Orc Gone Good - Piece Twenty six
`I shall cross first, to secure the rope on the far bank,' said Gordon.
`I am crossing with you,' demanded Gurwick.
`And I shall not be left,' said Dok.
`Your loyalty is appreciated,' Gordon said, `but we do not know if this canoe can hold a heavy load. I do not want to loose my best in this company. Gurwick, you may come.'
The two Dwarves took their seats and pushed off into the black water, their paddles slapping and sloshing. The current immediately began to sweep them down stream, water pushing against the side of the canoe and rushing around it sending the inexperienced boatmen into a spin. Gurwick and Gordon paddled fiercely, attempting to control the small craft, but it was to no avail. The canoe was swept further and further downstream, the Dwarves on shore were beginning to loose sight of them as they floated behind the thick forestry.
Dok, fearing for the safety of his captain, ran off the path and followed the muddy bank around the corner. He could see the canoe still spinning, floating on the mercy of the river into a thick canopy of tree limbs and bushes.
`They could be lost in that shrubbery!' Dok shouted aloud to himself. The Dwarf ran with all his might into the bushes, cutting and ripping greenery from his path. Suddenly, Dok heard a splash, and the sound off flapping arms in the water! Fear boiled inside him, and with all the strength left in his weak bones he crawled on his hands and knees, under the thick overgrowth until at last his palms landed in the mud of the bank. The sound of water splashing had stopped, and all was quiet. With his ax he hacked down limbs and vines until the evil waters could be seen; Dok looked at the gurgling river, searching upstream and down, but the canoe or the Dwarves could not be seen. He cried out to his captain, again and again, but only the hissing trees answered him. Dok's heart wanted cry for his captain and friend, but his mind, being that of a Dwarf, only allowed anger to fume inside like a furnace. Dok began to curse the river and canoe that he took part in constructing; his mind was so engulfed with rage that it no longer kept its wits together. The Dwarf stormed into the water, leaping head first into the gloomy river and started to swim to the far bank. The two shores were not far apart, and it would make an easy swim across, however, despite Dok's desperate paddling, the water began to overcome him, not by power, but magically. The Dwarf's mind began to forget, the company he left behind was forgotten, the mission and the war that he fought for felt only as a dream, and even Gordon, the one he tried so desperately to save, was no longer in memory. Dok's mind left him, and he fell into a peaceful sleep, still in the water... his arms stopped flapping, and his feet no longer paddled, so he sank beneath the river that swept away three lives of the company.
The Dwarves still on the path watched the river impatiently for Gordon and Gurwick come paddling back upstream, began to worry more and more as the minutes became an hour, and everything around them was quiet. However none could fathom that Gordon and Gurwick had been lost in, none wanted to accept it; nor did any think Dok was lost in his desperation to save the two boatmen.
`Where are they?' asked Rulldon. `This is not the time to go for a swim!'
`We should go and find them,' said Bordon, `they must be lost. I will go for them!'
`I will come too,' Rulldon said.
`Pardon me sir,' interrupted Oli, a red bearded Dwarf with long braids falling down his back. `I suggest sir, that Khudum and I go search for them; we cannot risk the loss of our last few leaders.'
`You are volunteering?' asked Bordon.
`We are indeed,' Oli said, eager for something different besides sitting about in the dirt.
`Very well,' Bordon said, `go for them, but be weary, and keep your wits about you.'
Oli and Khudum entered the forest, they moved through the brush by cutting and slicing through shrubs. The tree's growth was so thick above the two searching Dwarves that it seemed dusk was about them everywhere. Oli and Khudum stay close to the river, peaking their heads through the growth to observe the river, each time hoping to see Gordon and Gurwick floating back up stream, or still spinning and trying to gain control of the canoe. The brush grew incredibly thick, so thick that the Dwarves had to crawl under the canopy, sometimes wiggling on their stomachs through piles of leaves and turf. Khadum crawled away from Oli toward the bank of the river. Suddenly the Dwarf's gloved hands came upon a set of hand prints in the mud made by a Dwarf's that were near the exact size of his own.
Khadum stared down at the prints filled with water, then he called out to Oli. Oli found a way out of the forestry and crawled next to Khadum to examine his find.
`This is the print of a Dwarf facing the water from shore, as if crawling into the river,' said Oli. `It seems Dok entered the water from this spot, but why?'
`Maybe swimming out to the canoe,' said Khadum, `perhaps Dok swam to Gordon and Gurwick's aid from this point. We should get to the other shore and see if we can find print their too, to find out what side of the river we need to be searching.'
`Should we swim?' asked Oli.
`No, we don't know what filth is in this water, what evil things might be lurking in these depths.' Khadum pitched a rock into the black water. The Dwarves watched the splash, and as their eyes moved to the rings rippling away from the splash something was revealed to them, an object far down the river.
`A log!' cried Oli, `a log has fallen over the water! We can cross there.'
Oli and Khadum come to the log and crossed it. There in the mud, beside their footprints was the print of a boot, but not wide and deeply planted like a Dwarf's, but slender and hardly seen.
`This is an Elf's print!' said Khadum. `It is fresh too, newly planted. I wonder if this elf saw Gordon, Gurwick or Dok?'
`We may see this Elf in our search, but for now we still will look for our company.' The two walked into the forest looking for prints leading away from the crossing. The cool dew still lingered from morning, and it dripped from the leaves above. The Dwarves come to a gully full of debris with steep dropping slopes on both sides.
`Look, Oli!' shouted Khadum as he pointed into the gully. `Blood!'