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Watching There and Back Again

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Bilbo was tired, hungry, and absolutely done with this accursed forest. They had been traveling on the narrow, twisting path for what seemed like ages, though Bilbo really didn’t know how long it had actually been. The forest was always dark, with creatures looming in the branches. The night was worse, with the haunting eyes glowing with unknown light, the darkness so thick he couldn’t even see his hand when touching his nose. Bilbo hadn’t thought he was capable of such complete and utter loathing, and he was sure only this forest would ever be able to garner such a reaction from him. Tripping over yet another tree root that jutted up from the ground, Bilbo winced as he fell into Bofur. The miner turned his head, blinking slowly before he realized it had been Bilbo who fell into him.

“Alright there?” He asked as Bilbo straightened. Nodding quickly, Bofur turned back and continued to follow the procession. Bilbo heard the dwarves muttering but he tried to pay them little mind, busying himself with watching his feet and his own temper. However, when he ran into Bofur’s back again, this time because the dwarf had stopped abruptly, he couldn’t help but look up in exasperation

“What’s happening?” Oin called from farther forwards

“Keep moving. Nori, why have we stopped?” Thorin demanded and Bilbo could hear the barely suppressed ire in his voice, having been on the wrong end of it too many times before. Bilbo wanted to tell him they should rest, exhaustion weighing heavily on his body, but Thorin would never agree to such a thing. Maybe Nori had the same notion. The idea was quickly replaced with dread as Nori spoke up.

“The path...it’s disappeared!” Of all the advice they had been given, leaving the path and drinking the water had been the two biggest things not to do. This day just kept getting better and better.

“What’s going on?” Dwalin demanded, pushing past Bilbo towards the front.

“We’ve lost the path!” Oin said as everyone moved forward to stand on the edge of the cliff they now found themselves on. Bilbo couldn’t see the bottom, the deep chasm had a thick layer of fog. Even so, the drop made his stomach churn uncomfortably, bringing back memories of the Misty Mountains and nearly falling to his death. If it hadn’t been for a certain brooding, rude, arrogant, handsome, no! Bilbo shook his head to dispel those thoughts. Thorin would certainly never think of him in that way, he barely even considered them friends. Besides Thorin was to be a king and he was nothing more than a foolish hobbit. Bilbo sighed as he turned to look at the gathered dwarves, wondering what they were to do now. Thorin was staring angrily down into the chasm as if it personally had offended him and his entire family.

“Find it. All of you look. Look for the path!” He ordered, turning away from the cliff. As he stepped away a tremor shook the ground. Bilbo was the first to notice it, the dwarves picking up on it as the shaking intensified. There were shouts of fear and surprise as the entire company tried to scramble away from the cliff as the rocks began to crumble. A resounding crack echoed through the dense trees and Bilbo could feel the rock beneath his feet coming loose. He tried to jump back. The ground was too loose. A shout of panic was all Bilbo could let out before he was sliding. For a second he felt weightless and then he was falling, down, down, down, into the chasm.

“Bilbo!” He heard someone shout, and it had to have been his imagination playing tricks on him because the voice sounded very much like Thorin’s. But everything was drowned out by wind and the screams of the dwarves as they too fell, all of them being engulfed in the dark fog.


 

Bilbo wasn’t exactly sure when he stopped falling. His whole body tingled and his head felt too light. Groaning, Bilbo sat up slowly and looked around. He was in, well it seemed to be a room but he had never seen a room quite like it before. Three of the walls were covered with black cloth, while the other was white. The floor was covered in a dark, soft carpet and the only furniture in the room was a long empty table along with several couches and chairs. He heard groans and noticed his dwarves were also laying scattered around the room. They were also starting to sit up, looking at the unfamiliar surroundings. Dwalin was reaching for his weapons, his roar of anger when he found them missing rousing everyone.

“Everyone, up!” Thorin ordered, his voice far closer then Bilbo had been expecting. Bilbo felt himself being pulled to his feet, his back pressed against a very strong, and very warm, chest as the company circled up around him.

“Where are my knives?”

“Where’re me axes?” Bilbo wanted to cover his ears at the cacophony of noise around him but the thick arm across his chest prevented him from doing anything.

“No harm will come to you within these halls.” A voice said, though there was no one to accompany it.

“Who are you? Where have you taken us?” Thorin demanded staring up at the ceiling.

“Who I am is unimportant, but know I mean to help. As for where you are, you are in my theater to see something I think you will find most interesting.” The voice almost seemed amused. Thorin, however, was the exact opposite at the vague response.

“I command you-”

“You cannot command me to do anything Thorin Oakenshield. The time you spend arguing with me only prolongs your sentence here. If you and your company desire there is food on the table that you may help yourselves to. I have removed the forest’s affects on you, but if you are too tired I can provide blankets and pillows and we can start the viewing in the morning.” As the voice spoke, Bilbo heard the gasps of the dwarves and he struggled against the arm to see. The appendage relented and Bilbo turned to see it had been Thorin who had grabbed him. Swallowing thickly Bilbo tried to calm how his heart raced knowing how close they had been. He instead preoccupied himself with what had captured everyone else’s interest. The once empty table was now filled with all sorts of food. It reminded him a great deal of how his table in Bag End had looked all those months ago when he first met the company. After days of little food, the sight nearly made him cry with relief. He knew he wasn’t the only one.

“And what is it you will be showing us?” Thorin asked coming to stand in front of the company, even as he glared up at the ceiling.

“Your journey so far, along with a few additional bit of information. I believe such a thing will aid you greatly on your path to come.” There were murmurs at the voice’s words. Whatever being had brought them here must have been very powerful, Bilbo wasn’t sure even Gandalf could do such a thing. But how could showing them what had already happened possibly help them? Bilbo sighed and he wondered if all wizards were as mad as Gandalf. Radagast, and now this person, were only furthering his conclusion that they were.

“Eat, and then rest. We will begin when your minds and bodies are ready.” The voice said, before fading away. Despite Thorin demanding more answers, the voice said nothing more. No one quite knew what to do, Thorin was standing stock still and while the voice had assured them the food was safe none of them knew if they should trust it. Apparently, some stomachs were stronger than a dwarf’s suspicion.

“Bombur!” Bofur called out, drawing everyone’s attention. The ginger-haired dwarf, looked up, eyes wide and cheeks stuffed full. He gulped and, when nothing happened to him, the rest of the company descended.

Bilbo couldn’t find it in himself to give even a lick of concern for the dwarves appalling table manners. Food was being thrown merrily back and forth across the table and ale was flowing freely. Bilbo had never been gladder to see a dish of roasted vegetables in his life and he gladly took the entire dish, only sharing a bit with Bifur. He knew none of the other dwarves would appreciate the dish, too busy scarfing down the biggest roasts Bilbo had ever seen. Even Thorin seemed to relax slightly as he ate, the tension melting away. He still looked around with suspicion, but with no harm coming to his men from the food he was hesitant trusting whatever power had brought them here. Bilbo found himself pushed around the table from the dwarves antics, finally tiring of it and moving to sit closer to Thorin. They watched the company feast and laugh and forget, however momentarily the situation they found themselves in.

“What do you think the voice wants us to see?” Bilbo jumped a little as Thorin’s voice rumbled quite close to his ear. The dwarf had leaned towards him so Bilbo could hear his question over the noise. Bilbo’s heart sped up a little but he made sure to stay composed.

“I’m not entirely sure. I cannot see how showing us what we have already experienced will help us. But for anything powerful enough to do all of this, I assume they have knowledge we do not. I think it is best if we go along with what they are asking for now and if the situation turns sour later we can figure out a way to escape. If there even if one.” Bilbo shoved a spoonful of carrots into his mouth to stop his ramblings. Thorin hummed in agreement and sat back, staring down at his plate. He did not speak to Bilbo again for the remainder of the meal, both of them silently eating their meals.

As the food dwindled down, so did their high spirits. Fili and Kili were the first to fall asleep, laying on top of each other, Kili’s face dangerously close to a plate of half-eaten cake. One by one, their full bellies lulled the company to sleep. Even Dwalin, who had been complaining about the mysterious loss of his axes for most of the meal, eventually passed out, leaving only Bilbo and Thorin.

“Go to sleep Burglar, I’ll keep watch,” Thorin said, even as his eyelids drooped. Bilbo was far too tired to respond, merely laying his head down on the table. He idly wondered if perhaps their food had been drugged, but sleep took him before he could come up with an answer.

Chapter Text

Bilbo woke up incredibly comfortable. His head had sunk into a soft pillow and he was wrapped up in warm blankets. For a moment, Bilbo thought he was somehow back in bag end, or possibly Rivendale. But even his sleep clouded brain quickly dismissed such thoughts. They had been in that accursed forest, so how? Bilbo sat up, rubbing his eyes as he looked around. Somehow, he along with the rest of the company had been moved from the table to the chairs and couches. Surely the work of whatever being had brought them here. Bilbo smiled as he took in the sleeping forms of his companions. Each had been tucked in and Bilbo had to stifle a laugh at some of the positions they were now in. Of course he had expected the princes to be tangled up together, their blankets thrown haphazardly around them. Gloin was taking up nearly an entire couch, his legs kicked up over the back and neck tilted at an odd angle to still be on the pillow. He would be regretting that decision and all the ale he had, Bilbo was sure of it. Surprisingly the most adorable dwarf was Dwalin. The usually gruff dwarf had two pillows, one held tightly in his arms and the other for his head. At some point he must have fallen off the chair because his blanket was only half covering him. Bilbo shook his head as one by one everyone began to wake up. Bofur was nearest to him, the dwarf waking with a loud groan that roused his brother and cousin.

“Wha happened?” He asked, staringly blearily around the room. Bilbo really didn’t know how to answer him without sounding utterly ridiculous, so he remained quiet. It didn’t take Bofur long to piece together the events of the day before. With a low curse in Khuzdul, he kicked out, foot connecting with Bombur’s side startling him completely awake. The commotion seemed to wake everyone else up and soon the entire company was sitting up or standing as they looked around the room with suspicion once more.

“Did you all sleep well?” The voice asked.

“You drugged us!” Thorin growled angrily up at the ceiling.

“You needed rest. What I am about to show you is of the utmost importance and having you exhausted wouldn’t provide the results I am looking for.”

“We won’t do anything you ask of us, I demand you release us this instant!”

“I will not, nor is it in any way possible for you to escape this room. You will watch what I have to show you. Then and only then will you be returned to your world. Do not worry, no time will have passed while you are here.” Thorin was fuming, his arms crossed in defiance. Balin stepped towards him and looked up at the ceiling as well.

“What are you going to show us?”

“The past, present and, if necessary, the future in a series of images on the white screen. There will be things I will show, none of you have ever seen, and events some of you wish you never had to witness again. But it all has a purpose, that I do promise. If you would take a seat we shall begin.” With that, the voice faded away and the white wall, the screen as the voice had called it, lit up. There were gasps and murmurs around the room. Slowly, and with much placating from Balin, the company settled down. Bilbo reclaimed the plush armchair he had been sleeping on, Thorin taking the one next to him with a huff. The Ur family took the couch on his other side, while the princes, Balin and Dwalin took the couch on Thorin’s other side. At the end of the line, Dori held a resigned Ori next to him on another couch he had somehow convinced Nori to also occupy and Gloin and Oin took the last two armchairs. After they had settled the glowing screen suddenly changed to black.
[Bilbo:] “My dear Frodo.”
A match is struck revealing a wrinkled hand as it lit a candle. The person picked up the candle and began walking down an awfully familiar hall. Bilbo stared in confusion as he saw Bag End appear on the screen, though he had no idea who the old hobbit or Frodo was.
[Bilbo:] “You asked me one once if I had told you everything there was to know about my adventures. And while I can honestly say I have told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it.”
“Hey isn’t that your letter opener Bilbo?” Kili asked and Bilbo suddenly found thirteen curious dwarves looking at him. His hand went to his hip where his sword had been strapped for so long and frowned as he remembered it had disappeared along with the rest of their weapons.

“It certainly looks like it, and this is definitely Bag End, but I have no idea who this person is. Unless…” Bilbo trailed off, focusing once again on the screen. The old hobbit was staring at the sword fondly as he reached out to touch it. Then he changed his mind and pulled out a large red book. Bilbo ignored their curious gazes as the hobbit sat down, opening the book only to reveal a very good sketch of himself.

“This is impossible.” Bilbo breathed realizing that the old hobbit was almost certainly himself.

“What is?” Thorin asked.

“That’s me, but I must be seventy or eighty there!”

“They did say we might see the future,” Balin said.
[Bilbo:] “I am old now, Frodo. I’m not the same Hobbit I once was.”
The Hobbit, or his older self, he reminds himself, begins to write in the book.
[Bilbo:] “I think it is time for you to know what really happened. It began long ago in a land far away to the east, the like of which you will not find in the world today.”

The words shift to a map or middle earth, panning over until it comes to the word Dale. The screen shifts and suddenly they are seeing a lively, bustling marketplace filled with men and dwarves alike.

“How can this be?” Thorin whispered.
[Bilbo:] “There was the city of Dale. Its markets known far and wide, full of the bounties of vine and vale. Peaceful, and prosperous. For this city lay before the doors of the greatest kingdom in Middle Earth: Erebor. Stronghold of Thror, King under the Mountain, mightiest of the dwarf lords.”
“That is quite a grand description, Bilbo.” Bofur laughed, though he too was staring at the screen intently as well. As the screen moved to show the gates of Erebor, there was a collective gasp from the dwarves. A few khuzdul words slipped from their lips as they saw, either once more or for the first time, Erebor in all of its glory. Bilbo was also in awe, never having seen anything as magnificent in his life as they panned from the front gates into the throne room. Thror, Bilbo assumed, was sitting on the throne. Another regal looking dwarf approached him, Thrain perhaps, and a younger Thorin stood at his side.

[Bilbo:] “Thror ruled with utter surety, never doubting his house would endure, for his line lay secure in the lives of his son and grandson. Ahhh, Frodo, Erebor; built deep within the mountain itself, the beauty of this fortress city was legend.”
They left the throne room to see more of the giant kingdom. Bilbo’s breath caught as he saw the numerous dwarves working on various gems and metals, fashioning them into pieces of beauty. He knew his appreciation for the riches would never come close to any of his dwarves, but he wasn’t blind.

[Bilbo:] “Its wealth lay in the earth, in precious gems hewed from rock, and in great seams of gold, running like rivers through stone. The skill of the dwarves was unequaled, fashioning objects of great beauty out of diamond, emerald, ruby, and sapphire.

Ever they delved deeper, down into the dark. And that is where they found it. The heart of the mountain. The Arkenstone. Thror named it the King’s Jewel. He took it as a sign, a sign that his right to rule was divine. All would pay homage to him, even the great Elvenking, Thranduil.

“Take a good look burglar, that stone is the reason you’re here.” Thorin didn’t look away from the screen.

“I’m going to be stealing a shiny rock from a dragon?” Bilbo asked incredulously. Surely that wasn’t his entire job. He thought he was going to be looking for weak points or something of that ilk. Not searching a massive treasure hoard for a single stone.

“The Arkenstone is the legacy of my people. With it, we can rally an army big enough to slay Smaug and take back Erebor. It is not just some shiny rock.” Thorin glared at him and Bilbo thought it wise to stop talking, at least while everyone was so on edge. It was entirely ridiculous to him though to tie the entire legacy of a people to a single stone, but that idea wouldn’t go over well.
As the great wealth of the dwarves grew their store of good will ran thin. No one knows what exactly began the rift. The elves say the dwarves stole their treasure, the dwarves tell another tale. They say the elf king refused to give them their rightful pay. It is sad, Frodo, how old alliances can be broken, how friendships between peoples can be lost. And for what?

Bilbo watched as the elves were presented with a case full of stones that seemed to glimmer like starlight. As the case was closed he frowned at the look in Thror’s eyes.

[Bilbo:] “But the years of peace and plenty were not to last. Slowly, the days turned sour, and the watchful nights closed in. Thror’s love of gold had grown too fierce. A sickness had begun to grow within him; it was a sickness of the mind. And where sickness thrives, bad things will follow.”
“We tried to stop him, but we were too late.” Balin leaned over and placed a hand on Thorin’s shoulder in comfort.

“We all did laddie, no one can say we didn’t try.” He tried to reassure but his own voice seemed strained as well. Bilbo’s frown deepened as the treasure chamber took on an almost sickly light in his eyes, Thror obviously going mad. A younger Thorin was watching his grandfather before turning away from the sight. The scene switched to a kite being flown over Dale. A red paper dragon. The irony was not lost on Bilbo even as other kites were shown floating in the wind.
[Bilbo:] “The first they heard was a noise like a hurricane coming down from the north. The pines on the mountain creaked and cracked in a hot, dry wind.”

The trees on the mountain side bent and snapped as a huge gust of air blew threw them. Thorin tensed next to him, his hands curling into fists so tight, Bilbo thought his palms might bleed. The younger Thorin and Balin rushed onto the battlements and looked around.

[Thorin:] “Balin, sound the alarm. Call out the guard. Do it now!”
[Balin:] “What is it?”
[Thorin:] “Dragon. Dragon!!!”

A roar followed his words as the screen was filled with fire. Thorin barely pulled Balin behind a pillar in time to avoid being roasted alive.
[Bilbo:] “It was a fire drake from the north. Smaug had come.”
The city of Dale was burning. All around them were the terrified screams of the people as they ran through the city. Fire rained down from the sky as Smaug flew through towers sending rocks tumbling down. The warning horns were blown and archers tried to shoot his down, but they were easily burned. A rack of black arrows was shown, one being taken off. An archer was standing on top of a tower at a windlance, shooting the black arrow. It bounced, harmlessly off Smaug’s scales. Bilbo had to cover his mouth to keep from crying out as it showed a meer child standing in the carnage, watching as a doll burned. This was so very wrong. He had heard the stories of course but watching it was something entirely different.

[Bilbo:] “Such wanton death was dealt that day, for this city of men was nothing to Smaug; his eye was set on another prize. For dragons covet gold, with a dark and fierce desire.”
Seeing the dwarves rallying to fight the dragon was heart-wrenching knowing the inevitable outcome. Risking a glance at Thorin, he saw the dwarf was white as a sheet. He wished there was something he could do for him, but he knew in that instant there was nothing. He couldn’t stop the events from unfolding just as they had the first time, nor did he know any words he could possibly say.

[Thorin:] “Stand firm!”
All of them were helpless as they watched Smaug smash his way into the mountain, tossing and squashing dwarves as if they were nothing. He could hear muffled sobs coming from his left and shifted to see Fili and Kili holding tightly to each other. Balin and Dwalin looked close to tears as well. On his other side, he saw Dori trying to shield Ori from the sight, but the scribe had fought to see it, even as tears rolled down his face as well. Even Bofur’s eternal smile was gone, replaced by a slack-jawed look of horror. Bilbo closed his eyes as he saw Thror run to the throne to save the Arkenstone while his people died. The look of madness and crazed desperation when it rolled out of his hands made Bilbo shudder.

[Thror:] “No!”
Thorin dragged his grandfather away even as he fought against him. How anyone could become so obsessed with treasure to risk their life for a simple stone was beyond Bilbo.
[Bilbo:] “Erebor was lost, for a dragon will guard his plunder as long as he lives.
[Thorin:] “Run for your lives! Help us!”

But Thranduil turned away and while he may not agree with Thorin’s hatred of all elves, he understood now how it had started. Hobbit may have been suspicious folk, but that was because they were not warriors by nature. Even they would not have completely abandoned the dwarves in their hour of need.

[Bilbo:] “Thranduil would not risk the lives of his kin against the wrath of the dragon. No help came from the elves that day, or any day since. Robbed of their homeland, the dwarves of Erebor wandered the wilderness, a once mighty people brought low.”
“The dragon’s siege on the mountain was not the last time we lost dwarves. So many died that winter, a several more winters after that. We had nothing.” Thorin sounded more defeated then he ever had in all the time Bilbo had known him.
[Bilbo:] “The young dwarf prince took work where he could find it, laboring in the villages of men, but always he remembered the mountain smoke beneath the moon, the trees like torches blazing bright, for he had seen dragon fire in the sky, and his city turned to ash, and never forgave, and he never forgot.”

No one dared speak a word even as the screen faded, pausing to allow them time to compose themselves. Seeing what had transpired had filled Bilbo with a deep sadness, only outdone by his own experiences with the Fell Winter. But it also stoked the fire within him. He had joined the company because of their song, but he had stayed for the people. He had been determined to see them home, but until this moment he had only ever had half an understanding as to why they so desperately wanted to go back to Erebor that they would risk angering a dragon. Filled with even more determination to see the quest through, Bilbo focused back on the screen as it started again.

Chapter Text

The screen lit up with fireworks and Bilbo’s voice sounded once again.

[Bilbo:] “Far away, in another corner of the world, dragons were only make-believe; a party trick conjured by wizards on Midsummer’s Eve.  No more frightening than fairy dust.”

“Oh! We finally get to see a Hobbit party eh?” Bofur asked chuckling slightly. There were a few rumbles of laughter but it was all very strained. Bilbo appreciated Bofur’s attempt at lightening the mood and tried to help.

“That looks like Old Took’s birthday, those were always some of the grandest celebrations. Ah, look there’s Gandalf!” The screen showed Gandalf lighting off the fireworks as hobbits danced and laughed around him. It was quite the abrupt change from the horror they had just witnessed. Though Bilbo guessed that was what the Shire was, a slice of peace in a dangerous world.

“Look at the baby hobbit!” Kili said as a small hobbit came on screen, wielding a sword. He attacked Gandalf’s legs and Bilbo had to cover his face when a deep blush covered his cheeks.

“Reminds me of my wee lad Gimli!” Gloin laughed.

[Belladonna:] “Bilbo!”

“That’s you?”

“Ha ha! Maybe you have more of a spark then you let on.” Dwalin laughed, the others joining in as Bilbo’s mother admonished him. Bilbo couldn’t join them, even if he had wanted to. The sight of his mother left him feeling hollow and empty. His thoughts started to stray, but he roughly pushed them back to focus. Now was not the time to be so emotional, he had dwarves for that.

[Bilbo:] “And that, my dear Frodo, is where I come in. It was the beginning of an unlikely friendship that has lasted all my life. But it is not the start of my story.

“Aw, I wanted to see more of baby Bilbo! You were so adorable.” Kili complained.

“And I wanted to see more of the party, are all birthday celebrations like that?” Ori asked. Bilbo grabbed onto the scribe’s question like a lifeline. Smiling brightly, he noticed Ori’s book was somehow already out, a quill dipped in ink ready to write down whatever information he could.

“Sometimes, though usually they don’t have as much flair. Old Took always had those types of parties though, he was the Thain and the oldest hobbit to have lived in a long time.”

“Thain? What’s a Thain?”

“Oh, well, how do I explain it? Mm well, the Thain oversees most of the Shire, except for Buckland of course. He helps to organize the bounders and deals with the disputes the Mayor cannot. It’s a trying position, cousin Fortinbras was very upset when he had to take over due to Old Took’s declining health. He wanted to have a few more years of freedom see.”

“Wait...your cousin is the Thain?” Thorin asked, finally coming out of his brooding to stare at him with wide eyes.

“Well yes, my mother was Old Took’s eldest and favorite daughter.”

“Your grandfather, was the King of the Shire?” Thorin asked, turning to look at Balin. His advisor was looking at Bilbo with slight horror.

“No no no, we don’t have Kings in the Shire.”

“He certainly sounds like a King, what are the Bounders?”

“Well, they are hobbit trained with bows that patrol our borders. Sometimes we have rangers come by to help out, but usually, it is just us. They keep out most of the Big Folk.”

“So they are a small hobbit army?” Dwalin jumped in and Bilbo really did not know how they could possibly be getting these ideas. Hobbits having an army? How absurd.

“Absolutely not, they are just-”

“An army. No matter how you try to spin it, Bilbo, what you are describing in any other culture is an army, with the Thain as King. Is the position hereditary?” Ori told him, not even looking up as he continued to madly write down every word Bilbo said. Looking around Bilbo saw the dwarves staring at him in a new light and he knew then that the answer he had to give would completely seal their opinion of Shire politics. Blasted dwarves!

“Yes, it is hereditary.”

“Who knew we had another Prince in the company?” Fili laughed.

“Prince Bilbo!” The brothers stood and gave him a dramatic brow and Bilbo could feel his face heating up once more.

“Call me Prince Bilbo one more time and you will regret it. I have dealt with fauntlings all my life, I can take care of you two with ease.” Bilbo threatened and Fili and Kili wisely shut up at the moment, though they continued to whisper excitedly to each other.

“Bilbo, I know you were in quite a hurry to catch up with us, but uh, please tell me you told someone where you were going?” Bilbo sounded very tense and he looked like he already knew, and was dreading, the answer.

“Uh, well, not entirely?” There was a loud groan from Thorin at his answer, the dwarf covering his face with his hands.

“We have practically kidnaped a Prince of the Shire.”

“Now see here, I was the one who decided to join. I left a letter in the Gamgee’s mailbox and that will have to have been enough. I don’t want all of you concerning yourself over this, lets just watch some more.” Bilbo turned with a huff back to the screen which seemed to have paused itself while they had been talking. Well, at least they didn’t have to worry about missing anything important. Balin and Thorin still looked at him in dismay, no doubt thinking of the political fall out this whole situation would not cause them. Meanwhile, Dwalin, Gloin, and even Nori were looking at him in a way Bilbo didn’t like. The way they looked when they were talking about training and fighting.

[Bilbo:] It began, well, it began as you might expect. In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, full of worms and oozy smells; this was a Hobbit hole, and that means good food, a warm hearth, and all the comforts of home.”

Frodo was eating an apple as he checked the mail and Bilbo wandered who’s child he was and why he seemed to be living with Bilbo. Maybe he was just visiting. Frodo approaches a laughing Bilbo and places the mail down, looking at the picture.

[Bilbo:] “Thank you.”

[Frodo:] “What’s this?”

[Bilbo:] “That is private. Keep your sticky paws off. It’s not ready yet.”

[Frodo:] “Not ready for what?”

[Bilbo:] “Reading.”

“You sound like Ori,” Nori laughs. His brother just stuck his tongue out as he wrote down even more information.

[Bilbo:] “What on earth are these?”

[Frodo:] “Replies to the party invitations.”

“Oh is it your birthday?!” Kili asked excitedly.

“Possibly, I wonder how old I am turning if it is.”

[Bilbo:] “Oh! Good gracious! Is it today?”

[Frodo:] “They all said they’re coming. Except for the Sackville Bagginses; they’re demanding you ask them in person.”

Of course they were, it sounded like a very Lobelia thing to do. Good to know at least some things never changed no matter how much time passed.

[Bilbo:] “Are they, indeed? Over my dead body.”

[Frodo:] “They’d probably find that quite agreeable! They seem to think you have tunnels overflowing with gold.”

“What does he mean they would find that agreeable?” Thorin whipped his head to look at Bilbo with narrowed eyes.

“I don’t...get along overly well with many of my relatives on the Baggins side. Many are still upset with the Bag End fiasco. Not that I don’t still love them, but Lobelia is especially bad. Always trying to make off with my spoons. I hardly ever invite her over for tea, which only makes relations worse.”

“What happened with Bag End?” Balin looked at him with furrowed brows, a frown on his face. Bilbo bit his tongue, chastising himself for being stupid enough to bring that up. Out of all the things they could latch onto, it was the one thing he really didn’t want to talk about. Not now at least. Seeing how his face paled, Thorin’s frown deepened.

“Perhaps this conversation would be better for later.” He said and Balin nodded. Both of them wanted to get to the bottom of whatever had made their hobbit look so sad and scared. Dwalin cracked his knuckles.

[Bilbo:] “It was one small chest, hardly overflowing. And it still smells of troll.”

“Hey hey! You went back to the troll hoard. See we told ye we were makin a long-term deposit.” Bofur laughed, pointing at Dwalin who didn’t seem impressed with the chuckles.

“Why is that all you have though?” Dwalin countered, taking the spotlight off himself and pushing it back on Bilbo. The hobbit shrugged not knowing the answer, but also not liking the implications that came with such a question. The old Bilbo on screen was walking hurriedly around the house, hiding valuables as he went.

[Frodo:] “What on earth are you doing?”

[Bilbo:] “Taking precautions. You know, I caught her making off with the silverware once.”

[Frodo:] “Who?”

[Bilbo:] “Lobelia Sackville Baggins. She had all my spoons stuffed in her pockets. Hah! Dreadful woman; make sure you keep an eye on her after I’m ... when I’m ... when I’m...”

[Frodo:] “When you’re...what?”

[Bilbo:] “It’s nothing. Nothing.”

[Frodo:] “You know, some people are beginning to wonder about you, Uncle. They think you’re becoming odd.”

[Bilbo:] “Odd? Hmm.”

[Frodo:] “Unsociable.”

[Bilbo:] “Unsociable? Me? Nonsense. Be a good lad and put that on the gate.”

As the sign is shown the entire company erupts into laughter. That was just like their hobbit.

[Frodo:] “You think he’ll come?”

[Bilbo:] “Who?”

[Frodo:] “Gandalf.”

[Bilbo:] “Ahhh. He wouldn’t miss a chance to lit up his whiz poppers! He’ll give us quite a show, you’ll see.”

[Frodo:] “Alright then, I’m off.”

[Bilbo:] “Off to where?”

[Frodo:] “East Farthing woods. I’m going to surprise him.”

[Bilbo:] “Well, go on then! You don’t want to be late.”

[Bilbo:] “He doesn’t approve of being late. Not that I ever was. In those days, I was always on time. I was entirely respectable. And nothing unexpected ever happened.”

The words ‘AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY’ appeared on screen over the smoke circle. Bilbo chuckled. That was one way to describe this whole adventure. The word disappeared and the ring was destroyed by a smoke moth as the words ‘60 years earlier…’ appeared on the screen. Bilbo spluttered. Sixty years? But then that would mean..

“I was eleventy-one? How-how is that possible?”

“How long do hobbits usually live?

“Oh only till we are about a hundred usually, with the exception of Old Took and now I guess me.”

The moth flies into the very familiar face of his current self and Bilbo suddenly knew exactly what day it was.

[Bilbo:] “Good morning.”

[Gandalf:] “What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or, perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning. Or are you simply stating that this is a morning to be good on?”

[Bilbo:] “All of them at once, I suppose.”

[Bilbo:] “Can I help you?”

[Gandalf:] “That remains to be seen. I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.”

“Oh, we get to see how Bilbo reacted to getting asked! I always wondered, what with how you acted that night. As if you had never even heard of the company or quest. We all thought it very strange.” Kili rambled.

“I didn’t?” Bilbo looked at him in confusion, surely they didn’t think he had actually had any idea they were coming over? He knew he had seemed like a terrible host, but that level of neglect would have just been unheard of. Initially, Bilbo didn’t realize everything around him had come to a screeching halt.

“I misheard ya laddie, sounded like ye said ye didn’t know we were coming,” Oin said, breaking the silence. He was leaning forward, holding a new ear trumpet the voice must have provided him with.

“No, I didn’t know you were coming. If I had known I wouldn’t have been so terrible of a host. I would have at least made a few dishes.” Did they really think that lowly of him? He was almost insulted. Thorin opened his mouth, then snapped it shut just as quickly, his hands balling up into fists once again.

“I’m gonna kill the wizard.”

“Get in line,” Dwalin growled. There were nods of agreement from the more warrior-like dwarves. Ori looked like someone had just kicked his puppy and Fili and Kili really weren’t much better. Bofur looked horrified, Bombur biting his lip as he stared sadly at Bilbo.

“What?”

“Laddie...oh, well you see we were told you knew we were coming. Gandalf assured us nearly a month before the meeting that you had agreed to hosting us.”

“That’s ridiculous, I hadn’t seen Gandalf in years before you showed up. This right here is that very same day.” Thorin let out a sound that made it seem like his words had physically wounded him. Balin sighed and covered his face. In the silence that followed his words the screen started playing again.

[Bilbo:] “An adventure? Now, I don’t imagine anyone west of Bree would have much interest in adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner, hm, mm”

“You didn’t even want to go. Tharkun knew you didn’t want to go and he still had us all show up uninvited.”

“Now see here, it may have all been very unexpected at the time but I don’t regret it in the slightest. I do wish I could have been a better host though.”

“Knowing all this, you are the greatest host I have ever known. Anyone else would have just thrown us out.” Thorin said.

“Well, now that would have been rude. Besides you, all looked hungry and you were there already. I was just flustered, really I am quite glad it happened.”

[Bilbo:] “Good morning.”

[Gandalf:] “To think that I should have lived to be good morninged by Belladonna Took’s son as if I were selling buttons at the door.”

[Bilbo:] “Beg your pardon?”

[Gandalf:] “You’ve changed, and not entirely for the better, Bilbo Baggins.”

[Bilbo:] “I’m sorry, do I know you?”

[Gandalf:] “Well, you know my name, although you don’t remember I belong to it. I’m Gandalf! And Gandalf means … me.”

[Bilbo:] “Gandalf...not Gandalf, the wandering Wizard, who made such excellent fireworks! Old Took used to have them on Midsummer’s Eve. Ha, ha! Well. Hmm, I had no idea you were still in business.”

[Gandalf:] “And where else should I be?”

[Bilbo:] “Ha, ha! Hm, hmm...”

There were a few chuckles at Bilbo’s discomfort.

[Gandalf:] “Well, I’m pleased to find you remember something about me, even if it’s only my fireworks. Well, that’s decided. It will be very good for you, and most amusing for me. I shall inform the others.”

[Bilbo:] “Inform the who? What? No. No. No! Wait. We do not want any adventures here, thank you. Not today, notmm. I suggest you try over the Hill or across the Water. Good morning.”

Screen Bilbo raced into his house and locked the door, hiding behind it. They watched as Gandalf placed the mark on the door, without telling Bilbo. His fright at the whole situation was evident. The screen cut to him walking through a marketplace buying himself dinner. An older hobbit stopped him to ask about his tubbers.

[Bilbo:] “Very impressive, Mr. Worrywort.  Now I don’t suppose you’ve seen a wizard lurking around these parts?”

[Mr. Worrywort:] “Tall fellow? Long grey beard? Pointy hat?”

[Mr. Worrywort:] “Can’t say I have”

As Bilbo skittishly walked out of the marketplace the screen turned dark. Thorin turned to look at Bilbo, his blue eyes hard.

“We need to have a discussion.” Thorin said and all thirteen dwarves turned to stare at Bilbo in unison. Bilbo cursed the stubbornness of dwarves.

Chapter Text

“I believe we should take a short break for breakfast. The showing will resume when you are finished. Don’t worry, the food isn’t drugged this time.” The voice said and with their words, food materialized on the table. Bilbo simultaneously thanked and cursed the voice. On one hand, he was getting quite hungry, but now there was also nothing to distract they dwarves from their questions.

“We will discuss this over breakfast,” Thorin said. Everyone took that as a sign to get up and eat. Even the experience of being drugged wouldn’t stop them. Then again, they really didn’t have much of a choice unless they wanted to starve to death. Plates were passed around as they all tried to find the best platters and seats. Bilbo somehow found himself pushed to sit next to Thorin, Dwalin on his other side and Balin across from him. Ori also sat close by, his book still out, as he expertly multitasked eating, writing and dodging food. Once the company had settled down Thorin cleared his throat to gain their attention. Bilbo kept his eyes firmly on the piece of toast he was lathering in butter and jam, not wanting to deal with any of them.

“What else haven’t you told us?”

“Quite a bit, though I hardly see how most of it is relevant. I haven’t exactly spilled my entire life story and certainly, none of you have ever seemed interested in learning it.”

“That’s not true-” Bofur protested but his voice died out at the look Bilbo was giving him. They sat back and tried to think of the last time any of them had really asked Bilbo about himself or Hobbits in general. Outside of a few surface questions, none of them could come up with much. Bilbo happily munched on his toast, hoping that would be the end of it. He really didn’t blame the dwarves for their horrible manners at Bag End, nor their lack of interest in his personal life. He was not the one in need of aid, they were. Apparently, the dwarves did not have the same idea.

“Well, now we know you are a prince-ah sorry not a prince, but have important familial connections and that you weren’t actually expecting us. We can use that to start getting to know you better.” Dori said changing his sentence midway at Bilbo’s look.

“Really I am not that interesting, just a simple hobbit.”

“Anyone who lets thirteen dwarves and a wizard into their house without invite then follows ‘em on a quest to slay a dragon is not jus a simple hobbit,” Dwalin said swallowing a mouthful of pork. “Besides! We all saw ye with that little sword as a child, ye might just have that fighting spark in ya.” Dwalin laughed clapping him on the back.

“You could tell us about your parents maybe, or any other important connections you have?” Ori asked. Bilbo smiled the scribe and took his offered subject.

“That is a rather long tale…” Bilbo trailed off, hoping that would dissuade them but he was only subjected to more staring. With a sigh, Bilbo decided he might as well indulge them a bit.

“My father was a Baggins through and through. He was entirely proper and never did anything unexpected. He had a very sensible head on his shoulders and that probably contributed at least a little to him being named the head of the family after my grandfather passed.”

“Does that mean you are the head of the Baggins family?” Balin cut in.

“Well yes actually, I am, though it probably doesn’t carry as much weight for us as it does for dwarves.” Bilbo didn’t know if that was entirely true, being the head of a family was actually fairly important to hobbits, but he didn’t need Balin and Thorin to go into another brooding session. Balin still looked slightly ill and Thoring groaned again but they didn’t ask him anything else so Bilbo continued.

“He met my mother during one of the spring festivals and despite what everyone told him he fell madly in love. My mother, well she was a Took through and through. She went on several adventures with Gandalf in her youth, once even making it all the way to Rivendale. That was quite the scandal in the Shire, though the Tooks were quite proud of her. Anyways they fell in love and got married. My father built Bag End as a wedding present for her.” That brought about a round of exclamation. Bifur said something in Khuzdul which several others replied to and the topic seemed to dissolve into each of them commenting on the craftsmanship they had seen so far in the viewing and remembered from their own time in Bag End. Bilbo sighed in relief, thinking he was off the hook for the time being.

“I musta ‘pologize for how I acted when we first met,” Dwalin said, pausing in his eating to look seriously at Bilbo. The hobbit had never seen Dwalin look so apologetic, the dwarf was usually entirely sure of himself in any situation.

“You have nothing to apologize for if anyone does it’s Gandalf.” Bilbo tried to reassure him.

“You mention having skills with conkers, but have you really not had any training with anythin else?”

“I know I have to stab with the pointy end?” Dwalin laughed at his answer and patted him on the back once more.

“When we get back, I’ll show ye a bit more than that. Sure the others’ll help too.”

“That’s really not necessary.” Bilbo tried to protest but Dwalin had already made up his mind. Groaning and the prospect of any of the dwarves trying to train him to use his letter-opener, Bilbo turned to see Thorin staring at him. He and Balin had been talking in hushed voices ever since Bilbo’s story, but now Balin was talking with Ori. Bilbo didn’t know what to say to the king, and he didn’t say anything to him. This meal was far shorter than dinner the night before and soon the food was fading from the tables. Bilbo was glad he hadn’t been subjected to any more questions or apologizes, though he was sure this wasn’t the end of it.

“If you wouldn’t mind settling down again so we can continue. We still have a very long way to go.” The voice said and they all settled back into their seats. The screen flickered to life once more to show Bilbo sitting down at his table with a plate of fish. Dwalin let out a groan. A familiar shadow falls on the marked door, and Bilbo looks up as the doorbell rings. The next instant the door is swinging open to reveal Dwalin standing in the doorway.

[Bilbo:] “Ah.”

[Dwalin:] “Dwalin, at your service.”

[Bilbo:] “Bilbo Baggins, at yours.”

“Ye not knowing is so obvious now,” Dwalin said as they watched Bilbo hurriedly tie his robe. At the time Dwalin had just thought the hobbit had messed up the date or hadn’t cared enough to do anything. Neither option had endeared the little creature to him, but now he wished he had known the truth so the wizard could pay right then and there. Well, he would get what was coming for him, Dwalin would make sure of it.

