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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.

Chapter Text

Bilbo woke up incredibly comfortable. His head had sunk into a soft pillow and he was wrapped up in warm blankets. For a moment, Bilbo thought he was somehow back in bag end, or possibly Rivendale. But even his sleep clouded brain quickly dismissed such thoughts. They had been in that accursed forest, so how? Bilbo sat up, rubbing his eyes as he looked around. Somehow, he along with the rest of the company had been moved from the table to the chairs and couches. Surely the work of whatever being had brought them here. Bilbo smiled as he took in the sleeping forms of his companions. Each had been tucked in and Bilbo had to stifle a laugh at some of the positions they were now in. Of course, he had expected the princes to be tangled up together, their blankets were thrown haphazardly around them. Gloin was taking up nearly an entire couch, his legs kicked up over the back and neck tilted at an odd angle to still be on the pillow. He would be regretting that decision and all the ale he had, Bilbo was sure of it. Surprisingly the most adorable dwarf was Dwalin. The usually gruff dwarf had two pillows, one held tightly in his arms and the other for his head. At some point, he must have fallen off the chair because his blanket was only half covering him. Bilbo shook his head as one by one everyone began to wake up. Bofur was nearest to him, the dwarf waking with a loud groan that roused his brother and cousin.

“Wha happened?” He asked, staringly blearily around the room. Bilbo really didn’t know how to answer him without sounding utterly ridiculous, so he remained quiet. It didn’t take Bofur long to piece together the events of the day before. With a low curse in Khuzdul, he kicked out, foot connecting with Bombur’s side startling him completely awake. The commotion seemed to wake everyone else up and soon the entire company was sitting up or standing as they looked around the room with suspicion once more.

“Did you all sleep well?” The voice asked.

“You drugged us!” Thorin growled angrily up at the ceiling.

“You needed rest. What I am about to show you is of the utmost importance and having you exhausted wouldn’t provide the results I am looking for.”

“We won’t do anything you ask of us, I demand you release us this instant!”

“I will not, nor is it in any way possible for you to escape this room. You will watch what I have to show you. Then and only then will you be returned to your world. Do not worry, no time will have passed while you are here.” Thorin was fuming, his arms crossed in defiance. Balin stepped towards him and looked up at the ceiling as well.

“What are you going to show us?”

“The past, present and, if necessary, the future in a series of images on the white screen. There will be things I will show, none of you have ever seen, and events some of you wish you never had to witness again. But it all has a purpose, that I do promise. If you would take a seat we shall begin.” With that, the voice faded away and the white wall, the screen as the voice had called it, lit up. There were gasps and murmurs around the room. Slowly, and with much placating from Balin, the company settled down. Bilbo reclaimed the plush armchair he had been sleeping on, Thorin taking the one next to him with a huff. The Ur family took the couch on his other side, while the princes, Balin and Dwalin took the couch on Thorin’s other side. At the end of the line, Dori held a resigned Ori next to him on another couch he had somehow convinced Nori to also occupy and Gloin and Oin took the last two armchairs. After they had settled the glowing screen suddenly changed to black.

[Bilbo:] “My dear Frodo.”

A match is struck revealing a wrinkled hand as it lit a candle. The person picked up the candle and began walking down an awfully familiar hall. Bilbo stared in confusion as he saw Bag End appear on the screen, though he had no idea who the old hobbit or Frodo was.

[Bilbo:] “You asked me one once if I had told you everything there was to know about my adventures. And while I can honestly say I have told you the truth, I may not have told you all of it.”

“Hey isn’t that your letter opener Bilbo?” Kili asked and Bilbo suddenly found thirteen curious dwarves looking at him. His hand went to his hip where his sword had been strapped for so long and frowned as he remembered it had disappeared along with the rest of their weapons.

“It certainly looks like it, and this is definitely Bag End, but I have no idea who this person is. Unless…” Bilbo trailed off, focusing once again on the screen. The old hobbit was staring at the sword fondly as he reached out to touch it. Then he changed his mind and pulled out a large red book. Bilbo ignored their curious gazes as the hobbit sat down, opening the book only to reveal a very good sketch of himself.

“This is impossible.” Bilbo breathed realizing that the old hobbit was almost certainly himself.

“What is?” Thorin asked.

“That’s me, but I must be seventy or eighty there!”

“They did say we might see the future,” Balin said.

[Bilbo:] “I am old now, Frodo. I’m not the same Hobbit I once was.”

The Hobbit, or his older self, he reminds himself, begins to write in the book.

[Bilbo:] “I think it is time for you to know what really happened.

As screen-Bilbo begins to tell his tale about the great lands to the east, the words shift to a map or middle earth, panning over until it comes to the word Dale. The screen shifts and suddenly they are seeing a lively, bustling marketplace filled with men and dwarves alike.

“How can this be?” Thorin whispered. They see Dale in all its prosperity, a place of great fortune and commerce as Bilbo’s older, screen-self told them of Erebor, the greatest kingdom in Middle Earth.

“That is quite a grand description, Bilbo.” Bofur laughed, though he too was staring at the screen intently as well. As the screen moved to show the gates of Erebor, there was a collective gasp from the dwarves. A few khuzdul words slipped from their lips as they saw, either once more or for the first time, Erebor in all of its glory. Bilbo was also in awe, never having seen anything as magnificent in his life as they panned from the front gates into the throne room. Thror, Bilbo assumed, was sitting on the throne. Another regal looking dwarf approached him, Thrain perhaps, and a younger Thorin stood at his side.

They moved from the throne room to see more of the giant kingdom as the narration continued, describing quite grandly all the glories of Erebor. Bilbo’s breath caught as he saw the numerous dwarves working on various gems and metals, fashioning them into pieces of beauty. He knew his appreciation for the riches would never come close to any of his dwarves, but he wasn’t blind.

The screen took them down into the mines of Erebor, where they stopped at one particular miner. He was chiseling away at the rock, breaking through and revealing a gem that seemed to emanate its own light. There were murmurers from the company, those who had seen it taking in the Arkenstone’s beauty once more, and those who never had looking at it in complete amazement. No story could ever do the Arkenstone justice. The screen switched to show it above the throne, Thranduil approaching Thror to pay homage to him.

“Take a good look burglar, that stone is the reason you’re here.” Thorin didn’t look away from the screen.

“I’m going to be stealing a shiny rock from a dragon?” Bilbo asked incredulously. Surely that wasn’t his entire job. He thought he was going to be looking for weak points or something of that ilk. Not searching a massive treasure hoard for a single stone.

“The Arkenstone is the legacy of my people. With it, we can rally an army big enough to slay Smaug and take back Erebor. It is not just some shiny rock.” Thorin glared at him and Bilbo thought it wise to stop talking, at least while everyone was so on edge. It was entirely ridiculous to him though to tie the entire legacy of a people to a single stone, but that idea wouldn’t go over well.

Bilbo watched as the elves were presented with a case full of stones that seemed to glimmer like starlight. Older, screen-Bilbo told how the stones were responsible for the rift between the dwarves of Erebor and the elves of the Woodland Realm. Bilbo shook his head at the foolishness of ending alliances over gems, something his older counterpart agreed with. As the case was closed he frowned at the look in Thror’s eyes.

Screen-Bilbo then told of Thror’s descent into madness, how his love of gold poisoned his mind and made him sick. The mere idea was enough to make Bilbo shiver with fright.

“We tried to stop him, but we were too late.” Balin leaned over and placed a hand on Thorin’s shoulder in comfort.

“We all did laddie, no one can say we didn’t try.” He tried to reassure but his own voice seemed strained as well. Bilbo’s frown deepened as the treasure chamber took on an almost sickly light in his eyes, Thror obviously going mad as his older-self had said. Screen-Thorin was watching his grandfather before turning away from the sight. The scene switched to a kite being flown over Dale. A red paper dragon. The irony was not lost on Bilbo even as other kites were shown floating in the wind.

The trees on the mountainside bent and snapped as a huge gust of air blew through them. Thorin tensed next to him, his hands curling into fists so tight, Bilbo thought his palms might bleed. The younger Thorin and Balin rushed onto the battlements and looked around. Eyes widening, screen-Thorin turned to screen-Balin, ordering him to sound the alarm. At screen-Balin’s questioning, he turned and said one word that left the air in the room tense.

Dragon.

He said it to screen-Balin and he called it down to the people of Erebor but it was too late. A roar followed his words as the screen was filled with fire. Screen-Thorin barely pulled Balin behind a pillar in time to avoid being roasted alive.

[Bilbo:] “It was a fire drake from the north. Smaug had come.”

The city of Dale was burning. All around them were the terrified screams of the people as they ran through the city. Fire rained down from the sky as Smaug flew through towers sending rocks tumbling down. The warning horns were blown and archers tried to shoot him down, but they were easily burned. A rack of black arrows was shown, one being taken off. An archer was standing on top of a tower at a windlance, shooting the black arrow. It bounced harmlessly off Smaug’s scales. Bilbo had to cover his mouth to keep from crying out as it showed a mere child standing in the carnage, watching as a doll burned. This was so very wrong. He had heard the stories of course but watching it was something entirely different.

The screen switched from the burning of Dale to the gates of Erebor, where hundreds of dwarves stood ready. Ready to fight, and as they knew, ready to die. Seeing the dwarves rallying to fight the dragon was heart-wrenching knowing the inevitable outcome. Risking a glance at Thorin, he saw the dwarf was white as a sheet. He wished there was something he could do for him, but he knew in that instant there was nothing. He couldn’t stop the events from unfolding just as they had the first time, nor did he know any words he could possibly say.

Screen-Thorin called out orders to the dwarves, all of them readying their swords and shields. The company was helpless as they watched Smaug smash his way into the mountain, tossing and squashing dwarves as if they were nothing. He could hear muffled sobs coming from his left and shifted to see Fili and Kili holding tightly to each other. Balin and Dwalin looked close to tears as well. On his other side, he saw Dori trying to shield Ori from the sight, but the scribe had fought to see it, even as tears rolled down his face as well. Even Bofur’s eternal smile was gone, replaced by a slack-jawed look of horror. Bilbo closed his eyes as he saw Thror run to the throne to save the Arkenstone while his people died. The look of madness and crazed desperation when it rolled out of his hands made Bilbo shudder. Screen-Thorin dragged his grandfather away even as he fought against him. How anyone could become so obsessed with treasure to risk their life for a simple stone was beyond Bilbo.

The dwarves of Erebor ran from their home, crying and screaming in fear and sadness. Bilbo felt his heart go out to them. When the elves arrived on a ridge above them, Bilbo sighed, already knowing they would not help. He was right, even as screen-Thorin called out for aid Thranduil turned away. While he may not agree with Thorin’s hatred of all elves, he understood now how it had started. Hobbit may have been suspicious folk, but that was because they were not warriors by nature. Even they would not have completely abandoned the dwarves in their hour of need.

Durin’s folk were shown wandering the wilds, desolate and homeless. Many of the company bowed their heads in memory of those days and all those they had lost. Their grief had still not fully subsided, though the younger members tried their hardest to stop the tears and hide the horror they felt.

“The dragon’s siege on the mountain was not the last time we lost dwarves. So many died that winter, a several more winters after that. We had nothing.” Thorin sounded more defeated then he ever had in all the time Bilbo had known him.

The screen switched to screen-Thorin laboring in a forge of men. But even as he worked for those who looked down upon him and his people, he never forgot his pride. His memories of Erebor fueled the flames of revenge within him and he never forgave and he never forgot those who had taken everything from his people.

No one dared speak a word even as the screen faded, pausing to allow them time to compose themselves. Seeing what had transpired had filled Bilbo with a deep sadness, only outdone by his own experiences with the Fell Winter. But it also stoked the fire within him. He had joined the company because of their song, but he had stayed for the people. He had been determined to see them home, but until this moment he had only ever had half an understanding as to why they so desperately wanted to go back to Erebor that they would risk angering a dragon. Filled with even more determination to see the quest through, Bilbo focused back on the screen as it started again.

Chapter Text

 

The screen lit up with fireworks and screen-Bilbo’s voice sounded once again.

[Bilbo:] “Far away, in another corner of the world, dragons were only make-believe; a party trick conjured by wizards on Midsummer’s Eve.  No more frightening than fairy dust.”

“Oh! We finally get to see a Hobbit party eh?” Bofur asked chuckling slightly. There were a few rumbles of laughter but it was all very strained. Bilbo appreciated Bofur’s attempt at lightening the mood and tried to help.

“That looks like Old Took’s birthday, those were always some of the grandest celebrations. Ah, look there’s Gandalf!” The screen showed Gandalf lighting off the fireworks as hobbits danced and laughed around him. It was quite the abrupt change from the horror they had just witnessed. Though Bilbo guessed that was what the Shire was, a slice of peace in a dangerous world.

“Look at the baby hobbit!” Kili said as a small hobbit came on screen, wielding a sword. He attacked Gandalf’s legs and Bilbo had to cover his face when a deep blush covered his cheeks.

“Reminds me of my wee lad Gimli!” Gloin laughed. A hobbit woman appeared, eyes widening as she rushed towards the fauntling, calling out his name in an admonishing tone.

“That’s you?”

“Ha ha! Maybe you have more of a spark then you let on.” Dwalin laughed, the others joining in as Bilbo’s mother admonished him. Bilbo couldn’t join them, even if he had wanted to. The sight of his mother left him feeling hollow and empty. His thoughts started to stray, but he roughly pushed them back to focus. Now was not the time to be so emotional, he had dwarves for that.

Screen-Bilbo began to talk again about his and Gandalf’s unlikely, lifelong friendship. Though he hastened to tell those watching that it wasn’t the true start of his story as the party scene faded away.

“Aw, I wanted to see more of baby Bilbo! You were so adorable.” Kili complained.

“And I wanted to see more of the party, are all birthday celebrations like that?” Ori asked. Bilbo grabbed onto the scribe’s question like a lifeline. Smiling brightly, he noticed Ori’s book was somehow already out, a quill dipped in ink ready to write down whatever information he could.

“Sometimes, though usually they don’t have as much flair. Old Took always had those types of parties though, he was the Thain and the oldest hobbit to have lived in a long time.”

“Thain? What’s a Thain?”

“Oh, well, how do I explain it? Mm well, the Thain oversees most of the Shire, except for Buckland of course. He helps to organize the bounders and deals with the disputes the Mayor cannot. It’s a trying position, cousin Fortinbras was very upset when he had to take over due to Old Took’s declining health. He wanted to have a few more years of freedom see.”

“Wait...your cousin is the Thain?” Thorin asked, finally coming out of his brooding to stare at him with wide eyes.

“Well yes, my mother was Old Took’s eldest and favorite daughter.”

“Your grandfather, was the King of the Shire?” Thorin asked, turning to look at Balin. His advisor was looking at Bilbo with slight horror.

“No no no, we don’t have Kings in the Shire.”

“He certainly sounds like a King, what are the Bounders?”

“Well, they are hobbit trained with bows that patrol our borders. Sometimes we have rangers come by to help out, but usually it is just us. They keep out most of the Big Folk.”

“So they are a small hobbit army?” Dwalin jumped in and Bilbo really did not know how they could possibly be getting these ideas. Hobbits having an army? How absurd.

“Absolutely not, they are just-”

“An army. No matter how you try to spin it, Bilbo, what you are describing in any other culture is an army, with the Thain as King. Is the position hereditary?” Ori told him, not even looking up as he continued to madly write down every word Bilbo said. Looking around Bilbo saw the dwarves staring at him in a new light and he knew then that the answer he had to give would completely seal their opinion of Shire politics. Blasted dwarves!

“Yes, it is hereditary.”

“Who knew we had another Prince in the company?” Fili laughed.

“Prince Bilbo!” The brothers stood and gave him a dramatic brow and Bilbo could feel his face heating up once more.

“Call me Prince Bilbo one more time and you will regret it. I have dealt with fauntlings all my life, I can take care of you two with ease.” Bilbo threatened and Fili and Kili wisely shut up at the moment, though they continued to whisper excitedly to each other.

“Bilbo, I know you were in quite a hurry to catch up with us, but uh, please tell me you told someone where you were going?” Bilbo sounded very tense and he looked like he already knew, and was dreading, the answer.

“Uh, well, not entirely?” There was a loud groan from Thorin at his answer, the dwarf covering his face with his hands.

“We have practically kidnaped a Prince of the Shire.”

“Now see here, I was the one who decided to join. I left a letter in the Gamgee’s mailbox and that will have to have been enough. I don’t want all of you concerning yourself over this, let's just watch some more.” Bilbo turned with a huff back to the screen which seemed to have paused itself while they had been talking. Well, at least they didn’t have to worry about missing anything important. Balin and Thorin still looked at him in dismay, no doubt thinking of the political fall out this whole situation would not cause them. Meanwhile Dwalin, Gloin, and even Nori were looking at him in a way Bilbo didn’t like. The way they looked when they were talking about training and fighting.

[Bilbo:] It began, well, it began as you might expect. In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, full of worms and oozy smells; this was a Hobbit­ hole, and that means good food, a warm hearth, and all the comforts of home.”

Frodo was eating an apple as he checked the mail and Bilbo wandered who’s child he was and why he seemed to be living with Bilbo. Maybe he was just visiting. Frodo approaches a laughing Bilbo and places the mail down, looking at the picture. Thanking him, screen-Bilbo goes back to his book, Frodo looking curiously over his shoulder. Frodo grinned as screen-Bilbo berated him for trying to look at the sketch and book, several dwarves chuckling at their easy interaction.
“You sound like Ori,” Nori laughs. His brother just stuck his tongue out as he wrote down even more information. Screen-Bilbo drew his attention away from his book, finally noticing the stack of letters Frodo had given him. Frodo proudly proclaimed that they were all for his party as screen-Bilbo flipped through them.
“Oh is it your birthday?!” Kili asked excitedly.

“Possibly, I wonder how old I am turning if it is.”
Screen-Bilbo turned to Frodo in surprise that today was his birthday. Fili and Kili leaned toward the screen in excitement, they wanted to see another hobbit party. Ori was also excited, the last party had given him so much information and had seemed like such a merry time. Frodo took the letter from screen-Bilbo as he told of the trouble with the Sackville Bagginses, something neither Bilbo was overly surprised by.

Of course they were, it sounded like a very Lobelia thing to do. Good to know at least some things never changed no matter how much time passed. 

[Bilbo:] “Are they, indeed? Over my dead body.”
[Frodo:] “They’d probably find that quite agreeable! They seem to think you have tunnels overflowing with gold.”

“What does he mean they would find that agreeable?” Thorin whipped his head to look at Bilbo with narrowed eyes.

“I don’t...get along overly well with many of my relatives on the Baggins side. Many are still upset with the Bag End fiasco. Not that I don’t still love them, but Lobelia is especially bad. Always trying to make off with my spoons. I hardly ever invite her over for tea, which only makes relations worse.”

“What happened with Bag End?” Balin looked at him with furrowed brows, a frown on his face. Bilbo bit his tongue, chastising himself for being stupid enough to bring that up. Out of all the things they could latch onto, it was the one thing he really didn’t want to talk about. Not now at least. Seeing how his face paled, Thorin’s frown deepened.

“Perhaps this conversation would be better for later.” He said and Balin nodded. Both of them wanted to get to the bottom of whatever had made their hobbit look so sad and scared. Dwalin cracked his knuckles.

Screen-Bilbo started to protest the claims, wrinkling his nose as he thought of how it smelled of troll.

“Hey hey! You went back to the troll hoard. See we told ye we were makin a long-term deposit.” Bofur laughed, pointing at Dwalin who didn’t seem impressed with the chuckles.

“Why is that all you have though?” Dwalin countered, taking the spotlight off himself and pushing it back on Bilbo. The hobbit shrugged not knowing the answer, but also not liking the implications that came with such a question. The old Bilbo on screen was walking hurriedly around the house, hiding valuables as he went. Frodo watched him in amused curiosity, questioning his actions. Screen-Bilbo scurried around, hiding silverware in pots so Lobelia Sackville-Baggins couldn’t steal them. He paused, stopping as he asked for Frodo to keep an eye on her and looking down. But then he shook himself, casting off Frodo’s questions something Frodo seemed quite used to. Frodo tried to lighten the mood by joking about how odd and unsociable the rest of Hobbiton thought screen-Bilbo was becoming, the company finding his words quite amusing. He gave Frodo a sign to put up, making Frodo just shake his head.

When they saw what was written on the sign the company burst into laughter. That was just like their hobbit. Screen-Bilbo came out to appreciate the sun, closing his eyes at the peacefulness. Bilbo sighed, remembering how warm the sun was in the Shire during the summer. It was something he had taken for granted, Mirkwood had made him realize that. Frodo began to ask if Gandalf would come and screen-Bilbo hastening to assure Frodo he would. As Frodo ran off, screen-Bilbo rocked back on his heels smiling at the boy and puffing on his pipe. He sat down on the bench outside, the very one Bilbo had been sitting on when Gandalf had come to him that fateful morning. A smoke circle rose from his pipe, up into the clear blue sky.

The words ‘AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY’ appeared on screen over the smoke circle. Bilbo chuckled. That was one way to describe this whole adventure. The word disappeared and the ring was destroyed by a smoke moth as the words ‘60 years earlier…’ appeared on the screen. Bilbo spluttered. Sixty years? But then that would mean..

“I was eleventy-one? How-how is that possible?”

“How long do hobbits usually live?

“Oh only till we are about a hundred usually, with the exception of Old Took and now I guess me.”

The moth flies into the very familiar face of his current self and Bilbo instantly knew exactly what day it was. He groaned at how terrible that first meeting had gone, honestly the entire day had been a series of unexpected events that he was still dealing with.

His screen-self looked around very confused at the appearance of Gandalf, nodding as he greeted the wizard. Gandalf, being the confusing person he was, spun a riddle out of his simple good morning that Bilbo couldn’t hope to follow even the second time around. The man might complain of dwarven stubbornness but at least they weren’t as confusing as he was. Screen-Bilbo tried to make sense of Gandalf’s words, but utterly failed based on Gandalf’ expression and tried to patch up the unusual meeting. Gandalf didn’t seem to be off-put by his answer and stared at screen-Bilbo as he said those fateful words.

[Gandalf:] “That remains to be seen. I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.”

“Oh, we get to see how Bilbo reacted to getting asked! I always wondered, what with how you acted that night. As if you had never even heard of the company or quest. We all thought it very strange.” Kili rambled.

“I didn’t?” Bilbo looked at him in confusion, surely they didn’t think he had actually had any idea they were coming over? He knew he had seemed like a terrible host, but that level of neglect would have just been unheard of. Initially, Bilbo didn’t realize everything around him had come to a screeching halt.

“I misheard ya, laddie, sounded like ye said ye didn’t know we were coming,” Oin said, breaking the silence. He was leaning forward, holding a new ear trumpet the voice must have provided him with.

“No, I didn’t know you were coming. If I had known I wouldn’t have been so terrible of a host. I would have at least made a few dishes.” Did they really think that lowly of him? He was almost insulted. Thorin opened his mouth, then snapped it shut just as quickly, his hands balling up into fists once again.

“I’m gonna kill the wizard.”

“Get in line,” Dwalin growled. There were nods of agreement from the more warrior-like dwarves. Ori looked like someone had just kicked his puppy and Fili and Kili really weren’t much better. Bofur looked horrified, Bombur biting his lip as he stared sadly at Bilbo.

“What?”

“Laddie...oh, well you see we were told you knew we were coming. Gandalf assured us nearly a month before the meeting that you had agreed to host us.”

“That’s ridiculous, I hadn’t seen Gandalf in years before you showed up. This right here is that very same day.” Thorin let out a sound that made it seem like his words had physically wounded him. Balin sighed and covered his face. In the silence that followed his words the screen started playing again.

[Bilbo:] “An adventure? Now, I don’t imagine anyone west of Bree would have much interest in adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner, hm, mm”

“You didn’t even want to go. Tharkun knew you didn’t want to go and he still had us all show up uninvited.”

“Now see here, it may have all been very unexpected at the time but I don’t regret it in the slightest. I do wish I could have been a better host though.”

“Knowing all this, you are the greatest host I have ever known. Anyone else would have just thrown us out.” Thorin said.

“Well, now that would have been rude. Besides, you all looked hungry and you were there already. I was just flustered, really I am quite glad it happened.” Bilbo assured, not allowing any other protests. He may have been upset with Gandalf, still was really, but he would the first to admit that the quest was one of the better things to have happened to him in life, even if it wasn’t entirely pleasant. On screen he was becoming quite flustered, trying to bring the conversation to a close as politely as possible, but Gandalf was having none of it. He reprimanded screen-Bilbo for his behavior towards him and told Bilbo his name, puffing up quite proudly as if he expected that to entirely change Bilbo’s opinion of him.

Much to the amusement of the dwarves, it did not.

“Aye ye tell ‘im,” Bofur laughed as all screen-Bilbo remembered about the ‘Great Gandalf the Grey’ was his fireworks and his surprise that the wizard was still in business. 

There were a few chuckles at Bilbo’s discomfort to Gandalf’s question. The grey wizard frowned and pointed at screen-Bilbo, declaring it would be good for everyone involved. What ‘it’ was, screen-Bilbo obviously did not know, though he still adamantly refused to have any part in it. With a final good morning screen Bilbo raced into his house and locked the door, hiding behind it. They watched as Gandalf placed the mark on the door, without telling Bilbo. His fright at the whole situation was evident. The screen cut to him walking through a marketplace buying himself dinner. An older hobbit stopped him to ask about his tubbers. Screen-Bilbo assured him they were impressive but seemed distracted as he looked around the marketplace. Thorin’s frown deepened at how screen-Bilbo was acting, running around like a thief within his own town to avoid the wizard. The sight made him angry, he wasn’t entirely sure why, but he knew it was direct towards the wizard.

As Bilbo skittishly walked out of the marketplace the screen turned dark. Thorin turned to look at Bilbo, his blue eyes hard.

“We need to have a discussion,” Thorin said and all thirteen dwarves turned to stare at Bilbo in unison. Bilbo cursed the stubbornness of dwarves.

Chapter Text

“I believe we should take a short break for breakfast. The showing will resume when you are finished. Don’t worry, the food isn’t drugged this time.” The voice said and with their words, food materialized on the table. Bilbo simultaneously thanked and cursed the voice. On one hand, he was getting quite hungry, but now there was also nothing to distract they dwarves from their questions.

“We will discuss this over breakfast,” Thorin said. Everyone took that as a sign to get up and eat. Even the experience of being drugged wouldn’t stop them. Then again, they really didn’t have much of a choice unless they wanted to starve to death. Plates were passed around as they all tried to find the best platters and seats. Bilbo somehow found himself pushed to sit next to Thorin, Dwalin on his other side and Balin across from him. Ori also sat close by, his book still out, as he expertly multitasked eating, writing and dodging food. Once the company had settled down Thorin cleared his throat to gain their attention. Bilbo kept his eyes firmly on the piece of toast he was lathering in butter and jam, not wanting to deal with any of them.

“What else haven’t you told us?”

“Quite a bit, though I hardly see how most of it is relevant. I haven’t exactly spilled my entire life story and certainly none of you have ever seemed interested in learning it.”

“That’s not true-” Bofur protested but his voice died out at the look Bilbo was giving him. They sat back and tried to think of the last time any of them had really asked Bilbo about himself or Hobbits in general. Outside of a few surface questions, none of them could come up with much. Bilbo happily munched on his toast, hoping that would be the end of it. He really didn’t blame the dwarves for their horrible manners at Bag End, nor their lack of interest in his personal life. He was not the one in need of aid, they were. Apparently, the dwarves did not have the same idea.

“Well, now we know you are a prince-ah sorry not a prince, but have important familial connections and that you weren’t actually expecting us. We can use that to start getting to know you better.” Dori said changing his sentence midway at Bilbo’s look.

“Really I am not that interesting, just a simple hobbit.”

“Anyone who lets thirteen dwarves and a wizard into their house without invite, then follows ‘em on a quest to slay a dragon is not jus a simple hobbit,” Dwalin said swallowing a mouthful of pork. “Besides! We all saw ye with that little sword as a child, ye might just have that fighting spark in ya.” Dwalin laughed clapping him on the back.

“You could tell us about your parents maybe, or any other important connections you have?” Ori asked. Bilbo smiled the scribe and took his offered subject.

“That is a rather long tale…” Bilbo trailed off, hoping that would dissuade them but he was only subjected to more staring. With a sigh, Bilbo decided he might as well indulge them a bit.

“My father was a Baggins through and through. He was entirely proper and never did anything unexpected. He had a very sensible head on his shoulders and that probably contributed at least a little to him being named the head of the family after my grandfather passed.”

“Does that mean you are he head of the Baggins family?” Balin cut in.

“Well yes actually, I am, though it probably doesn’t carry as much weight for us as it does for dwarves.” Bilbo didn’t know if that was entirely true, being the head of a family was actually fairly important to hobbits, but he didn’t need Balin and Thorin to go into another brooding session. Balin still looked slightly ill and Thoring groaned again but they didn’t ask him anything else so Bilbo continued.

“He met my mother during one of the spring festivals and despite what everyone told him they fell madly in love. My mother, well she was a Took through and through. She went on several adventures with Gandalf in her youth, once even making it all the way to Rivendell. That was quite the scandal in the Shire, though the Tooks were quite proud of her. Anyways they fell in love and got married. My father built Bag End as a wedding present for her.” That brought about a round of exclamation. Bifur said something in Khuzdul which several others replied to and the topic seemed to dissolve into each of them commenting on the craftsmanship they had seen so far in the viewing and remembered from their own time in Bag End. Bilbo sighed in relief, thinking he was off the hook for the time being.

“I musta ‘pologize for how I acted when we first met,” Dwalin said, pausing in his eating to look seriously at Bilbo. The hobbit had never seen Dwalin look so apologetic, the dwarf was usually entirely sure of himself in any situation.

“You have nothing to apologize for, if anyone does it’s Gandalf.” Bilbo tried to reassure him.

“You mention having skills with conkers, but have you really not had any training with anythin else?”

“I know I have to stab with the pointy end?” Dwalin laughed at his answer and patted him on the back once more.

“When we get back, I’ll show ye a bit more than that. Sure the others’ll help too.”

“That’s really not necessary.” Bilbo tried to protest but Dwalin had already made up his mind. Groaning and the prospect of any of the dwarves trying to train him to use his letter-opener, Bilbo turned to see Thorin staring at him. He and Balin had been talking in hushed voices ever since Bilbo’s story, but now Balin was talking with Ori. Bilbo didn’t know what to say to the king, and he didn’t say anything to him. This meal was far shorter than dinner the night before and soon the food was fading from the tables. Bilbo was glad he hadn’t been subjected to any more questions or apologizes, though he was sure this wasn’t the end of it.

“If you wouldn’t mind settling down again so we can continue. We still have a very long way to go.” The voice said and they all settled back into their seats. The screen flickered to life once more to show Bilbo sitting down at his table with a plate of fish. Dwalin let out a groan. A familiar shadow fell on the marked door, and screen-Bilbo looked up as the doorbell rings. The next instant the door swung open to reveal screen-Dwalin standing in the doorway. Screen-Bilbo looked at the bald dwarf in surprise and no small amount of shock. His robe was hanging open, which he hastened to close as screen-Dwalin introduced himself and walked in. Screen-Bilbo scrambled to be polite and reply, shaking himself out of his startled state.

“Ye not knowing is so obvious now,” Dwalin said as they watched Bilbo hurriedly tie his robe. At the time Dwalin had just thought the hobbit had messed up the date or hadn’t cared enough to do anything. Neither option had endeared the little creature to him, but now he wished he had known the truth so the wizard could pay right then and there. Well, he would get what was coming for him, Dwalin would make sure of it.

Screen-Bilbo tried to get a grasp on the situation, but screen-Dwalin did not make it easy replying to his questions in clipped tones as he walked around like he owned the place.

“Tha blasted wizard said,” Dwalin growled in answer to screen-Bilbo’s question, scowling as he watched his past actions. The screen switched to them at the small table screen-Bilbo had been sitting at only moments before. Now screen-Dwalin sat there as screen-Bilbo stood skittishly to the side watching as the dwarf at his fish dinner.

“I ate yer supper,”

“Well, you didn’t know it wasn’t for you.”

“I don know how I missed it, ye look so uncomfortable.”

“At least you complimented my food, that’s probably the most polite thing anyone did all night,” Bilbo reassured though his words did not have the intended effect. Balin sighed again and Dwalin just covered his face in shame of his actions. It was very hard for anyone to make him regret his actions, especially when they pertained to him just forgetting manners. Yet, seeing screen-Bilbo try so hard to be a good host while being entirely bewildered made him feel awful for his actions and previous thoughts towards him. He even gave screen-Dwalin more food when requested, all while having no idea why a person he had never met, a dwarf no less, was sitting at his table eating his meal. The ringing of the doorbell gave Dwalin a small amount of hope. He knew who came next and that his brother was no less guilty for his actions. At least once Balin appeared on screen his real-life counterpart would stop looking despairingly at Dwalin.

“I think Uncle Bilbo knows that, it’s his house after all,” Kili said with a cheeky grin to screen-Dwalin’s comment, making Dwalin glare half-heartedly at him. Bilbo started at the word ‘Uncle’. He opened his mouth to say something about it but Dwalin beat him.

“And I think ye’d better shut up,” Dwalin said reaching for Kili who rolled over his brother’s lap to use him as a shield.

Screen-Bilbo opened the door to reveal screen-Balin. Only slightly more prepared for this guests arrival, screen-Bilbo managed to keep up with screen-Balin’s pleasantries. He faltered when screen-Balin asked if he was late, walking it as he did so.

“How could I have been so blind?” Balin moaned. Bilbo tried to smile at him but Balin wasn’t paying him attention, too focused on his screen-self’s bad manners. Screen-Balin walked farther into the smial, finding screen-Dwalin with his hand stuck in a jar. They laughed and mocked each other in greeting before smashing their heads to together, making screen-Bilbo jump.

“How do hobbit’s greet each other?” Ori asked.

“We say hello, maybe give each other a hug or a kiss.”

“Those who are close touch foreheads to show affection.”

“Touching foreheads sounds fine, smashing them together sounds like I would end up with a broken skull.” A few of the dwarves made a mental note of that, in case they ever decided to greet Bilbo in such a manner. Bilbo wondered how long it had been since Dwalin and Balin had seen each other before their reunion in Bag End. Realizing it may have been months if not years made a wave of sadness for what his dwarves had had to go through wash over him.

On-screen Bilbo was trying to talk to the brothers without any luck. Balin was bemoaning their terrible manners and listening skills. He was supposed to be the advisor of Kings and a diplomat and he hadn’t even listened to a word their host was saying. His mother would have been so disappointed. They continue to talk as does screen-Bilbo, but neither of them pay him any attention. The company was though, half trying to make up for their own bad manners, and others just waiting for him say something biting again.

“Do Hobbits visit each other a lot?” Ori asked curiously at screen-Bilbo’s comment.

“Yes, for most it rarer to have a night to yourself then it is to have company.”

“And do you often have company?” Bilbo didn’t answer the question. Thorin frowned at his silence, he had always assumed Bilbo had been popular back in the Shire. Especially given the rank he held, but it seemed his assumptions were wrong. It was a strange thought though, knowing how well Bilbo got along with every member of the company, even when they weren’t in their best of moods.

Screen-Balin and Dwalin were rummaging through his pantry. They found moldy cheese, looking at it in disgust before they threw it out of the pantry.

“Why were you keeping moldy cheese in your pantry Uncle Bilbo?”

“It’s supposed to be like that, it’s blue cheese,” Bilbo said, slightly bitter about the loss of such good cheese. The exchange between him and the dwarves on-screen continued, one side not bothering to listen and the other struggling to be heard. At the end of his mild rant, screen-Balin turned around to face him with a kindly smile.

[Balin:] “Hm. Apology accepted.

Balin and Dwalin covered their faces, Thorin shaking his head in shame. Turning away, screen-Balin and Dwalin started to fill up their mugs with ale as screen-Bilbo sighed. The bell rang again and Fili and Kili perked up.

“Weren’t we next brother?”

“I do believe so!”

“You two were supposed to wait for everyone else.” Thorin scolded, but his words did nothing to temper the brothers’ excitement. As the door opened to reveal them on screen, Kili squealed, grinning like a madman. They introduced themselves in unison, screen-Kili immediately rising from his bow to greet screen-Bilbo, or rather Mr. Boggins. This time screen-Bilbo was able to shake off his confusion faster, annoyance at the situation leading him to deny them entry. He tried to keep the brothers out, but they easily pushed the door back open looking like kicked puppies at the idea of the meeting being canceled.

“Imagine how awful it would be if it had been canceled.”

“We never would have met our favorite hobbit.”

“I’m the only hobbit you know.”

“You’re still our favorite, Uncle Boggins,” Kili said earning a stern look from Bilbo and a swat on the head from Balin. There were several chuckles as screen-Bilbo was tripped up by the brother’s words again, screen-Fili and Kili taking the opportunity to come sauntering in.

“Sorry bout that Uncle Bilbo, we were very excited,” Kili explained, even as he leaned into his brother’s side as Thorin’s glare heated up.

Screen-Fili began removing some of his weapons, piling them into screen-Bilbo’s arms as screen-Kili looked around. He began to wipe his feet off on a box, screen-Bilbo’s calm facade breaking as he tried to politely reprimand him.

“Your mother would be so disappointed in you two. She and I raised you to be princes and that is not how princes behave. Even if he had been expecting us, you two are being beyond rude.”

“Oh give them a break Thorin, or do I need to remind you of how you behaved when you first entered my smial?” Thorin closed his mouth at that, sulking down in his seat. Kili and Fili gave him wide grins in response. Not just anyone could shut up Thorin Oakenshield.

All four of the dwarves in the smial came together, greeting each other with wide smiles and pats on the backs. Bilbo found Kili’s obvious admiration for Dwalin endearing even if his screen-self was not happy with what the four were saying. Screen-Bilbo began to splutter at the idea of even more guests, the dwarves paying him no mind.

“Nine more!” Kili said to answer screen-Bilbo’s question.

“Congratulations Kili you can do simple math.” Kili pushed Fili at his comment. The doorbell rang once more and a very flustered screen-Bilbo began to make his way to the door carrying all the boys’ gear.

[Bilbo:] “Oh no. No, no! There’s nobody home. Go away, and bother somebody else. There’s far too many dwarves in my dining room as it is. If if If this is some clotterd’s idea of a joke, ha ha, I can only say, it is in very poor taste.”

To be fair, none of them knew if they found screen-Bilbo’s frustration endearing or terrifying. At the time they hadn’t thought anything of it, but watching it now having known their burglar for so long they had a newfound appreciation for it. As the remaining dwarves, minus Thorin, come tumbling into the smial, laughter erupted at screen-Bilbo’s dumbfounded expression. When Gandalf appeared in the doorway, screen-Bilbo looked entirely unimpressed only making them laugh harder.

Then they were raiding his pantry, all while screen-Bilbo tried desperately to maintain some semblance of order. But there was no order, despite his best attempts and complaints. The smial became loud as the dwarves shouted at each other and Bilbo tried to be heard over them. Screen-Bilbo ran into Bifur, staring in shock at the ax in his head.

Bifur grumbled something as he made a series of gestures in Oin’s direction at his comment, Oin ignoring him entirely. The chaos continued to unfurl before them, only making the company feel worse about how they had treated their burglar during that first meeting.

“I’m sorry Bilbo,” Bombur says at his past self’s actions.

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

“No, he is right to apologize, as should the rest of us. We ate all your food without you even knowing why. As soon as we reach the mountain we will pay to refill your pantry.” Balin said, receiving a nod from Thorin at his words.

“Really that isn’t necessary, I had more food in the other pantry.”

“Even still, please make a list of anything that needs replacing and we will see you are paid in compensation.” Balin insisted.

“Other pantry?” Dori asked.

“Of course, you didn’t really expect a house like Bag End to only have that one small pantry did you? There are two larger ones downstairs. That’s not including the ale and wine cellar either.”

“Three pantries? How could you possibly eat so much food? I thought you lived alone?” Bofur asked looking Bilbo up and down.

“Hobbits eat seven meals a day. We have a very high metabolism so we burn through food quickly.”

“Have we been starving you this whole trip?” Thorin stared at him in horror, looking at him like he would blow away.

“It was a little hard to start but I’ve been picking nuts and berries as we travelled and rationing food. I’ve become quite proficient at it.” Or he had been until they reached Mirkwood.

The scene continued on with screen-Bilbo complaining about chairs. Bofur had to stifle a laugh at just how Bilbo it was to be so fussy over furniture and maps. He wasn’t the only one. As the screen focused on Gandalf, there were huffs and near growls.

“The next time I see that wizard he is going to pay.”
Bifur came into the picture speaking Khuzdul along with hand gestures. Gandalf admitted they were one dwarf short, though screen-Dwalin was quick to answer his unspoken question. Screen-Dori appeared with a glass of red-wine which Gandalf downed in one sip. A small, vindictive part of Bilbo was glad the glass was so small for Gandalf.

The screen switched to the table, food flying through the air and screen-Fili walking around the numerous plates with mugs of ale in hand. Bilbo swore he heard Thorin muttering about shame being brought upon the line of Durin at his nephew’s antics. A count was started and on three the dwarves began to have a drinking contest, quickly devolving into a belching contest. Ori was still very proud that he had won, but seeing how irritated screen-Bilbo was, he wasn’t going to bring it up.

Screen-Bilbo was entirely fed up with the entire situation; not even noticing the joke Bofur made him walk into, though it did receive some laughter this time around. Chuckling, at screen-Bilbo’s anger Gandalf tried to placate him, but screen-Bilbo was having none of it. Ori was writing furiously in his book and Bilbo got the impression it was a list of all the things he mentioned they messed up.

“We completely destroyed your house.”

“You messed it up a little sure, but nothing I can’t easily fix.”

[Ori:] “Excuse me. I’m sorry to interrupt, but what should I do with my plate?”
[Fili:] “Here you go, Ori, give it to me.”

“Oops,” Fili and Kili muttered, realizing exactly what was going to be shown next and anticipating their uncle’s reaction would not be the same as the rest of the company’s. They were right. As the dishes began being thrown around the house, Thorin turned to stare at them.

“We will be having a very long discussion about what is proper behavior when you are a guest.” He bit out and they nodded quickly. The rest of the company wisely stayed silent, knowing they were no less guilty than the princes.

Screen-Bilbo tried to make the brother’s stop but when he heard utensils being pounded on the table he rushed to the dining room.

[Bilbo:] “And can-can you not do that? You’ll blunt them!”
[Bofur:] “Ooh, d’hear that, lads? He says we’ll blunt the knives.”

Bofur’s eyes remained fixed on the screen, even as he felt Thorin’s glare burning into him. It had been fun at the time. Still was quite amusing to watch if he was being honest and it wasn’t like they had dropped anything.

The mood in the room plummeted just as it did before as the song came to an end. Thorin’s icy glare was felt by everyone. Bilbo found only he was spared from Thorin’s wrath and took the opportunity to appreciate the dwarves teamwork and skills like he hadn’t the first time around. It really was impressive what they had done. The song was quite catchy, even if it was all about what he hated. Gandalf’s next words broke the tense atmosphere.

[Gandalf:] “He is here.”

There was a collective sigh. Even though they had behaved horribly, each of them knew they had nothing on Thorin’s first interaction with Bilbo.

Chapter Text

The door opened to show Thorin standing in the doorway. He strode in as if he owned the place causing his current self to cover his face.

[Thorin:] “Gandalf. I thought you said this place would be easy to find. I lost my way, twice. Wouldn’t have found it at all had it not been for that mark on the door.”

“I always did wonder. How did you get lost? The Shire really isn’t that hard to navigate, there are signs everywhere, not to mention Bag End is on the highest hill.” Thorin stayed silent, so Kili jumped in for him.

“Uncle is absolutely hopeless when it comes to directions. Once he got lost-” His mouth was covered by Fili as Thorin glared in his direction. Kili just grinned and made a motion Bilbo thought meant ‘tell you later’.

Screen-Bilbo was still very upset about the events of the night and wasn’t pleased at all to hear about a potential mark on his door. Gandalf tried to calm him, angering the dwarves watching even more.

“So the wizard also defaced private property,” Balin said and Ori turned the page and began scribbling half-way down the next one. Bilbo got the feeling they had a running list of all the actions Gandalf took that they didn’t agree with. Looking around at the company, Bilbo almost felt sorry for the old man.

Gandalf introduced the two of them and the company couldn’t help but snicker at Thorin’s reaction to his awful manners.

“Mahal Thorin, you really know how to make a first impression,” Dwalin said, smirking a bit when he saw Thorin slouched in his chair. At least, for now, they were off the hook.

Screen-Thorin continued with his interrogation, the dwarves in the smial laughing at how weak screen-Bilbo appeared in their eyes. Watching it now, they felt shame for their thoughts and actions, Thorin especially. Bilbo deserved all the credit they could give him.

“I shouldn’t have said that you have proven yourself tenfold to me and this entire company.”

“I know that, but if we are being honest I really wasn’t much of a burglar or fighter then. I’m still not now.”

“We know that, but that’s why we’re gon’ta train ye up a bit,” Dwalin said.

“No matter how much training you give me, I doubt I will ever be either of those.”

“Thas why we got yer back then,” Gloin said with a firm nod. Bilbo was taken aback by the remark. He had known in the back of his head that he was a member of the company and of course they would have his back. But the knowledge that he would still be facing a dragon alone at the end of the journey had always kept him from fully believing it. Especially now that he knew his entire job was to find a shiny rock.

“Even against a dragon?” He asked, wincing when it came out a little harsher then he meant.

“Especially against a dragon,” Dori said, each dwarf nodding as well. Bilbo ducked his head, really not having expected that. Dori had been distant at the start of the journey, but whether through pity or because he actually started to like Bilbo, he had taken to looking after him, something Bilbo found both endearing and annoying. Either way to have him say something like that with such conviction made it hard for Bilbo to swallow. On screen the dwarves were moving back into the dining room, screen-Thorin taking his seat at the head of the table. The atmosphere was quieter with his appearance, quickly changing to disappointment when screen-Thorin told them they were alone in their quest.

“They’ll come around as soon as we get the Arkenstone.” Thorin smiled at Bilbo, but he couldn’t quite return it. His gut twisted at the mention of the stone and the lengths Thorin was willing to go to get it. Bilbo hoped he was wrong, but something about it seemed off to him. Ever curious, screen-Bilbo asked about their quest and when screen-Oin mentioned the portents, the beast.

“I’ve been wondering Bilbo, had you really never heard of Erebor before we came?” Bofur asked.

“My mother told me of a great dwarven kingdom that had been lost to a dragon as a bedtime story a few times. But I never knew many details. It took me a while to even connect the two.”

“Oh does that mean we are legends in the Shire?”

“No, it was actually used as a cautionary tale about greed. If you don’t share with your neighbors and friends then a big scary dragon will come and eat you sort of thing.” Bilbo’s answer stunned the company.

“That’s not true at all,” Thorin tried to protest. Bilbo looked at him with sadness and no small amount of incredulity.

“Do you really believe the overflowing treasure chambers had nothing to do with attracting Smaug? The tale I was told was lacking nearly all details, but is it completely off?” No one quite had anything to say to that. It was one of those culture things they had run up against a few times before. To them, the fall of Erebor was a real event, but to the kindly people of the Shire, it was merely a way to teach sharing to children.

“Are there other stories you were told about dwarves?” Ori asked hesitantly.

“A few, though I doubt you would be overly fond of them either.” That effectively ended the conversation. Most of them couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the fact that their hobbit had grown up with stories that painted them in a poor light. It really made their sudden arrival all the worse.

Screen-Bofur, being the sociable person he was, took it upon himself to tell screen-Bilbo about Smaug the Terrible. Not looking overly pleased with the description, screen-Bilbo cut him off just before screen-Ori leaped up.

[Ori:] “I’m not afraid! I’m up for it. I’ll give him a taste of the Dwarvish iron right up his jacksie.”

“I hope you know you will be doing no such thing,” Dori warned. Ori just looked at his brother then turned pointedly back to his book. Nori was grinning madly behind Dori’s back. Screen-Dori was of the same mind, pulling him back down as he scolded him. Shaking his head at the foolishness of the others, screen-Balin rose up to remind them of the difficulty of their task.

