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Concerning Hobbits and Dwarves

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Concerning Hobbits and Dwarves
Beta: Stormwind13, (Thank you Dear for making yourself the trouble to work this through for me^__^)
This is now the Beta Version, Enjoy and maybe leave a comment for us both if it is now better to read or not?
Thanks, Sury and Stormwind
*Your feet look as pretty as that of a girl! … He has not even enough hair on them, just like my little sisters, look! … Bilbo has human feet!*
The young son of Belladonna and Bungo Baggins looked morosely down as he listlessly swung feet. In the distance, he could hear his tormentors playing in his relatives’ garden. Currently, Bilbo was hiding on an old bench in the overgrown part of the old herb garden. Today, their teasing had been more vicious then usual and he felt like more of an outcast from the other shirelings. They often played cruel tricks on him and said nasty things at least as often as they harassed him.
Of course, only when none of the adults were looking.
To be fair, his feet were indeed smaller than normal Hobbit size, if only just barely… if Bilbo were being honest. When measuring them against those of his cousins… which he was not doing, no matter what cousin Ortho had said! They did look…odd? Weird? He had never seen the feet of a human before in his life but had been told that they were smaller compared to that of a Hobbit’s, considering their size. Moreover, they hurt easier too! The other children never had so much as a slight cut or a little hurt on them when they ran over the ground. Bilbo on the contrary often had to watch out for stones, because they cut more easily into his soles or to step more lightly because his feet did not toughen up like the other children’s did. And in the winter, his feet froze more quickly than other Hobbits’. Another dispirited sigh left his lips and curling up on the bench he sat on, Bilbo thought about all the differences between his cousins and himself that he had noted of late.
The feet were only the beginning of a longer list of odd differences that the twelve years old Hobbitling had noticed.
Another difference that was most prominent, his teeth, had brought it to Bilbo’s attention that something …was…not…right with him? Hobbits, as a rule, got the first of their last set of teeth at nine to ten years of age. Healthy, white teeth. Small and yet much tougher as those of a human, they lasted them with little care given, through their entire life. Since they were smaller folk, they had two teeth less than humans on each side of their mouth, upper and lower row alike. That made their jaws look smaller than that of a human.
Of course, Bilbo as usual, had to stand out again!
Not only had he kept his milk teeth until now, he also showed no cursed sign of growing in his adult set any time soon! And speaking of milk teeth, Bilbo’s had an odd shape and when he had lost one a week ago, the tooth had looked like white marble instead of the normally more pearl colored teeth he had seen when his cousins had lost theirs. More so, it had been surprisingly hard to crush as it was custom to do with the first tooth lost and it was larger than those of his cousins. It was simply not fair, Bilbo thought!
Another sigh escaped Bilbo on the bench.
What he had told no one besides his mother was that he seemingly had two extra teeth on each row. She had told him to keep it a secret, that things like that did sometimes happen and to think nothing of it and Bilbo had heeded her, not wanting to give the other children new ammunition to harass and bully him with. Such as they had the time they found out that Bilbo’s ears were slightly bigger. Theirs were shaped like a leaf and daintily pointed at the tips.
Bilbo’s were slightly larger and had an uncommon rounding at the shell and the tip wasn’t as pointy as it should be.
Another mark on his ever-growing list of misery. His Took cousins never teased or bullied him but the children in Hobbington usually did. What, Bilbo silently questioned himself, would they say if they ever found out that he had developed a fine dust of hair on his legs and even on his chest in the last year?! He didn’t even want to know!
From the corner, hidden partially by a rosebush, Belladonna watched her son with sorrow when he curled up more and began to cry silently.
Her resolve to talk with her husband about Bilbo’s troubles only grew with the miserable picture that her son had unknowingly presented her with. It was high time to put those brats of his relatives in their place! Was Bungo blind? She shook her head and silently slipped back onto the pebble path up to the house. Belladonna knew that it would do her no good to try to comfort her son right now. Sometimes he could be more stubborn than a proverbial rock!
Bilbo could be a real hermit if he wanted to and when hurt, the lad always fled to a place where he could hide and lick his wounds in silence.
She knew where Bilbo had gotten that particular stubborn streak from… now she stopped walking and sighed, much like her son before. He had it from his father, from Bungo and from her. Only her most trusted relatives knew about Bilbo’s little secret, no one else in the shire did. They would have shunned the poor lad for only being born different.
She did not want that for her son.
If anyone, she was at fault here and not Bilbo, she thought as her chin jutted out in her silent fuming at the situation at hand. If any of her brothers had seen the look in her eyes now, they would have gulped and turned tail already. Even the most stubborn of her brothers did not dare to cross their sister when she got into one of her moods. An enraged Belladonna was truly a frightening sight and currently she was quite mad at the relatives of Bungo; who told their children nonsense about her son that then in turn, grew into the merciless bullying of Bilbo.
Stomping down the overgrown path, Belladonna Baggins, born Took set her angry eyes on the mother of the worst of the little tyrants.
Later that afternoon, when Bilbo was already in bed, his parents sat before the hearth and stared into the flames together. They had talked after her livid tongue-lashing of his relatives and had just now come to an understanding. Hours after. She knew that her husband loved Bilbo as much as she did and this time Bungo had even kept from complaining much about her loss of decorum. A clear sign that he agreed with her this time.
Bilbo wasn’t Bungo’s son.
Well, he was, just not that of his loins. In all else Bilbo was surely Bungo’s son. The boy looked up to him and tried his hardest to make his father proud on every occasion that Bilbo could manage. Already the lad could passably read and write. Quite a feat for one so young. Both shared a love for books and lore and more so, Bilbo tried his best to be a proper Baggins boy.
Of course, his Took blood from his mother’s side often got Bilbo into trouble but that was to be expected and Bungo was certain that he would grow out of that soon.
However, the son of his seed, Bilbo was not.
Belladonna had come back from Rohan one day in a disheveled state of dress and mind and with something in the oven, so to speak. On her way back, she had encountered a Dwarf of all the beings in middle earth! A Dwarf that had been in such a sorry state of body and mind that her heart went out for the poor tormented creature and she had spent the next half year nursing the poor being back to health right there in the wild where she had run across his shivering form.
His body, Belladonna told to Bungo later, had healed up well enough. His mind, however, was lost. She had suspected him to be a survivor of the great battle years prior between the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains and the Orcs of Moria. Most likely, he had wandered around unaided for years! In the end, the poor creature had snapped one night and before Belladonna could stop him from it, he had crawled into her bedding.
Until this very day, she refused to see what had followed as a rape. Whatever it had been, or had made him do it, there never was malice in his touch.
She never blamed the poor Dwarf for what he had done that night. The next day he had woken in one of his rare almost clear-minded moods to only look at her, his face stricken with pain, horror and grief a few moments later. Than he had screamed in anguish and had run away, so fast that she couldn’t follow to stop him. She never found him and search Belladonna did! However, the Dwarf had vanished from the very earth she had found him on.
She had given up after the second week, knowing somehow that she would never see him again.
The only thing he had left her to remember him by, besides Bilbo, was a clasp made of real Mithril of all things, with an odd design carved into its frond and signs in Khuzdul on the back and a strange ring with a bluish green stone set on the top. Once, when he had been less mad and his mind clearer he had babbled about it as a child would. In broken Westron and his native tongue Khuzdul alike, the latter she did not understand. Telling her that the ring was originally that of his shield brother who he had searched for in the darkness and found dead there and that he had to keep it safe for him.
That he had to give it to his friend’s heir, or so he had told her with an almost demented grin that had disturbed her greatly.
He never told her his name, or that of any other of his relatives. The only thing she was told was the name of his former shield brother, Thrain. Who ever that might have been, Belladonna thought and silently wept a tear for his poor lost and fractured mind and soul. Hoping against hope that he had found peace or that he was dead. Which would have been kinder a fate for him, in Belladonna’s eyes, than life like he had had before. She never blamed the Dwarf nor did she let others put blame on his head, he had already been tormented enough from fate in his life she thought and Bungo agreed with her in that.
Not much later, she found out to her horror that she was pregnant.
Knowing as much about herbs as Belladonna did, she could have gotten rid of Bilbo then. Alas, she had wanted to keep him. If only to keep something alive and hale from the poor creature that she could not rescue. She told the truth only to her family and when she had finished her tale, not even her father had said anything about her wish to keep the wee one anymore.
Bungo had found out by chance that she was pregnant and without a father to show while he had been visiting and had not judged her for it.
He had loved her for years now but had never dared to woo her because she could not possibly want a husband that could not give her the children that Belladonna might want. Bungo was not impotent, oh no. His seed had just not the ability to make a baby. He was sterile. After an illness that had swept through the Shire when he had been but a baby, he had lost his ability to sire offspring. It was a well-kept secret and only Belladonna had learned the truth when he had told her his secret in return for hers.
Both had come to a strange accord and after a short time, even come to love each other wholeheartedly.
If Bilbo was born a month too soon, no one took any interest in it.
That he, by Hobbit standards, had been born actually rather late, was something no one else but Belladonna, her family and Bungo knew about. She had been pregnant for nearly ten months before Bilbo decided to be born. What, as she was told by rangers later, was actually nearer to the normal carrying terms of a Dwarf than a Hobbit who normally had a gestation time of only six months.
Dwarves carried for twelve months.
Bilbo had looked normal enough to the casual onlooker, maybe a bit larger and so no one knew about his true origin than before. That she never again became pregnant they all chalked up to the heavy birth of Bilbo and soon it was something that nobody mentioned so not to grieve the poor couple who only had one child, compared to the average Hobbit families with least four children.
Though lately, her darling son had shown more of the traits of his father’s kin and that worried Belladonna and her husband mightily.
She knew already, although having the build and looks of her Took kin, that Bilbo had rather strong bones. Nearly every Hobbit child broke a bone or two in the first years of their life. Their race had a fragile bone structure that only hardened somewhat in their tweens years. Bilbo had broken none in his entire life. Falling down from a tree when he had climbed it, running right into a wall without getting a concussion or falling down the cellar stairs, landing right on his head, never did the boy break one of his bones or injure himself seriously. Yes, Bilbo sported the usual bruises, even a scraped knee had been the case more than once. Still, he never grew sick, caught one of the usual colds or injured himself in his endeavors as the others his age so often did.
Another thing that worried his parents was his teeth.
He had the set of a Dwarf and not that of a Hobbit, Belladonna all too well. She and Bungo had done a lot research on Dwarves while she was pregnant. He had even went to the settlements in Bree and in the north once for business to learn more in an effort to determine the differences in build and culture. So far, Bilbo resembled a Hobbit more than he did a Dwarf and both his parents were glad for that.
It spared him the sure scorn of close-minded people if they ever found out.
Still, his hair was a bit courser than that of a Hobbit. Even curling nicely as it did and having her color instead of that of his father. The Dwarf had had dark brown hair and beard, but Bilbo had inherited her honey golden curls. She kept it short in fear that it would grow out even wilder than it already was and so give him away. Belladonna knew that his Dwarven father would have never let her cut it if he had been here… but he was not and Bilbo had to life without his protection in a world that could be very cruel to those who were different. Not to mention that he was most likely the only mix breed child between their races ever! Neither she nor Bungo found any trace of another child like Bilbo in the history books and stories.
Once she joked around about the possibility of Dwobbits as she had called them with the rangers that often visited Tookland. Only to be told that half Dwarven children never seem to have existed in the past as far as they knew.
She couldn’t risk having someone find out about Bilbo, ever!
He looked enough like her to pass as their son, luckily, or the questioning would have already started. As it was, Bungo’s relatives spit fire enough already about the fact that Bilbo looked so much like her and not like Bungo at all. Giving each other a look, both decided to put off the telling of the truth to Bilbo for a while longer. The pair deemed him still too young for such a burden to bear. As far as they were concerned, Bilbo would stay an innocent child for as long as both could keep him so.
Both hoped against hope that they never had to tell him, despite knowing that it was a futile wish.
Unknown to the pair of concerned Hobbit parents in Bag End, another pair of beings buried the mangled body of their only nearest relative that same evening.
Their cousin, their father’s sister son, had been lost and thought to dead for over two decades when he had suddenly appeared in their settlement in the Blue Mountains. Babbling insanely about Thrain, the father of their king, Thorin and his family ring. About a kind woman that he had seemingly dishonored as far as they could understand, his ravings mad and sick enough that he would not last much longer. He died in his sickbed only a few months later and both grieved deeply over his loss.
Until his end, he had begged an unknown woman by the name of Bella for forgiveness for something he had done but did not tell them what it was that he had done when his cousins asked him.
They, as well as the others in their settlement, had a bad feeling about it.
When he had been found, all he had with him were his worn down armor and some unknown clothing underneath that had clearly been made by the hand of someone who had cared for their cousin after he had vanished in Moria. Thrain’s lost battle-axe had been strapped to his back along with some of his own weapons. Holding one of the Thrain’s braids with the bead of the Durin line attached to it in one hand, to show his children that he was dead, and a lock of beautifully curly and golden hued hair in his other hand. He never let go of the hair until his death. Even after that, his fist was still clutched possessively around the surprisingly soft tress that he had often braided carefully under their watchful and sorrowful eyes.
He never regained his sanity or health and died silently in the night.
His cousins and clan had buried him with all the honors that he deserved. They honored the fact that he had followed his shield brother into Moria to find him and then found his way back out to tell his children the tale of what he discovered. Well, mostly, he was clearly insane in the end but no one minded him, he had seen too much and obviously been tormented. One time he had babbled about Durin’s Bane that he had seen and no one asked him for more after that.
Having not the heart to take this comforting little token from the mangled body of their formerly so strong and good-natured relative, they had clothed his body into the little finery that they had and had buried the curious strand of golden hair with him. Hoping that it would give him comfort on his way to the halls of their ancestors.
Try as they might, no one had ever found out to who exactly the lock had belonged, not even Thorin Oakenshield, who kept his eyes and ears open on his many wanderings as a blacksmith in the following years. The true nature of this ’Bella’ woman continued to be a mystery that no one could explain. They never found a clue of her and finally thought that she must have died too and left it sorrowfully at that.
Meanwhile Bilbo grew up in Bag End and knew nothing.
Suryallee

Chapter Text

The first time, Bilbo met a Dwarf was on a sunny spring day of his twenty-fourth year of life.

…well, met can mean here a world of different things when one was Bilbo Baggins and currently felt like an unruly foal with too long legs and arms. In his case this meant that Bilbo had had a growth spurt in the last year and now was dealing with the typical repercussions of not exactly being an adult yet and not exactly being a tween any longer either.

Oh, the inelegance of youth… he hated it with a passion bordering on insanity!

Only this morning Bilbo had managed it to pull down Missus Gammer’s prize petunia from its spot near the garden entrance to their Hole. He hadn’t meant to do it! He had just tried to catch himself when he tripped on his way down from Bag End to the market, honestly! A minute before he ’met’ his first dwarf, Bilbo was running away from the incensed elderly lady’s wrath - and her trusty broom - who furiously wanted to punish him for the utter destruction of her famous flowerpot!

It really wasn’t his fault that he needed to look behind him to measure the distance between her, her broom and him when the Dwarf came around the corner.

This ended with Bilbo running over the surprised Dwarf, pausing only to give him a confused look and take off with a hastily murmured apology as the elderly lady neared them. Said dwarf in question could only stare perplexed after the vanishing youth and Hobbit lady, still in his spot in the dirt. Whatever poor Bofur had expected to find in Hobbiton, this wasn’t it!

Finally he gave a grin and heaved his sorry behind off of the street.

That boy had spunk, the Dwarf thought whilst laughing. Just when he was about to go on his merry way, a glint of the sun on what looked to be a hair clasp made of shiny metal next to his boot caught his eye. Eyes narrowing, he figured that the lad had lost it in his mad dash and bent over to pick it up. When he examined it with widening eyes Bofur found that not only was the clasp made out of Mithril and not silver as he had formerly thought, it held a family design that he knew very well.

Turning it over he read the description carved into the back. With a whistle then he pocketed it carefully and went in the direction that the rapidly vanishing pair had gone instead to go to the marked as was his former plan.

He was here by mere chance. The last job of his had not paid as well as he had hoped and Bree was an unfortunate place to be when you had no coin to pay for a safe bed and place to stay at night. Well, Bofur had coins, enough actually but they were meant for his family and their survival and not for his comfort. He had ended up here in the Shire by accident, invited here by a curious fellow named Bungo Baggins.

Ok, so not really invited by the fellow but he had told Bofur when he had met the Hobbit that a lot children lived here.

What that had to do with Bofur?

He and his family made toys as a way to earn money on the side. Originally they were miners, their family and clan originally coming from what was now called Moria. When the kingdom had fallen, they had gone with the survivors to Erebor, only to be driven out again in his generation by a thieving dragon, Mahal curse his damned tail! Ever since, Bofur, his brother Bombur and their cousin Bifur had lived in the Dwarven settlement in Ered Luin with the rest of the survivors of the formerly great Kingdom.

He had seen the battle at the gates of Moria and what it had done to his brothers when the old King had tried to reclaim the mines and had failed. Bifur could tell one a tale in Khuzdul of it and an Orcish battle Axe was still embedded into his forehead.

Now, everyone tried to help their people to survive the best way they could. They had many orphans to feed and clothe and almost more widows as warriors nowadays what was unusual since it was usually the other way around. He was an excellent Toymaker and knew this too. So, naturally Bofur had wanted to check out if the stories were true.

To his delight, they were!
He had already made a good fortune with selling only what he had carried with him and even scored two orders for more expensive toys from two families that had even paid up half of the price in advance! Not something that happened often. That was where he was originally headed to: to get a room since this place was lucrative enough for him to stay and pay for one. Now, a new destination and purpose had entered his mind.

To find that Hobbit brat to ask him where the hell he had gotten this particular clasp from!

Unaware of being followed, Bilbo finally had managed to get away from the old lady without having to suffer the fate of being hit into submission by a broom of doom. True, his cousin had helped him by hiding him on his wood laden cart, but escaped he had and that was that. Meanwhile, as his Took cousin laughed himself silly at his plight, Bilbo grumbled and cursed silently at the retreating back of the old lady.

Thanks to his clumsiness, he was already enough of a source of never ending amusement for his cousins, thank you!

It would take weeks before they would forget his latest mishap or let him live it down, Bilbo was certain as he pouted. He wasn’t aware of the Dwarf that observed his escape as well as his mumbled words with keen eyes and ears… the longer Bofur watched the curious little fellow, the more confused he became.

He had known the cousin of his friends well in Erebor. Before the horrible battle and the fate that had made a shell out of the formerly strong Royal guard of Thrain.

Fishing the clasp out of his pocket again, Bofur gave it another curious stare before his gaze went back to the young Hobbit tween that was currently climbing out of the wagon and nearly managed to fall down on his face. He let a snigger escape his lips in his mirth. Sure, Bofur was older then the most but he was still far from being, well, old. He still could remember how it felt to be that young and how awkward life was as the body made the final growing changes from child to adult.

He felt almost pity for the lad. Almost.

The rest of him was busy trying not to laugh at the boy’s disgruntled look as he managed to just barely prevent himself from landing in an undignified heap on the street. His laughter became stuck in his throat when he saw the boy suddenly scowl darkly at the wagon… that scowl… rubbing his eyes he looked at the lad again. This time his keen eyes searched for clues that couldn’t, shouldn’t be there and to his dismay, Bofur found a lot of those in the following two hours, more than he felt comfortable with.

It couldn’t be! This was a joke…right?

Slinking deeper into the shadows of the gentle hills that hid the Hobbit Holes underneath, Bofur trailed the lad back to an exceptionally large one on the top of the hill. The youth stopped right in doorway, clutching at his front suddenly. He watched the boy turn white as a sheet whilst he searched frantically for something in his clothes and then on path as he held a broken necklace in his hand while his eyes scanned the ground.
Bofur had a good idea what the lad was looking for and made a plan.

With one final look at the clasp he casually walked up to the boy.

“Hey there! Ye searching for this lad?”
Bilbo looked up into the twinkling eyes of the Dwarf he had run over earlier the day and promptly blushed beet red in embarrassment at having forgotten the poor fellow.
“Uhh… sorry for running you…err…over?”

Bofur barely stopped himself from breaking out into a full set of wild chortles at the timid sounding boy that now scratched his nose awkwardly. Even the tips of his ears were now red! Holding out his hand instead he showed the youth his find. The happy squeal from Bilbo made him smile widen. So, he had been right then, the clasp belonged to the lad… how interesting…

“My clasp! You found it. Oh thank you!!”

Before Bofur knew what had hit him, the youth had swept him into a bone crashing hug that was telling the miner more than words ever could. Too strong, much too strong for a hobbit, even a young one. He filed the new detail away as he had filed away the other details he had seen over the day as he had followed Bilbo around. Patting the boy good naturedly on the back Bofur suppressed another chuckle.

“No, it’s fine, really. Couldn’t keep it now could I? Knew right away that it has to be yours.”

Bilbo found his manners again at that moment and introduced himself rather quickly. A greeting that the Dwarf returned with equal speed.
“Oh thank you!” The lad told him again. “My mother would have had my hide if I lost it!” And again, before the poor Dwarf knew what had hit him Bilbo had tucked him halfway into the Hobbit Hole with him. There the pair was greeted by a comely looking, middle-aged Hobbit lass with the most beautiful golden curls that the Dwarf had ever seen, who turned out to be Bilbo’s mother.

Bofur pretended not to see her blanch at his sight and instead tried to talk Bilbo out of providing dinner with his family as thanks for returning his clasp.
He ended up not only eating at Bag End when Bilbo’s mother heard of it, he also was given a room for the night, an extra slice of cake, really good weed from the late returning father of the boy and even more food was offered from all three than he could eat! When Bofur finally managed it to pry himself loose from the excited Hobbit tween who had bombarded him with questions about Dwarves, he found himself back in a cozy room sitting on a soft, oh so soft bed.

Just looking at the closed door as he frantically tried to sort out the thoughts running through his mind.

This family was dangerous in their own way, he decided. They could kill a person by feeding them too many, exceptionally tasty, meals! Groaning he rubbed his bulging belly that was full for the first time since… blushing slightly Bofur found out that he couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten so much good food!

Damn but that Hobbit lady could cook well enough to charm Sauron out of hiding!

With another groan he flopped backwards and stared at the painted ceiling. These dwellings of the Hobbits turned out to be much cozier than he had originally believed them to be. More room than he had thought and equipped with warm wood, cozy furs and woolen mats on the floor, as well with delicately carved furniture like dressers, tables, chairs beds and such. The Hobbits lived rather comfortably. He cursed softly in Khuzdul. This place was really rather nice!

Silently Bofur wondered if he could get his hands on one if he tried.

Bifur would love this place, he was always complaining about the cold drafty halls they lived in since he had come back from Moria. Bofur was certain that Bombur would love their kitchens and that his brother would love to own one.

Maybe he should ask Nori for assistance, that Dwarf could charm an Orc into releasing him if he wanted to!

He had monitored the reactions of the Shire folk to his presence today while he had walked through the town. They had regarded him with barely concealed distrust but had welcomed him a lot more openly than the Humans he had come across in his life. Clearly they were no warriors but he had seen the green fields and rich gardens. What they lacked in battle craft they clearly made up for in the craft of growing!

He had also seen an abandoned forge with a young Hobbit trying to teach himself the craft. He had talent, even Bofur had seen that but lacked guidance. When the boy had seen him looking, he had given the Dwarf a sheepish grin and told him that his father had been the smith of the town until the last winter… before the wolves had come over the frozen river and had killed him while he had protected the Shire’s people. At his question why he tried not find a master in the nearby Bree to learn his father’s craft the boy had scowled fiercely and had told the shocked Bofur that he had tried.

Only to be laughed at and one time even nearly hit by the human craftsmen.

This too, was filed away from the clever Miner in silence. After giving the boy some tips he had walked on and right into Bilbo’s path.

As he had trailed Bilbo through the town, Bofur had seen Humans in the market. Only a few but compared to the open hostility that the normally rather friendly Hobbits showed the humans, he figured out fast that he had gotten much better treatment from the Shire folk. That shocked Bofur enough to ask Bilbo’s father after the meal about it. The answer had stunned the Dwarf even more. As it happened, the people of Bree had tried to take land from the Hobbits in nasty and underhanded ways. They invaded more and more space in the Shire and the Hobbits did not know how to stop them, not being aggressive by nature.

This too, was filed carefully away in his mind.

In Ered Luin too, the humans had become increasingly aggressive in of late, since food was scarce thanks in part to the too long winters and the too short summers that they had to harvest enough for all from the meager fields… here it was much different and it was no wonder to Bofur why the humans had suddenly chosen to try to invade here, greedy as the humans of Bree were. He made a mental note to talk to Mr. Baggins about that again before he went back to his King to tell him of what he had found.

Maybe, Thorin and the refugees could profit from this all… Clearly, the Hobbit s needed protection as much as the Dwarves needed food and a peaceful place to live… maybe this could be worked out in the favor of all involved?

Well, except the humans of Bree, who, Bofur had learned today, charged horrendous sums for the food that they had purchased at low prices from the Hobbits before sending it to the Blue Mountains and the Iron Hills! He snarled softly at the sums the Hobbit had told him about and compared to what he knew grain did cost at home. After some seconds a truly nasty grin flitted over his face to vanish right immediately. If Bofur’s plan worked out, then all would profit from it and he would have a Hobbit Hole for his family in the end.

Sure, there was nothing to mine here in the shire but he could always ask to be put on guard duty and make toys. Considering the rate Hobbits had little Hobbitlings here, he would have enough to do until the end of his days. This time he smirked.

So, when the easy going Dwarf finally left four days later, he had convinced Bilbo’s father to ask Bofur’s King for help and he carried trading offers in turn for a teacher and a smith for the boy in the forge within his pack, as well as a letter from the head of the Shire with the plea for help with the big folk and offers for an alliance with the Dwarves of Erebor, now of the Blue Mountains.

Meaning Bofur and Thorin’s Dwarves and not Dain Ironfoot’s.

He had always had a clever mouth if needed. Bofur had always been aware of his gift to charm almost everyone if he wanted to but this time, he had laid real effort into it and it had paid off nicely… Now who needed Nori?

His only failure was that he had not found out anything about the clasp, curse it. Mr. Baggins wife was harder to crack as an oyster! And as evasive as Nori on his best days if you asked Bofur. She had really given him a merry chase with him none the wiser at the end. Always skillfully redirecting his questions to other topics with an ease that made him bow to her skills – if only in his mind.

Not to mention that that female wielded a mean frying pan at any invaders of her home if needed, as she had proven just the day before he left when one of the undesired guests in the Shire tried to drunkenly climb through her kitchen window and faced the consequences before Bofur could get his mattock out of his room. The man had looked rather badly hurt after she was finished with him and he had learned her name too, that day.

Belladonna.

Bella-donna…

As in Bella?

Even her hair color fit the description that Bofur had been told before, about the curious strand of hair that the poor Dwarf had taken with him to his grave.

Honey golden curls that made him envy Mr. Baggins for being so lucky to have a wife with beautiful hair that resembled so much the gold every Dwarf loved. That the lad wasn’t Bungo’s, Bofur had figured out almost right away. Although the boy seemed to have been brought up in the belief that he was. He had seen her relieved look when he had walked away. Couldn’t blame the little lady for it. She was only trying to protect her child, Bofur respected that.

Only, she did not have to!

The two cousins of the dead guard would rather die than let anything happen to the boy once they knew about him, not to mention that they would keep him safe once the secret was out, as well as Mrs. Baggins and her husband. Bofur liked the Bungo fellow, he really did. The Hobbit was friendly and nice, although a bit too proper for Dwarven tastes but Bofur was confident that they could cure the poor Hobbit from that soon enough.
Whistling he looked again at the copy of wax he had secretly made from Bilbo’s clasp while the lad was softly snoring away before he stashed it safely back in his pocket and walked on.

*~*~*~*~*

That night Belladonna and Bungo Baggins sat again before their hearth and stared into the dying flames.

“Did we do the right thing, do you think, Bungo?” Shivering she gathered her shawl tighter around her small frame. Her husband quickly took her shivering hands into his to calm ones to try comfort his wife. “Yes, yes I believe that we did my dear.” He gave her a besotted smile and patted her hand. “We have no other choice anymore anyway, seeing how Gandalf delays his promised help due to his problems in the far north and south. You know that we cannot wait for the Rangers for much longer and to be honest; we need strong allies that live nearer to us than they do.

Those Dwarves are honest people from what I know about them, dear. Just look at that Bofur fellow. Nice one that Dwarf and friendly too. Has asked me questions about our lovely Holes here. I think we could persuade him to stay here even if we gave him a Hole of his own, my dear.
A bit rough around the edges, those Dwarves but good people and they hold to their promises, always!”

Belladonna nodded slowly. She knew as much, Bungo and the current Thain of the Took, her brother, had observed the Dwarves for a while now. Both had come to the conclusion that they could life with the folk of this Thorin Oakenshield. Who, himself, was known to be a hard working fellow that tried his best to lead his people and to keep them alive and out of trouble. Rather better a choice as allies actually than the Dwarves of the Iron mountains, who had been Bungo’s second choice as allies and were widely known for being a tad too prideful for their own good.

Bungo well knew that it was the promise of fertile lands, as perfect for growing food and livestock upon as that of the Hobbits, as well as the promise of good trading offers and agreements that could win them over without too much effort.

All people in this part of the world had suffered from gnawing hunger in the last two years.

Only the Shire had not, due their Fairy ancestors’ blessings on the lands that the Hobbits lived in. Honestly, one had only to look over the Brandywine River to see that the old story was truth and not a myth. Because one side of the river was green and fertile land and on the other side they had to fight for each crop that they could coax from their almost infertile grounds.

Thusly, one Dwarf and one Hobbit thought that they had tricked the other into doing what they wanted. Not realizing that they had only managed to have tricked each other simultaneously in the end.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Two weeks later Bofur reached the Blue Mountains in good spirits.

He was greeted happily by his kin and friends before he vanished inside of Thorin’s smallish halls that housed what was left of his people, since Dain and his kin had refused to aid the young King and his people in the beginning of their search for a new, safe home. Half an hour later, others gathered outside the closed doors of the throne room jumped slightly as a booming chorus of voices, including their king and his two best friends (who doubled as his most trusted advisors, as well as being distant kin) rose until they could be heard through the thick metal door.

“HE HAS WHAT?!?”
“A HOBBIT? SHE… WAS…IS… A… HOBBIT?... “
“MAHAL, SAVE ME FROM THE IDIOCY OF MY OWN KIN! THORIN OAKENSHIELD, STOP TROTTLING BOFUR, I STILL NEED TO ASK HIM SOMETHING AND KILLING HIM WILL MAKE IT UNUSUALLY HARD TO DO SO, BROTHER!”
“WHAT WAS FUNDORIN THINKING HE WAS DOING!?!”
“BOFUR, IF I CATCH YOU JOKING ABOUT THIS WITH US I SWEAR; I WILL SKIN YOU ALIVE WITH MY AXE!”
“BROTHER! SET HIM DOWN! FOR THE SECOND TIME, WE STILL NEED THOSE ANSWERS!”

Once the ruckus had died down, there was a strange silence hanging over the mountain that was shattered a short while later by two rather ruffled looking warriors, armed to the teeth, as they quickly exited the hall. Mumbling something about needing to slay some Orcs or whatever else was unfortunate enough to cross their paths this night, while the Lady Dis, another Dwarf of respectable age with a white beard, and her two sons looked after them with rather amused expressions.

“Now, that was interesting for sure.” Bofur rubbed his sore throat in a weak attempt to alleviate the slight pains from being hurled around by the neck by the two warriors after telling them of his findings.

Next to him the elderly Dwarf sighed weakly and rubbed a weary hand over his eyes. “I still can’t believe it! If I hadn’t seen the copy that you made from the clasp I would still not believe it.” He turned to Bofur and gave him a stern look. “You sure it was made of Mithril? Not silver or maybe…”
“Nope, Master Balin no luck here for ye, was Mithril and the finest Moria Mithril at that for certain! Trust me.” The Miner interrupted the older Dwarf gently before he headed inside to get an ointment for his sore throat from their healer, Oin.

Next to Balin, the older one of the younger Dwarves suddenly perked up.

“Does that mean that we might soon have a new kinsman to play with, mother?”

The Dwarven woman gave a rather crude snort at her oldest son’s words. “To harass the poor lad is more like it eh, Fili and Kili? Do not entertain the notion that I don’t know what you two are up to, my dear sons! You will leave the poor boy alone, do you both understand me?” Next to her Balin laughed at the exchange and the matching scowls that appeared on the faces of the young heirs to the House of Durin and the reluctant nods they gave at the intensifying glare of their mother.

Meanwhile, as Bilbo slept peacefully in his comfortable bed, two rather agitated Dwarves took their aggression out on an unfortunate band of robbers that were dense enough to think them an easy target on the road.

All the time they fought and killed them, they kept mumbling something about Hobbits and insane Dwarves under their breath or both just cursed at the fates in general. When they came back not much later, Bofur watched the pair walk into the halls with mirth in his eyes. “You know,” He told the Dwarf standing next to him with a laugh in his voice. “I almost pity the poor lad. When he has meet us all he might wish to be in the Halls of Waiting instead of Middle Earth.” His cousin just shrugged and made some rapid motions with his hands that had Bofur laughing.

“Of course I still want one of their comfy Holes!

They are perfect to live in, Bifur. Besides, I don’t think that Bilbo will fall as easily into the situation as you think that he will. Once over the shock, I mean. I rather bet my hat that the smart boy will give them a run for their money when they try to make him do something that he doesn’t want to do, like fighting or such. He is his mother’s and stepfather’s lad after all.” The Dwarf with the axe head in his forehead gave Bofur a calm look before he shrugged and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

Maybe his cousin had the right of it more than the others gave him credit for. After all he knew the boy and they did not. Moving his freezing toes inside of his boots the dwarf thought it over and if those Holes really were that comfortable, Bifur would happily trade his rooms here for a life in one rather than endure one more night inside of the drafty halls of the mountain!

