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An Acorn and A Mountain

Chapter Text

Once upon a time, there was the Kingdom of Erebor and just outside its gates laid the bountiful town of Dale. In front of the royal palace were the markets and housings for servants and workers. King Thrain and Queen Dris ruled with a strict yet tolerant fist. Trading was abundant, there was peace and the kingdom had three strong heirs. The youngest was the young lady Dis. As the only daughter of the royal family, she was destined to follow studies and proper etiquette. This did not stop her, however, from training to be a fierce warrior. By the time she came of age, Dis was recognized around the lands as vicious yet graceful in court and the training field. She fell in love with a young guard, Vili, and with him had two sons. Fili, the shy yet joyful eldest brother and third in line to the throne; and Kili the young troublemaking toddler.

Their middle child was Frerin, a strong and mischievous warrior. He had no care for royal formalities instead dedicating his time to becoming one of the strongest fighters in the land. Of course, as he grew his troublesome ways never ceased. Frerin was often caught pranking nobles who came through Erebor halls, his victims seeing nothing but a flash of golden hair before all hell broke loose. It was no surprise that he was fawned after by many and feared by all those who harassed his family or friends.

Lastly, there was the eldest Durin sibling and the heir to the throne. Prince Thorin was a strong man; raven hair, piercing pale blue eyes and sharp features intimidating anyone in his sight. Those who knew him spoke highly of his dry humor and stunning wit. Outsiders knew that not only was he a strong fighter but also highly dedicated to his studies and people. It was no question that he would be a great king one day and with heirs secured in his nephews, the Durin line was strong. The royal family was in perfect harmony together and their kingdom flourished.

That was, until, panic broke out in the kingdom.

Thrain was assassinated before everyone’s eyes, Dris dying of heartbreak a few days later. Thorin was forced to take the throne and guide his people through the chaos. However, before he could even blink a civil war began between the Northern and Southern dignitaries in the palace. It conspired that a Southern noble had attacked the King but with limited evidence, the court could not continue the trial. Everyone waited with cautious breath until the next family member fell.

Vili was struck with a poison arrow as he walked to his next post not two weeks after the King and Queen’s demise. Fili was only ten, Kili eight. Thorin, Dis, and Frerin called together their most trusted men as they realized that their own home was no longer safe. Behind closed doors, the Company was forged.

In this group was Dwalin and Balin, cousins of the royals. Balin was Thorin’s head advisor; Dwalin was the Captain of the Royal Guard and his close friend. The Ri brother’s, especially Nori the Royal Spymaster, were used in this situation. Dori acted as the bodyguard for their children as the others worked, making sure no one came near them. Young Ori, who was Kili’s age, was able to provide a distraction for the grieving brothers while also becoming a lifelong friend. Bofur, Bombur, and Bifur had served the family as loyal servants for as long as any of the siblings could remember and pledged their loyalty to the remaining Durins. Lastly, Gloin and Oin who knowledge in accounting and medicine respectively provided added knowledge to their small group.

They trusted no one else.

Nori was able to learn who exactly the assassins were and how to dispose of them. It took months of sneaking around to make sure they caught everyone before Thorin ordered an open court. And in turn an open execution of treason.

The towns of Dale never heard of these noble feuds, everyone in the castle fearing that if news got out they could have a full blown war on them. Thorin sent the dignitaries back to their homes, focusing only on his family and people. The crisis was averted and Erebor went back to the somewhat peaceful kingdom it once was. However, their new king was cold and untrusting of any newcomers.

The Company worried about their friend and king. Thorin continued to see that they, along with his whole kingdom, were taken care of. But all those who visited only remembered his cold and unnerving eyes. He became distant from his family and friends, his love gone from his body.

One cold, winter night, an old man walked into the front gates of Erebor. As he passed through the merchant stalls and stalked into the royal palace none of the guards stopped him. They shook with fear at his imposing aura despite clearly seeing his jovial smile. The only one to ask the wanderer for information was none other than Dwalin. The man, who introduced himself as Gandalf, only asked for a night’s shelter from the roaring blizzard. Feeling pity, the guard led the man to the king’s receiving room.

Thorin listened to Gandalf’s pleas for shelter and food, offering the king a single rose. The young king was suspicious of how no one, not even the representatives of Dale, knew who the wanderer truly was. Fearful that this could be a hidden attack and disgusted at his haggard appearance, Thorin turned the man away.

Gandalf’s brows furrowed as he stood up to his full height, towering over even the tallest of guards. Thorin’s eyes grew wide as Gandalf’s voice boomed throughout the room.

“I warn you, King Thorin, that you should not judge by appearances.”

Confused by the man’s words, Thorin dismissed him once again and turned to leave. But a bright light blinded him as Gandalf was transformed into a powerful wizard right before his very eyes. The Company and his family gasped as Thorin fell to his knees. He begged the wizard for forgiveness, but it was all for not.

Gandalf had seen that there was no love nor mercy in his heart.

As punishment, he transformed Thorin into a hideous beast and placed a powerful spell over the castle. And all who lived there. The Company and his siblings, the closest people to him, were all turned to animated objects throughout the castle. Servants were turned into plates or silverware, never having the limited freedom the wizard granted to the others.

The days bled into years, the king, his kingdom and all those who lived there were forgotten by the world. Gandalf had erased all memory of them, from the minds of the people they loved and all other kingdoms who knew them.

But the rose the wizard had offered was truly enchanted. If he could learn to love and have mercy on another and earn their love in return by the time the last petal fell; the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. His family, friends, and servants remained in their new forms till the end of all days. As the years passed, Thorin fell into despair and lost all hope.

For who could ever learn to love a beast?

Chapter Text

8 Years Later:

As birds sang to the rising sun, Bilbo Baggins quickly got dressed. He wanted to get to the market as soon as possible so that he could hopefully be home in time to see his father before Bungo left. The markets of Esgaroth were less flourishing than the ones in their home of Dale, but travelers were always seen wandering around stalls and pubs. If Bungo was lucky, he could make a pretty penny off of those men. That was if Bilbo’s father would even get there on time.
Putting on his simple clothes and failing to fix his mop of curly blonde hair, Bilbo grabbed a basket and a pouch of coins before setting off into the market. The Baggins’ garden was still doing wonderfully so he would only need to get some bread, meats and dairy products they couldn’t produce themselves. Bungo left the garden, their few chickens and their horse Myrtle for Bilbo to take care of. He didn’t mind as it gave his father more time to work on his inventions.

Bilbo stopped by the small chicken coop next to their house and mentally added more chicken feed to his list. Perhaps even some nice apples for Myrtle as well. She favored Granny Smiths and Bilbo hoped they would be in stock. Quickly making sure his animals were fed the young man stepped out onto Bagshot Row.
Dale was a quiet place in the mornings, but Bilbo knew this peace would not last. Many workers, shopkeepers, travelers and Dale’s citizens would be buzzing around hoping to get the best deals before heading home. Bilbo hoped that he would be early enough to beat most of the crowd as he saw the Gamgee's opening up their stall. Hamfast was one of the most renowned farmers in Dale and was the one who taught Bilbo how to start his own garden. Bell, his wife, was an excellent baker and one of Bilbo’s truest friends along with Hamfast himself.

With them was all of their young brood. Hamson was ten and one of the brightest children Bilbo had ever met; always asking the man to tell him stories or help him with his arithmetic. As school was just starting for the young lad Bilbo was happy to do anything for him. Halfred was still too young to go to school, only being seven didn’t always have its perks. He wanted to be at school with his brother but settled for helping his family more. Daisy and May were five and two, respectively. Both of the young girls took after their mother and loved to bake. And always trying to steal Bilbo’s time away. When he came into their view, all four of the Gamgee children tackled him to the ground.

“Mister Bilbo!”

“We haven’t seen ya in so long!”

“Halfred, we saw him yesterday at luncheon.”

“Well that isn’t stopping you from hugging him either, is it Daisy?”

Bilbo smiled as he untangled himself from the arms of four grabby children and stood up to brush off the dust from his clothes. May raised her arms in a silent plea to be picked up, which Bilbo happily obliged. Hamfast laughed as his children began pulling the younger man over to their parents.

“Hello there, Bilbo,” the farmer beamed. Bilbo smiled back and somehow gave his friend a hug despite having a young child wrapped around him.

“Good morning, Bilbo my dear!” Bell called out from the stall. Fresh bread and other pastries started to pile on the front counter and finally, the woman came out. Her hair was pulled into a tight ponytail, flour covering her hands and apron. Bilbo couldn’t help but smile at her as he handed May to Hamfast. The farmer quickly started to give his children small tasks to keep themselves preoccupied. Bilbo silently thanked the man so that he could talk to Bell in private.

“Hello Bell,” he paused, making sure none of the children could hear them before continuing. “Is the morning sickness starting to ease up? If not I can go to the Bolger’s apothecary today and get you something if you’d like,” he whispered as he saw Bell gently rub her protruding belly. The fifth child was just a few months away and Bilbo was terribly excited for his friend. However, her health seemed to take a turn for the worse this time around and Bilbo didn’t want any of the children to worry about their mother. If he could help her at all, he would do so no questions asked.

Bell chuckled lightly before hugging the only son of Bungo and Belladonna. She had promised Belladonna on her deathbed that she would look after the young boy like an older sister. Bilbo didn’t remember much of that day except for the smell of pungent medicine and hot tears streaming down his face. And his mother making Bell promise her to keep her son safe. Of course, that didn’t stop Bilbo from always making sure Bell always had everything she ever needed. With the way Bell was smiling tightly, though, Bilbo knew she wouldn’t let him get away with it easily today.

“I will not have you go out of your way to help me, Bilbo,” the woman voiced her stubbornness as they pulled away. The younger of the two narrowed his eyes at her in obvious defiance before looking down at his basket. Ah, of course! He had to return a novel to Pimpernel today and he could ask her if she knew if Amelia had a new stock of anise and peppermint.

“Bell, I have to go to Nellie anyway. She’ll be able to ask Amelia if there’s any new stock. I won’t be going out of my way, but we both know I would anyway,” Bilbo countered. Bell seemed to think this through before finally surrendering. They both knew she needed to be as healthy as she could and once Bilbo set his mind to something no one could stop him. They set to putting the last of the goods from the farm and bakery out on the stall. The children, minus Hamson who was now on his way to school, all went to the center fountain to play with the ducks and any others nearby. Bilbo made his purchases, which he failed to persuade the two to let him pay full price, and eventually prepared himself to leave their stall. However, he had one last thing to ask them.

“Do tell me, are there any names you are thinking of?” Bilbo inquired while shifting his now almost full basket onto his left arm. The young man may not have had any siblings but he always treasured the Gamgee children with his whole heart, along with his many nieces and nephews. His curiosity on the newest member of his friend’s family was gnawing at him.

Hamfast smiled at his wife as he brought her closer in his arms. “For a girl, we were thinking of Petunia,” he answered and Bilbo grinned in return. A beautiful name for a surely beautiful child in the most wholesome family he could think of. Bell was the next to answer. “If it’s a boy, I told Hamfast I want to call him Samwise. Quite the proper name, isn’t it?”

Bilbo nodded and smiled at them. They were such a lovely couple, happy with the few things they had and their gorgeous children. It caused a pang of hurt and...longing to have that kind of love for someone. His father’s true love was taken from him when Bilbo was still very young but their love was a powerful burning sun. Bilbo’s closest friends had found that love in someone already and while Bungo still wanted to keep Bilbo all to himself they both knew he would have to marry someone. Soon.

And that someone would not be anyone Bilbo loved. That he knew for certain.

After saying his goodbyes and buying a few more necessities around the market, the young man found himself at the front of Bolger Apothecary. Amelia was an expert in the medical field but she excelled in herbal remedies. It was one of Bilbo’s favorite places to visit and it helped that her wife, Pimpernel or better known as Nellie, was one of the other few bookworms in town. The woman collected all genres and authors to add to her large library which she openly shared with Bilbo. A small chime echoed through the shop as Bilbo stepped inside. Ginger, aloe, arnica, chamomile and other herbs were meticulously stored. Some dried and hanging from the ceiling along with the lavender Amelia favored, some in jars while others were in boxes. Bilbo knew he would never find what he was looking for by himself and went up to the front counter.

Sitting on a small, cushioned chair was Amelia Bolger. Her dark locks were pulled into a loose bun and many curls freed themselves from their ribbon prison. She was currently sucked into a book, The Many Advantages of Foreign Medicinal Herbs by Radagast Brown. A certainly strenuous title but Bilbo was not one to judge. Coughing politely, he was able to bring his friend back to reality. Her dark eyes light up when she saw her old childhood friend. They had both meet by thanks of Nellie, the rambunctious daughter of the Boffin family simply had to have her two closest friends meet when they were younger. Little did they all know back then that eventually Nellie would become a Bolger and that simple Amelia would be able to calm her dear heart's adventurous spirit with the power of books. Nellie would get so lost in them that it was a journey all on its own. Of course, this is what started the whole addiction to finding new novels but at least her wife would not have a heart attack at the prospect of Nellie getting hurt on an adventure.

“Bilbo!” Amelia exclaimed as she jumped from her seat, quickly crossing the border between them to give Bilbo a warm hug. The man smiled as they pulled away, always appreciative to have such wonderful friends here. Granted, he lived most of his life in Dale. But when his father had moved them away from the Shire, away from where Belladonna died, Bilbo never thought he would be able to speak to another person; let alone smile and laugh. He was lucky the Gamgees moved with them, seeing a promising future in a new town, but Hamfast and Bell were already married and ten years his seniors. Meeting Nellie and Amelia changed his life for the better.

“How are you on this fine day?” the woman asked, now busy trying to fix her hair. Bilbo laughed at her before he clamped a hand over his mouth at the sight of her lethal glare. He knew that being on her bad side was a death wish.

