Chapter 1: First is the worst
Atina hates The Hobbit franchise. She hates the characters. She hates the plot. She hates the villains. Hell, she even hates Legolas and everyone loves that guy. Even more over, she hates knowing every detail about the damned 'Adventure'.
You see, Atina's twin sister, Anita, is what one would call an ultra fangirl. She buys all the paraphernalia, watches all the movies, reads all the books, studies the back stories religiously, and gushes over the actors themselves. She even learned Sindarin and every known word of Khuzdul she could get her hands on. A true fanatic in her own right.
And who do you think was dragged along to every event with said fangirl ? Atina, that's who.
And when Anita began writing gooey fanfiction love stories about fictional characters who would never be caught dead doing those gooey things, who read them for editing? Atina, that's who.
And who is so sick of hearing about how sad the ending is because an idiot King brought his heirs on an unlikely to succeed mission, fell into a trap he knew about, and ultimately died? Atina, that's who.
"I mean seriously Anita, he's an idiot. Everything he fought for was for nothing. His success amounted to zilch. In the end it all went to some guy who wouldn't even help him."
"It's not about that, you're looking at it all wrong. It's about friendship-"
"They were all kind of jerks."
"And appreciating the simple things in life-"
"Like Orcs and bears and prison and-"
"Because it all could be gone-"
"When you willingly choose to die in order to slay an enemy that everyone else has long forgotten about."
"Dont say it like that!"
"Unnecessary spoiler alert, sister. HE DIES. "
I've heard that redheads are supposed to be feisty. Whoever said that never met the Bloodstone sisters. Fiesty is... cute I guess. We are anything but cute. Anita and I are just downright vicious when we argue, especially with each other. We have had this particular argument countless times before, but still it persists.
I really want to be happy for my sister; that after everything we've been through that she's found something that she can enjoy and be passionate about but... it's just so dumb. I just could never get into the story. So much could have been simplified and avoided and maybe that's the point? To do things simply or else all your hard work will go to somebody who risked nothing. Capitalism.
Staring at my mirror image, I shrug. Even twins argue sometimes, identical or not, and though the two of us get along like two peas in a pod on most days, we just can never agree on this. Most likely because I can't allow myself to get lost in a fantasy world where adventures are freely had and lessons are learned only when you are ready to die. I don't find that to be a good story. Green eyes flick back to reflect my own, offering just as much defiance as mine.
"It's a bad story Annie."
"I don't care! I like it. I'd change a few things but... I like it, Attie."
"... You're entitled to your opinion, little sister." Walking to the door I go to grab my bag but think better of it. I won't be gone long "We all deserve at least one bad one."
"I'm taking the dog out, watch out for grandpa. He'll be coming over soon and you know he'll want to... talk."
Stepping down the stairs, I admire the city lights before turning away from the beauty and calling Killer to me. The husky/wolf mix is only second in my heart to my sister and I coo softly as he presses his head into my leg.
The dog is ugly if I'm being honest. He wasn't always like that though... But now he's missing his left eye and both his ears have been lopped off. Deep gashes run over his muzzle and his coat is missing patches of fur that will never grow back due to severe burns. Nope, he's not pretty at all, but I love him just the same.
"Let's go for a walk, boy. I was pretty mean to Annie back there and I think we could both use the space before the good ole fart arrives."
The dog's only response is to remain motionless as I attach his leash to his collar. A guard dog by nature, I never worry when I'm out with Killer... at least I didn't before... all that stuff happened.
Annie and I received the mutt as a combination gift from our paternal grandfather for our 15th birthdays. Although we are twins, we don't share the same birthday. I was born on December 31st at 11:59 and Annie slipped into the world 3 minutes later to greet the new year. Though only 3 minutes apart, I do not deny using the 'I'm a year older' card often enough to be annoying. He, our grandfather, raised us with a firm hand after our mother died in childbirth. Our father... well... Grandpa doesn't mention him. Gramps isn't cruel but he is a hard man. Hence why he gave 2 girls a half wolf named Killer.
Exiting the fence of our small home, I begin to aimlessly walk the streets and breathe in the winter air. February is my favorite month and I'm sad to say that it's nearly over. Taking another deep breath I blink rapidly as a sudden bout of dizziness rushes over me. Clumsily collapsing into the grass, so I don't fall into the street, I try to catch my breath. I'm getting used to it, the dizzy spells, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about them. My doctor told me to expect them due to my illness but I'm still in denial. Conscious denial. I haven't even told Annie or gramps yet... She'll be devastated and blame herself and I want to avoid that for as long as possible. It isn't her fault. And gramps... he'll probably have a heart attack. So to save them the heat ache, I'll bear this alone for as long as I can.
Pushing myself back with the heels of my sneakers, I lean against the tree and close my eyes as Killer settles down next to me. He's always there for me, my scruffy protector. He's the only reason I'm alive today. My eyes grow heavy even as they are closed and I groan, knowing that I'm passing out.
" Sweet little Earthling, your dreams are about to come true. In a land far from your own, your destiny awaits for you. Be it love or friendship or adventure you seek, all will ... Oh dear..."
"Oh dear... oh dear. Husband, you brought the wrong girl!"
"Aye, truly! You promised to be careful."
"And I was, love. Doubles are such a difficult bunch to distinguish... She'll do though yes?"
"... She'll have to. We cannot go back now... Little Earthling, remember your sister in the times to come. You will benefit from this experience... though differently than she would have done ."
Through all of this I simply lay with my eyes closed because I want no part of it. At all. I've had dreams like this before, thanks to Anita's obsession, and I've refused to let my psyche participate in any. Next thing I know Randy Thrandy is going to come out from behind a tree buck naked and twerking. Nope. Not today, dream.
So, I wait for the dream to run its course; simply wanting to wake up and get my happy behind off my neighbor's lawn. Only when silence finally echoes around me and my body regains the weight of reality do I open my eyes.
"Sorry about that... Killer?" I gaze around at the number of trees littering my vision. I've never been in a forest before but I know one when I see one and with annoyed suspicion, I begin to think that I haven't woken up yet. Opening my mouth to call my dog, just in case I'm not dreaming, I gasp at the pained howl that pierces my heart "Killer?!"
Whimpers are my only response and I immediately dart towards the sound. Foolish of me, really. Killer can handle himself better than I, so whatever caused him to make such a sound is needless to say, dangerous. Yet as the trees whip at my face, I press on because he was always there for me. For all he's done... for all he'd been through for Annie and I... Dream or not, I'm not leaving him now. Bursting through the trees I enter a clearing and my heart stops.
Killer lies on his side in a puddle of blood. His blood. I must have called to him in my surprise because his head turns to me. His legs twitch with painful discoordination as he fights to make his way towards me even as his throat gapes open. The wound exposes the muscles and arteries beneath, causing my stomach to roll at the sight of him. He whines softly, the air not coming out right and I quickly make my way to his side. Kneeling in the dirt, I pull my friend into my lap and stroke his fuzzy head as gently as I can.
The words choke me with their lie but I repeat them over and over as he licks my palm weakly. I wonder what a sick mind I must have to conjure up such a nightmare. To end the creature that forfeited his very body to save my sister and I from certain death. A nightmare indeed. My breath catches as the animal I loved for so long falls into stillness. I know he's gone but I keep going. Conscious denial.
"You're okay, boy. You're ok."
A shuffling behind me reminds my common sense that something murdered my dog. No... The wound was made by some kind of blade. So some one killed my killer. When I get ahold of them, I'll repay the favor. I'll make them wish they never met this dream girl. Sliding the dog's head from my lap, I turn to face my enemy with the feral snarl only for it to turn into a grimace of annoyance.
"Are you freaking kidding me?!"
I have no business writing this. I have 2.5 other stories that need updating but this came to me like a storm. I haven't heard the topic come up before, an other world OC who actually hates the story. Idk how updates will be. No clue. But my interest floats with my reviewers. If you like it, tell me and I'll keep going!
Chapter 2: Second is bad too
Without giving the murderer a moment to consider responding to my exclamation, I charge at him with a shriek. Like a deranged banshee, I put every ounce of my untrained physical energy into somehow clocking this guy upside his head. His eyes bulge in surprise but I barely notice as he drops his weapon in order to grab my flailing arms without slicing me in two. How nice. I'm STILL going to murder him.
Growling in frustration, I aim to use my legs to kick him wherever I can reach. Missing his goods but landing a solid blow on his knee, the slimy excuse of a competitor grunts in pain or annoyance, I'm not sure which, before shoving me away from him with ease. Stumbling back, I regain my balance but don't charge at him again. Instead, I use my words.
"You no-good, dirty rotten, puppy pounding murderer! You killed my dog!"
"Oh don't you 'Miss' me, you butt licker! How often do you randomly go through the woods slaying people's pets? Huh? How often, Baldy!?"
"I was not aware that the mutt belon-"
"Mutt?! How dare you call him a mutt?" I can't believe it! This... this... this bedtime story gnome insulted my dog after he murdered him! Murdered! I'm at a loss of what to do with this cretin other than yell some more "You know what? Of all the forgettable, name-rhyming, jerk off dwarves, you were always one of my least favorite, Dwalin!"
Much like moments before, the dwarf's eyes widen but only for a moment before they become slits. If this wasn't a dream, I'd be worried. Being that it is, has to be, I ready every insult and swear that I know to fling at this awful dwarf. He killed my dog. Anyone who kills a dog is automatically the worst scum of the earth and by the time I'm through with him, this bucket of sludge in the shape of a dwarf will know it too.
"How came ye to know my name?"
"Oh, are we playing that game now?" I lift my head and laugh at the sky. Full on muahahaha moment "I know plenty about you Dwalin, son of Fundin. You and Balin and all your little dwarf buddies are going on a graaaaand adventure. The Quest for Erebor. There will be Hobbit burglars and Dragons marshmallowing. All that good stuff. Yada yada yada. We are not talking about that nonsense, we were talking about my dog! You-"
"Silence." Moving faster than I'd given him credit for, the dwarf scoops up his axe and a has it poised at my throat before I can even blink "Ye will say no more where ye might be freely heard, spy."
"Oh I won't, won't I?" Taking a deep breath, I begin screaming at the top of my lungs for no reason other than to do it "THORIN'S COMPANY IS GOING ON A TOP SECRET MISSION AND THEY ARE ABOUT TO MEET AT BILBO BAGGINS HOUSE IN- mmgghh!"
Covering my mouth roughly while cursing darkly, Dwalin looks around to see if anyone is within the area to hear my shrieks. I continue my rants behind his hand, resorting to wordless howls of displeasure as he tears a piece of cloth off his shirt. He shoves the foul-tasting strip into my mouth before quickly binding my hands behind my back with rope. It's cinches tightly around my wrists and I pause at the pain. Pain in a dream, how original... Just as the dwarf hefts me over his shoulder I begin to wonder if this really is a dream at all but think better of it. Out of the options of this being a nightmare or mistakenly being magically transported to the place I hate, I choose door A.
"Thorin will be wanting to deal with ye and he won't be happy about it." I snort in disgust as that name is brought up. Like hell that fluffy headed idiot will have anything to do with the dealing of moi "A woman spy, and not a very good one. What is Middle-earth coming to?"
I do not answer but give a hard upward jerk of my knee, sending it into his ribs for good measure. At this angle, it doesn't hurt him as much as I would have liked but he growls lowly at the dull ache I'm sure it causes. We walk only a few minutes to his camp before the dwarf drops me unceremoniously to the ground. With my hands tied behind my back, there is no way to break my fall and the earth is very unforgiving. Moaning softly, I watch through squinted eyes as Dwalin pulls a sack out of his bag before coming back over to me.
"Can't go walking into the Shire with a bound lass on my shoulder, now can I? Be a good little-"
With no intention of being a good little anything and allowing myself to be shoved into a bag like a bunch of potatoes, I bring my feet up to create a barrier between myself and the approaching dwarf. I use them to all but climb up his torso and do a rolling backflip in an effort to get away but he's having none of that. He grabs one ankle right off the bat and so begins the game of tug-of-war. He blocks all my efforts to kick him in the face with my free foot until with an exasperated bellow, he turns me onto my belly and slips me into the bag head first.
"Be still, will ye? Know when yer beat!" The command is met with even more hisses, jerks, and wiggles on my part. I'm not making this easy for him. The dwarf comes to the same conclusion easily enough as he sighs in frustration before settling his hand on the back of my neck "Pardon me but it'll only hurt for a moment."
Before I can register his words, pain blossoms from the back of my head and I'm out like a light .
My head pounds like a drum as the horribly familiar words float by my ears. I know those words. The useless twig of a wizard, Harry Dumbledalf, utters them when he arrives. Considering that the last thing I remember is getting pummeled after my dog was murdered, I assume I've been out for a while. This is supported by the ache in my joints from being forced into a tiny space for so long. Searching for an opening in the bag as the voice of the wannabe King insults the wannabe burglar, I try to free myself before I become any more part of this madness.
The string drawn entrance gives slightly around my left foot and I shove the other out after it but have no way of getting the bag any further up than mid calf. Taking what I can get, I begin the act of rocking to my feet. The process takes forever and a day and it's painful but somehow I get up... And just stand there.
Although I know Bilbo's house like it was my own, I do not know which room I'm in to make it to the front door. Even once I get there, I've no hands free to open it. Still... staying here isn't an option so choosing the direction with the least amount of noise, I begin my wonderfully thought out escape. I only manage a few steps before I find out just where I am.
The thudding of the hobbit being brained by his own hardwood floor right behind me, lets me know that I'm not far enough to be unnoticed by the other occupants of the home but a girl can hope. Standing stark still as silence echoes through the house I hope blindly that I'm behind a wall or something because otherwise, I'm screwed. When the silence becomes too much to bare though, I just make a break for it.
"Oi! Is that someone's bag sproutin' legs and runnin' all loosed? I've seen everythin' now, lads!"
My quick baby steps are not fast enough to help me avoid capture and within 2.6 seconds exactly, I'm caught. Low mumbles and curious whispers surround me as I'm easily dragged into the center of the group. Cursing and growling beneath my gag, I do my best to have at least that wimp Ori cower in fear at imagining what's hidden beneath this sack. Dori will back out of the quest for his sake and Nori will probably follow. That'll be 3 less pains I have to worry about when I ruin Dwalin's life for his transgression. He really should not have killed my dog.
"Dwalin... What is this? "
"A spy." The sound of gasps of outrage and surprise fill my ears as Dwalin continues to speak "I figured ye'd want to deal with the problem. Tis a bit complicated though."
"Well let's see if we can't uncomplicated the lad." I can't really tell who is speaking. Maybe one of those useless space heaters, Gloin or Oin or one of the others. I don't care. It's hard to tell with the bag over my face anyway "Give me but a minute with him and he'll be simpler than a simpleton."
"That'd be a mite difficult considering..." the ties at my ankles loosen and the bag is yanked over my head, bringing the loosened gag with it. As if I was some sort of trinket on display, Dwalin gestures at me vaguely "She ain't a lad."
I meet each character's eyes with venom while silently begging to wake up. These short annoyances that I have hated since the thrice damned trilogy came out now look at me like I'M the inconvenience. I know where this is going. I know and I want nothing to do with it because DragonLand is not as nice of a place as they make it out to be on PBS. Between who I refuse to acknowledge as Dori and Bofur, I spy homeowner Baggins lying on the ground where he fainted. They seriously left him there. Jerks.
Wow. I didn't expect such a warm response. That really makes me happy!
Chapter 3: Barf town
Maybe it's my illness. I had planned to get it cleared up before it kills me but I kept putting it off. 'Next week' I'd said every week for at least 3 weeks but now... It's too late for that to matter.
Maybe it's all the attention. I was never good at having all eyes on me. Annie is the social butterfly in this relationship. I bet she's worried sick about Killer and I by now...
Maybe it was the blow to the head or the hanging upside down for so long or the entire situation as a whole. Whichever contributes whatever, it leads to me up-chucking all over the illustrious King's boots before he can even try to interrogate me.
It's made all the worse by my last meal's consistency. I was starved and inhaled anything I could get my hands on. That included a sack of gummy bears, two hot dogs (condiments included), a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips, a cheeseburger, and a large Diet Coke. All of which paint the floor a lovely shade of gross.
"Ahem." I wipe my mouth with the side of my shoulder sleeve while clearing my throat. Slowly, ever so slowly, the countless pairs of eyes lift back to my face. Shrugging, I hum lightly while rocking on my heels "Sorry. I'm a little nervous."
If looks could kill, Dwalin and Thorin would be tied over my corpse. No surprise there, what with the balding dwarrow being Mister high and mighty's 'yes' man. I swear, if Thorin wanted to yank one out, the balding dwarf would beat him to it. Putting aside my thoughts of the two's obvious bromance, I look around for a chair while they clean up his shoes. Finding one that's only two hops away, I settle in it before anyone's shock can wear off.
"Well come on, big boys. Show me your best shot. As for the rest of you in significant individuals," I incline my head at my puddle of spew "someone should do something about that before Billy Bob wakes up. I'd do it, I swear I would, but I'm a bit tied up at the moment."
I'm being awful. Yes. Yes, I know. On any given day I'm persistently difficult but I'm aiming for damn near impossible tonight. If this isn't some screwed-up nightmare, then I need to ensure that the very idea of taking me on this jolly ole adventure doesn't cross anyone's mind. If that means throwing up on a couple of people, so be it.
"Well this is a surprise isn't it?" Greydalf leans on his staff as he peers deeply into my face. It's almost laughable when his own face pulls into a pained grimace before he smooths it out "You are you and not another."
"Your riddles do not work on me, Wizard." Putting on my best villain voice I scoff dismissively "I have little interest in who I should be and more in making Mister Euthanasia's life a living hell. Which I will do. Someway. Somehow."
"Dwalin." the gravel in the dwarf's voice would send any fangirl into orgasmic conniptions but it just causes me to roll my eyes at his theatrics. You can only be but so sexy while cleaning up chunks of hot dog off your boots "Explain."
"I was on the old north road, having just passed the Dim Hills, when I stumbled upon her. She was laid out against a tree, looking pale as death, but when I approached a wolf sprang out of the bushes. I slew it in defence, something she found extremely upsetting."
"He was only half wolf and was only protecting me. You'll pay for that, I'm telling you that now."
"You are hardly in any position to make threats." Looming over me in a clear threat the short hypocrite of a leader to this ragtag gang glares down his thick nose at me. I return it and glare right back "Continue."
"The lass came searching for the mutt and seeing what was done, flew into a rage and attacked me. Oi! Settle down!" Of course I got up when he called Killer a mutt again. If it wasn't for the axe wielding moron's meaty hand shoving me back down into my chair, I'd have clobbered him for the insult "She was testy then but just as easy to subdue as now."
"What makes you think she's a spy?" Having finished delicately assigning the cleaning brigade, The Grey Grandpa returns as though he'd never been gone. Even though his question is idiotic at best... The idea that I'm obviously a spy from hell is the most logical explanation but whatever "I imagine her reaction is quite expected given the situation. It's no reason to harm the girl."
"I only laid a hand on her, and not to do any true harm, once she started shouting about the quest." Directing his attention back to his King, Dwalin lowers his voice as if he expects me to have backup. Which I don't but I would much appreciate "She knows our names and where we were going... What we were doing. She knew the burglar's name before even I did."
"Makk an E ha'ak... Makk an E ha'ak.*"
"Whoa, aren't you supposed to be a king or something? What king uses that kind of language in front of a lady?"
"You speak of things that you should not know and decipher a language not meant for you to understand. A spy without a doubt but a lady? Hardly." Placing a hand on his sword the dwarf silently rolls the new information in his mind as I try to bring up some more of my lunch. Sadly, he comes to his next words before I can do any further damage "Who sent you?"
"I wasn't sent. I was brought. By Dwalin." Even I'm not crazy enough to bring the gods into this. The useless gods who obviously tried to steal my sister and made a mistake because they're stupid. Because this only happens in freaking Middle Earth. Great. I really could have done without this mess... "I came in his sack over there, remember?"
"... Who are you?"
"You can call me 'your highness ' if it suits your fancy."
"Foolish child, I've no interest in playing your games! You will tell me who you are and who sent you while I'm still in a mind not to do you harm to obtain that information. Now, speak."
"Do I look like a dog to you? Nevermind. You all obviously don't know what a dog looks like!" Biting the inside of my cheek, I embrace the pain to fuel my anger. Without that fire, I'd have to admit that my heart is breaking for my friend and... I'm not ready. I'm not ready to admit anything except for rage "Where I came from doesn't matter. Who sent me if anyone even did, isn't important because I have no intention of using the knowledge in my head. You, Thorin Oakenshield, can die tomorrow or live to have 50 children with 50 different women as far as I'm concerned. But Dwalin? He made the biggest mistake of his life today and he'll pay for it one way or another. Now take your interrogation and shove it up your royal behind."
Turning my head towards the window in a clear act of defiance and dismissal, I let the sound of the crackling fire wash over me. The acrid scent of my barf penetrates my nose but I don't care. The king wants to know more but without beating it out of me, it would seem the proper dwarves are at a proper stand still.
Maybe come morning they'll change their minds. Maybe they'll beat me senseless until I spill my guts, only to determine I'm whacked out of my mind, and leave me here to eat 7 meals a day. I'd much rather that than a seven-month journey with the dragon as my prize. God... I hope they just beat the stuffing out of me.
"It would seem quite obvious to me what needs to be done."
"Thorin, you must think about-"
"No, Gandalf. Just... no."
"What other choice do we have, Master dwarf? Hm? She knows too much to leave things as they are. How she even came by the knowledge is a mystery in itself. Have you spoken of the quest to anyone outside you're kin?"
"You know I would not."
"Would you prefer to torture the girl until she offers what information she holds? I tell you this, I will have no part in that, and would like to think you wouldn't either."
"Of course not."
"Well then? What choice do we have but to take her with us? Master Dwalin has already attested that her biggest threat is only her mouth."
Roughly dragging my fingers through my hair, I settle my expression on blank disinterest despite feeling the opposite. The feisty redhead knows something, too much, about this quest to just ignore her. Even more over, she clearly has a vendetta against Dwalin for the eradication of her pet wolf's life. Even if I could bring myself to harm the young woman, failed spy or not, keeping her quiet after the matter would require permanent measures that I am not even willing to consider.
Yet, to take her with us? Her team would surely follow, as only a fool would send this defenseless child on such a mission without support. Despite her fire, it is apparent that she has no training in weaponry or hand to hand combat. Perhaps... Perhaps her presence here could bring her companions close enough to reveal themselves while attempting to free or make contact with her. It will be difficult to remain hidden once we reach the Chetwood and even more so after we pass the Weathertop hills... She would not be with us long...
It will also give us time to slowly obtain what information she has while bringing minimal damage to the girl herself. Once she sees what becomes of her hopefully male counterparts, she will be easily persuaded into the position of silent motherhood or perhaps a mute spinster. While not an ideal situation, I cannot afford another group attempting to accept the bounty for my head.
"We will bring her-"
"Oh heeeeeeeeeell no!" the drawn-out cry is followed by a series of loud thumps until the girl in question appears in the hall before us "No way. No how. Nope. Try again!"
"You have left us little choice in-"
"No means no!" Stomping her foot in frustration, I begin to worry for her health as well as her sanity as she turns as bright red as her hair "Do not pass go. Do not collect $200."
"Do not come on down and spill The Wheel of Fortune! Get it through your head. I'm. Not. Going!"
"Miss, we would not do this if we did not have to." Balin, ever the polite linguist, tries to calm the rapidly panicking girl even if he does not agree with the decision to bring her. Clearly whoever sent the child, did not put enough thought into their choice "If you would-"
"No. Stop. You're not going to smooth talk me into accepting this, Balin..." Sucking in a breath the moment his name leaves her mouth, the useless spy begins shaking her head violently before squinting her eyes and gazing around the room in confusion "I mean... Who are you, nameless one? Who am I? I seem to have suffered memory loss from a blow to the head that I may or may not have received. It's all so blurry! Can I go now?"
"Amnesia! Glaucoma! Uh... Um..." Her brow furrows in a way that would almost be comical if my birthright wasn't on the line. Balin attempts to calm her but she continues with her rant "Tuberculosis... or consumption!"
"Leprosy! Don't you see that spot!? I really think-"
"Silence!" Having heard enough this nonsense, I step up to my newest burden. Gripping the front of her strange tunic, I force her to bend so we stand nose-to-nose "We desire your presence as much as you wish for ours and yet we must all suffer one another for a while longer. Prepare your mind and quiet your tongue for I'll hear nothing more on this distasteful subject! Have I made myself clear?"
I can hear it, the actual grinding of her teeth as she decides her next move. If Mahal were merciful he would not have placed me in such an impossible position, yet I frequent the unlikely path of life more days than not. Like a match being blown out, the grinding stops. With slow deliberate movements, the girl pulls her lips into a grin.
"Really clear. And I hope it's clear that it'll be your funeral whether I go or not." At my own feral grin, she turns her head slightly towards Dwalin "Did you bury my dog?"
"..." the question seems to catch him off guard, but I've never known him to be a dwarf to lie. Something in my gut tells me that he should have "No."
"Hm." ducking her head to hide her face, the girl sighs quietly "Only the first day and already on mistake number two... When I finally get to the ruining your life part, I just want you to know that I'm going to cut off your balls too."
*Son of a she dog.
Atina is NOT happy. Thorin isn't happy. Dwalin isn't happy. Bilbo is still lying next to puke. It's crazy over here.
Chapter 4: Roses and sunshine
"Attie... Attie, I'm so sorry. It's all my fault-"
"No. Annie, stop. We can't play the guilt game right now."
"I can't help it, he's right... It's all my fault that-"
"Annie, please! Not... Not now." Bound to our respective poles, I can't even comfort my twin as she starts to cry. Hearing her sadness, Killer whines softly in his cage. "Annie... Annie y-you have to be strong now. Ok? Don't give him what he wants."
"If it weren't for me, you wouldn't have gotten into the car at all. And Killer..." My sister isn't listening to me. I know she's not. Dragging her gaze over to our bound dog, she cries harder "He broke his jaw, Attie... He broke... He broke it... I HEARD it break. Attie... Attie!"
"Shhh. Shhh." trying to quiet her, I hush my double as quietly as I can but she continues to weep "Annie, please. Be quiet. He'll-"
"So you're up, little flame?" A chill so cold that it could stop my heart runs through my body at those words. It's an endearment that he calls me, and I hate it. I hate the mockery of it, as if I were a candle just waiting to be snuffed out by just his violent breaths "Are you ready to play again?"
Steps thud loudly across the concrete floor. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from whimpering as my tormentor stands before me. He's tall, a natural basketball giant if I've ever seen one, but he is still built like a tree. His pale skin and ginger hair rivals even mine, making his freckles stand out prominently. He bends low in front of me with a gentle smile that I quickly learned over the past few days, never lasts.
"It's a new day. What shall we do?" I say nothing, as I know the psycho isn't talking to me. No, he's talking to the people in his head and they are nothing if not vicious. Like a switch in the hands of a child, his face pulls into a number emotions before settling on a snarl. This time I do cry out involuntarily because I hate this one. He backhands me with ease before patting my cheek "No... No no no no no no no. You'll be quiet, little flame. It's time to play. There'll be plenty of time to cry after the game starts."
"Let her go!"
Annie's voice penetrates the pain in my scalp and I want to tell her to be quiet. I never know what's coming my way but I do know that he hates Anita. Right from the start he told us that her purpose was to lure me to him and that he only has an end game planned for her. I grit my teeth as he grabs a tighter fistful of my hair and yanks my head back. Better me than her. I can take it... anything anyone of them can dish out. I hate them all, all of his 'personalities' but I hate this one the most. I try... I try not to but the cry escapes me anyway even as Annie continues her own begging.
"Please... Don't do this..."
"... It's time to play." Standing swiftly, he tries to make me follow him up but I'd rather have my hair pulled out then do anything he has planned. Last time... Last time he was here he made me hold Killer's chipped teeth while he cut off chunks of Anita's hair. It gets worse each day and I don't know what today holds, so I resist, knowing it'll only hurt me more. A familiar crack sounds and I taste blood from the second back hand delivered today "It's you... or it's her. Now, get UP."
The air can't come into my lungs fast enough, leading to me gasping on the floor as I try to get over the nightmare. Or rather, memory. Anita and I spent a lot of time with our psychologist to aid in overcoming that ordeal. It helped my sister some... But me? Not so much. A shuffling by my head has me looking up only to be greeted by a remorsefully angry Durin brat.
"Not that I care but I apologize for startling you awake. It's time to get up." So it was him that brought me to consciousness in such an uncomfortable state. His strange statement, paired with his frowning but confused eyes, leads to me saying absolutely nothing. We just stare at each other awkwardly before he finally clears his throat, his voice heavy with pity "Well. I had best be-"
"My shoulders hurt, I'm hungry, and I have to pee." Struggling into a sitting position I flex my fingers delicately "Fix one of these things or find someone more useful who can."
"And just why should I care for your needs?" I nearly sigh in relief as the pity on his face is replaced by annoyance. It's something I can't stand. Pity. Yeah, poor me. I've got issues, boo hoo. No matter what, I'll never be pitiful. I don't need it and even if I did, I don't want it "You have made it more than clear that you wish us all ill and want nothing to do with us."
"Not exactly. I want nothing to do with you though, that part is true. You could always just... let me go. You can't force me to stay with you and then complain about my presence." With the agility of an old cat, I bring my hands under my butt and legs before bringing them up my front to rest in my lap "So are you letting me go or not?
"Then fetch me my meal, slave."
His expressions are hilarious. Shock and anger battle on his young face before he settles on resigned displeasure. Lifting his chin, he tilts his head in a cross between acceptance and dismissal before turning on his heel and walking away. I take said time to begin chewing at my ropes. There were too many people around last night but everyone is busy preparing now.
With a silent snip, my bindings giveaway and I hop to my feet. Grabbing a nearby bag, I dump the majority of the items out (A plethora of stolen goods), leaving within it a few knives of varying sizes, before tossing in a stray throw blanket. The Larder is empty, so it'd be a waste of time to sneak all the way over there just for disappointment. Instead, I heft the bag onto my shoulder and immediately exit the premises through the small window sharing the empty room with me.
Dropping into a rose bush isn't my favorite thing to do but I'll take it over this suicide mission. Not bothering to wipe away the new strands of blood from the thorns, I round the giant smial. Coming quickly to the front makes the collision all the worse.
The Woolen clad youngster might be newer to the world than the others in his group but he is built just as solidly. I bounce off him but save myself from crumbling to the floor with some excessive arm pinwheels. For his part, the dwarf stumbles back a bit as well before steadying himself. He eyes me wearily before recognizing who exactly I am with a gasp.
"Shhh!" tapping my mouth with my index finger frantically, I try to keep the youth quiet. His mouth gapes as wide as his eyes as I reach out and grab his hand "Do you support the kidnapping of women?"
"Under any circumstances?"
"Are you scum or aren't you? Yes or no?"
"You are if you tell anyone that you saw me or alert them that I'm leaving. That's exactly what you'll be doing. That's exactly who you will be."
His eyes flicker with indecision as he debates my words. The longer he takes, the more likely someone is to notice that I'm gone. Thinking fast, I force myself to bring up the memories of the ordeal. Almost instantly my eyes begin to water and my heart starts racing. The dwarf notices immediately and steps forward in worry.
