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Watching There and Back Again

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Bilbo was tired, hungry, and absolutely done with this accursed forest. They had been traveling on the narrow, twisting path for what seemed like ages, though Bilbo really didn’t know how long it had actually been. The forest was always dark, with creatures looming in the branches. The night was worse, with the haunting eyes glowing with unknown light, the darkness so thick he couldn’t even see his hand when touching his nose. Bilbo hadn’t thought he was capable of such complete and utter loathing, and he was sure only this forest would ever be able to garner such a reaction from him. Tripping over yet another tree root that jutted up from the ground, Bilbo winced as he fell into Bofur. The miner turned his head, blinking slowly before he realized it had been Bilbo who fell into him.

“Alright there?” He asked as Bilbo straightened. Nodding quickly, Bofur turned back and continued to follow the procession. Bilbo heard the dwarves muttering but he tried to pay them little mind, busying himself with watching his feet and his own temper. However, when he ran into Bofur’s back again, this time because the dwarf had stopped abruptly, he couldn’t help but look up in exasperation

“What’s happening?” Oin called from farther forwards

“Keep moving. Nori, why have we stopped?” Thorin demanded and Bilbo could hear the barely suppressed ire in his voice, having been on the wrong end of it too many times before. Bilbo wanted to tell him they should rest, exhaustion weighing heavily on his body, but Thorin would never agree to such a thing. Maybe Nori had the same notion. The idea was quickly replaced with dread as Nori spoke up.

“The path...it’s disappeared!” Of all the advice they had been given, leaving the path and drinking the water had been the two biggest things not to do. This day just kept getting better and better.

“What’s going on?” Dwalin demanded, pushing past Bilbo towards the front.

“We’ve lost the path!” Oin said as everyone moved forward to stand on the edge of the cliff they now found themselves on. Bilbo couldn’t see the bottom, the deep chasm had a thick layer of fog. Even so, the drop made his stomach churn uncomfortably, bringing back memories of the Misty Mountains and nearly falling to his death. If it hadn’t been for a certain brooding, rude, arrogant, handsome, no! Bilbo shook his head to dispel those thoughts. Thorin would certainly never think of him in that way, he barely even considered them friends. Besides Thorin was to be a king and he was nothing more than a foolish hobbit. Bilbo sighed as he turned to look at the gathered dwarves, wondering what they were to do now. Thorin was staring angrily down into the chasm as if it personally had offended him and his entire family.

“Find it. All of you look. Look for the path!” He ordered, turning away from the cliff. As he stepped away a tremor shook the ground. Bilbo was the first to notice it, the dwarves picking up on it as the shaking intensified. There were shouts of fear and surprise as the entire company tried to scramble away from the cliff as the rocks began to crumble. A resounding crack echoed through the dense trees and Bilbo could feel the rock beneath his feet coming loose. He tried to jump back. The ground was too loose. A shout of panic was all Bilbo could let out before he was sliding. For a second he felt weightless and then he was falling, down, down, down, into the chasm.

“Bilbo!” He heard someone shout, and it had to have been his imagination playing tricks on him because the voice sounded very much like Thorin’s. But everything was drowned out by wind and the screams of the dwarves as they too fell, all of them being engulfed in the dark fog.


 

Bilbo wasn’t exactly sure when he stopped falling. His whole body tingled and his head felt too light. Groaning, Bilbo sat up slowly and looked around. He was in, well it seemed to be a room but he had never seen a room quite like it before. Three of the walls were covered with black cloth, while the other was white. The floor was covered in a dark, soft carpet and the only furniture in the room was a long empty table along with several couches and chairs. He heard groans and noticed his dwarves were also laying scattered around the room. They were also starting to sit up, looking at the unfamiliar surroundings. Dwalin was reaching for his weapons, his roar of anger when he found them missing rousing everyone.

“Everyone, up!” Thorin ordered, his voice far closer then Bilbo had been expecting. Bilbo felt himself being pulled to his feet, his back pressed against a very strong, and very warm, chest as the company circled up around him.

“Where are my knives?”

“Where’re me axes?” Bilbo wanted to cover his ears at the cacophony of noise around him but the thick arm across his chest prevented him from doing anything.

“No harm will come to you within these halls.” A voice said, though there was no one to accompany it.