Quickly composing himself, Bilbo responded. “Very well, my friend. Though I need your help with something.” At this, Amelia raised an eyebrow and skeptically looked him over.

“You don’t look ill.”

“It’s not for me, it’s for-”

“Bungo? What are his symptoms? Fever, headache, any-”

“No, Amelia! Just listen for one bloody moment, would you? It’s for Bell. Do you have any of the anise and peppermint tea that helps her so much with her morning sickness?”

Amelia pursed her lips in thought before nodded. “Yes in fact I do. It may take me a few minutes to find some other things to help her though. I’ll only give the best for the Gamgee family,” she said, smiling brightly. Bilbo let her get to work as he headed towards the back of the shop. At the end of a long hallway was a twisting spiral staircase that led to the Bolger home. Climbing up, Bilbo heard the pacing footsteps of one very nervous Nellie Bolger. When he finally made his way to her library he could see her short curly hair bouncing with every step she took. Her hands kept clenching her dress as she stared miserably out the window before continuing her fretting. At this rate, she would ruin their oak floors.

Nellie turned to see Bilbo and immediately ran to him, nearly crushing him in an embrace. The young man, not used to seeing her so distressed, lifted up her face to look into her eyes. Tears were building before she buried her face into his shoulder again.

“Oh dear, Nellie, what on earth happened?”

He was only meet with sniffles and little trembles. She was two years younger than him and Bilbo treated her like a little sister. If something was this troubling to her he knew it must've been terrible. After a few moments, Nellie finally pulled away and Bilbo gave her his handkerchief which she gratefully accepted. Taking a few deep breaths, the woman pulled herself together and finally looked at Bilbo with the strength and determination she always held. Whatever this was, Bilbo was ready to listen.

“He’s back.”

Bilbo tried not to let his stomach drop nor let his worry show. This could be any person. Many of men had left Dale the past two months and the last time Bilbo had saw...him; there was a strong possibility he would not be coming back.

“Who, Nellie?” he questioned. Her forest green eyes narrowed as her entire face tensed up. That was definitely not the right thing to say, apparently.

“Don’t play games, Bilbo! I saw him with Gollum walking around the market today! You barely dodged him as you came here!”

Well, there went any hope Bilbo had left. Gollum, the poor town fool of Dale, was mistreated by many people. Save for some friendly merchants, the Bolger’s, the Gamgee’s and Bilbo himself. They played a game of riddles every time they met, which made Gollum love to seek the young man out. This wouldn’t have been a problem unless a certain someone didn’t use the man as a Bilbo locater. The poor soul had been left homeless by his family only to be taken by him. It wasn’t an act of kindness, no Bilbo knew better than that. He only gave Gollum clothes, a home and one single ring that the man wore on a chain. It was the only thing he could claim as his; his precious. It was horrible how awful Gollum was treated and everyone knew that they could do nothing to save him. Well, that was the mind thought of those who didn’t worship the ground that he walked on.

Smaug, the greatest calamity of Bilbo’s life.

The man was a veteran of war and he never let anyone in Dale forget the sacrifices he made. Nor did he let anyone forget how splendid and grand and oh so perfect he was. A narcissistic, egotistic, greedy and vain human being that Bilbo absolutely despised. Unfortunately, it seemed that Smaug couldn’t get enough of him.

Three years ago, three whole years, Smaug had begun to court him...though it seemed that the man only wanted Bilbo to praise him. There were moments when Smaug was charming and sometimes his gifts were thoughtful, but every day was filled with him hunting Bilbo down only to want to bask in adoration that the younger man never gave. Bilbo was “As stubborn as a bull, as brilliant as the sun and as tempting as a vault of gold,” according to Smaug. Obviously, Smaug only went after the greatest of prizes. That was evident enough during his hunting trips. While most men came back with rabbits or the occasional doe, Smaug would return with bucks and wild hogs. He adorned himself with the finest clothing and jewelry Dale could offer and back then he made it clear that Bilbo was the only person he would settle for.

He liked the challenge. Bilbo did not.

The young man hid from Smaug daily and when they did speak he made it painfully obvious that he did not wish to marry the man. Not now, not ever. Gollum had begged Bilbo to consider the marriage. “We could play the game of riddles all day! And he’s not too bad to live with; you’ll only have to clean and cook and do as he says. It’s simple!” But Bilbo told him no, just as he did with the Gamgee’s and all the others who wanted him to get married off. Even Bard, the ruler of Dale and a good friend of Bungo, wished to see him married to someone soon. Though Bard showed his distaste for Smaug he was happy that a person of such high seating in their city was interested in the young man. Bard’s children, luckily, were on Bilbo’s side. Bilbo had turned away suitors before and perhaps it was his own fault of doing so that made him such a tempting target to Smaug. But Bilbo could not marry someone who he did not love. Especially if they would take his freedom away. And that was exactly what Smaug would do.

But those problems had left Bilbo two months ago when Smaug, Gollum, and a small hunting party left to Mirkwood; one of the largest forests in all of the lands. Many rare beasts were said to live there, though Lord Thranduil told everyone that no such fantastical things ever occurred in his forests. Dale, Esgaroth, and Mirkwood had good relations so luckily the party was allowed to hunt there. And, better yet, Smaug would be gone for a very very long time. Bilbo hoped that Smaug would never return, hopefully finding a new and willing partner or getting lost in the dense forest. But, of course, luck was never on Bilbo’s side.

“Do you think he saw me come in?” Bilbo inquired as he rushed over to the window. Sure enough, there he was. Tall body covered in a velvet, ruby red coat. His boats newly shined and his inky black hair a signal of doom to Bilbo. He was trying to look his best, that was for sure. And in his hands was a bouquet of flowers. Yellow daffodils, for new beginnings and future success. Blue violets, symbolizing affection. Jasmines, meaning love and sensuality while also showing nobility and grace. Bilbo snorted at that one; Smaug couldn’t help but compliment himself at every given opportunity. And lastly in the unfortunately beautiful arrangement, were forget-me-nots. By Yavanna’s tears that was terribly romantic. It all meant so many things. Never forget my love, my heart is yours and Bilbo’s personal favorite; authentic love bursting with memories. How Smaug was able to find out that those small yet beautiful creations of nature were Bilbo’s favorite flower, he did not know. What he did know is that it made him want to destroy the flowers as soon as possible.

“Oh Bilbo,” Nellie muttered, bringing the man out of his thoughts. He knew she hated Smaug with a passion as she was never one for having her friends tormented and bothered. “I wish he got lost in those woods! Curse him and his persistence! Damn his name and belongings! I shall march down there and give that snake a piece of my mind!”

As the furious woman was about to march off, Bilbo quickly pulled her arm back. Looking up at him in confusion, Nellie stopped and waited for an explanation.

“I need to face him myself. Though I would like to take a part of your strength with me, if I could?” he spoke with pleading eyes. Understanding immediately, Nellie grabbed Bilbo’s basket and replaced his book with two new ones. Hopefully trying to get him to stay inside for as long as he could and give him something to focus on when his father left. Smiling in gratitude, Bilbo hugged his friend. Nellie looked at him one more time before staring at the window.

“If he bothers you anymore I will not hesitate to chop his berries off.”

A moment of silence passed before the two of them were laughing like fools. Amelia, apparently having seen Smaug lurking outside her shop, came upstairs then and she smiled at the two. They were just like children again, all happy and full of joy. Nellie smiled at her wife before running to give her kisses. Amelie laughed, lifted the young woman and spun her around in the air before turning to Bilbo. She pulled out the herbs Bell needed and put her hand up when the man started to pull of some coins to pay.

“I’ll deliver the package to Bell today, all free of charge. Go home as quickly as you can,” she paused and gave her friend a deep hug. “You are strong; he will back down eventually.”

As comforting as the words were, Bilbo wasn’t sure they were true.

Stepping out of the apothecary was like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. As soon as Smaug saw Bilbo, he puffed out his chest and smiled with all his perfect teeth; including the abnormally sharp canines. If the look in his strange golden eyes were anything to go by, Bilbo wasn’t getting out of this situation easily.

“Good afternoon, Bilbo,” Smaug practically purred out. Oh, he was definitely proud of himself on this day. Coming back early from a trip, brand new clothes and a beautiful bouquet that he was just itching to give to the younger man. Gollum looked at Bilbo with wide blue eyes full of hope that today would be the day Bilbo accepted Smaug. Hating to disappoint the somewhat childish man, Bilbo gently smiled at the two.

“I’m glad to see you both returned home safely. I’ve heard the pub just isn’t the same without you there,” Bilbo commented. Polite chatter was always a good way to get out of sticky situations. He learned as much from dealing with many unsavory relatives. Smaug’s eyes glistened with a dangerous mischief and Bilbo wanted nothing more than to run back to Bag End as fast as his legs could carry him.

“I’m glad we came back early too, my dear,” Smaug countered the neutral comment with a sickeningly sweet remark. Of course, he would, Bilbo chastised himself. What a foolish hope that Smaug would’ve moved on. Gollum finally moved forward and smiled at Bilbo, who happily returned it.

“Mister Gollum, I have a new riddle for you,” Bilbo proudly stated, which immediately lit up the man's somewhat sickly face. Bilbo hoped some of the other hunting members were kind to him and let Gollum share a tent, not wanting to imagine the poor man sleeping outside in the cold. Knowing Smaug, he wouldn’t stoop as low as to have even the most docile creature share something with him. Except for Bilbo. That thought made the young man want to vomit.

“Oh! Please do share, Master Bagginses!”

The slight mispronunciation of Bilbo’s last name was always endearing and giving Gollum his brightest smile, the man began his riddle. “Thirty white horses stand on a red hill. First they champ, then they stamp and then they stand still.”

Gollum and even Smaug seemed somewhat confused by the riddle. Bilbo was quite impressed with himself until his unwanted suitor smiled wickedly at him. Bending down a few inches, Smaug leaned into BIlbo’s ear.

“Quite clever of you, Bilbo. Quite clever indeed.”

Bilbo took a step back and narrowed his eyes, causing Smaug to laugh at him. Laugh! The audacity of this man truly made Bilbo’s blood boil! Biting his tongue to hold back a snarky remark, the blonde turned away and focused on Gollum. Gears were turning in his head before his eyes finally popped open.

“Teeth!”

Smiling and giving a proper applause, Bilbo congratulated the man for answering correctly. Gollum promised to return to Bilbo tomorrow and give the man a riddle that would surely stump him. Bilbo looked forward to that despite having the confidence that no problem could ever confuse him. Smaug didn’t seem as impressed and quickly threw a small coin purse at Gollum.

“Go buy some things for dinner, Gollum. And don’t dilly dally; just head straight home,” he ordered. The small man picked up the coin purse, said his goodbyes and ran off to the market. Hopefully, Hamfast still had some nice produce left for him to purchase. Smaug returned to Bilbo with a fond smile on his face. “I’ve missed you, Bilbo. I hope my absence hasn’t made any other...unworthy suitor too bold to approach you.” He must’ve thought that was just the most charming thing to say; as if he had any claim over the young man. Bilbo let out a breathy laugh before looking out over Dale.

“No, in fact, these past few weeks have been quite silent.” And peaceful.

“Well, I’m glad then. Here, my sweet, I bought these for you.”

The yellow and blue bouquet was quickly shoved into Bilbo’s arms. He was lucky that his basket had fit everything in it, otherwise, he would be overloaded with everything. Not that Smaug would care; he probably already planned for Bilbo to be his personal shopping cart when they went out. Gollum would have at least a break from being the man's personal pack mule for a while.

“Oh these are beautiful, thank you. Though I’m surprised you did not find someone else to focus your charms on while in Mirkwood,” Bilbo responded. Smaug laughed, causing nearby crowds of people to look at them. Some seemed ecstatic that Bilbo wasn’t pushing the man away just yet; while the many lads and lasses who fawned over Smaug glared at the two. Fantastic.

After composing himself, Smaug wrapped an arm around smaller shoulders while his lips curled into a terrifying smile. “Why would I ever need some fancy foreigner when I had you back home? Distance makes the heart grow fonder, Bilbo.”

Great. Just great. Slinking his way out of Smaug’s pinning grasp, Bilbo began to walk away. Smaug followed, as usual, and they fell into a typical discussion. The hunter boasting about his kills and how much money he made of off them. Then, of course, he would try to impress Bilbo about how the other hunters failed to match his incredible skill. It bothered the young man how easy it was for Smaug to pick up their usual routine like no time had passed and how he ignored that Bilbo was not at all interested. Luckily they made it to Bagshot Row fairly quickly, giving Bilbo an opportune time to escape from this dreadful conversation. Smaug stiffened as he saw Bag End come into view and quickly stepped in front of the other.

“Shall we head to The Prancing Pony? I heard they have a new shipment of delectable fish in store for everyone. My treat,” he grinned. Bilbo shook his head before stepping around the other man.

“I do not know if you heard me while we were walking,” the younger spoke already knowing Smaug didn’t, “but Bungo is leaving today. You know I love to spend time with him before he goes.”

Golden eyes narrowed at the incoming green front door. Bilbo quickly swallowed his fear hoping that Smaug would just leave him be. The man smiled in mock politeness and nodded. “Of course, of course. I shall see you later then,” he finished with a flourish and stalked off. Bilbo was very lucky that the man let him go so easily, otherwise, it would be another tiring day of trying to outwit Smaug.

Stepping into his home was very relieving. He hadn’t expected his day to go sour with the unexpected return of his unrelenting tormentor, but now that he was home he could distract himself with chores. Putting the groceries away, restocking the chicken feed, brushing Myrtle, cleaning. It didn’t take long until Bilbo was able to sit down and look at the books Nellie had given him.

