20:07. Am considering throttling self with own braids. After getting lost twice trying to find this damned hobbit-hole, I’ve arrived to the sound of my company singing like a severely undertrained acapella band. Victims of the wizard’s second-hand smoke, no doubt.
Note to self: find out what he is puffing in that pipe of his and promptly confiscate it. He’s clearly too old and loony to be meddling with stuff like that in the first place. And is actually suggesting we take a hobbit with us on our quest, for Mahal’s sake.
20:09. Wait for them to stop singing before knocking on the door as impressively as possible. My knuckles will sting this night.
“Gandalf,” I greet pleasantly as the door swings open (why is it round, does it need to be round?) “You said this place would be easy to find,” I accuse haughtily as I step inside, “I got lost. Twice.”
Take a look around, and am pleasantly surprised that I’m not standing in a glorified fox-hole, but actually a rather comfortable home, full of light and warmth and –
“Thorin,” Gandalf addresses me, “This is Bilbo Baggins – Bilbo, this is Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of our Company.”
“So,” I say absent-mindedly, observing the slight, small man who’s staring back at me in a worryingly bewildered way (is there something on my face?), “This is the hobbit.”
He’s a little thing (no surprises there), barely reaching my shoulders, with copper curls and wide green eyes. He reminds me of a rabbit. A rather cute rabbit-
No. No, stop it.
“Tell me, Mr Baggins, have you done much fighting? Sword or axe, what’s your weapon of choice?”
He smiles tentatively at me, all crooked and gentle.
“Well I do have some skill in conkers, if you must know, but I fail to see how that’s…relevant.”
Resist the urge to smile (I want to smile, why do I want to smile?) and instead try to look as unimpressed as possible. Quick – say something patronising and mildly insulting!
“Thought as much. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.” Everyone laughs at my fantastically witty joke. Obviously.
The hobbit blinks at me, half a smile still etched on his face.
20:20. Am resolutely ignoring the hobbit and his stupid smiles. He’s gone to rustle up some soup for me as apparently my Company, fat bastards that they are, have devoured everything within walking distance. I eye the empty table forlornly, and Bombur has the grace to look sheepish.
20:22. Fili and Kili look well. And by ‘well’ I mean rearing to fight something obscenely oversized and dangerous (what’s new).
Kili is trying to shoot ale out of his nose, cheeks fit to bursting and eyes firmly crossed. He looks mildly deranged. Fili is crying with laughter and keeps whacking his brother on the back in an effort to make him fail.
“You’ll never be able to – ah! Gross, you got it on my sleeve!”
Good to see the line of succession prosper.
“Both nostrils! Ha!”
“Enough,” I command in my best ‘King Under the Mountain’ voice (also a favourite at drinking parties), “If you two do not begin to act your age, expect me to seriously reconsider your accompanying me on this quest.”
That shuts them up.
Still not sure what possessed me to let them come along, especially after Dis threatened to cut my balls off with a rusty bread knife should anything happen to them.
A classy woman, my sister. She once pushed me into a river-rapid when we were youths because she was jealous of my beard coming in before hers.
“I almost drowned!” I spluttered as I dragged myself from the raging water.
“What d’you want, a medal?”
20:28. The soup is rather good, not that I’m telling the hobbit that.
20:35. We discuss how my trip to the Iron Hills went and I confirm that Dain is ‘not with us’. Because he is a lazy, gigantic dick of a dwarf.
Don’t say that out loud, but share a glance with Dwalin and sense that he concurs.
20:42. The hobbit insists on leaning around my shoulder to look at the map like some sort of overly intrigued magpie. I try to concentrate on what Gandalf is saying but I can feel hot breath on the side of my neck and-
Oh, bugger it.
20:45. “I’m not afraid, I’m up for it! I’ll give him a taste of dwarvish iron right up his jacksie!”
“How many dragons have you killed?”
Gandalf doesn't seem entirely sure how to answer this, and as ruckus breaks out over the idea I feel my patience just about snap.
Time for a speech of my own, I think.
20:51. “…or do we seize this chance to take back Erebor!” Damn, I’m good at this.
Am met with a round of hearty applause. Obviously.
20:55. So apparently Gandalf has been hiding the key to my mountain somewhere in those ridiculous robes of his. For who knows how long. Not that this angers me, or anything.
But it might have been nice if my father had given it to me.
His son and heir.
Rather than a loopy weed-smoking wizard from Mahal knows where.
I eagerly take it off him, awed by it and the sudden wave of emotion which squeezes at my throat, when Fili graces us with a little of his unbelievable intuition.
“If there’s a key…there must be a door.”
Must resist the urge to either a) clap slowly, or b) cry because we are related.
“There’s another way in,” Kili adds helpfully, grinning like a rather slow but admittedly cheerful puppy.
Stare at them both.
21:06. “The task I have in mind requires a great deal of stealth,” Gandalf tells us, “And no small amount of courage.” He glances at Baggins pointedly.