[Bilbo:] “D-do we know each other?”

[Dwalin:] “No. Which way, laddie? Is it down here?”

[Bilbo:] “I-is what down where?”

[Dwalin:] “Supper. He said there’d be food, and lots of it.”

[Bilbo:] “H-He said? Who said?”

“I ate yer supper,”

“Well, you didn’t know it wasn’t for you.”

“I don know how I missed it, ye look so uncomfortable.”

“At least you complimented my food, that’s probably the most polite thing anyone did all night.”

[Dwalin:] “Mmmm. … Very good, this. Any more?”

[Bilbo:] “What? Uh, oh, yes, yes

[Dwalin:] “Ah.”

[Bilbo:] “Help yourself.”

[Bilbo:] “Mmmm. It’s just that, um, I wasn’t expecting company.”

[Dwalin:] “That’ll be the door.”

“I think Uncle Bilbo knows that it’s his house after all,” Kili said with a grin. Bilbo started at the word ‘Uncle’. He opened his mouth to say something about it but Dwalin beat him.

“And I think you’d better shut up,” Dwalin said reaching for Kili who rolled over his brother’s lap to use him as a shield.

[Balin:] “Balin, at your service.”

[Bilbo:] “Good evening.”

[Balin:] “Yes, yes it is, though I think it might rain later. Am I late?”

[Bilbo:] “Late for what?”

“How could I have been so blind?”

[Balin:] “Oh, ha ha! Evening, brother. Heh, heh.”

[Dwalin:] “Oh, by my beard, you are shorter and wider than last we met.”

[Balin:] “Wider, not shorter. Sharp enough for both of us.”

“How do hobbit’s greet each other?” Ori asked.

“We say hello, maybe give each other a hug or a kiss.”

“Those who are close touch foreheads to show affection.”

“Touching foreheads sounds fine, smashing them together sounds like I would end up with a broken skull.” A few of the dwarves made a mental note of that, in case they ever decided to greet Bilbo in such a manner. Bilbo wondered how long it had been since Dwalin and Balin had seen each other before their reunion in Bag End. Realizing it may have been months if not years made a wave of sadness for what his dwarves had had to go through wash over him.

[Bilbo:] “Uh, excuse me; sorry, I hate to interrupt, ah, but the thing is, I’m not entirely sure you’re in the right house.”

Balin was bemoaning their terrible manners and listening skills. He was supposed to be the advisor of Kings and a diplomat and he hadn’t even listened to a word their host was saying. His mother would have been so disappointed.

[Dwalin:] “Have you eaten?

[Bilbo:] “It’s not that I don’t like visitors; I-I like visitors as much as the next Hobbit, but I do like to know them before they come visiting.”

“Do Hobbits visit each other a lot?”

“Yes, for most it rarer to have a night to yourself then it is to have company.”

“And do you often have company?” Bilbo didn’t answer the question.

[Balin:] “Ah, that looks very nice indeed.”

[Dwalin:] “What’s this?”

[Balin:] “I don’t know, [indistinguishable] cheese.”

[Bilbo:] “The thing is, um ”

[Balin:] “It’s gone blue.”

[Dwalin:] “It’s riddled with mold.”

“Why were you keeping moldy cheese in your pantry Uncle Bilbo?”

“It’s supposed to be like that, it’s blue cheese.”

[Bilbo:] “The thing is, um, I, I don’t know either of you, not in the slightest. I don’t mean to be blunt, but I uh, but I had to speak my mind. I’m sorry.”

[Balin:] [indistinguishable]

[Balin:] “Hm. Apology accepted.

Balin and Dwalin covered their faces, Thorin shaking his head.

[Bilbo:] “Mm!”

[Balin:] “Ah, now fill it up, brother, don’t stint. I could eat again, if you insist.”

The bell rang again and Fili and Kili perked up.

“Weren’t we next brother?”

“I do believe so!”

“You two were supposed to wait for everyone else.” Thorin scolded, but his words did nothing to temper the brothers’ excitement. As the door opened to reveal them on screen, Kili squealed, grinning like a madman.

[Fili:] “Fili.”

[Kili:] “And Kili.”

[Fili and Kili, together:] “At your service.”

[Kili:] “You must be Mr. Boggins.”

[Bilbo:] “Nope, you can’t come in, you’ve come to the wrong house.”

[Kili:] “What? Has it been canceled?”

“Imagine how awful it would be if it had been canceled.”

“We never would have met our favorite hobbit.”

“I’m the only hobbit you know.”

“You’re still our favorite.”

[Fili:] “No one told us.”

[Bilbo:] “Can-? No nothing’s been canceled.”

[Kili:] “Well, that’s a relief.”

“Sorry bout that Uncle Bilbo, we were very excited,” Kili explained, even as he leaned into his brother’s side as Thorin’s glare heated up.

[Fili:] “Careful with these, I just had ‘em sharpened.”

[Kili:] “It’s nice, this place. D’you do it yourself?”

[Bilbo:] “Ah, no, it’s been in the family for years. That’s my mother’s glory box, can you please not do that?!”

“Your mother would be so disappointed in you two. She and I raised you to be princes and that is not how princes behave. Even if he had been expecting us, you two are being beyond rude.”

“Oh give them a break Thorin, or do I need to remind you of how you behaved when you first entered my smial?” Thorin closed his mouth at that, sulking down in his seat. Kili and Fili gave him wide grins in response. Not just anyone could shut up Thorin Oakenshield.

[Dwalin:] “Fili, Kili, come on, give us a hand.”

[Kili:] “Mister Dwalin.”

[Balin:] “Let’s shove this in the hallway, otherwise we’ll never get everyone in.”

[Bilbo:] “Ev-everyone? How many more are there?”

“Nine more!”

“Congratulations Kili you can do simple math.” Kili pushed Fili at his comment.

[Fili or Kili:] “Where do you want this?”

The doorbell rang once more and a very flustered Bilbo began to make his way to the door carrying all the boys’ gear.

[Bilbo:] “Oh no. No, no! There’s nobody home. Go away, and bother somebody else. There’s far too many dwarves in my dining room as it is. If if If this is some clotterd’s idea of a joke, ha ha, I can only say, it is in very poor taste.”

To be fair, none of them knew if they found Bilbo’s frustration endearing or terrifying. At the time they hadn’t thought anything of it, but watching it now having known their burglar for so long they had a newfound appreciation for it. As the remaining dwarves, minus Thorin, come tumbling into the smial, laughter erupts at Bilbo’s dumbfounded expression.

[Bilbo:] “Gandalf.”

Then they are raiding his pantry, all while Bilbo is trying desperately to maintain some semblance of order.

[Bilbo:] “That’s my chicken, that’s my wine! Excuse me!

[Bifur:] [Something unintelligible in Khuzdul]

[Oin:] “He’s got, an injury”

[Bilbo:] “You mean the axe in his head.”

[Oin:] “Dead? No only between his ears. His legs work fine.”

Bifur grumbled something as he made a series of gestures in Oin’s direction.

[Bilbo:] “Put that back. Put that back! Not the jam, please! ...Excuse me.”

[Bilbo:] “Excuse me. A tad excessive, isn’t it? Have you got a cheese knife?”

“I’m sorry Bilbo,” Bombur says at his past self’s actions.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

“No, he is right to apologize, as should the rest of us. We ate all your food without you even knowing why. As soon as we reach the mountain we will pay to refill your pantry.” Balin said, receiving a nod from Thorin at his words.

“Really that isn’t necessary, I had more food in the other pantry.”

“Even still, please make a list of anything that needs replacing and we will see you are paid in compensation.” Balin insisted.

“Second pantry?” Dori asked.

“Of course, you didn’t really expect a house like Bag End to only have that one small pantry did you? There are two larger ones downstairs. That’s not including the ale and wine cellar either.”

“Three pantries? How could you possibly eat so much food? I thought you lived alone?” Bofur asked looking Bilbo up and down.

“Hobbits eat seven meals a day. We have a very high metabolism so we burn through food quickly.”

“Have we been starving you this whole trip?” Thorin stared at him in horror, looking at him like he would blow away.

“It was a little hard to start but I’ve been picking nuts and berries as we traveled and rationing food. I’ve become quite proficient at it.” Or he had been until they reached Mirkwood.

[Bofur:] “Cheese knife? He eats it by the block.”

[Bilbo:] “No, no, that’s Grandpa Mungo's chair! No, I’m sorry, you’ll have to take it back please. Take it back...It’s antique, not for sitting on! Thank you! That’s a book, not a coaster. Put that map down, thank you.”

Bofur had to stifle a laugh at just how Bilbo it was to be so fussy over furniture and maps. He wasn’t the only one.

[Dori:] “Excuse me, Mr. Gandalf, can I tempt you with a nice cup of chamomile tea?”

[Gandalf:] “Oh, no thank you, Dori. A little red wine for me, I think.”

“The next time I see that wizard he is going to pay.”

[Gandalf:] “Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori...Ori.”

Bifur came into the picture speaking Khuzdul along with hand gestures.

[Gandalf:] “Yes, you’re quite right, Bifur. We appear to be one dwarf short.”

[Dwalin:] “He is late, is all. He traveled North to a meeting of our kin. He will come.”

[Dori:] “Mr. Gandalf?

[Gandalf:] “Hmmm?”

[Dori:] “A little glass of red wine, as requested. It’s, eh, got a fruity bouquet.”

[Gandalf:] “Ah, Cheers.”

A small, vindictive part of Bilbo was glad the glass was so small for Gandalf.

[Gandalf:] “Mm.”

[Bofur:] “Bombur, catch!”

[Fili:] “Who wants an ale? There you go.”

[Dwalin:] “Let him have another drink!”

[Fili:] “Here you go.”

Bilbo swore he heard Thorin muttering about shame being brought upon the line of Durin at his nephew’s antics.

[Dwarf:] “On the count of three. One!...Two!”

[Bilbo:] “Excuse me, that is a doily, not a dishcloth!”

[Bofur:] “But it’s full of holes!”

[Bilbo:] “It’s supposed to look like that, it’s crochet.”

[Bofur:] “Oh, and a wonderful game it is too, if you got the balls for it.”

There was some laughter at his joke this time around.

[Bilbo:] “Bebother and confusticate these dwarves!”

[Gandalf:] “My dear Bilbo, what on earth is the matter?”

[Bilbo:] “What’s the matter? I’m surrounded by dwarves. What are they doing here?”

[Gandalf:] “Oh, they’re quite a merry gathering, once you get used to them.”

[Bilbo:] “I don’t want to get used to them. The state of my kitchen! There’s mud trod into the carpet, they’ve pipillaged the pantry. I’m not even going to tell you what they’ve done in the bathroom; they’ve all but destroyed the plumbing. I don’t understand what they’re doing in my house!”

Ori was writing furiously in his book and Bilbo got the impression it was a list of all the things he mentioned they messed up.

“We completely destroyed your house.”

“You messed it up a little, sure, but nothing I can’t easily fix.”

[Ori:] “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt, but what should I do with my plate?”

[Fili:] “Here you go, Ori, give it to me.”

“Oops,” Fili and Kili muttered, realizing exactly what was going to be shown next and anticipating their uncle’s reaction would not be the same as the rest of the company’s. They were right. As the dishes began being thrown around the house, Thorin turned to stare at them.

“We will be having a very long discussion about what is proper behavior when you are a guest.” He bit out and they nodded quickly. The rest of the company wisely stayed silent, knowing they were no less guilty than the princes.

[Gandalf:] “Oh!”

[Bilbo:] “Excuse me, that’s my mother’s West Farthing crockery, it’s over a hundred years old!”

[Bilbo:] “And can-can you not do that? You’ll blunt them!”

[Bofur:] “Ooh, d’hear that, lads? He says we’ll blunt the knives.”

Bofur’s eyes remained fixed on the screen, even as he felt Thorin’s glare burning into him. It had been fun at the time. Still was quite amusing to watch if he was being honest and it wasn’t like they had dropped anything.

[The dwarves, singing:]
“Blunt the knives, bend the forks
Smash the bottles and burn the corks
Chip the glasses and crack the plates
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!
Cut the cloth and tread on the fat
Leave the bones on the bedroom mat
Pour the milk on the pantry floor
Splash the wine on every door
Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl
Pound them up with a thumping pole
When you’ve finished, if any are whole
Send them down the hall to roll...
That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates!”

The mood in the room plummeted just as it did before. Thorin’s icy glare was felt by everyone. Only Gandalf’s next words broke the tense atmosphere. Bilbo found only he was spared from Thorin’s wrath and took the opportunity to appreciate the dwarves teamwork and skills like he hadn’t the first time around. It really was impressive what they had done. The song was quite catchy, even if it was all about what he hated.

[Gandalf:] “He is here.”

There was a collective sigh. Even though they had behaved horribly, each of them knew they had nothing on Thorin’s first interaction with Bilbo.

Chapter Text

The door opens to show Thorin standing in the doorway. He strides in as if he owns the place causing his current self to cover his face. 

[Thorin:] “Gandalf. I thought you said this place would be easy to find. I lost my way, twice. Wouldn’t have found it at all had it not been for that mark on the door.”

“I always did wonder. How did you get lost? The Shire really isn’t that hard to navigate, there are signs everywhere, not to mention Bag End is on the highest hill.” Thorin stayed silent, so Kili jumped in for him.

“Uncle is absolutely hopeless when it comes to directions. Once he got lost-” His mouth was covered by Fili as Thorin glared in his direction. Kili just grinned and made a motion Bilbo thought meant ‘tell you later’.

[Bilbo:] “Mark? There’s no mark on that door. It was painted a week ago!”

There went Ori writing again. This whole thing was very unnecessary.

[Gandalf:] “There is a mark; I put it there myself.”

“So the wizard also defaced private property,” Balin said and Ori turned the page and began scribbling half-way down the next one. Bilbo got the feeling they had a running list of all the actions Gandalf took that they didn’t agree with. Looking around at the company, Bilbo almost felt sorry for the old man.

[Gandalf:] “Bilbo Baggins, allow me to introduce the leader of our company, Thorin Oakenshield.”

[Thorin:] “So, this is the Hobbit. Tell me, Mr. Baggins, have you done much fighting?”

[Bilbo:] “Pardon me?”

“Mahal Thorin, you really know how to make a first impression,” Dwalin said, smirking a bit when he saw Thorin slouched in his chair. At least, for now, they were off the hook.

[Thorin:] “Axe or sword? What’s your weapon of choice?”

[Bilbo:] “Well, I have some skill at Conkers, if you must know, but I fail to see why that’s relevant.”

[Thorin:] “Thought as much. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.”

“I shouldn’t have said that. You have proven yourself tenfold to me and this entire company.”

“I know that, but if we are being honest I really wasn’t much of a burglar or fighter then. I’m still not now.”

“We know that, but that’s why we’re gon’ta train ye up a bit,” Dwalin said.

“No matter how much training you give me, I doubt I will ever be either of those.”

“Thas why we got yer back then,” Gloin said with a firm nod. Bilbo was taken aback by the remark. He had known in the back of his head that he was a member of the company and of course they would have his back. But the knowledge that he would still be facing a dragon alone at the end of the journey had always kept him from fully believing it. Especially now that he knew his entire job was to find a shiny rock.

“Even against a dragon?” He asked, wincing when it came out a little harsher then he meant.

“Especially against a dragon,” Dori said, each dwarf nodding as well. Bilbo ducked his head, really not having expected that. Dori was nice, but always distant from him and to have him say something like that with such conviction made it hard for Bilbo to swallow. On screen, the dwarves are laughing at Thorin’s comment and moving back into the dining room.

[Balin:] “What news from the meeting in Ered Luin? Did they all come?”

[Thorin:] “Aye. Envoys from all seven kingdoms.”

[Dwalin:] “What do the dwarves of the Iron Hills say? Is Dain with us?”

[Thorin:] “They will not come.”

The news still made the mood in the room drop.

[Thorin:] “They say this quest is ours, and ours alone.”

“They’ll come around as soon as we get the Arkenstone.” Thorin smiled at Bilbo, but he couldn’t quite return it. His gut twisted at the mention of the stone and the lengths Thorin was willing to go to get it. Bilbo hoped he was wrong, but something about it seemed off to him.

[Bilbo:] “You’re going on a quest?”

[Gandalf:] “Bilbo, my dear fellow, let us have a little more light. Far to the East, over ranges and rivers, beyond woodlands and wastelands, lies a single solitary peak.”

[Bilbo reading the map:] “The Lonely Mountain.”

[Gloin:] “Aye. Oin has read the portents, and the portents say it is time.”

[Oin:] “Ravens have been seen flying back to the mountain as it was foretold: When the birds of yore return to Erebor, the reign of the beast will end.”

[Bilbo:] “Uh, What beast?”

“I’ve been wondering Bilbo, had you really never heard of Erebor before we came?” Bofur asked.

“My mother told me of a great dwarven kingdom that had been lost to a dragon as a bedtime story a few times. But I never knew many details. It took me a while to even connect the two.”

“Oh does that mean we are legends in the Shire?”

“No, it was actually used as a cautionary tale about greed. If you don’t share with your neighbors and friends then a big scary dragon will come and eat you sort of thing.” Bilbo’s answer stunned the company.

“That’s not true at all,” Thorin tried to protest. Bilbo looked at him with sadness and no small amount of incredulity.

“Do you really believe the overflowing treasure chambers had nothing to do with attracting Smaug? The tale I was told was lacking nearly all details, but is it completely off?” No one quite had anything to say to that. It was one of those culture things they had run up against a few times before. To them, the fall of Erebor was a real event, but to the kindly people of the Shire, it was merely a way to teach sharing to children.

“Are there other stories you were told about dwarves?” Ori asked hesitantly.

“A few, though I doubt you would be overly fond of them either.” That effectively ended the conversation. Most of them could quite wrap their heads around the fact that their hobbit had grown up with stories that painted them in a poor light. It really made their sudden arrival all the worse.

[Bofur:] “Well that would be a reference to Smaug the Terrible, chiefest and greatest calamity of our age. Airborne firebreather, teeth like razors, claws like meat hooks, extremely fond of precious metals ”

[Bilbo:] “Yes, I know what a dragon is.”

[Ori:] “I’m not afraid! I’m up for it. I’ll give him a taste of the Dwarvish iron right up his jacksie.”

“I hope you know you will be doing no such thing,” Dori warned. Ori just looked at his brother then turned pointedly back to his book. Nori was grinning madly behind Dori’s back.

[Dori:] “Sit down!”

[Balin:] “The task would be difficult enough with an army behind us. But we number just thirteen, and not thirteen of the best, nor brightest.”

The objections to his words were very similar in the room and on screen. Balin looked as if they were all proving his point with their arguing.

[Oin:] “What did he say?”

[Fili:] “We may be few in number, but we’re fighters, all of us, to the last dwarf!”

[Kili:] “And you forget, we have a wizard in our company. Gandalf will have killed hundreds of dragons in his time.”

[Gandalf:] “Oh, well, now, uh, III wouldn’t say that, I-”

“I bet he hasn’t killed any dragons,” Nori said. Bilbo hadn’t thought Gandalf had killed any dragons the first time around, he was glad they were coming to the same conclusion.

“But he’s a wizard,” Kili said as if that obviously meant something.

“Yes but he’s Gandalf.” Bilbo’s words made Kili frown and slump back on the couch.

[Dori:] “How many, then?”

[Gandalf:] “Uh, what?”

[Dori:] “Well, how many dragons have you killed? Go on, give us a number!”

[Gandalf:] “Hm.”

[Thorin:] “Shazara! If we have read these signs, do you not think others will have read them too? Rumours have begun to spread. The dragon Smaug has not been seen for 60 years. Eyes look east to the Mountain, assessing, wondering, weighing the risk. Perhaps the vast wealth of our people now lies unprotected. Do we sit back while others claim what is rightfully ours? Or do we seize this chance to take back Erebor? Du Bekâr! Du Bekâr!

“We are very lucky his speech was so short this time. Balin taught him how to drone on and on. Very annoying.” Dwalin said, earning a slap on the back of the head from his brother and snickers from Nori.

[Balin:] “You forget: the front gate is sealed. There is no way into the mountain.”

[Gandalf:] “That, my dear Balin, is not entirely true.”

“We do still have the key right?” Balin asked as Thorin quickly patted his chest. They breathed a sigh of relief when Thorin pulled out the long leather cord attached to the key from beneath his clothes.

[Thorin:] “How came you by this?”

[Gandalf:] “It was given to me by your father, by Thrain, for safekeeping. It is yours now.”

[Fili:] “If there is a key, there must be a door.”

“Amazing observation brother, see this is why everyone thinks I’m the brains of this pair.” Kili mocked.

“No one in their right mind would ever think you were the brains.” Fili pulled Kili into a headlock, the two starting to tussle. Dwalin stood and easily separated the two, putting them on opposite sides of him and Balin.

“Behave you two.” Balin admonished.

[Gandalf:] “These runes speak of a hidden passage to the lower halls.”

[Kili:] “There’s another way in!”

“Amazing observation brother.” Fili mimicked, Kili sticking out his tongue in response.

[Gandalf:] “Well, if we can find it, but dwarf doors are invisible when closed. The answer lies hidden somewhere in this map and I do not have the skill to find it. But there are others in Middle Earth who can. The task I have in mind will require a great deal of stealth, and no small amount of courage. But, if we are careful and clever, I believe that it can be done.”

“I really don’t think careful can describe a single day of this journey,” Bilbo muttered. Dori nodded, still staring at his little brother.

[Ori:] “That’s why we need a burglar.”

[Bilbo:] “Hm, A good one, too. An expert, I’d imagine.”

[Gloin:] “And are you?”

[Bilbo:] “Am I what?”

[Oin:] “He said he’s an expert! Hey hey!”

[Bilbo:] “M Me? No, no, no, no, no. I’m not a burglar; I’ve never stolen a thing in my life.”

“Have you really never stolen anything?” Nori asked.

“Well every faunt does go through a period when they enjoy swiping pies off of window sills, but other than that no.” Bilbo didn’t mention the gold ring in his pocket, even though he had a bad feeling that part would be shown as well.

“We can work on that.”

“Don’t go corrupting our burglar.” Dori admonished.

“His entire job is to steal stuff. I’m the one he can learn the most from!”

[Balin:] “I’m afraid I have to agree with Mr. Baggins. He’s hardly burglar material.”

[Dwalin:] “Aye, the wild is no place for gentlefolk who can neither fight nor fend for themselves.”

[Gandalf:] “Enough! If I say Bilbo Baggins is a burglar, then a burglar he is.”

Gandalf’s imposing form still made Bilbo lean back, not wanting to be too close to an angry wizard. Even if the said wizard was Gandalf.

[Gandalf:] “Hobbits are remarkably light on their feet. In fact, they can pass unseen by most if they choose. And while the dragon is accustomed to the smell of dwarf, the scent of hobbit is all but unknown to him, which gives us a distinct advantage. You asked me to find the fourteenth member of this company, and I have chosen Mr. Baggins. There’s a lot more to him than appearances suggest, and he’s got a great deal more to offer than any of you know, including himself. You must trust me on this.”

“Is that true?”

“What part?”

“That hobbits are light on their feet,”

“Oh, well I suppose. We are all taught how to walk silently from childhood.”

“How come? Seems like a strange thing to teach.”

“Not really when you think about it. Dwarves are taught how to fight at a young age are they not?”

“Well yes but that’s different.”

“Actually it’s not, dwarves are good at fighting but us hobbits? We are taught how to sneak because if we ever were attacked our only way to really survive would be to run away. Sure we have the bounders but they could only do a little against any really raiding force.” Bilbo swallowed harshly remembering when the bounders hadn’t been enough. It made sense to the dwarves, in a way that made their stomachs twist. Had Bilbo really been as fine as he seemed with them all invading his home, armed to the teeth? Balin had a bad feeling of what the other stories Bilbo had mentioned contained.

Thorin was watching Bilbo carefully as the hobbit seemed to withdraw into himself, then just as quickly put on an expertly composed mask, as if nothing had happened. He wanted to know what had happened to make his hobbit have such a reaction. Had the Shire been attacked? The idea of hobbits, especially Bilbo, facing down any kind of raiding force without someone to help them left a bad taste in Thorin’s mouth. He had considered a couple times before during his late night thinking sessions that if they did take back the mountain, perhaps he could try to reach out to the Shire. The land around the mountain would be barren, but seeing the hobbit’s obvious skills with plants, perhaps they could help. Maybe, in exchange, the dwarves could provide them with protection, especially if they were in more danger of being attacked then Bilbo had let on.

[Thorin:] “Very well. We will do it your way.

[Bilbo:] “No, no, no.”

[Thorin:] “Give him the contract.”

[Bilbo:] “Please.”

[Bofur:] “Alright, we’re off!”

“You were trying to refuse even then and we didn’t listen. We are truly sorry Bilbo.” Balin apologized once more.

“All is fine now, trust me.”

[Balin:] “It’s just the usual summary of out-of-pocket expenses, time required, remuneration, funeral arrangements, so forth.”

[Bilbo:] “Funeral arrangements?”

They watched curiously as Thorin leaned into Gandalf. All of them had seen the exchange happen, but no one had heard what was said.

[Thorin:] “I cannot guarantee his safety.”

[Gandalf:] “Understood.”

[Thorin:] “Nor will I be responsible for his fate.”

[Gandalf:] “Agreed.”

“Uncle I don’t think you have ever followed through with that.”

“You’ve been watching out for Bilbo nearly as much as us.” That information startled Bilbo.

“You don’t mean that, Thorin hated me for most of the journey.” This was met with snorts and chuckles that Bilbo really didn’t understand. There was no way Thorin Oakenshield, who had continuously tried to convince him to leave and make him feel un-welcomed, had looked after him to the same degree as his nephews. Looking at Thorin Bilbo had to reassess his thoughts after seeing Thorin’s sheepish expression.

[Bilbo reading:] “Terms: Cash on delivery, up to but not exceeding one-fourteenth of total profit, if any. Seems fair. Eh, Present company shall not be liable for injuries inflicted by or sustained as a consequence thereof including but not limited to lacerations ... evisceration … incineration?”

[Bofur:] “Oh, aye, he’ll melt the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye.”

Bifur punched Bofur in the shoulder and muttered in Khuzdul causing Bofur to duck his head, even as he smiled.

[Bilbo:] “Huh.”

[Balin:] “You all right, laddie?”

[Bilbo:] “Uh, yeah...Feel a bit faint.”

[Bofur:] “Think furnace with wings.”

“See this is where you should have stopped,” Nori said with a grin.

[Bilbo:] “Air, I-I-I need air.”

[Bofur:] “Flash of light, searing pain, then Poof! you’re nothing more than a pile of ash.”

“That really wasn’t a pleasant mental image.”

“Well to be fair it really wasn’t supposed to be.”

[Bilbo:] “Hmmm. Nope.”

[Gandalf:] “Ah, very helpful, Bofur.”

“Sorry ‘bout that Bilbo,” Bofur said and while he did look apologetic the smile he was trying to hide ruined it.

“I’m sure you are Bofur, no matter if I can’t even hear about a dragon there is no way I could face one.”

“Can you now?”

“Listen, I have dealt with trolls, orc, wargs, creatures in the dark and you lot for months. I can at least see Smaug without passing out.” There was some laughter at his statement.

“Wait! What do you mean dealing with us?!” Bilbo couldn’t help but roll his eyes as the dwarves broke out into yet another argument. Dealing with them indeed.

Chapter Text

Bilbo was now sitting in his armchair with a cup of tea in hand, Gandalf sitting next to him looking disapproving.

[Bilbo:] “I’ll be alright, let me just sit quietly for a moment.”

[Gandalf:] “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me; when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young Hobbit who always was running off in search of elves and the woods, who’d stay out late, come home after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young Hobbit who would have liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps; it’s out there.”

“Not only were you an adorable baby hobbit, but you also wanted to go on adventures? That’s so cute,” Kili gushed.

[Bilbo:] “I can’t just go running off into the blue. I am a Baggins, of Bag End.”

“With all that entails,” Balin said bitterly. “You shouldn’t have just run out your door.”

“How else was I supposed to catch up?”

“Any way other than leaving next to no information about your whereabouts. Especially since you are-have important familial connections and duties.”

[Gandalf:] “You are also a Took. Did you know that your greatgreatgreatgreatuncle, Bullroarer Took, was so large he could ride a real horse?”

“Whoa! He had to have been bigger than a dwarf!”

“That is how the story goes.”

[Bilbo:] “Yes.”

Ori didn’t know how Bilbo could sound so tired of what Gandalf was saying. This was fascinating.

[Gandalf:] “Well he could. In the Battle of Green Fields, he charged the goblin ranks. He swung his club so hard it knocked the Goblin King’s head clean off, and it sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit hole. And thus the battle was won, and the game of golf invented at the same time.”

“Really Uncle Bilbo? You have some really interesting ancestors.”

“To be entirely fair I know the golf part isn’t true, and the exact details of that battle are a little vague.”

“I didn even know Hobbits had been part of any battles.”

“Sometimes fighting is unavoidable, as much as we wish it was.”

[Bilbo:] “I do believe you made that up.”

[Gandalf:] “Well, all good stories deserve embellishment. You’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.”

[Bilbo:] “Can you promise that I will come back?”

Everyone already knew the answer. Of course, they couldn’t but they had to try. It was their home they were talking about, that they were fighting to reclaim. Bilbo really didn’t have any reason to be here, even with his memorable speech outside the goblin tunnels, he was still the only one likely going to his death for nothing more than because he wanted to help them. None of them would have done something like that for a complete stranger.

[Gandalf:] “No. And if you do, you will not be the same.”

[Bilbo:] “That’s what I thought. Sorry, Gandalf, I can’t sign this. You’ve got the wrong Hobbit.”

“We got the perfect hobbit,” Dori said to nods of agreement that had Bilbo blushing.

[Balin:] “It appears we have lost our burglar. Probably for the best. The odds were always against us. After all, what are we? Merchants, miners, tinkers, toymakers; hardly the stuff of legend.”

[Thorin:] “There are a few warriors amongst us.”

[Balin:] “Old warriors.”

[Thorin:] “I will take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they came. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask no more than that.”

“And all of you have proved you have those traits and so much more. I am honored to have each and every one of you in this company. All of you have earned my absolute trust.” Thorin made sure to look each member of the company in the eyes as he gave his short speech. His gaze fell on Bilbo as he said ‘trust’ and he smiled, inclining his head to the hobbit. The dwarves that had been closer to Thorin before the quest merely bowed their heads at his words. But those like the Ur and Ri families seemed entirely taken aback, bowing their heads deeply and whispering in Khuzdul. From what Bilbo remembered both of them were commoners through and through, so to have the King say he trusted them must have meant the world to them.

It meant the world to him as well, though he suspected for slightly different reasons. Sure it was well and good to have a King say he trusted you so completely, but Bilbo was not a dwarf and Thorin was not his King. But having the person who he had pinned after say that filled Bilbo with a joy he couldn’t even describe.

[Balin:] “You don’t have to do this. You have a choice. You’ve done honorably by our people. You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains, a life of peace and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor.”

[Thorin:] “From my grandfather to my father, this has come to me. They dreamt of the day when the dwarves of Erebor would reclaim their homeland. There is no choice, Balin. Not for me.”

[Balin:] “Then we are with you, laddie. We will see it done.”

“We all are,” Dori said, finally looking at Thorin. There were nods and murmurs of agreement.

“To whatever end this journey comes to, you have our absolute trust as well,” Bofur said, for once entirely serious. Thorin smiled at them as well.

“Thank you.” The humming beginning makes them all stop talking at stare at the screen. It showed the dwarves gathering in the living room. As Thorin begins to sing, Bilbo felt himself relax ever so slightly, the sound calming his remaining nerves from the previous conversations. He remembered how it had felt hearing the song the first time, and the reason he joined the quest.

[The dwarves, singing:]
“Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To find our long forgotten gold
The pines were roaring on the height
The winds were moaning in the night
The fire was red, it flaming spread
The trees like torches blazed with light”

“You know, that was what convinced me to join,” Bilbo said. Thorin looked at him curiously. “It was beautiful, and I don’t know. It made Gandalf’s words mean something more I guess.” Bilbo tried to explain, not understanding the light in Thorin’s eyes.

“I am forever glad for that song then. There is more, should you ever wish to hear it.”

“I would enjoy that.”

“Later then, when all this is over.” They smiled at each other, nearly missing as the scene changed to Bilbo waking up. There was some laughter as Bilbo checked around the house cautiously.

“Miss us already?” Bofur laughed.

“It was just too quiet. And I still have no idea how you cleaned everything up and left without waking me up.”

“We’re dwarves of many talents Bilbo, ye’ve only scratched the surface.”

[Bilbo:] “Hello?”

“This is why ye were so unprepared,” Dwalin said.

“I only spent a few minutes packing. I was late enough as it was.” Bilbo couldn’t help but marvel at the music playing prominently as he ran through the hills of the Shire. It was unlike anything he would have thought of, yet it fit the mood of the situation so well. He wondered where the musicians were or if the voice was also controlling the music.

[Neighbor:] “Hey! Mr. Bilbo! Where are you off to?”

[Bilbo:] “Can’t stop, I’m already late!”

[Neighbor:] “Late for what?”

[Bilbo:] “I’m going on an adventure!”

Balin groaned again. The screen shifted to the company riding down a path, Bilbo running behind them.

[Bilbo:] “Wait! Wait!”

Balin smiled a bit as Bilbo handed his screen self the contract. He had been wary of Bilbo coming along, but the Hobbit’s determination had endeared Bilbo to him.

[Bilbo:] “I signed it!”

The screen Balin matched the Balin in the room as they both smiled warmly.

“I’m glad you did laddie, even if I wish you’d planned a bit more.”

[Balin:] “Everything appears to be in order. Welcome, Master Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield.”

The dwarves cheered around Bilbo now as well, with much more enthusiasm than their on-screen counterparts.

[Thorin:] “Give him a pony.”

[Bilbo:] “No, no, no, no, that that won’t be necessary, thank you, but I I’m sure I can keep up on foot. I-I-I’ve done my fair share of walking holidays, you know. I even got as far as Frogmorton once WAGH!”

The entire company broke out into a roar of laughter at Bilbo’s obvious discomfort. Even Bilbo couldn’t help but chuckle at how hopeless he had been around ponies to start.

[Oin:] “Come on, Nori, pay up. Go on.”

[Oin:] “Hey, hey, hey!”

“Wait you bet I would come?”

“Aye, and a good thing I did too!” Oin chuckled.

“I never doubted you Uncle Bilbo,”

“You only bet on him because I didn’t, no offense Uncle Bilbo but you really didn’t seem the type,” Fili said.

“None taken, I wouldn’t have bet on myself.”

[Bilbo:] “What’s that about?”

[Gandalf:] “Oh, they took wagers on whether or not you’d turn up. Most of them bet that you wouldn’t.”

[Bilbo:] “What did you think?”

[Gandalf:] “Hmmm. My dear fellow, I never doubted you for a second.”

As Bilbo sneezed there were several groans, remembering what was about to happen.

[Bilbo:] “Ohh. All this horse hair, I’m having a reaction.”

When he finds he doesn’t have a handkerchief he begins to panic, causing his current self to shake his head.

[Bilbo:] “No, no, wait, wait, stop! Stop! We have to turn around.”

[Gandalf:] “What on earth is the matter?”

[Bilbo:] “I forgot my handkerchief.”

“And a good deal of other things as well.”

[Bofur:] “Here! Use this.”

“D’ya ever use that?” Bofur asked with a grin. Bilbo looked at him as if he was insane.

“Absolutely not, though I kept it till the goblins found us.”

[Thorin:] “Move on.”

[Gandalf:] “You’ll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach our journey’s end. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you; the world is ahead.”

As Gandalf spoke the screen began to show a series of images of the early days of their journey, the music once more taking over. It was relieving, in a way, to know they wouldn’t be rewatching everything that happened on the journey. The voice obviously only wanted to show them what would matter. Bilbo couldn’t help but wonder what else the voice and the screen had in store for them. They had only just left the Shire and already he felt like the company was closer than ever. He had been wary before, but now? He was excited and looking around he knew he wasn’t alone. Hopefully, the voice would refrain from bringing up too terrible of memories again though.

Chapter Text

As the screen turned from the road to the company sleeping on a cliffside Bilbo groaned. He had a sneaking suspicion of what night this was and he hoped that the screen would just leave it at Balin talking.

“I don’t blame ye, Bilbo, Gloin is quite the snorer.” Bofur laughed as screen Bilbo jolted awake.

“Am not!”

“Ye’re jus breathin in moths Gloin, ye can’t deny it,” Dwalin said slapping his knee. Gloin just grumbled and Oin patted him on the back while chuckling. When screen Bilbo got up to give Myrtle an apple, Kili cooed.

“Uncle Bilbo, that is so sweet, is that why the ponies liked you? They kept trying to bite me.”

“They were very kind creatures, whatever did you do to them?”

“Maybe he tried jumping off his one too many times.”

“I only did that to shut you up.”

“Oh, I’m sure, and is that why you frequently fell to the ground without even touching me.”

“That was the pony’s fault for moving.”

“Yeah sure blame the pony.”

[Bilbo:] “Hello, girl. That’s a good girl. It’s our little secret, Myrtle; you must tell no one. sh, sh”

A scream filled the air, making all of them sit up straighter. Even knowing it came from the screen, hearing orcs still put them on edge.

[Bilbo:] “What was that?”

[Kili:] “Orcs.”

[Bilbo:] “Orcs?”

[Fili:] “Throat-cutters. There’ll be dozens of them out there. The lowlands are crawling with them.”

[Kili:] “They strike in the wee small hours, when everyone’s asleep. Quick and quiet; no screams, just lots of blood.”

Dwalin and Balin smacked both of their heads, glaring at them. The brothers looked down, even more ashamed of their joke now then they had been before. Bilbo had looked terrified, something they didn’t want him to be when surrounded by the company.

“Sorry Uncle Bilbo,” they said in unison.

“I know it was just a joke, I overreacted.”

“No, you didn’t. Raids by orcs are not something to ever joke about,” Thorin scolded. He glanced at Bilbo, though the hobbit seemed fine if not a little peeved. Sighing Thorin looked back at the screen. He really needed to figure out what had happened in the Shire.

[Thorin:] “You think that’s funny? You think a night raid by orcs is a joke?”

[Kili:] “We didn’t mean anything by it.”

[Thorin:] “No, you didn’t. You know nothing of the world.”

“That was too harsh, they didn’t mean anything by it,” Bilbo whispered so only Thorin could hear.

“They are Princes and should have known better to make such a joke in the first place.”

[Balin:] “Don’t mind him, laddie. Thorin has more cause than most to hate orcs. After the dragon took the Lonely Mountain, King Thror tried to reclaim the ancient dwarf kingdom of Moria. But our enemy had got there first.”

The screen flashed to a battlefield, much like it had with Dale. Bilbo sucked in a breath at the sight. Never had he seen so many bodies; so much blood and death. Thorin was sitting rigidly in his chair, fists clenched once again. There were curses in Khuzdul as the dwarves took in the horrific sight. When Azog appeared Thorin let out a noise Bilbo couldn’t even begin to decipher.

[Balin:] “Moria had been taken by legions of Orcs lead by the most vile of all their race: Azog, the Defiler. The giant Gundabad Orc had sworn to wipe out the line of Durin. He began by beheading the King.”

Thorin looked ill as Azog held up his grandfather’s head. There was a slight commotion to his left and Bilbo managed to tear his eyes away long enough to see Fili and Kili once again holding each other. Balin and Dwalin didn’t seem to care, they were leaning into each other as they too no doubt re-lived one of their worst memories.

[Thorin, in flashback:] “Nooo!”

Bilbo hated seeing Thorin look so distraught.

[Balin:] “Thrain, Thorin’s father, was driven mad by grief. He went missing, taken prisoner or killed, we did not know. We were leaderless. Defeat and death were upon us.”

Bilbo felt tears prick his eyes but he pushed them back. This was not the time to cry even as his heart ached for the dwarves.