Macbeth and Hamlet, both by William Shakespeare. He supposed it made sense as BIlbo never read from this author before. The name was legendary, of course, but he never had the time nor the opportunity to sit down and appreciate these works of literature. Nellie truly was trying to make sure he stayed inside while Bungo was away.

Speaking of Bungo, it was already late afternoon and Bilbo didn’t want his father traveling on an empty stomach. He stretched before heading off to make a nice meal. Something light that would make the man tired on this trip but also something quite filling to keep his energy up. A nice beef stew should work nicely, Bilbo thought to himself as he hurried to the kitchen. Picking up a large pot and setting it on the stove, Bilbo quickly got to make his father’s favorite stew. After pouring water into the pot he began heating up some oil and beef in a skillet. Soon the recipe was the only thing on his mind and he fell into an easy routine. Sear the beef until brown on all sides before transferring to the pot. Cut potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery before adding those too. Sprinkle in salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, bay leaves and allspice into the mix before letting it all simmer. The kitchen was filled with the enchanting aroma of a homemade meal and without thinking, Bilbo began to set the small table for two.

Luckily the smell of food was enough to draw Bungo out of his workshop. He inhaled deeply, sighing as the memories of making this dish with his family filled his mind. His son thankfully inherited the skills of a chef from his mother. In fact, Bilbo was practically another version of her.

“Bilbo, I see you’ve been busy today,” the old man commented as he sat at the table. Bilbo poured him a cup of tea before cutting small pieces of bread for them to munch on until the stew was finished.

“Yes, I would’ve been home earlier if Smaug didn’t bother to walk me home,” the blonde responded with an edge of hatred. Bungo laughed at his son’s obvious distaste in his suitor before frowning.

“Smaug is back already?”

“Unfortunately. And he had the nerve to get me those while also being as cocky as ever! I don’t know how everyone else tolerates him,” Bilbo complained pointing at the bouquet of flowers he put on the windowsill. No need to try to save them when he didn’t want any of Smaug’s gifts in his house.

Bungo rubbed his chin before looking up at his son. “He’s not as horrible as you make him out to seem. He could provide for you when-”

“Oh, not you too! Father please I hate him, you know this!”

“Peace, my boy. I am not happy about this either but...I’m growing old. That’s obvious. I will not have you stay around here to take care of me when Smaug could give you a proper life.”

Bilbo scrunched his nose before turning away to finish the stew. They were served in silence and as Bilbo sat down in his chair, Bungo saw his mind thinking. The brilliant brain his son had was already thinking of a way to convince his father he was fine alone. “I don’t want to fight before you leave,” Bilbo finally said before beginning to eat. They would talk about this when Bungo got back from Esgaroth, that was for sure. But for now they ate and laughed and all seemed right in their small pocket of the world.

-~-

Bungo could have blamed many things on why he got lost. Leaving Bilbo behind was never a good thing especially when his son had turned down Smaug right in front of his face while they were finishing loading the cart with his paintings and music boxes. Bungo had made sure Myrtle was strapped in before turning to see the two bickering. Well, Smaug was instigating and Bilbo was telling him to leave. The man eventually did listen to Bilbo but not before wishing Bungo a safe trip. That seemed to make Bilbo’s mood even worse.

Yes, Bungo could blame it all on his worrying for his son. He also could have argued that the impending storm had made him hurry and rush past signs. In truth, he knew he was on the wrong path when no bridge came into view. It was his own pride of knowing exactly where he was that made this whole mess worse. They were still in the forest but as they went deeper and deeper Bungo knew that he truly had messed up. The signs that were there were faded beyond recognition; all except for one.

Erebor

The name seemed so familiar but Bungo could not figure out why. Perhaps an old town? If he followed it maybe he could get help and in the morning head back to Dale. He’d rather not have Bilbo worry about him and perhaps they could go to the markets together. With a new plan, Bungo set off in the direction of Erebor.

What he saw was most definitely not a town.

Overgrown vegetation covered the steel gates that were thankfully open. Old market stalls and servant homes were abandoned and standing in the center of it all was a grandiose gothic castle. It stood on a rugged slope, invading rose bushes laid against half-ruined walls. The windows dark and gaping as if heading into an eternal abyss. The battlements glistened with ice in the crystal cold air, their ragged outlines blending into the rocks behind. This was wrong, it shouldn’t have been so cold here. It was almost as if this castle were trapped in a permanent frosty state, a cold wasteland while the rest of the world enjoyed a gentle spring.

Bungo was about to turn away when he heard the howling of wolves behind him. No, he couldn’t travel in that especially if they decided to attack Myrtle. Cautiously he dismounted his trusty horse and led her to the castle. There was thankfully a covered stable near the front and Myrtle would be protected from the elements and creatures of the night. Bungo quickly unlatched her from the cart so that if they needed to leave quickly they could. He was troubled that such fresh hay and even water was available. Did...did someone actually still live here?

“Stay here, girl. I’ll go see if anyone is home and see if maybe we could rest here for the night,” Bungo said to the already feasting Myrtle. She snorted in response before turning her attention to the long grass growing inside.

Gathering his courage, the old man stepped back into the chilly air of this strange night. The grand door seemed to impose itself on Bungo making him feel incredibly small. He lifted a hand and knocked on the door. No response. He pounded one more time and was about to turn away when the door silently opened. It didn’t groan like an untouched door would. A chill ran down Bungo’s spin but nonetheless, he stepped inside. No one was there. Not a butler or royal or even a simple homeless villager. Bungo felt incredibly terrified of the empty castle. How did the door open? How did-

“Fili, look!”

“Shut up, Kili, I see him!”

Voices. They sounded like two young teens, perhaps brothers by the way they were bickering. That was some relief, maybe they had fled their home and were in search of somewhere to stay. “Hello?” Bungo called out as he went forward. “I don’t mean to be a bother but the weather and wolves are making travel very difficult. I was hoping to rest for the night.” Nothing. As he made it into the main receiving room, the door slammed shut. The man practically jumped out of his skin and was left in pure darkness.

Before he knew it, six small lights illuminated the dark room. Bungo hurried over to them and saw two of the most beautiful candlesticks he ever saw. They seemed to be modeled off of young princes, each having a candle on their head and holding one in each hand. He traced over some of the designs, completely mesmerized how one had a mustache and the other seemed years younger. But they belonged together like they came from the same maker. “Exquisitely made,” he muttered to himself and if possible to two candles burned brighter. Picking up the two, he headed further into the castle. He was appreciative of the light these found candles brought him, but the cold was still shaking Bungo to his core. Suddenly, a large flame bursted into existence. The room, which Bungo could now see was a living room perhaps for the royal family, was lit up. It seemed clean but filled with many strange things.

On top of the now roaring fireplace were two feather dusters, one with a strange star-shaped handle and the other a small and more delicate version. Next to the fire was a harpsichord, battered and beaten but obviously cared for. On its surface was an old clock, ticking away as if it had no clue the world around it was frozen. Bungo put the two candlesticks on either side of the clock and looked around the room more. To the left of the mantle was a small medicine cabinet, strange placement for such an item but perhaps the family wouldn’t want to run all the way to the infirmary if a child was hurt. Nearby the couch was a small cart with a beautiful teapot and matching teacup. The pot, while seemingly normal, had a strange top; almost like a hat. The cup was very large and could probably hold three servings of tea in one sitting. Finally he saw a hat rat with a chip on the front; still beautiful in its own right.

Bungo cautiously sat down on the cushiony furniture and looked around for any sign of human life. To his dismay, it seemed the two voices he heard earlier had no intention of coming out. He coughed and brought himself closer to the fire.

“Thank you, whoever and wherever you are, for your hospitality,” he called out. Maybe if he showed he meant no harm his host would come out. Bungo swore he felt eyes all on him, especially a heavy piercing one.

“He’s nice, don’t you think?” he heard from his right. It was the younger of the two voices again. Kili, he remembered.

“Yes, nice manners but he seems ill. Perhaps the chill from outside,” an older voice responded. Three people? All afraid to show their faces? They were whispering and probably thought he couldn’t hear them. Maybe it was best to let them keep thinking that.

“Balin, we can’t help him more than we already had. Uncle is probably already furious we let him in,” the oldest teen spoke calmly. Fili, yes that was his name. The older voice was Balin then. At least Bungo had names now.

“Do you think he has a ward? Someone close to Thorin’s age? It could be worth a-”

“Shush!” A new voice interrupted Kili. He seemed around the young teen's age, voice light and fluttery. He was also in front of Bungo, perhaps hiding in the dark. The old man kept his head down as he heard movement.

“Ori, you can’t just move around like that,” Fili chastised though he seemed lenient on criticizing the new speaker.

“We all need to be quiet before he hears us,” Ori hissed back in a hushed tone and the old man realized Ori was over by the original group now. Bungo looked up at the mantle and held back a gasp. The smaller feather duster was gone from its original place. Turning to look at where the group was talking, he saw the missing item next to the older candlestick. The arms of the candles had moved and now the clock stopped ticking. The small and large hand of it almost made a split beard.

He also couldn’t help but notice they all had faces.

They were somewhat human but also like the maker had etched them in. Still, they had eyes that blinked, blinked at him. Bungo stood up in a hurry before backing away. One candle jumped down from the harpsichord (it had legs!?) and headed over to the man. “Please, don’t be scared.”

Oh, sweet Yavanna. That was Kili. Those voices came from the...the objects in the castle. Bungo was panicking, terrified out of his mind and as he backed up he hit something warm. And fury. And alive.

A deep growl emanated from the creature behind him. Bungo quickly spun around and his entire being shook with fear. Standing in front of him was a large beast, covered in dark fur. Its hand like paws had dagger-sharp claws at the end and horns protruding from his head. Somehow the beast wore a large cloak and ripped pants that ended at the knee of wolf-like legs. Bungo had seen nothing like it before and surely it was the thing of nightmares.

“What are you doing in my home?” it growled out. Bungo couldn’t open his mouth and he saw icy blue eyes narrow in frustration. Kili and Fili jumped forward on the mantle and tried to get the beast’s attention.

“Uncle Thorin! Please, we were just helping him! It’s freezing outside and there are wolves and-”

Kili was cut off by the beast, Thorin, snarling at the candles. His nephews? This was too much for Bungo to understand. Was this a curse placed upon the mystery royals? This eternal suffering as objects and monsters? Forgotten in the cold by the rest of the world? Bungo backed away from the beast who had turned his attention back to the old man.

“P-please sir, I’m sorry for intruding. I...I didn’t t-think anyone lived here and I needed a place t-to stay,” he stammered out. The cold outside was nothing compared to the fear inside here. He couldn’t stay and die, he needed to get out and get home to Bilbo. His eyes widened at the thought of his son and he was quickly filled with determination to get out alive.

“I don’t appreciate unwanted guests,” the wretched beast rumbled. Bungo nodded and looked over his shoulder to make sure he didn’t trip over anything. The harpsichord was now moving as well, the keys making a grim expression. Was everything alive here?

“I am deeply sorry, please let me make my exit and I shall never bother you again.”

“How do I know you will not tell others of my home? Will you send them to kill me and my family?”

“N-no, sir! I would never!”

The beast glared at him for a moment before turning away with a dismissive huff. Bungo took this as a chance to turn and run, already thinking of ways to get help. Smaug knew these roads better than anyone and traveled most days off trail. If he got out and stayed alive during the night he could call out for help and hopefully Smaug or his hunting party would hear him.

“Just get Smaug,” he whispered to himself as he headed out.

“What did you say?”

Bungo turned to see the beast watching him with careful eyes. The door was so close to his reach and if he could just make it to Myrtle they could ride off.

“I didn’t-”

“Smaug is a dangerous hunter, I remember his hotheadedness.” The beast paused before looking intently at Bungo. “You mean to tell him of me.”

“No! I just need to find him to help me get home!”

“Lies! I give you a chance to live and you lie to me! Is that how you show gratefulness? You wish to send a hunter to destroy my family!”

The entire castle seemed to shake with the beast’s rage. Thorin, if that even was his true name, lurched forward and tried to grab Bungo but the man somehow made it out of his reach. Running out the door and trying to ignore the roaring behind him, Bungo made it back to Myrtle. She was panicking almost as much as the old man but they were miraculously able to set off before the castle doors swung open again. The wind screamed around Bungo as he urged Myrtle faster and faster. He swore he could hear voices encouraging him to make haste which he was doing without a fault. Wolves or not he would be safer out in the wilderness than in a cursed castle with a horrible monster as its king.

Bam!

They didn’t even make it past the gates. The beast had jumped in front of them and landed with a terrifying thud. His eyes glowed with rage and hate, yet Bungo could see an unknown fear. The old man began to shake, from the cold or the panic of being killed he did not know. Myrtle, the ever brave horse was in full survival mode, her legs pushing them forward in a hurried attempt to escape. Yet, in one swift motion, the beast grabbed Bungo off of the steed who, not noticing her missing rider, rode off into the night.

Leaving Bungo Baggins at the mercy of a terrible beast.

-~-

It was already past mid-day. Bilbo knew he shouldn’t be worried; perhaps the merchants of Esgaroth were just keeping Bungo enticed in conversation. But this had happened before and Bungo always promised his son he would be home before the respected time for lunch passed. They were reaching supper time now.
Even reading the wonderful books Nellie had lent him could calm the young man down. He was panicking and dreadful thoughts all raced through his head. What if he got sick on the road? The weather was particularly nasty last night and an old man had no reason to be out there. What about the wolves? Granted they didn’t usually attack travelers but a lone man with a well-fed horse? Twas a perfect target for a hungry pack.

It would do no good to sit and worry all day. Bilbo decided he would head out to town and see if anyone had any news on his father. Grabbing a cloak to keep the light rain from ruining his shirt, Bilbo set off in search of Bungo.

