From Erebor, 2941.
To my sister Dís,
The Mountain is secured.
Fíli and Kíli are doing well.
I am alive.
P.S. Please feed the Raven.
To my cruel, neglectful brother Thorin,
I see that you are as eloquent as ever. I’m so glad that all those lessons in writing and grammar that were taught in your youth have paid off most splendidly. As always, you are a bubbling fount of words and I remain forever in awe at the sheer descriptiveness of your letter. And what a letter it is; written on a torn piece of yellowing scrap paper, tied hastily on the leg of a bedraggled Raven with a piece of broken, dirty twine. It is the most perfect present a sister could receive from her brother after being kept in the dark for a year whilst he runs off into the wilderness on a suicidal mission to slay a dragon. To make matters even better, this very same brother ran off with his sister’s two precious boys who, despite what they say, are entirely too young to be partaking in the same level of madness as their uncle.
It also relieves my heart to know that my children are ‘doing well’, with no further details regarding the injuries they have suffered, the experiences they have endured, how much they have grown…nope! Any mother who hasn’t seen her young boys for a year would be perfectly content with knowing that they are ‘doing well’, because those two words are more than enough to comfort her. So I thank you, dear sweet brother, for such a helpful, beautifully written letter that will, no doubt, put all future letters to shame.
On a separate note, I am glad that you are alive, brother, just so that I have the opportunity to kill you myself if the next letter you send me is as curt as this one. At the very least, send me a Raven who can talk in Common tongue if you are unable to write a proper letter.
Tread carefully. I will come find you if I have to. You will not like that.
By the way, I have fed the Raven and I am keeping him with me so that he may rest. He seemed less than eager to return to Erebor immediately, I can’t imagine why. In return, I am sending my own. Treat her kindly.
Send my love to both of my sons. Why have they not written?
Your most gracious and loving sister,
Thorin’s Hall, 2941.
From Erebor, 2941.
To my sweet and forgiving sister Dís,
I was lying on a cot recovering from grievous battle injuries when I wrote that letter and even then I thought of you. Have a heart!
I spent the last year on the road, getting attacked by all manners of creatures while trying to lead my men to safety and save them from starvation. I had to endure the company of Elves, twice! Both of which were against my will, might I add!
And if that wasn’t enough, I was put in a barrel to escape from imprisonment. A barrel that was subsequently rolled into a river.
As you can no doubt imagine, it is rather hard to send a message under these difficult conditions. Do not think that my silence is out of malicious intent.
I would also like to remind you that you were on board with my plan to reclaim Erebor. It was you who funded most of the expedition from the profit of your “business” (and no, I do not approve of this “business.” I still don’t). You were also the one who decided to surrender Fíli and Kíli to me after being subjected to two weeks of their incessant begging. I believe at the time, you have told me to, and I quote: “Take these demonic hellions out of my sight or so help me, Mahal!” And I gladly obliged.
Your children are whole and hale except for a few minor cuts and bruises. They have shown great bravery and have become fine warriors. Father and Grandfather would have been proud. Other than that, you would be pleased to know that Fíli and Kíli remain virtually unchanged in their personalities. Their spirits have not wavered throughout the journey and I am sad to say that they are still as mischievous as before.
The journey has been trying but we have succeeded. I shall try to be brief to recount the final moments that led up to our victory. The dragon is dead; it was felled by Bard of Esgaroth, an heir to Girion of Dale, when it attacked the town. With Esgaroth destroyed, its inhabitants and their Elven hosts set their sight on Erebor’s treasure to pay for their damages. However, they had not expected to see my Company and me, for we had stolen into the fortress long before they could reach us, and had erected a barricade along the South Gates to keep the intruders at bay. We were at an impasse – I did not see any reason to strike a deal with them and they did not wish to leave with nothing. My friend Master Baggins, a Hobbit-Burglar we had hired at Gandalf’s insistence, tried to prevent the situation from escalating but I am ashamed to admit that I did not see the wisdom of his actions. In my rashness, I had cast him away and for that, I regret deeply. Meanwhile, Dain had answered my call for help to defend our fortress. The Dwarven army from the Iron Mountain arrived in time to face not the armies of Men and Elves like they were expecting, but a surprise attack launched by the Orcs and Goblins from Mount Gundabad instead. We found ourselves unwilling allies with the very same Elves and Men whom we considered as threats just moments ago, but together, we successfully defeated our enemies.
