Journey of the Mapmaker - Chapter VI
Several days later the Great East Road led them to the Far Fox Downs, and Greenholm, and the hills that were the bounds of The Shire. Under one of the hills they found a dry inlet, and took rest. Ultho was out collecting what wood could be found for the fire, and Tom was relining the leather on his worn walking stick. Milrog tended the fire with a poking stick, until finally the silence relented with Milrog's sudden comment.
"Do you think Ultho is really worth it?"
"Aih?" Tom looked up, "What do you mean?"
"If we meet up on some wolves, or nasty spiders, sure that he can toss a stone to match my best. But what happens when we get out of this tangled nest? Will he prove strong against the orcs you and I fight against?"
"Hobbits are not naturally brave creatures, but this boy is half Gamgee, I looked a bit into his history. Even if he can't fight, he can sure cook and garden and start a fire."
"But cooking and gardening and starting fires won't help him when we get ambushed."
A long silence followed, Milrog's doubtfulness was beginning to spread to Tom, until a new thought entered his mind.
"Do you think that the aged hobbit would've given us his grandson, if he proved to be worthless? Would any hobbit be so deteriorated so as to sell his flesh and blood into hopeless quests? No, he sent Ultho with us for good fortune, and we will live to see this sapling bear fruit."
It was not fully spoken when a voice sounded behind him, and turning around Tom received a dart in his broad, chest. He fell to the ground with a cry. But Milrog lost no time in this despairing stroke. He grabbed a flaming brand of wood and drew his sword. Then he plunged forward into the bush from which the arrow flew. He lit the individual bushes on fire, but only in such a way that it would not start an uncontrollable forest-fire.
Then, suddenly, another arrow whipped past his ear. He spied the direction from which it came, then made a second plunge into the brambles. He caught the wretched thing by the throat; it was indeed a goblin. His fingernails tore into its tough flesh at the neck, and the wretched creature gave forth a cry that sounded all manner of creatures in the woods. Finally the dreadful noise became so loud and terrifying, that Milrog could not help but take his fingers from the goblin-throat to cover his ear.
Seeing his moment's chance, the wretched devil of a goblin pulled an arrow from the quiver on his belt, and attempted to thrust it into the gut of his opponent. But Milrog rolled over at the exact moment, and slashed the goblin's head off in one clean stroke of his sword.
The woodland sounds aroused by the goblin around him were still going on as he returned to camp. Ultho had pulled the arrow from the wound, it had not gone in too deep, and was treating the wound immediately with athelas. He applied some of it to the wound immediately, after softening it with his teeth. The remaining leaves he saved for the boiling water, in which it would take better affect. Milrog was greatly pleased, and somewhat shocked, at the little hobbit's healing powers. Tom was already regaining consciousness. But there was no more time to waste; no goblin ever went abroad alone.
Milrog searched the woods about them, but found nothing. Whatever pack the goblin had been part of had deserted him, or else forgot him in his scouting, which was often the case with orcs and goblins.
Milrog shook with cold as he returned to the dell, where he fell almost immediately asleep, making a few last adjustments to his map.
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