The Gamgee’s, as resourceful and observant as they were, had no news about Bungo what so ever. Nellie and Amelia were at a loss as well though they promised him his father would be home safely and soon. The merchants and neighbors and school boys and farmers and everyone else Bilbo could think of to speak too had not seen the man since his departure yesterday. Thinking off all the places his father could’ve went too Bilbo headed off towards the Great Hall.
Bard kept his doors open for all to come and speak to him. Luckily no one seemed to be with the Lord of Dale at the moment and Bilbo was quickly able to address this issue.

“My, that does seem so unlike him. And you're sure no one has seen him?”

“Yes, my lord. I was praying beyond hope that he would’ve stopped by here but-”

“Bilbo!” Smaug interrupted as he marched into the receiving room. Gollum was shuffling behind him along with a few members of the hunting party. Bilbo eyed Azog and his son Bolg, two abnormally pale and large men who fortunately didn’t bother the young man as much as Smaug did. Still, it was a blessing that they stayed back near the entrance rather than crowding Bilbo like their leader was doing.

“I’ve been hearing all day about how you’ve been looking for your father,” Smaug began as he frowned slightly. Bilbo narrowed his eyes skeptically before nodded in response.

“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we have found something.”

Bilbo’s stomach dropped, his fists shaking. This was awful, absolutely awful! Whatever Smaug had found would certainly spell bad things for Bungo’s situation. He didn’t know what they meant; was it a torn piece of cloth? Blood? His...his body? Bilbo felt tears building in his eyes as he stared at the taller man for an answer.

“Myrtle came storming into town just a few minutes ago,” Smaug finally said. Bilbo blinked before rushing past everyone in the hall. Sure enough, a few stablemen were trying to calm down the raging horse. Bilbo ignored everyone’s shouting as he focused on calming down his horse himself. After a few moments, Myrtle focused on Bilbo and they looked intently at one another.

“Take me to him.”

The horse neighed and allowed Bilbo to settle on top of her. Smaug, Gollum, and Bard were staring at him in confusion, along with many of the townsfolk. Bell Gamgee pushed past the crowd as the young man began to ride off.

“Where are you going?!”

“To find my father!”

Before anyone could respond, Myrtle took off out of Dale. Bilbo had no idea where the horse was going to take him but he trusted her to lead him to his father. Was it foolish to rush off out of the blue to find Bungo? Yes, of course, it was. But there was no telling how much danger Bungo was in and Bilbo was not going to let his father down.

Chapter Text

The screeching wind was nothing compared to the sound in Bilbo’s mind. Myrtle had been carrying him without slowing down for over, what Bilbo assumed, was half an hour. Wherever she was taking him seemed to be a whole new world on its own with freezing rain and dead trees almost swallowing them into an abyss.

Myrtle came to a slow stop before an old sign. Erebor. The young man’s eyes widened at the name, so familiar yet so strange. It almost sounded like something one would hear from a fairytale. Shaking his head Bilbo urged Myrtle to go down an old path hoping that it would lead to wherever his father ended up at.

Sure enough, the path through the forest did lead them to Erebor. Of course, it was nothing that Bilbo expected. An old abandoned castle and marketplace overrun with plants. It was devastating, how a once surely beautiful place was left to rot by the rest of the world. There was a sickness here; one that you could not cure with medicine. It seemed to be a curse, a heavy plague trapped in this small pocket of the world and left to destroy any light that came through. If anyone tried to fix this place with gentle, patient hands; they were surely left to do it without help.

If Bungo was here, he’d only stopped for any hope that someone could help him. Bilbo didn’t want to think about how sick or scared his father was.

Hopping of Myrtle Bilbo ran towards the front doors of the castle. His horse trotted behind him but stopped in front of the heavy doors, pawing at the ground in protest of Bilbo going any closer.

“I’ll be back, old girl, I promise.”

Pushing through the front doors was easier said than done. It was almost as if the building didn’t want him to come through. Stepping back Bilbo narrowed his eyes and shoved his entire body into the wooden doors. They swung open and he was faced with a surprisingly clean entrance room. Rushing forward Bilbo didn’t even register the cold until the doors slammed shut behind him once again not only leaving him with minimal light coming from the late afternoon sky but in the icy cold of the castle. He had to find his father.

“Father! Where are you!?”

There was no response but Bilbo was not going to let himself panic. It was a large castle, perhaps Bungo had found a nice room to rest in for the night and lost track of time looking at all of the objects this castle had to offer. Yes, that had to be it. Walking further into the freezing building, Bilbo looked in small rooms and even closets. He finally reached a living room where a fireplace had a few dying embers sparking with leftover light.

Someone had been here.

“Father, please answer me!” Bilbo called out. Instead of voices, he heard some shuffling around him and he stood still, hoping to hear more.

“Fili, that’s his son,” a soft voice whisper out of the darkness. By Yavanna there were more people here?

“I can see that, Ori.” A lower yet smooth voice, Fili, responded.

“Well, maybe we should lead him up to where that man is. Kili is keeping him some company,” Ori replied.

“Ah yes and what joyous company that is.”

“Don’t talk like that! Kili is trying his best.”

The rougher voice snorted. “Ah, Ori. You give my brother too much credit sometimes. I agree that he tries his best, but sometimes he can come off as annoying.”

Ori laughed quietly before stopping. “Can we please take him to his father, Fili? Please?”

There was silence from Fili before Bilbo decided to speak up himself. Honestly, he needed to say something now before they decided to leave Bilbo to his own devices.

“Please show me where my father is,” the young man said to the darkness.

There was some mumbling between the two before three bright lights illuminated the room. In front of Bilbo stood a large harpsichord that he swore made a grim looking face at him. But in honesty, he was more focused on the candle and feather duster that had faces (by the gardens that was terrifying to get used too) and were moving around. The candle had legs! And the feather duster seemed to move around magically. Well, they were both magical objects if Bilbo thought about it.

“Are you two sure this is smart?”

Now that was a very gruff voice indeed! But what shocked Bilbo was how it came from the harpsichord! He thought if he were to fully believe that objects could come to life, that the musical instrument would belong to a quieter voice. No, this one sounded like a warrior. How strange.

“Of course, Dawlin,” the candlestick, or Fili, Bilbo now realized by the voice, retorted. He jumped off the harpsichord and made his way closer to Bilbo. Ori followed him, thanking Dawlin for letting them go and eventually the young man was faced with two objects looking at him expectantly.

“Why aren’t you running away? Or screaming?” Fili asked curiously.

Bilbo scrunched his nose and thought. Why wasn’t he scared out of his mind? Perhaps all those fairy tales and stories he read made these kinds of things seem possible to him. But he also knew deep down that he was staying strong for his father. He needed to get Bungo out of here.

“I need to find my father. I’m not leaving without him. Maybe my mission is just keeping me somewhat calm,” Bilbo finally responded. The objects, including Dwalin, laughed brightly. He didn’t see what was so funny but it did brighten the mood of the place. Belladonna always said laughter was the key to fixing a situation.

“What a brave soul. Well, come along then we should hurry,” Ori said before leading them off to a staircase. The castle was incredibly spacious and full of wonderful things to look at but Bilbo kept very close to his two unexpected guides. He needed to find his father and would not risk getting lost on his own.

Soon they were traveling through the second and third floors. Bilbo hoped his father wasn’t any further up as the cold seemed to grow bitter they more they journeyed. Fili pushed open a door (how odd that such a small thing had so much strength) and they were faced with a spiraling stone staircase leading up a tower. A shocking realization rushed into Bilbo’s mind. He rushed past his guides, ignoring their calls to stop. If he was right about what this section of the castle truly was, he was not going to let Bungo stay in a prison tower for any longer.

Of course, Bilbo was right. At the very top of the tower were four holding cells, and right in one was a shivering Bungo Baggins.

“Father!” Bilbo called out as he ran to him.

Bungo immediately shot up and raced to the door of the cell. Bilbo kneeled down to hold his father’s ice cold hands, desperately trying to warm them. The relief at the sight of seeing his father alive was quickly replaced with confusion and rage.

“Who put you in here?” the young man demanded.

Fili and Ori ran in at that moment, obviously quite upset that they were ignored. Fili yelled at Bilbo, calling him foolish for just pushing past them. Another voice piped up through the commotion.

“Brother, please! Would you not come running to save us if we were in danger?” a smaller candle called out. Bilbo eyed the creation and he remembered who this was. Kili, the one keeping his father company. Fili sighed and nodded, quickly apologizing to Bilbo and pulling Ori towards his brother. They were so young, like teens. It bothered Bilbo that they were stuck here.

“Thank you, all of you, for helping me find my father,” Bilbo said but quickly thought over his words. “But I must know why he is locked up like a criminal!”

The three objects fell into a silence, refusing to look at the young man. Bungo pulled his son’s hands, quickly gaining Bilbo’s attention. His father’s eyes were solemn and cold in the dark. There had to be a reason for all of this; there just had to be! None of the ‘residents’ of the castle had been hostile to him and seemed like they wanted to free Bungo as much as Bilbo did. Then why weren’t they helping? Why was his father trapped? Was there a curse open the inhabitants of the castle, turning them into objects? Did they have a master, a king? None of this made sense!

“Bilbo, my sweet boy, you must go.”

That definitely brought Bilbo out of his thoughts. Why on earth would he just leave his father? Especially now that he had found him and they could go together?

“What are saying? I’m not leaving you! We just need to find the keys and-”

“Bilbo! Please leave this place. I was put in here by a terrible beast,” at this the objects bristled and the two candles seemed to grow defensive in their posture.

“Father, whatever man put you in here must’ve had some reason. He is not a beast, I’ll find him and get you out!” Bilbo replied desperately.

“No, my son! I tell you the truth! He was large and fury, with horns and clawed paws! Bilbo, he was terrifying and I will not have you face him down!”

Bilbo looked at his father in confusion. He was still having difficulty comprehending everything; from the living objects to the castle’s obvious curse. A beast surely seemed likely to be here but the way Bungo described him and the way Fili, Kili, Ori and most likely everyone else in the castle acted, it was as if the beast was once a man. If so, a man can be reasoned with.

“I don’t care! Father, I will get you out of here,” Bilbo said, refusing to let the old man think he’d leave him.

“Do tell me, how you plan to do just that?” a rough voice called out from the shadows. Bungo trembled even more as he clutched onto his son. Bilbo’s eyes narrowed in the direction of the voice knowing that whoever this ‘beast’ was could see him. The three young objects rushed away and carefully stood on a table, obviously hoping to get out of the eyesight of whoever this was.

“Finding the key would be the best start, I assume,” Bilbo replied calmly. The beast let out a breathy laugh and he moved closer to the young man.

“And where would you find that?” the stranger asked.

“Well it’s obviously in here; perhaps even with you,” Bilbo shot back. He was not in the mood for all these questions.

“Clever little thing, aren’t you? Answer me this, what makes you think I’ll let you have the key? Let you take him home?”

Bilbo stood up and walked away from his father. He hated being looked down upon and quickly fixed the shadows a nasty look.

“He’s a sick old man and you have no reason to keep him here!”
The beast growled and moved even closer. Bilbo still couldn’t see him perfectly but he now saw just how large he was. The horns were quite intimidating as well as his now obvious sneer, but Bilbo was not going to be scared. There was still a man underneath that beastly appearance.

“He came into my home, unwelcomed mind you, yet I was going to give him pardon to leave. But then your father had the brilliant idea to go to Smaug! That fiend would kill my family and I would not allow that to happen!”

Bilbo was startled that the beast even knew who Smaug was. It made sense that Bungo would look for Smaug if only to help him home, but he couldn’t imagine his father wanting to hurt the residents here.

“My father would never hurt a soul. He would never tell Smaug to kill you nor your family!” Bilbo retorted. The beast huffed before turning back into the shadows.

“What he would or would not do does not concern me anymore. He is my prisoner and here he shall remain,” he spat, almost daring Bilbo to challenge him. The young man glared at the silhouette of the beast before turning back to his father. Bungo was shaking and sniffling, and if this beast was the kind of man Bilbo thought him to be, his father would die alone and sick in this cage. Bilbo would not allow that happen, but he needed to think of a way to get him out.

Chewing on his bottom lip, an idea hit Bilbo. The beast wanted a prisoner? He would have one. But first, he had to see who he was dealing with.

“Step into the light,” Bilbo commanded. Everyone in the room stiffened and out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Kili do the candle equivalent of a facepalm.

“Pardon?” the beast asked as he spun around.

Straightening his shoulders, Bilbo made his entire body look as intimidating as possible.

“Step into the light.”

The beast snorted at him before stepping ever closer to the light. He wasn’t completely visible yet and he was clearly hesitant to reveal himself. Bilbo tried looking into his eyes but with the shadows, he still couldn’t get a clear picture of the man he was talking to.

“A little further, please,” he said quietly. The beast sighed before finally stepping out. Bilbo’s eyes grew wide but he didn’t move.

The beast was covered in black, inky fur with some silver streaks coating him. He wore torn pants and a blue cloak, his hands (or paws) twitched in nervousness which seemed completely opposite of how he carried himself before. Curling horns caught the light from setting sun, giving them an almost golden glow. But what Bilbo couldn’t seem to stop staring at was the piercing, icy blue eyes. They were so human, so tired and angry and terrified. He covered up this fear expertly as he turned to the side once again. A tail that Bilbo hadn’t seen before curled around the beast’s legs as he stared out a barred window.

“Happy? Will you leave now that you’ve seen me?” the beast asked. Bilbo glanced at his shaking father and shook his head. When he looked back up, his eyes locked with the beast’s, and really he should learn his name if he’s going to have to stay here.