Wonder if the ‘small’ part was a hobbit joke.
“But if we are careful, and clever, I believe it can be done.”
I glance around at my Company. Nori is scratching his nose. Bifur is going cross-eyed again. If ‘careful and clever’ is what Gandalf thinks we’ll be needing, I’ve bad news for him.
“That’s why we need a burglar,” Ori points out.
Hear the hobbit make a sound of agreement from behind me. “A good one too, I’d imagine!” he exclaims easily.
We all turn to look at him.
“And are you?” Gloin asks.
Good one, Gloin.
Baggins does his bewildered-blinking-face again, and I hurriedly turn back around. Damn his face.
“Am I what?”
Useless, but cute.
21:10. Baggins goes on to vehemently deny any type of theft-related lifestyle, and the Company begins arguing amongst themselves again. Am already tired of this quest and it hasn't even started yet.
Suddenly Gandalf seems to grow, rising out of his chair like a dark spirit complete with a booming voice of certain doom. “IF I SAY BILBO BAGGINS IS A BURGLAR, THEN A BURGLAR…he is.”
Should probably remember that he’s an intimidatingly powerful wizard as well as a weed-smoking tree-hugger who deals in illegal fireworks.
Suddenly, I’m glad he’ll be accompanying us on this journey.
Even if he gets everyone high on second-hand smoke in the process.
21:14. “Give him the contract.”
Balin gives me said contract and I pass it on to the hobbit.
Well, almost certainly.
21:15. Apparently hobbits are fainters.
Bofur makes just one little comment about ‘flesh melting from bones’ and ‘piles of ash’, and with a small peep of ‘nope’ the little man is down for the count.
Excellent. We shall be relying on a burglar who passes out at the mere mention of incineration to possibly sneak under a dragon’s nose. Cannot go wrong.
21:17. As Gandalf goes about settling the unconscious hobbit in an armchair to recover, I act very non-interested indeed and raise an eyebrow at Bofur. “What do you think, friend? Does he look like an expert burglar to you?” No, he looks like a green-eyed little sprite or a cute little rabbit –
“Oh, I dunno,” Bofur comments cheerily, “It’s hard to tell. Seems a nice enough chap.”
Resist the urge to roll my eyes. “That doesn't answer my question.”
“Don’t be too quick to judge, laddie,” Balin tells me sternly, and honestly if he wasn't so old and such a good friend I’d wallop him one for calling me ‘laddie’ still. “He might be just what we need.”
21:25. We watch the hobbit leave Gandalf’s side, resigned to his solitude. “You were saying, Balin?” I ask sarcastically.
Balin sighs in defeat. “It appears we have lost our burglar. Probably for the best – the odds were always against us.”
So much for Mr. Optimistic.
21:28. “I would take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills,” I tell him surely.
An army from the Iron Hills would be nice, of course, but you can’t have everything.
“For when I called upon them they answered,” My speeches are seriously the best, I can already feel tears coming on, “Loyalty, honour, a willing heart…I can ask no more than that.”
Well, I could ask more, but I’m not going to.
21:35. Time for some singing, I think. Haven’t had a good group song since Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin and I got drunk in a pub in Dale, and began singing a chorus of rather insulting shanties to some of the human men also drinking there. Dwalin’s favourite was: ‘you’re a man ne’er so smart, you’re wife’s a useless tart,’ which in our drunken stupor we had all thought was the wittiest thing in Middle Earth. Needless to say it didn't go down very well.
It probably didn't help matters that I started shouting ‘Don’t touch me, peasants,” when we were manhandled out, but I am a King, for Mahal’s sake.
Perhaps something a little more cultured for tonight.
08:06. Am surprised when I hear the hobbit’s trilling voice calling for us to stop the next morning as we ride out. I had not taken wagers like the rest on whether he’d come, but I had secretly predicated he wouldn’t and hoped he would. Gandalf will be unbearably smug.
Turn in the saddle to watch Baggins’ approach, his flushed face complimented by a breathless smile and wide, green eyes that flash like freshly cut emeralds and oh for the love of-stop it. Stop it now.
“I signed it,” he tells us, proudly waving about the contract like a banner, before passing it to Balin who checks it over.
Baggins catches my eye but quickly looks away, ever bashful.
“Everything seems to be in order,” Balin announces happily, smiling down at the little hobbit who is, apparently, our new burglar. “Welcome, Master Baggins, to the Company of Thorin Oakenshield.”
There’s a friendly wave of cheering, and I impatiently kick my pony back into moving. “Get him a pony.”
The hobbit immediately tries to insist he can walk (please), but is abruptly shut up – I glance behind me to observe him scrambling about on the saddle Fili and Kili have deposited him in, looking rather put out.
Can’t even mount a pony properly. Excellent.
But he does have a rather nice-
No. Stop that.
He notices me watching him, and we both look away so quickly I almost get whiplash.