Warm did the sun rise that next morning; the dawn in which Gordon and the company he led would once again journey, perhaps further then any Dwarf of that band had ever done before. Beorn supplied them with more then he had ever so graciously given to guests of his house. The Dwarves received ponies to ride upon and a horse for York-ie, still injured and ill, until reaching the path they were to travel through Mirkwood; they were also given food, cloaks, blankets and cloths. Each Dwarf was equipped with weapons, however not of such a good make as those they carried before; axes, hammers, and a quiver full of arrows for Keiwick. Gordon, however, was given an axe of splendid make; the long handle was of red wood, with silver vines coiling and wrapping up from the stubbed end; and the head was of silver, with two sharpened edges, and written in ruin is “Baruk khazad. Khazad ai-mênu”: Axes of the dwarves. The Dwarves are upon you.
Beorn came to the Dwarves with yet another sack of food, `Are these means suitable?’ asked the brooding man.
`Yes indeed,’ said Gordon. `I owe you our mission, and our lives.’
`I need neither,’ said Beorn, holding his hand up in front of his wide chest for a moment. `All you owe me, is a place in the coming battle. I feel the lands speaking to me, the animals from far away to the north; tidings are ill for both Elves and Dwarves. By the chirp of a finch, song of a starling, and unheard words to the ears of others, I have listened to their calls, and soon will a great battle take place. A battle which will determine, not only the fate of Wood Elves and Dwarves, but rather, if this land will see yet another terror and power as it has saw in the days of Aragorn, King of Men, and Sauron ruler of Mordor, where the shadows laid. I do not fear another Dark Age yet, such as this Middle Earth witnessed so long ago; Zurk-uk is not so mighty yet. However, if this wound of this earth is left untended to, then it will infect all the body, and soon, death could be upon us all. So go now, my friends, complete your mission, and find hope.’ Beorn waved to them and spoke into the ear of Gordon’s pony; the steed jerked and galloped away out of the gate, with forty-seven others thundering after.
The cavalry of ponies entered into the fields and charged to the north, making their way to the Elf Path. Gordon, while riding uncomfortably, thought of Gonli and Bonli, the cowards. When he heard of their desertion Gordon had not expressed his anger or frustration, for that would have shown weakness, and weakness must never be shown when leading a company such as he did. Yet anger did swell in him, and he thought Gonli, and his faithful follower Bonli, to be hopeless. He dwelt on the subject no more, and then only looked to the path ahead.
York-ie sat upon his horse, which rode just behind Gordon, with agony in his stomach, and a cold sweat dripping from his narrow chin. His red eyes, now turning white, and his skin soaked with perspiration. Bordon rode close to him, to ketch catch him when he slid from his saddle, and to give him water when his throat was parched. York-ie only had to weather the healing process, and he would live, however the wound was deep, even for an Orc, and York-ie struggled to hold on to life. Any other Orc would have passed this wound as another scar to come, and would have swallowed some burning medicine and left it to foam with puss just as all other wounds on their stinking bodies. Yet York-ie did not do this; he clearly was in pain, and fought to draw yet another breath.
The cavalry of ponies came to a gallop as the noon hours grew late, and once they passed and dusk was upon them they demanded rest and to pause for a meal. The Dwarves stopped near a glistening pool of clear blue water, and dismounted. The ponies chewed grass and swam their noses in the water while the Dwarves nibbled bread and drank from the pond.
`He is not well,’ said Bordon as he padded York-ie’s head lightly with a wet cloth. `I’m wondering if he will survive the journey, and if he does, then how long will we be able to bare him? Once we leave the ponies at the borders of Mirkwood, then he will slow our pace greatly.’
`I know,’ said Gordon with sadness in his tone. ` We only must hope that he comes through before reaching the forest. Continue to feed him medicine, and aid his needs, and then perhaps he will come through. Yet, whether strong or ill he must journey with us, for he is accentual to my plans, and I refuse to leave him behind, even if he lives and cannot fulfill the duty in which I have in mind for him.’
`My brother, I cannot believe you have such feelings of friendship for an Orc,’ Bordon said with a smile, still soaking York-ie’s forehead as he slept.
Gordon huffed and growled. `I have never said I have feelings for York-ie! I only- well I- he is a good fighter, that is what I am saying!’ Gordon walked away puffing through his beard, denying his true feelings. Bordon smirked at his brother as he knelt at the Orc’s side.
