After another restless night and too a morning of moping, the scout sat in her little nest of bedding with her writing lap-desk and implements to continue her story. 'By now,' she mused to herself, 'I ain' so sure I's doin' this f' the practice, bu' mebbe jus' 'cause 'avin' it all writ down goin' be easier'n tryin' t' tell folks thin's.' She shakes her head and starts writing.
We came out of the Mirkwood without any problem, and took a day for some hunting to get the food stocks back up. We were out of the official forest, but the area around it was still wooded. It just had open spaces, too, and no shadow hanging over it. Evan and Bered got some stags pretty quick, and we set to skinning and slicing and such. Biggest excitement was chasing off a bear in the night what tried to get at the meat that was still being smoked over the fires. Another day got taken for general cleaning up and finishing the preparing of the meat. Got my first bath since we entered Mirkwood. That felt good. Growing up over the lake, I wasn't used to being that grimy excepting maybe in the worst part of winter.
We started travelling again the next day, down what Evan told me he knew as the great east road, or maybe the old forest road, since it wasn't real clear where the one ended and the other began. He said once we crossed the river coming up it were the great east road for sure. I didn't understand how we were going west on a east road, and he dug out a map to try to explain it to me. That was the first time anybody ever showed me a map, and that got sorta funny. I wasn't real happy about being laughed at for turning the map to match how we were facing, but I finally figured out how he took it for a east road, since he came from Bree. I also finally saw how long a journey I was in for, but they'd been awful nice to me so far, so I tried not to let that worry me none.
We had to kill some wolves one night, what Bered said might have been part warg. The traders all agreed that was troubling, since some folks they called the Beornings usually kept the area clear of such. Only two days later I got a better idea of what that meant, because we came to their home. Some trading got done there, and I got warned just afore we went in that any bears there were friendly. Well, I wasn't about to take on no a bear by myself anyways, but I reckon it didn't hurt to tell me I didn't need to be afraid of them. It was a strange thing to be in such a different kind of dwelling-place for people. I stayed outside with the mules at night, because the comings and goings in the house got too strange for me. I told Evan afore I done that, and he said he'd make it right with our hosts, so I don't think I made any real trouble by it.
The day after we left there, we crossed the river Longflood at what they called the old ford, and now we were on the great east road for sure. The woods weren't so dense, neither, and the mountains were looming up ahead of us. I realised I wasn't going to like them when I saw the snow on them.
It occurs to me that writing doesn't always only get read by people the writer knows, so maybe I need to explain something here. I never had shoes. My feet are all kinda splayed out from that, and got all kinds of callouses and such, and they just don't take to shoes nor boots even when people try to give them to me. They don't fit my feet, because my feet are changed by living without shoes my whole life. Even now, when I can make my own to fit, and I'm pretty good at it, I don't like how they feel. But then, I only knew how to wrap rags around my feet, and maybe stitch them in place so they didn't come off afore I wanted. But shoes and boots were out of the question. So seeing all that snow, and knowing how much my bare feet didn't like what little show we ever got in Esgaroth, I wasn't very happy about what was coming. Still, I couldn't turn back, and I knew it. So, I swallowed my fear and kept on trudging along.
After not long enough, we were climbing our way up the mountains on some kinda iffy trails, cutting left and right and sometimes back the wrong way I could swear, but still mostly going up. The rocks were getting cold the higher we got, but my feet are tough, and we were working pretty hard at the climbing, so I didn't get too cold unless we stopped. And when we stopped, so long as I took care of re-doing the harness, they let me take some packs off a mule and sit up on it instead of on the ground. Once we got even higher, they started making fires when we stopped, which wasn't very often, because they were getting cold too.
Even when we were going across what they called the high pass, the snow wasn't too bad for me. The wind sometimes got to be, but I reckon the wind is why there wasn't so much snow on the path we were taking. When they told me it was the high pass, I asked why they didn't take the low pass instead. They laughed, and Evan said he wished he knew of a low pass, because he'd like to be taking it.
After a while, it wasn't just wind. We started getting some nasty weather. Wet, heavy snow started pelting us, swirling about in the wind something fierce. Evric said there were beasts about, being braver than normal on account of nobody could see them. Oril and Delred were grumbling about how the storms like that weren't supposed to be coming so early. The rest didn't like the grumbling, I suppose, but they agreed it wasn't right. It was mid to late September, I reckon. Anyways, we kept pushing on, with the hunters shooting ahead at times just to scare things off, so as we wouldn't just stumble into something.
I don't know if it was just slow going because of not being able to see, or if they got lost off of their maps. What I do know is that we were stumbling around in the snowy dark afore they found any kinda shelter at all, and it was really only something to put our backs against iffen we got attacked. They used up most of the rest of the wood they were hauling to make some fires, and we put the mules up against the bit of overhang for such shelter as it made. I bedded down with the mules, since nobody said I couldn't, and it was what I usually done. Somehow, there was thunder starting in the snow, and maybe worse. Green flashes kinda dazzled the sky, but didn't make it so as we could see anything. Some of what we heard sounded like rocks being thrown around, though, and not just like normal storming sounds.
I'm not sure how – I reckon just being too wore out – but I managed to fall asleep despite all the commotion, and being scared by it. I woke up to a shout what got cut off into a gurgling choke, and I saw Evric falling down off a gobbo's sword. Well, I didn't know for sure it were a goblin, but that's what they said we might have to watch out for if we were unlucky, and they had swords and armour and such, and we sure weren't lucky that night.
A bunch of the rest startled awake, too, and grabbed their swords and spears and whatever, and started forming up with their backs to each other, because they didn't have time to get over to the rock wall. I slipped into some extra light-coloured rags for matching the snow – that didn't take long – and got my knifes out, and started circling around. Maybe I should have just hid and hoped, but I didn't reckon I had any kinda chances if any of the men didn't survive – even iffen the gobbos didn't find me. So, I was doing what I knew how to try to help keep some of them alive. I snuck around and got some of them nasties in the kidneys, or sliced into the backs of their knees, or otherwise made them hurt and slow, so that the men might have a chance to get some of them. I reckon I got close to ten of them goblins dead doing that – not all my doing, of course – afore I noticed I needed to get in closer again, because we were running out of men.
I got to stick two more, and all of a sudden I felt something hit me in the back, low, just left of the middle. It hit me real hard, but it didn't knock me over, and my head just kinda stopped working right. I remember thinking that whatever it been missed the kidney, and wondering why I was having trouble moving. I looked down, and saw the pointy end of a sword sticking out through my tummy. Then I wondered why it didn't hurt more, and how come there wasn't more blood. I remember thinking, 'This is it, then. This is how it ends.' Red and black swirling took over my sight, and then nothing more.
The towhead shook out her hand and pondered how close she was to the end of that sheet. 'Eh, tha's good 'nough f' now. Even if'n leavin' off there be a li'l over the top elsewise. Mebbe I'll write more after lunch. Or, no, wait, there be a market today. Well, soon 'nough, anyways.' She cleaned up and put away her writing implements, got dressed, and went out after food.