Next to them both a rather big Dwarf with red hair shrugged. “Do they really have such nice kitchens in their homes, Bofur?” the Dwarf in question nodded. “Yes, Bombur and if I have my way then we will live in one rather soon!”

Chapter Text

Concerning Hobbits and Dwarves

Dis watched her brother and Dwalin man the forge for the first few days after Bofur’s return.

The easy going Dwarf had brought some orders with him. One from Master Baggins, concerning some iron work for his home, and some other orders from various people in the shire, the Thain of the Tooks, Isengrim the Third, along with the Mayor of Michel Delving and other equally powerful hobbits among them.

Trial works her brother had called them.

He was right of course, but even if they were just tests of skill, the orders came with two purses full of gold coin. Half of the agreed on fee, which Bofur was quick to mention, was the usual way of doing business in the Shire. Especially after he saw everyone’s surprised looks at the trust and generosity that the people of the Shire had bestowed on them. The first such consideration given to them in a long time. Bofur continued with explaining that in the Shire, if one didn’t want to take on an order, they sent the money or goods back and that was it for the Hobbits.

Thorin had known better than to do so.

The two purses held more money than half of their entire income from the last year! With such an order, their smiths would have enough to feed their families for a while, with enough left over to buy needed items and began to start much needed repairs to their homes.
The Hobbits were not poor folk, most actually had more money than many would have believed. The Took clan was known for being well off if not as rich as the Baggins family. Dis shook her head as the two men continued to work and went inside to meet with Balin and Bofur.

*~*~*~*~*

In the next two months Bilbo watched Bofur come and go a few times.

On the third visit with his father, the Mayor and Isengrim Took, Bofur wasn’t alone when he came. He brought with him an odd looking dwarf with an axe in his forehead! Bofur glared daggers at the strange fellow while the other ignored him. Bofur finally told Bilbo’s amused parents that this was his older cousin Bifur, who had sneaked out and followed him from the settlement.

It quickly turned out that the new Dwarf couldn’t talk in Westron. He had seemingly lost that ability when injured in the battle of Moria. For reasons Bilbo did not understand himself, the odd fellow had attached himself to him from the beginning.

“Bifur, no don’t go in there…! … oh goodness, are you hurt? I told you that the beam wasn’t secured enough but you had to go and poke your head in anyways, you mad old Dwarf!” Bilbo sighed and proceeded to dig Bifur out of the pile of loose earth he was now partially stuck under.
This morning Bifur had followed Bilbo around in Hobbiton as he usually did.

The youth had been sent to fetch honey from the market and the Dwarf simply trudged along. Not that Bilbo minded anymore, Bifur was actually a good companion and he had already kept Bilbo from getting into trouble with some humans in the market, twice. They had the tendency to take one look at the axe and hurry out of the Dwarf’s way as fast as possible.

Not that Bilbo could blame them; he did look scary.

The fact that he carried long, wicked looking lance with him at all times didn’t help, but by now Bilbo and the other Hobbits mostly ignored it. They had fast learned that he may look scary but it was nice to have Bifur around – even if they didn’t understand a word he said. The Hobbitlings followed Bifur constantly and often immigrated to the Dwarf’s side if they felt intimidated by something or someone. Bifur gained a bit of a silly grin every time a little one tried to climb him.

Helping the Dwarf up, Bilbo shook his head fondly at his antics when the Dwarf played dead on him for a minute.

As it happened, Bifur had been curious about the new construction of a Smial across the Baggins hill. He had poked his head in to see how the Hobbits’ did it and had ended up hitting his head against a support pole. A part of the element above the pole supporting the ceiling fell in, along with the pole, landing right on his head. Not that it seemed to bother Bifur. Bilbo had seen the head thwacks that Bofur and Bifur exchanged on occasion and winced every time he witnessed them.

What was a little hit from a wooden support post against that? …Nothing.

Bifur had begun to teach him some of the signs that he used to communicate with Bofur when Bilbo had curiously asked the two Dwarves about them, obvious delight in his eyes that Bilbo showed interest in it and him as well. By now, on Bifur’s second visit here, Bilbo had already a small notebook filled with different signs that he practiced daily with his mother and even his reserved father.

He had used the time that the two Dwarves were gone to put them down on paper more cleanly and had neatly written the explanations next to the beautiful pictures.

Bilbo had taken Bofur’s warnings to not teach them to someone else to heart and had only worked on the beginner’s book, as he called it, when he was alone at home. When he had shown his work to Bofur and Bifur, the two had sat stunned for a few minutes before Bofur, ever the pragmatic one of the duo, had asked Bilbo to please make him a copy for the Mountain Dwarves.

He was pleased that Bilbo had kept it secret and had only made the book so that he could learn better while they were away.

When the two left this time, Bilbo had given them his little book to take with them on their journey home. He still had the notes hidden away to make a new one, and enough new sketches and notes to fill the pages of a second novel and start a third from this stay alone. Bifur had promised Bilbo to try to sketch out other signs into a small notebook that the youth had given him along with a pencil.

Bilbo had no idea of the rock he had kicked over in the Blue Mountains once word of his innocent request got out.

*~*~*~*~*

Early summer flowed over to late summer and harvest time began in the Shire.

In the middle of the season, the heads of the Shire completed the alliance with Thorin, King under the Mountain and several documents exchanged the hands.

At the same time, several Smials were finished in Hobbiton and the surrounding towns.

They were part of the negotiations between the Dwarves and the Hobbits who had volunteered to provide lodgings and food for the warriors and even their families if they wanted to come too. Thorin had been confused, learning that Hobbits valued families above all else, next to eating that was, and that they had not even considered breaking up families for longer than necessary and even had nothing against having Dwarves living with them.
He needed a few days to come to terms with that unknown generosity by the small people of the Shire.

Dis knew very well why her brother needed that long to get in into his brain. Too often she had seen her people turned away like beggars in the past, when they had been wandering in search of a new home. They were exiles in the world, with Erebor gone and along with their Mountain home, their assets and all else.

It had been worse even after the battle at the Gates of Moria, when a good half of their remaining people had been slain by Orcs.

To now find such easy acceptance from a folk that they had never met before and had never considered important enough to pay attention to, was a blow to her people’s sometimes too prideful way of seeing others. It taught Thorin and her people a valuable lesson about the Halflings that they kept in mind from then on: Never again assume.

The new alliance was a lucky break for Thorin’s Dwarves.

It secured them work and food for several years to come. Not since Erebor had Thorin’s folk had enough food to feed all and neither had they had much luck with getting their feet into business on this side of the misty Mountains. Since the Iron Hill Dwarves had been here longer and had often undermined their efforts from afar.

And Dain Ironfoot’s not so subtle tries to wed himself into the main house of the Durin line by proposing to Dis, even going so far to hint that he would adopt her sons to accomplish that, had not helped matters between the two Dwarven settlements along. She knew that he only wanted to use her to get an heir with the blood of the direct line and despised him for that along other actions he had taken in the past.

She had deflected each of his tries so far, not wanting to wed what she called a ‘slimy eel’ ever.

Her eyes were more drawn to Dwalin, son of Fundin for a few years now. She had known him all her life, he had been a good friend of her now deceased husband and a father figure to her two beloved sons, Fili and Kili. Dwalin had even raised them with Thorin and her when Braga had fallen in the battle with her Grandfather.

Guarding him until the end, as she was told later by her brother.

She wasn’t too old to re-marry, Dis knew, and he was not too old for it either…humming she went on her merry way. She had to pack and make certain that her two trouble makers would behave once she was gone to visit the Shire along with Balin and Bofur. They would accompany the first group of warriors and families that went there before the winter set in and every pass was closed. Three more would follow over the course of the next three weeks, the last would hold her sons and Dwalin and before they arrived, Dis wanted to be settled.

Some of the miners who had experience with roads had already cleared the ones between the Dwarven settlement and the Shire lands under the surprised eyes of the humans in Ered Luin, who watched more and more Dwarves suddenly vanish and leave their towns to settle somewhere unknown instead.
The Dwarves rebuilt the old roads and built completely new ones in places so that they could move faster from one place to another, even in deepest snows if it was needed.

Nori had brought home an abundance of information and intelligence from Bree and the surrounding Human settlements. According to his spies, the Hobbits’ fears of an invasion of the Shire weren’t as far off as they had hoped. Well, the daughter of Thrain thought, those greedy invaders would soon learn what an angry bunch of the finest Dwarven warriors of Middle Earth could do when roused in anger or to keep their families safe! Especially when one counted in how badly those men had treated Durin’s folk in the past.

Her face was grim when she entered the dark halls of her brother to get ready.

Oh, Dis had a good memory if needed. Just like the any Dwarf, if not an even better one than most. She wasn’t feared and admired for her brains for nothing. Dain was not clinging to her skirts because of her good looks and line alone! Dis of the house of Durin was a dangerous woman and she knew it.
And like any other Dwarf, especially so when the line of Durin was involved, she had a very long memory and ability to hold grudges.

Dwarves never forgot any of the deeds done to them, good or bad, and they could sometimes wait out generations to exact revenge for an act done to them in the far past. Dis was no exception from that rule and neither was her brother, Thorin. They never forgot the good as well as the bad done to them or their people.

Ever!

They held on to their grudges with the stubbornness that Dwarves, especially those of Durin’s line, were famous for.

She idly wondered how much of that the boy had inherited from his father in that respect. From what Bofur and Bifur had told them all so far, the boy had indeed a very strong stubborn streak. From his father’s side as well as from his mother’s. If anything, his anger management was seemingly better than that of her sons. Even as young as Bilbo was by both races’ reckoning, she was told that he could reign in his temper in quite well.

No doubt that this was Mr. Bungo Baggin’s work.

Bifur called him a bit stuffy and Bofur too proper for his own good but both conceded that he was a rather clever and wise fellow, highly educated and once that he did open up a little to someone that Bungo seemed to be a good sort of man. What had swayed her favorably to his side was that he seemingly held his word, always.

No matter what, Bungo kept a promise once given.

It was honor thing. And Dis’ folk valued honor as one of the main virtues one could have.

He had raised Bilbo in his people’s way and she was thankful for that because the boy knew about that part of his heritage. It wasn’t all bad what the Hobbits did believe in, she knew that already. But at the same time this would now complicate Bilbo’s upbringing in Dwarven customs and, being the son of Fundorin that he was, he would have to learn a lot of what Hobbits did not exactly consider suitable. She sniggered a bit at the thought.

The boy was a born scholar from what Bifur had told and shown to her and the rest who dwelled in Thorin’s halls and especially to Balin, Dwalin, Oin and Gloin.

That book about Iglishmêk… she shook her head in wonderment. Alone the artistic talent was something to take note of. Even Kili had taken a look at it, which said more than words ever could, since he had an unrepentant dislike of books. He reminded her often of her dead brother Frerin. Fili was the more studious of the brothers, being her brother’s heir.

He was also the oldest and it showed.

The detailed descriptions as well as the clear rendering of the drawings inside had endeared the little book to all that had seen it so far. Balin practically guarded the little thing like a dragon guarded its hoard after Fili and Ori had made off with it for days the week after Bofur and Bifur had come back and showed it to them all.

Eventually they had to give it back, protesting loudly, a fact that only emphasized the lack of educational books since the fall of their home, that the lads had to go and steal it to have to themselves for a while.

Bilbo had a truly rare talent and Dis was glad of that. He was seemingly a good storyteller and writer. It would give him status if he turned out not to be a fighter at all, which she secretly thought would be the case in the end. The boy sounded more like a thinker to her from the stories told than a person meant for the strenuous things in life. Maybe if they were lucky, Fundorin’s son had inherited his father’s head for strategy and could be schooled in that by Balin.

Mahal knew that they needed another level headed analyst besides Balin, her brother - if he was clear headed enough and did not lose his temper - and her badly! She sighed, they had craftsmen and woman that were still the envy of the other Dwarven Kingdoms and often another kingdom tried to buy them away with promises of riches. Also, they had warriors aplenty if needed but they lacked people of learning since the Fall of Erebor and the following ill fated battle and it showed.

And one could not win every situation with brutal power alone in the long run.

They desperately needed people with patience and political talent to make and maintain needed alliances and had only her and Balin in that respect. Fili showed some talent in that direction but was still too young to be trusted with his temper and sometimes to cocksure attitude. He was much like his uncle in his youth in that respect; crafty and sly if needed and wise in his own right but their tempers often got the better out of them both and at least with her eldest son Dis had the feeling that this would settle down with time. Her brother had too much baggage from his life to mellow in that respect and she understood that. Kili was out of question since he was too passionate and quick to anger as he was to forgiveness… sadly that combination marked a good warrior but made a poor politician in the long run.

Bilbo, the lad of Fundorin on the other hand showed the marks of a good statesman if she could lay her trust in what Bofur and Bifur had told her.

Oh well, she thought, one never knew with still waters, and the boy seemingly was a very deep pond as far as she could interpret from the descriptions of Bilbo Baggins given to her. So unlike her two lively warrior sons and more like little Ori, who too was promising to become a intellectual rather than a warrior, she mused and went on packing.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Belladonna Baggins cleaned out the unused guest rooms in their hole.

Bilbo worked silently beside his mother.

They would host some people of the soon arriving host of Dwarves and she wanted this done before hand. They would host the sister and the two nephews of King Thorin over the winter as well as a warrior/ counselor of the King until their own lodgings were ready. The furniture was still not finished and the Smials meant for the royals were still being built, a process that would take until the middle of the winter most likely. While her son worked, her eyes were drawn to the seemingly harmless pedant on the unusual necklace that Bilbo wore since his twentieth birthday.

He had just recently turned twenty five.

If he had been born a human, Bilbo would be far in his majority already and as a hobbit he was considered a young adult now, more or less the human equivalent of 17 years of age. In mind, her darling son was surely older than that already. Most of the time he was more mature than most of his age and more than some beyond his age, if honest.

Physically… that was an entirely different matter!

He had developed normally until two years prior when she and Bungo had noticed something unsettling one day. His aging had seemingly begun to slow down since he turned twenty. Even the watchful eyes his parents hadn’t fully noticed the change until he was twenty two years of age.
Bilbo seemed to be stuck in his body, developing later than his cousins who were of similar age. Nothing too bad until now, but the progress had noticeably slowed down already and had seemingly slowed down even more lately. His Dwarven heritage had finally showed itself, Belladonna realized with a sigh, and she and Bungo had many a sleepless night about it.

As it was, they would have to tell him about his true father soon.

From what she could tell, Bofur and Bifur knew already that he wasn’t fully Hobbit and Belladonna knew that the miner had recognized the clasp when he had found it the first time he was here. Maybe he had known her Dwarf? She wasn’t certain but thought it so from his reactions to her lad. His cousin and he had been kind to Bilbo, taught him many things about Dwarves in their last visits. As if they wanted the youth to be prepared for whatever was to come.
On his twentieth birthday Bungo and she had talked with Bilbo about the fact that he wasn’t the natural son of Bungo Baggins.

It had not gone well at first but once Bilbo had calmed down a bit, they had explained to him that it did not matter since Bungo loved him as if he was his own child and why his parents had no other children. When he asked them about his father, Belladonna had lied a little, seeing his distress at the entire situation. Well, she told him that his father had been a warrior, kind of, that she had found and tried to nurse back to health before she even met Bungo.
She had not exactly lied to Bilbo, she just hadn’t told him that the warrior had not been a Hobbit but a Dwarf.

He had already enough to deal with at the time and it would only have complicated everything in the long run.

Although he found it strange that his father had had that clasp, Bilbo guarded it fiercely ever since he knew it had belonged to the father he had never known. Since she could give him no name either, it was all that he had from the unknown man.

Soon they would have to tell him the full truth and Belladonna wasn’t looking forward to that talk at all!

“Mother? Did you hear me? I said I’ll bring the junk and dirt out and burn it in the yard, if that is alright?” He gave her a confused and slightly guarded look and Belladonna realized that she had spaced out, as her husband and son lovingly called it. Giving Bilbo a smile and a nod she went back to polish a sideboard with added gusto.

Her boy shrugged warily when he saw her eyes gleam in that particular way they sometimes did when his mother was up to something and gathered the bags to him and carried them out on surprisingly silent feet.

Bilbo, like her, was almost unnaturally silent when he just walked normally. If he wanted, the boy could practically vanish from sight and tiptoe around like any veteran of the Bounders! She was rather proud of that ability of his to go unheard and unseen if needed. That shared talent had saved her many a time on her adventures in other lands and would undoubtedly aid her son as well in the future.

When younger he had one time even slipped by her oldest brother unnoticed, a feat that had the latter in tears from laughing so hard about it later when he told the story of little Bilbo stealing his birthday cake right out from under his nose. She and Isengrim often chuckled about that day in the following years.

Lately though, her brother’s wish to have her boy trained in the ways of the Bounders was annoying her.

Bungo even outright forbade it but deep down inside of her, Belladonna knew that her brother was right with his assumption that Bilbo would make an exceptionally good Bounder with time and they needed new ones to replace the ones killed over the last few winters. He wasn’t a Baggins by blood, no matter how much Bilbo acted like one, he was a Took.

It sometimes showed more than she felt comfortable with.

Thankfully he wasn’t as prone to mischief as she and her siblings had been in their youths. Thank Yavanna for small mercies, she thought, but he had his days when nobody was safe from his temper tantrums as well as his cleverly thought out jokes. She had ended up on the wrong end of them more than once.

Her brother Hildifons still wanted to tan Bilbo’s hide for hiding a skunk in his closet two months ago; Bilbo’s thanks for Hildifons’ mocking six months prior to that. Her brother should have known better as to anger her silent son one too many times with his sometimes careless comments. Especially since he had been the one who pointed out that Bilbo could hold a grudge seemingly forever in the first place!

Since he had been bullied as a youth, Bilbo had developed a mean streak when it came to revenge on his wrongdoers and that had often led to trouble in the past years.

Since her darling little ‘terror’ was inventive when it came to making someone suffer for something done to him, and more often than not he managed to make it look like someone else had done the deed. Mostly it was someone who also had angered him a time or two. Bilbo was clever in that respect and Belladonna loved this wicked streak of his to bits… although she would never tell a soul about that she did so!

Especially her husband’s relatives, the Sackville-Baggins, had suffered in the last years under Bilbo’s thirst for revenge.

He had never forgotten who had told the other shirelings to bully him in the past…

Sometimes he scared even her with the single-minded stubbornness that he used when he dealt out his punishments. Hildifons had needed days to get the stink out of his rooms in the great Took Smial. Not to mention that he was avoided for several more days like plague because he simply stunk, no matter how often he took a bath.

It took him three days to figure out that her clever little sprite had scented his personal bathing oils with skunk oil before he had launched his attack on his uncle.

Her sides had ached for days afterwards from all the laughter at the sight of her older brother storming through the halls in only a towel, screaming for her son’s head. In the end, he had spent an hour in the front yard, screaming up into the apple tree that her son was hidden in. Bilbo had retreated there as the first screams of rage had echoed through the Smial.

Of course he had not forgotten to take the ladder up with him or else Hildifons would have climbed up after Bilbo, not caring for his state of dress, to get to him in his rage.

Yes, Belladonna thought, her darling little fiend could be dangerous in his own way if roused and she adored Bilbo for it even more if that was possible. Poor Bungo had only sighed when he had heard of the debacle and had gone for a smoke in the garden. Hildifons had since joined her eldest brothers efforts to get Bilbo into the Bounders and she wanted to kick him for it as she had often done in her youth. Both of her brothers stated that if Bilbo was clever enough to play such a prank, then the Bounders could use his brains better and that it would keep her boy out of trouble.
Next time she saw her brothers they where in for a nasty surprise, Belladonna nodded to herself, yes a bit of a reminder of who they had feared the most as young lads and why was in order! She had already ‘hired’ her sisters for this task too, since the men folk had been too forgetful in the last months. Even some of their sisters in law had volunteered to help out.

They needed to reminded who actually ran things in the Took clan.

Outside of the Hole, Bilbo suddenly shivered and rubbed his arms at the odd feeling.

He got that feeling sometimes, mostly when his mother was up to something truly nasty, the warning signs that often manifested with little things… like her sudden spacing out before. Shrugging it off, he was certain that he wasn’t the recipient of whatever plans she was cooking out right now. And that that she did so, of that Bilbo was very sure!

He never got those foreboding shivers without a good cause and had learned to be wary around his own mother when she got that particular look in her eyes! And the people in the Shire wondered where he had gotten his nasty thirst for revenge from… Bilbo shook his head. If anything, his mother could be as nasty as he was it on his best days and she had no qualms to use underhanded methods to get her point across either.

Shrugging it off, he burned the rest of the old things in the dirt.

Later that day, late evening actually, when he came back from fishing, Bilbo overheard a conversation that would change his entire life.

Chapter Text

“How much further, Balin? I thought you said that there was a fork in the road near here?”

Dis, sister to Thorin Oakenshield, exiled King Under the Mountain, gave the older Dwarf a glare that could have melted Smaug’s scales off of his body.

The Dwarf in question gave her a strained smile.

“Now, it should be coming soon, my Lady. No need to get upset about not having arrived there.”
Another scorching glare was sent his way before the female turned in her saddle to grumble into her beautiful beard.
Balin sent a look skywards and then rolled his eyes when Dis eyed the fork in the road a few minutes later. Of course, Dis would have taken the left pathway if he hadn’t stopped her from it duo tie.

What, the Dwarf thought helplessly while steering her subtly back to the right way, was it in Mahal’s name that made the line of Durin lose their sense of direction this badly once above ground?! Dis, like her royal brother, had no sense of direction at ALL once she took a step out of any cavern or cave, whereas she could always find her way in even the darkest parts of any mountain… he shook his head.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that both siblings shared that handicap in equal measure and even her sons suffered from it occasionally, if not as badly as their uncle and mother. It was bad enough that they had been on the wrong end of some bawdy jokes about their line already despite being young.
Make no mistake, the Dwarves equally adored their princes, which did nothing to change the fact that, like the rest of Durin the Deathless’ line, they had a horrible sense of direction on the surface.

Balin had to hand it to the two - they dealt with it better than their elders, in his opinion.

At least the two rapscallions knew how to correctly use a map and tried to follow tips without attempting to bite the heads off of those who tried to help them. He gave his head another slight shake when he watched Dis eye the approaching Brandywine river a wrinkle in her brow that told him of her upcoming outburst before it occurred.

“You didn’t say something of a river in our path, Balin!”

Another unheard prayer to Mahal for patience accompanied his eyes rolling towards the sky. He wasn’t sure what he had done so wrong in his former live to deserve such kin in this one, but Balin had no doubt that it had been fairly horrible if this was the lot his maker thought he deserved. With a defeated sigh he pointed out the bridge not far from where they stood on the road and watched, both amused and aggravated at once, as Dis lead her pony over to it with a slight blush and huff.

Smiling into his beard he followed her at a more sedate pace.

“I know that you are smirking into your beard back there, you codger!”

It was no secret from where her two sons had gotten their sometimes colorful language from. Balin gave her backwards glower at him his nicest ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ smile until the temperamental Dwarrow woman turned around in her saddle with another huff and some new and colorful curses directed at her crafty kinsman.

This time he allowed a tiny snigger of victory to escape.

He had always enjoyed rubbing Dis the wrong way, though Dwalin enjoyed it even more than Balin. The former had often ended up in fights with the lady in the past because of that, for she was by no means weak and would give as good as she got.

Almost against his will his eyes strayed from her back over to the other side of the river until his searching eyes meet that of a young Hobbit lad that sat in the thick, lush grass, reading a book from what he could tell. Well, until their group had appeared. Right now keen, observant and slightly wary brown eyes watched their approach towards bridge from over the rim of his book.

For Balin as well as others of his race, it was hard to tell the age of Hobbits at times but he was betting his beard that this Lad was not older than Dis’ sons. Maybe even younger and yet his sharp eyes held a depth that was hard to find in many adults. A quick glance around told Balin that his companions had yet to notice the boy half hidden in the grass.

What had caused him look over, he wondered?

Than it hit the old Dwarf hard. The looks, the sharpness of gaze combined with what he had been told about Bilbo Baggins, son of Fundorin and stepson of Bungo Baggins, made it easy to connect the dots in his sharp mind.

So, Balin mused while silently holding the observant gaze of the youth over the river, you’re him?

As he had been told, the boy looked much like his mother and less like Fundorin…although, there was something, a slight divergence from the normal Hobbit body shape, a bit more muscle subtly covering stronger bones that gave him away, if one chose to look at him more closely. Otherwise he would be easily dismissed, Balin was sure. He gave the lad a friendly smile as the boy silently closed his book and rose, vanishing like a ghost after giving the older Dwarf a polite nod.

Balin grinned when he realized that he had been the only one to notice the boy at all!

Clever, clever boy, Balin thought, amused and slightly impressed by the display of hiding skills by Bilbo, Dwalin will love it to teach you to use that skill of yours to your advantage, my boy. Young Bilbo may be, but he had seemingly already learned to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to himself if needed.
His soft titter went unnoticed by all but Dis, who gave the other Dwarf a sharp look before shrugging it off as something he was thinking on.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As the trope of Dwarves rode past his hiding spot in the grass, Bilbo observed the elderly Dwarf and the warriors.

When he saw Bofur and Bifur in the throng of Dwarves, Bilbo’s lips turned upwards in a smile. He watched Bifur give Bofur a piece of his mind, an action that had another Dwarf behind the duo laugh, amused at their antics. He was large, had a red beard and a good laugh that Bilbo instantly liked.
The lady Dwarf near the front of the Dwarves reminded Bilbo somehow of his mother and he had the foreboding feeling that those two would get a bit too well.

Pinching the bridge of his nose the young Hobbit sighed, the noise unheard by any of the Dwarves. Only the elderly Dwarf had noticed him hiding in the grass and Bilbo gave the Dwarf due credit for being more observant than the others. Like his mother, Bilbo could stay hidden in the middle of a feast if he wished.

He…liked the old Dwarf…somehow?

He had drawn Bilbo’s gaze like a flame would a moth. It had felt like a whisper coming from deep inside of him that told him to look up, that the old one was something… yes, what exactly? Not kin, he was no Hobbit and yet, Bilbo felt a kind of connection snap in place when he met the gaze of the Dwarf. It… was odd but he felt an instant liking towards the Dwarf on sight and that was that.

He turned and slipped back into the riverside greenery without a sound.

Unaware that Balin saw the grass rustle for only a moment and something golden vanish between the greenery of the under bushes. A crinkle of withheld laugher was around his eyes seeing the lad slip away again without notice. Aule, the boy was good in this! He was distracted from his fond musings when Dis threw her arms up in annoyance at facing yet another fork in the road.

This time Balin laughed loudly at her colorful curses.

-----------------------------------------------

Bilbo listened to the faint wave of foreign words that struck a strange cord in him and that he identified as curses by instinct alone.
Khuzdul, he didn’t doubt.

He wondered why she was angry for a moment before shrugging it off and searching his pockets for a hook and some line. A nice trout would make his mother and father happy and maybe their new guests would like to eat mother’s finest fish dinner?

Humming, the boy ran and hopped over the green hills at a speed that was not usually used by Hobbits at all. He reached the small river near his house much more quickly than the Dwarves would. They would need two hours to ride up the winding road whereas he only needed twenty or so minutes taking the direct route.

So, when Balin and Dis finally reached the outskirts of Hobbiton, he had already caught three fish of descent size and was hauling in his fourth. He watched the introductions between his parents and the Dwarves from a distance, knowing he should be there but still too busy with catching their dinner.
By the time Bilbo began to head home, humming happily at the size of his catch, the sky had taken on a lilac colored hue.

He was cleaning the fish in the garden, hidden from prying eyes, when he overheard the conservation that drifted through the open kitchen window.
“So, if I understand this correctly, Mistress Baggins, Bilbo knows nothing?”

Bilbo’s ears twitched at the sound of the low voice that he instinctively assigned to the older Dwarf. It was a cultivated voice, one that spoke of a good education and somehow he thought that it fit the Dwarf. Confused about what was being said, Bilbo moved closer to the window to peer over the sill so that he could see inside. There, seated around the table were the two Dwarves and his parents, having tea and biscuits as they talked.

Another plate of biscuits sat cooling on the sill right next to him… his hand was on the plate before he could stop himself and he had shoved the biscuits in his pocket quickly.

“Yes and no, Master Balin. My apologies for the confusion. He does know that Bungo isn’t his father by blood but when we told him, he was so upset… we did not tell him the whole of it.” His mouth fell open as he heard his mother casually telling their secrets to strangers.

And what exactly did she mean by that?

Instead of eating the biscuit in his hand, Bilbo stashed it with the others and gave the scene through the window a suspicious glance. What was going on here?! Crossing his arms he arched a brow before he remembered the half clean fish and knelt to finish the job. Above him, his mother missed seeing her son by a fraction of a second when she went to the sill to bring the plate inside. Frowning slightly, she noticed some were missing. She grumbled about their neighbors’ mischievous children, but shook it off and settled the plate next to the others on the table.

Under the sill, Bilbo gulped.

She did not like him stealing cakes and other bakery goods like his cousins did all of the time and if she caught him doing so, she would box his ears. More than one of his cousins had gotten boxed ears when she had caught them liberating her bakery goods from her window.
Even his uncles had faced her wrath if she caught them and that, Belladonna did often!

She seemed to have a sixth sense concerning food thieves no one underestimated, especially if they wanted to escape he wrath. Isengrim had even tried to use a pan to deflect the projectiles she had hurled his direction when she had caught him stealing a loaf of bread. Not that it had done his uncle any good, as she had finally managed to dunk him in the pond in front of Took Smial.

Above his head, the unknown voice of the female Dwarf floated through the window.

“Oh Aüle! The poor child will get the shock of his life when we tell him than that he isn’t fully Hobbit. I just hope that Balin and his other uncles will not cause more trouble than necessary because of that in the future. Your poor boy sounds very strong in mind and soul and I would hate to cause him hurt because of his heritage Mistress Bagg…”

“Clong!”

It was in that moment that the fish in Bilbo’s hands slipped out of his suddenly lax hands, landing awkwardly on the pots, sending them crashing to the ground, where they shattered.

The noise stopped the Dwarrow woman’s speech.

Bilbo stood shaking outside for a moment before the words fully registered in his brain. He suddenly spun on one heel and fled the area – and the conversation – with astonishing speed. It was Balin who saw his quick retreat, as he had been the first to leap to his feet and make it to the door, Mistress Baggins close behind him.

Shaking his head, the older Dwarf pressed his lips together firmly in displeasure at seeing the lad run.

Dis came out of the Smial and stood next to him, her eyes widening as she realized who had overheard their conversation.
“Oh goodness! What in Aüle’s sacred name have I done! I am such a fool!”

Belladonna, standing next to her, took a hand and squeezed it gently. “We are all at fault here, Lady Dis. We should have kept an eye out for his return, but that’s water under the bridge and it’s no good trying to find him. He will do as he always does when confronted with trouble, hide away from everyone until he has worked it out. Bilbo is not like Hobbit fauntlings in that respect. They go to their families and friends when trouble befalls them, and he always sought solitude – I had wondered about that, when he was younger, but perhaps it is a Dwarf trait.”

Next to her, Dis squeezed back and turned to the distraught Hobbit woman.

“It is a Dwarrow thing, Belladonna, may I call you that?” Belladonna nodded, unshed tears in her lovely eyes. “I am Dis and for you, just Dis. It is as I said. Dwarves behave like that. We hide away any weakness that an enemy could exploit. Being solitary creatures by nature we often only trust our nearest family members fully and often try to spare them from sorrow as well.”

She sighed and looked into the direction that the boy had vanished too.

Next to her, Balin and Bungo sighed in unison at her words. Shortly glancing at the other, both males turned to clean up the mess left behind by the boy before they settled on the nearby bench to take a smoke. The conversation could wait until Bilbo had returned before they continued.

Bilbo didn’t look where he was running. He knocked over a Dwarven warrior, jumped over a pig that appeared in his way and run up a hill faster than Lobelia had ever seen any Hobbit run. Arching a brow the Hobbit woman shook her head at the boy’s antics and closed her window firmly. Meanwhile Bilbo reached a small hidden grotto in between the hills and the forest surrounding Hobbiton. Looking over his shoulder, he slipped inside like a ghost.
Usually this grove was empty around this time of the year. During summer it was used often by couples that wanted to have time alone. A basket placed outside of it than told others that the grove was in use and the other Hobbits knew to stay away.

What no one besides Bilbo knew was that the grove had a hidden entrance to a grotto in the back.

You had to move away a heavy stone boulder to slip into a tunnel behind it to reach the cave. He often used to hide here, in the darkness where sounds were muted and the stone walls around him glittered in thousands of colors when he lit a candle. When he was younger, he had found it by accident while hiding from Ortho and his friends.

His additional strength had allowed him move the stone with ease once he found the entrance in his haste to escape his tormentors.
Now, much older, Bilbo had no trouble moving the heavy entrance stone around in order to get to his hiding place. He didn’t even need a candle anymore. After his tenth birthday Bilbo had found out by accident that he could see in the dark. He couldn’t see that much but enough to find his way through a fully dark room or tunnel under the earth, if needed.

It just needed awhile to appear, his strange ability.
He had to give it a few moments so his eyes could adjust.

Crawling halfway and stumbling the rest of the way in his haste, Bilbo reached the glittering grotto in record time. Even without light to make the stones shine they looked different to his eyes. Some parts did glow from moonlight alone when it fell upon those areas through the sparse holes in the top of the grotto. Rocking back and forth once he settled in a corner, Bilbo tried to sort his mind out, tried to make some sense out of the information given to him by chance.

His ability to see in the dark had always puzzled Bilbo in the past.

Now, it made a shocking amount of sense to the youth. That and so many other little and not so little things and differences that he had noticed all of his life.

He silently begun to count out the many inconsistencies while rocking back and forth with his arms on his knees and his hands tightly fisted into his curls. Unseeing brown eyes stared at a point in the far distance while a moonbeam fell through the hole above his head and seem to bathe his golden hair in a silvery shine.