Erebor is our home once again, but it will be a long while before we can truly celebrate, not when we are still reminded of our heavy losses from the dead strewn around our doorstep.
What about you, dear sister? I hope you bring happier news from the Blue Mountains and that you are satisfied by the adequate wordiness of this letter.
I have taken care of your Raven, as you said, though I suspect you have been overfeeding her. I’m fairly sure a bird is not supposed to be this rotund. As for the reason to why I have written in the first place, I’m afraid we are a bit short on Ravens who can speak Common tongue at the moment. The years have not been kind to them and their numbers have dwindled significantly. The ones who remain are helping us with our effort to rebuild Erebor. For now, I hope you will not mind dealing with a regular, non-speaking, note-carrying Raven instead.
This is Fíli, writing in for both Kíli and I. (Hello Mum! It’s Kíli!) How are you doing back in the Blue Mountains? How’s your business running? I hope you haven’t had any issues with drought or anything that could have caused your crops to fail and I hope you are well and healthy!
We’re both doing fine by the way, so don’t you worry about us! In case if Uncle did not tell you this yet, we’ve reclaimed Erebor and we got to fight in an actual battle, with an actual army, against an actual army of Orcs! They were ugly, terrifying looking creatures… not to say that I was terrified or anything, though Kíli was probably
quaking in his boots (valiantly saving his dumb brother from being skewered to death by a spear!) Stop being a menace, Kíli! This is my letter and I get to write it how I want! (You just said that you were writing in for the both of us, you dolt! That means I get to have my say in here too!) Well I’m writing the majority of it so you don’t get to call me a dolt. Besides, you’re the nincompoop.
As I was saying, the Orcs were terrifying looking with their bone and metal armor. They came at us in waves and waves, crashing in around us from all sides until it felt like we were being suffocated. They also had this massive cloud of swirling bats covering them, which casted a dark shade over the entire length of the battle field. It was all very dramatic, but nothing could beat Uncle Thorin’s entrance to the battle! He barged through the barricades, ones that we built earlier on to secure the South Gates, and in the most majestic fashion, he fearlessly charged at his foes with his blade swinging. Slowly, Uncle carved his way forward, slaying any Orcs and Goblins that dared to cross his paths and I was right there beside him with the Company. I took out 50 Orcs! (No you didn’t! It was more like 43. I took out 60 with my bow and arrows.) That’s a lie! You don’t have enough space in your quiver to hold 60 arrows! (Well I reused some! Just because you didn’t see me doesn’t mean it’s not true!)
Anyway, we thought that we were in trouble when we found ourselves utterly surrounded, but just then, Beorn (he’s a shapeshifter who could turn himself in a great bear! We met him on our journey) crashed into the fray, taking down dozens of enemies with great big swipes of his paw. The great Eagles also came swooping down from the sky to scatter the rest of our foes.
We won, Mum! (Everyone in the company is relatively healthy as well!
Fíli here has his ribs smashed in and this great big gash and I have a broken arm) we both have cuts and bruises only, Mum! Nothing to worry about! We’re right as rain! Please don’t hurt Uncle! Uncle is doing alright as well but he had to be bedridden for a bit. Bilbo, our Burglar-Hobbit (or is it Hobbit-Burglar, which way is which?) Does it matter? Master Bilbo Baggins has proven himself to be a wonderful helper to the healers. He’s been taking care of Uncle and us since we came back from the battle. (Not that we need to be taken care of or anything since we only have cuts and bruises. Nothing more grievous than that so don’t you worry, Mum!) Master Baggins is really good at convincing Uncle to rest in bed. I don’t think I have ever seen Uncle this docile. It’s eerie.
I wish you could meet him, Mum! I think you would like him just fine. He’s small, soft and skittish like a little door mouse, but he’s very clever and he can also be very protective – (like that time he jumped in front of that large pale Orc to save Uncle’s life! And Uncle swept him up in this great big hug! Bilbo made the most adorable squeaking noise. Oh, and he can turn invisible too!)
I also wish you had seen us in battle! Even Dwalin looked impressed – (and you know he’s impressed when he has that funny expression on his face, the one where his mouth is all pinched up like he’s eaten a sour crab apple and his brows furrow a little, but his eyes are shining!) You make him sound like he’s constipated… but I guess what Kíli said is true enough. And then, he gave us both this heavy pat on our shoulders so we must have done really well to deserve that.
