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Beast of Bagshot Row

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If Thorin had a choice between staying at the inn and riding to the Shire, he would absolutely choose staying at the inn. While Dwalin and Thorin’s sister-sons enjoyed their food and ale, Thorin was stuck with the task of acquiring the burglar they apparently needed.

Leave it to a wizard to over-complicate everything.

It would be dark in a couple hours and Thorin still hadn't found this... Bag End place. Stick him in a cave deep underground and Thorin could navigate it better than the Shire; he simply did not understand what all these signposts meant even the cities of men were easier to navigate, which was saying a lot. After walking the same path a second time Thorin broke down and decided to ask for directions.

Thorin had already thought the halflings a strange folk, far too soft and happy for a people so defenseless and weak. But things seemed to get stranger still when Thorin tapped a hobbit on the shoulder to ask for directions to this Bag End.

“Where might I find the burrow known as Bag End?” Thorin demanded. All the time he'd wasted traversing the confusing roads of the Shire made him irritable, and it showed.

The hobbit shot Thorin a horrified look, as though the dwarf prince had insulted the hobbit's entire lineage. Thorin was extremely tempted to do just that if they couldn't point him in the right direction.

“B-Bag End, you say?” the hobbit stammered. “Oh no no no, you don't want to go there Master Dwarf. That place is cursed!”

Cursed?

Gandalf certainly hadn't mentioned anything about it being cursed. In fact, the wizard hadn’t said much at all beyond the burglar living there.

“How so?” Thorin questioned with growing concern. He needed to know what sort of trouble he was getting into bed with before agreeing to contract any help from outsiders.

The flustered hobbit was quiet for a moment clearly unsure if he should say anything at all ultimately deciding that it was knowledge worth sharing to an unsuspecting traveler.

“Years ago the son of Mister and Missus Baggins was viciously attacked while playing in the forest. Whatever it was, it took a big bite out of Bilbo poor lad was bedridden with fever for days. The bounders nor rangers ever found the beast that did it.”

Thorin wasn't sure that the hobbit knew what the word cursed meant, but he certainly wasn't afraid of some beast. “I am not scared of some animal...”

“It wasn't just some animal! Since that day bad things have happened to that family whatever it was that bit Mister Bilbo, it was cursed. You'd be better off not associating yourself with that sort of thing.”

Dwarves were a practical people with their own superstitions, but Thorin didn't have a choice, rather Gandalf didn’t allow him a choice. His people were counting on him retaking Erebor, and if that meant getting the help of whatever cursed creature that lived in Bag End, well, then that's what Thorin would do.

“I will not be deterred from my task, halfling ,” Thorin said as he stepped closer to the hobbit, looming over the hobbit like a massive storm cloud, “Point me in the direction of my destination and be gone.”

The hobbit stole a timid step backward away from Thorin, silently bringing up a shaking arm to point at the hill in the distance. The dwarf followed the line of the hobbit’s pointing finger with his stony gaze; the hobbit hole in question was burrowed into the largest hill in the village. He likely would have been lost in this confusing place for days, for all these little homes looked exactly alike and there were too many little paths. At least the dwarvish hovels had some identifying markers.

Thorin didn’t give the frightened hobbit another glance as he stomped off to the main road and up towards the hill.

No one bothered the dwarf as he walked, though the suspicious glares were beginning to irritate him – there had been plenty of staring from the menfolk. The fact that these hobbits lived in such ignorant peace made his teeth itch.

Without realizing, during all his silent complaining, Thorin had found himself in front of the home of the Company’s future burglar.

Dwarves were not known for their superior eyesight during the day hours so there was very little for Thorin to discern about this hobbit hole from a distance. Getting a much closer look at the place, the prince was beginning to agree that this was no normal hobbit.

The fence enclosing the area around the front door was in shambles; the little gate door hung precariously off its hinges, threatening to fall off completely at any moment. Thorin’s eyes caught the worn sign nailed to the gate door with the words ‘Go Away’ hastily scrawled in big black letters; there was a forest of weeds, thick and tall, separating Thorin from the little home; the green paint on the big round door was weathered in many places leaving the wood underneath vulnerable to the elements; the windows on either side of the door were covered by hulking plants, carelessly allowed to run amok only a tiny glint of filthy glass was visible between leaves and vines.

None of the countless burrows Thorin had passed by looked as unkempt as this place did. He began doubting the logic of needing a hobbit burglar when they already had a skilled thief, but he quickly shoved the thought away.

Thorin tried to carefully ease the rickety gate door open only for it to fall off the top hinge, causing the bottom corner to droop into the ground.

“Mahal-cursed, hobbit-made contraption!” the dwarf growled, shoving the door roughly against the inside of the fence. The door fell the rest of the way off the fence, making a racket as it slammed into the dirt. Thorin winced before kicking it out of spite, directing his gaze to his next tribulation.

He was awfully tempted to unsheath his sword and chop a path through the ridiculously tall weeds, but Thorin found no worth in using his weapon for such pitiful labour and chose to wade through instead. As he got closer to the door the weeds thinned some; the slabs of stone of a walkway prevented the unruly plants from completely taking over the yard, but it didn’t completely stop them from sprouting in between the stones.

Thorin tentatively stepped closer to the last obstacle that sat between him and the burglar. He lifted his fist to the door and pounded on it three times and then waited, and waited, and waited some more. He tried again, knocking under the assumption that the inhabitant of this burrow did not hear the first time. The response, however, was not one he was expecting.

“Go away!” a muffled voice from inside yelled.

“Hobbit!” Thorin snapped back. “Does Bilbo Baggins live in this hole?”

“No, no there is no one here by that name, try over the hill perhaps. I’m not interested!” the voice yelled again, a little closer to the door this time.

Thorin glared hatefully at the mottled door before him; either the hobbit he had scared out of their wits lied to him or this Bilbo Baggins was a shut-in.

“A wizard by the name of Gandalf has sent me to fetch a Master Baggins, and I will not be leaving until I have him. Now let me in!” Thorin bellowed at the door. If only he had an axe, then he could simply chop his way into the burrow, consequences be damned!

“Gandalf sent you?” the voice asked timidly, clearly unsure whether or not he should believe Thorin.

Yes , Gandalf sent me.”

There was another moment of irritating silence before a series of tumblers turned and clicked—Thorin wondered why the hobbit needed so many locks on his door. When the last lock was undone and the door slowly pulled open, the rusted hinges whined loudly. The light from outside poured in through the slim opening, a thick chain prevented it from opening any further.

“Who are you and what does Gandalf want ?” the pale, disheveled hobbit asked, eyes squinted against the light of day as he peered out at Thorin.

Chapter Text

“I am Thorin, a dwarf of the the Blue Mountains. Gandalf insists that I need your help with an important matter of mine,” Thorin said haughtily. It was nearly a perfect impression of the lords that denied him aid, and it disgusted him.

“What sort of important matter?” the hobbit narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“I will not speak of it out here where anyone might eavesdrop, your kind seems to have a knack for it,” Thorin groused, turning his head just so to check behind him. The overgrowth would make a good cover for errant ears. It was important to Thorin that the details of the question stay a secret.

In Thorin’s moment of distraction the hobbit slammed his door shut, and before he could suck in a deep breath to bellow at the door it was was opened again, and much wider now that the chain was gone.

“Well?” Baggins said expectantly as he gestured for Thorin to enter.

Every hobbit Thorin unfortunately had to speak with, in his hunt for Bag End, all turned very anxious after he had mentioned his need to visit this particular hobbit hole. There was nothing outwardly frightening about this hobbit in any way, and only served to create more questions than answer the ones he already had. Perhaps it was the violent meeting of darkness and light that played with his eyes, but just for a moment Thorin could see a tiredness in the hobbit’s eyes that coalesced with the suspicion.

Thorin stepped forward and crossed the threshold into the darkness of Bag End. The light breaking its way into the hole with him was immediately cut off by the burglar forcefully shutting the door, shrouding them entirely with welcoming dark.

“Come on then.” the hobbit sighed, venturing further into his home. “I wasn’t expecting guests, or anyone really, so you’ll just have to deal with cold tea and leftovers from lunch.”

