The Dwarves are captured by the Elves and brought before the Elven-king, but Bilbo evades discovery by using the ring. The Dwarves refuse to tell Thranduil why they were in the forest, and are locked up in separate cells as a result. Bilbo, invisible, wanders Thranduil’s halls until hatching a plan. He discovers that barrels of wine, sent by the men of Lake-town, periodically enter the castle through an underground river, and the Elves return the empty barrels in the same manner. On the night of a great feast, he frees the Dwarves and loads them into empty barrels. He and the Dwarves then float up the river to a town of raft-elves, who then send the barrels on the way to Lake-town.
While trying to escape Mirkwood, the dwarves are captured by the elves, however Bilbo avoids capture by wearing the ring. He secretly follows them, who are taken to the cave palace of the Elvenking, near the eastern edge of Mirkwood. The Elvenking has them thrown them into separate dungeons when they refuse to reveal what they were doing in the forest. Bilbo remains invisible, hiding in the Elvenking's palace for several weeks, until he finds the dwarves, including Thorin.
Bilbo carries a message from Thorin to the dwarves not to reveal their mission to the Elvenking, and Thorin's respect for Bilbo grows. Bilbo discovers that a stream flows underneath the palace out to the river beyond the cave, and empty wine barrels are dropped through trapdoors under the palace to float down the river to nearby Lake-town. He steals keys from a prison guard and frees the dwarves. He presents them with an escape plan: if they hide in empty barrels, they will be dropped into the underground stream where they'll float down the river to Lake-town. They object to the danger of the plan, but finally agree out of desperation. Bilbo packs the dwarves in the barrels and they are tossed through the trapdoors into the stream below. Still invisible, Bilbo clings to a barrel and floats with them to where the stream joins the river and washes ashore. The next morning, he sees that the barrels have been bound together as a raft and he hops aboard as they continue to float toward Lake-town.
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