“I want to take my father’s place,” Bilbo replied. The beast took a step back, as if he just got slapped, and looked at Bilbo in complete disbelief. Fili sighed in the background as Ori gasped and Kili seemed incredibly intrigued by what was to go down next.

When no one spoke up, Bilbo coughed lightly, “You need someone to stay, yes? As a leverage in case, I don’t know, hunters come? I don’t want to pretend to understand your reasoning but I will say this; my father will not stay here. And if that means I must take his place, then so be it.”

“Bilbo, my lad no!” Bungo cried from his cell. The beast was eyeing Bilbo with suspicion as he muttered something to Fili. The young candle nodded and quickly ran out of the room. Bilbo turned to his father as the man pulled his arm.

“You can’t stay here, you have a life to live,” the old man sputtered as a cough overcame him. Bilbo tutted him as he brought a hand to his father’s cheek.

“And you need medical attention, I would never forgive myself if I left you here. Go to Amelia and Nellie, father. They’ll take care of you,” Bilbo smiled weakly as Bungo stared at him with watery eyes. The beast hadn’t spoken for quite some time and when Bilbo turned to look at him, he saw him staring at Bilbo with confusion. Blue eyes narrowed before he pulled out the cell keys from a pocket in his cloak.

Fili came back in with a metal man following him; and upon further inspection, Bilbo saw that it was, in fact, a walking suit of armor. It bowed to the beast before taking the key and opening up the cell Bungo was in. The old man pulled his son into a tight embrace before he was pulled off by the animated armor and hefted up to his feet.

“Be careful with him, make sure he returns to Dale safely,” the beast ordered, much like a king would. The armor nodded before Bungo was pulled out, calling out for Bilbo to rethink his choice, but they both knew it was too late for that.

As tears welled up in Bilbo’s eyes, he felt four pairs of eyes on him. Turning to the beast, Bilbo could see him thinking of ways to deal with this new situation. Before the young man could speak up, the beast turned to the three objects on the table.

“Fili, Kili I want you to take Bilbo to the guest room where your mother is. Ori, go to Balin and inform him of our recent events. Don’t keep the company in the dark,” he ordered more gently than he had with the armor.

“Yes, Uncle Thorin,” the brothers replied while Ori nodded silently. So that was his name, Thorin. It seemed so familiar for some odd reason. Thorin looked at Bilbo one last time, shaking his head in quiet disbelief as he stalked back into the shadows. Bilbo stared at him before he saw six bright lights in his vision.

Kili smiled at him gently as Ori quickly left the room. Fili placed an arm around his brother’s shoulder and sighed deeply. It was obvious that the eldest brother was incredibly exhausted by this whole fiasco, and seemingly even more tired of his brother’s energy. The two candles looked at him for a while before bowing together.

“Fili.”

“And Kili.”

“At your service, Master Baggins.”

They were awfully polite, but Bilbo couldn’t help but finally wonder. What the bloody hell did he just agree too?!

Chapter Text

After the boys introduced themselves, they started to lead Bilbo further away from the towers. His heart began pounding as his mind wandered further and further. He knew he made the right choice in taking his father’s place but he was panicking. Why did Thorin, the man who was holding his father prisoner, have him taken to a guest room? Where his sister of all places would be? Wouldn’t he expect Bilbo to make an escape?

The heavy clanking of an armor guard failing to sneak behind them answered that question, at least.

“Master Baggins,” Fili began; successfully drawing Bilbo out of his own thoughts. “I must say I’m glad you stood up for your father. Bravery is a quality Uncle respects quite a lot.” The young candle’s flame glowed brighter as he mentioned his uncle and Bilbo couldn’t help the feeling of happiness for them. Family love was very important, even if a said family member had been a complete and utter prat so far.

Kili turned to look up at Bilbo and began walking backward, much to Fili’s obvious dismay. It seemed that the eldest brother had to grow up much faster than the younger if their opposing antics were anything to go by. He still loved Kili with his whole heart, that was clear, but Bilbo couldn’t help but feel how the heavy tension of the castle was affecting the two of them. They seemed jovial enough if given the right opportunity. If Bilbo was stuck here perhaps he could bring some light back into this place. He’d certainly benefit from it.

“I do believe that you made Uncle rethink what he was going to do with you,” Kili smirked. “I thought for sure you were done for when you commanded him into the light!” He laughed brightly and Bilbo smiled warily at him. That probably wasn’t the smartest choice he’d ever made in his life (there had been much worse; such as the time he actually let Smaug into his home for tea), but for goodness sake, he wasn’t going to be pushed around by that man!

Fili, who had been quiet for some time, slowed his stride down to match his brother’s. The golden candle was finally relaxing and his smile made Bilbo feel the smallest bit better. That was until Kili turned his smirk to his brother.

“Maybe Uncle’s change of heart today could help you out with courting Ori and getting-”

“Don’t,” Fili gritted out, “finish that sentence.”

Kili’s eyes glistened with mischief and by the Green Lady he was going to start something, wasn’t he?

“I wasn’t saying anything bad, Fili,” he chirped back. Fili rolled his eyes and Bilbo smiled. Ori? And Fili? That poor jittery little feather duster seemed completely different than Fili. But, now that Bilbo thought on it, Ori did seem to have sway over the young lad. Maybe his calm demeanor helped Fili think of the positives. Maybe he even made it easier for him to stand taller and happier despite the...situation at hand here. Oh, how Bilbo’s head began turning with ideas on how they would fit together and it helped him feel more comfortable knowing that romance was still alive even in a place like this. Bilbo couldn’t help but smile and wink at Fili. The candle smiled back at him in understanding and they both hoped that the rest of the walk would be quiet. Kili had other plans.

“I’m just saying that if you and Ori wish to get together then you’ll need Uncle’s help. Mother and most of the Company give their blessings. Nori too! But we all know how moody you can be. Dori approves of you but he’s always been so traditional. Needing family meetings and such. Without Uncle you’re hopeless.”

Well that was it wasn’t it? The final snarky comment that completely ruined Fili’s good mood. The older brother sneered and thankfully blew his flames out before tackling Kili. Bilbo’s eyes widened and he jumped back as the two began wrestling on the ground. Many a colorful of curses in both common and what Bilbo assumed was their native speech (Bilbo was used to a mixing of languages; it was quite common where he lived) was being thrown about. Honestly, this was entirely ridiculous!

Bilbo had barely missed getting hit in the shin by one of their limbs when he backed into the armor that had been following them. He jumped and, unfortunately, fell onto the floor on his bum. His tumble stopped the boys as they stood up and after fixing each other a look, hustled over to where Bilbo sat.

He was thinking of giving the two of them a piece of his mind, but their sad puppy dog eyes made him reconsider. Still, he could glare at them all he wanted, couldn’t he? The hallway was silent as Bilbo finally sent a half-hearted stare at each of them before chucking at their guilty faces. The boys laughed along with him and Bilbo accepted the hand graciously offered to him by the armor suit. At least no one was fighting anymore.

“The both of you are brats, honestly,” he muttered and eyed them carefully. The boys sulked under his gaze but he patted both of their heads. Kili muttered something about not being a child before Fili apologized for their actions. And as brothers ought to do, they smiled at each other before moving onward. The armor fell behind them as they continued their journey through the hallways.

“Your father told me all about how you were a bookworm and how your room was filled with volumes,” Kili stated. “Hopefully your rooms here will be as comforting as your ones at home, Master Boggins,” Bilbo smiled yet his mind began racing. He was still unsure why he was going to the guest room, but as he heard Kili begin to inform his brother of “Mister Boggins’ unwanted suitor that Master Bungo saw keeping Bilbo on his toes most days,” he refocused on the brothers.

“It’s Baggins, Kili, but you don’t need to call me that. Just Bilbo is fine,” he said. “And please don’t talk about that foul man who just can’t get a clue,” he spat which caused the brothers to go into a fit of giggles. Hopefully, it never came up that it was Smaug who was that unwanted pest in Bilbo’s life. Honestly, without him even being directly involved he always seemed to muck up everything pertaining to Bilbo.

They carried on in blissful silence until that mischievous grin returned to Kili’s face. Fili saw and most likely knowing that with talks of suitors he was going to say something about the whole Ori courtship again (which really, was quite adorable); he spoke up.

“I’m still awfully surprised you took your father’s place, Bilbo. Not many would dare do that,” Fili remarked as they headed down a long hallway on the second floor.

“Or stand up to Uncle in such a way! Mother will be so delighted you have a strong backbone,” Kili added, taking the bait for a change in the subject.

“I think the whole company will be rather pleased with Bilbo’s attitude towards Thorin,” the eldest said. “They’ll probably see it fit that Bilbo shoots him down every chance he gets.”

“Aye, I think Balin will appreciate that the most. Though I think Oin may worry for your safety if you did such a feat,” Kili replied as he pushed past a set of double doors. Bilbo smiled that their brotherly chatter brightened up the mood a little.

“Even if I had such courage to stand up to Thorin again, I believe I may still need time to fully understand my situation here,” Bilbo said as they were faced with yet another hallway. Fili laughed the light on his head growing brighter.

Kili giggled as well before stopping to smile up at Bilbo. “I really like you, Mister Bilbo. You’ll fit right in here,” he mused as his brother nodded along.

“I’ll admit I was worried about how Uncle Thorin would react to you at first, but I think you can handle him,” Fili pointed out.

Kili piped up next. “As for your ‘situation’, our mother Dis will happily explain everything to you once we get to your new room. I know this all seems so fast and sudden, but the quicker we get you settled the quicker we get to see if you can break the curse and-”

Fili shoved his brother sharply and glared at him fiercely. Why on earth would they think Bilbo of all people could fix this? Sure, he was well read, but that didn’t mean he knew anything of curses! The look of confusion on his face soured both of the boys’ moods but Bilbo quickly spoke up. “I’m sure your mother will explain to me why I’m here boys; no need to jump conclusions.”

That seemed enough as Kili lit up again. He nudged them forwards, finally having spent all of his mischievous energy on the walk here. Fili sighed as they continued walking in a nice silence.

They soon came upon a large oak door with golden handles, worn from years of use. Bilbo smiled at it and he looked down at his young companions. “I suppose this is my room?” he asked and the two nodded excitedly. The armor creaked and settled next to the door before gently bowing his head to the two candles. Well, it obvious now that this family was clearly royalty. Bilbo mentally slapped himself for not putting two and two together earlier. No matter, it was time to finally get some answers!

Gently pushing the door open, Bilbo was faced with an absolutely gorgeous room. There was a large fireplace, a table set with armchairs and a sofa that matched the warm atmosphere perfectly. There was a large window that led out to an overgrown balcony. Maybe he could clean that up to at least have a small sanctuary here. To the right of that receiving area, was a large comfy looking bed with the same color scheme as the rest of the furniture. It was all reds and golds, making the whole room seem to glow with warmth and safety. The fire, of course, helped with that. There was even a door that Bilbo assumed, and hoped, led to a washroom. The place was clearly cleaned and ready for someone to stay here. But how did they get it done so quickly if they didn’t expect Bilbo to even be here? More and more questions that needed answers.

Among the normal furniture were two talking pieces. A large wardrobe was searching readily in his own drawers for...something; completely oblivious to the new guests in the room. The vanity next to him, however, did not ignore them. In the mirror, a beautiful woman appeared, her face bright and welcoming. Even without Fili and Kili running up towards her, Bilbo knew this was Dis.

“Oh, boys! I see you brought our guest here safe and sound,” Dis said mirthfully, happy to see her children again. Two drawers from the vanity popped out and inside were clothes that were shaped to mimic a bed. Fili and Kili took a seat in their respective places and it finally dawned on Bilbo that this was the only way Dis could hold her children. It broke the young man’s heart to see them like this, but by the way the three were smiling, they were used to it.

The wardrobe finally looked up at the visitors; he smiled at the boys (Fili made sure he looked respectable in the other’s eyes, making wardrobe chuckle quietly) before turning to Bilbo. His eyes, more like nobs really, eyed the young man up and down before nodding decidedly. Quickly, fabric flew out of the wardrobe and surrounded Bilbo in a storm of colors. He swore he heard scissors snipping through the layers he saw and really Bilbo had no idea what would happen if he moved. Soon the fabric storm slowed and in front of Bilbo laid perfectly cut segments of cloth. The wardrobe smiled before gently motioning Bilbo to sit in the chair next to Lady Dis.

He did as he was told and watched in awe as the wardrobe, with the help of magic, began sewing the fabric into a beautiful jacket. It was a deep scarlet color with gold trimmings and designs on the sleeves and edges of the jacket. When it was finished, the wardrobe pulled out a light beige shirt and matching pants. The outfit was stunning, far more beautiful than Bilbo’s simple clothing that most of the people of Dale wore. This was for someone important, someone of high standing...which made this whole thing much more confusing. He took his father’s place as a prisoner! Why on Yavanna’s green earth was he being treated as a royal guest? None of this made sense and he hoped Dis would be able to explain it all to him.

As if reading his mind, the woman coughed slightly and gestured for Bilbo to look at her. He turned to look at her and her sons who were both watching him with gentle smiles. The wardrobe finally put the new clothes into his arms and smiled brightly, patiently waiting for a response.

“This is…absolutely stunning work, Master...um…?” Bilbo trailed off and the wardrobe’s smile grew. He bowed, as much as one could when they were a large piece of furniture, and took Bilbo’s hand shaking it politely.

“Dori lad, Dori Ri. Odd family name, I know. So glad Thorin finally got his head out of his arse and-”

Dori’s remark was cut off by a scarf flying into his mouth. Dis scowled at him and motioned for him to leave the room. He did, not without muttering about the stubbornness of royalty and saying a nice goodbye to Bilbo before closing the door. Fili let out a sigh and Kili laughed brightly.

