Sam caught the flash of black steel. Orgra twirled his dagger in the air. The hobbit squirmed and struggled against his captors, but their grip held firm.
The blade's edge bit into his mangled little finger. Sam sucked in a breath, anticipating pain's bolt to strike and his scream to pierce the night. Instead a high pitched whistle and the sound of an egg breaking interrupted the torture ceremony. Something heavy thumped near Sam's feet and Ogra's hold slackened. The goblin toppled face first into the snow with a dent in the back of his skull, the size of an apple.
Sam looked down and saw an iron mallet. He twisted around almost pulling away from the other goblin.
A female dwarf materialised from out of the shadows. Locks of fiery red braids flowed about the young warrior maiden's beauty. The only blemish was hidden by a black patch covering her left eye; the other burned a wicked jade at the sight of the goblins. The dark leather armour creaked as she stalked towards her prey. She hefted a large war hammer, its head of obsidian swallowing Sting's blue glow. The goblins backed away from their approaching doom.
‘What mischief are you fiends up to?’ Her voice deep and low was like winter's rage restrained.
Kruun recovered his goblin dignity and braced his mace. ‘None of yer concern, stumpie. Off with yer or I'll take pleasure in clawing that other eye out.'
Nervous snickers were exchanged by the green pair but the threat didn't slow the warrior maiden's advance.
‘You big talker for a muck spawn.' The dwarf caressed her hammer's head. 'My pumpkin smasher here hasn't tasted goblin for an age.’
Sam was flung to the ground by Urlak. The two goblins circled around the hammer wielder. The dwarf swayed left to right before she darted at Urlak, sidestepping a vicious swing from Kruun's mace. The dwarf deflected the smaller goblin's sword swipe, and grabbed him by the scruff. Her head butt sent him sprawling to the forest floor, his hands cradling a bloody nose. She turned to face Kruun.
Sam snapped out of his stupor at the sight of the stocky warrior maiden and crawled towards Sting. His uninjured hand clasped around its snow sprinkled handle. The hobbit turned around and saw Urlak begin to pick himself up. The dwarf had her back to him, and didn't see the goblin unsheathe a dagger.
'For the Shire!' Sam sprang upon him.
The goblin had only a moment to glimpse Sam drive Sting into his chest. Urlak stared at the hobbit and then at the sword. His last words were lost in bubbling black blood.
Sam yanked his blade out; the goblin's body slipping to the ground and approached the battle. He was ready to repay the goblin leader's cruelty.
Kruun blocked a blow from the dwarf's weapon and parried it to the side. He retreated to get some space and caught sight of his fallen minion. Kruun was alone.
'I'm going to take my cut of flesh from yer both, the next time we meet.' The goblin spat at the dwarf's feet and fled to the wooded perimeter.
The dwarf watched his retreating back flying out of the forest before turning her attention to Sam. ‘Master Hobbit, I hope those filthy creatures did not molest you too bad?'
Sam sheathed his weapon and cradled his broken fingers. ‘I thank you, Ms...'
'Frewen Stonecaste, but please call me Frewen.' She bent down over and retrieved her mallet.
Sam bowed before the warrior maiden. 'I am Sam Gamgee of the Shire and I thank you, Frewen. Unfortunately I cannot delay; I have to find my friend.’
‘Well, you’re not going far with those broken fingers.' She grabbed his hand. Sam winced at her examination. 'In this bitter chill they'll get frost bitten in no time.'
'That's a chance I'll have to take, Milady.'
Sam recounted Dimple's kidnapping by the spectre and his torment at her hands. Emotion brimmed his eyes with tears. 'That's why I have to go. He's my responsibility, you see.' He turned to leave.
'Wait, Sam, you haven't told me why you're out in this forest this night?’
‘I was told by a ranger to bring an item I had found to someone called Baldrin. He makes his abode in these woods.'
She arched an eyebrow. ‘I can take you to him. Maybe he may know of a way to help your friend?’
The echo of Dimple's pleas rang in his ears. 'Will this Baldrin know something about this evil apparition?'
'You can ask him yourself when you see him.'
He bit his lower lip, the throbbing in his hand and good sense compelled him to act against his heart. With a conceding nod, he followed the dwarf.
Frewen led the way deeper into woods, her night sight allowing her to pick her way through the timber maze. Sam was hard tasked to keep up; he kept on stubbing his toes on a mangled root more than once.
The crescent moon peeked through branches above when the pair stepped out into a small clearing. At its centre was a moss licked boulder the size of Bag End. It had two round windows cut into it, flickering a tangerine lustre. A fluted iron chimney at the top streamed out smoke into the star sprinkled sky. The warrior maiden walked up to the space between the two windows, and tapped her hammer against its surface. It was a short tune of sorts, and at its final tap, a rectangular seam appeared.
'Wait, Frewen. It just occurred to me, how did you know I was in distress?'
'Baldrin knew you were coming and sent me to find you, of course.'
The stone door swung open, and the dwarf entered first. Cinnamon and honey tinged warmth enveloped Sam, awaking his hunger. The hobbit hesitated; he took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold, into the warm light.