"Miss? Miss, are you alright?"
"What if I was your sister? Or your mother?" Wrapping my arms around myself to ward off the chills, I warn myself not to stay in the state for too long. It never ends well. "What if I was anyone but me? Would you be so content to ignore what is happening? Would you be okay with what you're about to do?"
"..." His face crumbles and I know I've got him but it doesn't matter. Reigning in my emotions before they can crush me under their weight, I duck my head to hide my blanking features. He took too long, and I know it from his next words. "T-Thorin...Dwalin..."
"Go inside, Ori."
The younger dwarf does not argue with his superior. Giving me a teeny backwards look of pity, he scampers off. Again with the pity. I do not acknowledge Thorin or Dwalin's presence, instead glaring at the scratch on my hand as it continues to bleed. It isn't too deep but it's long and cleanly made. I doubt any wounds I obtain from this forced trip will be anywhere near as superficial. Nope. I'll probably be okay for awhile, if I don't break my neck in the misty mountains. I'll be ok for a little... at least until the eagle show up. I'd rather face down Azog the defiler all on my own before I willingly go flying without a handy oxygen mask.
"Your tricks will do you no good any longer."
"It isn't a trick. If I were someone else, this whole idea would be unacceptable. So I'm sorry for trying to do what's in my best interest, King No-one-cares, but I don't want to die. I know this must come as a surprise to you, being that you're actually hell-bent on going on this suicide mission."
"We will be successful." Stepping forward, Dwalin clenches his fists in the anger his Monarch refuses to show "Erebor will be restored, despite you're interference."
"Yeah. You can bet it will be." They look at me strangely but I don't care. Biting my tongue against the venomous words that would truly only serve to get me knocked out again, I watch the sun peek over the horizon. Its beauty is breathtaking; A hidden foreshadowing of how awful this is going to be. Shaking my head, I take off running "No. I can't do this! I won't let you get me killed!"
The two males behind me curse darkly but don't have a chance to give chase as I nearly run into the oldest Ri brother. A good thing I don't. Despite his prim and tidy attire, his muscles are no joke. He's built like he could take a direct hit from a wrecking ball and still not drop his tea. He gazes at me the way one looks at a petulant child but as I open my mouth to offer a piece of my mind, he beats me to it.
"This is not what you may desire but it will happen because it must."
"Cease all thoughts of going about this solely on your own. You are not alone in this. There is no longer 'I' or 'me'. There is no 'myself' or 'themselves'. We are all bound by this unforeseen happening and we must all learn to deal."
"I'll die..." There is no reason I can give for why I tell him this small fear. He wouldn't care, he has no reason to, but I want someone besides myself to know "If I go... I'll really die. You can't make me-"
"We can and if we have to, we will. We are bigger than you. We are stronger than you. There are more of us than there are you. So you need to be with us because you cannot be against us."
"Similarly, you are a woman and thus we would never wish you harm. The future cannot exist if not for the Feminine sacrifice, so we are always in its debt. We need you with us, simply because we cannot harm you should you be against us." Folding his arms across his chest, the dwarf sighs deeply "We do not wish to, but we can tie you up and drag you along. It is not our desire but we can force you into silence if the need be. We do not want to do anything to compel you into compliance but we will if you force us because we can. Yet know this: Your unhappiness or harm are not something we seek. Should you require aid while in our care, it will be given... Within reason."
"... This is crazy, you all know it..." And it is. Like hell they'd save me if I needed saving. "It'd be more beneficial to you just to let me get killed."
"That may be so," the Monarch steps in for his turn "but it will not come to pass. As dwarves, it is not our way. While you may not have our trust, so long as you do not offer us immediate threat, you will find yourself safe with this company. You have my word."
"... Your word then..." A king giving his word to a suspected spy means little to nothing to me but I don't say that. What good would it do me, surrounded by his subjects? "Let us see how far it goes."
Chapter 5: Abductee
Eating a dry hunk of bread is not the easiest thing to do while sitting atop a disproportionate pony that you just happened to be tied to. Not that I can say I'm surprised, what with the amount of times I've tried to escape in the last couple of hours. I'm more annoyed with my inability to escape than the questsketeers insistence that I stay. My skills are lacking, which never is a good thing because when caught between a rock and a hard place, you need to be made of steel. So hardening my resolve, I aim to control the only thing I can: Myself.
Escape might not be a current option for me but that doesn't mean it'll never happen. There are going to be plenty of instances where everyone will be more concerned about other things besides little ole me. None more so than in Rivendell. All I have to do is slip away long enough to ask/beg Elrond to let me stay. With me ‘safely contained’ Gandalf will have no reason to keep me around and the dwarves will be too sorely outnumbered to even think of forcing the issue. That plan has to work because I'm already losing my cool here. Spending the entire length of the trip bound and fighting for my freedom... It will just bring up too many bad memories that I'm not ready to deal with.
Sniffing the thoughts away quietly, I ignore the dwarf guiding my pony with his own. Instead, I take in my surroundings. With a forest spanning farther than I can see on my right and a river to my far left, I begin to build a mental map. Bilbo isn't here yet... So we haven't yet reached Frogmorton. So we must be around Bywater, if I had to give a rough guess. That's not even an eighth of the way to Bree.
“This is going to take FOREVER.” Grumbling quietly beneath my breath, it takes me a moment to notice the curious stare of my hatted kidnapper. When I do, there is an internal battle not to just throw an insult his way. I'd love to but for my own sanity, I'll refrain “Can I... Help you?”
“... I'm right as rain, Lassie.” A bark of laughter escapes my mouth before I can catch it. It'll be raining soon enough and if I remember correctly, which I'm sure I do, no one will be happy about it. Not that he's aware of that, so I just look nuts “Are ye... All right?”
“I've been kidnapped-”
“Come now, tisn't kidnapping.”
“Oh? What would you call it, hat-for-brains?”
“Considering ye threaten the lives and safety of the heroes of Erebor, I'd call it letting ye off easy.”
“... You seriously referred to yourself as the hero before you even achieved anything...” Squinting my eyes at his shrug, I turn my attention back to the river “Un-freakin'-believable.”
The steady sound of the pony steps lulls me into a sense of deep-seated boredom. To stave off the drowsy feeling, I take a bite of my brunch each time I see a hobbit with black or straight hair. Curly and brown is the norm but there are plenty of the beings in general fishing along the river. For a race who can't swim, they sure are bold. Studying the hobbits only leads to more boredom after a minute or so.
“She did not say that, did she?”
“I wouldn't lie.”
“Nor do I think you are... but... Kili, leave it. She doesn't matter.”
“Such disrespect, you think I’d ignore?” “Well... Have you told Uncle?”
“Of course not, what good would it do?”
The hushed whispers quickly draw my attention to the back of the procession. Whether or not the Durin brats intended for me to hear their conversation over the bartering and bets of the rest of the company is beside the point. The possibility of them talking about me is almost as high as my boredom levels so I turn my head to listen a little bit better.
“... He should know what lies she spouts, especially if they bother you so.”
“The redheaded she-devil.” Ah... definitely me then. “We are not slaves for her kind to order.”
“Slave she said? Truly?”
“Aye, brother.” who would have thought he'd take it so seriously? Those within hearing distance pretend to be deaf but I catch every glare thrown my way “I knew not whether to argue the point or just leave her there. I wish we had.”
“There is little use in arguing with children of Men. Not living long enough to surpass the age of ignorant youth, the whole race is made up of bickering fools.” I shoot a silent snarl at the half deaf dwarf who appears to be hearing just fine. He returns it with a spot of more venom seeped with age old hate “It's a surprise they haven't all killed each other off already.”
“Lassie...” Flicking my gaze away from one dwarf to the other, I stare at my forced guide “You won't make any friends with your face or words like that.”
“I don't need friends. I don't want friends.” Looking him up and down with a deliberate expression of disgust, I scoff before loudly continuing for them all to hear “Even if I did want or need friends, I wouldn't look for them amongst any of you.”
“... Maybe not.” Humming softly and placing a pipe between his teeth, the dwarf returns his eyes to the road. “But soon, we're all you're going to have.”
Though I'd have preferred to have the last word, the sudden cry of Bilbo has the entire conga line pulling to a halt. He clomps after the group dressed as if he was going to Sunday dinner and ran the whole way there. A smorgasbord of items bursts out of his overpacked bag but I'm sure he's brought all the wrong things. That just seems like something he would do. Not that I'm one to talk. All I've got is a stolen throw blanket that I was ‘allowed’ to keep. Its humiliating.
“I signed it!” Fool of a Took. You'll earn yourself nothing but heartache from this venture. He should have just stayed safe in his home but no... He should have just stayed and let the rest of the world burn “I-I signed it...”
“Everything appears to be in order.” Balin- I mean... The powdered dwarrow looks over the contract as the hobbit catches his breath. I mustn't use their names. Giving them names means I'm becoming familiar. Becoming familiar will only make things harder. It's much better to keep them at a distance “Welcome, Master Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield.”
“Give him a pony.”
“Uncle!” the change has me snapping my head in the direction of the youngest Prince. I do not like deviations where there should not be any. I never have and I most certainly do not now “We haven't a pony to give him. The last Pony... Well... She's riding it.”
“Oh pardon my manners, miss!” Looking all the flustered Gentlemen, The Hobbit scampers over to my side with a bow. He was knocked out by the time I arrived to active consciousness so it's safe to say that he doesn't know the current situation “I do not believe we met last night. I am Bilbo Baggins. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“And what are you called, if I may ask?”
“Um... Right now... I'm being kidnapped so... I guess abductee sounds good.”
Chapter 6: Excluding Bilbo
“Oh... u-um... well... G-g-gandalf?”
The shrill cry from the hobbit makes my gut twist. I make a mental note to exclude him from future hardcore ribbing. He isn't in the same category as the dwarves and thus does not deserve my temper. Though ill-mannered, vengeful, and all-around spiky, I'm not a bully. Not at all happy with my whole ‘kidnapped’ statement, Gandalf looks just about 2 seconds from turning me into a toad.
“My dear Bilbo Baggins, this young lady arrived with extremely sensitive information concerning this quest.”
“What has that to do with kidnapping the girl?” He turns to assess my situation and well-being only to find my hands tied to the saddle “She is bound! Gandalf?! I thought this to be a noble quest, yet your first order of business is t-t-to steal away maidens for... sensitive information? What sort of nefarious group-”
“It would serve you well, halfling, to choose your words carefully.”
Though it is Gloin who speaks, the group as a whole begins radiating hostility. Sitting upon mounts, I've no doubt that they all look even more intimidating to the smaller male. It distantly tickles the back of my mind that my simple sentence has the power to change this story immeasurably if the Hobbit backs out. He'll go home and the world as they know it will be over. Sauron will get the ring and the vision for the enslavement of the Shire, along with everyone else, will come into fruition. I can't have the whole world falling into a darkness only found in the depths of hell just because a few people annoy me... Even if they killed my dog.
“All right. All right. Everyone just dial it down a notch. Bilbo, I HAVE been kidnapped but! But” I give him what I hope is a reassuring but stern smile. It's probably a flop but at least I'm trying “It was for a reasonably logical... reason. They think I'm a spy because I know some things that I shouldn't.”
“... Are you? A spy?”
“No, of course not. I really couldn’t care less about all of this before the whole stealing me away fiasco.”
“As if one would expect a spy to admit to being a spy. Deceptive by nature.” Dwalin stares me down and my small amount of morality for not destroying the world as a whole becomes a little less interesting “She's a spy if I've ever seen one.”
“Well you don't even know what a dog looks like-”
“Enough about the mutt! I’ll tame you a warg if you just stop-”
“I'd love to see it eat your face off!” shaking my head in anger, I toss my hair over my shoulder with violent shrug “You killed my dog and accuse me of being an assassin, amongst other things. I think I've got a right to be reasonably upset for at least a day!”
“Master Dwalin... Young Miss... Please calm yourselves. This argument is better saved for a quiet discussion, not held on the open road. Hm?”
“Master Baggins...” Here the wizard stop as if trying to gather the words that will keep the Hobbit from setting the authorities on the troop “This young lady is in possession of information that could be harmful to our mission, those associated with it, and even herself. It is in all our best interest that she remain in our care for the time being.”
“... I-I see...” Still wavering on the side of caution, the Hobbit glances at me and then my hands “And her bindings? Is she... Violent or dangerous?”
“Why no, not at all, physically. The young Miss simply does not agree with remaining under our supervision. They are unfortunately necessary for her cooperation.”
“What if... What if I were to ride with her?”
Blinking in surprise I gaze down at the tiny man curiously.. He's no friend of mine nor is he an experienced Horseman but here he is offering to share a saddle with me. How... Nice “Would you release her hands then?”
“Have you ever ridden a pony, laddie?”
“... Once or twice, Master... Bebar?”
“Ha! Bofur. Bofur, laddie.”
“Y-Yes. Of course. My apologies.”
“You'll get it in time, just as you will with riding but you shouldn't start with the untamed...”
“He can ride with me.” Everyone's head turns in my direction and were I a lesser woman, I'd squirm under their attention. Thankfully I'm better than that “He has to ride with someone and since you'll all be watching us both like a hawk, it'd be easier if we were together.”
The idea is a sound one but because it came from my mouth, Thorin frowns deeply at it. He exchanges hushed whispers between his favorite cousins and the Wizard while I roll my eyes in annoyance but throw Bilbo a half-smile. Shifting his pack nervously he returns it, though shakily.
“A splendid idea, dear girl.” The dwarf king would seem to disagree with his wizard friend but he doesn't voice it “Very kind of you to offer.
“Fili. Kili. Help him onto the pony. Then...” The dwarf clenches his jaw so tightly, that I think he may crack a couple of teeth. “...release her hands.”
“Let me be the only one to warn you, girl. You will not be pleased if I come to regret this act.”
My flippancy is not well received but I didn't think it would be. Im insulting a king but go ahead and ask me if I care. Hint hint, I don't. Rolling my eyes again, I feel the pony shift beneath me as the princes approach. The eldest drops off his steed to come over and assist Bilbo in getting settled in front of me. The younger however is not so kind as he just starts taking out a small knife without climbing off his mount.
I can't help but to draw back as he comes nearer, even if it is to ‘help’. He sees my apprehension and his face twist into a scowl.
“I'm not going to harm you, though it would be within my rights after the insults you gave me this morning.”
“Precisely why I'm worried. I've never been on the receiving end of a blade that I enjoyed.”
“Well no wonder you've chosen a life of crime, Lassie! You obviously need a good lay.” I choke back a laugh at the joke, knowing I walked right into it, even as the youngest Prince blushes heavily. I can't have anyone thinking I have a sense of humor “It may be small but Kili knows his way around his blade.”
“I-It's not- I’M not- Ah!”
Snatching up my hands, the brunette slices through the ropes and kicks his horse into a gallop until he reaches the front of the group. His companions laugh at his expense, even his brother offers a chuckle or two as he helps Bilbo into place. Once complete and everyone is back in their respective places, the leader calls for the procession to get into motion.
Chapter 7: Nose knows
The road we travel is a well-used one, if only by farmers. We pass countless fields of all sorts of natural and home-grown foods; it's a health nut's wet dream. I personally prefer heart-stopping cheeseburgers lathered with everything but I'm not in a complaining mood. Nope. Not me. I'm having a wonderful time watching the dwarves stiffly bear witness to the popularity of one Bilbo Baggins.
He's a right celebrity in these parts, it would seem. The lady Hobbits swoon and bat their lashes at him before giggling into a fit of intense blushes when his gaze swivels in their direction. The males incline their heads in reverence, acknowledging their respect as he passes through. An influential, rich, bachelor: If Thorin wanted to get on the road without drawing too much attention, he made a big mistake by having his company look like glorified guards for the hobbit Prince.
"I don't suppose it'll be much further to Frogmorton... We are moving much faster than I anticipated we would." Pulling at his collar nervously, The Hobbit clears his throat when no one answers "We'll arrive at our destination in no time at all if we keep this pace."
"That's true." But this pace won't be kept for very long. Not that I can say so. Not that I really want to. "It'll still be a little while and I use the term 'little' loosely."
"Yes... Yes I am sure that you are correct, Miss-"
The Hobbit stiffens at my front as the pony decides that at this moment it would like to walk beside the Wizard's mount. All the reign pulling in the world doesn't stop the creature from cutting in line, with an elegant raised of its head, to meander its way to the sorcerer's aside. Gandalf for his part, simply smiles at the occurrence, probably having caused it in some way, shape, or form.
"Ah, hello again, Gandalf."
"Good of you to come see how an old friend is fairing." The two share a warm laugh which is clearly built on a deep relationship that all the books and movies could not capture completely. It's nice... I wish they'd stop "And you have brought a new friend. I think it is high time that we learned your name, dear."
"... I'd rather not say. You can call me 'Hey you' if you really need to address me. I won't mind."
"I couldn't possibly! Such a dismissive reference is just... Just... Unacceptable!"
"Truly!" not at all cowed by my silence, Bilbo continues with his rant "A name is just as important as a face: It's gives us the beginning of who we are and wish to be known by. Surely you have one."
"Yes but it makes no difference. I'm still me whether or not you know my name. Roses and all that, you know."
"Never mind... I just-"
"... Its... I'm... Maybe some other time. Maybe."
I'm not sure what it is but I feel protective of my name. As if providing my personal information will somehow send me further into this mad Quest. It's completely untrue, as I doubt anyone here cares about dragging around some nameless girl. They are collectively doing it right now... Gandalf frowns beneath the brim of his gray hat but Bilbo thankfully nods his understanding. Or at least his acceptance.
"Some other time then, but... Must I truly refer to you as 'hey you' until then?"
"Let me think on that for a while. I'm sure I'll be able to come up with something else."
He nods again before entering into a light-hearted conversation with his friend. I listen with half an ear but give up after barely a minute, rather than die from mundane boredom.
The hours drag by like snails and it takes all my self control not to scream. Kicking my legs lightly, I'm aware that my feet nearly drag the ground. I'm not tall, 5'5 to be exact, but I'm no dwarf either so I'm not built to ride this beast. The hanging didn't bother me at first but now it's early afternoon and what was once a sleepy tingle is currently a raging ache in my thighs. I could honestly just slide right off the back of the saddle but that would no doubt caused a huge commotion that I don't feel like hearing. I just want to make it to Rivendell in one piece. Is that too much to ask?
"Come on, Nori! Pay up!"
"Oh, is it that time already?"
I do not answer my riding partner, as bags of Queens begin flying through the air before I can do so. It's like Thorin's sleigh with a guest appearance from Gandalf the nosey Wizard, with all the jingling going around. I half expect to get smacked in the back of my head by rogue bag but the dwarves are careful with their money. Considering that they are dwarves, this isn't surprising.
"What is- goodness, please be careful! What is this all about?" Bilbo looks between Gandalf and myself in worry. Poor guy probably thinks someone sold his good sense while he wasn't looking "First my mother's westfarthing pottery, quite old you know, and now money?"
"They did not break anything and cleaned each piece afterwards."
"That is hardly the point, Gandalf. They could have-"
"They took wagers on whether or not you'd turn up. Just a spot of fun, both then and now." Offering a warm shake of his head, as if he hadn't just cut me off, the gray clad man shrugs his shoulders lightly. "Most of them bet that you would not."
"Oh... well... what did you think?"
"Well..." a short shout from up ahead draws our attention to the flying sack of coins. Gandalf catches it easily enough and shoves it into his messenger pouch "My dear fellow, I never doubted you for a second."
"And you, miss? Did you- Achoo!" Ah, the dreaded sneeze. It's an intense thing. It shakes the poor guy thoroughly in his seat, causing the pony to huff its displeasure "M-my apologies! I just seem to- a-achoo!"
"Not usually but there's so much- A-choo! H-horsehair. I seem to be having a reaction." The Hobbit shifts in front of me, searching his pockets desperately for his handkerchief. First the left, then the right, and then the left again but to no avail "Uh... um... wha... WA-"
"Don't do that."
"You'll look silly if you try to turn this caravan around for a handkerchief. They won't do it, and Thorin will only think less of you for it." clearing my throat upon finding those around us nodding in agreement, though not looking at us, I focus on the road ahead "Just buy one in Bree if you really need it."
"But what shall I do until then? My nose-"
"Here! Use this!"
Bofur tears off a piece of his shirt and tosses the cloth at Bilbo. It hits the would-be burglar in the chest before falling limply into his lap. The brown scrap looks like it has been scrubbing urinal floors for years even if I know it's probably not that bad. Still... I wouldn't wipe my behind with it if I had a choice, let alone my face. Bilbo isn't given that choice, unless he wants to use his sleeve and something tells me he won't. Offering a small smile of forced appreciation he nods before taking a quantum leap of faith. Bringing the rag to his face, the hobbit quickly wipes his snot box, and tucks the item away. He doesn't die from it, so there is hope.
"You'll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach our journey's end." Like indoor plumbing. We'll be pooping in holes; leaving little brown bread crumbs all over Middle Earth. God help me now if I wipe with poison ivy "You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you. the world is ahead."
Our little group falls into silence as we both accept the words of wisdom. All that we were comfortable with, has been left behind. Situations we excelled in have been exchanged for expectations we have no means or idea how to achieve. We are lost in this big wide world where everything wants us dead and it's frightening to say the least.
The farms around us grow sparse and the unknown creeps upon us even as we still remain within the boundaries of 'safety'. Grinning for a moment, I secretly laugh at the stupidity of it all. No one is safe, it's just an illusion we need to get us through the day. Nope... no one is safe and they never will be.
"A tight single file now! We won't be able to cross the Brandywine any other way."
I pay as little attention as needed as we go on. The Flatlands grow into hills on our left as another forest crops up again on our right. As the sun lowers, I believe we will have just enough time to make it to Bree for the night if-
"We make camp here!"
"Here?! Why here? We could easily make it to-"
"Your opinions are unheeded, unnecessary, and unwanted. Keep them to yourself." Climbing off his pony, the dwarf King glares at me from his place "Dismount and sit against that tree."
"Why? So you can tie me to it?"
"N-now just wait a moment. You said that if I rode with her-"
"Your ride is through. Girl. Remove yourself from the pony or be removed. I assure you, you will not enjoy the latter."
"I won't enjoy the former either and I am not letting you tie me to a tree." Bilbo fumbles for his words but climbs down anyway. So focused on Thorin, I do not notice Dwalin creeping up on my left like the slithery snake that he is until I am being yanked out of the saddle and none too gently either "Let go of me!"
"Gently, Master dwarf!" Gandalf's words are neither acknowledged or ignored but all hear them. Dwalin pins my arms to my sides as Kili, stupid nutball that he is, darts forward to subdue my legs. Naturally I thrash wildly, screaming obscenities as we go "We do not wish to harm the woman. Young Miss, please-"
I pause in my anger at the feeling of bone giving under my foot. Still holding one of my ankles, the dwarrow uses his now free hand to hold his gushing nose. Though it hadn't been my intention to hurt him, it does serve the kid right. Sighing heavily, I purse my lips as the entire group watches the show.
"She broke my bloody nose!" As he drops my foot and raises his hand, I flinch hard and shut my eyes tightly. I'm sure that I'm going to get the holy hell knocked out of me but the blow doesn't come. Cracking my lids slowly, I don't even realize that I'm shaking until Dwalin drops his hold off me "I'm... I'm not going to hit you."
Wrapping my arms around myself I squeeze until I feel my ribs creak. The discomfort pricks at my spine and I use it as an attempt to stop my trembling. I feel weak in front of them now and bite my tongue as everyone's face flickers with that awful emotion. Even Thorin looks uncomfortable and I just. Can't. Stand it. Steeling my spine, I stomped over to the tree that started this all and plop myself down in the dry grass in front of it.
"I'll sit here but you are not, I repeat NOT, going to tie me to it. Not without one hell of a fight."
The internal debate is clear but the group leader decides to let it be. Whether from my embarrassing reaction, my overall stubbornness, or his need to simply ignore me, I can't be sure. Whichever it is, I'm grateful for it as I turn my thoughts in on myself. My hands continue to tremble as I stare at them so I shove them into the dirt at my sides. The small sharp stones embedded in the earth sting the sensitive skin under my nails but I don't mind. I remind myself over and over that there is nothing to be afraid of. Though I've plenty, my biggest demon can't hurt me anymore. I know... because I killed him myself.
Chapter 8: Bree
True to her word, the girl does not move from the spot that she chose. Master Baggins tries to keep her company well enough but it is clear from the start that she is in no mood for conversation. Her arms are wrapped around her middle tightly and her eyes hold a glossy stare of an unmistakable absence of mind. The most disturbing part is the rocking; It's a gentle swaying back and forth motion that I do not think she is in full control of... An overly sorrowful whimper from my side pulls my eyes from the distant redhead in time to watch my brother flop into a sprawled sitting position. His nose is a malted canvas of painful colors, framed harshly by his two bruised eyes. She truly did a number on him.
“How do you feel, brother?” I need not ask; it's blatantly obvious, but I do so anyway “The bleeding has stopped?
“And started up again when Oin set it to rights. He was none too gentle...” Leaning his head back to give me a clearer view of his injury causes the younger dwarf to almost lose his balance. A half-smile tugs at the corner of my mouth, encouraging my younger brother into one of his own “I thought he'd pull it off completely. I'm still seeing stars.”
“A good thing he did not. You look strange enough as is.”
“At least it got you out of your scheduled watch tonight. Maybe you should thank the foot that saved you.”
“I would not even if I could... It's attached to a crazy woman who is afraid of me, if you remember.” Waiting silently, I look into the night sky. It gives me a clear view of the stars without my eyes completely leaving my brother’s form. Kili fiddles with his bracers for a moment longer before giving in with a heavy sigh “I would not have struck her...”
“I know.” He nods quickly at my answer but still plucks at the leather surrounding his wrists. Placing a hand on his shoulder, I shake him gently “We all know you would not have laid a hand on her in anger. Though I doubt she'd care to admit it, I'm sure the girl knows it too.”
“... Then why? It is I who should be weary of her, so why does she act as if I am some animal that's going to strike her down?”
“I suspect it is because someone already has.”
My brother and I leap apart in surprise before breathing a sigh of relief. Dwalin had crept up behind us without our knowing until he'd spoken. Despite being covered in muscle, both of flesh and metal, he has always been able to walk quietly when needed. Though a great trait for a guard, it makes secrecy difficult for others. Following his set gaze, I find him glaring at the still girl, more in displeasure than in anger. Her rocking has subsided but her eyes prove she is yet lost in her own mind. Kili’s own gaze darts between the guard and the girl until he hesitantly speaks up.
“You only struck her out of necessity, Master Dwalin. She is more upset about her dog then your strike, fool that she is.”
“...” Folding his arms across his chest, the older dwarrow breathes heavily through his nose with a deeply set frown “You are young yet lads, but you will learn that men treat their women folk with much less care than we do ours.”
“I... I do not know what you mean.”
“For both your sakes and her own... I hope you do not need to.”
Shaking his head, the sentinel walks to his pack in order to set up for the night. My brother and I exchange a confused glance, neither of us fully understanding what he meant. I have met few men in my life, but not even a handful of women folk. Even so all of them were more or less respectable. Then again, I'd only ever met them in the presence of my king, so it is expected that they were on their best behavior. Yet... I have heard stories... Stories that I hope are nothing more than to scare wayward dwarflings into bed quicker.
“What do you think he meant by that, Fi?”
“... It is late Kili. Let's just bed down.”
My head whips to the side as the force of the blow threatens to snap my neck. He's angry today. Spitting out the blood that oozes lazily across my tongue, I cough brokenly when he kicks me in the gut. He is really angry today.
“Why is it so hard for you to comply with a simple instruction, huh?!” Stepping on my cheek, he grinds the heel of his boot into my face. He enjoys that... making me feel worse than dirt. The concrete’s cold smoothness bites into my skin and I hold on to that feeling... Welcome it “It's very simple. So very. Very. Very. Simple. Are you simple? No! You are just an insubordinate. Pathetic. Little. Flame.”
Each word is punctuated with the added weight of his body onto my face until I'm sure either my teeth or my bones with crack under the pressure. I'm glad for the pain as it's something to hold onto when it's just he and I. Annie... I don't know where my twin is. He keeps us apart now but I'm sure she's not dead. I'd feel it if she were... She's Not Dead. I can't even consider my beautiful hound...
“Why are you so stubborn? I could have you happily licking my heels with one threat. Why resist?”
The boot disappears from my face and is replaced by gentle fingers. They probe the blossoming bruise on my cheek and I know this is another personality because he is never gentle.
“Lawrence did a number on you, didn't he dear?”
“... Which one are you?”
“Connie. So you've forgotten me so quickly.”
Connie. While not nearly as bad as him, Lawrence, he/she (I'm not sure and never cared to ask) won't help me. Not in the way I need to be helped and that's just as bad in it's own way. I've asked. I've begged. I've cried to all off them... But it never helps. No one ever helps.
“Up now, girlie. You really should give up that pride of yours and save the more literal face. You're so pretty and it's such a little thing that he wants.”
“I said NO.” I'd never speak this way to him, I'm too afraid of what he would do, but I'm angry to the point of stupidity. I'm angry and I'm tired and I'm scared “I just... I just want to go home. I don't want to do this...”
“... He'll get what he wants either way, girlie.” Forcing me to sit between his knees, the current personality begins forcing a comb painfully through my knotted hair. Lawerence is not at all concerned with my hygiene or image but it seems that Connie is “He always gets what he wants, even from us. You should know that already.”
The memory melts before my eyes until I become aware of my current reality. My arms are wrapped so tightly around myself that I can hardly breathe. My nails press into my arms and I am sure I'll have Crescent Moon shaped scabs by tomorrow. Judging by the light of the sky, tomorrow will be in about an hour and I haven't slept a wink. Pressing my head into the bark of the tree at my back, I scold myself for having the miniature breakdown. Granted, there were a number of mitigating factors but at the end of the day I have to be the one to control myself. Closing my eyes, I silently groan at the problem.
“There is no use sleeping now. The day is just ripe to begin!” The cheery voice of the wizard does not get me even a tad bit hype but it does serve to pull another groan, this time audible, from me “Perhaps today you will be so kind as to share your name.”
“I doubt it.”
“Must you be so stubborn?” The words are so similar, so fresh in my memory, that I am half growling at the wizard before I even notice it. When I do, I play it off with a dismissive sniff that isn't fooling anyone “... In your own time then, however know this: No one can help you unless you wish to be helped.”
“Wanting to be helped doesn't mean you're going to get any, so you're half right.” My stomach rolls and a wave of nausea assails me. Swallowing thickly, I wonder how much longer I've got but I already know. There's not enough time... There never is “No one can help me. Not anymore.”
Pulling myself to my feet, I contemplate skipping breakfast but think better of it. I forfeited my dinner to the hobbit and sleep eluded me, meaning that I'm running on fumes. Putting something down my gullet won't fix my problems but I can only hope it won't add to them. Breathing deeply, I grab a slice of bread out of Ori’s hand and nibble on it. He, of course, does not protest but I can literally feel the heat of his brothers’ gazes on me even as Bilbo approaches.
“Good morning to you.”