“He’s going to brag all night long now that Bilbo loved his work!” Kili sputtered out and began laughing again and the pitiful look on Fili’s face. “Aw, don’t worry brother! He likes you! Just waiting for you to man up and propose and-”

“Kili,” Dis warned and the two boys looked up at her in silent respect. She smiled at them before turning her attention to Bilbo. “I’m quite sure this conversation can be held later. I do believe Master Baggins deserves some answers.”

Bilbo sighed and put the beautiful outfit on a table nearby. Pulling the chair to face Dis, he settled down and while he still was fidgeting with his hands, he was much more comfortable facing Thorin’s sister than facing Thorin himself. She smiled at him and he hoped she would begin answering his questions soon.

“Now, Master Baggins-”

“He likes to be called Bilbo, amad,” Kili interrupted and while Fili sent him a death glare, Dis merely narrowed her eyes before looking back at Bilbo.

“Well then, Bilbo, I assume you have many questions. And trust me I will gladly answer them but I do believe I should explain to you how we ended up here.”

-~-

It was later, much later in fact, when Bilbo finally had all his answers. Well, most of them anyway. He was positively correct in his guessing that Thorin was a king but his past...he never met someone who had such a horrific life as him. With all the revelations of this curse that Dis explained everything made sense. It was like a cloud had lifted from his mind, his memories quickly rushing back to him. He remembered how the royal family would visit Dale. He remembered watching from a distance as the young, handsome Prince Thorin would smile and wave. He remembered how his father used to visit Erebor for the markets, not Esgaroth! Then all that treachery and murder happened and the Kingdom of Erebor was never the same. The outside world didn’t know very much about how the young king took his throne, but now Bilbo couldn’t stop the sick feeling in his stomach.

He also now remembered how most of the lads and lasses, including Bilbo much to his embarrassment, quite fancied the young prince before he turned cold. Granted, he had every right to feel sorrow and anger but turning one’s heart like that was cruel. Most of those young romantics turned to Frerin, though Bilbo didn’t have a chance to even look at the blonde before Smaug came and decidedly set his eyes on Bilbo. And then, as Dis said, the curse was set upon them by that traveling wizard. Gandalf, was it? He swore he heard that name before but it didn’t matter. That curse erased everyone’s memories. No one would the pain Thorin, his family and the Company (who Dis thankfully explained who each of them were with him) went through. And the poor boys! Having to grow up like this.

Bilbo sighed as he sunk himself into the hot bath. Dis had explained that there was a cure to this curse and while the boys had wanted to say more; she urged them to go get Bofur, who Bilbo remembered was turned into a teapot of all things, and had a bath drawn for Bilbo. “I do believe you can help cure this, Bilbo. Thorin does as well, that’s why you’re here. We’ve been waiting for someone like you to come along,” she paused wistfully.

He blew bubbles in the tub as he let the water lap over his skin. What did that even mean? That they’ve been waiting for someone like him? Dis promised him more answers as she called for Balin to come and discuss more with them before Bofur would arrive. Apparently, they were making quite a fuss in the kitchen now that they had another soul walking around.

As he finished washing up, Bilbo grabbed a towel and quickly dried off. He pulled on his brand new clothes and by the Green Hills, was that silk? And velvet? This was far too much, even if Bilbo was a “guest” now. He snorted before fixing his hair and leaving the room.

The first thing he noticed was how dark it was outside. The stars had come out, twinkling and dancing around the solid moon. Bilbo’s heart ached; remembering how just last night he looked at the same moon wondering how he could get out of Smaug’s grasp. Now, he was at the mercy of a beast and his enchanted castle. They’ve all been charming and friendly, save for Thorin, but that didn’t erase the fact that he was stuck here. A feeling of helplessness washed over him as Bilbo focused on just getting through this next conversation and going to bed. After closing the bathroom door, Bilbo realized that Dis’ company had finally come.

Dis was talking to a strange looking clock, who Bilbo now knew was Balin. They spoke in hushed tones until the princess noticed Bilbo walking in. She smiled and tilted her head as a signal for Balin to turn around. The old clock smiled warmly at Bilbo and motioned him to come sit with them.

“Ah, Bilbo, please join us,” Balin said smiling brightly up at him. The young man smiled back as he sat down in front of Dis. She looked at his hair before clicking her tongue at him and lifting up a comb. Well, magically of course. He wanted to question how she was able to manipulate things outside of her mirror, but the gentle way she fixed some tangles he missed made him drop the thought.

Once Dis was finished her fussing, Balin stood proudly in front of Bilbo. He looked the old clock his father seemed so dead set on fixing on all the time back home. Of course, Balin was a shimmering gold version of the one at Bag End. The clock’s time telling hands formed to make a pointed mustache, or beard really he couldn’t tell.

“As Lady Dis has told me, you’ve been told about our past and the current situation we find ourselves in,” Balin began and Bilbo nodded agreeing with him. “Good, very good. That makes this a lot easier. I have a feeling that you’ll be able to find the cure for this mess. The enchanter left a timer of sorts for us before the curse becomes unbreakable. He said someone will come to help us and you’ve been the only one in years.”

Bilbo looked between the two, Balin with a very serious expression while Dis looked at him expectantly. He swallowed down his nervousness and as he finally had the courage to ask the one question that had been on his mind for a while.

“What do you think I can even do?” he asked quietly to the both of them. Dis made a soft humming sound before disappearing into her mirror. In her place, a dark room with one single light force appeared. Upon further inspection, Bilbo saw that light source was actually a flower. A glowing red rose. But as he looked around the pedestal, Bilbo saw fallen dead petals around it.

Dis returned and looked at him solemnly. “This, Bilbo, is the timer Gandalf left us. We are running out of time. You came to us right when we needed you and now you must help us. No one has been in the library for ages, nor has anyone but my siblings and I dared to look upon the rose. If you can do anything...anything at all to help us you must….before we all - all,” Dis trailed off, tears building in her eyes. She wiped them away returning to her stoic, controlled look as before. Bilbo sighed as he ran a hand through his curls.

After a long moment of silence, Bilbo had thought up a plan. He wasn’t going to let these people suffer if he could help stop it. The sooner he helped, the sooner he could get home. “Alright. Perhaps I should start with going to the library tomorrow,” Bilbo replied and the two looked up hopefully. The young man gnawed on his bottom lip before speaking up again.

“I think it will be beneficial if I look at the rose itself. If I can see any hidden messages or-”

“No!” Balin and Dis cried at the same time. Bilbo jumped a little and looked at them blankly before narrowing his eyes.

“How were you able to show me the rose in the first place?” he asked Dis. The princess straightened herself, opening and closing her mouth as she thought out her answer. She sighed and once again, Bilbo saw how tired she looked.

“My brother, Frerin, was also turned into a mirror. We have a sort of connection to each other, we share the same realm. I’m not sure how it works...how any of this magic business is supposed to play out,” Dis explained before looking up at Bilbo again. “He is in the West Wing with the flower, where we used to live as a family. Thorin has forbidden anyone from going there and I’m Frerin’s only connection to anyone else anymore. Frerin agreed with Thorin that we shouldn’t venture there but he won’t tell me why. Some of us believe the wizard may have left something else to wander about the castle.”

Bilbo raised an eyebrow at this. “And what do you believe?”

Both Balin and Dis shared a look before sighing together. It was Balin who spoke next.

“We think Thorin has wallowed in his own self-pity for far too long in that Wing.”

More things we said between the two yet Bilbo only paid them little attention. Thorin didn’t want them to see the one thing that may help solve this? Fine. But he hadn’t said that rule specifically to Bilbo himself yet. And until that man spoke to him face to face, Bilbo wasn’t going to listen to one thing he ordered.

Thorin wanted Bilbo’s help? Then help he shall get.

Doesn’t mean the king has to like how Bilbo went about it.

Chapter Text

Thorin wasn’t panicking nor was he worried. Did he and Bilbo start off on the wrong foot? Yes. Was Thorin a complete and utter twat and horrible at being the least bit civil, as his siblings and friends were so keen on saying? Arguable, but yes. Was he going to let that stop him from trying to get to know Bilbo better? Absolutely not.

He was a Durin and even though he was incredibly nervous he wouldn’t let this opportunity slip through his fingers. No matter what Frerin said, he was perfectly, completely, totally in control of this situation.

Except for the fact that he couldn’t even bring himself to talk to Bilbo.

“You’re being ridiculous, nadad. The more you wait, the more time you lose and the more he thinks you hate him,” Frerin snorted as Thorin growled at him.

“I’m not being ridiculous, I’m just merely giving him time to get accommodated to his surroundings. Let Dis explain everything and then I’ll talk to him in the morning,” Thorin retorted which caused his younger brother to laugh at him. Honestly, why did Frerin have to become stuck in Thorin’s vanity mirror?

“And besides I’d rather wait to show him that his father got home safely before I talk to him again,” Thorin added as he pulled out the magic mirror Gandalf had left with him. It allowed him to see anything and anyone and Thorin hoped that Bilbo may appreciate the gift once Bungo was safely tucked away in their old home.

You should’ve just let them both go.

Thorin sighed and mentally shook the thought out his head. He looked up to see Frerin staring at him intently, to which Thorin huffed at him for once more.

Frerin rolled his eyes teasingly before moving around in the mirror again. Thorin sighed as he saw his once lively and youthful brother confined to virtually nothing. His bright shimmering blue eyes were now dull and cold and Thorin felt immense guilt. Not that that emotion was anything new. In the eight years since the curse fell on his family, Thorin tried to find anything he could to save his loved ones. Gandalf must’ve had another way for the curse to be lifted. Who on this Mahal forsaken world could ever love a beast?

And Thorin wasn’t even talking about his appearance, though that certainly did make the situation that much worse. No, he knew he deserved this punishment but no one else did. What kind of king, brother, friend, or uncle was he for letting this happen to his loyal companions?

He had submitted to the fact that he had destroyed so many lives. He accepted that there was no logical way that he could lift this curse if the wizard’s proclamation was true. But then Bungo and subsequently Bilbo stepped into miserable little life. And while it was tempting to think that this problem could be solved with fresh eyes looking at it, Thorin knew deep in his heart that there was only one way to solve this.

And from the way Thorin started off things with his new guest, that road was almost completely blocked off. Hopefully, Bungo returned to his home safely, even if Thorin was still wary of him. Then Bilbo would see Thorin wasn’t a complete monster and maybe they could become friends. Or at least tolerate each other.

Suddenly, a light pinkish glow showered the dark room in color. Frerin made a pained noise as Thorin merely looked at the rose Gandalf had left as a timer of some sorts. More like a painful reminder of my mistakes, Thorin snapped to himself.

“You know, brother,” Frerin piped up nervously. Thorin glanced at him cautiously, his little brother never had a worried tone in his voice even with the past eight years clouding over them. “I think you were right about not letting the others come in here,” the young prince whispered. Both of the royals looked at the wilting rose, only having about five petals still clinging to it. Thorin hummed in agreement.

“I didn’t want them to lose hope, but I’m sure Dis and Balin have already seen this, haven’t they?” Thorin asked, not accusingly but in good nature. Frerin smiled a genuine teasing smile that Thorin missed seeing on his brother’s face.

“You always know what’s going on don’t you?”

“That’s my job, Frerin.”

“As what, a king?”

Thorin smiled, “As your brother.”

Frerin paused before grinning widely. A shimmer returned to his eyes and Thorin couldn’t help but imagine what on earth his little brother was thinking.

“Well then, nadad, I think it’s about time you go and speak with Master Bilbo,” Frerin stated and before Thorin could speak back he added, “For my sake, be a good brother and king. Just go talk.”

And well, when anyone from his family or close friends begged something of him, Thorin wasn’t one to say no. Perhaps speaking to Bilbo wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, would it?

Chapter Text

To say that Bilbo was exhausted would be a crucial understatement. After his long conversation with Dis and Balin, all he wanted to do was crawl into bed, hope this was all a bad dream, and wake up in his granted less luxurious bed in Bag End.

But it seemed that the “Company” had other plans.

Balin had just left and Dis, bless her soul, showed Bilbo a cabinet full of clothes that he hoped would fit, including a very soft looking night shirt and pants. Bilbo was going to go get changed once again when a very loud banging came from the front door. He groaned and left the bathroom where he planned to get ready for bed and prepared to face new people.

Dis gave him a weak smile, it seemed they were both were hoping for the night to be over. “Come in!” she called as Bilbo sat down in the comfortable armchair. Suddenly the door opened revealing a food cart with a strange teapot and an overly large tea cup on top. The cart moved on its own and soon the two new guests were in front of Bilbo. He knew who they were, of course. Bofur, the teapot, and his brother Bombur.

“A very good hello to you, Master Baggins!” Bofur exclaimed, his hat shaped lid bouncing with his every movement. It was a wonder it didn’t fall from his head!

“Good evening, Master Bofur,” Bilbo began and he saw the happiness in the teapots face at being recognized. “And to you, Master Bombur. My apologies, I had nearly forgotten you two had planned to, uh, visit.”

Bombur chuckled as he moved to see Bilbo more. “No need for apologies, Master Bilbo! Quite honestly we should be apologising on keep ya waiting so long! Ya must be starved, laddie!”

“No, really I’m-”

“Look at ya! So skinny and pale!”

“Excuse me but I’m quite fine-”

“You must’nt have eaten since this morning! And had nothing to drink, a shame really.”

“Must’nt? Is that even a word-”

“Gentlemen,” Dis interrupted. “Perhaps our guest would enjoy some dinner with company.” She winked and Bilbo finally saw where Kili got his mischievous nature from.

“Lady Dis, please I’m quite fine,” Bilbo pleaded but she shook her head.