Thorin tuned out most of what Baggins had said as he trudged down the hall at a slower pace behind him, mindfully sidestepping the piles of things lining the floor. The architecture of the home was superb but you’d never guess looking at the place from the outside. The stagnant air tickled his nose, and for a moment he regretted coming inside. Were the sole inhabitant of this home not preparing a sorry snack for his uninvited guest, Thorin might have assumed that no one lived inside with the considerable amounts of dust and cobwebs everywhere. The hobbit hole was more like a cave than an actual home, only missing the dampness and perhaps a wild beast.

“If you’re done taking your time, tea is this way,” the hobbit said pointedly, having appeared seemingly out of thin air to stand behind to Thorin.

Baggins had let him fall behind in the hallway and Thorin listened to the soft patter of the hobbit’s feet against the floor as he walked away, so the comment was wholly unexpected and forced him to keep his body from jerking in his surprise. How had that even happened? He was unconsciously attuned to his surroundings at all times, yet somehow Baggins had managed to sneak up on him; that never happened. Thorin schooled his surprised expression before he turned to face the hobbit. He had apparently wandered too far.

Baggins frowned at him, and then he was walking away again, leading the way down the proper hall.  

“I wonder if perhaps those others I spoke to of your kind were right about this place being cursed,” Thorin blurted as he followed the hobbit into the kitchen.

Baggins walked to the the table situated in the center of the room and tilted his head to look at Thorin over his shoulder, pinned him with a look of cool indifference, and asked: “What if it is? Would it make a difference to whatever it is you need help with, whether it’s my home that’s cursed, or me?”

Thorin’s host followed his progression through the kitchen as he went to stand opposite of Baggins, keeping the table between them—it unnerved him. There was a challenge in the hobbit’s words, and it dared Thorin to utter the snide remark that danced on the tip of his tongue, or to perhaps try and prove that there really was a curse. Thorin couldn’t tell one way or another, but it was obvious to him that the hobbit—curse or no curse—wasn’t interested nor did he care what Thorin had to say on the matter; but Thorin cared.

“If it endangers those I travel with, then yes it makes a difference. Your people seem to think there is something wrong here, and the state of your home has me curious.” Thorin retorted, folding his arms across his chest.

Baggin’s demeanor shifted from cool to dangerous in a way that put Thorin on edge. The hobbit’s hand, which had settled palm down on the table, was balled into a tight fist and the knuckles dug into the wood surface. The hobbit’s body language was not so frightening compared to how he stared at Thorin, which was reminiscent of a dangerous predator. Others have tried, but none had succeeded in making him feel like he had made a grave mistake, until now.

“Then why seek me out in the first place?” Baggins asked contemptuously. “If you feel threatened by what others of my kind have to say about me, then why come at all? You seem to have already passed your judgement on me.”

Thorin had quite a few answers to those questions, the most prominent of them was fear of the wizard.

“If Gandalf thinks you’re trustworthy enough to mention you by name, Master Baggins, then who am I to go against the will of a Wizard?” Thorin asked instead.

The hobbit visibly relaxed and exhaled a shaky breath, though it did not sooth Thorin in the least. He should have argued with the Wizard more, convinced the meddler to come in place of him, he probably would have had an easier time than Thorin was having.

Baggins went silent as he puttered about in the kitchen—he placed a tea pot, two cups, and a plate of biscuits on the table. Once he was satisfied with the placement Baggins took his seat and served only himself. Thorin uncrossed his arms and pulled out a chair on his side of the table and ignored the refreshments. He sat quietly and took a moment to scrutinize the hobbit.

A well-worn maroon robe covered Baggins, its collar opened and loose, exposing more skin pale as the moon, evidence enough that he never left his home during daylight hours. He looked exhausted, the bags beneath his eyes were dark and heavy. The part of the robe that would have covered the pale skin of Baggin’s left shoulder had begun to slip down, it revealed several fearsome looking scars that Thorin couldn’t quite take his eyes off of. That alone gave some credence to what the hobbit farmer had told him, but those scars looked like no bite he had ever seen—and he had seen quite a few bites in his lifetime. The marks were long, pink, jagged indents in his skin that curved down from the top of his shoulder and continued to reach down his chest—

“Well you’ve been invited into my house, you even have my undivided attention, now please explain to me what’s so damned important that you need me specifically,” Baggins said as he covered up his scarred shoulder, leveling Thorin with a dark look.

Thorin leaned forward—not the least bit ashamed he’d been caught staring—and let his gaze fall to where his arms lay on the table while he collected his thoughts. He shouldn’t be trying to discern this stranger, there were more important things at hand than a hobbit with a dubious past. Though Thorin was still weighing, at this very moment, if he should even bother divulging anything to the hobbit. Baggins seemed to want nothing to do with what he had to say. It was the sentiment many dwarves had, and it had been a long time since Khazad-dûm. He had barely managed to scrounge up a meager party, thirteen total which included himself, fourteen if he counted the wizard, and two of those were his young but eager sister-sons.

Thorin’s expression hardened and he forced his eyes back up to look at Baggins. “I’m going to take back my ancestral home, and I require a burglar.”

Baggins lips pressed into a line, brows deeply furrowed, biscuit slowly crumbling in his hand. “Then I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong smial, as no burglar lives here,” the hobbit uttered calmly, but even then his tone sounded devoid of calm. It was calm after a storm, but this storm felt like it had been raging for centuries, perpetually growing in strength with no end and no calm.

“Gandalf believes—” Thorin attempted to argue until he was soundly cut off.

“What does that old fool actually know? He hasn’t been around since my parents were alive!” Baggins snarled menacingly, the anger in his outburst echoed through the halls of the burrow.

“The Wizard’s business is his own. They often meddle where they oughtn't be,” Thorin replied lamely. Baggin’s reaction made his muscles tense, ready to either fight or flee, and Thorin didn’t like that one bit.

Thorin was old enough to remember when Gandalf would show up around Erebor, before Durin’s folk were ousted. His father had never spoken ill of the wizard per se, but there were many complaints from him about the wizard riling up Thorin’s grandfather. In this instance Gandalf was not only riling Thorin up but he was indirectly riling up a rather questionable hobbit.

“How is a thief going to help you regain your home, are you planning to steal it?” Baggins arched a brow, highly unimpressed with Thorin’s lack of information, but seemingly placated momentarily by Thorin’s answer.

Thorin nearly rolled his eyes—he could do without the heavy sarcasm. He pinched his sister-sons when they did it to him, and then his sister would pinch him twice as hard for pinching them.

The hobbit picked up his tea cup and sipped at it quietly, studying Thorin over its edge.

“There is something within my home that I seek. It would give me the clout I need to rally the other dwarven kingdoms. They all believe I and my compatriots go to our deaths on this venture, so I will get the proof I need to prove that my cause is a worthy one. I will take back what is mine, and I will bring my people home.” Thorin declared, daring Baggins to disparage him with a challenging look.

“And what, if I may ask, is preventing you from going into your home and retrieving it yourself? What could you possibly need a burglar for if you need this whatever- it-is so desperately?” Baggins asked, returning his cup to its saucer.

Thorin paused, considering his next words carefully. On one hand, if he really wanted to put the hobbit off this quest, mentioning the dragon would do it. He wasn’t exactly thrilled to be hiring another burglar, a hobbit even, when they already had a skilled thief. On the other hand, Thorin didn’t wish to negatively affect the outcome of the quest by not trying to convince Baggins to sign on—unlucky numbers and all that.

“A dragon may or may not be housed within the mountain. It’s been sixty years and no one has seen hide nor scale of the beast—”

“And you just assume the dragon is dead, because he hasn’t left his cave for fresh air?” Baggins scoffed. “It’s a dragon, and I’d wager that your naysayers are probably correct in saying that you are going to your deaths.”

Thorin’s anger erupted, the force of it had him up and out of his chair; his palms prickled with pins and needles after he had slammed them onto the table’s surface. The unease he had felt was no longer present, and Thorin could not recall why this hobbit made him nervous. He stared wildly down his nose at Baggins who returned Thorin’s stare with his own glare of impenitent scorn.

Thorin wished to wrap his hands around the hobbit’s neck and squeeze until he expired.

“I don’t care what they say!” Thorin barked. “I will take back Erebor, regardless of what the dissenters think. My people are a fading shadow of who they once were, now living in a barren mountain that isn’t our home! I will not allow my fate, or theirs, to be dictated by anyone who cannot fathom what it’s like to lose everything, time and time again!”