“The birds are chirping.”
“Why yes, I do believe they are.”
I chuckle softly at the clear miss, which encourages the Hobbit to sit beside me. His meal is much hardier than mine and though he frowns at the meager bread slice, he does not say anything about it. Instead, we listen to Thorin talk around us. He gives instructions, assignments really, to the company as everyone mounts up and begins down the road so we can spend as little time in Bree as possible.
“As for you two, you will remain with the wizard. Do not run off.”
Without waiting for my quick wit to kick in, the company filters into the town. It's not an overly impressive place, what with it's muted earthy colors of varying browns. Men & Hobbits alike pass us in the winding streets but they are all much too absorbed in themselves and their lives to notice me. Though, they do offer the dwarves and wizard weary glances before hurrying on their way.
“Let us gather a few supplies, shall we? You two are hardly prepared for the road ahead.” Placing a hand on my shoulder, the wizard guides me into a nearby shop without my consent. The clerk, an elderly woman with a kind face, sits behind the counter “Good morning, Madame Louise.”
“Ah! Gandalf! It's been ages. And you've brought friends!”
In a flurry of skirts, the Madame is up and around the barrier. She coos over me in an aunt-ish way and it isn't long before Gandalf abandons me in her care. Not, of course, before giving instructions that she is forbidden to let me out of her sight. She dives right in.
I endure her poking and prodding as she takes my measurements without much fuss because she is merely doing a service that can only help me in the long run. My clothes, while familiar and preferable, are not meant to be worn long-term or distances. Once we have chosen and fitted two outfits, undergarments included, the Madame is kind enough to give me a bag free of charge to pack my things in. She even throws in a handkerchief.
“You'll be needing a bedroll and a canteen as well but I'm sure the wizard will gather those things for you. Have you any feminine products?” The question, while logical, surprises a blush onto my face at its suddenness. She pats my leg gently with the small laugh as I shake my head no “No worries, darling. I'll pack you a few-”
“You don't have to... I don't... I mean...” Rubbing my hands against my jeans, I wonder why I'm bothering to even explain myself to the stranger but I know already. Her kindness, even paid for, makes me feel so much more comfortable with her then the dwarves or even Bilbo “I don't bleed anymore. I'm... sick.”
“Goodness, is it serious?”
“When last I checked... I had a few months short of a year. I'm trying not to keep count.”
“Oh dear! Should you not be with your family? Are they still... living?” I duck my head and let that stand as my answer, as it'd be too complicated to explain “Oh, child...”
“I'm here with the wizard and dwarves and a hobbit. I don't want this... any of this, but it seems like a higher power has given me little choice in the matter.”
Madame Louise says nothing for a long time and I think the silence sums up every answer I've come up with since I arrived in this world. A heavy sigh escapes her and the once cheery woman suddenly looks 20 years older. Pulling my hands into her own, she runs her fingers across my knuckles.
“The longer you live, the more you will find yourself forced into doing things that you do not want to. That is the way of the world. Some things will work out for the best and others will tear you up inside until your soul flees its cage.” lifting her hand to my cheek, she sighs again and I close my eyes to pretend. I opened up because with Madame Louise I can pretend... She's so much like my Annie that I want to cry... “It is up to each of us to make the best of our circumstances so that we overcome them rather than fall beneath their weight.”
“I do not know your story. Quite frankly, I don't even know your name... But it is plain to see that you carry a burden heavy enough to cause a mountain to bend. Speak with your friends if your family is not near but do not carry it alone.”
“Ha... I have no friends.”
“Well then, my dear” Gandalf bends into the doorway with a dangerous smile on his face “it is high time that you made some.”
Chapter 9: Past tense
"There were so many wares in West Farthing, young miss, it was almost impossible to simply choose one of anything. The market in Hobbiton is quite small in comparison, you see. Had it not been for Gandalf I'm sure my mother, for all her Tookish nature she is still a hobbit, would have fallen prey to all sorts of awful happenings. It is nothing short of a miracle that she got the pottery at all. And Gandalf? He couldn't be rid of her after that, could you? Not that he'd care to, of course!"
"Indeed, old friend. Your mother is one of the most intriguing creatures I've had the pleasure to come across in a very long time."
Waiting by the ponies for the rest of the company, Bilbo entertains me with story after story about his adventurous mother, Belladonna Baggins nee Took. As much as I hate to admit it she sounds like someone I would have liked to meet and that's saying a lot about a person who was fictional less than a week ago. The way Bilbo's eyes light up when he talks about her curious escapades, almost makes me want to make good on Gandalf's most recent snippet of advice. Almost.
If I were ever to wish for Bilbo's friendship, then I'd have to deny myself the pleasure. Befriending him but not the dwarves would only serve to ostracize him further, which could easily get him killed. You do not get your friends killed... So I can't be his friend. I can however, listen to a story or two about super hobbit chick.
"That sounds amazing, Bilbo. Your mother is seemed like an awesome person all around. I would have loved to meet her."
"... Th-thank you." dipping his head, I smirk softly at his blush. I hadn't meant to do that... But it's nice to know that I can make people happy every once in awhile "That's very kind of you to say."
Settling into a calm silence, we wait as the dwarves join us in pairs with their bags now full of supplies for anything they can't make or catch on the road. Before things get too busy, Gandalf hands me the new items Madame Louise could not provide. Nothing too extravagant but enough to be sure I'll not keel over.
"Be sure that you have everything you were tasked to receive. You haven't time to dally." An echo of affirmation greets the second-in-command and he nods his acceptance before exchanging a glance with his brother. The old dwarf shrugs slightly before making his way over to us slowly "We will depart as soon as Thorin is back, so be ready."
"Master Gandalf. Master Baggins. Young Miss." So I'm at the bottom of the totem pole? How predictable "Did you find everything you will need?"
"Indeed we did, Master dwarf."
Pulling his pipe from his pocket, the gray Pilgrim clears it out with his beard. It's hardly sanitary if you ask me but I'm just a girl from an advanced civilization with knowledge of the future... And germs. Being that no one knows that, my opinions are worthless.
"Glad to hear it. Pardon my interruption but my I borrow you for a moment, Master Baggins? I'd like to flesh out a few final details on the contract while we have the moment."
"Yes. Yes of course."
Squinting my eyes at the happenings, I wonder how much of an idiot these people think I am. They fleshed out the contract at Bilbo's house already. The little details were examined and pinpointed and fainted over before he signed it. No. Balin does not intend to speak with Bilbo about the contract. The true reason is lost on me and I have no time to contemplate it as Gandalf sighs deeply beside my shoulder. Knowing he has something to say I sigh in exasperation before facing him.
"What do you want?"
"Hm, oh nothing. Nothing at all, my dear girl... I do wonder however..."
"E... excuse me?"
"When Bilbo spoke of Belladonna, neither he nor I referred to her in the past tense. Yet you stated that you 'would have loved' to meet her rather than 'would love'. I am merely wondering how you knew she passed."
"... I'm accused of being a spy, remember? I'm supposed to know things."
"And just what else do you know?"
"More than your gods deemed is this company's fair share." rolling my eyes I catch sight of the approaching King, flanked by his nephews. Not desiring a repeat of yesterday so soon, I opt to just get on the pony. Giving Gandalf a humorless smirk, I start to mount "And enough common sense to keep my mouth shut about it."
The gentle folk of the Shire were never of much interest to me. They lived quiet and sheltered lives that allowed them to hold a false sense of security in the world. During my early travels, when the dwarves of Erebor were newly settled in the Blue Mountains, I spoke with a gentle Hobbit. He was a merchant passing through the same tavern as I with his party. We sat for a spell, drank heartily, and the question of why Hobbits do not travel was broached. His answer was as sheltered as he was: Traveling is uncomfortable. Not dangerous or unnecessary but... Uncomfortable. I did not fault him for it, as his people have not known the hardships that mine have. However neither did I respect his answer. In fact, I did not understand the view for many years following and only partially now that I have met Bilbo Baggins. Hobbits are strange.
He has joined a quest despite fainting at the likelihood of death. His body is built like the soft lands he was born to, yet he silently sleeps on the rocky earth. He is even building a quick rapport with the spy girl despite his aversion to danger. Yes hobbits are strange creatures but the connection he is making with the child will be invaluable to ensuring her cooperation in the coming future. Master Baggins, for all his naive sensibilities concerning the world, may be able to aid in solving this dilemma smoothly.
"I had thought we were finished with the contract business, Master Balin." Looping his thumbs through his belt hoops, the halfling rocks on his large feet nervously "Has something occurred?"
"Ah, yes. Curse it but my age is showing! I had quite forgotten that we did."
"Oh well, that's all right. It happens to the best of us, of course. You know, I remember-"
"Of course. However, while I have you, might I inquire about your charges health?"
Reeling back at the question, The hobbit does an impressive impression of a caught fish. His eyes widen so the entire blue is surrounded by the whites and his mouth gapes open and closed repeatedly. He recovers slowly, clearing his throat and fixing his waist coat before nodding.
"Ahem, My... charge. You speak of the young Miss?"
"I was not made aware that she was... um... All right." Taking the new duty in stride, the flustered being glances back at the girl in question "Yes. It would be best to have a guardian for her. She is a young woman after all."
"A very frightened young woman if she still has not told you her name." Or a very smart one. Names have attachments and connections. If she wants to remain hidden, it'd be in her best interest to remain nameless. Her terror was an unexpected occurrence however. There was no falsehood it and it disturbed us all "Kili was on the receiving end of her fear last night, though he was partially at fault. Has she said anything?"
"... She has not spoken to me of her name nor what cause such a great fear yester's eve... And she eats so little."
"I would say perhaps to a Hobbit but it is true that she has put less than a meal down her throat in the last few days. It is worth mentioning. Please keep an eye on her, Master Baggins. She is clearly in some need of support."
"How thoughtful of you. I will be honest: I am afraid that I thought you all quite cruel to treat her so coldly. I am relieved to stand corrected."
Letting that stand as his parting, The hobbit dips into a quick bow and returns to his riding partner. My brother comes to stand beside me as we ready to depart.
"Using a hobbit. I do not know that it'll work, on any front."
"You do not know that it will not either." Patting the stoic dwarf on the shoulder before catching sight of Thorin returning, I gaze out of the gate at the open road "We need to know what she knows of us before we can even contemplate releasing her. Master Baggins is earning her trust, if slowly."
"We do not have time for the slow route. The Weathertop hills are only a day away. What will we do with her when we pass them? We must question her now!"
"You saw her reaction, better than I! How she shook when Kili merely raised a hand to his own face. Her heart knows fear but her head has taught her to protect herself from it."
"We are running out of time..."
"I know... Yet if we force the issue, she will close herself off as she did last night and tell us nothing. For our safety, hers included, we must be patient, brother. There was no other choice."
Well hello there. I just wanted to say hi. So... hi.
Chapter 10: Understanding
"The hooves on the horse go clip and clop, clip and clop, clip and clop. The hooves on the horse go clip and clop all down the road. The dwarves on the ground go rabble rabble rabble, rabble rabble rabble, rabble rabble rabble. The dwarves on the ground go rabble rabble rabble all through the night. The wolves in the South Downs go-"
A howl pierces the early evening sky, interrupting my low melody. Kneeling on my cot, I can see the entire camp from my spot as easily as the entire camp can see me. Most of them ignore the lonely sound, while others lift their heads to examine the dark trees before going back to their previous tasks. The company, with the exception of Bilbo, it's wholly unconcerned. The burglar, who has been placed as close to me as proprietary allows, is clearly ruffled by the noise. Swallowing a hard gulp of his stew, he leans over to me with a whisper.
"There are wolves out there, young Miss. They... They do not seem close and the dwarves do not seem worried in the least." Twisting his bowl in his hands nervously, the hobbit looks to need more reassuring than I do "I am sure we are safe but... I do not like wolves..."
"Most people do not. They don't have the best reputation after all. Still, they aren't the vicious murderers that people make them out to be." Looking into the fire, I catch Dwalin's gaze by chance. Seeing him makes my face twist into a vengeful frown "My dog was half wolf and he never hurt anyone who didn't deserve it."
The bald dwarf paints his face with a frown of his own but he does not verbally respond. Instead, he keeps my eyes enslaved as he dips his head minutely and without remorse as if to say 'Yes, I killed your dog but I do not regret it.' His acknowledgement makes me hate him a little more and a little less at the same time. The mixed emotion has me breaking the staring contest first, just in time to catch the tail end of Bilbo's conversation.
"Will you tell me of it? Your dog?"
No one has bedded down yet. Everyone is still up and at 'em, so I have no fear of getting mixed up with Thorin's big movie cliff moment. I do however, run the risk of letting it slip that I have a heart. That could be catastrophic for me. You can't hurt a cold hearted bitch and an Ice Queen invites no warmth or compassion. But a broken hearted girl? A broken girl is expected to cry and be protected for her piteous existence. I can't be that broken girl, even if I already am. I'd rather their hatred than their pity and by my reckoning I'm quickly earning it. Not speaking now would show a tender heart and ruin my steely image. Something I cannot afford after the Kili fiasco.
"His name was Killer."
"Oh. Was he named for... um... Well... e-experience or... Wishful thinking?"
"He was named to strike fear into the hearts of our- MY enemies."
"Ah..." I hadn't caught myself quickly enough to correct the word effectively. I suppose that even with my desire to keep myself a secret, I cannot do the same with my sister. I love and miss her too much to act as if she doesn't exist "Yes. Our. My sister and I. My grandfat-"
"You have a sister?!"
Rubbing my eyes Kili's shout, I frown. I knew someone would be eavesdropping but thought they'd have the decency to be quiet about it. Shifting into a pretzel style sitting position, I prop my head on my hand as he continues.
"I sure hope she's nothing like you..."
"Uh huh. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, my grandfather gave us Killer for our 15th birthday. He was a gorgeous dog back then. Fresh out of adolescence; he was strong and would be for years to come." Bilbo's eyes shift at the phrase 'our birthday' but he says nothing about it. At least someone has some tact "The world is a dangerous place and a girl can use every advantage she's given."
"He brought the danger into your home by welcoming a wolf across its threshold." Stalking past my place, Thorin makes his way to the stonewall that will serve as his napping spot "Your grandfather was foolish."
"Oh I'm sorry, but didn't your grandfather inadvertently call a dragon on to your ancestral home, leading to the mass genocide of your people, and a pretty high number of years dedicated to wandering in the wild?" The camp goes quiet and still at my statement. I really hadn't thought of the words before I said them but even I can admit they are kind of mean, though accurate. They also cannot be retracted, so I must stand by them. No one says anything as the seconds tick by with the only sound being the crackle of the fire "Do not speak ill of my family. I assure you, that the sins of your own will always be more impressive. Good night."
Sliding into my makeshift bed, I close my eyes and wait. My temper has always been a nasty thing but it's my mouth that gets me into the most trouble. I know that and I know that comment was probably a very bad move on my part. Mostly because I'm surrounded by his followers and it's a sensitive topic. That doesn't mean I regret it or that I was wrong in my assessment. Killer was a great guard dog. Smaug is a great killer. Thror's mistakes outweigh Grandpa's and Thorin really shouldn't have set himself up like that if you ask me... not that I expect anyone will really take my side in that. Biting my lip gently, I just hope I don't get shanked in my sleep.
"Gandalf... She isn't eating."
Sitting beside the wizard, the hobbit watches the young woman anxiously as she fitfully sleeps. She is not adjusting to the situation well and that worries him. Her words grow more cruel with each interaction but worse, they become more true. The dwarves clearly do not appreciate her honesty but it is her health that the hobbit worries for most.
"That is your concern?"
"Perhaps if she ate, she would be... less abrasive. In the past few days, I've seen her eat only a single slice of bread..."
"Her ill manners are attributed more then to the emptiness of her belly, though I am sure hunger plays a part. IF she is hungry." Puffing on his pipe, Gandalf settles into his claimed place comfortably "We do not know enough about her to determine the underlying causes of her unrest."
"... She should eat. No one can think clearly on an empty stomach."
"Well..." Acknowledging the fact with a rise of his brow the wizard nods towards the young woman "Feed her then, if you can."
"I... I shall."
Rising and dusting himself off, the hobbit marches over to the pot of stew only to find it sorely empty. Bombur is even in the process of cleaning it to be put away for the night. Knitting his brow in contemplation, Bilbo pats his pockets searchingly. He comes across a shiny red apple, one he was saving for his pony as a peace offering, but believes the young woman needs it more.
Silently approaching the slumbering bundle, the hobbit clears his throat loudly. It fails to awaken the girl but before he can try again, a cry lights the night. It startles the poor creature so deeply that he drops the apple which strikes the girl on the head, resulting in her bolting upright in fright. Her naturally pale skin is worsened by her fear but colors hotly as she recognizes the snickering of the youngest dwarves.
"Oh my! I do apologize, Miss! I thought you might be hungry so I brought you an apple but the... the um... What was that sound? "Orcs."
Atina's mouth pulls into a frown as the show begins. Rubbing her sore temple, she opts to fill her mouth with the offending apple rather than words.
"Orcs?!" Voice rising in pitch, the hobbit's fear easily awakens the uneasy King from his fitful rest "Th-There are Orcs out there?" "Throat cutters. There'd be dozens of them out there. The lowlands are crawling with them."
"They strike, in the wee small hours, when everyone's asleep. Quick and quiet, no screams. Just lots of blood." Turning a grin to Atina, Kili wiggles his fingers at her "Are you scared, young Miss? I am sure Master Baggins will protect you. I doubt you'd want one of us dragon calling slaves to do it. Not that we'd wish to either. "
The youngest heir is sure he will finally get a rise out of the young woman; payment for her earlier offences, but her gaze is cold and without emotion. She bites into the apple calmly, offering only a small smirk as if waiting for something amusing to happen. So intent on her is he, that the young dwarrow visibly flinches at his uncle's stern voice.
"You think that's funny? You think a night raid by Orcs is a joke?"
"Imbeciles can still be killed and Orcs would slaughter Master Baggins before he could think to protect the little spy from their advances. No matter how unbearable she is, we have given her our word that she would be under our protection while in our care. Yet you threaten her openly with rape and murder? This is not a joking matter."
"What!? A jest. It was only a joke. W-w-we didn't mean anything like that by it, uncle..."
And they hadn't. In their youthful minds, the two heirs had intended only to frighten the outcasts, not to threaten them. Kili had gone further with the joke than his brother, but it was not with any true harm. Despite their dislike of Atina's attitude and the weakness of the hobbit in question, the duo is an interesting addition to the company. Earning Thorin's ire was not the youngster's goal at all.
"No. You didn't. You know nothing of the world."
Balin begins a riveting rendition of the battle for Moria, ridding the company of all sense of self. They hold on to every word as if it would be the last they ever hear. Even Atina, who has heard the story enough times to make herself sick, listens keenly.
Perhaps it is the realness of it that sets her heart ill-at-ease because ill-at-ease she is. For the first time since hearing the tale, she hears its pain. It eats away at her resolve and had she been just a touch more innocent of the world's cruelties, she'd have shed a tear. Instead, she grants the King the same begrudging respect that she demands for herself. No pity lingers on her face as he passes by, merely acceptance of who he is because of what he has lived through.
Thorin meets her gaze and stunned by the recognition he sees in it, he stalls for only a moment. In that fraction of a second, the two stubborn individuals understand each other in their loss better than they ever thought possible. Their battered souls acknowledge each other, accepting that the other's pain has made them who and how they are. It does not make them friends nor even more likeable to each other but the competitively antagonistic aura disperses in an instant. No one else is privy to it, in fact no one even notices the change.
"And the pale Orc?" Looking between the enthralled members, Bilbo's curiosity remains untamed "What happened to him?"
"He slunk back into the hole whence he came." Turning away, the king finishes his departure "That filth died of his wounds long ago."
Released from the binding spell, Atina peers down at the half-eaten apple in her lap. Appetite gone, she gets up and feeds it to Myrtle; keeping her mouth shut about the pale Orc's whereabouts.
Understanding. Thorin has been through some mess. So had Atina. They are learning that their problems aren't the only ones in the world. Everyone has a story, so don't judge then too hardly
Chapter 11: Of dwarves and men
The rainwater waters watery water. The sentence, while horribly ugly, is horribly true. I was awakened by fat droplets hitting my closed eyelids this morning. There was just enough time to pack my things and pull out a poncho before the floodgates of Heaven opened up and cried me a river. Sharing a ride with Bilbo hadn't bothered me before but being sopping wet puts everyone into a bad mood.
"Hear, Mr. Gandalf? Can't you do something about this deluge?"
"It is raining, Master dwarf, and it will continue to rain until the rain is done!" If I wasn't in such a dreary mood, I might be laughing right now. Instead, I am trying not to punch Bilbo in the back of his head for not sitting still "If you wish to change the weather of the world, you should find yourself another wizard."
"Are there any?"
"What 'what', Master Baggins?"
"I thought..." Bilbo turns to me with a curious frown "Did you say something, Miss?"
"I said five as in, there are five wizards."
"Five other wizards?"
"No, four others. Five in total."
"Very good, young miss. That is correct. There are five of us. The greatest of our order is Saruman, the white. Then there are the two blue Wizards... Might I assume you know their names?"
"I am sure you wouldn't have forgotten Alatar and Pallando."
"You are indeed well informed." He does not deny having forgotten their names but neither does he admit to it. Straightening on his ride, the wizard is visibly annoyed. This time I do grin, though it's hidden beneath my hood "The two blues: Pallando and Alatar."
"And I'm sure you know the 5th." Bilbo giggles at my antics; a cheery sound in the gloomy day "You two are close, right?"
"And just how would you know that?"
"I'm a spy, remember?"
"Humph." Oops. My fun is going to get me caught if I'm not careful "Well, Spymistress, the 5th would be Radagast, the brown."
"Do you believe him to be a great wizard or is he... ahem... more... More like you...?"
"I think he is a very great wizard, in his own way." Short answer: No. Not that I'm one to speak since he could still whip me into shape while on shrooms "He's a gentle soul who prefers the company of animals to others."
"But aren't wizards supposed to guide the people of Middle Earth? How can he do that without talking to them? That just doesn't make sense."
"Now, see here-"
"Guide?" looking over his shoulder at me, Bilbo wipes his face of the rain only tho have it replaced almost immediately "Meddle, you mean."
"No, I mean... the purpose of wizards really is to guide but not to force. Not that they couldn't, what with them being one of the ma-"
"You do enjoy speaking of persons and purposes that you have little to no understanding of, child."
"..." I'd forgotten that few know the true origins or tasks given to the Wizards. That they possess enough power to cause more than a bit of trouble. Or... that they have the same weaknesses of the men they share an physical image with. Ha... wizards can get boners. On a more serious note, I imagine some secrecy is due "Sorry..."
"... Radagast does things a bit differently than most but it would serve you well not to tell a wizard how to do his duty." The chastisement is clear but I hear no threat, so I'm not too worried. Annoying a wizard will get you turned into a toad but angering one will get you killed. I'll try not to toe the line too often "Radagast... He keeps a watchful eye over the vast Forest to the east..."
"Maybe we'll run into him?" leaning forward as if he could see that far, the hobbit looks on excitedly "That would be interesting."
"We ARE headed that way. It could happen."
"Doubtful." I love being underestimated and decide to make it a personal bet on how long it takes the wizard to realize that I'm way worse than a spy "He needs to remain in his home, for evil will always look for a foothold in this world."
"Well, you aren't wrong..."
The Marshes stretch out on our left as we trod on. The rain has made the already muddy Earth into a soupy suction like concoction that makes everything all the worse. It takes hold of the ponies hooves only to release them with an awful squelching sound. For an hour I bleakley listen to it before the sound of voices draws my attention away. These voices are unknown to me, peaking my interest.
A group of 10 or so men trudge up the road towards us. By no means do we own the stretch of road but there's nothing really close to civilization in that direction for a while now. Their clothes are torn and dirty, matching their worn down faces. For all intents and purposes, they look pitiful and in need of aid. An outdated con if I've ever seen one.
"I sure hope none of you are stupid enough to fall for this obvious trap."
"Don't ye worry none, Lassie." Bofur shifts on his pony minutely to sit in a more defensive stance "We ain't."
"They might need help..." Ori. Sweet stupid Ori "They might not be-"
"It's a ruse, Ori. And even if it ain't" Spitting on the earth beside himself, Nori shakes his head darkly "All help for them is long behind us."
The group stops it's approach about twenty feet before they reach us. Thorin raises his hand causing our group to stop just the same. Silence stretches out between us before one man from the opposing side hobbles forward. He holds his ribs lightly and breathes heavily but he holds his head up high. "Friend or Foe?"
"Neither." Ouch. Thorin isn't pulling any punches with this lot "Identify yourselves."
"... I am Thomas, Master dwarf. Behind me are members of my guild." His eyes roam our group, stalling on me but not for more than a moment before moving on "Clothes makers and a few good blacksmiths, though... I doubt a dwarf would have need of one."
"I-I'd offer something to your delicate companion there but we are, uh... a little short on dresses at the moment."
The dwarf King does not laugh at the offered joke, merely staring the man down silently. Thomas tries to keep up the half grin but it droops at the edges as Balin moves up to play nice.
"What is your guild doing so far from any viable business and in such a poor state?"
"I will gladly share our tale with you, Master..."
"Balin, son of Fundin."
"Ah, yes. Of course. My guild was returning from an extended Voyage... From Rohan... East Emnet specifically. Do you know it?"
"... I must admit I have not been East in some time."
"Y-yes, well... We were attacked on the road two days ago, by bandits, and lost all of our supplies and three of our guild brothers." Thomas bows his head in a clear universal sign of grief. It's so clear that it's all as fake as a plastic tree. No one loses a true friend only then to list that loss AFTER the monetary one "We require aid, please. Just a horse to get help from the newest town or perhaps some food..."
"I thought East Emnet was that grassy place without set cities." the faker's head shoots up and he throws me a glare before smoothing out his face "I could be wrong but..."
"Yes, of course-"
"She isn't." Gripping his sword tightly, Dwalin snarls down at the men "You are in dire need of aid if you thought to trade in such a way in the land of Nomads."
"Friend" Thorin extends his own sword, clearly showing that he has had enough "or foe?"
"..." pausing for only a moment, Thomas drops his hand from his middle to expose a hidden blade as a wispy grin plants itself on his face "Foe."
With the act dropped, the remaining men charged at us with shouts and weapons. It frightens the ponies, who rear back with high-pitched knickers. I willingly fall off the back of Myrtle, rather than being thrown off, and roll out of the way to avoid any wayward hooves. I am quickly covered in mud and grime but it could be worse. The men do not give the dwarves a chance to get off their steeds or wrangled the frightened beasts; swinging at their legs and exposed undersides with a vengeance.
The dwarves are not going down without a fight though. Dwalin quite literally leaps off his saddle and begins aiming his axe at throats. He clears out enough space for a few more dwarfs to join in the battle and it isn't long before everyone is participating in the brawl. Where once were opposing sides, there is now a mass of muscle to avoid. I duck elbows, fists, and metal in an effort to keep my head attached to my neck. It's not good enough though.
As I'm making my way out of the fray, someone catches the back of my shirt. It chokes off my air without warning as I'm brought round to face him. I'm not sure how I didn't notice the behemoth before but I see him now.
"Well ain't ya jus' a pretty little thing? A big mouth on ya too. Good, cause I've plenty to fill it with, sweet heart." Grabbing my arm and pinning it behind my back, he roughly drags a hand through my hair and over the curves of my torso while licking the wet dirt off my face "I'm sure you would fetch a high price, up there with that mighty fine dwarf king, a sweet thing like you. How's about you give me a taste?"
"Funny thing is," bringing my foot up, I horse kick the guy in his gonads before punching him in the center of his throat. He goes down choking and snarling all at once "I'm not all that sweet."
Putting some space between us, I find the other men either still being subdued or in a state that they are no longer a problem. (Read: Dead.) Dori thunders over to the man I've been dealing with and epically knocks him out with a blow to the skull.
"Are you alright?"
"Yeah, sure. Why not."
"... Are you sure? I saw what he-"
"It doesn't matter. It's not the first time I've been molested." the dwarf stares with an obvious desire to say more and I know immediately that my response was not the right answer. Normal girls don't give that answer. I try again "I've been better. I've been worse. I'll live."
"...You do that."
It takes an additional five minutes of active movement but the bandits are defeated. Only two of the original ten men remain well enough to be called conscious though. Three are clearly dead, one escaped, and four others sustained wounds that probably won't allow them to survive the night. The two remaining include a glaring Thomas and my snarling blonde molester. Oh joy. The leader spits at his own feet as the dwarves stare down at him.
"Don't matter none if you kill us. There will be others. You've got yourself a head that's worth more with you dead than alive, Oakenshield."
"Who sent you?" Balin steps forward. He doesn't touch the man but his presence radiates a strange threat I didn't know he was capable of giving off "Speak."
"Balin. Dori. Nori. Oin. Bifur. I require your assistance. The rest of you, travel up the road and find us a camp for the night. We will find you. Do not return to this place."
"... Come along then." Gandalf ushers us all forward, stiffly glancing back at the unfolding scene. He knows what's about to go down "We'd best find the ponies before they go too far..."
"Is he... Are they... He's going to kill them... isn't he?"
"..." Ori is clearly lost without his brothers' guidance but he is no fool. Thorin chose the wizened strength of the group, along with a doctor and an unsavory individual. None of which are squeamish around blood and pain. He's going to hurt those men tonight, and that's putting it nicely "Yeah, probably."
"Doesn't that... bother you? E-even a little?"
"..." gazing back at the group, I remember the feel of that stranger's tongue on my face. How it hurt when he pulled my hair and felt me up without care. I know the things he would have done to me, the things I know he would gladly let others do for the right price. The short horror that would have awaited my life, before I was undoubtedly killed, is reason enough for me not to pity him or the company he keeps. They are not good men, so I shrug "No, Ori. It doesn't bother me at all."
Chapter 12: Foreshadowing
"This forest... It's Trollshaws, right?"
I don't need to ask but a bit of foreshadowing never killed anyone. Even as we cross the Hoarwell, a thin river splitting the East Road, Thorin and his troop have yet to catch up. I'm not worried about them but I doubt Gandalf will stay at the Troll-bait Inn without the King's stubbornness. I can only be my usual jaded self if I know what's going to happen. As such, the wizard needs to slow down.
"Troll... shaws..." Bilbo slowly turns to face what now must appear to be eerily looming trees of death "As in trolls?"
"Yes. Trolls. Humongous, flesh-eating, bone-crunching, sticky bit slurping trolls." Rolling my eyes toward the Wizard's back, I clear my throat meaningfully "It does beg the question of whether we should be here."
"Though they are dubbed thusly, Trollshaws hasn't seen the likes of its namesake this far south in quite some time. We are perfectly safe."
"Famous last words, if you ask me."
"And just who asked ye?"
I've grown used to Gloin's grumbling in the past few days, he's just as Jaded as I am, and don't take it to mean anything of substance. Still, I scoff silently and shut my mouth. Mostly because he makes the utterance just as we come across what used to be someone's humble abode.
Sliding from our mounts at Gandalf directive, the group begins to explore. Stepping gingerly with Myrtle at my back, I roam around searching for... trolls I guess. The air is thick with the smell of burnt wood but nothing is smoldering. The fire died long enough ago that its heat is gone, but not so long that the smell has left the area.
