grow up in the mountain of our forefathers.” Beate continued “I guess what I’m saying is…may I enter first?”
“I don’t see why not.” Traude replied in a surprisingly soft tone.
Beate did as best she could to hold back her excitement. Even without Bertha being there, she still felt honored to be allowed to enter the mountain before the others. She hesitated for a moment, but then Brianna wrapped her arm around her shoulders and then the two of them walked into the passageway.
“I haven’t been in this mountain either.” Brianna said “So I think this is a new experience for both of us.”
Beate chuckled as she felt the walls while all the other girls crammed themselves into the passageway. All of them looked up in awe while Barbara and Traude looked like they were both about to start crying any second.
“I remember these halls.” Traude said “This stone. Don’t you remember, Barbara?”
“Yes.” Barbara replied “I remember. Chambers filled with golden light.”
“What’s that there?” Brianna inquired looking up at the doorway.
Everyone turned to where she was looking and saw above the doorway was a carved drawing of a throne with a stone hanging just above it. Above the drawing were dwarf runes that could be made out in the light provided by the moon and the silver embedded in the wall cracks.
“Ottilie?” Gerlinde asked “Would you be a dear and read that?”
Ottilie nodded and looked up at the writing, with her left hand rubbing her chin thoughtfully.
“It says ‘Here lies the kingdom of Durin’s Folk.’” she said “‘May all dwarves unite in defense of this home.’”
“That’s what it says?” Brianna asked.
“It would seem that way.” Nadja responded.
“Well, what’s that above the throne?” Brianna inquired as she noticed the stone in the drawing.
“That there is the Arkenstone.” Barbara replied.
“What’s that?” Brianna asked again.
“That, Mrs. Baggins, is why you are here.” Traude pointed out looking directly at Brianna.
Brianna looked back at Traude and then around her. Once again, all eyes were on her. Now she understood the burglar part of her involvement in this quest. She’d have to go into that tunnel and steal a jewel. Into a treasure room that no doubt had a maniacal dragon hiding or sleeping under all that gold. She sighed as she cracked her knuckles and looked back to Traude.
“No time like the present, I guess.” she said.
Fred yawned as he walked towards the horse stables at the edge of the bridge that led all the way from the lakeshore to the other side of town. There were about ten horses in the stables and two lamps hung on both sides at both ends of the building. Another man sat in a rocking chair near the front entrance, smoking a pipe.
“Well, close the books on that Byron.” Fred said “That was a slow day.”
“Sucks to be you.” Byron responded as he got up from the chair “Well, I better be heading home. Wife’s waiting for me.”
“You do that.” Fred replied “I gotta stand guard all night.”
He walked into the stables as Byron turned a corner at the right of the building. Fred went towards one pen where there was a brown horse with a black mane and tail. As soon as he approached the pen, the horse suddenly began to become very excited and backing away from the pen gate, neighing as it did so.
“Whoa, whoa, hey!” Fred barked as he put up his hands “What’s the matter with you?”
The horse continued acting strangely and soon the other horses began to do so as well. Suddenly, there was a splashing sound from outside. As if something heavy had fallen into the lake.
“Byron?” Fred called out.
No answer. But there was a creaking sound coming from all sides. More then one person was here. Fred wasn’t taking any chances so he quickly walked over towards the front entrance of the stables and drew his sword. He carefully walked out onto the boardwalk, the wood creaking every time he stepped. He looked around but no one was there.
“Byron?” he called out as he turned to his left “Where the hell are you?”
With an amazing amount of stealth, Bolg had crept up behind Fred and before Fred could do anything about it, Bolg grabbed his head and, with one twist and a loud cracking noise, snapped his neck. It was a feat in of itself considering Fred was almost as tall and bulky as Bolg.
After Fred’s lifeless body thumped onto the boardwalk, Bolg clicked his tongue. Immediately, the orc pack along with their wargs silently stepped out from both sides of the stables, having already dealt with Byron silently and efficiently. Three wargs, one of which was Bolg’s, approached the dead body at Bolg’s feet.
“Is this ours?” Bolg’s warg asked.
“Help yourself.” Bolg replied “But first, do you smell them?”