[Balin:] “That is when I saw him: a young dwarf prince facing down the Pale Orc.”

Even knowing Thorin was right next to him, alive and well, Bilbo couldn’t help the panic that gripped him seeing Thorin being tossed around by Azog. It reminded him too much of that time on the cliff, only here he couldn’t help him. Bilbo’s hand shot out, trying to find anything to comfort him. He found something warm, a blanket he hadn’t noticed perhaps and held it tight, not daring to look away from the screen.

[Balin:] “He stood alone against this terrible foe, his armor rent…wielding nothing but an oaken branch as a shield”
Bilbo held the blanket like his life depended on it. He hated this. Even when Thorin cut off Azog’s arm Bilbo couldn’t bring himself to relax.

[Balin:] “Azog, the Defiler, learned that day that the line of Durin would not be so easily broken.”

“I should have killed him then.”

“You had no way of knowing. Any other creature would have died from that wound,” Balin tried to reassure but it meant little to Thorin.

[Young Thorin:] “Du Bekâr! Du Bekâr!”

[Balin:] “Our forces rallied and drove the orcs back. Our enemy had been defeated. But there was no feast, no song, that night, for our dead were beyond the count of grief. We few had survived.”

Seeing Thorin framed by sunlight, he looked every bit the King he was born to be. Even amongst the countless dead, it was a breathtaking sight.

[Balin:] “And I thought to myself then, there is one who I could follow. There is one I could call King.”

Back in their cliffside camp, all the dwarves were standing, staring at Thorin with awe. In the room, they were doing something very similar. Those who had been there that day remembering how Thorin had been and why they had pledged themselves to him. Those who hadn’t now knew exactly why they had. Bilbo felt himself relax slightly. His grip on the blanket loosened and he tried to pull away only to find it was holding his hand in place as well. Looking down in shock Bilbo found it hadn’t been a blanket at all, but rather Thorin’s hand. Bilbo blushed crimson. Thorin had also turned to see Bilbo had been the one holding his hand, keeping him grounded throughout the scene. They both quickly retracted their hands and looked everywhere but at each other.

[Bilbo:] “But the pale orc? What happened to him?”

[Thorin:] “He slunk back into the hole whence he came. That filth died of his wounds long ago.”

As the screen panned to see the orcs and wargs staring at their camp, Dwalin cursed.

“They’re that close already?”

[Yazneg:] “Send word to the Master. We have found the Dwarfscum.”

The mood in the room was quite low when the scene turned to the company riding along in rain.

“That blasted rain never seemed to stop.” Dori moaned.

[Dori:] “Here, Mr. Gandalf, can’t you do something about this deluge?”

[Gandalf:] “It is raining, Master Dwarf, and it will continue to rain until the rain is done. If you wish to change the weather of the world, you should find yourself another wizard.”

[Bilbo:] “Are there any?”

[Gandalf:] “What?”

[Bilbo:] “Other wizards?”

[Gandalf:] “There are five of us. The greatest of our order is Saruman, the White. Then there are the two Blue Wizards; you know, I’ve quite forgotten their names.”

[Bilbo:] “And who is the fifth?”

[Gandalf:] “Well, that would be Radagast, the Brown.”

[Bilbo:] “Is he a great Wizard or is he...more like you?”

The dwarves roared with laughter and even Bilbo could help but chuckle. Gandalf’s offended look only made it better.

“Quick tongue there Bilbo!”

[Gandalf:] “I think he’s a very great wizard, in his own way. He’s a gentle soul who prefers the company of animals to others. He keeps a watchful eye over the vast forest lands to the East, and a good thing too, for always Evil will look to find a foothold in this world.”

“What is this?” Thorin asked as the screen shifted to show a forest. A familiar wizard came on screen, but this was definitely not when they had first met him.

“I told you there would be parts that none of you had ever seen before, but that I believe to be important. This is one of those parts, watch closely for this is just the beginning.” The voice responded. That sparked murmured conversations.

[Radagast:] “Not good; not good at all.”

Bilbo frowned at the disease of the forest. So many dead animals, it wasn’t right at all.

“He really is batty.” Someone said as Radagast revealed the bird’s nest beneath his hat.  

[Radagast:] “Oh no! Sebastian! Good gracious.”

“He’s a wizard! Why isn’t he saving little Sebastian?”

“He’s trying to Kili, it's not working though,” Fili said sadly as Sebastian twitched on the table

[Radagast:] “Move back! Give him some air, for goodness sake!”

“They just want to help him.”

“Crowding does more harm than good,” Oin said, nodding at what Radagast was doing. He didn’t know anything about curing hedgehogs of mysterious diseases, but that was just common knowledge among healers.

[Radagast:] “I don’t understand why it’s not working; it’s not as if it’s witchcraft...Witchcraft. But it is. A dark and powerful magic.”

“Why is there witchcraft?”

“A good question laddie. If I’m not mistaken this is also Mirkwood. Farther south, of course but still,” Balin trailed off wondering just what they had walked into when they had entered the forest.

“Do you think Gandalf knows?” The question hung heavy in the air. The scene turned dark as shadows moved outside the windows, the house creaking as something large crawled over it.

“What are those?”

“They look like-but no they cannot be so large.”

“They are...spiders!” The sticky white substances Bilbo had occasionally seen from the path made more sense now. At the same time, it did nothing to quell his fear of the forest, the eyes watching them in the night becoming even more sinister.

[Radagast:] “Lerya laman naiquentallo. Sí a hlare ómaquettar. Na coilerya envinyanta. Sí a hlare ómaquettar. Na coilerya envinyanta.”

“I don’t like this.”

“Me either.”

“I hope he’s alright.”

“We saw him after this right?” The dwarves were mumbling as they watched the spiders begin to break through the roof. The atmosphere was very tense, no one liked the implications of the inky black substance coming out of the hedgehog. When Radagast finished the spell and the spiders began retreating there was a sigh of relief.

“Weren’t there webs in Mirkwood?” Bofur asked. Bilbo nodded as the others shifted and looked at each other. Just what had the wizard gotten them into?

[Radagast:] “Where on this good earth did those foul creatures come from?”

No one even made a comment as Radagast conversed with the bird.

[Radagast:] “The old fortress? Show me.”

“Jus what did we walk inta?”

“Better question. What has Gandalf gotten us into.”

Chapter Text

The screen changed to show a ruined farmhouse. Bilbo sighed and covered his face at the sight, instantly recognizing it. Thorin looked at him in confusion, then turned back to the screen trying to see what he was missing. Then it clicked and he too was groaning. This had been something he wasn’t looking forwards to re-experiencing.  

“Fee, do you think Uncle is going to kill us?”

“Of course not Kee, he’s our Uncle he would never do that.”

“We almost got Uncle Bilbo killed.”

“He might come close, but I think his fear of Amad would stop him.”

[Thorin:] “We’ll camp here for the night. Fili, Kili, look after the ponies. Make sure you stay with them.”

Fili and Kili shrunk down at the few glances they got. Thorin wasn’t looking their way yet though, so they figured they still had some time left.

[Gandalf:] “A farmer and his family used to live here.”

[Thorin:] “Oin, Gloin.”

[Gloin:] “Aye?”

[Thorin:] “Get a fire going.”

[Gloin:] “Right you are.”

[Gandalf:] “I think it would be wiser to move on. We could make for the Hidden Valley.”

“As much as I dislike the elves and Tharkun, he was right. We shouldn’t have stayed there.” Thorin whispered with a frown.

“We really shouldn’t have.” Bilbo agreed, shivering at the memories of the trolls. He would be more than happy to never see another in his life.

[Thorin:] “I have told you already, I will not go near that place.”

[Gandalf:] “Why not? The elves could help us. We could get food, rest, advice.”

[Thorin:] “I do not need their advice.”

“Oh yes we certainly didn’t.” Bilbo whispered. Thorin shot him a half-hearted glare.

[Gandalf:] “We have a map that we cannot read. Lord Elrond could help us.”

[Thorin:] “Help? A dragon attacks Erebor, what help came from the Elves? Orcs plunder Moria, desecrate our sacred halls, the Elves looked on and did nothing. You ask me to seek out the very people who betrayed my grandfather and betrayed my father.”

[Gandalf:] “You are neither of them. I did not give you that map and key for you to hold on to the past.”

[Thorin:] “I did not know that they were yours to keep.”

“Why’d he have te leave?”

“Because our illustrious leader was being stubborn as usual.”

“But he must’ve known something was off.”

[Bilbo:] “Everything alright? Gandalf, where are you going?”

[Gandalf:] “To seek the company of the only one around here who’s got any sense.”

[Bilbo:] “Who’s that?”

[Gandalf:] “Myself, Mr. Baggins! I’ve had enough of dwarves for one day.”

“I take offense to that. I understand him being fed up with you lot but I was still perfectly reasonable.” Bilbo said getting complaints in response.

[Thorin:] “Come on, Bombur, we’re hungry.”

[Bilbo, to Balin:] “Is he coming back?”

Screen Balin shrugged, unsure, and even knowing the outcome it still didn’t make any of them feel any better.

[Bilbo:] “He’s been a long time.”

[Bofur:] “Who?”

[Bilbo:] “Gandalf.”

[Bofur:] “He’s a wizard! He does as he chooses. Here, do us a favor: take this to the lads.”

“We really should have sent someone else as well,” Dori said knowing the trouble the brothers had gotten them all into. Bilbo nodded his head, they didn’t even know the half of it.

[Bofur:] “Stop it, you’ve had plenty.”

There were a few laughs when Bofur scolded his brother, but they were tense.

[Bilbo:] “What’s the matter?”

[Kili:] “We’re supposed to be looking out for the ponies.”

[Fili:] “Only we’ve encountered a slight problem.”

[Kili:] “We had sixteen.”

[Fili:] “Now there’s fourteen.”

“A slight problem?” Thorin asked and Fili and Kili froze.

“Well looking back it was a much bigger problem.”

“It worked out fine in the end thanks to our amazing burglar.” Kili said with a grin towards Bilbo. Sometimes Fili wondered if Kili even thought about what he said before he said it. Thorin threw them both a warning look, before turning back to the screen. He was going to actually get to the bottom of the whole troll incident as Bilbo had taken to calling it.  

[Kili:] “Daisy and Bungo are missing.”

“I never knew we named the ponies.”

“We didn’t! Bilbo did actually, I was on Hazel and Fili was on Honey.”

“I thought they should match their riders, besides I have two cousins twice removed that have children named Hazel and Honey,” Bilbo said blushing slightly at all the attention. There was a pause and then everyone was asking what their pony had been named and why.

“Ah uh please calm down I can name them all. Let’s see, well Daisy was Dwalin’s and Bungo was Thorin’s. Then of course Hazel and Honey. Bifur had Rowan, Bombur had Chester, and Bofur had Merry. Ori was on Lila, Dori had Adamanta and Nori had Dahlia. Oin had Aria, Gloin had Rose and Balin and Minty. Then I was of course on Myrtle. All of them are named after relations of mine.” Bilbo explained hoping that would be enough. Of course it wasn’t because then the dwarves all wanted to know who their ponies had been named after. Bilbo let out a sigh and recounted each of his relatives. When he was done the dwarves were finally satisfied and turned back to the screen.

[Bilbo:] “Well, that’s not good. That is not good at all. Shouldn’t we tell Thorin?”

[Fili:] “Uhh, no. Let’s not worry him. As our official burglar, we thought you might like to look into it.”

“You should always tell me. I can only be the leader of this company if I am told what is happening within the company. Bilbo also has no combat experience at this time and you want him to find something that is obviously large and dangerous. You are both fools.” Thorin said glaring at his nephews who had hung their heads in shame.

“Don’t be so hard on them, they just want to make you proud.” Bilbo whispered trying to reason with Thorin. The brothers looked absolutely miserable and while Bilbo wasn’t happy in the slightest about what they had done, he hated seeing them so upset even more. Unfortunately Thorin was resolute in his decision and Bilbo knew he was just going to get angrier as the scene progressed.

“Then they should have come and got me instead of endangering you and themselves.”

[Bilbo:] “Well, uh...look, some something big uprooted these trees.”

[Kili:] “That was our thinking.”

[Bilbo:] “Something very big, and possibly quite dangerous.”

[Fili:] “Hey! There’s a light. Over here! Stay down.”

“Don’t go towards the light,” Dwalin said earning nods of agreement. Thorin was frowning deeply at the screen. Bilbo hoped he kept his temper in check.

[Bilbo:] “What is it?”

[Kili:] “Trolls.”

No one dared laugh at Bilbo going back for the bowls of stew, too tense from the scene and Thorin’s mood to break the silence. Thorin sucked in a breath as the troll passed carrying two other ponies. His jaw and fists were clenched tight as they continued to get closer to the trolls.

[Bilbo:] “He’s got Myrtle and Minty! I think they’re going to eat them, we have to do something.”

[Kili:] “Yes; you should. Mountain trolls are slow and stupid, and you’re so small.”

[Bilbo:] “N-n-no ”

[Kili:] “They’ll never see you.”

[Bilbo:] “No, no, no...”

[Kili:] “It’s perfectly safe! We’ll be right behind you.”

[Fili:] “If you run into trouble, hoot twice like a barn owl, once like a brown owl.”

[Bilbo:] “Twice like a barn owl, twice like a brown once like a brown? Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“You did what?!” Thorin snarled standing up and staring at the brothers as the scene showed Bilbo completely alone and confused in the forest. They shrunk back at his wrath, leaning into each other as they looked morosely down at their hands.

“What were you two thinking? You just left him there untrained and completely defenseless. I thought you were more mature than to stupidly try to prove yourselves and endanger our hobbit to do so. You could have killed him! I am-”

“Thorin stop!” Bilbo said rising to his feet. Thorin rounded on Bilbo eyes blazing but jerked back at what he saw. Bilbo was glaring at him, actually glaring, his hands in fists on his hips as he stared Thorin down.

“Now you listen here! What they did was stupid, yes, but in case you haven’t noticed I didn’t try to stop them besides a few protests. I am just as much at fault for the whole thing as they are so if you're going to be angry with anyone be angry with me and leave them alone. Can't you see they are sorry enough?” Bilbo said glaring daggers at Thorin. The dwarf didn't quite know what to say, never having seen the hobbit so angry.

In truth no one knew what to say, just staring at their hobbit in surprise and no small amount of awe. The brothers were looking at him with wide eyes and Bilbo swore he saw Kili’s eyes glisten a bit. His eye twitched, anger at Thorin still bubbling. Turning around he stopped. In place of his armchair was a couch just big enough for three people to sit together. Bilbo felt some of his anger melt and a slight smile form. Turning once again he looked past Thorin, not even sparing the still shell-shocked dwarf a glance, to look at Fili and Kili.

“Our host seemed to think I need a couch now.” Bilbo said, smiling gently at them. They perked up, looking to see for themselves and scrambling up when they saw he was telling the truth. They ran past Thorin and dived onto the couch pulling Bilbo in between them and holding onto him in an iron tight grip. Bilbo’s smile grew as he ruffled their hair and focused on the paused screen again, not paying anyone else any attention but letting them all know he wasn't speaking to them. Thorin sat down with a huff and a frown and slowly everyone turned their focus back to the screen.

“We’re sorry Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said and Kili nodded as the three trolls came on screen.

“I know boys, I know.”

[Bert:] “Mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey, if it don’t look like mutton again tomorrow.”

[Tom:] “Quit yer’ griping. These ain’t sheep. These is West Nags!”

[William:] “Oh, I don’t like `orse. I never `ave. Not enough fat on them.”

[Bert:] “Well, it’s better than the leathery old farmer. All skin and bone, he was. I’m still picking bits of him out of me teeth.”

Kili and Fili shivered at that and Bilbo patted them again, hiding his own wince. What an awful way to die. As the one called William sneezed into the cooking pot Bilbo couldn’t help shuddering.

[Bert:] “Oh, that’s lovely, that is; a floater.”

[Tom:] “Oh, might improve the flavor!”

Bombur gagged, his own skills as a cook rebelling against such a disgusting idea.

[William:] “Ah! There’s more where that came from.”

“Please don’t Uncle Bilbo,” Kili mumbled at the screen as Bilbo was shown sneaking behind them.

[Bert:] “Oh no you don’t.”

[William:] “Ow! Ow! Ow!”

[Bert:] “Sit down.”

“They ‘ave handkerchiefs? Maybe you could borrow one Bilbo.” Bofur tried, he really did to lighten the mood. But Bilbo was feeling slightly ill remembering when he was used as a handkerchief and Thorin was still moodily staring at the screen. Bofur settled down realizing it was just not the time. Though not without sneaking another glance at Bilbo and the princes. They were just far too adorable.

Screen Bilbo was at the pen looking at the ropes. When William turned towards him there was a quick intake of breath thinking their hobbit had been caught.

[William:] “I hope you’re gonna gut these nags. I don’t like the stinky parts.”

[Bert:] “I said sit down!”

[Tom:] “I’m starving! Are we `aving horse tonight or what?”

[Bert:] “Shut your cakehole. You’ll eat what I give ya’.”

“Ye didn’t,” Nori said looking a little pale. Bilbo coughed and looked anywhere but at Nori, letting everyone know that yes actually he did. Nori groaned. “Ye never try to steal above what you know what ye can. Thas how ye get caught!”

“Well by the end of this journey I’m going to be stealing from a dragon. I thought I might as well get some practice in early on.” Bilbo snapped back. He hated how he was the only one who ever seemed to remember why he was on this quest.

[Tom:] “How come ‘e’s the cook? Everything tastes the same. Everything tastes like chicken.”

[William:] “Except the chicken.”

[Tom:] “That tastes like fish!”

“How do you even manage that?” Bombur asked to no one in particular.

[Bert:] “I’m just saying, a little appreciation would be nice. ‘Thank you very much, Bert,’ ‘Lovely stew, Bert’; how hard is that? Hmm, it just needs a sprinkle of squirrel dung.”

Kili gagged as Fili wrinkled his nose at Bert’s choice in seasoning. They tightened their grip on Bilbo as William began reaching behind him, nearly catching Bilbo in the process. Bilbo was worried his ribs might not survive when he was actually caught if this was how the brother’s were acting now. But he didn’t push them away, letting Kili rest his head on his stomach and Fili lean against his shoulder. He wasn’t going to let them leave unless they wanted to and Thorin apologized.

[Bert:] “There, that’s my grog!”

[William:] “Uhh, uhh, sorry.”

[Bert:] “Ooh, that is beautifully balanced, that is.”

“It's green. No soup should be that color.”

[Bert:] “Wrap your [indistinguishable] around that, mate. Eh? Good, innit? Heh, heh, heh. That’s why I’m the cook.”

Kili squirmed as Bilbo was shown right behind the troll. Screen Bilbo’s disgust was mirrored on the faces of many of the dwarves as the troll stood and scratched its butt.

[Tom:] “Me guts are grumbling, I’ve got to snaffle something. Flesh I need, flesh!”

When screen Bilbo was grabbed in the handkerchief the real Bilbo simultaneously lost the ability to breathe.

“Boys it’s alright, I’m fine,” He said trying not to sound completely breathless.

“But you got caught!”

“Yes, but you knew that, remember you came and saved me.”

“We still got you into it though.”

“I know and while that was stupid, I also agreed to it. I am just as much at fault, perhaps even more so.” Bilbo reassured them.

“Did I really save you?”

“You absolutely did Kili, and Fili you went and got the company to help as well. I am proud of both of you, just don’t make the same mistake again alright?”

“Alright Uncle Bilbo,” they said in unison, finally having hints of smiles on their faces again. Bilbo was just happy they had loosened their grip enough that he could breathe. As screen Bilbo was shown covered in troll snot Kili gagged.

“That’s why you smelled so bad,” Kili said with a grin.

“I can make you sit on the floor.”

“You smell like roses now Uncle Bilbo don’t you worry,” Kili said still grinning. Fili pushed him to make him stop talking.

[William:] “Argh!!! Blimey! Bert! Bert! Look what’s come out of me ‘ooter! It’s got arms and legs and everything.”

[Tom:] “What is it?”

[William:] “I don’t know, but I don’t like the way it wriggles around!”

“Are you alright laddie? That was quite the fall.” Oin said watching the scene closely. He frowned remembering he hadn’t actually checked Bilbo over. He hadn’t really thought about it, the rest of the company had been fine besides a few bruises. But Bilbo was a lot softer as he had learned over the course of the trip, and that had been quite a long fall.

“I’m fine Oin,”

[Tom:] “What are you then? An oversized squirrel?”

“What is with everyone saying I look like a small animal.”

“Can’t say I agree with squirrel, but you really do look like a rabbit.” Bofur said with a tight smile. He wasn’t afraid to admit that Bilbo was one of his only real friends and seeing him confronting all three trolls alone absolutely terrified him.

[Bilbo:] “I’m a burglar uhh, Hobbit.”

[William:] “A BurglaHobbit?”

[Tom:] “Can we cook `im?

[William:] “We can try!”

Thorin was watching the screen intently. His hands were in tight fists and his jaw was locked. Seeing Bilbo run around like a scared animal made his heart beat wildly and his stomach churn. He had known for quite a long time that seeing Bilbo in danger made him react in a manner akin to seeing his kin or close friends in similar situations. But it was also different in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on. So, in typical Thorin fashion, he had lashed out whenever the hobbit did something stupid or was in danger.

At first, he hadn’t wanted Bilbo on the journey because he thought he would only be a burden. Now he didn’t want Bilbo on the quest because he didn’t know what he would do if he lost Bilbo. But he also didn’t want Bilbo to be anywhere but with him. It was all very confusing and not something he was used to dealing with.

Looking over at Bilbo cuddled up with his nephews Thorin felt regret for what he had said to them. He hadn’t been lying when he said they had been fools, but they were also still learning. He had just been so terrified seeing the three of them alone with trolls so close. Rubbing his face Thorin tried to focus back on the screen and contain the unpleasant emotions seeing Bilbo so afraid caused.

[Bert:] “He wouldn’t make more than a mouthful, not when he’s skinned and boned!”

[Tom:] “Perhaps there’s more BurglarHobbits around these parts. Might be enough for a pie.”

[Bert:] “Grab him!”

[William:] “It’s too quick!”

[Tom:] “Come here, you little... Gotcha! Are there any more of you little fellas `iding where you shouldn’t?”

Bilbo heard quite a few Khuzdul curses and some other words he didn’t recognize. Fili and Kili were practically completely wrapped around him as he was picked up and the entire company was on their edge of their feet as they saw just how many times they almost lost their hobbit that day.

[Bilbo:] “Nope.”

[William:] “He’s lying.”

[Bilbo:] “No I’m not!”

“That’s very brave, ye’ve gotta spine like mithril Bilbo,” Dwalin said shaking his head in wonder. It took someone special to lie to a troll while they literally held your life in their hands. The revelation of Bilbo’s bold lie didn’t surprise him though, the hobbit had shown more courage and loyalty than many dwarves he knew.

[William:] “Hold his toes over the fire. Make him squeal.”

“That was very stupid, you should have waited for the others. But I am glad you came to help, it was brave.” Bilbo told Kili who nodded even as he smiled.

[Kili:] “Drop him!”

[Tom:] “You what?”

[Kili:] “I said, drop him.”

Screen Bilbo was thrown at Kili sending them both sprawling. Then the company was leaping from the trees, led by Thorin. Bilbo took a moment to appreciate how amazing the company was in battle. He usually didn’t get the chance, too busy trying not to die to focus a lot on their seamless teamwork. Seeing it now was truly spectacular.

Thorin was also observing the battle, looking for weaknesses or flaws each member of the company had that they could hopefully train to fix. He was proud of how well they fought together, especially since this was the first real battle the entire company had fought together. When he saw Bilbo trying to still free the ponies he groaned. Why was their hobbit so stubborn?

[Kili:] “Bilbo!”

[Thorin:] “No!”

[Tom:] “Lay down your arms, or we’ll rip his off.”

“You looked really afraid Uncle Bilbo.”

“I think anyone would be in the same situation.”

“Well sure, but it’s not like Uncle wouldn’t have surrendered,” Fili said with such surety Bilbo felt a little guilty. Of course, he knew that now, but back then? He actually had been quite afraid Thorin would continue to fight and just let the trolls kill him.

[William:] “Don’t bother cooking them. Let’s just sit on them and squash them into jelly.”

“Thank Mahal they didn’t decide to go that route.”

[Bert:] “They should be sautéed and grilled with a sprinkle of sage.”

[Dori:] “Is this really necessary?”

[William:] “Ooh, that does sound quite nice.”

[Oin:] “Untie us, you monsters!”

[Gloin:] “Take on someone your own size!”

There were a few chuckles, most of the dwarves relaxing a bit. Now they knew exactly what was going to happen.

[Tom:] “Never mind the seasoning; we ain’t got all night! Dawn ain’t far away, so let’s get a move on. I don’t fancy being turned to stone.”

“At least someone was listening.”

[Bilbo:] “Wait! You are making a terrible mistake.”

[Dori:] “You can’t reason with them, they’re halfwits!”

[Bofur:] “Halfwits? What does that make us?”

[Bilbo:] “Uh, I meant with the, uh, with, uh, with the seasoning.”

[Bert:] “What about the seasoning?”

[Bilbo:] “Well have you smelt them? You’re going to need something stronger than sage before you plate this lot up.”

“Sorry ‘bout that Bilbo. I didn’t know what ye were tryin te do.”

[Tom:] “What do you know about cooking dwarf?”

[Bert:] “Shut up, and let the, uh, flurgaburburrahobbit talk.”

[Bilbo:] “Uh, th the secret to cooking dwarf is, um ”

“It’s sort of disturbing that the trolls believed you so easily. You’re even smaller than we are, how would you know how to cook us?” Ori asked and Bilbo just shrugged.

[Bert:] “Yes? Come on.

[Bilbo:] “It’s, uh ”

[Bert:] “Tell us the secret.”

[Bilbo:] “Ye yes, I’m telling you, the secret is … to skin them first!”

“That wasn’t my best idea, I will admit.”

“Best idea? That was one of your worst ideas!”

“Maybe at that time,” Bilbo said and no one wanted to know what else Bilbo had done that could possibly be worse than telling trolls to skin them. Anything they came up with made them uneasy.

[Bert:] “Tom, get me the filleting knife.”

[Gloin:] “If I get you, you little ”

[Dwalin:] “I won’t forget that!”

[Tom:] “What a load of rubbish! I’ve eaten plenty with their skins on. Scuff them, I say, boots and all.”

“Wait, you didn’t know the wizard was coming until then?”

“No, I was just making things up as I went.”

[William:] “`e’s right! Nothing wrong with a bit of raw dwarf! Nice and crunchy.”

Bofur and Bifur patted Bombur who was looking very ill. Partially to comfort him, partially to comfort themselves. They had come very close to losing their brother and cousin if it hadn’t been for Bilbo’s quick thinking.

[Bilbo:] “Not not that one, he he’s infected!”

[Tom:] “You what?”

[Bilbo:] “Yeah, He’s got worms in his … tubes. In in fact they all have, they’re in infested with parasites. It’s a terrible business; I wouldn’t risk it, I really wouldn’t.”

[Oin:] “Parasites, did he say parasites?”

[Kili:] “We don’t have parasites! You have parasites!”

[Gloin:] “What are you talking about, laddie?”

“Thank you for finally figuring out what I was doing,” Bilbo said though he still didn’t look at Thorin. The dwarf let out a small sigh of relief that Bilbo was talking to him again. It was obvious the hobbit was still mad at him for the Fili and Kili incident, but at least he was willing to talk to him.

“Someone had to.”

[Oin:] “I’ve got parasites as big as my arm.”

[Kili:] “Mine are the biggest parasites, I’ve got huge parasites!”

[Nori:] “We’re riddled.”

[Ori:] “Yes, I’m riddled.”

[Dori:] “Yes we are. Badly!”

[Tom:] “What would you have us do, then, let ‘em all go?”

[Bilbo:] “Well...”

[Tom:] “You think I don’t know what you’re up to? This little ferret is taking us for fools!”

[Bilbo:] “Ferret?”

[Bert:] “Fools?”

The dwarves seemed to momentarily forget their vendetta against Gandalf as they cheered when he arrived on screen.

“Took ‘im long enough,” well maybe they hadn’t completely forgotten.

[Gandalf:] “The dawn will take you all!”

[Bert:] “Who’s that?”

[Tom:] “No idea.”

[William:] “Can we eat `im too?”

“I’d’ve like te see that! Wizard on a stick. What an idea.” Bilbo wa really going to have to warn Gandalf to stay far away from the company whenever they next saw him. Not until after he gave the wizard a good tongue lashing of course.

There were more cheers as the sunlight turned the trolls to stone.

[Dwalin:] “Oh, get your foot out of my back!”

The mood was considerably lighter as they laughed at their own predicament now that the danger was completely gone.

Chapter Text

Gandalf was shown walking around the troll statues. He hit one in the head with his staff gaining some laughs as it made a hollow sound.

[Thorin, to Gandalf:] “Where did you go to, if I may ask?”

[Gandalf:] “To look ahead.”

[Thorin:] “What brought you back?”

[Gandalf:] “Looking behind. Nasty business. Still, they are all in one piece.”

[Thorin:] “No thanks to your burglar.”

“Entirely thanks to our burglar.”

[Gandalf:] “He had the nous to play for time. None of the rest of you thought of that.”

Bilbo was glad to at least see screen Thorin looking repentant for his comment.

[Gandalf:] “They must have come down from the Ettenmoors.”

[Thorin:] “Since when do mountain trolls venture this far south?”

[Gandalf:] “Oh, not for an age, not since a darker power ruled these lands.”

“Given what we’ve seen with Mirkwood, I really don’t like what he is insinuating,” Ori said to nods. Dori pulled his brother closer and Fili and Kili held Bilbo a little tighter.

[Gandalf:] “They could not have moved in daylight.”

[Thorin:] “There must be a cave nearby.”

“That place smelled terrible.”

“But it did have some really neat treasures.”

“I don’t want to think of how they got there though.”

[Nori:] “Oh, what’s that stench?!”

[Gandalf:] “It’s a troll hoard. Be careful what you touch.”

The screen showed some of the treasures lying around the hoard, including a pile of gold coins.

[Bofur:] “Seems a shame just to leave it lyin’ around. Anyone could take it.”

[Gloin:] “Agreed. Nori, get a shovel.”

“It bothers me still that the only treasure you mentioned returning with was that gold,” Balin said.

“Well, I really don’t even need that. Perhaps I just grabbed it for sentimentality.” Bilbo tried to come up with a solution that didn’t involve something very unpleasant being the cause of the gold.

“Perhaps,” everyone knew Balin didn’t mean it. The screen moved from the gold to show Thorin looking at swords.

[Thorin:] “These swords were not made by any troll.”

[Gandalf:] “Nor were they made by any smith among men.”

“Glamdring.”

[Gandalf:] “These were forged in Gondolin by the High Elves of the First Age.”

[Gandalf:] “You could not wish for a finer blade.”

“Unfortunately he wasn’t wrong. Orcrist is a fine blade, elvish made or not. Then they are looking back at the dwarves burying the chest as Dwalin looked down in disgust.

[Gloin:] “We’re makin’ a long-term deposit.”

“Yeah, and our hobbit made use of it so it was a good investment.” Gloin further defended. Dwalin still just rolled his eyes.

[Thorin:] “Let’s get out of this foul place. Come on, let’s go. Bofur! Gloin! Nori!”

“It’s your letter opener Uncle Bilbo!” Kili said as Gandalf picked the small sword off the ground. As the wizard went outside to present Bilbo with his sword the dwarves leaned forwards. None of them had been within earshot to hear the conversation.

[Gandalf:] “Bilbo”.

[Bilbo:] “Hmm?”

[Gandalf:] “Here. This is about your size.”

[Bilbo:] “I can’t take this.”

“Why not? Can’t believe you were able to travel so far without any weapon at all.”

“It’s not as if a sword would have been of any use to me.”

“We’ll change that.”

[Gandalf:] “The blade is of Elvish make which means it will glow blue when orcs or goblins are nearby.”

“A rather useful trick.”

[Bilbo:] “I have never used a sword in my life.”

“Well, now you have! You’ve done really well without any training.” Fili assured him as screen Bilbo looked hesitant about taking the offered sword.

[Gandalf:] “And I hope you never have to. But if you do, remember this: true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

“Wise advice,” Thorin said. Bilbo looked down, remembering the creature he had met in the caves. He had spared Gollum’s life, but he hadn’t felt courageous about it. He looked back up when a commotion started on screen.

[Thorin:] “Something’s coming!”

[Bilbo:] “Gandalf­”

[Gandalf:] “Stay together! Hurry now. Arm yourselves.”

Screen Bilbo pulled out his new sword, the first of many times he would do so and rushed after the company. Radagast burst onto the screen shouting and causing everyone in the room to think him even madder than before.

[Radagast:] “Thieves! Fire! Murder!”

[Gandalf:] “Radagast! Radagast the Brown. Ah. What on earth are you doing here?”

[Radagast:] “I was looking for you, Gandalf. Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong.”

[Gandalf:] “Yes?”

[Radagast:] “Oh, just give me a minute. Um, oh, I had a thought, and now I’ve lost it. It was, it was right there, on the tip of my tongue. Oh, it’s not a thought at all; it’s a silly old...stick insect!”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Oh, we get to hear official wizard business.”

[Radagast:] “The Greenwood is sick, Gandalf. A darkness has fallen over it. Nothing grows any more, at least nothing good. The air is foul with decay. But worst are the webs.”

“So he did know there was something wrong with the woods, yet he let us go in there alone. He’d better have a good explanation.”

[Gandalf:] “Webs? What do you mean?”

[Radagast:] “Spiders, Gandalf. Giant ones. Some kind of spawn of Ungoliant, or I am not a Wizard. I followed their trail. They came from Dol Guldur.”

“Ungoliant? Mahal, but that cannot be,” Balin breathed

“Who is Ungoliant?” Fili asked.

“A creature of great evil, a servant of the Dark Lord,” Balin explained looking very pale.

[Gandalf:] “Dol Guldur? But the old fortress is abandoned.”

[Radagast:] “No, Gandalf, it is not.”

“Why did he go in there? That’s where the spiders came from!”

[Radagast, narrating:] “A dark power dwells there, such as I have never felt before. It is the shadow of an ancient horror.”

“Statues don’t move.”

[Radagast, narrating:] “One that can summon the spirits of the dead. I saw him, Gandalf. From out of the darkness, a Necromancer has come.”

Bilbo shivered at the sight of the darkness. He wrapped his arms tighter around Fili and Kili, not even mentioning when they did so as well. Dori and Ori caged in his arms, Nori even being pulled in. Dwalin and Balin were leaning against each other and Bifur had his arms firmly around both Bofur’s and Bombur’s shoulders. Gloin and Oin were grasping each other’s arms. Thorin nearly made to move towards his nephews, but he remained where he was when he saw they were with Bilbo. His heart was beating wildly and he itched to draw a sword against the monster residing so close to where they had been. He knew the forest was cursed, sick as Bilbo and Gandalf had said, but to have something so evil close by without his knowledge? Thorin hated the forest even more, fear fueling the flames.

[Radagast:] “Quick! Quickly! Run! Wait for me!”

Even with the danger fading away, the company only relaxed slightly. No one wanted to let each other go, not when the true horrors of Mirkwood were now known. The air was nearly crackling with tension even as Radagast snapped back to the present.

[Radagast:] “I’m sorry.”

[Gandalf:] “Try a bit of Old Toby. It’ll help settle your nerves.”

Radagast breathed in.

[Gandalf:] “And out.”

As he breathed out, smoke coming from his ears and nose there was some slight shifting, a few wary chuckles.

[Gandalf:] “Now, a Necromancer. Are you sure?”

“I didn’t even know a blade could look so evil.”

[Radagast:] “That is not from the world of the living.”

A warg howl split the tense atmosphere making several dwarves jump. Dwalin leaped up reaching for his axes and cursing when he grabbed at empty space. Bifur had his hands up, ready for a fight. Thorin had been halfway out of his chair before he realized it was still just on the screen. Their nerves were shot.

“Please everyone, calm yourselves. You are safe here remember?” The voice tried to soothe.

“They are right,” Thorin said when Dwalin still looked warily around the room. The warrior sat back down, leaning into Balin again, and Thorin sat on the edge of his seat. He had to keep his emotions in check so he could see everything. Observing what was happening on the screen may just be of vital importance and he would not miss anything that could endanger his company.

[Bilbo:] “Was that a wolf? Are there­ are there wolves out there?”

Bilbo shuddered at the idea of wolves, not paying attention as Fili and Kili shared a glance. Their hobbit seemed even more afraid of wolves then he had of Orcs.

[Bofur:] “Wolves? No, that is not a wolf.”

Two wargs leaped down at the company, quickly being dispatched.

[Thorin:] “Warg ­Scouts! Which means an Orc pack is not far behind.”

[Bilbo:] “Orc pack?”

[Gandalf:] “Who did you tell about your quest, beyond your kin?”

[Thorin:] “No one.”

[Gandalf:] “Who did you tell?”

[Thorin:] “No one, I swear. What in Durin’s name is going on?”

[Gandalf:]“You are being hunted.”

Thorin felt slightly ill hearing that again, knowing exactly who it was hunting him. He would kill Azog if it was the last thing he did, but he worried that Azog would learn of his nephews and seek to kill them as well. He would never be able to live with himself if he had unknowingly brought his nephews into even greater danger and ended up killing them because he hadn’t taken care of Azog when he had the chance.

[Dwalin:] “We have to get out of here.”

[Ori:] “We can’t! We have no ponies; they bolted.”

“I wonder if they made it somewhere safe.”

[Radagast:] “I’ll draw them off.”

[Gandalf:] “These are Gundabad Wargs; they will outrun you.”

[Radagast:] “These are Rhosgobel Rabbits; I’d like to see them try.”

“I have to admit, his insanity did have a useful purpose.”

[Radagast:] “Come and get me! Ha ha!”

[Gandalf:] “Come on!”

The company began to relax slightly, though they didn’t untangle themselves. As stressful as the run through the plains had been and still was, at least they knew what to expect.

[Gandalf:] “Stay together.”

[Thorin:] “Move!”

The screen company ran through the plains, hiding behind rocks and darting around hills. Screen Ori almost ran out too far, just barely being pulled back by Thorin.

[Thorin:] “Ori, no! Come back!”

[Gandalf:] “Come on! Quick!”

[Thorin:] “Where are you leading us?”

“He knew exactly where he was going. Probably where he ran off too. The wizard was planning to get us there one way or another.”

“Well to be fair, we really did need Lord Elrond’s help,” Bilbo said. As the orc and warg broke off from the pack to track the company, Kili sighed. When his screen-self shot the warg in the shoulder, Kili seemed to slump in disappointment.

“That seemed like a difficult shot.”

“I still messed it up though, people make fun of using a bow enough without me also messing up shots.”

“Who makes fun of you? I’ll deal with whoever it is. Besides, none of the rest of the company could have done anything from that distance.”

“Other dwarves when I was growing up. No one in the company of course. You’re right though, I bet none of them could have made even that shot.”

[Yazneg:] “The Dwarf­scum are over there! After them!”

[Gandalf:] “Move. Run!”

[Gloin:] “There they are!”

[Gandalf:] “This way! Quickly!”

[Kili:] “There’s more coming!”

[Thorin:] “Kili! Shoot them!”

[Fili:] “We’re surrounded!

“Look at how amazing your doing,” Bilbo said patting Kili’s shoulder. Kili beamed at him as did Fili.

“When we get back I can show you some cool tricks I can do, maybe let you try it out. You said hobbits were good with bows.” Kili rambled. As he talked Fili leaned over when his head was turned away.

“Thank you,” Fili whispered into Bilbo’s ear so Kili couldn’t hear. Bilbo merely smiled and patted Fili too. Both of them really were so young, barely past their majority, and had so much responsibility resting on them already. They were amazingly skilled and sometimes all they needed was someone to tell them that. Bilbo was going to be speaking to Thorin about that whenever the stubborn King decided to apologize so Bilbo could stop giving him the cold shoulder.