All that could be heard in the silence following his impassioned diatribe was Thorin’s heaving breaths.

And then a clear “No” was spoken with a note of firm decisiveness that staggered Thorin’s resolve.

“What?” Thorin gawped.

“Find someone else,” Baggins went on as he pushed his own chair out to stand. “You likely won’t find your burglar in the Shire. I wish you good luck in your endeavor, but I am not the least bit interested in confronting dragons. It’s time for you to go,” the hobbit insisted as he walked around the table. He hooked a hand around Thorin’s bicep, and began pulling him towards the hall.

Thorin was at a loss for words, it was a reaction he expected, but there had been a small fleck of hope, just enough to make him believe that his words might have swayed the hobbit. Not only was he wrong, but he was forcibly dragged through the burrow by a hobbit who had only appeared weak.

Baggins released Thorin’s arm as he yanked the door open.

“I hope that you’ll tell Gandalf to kindly leave me alone, or better yet, tell him I’m dead,” Baggins growled in lieu of goodbye as he shoved Thorin back across the threshold, and out into the world of light.

The door slammed shut one last time in Thorin’s face; the locks and chain scraped back into their places as Thorin turned to stare, eyes wide and mouth agape.

When he regained his senses, Thorin wordlessly shouted and angrily kicked the mottled green door, adding another dent to the abuse it had already sustained. He stomped his way through the tall grass,  kicked the gate door still lying in the dirt, and watched as it pin-wheeled across the road and down the hill.

He continued to stomp down the road, toward Bree, to meet back up with his company, cursing hobbits as he went.

Chapter Text

The sun just rested on the horizon, slowly dipping lower as the minutes passed, there would be no way that Thorin would get back to Bree before he lost the light. More curses spilled from his lips and he kicked a rock from his path, flinging it into the grass. He would be yelling at Gandalf for this later, and would no doubt turn his voice hoarse in his discontent; not that he cared.

He didn’t need a hobbit for this venture, Thorin was sick of them anyway.

Thorin took a few deep breaths to help try to calm his anger. If Dís was here she’d kick his ass, and he would deserve it. Thorin was projecting his anger onto hobbits, and he knew it. His ire had started building up when he was forced to go to the conclave, all to decide if the other dwarven lords would support him or not—they didn’t, and they wouldn’t—so it was a complete waste of time. Dáin had offered him words of encouragement, as well as a promise to come to his aid should Thorin send for it, it wasn’t enough.

His people had spent years in their exile working themselves to the bone, trying to provide for themselves and their families, and hobbits seemed to be the only ones in Middle-Earth who didn’t think poorly of them. Yes hobbits could be overly cautious, and quite a bit gossipy, but they were fair traders so Thorin couldn’t completely hate them. Except for one hobbit in particular.

Thorin sighed, letting it grow into a frustrated groan. Who was he kidding? Even he was beginning to doubt the success of this quest, and it hadn’t even really begun.

He ached to drink his night away, perhaps have some decent food, wish away the terrible week he’s had. Thorin’s mind supplied the option to stay at the Green Dragon for the evening, which would just about grant all of his immediate wishes, but he promptly shot it down. He needed to be alone, give himself time to think, and clear his head but he couldn’t accomplish any of those things there. Looking off in the direction of the establishment, Thorin could see the good size crowd that bled from the building and hear the merriment it emanated all the way from over here.

So continue down the road he did.

And when the sun was finally obscured—leaving behind dark hues of pink and orange which melted into dark blue and starry-black—Thorin stopped to make camp just off the road. It wasn’t so much a camp as a place to rest for the evening. He had none of his traveling things with him, having made the mistake in trusting the wizard when the rabble rouser had said: ‘No need to haul all your things with you to the Shire, it shouldn’t take you long at all.’ He nearly wasn’t allowed to take his sword with him.

Thorin didn’t bother with a campfire, as he had no kindling on him, nor was there a need for warmth with the summer heat still lingering in the evenings. He was thankful for that at least. He unbuckled his sword belt, wrapping the loose straps around the scabbard, and settled himself against the base of a tree. The day, no, the entire week had left him feeling hollow but only now, getting ready to fall asleep braced against a tree, did it all finally hit him. Thorin felt as though he had aged a few extra centuries; and he would be content to sit here until his body turned to dust.

Before Gandalf had ushered him out the door of the Prancing Pony, Balin had pulled him aside and told him: ‘You don’t have to do this, you have a choice. You’ve done honorably by our people. You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains, a life of peace and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor,’ and it had choked Thorin right up.

So much had gone wrong for them and they weren’t so worse off like they had been, but Thorin had made his promise long ago. He would give back to the people his family had dishonored.

‘There is no choice, not for me.’

Thorin’s voice, gravelly from emotion, spilled out into the quiet summer night in a familiar solemn tune, joined by the sounds of the nighttime creatures.

He sung of his lost home and silently grieved.

 

Thorin rose with the dawn and broke camp. He stretched to chase the aches away, and went on his way. Ideally he would have liked to have spent the night in a bed, but Thorin supposed it didn’t matter—he was used to sleeping on the ground. He felt well rested despite his awkward sleeping position, though his neck protested a little when he had to turn it. His mind felt clearer, and he felt calmer but he knew that it wouldn’t last, so he let himself enjoy the momentary tranquility as he followed the road.

He reached Bree by midday, heart set on a brief respite—with food and drink, preferably—before he and his company set off.

The taller folk ignored him, and the few dwarves passing through the town dipped their heads in his direction, which Thorin returned. When he reached the Pony, Thorin pushed the door open expecting the voices of his band of fellows to greet him, but the only greeting Thorin received was the quiet chatter of patrons and the cheerful welcome from the innkeep.

“Good day to you, Master Dwarf!”

Thorin’s gaze surveyed every inch of the room expecting to find at least one person waiting for him, but there was no one, not even the wizard. Thorin frowned and approached the high counter and swept his eyes up to the man standing behind it.

“Is a man by the name of Gandalf here, perchance?” Thorin asked gruffly.

“‘Fraid not, sir. He left this morning with a group of dwarves,” the man said apologetically, but perked up suddenly, a spark of remembrance in his eye. “But he did leave me with a message for a dwarf named Thorin. You wouldn’t happen to be him, would you?”

Thorin narrowed his eyes, carefully scouring the room again to make sure no one was paying attention where they shouldn’t be.

“What’s the message?”

The man slipped a bit of folded parchment from his trouser pocket, placed it on the surface of the counter and slid it towards the edge to Thorin. Thorin snatched it away without a word and abandoned the Prancing Pony, unfolding the letter once outside.

Outskirts of town

—Gandalf

“That old fool,” Thorin growled under his breath, crumpling the parchment in his fist. This wasn’t something he and Gandalf had discussed. The wizard may have urged him to take up the quest, but Thorin was beginning to wonder if he was actually leading this expedition.

He stepped back onto the main road bisecting the town, avoiding a short train of wagons, and headed for the Eastern entrance.

Thorin caught up with the party an hour outside of town.

They had stopped to wait near some trees next to the road; the ponies wandered around under Nori’s watchful eye while the rest of the dwarves were milling about. Dwalin seemed to be complaining at Gandalf with a displeased Balin standing at his brother’s side. Good, Thorin thought, the Wizard needed to be told lectured manipulating them however he pleased.

“Uncle! It’s about time you got here. We were beginning to think you got lost!” Kíli shouted with glee when he spotted Thorin walking nearer.

A smile cracked Thorin’s somber expression at Kíli’s exuberant greeting.

Upon hearing Kíli’s shout Dwalin turned around, his entire body relaxing as his eyes fell on Thorin. Gandalf’s face lit up until he noticed Thorin walked alone, and quickly became crestfallen thereafter.

“It’s about time you showed up, Thorin,” Dwalin grunted as he approached Thorin. “I told that damn wizard that we shouldn’t have left Bree.”

“It’s not your fault,” Thorin sighed, letting his glare fall on the wizard following shortly behind Dwalin.

“Ah, I knew you would get my message, Thorin. I thought it would be best if we got a head start,” Gandalf said as he tried to smile, but it was ruined by his disappointment. “Where is Bilbo Baggins?”

For a moment Thorin considered telling the wizard the truth concerning yesterday’s events, let the wizard know just what he thought of him and his machinations and his penchant for causing trouble.