"Something foul has happened upon this place..."
Just as the words exit his mouth, the missing company members gallop into the open area, along with the ponies we were unable to find. We are back at full capacity, not that it will matter by the ebbs of the night.
The added dwarves are all grim-faced and covered in more dirt than we left them in. It's doubtful that they all had a tussle with the men, so it's probably an effort to cover up the blood I can smell wafting from them. I may not be a stranger to it, having choked on my own metallic mouth full a number of times, but it still turns my nose.
"We will camp here for the night. Fili, Kili, look after the horses ponies." I watch distantly as the wizard stiffens while examining the fallen Homestead "Make sure you stay with them."
Even though he is too far for me to hear him now, I know what Gandalf is saying. I wonder if he knew the farmer and his family. If he'd sat down with them and shared a story or a meal. Maybe he'd set off fireworks for the children as their mother stood in the doorway and left. Perhaps the farmer, a warm but aging man, had too wondered about the trolls of Trollshaws and perhaps Gandalf waved way those suspicious worries. Maybe this family would still be alive is Gandalf had just done something more... But probably not.
No... Gandalf didn't know enough to ward them off or away and the farmer... He was probably a hateful man who would have refused to leave his home. He might have beat his wife and neglected his children. He could have moved out here to be away from all prying eyes so no one could judge his sins but his God. Maybe when the trolls finally descended on him, he assumed it was divine punishment... But probably not.
Maybe it's a bit of both... maybe neither. I wonder if I'll ever know... The truth of what happened here. Not that it matters anymore. Knowing does not change the fact that they are dead.
"... Your Pony...?" I'm knocked from my musing as Fili holds out his hand for the reins in mine. His brother stands a bit away, impatiently tapping his foot "Miss?"
"Sorry...! I mean-" In my distraction my manners snuck up on me. Disgusting little things that Grandpa drove into Annie and I as children: I'd been doing so well with ignoring the annoying pleasantries. Pushing them down and pulling up the aloof persona I've easily worn for so long, I drop the straps into his palm "Here."
"Everything alright? Gandalf?" The hobbit's interruption is welcomed by me. Using it to dismiss myself from his presence, I leave the prince's side "Where are you going?!"
"To seek the company of the only one around here who has got any sense."
"And who's that?"
"Myself, Master Baggins! I've had enough of dwarves for one day."
Ignoring the rest of the conversation, I search for clues. If trolls were here, which I'm sure they were, then there should be some evidence of that. The house doesn't count, as that probably happened from a contained fire, for warmth or dinner, being left unattended. Probably after the occupants had already been eaten.
Scanning the floor, I come across faint lines in the ground that almost look like big footprints. I follow them around camp like a private detective; dodging company members who venture too close. It's like an odd dance but its calming and it passes the time. It isn't until the sun has well and truly set, making it impossible for me to make out anything else, that I finally stand up straight. Arching; the sound of a crack from my back tells me that I've done well.
I barely found more than 10 prints, each one as long as I am tall, but I've done pretty well all things considered. One would think that beings as large and heavy as these trolls are supposed to be, would leave deeper imprints on the earth. Then again, they are out there right now and I don't hear a thing... Except for the creep breathing over my shoulder.
"WHAT do you WANT, Bifur?"
"Dulaz." Giving no indication that i understand what he's saying, I look at the dwarf as he points to the bowl in his hand. Not wanting anything to do with it, I frown deeply. When I don't take it right away, he shoves said bowl into my hands roughly "Deraz!"
"I-" he walks off without even waiting for whatever snazzy comment I was going to come back with. Glaring into the bowl, I watch the steam rise from the brown soup invitingly. Even so, I cannot bring myself to eat it. It's a trust issue but I can't eat food that I don't make, not that it matters. My appetite is non-existent as of late and with what's coming, I doubt I'll be able to keep it down. I'll have to give it to... "Bilbo?"
"Won't have ye giving yer meal away to the hungry little halfling tonight!" Smirking from his place over the pot, Bofur looks close to patting himself on the back "Ye think we haven't noticed? I've sent yer friend off on a grand adventure."
"I'm not hung-"
"Ah, ah ah! Ye eat that food, lassie. I'll hear nothing of yer denials."
The group chuckles at my position once they realize that I'm really having a problem. Throwing it to the ground would be a waste of food, something I just can't do... Yet to eat it would not only make me physically sick but also emotionally ill. There's no way I'm following a direct order from these guys without wanting to barf... But jokes on them, as Fili comes bounding through the trees.
Hi hi hi! I haven't been leaving author's notes but I've got a minute, so Hi! Leave a comment, question, or concern to let me know you're around. Otherwise, Atina will never tell the company her name and you all will forget it too! Then you'll have to go alllllll the way to chapter 1 and then get surprised when you realize she even has a family name. Don't let that happen!
Chapter 13: The more you know
"Who sent you?"
"Your mother's sweet cu- gyaaahhh! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Stop!"
The sound of bone snapping does nothing to endear me to the thief turned assassin, Thomas. Dori holds the man in place, as Balin realigns one of his bones with each unsatisfactory answer that he gives to my questions. While extremely verbal, he refuses to give us anything of use. I find little joy in the act of torture... Even so it has its uses.
"I will ask you once more, and then I will cut off your hands." Drawing Deathless from its sheath I pause for Balin to position the struggling man's dominant hand. Placing the blade against his broken wrist, I add just enough pressure to pierce the skin there "Who sent you?"
"... Damn it... It... I... T-t-there was word... Going 'round. Anyone could accept the bounty and fulfill it."
"That" raising my sword as if it were guillotine, I watch Thomas's eyes widen with fear "does not answer my question."
"W-wait! Wait! It was a dwarf." My blade stops once more and the frightened fool rushes to continue "At least, that's what everyone was saying. Kill you and bring the proof for payment. They wanted your head removed from the throne."
It would make sense. This would not be the first attempt of another to usurp the throne. Though, the attempt has not occurred since my people were forced into Exile. What would any hope to gain from killing a kingdomless King? Better still, who?
"A name. Give me a name."
W-w-will you l-let us go if I d-do?"
I could spare him if need be. The rancid excuse of a man will never be asks to use his arm again, making him a perfect candidate to prove what happens to those who would think to harm us. Turning my gaze to the left, I sneer down at Bifur's captive. The blonde returns the expression with bared teeth. His skin is blotchy and pale from his ordeal but he oozes malice and ill-content. He shows no remorse for his actions or fear of any retribution.
"Your men here have perished, yourself and this one being the exception. You may attempt to barter for your own flesh, but I will not suffer the life of a rapist."
"Bah! I ain't rape that little tart. You'd a known if I had; tear her up real good." Tossing his head violently, the large man barks out a cruel laugh "I wouldn't have had to though. Travelin' with a bunch of filthy dwarve; she'd lay with a dog for a copper!"
"Oh shut your own trap, Thomas. You're jus afraid. But this dwarf scum ain't letting us go niether way, so I ain't sayin' shit."
"Found him!" Nori rides up the road with the sole escaped man attached to the tail end of his pony. Three other mounts trail behind him. He spurs the beasts fast enough that the man must run to keep up but not so quickly that he falls. Stopping near us, he tosses his captive beside Morius "He got further than I gave him credit for but I found our missing ponies."
"... A name, Thomas."
"Shut your mou-"
"Bifur, cut out his tongue."
The axe headed dwarrow wastes no time in following through with the order. Morius fights to keep his jaw closed but to no avail. The crack of a brown jaw sounds followed by the swine low grunts of pain. Free to work, Bifur reaches into the wet cavern and pulls out the porous appendage. With slow deliberate motions, the dwarf saws the offensive piece off. Gurgling and choking on his own blood, the man fights the arms around him as Bifur tosses his tongue at his feet. Giving a quick Command, I allow Oin to cauterize the wound, in case the fool thinks to bleed to death. Facing a shaken Thomas once more for a moment, I give my attention to the newly returned to man.
"The name of your employer."
"Oh, yes sir." this man is much younger than the rest. It would seem that his fear of what is going on around him has left him with a healthy dose of common sense "Not a problem. His name is-"
An arrow sinks into the chest of the escapee, killing him instantly. Leaping back, I find Morius and Thomas in similar states. Snarling in defensive anger, I quickly turn to find the Archer but the night is quiet. We did not hear him come and we did not hear him go. I stop Nori from giving chase, as whoever it was is no doubt long gone.
"Whoever sent them did not want to be identified. Scanning the trees, Oin frowns deeply "Yet if they could easily kill them to remain hidden..."
"Why not kill us as well..." The darkness is nothing to a dwarf but a competent enemy should not be given any opportunities. To be safe, I decide to give the order and move out "Let us leave this place and go find the others.
Holding my hands over my chest, I oversee the happenings within the camp. Fili and Kili have gone off with the intent of seeing to the ponies as ordered. Bofur and his kin attend to the evening meal. The rest indulge in rest while they can and wait for supper. Though I'd prefer more meat over the plethora of vegetables being poured in, there is little to be done of it. They will spoil faster than the dried meats, so we must use them first. There are more important things to focus on.
Setting my pack on the ground, I pull the map from it. Smoothing the parchment out upon the charred remains of what once was a stonewall, I examine the contents. Though I know the map as well as my own face, it still holds its secrets. Secrets that could easily prevent this quest's success. Sighing, I allow my eyes to flicker across the map in a search of some answer. The Gray Mountains, the Iron Hills, Esgaroth, the Greenwood... The Desolation of Smaug. Feeling a headache coming, I pinch the bridge of my nose and close my eyes.
"Thorin... What of the girl?"
Dwalin's voice greets my ears alongside his foot falls, causing me to shut my eyes tighter for a moment. Have I not enough to deal with without the mystery of this child?
"You cannot ignore her for much longer, Thorin. Her mouth is shut like a clam; even her name is still unknown. Now is the time for choices. We have passed the weather top Hills and still have seen nothing of her team." Stepping into the dilapidated structure and past his brother, Balin huffs a heavy breath "Either they are very good or..."
"Or they do not exist."
I finish the thought easily, as it is not the first time it has crossed my mind. The Spy, if she can be called that, has given us little confirmation for that initial assumption. A spy must either be charismatic enough to gain information or be invisible, of which she is neither. Instead she is argumentative and defensive, though not incapable of defending herself to a degree. She is a puzzle that we do not have the luxury of time or resources to solve if she is not a threat to us.
"Explain her knowledge then? How does she know so much of what she should not?" The counterargument is a solid one, causing me to nod at Dwalin's point. She does know too much but at the same time, she displays no means to have obtained that information on her own. That confirms that she is not acting alone... Yet we have seen no evidence of that either "She may not be our true enemy, however she is no innocent. How do you explain it?"
"Perhaps she is an oracle?"
Standing in the archway of the building with a handful of twigs, The Hobbit shrugs lightly. His pudgy arms strain around the weight of the items he carries and he shifts them to get better leverage. We had not heard his approach and his sure-footedness is a bit concerning. Seeing that I am not going to respond to the half-wit Balin steps up instead.
"Why yes. An oracle. Farsight is not a gift found in hobbits. We'd find it a bit too fantastical for our liking anyway. Simple creatures we are. I have only heard of it in elves, though they are similar enough in form that I can not see why it couldn't happen in men. Dwarves though...Do dwarves... fear such things?" tilting his head to the side, the halfling frowns deeply before tossing his head in denial "No that cannot be right. I specifically remember Oin quoting portents of some sort."
"Seers are a rare and gentle breed, Master Baggins." smiling amicably, my cousin pats the hobbit gently on the shoulder "While the young Miss is surely a rarity in personality, she is not..."
"Well, no... She is not gentle." laughing nervously the hobbit rubs the back of his head before nearly dropping all of his twigs. I roll my eyes at his clumsiness, wondering how I could have gotten stuck with such a being "But I think knowing the future would harden even the most gentle of creature. If nothing else, she is scarred from the things she has seen."
"That is true..."
"So perhaps she is an oracle."
"Yes. Thank you, master Baggins. I am MOST sure that is so."
The reaction to his suggestion slips off my tongue with a tired attempt at mockery, yet it does give me pause. Though I am sure it is an utterly ridiculous notion, the gift of sight makes just as much sense as our other options. Sniffing in offense, the halfling departs our company but it is of little consequence now. While I do not doubt that are farseers exist, the odds of this... Petulant child being one is as laughable as her being a spy. And yet she is something...
"An oracle..." Scoffing out the word I turn my attention to the nameless girl as she stalks around the camp with her head bowed and her brow creased "The very idea..."
"It would explain the Wizard's desire to keep her close. Perhaps he saw something within her?"
"But an oracle, Balin?"
Following my gaze towards the girl, Balin lapses into a few minutes of silence, laughing softly as Bifur forces a bowl of soup into the redhead's hands. I expect her to make waste of it but she merely stands there, at a loss. It would seem that she has some measure of propriety ingrained in her and the ensuing battle offers a laugh to the company. Softly grinning at the girl before humming in thought, Balin turns back to the matter at hand.
"He shall have much to be asked when he returns."
"If he returns, brother. Wizards are flighty and unreliable at the best." Scowling into the night, the burly dwarrow clicks his tongue at the wandering girl as she suddenly stares off into the wood "And just what the hell is she looking for?"
Chapter 14: Survival
The camp is a place of chaos within seconds of Fili’s shout. Weapons are grabbed and ready without an order even being given. I watch it all with a bored expression set on to my face to hide the interest that is creeping into my mind. Reading or watching others interact with trolls is boring. Being there to witness it though? That... That might just be a tiny bit interesting. Just a tiny bit... Not so much that I want to get involved (It ends in death no matter whose) but enough to make me think about it.
“Young Miss!” Blinking out of my thoughts, I peer at Balin. Strapping his weapons to his side, he gives me a stern look “It is too dangerous for you. Please stay here and DO NOT leave.”
“All right.” It is his turn to blink at me. I suppose I've succeeded in coming off as stubborn to a suicidal fault. Mission accomplished, way to go me! Still, shrugging with a sigh, I address the shocked dwarf “I heard the princess. He said ‘trolls’. I can't handle a troll, singular thus I can't handle trolls, plural. I may be insane but I'm not crazy. You couldn't get me to go if you promised me a Coke Classic.”
He stares for a moment or two longer before nodding slowly and joining his kin in their rapid departure. Each one of them gives me a questioning look as they pass me by but I just wave them off. When they have all gone, I feel a little lost as to what to do while they... Do battle I guess. I'm not suffering from Stockholm syndrome, I just know this will take a while... What am I supposed to DO until then?
Leaning against a tree, I close my eyes with a sigh. I'm not warrior. I'm tough, but I'm not a warrior so I can't even go just for the sake of it... I'd only be in the way... Not that I'd go even if I was a warrior because this is hardly my fight. I don't really care what they're doing... They're not likely to appreciate my help. Not that I could be of any help. Because I'm useless. I’m Useless. You're pathetic. You good for-
“Stop it, Atina. Don't go there.”
Smacking myself roughly awake before the dream starts, I decide to make myself a quick meal while I have the opportunity. Digging through Bombur’s bag, I find a gold mine of food. My stomach awakens with a vengeance as I stare at the small place of heaven. I don't want anyone to know I took anything, so I settle on making a simple sandwich.
“Some of this... and some of that... oh goodness I've got to have a dash of that aaaaand voila!”
Holding my masterpiece to the sky, I smile widely before taking a bite. It's freaking delicious. I basically inhale the sandwich before sitting to rub my belly like a content cat. Yet... it's no sooner than it's all in my gullet, that I hear the unmistakable sound of thundering footsteps.
“Where are ye, little Snick snack?”
Scrambling for cover, I duck into the old house. Crawling into the darkest corner, I ignore the debris pressing into my knees.
“I tol’ William I’d get him another lady and I know yer here. I can smell it.”
The troll inhales deeply and the low fire in the center of camp roars to life as it chases the air being sucked up his nose. I’m not lucky enough for it to burn him but it causes the shadows to dance wildly on the charred walls behind me. I can't move any further into the house and in my heart I know that I'm caught.
It was always like this, wasn't it? I could run. I would hide... but I can never escape. Because some enemies won't let dogs lie until they lie dead. By the end of the night this troll, Bert, is going to be dead. He's evil, I guess... He's a creature of the dark... I'm not all light myself but I should not feel bad for his death. Yet in reality right now all he's trying to do is eat so he doesn't die. But he's going to die because of that. He's going to die because I want to live. Because I'm too scared to die.
The well-known fear of my inevitable capture and now his subsequent death creeps up on me faster than expected and I begin to gasp for breath. The pitiful sound is enough to draw his attention even as a cover my mouth. I want to tell him to go away. I want him to stop putting this burden on me because I can't give up even though I want to. I just want this all to be over. I want him to take his life out of my hands but his steps grow nearer and nearer until I'm staring into the face of he who would surely eat me alive if given the chance.
I don't mean to... Honestly I thought I was strong enough not to but I'm not. I'm not because despite my best efforts I still want to live. It means that after all I've been through and with more to come, I still can't give up. It means I'm going to make sure I survive.
God... that sound that gives rise to a primitive urge to fight... I wish I'd just let him kill me here... But... As that hand reaches towards me... Caked in dirt and blood and waste... Promising all sorts of harm... I can't help but to do it.
It claws up my throat like a vicious spider; biting and tearing the whole way to my mouth. The shrill sound is so full of fear, desperation, and life, that for a moment I don't even recognize that it's me screaming.
“Quiet you!” Producing a large knife, Bert the troll jabs at me in a threatening manner. Quickly overcoming my momentary lapse into my fears, I shut my trap. It's already decided been anyway “I'll be hearin’ no more o’ that, now will I, Missy?”
“O-Oh! You... You want me to... Answer...”
“Course I do. Wouldn't of ast you if I didn't, now would I? “
“... No, Mister Bert.”
“Tha's right ‘no’.” Retracting the blade from my personal space, the troll taps it against his chin lightly. It makes a sound like someone is dragging it against leather “Mister Bert. I like the sounds of that.”
"Aye, I do! I'll take ye to William and let him hear ye say it, and right good ye will say it, Missy.” His hand shoots forward again without warning and his thick fingers squeeze me tightly, causing a gasp to rush pass my lips "Oi! I said none of that!”
“Bu-But I can't b-breathe, Mister Bert.”
“... Oh.” Bringing me up to his face, the large creature peers at me critically as he loosens his grip a smidgen “Ye will not scream and go makin’ a ruckus to ruin supper, now will ye?”
“... I won't.”
“And ye will tell William? About the mister?”
“Very good then.” Stomping over to a large bag he must have dropped earlier, Bert shakes it out before dumping me inside “I'll eat you for dessert then, little missy.”
This bag is bigger than the others; it fully engulfs my body even though I am bigger than the dwarves... Or rather taller... Either way it covers me fully with room to spare. I take the time to prepare myself for what's to come. As such, I sit mentally and physically awkwardly at the bottom of the bag, trying to stay balanced as I'm carried through the woods. It's dark enough without being covered from head to toe and it makes me tired but I'm in no position to take a nap. I mustn't endure for long though, as within minutes we have reached the troll camp. The two other trolls are loudly arguing and Bert doesn't make it any better with his entrance.
“Never mind the seasoni-”
“Never mind? After I went to fetch us a dessert ye say ‘nevermind the seasonin’?” Though I can't see anything, I can feel my carrier begin to a shoving match with his companion. William, being the slightly bigger of the two, ends up winning as he trips the other troll. With a low howl of discontent, Bert cradles my sack to his chest. “William, you git! Ye’ll ruin it!”
“Oh yeah? And just what is it?”
“Itssa lady!” Turning my bag upside down so that I can tumbling out in a tangle of limbs, Bert presents me as his prize. Not bothering to listen to the dwarves groans of frustration, I focus on the task at hand. Regaining my balance, I immediately stumble as Bert pokes me in the back. Tell him, Missy. Tell him like ye told me.
“Um... Yes sir, Mister Bert.”
“Did ya hear that, William?” Tom's nasally voice bounces as he leaps from foot to foot. He shakes the ground with each step, not that he cares “She called him Mista!
“Very nice but if you've time to introduce yourself to dessert, then help me get these dwarves roasted!”
“All right. All right... But I ain't go introducing myself...”
“Is that so? Then how did she know your name?”
“She knows... She knows cause I... well...” Those stony fingers close around me again as Bert’s face scrunches up in confusion. He turns to me with a questioning glint in his eye that is almost childlike in its stupidity “I ain't tell ye my name, did I?”
“No, Mister Bert.”
“But ye know it?”
“Yes, Mister Bert.”
The troll isn't squeezing the life out of me, so I hope it's safe to assume that he is more curious than suspicious. Glancing around, I find everyone in their proper places. The wild card here is me. If I can set everything back on course, then hopefully I can make it out of this alive... and that's the sickening goal of survival “I know because I was sent from a Faraway land to help. You need a proper meal tonight. You are fine young growing trolls... Right?”
“Right ya are! Right we are!” Snot bucket Tom prances around camp, preening in the Moonlight as Bert allows me to rest faintly on his knuckles “Help us then! Bert can't get it right and William don't very much care any.”
“Well... Have you tried squirrel dung?”
“First thing I tried, I did!”
Loosening his grip as not to dislodge me, Bert flops into a sitting position with a worn out sigh. If he wasn't planning to eat me, I'd feel even worse for him. As he is, I simply place my chin in my hand and pretend to think hard. Humming in thought, I glance at Bilbo who looks just as confused as the dwarves behind him. Pretending to suddenly notice his presence I jump up into Bert's loose palm.
“You didn't tell me you had a flugerburbur-hobbit, Mister Bert! They know plenty about cooking.”
“Oh?” Rolling over onto his side to stare down into Bilbo’s face, Bert sniffs at the hobbit roughly “Do ye prefer a Sage or parsley?”
“Well...” he looks at me and I give him the ‘ go on, idiot’ eyebrows “That's h-h-hardly a question. Have you smelt them? Heh... heheh.”
“I have, Mister Bert.” I hurriedly intervene when Bilbo doesn't continue as Burt begins to laugh uproariously at his insult. His fear is going to get me killed “Hardly fresh... Cannot have that. They smell something awful.”
“It's true! Uh.... um... Mister... Bert... You're going to need something stronger than sage before you play this lot up!”
The banter begins to smoothly run its course and I sighed in relief at having the company's, and trolls’, fate out of my hands. I can barely save myself from myself on most days. With my part done, my gaze wanders for a moment only to land on the mostly scowling dwarf pile. Most of them throw curses at Bilbo for the help they don't know he's giving. Balin though... He looks at me as though I've solved some monumental puzzle. Given that I suggested eating squirrel poo and asking a made up creature for culinary advice, I don't know what his deal is.
“I've got a huuuuuuuge parasites!”
“Oh, Kili. You are a parasite.” No one hears my mutterings thankfully, each competing to be the biggest sack of unpleasant assortments. It isn't until Tom bends to look at me that I actually pay attention “Um... What?”
“Do ya have parasites too?”
“Nope. Clean as a whistle, but I'm for dessert. Figure out dinner first, buddy.”
The troll actually looks a bit saddened by the news that he can't chow down on me immediately. It's honestly a surprise that any of them have lived this long, what with them cutting it so close to dawn over spices. Bert tosses me back in to my bag to keep Tom's squinty eyes off of me but I'm not worried. It's almost over now...
“The dawn will take you all!”
Gandalf is right on time. I'd like to be relieved but I can't because of the screaming. Oh... the screaming. It was all fun and games until they start screaming. There's no preparing for it or escaping the wretched sound as Bert brings his hand, with me in it, up to his head. It gives me a front-row seat of the sound of his very flesh searing to a crisp and hardening like rock. I scream how sorry I am over and over but he's so loud... he's in so much pain that I doubt he notices as he burns alive.
It's traumatizing, even more so when the dwarves cheer at such an event. They are supposed to be the good guys. The heroes of a valiant story. They aren't supposed to be... like this. I'm glad Anita isn't here because this would break her heart. I'm glad that I'm hidden in the sack because this is breaking my own. At least this way, no one can see my traitorous tears betraying the gentle soul that I refuse to admit I still have. Surviving is the worst thing I've ever done... but I'm very good at it.
Woooooah. Thia chapter was stocked with Atina’s responses to her issues, yet it doesn't tell what they are. Guilt. Suicidal thoughts. Feelings of being worthless. And to top it all off, I heart so sensitive even She can't touch it. Oh, my poor girl
Chapter 15: Healthy
“I'm not a pinata! Be more careful!”
The only response I get is a chorus of laughter at my plight. With the risen sun, the trolls froze in place which left me stuck 12 feet above the ground, not to mention trapped in a sack. Now, a few of the dwarves take turns poking me with the dull end of Bifur’s spear to decide who is going to crawl up and help me down.
“If you tear this bag and I end up breaking my neck, I'm going to haunt each and everyone of you!”
“Please do not worry, Miss! Master Nori is coming up.” Oh great. Even though he means to set my mind at ease, Bilbo sounds skeptical himself. I've got nothing against this dwarf in particular, but I haven't really heard good things about him “Now just... Well just relax.”
“And just how am I supposed to do that?”
“I... just think... think of something to take your mind off of the trolls.”
“They are hardly what's worrying me.”
“If yer screams from last night are anything to go by they gave ye quite the scare!” My silence alerts Bofur that maybe his attempt at humor wasn't the best way to go. He clears his throat and tries again “... T-there is nothing to be afraid of, lassie!”
“Except plummeting to my death.” I can hear the hobbit squawk out a surprised sound that is quickly drowned out by more laughter. At least someone is having a good time “Don't you all have a troll hoard to plunder or something?”
“And just how would you know there is a troll hoard to be plundered?” The material by my head tears suddenly, revealing Nori's curious face. Peering in to assess the state of my cocoon, the dwarf shoos me away. Leaning as far back as I can, I wait in anticipation “Thorin only minutes ago informed a select few of us of its existence; something you could not have possibly heard from up here.”
“Perhaps there is something true to this spy theory.”
“Oh yes. Absolutely.” Nodding as he saws ever so slowly through the cloth, I roll my eyes with exaggerated motions “I’m in cahoots with three trolls. They told me where their cave is and I promised them my barbecued ribs as collateral. Great skills of deduction, Watson.”
“... My name is Nori.”
“Someone get me down from here.”
“As you wish.” Yanking the loose flap free, Nori stares at me as a wide grin spreads across his face “Catch her.”
Before the sentence slips passed my lips, the bag gives out from under my weight. My limbs spread wide to grab on to something but are met only with air. Pulling them back in quickly, I try to make myself as small as possible to lessen the impact. I land surprisingly quick, caught by a firefighter-esque blanket of sorts manned by... Dwarves. Haha.
“Are you alright?!” Rushing to my side as Ori helps me off the catching cloth, Bilbo looks me over in worry “I-I-I tried to stop them but- She is a lady, not a ball to be tossed about!”
“Oh she's fine, laddie!” With a laugh the jovial dwarf whacks me on the back for emphasis as I rearrange my clothing. My already weakened stomach has been tossed upside down so many times that the whack is almost enough to send me over the edge. I don't toss my cookies but Bofur’s once encouraging hands soften with concern “Are ye alright there?”
“‘m fine.” the others return fully dressed and gravitate towards our spot, bringing more notice to me. Snatching my shoulder out from under Bofur’s grip, I glare at his concern “I said I'm fine!”
Turning to stomp away, the world turns with me. Unable to steady my feet, I brace for the fall but instead of Earth, I find gentle hands lifting me into arms. Looking up, I blanch at finding Dori’s nonplussed face attached. His eyes flicker down to meet mine before he huffs out an impatient breath.
“You've been through a traumatic time.”
“It's nothing I can't handle.”
“So you've stated, though I disagree.”
“You do not eat. Your stomach and steps are hardly ever steady. You are pale-”
“I eat when I want. I walk how I want.” Crossing my arms, I move as minimally as possible while the dwarf carries me towards the troll cave. I'm only giving in because I don't think I can walk on my own “And in case you haven't noticed, I'm a redhead. I'm notorious for always being pale and angry. Don't read into it too much.”
“... Do you remember the words I gave you outside of the hobbit’s home?”
“I’ve willingly forgotten them. I don't need chivalrous promises made only because someone has to give them.”
“As I'm sure you recall,” The smell of the troll hoard hits of full force, stopping the dwarf short for a second. Shorter than usual. Shaking his head, he approaches the clearing that now houses the company's belongings. Mine included funny enough. Sitting me down against an old tree, the dwarf returns to his normal height “I stated that your unhappiness or harm are not things we seek and that should you require aid while in our care it will be given.”
“Within reason.” repeating the phrase with a nod, Dori gazes at the dwarves around us with an appraising look “Your shouts last night were... most unpleasant. We had thought the worst for you.”
“It would have been better if I had died, right? Is that it?”
“Of course not, lassie!” kneeling at my side, Dori runs his fingers roughly through his hair. It musses the usually neat set up, almost bringing a quirk to my lip “It set our hearts ill at ease. Until it is decided that you are no longer in our care, you are very much our responsibility.”
“Liability more like.”
“Enough of that.” The chastisement is given in a low order that causes my head to duck before I think about it. Scoffing, I turn my face to the side instead “Your disregard for yourself is most tiresome. That aside, none of us wish for your harm whether you are with us or someplace else. As you are with us and you are our responsibility, we are concerned for your well-being.”
“... I feel like... Are you trying to have a moment with me? If I promise to try to eat and sleep and just be overall healthy will you stop? Your concern is kind of weird considering you all think I'm your enemy.”
“...” if he was trying to have a moment with me, which I'm not sure if he was or wasn't, I have effectively ruined it. He closes his eyes and just sighs through his nose before blinking at me “Rest.”
With that final word, I expect the prim-and-proper dwarf to turn and walk away in a huff. Thus when his hand comes forward to pat my cheek, I'm surprised for long enough to allow it. It brings back a memory, as so many things do, but this one is... It isn't so bad.
If I close my eyes, I bet I'd be able to see my father towering over me like he did the first time he introduced us to Grandpa. It was right around the time he, Papa, left. Anita had been crying earlier that day and Papa was trying everything to keep her smiling. He was never very good at telling us apart though. Or rather, he was a klutz and fumbled everything he tried, including telling his twin daughters apart. Even at that age, I understood that. I always forgave him for it though because he was my Papa.
So when he placed a large hand on my tiny cheek in a misplaced effort to console my sister, I was surprised when I was comforted as well. I can admit now that I was anxious to meet Grandpa and though I know Papa meant to help my sister, it felt good and I allowed it. I didn't correct him because... it made me feel safe. And just for a moment, I feel that now.
Immediately shaking the memory from my head, I gently brush Dori's hand away. It would be stupid of me to allow such a childish thing to bring me any joy now. My father didn't stick around long after that anyway and he didn't keep us safe either.
“I'm fine.” Turning to face the empty trees again, I fold my hands over my chest in a deliberately defensive way “I don't need-” “Yes. Yes you do. You need so much, child.”
Spinning my head back around, I'm too late to offer a response as the dwarf departs. There is a time and place for everything. Yelling at the back of a guy who is just finished carrying you because you're too weak to stand on your own, a still current predicament, is not currently the best course of action for right now. So I let it go. Reaching a hand up, I smooth away any parental vibes Dori might have left behind. I don't need that kind of energy in my life right now.