His smaller than normal feet with less hair upon them than there should be.
The extra teeth and their difference in texture and durability.
As well as his later than normal development for his age.
His lack in interest of the many games of sexual exploits in which his peers had engaged in already.

(He had almost none of their puberty induced needs and desires so far… well, if you didn’t count his slight crush on Hamfast Gamgee that was.)
He was not fond of touches from people other than those that he trusted utterly and normally never let anyone he didn’t trust touch or stand too close.
Bilbo did not like to have others see his true self, he hid behind a smile and mask of polite indifference that the Baggins were known for. (He had needed ages to copy his fat… stepfather’s smile and now Bilbo begun to cry softly.)

His bones were harder and sturdier and simply did, not, break!

He was a bit taller than his cousins if he didn’t take care to appear smaller in height as them. (Around his Took cousins, that wasn’t much of an issue, because most of them were taller as the rest of the Shire in general due the Fairy blood in their veins but in Hobbiton, he would have been called tall for a Hobbit).

Bilbo knew how much stronger he was compared to a normal Hobbit, had seen how much more he could lift with ease when the others struggled under the weight. (He had begun to cover that up at an early age, pretending to struggle just as much as they did).
He was a bit paler than a normal Hobbit.

He could digest things that others couldn’t, like the stone he had once eaten without a problem to shut up a stunned Ortho.
His eyes adjusted to utter darkness if needed. (He had often used this ability to read under his blanket in bed.)

The stones around him seemed to whisper to Bilbo as normally plants should. (Oh, he heard the voices of the plant live just fine, that wasn’t it. He had a respectable hand in gardening already, thanks to his mother’s patient teaching of Earth Lore and his father’s in how to plant and harvest green things.
Especially so when healing herbs where involved, he seemed to see them faster than any other of his age and knew to use a fair lot of them already thanks to his mother.

But here, inside the natural cave, here Bilbo could hear the stones whisper to him in a way only he seemed to hear, to understand. The first time that had happened it had terrified young Bilbo! It was like a lure, a song a voiceless hum that told him of things, hidden inside the stone. This way, following those voices, Bilbo had once found an emerald as his mother had called it, inside of one stone wall. He had used his father’s hammer to hit it out of the stone. Too curious to resist the urge to find out what it was that whispered to him.)

The list was longer but the last point had Bilbo crumble and roll into a ball on the hard floor and sob.

It rammed home that he was not a full blood Hobbit better than anything else. He had read up on Dwarves when Bofur had come to town. The Miner had even given him a clue accidentally one day that Bilbo had shoved from his mind in order to not question certain things in his life at that time. Now he could no longer do so.

Ignorance wasn’t always the bliss that others thought it to be.

Bofur had told him about his passion for mining and why he preferred it over making toys. He had called it ‘Stone Sense’. And that that was a talent that Dwarves would kill to possess in their lines because those such as Bofur and Bifur who did possess it, were the most highly sought out Miners of the Dwarrow Kingdoms.

They were the ones that found the biggest gems, the most profitable mines of rare metals and the only ones who could sense the beloved gold and Mithril in the stone foundations under the earth.

It made them priceless valuables to any King and Bilbo learned that day that the Iron Mountain Dwarves hated it that Thorin’s family line had one of best miners line with Stone Sense, in his loyal service; no matter how they tried to sway Bofur, Bombur and Bifur from him in the past, they could not.
The cheery Dwarf had been rather proud of his ability to find almost everything in the earth if he wanted it.

From Bofur’s own words to judge, only a few family lines nowadays possessed this Gift of Aüle as he had also named it. Those few and the line of Durin itself. All of the family lines were of the folk of Durin the Deathless or the old Gold Beard clan was what Bofur had explained to a curious Bilbo. And the ones with the best Stone Sense came actually from either old Moria or Erebor.

After an inquiry from Bilbo of who the Gold Beards had been, Bofur told the youth that they had been a Dwarf Clan whose last members had vanished from earth around thousand years ago without leaving a trace. They, along the folk of Durin, had been the only ones with that Gift in their blood and their loss was still mourned deeply. Bofur’s family had their roots with them, although they all had dark hair now.

It had fascinated Bilbo.

Bilbo did not want this all! He wanted to be just a normal Hobbit! And yet, he sat up, Bilbo knew that he would never be one. No matter how he wished that were so. No matter how much he wished Bungo to be his real father, he wasn’t. Sighing he rubbed the tears away and stared at the wall in front of him. It had to be past midnight already, if he was judging the passage of time correctly.

With another heavy sigh he stood and turned to face the wall behind him.

One hand slid over the surface while his eyes snapped close.

He played this game of his since he had discovered the voices in his mind. Often trying to figure out what exactly it was that called out to him. What lay under the layers of different stone… he was certain it was a kind of metal this time and moved his hand away while his eyes opened slowly again.
It felt, for the lack of a better word like the metal of his clasp. He looked down on it with another sigh and crawled out of his hiding spot again.

His mother owned him some answers!

Meanwhile he crawled his way back out, a pair of Dwarves stood at the first fork of the road near the river with their heads together.

Both faces were marred with frowns while the duo had a quarrel over the contents of a map in their hands, held open in the moonlight between them. The two gave the map one last angry scowl before the older one pushed his blond hair out of his face and narrowed his blue eyes in annoyance.

The other one examined the ground and finally found some familiar traces of pony hooves in the road dirt. Showing them to the other both packed away the map with care and hurried down the right pathway, leading them towards the bridge.

Both laughed lightly when they reached the river and the bridge.

“At least we know how to use a map, Fili! Uncle would have gone lost already twice!” Another bout of laughs escaped the duo as they grinned at each other, their teeth gleaming in the moonlight.

“Aye, and we could have followed the curses from the mountains!”

The younger of the duo grinned at the words before something occurred to him and his grin vanished. “Uh… Fili? What do we tell Amad when we reach her? She will tan our hides for sneaking out on Master Dwalin, you know.” Fili swallowed and made a face as if he had bitten on something sour.

“Oh hells, don’t remind me, Kili! Not to mention what he’ll do to us once he catches up with us.” Both exchanged an uneasy look that spoke volumes about their fears.

“Uhm… excuse me but… what are you two doing here in the middle of the night? Have you gotten lost? I could show you the way, if that is the case. I am Bilbo Baggins, at your service!”

Two surprised pairs of eyes turned as one towards Hobbit that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere right in front of them. They even jumped a bit in shock before the two looked the other being over. They gave Bilbo a good view of themselves and he took in their features as well as their weapons in one go.

The two Durins took in Bilbo’s ruffled appearance, Fili taking special note of the hair sticking out at all angles even as Kili noticed the tear reddened eyes. As they watched, one hand came up and rubbed at an eye. It was in that moment that the two brothers decided he was theirs, as they didn’t want to see him upset and both found him adorable.

Forgetting all about angry weapons teachers, an uncle that would lay them over his knee once he got a hold of them and even the wrath of their Amad, first Fili and then Kili sidled over to the little Hobbit that had appeared in their path. Once within touching distance, the two rapscallions and fixed their eyes on the now slightly alarmed looking Bilbo who was getting the feeling that these two would be worse than his cousins in terms of trouble making. He gulped and tried his hardest not to step away when they addressed him in unison.

“Fili, and Kili, at yours!” and then both bowed low. Just a moment later, they flanked the very trapped feeling Hobbit.

“And now since that was cleared up, tell me my dear Hobbit, do you know the way to a place called Bag End? Our mother is there and my brother Kili and I need to find her.” Looking from one smiling face to the other while trying to ignore the slight warm feeling in his guts at the voice of the blond that was warring with his growing sense of uneasiness, Bilbo swallowed another lump in his throat and ducked out from under their arms.

“Uhm, maybe? And don’t touch me like that! It isn’t proper!” He gave the matching grins at his words a glare before he turned and waved at the duo of trouble makers to follow him. “This way, we’ll reach it faster. You’re the sons of Lady Dis?” He heard the two’s boots leave the road behind him when he walked away from them and begin to follow him into the nightly hills.

The slightly husky voice of the one called Fili reached his ears a second later.

“That we are, master Bilbo, how you know our mother? So you must live there.” All Bilbo could do was to nod cautiously when he heard the unspoken amusement in the voice of Fili wash over him. He suddenly wished he could visit his Took cousins for a while. He had a bad feeling at the thought of being around the two Dwarves for a long period of time.

He never saw the matching grins that the two rascals exchanged over his head… if he had, Bilbo would have taken the risk and had run out on them then and there.

And that was how Bilbo meet Fili and Kili one the road to Hobbiton at two o’clock in the morning by mere chance.

Chapter Text

“Ow!! Noo, Aaaaamad, Oww! We can expla… Owwww!”

“Ack! Not my ears Amad! Ow! You’ll twist them off! Mercy!”

Bilbo watched with equal parts amusement and horror as the lady Dwarf descended on the two young Dwarves like an enraged dragon. They hadn’t even put their packs down in front of the Smial when she had flown out the front door like a bat out of hell, spitting curses and admonishing them in Khuzdul as the two had tried to hide behind Bilbo to escape her wrath.

Unsuccessfully as it turned out.

Bilbo was lifted by strong arms, hugged shortly and then set to the side before he could even complain.
What followed was nothing short of violent in his eyes. She twisted their ears, hit them over the head and once even kicked Kili’s feet out from under him when he tried to sneak out on her while she was berating her eldest. In short, the two got an earful and a lot new bruises to show for their idiocy in deciding to walk to the Shire without a proper guard.

Not to mention that they had obviously snuck out on their uncle.

Balin also began to lecture them, less violently, but it seemed to work equally well to deflate them, because they both sported rather sheepish expressions as they faced what was probably their former tutor. As their mother stood to the side glaring, the tongue lashing that they received was impressive, given in both Khuzdul and Westron, Balin’s exasperation coming through clearly.

Even Bilbo’s ears were aching at the end of it.

He hoped he would never get the old Dwarf that mad at him!

The older Dwarf had a way with words that was impressive and under any other circumstances Bilbo would have been admiring that gift. As it was, all he wanted to do was sneak away from the quartet. The two young ones visibly wilted the longer the tongue lashing continued, but finally the blond seemed to see an opening when Balin paused to breathe and cut in.

“But… but… but! Will you at least listen for a moment? Please, Amad! We had a good reason for leaving!”
He got another impressive glare for his effort. Dis’ tone was dangerous as she glowered at her eldest and folded her arms before leaning in, her voice barely above a whisper.

“And, pray tell, Fili, what could have been so important that the two of you needed to pull such a stunt!? Speak quickly!”

Fili visibly gulped before he straightened with an obvious effort. Bilbo had to give him credit; he didn’t cower, only looked his mother right in the eyes. Bilbo, seeing the Dis’ obvious anger and sensing danger, took a step backwards in anticipation of having to run and hide behind his mother’s skirts if necessary. He did not intend to be caught up in the aftermath of whatever excuse the heir of Durin came up with.

Just in case that it didn’t work, that was.

“Dain was in the mountain.”

That nipped the forming tirade in the bud. Exchanging looks, Dis and Balin looked back at Fili, both looking a bit calmer and intrigued. Balin was the one that urged the young Dwarf to continue.

“Go on, lad. Why did his presence cause you to run out on your uncle and Dwalin?”

It was Kili who answered this time, not wanting his brother to be the only one to have to face their anger if this didn’t work.

“He asked Uncle, no demanded, to have us given over to him for ten years, as is custom, by fall. To educate and foster us for a time…” Kili never got to finish his sentence as a high pitched sound of pure anger escaped Dis so suddenly it took everyone by surprise. The two young Dwarves shrank in on themselves and before Bilbo knew it, had already hidden behind him.

Bilbo gulped.

Balin took two steps to the side and away from the now shaking Dis, worry and what looked like fear clearly written on his face. Behind Dis, Bungo and Belladonna retreated a few steps as well, sensing the rage that seemed to flow from Dis in waves. Her voice though, once she stopped shaking, was almost soothingly sweet…if one didn’t mention the dark gleam in her eyes that was.

“Did he now? And what was your Uncle’s answer to his suggestion, my dears?”

Bilbo gulped, ducked out from the hold that the two had on him and made a beeline for his mother. Once there, he hid like a fauntling behind his mother’s skirts without an ounce of remorse.

He could blush and feel embarrassed about his actions later, he decided, once the danger was over!

He left two surprised Dwarves in his wake, shocked that their Hobbit shaped shield had abandoned them so unexpectedly. Kili sent Bilbo an envious glare, obviously wishing that he had a similar escape route. Fili seconded the glare before he pulled himself together and cautiously answered his mother. “He, uhm, he… I mean uncle said he could stuff that where the sun doesn’t shine?”

Belladonna sniggered madly at the blunt wording and Bungo groaned.

“Why do I have the sudden feeling that those words did not help him at all?” He asked no one particular while searching his pockets for his trusty pipe. Bilbo wished that he could also smoke, but his pipe was in his room and that meant he would have to leave his refuge to retrieve it. He finally decided against and shifted a bit more behind his mother as she continued to shake with silent laughter.

“And what was Dain’s answer?!” Dis voice was now sharper.

Both Dwarves exchanged a worried glance before they looked at Balin for help.

“Um, the last we heard was that he claimed the Northern Iron findings from Uncle, Amad. Since, as he phrased it, Uncle doesn’t have enough miners to maintain production anyway…”

They could almost see the steam emerging from Dís’ ears.

A series of curses in sharp, staccato like Khuzdul escaped Dis while she stomped over to a rock in the garden and begun to kick it around in a show of strength that didn’t just frighten Bilbo. Balin blanched visibly at the words and sat down heavily onto the bench next to Bungo who silently offered the older Dwarf his pipe, which he accepted.

Bilbo darted out of his hiding spot and inside the Smial.

Getting a tankard of the Dwarven ale that his mother had stashed in the cellar for their guests, he walked out again and handed it over to the still white faced Dwarf with a hesitant smile. He had the feeling the Dwarf could use a good drink right now. He didn’t understand the implications for Thorin’s people but had the feeling that they were very bad.

“Balin, can he do that?!”

The older Dwarf gave the boy a thankful albeit weak nod of gratitude and emptied the huge thing halfway in one pull before Dis addressed him suddenly. Still not looking at Balin, she instead faced out over the silent, peaceful Shire. Balin nodded before he spoke, his voice old and tired.
“I fear so, Dis. He can invoke finder’s rights, you know that. No matter that it was half of his Dwarven searchers and half of ours that found the new mine area. If he is faster with opening the mine, it is his and Thorin knows that too. Seems we are out on a prosperous new iron mine, curse the greed of that foolish Dwarf!”

He nudged her with the half full tankard until she turned and took it.

Dis emptied the rest of it quickly and sat down heavily next to her kinsman. She heaved a sigh as she stared dejectedly into the empty mug.
Bilbo, not knowing what else to do, gave into his urge and hugged them both, blushing madly at the same time. He was patted on the back from both in return. Behind him he heard the duo shuffle over too and released the two Dwarves to make room for the younger ones to take his place.

Fili finally let go and sank to the ground to sit at his Amad’s feet with a morose look on his fair features.

Kili didn’t, since he had managed to squeeze himself between Dis and Balin, almost dislodging poor Bungo from his seat. Not that the Hobbit complained. When he saw the look on the faces of the younger Dwarves he simply huffed and moved a bit to balance on the rim of the bench, still sharing his pipe with Balin and now Dis too.

“It’s our fault because we wouldn’t go with him!”

Fili grumbled but was soon shushed by Dis. “No! No, it is not, Fili and Kili. If anyone is to blame here it is Dain. He had no right to ask for such a thing and use it to gain the new mines. That was on the only reason he did it, or he would have demanded you sooner. This was purely a political move on his side, nothing else. He needed a reason for claiming the new mines. His are running out, just like ours will in the near future.”

She heaved a heavy sigh.

“That’s a weighty problem that you’ve got, my lady, although it only reinforces my belief that you and your people are better allies than Dain Ironfoot and his kin.” Dís and Balin both gaped at the normally silent Hobbit sitting next to them, completely flabbergasted.

“Care to elaborate that statement, Master Hobbit?” was all that Balin could think to say in response.

He got the sudden feeling that the observant fellow next to him knew much more than he let on and that Bungo was wiser and smarter than they had previously thought. “Because I knew of his darker tendencies already?” The Hobbit just shrugged and took a deep pull of his Old Toby before he leveled a calm gaze at the Dwarves that now gave a decent impressions of fishes.

With an honest smile he humored Balin and the rest of the confused looking Dwarves.

“Actually, we had several groups in mind to aid us. Yours was my personal favorite, though. I had traveled to the Blue Mountains before, in order to covertly learn more about Dwarves since Bilbo is a half born one. We needed to know what to expect, you understand I am sure.” At the nods from the older ones and the calculating looks of the two younger Dwarves, directed at Bilbo, he went on.

“We took our responsibility as his parents very serious, Master Balin. Rest assured of that. However, Bilbo wasn’t my only motivating factor in deciding to travel so far away from my beloved Shire.” His face became slowly a mask of grim determination.

“Belladonna, wonder of Yavanna that she is, was becoming worried about the colder winters and the lack of food that those would bring. She was accurate in her prediction that the Men would set turn their eyes towards our lands and crops – since the Fae blessed the land so that it would never fail to feed us.” His arm swept across the surrounding hills, encompassing the whole Shire and he continued to speak.

“You can imagine that we – the Thain and I – took her warnings to heart and when the first signs of trouble appeared, we urged the others to do something. It took us awhile to convince the other Hobbits of the necessity of having foreigners live with us, but as the Men became bolder, they became more receptive to the idea. Your people were my favorites as allies because I have heard nothing but good things from them through the Rangers as well as many other sources that I used for my research.”
His eyes was somber when he faced Dis.
“Your brother has many flaws, but one he has never been accused of is being an oath breaker. He is outspoken and honest, not known for lying or treachery in any kind and from what I learned, he does care for his people dearly. If that what I heard is true than he cares even that much that he took on minor blacksmithing jobs to feed what widows or orphans there were and so, worked himself almost to the bone! How could I not choose someone like him? Someone that knows the value of his peoples’ life and values responsibility as well?”

Next to Balin, Dis was crying softly by now, her face buried in the blond hair of her stunned looking son. Kili seemingly didn’t know where to look or to put his hands and finally settled on wrapping them around his mother, his face red. Balin, he just gave Bungo a blinding smile.
“Of all people of Middle Earth, yours are truly the most underestimated, Master Baggins.”

Bungo just patted the Dwarf on the back good naturedly and went on puffing his pipe.

“Let us just say I heard some less than favorable things about Master Dain that had me scratch out his name from my list of possible allies from the start!” With that he stood and went inside without bothering to explain that vague statement further. Bungo had never been a gossip and he was sure the two older Dwarves knew what he was referring to better than he did. And he was right, both Dis and Balin knew of what he spoke and both knew how much Hobbits valued family and the proper treatment of their kin.

Both were sure he meant Dain’s treatment of his own kin in the past and left it wisely at that.

“My brother lucked out with these people, Balin. I just hope that he will not ruin everything with his big mouth!” Balin chuckled and while he watched, Fili and Kili stood up and went after Bilbo like curious cats following a canary around.

“That’s what we are here for, now isn’t it, my dear?” It earned him a laugh from the Dwarrow woman.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the meantime, Bilbo had two overly curious Dwarves follow him around the Smial.

When he reached his room, his mother intercepted him.

“Bilbo, I see you found them already. I hope you don’t mind if they share your room for the night.” Bilbo took one look at the pleading in his mother’s eyes and caved. He didn’t like the thought of sharing his room with the two loud Dwarves, but there were no other guest rooms set up. He sighed and motioned for the two to follow him, a defeated expression upon his face.

Fili chuckled slightly at his expression as Kili darted out of the room to retrieve their packs from the front stoop.

“Don’t worry, Bilbo, we won’t take up too much space, I promise.” Bilbo gave the elder of the pair a look that clearly said, I do not believe a single word you say, and went inside his adjourning bathroom to change into clean nightclothes without saying a word.

His reaction had Fili laughing the instant he was alone.

The young one clearly did not trust them further as he could throw them! Smart brat, he surmised and looked around in the comfortably sized room. It held two more hastily prepared beds, each shoved against a wall in addition to the one that was clearly used by the Hobbit. Both were even big enough to hold Kili and him comfortably. Behind him, Kili entered the room and made a beeline for one of the soft, plush looking beds, flinging himself dramatically on it after removing his travel stained armor and tunic. Their boots had been hastily removed as they had entered the Smial under Belladonna’s glare.

What followed had Fili laughing so hard he cried.

“Oh Thank You Aule! This must be a dream. This has to be the softest bed I have ever laid on, Fili! This feels like heaven…my cushion, this is my cushion, do you hear me? I will not give this cushion back, mine, mine, mine!” Turning to nose the cushion in his arms the younger of the pair made a show of humming happily at the softness of it. Fluffing it up once in a while in order to crush it again, the silly smile never leaving his face. Here and there another happy squeal escaped him.

“I am never going to leave this bed again!”

He finally announced to his brother and a bemused looking Bilbo who stepped just out of the bathroom in time to witness Kili’s rather silly behavior. “Isn’t used to soft beds, is he?” He asked the blond.

“Aye! We have usually a straw mattress and pillows. Not soft, down filled beds like yours here.” He finally told the Hobbit next to him.
Across from them both, Kili was still happily nosing his new cushion while mumbling his thanks to Aüle. Bilbo and Fili exchanged a look and then they were both sinking to a heap in the floor, laughing. Kili simply scowled at them, choosing to forgo leaping up and attempting to hit them. Even if they were laughing at him, he was too busy enjoying the bed to care too much.

But when he tried to snatch the cushion off of Fili’s bed, his brother jumped up and hit him over the head before he could so much as touch the edge of the cloth it was wrapped in.

“Don’t you dare, you little greedy cushion thief! You have your own, leave mine on my bed or face the consequences!”

Kili just shrugged and eyed Bilbo’s two cushions instead, an action that had Bilbo quickly moving between his bed and the young Dwarf as he crossed his arms and gave the Dwarf a stern look. “Not a chance, Kili! Those are mine! I will have you know that I had to talk my father out of the second one. If you want a second, go and get your own but those two stay on MY bed. I’ll tell your mother if you do take it!”

“Tittle-tattle!” was the only reply Bilbo got along with a mighty scowl. But Kili restrained himself from trying to steal Bilbo’s second down filled cushion. Bilbo shrugged it off. If that meant that he would keep his second cushion then so be it!

Fili watched the exchange with amusement.

Later that night, or rather early morning, Fili and Kili were clean and lying in their soft, soft beds. The bath had nearly caused Kili to cry – happy tears, but still tears. Not that Fili was any less happy about having a warm bath with decent soap. The entire house was a dream come true to those that had been forced to wander before this.

The entire place was warm and inviting and that it lay under earth, in a way, was helping them feel more settled. Kili was already snoring away in his bed, curled possessively around his soft cushion. Shaking his head the blond prince chuckled softly at seeing his little brother like this. The silly grin on Kili’s face made up for many nights sleeping on a thin straw mattress in the past.

Bilbo, too, was curled around one cushion and had the other tucked under his head.

Only a mop of curly hair stuck out from under the goose down filled blanket. Fili shook his head fondly at the sight. The young one seemed to catch his attention. It was hard to explain but Bilbo had been drawing Fili’s gaze to him since he had met the youth. He leaned back against the wall, folding his arms behind his head. Fili begun to chew on one of his braids, lost deep in thought.

He felt a soft pull towards Bilbo and that seemed to be the same for Kili if he wasn’t mistaken.

Which was both a good and bad thing.

It was good because it told him that they had both found their One – the same person even and wasn’t that typical? And bad because of the age difference, since Bilbo had not yet reached his majority in the eyes of the Hobbits as far as Fili could tell, which meant he had a long way to go by Dwarven standards. The Hobbit was bodily almost an adult, but as for the rest? Fili wrinkled his brow as he thought. He would have to watch the Hobbit closely to try and estimate that. Fili shook himself and banished the thoughts from his head. It was no use thinking about something when you could do nothing to change it.

If Bilbo was too young now for more than friendship than that meant that they had more time to ease him into their way of doing things.
Kili and he would have to tell Amad though.

Here his face twisted into a grimace. Not that Fili thought that she would say anything against Bilbo or the fact that he was both of their One, but she would make sure that they didn’t step out of line. Fili rose with a groan and headed for the bathroom to take a piss.
When he came back he saw Bilbo eye him blearily, still clearly half asleep, before the youth burrowed his head back into his bedding with a huff.

He laughed softly at the sight and crawled back into his own bed. The brat was watchful, Fili thought amused. He would make a good guard once he was trained. Dwalin would have fun with that in the future, Fili was certain. Closing his eyes the eldest of the heirs of Thorin Oakenshield stopped thinking for a while and simply snuggled deeper into his soft bed with a soft smile.

He was fast asleep in mere seconds.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next morning found Bilbo being the first one to rise.

Making his bed, he softly tiptoed out of his room and into the kitchen to make breakfast. Late, late breakfast, since it was nearly noon by now. His parents soon joined him and shortly after them, Balin appeared in the entrance to the kitchen. Looking a bit tussled, barefoot and clearly still half asleep he nearly ran over a chair before the Dwarf was directed into it by Bilbo’s mother and over the course of the breakfast he woke gradually up.
How Bilbo and Balin ended up outside on the garden bench, Bilbo couldn’t figure out.

Both had a pipe in hand and while Bilbo sat there with the older Dwarf, Balin told him about his people a little more. About losing Erebor to a greedy Dragon and what had happened after that loss. About lost battles and much, much more.

To say that he was stunned wasn’t even the half of it.

“So, after your people lost Erebor, every one of your old allies had did nothing but turn their backs on you almost immediately?”

Balin had to smile at the way the boy summed it up. He nodded. “That’s exactly what happened. Not even our own kin helped, once we lost our riches. I have always thought that it was our punishment from Aüle for getting too secure in the perceived safety of our home.”

Next to him Bilbo shook his head at that.

“I do not share that thought, Master Balin. To me it rather looks like one of the stories that my father often drilled into my head when I was just a fauntling. Have you ever heard about old Númenor and their history before?” The Dwarf nodded amicably. “Yes, they are a bit similar, our stories. They too were driven from many places before they settled on their isle and after losing it they wandered around too for a while before finally settling in Gondor and Arnor.”

The two exchanged a smile.

“What are you talking about, Balin?”

The sleepy voice belonged to Kili who had just woken up and felt the urge to search for Bilbo in the house. One hand was rubbing his eyes, the other held his beloved cushion to his still bare chest. At least he had the sense to clad himself in a clean pair of pants before he left the room, Bilbo thought as he and Balin tried not to laugh at the sight of the young prince.

His hair was sticking out in odd places, one side was flattened to his skull while the other seemingly defied gravity.

One side of his face still showed the fading red lines of the folded up bed sheets he had snuggled into in the night and when he stepped next to them, a mighty yawn nearly split his face in half. Ignoring the soft chuckles he shuffled over to where Bilbo was sitting on the bench and plopped down at the youth’s feet. Once he was settled he simply snuggled into Bilbo’s side and was soon fast asleep, ignoring the Hobbit’s astonished stare.

Eying the Dwarf for a few seconds he finally looked helplessly at Balin who was having trouble containing his mirth. “I am sorry, Bilbo. Although, he normally only does that with Fili… however, he should fully wake up soon. Don’t you worry.”

Bilbo gave him a dry look. “Oh the joy of being a living cushion for Kili. Could I ask you something, Master Balin?”

At the amused Dwarf’s nod, Bilbo proceeded before his bravery could abandon him again.

“Uhm, when I accidently overheard you yesterday … that is to say, you seemed to know my, well, second father?”
Next to him, Balin stiffened slightly. He had hoped that the lad would ask, he just not thought it would be so soon. Mahal, how was he supposed to explain everything to the boy? Sighing Balin begun to fill his pipe again while he searched for the right words.

“Yes, that I did, my boy. He was my cousin, Bilbo.”

He waited for a moment but when his words were only met with silence he dared to give the boy a short glance. Bilbo had his bottom lip caught between his teeth and worried around on it with his teeth, obviously deep in thought. His eyes crinkled at the sight with a soft smile. The lad did not know it but right now he reminded Balin of a younger Fundorin greatly.

“Your cousin?”

Balin nodded sagely. “Yes, mine and Dwalin’s - as well as Gloin and Oin’s. Dwalin and I are the sons of Fundin and Gloin and Oin that of Groin. Fundorin was the only son of their older sister, Ratha. You have to understand Bilbo, normally only the male relatives are listed in the family trees. The females are not to protect them and not because their worth is less. We would do everything to keep them safe and out of harm’s way and to ensure that, the most are never mentioned. What others do not know of, cannot be used by them. We learned that lesson a long time ago. Since we don’t have many females, protecting the existing ones became a burden that we carry freely and willingly.”

“Ratha wasn’t married, she had a child out of wedlock as many of our woman do. To add the child to our line instead of his father’s.“

“And thus Fundorin was added to the line of Durin. The main line currently consists only of four: Thorin, Dis and her sons, Fili and Kili. And only them since the youngest brother of Dis and Thorin perished in Erebor. Since Thorin never found his One, or had any offspring, Fili is named his heir and is raised to fill the spot once Thorin is gone.”

“As is Kili as well, just in case. He was raised to lead us as well, should the unthinkable ever happen.
They are the only heirs of the main house of Durin that can carry the name of Durin as their own family name, hence they are named Fili and Kili , sons of Dis…can you follow me so far?”

At Bilbo’s nod, Balin had to smile and laugh softly. The youth had begun to try to tame Kili’s bed head while the young Dwarf slept peacefully, leaning against his side, still clutching the cushion. The youngest heir of Thorin purred softly like a big cat and occasionally tried to burrow deeper into the warm small shape at his side.

Which nearly dislodged Bilbo from his seat twice.

““Fundorin, he was much older than the rest of us. Oin was nearly fifty years younger and he was almost a century older than me. He practically raised us and we were closer than cousins normally are. He was one of the finest warriors that Erebor had to offer and he trained Dwalin – my brother – to be an excellent one as well. He also taught Thorin and was the Shield brother of his father, Thrain.”

We all grew practically up with each other around.”

When Dis and Frerin came along he took them under his wing as well. He was renowned being able to raise young Dwarves into fine adults. It wasn’t that he couldn’t have married back than, he just never found his One. And for casual dalliances, Fundorin wasn’t the Dwarf to look for either. When Erebor fell and his mother and Frerin perished, I think something broke inside of him.”

When the battle at the gates of Moria went wrong and Thrain ran from the battlefield in his madness after losing his father at the hands of Azog the Defiler, Fundorin didn’t even think and ran into Moria to bring him back again. It took many decades for us to see him again and when we did, his laughter was gone. He was only a shell of his former self.”

He didn’t realize he had begun to cry until someone held a blue handkerchief in front of him.

Balin eyed it for a moment like he didn’t know what it was before he took it with a mumbled thank you and blew his nose. Bilbo’s hand settled comfortingly on his shoulder and when he was finished cleaning up, Balin patted it softly before he let his hand come to rest upon it there.

“He sounds like a man that I would have liked to know, Master Balin.” It was all that Bilbo could offer the Dwarf, but his voice was soft and earnest.

He could not even fathom the pain that Balin had to be feeling right now, speaking of someone who had obviously been very dear to him. It did make it clearer as to why his mother had kept him though and Bilbo wondered about the possibility of her having had a glimpse of what the Dwarf had once been.
Even knowing the consequences of her actions she had decided to carry Bilbo to term.

“I believe that you would have liked him, he was always quick to laugh and often played pranks on Thrain. But not even Thror’s son could stay mad at him for long, not even when Fundorin caused minor diplomatic problems, because not even Thranduil was safe from him!”

This time Bilbo chuckled, imagining the Dwarf that Balin was describing so vividly.

“He was really something else, lad. …but when he finally found us in the settlement, he was a shadow of what he once was. Sadly, he did not even recognize most of us anymore! His mind was so far gone that he somehow only recognized Dwalin and Oin and even then, just barely. Dis, she was the only one whom he recognized clearly and to her he told what of all that had happened to Thrain. His death was a blessing to him.”

Bilbo swallowed, his throat suddenly dry, as Kili rose from where he had been sitting and wrapped an arm around Bilbo before the Hobbit realized what he was doing. Fili, who had been searching for them, settled in next to Balin in order to offer him comfort as well.

“Simply speaking, you have four uncles on your father’s side. Well, on Fundorin’s that is. I know that you never knew another father except for Master Baggins who, in my eyes, did a marvelous job of raising you! I would never dare to take that from him or you. But I fear we four will drive your poor family insane in no time at all, lad.”

The grateful look the boy gave him at that allowed him to smile. The boy was loyal to a fault he figured, another thing that painfully reminded him on Fundorin now.

“Well, you can try. I warn you though, my mother wields a mean frying pan, or so Master Bofur says. And my father can hold his own with only some writing quills – he prefers them to darts!” Bilbo cheekily informed the older Dwarf, who laughed at the thought of Dwalin being told off by Belladonna’s frying pan!

Bilbo just smiled smugly when Kili fell off the bench, laughing hysterically.

Chapter Text

“Bugger me blind!”

That was Bofur…

“Really, that’s – for – us?!”

…and that was Bombur, who held a little Dwarfling in his arms as a small (for a Dwarf) and very pregnant Dwarrow woman clutched his arm in shock. She was barely taller than Bilbo, but Bofur had told the Dwobbit that Olma practically ruled the clan.

The two made a rather odd pair to Bilbo and onlookers but somehow…they fit.

They had three children already and a fourth was nearly there. Among the Dwarves who normally had only one child, they were a rarity and the pair was renowned for their unusual number of children. Not to mention that two of their little ones were girls and for that fact alone, the family was well looked after.

Bofur stood next to them, his expression gob smacked and his arms hung uselessly at his side, unless he flailed them around in an attempt to try and express himself.

Bilbo found that endearing and grinned each time the poor dwarf tried to get his wits back.