The objections to his words were very similar in the room and on screen. Balin looked as if they were all proving his point with their arguing. Over the yelling screen-Fili called out, silencing everyone with his inspiring words. Not to be outdone, screen-Kili also added on his assumptions of Gandalf. While Bilbo thought his words to be utterly false, he couldn’t help feeling proud of the two princes for their ability to capture the company’s attention like they had.

“I bet he hasn’t killed any dragons,” Nori said and Bilbo was glad they were finally coming to the same conclusion.

“But he’s a wizard,” Kili said as if that obviously meant something.

“Yes but he’s Gandalf.” Bilbo’s words made Kili frown and slump back on the couch. Arguments erupted again on screen over how many dragons Gandalf had killed, only coming to a stop when screen-Thorin stood with a shout. He leaned towards his men as he spoke, gaining their undivided attention and absolute support with his words. Those watching though, were not as enraptured, having heard it all before.

“We are very lucky his speech was so short this time. Balin taught him how to drone on and on. Very annoying.” Dwalin said, earning a slap on the back of the head from his brother and snickers from Nori.

Screen-Balin, ever a pessimist, brought up the issue of not being able to get into the mountain. Bilbo wondered what they would have done if Gandalf hadn’t had the map or key that night.

“We do still have the key right?” Balin asked as Thorin quickly patted his chest. They breathed a sigh of relief when Thorin pulled out the long leather cord attached to the key from beneath his clothes.

Screen-Thorin was staring at the key in awe, as if not quite believing his eyes. He took it and held it close, only looking up when Gandalf mentioned his father. Screen-Fili was smiling at his uncle.

[Fili:] “If there is a key, there must be a door.”

“Amazing observation brother, see this is why everyone thinks I’m the brains of this pair.” Kili mocked.

“No one in their right mind would ever think you were the brains.” Fili pulled Kili into a headlock, the two starting to tussle. Dwalin stood and easily separated the two, putting them on opposite sides of him and Balin.

“Behave you two.” Balin admonished. Gandalf told them about a secret door, raising their hopes.

“Amazing observation brother.” Fili mimicked at screen-Kili’s comment, Kili sticking out his tongue in response. Gandalf continued on, dashing the hope that he might know where the door was. Bilbo wasn’t the only one to snort as Gandalf’s requirements for the quest. Oh yes, a band of dwarves was very stealthy and clever. At least they had the courage part down.

“I really don’t think careful can describe a single day of this journey,” Bilbo muttered. Dori nodded, still staring at his little brother for his previous comment. When screen-Ori spoke up, Bilbo groaned, remembering what an awful mix up this had been. Screen-Bilbo was certainly talking and most definitely not understanding what the dwarves were asking. Only when screen-Oin misunderstood him did screen-Bilbo even realize the disconnect. Bilbo was thoroughly ashamed of how long it took him to piece everything together.

“Have you really never stolen anything?” Nori asked.

“Well every faunt does go through a period when they enjoy swiping pies off of window sills, but other than that no.” Bilbo didn’t mention the gold ring in his pocket, even though he had a bad feeling that part would be shown as well.

“We can work on that.”

“Don’t go corrupting our burglar.” Dori admonished.

“His entire job is to steal stuff. I’m the one he can learn the most from!” Nori said but Dori ignored him. Glaring at Dori, Nori leaning around him so he could look at Bilbo, smiling at him and Bilbo just knew he hadn’t heard the end of the discussion.

On screen, Balin and Dwalin were, for once, listening to screen-Bilbo.

“Sorry for that Bilbo,”

“Aye, ye can survive in the wild jus fine.”

“No, not really, you were both entirely correct in what you said. I wouldn’t last in the wild without you lot and I am not a burglar.”

“Ye got through Goblin Town without us,” Bofur said. Bilbo opened and then closed his mouth.

“That’s different,”

“How?”

“I- oh I’m sure we’ll see it all later, just wait till then,” Bilbo didn’t really want to have to go through everything that happened with Gollum again. The dwarves gave him curious looks but didn’t prod. They would know soon enough.

Gandalf was having none of their protests. Rising up he cast a shadow through the room as he proclaimed that Bilbo was a burglar and hobbits were not to be underestimated. Gandalf’s imposing form still made Bilbo lean back, not wanting to be too close to an angry wizard. Even if the said wizard was Gandalf.

“Is that true?”

“What part?”

“That hobbit are light on their feet,”

“Oh, well I suppose. We are all taught how to walk silently from childhood.”

“How come? Seems like a strange thing to teach.”

“Not really when you think about it. Dwarves are taught how to fight at a young age are they not?”

“Well yes but that’s different.”

“Actually it’s not, dwarves are good at fighting but us hobbits? We are taught how to sneak because if we ever were attacked our only way to really survive would be to run away. Sure we have the bounders but they could only do a little against any really raiding force.” Bilbo swallowed harshly remembering when the bounders hadn’t been enough. It made sense to the dwarves, in a way that made their stomachs twist. Had Bilbo really been as fine as he seemed with them all invading his home, armed to the teeth? Balin had a bad feeling of what the other stories Bilbo had mentioned contained.

Thorin was watching Bilbo carefully as the hobbit seemed to withdraw into himself, then just as quickly put on an expertly composed mask, as if nothing had happened. He wanted to know what had happened to make his hobbit have such a reaction. Had the Shire been attacked? The idea of hobbits, especially Bilbo, facing down any kind of raiding force without help left a bad taste in Thorin’s mouth. He had considered a couple times before during his late night thinking sessions that if they did take back the mountain, perhaps he could try to reach out to the Shire. The land around the mountain would be barren, but seeing the hobbit’s obvious skills with plants, perhaps they could help. Maybe in exchange, the dwarves could provide them with protection, especially if they were in more danger of being attacked then Bilbo had let on.

Screen-Thorin sighed, but agreed with Gandalf, not wanting to anger the wizard any farther. Gandalf smiled but screen-Bilbo was protesting the decision even as the contract was pushed into his hands.

“You were trying to refuse even then and we didn’t listen. We are truly sorry Bilbo.” Balin apologized once more.

“All is fine now, trust me,” Bilbo assured him as screen-Balin started listing some of the contents of the contract. Screen-Bilbo questioned him shrilly on the point of funeral arrangements. They watched curiously as screen-Thorin leaned into Gandalf. All of them had seen the exchange happen, but no one had heard what was said. There were snorts at screen-Thorin’s words, some even breaking into laughter. Not responsible for Bilbo indeed.

“Uncle I don’t think you have ever followed through with that.”

“You’ve been watching out for Bilbo nearly as much as you look out for us.” That information startled Bilbo.

“You don’t mean that, Thorin hated me for most of the journey.” This was met with even more snorts and chuckles that Bilbo really didn’t understand. There was no way Thorin Oakenshield, who had continuously tried to convince him to leave and make him feel un-welcomed, had looked after him to the same degree as his nephews. Looking at Thorin, Bilbo had to reassess his thoughts after seeing Thorin’s sheepish expression.

Screen-Bilbo began to read the contract, going through the terms of the trip. He read through the reward, Gandalf chuckling at his surprise. Then he got to the liability section. Looking up in horrified shock, screen-Bilbo was staring at the company as if he couldn’t believe what he was reading.

[Bofur:] “Oh, aye, he’ll melt the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye.”

Bifur punched Bofur in the shoulder and muttered in Khuzdul causing Bofur to duck his head, even as he smiled. Screen-Bilbo looked ill at the thought, screen-Balin even asking if he was alright. Screen-Bofur just kept going though.

“See this is where you should have stopped,” Nori said with a grin. Screen-Bilbo was breathing heavily, screen-Bofur still paying no mind to his poor state.

“That really wasn’t a pleasant mental image.”

“Well, te be fair it really wasn’t supposed te be,” Bofur said with a shrug. He did glance at Bilbo, glad to see that he was fine this time around. While it had been hilarious, he didn’t want to scare Bilbo that badly again. Screen-Bilbo passed out, Gandalf chastising screen-Bofur for his actions. Bilbo shook his head at his past reaction.

“Sorry ‘bout that Bilbo,” Bofur said and while he did look apologetic the smile he was trying to hide ruined it.

“I’m sure you are Bofur, no matter if I can’t even hear about a dragon there is no way I could face one.”

“Can you now?”

“Listen, I have dealt with trolls, orcs, wargs, creatures in the dark and you lot for months. I can at least see Smaug without passing out.” There was some laughter at his statement.

“Wait! What do you mean dealing with us?!” Bilbo couldn’t help but roll his eyes as the dwarves broke out into yet another argument. Dealing with them indeed.

Chapter Text

Screen-Bilbo was now sitting in his armchair with a cup of tea in hand, Gandalf sitting next to him looking disapproving. He tried to convince Gandalf he would be fine but Gandalf was having none of it. He reminded screen-Bilbo of his youthful adventures and desires, not understanding how he could let all of that go for doilies and dishes. Crossing his arms, Bilbo frowned at Gandalf’s words, the wizard no doubt knew why he had changed. The dwarves listened to Gandalf’s words curiously, excited to learn more about their hobbit.

“Not only were you an adorable baby hobbit, but you also wanted to go on adventures? That’s so cute,” Kili gushed and he wasn’t the only one. Screen-Bilbo tried to reason with Gandalf, bringing up that he was a Baggins, responsible and sensible.

“With all that entails,” Balin said bitterly. “You shouldn’t have just run out your door.”

“How else was I supposed to catch up?”

“Any way other than leaving next to no information about your whereabouts. Especially since you are-have important familial connections and duties,” Balin corrected. He still didn’t want to think of how poorly the Shire must think of them, only adding fuel to their stories of outsiders. The entire thing was going to be a political nightmare, Balin was sure despite Bilbo’s assurances it wouldn’t be.

[Gandalf:] “You are also a Took. Did you know that your greatgreatgreatgreatuncle, Bullroarer Took, was so large he could ride a real horse?”

“Whoa! He had to have been bigger than a dwarf!”

“That is how the story goes,” Bilbo said sighing at the mention of that story once again. Honestly, he had heard it far too many times in his life. Ori didn’t know how Bilbo could sound so tired of what Gandalf was saying. This was fascinating. He listened carefully as Gandalf recited the story of the Battle of Greenfields, how Bullroarer Took had taken on the Goblin King and created golf. Ori was absolutely amazed.

“Really Uncle Bilbo? You have some really interesting ancestors.”

“To be entirely fair I know the golf part isn’t true, and the exact details of that battle are a little vague.”

“I didn even know Hobbits had been part of any battles.”

“Sometimes fighting is unavoidable, as much as we wish it was,” Bilbo sighed and Dwalin nodded. He might be a warrior, but he knew war was not something to seek, especially for people like hobbits. Screen-Bilbo cracked a smile at Gandalf’s story, the wizard admitting it was slightly embellished. Gandalf promised screen-Bilbo would have a tale if he went, but when asked for a promise that he would return, Gandalf paused. Everyone watching already knew the answer.

Of course, they couldn’t promise such a thing, but that didn’t mean they shouldn’t try. It was their home they were talking about, that they were fighting to reclaim. Bilbo really didn’t have any reason to be here, even with his memorable speech outside the goblin tunnels, he was still the only one likely going to his death for nothing more than because he wanted to help them. None of them would have done something like that for a complete stranger. The thought made them appreciate Bilbo even more if that was possible.

As they expected, Gandalf could not make such a promise and screen-Bilbo refused the offer.

“We got the perfect hobbit,” Dori said, shaking his head at screen-Bilbo’s remark. He received nods of agreement that had Bilbo blushing.

The screen switched to Balin and Thorin, standing in the hall within earshot of sitting room. Screen-Balin sighed in defeat, admitting that the odds were against them. The mood fell with his words, screen-Thorin trying to convince him not all hope was lost.

[Thorin:] “I will take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they came. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask no more than that.”

“And all of you have proved you have those traits and so much more. I am honored to have each and every one of you in this company. All of you have earned my absolute trust.” Thorin made sure to look each member of the company in the eyes as he gave his short speech. His gaze fell on Bilbo as he said ‘trust’ and he smiled, inclining his head to the hobbit. The dwarves that had been closer to Thorin before the quest merely bowed their heads at his words. But those like the Ur and Ri families seemed entirely taken aback, bowing their heads deeply and whispering in Khuzdul. From what Bilbo remembered both of them were commoners through and through, so to have the King say he trusted them must have meant the world to them.

It meant the world to him as well, though he suspected for slightly different reasons. Sure it was well and good to have a King say he trusted you so completely, but Bilbo was not a dwarf and Thorin was not his King. But having the person who he had pined after say that filled Bilbo with a joy he couldn’t even describe. Smiling to himself, Bilbo leaned back as screen-Balin tried to convince screen-Thorin one more time that he didn’t have to undertake this quest. As always though, there was no changing Thorin’s mind, his screen-self shaking his head and holding the key, telling screen-Balin in no uncertain terms, that he would undertake the quest. With a heavy sigh, screen-Balin nodded and swore to him.

“We all are,” Dori said, finally looking at Thorin. There were nods and murmurs of agreement.

“To whatever end this journey comes to, you have our absolute trust as well,” Bofur said, for once entirely serious. Thorin smiled at them as well.

“Thank you.” The humming beginning makes them all stop talking at stare at the screen. It showed the dwarves gathering in the living room. As Thorin begins to sing, Bilbo felt himself relax ever so slightly, the sound calming his remaining nerves from the previous conversations. He remembered how it had felt hearing the song the first time, and the reason he joined the quest. The song was every bit as beautiful this time as it had been the first and Bilbo felt at peace as it progressed. Listening to it again, Bilbo realized just how dwarvish it was, beyond what the lyrics said, he felt like he understood them better by listening to their voices. It was not a sad song, nor was it entirely hopeful but it was filled with so much raw emotion that Bilbo had come to associate closely with his dwarves. As the screen moved from the dwarves to the night sky, Bilbo leaned towards Thorin.

“You know, that was what convinced me to join,” Bilbo said. Thorin looked at him curiously, eyebrows pulled together. “It was beautiful, and I don’t know. It made Gandalf’s words mean something more I guess.” Bilbo tried to explain, not understanding the light in Thorin’s eyes.

“I am forever glad for that song then. There is more, should you ever wish to hear it.”

“I would enjoy that.”

“Later then, when all this is over.” They smiled at each other, nearly missing as the scene changed to Bilbo waking up. There was some laughter as Bilbo checked around the house cautiously.

“Miss us already?” Bofur laughed.

“It was just too quiet. And I still have no idea how you cleaned everything up and left without waking me up.”

“We’re dwarves of many talents Bilbo, ye’ve only scratched the surface,” Nori said with a wink. Bilbo just shook his head at their antics. It didn’t take long for screen-Bilbo to realize they had all left, the smial eerily quiet. He frowned and glanced at the table to see the contract. He stared at it for a moment and then his eyes filled with determination.

“This is why ye were so unprepared,” Dwalin said.

“I only spent a few minutes packing. I was late enough as it was.” Bilbo couldn’t help but marvel at the music playing prominently as he ran through the hills of the Shire. It was unlike anything he would have thought of, yet it fit the mood of the situation so well. He wondered where the musicians were or if the voice was also controlling the music. The fast-paced matched his running pace as screen-Bilbo raced through the Shire, startling chickens and neighbors alike. He had no time to answer their questions with long explanations, instead, calling out as the contract fluttered in the breeze behind him.

[Bilbo:] “I’m going on an adventure!”

Balin groaned again. The screen shifted to the company riding down a path, screen-Bilbo running behind them. He shouted after them, Thorin ordering the company to a halt to allow him to catch up.

Balin smiled a bit as Bilbo handed his screen self the contract. He had been wary of Bilbo coming along, but the Hobbit’s determination had endeared Bilbo to him. The screen-Balin matched the Balin in the room as they both smiled warmly at Bilbo.

“I’m glad you did sign it laddie, even if I wish you’d planned a bit more.”

The dwarves cheered around Bilbo now as well when screen-Balin officially declared him apart of the company, with much more enthusiasm than their on-screen counterparts.

Despite screen-Bilbo’s objections he was lifted up and placed on a pony at screen-Thorin’s command. The entire company broke out into a roar of laughter at Bilbo’s obvious discomfort. Even Bilbo couldn’t help but chuckle at how hopeless he had been around ponies to start. Thorin shook his head as money started flying through the air, not liking all the betting the company took part in, but then again there were far worse thing they could spend their time on

“Wait you bet I would come?” Bilbo said looking at Oin in shock. He had missed that the first time around and Oin hadn’t struck him as one of the ones to bet on him.

“Aye, and a good thing I did too!” Oin chuckled.

“I never doubted you, Uncle Bilbo,”

“You only bet on him because I didn’t, no offense Uncle Bilbo but you really didn’t seem the type,” Fili said.

“None taken, I wouldn’t have bet on myself,” Bilbo admitted to laughter. Screen-Bilbo asked Gandalf what was going on and Gandalf explained with a large smile. He caught one of the money pouches with a chuckle and placed it in his pocket. Screen-Bilbo looked about to respond when he sneezed.

There were several groans from those watching, remembering what was going to happen. The incident had been the butt of many jokes during the beginning of their journey before they got to know Bilbo as well. When screen-Bilbo called out to stop and turn around Bilbo covered his face with his hands in shame. What an embarrassing situation he had caused.

The company stopped and screen-Bilbo informed them that he had forgotten his handkerchief.

“And a good deal of other things as well,” Balin grumbled. Screen-Bofur tore off a piece of cloth and threw it at him, screen-Bilbo catching it and looking at in disgust.

“D’ya ever use that?” Bofur asked with a grin. Bilbo looked at him as if he was insane.

“Absolutely not, though I kept it till the goblins found us,” Bilbo admitted not noticing how Bofur looked taken aback. He hadn’t expected Bilbo to keep it until the end of that day, to learn that he had kept it for so long was surprising. Bifur nudged him in the ribs and Bofur nodded, already knowing what he was signing. It was very surprising indeed.

Screen-Thorin ordered the company to move on and Gandalf began to speak to screen-Bilbo. As Gandalf spoke the screen began to show a series of images of the early days of their journey, the music once more taking over. It was relieving, in a way, to know they wouldn’t be rewatching everything that happened on the journey. The voice obviously only wanted to show them what would matter. Bilbo couldn’t help but wonder what else the voice and the screen had in store for them. They had only just left the Shire and already he felt like the company was closer than ever. He had been wary before, but now? He was excited and looking around he knew he wasn’t alone. Hopefully, the voice would refrain from bringing up too terrible of memories again though.

Chapter Text

As the screen turned from the road to the company sleeping on a cliffside Bilbo groaned. He had a sneaking suspicion of what night this was and he hoped that the screen would just leave it at Balin talking.

“I don’t blame ye, Bilbo, Gloin is quite the snorer.” Bofur laughed as screen-Bilbo jolted awake.

“Am not!”

“Ye’re jus breathin in moths Gloin, ye can’t deny it,” Dwalin said slapping his knee. Gloin just grumbled and Oin patted him on the back while chuckling. When screen-Bilbo got up to give Myrtle an apple, Kili cooed.

“Uncle Bilbo, that is so sweet, is that why the ponies liked you? They kept trying to bite me.”

“They were very kind creatures, whatever did you do to them?”

“Maybe he tried jumping off his one too many times.”

“I only did that to shut you up.”

“Oh, I’m sure, and is that why you frequently fell to the ground without even touching me.”

“That was the pony’s fault for moving.”

“Yeah sure blame the pony,” Fili said shaking his head at Kili, who stuck out his tongue in response. Most of the company ignored their antics, focusing on screen-Bilbo as he whispered to Myrtle. A scream filled the air, making all of them sit up straighter. Even knowing it came from the screen, hearing orcs still put them on edge. Screen-Bilbo also jumped, moving closer to the fire; screen-Fili and Kili taking in his fear and grinning. They worked together to scare screen-Bilbo even more, joking about a night raid. Screen-Bilbo looked unimpressed as they began to chuckle, most of the company looking unimpressed with them now.

Dwalin and Balin smacked both of their heads, glaring at them. The brothers looked down, even more ashamed of their joke now then they had been before. Bilbo had looked terrified, something they didn’t want him to be when surrounded by the company.

“Sorry Uncle Bilbo,” they said in unison.

“I know it was just a joke, I overreacted.”

“No, you didn’t. Raids by orcs are not something to ever joke about,” Thorin scolded. He glanced at Bilbo, though the hobbit seemed fine if not a little peeved. Sighing Thorin looked back at the screen. He really needed to figure out what had happened in the Shire.

Screen-Thorin wasn’t happy with their joke either, having jolted awake at the scream. He chastised them for their words, making them look down on the screen as well.
“That was too harsh, they didn’t mean anything by it,” Bilbo whispered so only Thorin could hear.

“They are Princes and should have known better to make such a joke in the first place,” Thorin said and Bilbo knew there was no hope in arguing with him. Screen-Balin appeared, trying to reassure screen-Fili and Kili. He began to tell of the Battle of Azanulbizar and the screen flashed to a battlefield, much like it had with Dale. Bilbo sucked in a breath at the sight. Never had he seen so many bodies, so much blood and death.

Thorin was sitting rigidly in his chair, fists clenched once again. There were curses in Khuzdul as the dwarves took in the horrific sight. When Azog appeared Thorin let out a noise Bilbo couldn’t even begin to decipher. Screen-Balin continued to narrate the story just as he had that night on the cliff, but now they could see the events taking place, and it made everything so much more horrific.
Thorin looked ill as Azog held up his grandfather’s head. There was a slight commotion to his left and Bilbo managed to tear his eyes away long enough to see Fili and Kili once again holding each other. Balin and Dwalin didn’t seem to care, they were leaning into each other as they too no doubt re-lived one of their worst memories.

Screen-Thorin roared at the sight, lurching forwards then stumbling back as Azog threw Thror’s head at his feet. Thorin himself seemed like he was barely breathing. Bilbo hated seeing him look so distraught.

The narration continued telling of Thrain’s fate, or rather their lack of knowledge of his fate. Bilbo thought that was worse, not knowing what had happened to your loved one, to never have that closure. Losing a parent hurt enough, he would know. Bilbo felt tears prick his eyes as they watched dwarves be cut down, leaderless, but he pushed them back. This was not the time to cry even as his heart ached for the dwarves.

[Balin:] “That is when I saw him: a young dwarf prince facing down the Pale Orc.”

Even knowing Thorin was right next to him, alive and well, Bilbo couldn’t help the panic that gripped him seeing Thorin being tossed around by Azog. It reminded him too much of that time on the cliff, only here he couldn’t help him. Bilbo’s hand shot out, trying to find anything to comfort him. He found something warm, a blanket he hadn’t noticed perhaps and held it tight, not daring to look away from the screen.

Screen-Thorin stood, gripping the branch and staring at Azog with fire in his eyes. He took blow after blow and Bilbo held the blanket like his life depended on it. He hated this. Even when screen-Thorin cut off Azog’s arm Bilbo couldn’t bring himself to relax. Thorin shook his head as they were shown Azog being dragged back into Moria

“I should have killed him then.”

“You had no way of knowing. Any other creature would have died from that wound,” Balin tried to reassure but it meant little to Thorin. On-screen he was rallying the dwarves with a battle cry. They surged forwards once more and attacked the orcs with a newfound vigor.

The screen switched to after the battle, panning over the field of bodies. Bilbo covered his mouth and swallowed thickly. Bifur was patting Bombur on the shoulder as tears streamed down his face, and Bofur was holding his hat against his chest looking like he had seen a ghost. Dwalin and Balin had their heads together and Ori was holding Dori tight.

As the screen panned to show Thorin, Bilbo felt his breath catch. Seeing Thorin framed by sunlight, he looked every bit the King he was born to be. Even amongst the countless dead, it was a breathtaking sight.

[Balin:] “And I thought to myself then, there is one who I could follow. There is one I could call King.”

Back in their cliffside camp, all the dwarves were standing, staring at Thorin with awe. In the room, they were doing something very similar. Those who had been there that day remembering how Thorin had been and why they had pledged themselves to him. Those who hadn’t now knew exactly why they had. Bilbo felt himself relax slightly. His grip on the blanket loosened and he tried to pull away only to find it was holding his hand in place as well. Looking down in shock Bilbo found it hadn’t been a blanket at all, but rather Thorin’s hand. Bilbo blushed crimson. Thorin also turned to see Bilbo had been the one holding his hand, keeping him grounded throughout the scene. They both quickly retracted their hands and looked everywhere but at each other.

Screen-Thorin stode back to camp and screen-Bilbo asked of Azog’s fate. Before anyone could answers screen-Thorin pronounced him dead, despite the look on Gandalf’s face. Thorin shook his head at the foolishness of his past-self.
As the screen panned to see the orcs and wargs staring at their camp, Dwalin cursed.

“They’re that close already?” The mood in the room was quite low when the scene turned to the company riding along in rain.

“That blasted rain never seemed to stop.” Dori moaned. His screen-self was also bemoaning the rain, Gandalf replying snippily back at him from beneath his soaked hat. Screen-Bilbo was riding along without any sort of raincoat, looking like a drowned cat. There were some snickers and Bilbo swore he heard Dori say something about catching a cold.

“Ye’d look dryer if ye fell in a river,” Nori laughed earning a withering look from Bilbo and a swat that he deftly avoided from Dori.

“So sorry not all of packed well,”

“At least I did pack,” Nori shot back and Bilbo felt the urge to stick his tongue out at the thief, only barely keeping the urge in check. He wrinkled his nose and huffed, crossing his arms making Nori and Bofur laugh harder.

“Hey at least we don’t have to worry about rain in the forest,” Kili added in, happy to get his mind off the previous scene.

“I’d rather deal with rain,” Fili said to grumbles of agreement.

“Yeah but now Uncle Bilbo can’t catch a cold, wait did you catch a cold from the rain?” He asked turning to look at Bilbo.

“No of course not, you’d have known if I had.”

“Can we get on with it?” Dwalin said still in a testy mood. Bilbo was thankful for his interruption and the others weren’t about to argue with him, having enough self-preservation to know that wasn’t a good idea.

Screen-Bilbo was asking Gandalf about other wizards. Gandalf smiled as he talked of his fellow Istari. Screen-Bilbo asked if Radagast was great, or like Gandalf. The dwarves roared with laughter and even Bilbo couldn’t help but chuckle. Gandalf’s offended look only made it better.

“Quick tongue there Bilbo!” Bofur said between laughter. Gandalf was trying to defend Radagast and his own abilities to screen-Bilbo, who did look mildly interested. However, the screen panned up into the rain and then switched.

“What is this?” Thorin asked as the screen shifted to show a forest. A familiar wizard came on screen, but this was definitely not when they had first met him.

“I told you there would be parts that none of you had ever seen before, but that I believe to be important. This is one of those parts, watch closely for this is just the beginning.” The voice responded. That sparked murmured conversations. Radagast was running through the forest looking at the state of nature, mumbling to himself.
Bilbo frowned at the disease of the forest. So many dead animals, it wasn’t right at all.

“He really is batty.” Someone said as Radagast revealed the bird’s nest beneath his hat. Radagast stopped at a little patch of moss, looking absolutely horrified at the little hedgehog that was struggling to breathe.

“Oh no,” Ori said sitting up straighter as Radagast rushed Sebastian back to his hut.

“He’s a wizard! Why isn’t he saving little Sebastian?”

“He’s trying to Kili, it's not working though,” Fili said sadly as Sebastian twitched on the table. Other hedgehogs came towards him, trying to check on their friend but Radagast pushed them away berating them for getting so close.

“They just want to help him.”

“Crowding does more harm than good,” Oin said, nodding at what Radagast was doing. He didn’t know anything about curing hedgehogs of mysterious diseases, but that was just common knowledge among healers.

[Radagast:] “I don’t understand why it’s not working; it’s not as if it’s witchcraft...Witchcraft. But it is. A dark and powerful magic.”

“Why is there witchcraft?”

“A good question laddie. If I’m not mistaken this is also Mirkwood. Farther south, of course but still,” Balin trailed off wondering just what they had walked into when they had entered the forest.

“Do you think Gandalf knows?” The question hung heavy in the air. The scene turned dark as shadows moved outside the windows, the house creaking as something large crawled over it.

“What are those?”

“They look like-but no they cannot be so large.”

“They are...spiders!” The sticky white substances Bilbo had occasionally seen from the path made more sense now. At the same time, it did nothing to quell his fear of the forest, the eyes watching them in the night becoming even more sinister. Radagast began to chant in an ancient language as the darkness crept ever closer.

“I don’t like this.”

“Me either.”

“I hope he’s alright.”

“We saw him after this right?” The dwarves were mumbling as they watched the spiders begin to break through the roof. The atmosphere was very tense, no one liking the implications of the inky black substance coming out of the hedgehog. When Radagast finished the spell and the spiders began retreating there was a sigh of relief.

“Weren’t there webs in Mirkwood?” Bofur asked. Bilbo nodded as the others shifted and looked at each other. Just what had the wizard gotten them into?

No one even made a comment as Radagast conversed with the bird. The bird chirped at him, Radagast’s eyes widening in shock.

[Radagast:] “The old fortress? Show me.”

“Jus what did we walk inta?”

“Better question. What has Gandalf gotten us into.”

Chapter Text

The screen changed to show a ruined farmhouse. Bilbo sighed and covered his face at the sight, instantly recognizing it. Thorin looked at him in confusion, then turned back to the screen trying to see what he was missing. Then it clicked and he too was groaning. This had been something he wasn’t looking forwards to re-experiencing.  

“Fee, do you think Uncle is going to kill us?”

“Of course not Kee, he’s our Uncle he would never do that.”

“We almost got Uncle Bilbo killed.”

“He might come close, but I think his fear of Amad would stop him.”

[Thorin:] “We’ll camp here for the night. Fili, Kili, look after the ponies. Make sure you stay with them.”

Fili and Kili shrunk down at the few glances they got. Thorin wasn’t looking their way yet though, so they figured they still had some time left. Gandalf appeared to be looking at the dilapidated house, a frown on his face. Screen-Thorin started giving out orders, as usual, only looking up when Gandalf mentioned the Hidden Valley.

“As much as I dislike the elves and Tharkun, he was right. We shouldn’t have stayed there.” Thorin whispered with a frown.

“We really shouldn’t have.” Bilbo agreed, shivering at the memories of the trolls. He would be more than happy to never see another in his life. Screen-Thorin did not share their sentiments, though they did have the luxury of future knowledge, dismissing Gandalf’s advice.

“Oh yes, we certainly didn’t need any advice from the elves,” Bilbo whispered. Thorin shot him a half-hearted glare. Gandalf tried to make him see reason but screen-Thorin refused to listen. Some of the dwarves chuckled at how exasperated Gandalf was becoming. However, most of them had figured out exactly which night this was and none were happy to see the wizard go.

“Why’d he have te leave?”

“Because our illustrious leader was being stubborn as usual.”

“But he must’ve known something was off,” Ori said as Gandalf stormed through the camp, shouting about the stubbornness of dwarves. He even had a short fuse for screen-Bilbo’s question and Bilbo found himself frowning at the response he was given.

“I take offense to that. I understand him being fed up with you lot but I was still perfectly reasonable.” Bilbo said getting complaints in response.

“I’m reasonable!” Bofur said in mock offense.

“You can make a case for Ori and Bombur, but the rest of you are hopeless,” the two he mentioned snickered and smiled at Bilbo while the others took to trying to defend themselves. Bilbo just shook his head and crossed his arms as the screen switched to later that night.

Screen-Bilbo was worried, but the rest of the company didn’t seem to care about their lack of wizard. Two bowls of soup were thrust into screen-Bilbo’s hands and he was sent away.

“We really should have sent someone else as well,” Dori said knowing the trouble the brothers had gotten them all into. Bilbo nodded his head, they didn’t even know the half of it. Screen-Bofur scolded screen-Bombur as he attempted to take more stew gaining a few laughs, but they were tense.

The screen switched to just inside the forest, where the ponies were being kept. Screen-Bilbo walked up behind the brothers who were staring at the at ponies. They told him of the “slight” issue they had run into, earning a glare from Thorin.

“A slight problem?” Thorin asked and Fili and Kili froze.

“Well looking back it was a much bigger problem.”

“It worked out fine, in the end, thanks to our amazing burglar,” Kili said with a grin towards Bilbo. Sometimes Fili wondered if Kili even thought about what he said before he said it. Thorin threw them both a warning look, before turning back to the screen. He was going to actually get to the bottom of the whole troll incident as Bilbo had taken to calling it.  

[Kili:] “Daisy and Bungo are missing.”

“I never knew we named the ponies.”

“We didn’t! Bilbo did actually, I was on Hazel and Fili was on Honey.”

“I thought they should match their riders, besides I have two cousins twice removed that have children named Hazel and Honey,” Bilbo said blushing slightly at all the attention. There was a pause and then everyone was asking what their pony had been named and why.

“Ah uh please calm down I can name them all. Let’s see, well Daisy was Dwalin’s and Bungo was Thorin’s. Then of course Hazel and Honey. Bifur had Rowan, Bombur had Chester, and Bofur had Merry. Ori was on Lila, Dori had Adamanta and Nori had Dahlia. Oin had Aria, Gloin had Rose and Balin and Minty. Then I was of course on Myrtle. All of them are named after relations of mine.” Bilbo explained hoping that would be enough. Of course it wasn’t because then the dwarves all wanted to know who their ponies had been named after. Bilbo let out a sigh and recounted each of his relatives. When he was done the dwarves were finally satisfied and turned back to the screen.

They were trying to figure out what to do, walking around the ponies, just to make sure. Screen-Bilbo wanted to tell Thorin, but screen-Fili frowned and shook his head.

“You should always tell me. I can only be the leader of this company if I am told what is happening within the company. Bilbo also has no combat experience at this time and you want him to find something that is obviously large and dangerous. You are both fools.” Thorin said glaring at his nephews who had hung their heads in shame.

“Don’t be so hard on them, they just want to make you proud,” Bilbo whispered trying to reason with Thorin. The brothers looked absolutely miserable and while Bilbo wasn’t happy in the slightest about what they had done, he hated seeing them so upset even more. Unfortunately, Thorin was resolute in his decision and Bilbo knew he was just going to get angrier as the scene progressed.

“Then they should have come and got me instead of endangering you and themselves,” Thorin said, closing the discussion. He was staring intently at the screen as screen-Bilbo and his nephews attempted to figure out what had taken the ponies, even traveling deeper into the forest when they saw a light. It was beyond foolish of them to put themselves in so much danger for no reason.

“Don’t go towards the light,” Dwalin said earning nods of agreement. Thorin was frowning deeply at the screen. Bilbo hoped he kept his temper in check.
No one dared laugh at Bilbo going back for the bowls of stew, too tense from the scene and Thorin’s mood to break the silence. Thorin sucked in a breath as the troll passed carrying two other ponies. His jaw and fists were clenched tight as they continued to get closer to the trolls.

Screen-Bilbo was horrified at the sight of the ponies in the troll’s arms, demanding they do something. The brothers took advantage of his surge of determination, and their real-life counterparts slunk down farther in their seats. They were not proud of this next part. As screen-Fili and Kili tricked Bilbo into going after the trolls alone the atmosphere seemed to become suffocating, Thorin’s fury rising. When they left screen-Bilbo alone in the woods with only vague instructions for help, Thorin snapped.

“You did what?!” Thorin snarled standing up and staring at the brothers. They shrunk back at his wrath, leaning into each other as they looked morosely down at their hands.

“What were you two thinking? You just left him there untrained and completely defenseless. I thought you were more mature than to stupidly try to prove yourselves and endanger our hobbit to do so. You could have killed him! I am-”

“Thorin stop!” Bilbo said rising to his feet. Thorin rounded on Bilbo, eyes blazing, but jerked back at what he saw. Bilbo was glaring at him, actually glaring, his hands in fists on his hips as he stared Thorin down.

“Now you listen here! What they did was stupid, yes, but in case you haven’t noticed I didn’t try to stop them besides a few protests. I am just as much at fault for the whole thing as they are so if you're going to be angry with anyone be angry with me and leave them alone. Can't you see they are sorry enough?” Bilbo said glaring daggers at Thorin. The dwarf didn't quite know what to say, never having seen the hobbit so angry.

In truth no one knew what to say, just staring at their hobbit in surprise and no small amount of awe. The brothers were looking at him with wide eyes and Bilbo swore he saw Kili’s eyes glisten a bit. His eye twitched, anger at Thorin still bubbling. Turning around he stopped. In place of his armchair was a couch just big enough for three people to sit together. Bilbo felt some of his anger melt and a slight smile form. Turning once again he looked past Thorin, not even sparing the still shell-shocked dwarf a glance, to look at Fili and Kili.

“Our host seemed to think I need a couch now,” Bilbo said, smiling gently at them. They perked up, looking to see for themselves and scrambling up when they saw he was telling the truth. They ran past Thorin and dived onto the couch pulling Bilbo in between them and holding onto him in an iron tight grip. Bilbo’s smile grew as he ruffled their hair and focused on the paused screen again, not paying anyone else any attention but letting them all know he wasn't speaking to them. Thorin sat down with a huff and a frown and slowly everyone turned their focus back to the screen.

“We’re sorry Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said and Kili nodded as the three trolls came on screen.

“I know boys, I know.”

The trolls began to speak, complaining about the food as one of them placed the ponies in a pen with the others. One admitted horse was better then farmer and Bilbo felt sick. Kili and Fili shivered at his words and Bilbo patted them again, hiding his own wince. What an awful way to die. As the one called William sneezed into the cooking pot Bilbo couldn’t help shuddering.

Bombur gagged, his own skills as a cook rebelling against the troll’s appreciation of having snot in their stew. William assured them there was more and started to sneeze again. Bert grabbed his nose and pushed him away, ordering him to sit down. During the altercation screen-Bilbo had snuck closer to the pony pen, narrowly staying out of view.

“Please don’t Uncle Bilbo,” Kili mumbled at the screen.

“They ‘ave handkerchiefs? Maybe you could borrow one Bilbo.” Bofur said as William pulled out a tattered cloth. He tried, he really did to lighten the mood. But Bilbo was feeling slightly ill remembering when he was used as a handkerchief and Thorin was still moodily staring at the screen. Bofur settled down realizing it was just not the time. Though not without sneaking another glance at Bilbo and the princes. They were just far too adorable.

Screen-Bilbo was at the pen looking at the ropes. When William turned towards him there was a quick intake of breath thinking their hobbit had been caught. The troll came closer and Bilbo slunk down trying not to be seen. However, William was more occupied with the ponies then their undiscovered guest. Bert pulled him back with an angry shout and screen-Bilbo was free to look at the thick ropes keeping the ponies in.

“Ye didn’t,” Nori said looking a little pale when screen-Bilbo eyed the long knife attached to one of the troll’s belt. Bilbo coughed and looked anywhere but at Nori, letting everyone know that yes actually he did. Nori groaned. “Ye never try to steal above what you know what ye can. Thas how ye get caught!”

“Well by the end of this journey I’m going to be stealing from a dragon. I thought I might as well get some practice in early on.” Bilbo snapped back. He hated how he was the only one who ever seemed to remember why he was on this quest. Nori frowned at his comment, narrowing his eyes as he thought. He knew Bilbo was right, and that thought didn’t sit well with him. The trolls kept complaining about the food and the bad skill of the cook.

“How do you even manage that?” Bombur asked to no one in particular at the chicken comment. Bert started complaining about how he never received compliments on his cooking.

Kili gagged as Fili wrinkled his nose at Bert’s choice in seasoning. They tightened their grip on Bilbo as William began reaching behind him, nearly catching Bilbo in the process. Bilbo was worried his ribs might not survive when he was actually caught if this was how the brothers were acting now. But he didn’t push them away, letting Kili rest his head on his stomach and Fili lean against his shoulder. He wasn’t going to let them leave unless they wanted to and Thorin apologized.

William grabbed a large mug, Bert immediately hitting him before turning around to deal with the green stew.

“It's green. No soup should be that color,” Bombur said looking ill even as the trolls complimented the dish. Kili squirmed as screen-Bilbo was shown right behind the troll. Screen-Bilbo’s disgust was mirrored on the faces of many of the dwarves as the troll stood and scratched its butt. The complaints kept coming, but screen-Bilbo paid them no mind as he held his hands up to the knife.

When screen Bilbo was grabbed in the handkerchief the real Bilbo simultaneously lost the ability to breathe.

“Boys it’s alright, I’m fine,” He said trying not to sound completely breathless.

“But you got caught!”

“Yes, but you knew that, remember you came and saved me.”

“We still got you into it though.”

“I know and while that was stupid, I also agreed to it. I am just as much at fault, perhaps even more so.” Bilbo reassured them.

“Did I really save you?”

“You absolutely did Kili, and Fili you went and got the company to help as well. I am proud of both of you, just don’t make the same mistake again alright?”

“Alright Uncle Bilbo,” they said in unison, finally having hints of smiles on their faces again. Bilbo was just happy they had loosened their grip enough that he could breathe. As screen Bilbo was shown covered in troll snot Kili gagged.

“That’s why you smelled so bad,” Kili said with a grin.

“I can make you sit on the floor.”

“You smell like roses now Uncle Bilbo don’t you worry,” Kili said still grinning. Fili pushed him to make him stop talking.

The trolls were just as horrified at seeing Bilbo as the dwarves, though for different reasons.

[William:] “Argh!!! Blimey! Bert! Bert! Look what’s come out of me ‘ooter! It’s got arms and legs and everything.”

“Are you alright laddie? That was quite the fall.” Oin said watching the scene closely as screen-Bilbo was tossed to the ground. He frowned remembering he hadn’t actually checked Bilbo over. He hadn’t really thought about it, the rest of the company had been fine besides a few bruises. But Bilbo was a lot softer as he had learned over the course of the trip, and that had been quite a long fall.

“I’m fine Oin,” Bilbo assured as Tom began to question screen-Bilbo.

“What is with everyone saying I look like a small animal.”

“Can’t say I agree with squirrel, but you really do look like a rabbit,” Bofur said with a tight smile. He wasn’t afraid to admit that Bilbo was one of his only real friends and seeing him confronting all three trolls alone absolutely terrified him.

Screen-Bilbo nervously tried to answer the trolls, but they didn’t really care what he was only if they could eat him. Thorin was watching the screen intently. His hands were in tight fists and his jaw was locked. Seeing Bilbo run around like a scared animal made his heart beat wildly and his stomach churn. He had known for quite a long time that seeing Bilbo in danger made him react in a manner akin to seeing his kin or close friends in similar situations. But it was also different in a way he couldn’t quite put his finger on. So, in typical Thorin fashion, he had lashed out whenever the hobbit did something stupid or was in danger.

At first, he hadn’t wanted Bilbo on the journey because he thought he would only be a burden. Now he didn’t want Bilbo on the quest because he didn’t know what he would do if he lost Bilbo. But he also didn’t want Bilbo to be anywhere but with him. It was all very confusing and not something he was used to dealing with.

Looking over at Bilbo cuddled up with his nephews Thorin felt regret for what he had said to them. He hadn’t been lying when he said they had been fools, but they were also still learning. He had just been so terrified seeing the three of them alone with trolls so close. Rubbing his face Thorin tried to focus back on the screen and contain the unpleasant emotions seeing Bilbo so afraid caused.

Bilbo heard quite a few Khuzdul curses and some other words he didn’t recognize when he was caught. Fili and Kili were practically completely wrapped around him as he was picked up and the entire company was on the edge of their seat as they saw just how many times they almost lost their hobbit that day.

The trolls shook him roughly as they asked if there were any others. Screen-Bilbo shook his head, denying their assumptions even though they didn’t believe him in the slightest.

“That’s very brave, ye’ve gotta spine like mithril Bilbo,” Dwalin said shaking his head in wonder. It took someone special to lie to a troll while they literally held your life in their hands. The revelation of Bilbo’s bold lie didn’t surprise him though, the hobbit had shown more courage and loyalty than many dwarves he knew. The trolls weren’t happy with his answers, growling, and grumbling as they threatened him. Around Bilbo the dwarves also grumbled and growled, Fili and Kili narrowing their eyes and practically shielding Bilbo with their bodies. No one, especially a troll, was allowed to threaten their Bilbo.

Screen-Kili burst onto the screen before the threat could be carried out, sword swinging as he cut the leg of one of the trolls.

“That was very stupid, you should have waited for the others. But I am glad you came to help, it was brave.” Bilbo told Kili who nodded even as he smiled. Screen-Kili was grinning maniacally, ordering the trolls to release him.

Screen-Bilbo was thrown at Kili sending them both sprawling. Then the company was leaping from the trees, led by screen-Thorin. Bilbo took a moment to appreciate how amazing the company was in battle. He usually didn’t get the chance, too busy trying not to die to focus a lot on their seamless teamwork. Seeing it now was truly spectacular.

Thorin was also observing the battle, looking for weaknesses or flaws each member of the company had that they could hopefully train to fix. He was proud of how well they fought together, especially since this was the first real battle the entire company had fought together. When he saw Bilbo trying to still free the ponies he groaned. Why was their hobbit so stubborn?

The screen jumped back to the company fighting, screen-Kili the first to notice the danger screen-Bilbo was in. He cried out, alerting the others and the trolls used the opportunity to regroup, sadistic grins on their faces.

[Tom:] “Lay down your arms, or we’ll rip his off.”

“You looked really afraid Uncle Bilbo.”

“I think anyone would be in the same situation.”

“Well sure, but it’s not like Uncle wouldn’t have surrendered,” Fili said with such surety Bilbo felt a little guilty. Of course, he knew that now, but back then? He actually had been quite afraid Thorin would continue to fight and just let the trolls kill him. The trolls began to debate ideas for cooking them, William wanting them to be jellified but Bert had a far different idea.

“Thank Mahal they didn’t decide to go that route,” Dwalin said as the dwarves on screen began to argue against being eaten. There were a few chuckles, most of the dwarves relaxing a bit. Now they knew exactly what was going to happen. Tom mentioned dawn looking around warily and screen-Bilbo’s eye lit up. He struggled to his feet and called out for the trolls to stop.

“At least someone was listening,” Dori said as screen-Bilbo tried to reason with the trolls about how best to cook dwarves. Bilbo groaned at how awful he had been at this part, really skinning them? There were so many other options that looking back would have seemed far more legitimate.

“Don’t be upset Uncle Bilbo, you still saved us,”

“Yes but Grandma Adamanta would have been so disappointed with my slow thinking.”

“She sounds terrifying if this would be slow to her.”

“Oh, she was,” Bilbo said as he screen-self continued to talk. The dwarves on-screen began to complain at his insults towards them, screen-Bilbo ignoring them.

“Sorry ‘bout that Bilbo. I didn’t know what ye were tryin te do,” Bofur said.

“It’s sort of disturbing that the trolls believed you so easily. You’re even smaller than we are, how would you know how to cook us?” Ori asked and Bilbo just shrugged. He had been far too focused on getting out of the hole he had dug to worry about small technicalities like that.

“That wasn’t my best idea, I will admit,” Bilbo said with a shake of his head at his master solution. What had he been thinking?

“Best idea? That was one of your worst ideas!”

“Maybe at that time,” Bilbo said and no one wanted to know what else Bilbo had done that could possibly be worse than telling trolls to skin them. Anything they came up with made them uneasy. Bilbo grimaced at the thought of their reaction to his time under Goblin Town.

One of the trolls, for better or worse, believed screen-Bilbo. The dwarves were not happy throwing insults at him, making screen-Bilbo look uneasily at them. Again, for better or worse, another troll didn’t believe him. There was a flash of a shadow that caught screen-Bilbo’s eye, making him relax somewhat until he saw the new danger screen-Bombur was in.

“Wait, you didn’t know the wizard was coming until then?”

“No, I was just making things up as I went.”
Bofur and Bifur patted Bombur who was looking very ill. Partially to comfort him, partially to comfort themselves. They had come very close to losing their brother and cousin if it hadn’t been for Bilbo’s quick thinking. Screen-Bilbo looked panicked, saying the first thing that came to mind. It had really surprised him that trolls of all creatures were picky about the quality of their food. Even now he still half-expected them to take delight at the thought of their food having worms, more protein. Thankfully, they didn’t like the idea and screen-Bombur was thrown to the side in disgust. The dwarves once again began to insult him and argue against the idea, this time making screen-Bilbo roll his eyes and sigh.