Knowing that we have some, but not a ton, of down time before the wargs show up, I intend to invest it wisely. Sliding down the tree trunk, I lay flat on the ground. The sun stretches over the Treetops to blind me through my eyelids. If I'm going to get any sleep, I'm going to have to face the other way. That in itself is not too bad but it would be exposing my back to the company. I don't expect them to stab me in the back, but it be my fault for being too trusting if they do... But they could have left me hanging in Bert’s grasp or just let me fall and die... They don't want me dead just yet.
Nervously checking over my shoulder, I ensure that I'm moderately isolated. Most of the company is milling around the entrance of the cave; the closest person to me being Bombur but he's a good 15 feet away.
“You can do this, Atina.”
Giving my back to the group slowly, I just remind myself over and over that they could easily kill me regardless of which direction I face. That thought comforts me and helps greatly. I'm asleep within minutes.
Upon departing the stench of the troll hoard, Thorin instructed his nephews and I to retrieve the missing ponies. We were unlucky and could only locate three. They will do us no good to ride but at least we can remove the supplies they carry. After two hours of searching, it is obvious that the rest have fled further than is practical to search for. We expected to find the king irritated at the failure but upon our return, we found the company oddly quiet. When the youngest prince chanced an inquiry, Bofur brought his fingers to his mouth quickly before pointing to the sleeping girl.
Crouching down low and moving as close as possible, I remain still for a number of long quiet moments as to be sure of her sleeping state. Her thin frame is fully cloaked in the throw blanket she stole from the burglar’s home. How anything from a halfling could make a daughter of men look so small, I do not know. Yet curled in upon herself as she is, small she looks.
Though taller than us all, the wind could blow the nameless girl away unless she used her forked tongue to beat it back. It is the only thing threatening about her. Looking at her now, pale, helpless, and delicate, it is a simple thing to wonder how she obtained such a contrary personality. In clipped iglishmek I direct my questions to Bofur as I finally reach her side.
Until she wakes.
Rolling my eyes at the useless response I stare down at the girl who won't let anyone close and wonder, not for the first time, what happened the last time someone did. What caused this waif-like creature to become a flaming ball of rage and distrust? Who failed in their duty to protect her? What experiences molded her self-hatred? Breathing softly I pull myself up and away from her, lest I disturb her rest. These questions leave a bitter taste in my mouth as I already know the cruelty of this world. It destroys the weak and hardens the strong, leaving behind hollow people who can only hope to fill themselves with SOMETHING. Be it purpose, passion, or hate. I'll find no pretty answers staring at the sleeping woman and would rather not suffer her waking wrath.
Happy birthday to me!!!!
Chapter 16: Atina Marie Bloodstone
I'm dreaming. I can feel it in how not-all-there my body feels. Its as if I'm floating in something heavy but painfully invisible. The scene around me isn't all right either. Lawrence, fucking Lawrence, was anything but fashion snob in life,so why my dream has portrayed his torturous basement as a pristine location is beyond me. All the old broken lawn chairs have been reshaped into beautiful Oak masterpieces. Gone is the cement floor that chipped more than one of my teeth and in its place is a plush rug that is softer than clouds look. It's a gorgeous replica of the nightmare I lived.
Why can't I wake up? Usually becoming aware will help me escape. But not this time it would seem. Keeping my eyes on anything but what it sits before me, only serves to gag me as its scent forces itself up my nose. It's thick and persistent, not allowing itself to be ignored. An invisible hand pulls my head towards the last place I'd want to look but I have nothing of power to stop it.
"This is going to happen, whether you want it to or not, little flame."
With that threat, I come face-to-face with HIM. Or... What's left of him. His head looks you have exploded, leaving behind pointy bone that slices easily through the flesh of his once freckled face. One of his eyes has slid from its socket, hanging limply by a thread of nerve down his torn cheek. The other though, stares deep into me as if my soul lay bare before it. The once fiery orb is horribly cold in comparison to the blazing hand that comes up to pat my cheek roughly. It would sear my skin if I were awake.
That hand plunges into my mouth, choking me as it goes down my throat. With his free hand he reaches into his shattered skull, scooping out clumps of brain matter to feed me. I can't move at all. I can only watch as the room grows bloodier with each mouthful I'm forced to swallow. It pours down the walls like rain, soaking everything it touches. It's not enough for the monster though, as he thrusts his other hand into my mouth to meet his first.
It's like he's climbing into my very skin. As if he could crawl inside of me and live on forever, driving me insane, until I don't know who I am anymore. The stretching is unbearable, even more so when it brings his obliterated face within inches of my own.
"You brought a brick to my brain, little flame." Tilting his head to the side for emphasis, parts of my kidnapper's mind sloshes out like sludge "It didn't kill me."
Sinking himself up to his elbows with a laugh, the nightmare scratches at my insides. There's nothing I can do, nothing I could ever do. Bound to stillness, not even my tears fall as he breathes smoky air into my lungs. I cough, the feeling all the worst as his arms slide further down my throat.
"So you burned me, little flame. You burned me ALIVE!" My insides erupt with heat as he releases flames of Hell into my belly "But you can't be rid of me."
'I killed you!' I silently scream yet still he hears me. Shutting my eyes I try to wake up 'This isn't real! You're not here!'
"Oh no no no. I'm right here; look at me! Look what you did to me!"
I don't need to look. I already know. I remember taking up a brick and smashing his head in. I remember the blood... and I remember the fire... and I remember surviving.
"Look what you did to me! Oh ho ho, but look what I've done to you!"
The mirror on the wall loosens from its place to crash on to the floor beside us. It shatters into a million pieces, reflecting my tortured image in all of them. I look at that girl in that mirror, covered in blood and terror, and I hate her so much more than I could ever hate him.
"You may have ended me, little flame..." As he leans towards me to whisper darkly into my ear, I can finally feel the dream edges fading away. Yet, it brings me no peace "But it's more pathetic how its killing you!"
My eyes fly open but there's no time to get up. Turning my head to the side, I empty my stomach painfully. My muscles spasm in agitation but I keep going. I don't stop until I'm as empty as I can get... On my hands and knees, I dry heave continuously while trying to catch my breath but it doesn't help. My head throbs and I begin pounding at the ground.
"I'll never be rid of him! He's inside of me!" Screaming at the ground in agony and anger and frustration, I allow my tears to finally fall "He's BEEN inside of me!"
A gasp sounds to my right, pulling my head towards it. There stands the company of Thorin Oakenshield in its entirety; each staring at me as if it was the first time we had seen each other. I expect to be overwhelmed with shame but my mind is so far gone that all I can do is laugh.
"Hello! My name is Atina Marie Bloodstone and if you couldn't guess by now, I'm rape victim. Oops!" Covering my mouth as Ori's eyes go wide, I laugh all the harder. "I mean 'Survivor.' Because that makes the whole raping thing seem like an adventure!"
"Lassie..." making gentle calming motions with his hands, Balin tries to soothe the situation. "Perhaps you should come down. You seem to have been-"
"Kidnapped? Forced against my will? Traumatized? Yeah, and I don't even mean by just you guys. I've been through some stuff and its made me one sick puppy but I don't want you to worry about that! You've got a dragon to face. It's way too late anyway. I'm sorry if it bothers you."
"It bothered me a whole lot too, even more so after he amputated my sister's leg, strip by strip mind you, and made me watch him eat it." Gnashing my teeth together, I break into a fit a girlish giggles. Somewhere in my mind, that's not funny. Yet it's too hilarious not to be "Now I'm afraid to eat anything that I don't prepare because he always said that he snuck a little of her into my meals too. Talk about trust issues!"
Grinning wildly I pull myself off the ground and shake out my stiff limbs. Everyone is watching me with varying degrees of worry that just makes me laugh more. It's just too funny. How can they be so worried about me when they have so much to worry about themselves? I mean it's not like they can save me. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. I'm waaaaay too far gone. And even if I could, I don't deserve to be saved. It's just so funny.
"She would have loved to be here but you've got me instead. We're are twins, so yes we look very much alike Kili, so maybe it makes no difference in the end. Then again, she's a fighter."
"Lass..." looking over to Bofur, I find his usually cheerful face tilted into a very deep frown. His hands fist and then unclench and then fist again before he continues "This he you speak of... where is he now?"
"Don't worry. Don't worry. He's dead. I killed him, was no small amount of help from my dog." shrugging my shoulders, my mind wanders too my beautiful puppy. My beautiful dead puppy. Shrugging again as my chest twinges in pain, I nodded at Dwalin "You know, Dwalin, the dog you killed. Thanks for that... I didn't deserve his loyalty."
"Miss Bloodstone..." I've never described the dwarf King as being speechless but it appears that I have left him with the way too much and not enough to say. He stares at me and I returned it with a blinding smile that surprisingly makes him avert his eyes with unease. I must look quite the sight "No woman should ever-"
"Please don't." Tilting my head to the side, I make a nest out of my fingers and rock on my toes "Saying that means absolutely nothing. It's like me saying 'no one should ever have a dragon burn down their home.' It really goes without saying and sympathies are the worst kind of consolation."
Nodding his head stiffly, we all lapse into a silent atmosphere that slowly wipes away my initial waking nonchalance. I quickly become aware of the awkward air followed by the weight of the personal baggage I just dumped onto the group. Even Radagast (when did he get here) has come down from his high for long enough to look unnerved. Despite all that, I feel great, weightless even, and I know that's probably freaking them all out.
"That was really unfair of me." Ducking my head in regret, I rub the back of my neck. I got sombre heavy mess off my chest... And it seems that I put it all on theirs. That's not very fair of me... but I wonder when I started caring about being fair with them "Just... Just forget I said anything. It'll be easier for all of us. I'm sorry for dumping this on all of you like- Warg!"
The howl of a warg sounds in the distance immediately after my shout. It alerts the company of the coming problem easily. I spin in a continuous circle, making sure nothing creeps up on my expose back to use me as a chew toy. I catch sight of the monstrous creature before it tries to eat anyone. Shouting to get someone's attention on it, I point at the approaching thing. Dwalin makes quick work of the creature before aiding in killing the second.
"Warg scouts?!" Thorin kicks the beast in the head even as it lays dead in a puddle of its own blood. Tossing his gaze around, the dwarf King searches the trees "What is going on here?"
"They probably have something to do with that bounty the orcs put on your head." he shoots me a wide eyed 'be silent, woman' glare before rolling his eyes to the sky "Just saying, a lot of people don't like you for some reason. Or maybe it's all a big game of chance."
"This is no mere chance occurrence." Peering down at the dead warg on the ground, Gandalf surprises me "Young Oracle, did you tell anyone about this Quest?" Looking around I find all eyes on my person "Farseer Bloodstone!"
"M-Me?! I'm not seer or an oracle o-o-or anything like that!"
"You can hide it no longer. Gandalf, she has not been away from us to share a sight. Crossing his arms, Balin addresses Gandalf as I try to catch up to this major misunderstanding "What is happening?"
"...You are being hunted."
To my reviewers: thank you for the comments! I want to explain something really quick.
The dwarves want our lovely OC to feel less... intense. For their sake and her own. Atina's behavior is unhealthy any way you look at it. In addition, the dwarves feel justified in their ability to made judgments about that. They are the 'good guys' so anything they do can be explained away.
Yeaaaaaah, they kidnapped Atina but only because they had to due to her actions. They don't want her harmed and will treat her well, so its ok. They cheered at the troll deaths but only because they were the enemy. Understand that to the dwarves, they have done nothing that is so wrong that they should need forgiving. Atina's defensive actions make them feel bad but why should they if they haven't done anything wrong? So she needs to stop with her defiance because while they are sympathetic to her plight, they are in a bind too.
Please note that I'm explaining the dwarves behavior, not justifying it. I really want this story to put every thing that fans have accepted and taken for granted into perspective. No one in this story is bad. No one is wholly good either. Yet, they all have a warped sense of self. Its like war: both sides think they're right and that the other is wrong but in reality they are both equally fighting for their own views. I hope this helps!
Chapter 17: In all of us
Keeping my mouth shut, I follow the group without comment. Kicking myself for my loose lips, I try to ignore the unsettled looks being thrown my way every few seconds. Each time I so much a stumble, a rogue hand swoops in to set me to rights as if I'm some invalid. THIS is what I was afraid of. This is the last thing I would have wanted but my weak mind broke and now my right mind must pay the price. I'm no longer a stupidly stubborn girl who could probably handle herself because she's too crazy to die, oh no. Now I'm a pitiful one that needs to be protected from every obstacle. At least I kept my biggest secret under wraps. I think they'd all die of gentlemanly remorse if they knew.
My legs burn as we fly through the field but I push on, following the Wizard’s orders as if they were scriptures. Radagast cackles insanely in the distance but it won't be long until the orcs figure out what's happening... And then the killing will start. And knowing that, I can't change that without sacrificing myself and isn't that just unacceptable? My steps falter only to be forced to speed up again when Dori grabs hold of my wrist. He tugs on it painfully tight, spurring me on.
Hissing out the order, the dwarf King heads the group but something is... off. His attention is on too many things: Our location. The group. The Wizards. The Orcs. And most worriedly, me. With so much begging for his attention, he is bound to make a mistake. I suppose he's lucky that I'm here to spot it when he does. Speeding up, I yank Ori back behind the stone covering before he exposes himself to the enemy.
“Stop worrying about me, you idiots!” Dori allows me to snatch my hand away if only so he can grab his brother. Pointing boldly at the king, I whisper harshly at him “You need to focus. So keep your attention on your enemies.”
“Are you no longer my enemy?”
“Moron.” Rolling my eyes as we stand still for a moment, I watch for any it orcs “I may not like you, but I'm not your enemy. Except for Dwalin’s, of course.”
“All of you, come on!” The coast clears, giving us the chance to move again. Our boots pound the Earth as hard as our hearts do our ribs. Keeping my own advice, I focus on the run and ignore the fact that life and death situations seem to happen more regularly then I'd like to acknowledge “Quick!”
“Where are you leading us?”
Gandalf merely glances back at the dwarf before pushing forward again until we reach where the climax of the situation shall occur. A hand wraps around my forearm firmly, turning me to face the kingsguard. His eyes flicker to the Wizard's back before coming back to settle on me.
“Where is he leading us?”
“... You won't like it, but somewhere safe.”
He opens his mouth to question me further but I bring a finger to my lips to silence him. Pointing above me, I watch as his eyes light with understanding as the orc comes into view. He quickly alerts the king, who in turn instructs his nephew to kill the creature. Turning to face the wall, I cover my ears and shut my eyes tightly; pretending it's not happening. I don't hear the arrow fly but the thud of bodies is as unmistakable as the squeal of death that is abruptly cut off. I wonder if he was scared, that lone orc, when the arrow struck. I wonder if he knew he was going to die and if he was blowing that horn to fulfill a duty or if it was his futile attempt to call for help.
What would have been the point otherwise? If orcs are as cold and uncaring as they are made out to be, then what would have been the point of alerting the others? If cold they would not have aided him, so why waste the breath? If unruly, then why carry out your duty when you won't be punished for disobeying? I'm sure that they are more evil than good but aren't we all a little of both? The orcs would kill the dwarves... But don't the dwarves kill orcs too? Didn't I just help? Aren't we all just trying to... stay alive? Either way, death comes for us all and crying over the wonders of this world, or any other, would not stop it.
“Move!” Peeling myself off of the stone before I fully ruin my image, I follow the Wizard’s voice. Pointedly ignoring the shredded remains of the orc and warg pair, I swallow the bile in my mouth “Run!”
My breath comes in pants but I keep going. It's just a little further. We’ll make it to the secret entrance and dive in. The battle that ensues will not have us as participants. We’ll get to Rivendell and split up. Elrond and Galadriel will collaborate with the Wizards to get me home and that'll be it. It'll be over. I just have to make it to-
An arrow shoots past my side; slicing through the skin on my hip and narrowly missing in killing me . It is due to the hands at my back that shoved me to the ground, knocking the air from my lungs. The owner of said hands, none other than Dwalin himself, collapses on top of me with a grunt of pain. Thick blood oozes sluggishly from the second arrow that had apparently sunk itself into his shoulder, which he waste no time yanking out. Dark droplets rain down on me, speckling my cheeks as he pulls me to my feet.
“Are you injured?”
“Hm. Eyes open now, Farseer.”
“Don't... Don't call me that.”
“Fine.” Giving me a once-over and a clean bill of health, or at least as clean as I can be right now, the dwarf returns his gaze to the orcs “Lady Atina, then.”
“Hell no.” Stepping back towards the rocks, I let the stones act as a natural defense for my back as the enemy approaches. Pressing my hand into my side, I frown at the blood that wets my palm. It'll seep past all the cloth I'm wearing soon but for now it's ok “You've no right to call me anything but ‘please ma'am don't chop off my family jewels with that rusty spoon.’”
“What!?” Taking down a warg that strays to close, the ax-wielding dwarrow throws an unhappy look my way “I just took an arrow for you! Bled for you!”
“I nearly took one for myself too. You owe me all the blood in your body anyway after what you did! One measly arrow, that I didn't ask you to block, isn't going to change that!”
“Why you little-”
“Oi! Stop it!” Waving his bow like a maniac, Kili directs our attention back to the problem at hand “There are more coming!”
“Kili!” More yelling. The head dwarf honcho points his sword at the approaching Vanguard with a hilarious ‘the-heck-are-you-doing’ expression on his face “Shoot them!”
Tossing my head, I search for Gandalf. Locking eyes with me, he turns away, picks up his skirts, and darts behind the stones. If I didn't know better, I’d think he'd been hit by surprise diarrhea. Giving him a moment either way, I contemplate being useful.
I could pick up a small stone, and I could hurl it at an orc. All those years of softball would pay off as the rock would strike the creature and scare the others into backing off. They would depart before the elves arrived and no one would have to die... A lovely dream. I don't bother picking up the rock, instead resolving to stay out of everyone's way.
“Where is Gandalf?” The dwarves argue amongst themselves but Bilbo trembles at my side. What will eventually be dubbed Sting dangles in his loose grip as he looks up at me with a question in his eyes “He... He hasn't abandoned us... Has he?”
Patting his head softly, I shake my own but offer no extra information. The hobbit really just needs to have faith, in himself and others. I don't think I can give him faith, considering I have none to give. Scanning the field I find the lone orc that will return to Azog with his tail between his legs. He stands further away than the rest, not knowing that his safety now will be the death of him later. Catching my stare, he opens his maw to expose his sharpened teeth. I'm not impressed. Raising my hand, I point straight at him.
“That one is going to escape and return to his leader.” I make a point of not saying who his leader is. He's too far for anyone, even Kili, to hit at this point. Doing this little bit won't add to the death count on my end, but it'll give the dwarves a heads up “He'll be killed for fleeing. At least there's that, right?”
“Yes. Thank you, Farseer Bloodstone but we haven't time for that!” Keeping his sword at attention, should another orc test his patience, Thorin commands his men to the ready “Hold your ground!”
Fighting the urge not to bend down and grab a handful of dirt, I swing my head in the direction Gandalf went. I believe he's had enough time, so sprinting to the spot where I know he will appear, despite the protests of the nearest company members, I wait. Just as Gandalf sticks his gray clad head up, I am overcome with a need. That's why when he comes up, I pop up in return.
“Boo!” He actually stumbles backwards, with a look of fright. The wizard stands there judging me for a few good moments and I feel a little bad “Uh.... Gotcha?”
“That was hardly an appropriate use of your gift, Farseer Bloodstone.” Straightening out his robes with the huff you'd give a fussy three-year-old, Gandalf calls to the dwarves “This way, you fools!”
“Come on, move! Quickly!” I stand to the side and watch the dwarves slide into the secret entrance. Thorin, too watches them go before spotting me and offers another one of his best ‘are-you-an-idiot’ looks “ALL of you!”
“...Right.” I take a deep breath and slide into the darkness
Chapter 18: The cave
I roughly hit the Earth at the bottom of the secret entrance before Bombur lifts me to my feet, dusting me off as best as he can. An angry retort dances on the tip of my tongue but then Thorin slides down and the company settles into an uneasy quiet. Its that type of silence that makes you more cautious off breaking it than what's causing it. We all listen with rapt attention to the slaughter happening just out of our sights, preparing for what will happen if it spills inside. Except for me. For my own part, I anxiously make sure that I'm not standing on the soon-to-be dead body's landing pad.
As expected, the orc rolls into the spot, causing everyone to jump back in surprise. Even as they realize that he is dead as a doornail, arrow to the throat, I'm still jostled to the back of the group as they grumble and jeer at the turn of events. Folding my arms impatiently, I wince at the pain it causes. Without looking, I know the scratch on my hip is really a gash that seems to span up to my lowest rib. Great. I'm going to need stitches. Pulling my coat closed, I ensure no one can see the bloody front of my shirt. Dwalin actually got shot and is fine but me? Nope, not I. I can already hear the scoldings now and no thank you.
Buttoning the snaps just to be sure, I begin to explore the Cave. The entrance and initial Cove are clearly natural but the deeper I go, the straighter the corners look. Time-worn rocks giveaway to smooth chiseled stone. Yes, this is the right place. Running my hand across the stone, I cut my eyes at the stomping to my right. Dwalin stands there, stoically gazing around in displeasure. Pressing my lips into a thin line, I can feel his question before it leaves his mouth.
"Yes, this is it."
"... It doesn't seem very safe to me, but it's hardly a thing to dislike upon."
"That's because we're only standing at the entrance. You just wait until we get inside."
The dwarf stares at me through squinted eyes but I don't back down. I know my face betrays nothing, I've lived long enough because of it, and that seems to annoy him a little more than it should. Good. It serves him right to feel a little of what I've felt since I met the guy. Scoffing after a few moments of silence, he turns toward the cavern we entered through, shouting towards his leader.
"I cannot see to where the pathway leads. Do we follow it or not?"
"We follow it, of course!"
"Well that's hardly your choice to make." I grumble with a sigh as Bofur rushes forward, paying me little mind "Not that I planned on climbing back up anyway. A tad bit dangerous. "
"This path is a safe one though." Dusting his hat off, Gandalf replaces it on his head. He is careful to keep his neck slightly bent as to avoid scraping the pointed cap on the ceiling "It will not take us away from where we need to go."
"But perhaps to where we would rather not like to be?" Gloin raises an eyebrow at the wizard but he merely shrugs and examines his staff for scratches. Frowning deeply, the dwarf turns to me with a snide expression "And what say ye, Farseer Bloodstone?"
"Oh? So my opinions matter now?"
"Make no mistake, girlie: I ask for fact. Yer opinions are yer own and I have no need of them."
"Oh, well then. Since you put it that way..." Pasting an obviously false smile on my lips, I start up the crooked path "Considering you have nothing but the clothes on your back and last night's food in your belly, I'd consider it FACT that you would like to be anywhere but here. In either case, I'm going this way."
"A woman with enough sense to get out of here."
"I too think that would be wise."
I turn back to see the wizard grinning in my direction and I almost, ALMOST, grin back. Lifting my chin, I nod once and march on. Just as Iam about to enter the thin passage, Dwalin's arm snakes out to block my path. I peer down at it for a moment before following the appendage up to its owners face, giving him a questioning glare.
"It could be dangerous."
"Yeah? And what do you care if I find myself in a little danger?"
"Must you be so stubborn?" Rolling my eyes so hard that I give myself a headache, I aim to push his arm out the way. The arm doesn't move, until he brushes past me himself "Not first. Not you."
The passage is a thin curling path that won't allow me to pass him once we are inside without me crawling over his head. Allowing a few dwarves to go ahead of me, I place some distance between myself and my dog's murderer. As cordial as he's being, his sins have not been absolved. Little by little everyone falls into line, with me somewhere in the middle. It is not a long walk, maybe 15 minutes at best, before light starts to filter through the cracks in the walls. No one ever mentioned how dark this flipping passage is. Soon though, a glow becomes a stream and a stream turns into a beam and a beam opens up with a burst of light that has us all shielding our eyes from its intensity. The wizard, of course, is unaffected.
"The valley of Imladris. In the common tongue it is known by another name."
The hobbit's breathy sigh does not go unnoticed by those close enough to hear it. And if they are too far to hear, the immediate bristling of their leader's shoulders is easy enough to catch. Not that Gandalf cares as he ushers me forward.
"Where I come from, we usually start tombstone inscriptions with the phrase 'here lies.' Are we visiting a graveyard?" I press my lips into a flat line again and open my eyes needlessly wider to give the wizard a deadpan look. I've been pressing my lips into a lot of thin lines today. It's just that kind of day "No? Then... perhaps 'Welcome' would be better."
"Yes. Well then. Welcome, though the welcome is hardly mine to give, to the last homely House East of the sea."
"You welcome us to a place you have no right to welcome us into, wizard." The king steps completely free of the cave and flips his gaze around at the natural beauty with disgust. Straining not to bear his teeth at the sorcerer, Thorin keeps his voice surprisingly level as he cuts me off "This was your plan all along, wasn't it? To seek Refuge with our enemy."
I might have listened a little longer but the hobbit bumps into me slightly as we descend the uneven steps on his way to avoid the talk behind us. It isn't a big thing, though he apologizes profusely, but it serves to remind me that I am kind of wounded here.
With the adrenaline of the mad dash fading, the pulsing gash turns into a rising burning sensation that is quickly becoming difficult to ignore with each throb. Looking down, I growl quietly at the blood spotting through my coat. It's still light but is bad enough to have bled through the thick material, meaning its apparently worse than I thought.
I could use a hand... just a little. If I say something would they... help?
Shaking my head, I dismiss the girlish thought. As if I would sink so low as to ask anything from anyone. Regardless of that, all the supplies are gone. Even if the group wanted to, they couldn't help me. They'd have to take me to Rivendell anyway, which Thorin or Dwalin or Gloin or anyone else would no doubt blame me for. So... I'll be fine on my own. I'm always fine. Wiping my palms on my thighs, I put on my game face. I can make it to Rivendell. Whether the dwarves know or not no one is carrying me, I'll be no one's burden, so it will take just as long. It will hurt just as much. So I'll be fine on my own.
"Are ye alright, lassie? Yer looking a mite pale."
"Yes, thank you. I'm fine, Bofur."
Speeding up to the front of the group before he can say anything else, I thank my lucky stars that Thorin is sulking and Bilbo is gawking. If they weren't in their own little worlds, they'd notice my predicament. Why the heck is everyone paying attention to my complexion any way? One would think that with such a daunting task before them, these dwarves would be a little more focused. It's a wonder they make it to the mountain at all.
Departing from the cliff face, we reach the bridge and I immediately feel sick to my stomach at the height. I don't believe in phobias that are understandable. It's common sense to fear something that could kill you with ease. Bridges without guardrails over ravines are one of those things. I sway on my feet but a constant pressure on my back keeps me moving. In the back of my mind I know its a person but I can't tell them to back off without possibly falling to my death. So ignore it since it allows me to focus on keeping the contents of my stomach inside me. I suppose the arrow didn't cut out my cancer then if it still has me living with my gut in my mouth.
I didn't notice that we'd finish crossing the bridge, let alone that we had actually entered the... Entrance. Fear will do that too sometimes. The hand disappears and I purposely don't look to see who it was, looking in every direction but that one. The dwarves whisper amongst themselves with gusto; some are curious while others are full of disdain. All are cautious. As for me... I'm just trying to avoid listening to the conversation I've heard countless times before. Stepping forward to stand before the elf, I place a hand on my hip and decide to move things along.
"Yes, we crossed into the valley and Gandalf wants to speak with Elrond."
"I beg your-"
"Of course he can't because your Lord Elrond isn't here. Gandalf, you may ask 'Where is he?' He's out hunting Orcs. No need to worry though, he'll be here in a moment. In the meantime, I'm kind of bleeding." Gesturing towards the spotted front of my coat I show off the blood to the elf. He blinks in surprise as the dwarves at my back offer the scoldings I'd been expecting. The slight worry peppered in brings a frown to my mouth and confusion to my mind, so I ignore them all because I'm obviously going crazy if I think they are WORRIED about ME. Hilarious, I know "Can you get someone to help me with this?"
"Straight away, Miss..."
"Farseer Bloodstone is an associate of our troop." Gandalf offers the title and LIE when I say nothing to the elf's unasked question. I rolled my eyes at it but don't bother fighting it now. I won't be with them for much longer, so does it really even matter? "She has been traveling with our group and seems to have sustained a most recent injury."
"You should have told us you were injured, Lass." Stepping up to my side, Dori looks me over without touching me "We would have-"
"-Made a fuss about it, whether from annoyance or some misguided sense of duty." A nameless elf appears at the top of the stairs and after a quick look to Lindir for confirmation, I head towards her "I told you before that I neither need nor want your help."
The horn blares from over the bridge, taking everyone's attention but mine. I use the moment to slip into the home, safely hidden away from anyone who could get their blood on my hands.
Hi! Sorrrry. It's been awhile.
Chapter 19: Snitches get stiches
The elf’s steps are even but thankfully not too fast. I doubt that I’d be able to keep up with her if they were. My head is foggy and light all at the same time, so I set my attention on the pain in my side to keep me alert. It’s a constant throbbing sensation but not sharp, so I’m not really all that worried. I appreciate my guide’s respectful silence and can only hope it lasts. I don't need the questions and worry and gentle prodding of a caring stranger. It just makes me nervous... Just give me what I need and let me be on my way. I don’t need much of anything else.
Further and further we walk in a hurried but unhurried way. We’ll get where we’re going in good time, but not as fast as we could.The halls we past are never-ending; confusing me as to how far we've gone and how much further we have to go. I bite my tongue against asking, simply pressing my hand against my stomach to stop the bleeding. Sounds echo in the distance, proving life exists somewhere in this place, but through it all we never come across anyone.
“Here we are, Miss.” Holding open a wooden door for me, the elf gestures into the room with a polite inclination of her head “The Healer will be with you shortly.”
Entering with caution, I wait for the elf to bow out before exploring the empty quarters. Like any other doctor's office, the room is stark white with the spicy scent of antiseptic floating around. Vials and tubes scattered around cluttered tables and shelves pluck at my curiosity but I ignore them all. I'd rather not get caught looking like a thief. Even so, I allow myself to drag a single digit along the leather bound spine of the book nearest me. If I were in a more welcoming place, I’d lift the gently worn tomb up and rifle through the yellowing pages but now is not the time to indulge. Even so... I do love to read...
“Greetings.” Snatching my hand away, I flinch at the sudden voice at the door. Turning quickly, I am greeted by a brown haired elf, cloaked in loose fitting tan robes and a permanent frown. He is just as pretty as all the others, in a plain and tired sort of way, but something about him immediately makes me nervous “I am the Healer. Show me where you are injured.”
“Aren't you going to ask me my name or at least give me yours?”
“Why?” Blinking at me, the elf steps into the room and puts away his belongings “Neither are needed for this.”
“Yes, they are.”
“Names do not aid me in stitching wounds.”
“... We can’t proceed without me knowing your name.”
“Glaewon.” He says as if it annoys him. Pulling my face into a frown, I bite my tongue when he doesn’t ask my name. He obviously could care less “Let us begin.”