[Kili:] “Where is Gandalf?”

[Dwalin:] “He has abandoned us!”

[Thorin:] “Hold your ground!”

[Gandalf:] “This way, you fools!”

[Thorin:] “Come on, move! Quickly, all of you! Go, go, go!”

“At least we were able to escape,” Balin said.

[Gandalf:] “Nine, ten”

[Thorin:] “Kili! Run!”

“That was foolish, you shouldn’t be so reckless.”

“I’m not reckless.”

“You are going to give me white hairs from constantly worrying about you two.”

“Hey! Don’t lump me in with him, I am very responsible.”

“Fili you are no better than Kili, your just better at hiding it.”

“Ha! Hear that Uncle Bilbo says I’m better,”

“No way he says you stress him out too!”

“Boys,” Bilbo chastised making them both quite down, even as all three of them still grinning.

[Thorin:] “Elves.”

Thorin looked every bit as unhappy about the situation as he did on screen.

[Dwalin:] “I cannot see where the pathway leads. Do we follow it or no?”

[Bofur:] “Follow it, of course!”

[Gandalf:] “I think that would be wise.”

The screen faded to black with those words causing confusion.

“I thought it would be wise to break for lunch. It is a little early, but you all talk so much it is nearly time. We may resume once you have eaten. I am sure there is also much to talk about.” The voice began to fade away but Thorin stood.

“Wait!” He called, half expecting the voice to ignore him.

“What is it Thorin Oakenshield?” The voice said sounding curious.

“You have shown us much that we have never seen before. We have questions we cannot hope to answer. Could you?” The voice seemed to pause as if thinking over Thorin’s request.

“I cannot,” there were protests at the answer, “not right now. Before dinner tonight we will complete the entire journey up to the point in which I brought you here. Then and only then will I answer what questions I am able. Be patient, all will be known to you in time.” The voice faded away and despite more protests, Thorin knew they would say no more. The table was once again filled with food leaving them with no choice but to follow through with the voice’s wishes.

Thorin stood and watched as the company untangled themselves from each other, though still never straying far. He saw Bilbo, Fili and Kili begin to make their way to the table and breathed deeply. He had to fix things with his nephews and hobbit. The next parts would be rough for them to watch, and Thorin knew he didn’t want to be separated from the three any longer. Steeling himself, Thorin followed after them, already planning what he was going to say.

Chapter Text

“Fili, Kili, I need to speak with the both of you,” Thorin said before they could reach the table. They looked back at him then glanced at each other as they nodded in unison. Bilbo patted their arms and continued on to the table as they quickly walked towards him. Thorin knew the room wasn’t large enough for a truly private conversation, especially when his nephews were involved, but he still led them to the far corner of the room. He didn’t miss the way Bilbo’s eyes followed them. There was no doubt the hobbit would be paying close attention. Thorin would have found it endearing, someone else looking out for his nephews in a way he had a hard time of doing; if it hadn’t been directed at him. Stopping, Thorin turned to fully take in his nephews who were standing shoulder to shoulder just a foot away from him.

Sometimes it was hard for him to see them as anything other the little dwarflings, running off into the woods and getting into trouble. An equal number of times he forgot just how young and inexperienced with the world they were, they had not seen the horrors he had at their age. A more experienced dwarf would have gone straight for help, not tried to play hero. But his rage had been fueled by fear as if they were still dwarflings, incapable of defending themselves. They were both shaping up to be great warriors.

“I will not apologize for what I said. What you did with the trolls was foolish and could have ended with both of you and Bilbo dead.” He paused noticing the way their shoulders slumped and Kili tried not to meet his eyes.

“However,” at that both of them froze, Kili looking up. “I apologize for the manner in which they were said, you did not deserve to have that anger directed at you,” Thorin said slowly, not used to apologizing for his actions. The way his nephews straightened up and stared him confidently in the eyes once more made it worth it though. He gave them a small smile which they returned tenfold.

“I have also been observing your skills in the battles we have seen so far.” Thorin noticed how they seemed to stiffen. “There are a few things I want to go over with Dwalin and you two, but know I am proud of what I have seen so far.” Thorin’s smile widened when he saw how they absolutely beamed at the praise.

“Thank you, Uncle!” They said in unison as they fell into step on either side of him, Fili to his right and Kili to his left.

“You know Uncle, we’ve been observing how you fight.”

“Oh have you?”

“Mhm, Uncle Bilbo has too.”

“Uncle Bilbo?”

“Of course what else would we call him. He’s going to be that one day anyway.” Kili said making Thorin blink. He couldn’t ask another question as they were being greeted back to the table by the company and more importantly Bilbo. Whatever Kili had meant, Thorin got the feeling he didn’t want Bilbo hearing the answer, not yet at least. He said down and took the plate Balin offered him with a nod of thanks. With the tension between the three Durin’s now gone, the company tried their hardest to momentarily forget what they had seen on the screen. Mainly by talking about less evil scenes.

“Ya know Bilbo, ye can start yer lessons with me anytime,” Nori said, leaning around Kili to talk to Bilbo.

“Stop trying to corrupt Bilbo with your thieving ways,” Dori scolded from further down the table.

“He’s gonna have te get used te it sooner or later. He’s gonna steal from a dragon and yer almost done making him a new coat.”

“Even so, I won’t let you corrupt him. And of course I’m making him a new coat, look at the one he has, it's too thin and it doesn’t even button up anymore. It’s going to be cold when we get to the mountain and I will not let Bilbo freeze when I can very easily make him a coat.” Dori hotly explained when the company turned to look at him about the coat. Bilbo noticed Thorin sitting up straighter and, was he glaring a bit at Dori when he mentioned the coat? But with his explanation, Thorin relaxed back as did several others.

“Now wait here, my coat is just fine, you don’t need to go through all the trouble of making me a new one.”

“Nonsense, I’m almost finished anyway. Unfortunately, I can’t work on it now because my knitting needles disappeared along with the rest of our weapons.” Dori seemed very upset by that fact. Bilbo was touched that the dwarf would do that for him. Though the sympathetic look Ori was giving him and the rest of the company’s reaction made Bilbo wonder with there was some unknown dwarvish custom tied to the gift.

“I can make you a bow when we get to Erebor Uncle Bilbo,” Kili said and it was as if his words opened a floodgate because Bilbo was then bombarded from what seemed to be every member of the company with offerings of gifts and many other things that made Bilbo’s head spin. What were they doing?

“Shazara!” Thorin yelled standing up. He alone had been quiet through the entire thing.

“You can talk about that later, for now, we should think about what we have learned so far.” Bilbo really wanted to know what was going on in Thorin’s head to make him bring down the mood like that.

“How much do we really know?” Ori said/

“Not nearly enough,” Balin responded with a shake of his head.

“If that voice would just tell us-”

“But they will not, so we must figure out what to do.”

“We cannot go back, we lost the path in Mirkwood.”

“Then our path must be forwards and we must find the path again.”

“Gandalf said if we lost it we would never find it again.” Bilbo cut in.

“Perhaps but that was when our minds were cloudy with the sickness of the forest, perhaps now we could find it.” Thorin knew the hope was a long shot but they had to try. He refused to acknowledge that they may be trapped within the trees, especially with the necromancer. No, they would make it to Erebor and he would see his company safely out of the evil’s reach.

“Perhaps. We should wait to see what happens and let the Voice answer us at dinner.” Bilbo said and the conversation died out. They finished their meals quickly and left the table.

When they approached the couches and chairs they saw that they had once again been rearranged. Balin and Dwalin’s couch had been shrunk to only fit two, which made sense since Fili and Kili were still set on sitting with Bilbo. Thorin’s seat had also disappeared, which he was secretly very happy about. However, the most surprising development was that the couch the Ri family had been sitting on had also disappeared. Bilbo’s seat was now easily the biggest couch in the room. Nori chuckled and punched Dori on the arm before he flopped down at one end of the couch. Shaking his head, Bilbo went to sit in the middle. Fili and Kili just grinned sat on his left, Thorin taking the edge seat next to them and Ori sitting to his right with a shy smile. Bilbo was entirely convinced there really was some sort of dwarvish custom he was missing out on but seeing how happy Ori was getting to sit next to him made him realize he really didn’t care all that much. Eventually, he would find out, stubborn as they were his dwarves were not the best at keeping secrets amongst the company. Bilbo felt content.

The screen started up again to show the company making their way through the path to Rivendale.

[Bilbo:] “Gandalf, where are we?”

[Gandalf:] “You can feel it?”

“Feel what?”

[Bilbo:] “Yes. It feels like…well, it feels like magic.”  

[Gandalf:] “That’s exactly what it is- a very powerful magic.”

“You really felt that? I didn’t.” Kili said with a frown. Bilbo didn’t answer him, too busy staring in wonder as the screen panned to show Rivendale. It truly was such a beautiful place, unlike any he had ever seen.

[Gandalf:] “The Valley of Imraldis. In the Common Tongue, it’s known by another name.”

[Bilbo:] “Rivendell.”

[Gandalf:] “Here lies the last Homely House east of the sea.”

[Thorin:] “This was your plan all along, to seek refuge with our enemy.”

Bilbo sighed at Thorin’s stubbornness, the dwarf in question not looking at him.

[Gandalf:] “You have no enemies here, Thorin Oakenshield. The only ill will to be found in this valley is that which you bring yourself.”

[Thorin:] “You think the Elves will give our quest their blessing? They will try to stop us.”

[Gandalf:] “Of course they will. But we have questions that need to be answered. If we are to be successful, this will need to be handled with tact and respect and no small degree of charm. Which is why you will leave the talking to me.”

“Lot of good that did us.”

“We would have been a lot worse off if you had been the one doing all the talking,” Bilbo said. Thorin grinned a little in response, glad Bilbo was back to talking to him like this. He watched as the company crossed the bridge and Bilbo looked around in wonder. While he was peeved that Bilbo loved Rivendale so much, he remembered Bilbo’s grand description of Erebor. It would be nice to see what his first reaction on screen was, but Thorin really couldn’t wait to show Bilbo in person the halls of his ancestors.

[Lindir:] “Mithrandir.”

[Gandalf:] “Ah, Lindir!”

[Thorin:] “Stay sharp.”

Bilbo couldn’t help but shake his head at Thorin’s words.

[Lindir]: “Lastannem i athrannedh i Vruinen.” [subtitle: We heard you had crossed into the Valley.]

[Gandalf:] “I must speak with Lord Elrond.”

[Lindir:] “My Lord Elrond is not here.”

[Gandalf:] “Not here? Where is he?”

The horns blew and showed the elves riding back to Rivendale.

[Thorin:] “Ifridî bekâr! Hold ranks!”

Screen Bilbo was pulled into the circle making his current-self huff with exasperation.

“What is it, Bilbo?” Ori asked.

“Your reactions are unnecessary.”

“They coulda been a threat,” Dwalin said.

“Lord Elrond wouldn’t hurt his guests. My mother told me many stories of him.”

“How come?”

“They were good friends.”

“I thought Hobbits didn’t leave the Shire,” Kili asked jumping into the conversation.

“Tooks can be different, many of them go on their own journeys. My mother was friends with Gandalf and they traveled together quite often. She made it to Rivendell a few times in her youth.” Bilbo said, watching Ori write down his every word.

“The Tooks are the ones with the Thain right?” Fili asked pausing to make sure he got the word correct. Bilbo nodded.

“Yes, they are,” Bilbo said turning back to the screen to see the elves circling around the company. While he knew Lord Elrond wouldn’t hurt them, the display was rather unnecessary.

[Elrond:] “Gandalf.”

[Gandalf:] “Lord Elrond. Mellonnen! Mo evínedh?” [subtitle: My friend! Where have you been?]

[Elrond:] “Farannem ‘lamhoth i udul o charad. Dagannem rim na Iant Vedui.” [subtitle: We’ve been hunting a pack of Orcs that came up from the South. We slew a number near the Hidden Pass.]

“It is...nice that they tell us what they are saying,” Balin said.

“They did it with the orcs too.”

“But who wants to know what orcs are saying?”

“Who wants te know what elves are sayin?”

[Elrond:] “Strange for Orcs to come so close to our borders. Something, or someone, has drawn them near.”

[Gandalf:] “Ah, that may have been us.”

[Elrond:] “Welcome Thorin, son of Thrain.”

“How does everyone always recognize you?”

“I’m a memorable person.”

“Sure, if they have actually met you.”

“I am also heir to Erebor, I’m an important person.”

“I think it is ridiculous.”

[Thorin:] “I do not believe we have met.”

[Elrond:] “You have your grandfather’s bearing. I knew Thror when he ruled under the Mountain.”

[Thorin:] “Indeed; he made no mention of you.”

“This is why you were supposed to leave the talking to Gandalf. You're lucky he didn’t cast us out,” Bilbo said. Thorin merely shrugged not looking at Bilbo.

[Elrond:] “Nartho i noer, toltho i viruvor. Boe i annam vann a nethail vin.”

[Gloin:] “What is he saying? Does he offer us insult?”

[Gandalf:] “No, master Gloin, he’s offering you food.”

Of course, if food was involved they would cooperate, even with elves.

“Shoulda mentioned it’d all be rabbit food,” Dwalin grumbled.

[Gloin:] “Ah well, in that case, lead on.”

The screen switched to the beautiful dining area making Bilbo sigh.

[Dori:] “Try it. Just a mouthful.”

[Ori:] “I don’t like green food.”

“Green food is good for you,” Bilbo said to Ori, Dori nodding in agreement next to him. Ori groaned and covered his face with his book while Nori nearly fell off the couch laughing.

[Dwalin:] “Where’s the meat?”

[Ori:] “Have they got any chips?”

“I am constantly concerned about all of your diets,” Bilbo told the company. There were several protests to his words. Dori nodded sending looks at Ori and the still laughing Nori. Bifur said something in Khuzdul and pointed at his cousins and Bilbo got the impression he was on Bilbo’s side as well.

[Gandalf:] “Kind of you to invite us. I'm not really dressed for dinner.”

[Elrond:] “Well, you never are.”

After Gandalf and Lord Elrond took their seats Kili was shown staring at an elf with interest. He winked causing Thorin to stare at the current Kili with a raised brow.

“It was all in good fun Uncle,” Kili defended.

[Kili:] “Can’t say I fancy Elf maids myself.  Too thin.  They’re all high cheekbones and creamy skin;  not enough facial hair for me. Although…that one there’s not bad.”

[Dwalin:] “That’s not an elf maid”

Just as the company had the first time, they all roared with laughter as Kili turned red.

“Hilarious all of you.” He mumbled and Bilbo patted him on the shoulder while Thorin just shook his head at his company’s antics.

[Kili:] “Funny,”

There was even more laughter when screen Oin put the napkin in his ear trumpet. Bilbo was glad this scene in Rivendale was able to make them all laugh so much. They needed it. The screen paused until they finally got themselves under control then switched to Lord Elrond looking at Thorin’s sword.

[Elrond:] “This is Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver. A famous blade, forged by the High Elves of the West, my kin. May it serve you well.”

He handed it back to Thorin and Bilbo was glad to see he was at least trying to be courteous.

[Elrond:] “And this is Glamdring, the Foehammer, sword of the King of Gondolin. These swords were made for the goblin-wars of the First Age...”

“They work jus as well in this age on those creatures,” Dwalin said with a grin earning cheering of agreement.

“Uncle Bilbo I doubt your sword has a name,” Fili said when screen Bilbo was seen looking at his sword.

[Balin:] “I wouldn’t bother, laddie. Swords are named for the great deeds they do in war.”

[Bilbo:] “What are you saying, my sword hasn’t seen battle?”

[Balin:] “I’m not actually sure it is a sword; more of a letter opener, really.”

“Have you ever thought of naming it?” Ori asked causing Bilbo to blink. In truth, he really hadn’t. Then again the only creatures he had killed was an orc and a warg, not exactly great deeds in battle.

“Oh, you definitely should!”

“I haven’t exactly done anything worthy of naming it.”

“You save my life.”

“Well of course I did, but I’m not about to call it King Saver or anything that just sounds off.”

“But every sword needs a name.”

“Aye, thas true, helps ye bond with yer weapon more,” Dwalin said, patting his shoulder where his axes should have been.

“Perhaps I’ll see something to name it after while we watch,” Bilbo said just to placate them. He doubted he, a hobbit, could ever do anything that would be called a great deed.

[Elrond:] “How did you come by these?”

[Gandalf:] “We found them in a troll hoard on the Great East Road, shortly before we were ambushed by orcs.”

[Elrond:] “And what were you doing on the Great East Road?”

[Thorin:] “Excuse me.”

“At least you remember some manners,” Balin sighed.

[Elrond:] “13 dwarves and a Halfling; strange traveling companions, Gandalf.”

[Gandalf:] “These are the descendants of the House of Durin! They’re noble, decent folk.”

“Nori! How could you? At dinner no less,” Dori reprimanded as he reached for the thief. Nori deftly evaded him, jumping from their couch to sit next to Bofur.

[Gandalf:] “And they’re surprisingly cultured.”

There was some laughter at that, none of them really seeing what was wrong.

[Gandalf:] “They’ve got a deep love of the arts”

[Nori:] “Change the tune, why don’t you?? I feel like I’m at a funeral!”

[Oin:] “Did somebody die?!”

[Bofur:] “Alright lads, there’s only one thing for it!”

[Bofur, then the others join in:]

“There is an inn, a merry old inn
beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
one night to drink his fill.
The ostler has a tipsy cat
that plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he saws his bow
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
now sawing in the middle.
So the cat on the fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
a jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
‘It’s after three!’ he said.

Everyone was laughing once again, some even singing along. Bilbo had been horrified once again by their awful manner the first time, but now? He was laughing slightly at their antics even if he was still appalled that they were throwing food. When a piece of food nearly hit Lindir they only laughed harder. The screen switched to showing Gandalf, Lord Elrond, Thorin, Balin, and Bilbo standing together at night.

[Thorin:] “Our business is no concern of elves.”

[Gandalf:] “For goodness sake, Thorin, show him the map.”

[Thorin:] “It is the legacy of my people; it is mine to protect, as are its secrets.”

[Gandalf:] “Save me from the stubbornness of Dwarves. Your pride will be your downfall. You stand here in the presence of one of the few in Middle Earth who can read that map. Show it to Lord Elrond.”

[Balin:] “Thorin, no!”

[Elrond:] “Erebor. What is your interest in this map?”

“Oh, nothing at all. The known heir to the throne is just casually asking about hidden messages in a map of Erebor.”

[Gandalf:] “It’s mainly academic. As you know, this sort of artifact sometimes contains hidden text. You still read Ancient Dwarvish, do you not?”

“Maybe that wizard has some use after all.”

[Elrond:] “Cirth Ithil.”

[Gandalf:] “Moon runes. Of course. An easy thing to miss.”

[Elrond:] “Well, in this case, that is true; moon runes can only be read by the light of a moon of the same shape and season as the day on which they were written.”

[Thorin:] “Can you read them?”

[Elrond:] “These runes were written on a Midsummer’s Eve by the light of a crescent moon nearly two hundred years ago. It would seem you were meant to come to Rivendell. Fate is with you, Thorin Oakenshield; the same moon shines upon us tonight.”

“That was very convenient.”

“And extraordinarily lucky on our part.”

[Elrond:] “Stand by the gray stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole.”

[Bilbo:] “Durin’s Day?”

[Gandalf:] “It is the start of the dwarves’ new year, when the last moon of autumn and the first sun of winter appear in the sky together.”

[Thorin:] “This is ill news. Summer is passing. Durin’s Day will soon be upon us.”

[Balin:] “We still have time.”

“Not if we can’t get out of the blasted forest.”

[Bilbo:] “Time? For what?”

[Balin:] “To find the entrance. We have to be standing at exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. Then, and only then, can the door be opened.”

“Why do dwarf doors have to be invisible?”

“To keep our secrets safe.”

“Even from yourselves?”

“It backfires occasionally but it has worked in our favor so far.”

“Tell me that again when we search an entire mountain to find a single door.”

[Elrond:] “So this is your purpose, to enter the Mountain.”

[Thorin:] “What of it?”

[Elrond:] “There are some who would not deem it wise.”

“I wouldn’t deem it wise, but I’m still going.”

[Gandalf:] “Who do you mean?”

[Elrond:] “You are not the only guardian to stand watch over Middle Earth.”

Bilbo didn’t like Lord Elrond’s tone, it seemed almost foreboding. He knew that Gandalf had had to stay behind in order to let them leave, but he had never told them who they were escaping.

Chapter Text

Warg howls filled the room as the screen showed ruins at night. The dwarves shifted as they saw one of the orcs from the plains enter the ruins, wargs growling around him. Thorin moved his arm to guard his ribs when the white warg appeared, his jaw clenching at the sight of Azog.

[Yazneg:] “Khozdayin… Dorguz… zuranimid.” [subtitle: The Dwarves, Master... we lost them.] “Shugi golgai gelnakhanishim ” [subtitle: Ambushed by Elvish filth, we were ]

[Azog:] “Sha nargiz obhakhtil…” [subtitle: I don’t want excuses...] “Nargiz khobdi Rani Khozdil!” [subtitle: I want the head of the Dwarf King!]

“You’ll never get it!” Kili said, glaring at the pale orc.

“Not so long as I live,” Dwalin said as well. The others chimed in with their own declarations.

“As long as you aren’t an idiot,” Bilbo said looking over at Thorin with a serious expression. Thorin didn’t quite know how to respond to that, knowing exactly what Bilbo was referring to. When Bilbo broke into a small smile Thorin did as well. Between them, Kili huffed and rolled his eyes.

“We can move next to Ori,” Fili said his eyes bright as he grinned.

“There’s no need for that.”

“I wouldn’t mind sitting next to cousin Ori.”

“Wait, cousin Ori?” Bilbo asked confusedly. First, it was Uncle Bilbo, now cousin Ori. What was with Kili and giving them familial relations.

“Of course,” Fili said dismissively Kili nodding along. Thorin groaned while Ori stared at the two with wide eyes. He turned to Dori who was also looking surprised and the two said something in Khuzdul causing Ori to shrug. Bilbo got the distinct impression he was the only one out of the loop once again. He would get to the bottom of this.

[Yazneg:] “Murganish dum…Turim hag shad.” [subtitle: We were outnumbered...there was nothing we could do.] “Zorzor gokairaz obguraniz.” [subtitle: I barely escaped with my life.]

[Azog:] “Ki gokairag baganig.” [subtitle: Far better you had paid with it.]

“What an awful way te go,” Bofur said. “I mean it’s an orc so good that its dead. But I sure don’t wanne get torn apart by wargs ye know?” He added when he received several curious looks.

[Azog:] “Khozdshrakhun gud sha kilyashzag.” [subtitle: The Dwarfscum will show themselves soon enough.] “Zidgar obod tung nash ru khobdud!” [subtitle: Send out word, there is a price on their heads!]

“Wait I thought it was only on Thorin? It doesn’t change the fact that we’d all die before that happened.”

“He only wants Thorin, and if he ever found out Fili and Kili as well. But if he got even one of us, he could use us as bait to get to Thorin.” Balin explained looking none too pleased with what he was saying. Fili and Kili leaned together, whispering quickly to each other and looking back at Azog with newfound worry. Bilbo wondered if they had only just realized that only Azog’s own ignorance was keeping them from being on the same list as Thorin.

The screen once again switched back to Rivendell. Screen Bilbo was walking alone down a corridor. He entered a room with a stone statue holding the shards of a broken sword.

“Why do the elves have a broken sword?” Nori asked.

“That isn’t just any sword, those of the shards of Narsil! The sword Isildur used to cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand and defeat him,” Ori said excitedly. Balin beamed at the young scribe, closing his mouth since his explanation was no longer necessary. Several dwarves looked impressed, though screen-Bilbo gave it little attention. Instead, he turned to look at the mural of Isildur and Sauron, his eyes focusing on the One Ring.

Bilbo felt a sliver of ice run through his blood, his hand reaching into his pocket and curling around the very similar ring. Of course, it was impossible for them to actually be the same. The One Ring was one of the most powerful artifacts in Middle Earth and all his ring could do was turn him invisible. Screen-Bilbo looked away and moved onto the connecting porch overlooking Rivendell, allowing both versions of him to relax. Lord Elrond approached.

[Elrond:] “Not with your companions?”

“Now that I think about it, ye really weren’t around much,” Bofur said.

[Bilbo:] “Ah, I shan’t be missed. The truth is most of them don’t think I should be on this journey.”

“That’s not true!”

“Of course ye do laddie.”

“Don’t be a fool.”

“Of course we missed you Uncle Bilbo!”

“Really? In Rivendell? We seem to remember our time there very differently,” Bilbo said making them frown. “I don’t blame any of you, we didn’t know each other as well and I had done very little to prove I should be on the journey.” There were still some grumbles and protests at his words but Bilbo paid them no mind.

[Elrond:] “Indeed. I’ve heard that Hobbits are very resilient.”

“Not often I agree with an elf,” Dwalin said.

[Bilbo:] “Really?”

[Elrond:] “Mmm.  I’ve also heard they’re fond of the comforts of home.”

“Haha, he’s not wrong there either though,” Bofur laughed along with Nori.

[Bilbo:] “And I’ve heard that it’s unwise to seek the counsel of elves, for they will answer both yes and no.”

Bilbo’s words made the company burst into laughter. Thorin shook his head and smiled at Bilbo who was looking exasperated at himself. The next words sobered them all up.

[Elrond:] “You are very welcome to stay here, if that is your wish.”

When screen Bilbo looked as if he was actually considering it Kili threw an arm over his shoulders.

“You can’t leave us, Uncle Bilbo, especially not for elves. Tell me you didn’t agree to go back to Rivendell.”

“Kili one day I am going to have to leave you all, I have to go home too.” His words were not taken nearly as kindly as Bilbo thought they would be. Instant discussions in Khuzdul flared up. Kili looked like a kicked puppy.

“You could live with us you know? In the mountain of course. Or if you didn’t like it we can build you a house just outside the mountain. Absolutely no one would complain and we’d all be very happy and-and-just please don’t leave!” Kili seemed very distressed at the thought that Bilbo would actually leave once the quest was over. Bilbo had no idea where the idea that he would be staying in the mountain had even come from. Certainly, he had wondered what it would be like, the thought of leaving any of them always leaving a bad taste in his mouth. The thought of leaving Thorin made his heart seem to freeze, but he had never actually thought they would share the same sentiments. Even so, he knew logically he would one day have to go back to the Shire. He didn’t realize the company had stopped talking and were looking at him. Shaking himself slightly Bilbo tried to look as reassuring as possible.

“One day I will have to go back to the Shire, but for now I am here.” That was all he could say. No promises he might not be able to keep. The company was rapidly becoming like a family to him, but he knew there were some things that would drive even him away. The screen moved to show Lord Elrond and Lindir walking along the paths speaking elvish.

[Lindir:] [The kitchen is under enormous strain, we are nearly out of wine. How long do you think they will be with us?

[Elrond:] [That has yet to be decided.]

There was some laughter at the horrified looks their fountain bath caused. Bilbo just shook his head at their antics. At least they hadn’t done anything that horrible when in his smial. The screen switched again to the party the dwarves had thrown. Complete with burning furniture and roasted sausages. Screen-Bombur was on a table eating. His current-self groaned and threw Bofur a dirty look as his brother chuckled.

[Bofur:] “Bombur!”

The table collapsed and there was a round of laughter, the dwarves seeming to shake off the poor mood Bilbo’s earlier words had put them in. Bombur made a face at them all, grumbling in Khuzdul as Bofur patted his shoulder. Bilbo felt bad for Bombur sorry he hadn’t been there to help him, though there wouldn’t have been much he could have done. The screen switched once again to screen-Bilbo walking away from the company, stopping when he heard Gandalf and Lord Elrond talking.

“Ooh more secret conversations,” Nori grinned.

“Just don’t let it be like the last one,” Oin said.

[Gandalf:] “Of course I was going to tell you. I was waiting for this very chance.  And really, I – I think you can trust that I know what I am doing.”

“Does he though?”

[Elrond:] “Do you? That dragon has slept for sixty years.  What will happen if your plan should fail? If you wake that beast…”

[Gandalf:] “But if we succeed!  What if the dwarves take back the mountain, then our defenses in the east will be strengthened.”

So that was the Wizard’s true alternate motive. Thorin knew there was one.

[Elrond:] “It’s a dangerous move, Gandalf.”

Screen-Bilbo turned to see Thorin standing right behind him, both of them listening intently.

[Elrond:] “Have you forgotten, a strain of madness runs deep in that family.  His grandfather lost his mind.  His father succumbed to the same sickness. Can you swear Thorin Oakenshield will not also fall? Gandalf, these decisions do not rest with us alone.  It is not up to you or me to redraw the map of Middle-earth.”

“I am not my grandfather,” Thorin said.

“We know laddie, and all of us our here as well,” Balin reassured him, though Bilbo swore his conviction didn’t reach his eyes.

[Gandalf:] “With or without our help, these dwarves will march on the mountain. They are determined to reclaim their homeland. I do not believe Thorin Oakenshield feels that he’s answerable to anyone. Nor for that matter am I.”

“Aye, it is our home. We don need any elf’s permission te take it back,” Dwalin said.

[Elrond:] “It is not me you must answer to.”

There were whispers as the most beautiful elf Bilbo had ever seen appeared. She seemed to exude ethereal light as she turned to face them.

[Gandalf:] “Lady Galadriel.”

[Galadriel:] “Mithrandir. It has been a long time.”

[Gandalf:] “Nae nin gwistant infanneth, mal úeichia i Chíril Lorien.” [subtitle: ‘Age may have changed me, but not so the Lady of Lorien.]

[Gandalf:] “I had no idea Lord Elrond had sent for you.”

[Saruman:] “He didn’t. I did.”

An old man cloaked in white with a long white beard came out of the shadows.

[Gandalf:] “Saruman.”

“Isn’t that the white wizard?”

[Saruman:] “You’ve been busy of late, my friend.”

The scene shifted to Gandalf and Saruman sitting at a table, Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel standing.

[Saruman:] “Tell me, Gandalf, did you think these plans and schemes of yours would go unnoticed?”

[Gandalf:] “Unnoticed? No, I’m simply doing what I feel to be right.”

[Galadriel:] “The dragon has long been on your mind.”

[Gandalf:] “This is true, my lady. Smaug owes allegiance to no one. But if he should side with the enemy, a dragon could be used to terrible effect.”

What enemy was Gandalf talking about? Was he referencing the Necromancer in Dol Guldur? Bilbo shivered at the thought of Smaug and the Necromancer joining each other.

[Saruman:] “What enemy? Gandalf, the enemy is defeated. Sauron is vanquished. He can never regain his full strength.”

“I thought Gandalf was worried about the Necromancer?”

[Gandalf:] “Does it not worry you that the last of the dwarf rings should simply vanish, along with its bearer?  Of the 7 dwarf rings, 4 were consumed by dragons, 2 were taken by Sauron before he fell in Mordor. The fate of the last dwarf ring remains unknown.   The ring that was borne by Thrain.”

Thorin stiffened at the mention of his missing father.

[Saruman:] “Without the Ring of Power, the 7 are of no value to the enemy! To control the other rings, he needs the One Ring, and that ring was lost long, long ago.  It was swept out to sea by the waters of the Anduin.”

Saruman’s surrity about the fate of the One Ring made Bilbo feel better about the ring in his pocket. Surely a wizard couldn’t be wrong about something like that.

[Elrond:] “Gandalf, for four hundred years, we have lived in peace. A hardwon, watchful peace.”

[Gandalf:] “Are we? Are we at peace? Trolls have come down from the mountains. They are raiding villages, destroying farms. Orcs have attacked us on the road.”

[Elrond:] “Hardly a prelude to war.”

[Saruman:] “Always you must meddle, looking for trouble where none exists.”

“I’m surprised he hasn’t been titled the Disturber of Peace or something similar. Every time he comes to the Shire he seems to take someone on an adventure,” Bilbo chuckled.

“Now I know Hobbits don’t go on adventures but that seems a little excessive.”

“Not at all! I’m going to be lucky if the only title I gain from this adventure is Mad Baggins. Only the Tooks would appreciate me going on an adventure,” Bilbo said. Thorin once again felt like they had really messed up Bilbo’s life by showing up on his doorstep.

[Galadriel:] “Let him speak.”

[Gandalf:] “There is something at work beyond the evil of Smaug. Something far more powerful. We can remain blind, but it will not be ignoring us, that I can promise you. A sickness lies over the Greenwood. The woodsmen who live there now call it ‘Mirkwood’. and they say...”

[Saruman:] “Well, don’t stop now. Tell us about the woodsmen say.”

[Gandalf:] “They speak of a Necromancer living in Dol Guldur, a sorcerer who can summon the dead.”

[Saruman:] “That’s absurd. No such power exists in the world. This...Necromancer is nothing more than a mortal man. A conjurer dabbling in black magic.”

Bilbo wanted to feel assured by what Saruman was saying, after all, he was the most powerful wizard according to Gandalf. But the way he was acting made Bilbo feel off.

[Gandalf:] “And so I thought too. But, Radagast has seen ”

[Saruman:] “Radagast? Do not speak to me about Radagast the Brown. He is a foolish fellow.”

[Gandalf:] “Well, he’s odd, I grant you. He lives a solitary life.”

“Odd is one word for it.”

[Saruman:] “It’s not that. It’s his excessive consumption of mushrooms. They’ve addled his brain and yellowed his teeth. I warned him, it is unbefitting of the Istari to be wandering in the woods...”

“I’d’ve gone for the bird’s nest,” Bofur said. There were some chuckles as the screen focused once more on Lady Galadriel.

[Galadriel, telepathically:] “You carry something. It came to you from Radagast. He found it in Dol Guldur.”

“What sorta magic is she doin?”

[Gandalf, telepathically:] “Yes.”

“Can he do it too?”

[Galadriel, telepathically:] “Show me.”

[Saruman:] “…or I’d think I was talking to myself…”

[Elrond:] “What is that?”

[Galadriel:] “A relic of Mordor.”

Bilbo shivered at the thought of something so evil. Lord Elrond uncovered the blade after a moment of hesitation. It was the sword Radagast had found in Dol Guldur.

[Elrond:] “A Morgul blade.”

[Galadriel:] “Made for the Witchking of Angmar, and buried with him. When Angmar fell, men of the North took his body and all that he possessed and sealed it within the High Fells of Rhudaur. Deep within the rock they buried them, in a tomb so dark it would never come to light.”

“Apparently not dark enough.”

[Elrond:] “This is not possible. A powerful spell lies upon those tombs; they cannot be opened.”

[Saruman:] “What proof do we have this weapon came from Angmar’s grave?”

[Gandalf:] “I have none.”

[Saruman:] “Because there is none. Let us examine what we know. A single Orc pack has dared to cross the Bruinen. A dagger from a bygone age has been found. And a human sorcerer, who calls himself the Necromancer, has taken up residence in a ruined fortress. It’s not so very much, after all. The question of this dwarvish company, however, troubles me deeply. I’m not convinced, Gandalf; I do not feel I can condone such a quest. If they’d come to me, I might have spared them this disappointment. I do not pretend to understand your reasons for raising their hopes…”

There were Khuzdul curses spat at the screen when Saruman began to condemn their quest.

“We’ll show you.”

[Galadriel, telepathically:] “They are leaving.”

[Gandalf, telepathically:] “Yes.”

[Galadriel, telepathically:] “You knew.”

“Fer an elf, maybe she’s not all bad,” Nori said grinning at her amusement.  

[Saruman:] “…I am afraid there is nothing else for it.”

[Lindir:] “My Lord Elrond; the dwarves, they’ve gone.”

“That was a good one.”

[Thorin:] “Be on your guard; we’re about to step over the edge of the Wild. Balin, you know these paths; lead on.”

[Balin:] “Aye.”

“Erebor is better than Rivendell Uncle Bilbo,” Kili told him.

“From what I’ve seen it is magnificent.”

[Thorin:] “Master Baggins, I suggest you keep up.”

“Told you Uncle worried about you,” Fili said, not turning to see the sharp look Thorin threw his direction. Bilbo was in no way convinced, screen-Thorin had seemed more annoyed than concerned. The screen shifted back to Rivendell, where Gandalf and Galadriel were left alone.

[Galadriel:] “You will follow them?”

[Gandalf:] “Yes.”

[Galadriel:] “You are right to help Thorin Oakenshield. But I fear this quest has set in motion forces we do not yet understand. The riddle of the Morgul blade must be answered. Something moves in the shadows, unseen, hidden from our sight. It will not show itself, not yet. But every day it grows in strength. You must be careful.”

[Gandalf:] “Yes.”

“That is un-reassuring,” Gloin said, finally speaking up again.

[Galadriel:] “Mithrandir? Why the Halfling?”

Bilbo straightened up. He had often wondered the same question, but Gandalf had never given him a straight answer.

[Gandalf:] “I don’t know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Bilbo couldn’t help the smile that broke across his face at Gandalf’s words.

“He’s not the only one you give courage to,” Thorin said over his nephews. Bilbo nearly missed the sound Kili made, and Fili’s sigh, his heart was pounding.

“Excuse us, Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said as he and Kili got up. Ori quickly shifted away from Bilbo, leaving enough room for Kili to squish between them. Seeing that Fili was planning on sitting next to his brother as well Bilbo moved closer to Thorin, falling back into his shoulder as Fili sat down. Thorin steadied him as everyone settled into their new seats. Kili was chatting amicably with Ori, Fili nodding next to him neither of them looking at Bilbo and Thorin who were glaring at them. Both brothers were sprawled out, taking up far more space than was really necessary. This caused Bilbo and Thorin to be far closer to each other then they were used to. Thorin opened his mouth only to snap it closed just as fast. Bilbo wanted to say something about Thorin’s previous comment but his heart was beating so loud and fast he was surprised the rest of the company hadn’t heard it.

[Galadriel, telepathically:] “Do not be afraid, Mithrandir.”

[Galadriel, aloud:] “You are not alone.”

[Galadriel:] “Ae boe i le eliathon, im tulithon.” [subtitle: If you should ever need my help, I will come.]

“She’s a tricky elf.”

“Aye, wonder what she could do to help,” Dwalin said. The screen showed a montage of the company traveling towards the Misty Mountains, the music swelling again.

“Wasn’t that the last time our journey was in any way normal?” Bofur asked.

“This trip hasn’t been normal at all.”

“Compared to everything that has happened since we entered the Misty Mountains I’d say it was pretty normal.”

“Oh that’s right the Goblins are coming up. You get to see our amazing escape from them now Uncle Bilbo,” Kili said grinning over at him.

“And we get to see how you got out of the tunnels on yer own,” Dwalin added. The mention of the goblin tunnels had Bilbo’s stomach churning. He really did not want to relive his experience with Gollum. It would be even worse with the dwarves watching.

The screen changed to the company walking along the treacherous mountain path as rain poured down on them.

[Thorin:] “Hold on!”

When screen-Bilbo nearly slipped off the path Thorin stiffened.

“Thanks, Dwalin,” Bilbo said.

“Like I’d let ye fall,” Dwalin snorted.

[Thorin:] “We must find shelter!”

[Dwalin:] “Watch out!”

“I could have gone with forgetting this part.”

“Forget it? I’ll remember that day for the rest of me life.”

“We know yer amazed with the giants, ye nearly got yerself killed proving that.”

[Balin:] “This is no thunderstorm; it’s a thunder battle! Look!”

[Bofur:] “Well bless me, the legends are true. Giants; Stone Giants!”

[Thorin:] “Take cover: you’ll fall!”

[Kili:] “What’s happening?”

“When your not in immediate danger of dying, it is rather amazing.”

[Fili:] "Kili! Grab my hand! Ki..."

Fili and Kili were holding tight to each other, as if making up for the separation their screen-selves had to experience. Thorin shifted, his arm moving to rest on the back of the couch, his fingertips able to brush against Fili’s coat. The others were not much better. Those who had been separated making sure they had some type of contact with each other.