“Thank you for finally figuring out what I was doing,” Bilbo said though he still didn’t look at Thorin. The dwarf let out a small sigh of relief that Bilbo was talking to him again. It was obvious the hobbit was still mad at him for the Fili and Kili incident, but at least he was willing to talk to him.

“Someone had to.”

At screen-Thorin’s silent command the dwarves began to shout about the sizes of their parasites. It was around then that the trolls figured out screen-Bilbo’s plan, getting angry that he had duped them. But then Gandalf arrived and the dwarves seemed to momentarily forget their vendetta against him as they cheered for his arrival on screen.

“Took ‘im long enough,” well maybe they hadn’t completely forgotten.

“I’d’ve like te see that! Wizard on a stick. What an idea.” Bilbo was really going to have to warn Gandalf to stay far away from the company whenever they next saw him. Not until after he gave the wizard a good tongue lashing of course.

There were more cheers as the sunlight turned the trolls to stone and the mood was considerably lighter as they laughed at their own predicament now that the danger was completely gone.

Chapter Text

Gandalf was shown walking around the troll statues. He hit one in the head with his staff gaining some laughs as it made a hollow sound. Screen-Thorin approached him and asked him where he had gone, Gandalf giving a cryptic answer as always.

“Entirely thanks to our burglar,” Balin said at screen Thorin’s comment, throwing Thorin a look that had the dwarf looking away. Gandalf also chastised him and Bilbo was glad to at least see screen-Thorin looking repentant for his comment. Moving on, Gandalf began to speculate on where the trolls had come from, mentioning a darker power that had the dwarves shifting nervously.

“Given what we’ve seen with Mirkwood, I really don’t like what he is insinuating,” Ori said to nods. Dori pulled his brother closer and Fili and Kili held Bilbo a little tighter. The screen switched to the opening of the troll hoard, flies buzzing around the entrance.

“That place smelled terrible.”

“But it did have some really neat treasures.”

“I don’t want to think of how they got there though.”

The on-screen dwarves began to complain about the stench as well as a few of them delved into the cave. The screen showed some of the treasures lying around the hoard, including a pile of gold coins that screen-Bofur, Nori, and Gloin spotted.

“It bothers me still that the only treasure you mentioned returning with was that gold,” Balin said.

“Well, I really don’t even need that. Perhaps I just grabbed it for sentimentality.” Bilbo tried to come up with a solution that didn’t involve something very unpleasant being the cause of the gold.

“Perhaps,” everyone knew Balin didn’t mean it. The screen moved from the gold to show Thorin looking at swords. He was actually being appreciative of them, handing one to Gandalf while he inspected the other.

“Glamdring.”

“And Orcist, you really have to wonder how swords like those got in there.”

“I would really not like to,” Kili said grimacing and shaking his head to get rid of the thought. Gandalf informed them of the origins of the swords and screen-Thorin was ready to put the sword back. Gandalf’s next words making him pause.

“Unfortunately he wasn’t wrong. Orcrist is a fine blade, elvish made or not,” Thorin admitted with a frown. He was rather fond of the blade, despite its origin. The screen switched again and they were looking back at the dwarves burying the chest as screen-Dwalin looked down in disgust. Screen-Gloin tried to defend their actions, but screen-Dwalin still seemed unimpressed.

“Yeah, and our hobbit made use of it so it was a good investment.” Gloin further defended. Dwalin still just rolled his eyes. Screen-Thorin ordered them to leave and as Gandalf was walking out he hit a small blade buried beneath the dirt and leaves.

“It’s your letter opener, Uncle Bilbo!” Kili said as Gandalf picked the small sword off the ground. As the wizard went outside to present Bilbo with his sword the dwarves leaned forwards. None of them had been in earshot to hear the conversation. Gandalf offered the sword to him but screen-Bilbo refused, confusing the watching dwarves.

“Why not? Can’t believe you were able to travel so far without any weapon at all.”

“It’s not as if a sword would have been of any use to me.”

“We’ll change that,” Dwalin said and by his tone, Bilbo had no doubt he would go through with that promise. Bilbo sighed, really not looking forward to learning how to fight, even if it might be useful somewhere down the road.

On-screen Gandalf was trying to convince him to take the sword, even mentioning the built-in warning system for orcs and goblins.

“A rather useful trick,” Bofur said remembering that night in the cave. Screen-Bilbo still refused and Fili sighed at his reasoning.

“Well, now you’ve used a sword! You’ve done really well without any training.” Fili assured him as screen-Bilbo continued to look hesitant about taking the offered sword.

[Gandalf:] “And I hope you never have to. But if you do, remember this: true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

“Wise advice,” Thorin said. Bilbo looked down, remembering the creature he had met in the caves. He had spared Gollum’s life, but he hadn’t felt courageous about it. He looked back up when a commotion started on screen. Gandalf and screen-Thorin were shouting orders as something came hurtling towards them from the trees. Screen Bilbo pulled out his new sword, the first of many times he would do so and rushed after the company. Radagast burst onto the screen shouting and causing everyone in the room to think him even madder than before. Gandalf sighed in relief, instantly relaxing as he recognized his old friend, though the dwarves remained wary. Radagast attempted to tell him something but became confused half-way through, eventually revealing a stick insect on his tongue.

“That’s disgusting,” Bombur said wrinkling his nose and getting nods of agreement. The screen shifted to when both of the wizards had moved out of earshot of the company.

“Oh we get te hear official wizard business,” Nori said. Radagast began to describe his experiences in the Greenwood, the webs that hung from the trees and the sickness that ran rampant.

“So he did know there was something wrong with the woods, yet he let us go in there alone. He’d better have a good explanation,” Thorin said glaring at the screen. Radagast went on to explain about the giant spiders, and Balin gasped at the name he mentioned.

“Ungoliant? Mahal, but that cannot be,” Balin breathed.

“Who is Ungoliant?” Fili asked.

“A creature of great evil, a servant of the Dark Lord,” Balin explained looking very pale. Gandalf’s arguments were brushed aside by Radagast and the screen switched to show Radagast walking warily into Dol Guldur.

“Why did he go in there? That’s where the spiders came from!” Kili asked but none of them had an answer. He crept into the courtyard, statues and crumbling stone all around him. One statue, that of a warrior holding a sword, moved, its hands tightening around the hilt of the sword it held.

“Statues don’t move.”

[Radagast, narrating:] “One that can summon the spirits of the dead. I saw him, Gandalf. From out of the darkness, a Necromancer has come.”

Bilbo shivered at the sight of the darkness. He wrapped his arms tighter around Fili and Kili, not even mentioning when they did so as well. Dori and Ori caged in his arms, Nori even being pulled in. Dwalin and Balin were leaning against each other and Bifur had his arms firmly around both Bofur’s and Bombur’s shoulders. Gloin and Oin were grasping each other’s arms. Thorin nearly made to move towards his nephews, but he remained where he was when he saw they were with Bilbo. His heart was beating wildly and he itched to draw a sword against the monster residing so close to where they had been. He knew the forest was cursed, sick as Bilbo and Gandalf had said, but to have something so evil close by without his knowledge? Thorin hated the forest even more, fear fueling the flames.

A ghost came from the statue, Radagast stopping it with his staff. He disarmed the spirit, sending it away. Then he was running from the ruins. His rabbits perked up and began to run, Radagast barely managing to get on the sled as they sped away from Dol Guldur.

Even with the danger fading away, the company only relaxed slightly. No one wanted to let each other go, not when the true horrors of Mirkwood were now known. The air was nearly crackling with tension even as Radagast snapped back to the present. He was jittery, Gandalf offering him his pipe to calm his nerves. As he breathed out, smoke coming from his ears and nose there was some slight shifting, a few wary chuckles. When Radagast was calmer, Gandalf began to question him once more, presenting the spirit’s sword.

“I didn’t even know a blade could look so evil.”

A warg howl split the tense atmosphere making several dwarves jump. Dwalin leaped up reaching for his axes and cursing when he grabbed at empty space. Bifur had his hands up, ready for a fight. Thorin had been halfway out of his chair before he realized it was still just on the screen. Their nerves were shot.

“Please everyone, calm yourselves. You are safe here remember?” The voice tried to soothe.

“They are right,” Thorin said when Dwalin still looked warily around the room. The warrior sat back down, leaning into Balin again, and Thorin sat on the edge of his seat. He had to keep his emotions in check so he could see everything. Observing what was happening on the screen may just be of vital importance and he would not miss anything that could endanger his company.

Screen-Bilbo asked if there were wolves, seeming terrified at the thought. Bilbo shuddered at the idea of wolves, not paying attention as Fili and Kili shared a glance. Their hobbit seemed even more afraid of wolves then he had of Orcs. Screen-Bofur replied in the negative, looking around nervously. Two wargs leaped down at the company, quickly being dispatched. Both wizards rushed back to the company; Thorin and Gandalf beginning to argue. Gandalf’s conclusion was still enough to make Thorin’s blood chill.

[Gandalf:]“You are being hunted.”

Thorin felt slightly ill hearing that again, knowing exactly who it was hunting him. He would kill Azog if it was the last thing he did, but he worried that Azog would learn of his nephews and seek to kill them as well. He would never be able to live with himself if he had unknowingly brought his nephews into even greater danger and ended up killing them because he hadn’t taken care of Azog when he had the chance.

On-screen they were trying to figure out what to do. Screen-Ori ran back to the company in a panic, the ponies having bolted at the howls.

“I wonder if they made it somewhere safe,” Ori wondered out loud.

“I’m sure they did, they were smart ponies,” Bilbo reassured him. Radagast was bringing up his absolutely mad idea and Bofur chuckled.

“I got te admit, he might be mad but its got a useful purpose,” he said as Radagast and his sled burst onto the open plains, drawing the attention of the orcs and wargs. Gandalf ushered them forward and the company began to relax slightly, though they didn’t untangle themselves. As stressful as the run through the plains had been and still was, at least they knew what to expect.

The screen-company ran through the plains, hiding behind rocks and darting around hills. Screen-Ori almost ran out too far, just barely being pulled back by screen-Thorin. But Gandalf didn’t let the nearly slip up deter him, pushing them even farther on as he led them through the plains. Screen-Thorin questioned him about the destination and Gandalf didn’t answer.

“He knew exactly where he was going. Probably where he ran off too. The wizard was planning to get us there one way or another.”

“Well to be fair, we really did need Lord Elrond’s help,” Bilbo said. As the orc and warg broke off from the pack to track the company, Kili sighed. When his screen-self shot the warg in the shoulder, Kili seemed to slump in disappointment.

“That seemed like a difficult shot.”

“I still messed it up though, people make fun of using a bow enough without me also messing up shots.”

“Who makes fun of you? I’ll deal with whoever it is. Besides, none of the rest of the company could have done anything from that distance.”

“Other dwarves when I was growing up. No one in the company of course. You’re right though, I bet none of them could have made even that shot.” Bilbo smiled at him and patted his shoulder turning his attention to the screen. All the noise made by killing the pair had attracted the rest of the pack and the company abandoned trying to hide. They darted after Gandalf until they became surrounded. Screen-Thorin called out orders as the company circled up and prepared to fight.

“Look at how amazing your doing,” Bilbo said patting Kili’s shoulder. Kili beamed at him as did Fili.

“When we get back I can show you some cool tricks I can do, maybe let you try it out. You said hobbits were good with bows.” Kili rambled. As he talked Fili leaned over when his head was turned away.

“Thank you,” Fili whispered into Bilbo’s ear so Kili couldn’t hear. Bilbo merely smiled and patted Fili too. Both of them really were so young, barely past their majority, and had so much responsibility resting on them already. They were amazingly skilled and sometimes all they needed was someone to tell them that. Bilbo was going to be speaking to Thorin about that whenever the stubborn King decided to apologize so Bilbo could stop giving him the cold shoulder.

On-screen, the dwarves believed Gandalf had abandoned them while others stayed focused on the task at hand. Gandalf popped up from the ground, drawing their attention to the hidden cave he had found.

“At least we were able to escape,” Balin said. As the company dove into the cave, Gandalf counted them, until only screen-Thorin and Kili were left. Screen-Thorin ordered him to run, screen-Kili shooting one last arrow before sprinting toward safety, his uncle sliding in after him.

“That was foolish, you shouldn’t be so reckless.”

“I’m not reckless.”

“You are going to give me white hairs from constantly worrying about you two.”

“Hey! Don’t lump me in with him, I am very responsible.”

“Fili you are no better than Kili, your just better at hiding it.”

“Ha! Hear that Uncle Bilbo says I’m better,”

“No way he says you stress him out too!”

“Boys,” Bilbo chastised making them both quite down, even as all three of them still grinning. A horn was blown and hoofbeats filled the air. An orc fell down into the cave, an arrow sticking out of its chest. Screen-Thorin looked at it in disgust, recognizing the makers of the arrow. Thorin looked every bit as unhappy about the situation now as he did on screen.

Screen-Dwalin found a path and Gandalf smiled as they began following it.

[Gandalf:] “I think that would be wise.”

The screen faded to black with those words causing confusion.

“I thought it would be wise to break for lunch. It is a little early, but you all talk so much it is nearly time. We may resume once you have eaten. I am sure there is also much to talk about.” The voice began to fade away but Thorin stood.

“Wait!” He called, half expecting the voice to ignore him.

“What is it Thorin Oakenshield?” The voice said sounding curious.

“You have shown us much that we have never seen before. We have questions we cannot hope to answer. Could you?” The voice seemed to pause as if thinking over Thorin’s request.

“I cannot,” there were protests at the answer, “not right now. Before dinner tonight we will complete the entire journey up to the point in which I brought you here. Then and only then will I answer what questions I am able. Be patient, all will be known to you in time.” The voice faded away and despite more protests, Thorin knew they would say no more. The table was once again filled with food leaving them with no choice but to follow through with the voice’s wishes.

Thorin stood and watched as the company untangled themselves from each other, though still never straying far. He saw Bilbo, Fili and Kili begin to make their way to the table and breathed deeply. He had to fix things with his nephews and hobbit. The next parts would be rough for them to watch, and Thorin knew he didn’t want to be separated from the three any longer. Steeling himself, Thorin followed after them, already planning what he was going to say.

Chapter Text

“Fili, Kili, I need to speak with the both of you.” Thorin said before they could reach the table. They looked back at him then glanced at each other as they nodded in unison. Bilbo patted their arms and continued on to the table as they quickly walked towards him. Thorin knew the room wasn’t large enough for a truly private conversation, especially when his nephews were involved, but he still led them to the far corner of the room. He didn’t miss the way Bilbo’s eyes followed them. There was no doubt the hobbit would be paying close attention. Thorin would have found it endearing, someone else looking out for his nephews in a way he had a hard time of doing, if it hadn’t been directed at him. Stopping, Thorin turned to fully take in his nephews who were standing shoulder to shoulder just a foot away from him.

Sometimes it was hard for him to see them as anything other the little dwarflings, running off into the woods and getting into trouble. An equal number of times he forgot just how young and inexperienced with the world they were, they had not seen the horrors he had at their age. A more experienced dwarf would have gone straight for help, not tried to play hero. But his rage had been fueled by fear as if they were still dwarflings, incapable of defending themselves. They were both shaping up to be great warriors.

“I will not apologize for what I said. What you did with the trolls was foolish and could have ended with both of you and Bilbo dead.” He paused noticing the way their shoulders slumped and Kili tried not to meet his eyes.

“However,” at that both of them froze, Kili looking up. “I apologize for the manner in which they were said, you did not deserve to have that anger directed at you,” Thorin said slowly, not used to apologizing for his actions. The way his nephews straightened up and stared him confidently in the eyes once more made it worth it though. He gave them a small smile which they returned tenfold.

“I have also been observing your skills in the battles we have seen so far.” Thorin noticed how they seemed to stiffen. “There are a few things I want to go over with Dwalin and you two, but know I am proud of what I have seen so far.” Thorin’s smile widened when he saw how they absolutely beamed at the praise.

“Thank you, Uncle!” They said in unison as they fell into step on either side of him, Fili to his right and Kili to his left.

“You know Uncle, we’ve been observing how you fight.”

“Oh have you?”

“Mhm, Uncle Bilbo has too.”

“Uncle Bilbo?”

“Of course what else would we call him. He’s going to be that one day anyways.” Kili said making Thorin blink. He couldn’t ask another question as they were being greeted back to the table by the company and more importantly Bilbo. Whatever Kili had meant, Thorin got the feeling he didn’t want Bilbo hearing the answer, not yet at least. He said down and took the plate Balin offered him with a nod of thanks. With the tension between the three Durin’s now gone, the company tried their hardest to momentarily forget what they had seen on the screen. Mainly by talking about less evil scenes.

“Ya know Bilbo, ye can start yer lessons with me anytime,” Nori said, leaning around Kili to talk to Bilbo.

“Stop trying to corrupt Bilbo with your thieving ways,” Dori scolded from further down the table.

“He’s gonna have te get used te it sooner or later. He’s gonna steal from a dragon and yer almost done making him a new coat.”

“Even so, I won’t let you corrupt him. And of course I’m making him a new coat, look at the one he has, it's too thin and it doesn’t even button up anymore. It’s going to be cold when we get to the mountain and I will not let Bilbo freeze when I can very easily make him a coat.” Dori hotly explained when the company turned to look at him about the coat. Bilbo noticed Thorin sitting up straighter and, was he glaring a bit at Dori when he mentioned the coat? But with his explanation, Thorin relaxed back as did several others.

“Now wait here, my coat is just fine, you don’t need to go through all the trouble of making me a new one.”

“Nonsense, I’m almost finished anyways. Unfortunately, I can’t work on it now because our supplies were taken away and it was in my bag.” Dori seemed very upset by that fact. Bilbo was touched that the dwarf would do that for him. Though the sympathetic look Ori was giving him and the rest of the company’s reaction made Bilbo wonder with there was some unknown dwarvish custom tied to the gift.

“I can make you a bow when we get to Erebor Uncle Bilbo,” Kili said and it was as if his words opened a floodgate because Bilbo was then bombarded from what seemed to be every member of the company with offerings of gifts and many other things that made Bilbo’s head spin. What were they doing?

“Shazara!” Thorin yelled standing up. He alone had been quiet through the entire thing.

“You can talk about that later, for now, we should think about what we have learned so far.” Bilbo really wanted to know what was going on in Thorin’s head to make him bring down the mood like that.

“How much do we really know?” Ori said.

“Not nearly enough,” Balin responded with a shake of his head.

“If that voice would just tell us-”

“But they will not, so we must figure out what to do.”

“We cannot go back, we lost the path in Mirkwood.”

“Then our path must be forwards and we must find the path again.”

“Gandalf said if we lost it we would never find it again.” Bilbo cut in.

“Perhaps but that was when our minds were cloudy with the sickness of the forest, perhaps now we could find it.” Thorin knew the hope was a long shot but they had to try. He refused to acknowledge that they may be trapped within the trees, especially with the necromancer. No, they would make it to Erebor and he would see his company safely out of the evil’s reach.

“Perhaps. We should wait to see what happens and let the Voice answer us at dinner.” Bilbo said and the conversation died out. They finished their meals quickly and left the table.

When they approached the couches and chairs they saw that they had once again been rearranged. Balin and Dwalin’s couch had been shrunk to only fit two, which made sense since Fili and Kili were still set on sitting with Bilbo. Thorin’s seat had also disappeared, which he was secretly very happy about. However, the most surprising development was that the couch the Ri family had been sitting on had also disappeared. Bilbo’s seat was now easily the biggest couch in the room. Nori chuckled and punched Dori on the arm before he flopped down at one end of the couch. Shaking his head, Bilbo went to sit in the middle. Fili and Kili just grinned and sat on his left, Thorin taking the edge seat next to them and Ori sitting to his right with a shy smile.

Bilbo was entirely convinced there really was some sort of dwarvish custom he was missing out on but seeing how happy Ori was getting to sit next to him made him realize he really didn’t care all that much. Eventually he would find out, stubborn as they were his dwarves were not the best at keeping secrets amongst the company. Bilbo felt content.

The screen started up again to show the company making their way through the path to Rivendell.

[Bilbo:] “Gandalf, where are we?”

[Gandalf:] “You can feel it?”

“Feel what?”

Screen-Bilbo breathed deeply and looked around in awe. Magic, that was what he felt and Bilbo could still remember the soothing tingling sensation.

“You really felt that? I didn’t.” Kili said with a frown. Bilbo didn’t answer him, too busy staring in wonder as the screen panned to show Rivendell. It truly was such a beautiful place, unlike any he had ever seen. Screen-Bilbo was equally enraptured, breathing out the name with a smile. His mother had told him so many stories of Rivendell but tales always fell utterly short of describing the wonder of the elven city. Screen-Thorin was not as pleased as screen-Bilbo, angrily stomping towards Gandalf as he looked at the city in disgust. Bilbo sighed at Thorin’s stubbornness, the dwarf in question not looking at him.

Gandalf looked equally irritated by screen-Thorin’s stubbornness, chastising him for his words.

“He’s right,” Bilbo said and Thorin snorted.

“But so was I, the elves did try to stop us,” Thorin argued. Gandalf began to lead the way down talking to them about what they would have to do to be successful. All things considered, Bilbo thought they hadn’t done too badly in Rivendell, even if the grumbles from the dwarves made him believe they thought differently.

“Lot of good that did us.”

“We would have been a lot worse off if you had been the one doing all the talking,” Bilbo said. Thorin grinned a little in response, glad Bilbo was back to talking to him like this. He watched as the company crossed the bridge and screen-Bilbo looked around in wonder. While he was peeved that Bilbo loved Rivendell so much, he remembered screen-Bilbo’s grand description of Erebor. It would be nice to see what his first reaction on screen was, but Thorin really couldn’t wait to show Bilbo in person the halls of his ancestors. He would make sure Bilbo had the grandest of tours and saw everything he wanted, he had earned nothing less.

On-screen, an elf approached, Lindr if Bilbo remembered correctly. LIndr and Gandalf greeted each other while the dwarves continued to look around warily. Bilbo couldn’t help but shake his head at Thorin’s words of caution. Lindir continued on with his greeting but Gandalf cut straight to the point. At Lindir’s words Gandalf looked confused, then the horns began to blow and he smiled. Elves were riding over the bridge back to Rivendell. Screen-Thorin calling out orders at their approach. Screen-Bilbo was pulled into the circle making his current-self huff with exasperation.

“What is it, Bilbo?” Ori asked.

“Your reactions are unnecessary.”

“They coulda been a threat,” Dwalin said.

“Lord Elrond wouldn’t hurt his guests. My mother told me many stories of him.”

“How come?”

“They were good friends.”

“I thought Hobbits didn’t leave the Shire,” Kili asked jumping into the conversation.

“Tooks can be different, many of them go on their own journeys. My mother was friends with Gandalf and they traveled together quite often. She made it to Rivendell a few times in her youth.” Bilbo said, watching Ori write down his every word.

“The Tooks are the ones with the Thain right?” Fili asked pausing to make sure he got the word correct. Bilbo nodded.

“Yes, they are,” Bilbo said turning back to the screen to see the elves circling around the company. While he knew Lord Elrond wouldn’t hurt them, the display was rather unnecessary. Lord Elrond and Gandalf greeted each other in Elvish, and Elrond told him of the orc trouble they had been having. The use of Elvish made the dwarves grumble but white words appeared at the bottom of the screen, telling them what they were saying. Bilbo had seen the screen do it a few times before, but it had always been with Orcs and when tensions were high so he had rarely paid attention.

“It is...nice that the screen tells us what they are saying,” Balin said.

“They did it with the orcs too.”

“But who wants to know what orcs are saying?”

“Who wants te know what elves are sayin?”

Lord Elrond switched back to Westron as he questioned why the orcs had come so near, a knowing look on his face. Gandalf coughed nervously and Lord Elrond turned his attention to screen-Thorin.

“How does everyone always recognize you?”

“I’m a memorable person.”

“Sure, if they have actually met you.”

“I am also heir to Erebor, I’m an important person.”

“I think it is ridiculous,” Bilbo said and Thorin huffed to conceal his smile. Screen-Thorin was being a pain as usual, not even trying to hide his disdain for the elves while Lord Elrond was trying to be courteous.

“This is why you were supposed to leave the talking to Gandalf. You're lucky he didn’t cast us out,” Bilbo said. Thorin merely shrugged not looking at Bilbo. Lord Elrond raised a brow seeming amused. Without looking away from screen-Thorin he said something in Elvish, the company immediately thinking it was an insult. Screen-Gloin held his ax ready as he confronted Lord Elrond, Gandalf stepping in before they could make even more of a mess out of the situation.

[Gandalf:] “No, master Gloin, he’s offering you food.”

Of course, if food was involved they would cooperate, even with elves.

“Shoulda mentioned it’d all be rabbit food,” Dwalin grumbled as on-screen they agreed to the offer.
The screen switched to the beautiful dining area making Bilbo sigh. Screen-Dori was holding a piece of lettuce out, trying to get screen-Ori to eat it, but he refused.

“Green food is good for you,” Bilbo said to Ori, Dori nodding in agreement next to him. Ori groaned and covered his face with his book while Nori nearly fell off the couch laughing. Screen-Dwalin was also complaining and there were mutters all around the table.

“I am constantly concerned about all of your diets,” Bilbo told the company. There were several protests to his words. Dori nodded sending looks at Ori and the still laughing Nori. Bifur said something in Khuzdul and pointed at his cousins and Bilbo got the impression he was on Bilbo’s side as well. The three of them could probably get Bombur on their side as well with the right ingredients. Bilbo nodded to himself, he would have to work with them to make sure the company didn’t die from bad nutrition.

Gandalf and Lord Elrond walked towards the dining area, Gandalf apologizing for his clothes but Lord Elrond brushed his words off with a smile. After they took their seat, screen-Kili was shown staring at an elf with interest. He winked causing Thorin to stare at the current Kili with a raised brow.

“It was all in good fun Uncle,” Kili defended. Screen-Dwalin had caught him as well and screen-Kili hastened to defend himself. In his haste he mistook an elf man for an elf maid, something screen-Dwalin took great delight in pointing out.

Just as the company had the first time, they all roared with laughter as Kili turned red.

“Hilarious all of you.” He mumbled and Bilbo patted him on the shoulder while Thorin just shook his head at his company’s antics.

There was even more laughter when screen Oin put the napkin in his ear trumpet. Bilbo was glad this scene in Rivendell was able to make them all laugh so much. They needed it. The screen paused until they finally got themselves under control then switched to Lord Elrond looking at screen-Thorin’s sword. He seemed surprised when he recognized it, sheathing Orcrist and handing it back. Bilbo was glad to see screen-Thorin was at least trying to be courteous. Next, he took Gandalf’s blade, recognizing it as well, both of them having been made for goblin wars.

“They work jus as well in this age on those creatures,” Dwalin said with a grin earning cheering of agreement.

“Uncle Bilbo I doubt your sword has a name,” Fili said when screen-Bilbo was seen looking at his sword. Screen-Balin said the same thing, screen-Bilbo looking slightly offended for his blade when it was called a letter-opener.

“Have you ever thought of naming it?” Ori asked causing Bilbo to blink. In truth, he really hadn’t. Then again the only creatures he had killed was an orc and a warg, not exactly great deeds in battle.

“Oh, you definitely should!”

“I haven’t exactly done anything worthy of naming it.”

“You save my life.”

“Well of course I did, but I’m not about to call it King Saver or anything that just sounds off.”

“But every sword needs a name.”

“Aye, thas true, helps ye bond with yer weapon more,” Dwalin said, patting his shoulder where his axes should have been.

“Perhaps I’ll see something to name it after while we watch,” Bilbo said just to placate them. He doubted he, a hobbit, could ever do anything that would be called a great deed.

Lord Elrond handed Glamdring back, asking where they could have found them with a frown. Gandalf began to explain, being cut off by Lord Elrond asking about their route, looking like he already had an idea of the answer. Realizing his mistake Gandalf spluttered and tried to come up with something, screen-Thorin excused himself from the table to avoid being questioned as well.

“At least you remember some manners,” Balin sighed. Lord Elrond already knew Gandalf didn’t have a good answer, giving him a way out.

[Elrond:] “13 dwarves and a Halfling; strange traveling companions, Gandalf.”

Gandalf took the new conversation with a smile, starting to defend the company from the derision in Lord Elrond’s voice. He claimed they were noble people, just as the screen panned to show Nori hiding a candelabra in his jacket.

“Nori! How could you? At dinner no less,” Dori reprimanded as he reached for the thief. Nori deftly evaded him, jumping from their couch to sit next to Bofur. He claimed they were cultured and the screen showed them Bombur, stuffing his face full of food. There was some laughter at that, but none of them really saw what was wrong besides Bilbo. He tried to say they loved the arts, but the whole company was complaining about the music and how it sounded like a funeral. Screen-Bofur jumped up with a grin, leaping onto a stone pedestal. He began to stomp his feet and clap his hands as he sung a merry drinking song.

The company both on-screen and in the room began to laugh and sing along. Food started to fly through the air, the elves stopping their own music as they looked on in disgust and horror. Bilbo understood, he had been absolutely horrified the first time as well. Now though, he was laughing slightly at their antics even if he was still appalled. Even screen-Thorin was enjoying the merrimaking, stomping to the beat as he stayed out of the way of flying food. When a piece of food nearly hit Lindr, the company only laughed harder.

Too soon the song was coming to a close and the screen switched to that night. Gandalf and Lord Elrond were standing together, screen-Thorin, Balin, and Bilbo a few feet away. Screen-Thorin was arguing with Gandalf over the map, and whether they should show it to Lord Elrond. The seriousness of the situation quieted their laughter, though they all knew what had eventually happened.

Gandalf wore screen-Thorin down, and even with screen-Balin’s protests, he handed Lord Elrond the map. Opening it, Lord Elrond looked at them with a frown.

“Oh, nothing at all. The known heir to the throne is just casually asking about hidden messages in a map of Erebor.”

Gandalf tried to lie to Lord Elrond and, though the elf seemed unimpressed with his efforts, he began looking at the map.

“Maybe that wizard has some use after all.”

Lord Elrond found moon runes on the map and began to describe the way they worked. Dwarves like Balin and Ori found what he was saying very interesting, the others not as much. Lord Elrond led the group out onto a terrace as he told them that the exact moon they needed to read the runes was out that night.

“That was very convenient.”

“And extraordinarily lucky on our part,” Balin said as Lord Elrond laid the map on a large crystal. The clouds parted and the moon’s light shone down, making the crystal glow and new runes to glow blue on the map.

[Elrond:] “Stand by the gray stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole.”

“How long ‘ave we been in the forest?” Dwalin asked, though no one knew the answer. Screen-Bilbo asked about Durin’s Day, not recognizing the holiday or when it would fall. Gandalf explained to him while screen-Thorin and Balin were thinking, using the new information to reaffirm or replan certain parts of their journey. Screen-Balin insisted they had time, but screen-Thorin didn’t look entirely convinced.

“Not if we can’t get out of the blasted forest,” Dori grumbled. Screen-Balin explained the new plan to screen-Bilbo who was completely confused by everything that was going on.

“Why do dwarf doors have to be invisible?”

“To keep our secrets safe.”

“Even from yourselves?”

“It backfires occasionally but it has worked in our favor so far.”

“Tell me that again when we search an entire mountain to find a single door we can’t even see,” Bilbo said. He hadn’t liked the thought then and he didn’t like it now, especially since he was one of the few to see an actual issue with the idea. On-screen, Lord Elrond was frowning deeply as he listened to their plan. So much for Gandalf’s previous attempts at keeping it all a secret.

“I wouldn’t deem this whole quest as wise, but I’m still going,” Bilbo said Fili and Kili laughing at his words. Gandalf looked surprised and slightly worried at what Lord Elrond had said, the elf warning him that there were others watching over Middle Earth as well. Bilbo didn’t like Lord Elrond’s tone, it seemed almost foreboding. He knew that Gandalf had had to stay behind in order to let them leave, but he had never told them who they were escaping.

Chapter Text

Warg howls filled the room as the screen showed ruins at night. The dwarves shifted as they saw one of the orcs from the plains enter the ruins, wargs growling around him. Thorin moved his arm to guard his ribs when the white warg appeared, his jaw clenching at the sight of Azog. The orc bowed, cowering before Azog as it gave him the new of their failure. Azog growled, angry at the news.

[Azog:] “Sha nargiz ob­hakhtil…” [subtitle: I don’t want excuses...] “Nargiz khobdi Rani Khozdil!” [subtitle: I want the head of the Dwarf King!]

“You’ll never get it!” Kili said, glaring at the pale orc.

“Not so long as I live,” Dwalin said as well. The others chimed in with their own declarations.

“As long as you aren’t an idiot,” Bilbo said looking over at Thorin with a serious expression. Thorin didn’t quite know how to respond to that, knowing exactly what Bilbo was referring to. When Bilbo broke into a small smile Thorin did as well. Between them, Kili huffed and rolled his eyes.

“We can move next to Ori,” Fili said his eyes bright as he grinned.

“There’s no need for that.”

“I wouldn’t mind sitting next to cousin Ori.”

“Wait, cousin Ori?” Bilbo asked very confused. First, it was Uncle Bilbo, now cousin Ori. What was with Kili and giving them familial relations.

“Of course,” Fili said dismissively Kili nodding along. Thorin groaned while Ori stared at the two with wide eyes. He turned to Dori who was also looking surprised and the two said something in Khuzdul causing Ori to shrug. Bilbo got the distinct impression he was the only one out of the loop once again. He would get to the bottom of this.

The orc cowered lower at Azog’s anger, trying to come up with a better excuse, but Azog had little use for him. He walked towards the orc, running his metal claw down the orc’s face, then grabbed him and threw against a pillar. The orc hit the pillar with a crunch, falling into the pit of wargs who swarmed over him.

“What an awful way te go,” Bofur said. “I mean it’s an orc so good that its dead. But I sure don’t wanne get torn apart by wargs ye know?” He added when he received several curious looks. Azog turned to his warg and gave out orders to spread the word of the bounty on the company far and wide. The screen panned out at orc mounted their wargs and raced away from the ruins.

“Wait I thought it was only on Thorin? It doesn’t change the fact that we’d all die before that happened.”

“He only wants Thorin, and if he ever found out Fili and Kili as well. But if he got even one of us, he could use us as bait to get to Thorin.” Balin explained looking none too pleased with what he was saying. Fili and Kili leaned together, whispering quickly to each other and looking back at Azog with newfound worry. Bilbo wondered if they had only just realized that only Azog’s own ignorance was keeping them from being on the same list as Thorin.

The screen once again switched back to Rivendell. Screen-Bilbo was walking alone down a corridor. He entered a room with a stone statue holding the shards of a broken sword.

“Why do the elves have a broken sword?” Nori asked.

“That isn’t just any sword, those of the shards of Narsil! The sword Isildur used to cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand and defeat him,” Ori said excitedly. Balin beamed at the young scribe, closing his mouth since his explanation was no longer necessary. Several dwarves looked impressed, though screen-Bilbo gave it little attention. Instead, he turned to look at the mural of Isildur and Sauron, his eyes focusing on the One Ring.

Bilbo felt a sliver of ice run through his blood, his hand reaching into his pocket and curling around the very similar ring. Of course, it was impossible for them to actually be the same. The One Ring was one of the most powerful artifacts in Middle Earth and all his ring could do was turn him invisible. Screen-Bilbo looked away and moved onto the connecting porch overlooking Rivendell, allowing both versions of him to relax. Lord Elrond approached, stopping next to him and giving screen-Bilbo a warm smile. He commented on screen-Bilbo’s lack of company, making screen-Bilbo shake his head.

“Now that I think about it, ye really weren’t around much,” Bofur said.

[Bilbo:] “Ah, I shan’t be missed. The truth is most of them don’t think I should be on this journey.”

“That’s not true!”

“Of course ye do laddie.”

“Don’t be a fool.”

“Of course we missed you, Uncle Bilbo!”

“Really? In Rivendell? We seem to remember our time there very differently,” Bilbo said making them frown. “I don’t blame any of you, we didn’t know each other as well and I had done very little to prove I should be on the journey.” There were still some grumbles and protests at his words but Bilbo paid them no mind. Lord Elrond didn’t seem overly surprised by his words, not that Bilbo was expecting him to be. Screen-Bilbo did look surprised when Lord Elrond said he thought Hobbit were resilient.

“Not often I agree with an elf,” Dwalin said. Lord Elrond continued on though, about how fond Hobbits seemed of the comforts of home, and Bilbo blushed slightly remembering his reply.

“Ha ha, he’s not wrong there either though,” Bofur laughed along with Nori. Bilbo felt his ears redden as screen-Bilbo answered, giving an almost insult as well. Screen-Bilbo’s words made the company burst into laughter. Thorin shook his head and smiled at Bilbo who was looking exasperated at himself. The next words Lord Elrond said though sobered them all up. The company looked warily at each other, the offer for Bilbo to stay in Rivendell hanging heavy in the air. When screen screen-Bilbo looked as if he was actually considering it Kili threw an arm over his shoulders.

“You can’t leave us, Uncle Bilbo, especially not for elves. Tell me you didn’t agree to go back to Rivendell.”

“Kili one day I am going to have to leave you all, I must go home too.” His words were not taken nearly as kindly as Bilbo thought they would be. Instant discussions in Khuzdul flared up. Kili looked like a kicked puppy.

“You could live with us you know? In the mountain of course. Or if you didn’t like it we can build you a house just outside the mountain. Absolutely no one would complain and we’d all be very happy and-and-just please don’t leave!” Kili seemed very distressed at the thought that Bilbo would actually leave once the quest was over. Bilbo had no idea where the idea that he would be staying in the mountain had even come from. Certainly he had wondered what it would be like, the thought of leaving any of them always leaving a bad taste in his mouth. The thought of leaving Thorin made his heart seem to freeze, but he had never actually thought they would share the same sentiments. Even so, he knew logically he would one day have to go back to the Shire. He didn’t realize the company had stopped talking and were looking at him. Shaking himself slightly Bilbo tried to look as reassuring as possible.

“One day I will have to go back to the Shire, but for now I am here.” That was all he could say. No promises he might not be able to keep. The company was rapidly becoming like a family to him, but he knew there were some things that would drive even him away. The screen moved to show Lord Elrond and Lindir walking along the paths speaking elvish. They were talking about their dwarven guests and the strain they were putting on the kitchen staff and wine stores. They rounded a corner and stopped dead in their tracks.

There was some laughter at the horrified looks their fountain bath caused. Bilbo just shook his head at their antics. At least they hadn’t done anything that horrible when in his smial. The screen switched again to the party the dwarves had thrown. Complete with burning furniture and roasted sausages. Screen-Bombur was on a table eating. His current-self groaned and threw Bofur a dirty look as his brother chuckled. Screen-Bofur called out to screen-Bombur, making him look up as he threw another sausage his way.
The table collapsed and there was a round of laughter, the dwarves seeming to shake off the poor mood Bilbo’s earlier words had put them in. Bombur made a face at them all, grumbling in Khuzdul as Bofur patted his shoulder. Bilbo felt bad for Bombur, sorry he hadn’t been there to help him, though there wouldn’t have been much he could have done. The screen switched once again to screen-Bilbo walking away from the company, stopping when he heard Gandalf and Lord Elrond talking.

“Ooh more secret conversations,” Nori grinned.

“Just don’t let it be like the last one,” Oin said. Gandalf was trying to convince Lord Elrond of the quest, but by the look he was receiving it wasn’t going well.

“Does he know what he’s doin though?” Bofur asked. Lord Elrond asked the same question, Bofur grumbling about copy-cat elves while the others laughed at him. They quickly quieted down though as Lord Elrond brought up the dangers of their quest. Gandalf argued back about all the potential gains if they were successful, Thorin frowning as he did so. He had always known Gandalf wasn’t helping purely out of the kindness of his heart and it was good knowing the wizard’s actual motivations. Lord Elrond didn’t seem entirely convinced. Screen-Bilbo turned to see Thorin standing right behind him, both of them listening intently. Lord Elrond brought up the gold-sickness that ran in Thorin’s family, Thorin frowning even deeper at the mention of the illness that had cost so many lives. He hated how the elf seemed to have no faith in him, he who had seen how the sickness had warped his grandfather’s mind.

“I am not my grandfather,” Thorin said.

“We know laddie, and all of us our here as well,” Balin reassured him, though Bilbo swore his conviction didn’t reach his eyes. Gandalf shook his head at Lord Elrond’s words, he knew there was no hope in stopping the company and didn’t think they should have to answer to anyone else when their goal could lead to countless benefits.

“Aye, it is our home. We don need any elf’s permission te take it back,” Dwalin said. Now it was Lord Elrond’s time to shake his head as he led Gandalf up the last steps onto a beautiful open patio.

There were whispers as the most beautiful elf Bilbo had ever seen appeared. She seemed to exude ethereal light as she turned to face them. Gandalf bowed his head and greeted her, Galadriel smiling at him as she greeted him as well. Looking, up Gandalf expressed his surprise at seeing her, a different voice drawing his attention. Gandalf sighed as an old man cloaked in white with a long beard came out of the shadows. He greeted him as well, with far less enthusiasm.

“Isn’t that the white wizard?” Ori asked no one in particular. Saruman greeted Gandalf as well, though he looked equally unhappy to see Gandalf. The scene shifted to Gandalf and Saruman sitting at a table, Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel standing. Saruman was questioning Gandalf, his tone easily letting the watching company know that he was not a friend of theirs. Even though Gandalf did not look happy with the whole situation he still defended their quest, the dwarves begrudgingly giving him some credit for loyalty to the cause. Galadriel brought up Smaug and Gandalf seemed far more comfortable talking to her, explaining his reasoning behind wanting to kill the dragon so badly.

Thorin had to admit they were fairly good points, but he didn’t like the thought of there being an enemy powerful enough to attract a dragon. Bilbo was having similar thoughts. What enemy was Gandalf talking about? Was he referencing the Necromancer in Dol Guldur? Bilbo shivered at the thought of Smaug and the Necromancer joining each other.

[Saruman:] “What enemy? Gandalf, the enemy is defeated. Sauron is vanquished. He can never regain his full strength.”

“I thought Gandalf was worried about the Necromancer?” Kili said. Gandalf though, knew what he meant. He latched onto the topic, making his worries about the fate of the dwarven rings of power known. Truthfully, none of the company had ever really thought about the fate of the rings, it only having been a passing thought in the mind of Thorin. At the mention of his father, Thorin stiffened.

Saruman brushed off Gandalf’s fears with reassurances that the rings of power were useless without the One Ring. His surety about the fate of the One Ring made Bilbo feel better about the ring in his pocket. Surely a wizard couldn’t be wrong about something like that. Lord Elrond seemed to agree with Saruman, trying to help convince Gandalf that they were at peace but Gandalf refused to believe either of them. He cited the many incidents that had plagued them on the road, however, none of them believed him.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t been titled the Disturber of Peace or something similar. Every time he comes to the Shire he seems to take someone on an adventure,” Bilbo chuckled at Saruman’s comment about Gandalf meddling.

“Now I know Hobbits don’t go on adventures but that seems a little excessive.”

“Not at all! I’m going to be lucky if the only title I gain from this adventure is Mad Baggins. Only the Tooks would appreciate me going on an adventure,” Bilbo said. Thorin once again felt like they had really messed up Bilbo’s life by showing up on his doorstep. Fili and Kili were already plotting ways to use that knowledge to keep Bilbo from leaving them at the end of the journey.

Galadriel seemed to be the only one who didn’t think Gandalf was talking nonsense, ordering the other to allow him to speak his mind freely. Gandalf smiled at her and began to tell of what he had learned of Mirkwood. The company booed at the mention of the forest and Saruman scoffed at Gandalf’s mention of the necromancer.

[Saruman:] “That’s absurd. No such power exists in the world. This...Necromancer is nothing more than a mortal man. A conjurer dabbling in black magic.”

Bilbo wanted to feel assured by what Saruman was saying, after all, he was the most powerful wizard according to Gandalf. But the way he was acting made Bilbo feel off. Whatever was in Dol Guldur had seemed quite real, or as real as a ghost could be, and for Saruman to just ignore whatever it was didn’t sit right with Bilbo. Gandalf frowned as well, bring up Radagast causing Saruman to scoff again. He was really getting on Bilbo’s nerves. He complained about Radagast, Gandalf trying to defend his friend.

“Odd is one word for it.”

Saruman continued to complain about his consumption of mushroom as if those were the worst things he could do.

“I’d’ve gone for the bird’s nest,” Bofur said. There were some chuckles as the screen focused once more on Lady Galadriel. Her voice could be heard but her lips did not move.

“Whoa,” Kili said amazed and slightly off-put like everyone else at her powers.

“What sorta magic is she doin?” Nori asked and when Gandalf replied in the same manner, there were wary mumbles.

“Can he do it too?”

“Well he is a wizard, they can do lots o magic can’t they?”

“I guess, I don’t like it though,” Dori said crossing his arms. Gandalf pulled out the cloth wrapped blade Radagast had given him and set it on the table like Galadriel requested, Lord Elrond looking at it warily. He reached out to touch it, pausing when Galadriel revealed it’s evil origins within Mordor. Bilbo shivered at the thought of something so evil. Lord Elrond uncovered the blade after a moment of hesitation.

[Elrond:] “A Morgul blade.”

Lord Elrond looked at the blade in disbelief, Galadriel stopping to see it for herself as well. She seemed haunted as she recounted what had happened to its former owner, the Witch King of Angmar himself. Lord Elrond shook his head at her words, not believing them to be true, Saruman agreeing with him.

Gandalf sighed in exasperation as the white wizard refuted all his evidence of evil returning to the land, not having anything else to add to his defense. However, when Saruman began to question the validity of the quest, Gandalf looked sharply back up at him.

There were Khuzdul curses spat at the screen when Saruman began to condemn their quest.

“We’ll show you.”

Galadriel began to speak telepathically to Gandalf again, realizing the company had left Rivendell. Gandalf looked sheepishly back at her and she gave him a small grin in return.

“Fer an elf, maybe she’s not all bad,” Nori said smiling at her amusement. Saruman had continued to talk throughout the exchange but no one paid him any mind. Lindr ran up the steps calling for Lord Elrond. He was breathing slightly heavily as he told him of the company’s departure, Saruman and Lord Elrond seeming disturbed while Gandalf and Galadriel continued to smile.

“That was a good one,” Nori said having been quite proud to put his sneaking expertise to use in getting them all out of the city undetected. The screen switched to show them following a steep path into the forests beyond Rivendell. Screen-Thorin stopped and ordered screen-Balin ahead, making sure everyone was keeping up.

“Erebor is better than Rivendell Uncle Bilbo,” Kili told him when screen-Bilbo was shown looking back at Rivendell with a forlorn expression. Kili was determined to convince Bilbo to stay with them, and he wasn’t the only one set on that path either.

“From what I’ve seen it is magnificent,” Bilbo reassured him. Screen-Thorin called out for him to keep up and Kili nudged Bilbo in the side.

“Told you Uncle worried about you,” Fili said, not turning to see the sharp look Thorin threw his direction. Bilbo was in no way convinced, screen-Thorin had seemed more annoyed than concerned. The screen shifted back to Rivendell, where Gandalf and Galadriel were left alone.

She asked about his plans, and when he confirmed his intentions of following them she seemed pleased. Unlike Lord Elrond and Saruman she commended him for helping the company, something that instantly made her their favorite elf. Though she was still an elf. She warned Gandalf of the dangers and unknowns their quest had set in motion, the dwarves watching shifting uncomfortably at the danger she was alluding to. Especially since they would soon be back in the forest, so close to the threat.

“That’s not very reasurrin,” Gloin said, finally speaking up again. Gandalf began to turn, Galadriel calling out and stopping him with her next question. Bilbo straightened up. He had often wondered the same question, but Gandalf had never given him a straight answer.

[Gandalf:] “I don’t know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

Bilbo couldn’t help the smile that broke across his face at Gandalf’s words.

“He’s not the only one you give courage to,” Thorin said over his nephews. Bilbo nearly missed the sound Kili made, and Fili’s sigh, his heart was pounding.