“Bilbo Baggins of Bag End is dead,” Thorin declared instead. And for a split second delight ran through his veins as he watched Gandalf’s expression shift from disappointment to confusion, and finally to sorrow. What had been delight had curdled, his words left a sour taste in his mouth.

“You’re sure?” Gandalf asked slowly, eyes glassy with emotion.

“Yes. There is no one in that burrow by that name,” Thorin said, his stomach twisting guiltily.

The wizard’s next words were caught in his throat; he promptly turned and walked toward his horse where it was left to graze with the rest of their mounts.

Dwalin stared at him, arms crossed over his chest, with an asking expression. Thorin shook his head no, not wanting to get into a discussion about it. Dwalin nodded and walked off towards Nori.

“We’re leaving. We’ve wasted enough time,” Thorin announced to the company, prompting them all to move.

As the other dwarves gathered themselves Thorin walked towards the ponies to inspect both his pony’s saddle, to make sure the belt under its belly was tight, as it liked to take a deep breath while anyone attempted to secure the saddle, and his gear which he had entrusted to his nephews in his absence. As he did this Balin joined him, emanating admonishment and leveling Thorin with the look. The one that made Thorin feel bad for things he did. It worked like a charm when they were younger, but it was hit or miss these days.

“I’m not discussing this with you, Balin,” Thorin told him firmly. He respected Balin and all he offered, but Thorin already had enough to deal with and preferred not to be scolded like a dwarfling for lying.

And for a moment Balin seemed like he was going to argue the point.

“I don’t know what happened, but you should tell him,” Balin replied quietly, and let Thorin be to attend his own pony.

Thorin had no plans to do such a thing. Let the wizard stew for awhile, he thought.

Eventually everyone found themselves back on their mounts with Thorin leading the group down the path, Gandalf taking up the rear, and Kíli mourning the loss of his oilskin.

 

Thorin pushed everyone to their limits their first day of real travel—stopping for a short breaks to water their ponies and rest a for a few moments—in an attempt to make up time lost by having to detour to the Shire. They managed to make up a little over half the distance that they would have traveled, while not ideal, Thorin could live with it. They stopped for the evening when the sun began to set, and they pitched their camp near a little stream; the ponies were unpacked, unsaddled, and allowed to rest near the water.

The company roasted pieces of meat rubbed with herbs over the campfire, accompanied by hard cheese and traveling bread. Thorin was glad for the solid meal, as they would likely be eating stew in some form for most of the journey. When he finished his own meal, Thorin returned to the spot he had claimed, next to one of the big rocks peppering the area within the lit circle of their camp, but not before swiping a half-burnt twig—still on fire—from the fire pit, intent on having a smoke. He set the burning twig aside as he dug through his pack, collecting both his pipe and his pipe-weed, and carefully packed the bowl. Thorin arranged himself as comfortably as he could against the rock and lit his pipe.

He watched as the rest of the bedrolls were situated around the fire in preparation for sleep, but only Bifur turned in, the rest were relaxing in their own ways. Glóin and Dwalin had already taken up their post for first watch, sitting on a giant rock protruding from the ground. Fíli had brought out his fiddle and was playing a gentle melody, next to him Kíli fletched some arrows with materials he had brought with him. Balin, Dori, and Óin were in a little group talking; Balin puffed at his pipe, Dori stitched up a tunic, and Óin organized his medical satchel for what was probably the fifth time that day. Ori was in his own world as he scribbled diligently in his book while Nori read over his shoulder. Bofur and Bombur checked the ponies one last time, making sure that they wouldn’t walk off during the night, and joined Bifur near the fire where they had all situated their Bedrolls.

Gandalf was propped up against a hollow log nursing his own pipe, staring off at nothing in the distance dark. The wizard had been quiet all afternoon, which was perfectly alright with Thorin—he hadn’t felt much more guilt since he had declared the hobbit dead—but seeing Gandalf so despondent was beginning to fray him.

As the night wore on more of the company found their way to bed, and just a few dwarves remained awake. Glóin and Dwalin took turns walking around the outer perimeter of the camp; his nephews were huddled together whittling away at small blocks of wood, snickering and chatting quietly to each other. Thorin was just about ready for bed himself, yawning as he emptied the used pipe-weed from the bowl of his pipe.

He stowed his pipe away back in his pack, taking that moment to look the camp over one last time before sleep when his eyes stumbled upon something just beyond the dying light of the campfire, lurking between a thin copse of small pines.

Glóin and Dwalin hadn’t noticed it yet, and the former had just finished his walk-around. Thorin grasped clumsily for the hilt of his blade leaning against the rock, not wanting to chance looking away or else he’d lose sight of the shadow. When his fingers finally found their quarry, the metal of the sword hissed as it was drawn from its sheath. Thorin quickly stood up, brandishing his sword which brought Dwalin and Glóin immediately to attention as well as his nephews.

“Show yourself!” Thorin demanded, pointing the tip of his sword toward the dark ahead of him.

He expected whatever it was to turn tail and flee, or perhaps leap from the dark and pounce on one of the still-sleeping, unsuspecting dwarves. The shadow did none of those thing, and instead walked forward into the camp. The low light of the campfire banished the veil of dark from around the small form revealing a short, cloaked person; their bare and hairy feet were a dead giveaway.

It was none other than Bilbo Baggins.

The reveal didn’t slow the beating of Thorin’s heart in the least. It certainly didn’t calm Dwalin and Glóin down, they had no idea who Baggins was, and the hobbit decided to enter camp in the dead of night, under cover of darkness, and unannounced. Thorin was just glad it wasn’t something worse.

“Stand down,” Thorin ordered, dropping his sword-arm to his side. Glóin relaxed a fraction, lowering his axe but still wary; Dwalin shot him a disbelieving look that Thorin answered with a stern shake of his head. His friend frowned in confusion but conceded to the order, lowering both his axes.

Thorin swiftly crossed the camp to stand in front Baggins, itching to grab him by his cloak and shake him silly for his stupidity. Instead he glared at the infuriating creature, which wouldn’t result in physical violence. Hopefully.

“I thought you said you weren’t interested in confronting dragons? You made it abundantly clear that you wished to be considered dead,” Thorin said coldly. Thorin involuntarily inspected the hobbit, looking for anything strange, but there wasn’t so much as a tear in his traveling cloak.

But the hobbit didn’t miss a beat.

“I figured if I could face one dragon and live to tell the tale, then perhaps the second one won’t be so bad,” Baggins quipped back with a vicious smirk and a victorious spark in his eye.

Thorin deserved that but that didn’t make the comment sting any less. He refused to be baited by baggins, so Thorin turned on his heel and stalked back to his little part of the camp, catching Gandalf’s angered leer as he went. There, he didn’t have to tell Gandalf anything now, he thought snidely.

“Bilbo Baggins, I’ve never been more glad to see anyone in my entire life!” Gandalf said with a relieved tone.

Thorin settled back down onto his bedroll, sheathed his sword, and tucked it close to him. Glóin settled into his own bedroll as Dwalin woke Nori and Bofur up for their watch shift, and his nephews returned to what they had been doing prior to Baggin’s entrance. Thorin watched, which great amusement, as Gandalf spoke quietly at Baggins who peered up at the wizard with pure contempt, taking a few steps back and away from the man when he attempted to put a hand on the hobbit’s shoulder. Thorin could see the hurt on the wizard’s face when he turned to watch Baggins carefully step around him, pointedly giving him a wide berth, and march over to where Thorin’s nephews were hunkered down.

Thorin followed the hobbit’s movements carefully, stomach twisting in anticipation, searching for any indication that Baggins was going to attempt something; Thorin could see Fíli was watching too. The hobbit stopped a few paces from the brothers and slipped his pack off his shoulders, taking an object from the bag. He let his pack fall to the ground and he stepped forward, holding it toward Kíli. It appeared to be a ratty, misshapen ball to Thorin, but he couldn’t perceive further details beyond that. Kíli’s eyes shifted between the offered ball and Baggins, who remained silent. After a moment Kíli tentatively reached out to take the ball from the hobbit’s grasp.

A charged moment passed as Kíli carefully unraveled the ball.

“My oilskin! I left that in Bree!” Kíli whooped suddenly and grinned up at Baggins.