“I will not let my guest go hungry his first night here. I assume there has been a feast prepared?” she asked the two brothers, who nodded fiercely. “Perfect! Bilbo, please follow these two and enjoy a nice meal. No protests! And I do hope the rest of the Company will be there.”

Before Bilbo even knew what was happening, he was being led by the magical cart down the hall to a staircase that connected to a family room. He chatted as much as he could with his two guides while still taking in the magnificence of this castle. Candles and lanterns lit up each and every corner, giving everything a nice warm glow. It was nice, comforting even in the dark of the night. He was already making plans to explore the castle with him more in the morning. He was even hoping to speak to Thorin. Clear up the air and maybe work on finding the cure together.

However, if Thorin was still doing his whole “ignore and be pouty” route then perhaps Bilbo would have to find a solution on his own. At least for a while. Call him what you will, but Bilbo Baggins was as stubborn as bull and if Thorin wanted to have a silent war, then Bilbo would play his game. He’d make the cursed king come around the reason sooner or later.

The commotion of the kitchen could be heard from the dining room Bilbo was led to. Well, to call it a dining room would be saying too much. In fact it was the same living room where he met Fili and Ori but it made sense. It was the place one of the Company was stuck to.

Gloin was in fact the large fireplace Bilbo had first seen when he entered the castle. On top of his mantle was a picture of his wife and young son, Gimli. Dis had explained that the curse had sucked them into a picture where the unfortunately remained frozen in time. Bilbo knew the pain of losing a loved one and he felt for the man. Seeing Gloin staring at him, Bilbo quickly smiled.

“Good evening, Master Gloin,” he started and was about to say more when Gloin spoke up.

“Pah! No need for that ‘Master’ nonsense, lad. Come, sit and enjoy a nice meal.”

Bofur and Bombur both hopped off their cart and onto a table that was placed in front of the fire. Bilbo sat in the only chair and looked around the room as the food cart darted around the corner, to where Bilbo presumed the kitchen was.

Bilbo looked back to the main table where he saw Fili and Kili were already situated. The younger brother locked eyes with Bilbo for a split second before pushing Fili along with him to Bilbo. Seeing those two move, Ori fluttered over from his perch and soon Bilbo was surrounded by the first people he met here. And despite the fact he knew it was only a few hours ago, it seemed like it had been a lifetime since last he saw them.

“Hello you three, good to see you again,” Bilbo stated, hoping for the three boys to smile but all he got were nervous glances.

“Did…,” Ori began softly. He looked like he wanted to shrink, but Fili’s encouraging arm wrapped around him helped him continue. “Did Lady Dis explain everything to you?”

It was then that Bilbo felt eyes on him from all around the room. He knew the three boys in front of him, Bofur and Bombur, Gloin, and who else was in there with them we’re all watching him with bated breath. Bilbo nearly even felt an icy cold glare aimed at him, though from who he didn’t know.

“Yes, she and Balin did,” Bilbo said calmly. “You know, it was quite strange when they told me. It was like a cloud had lifted my mind and I remembered everything during those years before the curse.”

Bofur smiled at that, but everyone else still seemed nervous. Bilbo cleared his throat before speaking again.

“They haven’t really told me all about the curse, but after explaining it the way they did I’m quite dedicated on trying to help. In anyway I can.”

The room went silent, to the point where Bilbo began to wonder if he said something wrong, when Kíli shouted with glee. He jumped at Bilbo, hugging him tightly as the others sounded off their joy.

“Oh, Bilbo! Thank you so so much!” the young prince exclaimed. Bilbo laughed and patted Kíli on the back gently. Fíli and Ori smiled brightly and Gloin’s flames glowed warmly. Bofur nudged Bilbo and beamed up at him.

“Well then, I’m glad that’s all settled,” Bofur nodded to himself. “We were quite worried you may be well...that doesn’t matter now.”
His brother hummed in agreement, “On to another important matter. Since dinner is going to take just a wee bit longer, I think it’s ‘bout time you meet the rest of the Company.”

As if on cue, more figures emerged from the sides of the room. Bilbo’s eyes widened as he saw the rest of the company, and even though he knew what they all transformed into it was still a shell shock.

Balin smiled at him from on top of the beaten harpsichord, who was his younger brother, Dwalin. The two of them introduced themselves, thankfully Dwalin’s gruff voice and face seemed much happier now, and soon the others began.

Oin, Gloin’s brother and the royal doctor, was turned into a medical cabinet. It seemed fitting, at least in Bilbo’s mind, but this new form didn’t make the older man’s hearing any better according to Dis. Still, he was quite polite and a true gentleman.

Bofur and Bombur’s cousin, Bifur, was turned into a coat rack and couldn’t speak at all. He even had a chip where his forehead would be.

“He was injured during a battle,” Bofur explained after Bilbo’s curiosity had gotten the best of him. “He doesn’t really speak common anymore, just our native language. And that’s only when he bothers to speak.” Needless to say, Bifur smacked him at that comment.

Lastly, the only other person Bilbo didn’t know was Nori, the middle child of the Ri family. He was a feather duster, like Ori, but with a strange star shaped handle.

“He’s got eyes everywhere,” Dori sighed, causing the others to laugh. Ori snorted, “Yeah, and he’s the nosiest person alive! Never letting me go anywhere.”

Nori raised an eyebrow at that. “Little brother, what kind of man would I be if I let you sneak around with this little princeling? Who knows what you two would get up to?”

Ori stuttered and Fili’s flame went out in embarrassment.

Dori coughed awkwardly and looked like he was about to say something; but thankfully the food cart came back from kitchen. It was loaded with all types of dishes. Ragout, a plate of cheese, and a collection of different sweetmeats like quinces, preserved cherries, artificial fruits made of apricot paste and marchpanes all served with goblet wine and a cup of water. Bilbo stared at in shock as everyone looked at him.

“Well,” Balin started, “aren’t you going to eat?”

Bilbo smiled before digging in. He had only seen this much food before during special holiday in the Great Hall. Not to mention the fine china his food was served on. He’d only ever seen that in Bell Gamgee’s glass decor cupboard. This was almost to much to take in.

It was only after Bilbo had finished his serving of ragout and was about to move on to a quince that he noticed he was the only one eating. And then another thought occurred to him. Where did they get all this food?

He quickly put his ustensiles and drank his water as quickly as he could. He didn’t expect that thought to unnerve him so, but there was no possible way any of these enchanted folks could get any food or drink. And the fact that they weren’t eating worried him as well.

“What’s wrong, lad?” Gloin asked cautiously. Bilbo eyed the still full plates nervously before looking up at the others.

“Oh, well, um,” he paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “I was just wondering, where did you even get all this food?”

Balin sighed as he came up to Bilbo. “The wizard left us in a, well, quite enchanted castle. Magic runs rapid here. It must’ve known you needed to eat and well, it supplied. It was for you, of course, since we’ve never needed those things before. Thorin was the only one who ate or drank before you came.”

Bilbo nodded before raising a brow, “So, you all don’t eat or drink? Only Thorin does?” The others nodded and he settled again. This whole magic business was going to take getting used to, but he was determined to help get rid of this curse. Then he could go back home, perhaps even with the royal’s favor! Bilbo smiled as he went back to eating and chattering with the Company.

-~-

Frerin looked up as the doors slammed shut behind Thorin. He wanted scream at him for not even being gone for an hour, but instead waited for his older brother to start talking.

“He-” Thorin started before sitting down. “He was eating dinner with the Company.”

Frerin rolled his eyes. “So? You could have talked to him there with all of them!”

His brother closed his eyes and sighed in a way that made Frerin bite back anymore arguments he was going to through at Thorin.

“He was happy. I wasn’t going to ruin that.”

-~-

When Bilbo woke up in the morning, he fully realised how deep into this magic business he truly was.

His curtains were drawn open by two porcelain doves (more of the poor souls of the castle that were transformed but not given the same magical properties as the Company) and despite Bilbo knowing that magic allowed them to fly, he still was expecting to fall any second. They didn’t and instead started ushering him to get ready for the day.

After washing up, Bilbo saw that Dori had made him even more outfits, he assumed throughout the night. He quickly chose a deep purple velvet coat with elaborate gold flower embroidery and simple black pants to mellow it out. It was so...odd to be wearing what the Lords wore. By Yavana, even Bard didn’t wear such things!

Once he was ready, Dis ordered for tea and biscuits to be brought up to them. Bilbo was quite content to have breakfast with her especially sense he was going to be out of the room for most of the day looking for a cure to this curse. They talked about aimless things, such as favorite authors and hobbies. Multiple times Dis pointed out that he and Thorin in fact shared common interests but, “Could always learn and grow from each other.” He just nodded along and smiled at her, which made Dis practically glow with hope.

Bilbo was still confused what shared interests had anything to do with breaking curses but he let it go.

Well before noon, Bilbo was off and looking around the now clean and bright castle. How on earth did they get it so clean and-

Right. Magic.

It wasn’t long before Bilbo found two members of the Company, and it was entirely by accident.

“Fili, Ori! What happened?” Bilbo all but shouted as he kneeled down to a very stiff candlestick and a panicking feather duster.

“We were just walking and Fili just...just-” Ori stuttered as Fili creaked, trying to loosen up his limbs.

“It’s alright, it happens from time to time,” Fili responded quietly, his arms slowly coming back to function. Ori shook his head.

“You’ve never went completely still before.”

Bilbo sat in horror as reality sank in. If he didn’t fix this curse, the Company and the rest of the turned people would become those objects forever. And Thorin would become a beast, alone and frightened for the rest of his life. However long that would be.

“Where is the library?” Bilbo asked as soon as he made sure Fili was alright again. The two objects looked at each other before leading Bilbo down the stairs and around the corner into a brand new hallway. It lead to on single double door set, an oak tree etched into the doors.

Bilbo tried again and again to open the door, but to no avail.

“Uncle had it locked up years ago,” Fili said after Bilbo sat down next to them. Ori nodded along.

“He gave us the same reasoning as to why we don’t go into the West Wing. Something too magical is in there,” he added. Fili rested his head on Ori’s small shoulder and in that moment Bilbo felt his heart break. No one deserved this fate, not even Thorin who refused to come out of hiding.

“So Thorin has the key?” Bilbo asked and received two nods in answer. “And he is usually in the West Wing?”

Ori looked up, “What are you getting at, Bilbo?”

Bilbo stood up and took in a deep breath.

“I’m going to the West Wing.”

The two shot up and began begging him not to. Somehow, as Bilbo began his journey back up the stairs, he was able to get his point across that, “He never told me not to go up there. And if he won’t talk, I won’t listen to whatever silly rules he has here.” Was this foolish? Oh definitely. But, he could kill two birds with one stone here. Observe the magic rose and get the key to the library. Easy, right?

Chapter Text

Finding the West Wing entrance was easier said than done, especially when one had to outrun some very determined teens trying to stop him.

“Bilbo! Stop!”

“Master Baggins, please rethink this!”

He rounded a dark corner just as the boys entered the hallway he was in. Bilbo hid behind a large tapestry as the two ran past him and held his breath. He waited for what seemed like hours before he quietly emerged and began to quickly go down the unlit hallway. This was such a bad idea, traveling alone in the darkness of a magical castle with absolutely no clue where to go. Bilbo was more likely to trip over his own feet than find anything here and yet, he was determined to keep going on the slim hope he did find what he needed.

Belladonna would be proud.

Shaking the chilling memory of his mother away, Bilbo continued his trek. Even though he couldn’t necessarily see anything in this hallway, he felt a pull towards it. A pull that made him ignore his gut telling him to to just turn around and try somewhere else. There was something about this hallway that Bilbo just knew was important.

He traveled as best as he could, trying his hardest to see and not bump into anything. It was quiet, so quiet in fact that Bilbo was sure something was just hiding in the shadows waiting to pounce on him. But, nothing happened. Instead he found his way into the West Wing, which was just as dark as the hallway he was in. He tried many doors, tried finding any sources of light or any sounds, but there was nothing.

It took a few minutes until Bilbo reached a small, cracked open door. He heard a faint whisper, a small wispy sound coming from the room. It was more than anything he had heard since entering the dark and while it was unnerving he swallowed down his fear. He prayed it was the wind, and, with as much bravery he could muster, pushed open the door quietly.

Inside was a destroyed room. The only light was coming from a balcony, the afternoon sun shining in. The rest of the room was torn up, the furniture all but gone, the chairs flipped, and a family portrait of the royal family torn, right over someone’s face. Bilbo lifted up the torn scraps, placing them back over the picture to try to fix it. Once he was able to piece it together properly, Bilbo finally saw Thorin. His memory did not do the young king justice.

Thorin’s dark raven hair was braided back, letting his icy blue eyes shine through. Of course, no painting could capture how wonderful and perceptive they truly were in person. His face, while serious, captivated Bilbo. Thorin’s strong jawline, his short beard that Bilbo always thought made him look even more regal; his nose, his lips and-

Bilbo shook his head. No matter how handsome (and handsome was an understatement in Bilbo’s opinion) Thorin was, it didn’t take away from his awful attitude. Bilbo cleared his head from the king and tried to focus. He was here on a mission, to find the rose and the library keys.

“I knew you’d come up here eventually.”

BIlbo spun around with a gasp, grabbing a broken chair leg in the process and holding it defensively before him. He was expecting...well Bilbo wasn’t quite sure what he was expecting the owner of this new voice to look like. He certainly wasn’t ready to see Frerin watching him from inside a tall mirror.

“Oh, my apologies! I really didn’t mean to startle you,” the prince said calmly, motioning with his hands for Bilbo to put down his ‘weapon’.

Bilbo laid the chair leg down on a nearby desk and moved closer to the mirror. This didn’t make any sense. From what Bilbo had heard from Dis and Balin, Frerin was in the same room as the rose and the rose was in Thorin’s room, at least that’s what Dwalin told him at dinner.

