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Splitting Hairs

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Bilbo looked at the fruit of his labor happily. The pies were cooling nicely and smelled even better than they looked. The feast tonight in honor of Lady Dis’ birthday was going to be spectacular.

Everyone was doing their part, crafting, cooking, preparing instruments, or decorating.

Bilbo’s Shire Pies had been the hit of every other feast, so he had been sure to prepare twice his normal thirty. Sixty pies, in rhubarb, apple, mixed berry, pumpkin, and even a few meat ones, would be carried out at the end of the meal, to be spread out among the gathered dwarves.

Nodding happily to himself, he slapped his hands together to shake off the remains of flour and cinnamon sugar, before he untied his apron and returned it to its proper hook by the door. He snagged an apple on his way out and munched on the treat as he made his way to his quarters in the royal wing.

All the company lived there, except Bombur, who lived near the kitchen, and Gloin, who lived with his family closer to the treasury.

A few passing dwarves nodded to the hobbit under the mountain, but two adjusted their steps to join him on his way. One Zurn, a council member constantly at odds with Thorin, and his brother Zarn, who probably saw this as a chance to persuade the hobbit to their way of view, in hopes that he might influence the king.

It had been tried before.

“Good afternoon, my lords, how can I help you today?” Bilbo’s tone was chipper and polite, perfectly respectable, even as he crunched on the core of his apple.

As he had expected, Zarn began entreating him, “Master Baggins, you know as well as we that the mountain has prospered in the year since her people have returned to her, but surely you can also see how too many have come seeking a part in her wealth?”

Zurn chimed in, “Every day more and more come to the mountain, and none are turned away.”

“Now, that’s not-“ Bilbo began,

Zurn interrupted, “Aside from any exiled or criminal dwarves, of course. But even not counting them , the numbers have grown exponentially.”

“Too many dwarves knock at the gates of Erebor, Master Baggins.” Zarn nodded for emphasis. “Too many.”

Bilbo sighed, “My lords, perhaps you had best bring your concerns up on another day. Today will be the celebration of Lady Dis’ nameday, as you know, and we must all ready ourselves for the festivities.”

The two lordly dwarves nodded solemnly. “Of course, Master Baggins, we were on our way to our own preparations as it was.”

“I must say, your hair has grown long, this past year,” Zurn commented.

“I believe His Majesty might believe that it would look more proper up off your shoulders, I would think,” Zarn added, in an odd tone of voice.

“Ah, yes,” Bilbo replied, running an awkward hand through the shoulder length waves. “It has, hasn’t it. Thank you, my lords.”

And so, the two lords left Bilbo to his own thoughts. He entered his room and washed the last of the flour from himself before facing his hair in the mirror. “You have quite let yourself go, haven’t you, Mad Baggins?” He chuckled to himself and fetched the pair of sewing scissors from his parlor.

It was the work of nearly an hour, but at last, his hair was restored to it’s pre-adventure respectability. And he swept up the mess, adding his hair to the fire, where it burned and left an acrid smell behind.

“This is why I usually toss you in the garden,” he muttered to the singeing locks. “That and it keeps the wildlife away from my tomatoes.’

And with no further thought, he selected his party clothes and dressed for the evening.

***

Fili and Kili had arranged to meet Bilbo before the party and enter together. So, Bilbo approached their rooms, and knocked upon the door. “Boys,” he called out.

“Come in, Bilbo!” Came a shout from Kili.

Bilbo let himself in and turn to close the door behind him, and so missed the reaction of the two princes.

“Bilbo?” Kili asked, sounding very young indeed.

An enraged Fili swiftly added, "Who hurt you, Bilbo?"