I actually finished this chapter last week, but I haven't had time to post it before today. The next chapter is about halfway done; hopefully I'll get it posted next weekend. As usual, all previous chapters can be found on my blog, hobbitized.wordpress.com. Feedback is greatly appreciated - enjoy!
Invasion of Kamen-Zal
For the first time since she was attacked by Bolg, Tauriel was afraid. There were only the four of them, facing an unknown number of Goblins; but she would not let her fear stop her. “What should we do,” she asked.
Grigore closed his eyes, listening for sounds inside the mountain. After a few tense moments his eyes opened. “They are fighting inside – be ready!”
Alatar waived his hand over the crystal, dimming the light but not putting it out. He then pulled a short sword out from under his cloak. The four entered the door as silently as the creeping night, heading for the sound of combat. The worked their way through twisting tunnels until they came into a huge storeroom packed full of foodstuffs, bedding and other supplies. “The Dwarves were expecting their Stonefoot kin,” Grigore whispered. “What they got instead was a Goblin invasion.”
The four of them moved quietly through the storeroom to the other side, where they found a closed door. Fighting could be heard on the other side; clanging metal mixed with Goblin shrieks and Dwarvish battle chants. A sickly reptilian stench told them the Goblins were just outside the door. Grigore motioned for Zeka to take the handle; Alatar stood behind her, cupping his hand over the blue crystal as it grew ever brighter. On Grigore’s signal Zeka pulled the door open, and Alatar burst through with a mighty beacon of blue light, blinding the nearby Goblins. The Elves carved through at least a dozen Goblins before they could fully assess their situation.
They had fought their way into a huge, open cavern, the floor of which was littered with the bodies of Dwarves and Goblins alike. The cavern was round, with stairs leading to upper chambers. The main gate stood to their left, guarded by some two dozen Dwarves who fought to keep the gates closed, lest there were Goblin reinforcements outside. These brave Dwarves were cut off from their own reinforcements, trapped between their duty and a seething mass of evil. These Goblins were green-skinned, covered in warts and black armor. Their black hair was slicked against the back of their heads. They bared yellow teeth at the dwarves, but the nearest Goblins turned toward the Elves and Alatar – they were foolishly dividing their numbers by doing so. The Goblins weren’t watching the farther stairs, only realizing the danger when a few Goblins were hit by stone and spears! A line of Dwarves had formed on the upper landing, hurling their deadly implements upon the Goblins, while another line charged down the stairs, led by Penko. He pitched a throwing axe at the nearest Goblin, striking its forehead. The sound was like a splitting log! Penko pulled the axe free as he ran past; the Goblin was then trampled by the other Dwarves in Penko’s line.
Now the Goblins were surrounded. They tried to retreat the way they came in, but were cut off by three Elves and a Wizard. Alatar was highly skilled with his sword, cutting down any Goblin that drew near. Zeka perched herself on the nearest stairwell and fired arrows into the Goblin ranks. Grigore and Tauriel ensured that no Goblin slipped past. The fighting did not stop until every last Goblin was dead.
Penki began searching through the bodies. “Lukia,” he shouted, “Lukia! Is she here? Can anyone see her?”
“No, my Lord,” came the reply.
Penko ran over to Grigore. “How did you get in?”
One of your secret doors was open.” Grigore place a hand on Penko’s shoulder. “A number of Dwarves were slaughtered ….”
“Lukia?” Penko’s voice quavered when he asked.
“She was not there.” Penko’s shoulders dropped as he sighed with relief. “Penko,” Grigore went on, “we came through a storeroom. You were expecting the Stonefoot Dwarves; have they arrived?”
“Some.” Penko began to look around. “We were expecting a few more, though.”
“How were they traveling?”
Penko looked uncomfortable. “We do not speak of it, except with our kin.”
“Penko,” Alatar said sharply, “your halls have been breached by Goblins. If your kin are coming by secret tunnels inside the mountains, they could be in danger!”
“Penko, I give you my word – we will not reveal your secrets.” Penko looked toward Grigore as he continued speaking. “We are here to help. It appears your wife is missing. Is anyone else?”
A sickened look washed over the Dwarf’s face. “My Lukia, in the hands of Goblin filth?” He shuddered. “It would be better if I found her body here. They will force her into slavery – torture her ….” His voice cracked as his spirit crumbled.
“Penko!” Grigore shouted this time. “Penko, are other Dwarves missing?”
Penko shook himself, then ordered his guards to search and account for all the Dwarves. While they searched, Tauriel remembered what Minya had told her. Tapping Grigore on the shoulder, she whispered, “Do you think they would use her for breeding?”
“Unlikely,” Grigore whispered in reply. “I do not think such a coupling would work. But she will be beaten and tortured, and likely worked to death.”
Tauriel nodded, swallowing hard. There could be no worse fate than being forced into labor for Mordor.
Alatar used his staff to roll one of the dead Goblins onto its back. “These Goblins can travel above ground at night. They would cling to the mountains in daylight, hiding in its shadow.”
Tauriel counted over 50 Goblins – a sizeable amount, but not enough to take over the northern Orocarni range. “Do you believe there are more Goblins outside?”
“There must be.” Alatar looked back at the storeroom. “They must have been watching, waiting for a moment when a door was opened – but for what purpose?”
His question was answered soon enough. Reports came back to Penko of a number of missing Dwarves – mostly Stonefoots, but some Stiffbeards as well. As soon as he received the last report, Penko approached the Blue Wizard. “By my count, they’ve taken 30 hostages. But our forces kept the gate sealed. There could be an army out there, waiting to invade our halls and take us all prisoner.”
“I saw no sign of any army,” Alatar responded. “A large force could not go undetected by us. Still, it would take quite a few Goblins to hold so many Dwarves hostage.”
“There’s more to consider.” Grigore looked pensive as he spoke. “They may try to force your people into revealing the secret tunnels.”
“It will do them no good,” Penko confessed. “Most of the Stonefoots have come through, however a small number stayed behind to seal the tunnels, using both stone and Avari magic. Not even a cave troll could break through that seal now.”
“That is a desperate solution,” Grigore marveled.
“Yes,” Penko agreed. “It was feared that the Blacklocks would be forced to reveal the tunnels, so it had to be done.”
“And what became of those left behind?” Tauriel suspected she knew the answer already.
Penko grimaced. “They would have to travel above ground. It’s risky, I know, but we still hope to see them soon.” No one spoke of the possibility that the remaining Stonefoot Dwarves were likely captured or killed by the Goblins. Penko could not dwell on that now. “We know for certain that 30 of my kin are missing, including my wife. I will assemble a search party – but will you help us?”
“Of course,” Grigore replied. “But may I suggest you keep the number small? Say, no more than a dozen?”
Penko looked baffled by the request. “But why? We do not know how many Goblins we will face!”
“That is true,” Grigore explained, “but a large number will be slow. We need to move swiftly, and with stealth.”
“And how will we find them?”
Grigore gestured to Alatar. “There is no tracker in all of Middle-earth with more skill than our Wizard.”
Alatar bowed at the compliment. “Rest assured, I will find your kin, and the Goblins who took them.”
“Then I put my trust in you, but I will not rest – not until Lukia is returned safely to Kamen-Zal. I’ll be going with you!”
Proud member of the BOFA Denial Association