“Excuse us, Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said as he and Kili got up. Ori quickly shifted away from Bilbo, leaving enough room for Kili to squish between them. Seeing that Fili was planning on sitting next to his brother as well Bilbo moved closer to Thorin, falling back into his shoulder as Fili sat down. Thorin steadied him as everyone settled into their new seats. Kili was chatting amicably with Ori, Fili nodding next to him neither of them looking at Bilbo and Thorin who were glaring at them. Both brothers were sprawled out, taking up far more space than was really necessary. This caused Bilbo and Thorin to be far closer to each other then they were used to. Thorin opened his mouth only to snap it closed just as fast. Bilbo wanted to say something about Thorin’s previous comment but his heart was beating so loud and fast he was surprised the rest of the company hadn’t heard it.

He nearly missed Galadriel’s promise to aid Gandalf should he ever need it, only turning back to the screen when she cupped his hands in her own. Then she pulled away and when Gandalf looked up she had disappeared.

“She’s a tricky elf.”

“Aye, wonder what she could do to help,” Dwalin said. The screen showed a montage of the company traveling towards the Misty Mountains, the music swelling again.

“Wasn’t that the last time our journey was in any way normal?” Bofur asked.

“This trip hasn’t been normal at all.”

“Compared to everything that has happened since we entered the Misty Mountains I’d say it was pretty normal.”

“Oh that’s right the Goblins are coming up. You get to see our amazing escape from them now Uncle Bilbo,” Kili said grinning over at him.

“And we get to see how you got out of the tunnels on yer own,” Dwalin added. The mention of the goblin tunnels had Bilbo’s stomach churning. He really did not want to relive his experience with Gollum. It would be even worse with the dwarves watching.

The screen changed to the company walking along the treacherous mountain path as rain poured down on them. Screen-Thorin called out to his men, but he was barely heard above the thunderous rain. When screen-Bilbo nearly slipped off the path Thorin stiffened.

“Thanks, Dwalin,” Bilbo said.

“Like I’d let ye fall,” Dwalin snorted. Screen-Thorin shouted about their need to find shelter as if they hadn’t all already figured that out. A shape appeared from the gloom, a monstrous stone giant with a huge boulder in its hands. It threw the boulder at another giant as it rounded a corner, catching the cliff face above them and showering the company with rocks.

“I could have gone with forgetting this part.”

“Forget it? I’ll remember that day for the rest of me life.”

“We know yer amazed with the giants, ye nearly got yerself killed proving that,” Dwalin said as several dwarves had to pull screen-Bofur back from the edge.

“When your not in immediate danger of dying, it is rather amazing,” Ori said.

The path they were standing on began to crack, right between screen-Fili and Kili. It separated into different legs of another stone giant.

Fili and Kili were holding tight to each other as if making up for the separation their screen-selves had to experience. Thorin shifted, his arm moving to rest on the back of the couch, his fingertips able to brush against Kili’s coat. The others were not much better. Those who had been separated making sure they had some type of contact with each other. One half of the company managed to get off their leg, but they were helpless as they watched the other half swing around, eventually crashing into the side of the mountain. Screen-Thorin was distraught, shouting for Kili as they rushed towards the scene.

Bilbo’s heart hurt with how panicked screen-Thorin had been, thinking one of his nephews had died before his eyes. He hoped Thorin never had cause to sound like that again. Thankfully, as they already knew, the rest of the company was safe. It didn’t stop those watching from sighing in relief as they were reunited though. On-screen Bofur was looking around wildly, not seeing screen-Bilbo. Thorin sighed, remembering this part as they found screen-Bilbo clinging to the side of the cliff.

“Thank you for trying,” Bilbo said smiling towards Bofur and Ori before turning to Dwalin as well. When screen-Thorin jumped down Bilbo shifted slightly closer to him, reveling in the warmth and knowledge that Thorin was safe next to him.

“Thank you,” he whispered. Bilbo jumped when Thorin slipped and nearly fell.

“Your welcome,” Thorin said, his voice sounding like a deep rumble with how close Bilbo was.

[Dwalin:] “I thought we’d lost our burglar.”

[Thorin:] “He’s been lost ever since he left home. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us. Dwalin!”

“I was wrong to say that,” Thorin said looking at Bilbo, unconsciously moving his arm closer around his shoulders.

“I know that now,” Bilbo smiled up at Thorin and moved a bit closer.

Chapter Text

“Can believe I didn’t think it’d be a trap,” Dwalin groaned as his screen-self gave the cave the all clear.

“All of us are to blame for not thinking about it,” Balin said but Dwalin still looked upset at himself. Screen-Thorin ordered him to check further back, screen-Dwalin returning with nothing once again.

“It’s beneath ye.”

Screen-Gloin sat down and started taking out wood, ready to set up a fire. Screen-Thorin snapped at him, ordering all of them to just go to bed, obviously in a very foul mood.

“Thankfully they don’t change too much,” Balin said at screen-Thorin’s comment. The screen switched to the white warg sniffing the ground, Azog on its back. He had picked up their scent, his pack charging after him toward the mountains.

“Even if we hadn’t been caught, he still would’ve found us.”

They were looking back at the company, focusing on screen-Bilbo.

“Uncle Bilbo, you should really be asleep.”

“You need all the rest you can get for Goblin Town.” The brothers said laughing a little. When they saw screen-Bilbo grab his bag and walking stick, their grins turned to frowns.

“What’re you doing laddie?” Balin asked. Bilbo had nearly forgotten this part.

“You’re not leaving are you?” Bombur said looking over at Bilbo. He sighed and nodded, ashamed of his past actions and words. To think he could have left them before he ever really got to know the company. While Goblin Town and Gollum terrified him greatly, he was thankful they had stopped him from leaving. Screen-Bofur was standing watch. He jumped up as screen-Bilbo passed him asking where he was going. Frowning, screen-Bilbo told him of his plans to return to Rivendell, screen-Bofur rushing to convince him not to go.

“Yeah! You’re one of us!”

“You can’t leave us for elves!”

Screen-Bilbo shook his head, not believing what screen-Bofur was telling him. At that time Thorin’s words had made a lot of sense and even now Bilbo could feel their sting, even though he had long since forgiven Thorin. The company was very upset at screen-Bilbo’s words, he wasn’t supposed to want to leave them.

“But ye are a Took and ye are part of this company,” Nori said with a rather serious face.

“Important member too,” Bilbo thought he heard someone whisper. The screen showed Thorin had been awake, staring at the wall while he listened.

“You knew Uncle?”

“Of course I knew,” Thorin said, frowning at Fili.

“I am sorry for my words,” Thorin whispered.

“You have already apologized, and besides what I say is far worse than anything you have,” Bilbo whispered back. He dreaded having to hear his outburst once again. Screen-Bofur’s eyes lit up at his words, understanding what he was feeling. He tried to tell screen-Bilbo but he just shook his head, finally snapping.

[Bilbo:] “No, you don’t, you don’t understand! None of you do,­ you’re dwarves. You used to-to this life, to living on the road, never settling in one place, not belonging anywhere.”

Many of the dwarves were shocked at Bilbo’s words. How could he have said that? Wasn’t he the one always talking about how he would help them get home.

“I’m so sorry,” Bilbo said his head in his hands. He hated that he had said those words and he hated how hurt Bofur had been by them. Seeing how upset Bilbo was the dwarves realized that their Bilbo didn’t think that way, not anymore and that was what mattered.

“It’s suprisin it took ye this long to snap at us,” Gloin said too much agreement. Bilbo felt his shoulder sink in disbelief as he looked up at all of them.

“But that was a horrible thing for me to say.”

“Well Uncle did push you to it,” Fili said causing Thorin to stiffen but say no words in his own defense.

“Some of us have said worse about you,” Dori said giving everyone who protested a look. Bilbo had of course known that, but seeing the dwarves attempting to cheer him up made him feel better than their words ever could.

“Are you sure?”

“Course, yer our hobbit, Bilbo, and nothin’ll change that,” Nori said with a grin. Bilbo nearly rolled his eyes at being called ‘their hobbit’, though he did consider them his dwarves so he couldn’t complain.

Screen-Bilbo looked as shocked as screen-Bofur at his outburst, instantly trying to apologize. They saw screen-Thorin frowning, having heard every word.
“I can’t believe you heard all this.”

“They’re right, I pushed you to it,” Thorin said. Screen-Bofur slumped, all his usual happiness melting away despite screen-Bilbo’s apologize. He wished screen-Bilbo safe travels and patted him on the shoulder.

“No don’t go,” Ori said, eyes wide even though he knew Bilbo hadn’t ended up leaving them. Screen-Bofur paused a blue light catching his eye. Screen-Bilbo pulled out his sword which was glowing blue and everyone knew exactly what that meant. The air in the room became tense as they all prepared for what was to come next. Screen-Thorin sat up, seeing the glowing light and ordered everyone awake but it was too late. The floor opened up before they were even all fully awake, sending them down into Goblin Town.

The company on screen was falling and sliding down the network of chutes. When they landed there were several groans throughout the room, yellowed bruises once again flaring up at the reminder of how they were formed.

“Ye really did jus slip away,” Dwalin said in amazement as screen-Bilbo huddled on the floor to avoid being caught as the rest of them were hauled away.

“I told ye,”

“You really are good at sneaking,” Ori said.

“Thank you though really that was mostly luck.” What followed was enough bad luck to make up for it. There were some chuckles as screen-Bilbo snuck behind a railing.

“You were going to come after us?” Balin asked when he drew his sword and started down the path.

“I didn’t really know what else to do,” Bilbo said. He winced as many dwarves jumped when the goblin leaped out. They watched as screen-Bilbo barely managed to avoid being stabbed, and froze when they both went over the side of the platform.

“Ye never mentioned that laddie,” Oin said looking Bilbo over even across the distance. The hobbit had insisted he had been fine and Oin had a stubborn dwarf king to tend to, so he hadn’t pushed the issue too hard. Seeing this though, he was very skeptical that the hobbit had been nearly as fine as he had said he was.

“It really wasn’t important,”

“You fell down the side of a cliff what do you mean that wasn’t important?” Balin said staring at Bilbo like he had two heads.

“There were others who needed more attention and I was fine, I swear.”

“I’m givin ya a full examination after this, and ye won’t get out of it this time,” Oin huffed. He would be watching closely to see what he should check for. The fall itself could have caused broken bones or internal bruising, but seeing as how Bilbo had managed to avoid anyone noticing injuries he suspected that wasn’t the case. Thorin was silent and very stiff which worried Bilbo slightly, Thorin always had something to say when he did something stupid.

The screen shifted to showing the company being forced along the path, music starting up. Around him, the others relaxed a little, slightly comforted knowing exactly what was going to happen. He, on the other hand, had no idea what was going to happen to his dwarves. There had been stories but as they had learned stories were nowhere near as real as watching it happen.

The Great Goblin was standing in front of his throne, goblins starting up a beat on mighty drums as he started to sing. As he sung about torturing them in every possible way Bilbo could imagine, the dwarves were shepherded onto the platform, completely surrounded by goblins.

The song made Bilbo feel ill. He couldn’t imagine any of that happening to his dwarves and he found himself looking around again, checking them over. Even knowing they were fine didn’t stop the worry that twisted his gut. The sight of the Great Goblin didn’t help the feeling. Nothing should ever be so grotesque in his opinion. When the song came to a close the Great Goblin shared quite proudly that he had written it. Screen-Balin was so appalled by it that he straight up told the Goblin King how horrible it was. A round of agreement came with the declaration but he Goblin King only seemed to take his insult as a compliment.

He asked who had come into his kingdom, pleasantly surprised to learn that they were dwarves. He ordered them to be searched and the goblins swarmed the company, pulling at anything they could reach. There were grumbles as they watched their belongings once again be ripped away. Dori scowled at Nori when a bag of elvish knickknacks were dumped onto the platform.

“Oh, ye can’t still be mad about that.”

“I can and I am,” Dori huffed. The Goblin King inspected one of the candelabras, tossing it away with a flair once he knew where it had come from.

Both screen and real Nori shrugged as they were given disappointed looks. He didn’t regret his decision, just that he had been caught and lost the loot.

The Great Goblin demanded to know of their reasons for being there and screen-Oin stepped forward, assuring the company that he had everything under control. There were several groans and Bilbo didn’t even question why. He couldn’t hear what the Great Goblin was asking due to his flattened trumpet, a point he made sure to bring up. It wasn’t taken well, the Great Goblin surging forward and threatening to flatten him.

“That wasn’t yer best idea,” Gloin said.

“My best idea? Not really, you alright brother?” Oin said making Gloin sigh. Screen-Bofur jumped in front of screen-Oin, letting him be pulled back into the relative safety of the company. He tried to spin a tale about why they were there, getting pulled off on a tangent about what to even call the path they were on. Bilbo thought his excuse was flimsy at best, the Goblin King thinking so as well if his displeased expression was anything to go by.

“Why did you think that was a good idea?”

“It’s betta than nothin. We can’t all stall like you,” Bofur said. The Great Goblin was done listening to their excuses. He called for torture devices to be brought out.

“What?!” Bilbo yelled, turning to look at Ori with wide eyes when the Great Goblin pointed at him.

“He was wrong, Kili and I are younger than him,” Fili said nonchalantly as if it made the whole thing fine.

“That’s supposed to make me feel better? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine Bilbo you sound like Dori,”

“I see nothing wrong with that,” both hobbit and dwarf said causing Ori to sink down and cover his face.

“Nothing happened Bilbo calm down,” Thorin tried to placate. Bilbo looked at him and glanced again at Ori. If Thorin was wrong he would pay. Screen-Thorin called the Goblin King’s attention to himself, stepping to the front of the company.

“See, I made sure nothing happened,” Thorin said.

“Placing the target on your back does not make me feel better in the slightest.”

The Goblin King seemed thrilled to see screen-Thorin, which knowing now knowing about the bounty made a lot of sense. He mock bowed to screen-Thorin, pausing only to rub in the fact that he no longer had a mountain or crown. Bilbo felt offended for Thorin, and the dwarves were cursing him out for his words against their King. The Goblin King grinned as he mentioned the bounty, and Azog, screen-Thorin staring at him and trying to maintain his dignity, not believing a word he said.

“I was naive to think him dead.”

“Nothing should have been able to survive that wound. There was no way for you to know.”

Screen-Thorin stood defiantly before the Goblin King and told him what he had thought was Azog’s fate. But they knew he was wrong, and the Goblin King laughed at him. He pointed at a tiny goblin scribe that was somehow even uglier than all the other goblins and ordered him to send word to Azog.

As the screen followed the goblin down into the dark, Bilbo shifted uneasily. When they saw screen-Bilbo blinking awake, he leaned back a little. The goblin he had fallen with was nearly dead on the rocks just a little bit away from him.

“Good thing those mushrooms were there,” Balin said, leaning forwards. Everyone seemed to take a keen interest in what the screen was showing. Bilbo was so not looking forwards to the next few minutes.

“Wha is that?” Dwalin asked as Gollum came on screen, his large eyes shining in the dark. Bilbo shivered and leaned into Thorin.

“His name is Gollum,” Bilbo said as the creature jumped excitedly next to the fallen goblin.

“It doesn’t see you right Uncle Bilbo?” Fili asked. Bilbo couldn’t bring himself to answer, his silence saying more than enough. Thorin’s arm moved closer around him and Fili shifted a little closer. The dwarves jumped and cursed when the goblin suddenly woke up. Gollum bashed it on the head with a rock until it was once again unconscious. As he did so a golden ring fell out of his pocket. Bilbo’s hand went to the pocket where the very same ring still rested.

“Strange thing for a creature like that to have,” Balin said frowning. Gollum started talking to itself, or rather Precious.

“Is that not some type of goblin?” Dori asked looking at Bilbo. He shook his head.

“Who’s Precious?” Bilbo shuddered hearing Kili say the word, his reaction concerning the company.

“Bilbo?”

“Can we just get through this? I’ve tried very hard to not remember this part of the journey.”

Screen-Bilbo came out of his hiding spot, earning comments of disagreement from the dwarves, and picked up the ring.

“Do you still have that?”

“Yes.”

“Can we see it, Uncle Bilbo?”

“No.” The idea of Fili or Kili having the ring gave him a bad feeling. There was something off, something wrong, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Bilbo ignored the looks he got for his brusque answer.

Screen-Bilbo followed the sound of Gollum’s voice. Gollum was complaining about the lack of flesh on the goblin, several dwarves gagging, then his voice changed and he berated himself.

“Is there something wrong with it?”

“Look at it!” Bofur said, gesturing to the screen. Gollum began to sing as he beat the goblin with a rock, which made the short song all the more sinister. The sword was glowing, catching Gollum’s attention.

“Hide Bilbo.”

“Never give away your hiding place.” As Gollum beat the goblin, the sword began to flicker before finally dimming completely.

“Please get out of there.”

Screen-Bilbo looked around the stone, freezing when he realized Gollum was no longer there. Gollum was shown paddling silently towards screen-Bilbo, who was searching the rocks for him.

“Run it through.”

“Get outta there.”

“Tell me you are fine after this,” Thorin whispered.

“I’m here aren’t I?” Thorin looked down and Bilbo was surprised to see he was frowning with his brows furrowed. Gollum snuck onto the ledge above screen-Bilbo and jumped down in front of him. The room was completely silent, everyone watching with bated breaths. He grinned as he looked Bilbo up and down, calling screen-Bilbo a meaty mouthful.

“Good, keep that letter-opener between ya no matter what,” Dwalin said leaning forwards. His hands were balled up on his knees and his jaw locked. He hated having to watch as Bilbo, so obviously unskilled with even holding a sword, had to fend for his life. He was the protector of the company, a warrior, and being unable to protect the weakest member made him angry.

Gollum kept moving closer until the tip of the sword hit his throat, making him jump back and begin coughing. Screen-Bilbo swung the sword at him, Gollum frowning in confusion when he realized he had an elvish blade. Screen-Bilbo introduced himself and Gollum looked delighted that he had met someone new, though his reasoning did not sit well with the dwarves at all.

“What?”

“He tried to eat you?”

“Why I-”

“Tell me he’s dead.”

“Ah no, he’s not dead.” There was a pause.

“What?! If something threatens to eat you, you kill it,” Dori said staring at Bilbo in disbelief.

“It’s...complicated,” Bilbo said his words doing little to temper their anger at Gollum. Screen-Bilbo swung his sword again to keep Gollum at bay and Dwalin grit his teeth at how terrible he was.

“Get away from him!” They spat among other things. Screen-Bilbo demanded Gollum to show him the way out, Gollum smiling at the news that he was lost. Thorin groaned.

“You should never admit your lost.”

“You would know wouldn’t you,” Bilbo shot back glad for the slight distraction. Thorin coughed and mock glared at him, glad he was able to make Bilbo slightly more relaxed.

Gollum perked up, he knew exactly how to get out of the cave and was excited to show screen-Bilbo the way out. Then the other side took over, snarling at his own words. Screen-Bilbo watched the whole exchange in bewilderment.

“He’s mad, absolutely mad,” was the general consensus of everyone watching. Screen-Bilbo, uncomfortable with the odd exchange tried to walk away. But Gollum latched onto the word game with glee, the excitable version of him coming back and asking him to play a game.

“It was talking about eating you and now it wants to play a game? What is happening?” Ori asked, leaning close to Dori.

[Gollum:] “What has roots as nobody sees, is taller than trees. Up, up, up it goes, and yet, never grows.”

“Riddles?” Balin asked. Bilbo nodded, relaxing slightly. This part hadn’t been so bad, if he didn’t count what Gollum wanted if he had won.

[Bilbo:] “...The mountain.”

“Are you really good at riddles?” Ori asked.

“I’m good enough for this,” Bilbo said as Gollum laughed maniacally, asking for a riddle in exchange. Then his other side came back, hissing and growling but screen-Bilbo had already seen his chance. He crouched down to be closer to Gollum, getting groans from the dwarves at his action and smiled as he agreed to play a game of riddles.

“What’re ye doin? Jus kill it,” Gloin said, his arms crossed, glaring at Gollum. Screen-Bilbo’s words seemed to do the trick, excited Gollum coming back, smiling at the idea of playing a game. Sighing, screen-Bilbo started to hash out the details of what each of them would win. Of course, if he won, Gollum would show him how to get out. However, Gollum’s wishes had the company in an uproar.

“No!”

“Don’t agree to it, Uncle Bilbo.”

“Get out of there.”

[Gollum:] “If Baggins loses, we eats it whole.”

[Bilbo:] “Fair enough.”

“Bilbo!” Cried several dwarves.

“If anythin tells ye they’re goin te eat ye yer answer shouldn’t be ‘fair enough’ it should be a sword through the heart!” Dwalin said.

“It was a stupid idea, I know, but I’m alive and well now so don’t worry.”

“I will not stop worrying until you’re back with us,” Dori said. The only reason Bilbo was not sitting right next to Ori where he could be sure he was fine was because Thorin looked like he needed him far more. Thorin had his arm protectively over Bilbo’s shoulders and looked paler than a sheet. His entire body was rigid and the only thing that seemed to be keeping him from trying to kill the creature on screen was that Bilbo was right there next to him. That was fine, good even, but Bilbo was still sleeping next to Ori for the remainder of the journey and nothing would convince him otherwise.

Gollum sat back on a rock and gestured for screen-Bilbo to go first. He paused, trying to think of a good one, eyes lighting up when he got it.

[Bilbo:] “Thirty white horses on a red hill. First they champ, then they stamp, then they stand still.”

“Oh! I want to try and figure out the riddles,” Kili said excitedly.

“That would be fun,” Bofur agreed.

“You are terrible at riddles,” Fili said.

“Then you should help.”

“It’s teeth right?” Ori said.

“Yes,” Bilbo sighed wishing they would just let him get through this.

“I could’ve gotten that.”

[Gollum:] “Teeth?”

Screen-Bilbo looked unhappy, causing Gollum to jump around in joy. He bared his own teeth to show screen-Bilbo he only had nine, screen-Bilbo looking faintly ill at the sight.

“That is disgusting,” Dori said.

“Good keep something between you two,” Dwalin said as screen-Bilbo moved to keep a rock between him and Gollum when he started to approach.

[Gollum:] “Our turn. Voiceless it cries, wingless flutters, toothless bites, mouthless mutters.”

“What about this one?”

“Wind?” Balin asked and Bilbo nodded. His screen-self wasn’t having as easy a time of figuring out the answer. Gollum straightened up, knowing what it was, his other side keeping him from saying the answer. Screen-Bilbo looked around for some sort of clue, eyes landing on the water rippling in the faint wind.

[Bilbo:] “Wind. It’s wind! Of course it is.”

Gollum didn’t seem at all pleased that he had figured out the answer, creeping over the rocks with a snarl on his face.

“Ye never shoulda put yer sword away,” Dwalin said, screen-Bilbo stumbling back to keep distance between them, holding up a hand to make him stop.

[Bilbo:] “Ah, ah, ah, ah. A—a box without hinges, key, o—or, or lid; yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

“That’s a good one,”

“I’m going to get this one,” Kili said frowning as he tried to think of the answer. Gollum was also struggling to figure it out, his hands waving around as he tried to piece together the answer. Screen-Bilbo sighed, thinking he had stumped Gollum, the creature asking for more time which he was given.

“This is a hard one,”

“Is it eggs?” Bofur said just as Gollum also figured it out.

[Gollum:] “Eggses! Eggses! [He laughs.] What crunchy little eggses, yes. Grandmother taught us to suck them, yes.”

“Never turn yer back on yer enemy,” Gloin said when screen-Bilbo turned around at the sound of a bat. When he turned back Gollum was gone making some of the dwarves curse. Bilbo felt Thorin’s arm tighten as Gollum’s voice began to echo through the cavern eerily.

[Gollum:] “Ahh. We have one for you: All things it devours, birds, beasts, trees, flowers. Gnaws iron, bites steel, grinds hard stones to meal. Answer us.”

[Bilbo:] “Give me a moment, please, I gave you a good long while.”

Kili wasn’t even trying to answer this one, leaning forwards anxiously waiting for screen-Bilbo to figure it out. They could see how hard he was thinking, holding up is hands to keep Gollum away. He frowned, admitting he didn’t actually know the answer.

“What? Yer supposed to be good at these,” Bofur said. He hated this, it wasn’t right. Bilbo was not supposed to have been through this. Why hadn’t he told him?

“That doesn’t mean I know all of them,” Bilbo said. Gollum was still not to be seen, his voice echoing off the walls as he began to think about how screen-Bilbo would taste. Screen-Bilbo backed up looking everywhere. His back hit a rock, Gollum reaching down finally revealing himself.

“Stay away from him!” They shouted, some even raising their fists as if they could fight Gollum. Gloin would have groaned if he hadn’t been so tense as screen-Bilbo wildly swung his sword and asked for more time.

“Come on Bilbo, you have to get it,” Fili said holding Bilbo’s arm in an iron grip. Gollum was delighted, not giving him any more time.

“Look out!” But Gollum’s words were all he needed, the answer clicking together in his head.

[Bilbo:] “Time. Ti—the answer is time.”

“Thank Mahal,”

“Tell me it isn’t that close again,” Balin said.

“Not in that way no,” Bilbo said, not reassuring one person in the entire room. Gollum demanded another question, screen-Bilbo backing up in fear of his rage. He tried to placate it, thinking hard about another riddle.

“You got this Uncle Bilbo, come up with a really good one,” Kili said. Screen-Bilbo paused, his hand drawn towards his pocket where the ring lay. He blinked mumbling out a question more to himself then Gollum.

[Bilbo:] “What have I got in my pocket?”

“That’s not a riddle though.”

“Well he only asked for a question,” Bilbo said, Gollum throwing a fit and demanding another one. But screen-Bilbo figured out the loophole, grinning as he took the question as his riddle.

“It’s the ring right?”

“Yes, Kili it is.”

“I got one!” He was very proud, though Gollum put quite the damper on the whole situation. Screen-Bilbo gave him three guesses like he asked and stood back.

[Gollum:] “Handses!”

“Good, don’t make any simple mistakes like that,” Balin said as Bilbo quickly took his hands out before Gollum could guess. He began searching through all the random items on the floor.

[Gollum:] “Fish­bones, goblins’ teeth, wet shells, bat’s wings ... Knife!”

Gollum was frantic now, hitting himself in the head trying to come up with anything.

[Gollum:] “String!”

[Gollum:] “Or nothing.”

[Bilbo:] “Two guesses at once; wrong both times.”

“Pathetic creature.” Someone said as Gollum fell to the floor crying when he lost the game. Screen-Bilbo had just as little patience for his dramatics, wanting to claim his prize as soon as he could. At the reminder of what he had promised, Gollum stopped crying and sat up growling.

“Yes ye did say so, this is why ye don’t make deals like that Bilbo,” Nori said, leaning forwards on the armrest. Gollum hissed wanting to know the answer to the question, but screen-Bilbo waved a finger and refused to tell.

“Now get outta there. I don’t think it’ll like if it realizes ye got that ring.”

“That’s a slight understatement,” Bilbo said as Gollum started to approach him, reaching into his pocket. Realizing that it was empty, Gollum froze and began searching his entire body his panicked voice echoing through the cave.

“It’s just a ring,” Bombur said as Gollum tore apart the cave looking for the gold ring.

“Just run away while it’s distracted,” Balin said but of course screen-Bilbo didn’t. He stayed and tried to figure out what was wrong, getting him many exasperated looks in the room. Gollum pushed his words away, not wanting to deal with anyone else in his anguish. It was only when he stopped, looking down at the lake that his face shifted into hatred.

[Gollum:] “What has it got in its nasty little pocketses?”

Screen-Bilbo clutched the ring tightly behind his back and Gollum turned to face him snarling in anger.

[Gollum:] “He stole it. He stole it! Ahh! HE STOLE IT!”

“Run!” was shouted from nearly everyone. Dwalin and Gloin were on their feet. Fili was nearly as close as Thorin, Kili leaning against his brother. All of them felt awful for having been suspicious of Bilbo when he made it back to the company. He had been through enough. Even without any words, they came to an agreement. Bilbo Baggins would never find himself alone to deal with the horrors of the world. This was far too stressful for them and no one wanted to lose him. The only thing keeping them from asking the voice to bring Gollum here or put them back in the Misty Mountains was the fact that Bilbo was there with them.

“I’m fine see?” Bilbo tried to placate them. All he got was a look from Oin that made even him doubt that statement.

Chapter Text

“Wait what about Bilbo?” Dori asked as the screen switched back to the company in Goblin Town. Torture devices were being wheeled towards the platform and the Great Goblin began to sing. While Bilbo was glad they were no longer on him, he didn’t want to see any of them be hurt.

“Yeah, we don’t wanna see us, we know what happens,” Kili said crossing his arms.

“I don’t!”

“But nothing really happens to us, I mean we escape just fine.”

“So do I,”

“I’ve yet to see that,” Bilbo stared at him with wide eyes gesturing helplessly towards him and then back at himself before sighing in exasperation. No one else saw anything wrong with Kili’s logic.

The Great Goblin began to sing and Bilbo shivered at the words. Even knowing they had escaped, he still felt nauseous at the thought. The goblins were going through their weapons. One picked up Thorin’s sword and unsheathed it, recognizing the blade and screeching in horror. Any goblin who saw it, including the Great Goblin, ran from it in fear.

“I really do like that sword.”

The goblins turned actively hostile in their fear, beginning to leap at the company and whip them with ropes. Bilbo straightened, his hand curling into Thorin’s coat.

“We’re fine,” Thorin whispers only for Bilbo to glare at him.

“You nearly lost your head twice that night?” Bilbo asked as screen-Thorin was pushed to the ground. A goblin stood over him ready to strike when a blast of white light knocked them all to the side.

“But I didn’t,” Thorin said patting Bilbo’s hand that was clinging to his coat. The light faded to reveal Gandalf wielding Glamdring and his staff. Bilbo felt marginally better now that Gandalf was there.

[Gandalf:] “Take up arms. Fight. Fight!”

The dwarves on screen are getting up, being the first to recover from the blast. From the ground, the Great Goblin looks up and sees Gandalf’s sword as he kills goblins. He shouts in fear at it, recognizing the blade as well.

The company reach their weapons and begin passing them back to their owners. Bilbo is once again amazed by the teamwork of the company. Screen-Oin grabbed his flattened ear trumpet and screen-Nori fell to the ground while fighting. Bilbo felt his heart stop when the Great Goblin rushed the fallen dwarf. But then screen-Thorin was stepping in front of him, fending off the Goblin King. The Great Goblin stumbled back, falling into his throne and crushing it with his weight before plunging off the side of the platform.
Then the company was running, cutting down goblins right and left as they ran from the throne room after Gandalf. The screen switched, showing screen-Bilbo also running.
Gollum was shouting as screen-Bilbo was seen in a side cave looking for a way out as Gollum ran past the entrance. There was an intake of breath as Bilbo threw himself into a crack only to get stuck halfway through. Gollum came crawling back to the entrance making Thorin wrap his hand around Bilbo’s. The music was soft, slowly growing in the background in a way that made Bilbo’s skin crawl.

Gollum snarled at him getting ever closer. The company was on the edge of their seats as screen-Bilbo struggled to slip through the crack, his buttons catching. They popped and hit Gollum in the face as he fell through the crack. There was an abrupt shift in the music as he fell on his back, the ring flying out of his pocket. Screen-Bilbo reached up to grab it, the eerie music in the background setting them all on edge. As the ring slid neatly, impossibly, onto his finger Bilbo held his breath, knowing what was going to happen in the next instant. Thorin was leaning forwards, the music making him uneasy in a way he couldn’t quite explain as the ring went on and suddenly the Bilbo on screen was gone. Vanished.

“Did ye jus?”

“That’s not possible.”

“Bilbo?” Balin asked and Bilbo was really not looking forward to the thirteen pairs of eyes now boring into him.

“I don’t know,” he said because really what else could he say? He had no idea why the ring turned him invisible or how Gollum had gotten it.

“Do you-does it-”

“You can turn invisible Uncle Bilbo?” Kili said looking as though that was just about the coolest thing he had ever heard.

“Yes,”

“Can I try it? Imagine everything that we could do! I could-”

“No!” Bilbo was surprised he was not the only one denying Kili. Thorin was looking at Kili sternly, no doubt warning him what would happen if he did get his hands on the ring and used it for pranks like he wanted to. Balin, though, was staring at Bilbo with narrowed eyes looking like he was thinking very hard.

“Why didn’t ye tell us, Bilbo?” Bofur asked and Bilbo realized he didn’t actually know why. Turning invisible would be a great asset to him as a burglar and besides it being gold there wouldn’t really be any reason for the dwarves to take it from him. But there was just something about the ring that made him unwilling to let the others touch it, or even know about it. He wanted it for himself and he was perfectly willing to use it whenever he needed to. That was only part of the issue though. He couldn’t deny that the thought of the dwarves having the ring scared him in a way he didn’t want to deal with.

“I don’t know...I guess, well it didn’t really come up.”

“Didn’t come up? It could have been brought up plenty of times.” Thorin said focusing on him once again. He drew back a little from Bilbo.

“What laddie, did ye think we’d take it or something?” Gloin said and Bilbo knew he was trying to make a joke but it was a really bad one and unfortunately true. Even though it would make sense for the dwarves to let him keep it, the fear of them taking it and of them having it had been what kept him from telling them. Bilbo didn’t want to answer them, biting his lip as he waited for their reaction.

“You did,” Balin said and his hurt tone felt like a stab straight to Bilbo’s heart. Bilbo didn’t know what to say because it was true but not in the way they thought. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them, he did, he trusted them perhaps more than anyone else besides his parents. He was afraid, which they knew, but not of them, but it was of their reactions and confound it all this was too confusing! He saw the way they were looking at him and each one was like an ice cold dagger was stabbing into his chest. But no words came to mind and the company didn’t say anything either. Thorin had removed his arm and there was now space between them, the tantalizing warmth of his coat so close, yet so far from his reach. Fili had also shifted away and Bilbo didn’t think he had ever felt more alone amongst the company than right then. Sitting among those he considered family, but unable to reach out.

The screen, which had paused right when he became invisible, started up once again to a silent room. There was no music as the world turned grey and blurry. Bilbo shivered, seeing the world like that again. For all the uses of the ring, that was one very unpleasant side effect.

[Gollum:] “Thief! Baggins!”

Bilbo didn’t notice, too wrapped up in his shame, but there was a small sigh of relief throughout the room when Gollum ran past him. They were hurt, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still concerned. The screen switched back to the company as they ran through Goblin Town. Bilbo wanted to relax because, on one hand, the attention was no longer on him and the ring. But at the same time. There were so many goblins and there were only thirteen dwarves and a wizard and did they really make it out alright? Bilbo was sure he was going to age ten years watching all this. Gandalf urged them faster as if they weren’t already going as fast as they could.

They charged the goblins, sweeping them to the side and a few dwarves chuckled at the clever idea, but it was strained. Screen-Dwalin took out his beloved axes and began to hack away in a flurry of movement, the rest of the company doing the same. Scree-Gloin killed a goblin and sent it down into the abyss, knocking other goblins off the bridges as it went. It was an amazing sight. The trolls had been extraordinarily impressive but this? It was on an entirely different level in Bilbo’s opinion. His dwarves were beyond skilled in his eyes. As goblin swung towards them on ropes, screen-Thorin took charge, yelling out orders.

He and the others cut the ropes to a platform. The swinging goblin found themselves tangled on the platform. Screen-Kili was shown, his counterpart perking up as he was shown deflecting arrow after arrow. He grabbed a ladder and together the company used it to create a bridge and kill several goblins. Bilbo didn’t even know how they had thought of such tactics, especially on such short notice. Screen-Dwalin broke the ladder and they continued to run.

They cut the ropes on another platform, letting it swing across to the next path. Only half the company managed to jump to the other path, the rest still hanging on. Goblins leap towards them and they fight them off as the platform swings back. They jump off and cut the ropes, causing the goblins to fall. The music swells seemingly with Bilbo’s nerves as Gandalf uses his staff to cut a boulder from the rock, sending it rolling down the path in front of them. It is a daring song, that made him sit forwards, anticipation gripping all of them, even though they knew what was going to happen. As they ran across a bridge the Great Goblin breaks through, stopping them in their tracks. Bilbo felt his heart stop as the dwarves were surrounded on all sides by hundreds of goblins. How had they managed to get out?

The Great Goblin swung at Gandalf making him fall back onto the company. He mocked Gandalf as he stood above them, mace in hand. Gandalf jumped forwards and stabbed the Great Goblin in the eye, making him let go of his mace. He howled in pain and Gandalf stepped forwards and slice the Goblin King’s belly. Bilbo held his breath, hoping that would be enough.

Gandalf swung once again and sliced his neck. The Great Goblin fell forwards, dead but his massive weight caused the bridge to break. The part with the company began to slide down the cliff side, the dwarves screaming. As the walls narrowed it slowed the bridge just enough that they weren’t killed on impact. Bilbo sighed as he saw the dwarves covered in wood but alive. Gandalf got out of the wreckage quickly and he turned to look at the dwarves.

[Bofur:] “Well, that could have been worse.”

“How were none of you impaled?” Bilbo asked, not able to keep his worry in any longer. But really with that much wood and weight, he was surprised none of them had been seriously injured if not killed.

“We have armor.”

“That is not a good enough excuse, that-that was-” Bilbo couldn’t even finish, too many scenarios running through his head of what could, and probably should, have happened to them.

[Dwalin:] “You’ve got to be joking!”

And to think the dwarves had been complaining about his reactions to Gollum. Somehow they managed to get themselves out of the rubble, screen-Kili looking up in horror. A massive swarm of what must have been thousands of goblins was running towards them. Screen-Kili called out to Gandalf, alerting the rest of the company to the danger. Eyes widening, Gandalf urged them to move faster, so they could use the protection of daylight.

The rest of them were pulled out, and once again they began to run. Then they were once again looking at Gollum. He leaps into a wider tunnel only to see daylight at the end. Screen-Bilbo, still invisible, approached with his sword drawn. A commotion down the tunnel sent Gollum scurrying back towards Bilbo. He hid behind a rock as Gandalf and the dwarves rushed by, the invisible Bilbo watching them leave. They watched as screen-Bilbo came up behind Gollum and placed his sword at his throat.

“I thought ye said ye didn kill ‘im?” Dwalin said and while Bilbo wanted to be happy one of them had finally talked to him, the stress was still eating at him.

“I didn’t,” Bilbo replied watching as he drew the sword back only to pause when Gollum turned around. Unexpectedly he looked sad, almost human and screen-Bilbo lowered his sword.

“Ye pity him,” Bofur said and if he hadn’t seen what Gollum had put Bilbo through he might have as well.

“Yes,” Bilbo said. His screen-self took a few steps back, Gollum frowning and snarling at the sound. But he was running forwards and jumping over Gollum, hitting him in the head along the way. As Bilbo ran out of the cave there was a sigh of relief, now that they were all away from the monsters beneath the mountains. Gollum scrambled around but screen-Bilbo was already gone.

[Gollum:] “Baggins! Thief! Curse it and crush it, we hates it forever!”

“So you are a thief actually,” Nori said trying to break the silence. Bilbo frowned as a few others laughed. It was tense, and Bilbo knew they wouldn’t forget but they also all knew what was coming next.

Chapter Text

Still invisible, screen-Bilbo ran down the side of the mountain. The screen switched between him and the company, altering between the rich colors of the forest and the dull grays of the ring. The music gave everything a sense of urgency as they ran, which was quite appropriate Bilbo thought, considering what was going to happen. Gandalf stopped and counted as everyone ran into the small clearing as well. When he realized that screen-Bilbo wasn’t present he began to shout at the rest of the company.

“Oh, I nearly forgot about this part,” Bilbo sighed, happy there was a break between the goblins and Azog.

“How could you possibly forget this part?” Dori asked incredulously. He couldn’t imagine a single member of the company forgetting this part, or Bilbo’s words.

“This entire day was terrible and everything blurs together a bit. I remember now though.” Indeed he did remember how rude Thorin had been, and the dwarf’s shock when he had appeared.

The company was looking around wildly, screen-Dwalin cursing and screen-Gloin blaming Dori.

“Why would I have been with Dori?”

“You’re small,” Ori said as if that explained everything. Gandalf seemed frantic as he questioned them, screen-Nori admitting he had seen him slip away.

Screen-Bilbo finally caught up, hiding behind a tree as he caught his breath and listened to what the dwarves were saying. Thorin frowned, he hadn’t thought Bilbo had heard everything he had said. Then again he hadn’t known Bilbo could turn invisible. The reminder that Bilbo didn’t trust them enough to let him keep a magic ring still burned and made his frown deepen even more.

[Thorin:] “I’ll tell you what happened. Master Baggins saw his chance and he took it! He’s thought of nothing but his soft bed and his warm hearth since first he stepped out of his door! We will not be seeing our Hobbit again. He is long gone.”

Balin reached over and tapped Thorin’s arm, nodding silently towards Bilbo. The hobbit looked, well, sad. Thorin felt like someone had kicked him in the guts; knowing he was partly, if not mostly, responsible for his unhappiness. Why was he always the one upsetting Bilbo? no one else in the company seemed to have the same problem.

“I did not mean that,”

“It’s fine if you did. You had no reason to trust me really at that point,” Bilbo said smiling slightly. On the inside, he was jumping for joy. If Thorin was actually semi-apologizing to him, let alone speaking to him then the current rift wouldn’t last much longer.

Thorin, and the dwarves who heard what Bilbo had said, were not so relieved. They wanted to be able to say he was wrong, but really they couldn’t. Most of them had been skeptical of Bilbo up till then. That had changed quite rapidly though.

Screen-Bilbo rounded the tree, denying all of Thorin’s words with appearance. The company on screen looked shocked as he appeared, but their counterparts were smiling slightly. This had been what made them care for Bilbo Baggins.

Gandalf was relieved, leaning against his walking stick as he smiled. Screen-Kili smiled and welcomed him back, screen-Fili and Dwalin questioning how he managed to evade the goblins.

“Well, we know now,” Dwalin grumbled making Bilbo’s shoulder sag.

“Why didn’t you tell us then?” Kili asked and it was the question Bilbo had been dreading. How to explain without making even more of a mess. He knew he needed to fix this now if the next part was to be anything better than absolutely awful. Bilbo’s silence as he thought made Kili’s frown deepen. Did Bilbo really not even trust them with an answer?

“You don’t have to tell us, Bilbo,” Balin said kindly but he too was hurt by Bilbo’s hesitance. His words startled Bilbo and he opened his mouth to reply when Kili leaned across his brother’s lap, both of them staring at him with puppy eyes.

“Why don’t you trust us?” Kili asked. Dori was pulling Kili back, whispering a reprimand while Thorin glared at his nephew. They wanted to know, but what if pushing made him trust them less? Bilbo wasn’t even paying attention to what was happening around him. He felt like someone had dumped a cold bucket of water over him.

“What do you mean? I trust you all with my life,” Bilbo said not even registering what he was saying. “I thought you didn’t trust me.”

“I thought ye said we didn’t trust ye laddie? That can’t be right though,” Oin said.

“No, you’re correct,”

“How’d ye come up with that idea?” Bofur asked, Bifur signing something behind him.

“How did you come up with the idea that I didn’t trust you?”

“You said you thought we’d take it if you showed it to us,” Balin explained.

“Oh, well yes, but not because I don’t trust you. It’s an irrational fear that I know is wrong. But every time I think to tell anyone about the ring I just-I don’t know how to explain it.” Bilbo’s face was in his hands, his fingers pulling at his hair. Confound it all why couldn’t he figure out a good explanation. There was silence and then warm hands were being wrapped around his own, untangling them. Bilbo looked up and froze because Thorin was so close, his large hands holding Bilbo’s tightly.

“You trust us?” He asked and Bilbo could feel his breath against his cheek.

“More than anyone else.” Thorin smiled at his answer and pulled back. Next to him, Kili and Fili were whispering and making gagging noises and Bilbo really just didn’t want to know. The rest of the company seemed to have relaxed and the whole atmosphere of the room was warmer and more comforting. Bilbo trusted them and really that was all that mattered at the current point in time. Turning back to the screen as it unpaused, they saw screen-Bilbo look around nervously. He slid the ring into his pocket without anyone but Gandalf noticing. His look of suspicion was not lost on any of them this time around. Gandalf brushed off their questions for screen-Bilbo, but screen-Thorin demanded an answer. The company held their breath as screen-Bilbo straightened up and responded.

[Bilbo:] “Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you’re right, I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that’s where I belong. That’s home. And that’s why I came back, cause you don’t have one. A home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can.”

“That was so beautiful Uncle Bilbo,” Kili said.

“You should start giving all the company speeches,” Fili added with a grin as Thorin sighed. Honestly though, Thorin would not be opposed to hearing Bilbo make more speeches. He was very good at them.

“I’m really not that good, thank you though,” Bilbo said expecting some form of agreement. He only received a few scoffs. The screen shifted to Azog upon his white warg and the easy feeling was shattered. Their break was over, now was the roughest part of the journey to date.

Azog pointed down the slope, ordering for the orcs and wargs to chase the company down. Wargs surge forwards as they cut back to the company who realize the danger as howls fill the air.

The company started to run once again as wargs chased them down. On the horizon, the sunset just as the wargs caught up. The first warg jumped at screen-Bilbo, who barely managed to duck beneath the snapping jaws. Bilbo felt his hand be encased in a larger one, glancing down to see that Thorin had grabbed him first this time.

“I don remember any calls that close,” Dwalin said once again upset with himself for not looking after Bilbo. The warg charged at screen-Bilbo. He raised his sword and the warg impaled itself upon the blade, falling down dead at his feet.

“Was that your first kill Uncle Bilbo?”

“First kill is a warg, not bad,”

“Don’t get used to it,” Bilbo said flatly. He was glad he had managed to kill the warg, but it was still killing. The other wargs who managed to catch up were quickly taken care of by the company. However, their running came to a halt as they found themselves on the edge of a cliff.

“That was really bad luck.”

“That entire day was nothing but bad luck.”

Gandalf ordered them to climb the trees in a desperate bid to escape the wargs.

Screen-Bifur threw an ax at a warg as screen-Bofur jumped off a rock into a tree. The others started to climb as well. Cutting back to screen-Bilbo they see that he is still trying to yank his sword out of the warg’s head. Thorin groaned.

“Don’t make that sound, if it wasn’t for that sword you would be dead,” Bilbo said.

“You should have called for one of us or something,”

“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself,” he retorted receiving snorts and small chuckles from the company. He glared at them only making them laugh harder.
Everyone had managed to climb into the trees except screen-Bilbo. He finally managed to pull his sword out. Turning around he saw several wargs running full speed at him. Thorin’s grip tightened and Bilbo repressed a sigh.

“I made it up there just fine.”

“Still to close of a call.”

“I had plenty of time, you had the close call,” Thorin didn’t answer him, instead, watching as the wargs rushed beneath the trees. Screen-Bilbo managed to climb up just in time to avoid their snapping jaws. Gandalf was shown bring a moth close on the tip of his staff, whispering something to it none of them could understand.

“What’s he doin?” Gloin asked.

“Maybe that’s how you call the Eagles,” Ori said.

“With a moth? That’d be strange,” Nori said causing Ori to shrug. They quieted as Azog appeared on the screen. Bilbo could feel Thorin grow rigid next to him, squeezing his hand in what he hoped was a comforting manner. Screen-Thorin breathed out the name of his longtime foe, in utter disbelief and horror.

“I was so naive,” Thorin said shaking his head. Azog took great delight in screen-Thorin’s horror, grinning as he talked about his father. He pointed at screen-Thorin, claiming him as his opponent, then set the wargs loose to kill the rest of the company.

The room was silent as the wargs leaped and clawed at the trees. They merely held onto each other, they knew how this ended. They just had to remember they knew how this ended. Not that they wanted to see that part either.

If it was possible, seeing what Azog was saying made everything worse. He shivered at the image that conjured in his head, Azog’s white skin painted red with their blood. A light tug on his hand had him leaning into the warmth of Thorin’s coat. Thorin’s eyes were still fixated on the screen and Bilbo didn’t know if he even noticed the action. The trees began to creak and crack beneath the onslaught, eventually toppling over. The company jumped from tree to tree until they were all perched in the very last one. Gandalf used his staff to light a pinecone on fire and threw it at the wargs before lighting more.