Bifur mumbled in Khuzdul as he stood to one side of the small family, scratching his head with one hand while the other clutched his hair and Bilbo feared that he would pull some of it out! Bilbo was off the side watching, along with his friend Seradon, Seradon’s sister Lily and their mother, Celandine Goold.
Seradon had met Bofur back when the Dwarf had first come to the Shire, when the he had first stopped by the forge.

Seradon’s mother had been one of the first ones widowed in the ever escalating conflict with the humans of Bree. Her husband, Seredas, had been both the village blacksmith and a bounder of Buckland, which made sense as he had been a Brandybuck before he had married Celandine had taken her surname. No one could remember why the men marrying into the Goold Clan took on that surname, but that was the way it had been for as long as anyone could remember.

There were a few exceptions to that rule, but that was a rare occurrence indeed and most of the Hobbits were used to it. Seradon and Bilbo were cousins of some sort on his father and mother’s sides. The Goold Clan was complicated, even for Hobbits, who could (and would) study and talk about their family trees for hours. Rumor had it that the name Goold had once been part of a longer name, but no one knew for sure anymore.

Bofur gave Bilbo an astonished look before he walked over to the boy to hug him suddenly and so hard that Bilbo swore he could hear his rib’s protest!
The Dwarf let go quickly and turned away, though Bilbo could see him rubbing at his eyes with his shirtsleeves. Bofur’s hug was closely followed by hugs from both Bombur and his wife – who had a lot more strength than was readily apparent – and Bilbo stepped back to recover and make sure his ribs were intact.

Bilbo rubbed his now sore sides as Celandine and her family watched, amused. When Bilbo had seen how much Bofur and Bifur had liked the small Smial that had been built for them, Bilbo had gone to his father to request another for the entire clan.

Once word had gotten around Hobbiton about the proposed project it had quickly turned into a community endeavor. The Dwarves probably didn’t appreciate how insular the Hobbits actually were since they had never been on the receiving end of that polite distance, but it was unusual for an entire community to take a liking to outsiders. Even the Sackville – Baggins had befriended the toymaker and his brother!

Needless to say, the formally rather normal sized Smial turned into a rather large one in the end…

The Gamgees had stuffed the pantry with fresh food and cleaned an area in the back for a garden and the matriarch of the clan had made doilies for the furniture that the Tooks had provided. The Brandybucks had helped to build it, while Lobelia’s mother had designed the kitchen to provide Bombur with extra room, as a thanks for Bofur saving Lobelia’s life when she had nearly drowned in the river. Bifur had carved toys for all of the children as thanks though they had been given as presents in the end, as the adults refused to accept them as anything but presents. The Proudfoot and Bolger Clans had also made furniture and other items to help the Smial feel more like a home.

Bilbo’s mother had added a cellar to the Smial plans and had helped to sew bed clothes and such. Bungo had added a small sitting room with books for the Dwarflings. Seradon had crafted the kitchen utensils as welcome present that, along with some other little things that he could manage to forge by himself, were well received from the Dwarves.

They did not even look half as bad as one would have thought.

The lad still had much to learn but had managed a few pots well enough, though the stew pot’s handle was a bit mangled and the sides of uneven thickness. That didn’t matter to Bombur, who held the pot like it was made of gold while Olma fussed over the boy and muttered in Khuzdul.
As it turned out, Olma’s brother Agma was one of the blacksmiths that were coming and she had promised that he would allow Seradon to apprentice to him so that the lad could learn his craft. At least that was what Bofur told them she said after he translated.

Seradon promptly hugged her and then began to dance, ignoring the amused and fond looks that both the Dwarves and Hobbits were giving him.
In short, the Ur clan now owned a fully furnished Smial.

Bifur sat down on the grass and stared at the bright green door of their new home. He had tears in his eyes, but he wasn’t the only one. No one had been this unselfishly kind to him or his family since before the fall of Erebor and even back then, despite their Stone Sense, it had been a nearly constant fight to have enough to put food on the table and get other essentials.

The Hobbit’s had even added a workshop into the Smial!

One with a large window that he could open to sell his and Bofur’s toys directly from their home, if he wished. The window was intricately decorated by the Bolger family and Bifur could tell the sheer amount of skill that had gone into it. The end product was all the more beautiful for the fact the Dwarves did not have the skills needed to make the ornate pieces.

One of Hobbits had also agreed to rent one of his stalls to Bombur so that he could sell his baked goods at the market. It was a wish that his cousin had often expressed and that Bofur had mentioned in passing to Bungo and now it was possible. A small oven had been made available to him as well, so Bombur could work directly from the marketplace.

Bifur was left reeling at the generosity of the Shire folk!

He rubbed his face and stood, opening the door and entering the Smial, the rest of the family following a few minutes later. The onlookers could hear the gasps of shock and delight from the adults and the squeals of excitement from the children drifting through the open windows.

The Hobbits laughed and clapped each other on the back before leaving the family to see to their new home…after they had delivered welcoming gifts of cakes, baked goods and, in one case, a turkey. The chuckles continued as they listened to the family exploring their home and continued as they returned to theirs.

Dis watched the entire event , shaking her head at what she had witnessed.

She had known how friendly the small folk were, but to see this was nearly too much. They had originally thought to build a few Smials to see what her folk would think of them, but the Hobbits had gone beyond what was expected of them, providing more room than they had been expecting and even furniture.

Bungo’s people had done a marvelous job and the Dwarves did not know what to do or say in the face of such kindness.

Dis had already thought that she had seen it all…until Bungo and Bilbo had shown Bofur and his clan what they had made for them.

After that, it was just looking on while the clan Ur tried to thank the Hobbits and take in the fact that they had a home once more. And what a home! Big, comfortable and beautiful. It showed a craftsmanship in building these odd homes and in the workings of the wood and even stone that Dis had never seen before in her life. It was made with affection, she wondered to what Bofur and Bifur had been up to all this time.

To earn such a gift from the Shire folk…

Next to her, Fili could only shake his head like his mother did too and tried not to gape.

Kili did just that until Balin gently closed his trap shut for him with a finger under the chin and a smile. He had known about the miners’ wish to possibly buy Smial if the clan could afford it. Now they had been gifted with one for their friendliness and kindness and he felt happy for them.

Balin watched as Seradon bounced while he talked to his mother. The lad couldn’t be older than Bilbo, he guessed, and was amused by the way the lad trying to expend his restless energy. He was so amused that he didn’t notice the little Hobbit lass that had crept up on him while he watched as Bilbo tried – and failed – to get his friend to calm down until she tugged on his sleeve. One thumb firmly planted into her tiny mouth, Lily tugged on Balin’s robe again to get the Dwarf’s attention.

Balin had to blink a few times at the tiny girl before he realized that she had managed to sneak up on him. She gave him another inquiring look before she held up both arms, one awkwardly holding her stuff bunny, up to the flabbergasted Dwarf.

“UP!” was the demand and he had already complied before he realized what he was doing.

Snorting softly to himself the Dwarf tickled the little sprite a little for having successfully wound herself up on his arm. He was rewarded with a mighty giggle and a lot squirming from the girl. Dis, had to laugh. “Snuck up on you, eh?”

He nodded calmly. “That she did, Dis. Smart little girl, had me around her little finger before I knew what hit me!” Another chuckle from Dis was his only answer.

“Lily! You can’t go and bother the Dwarves, I am sorry sir!”

Celandine came hastily over but was calmed down instantly when she saw the kind smile on Balin’s face. “She is no hardship, Miss…?”
Blushing, the Hobbit woman curtsied and answered the question while taking her youngest back from Balin. “Goold, sir, Celandine Goold. Thank you for indulging her whims, Master Balin, was it?” He nodded and made a short bow that had Lily giggle on her mother’s arm. “Balin, Fundin’s son, at your service, Madam Goold!”

As the two talked more, Bilbo looked through the new shopping window at Bifur who gesticulated away with zeal and a happy grin on his face that seemed to want to split it into half.

“I think you’re right, Bifur. It will be better this way to sell your wares. No more insensitive people that can mock your lack of common speech here, that’s for certain. The only ones that will come here will be the ones who know about your quality works and it will be safer too, thieves and such, you must know it better than I, I am sure.”

The toymaker nodded happily and touched a workbench almost reverently with one hand.

Bofur, stepping into the workshop, had to forcibly keep himself from crying like a baby at the sight and instead walked over to the open window and sat down in a chair next to it to puff his lit pipe with vigor.

“I wanted to buy one for us but I would never have anticipated that your family would go and do this for us!”

He gave Bilbo a mock glare. “And you all hid it too!”

At that Bilbo began laughing. “And succeeded too!” Now both were laughing while Bifur ignored the two at the window and instead whistled softly to himself while looking through the cabinets in the room. When he finished nosing around, he pulled out his bag of tools and began to put them away in the cabinets.

He was soon joined by Bofur and Bilbo said his good byes to the busy pair of cousins.

He got no further as the kitchen before Olma assaulted Bilbo with a plate of cake and had him sit down next to an embarrassed looking Kili and Fili to eat. They had snuck in to look around too and had been intercepted by Olma who promptly feed them like small Dwarvlings!

The trio exchanged a long suffering look and quietly ate the cake provided by Lobelia Bracegirdle.

It wasn’t a bad cake, that was sure, so all three boys cleaned off their plates quickly only to be joined by Dis, Belladonna and Bungo, who joined Olma and Bombur in eating the turkey. As the adults chatted in a combination of Common and Iglishmêk, the boys discussed the differences between them. Fili and Kili were amazed at how tough Hobbit feet were and how they could run around on the rocks barefoot without so much as a scratch.

*~*~*~*~*~*

It was nearly evening when a few more Dwarves appeared at the edge of Hobbiton.

Thorin Oakenshield was not a happy Dwarf, not at all!

First Dain had had the nerve to steal a promising new vein of Iron Ore from him in an underhanded move and then his nephews had run out on him and Dwalin, who had stayed behind to make sure the boys were safe. And if all that wasn’t enough, a blasted wizard had added himself to their travelling party.

No, Thorin wasn’t happy right now!

Not that he couldn’t see the reasons behind Fili and Kili’s sudden vanishing act, but honestly, couldn’t they have warned him at least?

Dwalin rode next to him, his scowl matching his king’s.

When he caught up with those two, he was going to tan their hides! What in the name of Durin’s Beard had those two been thinking? Growling, he didn’t say a word when Thorin nearly steered them off the correct path, he just grabbed the reins from Thorin’s hands and lead his pony back to the correct path towards the Shire.

Thorin didn’t protest… much, he just took his reins back with an equally irate growl and sullenly rode behind Dwalin down the road to Hobbiton.
The sight wasn’t an unusual one to the Dwarves of Erebor when they travelled with the two, so no one said anything. It was well known that Thorin had no sense of direction when he was aboveground and Dwalin, as his sworn protector and Shield Brother, was even more used to it than the regular Dwarves in their group.

And the only person besides the Lady Dis that could get away with correcting his king. Simply because he didn’t gave a rat’s arse about whatever Thorin would do to stop him.

The first Hobbit to run into the heavily armed group was poor Hamfast Gamgee.

Truth be told, the two ferocious scowls of the older Dwarves intimidated him quite a bit, but Hamfast didn’t back down, something that gained him the respect of the two warriors.

“Can I help you, sirs?”

As it turned out, he could. He lead the group towards Bag End, shaking his head at the rather bloodthirsty tone of voice the tattooed one had used when he had asked after the two younger Dwarves. They hadn’t even reached the Smial when the Dwarf had launched himself off of his pony and towards the two Dwarves in question. The two after getting a good look at him, had grabbed poor Bilbo and had beat a hasty retreat. Hamfast could safely say he had never seen anyone move quite as fast as those two did.

The chase ended when the three lads retreated up one of the apple trees in the Proudfoots’ orchard.

It was Bilbo who had been level headed enough to pull the ladder up the tree after them to prevent the irate Dwarf from following him. Bilbo wasn’t sure why he had ended up in the tree as well, but knew that he didn’t want to get in between the three.

This was the second time in his life that he had wound up hiding in a tree and he sincerely hoped that this wouldn’t become a habit. The patriarch of the Proudfoot Clan, Ortho, stood off to one side laughing at the sight of the Dwarf trying to uproot the tree. Dwalin ignored that, cursing heartily, until Balin hit him over the head and hissed something at him in Khuzdul that had him letting go of the tree like it had burned him. He looked up into the tree and locked eyes with a bemused looking Bilbo.

“That was close!” Kili was still panting from the exertion of the run and clung tightly to the tree branch he was crouched on.

“I thought for sure he was going to start breathing fire!” Fili agreed and rubbed at his arm were Dwalin had almost managed to grab him before he had managed to duck away. He grinned at Bilbo. “Sorry for grabbing you – didn’t want to leave you alone with him.”

Bilbo just scowled at him and crossed his arms over his chest in indignation. “Care to tell me what I had to fear here, Master Fili? The last I remember is that you two have a problem with him and not I!”

He got two sheepish laughs from the brothers as an answer.

“Oh Mahal!” Kili muttered before he pointed at the Dwarf with the tattoos next to Balin. “Bilbo, meet your second uncle, Dwalin Fundin’s son, brother to Master Balin.”

Bilbo’s jaw dropped open.

That… that Giant was his uncle?!

Bilbo gulped and took a second look at the now truly uncomfortable looking Dwarf under the tree as Fili smacked his brother upside the head. “Ignore him Bilbo, he is not known for his tact.” Fili had seen the way the Bilbo had blanched at Kili’s words, even if Kili hadn’t.

Bilbo made a quick descent from the tree and walked over to the tattooed Dwarf that watched his downward climb.

“Is that what Kili said true?” He asked. “Are you truly Master Balin’s brother?”

The giant nodded shortly. “Yes. And I apologize, boy. I did not mean to scare you but, “ Here he stared up into the tree duo above them. “ I originally meant to get those two young fools back for sneaking out of the mountains!” He turned his full attention to his charges and began a scathing lecture in Khuzdul at full volume.

Balin sighed and pulled Bilbo out of the danger zone with him. “I am sorry Bilbo but when my brother is that heated, he tends to not see clearly. Be assured that he is actually a good soul… just, a bit rough around the edges.”

At the embarrassed look that Balin sported Bilbo gave a lopsided grin. “I think I understand, Master Balin. I get the feeling those two are only getting what they deserve.” Above him, Kili protested vehemently at his words and Fili groaned and rubbed his face.

Dwalin stopped a moment in his tirade to eye Bilbo before he shrugged and proceeded to fire insults and threats at Fili and Kili.

Balin could only laugh.

Thorin, who had paused to greet Bilbo’s parents and his sister, stepped silently up to the Dwarf and the… unusual boy next to him.

So, he thought, that is Fundorin’s son… The boy was nothing that he had envisioned. At the first glance he looked more like a grocer than anything else. Soft and not very smart but his words proved Thorin wrong. And the way the boy had climbed down the huge tree told him also a lot about his strength and nimbleness.

Fili and Kili would have fallen if they tried to copy the boy’s way down.

He looked like his mother, Thorin thought.

Almost the same hair color and the same skin tone. On closer inspection the boy turned out to be interesting and if what his sister had told him was true, the youth had promise to become a talented councilor with time and tutelage. He certainly could judge a character, seeing how he had sized up the situation.

Thorin would have preferred another warrior like Fundorin had been but he wasn’t foolish enough to dismiss the fact that they needed another learned negotiator just as badly. If not more, he grudgingly admitted.

Besides, he still had a pair of brats to handle.

“Come down from there immediately, Kili and Fili! NOW!”

The two in question gulped and scrambled to do what he told them. When their uncle got that tone in his voice, he meant business!

Beside Balin, Bilbo peered carefully at the newcomer. He wore fur and finery and looked much like Dis. He figured him to be the uncle of the duo that was now descending carefully from the tree. The scowl on the face of the Dwarf with the blazing blue eyes was just as scary as that of his sister. Bilbo gulped at the sight of the restrained anger of the Dwarf King.

Dwalin noticed Bilbo’s shoulders tense and his hand grasp at the hem of Balin’s robe and shook his head to dismiss the last of his anger. Let Thorin deal with them. He stepped closer to his brother, placing himself between the Durin family and his family. Not that he needed to, but it appeared to calm the lad down a bit.

Thorin just stared at the two princes for a moment and whatever Thorin meant to accomplish by glowering at them that way, he seemed to succeed because both Dwarves soon shuffled around and looked clearly embarrassed.

“You two will walk with me and then we will talk.” With that, Thorin turned and walked off into the hills surrounding them.

Dwalin heaved a sigh of relief as did his brother. “I thought for a moment that he would lay them over his knees!” Balin told Dwalin, who nodded at his brothers’ words. “Wouldn’t have surprised me if he did this time. Although I understand why they ran, it does not excuse them!”

He visibly deflated as he continued the conversation. “Balin, the first of our mines ran dry a day before we left. The other is close behind, according to the mine foreman. When that happens we will have to import iron ore from other mines to survive.”

Balin blanched rapidly at the words. “What?! So soon? I thought…”

Dwalin shook his head and continued before his brother could end his sentence.

“I was surprised too. It… is unfortunate but you know our luck or the lack thereof since we lost our home.” His hands flailed around for a moment to indicate his helplessness. “We all know it. Please tell me that here at least all is working out fine!”

Balin’s face was a grim smile when he nodded. “Yes. Luckily we were better received than we thought we ever would be!”

Bilbo, listening to the exchange, had noticed Bifur walk up to them. Turning he signed. *Am I correct that this mine business is very bad for your people?*
The Dwarf nodded gravely.

*Aye! Very bad! Dain claimed something that wasn’t his to claim and now we will suffer for it, again. Without a profitable mine, our people cannot work and so, earn their share to feed their families, Bilbo. In Erebor, we had at least had jewel mines that we could rely upon if the iron would have ever run out…*

He shook his head sadly, eyes clouded in memory of his former home. *Now, we don’t even have that! Many will starve and that greedy Dain will be responsible for many a death in the future. Not that he cares!*

Bilbo’s mind reeled as he processed the new information. He hadn’t realized that the Dwarves situation was so dire!
Suddenly a thought crossed his mind.

Bilbo gnawed on a fingernail as he contemplated his choices for a moment before he made up his mind. Bifur watched him curiously, sensing the uneasiness of the normally calm boy. Bilbo gave him an unsure look before he suddenly grabbed both Bifur and Balin’s sleeves and tugged them, beginning to lead the two away.

“I need to show you something… I’m not sure this is right, but I have the feeling that something that I found might help you.” He told the two bewildered Dwarves. Dwalin arched a brow and followed the trio.

On their way through the green Hills they crossed the path of Thorin and his nephews, who watched them for a moment before Thorin went back to scolding the two.

While they walked, Bilbo told them about the hiding place he had found when he was younger. As he talked, a frown appeared on Balin’s face and Dwalin was nearly growling in anger, as was Bifur. When they reached the cave, Bilbo showed them how to remove the entrance stone that hid the tunnel before he crawled inside without waiting for them to follow.

Dwalin and Balin had looked astonished as Bilbo had described his gifts, even if Bifur did not.

Balin stopped abruptly as the meaning of Bilbo’s words sank in, causing Dwalin to bump into him and curse in surprise. Balin ignored him and quickly followed Bilbo into what looked like a natural cave with a few holes that let in minimal light.

*What you are describing is called Stone Sense Bilbo.*Bifur signed to the youth once he was out of the tunnel and watched as the boy only nodded while his uncles watched. He could only shake his head in wonder at what he witnessed and it looked like the boy inherited more than mere strength from his father, Bifur thought and watched closely as the boy signed to him. They both ignored the stunned gasps coming from Balin and Dwalin.

*I…think so? I never had a name for it other than talking?* Bilbo scratched his head, clearly feeling uncomfortable with the entire prospect. *Since I was young I was an outsider the others knew that there was something not right about me. To have such a weird gift only made it more unbearable, do you understand?*

At the combined nods of the Dwarves he went on.

*Finding out that I was stronger as normal was already bad, but that I could hide with pretending to be weaker… but that I can see in absolute darkness, not to mention could hear stone talk to me, wasn’t something that anyone would have understood. Bofur’s explanation of the Stone Sense was the only thing that had ever helped. However, * He gestured to the wall across from them, *how to say it; this entire cave is full with gemstones, minerals and metals if I am understanding how this works. They reach far into the ground, especially the metal I mentioned.*

He rubbed the back of his head as Balin and Dwalin’s eyes widened as the implications of what Bilbo was suggesting finally hit home.

Bifur just walked up to the wall the boy had pointed out and touched it while closing his eyes. Several minutes passed in silence before he turned around with a gasp and a string of Khuzdul that had Balin sitting down and Dwalin leaning against a wall in shock.

“Emeralds! And rubies? Are you sure?!” Balin found his voice first. Bifur just nodded and shook out his hands as if he had touched something that made them shake and itch badly.

Bilbo took up to talk again. “And iron, copper and some others that I could detect and am sure of because I brought pieces that I found to our former smith and he told me what they were. I never told him where I found it but brought him what I found or asked my mom.”

Next to him, Bifur finally sat down too. His legs simply refused to hold him up anymore at the news.

He could tell that the boy was right, he could sense the answering calls of the metal and other gems hiding in the stone beneath his feed, behind his back and around him in the walls. This cave was a gift of Mahal! It had to be, nothing else made any sense, there was so much around here in the stone foundations of the Shire… his mind reeled at the mere feeling of all the different stones and metals that he could detect!

Bilbo shrugged at the sight of Balin opening and closing his moth several times before he snapped it shut.

Kneeling in front of a stunned looking Bifur he signed away carefully. Whatever he told Bifur, Balin and Dwalin could not see it, both were busy trying to get their wits back. Exchanging a look the two shrugged in unison. “This… is…is…” Dwalin nodded. “I feel and think the same, brother, I feel and think the same…”

In the meanwhile, Bifur blanched and starred openmouthed at Bilbo.

Then Bifur suddenly shot up as if stung by a bee and nearly toppled Bilbo over. He grabbed the boy to haul him up by his shoulders and held onto the youth as he looked intently into Bilbo’s eyes before he suddenly crossed the room to another wall in order to lay both of his hands flat on its surface. His nails even dug slightly into the massive looking rock.

For minutes and without a doubt much longer than before, Bifur seemed to become like stone.

Then he slowly turned to the confused and surprised looking Balin and Dwalin, his face as white as a freshly painted wall and leaned against the rock behind him for support. For several long moments he simply stared down silently to the ground before he slowly fixed his dazed gaze with that of the elder of the pair across from him.

He mouthed only one word, one single word, that even Bilbo understood and that had Balin faint dead away and Dwalin freeze in spot for a split second before he shot out of the cave in a flash, screaming for Thorin and Dis.

“MITHRIL!”

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe it… if I hadn’t seen this with my very own eyes I would never have believed this!” said Thorin absently, his eyes flicking back and forth between the piece in his hand and the wall. Dis nodded, her eyes also taking everything in.

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After Dwalin had gone to get Dis and Thorin, Bilbo had tried to wake Balin up with little success. In the end, it took two sharp slaps from Bifur to do the trick. The method wasn’t the most delicate way to do it, but even a slightly horrified Bilbo couldn’t argue with the results.

Balin hadn’t moved until Thorin and Dis arrived with Dwalin and Bilbo’s parents in tow. Fili, Kili and Bofur were only a short ways behind them. Bofur carried two mattocks, one of which he gave to Bifur when they arrived.

Thorin nodded before stepping away from the two miners, the others following his lead and retreating to the other side of the cave.

Exchanging a look, the two lifted the mattocks, took aim and hit into the rock as hard as they could. Only to have to jump backwards as the wall collapsed so suddenly that it took them both by surprise. For a few seconds, everyone covered their eyes and coughed as rock dust filled the air.

When they finally could see again they all gasped in shock they saw what the glow of Fili’s torch revealed.

The light reflecting off the vein of metal that had been uncovered was almost blinding!

It shone like moonlight and sunlight all together, played tricks on the walls and had everyone gaping at the sight. Mithril, the most sought after metal in entire Arda gleamed in the torchlight. Balin immediately noticed that it was different from the Mithril from Moria, being more blue-gray with no sign of the distinctive yellow that the Morian Mithril was known for. None the less, it was beautiful.

It shone like moonlight and even in its raw form, it was still beautiful. The vein looked like it went deeper into the rock, like a frozen river. He shook his head in silent wonder. While they watched, a huge chunk of the raw metal broke from the wall and rolled across the floor to come to a sudden stop at Bilbo’s feet.

It was of the size of a grown human’s head and looked like solid piece of the rare ore.
Seeing this, Thorin’s face grew grim. He bent until he could grasp the chunk and pick it up to inspect it calmly. Then his eyes locked with Dis’.

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Four hours later, Thorin could only shake his head at the sight of the solemn group (all of them as dirty as mud trolls) and the pile of different stones, metals and some minerals in the center. The Mithril was on top of the pile, overshadowing all of the other gems.

“We have to treat very carefully from now on, Thorin or the Shire will be flocked in no time at all from greedy people of all races and worse that will do everything to get their hands on this rare find!”

Thorin nodded at Balin’s words. He knew as much and so did everyone else here in the cave.

The danger of that happening was too great to ignore and they would all have to work together to secure the mine and make sure that no one stumbled across it that shouldn’t. First things first – security – and they could worry about everything else later.

Thorin slowly stood and set down the large turquoise nugget next to a nearly as large raw ruby. The cave had turned out to have a tunnel system in the back that lead much deeper into the Shire. They had found the nugget of turquoise in one of the side tunnels, along with a promising vein of the semiprecious stone.

Fili had used his axe to lay open a vein of emeralds in another side tunnel, one of which he currently held in his hand. It was the size of a baby’s fist and such a deep green that it appeared nearly black. Kili had tried another tunnel and discovered the vein of rubies that glowed in the torchlight, even uncut as they were. Dwalin had found iron ore, running along the opposite wall from the Mithril.

Balin had found copper in the deeper tunnels and Belladonna had stumbled over a Sapphire vein in the rock when she had tripped, tried to catch herself by holding onto the wall beside her, and had it crumbled under her small hands.

She landed on the ground in front of Dis but held a Sapphire in her hand and when both women had looked at the wall they saw the beautiful sparkles of the blue stone, the vein interwoven here and there with white-blue colored moonstone streaks.
But the best find was discovered by Bifur and Bilbo.

The two of them had followed one of Bilbo’s voices deeper in the tunnels, tracking the source, as Bilbo had not been able to name the stone that was calling to him. Even Bifur had not been able to identify the stone when he had sensed it. Once they had found the source of the voice, Bifur had set to work, trying to free the unknown stone from the rock, wanting to see what it was. It was rare that he couldn’t identify a stone by sense alone and when they had found it, he only knew what it was by the stories he had been told.

Fire Opals.

Rarer than diamonds and certainly more valuable in the southeast lands, the gems shone like liquid fire in the torchlight and stunned Bilbo into silence. Bifur could tell that the vein was thin and shallow even reaching deep down into the foundations of stone, but the quality of the gems more than made up for the lack of quantity.

The two were sitting in between Bungo and Bofur, who had found sulfur and coal deposits in some of the deeper tunnels along other semi precious stones and the older Dwarves had decided, after some debate, that the Shire was probably resting on a former gigantic volcano.

What looked like harmless green hills today were all that remained of a former super volcano. The huge lake in Tookland was actually the caldera of a rather large one and the swamps in the northwest had been the result of later activity in the earth. The area was no longer active and the volcanoes were all silent now but under the deceivingly green soil of the Shire lands, the earth was still very much alive.

Starting the mines here would require a lot of care in order to avoid opening caverns full of deadly gases.

Bungo remembered two occasions when strange deaths had occurred in the past. One time an entire family had been found dead in their Smial, along with with their farm animals and even their fields had died. They had been suffocated over night. That had happened around two hundred years back in an isolated area of Buckland.

The region was now forbidden for farming or living.

The other story he knew about was from even further in the past and involved the swamp at the edge of the old Forest. It had originally reached further than it did now. One day the trees had suddenly begun to lose their leaves and die.

The dead trees had stunk of sulfur and the Hobbits let them lay were they had fallen. They had rotted away unusually quickly. The ground filled with brown water almost as fast and in less than fifty years the land had changed into a deadly marsh. Nowadays, that area was a bog with stinking water that hurt the skin when it came into contact with it. Many Hobbits had died in the marshland that had formed over six hundred years ago.

Even the Rangers of the north depended onto the Bounder Hobbits that knew the area when in need to cross the marshes.

The stories helped to impress upon the Dwarves the dangers of their new home and the value of Bifur, Bofur and Bilbo, who could detect these hidden dangers and warn the miners and the people living near those areas alike. The other miners with the Stone sense would be glad to help detect the pockets of dangerous gases and open them, allowing the fumes to disperse as safely as possible.

There were also the sudden appearance of sinkholes from time to time that also had injured hobbits – the miners would be able to detect and warn of those as well, even if they couldn’t prevent them.

But it was the discovery of the coal that took that largest weight from Thorin’s shoulders. It would provide the future smithies with fuel for the fires and would prevent the Dwarves from using the trees that the Hobbits appeared to be fond of. Not to mention that the large Forrest that they called the Old Forrest, gave him the creeps. It looked too much like the Fangorn Forrest near Moria to Thorin for his likening.

Sulfur could help with the mining process but he wanted to keep from using that method at all costs!

To make the wife of Mahal angry by polluting her beloved land… well that was as good as making Him mad at you. After all, what man wanted to live with an irritated wife? And she was already angry enough at Dwarves at it was, as some other Dwarven settlements had not thought of her and had made Yavanna angry with them in the past.

Better safe than sorry.

There was still a lot dirt to deal with that came with mining of any thing from stone and rock but that could be used in the caves to fill them up again so the landscape would not permanently be ruined by the mining or the stones could be used to build roads with and they would avoid getting into trouble with the Hobbits and or with Yavanna this way. Their maker had already enough trouble with her because of his children’s wrong doings, no need to deepen their quarrels by adding new fuel to the fire.

He would have to plan and think this over with his mining experts as well as with the Hobbits to ensure a peaceful coexistence that benefitted everyone.
“We need a damned wall!”

Bungo looked a bit startled at Thorin’s sudden outburst.
“What? I mean, pardon me?”

The Dwarf was already busy with drawing on a patch of earth that he had cleared. Waving the Hobbit over, he showed him what he meant by pointing down to the crudely drawn map.

“We need to build up a barrier or, better yet, a fortification to defend all of this and that fast. I had already decided to suggest this for Hobbiton and the other larger towns anyway, since it is easier to defend the settlements that way. Currently there are too many ways to get into them without being noticed, Master Bungo.”

The Hobbit sighed unhappily.

He knew that Thorin was right. He had the same idea already and now, with this find, they really needed a decent barricade around the area and around Hobbiton. Crouching down next to Thorin, he wiped out the crude map and drew another one. It was much more detailed and included the surrounding farmland as well as the old road, rivers and some parts that Thorin hadn’t known about.

Soon after that, Bilbo joined them and began to draw a rudimentary map of the entire known Shire, this one showing the different sections, roads and the rivers and some of the Old Forest. Bungo, once he saw what Bilbo had done, grunted in approval and began to tell Thorin more about the land he now lived in.

He explained to him and the others the many different ruling fractions of the Shire lands.

He explained to him what the Major in Michel Delving was for and how he was elected, who ruled the biggest clans, and so on. He did it much more thoroughly than Balin had previously. The Hobbit told him why they should keep the mining area separate from the beginning on. Bungo also explained patiently to Thorin why, in his opinion, they would need two walls for that.

One to surround the town and parts of the farmlands and another to keep the mines separate from the rest.

“It would be better to surround the town with its own wall, Master Thorin. That way, if one wanted to get to the mines, they would have to divide their troops to attack both areas to prevent being attacked from behind. Also, it would divide the areas and minimize any trouble coming from having to guard a large area with very few people. The metal workers could do their work in the lower parts of the town while the mining would be separate without having to disturb too many people. It would also be easier to keep track of who goes in and out and that way we would always know which area is being worked on and by whom.”

For safety reasons Thorin agreed with Bungo here wholeheartedly.

What followed that brainstorming was much less exciting and Kili was soon yawning, even as Fili and Bilbo listened in with interest.

Kili rapidly leaned heavily against Bilbo and not long after, the youth found himself with a lapful of Kili. The Dwarven lad had placed his head on Bilbo’s lap while the rest of his body had curved around Bilbo’s. His feet had ended up on his brother’s lap, who had grumbled but done nothing to remove them.
Bilbo ignored Kili while his hands wove slowly through the dark hair of the napping Dwarf to keep him content.

For Kili, political talks about treaties and allies never had done anything other than to make him tired! This was exactly what had gotten him sleepy this time as well; talks about contracts, mining rights and other problems.

Fili and Bilbo on the other hand, Dis noted with approval, looked awake and interested in the negotiating between Balin, Belladonna, Bungo and Thorin. Occasionally Dis joined with inquiries about possible troubles or when Thorin did not know what to say.

Thorin, like Kili, never had liked to negotiate in the past. Ever!

He was a Dwarf of action and not one for talking. Frerin had been the one who had enjoyed such procedures, not Thorin. How appropriate, the Dwarrow woman thought, that Kili looked so much like a younger Thorin while Fili most resembled Dis and Thorin’s younger brother.
Frerin too had been golden haired and sometimes she feared for her eldest.

But unlike his late uncle, Fili wasn’t half as reckless and neither did he have the tendencies to run headfirst into trouble on a regular basis. He was far more level headed and often more like her brooding brother Thorin than the much too wild Frerin had been.
That, amusingly and worryingly, had skipped over Fili and gone straight to Kili.

Bilbo, who sat next to her son, watched with attentive eyes and ears.

Unlike her two sons, Belladonna’s son had already an excellent education in these procedures through his father. He could follow the adults’ talk easier than Fili who, to judge from the way he currently bit his lip, was a bit lost in some cases and needed to learn more in order to follow the negotiations better. He clearly had trouble with some of the stilted phrases, the many mentioned laws, rules and customs as well as the political problems that Balin was discussing with Bungo amicably.

Thorin also looked a bit lost.