We’ll write more later! Our healer is giving us the stink-eye so we have to go now! Take care! (Bye Mum!!)
Your loving sons,
Fíli and Kíli
Erebor, 6 Dec., 2941.
To my two troublesome sons who will no doubt send their poor mother to an early grave,
How are your injuries and tell me the truth! Don’t think that you are protecting your uncle by lying to me. If anything, this will only make me angrier towards all of you when I find out later and believe me, I WILL find out. I can’t believe you both had the audacity to try to pull the wool over your own mother’s eyes, especially when I worked so hard to take care of you, clothe you, and feed you! Is this is how you decide to pay me back for the years of nurturing? With heartbreak and deceit?
You are lucky that your dear father cannot see us now. What would he think if he learned that his own sons are mistreating their poor mother like that? He is probably rolling in his grave!
Now that I have made my point extremely clear, I want to know everything about this Bilbo Baggins. How did you meet him? What was your initial impression of him? What great offense did your uncle commit towards the poor Hobbit? (Yes, your uncle mentioned that in brief… something about casting him away and regretting it afterwards?) What is his current relationship with your uncle? I also want a picture of the Hobbit. Please arrange this with young Master Ori and I shall consider not giving you both the ear pinching of your lives when I see you.
I am very glad to hear that you are both all right and that you have acted so bravely in battle. It doesn’t matter how many Orcs you each killed. What matters to me is that you protected each other and your uncle when he needed you the most. Your uncle might not say it to you, but he is very, very proud of you, as am I. (Don’t tell him I told you though! It would embarrass him to no end and you will have to bear the brunt of his temper.)
Now that your adventure has drawn to an end, I hope you will listen to the healers and rest. Don’t make your poor mother worry anymore! You know I am getting too old for this.
To my oldest: Watch over your younger brother! I am depending on you to be the sensible, responsible one.
To my younger: Always keep your eyes sharp and your ears keen. I expect you to work with your brother to keep out of trouble!
Valar forbid that I hear you two end up in a ridiculous situation, like being roasted alive on a spit by a group of ravenous trolls!
The business is going well, by the way. I have recently expanded our operations to areas east past Bree. At this rate, I expect the inns in and around this area to be stocked with our products come spring time. Of course, I will have to hire more men to help transport everything safely and swiftly, but that shouldn’t present too much of a problem, not with the profit we have been raking in. What can I say? The Men and Dwarves of the region have excellent taste in alcohol, unlike those pretentious Elves who only like their red wines.
I expect to hear good things in the next letter! Take care of yourselves!
With lots of love,
Thorin’s Hall, 2941.
To my lying liar of a brother who has a death wish,
Cuts. And. Bruises.
Did you honestly believe that you could get away with lying to old Dís about her children’s injuries?
Words cannot express how LUCKY you are that everything turned out for the best. Otherwise, no forest, valley or mountain range would be enough to stop me from getting to Erebor to HURT you. I would not hesitate to make it a slow and unimaginably painful experience, one that would haunt your every waking nightmare and make you quake at the very sight of me.
How severely are you hurt? Don’t you dare feed me that line about ‘cuts and bruises’ like you did with Fíli and Kíli’s injuries either! And just for lying, you are not getting an ounce of sympathy from me. I hope that barrel experience was as uncomfortable and humiliating as humanly possible, or at the very least, more humiliating than that time with the horse on your 60th birthday. You know the one.
I suppose I should offer my (grudging!) congratulations as well for securing our ancestral home. You did good, for a stupid, stubborn, lying old Dwarf.
I was really worried, you know. Don’t you dare die on me now that you’ve reclaimed the mountain. Let me know when you will need any supplies and I shall arrange it for you immediately. At the earliest, I can have your items delivered to Erebor in two months, but I will need to coordinate the activities from all of my lookout posts and pool all of my resources from my operations to get this done. You can thank my extremely lucrative business for such an efficient delivery system, you judgemental ass.
As for the Blue Mountain, everything is fine here. The Dwarves have not stopped celebrating ever since I announced the good news. Everyone is excited by the prospect of returning home again so if you need more helping hands, you have got a group of workers willing to travel to Erebor as soon as possible.