He crafted more, tossing them to the company throw as well. Soon flaming pinecones were passed out and thrown down. The wargs ran in terror of the flames, some even catching on fire as they fled. Azog roared in anger as the company cheered, but their joy was short-lived. Dori drew Ori closer as the tree began to fall, stopping to hang perilously off the cliff. Screen-Ori slipped, managing to grab Dori’s boot. But the combined weight made Dori slip as well.

“It’s a good thing yer strong,” Nori said in what Bilbo thought was a joking manner. But Nori was tense, staring intently at the screen. Dori took one glance at him and reached out. Nori didn’t even have a chance to dodge his arm as Dori pulled him in closer.

Azog growled and the screen showed Thorin staring at him in hate and anger. As he pulled himself up the company tensed. He runs off the tree, sword drawn, toward Azog and if Bilbo wasn’t so horrified at what was to come he might even think Thorin made quite the figure. But then Azog was grinning down at him, spreading his arms as his warg leaped forward. Screen-Thorin was smashed onto the ground and Bilbo flinched into the coat. He wasn’t the only one. Those on the tree looked on in horror and shock. Thorin hadn’t known what was happening with the rest of his company after he charged Azog. Seeing how distressed he had made them made him frown. He didn’t regret his decision, but he wished they hadn’t had to witness it. Screen-Dori and Ori began slipping. Bilbo had only heard Ori the first time, but seeing Dori and him hang there made the entire situation a lot more stressful.

Azog and his warg wheeled around and charged at screen-Thorin again. Azog smashed his mace into him sending him flying back. Balin covered his mouth, trying to keep his emotions under control. Dwalin’s fingers were digging into his palms at not being able to help his king and friend. Screen-Balin was close to tears, shouting for his fallen king and friend.

As the warg approached him, the screen switched to show Bilbo managing to stand on the trunk. The warg clamped its jaws around screen-Thorin making him cry out in pain. Thorin could feel the phantom aches flare up, his free hand coming up to rest on them. Screen-Dwalin tried to get up onto the trunk, but his branch snapped. He roared in frustration at not being able to get up, barely managing to hold on as it was.

Screen-Thorin managed to free himself from the warg’s jaws and he was tossed onto a flat rock, his sword coming out of his hand. Bilbo was tense and barely breathing and he wasn’t the only one. Azog stopped his attack, pointing to one of his orcs with an order to kill screen-Thorin. The slight was obvious, and if he hadn’t also been trying to kill screen-Thorin the company probably would have cursed him out for the action.

As one of the riders approached him, they see screen-Bilbo draw his sword. The blade glows a bright blue. Then they were back to the orc as he lines his sword up to decapitate Thorin. Just as he swung his sword up Bilbo flies on screen, sword raised and knocked the orc over, stabbing him in the process. He pulled out his sword as Azog growled, moving to stand between Thorin and the Pale Orc. Thorin couldn’t figure out if it was one of the most amazing or terrifying things he had ever seen. Untrained Bilbo standing alone against Azog and his orcs, a feat he had failed entirely at, all to protect him. He had known Bilbo had been the one to save him, but he had fallen unconscious before he saw this. For the first time, Thorin felt regret for his actions on the cliff.

Azog smiled as he glared at screen-Bilbo.

[Azog:] [subtitle: Kill him.]

“You have to go through us first,” Fili said, smiling wickedly hand twitching towards where his knives usually were. Dwalin chuckled his eyes bright and teeth bared. Kili looked smug as he crossed his arms. On screen, the three of them rushed towards the orcs and wargs approaching screen-Bilbo. Taking the distraction as an opportunity, screen-Bilbo also threw himself into the fray. He yelled and sliced a warg only to be caught as the white warg turned its head and threw him several feet back. Kili huffed as the three of them were surrounded, leaving Bilbo once again alone to stand against Azog.

The screen switches back to Gandalf as the moth flutters towards him. Screen-Dori and Ori slipped from the end of his staff only to be caught on the back of an eagle.

“I told you the moth got the Eagles,” Ori said with a smug grin. Nori just glowered at him from his place next to Dori.

“The Eagles are coming!” Kili and Fili said, instantly perking. Bilbo chuckled, shaking his head as the Eagles swept in, rescuing the company.

“It’s a shame I lost that shield. It has protected me more times than I can remember,” Thorin said frowning as his screen-self was picked up by an eagle, the oaken branch falling away from him.

“Perhaps, but it was just a piece of wood. You’ve got far better things than a shield protecting you now,” Bilbo said, watching as the eagles fanned the flames and tossed wargs off the cliff. Thorin tilted his head and looked down at Bilbo, who wasn’t looking at him. He smiled.

“Aye, that I do,” he said looking around at the rest of the company. Azog roars with frustration as they are taken away, Gandalf being the last person on an eagle. The screen switches to show the eagles flying into the dawn and sighs of relief could be heard throughout the room. The worst was over for now, and while Mirkwood had been rough, nothing truly terrible had happened. They were past the worst of the viewing. On screen, Thorin lay motionless in the eagle’s talons, the company looking on in worry. Several of the dwarves called out to screen-Thorin, trying to rouse him and see if he was alright, but he didn’t stir.

The Eagles descend onto the Carrock. Screen-Thorin is set down first, followed by Gandalf who rushed to his side, and then the rest of the company.

Thorin couldn’t help but lean toward Bilbo as his screen-self ran toward him, worry evident on his face. Gandalf whispered words and screen-Thorin opened his eyes gasping for breath. Seeing it from this side really made how close he had been to dying sink in.

“Your lucky you didn’t die,” Bilbo said making Thorin raise an eyebrow.

“Oh am I? What would you have done if I had?” Thorin asked leaning in closer. Bilbo’s cheeks turned red and Thorin leaned away, worried Bilbo would hear how his heart skipped a beat at the reaction.

“It would be unpleasant, to say the least,” Bilbo said, removing his hand from his grasp and crossing his arms. Thorin was going to protest, but Bilbo leaned closer to him, his back resting against his side so he let the issue go.

Screen-Thorin’s first words were to ask after Bilbo. Thorin remembered how panicked he had been upon first waking up, the last memories he had had were of Bilbo going to his aid. He had been terrified that Bilbo had been injured, or worse killed. Thorin shivered at that thought, pushing it away. That wouldn’t happen.

Gandalf assured him of screen-Bilbo’s safety as screen-Thorin stood with the help of Dwalin and Kili. He stared at screen-Bilbo, making the hobbit shift nervously.

[Thorin:] “You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say that you would be a burden? That you would not survive in the wild and that you had no place amongst us?”

Thorin frowned seeing how worried and anxious screen-Bilbo seemed. He hadn’t meant to make Bilbo scared of him, he just wanted him to know how worried he was. Of course he messed it up though.

[Thorin:] “I’ve never been so wrong in all my life!”

Bilbo was smiling brightly remembering that moment. It was one that would forever be engraved in his mind. His eyes widened as he once again found himself wrapped in two strong arms.

“You are the bravest hobbit I’ve ever met,” Thorin said.

“I’m the only hobbit you’ve met,” Bilbo replied as Thorin pulled back only to find himself caught in two other sets of arms.

“Ok then your the bravest person we’ve ever met,” Fili grinned. Bilbo looked at them both as if they were crazy.

“I can list thirteen people in this room that are braver than me.”

“You don’t have to be so modest, we all know that truth,”

“We know all the truths,” Kili said grinning and raising his eyebrows. Fili just shook his head, as he tried to keep from laughing and Thorin groaned.

Screen-Thorin apologized to screen-Bilbo, making him laugh as he brushed him off.

[Bilbo:] “No, I would have doubted me too. I’m not a hero or a warrior...not even a burglar.”

“Oh but you are Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said.

“A thief...in the shadows,” Kili laughed and when the others didn’t start laughing he looked around.

“Come on...he turns invisible? The cave was dark and full of shadows? Well, it was funny and now you’ve ruined it.” Kili continued on but most weren’t paying attention to him. The screen showed Thorin looking to the horizon where the Lonely Mountain stood. Gandalf smiled, proclaiming that it was indeed The Lonely Mountain. Screen-Thorin’s breath hitched as he took in the sight he never thought he would see again. The sight of their goal melted away any remaining tension. As a bird flit past them, several of them smiled. Screen-Oin thought it was a raven, as the portents had told, but Gandalf corrected him, saying it was a thrush. Not caring either way, screen-Thorin was happy to claim it as a good omen and screen-Bilbo agreed with him that the worst was over.

Cheers went up through the company at that. Too happy with their celebrations they almost didn’t notice that the screen was following the bird.

“Look!” Ori called as the bird flew over the Desolation of Smaug and past the ruined gates. It landed on a rock on the side of the mountain, picking up up a snail.

“Why’s it showin us this?” Bofur asked. The bird hit the snail on the stone and then they were inside the mountain. There were gasps as they saw part of their mountain home, the banging echoing throughout the silent halls. They came to the treasure hoard, seemingly empty, their eyes drawn to the gold and riches of their people. The screen zoomed in on one mound of gold and they leaned forward only to jump back with shouts of alarm as it is blown away to reveal Smaug’s snout. Smaug shifted, gold falling away from his head. The screen zoomed in even closer as Smaug opened a massive golden eye as Smaug growled. Then the screen cut to black and music began to play. The company was silent.

“Well, seems I will be stealing from a very much alive dragon,” Bilbo said breaking the silence. A voice began to sing, Bilbo only vaguely recognizing the lyrics as the same song they dwarves had sung at Bag End. His words took a moment to sink in and then everyone was talking over each other.

“Please quiet down,” the voice said.

“So Smaug is really alive?”

“What do we do now?”

“How will we ever succeed?”

“I said be quiet,” the voice said making the company pause. “The dragon Smaug is indeed alive. As for what you will do, I cannot say, you must decide your fate. I can only give you the information necessary.”

“Then give us more information!” Thorin said.

“We have yet to finish, I will tell you when we are done.”

“At least tell us why we're listening to this song,” said Oin. The voice paused sounding slightly hesitant as they responded.

“Your journey is broken up into three parts, each part is accompanied by a song that seemed to fit what occurred. This was the end of the first part, when I took you from Mirkwood, you were still near the beginning of the second part.”

“Do you have all three parts?”

“That, is for a later conversation. The next part will begin shortly, I will take no other questions.” The voice seemed irritated as it faded away and no amount of protesting made them come back. Bilbo took the opportunity to listen to the song. It was the same song he had heard in Bag End but different.

“Is this the rest of the song.”

“Not even close.”

“Besides ye need a dwarf singing it to get the real feel, not some human.”

“We can show ye the real version.”

“Later, there is something happening,” Balin said as the song came to a close and new music picked up, the black screen flickering to life.

Chapter Text

It was night and rain was falling heavily over a town.

“What’s this?”

“There haven’t been any towns,” Ori said. The screen panned over the roofs of the buildings down onto a road. Along the bottom white words appeared.

[On screen:] Bree - on the borders of the Shire

A hooded figure was shown walking down the road, a few others bustling around them.

“Why are we in Bree?” Balin asked noticing how much shorter the hooded figure was. Thorn starred at the screen with a frown wondering if it was possible for the figure to be him.

“I met Gandalf in Bree,” he said. The figure stopped and looked up at the “Prancing Pony” sign above the door. They turned their head and revealed themselves to be Thorin. He entered the tavern and walked past the numerous patrons.

It was loud inside the tavern. A waitress threaded her way through the unruly crowds carrying a plate and mug, shouting at patrons who fell in her path.
She stopped in front of screen-Thorin and set down the food, giving him a quick smile. Screen-Thorin thanked her and began to tear into the bread.

“Oh, so you can be pleasant to people you don’t know,” Bilbo said smiling slightly. Screen-Thorin seemed guarded but not rude, something Bilbo hadn’t been expecting.

“I can be perfectly polite,” Thorin said frowning at him.

“I never would have guessed,”

“Hey look its a hobbit!” Kili said making them focus on the screen. There was indeed a hobbit being lifted up and placed on a bar stool.

“I didn’t know hobbits went to Bree,” Ori said his book already out, quill poised.

“Some do occasionally, they are one of the few towns that actually trade with us.”

Screen-Thorin began to look around nervously making the company focus on him. To his right was a suspicious bald man and to his left was a sleazy looking guy. They stood, making screen-Thorin grab his sword.

“Ye never mentioned this,” Dwalin said clearly angry, though if it was with Thorin or the two men no one knew.

“Nothing happened,” Thorin said as Gandalf appeared on screen. He looked surprised and nervous as Gandalf sat down. He asked if he could join him, not waiting for a response before catching the sleeve of the waitress and ordering the same as screen-Thorin. On either side, the men retreated and screen-Thorin looked warily at them then back at Gandalf.

The grey wizard smiled and introduced himself, screen-Thorin foregoing manners once more in his suspicion. Gandalf didn’t seem to mind, happily asking about his business, as if the two of them were talking about the weather. Screen-Thorin relaxed a little at his calming tone, telling him he was looking for his father.
Balin sighed as did several others and Thorin frowned at their reactions.

“I thought you said he was dead?” Bilbo asked.

“No, my grandfather is dead, my father went missing. There is a difference. He is alive.” Thorin said before anyone could answer that Thrain was dead. He would only believe it if he saw his body. Gandalf seemed to be of a similar opinion to Balin and the others, something screen-Thorin was quick to pick up on. He seemed lost in thought as he responded to Gandalf, the sound of swords clashing starting. No one knew what was happening, there hadn’t been a fight in the tavern. Then they were staring at a battlefield again. Moria, just like Gandalf had mentioned.

The sound of clanging swords grew as a young Thorin was shown on the battlefield once more. Azog held Thror’s head for all to see. They saw Thrain as he saw the scene. Screen-Thorin’s voice was narrating what was happening this time, in a far simpler manner then Balin had that night on the cliff.

Young-Thorin yelled as his grandfather’s head was tossed towards him. He went to rush forward but was stopped by Thrain. His father held him back, ordering him to stay out of the fight with Azog.

“I shouldn’t have,” Thorin said his body tense. Bilbo placed his hand on Thorin’s fist and felt him grab it.

“If you had you may have met the same fate,” Balin said.

“He isn’t dead,”

“I didn’t say he was, but imagine what would have happened that day if you had gone missing. What would have happened to us now?”

“My father might still be here that’s what,” Thorin said and Balin sighed knowing there was no way to convince Thorin otherwise.

Young-Thorin was protesting but Thrain would hear none of it. He told him of Azog’s plan to wipe out the line of Durin, before turning, leaving young-Thorin to watch him go.

[Thorin (voiceover):] “My father lead a charge toward the Dimril gate. He never returned.”

The screen showed young-Thorin once again facing down Azog, his father’s wishes for him to stay out of the fight now void in his absence. Even though he had seen it before Bilbo couldn’t help the nerves seeing Thorin fight brought up. He leaned closer to Thorin as the company watched in silence as young-Thorin took up the charge toward the gate. Screen-Thorin told Gandalf why he did not believe Thrain to be dead, how there had been no body among the slain despite so many telling him Thrain was dead.

Bilbo saw the looks the company gave Thorin and in a way he understood. To still have hope after so many years that Thrain was alive was probably foolish. Even if he had gone missing after the battle, he was likely still long dead. However, he also understood why Thorin clung so desperately to the idea that his father could come back, even knowing the chances of it happening. Thorin was nothing if not stubborn and loyal to a fault.

Gandalf sighed, trying to reason with screen-Thorin but he refused to listen to him. Seeing he was getting nowhere with Thorin, Gandalf frowned and changed the topic slightly. He asked about the ring that had disappeared along with Thrain.

“Why’s he so concerned ‘bout the ring?” Dwalin asked staring at the Wizard, wondering what he knew.

“The rings have power,” Balin started, Ori cutting in.

“But only when there is the One Ring. We saw earlier that Saruman believes that ring to have disappeared forever.”

“True, but Gandalf didn’t seem to believe the same,” Balin said, though Bilbo got the uneasy feeling that Balin agreed with Gandalf.

“He still thinks him dead,” Thorin scoffed at Gandalf’s dismissive tone. The waitress reappeared and handed Gandalf his plate. Screen-Thorin took the opportunity to turn the tide of questioning on Gandalf.

Screen-Thorin didn’t even wait for Gandalf to start eating before asking about the meeting Gandalf had with Thrain before the battle.

“This was when the quest really began,” Thorin said with a smirk remembering how the rest of the conversation had gone. Gandalf leaned forward and told Thorin of his plan to take back Erebor, his words making the rest of the company grin as well. Sitting back, screen-Thorin eyed Gandalf in wary amusement, realizing this entire meeting had been staged by the wizard. Gandalf admitted to his plotting and told screen-Thorin of the unsavory people he had run into during his travels.

“Haha! Bet they regretted that!” Kili laughed along with several others at the thought of anyone mistaking Gandalf for a vagabond.

“Fili, I’m starting to sound like Uncle, save me,” Kili whispered to his brother when screen-Thorin said nearly the same thing, not fully able to hide his grin. Fili looked him dead in the eyes and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry brother, but there is nothing I can do. You are too far gone, soon you will find yourself insulting hobbits and brooding in dark corners,” Fili said. Kili gasped dramatically, neither being as quiet as they had hoped. Thorin heard and reached over Bilbo to cuff his nephew’s head as the pair broke into uncontrollable laughter. Bilbo bit his lip to keep from chuckling, Bofur and Nori having no such issues. Dwalin found himself in a very mysterious coughing fit and Balin was keeping his head turned as he made sure his brother was alright. Dori and Thorin were the only ones who weren’t grinning, the former shaking his head at Nori and the latter frowning with his arms crossed. As they calmed down the screen unpaused showing Gandalf taking out a scrap of cloth revealing a message.

On it was a crude picture of the Lonely Mountain and knowing about the price on their head it didn’t take a genius to figure out what it was.
Screen-Thorin pulled his hand away upon learning it was in Black Speech, looking at the message warily. Gandalf told him what it was for and urged him to rally the other dwarf lords and make them stand by their oaths to help take back Erebor.

“If only it was that easy,” Balin sighed. The previously light mood was dampened by the reminder that they were alone in this quest.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have to ask. Who’s idea was it to tie the families’ loyalty to a stone that could be stolen?”

“Well, we didn’t think Erebor would ever fall. It makes sense in case the line of Durin was ever destroyed,” Balin explained, knowing from Bilbo’s look that the hobbit didn’t believe his words.

“You put more faith in something not being stolen, then in a line of dwarves that have been around since almost the beginning?”

“It was a good political move,” Thorin said. Bilbo closed his mouth, knowing he would never get anywhere with them. Screen-Thorin argued with Gandalf, telling him as well that only the Arkenstone had that sort of power. The two shady men from before stood and walked out of the tavern together, Gandalf and screen-Thorin looking after them. Gandalf then focused back on him.

[Gandalf:] “What if I were to help you to reclaim it?”

[Thorin:] “How? The Arkenstone lies half a world away, buried beneath the feet of a fire-breathing dragon.”

[Gandalf:] "Yes, it does, which is why we are going to need a burglar."

At Gandalf’s words, the dwarves cheered. Bilbo felt his face flush as Fili clapped him on the back, all of them talking about how they had the best burglar in the whole world.

“Think he already knew about Bilbo?”

“Course, who else would he think of?”

“I’m still not actually a burglar.”

“Yer a burglar, Bilbo, I’m a thief so I know these things,” Nori laughed. Bilbo groaned making everyone else shaking their heads and laugh as well.

Chapter Text

[On screen:] 12 months later

Screen-Bilbo popped his head up over a rock, words filling the bottom part of the screen. There was laughter as he looked around, being as sneaky as possible. Azog is shown leading his warg scouts in pursuit of the company. Screen-Bilbo ducks down to avoid being seen, only looking back when Azog has left. To his left, he notices a large bear watching the orcs as well.

“I could live without going through this again,”

“I could live without going through most of this again. Being chased by a giant bear really wasn’t the worst.”

Beorn roared and the screen switched to the orcs riding over the top of snowy peaks.

[On screen:] THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

Appeared on screen.

“Does that mean we make it to the mountain?” Kili asked.

“It has to!” Ori said grinning excitedly. There were cheers and thumps on the back. They would make it to the mountain!

“But the voice said our journey was in three parts. The first one covered months. If this takes the same amount of time then we won’t make it to the mountain until after Durin’s Day,” Balin said instantly souring the mood.

“Maybe each part has to do with a certain number of important events?” Ori suggested.

“If that’s the case then wha else happens te us te make everything that’s already happened only one part?”

“Ye know I like the idea of it bein equal time, we can come back next Durin’s Day,” Bofur said. Thorin frowned at his words but didn’t speak, seeming in deep thought. Bilbo also didn’t like the implications of what three parts suddenly meant. Screen-Bilbo ran back to the company who was waiting for him between several large boulders. Screen-Dwalin was the first to begin questioning him. Panting, he answered each of the questions thrown at him, finally catching his breath and warning them there was a bigger problem. Gandalf immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had been seen, screen-Bilbo looking offended at the thought.

“As if I’d be seen,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes as no one on-screen seemed to be listening to him. Gandalf was praising his skills as a burglar when screen-Bilbo finally had enough of being talked over.

“Why does he say stuff like that?”

“Because it’s true Uncle Bilbo,” Fili grinned as screen-Bilbo snapped at them all to listen to him.

“You lot really need to learn how to listen,” Bilbo said. Gandalf looked worried, questioning him about the form it took, though he already knew what screen-Bilbo was talking about.

“I still can’t believe he didn’ even tell us ‘bout Beorn,” Nori said to a grumbled agreement. Screen-Bilbo nodded, his eyebrows coming together as he waited for Gandalf’s response to screen-Bofur’s question. The dwarves began to argue among themselves about what they should do, Gandalf finally speaking up about the house in the area. Screen-Thorin was suspicious, as he had every right to be, Gandalf’s next words instilling fear in every member of the on-screen company.

[Gandalf:] “Neither. He will help us, or he will kill us.”

“Nah he liked Bilbo to much.”

“Such a cute little bunny.”

“Don’t call me bunny.”

“Such an angry bunny.”

“Ow! Uncle!”

“Watch or we’ll never finish.”

Screen-Thorin asked if there was any other choice. A roar echoed through the plains, answering the question. Then the company was running through the plains and across streams, Gandalf urging them to go faster.

They got to a forest and the screen switched to show Azog and his Orcs had caught their scent and were chasing them.

“I didn know they knew where we were then,” Gloin said frowning as they were forced to keep running for their lives.

“Makes sense though, we weren’t subtle,” Dwalin said also frowning with his arms crossed. He hated having to see them be chased but at least they were all together and no one was injured during this part. A roar echoed through the forest and room making everyone pause at how close it was. Gandalf urged them onwards, screen-Bofur turning to drag Bombur out of his frozen state.

“Don’t freeze up!” Bifur signed with quick gestures after poking Bombur.

“Sorry,” Bombur said sheepishly. The screen showed them on the edge of a forest, a house not far away. Gandalf ordered them to run to the house, everyone bursting onto the open field as fast as they could.

Bofur chuckled remembering this part, others joining him as screen-Bombur easily outran everyone else. Their screen counterparts looked on incredulously only adding to their laughter.

Screen-Bombur rammed into the door, only to be thrown back when it didn’t open. The rest of the company crowded around trying to break the door open.

“Why didn’t any of you think to undo the bar?” Bilbo asked as they kept throwing themselves against the door instead of noticing the bar not even a foot above their heads.

“Ye didn notice it,” Nori said.

“I was also at the back and entirely too short to reach it,” Bilbo said and no one responded. On-screen Beorn burst out of the trees, charging towards them. Gandalf ordered them to open the door, unable to reach it due to the mass of dwarves in front of it and his distraction in watching Beorn charge towards them.

Screen-Thorin finally saw the issue with the door and pushed his way to the front, undoing the bar and opening the doors. The entire company bolted inside and attempted to slam the door shut. But Beorn was faster, sticking his head through just in time to stop them from closing the door.

“Uncle Bilbo, I feel so much better knowing you were willing to fight a bear for us,” Kili said when screen-Bilbo pulled out his sword and held it unsteadily.

“I better be willing to take on a bear if I’m going to take on a dragon.”

“We have such a brave hobbit,”

“You’re going to have an angry hobbit if you don’t let us finish soon. I’m getting hungry,” Bilbo retorted earning some laughter. On-screen they were still fighting against the strength of the bear, Gandalf standing back with screen-Bilbo.

“Sometimes I wonder jus who’s side the Wizard is on,” Dwalin said as Gandalf looked at their struggle in amusement. They managed to close the door on Beorn, without the aid of Gandalf or Bilbo’s fighting abilities.

“He coulda done somethin,” Dwalin grumbled. Screen-Ori was panting as he asked the question that had been on all of their minds. Gandalf coughed a little, telling them that the giant bear that had just tried to kill them was, in fact, their host.

“He was actually fairly pleasant,” Kili said.

“He tried to kill us twice,” Fili looked at him as if he had gone mad.

“But he didn’t and the food there was pretty good.”

“I did enjoy the food,” Bilbo said sighing. Beorn’s house and Rivendell had been very nice for him food wise.

“I could’ve used more meat,” Dwalin said earning nods of agreement.

“Well now I’m hungry,” Kili complained, closing his mouth when Thorin threw him a look. Gandalf began to tell them about their host and there were several chuckles as screen-Oin checked his flattened ear trumpet to make sure he was hearing Gandalf right.

[Gandalf:] “Sometimes he’s a huge black bear; sometimes he’s a great strong man. The bear is unpredictable, but the man can be reasoned with. However, he is not overfond of dwarves.”

“But he is fond of little bunnies!” Bofur laughed, ducking down at the glare Bilbo was giving him. Screen-Ori was watching Beorn amble away through the keyhole, alerting them when he had left. Screen-Dori pulled him away, not liking the entire situation one bit. At his concerns, Gandalf huffed, merely ordering them to get some rest. Despite their apprehension, the company began to spread out to find places to rest as the screen zoomed in on Gandalf.

[Gandalf:] “I hope.”

“Alone he really isn’t as all-knowing as he likes to appear,” Balin said frowning at how unsure Gandalf was. The screen switched to show that night had fallen outside. They saw the house in the distance and Beorn growling as he prowled around. Azog and his men were watching him. One of the orcs tried to convince Azog to attack while they slept but Azog shook his head. He knew who the house belonged to and he knew they would be torn to shreds if they go to close to its borders.

“He did us that favor,” Bofur said, silently thanking Beorn for giving them at least one good night’s rest.

Azog walked away from the forest edge, heading towards the rest of the orcs. Wargs snarled and snapped at each other making Bilbo flinch back at how close they were. Thorin moved his arm so it was wrapped around his shoulders. Bilbo blushed and stared straight ahead at the screen, Thorin copying him. Next to them, Fili snorted.
Azog’s words made the company growl, vehemently denying his claims about killing them. He turned as a warg ran into camp, its rider stopping it right in front of Azog. The Pale Orc didn’t even flinch at the snapping jaws. Bilbo couldn’t help but find the display impressive and Azog even more terrifying than usual. The new orc had metal plates buried in its skin and a wicked looking weapon. Bilbo leaned back towards Thorin, as did Ori with Dori. Dwalin leaned forwards analyzing the new threat and Bilbo was sure he would be telling Thorin and Balin everything he had seen after they were done.

Azog growled at the orc’s message, looking back once more before mounting his warg and speeding away. The screen switched back to Beorn’s house. Everything was quiet and peaceful. The animals are eating hay and the entire company is asleep. Until screen-Bilbo sits up, having just been lying awake. Bilbo shifted uncomfortably, he couldn’t really remember this part but it made the hairs on his arms prickle and left a bad feeling in his stomach. Making sure no one else was awake, screen-Bilbo took the ring out of his pocket.

“What are you doing laddie?” Balin whispered staring intently at the ring. It was obviously a magic ring, but its apparent effect on Bilbo made him wary of it. He wanted to know if it there was a reason for his action, preferably before Bilbo ended up hurt. The same eerie music from the cave started up. A soft whisper began, growing in volume as he turned the ring over in his hand.

As the chanting grew louder, screen-Bilbo appeared to remain oblivious to the sound, but the company was leaning away from the screen. Whatever was being said was dark, it’s whispered voice making it seem all the more sinister. The screen switched to Dol Guldur where Azog’s hunting party was entering the fortress. The whispering stopped as Azog walked onto the screen, sauntering over a raised walkway. A black shadowy mass rises up and the hissing, whispering voice starts again as it speaks.

[Necromancer:] [Subtitle: We grow in number. We grow in strength. You will lead my armies.]

“Armies?” Dwalin said, not liking this at all.

“Is this the necromancer?” Ori asked, nearly engulfed by Dori’s arms.

“I think so.”

Azog asked about Thorin, the Necromancer ignoring his protests with claims of an oncoming war. His words were not well received by Azog who was pacing back and forth in anger. The necromancer flew towards Azog, passing right through him, hissing about death. It disappears just as quickly as it came, leaving all of them more shaken than before. Azog was snarling as an orc came up to him, asking for orders. Narrowing his eyes, Azog looked up and shouted a name.

[Azog:]  “Bolg!!”

The terrifying orc from before walks on screen, standing toe to toe with Azog, both equally dangerous looking. They glare as if sizing each other up. Azog passed his mission of hunting down the company onto the orc.

Bolg, revealed to be blind in his right eye, growled in response, accepting the task. The screen shifted back to the forest around Beorn’s house and the company let out a breath they hadn’t even known they were holding. Dwalin sat back, thinking about the implications of what the necromancer had said, not coming up with anything pleasant. Balin too sat back in contemplation, wondering just what sort of trouble Bilbo had gotten himself into when he found the ring.

The bear ambles forwards and shifts back into a giant man on the edge of the forest. Then they are back in the house, screen-Bilbo now fast asleep like the rest of the company. He startles awake as Beorn enters. The man looks around at his guests and continues on further into the house.

Chapter Text

The screen jumped to when it was morning. A large bumble bee landed on screen-Bilbo’s nose, waking him up. He stared at it in alarm as it floated away, then he stood and put on his jacket. The rest of the company were gathered near the door.

“This was a disaster.”

“So much for our tactful wizard.”

“We’re lucky he found the story funny,” Balin said. Bilbo nodded, screen-Nori and Dwalin beginning to argue about the best way to handle the situation.

“Mister Dwalin, I think you did run from a beast just the day before. I really-” Kili was cut off from the glare Dwalin sent his way.

“Ye want me te come over there.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Then shut it,” Kili wisely closed his mouth, leaning back behind Fili to escape Dwalin’s sight.

Gandalf stepped forwards, breaking up the argument. He told them of his plan to gain Beorn’s aid, no one seeming entirely convinced it was a good idea. Screen-Bilbo voiced his objections as Gandalf grabbed him by the shoulder, assuring him it would all work out just fine. He warned the company not to go out until they saw the signal and several of them watching laughed.

“Ah the signal,” Bofur chuckled remembering that particular debacle. Gandalf gave them a few last minute tips and instructions before he and Bilbo exited the house. Screen-Bofur paused, realizing they didn’t know what the signal was but they were already gone.

“I still don’t know why I had to go first.”

“Probably because your small and Beorn would find you adorable.”

“I’m not adorable!” Bilbo said indignantly. Several dwarves looked down or started coughing.

“There’s a reason he called you bunny Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said trying to seem serious. Bilbo huffed and went back to watching the screen, Thorin trying hard to seem like he agreed with Bilbo. Beorn appeared, chopping wood with a very large ax. Gandalf ran his hand through his hair just as screen-Bilbo looked up at him. The wizard seemed very nervous, something screen-Bilbo easily picked up on.

“The Wizard was nervous?”

“I didn’t think he knew wha that was,” Nori said while Gandalf denied screen-Bilbo’s assessment. The pair stopped in front of Beorn, who was still chopping wood, and Gandalf greeted him with a large smile.

“How often does good morning go well for him?” Bilbo asked as Gandalf tried to catch Beorn’s attention again. Beorn stopped and turned around looking annoyed. Gandalf introduced himself, Beorn brusquely telling him he had no idea who he was.

There were chuckles at that. Gandalf nodded still trying his best to be cordial, mentioning Radagast in an attempt to connect with the bear-man. Beorn brushed off his words, getting right to the point. Frowning as his attempts at politeness failed once again Gandalf just went with Beorn’s line of questioning, explaining how they had stayed in his house the night before and thanking him.

“Would be hard for him not to know,” Balin said at Gandalf’s comment. Screen-Bilbo appeared as Gandalf moved, Beorn straightening and lifting his ax slightly.

[Beorn:] Who is this little fellow?

[Gandalf:] Well, this would be Mr. Baggins from the Shire.

“He had to have recognized us as dwarves when he came in,” Ori said with a frown when Beorn asked if he was a dwarf.

“Maybe he was trying to be more intimidating?” Kili replied.

“He was intimidating enough,” Bilbo said.

“I wasn’t afraid,” Fili said sitting up straight.

“Why are ye lying?” Bofur asked laughing. Gandalf was assuring Beorn that screen-Bilbo was, in fact, a hobbit, good family and all.

“Used to be unimpeachable reputation.”

“Point me towards anyone who thinks otherwise,” Dwalin said grinning and cracking his knuckles. There were several nods of agreement and Bilbo’s eyes widened in panic.

“You lot will do no such thing, understood?” Dwalin just snorted and looked away, still grinning slightly. Messing with Bilbo was fun, though he hadn’t been lying. Dwarves could take care of issues in more ways than just using their fists, anyone who slighted Bilbo would find that out very quickly.

Beorn took an interest, asking how such unlikely traveling companions had arrived in his lands. Gandalf happily took up the new conversation, beginning to tell their tale of the misfortune they had found in the Misty Mountains.

[Beorn:] What you go near Goblins for? Stupid thing to do.

“Really? We thought it was a brilliant idea,” Nori said. Ori burst out laughing, Fili, Kili, and Bofur not far behind. Bilbo chuckled, having been too petrified the first time to appreciate that and he swore he heard Thorin’s chest rumble with concealed laughter as well. Gandalf agreed with him wholeheartedly, waving his hands around as he talked about just how terrible it had been.

“Very terrible!”

“The most terrible of all terribles.”

“Kili that doesn’t even make sense.”

“Sweet cousin, we need to get you out on the street more and out of those books. That is a perfectly fine thing to say.”

“I can guarantee cousin , that I have far more street knowledge then you, and I can assure you they don’t say that anywhere.” Ori said. Kili lit up when Ori called him cousin and turned to whisper excitedly to Fili. He pointedly ignored the curious and suspicious looks Dori and Nori were sending his way. On the screen Balin and Dwalin walked out. Gandalf was clearly not expecting them and wasn’t happy at their arrival. Beorn lifted his ax as they introduced themselves. Gandalf coughed and tried to explain himself to Beorn, the bear-man picking up on his word use and commenting on it with a frown. They could literally see when the entire plan just started unravelling, Gandalf spluttering and sighing heavily when screen-Gloin and Oin were sent out.

“He really didn’t think this through, did he?” Bofur asked laughing. It was really fun to see Gandalf so flustered, especially since they knew everything worked out with Beorn. The wizard kept digging himself into a hole with his words, Beorn not letting a single mistake past him. Gandalf appeared to be even more nervous now. The dwarves were loving seeing Gandalf’s plan fall apart so quickly, some even cheering on Beorn.

Gandalf waved his arms, trying to bring the attention back to him so he could salvage the plan but screen-Bofur just took it as another sign. Screen-Dorin and Ori appeared, greeting Beorn much to his displeasure.

“I was only trying to be polite,” Dori grumbled as screen-Bofur sent out screen-Fili and Kili as well. Gandalf just seemed resigned at this point, saying he had forgotten the pair, shoulders slumping at the screen-Nori, Bifur and Bofur stumbled out.

“Brother I am offended.”

“As am I fair brother!”

“Who could ever forget us?” They said in unison, breaking down into laughter at their own joke.

Beorn wasn’t pleased with all the dwarves now standing in his yard, frowning as he asked if there were any more hiding in the house. The screen panned to show the entire company. Screen-Thorin walked out at the end of Beorn’s question, catching the shapeshifter’s eye.

The screen switched to inside the house. Beorn poured milk into Fili’s mug and the company sat around the large table. He recognized the name Oakenshield, directing his questions to screen-Thorin, taking an interest in Azog’s reasons for hunting him. Screen-Thorin was surprised to hear that Beorn knew of Azog.

“I do feel bad for him,” Bilbo said quietly.

“Azog has taken much from all,” Thorin said, frowning as Beorn told of his family’s fate at the hands of Azog. The remainder of the manacles were still on his wrists for all to see. Bilbo wondered if it was because he couldn’t get them off, or if they were a reminder of what he had lost. He reckoned it was the latter option. The idea of torturing the skin-changers for fun made Bilbo feel sick to his stomach, he couldn’t imagine how anyone, even an orc could be so cruel. His screen-self asked if there were any others and Bilbo winced at how tactless his question had been. The dwarves must have been rubbing off on him with their bad manners.

Beorn didn’t let screen-Bilbo’s question get to him though, changing the topic back to their quest. Gandalf explained their plan and Beorn snorted, thinking their plan a foolish one.

“I almost wish we’d gone around,” Gloin said. Gandalf mentioned the Elven Road, even calling it safe, something none of the dwarves now agreed with.

“Our ideas of safe are very different,” Thorin said making Bilbo nod. Beorn’s thoughts were similar to theirs and he cautioned them about the elves, earning some laughter and more approval in the eyes of the dwarves.

“Pft I’m not afraid of any elves,” Kili scoffed.

“Of course not, but make sure if you go chasing after one again that it’s a lass,” Fili said. There was a pause and then Dwalin began to laugh, slapping his knee. Kili blushed scarlet as the others joined in, laughing at his mistake in Rivendell. When the company settled down a few minutes later the screen started up again.

[Beorn:] “These lands are crawling with Orcs. Their numbers are growing, and you are on foot. You will never reach the forest alive.”

Bilbo stifled a laugh at screen-Thorin’s shocked look. He should have expected Beorn to be entirely blunt and honest with them by then.

[Beorn:] “I don’t like dwarves. They’re greedy and blind, blind to the lives of those they deem lesser than their own.”

“We are not!” And variations of the sentiment were thrown at the screen at Beorn’s words. Bilbo pursed his lips and scratched his nose, not saying the one word he really wanted to. He would not be as rude as his dwarves unless they asked for it. Beorn picked up a mouse screen-Bofu had pushed aside and held it in his massive hands. Screen-Thorin stared at him as he approached with arms crossed.

[Beorn:] “But Orcs I hate more. What do you need?”

The screen switched to them saddling the ponies.

“Aw, we’re skipping so much,” Kili complained.

“We know everything that was skipped.”

“But what if there were more secret conversations?”

“Good point.”

“I’m glad we skipped it, I wanna get to dinner sometime today,” Dori said. Beorn and Gandalf were standing to the side as the company worked on saddling the ponies. Beorn watched them carefully, ordering their release at the edge of the forest, which Gandalf quickly agreed to.

“Oh ho! So there was a secret conversation,” Kili said grinning. He and Fili leaned forwards, the others paying more attention, curious to what Gandalf and Beorn had said to each other. A bird cawed in the trees, both of them looking up, Gandalf realizing they were being watched by the orcs.

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“Really? I never would've guessed,” Nori said and Bofur made a face at him for the comment. Their attention was drawn back by Beorn’s words, warning them of the orc’s perseverance.

Dwalin narrowed his eyes. He knew Beorn was right which only made him more determined. Glancing back at Bilbo, he caught Thorin’s eye. They nodded to each other. Bilbo, and even other members of the company would be training whenever possible. Dwalin still hadn’t forgotten the necromancer’s words about an army. Beorn and Gandalf began to discuss the connection between the orcs and the Necromancer, how orc packs were gathering within the ruined fortress. It was all news they could have pieced together, but having it laid out was hard to hear. Dwalin crossed his arms, he had a bad feeling they would be hearing more about this alliance before the quest was over.

Screen-Thorin was shown watching Gandalf and Beorn as the company continued readying the ponies. Neither noticed, too wrapped up in their conversation about the necromancer and his power over the orcs.

Balin’s frown deepened. He did not like the implications of everything that was happening around the company. Azog leading an army, the necromancer somehow being worse than he seemed, and Bilbo’s ring all weighed heavily on his mind. He would have to think through this all very carefully, and perhaps get a little help from a similarly bookish mind.

Screen-Thorin called out to Gandalf, the wizard turning to join the company when Beorn made him pause.

Gandalf looks disturbed at the mention of the tombs, Galadriel’s voice beginning to speak as the screen cut to a group of hooded men holding a body bound in linen and chains. Her words were the same as they had been in Rivendell, telling of the Fall of Angmar as the screen-showed the Men of the North throwing the body into a coffin, tossing a familiar sword in as well.

“Isn’t that the sword Radagast gave Gandalf?” Ori asked, recognizing the terrifying blade. On-screen, Gandalf nodded looking haunted as Beorn continued on, asking Gandalf to tell him if evil had returned.

Balin understood his implication quite well and sucked in a breath. The White Wizard had said it couldn’t be and Balin had been ready to believe him. However, having seen and heard everything he had; well, it was harder to believe Saruman. Gandalf repeated what Saruman had said, but Beorn wasn’t convinced, wanting to know what Gandalf had to say.

Gandalf’s hesitance made Balin even more uneasy. If He was the one in Dol Guldur then they were all in far greater danger than any of them had ever suspected. Balin felt Dwalin nudge him and looked over. He sighed and shook his head. They would talk it over with Thorin later, no need to make the company panic if he was wrong.

Birds cawed from the trees, Beorn and Gandalf glancing warily around. Beorn urged them to leave, Gandalf making for his horse.

In the distance, a warg howled. Then the company was off, running rapidly across the land. They slowed to a stop as they approached the edge of Mirkwood. Gandalf dismounted and entered the forest through a small archway while the rest of the company worked on unpacking the ponies. Gandalf paused as he found the Elven Gate beneath a mass of vines, alerting them that this was the correct path. Screen-Dwalin looked around, commenting on how lucky they were that there had been so few orcs.

“Or a bear, apparently,” Dwalin said as the screen showed Beorn’s massive bear form watching from a distant ridge. Gandalf ordered them to free the ponies before Beorn became too irritated with them and turned to the forest. Screen-Bilbo came to a stop next to him, looking faintly ill and asking if there was any other path they could take.

“It didn’t feel sick to me,” Nori said.

“Of course not, you’re dwarves, you belong to stone. I’m a hobbit who belongs to the earth,” Bilbo explained. Gandalf shook his head at screen-Bilbo’s question, telling him the great distances it would take to go around the forest.

“I almost think that preferable,” Bofur said. Gandalf went further into the forest towards a statue. At the same time screen-Bilbo reached into his pocket. He looked uncomfortable as he slowly pulled the ring out. The winged beating sound and whispered voice from Beorn’s house began again as Gandalf got closer to the statue. Galadriel appeared, speaking into Gandalf’s thoughts from Rivendell. She warned him on the necromancer and the evil rising in the shadows.

Gandalf pulled off the vines revealing a painted eye of Sauron. A flaming Eye of Sauron appears on screen for a second and then screen-Bilbo is dropping the ring back in his pocket, gasping. Bilbo himself found it hard to breathe during the whole thing, his own hand itching to touch the ring in his pocket. He gasped and shivered, shrinking in on himself. Balin covered his mouth in horror at the situation. For once he was glad the vast majority of the company were not interested in history or learning in general.

He looked over at where Bilbo was huddled next to Thorin, the King’s full attention on the hobbit at his side. Fili and Ori though were looking between Bilbo, the screen, and Balin. Thorin would come to him before saying anything, and Balin shook his head at Ori and Fili warning them not to say a word either. This was a very grave matter if it was true, and all evidence pointed towards it being. Looking at Bilbo as he shook himself and tried to regain composure once more, Balin felt his stomach churn. Just what had Bilbo found in the goblin tunnels?

“Wha was that?” Oin said when the rest of the company shook themselves out of their terrified stupor. Many turned to Balin, who just shook his head. Galadriel began to speak again, urging Gandalf to go to the High Fells. Frowning deeply, Gandalf agreed, turning back to the company.

“Seeing it now, I don’t blame ‘im fer leaving,” Dwalin said as Gandalf ran back to the company before they could set his horse loose. Screen-Bilbo looked up, worried when Gandalf told them he was leaving. The wizard seemed very grave as he stopped next to screen-Bilbo, the rest of the company whispering behind him.

[Gandalf:] “You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins. You’re not the same Hobbit as the one who left the Shire.”

He smiled warmly down at screen-Bilbo, who tried to smile back. Gandalf was about to leave when screen-Bilbo stopped him, telling him had had found something in the Goblin tunnels. Gandalf was very interested and so was the company, though for two different reasons. Everyone leaned forwards, wanting to see if Bilbo would tell Gandalf. Bilbo looked down remembering how badly he had wanted to tell him, but he just wasn’t able to. Gandalf leaned down wanting to know what he had found.

There were several second of silence as screen-Bilbo seemed to wage an internal war with himself. He straightened and the dwarves held their breath, waiting for him to tell Gandalf so the wizard could tell them there wasn’t anything to worry about. But Bilbo smiled and lied, saying he had found his courage.

“Why didn’t ye tell him, laddie?” Balin asked though he had a very good idea of the real reason why. It was the same reason Bilbo had never told them, had feared them taking it, even though he trusted them completely.

“I don’t know, I just couldn’t…” Bilbo trailed off. He felt wrong admitting it, or maybe it was the knowing way Balin watched him that made his skin crawl. There was something really very wrong, he knew that, and it was beginning to scare him.

Gandalf smiled a patted his shoulder then turned and walked away and Balin wished he hadn’t. If anyone would know what to do it would be Gandalf. He sighed realizing they would likely need the wizard more than any of them wanted to admit. Something that wouldn’t work well with their list of things Gandalf needed to pay for.

Gandalf promised he would meet them again, warning them not to go into the mountain alone. He stopped and stared hard at Thorin, making sure he agreed. Even with as angry as Thorin was for all Gandalf has done, he knew they wouldn’t last long against Smaug without his aid.

Gandalf stood next to his horse, warning them of the stream. Bombur sighed at the mention of the cursed water, not liking to be reminded of it yet knowing they would have to watch it all over again.

“That’s an understatement,” Nori grumbled when Gandalf said the forest would try and trick them. None of them had really believed him then, a grave mistake on their part they knew.

[Gandalf:] “You must stay on the path; do not leave it. If you do, you will never find it again.”

“Not very easy when the path barely exists at all,” Nori grumbled still bitter that he had been in the lead when they realized the path was gone. Dori patted his shoulder and Nori quickly batted his hand away. Gandalf shouted his advice one more time and then he was off. Screen-Thorin started towards the forest, filling them with determination as he reminded them of their deadline once more and all that was at stake if they didn’t make it in time.

“And so the trek through Mirkwood begins,” Bofur said to many grumbles. They didn’t want to have to go back into the forest so soon, on a screen or not.

They walked through the twists and turns of the gloomy forest, following screen-Dwalin who took the lead from screen-Thorin. No one spoke, they just wanted this part to be over with. The screen seemed to skip time but it was hard to tell. Everything looked the same, all grey and blue. It showed them from different angles, tilting as it did so. On-screen, the company wasn’t fairing well, stumbling through the forest and tripping on tree roots as they complained about their heads and difficulty breathing. The bridge appeared, broken and unsteady looking.

“We’re already at the bridge? I thought it took us days to get there.”

“I thought it only took two.”

“Who knows, at least this means it’s not much longer till we are taken,” Thorin said making everyone else quiet down. He didn’t remember everything that had happened in the forest, everything had felt like it was happening in a haze. He had just wanted to get out and get to the mountain. That was all he had cared about. Realizing just how single-minded he had become within the forest made Thorin’s skin crawl, it reminded him too much of the gold sickness.

The company was looking at the river, none quite knowing what to do. Screen-Bofur suggested swimming, but he was quickly shot down, screen-Thorin reminding them all of Gandalf’s warning.

There was a bit of laughter at screen-Bofur’s mumbled retort, but it was tense. Screen-Thorin sent them looking for another way across the river, a beating sound, slow and steady starting up.

“What’s that?”

“It sounds like a heartbeat?”

“Maybe it’s just the music,” Ori suggested. The music was always changing, something he usually enjoyed, but the beating made him even more uncomfortable. Screen-Kili was the one to suggest the vine, he and screen-Fili starting to climb before the entire company had even arrived.