Her poor brother seemingly had the same problem as his nephew when it came down to political niceties. She giggled and shared a look with the equally amused looking Belladonna, who entered the fray with suggestions of how to build and handle a court to deal with the problems between their respective races, not only because of the mine but also with living together in one area. One that would consist of an equally number of Hobbit’s and Dwarves.
Dis could barely contain her laughter at Thorin’s eye roll when Balin went along with that idea and began planning with Belladonna.

Clearly, he was in his element here and Dwalin, who looked slumped next to him, was not.

He too, like Thorin, was a Dwarf of action and not one for words or rules. Bofur and Bifur looked on, clearly fascinated. Bofur even more so as his cousin, whose eyes often strayed to the walls. Muttering sometimes in Khuzdul about the needed beams and other safety measures to even think of mining here in the future. She made a mental note to talk to Thorin about Bifur, to add him to his mining specialists very soon. He clearly had the knowledge and skills for such a position and they could always give him an apprentice at hand to help Bifur with his speech impediment.

Dis noticed that Bofur on the other hand, had lately shown a unknown talent for negotiating and tiptoeing around political disasters.

She made another silent note to take the Dwarf to the side in the future to find out exactly how clever Bofur was and how she could use that as she had never been one for wasting potential, be it of people or resources. If he was capable, the poor chap would be in charge of the social aspects of the new mining area if Dis had her will. They needed someone who could manage that aspect to avoid the usual troubles that pestered the other Dwarven mining settlements constantly. His sunny nature would only aid Bofur in this without to hamper him. She knew from past experience that he could be hard as granite if needed.

He wasn’t too soft for such a job just because he had a good natured character.

It was late in the night when they all turned in.

The bathrooms soon became a battleground as the youngsters attempted to get clean. Bilbo had to bodily shove Kili out in order to take his bath alone, which he only barely managed, even using his full strength. Luckily, Fili hadn’t joined in, or Bilbo would have been the last one clean, which he realized as he huffed with the exertion before managing to get Kili out of the room and the door locked.

Bilbo listened to Kili grumbles as he cleaned up and barely managed to avoid getting shoved to the side in Kili’s hurry to get into the bathroom when he unlocked the door again. A towel was rubbed over his curls to keep them from dripping on the floor and another was wrapped around his hips. Fili watched the exchange in amusement before turning his attention to Bilbo, since despite his soft looking body, the Hobbit had managed to bodily remove his younger brother from the bathroom, which was no easy feat.

Unseen from brother and Hobbit, Fili licked his lips at what he saw.

He knew why Kili had wanted to share the bath with the poor half Hobbit… even if his clueless brother didn’t realize it. All Kili knew was that he wanted to be around Bilbo as much as he could manage without crowding him too much. It was the same for Fili but he, at least, realized why.

Kili, being just on the cusp of maturity in Dwarrow terms, had not realized what exactly pulled his body and soul towards the youth.

Bilbo was their shared One.

Fili was certain of that and nothing, absolutely nothing would ever change that again, now that Fili had recognized and accepted it. His heart was set for eternity now and so was his brother’s. The sudden need to be close to the youth was one of the side effects of this knowledge falling into place and even if Bilbo didn’t realize it, he too had shown clear signs that he felt the answering pull of their souls and bodies.

If his treatment of Kili in the last few days were signs of growing affection and the need to be near his soul’s mates.

Fili had wondered about it how much Dwarf Bilbo was and how much Hobbit. Did he even have a One, like them? He wasn’t sure, and the questions he had needed further thought and study but truth be told, Fili was rather certain that Bilbo took after Fundorin in this respect and that he had a One like them.
He had also noted the complete lack of interest in others his age in Bilbo. It was one of the points that had Fili believe that Bilbo was more Dwarvish in that respect as he was Hobbitish, because Dwarves, as a rule, did not have many casual dalliances as Hobbits seemingly had them. H things were handled in silence and without public notice and once a Dwarf found their one, they stopped. Some of his kin never even had such dalliances before they weed, staying chaste until they found their other halves.

A concept that was eluding Hobbits as Fili had found out so far.

They had often such relations in their Tweens. Made no secret out of them either. Their entire social life was different from that of Dwarrow’s, although, they seem not to judge their ways. He wondered how much their two different cultures could learn from each other. If Bofur’s clan and how the Hobbits had taken to them was any indication, there was a big chance that they could forge a very solid relationship that was unlike the one that they once had with Dale in the past.

With the humans of Dale, his people had a healthy, of distance based relationship that was working sorely of business in selling their metals and gems. With Hobbits, they could forge one of more intimate nature. Bilbo was the best example for how deep exactly such a bonding could get. He was the proof that they could have children under each other and if the boy was any indication of how such offspring could turn out, than Fili had the inkling that many of the Dwarves without a partner would take spouses under the Hobbits in the future.

If he wasn’t mistaken here than Balin had already made a step in that direction with his interest in that widow and her two cute children. Although, Seradon and his clan… were strange, somewhat. They were hiding something, Fili was deadly sure but could not tell for the life of him, what exactly. Nothing too bad, he too was sure about but something important it was never less. Maybe Balin could uncover that, Fili shook the thought off and went on watching Bilbo dress with a small smile. When the boy slipped into his sheets, Fili stopped his observance.

When it was finally his time to use the bath, Fili seized the opportunity to have a longer soak despite the late hour.

He needed the calm of a bath to sort out his thoughts.

Kili and he had early on known that they were two parts of a trio bonding. That wasn’t that unusual among Dwarves, sometimes two males shared one female or male partner. Even cases like his and Kili’s – being born brothers and have a bond with each other and with a third person, weren’t that unusual.
Such things were known to have happened in the past.

With an population that consisted nearly to seventy percent of males, it was unavoidable that many taboos of other races did not work out for them in the same way. it wasn’t exactly that Kili and he shared their bodies so much as that they loved and needed each other. That they would share with their third partner more so as with each other. Such was the nature of bonds like theirs and Dwarves understood that much more than other races, hence why they usually did not share such knowledge with others.

They had always known that they belonged to each other. Only the thought of having to share their closeness with another had upset them a little in their childhood.

They had grown out of that phase in the last years, even wished to find their third part in the late. Now Fili was fairly certain that there would be no objections from Kili when he finally found out that this other was Bilbo. Nor was Fili complaining here, he already liked the lad and was sure that this would only grow with the years. He had also noticed something he was certain about that the others hadn’t noticed before now.
Bilbo aged somewhere in between a Hobbit and Dwarf.

Bodily, at any rate. That much his instinct, together with his careful surveillance of Bilbo and how the others reacted to him, told him already. If he was right - he chewed absentmindedly on one of his mustache braids as he thought - If -he was correct, than Bilbo should reach majority around an age of 35 to 40 years.

Hobbit’s reached theirs at 33 years.
Dwarves at 50 years.
Currently Bilbo was 27.

His estimation should be correct and Bilbo would reach his majority at around 35 years of age. That wasn’t so far off and the thought pleased Fili. Kili and he would not have to wait too long to court and claim Bilbo as theirs. Until that day, they could become friends with Bilbo. It was fortunate for his brother and him that they would stay the winter in Hobbiton and most likely in the Baggin’s family Smial since theirs was still being built.

Thorin would ride back to the Mountains soon in order to assemble all of their wandering kin as soon as he could manage, before leading them here or keeping them in the now half empty Mountain residence with him for a time. After the second iron mine ran out, Fili was sure his uncle would change locations for good.

This place was too good to miss and he had noted how much his fellow Dwarves had already taken to the Hobbits and what was even weirder, they to them!

A thought crossed his mind and Fili stopped for a moment to contemplate it carefully. He paused and sat down in the tepid water again and begun to chew on a hangnail, deep in thought.

Well… Dwarves were Mahal’s children… hadn’t Bungo Baggins told his uncle earlier that the Hobbits considered themselves Yavanna’s?
It would make an odd, a really, really odd sense if that was the truth.

Fili rose abruptly, snatched a towel from the rack and wrapped it around his waist before draining the water and stepping into the hallway and heading for his uncle’s room. His uncle stared at him in surprise as he burst in. “Uncle, I need to tell you about mine and Kili’s One and ask you something important. And I would appreciate your advice.”

And with that, Fili closed the door behind him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The next morning found Bilbo under the constant watch of Thorin, much to Bilbo’s confusion. Had he done something wrong? Had he somehow managed to offend the King? Bilbo wasn’t so sure that he really wanted to find out. The blue eyes of the Dwarf seemed to try to bore into his skull, a slightly uncomfortable sensation.

Thorin knew that Bilbo felt uncomfortable under his gaze but could simply not help himself.

When Dis had told him of her suspicions that Kili and Fili were two parts of a three way bonding, he had been worried about it. It wasn’t uncommon, especially in the Durin line but rare enough still to be noted. The last three way bonding of this type had been the last incarnation of Durin the Deathless and his two Ones.

Not something that other races had been aware of.

Mothers usually could tell such things by instinct. Could tell if their children had one One or if maybe there were two who shared a soul with their children and obviously, his sister had been correct. Fili had told him about Bilbo just last night. He had been still awake, thinking over all of the day’s events when the lad had walked in on him in nothing but a towel, dripping bathwater.

Well, there had been other things on his heir’s mind and Thorin understood that. After drying Fili and clothing him in a pair of his pants, he had a long talk with Fili about it and had been astonished with what the boy had discovered on his own! Never doubting his heir in his believe that Fundorin’s child was Kili’s and his third part. Dwarves always could tell, it was a gift of their maker to them to know by sight, once they had reached maturity.

It also wondered him not that Kili had not realized this fully by now, the lad was still away from coming of age by a few years. While Fili was just over it with his now 57 years, Kili was just 48. The older of the brothers was mature enough to have developed that gift of knowledge while Kili would do so in the future to come. Thorin himself had never found his one till now. Sometimes he wondered if it was his destiny to stay alone for eternity.

He would not be alone in that predicament, many Dwarves never found their one and settled for someone else they could love in the end.

He hadn’t noticed the connection to Yavanna when Bungo had mentioned it and felt slightly annoyed that he had missed it. Fili’s ideas made sense and if they were right, it explained why they had been led here by their Maker. Of course Mahal would want the children of his wife protected from harm and what better way to do that than using his own stronger children? And by placing the veins of rare metals and gems under the Shire, He had ensured that the Dwarves would stay, for no Dwarf in their right mind would pass up such an opportunity. Yavanna’s children would have protection and care and Mahal’s the riches that they craved.

And that they could be Yavanna’s children made a sense to Thorin.

No one, not even Gandalf, knew exactly where the Hobbits had come from.

No one knew much about their history or their earlier wanderings. They were a secretive folk, almost more so as the Dwarves in some ways. They insisted that the fairy blood in their veins wasn’t that of an elf that had married a Hobbit and produced a child with the Hobbit. As much as others seem to think that this had been the case in the far past. From what he had understood, Bungo and his people really believed that they had the blood of a fully different creature in their veins.

If one examined the theory more closely, in became apparent that perhaps there was something to it.

Yes, the ears were pointy, but so were an Orc’s. The Orcs were once elves, he had heard, twisted into the hateful creatures that now terrorized the earth.
Hobbits had nothing in common with those fell beasts.

They didn’t have much in common with Elves either, come to think of it.

They did not even match either race in height, for Mahal’s sake! They matched the Dwarves more in that respect than any other race in Arda. They had an affinity to nature and her creatures, their skill in farming both livestock and crops was unmatched in any other race and Hobbits were devoted to their families.

They had huge ones too… other as Elves and men.

Thorin could still not believe it that Belladonna’s parents had what, thirteen children altogether? He wasn’t exactly sure. She had been born as the ninth and that was all his already overloaded mind had registered. In the eyes of Dwarves, her family had been blessed beyond anything that he had ever heard of. And most of them still lived and one of her brothers was the current Thain of the Took clan, as well.

Another sister had married the ruler of Buckland.

As harmless she looked nowadays, in her youth Belladonna had been rather bloodthirsty by Hobbit standards and Thorin understood how Fundorin could have desired such a strange and beautiful lady… even lost in madness as he was.

Bilbo’s mother was a unique gem; that much was certain.

He was actually trying to understand what held such a formidable woman at the side of a man that couldn’t give her any other children. He had seen how she covertly looked at others’ children with veiled longing in her eyes… That Hobbit was once lucky chap for sure.
Shaking that irritating and confusing thoughts off, Thorin rose from his seat and unknowingly gave poor Bilbo some rest from his gaze for the first time that morning.

The boy heaved a sigh of relief.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Later in the morning, Bilbo found himself back in the meadow behind Hobbiton.

With another confusing Dwarf pestering him.

Or to be more accurate, with Dwalin this time.

He practiced his shooting here, using his mother’s Hobbit styled bow, since he had been a fauntling. Dwalin had seen Bilbo walking to the meadow with his bow and gotten curious. He had followed his nephew and had been watching him practice.

“Yer mother taught ye, yer say?”

Bilbo nodded vaguely and tightened his grip before aiming again. As usual, he practiced with the sturdy Bounder’s bow that his Uncle Isengrim had given him as a present this summer. It was sturdier than his old one had been and harder to draw and aim with. Bilbo was still learning to master it but he was slowly getting there.

Dwalin whistled under his breath as he watched the boy draw the bow in a smooth, well- practiced move.

The lad did the right thing when he had taken the time to become used to the new bow and learn how to best draw it before he went further. Archery was not something that many Dwarves had the patience for and it was a rare skill indeed among his people. Dwalin already knew from the way Bilbo moved that he would never be a close quarters fighter like his father.

A pity, Dwalin thought, I had looked forward to training another like Fundorin.

His worst fear had been that Fundorin’s son would have no talent with weapons at all!

Since his mother was a Hobbit, who could blame him for thinking that? That had been before he had heard more about Belladonna Baggins and had seen the way she moved. She was no close quarters fighter, but she was a fighter. Dwalin could tell and realized what her weapon of choice might have been too.

Her son showed a fair amount of talent with it and while he would never be the best archer in history, he would be good enough to be a deadly opponent to his enemies.

His additional strength gave Bilbo an advantage when using heavy bows such as the one he was trying to master right now. Combine that with his talent to move more silent as a elf and you got a very dangerous fighter out of it in the future. His enemies would rarely see Bilbo coming if he learned to use these talents of his right.

But Dwalin suspected his true talent lay with an entirely different weapon as the bow. Biting his cheek, he rose and walked over to the lad, removing some of his throwing axes as he did from his belt.

They were smaller versions of the bigger ones that the most Dwarves used.

Fili had used these when he had taught the boy, but Fili had clearly been a close quarters fighter, like Thorin and Dwalin were with a heavy talent for short swords. Kili was more of a distance fighter, though he could use a sword if he had to, something Thorin had insisted on. But mainly his talents lay with the bow.

Bilbo on the other hand… “Hey, Bilbo, do me a favor and try to throw this at that dummy of yers!”

He didn’t wait for Bilbo to turn before he carefully threw the small axe at him. As expected, Bilbo whirled around in surprise and managed to ineptly deflect the weapon with his bow…but at least he had deflected it, Dwalin noted with silent amusement.

The first time he had done that with Kili, the young Dwarf had bruised where the handle had hit his back, despise his try to deflect it.

Fili, he had caught it one handed with ease.

Glaring daggers at Dwalin, Bilbo finally caved and bent to take the small throwing axe from where it had fallen, inspecting it before moving it from hand to hand in order to try and get a feel for the weapon. Dwalin was pleased with that consideration from the boy.

His mother’s teachings, he was sure.

Giving Dwalin another short glance, Bilbo suddenly turned without warning and threw the axe at the practice target. It went right through the straw dummy and hit the tree a few meters behind it with a loud ‘Thwack’!

Chuckling, Dwalin handed Bilbo another axe over and motioned at the tree.

“Again, but this time higher than the other.” He instructed calmly while Bilbo gave him a scorching glare at being tricked into weapons practice with, albeit smallish, axes. This went on for the rest of the afternoon. Dwalin was relentless. He was carefully adjusting Bilbo’s stance when the youth made errors and gave Bilbo tips how to better manage the throwing axes and later, knives.

In the end he was fairly certain that his instincts had been accurate.

Bilbo was definitely more of a long distance fighter, though he would need close combat training as much as Kili did. He would never use the warhammers or heavier axes, but he should be able to use a short sword or long knife and Dwalin told him as much while they rested.

His and Balin’s mother had been such a fighter like Fundorin’s lad was it.

She had always moved as silent as a ghost and had used long knifes as her weapons of choice. Their mother had been one of Thrain’s spy’s and assassins Masters in Erebor before the fall. One of the best ever known, only his own love interest, Nori, son of the house of Ri could come near her famous level of skill here and Dwalin bet his beard that the sly thief/spy/defense Master of Thorin would try to snatch his nephew off into his Shadow Guild as soon he got aware of Bilbo’s many talents in that direction.

He could do neither, blame Nori for it nor would he let the Spymaster get away with it in the future either.

As much as Dwalin silently did fancy the infuriating Dwarf, his nephew was already tagged by Balin and Dis for learning the craft of negotiation. And he agreed with them here; Bilbo had a talent for such as far he had seen and they needed skilled ambassadors badly in the near future.

Not that Dwalin would stop Nori from teaching Bilbo some… skills… on the side, the boy could only profit from it in the future.

“I will have you know that I hate weapons of any kind, but I realize that I need to be able to defend myself.” Bilbo’s tone was mulish and Dwalin chortled at the admission. Balin was of a similar mindset, not having any love of fighting, unlike most Dwarves.

Balin tried generally to solve a problem or to avoid it before it became a fight. But that didn’t mean that his brother was weak, oh no. He was just as deadly as any Dwarf. Balin simply did not like to fight, that was it all. Too messy a business as he had once told Dwalin, he suspected this to be the same case for Bilbo and left it at that.

“You’ll learn, lad. Sometimes you cannot avoid trouble and you’ll have to defend yer’self if needed. Good thing that ye know that yer’self. Makes this less a hazard and ye have talent for range weapons. Means ye will stay on distance for the most of the time. It also means you’ll have a higher chance of survival in combat. At least ye understand the need to learn a close combat weapon, I have the feeling that the most the folks here has no skill with either type of weapon. That will not aid them well when an Orc shows up on their doorsteps, lad!”

Bungo, Bilbo analyzed, would call Dwalin a pragmatist.

The Dwarf was right with his estimation of the situation and both of them knew it. Then Fili found them in the meadow.

What followed was nothing short of amazing and shocking all the same.

The older of the two was clearly a master, but Fili was not as far behind as one would have thought. The blond Dwarf was a deadly fighter in his own respect, Bilbo realized as he watched the two train. They both used two weapons, blocking and attacking going hand in hand. It was almost like watching a complicated dance with steps that Bilbo did not know. They were evenly matched with their respective styles but Dwalin’s experience and endurance clearly put Fili on the defense. A warrior that used only one weapon and wasn’t a two handed fighter like Fili was, had nearly no chance at all against such a highly skilled veteran as Dwalin.

Fili was quicker on his feet than Dwalin was it and had a keen eye for any sudden moves by his opponent while Dwalin clearly had more strength and was the more knowledgeable of the two. If Fili kept up with his training, Bilbo mused that he could best Dwalin one day in the future… but not today.
The younger Dwarf went down when Dwalin landed a hit on his head with the side of his battle axe and dazed him. Settling the lad down next to Bilbo Dwalin rubbed his hands in glee.

“Once he’s sensible, bring him home, will ye?” he was already looking around as if expecting his next opponent what baffled Bilbo a little. Bilbo could only nod, feeling somewhat confused. Dwalin walked away with a hum on his lips and a satisfied smile. “Now, were has the other brick-head hidden himself, hmmm?” Bilbo grinned, now that explained Dwalin’s sudden departure in high spirits.

He only hoped that Kili had hidden himself well, as it looked like Fili had already gotten his punishment for running from the mountains.
The Dwarf next to Bilbo groaned in pain. Next time he would bring his brother too and not let him run off to hide his sorry ass! With Dwalin distracted by both of them, the brothers had more chances to survive full body contact training with Dwalin without major hits like the one that had send him down.
At least, Bilbo’s lap made a soft pillow for his poor, tortured head.

No wonder that Kili sought him out as a cushion so often… When Bilbo’s fingers began to softly massage the hurt area, Fili quieted down some, simply enjoying the attention bestowed on him by Bilbo. Even with the massive headache he had, his soul felt at ease with the young Dwobbit near. Kili had been the first to call Bilbo that and had promptly gotten a lecture from their mother.

Fili ignored the thought and snuggled deeper into the soft lap of his other One.

Softly breathing in the scent that was purely Bilbo to Fili. Lavender, cakes and surprisingly the faint smell of stone clung around the youth all the time since he knew Bilbo. The cakes easily explained themselves, seeing how many a day Bilbo could eat! The lavender seemingly came from the soaps used and he had caught that scent on himself and Kili lately too. The smell of stone and earth however was familiar to Fili’s nose, since it was a scent that Dwarves normally had around them.

He guessed it came from the fact that they had been made from stone by Mahal in the beginning and to Fili it felt like home to smell it on his other One.
Not far from the duo, Thorin and Dis watched the entire event. They had been walking and had stumbled on Dwalin’s training session with Bilbo. When Fili had shown up, Dis had to restrain Thorin for not hindering the punishment session that Dwalin bestowed on her eldest, knowing that he would never seriously harm Fili but that her son needed a lesson.

Seeing Bilbo taking care Fili after had her smiling.

Fili had told her what he had discussed with her brother that morning. She agreed with him that Kili had no idea but was slowly beginning to understand.
She would have to have a chat with Belladonna soon. Dis groaned at the thought but did not shy from it. After all, this concerned the happiness of her two sons!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Unnoticed by everyone in Hobbiton and the surrounding areas, the sky had slowly filled with clouds over the day. Now, the first flakes of snow drifted to the earth just at the rim of the Shire lands. It was much too early in the year but no one was too concerned.

But also unnoticed by most, outside the Shire, the temperature had fallen much more as it was the case in the heartland of the Hobbits.

Rory Proudfoot watched the sudden change of weather with a trained eye and with not a short amount of worry. He was one of the few Hobbits that managed the ferry between Bree and the Shire and lately, the Hobbit had kept his craft near the riverbank because of the smallish ice pack in the water.
Looking over the Brandywine River Rory quickly noted that there was a thin line of ice now separating the river into two halves right in the middle of the streaming river water.

If this continued, the river would freeze over soon!

Such a thing hadn’t happened in generations and was nothing to celebrate. With a last cautious look, the Hobbit turned and vanished under the branches of the evergreen bushes that lined the River on his side. Hiding there he watched for what he had seen the days before and had carefully monitored since then.

Orcs.

With Wargs.

Armored men from Bree and dark skinned humans that he had never seen before in his life.

They only showed their sorry hides when they thought no one was around to see them or at night. In the last days he had counted them as best he could without being spotted. They thought him harmless and had not given him much consideration if they saw him bustle around and playing dumb.
A large error on their part.

Settling his Bounder cap on his curly hair, the brown haired Bounder with the two signs of his status as a highly trained and longtime Bounder on his cap took one last look at the men intermingling with a group of uncommonly large grown Ork’s and moved stealthily out of the area. Not even their Wargs noticed him getting away, too used to his scent by now.

They had not even noticed it that he had made the ferry unusable last night, he scoffed at their lack of observation and fell into a run once he left the danger zone.

Rory did not waste anymore time and carefully hurried to warn the reminding Hobbits near the river of the growing danger and send up messengers to inform Master Baggins and the Thain and the other respective rulers of the Shire.

When the first of them left the area, Rory was with them.

His family was already on their way to the bigger Smials and settlements deeper in the Shire lands since yesterday evening, where they would be safer and now he ran on the paths that only the Bounders in the Shire really knew to use. He was one of the oldest and the one that was usually settled next to the River to keep an eye on the comings and goings there. Wherever it was, by ferry or the bridge, the latter was currently out of use. Cough… the stones suddenly broke and half lay now in the river… cough.

Bungo had insisted on having one Bounder put near the river; now, that foresight had paid off!

Running faster, the Bounder did not care for his own safety or health and tried to reach the nearest settlements as fast as he could manage.
That one had Dwarves settled in it since a few days. At least thirty Dwarven warriors with two families with them. He had occasionally talked with their captain since he had arrived and Dangor and he had hit off right from the start. Both were equally distrustful of the Humans of Bree and the two had worked out a strategy just in case they would need it. It dealt with it how to handle an invasion… The now unusable bridge being a part of it.
Both had just not thought that said invasion would come so soon!

They would need reinforcements here, fast!

Before the river froze fully over, and gave those Orcs and other evil beings the opportunity to invade the Shire to bring mayhem and death upon the defenseless Hobbits and Dwarves living here. Seredas Goold had been a good friend of him and had warned him last year that this could happen in the next winters… soon after that he had been killed. Had been out to investigate a missing family of the Brandybuck’s and never returned alive.

When found, he had shown clear signs of a big fight, had obviously sold his life not short. From the traces and whatever else Rory and the other Bounders could tell, Celandines husband had fought like a lion and had died through a stab in the back.

A stab by a curved blade of a long sword from what they had been able to tell. Those strange looking Humans wore such curved swords…

Cursing up a storm and breathing heavily from the effort, Rory ran as if a warg was already on his heels.

Chapter Text

“Mahal’s balls, where has the brat vanished to now? He’s worse than Nori on his best of days. It’s easier herding cats than keeping him in line!”

Bilbo, who was currently tiptoeing around his family Smial, paid Dwalin’s curses no mind.

He hated weapons training! He was only a half Dwarf anyways, so what was the point in Dwalin dragging him out each morning for training in the meadow to force the rules of close combat down his throat? Looking behind him, he saw Kili and Fili slouched next to the fuming son of Fundin. The two did not dare run out on Dwalin too, so their trainer would not give them extra lessons.

It was by the now, a well- known morning ritual that Dwalin and Bilbo had established. Well, only Bilbo, actually…Dwalin could have done without but wasn’t asked, so…

Bilbo would try to avoid training and Dwalin would try to get him trained.

Balin stood in the doorway, sipping his slowly cooling tea and watched as his brother cursed and threw his ax, Grasper, in a fit of frustration at having lost Bilbo, again to the earth. Balin saw Bilbo from his vantage point, the lad already a good distance away and if he kept his head and stayed as silent and careful as he had been, Dwalin would indeed be missing a pupil for the day.

Again. He barely suppressed a snigger.

He took another sip of his tea and chuckled at the sight of his brother trying to find Bilbo. After a few moments Dwalin ordered Fili and Kili to find his damned nephew for him, since the two seem to be the only ones who could manage to find Bilbo nowadays. They perked up visibly and with twin grins both tried to find a trail left by Bilbo.

What was harder as one would think, since Bilbo had learned quickly and now left rarely anything for them to find.

Well, at least the Durin brothers got a good tracking lesson this way. They had greatly improved over the last few days and if Balin wasn’t mistaken, enjoyed the hunt just as much as Bilbo enjoyed leading them all on a merry chase. It meant that they would have no hard weapons training today, after all. But even the devilish duo often failed to find Bilbo.

Somehow Balin thought that today would be one such day and went back inside to put his mug into the sink.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rory had reached the outskirts of Michel Delving in the wee morning hours.

He had gashes on his large feet from his mad run and he looked as if he would keel over at any second. Beside him, the Dwarven leader of the small settlement near the river looked no better. If anything, he looked worse when compared to the lighter Hobbit. Never! Never in his entire life, would Dangor have believed it that a Hobbit would have had more stamina than him! He silently cursed his heavy armor into his beard while trying to catch his breath without to keel over and pass out.

But that Rory Brandybuck had managed that feat with ease stunned him and not only that, he had even surprised Dangor more with his knowledge and endurance on the way here.

The two had a chat with the Major and the leader of the Brandybuck clan, Gorbadock. And while Bilbo was sneaking out of Hobbiton with the princes hot on his heels, Dwalin was called away and joined Master Baggins, Balin and Thorin in their haste to reach Delving to hear the bad news that the two scouts had brought in.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bilbo was steadily gaining on more distance between the duo and him and by midday, Bilbo reached the rim of the Forest around Hobbiton and vanished into its shadows with a sigh of relief.

Here, the twin menaces could search for him forever and not find him.

The two knew this too and so their cursing him wasn’t surprising to Bilbo, who watched them stumble around in the woods under him. He had climbed up an beech tree and now sat comfortably against a gnarled branch, eating crackers, watching the two’s futile search for him on the ground while he flipped idly through the book he brought with him.

This would be a long day…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

While the trio was in the outskirts of the old Forest, there was a little ball of fur running from its future rider and master on the rim side of the opposite end of the woods a good a few days march away. The little beast did not want to be beaten again, or kicked… or bitten… or any of this! Giving the frustrated Orcs behind him a growl the pup vanished inside the dense old woods.

He had hidden from the nasty Orcs in here before.

The trees felt…strange to the tiny creature but it paid the feeling no mind. One time it had run around in here for days and had hidden under the gnarled roots of an old and rather grumpy tree by the water’s edge that had felt a bit like an Ent would. It had even talked to the furball, mostly grumpy complains of it, being there but otherwise, the old willow tree had left the little beast alone. That old one had been funny and had eaten the Orc that had nearly caught it while the little fluffy bundle had yipped in pleasure and had jumped around the tree in glee.

Everyone wanted to possess the tiny white beast.

Because of its mother, the tiny beast had no doubt. She was the Alpha of the pack after all and the oldest of the Wargs. A one eyed, old and evil beast, covered with scars, a perfect match for her rider, the one armed pale Gundabad Orc. He often scratched the pup behind the ears whenever it came back without an orc. He was amused by the pup’s cleverness and often assigned orcs he wished dead to be the pup’s keeper.

Suddenly a gnarled hand came down from above and before the pup could snarl, its little golden eyes fixed with the golden, green and brown disks that were the eyes of a creature that it had never heard about nor had ever seen or smelled before. To the tiny creature’s surprise, the green skinned being with the leaves and grass instead of hair just looked oddly amused with it, before a much too long and thin finger scratched it behind an ear lovingly.

Cradling the tiny fur ball in one of its arms, the creature, female if one chose to decide based on its form, bare even with the first hint of winter in the air, walked away from the place it had found the pup hiding from the Orcs, right into the next tree, vanishing inside of it with the surprised yelping Warg pup.

Behind her, the normally sleepy but now wide awake Huorns of the Forrest suddenly reached down with their gnarled limbs and tore the Orcs to pieces with their strong branches. Soon the floor was soaked in the blood and ichors of the creatures. She did not like the servants of Morgoth, nor their beasts that killed and maimed her plant and animal friends. They were here to hurt the children that she and others protected, the little folk that peacefully lived in the green grasslands beyond her beloved Forest. Tom Bombadil would keep the Orcs from crossing the far forest and she and her brothers and sisters would guard this forest.

After all, the children of Yavanna were also the children of her kin. She was old, so old in fact that she could remember the face of the Hobbit lad that had stolen the love of one of her sisters once away, so that she had left with him and given him children, slowly bringing their blood into the lines of those known as Hobbits.

That had been in what the tall children of Ilufather with the pointy ears called the first age.

She had noticed the half stone child, half their child of the Hobbits coming here more often lately.

He had also come in the past and although it confused her as to how he could be both, he was a pleasant fellow with manners and a golden heart. He never saw Them as They did not show themselves often. But the boy was clearly a good soul, the little members her folk loved him and those two other stone children that he often brought with him were of great amusement to her and the others.

Stone children!

They were so oblivious of the world’s other creatures at times, so clumsy in their movements in her beloved Forest, and so blind to the ways of the woods but their antics made her siblings and her laugh often enough madly.

And this little fellow, full of needle sharp teeth and not old enough to be truly evil, he needed a keeper that would take care of it and have it grow in the sunshine instead of the shadows that still concealed too many of the foul creatures of the Dark Lord of old. Their kin were not evil from birth, just a bit less sensible than their distant brothers, the wolves. Hardier and more dangerous but not necessarily cruel. Wargs had once been wolves too before the dark one had twisted them.

Her kin would not kill young if there was a chance for them to turn out good. The little one in her arm sensed this too and stayed silent and compliant in her hold. It perceived an impossible age and wisdom in the creature that walked as if it had roots instead of feet and that could melt with him into the very trees to travel through the very earth in distances it could have never made by itself in its wildest dreams. Her eyes were much too old and sad to belong to any other creature on Arda than one of the oldest of Yavanna’s races.

She, had been born when there had been no stars in the sky, when it had been still dark as a member of the Lady’s first children to mind her creation. She had seen the first stars come to shine and had seen it when the sun took her first ride over the heaven.

She was not an Entwife of the old legends but something similarly old and powerful. They where distant kin.

With long leaves that behaved like hair or fur and skin that felt like soft tree bark. All of her was green and brown or golden and currently her leafy hair was shining in all colors of autumn glory. The pup yawned and curled up in her warm embrace to a dream of chasing Orcs around and slept peacefully while she increased the speed with which they traveled from tree to tree until they reached the other side of the Forest.

There she deposited the small bundle in an astonished Bilbo’s lap as he yelped in shock.

Bilbo had always known that Fae were rumored to still live in the old forest, but to know this was somewhat different then suddenly seeing two arms come out of the tree he was hiding in and place a ball of softly snoring fur in his lap!

Under him, Kili and Fili froze and looked up. Only to see a strange creature look them over with golden green eyes before it gave all three a wink and vanished back into the tree.

As they all exchanged looks, Bilbo brought the tiny beast up to look at it. The Dwobbit decided that the Fae indeed had as twisted sense of humor as he was told because they had given him a Warg pup! A Warg pup that wagged its tail as it grinned toothily up at him with golden eyes and barked playfully at the befuddled hobbit.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

He held the pup none to gently but took care to not hurt it and he had the faint smell of the creature from before on it. It was clearly of another race but somehow still related to the old one. The little beast could smell the goodness of the strange male in its scent. When the golden one’s head shook in irritation and then cradled it under one arm, the tiny beast had already decided to keep the strange and funny creature with the hilarious eyebrows that wiggled most amusingly.