Thorin relaxed, releasing the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He watched Kíli and Baggins chat quietly for a moment before the hobbit found his own little spot within the camp, further away from the rest of the dwarves.

He could have never predicted that the hobbit would show up in the camp after he had removed Thorin, by force, from his house, but here he was. His sudden appearance would definitely be giving Thorin a monumental headache in the morning, possibly for the rest of the quest, in the form of an angry wizard.

Thorin stretched himself out on his own bedroll and closed his eyes. As he focused on the distant sound of crickets, he could hear the faint humming of a familiar tune lulling him to sleep.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold...

Chapter Text

The following morning Thorin’s fears of a great headache were realized.

(And it wasn’t caused by Wizard, but there was still time.)

Waking up at an early hour was deeply ingrained in Thorin—and he hated the saying the early bird catches the worm because only elves could come up with something so nature-y and stupid—ever since he had taken on his first royal responsibilities. The quest wasn’t going to change that habit even though he temporarily no longer had any duties to see to, until he remembered that he needed Baggins to sign the contract.

There was nothing wrong with the contract. He and Balin had spent two days covering all their bases, making sure it was perfect, and it was perfect. Yet Baggins had stood there picking the entire document apart, nearly ripping it up as he called it hogwash. The most peculiar part was when the Hobbit had vehemently refused the reward for fulfilling the contract. Okay, Thorin might have overreacted in assuming that Baggins was demanding more than a fourteenth share of the profit, but it’s damn near impossible to forget all the times you’ve been swindled. It all led to a more spectacular argument than they had had in Baggins’ home, and at the height of it the Hobbit had the stones to punch him in the nose. For a brief moment there, before it was entirely buried by anger, Thorin was impressed; which was probably why he didn’t try to kill the Hobbit right there in the middle of nowhere, well that and the fact that it took five other dwarves pin him to the ground.

So after wasting even more time by allowing Óin to inspect both him and Baggins—apparently he hadn’t been the only one to sustain a minor injury when he had gotten punched, the Hobbit had walked away with bruised knuckles—Thorin was just done. He already needed to be far, far away from the troublemaker.

“Balin I don’t care what it takes, but by Mahal, make sure that infuriating Hobbit signs the contract,” Thorin had seethed.

Thorin gently rubbed his nose, the inside still lightly crusted—and now itchy—with blood from earlier, and kept his eyes forward. When midday rolled around and he called for a short break, Balin handed over an amended contract signed by Baggins. The reward hadn’t been changed even though the Hobbit seemed very keen on taking a less substantial portion of the reward, among other small alterations (specifically the arbitration paragraphs). It was one less problem Thorin had to worry about, so he would live with the alterations to the document.

The next few days were uneventful, though there were plenty of glares traded back and forth between him and the Hobbit during meals, and when ever Thorin accidentally met his gaze. Thorin had nearly forgotten about the the scars across Baggins’ left shoulder until he had caught the barest glimpse of them when Baggins adjusted his shirt.

“Is there something wrong with the Hobbit?” Dwalin asked one evening settling down next to Thorin, as he was going over his sword with a rag.

That was a loaded question with no real answer.

Thorin shrugged, keeping his focus on his blade.

“Not that I’m aware. Is there a problem?” he prodded back. Thorin knew he really shouldn’t be keeping critical information from Dwalin, but there was no reason to worry him when Thorin still had so little information himself.

“No.” Dwalin replied with a frown, visibly unsatisfied with the evasion. “The way you stare at eachother tells a different story,” he added suspiciously.

In any other case Thorin would endlessly praise Dwalin’s sixth-sense for sniffing out trouble, but Thorin did not need this right now. They would waste even more time trying to piece together what was out of place. His own ignorance would likely bite him in the ass, but Thorin couldn’t worry about the Baggins issue when he was still trying to come up with a plan to deal with Smaug—if the dragon was alive.

“He didn’t want to come in the first place, but he wanders into camp late at night and signs the contract the next day. We don’t know him, and there are already too many unknowns right now.”

“You don’t trust him,” Dwalin concluded bluntly.

“Yet.” Thorin emphasized, “Just keeping an eye on him, there’s nothing to worry about. Doubt he could do much harm anyway. No weapon.”

“Seems okay with his fists,” Dwalin snorted.

“If at the end of our a quest a dragon awaits us, then we’ll rely on our burglar to punch the beast’s nose,” Thorin grinned as he imagined Baggins attempting to punch Smaug on his snout.

Dwalin cackled, likely imagining the same exact scene. His friend’s guffaws drew the attention of the Hobbit who arched a brow at them, which Thorin met with another glare.

 

 

For weeks the Wizard had been giving Thorin space, presumably still sulking about his white lie. You hear people say that dwarves held grudges deep as their mines—which was stupid as elves lived far longer than dwarves, they never forgot a thing, and anyone who used that saying has apparently never met and elf before—but Gandalf was proving just how fierce a Wizard’s grudge could be.

When they were within sight of the Trollshaws Gandalf finally broke his silence.

“I think it would be wise if we made a stop in Rivendell,” Gandalf said, sidling up next to Thorin’s pony.

“Absolutely not,” Thorin replied cooly. The last thing he wanted to talk about right now was elves. “I told you already, I will not go near that place.”

“Why not? The elves could help us—we could get food, rest, advice,” the Wizard argued.

They would be good points, if the respite and replenishment wasn’t coming from elves.

“I do not need their advice,” Thorin growled.

“We have a map that we cannot read, Lord Elrond could help us.”

“Help? A dragon attacks Erebor. What help came from the elves?” Thorin asked pointedly.

“I did not give that map and key for you to hold onto the past,” Gandalf said sternly.

Gandalf had returned one of the few remaining relics that tied Durin’s folk to Erebor, yet he was standing here lecturing Thorin about holding onto the past, all while pushing for the reclamation of the mountain. Thorin had known Gandalf for a long time, and in that time Gandalf had made it abundantly clear that Wizards were not omniscient beings despite what people will say. Retaking Erebor will no doubt dredge up the past and tear open old wounds. So what right did he have to lecture Thorin about such things?

“I did not know they were yours to keep!” Thorin quickly rebuked, urging his pony to into a canter.

Their conversation was done, and he was most certainly done with Gandalf trying to steer their course.

“We’ll camp here for the night. Fíli, Kíli look after the ponies. Make sure you stay with them,” Thorin commanded as they approached what looked to be an abandoned and destroyed cottage, enveloped by the dense forest and rocky hills of the Trollshaws.

There were varying sighs and comments of relief as the company slid of their mounts and began pulling the burdens off the animals. Thorin surveyed the immediate area closely, sparing a glare at Gandalf’s retreating form while he very loudly grumbled about the stubbornness of dwarves.

“Óin, Glóin get a fire going,” he called out, turning to inspect the skeleton of the wrecked home.

The damage seemed to have been done long ago, which was just as well because it looked like portions of it had been crushed by something big; whatever did it, Thorin hoped it had moved on. A few hours passed, all quiet, even his nephews seemed to be taking their duty a bit more seriously. Gandalf still hadn’t reappeared now that supper was ready, the upside being that he didn’t have to hear anymore talk of elves.

“He’s been a long time,”” Baggins said to Bofur who was serving up the first bowls of stew.

“Who?”

“Gandalf.”

“He’s a Wizard—he does as he chooses. Here, do us a favor and take this to the lads.” Bofur said cheerfully, pushing two bowls full of stew in Baggins’ hands.

It was only because they had become friends that the Hobbit wasn’t declining the responsibility, probably. He was the third dwarf to befriend Baggins; the second being Fíli who took to the Hobbit when the near week’s worth of rain had blasted them—the Hobbit had saved his brother from the wet—and the first being Kíli. In Thorin’s opinion Baggins wasn’t easy to talk to, they hadn’t really spoken since he had turned up in camp that night, only trading a few barbed words, mostly it was just trading dirty looks.

He watched Baggins walk into the forest.

Five minutes passed, then ten, and when twenty came around and Baggins still hadn’t appeared Thorin began to wonder. He quietly ate his stew while Balin and Dwalin muttered to each other; Thorin wasn’t really paying attention as the worry began to percolate in the pit of him. Baggins was looking a little bit on the thin side, but he never missed a meal and should have returned by now. It bothered him too that he had yet to hear a peep out of his nephews since he sent them off the tend to the ponies, and oftentimes quiet meant trouble where Fíli and Kíli were concerned.