`Hold on, York-ie,’ Bordon said in a whisper to the resting Orc. `We only have a little ways yet to go, and then we will come to the home of our kin. Don’t disappoint the old Dwarf; Gordon wishes to see you healthy again, even if his head of stone wishes not to believe it.’ York-ie hissed in pain, and then fell asleep again. Bordon stood, leaving the cloth on the Orc’s forehead, and then joined the rest of the company to leave York-ie in peace while he could still have it.
The company was traveling again in the morning, with the thunderous roar of nearly two hundred hooves punching the earth and the casting shadows of mighty oaks passing by them. Mirkwood grew nearer, as the ground grew higher. The birds sang no more, and the deer pranced not on the turf of that region. The cavalry moved to the east, and coming to meet them was a black line; a shadowy wall of hissing trees stretching to the north and south for as long as the eye could see. Gordon listened to the sounds of the forest, and it seemed that deep within, in some unknown and unexplored depth of darkness and queer life, he heard noises of unexplainable misery and mourning. It was as if the trees were groaning from a pain within their souls; an evil or sourness within their spirit that had corrupted each root, twig and leaf of their twisted wood. These sounds would fade and die away, as if moving throughout the forest, sometimes further away, and sometimes only just beyond the border of shrubs and hugging tree trunks.
`Mirkwood,’ said Rulldon softly to himself, and then lifting his voice he said: `not since our kin of the Lonely Mountain marched against the Goblins of the mountains has such a company as this entered that cursed forest. How did the Elves ever tame the wood and plants of this place?’
`I often believe the Elves need not tame nature any longer,’ said Dok, `for nature has now linked in friendship with the Elves, and they live in unity.’
`I despise the trees of this wood,’ snorted Gurwick. `And of Fangorn, and Lothlórie… their only use is to build the fires of industry, and the beams of our great halls.’
`Of jewels and gold I think the Elves would say the same,’ said Gordon, steering his pony. `Diamonds and trinkets are of only the use as a foundation to their homes, and building of their walls; for it is nature that lives forever, and not the treasures that please the eye of Men and Dwarves. However I find nature to be of dull make; the hands of Dwarves can sculpt and construct marvels unlike any seen by the hands of nature. Give us the hammer and the pick, and we shall place the mountains where we see them fit to stand.’
All the Dwarves grunted or nodded in agreement.
The cavalry nearly moved into single file, walking along side the steep hedge of shrubbery in search of the Elf Path. As Gordon’s eyes scanned the hills from under his white, bushy eyebrows, he thought he saw a black mound move behind the backside of a knoll, and then reappear again on a further slope. It turned and watched the company before mysteriously disappearing under the golden grass and rolling fields.
`Why must we dismount these ponies?’ Gurwick grumbled, with the grumbling of other Dwarves. `Beorn won’t know if we ride them through Mirkwood; and if he did find out, what could he do? We only return them to him once our need for them is over.’
`Don’t be fools,’ Gordon sniffed as he watched the black beast walk over a nearby hill and again walk from sight behind another. `Beorn is closer then you may think; his herd is well watched. We will obey his wishes.’
And it was then that the cavalry came to a tall standing gate, with vines curling around each iron rod and then trailing along the ground beneath it. One door of the gate was half open and rusted into place; the entrance was an arch made up of two great old trees leaning into each other, strangled by vines and their own branches. Beyond the gateway was a long, pitch-black tunnel of leaning trees directing the path’s traveler into what seemed to be nothingness. All the trees inside the forest were gnarled and bitten by both time and weather. Over the trail was a thick overhang of reaching limbs and dangling vines that allowed neither light nor breeze to pass. And the air under the canopy of leaves was thick and close, like that of a box or small room.
York-ie was taken down from his horse and laid on cot woven like a basket, held by two Dwarves. The Orc woke from uneasy dreams and hissed at the light. His mind was not clearly thinking, and he was spouting curses and fowl words of his native tongue. The Dwarves shuddered at his speech and fed him medicine to quiet his forked tongue.
Gordon looked uneasy at the sight of this trail through the forest, and he hesitated to enter. However, knowing his duty, Gordon dismounted and sent his pony to run into the fields, and then he drew his axe and entered in.