“Don’t you think-”
“Quickly now, child.” He repeats again, voice caked with the impatience of one who simply wants to complete a task. Pointing to a tall chair, not unlike the ones the have you hop up on in the doctor’s office, the healer’s frown deepens “I have not all day to give you nor any patience to clean up the blood you are dripping all over my office.”
I'd have preferred a woman, elleth, but beggars can't be choosers and the service is free. I want this to be over just as badly as, if not more than, he does. As he prepares his items, I slip out of my coat but pause momentarily at my shirt. MY shirt. It’s not the shirt Gandalf bought for me from Madame Louise but rather it is MY shirt. The shirt I had to borrow back from Annie because I’d run out of clean ones. The shirt I came into this world in. The shirt that even now is stained on the hem with Killer’s blood. The shirt has long been ruined, much like myself...
Shaking my head, I make a mental note that I only have one more now so I’d better be careful with it. Swallowing thickly, I pull off the ruined article and take my seat on the chair. Without another word in my direction, the healer begins his examination. His hands, while easily identifiable as skilled, are cold and brisk in their work. He does nothing to ease my discomfort as he disinfects the wound and I say nothing either. Wanting it to be over as quickly as possible, I grit my teeth and say nothing. It's always worked for me before.
“Chew on this.” A dark leaf is pressed into my palm and I hesitate in following his instruction. Seeing this, the elf scoffs with impatience, looking very inconvenienced “For the pain. Be quick about it, for I will continue in 5 minutes with or without its effects.”
“I...” Staring at the leaf in my hand, I try to convince myself to do it. Just... put it in my mouth and chew for a little bit, right? The odds are that this has anesthetic properties and I'll be grateful for it. However there is always the chance that it's not. There’s always the chance that someone wants to harm me... That's not a chance I can take, so shaking my head I place the leaf aside “No, thank you. I'd prefer to go without it.”
“This will be painful.”
“I imagine so.”
“I’ve had worse. I won’t like it, but it won’t kill me.”
“You are foolish.”
Staring at me as if trying to discern the truthfulness of my grit and statement, Glaewon sits silently for a minute. Elves don’t really get old, at least not physically. Still, I can tell from his attitude and eyes that this one isn’t as young as the more popular heros. It's a tired- no... warily aura that screams ‘ I’ve cared too much to care anymore. ’ I do wonder how many times he’s run into someone like me; Someone who can’t care anymore either. When he decides that I am not going to be stared down into a drug induced state, he sighs through his pointed nose.
“You are indeed foolish. Keep your movement to the minimum. I will not be held responsible for any scars you bring upon yourself.”
Nodding, I lay back and focus on anything besides the experience. It's impossible of course, with the healer mumbling and counting as he goes along. 1, tug, cinch, tie. 2, tug, cinch, tie. 3, tug, cinch, tie. So on and so forth. It makes me want to shift but I just said I wouldn’t, so I focus on him instead of the needle. I can tell that he doesn't like me. He probably doesn’t like anyone though; he seems the type. Not so much that he would want to hurt me but enough that it most likely doesn't beat him up inside if he does. I don't think it's personal but I'd prefer this ended quickly.
“14.” The firm tugging at my center, along with the finality of his tone, alerts me of the completion of the procedure. That was... quick “Now. You will explain how you came across such a life-threatening injury.”
“It wasn't life threatening.” Squinting my eyes at the red slit framed by black spider-like legs thread down my side, I allow the healer to put a poultice on it. “Such a thing wouldn't have killed me.”
“Not you. The child you carry.”
“I- Uh... I d-d-d-don’t know what your t... ta... t-t-talking about.”
“You should not be traveling in your condition.”
My anger rises like an ocean and I can hear the blood rushing past my ears so loud that it deafens me. I've been doing so well... I didn't mention it and I'd almost forgotten exactly what life-altering illness I was carrying. This... cancerous parasite.
I could have pretended for a little longer that Lawrence’s parting gift to me, before I ended his miserable life, wasn't a new one. A life for a life: One that is half me but all of him. My breath comes in pants and I grit my teeth until I hear them creak under the pressure.
“I... have to go now.”
I don't mind the healer’s annoyance as I brush his hands away or his confusion as I slide back into my clothes. Reining in my rage at him for mucking up the perfect conscious denial that I had going, I thank Glaewon for the service and walk out.
Supper may have progressed without incident but the later revelation of the map, and subsequent 2-week delay, has put my king in a most foul of moods. He sits apart from the group, neither indulging in merrymaking or business. At such times I have discovered it best to either avoid him or to provide him with something of use. Thus, I search for the missing assassin turned farseer. Though useless and threatening as a spy, an oracle is immensely beneficial.
Her absence has been noted for some time but neither elf nor wizard deemed it necessary to speak of her. Despite my initial skepticism concerning her, I do not believe she means the company, excluding myself, any harm. Far from pleasant, she poses no danger. Given her place and mine, it is understandable but has lasted long enough. As such perhaps she can be persuaded to share one of her sights in exchange for doing away with the cloud she casts over us all. Mahal knows what it'll cost me but that is not the only topic I need to discuss with the fiery redhead. Once I find her that is.
“Bloody useless wizard...”
Wandering the Elven Halls is not something I particularly care for. The architecture is impressive but in the wrong ways. There are too many open spaces filled with gardens and not enough of much else. I would definitely prefer to be making merry with my kin over listening to my boots echo on the smooth floor. The thought reminds me of the girl’s prophecy on our safety and dislike of the location. Frowning, I speed up my steps as I search for her.
For the better part of an hour I scowl into every nook and cranny for the noisy far-seer but it is quietest of whimpers that guides me to her. Following the sounds, I am led to the stables only to have my attention drawn away. A horse trots around the garden dragging a saddle that had been improperly placed on its back. A pack lies on the ground; its content strewn across the floor and I know the farseer tried to run. Shoving the items into the bag and returning the horse to its stable, I continue my search.
As when I found her that first time, she is leaning against a tree, just as pale as the moon hanging above us. Her wolf is long-dead, slain by my own hand and placing us both here, yet I do not approach her. My words are harsh by nature and what I have to say now will bring her no joy even if buttered with a softer tongue. Lifting her drenched face with a grimace, it is she who breaks the silence.
“Well? Are you just going to stand and stare, you little freak tard, or are you going to tell me what the hell you want?”
“Freak... tard...” Not knowing what to make of the insult, I simply take note that the insult was given. Emboldened by that, I close the distance between us “Ye tried to run.”
“Am I still a prisoner?”
“Then I can go wherever I want.”
“Not as of yet. While ye are no longer our prisoner, the time has now come for ye to be of some use. If ye have the leisure to weep and give insult, then ye are able to share with me of vision pertaining to the future of this Quest.”
“You are something else, aren't you? You see a girl crying and decided to stare at her. When called out on it, you make demands.” Wiping away her tears with a strangled laugh, the girl shakes her head “You are a special kind of stupid.”
“We fed, sheltered, and protected ye. We ignored yer insults and offered few in return. Ye owe us, Farseer Bloodstone. The very least ye could do in return is to provide us with-”
“Are you seriously that dense?! You kidnapped me based on a mild suspicions that you have since accepted isn’t even true. You didn’t even apologize!”
“Had ye simply stated yer true reasons for knowing what ye did, we would not have treated ye in such a manner.”
“Like a criminal? You accused me of something you had no way of proving!”
“Though they were our actions, they were caused by yer suspicion and refusal to cooperate. Ye are also to blame.”
“Everything. EVERYTHING was your fault! From the moment you killed my dog, you made choices based on your own ideas of the world. Be honest; It didn’t matter what I had to say about any of this.”
“I don't owe you a damn thing!”
Launching herself to her feet, the farseer runs her hand through her hair in agitation. I grimace as it snags on one of the numerous knotted curls but she roughly yanks it, and a few strands, free.
“Ye are being daft.”
“DAFT?!” I blink in confusion as she crosses her eyes and shifts her jaw to the side, all while making a poor attempt to mimic my speech “Daaaaft! You're unbelievable!”
“Stop.” Grasping her wrist as she begins to storm passed, I spin the furious redhead to face me “I have not finished speaking with ye.”
“Excuse you?” The warning hiss is full of fire, that where I lesser dwarf, I'd burn. Looking down at her captured arm, she's sneers “Who do you think you are?!”
“Dwalin. Son of Fundin. Captain of the King’s Guard...” Straightening my back and only lifting my eyes to peer up at the woman, I continue without pretensed “And yer Only.”
*Glaewon means Salve
Why hello there, my pretties! Nope, it’s not a typo. Atina is Dwalin’s ONLY, not his ONE. What is the difference you may ask? Attie will ask the same thing next chapter so don’t worry. Until then-oh yeah, she’s pregnant.. As if sheshe didn’t have enough on her plate. Not a happy camper about that. Until next time!!
Chapter 20: One and Only
I've never laughed so hard in my life! Or at least not in a very long time. It really is hilarious though: Dwalin and ME. Ha! Holding my wound, I indulge in the side-splitting laughter that washes over me. The dwarf stands quietly, not saying much of anything, only moving to drop my hand when my knees give out. I slowly fall and roll on the floor with messy snickers.
“Oh! Oh, that's a good one!” Slapping the grass, I tossed my head wildly as I start tearing up “You're ‘Only’. Is that like..ha... like your ‘One’? Oh, I get it! One and Only! Oh goodness, this is just too much!”
The dwarf doesn't join in and after a few more moments of eerie silence on his part, I begin to think that he might be a serious Joker. Chuckling softly to let him know that the jig is up doesn't work. Neither does the long train ‘woooooo’ as a finish. Folding my legs to sit like a pretzel, I clear my throat meaningfully and look at him with a grin.
“That was a nice joke. I needed that. It's been a long day.” Rubbing my cheeks when he doesn't crack a smile, I know that he's got one powerful Poker Face. I'd have broken by now and I'm the reigning champion. Until today I haven't cracked a true smile in weeks “I've got a few things to brood about, so I'm-”
“Are ye finished then?”
“I had expected anger... confusion... even a few odd tears perhaps.” Crossing his arms over his chest with a deep frown, the dwarf sighs “Yer laughter comes as a surprise, Farseer Bloodstone.”
And what am I supposed to say to that? Really. If he isn't joking, then what am I supposed to do? And why wouldn’t he be joking? I'm not interested in him like that, or anyone else for that matter, and I don't really want to have anything to do with the company in terms of long. Not to mention my... Situation. It demands all the seriousness I can stand to acknowledge. Scratching my head, I shrug.
“Uh... Yeah, well... It's laughable, you know? You and me? I mean, seriously? You don't even like me.”
“Nor do I need to, lass.”
“Onlys are not based on flighty things such as feelings nor are they a bond like Ones.”
“Uh huh.” He nods evenly as I stand to my feet. I'm not sure what this means or what to make of it. As such, I can't decide whether to run for the hills now or later. I will probably run regardless but... I'm curious. Mostly because I'm not really in the mood to think about anything concerning my bigger problems right now. I don't want to think about... IT. So I welcome to the distraction. Shrugging again, I nod for him to continue “Go on then. Explain this to me.”
“Ye’ve lived long enough to know something about dwarves and their Ones, have ye not?”
“Hm...” I'm not sure how much is true fiction and how much is fanfiction so anything I say could be wrong or right. Maybe my idea of Ones is different than the truth. I can't be too sure of anything. So I'm not really ready to decide “Let's just pretend that I'm new to this world and I don't know anything.”
“... Fine then. An Only is not to be confused with a One. A One is yer soulmate; the one ye were made to love and cherish until eternity turns ye to dust. It is a rare and blessed thing to find yer One.”
“... I'm not your One.”
“Hm. My One perished when I was still a youth. She did not survive the wanderings before we settled in the Blue mountains.” he doesn't say anything more about his One and I don't push. This isn't about some long-dead dwarf Lady. This is about him and I, or lack thereof “There is only my Only, which is ye.”
“But I’m not, not really. You don't have me. You CAN’T have me. You don't get that right, nor do you have my permission.”
“It is my right birthed through trial, I need no permissions. The same goes for ye. Ye are my Only and I, yers. To each other, we are the person, the only person, who can make the other whole again. This is not about rights and permissions, this is about much more.”
“Make you whole again, huh? You speak as though I have some greeeeeat” I raise my palms and shake them openly: jazz hands “power over you.”
“Indeed, and I have the same over ye.”
“I don’t like the way that sounds.” crossing my arms, I begin to pace. A breeeze kicks up, tossing my hair about my head but I ignore it. Rubbing my side, I mull over the information. I still don’t know enough “It also sounds as though an Only is a bad thing.”
“A One is a blessing but an Only... an Only is more of a curse.”
“Nope. Nope. Nope.”
“Why would I want to be cursed by you?”
“Ye are cursed already.” Shaking his head, the dwarf follows me with his eyes “Those who have been broken-”
“Shut up!” covering my ears, I press my hands into the side of my head. Squeezing my eyes shut, I try to drown out his voice “I’m not broken! I’m not!”
“I only meant-”
“Stop talking to me!”
“What makes you think that I'm-”
“Farseer Bloodstone!” The shout is enough to stop my childish ramblings. Slowly I drop my hands, I open my eyes to look at his stern expression “Shall we truly stand here and pretend? Pretend that ye have not lived through tribulation and lost parts of yerself? Are we to pretend that ye remain unaffected by the horror ye spoke of, not a day ago, with a crazed smile?”
“... I don’t know what you’re talking about...”
“I did not think ye the sort to dally in denial.” Looking up at the stars, the dwarf loops his thumbs in his belt and mutters to himself “Ye are clearly in need of mending.”
Yeah, so maybe I am. Alright, I definitely am. But if only he knew that denial is just about my middle name. If only he knew what I've been denying for so long... If only he knew, he'd have been the one to run for the hills long ago.
“I’m a curse then?”
“As I said, a One is a blessing. A One symbolizes abundance because in their love, ye are more. Whole.”
“An Only is supposed to make you whole as well. What's the difference?”
“A One is adding to who ye are where as an Only has to heal what once was. In order for a dwarf to be in need of an Only, they must suffer deeply. To have an Only means ye have become less.”
“So fractions... a bad thing.” He nods in a shrugging type of way, not taking his eyes off the sky. He looks confused, as if he is sure what needs to be said, but not why HE is the one saying it “So... this isn't about love?”
“No, it is about compensation.” Sensing the confusion in my frown, the dwarf directs me back to my earlier spot. Watching him wearily, I wait for him to take a seat before following suit “Due to certain circumstances, a person can lose a major part of themselves. Strength. Independence. Compassion. The options are endless. An Only must identify what has been lost and rectify it. The bond is complete once both persons have been made whole again. Both. In order to be made whole themselves, they must heal the other.”
“A bond? Forever?”
“I don't really want to be bound to you. In case you didn't notice. I thought that was kind of made obvious.”
“We are already bound; the choice is not yers. Nor mine.” dropping his gaze to the ground, the dwarrow shakes his head “We will be bonded in parts or bonded as wholes, but we are forever bound.”
Except are we? Just like my father, Mahal couldn't tell between my sister and I. Annie was supposed to be here, not me. This should be her healing time, not mine. Then again... Yvanna said that I’d benefit from this differently than Annie would have. She isn't here and even if she was she wouldn't have made it this far. Physically incapable, the dwarves never would have dragged her along and this opportunity would never have presented itself, if she was even meant to meet them. Either way, she would have probably just stayed behind and married Bilbo when he came back or something... So maybe this is my Saving Grace? If I can even be saved... If HE can even be saved... and just what would he need to be saved from?
“All this talk about me... What have you lost?”
“Nothing.” Glaring at the dwarf, I wait for him to explain his answer. If we are supposed to be making each other whole, he has to be broken too. Why would I be the only one? That just isn't right. “It is why I desire yer aid; yer sight. It is my suspicion that something will occur on this Quest that will cause me to...”
Without much thought I know exactly what's going to break him. Thorin will die. Fili will die. Kili will die. Balin will die. Ori will die. EVERYONE he knows will die. But Dwalin? Dwalin will live. He'll outlive them all. He’ll live to be old and decrepit, watching those around him meet their end. He’ll be too weak to stop any of it. Wouldn’t that break even the strongest of men? Especially the strongest man.
Such failure... Isn't that what I wanted for him? Pain only ended by death? Now that I’m met with achieving that possibility... I feel a little... Reluctant. I'm furious, even now, about what happened to Killer but even I can admit that it wasn't done maliciously. Dwalin still should be punished though, in my opinion. He should lose something... SOMEONE irreplaceable... But... Even as cynical and deadened as I am... I know that desire is wrong but still I am angry. Licking my lips I look him straight in the face and give my answer.
“I know what it is. I know what it will be, that thing that will break you.”
“Aye? And will ye give me yer aid?”
“I don't think I can...”
“I... I want you to hurt. I want you to grieve like I am, to ache like I do. I want you to suffer for the rest of your wretched life and when you're finished suffering, I want you to die.”
Rubbing my arms as the hate filled words roll off my tongue, I accept the truthfulness behind them. I wallowed in my unhappiness for so long that I could easily give it to another... Just let everything play out as it's supposed to. I could gain a sense of satisfaction in knowing that he too will be filled with sorrow and anguish as he fails time and time again. I’m not a good girl anymore... and misery loves company.
Nodding with a heavy exhale of acceptance, Dwalin stands to his feet and begins walking away. Each of his steps is a nail in a coffin. There won’t be any turning back. There won’t be any second chances. He’ll never forgive me if I let him go... If I knowingly let them die but I could do it. I could close my eyes, letting each and every one of them to die. To me they are just characters in a children's Fairy Tail.
I wouldn't be responsible for their deaths so it wouldn't bother me more than little bit to let them follow their written destiny. It’s cold hearted and will probably get me a first class ticket to hell but I could do it. Dwalin will go and suffer and die... And so will I. Grinding my teeth together, I sigh through my nose loudly. Damn it, damn it, damn it but I’ve been in this coffin I call life long enough. I don't want to die here.
“Wait... Dwalin... Just... Wait.”
“Ye have made yer thoughts explicitly clear, Farseer Bloodstone.”
“And they haven't changed. I do want you to suffer until you're grey and old and Toothless. Still...I don't want... I... it's not about you... I’m...”
“Too selfish to let yerself live in misery alongside me if ye can help it?”
“... I was going to say ‘really into self preservation’ but I guess selfish works too. And so what? I’m selfish.Yeah, you can call it selfish, but... I'm tired of suffering, alright? So... If helping you not suffer at all, will help end my eternal hell... Then I'm willing to try. And I do mean only try. No promises that I'll succeed.”
“... Thank Mahal kindly for the selfishness of men.”
“Don't thank him yet. My issues run deep and I’m pretty sure he isn’t responsible for creating men.” Blinking in thought, I frown after a moment “Though I suppose it is his fault that the only cure to my dismal story is you.”
“Well then, I had desired to hear a reading from ye but much has been discussed.” Returning to my side and extending his hand to help me up, the dwarf frowns in return with a small... tiny... almost non-existent smile “We had better start yer story fresh in the morning, Farseer Bloodstone.”
“DON'T call me that.”
“Yes, of course... Atina.”
“... Dirt bag.”
Hi! Another chapter out! I hope I was clear about the difference between a one and only. This story isn't really about romance, at least I don't plan for it to be. It’s about broken people... healing. Drop a comment!
Chapter 21: I promise
Lying in the comfortable bed provided by the elves, I consider what I know and don't know.
One: I know that I'm in Middle Earth, traveling with the company of Thorin Oakenshield because I was seen as a threat.
I don't know what they will try to do to me now that they don't hold that belief any longer.
Two: I know that I wasn't really given a task but I'm supposed to benefit from the whole ordeal.
I don't know exactly if I'm reading the ‘benefit correctly or grasping at straws.
Three: If I am reading this right, then I know a benefit has come in the form of healing by my mortal arch-nemesis, dwalin.
I don't know exactly how to make it work though.
Four: Lastly, I know that said arch-nemesis, and his merry crew, are unaware that I am... Not alone in my body.
Running a hand down my face, I turned over onto my side and punch my pillow. My situation is easy enough to ignore or miss for now but eventually someone is going to wonder, speculate, and then figure it out. Yes, I could tell them straight out but then they would leave me here. While I wanted to get away from them before, I NEED to stay with them now. Insane and brutish they may be, but they wouldn't drag a pregnant woman across Middle Earth if ttery don't need to do so.
I also can't tell them what to expect in the future because that would negate my usefulness. As long as I'm needed, Dwalin has to hold up his end of the bargain. So I lie by omission.
That's what I know.
I just won't tell them what I'm carrying. I'll... Borrow a few wrapping gauze from the infirmary and become a mummy when my belly starts to extend. Pinching the skin by my hip, I know Id guess baggy clothes will suffice until after Beorn’s house. By the time anyone figures it out, we’ll be long past turning around. The dwarves won't like it but then again, neither do I. We’ll suffer together, yippee.
Blinking angrily at the wall, I try to convince myself to fall asleep but my mind is full of questions and worries. Saving Thorin is easy. He's a moron with suicidal tendencies but keeping him alive isn't difficult when you know what's going to happen. Fili and Kili are a little more difficult, considering they aren't together when they die, but they're not impossible either.
... I don't plan to stick around to save Ori and Balin... Thats years off and has nothing to do with me... People die all the time. That's life... What do I care anyway? Do they even count? I'm no guardian angel; How much of Dwalin’s life do I have to fix before I'm in the clear? Does avoiding his trauma equate to Healing him? What if I do all of this and end up screwing myself? And how did he even recognize me as a stupid only if he wasn't in need of one just yet?
Growling in frustration, I throw off the blankets and storm towards the door to demand answers before remembering that it's the middle of the night and I don't know who I’d ask anyway. Lightly banging my head against the wooden door, I softly moan at my frazzled thoughts. Sliding down onto my knees, I turn to press my back against the structure.
“What's the plan Atina?”
I've no idea. I really don't. I was so excited about the whole healing thing that I just didn't really have a plan of action before agreeing to try. Maybe if I had a few rules to work with... Guidelines other than ‘remember your sister’. I can't rightly forget her! What would Anita do right now? The question is a needless one I already know.
“If Anita were here, she'd save the entire world.”
Dropping my head onto my knees, I roughly tussle my hair, and howl loudly like the maniac I am. I'm not my sister. I can't do what she would do. I don't even want what she would want. Still... I'd really appreciate her opinion right about now.
So biting my lip, I decide to do something that brings me as much embarrassment as comfort. Lifting myself to my feet, I walk over to the old looking glass hanging on the wall. It's porcelain with tiny flowers have been carved into the delicate medium but they are not what I'm looking at. Staring into my reflection, I pull a cheery smile onto my lips. Softening my eyes but leaving a hint of mischief, I speak with a soft and light voice to my reflective sister.
“ Attie !”
“ Oh Attie! Where have you been? I've been super worried about you! How far of a walk did you take Killer on?” Anita would ask about such things, it's her way. Her face scrunches up and worry and relief all at once. It's the face that she would do if she were here. The face that she would make if you were by my side “ Are you alright? You don't look all right. ”
“I... I'm just in a tight situation right now.” Yes, I know talking to my reflection is weird but... I need my sister right now and this is as close as I can get. I haven't done such a pathetic thing in years but... “I need your advice, Ann.”
“ Well alrighty then! ” She giggles bubbly, twirling a lock of her hair before quickly tying it back. Annie’s hair is shorter than mine now... “ I'm here to help, so tell me what you need! ”
“... I found- Well, I THINK I found a way too... end the pain.”
“ Suicide ?” I shake my head denying the suggestion. I didn't kill myself then and I won't do so now. Not now that I found... “ What have you found, Attie?”
“Healing? Maybe. I just... Well, you see-”
“ You want to get better, don't you? ”
My reflective sister looks back at me with eyes that question my resolve. That question whether I really want to get better. And I do. I really am tired of being... The way I am. It's not fun. It's not attractive. It's not easy. And I don't want to be this way anymore. So nodding I agree firmly.
“Of course. But it means helping someone who has hurt me. It means making sure they don't ever hurt. It simply isn't fair...”
“ So ?”
“S-So? What do you mean so?”
“ So what if it isn't fair? Life isn't fair, Atina. You know that just as well as I do .” Her eyes turn hard and like with determination “ Do you want to get better? ”
“ DO YOU WANT TO GET BETTER ?” the intensity of the question shocks me. It demands a firm response, something that will force me forward “ Attie ?!”
“ Even if it's only a little? ”
“Yes! Even a little better is better than what I've got right now.”
“ Then you have to take this opportunity to get better. Do better. BE better .”
“But what if-”
“ What if Mama hadn't died? What if Papa had stuck around? What if we hadn't taken Killer with us? What if WE had died?” Closing my eyes, I pretend that it's her hand on my shoulder instead of my own “ It's game time, Atina. We can't wonder about in the world of ‘what-ifs’ anymore. If you want to get better you have to get out there and take your best shot. ”
“... You're right.”
“ I usually am.” Her smiling face beams out of the mirror and it's good. It's so good. And I miss her all the more for it “ Now go to bed. It's late. When you wake up, you'll feel better. ”
“Do you promise?”
“ Promise yourself.”
Allowing the facade to drop, I walk to the bed with custo. I'm going to get a good night sleep and in the morning, I'm going to feel a little better. I'm going to be better. I'm going to do better.
No, Anita is not actually there. If you're confused, Atina is talking to her reflection and pretending that it is her twin sister. She needed a pep talk and she didn't really think she could give it to herself. Or rather, she needed to hear it from her sister. She misses her sister, needs advice, and a different perspective on the problem. Anita would of course see things differently than Atina would. Pretending to be her sister gives our OC the ability to say the hard things she cannot say or admit to herself. Hope it makes sense!
Chapter 22: Baby steps
An insistent chirping pulls me from my much needed rest. My first instinct is to grouse about the rudeness of the avian species but then I remember what today is. Today is the first day, my first day, of being better. So instead of groaning about the noise, I express thanks that my ears didn't stop working overnight.
"Oh boy. Ha ha. Yup, I can still hear. What a wonderful thing!" I can't hold the upbeat joy without grimacing. I'm not a naturally preppy person. I never was... and that's alright. Being a morning person is honestly just weird. Simply getting up this morning is more than I could do a few months ago. Baby steps "I should... I should get cleaned up and dressed."
Quickly washing my face in a weird bowl that may have been set out for drinking, I put my best foot forward. I even run a brush through my hair a few times, something I haven't done since I arrived here. Even back home, Annie is the one who took care of my hair. I really couldn't be bothered with the mass but she wasn't having it. 'You already have too much in common with a raggedy anne to let your hair go untamed!' She'd be horrified if she could see the knots and snarls in it now. I look like a wild child from the deepest wood. Bits of leaves and twigs stick out from the tight curls; I could pass for a bush. Plucking out the green bits, I do my best. It hurts with each snag but I don't stop until the brush runs smoothly. Annie isn't here... I'll brush my own hair from now on.
Grabbing my clothes, I halt when coming across my tattered jeans and sweatshirt. Holes scattered across the knees and elbows, only half of which were placed for style, litter the clothing. Folding the items neatly, I walk over to the closet. Pulling it open, I gag at the gorgeous gowns draped within it. I personally own maybe... 3 dresses back home. All in black. I prefer pants as they are hardier... and harder to get in to. Even before the whole ordeal, I was never really a dress person but today I think I'll wear one. Today I think I need to wear one.
"Wearing dresses is a normal thing to do, especially around here. Plenty of girls wear dresses and don't get assaulted... It's alright to wear a dress... It's alright... I'll be alright."
Staring at the swirling colors, I feel my stomach churn. Closing my eyes, I snatch the first dress that comes off the hanger and shut the door. Breathing deeply, I try to calm myself before looking at my choice. Clothes shopping was never this hard on REGULAR earth. The material of the dress is soft in my hands, so I give it a shot. It's a calming sea green gown with long billowing sleeves and an impressive scoop neck. It is nearly perfect.
But... The shimmering material will bring too much attention to me. If people notice me, then they'll notice the scoop neck which will no doubt review of my cleavage and wouldn't that just be like... asking for it? Taunting people, men, to look at me? It'd be my fault all over aga-
"It wasn't my fault." Yanking off my nightshirt, I grip the dress tightly. My hands tremble but I'm sure not to drop the item. "What I wore when he chose us didn't matter. What I did, didn't dissuade him. What I said had no importance. He wanted to hurt me and that is NOT my fault."
Tugging the dress over my head, I allow it to fall into place. Glancing at my reflection, I admit that it looks good on me. It compliments my eyes and curves without making my already pale complexion anymore ghostly. It fits as though it was made for me. Hair combed, skin clean, and a dress made to order makes me feel like a princess from any story book. I look... Beautiful. Frowning at my reflection, I feel myself start to hyperventilate.
I'm not ready to be beautiful. I'm not ready for anyone to look at and admire me. It's just too much. I can't go out like this. I could turn heads like this, something I've been trying to avoid for a very long time. Shutting my eyes I focus on my breathing before coming to a conclusion.
Plucking up my sweatshirt, I pull it over my head as well. It's fits over the dress, dampening some of the feminine allure as it swallows my curves. Foregoing the slippers I glimpsed in the bottom of the closet, I slip into my old ragged sneakers and admire my handiwork.
My breath comes easier as I see the familiar reflection and now I can relax a bit. I look like the morning after version of any late-night partygoer: Done with impressing the crowd but too tired to fully undress. I smile at myself, feeling more like myself.
Nervously peeking at the group around me, I sip the cup of ale before me. We've been traveling together for some time now but I'm still a bit nervous around them. It's no secret that I'm different. I'm not as... I'm... I'm not like other dwarves. Others have picked on me time and again, making my brother's extremely protective of me. They do their best to compensate, especially Dori, but...you can not change who you are. And I am... shy.
It is made all the worse by the overwhelming presence of the elves. They are so beautifully perfect... It's horribly unnerving. The others are loud and boisterous but I can feel their nervousness through their laughter. I have never experienced such an intense breakfast.
I gaze up sadly at the archway that would no doubt lead to my escape but Dori... Dori would forbid me from doing so something so dangerous on my own. There is a library here that I would love to explore; the Hobbit has even gone to do so. Dori expressed no such worry for master Baggins' safety, who is much less... Prepared for an attack than I. While not a-a-a seasoned Warrior, I'm sure I could defend myself against an elf at the very least... At least, I can if a hobbit can!
"Dori? D-Dori?" tapping my oldest brother on his arm, I try to gain his attention "Brother? I-I'm going."
"Going?" He turns his whole body to face me and I feel my mouth go dry. There are few things my brother dislikes more than disorder. Getting up from a table in the middle of a meal, no matter the host, is... Very disorderly "Going where?"
"Just... just to the... water closet?" My voice squeaks and I quickly clear it. I'm an adult! I can leave the table to explore, I-I mean monitor and evaluate my surroundings, if I want. His eyes though... Ducking my head, I rub my belly and try not to whine "My stomach... It hurts. I do not think the meal is agreeing with me."
"You've hardly touched-"
"L-L-Last night's meal." Clutching at my gut again, I try to look desperate but not in pain. It is not difficult, as it is true. I do not think I could stomach a session with Oin "Dori. I really need to... Go."
