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The World Spins Madly On

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He stared around himself in dismay. Everywhere he looked, people were fighting, dying…and for what? A pile of gold that was as useless as it was pretty? A shiny stone whose value was only it what it represented to its owner? Hardly realizing what he was doing, he began to slowly back away from the carnage, hands rising to cover his eyes as he began to weep bitterly. They were going to lose. His friends…his beautiful, stubborn king…they were going to lose everything, even if they won this battle. It was nearly too much to bear.

The end, when it came, was almost a relief. He barely had the time to understand what the noise behind him meant before cold steel bit into his neck and he knew no more.

~****~

Bilbo flew upright, gasping, sheets impossibly tangled about his legs. His heart was pounding furiously and his eyes were hot. One shaking hand moved to touch his face and came away wet. He’d been crying, then, and why not? The dream had been so very vivid…

He shook his head and peered about his room, taking comfort in how very ordinary it all looked. Part of him wanted to stay in bed the rest of the morning, calm down and possibly get some sleep that didn’t involve ridiculously detailed dreams of death and the clash of swords. Honestly, the things that the brain could come up with, it was amazing. He’d never heard those sounds in his life, and he never would. Respectable hobbits just didn’t get involved in such things.

Neither did respectable hobbits cower in bed because of dreams, so Bilbo untangled his sheets from his legs, stood and stretched, ready to face the day. And if he just so happened to stretch in the patch of weak morning sunlight filtering in from his window, well, that was because his room had gone a bit chilly, and not because he was still trembling slightly with remembered fear and grief, thank you very much.

It wasn’t until he clapped eyes on his decimated pantry that the memory of the night before slammed into him so hard it made him wince. The strange dream had chased the memory of dwarves in his home completely out of his mind…though now he was well aware of where the dream had come from. Not for the first time, he cursed dwarves and kings and especially meddling old grey wizards. In fact, he wished he had Gandalf here right now so that he would know what came of all this talk of adventures. Nothing but nightmares and an empty pantry, that’s what, and he’d just restocked his food supply.

Still, even though he tried to ignore it, his eyes kept straying to his kitchen table, where the contract from the night before had been carelessly left. It was almost as though it were calling to him, a siren’s song encouraging him to sign the contract, sign it, who knows if such an opportunity will come to you again and you’ve always wanted something to happen to you, something interesting, even though you’d never admit it…

Next thing he knew, he was flying as fast as his feet could carry him, hastily packed bag slung on his back and contract clutched tightly in one fist, long list of possible hazards trailing out behind him. He caught up with the dwarves quickly enough, and had a brief argument about riding, firmly ignoring the tickle in the back of his mind that whispered this has happened before. It wasn’t until he started sneezing and couldn’t find his handkerchief that it all came together, and Bilbo nearly fell off of his horse.

All of this had been in his dream. Everything from the running to catch up with the Company to his fruitless search for a handkerchief. Immediately, he felt the dual impulse to go off script and to say exactly what he remembered, the latter to possibly prove to himself that he had not, in fact, dreamt the future. Just the sound of it was ridiculous. Preposterous. He would repeat it, then, and put the matter to rest. “Stop. We have to go back. I’ve forgotten my handkerchief.”

The incredulous look that Thorin Oakenshield threw at him was disconcertingly familiar, as was the reproachful glance at Gandalf, the one that plainly said “This is what you give me to work with?”, before he turned his back on them and kept going. Right on cue, Bofur tossed him a dirty square of cloth, and Bilbo stared at it, suddenly wishing that he’d kept his mouth firmly shut, or better yet, not left his hobbit hole at all.