At the twenty-five minute mark Fíli burst out of the trees alone, as if he were running from something, it sent Thorin immediately to his feet and toward his nephew. The kernel of worry burgeoned into consuming dread.

“Where is Kíli and the Hobbit?” Thorin demanded.

“The ponies,” Fíli panted, “Trolls. They’ve taken our ponies and Bilbo went into the troll’s camp to save them.”

Ice and realization shot through Thorin.

“He did what?” Thorin snarled.

Of all the stupid things… Thorin expected such foolishness from his nephews but not Bilbo, who from the start wanted nothing to do with the quest.

He ordered his dwarves to arm themselves and they rushed after Fíli who led them back into the forest. As they got nearer to the troll camp Thorin could hear one of the monsters squeal in pain, and then Kíli shouting: “I said let him go!”

It meant only one thing, that Bilbo had been caught. Thorin, and the company following close behind, leapt into the little glade where three massive trolls had made their camp.

Thorin enjoyed the thrill of the fight, his sword swinging to the rhythm of his heart, mind steered by the hunger for victory. They were all holding their own against the monsters when one of the stinking beasts got their hands on Baggins, who had gone to cut the ropes of the pony pen while the trolls were distracted.

“Lay down your arms, or I’ll rip his off!”

And for a moment Thorin considered ignoring the threat, until he looked up into Bilbo’s terrified eyes. He should let the Trolls tear the Hobbit limb from limb for endangering them all like that, but his anger gave way to fear; no one deserved to be brutalized by trolls, not even Bilbo. Thorin found himself, for the first time in a long time, relinquishing his weapon in the face of an enemy.

There's no way they should have survived the ordeal, especially when Bilbo began talking to them about proper cooking preparation for dwarves, of all things (they didn’t need anymore ideas). Thorin was mildly offended by the comments; he wasn't that filthy, maybe his armor was, but they had all bathed quite recently. It took some time before Thorin had realized that Bilbo was stalling for time. He was glad the trolls were stupid, as most of the company were making an effort to poke holes in the diversion. They only changed their tune once he had kicked some sense into Kíli.

Watching the three trolls turn to stone, Thorin had never been more glad to see Gandalf than he was in that moment. He couldn’t help but blame Baggins for their predicament however and for that the Wizard gently scolded him: ‘He had the nerves to play for time. None of the rest of you thought of that.’ Perhaps that was true, but it didn’t mean that he should looking trouble and it was becoming increasingly obvious that that’s exactly what Baggins was, trouble.

Not only did they walk away from a potentially fatal situation, they were rewarded with a putrid smelling hoard of treasure for their pains. Yes, wielding an elven-made blade made him a walking contradiction, but it really was a flawless weapon. Gandalf seemed to recognize some hidden importance of the weapons and hastily secured the second rediscovered elf-blade to his person.

It amused Thorin to see his fellows bury a small chest of gold when Erebor was overflowing with fathomless wealth.

Apparently Gandalf had found another, much smaller blade, which didn’t sit well at all with Thorin when the Wizard handed it to Bilbo. And then they were drawing their new weapons ready to kill… giant rabbits pulling a sled? Wizards were very, very strange but that development was a first.

“Guess our burglar will be using a letter opener against the dragon, and not his fists,” Dwalin said, coming to stand next to Thorin as they waited for the Wizards to quit their banter.

The Hobbit’s newly acquired sword wouldn’t help him against Smaug, but that wasn’t why Dwalin was bringing it up. He had a weapon now.

“I’m not so worried about it. Doesn’t look like he knows what to do with the blade anyway,” Thorin replied tiredly.

Before Dwalin could say anything further a bone-chilling howl erupted from the trees some distance away, catching everyone’s attention.

“Was that a wolf? Are there wolves out there?” Bilbo asked anxiously.

“Wolves? No, that is not a wolf,” Bofur said, voice trembling with distress.

Thorin pulled his new blade from its scabbard, certain it wasn’t another Wizard this time, and scanned their surroundings.

A warg creeped out from the trees behind Bilbo and Bofur, right in their blindspot. The creature bounded a short distance closer to the Hobbit and the Miner before lunging for Dori, who had been standing next to them, forcing the dwarf to the ground with its weight. Dori quickly rolled out from under the warg as Thorin drove his elvish blade into the beast’s skull. A second warg lept out from the trees behind Thorin, moving in for an easy kill, while his sword was still buried to the hilt in the fresh kill. Before Thorin could react Kíli swiftly nocked an arrow and released it, hitting the warg in the shoulder. It tripped hard into the ground, tumbling down the hill; Dwalin promptly dispatched it with a swing of his axe, embedding it deeply into its spine.

“Warg scouts! Which means an orc pack is not far behind,” Thorin yelled as he wrest his blade from the warg skull.

“We have to get out of here,” Dwalin growled as he readied his axe for another bout.

“We can’t, we have no ponies! They bolted,” Ori whimpered, popping out from the direction where their mounts had been waiting, Bifur hot on his heels.

More warg howls sounded off then, much closer than the first.

“I-I can’t...I need to—” Baggin began to stutter.

He was taking in deep breaths to calm himself, but his face had paled considerably and he looked like he was in pain. This was no time for Baggins to have a breakdown when they were in the midst of a very dangerous situation, Thorin thought darkly. Baggins hadn’t even drawn his own weapon!

The second Wizard zipped off into the trees Southward and Gandalf turned his attention toward them.

“We’re going!” Gandalf called out to the company, pointing West. “Radagast is going to lure them away.”

The company hurriedly chased after him, all except Bilbo and Bofur.

“No I c-can’t go—Let go Bofur, please. You don’t understand,” Bilbo yelled, trying to pry the Miner’s fingers off his arm.

“Let’s go!” Thorin bellowed in tandem with another howl, shoving his elvish blade back in its scabbard.

Bofur began dragging Baggins toward Thorin. Believing Bofur had things well in hand, Thorin turned to catch up with those who had already begun following the Wizard.

“Bilbo, come back!” Bofur shouted.

Thorin twisted back around just in time to watch Baggins run deeper into the forest, in the opposite direction they were running. Bofur made to run after him, but Thorin couldn’t lose anymore people.

“Leave him, Bofur. We need to go now,” Thorin ordered.

For a second Bofur looked like he was about to disobey his order, but he cursed and quickly followed Thorin.

A great distance separated them from the rest of the company now, and if they weren’t careful they would end up heavily outnumbered without their compatriots. The landscape that spread out before them offered sufficient cover with rolling hills and massive rocks jutting out of the ground. Thorin spotted the tail end of the company zip around one of the rock formations; carefully as they could, Thorin and Bofur began winding their way towards them. There were a few close calls as the Brown Wizard got a little too close to them, bringing with him the group of twenty or so orcs and wargs.

Ducking behind another boulder a howl split the air behind them. The deep timbre of it shook Thorin to the core, and it paralyzed both him and Bofur with fear.

“What in Durin’s name is that?” Bofur whispered.

Thorin swallowed thickly and watched a massive beast—bigger than a warg—with brown fur vault over a hill; it sprinted on all fours in the direction of the noise emanating from the wargs and their rider.

The creature’s ghastly howl drew the attention of many orcs who were in pursuit of the sled. They broke off and ran towards it, their war cries filled the air. Whatever made them think to go after the great beast, Thorin would never know, but they were running into the open jaws of their imminent slaughter.

The creature slowed to a stop and stood to full height on two legs. It swung its arm, thick as a tree trunk, and it collided with the chest of the first orc of the pack whose warg was running at top speed, sending the rider hard to the ground. The filth didn’t get up, wind thoroughly beat out of it, and then the monster was on it. Its claws tore into the downed orc with such haunting ferocity, shredding through both armor and skin like they were paper. Thorin felt extremely ill.

The sheer violence playing out before the rest of the pack only seemed to enrage them further. The next warg rider was thrown from his mount as the monster tackled the warg, wrestling it to the ground. The warg shrieked and howled as the great beast snapped its tremendous jaws at it, its teeth digging into fur and flesh. They jerked around until the warg ceased to move.

The brutality continued like this: dismembering, disemboweling, gnashing, crushing, crunching, ripping, tearing; parts and innards were strewn across the hills in a bloody mess that Thorin or Bofur would never be able to forget. Once the monster was finished with the pack that had broken off from the sled pursuit, it turned it’s gaze to its remaining prey. With another frightening howl, the beast bounded away.