[Thorin:] “Kili! We send the lightest first.”

Thorin frowned at that. It made sense of course, but what if Bilbo had fallen it? How would they have gotten him out? Did Bilbo even have any experience climbing trees? All these thoughts and more ran through his head, only stopping when a hand patted his curled up fist. He looked down to see Bilbo smiling lightly up at him. On screen, Bilbo looked like he wanted to argue, then just frowned at everyone gaining a little laughter as well. However, there were several others besides Thorin who were also having an internal crisis about what would have happened if Bilbo hadn’t made it over the river safely.

Screen-Bilbo started across the vines as the pulse sound continued. He found it fairly easy going at first, even calling back to the company with the news. Then he slipped. Bilbo found himself pulled closer to Thorin, and Fili’s hand on his knee. There were several gasps as he nearly fell into the water on screen. They may have been watching him, but they had also been under the forest’s spell. Seeing everything with a clear head made them far more nervous.

Screen-Bilbo called back that he was fine as he pulled himself back up and continued on. He fell forwards, barely catching himself on the vine hanging in front of him. His face was very close to the water, close enough that he can see as his reflection started to become drowsy. Screen-Bilbo shook himself and managed to finish crossing the river. Shaking his finger he squeezes his eyes shut.

He realized there was something more to the river, calling out to the company for them to stay put. But the rest of the company were already making their way across, not having heard Bilbo’s warning. They were grunting and complaining, getting in each other’s way. Screen-Bofur jumped from one vine to another as screen-Bilbo hit himself on the face to try and wake up. No one said a word as their screen counterparts struggled to get across.

Screen-Thorin landed next to Bilbo, the first one across. Thorin frowned, vaguely remembering this part. A white stag appeared, looking almost ethereal in the dark forest. The heart beat sound grew louder as screen-Thorin drew back an arrow. Screen-Bilbo looked at him, not fully understanding what he was doing. His voice echoed slightly and Bilbo thought that it the screen was doing an alarmingly good portrayal of the forest’s effects. Screen-Thorin shot the arrow but missed, the stag running away as the beating stopped.

Screen-Bilbo shook his head. It was bad luck to shoot an animal who was so obviously more than just a simple beast, didn’t they know that? Screen-Thorin snorted, not believing in luck, earning him disappointed looks from the more superstitious of the company.
“You make very bad luck then, you should work on that,” Bilbo said remembering he had wanted to say that then. There was a splash as screen-Bombur fell into the river. The beating started again.

“Sorry,” Bombur said as the screen switched to show them carrying him on a stretcher. Bifur said something and Bofur clapped him on the shoulder. Bilbo decided he would try and make Bombur feel better later, after all, it wasn’t really his fault he fell in and the company could be unnecessarily rude to him at times.

Screen-Nori stopped the company, demanding a rest and Bilbo had to agree. He felt slightly dizzy just looking at the screen. It tilted and every movement seemed sluggish. Voices echoed for longer then they should. Screen-Bilbo sat down heavily as the company stopped. There were whispers, barely there but sinister. No one but screen-Bilbo seemed to hear them though. He shook his head but they continued. When he asked if anyone else could hear them, they saw screen-Thorin, stumbling through the company and looking up into the trees. No one was able to tell him what hour it was or even what day. The company started to complain about the wretched forest and the screen shifted back to screen-Bilbo.

“Webs?” Kili asked, leaning on Fili.

“Don’t ye remember seein them?” Dwalin said, not looking away from the screen even as it messed with his head.

“I remember the webs at Radagasts. Are there spiders nearby?” Kili’s connection made everyone look at the screen uneasily. The eyes in the dark would make more sense.

Screen-Bilbo touched a web, sending vibrations through the trees. Bilbo winced watching that, hoping he hadn’t made a terrible mistake in his daze. There is a groan on-screen as Bombur finally woke up.

[Bofur:] “Brother!”

They set him down and help him to stand. Thorin looked back and once Bombur had shaken the last of the river’s effects off he ordered them to continue forwards.

Screen-Nori moved to the front as they continued to walk. He stopped at the edge of a very familiar cliff, everyone else running into each other. They remembered this conversation, Nori telling them the path had gone and the dread they had all felt at the news even while under the forest’s spell. The two pieces of advice Gandalf had given them they had failed to follow. Their screen counterparts searched along the edge of the ravine, but found nothing. The screen panned to show that the path continued on the other side of the cliff. Several dwarves cursed, knowing there was no way across. The screen cut to black, just as they would have begun to feel the tremors.

“That’s it, we’ve seen everything,” Balin said, not quite believing it.

“You have seen everything so far,” the voice said startling them.

“Can we ask questions now?” Ori asked before anyone else could say a word.

“Not yet, you must eat and relax first. Answering questions when one side is nervous is a tedious task. Besides before anything a decision must be made.”

“Tell us then,” Thorin said impatiently.

“Calm yourself Thorin Oakenshield, what I have to say and what you choose is of vital importance. You should take nothing lightly. Do you swear to this?” The voice warned and Thorin paused. He glanced at Balin and the old dwarf nodded. Confident that Balin would be paying just as much attention, and give him his advice if necessary Thorin starred back up at the ceiling.

“You have my word,” Thorin said and he swore he heard the voice chuckle at his words.

“Then Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror, I have three options for you.”

Chapter Text

They had been around since before, well anything. At least that’s vaguely what they remembered; after so long everything becomes a little hazy. They had been there when everything had happened as the messenger of the change. Anything at all, from seasons to kingdoms to the birth of new worlds from words, they had been there.

They didn’t really remember the first time they had decided to dip into words, maybe they had been there all along, the force that kept the pages turning. But it was one of their favorite pastimes. Unfortunately, they were not the creator of worlds; instead merely the catalyst. As such, what happened within a world was not theirs to control.

Oh, they knew what had happened and what would occur. They needed to. When the time came they had to be there, at each event; ushering in the change as they had since the beginning. That did not mean they liked what they had to do though. So often they had found themselves watching what they brought unfold with sorrow.

It was from this sorrow that an idea had formed, a brilliant idea if they said so themselves. An idea that could, just maybe, change what happened without the will of a creator. All it required was them and all the knowledge they possessed. After all, they were the Knower of the Past, the Present and the Future. Who better to share their knowledge and alter the story then they, the Harbinger of Change.

So the plan was hatched. They couldn’t quite recall who they first brought, but it had worked to an extent. There were of course dangers they had never thought of. The times when the knowledge made everything much worse were always awful. Several times they had been berated by those powerful enough within a world to sense them, told they were messing with what should never be messed with. Perhaps those people were right, but it didn’t stop them. If this was all they could do, then they would do it very carefully and hope for the best.

Looking at the dwarves and hobbit currently in their care, they wondered how this would end. The messy part about this was they couldn’t see the future they were causing, and they would be powerless to stop it from happening after they started the process. This was tricky, so much depended on the outcome of this Quest, who lived and who died were paramount. Not to mention the issue created when people who were supposed to die didn’t. Well, that was an issue for another time, for others to deal with. Now they had to deal with a moody Dwarf King and choices that might very well change the entire course of Middle Earth.

How fun.



“Then Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror, I have three options for you,” the voice said and the company looked around at each other. Thorin did not listen to them, his attention solely on whatever the voice would say. After a pause, the voice spoke again.

“Tonight you will dine at my table once more and rest in my halls. However, what happens in the morning is entirely up to you. The first option is that you and your company leave, I return you to where you were and you continue on with the memories of this place and your strengthened bonds.” The voice paused to let Thorin take in the option. Truthfully that was all he had been expecting, what more could the voice show them? Unless-" Thorin looked up sharply, the voice seemed to take that as a sign to continue.

“Your second option is that tomorrow morning before I send you back I answer what questions I can, and tell you the fate of the quest.” To know what fate awaited their quest would surely help in any future plans they made. The second option was far better then than first and Thorin wondered why the voice would even offer the other one. He doubted anyone would ever choose it.

“The third option is when you awake tomorrow you will eat at my table and once again sit in my seats. I will show you the remaining parts of your tale just as I have shown you what has past.” Thorin opened his mouth to respond that of course they would go with the third option. They could see their mistakes and how to fix them, so much had been gained just by watching the past, who knew how much they would learn by watching the future? But then he paused. There had to be a reason for the other two options, no one would be foolish enough to pass up the opportunities the third option presented. The voice had said his decision could change the future of Middle Earth, but how?

“I appreciate you didn’t respond immediately. Perhaps I misjudged you. The future of Middle Earth has already been changed by you coming here, that is an indisputable fact. However, I warn you, what happens during your quest is not entirely pretty. Should you chose the third option you may very well find your company torn apart by what they see. Even if you do make it through, altering what happens too greatly can cause an unexpected backlash. Take this into consideration. I will hear your response in the morning. As for the rest of you, there are gifts on the table, use them well.” With that, the voice faded away before any questions could be thrown their way.

“I want a present,” Kili said breaking the tense silence. Thorin didn’t acknowledge him, thinking over the voice’s words.

“Aye let's leave Thorin te his thinkin,” Dwalin said standing. Kili and Fili were the first up, running towards the table.

“Practice swords? Why do we need practice swords?” Fili asked.

“Te practice of course,” Dwalin said as he made it to the table as well. He picked up one of the wooden swords and turned it over in his hand. It wasn’t a real sword but for the night it would work well enough.

“Hey hey! More medicine!” Oin called, grinning at the bag next to his seat.

“My needles!” Dori said, picking up a pack of various sized knitting and sewing needles. As they each marveled at their gifts the table flashed with a bright light and when it faded food filled every plate. There were cheers and laughter as everyone sat down and began to dig into their food. Everyone except Bilbo and Thorin who were still sitting on the couch.

“We should go and eat,” Bilbo suggested, sitting up. Thorin drew his arm from around Bilbo’s shoulders still frowning.

“You should go, I need to think.”

“Not without you.”

“You’re a very stubborn Hobbit.”

“I have to be to put up with you.” Thorin smiled lightly at that and shook his head, crossing his arms.

“I need to get my thoughts in order,” he insisted.

“You need to eat, no one ever made any good decision on an empty stomach.”

“Says who? I make plenty of decisions on an empty stomach.”

“Well that would explain a lot actually,” Bilbo laughed as Thorin mock glared at him. He sighed and stood, Bilbo’s smile brightening as he did so. They made their way to the table where they were greeted with cheers and looks Bilbo didn’t fully understand. If possible the meal was even grander than it had been the night before. Every inch of the table not taken up by plates was filled with food and drink.

“Hey Uncle Bilbo, I was curious about something,” Kili asked.

“What do you want to know?”

“Well I noticed that your smial was pretty empty,” Kili started and the table immediately quieted down. Fili turned to look at his brother with wide eyes.

“Yes, I suppose it is since I live there by myself,” Bilbo answered not entirely sure what it was that Kili was trying to get at.

“But what about family?” Kili asked and for a moment Bilbo actually worried about his safety given the numerous glares he was receiving, most notably from Fili himself. But Kili seemed entirely focused on their conversation, not paying anyone else any attention.

“Well I have my cousins, but my parents died many years ago during the Fell Winter and I have never found anyone I wished to court in the Shire.”

“So you don’t have a hobbit family?” Nori asked.

“Now I wouldn’t go that far, I have cousins and aunts and uncles and many others,” but no one was listening to him, to busy discussing among themselves.

“It’ll be done by the morning right?” Nori whispered to Dori, earning an offended look from his brother.

“What do you take me for? Of course,” Dori whispered back already sorting through which needles he would need to complete Bilbo’s jacket. Kili was on a roll with his questions, ignoring the pained look Balin was sending him at his complete lack of tact.

“What’s the Fell Winter?” He asked. Fili pulled him back and whispered furiously in his ear, Kili looked between him and Bilbo looking horrified at how pained the question seemed to make Bilbo.

“It was the worst winter in Shire history. The Brandywine River froze and wolves came in. A lot of hobbits died from them or starvation before the Rangers could come and help. My father was killed trying to protect another family while searching for food. My mother and I made it to the Great Took Smials but she died later on from heartbreak. It happened to a lot of Hobbits,” Bilbo explained looking down. He didn’t really know why he had told them that, he never talked about it and he tried very hard to never think about it. He had become quite skilled in avoiding answering that question, and nearly everyone in the Shire knew it. Maybe it was because he hadn’t told them about the Ring, and he wanted to tell them it in exchange. But even that didn’t seem quite right.

Looking up at the company, Bilbo realized that really wasn’t the reason.

“So that’s why your afraid of wolves,” Kili said, having freed himself from Fili’s grasp Bilbo nodded, wondering when they had learned he had a fear of wolves. He guessed he had underestimated the brother’s observation skills.

“Well you don’t ever have to fear wolves again,” Ori said startling Bilbo with the sheer determination that was in his voice.

“Aye, nothin can get through us,” Dwalin said cracking his knuckles as he grinned. Bilbo smiled as the others cheered in agreement.

“Plus we’re gonna train you up,” Dwalin continued wiping the smile right off Bilbo’s face.

“That is really not necessary,” he tried to protest.

“Even the voice agrees, Bilbo, why’d ye think we got practice swords?” Bofur said smiling brightly. Bilbo huffed knowing there was no way he would get out of this.

“After dinner, I’ll give ye yer first lesson,”

“Not until I’m done checking him over,” Oin said. Bilbo gulped, he was looking forward to that even less and had hoped Oin had forgotten about the whole ordeal.

“Oh aye, gotta make sure our hobbit is in good health after his daring escape from the goblin tunnels,” Fili said.

“We should make a toast! To our brave hobbit!” Kili said standing up with his mug of ale held high.

“Please-no-no-no oh that’s really not necessary,” Bilbo said flushing crimson as everyone raised their tankard.

“To Bilbo!” They said many laughing as Bilbo covered his face in embarrassment. Not long after the declaration dinner came to an end, no one passing out like they had last time. Fili and Kili leaped up with their practice swords in hand and moved to an open area to begin sparring as everyone else was finishing up. Thorin shook his head at their antics, leaning back in his chair still nursing his mug of ale.

“Don’t think ye two are free from trainin either, I saw a few footwork issues ye need to fix,” Dwalin called out, standing up and grabbing his own practice sword.

“Come on laddie, let’s look ye over,” Oin said coming up behind Bilbo.

“You really don’t have to, I’m fine.”

“Then ye shouldn’t be afraid,” Oin said grabbing Bilbo’s arm and leading him back towards the couches to give Bilbo some semblance of privacy.

“Off with it,” Oin commanded pointing to his shirt. Bilbo sighed and slowly obeyed, knowing that Oin could out-stubborn even Thorin when it came to medical matters. He winced as the movement pulled on the still healing cuts and bruises, and at the very disappointed look Oin was giving him.

“I thought ye were intelligent laddie,” Oin said as he began rummaging through his new bag of medicine. Bilbo refused to look at him, knowing full well exactly what the healer would think of his condition. There was nothing that would be terrible by itself, just a lot of minor scrapes and bruises. But they were everywhere; he had fallen down a cliff. By now most of the cuts had scabbed over and all but the worst bruises were fading into an ugly yellow.

“Yer lucky none of these got infected,”

“I washed them all out when we stopped at the river near the Carrock. Besides I would have come to you if any of them seemed to be infected,” Bilbo said and Oin raised an eyebrow. Bilbo got the distinct impression that Oin didn’t believe him. The medic poked him in the side making him yelp in shock.

“Hmm, nothin seems broken. Yer a lucky hobbit,” Oin said pulling out a container filled with a thick paste and a roll of bandages.

“Come on I don’t need that,” Bilbo tried to protest.

“Sure ye don’t laddie, now stay still.”

Chapter Text

“What are you thinking of doing?” Balin asked sliding into the seat Bilbo had vacated next to Thorin. Most of the company were putting their gifts to use, practicing under Dwalin’s supervision, tending to Bilbo or working on Bilbo’s new coat. Balin sighed as he saw the three Ri brothers huddled together. What they were planning had never been done before. Not that he disagreed with their decision. Bilbo was beloved by everyone in the company including by him and Dwalin. No, he only worried about what would happen during the quest, what might tear them apart. And if they were lucky enough to survive what other dwarrow might think. Though the latter part concerned him less. If they could retake Erebor then the company would become some of the most influential dwarves in Middle Earth. Added to Thorin accepting their decision and there would be very little others could do besides sneer and complain.

He turned back to Thorin who was staring towards the couches. Arguably what Thorin wanted might cause even more of a stir, if the stubborn dwarf ever decided to confess. It was a very good thing he already had Fili and Kili as heirs or it would never work.

“I want to say the third option, but I hesitate due to what the voice said,” Thorin started, not looking at Balin.

“To be able to see the future would help us immensely.”

“Aye it would, but what of the warning? I cannot see how viewing the rest could hurt us and the lack of clarity makes me wary.”

“Perhaps we all die,” Balin offered knowing it was a very good possibility. But Thorin was already shaking his head.

“That would not tear us apart. Make us unwilling to continue, perhaps, but if anything it would bring us closer.”

“Have you considered that you fall into the gold sickness?” Balin said knowing how touchy a subject that was. Thorin’s eyes finally snapped to him a deep frown marring his face.

“I am not my grandfather Balin, I will not fall.” Balin nodded in acceptance, knowing from Thorin’s tone he would hear nothing else of that possibility. Briefly, Balin wandered if Thorin was so adamant about the situation to convince others that their mistrust was unnecessary or to convince himself that he didn’t have to fall as well. Of course, Balin knew the answer almost immediately. Sighing he looked out over the company.

“Then I have nothing else that it could be, no one in this company would betray us, nor could we ever harm our own. Those are all the possibilities I can think of. The voice could just be wary of showing us the future, it isn’t something done often.” Thorin nodded at that, his gaze turning once more to the couches where Bilbo and Oin were sitting, hidden from view.

“What do you think of the ring our burglar carries?” Thorin asked.

“I think we should be wary of it, I do not like the effect it seems to have on Bilbo.” Thorin hummed in agreement, taking a long sip from his mug.

“And that symbol?”

“Should my old memory serve me then it is very likely that Gandalf is correct. It’s apparent connection to the ring only makes me warier.”

“Thank you, Balin, your council is always appreciated,” Thorin said and Balin nodded knowing Thorin need time alone to think. Balin would talk to Ori and Fili later and make sure they didn’t say anything to cause alarm. No matter what Thorin chose, Balin had the feeling that the company would rely more on each other than ever before in the coming days. Having a ring with the potential to drive them apart would only make their perilous situation worse. The future was changing, he could feel it in his bones.

Bilbo practically dashed away from the couches only to be caught by Dwalin shoving a practice sword in his hands. His brother laughed at Bilbo’s disappointed look as he began to show the Hobbit how to properly hold a sword, the others shouting advice from the sidelines. Balin stood and walked towards where Ori was sitting, the three brothers having disbanded only a few minutes before.

Yes, there were already so many changes and Balin didn’t know what fate that might spell for the company. But to whatever ends they led, Balin did not regret them.


Bilbo hurt. A lot. Really you would think as a healer Oin would be a little gentler. But no, Bilbo’s bruises were making themselves well known again and the bandages around his torso pulled awkwardly. Then there was Dwalin. How it was possible to be so sore after just working on footwork and holding a sword Bilbo didn’t know. He didn’t want to know how he would feel in the morning either. Dwalin had made him work for over an hour and then made him sit and watch the others train. Bifur joined him after a while, setting down a practice spear. They didn’t talk very much, the language barrier hindering any real conversation, but Bilbo enjoyed the dwarf’s presence. Occasionally Bifur would point to a dueling pair and say something in Khuzdul, his hands making slow, deliberate motions describing what was happening in a way that Bilbo began to understand.

Quite unexpectedly, Thorin walked past Bilbo onto the mini practice area, his own practice sword in hand. He approached Dwalin, everyone he passed pausing to look after him, some with confused looks, others with shaking heads and chuckles. Bilbo was with the former group, he had only seen Thorin train on a rare occasion and certainly not when everyone else was also training. The dwarf usually stayed to the sidelines, critiquing if he participated at all. Dwalin turned around from instructing Fili and looked at Thorin with a raised brow. Bilbo swore Dwalin looked past Thorin to glance at him, but it was so fast Bilbo couldn’t really tell. Shaking his head, Dwalin pulled out his sword from its place on his belt.

Someone would have to be a blind fool to not realize just how amazing Thorin was with a blade. Of course, Bilbo had seen Thorin in action, both in the heat of battle and on the screen. He was, for lack of better words, majestic, though Thorin would never hear that word used to describe him from Bilbo. But really he was. Even now, during a simple sparring match, Bilbo marveled at just how fluid every one of his movements were. The swift stroke upwards as he blocked an attack from Dwalin, the easy way he brushed off the strong blow and slid to the side. Bilbo watched, completely enraptured as Thorin swept Dwalin’s legs out from under him and placed his sword against the warrior’s chest even as Dwalin grinned. It wasn’t until Bifur nudged him, that Bilbo even realized how focused he had become. He jumped slightly at the contact and turned to face Bifur, missing how Thorin’s eyes drifted towards him. Bifur raised an eyebrow at Bilbo and signed to fast for Bilbo to understand. Even so, he blushed at having been caught staring at Thorin’s fight.

With Dwalin defeated the training session slowly came to an end. Fili and Kili both begged Thorin to spar with them, eventually wearing him down into acceptance. Bilbo watched as he defeated one and then the other. Sensing that Thorin was inexplicably in a good mood for once, and not wanting to miss such an opportunity, a few others approached him to practice as well. In an even stranger turn of events, at least in Bilbo’s opinion, Thorin agreed to all the requests. Bilbo had half a mind to fetch Oin and ask him if Thorin was alright, but that would have been difficult since Oin and Thorin were sparring. He still had a worried crease upon his forehead, a sign Bilbo had come to associate with Thorin thinking hard on a matter. Usually, he was off brooding in a corner somewhere though, not actively participating with the company. Bilbo was glad to see it though, Thorin’s involvement seemed to lighten everyone’s mood, so by the time everyone had set their practice weapons down any tension from the viewing was gone.

Within the ring of couches, several large mattresses had been placed on the ground, complete with pillows and blankets galore. Bilbo hesitated as the company began to separate out onto the different beds based on their family units. He could easily take one of the blankets from Fili and Kili and sleep on the couch. An arm thrown over his shoulders made him rethink the idea. Nori smiled down at him, leading Bilbo to the centermost mattress where the Ri family had taken over.

“You’re sleeping next to Ori,” Dori said. Bilbo didn’t quite know what to say, but he didn’t argue outside of an exasperated sigh. Ori laughed at his reaction and patted the pillow next to his own. Sitting down with a huff, Ori threw a blanket over him then turned towards Kili and Fili who were telling a story about one of their many misadventures.

“Then I told Fili that of course I could climb the tree and I did, so ha!”

“Oh but dear brother you forgot the best part,” Fili said laughing. “You climbed so high that you couldn’t get down! Amad and Uncle both came running when they heard you!” The tale was met with roaring laughter, even from Kili. Around and around the company went, telling stories of bar fights and unfortunate events. Of family and random scars. Even Bilbo regaled them with a story about the time he and his cousins had stollen pies from a window sill, only to be caught cornered by the farmer’s flock of chickens.

Much to his own disappointment Bilbo was one of the first to fall asleep, the training and emotional taxation catching up to him. He fell asleep next to Ori, with Dori on his other side and Nori back to back with Ori. He didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, but he knew they could get through it. For the first time in a long time, Bilbo felt completely and entirely content, surrounded by his dwarves and their laughter.

Which was why he didn’t understand the reason that he woke up in the middle of the night. It wasn’t the snores, he had grown used to those long ago, and the bed was far too comfortable to be the culprit. Dori and Nori seemed to have completely surrounded Ori and Bilbo with their bodies, but it wasn’t the added heat or closeness that had awoken him. Frowning when he didn’t immediately fall back asleep, Bilbo cautiously sat up, careful not to disturb the dwarves. He looked around to see if anyone was awake. Seeing none, he was about to flop back down and make himself sleep when his eyes caught movement on the couch. Thorin was sitting there smoking his pipe, deep in thought. Really, Bilbo should have just gone to sleep. But instead, he carefully escaped the family huddle and tiptoed towards the dwarf king.

“You should be sleeping,” Thorin rumbled when Bilbo took the seat next to him.

“So should you, who knows when we will next have a bed to sleep on.”

“Not for a while I suppose,” Thorin agreed. They sat in silence for several long minutes. Bilbo stifled a yawn, not wanting to prove Thorin right.

“What do you think I should do?” Thorin asked, startling Bilbo with its suddenness.

“I think you should do what you think will help the company the most.”

“That is not an answer.”

“Last I checked I wasn’t the one having to make the decision,” Bilbo retorted. Thorin inclined his head at that, the glow of the pipe showing the smile on his face.

“I do think though, that you shouldn’t underestimate us.”

“It would be a foolish decision to underestimate anyone in this company, especially you.” Thorin’s arm reached out and pulled Bilbo a little closer. Bilbo easily went with the motion, leaning against Thorin’s side the warmth already making his eyes droop.

“There is another matter I wished to discuss with you,” Thorin said jolting Bilbo back awake.

“Yes?”

“If we retake Erebor-”

“When” Bilbo corrected.

“When we retake Erebor, the land around it will still be ruined from dragon fire. Last I heard nothing grows there except for the hardiest of grass.”

“With the proper care the soil will become better, it may take a few years but I am sure some arrangement can be made.”

“Yes, an arrangement, not to get food though. What do you think the Shire would say to a trade agreement between our people?” Bilbo sat up quickly at his words, hardly believing what he was hearing. A trade agreement between the Shire and Erebor? It sounded strange, but maybe, just maybe it could work.

“What would such a thing entail?”

“Hobbits could help us with the land. Dwarves can work with stone all day but put most of us in a field with dirt and we are lost. In exchange, we can offer riches, fine craftsmanship, whatever we can make.”

“We would have very little use for weapons or gems and gold.”

“We create more than just weapons and jewelry. Even within this company, we have Bofur and Bifur as gifted toymakers and Dori is a very good weaver. Besides, it would make it easier for us to help should anything like the Fell Winter happen again.” Thorin was hesitant about the last part, not wanting to drag the bad memories up once again. Bilbo sucked in a breath, not answering immediately. He leaned back against Thorin his mind racing.

“There might be some distrust at first, but I think perhaps it could work,” Bilbo said feeling his eyes begin to droop. He yawned and turned his face into the warm fur of Thorin’s coat. Thorin smiled, happy that Bilbo seemed to like his idea. Learning of the Fell Winter had only solidified Thorin’s plan to try and make an agreement between their people. The sheer thought of Bilbo having to go through something so terrible made his blood simultaneously freeze and boil. He would do his best to make the idea a reality so, no matter what Bilbo decided to do at the end of the journey, he could rest easy knowing the dwarves still had his back. Thorin looked down at the nearly asleep hobbit at his side, feeling content.

“Sleep amrâlimê, tomorrow will be interesting.”

“You should as well,” Bilbo argued.

“Soon, just rest now,” Bilbo sighed feeling his eyelids slip close. A low hum began, relaxing him even farther just as it had the first time.

“Far over, the Misty Mountains Cold.”

Chapter Text

 

 

“Where is Bilbo?”

“Shh, your gonna wake them up.”

“You two should leave them alone,” a familiar old voice berated as Bilbo slowly blinked his eyes open. Whatever had woken him up would pay, he decided. He didn’t remember the last time he was so warm and comfortable or had such a nice pillow. Fili and Kili were being pulled away by Balin, which really wasn’t all that surprising. Of course, it was those two. It did surprise him to see Dori standing behind them with blankets thrown all about, looking very worried indeed. Nori was kneeling and looking around, his eyes locking with Bilbo’s half open ones making his shoulders relax. Ori kicked out at Dori, groggily sitting up along with many others at the commotion. Blinking again, Bilbo wondered why they seemed so far away, and why his pillow was shifting.

“Don’t make me give you two watch duty all next week for disturbing the company,” Thorin said, his voice far closer than Bilbo had expected. Sitting up quickly, Bilbo turned to find that his pillow was not actually a pillow at all. Rather it was Thorin’s coat, which was still on Thorin, who was definitely awake and glaring at his nephews. Oh my.

Bilbo felt his face immediately flush when he foggily remembered the night before. He couldn’t remember all that had been said, just not being able to go to sleep, and then falling asleep very quickly. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep on Thorin, really, but he was so warm and then he started singing and-oh my. Bilbo absolutely refused to look at Thorin, not wanting to believe he had done something so embarrassing. What must Thorin think? They had been getting along so well together while watching, and he had let Bilbo lean against him during the rough parts, but sleeping on him? Was that a step too far? Bilbo desperately hoped not because he really liked their current relationship. It would be even better if- no that was still a very unlikely possibility. What if Thorin was mad at him now? But then again, Thorin certainly hadn’t seemed upset, even singing to Bilbo which he must have known would make him fall asleep. The conflicting thoughts confused him greatly.

“Since you all seem to be awake now, breakfast is ready. I expect your answer Thorin Oakenshield when you are done,” the voice said and Bilbo didn’t think he had ever been more grateful for a distraction. He stood and went to the Ri family, apologizing profusely for making them worry. Nori merely laughed him off, saying that Dori worried too much, all while Dori was scowling at him. Bilbo was about to turn towards the table when Dori reclaimed his attention.

“Bilbo?” Dori said and Bilbo looked back at him, Nori and Ori standing on either side of Dori. Nori was smirking, arms crossed but he was shifting in a way Bilbo only saw him do when he had swiped something and wasn’t sure if he was going to be caught. Ori looked downright nervous, not nearly as skilled at hiding it as his brothers and Bilbo instantly became suspicious.

“I finished your coat last night,” Dori said holding a neatly folded brown coat out for all to see. Bilbo’s eyes widened at the gift. Of course, he knew Dori was making him one, but actually seeing it made the idea of a gift so much more real. Taking the coat in his hands, he marveled at the spectacular craftsmanship, especially given that it was made while on the road.

“Thank you, Dori, it’s beautiful,” Bilbo said, pushing down the wave of emotion the gift brought. He didn’t remember the last time someone had actually made him a gift just because they could. Sure there were the pies and cookies neighbors brought over when invited for afternoon tea, but those didn’t hold a candle to the coat in his mind.

“Your coat is torn and I’m a weaver, it only made sense,” but Bilbo knew no one believed him. Bilbo knew dwarves didn’t just give people gifts, especially when resources were so scarce. He could have made one for Ori or even Nori, both of whom also had coats that were slightly fraying. Not to mention the reaction of the company when Dori had first mentioned making a coat had been more than enough to make him sure of that.

Speaking of the company, they all seemed strangely quiet. Looking up at Dori, Bilbo realized he looked, well, nervous, which startled him greatly because when did Dori look nervous about saying something? Oh, Bilbo was definitely missing something. He looked back at the coat and examined it carefully, finding a symbol on the inside. It was green, instead of brown and obviously a mixture of dwarven runes that Bilbo had no hope of understanding.

“That is the Ri family crest. Usually, it would go on a bead, but we haven’t had an opportunity to make one, and my spare set was lost in goblin town.”

“And your hair is still a touch too short to braid properly anyways,” Nori cut in receiving a glare from Dori. Bilbo was confused. It sounded like - but no. That was a wonderful thought and he certainly cared about them enough, but would that even be allowed? Bilbo felt his breath catch as his brain came up with no other options.

“We want you to be apart of our family Bilbo, we know you have cousins in the Shire but we could be your brothers,” Ori said, making Bilbo freeze.

“Why?” Bilbo said and that wasn’t what he really wanted to say. His voice was thick with emotion and he wanted to tell them, yes, but the question slipped out instead. The three brothers exchanged nervous glances at both his question and how emotional he seemed to be getting and Bilbo cursed himself for his own stupidity.

“Well, we all think pretty highly of ye, and I think it’s only proper that we adopt ye first seein as I’m a thief and yer a burglar and all. Keep the craft in the family ye know?” Nori said, laughing.

“Wouldn’t you get in trouble?” Why, why could he not just say yes? His mouth and his brain were not working together, or maybe they were since these were all practical questions, but they were certainly leaving his heart out of the loop.

“Technically there is no law prohibiting the adoption of a non-dwarf into a dwarven family. In reality, it’s just never been done. You have all of us backing it though, including Thorin, so there won’t be much legally they can do. And honestly who cares what they think,” Ori said.

“Aye, yer more dwarf than many others I’ve met,” Dwalin agreed.

“You're certainly stubborn enough to be one.”

“We already see you as our Uncle,” everyone chimed in with their own agreements and Bilbo couldn’t stop the emotions that bubbled up, making his eyesight go blurry and the dwarves look even more worried if possible.

“Why are you crying?”

“You don’t have to accept!”

“Please don’t be sad!”

“I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m happy. Very very happy,” Bilbo said laughing a little because of course they would panic over something like tears. He drew the coat closer to his chest, holding it as if his life depended on it, a very large smile breaking across his face even as tear continued to stream down his face.

“Does that mean you accept?” Dori asked, eyes bright. Bilbo laughed.

“Yes, yes I accept your offer,” Bilbo said and not even a second later his feet were off the ground as he was scooped up into several sets of arms.


 

Breakfast was a noisy affair. Bilbo sat with Ori and Nori on either side, Dori next to Nori. He was wearing his new coat with pride. More stories were told, each one somehow relating back to Bilbo to keep him engaged in the conversation.

Thorin was sitting back in his seat, Fili and Kili on either side of him, as he watched the merry proceedings. He was glad Bilbo had accepted, he knew Nori and Ori had both taken a liking to Bilbo since the Shire, and Dori had been unable to not care about the small hobbit after all the danger he seemed to rush into. They likely wouldn’t be the last, he had seen the Ur brothers working on a project late last night, and he was glad their offer had been accepted with such enthusiasm. When Bilbo had begun to cry, Thorin didn’t know what to think except that perhaps they had somehow offended him. But then he had smiled and Thorin had felt his breath catch. From then on it had just been loud, with everyone focusing on Bilbo.

The noise was threatening to give him a headache but he didn’t dare stop their revelry and bring down their spirits. He was nervous enough about his decision, he wouldn’t take away potentially their last time of merriment. The lack of attention allowed him to go through the options and weigh the risks again, but all too soon the voice returned.

“May I offer my congratulations to Bilbo and the Ri family,” the voice said earning cheers in response. “Please do not cease your merrimaking on my behalf, I merely wish to hear your leader’s decision so I know how my day will be spent.” Even with their request the company quieted down and looked expectantly at Thorin. Heaving a great sigh, Thorin looked up, his jaw and shoulder set. This was the right choice, it had to be.

“I have given the decision much thought like you asked,” Thorin started, urged on as the voice hummed. “I choose option three, let us see what lies before us so we may be better prepared for the remainder of the quest,” Thorin said with every ounce of authority and confidence that he possessed.

“Very well, do remember that I warned you though. Especially when you get to the last part. When you are ready to continue just take your seats and the viewing will begin.” The voice faded away, leaving them in a quiet room. The happiness from before was still there, but it was now tainted with worry for what they might see.

“Hey Fee, wanna make a bet?” Kili whispered as other, far milder, conversation started back up.

“On what?”

“If we take back Erebor or not, I think we will.”

“The opposite of that is us all dying, I don’t want to think that.”

“We could just not find the door.”

“Orcs, Kee.”

“Fine then, ruin the fun, at least we’ll get to see who’s right for that other bet.” Kili grinned and got up, excited to see the future. Sure they might see some terrible stuff, but he wasn’t all that afraid. He had faith that they could reclaim the mountain and even if they all did die, they would be able to fix it. There wouldn’t be any issues in his book. With his standing, breakfast came to a close, everyone slowly trickling back towards the couches.

The mattresses were still laid out, the blankets and pillows reorganized. Thorin took his usual seat, looking at Bilbo expectantly. Bilbo had avoided spending time with Thorin since his embarrassing wake up, but he couldn’t help the way his heart seemed to melt when Thorin looked at him. Ori sat next to him, happily chatting away about a story Dori used to tell him. Nori and Dori took up the rest of the couch as Fili and Kili flopped down on the mattress closest to them and everyone else took their original spots. When they were all settled in the screen flickered to life.

The company was walking through Mirkwood, still searching for the path or another way out. All around them the world still seemed off, tilted. Screen-Bilbo looked down to see himself walking backward, then after shaking himself, he realized it was just an illusion.

“I didn’t think the forest could affect us worse,” Balin said rubbing his face. He hoped when they went back they would still be free of the forest’s sickness. On screen, Bilbo looked back at screen-Dori only to see himself instead.

“That’s weird,” Ori said, as his screen-self picked up a tobacco pouch, calling out to the others. Screen-Dori was the first to see what was in his hands.

[Dori:] “A tobacco pouch. There’s dwarves in these woods.”

Screen Bofur took the pouch from Dori and started to examine it, eyes widening as he recognized it. Bofur groaned at his counterpart’s comment, earning snickers from his brothers. Tired of the forest and life in general due to the forest, screen-Bilbo snapped at him telling the company that they were lost. None of them agreed with him, even as they started to complain about not knowing what direction they were doing.

“Our future already isn’t looking good,” Kili complained as the screen-dwarves bickered among themselves. Screen-Bilbo looked around, spotting a bit of sunlight and seeming to get an idea.

[Bilbo:] “The sun. We have to find the sun. Up there. We need to-”

The company began to fight each other making those watching frown. This really didn’t bode well for them when they did get back. Screen-Thorin stood apart, watching as his company devolved into fighting without doing anything to stop it. Thorin grumbled, crossing his arms, not liking the complete lack of interest he seemed to have in the company’s well being. He had to keep order, something the forest was clearly messing with. The whispers Bilbo had heard before began again, this time screen-Thorin able to hear them.

As the whispering continued he turned towards the company ordering them to be quiet.

“That can’t be good,” Fili said looking at the screen to see if he could spot what else was watching them.

“I wonder how long till this happens?” Kili asked, not liking how badly everyone seemed to be affected.

“The day after you lost the path,” the voice answered, startling the company. The voice chuckled at their surprise.

“I can be persuaded to answer questions now that you’re seeing the future. But only those that I want to,” they said. Kili opened his mouth to ask a dozen other questions but stopped when Thorin nudged his leg. There were plenty of questions Thorin wanted to ask as well, however, he didn’t want to overuse their newfound ability with pointless questions in case the voice decided to revoke their knowledge when the company needed it more. Glancing at Balin, he saw his advisor nod, no doubt following along the same line of thought.

On screen, Bilbo was climbing one of the trees, spider webs all around him. He broke through the canopy and it was as if the spell of the forest was broken. Breathing deeply screen-Bilbo marveled at the gorgeous blue butterflies and setting sun around him, seeing the lake and Lonely Mountain in the distance. Bilbo was in awe at the beautiful sight as well.

Screen-Bilbo joyfully called down to the others about their progress but the dwarves did not respond to him and the company looked on in confusion and apprehension. Surely they weren’t so out of it that they would ignore that sort of news. Screen-Bilbo was equally confused, looking down at the foliage with a frown. A thumping noise in the distance made screen-Bilbo look around. Within their circle, looks were exchanged as they waited for what might happen.

Trees moved wildly as something approached screen-Bilbo and the dwarves. They held their breath. Screen-Bilbo climbed down and looked around, stepping forwards only to trip on a spider web. Ori’s hand shot out to grab his arm, Thorin grabbing his other hand as many others cried out in worry. He fell several feet, bouncing off branches and yelping in pain making the company become even more rigid in fear. Screen-Bilbo caught himself on a branch and Bilbo attempted to sooth his dwarves.

“I’m fine see? This is the future, it’s all-” but his words died in his throat as the web on screen parted to reveal a massive spider, fangs bared as it hissed at him. Several dwarves jumped or spit out curses. Bilbo paled, shrinking back into Thorin who was staring in horror at the spider. Ori clung to Bilbo’s arm as screen-Bilbo fell off the branch and landed in an even bigger spiderweb, becoming stuck. The spider followed him and wrapped him up tightly.

“Did-did we all just get killed by spiders?” Kili asked, his enthusiasm for the future already dampened.

“No, you still have a long way to go. Don’t worry this isn’t even close to the worst predicament you get yourselves into,” the voice said. The company exchanged nervous glances, not sure they liked having the voice actually talking to them, and definitely not liking what they were insinuating. Thorin looked around, their unease only fueling his own as he wondered if this really was the best idea. Shaking his head to dispel the thought, he reminded himself that this was the future and they could change it. That was why he had chosen to see the rest, and if this wasn’t even the worst part then he would have a lot to discuss with the company.

Chapter Text

The screen switched to show the spider nest, the entire company having been caught and bound in webs. Screen-Bilbo was dragged towards the dwarves, his spider reaching forwards with fangs bared. Thorin gripped Bilbo’s hand tighter and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. As screen-Bilbo sliced through the webbing and stabbed the spider, everyone jumped, not having expected such a turn of events.

“That was impressive,” Dwalin said shaking his head as the spider fell off the branch. Screen-Bilbo tore off the webbing and hid behind a tree trunk.

“Uncle Bilbo to the rescue!” Kili said, smiling back at Bilbo.

“Now I doubt that,” Bilbo tried to say but he was drowned out as the rest of the company agreed with Kili. None of them seemed to believe he wouldn’t try to save them, Bilbo either, but they also seemed to think he could save them which was were Bilbo was highly doubtful.

“None of those spiders better hurt him though,” Dori said, glaring at the spider that crawled up the tree trunk behind him. Screen-Bilbo pulled out the ring, Balin leaning forwards to see how he would react to it this time. The world turned grey and hazy, the hissing of the spiders becoming understandable.

[Spider:] “Kiilll theemm. Kiill theemm.”

“Why can you understand them, Uncle Bilbo?” Kili asked looking very disturbed. He wasn’t the only one, everyone was shifting uncomfortably at hearing the hissed words of the spiders. Balin leaned back, the knowledge that Bilbo could understand a language so dark, only adding to his reasons not to trust the ring.

“I don’t know, it must have something to do with the ring,” Bilbo said frowning. He also didn’t like the implications. Ori and Fili exchanged a look, Ori holding Bilbo’s arm tighter as Fili moved closer to his brother. Several spiders were seen surrounding one of the bound dwarves. He kicked and struggled but couldn’t do much else. There were grumbles around the room, no one liking the idea that they could be that helpless. The spiders continued to hiss about eating them, making those watching even more uncomfortable.

“What is with very large creatures wanting to eat us on this trip? First the trolls, now spiders.”

“Smaug too probably,” Fili added making Kili groan.

“I don’t want to be eaten.”

“I’d be very concerned if you did.” The spiders began to chant “feast” over and over again causing the company to move closer to each other. If one of them was going to die, then the rest of them would be there, either to comfort or be comforted.

Screen-Bilbo, moved silently towards the spiders, ducking as one crawled above him on a branch. He threw a piece of wood to the side, drawing the attention of most of the spiders and making them scurry away, hissing curiously.

“At least they aren’t very smart,” Ori said, squished between Dori and Bilbo. One spider approached a particularly large bundle, which could only be Bombur. Bofur and Bifur shifted closer to him, Bofur leaning against his side while Bifur kept a hand firmly on his shoulder. Bombur sighed and tried to smile at both of them in reassurance, knowing if something happened it would affect his brother and cousin far more than him.

The spider dropped him to the ground as it hissed about how good screen-Bombur would taste and prepared to strike, screen-Bilbo sneaking up behind it. He struck out with his sword, piercing the spider and making it turn and hiss in pain. Still invisible, screen-Bilbo continued to hack and slash at the spider, driving it away from Bombur. The spider screeched and writhed beneath the onslaught, cursing its invisible assailant.
Screen-Bilbo pulled off his ring, grinning as the spider tried to focus on him.

“Who knew you were so brave and mischievous?” Gloin said shaking his head, smiling slightly despite the tense situation. Bilbo thrust his sword into the spider’s head, making it shriek. Dwalin and Gloin chuckled at the fierce display, but Balin narrowed his eyes in contemplation. While he was quite proud of how brave Bilbo was being, it wasn’t like the gentle hobbit to torment another creature in such a way. Perhaps it was just Bilbo’s own protective streak coming out, mixed with his poor skill with a sword. Well, that would just mean they would have to train him up more so he could kill with one strike, if of course that was the reason.

[Spider:] “It stings! Stings!”

The spider fell as he pulled out his sword staring at it contemplatively.

“Thank you, Bilbo, fer savin my brother,” Bofur said moving forwards to stare at Bilbo. One hand still gripped Bombur’s arm, the other holding his hat over his chest.

“You don’t have to thank me, this is the future none of it has happened yet,” Bilbo said wishing Bofur would go back to his cheery self. His obvious relief as not seeing Bombur die made his skin want to crawl with how unnatural it seemed. None of them should have to thank him or anyone else for saving their kin. He didn’t want any of them to ever have a reason to.

“But would you? In the future?” Thorin asked, leaning forwards to stare at him. Bilbo almost felt offended by the question.

“That is a very stupid question, of course I would. I have faced Azog and I will face a dragon for you lot and there is nothing that will change that,” he said crossing his arms because really didn’t they understand that by now? Though to be fair, he had been surprised when the company had told him they all had his back, and his dwarves were dreadfully good at misunderstanding everything. Dwarves! Bilbo thought shaking his head, not realizing that the entire company was staring at him with a look of awe and happiness he had only rarely seen before.

“Aye, I’d bet ye would,” Dwalin said leaning back in his seat, Balin smiling next to him.

“Or hobbit is so so brave,” Kili said, rubbing away fake tears.

“Truly the greatest hobbit in all of Middle Earth,” Fili added, placing a hand over his heart.

“You’re so amazing and strong Bilbo,” Ori said looking at him with a wide smile.

“Of course he is, he’s a Ri,” Dori said reaching around Ori to give them both a very awkward hug.

“And our Uncle,” Fili and Kili said grinning.

“Oh hush all of you, or we will never get past these spiders,” Bilbo said blushing crimson at all the praise. The company laughed at him but stopped talking for now. Bilbo’s words had touched them all deeply, no matter how offhandedly he had said them. The little hobbit wasn’t a warrior by any means, and he certainly didn’t like hurting anything. Yet he was ready and willing to fight to protect them, and that meant more than they could say. Even if none of them would let anything close enough to him for him to fight if they could help it.

[Bilbo:] “Sting. That’s a good name.”

“Sting!”

“You should name your letter opener that Uncle Bilbo, it suits it,” Fili said and Bilbo couldn’t help agreeing with him. Sting was a very nice name and just seemed to fit the blade. Screen-Bilbo set about cutting down all the dwarves, waking them up as the hit the forest floor below. They cursed and they yelled on screen, but in the room, they were cheering for their Hobbit and for the fact that now they could fight.

Screen-Bofur stood up, looking wildly around asking about Bilbo when he couldn’t find him.

“Asking the important questions,” Bifur signed to Bofur and Bombur making both of them laugh. The trio had relaxed slightly now that Bombur was no longer in immediate danger, enough to joke with each other, but not enough to let each other go. On-screen the dwarves began to call out for their hobbit as well, screen-Bilbo leaning over the edge of a branch to answer them.

The company jumped, letting out curses as a spider leaped at screen-Bilbo, pinning him beneath it. Screen-Bilbo had only just managed to raise his sword, the spider impaling itself. However, as it died its legs curled up, trapping screen-Bilbo as it fell off the branch. They smashed through the branches, the ring slipping out of his grasp and landing some distance away from him. There were several curses thrown at the spider from the dwarves, Bilbo thankfully not understanding most of them. Thorin glared at the spider, looking screen-Bilbo over as he stood up, trying to see if he had been injured. Oin was doing the same, trying to categorise what sorts of herbs he was going to need if they were unable to avoid the confrontation with the spiders.

Balin, while worried about screen-Bilbo’s physical state, was far more concerned about his mental state. The ring shone ominously in the gloomy light of Mirkwood as he looked for it with a frantic desire.

The screen switched away from Bilbo, much to the company’s complaints, and back to the dwarves.

“We can take care o ourselves,” Nori said, crossing his arms.

“Seeing as Bilbo was the only one capable of escaping the spiders, I would be more concerned about yourselves,” the voice said instantly shutting them up. Their words made the company nervous, but then again what else was new?

The returning spiders surrounded the company, but they were ready. Each dwarf went off, hacking and slashing and making up for needing to be saved. Screen-Bombur fell over, a spider standing over him with bared fangs.