[Thorin:] “No! No! Kili!”

Bilbo’s heart hurt with how panicked screen-Thorin had been, thinking one of his nephews had died before his eyes. He hoped Thorin never had cause to sound like that again.

[Balin:] “We’re all right! We’re alive!”

[Bofur:] “Where’s Bilbo? Where’s the Hobbit?”

[Ori:] “There!”

[Dwalin:] “Get him!”

“Thank you for trying,” Bilbo said smiling towards Bofur and Ori before turning to Dwalin as well. When screen-Thorin jumped down Bilbo shifted slightly closer to him, reveling in the warmth and knowledge that Thorin was safe next to him.

“Thank you,” he whispered. Bilbo jumped when Thorin slipped and nearly fell.

“Your welcome,” Thorin said, his voice sounding like a deep rumble with how close Bilbo was.

[Dwalin:] “I thought we’d lost our burglar.”

[Thorin:] “He’s been lost ever since he left home. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us. Dwalin!”

“I was wrong to say that,” Thorin said looking at Bilbo, unconsciously moving his arm closer around his shoulders.

“I know that now,” Bilbo smiled up at Thorin and moved a bit closer.

Chapter Text

[Dwalin:] “It looks safe enough.”

“Can believe I didn’t think it’d be a trap,” Dwalin groaned.

“All of us are to blame for not thinking about it.”

[Thorin:] “Search to the back; caves in mountains are seldom unoccupied.”

[Dwalin:] “There’s nothing here.”

“It’s beneath ye.”

[Gloin:] “Right then! Let’s get a fire started.”

[Thorin:] “No, No fires, not in this place. Get some sleep. We start at first light.”

[Balin:] “We were to wait in the mountains until Gandalf joined us. That was the plan.”

[Thorin:] “Plans change. Bofur, take the first watch.”

“Thankfully they don’t change much,” Balin said. The screen switched to the white warg sniffing the ground, Azog on its back.

[Azog:] [subtitle: The scent is fresh! They have taken the mountain pass.]

“Even if we hadn’t been caught, he still would’ve found us.”

They were looking back at the company, focusing on screen-Bilbo.

“Uncle Bilbo, you should really be asleep.”

“You need all the rest you can get for Goblin Town.” The brothers said laughing a little. When they saw screen-Bilbo grab his bag and walking stick, their grins turned to frowns.

“What’re you doing laddie?” Balin asked. Bilbo had nearly forgotten this part.

“You’re not leaving are you?” Bombur said looking over at Bilbo. He sighed and nodded, ashamed of his past actions and words. To think he could have left them before he ever really got to know the company. While Goblin Town and Gollum terrified him greatly, he was thankful they had stopped him from leaving. Screen-Bofur was standing watch. He jumped up as he past him.

[Bofur:] “Where do you think you’re going?”

[Bilbo:] “Back to Rivendell.”

[Bofur:] “No, no, you can’t turn back now, you’re part of the Company. You’re one of us.”

“Yeah!”

“You can’t leave us for elves!”

[Bilbo:] “I’m not though, am I? Thorin said I should never have come, and he was right. I’m not a Took, I’m a Baggins, I don’t know what I was thinking. I should never have run out my door.”

“But ye are a Took and ye are part of this company,” Nori said with a rather serious face.

“Important member too,” Bilbo thought he heard someone whisper. The screen showed Thorin had been awake, staring at the wall while he listened.

“You knew Uncle?”

“Of course I knew,” Thorin said, frowning at Fili.

“I am sorry for my words,” Thorin whispered.

“You have already apologized, and besides what I say is far worse than anything you have,” Bilbo whispered back. He dreaded having to hear his outburst once again.

[Bofur:] “You’re homesick; I understand.”

[Bilbo:] “No, you don’t, you don’t understand! None of you do, you’re dwarves. You used to-to this life, to living on the road, never settling in one place, not belonging anywhere.”

Many of the dwarves were shocked at Bilbo’s words. How could he have said that? Wasn’t he the one always talking about how he would help them get home.

“I’m so sorry,” Bilbo said his head in his hands. He hated that he had said those words and he hated how hurt Bofur had been by them. Seeing how upset Bilbo was the dwarves realized that their Bilbo didn’t think that way, not anymore and that was what mattered.

“It’s suprisin it took ye this long to snap at us,” Gloin said too much agreement. Bilbo felt his shoulder sink in disbelief as he looked up at all of them.

“But that was a horrible thing for me to say.”

“Well Uncle did push you to it,” Fili said causing Thorin to stiffen but say no words in his own defense.

“Some of us have said worse about you,” Dori said giving everyone who protested a look. Bilbo had of course known that, but seeing the dwarves attempting to cheer him up made him feel better than their words ever could.

“Are you sure?”

“Course, yer our hobbit Bilbo and nothin’ll change that,” Nori said with a grin.

[Bilbo:] “I am sorry, I didn’t...”

“I can’t believe you heard all this.”

“They’re right, I pushed you to it.”

[Bofur:] “No, you’re right. We don’t belong anywhere. I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do.”

“No don’t go,”

[Bofur:] “What’s that?”

His sword was glowing blue and everyone knew exactly what that meant. The air in the room became tense as they all prepared for what was to come next.

[Thorin:] “Wake up. Wake up!”

The company on screen was falling and sliding down the network of chutes. When they landed there were several groans throughout the room, yellowed bruises once again flaring up at the reminder of how they were formed.

“Ye really did jus slip away,” Dwalin said in amazement as screen-Bilbo huddled on the floor to avoid being caught as the rest of them were hauled away.

“I told ye,”

“You really are good at sneaking,” Ori said.

“Thank you though really that was mostly luck.” What followed was enough bad luck to make up for it. There were some chuckles as screen-Bilbo snuck behind a railing.

“You were going to come after us?” Balin asked when he drew his sword and started down the path.

“I didn’t really know what else to do,” Bilbo said. He winced as many dwarves jumped when the goblin leaped out. They watched as screen-Bilbo barely managed to avoid being stabbed, and froze when they both went over the side of the platform.

“Ye never mentioned that laddie,” Oin said looking Bilbo over even across the distance. The hobbit had insisted he had been fine and Oin had a stubborn dwarf king to tend to, so he hadn’t pushed the issue too hard. Seeing this though, he was very skeptical that the hobbit had been nearly as fine as he had said he was.

“It really wasn’t important,”

“You fell down the side of a cliff what do you mean that wasn’t important?” Balin said staring at Bilbo like he had two heads.

“There were others who needed more attention and I was fine, I swear.”

“I’m givin ya a full examination after this, and ye won’t get out of it this time,” Oin huffed. He would be watching closely to see what he should check for. The fall itself could have caused broken bones or internal bruising, but seeing as how Bilbo had managed to avoid anyone noticing injuries he suspected that wasn’t the case. Thorin was silent and very stiff which worried Bilbo slightly, Thorin always had something to say when he did something stupid.

The screen shifted to showing the company being forced along the path, music starting up. Around him, the others relaxed a little, slightly comforted knowing exactly what was going to happen. He, on the other hand, had no idea what was going to happen to his dwarves. There had been stories but as they had learned stories were nowhere near as real as watching it happen.

[Great Goblin:] “I feel a song coming on!”

“Snip snap, the black crack
Grip, grab, pinch, and nab
Batter and beat
Milk ‘em, stammer and squeak!
Pound pound,  far underground
Down, down, down in Goblin Town
With a swish and smack
And a whip and a crack
Everybody talks when they’re on our rack
Pound pound, far underground
Down, down, down in Goblin Town
Hammer and torch, get out your knockers and gongs
You won’t last long on the end of my prongs
Clish, clash, crush and smash
Bang, break, shiver and shake
You can yell and yelp
But there ain’t no help
Pound pound, far underground
Down, down, down in Goblin Town

The song made Bilbo feel ill. He couldn’t imagine any of that happening to his dwarves and he found himself looking around again, checking them over. Even knowing they were fine didn’t stop the worry that twisted his gut. The sight of the Great Goblin didn’t help the feeling. Nothing should ever be so grotesque in his opinion.

[Great Goblin:] “Catchy, isnt’ it? It’s one of my own compositions”

[Balin:] “That’s not a song, it’s an abomination!”

A round of agreement came with the declaration.

[Great Goblin:] “Abominations, mutations, deviations…that all you’re gonna find down here.”

[Great Goblin:] “Now, who would be so bold as to come armed into my kingdom? Spies? Thieves? Assassins?”

[Grinnah:] “Dwarves, Your Malevolence.”

[Great Goblin:] “Dwarves?”

[Grinnah:] “We found them on the front porch.”

[Great Goblin:] “Well, don’t just stand there; search them! Every crack, every crevice.”

The goblins swarmed the company, pulling at anything they could reach. There were grumbles as they watched their belongings once again be ripped away. Dori scowled at Nori when a bag of elvish knickknacks were dumped onto the platform.

“Oh, ye can’t still be mad about that.”

“I can and I am.”

[Goblin King:] “Made in Rivendell? Bah – Second Age, couldn’t give it away!”

Both screen and real Nori shrugged as they were given disappointed looks. He didn’t regret his decision, just that he had been caught and lost the loot.

[Nori:] “Just a couple of keepsakes.”

[Great Goblin:] “What are you doing in these parts? Speak!”

[Oin:] “Don’t worry, lads – I’ll handle this.”

There were several groans and Bilbo didn’t even question why.

[Great Goblin:] “No tricks! I want the truth!  Warts and all!”  

[Oin:] “You’re going to have to speak up. Your boys have flattened my trumpet.n ”

[Great Goblin:] “I’ll flatten more than your trumpet!”

“That wasn’t yer best idea,” Gloin said.

“My best idea? Not really, you alright brother?” Oin said making Gloin sigh.

[Bofur:] “If it’s more information you’re wanting, I’m the one you should speak to! We were on the road…well, it’s not so much a road as a path…actually, it’s not even that, come to think of it, it’s more like a track. Anyway, the point is we were on this road, like a path, like a track, and then we weren’t! Which is a problem, because we were supposed to be in Dunland last Tuesday.”

“Why did you think that was a good idea?”

“It’s betta than nothin. We can’t all stall like you,” Bofur said.

[Great Goblin:] “If they will not talk, we’ll make them squawk! Bring out the Mangler! Bring out the Bone Breaker! Start with the youngest.”

“What?!” Bilbo yelled, turning to look at Ori with wide eyes when the Great Goblin pointed at him.

“He was wrong, Kili and I are younger than him,” Fili said nonchalantly as if it made the whole thing alright.

“That’s supposed to make me feel better? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine Bilbo you sound like Dori,”

“I see nothing wrong with that,” both hobbit and dwarf said causing Ori to sink down and cover his face.

“Nothing happened Bilbo calm down,” Thorin tried to placate. Bilbo looked at him and glanced again at Ori. If Thorin was wrong he would pay.

[Thorin:] “Wait.”

“See, I made sure nothing happened,” Thorin said.

“Placing the target on your back does not make me feel better in the slightest.”

[Great Goblin:] “Well, well, well, look who it is. Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror; King under the Mountain. Oh, but I’m forgetting, you don’t have a mountain. And you’re not a king. Which makes you nobody, really. I know someone who would pay a pretty price for your head. Just the head, nothing attached. Perhaps you know of whom I speak, an old enemy of yours. A Pale Orc astride a White Warg.”

“I was naive to think him dead.”

“Nothing should have been able to survive that wound. There was no way for you to know.”

[Thorin:] “Azog the Defiler was destroyed. He was slain in battle long ago.”

[Great Goblin:] “So you think his defiling days are done, do you?”

Somehow the tiny scribe goblin was even uglier than all the other goblins. Bilbo really hadn’t thought that would be possible.

[Great Goblin:] “Send word to the Pale Orc; tell him I have found his prize.”

As the screen followed the goblin down into the dark, Bilbo shifted uneasily. When they saw screen-Bilbo blinking awake, he leaned back a little. The goblin he had fallen with was nearly dead on the rocks just a little bit away from him.

“Good thing those mushrooms were there,” Balin said, leaning forwards. Everyone seemed to take a keen interest in what the screen was seeing. Bilbo was so not looking forwards to the next few minutes.

“Wha is that?” Dwalin asked as Gollum came on screen, his large eyes shining in the dark. Bilbo shivered and leaned into Thorin.

“His name is Gollum.”

[Gollum:] “Yes. Yes. Yes! Yes! Gollum. Gollum.”

“It doesn’t see you right Uncle Bilbo?” Fili asked. Bilbo couldn’t bring himself to answer, his silence saying more than enough. Thorin’s arm moved closer around him and Fili moved a little closer. The dwarves jumped and cursed when the goblin suddenly woke up. Gollum bashed it on the head with a rock until it was once again unconscious. As he did so a golden ring fell out of his pocket. Bilbo’s hand went to the pocket where the very same ring still rested.

“Strange thing for a creature like that to have.”

[Gollum:] “Nasty goblinses. Better than old bones, Precious; better than nothing.”

“Is that not some type of goblin?” Dori asked looking at Bilbo. He shook his head.

“Who’s Precious?” Bilbo shuddered hearing Kili say the word, his reaction concerning the company.

“Bilbo?”

“Can we just get through this? I’ve tried very hard to not remember this part of the journey.”

Screen-Bilbo came out of his hiding spot, earning comments of disagreement from the dwarves, and picked up the ring.

“Do you still have that?”

“Yes.”

“Can we see it, Uncle Bilbo?”

“No.” The idea of Fili or Kili having the ring gave him a bad feeling. There was something off, something wrong, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Bilbo ignored the looks he got for his brusque answer. Screen-Bilbo followed the sound of Gollum’s singing.

[Smeagol:] “Too many boneses, Precious! Nothing of flesh!”

[Gollum:] “Shut up! Get its skin off. Start with its head.”

“Is there something wrong with it?”

“Look at it!”

[Smeagol, singing:] “The cold hard lands, they bites our hands, they gnaws our feet. The rocks and stones, they’re like old bones, all bare of meat. Cold as death, they have no breath, it’s good to eat!”

Gollum was beating the goblin with a rock as he sung, which made the short song all the more sinister. The sword was glowing, catching Gollum’s attention.

“Hide Bilbo.”

“Never give away your hiding place.” As Gollum beat the goblin, the sword began to flicker before finally dimming completely.

“Please get out of there.”

Screen-Bilbo looked around the stone, freezing when he realized Gollum was no longer there. Gollum is seen paddling silently towards Bilbo.

“Run it through.”

“Get outta there.”

“Tell me you are fine after this,” Thorin whispered.

“I’m here aren’t I?” Thorin looked down and Bilbo was surprised to see he was frowning with his brows furrowed. Gollum sneaks onto the ledge above screen-Bilbo and jumps down in front of him. The room was completely silent, everyone watching with bated breaths.

[Gollum:] “Bless us and splash us, Precious! That’s a meaty mouthful.”

“Good, keep that letter-opener between ya no matter what,” Dwalin said leaning forwards. His hands were balled up on his knees and his jaw locked. He hated having to watch as Bilbo, so obviously unskilled with even holding a sword, had to fend for his life. He was the protector of the company, a warrior, and being unable to protect the weakest member made him angry.

[Gollum:] “Aaahh. Gollum. Gollum. Ack”

[Bilbo:] “Back. Stay back. I’m warning you, don’t come any closer.”

[Gollum:] “It’s got an elfish blade, but it’s not an Elfs. Not an Elfs, no. What is it, Precious? What is it?”

[Bilbo:] “My name is Bilbo Baggins.”

[Gollum:] “Bagginses? What is a Bagginses, Precious?”

[Bilbo:] “I’m a Hobbit from the Shire.”

[Gollum:] “Oh! We like Goblinses, batses, and fishes, but we hasn’t tried Hobbitses before. Is it soft? Is it juicy?”

“What?”

“He tried to eat you?”

“Why I-”

“Tell me he’s dead.”

“Ah no, he’s not dead.” There was a pause.

“What?! If something threatens to eat you, you kill it,” Dori said staring at Bilbo in disbelief.

“It’s...complicated.”

[Bilbo:] “Now, now, K-keep your distance! I’ll use this if I have to!”

“Get away from him!”

[Bilbo:] “I don’t want any trouble, do you understand? Just show me the way to get out of here, and I’ll be on my way.”

[Gollum:] “Why, is it lost?”

[Bilbo:] “Yes, yes, and I want to get unlost as soon as possible.”

“You should never admit your lost.”

[Gollum:] “Ooh! We knows! We knows safe paths for Hobbitses. Safe paths in the dark.”

[Gollum:] “Shut up.”

[Bilbo:] “I didn’t say anything.”

[Gollum:] “Wasn’t talking to you.”

“He’s mad, absolutely mad.”

[Gollum:] “But yes, we was, Precious, we was.”

[Bilbo:] “Look, uh, I don’t know what your game is, but I ”

[Gollum:] “Games? We love games, doesn’t we, Precious? Does it like games? Does it? Does it? Does it like to play?”

[Bilbo:] “Maybe?”

“It was talking about eating you and now it wants to play a game? What is happening?” Ori asked, leaning close to Dori.

[Gollum:] “What has roots as nobody sees, is taller than trees. Up, up, up it goes, and yet, never grows.”

“Riddles?” Balin asked. Bilbo nodded, relaxing slightly. This part hadn’t been so bad; if he didn’t count what Gollum wanted if he had won.

[Bilbo:] “...The mountain.”

“Are you really good at riddles?” Ori asked.

“I’m good enough for this.”

[Gollum:] “Yess, yess, oh, let’s have another one, eh? Yes, come on, do it again, do it—do it again. Ask us.”

[Gollum:] “No! No more riddles. Finish him off. Finish him now. Gollum! Gollum!”

[Bilbo:] “No! No, no, no. I wa—I want to play. I do. I want to play. I can see you are very good at this. S—so why don’t we have a game of riddles? Yes, just, just you and me.”

“What’re ye doin? Jus kill it.”

[Gollum:] “Yes! Yes, just, just—just us.”

[Bilbo:] “Yes. Yes. And—and if I win, you show me the way out.”

[Gollum:] “Yes. Yes ”

[Gollum:] “And if it loses? What then?”

[Gollum:] “Well, if it loses, Precious, we will eats it!”

“No!”

“Don’t agree with it Uncle Bilbo.”

“Get out of there.”

[Gollum:] “If Baggins loses, we eats it whole.”

[Bilbo:] “Fair enough.”

“Bilbo!” Cried several dwarves.

“If anythin tells ye they’re goin te eat ye yer answer shouldn’t be ‘fair enough’ it should be a sword through the heart!” Dwalin said.

“It was a stupid idea, I know, but I’m alive and well now so don’t worry.”

“I will not stop worrying until you’re back with us,” Dori said. The only reason Bilbo was not sitting right next to Ori where he could be sure he was fine was because Thorin looked like he needed him far more. Thorin had his arm protectively over Bilbo’s shoulders and looked paler then a sheet. His entire body was rigid and the only thing that seemed to be keeping him from trying to kill the creature on screen was that Bilbo was right there next to him. That was fine, good even, but Bilbo was still sleeping next to Ori for the remainder of the journey and nothing would convince him otherwise.

[Gollum:] “Well, Baggins first.”

[Bilbo:] “Thirty white horses on a red hill. First they champ, then they stamp, then they stand still.”

“Oh! I want to try and figure out the riddles,” Kili said excitedly.

“That would be fun,” Bofur agreed.

“You are terrible at riddles,” Fili said.

“Then you should help.”

“It’s teeth right?” Ori said.

“Yes,” Bilbo sighed wishing they would just let him get through this.

“I could’ve gotten that.”

[Gollum:] “Teeth?”

Screen-Bilbo looked unhappy, causing Gollum to jump around in joy.

[Gollum:] “Teeth!! Yes, my Precious. But we—we—we only have nine.”

“That is disgusting,” Dori said.

“Good, keep something between you two,” Dwalin said as screen-Bilbo moved to keep a rock between him and Gollum.

[Gollum:] “Our turn. Voiceless it cries, wingless flutters, toothless bites, mouthless mutters.”

[Bilbo:] “Just a minute.”

“What about this one?”

“Wind?” Balin asked and Bilbo nodded.

[Gollum:] “Oh, oh! We knows. We knows!”

[Gollum:] “Shut up.”

[Bilbo:] “Wind. It’s wind! Of course it is.”

[Gollum:] “Very clever, Hobbitses, very clever.”

“Ye never shoulda put yer sword away.”

[Bilbo:] “Ah, ah, ah, ah. A—a box without hinges, key, o—or, or lid; yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

“That’s a good one,”

“I’m going to get this one,” Kili said frowning as he tried to think of the answer.

[Gollum:] “A box...and a lid...and then a key...."

[Bilbo:] “Well?”

[Gollum:] “It’s nasty. Uh, box, uh...”

[Bilbo:] “Give up?”

[Gollum:] “Give us a chance, Precious, give us a chance!”

“This is a hard one,”

“Is it eggs?” Bofur said just as Gollum also figured it out.

[Gollum:] “Eggses! Eggses! [He laughs.] What crunchy little eggses, yes. Grandmother taught us to suck them, yes.”

“Never turn yer back on yer enemy,” Gloin said when screen-Bilbo turned around at the sound of a bat. When he turned back Gollum was gone making some of the dwarves curse. Bilbo felt Thorin’s arm tighten as Gollum’s voice began to echo through the cavern eerily.

[Gollum:] “Ahh. We have one for you: All things it devours, birds, beasts, trees, flowers. Gnaws iron, bites steel, grinds hard stones to meal. Answer us.”

[Bilbo:] “Give me a moment, please, I gave you a good long while.”

Kili wasn’t even trying to answer this one, leaning forwards anxiously for screen-Bilbo to figure it out.

[Bilbo:] “I don’t know this one.”

“What? Yer supposed to be good at these,” Bofur said. He hated this, it wasn’t right. Bilbo was not supposed to have been through this. Why hadn’t he told him?

“That doesn’t mean I know all of them,”

[Gollum:] “Is it tasty? Is it scrumptious? Is it crunchable?”

“Stay away from him!” They shouted, some even raising their fists as if they could fight Gollum. Gloin would have groaned if he hadn’t been so tense as Bilbo wildly swung his sword.

[Bilbo:] “Let me think. Let me think.”

[Gollum:] “It’s stuck. Bagginses is stuck.”

“Come on Bilbo, you have to get it.”

[Gollum:] “Time’s up.”

“Look out!”

[Bilbo:] “Time. Ti—the answer is time.”

“Thank Mahal,”

“Tell me it isn’t that close again,” Balin said.

“Not in that way no.”

[Bilbo:] “Actually, it wasn’t that hard.”

[Gollum:] “Last question. Last chance.”

[Bilbo:] “Ah, uh....”

[Gollum:] “Ask us. ASK US!!”

“Why don’t you just kill it?”

[Bilbo:] “Yes, yes, alright.”

“You got this Uncle Bilbo, come up with a really hard one.”

[Bilbo:] “What have I got in my pocket?”

[Gollum:] “That’s not fair. It’s not fair! It’s against the rules!”

“That’s not a riddle though.”

“Well, he asked for a question.”

[Gollum:] “Ask us another one.”

[Bilbo:] “No, no, no, no. You said ‘Ask me a question.’ Well, that is my question. What have I got in my pocket?”

“It’s the ring right?”

“Yes, Kili it is.”

“I got one!”

[Gollum:] “Three guesses, Precious. It must give us three.”

[Bilbo:] “Three guesses. Very well, guess away.”

[Gollum:] “Handses!”

“Good, don’t make any simple mistakes like that.”

[Bilbo:] “Wrong, guess again.”

[Gollum:] “Fishbones, goblins’ teeth, wet shells, bat’s wings ... Knife!”

[Gollum:] “Oh, shut up.”

[Bilbo:] “Wrong again. Last guess.”

[Gollum:] “String!”

[Gollum:] “Or nothing.”

[Bilbo:] “Two guesses at once; wrong both times.”

“Pathetic creature.” Someone said as Gollum fell to the floor crying when he lost the game.

[Bilbo:] “So, come then, I won the game, you promised to show me the way out.”

[Gollum:] “Did we say so, Precious? Did we say so?”

“Yes ye did, this is why ye don’t make deals like that Bilbo,” Nori said, leaning forwards on the armrest.

[Gollum:] “What has it got in its pocketses?”

[Bilbo:] “That’s no concern of yours. You lost.”

“Now get outta there. I don’t think it’ll like if it realizes ye got that ring.”

“That’s a slight understatement.”

[Gollum:] “Lost? Lost? Lost?”

Gollum starts to approach him, reaching into his pocket. Realizing that it is empty, Gollum freezes and begins searching his entire body.

[Gollum:] “Where is it? Where is it? No! Ahh! Where is it? No! No!!!”

“It’s just a ring,” Bombur said as Gollum tore apart the cave looking for the gold ring.

[Gollum:] “Lost! Curses and splashes, my precious is lost!”

“Just run away while it’s distracted.”

[Bilbo:] “What have you lost?”

[Gollum:] “Mustn't ask us! Not its business! No! Gollum, Gollum.”

Gollum is sobbing as he looks into the lake. As he does so his face shifts into hatred.

[Gollum:] “What has it got in its nasty little pocketses?”

Screen-Bilbo clutched the ring tightly behind his back and Gollum turned to face him snarling in anger.

[Gollum:] “He stole it. He stole it! Ahh! HE STOLE IT!”

“Run!” was shouted from nearly everyone. Dwalin and Gloin were on their feet. Fili was nearly as close as Thorin, Kili leaning against his brother. All of them felt awful for having been suspicious of Bilbo when he made it back to the company. He had been through enough. Even without any words they came to an agreement. Bilbo Baggins would never find himself alone to deal with the horrors of the world. This was far too stressful for them and no one wanted to lose him. The only thing keeping them from asking the voice to bring Gollum here or put them back in the Misty Mountains was the fact that Bilbo was there with them.

“I’m fine see?” Bilbo tried to placate them. All he got was a look from Oin that made even him doubt that statement.

Chapter Text

“Wait what about Bilbo?” Dori asked as the screen switched back to the company in Goblin Town. Torture devices were being wheeled towards the platform and the Great Goblin began to sing. While Bilbo was glad they were no longer on him, he didn’t want to see any of them be hurt.

“Yeah, we don’t wanna see us, we know what happens,” Kili said crossing his arms.

“I don’t!”

“But nothing really happens to us, I mean we escape just fine.”

“So do I,”

“I’ve yet to see that,” Bilbo stared at him with wide eyes gesturing helplessly towards him and then back at himself before sighing in exasperation. No one else saw anything wrong with Kili’s logic.

[Great Goblin:] “Bones will be shattered, necks will be wrung! You’ll be beaten and battered, from racks you’ll be hung. You will lie down here and never be found, down in the deep of Goblin Town.”

Bilbo shivered at the words. Even knowing they had escaped, he still felt nauseous at the thought. The goblins were going through their weapons. One picked up Thorin’s sword and unsheathed it, recognizing the blade and screeching in horror. Any goblin who saw it, including the Great Goblin, ran from it in fear.

“I really do like that sword.”

[Great Goblin:] “I know that sword! It is the Goblin Cleaver, the Biter, the blade that sliced a thousand necks.”

The goblins turned actively hostile, beginning to leap at the company and whip them with ropes. Bilbo straightened, his hand curling into Thorin’s coat.

“We’re fine,” Thorin whispers only for Bilbo to glare at him.

[Great Goblin:] “Slash them! Beat them! Kill them! Kill them all! Cut off his head!”

“You nearly lost your head twice that night?” Bilbo asked as screen-Thorin was pushed to the ground. A goblin stood over him ready to strike when a blast of white light knocked them all to the side.

“But I didn’t,” Thorin said patting Bilbo’s hand that was clinging to his coat. The light faded to reveal Gandalf wielding Glamdring and his staff. Bilbo felt marginally better now that Gandalf was there.

[Gandalf:] “Take up arms. Fight. Fight!”

The dwarves on screen are getting up, being the first to recover from the blast. From the ground, the Great Goblin looks up and sees Gandalf’s sword as he kills goblins.

[Great Goblin:] “He wields the FoeHammer, the Beater, bright as daylight!”

They reach their weapons and begin passing them back to their owners. Bilbo is once again amazed by the teamwork of the company. Screen-Oin grabbed his flattened ear trumpet and screen-Nori fell to the ground while fighting. Bilbo felt his heart stop when the Great Goblin rushed the fallen dwarf.

[Dwarf:] “Nori!”

But then screen-Thorin was stepping in front of him, fending off the Goblin King. The Great Goblin stumbled back, falling into his throne and crushing it with his weight before plunging off the side of the platform.

[Gandalf:] “Follow me. Quick! Run!”

The company was running, cutting down goblins right and left as they ran from the throne room after Gandalf. Then the screen switched, showing Bilbo also running.

[Gollum:] “Give it to us!”

Screen-Bilbo was in a side cave looking for a way out as Gollum ran past the entrance. There was an intake of breath as Bilbo threw himself into a crack only to get stuck halfway through. Gollum came crawling back to the entrance making Thorin wrap his hand around Bilbo’s. The music was soft, slowly growing in the background in a way that made Bilbo’s skin crawl.

[Gollum:] “It’s ours. It’s ours!”

Gollum snarls at him getting ever closer. The company is on the edge of their seats as screen-Bilbo struggled to slip through the crack, his buttons catching. They popped and hit Gollum in the face as he fell through the crack. There was an abrupt shift in the music as he fell on his back, the ring flying out of his pocket. Screen-Bilbo reached up to grab it, the eerie music in the background setting them all on edge. As the ring slid neatly, impossibly, onto his finger Bilbo held his breath, knowing what was going to happen in the next instant. Thorin was leaning forwards, the music making him uneasy in a way he couldn’t quite explain as the ring went on and suddenly the Bilbo on screen was gone. Vanished.

“Did ye jus?”

“That’s not possible.”

“Bilbo?” Balin asked and Bilbo was really not looking forward to the thirteen pairs of eyes now boring into him.

“I don’t know,” he said because really what else could he say? He had no idea why the ring turned him invisible or how Gollum had gotten it.

“Do you-does it-”

“You can turn invisible Uncle Bilbo?” Kili said looking as though that was just about the coolest thing he had ever heard.

“Yes,”

“Can I try it? Imagine everything that we could do! I could-”

“No!” Bilbo was surprised he was not the only one denying Kili. Thorin was looking at Kili sternly, no doubt warning him what would happen if he did get his hands on the ring and used it for pranks like he wanted to. Balin, though, was staring at Bilbo with narrowed eyes looking like he was thinking very hard.

“Why didn’t ye tell us, Bilbo?” Bofur asked and Bilbo realized he didn’t actually know why. Turning invisible would be a great asset to him as a burglar and besides it being gold there wouldn’t really be any reason for the dwarves to take it from him. But there was just something about the ring that made him unwilling to let the others touch it, or even know about it. He wanted it for himself and he was perfectly willing to use it whenever he needed to. That was only part of the issue though. He couldn’t deny that the thought of the dwarves having the ring scared him in a way he didn’t want to deal with.

“I don’t know...I guess, well it didn’t really come up.”

“Didn’t come up? It could have been brought up plenty of times.” Thorin said focusing on him once again. He drew back a little from Bilbo.

“What laddie, did ye think we’d take it or something?” Gloin said and Bilbo knew he was trying to make a joke but it was a really bad one and unfortunately true. Even though it would make sense for the dwarves to let him keep it, the fear of them taking it and of them having it had been what kept him from telling them. Bilbo didn’t want to answer them, biting his lip as he waited for their reaction.

“You did,” Balin said and his hurt tone felt like a stab straight to Bilbo’s heart. Bilbo didn’t know what to say because it was true but not in the way they thought. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them, he did, he trusted them perhaps more than anyone else besides his parents. He was afraid, which they knew, but not of them, it was of their reactions and confound it all this was too confusing! He saw the way they were looking at him and each one was like an ice cold dagger was stabbing into his chest. But no words came to mind and the company didn’t say anything either. Thorin had removed his arm and there was now space between them, the tantalizing warmth of his coat so close, yet so far from his reach. Fili had also shifted away and Bilbo didn’t think he had ever felt more alone amongst the company than right then. Sitting among those he considered family, but unable to reach out.

The screen, which had paused right when he became invisible, started up once again to a silent room. There was no music as the world turned grey and blurry. Bilbo shivered, seeing the world like that again. For all the uses of the ring, that was one very unpleasant side effect.

[Gollum:] “Thief! Baggins!”

Bilbo didn’t notice, too wrapped up in his shame, but there was a small sigh of relief throughout the room when Gollum ran past him. They were hurt, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still concerned. The screen switched back to the company as they ran through Goblin Town. Bilbo wanted to relax because, on one hand, the attention was no longer on him and the ring. But at the same time. There were so many goblins and there were only thirteen dwarves and a wizard and did they really make it out alright? Bilbo was sure he was going to age ten years watching all this.

[Gandalf:] “Quickly!”

[A dwarf:] “Faster!”

[Dwalin:] “Post!”

A few dwarves chuckled at the clever idea, but it was strained.

[Dwalin:] “Charge!”

They charged the goblins, sweeping them to the side. Screen-Dwalin took out his beloved axes and began to hack away in a flurry of movement, the rest of the company doing the same. Scree-Gloin killed a goblin and sent it down into the abyss, knocking other goblins off the bridges as it went. It was an amazing sight. The trolls had been extraordinarily impressive but this? It was on an entirely different level in Bilbo’s opinion. His dwarves were beyond skilled in his eyes. As goblin swung towards them on ropes, screen-Thorin took charge.

[Thorin:] “Cut the ropes!”

He and the others cut the ropes to a platform. The swinging goblin found themselves tangled on the platform. Screen-Kili was shown, his counterpart perking up as he was shown deflecting arrow after arrow. He grabbed a ladder and together the company used it to create a bridge and kill several goblins. Bilbo didn’t even know how they had thought of such tactics, especially on such short notice. Screen-Dwalin broke the ladder and they continued to run.

[Gandalf:] “Quickly!”

They cut the ropes on a platform, letting it swing across to the next path.

[Thorin:] “Jump!”

Only half the company manages to jump to the other path, the rest still hanging on. Goblins leap towards them and they fight them off as the platform swings back. They jump off and cut the ropes, causing the goblins to fall. The music swells seemingly with Bilbo’s nerves as Gandalf uses his staff to cut a boulder from the rock, sending it rolling down the path in front of them. It is a daring song, that made him sit forwards, anticipation gripping all of them, even though they knew what was going to happen. As they ran across a bridge the Great Goblin breaks through, stopping them in their tracks. Bilbo felt his heart stop as the dwarves were surrounded on all sides by hundreds of goblins. How had they managed to get out?

[Great Goblin:] “You thought you could escape me?”

The Great Goblin swung at Gandalf making him fall back.

[Great Goblin:] “What are you going to do now, wizard?”

Gandalf jumped forwards and stabbed the Great Goblin in the eye, making him let go of his mace.

[Great Goblin:] “Ow, ow, ow!”

He stepped forwards and slice the Goblin King’s belly and Bilbo held his breath.

[Great Goblin:] “That’ll do it.”

Gandalf swung once again and sliced his neck. The Great Goblin fell forwards, dead but his massive weight caused the bridge to break. The part with the company began to slide down the cliff side, the dwarves screaming. As the walls narrowed it slowed the bridge just enough that they weren’t killed on impact. Bilbo sighed as he saw the dwarves covered in wood but alive. Gandalf got out of the wreckage quickly and he turned to look at the dwarves.

[Bofur:] “Well, that could have been worse.”

“How were none of you impaled?” Bilbo asked, not able to keep his worry in any longer. But really with that much wood and weight, he was surprised none of them had been seriously injured if not killed.

“We have armor.”

“That is not a good enough excuse, that-that was-” Bilbo couldn’t even finish, too many scenarios running through his head of what could, and probably should, have happened to them.

[Dwalin:] “You’ve got to be joking!”

And to think the dwarves had been complaining about his reactions to Gollum. Somehow they managed to get themselves out of the rubble, screen-Kili looking up in horror. A massive swarm of what must have been thousands of goblins was running towards them.

[Kili:] “Gandalf!”

[Dwalin:] “There’s too many! We can’t fight them.”

[Gandalf:] “Only one thing will save us: daylight! Come on! Here, on your feet!”

The rest of them were pulled out, and once again they began to run. Then they were once again looking at Gollum. He leaps into a wider tunnel only to see daylight at the end.

[Gollum:] “Wait, my Precious! Wait! Gollum, Gollum.”

Screen-Bilbo, still invisible, approaches with his sword drawn. A commotion down the tunnel sent Gollum scurrying back towards Bilbo. He hid behind a rock as Gandalf and the dwarves rushed by, the invisible Bilbo watching them leave. They watched as screen-Bilbo came up behind Gollum and placed his sword at his throat.

“I thought ye said ye didn kill ‘im?” Dwalin said and while Bilbo wanted to be happy one of them had finally talked to him, the stress was still eating at him.

“I didn’t,” Bilbo replied watching as he drew the sword back only to pause when Gollum turned around. Unexpectedly he looked sad, almost human and screen-Bilbo lowered his sword.

“Ye pity him,” Bofur said and if he hadn’t seen what Gollum had put Bilbo through he might have as well.

“Yes,” Bilbo said. His screen-self took a few steps back, Gollum frowning and snarling at the sound. But he was running forwards and jumping over Gollum, hitting him in the head along the way. As Bilbo ran out of the cave there was a sigh of relief, now that they were all away from the monsters beneath the mountains. Gollum scrambled around but screen-Bilbo was already gone.

[Gollum:] “Baggins! Thief! Curse it and crush it, we hates it forever!”

“So you are a thief actually,” Nori said trying to break the silence. Bilbo frowned as a few others laughed. It was tense, and Bilbo knew they wouldn’t forget but they also all knew what was coming next.

Chapter Text

Still invisible, screen-Bilbo ran down the side of the mountain. The screen switched between him and the company, altering between the rich colors of the forest and the dull grays of the ring. The music gave everything a sense of urgency as they ran, which was quite appropriate Bilbo thought, considering what was going to happen. Gandalf stopped and counted as everyone ran into the small clearing as well.

[Gandalf:] “Five, six, seven, eight...Bifur, Bofur...that’s ten...Fili, Kili...that’s twelve...and Bombur that makes thirteen. Where’s Bilbo? Where is our Hobbit? Where is our hobbit?!”

“Oh, I nearly forgot about this part,” Bilbo sighed, happy there was a break between the goblins and Azog.

“How could you possibly forget this part?” Dori asked incredulously. He couldn’t imagine a single member of the company forgetting this part, or Bilbo’s words.

“This entire day was terrible and everything blurs together a bit. I remember now though.” Indeed he did remember how rude Thorin had been, and the dwarf’s shock when he had appeared.

[Dwalin:] “Curse the halfling! Now he’s lost?!”

[Gloin:] “I thought he was with Dori!”

[Dori:] “Don’t blame me!”

“Why would I have been with Dori?”

“You’re small,” Ori said as if that explained everything.

[Gandalf:] “Well, where did you last see him?”

[Nori:] “I think I saw him slip away, when they first collared us.”

[Gandalf:] “What happened exactly? Tell me!”

Screen-Bilbo finally caught up, hiding behind a tree as he caught his breath and listened to what the dwarves were saying. Thorin frowned, he hadn’t thought Bilbo had heard everything he had said. Then again he hadn’t known Bilbo could turn invisible. The reminder that Bilbo didn’t trust them enough to let him keep a magic ring still burned and made his frown deepen even more.

[Thorin:] “I’ll tell you what happened. Master Baggins saw his chance and he took it! He’s thought of nothing but his soft bed and his warm hearth since first he stepped out of his door! We will not be seeing our Hobbit again. He is long gone.”

Balin reached over and tapped Thorin’s arm, nodding silently towards Bilbo. The hobbit looked, well, sad. Thorin felt like someone had kicked him in the guts; knowing he was partly, if not mostly, responsible for his unhappiness.

“I did not mean that,”

“It’s fine if you did. You had no reason to trust me really at that point,” Bilbo said smiling slightly. On the inside, he was jumping for joy. If Thorin was actually semi-apologizing to him, let alone speaking to him then the current rift wouldn’t last much longer.