The warg obeyed and sniffed the air around him. The air was mostly filled with the smells of food, humans, dead fish…and something else.
“It’s faint…” the warg said “…but I smell them.”
“Excellent.” Bolg said smiling wickedly “Now feast.”
The wargs didn’t need to be told twice as they got to work ripping Fred’s corpse apart and devouring it, blood staining the boardwalk. Bolg then snapped his fingers and the rest of the orcs followed after him as they headed towards town, with only three other orcs staying behind to watch the wargs.
At that moment, Kamilla’s coughing fit had come back only now she was hacking more violently then before. Frieda sat by her sisters side, clutching her hand and unable to do anything to help her. Shane suddenly came over with an empty bowl while Ophelia returned with some cold wet rags.
“Have her cough until this.” Shane said.
Frieda moved Kamilla’s head over the bowl and she hacked into the bowl. But Frieda almost went white as a sheet when she saw blood emerge from her sister mouth along with mucus. Shane moved out of the way with the bowl as Frieda laid Kamilla’s head back on the bed while Ophelia moved in and draped one of her rags over Kamilla’s forehead. Beatrice was downstairs getting some medical supplies while Bertha, Beth and Terrence stood by and observed the situation, with Bertha feeling rather nauseous witnessing her friend in such a state.
“Can’t you help her?!” Frieda demanded.
“I need herbs!” Ophelia barked “Something to bring down her fever!”
“But she could be dying!” Frieda all but screamed with tears welling up in her eyes “I’ve never seen anyone with a fever cough like this!”
“Nor I.” Ophelia said.
It was then that she noticed the bandage still on Kamilla’s leg from yesterday when they first met Beatrice. It looked, however, very damp with a red spot in the middle. She then turned to Bertha.
“Bertha!” she ordered “Take off this bandage!”
Bertha did as instructed and began untying the bandage while Beatrice clambered up the stairs and headed to table with various herbs in her hands.
“Okay, let’s see…” she said as she sorted them out on the table “…I have nightshade, fever-few and placenta.”
“Isn’t placenta used in birth?” Frieda inquired.
“It is.” Beatrice replied turning to look at her “I grabbed it by mistake. You want me to put it back?”
“No, just leave it.” Frieda responded.
As Bertha finished untying the bandage, she flung it off Kamilla’s only for Kamilla to let out a yelp of pain as she grasped Frieda’s hand even tighter. Bertha and Ophelia then looked to Kamilla’s legs and stared in stunned silence for a few moments.
Kamilla’s wound was now inflamed and looking like it was turning red and brown. A tiny amount of blood was leaking out as well. The wound had clearly festered and the possibility of infection was all too real. Beatrice thought so too when she came over to see what was going on.
“No wonder she was acting the way she did.” Ophelia said “She must have been in constant pain.”
“Is she going to die?” Frieda asked in a heartbroken tone.
Beatrice, Ophelia and Bertha looked to her with a similar expression of sadness. Beatrice sighed a heavy, tired sigh.
“I’m afraid what I have can’t help her.” she said.
At that moment, Frieda could practically feel her heart breaking in two and shut her eyes as she covered her mouth with her left hand as she started to cry with tears slipping down her face. Ophelia immediately ran over and wrapped her arms around her in an effort to comfort her.
“Damn it, if only we had some Elvish medicine.” Beatrice muttered to herself.
“Wait a minute!” Ophelia barked having heard Beatrice “Kingsfoil!”
“What?” Bertha inquired.
“It’s a flower used for Elvish medicine!” Ophelia replied “Beatrice, do you have any?”
“I don’t think so.” Beatrice replied “It’s a weed we feed to the pigs.”
“Pigs?!” Bertha piped up “I think I saw some at a pig stall near the market!” she went on as she ran towards a nearby coat rack and slipped on her coat “I hope I’m not too late!”
“Where are you going?!” Terrence barked.
“To get the medicine!” Bertha replied as she opened the door “I’ll be right back, I promise!”
And then she shut the door as she hurried down the staircase and ran faster then she’d ever run before towards the marketplace, leaving the others behind to tend to Kamilla, all unawares of the orcs who were still prowling after them and were now at the town borders, moving in for the kill.