“Why is it always me,” Bombur said with a frown and a sigh, trying, and failing, to comfort his brother and cousin. On of the dwarves called out an order and several other dwarves grabbed a leg.

“The forest musta been messin with us real bad, that’s impractical,” Dwalin grumbled as the eight dwarves began to pull. They ripped off the legs, causing the body to fall on screen-Bombur. Dwalin was still grumbling about bad form, Balin patting his arm. The screen switched back to screen-Bilbo who was looking around wildly for the ring. He was whispering to himself in an almost frantic tone that made some of the dwarves frown.

“I know its a useful ring, but calm down laddie,” Oin said. Bilbo grimaced, not liking his reaction to losing the ring. Even now his fingers itched to reach into his pocket and feel the cool gold band. But Thorin and Ori were far too close, they would know immediately, and if they knew then Balin would know. Balin had not been nearly as secretive with his suspicion of the ring as he had thought, Bilbo had seen his wary looks and it only created more emotional confusion for Bilbo.

Screen-Bilbo paused as if he had been called and looked over his shoulder. The eerie music that always seemed to accompany the ring began as screen-Bilbo saw the ring laying on the ground. He walked towards it, stopping when a young, strange looking spider emerged from the ground behind the ring.

“And I thought the spiders were ugly,” Bofur said, wrinkling his nose as the horrid creature. It moved towards screen-Bilbo, one of its legs hitting the ring, making it cling. Screen-Bilbo’s entire demeanor seemed to change. He became angry, rushing at the spider with his sword raised. Hacking and slashing, he looked like he had gone berserk. Bilbo watch his future self in horror, eyes wide and hands over his mouth. He felt like he could throw up, the ring in his pocket getting impossibly heavier.

“Bilbo?”

“Are you alright laddie?” The company was murmuring among themselves or trying to talk to Bilbo, who was far too still and pale. Balin felt like he had been kicked in the gut, all his bad thoughts about the ring coming to fruition. There was no other explanation, they're sweet, too kind hobbit had gone berserk and killed a spider quite violently all because it had touched the ring.

“Get rid of it,” Bilbo whispered, still completely horrified.

“What?” Thorin said as he tried to catch Bilbo’s attention, worry written all over his features. No matter how useful that ring was, he hated it for what it seemed to be doing to Bilbo.

“I said I have to get rid of it,” Bilbo said, jolting out of his shock and reaching frantically for his pocket. He hand closed around the ring and he pulled it out, nearly crying at the surge of conflicting emotions the action created. The company had fallen silent, everyone watching as with a great heave Bilbo threw the ring away from himself, doubling over immediately after, looking like he was about to throw up. No one’s eyes left the gleaming gold band as it sailed over the mattresses, landing with a thud on the ground, only to immediately disappear.

“If only it were that easy, Bilbo Baggins,” the voice said. Bilbo gulped as he felt the weight return to his pocket.

“I don’t want it back!” He said staring up at the ceiling.

“You have no choice in the matter, that ring came to you and must stay with you until the proper time. It is far too dark to be allowed into the hands of others.”

“What do you mean dark?” Balin asked.

“I think you already know, or at least you suspect it. The necromancer, the symbol, the eye, the ring, you know, you’re just afraid to admit it.”

“What is it Balin?”

“It cannot be, he was destroyed long ago by men and elves.”

“That is what they say, but look at the evidence against that claim. You know I’m right,” the voice said with a sigh, Balin looking paler than a sheet.

“Balin, what is it?” Thorin ordered, steeling himself for anything.

“The Dark Lord Sauron and that must be his ring, the One Ring,” Balin whispered, but his voice was heard throughout the room.

“Yes, indeed it is,” the voice said. No one spoke, no one moved, no one breathed. The sheer horror and weight of the words were far too great.

“A ring that powerful, we could use-”

“No!” The voice hissed making them shrink back in their seats. “No, you cannot use it. Should any of you attempt it I can assure you your quest will fail and all shall die. You must leave it with Bilbo.”

“Then we destroy it!” Kili said, scrambling up and looking at Bilbo. He was rigid, ready to fight, a hand where his sword should have been. There were shouts of agreement from all, except Bilbo who was still sitting on the couch, ice in his veins. The ring felt so heavy now, a dark cloud seeming to come from it and enter his mind. How he had not noticed it before, he did not know. He knew what the voice said was true in his heart, and his stomach rolled.

“There is no weapon in this world or the next which could destroy the Ring. Only by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom, deep in the heart of Mordor can it be destroyed,” the voice said. The company turned to each other, discussing among themselves what this could mean.

“For now you should not fret, I told you before you were safe within my halls, it cannot harm you here,” they said and with their words, Bilbo felt the darkness recede and his stomach settle. He took a shaky breath and shook himself, looking up to see Thorin and Ori staring at him in worry. He tried to smile and reassure them, but he knew it was weak. Thorin pulled him close, Ori leaning down to grab a blanket and throw it over them.

“What about when we leave?” Dori asked, speaking up for the first time. He looked over at Bilbo, frowning, then back up at the ceiling.

“At the beginning of the first part, you saw a scene with Bilbo sixty years after the quest was over. At that time he was still in possession of the Ring and had used it several times. I will not say the matter of the Ring is a small affair, but for now and for the remainder of your quest its true name is not important. The dragon Smaug, however, is of vital importance. So even with this new information, I ask you to put it aside and focus on the current task,” the voice said and despite the severity of the situation, Bilbo found himself believing the voice.

“You seem to know more about the Ring,” Ori said.

“A clever observation young one, I do indeed know much about the Ring, far more than any of you could imagine.”

“Will you show us? Like you’ve done with our future? When this is over and our quest is done, will you show us so we can deal with it? I don’t want it to hurt my family,” Ori said standing tall as he made his request. Bilbo smiled, knowing he was who Ori was referring to, being called his family making his heart swell with joy. The voice was silent and the company wondered if they were going to answer.

“To do so would likely alter the timeline far beyond anything imaginable,”

“That’s not a no,”

“True, first you must finish your own future, then you may know my answer,” the voice said and despite the complaints, they said no more. They settled down, glancing at Bilbo and frowning at how shaken up he appeared. Dori took to collecting more blankets and pillows, shoving them at Thorin to arrange as best he could.

“Dori I’m fine,” Bilbo protested.

“You looked ready to lose your breakfast, now here have some tea,” he said passing Bilbo a cup of steaming liquid. Bilbo wondered where he got that but figured the voice had provided it. The tea helped soothe his frazzled nerves and the nerves of everyone else who drank some. When they were all calmed enough the screen began once more.

They were no longer watching screen-Bilbo, instead focusing back on the company. A spider grabbed screen-Kili, pulling him away from the rest of the dwarves. Screen-Fili looked over, pausing at the sight in horror and crying out for his brother.

Then they were back with screen-Bilbo who was still hacking wildly at the spider. He killed it without mercy, stabbing it several times before finally letting it fall to the ground, dead. Panting, screen-Bilbo looked down at the Ring, the music starting again. Bilbo could practically feel the hatred emanating from the dwarves towards the Ring, and he was both scared and moved by it.

Screen-Bilbo grabbed the Ring and showed it to the dead spider, grinning madly. Sitting down, screen-Bilbo admired the Ring, turning it over in his hand. Until the reality of what he had just done started to catch up with him and his loving expression turned to one of horror and disgust. Quickly he stuffed it in his pocket as he looked up at a noise.

The screen switched back to the dwarves as they ran through the forest, spiders jumping down around them. One slid down on a thread of silk directly in front of screen-Thorin, who raised his sword only to pause. Up above a blonde elf was running through the treetops, swinging down the spider silk and landing on it, killing it with a single blow.

“What’er elves doin here?” Dwalin growled. First, there were spiders, then an evil Ring and now elves? The elf slid beneath the spider in front of screen-Thorin. He sliced through it and came up kneeling in front of him with an arrow drawn. Several other elves appeared, each with arrows pointed at the company, surrounding them.

“Well it is their forest,” Kili said with a shrug. He didn’t really care that there were elves per say, but he very much did care that they were pointing arrows at them.

[Legolas:] “Do not think I won’t kill you, dwarf. It would be my pleasure.”

His comment made the company bristle, threats being hurled back at the screen. Thorin would have found their anger funny if they weren’t about to be captured by elves. Screen-Kili shouted for help from off-screen, screen-Fili immediately lurching forwards.

“No,” Fili whispered, heart freezing at his little brother’s cry. Kili leaned into him, which Fili was thankful for, a reminder that this wasn’t real, but his eyes remained fixed on the screen. He had to know if his brother was safe, the alternative was the one thing he would never be able to deal with. The dwarves on screen looked around to see a spider pulling Kili away by the foot. Fili hoped none of the elves tried to stop him, hurting one of them really wouldn’t be in his best interest. His thoughts were mirrored in the minds of the rest of the company.

Another elf with blazing red hair ran through the forest towards screen-Kili, killing three spiders with her bow and knife. She shot an arrow into the spider dragging screen-Kili and turned to attack another. Still, one more spider rushed towards him and screen-Kili asked for a dagger to defend himself with. The she-elf sneered at his request.

She killed her spider then turned and threw her knife, landing a perfect blow on the spider running towards screen-Kili. He looked on in amazement, and even the dwarves had to admit her skills were impressive, for an elf at least. They switched back to the rest of the company, still held at arrow point. The elf leader ordered his men to search the dwarves, leading to much protesting both in the room and on screen.
“Why ye little-”

“Keep yer prissy hands te yerself,”

“You lot are impossible,” Bilbo mumbled shaking his head. The dwarves quieted down their complaints, looking at him with mixed expressions, all of which had an underlying happy tone. Bilbo was smiling and talking and mocking them and that was a vast improvement from the scared Bilbo of before.

On screen, the elves began searching the dwarves. One approach screen-Fili and grabbed his swords. The main elf, none of them actually knew or cared to know his name, approached screen-Gloin. He pulled out the small picture frame everyone in the company was very familiar with. Barely a day went by without Gloin taking it out and telling yet another story about his son. Screen-Gloin looked angry and tried to make him give it back.

“Yeah!” Nori said to screen-Gloin’s complaints, crossing his arms. “Even I wouldn’t steal that,” he added receiving a disapproving look from Dori. The blonde elf opened it, not caring about screen-Gloin’s protests and looked at the picture of the dwarf inside. He started by insulting dear Silga, and even Bilbo was offended.

“As if! I’d never do my dear Silga the dishonor.”

“Aye brother, she’s far prettier than both us put together,” Oin said as screen-Gloin answered the elf angrily.

[Legolas:] “And what is this horrid creature? A goblin mutant?”

“Why ye!” Gloin was turning redder and redder as the conversation continued and no one could blame him. Bilbo was absolutely appalled by the elf’s manners, even if they were technically now his prisoners. Nothing could be as ugly as a goblin, especially not someone like Gimli if the stories were anything to go by.

The elf merely looked at him in contempt, spurring on the insults thrown at the screen. Bilbo was going to understand the entirety of Khuzdul curse words by the end of this, he just knew it.

To the side, the elf searching screen-Fili was still finding knives. Screen-Fili sighed when he found a secret pocket, containing another set.

“Tell me you don’t sleep with all those still on,” Bilbo asked even though he knew the answer. Fili and Kili rarely removed anything before flopping down on top of each other.

“Why would I?”

“So you don’t stab yourself in your sleep,” Bilbo said and Fili just looked back at him like he was the crazy one.

On-screen the main elf and she-elf were talking about the spiders but the dwarves really didn’t care about what they were saying, only using their words to come up with more insults.

“Can’t even protect their own forest, useless elves,” Dwalin huffed. Screen-Fili opened his jacket with a grin, only for the elf to find yet another knife in his hood.

“I didn’t even know you had that many?” Kili said, looking Fili up and down. “No wonder you look like skin and bones now.” He grinned.

“Oh, you wanna see what skin and bones can do?” Fili challenged already sitting up.

“Enough you two, I’m sure some of us would like to get through this within the next year,” Thorin reprimanded, not happy with the situation on screen. There was a lot on his mind now, and the arrival of elves was not helping his mood in the slightest. An elf presented the blonde leader with Orcrist and Thorin nearly growled. That was his sword, elvish or not. Bilbo patted his hand, shifting next to him to pull the blanket half over Thorin as well. He leaned back with a huff, not wanting to risk upsetting Bilbo anymore then he already was, appreciating the hobbit’s attempts to comfort him.

The elf began to question him about the blade, accusing him of being a thief when screen-Thorin claimed it was given to him. That comment also didn’t go over well with the company and Bilbo thought that if they ever met this elf in real life, he might be in even more danger than Gandalf.

“Do you know to whom you speak?”

“We’re not thieves, you are!”

“Thorin would make a terrible thief.”

On screen, the elf called out an order and they were shoved forwards, herded through the forest like animals. Screen-Bofur turned around and said something that made the company watching panic.

[Bofur:] “Thorin, where’s Bilbo?”

“He wasn’t there,”

“E was with that ugly spider,”

“He’ll die in that forest,”

“How dare they leave one of us behind!”

Screen-Thorin looked around but there was no sign of screen-Bilbo anywhere. The dwarves were led over a narrow bridge above a river and into the Woodland Realm. Once they had entered, the leader turned to the guards. He ordered them to shut the gate, leading to complaints and more insults being thrown at him.

“But Bilbo!”

“Oh, there he is!” And indeed there was screen-Bilbo running over the bridge in the strange grey world of the Ring. The blonde elf turned, but seeing nothing walked through the gates. Screen-Bilbo slipped through just before they closed, causing a sigh of relief to come from the company. If they were going to be captured, then they had better all be together.

 

Chapter Text

Despite the predicament, their future-selves were now in, Bilbo was in awe of the Woodland Realm. Truly, he didn’t know of anything that quite matched it. Rivendell was a smooth, elegant beauty, something the swooping branches mirrored, and Erebor was a cold, magnificent beauty, also mirrored in the great stone bridges and arches. The Woodland realm had a natural woodsy beauty that made his heart sing and long for the pleasant woods around the Shire. Unfortunately, the reasoning they were there dampened his love for the palace. The company was forced through the winding paths and raised walkways. An elf was shown, a twisting branch crown upon his head and Bilbo could have guessed who it was.

“Thranduil,” Thorin growled, his eyes narrowing as he saw the elf responsible for much of his people’s suffering, the source of his hatred. The Elven King looked every bit as cold and uncaring as he had the day Smaug took Erebor.

Bilbo’s wonder with the Woodland Realm quickly melted away as his dwarves were shoved roughly into cells around a deep ravine, protesting the entire time.

“Yeah ye prissy elves!”

“We’ll get ya fer this!”

“Oh come on!” Fili cried as the elf in charge of him found yet another dagger down the back of his coat. Bilbo couldn’t help but laugh, even with the seriousness of the matter because if he didn’t he would be horrified thinking about how often Fili had to almost stab himself. Some of the others laughed as well, just because of how frustrated screen-Fili was making the elf.

Screen-Kili was being escorted by the she-elf that had saved him from the spiders. He spun around as she pushed him into a cell.

[Kili:] “Aren’t you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers.”

[Tauriel:] “Or nothing.”

“Well at least it was a lass this time,” Fili said breaking the silence. Kili burst into laughter several others chuckling as well. Thorin was frowning at the interaction, not happy with Kili’s insistence on flirting with elves. Catching his Uncle’s disapproving look, Kili sobered and sat up.

“Come on Uncle, you know it was just for fun.”

“She’s still an elf, you shouldn’t be fraternizing with them.”

“I’m sure it was just the forest affecting me,” Kili was frowning as well as he defended his actions. Thorin huffed but didn’t press the argument. He really didn’t want to start a fight with Kili because he didn’t want to be denied contact with them if something bad happened on screen. It was a probable option if Bilbo’s growing irritation was anything to go by.

The she-elf slammed the door shut and spun around. Screen-Kili smiled a little as she walked away, something neither Kili or Thorin missed. Fili nudged his shoulder, making sure not to draw Thorin’s attention and raised a brow. Kili just shook his head and went back to watching.

She walked away, being stopped by the blonde-elf. Thorin was torn between agreeing with his distaste at the idea of screen-Kili still staring as the she-elf, Tauriel as he had called her, or being appalled with himself that he was even considering agreeing with an elf over his own nephew. Kili smiled faintly up at Tauriel at her dreamy look at how tall he was. Other dwarves had only ever made fun of him for his height. He knew Thorin was not pleased in the slightest with his actions but really what did Thorin understand? It wasn’t like he was made fun of for his looks every time he was alone, he was Thorin Oakenshield no one would dare make fun of him. Even Fili wouldn’t understand.

The blonde-elf who Kili was quickly growing to dislike scoffed at Tauriel’s comment and called him ugly. Well, he was ugly for an elf, so there Kili thought, both his selves glaring at the elf. Several of the other dwarves on screen began to throw themselves against the cell doors, drawing the attention away from Kili. Leaning against the wall of his cell, screen-Balin yelled at them for their foolishness in trying to escape that way. They were prisoners of the Woodland Realm. Nothing but Thranduil could help them escape. His words made the mood in the room sink even lower.

The screen switched to show screen-Thorin being brought before Thranduil. The collective groan throughout the room nearly made Bilbo laugh if the situation wasn’t so dire. They really would never get out of the Woodland Realm if he was the one doing all of the negotiating.

[Thranduil:] “Some may imagine that a noble quest is at hand. A quest to reclaim a homeland and slay a dragon. I myself suspect a more prosaic motive: attempted burglary, or something of that ilk.”

Thranduil looked down at screen-Thorin from his throne. Curses and insults were thrown his way at his comment. How dare he of all people condemn their quest, none of this would even have been necessary if it wasn’t for him. Thranduil continued to drawl on and on about the Arkenstone, finally bringing up the White Gems of Lasgalen. Thorin huffed, of course he would bring those up, and to offer his aid immediately afterward Thorin suspected he knew what Thranduil’s price would be. His screen-self seemed to put it together as well if the knowing smirk was anything to go by. Good, then he could tell the elvish prick off. Even seeing him made Thorin’s blood boil. Balin bit his lip as screen-Thorin turned still smiling and Thranduil gave him his word on their potential deal. This could only end one way, and it would not be good for the fate of the quest.

[Thorin:] “I would not trust Thranduil, the great king, to honor his word should the end of all days be upon us!”

Screen-Thorin turned back to face Thranduil eyes blazing. He continued his rant, letting loose the anger that had been simmering for so many years. Some of the more even-tempered dwarves watching were shaking their heads, despite agreeing fully with screen-Thorin’s words. They would never get out of Mirkwood now. But the others were cheering screen-Thorin on, adding their own Khuzdul curses once screen-Thorin had spat his own.

Bilbo understood screen-Thorin’s anger but he couldn’t help his own anger at him bubbling up. The idiotic dwarf put them through so much just to get this far and now he was throwing it away for what? A shiny trinket and a grudge. He could understand not trusting Thranduil to keep his word but really how could Thranduil not keep his word about letting them go in this situation? It was more likely that Thorin wouldn’t keep his word. Bilbo didn’t like the elven king in the slightest and Thorin had even more reason to hate him. But this was bigger than past grievances. He shifted away from Thorin, much to the dwarf’s surprise, but he refused to give him an answer.

Thranduil apparently had quite enough of screen-Thorin’s accusations as well. He leaped down from his throne, landing quite close to screen-Thorin. His face began to shifted and melt away as he hissed about his own experiences with dragon fire. Bilbo was horrified at the sight of Thranduil’s twisted and scarred face, never having expected that the cold king had faced such dangers. The sight halted the accusations thrown at him, none of them having thought Thranduil had ever faced a dragon. His next words put an end to their momentary pause.

[Thranduil:] “I warned your grandfather of what his greed would summon, but he would not listen. You are just like him.”

Thorin ground his teeth and glared at the screen. How dare that filthy, honorless, tree-shagging, elf say that. He knew nothing! He was nothing like his grandfather, he would not fall into the sickness no matter what. Guards appeared and began to drag him away like some common criminal, every dwarf in the room’s blood boiling at the sight of their king being treated in such a manner. The threat in Thranduil’s parting words was blatant to them all. A hundred years was nothing to an elf, but to a dwarf, such a long period of time would see the death of several of them and the sure failure of the quest.

Screen-Thorin was thrown into an empty cell, the jailer walking off swinging his keys. Once he was out of range screen-Balin asked if a deal had been struck. He closed his eyes with a pained sigh at screen-Thorin’s answer, knowing there was no chance of them getting out now. When he voiced these thoughts, the severity of screen-Thorin’s outburst really seemed to sink in with the company. The despair in the room was nearly tangible. Screen-Thorin did not look the least bit upset at the comment though, smiling as he looked out of the bars.

[Thorin:] “Not our only hope.”

“Bilbo!”

“Yer not in a cell that’s right!”

“And this part is called Desolation of Smaug so he has to get us out!”

“And how do you know that?” Bilbo said the only one not looking entirely enthused by screen-Thorin’s confidence. Thorin frowned and looked at him, surprised at how, well, angry Bilbo seemed.

“We saw you go through the door,”

“Oh yes, we did,” he pointed around the room, “but you didn’t.” He pointed at the paused picture of screen-Thorin, huffing in irritation when they didn’t immediately put it together. “You have no idea if I made it into the palace or was killed by spiders out in Mirkwood. In case you forgot, none of you on screen know I can turn invisible. So no, no you don’t actually know that I will be of any use to you. You just hope I will be and am not rotting in the forest so I can save you all yet again. What you did was pig-headed and foolish and for someone so intent on getting back their homeland I am ashamed.” Bilbo’s eyes were burning into Thorin who could do nothing but sit in stunned silence at his outburst. He wasn’t the only one, everyone was shifting uncomfortably. Far be it for them to disagree with Thorin, especially when it came to telling off Thranduil, but Bilbo made a startlingly good point.

“Well, what would you have had me do? I wouldn’t trust Thranduil to keep his side of the deal.”

“And how might I ask could he have gone back on his deal?” Bilbo asked raising one eyebrow and really Thorin felt like he should listen to the warning bell in his head. But of course, he didn’t.

“The treasure inside that mountain is ours, if I made a deal with him he could come and take it all.”

“You mean if we all die and Smaug is still around he will come and fight Smaug and take it because of a deal he made with a dead king? Even though he hasn’t attempted that yet?”

“Well, no but-”

“Oh you mean if we somehow manage to kill Smaug without an entire army of dwarves and he comes with an army and kills us?”

“Yes,”

“Because we don’t run into that exact same issue regardless of having made a deal or not? From what I understand a dragon is a very large creature and really we’re not far from the mountain so I’m fairly certain Thranduil would figure out quite quickly if we did kill Smaug. And wouldn’t it be better to have the prospect of an alliance instead of the very real possibility of never even seeing the quest completed?”

“-” Thorin tried to come up with something, his mouth snapping shut then reopening. “I will not barter with Thranduil for anything for any reason. I do not care if you agree with my reasoning but I am the leader of this company and I refuse.” Thorin said and he wanted so badly to take the words back the instant he said it. He could feel the heated looks he was getting and he knew Balin and Dwalin were going to chew him out later if the Ri’s or Ur’s didn’t get to him first. But his pride wouldn’t allow him to apologize because that would mean Bilbo was right and that would mean he was wrong in insulting Thranduil and denying his deal, which he was not.

“Well then let’s just hope that if we get caught, I am able to slip on my very evil ring and save you all again.” Bilbo hissed. With that, he stood and walked the few feet to the bed where Fili and Kili were laying. The brothers scooted over so he and Ori, who had followed Bilbo immediately, could lay between them. Nori shot Thorin a dirty look and Dori seemed torn between doing the same and still being respectful, though his loyalty to his new brother was winning out. Thorin suddenly found himself on a rather large and empty couch, alone for the second time during the viewing. Why did he not just think before he spoke?

Chapter Text

Dori prided himself on three things. Loyalty to his king, protecting his brothers and his impeccable manners. The first two were the reasons he was on this quest to begin with. Ori was Balin’s apprentice and when Balin had told him of the quest Ori had jumped at the idea causing quite the stir in the Ri household. Dori had been greatly torn, on one hand, this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Being apart of the Quest to reclaim Erebor and serving their King with their lives, what better way for a poor weaver to spend his days. But the serving with their lives part had got him. Not his life, that he would give for Thorin without question, but Ori’s life. He was so young and while he had trained with Dwalin, something that Dori had never imagined would happen, he was still so gentle hearted and Dori didn’t want to ruin that with the horrors this quest would no doubt throw at them.

Then Nori had come home, a shock all on its own, saying he had been asked to go on the quest. He didn’t say why or who had asked him and honestly Dori really didn’t want to know because it probably had to do with something he wouldn’t approve of. Ori had immediately told him that he was going as well, on the invitation of Balin himself and from the look in Nori’s eye Dori knew any argument he could make would be shut down. So he followed them and joined the Quest. First to protect his brothers and second for his loyalty to Thorin.

Meeting Bilbo Baggins had been interesting to say the least. He had been a terrible host, something that hadn’t endeared him to Dori’s sense of good manners and he was a truly terrible traveler. That was what had gotten to Dori, or at least he was fairly certain of it looking back. Bilbo was just small, and fussy and untrained and a hundred other things none of which were good to be on the road. But he was also somehow brave and loyal and strong, not strong in arms like Dori but strong at heart. It was this strength that made Dori pay attention to him for it was the same strength that Ori had. Bilbo was just somehow even smaller than his little brother. Dori didn’t know when he first really started looking out for Bilbo, certainly before the Misty Mountains, though his speech had only strengthened his resolve to defend their small, good mannered, and strong hobbit.

The idea of adopting Bilbo had actually come from Nori. With Nori’s affinity for stealing and Bilbo’s appointed job, it was only natural that Nori had been interested in the hobbit. He would never admit it but Dori knew he had seen the same strength within Bilbo. The hobbit’s easy friendship with Ori had endeared him to them both, the thief spending more time with Bilbo due to his friendship with Bofur as well. Nori had come to Dori while they were in Rivendell, twiddling his thumbs as he mentioned Bilbo’s lack of appropriate traveling clothes in as nonchalant a manner as he could. Dori saw straight through him, saw the worry and the slight nerves Nori always had when he had to ask for help with something he couldn’t easily fix, or steal, himself. As much as Dori disliked the elves they did have some nice yarn.

They were at Beorn’s house before Nori approached him about the matter again. Bilbo was telling a story to his enraptured crowd consisting of Fili, Kili, and Ori, along with the rest of the company though they tried to look a little less interested. He was twiddling his thumbs again, shifting ever so slightly and Dori had a feeling about what he was going to ask. Bilbo Baggins was well beloved by the entire company and such a conversation had gone through the thoughts of nearly everyone, but no one until them had voiced it. Such an arrangement had never before occurred, and to be quite honest if anyone had told Dori what his future self would do he would have knocked them over the head and scolded them for telling such blatant lies. If it had been anyone else Dori would have rejected the idea immediately, non-dwarves were not allowed to be adopted into a dwarf family he would have said. That was tradition and that was just how it was. But when Nori asked, the only thing Dori could think was that there weren't actually laws prohibiting it.

With Ori’s input, they had decided to ask Bilbo at the next available lull in the journey, as they had to leave Beorn’s before Dori could finish the coat and make it look presentable as a gift for such an offer. They didn’t tell anyone else, that was Nori’s idea more than Dori’s, he didn’t want anyone to be able to stop them. It was an idea full of holes and Dori would have fought him on it if he didn’t know that several people had figured out their plan. If there was really an issue they would have heard about it.

Then the forest had happened and everything seemed to fall apart. Dori, Nori, and Ori tried to watch over Bilbo as best they could but the forest was too much even for them at times. Dori was still fairly fuzzy about several long periods of time. When they were standing on the edge of the ravine and the ground began to crumble Dori’s heart had stopped when Bilbo had fallen, but there really wasn’t much time to panic for anyone before they were all falling. They had landed in this strange room and started watching their past and somehow, Dori hadn’t known it was possible, but Bilbo Baggins became even stronger in his eyes. Learning about the Fell Winter had simply been the final shove to make him extend their offer of brotherhood and family to Bilbo. Never would they allow him to think he didn’t have a family who loved him for his strength and loyalty and determination. No one would dare call him names for following his adventurous spirit that had brought him to the company and completed their group so perfectly.

Now it was strange. Dori would never have thought he would prefer to sit beside a hobbit rather than his king, but that was before Bilbo Baggins became his brother. He was torn between agreeing with both Bilbo and Thorin during the argument, but then Thorin so rudely shut him down something Dori had issues with on multiple levels. He did not take kindly to people being rude to his brothers, and those who refused to listen to their loved ones were low in his book. So Thorin would sit alone, even if he was entirely reasonable in his anger towards Thranduil because Dori’s sense of good manners was appalled. Bilbo Baggins was his brother and nothing, not even his loyalty to Thorin could alter his determination to protect his brothers from the world.


Bilbo wouldn’t deny that he was hurt by Thorin’s words. He knew he shouldn’t have pushed that far but honestly screen-Thorin was being ridiculous in his eyes. The anger and frustration had just bubbled up from the stress of the day and Bilbo would be the first to admit that he was ashamed of his ill-mannered actions. But there had to be a reason they were watching and Thorin had to be the one to make some of these changes. He was as he said, after all, the leader of this company. Bilbo felt terrible that he was now sitting alone again, he hadn’t meant to cause a rift so soon into watching the future, though perhaps it would give him time to think. It had worked fairly well after they saw the troll incident. Bilbo hoped they would have a break soon enough so he could work on smoothing this all out, but for now, he would take comfort in Fili and Kili and his new brothers.

That thought still got to him, not quite believing what had happened just that morning. He pulled the collar of the coat closer and returned the smile Ori was giving him. Fili was on his other side and Kili next to Ori, Nori and Dori were sitting on the edge of the bed behind them. Yes, he would work on fixing everything soon enough, once the events of the movie calmed down a little or the voice gave them a food break again. For now, he would watch and try and figure out what he would do should they find themselves in a similar situation.

The screen resumed once they were all settled into their new seats. Screen-Bilbo was creeping down a hall, the world grey and blurry. Bilbo shivered, the ring feeling heavy in his pocket, and there were low quick Khuzdul words spoken around the circle. Thranduil appeared and screen-Bilbo froze when he looked directly at him.

[Thranduil:] “I know you’re there. Why do you linger in the shadows?”

“I thought ye were invisible?”

“Is it not working?”

“But its all grey,” the company wondered aloud. Bilbo’s own heart stopped, he didn’t want to know what would happen to the company if he was caught. But then Tauriel stepped out of the shadows behind him and screen-Bilbo breathed a sigh of relief along with the company as they realized he had been talking to her. Kili watched the screen attentively as Tauriel answered Thranduil, standing tall even with his obvious displeasure. He tried to berate her for the spiders, having ordered their destruction once before, but she argued back that they couldn’t get rid of them all when they weren’t spawning in the forest. The mention of Dol Guldur set everyone on edge, though Thranduil dismissed her plea to attack the spiders there.

“That’s dumb,” Kili said when Thranduil refused to send troops to kill the spiders simply because Dol Guldur was not within their borders.

“Aye, the best defense is a good offense,” Dwalin huffed. Thorin also sighed, Thranduil’s comment about enduring reminded him of what his grandfather would say once the gold sickness had claimed him. The similarities made his skin crawl. On-screen Bilbo managed to slip away and Thorin was happy thinking they might finally be done dealing with the elves and Bilbo could figure out how to get them out. He frowned when the screen stayed on the two elves, Tauriel bowing but Thranduil still having more to say to her.

“Why’d we have to spend on the elves?” Bofur asked.

“Though you may dislike them, the elves do play an important part in the upcoming events, I would get used to seeing them as they save several of your lives,” the voice said.

“Eh? No prissy elfs gonnta save me,” Oin said but the voice did not respond even to the numerous other complaints they received. Kili frowned when Thranduil brought up the blonde leader elf, Legolas, and Tauriel smiled. She tried to brush off the almost compliments but Thranduil dashed any hope she had very quickly. He moved to pour himself a drink, Tauriel rooted to her spot. Thorin was once again uncomfortably reminded of his grandfather. He understood the concept, all royalty did, and he knew he had once agreed with it, knew that his grandfather had gone to his grave agreeing with it even if he would hate to have anything in common with an elf. Ever since Vili had come to him though, Thorin hadn’t been able to keep with such thinking and as much as he disliked Tauriel and the infatuation Kili seemed to have for her, he did feel, on some level, bad for her. The mere thought made his frown deepen as he crossed his arms. Thranduil denied any possibility of Tauriel allowing Legolas to be with her something that seemed to hurt and worry her.

The screen switched, though the company was highly disappointed when they went from elves to orcs. Not a step up at all, going from their least favorite people to be around to their most favorite people to kill. Bolg and his pack were deep within the forest, hidden among the trees before the gates of the Woodland Realm.

“How did they get through the forest?” Ori asked frowning. They had made very good time and didn’t seem affected at all by the evils of the forest.

“They're bad, the forest’s bad, simple,” Bofur said also bitter and slightly worried. If they did manage to escape he doubted they would have the time or opportunity to gather their weapons and supplies. Bolg eyed the river when one orc reported that all the gates were guarded. With a twisted smile, he told them of one that wouldn’t be, the group striding deeper into the woods. Several others seemed to have figured out the same thing that Bofur had. The idea that there was an unguarded gate was good news, the fact that orcs would likely be there and they would be unarmed though really put a damper on the mood though.

The screen switched once again, this time to the cells. Several dwarves sighed in relief, glad to finally be back with people they cared about. Screen-Kili was tossing a black stone up in the air and catching it, trying to keep himself entertained. Fili shook his head, hoping his brother wouldn’t drop his. He had already almost lost that stone several times throughout the journey.

Tauriel was checking on them, pausing when she saw screen-Kili playing with the stone, interested in what it was. Screen-Kili looked up at the question, quickly schooling his face into a serious mask the entire company could see through.

[Kili:] “It is a talisman. A powerful spell lies upon it. If any but a dwarf reads the runes on this stone, they will be forever cursed.”

He held up the stone and Tauriel stepped back and looked away. She turned and began to walk away, screen-Kili’s seriousness melting away into a grin.

[Kili:] “Or not, depending on whether you believe that kind of thing. It’s just a token.”

“That’s not what Amad said,” Fili said shaking his head. He knew Thorin wouldn’t be happy with how friendly screen-Kili was being, and he knew eventually they would clash over this, but for now, he was determined to keep the peace for as long as possible.

“Pft, you know she doesn’t really believe in all that,”

“Course she does, she’s smart,” Oin cut in. His dead seriousness made both brothers pause, it was well known that Dis and Oin were good friends.

“I’ve cursed Tauriel,”

“A right shame Kee,” Fili said grinning at Kili’s mock horrified look as screen-Kili explained to Tauriel what the stone was. Most were shaking their heads at their antics, not paying as much attention to the screen. It was still hard for Fili to hear Kili talk about his promise but he kept up a smile so no one would know. Tauriel also looked saddened by the promise, looking down, screen-Kili continuing on quickly to not ruin the mood. After all returning would be very hard to accomplish locked up in the dungeons.

No one stifled their laughs when screen-Kili proclaimed that he certainly was not reckless and then proceeded to drop the stone and send it skidding towards the edge of the ravine. Fili shook his head and rolled his eyes, Kili just shrugging sheepishly at the laughter. Screen-Kili looked up as they heard the sounds of a party.  Tauriel picked up the stone as she told him what was occurring far above them, Mereth-en-Gilith or the Feast of Starlight. The laughter of the company quieted as the pair began to speak of starlight, Tauriel’s love for it and screen-Kili’s own indifference. She smiled as she handed back the stone, something that even if they wouldn’t admit it raised her on the company’s list of least hated elves.

Kili stared at her as she spoke of seeing the stars and within his heart rose the wish to meet the fair red-haired she-elf. Not like this, he hoped, but he wanted to meet her, no matter what the others might say. She sat as screen-Kili began to tell her about the fire moon he once saw and when she smiled, Kili felt himself smiling as well. Yes, he very much wanted to meet her in person, tell her about the stars he had seen and get another smile from her if nothing else.

On-screen, Legolas was seen staring down at the scene, face blank, very similar to how Thorin currently was. He didn’t quite know how he felt, obviously anger since she was an elf, but there was something small nagging at him that wouldn’t just let him hate her on principle like all the others. It was how easy screen-Kili seemed to find talking to her, as silly as it sounded. Kili could complain all he wanted that Thorin wouldn’t understand, because Thorin knew he thought so, and maybe he didn’t fully get it, but he had raised Kili. He had been there every time Kili had come home fighting tears because he was mocked for being different. He and Dis had been the ones to tear into dwarf after dwarf until it was drilled into everyone’s heads that you didn’t mess with Kili, and even still he knew that hadn’t stopped everyone. So to see him just talking by himself without Fili or Dis or himself next to him, well it made the nagging feeling that Thorin just couldn’t stop, and thus he couldn’t entirely hate Tauriel. It was very frustrating and he scowled at the feeling.

The tension was stiff in the room, the highly mixed feelings screen-Kili and Tauriel had created being felt but not voiced and it was to the relief of all when the screen finally switched back to Bilbo. He was sneaking around the wine cellar, the world still grey. There were a few guards moving around wine barrels as one walked in holding a set of keys. The elves moving the barrels paused to drink, the key carrying elf chastising them for not having sent the barrels down the river already. But they laughed and poured more wine into a deep mug, pushing it into his hands and urging him to drink. The elf tried to protest, holding up the keys and confirming that they were the keys to the dungeon. Screen-Bilbo eyed the ring with interest as the other elves succeeded in convincing him to drink as well. The keys were placed on a hook on the wall and the elves moved towards a table to drink, laughing all the way.

“Hey hey we’re free!” Bofur laughed and the company cheered at his words. Bilbo received several pats on the back and he really wanted to point out that they were not out yet, but really he didn’t want to dampen their mood again. So he took their happiness with a shake of his head and a roll of his eyes, only making them laugh harder. Dwarves.

Chapter Text

On screen, the dwarves were moaning about what time it must be and how they would never reach the mountain. Screen-Bilbo materialized in front of the cells jingling the keys to cheers from the watching company. Jumping up, the screen-company stared at him in awe and surprise, screen-Bilbo tucked the ring into his pocket. Balin wondered if they ever questioned him about the ring in the future or learned about its evil nature. That would be interesting to see, though he had a sneaking suspicion that they didn’t.

Screen-Bilbo shushed the dwarves, warning them about the nearby guards as he set about unlocking their cells. A few of them started towards the stairs only to be called back by screen-Bilbo.

“What are you up to?” Nori asked. Bilbo shook his head not knowing what his screen-self was planning. Screen-Bilbo led them down the stairs, deeper into the Woodland Realm gaining confused mutters from all. Eyes widening, Bilbo figured out the plan just as they were entering the wine cellar, biting his lip as he waited for the reaction of the company. The elves were fast asleep, empty wine bottles scattered around them.

“Eh? Ye led us te the cellars?” Oin said eyes squinted at the screen as if not fully believing what he was seeing.

“You don’t seem surprised Uncle Bilbo,” Fili said making Bilbo grin.

“There’s only one gate not guarded.”

“But it’s the cellars?” Kili trailed off. The on-screen company was every bit as confused as those watching, but they made their displeasure well-known. Screen-Bilbo ignored them except to shush them again and led them to a large room full of barrels.

“Oh,” Balin breathed putting the pieces together.

“Yer a clever hobbit,” Dwalin said grinning even as his screen-self complained, getting angry with the others.

“Sorry ‘bout tha,” Bofur grimaced at how much he was doubting screen-Bilbo. Honestly, out of all of them, they should really trust Bilbo the most to get them out of sticky situations. He had the most experience during the journey so far.

The screen switched to show the elven guards opening the cells to find them empty, calling out and raising the alarm. Back with the company, screen-Bilbo was trying to convince them to get in the barrels. But they were not listening. Nori rolled his eyes at how stubborn they were all being, screen-Bilbo even going so far as to ask if they trusted if. The answer from the watching company was a resounding no and it made them frown when their counterparts did not seem to share their thoughts. They milled around aimlessly until screen-Thorin finally ordered them to listen to screen-Bilbo.

Even if he was miffed at Thorin, Bilbo was thankful at least someone in the future was listening to him. It irked him that the others didn’t seem to trust in his abilities even after everything they had been through, he thought they would have. He paused at that thought, realizing they did. Not the screen-dwarves of course, but he had clearly witnessed the aggravation the company had with how stubborn their counterparts were being. The idea made him smile and send a silent thanks to the voice if nothing else they had saved him from the headache his screen-self was no doubt feeling.

Screen-Bilbo walked along the barrels as the dwarves got in, counting to make sure everyone was there. Screen-Bofur stuck his head out, asking what they should do and screen-Bilbo grinned. He walked towards a large lever on the floor, the entire company watching him from their barrels.

[Bilbo:] “Hold your breath.”
       
Screen-Bilbo pulled down on the lever and the floor beneath the barrels tilted, sending the company rolling down into the river below.

“What ‘bout you?” Bofur asked as the floor closed with screen-Bilbo still inside. Screen-Bilbo realized his mistake at the same time, looking down at the closed door with a frown. The screen switched to Tauriel striding down the stairs towards the empty cells. She seemed furious as she asked for the keeper of the keys. Screen-Bilbo was shown walking back and forth on the floorboard trying to make it open.

“Come on, ye figured worse out,” Nori said as the elven guards stormed towards the cellars and screen-Bilbo was still unable to get out. The room was tense, no one wanted to know what would happen to Bilbo or themselves if he was caught. Screen-Bilbo stumbled back, the floor tipping and sending him sliding back down into the river below. The company had waited for him, something Bilbo was both touched and mildly peeved by. He hadn’t done all that just to get them caught again because they waited for him. Regardless, he was glad when screen-Thorin praised him, his screen-self coughing up water and urging them forward.

“Where’s your barrel laddie?” Balin asked as screen-Bilbo simply held onto the side of one barrel.

“You’re going to get sick,” Dori scolded when the answer that he wasn’t going to get in a barrel became obvious.

“If he doesn’t drown first,” Nori added actually letting his displeasure at the situation be known. He wasn’t about to let his brother drown and he was glad that screen-Bilbo had grabbed onto his barrel. Hopefully, he could keep him safe, even if it was foolish not to bring him into a barrel. No one was particularly happy with the danger screen-Bilbo was in but at least they were free and heading for the mountain once more. They cheered as the barrels were paddled forward, the elves racing through the halls, trying to get outside to intercept them. As the screen-company emerged into the sunlight though, the cheering abruptly stopped as a waterfall appeared in front of them. Screen-Thorin ordered them to brace themselves, screen-Bilbo looking at the waterfall in horror before they were all plunging over it. Bilbo found himself with a very strong hand wrapped around his forearm, Ori watching the screen in terror as they were swept into rapids.

Legolas, followed by several other elves, ran outside to see them racing away. He called for a gate to be shut, sending ice through everyone’s veins. A horn was blown as the screen focused back on the company rounding a bend in the river. Two heavily armored elves were standing on top of a stone bridge, one pulling a large lever. Thorin closed his eyes, not wanting to see them be captured again and lose any hope of getting to the mountain. Curses and resigned mutterings filled the room as the barrels crashed into the gate, unable to go any further. They were going to get caught again and this time they likely wouldn’t be getting out.

The elven guards drew their swords, not like the company had any manner of fighting them other than their bare fists, and prepared to recapture them. An arrow flew on screen, embedding in one of the elves back. Orcs leaped on screen startling the company and dragging the mood down even more.

“Can they kill each other when we’re not there?” Bofur asked, shaking his head as his screen-self pointed out that there were orcs. As if they hadn’t realized. Screen-Bilbo managed to slay an orc with Sting, the dwarves fighting barehanded as the orcs fell upon them. Spotting the lever, screen-Kili pulled himself out of his barrel and onto the bridge. Thorin felt his world slow as screen-Kili barely managed to dodge a blow, screen-Dwalin throwing him a sword and allowing him to fight to the top. Fili found himself in a very similar manner, watching the screen with the utmost intensity, not daring to miss a moment as his little brother put himself in danger for the company. If anything happened to him those orcs would pay.

An orc snuck up behind screen-Kili, raising a spear to stab him and screen-Fili threw a dagger to kill it, allowing Fili and Thorin a few more moments to breathe. The screen switched to show Bolg pulling a long black arrow and knocking it in his bow, eyes firmly trained on screen-Kili. Fili didn’t even realize he was shaking his head, only vaguely noticing when Bilbo placed his hand on his forearm. The arrow was drawn back. With a silent whistle, it flew towards its target. Screen-Kili stopped and with him so did Fili’s heart.

Bilbo was horrified, to say the least. Of all the scenarios he had come up with, this hadn’t actually made the list, at least not this early on. He was minutely better when the screen moved out to show that the arrow was in his calf, not a more vital area but by then he realized there was someone far more important he needed to be paying attention to. Fili was next to him, staring at the screen entirely too still. So still, Bilbo wondered if he was even breathing. Bilbo expected something to happen, but everything was frozen. An outburst from Thorin or the screen unpausing so they didn’t have to just look at screen-Kili kneeling with an arrow in his leg. He did not expect for Fili to go from hardly breathing to gone so quickly.

No one even saw him move. One moment Fili was still and the next he was in front of Kili, hauling him up and demanding to know exactly what he was thinking.

“Fee, calm down,” Kili tried to placate but his words only mad Fili angrier

“Calm down? I just watched you get shot with an arrow because you wanted to play hero,” Fili yelled.

“Hero? I was just helping the company!” Kili snapped back.

“Then you should have let someone else do it!”

“No one else was! It’s just an arrow in the leg, I’ll be fine!”

“And what if it hadn’t been?” Fili’s voiced seemed to break ever so slightly. So slightly that only Kili heard it but suddenly they were children again. Kili had fallen out of a tree and broken his arm while they were playing. Fili had been so angry after he made sure Kili had been fine, even more so than Thorin. It was one of the few times Kili had ever seen him really angry. They had fought, even going so far as to sleep in different rooms. Kili remembered how he had woken up that morning to Fili laying in an awkward position against the bed, tear tracks running down his face. He had denied it when he woke up, he never let Kili see him cry but Kili knew. Seeing him now, Kili saw the fear. He saw how Fili shook and how his jaw was clenched not in anger but in an attempt to stem his emotions. Reaching out, he wrapped his arms around Fili’s waist and pulled him close letting the comforting warmth soothe away his own fear that the screen had produced. Fili paused then wrapped his own arms around Kili in a tight hug.

Thorin didn’t remember moving. One moment he was sitting alone on the couch and the next he had both his nephews wrapped in his arms. A small part of his head wondered if he was wanted there, after all, they had both been very upset with his treatment of Bilbo and the situation with Tauriel. But it was banished when both boys seemed to melt into him. Thorin didn’t really care that other people were watching or that he was supposed to be a leader, unaffected by familial ties. If anyone dared to ask, he would blame Bilbo and the hobbit’s need for physical reassurance having rubbed off on him. He had known there was a very good chance that his nephews would be injured or die on this quest. But to see it, was something else. Before the screen had shown the arrow in his leg Thorin had thought he had lost Kili. It reminded him far too much of Frerin.

No one spoke, not wanting to disrupt the rare show of feelings between the three sons of Durin and also trying to reign in their own emotions. A leg wound, while not fatal could cause issues on the road especially since they now had to contend with orcs and elves. They would make it through though, they had to. The three Durin’s pulled apart, Thorin retreating a few steps, not really knowing what to do. Fili and Kili sunk to the ground, still holding onto each other and Thorin was about to return dejectedly to his seat when Bilbo caught his eye. Ori had moved to where Fili had been sitting and Bilbo was patting the spot he had vacated, between Bilbo and his nephews. Carefully he sat down, not wanting to look at Bilbo, their argument and his mistake still fresh, but he was thankful.

All of them having settled the screen began to move again. Screen-Kili fell onto his back, Bolg stringing another arrow.

“I’ll kill him,” Thorin growled.

“No,” Fili said and Thorin looked at him in shock. However, the hate-filled glare Fili was giving Bolg answered any questions he had.