“Who are you? Where have you taken us?” Thorin demanded staring up at the ceiling.

“Who I am is unimportant, but know I mean to help. As for where you are, you are in my theater to see something I think you will find most interesting.” The voice almost seemed amused. Thorin, however, was the exact opposite at the vague response.

“I command you-”

“You cannot command me to do anything Thorin Oakenshield. The time you spend arguing with me only prolongs your sentence here. If you and your company desire there is food on the table that you may help yourselves to. I have removed the forest’s affects on you, but if you are too tired I can provide blankets and pillows and we can start the viewing in the morning.” As the voice spoke, Bilbo heard the gasps of the dwarves and he struggled against the arm to see. The appendage relented and Bilbo turned to see it had been Thorin who had grabbed him. Swallowing thickly Bilbo tried to calm how his heart raced knowing how close they had been. He instead preoccupied himself with what had captured everyone else’s interest. The once empty table was now filled with all sorts of food. It reminded him a great deal of how his table in Bag End had looked all those months ago when he first met the company. After days of little food, the sight nearly made him cry with relief. He knew he wasn’t the only one.

“And what is it you will be showing us?” Thorin asked coming to stand in front of the company, even as he glared up at the ceiling.

“Your journey so far, along with a few additional bit of information. I believe such a thing will aid you greatly on your path to come.” There were murmurs at the voice’s words. Whatever being had brought them here must have been very powerful, Bilbo wasn’t sure even Gandalf could do such a thing. But how could showing them what had already happened possibly help them? Bilbo sighed and he wondered if all wizards were as mad as Gandalf. Radagast, and now this person, were only furthering his conclusion that they were.

“Eat, and then rest. We will begin when your minds and bodies are ready.” The voice said, before fading away. Despite Thorin demanding more answers, the voice said nothing more. No one quite knew what to do, Thorin was standing stock still and while the voice had assured them the food was safe none of them knew if they should trust it. Apparently, some stomachs were stronger than a dwarf’s suspicion.

“Bombur!” Bofur called out, drawing everyone’s attention. The ginger-haired dwarf, looked up, eyes wide and cheeks stuffed full. He gulped and, when nothing happened to him, the rest of the company descended.

Bilbo couldn’t find it in himself to give even a lick of concern for the dwarves appalling table manners. Food was being thrown merrily back and forth across the table and ale was flowing freely. Bilbo had never been gladder to see a dish of roasted vegetables in his life and he gladly took the entire dish, only sharing a bit with Bifur. He knew none of the other dwarves would appreciate the dish, too busy scarfing down the biggest roasts Bilbo had ever seen. Even Thorin seemed to relax slightly as he ate, the tension melting away. He still looked around with suspicion, but with no harm coming to his men from the food he was hesitant trusting whatever power had brought them here. Bilbo found himself pushed around the table from the dwarves antics, finally tiring of it and moving to sit closer to Thorin. They watched the company feast and laugh and forget, however momentarily the situation they found themselves in.

“What do you think the voice wants us to see?” Bilbo jumped a little as Thorin’s voice rumbled quite close to his ear. The dwarf had leaned towards him so Bilbo could hear his question over the noise. Bilbo’s heart sped up a little but he made sure to stay composed.

“I’m not entirely sure. I cannot see how showing us what we have already experienced will help us. But for anything powerful enough to do all of this, I assume they have knowledge we do not. I think it is best if we go along with what they are asking for now and if the situation turns sour later we can figure out a way to escape. If there even if one.” Bilbo shoved a spoonful of carrots into his mouth to stop his ramblings. Thorin hummed in agreement and sat back, staring down at his plate. He did not speak to Bilbo again for the remainder of the meal, both of them silently eating their meals.

As the food dwindled down, so did their high spirits. Fili and Kili were the first to fall asleep, laying on top of each other, Kili’s face dangerously close to a plate of half-eaten cake. One by one, their full bellies lulled the company to sleep. Even Dwalin, who had been complaining about the mysterious loss of his axes for most of the meal, eventually passed out, leaving only Bilbo and Thorin.

“Go to sleep Burglar, I’ll keep watch,” Thorin said, even as his eyelids drooped. Bilbo was far too tired to respond, merely laying his head down on the table. He idly wondered if perhaps their food had been drugged, but sleep took him before he could come up with an answer.