When Dwobbit and Warg came down from the tree it was eyed warily by two other comical looking creatures, a bit bigger as his new owner. They had his scent all over them and he theirs…pack? Most likely to the one that held it, in its tiny mind they got adopted right away and that was it.

One, the darker haired one tried to poke its nose playfully with a finger.

It took that promptly as an invitation to playfully lick and gnaw at the finger, causing the darker of the two to laugh at the beast. The blond gave it a dubious look before he shook his head in bewilderment. They smelled awfully a lot like Dwarves to the tiny beast. Shrugging that off, it twisted to lick its funny new owner on the nose, making the small male laugh.

It could not place that one but oh well… with time came knowledge and it would soon enough find out what race he belonged to anyways.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“What are we going to do with a Warg pup!?”

Fili scratched his head in confusion. “Why would they give us a beast like that?” Next to the blond, Bilbo shrugged, feeling as confused as Fili. Fae were known to do more confusing things than that, though. He had needed an hour to explain to Fili and Kili that, no, they could not kill it and that the pup, a little male from what they had found out, was kind of an odd present from the tree Fae to Bilbo and was most likely for them to care for.

Not to mention that he needed a while longer to explain to the two brick heads what, exactly the being had been and than what a Fae was.

“That was a Fae?!” Kili, it seemed, still was in denial phase while Fili tried to look at the more practical aspects. Why does she give you a Warg pup for, I wonder?”

Bilbo patted Kili comfortingly on his back while they walked. “I think it is best to go to the Took Smial. My grandfather will know what they want us to do with him.” Kili nodded absentmindedly, still trying to wrap his head around the idea that the Hobbit stories about Fae ancestors actually had truth in them. He looked back over his shoulder at the tree that the female Fae had vanished in.

This all was so strange!

Unbeknownst to Kili, the other three in his company had the same thought.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

On the other side of the woods the one eyed female leader of the Warg pack paced agitatedly up and down the rim of the accursed Forest in which her brightest pup had vanished. He was most likely dead, which was a waste, as it had been the most promising and most clever of her last litter. She growled, low and angry, wanting it back.

She could sense the eyes of the creatures inside of the forest watching her.

Her rider, a pale, uncommonly tall Orc with a hook as an arm could not.

He only felt the malevolence of the Huorns of the old Forest. There was no way through this wild Forest, it was too much like Fangorn and had the guardianship of Bombadil who would hunt them as soon as an Orc set foot in the Forest.

Here, here was Yavanna’s old power at its strongest still.

Cursing he mounted the beast and went back to their temporary camp. They would have to find another way into the Shire, this one was not an option that they could use…ever. And North of the Forest the swamp made a crossing unthinkable without a guide and in the south-west, the river was still not frozen over enough to cross it.

He returned to his camp in a foul mood.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Meanwhile, as the trio, now a quartet, made their way to the Took Smial, Rory ended his discussion with the others and was ordered to help with building of fences around the smaller settlements and evacuating the Smials that lay on the edges of the wilds to the settlements for the winter. Dangor would help with that and, before winter sat in, get fifty more warriors to protect the settlement with the cooperation of Rory and his Bounders.

The musings about who exactly could have killed Seredas Goold had both the leaders of the Shire and the Dwarrow King scowling.

Those humans came from the far south east… why had they come so far from Far Harrad? And that they were Haradrim was a given, based on the descriptions that Rory had carefully given. Brown skin with dark eyes, black hair and tattoos all over and odd clothing that billowed in the wind. How had they come here? They had not used the old road. Maybe, Bungo had mused, they had been brought by boat or ship. And no one had liked that idea much.

The two did not wait and rest for longer than necessary and when late evening came, they were on the road again, this time on the backs of some ponies.

Both had come to mutually accept and admire the other and their strengths and talents. The two different beings complimented each other in many ways and wanted to build a foundation on that for the benefit of their charges. Rory had been promoted to the head Bounder in the river area as well as tactical advisor and Dangor from a simple leader of one war group to a fully-fledged Captain of the area in Thorin’s and Dwalin’s command.

When they departed, twenty more warriors left with them already as well as fife more veteran Bounders from the Took and Brandybuck clans. One even was from the Stoor clan and was known to have fought Orcs during the last winter in the northern area with only a shovel as a weapon. He bore a ugly scar in his face  to show for it and was stouter in build than the most Hobbits. Now he had been handed a long handled Axe by one of the Dwarves and already showed skill in wielding it.

He was near middle age, as Hobbits counted such things, and introduced himself as Dorgo, a guide for the Dwarves of the group.

All Dwarves and Bounders were armed to the teeth and the Dwarrow’s were all proven veterans from the battle of Moria. The Orcs would never know what awaited them with the older warriors that all had still some bones to pick with the Orcs and had all volunteered to hold the more dangerous side of the river.

With a toothy grin Rory looked over them before he went on riding. He began to like Dwarves and their ways of dealing with Orcs!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Balin had not seen them off as he had been invited to tea with the Goold Clan.

Dwalin had arched a brow and had wiggled it at his older brother when he had heard, but Balin had ignored that with a serene smile that always proved to drive his younger brother insane. It hadn’t failed either, even if Dwalin had gotten nearly as much a rise out of Balin with his sly suggestions concerning the Widow Goold.

She was an honorable woman and mother of two cute children for Mahal’s sake!

Now sitting in the main family Smial, he couldn’t help but to notice all the carvings in the beams and the fine stone work in the walls. The designs were clearly of Dwarven origin although Balin couldn’t tell which clan they could have belonged to. When he finally asked he nearly dropped his teacup in his shock at the answer.

“Oh, those designs were made by our ancestors long ago, Master Balin.”

Grandma Goold was old. Not as old as the old Took but nearly so. She was one hundred and twenty two years old and the matriarch of the Goold Family since more than the half of her lifetime. She had watched the odd but well-mannered and spoken Dwarf with the forked beard take to her lovely Celandine.

She had wished to meet the Dwarf for herself to see what he was made of.

So far he had turned out to be a pleasant surprise. He was wise, well learned and obviously a scholar more than a fighter. His manners beyond doubt, his way of talking was courteous, his linage well breed. He seemed to be an honest and praiseworthy fellow. So far, so good. And from what she could decipher, he liked her Celandine… even more than he seemed to realize, which had her chuckling into her tea cup!

The same seemed to go for Celandine and little Lilly had taken to him like a duck to water. She had claimed his lap as her sitting place and not moved from there since he had sat down.

Which was a wonder in and of itself.

Lilly was very cautious of strangers and rarely liked someone on sight.

Celandine had not married Seredas out of love. Both had known each other for years and been best friends, so when Seredas grew older, the two had chosen to marry. They had fit together well enough and two wonderful children to prove that but not many knew why Celandine had taken on him or why he had taken on her great granddaughter.

Celandine was one of their clan that was a throwback to times when their family had first settled in the Shire.

She, the oldest of the Goold family, had always suspected Bilbo to be a Dwobbit, as that nice young Dwarf lad with the dancing dark eyes had called it.

What not many knew was that Bilbo was not the first of his kind in history of the Shire.

A thousand years ago the Hobbits had settled here and they had soon been joined by a wandering group of Dwarves. It had been a small band of survivors of a once great clan and the Dwarves had stayed. They married, had children and, after a while, when all of them had died or gone with to other kingdoms of their kin, only their blood stayed in the Shire to tell of them.

A part of that clan still lived somewhere in the mountains but where, not many knew. Luisia was one of the few who still knew and she kept it to herself.

Celandine had too much of their heritage in her veins and so did her children. Seradon was the best example for that and soon he would be sprouting a slight beard as the Goold and sometimes some of the Brandybuck or Stoor family members were known to do.

In the Brandybuck and Stoor clans it was seen less often but in the Goold clan, that was directly descended from the Dwarves, it was happened more often. Even with the females sometimes. Celandine had slight sideburns that she cleverly masked by braiding her hair in two thick coils down the sides of her face and she often wore a shawl that covered her chin and ears and wound over her head like a cap to hide any other evidence. The rest she let usually tumble down her back in long waves of curls that reached the middle of her spine. Her golden locks were the envy of many a lass in the Shire and she was proud of that outward sign of her heritage.

She had married Seredas because she liked him well enough and he was not shocked about the fact that Celandine would likely outlive him by many years. Her Dwarvish heritage made her able to live longer than a normal Hobbit. He had always loved her golden hair, a trait that had been passed on to both their children. It looked like polished gold in the sun. All Goold clan members had one thing in common, all were blonds.

In various different shades but all were fair-haired.

Balin seem to notice that suddenly too and Luisia could see his sharp mind quickly add two and two together. “Of course! I am such a fool… how could I miss that?” She heard him mumble and smiled into her cup of tea.

“You are called the Goold Clan, Lady Luisia… that name does not by any chance, descend from the name Goldbeard in origin? Or am I wrong?”

The Matriarch just gave him a calm look that had Balin smile somewhat lopsidedly before they mutually decided to drink their tea. Both had too much on their minds to speak and Balin had even more to think through.

Behind Balin, Celandine smirked at her crafty Grandmother’s way of guiding Balin to the answers.

And Balin?

He just tried to suppress the laughter that bubbled up inside of him. He couldn’t wait to see Dwalin’s, Dis and Thorin’s gobsmacked faces when he told them the news! So, he thought, here was where the last of the Goldbeard’s had ended up when their western kingdom vanished under the sea after the sacking of the western lands in the far past. They had never found a trace of the last Goldbeard’s wherever they had searched and here their heritage was strong in this clan. It was clear to see in the members.

It also explained Seradon’s unusual talent in the art of the smithy and why the youth seem to want to learn it so badly.

It was in his blood. Simple as that, he was born with it.

He had suspected that the clan had some secret but this was not what Balin had expected! Life was suddenly looking much brighter and he hummed into his teacup.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

In the meanwhile, Agmar had the doubtful honor of being dragged along by his over enthusiastic and new apprentice.

His sister had been right, the boy was a delight and had a talent for the smithy unlike anyone else he had seen in a long time. The boy’s odd feet had taken some getting used to, but Seradon never took it the wrong way. Currently the lad wanted to show him his family’s old Smithy, set back in the woods surrounding Hobbiton. It supposedly had been built by Dwarves underneath the Shire. Agmar was a bit curious. If this really was of Dwarven work, then how in Mahal’s name had it come here and why had Dwarves built one in the land of the Hobbits?

What clan had done so? Why where there no records of Dwarves in the Shire anywhere to find?

When they finally reached the entrance to the cavern that held the smithy, he could only look at the big stone door in shock. This was clearly the work of a Dwarven master craftsman!

The boy needed to use his mother’s family ring as a key to open it. The old door swung open and let them into a tunnel system that led further back into the small outcropping of stones. What Agmar beheld caused him to nearly collapse in shock. This truly was a Dwarven built smithy and one of the likes the old master smith had not laid eyes on since the fall of Erebor! It had tools that were clearly old but all masterly wrought. Tools he had not seen in a century, because he could not afford them.

The fire places, the melting pots for metal and the various anvils clearly made for the height of a Dwarf or tall Hobbit, like Seradon and made out of the finest steel.  This place even had a separate area for silver smiths built into the underground cavern! With tools to use of the like that many of the Dwarves had missed for decades.

“Boy come over to me immediately and tell me how there is a Dwarrow smithy of this quality here in the Shire and in the care of your Clan?!”

Seradon shrugged and told him the history of his family clan. He had been allowed to show Agmar and tell him by his great Grandmother itself beforehand. He was just glad that he finally had found a master to learn from. And what a master Agmar was! He had even worked with mithril in his youth!

Mithril!

Alone, the word gave the young Hobbit hope. He wanted to work with that in the future! He had an uncommon affinity for metals and forging ever since he had been a fauntling. Only Bilbo had ever shown understanding of his need to hoard pretty river stones or some odd metals that he had found.

His ever present need to fiddle around with them in his hands, if only to feel the metal or gems, to learn their feel and weight or to carve stones sometime. Agmar had shown understanding for that too. He called it a talent, a gift and Seradon liked that thought and that he seemingly had some ability with forging things.

But most of all, he was just glad to have found someone he could like and that would teach him this wonderful craft!

Agmar in the meanwhile the lad told him and than thought over this, had to sit down in his shock.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Bilbo stared down at the Warg in his arm with a defeated look that was echoed by the pup.

Both dripped with rain water as well as Fili and Kili did it. Not one of the four had been happy when late evening came and they had been caught in a sudden downpour. Kili had whined since it had started, Fili cursed lowly under his breath in rough Khuzdul and Bilbo tried in vain to keep the pup out of his shirt where it tried to bury its soggy head with a whine that rivaled Kili’s more than once on their way.

As the things looked, they would never reach the great Took Smials before midnight at this rate on the now muddy trail!

Cursing, Bilbo changed course and marched into the direction of one of the normally empty Bounder hideouts at this time of the year that lay hidden in the area. His uncles had told him how to find them if ever needed and the rain was cold! They all would catch a cold if they did not get dry soon.

It was almost pitch black out when he finally found the entrance to it and ushered the others in.

Fili didn’t ask, he just  went over to the fire pit once inside and lit it as fast as he could while Kili checked on the supply of wood to feed the fire with. “It would last for several days if needed Fili.” He told his brother who grunted in reply. He was still in a bad mood from the sudden weather change.

Bilbo sat the pup down while he closed the door firmly behind him against the now cold autumn wind. This area was known to have often wolves hunting in it. The Tooks’ hunted the beasts each year in late fall to keep them at bay and away from the Hobbits but in the last few years the packs had grown bolder and bigger and more desperate for food with each passing year.

It was no longer a sport but more survival tactic in the late.

Kili helped him to secure the door for the night. Than both went to the fire to strip out of their wet clothing to hang them next to Fili’s on the drying racks. The latter had in the meanwhile ended his strip and was now investigating the stored food in his smalls. Next to his crouching, muscular frame sat the little puppy, watching him, clearly as fascinated as Fili was from the sheer amount of food stored here!

Hobbits!, Fili thought with not a small amount of amusement despite their bleak situation. They clearly loved to eat too much. At least enough to ensure it even that such a place was filled with it to the rim! He gave the puppy some dried meat to gnaw on and it was soon curled around it in a mock fight that had all three boys laughing.

Bilbo finally took out some meat and a pot to cook a stew while Fili managed to find the stored blankets to keep them all semi warm until the fire had heated the small room up enough for them to not freeze.

Kili helped Bilbo to chop the dried meat and vegetables and went to a makeshift sink to get water for the stew. In the end all three lads begun to warm up again while busying themselves with domestic tasks in the shelter. The pup, named White Fang or Fang for short by Kili after it bit him, lay contentedly next to the youths. Still gnawing happily away on the strip of dry meat.

Kili was petting the beast distractedly while he watched it. Seeing and feeling all the knots in the fur, he took his comb out of his jacket and began to untangle the mess while humming to himself. The little pup let him fuss. It felt nice too, aside from the occasionally sting of a tangle caught in the comb.

His brother looked on while he filled their pipes with the dry weed he had found in the small but well stocked storage area. It was the good sort and that made the blond chuckle anew. Bounders seemed to have a good eye for good quality things and clearly lived decently.

Bilbo watched both and the slowly cooking stew. “We were lucky that we were near this hideout.” He told the others solemnly.

“Mother will throw a pitch when she finds us gone, that’s for sure!” Fili added and all three looked rather uncomfortably at each other.

“Mine too, oh Valar!” Bilbo groaned.

“Oy Fili, did you find some clothes that we can borrow in that storage?” The older of the brothers shook his head. “Nope Kili. Nothing that will fit us or is of use. We will have to wait for our gear to dry enough to wear it again. But Bilbo was right with stopping here for the night. We could have caught some nasty colds otherwise. Confound this weather! It really is too cold for this time of the year. At least I found some bedrolls and furs stored in there. In the worst case we have to bunk together to share body heat to sleep. Although it would be better one of us keeps watch all the time.” He looked out of a small window that lay hidden and was placed cleverly enough to avoid outsiders to seeing a light when the fire place was lit with narrowed eyes.

“I do not entirely trust this place. Something out there does not feel right and I think we better be prepared for eventual problems just in case.” The other two nodded quickly at his words and silence fell once more over the group while outside the storm began to rage in earnest.

Fang looked up at the cautious blond for a second before he closed his eyes and sniffed carefully around to check out the scents of whatever the Dwarf could mean with his cryptic words. He found vague traces of some wild men in the wind and his eyes opened again with a calculating light in them. Fang took note of tracking the scents in the upcoming night.

If they came any closer than was comfortable he would wake his new owners quickly.

None of the trio noticed his odd behavior, they were too busy with eating their hot stew and soon Fang got some in an extra bowl too which pleased the little Warg immensely. He had never gotten food as good they gave him without to have to fight for it!

He quickly cleaned the bowl out, much to the amusement of the lads.

Outside, a group of wild men and dark skinned southerners huddled together in the storm. Mumbling curses in their native tongues about the balls freezing weather here in the damnable north and tried to stay warm. Not more than an hours march away from the hidden shelter that currently housed the three youths and one watchful little Warg that traced all their movements through the storm with its nose with unnatural ease.

Never letting them out of his careful surveillance. He had to protect his new pack after all, they had so bad noses to begin with and their ears where also not the best, Fang decided yawning. He knew the southerners that he could smell in the wind that came inside the hideout and he did not like those humans much. They were too much like the Ork’s he knew for his likening. All of them a backstabbing lot if he could believe in his mothers teachings and they had those wicked long and curved blades with poison on them with them.

None of the trio of youths at the fire realized that he had begun guarding them nor did they had a clue of it how sharp the little fellow was in real.

They bedded down together not much later, with Fili taking up the first of the three watches through the night.

Hopefully, they would have a good nights rest…

Chapter Text

# native speech of the Easterlings #.

*whisper/ muted talking*

‘thoughts, Iglishmêk’

 

The first thing Kili noticed on his watch, just before daybreak, was Fang’s soft growling.

It was his only warning before he heard the voices coming into the small clearing in front of their hideout. His hand closed around the small pup’s muzzle, immediately silencing him. Kili shouldn’t have bothered, Fang fell silent the same second the humans stepped into the clearing.

Kili wasted no time and woke the other two up, careful to keep them from making noises.

Outside, the leader of the attack group, a tall easterling, inspected the small clearing with annoyance, his face twisting into an ugly scowl. This place felt wrong. The man stood tall, battle scars covering his body, a testament to his survival and triumph in the bloody fights for power, both in his own land and here among the Orcs. Even the pale Orc knew to be wary of him – and the Pale Orc feared few.

#Where is our spy, Tarouk? You said he would be here by now!#

The easterling he had spoken to answered. #Lord Curdiin, he should have been so, as I was told. But knowing that scum of a Breelander, he most likely ran out on us like the rat that he is.#He gave the leader a sly look, full of implications that made the leader smile thinly for a moment. #Do you want this lowly servant to hunt him down for your highness?#

Curdiin shook his head. #No. We will wait until sunrise. If he does not appear by then, it is safe to say that the Halflings got wind and killed him. If he isn’t here by midday, we will head back. I do not wish to be on the wrong end of those cursed bows of the Took clan. They are known for being nearly as good with those weapons as the cursed elves.#

Although Bilbo could only understand the word Took, he knew that those men were trouble. Kili and Fili both looked like they agree, because Men never ventured so deep into Hobbit territory, especially not foreign men, with strange speech that none of them knew.

Fili turned so he could sign to the others. *Luckily they haven’t noticed us yet!*

Bilbo signed back immediately.*They can’t see the entrance nor could they spot our fire even if it was still burning. These hideouts are designed to hide any Bounder from discovery and any foe that could search for them, especially those who do not even look for them. You couldn’t see it last night, but this clearing leaves almost to no footprints to be discovered, the stony surface hides away your boot prints from last night. And the storm did the rest for us. As long as we do not make another fire, are quiet and careful, we should be safe.*

Fili nodded. He had worried about the possibility of being discovered. *I wish I spoke the tongue of the Easterlings! What, in Mahal’s sacred name are they up to?!*

All three looked back at the wild men that accompanied the group of southerners with trepidation.

*and since when do they ally themselves with the wild men?*

At their feet, Fang looked at them amused. Scratching his ear shortly with one paw, he darted forward and tugged on Fili’s pant leg until the Dwarf looked at him and picked him up. Fili almost dropped him in surprise when the Warg growled softly in his ear. “You cannot, but I can!”

The wide eyed stares from the three lads was priceless!

Talking in common wasn’t easy to manage for the small Warg pup but he had learned from his mother when she had taught her pups and excelled at it. Even if it hurt his throat. A natural talent, the pale Orc had called the pup. Fili and the rest had to strain their hearing a little and make a few guesses but they could understand the little one better than they would have thought.

Exchanging astonished looks with the others, Fili finally found his voice and whispered softly at the pup. “Can all Wargs talk?”

The pup shook its head. “No, just a few, my mother taught me and I happened to be good at it!” He told the dwarf, beaming with pride at his achievement.

Shaking his head, Fili choose to interrogate Fang later while Bilbo gave the pup a pat on the head. He had heard stories about such beasts, often understanding more than one had imagined them to. But that some could talk was new information for them all.

 “Well?” Fili whispered a bit less patient now. “What did they say then?” He mused about it that the pup could seemingly do allots more as he had given the beast credit for. Silently Fili wondered if all wargs could understand Iglishmêk too, or if the pup had simply guessed what was up. Never less, his curiosity had to wait until a better time came up to be sated.

Fang thought about the question for a moment before he gave Fili his answer, since Fang had never before translated the language of the Easterlings to Westron and had a few troubles with it.

“They wait for someone?” He shrugged. “A spy, I think is the right word for it. Someone they call a Bree-Lander?” At that, all three lads exchanged an apprehensive look and Fang pawed at Fili to regain his attention.

“They say that person is overdue. Fear that he was caught spying on the Took clan? What’s a clan?”

Fili blinked at the unexpected question and Bilbo quickly answered. “A family, Fang. A clan is what a pack is to your kin only a bit smaller like you, your siblings and father and mother as a a part of a bigger group?” The pup thought it over before Fang nodded and licked his hand.

“Breeding and birth unit in a pack then?” He asked and got an uncertain shrug back. “I do not think there is a right translation for that in your race tongue for the moment. We will talk about that later?”

Fang nodded swiftly and went on telling them what he knew. He liked this new pack mates that he had found. They were funny and a bit strange but the little pup liked it to be included in what was going on and not cast aside just because he was young.

Well, they wait for that spy person, if it does not show up until tomorrow, they will go back. Their leader, the tall one with the scars, he says he will not risk that Took-Clan discover them here and shoot them with their bows. He says they are nearly as good with them as the elves.”

All Bilbo could do was to nod at that evaluation from the tall Easterling.

He knew that his cousins and uncles were the best archers in the shire and feared by many bandits because of their skill. Bilbo gave the group in the clearing a considering look. None of them sported a bow, they were clearly at a disadvantage if it came to a fight with a skilled bowman from a distance.

“Did they say what that spy was doing undercover work for?”

He asked the pup, as an uneasy feeling settled in his gut. When the beast simply shook its head Bilbo sighed, because he could think of only one reason for the group to be here. Rubbing his forehead, he gave the Dwarrows a look and motioned further inside the cabin so that they could talk without the instant fear of discovery.

“I fear I know what they are after.” He told the two.

“My mother’s family is known to be the protectors of the shire. The Thain is actually the war leader in times of need and he has… he has nephews and nieces that are no older than a few years. They often play in this area, it is a well known fact in the shire. Most of the Took fauntlings do, these woods are their playground.”

Kili gasped and Fili narrowed his eyes at the news. “You mean to tell us that the scum outside is after the fauntlings?!” He whispered urgently and Bilbo nodded, looking pale.

“That’s exactly what I fear, Fili. The little ones are good blackmail material since no Hobbit would ever endanger a fauntling willingly! That man from Bree must have told them about this. Must have somehow heard about it and now he is out there and spying on them!”

Bilbo’s mien hardened. “We cannot let them take one of my little cousins!”

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As the trio faced this dilemma, Thorin growled while settling in his saddle.

The boys had been missing since yesterday and Bungo and Thorin had decided to retrace their route as best they could to try and find them.

They all had a bad feeling about the missing tweens, even knowing that nothing bad should have happened to them. Dwalin, Balin, Thorin and the Bounder Hobbit of Hobbington finally set out to find the missing trio when they could not find them.

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The message sent by a robin by Belladonna that the trio had been missing since yesterday reached the Took Smial in late morning.

Hildifons was not a Hobbit prone to panic attacks, but he knew that if any situation called for it, this was it!

Last night, his cousin and one of his older brothers, Isumbras had caught a man outside. He was trying to spy on Isengrim and his nieces while the son of his brother Hildigrim, Adalgrim had hidden from Isengrim and his sisters in the bushes of the nearby woods.

The fellow had entirely failed in his task!

Even given that he could have fooled other humans with his laughable level of skill in hiding, he could never dream to fool a Hobbit with it. Let alone the leader of the Bounders and his family! A bit interrogating had brought the ugly plot to light and Hildifons had needed the help of nearly six of his Bounders helping him to restrain Hildigrim and Isengrim from killing the man outright in their rage.

As much as he too wanted the human dead, it would simply not do to lose a source of information about the invaders of their lands for now. And now this message! He had a good idea of where the boys could be right now.

A very good idea actually.

One of his Bounders had asked him last night why one of the markers was glowing red. Those had been a gift from the elven twin warriors of Rivendell to the Hobbit Bounders in the past, given in friendship. They each resembled one of their hideouts in the wilds of the Shire. Each was marked with a symbol telling Hildifons and the others exactly which safe place was currently used, how many were using them and whether they were bounders or not. In this case it was the one nearest to the Took Dwellings, a mere half day’s walk away from the Great Smials.

Since the storm had raged last night, Hildifons feared that the spy’s friends had stumbled over the hideout but soon had decided that it was most likely three other persons in need of it. He got the suspicion that the boys were currently most likely forced to hide in the Bounder spot from those others. He prayed that they would not do something reckless because those humans sounded dangerous to Hildifons, based on the descriptions given by the spy.

Reading the message over once again he gave it over to his eldest brother to read and answer.

The Dwarrow King was already on his way here from what he could tell. They had mused that Bilbo and the boys had most likely come this route and got stuck somewhere on the way. What wouldn’t be so unusual since Bilbo had lately wanted to visit the Smial's with the two Dwarrow brothers.

Heaving a sigh he talked shortly with Isengrim before the eldest of the Took brothers send a hurried message back to Thorin to come here. He just knew that the Dwarf would be mightily mad when he read what was currently happening here.

Taking up his Bounder bow, Hildifons waited exactly only for as long that it took his brother to finish before both hurried out of the Smial's to the waiting ponies.

They had some wanabe kidnappers to teach a lesson!

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In the meanwhile, Rory and his group had stumbled over the tracks of a larger group of Humans by mere chance in the last night when they had wanted to make camp near the Took Smial's. To say that he and the Dwarrow’s found that rather odd was an understatement and instead to make camp, as planned, they took up their bedrolls again and traced the tracks as good as they could manage it in the storm until it grew to harsh to follow the tracks for longer.

They only rested shortly before they went on again when the storm deflated a little.

In the wee hours of the morning then Rory and Dorgo found the faint, almost completely washed away, footprints of two Dwarrow’s and one Hobbit on light feet near to those of the humans, a bit off the path that the humans had taken.

“Those can only be those of those youths from yesterday, Rory! Dwalin told me of the princes and the son of Master Baggins, only they could have been in this areal!”

Dangor told Rory and Dorgo alarmed by their find. Dorgo Stoor said nothing to that. He simply took the new axe from his back and went on to follow the faint tracks with the skill of a Bounder Hobbit that was long in his work and with the acquired expertise’s that had made him to the best tracker in the Shire.

With dark and grim expressions on their faces the others followed suit.

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The female Warg looked around uncomfortably. The few of the pack that had survived her mad dash through the borderlines and under bushes of the accursed Old Forrest looked not much better as their pale alpha mother. All of the surviving Wargs sported various injuries from the tree spirits and their confounded Huorns.

She had set out with nearly fifty of her pack, now they were reduced to only thirty five. Luckily, none of the killed Wargs had been her own offspring or else she would have been really displeased. All of the killed ones had been from weaker females of her ever growing pack. She growled again in annoyance.

Those damned tree spirits had turned out to be impossible to kill! For each limb bitten off, they sprouted a new one in mere minutes! How was a Warg supposed to kill a being that was turning out to be indestructible?! The sly old female Warg snapped at a younger male that was getting too friendly.

That annoying male Warg had been a pain in her side since a while now.

He… was a good fighter and had managed it to tear one of those spirits apart long enough for them all to break through. She had to hand him that… at least. He wasn’t looking all too shabby either and he knew it. She snorted when he whined apologetically at her. As if he would actually mean it… Mandos would freeze over before That, would ever happen!

He was young and overconfident and it showed.

Maybe, if he managed it to survive this she would give him some consideration. If he survived the following fights with the older males for her affections in her next heat period in the coming spring. Given that she would ever have another, that was. The old pale Warg female wasn’t so sure about that one herself. She had the distinct feeling that she was slowly entering the time when she would become barren. And her rider had declined her , her wish. Hence her impromptu dash through the accursed Forrest of Tom Bombadil and those freaking tree spirits.

She wanted her brightest pup back!

He was the only one ever that had been born in her image. The only one of her countless litters that had shown that level of intelligence and spirit. He even had managed it to learn to growl/speak when she tried to teach her litter that useful talent. Was the only one of all of her pups that had shown any skill in learning her other acquired skills too!  She was mightily mad that he had vanished and that her rider had failed her in getting it back for her. The old female wanted him to be the next high Alpha of the Pack’s! He was the only one that showed enough talents and gifts so far to fit that place in her outlook. She was sure, he would make a wonderfully dark leader for the Pack’s in the future if he was not killed before she could get him there, that was.

Her one eye roamed around agitated.

The many smells here told her more than words ever could have. Here had been Dwarrows and Hobbits equally in the late. The first made her nervous, because neither, she or her Orc rider had known about the Dwarves being here in the Shire, and because those tracks all smelled relatively fresh! Also, that accursed Human of the east and his troupe of luck searchers had obviously tried to go behind Azog’s back and were doing something that could endanger them all! ‘So, here was where he had vanished to’ she thought and snapped at the too friendly male again. ‘Greedy bastards, all of those Easterlings. Could they not think for themselves? If they alarmed their prey before the time was ripe and endangered her pup they all would pay!’

This time she growled so loudly that the others instinctually jumped out of the reach of her deadly fangs and claws, wary of what had made the eldest of them all that angry. Only the stubborn black colored big male did not jump away enough and promptly earned a bite in his shoulder from the irritated female. He took it without even a yip of pain and shrugged it off faster as she liked it.

None of the other battle hardened Warge wanted to risk her wrath.

She, even as old as she was, could still easily take them all down if she wanted. Alone. She had just proven that again last night, when she had nearly managed to actually kill one of those strange ghosts of the Forest. Of course, even the old one had failed in the end. But she had come nearer to that goal than any other Warg.

She had even clawed off the head of one… not that it had stayed dead for long. That one had been one of the older spirits and had bounced back after a few minutes with a newly grown head on her shoulders! That had shocked enough of them that they had simply run for their lives. What else could one do in face of an enemy that could bounce back from…that, as if it meant nothing?!

And no flesh and bones for them to crush either, only splinters and wood.

While she tracked the many scents she soon found out that the same ghost she had failed to kill had been the one that had snatched up her pup and that she had seemingly given her youngest to… a… Hobbit?

Dwarf??

Tree spirit???

She shook her head utterly confused.

What by Mandos Balls was that one?

He smelled equally of Dwarf and Hobbit and of the tree spirits?

That was too much for even the pale Alpha female to figure out. And that alone was already telling something to the ones that knew how old, sly and cunning she was. She made a puzzled sound deep in her throat that was echoed by the black furred male that still stuck to her side and had tried to sort out the scents as well. Both shared a perplexed look before she snorted and trotted on to catch up with the owner of that unusual scent and her missing pup.

In her mind the thoughts whirled wildly, spinning around the scent she couldn’t place and she could tell from the way he shook his impressive snout, full with deadly fangs, that the male beside her was trying to sort the scents out at the same time. Well, he just got more interesting by minute!

Maybe he was young, but stupid, that male was obviously not.

With the father of his, it would have amazed her if he would have turned out stupid to be honest. That Alpha had fathered a few of her litters as well, looking just as impressive now as when he was younger. All of their litters had been satisfying to her and she had not to kill out the usual weaker ones right after the birth.

So far, so good.

By Melkor’s wildest piss! What was that brat?

She couldn’t sort out the confusing scents, no matter how hard she tried and how much she tortured her old brains for similar ones to determine what exactly that brat was. He, and here she was at least certain in that, was male, young and something she had never encountered before. She tried to remember the teachings of her own birthmother but came up with nothing that could tell her what the brat could be.

Was it possible that Dwarrows could breed with other races?

Now that would be a nasty surprise for sure. They had never before managed it before as far she did know. If they could breed with the Hobbits, those that could multiple faster than a Warg pack could manage to eat them, than her rider and her pack would be in big trouble! If those progeny took more after their Dwarrow parents in temper and tendency to fight, then the danger would be even higher.

Dwarves were one of the very few threats to Wargs and Orcs. They had proven their battle prowess often enough in the past with dire consequences. Those bastard children of Aule did not, as a rule, breed very fast and nor had they ever had counted great numbers. Which evened the odds a little.

Hobbits, on the other hand, bred as quickly as rabbits! If those two races could manage to have offspring together then… she stopped shocked in her tracks. Shaking the fearsome thought off, she went on faster as before to hide her alarm from the others.

She had to get her pup out of here!

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Unknown to the pale old beast and her group, the humans had discovered that their spy had been caught. How they became aware of that was easily explained: Hildifons had shown up an hour after the trio had found out that the humans were there and had shot an arrow right into the ass of the second in command.

The result of the unexpected attack was the following, utter chaos. The Easterlings and wild men turned tail and had tried to run out of the shooting range of the bows… right into Rory’s just arriving troupe that had immediately engaged them in combat.