Also, you can start by making up to me for lying by telling me more about this interesting “Master Bilbo Baggins” of yours. From what I heard, he’s an adorable, clever little thing with the penchant for turning invisible, was it? Has he been hovering by your side, fretting over your health and offering you tender loving care
even after you have apparently treated him most harshly too? I would love to hear more about this mysterious fellow.
You owe me, now start talking!
Your loving sister (even though you sure don’t deserve it!)
Thorin’s Hall, 2941.
PS. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Hildr! It is your own Ravens who are underweight, those poor, poor creatures.
PPS. Gimli sends his love to his father.
Thorin sighed wearily as he rubbed his tired eyes from staring so long at his sister’s newest letter. He was supposed to be sleeping after having taken his medication for the pain from his battle wounds, but he had already spent the entirety of last week confined to his bed and he was pretty sure that this utter lack of movement was making him a bit stir-crazy. He picked up the heavy, cream-coloured parchment – typical for Dís to use such fancy stationary – and squinted at his sister’s tiny, neat runes, trying to concentrate for the fifth time this evening. It was extremely hard to make out her words in the dark of the tent, lit with the few stray candles that they could spare, and Thorin automatically shifted closer to the flickering light on his bedside table. The dull flare of pain radiating from his abdomen stopped him abruptly.
Closing his eyes, the Dwarven king placed the letter over his lap and fought to keep his frustration at bay; he hated feeling so terribly useless. There he was, trapped in a cocoon of blanket with barely enough strength to sit up and do paper work while the rest of his people were out there, scrambling to recover the dead and tend to the wounded. There was so much that needed to be done, including but not limited to securing fresh supplies to restock their rapidly dwindling ones and setting up an official meeting with the Men and Elves to discuss the details of a truce. According to the reports from his company, a fragile peace has settled over the battleground thus far and Thorin hoped to find ways to maintain it. The Dwarves could not risk the situation becoming volatile, not when they were still so vulnerable.
“What are you still doing up so late? You should be resting, Thorin,” a soft voice asked next to him, and Thorin relaxed further into the pile of rolled up fur that the healers had placed behind him. He could easily recognize his visitor from his delicate accent and the lilt in the way he spoke Adûni.
“I should be asking you the same, Master Baggins.” He opened one eye to peek lazily at the small Hobbit by his bed. Bilbo was peering up at him curiously, his hands holding up a wooden tray with a small metal pot and two, clean empty mugs. A thin, pale wisp of steam was rising from the pot’s spout, filling the air with the rich earthy scent of tea. “I can’t sleep,” Thorin admitted wearily and he wasn’t sure what it was about the Hobbit that made him willingly share these snippets of truth, “not when there is so much I could be doing.”
“Maybe, I can keep you company for a little while then, if it is all right with you?” Bilbo shuffled unconsciously, a nervous habit the Hobbit would adopt whenever faced with an uncomfortable situation. Thorin had not seen Bilbo like this in his presence since the first few months of their travel and to see it again after so long shot a sharp pang of regret through the Dwarven king’s heart.
And honestly, why should he be surprised? Their argument at the gate had never been resolved. Instead, Thorin and Bilbo had spent the past week hovering in limbo, finding it entirely too easy to ignore the hurt feelings between them when Erebor lay in tatters in front of them.
Like leaving an untended wound to fester, Thorin thought to himself grimly.
Maybe the Dwarf could finally take this opportunity to extend the olive branch.
Thorin tilted his head and offered the Hobbit a small, encouraging smile. He hoped that it would be enough to quell Bilbo’s nervousness. “I would be delighted, Master Baggins.”
The Dwarf watched Bilbo deposit the tray on the table and carefully serve the tea. “I was making my rounds to check on Fíli and Kíli and I thought they would appreciate some tea,” Bilbo confessed quietly after handing a steaming mug to Thorin. “Imagine my surprise to see them asleep for once, especially since they made such a fuss about staying awake to finish that letter of theirs.”
Thorin laughed lightly and took a tentative sip of his tea. Finding it too hot for his liking, he placed his mug on the table to cool. “Their mother has been extremely vocal about us writing to her. Dís was not pleased by our year of silence.”
She was not pleased by his white lie to her about her children’s injuries either, though in retrospect, he really should have known better. Still, it was hard to push aside his ingrained instinct to look after his little sister, and at the end of the day, Thorin did not regret his actions.