Bofur was shaking and Thorin’s heart pounded painfully in his chest. Out of the two of them, Thorin was the first to recover from what they had witnessed.

“We need to go. We are not safe here, and neither are the others if that thing returns,” Thorin said, but Bofur didn’t seem to be listening. “Bofur!” Thorin hissed and grabbed at Bofur’s coat, violently shaking him out of his stupor. “Pull yourself together!”

“Doesn’t feel right to say, but I hope that thing keeps chasing the other Wizard,” Bofur said, horror causing him to stutter his words.

Thorin seconded that hope.

They sprinted over a hill, watching out for the sled or the monster. They rounded another rocky protrusion, and only caught a glimpse of a retreating dwarf as they crested another hill. As Bofur went to make a run for it Thorin grabbed the Miner’s coat again.

“Bofur, no!” Thorin cried, roughly hauling him backward as the sled zoomed by, still trailed by five or so orcs and wargs, the great beast nipping at their heels.

“Oh, Mahal,” Bofur said, drooping against a good sized rock next to them. “That was a close one.”

With the lack of sleep all thanks to the troll incident, the exhaustion weighed Thorin down and his legs threatened to give beneath him. Bofur wasn’t faring any better, he was falling behind and Thorin had to drag him along by the coat the rest of the way.

Thorin gained his second wind, fueled by the blessed sound of irate dwarves yelling, as they closed in on the company.

“Where’s the Wizard?” Glóin hollered.

“He’s deserted us!” Dwalin yelled back.

“Thorin! Bofur!” Fíli shouted in relief upon their approach. “We thought you both were lost!”

Movement in his peripheral caught his eye. A good distance away from them, the creature had caught another warg rider.

“We’re fine. Where’s Gandalf? We need to go, there’s something else out there besides orcs and wargs. We cannot tarry!” Thorin said with urgency, releasing the fistful of Bofur’s coat who made a beeline straight for his kin once he was released. Thorin was glad to see no one else had been lost during the chase.

Unfortunately for them, the great beast was no longer content with its fresh kill. It had noticed them and was advancing on their position. They were exposed and couldn’t hope to stand against such a terrible creature.

“Gandalf!” Thorin shouted.

“Over here, you fools!” Gandalf cried out from behind them as the beast stalked nearer.

Shouts from the rest of the company rang out in varying degrees of horror and surprise, subsequently compelling them to follow Gandalf down a previously unseen hollow.

Thorin barely caught Kíli as his nephew went to nock an arrow. If a large group of orcs could not harm the monster, then there was no way in hell that Kíli’s arrows would do anything more than piss it off more. Slowly Thorin backed away from it, his hand firmly grasping Kíli’s bicep, pulling him along.

“Kíli, run,” Thorin said roughly, drawing his sword and brandishing it toward the creature.

“Uncle?” Kíli questioned anxiously.

The last time he had told Kíli to run was when his nephew was much younger. He and his brother had begged Thorin to let them accompany him to a mannish village, for what Thorin couldn’t really remember, but he couldn’t deny them anything. It had been just the three of them but on the way they had been set upon by bandits, and he had told Fíli and Kíli to run. It had been one against five which Thorin had won, but not without difficulty or injury. Kíli had night terrors for months afterward, Fíli faring just a little better.

“Run!” Thorin growled and forced Kíli back, taking a defensive position in front of him.

Thorin heard Kíli hesitate for a moment, but did as he was told.

Thorin held his blade with both hands and tried to calm himself as the monster—almost completely doused with black blood now—advanced toward him. Thorin silently said his prayers, apologizing to his family and his people; this was not how he expected to go, and without having fulfilled any of his promises.

Then there were horns blaring and hooves pounding hard against the ground, forcing the monster’s attention away from Thorin. Arrows whistled through the air, turning the beast’s chest into a pincushion. It was ready to meet the new riders head on but another round of arrows pelted the foul creature, discouraging it from attacking, and it shrieked in pain.

Thorin didn’t have the chance to see his saviors gallop away after the monster as he retreated down into the cave with the rest of the party.

Chapter Text

Bilbo would be lying if he said he wasn’t afraid that his visitor had some ulterior motive. It was no secret that a few popular hobbit families were looking to be rid of him and his peculiarities. A whisper in the right ear and a generous bag of gold coins exchanged for services would be all that it’d take to persuade someone that Bag End needed an exterminator.

He was not oblivious to the horrible things other hobbits said about him—even when he was hiding himself away—which was why he didn’t give a damn about what Thorin of The Blue Mountains had to say about him.

Why he had even let the dwarf in was still a question Bilbo was asking himself. So what if he was throwing around Gandalf’s name? The man hadn’t bothered to check in when Bilbo had been attacked in the woods, nor had he cared to show up for his parent’s funerals a handful of years later. Did the Wizard even realize what he was opening up his companions too?

(Bilbo had his good days, yes, but his bad days made him wonder after the Shire’s safety, despite the general nasty attitude towards him.)

And yes, Thorin’s story had piqued his interest—it sounded quite a lot like some of the tales he’d read—but what could a cursed hobbit possibly do in the face of a fire-breathing behemoth, aside from becoming a snack or kindling?

Yet he couldn’t stop thinking about what Thorin had said in his impassioned defence of his choice to face a possibly-living dragon head on.

'I will not allow my fate, or theirs, to be dictated by anyone who does not know what it’s like to lose everything, time and time again!’

It rung through Bilbo’s head in a thunderous cacophony as he found his way into his study, numbly digging through the drawers of his desk to find his father’s old bottle of brandy.

“Don’t do it Bilbo Baggins,” he said to the empty room as he uncorked the bottle, taking a long drink, “You will regret everything if you step one foot out that door.”

That same night, after kicking the dwarf out of his home, Bilbo had snuck out his back door.

He gathered his things and some meagre provisions, penned a note to the only family in Hobbiton that considered him a friend, left both the note and the key to his backdoor in their postbox then high-tailed it down the road, out of Hobbiton.

Of course, Bilbo had no idea how he would have found that ridiculous dwarf until he had stumbled upon a camp while avoiding the main road; he couldn’t believe his luck. Bilbo made his own camp, which amounted to spreading an old, battered bedroll out onto the grass beneath a tree. Bilbo was prepared for another sleepless night until a deep voice accompanied the music of the night.

Bilbo couldn’t hear the words very well being as far away from the dwarf’s camp as he was, but he perceived, from the somber tune, a sliver of understanding. Despite their brief but explosive first meeting, and the figurative ravine that separated them, perhaps they weren’t so dissimilar after all. The lyrics of Thorin’s song struck a chord within Bilbo’s heart; his own loss and longing harmonizing with the dwarf’s.

Ever since the attack years ago Bilbo has had trouble finding sleep—restful sleep at that. Sometimes his dreams were rife with terror, leaving his throat sore and voice hoarse the next morning. More often than dreams Bilbo simply could not find sleep at all, which left him exhausted and irritated. But this night Bilbo unexpectedly slipped into a somewhat peaceful slumber; the nightmares weren’t so oppressive, at the very least.

The next morning he continued to follow Thorin, making sure to keep a good distance away from him all the way to Bree. Bilbo had woken up late and was forced to sprint through the trees to catch up to the dwarf after discovering Thorin’s camp was abandoned.

And then Bilbo had lost Thorin in the sea of big folk shortly after arriving in the town of men.

While he waited for the dwarf to show up again, Bilbo decided to purchase extra supplies.

What Bilbo had brought with him from home would be okay, but what he didn’t have was a proper oilskin. Thankfully he had had the foresight to throw on his old coat, the one with a hood, back from when he still tried to go out to the market in Hobbiton. With the little money he had brought with him Bilbo purchased his primary need, but also used his leftover to buy a small blanket—one that wouldn’t fully cover a man, but was just his size—and extra food. The last few coins Bilbo had went back into his pocket, content with his purchases.

And hour passed with Bilbo perusing other stalls while he kept a lookout for the surly dwarf, or for an extremely bothersome Wizard, though Bilbo hadn’t a clue of what the man might look like these days. Another hour had gone by, marked by Bilbo’s third slow lap around the market with one close call—he had nearly ran into two hobbits. Not wanting to chance being discovered by other hobbits, Bilbo made the decision to find a secluded alleyway—where he could get a get view of the thoroughfare—and waited another hour.

