Page 53

They crossed the clearing and were beneath the trees yet again. The ground was riddled with broken branches and gnarled roots, making it hard to traverse for the Hobbit. Awkid, on the other hand, was a veteran of the forest, unlike most of his kind.

It took time for a mountain born Dwarf to get use to the green southlands. The climbing experience came in handy, but the lack of mountain game made past hunting experience nearly pointless. Fruit and berries took over most of his carnivorous diet, something he dreaded at first. But he had no choice, he needed to adapt to the southland if he couldn't return home.

The two travelers crossed the wet forest grounds for nearly an hour. Balamor was tripped up by the exposed roots from time to time, and more often than he would later admit he required guidance from the Anvorbeard. His brown robes were drenched and stuck with grass and vines before finally getting a feel for the woodland.

Suddenly Awkid Anvorbeard paused, flashing his hand back for Balamor to halt. Something alarmed him but Balamor didn't bother questioning it. He slowly kneeled at the foot of a large oak tree and waited for Awkid's command. The Dwarf studied the trees intensely. Something had him on alert.

"Keep quiet, I hear someone ahead." Whispered Awkid, joining Balamor on one knee.

"What do you see?" Replied Balamor softly.

"I think I heard men talking nearby but I'm not entirely sure. A tree was struck down, perhaps last night in the storm. It's coming from there."

Balamor peeked out beyond the cover of the tree trunk. Ahead he saw the splintered remains of a tall oak, but only the sound of rain drizzling remained.

"Let me check it out." Balamor began to move before Awkid yanked him back.

"You are courageous Balamor, but don't get yourself killed. Let's both move, quietly now."

The Dwarf removed his grip and nudged the Hobbit forward. Balamor was at a crawl by the time they reached the broken tree. Its size was great in comparison to the mapmaker, and the sky summoned an even greater power to strike it down. Twisted bark and fresh cut splinters tugged at his robes, ripping and tearing them slightly as he crept forth.  On all fours he guided himself across the diagonal trunk which leaned against the surrounding trees.

His hands gripped the slippery bark before his curly head slowly peeked out. What he saw terrified him, the young hobbit was overwhelmed when his furry feet lost their grip on the oaken trunk. Awkid's reaction was too late. He watched Balamor as his frail body landed in a thick patch of bushes.

The End

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