Thorin and the dwarves who heard what Bilbo had said were not so relieved. They wanted to be able to say he was wrong, but really they couldn’t. Most of them had been skeptical of Bilbo up till then. That had changed quite rapidly though.

[Bilbo:] “No, he isn’t.”

The company on screen looked shocked as he appeared, but their counterparts were smiling slightly. This had been what made them care for Bilbo Baggins.

[Gandalf:] “Bilbo Baggins! I’ve never been so glad to see anyone in my life!”

[Kili:] “Bilbo, we’d given you up!”

[Fili:] “How on earth did you get past the Goblins?!”

[Dwalin:] “How, indeed.”

“Well, we know now,” Dwalin grumbled making Bilbo’s shoulder sag.

“Why didn’t you tell us then?” Kili asked and it was the question Bilbo had been dreading. How to explain without making even more of a mess. He knew he needed to fix this now if the next part was to be anything better than absolutely awful. Bilbo’s silence as he thought made Kili’s frown deepen. Did Bilbo really not even trust them with an answer?

“You don’t have to tell us, laddie,” Balin said kindly but he too was hurt by Bilbo’s hesitance. His words startled Bilbo and he opened his mouth to reply when Kili leaned across his brother’s lap, both of them staring at him with puppy eyes.

“Why don’t you trust us?” Kili asked. Dori was pulling Kili back, whispering a reprimand while Thorin glared at his nephew. They wanted to know, but what if pushing made him trust them less? Bilbo wasn’t even paying attention to what was happening around him. He felt like someone had dumped a cold bucket of water over him.

“What do you mean? I trust you all with my life,” Bilbo said not even registering what he was saying. “I thought you didn’t trust me.”

“I thought ye said we didn’t trust ye laddie? That can’t be right though,” Oin said.

“No, you’re correct,”

“How’d ye come up with that idea?” Bofur asked, Bifur signing something behind him.

“How did you come up with the idea that I didn’t trust you?”

“You said you thought we’d take it if you showed it to us,” Balin explained.

“Oh, well yes, but not because I don’t trust you. It’s an irrational fear that I know is wrong. But every time I think to tell anyone about the ring I just-I don’t know how to explain it.” Bilbo’s face was in his hands, his fingers pulling at his hair. Confound it all why couldn’t he figure out a good explanation. There was silence and then warm hands were being wrapped around his own, untangling them. Bilbo looked up and froze because Thorin was so close, his large hands holding Bilbo’s tightly.

“You trust us?” He asked and Bilbo could feel his breath against his cheek.

“More than anyone else.” Thorin smiled at his answer and pulled back. Next to him, Kili and Fili were whispering and making gagging noises and Bilbo really just didn’t want to know. The rest of the company seemed to have relaxed and the whole atmosphere of the room was warmer and more comforting. Bilbo trusted them and really that was all that mattered at the current point in time. Turning back to the screen as it unpaused, they saw screen-Bilbo look around nervously. He slid the ring into his pocket without anyone but Gandalf noticing. His look of suspicion was not lost on any of them this time around.

[Gandalf:] “Well, what does it matter? He’s back!”

[Thorin:] “It matters! I want to know: why did you come back?”

[Bilbo:] “Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right, I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that’s  where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came back, cause you don’t have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.”

“That was so beautiful Uncle Bilbo,” Kili said.

“You should start giving all the company speeches,” Fili added with a grin as Thorin sighed. Honestly though, Thorin would not be opposed to hearing Bilbo make more speeches. He was very good at them.

“I’m really not that good, thank you though,” Bilbo said expecting some form of agreement. He only received a few scoffs. The screen shifted to Azog upon his white warg and the easy feeling was shattered. Their break was over, now was the roughest part of the journey to date.

[Azog:] [subtitle: Run them down! Tear them to pieces!]

Wargs surge forwards as they cut back to the company who realize the danger as howls fill the air.

[Thorin:] “Out of the frying pan...”

[Gandalf:] “...and into the fire! Run! RUN!”

The company started to run once again as wargs chased them down. On the horizon, the sun was setting just as the wargs caught up. The first warg jumped at screen-Bilbo, who barely managed to duck beneath the snapping jaws. Bilbo felt his hand be encased in a larger one, glancing down to see that Thorin had grabbed him first this time.

“I don remember any calls that close,” Dwalin said once again upset with himself for not looking after Bilbo. The warg charged at screen-Bilbo. He raised his sword and the warg impaled itself upon the blade, falling down dead at his feet.

“Was that your first kill Uncle Bilbo?”

“First kill is a warg, not bad,”

“Don’t get used to it,” Bilbo said flatly. He was glad he had managed to kill the warg, but it was still killing. The other wargs who managed to catch up were quickly taken care of by the company. However, their running came to a halt as they found themselves on the edge of a cliff.

“That was really bad luck.”

“That entire day was nothing but bad luck.”

[Gandalf:] “Up into the trees, all of you! Come on, climb! Bilbo, climb!”

Screen-Bifur throws an axe at a warg as screen-Bofur jumps off a rock into a tree. The others start to climb as well. Cutting back to screen-Bilbo they see that he is still trying to yank his sword out of the warg’s head. Thorin groaned.

“Don’t make that sound, if it wasn’t for that sword you would be dead,” Bilbo said.

“You should have called for one of us or something,”

“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself,” he retorted receiving snorts and small chuckles from the company. He glared at them only making them laugh harder.

[Thorin:] “They’re coming!”

Everyone had managed to climb into the trees except screen-Bilbo. He finally managed to pull his sword out. Turning around he saw several wargs running full speed at him. Thorin’s grip tightened and Bilbo repressed a sigh.

“I made it up there just fine.”

“Still to close of a call.”

“I had plenty of time, you had the close call,” Thorin didn’t answer him, instead he watched as the wargs rushed beneath the trees. Screen-Bilbo managed to climb up just in time to avoid their snapping jaws. Gandalf was shown bring a moth close on the tip of his staff, whispering something to it none of them could understand.

“What’s he doin?” Gloin asked.

“Maybe that’s how you call the Eagles,” Ori said.

“With a moth? That’d be strange,” Nori said causing Ori to shrug. They quieted as Azog appeared on the screen. Bilbo could feel Thorin grow rigid next to him, squeezing his hand in what he hoped was a comforting manner.

[Thorin:] “Azog?!”

“I was so naive.”

[Azog:] “Nuzdigid? Nuzdi gast?” [subtitle: Do you smell it? The scent of fear?] “Ganziligi unarug obod nauzdanish, Torin undag Trainob.” [subtitle: I remember your father reeked of it, Thorin son of Thrain.]

[Thorin:] “It cannot be.”

[Azog:] “Kod, Toragid biriz.” [subtitle: That one is mine.] “Wororida!” [subtitle: Kill the others!]

The room is silent as the wargs leap and claw at the trees. They merely held onto each other, they knew how this ended. They just had to remember they knew how this ended. Not that they wanted to see that part either.

[Azog:] “Sho gad adol!” [subtitle: Drink their blood!]

If it was possible, seeing what Azog was saying made everything worse. He shivered at the image that conjured in his head. A light tug on his hand had him leaning into the warmth of Thorin’s coat. Thorin’s eyes were still fixated on the screen and Bilbo didn’t know if he even noticed the action. The trees began to creak and crack beneath the onslaught, eventually toppling over. The company jumped from tree to tree until they were all perched in the very last one. Gandalf used his staff to light a pinecone on fire and threw it at the wargs before lighting more.

[Gandalf:] “Fili!”

Flaming pinecones are passed out and thrown down. The wargs run in terror of the flames, some even catching on fire as they flee. Azog roared in anger as the company cheers, but their joy is short-lived. Dori drew Ori closer as the tree began to fall, stopping to hang perilously off the cliff. Screen-Ori slipped, managing to grab Dori’s boot. But the combined weight makes Dori slip as well.

“It’s a good thing yer strong,” Nori said in what Bilbo thought was a joking manner. But Nori was tense, staring intently at the screen. Dori took one glance at him and reached out. Nori didn’t even have a chance to dodge his arm as Dori pulled him in closer.

[Ori:] “Aahhh! Oh! Oh no!”

[Dori:] “Mister Gandalf!”

[Dori:] “Hold on, Ori!”

Azog growled and the screen showed Thorin staring at him in hate and anger. As he pulled himself up the company tensed. He runs off the tree, sword drawn, towards Azog and if Bilbo wasn’t so horrified at what was to come he might even think Thorin made quite the figure. But then Azog was grinning down at him, spreading his arms as his warg leaped forward. Screen-Thorin was smashed onto the ground and Bilbo flinched into the coat. He wasn’t the only one. Those on the tree looked on in horror and shock. Thorin hadn’t known what was happening with the rest of his company after he charged Azog. Seeing how distressed he had made them made him frown. He didn’t regret his decision, but he wished they hadn’t had to witness it. Screen-Dori and Ori began slipping. Bilbo had only heard Ori the first time, but seeing Dori and him hang there made the entire situation a lot more stressful.

[Ori:] “Help!”

Azog and his warg wheeled around and charged at screen-Thorin again. Azog smashed his mace into him sending him flying back. Balin covered his mouth, trying to keep his emotions under control. Dwalin’s fingers were digging into his palms at not being able to help his king and friend.

[Balin:] “Nooo!”

As the warg approached him, the screen switched to show Bilbo managing to stand on the trunk. The warg clamped its jaws around screen-Thorin making him cry out in pain. Thorin could feel the phantom aches flare up, his free hand coming up to rest on them. Screen-Dwalin tried to get up onto the trunk, but his branch snapped.

[Dwalin:] “Thorin! Nooo!”

Screen-Thorin managed to free himself from the warg’s jaws and he was tossed onto a flat rock, his sword coming out of his hand. Bilbo is tense and barely breathing and he isn’t the only one.

[Azog:] “Biriz torag khobdudol.” [subtitle: Bring me the Dwarf’s head.]

As one of the riders approaches him, they see screen-Bilbo draw his sword. The blade glows a bright blue. Then they are back to the orc as he lines his sword up to decapitate Thorin. Just as he swings his sword up Bilbo flies on screen, sword raised and knocks the orc over, stabbing him in the process. He pulled out his sword as Azog growled, moving to stand between Thorin and the Pale Orc. Thorin couldn’t figure out if it was one of the most amazing or terrifying things he had ever seen. Untrained Bilbo standing alone against Azog and his orcs, a feat he had failed entirely at, all to protect him. He had known Bilbo had been the one to save him, but he had fallen unconscious before he saw this. For the first time, Thorin felt regret for his action.

Azog smiled as he glared at screen-Bilbo.

[Azog:] [subtitle: Kill him.]

“You have to go through us first,” Fili said, smiling wickedly hand twitching towards where his knives usually were. Dwalin chuckled his eyes bright and teeth bared. Kili looked smug as he crossed his arms. On screen, the three of them rushed towards the orcs and wargs approaching screen-Bilbo. Taking the distraction as an opportunity, screen-Bilbo also threw himself into the fray. He yelled and sliced a warg only to be caught as the white warg turned its head and threw him several feet back. Kili huffed as the three of them were surrounded, leaving Bilbo once again alone to stand against Azog.

The screen switches back to Gandalf as the moth flutters towards him. Screen-Dori and Ori slipped from the end of his staff only to be caught on the back of an eagle.

“I told you the moth got the Eagles,” Ori said with a smug grin. Nori just glowered at him from his place next to Dori.

“The Eagles are coming!” Kili and Fili said, instantly perking. Bilbo chuckled, shaking his head as the Eagles swept in, rescuing the company.

“It’s a shame I lost that shield. It has protected me more times than I can remember,” Thorin said frowning as his screen-self was picked up by an eagle, the oaken branch falling away from him.

“Perhaps, but it was just a piece of wood. You’ve got far better things than a shield protecting you now,” Bilbo said, watching as the eagles fanned the flames and tossed wargs off the cliff. Thorin tilted his head and looked down at Bilbo, who wasn’t looking at him. He smiled.

“Aye, that I do,” he said looking around at the rest of the company. Azog roars with frustration as they are taken away, Gandalf being the last person on an eagle. The screen switches to show the eagles flying into the dawn and sighs of relief could be heard throughout the room. The worst was over for now, and while Mirkwood had been rough, nothing truly terrible had happened. They were past the worst of the viewing. On screen, Thorin lay motionless in the eagle’s talons, the company looking on in worry.

[Fili:] “Thorin!”

The eagles descend onto the Carrock. Screen-Thorin is set down first, followed by Gandalf who rushes to his side, and then the rest of the company.

[Gandalf:] “Thorin! Thorin.”

Thorin couldn’t help but lean towards Bilbo as his screen-self ran towards him, worry evident on his face. Gandalf whispered words and screen-Thorin opened his eyes gasping for breath. Seeing it from this side really made how close he had been to dying sink in.

“Your lucky you didn’t die,” Bilbo said making Thorin raise an eyebrow.

“Oh am I? What would you have done if I had?” Thorin asked leaning in closer. Bilbo’s cheeks turned red and Thorin leaned away, worried Bilbo would hear how his heart skipped a beat at the reaction.

“It would be unpleasant, to say the least,” Bilbo said, removing his hand from his grasp and crossing his arms. Thorin was going to protest, but Bilbo leaned closer to him, his back resting against his side so he let the issue go.

[Thorin:] “The halfling?”

[Gandalf:] “It’s all right. Bilbo is here. He’s quite safe.”

Screen-Thorin stands with the help of Dwalin and Kili. He stared at screen-Bilbo, making the hobbit shift nervously.

[Thorin:] “You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say that you would be a burden? That you would not survive in the wild and that you had no  place amongst us?”

Thorin frowned seeing how worried and anxious screen-Bilbo seemed. He hadn’t meant to make Bilbo scared of him, he just wanted him to know how worried he was. Of course he messed it up though.

[Thorin:] “I’ve never been so wrong in all my life!”

Bilbo was smiling brightly remembering that moment. It was one that would forever be engraved in his mind. His eyes widened as he once again found himself wrapped in two strong arms.

“You are the bravest hobbit I’ve ever met,” Thorin said.

“I’m the only hobbit you’ve met,” Bilbo replied as Thorin pulled back only to find himself caught in two other sets of arms.

“Ok then your the bravest person we’ve ever met,” Fili grinned. Bilbo looked at them both as if they were crazy.

“I can list thirteen people in this room that are braver than me.”

“You don’t have to be so modest, we all know that truth,”

“We know all the truths,” Kili said grinning and raising his eyebrows. Fili just shook his head, as he tried to keep from laughing and Thorin groaned.

[Thorin:] “I am sorry I doubted you.”

[Bilbo:] “No, I would have doubted me too. I’m not a hero or a warrior...not even a burglar.”

“Oh but you are Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said.

“A thief...in the shadows,” Kili laughed and when the others didn’t start laughing he looked around.

“Come on...he turns invisible? The cave was dark and full of shadows? Well, it was funny and now you’ve ruined it.” Kili continued on but most weren’t paying attention to him. The screen showed Thorin looking to the horizon where the Lonely Mountain stood.

[Bilbo:] “Is that what I think it is?

[Gandalf:] “Erebor—The Lonely Mountain. The last of the great dwarf kingdoms of Middle Earth.”

[Thorin:] “Our home.”

The sight of their goal melted away any remaining tension. As a bird flit past, several of them smiled.

[Oin:] “A raven! The birds are returning to the mountain.”

[Gandalf:] “That, my dear Oin, is a thrush.”

[Thorin:] “But we’ll take it as a sign a good omen.”

[Bilbo:] “You’re right. I do believe the worst is behind us.”

Cheers went up through the company at that. Too happy with their celebrations they almost didn’t notice that the screen was following the bird.

“Look!” Ori called as the bird flew over the Desolation of Smaug and past the ruined gates. It landed on a rock on the side of the mountain, picking up up a snail.

“Why’s it showin us this?” Bofur asked. The bird hit the snail on the stone and then they were inside the mountain. There were gasps as they saw part of their mountain home, the banging echoing throughout the silent halls. They came to the treasure hoard, seemingly empty, their eyes drawn to the gold and riches of their people. The screen zoomed in on one mound of gold and they leaned forward only to jump back with shouts of alarm as it is blown away to reveal Smaug’s snout. Smaug shifted, gold falling away from his head. The screen zoomed in even closer as Smaug opened a massive golden eye as Smaug growled. Then the screen cut to black and music began to play. The company was silent.

“Well, seems I will be stealing from a very much alive dragon,” Bilbo said breaking the silence. A voice began to sing, Bilbo only vaguely recognizing the lyrics as the same song they dwarves had sung at Bag End. His word took a moment to sink in and then everyone was talking over each other.

“Please quiet down,” the voice said.

“So Smaug is really alive?”

“What do we do now?”

“How will we ever succeed?”

“I said be quiet,” the voice said making the company pause. “The dragon Smaug is indeed alive. As for what you will do, I cannot say, you must decide your fate. I can only give you the information necessary.”

“Then give us more information!” Thorin said.

“We have yet to finish, I will tell you when we are done.”

“At least tell us what the song is,” Oin. The voice paused sounding slightly hesitant as they responded.

“Your journey is broken up into three parts, each part is accompanied by a song that seemed to fit what occurred. This was the end of the first part, when I took you from Mirkwood, you were still near the beginning of the second part.”

“Do you have all three parts?”

“That, is for a later conversation. The next part will begin shortly, I will take no other questions.” The voice seemed irritated as it faded away and no amount of protesting made them come back. Bilbo took the opportunity to listen to the song. It was the same song he had heard in Bag End but different.

“Is this the rest of the song.”

“Not even close.”

“Besides ye need a dwarf singing it to get the real feel, not some human.”

“We can show ye the real version.”

“Later, there is something happening,” Balin said as the song came to a close and new music picked up, the black screen flickering to life.

Chapter Text

It was night and rain was falling heavily over a town.

“What’s this?”

“There haven’t been any towns,” Ori said. The screen panned over the roofs of the buildings down onto a road. Along the bottom white words appeared.

[On screen:] Bree - on the borders of the Shire

A hooded figure was shown walking down the road, a few others bustling around them.

“Why are we in Bree?” Balin asked noticing how much shorter the hooded figure was. Thorn starred at the screen with a frown wondering if it was possible for the figure to be him.

“I met Gandalf in Bree,” he said. The figure stopped and looked up at the “Prancing Pony” sign above the door. They turned their head and revealed themselves to be Thorin. He entered the tavern and walked past the numerous patrons.

[Bartender:] “There you are.”

[Patron:] “Why thank you.”

It is loud inside the tavern. A waitress threads her way through the unruly crowds carrying a plate and mug.

[Waitress]: “Watch it!”

She stopped in front of screen-Thorin and set down the food.

[Waitress:] “There you are.”

[Thorin:] “Thank you.”

“Oh, so you can be pleasant to people you don’t know,” Bilbo said smiling slightly. Screen-Thorin seemed guarded but not rude, something Bilbo hadn’t been expecting.

“I can be perfectly polite,” Thorin said frowning at him.

“I never would have guessed,”

“Hey look its a hobbit!” Kili said making them focus on the screen. There was indeed a hobbit being lifted up and placed on a bar stool.

[Patron:] “Mister Saddle.”

“I didn’t know hobbits went to Bree,” Ori said his book already out, quill poised.

“Some do occasionally, they are one of the few towns that actually trade with us.”

Screen-Thorin began to look around nervously making the company focus on him. To his right was a suspicious bald man and to his left was a sleazy looking guy. They stood making screen-Thorin grab his sword.

“Ye never mentioned this,” Dwalin said clearly angry, though if it was with Thorin or the two men no one knew.

“Nothing happened,” Thorin said as Gandalf appeared on screen. He looked surprised and nervous as Gandalf sat down.

[Gandalf:] “Mind if I join you?”

Gandalf caught the sleeve of the waitress.

[Gandalf:] “I’ll have the same.”

On either side, the men retreat and screen-Thorin looks warily at them then back at Gandalf.

[Gandalf:] “I should introduce myself. My name is Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey.”

[Thorin:] “I know who you are.”

[Gandalf:] “Well now! This is a fine chance. What brings Thorin Oakenshield to Bree?”

[Thorin:] “I received word that my father had been seen wandering the Wilds near Dunland. I went looking. I found no sign of him.”

Balin sighed as did several others and Thorin frowned at their reactions.

“I thought you said he was dead?” Bilbo asked.

“No, my grandfather is dead, my father went missing. There is a difference. He is alive.” Thorin said before anyone could answer that Thrain was dead. He would only believe it if he saw his body.

[Gandalf:] “Ah Thrain.”

[Thorin:] “You’re like the others. You think he is dead.

[Gandalf:] “I was not at the Battle of Moria.”

[Thorin:] “No but I was.”

The sound of clanging swords grew as a young Thorin was shown on the battlefield once more. Azog held Thror’s head for all to see. They saw Thrain as he saw the scene.

[Thorin:] (voiceover) “My grandfather, Thror, was slain.”

[Thorin:] (young) “No!”

Young-Thorin yelled as his grandfather’s head was tossed towards him. He went to rush forwards but was stopped by Thrain.

[Thorin:] “Father.”

[Thrain:] “Stay back!”

“I shouldn’t have,” Thorin said his body tense. Bilbo placed his hand on Thorin’s fist and felt him grab it.

“If you had you may have met the same fate,” Balin said.

“He isn’t dead,”

“I didn’t say he was, but imagine what would have happened that day if you had gone missing. What would have happened to us now?”

“My father might still be here that’s what,” Thorin said and Balin sighed knowing there was no way to convince Thorin otherwise.

[Thorin:] “No. I will fight with you.”

[Thrain:] “Azog means to kill us all! One by one, he will destroy the line of Durin.  But by mine’s life, he shall not take my son! You will stay here.

[Thorin:] (voiceover) “My father lead a charge toward the Dimril gate. He never returned.”

[Thorin:] (young) “Father!”

The screen showed young-Thorin once again facing down Azog. Even though he had seen it before Bilbo couldn’t help the nerves seeing Thorin fight brought up. He leaned closer to Thorin as the company watched in silence as young-Thorin led the charge towards the gate.

[Thorin:] (voiceover) “Thrain is gone, they told me. He is one of the fallen. But at the end of that battle I searched amongst the slain, to the last body. My father was not among the dead.”

Bilbo saw the looks the company gave Thorin and in a way he understood. To still have hope after so many years that Thrain was alive was probably foolish. Even if he had gone missing after the battle, he was likely still long dead. However, he also understood why Thorin clung so desperately to the idea that his father could come back, even knowing the chances of it happening. Thorin was nothing if not stubborn and loyal to a fault.

[Gandalf:] (back at the Prancing Pony) “Thorin, it’s been a long time since anything but rumor was heard of Thrain.”

[Thorin:] “He still lives, I am sure of it!”

Seeing he was getting nowhere with Thorin, Gandalf frowned and changed the topic slightly.

[Gandalf:] “The ring your grandfather wore. one of seven given to the Dwarf Lords many years ago…what became of it?”

“Why’s he so concerned ‘bout the ring?” Dwalin asked staring at the Wizard, wondering what he knew.

“The rings have power,” Balin started, Ori cutting in.

“But only when there is the One Ring. We saw earlier that Saruman believes that ring to have disappeared forever.”

“True, but Gandalf didn’t seem to believe the same,” Balin said, though Bilbo got the uneasy feeling that Balin agreed with Gandalf.

[Thorin:] “He gave it to my father before they went into battle.”

[Gandalf:] “So Thrain was wearing it when he went missing…”

[Gandalf:] “That’s that then.”

“He still thinks him dead,” Thorin scoffed.

[Betsy:] “There you are.”

The waitress set down Gandalf’s food and screen-Thorin seemed done with the current conversation.

[Thorin:] “My father came to see you before he went missing. What did you say to him?”

Screen-Thorin didn’t even wait for Gandalf to start eating.

“This was when the quest really began,” Thorin said with a smirk remembering how the rest of the conversation had gone.

[Gandalf:] “I urged him to march upon Erebor; to rally the seven armies of the dwarves, to destroy the dragon and take back the Lonely Mountain. And I would say the same to you. Take back your homeland.”

[Thorin:] “This is no chance meeting, is it, Gandalf?”

[Gandalf:] “No, it is not. The Lonely Mountain troubles me, Thorin. That dragon has sat there long enough. Sooner or later, darker minds will turn toward Erebor. I ran into some unsavory characters whilst traveling along the Greenway. They mistook me for a vagabond.”

“Haha! Bet they regretted that!” Kili laughed along with several others.

[Thorin:] “I imagine they regretted that.”

“Fili, I’m starting to sound like Uncle, save me,” Kili whispered to his brother, not fully able to hide his grin. Fili looked him dead in the eyes and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry brother, but there is nothing I can do. You are too far gone, soon you will find yourself insulting hobbits and brooding in dark corners,” Fili said. Kili gasped dramatically, neither being as quiet as they had hoped. Thorin heard and reached over Bilbo to cuff his nephew’s head as the pair broke into uncontrollable laughter. Bilbo bit his lip to keep from chuckling, Bofur and Nori having no such issues. Dwalin found himself in a very mysterious coughing fit and Balin was keeping his head turned as he made sure his brother was alright. Dori and Thorin were the only ones who weren’t grinning, the former shaking his head at Nori and the latter frowning with his arms crossed. As they calmed down the screen unpaused showing Gandalf taking out a scrap of cloth.

[Gandalf:] “One of them was carrying a message.”

On it was a crude picture of the Lonely Mountain and knowing about the price on their head it didn’t take a genius to figure out what it was.

[Gandalf:] “It is Black Speech.”

Screen-Thorin pulled his hand away at that, looking at the message warily.

[Gandalf:] “Promise of payment.”

[Thorin:] “For what?”

[Gandalf:] “Your head. Someone wants you dead. Thorin, you can wait no longer. You are the heir to the throne of Durin. Unite the armies of the dwarves. Together you have the might and power to retake Erebor. Summon a meeting of the seven dwarf families. Demand they stand by their oaths.”

“If only it was that easy,” Balin sighed. The previously light mood was dampened by the reminder that they were alone in this quest.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have to ask. Who’s idea was it to tie the families’ loyalty to a stone that could be stolen?”

“Well, we didn’t think Erebor would ever fall. It makes sense in case the line of Durin was ever destroyed,” Balin explained, knowing from Bilbo’s look that the hobbit didn’t believe his words.

“You put more faith in something not being stolen, then in a line of dwarves that have been around since almost the beginning?”

“It was a good political move,” Thorin said. Bilbo closed his mouth, knowing he would never get anywhere with them.

[Thorin:] “The seven armies swore that oath to the one who wields the King's Jewel, the Arkenstone. It is the only thing that will unite them, and in case you have forgotten, that jewel was stolen by Smaug.”

The two shady men from before stood and walked out of the tavern together, Gandalf and screen-Thorin looking after them. Gandalf then focused back on him.

[Gandalf:] “What if I were to help you to reclaim it?”

[Thorin:] “How? The Arkenstone lies half a world away, buried beneath the feet of a fire-breathing dragon.”

[Gandalf:] "Yes, it does, which is why we are going to need a burglar."

At Gandalf’s words the dwarves cheered. Bilbo felt his face flush as Fili clapped him on the back, talking about how they had the best burglar in the whole world.

“Think he already knew about Bilbo?”

“Course, who else would he think of?”

“I’m still not actually a burglar.”

“Yer a burglar, Bilbo, I’m a thief so I know these things,” Nori laughed. Bilbo groaned making everyone else shaking their heads and laugh as well.

Chapter Text

[On screen:] 12 months later

Screen-Bilbo popped his head up over a rock, words filling the bottom part of the screen. There was laughter as he looked around, being as sneaky as possible. Azog is shown leading his warg scouts in pursuit of the company. Screen-Bilbo ducks down to avoid being seen, only looking back when Azog has left. To his left, he notices a large bear watching the orcs as well.

“I could live without going through this again,”

“I could live without going through most of this again. Being chased by a giant bear really wasn’t the worst.”

Beorn roared and the screen switched to the orcs riding over the top of snowy peaks.

[On screen:] THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Appeared on screen.

“Does that mean we make it to the mountain?” Kili asked.

“It has to!” Ori said grinning excitedly. There were cheers and thumps on the back. They would make it to the mountain!

“But the voice said our journey was in three parts. The first one covered months. If this takes the same amount of time then we won’t make it to the mountain until after Durin’s Day,” Balin said instantly souring the mood.

“Maybe each part has to do with a certain number of important events?” Ori suggested.

“If that’s the case then wha else happens te us te make everything that’s already happened only one part?”

“Ye know I like the idea of it bein equal time, we can come back next Durin’s Day,” Bofur said. Thorin frowned at his words but didn’t speak, seeming in deep thought. Bilbo also didn’t like the implications of what three parts suddenly meant. Screen-Bilbo ran back to the company who was waiting for him between several large boulders.

[Dwalin:] “How close is the pack?”

[Bilbo:] “Too close. A couple of leagues, no more, but that is not the worst of it.”

[Dwalin:] “Have the Wargs picked up our scent?”

[Bilbo:] “Not yet, but they will; we have another problem.”

[Gandalf:] “Did they see you? They saw you!”

[Bilbo:] “No, that's not it.”

[Gandalf:] “What did I tell you? Quiet as a mouse. Excellent burglar material.”

“Why does he say stuff like that?”

“Because it’s true Uncle Bilbo,” Fili grinned.

[Bilbo:] “Will you listen- Will you just listen? I'm trying to tell you there is something else out there.”

“You lot really need to learn how to listen.”

[Gandalf:] “What form did it take? Like a bear?”

[Bilbo:] “Ye..."

“I still can’t believe he didn’ even tell us ‘bout Beorn,” Nori said so grumbled agreement.

[Bilbo] "Y- yes. But bigger, much bigger.”

[Bofur, to Gandalf:] “You knew about this beast?”

[Bofur:] “I say we double back.”

[Thorin:] “And be run down by a pack of Orcs.”

[Gandalf:] “There is a house, it’s not far from here, where we might take refuge.”

[Thorin:] “Whose house? Are they friend or foe?”

[Gandalf:] “Neither. He will help us, or he will kill us.”

“Nah he liked Bilbo to much.”

“Such a cute little bunny.”

“Don’t call me bunny.”

“Such an angry bunny.”

“Ow! Uncle!”

“Watch or we’ll never finish.”

[Thorin:] “What choice do we have?”

[Gandalf:] “None.”

The company was running through the plains and across streams, Gandalf urging them to go faster.

[Gandalf:] “Come on!”

They get to a forest and the screen switches to show Azog and his Orcs had caught their scent and were chasing them.

“I didn know they knew where we were then,” Gloin said frowning as they were forced to keep running for their lives.

“Makes sense though, we weren’t subtle,” Dwalin said also frowning with his arms crossed. He hated having to see them be chased but at least they were all together and no one was injured during this part. A roar echoed through the forest and room making everyone pause at how close it was.

[Gandalf:] “This way, quickly!”

[Bofur:] “Bombur, come on!”

“Don’t freeze up!” Bifur signed with quick gestures after poking Bombur.

“Sorry,” Bombur said sheepishly. The screen showed them on the edge of a forest, a house not far away.

[Gandalf:] “To the house! Run!”

Bofur chuckled remembering this part, others joining him as screen-Bombur easily out-ran everyone else. Their screen counterparts looked on incredulously only adding to their laughter.

[Gandalf:] “Come on, get inside!”

Screen-Bombur rams into the door, only to be thrown back when it doesn’t open. The rest of the company crowds around trying to break the door open.

“Why didn’t any of you think to undo the bar?” Bilbo asked as they kept throwing themselves against the door instead of noticing the bar not even a foot above their heads.

“Ye didn notice it,” Nori said.

“I was also at the back and entirely too short to reach it,” Bilbo said and no one responded. On-screen Beorn burst out of the trees, charging towards them.

[Gandalf:] “Open the door!”

[Thorin:] “Quickly!”

Screen-Thorin finally saw the issue with the door and pushed his way to the front, undoing the bar and opening the doors. The entire company bolted inside and attempted to slam the door shut. But Beorn was faster, sticking his head through just in time to stop them from closing the door.

[Dori:] “Push!”

[Kili:] “Push!”

“Uncle Bilbo, I feel so much better knowing you were willing to fight a bear for us,” Kili said when screen-Bilbo pulled out his sword and held it unsteadily.

“I better be willing to take on a bear if I’m going to take on a dragon.”

“We have such a brave hobbit,”

“You’re going to have an angry hobbit if you don’t let us finish soon. I’m getting hungry.”

[Thorin:] “Dwalin!”

“Sometimes I wonder jus who’s side the Wizard is on,” Dwalin said as Gandalf looked at their struggle in amusement.

[Dwalin:] “Come on, lads!”

They managed to close the door on Beorn, without the aid of Gandalf or Bilbo’s fighting abilities.

“He coulda done somethin.”

[Ori:] “What is that?”

[Gandalf:] “That...is our host.”

“He was actually fairly pleasant,” Kili said.

“He tried to kill us twice,” Fili looked at him as if he had gone mad.

“But he didn’t and the food there was pretty good.”

“I did enjoy the food,” Bilbo said sighing. Beorn’s house and Rivendale had been very nice for him food wise.

“I could’ve used more meat,” Dwalin said earning nods of agreement.

“Well now I’m hungry,” Kili complained, closing his mouth when Thorin threw him a look.

[Gandalf:] “His name is Beorn, and he is a skin-changer.”

There were several chuckles as screen-Oin checked his flattened ear trumpet to make sure he was hearing Gandalf right.

[Gandalf:] “Sometimes he’s a huge black bear; sometimes he’s a great strong man. The bear is unpredictable, but the man can be reasoned with. However, he is not overfond of dwarves.”

“But he is fond of little bunnies!”

[Ori:] “He’s leaving!”

[Dori:] “Come away from there! It’s not natural, none of it. It’s obvious: he’s under some dark spell.”

[Gandalf:] “Don’t be a fool; he’s under no enchantment but his own. Alright now, get some sleep, all of you. You’ll be safe here tonight.”

The company begins to spread out to find places to rest as the screen zooms in on Gandalf.

[Gandalf:] “I hope.”

“Alone he really isn’t as all-knowing as he likes to appear,” Balin said frowning at how unsure Gandalf was. The screen switched to show that night had fallen outside. They saw the house in the distance and Beorn growling as he prowled around. Azog and his men were watching him.

[Orc:] [Subtitle: Attack them now. Kill the Dwarf filth while they sleep.]

[Azog:] [Subtitle: No. The Beast stands guard.]

“He did us that favor,” Bofur said.

Azog walked away from the forest edge, making towards the rest of the orcs. Wargs snarled and snapped at each other making Bilbo flinch back at how close they were. Thorin moved his arm so it was wrapped around his shoulders. Bilbo blushed and stared straight ahead at the screen, Thorin copying him. Next to them, Fili snorted.

[Azog:] [Subtitle: We will kill them on the road.]

Azog turned as a warg ran into camp, its rider stopping it right in front of Azog. The Pale Orc didn’t even flinch at the snapping jaws. Bilbo couldn’t help but find the display impressive and Azog even more terrifying than usual. The new orc had metal plates buried in its skin and a wicked looking weapon. Bilbo leaned back towards Thorin, as did Ori with Dori. Dwalin leaned forwards analyzing the new threat and Bilbo was sure he would be telling Thorin and Balin everything he had seen after they were done.

[Bolg:] [Subtitle: They are gathering in Dol Guldur. The Master has summoned you!]

Azog growled and the screen switched back to Beorn’s house. Everything is quiet and peaceful. The animals are eating hay and the entire company is asleep. Until screen-Bilbo sits up, having just been lying awake. Bilbo shifted uncomfortably, he couldn’t really remember this part but it made the hairs on his arms prickle and left a bad feeling in his stomach. Making sure no one else was awake, screen-Bilbo took the ring out of his pocket.

“What are you doing laddie?” Balin whispered staring intently at the ring. It was obviously a magic ring, but its apparent effect on Bilbo made him wary of it. He wanted to know if it there was a reason for his action, preferably before Bilbo ended up hurt. The same eerie music from the cave started up. A soft whisper began, growing in volume as he turned the ring over in his hand.

[Whispered Chanting:] “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum ishi krimpatul.”

As the chanting grew louder, screen-Bilbo appeared to remain oblivious to the sound, but the company was leaning away from the screen. Whatever was being said was dark, it’s whispered voice making it seem all the more sinister. The screen switched to Dol Guldur where Azog’s hunting party was entering the fortress. The whispering stopped as Azog walked onto screen, sauntering over a raised walkway. A black shadowy mass rises up and the hissing, whispering voice starts again as it speaks.

[Necromancer:] [Subtitle: We grow in number. We grow in strength. You will lead my armies.]

“Armies?” Dwalin said, not liking this at all.

“Is this the necromancer?” Ori asked, nearly engulfed by Dori’s arms.

“I think so.”

[Azog:] [Subtitle: What of Oakenshield?]

[Necromancer:] [Subtitle: War is coming.]

[Azog:] [Subtitle: You promised me his head!]

The necromancer flies towards Azog, passing right through him.

[Necromancer:] [Subtitle: Death will come to all.]

It disappears just as quickly as it came, leaving all of them more shaken than before. Azog was snarling as an orc came up to him.

[Orc:] [Subtitle: Do we call off the hunt?]

[Azog:]  “Bolg!!”

The terrifying orc from before walks on screen, standing toe to toe with Azog, both equally dangerous looking. They glare, as if sizing each other up.

[Azog:] [Subtitle: I have a task for you. Do you still thirst for Dwarf blood?]

Bolg, revealed to be blind in his right eye, growls in response. The screen shifts back to the forest around Beorn’s house and the company lets out a breath they hadn’t even known they were holding. Dwalin sat back, thinking about the implications of what the necromancer had said, not coming up with anything pleasant. Balin too sat back in contemplation, wondering just what sort of trouble Bilbo had gotten himself into when he found the ring.
The bear ambles forwards and shifts back into a giant man on the edge of the forest. Then they are back in the house, screen-Bilbo now fast asleep like the rest of the company. He startles awake as Beorn enters. The man looks around at his guests and continues on further into the house.

Chapter Text

The screen jumped to when it was morning. A large bumble bee landed on screen-Bilbo’s nose, waking him up. He stared at it in alarm as it floated away, then he stood and put on his jacket. The rest of the company were gathered near the door.

“This was a disaster.”

“So much for our tactful wizard.”

“We’re lucky he found the story funny.”

[Nori:] I say we should leg it, slip out the back way.

[Dwalin:] I’m not running from anyone, beast or no.

“Mister Dwalin, I think you did run from a beast just the day before. I really-” Kili was cut off from the glare Dwalin sent his way.

“Ye want me te come over there.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Then shut it.”

[Gandalf:] There is no point in arguing. We cannot pass through the Wilderland without Beorn’s help. We’ll be hunted down before we ever get to the forest. Ah Bilbo, there you are. Now this will require some delicate handling. We must tread very carefully. The last person to have startled him was torn to shreds. I will go first and uh Bilbo? You come with me.

[Bilbo:] Is-Is this a good idea?

[Gandalf:] Yes. Now the rest of you, you just wait here and don’t come out until I give the signal.

“Ah the signal,” Bofur chuckled remembering the debacle.

[Bofur:] Right. Wait for the signal.

[Gandalf:] And no sudden movements or loud noises, and don’t overcrowd him. And only come out in pairs. Right. No, actually Bombur, um, you count as two so you should come out alone.

[Bombur:] Mm

[Gandalf:] Remember, wait for the signal.

[Bofur:] The signal. Right. What signal would that be?

Gandalf and Bilbo step out of the house without hearing the question.

“I still don’t know why I had to go first.”

“Probably because your small and Beorn would find you adorable.”

“I’m not adorable!” Bilbo said indignantly. Several dwarves looked down or started coughing.

“There’s a reason he called you bunny Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said trying to seem serious. Bilbo huffed and went back to watching the screen, Thorin trying hard to seem like he agreed with Bilbo. Beorn appeared, chopping wood with a very large axe. Gandalf runs his hand through his hair just as screen-Bilbo looks up at him.