"You do look positively awful, damned elves. They obviously don't know how to feed a dwarf." He frowns deeply and worried and I feel a little cruel for lying so. "Perhaps I should go with-"
"I-I-I can go on my own, Dori!" My face heats in embarrassment as the others catch wind of our conversation. The two princes laugh openly while Nori grins knowingly at my predicament "I-I-"
"Well go on then, lad, but remember to be careful and return straight away." Bolting from my seat, I head for the door with laughter trailing behind me. "And wash your hands!"
"Or do you need your big brother to help you with that too!" Kili taunts at my back. My shoulders hunch over but I do not respond "I'm sure he'd be more than happy to help his sweet little baby brother."
"You need help keeping clean yourself, Kili!" Fili returns, much to his own brother's embarrassment "I have been staring at the same smudge of dirt behind your ear for a month now."
Not bothering to listen any longer I rush from the dining hall. My face burns but I can hardly blame my brother or the princes when I'm the one who came up with such a numbskulled excuse. I'm an adult, older than both Fili and Kili yet... Breathing heavily I turn and punch a pillar with all my might. The column quivers and I watch in surprised horror as a crack forms. Panicking, I turn to flee down the hall only to collide with another person.
"Oh my!" I gasp as the girl, farseer Bloodstone no less, topples over a bush from the force. As she lands out of sight, I come to my senses "Miss? Miss, are you alright?!"
Hiiiiiii! Another chapter down. We'll have maybe two or three more in Rivendell before we get out of this lovely place. Enjoy it while you can
Chapter 23: Breakfast
Having the wind knocked out of me before breakfast is not what I expected when I left my room a few minutes ago. I was walking to the dining hall when the hallway began shaking. I thought it was an earthquake but then Ori comes barreling down the hall like a football star. Not Desiring to take him head-on, I leapt to the side but he still clipped my arm, sending me stumbling off the path. Thank goodness the bushes caught me before they dumped me onto the ground where I now lay.
"Miss? Miss, are you alright?!"
"Miss? A-Are you..." Taking in my position beneath the bushes as well as my no doubt strange outfit, the dwarf flounders for a polite response to knocking a person clear off their feet "Are you well?"
"Are you sure?" I begin to sit up and he rushes to aid me. My stitches tug at the skin they're embedded in but hold true. I think. I'd feel them get torn out, right? I pat my side and though it stings something fierce, I don't see blood when I take my hand away. Good. I don't want to have them replaced. Though I took a pretty good tumble I don't think I'm any worse for the wear "I did not mean-"
"I'm fine. It's not the first time someone has... I mean... You were running from that earthquake, right?" His face falls a bit but I don't think it's all my fault. Folding his arms stiffly, he joins me in standing beside the path "Are YOU alright?"
"It... It wasn't an earthquake. It was... Me." Wringing his hands, the dwarf proceeds to tell me his life story all the way into the present moment. It's... Interesting. The kid has a lot on his mind and not too many people to listen to him. Apparently he's strong as hell though "So I ran, like a coward, and... Well... You know the rest."
"... I definitely felt the rest."
Ori bows his head in shame and I bite my lip so I don't laugh at him. He's so pathetic; it's adorable. Like a puppy who is too small to eat out of its doggy dish. It will starve eventually but it's just so cute in the moment. I never knew Killer when he was that small but he was always afraid of the vacuum. No matter how big, dogs hate vacuums. Ori reminds me of my dog, at this instant at least. Both are afraid of something that can't hurt them.
"You're pretty strong for a weakling." His head snaps up, and his eyes meet mine before they drop down again. He says nothing as we stand there, so I dust myself off and begin to walk away "You can break stone with your bare fist but your spirit is as soft as pudding. It must be awful to be you."
"... It must be awful to be you as well..." The spicey words are whispered so low that I almost miss them. Looking back, the little-dwarfling-that-could looks just a tad bit peeved. Once again his eyes meet mine but this time there was a little something more in them... he almost looks more like Nori rather than his normal little self who is afraid of Big Brother Dori's shadow. At least, he looks like that until he returns to his senses and collapses into a fit of stuttering nonsense. "O-oh no. I-I-I didn't mean... Your ordeal m-m-must have been... I meant to-to-to... Um, You see, Miss... Farseer-"
"And just WHAT is that supposed to mean?"
The dwarf backs up at least a good three steps at my simmering anger. I can feel it dancing beneath my skin and I want to lash out at him but... I'm trying to be better. I reign in my temper at his nervousness, closing my eyes tightly. I need to be better, so no picking fights just to lash out "Sorry. You're right. It does suck being me."
"But unlike you, I'm about to do something about it myself."
"You... You are?"
"Uh, W-Well." I guess it's my turn to stutter. Scratching the back of my head, I chew on the inside of my cheek. I'm going to be better so... "I'm going to march into the dining room and... And... And strike up a conversation... with... Fi- no. Kiiiii... Dwalin."
"I am." I am?! I only intended to grab some food and make a break for it until I could come up with a step-by-step game plan for making this whole ordeal a sure-fire way to work in my favor. Now I'm rushing in there all gung-ho, Geronimo, Rambo impersonator like. This is so unlike me but if I'm going down... "Yes I am and you should too."
"I should? Can I r-r-really do that?"
"Oh yeah, totally."
I hear the reluctance in his voice, but I think he can actually be persuaded. Tugging on my sweatshirt's hem, I press my hand into my side again. No blood; I think I'm good. I gesture towards the food court with my free hand.
"It will impress your brothers, don't you think?"
"Come on. Taking on such a daunting opponent? They'd be super impressed but not worried you know? It's safe because... He's... Safe. Right?"
"He's not going to kill us for trying to talk to him, right?
"You're not really helping the situation."
"... Ori, be a dear and stop questioning everything I say."
He's jaw snaps with a click but he follows behind me like a lost puppy as I start walking again. I think Ori wants to be his own person... to step out of his brothers' shadows... but I don't think he knows exactly how to do that. So he searchers for guidance in a stronger personality. I am a strong personality. I don't care if you really ends up being his own man, but I do need to be better and he is good practice. With a partner in crime... This could work. Glancing over my shoulder I address the dwarf "So here's a plan."
The Breakfast table is deathly quiet. It was strange enough for the youngest Ri brother to take the empty seat on my left rather than with his brothers. Yet when the Farseer boldly requests for Bofur to relinquish his seat on my right, the table quiets to watch the strange occurrence.
"Ye want my seat, lassie? There are plenty of others."
"Yes, thank you, Bofur. I can see that." Folding her arms, the Farseer holds her ground "But those others aren't next to him."
"Him?" Leaning to peer around her, the toymaker confirms who she is referring to. "Him being Master Dwalin?"
"Why ever would ye want to sit by him?"
The table erupts with laughter, all rightly finding the notion comical. All except myself and the Farseer. What could she want, what could she gain, from sitting beside me in this moment? I doubt she has come to give me the answers I seek so she must have an agenda for her own benefit. She doesn't laugh, nor does she appear cowed by my glare. She merely waits for a response in her favor.
"Lassie. What could ye possibly wish to speak-"
"The weather. Politics. Thorin's big toe. It doesn't matter what we talk about." Uncrossing her arms, the girl places her hands on her hips. Her outfit, a collection of various cultured clothes, makes it difficult to take her seriously but serious she is "Are you going to move or not?"
"Alright, I'm going. I'm going."
"Alright... Thanks." Clearing her throat as Bofur departs the chair, the girl hesitates before placing herself with in it. She looks everywhere, even exchanging a strange glance with Ori, yet she refuses to look at me. Finishing my meal quickly, I'm just about to clear out when she coughs out a question "So... Um... H... How are you... Feeling?"
"... What is this all about?"
"Why does it have to be about something?" Squinting her green eyes at me, the Farseer throws her hands in the air with a grimace. Wrapping them around her middle, she frowns "Can't a girl sit next to a guy without it having to be about something? No one bats an eye at Ori but me? Ohhhhhh, it's a freaking Riot!"
"It is strange is what it is. You have proven your dislike of me time and again yet now you sit beside me as though we were Bosom Buddies." Leaning over to whisper in her ear, I remember her... Troubled past as she flinches away. It makes my belly clench to think of any woman being harmed as she has, but that is a discussion for another time " I know not what you are attempting to do but...You need not try so hard to do it."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh aye, you don't." she frowns even deeper into her cup before downing the water within it. She has not eaten again today but at least she is drinking something. That is something. Breathing out a sigh I finish my tankard as well "Yet you were injured on the way here-"
"-You got it worse than I did."
"-So do not strain yourself with needless conversation. We have time."
Looking at her dressed in an obvious need to remain in her own comfort, I commend her on the attempt to dirge ahead with the unknown. Though clearly affected by the ordeal, as any would be, she's trying to make the most of it now. Taking a woman against her will is punishable by death under Dwarven law, yet the same is not so for men. Had she not killed the bastard, it is likely that the scum who tortured and tormented her so, would have walked away with his life.
He did not simply take her body; he took her safety and peace of mind. That is something I do not know how to return to her for it has been taken from me as well... It is why we are all here, searching for the last place we knew we were safe, happy, and free. It is her rapist's work that I must undo for her but for that, I will need to know the extent of what he did. It will take time, I have no doubt of that.
"In time, we will speak, but not amongst others. It is no business of theirs. There is no need to rush." she does not lift her head, and I do not expect her to. It is breakfast, it is early, and we have all struggled for long enough to be weary of hope. Attempting to lighten the mood, I pat the youngest Ri's shoulder roughly "And do not drag young Ori into your Madness, Farseer Bloodstone. It is most Unbecoming."
"Hey! He came out here of his own free will, isn't that right?"
"Oh!" looking between myself and the girl, the young dwarf seems at a loss of what to do. The oracle inclines her head with wide eyes, as if imploring him to see things her way. Innocent child that he is, he does. "... Yes? I-I-I think so."
"Well, stop thinking! Kili shouts, rambunctiously tossing a hunk of bread at the other dwarf. "You aren't any good at it!"
Nori leaps to his brother's defense and yanks Kili into a playful Chokehold. With a shake of my head, I refill and lift my Tankard with a wince. My shoulder aches from the arrow I took defending the girl but it dulls with the ale. If I remember, the Farseer had received a small wound herself but sought after an elvish healer rather than be treated by Oin. Eyeing her briefly, my face grows hot. Clearing my throat softly, I lean over to her again slightly, only close enough to be heard, while whispering into my cup.
"Farseer Bloodstone..." She leans away just as much as I lean in but this is important. "You... It would seem that..."
"Spit it out." She hisses impatiently, but I have never known much of what I need to tell her. Females are few and far between, but I believe I know what I am seeing. I doubt she would like it to be known to the entire table. Seeing my nervousness, she in turn lowers your voice and offers me her full attention "What is it?"
"I... ahem." pointing at her lap I bring her attention to the problem "I believe your red tide has come."
She blinks at me owlishly before dropping her gaze to the small amount of blood staining the front of her dress. Frowning at the spot, she reaches across the table to snatch up a napkin. Holding it to her lap, the girl scurries away to take care of the... Issue. Sighing loudly, I think Mahal that I was not born a dam.
Hi there. I brought you another chapter. Please enjoy and review. Any questions let me know
Chapter 24: Planning
“I tore out my stitches.”
“I see.” an odd choice of words considering he isn't even facing this way “Do you plan to bleed all over my floors? I've just had them washed.”
Standing in the doorway of the infirmary, I wait for Glaewon to either invite me in or tell me to piss off. I can never know with him, weirdo that he is. The elf in question turns to face me, albeit slowly, with a look of pure but silent judgment. It is clear that he isn't happy to see me.
“It isn't that much blood.” Dwalin could only see a small smudge on the front of my dress. A drop slid down but most of it is up around my torso. Thankfully it cannot be seen because of my sweater “Hardly a thing to worry about.”
“You are not miscarrying then. Good on your part.” His words do not match his neutral face or monotone voice. I can't read him at all. After a moment or so of listening to silence, the elf sighs through his nose “Come in then and set yourself down.”
“Okay.” Following his instructions, I remember my odd choice in clothing. Lifting my shirt won't be enough this time. I'll actually have to lift the dress too for the Healer to get access to my stitches “Um...”
“I have spent 600 years mastering the art of healing, yet it may surprise you that I still lack the ability to see through clothes.” Gathering his materials, the elf gives me his back “You will need to undress.”
“I... I'm not comfortable with that.”
“Do you wish to get an infection more stubborn than you try to be? Save your modesty for a more interested party than myself.”
“P-Perhaps I could run back to my room to change my clothes? I'll be-”
“Unacceptable.” Setting his tools in their places, Glaewon glides over to the examination table with purpose. Tapping the seat firmly, he gives me a dull look “Undress and lay down.”
The order is so crisp that for a moment I am brought back to all the times HE had given that same command. It was always just as unpleasant and promised nothing but pain and sadness. My body starts to quiver and my breath comes in quicker with each intake of air. I need to get away. I need to run and hide and... I can't. I can't get away. I can't run or hide anymore. I can't because...
“I want to get better. F-For that to happen I need... Help.” It hurts to admit it but it's true. Dying from something easily preventable is not on my schedule. I need a lot of help... Physical help “I really do but... I CAN’T take it the way you are offering.”
“How far along are you?”
“Uh...” the question throws me for a loop and it takes me a moment to remember, or really to count, since I haven't been trying to do so “ Four... five months I guess.”
“You are very small to be so far.”
“... Every woman is different.”
“Especially when she cares not for her health nor that of the one she carries”
“Might I correctly assume that the child within you is not one created with love?” I confirm the statement silently and the elf sighs through his nose again, heavier than last time. I suppose dealing with my issues was not one of the things he thought he'd be doing today “If one of the dwarves has taken liberties-”
“It wasn't them. He's dead now.”
“Do you need-”
“I just need you to fix my stitches, G. That's all.”
“... Here.” Glancing up from the floor, I watch the elf remove a sheet from the closet. He offers it to me, never coming so close as to force the thing onto me. With that neutral face of his he waits for me to take the offering, and when I do he turns his back again “Wrap it round your waist to cover yourself. When you are ready, we can begin.”
Grasping the sheet tightly in my fist, I gaze at the elf in wonder. I'd expected him to just be fed up and kick me out; tossing me to the mercies of Elrond and Gandalf. I thought he'd at least ask more questions about how the situation came to be. But no, that doesn't seem like him at all when I think about it. Twice we've met but I knew right away that practical described him best. He can't heal my soul... But he can give me stitches without asking too many questions. It's honestly refreshing. Pressing my face into the blankets, I smile and mumble my response so he can't hear.
Promising not to get run over by a dwarf again, I leave Glaewon’s office. The fresh stitches have left my body sore but I honestly feel... Relieved. Someone else knows my secret and that's okay. I can live with that. The dwarves knowing... Well that's a different story.
“Might as well use this time to my advantage though.”
I spend the next week barricaded in my room, only leaving for the bare minimum and never meeting with the company. The dwarves no doubt figure that I'm doing girly things, what with Dwalin mistakenly believing the blood from my popped stitches was from my monthly. Letting him, and whoever he may tell, believe that works in my favor. Of course I'm not suffering such a girlish fate, oh no. I'm planning.
Papers and books litter the room that I have hardly left for the last 7 Days. Aside from my occasional checkups, Glaewon removed my stitches yesterday, I have spent the week in here. Planning. Devising. Revising plans. Just trying to come up with some way to make this all work. Anita’s love for the story gave me an edge on everything that will happen but it's not enough to help me beat MY quest. Yeah sure, this is technically Thorin's Quest but it's mine too... in a different way. He can have all the gold and silver and Dragons; I don't need any of that. This is the quest for my salvation.
But I need to stay with the company in order to complete my quest. For that I need to be necessary. I need to be indispensable. For the first time in my life, I need to know more about Middle-earth. So I study the lands and inhabitant; Kings and lines; relationships and Feuds. Elrond's Library is extremely helpful in this, though I rely heavily on the healer to provide me with the books. Funny enough he does, which I think might be his way of offering support out of the medical field. He hasn't told the company my situation so... That all aside, none of the books hold what I need the most. They do not tell me which dwarf wants Thorin dead. I need to figure that out because even if I stop Azog from killing him, mystery dwarf is still out there.
“Thorin has to be the reason, and his death has to be the goal. Nothing happened to anyone else after his original death. And they, who ever they are, don't want the crown for themselves. Even after Thorin dies, Dain rightly comes into power. So... Maybe it's one of Dain's men trying to speed things up?” Shaking my head, I push my hair out of my eyes “If that were true, they would have just let the elves and Men kill the company as they were barricaded inside. Dwalin, Balin, Oin, and Gloin were all inside as well which would have cut off every male descendant of Durin except for Dain and Gimli. Gimli could be killed later, but he isn’t. And neither were any of the others in the line, so I don't think it's Dain or his supporters.”
Sitting up in the bed, I glance around the messy room. If I play my cards right, and not fall off a cliff, I can easily survive this trip. Everyone is aiming for Thorin's head anyway, so all I have to do is avoid stray arrows. Again. My survival was honestly never in question, even though I had freaked out a little bit and thought it was. Before I even set foot on this planet I knew how to do this quest thing. In the last week I've memorized every hill, lake, and crevice we’ll come across. I know the history, and future, of every major person we're going to encounter. Heck, I've even figured out how to avoid as Azog on the cliff, Bombur in the river, as well as Fili and Kili’s death if need be. But...
“Who the hell wants to kill Thorin?” Suddenly three solid knocks pound on the door, startling me. The door is heavy and locked. Whoever is on the other side can't get in without my permission. I don't have anything to worry about. I'm okay. Staring at the structure cautiously I call out “Who is it?”
“Dwalin son of Fundin.” Damn it, this guy keeps good time. I suppose my Siesta is over then “I believe it is time we spoke of our healing."
What?! Another chapter so soon? Is it christmas?! Lol. No. No it isn't. Enjoy though!
Chapter 25: Impossible situations
I sit awkwardly in the stone garden, just waiting for the other participant of this little chit-chat to arrive. Though similar to the garden we last spoken, in a way that it is a garden, this one has less grass and more benches. The statues surrounding me are both beautiful and menacing; they are perfect and yet their faces are all twisted in some sort of emotion. Elation, sadness, pain, remorse... all of that and a bag of chips. I'm not really an emotional person. Keeping my eyes off them, I try to be cool about it. Rubbing my thighs, I tap my feet and purse my lips impatiently.
I was totally unprepared to talk to Dwalin yesterday and told him as such. Jumping in head first... it's not my thing. As such, the dwarf told me to meet him here today, yesterday's tomorrow, but he's late. I'm in the right place, I'm certain, and he isn't Thorin so I doubt he's lost. This is kind of important and his timing is as if we are having a friendly brunch. I'm not here to make friends.
"I don't need this!" Standing up with a shout, I immediately sit back down with the huff. The statues are judging me "Yes, I do."
I wish I didn't need this but I do and I've accepted that bitter sweet truth. Call it a weakness, i sure do, but I need Dwalin. Yippee. I also need him to show up! Rising to my feet again angrily, I clench my fist and yell into the sky.
"Dwalin, where the hell are you, you king fondling blow hard?!"
"Oh. Hi." Standing not 20 feet away, is not the guard I've been waiting for. Nope. It's a frowning Bilbo Baggins and boy oh boy does he look scandalized. He's carrying a bundle of books and I suppose, from the direction he's moving, that he's going to return them to the library "Didn't see you there."
"Have you seen Dwalin?" I cut him off before the lecture can start. I'll make a break for it if I have to. He might be sure footed and quiet but I can make a run for my money "If you didn't hear, I'm looking for him."
"Yes, you saw him?"
"No, you didn't hear?"
"Ye- no- I...I have NOT seen him however I DID hear your... VULGAR description of just who you were looking for."
"I assure you-" Shaking his head and looking down right horrified, the hobbit wags his finger at me "You'll be finding no one by that description within this company!"
"But... Didn't you call them a 'nefarious' group of kidnappers on the second day you met?" The hobbit stumbles over his words but I shake my head with a smile "And please, let's be honest. We both know, or at least suspect, that Thorin and Dwalin have totally bumped uglies on some late drunken night."
"And who do you think was on the bottom? I mean I can't imagine Thorin being topped because he's... I don't, a king and all...but Dwalin on the bottom? Oh my goodness!"
"Farseer Bloodstone, please!" Hunching his shoulders to try and look smaller than he already is, Bilbo gives me a worried look "They are cousins!"
"Oh... yeah..." placing my hand to my chin I think about how that would play out and decide it's not really important for the joke at hand "Kissing cousins maybe. Royals inbreed all the time in the name of purity."
"Oh... oh dear... If he hears you... Master Dwalin would-"
"-serve his King in any way he could." spying the late comer, I wave at him eagerly. "Isn't that right, Dwalin? You would give Thorin a... Helping HAND if he asked, right?"
"Of course." He answers before frowning at Bilbo's sour face. Ha. Reputation ruined, dwarfie pooh "Did ye need something, halfling?"
"Oh... n-no..." I give him the 'you know what it is' eyebrow lift and he grimaces "Not at all.."
"Then off with ye."
We wait for Bilbo to scamper away before getting down to business. The dwarf sits on the bench opposite of me and places a bundle of clothes beside him. He rests on the edge of the bench with his forearms laid out on his thighs and his hands clasped together on his knees. He seems... Nervous.
"Why don't... You start?" His eyes raise to meet mine at my suggestion but I just shrug. "You called this meeting and we both get the gist of my problems so..."
"I suppose that is fair..." Clearing his throat, the dwarf sits up a little straighter "Yet as I have said, nothing has broken my spirit."
"Oh please. And nothing's ever even so much as annoyed you?"
"Of course it has."
"Ok. Ok then... We could start there."
"All right. What would ye like to know?"
"Uh... Has anyone ever stolen a girlfriend of yours or anything like that?"
"My One perished before I was old enough to peruse her. The interest has never been aroused again."
"Thats... um.. ok... M-m-maybe some cousin played too much grab ass with you as kids?"
"Something has to have gone wrong for you."
"I don't believe that it hasn't." folding my legs, I tap my knee softly "I do not believe that you have lived this long and nothing has ever shaken you up. Maybe not to the degree of needing an 'only' but I'm sure you have your fair share of issues."
"... Alright... I have a brother."
"Going out in a limb here and saying Balin."
"Quite the farseer." Rolling my eyes, I wait for him to continue "He is my elder brother and... has a duty. It should... It would be his duty but it has been unfortunately passed over to me."
"I take it you don't want that... Duty?"
"I have neither the time, means, or motivation to see it completed other than the fact that it is now mine to compete." looking into the faces of stone around us, the dwarf debates over his words. It's the strangest thing to watch: someone choosing what and what not to reveal "I have given my life to my king, as has my brother in his way, however... An advisor is more worthy of sovereignty than a Kingsmen."
"... What does that even mean?"
"It means that my brother and I each took an officiated oath to dedicate our lives to our king. Yet, each oath in our culture requires varying sacrifice in respect to the positions vitality. Balin's position is... more important than my own. As such his sacrifice was greater and disavows him to the duty given by birth."
"But then what did your vow to Thorin sacrifice? And Balin's for that matter?"
"I will not speak of them, but know that they are very much unalike."
"So a different sacrifice meaning... It forces Balin's duty to become... yours?"
"That is correct."
"That doesn't sound like something Balin would do... Have you tried talking to him?"
"He is aware that the task is now mine but he does not know that such a task is impossible for me to complete."
"I could never burden him with the knowledge of it."
"... Do you blame him for it?" I whisper the words just in case they are true, or just in case they are not. It's a big thing to openly blame someone for your unhappiness. It's even worse to blame them in your heart and not even know it "You wouldn't be in this position if he had just fulfilled his own obligations."
"... I love my brother yet I hate the impossible task I have been given because of him."
The dwarf examines the cracks in the walkway as I let the words sink in. I do not know what task has been pawned off onto him but I think not being able to complete it is what bothers him most. I guess it makes him a failure, and not only in his own eyes, but in those of his family. Turning my eyes to the rolling clouds above, I can accept it. That sounds like the sort of thing that would bother him.
"How do you know it's impossible?"
"But how do you-"
"IT. IS." Climbing to his feet, the dwarf begins to pace before me. Whatever this is, it bothers him, a lot. Knowing this, all I want is to selfishly know more. Straightening up, I watch him as he displays an uncharacteristic show of agitation "If it were possible, I would try. It being my duty, I would try... but it is not! Balin could have, SHOULD have but... Now we are here."
"... I get it. An impossible task."
"Do you believe so, Farseer Bloodstone?"
"Yes, I get it."
"I have a sister."
"Look who is the seer now." Sighing deeply the dwarf comes back to sit down. Chewing on the inside of my cheek, I grimace at the story in my head "Yes, my twin. Anita Marcy Bloodstone. Even our names are identical."
"Rhyming names show familiarity."
"Yeah well... Yeah. So... I was given... An ultimatum because of her. Basically it stated 'do this or she gets that.' I was given that choice over and over... And over again." rubbing a hand across my stomach, I watch the dwarfs eyes squint at the movement. Mumbling about my stitches for good measure while smiling mercilessly, I shake my head "Funny thing is, neither option was ever really in her favor... But the first time... The first time it was in mine."
"I was given the choice to get in the van or to watch HIM put a bullet through my sister's skull."
"You don't need to know what vans or bullets are to know what I had to choose."
"He would have killed her if you didn't comply."
"Yup. Walk away and let my sister die or stay and slowly wish that I was."
"It wasn't really my choice anymore after that. I had to choose what was best for her, even if it wasn't what was best for me."
I remember that day like it was yesterday. Anita laying in the van doorway with that gun at her head. She was so scared that she couldn't even cry. She just... sat there with her eyes wide. Not that I can complain, I didn't know what to do either. I wanted to run but I couldn't leave her. But I knew... I knew what ever I chose... would changed my life forever. It did.
"There never really was a choice."
"You always have a choice."
"If you hadn't agreed to take on Balin's burden would he have been able to achieve his dream? Would you be willing to sacrifice him for yourself?
"Then you see, I really didn't have much of a choice but to save her." I drag my feet across the ground repeatedly. Gripping the edge of the seat, I leaned back as far as possible with the loud sigh escaping my lips "Everything... Every CHOICE I made after that was for her. So yeah... In my own seriously weird way, I get it."
"Do you regret it? Do you regret saving her? Living... choosing for her?"
"Never. We love our siblings, even when they put us in impossible situations."
The wind blows and the birds chirp. The brooks babble and leaves rustle. Voices whisper just far enough away to be indistinct but none of that matters. It doesn't matter because it does not change the facts. The facts that I love Anita and Dwalin loves Balin. The fact that we hate the situations we are in but acknowledge that we are in them. It's a nice little boat we have found ourselves in... But being stranded on a dingy after a shit storm is better than swimming in the aftermath.
"How did you know I was your only?"
"... When we first met I was in the woods. All of a sudden I felt this horribly painful pulling sensation. It was so strong that it brought me to my knees." he closes his eyes as if he could see the memory playing behind them. His fists clench repeatedly and he presses one into his chest, clearly in pain "I feared that if I did not go toward it that my very soul would be torn from my body and shredded into nothingness..."
"But how did you KNOW? How did you know you were having a heart attack? How did you know that you had to find ME?"
"I simply knew what you were to me when I saw you there. Lying against that tree I knew that you were just as torn and shredded and broken as I would be if I did not find you."
"Sounds like something grossly romantic."
"It was not love. It was not lust. It was just... Need. I knew I needed you because I knew you were the only one who could keep me from feeling that way again."
It's his choice of words that alert me to the fact that he isn't telling the whole truth. He didn't want to feel that way again. Again. He felt that way before. He had felt broken and torn over something before. That worries me. It's like he says, I cannot heal what I don't know exists. I want to force the issue but I don't think he'd let me. In fact he immediately changes the subject.
"What kind of person is your sister?"
"... The kind that enters a van to help a supposedly seizing man without waiting for backup." Shrugging my shoulders, I'm nod at him "What kind of person is your brother?"
"The kind that would give up life and limb in hope of a better life for his kin."
"... Big-hearted fools, the both of them." The dwarf grunts at my joke before lifting an eyebrow as I stand to my feet "Enough for today, we need to prepare to head out soon."
"Soon? You have seen this?" I nod as he stands because of course I have "And the moon runes? Have you seen what they reveal?"
"All will be revealed in due time, grasshopper." Raising my hand palm out, I wave it in a mystical arch that does not impress or amuse the dwarf "I mean come on... It's already been revealed to me but I like watching you suffer. I thought we talked about this."
"See you later." I call as I jog away. I'm just about ready to drop. Who cares if it's only mid-afternoon? I've been physically doing jack diddly squat for the past week. I'm beat. "At dinner maybe."
"Perhaps after a bath." He mumbles and I decide right then not to come out of my room until dinner time. I'm scarred enough as is "Now where is that fountain..."
Why hello there! Dwalin and Atina have had another little talk. Rivendell is almost through and we're going to start moving again. Get ready for it. Also they're going to be some big changes in my life and after the end of July I probably won't be posting for a quite some time. As such I'll try to get out as much of the story as I can before then.
Chapter 26: Best Interest
Rummaging through Glaewon’s medical closet, I pull out supplies I'll need to hide my situation. He has a large number of the wrappings, like any doctor would, and I've been practicing my binding technique for the last few days. Today is the day we head out and I plan to be prepared for-
“You are an early Thief, but not a quiet one.”
“I am not stealing.” Without turning around to address the Healer, I continue shoving my stash into the bag “You would have given them to me if I had asked. I just skipped the permission part because I didn't want to wake you.”
“Your reasoning is hardly worth the words you use to speak it.”
Despite his chastisement, the elf comes over to help me neatly arrange my bag. Watching him with a frown, I wonder how many other elves are like him. Despite residing in an elf's home for 2 weeks, Glaewon is the only elf I've allowed myself to really meet. In fact, aside from him, Lindir, and the nameless guide when we first arrived, I haven't spoken to any other elves. I've avoided Elrond like the plague, ducked and dodged any chance meeting with his kids, and literally hid under the bed from the maids. G is my only contact and funny thing is I honestly don't think Glaewon even knows my name. And I'm okay with it.
“Maaaaan. I've got issues.”
“I agree. Tugging the bag shut, Glaewon offers it up to me with his ever-present frown. Slipping it onto my back, I head for the door but pause at his question “Why do you travel with the dwarves?”
“...” staring at the door way, I know I could just walk out. I could just leave and not answer. But he has asked so little of me and I don't mind saying the truth. So I turn to face the elf instead of leaving “You helped me by stitching my side. One of the dwarves is helping me Stitch my soul.”
“Is that all?”
“ Is that all?” Coughing out a laugh, I shake my head but then nod “Yeah, that's all. Nothing nefarious or Noble.”
“Good. It would bring me no joy to see you or your child harmed due to the foolishness of dwarves... Or the foolishness of yourself.” Walking to the exit, Glaewon stops at the door and looks back at me. Really looks at me. He says so much in that silence but it's the apology in his eyes that drops my gaze. He's sorry but not sorry FOR me. And I can appreciate that “Be well and may we meet again.”
Listening to his footsteps fade, I briefly wonder if we will indeed ever meet again. Maybe I'll be healed by the end of the quest. Maybe not. Maybe the quest doesn't measure anything for me at all. Maybe it was just the way that I was supposed to meet Dwalin. I might be around for years... I don't even know if I'm going to be allowed to go home once everything is said and done. No one promised me that. No one said I even made me promise to help with the quest. No one promised me anything except for... change. Out of everything I do know, there is a sea of things that I don't. Even so, I do know this. I'm going to do my best.