Even if it meant that he had to work hard to crawl back into her good graces again.
He winced slightly at the unpleasant thought, a movement that Bilbo caught immediately.
“Oh, are you all right? Where are you hurting?” the Hobbit said, alarmed, instinctively putting his mug on the ground and rushing to the Dwarf’s side. Surprised, Thorin could only stare as Bilbo ran his hand over his shoulders, arms and chest, methodically checking over the bandages without any lingering traces of the nervousness from before.
Thorin swallowed a heavy lump in his throat. Even after the way he had treated the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins continued to rush to his aid without a moment of hesitation.
He was a colossal fool and he owed it to Bilbo to make things better between them.
“I’m going to pull back the covers and check your stomach. Let me know if it anything hurts.” Bilbo said sternly, eyes focused on his task and at the Dwarf’s wordless nod, the Hobbit peeled back the blankets.
Thorin tried not to shiver at the initial fleeting touches below his pectorals. Bilbo’s hands felt inexplicably cool through the layers of bandages, and Thorin was reminded of the age old idiom about people with cold hands and warm hearts. The Hobbit continued his inspection along the length of Thorin’s torso, his palms tracing downwards towards his navel in one, tortuously slow, uninterrupted stroke. The Dwarven king felt his mouth go dry when Bilbo’s fingers moved to his sides, his thumb brushing on a smooth patch of unbandaged skin above his hips in an almost caress.
Bilbo looked up with a soft, encouraging smile; from this angle. Thorin could not help but notice the expressiveness in the Hobbit’s bright eyes and how they crinkled adorably whenever he was pleased. The candle light cast a soft, golden glow over the Hobbit’s smooth, comely face, his rosy cheeks and his mop of short, russet curls.
“It looks like everything is in order.” Bilbo continued to rub slow circles on the expanse of skin, mindful of the yellowing bruises. “Are you feeling all right? You’re looking a bit flushed.”
Thorin could only nod mutely. Bilbo frowned at the response and leaned closer, cupping the Dwarf’s face in both of his small hands. “Look up please, but keep your head still,” Bilbo ordered politely in a calm, quiet voice. Thorin dimly wondered what would happen if he reached over to smooth away the furrow between the Hobbit’s brows.
“Good, now look down. Great. Look to your left, and then to your right.” Should he be worried by this sudden growing urge to touch Bilbo Baggins?
The Hobbit released him and before Thorin could miss the warmth of his touch, Bilbo pressed the inside of his wrist over the Dwarf’s forehead. “Hmm, you’re feeling a little warm,” the Hobbit continued, completely oblivious to Thorin’s inner musing. “I will have to let the healers know to watch out for that.”
Satisfied with that decision, Bilbo leaned back and gave a final nod of approval. He then arranged the covers so that they would fit neatly under Thorin’s arms, and placed Dís letter, which had shifted away during the inspection, over the Dwarf’s lap again.
“There, right as rain.”
Thorin was bombarded by mental images of a pair of small, soft, familiar hands leaving lingering touches along warm skin and he was valiantly trying to will them out of existence before he embarrassed himself. It wasn’t until Bilbo’s shy smile completely slipped away that he realized, to his dismay, that he had been silently staring at the Hobbit for quite a long while.
People had told him in the past that his thinking face tended to look like he was glaring at them.
Bilbo apparently thought so as well.
The Hobbit cleared his throat uncomfortably, ducked his head down, and reached for his cooled tea. “I guess I should be going now,” he mumbled into his cup. “It’s getting late and you should be resting with that fever. I’m sorry for disturbing you for so long.”
Thorin made a small, inaudible noise at the back of his throat in protest but remained frozen on his bed as he desperately scrambled his brain to try and fix this. His mind was drawing an embarrassing blank on how to stop the Hobbit from leaving aside from leaping out of the bed and tackling the Halfling to the ground. Meanwhile, Bilbo looked increasingly more uncomfortable at the prolonged silence, if not a little confused by Thorin’s seemingly unresponsive state. Bilbo shifted in his place – Thorin felt that same guilty pang in his heart at the nervous gesture – and gave one last shaky smile before reaching quickly for the wooden tray. He looked ready to bolt out of the tent and Thorin really, really needed to act now.
Thorin bellowed out suddenly and violently, “I’M SORRY!!”
Bilbo recoiled from the table and jumped into the air, splashing tea all over himself and the ground.