It had been pretty close to midday by the time Thorin and he had reached Bree, but now the sun was dipping closer to evening, without anything to show for the time wasted. Bilbo was starting to feel panicky and his provisions were taking a hit due to his anxiety. He decided to use the last of his coin to purchase a little bit of comfort in the form of a bed and warm food at the Prancing Pony.

Bilbo paid for a room and ate his meal in the safety of its confines.

The room he had been given was upstairs and had small-people-sized furnishings with a single window that looked out behind the Inn. While the meal had not been up to his hobbit standards, it had been filling and helped calm him to some degree. When Bilbo was finished he left his bowl—licked clean—on the bedside table and stretched out on the lumpy but comfortable bed, only meaning to shut his eyes for short nap. He awoke to blackness a few hours later, the sun had set and none of the candles in his room were lit. Bilbo yawned and swung his feet over the edge of the bed; his arms extended toward the ceiling, legs and toes splayed out before him as he stretched.

When he relaxed, his eyes fell to the where his feet dangled and he wondered at what he should do. A belly full of food and a nap had helped to quell bilbo’s anxiety, but he was still in a pickle. If Thorin and Gandalf had been in Bree, they weren’t any longer, and only made things more difficult for Bilbo.

Ten minutes of research (a lot guessing and pouring over maps while he cursed) the evening before had tipped Bilbo off to the single fact that Erebor was far off the to East, so he only knew the direction that they should be heading, but there were a couple ways to get there and Bilbo hadn’t the slightest idea which way they might have chosen.

“Some good luck you have there, Bilbo,” he grumbled to himself as he hopped off the bed.

Bilbo dropped to his knees next the to bed where he dropped his pack before he dug into dinner. As he made sure all his things were secure, he spotted something under his bed. He scooted back away from the bed and settled onto his belly to reach out under the frame, pulling out a sack that had been balled up and haphazardly kicked under the bed. Bilbo picked himself off the floor and stared at the bundle in his hands. On closer inspection, Bilbo discovered the ball wasn’t a sack at all but an oilskin, and it smelled faintly like Tho… dwarves.

Bilbo weighed his options carefully.

He was as rested as he was going to be, and traveling at night would help him gain on the distance the dwarves had already traveled. There would be dangers no matter what time of day he travelled, whether it was animals or people—though there was less of a chance encountering people in the night. If he did accidentally… well then he would have cover of darkness while the issue reverted. If he waited until dawn to leave Bree, then the dwarves could widen an already considerable distance gap.

After a moment more of consideration he balled up the oilskin again and shoved it into his pack.

Bilbo gave a silent farewell to what could be his last soft bed. Whether that would be temporary or permanent, only time would tell.

Chapter Text

For just a short moment Thorin had believed that they were in the clear. But then Gandalf had led them from the mouth of the cave opening and through an adjoining tunnel, which had conveniently opened up into the elvish cesspool known as Rivendell. The Wizard had taken advantage of not only the danger but their panic and herded them to the place Thorin had explicitly said they would not be going.

“I told you, Wizard, that I wanted nothing to do with elves,” Thorin had spat. He had been extremely tempted to accidentally shove Gandalf off the edge of the cliff.

Perhaps that was why the old fool had given him a fiery look.

They had descended down into the valley only to be rebuffed by some willowy elf steward or servant. He couldn’t quite understand the conversation between the elf and Gandalf as his elvish was quite rusty. The way the elf looked over him and his dwarves was almost comical, it looked like his head was about to pop, especially when Glóin angrily asked if he was insulting them.

For just a split second it looked as though they were being turned away, which would have been perfectly fine with Thorin, but in the end they were to stay. When the elf turned on his heels and ascended the stairs Gandalf turned back to them, gesturing toward the stairs with his staff.

“Is the lord of this city too good to greet us then?” Thorin asked the Wizard, still glaring up at him.

“Lord Elrond is leading a hunt for the orcs that found us on the border of his lands, if you must know.” Gandalf huffed.

There were no more orcs left to hunt, Thorin thought to himself. Whatever the thing was out there had killed many of the orcs that were pursuing them; if there were any left they would have ran if they were smart.

Recent events left them worn out, they hadn’t gotten any rest since the day before yesterday; begrudgingly, Thorin and his company followed Gandalf and the elf up the stairs.

They were shown to several rooms where they could rest until the elf lord returned, and the noon meal would be served. The company piled into separate rooms—Thorin and his nephews taking one while the other family groups split up into the remaining rooms. Fíli and Kíli wasted no time running off with a few others of the company to do some scouting of the elvish city, but Thorin opted to stay in their room.

So much for rest.

The rooms Thorin and his sister-sons were given were spacious, but small—dwarf sized . They were reminiscent of the rooms he had stayed in that one time he visited Mirkwood, but arguably better. Thorin had never visited Rivendell before this day, any communication between Erebor and the elven city were handled by ravens, or nobles and diplomats that were in Thrór’s disfavor at the time. And after the dragon, and Thranduil, Thorin swore to never deal with elves henceforth.

Yet here they were.

The main room had a couple funny looking elvish couches and chairs situated around a low sitting table, there was a desk pushed against one of the walls; shelves holding odd looking trinkets, as well as a few strange paintings, decorated the peach colored walls. There was a door that lead out to a balcony, poncy looking see-through curtains danced around on a gentle breeze that blew through the open door. Thorin’s lips curled in disgust, he would have rather took a chance with the orcs.

There were a few other doors; one presumably was the bedroom, while the others Thorin wasn’t so sure. He didn’t care to figure it out right that moment, but his legs carried him out onto the balcony. Thorin rested his hands down on the smooth stone railing, just the right size for a dwarf.

The valley opened up before him, the sun above poured gold down onto the buildings and foliage. Despite what he believed about the elves, Rivendell was beautiful in its on way; although, it was no dwarven stronghold. Were he more amiable towards the weed-eaters, Thorin might have acknowledged and appreciated the tranquility Rivendell seemed to exude. Even then he doubted it could sooth his restlessness this day.

The hobbit nor the beast would leave his mind. What kind of fool would run off as they were set upon by enemies? Worse yet, that thing was out there; it was ready to take down anything that stood in its path, which included his recent elven saviors. Thorin only hoped that the monster didn’t get Baggins. It would be a terrible way to go, and not even that infuriating being deserved to be ripped apart and devoured; he wouldn’t have wished that upon any but the worst of his enemies.

Perhaps proper rest would free him of such troubling thoughts.

Thoring stepped back into the main room and opened each door until he found the bedroom; the other doors led to a washroom and an empty closet. Of the two beds in the room Thorin picked the one closest to the single window in the bedroom. He shed all that he felt comfortable with—his fur-lined coat and boots—and settled down on the bed, not bothering with the bedclothes.

Sleep found him swiftly.

Even though the terrible visage of the beast and it’s path of destruction made an appearance a few times in his dreams, Thorin slept well and uninterrupted until his nephews returned. Lord Elrond had finally returned from his hunt, and it was nearing time for the evening meal. Having slept through lunch, Thorin was ravenous and ready for supper.

Lindir, the elf that had greeted them upon their arrival, had led them all to the lord’s house for the promise meal. They all took their seats at the two longer, low-sitting tables and watched the servants flitter about placing cutlery, cloth, and plates on the tables. Ten minutes later Gandalf sauntered in and quirked a brow at Thorin as he walked by, heading for the third table in the room which sat higher than the two the company now sat at. Thorin stood up and made his way over to the third table that Gandalf sat down at.

“It’s well past noon,” Thorin commented. “After what happened to us, I’m surprised the elves found anything that wasn’t bits and pieces of orcs to hunt.”

“I suspect such a monstrous creature caught Lord Elrond off-guard as much as us. I’m not at all surprised that he sought to remove such a thing from his lands.” Gandalf offered sagely, not rising to the obvious bait. “However they did find something out there.”

Thorin frowned. What could they have possibly found out there?

“My Lord Elrond,” Gandalf said as he stood up, smiling at their elven host.

The elf lord all but glided out onto terrace, his maroon robe flowing behind him.

Standing in the doorway where Elrond had entered from a pale and haggard looking Baggins, wearing elvish-style clothing, stood in the entryway.