The air was thick and close all around the company; yet a cool, fresh breeze funneled in from the yawning entrance now growing further behind as Gordon led the band of Dwarves single file down the trail. The trees leant in on them as they walked under their boughs. The path was dirty and dark, with dry flakes of leaves getting hung in their beards, and rocks getting in their boots. Already the company was complaining of their course, and grumbled their wishes to turn back and choose another route. Gordon, with the support of his brother Bordon, kept the unhappy Dwarves moving forward, deeper and deeper into the forest of Mirkwood.
In a small clearing of underbrush, about two or three steps off the path is where they took their first rest under the wood and leaves. All the Dwarves huffed and groaned under their beards as they sat and drank from their canteens. Gordon was busy, encouraging his company and pondering on his thoughts about the coming days, or weeks of travel before coming out of the forest. He consulted his higher ranked companions about food, and water. It seemed every Dwarf he passed had a word to speak with him; he attempted to listen to them, however some he simply had to pass by.
They again traveled on down the path that wound around the trunks of trees. The forest around them was closing in, cramming the Dwarves together until they stepped on each other’s heels as they walked. But suddenly, to the relief of the company, the trees moved away, and the trail became open and easy to walk upon. However darkness was soon at hand; the thick canopy was fading into shadow above, and darkness was creeping around them. Yet the last Dwarf in the long line of the company could look back and see a spot of light far away at the entrance, where outside dusk had not yet come.
Alas the time for rest was nigh, and the first night spent in Mirkwood came. Fires were made and food set out. It was soon so black that none of the Dwarves could see their own hand in front of their face. The fires helped the growing uneasiness of the company, however this soon changed when great glowing eyes began to spring up all around them, watching the blaze with wide eyes. And then massive moths would sweep down at the heads of the Dwarves and flutter about the flames. The company demanded that the fires be put out; and so they sat in darkness and attempted to sleep in the grit and grime of the road. They did so for all the night, and woke in the morning with stiff backs and dirty beards.
By the fourth day into the forest, the company came upon a river, black and rushing south. The company had found their mead and water very low, and this only amounted to parched mouths and dry throats. Many of the Dwarves complained about their thirst, and claimed that they would drink from mud if it were to be found. Yet all the company could ever find was dry, stale leaves from last years autumn, in piles against the trunks of trees and long lines of hedges. But when they came to this river, a new hope that thirst would not claim them was suddenly with them, and their mouths grew excited to feel the cool touch of water upon their lips.
`Finally, my tongue can be quenched!’ snorted Keiwick. `In all of this wood there has not been a drop to be found save for this river, and the mist floating overhead in the night.’
‘Beorn told me of this water,’ said Gordon. ‘We must not drink from it, no matter how thristy you may be. And we cannot swim, nor allow a drop to touch our skin.’
`I now enhance my hatred,’ Gurwick spat. `And say my curse again to all the forests and trees of this land!’
‘I must ponder on our situation,’ Gordon said, letting his pack slip from his shoulder. ‘See to York-ie, and let the company rest, for now. I will return soon, hopefully with some ideas.’
The higher ranked Dwarves broke away from the circle that was around Gordon, and saw to his orders. When announced that the company could rest, all the Dwarves immediately sat down on the path and rooted into their packs for canteens. Bordon saw that everything was done to Gordon’s approval and then he sat in the leaves, staring at the river. Dok saw to York-ie; the Orc was sweating and licking his teeth. With Dok’s presence, he awoke and hissed. His throat was dry and his tongue parched, sticking to the roof of his mouth. Dok dribbled a mouthful of water through his sharp teeth, making him cough and spit up what was given to him.
`Come now!’ said Dok. `You must drink, or you will die from thirst. There are long days ahead, and you need all the strength you can get. Now drink.’ Dok gave him another swallow, and York-ie drank it with a pain rushing through his swollen throat.
Bordon, sitting in the dirt and scratching the chin under his beard, suddenly sprang up to his feet with an idea. He met with Gordon under a great weeping Willow tree, with its hairs tickling the tops of the water. He sat again next to the old Dwarf who was significantly uneasy. They were silent for a moment, and then Bordon broke that quietness.
`A canoe,’ he said. `We can make a canoe.’
Gordon looked at his brother with a smile, `York-ie assists again.’