“Um, I forgive you?” the Hobbit squeaked out. He was clutching his mug tightly against his chest like a shield, as if he could hide behind it to get away from any more crazy outbursts that were pelted at him. When he realized what Thorin had said a second later, he blinked in confusion. “Wait, what?”
“I’m sorry,” Thorin repeated again, this time much more softly. His face was flushed bright red from mortification, but he might as well finish what he had started. Taking a deep breath to strengthen his resolve, he clarified, “I’m sorry for the words I spoke to you at the gate.”
He swallowed thickly, unsure how to put his tangled emotions and thoughts into something coherent, but he was determined to make his peace now that the floodgates have opened. “I have spent the past week thinking and it occurred to me that I have not been acting in the best interest of my people.” He looked away from the shocked Hobbit and stared resolutely at his lap, tightening his grip on the cover until his knuckles whitened. “I should not have cast you away like that when it was clear that from the beginning, you were trying to vie for peace.”
He shook his head, frustrated with himself, at his own stupidity, at the way that he had been so woefully blind before the battle. His people had depended on him and he should have put their needs above all else. Instead, he had easily succumbed to his dark greed and chose to jealously guard the treasure without casting a second thought for the rest of his company members. Thorin bent his head even further at the glum thought. Whether he liked it or not, the undeniable truth remained – he had failed miserably as a king at that critical moment.
“It is not worth risking a war for the treasure, especially when there is so few of us left already. The destruction from our battle against the Orcs has reminded me of that.” He smiled bitterly to himself. And it only took the near destruction of everything he held dear to cleanse him of the gold madness. “Perhaps if more of us could value food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
A chilled hand settled over Thorin’s and the Dwarf looked up, surprised to see that Bilbo had moved this close by his side. The Hobbit was gazing at him with such tenderness that Thorin felt his breath knock from his lungs. “Thank you, Thorin. It is not in the nature for us Hobbits to bear grudges so I’ve long since considered this to be water under the bridge.” Bilbo ducked his head before he continued contritely. “Besides, it is I who owe you an apology. I hid the Arkenstone away even when I knew how important it was to you. Will you forgive me for that?”
Thorin turned his hand so that Bilbo’s smaller one was cradled in his instead. “It is all water under the bridge, Bilbo,” he repeated back just as gently, but a great feeling of relief settled over his heart. For the first time, Thorin finally believed that the worst was behind them, like seeing the sun break through the clouds after being trapped in a long tumultuous storm.
He squeezed the Hobbit’s fingers lightly and returned the Hobbit’s shy smile.
They spent the rest of evening idly sipping their tea, filling the silence with stories about Bilbo’s thieving relatives and Thorin’s strong-willed sister. Neither of them commented when they did not let go of each other’s hands.
“All we’re saying is that we’d be very, very, very thankful if you can whip up a nice sketch of Master Baggins in say – ”
“Yes, one day, if not less. And you must be discreet about it!”
Ori looked confusedly between Fíli and Kíli. Why on Middle-Earth were they that desperate for a drawing of their Hobbit companion? The two Dwarves had ambushed him on his way to delivering some fresh parchment to Balin’s tent and had forcefully dragged him back to their healing tent before he could even protest. The two had then launched into a long, nonsensical spiel about ‘ear pinching’, ‘heartbreak and deceit’, ‘roasting pits’, and oddly enough, Lady Dís. How these topics had anything to do with their request for Bilbo Baggins’s portrait was beyond him, but Ori’s eyes had glazed over half an hour into their rant.
The young scribe could feel sweat beading on his forehead from Fíli and Kíli’s attention, and he licked his lips nervously. Frankly, their wide-eyed look of thinly veiled fear was making him extremely nervous and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be involved in whatever scheme they had gotten themselves into.
“I’m not sure if I want to be a part of any – ” he glanced around him quickly before lowering his voice to whisper conspiratorially, “ – trouble! Now if you will excuse me, I am supposed to be delivering these to Balin!” He shook his stack of parchment for emphasis.
Fíli and Kíli ignored him and advanced menacingly.
“Wait, what are you doing? St-stop it!” Ori backed away slowly; he yelped when the back of his knee hit the cot and he went sprawling on the bed on his back, scattering the sheets of parchment around him.