Of course, Fili and Kili did not wait any longer seeing that and had too entered that fray, much to the surprise of the now outnumbered humans. Bilbo, who had never been in a fight before, found himself back pitched against the leader that  tried to grab him to use Bilbo as a living shield against the arrows. That turned out to be a mistake because not only did the Hobbit put up a better fight than expected the puppy in his arms had suddenly growled and bitten him in the arm. 

He yelped and let go of the Hobbit just a second too late.

The youth used his distraction to flip him over on the ground. When he rolled back to his feet to try to strike the Hobbit with his poisoned blade, the pup suddenly jumped at him and attached its wickedly sharp fangs to his sword arm. The man howled and cursed and barely avoided the short axe flying his way. Curdiin hit the pup into the head with his fist and managed to dislodge the animal from his arm.

Fang fell to the ground and rolled away from him to come back to its paws with a nasty sounding growl that made the hairs stand on the nape of his neck.

With a curse, Curdiin kicked the pup and his steel wrought boots caught it in the stomach. It went flying with a pained howl to land in the arms of the Hobbit youth who was thrown backwards to the ground by the weight of his lucky catch.  

Fang’s pained whimpers were suddenly answered by an unpredictable source that shocked all combatants into silence. Curdiin turned to the sound than he paled visibly at the sight that greeted him.

There, where the boy had landed on the ground, stood a pack of at least thirty very enraged looking Wargs with one enormous pale beast in the front. Her snarls sent shivers of fear down the spines of everyone present, including poor Bilbo.

No one moved when she suddenly stepped forward and sniffed his neck and then her still whining pup to than lick it over the fur soothingly before she dismissed the strange creature holding her pup with a huff of hot air and begun to growl again. It now sounded more livid than before and Bilbo did the only thing he could think of and curled up even tighter around the pup while the big beast easily stepped over him.

He eyed the unsheathed claws next to his face with horror - those were more daggers than normal claws!

This Warg was the biggest that he had ever heard about! Her enraged behavior, her coloring so similar to Fang and her growls told him that Fang had to be her pup and he gulped at the thought. Risking a glance at the man that had attacked both, he gulped again and wisely closed his eyes.

That man was history!

Just as Bilbo was thinking about it, she suddenly jumped and attacked. What followed was nothing short of violent. The Wargs did not simply kill the Easterling, they ripped into the human and tore bits and pieces out of the now screaming leader while making sure that he lived through the torture for as long as they could manage.

The sight was stomach turning. Everywhere was blood, body pieces were flying around and the droplets of the blood hit Bilbo more than once what had him nearly vomiting.

The entire group of the terrifying beasts simply ignored the Hobbit’s and Dwarrow’s alike, they only tore into the humans and the others backed off wisely.

Even the Dwarves did, they knew only too well how dangerous those beasts were and tried to form a line of defense meanwhile the Wargs were busy with tearing the humans into little scraps.

The Hobbits soon copied them and Bilbo, who was nearest to the snarling mess in the center of the clearing carefully crawled away from the carnage once he got it in that the Wargs all seem to ignore him out of a point that could not understand.

He did not chance his luck and hurried to get to the others.

Fang just watched the killing of the human that had hurt him and his master with satisfaction. A unholy glee in his eyes while he watched his great mother tear into the screaming bloody mess that had been Curdiin only a few minutes before.

Suddenly she left the killing and turned her big head to where Bilbo had managed it to reach Fili and Kili in his escape.

Behind her, the nearly equally big, black furred male crushed the windpipe of the man in the same second. After that he turned around too and looked the others over. The beast walked calmly up next to the old female while making bloody paw prints on the rock and bore his fangs to the Dwarves and Hobbits alike in a warning snarl. Bilbo could later never tell what was riding him to do so but right in that moment all he could do was to clutch at Fang and to snarl back as good as he could manage… what turned out rather pathetic in the end, of course.

He earned a lot of flabbergasted looks from all around him with the unsuspected stunt, including the Wargs.

Silence filled the clearing out for some seconds.

Than, the big female with the pale fur and one eye abruptly erupted in chocked chortles that resembled awfully allot a full blown laughter attack to the stunned onlookers.

Bilbo scowled, wonderful! Now he got laughed at from Wargs of all beings! He rapidly blushed despite his irritation at being laughed at. Huffing he ignored the ridiculous beast and checked Fang over for injuries instead to distract himself from his humiliation.

The pup had a broken rib from what he could tell and some of the others were at least slightly cracked.

Luckily, none seemed to have bored themselves into the lung of Fang and he carefully begun to rip his shirt into pieces to bandage the pup up with the shreds so it could breath and move easier and to secure the broken bone in place. All of that was watched by the female Warg. All the while he murmured softly to the still whining pup comfortingly.

She noted every move, expression, even every sound the pup and the strange boy made clinically and cautiously.

Her nose told her that her fears had been right, his scent and entire look confirmed them.

That brat was a mixed Breed between a Dwarf and a Hobbit with possibly the blood of those accursed tree spirits thrown somehow into the mix!

How that could have come to pass, well… she knew that some of those Hobbits had the blood of some creature in their veins. It was possible that those Ghosts had once managed it to have offspring with them in the past. If she wasn’t mistaken here, than that brat was the first sign of doom for her pack and all others in the future to come.

Just because that he was there and alive, was enough to ram that home to her.

He was living, able and from what she could tell of what she had seen, he was exactly what she had feared before; a child between a Dwarf and a Hobbit that took more after the Dwarrow part of his heritage. In strength, endurance and most likely in the ability to life just as long as a Dwarf. From his Hobbit heritage, as far as she could tell, he had inherited his swift and agile footing, the sure aim of his weapons and the shown calculated mindset in the fight before.

All of that together usually marked a dangerous warrior in her opinion.

It also told her what could become of the brat and all those that were born like him in the future easily; Deadly opponents that could possibly take her kin out with time and that would multiple the numbers of the Dwarrow’s faster as before, if she was not mistaken here!

He seem to have taken to her pup, what surprised her a little.

It also gave her ideas that she had to think carefully through. She made her way over to the trio calmly, ignoring the tighter grips on their weapons of the others while she did so. The big beast surprised the two young Dwarves and the Hobbit as well with simply sniffing at each of them while she growled softly to her pup in the boy’s hold all the while.

The blond Dwarf had a wicked looking set of short blades while the darker of the two had a sword in a sure grip. A bow was also strapped on the back of the darker of the two Dwarrow’s.

The Hobbit as well wore a bow and arrows in a quiver, and those dangerous small throwing axes that he had used before strapped to his body. One clear close combat fighter and two more or less distance fighters… this trio got more attention-grabbing by the minute! From what she could gather from her pup, they had kind of adopted her youngest and he, them.

Now that tidbit amused her greatly!

‘Oh well’, she thought still amused to no end, ‘Azog would just have to get himself a new mount then’. He had become irritatingly annoying in his hunt for that Dwarf King and his kin anyway in of late. What amused her the most was the little crazy fact that she could smell on both Dwarves the distinctive scent that marked the line of Durin the Deathless, the very Dwarven line that Azog wanted so badly to find to kill.

Laughing in the manner of her race again she gave the blond a soft shove that nearly send the Dwarf to the ground.

He exclaimed something in Khuzdul, shocked at the sudden move before he managed it to right himself again with a scorching glare send her way. His darker brother, and she was certain now that the two were brothers from their scents, simply looked on a bit baffled previous to do something that shocked the old female this time. Taking his sword into the other hand, he reached out slowly and…dared to scratch her behind her ears?!?

Not many had ever dared that stunt with her in the past, not even Azog had done so in the beginning of their strange relationship.

And here that youth was, and simply did so. She chose to ignore it and simply snapped rather playfully at the hand before she did something that shocked the hell out of everyone in the clearing at once.

Before Kili realized what had hit him, he had her massive front paws on his shoulders, toppling him easily over and he ended up with her standing over him and licking him a few times before the massive beast simply made itself at home in his lap.

His curses, both in Westron and Khuzdul were music in her ears. He was creative actually, what amused her even more!

The black one of the Wargs eyed the situation just as confused as the Dwarves and the Hobbits did it for some seconds, than he shrugged his big shoulders and looped over to the blond one to simply lay down at his feet, what seem to shock said blond mightily.

He took note of it that the Dwarf recovered remarkably fast from his shock and glanced now down at him with a speculative gleam in his azure eyes that told the male Warg volumes about the shrewd mind hiding behind those Blue orbs.

When the Dwarf put one sword away and begun to carefully pick some sticks and pieces of the late human meal of his from before out of his fur without to show any fear, the mind of the Warg was made up. He ignored the looks that the rest of the two legs gave him and calmly licked the blood of the Easterling off, of his paws and big claws while he let the blond tend to his fur. 

He was much smarter as the most gave him credit for, and he could already tell that the Dwarf was smarter as the most al the same.

Had already killed five Ork’s that had tried to beat him into submission and had injured enough to make it clear that he would tolerate no fools as riders in the past. So far, his current rider had only succeeded temporally to get him as his mount because the Ork was a bit wiser as the rest had been and had left the important decisions to the Warg instead to try to make them for them both.

He had been tired of that one since a while now.

The calm young Dwarf was a much better choice for him as a rider as that Ork by lengths and if he turned out the way the Warg expected him to be, than he would be ten times better off with the Dwarf as with the Ork, so much was sure.

Bilbo could not help himself, he had to stare from one of his friends to the other and back repeatedly in his confusion of what was just happening here.

It was either, he had tomatoes on his eyes or did those two huge beasts really just kind of adopt Fili and Kili here… well, sort of?

Arching his brows at the mystifying sight of a still mightily cussing and at the female Warg’s body shoving Kili and a calmly fur combing Fili he thought that the beasts could just have done exactly that. Shaking his head, Bilbo exchanged a bewildered look with Dorgo and Dangor over the head of Fili and then shrugged helplessly before he plopped down between the Dwarves and the Warge.

What in the name of the Valar was going on here?!

Since when did Warge chose to be friendly with Dwarves and Hobbits?

Bilbo gave it up to mull that one over and shrugged it off for the now. To think about that hurt his poor head too much. Turning back to tend to his own little furball, he addressed his friends in a rather down to earth tone that had all of them give him shocked looks in return.

“Well, congratulations for acquiring your own Wargs, Fili and Kili. Seems those two are awfully set on it to keep you, if you don’t mind me saying so.”

This stopped Kili from his rather pathetic wrestling with the amused one eyed female and Fili from picking more debris out of the black fur under his hands in a second only to gape at Bilbo in stun.

It was also the sight that greeted the poor Thorin when he finally reached the clearing just in time to hear Bilbo’s little speech.

“They, Did, WHAT?!?”

‘Oh’, the female thought amused, ‘look what is strolling in here to make the entire debacle complete! So, here was the blasted heir of Durin hiding all the time, eh’? ‘Now, this is slowly getting really interesting, I wonder how long Azog will need to find out that his elusive Dwarrow King is in the shire’. She gave the fuming King a sly look then she insolently licked Kili all over the face what had him sputter, rub at his wet face furiously and curse her and had Thorin grab for his sword with a thunderous growl that even impressed her a little.

She watched him with one laughing eye when the other Dwarrow’s rushed over to intercept him.

‘I knew that I had smelled that scent on those two brats before! I wonder how near those three are related to each other... oh well, now I really think I will stay for a while with this young one. The boy is amusing me to no ends with his antics and that Dwarrow King is proving to become more hilarious in the future with that temper of his, that’s for sure!’

It took all the strength that Balin, Dwalin and Dangor had to stop a fuming Thorin from charging the beasts that impertinently curled more possessively around their chosen owners. Until Dorgo had finally enough of Thorin’s struggles and simply flipped the Dwarrow over to the ground to sit on his back to keep him from doing something brainless.

Bilbo, he said nothing to the show, he just shook his head the antics of all of them and instead chose to look at the sky in his futile hope for the help from the powers that be.

Too bad that they chose not to answer his silent pleas that day…

Hope you liked the chapter, Suryallee

Chapter Text

“No!”

Thomp! The sound of leather meeting flesh carried through the air.

As did the growl that immediately followed.

“No!”

Bilbo watched with a sort of nervous fascination as Fili stomped down on the paw that appeared on his bed for what seemed like the thousandth time that evening.

He did have to admit that both participates of this particular activity were equally stubborn, as the black warg wanted on the young dwarf’s bed and Fili was equally sure that he didn’t want the warg up there. The warg had been taking the abuse with good humor thus far, though he had occasionally snapped at Fili if the stomps had had too much power to them.

They had returned to the Smial in the early afternoon, filthy and tired.

Bilbo’s grandmother had taken one look at the pack and banned them all to the bathhouse until she had gotten them cleaned, groomed and flea free. The alpha female had allowed the scrubbing with grace, actually seeming to enjoy it, but Fili’s warg…had not and the young Dwarf had come out of the encounter with two bites, various scratches, no small amount of bruising and a clean warg.

Soaked to the bone but victorious what in turn made Menace fight him on each step on their way.

However, it appeared that Menace, Fili’s warg, had a dominance problem just like his new owner, which is how the two had would up fighting over bed privileges. Neither was willing to back down or lose face to the other – and they were the only ones that cared, since Kili was ignoring them in favor of grooming Ghost, as he called the alpha female.

Everyone agreed the name was appropriate and she seemed to be of the same opinion, looking pleased with herself and listening when Kili used it. She hadn’t left Kili’s side since the clearing, something that was driving Thorin to distraction. He’d already thrown what amounted to a massive temper tantrum back in the clearing when it became clear that the only way to separate the wargs from his nephews was by killing them.

Bilbo sighed wearily.

Currently, Ghost was lying next to Kili, her head in his lap, as he combed the tangles out of her fur. The occasional curses appeared only when the young dwarf encountered a particularly stubborn knot. Bilbo would have offered to help, but he had already detangled Fang’s fur and wasn’t particularly in the mood to move. Besides, Dwalin was next to Kili, cursing enough to turn the air around him blue.

His Warg was a young female with black fur that had scared off Dwalin’s pony when he had tried to mount it, leaving him no choice but to ride her back to the Smial, keeping pace with the other two wargs. Her name, as it turned out, was Swift and from what they had seen, she lived up to the name; stunned Dwalin had barely been able to hang on during the ride back and once it became clear that Swift wasn’t leaving, had agreed to make her presentable.
Grumbling in his beard that she looked like an old frizzled broom and that that would not do.

Which had turned out to be a bigger task than anticipated because her fur was full of tangles and snarls that stubbornly refused to unravel even under the force of a steel brush! Kili had already used up two bottles of oil to get the worst snarls out of Ghost’s. Bilbo was sure that she had never before seen a comb or brush in her entire life and idly asked himself what orcs did the entire day when not pillaging hapless villages and poor travelers.
Fang was currently taking a nap in his arms. His injuries had been tended to and now the pup was tired out.

“No!”
“Growl!”
There went Fili and Menace again.

Bilbo shook his head and chose to not get involved, curling up with the young warg and quickly falling asleep as Ghost looked on with a fond look in her eyes. He took a good care of her pup. The large female turned to study the Dwarf king, who had taken up vigil next to Dwalin and spent most of his time glaring at her and Menace. Surprisingly, he was ignoring Swift for the most part but Ghost suspected that was because the two young ones were his kin.

She couldn’t resist giving him a toothy grin just to hear the Khuzdul curses that streamed from his lips.

She went back to gnawing at Kili’s left foot, continuing until he yelped and kicked at her. He was strong, stubborn and agile from what she had observed and, unlike Azog, actually took care of her. Actually, when she thought about it, none of her former riders had taken care of her. She wasn’t used to riders that would take the time to clean and care for their mounts.

It…endeared him to her.

From what else she had seen, the young dwarf’s uncle had yet to grasp how smart he could be. True he was a bit flighty, but he was young and that would be tempered out of him with age and then…well, then he would be dangerously cunning. She liked it when her riders showed potential.
Over the course of the day, she had watched and seen him scheming, playing tricks; it made her wonder how much more he was capable of when he focused on things not so childish.

For all that he resembled his uncle in looks, Ghost was confident that he would turn out very different since he was free of most of the hate of the older dwarf. That made him more dangerous, if he was able to plan with a clear head and, she turned to face Fili, with his brother to push and counterbalance him, they would grow to be formidable opponents for their enemies. She did wonder where Fili had gotten his calm temper from
Thorin was too prone to loose his temper all the time.

What surely came with the harsh life he had lived and how it had played with him. Kili on the other hand had the time and freedom to experience different things that Thorin, the heir and Thorin the King never had the chance to practice. Kili showed a wicked streak that due time would become something to look out for. Thorin’s nature was straight on the path he had decided to take, his nephew could adapt if needed.

Also, she found Kili more stable in his nature as Thorin. Quick to anger he was, but also equally quick to forgive.

Eying Thorin and than Fili and again the King, Ghost mused about it from whom the blond had his unruffled temper from. Not from Thorin, whose tempers, as far as she could tell, ran hot and quick before fading into glowing embers of resentment. What she had seen of the lad during the fight was cool and calculating, planning ahead while keeping an eye out for his brother’s more spontaneous actions. He never lost the oversight or any of his enemies out of sight.

Fili seems to have an unusual tolerance for a dwarf.

She had the feeling that it took time to raise Fili’s temper to its true potential. But once there…. Well, what would happen than wouldn’t be pretty for sure! Because Fili’s way to deal with such seemed to be the ugly sort. That sort that would spill blood and guts, not that she complained about that. Count in the dwarvish nature to hold grudges longer than anyone else-- well she for one did not want to end up on his bad side.

Ghost had outlived many, many riders in her life and could usually tell when a rider would last long enough to be worth anything.

These two, provided they survived to full adulthood and potential, would be two of the best warriors her people had faced – though perhaps she should exclude the elves from that. She turned lastly to the young dwobbit who, based on what was obvious to the noses of her and her kin, was the future mate of both dwarves. That would probably prove to be a source of hilarity to them in the future.

All afternoon she had watched him sooth ruffled feathers and deflect attention from things he was trying to hide, all without upsetting anyone overly much.

It was hard to judge on the basis of one afternoon’s observation, but the boy had potential – quiet, clever, polite without being simpering. Good traits for a scholar and mediator. By Melkor! In addition, silent, the brat was so unnaturally silent on his hairy feet! He had managed to astonish her by sneaking up on her and Menace a few times over the day. Unintentionally, of course, or else she would have bitten him already. Thought, it had been fun to watch the dwarf’s jump each time he did that unknowingly to them. She would have to watch him – because he was a joker in the deck and whether that was good or bad had yet to be seen.

In the fight, he had shown an unusual courage.

She would have to see, but she pitied their enemies when the three matured.
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Dwalin didn’t sleep well that night – Swift had followed him to his room and had slept at the foot of his bed, snoring away. Freshly groomed and sporting a braid in her fur that told the other dwarves to leave her alone. She continued that pattern for the next few days and gradually he relaxed, allowing her to help with training, which she turned out to be good at and the two were soon moving in tandem with each other.

Even Thorin had to admit grudgingly that she was doing well, loathe as he was to admit it.

Ghost on the other hand… he hated her.

He knew her, had seen her and the pale orc together in Azanulbizar, and didn’t want her near Kili. He knew that she was baiting him and that he was rising to it, but with the influence that she was having on Kili – the boy was getting worse. He had woken to nearly a hundred frogs making a cacophony in his bedroom and it had taken him nearly the entire morning to catch them all, even with the younger fauntlings help. The brats had the time of their life helping him to catch the blasted beasts.

He still wasn’t sure where Kili had gotten them all!

Thorin growled and stalked from the training area, still seething at his lack of proof against his nephews and their young friend. Who he secretly thought to have helped them with this prank. He was so wrapped up in his anger that he didn’t notice the glance that Fili and Hildifons exchanged behind his back– it hadn’t been Kili behind the latest prank
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Fili was willing to acknowledge that the frog trick had been childish, but his uncle was so wound up recently that he needed to loosen up – his moods were starting to affect everyone else and that, according to his heir, was unacceptable. So if pranking his uncle was the only way to get him to lighten up, that was what he would do!

His angry bellows this morning had been worth it.

The Wargs watched in amusement; it wasn’t often that they got to see dwarfs in a relaxed environment and they were proving to be highly entertaining. Menace growled in glee at the memory of his master and the other hobbit with the bow slipping sack after sack of drugged frogs into the king’s room – not even the noise had taken away from the payoff of seeing Thorin’s face as he ran out of his quarters, still in his night clothes.

The entire household had needed minutes to calm down from all the laughter.

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Kili watched the two co-conspirators exchange looks and shook his head in exasperation; and Fili had the nerve to call his pranks childish! But he ignored that and returned to his behind, frowning. Ghost had told him about her last rider, the Pale orc and some of his plans. Kili had heard of him, having been told of the murder of his uncle, grandfather and great grandfather at the monster’s hands. But how would he tell his uncle, that the orc who would try and end their line was alive?

That he had a son himself?

Kili groaned and rubbed his face before getting up to go to his brother. He needed Fili’s help figuring out what to do!
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Bilbo had slipped out of the Smial without telling anyone to go for a walk with his grandfather, to ask him why the forest spirit would have given him the Warg pup.

Gerontius Took was known for his wisdom, but Bilbo had been able to tell he was surprised. But his grandfather had guessed that she had wanted Bilbo to give the pup a chance it wouldn’t have had with the Orcs. It was in short what Bilbo had thought too. They used the rest of the morning hours to walk a bit around mostly in silence with Fang running around them in cycles. Occasionally the old Took told his grandson a bit of his own travels or about pranks of his uncles and aunts. It was a wonderful way for Bilbo to spend his time.

His grandfather was now 130 years old. An immense age for a hobbit. He had already outlived the oldest known in history by more than ten years. Since last year the old hobbit had become brittle and spry, he truly looked his age nowadays. The dwarves that met him had taken to bow when he walked by. A show of respect due his age, Fili had called it.

It pleased the old Took immensely from what Bilbo could tell.

It wasn’t much likely that he would life for much longer and Bilbo was grateful for any time that he could spend with him. he feared the day his beloved grandfather would not wake again. He slept more in the last years. Sometimes the old hobbit forgot things in the late.

It were harmless things like names or dates but all taken together a sure sign that he was on the end of his life. It made Bilbo infinitely sad to have to acknowledge that fact of life. Gerontius was still as shrewd and wise as ever when he was sitting with Isengrim in court, but privately, the old Took often now forgot the many names of his numberless relatives besides the ones most dear to him.

Bilbo swore to himself to walk with him more often.

Swift had broken off from training with Dwalin to follow the two, since Dwalin didn’t feel comfortable leaving his nephew on his own, not trusting the dwobbit to keep out of trouble.

Swift thought it was both endearing and amusing.

Dwalin once being told that from Ghost, had a fit in the courtyard.
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Just outside the Shire’s boundaries, the first snowstorm of the year roared into Bree and the surrounding countryside.

Azog, his mood already foul because of the abandonment of his Warg, grew even angrier, lashing out at every orc that came within reach. The river was still not frozen enough to make it into the Shire and his men were growing even more nervous as more rumors about the hobbits reached their ears. The wild men and easterlings, already nervous because they were working with orcs, had abandoned them two nights ago.

And Bolg could not come as planed. The northern men made him troubles that kept him in Gundabad.

What Azog couldn’t know was that Thorin was getting ready to leave in order to gather the rest of his people and lead them back to their new homes and that the remaining dwarves together with the hobbits had begun to build up barricades to prevent the anticipated invasion in an astonishing speed.
In Buckland, the fortifications had only to be strengthened and in the Took Smial’s this was the same.

The old Took had already years ago seen to that being done. Never being one to wait for the trouble to reach him, he had taken preventive measures when he had reached one hundred. Because of that, the Took Smial's now were one of the best secured places in the Shire. The wall around the heart of their family stronghold nearly ten meters high and two meters wide. The outer side was kept constantly wet with oil to prevent climbing up and Isengrim had added a water ring around it in the last fife years.

Having learned on his adventurous years that orcs were no good swimmers by nature.
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Gandalf was also watching the Brandywine river, concerned for what would take place once it froze over. He turned his horse away towards the North, where Argonui and his kin lived. The dwarves and hobbits would need all the allies that they could get and the rangers were just the people for the job.
He had hoped to remain in the area longer, in order to learn more about Belladonna’s young son – the boy had caught his interest and he wanted more time to evaluate him. Him and all of the other young dwobbits that had been hidden beneath his nose this entire time!

On his side hung a small knife, made by Seradon Goold.

Sure, it looked not like much, was rather plain in build and missed any kind of décor but for its simple looks it was uncommonly sharp and balanced! He had been stunned to see the tween make such good works in such a short time under Agmar’s tutelage. The last smith of such a shown talent in such a young age Gandalf had seen had been the unfortunate Celebrimbor.

He had also noticed it to have an odd effect when he rode down to the river to look at the building ice packs on it.

It had glowed blue, yes glowed! Faintly a blue glow had emanated from the blade until Gandalf had noticed it and had taken it out to look surprised down upon it. He knew such an effect only on Elven blades of the old times. Never before had he witnessed another smith as theirs forge blades like those again.

Once he came back, he had to ask the boy how he had managed it!
Because as soon he had noticed the brightly glowing warning, he had spied orks on the other riverside.

He shook the thought off for later evaluation and hurried to get to the Numorian settlements in the North.
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Bilbo watched as Thorin paced the courtyard, agitation clear in every movement that he made and pale as a wall. Bilbo slowly made his way over to Fili and Kili and the three watched in silence as the king’s pony was brought to him and he rode off hastily.

“What in the name of Yavanna happened?”

It was Kili who told him about Azog and else that Ghost had been able to tell him and the three stayed in the courtyard as other ponies were brought and messengers dispatched to warn the other heads of the families while the Dwarves released the ravens to carry warnings and messages to their counterparts in the mountains.

One falcon was also dispatched.

It took straight route to the misty mountains to the house of Elrond. Gerontius watched this with old eyes, pleased on the foresight shown by his heir. They would need every help they could get in the next weeks. His old bones were a sure indicator for the weather for the old hobbit and they told him of more cold, snow and ice in the days to come.

He somehow had the feeling that he would not live to see the new years celebrations…

It wasn’t that Gerontius had much to complain here, the lady had granted him a longer life as any hobbit before him. But he would Not die in his bed if he could help it! Exchanging a knowing look with his ever faithful wife, the two old hobbits nodded to each other shortly before she turned and went soundlessly into the Smial.

He had one card left in his pocket, one that not even Gandalf knew about.

He had stumbled over the creature by sheer accident on his youth time wanderings. It had been so thin, looking almost like a goblin itself but once, once it had been a hobbit, he had been sure. He had buried the mangled body he had found when he had been hiding from the goblins and had gone home with many questions in his mind. When back, Gerontius had buried himself in his office for months. Looking through all the family trees of the Shire for missing hobbits.

He finally had found a clue nearly a year later.

The name of the poor chap was Sméagol and according to the records he had to have been around three fucking hundred years old when he had found him dying in that dang place! The story around the item in the hidden drawer in his mantelpiece of his bedroom fireplace had been harder to find out.
It had stroke him odd that such a little thing had such a power over the other hobbit that it had prolonged his life for such a long time!

He had right away thought it to be one of the old rings of power, being a learned hobbit himself and having been told of the old stories and histories. He had only not been certain which one it was that Sméagol had found in the river. Gerontius found the answer nearly a full century later. Again, by sheer accident he listened the tale of Isildur one evening of his last visit in Rivendell and suddenly all had come together. He had told no one, had kept it secret and had only talked about his finds with his wife.

Ever since, the old hobbits had mused what to do with the accursed ring.

He was certain; somehow the blasted gold band was responsible for the orks now coming here. Even if they did not realize this themselves. It wanted a new master, one that it could manipulate and that would not simply put it into a hiding place and forget about it.

But Gerontius would wreck that plan of the cursed ring of Sauron.

He had already a plan himself to prevent any ork or man from finding that thing. Giving Bilbo and the two nephews of Thorin Oakenshield a guarded look he went inside too to join his wife in scheming. As it looked, he had found right the right ones for his mad plan. He did no longer trust anyone besides his chosen to see it done. To great was the taint in the races, to strong the greed, hate and violence that thing thrived off of. No, Gerontius thought, it was better to keep it hush, hush and done in utter silence.

Now, the only question now was, how to get them to do what he wanted them and two of his children to do…
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As the messengers passed the Old Forest the spirits watched them with interest. They had been following the events of the last few days with interest – it was not often that wargs chose to ride with the Stone Children. When the group rode out of sight, one of the spirits detached themselves from the tree and followed.

A group of her kin did the same, just as curious and just as concerned for their descendants. The orcs were a threat that they could not take on, even with the help of the Stone Children. But they would help fight the orcs and no one would ever forget what happened to those who dared to harm Yavanna’s Children!
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Bilbo had felt the change in the air as their party rode along the borders of Forest and guessed that they were being watched by the Fey. He didn’t say anything then, but reminded himself to tell Hildifons when they reached their destination.

Unbeknownst to Bilbo, the older Hobbit had also noticed the shift in the air and surmised that it was the Fey at work.

The Dryads followed them all the way back to Hobbiton before dispersing throughout the Shire. That night, many of the trees that had long slept came awake and began to walk as the Huorns of old had. Thorny vines sprouted and grew to mature height as the Hobbits slept, twisting and turning around fences and rocks.

Coated in a greenish slime that was harmless for the gentle folk and the children of aule but was deadly for every one else.

The marshes came awake when the animals felt an urge to wander, pacing the river with watchful eyes. These worms rarely stirred themselves but now, now they hungered – though not for those that lived within the Shire.

The old spirit watched all this with grim satisfaction, her normally welcoming face a mask of cold rage. She remembered the last days of Melkor and of the atrocities committed by his children; she remembered the uselessness of the Maia then and expected no different now, for all his claims to be going for help, Olorin was alone in his tries and his motives rarely played out without losses. She didn’t trust the Old Ones across the seas nor their servants here, especially the one known as Saruman.

What wasn’t even his true name, that was Curunir.

He was too power hungry and had always been haughty, but those traits seemed to have begun to grow as of late. She hoped that the Ents would keep a close eye on him, to try to find the evil that seemed to follow in his wake.

She turned away from river and back to the Hobbits and the Stone Children that had caught her eye – the two races never ceased to amuse her, with their awkwardness. Especially the young triad that had appeared. The younger spirits had taken to going ahead and easing their way through the forest, as they seemed so clumsy without their caves of rock around them. The one with the funny hat also amused her to no ends. She chuckled softly to herself and then blinked as the one with an axe in his head turned her way.
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Bifur had spotted her on his way to the still being constructed fortification of Hobbiton. He had turned back the way he had come and…what type of creature was she anyway? He watched her as she observed the young ones and saw her move a tree root out of the youngest Durin’s way. right after that she rescued his brainless younger cousin Bofur from running into a low hanging tree branch.

He watched her for a while doing such things.

She must be one of those Fey that the Hobbits had been talking about. She was beautiful though, all greens and browns, reds and gold. When she turned her gaze to him, he sucked in a sharp breath at the centuries that looked back at him from golden eyes.

Inside of him something woke that he had not felt since a long time. The multicolored eyes were hauntingly beautiful and stirred his soul.

He flushed and then bowed deeply to her before walking briskly away, muttering under his breath in Khuzdul. She blinked in surprise; while she had observed him before, this behavior was out of character for him. In all her years, she had seen few survive the injury that he had sustained, a testament of his will to live. No one seeing her had ever turned color, as the children of eru seem so fond of to do… why had he done that? She cocked her head to the side for a moment before following him, her curiosity getting the better of her. All else suddenly forgotten in favor to solve a puzzle out.

If there was one thing that her race was cursed with it, then it was curiosity.
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That evening, Bilbo found himself under the tutelage of Balin, who had begun to teach him Khuzdul.

Balin was pleased to discover that the boy was a quick learner, able to memorize large amounts of the lessons and grasp the language quickly. If Bilbo kept at the pace he was currently moving at, he would surpass Ori soon!

Unlike Kili, who struggled with the lessons, or Fili, who was doodling on the parchment next to both.

Balin knew that Fili had the needed talent, he just lacked the drive. So Balin flicked a pebble at his wayward student, hitting him right in the center of the forehead with a centuries practiced ease. Which caused Kili to snicker as Bilbo rubbed at the spot between his eyes in exasperation.
Bedtime was interesting, as sorting out who slept where had taken some effort.

Ghost had upstaged Menace, who had tried (unsuccessfully) to displace Fili from his bed and Fang had howled his displeasure when Bilbo had stuck him in a basket. Sure, it was a nice and cozy basket, had even a cushion and a blanket and was sort of warm feeling and he had snatched a shirt from Bilbo and hidden it under the cushion too, but it wasn’t Bilbo’s bed!

Ghost had finally growled them into submission, but none of the three boys thought that this was the last time that this would happen.

Bilbo had finally managed to crawl into bed after returning Fang to his basket (the pup had taken advantage of Fili and Menace’s fight to sneak back into Bilbo’s bed), but sleep eluded him. he turned left, he turned right. Onto his stomach and than on his bed… nothing helped. Fili and Kili, judging by their snores, weren’t having this problem. Two hours later, when Fili got up to piss, Bilbo was still tossing and turning restlessly.

When Fili returned, he frowned at the Dwobbit. “Why aren’t you asleep?”

Bilbo sat up and shrugged. “I don’t have a clue.” His irritated tone told Fili exactly what he thought of that before Bilbo laid back down, facing the wall. Bilbo was unprepared for Fili to shove him over and settle into the bed next to him, ignoring his complaints, and tug him close. “Sleep, Bilbo. I don’t know what is keeping you awake, but Kili always sleep better if we shared a bed.”

Bilbo finally settled, Fili’s scent calming him; the prince smelled of stone and forest, of wind and wild things, a combination that soothed Bilbo and allowed him to drift to sleep. Fili smoothed out Bilbo’s hair, resisting the urge to braid it into a courting braid. Neither Bilbo or Kili was of age, so for now he would have to be content to be near them. It amused him that he seem to work for Bilbo the same way he always did for Kili when he was this restless. What was it that made these two fall asleep once he was near? Shrugging the amusing dilemma off, he closed his eyes.