[Gandalf:] Ahem.

[Bilbo:] You’re nervous

“The Wizard was nervous?”

“I didn’t think he knew wha that was.”

[Gandalf:] Nervous? What nonsense. Good morning.

“How often does good morning go well for him?”

[Gandalf:] Good morning!

Beorn stopped and turned around looking annoyed.

[Beorn:] Who are you?

[Gandalf:] I’m Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey.

[Beorn:] Never heard of him

There were chuckles at that.

[Gandalf:] I’m a Wizard. Perhaps you’ve heard of my colleague Radagast the Brown. He resides in the southern borders of Mirkwood.

[Beorn:] What do you want?

[Gandalf:] Well simply to thank you for your hospitality. You may have noticed that we took refuge in your lodgings here last night.

“Would be hard for him not to know,” Balin said.

[Beorn:] Who is this little fellow?

[Gandalf:] Well, this would be Mr. Baggins from the Shire.

“He had to have recognized us as dwarves when he came in,” Ori said with a frown.

“Maybe he was trying to be more intimidating?” Kili replied.

“He was intimidating enough,” Bilbo said.

“I wasn’t afraid,” Fili said sitting up straight.

“Why are ye lying?” Bofur asked laughing.

[Beorn:] He’s not a Dwarf, is he?

[Gandalf:] Why no-No he’s a hobbit. A good family and an unimpeachable reputation.

“Used to be unimpeachable reputation.”

“Point me towards anyone who thinks otherwise,” Dwalin said grinning and cracking his knuckles. There were several nods of agreement, making Bilbo’s eyes widen in panic.

“You lot will do no such thing, understood?” Dwalin just snorted and looked away, still grinning slightly.

[Beorn:] A Halfling and a Wizard. How come you here?

[Gandalf:] Ah well the fact is we’ve had a bad time of it. From Goblins in the mountains

[Beorn:] What you go near Goblins for? Stupid thing to do.

“Really? We thought it was brilliant,” Nori said. Ori burst out laughing, Fili, Kili, and Bofur not far behind. Bilbo chuckled, having been too petrified the first time to appreciate that and he swore he heard Thorin’s chest rumble with concealed laughter as well.

[Gandalf:] You are absolutely right.

[Bofur:] There it is. Go. Go.

[Gandalf:] No it was terrible.

“Very terrible!”

“The most terrible of all terribles.”

“Kili that doesn’t even make sense.”

“Sweet cousin, we need to get you out on the street more and out of those books. That is a perfectly fine thing to say.”

“I can guarantee cousin , that I have far more street knowledge then you, and I can assure you they don’t say that anywhere,” Ori said. Kili lit up when Ori called him cousin and turned to whisper excitedly to Fili. He pointedly ignored the curious and suspicious looks Dori and Nori were sending his way. On the screen, Balin and Dwalin walked out. Gandalf was clearly not expecting them and wasn’t happy at their arrival. Beorn lifted his ax.

[Dwalin:] Dwalin...and Balin.

[Gandalf:] And-And I must confess that, uh, several of our group are, in fact, Dwarves.

[Beorn:] Do you call two “several”?

[Gandalf:] Well, uh now you put it that way…[stuttering] Yes, there could be more than two.

[Bofur:] Go. Go.

[Gloin:] Wait, that’s us.

Gandalf sighed as screen-Gloin and Oin came out and waved.

“He really didn’t think this through, did he?” Bofur asked.

[Gandalf:] Oh and here are some more of our, uh, happy troop.

[Beorn:] And do you call six a “troop”?

[Gandalf:] [laughs]

Gandalf appeared to be even more nervous now. The dwarves were loving seeing Gandalf’s plan fall apart so quickly.

[Beorn:] What are you, a traveling circus?

[Bofur:] Go. Go. Go, go.

[Dori:] Dori and Ori at your service.

[Beorn:] I don’t want your service.

“I was only trying to be polite.”

[Gandalf:] Absolutely understandable.

[Bofur:] Go. Go.

[Gandalf:] Oh, Fili and Kili. I’d quite forgotten. Yes. Oh, yes, and Nori, Bofur, Bifur, and Bombur.

“Brother I am offended.”

“As am I fair brother!”

“Who could ever forget us?” They said in unison, breaking down into laughter at their own joke.

[Beorn:] Is that it? Are there any more?

The screen panned to show the entire company. Screen-Thorin walked out at the end of Beorn’s question, catching the shapeshifter’s eye.

[Beorn:] Ah.

The screen switched to inside the house. Beorn poured milk into Fili’s mug and the company sat around the large table.

[Beorn:] So you are the one they call Oakenshield. Tell me. Why is Azog the Defiler hunting you?

[Thorin:] “You know of Azog? How?”

“I do feel bad for him,” Bilbo said quietly.

“Azog has taken much from all,” Thorin said, frowning.

[Beorn:] “My people were the first to live in the mountains before the Orcs came down from the north. The Defiler killed most of my family, but some he enslaved.”

The remainder of the manacles were still on his wrists for all to see. Bilbo wondered if it was because he couldn’t get them off, or if they were a reminder of what he had lost. He reckoned it was the latter option.

[Beorn:] “Not for work, you understand, but for sport. Caging skin-changers and torturing them seemed to amuse him.”

[Bilbo:] “There are others like you?”

[Beorn:] “Once, there were many.”

[Bilbo:] “And now?”

[Beorn:] “Now, there is only one.”

Bilbo winced at how tactless his question had been. The dwarves must have been rubbing off on him with their bad manners.

[Beorn:] “You need to reach the mountain before the last days of autumn?"

[Gandalf:] “Before Durin’s Day falls, yes.”

[Beorn:] “You are running out of time.”

[Gandalf:] “Which is why we must go through Mirkwood.”

“I almost wish we’d gone around,” Gloin said.

[Beorn:] “A darkness lies upon that forest. Fell things creep beneath those trees. I would not venture there except in great need.”

[Gandalf:] “We will take the Elven Road. That path is still safe.”

“Our ideas of safe are very different,” Thorin said making Bilbo nod in agreement.

[Beorn:] “Safe? The Wood-Elves of Mirkwood are not like their kin. They’re less wise and more dangerous. But it matters not.”

“Pft I’m not afraid of any elves,” Kili scoffed.

“Of course not, but make sure if you go chasing after one again that it’s a lass,” Fili said. There was a pause and then Dwalin began to laugh, slapping his knee. Kili blushed scarlet as the others joined in, laughing at his mistake in Rivendell. When the company settled down a few minutes later the screen started up again.

[Thorin:] “What do you mean?”

[Beorn:] “These lands are crawling with Orcs. Their numbers are growing, and you are on foot. You will never reach the forest alive.”

Bilbo stifled a laugh at screen-Thorin’s shocked look.

[Beorn:] “I don’t like dwarves. They’re greedy and blind, blind to the lives of those they deem lesser than their own.”

“We are not!” And variations of the sentiment were thrown at the screen at Beorn’s words. Bilbo pursed his lips and scratched his nose, not saying the one word he really wanted to. He would not be as rude as his dwarves unless they asked for it. Beorn picked up a mouse screen-Bofu had pushed aside and held it in his massive hands. Screen-Thorin stared at him as he approached with arms crossed.

[Beorn:] “But Orcs I hate more. What do you need?”

The screen switched to them saddling the ponies.

“Aw, we’re skipping so much,” Kili complained.

“We know everything that was skipped.”

“But what if there were more secret conversations?”

“Good point.”

“I’m glad we skipped it, I wanna get to dinner sometime today,” Dori said.

[Beorn:] “You will leave my ponies before you enter the forest.”

[Gandalf:] “Oh, you have my word.”

“Oh ho! So there was a secret conversation,” Kili said grinning. He and Fili leaned forwards, the others paying more attention, curious to what Gandalf and Beorn had said to each other.

[Bird caws]

[Gandalf:] “We’re being watched.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

[Beorn:] “Yes. The Orcs will not give up. They will hunt the dwarves until they see them destroyed.”

Dwalin narrowed his eyes. He knew Beorn was right which only made him more determined. Glancing back at Bilbo, he caught Thorin’s eye. They nodded to each other. Bilbo, and even other members of the company, would be training whenever possible. Dwalin still hadn’t forgotten the necromancer’s words about an army.

[Gandalf:] “Why now? What has made the Defiler crawl from his hole?”

[Beorn:] “There is an alliance between the Orcs of Moria and the Necromancer in Dol Guldur.”

[Gandalf:] “Are you sure of this?”

[Beorn:] “Packs have been seen gathering there. Each day more and more come.”

Screen-Thorin was shown watching Gandalf and Beorn as the company continued readying the ponies.

[Gandalf:] “What do you know of this sorcerer? The one they call Necromancer?”

[Beorn:] “I know he is not what he seems. Fell things are drawn to his power. Azog pays homage to him.”

Balin’s frown deepened. He did not like the implications of everything that was happening around the company. Azog leading an army, the necromancer somehow being worse than he seemed, and Bilbo’s ring all weighed heavily on his mind. He would have to think through this all very carefully, and perhaps get a little help from a similarly bookish mind.

[Thorin:] “Gandalf. Time is wasting.”

[Beorn:] “There is more. Not long past, word spread, the dead had been seen walking near the High Fells of Rhudaur.”

[Gandalf:] “The dead?”

[Beorn:] “Is it true? Are there tombs in those mountains?”

Gandalf looks disturbed, Galadriel’s voice beginning to speak as the screen cut to a group of hooded men holding a body bound in linen and chains.

[Galadriel:] (voiceover) “When Angmar fell the Men of the North took his body and all that he possessed and sealed it in the High Fells of Rhudaur. Deep within the rock, they buried him. In a tomb so dark, it would never come to light.”

“Isn’t that the sword Radagast gave Gandalf?”

[Gandalf:] “Yes. Yes, there are tombs up there.”

[Beorn:] “I remember a time when a great evil ruled these lands. One powerful enough to raise the dead. If that enemy has returned to Middle-earth I would have you tell me.”

Balin understood his implication quite well and sucked in a breath. The White Wizard had said it couldn’t be and Balin had been ready to believe him. However, having seen and heard everything he had; well, it was harder to believe Saruman.

[Gandalf:] “Saruman the White says it’s not possible. The enemy was destroyed and will never return.”

[Beorn:] “And what does Gandalf the Grey say?”

Gandalf’s hesitance made Balin even more uneasy. If He was the one in Dol Guldur then they were all in far greater danger than any of them had ever suspected. Balin felt Dwalin nudge him and looked over. He sighed and shook his head. They would talk it over with Thorin later, no need to make the company panic if he was wrong.

[Birds cawing]

[Beorn:] “Go now, while you have the light. The hunters are not far behind.”

In the distance, a warg howled. Then the company was off, running rapidly across the land. They slowed to a stop as they approached the edge of Mirkwood. Gandalf dismounted and entered the forest through a small archway while the rest of the company worked on unpacking the ponies.

[Gandalf:] “The Elven Gate. Here lies our path through Mirkwood.”

[Dwalin:] “No sign of the Orcs. We have luck on our side.”

“Or a bear, apparently,” Dwalin said as the screen showed Beorn’s massive bear form watching from a distant ridge.

[Gandalf:] “Set the ponies loose. Let them return to their master.”

Screen-Bilbo approached the forest.

[Bilbo:] “This forest feels...sick, as if a disease lies upon it. Is there no way around?”

“It didn’t feel sick to me,” Nori said.

“Of course not, you’re dwarves, you belong to stone. I’m a hobbit who belongs to the earth,” Bilbo explained.

[Gandalf:] “Not unless we go two hundred miles north, or twice that distance south.”

“I almost think that preferable,” Bofur said. Gandalf went further into the forest towards a statue. At the same time, screen-Bilbo reached into his pocket. He looked uncomfortable as he slowly pulled the ring out. The winged beating sound and whispered voice from Beorn’s house began again as Gandalf got closer to the statue. Galadriel appeared, speaking into Gandalf’s thoughts from Rivendell.

[Galadriel:] “Something moves in the shadows unseen, hidden from our sight. Every day it grows in strength. Beware the Necromancer. He is not what he seems.”

Gandalf pulled off the vines revealing a painted eye of Sauron. A flaming Eye of Sauron appears on screen for a second and then screen-Bilbo is dropping the ring back in his pocket, gasping. Bilbo himself found it hard to breathe during the whole thing, his own hand itching to touch the ring in his pocket. He gasped and shivered, shrinking in on himself. Balin covered his mouth in horror at the situation. For once he was glad the vast majority of the company were not interested in history or learning in general.

He looked over at where Bilbo was huddled next to Thorin, the King’s full attention on the hobbit at his side. Fili and Ori though were looking between Bilbo, the screen, and Balin. Thorin would come to him before saying anything, and Balin shook his head at Ori and Fili warning them not to say a word either. This was a very grave matter if it was true, and all evidence pointed towards it being. Looking at Bilbo as he shook himself and tried to regain composure once more, Balin felt his stomach churn. Just what had Bilbo found in the goblin tunnels?

“Wha was that?” Oin said when the rest of the company shook themselves out of their terrified stupor. Many turned to Balin, who just shook his head.

[Galadriel:] “If our enemy has returned, we must know. Go to the tombs in the mountains.”

[Gandalf:] “The High Fells. So be it.”

“Seeing it now, I don’t blame ‘im as much fer leaving. Shoulda warned us though,” Dwalin said as Gandalf ran back to the company before they could set his horse loose.

[Gandalf:] “Not my horse! I need it.”

[Bilbo:] “You’re not leaving us?”

[Gandalf:] “I would not do this unless I had to.”

He glances at screen-Thorin who doesn’t look pleased, then back at screen-Bilbo.

[Gandalf:] “You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins. You’re not the same Hobbit as the one who left the Shire.”

[Bilbo:] “I was going to tell you; I...found something in the Goblin tunnels.”

[Gandalf:] “Found what?”

Everyone leaned forward, wanting to see if Bilbo would tell Gandalf. Bilbo looked down remembering how badly he had wanted to tell him, but he just wasn’t able to.

[Gandalf:] “What did you find?”

There were several seconds of silence as screen-Bilbo seemed to wage an internal war with himself.

[Bilbo:] “My courage.”

“Why didn’t ye tell him, laddie?” Balin asked though he had a very good idea of the real reason why. It was the same reason Bilbo had never told them, had feared them taking it, even though he trusted them completely.

“I don’t know, I just couldn’t…” Bilbo trailed off. He felt wrong admitting it, or maybe it was the knowing way Balin watched him that made his skin crawl. There was something really very wrong, he knew that, and it was beginning to scare him.

[Gandalf:] “Good. Well, that’s good. You’ll need it.”

Gandalf turned and walked away and Balin wished he hadn’t. If anyone would know what to do it would be Gandalf. He sighed realizing they would likely need the wizard more than any of them wanted to admit. Something that wouldn’t work well with their list of things Gandalf needed to pay for.

[Gandalf:] “I’ll be waiting for you at the overlook, before the slopes of Erebor. Keep the map and key safe. Do not enter that mountain without me.”

He stopped and stared hard at Thorin, making sure he agreed. Even with as angry as Thorin was for all Gandalf has done, he knew they wouldn’t last for long against Smaug without his aid.

[Gandalf:] “This is not the Greenwood of old. There is a stream in the woods that carries a dark enchantment. Do not touch the water. Cross only by the stone bridge. The very air of the forest is heavy with illusion. It will seek to enter your mind and lead you astray.”

“That is an understatement.”

[Bilbo, to Dwalin:] “Lead us astray? What does that mean?”

[Gandalf:] “You must stay on the path; do not leave it. If you do, you will never find it again.”

“Not very easy when the path barely exists at all,” Nori grumbled still bitter that he had been in the lead when they realized the path was gone. Dori patted his shoulder and Nori quickly batted his hand away.

[Gandalf:] “No matter what may come, stay on the path!”

[Thorin:] “Come on. We must reach the mountain before the sun sets on Durin’s Day.”

[Dwalin:] “Durin’s Day. Let’s go!”

[Thorin:] “This is our one chance to find the hidden door.”

“And so the trek through Mirkwood begins,” Bofur said to many grumbles. They didn’t want to have to go back into the forest so soon, on a screen or not.

[Thorin:] “The path goes this way.”

They walked through the twists and turns of the gloomy forest, following Dwalin. No one spoke, they just wanted this part to be over with.

[Dwalin:] “This way.”

The screen seemed to skip time but it was hard to tell. Everything looked the same, all grey and blue. It showed them from different angles, tilting as it did so.

[Bofur:] “Air. I need air.”

[Oin:] “My head, it’s swimming.”

[Oin:] [Groans]

[Kili:] “We found the bridge.”

[Bofur:] “Bridge.”

“We’re already at the bridge? I thought it took us days to get there.”

“I thought it only took two.”

“Who knows, at least this means it’s not much longer till we are taken,” Thorin said making everyone else quiet down. He didn’t remember everything in the forest, everything had felt like it was happening in a haze. He had just wanted to get out and get to the mountain. That was all he had cared about.

[Bofur:] “Oh. We could try and swim it.”

[Thorin:] “Didn’t you hear what Gandalf said? A dark magic lies upon this forest. The waters of this stream are enchanted.”

[Bofur:] “Doesn’t look very enchanting to me.”

There was a bit of laughter, but it was tense.

[Thorin:] “We must find another way across.”

[Pulse beating]

“What’s that?”

“It sounds like a heartbeat?”

“Maybe it’s like the music.”

[Kili:] “These vines look strong enough.”

[Thorin:] “Kili! We send the lightest first.”

Thorin frowned at that. It made sense of course, but what if Bilbo had fallen it? How would they have gotten him out? Did Bilbo even have any experience climbing trees? All these thoughts and more ran through his head, only stopping when a hand patted his curled up fist. He looked down to see Bilbo smiling lightly up at him. On screen, Bilbo looked like he wanted to argue, then just frowned at everyone gaining a little laughter as well. However, there were several others besides Thorin who were also having an internal crisis about what would have happened if Bilbo hadn’t made it over the river safely. Screen-Bilbo started across the vines as the pulse sound continued.

[Bilbo:] “It’s all right. Can’t see any problem.”

[Bilbo:] [Grunts]

Bilbo found himself pulled closer to Thorin, and Fili’s hand on his knee. There were several gasps as he nearly fell into the water on the screen. They may have been watching him, but they had also been under the forest’s spell. Seeing everything with a clear head made them far more nervous.

[Bilbo:] “There’s one. Everything’s fine.”

Screen-Bilbo manages to pull himself back up and continue on. He falls forwards, barely catching himself on the vine hanging in front of him. His face is very close to the water, close enough that he can see as his reflection started to become drowsy. Screen-Bilbo shook himself and managed to finish crossing the river. Shaking his finger he squeezes his eyes shut.

[Bilbo:] “Something is not right. This is not right at all. Stay where you are! Oh.”

[All grunting]

But the rest of the company were already making their way across, not having heard Bilbo’s warning.

[Dwalin:] “I can’t get a grip.”

Screen-Bofur jumps from one vine to another as screen-Bilbo hits himself in the face to try and wake up.

[Bombur:] [Yawns]

No one said a word as their screen counterparts struggled to get across. Screen-Thorin landed next to Bilbo, the first one across. Thorin frowned, vaguely remembering this part. A white stag appeared, looking almost ethereal in the dark forest. The heartbeat sound grew louder as screen-Thorin drew back an arrow.

[Bilbo:] “What are you doing?”

His voice echoed slightly and Bilbo thought that it the screen was doing an alarmingly good portrayal of the forest’s effects. Screen-Thorin shoots the arrow but missed, the stag running away as the beating stopped.

[Bilbo:] “You shouldn't have done that. It’s bad luck.”

[Thorin:] “I don’t believe in luck. We make our own luck.”

“You make very bad luck then, you should work on that,” Bilbo said remembering he had wanted to say that then. There was a splash as screen-Bombur fell into the river. The beating started again.

“Sorry,” Bombur said as the screen switched to show them carrying him on a stretcher. Bifur said something and Bofur clapped him on the shoulder. Bilbo decided he would try and make Bombur feel better later, after all, it wasn’t really his fault he fell in and the company could be unnecessarily rude to him at times.

[Nori:] “We need to take a rest.”

Bilbo felt slightly dizzy just looking at the screen. It tilted and every movement seemed sluggish. Voices echoed for longer then they should. Screen-Bilbo sat down heavily as the company stopped. There were whispers, barely there but sinister. No one mentioned it though.

[Bilbo:] “What is that? Those voices. Can you hear them?”

[Thorin:] “I hear nothing. No wind. No birds. What hour is it?”

[Dwalin:] “I do not know.”

“Webs?” Kili asked, leaning on Fili.

“Don’t ye remember seein them?” Dwalin said, not looking away from the screen even as it messed with his head.

“I remember the webs at Radagasts. Are there spiders nearby?” Kili’s connection made everyone look at the screen uneasily. The eyes in the dark would make more sense.

[Dwalin:] “I do not even know what day it is.”

[Thorin:] “This is taking to long. Is there no end to this accursed forest?”

[Gloin:] “None that I can see. Only trees and more trees.”

Screen-Bilbo touched a web, sending vibrations through the trees. Bilbo winced watching that, hoping he hadn’t made a terrible mistake in his daze. There is a groan on screen as Bombur finally woke up.

[Bofur:] “Brother!”

They set him down and help him to stand. Thorin looks back, once Bombur had shaken the last of the river’s effects off.

[Thorin:] “We continue on.”

Screen-Nori moved to the front as they continued to walk. He stopped at the edge of a very familiar cliff, everyone else running into each other.

[Oin:] “What’s happening?”

[Thorin:] “Keep moving. Nori, why have we stopped?”

[Nori:] “The path...it’s disappeared!”

[Dwalin:] “What’s going on?”

[Oin:] “We’ve lost the path!”

[Thorin:] “Find it. All of you look. Look for the path!”

The screen panned to show that the path continued on the other side of the cliff. Several dwarves cursed, knowing there was no way across. The screen cut to black, just as they would have begun to feel the tremors.

“That’s it, we’ve seen everything,” Balin said, not quite believing it.

“You have seen everything so far,” the voice said startling them.

“Can we ask questions now?” Ori asked before anyone else could say a word.

“Not yet, you must eat and relax first. Answering questions when one side is nervous is a tedious task. Besides before anything a decision must be made.”

“Tell us then,” Thorin said impatiently.

“Calm yourself Thorin Oakenshield, what I have to say and what you choose is of vital importance. You should take nothing lightly. Do you swear to this?” The voice warned and Thorin paused. He glanced at Balin and the old dwarf nodded. Confident that Balin would be paying just as much attention, and give him his advice if necessary Thorin starred back up at the ceiling.

“You have my word,” Thorin said and he swore he heard the voice chuckle at his words.

“Then Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror, I have three options for you.”

Chapter Text

They had been around since before, well anything. At least that’s vaguely what they remembered; after so long everything becomes a little hazy. They had been there when everything had happened as the messenger of the change. Anything at all, from seasons to kingdoms to the birth of new worlds from words, they had been there.

They didn’t really remember the first time they had decided to dip into words, maybe they had been there all along, the force that kept the pages turning. But it was one of their favorite pastimes. Unfortunately, they were not the creator of worlds; instead merely the catalyst. As such, what happened within a world was not theirs to control.

Oh, they knew what had happened and what would occur. They needed to. When the time came they had to be there, at each event; ushering in the change as they had since the beginning. That did not mean they liked what they had to do though. So often they had found themselves watching what they brought unfold with sorrow.

It was from this sorrow that an idea had formed, a brilliant idea if they said so themselves. An idea that could, just maybe, change what happened without the will of a creator. All it required was them and all the knowledge they possessed. After all, they were the Knower of the Past, the Present and the Future. Who better to share their knowledge and alter the story then they, the Harbinger of Change.

So the plan was hatched. They couldn’t quite recall who they first brought, but it had worked to an extent. There were of course dangers they had never thought of. The times when the knowledge made everything much worse were always awful. Several times they had been berated by those powerful enough within a world to sense them, told they were messing with what should never be messed with. Perhaps those people were right, but it didn’t stop them. If this was all they could do, then they would do it very carefully and hope for the best.

Looking at the dwarves and hobbit currently in their care, they wondered how this would end. The messy part about this was they couldn’t see the future they were causing, and they would be powerless to stop it from happening after they started the process. This was tricky, so much depended on the outcome of this Quest, who lived and who died were paramount. Not to mention the issue created when people who were supposed to die didn’t. Well, that was an issue for another time, for others to deal with. Now they had to deal with a moody Dwarf King and choices that might very well change the entire course of Middle Earth.

How fun.



“Then Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror, I have three options for you,” the voice said and the company looked around at each other. Thorin did not listen to them, his attention solely on whatever the voice would say. After a pause, the voice spoke again.

“Tonight you will dine at my table once more and rest in my halls. However, what happens in the morning is entirely up to you. The first option is that you and your company leave, I return you to where you were and you continue on with the memories of this place and your strengthened bonds.” The voice paused to let Thorin take in the option. Truthfully that was all he had been expecting, what more could the voice show them? Unless-" Thorin looked up sharply, the voice seemed to take that as a sign to continue.

“Your second option is that tomorrow morning before I send you back I answer what questions I can, and tell you the fate of the quest.” To know what fate awaited their quest would surely help in any future plans they made. The second option was far better then than first and Thorin wondered why the voice would even offer the other one. He doubted anyone would ever choose it.

“The third option is when you awake tomorrow you will eat at my table and once again sit in my seats. I will show you the remaining parts of your tale just as I have shown you what has past.” Thorin opened his mouth to respond that of course they would go with the third option. They could see their mistakes and how to fix them, so much had been gained just by watching the past, who knew how much they would learn by watching the future? But then he paused. There had to be a reason for the other two options, no one would be foolish enough to pass up the opportunities the third option presented. The voice had said his decision could change the future of Middle Earth, but how?

“I appreciate you didn’t respond immediately. Perhaps I misjudged you. The future of Middle Earth has already been changed by you coming here, that is an indisputable fact. However, I warn you, what happens during your quest is not entirely pretty. Should you chose the third option you may very well find your company torn apart by what they see. Even if you do make it through, altering what happens too greatly can cause an unexpected backlash. Take this into consideration. I will hear your response in the morning. As for the rest of you, there are gifts on the table, use them well.” With that, the voice faded away before any questions could be thrown their way.

“I want a present,” Kili said breaking the tense silence. Thorin didn’t acknowledge him, thinking over the voice’s words.

“Aye let's leave Thorin te his thinkin,” Dwalin said standing. Kili and Fili were the first up, running towards the table.

“Practice swords? Why do we need practice swords?” Fili asked.

“Te practice of course,” Dwalin said as he made it to the table as well. He picked up one of the wooden swords and turned it over in his hand. It wasn’t a real sword but for the night it would work well enough.

“Hey hey! More medicine!” Oin called, grinning at the bag next to his seat.

“My needles!” Dori said, picking up a pack of various sized knitting and sewing needles. As they each marveled at their gifts the table flashed with a bright light and when it faded food filled every plate. There were cheers and laughter as everyone sat down and began to dig into their food. Everyone except Bilbo and Thorin who were still sitting on the couch.

“We should go and eat,” Bilbo suggested, sitting up. Thorin drew his arm from around Bilbo’s shoulders still frowning.

“You should go, I need to think.”

“Not without you.”

“You’re a very stubborn Hobbit.”

“I have to be to put up with you.” Thorin smiled lightly at that and shook his head, crossing his arms.

“I need to get my thoughts in order,” he insisted.

“You need to eat, no one ever made any good decision on an empty stomach.”

“Says who? I make plenty of decisions on an empty stomach.”

“Well that would explain a lot actually,” Bilbo laughed as Thorin mock glared at him. He sighed and stood, Bilbo’s smile brightening as he did so. They made their way to the table where they were greeted with cheers and looks Bilbo didn’t fully understand. If possible the meal was even grander than it had been the night before. Every inch of the table not taken up by plates was filled with food and drink.

“Hey Uncle Bilbo, I was curious about something,” Kili asked.

“What do you want to know?”

“Well I noticed that your smial was pretty empty,” Kili started and the table immediately quieted down. Fili turned to look at his brother with wide eyes.

“Yes, I suppose it is since I live there by myself,” Bilbo answered not entirely sure what it was that Kili was trying to get at.

“But what about family?” Kili asked and for a moment Bilbo actually worried about his safety given the numerous glares he was receiving, most notably from Fili himself. But Kili seemed entirely focused on their conversation, not paying anyone else any attention.

“Well I have my cousins, but my parents died many years ago during the Fell Winter and I have never found anyone I wished to court in the Shire.”

“So you don’t have a hobbit family?” Nori asked.

“Now I wouldn’t go that far, I have cousins and aunts and uncles and many others,” but no one was listening to him, to busy discussing among themselves.

“It’ll be done by the morning right?” Nori whispered to Dori, earning an offended look from his brother.

“What do you take me for? Of course,” Dori whispered back already sorting through which needles he would need to complete Bilbo’s jacket. Kili was on a roll with his questions, ignoring the pained look Balin was sending him at his complete lack of tact.

“What’s the Fell Winter?” He asked. Fili pulled him back and whispered furiously in his ear, Kili looked between him and Bilbo looking horrified at how pained the question seemed to make Bilbo.

“It was the worst winter in Shire history. The Brandywine River froze and wolves came in. A lot of hobbits died from them or starvation before the Rangers could come and help. My father was killed trying to protect another family while searching for food. My mother and I made it to the Great Took Smials but she died later on from heartbreak. It happened to a lot of Hobbits,” Bilbo explained looking down. He didn’t really know why he had told them that, he never talked about it and he tried very hard to never think about it. He had become quite skilled in avoiding answering that question, and nearly everyone in the Shire knew it. Maybe it was because he hadn’t told them about the Ring, and he wanted to tell them it in exchange. But even that didn’t seem quite right.

Looking up at the company, Bilbo realized that really wasn’t the reason.

“So that’s why your afraid of wolves,” Kili said, having freed himself from Fili’s grasp Bilbo nodded, wondering when they had learned he had a fear of wolves. He guessed he had underestimated the brother’s observation skills.

“Well you don’t ever have to fear wolves again,” Ori said startling Bilbo with the sheer determination that was in his voice.

“Aye, nothin can get through us,” Dwalin said cracking his knuckles as he grinned. Bilbo smiled as the others cheered in agreement.

“Plus we’re gonna train you up,” Dwalin continued wiping the smile right off Bilbo’s face.

“That is really not necessary,” he tried to protest.

“Even the voice agrees, Bilbo, why’d ye think we got practice swords?” Bofur said smiling brightly. Bilbo huffed knowing there was no way he would get out of this.

“After dinner, I’ll give ye yer first lesson,”

“Not until I’m done checking him over,” Oin said. Bilbo gulped, he was looking forward to that even less and had hoped Oin had forgotten about the whole ordeal.

“Oh aye, gotta make sure our hobbit is in good health after his daring escape from the goblin tunnels,” Fili said.

“We should make a toast! To our brave hobbit!” Kili said standing up with his mug of ale held high.

“Please-no-no-no oh that’s really not necessary,” Bilbo said flushing crimson as everyone raised their tankard.

“To Bilbo!” They said many laughing as Bilbo covered his face in embarrassment. Not long after the declaration dinner came to an end, no one passing out like they had last time. Fili and Kili leaped up with their practice swords in hand and moved to an open area to begin sparring as everyone else was finishing up. Thorin shook his head at their antics, leaning back in his chair still nursing his mug of ale.

“Don’t think ye two are free from trainin either, I saw a few footwork issues ye need to fix,” Dwalin called out, standing up and grabbing his own practice sword.

“Come on laddie, let’s look ye over,” Oin said coming up behind Bilbo.

“You really don’t have to, I’m fine.”

“Then ye shouldn’t be afraid,” Oin said grabbing Bilbo’s arm and leading him back towards the couches to give Bilbo some semblance of privacy.

“Off with it,” Oin commanded pointing to his shirt. Bilbo sighed and slowly obeyed, knowing that Oin could out-stubborn even Thorin when it came to medical matters. He winced as the movement pulled on the still healing cuts and bruises, and at the very disappointed look Oin was giving him.

“I thought ye were intelligent laddie,” Oin said as he began rummaging through his new bag of medicine. Bilbo refused to look at him, knowing full well exactly what the healer would think of his condition. There was nothing that would be terrible by itself, just a lot of minor scrapes and bruises. But they were everywhere; he had fallen down a cliff. By now most of the cuts had scabbed over and all but the worst bruises were fading into an ugly yellow.

“Yer lucky none of these got infected,”

“I washed them all out when we stopped at the river near the Carrock. Besides I would have come to you if any of them seemed to be infected,” Bilbo said and Oin raised an eyebrow. Bilbo got the distinct impression that Oin didn’t believe him. The medic poked him in the side making him yelp in shock.

“Hmm, nothin seems broken. Yer a lucky hobbit,” Oin said pulling out a container filled with a thick paste and a roll of bandages.

“Come on I don’t need that,” Bilbo tried to protest.

“Sure ye don’t laddie, now stay still.”

Chapter Text

“What are you thinking of doing?” Balin asked sliding into the seat Bilbo had vacated next to Thorin. Most of the company were putting their gifts to use, practicing under Dwalin’s supervision, tending to Bilbo or working on Bilbo’s new coat. Balin sighed as he saw the three Ri brothers huddled together. What they were planning had never been done before. Not that he disagreed with their decision. Bilbo was beloved by everyone in the company including by him and Dwalin. No, he only worried about what would happen during the quest, what might tear them apart. And if they were lucky enough to survive what other dwarrow might think. Though the latter part concerned him less. If they could retake Erebor then the company would become some of the most influential dwarves in Middle Earth. Added to Thorin accepting their decision and there would be very little others could do besides sneer and complain.

He turned back to Thorin who was staring towards the couches. Arguably what Thorin wanted might cause even more of a stir, if the stubborn dwarf ever decided to confess. It was a very good thing he already had Fili and Kili as heirs or it would never work.

“I want to say the third option, but I hesitate due to what the voice said,” Thorin started, not looking at Balin.

“To be able to see the future would help us immensely.”

“Aye it would, but what of the warning? I cannot see how viewing the rest could hurt us and the lack of clarity makes me wary.”

“Perhaps we all die,” Balin offered knowing it was a very good possibility. But Thorin was already shaking his head.

“That would not tear us apart. Make us unwilling to continue, perhaps, but if anything it would bring us closer.”

“Have you considered that you fall into the gold sickness?” Balin said knowing how touchy a subject that was. Thorin’s eyes finally snapped to him a deep frown marring his face.

“I am not my grandfather Balin, I will not fall.” Balin nodded in acceptance, knowing from Thorin’s tone he would hear nothing else of that possibility. Briefly, Balin wandered if Thorin was so adamant about the situation to convince others that their mistrust was unnecessary or to convince himself that he didn’t have to fall as well. Of course, Balin knew the answer almost immediately. Sighing he looked out over the company.

“Then I have nothing else that it could be, no one in this company would betray us, nor could we ever harm our own. Those are all the possibilities I can think of. The voice could just be wary of showing us the future, it isn’t something done often.” Thorin nodded at that, his gaze turning once more to the couches where Bilbo and Oin were sitting, hidden from view.

“What do you think of the ring our burglar carries?” Thorin asked.

“I think we should be wary of it, I do not like the effect it seems to have on Bilbo.” Thorin hummed in agreement, taking a long sip from his mug.

“And that symbol?”

“Should my old memory serve me then it is very likely that Gandalf is correct. It’s apparent connection to the ring only makes me warier.”

“Thank you, Balin, your council is always appreciated,” Thorin said and Balin nodded knowing Thorin need time alone to think. Balin would talk to Ori and Fili later and make sure they didn’t say anything to cause alarm. No matter what Thorin chose, Balin had the feeling that the company would rely more on each other than ever before in the coming days. Having a ring with the potential to drive them apart would only make their perilous situation worse. The future was changing, he could feel it in his bones.

Bilbo practically dashed away from the couches only to be caught by Dwalin shoving a practice sword in his hands. His brother laughed at Bilbo’s disappointed look as he began to show the Hobbit how to properly hold a sword, the others shouting advice from the sidelines. Balin stood and walked towards where Ori was sitting, the three brothers having disbanded only a few minutes before.

Yes, there were already so many changes and Balin didn’t know what fate that might spell for the company. But to whatever ends they led, Balin did not regret them.


Bilbo hurt. A lot. Really you would think as a healer Oin would be a little gentler. But no, Bilbo’s bruises were making themselves well known again and the bandages around his torso pulled awkwardly. Then there was Dwalin. How it was possible to be so sore after just working on footwork and holding a sword Bilbo didn’t know. He didn’t want to know how he would feel in the morning either. Dwalin had made him work for over an hour and then made him sit and watch the others train. Bifur joined him after a while, setting down a practice spear. They didn’t talk very much, the language barrier hindering any real conversation, but Bilbo enjoyed the dwarf’s presence. Occasionally Bifur would point to a dueling pair and say something in Khuzdul, his hands making slow, deliberate motions describing what was happening in a way that Bilbo began to understand.

Quite unexpectedly, Thorin walked past Bilbo onto the mini practice area, his own practice sword in hand. He approached Dwalin, everyone he passed pausing to look after him, some with confused looks, others with shaking heads and chuckles. Bilbo was with the former group, he had only seen Thorin train on a rare occasion and certainly not when everyone else was also training. The dwarf usually stayed to the sidelines, critiquing if he participated at all. Dwalin turned around from instructing Fili and looked at Thorin with a raised brow. Bilbo swore Dwalin looked past Thorin to glance at him, but it was so fast Bilbo couldn’t really tell. Shaking his head, Dwalin pulled out his sword from its place on his belt.

Someone would have to be a blind fool to not realize just how amazing Thorin was with a blade. Of course, Bilbo had seen Thorin in action, both in the heat of battle and on the screen. He was, for lack of better words, majestic, though Thorin would never hear that word used to describe him from Bilbo. But really he was. Even now, during a simple sparring match, Bilbo marveled at just how fluid every one of his movements were. The swift stroke upwards as he blocked an attack from Dwalin, the easy way he brushed off the strong blow and slid to the side. Bilbo watched, completely enraptured as Thorin swept Dwalin’s legs out from under him and placed his sword against the warrior’s chest even as Dwalin grinned. It wasn’t until Bifur nudged him, that Bilbo even realized how focused he had become. He jumped slightly at the contact and turned to face Bifur, missing how Thorin’s eyes drifted towards him. Bifur raised an eyebrow at Bilbo and signed to fast for Bilbo to understand. Even so, he blushed at having been caught staring at Thorin’s fight.

With Dwalin defeated the training session slowly came to an end. Fili and Kili both begged Thorin to spar with them, eventually wearing him down into acceptance. Bilbo watched as he defeated one and then the other. Sensing that Thorin was inexplicably in a good mood for once, and not wanting to miss such an opportunity, a few others approached him to practice as well. In an even stranger turn of events, at least in Bilbo’s opinion, Thorin agreed to all the requests. Bilbo had half a mind to fetch Oin and ask him if Thorin was alright, but that would have been difficult since Oin and Thorin were sparring. He still had a worried crease upon his forehead, a sign Bilbo had come to associate with Thorin thinking hard on a matter. Usually, he was off brooding in a corner somewhere though, not actively participating with the company. Bilbo was glad to see it though, Thorin’s involvement seemed to lighten everyone’s mood, so by the time everyone had set their practice weapons down any tension from the viewing was gone.

Within the ring of couches, several large mattresses had been placed on the ground, complete with pillows and blankets galore. Bilbo hesitated as the company began to separate out onto the different beds based on their family units. He could easily take one of the blankets from Fili and Kili and sleep on the couch. An arm thrown over his shoulders made him rethink the idea. Nori smiled down at him, leading Bilbo to the centermost mattress where the Ri family had taken over.

“You’re sleeping next to Ori,” Dori said. Bilbo didn’t quite know what to say, but he didn’t argue outside of an exasperated sigh. Ori laughed at his reaction and patted the pillow next to his own. Sitting down with a huff, Ori threw a blanket over him then turned towards Kili and Fili who were telling a story about one of their many misadventures.