“This...this is Thorin’s room?” Bilbo asked pointedly.

Frerin barked out a laugh and for a moment Bilbo thought he had made a huge, idiotic mistake when the prince spoke again. “I’m sorry, it’s just, that’s not at all what I thought you would say! But yes, these are his rooms,” he paused as he looked around in disdain. “If you can even call them that.”

Bilbo leaned against a table as he surveyed the area again. He didn’t see any glowing rose, or any sign of Thorin. But then Frerin’s words flittered through and Bilbo began to think. He looked up at the blonde prince who in turn stared at him expectantly.

“You said rooms. As in plural.”

“Dis was right, you are a clever one.”

Bilbo smiled at that. “Could you possibly show me the room where the flower is being held?” he asked. Frerin raised a brow and rubbed his chin playfully.

“Hmm, I suppose I could. What’s in it for me?”

Bilbo snorted at that.

“Oh I don’t know. Perhaps freedom from that mirror?”

Frerin looked at him in shock before laughing again. “Oh, you’re just perfect! Thorin is gonna have his work cut out for him.” Bilbo wasn’t too sure what that meant but he just watched Frerin as he, with the use of some wheels on the feet of his mirror, moved around to next room.

“If you can do move why not leave the rooms?” Bilbo asked as he looked around the much cleaner bedroom. Frerin shrugged, “My brother needed me here, so I stayed.”

Bilbo nodded, understanding. He looked around the room one more time, noticing how the windows were all drawn closed, before his eyes landed on a table in the center of the room. There was a deep blue cloth covering a vase of sorts and Bilbo felt the same pull he had in the hallway. Frerin was silent, watching him from his mirror as Bilbo moved closer.

The world slowed down as Bilbo lifted the cloth away. There it was, the red, glowing, magical rose that was keeping this place and its inhabitants under the wizard’s curse. It was beautiful, it was powerful, it was-

“Dying,” Bilbo whispered. Frerin hummed in agreement, the young prince looking grim. Bilbo cringed at the fallen petals surrounding the floating stem and the closer Bilbo looked, he realized that there was nothing else besides the rose there. No secret runes or texts, no hints, nothing at all. Before Bilbo put the glass covering over it once again, the rose shook. A single petal fluttered off and shriveled in on itself as it landed in a pile with the others. Bilbo noticed, with remorse, that there was only three petals left.

The castle shook and outside Bilbo saw the winter’s storm from before pick up. The sky was no longer sunny, but instead casted an eerie grey shadow across the land. Bilbo quickly put the cloth back over, just as Thorin came running into the room.

Bilbo’s eyes met Thorin’s piercing gaze as the man growled.

“What are you doing here?” he yelled out. Frerin tried to speak up but Thorin pushed his mirror away.

“I needed to see the rose and you-”

“Didn’t anyone tell you not to come here? Do you realise what you could have done?!” Thorin countered to Bilbo’s protest. The young man defensively backed away from the raging beast and tried to speak again.

“I needed answers! The library was closed and you refuse to come out of hiding!” Bilbo retorted. Thorin’s face twisted in confusion before he snarled.

“Do you think that maybe I’m trying not to scare you?”

“You don’t scare me! I’m trying to help you and your family from this curse but I need your help. It’s like you don’t care!”

Looking back on it, that was probably the wrong thing to say.

Thorin snarled before rising to his full height. Bilbo swore the beast would’ve hit him, but Thorin pulled back.

“Don’t care? Do you call me trying for the past eight years to fix this damned curse not caring!? You know nothing of this life! Of this curse!” he bellowed.

Bilbo felt terrible but he knew this confrontation would happen sooner or later.

“Then help me understand! We can work-”

“No!” Thorin cut him off. Bilbo saw Frerin from the corner of his eye shrinking into the mirror with sadness etched into his face. Thorin was fuming and Bilbo knew he had said the wrong thing but the king needed to understand his position in the grand scheme of things. Looking at Thorin, however, Bilbo knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“All you’ve done here is given us a false sense of hope. Just go,” Thorin whispered out. Bilbo’s eyes widened in shock, that hadn’t been what he expected at all!

“Thorin wait I-”

“Just, go!” Thorin snapped back. In his rage he flipped over one of the nightstands and in that moment Bilbo felt something in him break. He didn’t know what to do and so-

He ran.

He ran out of the West Wing, through the hallway and down the stairs, never stopping in his panic to leave. Bofur, Fili, Kili, and Ori were all watching him closely atop of Dwalin. Balin was currently pacing in front of the stairs.

“Bilbo, please give him some time! He’ll come around and we can think this out!” the old clock begged. Bilbo didn’t trust his voice in that moment and simply shook his head, jumping around the group of objects before rushing to the front door. He heard cries of his name but ignored them, choosing instead to grab a cloak and running out into the snow.

Bilbo ran straight towards to the stables to get Myrtle, hastily getting her ready to ride and soon they took off out of Erebor. He heard a howl in the air and prayed to Yavanna that it was just the wind of the vicious storm around him.

As they entered the forest, Bilbo’s worst nightmare became true. A pack of wolves jumped from the tree line, spooking Myrtle and nearly throwing Bilbo off. He tried to gain control of her but as one of the wolves lunged forward, he lost his grip.

Bilbo went flying into the air and landed on his back. The wolves neared closer and all Bilbo could do was grab a fallen branch near him. Myrtle neighed and reared up on the wolves as they approached the two. Bilbo was able to hit three of the wolves back before one of them, the alpha he assumed, growled and tore the branch right out of his hands.

He backed up into a tree and looked the wolf dead in the eye. His lip was trembling and all he could think about was how he had failed not only his father in promising to stay alive, but failing the castle residents in his promise to help find the answer to the curse.

Before the wolf jumped, however, a large howl echoed throughout the clearing.

Bilbo turned to see Thorin standing there, claws out and ready to attack.

***

The first wolf stood no chance. It lunged at Thorin with it’s teeth bare. Thorin grabbed it by the throat and slammed it against the tree with a sickening crunch. Bilbo stood in awe and confusion as Thorin rammed his body into the pack of hungry wolves. They tore away pieces of his flesh as he too attacked their bodies. One by one the wolves fell, blood splattering the white forest floor. Bilbo closed his eyes and looked away as one wolf bite into Thorin’s bicep, causing blood to gush forward like a fountain.

By the time all was silent, Bilbo had reopened his eyes. The rest of the pack ran off from their dead brethren as Thorin, victorious turned to face Bilbo. He looked Bilbo over carefully and gave out a groan of defeat as he crumpled to the ground.

***

Bilbo never debated on leaving Thorin there or not. Sure, he wanted to go back home but this man had just saved his life! He was going to take Thorin back to Erebor and help him if it was the last thing he did.

“Thorin, please move just a little,” he begged as Myrtle, bless her soul, carefully leaned her body down to try and get Thorin on top of her. The man groaned but did as Bilbo asked and soon he was stabilized on the horse’s back. Bilbo owed Myrtle a multitude of apples for this.

They walked in silence, Bilbo keeping watch with a branch clutched tightly in his hands. After a while Thorin shifted slightly on Myrtle. His eyes opened and for the first time Bilbo saw a gentleness in them.

“Thank you.”

Bilbo was going to say that it was Thorin he should be thanking, but the man passed out shortly after. Bilbo smiled at him before looking up to the sky. They had plenty more to talk about but he would prefer it be by a fire in the safety of the castle walls.

-~-

Fili ran to door as soon as he heard footsteps. Bilbo stood there with Uncle Thorin draped over Bilbo’s horse.

“Oh gods, what happened?” he asked, worry lacing his words. Bilbo gently got Thorin off of the horse as the rest of the Company came pouring in. A metal guard quickly took Myrtle off to the stables and soon they were all in the common area.
Gloin stoked his fire as high and as hot as possible as Bilbo explained the wold attack. Oin quickly gave Bilbo the proper supplies needed to help Thorin and though Fili had initially panicked over the thought of his Uncle being hurt he was glad he went out and saved Bilbo.

“You’ll want to do this quickly, preferably before he wakes up, laddie,” Oin offered cautiously before moving back. Fili saw the fear pass before Bilbo’s eyes before determination filled them. The young prince smiled and went to sit with his brother. And Ori, of course.

Bilbo was able to clean and dress all of the wounds except for the giant one on Thorin’s arm before anything went wrong. As Bilbo pressed the cloth of hot water and soap to the wound, Thorin’s eyes opened wide and a loud growl escaped his throat. The entire room jumped and Fili swore he could hear his mother cursing from here. Everyone looked at Thorin, waiting for him to yell or sulk or do something dramatic. Well, all except for Bilbo.

“Oh please, just sit still and this will be over with!” he exclaimed and Thorin snapped his head to look at him.

“I saved your life and you sass me?”

“I tried to say thank you before you passed out. Now, let me return the favour by saving your arm before an infection sets in. Sit still,” Bilbo countered and no one was shocked more than Fili when Thorin only grumbled and complied with the smaller man’s orders. What had happened to his stoneheaded uncle?

“I really am thankful, you know. I was thinking I was about to die,” Bilbo finally said quietly. Thorin hummed and mumbled a “Your welcome.” Bilbo smiled and the whole Company watched in awe as Thorin puffed his chest out pride.

‘Seriously, Uncle? Seriously?’ Fili thought to himself.

For the next few minutes, everything went smoothly. Thorin listened to Bilbo and had even nearly fallen asleep in the warm firelight. Fili thought they were in the clear, until he noticed that Thorin had seen the wrap.

“I don’t need that,” he drawled out, fighting off sleep. Both Bilbo and Oin huffed at the statement and what proceeded as the most amusing and terrifying battle of the two most stubborn people Fili had ever met.

At one point, Bilbo tried to forcibly push Thorin so he could gain the upper hand and wrap the wound. When that didn’t work, Bilbo resorted to yelling.

“You are impossible, Thorin Durin!”

“Maybe if you listened to me for one bloody moment we wouldn’t be in this mess!” That must’ve been in reference to Thorin trying to keep Bilbo out of the West Wing.

“Or, perhaps, if you could control that raging temper of yours I would be more obliged to listen!” And that must’ve been from what they heard of the fighting in the West Wing.

Fili turned to his brother and sighed heavily. “I do believe this will take more work than we thought,” he whispered as the two in the background kept arguing about gods knows what.

Bilbo continued to fight with Thorin to place on the wrap, claiming that it would help with the healing process. Thorin countered that the honey would stick to his fur and make it disgusting, to which Bilbo argued that would be a blessing, as to have a proper excuse to tell Thorin to take a bath. Thorin nearly squawked at that, his shock giving Bilbo the right about of time to quickly wrap the wound.

Thorin glared at him before smiling lightly at Bilbo’s proud expression. The two started at each other for a while, each smiling so much that Fili finally understood what Kili meant when he told him how he and Ori stared at each other like a bunch of “idiots that would be able to ignore the entire castle burning down.” Thankfully, Balin’s clock went off gathering everyone’s attention. It had become late, far too late for anyone to have a proper discussion anymore. Thorin looked as if he were about to pass out once again.

“Well,” Bilbo started as he stood up. “I expect to see you for breakfast, your majesty. Rest up, we have a long day tomorrow.”

Thorin raised a brow. “Doing what?”

“Spending time together,” Bilbo replied. Kili smiled widely and Fili couldn’t help but grin as well. “Sleep well, everyone,” Bilbo called as he left the room. The Company said their goodnights before all eyes turned to Thorin. He looked in shock but...happy. It was quiet for a while before Thorin spoke up.

“Do I smell?”

Fili barked out a laugh.

-~-

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Nellie shot up out of bed, accidently waking her wife up with her. Amelia wrapped her arms around Nellie’s waist, gently trying to coax her back to sleep.

“C’mon love,” she whispered, slowing pulling the startled woman down with her. Nellie used to have frequent nightmares and she knew that her wife was trying to just calm her down. But Nellie didn’t awake because of some nightmare.

Bang. Bang.

This time both women shot up and looked around the room. Nellie reached over and grabbed her walking stick as Amelia lit a lantern. With a quick look to her lover, Nellie led the way down to the front door.

She slowly opened it, revealing a tired and nearly blue Bungo Baggins.

“Bungo!” Nellie cried as she threw her stick down. She quickly ushered the older man in, Amelia already off upstairs to get the fire going for him.

“Oh we’ve all been worried sick!” she explained as she led him upstairs to the living area. Nellie turned around and looked past him. That was odd. “Where is Bilbo?”

Bungo’s eyes widened and the old man trembled before coughing viciously. Amelia had returned with some medicine and Nellie ran off to get some clean clothes. Once the man was settled in front of the fire and wrapped in four blankets, Bungo finally spoke.

“Bilbo traded his life for mine. A beast is keeping him locked away.”

Nellie and Amelia exchanged glances over the man’s head. Their own secret, unspoken language carrying multiple messages between them. Bungo sighed.

“I know you think I’m crazy, but it’s true!” Nellie sighed and held the man she thought of as her own father close to her. If Bungo was telling the truth, then something terribly wrong had happened. Bungo began to shake in her arms till he began to weep. She held him till he fell asleep and she quickly moved him to the couch.

“Is he going to be alright?” Nellie asked as Amelia brought her close.

“I’m not sure, darling,” her wife mumbled into her hair. Nellie nuzzled close and they stood there, the warmth and sounds of the hearth keeping them grounded in each other. Bungo sniffled and coughed in his sleep, his lungs sounding filled with water. Amelia stiffened at the sound and moved to look at the man. Nellie looked at him as well and had to muffle a cry.

There was blood on his lips.

“I’m writing a letter to a comrade of mine,” Amelia announced as she moved to her writing desk. Nellie watched as her wife began to write.

Dear Gandalf.