Fili soon drifted off as well, his arms tightening possessively around Bilbo in his sleep.

When Kili woke for his run to the lavatory, he stopped short at the sight of the two before heading to the bathroom, contemplating why he wasn’t as jealous as he thought he would have been.

It hit him on the walk back and he sat on the edge of the bed, studying the Hobbit, as he examined his feelings. Why he felt so at ease with Bilbo and sought him out when he would normally only seek Fili? He wondered if that was what Fili had been discussing with their uncle lately and grinned. He grabbed his own pillow and made his way over to the bed, before he slipped into the open space between wall and hobbit and settled in, ignoring Fili and Bilbo’s sleepy grumbles.

And then, feeling utterly complete for the first time in his life, Kili drifted off to sleep, the scents of his Two following him into his dreams.
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Outside, the snow began to fall from the sky and cover the Shire in a white blanket that glittered under the moon.

The old Dryad watched, knowing that it wouldn’t be much longer, and settled down to rest. Her resting tree just outside the Smial of the Ur clan.

Inside, Bifur watched this from his bed. Out of a point he did not understand the dryad had followed him around for the entire day. Not that he complained about it, oh no. she never spoke and just looked curiously on whatever he did. Always hidden from the sights of the most in the plants around him. ending his carving Bifur put his work sheet away and blew out the night candle next to his bed.

He needed no light besides the moon to see clearly in the night.

The figurine was a lovely rendering of the dryad and was held on tightly for the entire night.

That night, the first thin sheet of ice covered the river and Azog felt satisfaction curl in his stomach. The ice was still too weak to cross, but it was only a matter of time now.

Suryallee

Chapter Text

Part eleven ; The calm before the storm
‘thoughts,’ * Iglishmêk*

A few days later, Gerontius Took left his rooms quietly, slipping out into the cold winter air with a small sack of essential items. He needed to put his plan into motion and it would be better if no one noticed he was missing for a bit. Luckily, he was already at Farmer Maggot’s fields by the time anyone noticed that he was gone… along with Fang.

Ghost immediately headed out after her wayward cub, barely pausing to toss both Kili and Bilbo onto her back when they attempted to get in her way. Fili had had a bit more sense and jumped on Menace’s back, determined to follow his brother, but that left Hildifons standing the yard staring after them in shock. At least until he jumped into action, gathering some supplies and having one of the youngsters saddle the fastest pony in the small stable.
Bifur had joined him, helping him pack and armed with his now infamous boar spear, for which Hildifons was grateful. He was not a pleased to see Lady Dis join them, armed to the teeth and cursing both her sons and Bilbo under her breath.

“What was he thinking?”

She glared at Hildifons, who gave her a strained smile in return. “I’m not sure milady – all the elders tend to be close mouthed until they want something done! Then you’d better hop to it immediately.”

The small group set up as the shadows of twilight lengthened over the land, Hildifons in the lead, since he was the one that knew the land best and could also clear a path for the two Dwarves, who were not used to riding in snow.

None of them noticed the Dryad following them. The old spirit had always sensed a great evil hidden in the old hobbit’s hands, but he had done well hiding it from her sight and she had often wondered at the true nature of whatever he had hidden. Perhaps he was now planning to get rid of it. She drifted to the northwest until she had caught up with the old being. She watched him until she was satisfied before returning to the rest of them. She thought she had the measure of him and his plans now.

Three days later, they were far to the north, Gerontius and Fang making a game of sneaking past the groups of Orcs that swarmed the land. Gerontius’ pony was an older mare that was too calm to allow the oddities of her rider and his companion to bother her and Fang was too young to truly be wary. He did miss his mother and Bilbo, but the old hobbit had promised that they would catch up with them soon.

Gerontius took care to make sure the pup was safe and warm. He had a clear plan in his mind and did his best to force his old bones to comply with his wishes; he had to destroy the ring, even if the method he’d chosen wasn’t completely foolproof. But the idea – formed years ago when he had stumbled across it in his research.

As they rode, his mind drifted back to the last time he had rode this trail, nearly twenty seasons ago. At least he thought that – his mind was growing old and the memories became faded and would often desert him.

As he admired the stars that glowed in the crisp night air, he took another of the many pills that he been taking since he left the Shire, but the need to destroy the ring was greater than the effects the pills would have and the further he travelled, the less likely it was that he would turn back or that the others would even catch up with him.

He could already feel the gaze of the ones the ones that he sought to avoid, searching for the ring, but the box – made of six layers of iron and Dwarven steel – hid it from their sight, concealed also by the runes carved inside and out. For twenty years they had done their job, but Gerontius was taking no more chances; not with the increasing darkness.

He steered the mare towards a trail in the mountain that not even the elves knew of. Only Durin and his hobbit wife had known of the trail – Gerontius wondered if the Dwarves even remembered the wife of their first king – and had passed that secret on to her descendants.

He himself only knew from his search through ancient records as he searched for the identity of the one known as Gollum. The scroll had been old, rotting on a shelf in the deepest tunnels of the Great Smial. The shelf in a room behind a door that could only be opened with blood – he assumed Hobbit blood, but had never tested his theory; too many secrets were concealed in that room to risk it.

His wife, Adamanta, had helped him to organize and it had been she that had suggested he look to the Dwarves – after all, had not his own ancestor been a Dwarf? Their son Hildifons was living proof of that, with a thick beard that was one of a kind among the smooth faced Hobbits.

Gerontius chuckled softly at the memory of his lively son coming crying to him because some of the other lads had teased him for his wispy beard.
Those times were long gone now.

Hildifons was grown now, secure in his position as a Bounder and as a Took, the teasing of the other Hobbits fading as he grew into himself, amassing more muscle than was usual with Hobbits and, like Bilbo, inheriting night sight, not to mention a love of bow and arrows. Gerontius was extremely proud of his son and who he had grown into – and if he didn’t miss his guess, the Lady Dis had noticed his son as well.
Unbeknownst to him, the ball of metal in his pocket shone softly with malice.

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Azog turned unruly in his sleep. Troubled from strange dreams of prophetic nature.
A ring. A Hobbit, travelling alone in the shadow of the mountains looming behind him. The Ring.
Azog was yelling for an escort before his eyes were even open and they were saddled up and ready to ride within a half hour, leaving his captains with instructions to invade the Shire the moment that the ice was thick enough to carry them. He himself turned towards the mountains, convinced that the dream was from their Lord.

In his hurry to make it to the old Hobbit and the power that he carried, Azog failed to plan and failed to send messages to his son and his allies for the first time in his life….

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“There! I can see the lads. Mahal be praised! They seem to be in one piece and healthy.”

Hildifons refrained from mentioning that he had spotted the lads earlier, not wanting Dis to take her attention off of the spot in the distance and turn it on him. Bifur chuckled darkly at the wary glance he’d seen the Hobbit send the Dwarrowdam and got a glare in return, not that it bothered him. The last three days of watching the two temperamental beings circle each other like angry wargs had given him a bit of an immunity, so long as he stayed out of their way he was safe.

After the first clash, the two had settled into an uneasy truce that had morphed into a grudging mutual appreciation of each other.
Hildifons had even taken it upon himself to teach her how to read the stars and a map, something not even Balin had been able to accomplish. Surprisingly, he had managed it and she now was at least able to give basic navigation.

Bifur couldn’t wait to see the look on Thorin’s face when her brother found out!

Dis ignored the both of them and urged her pony on to catch up with her sons and their mate to be. She was going to tan their sorry hides when she got ahold of them! No provisions, no supplies, no money! What had they been thinking, coming into the mountains like that?

Kili called the group to a halt when he spotted his mother in the distance; it was nearly night and it would be better to stop now since not even Ghost was familiar with this path, something that made her uneasy. That and the fact that the only smells on the path were that of the old Hobbit and his companions. Not even game used this trail. Fili dismounted and helped Bilbo start a fire.

Bilbo recognized the signs of his ancestors; an unusual tree growing in an odd way, a stone that told nothing to Fili or Kili, but a story to Bilbo. Hildifons had also noticed the signs, making note of them as well.

Hobbits seem to use the very landscape in their navigation of the wilds.

Fili had noticed that the trail had not been used for years; the pathway was often overgrown or blocked entirely by rockslides that they had had to navigate around. At times the path had seemed to flow in the pattern of a stream and Bilbo had suggested that the spring runoff also followed the trail. But spring was a long way off and the nights were cold, something that he and Kili could endure much better than Bilbo, who they worried would grow ill. But Bilbo had refused to turn back until they had caught up with his grandfather and pup.

The last nights, they had slept in a heap with the wargs around them to keep them warm.

As Fili unloaded what little supplies they had managed to grab, he thought about the moment that his mother and her companions would catch up with them, something he was not looking forward to. A glance at the sky had him grimacing – snow was coming, too early and, judging by the clouds, too much of it.

Unbeknownst to him, Hildifons had come to the same conclusion.

“We have to hurry! There is another blizzard coming! Dis! Get closer to Bifur and me or you will lose sight of us.” He managed to scream out to the others over the wind and all three tried to get their tired ponies to move quicker. Hildifons could see that the boys had managed to find shelter further up the mountain and were choosing to wait out the storm, something that cheered him up, if only a little.

Behind him he could hear the Dwarrowdam curse in her beard.

But she did what he told her and that was what counted. She had a lovely temper, that one. He sniggered in his own beard and sure enough, her fist made soon contact with his head. “OW!” Hildifons rubbed the sore spot her fist had left as he glared at Dis who was scowling at him unrepentantly.
“Don’t laugh at me, you slimy fox!” The rueful grin of the hobbit melted her scowl a little. “Couldn’t help it, my lovely, you look too beautiful when you are enraged!” He chirped impudently back at her. Her curses when she followed him closely were music to Hildifons’ ears.

He had always adored spirited woman and that Dis was rather beautiful was an added bonus in his eyes. He loved to rill up the Dwarrowdam and to rub her the wrong way. She was so endearingly entertaining when she was mad!

She wasn’t simply angry, she was livid!

The nerve of that three times damned and to Mahal cursed hobbit. Secretly she enjoyed the merry chase though the snowy path. The bounder hobbit was one of a kind for sure! Not even her long gone mate had been this reckless! She had missed this. Missed to have someone to nag on and to tease her when she needed an outlet.

Hildifons provided her easily with both in the infuriating manner of his since she had gotten to know the sly hobbit.

He was an absolute madcap, a hopeless cause and worst of all, he seemed to not only know it but revel in it! He made no secret out of it either. Like her former mate he was one of those who would flirt with Mandos’s wife to rill him up, given the chance. Shaking her head she tossed the thought aside in favor of hitting him over the head.

His red blond curls were longer than an average hobbit’s and they tumbled down his broad back in a river of molten fire in the right light. She could admire the beauty of the hair another time she chastised herself when the accursed Hobbit managed to duck out from under her fist with a broad grin that had her spitting out curses once again. His green eyes clearly laughed at her and Dis couldn’t help it to grin back when she pursued his fleeing form again.

Bifur reined their pack ponies in and followed the mad duo in a more sedate pace while filling his pipe and lighting it. Still chuckling from time to time. Signing lazily away all the while he rode.

*Those two are nuts!*

Besides Bifur and his pony, the figure of the old Dryad melted out of the thicker growing snowfall soundlessly. She just nodded calmly. Her hands made quick gestures of their own that caused Bifur to nearly fall off his pony.

*For each other!*

He had gotten to know the wood spirit over the course of the journey, gaining enjoyment from her pointed remarks and somewhat macabre sense of humor. She seemed to understand him easily enough, something that was a rare thing since his injury and a pleasure that he intended to enjoy as long as possible. She had explained to him that she had seen his ancestors use Iglishmêk and the forms had stuck with her.

He was humbled by the thought that she had chosen him to strike up a friendship with, out of all of the beings that she had to have seen over the course of her life and he wondered at the tales that she could probably spin were she ever so inclined.

*If they keep that pace up, aye. It is a possibility. They certainly reek of hidden want *

His comment had her shaking her head and giving him and even look before she winked.

*She already has two troublesome seedlings to call her own. I am loathe to imagine offspring between those two. It would only be another troublemaker and Arda would never be the same! Even Mandos would fear the day he would have to take such a child born to them into his halls.*

Hildifons and Dis didn’t seem to notice the older Dwarf’s unusual companion, but Bilbo did, frowning as he saw the two signing together.

Fili had noticed as well, but what he saw of the conversation had him sputtering and giving his mother a wide eyed look. He was still out of sorts when Dis and Hildifons reached the group, so the two looked at him in concern rather as anger. At least until he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“Amad, are you really pregnant and planning to marry that crazy Hobbit?!!”

The following ruckus drowned out any other sound for hours.

Chapter Text

Fili grumbled under his breath as he rubbed at his ears and glared at the fire. His ears were still ringing from all of the yelling that his Amad had done once she had recovered from her shock over his outburst. Bilbo was giving him odd looks while Kili – the traitor – was laughing.

The wargs just looked as amused as their kind could look.

Fili felt humiliated, but who could blame him, given what he had overseen Bifur and the Dryad signing about? And once he’d explained that to his mother, she’d turned her wrath on the older Dwarf and tree spirit. He gave the adults that were talking near the cave entrance a wary look – well, the Dryad just appeared to be listening for the moment and Fili wondered if she could even speak at all – she appeared to be content to use Iglishmêk to communicate.
Bilbo was wondering the same from his own spot, having wisely stayed out of the commotion earlier. It honestly wasn’t that much of a stretch to imagine for him – he knew his uncle very well, after all.

He shuddered and moved closer to Fili, trying to erase the sudden mental image. The Dwarf gave him a strange look, but put an arm around Bilbo to tug him closer.

*What has you shaking like that?*

Fili made sure that no one was around to overhear them before whispering the question. Bilbo shifted until his mouth was touching Fili’s ear, the answer barely more than a breath. It had Fili shudder delicately for a moment. Kili watched them for a moment, taking in the way that Fili made a face before groaning. He moved to sit on Bilbo’s other side, not wanting to miss out on the conversation.

*You can’t be serious, Bilbo! They cannot be that close already.*

Fili gave Bilbo a pleading look that fell of his face right away again when seeing the Dwobbit nod. Fili groaned again. *You mean to tell me that I wasn’t as far off as I thought?!* Again, Bilbo opted to nod.

“Damn!”

Kili butted in with that as he and Fili exchanged looks of utter horror. The Wargs let out a huff of laughter; they’d known this was coming and heartily approved. Any offspring that resulted would only be sure to be interesting. Menace and Ghost were content to watch the drama unfold; the Orcs hadn’t been anywhere this amusing.

Ghost turned away from the young ones to give the Dryad a cautious look and tired not to feel threatened.

But it was so old and it made her fur stand up. She wasn’t sure how Bifur could stand to be near it – her – especially when she smelled so wrong, like a tree mixed with old magic. Menace had taken his cues from her and was also wary, not wanting his rider anywhere near her. The blond haired Dwarf was too trusting as was the Hobbit.

The wargs watched the young ones curl together under a blanket to get some rest before they joined them, the three Wargs surrounding them.
Scar, the young female, growled something under her breath. Menace ignored her – she was smart, able to growl out a few words of man speech, but had her mother’s temper and aggressiveness. What had gotten her the big scar that run over her snout from one side to the other and so, her name. She was also one of the few that had refused to claim a rider among the Dwarves or Hobbits as the rest of the pack had done.

Menace doubted she would return to the Orcs, but she might not chose a rider at all. It happened, if rarely.

The Dryad watched them from the entrance of the cave, her amusement hidden from her companions. She remembered them from before – one of them, the male, she thought – had nearly managed to kill her. Not that she was going to mention that to him. He would only get stronger as she faded into dust alongside the old Alpha female. She shook her head to will away such thoughts before turning back to the arguing Dwarves and casting her roots out in search of the old Hobbit that they had come looking for.

She found him settling in for the night, the journey finally catching up with him and she could sense the toll that they pills were taking on his body. She wept for her descendant and slowly faded into the foliage surrounding the camp, determined to go to him.

It was easy enough for her to reach him and it was a mark of how tired he was that he didn’t even look up from his fire to acknowledge her presence. She sat next to him, running a soothing hand over Fang’s fur as the little one bombarded her with questions about the others.

“Sleep, I will watch over you, little one.”

As though he was waiting for her permission Gerontius sighed and did as he was told, the sounds of the wind in the trees and the earth itself singing him to sleep. His dreams that night were of happier times before the ring had started to taint everything.

The ring itself was silent, biding its time until it was out of the presence of Yavanna’s child. It would not risk discovery now. Not when it was so close to being free.

The Dryad sighed and continued to watch over her sister’s son. One of many and with so many descendants between them now, but she couldn’t leave them alone. Gerontius especially. He had a wanderer’s soul and was so different from the rest of his people that she sometimes worried he would forget what it was to be a Hobbit.

In his grandchild she could see the best of all three races growing strong. Gerontius and Bilbo both also wore the mark of the Valar on their souls. As surprisingly did the Dwarf King and his nephews. She could see it easily. A thought as worrying as it was soothing, for those that had the favor of the gods rarely had happy lives.

They did great deeds and were remembered, but always paid a dear price.

Beren and his Luthien had been the best examples of how such could go while such as the unfortunate Thurin were prime examples how high a price could be, one normally had to pay for being a champion of the gods.

She had seen numberless examples for the latter in her long life.

One that had always stayed in her memory had been the sad child of Feanor, the one that they now called the singer. She knew that his fea was long gone from this side of Arda. As was that of another songbird, the one of Doriath. She had seen both die and still mourned the poor souls of the two greatest singers of Arda marred.

Never again had she witnessed such glorious voices. Neither had the Valar, she knew all too well.

Absentmindedly she put new wood to the fire, not even flinching when she grew a branch and broke it off to place in the fire. For her, it was nothing to do so. She took what she needed to live from the very earth itself.

Her sister had later taken to eat, like her husband.

The old one had never understood that. She still did not, not really. Growing some fruits that would lessen the side effects of his pills for a while she pulled them from her hair and laid them down next to the sleeping Gerontius. He would recognize them for what they were in the morn. She let her mind travel to other places while she sat silently like a sentinel next to him for the rest of the night. Contemplating a many things in her ancient mind that many mortals would not have understood even if being told to them.

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Leagues away, the first wave of Orcs set across the river, only to realize that this time, there would be no easy plunder.

An abandoned settlement infested with horrific, poisonous wormlike creatures that ate their way through the Orc ranks. Brambles and vines that seemed to have a life of their own and attacked the army. Hedges that grew so quickly that they engulfed whole groups. Animals that appeared to have been infected with a berserker rage and attacked.

The most of the Orcs’ Human allies had long since turned back by the time that the army had made it to the first settlement in the wee hours of the morning. Well, what was left of it. A full third of the army lay scattered between the boundaries of the Shire and where they ended up. The commanders had shrugged and killed all those that couldn’t move under their own power. More plunder for them, is what they had thought. At least until they saw it.

A wall.

Not a picket fence like those around the little gardens they had passed or the more sturdy split log fences. This was a fortified wall, built with strong wood, reinforced with stone and manned by Hobbits with weapons. The Orcs moved around Michel Delving, hoping for easier pickings elsewhere, but the next settlement also had a wall.

And the one after.

It wasn’t until the next day that the Orcs finally had had enough and made a desperate run on Hobbiton that they faced the second defense of the Shire: the Dwarves. The battle hardened warriors were more than a match for the Orcs and the fighting was fierce. But the next day, the Orcs driven off, the toll was heavy – nearly four hundred Hobbits and Dwarves were dead.

The Orcs had lost another third of their own forces, but that was cold comfort to the defenders as they surveyed the damage left behind, the light dusting of snow making the entire scene more surreal and horrifying.

Thorin had arrived nearly too late to be of aid and now he watched as the Dwarves and Hobbits began to clean up the dead and care for the living – the Dwarves moving much more briskly than the Hobbits, who appeared to be in shock. This was the first time in remembered history that they had been set upon and it was clear to Thorin that they were not used to this.

Their faces were masks of horror and all of them had the red eyed, swollen look of those that had been recently crying.

Thorin shook his head before he could be sucked into memories of Azanulbizar and thanked Mahal that his nephews and sister were not here to see this. Kili and Fili were still so young yet and it was a small blessing that Dis was not here to see her own heartache now reflected in Belladonna, who was kneeling in the middle of the square as she cradled her husband’s still form. She was screaming in impotent rage and grief at the heavens, curses with interwoven feverish pleas to please, please return her husband to her.

He knelt next to her to try and bring her away, but she resisted, hurling curses and insults at him and, when that didn’t work, blows. Thorin took them all without comment until she collapsed against him sobbing. He held her close and rocked her a little. This was not the first time that he had pulled a grieving widow away from her husband’s body.

He fully ignored the black eye that begun to form and rocket her back and fort in his inability to do anything to soother her pain and grief.

Isumbras, Belladonna’s older brother, stood off to the side and let his sister grief wash over him for a moment before hobbling over to where their brother, Isengard had sat down with a pipe. The other man offered it silently and Isumbras took it, wondering only once why the smoke tasted like tears.

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Far away, at the nearly other side of the Mountains, Gerontius stopped shortly when a cold shudder run down his spine so suddenly that he almost thought he had imagined it. For a moment his eyes turned back the way he had come… then he heaved a heavy sigh and rode on again.

Someone dear to him had died tonight.

Fang’s mournful howls seemed to confirm that and he allowed a few tears to fall. The call was soon echoed by the other wargs in the Mountains, as they too felt the deaths and heard their young packmate’s grief.

Bilbo woke with a gasp from a nightmare – his father’s ghost dissipating as sleep fled from him. Hildifons woke at the same time from his own nightmare of his brother in law’s death and held Bilbo until the Dwarfs awoke hours later. No one suggested they move on and the party was in the same spot when night fell.
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Azog raised his head when he heard the howls carried on the winds. He grinned, mistaking the mourning cries for victory calls, not knowing that what was left of his army was being hunted by Gandalf, Elladan and Elrohir – the twin sons of Elrond - and the Rangers who were under the command of Argonui.

Or that the troops remaining in the Shire had fled into the Old Forest…only to be ripped apart by the enraged Huorns and Fae.

Chapter Text

Part thirteen ; Falling

‘thoughts, Iglishmêk’

*Sign language*

Gerontius cradled his broken arm as he gazed mournfully at the remains of Bramble; the pony had been with him for years, but hadn’t survived the plunge into the crevasse that had suddenly appeared. “We’ve seen better days old girl, haven’t we?” He glanced around and pulled himself to his feet, wincing as pain shot through his arm and torso. The old gentel hobbit had the sudden feeling that he had not much time left on Arda.

But he was inside the mountain, even if it wasn’t in the way that he had intended.

He started to move, skirting around the still form of the Orc that had landed near him, and heading into a tunnel. He needed to find the others before whatever else lived in the mountain did. Fang gave one last growl at the Orc before he followed Gerontius, worried. Old Hobbits were tough, but Fang was sure even a young one would be in a lot of pain right now.

Gerontius tried to ignore the pain by getting his memories of what happened in order.

He had felt someone dear to him die and hoped that it wasn’t his wife or children. But as he headed deeper into the mountain, leaving the trail that his forefathers had used, a massive white Orc had appeared. The Orc and his companions had driven them up the slope of the mountain until they could go no further and were perched on a pile of gravel and loose stone. The Orcs had had no bow but neither had Gerontius, though the Hobbit had had his sling and was able to use the gravel to force the Orc to back down.

Then Hildifons and the others had arrived. Gerontius’ son hadn’t even blinked as he nocked an arrow and let it fly, hitting one of the Orcs in the throat. The scene had devolved into chaos immediately as Kili’s arrows had missed the other Orc, but had caused it to bump into the white Orc’s Warg, sending all four down the slope. That had triggered a landslide and soon everyone was sliding down the side of the mountain.

Only to have the bottom drop out from under them in several places and the mountain seem to swallow them whole.

Gerontius had fallen into the same hole as the white Orc. The Orc had spent the entire fall screaming in the Black Tongue, stopping only when he bounced off various outcroppings. He was silenced entirely when Gerontius landed on him at the bottom.

Gerontius knew that even if the Orc survived the fall he would probably never fully recover.

The old Hobbit glanced down at the pup that followed next to him. The pup had been bundled up with the spare bedding and clothes and so was shielded from most of the bumps that the others had sustained. Gerontius prayed feverishly that his son and grandchild were both still alive as he moved that much further into the mountain, leaving the white Orc lying in a pool of blood.

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“Where in Yavanna’s name are we?” Hildifons got the question out in between curses as he examined himself for injuries. His head throbbed something fierce and he had blood on his hands when he brushed over his temples on both sides. Beside him, Bilbo and Fili sorted themselves out, cataloging their own hurts and scraps; Bilbo had a nasty cut on his arm and Fili’s leg was bruised and bleeding.

Across from them, Bifur blinked, holding something in his hands as blood trickled down his face. Next to him sat the Dryad that had slowed down their fall all the way down with her own body used as a shield. That way they had avoided the worst injuries but she had paid dearly for her help. The Dryad snapped her splintered arm off and then did the same for her leg. Both shattered beyond recognition.

They regrew almost instantly, but no one noticed, their attention focused on Bifur.

“Your… Mahal, your axe head! Let me see!” Dis hurriedly crawled over to him, her eyes wide. “I don’t believe this – the bone must have grown back around the axe head in the last decades.” For the axe had fallen away to reveal healed skin thinly stretched over oddly shaped bone, the only damage the recent cut caused by the fall. “Does anyone still have their packs? I need to bind this. And who else is injured?”

“I have mine, Amad! And a healer’s pack!”

Kili scrambled over to her and she took it from him, giving him a once over as she did. Fili and Bilbo showed her their injuries, but they could be taken care of after Dis had assured herself that Bifur wasn’t going to die now that the axe head was gone. He would forever look odd, what with the strange dent in his skull from where the axe had rested once.

Personally the Dwarrowdam send a prayer to Mahal in thanks for the wonder he had bestowed on Bifur because surely this had come to be by the divine intervention of their maker.

Hildifons however, would need stitches and so as Kili began to tend to his brother and Bilbo, she turned to the bounder, who was attempting to stem the bleeding so that she could work – not an easy feat given that head wounds always bled more than any other.

He had been lucky, even if she would now have to shave off the thick golden curls on the side of his head. Secretly she put the golden curls aside once done, Dis wanted to keep them. He cursed as she finally began to stitch, and she laughed at him, allowing him to curse at her to distract him from the pain.

“Easy with the stitches, you bastard daughter of Morgoth!”

She laughed at him again. “My parentage is secure and undeniably not that of Morgoth – but hold still, this part is tricky. Too near the temples…”

Hildifons acknowledged her words with another grunt of pain, but didn’t move. His new haircut caused the others to stare at him oddly. Dis had shaved off the entire sides since the cuts were deep and long. He would have some interesting scars from this adventure to show of, that was sure.

Fili’s leg was stitched up next, the alcohol that Bilbo poured over his wound causing a scream, but only one before he bit his lip to stifle the screams.

“Seems lady luck loved you more than usual today, boy.” Hildifons was the one doing the actual stitching, since Bilbo’s hands were shaking too hard to be much good and Dis was busy with Kili’s bruised shoulder. “You’ve missed an artery, but only barely.”

By the end, Fili was a mess, tears and snot running down his face, but the leg was stitched and wrapped as well as it could be. Bilbo and Kili held him between them to give moral support. The poor dwarf needed it.

Dis went to the Dryad next, but the tree nymph waved her away. *I am fine, daughter of the stone. Your medicine could not help me anyways. You better fix up that Warg, though.* She indicated Menace as the Warg licked at a wound with a bone sticking out on its paw. Dis narrowed her eyes when the warg growled at her. “You will let me look at the wound, you rotten flea bag.”

Blue and yellow eyes meet in a stare-down for several seconds before the warg carved.

The Warg wisely surrendered to the inevitable and allowed her to clean the wound and set his broken bone. But it was Ghost that had the worst of the wounds. Her side had a gash that ran from shoulder to hipbone and her tail had ripped in two. Some of her fangs were broken and Dis hoped that the old Warg had no internal injuries.

Sure ghost was though but also old… as long as she did not vomit blood in the next hours it was good. If she did, Dis did not think that she could help her.

Scar was the most intact of all of them, not counting the Dryad, which no one was, as they couldn’t just regrow their limbs. Two of the other Wargs were dead. Dis’ ribs were cracked, but she and the Dryad had managed to wrap them as well as they could.

“What now?” Bilbo looked around.

Dis and Hildifons exchanged a glance but didn’t answer. In truth, they had no answer. They were too injured to move far, so Dis managed a tiny fire as Bifur gathered their packs together. Bilbo helped cook them all dinner before they went to bed for the night.

In the end the group stayed for at least two days in the place that they had fallen.

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Azog woke a day after his fall and screamed in rage as he realized he couldn’t move.
The first scavengers found him shortly afterwards.

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“How is she, Thorin?”

Thorin Oakenshield shrugged his tired shoulders at Balin. “I can’t exactly say, but not good, that much is certain.”
Balin closed his eyes and nodded, his suspicious confirmed. Belladonna had done nothing but lay in her bed and cried, nothing but silent tears and soft gasps. She ate, but only because Thorin would force the food down her throat. Somehow, the silent grief was worse for everyone than the mad ravings of the first day.

Thorin was musing on the differences between Belladonna’s and his sister’s ways of mourning when Isengrim burst into her house.

“Thorin! A pocket… of…” he was gasping “invaders….in the mine!”

Thorin was reaching for his sword and armor even as he snapped, “Explain!”

Isengrim jumped and then rushed to tell Thorin what he knew. “It looks like they used the chaos of the first attack to get to some cover. My bounders saw them steal some food and then followed them back to the old cave that Bungo had nowadays called a mine. I won’t risk them escaping and telling whatever they may have discovered. But Hobbits aren’t any good inside of tunnels. That’s something better left to you Dwarves.”

Thorin just nodded in acknowledgement, already turning to Balin and barking orders. “Get your brother here with twenty others. Tell them to bring armor and weapons, along with some mining equipment and enough food for two days. And let him choose at least two that can use a bow!”

Balin nodded and vanished through the back door while Thorin turned back to Isengrim. “How many?”

Isengrim shrugged wearily. “Not sure. Maybe ten, maybe less but not more than fifteen. Lightly armed, almost no armor from what my bounders told me. But taller as the ones we fought.”

Thorin hissed out a curse – even with Dwalin’s men, he didn’t like those odds. He glanced in Belladonna’s room one last time before he headed for the door, stopping only to ask one question. “Any word on the boys?”

Isengrim’s expression was a mask of worry. “My bounders say that they lost the trail near the Misty Mountains; Hildifons’ work, no doubt. But it’s not a good sign that he felt the need to obliterate their tracks so thoroughly. Galvan also found signs of Wargs and their orc riders, though the two did not cross.”

Thorin turned and went out of the smial without another word.

Isengrim watched him go for a moment before he went into his sister’s bedroom to sit with her. She let him hold her hand what gave him a tiny hope that she would life through her ordeal. He stayed through the night and left the smial only to go to Bungo’s funeral with her. The act was done quickly, Bungo and the other fallen laid to rest in the hard earth as best they could be before everyone hurried to begin repairing the damage. There wasn’t time to mourn. Not now.

Dwarrow and hobbits were buried side by side for the first time in history… Isengrim just hoped that it wasn’t a dark sign of bad things to come.

But it wasn’t until after this that Bombur noticed that now Bofur was also missing; Thorin had sent him to the Iron hills to inform Dain of the attack and what Thorin and Dwalin had both noticed. In his haste Thorin forgot to tell Bombur about it. They had noticed that nearly all of the slain Orcs were from Gundabad. Thorin hoped that Dain would use the news and attack the mountain settlement that the Orcs kept. He was sure he would, Dain hated the Gundabad Orcs as much, if not more, than he hated Elves.

Years before the Gundabad Orcs had slain Dain’s sister in an attack.

Bofur, when he was done delivering the message to Dain, would also take the message to the settlement of King Brodi of the Broadbeam’s, who would most likely agree to join Dain to drive the Orcs from the mountains.

But it was Balin who had to calm the frantic Bombur and it was also Balin that had now to listen to Bombur’s wife’s tirade. So it was Balin who was miserable. *You own me big time for this, Thorin!*

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It was as Bofur was racing for the Iron Hills and Thorin was descending into the mines that Gerontius reached the others. Fang had lead him to their hideout.

Worried immensely when he noticed the old Hobbit getting weaker and weaker by the minute on their search.

Gerontius was at the end of his strength and he knew it. The pain in his torso and head had gotten worse in the last hours and unknown to him, he had internal bleedings that were now killing him. He took one last loving look at them before collapsing in a heap in front of a horrified Hildifons and Bilbo.

His sight went dark forever.

“Grandfather? Grandfather!”

Hildifons dropped to his knees next to his father as Bilbo clutched at the older Hobbit. He wrapped his arm around the still form of his father and the other around his wailing nephew. When Gerontius breathing stopped a minute later Hildifons cry of rage and loss rung sharply through the cavern they were in.

“Father? Father, please don't do this to me! NOO!”

The little book fell from Gerontius lifeless fingers into the dirt as the malevolent metal in his pocket practically purred in happiness. It’s stubborn guardian was gone at last.

Not understanding it that its last days had just truly begun.

______________________

Under Moria, in the deepest pits of the old mines, a monster made of unholy fire and smoke and darkness stirred from its slumber.

In the tunnels outside, the skull of a long dead Dwarf clad in elaborate armor grinned cruelly and eternally into the darkness in front of the cave of the sleeping beast. The skeletal hand still firmly wrapped around the hilt of a huge double sided Axe and a shield with an odd sign onto its front lay glinting next to his fallen form.

And a black sphere, laying in a shadowed corner of the tunnel, glowed with an unholy red glow for a moment before it was suddenly cracked in half by a bluish light…

End of chapter.