Sitting on the Cliff's Edge, I wait for the dwarves. Thorin had spotted me up here maybe 10 or 15 minutes ago and the garbled sound he made brought everyone else up to speed on the situation. Still I have to wait for them to climb this far up. Just because they can see me doesn't mean they can quickly reach me. So I just watch them climb up the trail slowly; ignoring their growls and annoyed huffs of breath from below.
Could I just have waited for them and we all could have walked up as a group? Yes. But I need to remind them that I'm supposed to be a sighted gal and therefore a necessary person. So I look down on the group from my vantage point and wait for them to catch up to me. Hearing their thundering boots coming around the bend, I stand up and cross my arms impatiently.
“It took you all long enough.” The king frowns as he approaches, allowing his brow to Furrow the closer he gets “What kept you?”
“We were searching for you.” He doesn't shout but he doesn't unclench jaw either “I was under the impression that you would stop fighting us on your attendance.”
“I don't remember ever saying that.”
“Are you still against us?”
“I don't remember saying that either.”
“Must you be so difficult, Farseer Bloodstone?”
“... No, I suppose not.” Pressing my fingers into the side of my nose, I sigh “You know I was never against you in particular.”
“... Yes, I suppose that is true.” He begins to mimic my movement but immediately stops at seeing that I have already done it. Folding his arms, he instead resumes his interrogation “Do you know how we found out that you were no longer in the elvish home?”
“An elf had to inform us that you'd gone ahead. An ELF.”
“... You were in an elf's abode. Who else would tell you things? An orc?”
“.... Farseer Bloodstone.” he breathes deeply through his nose. Awww, I'm trying his patience “We have left behind the edges of civilization but we must remain civil. You may not be a dwarf but you are an asset, a liability, and an intelligent being. You will be treated as such, so long as you act as such.”
“Don't go climbin’ mountains on yer lonesome, Lassie!”
Bofur’s outburst actually causes me to jump. Getting a hold of myself, I return my attention to the dwarf and nod. I guess I can act like I have the sense of a lemon from now on.
“Alright, Thorin. You’re right. I know that I'm not really a member of this company but I have good reason to travel with it. In addition you have good reason not to leave me behind. I'll do my best not to be a burden.”
“... What has changed yer mind? Last I remember ye couldn't be bothered with any of this lot.”
“... I'm selfish and this is in my best interest. Now let's go.”
As I turn around, I know that Bofur doesn't believe that answer. I know that Dwalin is glad I gave it. I know that Thorin already knows the truth. I stand before them, a liar in their eyes, and they accept it. They accept my answers because it is in their best interest to do so. Funny.
They need me as much as I need them and as such we will completely and utterly ignore the truth. Because the truth hurts, you know? I allow most of the group to pass me by before I start walking again. Right now, it's all I can do.
“Bloodstone.” I blink down at the hobbit beside me. He IS light on his feet “Your family name is quite explicit.”
“It's hardly anything scary. It really just means Red Rock.... Our family crest, back when we needed one, was heavily surrounded in garnet. I think that's how we made our money or something. Sometime... somewhere along the line someone changed it and we got stuck with Bloodstone instead.”
“I see. And your given name... Atina Marie was it?”
“Just Atina. Marie is my middle name.”
“Ah... It is a... very unique name either way.” Bilbo shuffles at my right, looking out into the open-air at our side “How did your parents choose it?”
“... My grandfather named us. Atina and Anita. It's the same name twice over, just spelled backwards.” He blinks up at me, trying to say something nice but I just shrug. There's not much you can say that's nice about a grandfather being too wonky to think of two names “This is the same guy who named our dog Killer instead of Mr. Woofles like we wanted.”
“Woofles... Right. Your dog.” Clearing his throat, Bilbo kicks a pebble off the path. It's skitters to the edge, just short of falling off. I can't help but be reminded that soon enough... that pebble is going to be Bilbo “Have you... Have you forgiven Master Dwalin for... That?”
“No, of course not.” My chest tightens, affirming the denial. No matter what Dwalin can do for me, he cannot undo that. “I have not forgiven him and I don't think I ever will.”
“But like I said, I'm here for me, not for him.”
“R-Right.” Returning his gaze to the open-air, The hobbit gathers is courage. “About what you said in the forest... About how you... um... the...”
“The whole cannibalistic rapist thing?”
“... Yes.” Dropping his eyes to the ground before peeking up at me, Bilbo puffs up his chest. Quite a strange combination “Are you... All right?”
“But I will be.” Puffing out my own chest, I look ahead. It just so happens that's Dwalin looks back at me at the same time. We hold each other's gaze for a moment before he nods to me and then turns back around “I will be.”
Hi there! I got a review from a reader that was kind of upset about the fact that I did not include Oin in the list of the dying characters. I know that Oin dies, down in Moria but I did not include him. This is due to a number of reasons.
One is that I could not find a place for his name to fit smoothly. Thorin, as a king, stands alone. Balin and Ori were physically closer so I put them in. Then there's Fili and Kili who will always be mentioned together. There was no room or rather nobody to match Oin with. He was, unfortunately, the least important.
More importantly, Atina just doesn't care. Thorin, Fili, and Kili are Royalty and their loss would be important to Dwalin, in Atina's eyes. A failure on his part. So would Balin's being that he is his brother. Ori is someone that Atina herself has a bond with, she mentions his innocence a couple of times, so he's 'important' to her. Oin however is not. Oin dying doesn't matter to her, thus she doesn't list him as a loss.
In conclusion, Oin was not forgotten. He was purposely left out. He just doesn't matter to Atina and that is supposed to say something, if you know how to read into it, about who she favors. Even if she doesn't know she favors them
Chapter 27: Not what but who
Even with the sun setting at my back, the Misty Mountain air makes me shiver. The dwarves might not mind but Bilbo mimics my movement, confirming the temperature. We've been marching all day but night will come soon and I'm kind of dreading it. We're going to be sleeping on the side of a mountain, which is as moronic as it is exciting. All it takes is one wrong roll and splat! The adventure is over. Thorin already determined that once we find a wide enough spot, we'd make it our camp for the night but I'm skeptical. Just imagining what we'll do once we get to the places without wide crests is enough to piss me off.
"We will make camp here." Giving the surrounding area a cursory glance as if suspecting the rocks of harboring ill will, the king nods to the rest of the group "Be weary of the ledge."
"It can suffer three to lay a breast." Studying the very edge of the path, Oin stomps his foot on it. Huffing appreciatively when it doesn't crumble, the dwarf begins unpacking "Two should suffice."
"Leaving a bit of room for mistakes, aye brother?"
"Can hardly trust you lot not to roll off, now can I?"
The company chuckles softly before going about their routine. It's stifled due to the limits of the location, but I suppose dwarves are used to it. A few pull out pipes while others settle for conversation or staring into the setting skyline. I think about going to speak with Dwalin but he's having an intense conversation with Thorin and Balin. Bilbo is a no-go too, as he's talking with Dori. I have nothing against the dwarf, I just don't want to be smothered right now. Not opposed to sitting alone until dinner, I aim to do just that until the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. I know what that means... Turning slowly, I rolled my eyes and sigh in exasperation upon coming face-to-face with Fili and Kili.
"Whatever it is, no."
"You do not even-"
"I don't need to. No."
"If you could-"
"What aren't you getting? No. No. And No once more for good measure." Crossing my forearms to show an 'X' I shake my head "I can deal with Dwalin and I can tolerate Thorin. I can even be a little nice to Bilbo when I want to but you two are not included in my 'make lemonade' plan for life. Now shoo. I said shoo!"
Of course this doesn't work. At all. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect. After shifting expressions from offended to determined, the dwarf pair crouch down and have the nerve to sit beside me. Framed by the duo, with stone at my back and a sheer drop at my front, I have been effectively trapped. Not liking the feeling at all, I turn to the youngest Prince with the purest intention of screaming wordlessly into his face. That'll show him.
"You may yell or shout if you wish but let me apologize first." Just a tad bit taken aback, I'm mostly suspicious. Shifting my eyes to Fili, I find him pretending to ignore us. I suppose this is his brother's fight. I'm just annoyed to be his unwilling opponent "My behavior was-"
"I'm just going to stop you right there. Your behavior mirrored my own. Neither of us... None of us, made this difficult situation any better. If you apologize then I'll have to do the same and quite frankly, I'm not sorry."
"That maybe so but this is about his honor, not your own. Given your experience, more care should have been used." Not looking at us, Fili keeps his eyes on the sky "We were all unkind in our own ways but his hands caused your peace to be upset. He was not given a duty and his initiative caused you distress."
"Are you talking about that first night? The one when Dawlin pulled me off a horse?" The dwarf bounces his head with a grunt and I roll my eyes with a scoff. That was so long ago, I'd almost forgotten "THAT is what this is all about?"
"This is unbelievable. So you're going to make Kili apologize for trying to help his ally rather than make Dwalin apologize for actually knocking me out?"
"... Dwalin was given an order. Kili was not."
"This is beyond and beside the point, Miss- I mean... Farseer Bloodstone." inserting himself back into the conversation, Kili tries to making me see reason. Their reason at least. It's just a bunch of baloney to me "Had we known-"
"There is a lot about me that you do not know. Most of which would have you choking on your sensibilities."
"For the love of- We were essentially in battle! You don't worry about your opponent's shortcomings when in battle. It gets you killed. You look out for your own and you hope they don't stab you in the back."
Shrugging I tug my fingers through my hair. Twisting an end, I shrug once more. I know each and every one of them is listening and judging us. But it's different cultures at work that are making this weird. I think. I mean... I suppose back on Earth someone COULD apologize for kidnapping someone- No. No they wouldn't. They would just go to jail. I shrugged for third time
"But we aren't battling anymore. Now we are just walking in the same direction. So don't bother apologizing. I'm not keen on offering any sort of forgiveness either way."
"Is there no way to change your mind?" Frowning at me deeply, Kili shifts forward so we face each other better "No way at all? To endear you to us?"
"Isn't being civil enough? Do we have to be friends?" Returning his frown with one of my own, I present my open palms to the sky "I wasn't the nicest person when we met but I didn't lie. I don't want to be your friend."
"Why not?" From a few dwarves down, Bofur belts out his question loud enough for us to hear. Glaring at him does nothing to wipe the curious look off his face "Why do ye wish to remain at odds with all of us? Is it because we are dwarves?"
"I couldn't care less about what you are." I am many things but I'm not a racist. Dwarf, Elf, Orc. They're all the same to me. Heck even the men around here. I want nothing to do with them. If I have heard a story about them, then I don't want to talk to them "It's not what you are but rather who you are that keeps me away."
"And who are we, if not dwarves?"
"You are the company of Thorin Oakenshield, going on a quest to reclaim Erebor. That's enough to make befriending you a hassle." Shaking my head I tried to word my thoughts in the safest way possible. The clouds are slowly rolling in above us but they're not so dark that I think the rain will come. It will come eventually but I don't think it will come tonight. Nope. Not the rain, but a different storm is brewing "There's no point in getting to know you... getting to like you or getting you to like me. I probably know you better than you know yourself. I've seen enough to know that I don't want to be friends."
"What is that to mean?" Leaning to peer at me from the front of the group, Balin searches my face worriedly. The loose rocks shift on the ground, scraping against each other as everyone further sets their attention to the situation "What has your sight showed you? What has been seen that would harden your heart to us?"
"... You know I have no intention of telling you that." It's not a chastisement but it is a reminder that I'm not going to go spouting off portents and whatnot. Balin nods his understanding but keeps an eye on my face, as does everyone else. I'm expected to say more and I suppose I ought to. I started this conversation, even if I didn't "But.. know that my sister and I share this sight. We disagree on many points."
"What sort of person is she, yer sister seer that she should differ so?"
"She is good and I am not all bad. So what's going to happen is... neither good nor bad. It simply WILL BE. And I just want no part of that."
"Is it... Is it so bad?"
"Ori, I just explained- Uuuuugh. Listen to me. It doesn't matter what Annie and I saw, only how we felt about it. My sister would have loved to be here on this quest. She fell in love with all of you after we experience that... vision."
"And you?" I sigh at Bilbo's question. It reminds me of when he asked if Gandalf bet for or against him showing up "Did you... fall in love?"
"I did not... I was... bored and was simply glad when it was over. I'm not saying you guys aren't doing something good... just that I'm not really invested in it more than I need to be. Anita though... she would have been honored to be here."
Again this is not my finest moment and their frustrated expressions ate tangible without even having to look at them. They are angry and confused. I supposed they have a right to be. The girl who knows your future isn't all that interested in it. That would upset me. But I want to be honest , I don't want them to think more about what I'm going to do here. I don't want them to depend on me. I just want them you need me... want me around. For insurance purposes. For my well-being I need them to need me. Sighing, I pull my legs up to my chest and almost laugh at how everything has turned out. Anita found her salvation in this story and now I have to do the same. I'm not finding it as easy as she did.
"She isn't here though. I am. And you'll all just have to deal with that. With me."
"... We are to travel with one who finds the success of our mission, our very lives... Uninteresting?"
"Seems that way."
"How can you be so selfish?" Pinning me with an angry stare, Fili demands answers "I understand that you have experienced something no woman-"
"And just what the hell do you think you understand about what I have experienced?" The darkness from within my very Soul raises up to bite this miserable creature's head off. The whispered question is more like a hiss as I don't even open my part my teeth to say it. I am livid and it must show on my face as he actually rears back at it. Stumbling over his words he tries to... I don't know what he's trying to do but he's failing "Come on, Fili. Tell me. What do you know about what I've been through?"
"I only meant-"
A hush falls over the group at Thorin's command. His voice easily carries over the space as if guided by the stones at our backs. Turning my eyes, I glance over at him as he stands at the front of the group. He doesn't look at any of us but I can sense the weight of his gaze on the mountain range around us. I suppose it's easy to forget he's a king without the crown... But these regal moments remind us all.
"We have come on this quest to reclaim our lost homeland. Not for fun or out of boredom. Not for trivial pursuits or experience. Not for glory or honor and definitely not to make friends. We come because we must and we will fight to our last breath. We may even very well die." If I liked him a little more, I would probably nod along. He's the only one making sense anymore. Why everyone is so gung-ho on making me accept them is beyond me. Yet it is his next sentence that makes the night a little colder "If Farseer Bloodstone would prefer to face death on her own, that is her choice. The world is cold and death colder but one cannot save a drowning person who does not wish to be saved."
The rest of the evening is quiet. No one tries to talk to me, not even Bilbo. So... I eat my dinner. I crawl into bed. I wait for sleep to take me away from my circumstances. It is no different than any other night... But it is. On this night, as I roll onto my back to count the Stars, I feel so unbelievably lonely... Stupid Thorin
Chapter 28: Damn it
With each day that passes, the sicker I feel. My stomach is queasy and I always feel like I'm going to barf. The chill in the air keeps finding a way past my coat in order to send shivers up my spine. Yet, my neck sweats constantly from the exertion. The air is thick and moist, ensuring that my clothes never really dry. It's a terrible terrible time. Yet nothing is as bad as the road itself, if you can even call it that.
It's as inconsistent as they come. It twirls around the mountain like a drunken ballerina. On occasion it's so wide that one could run around freely. That isn't usually the case though. The path often becomes so thin at times that we have to sleep sitting up, with our feet dangling off the mountain side.
All the while, Thorin's words echo in my brain. It's not like I WANT to perish lonely. If I had the choice, I'd want to die surrounded by loved ones but... No one I love is here. Bofur was aggravatingly correct; now, the dwarves are all I have.
I curse under my breath. If I do happen to die out here, who is going to come to my funeral? Dwalin? Screw that. I'd be lucky if he bothers to bury my corpse. I start to sink into a depression as grey clouds stay to gather. A large drop of rain plots onto my nose, halting my thoughts at the warning. Looking around, I know the time and place are about right for the thunder battle. Tonight I suppose. I curse again.
“Damn it to hell.”
Each step I take is challenged by the winds but I push on. I have to. It is just past sundown when a gust rolls over us and forces me a few steps back. Trying to avoid stumbling over Bilbo, I sidestep the hobbit only for my foot to meet open air. A soft yelp bubbles past my lips as Kili grabs the front of my shirt, halting my motion. He pulls me wordlessly back onto the path. Frowning at the new tear in my collar caused by his action, he stares at it in annoyance. I don't have the voice to thank him but neither do I have it to demand that he release me. I just stare at him for a moment before nodding. Minutely. The act is enough as we get back into ever moving line.
No one speaks much anymore. Not nectar they are giving me the silent treatment though. It's just too windy. Too rainy. Too... everything. I suppose the sun doesn’t shine this fair up the mountain’s behind. It is only my internal clock that lets me know when night comes.
By this time the path has thinnes again. There really is no where to stop, nowhere to even sit. That is my second warning as to what is coming. The third is the booming sound of thunder. No one else notices how strange it is though; How close the sound is without being accompanied by a clap of lightning. But I know. So I cling to the slippery rocks like a barnacle and wait for-”
“Hold on everyone!” Annnnd there it goes. Bilbo stumbles into my back, finding it difficult to find purchase on the thin ledge with his large feet. Never have I ever been so glad for my proportionate ankle holsters “We must find shelter!”
“The rocks! Look out!”
Rocks collide with the cliff above our heads, sending chunks raining down on us. A hunk smacks me in the shoulder, causing a hiss to escape my mouth. We all crouch down to make ourselves small targets but its only slightly helpful. They pelt down my back painfully until suddenly stopping. Thinking it has passed, I look up and blink into a surprised frown. This time, it is Fili who has come to my aid. Cowered against the wall as I am, he is able to shield my head and back from the stones with his arms. I have no time to debate thanking him though as pebbles continue to rain down on us.
“Uncle! We can not take much more of this!” he calls with a grunt, lifting his head to shout over the sound of rain “What is happening?”
“A storm!” he returns in a clipped voice that could have been due to the distance. If the king is nervous, I can't tell “Keep moving.”
“This is no thunderstorm, Thorin! It's a thunder battle!” turning slowly so his back is against the mountain, Balin points towards the clouds in fear “Look!”
Turning my head, I peer around the balk known as Fili’s arm. My breath stops in my throat as enormous grey creatures rise up above us. Their jagged faceless heads do not show any glimpse of noticing our presence. It's almost as if we are simply large ants to be ignored. Personally if I saw an ant the size of a rodent on my knee, I'd none to gently brush off. But giants... we might as well not exist.
“Well bless me. The legends are true!” gazing up at the figures in awe, Bofur steps away from the cover of the wall. Had I not been trying to see around Fili’s arm, I would have missed the oncoming collision “Giants! Sto-”
“Get back here, you moron!” yanking on the back of his coat, I'm only able to move the dwarf because of his surprise. A large boulder careens past where his head just was and I grimace at the close call “TRY to stay alive, alright? Jeeze!”
“Aw, thank you lassie! I didn't know you cared en-”
“Take cover, you fool!”
Bofur flattens himself against the mountain; offering me a wink as a boulder explodes above our heads. The near collision shouldn't have happened. Bofur wasn't supposed to get hit by anything. He shouldn't need saving... which means I've changed something. That is very bad.
Maybe it’s the order they are walking in. If I wasn't here, he'd be further up or back or... Ugh! I can't focus on that right now! We shuffle onward, trying to remain unseen, even as the battle continues. With each ledge we pass, another giant springs up. We aren't fast enough to outrun them all and soon enough we run out of space. The rocks beneath our feet start to tremble and crack, revealing the last stone giant.
“Kili!” Fili calls to his brother as we begin to break away. Once again I'm alerted of a change as Kili actually reaches out and almost touches his brother's hand “Grab-”
“No! Stay there!”
“What?” knocking their hands apart, I ensure that the brothers remain separate. The gap widens between them and Fili turns to me in anger “What are you doing?!”
“Keeping him alive!” Although he still looks like he wants to strangle me, the dwarf is cut off by the movement of the giant we are currently on. Thinking quickly, I try to set things right “Make sure Bilbo gets up!”
The ground beneath us shivers and shakes violently. The dwarves who were further ahead are able to escape with relative ease but not us. From our position, we watch their horrified faces as we are subjected to one wild roller coaster ride. You never know how much you use your knees until you are riding on someone else. However my wonder is short lived as the solid cliff comes rushing towards us.
Fili grabs my arm, holding it tight, as we ready ourselves. We the time comes, we jump for all we are worth but he is the one who ensures that we stick the landing. Even so, it hurts. My head bounces off the ground with a enough force to make me see stars. Shouts echo in my ears but as I lay on the ground stunned, I can't focus on anything. Hands pat my back and help me sit up but the ringing doesn't stop.
“We’re alright!” Someone shouts. I know it's Balin because it is him, but my head feels so clogged I shouldn't be able to tell “We’re alright!”
“Wait...” Damn it. My head hurts. I'd better not have a concussion “Just... wait a second.”
“Hey, guys...” I try to clear my head as the company is made whole again. Nearly whole. Peering around to make sure I didn't miss him, I raise my voice again “Hello?! Bilbo isn't here!”
“He isn’t?” Looking around wildly, Bofur comes to the same conclusion. Searching my face, he pleads for an answer “Where is Bilbo?”
“...” turning to face Fili, I tilt my head “Over.”
Pointing to the cliff's edge, I watch the scene unfold. The dwarves shout and clamour around trying to get to the fallen hobbit. Bofur and Dori lie on the ground to try and reach him but he's too far down. Fili stares at me for moment, long and hard, before diving for the cliff.
Yanking his nephew back by the collar, Thorin thankfully takes the dive himself. It was a major gamble on my part but I had to know. I had to make sure that even with me here, things can keep straight. There was no way Thorin would let Fili take that risk. Personality affects their choices, not just my actions. So I guess I can change somethings and I'll have to be responsible for that. But thankfully, the dwarves are stubborn enough to make MOST of the same choices with or without my interference. Good.
The king easily scales the uneven ridges to rescue the dangling burglar. Visibly shaken from both the weather and ordeal, Bilbo collapses onto his knees once on solid ground. I'm just impressed with how quickly everything transpired. Across the landing, Fili watches me closely but I give the prince no hints into my thoughts. Thorin, on the other hand, is not amused by the events. Even as Dwalin pats the soaked hobbit on the back, the king glowers.
“I thought we’d lost our burglar!”
“He's been lost ever since he left his home.” Pointing a thick finger at his nephew, the king pushes on “Had it not been for Fili, I would have left you there, halfing.”
“Oh please. You have too much honor for that.” Keeping my eyes away from Fili as he turns his head sharply, I give Thorin a bland look. Rolling my eyes as the king shoots me a glare, I shake my head “You would have helped him whether or not Fili took that dive.”
“Truly?” Fili whispers to no one. In fact, I'm sure he is only mouthing the words “Are you sure?”
“I should not have had to! He should not have come.” Giving Bilbo a pure look of outraged disgust, Thorin turns away with a grunt “He has no place among us. Come!”
Only with a small backwards look, Dwalin hops after his king like a dog. Slowly the rest follow until it is just the hobbit and I. He sniffs continuously and if not for the rain, I'd be sure that he is crying. I've never seen a grown little man cry before.
“Well?” he snaps, wiping his nose on his sleeve “Aren’t you going with them?”
“Eventually. I already know where they are going.”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
“You heard Thorin. I'm not one of you...”
“ Them . You aren't one of them.” wiping the rain from my face, I sigh “He certainly wasn't including me as one of them.”
“No... I suppose not.” He doesn't move forward and neither do I. He doesn't move backwards, so I hold my ground. Looking at his toes as the water runs through the hairs, I notice the scrapes. His calves are bruised and his face is muddy. Bilbo is a mess “What am I to do now?”
“I guess that depends on why you are here in the first place.” With a deep breath, I reach my hand out and wipe the dirt off his cheeks. Hobbits aren't made for this but he’s here. I don't believe he should have to be, but I respect that he is. He lifts his head and I almost grin at the confusion on his face “You ran out of your door with your heart set on adventure. You could have chose anyone but you followed these morons. You could have gone anywhere but you are here. The question is why .”
“Why? I... Well.. I-I-”
“You don't need to tell me.” Shouts of relief from ahead remind us that we are pretty far behind. I could stand a few hours in a dry cave, even if it will drop us into Goblintown “You don't even have to tell the dwarves. But think, really think, about it... so you know the answer for yourself.”
“... Farseer Bloodstone?”
“Do you really not care for them? Us? At all?”
“... I'm only human, Bilbo. For my own safety, I refuse to.” He begins to open his mouth again, so I start walking. I've saved 3 lives today and gave a pep talk. I don't think I can take much more “Come on. It's cold out here.”
Heeeey! So I joined the army... Yay! I ship to basic training tomorrow so I will be unable to update anything for quite some time. I'm really bummed about that but I wanted to at least give you one last chapter. I'm not done with the story. I'm not abandoning it. I will return. Ttyl!
Chapter 29: The cave
Walking into the entrance of the cave, I give it a quick look around before walking in. It's a typical cave; Jagged rocks grow from the ceiling, cracks line the walls, and the floor is littered with little stones and sand. There are no bugs or bats however. No animals in sight... the dwarves should know- DO know that the caves around here are rarely empty. Strange that they would still pick such a place so freely.
My attention is drawn to the goblins 'front porch.' If you didn't know to look for it, the line cutting through the center of the cave would be all but invisible. Should I warn them about that...
"At least it is dry..."
Bilbo's whispered comment reminds me that we do need to be here. Falling won't be fun but it'll get him to the ring and cut down time. I'm supposed to be a Seer though... I feel like a Seer would know... Rather see something and forewarn the group about killer goblins. I need to warn them without giving them a strong enough reason to leave... I need tact, something I don't have.
"There is a dry place for ye in the very back, Lassie." Blinking, I turn towards Bofur's voice. He sits by the entrance, a few feet away, with a pipe in his mouth "Set it aside just for ye."
"I don't need you to take care of me. I can take care of myself."
"Didn't say ye couldn't."
"The choice is yers. Will ye go out into the rain now, to prove ye are strong? Get washed down the side of the mountain, all the way back to Rivendell?"
"No, I suppose ye wouldn't. That wouldn't be taking care of yerself, would it?"
"The hell do you want from me, Bofur?"
"I want ye to rest." pointing towards the back again with his pipe, the dwarf looks out into the stormy night "Ye saved my hide today, so just follow that little crack there and go on to sleep."
"Fine... but it doesn't look little to me." Ignoring his thanks, I gather my thoughts. I can work with this. Placing a foot on the crack, I began following it "I have a bad... Feeling about this place."
"Now ye go on to bed and leave the worrying to the others."
Rolling my eyes, I do as instructed. Walking passed the entire company one by one, I settle down in the very back of the cave. It is there that I begin to worry. The dwarves have heads like rocks; Bilbo is super lucky; what about me? How the hell am I supposed to survive this drop without breaking every bone-
"You are worried, Lady Atina."
Frowning at the interruption, I give Dwalin my attention. He's still trying to figure out what to call me; I can all but feel him tasting each of my names and titles on his tongue. We haven't been able to talk much lately and we won't have the chance again for a while. He hovers at the edge of my space before I give him a nod at the place a few feet from me. Taking it up quickly, the dwarf pins me with a stare.
"What has you so ill at ease?"
"... The higher we go, the more worried I am about falling off this stupid Mountain. Pressing my lips together I gesture to those around me. "I'm not saying you all are indestructible but... You'd survive a higher drop than I could."
"Have you seen something to worry you so?"
"It isn't always a seeing type of thing." Closing my eyes, I drag my hand over the crack in the floor. This all will mean nothing to him until tomorrow when it's too late but it's a nice set-up I'm making. The Seer thing will be reinforced, they will continue to need me, and I will get what I want... So why do I feel so uncomfortable about deceiving them? Shaking my head I continue with the conversation "Sometimes instead of seeing something, I'll just get a bad feeling."
"And you have that feeling now?"
"I have a feeling that getting down this mountain will be more treacherous than getting up it."
"I will inform Thorin of-"
"Yeah, sure. You do that but what about us?"
"Yea, US. The only reason in really here."
"There will be time later."
"Dwalin- aaaand he's gone."
Having gotten the important information he needed from me, the dwarf returns to the king's lap. I feel used but since I'm doing the exact same thing, I can't feel too bad about it. Sighing deeply, I pull out the bare minimum I need for a short nap, knowing we won't be here long. If I had a helmet, I'd wear it. Lacking that piece of equipment, I can only hope I don't die on the way down.
Watching this Oracle from the corner of my eye, I keep the majority of my focus on my king. I have not lied. There will be time for our healing later. For now, I must focus on the quest.
"It is just a feeling but I would proceed with caution."
"How much more cautious can we be?"
Rubbing a hand down his face, my cousin throws a tired glare at the twitchy form of the halfling. In his worry, he spoke cruelly to the weaker creature. Some truths should remain unspoken, if only to keep the peace. I do not believe that Master Baggins should have come with us on this journey but come he has and arguing about it now means nothing. It can only hurt the company.
"I cannot order the winds and rain to cease any more then I can command the Earth to remain unbroken. I know not how to avoid natural Calamity other than to be cautious."
"Then we will continue to do so."
"They will need to the most care. Keep them in the center when we move." Watching the smallest members of the company, he continues. "We are nearly halfway through this. Everything from here will be easier. However, do not allow anyone to become overconfident."
Offering a nod, we share a quiet moment. We are doing well on time and our supplies keep us fed well enough. Yet, the company is exhausted. And this path, while so far free of enemies, is quite the trek. I'm surprised that the Hobbit has made it this far. Atina Bloodstone... she is small and surprisingly frail, yet she is too stubborn to fail. I know not whether I should be worried. Leaning against the wall, I try to wind down for the night.
"Do not wait much longer, Dwalin. Make time for your Only."
The king's eyes are closed but his words prove his wakefulness. He knows what importance this seer holds for me and I, her. All will know soon enough. For all the knowing going around, one would think that I'd know how to handle her. Yet, I do not even know what to call her.
Looking at the girl, I cannot understand her. She is so young yet already she is full of anger and resentment. Watching her, I cannot help but become angry. What was done to her is an unspeakable experience and has damaged her ever greatly. How can this wisp of a girl, hanging to get sanity by a thread, help me? ... How can I help her? I promised I would and yet I have no idea how to. Grunting in acknowledgment of my king, I try to rest.
I have barely started to doze when the hissing sound of shifting sand pulls my tired eyes open. Looking on in confusion, I watch the sand rush towards the center of the cave. It feels the thin crevice quickly before the very ground begins to split.
A curse from the Oracle is all I need to start over to her spot. The Earth cracks open just as I make it to her and she tumbles into my arms as we begin to fall. The closeness causes her to shriek and push against me but I hold tight. Turning so as to be a buffer between her and the rocks, I secure the girl in my arms, and pray for a soft landing.
Oh my God... oh my God... oh my God! Hi everybody it's been a while. I have graduated from BCT but I've still got other training. I'm home for Christmas break and I really wanted to get a chapter out before I went back. It felt kind of good to write. I don't have gone to do it there... Thanks for sticking around but old how long I'll be gone again. Probably not as long though. Anyway, I miss you all!