“I don’t think you quite understand the severity of our problem,” Kíli said, voice lowered and eyes locked intensely on Ori. The younger Dwarf swallowed visibly from the bed and backpedalled until his back hit the canvas of the tent.
Fíli stepped away from his brother’s side and without breaking eye contact with the poor scribe, he got on the bed and crawled towards Ori. “You see, if we don’t have that sketch soon…well, let’s just say it will be most inconvenient.”
“And you wouldn’t want that to happen now, would you?” Kíli joined his brother on the bed. If Ori wasn’t feeling extremely intimidated, he would have wondered how someone with a broken left arm could move that fluidly on all four.
“We know you don’t, Ori.” Oh Mahal, they had him sandwiched between them. Ori scrunched his eyes closed, but the Dwarves only pressed closer against him on each side. To his right, Fíli leaned in to card his fingers through his hair. Ori jerked away only to bump into Kíli, who ran a tantalizing hand down the scribe’s left arm.
“Nice Ori, sweet Ori,” Kíli whispered into his ear and Ori tried not to whimper.
“Oh for the love of – boys! Get your hands off the poor Dwarf and get over here. It’s time for your medicine!” Óin clucked loudly from the tent’s entrance. Without waiting for a response, he walked in, arms laden with bottles.
“Leave it to Óin to ruin all our fun,” Fíli grumbled beneath his breath and Ori breathed a sigh of relief. When he gingerly opened his eyes, both brothers had already moved back so that they were facing him.
“So will you help us out, pretty please? For Lady Dís?” Kíli asked in a whining tone, the dark huskiness that was present a minute ago having disappeared entirely from his voice. The two brothers turned large, pleading eyes on Ori and the young Dwarf felt himself capitulate.
“Fine, fine!” Ori sighed, feeling annoyed with himself. One of these days, he would learn how to say no. “But there is no way that I can have this done in a day. I will try my best to get this to you as soon as I – ack!”
Kíli and Fíli had launched themselves at him, spewing a litany of thank yous. Ori sighed again and sat back, resigned to being crushed in a three-way hug.
He would have to figure out an excuse to get Bilbo to agree to the sketch since apparently, he wasn’t supposed to let him know that Lady Dís was behind this. He supposed he should get started immediately.
After he had picked up all the parchment sheets he had dropped, of course.
A full week had passed before Ori had the courage to approach Bilbo, and if the Hobbit was annoyed at being interrupted on his way to Thorin’s tent, he did not show it.
“I would be honoured to pose for your sketch,” Bilbo answered pleasantly enough. He hefted the small, wooden crate in his arm closer to his chest. “When do you want to start and what would I need to do?”
“Um, as soon as possible, if you don’t mind. I have everything I need already,” Ori replied brightly, feeling very much relieved that Bilbo had not found his request odd. Then again, it was not a secret that the young Dwarf was documenting their adventure to Erebor, so it would be natural to assume that Ori was compiling personal information on the members of Thorin’s company as well. The Dwarf adjusted the strap of his bag across his shoulder. “I will need an hour of your time where you can be relatively still.”
“Oh, I have the time right now! I only have to drop this off and I am done for the day. If you’re not too busy, you can come along. It shouldn’t take me too long.”
Ori and Bilbo spent the rest of their walk exchanging pleasantries about their day. They had just reached Thorin’s tent when they were interrupted by a sudden, loud, resounding crash. Pale-faced and wide-eyed, Bilbo immediately bolted through the entrance. The Dwarf followed a second after.
“And what, pray tell, were you planning on doing?” Ori was taken aback by Bilbo’s deeply annoyed tone before catching the sight in front of him.
Their majestic king was lying face first on the ground in a tangled heap of armour, fur pelts, and the blanket from his cot. His hair was mussed spectacularly, and at the sound of Bilbo’s voice, he raised his head to glare blearily back up at them. The chair beside him was knocked on its side.
Ori tried and failed horribly not to gape at Thorin.
“I wanted some fresh air,” said the king rather mulishly. The rasp in his voice did not make him come off as any less stubborn. When Bilbo did not let up his glare of disapproval, Thorin pressed his lips in a thin line.
“You wanted some fresh air,” Bilbo deadpanned. Ori backed away slowly from the two, his self-preservation instincts kicking into high gear. “Right. Off with those clothes and back into bed with you.”