An orc jumped toward screen-Kili, sword raised to give a fatal blow when an arrow embedded itself in his head. Tauriel leaped out of the bushes, bow drawn as she shot down orcs. More elves rushed on screen and Thorin was left with the highly uncomfortable feeling of actually being somewhat grateful to the elves. Granted they wouldn’t be in this mess if the elves hadn’t forced them to break out of the dungeons. Screen-Kili raised himself up and pulled the lever, opening the gateway and setting the company free. He fell back again, screen-Fili calling out to him in a panic. With great effort, he pulled himself to the edge and slid down into his empty barrel. The arrow shaft snapped, making the whole company flinch, but he was back with them and that was the important part.

Neither the elves nor the orcs were very pleased that the dwarves and hobbit were now racing down the river at an alarming speed. The orcs ran after the company and the elves chased after them, both parties shooting arrows and clashing swords.

“Five gold says I kill the most orcs,” Kili said turning around eyes bright. The screen immediately paused again and Bilbo wondered if they were ever going to make it through this scene.

“I’d feel bad robbing you brother,” Fili replied, still tense but glad Kili was trying to lift the mood by being his usual self.

“I wouldn’t, five gold I kill the most,” Bofur said with a grin picking up on Kili’s plan. With the tension high and their prospects not looking great the company did the only thing they could think of to make this bearable because at least Balin was sure he would finally keel over if he had to deal with more of this stress. So they took to watching themselves and making a game out of it. After all, they had already decided that this was not going to happen in the future, they would find some other way. So they went around making bets, Gloin collecting the money as usual.

“Kee look at you, you’re not killing anything,” Fili said and Kili finally relented.

“Fine, five gold on Uncle Bilbo.”

“What? Me?”

“Yeah, you’ve already killed several, do me proud Uncle Bilbo.”

“If he doesn’t drown first,” Dori grumbled watching Nori place a bet on himself.

“You should bet too, it’s great fun,” Ori said to Bilbo fishing the coins out of his own pocket much to Dori’s horror. Fili, Kili and Nori added to Ori’s suggestion and Bilbo sighed, pulling out his own coins. He had never fallen to betting with the company but the cheers and excitement his action seemed to get from the company was worth it. Only this once though he swore, Tooks might take to betting but Baggins never did.

“Who you bettin on?” Gloin asked. Bilbo looked around, he obviously wasn’t going to bet on himself and he also didn’t want to pick one of the highly favored to win members. His eyes landed on the perfect person, it was about time someone showed him some faith.

“Bombur,” he said smiling brightly at the dwarf. Bombur looked surprised then smiled back at him. Bilbo was the only one who bet on him. Once all bets had been placed, only Dori and Thorin refraining from the game. The screen started up for what Bilbo hoped would be the last time until they were done with this scene.

With renewed vigor in their hearts and the horrors temporarily pushed from their minds the company watched as they were swept down the rapids. Bilbo was in awe of the seemingly effortless way the company worked together, tossing dropped weapons between them and throwing anything they could get their hands on to impale orcs. They kept calling out a number count as each orc was slain in rapid succession.

[Thorin:] “Cut the log!”

“Who does that one belong to?” Gloin asked, screen-Thorin, Bofur and Dwalin all having worked together to bring down the branch and all the orcs on top of it. But he was ignored for the quick action. Screen-Dwalin threw an ax towards screen-Bombur who used it to kill an Orc. The orc’s spear caught screen-Bombur’s barrel, catapulting it up and out of the river. Bombur watched it wide-eyed shock as his barrel rolled down the bank, running over orc after orc. He wasn’t the only one, no one could quite believe what they were seeing. Bilbo was especially surprised but a grin quickly formed realizing just who would be winning that bet. The barrel flew over to the other bank, racking up screen-Bombur’s numbers even further. When he finally came to a stop, orcs surrounded him, the company leaning forwards. Bofur and Bifur gripped Bombur’s arm tightly. Then screen-Bombur was kicking out the bottom of the barrel, arms popping out of the broken sides, axes in hand. He started spinning towards the river, mowing down the orcs in the most bizarre and oddly effective manners Bilbo had ever seen. Tossing the axes to those in the barrels, Bombur easily broke out of the barrel and jumped gracefully into an empty one, leaving those watching in silent awe.

“Well, I think my brother won unless anyone can pull somethin betta off,” Bofur laughed, slapping Bombur on the back.

“It’s not over yet,” Oin huffed. Unfortunately, the screen switched back to the elves causing groans from around the room.

“How we suppose te get the scores if we’re watchin elves?” Gloin complained not at all happy at the focus Legolas was getting. While the elves, especially Legolas and Tauriel, were impressive, they received many curses when Legolas took to using their heads as stepping stones.

“I’ll show the prissy elf,” Dwalin growled. Dwarves were not stepping stones for elves. Legolas leaped away from the river, jumping into a fight with another Orc. Preoccupied with his opponent Legolas didn’t see the orc coming up from behind him. Bilbo felt his stomach clench, he may not like the cold elf prince but he didn’t want to see him die. But screen-Thorin rather unexpectedly threw a sword at the orc killing it. They looked at each other, some silent understanding being reached and the elves stopped pursuing the dwarves, focusing only on taking out the remaining orcs they could find.

Legolas watched them float away, once more too distracted to realize the danger creeping up behind him.

“Fool elf, always watch yer back,” Dwalin said as Legolas was spared death for the second time that day by Tauriel shooting an arrow. She quickly subdued the orc, Legolas barely stopping her from killing it.

[Legolas:] “Tauriel! Dartho! Ú-no hono. Ho hebo cuin.” [Subtitle: Tauriel! Wait! This one we keep alive.]

He turned back to watch Bolg and his reduced followers running after the company, then turned. Tauriel seemed far more conflicted before she too turned away.

"You didn't do me proud Uncle Bilbo," Kili said with a dramatic sigh. 

"I really wasn't expecting to," Bilbo shrugged turning and smiling at Bombur while the others grumbled realizing they had all lost the bet.

Chapter Text

Tik, Tok. Tik, Tok.

Silent footsteps across ancient wood floorboards.

Tik, Tok.

A man, if he could be called that, walked along a hall.

Tik, Tok. Tik, Tok.

The pale light radiating from his very being shone and sparkled on the faces of the clocks he passed.

Tik, Tok.

He stared straight ahead. The fuzzy form of the walls that were not quite walls, nor quite there, unnerved even him.

Tik, Tok. Tik, Tok.

This was not a place he should be and yet he was, but not really. No physical form could enter this place without an invitation if they were even capable of realizing it was here.

Tik, Tok.

He entered the room at the end of the hall, a warm, comfortable place. A fire crackled in the fireplace, casting dancing shadows on the walls. Hanging on the wall above the fire was a mirror, it’s surface showing a dark room and thirteen individuals. Facing it, was a high backed chair, a figure sitting on it.

Tik, Tok. Tik, Tok.

Steeling himself, he stepped forwards unsure of how this would go, but confident in his path. This was for the fate of Middle Earth, and from Eru, Manwe had commanded it.

Tik.

“I was wondering when one of you would arrive. Sit, Irmo, Lord of Dreams and tell me what brings you,” a voice said, hand gesturing to another seat before the fire.

“I have not come to trade pleasantries, I come on behalf of the Valar to ask you to cease showing the Company their future.”

“Irmo, or do you prefer Lórien? Either way, I cannot. I made a promise to the company to allow them to see this through and I will not go back on my word.”

“Unlike you, we belong to this world. What happens is important to us, so understand why we wish for you to stop interfering. It is not your job, you are the Harbinger, not the Fortune Teller.”

“Perhaps you are right, regardless I will not change my mind.”

Irmo sighed, he had known this was liable to happen. Manwe had warned him of this possibility and given him a suitable option in its place.

“Then allow another entry to your halls so they may view as well. They may ensure the path does not stray too far and all that should pass does.”

“Sounds as if they would work to undo what I hope to have happen.”

“He would not, from what I have been told he favors the Company and does not wish to see them harmed.”

“Who do you have in mind?”

“The Maiar Olórin, or as he is known now, Gandalf the Grey.”

Irmo watched the figure, careful not to look fully at them when he was obviously not favored. Such a being was not created to take physical form and even though he was blessed by Eru, he still worried about what a being such as Harbinger could do to him.

They were not entirely pleased with the turn of events, though they had been expecting some member of the Valar since they first started the viewing. While the Valar had power enough to sense them, and even find them, the Valar had very little power over them. Irmo’s flickering dream form was enough proof of that. However, having the Valar not oppose the viewing would make their work easier, at the very least they may not have to listen to quite so many lectures on responsibility and meddling. To include Gandalf though, they were unsure. He meant well, but his wisdom and objections were not needed. This was not the story of the Maiar, but of mortals. The suggestion had reminded them of a thought they had had before all this began though. A potential they had initially rejected, but now? Well now they had a better idea of the situation and just maybe it would work.

“Gandalf will be allowed to enter my theater on two conditions.” Harbinger said and Irmo felt relieved.

“Name them.”

“He may enter as an observer, nothing more. The company is not in need of his advice and I know if they are to succeed they need his wisdom even less. Let them come to their own conclusions and I will permit him.”

“On behalf of the Valar, I accept this condition. What of the second?” Irmo asked, further relieved the first condition was something he could so easily agree to. His relief was quickly washed away as he swore Harbinger smiled at him.

Tok.


The company was in a rather merry mood, all things considered. Everyone was nervous about what the screen would show them next but they tried to keep that pushed away. After all, they had just successfully escaped from the Woodland Realm and killed many of the orcs trailing them. There was grumbling and laughter as the betting money was redistributed, all of it going to Bilbo.

“What’re you going to buy Uncle Bilbo?”

“You could get a knife,” Fili suggested.

“Absolutely not, Sting is quite enough for me. I’m using this to buy food for a small feast.”

“Oh, can we come?”

“No, it’ll only feed two people and those people are Bombur and me,” Bilbo said looking at Bombur who smiled widely at the suggestion.

“We can make up a list later,” Bombur said as the brothers groaned.

“As much as I do not wish to interrupt your planning, I have a small announcement to make,” the voice said, immediately drawing everyone’s attention. A rumble filled the air and slight tremors began beneath their feet. The company looked around in alarm but the rumbling quickly stopped.

“I have been asked to allow a visitor to join you, I do believe you will take great delight in the situation he has found himself in. Come now, Gandalf the Grey, rise, you have nothing to fear from me within these halls.”

Gandalf didn’t really know what was happening. One moment he had been walking towards the High Fells, the next he had slipped and fallen into a very different place. A strange voice addressed him, promising no harm, something he didn’t fully believe as he reached around for his staff. Not finding it he stood and looked wildly around, only to stop when he realized thirteen pairs of familiar eyes were watching him. He opened his mouth to greet them, trying to regain some composure, but nothing came out. He closed his mouth and tried to clear his throat, yet even still no words came out. Quite confused at this whole situation, he looked up at the company who was looking at him over the backs of several chairs and couches. They seemed to realize the voiceless situation he was in at the same time he did, grinning in a way that did not make Gandalf feel overly welcomed.

“At a loss for words Wizard?” Thorin said. Gandalf shrugged, he couldn’t hide that from them and continued to look around for his staff.

“Ye won find it,” Dwalin said realizing what he was looking for.

“The voice took all our weapons when we got here too,” Fili said, leaning forward on the back of the couch next to Kili.

The voice? Was that who brought them all to whatever this place was? They must be a truly powerful force to be capable of such magic, an idea that did not sit well with Gandalf. He walked forward, wary of the glares, grins and scowls he was getting from various members of the company. Only Bilbo seemed pleasantly happy to see him and even his expression was marred with pity.

“Perhaps you all should explain before pulling out the list,” the voice said startling Gandalf. Ori had already been opening up his book to the pages with the Gandalf List as the others geared up to give Gandalf an earful.

“Of course, you must be very confused,” Balin said smiling in a way that Gandalf didn’t fully trust. He tried to scoff at the idea of being confused, but no one believed him in the slightest. The company moved back as he came toward them, standing in a half circle around the large empty couch Gandalf stepped in front of.

“See we were traveling through Mirkwood,”

“And we got lost!” Kili added, receiving a nod from Balin and a sigh from Gandalf. He had told them not to lose the path and what had they done? Could they even get out? Oh, he never should have left them alone, but the mystery of the blade had been far too important.

“Yes, we lost the path when there was an earthquake that sent us falling down a deep ravine and landed us here,” Balin continued and Gandalf nodded. He had come to this place in a very similar manner, though it didn’t explain what this place was.

“A voice, or the voice as we’ve taken to calling them, gave us some drugged food and when we woke up they told us we were going to watch something,” Kili added taking great delight in Gandalf’s badly concealed bewilderment.

“Yes, the past and future of our quest to be exact,” Balin said. Gandalf frowned, bushy eyebrows pulling together at the thought. Such a thing didn’t seem possible, to do either would require great power.

“Aye, we’ve seen everything since ye met with Bilbo wizard,” Gandalf nearly missed Dwalin’s words, too wrapped up in the mystery of who could have brought them here. He stiffened realizing his actions, though necessary and successful in the long run might not have been well received by the company. There was a reason he had conveniently left out most of his actions when talking to both the dwarves and Bilbo. If their expressions were anything to go by, they were not overly pleased with him. Smiling, he opened his mouth to explain, realizing once again his inability to talk his way out of this one. The dwarves grinned and the room became very loud.


Bilbo didn’t know exactly how long it took for the dwarves to finally calm down a little. He had to diffuse to many threats for his liking and while he was touched by their care he was once again overcome with the thought of was this really all necessary? His answer was no, the dwarves’ answer was an absolute yes. It wasn’t until the voice spoke up, telling them to calm down or else they wouldn’t get through the rest today that the company quieted. Gandalf was left to sit on the large empty couch all by himself while the company settled back into their former spots. Balin with help from Ori and Kili mostly filled Gandalf in on everything that had happened since he left them before the forest and all the future they had seen so far. They left out the information about Bilbo’s ring, not wanting to deal with his own demands for knowledge when they had so little themselves. Once everyone sat down the screen flickered to life causing Gandalf to stare at it in curiosity. He appeared, hiking up a rocky hill, far closer to the ruins then he had been when he fell.

The screen panned around grey mountain cliffs to show screen-Gandalf climbing up a perilous set of stone stairs.

“That’s bad craftsmanship,” Bofur said when one of the steps crumbled nearly sending screen-Gandalf to his death. He caught himself before he could fall, Bilbo sighing in relief. The metal bars that once barred the entrance to the ruins were twisted and mangled, the company shifting in unease and Gandalf leaning forward. That was not a good sign, very few knew about the tombs, even less could have broken the gate. Screen-Gandalf stepped into the entrance only to stumble forward, sliding down the short tunnel, barely stopping himself from falling down a deep chasm once again. Several members of the company looked worried for him, none of them actually wanted him to die. Knowing that all of this was connected to the Dark Lord only made it worse.

Gandalf watched carefully as his staff lit up the surrounding area, showing another door that had been violently wrenched apart. The sight only fed his worst fears, there was only one who would dare and have the power to open those gates. His screen-self walked down the narrow path and entered the now open room. Inside was a tomb, the cover cracked and crumbling away. The air in the room was tense as he stepped closer to the tomb. A bird flew up from inside, making all those watching jump at the sudden movement. Screen-Gandalf spun around only to come face to face with Radagast.

“Creepy,” Kili said raising his hands and wiggling his fingers at Ori who had jumped very high at the bird. Fili shoved him and Thorin huffed, Ori sticking his tongue out at Kili before turning away. Gandalf smiled a bit at the display, as much as they got on his nerves he had missed the company, well when they weren’t yelling at him at least.

Radagast looked around nervously, screen-Gandalf placating him as best as he could. Radagast removed his hat revealing his bird nest and letting the frightened birds take refuge there. Gandalf smiled at his old friend’s kind soul, always there to help comfort the overlooked creatures of Middle Earth. There were murmurs about how mad Radagast must be, though by now many of them were expecting such strange behavior from the wizard. Radagast and screen-Gandalf left the crypt and looked around the cavern.

[Radagast:] “Theses are dark spells, Gandalf. Old, and full of hate. Who was buried here?”

[Gandalf:] “If he had a name, it’s long since been lost. He would have been known only as a servant of evil. One of a number. One of nine.”

Screen-Gandalf illuminated the deeper levels of the cavern, revealing eight more crypts all with their gates twisted. Gandalf closed his eyes even though he had been expecting this. Part of him wished this was just an illusion, but something told him it wasn’t. This was the future, a part of the future they could not alter. The company shifted, coming closer together at the reminder of the danger. Bilbo found himself with Ori leaning into his side, Dori and Nori watching them closely along with the screen.

The wizards left the mountain behind, having seen everything they had come to see. Radagast asked the questions they were all thinking and unfortunately already knew the answers to. No one spoke, something Gandalf found peculiar. He would have thought the company would react in some way other than silence unless they somehow already knew. Frowning deeply at that thought, he wondered what all they hadn’t told him and cursed his inability to ask.

Radagast stopped when screen-Gandalf insinuated the sorcerer at Dol Guldur was not human going on to confirm that the evil there was indeed Sauron.

[Gandalf:] “He is summoning his servants. Azog the Defiler is no ordinary hunter. He is a commander, a commander of legions. The enemy is preparing for war. It will begin in the east. His mind is set upon that mountain.”

“I thought he was only after my line,” Thorin said sitting up straighter.

“Azog is, but there is more to it than just a quest for vengeance,” the voice said startling Gandalf.

“You mean to tell me the gathering orcs are going to march on Erebor?”

“Should Smaug fall then yes, that is their intent,”

“And does he?”

“You chose to watch the future Thorin Oakenshield, not have me answer your questions about the future. All will be revealed soon enough if you allow the viewing to continue,” the voice said and Thorin’s jaw clicked shut. He glanced back at Balin and Dwalin, the two of them thinking along the same line as him. This wouldn’t be something they could change.

Screen-Gandalf turned from Radagast, declaring his intent to rejoin the company making them feel at least slightly relieved. However, Radagast stopped him, reminding him of his duty not just to the company but to Middle Earth as a whole. Screen-Gandalf looked away, pained.

[Gandalf:] “You want me to cast my friends aside?”

The answer to the question hung heavy in the air and in Gandalf’s heart knowing what he would choose. No matter how much he cared for the company and especially Bilbo he would leave them and hope for the best. With heavy heart and minds buzzing with the many different, and terrible, outcomes that might lay before them the company with Gandalf watched the screen shift back to the river.

Chapter Text

The cold bite of winter was on the air, cutting through his worn jacket. Ice had not yet formed on the lake but he knew it was fast approaching. With practiced ease, he navigated through the still lake towards the mouth of the river to pick up the barrels from the Woodland Realm. The day had become cloudy not long after he had left and he wasn’t even halfway across the lake when it began to rain. With a curse, he pulled up the collar of his coat and hoped his children weren’t spending long outside. He didn’t want any of them to get sick in this freezing rain.

The weather only got worse and for a moment he thought of turning back, but he was closer to the shore then he was to the town and he was already drenched to begin with. Waves rocked the barge, whipped up by the wind that was gaining a howl-like quality. The deck was slick with water and even with all his years' experience on the water, even he was finding it hard to stand firm. Storms like this were rare, especially at this time of year and he eyed the water around him warily. The wind beat against the sail, pushing and tilting the barge. Leaving the stern, he trudged towards the mast. As he walked the wind shifted, pushing against him. A particularly large wave crashed against the side of the barge jolting him to the side.

The slick deck slipped out from under him and he felt himself falling back arms flailing as he tried to regain his balance. His back hit the frigid water with a splash and he felt every muscle tense in the cold. Fighting through the shock he tried to force himself to move, to swim but a strong current seemed to grab him and drag him down. No. No this couldn’t happen. He fought against the water with everything he had trying to swim back to the surface even as his lungs began to burn and he was dragged further down. Closing his eyes against the cold and sting he felt his movements growing weaker. I’m sorry was all he could think as his body stilled and his burning lungs demanded air. His limbs were growing warm from numbness and his mouth opened to suck in the air that wouldn’t be there. Only no water rushed in. And were his limbs actually numb? Because he could still feel them quite well. His eyes flew open and he sat up, when had he laid down? Looking around he found he was in a very dark, unfamiliar room. It was so dark he could barely make out the walls or old floor and he certainly couldn’t see the ceiling. Was he dead? That thought sent a wave of sadness over him, what would his kids do? Would they be alright? No, no he couldn’t be dead, he couldn’t leave them like this.

“Relax, you are safe here,” a voice said startling him and making him look around wildly for its source.

“Who are you? What happened to me?” He demanded. Part of him urged him to be politer, if he was dead and this was somehow the afterlife then the voice was likely one of the Valar. But there had probably been ruder people than him who had died.

“You have not died if that is what you are asking,” the voice said and while he had no real reason to trust or believe them he decided to, because the alternative was too awful to bear.

“You didn’t answer the first question.”

“Because it doesn’t really matter, just know I mean you no harm and that is enough. Who you are though is highly important.”

“I doubt both your statements.”

“How unfortunate, regardless my words hold true and with them I welcome you, Bard, to my halls. I have much to tell you before you join the others.”


The river had slowed and the screen-company was shown paddling toward the shore at screen-Thorin’s command. They had outrun the orcs, something that relieved those watching, but as screen-Thorin said they knew the orcs would catch up soon enough. The company gets out on a large slab of rock, dragging themselves out of their barrels. Screen-Bilbo scrambled onto solid ground, miraculously not drowned, even if he looked like it. Nori couldn’t help the small grin knowing screen-Bilbo had been clinging to his barrel and had made it out alright. The grin was quickly wiped away as screen-Kili fell to his knees, face screwed up in pain from the arrow wound. Blood was leaking through the makeshift bandaged he had managed to tie around it in the barrel. Screen-Bofur looked at him with concern, not unlike what those watching were doing. He schooled his face into a surprisingly good mask and pushed away screen-Bofur’s wordless worry.

“You are not fine,” Fili said frowning at Kili who just rolled his eyes. Thorin narrowed his eyes at screen-Kili’s state, worried for his nephew though he refrained from showing it again. Screen-Thorin ordered everyone to get up, generating immediate outrage among the watching company.

“Kili’s hurt! He needs medical attention,” Fili said staring at him in bewilderment. There were similar outbursts over the state of Kili and the company as a whole since they had all almost drowned. Thorin ignored what they were saying, staring at his screen-self intently. Screen-Fili was similarly surprised at the order and while Thorin understood his reasoning he couldn’t help the small sliver of fear that embedded itself in his heart. His screen-self seemed to barely remember screen-Kili had been wounded but Thorin was sure he would remember the look on his face until the day he died. The thought that perhaps he hadn’t forgotten and something else made him distant was quickly shoved away.

Realizing they would get no other answer from Thorin those watching turned back to the screen, all but Gandalf who stared at the dwarf king with suspicion and worry.

[Balin:] “To where?”

[Bilbo:] “To the mountain; we’re so close.”

Balin couldn’t help but smile at screen-Bilbo’s words urging them forward and unknowingly picking up their spirits even as he pointed out the flaws in his idea. Screen-Bilbo was undeterred, meeting his pessimism with optimism until screen-Dwalin stepped in and shot him down as well. Balin was sure he would have come up with some other option as well if screen-Thorin hadn’t given out another order and cut him off. Screen-Oin, Fili, and Bofur kneeled down next to screen-Kili to begin binding his leg and the screen panned to show Ori emptying his boots of water in the river. Dori scowled at the idea of him being alone down there, though the company wasn’t far away so perhaps it was alright. However, that thought was quickly banished as a man snuck up behind the scribe, bow drawn. Dori felt his own heart stop and Nori started cursing. They were not the only ones. The man was cursed and threatened by nearly everyone.

On-screen the company realized the threat, screen-Dwalin jumping in front of screen-Ori with a thick tree branch in hand. He shot the arrow, striking the branch right between his hands. Turning quickly the man shot another arrow, this one knocking a rock out of screen-Kili’s hand that he was just about to throw. Drawing a third arrow, the man warned them that it would be fatal if they tried anything else. Those on-screen froze, however, their counterparts had no such reservations. Gandalf had his head in his hands, unable to do anything to stop them and while Bilbo attempted to calm them even Thorin was glowering at the man.

“While I find your threats amusing I must ask that you stop,” the voice said, cutting through the noise with ease.

“‘E threatened our company,” Dwalin growled glaring at the frozen screen.

“Yes I know, however, my request remains. It would not do for you to hold anger toward him, and he does not deserve your words,” the voice faded just as quickly as they had come and while there were a few more grumbles against the man, most of them were too curious about what he would do to make the voice defend him.

Screen-Balin had been at the edge of the group when the man arrived. Looking around a barge came into view and the company instantly perked up. Screen-Balin approached the man, hands raised as he asked him if the barge was for hire. The man lowered his bow and the company finally breathed a sigh of relief. At least he wasn’t an immediate threat anymore.

The screen cut to show the man climbing onto his barge, the company surrounding him. He scoffed as he asked them why he should help and screen-Balin mentioned his worn attire as a reason. When he mentioned children, the man looked up from loading the barrels onto the barge answering and then continuing with his work. When screen-Balin asked about his wife the man sighed and Balin groaned at his answer. That had been a foolish question. However, he was quickly distracted by his bull-headed brother whispering loudly to screen-Thorin. The man straightened and finally began to question the dwarves about why they were there to begin with. Screen-Balin tried to spin the lie that they were merchants from the Blue Mountains but the man only smiled and shook his head. Stepping in hurriedly, screen-Thorin asked if he could help them making Balin groan again. Why couldn’t they just let him deal with these sorts of negotiations?

Looking at the barrels, the man said he knew where they were from and what the dents must mean. He couldn’t take them to Laketown without the Master’s permission, and the Master wouldn’t do a thing that could potentially anger Thranduil. There were several curses around the room. Could they do nothing without the accursed elves messing it up? Screen-Thorin urged Balin to offer more, and he did just that.

[Balin:] “I’ll wager there are ways to enter that town unseen.”

[Bard:] “Aye. But for that, you will need a smuggler.”

[Balin:] “For which we will pay double.”

The man looked at them with suspicion as the screen froze.

“Eh? Why’d it stop?”

“Yeah, we weren’t being loud.”

“Does he accept?”

“All in good time, but first you must listen to what I have to say,” the voice said. Getting a grumbled agreeance, after-all they couldn’t actually say no, the voice continued. “When your journey began it was simply that, your journey. Which is why only you were invited to my halls to watch. For a while I meant to keep it this way, however, my mind was changed when I invited Gandalf,” the voice paused to let their words sink in. Gandalf really wouldn’t have called it an invitation but he seemed to be the only one hung up on those words.

“You see, when you lost the path in Mirkwood your journey was no longer solely your own. There are others who play just as vital a role as you and have just as much at stake. This is no longer a tale of the company, it is a tale of dwarves, men, and elves. Saying this, I have decided to invite one other person to watch. I suggest you do not threaten him again.”

Chapter Text

Bilbo was one step away from a headache, courtesy of his dwarves and the voice. Truly, he didn’t think they had an equal in terms of improper manners and confusing words. Well, maybe Gandalf rivaled them, but he couldn’t speak so, for now, he didn’t count. Their blatant mistrust was going to do them in one of these days, Bilbo was sure as he stood in front of the newcomer while the others argued by the couches in hushed Khuzdul. The man was easily recognizable as the same one they had just met on-screen. He was just sitting up, rubbing his head when Bilbo approached since the dwarves apparently needed a full conversation to just decide to say hello. He wore the same worn clothes as he had on-screen, but somehow actually meeting him created a different impression then Bilbo had originally had of him, though he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.

“Hello there, Bilbo Baggins at your service,” Bilbo said when the man finally focused on him.

“Bard, at your’s,” he said nodding his head as his eyes narrowed and he looked between Bilbo and the rest of the company. They had paused in their conversation at Bilbo’s words, starring warily between the two. Bilbo got the distinct impression they were all waiting for something, probably for Bard to make a wrong move toward him. Bard seemed to realize something along this same line and he watched them just as warily. With another shake of his head, he gave a short laugh.

“At least this dream’s consistent,” he said in disbelief, finally standing.

“What do you mean?” Bilbo asked taking a few steps back to give him more room.

“I was told I’d meet a company of thirteen dwarves, a hobbit and a wizard by a strange voice. Were they wrong?”

“No, they were not. You are the other person joining us?” Thorin said stepping around the couch and crossing his arms.

“Supposedly, you are Thorin Oakenshield are you not? The voice said I’d recognize you easily,” Bard said adding on the last part when Thorin threw him a suspicious glare.

“How does everyone seem to know who he is?” Bilbo sighed and Bard looked away from the dwarves.

“I was only told he’d be the rude broody looking one,” Bard said hiding a smile at the angry look his words received from the dwarf, glad he had guessed correctly. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say, but there was something about the dwarf that rubbed him wrong, and it wasn’t like he was lying. A few of the dwarves did have to hide their laughter in coughs and Bilbo quickly cleared his throat.

“Yes well, if that is the case then I guess you know more than Gandalf did coming in,” Bilbo said. Balin was too busy coughing to play diplomat.

“I was told I’d be joining you to watch the future, but I don’t see how that’s-”

“Possible or not it’s true laddie,” Balin said regaining some of his composure. The future? Really? What future could he possibly have in common with a company of dwarves?

“We just met you on-screen,” Kili said grinning at him. Apparently a near one. Bard’s head hurt.

“Did the voice tell you anything else?” Balin asked.

“No,”

“Then introductions are in order, Balin at your service,” Balin bowed and Bard nodded his head. One by one every dwarf introduced themselves only making Bard’s head spin even more. How was he supposed to remember them all?

“Over there is Gandalf, the voice made it so he couldn’t speak,” Bilbo said gesturing toward the grey man and ending the introductions.

“You can sit next to him,” Kili said patting the back of the couch as Bilbo led Bard closer to the circle. Thorin glared at Bard as the pair sat down, Bard next to Gandalf and Thorin back on the mattresses. Fili and Kili were snickering as they too settled back down and Bilbo sighed at Thorin. Once everyone was back in their seats, the screen began to move once more. Bard stared at it in shock, never before having seen anything of this sort. The screen showed them the vast halls of the Woodland Realm, a place Bard had never before laid eyes on though it was the only place he could think it to be.

“Of course you know Thranduil, the blonde elf is Legolas and the red-haired one is Tauriel,” Bilbo said looking back at Bard. He nodded, thanking him for the information.

“How do you know all their names?” Kili asked.

“I pay attention,” Bilbo said shaking his head. Honestly, it wasn’t hard.

Legolas had a knife pressed against the captured orc’s body as Thranduil circled around them speaking in riddles about the nature of evil. Legolas seemed more inclined to just get to the point, asking why they were tracking the company. The orc laughed and then said something that made every member of the company’s blood run cold.

[Orc:] “Not thirteen; not anymore. The young one, the black-haired archer, we stuck him with a Morgul shaft.”

“What does that mean?” Fili asked looking away from the screen to stare at Oin.

“It’s not good laddie,” Oin said, not quite wanting to say what it really meant.

[Orc:] “The poison’s is in his blood. He’ll be choking on it soon.”

“He’s going to die,” Fili said nodding his head and turning to look back at Kili.

“No.”

“No?”

“No, you’re not allowed to be poisoned like that, and you will get better on screen.”

“I can’t control-”

“First you get shot, now you are poisoned, next you’re going to say I have to watch you be stabbed. No, I will not watch you die.”

“You’re being unreasonable.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine then you’re not allowed to die either,” Kili crossed his arms his irritation at Fili the only thing giving him the strength to say such a thing.

“Fine,” Fili said, both of them turning back to the screen leaving heads spinning at their interaction. Stubborn dwarves was all Bilbo could think as the pair leaned closer to each other.

Tauriel seemed to have a bad reaction to the orc’s words as well, spinning around and snapping at him to answer the question. Kili was touched by her concern while Thorin frowned. The orc laughed at her request, Tauriel whipping out her knife as Legolas warned him not to antagonize her. She advanced, knife raised ready to strike when Thranduil stopped and ordered her to leave the room. Regaining her composure Tauriel spun around and left the throne room

[Thranduil:] “I do not care about one dead dwarf. Answer the question. You have nothing to fear. Tell us what you know and I will set you free.”

The company was practically growling in anger, making Bard look around warily, though he too was off-put by Thranduil’s words. Legolas continued with the interrogation, focusing on Thorin. Smirking, the orc said he would never be king, startling Bard. King? But- oh no.

[Legolas:] “King? There is no king under the mountain nor will there ever be. None would dare enter Erebor, whilst the dragon lives.”

“You plan to enter the mountain?” Bard said staring straight at Thorin. He looked back at Bard's face as impassive as the stone he came from.

“What of it?”

“You would wake Smaug? Do you know the destruction that will cause?”

“Do not presume I know not of Smaug’s wrath, I was there the day he came.”

“Then you should know why he shouldn’t be awoken,”

“I know why he needs to be dealt with.”

“I know who your actions would hurt.”

“Did I not tell you to forgo arguing?” The voice cut in, stopping the men who had both risen to their feet. Everyone else was looking between the two, some ready to jump to the defense of their King, not like he couldn’t take on a man, or step in to stop the argument.

“I brought you both here for a reason, so you may watch and see the future to fix it, together. I will not tolerate hostility like this within my halls. Do not make me separate you two.” The voice threatened and for the first time, everyone in the room actually felt nervous at the threat evident in the voice’s tone. Thorin glanced from the ceiling to Gandalf to Bilbo, the last one cutting deep. Bilbo was clearly disappointed in him and Thorin was reminded once again that he had yet to actually make up with him for what he had said. Bard had stepped back and together they both sat down, a sigh of relief coming from the others. There was no doubt this wouldn't be the last argument the pair had but the threat of the voice would keep them quiet for the time being. Thorin could only hope the plan to defeat Smaug went well so he wouldn’t have to hear anything from Bard.  

The orc was laughing at the elves, saying all would burn and the time of the orcs was coming again. His words only added to the tension within the room and no one commented on Legolas’s confusion. Thranduil spun around as he pulled out his sword, beheading the orc at the mention of “the One”. Legolas looked from the head to his father, asking why he had done such a thing.

“Stupid elf,” Dwalin grumbled as Thranduil denied the orc being capable of telling them anything else.

[Thranduil:] “It means they intend to unleash a weapon so great it will destroy all before it.”

He sat down as he ordered the guard to be heightened and the Woodland Realm shut off from the outside world.
“Weapon?” Bard said liking what he was learning less and less every minute he watched. The company was silent as the shifted uncomfortably, none really wanting to tell him of the real danger they had brought to the lands before the Lonely Mountain.

Chapter Text

Bard was suspicious, to say the least. No one seemed keen on answering his question and if the stories were anything to go by dwarves were stubborn beyond compare. This whole situation was off and wrong and he still wasn’t convinced this was anything other than an elaborate dream he would soon wake from. He looked to Bilbo, a small strange person unlike any he had seen before, to see if he would answer the question. But he too was refusing to look at Bard, chastising the blonde and brown boys, Kili and Fili? Or was it the other way around? He was adjusting the brown coat, pulling it closer and distinctly not looking back. Fine then, if none of them wanted to tell him then he’d just wait and see what happened. If it was anything important enough then it had to come up at some point right? He could wait them out, did it often enough anyway. The screen moved to show Legolas walking toward the front entrance to carry out his father’s order. One guard called out at his words, asking about Tauriel and making Legolas freeze.

At the news that she had gone into the forest, several of the dwarves perked up, looking at the screen with curiosity and wariness. Kili smiled, she was surely coming after them! Granted it was likely because he was hurt and they didn’t know he was also poisoned, but still, that had to count for something. Thorin was also taken aback, though not entirely convinced she was coming after them. Elves did strange things every day, perhaps this was one of them. What elf would possibly go after dwarves to help, no if she was going after them it was surely to bring them back as prisoners or stop their quest.

The screen switched back to the rocks where they had met screen-Bard, only they were thankfully no longer there as orcs were now swarming the place. One kneeled down next to where screen-Kili’s blood had pooled, tasting it with a grin. Bilbo felt sick at the action. The orcs continued to search the area, Bolg picking up on screen-Bard’s scent, narrowing his eyes as he looked down the river toward the lake.

[Bolg:] [Subtitle: They have found a way to cross the lake.]

“Thanks for that,” Fili said.

“Really helped us out there,” Kili added both flashing Bard a grin. Putting the pieces on how they must have met together Bard snorted, wondering just what they had said to convince him to take them across the lake.

“Glad to be of service,” he said nodding his head. He was, though whether he would remain that way would depend entirely on how everything else panned out. Bard was glad to know he was the one to bring them across; if the future was bleak enough all he would have to do is not show up. The screen jumped to show the barge, screen-Bard paddling across the river through the dense fog. Ice was floating on the lake, Bard trying to figure out how long until this occurred based on its thickness. A large stone formation seemingly materialized out of the fog, the dwarves both on-screen and off shouting in surprise. But screen-Bard expertly navigated around it as his counterpart smugly smiled at those around him.

“What was tha?” Dwalin asked, glaring at Bard.

“Laketown, or what’s left of that part. Smaug nearly destroyed the whole city,” Bard said remembering what his father had told him when teaching him how to maneuver through the ruins. He could help smiling at the mistrust the dwarves on screen had of him, though it did not escape his notice that those watching didn’t voice similar accusations.

[Dwalin:] “Oh I have enough of this lippy Lakeman. I say we throw him over the side and be done with him.”

Bard frowned at the large tattooed dwarf, getting a scowl in return. Bilbo sighed in exasperation at their stubbornness and suspicion. That was not how you treated someone who was helping you. Screen-Bilbo turned around with a huff, correcting them all that his name was actually Bard. A few chuckled at their screen-self’s taken aback expressions.

“You complain about everyone knowing me, yet you seem to know who everyone is,” Thorin said, looking at Bilbo cautiously to try and make sure he wasn’t messing up again.

“Yes, well, one shows good manners and the other usually leads to an inflated ego,” Bilbo replied quickly. Thorin turned away, trying to hide his slight grin, glad Bilbo didn’t seem to be angry at him anymore. He’d still have to apologize, the Ri brothers, his nephews, the Urs, well actually the whole company might very well not forgive him if he didn’t.

Screen-Bofur asked how he could know that and screen-Bilbo rolled his eyes and saying he had simply asked. Bard watched as Bilbo nodded and stared around the room, getting nervous head scratches and looks into the distance as a response. So he was the reasonable one and at least it seemed like he had some sway over the dwarves. Gandalf too, found the whole situation quite amusing, silently chuckling to himself at the relationships that seemed to have only grown since he left them.

Despite the effectiveness of Bilbo’s words in the room was, it did not hold the same sway on the screen-dwarves. Screen-Dwalin and Thorin leaned together, loudly whispering about their dislike of screen-Bard. They were overheard by screen-Balin, who dismissed their words quickly and ordered for the company to get out all of their money. Still disgruntled with the whole situation screen-Dwalin leaned over again, arms crossed as he glared at screen-Bard. Bilbo shook his head and shot a look at Dwalin who frown and crossed his arms in response, but said nothing. Bard scoffed at the idea of betraying them. If he had promised to help then that was what he would do, barring finding out their true purpose.

Screen-Balin counted out the money, sighing as they came up short, everyone immediately turning to screen-Gloin. He crossed his arms, denying having anything else as he complained about the terrible investment this quest was turning out to be. Those in the room stared at him, unimpressed with his words, Gloin shrugging and looking pointedly at the screen. His screen-self stopped mid-sentence as the fog parted to reveal the Lonely Mountain rising above the lake, impossibly close. The dwarves looked at their home in awe, those on-screen rising, those watching getting their breath taken away. They were that close. That close to their home. A thought none had believed would occur within their lifetimes.

Seeing the mountain, screen-Gloin pulled out a pouch of coins and pushed them toward screen-Balin urging him to take it all. There were a few snickers that quickly died down as screen-Bilbo motioned toward screen-Bard as he walked toward them. He demanded the money, something screen-Thorin quickly objected to. There were murmurs around the circle on what he could be planning, Bard himself going through the various plans. There were guards ahead and getting thirteen dwarves and a hobbit past them would not be an easy task.

Gandalf smiled as the screen switched to show Bard hopping off the barge, the company hidden within the barrels. Bard’s eyes widened as he recognized the man as Tom, an old fisherman and shop owner, picking up on the plan. He smiled thinking about the dwarves’ reaction.
Screen-Dwalin didn’t take too well to screen-Bard and Tom conversing and making a deal.

“What’re ye doin?” Bofur asked looking at Bard. Thorin and Dwalin were glaring at him.

“Getting you in town,” Bard said smile widening as fish were poured into the barrels, slapping the dwarves in their face and covering them is slime. The screen showed Bard steering the barge toward the gate, the entire company hidden beneath the fish.

“That will never wash out,” Dori said the mere idea of being covered in dead fish appalling him. He was ignored as screen-Bard came to a stop in front of the gate, the gatekeeper calling out to him in greeting. Percy stamped the papers, barely even looking at the barge and was about to hand them back when a hand snatched them away. A greasy fellow stepped out of the shadows and Bard couldn’t help but groan. Of all the days for Alfrid to give him trouble, he had to choose the one time he really was doing something illegal.

“Who is that?” Ori asked.

“Alfrid one of the Master’s.”

“He looks like a weasel,” Kili said.

“That’s an insult to weasels Kee.”

Alfrid read over the papers, sneering as he pointed out that the barrels were definitely not empty like they should be. Soldiers approached behind Alfrid as he continued to point out that Bard was a bargeman, not a fisherman, smiling all the while. Those watching sucked in a breath when Alfrid picked up a fish, revealing Bombur’s eye staring up in fear. Thankfully he was too wrapped up in lording the legality of the fish over Bard to notice. Then Alfrid ordered the fish to be thrown overboard and the shouting started.

“Throw out food?”

“What is he thinking?”

“That absolute-”

“A waste!” Bard was surprised by their anger, even Bilbo was shaking his head and muttering.

“This is the kind of person your Master employs?” Thorin asked.

“The Master cares for no one but himself,” Bard replied and Thorin scoffed.

“Laketown is far more corrupt then I remember it,”

“It is not the people who are corrupt, only the Master and his followers,”

“Even so,”

Screen-Bard was trying to convince Alfrid to stop before the company was revealed, pulling out any reason he could think of. He cared little about the idea of people starving, but when screen-Bard mentioned rioting Alfrid ordered the soldiers to stop. He could always count on that to get to Alfrid.

[Alfrid:] “Ever the people’s champion, eh, Bard? Protector of the common folk? You might have their favor now, bargeman, but it won’t last.”

“Better than being fish slime,” Kili said as Alfrid walked away.

“Or spineless,” Ori said making Dori cough and look at him while Fili and Kili laughed.

“Very true cousin,” Fili said as Percy called for the gate to be raised. Bard made a mental note of the name, determined to figure out just who and how everyone was connected within the company in case it came in handy sometime in the future. Screen-Bard began to pole his barge through the gate, many breathing a sigh of relief. As he passed Alfrid glared and shouted at him.

[Alfrid:] “The Master has his eye on you; you’d do well to remember. We know where you live.”

[Bard:] “It’s a small town, Alfrid; everyone knows where everyone lives.”

Fili and Kili burst out laughing, turning to each other to mock Alfrid’s threat in exaggerated tones. Bard smiled, the sight reminding him of when his own kids did the very same thing after a long day to cheer him up.

“Is everyone treated with so much suspicion in Laketown?” Ori asked looking at Bard a book open and pen poised. The sudden attention on him wiped the smile from his face.

“The Master doesn’t care for any of us, but he’s always held a dislike for me and mine,” Bard said watching as Ori wrote down his every word while the others gave him their complete attention. The urge to throw them off was strong, despite what the Master thought the only times he had this big an audience was usually when the guards were after him. But he remained still and collected. If anything he refused to let Thorin see him uncomfortable. He didn’t know exactly what about the rude dwarf got to him and really he didn’t care much to find out.

“And why would that be?” Thorin said looking at him with an unreadable expression.

“That is no concern of yours,” Bard said trying to seem indifferent as well.

“Everyone is entitled to their own secrets,” Bilbo said breaking the tension between them. Thorin looked down at him and dipped his head in acknowledgment.

“I merely wished to know more about our new ally,

“I already know about my new allies , yet I don’t treat you so,” Bard snapped back. Thorin glared at him but both knew Bard was right. It didn’t stop Thorin from opening his mouth again.

“Can we just watch?” Bilbo said getting nods of agreement from the company as a whole. None wanted to test the voice’s patience.

Settling back, both men turned back as the screen started to move again. It showed a bird’s eye view of Laketown. Those who had lived in Erebor before frowned at its worn down state, Esgaroth had once been thriving and bountiful. Thorin idly wondered if the Master was of Lord Girion’s line, it would serve him right to have such a horrid descendant. Screen-Bard poled the barge through the waterways and the screen panned up to show Alfrid on a balcony.

[Alfrid:] “All this talk of civil unrest; someone’s been stirring the pot, sire.”

He moved into the bedchamber, a musty and falsely decadent place. A large man with sparse red hair and a worn nightgown was standing in the middle of the room, having just woke up. Alfrid threw out the contents of the chamberpot while the Master groaned and sat down, rubbing his knees and moaning. Alfrid continued to attend to him, the Master ordering a brandy for the damp cold he insisted was bothering him.

“I don even start that early,” Bofur said as Alfrid set about getting the brandy. Gandalf frowned, having such a person in charge of Laketown wouldn’t prove beneficial if they needed aid in defeating Smaug. Bard wanted to be as sickened and angry as some of the dwarves seemed to be, but really he expected nothing less. While getting the brandy Alfrid told the Master about the worsening mood of the people. He handed the drink over and the Master took a gulp then dismissed all the valid complaints of the citizens as annoying ramblings. Thorin may not like Bard but he was a far cry better than the Master. He was a disgrace to leaders in any form and it made Thorin’s blood boil. A hand on his arm had Thorin turning to look at Bilbo.

“I’m sure as king you’ll have some sway,” Bilbo said and Thorin nodded remembering the influence Erebor had once held over the two neighboring cities. Oh yes, if they reclaimed Erebor the Master would certainly be relieved of his duties. Alfrid continued on, talking about troublemakers and Bard just knew they were talking about him. The two walked down the stairs to the study, another glass in the Master’s hand as Alfrid agreed that they should arrest the troublemakers. Bard’s frown deepened. It wasn’t that he was afraid of going to jail, but he had no idea what would happen to his children if he did and that fear had always stayed his hand when it came to confronting the Master. Though the Master’s words had him briefly considering the possibilities.

“Isn’t the Master an elected position?” Balin asked and Bard nodded.

“But there hasn’t been an election in years, the Master has too much control and would never allow it,” Bard explained and Balin hummed in response. Though he didn’t serve in an elected government himself, Balin was still a dwarf of politics and laws. He understood the reasoning for such a system and he was particularly against changing laws to promote a selfish politician like the Master. If the people of Laketown didn’t launch an inquiry and ask questions, he very well may. After they no longer were dependent on the aid of Laketown of course.

Alfrid and the Master continued to talk about the situation, Alfrid saying there was talk of an election which the Master was vehemently against, saying he wouldn’t stand for it.

[Alfrid:] “I don’t think they’d ask you to stand, sire.”

No, they definitely wouldn’t, both Bard and Thorin thought. The Master threw open the windows to look out over Laketown, wondering just who could be stirring up so much trouble. Nori really wanted to know just what Bard had done for the Master to always blame him for seemingly everything. He understood perfectly well why he was always blamed which is only made him even more curious about the newest addition to their viewing. But also very suspicious. Slyly he glanced back at the man who was shaking his head at the Master’s words and moved a little closer to Ori and Bilbo, keeping Dori between them and Bard. Rather safe than sorry.

The screen abruptly jumped to Alfrid holding up a plate of bollocks and placing it before the Master at his desk. Bilbo felt slightly ill watching the Master eat, leaning away and into Thorin. Bard also felt ill as Alfrid started listing words usually used to compliment people while talking about screen-Bard, he hated hearing that man speak about him at all, especially in such a way. Kili burst out laughing quickly followed by the others when the Master seemed to think screenBard was modeling himself after himself. As if any of those words even came close to describing him. Their laughter was quickly replaced with indignation as the Master asked if there was any old law that would prevent bargemen from speaking out and Alfrid promised to write one.

“That’s not how-” Balin trailed off entirely aghast at the absolutely horrendous governmental practices that were taking place in Laketown. That was just- corrupt. But even that word didn’t seem to completely cover it. Perhaps Bard wasn’t the one they should really be worried about.