“Then I told Fili that of course I could climb the tree and I did, so ha!”

“Oh but dear brother you forgot the best part,” Fili said laughing. “You climbed so high that you couldn’t get down! Amad and Uncle both came running when they heard you!” The tale was met with roaring laughter, even from Kili. Around and around the company went, telling stories of bar fights and unfortunate events. Of family and random scars. Even Bilbo regaled them with a story about the time he and his cousins had stollen pies from a window sill, only to be caught cornered by the farmer’s flock of chickens.

Much to his own disappointment Bilbo was one of the first to fall asleep, the training and emotional taxation catching up to him. He fell asleep next to Ori, with Dori on his other side and Nori back to back with Ori. He didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but he knew they could get through it. For the first time in a long time, Bilbo felt completely and entirely content, surrounded by his dwarves and their laughter.

Which was why he didn’t understand the reason that he woke up in the middle of the night. It wasn’t the snores, he had grown used to those long ago, and the bed was far too comfortable to be the culprit. Dori and Nori seemed to have completely surrounded Ori and Bilbo with their bodies, but it wasn’t the added heat or closeness that had awoken him. Frowning when he didn’t immediately fall back asleep, Bilbo cautiously sat up, careful not to disturb the dwarves. He looked around to see if anyone was awake. Seeing none, he was about to flop back down and make himself sleep when his eyes caught movement on the couch. Thorin was sitting there smoking his pipe, deep in thought. Really, Bilbo should have just gone to sleep. But instead, he carefully escaped the family huddle and tiptoed towards the dwarf king.

“You should be sleeping,” Thorin rumbled when Bilbo took the seat next to him.

“So should you, who knows when we will next have a bed to sleep on.”

“Not for a while I suppose,” Thorin agreed. They sat in silence for several long minutes. Bilbo stifled a yawn, not wanting to prove Thorin right.

“What do you think I should do?” Thorin asked, startling Bilbo with its suddenness.

“I think you should do what you think will help the company the most.”

“That is not an answer.”

“Last I checked I wasn’t the one having to make the decision,” Bilbo retorted. Thorin inclined his head at that, the glow of the pipe showing the smile on his face.

“I do think though, that you shouldn’t underestimate us.”

“It would be a foolish decision to underestimate anyone in this company, especially you.” Thorin’s arm reached out and pulled Bilbo a little closer. Bilbo easily went with the motion, leaning against Thorin’s side the warmth already making his eyes droop.

“There is another matter I wished to discuss with you,” Thorin said jolting Bilbo back awake.

“Yes?”

“If we retake Erebor-”

“When” Bilbo corrected.

“When we retake Erebor, the land around it will still be ruined from dragon fire. Last I heard nothing grows there except for the hardiest of grass.”

“With the proper care the soil will become better, it may take a few years but I am sure some arrangement can be made.”

“Yes, an arrangement, not to get food though. What do you think the Shire would say to a trade agreement between our people?” Bilbo sat up quickly at his words, hardly believing what he was hearing. A trade agreement between the Shire and Erebor? It sounded strange, but maybe, just maybe it could work.

“What would such a thing entail?”

“Hobbits could help us with the land. Dwarves can work with stone all day but put most of us in a field with dirt and we are lost. In exchange, we can offer riches, fine craftsmanship, whatever we can make.”

“We would have very little use for weapons or gems and gold.”

“We create more than just weapons and jewelry. Even within this company, we have Bofur and Bifur as gifted toymakers and Dori is a very good weaver. Besides, it would make it easier for us to help should anything like the Fell Winter happen again.” Thorin was hesitant about the last part, not wanting to drag the bad memories up once again. Bilbo sucked in a breath, not answering immediately. He leaned back against Thorin his mind racing.

“There might be some distrust at first, but I think perhaps it could work,” Bilbo said feeling his eyes begin to droop. He yawned and turned his face into the warm fur of Thorin’s coat. Thorin smiled, happy that Bilbo seemed to like his idea. Learning of the Fell Winter had only solidified Thorin’s plan to try and make an agreement between their people. The sheer thought of Bilbo having to go through something so terrible made his blood simultaneously freeze and boil. He would do his best to make the idea a reality so, no matter what Bilbo decided to do at the end of the journey, he could rest easy knowing the dwarves still had his back. Thorin looked down at the nearly asleep hobbit at his side, feeling content.

“Sleep amrâlimê, tomorrow will be interesting.”

“You should as well,” Bilbo argued.

“Soon, just rest now,” Bilbo sighed feeling his eyelids slip close. A low hum began, relaxing him even farther just as it had the first time.

“Far over, the Misty Mountains Cold.”

Chapter Text

“Where is Bilbo?”

“Shh, your gonna wake them up.”

“You two should leave them alone,” a familiar old voice berated as Bilbo slowly blinked his eyes open. Whatever had woken him up would pay, he decided. He didn’t remember the last time he was so warm and comfortable or had such a nice pillow. Fili and Kili were being pulled away by Balin, which really wasn’t all that surprising. Of course, it was those two. It did surprise him to see Dori standing behind them with blankets thrown all about, looking very worried indeed. Nori was kneeling and looking around, his eyes locking with Bilbo’s half open ones making his shoulders relax. Ori kicked out at Dori, groggily sitting up along with many others at the commotion. Blinking again, Bilbo wondered why they seemed so far away, and why his pillow was shifting.

“Don’t make me give you two watch duty all next week for disturbing the company,” Thorin said, his voice far closer than Bilbo had expected. Sitting up quickly, Bilbo turned to find that his pillow was not actually a pillow at all. Rather it was Thorin’s coat, which was still on Thorin, who was definitely awake and glaring at his nephews. Oh my.

Bilbo felt his face immediately flush when he foggily remembered the night before. He couldn’t remember all that had been said, just not being able to go to sleep, and then falling asleep very quickly. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep on Thorin, really, but he was so warm and then he started singing and-oh my. Bilbo absolutely refused to look at Thorin, not wanting to believe he had done something so embarrassing. What must Thorin think? They had been getting along so well together while watching, and he had let Bilbo lean against him during the rough parts, but sleeping on him? Was that a step too far? Bilbo desperately hoped not because he really liked their current relationship. It would be even better if-no that was still a very unlikely possibility. What if Thorin was mad at him now? But then again, Thorin certainly hadn’t seemed upset, even singing to Bilbo which he must have known would make him fall asleep. The conflicting thoughts confused him greatly.

“Since you all seem to be awake now, breakfast is ready. I expect your answer Thorin Oakenshield when you are done,” the voice said and Bilbo didn’t think he had ever been more grateful for a distraction. He stood and went to the Ri family, apologizing profusely for making them worry. Nori merely laughed him off, saying that Dori worried too much, all while Dori was scowling at him. Bilbo was about to turn towards the table when Dori reclaimed his attention.

“Bilbo?” Dori said and Bilbo looked back at him, Nori and Ori standing on either side of Dori. Nori was smirking, arms crossed but he was shifting in a way Bilbo only saw him do when he had swiped something and wasn’t sure if he was going to be caught. Ori looked downright nervous, not nearly as skilled at hiding it as his brothers and Bilbo instantly became suspicious.

“I finished your coat last night,” Dori said holding a neatly folded brown coat out for all to see. Bilbo’s eyes widened at the gift. Of course, he knew Dori was making him one, but actually seeing it made the idea of a gift so much more real. Taking the coat in his hands, he marveled at the spectacular craftsmanship, especially given that it was made while on the road.

“Thank you, Dori, it’s beautiful,” Bilbo said, pushing down the wave of emotion the gift brought. He didn’t remember the last time someone had actually made him a gift just because they could. Sure there were the pies and cookies neighbors brought over when invited for afternoon tea, but those didn’t hold a candle to the coat in his mind.

“Your coat is torn and I’m a weaver, it only made sense,” but Bilbo knew no one believed him. Bilbo knew dwarves didn’t just give people gifts, especially when resources were so scarce. He could have made one for Ori or even Nori, both of whom also had coats that were slightly fraying. Not to mention the reaction of the company when Dori had first mentioned making a coat had been more than enough to make him sure of that.

Speaking of the company, they all seemed strangely quiet. Looking up at Dori, Bilbo realized he looked, well, nervous, which startled him greatly because when did Dori look nervous about saying something? Oh, Bilbo was definitely missing something. He looked back at the coat and examined it carefully, finding a symbol on the inside. It was green, instead of brown and obviously a mixture of dwarven runes that Bilbo had no hope of understanding.

“That is the Ri family crest. Usually, it would go on a bead, but we haven’t had an opportunity to make one, and my spare set was lost in goblin town.”

“And your hair is still a touch too short to braid properly anyways,” Nori cut in receiving a glare from Dori. Bilbo was confused. It sounded like - but no. That was a wonderful thought and he certainly cared about them enough, but would that even be allowed? Bilbo felt his breath catch as his brain came up with no other options.

“We want you to be apart of our family Bilbo, we know you have cousins in the Shire but we could be your brothers,” Ori said, making Bilbo freeze.

“Why?” Bilbo said and that wasn’t what he really wanted to say. His voice was thick with emotion and he wanted to tell them yes, but the question slipped out instead. The three brothers exchanged nervous glances at both his question and how emotional he seemed to be getting and Bilbo cursed himself for his own stupidity.

“Well, we all think pretty highly of ye, and I think it’s only proper that we adopt ye first seein as I’m a thief and yer a burglar and all. Keep the craft in the family ye know?” Nori said, laughing.

“Wouldn’t you get in trouble?” Why, why could he not just say yes? His mouth and his brain were not working together, or maybe they were since these were all practical questions, but they were certainly leaving his heart out of the loop.

“Technically there is no law prohibiting the adoption of a non-dwarf into a dwarven family. In reality, it’s just never been done. You have all of us backing it though, including Thorin, so there won’t be much legally they can do. And honestly who cares what they think,” Ori said.

“Aye, yer more dwarf than many others I’ve met,” Dwalin agreed.

“You're certainly stubborn enough to be one.”

“We already see you as our Uncle,” everyone chimed in with their own agreements and Bilbo couldn’t stop the emotions that bubbled up, making his eyesight go blurry and the dwarves look even more worried if possible.

“Why are you crying?”

“You don’t have to accept!”

“Please don’t be sad!”

“I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m happy. Very very happy,” Bilbo said laughing a little because of course they would panic over something like tears. He drew the coat closer to his chest, holding it as if his life depended on it, a very large smile breaking across his face even as tear continued to stream down his face.

“Does that mean you accept?” Dori asked, eyes bright. Bilbo laughed.

“Yes, yes I accept your offer,” Bilbo said and not even a second later his feet were off the ground as he was scooped up into several sets of arms.


Breakfast was a noisy affair. Bilbo sat with Ori and Nori on either side, Dori next to Nori. He was wearing his new coat with pride. More stories were told, each one somehow relating back to Bilbo to keep him engaged in the conversation.

Thorin was sitting back in his seat, Fili and Kili on either side of him, as he watched the merry proceedings. He was glad Bilbo had accepted, he knew Nori and Ori had both taken a liking to Bilbo since the Shire, and Dori had been unable to not care about the small hobbit after all the danger he seemed to rush into. They likely wouldn’t be the last, he had seen the Ur brothers working on a project late last night, and he was glad their offer had been accepted with such enthusiasm. When Bilbo had begun to cry, Thorin didn’t know what to think except that perhaps they had somehow offended him. But then he had smiled and Thorin had felt his breath catch. From then on it had just been loud, with everyone focusing on Bilbo.

The noise was threatening to give him a headache but he didn’t dare stop their revelry and bring down their spirits. He was nervous enough about his decision, he wouldn’t take away potentially their last time of merriment. The lack of attention allowed him to go through the options and weigh the risks again, but all too soon the voice returned.

“May I offer my congratulations to Bilbo and the Ri family,” the voice said earning cheers in response. “Please do not cease your merrimaking on my behalf, I merely wish to hear your leader’s decision so I know how my day will be spent.” Even with their request the company quieted down and looked expectantly at Thorin. Heaving a great sigh, Thorin looked up, his jaw and shoulder set. This was the right choice, it had to be.

“I have given the decision much thought like you asked,” Thorin started, urged on as the voice hummed. “I choose option three, let us see what lies before us so we may be better prepared for the remainder of the quest,” Thorin said with every ounce of authority and confidence that he possessed.

“Very well, do remember that I warned you though. Especially when you get to the last part. When you are ready to continue just take your seats and the viewing will begin.” The voice faded away, leaving them in a quiet room. The happiness from before was still there, but it was now tainted with worry for what they might see.

“Hey Fee, wanna make a bet?” Kili whispered as other, far milder, conversations started back up.

“On what?”

“If we take back Erebor or not, I think we will.”

“The opposite of that is us all dying, I don’t want to think that.”

“We could just not find the door.”

“Orcs, Kee.”

“Fine then, ruin the fun, at least we’ll get to see who’s right for that other bet.” Kili grinned and got up, excited to see the future. Sure they might see some terrible stuff, but he wasn’t all that afraid. He had faith that they could reclaim the mountain and even if they all did die, they would be able to fix it. There wouldn’t be any issues in his book. With his standing, breakfast came to a close, everyone slowly trickling back towards the couches.

The mattresses were still laid out, the blankets and pillows reorganized. Thorin took his usual seat, looking at Bilbo expectantly. Bilbo had avoided spending time with Thorin since his embarrassing wake up, but he couldn’t help the way his heart seemed to melt when Thorin looked at him. Ori sat next to him, happily chatting away about a story Dori used to tell him. Nori and Dori took up the rest of the couch as Fili and Kili flopped down on the mattress closest to them and everyone else took their original spots. When they were all settled in the screen flickered to life.

The company was walking through Mirkwood, still searching for the path or another way out. All around them the world still seemed off, tilted. Screen-Bilbo looked down to see himself walking backward, then shaking himself realizing it was just an illusion.

“I didn’t think the forest could affect us worse,” Balin said shaking his head. He hoped when they went back they would still be free of the forest’s sickness. On screen, Bilbo looked back at screen-Dori only to see himself instead.

“That’s weird,” Ori said, as his screen-self picked up a tobacco pouch.

[Ori:] “Look.”

[Dori:] “A tobacco pouch. There’s dwarves in these woods.”

Screen Bofur took the pouch from Dori and started to examine it.

[Bofur:] “Dwarves from the Blue Mountains, no less. This is exactly the same as mine.”

Bofur groaned at his counterpart’s comment, earning snickers from his brothers.

[Bilbo:] “Because it is yours. You understand? We’re going round in circles. We are lost.”

[Dwalin:] “We’re not lost. We keep heading east.”

[Oin:] “But which way is east? We’ve lost the sun.”

“Our future already isn’t looking good,” Kili complained as the screen-dwarves bickered among themselves. Screen-Bilbo looked around, spotting a bit of sunlight and seeming to get an idea.

[Bilbo:] “The sun. We have to find the sun. Up there. We need to-”

The company began to fight each other making those watching frown. This really didn’t bode well for them when they did get back. Screen-Thorin stood apart, watching as his company devolved into fighting without doing anything to stop it. Thorin grumbled, crossing his arms, not liking the complete lack of interest he seemed to have in the company’s well being. He had to keep order, something the forest was clearly messing with. The whispers Bilbo had heard before began again, this time screen-Thorin able to hear them.

[Thorin:] “What? What’s that?”

As the whispering continued he turned towards the company.

[Thorin:] “Enough! Quiet! All of you! We’re being watched.”

“That can’t be good,” Fili said.

“I wonder how long till this happens?” Kili asked, not liking how badly everyone seemed to be affected.

“The day after you lost the path,” the voice answered, startling the company. The voice chuckled at their surprise.

“I can be persuaded to answer questions now that you’re seeing the future. But only those that I want to,” they said. Kili opened his mouth to ask a dozen other questions but stopped when Thorin nudged his leg. There were plenty of questions Thorin wanted to ask as well, however, he didn’t want to overuse their newfound ability with pointless questions in case the voice decided to revoke their knowledge when the company needed it more. Glancing at Balin, he saw his advisor nod, no doubt following along the same line of thought.

On screen, Bilbo was climbing one of the trees, spider webs all around him. He broke through the canopy and it was as if the spell of the forest was broken. Breathing deeply screen-Bilbo marveled at the gorgeous blue butterflies and setting sun around him, seeing the lake and Lonely Mountain in the distance. Bilbo was in awe at the beautiful sight as well.

[Bilbo:] “I- I can see a lake! And a river. And the Lonely Mountain. We’re almost there!”

But the dwarves did not respond to him and the company looked on in confusion and apprehension. Surely they weren’t so out of it that they would ignore that sort of news.

[Bilbo:] “Can you hear me? I know which way to go! Hello?”

A thumping noise in the distance made screen-Bilbo look around. Within their circle, looks were exchanged as they waited for what might happen.

[Bilbo:] “Hello?”

Trees moved wildly as something approached screen-Bilbo and the dwarves. They held their breath. Screen-Bilbo climbed down and looked around, stepping forwards only to trip on a spider web. Ori’s hand shot out to grab his arm, Thorin grabbing his other hand as many others cried out in worry. He fell several feet, bouncing off branches and yelping in pain making the company become even more rigid in fear. Screen-Bilbo caught himself on a branch and Bilbo attempted to sooth his dwarves.

“I’m fine see? This is the future, it’s all-” but his words died in his throat as the web on screen parted to reveal a massive spider, fangs bared as it hissed at him. Several dwarves jumped or spit out curses. Bilbo paled, shrinking back into Thorin who was staring in horror at the spider. Ori clung to Bilbo’s arm as screen-Bilbo fell off the branch and landed in an even bigger spiderweb, becoming stuck. The spider followed him and wrapped him up tightly.

“Did-did we all just get killed by spiders?” Kili asked, his enthusiasm for the future already dampened.

“No, you still have a long way to go. Don’t worry this isn’t even close to the worst predicament you get yourselves into,” the voice said. The company exchanged nervous glances, not sure they liked having the voice actually talking to them, and definitely not liking what they were insinuating. Thorin looked around, their unease only fueling his own as he wondered if this really was the best idea. Shaking his head to dispel the thought, he reminded himself that this was the future and they could change it. That was why he had chosen to see the rest, and if this wasn’t even the worst part then he would have a lot to discuss with the company.

Chapter Text

The screen switched to show the spider nest, the entire company having been caught and bound in webs. Screen-Bilbo was dragged towards the dwarves, his spider reaching forwards with fangs bared. Thorin gripped Bilbo’s hand tighter and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. As screen-Bilbo sliced through the webbing and stabbed the spider, everyone jumped, not having expected such a turn of events.

“That was impressive,” Dwalin said shaking his head as the spider fell off the branch. Screen-Bilbo tore off the webbing and hid behind a tree trunk.

“Uncle Bilbo to the rescue!” Kili said, smiling back at Bilbo.

“Now I doubt that,” Bilbo tried to say but he was drowned out as the rest of the company agreed with Kili. None of them seemed to believe he wouldn’t try to save them, Bilbo either, but they also seemed to think he could save them which was were Bilbo was highly doubtful.

“None of those spiders better hurt him though,” Dori said, glaring at the spider that crawled up the tree trunk behind him. Screen-Bilbo pulled out the ring, Balin leaning forwards to see how he would react to it this time. The world turned grey and hazy, the hissing of the spiders becoming understandable.

[Spider:] “Kiilll theemm. Kiill theemm.”

[Spider:] “Eat them now, [indistinguishable] and runny.”

[Spider:] “Their hide is tough. There is good juice inside.”

[Spider:] “Stick it again! Stick it again! Finish it off!”

“Why can you understand them, Uncle Bilbo?” Kili asked looking very disturbed. He wasn’t the only one, everyone was shifting uncomfortably at hearing the hissed words of the spiders. Balin leaned back, the knowledge that Bilbo could understand a language so dark, only adding to his reasons not to trust the ring.

“I don’t know, it must have something to do with the ring,” Bilbo said frowning. He also didn’t like the implications. Ori and Fili exchanged a look, Ori holding Bilbo’s arm tighter as Fili moved closer to his brother. Several spiders were seen surrounding one of the bound dwarves. He kicked and struggled but couldn’t do much else. There were grumbles around the room, no one liking the idea that they could be that helpless.

[Spider:] “Ahh! The meat’s alive and kicking!”

[Spider:] “Kill them, kill them now. Let us feast.”

“What is with very large creatures wanting to eat us on this trip? First the trolls, now spiders.”

“Smaug too probably,” Fili added making Kili groan.

“I don’t want to be eaten.”

“I’d be very concerned if you did.” The spiders began to chant “feast” over and over again causing the company to move closer to each other. If one of them was going to die, then the rest of them would be there, either to comfort or be comforted.

Screen-Bilbo, moved silently towards the spiders, ducking as one crawled above him on a branch. He threw a piece of wood to the side, drawing the attention of most of the spiders and making them scurry away.

[Spiders:] “What is it? What is it? Kill it! Feast! Feast!”

“At least they aren’t very smart,” Ori said, squished between Dori and Bilbo. One spider approached a particularly large bundle, which could only be Bombur. Bofur and Bifur shifted closer to him, Bofur leaning against his side while Bifur kept a hand firmly on his shoulder. Bombur sighed and tried to smile at both of them in reassurance, knowing if something happened it would affect his brother and cousin far more than him.

[Spider:] “Fat and juicy. Just a little taste.”

The spider dropped him to the ground and prepared to strike, screen-Bilbo sneaking up behind it. He struck out with his sword, piercing the spider and making it turn and hiss in pain. Still invisible, screen-Bilbo continued to hack and slash at the spider, driving it away from Bombur.

[Spider:] “Curses! Where is it? Where is it?!”

Screen-Bilbo pulled off his ring, grinning as the spider tried to focus on him.

“Who knew you were so brave and mischievous?” Gloin said shaking his head, smiling slightly despite the tense situation.

[Bilbo:] “Here!”

He thrust his sword into the spider’s head, making it shriek. Dwalin and Gloin chuckled at the fierce display, but Balin narrowed his eyes in contemplation. While he was quite proud of how brave Bilbo was being, it wasn’t like the gentle hobbit to torment another creature in such a way. Perhaps it was just Bilbo’s own protective streak coming out, mixed with his poor skill with a sword. Well, that would just mean they would have to train him up more so he could kill with one strike, if of course, that was the reason.

[Spider:] “It stings! Stings!”

The spider fell as he pulled out his sword staring at it contemplatively.

“Thank you, Bilbo, er savin my brother,” Bofur said moving forwards to stare at Bilbo. One hand still gripped Bombur’s arm, the other holding his hat over his chest.

“You don’t have to thank me, this is the future none of it has happened yet,” Bilbo said wishing Bofur would go back to his cheery self. His obvious relief as not seeing Bombur die made his skin want to crawl with how unnatural it seemed. None of them should have to thank him or anyone else for saving their kin. He didn’t want any of them to ever have a reason to.

“But would you? In the future?” Thorin asked, leaning forwards to stare at him. Bilbo almost felt offended by the question.

“That is a very stupid question, of course I would. I have faced Azog and I will face a dragon for you lot and there is nothing that will change that,” he said crossing his arms because really didn’t they understand that by now? Though to be fair, he had been surprised when the company had told him they all had his back, and his dwarves were dreadfully good at misunderstanding everything. Dwarves! Bilbo thought shaking his head, not realizing that the entire company was staring at him with a look of awe and happiness he had only rarely seen before.

“Aye, I’d bet ye would,” Dwalin said leaning back in his seat, Balin smiling next to him.

“Or hobbit is so so brave,” Kili said, rubbing away fake tears.

“Truly the greatest hobbit in all of Middle Earth,” Fili added, placing a hand over his heart.

“You’re so amazing and strong Bilbo,” Ori said looking at him with a wide smile.

“Of course he is, he’s a Ri,” Dori said reaching around Ori to give them both a very awkward hug.

“And our Uncle,” Fili and Kili said grinning.

“Oh hush all of you, or we will never get past these spiders,” Bilbo said blushing crimson at all the praise. The company laughed at him but stopped talking for now. Bilbo’s words had touched them all deeply, no matter how offhandedly he had said them. The little hobbit wasn’t a warrior by any means, and he certainly didn’t like hurting anything. Yet he was ready and willing to fight to protect them, and that meant more than they could say. Even if none of them would let anything close enough to him for him to fight if they could help it.

[Bilbo:] “Sting. That’s a good name.”

“Sting!”

“You should name your letter opener that Uncle Bilbo, it suits it,” Fili said and Bilbo couldn’t help agreeing with him. Sting was a very nice name and just seemed to fit the blade.

[Bilbo:] “Sting.”

Screen-Bilbo set about cutting down all the dwarves, waking them up as the hit the forest floor below. They curse and they yelled on screen, but in the room, they were cheering for their Hobbit and for the fact that now they could fight.

[Bofur:] “Where’s Bilbo?”

“Asking the important questions,” Bifur signed to Bofur and Bombur making both of them laugh. The trio had relaxed slightly now that Bombur was no longer in immediate danger, enough to joke with each other, but not enough to let each other go.

[Dwarves:] “Bilbo!”

[Bilbo:] “I’m up here!”

The company jumped, letting out curses as a spider leaped at screen-Bilbo, pinning him beneath it. Screen-Bilbo had only just managed to raise his sword, the spider impaling itself. However, as it died its legs curled up, trapping screen-Bilbo as it fell off the branch. They smashed through the branches, the ring slipping out of his grasp and landing some distance away from him. There were several curses thrown at the spider from the dwarves, Bilbo thankfully not understanding most of them. Thorin glared at the spider, looking screen-Bilbo over as he stood up, trying to see if he had been injured. Oin was doing the same, trying to categorise what sorts of herbs he was going to need if they were unable to avoid the confrontation with the spiders.

Balin, while worried about screen-Bilbo’s physical state, was far more concerned about his mental state. The ring shone ominously in the gloomy light of Mirkwood as he looked for it with a frantic desire.

The screen switched away from Bilbo, much to the company’s complaints, and back to the dwarves.

“We can take care o ourselves,” Nori said, crossing his arms.

“Seeing as Bilbo was the only one capable of escaping the spiders, I would be more concerned about yourselves,” the voice said instantly shutting them up. Their words made the company nervous, but then again what else was new?

The returning spiders surrounded the company, but they were ready. Each dwarf went off, hacking and slashing and making up for needing to be saved. Screen-Bombur fell over, a spider standing over him with bared fangs.

“Why is it always me,” Bombur said with a frown and a sigh, trying, and failing, to comfort his brother and cousin.

[Dwarf:] “Grab a leg!”

Several other dwarves grabbed a leg.

“The forest musta been messin with us real bad, that’s impractical,” Dwalin grumbled.

[Dwarf:] “Pull!”

Pulling together, the dwarves ripped off the legs, causing the body to fall on screen-Bombur. Dwalin was still grumbling about bad form, Balin patting his arm. The screen switched back to screen-Bilbo who was looking around wildly for the ring.

[Bilbo:] “Where is it? Where is it? Come on. Where is it?”

“I know its a useful ring, but calm down laddie,” Oin said. Bilbo grimaced, not liking his reaction to losing the ring. Even now his fingers itched to reach into his pocket and feel the cool gold band. But Thorin and Ori were far too close, they would know immediately, and if they knew then Balin would know. Balin had not been nearly as secretive with his suspicion of the ring as he had thought, Bilbo had seen his wary looks and it only created more emotional confusion for Bilbo.

Screen-Bilbo paused as if he had been called and looked over his shoulder. The eerie music that always seemed to accompany the ring began as screen-Bilbo saw the ring laying on the ground. He walked towards it, stopping when a young, strange looking spider emerged from the ground behind the ring.

“And I thought the spiders were ugly,” Bofur said, wrinkling his nose as the horrid creature. It moved towards screen-Bilbo, one of its legs hitting the ring, making it cling. Screen-Bilbo’s entire demeanor seemed to change. He became angry, rushing at the spider with his sword raised. Hacking and slashing, he looked like he had gone berserk. Bilbo watch his future self in horror, eyes wide and hands over his mouth. He felt like he could throw up, the ring in his pocket getting impossibly heavier.

“Bilbo?”

“Are you alright laddie?” The company was murmuring among themselves or trying to talk to Bilbo, who was far too still and pale. Balin felt like he had been kicked in the gut, all his bad thoughts about the ring coming to fruition. There was no other explanation, their sweet, too kind hobbit had gone berserk and killed a spider quite violently all because it had touched the ring.

“Get rid of it,” Bilbo whispered, still completely horrified.

“What?” Thorin said as he tried to catch Bilbo’s attention, worry written all over his features. No matter how useful that ring was, he hated it for what it seemed to be doing to Bilbo.

“I said I have to get rid of it,” Bilbo said, jolting out of his shock and reaching frantically for his pocket. He hand closed around the ring and he pulled it out, nearly crying at the surge of conflicting emotions the action created. The company had fallen silent, everyone watching as with a great heave Bilbo threw the ring away from himself, doubling over immediately after, looking like he was about to throw up. No one’s eyes left the gleaming gold band as it sailed over the mattresses, landing with a thud on the ground, only to immediately disappear.

“If only it were that easy, Bilbo Baggins,” the voice said. Bilbo gulped as he felt the weight return to his pocket.

“I don’t want it back!” He said staring up at the ceiling.

“You have no choice in the matter, that ring came to you and must stay with you until the proper time. It is far too dark to be allowed into the hands of others.”

“What do you mean dark?” Balin asked.

“I think you already know, or at least you suspect it. The necromancer, the symbol, the eye, the ring, you know, you’re just afraid to admit it.”

“What is it, Balin?”

“It cannot be, he was destroyed long ago by men and elves.”

“That is what they say, but look at the evidence against that claim. You know I’m right,” the voice said with a sigh, Balin looking paler than a sheet.

“Balin, what is it?” Thorin ordered, steeling himself for anything.

“The Dark Lord Sauron and that must be his ring, the One Ring,” Balin whispered, but his voice was heard throughout the room.

“Yes, indeed it is,” the voice said. No one spoke, no one moved, no one breathed. The sheer horror and weight of the words were far too great.

“A ring that powerful, we could use-”

“No!” The voice hissed making them shrink back in their seats. “No, you cannot use it. Should any of you attempt it I can assure you your quest will fail and all shall die. You must leave it with Bilbo.”

“Then we destroy it!” Kili said, scrambling up and looking at Bilbo. He was rigid, ready to fight, a hand where his sword should have been. There were shouts of agreement from all, except Bilbo who was still sitting on the couch, ice in his veins. The ring felt so heavy now, a dark cloud seeming to come from it and enter his mind. How he had not noticed it before, he did not know. He knew what the voice said was true in his heart, and his stomach rolled.

“There is no weapon in this world or the next which could destroy the Ring. Only by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom, deep in the heart of Mordor can it be destroyed,” the voice said. The company turned to each other, discussing among themselves what this could mean.

“For now you should not fret, I told you before you were safe within my halls, it cannot harm you here,” they said and with their words, Bilbo felt the darkness recede and his stomach settle. He took a shaky breath and shook himself, looking up to see Thorin and Ori staring at him in worry. He tried to smile and reassure them, but he knew it was weak. Thorin pulled him close, Ori leaning down to grab a blanket and throw it over them.

“What about when we leave?” Dori asked, speaking up for the first time. He looked over at Bilbo, frowning, then back up at the ceiling.

“At the beginning of the first part, you saw a scene with Bilbo sixty years after the quest was over. At that time he was still in possession of the Ring, and had used it several times. I will not say the matter of the Ring is a small affair, but for now and for the remainder of your quest its true name is not important. The dragon Smaug, however, is of vital importance. So even with this new information, I ask you to put it aside and focus on the current task,” the voice said and despite the severity of the situation, Bilbo found himself believing the voice.

“You seem to know more about the Ring,” Ori said.

“A clever observation young one, I do indeed know much about the Ring, far more than any of you could imagine.”

“Will you show us? Like you’ve done with our future? When this is over and our quest is done, will you show us so we can deal with it? I don’t want it to hurt my family,” Ori said standing tall as he made his request. Bilbo smiled, knowing he was who Ori was referring to, being called his family making his heart swell with joy. The voice was silent and the company wondered if they were going to answer.

“To do so would likely alter the timeline far beyond anything imaginable,”

“That’s not a no,”

“True, first you must finish your own future, then you may know my answer,” the voice said and despite the complaints, they said no more. They settled down, glancing at Bilbo and frowning at how shaken up he appeared. Dori took to collecting more blankets and pillows, shoving them at Thorin to arrange as best he could.

“Dori I’m fine,” Bilbo protested.

“You looked ready to lose your breakfast, now here have some tea,” he said passing Bilbo a cup of steaming liquid. Bilbo wondered where he got that but figured the voice had provided it. The tea helped soothe his frazzled nerves and the nerves of everyone else who drank some. When they were all calmed enough the screen began once more.

They were no longer watching screen-Bilbo, instead focusing back on the company. A spider grabbed screen-Kili, pulling him away from the rest of the dwarves. Screen-Fili looked over, pausing at the sight in horror.

[Fili:] “Kili!”

Then they were back with screen-Bilbo who was still hacking wildly at the spider. He killed it without mercy, stabbing it several times before finally letting it fall to the ground, dead. Panting, screen-Bilbo looked down at the Ring, the music starting again. Bilbo could practically feel the hatred emanating from the dwarves towards the Ring, and he was both scared and moved by it.

Screen-Bilbo grabbed the Ring and showed it to the dead spider.

[Bilbo:] “Mine!”

Sitting down, screen-Bilbo admired the Ring, turning it over in his hand. Until the reality of what he had just done started to catch up with him and his loving expression turned to one of horror and disgust. Quickly he stuffed it in his pocket as he looked up at a noise.

The screen switched back to the dwarves as they ran through the forest, spiders jumping down around them. One slid down on a thread of silk directly in front of screen-Thorin, who raised his sword only to pause. Up above a blonde elf ran through the treetops, swinging down the spider silk and landing on it, killing it with a single blow.

“What’er elves doin here?” Dwalin growled. First, there were spiders, then an evil Ring and now elves? The elf slid beneath the spider in front of screen-Thorin. He sliced through it and came up kneeling in front of him with an arrow drawn. Several other elves appeared, each with arrows pointed at the company, surrounding them.

“Well it is their forest,” Kili said with a shrug. He didn’t really care that there were elves per say, but he very much did care that they were pointing arrows at them.

[Legolas:] “Do not think I won’t kill you, dwarf. It would be my pleasure.”

His comment made the company bristle, threats being hurled back at the screen. Thorin would have found their anger funny, if they weren’t about to be captured by elves.

[Kili:] “Help!”

[Fili:] “Kili!”

“No,” Fili whispered, heart freezing at his little brother’s cry. Kili leaned into him, which Fili was thankful for, a reminder that this wasn’t real, but his eyes remained fixed on the screen. He had to know if his brother was safe, the alternative was the one thing he would never be able to deal with. The dwarves on screen looked around to see a spider pulling Kili away by the foot. Fili hoped none of the elves tried to stop him, hurting one of them really wouldn’t be in his best interest. His thoughts were mirrored in the minds of the rest of the company.

Another elf with blazing red hair ran through the forest towards screen-Kili, killing three spiders with her bow and knife. She shot an arrow into the spider dragging screen-Kili and turned to attack another. Still, one more spider rushed towards him.

[Kili:] “Throw me your dagger! Quick!”

[Tauriel:] “If you think I’m giving you a weapon, dwarf, you’re mistaken!”

She killed her spider then turned and threw her knife, landing a perfect blow on the spider running towards screen-Kili. He looked on in amazement, and even the dwarves had to admit her skills were impressive, for an elf at least. They switched back to the rest of the company, still held at arrow point.

[Legolas:] “Search them.”

“Why ye little-”

“Keep yer prissy hands te yerself,”

“You lot are impossible,” Bilbo mumbled shaking his head. The dwarves quieted down their complaints, looking at him with mixed expressions, all of which had an underlying happy tone. Bilbo was smiling and talking and mocking them and that was a vast improvement from the scared Bilbo of before.

On screen, the elves began searching the dwarves. One approach screen-Fili and grabbed his swords. The main elf, none of them actually knew or cared to know his name, approached screen-Gloin. He pulled out the small picture frame everyone in the company was very familiar with. Barely a day went by without Gloin taking it out and telling yet another story about his son.

[Gloin:] “Hey! Give it back! That’s private!”

“Yeah!” Nori said, crossing his arms. “Even I wouldn’t steal that,” he added receiving a disapproving look from Dori. The blonde elf opened it, not caring about screen-Gloin’s protests and looked at the picture of the dwarf inside.

[Legolas:] “Who is this? Your brother?”

“As if! I’d never do my dear Silga the dishonor.”

“Aye brother, she’s far prettier than both us put together.”

[Gloin:] “That is my wife!”

[Legolas:] “And what is this horrid creature? A goblin mutant?”

“Why ye!” Gloin was turning redder and redder as the conversation continued and no one could blame him. Bilbo was absolutely appalled by the elf’s manners, even if they were technically now his prisoners.

[Gloin:] “That’s my wee lad, Gimli.”

The elf merely looked at him in contempt, spurring on the insults thrown at the screen. Bilbo was going to understand the entirety of Khuzdul curse words by the end of this, he just knew it.

To the side, the elf searching screen-Fili was still finding knives. Screen-Fili sighed when he found a secret pocket, containing another set.

“Tell me you don’t sleep with all those still on,” Bilbo asked even though he knew the answer. Fili and Kili rarely removed anything before flopping down on top of each other.

“Why would I?”

“So you don’t stab yourself in your sleep.”

[Legolas:] “Gyrth in yngyl bain?” [Subtitle: Are the spiders dead?]

[Tauriel:] “Ennorner gwanod in yngyl na nyryn. Engain nar.” [Subtitle: Yes, but more will come. They’re growing bolder.]

“Can’t even protect their own forest, useless elves,” Dwalin huffed. Screen-Fili opened his jacket with a grin, only for the elf to find yet another knife in his hood.

“I didn’t even know you had that many?” Kili said, looking Fili up and down. “No wonder you look like skin and bones now.” He grinned.

“Oh wanna see what skin and bones can do?” Fili challenged already sitting up.

“Enough you two, I’m sure some of us would like to get through this within the next year,” Thorin reprimanded, not happy with the situation on screen. There was a lot on his mind now, and the arrival of elves was not helping his mood in the slightest. An elf presented the blonde leader with Orcrist and Thorin nearly growled. That was his sword, elvish or not. Bilbo patted his hand, shifting next to him to pull the blanket half over Thorin as well. He leaned back with a huff, not wanting to risk upsetting Bilbo anymore then he already was, appreciating the hobbit’s attempts to comfort him.

[Legolas:] “Echannen i vegil hen vin Gondolin. Magannen nan Gelydh.” [Subtitle: This is an ancient Elvish blade. Forged by my kin.]

[Legolas:] “Where did you get this?”

[Thorin:] “It was given to me.”

[Legolas:] “Not just a thief, but a liar as well.”

“Do you know to whom you speak?”

“We’re not thieves, you are!”

“Thorin would make a terrible thief.”

[Legolas:] “Enwenno hain!” [Rough translation: Take them!]

On screen, they were shoved forwards, herded through the forest like animals. Screen-Bofur turned around and said something that made the company watching panic.

[Bofur:] “Thorin, where’s Bilbo?”

“He wasn’t there,”

“E was with that ugly spider,”

“He’ll die in that forest,”

“How dare they leave one of us behind!”
Screen-Thorin looked around but there was no sign of screen-Bilbo anywhere. The dwarves were led over a narrow bridge above a river and into the Woodland Realm. Once they had entered, the leader turned to the guards.

[Legolas:] “Holo in ennyn.” [Subtitle: Close the gate.]

“But Bilbo!”

“Oh there he is!” And indeed there was screen-Bilbo running over the bridge in the strange grey world of the Ring. The blonde elf turned, but seeing nothing walked through the gates. Screen-Bilbo slipped through just before they closed, causing a sigh of relief to come from the company. If they were going to be captured, then they had better all be together.