Bilbo bent down to place the crate he was holding on the floor beside him and strode smoothly over to the king. Before Thorin could squawk in indignation, the Hobbit had boldly wrapped his arms around the Dwarf, plucked him from the mess on the ground, and forcefully guided him backwards until he was on the bed again.
Ori felt that Thorin’s look of surprised outrage was rather appropriate given that the much stronger Dwarf had just been manhandled by a very small Hobbit.
Bilbo was not done, however. “I can’t believe you were planning to have a nice stroll outside when you can barely even walk,” he continued to grumble unhappily while deft hands quickly moved to unbuckle the armour with unexpected familiarity and ease. “Hands up,” he ordered and to Ori’s increasing surprise, the Dwarf obeyed although he rolled his eyes first.
“Oh by all means, do make yourself at home. It’s not as if you haven’t made yourself familiar with everything else already,” growled Thorin when Bilbo had to get on the bed to pull the last piece of clothing over the Dwarf’s head. Bilbo shot him a look of such hurt that Thorin looked away, snapping his mouth shut.
Wait a minute, just what had Thorin meant by that and since when had Bilbo become so adept at removing the king’s clothes?! Ori felt his mind fill with explanations and scenarios and he most definitely did not want to visit any of them, no thank you.
Bilbo sighed and got off the bed once the shirt was removed and he had checked over the Dwarf’s injuries. “I know you don’t like being stuck in here. I thought I’d bring something to cheer you up.”
The Hobbit thanked Ori when the young scribe silently handed him the blanket from the floor. He shook it out a few times to get rid of the dust and draped it carefully over Thorin’s legs in a practiced move.
Thorin, however, did not pay Bilbo’s coddling any mind. He tilted his head inquisitively. “You brought me something?”
“Yes, it’s in that crate. Ori could you fetch it – oh, thank you!” Bilbo plonked the box by the bed side, pried it open, and reached in to grab several wrapped packets and a corked bottle.
“I got you these. I thought you’d appreciate it after two weeks of nothing but bland porridge.” Amused, Bilbo quirked his lips and handed the contents for Thorin.
“You got me… food. Actual, real, food.” Thorin sounded awed. “Is that smoked meat?” Without waiting for an answer, the Dwarven king tore into the package and proceeded to stuff his mouth full with a level of desperation reserved for the starving.
“Oh dear sweet merciful Mahal, it is!”
“You’re welcome,” Bilbo drawled, amused. “I also pilfered some baked goods from the kitchen. That’s the other package. Feel free to wash it all down with whatever’s in that bottle.”
Thorin picked up the bottle without looking at the label, uncorked it with his teeth, spat out the cork, and guzzled down the liquid in abandon. “I don’t know what this is except that it’s strong,” the Dwarf said appreciatively after downing about half the bottle. He grimaced as the alcohol burned the back of his throat, “Where did you get this?”
Bilbo shrugged. “I got it off of Nori. Didn’t ask any questions.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but Bilbo Baggins, you are a terrible influence. Come over here.”
From his bed, Thorin placed the bottle back in the crate and pulled Bilbo down in a full body hug that the Hobbit happily returned. The affection they shared for each other had never been more apparent.
Ori stood shock still, watching from his corner. He watched some more when it was clear that the two were not going to let go of each other any time soon.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity later, the Dwarf pulled back enough to press his forehead against the Hobbit’s. “Thank you, Bilbo,” Thorin said, thick with emotion and oh no, they looked like they were ready to hug each other again.
“Excuse me, Master Baggins,” Ori interrupted, feeling a bit put off at being forgotten judging by the identical looks of surprise he received. “Maybe I can get that sketch at another time, whenever it’s convenient?”
Preferably somewhere away where he would not witness any more longing looks and lingering touches.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry Ori! I’ll be right with you!” Bilbo flushed in embarrassment but broke away from the bedside.
“I’ll just wait for you outside then, if that’s alright with you?” With a nod at both the Hobbit and the king, Ori walked determinately out of the tent, pretending not to see Bilbo bending down to whisper something in Thorin’s ear that made the king give a low, deep, rumbling chuckle.
That was entirely too much public display of affection that he was comfortable with seeing.
“Here’s your portrait, now for the love of Mahal, don’t send me back in there again!”
Ori pushed the drawing to Fíli’s chest and stomped off, face bright red.
Kíli stared at Ori’s retreating back and turned to his older brother. “What was that all about?”