Bilbo Baggins breathed on his hands and rubbed them together, his breath forming ice crystals that disappeared like smoke, along with the heat that came with it. It was bitterly, miserably, arse-clenchingly cold, and Bilbo was indeed miserable. His father’s old cloak was positively moth eaten now from the years of wear and tear since Bungo had faded following the death of his mother, Belladonna.
The dwarves may have liked to think that the calamity of the fire drake, Smaug, was a tragedy unique to their race, but for the Hobbits living in the shadow of the lonely mountain, the pain was all too real. Thousands had died in the initial attack, with survivors fleeing to the town on the lake- hoping that all that water would stay Smaug’s ire- but with the retaking of the kingdom some years later by King Thrain and his three children, the dragon’s wrath had been visited on Laketown tenfold, with only a few hundred refugees managing to escape.
Most had scattered to the winds, running to allies in the west and south. At the time, Bilbo’s mother had been too sick to travel to their cousins in the west, so they stayed in their new home, on the borders of the Greenwood Kindom, its elvish inhabitants long since departed from these lands. Bilbo couldn’t blame them; he would gladly have swum to… wherever those legendary vessels sailed to if he’d known that he’d be here today.
“Remember you, I want that entire basket filled!” nagged a voice inside his head, that sounded suspiciously like his Aunt Camellia. In fact, it was Aunt Camellia. He had hardly gone a few meters away from his hom… hou… accommodation, and she was already shouting after him. It was already this cold too. He didn’t look back. He knew that Lobelia, his cousin, would be grinning smugly after him, wearing all the fur coats and scarves she could find.
Bilbo carried on, trudging through the thick snow, making his way along the unmarked path towards the Greenwood. If he ever met that blasted king, he would give him a piece of his mind- where was he supposed to find apricots on New Year’s Eve…?
(Earlier that day) King Thorin was bored. He yawned and looked out of the window. It was snowing again, he could barely see outside at all. He growled irritably.
“I hate winter.” The king fixed his tutor with a steely glare. “Can’t you do something about this blizzard?” Gandalf the Grey turned away from his algebra lesson and said cheerfully
“It is snowing, my king, and it will continue snowing until the snow is done.”
“I forgot you were one of those useless wizards…” grumbled the young king, burying his head in his folded arms for a moment before standing suddenly, causing his chair to topple over, scaring the shi-life out of two guards. “Anyway, how dare it snow without my permission, I am King Under the Mountain!” Gandalf sighed.
“Neither of us can control the weather my lord but let us instead focus on what the season at hand has to offer.” He hopefully passed the king a book about botany. The sable haired grump took the book, flipping the pages roughly, stopping at a watercolour of some round yellow fruits.
“There, that’s what I want.” The Wizard chuckled.
“Your Majesty, those are apricots. They can only be found from April onwards, and as you know we are in late December. Now how can it be possible for you to have apricots at this time?” Thorin coloured, puffing out his chest.
“If I say I want those berry things, then that is what I will have.” He shouted for his captain, the elf- maid Tauriel. She arrived silently, with Thorin silently hating her. “Go and bring me some apricots!” He ordered imperiously. The elf was shocked. Even with her abilities she could not summon the fruit at this time of year. “If you can bring me a basket of apricots for dessert course of the feast on New Year’s Day, I will promote you to General.” Here, the king smiled devilishly. “But if you cannot you must leave the mountain, never to return. That is all.”
There. That should do it. He had always hated the female, and this was one of his best schemes yet to be rid of her, and he could do so while putting the old man in his place. He waved her away imperiously and grinned smugly at the wizard. It was good to be the king.
Tauriel halted her mount at the ruins of Laketown, looking back at kingdom that she had called home for the last ten years. She knew she would never see it again after tomorrow night. Resigning herself to her fate, she trotted toward the Greenwood. Surely there was some dwelling left empty by her brethren. Just as she was contemplating about how she was going to survive the harsh winter, a little ‘ahem’ drew her attention down.
“Excuse me.” Tauriel was again shocked. A halfling this far out in the wilderness? It was wringing its hands terribly and looked as though it was wrestling with a conundrum. Tauriel greeted the small creature, and to her surprise it gave a polite “mae l'ovannen” back. “Excuse me my lady,” it began again “but I was wondering if you perhaps needed any aid? My… Aunt’s house is not far from here.” It pointed at a ramshackle old building oven the brow of the hill. While Tauriel was captain of Erebor’s guard she didn’t know how long for, so she was grateful for the halfling’s help, and made him aware of such a sentiment. At this, the creature wrung its hands again. “Actually, my lady, we prefer to be called hobbits, if you don’t mind. Halfling is a name given to us by men. We are half of nothing you see.” It shuffled its bare (!) feet in the snow. Tauriel couldn’t help but be charmed.
“I apologise my new friend, I did not mean to give offense.” The hobbit, which she guessed was probably a male from his introduction of himself as Bilbo Baggins, brightened and took her horse’s reins to lead it down the hill. If she’d have known the trouble such a creature would bring she would have braved the forest, and its wargs and spiders and bears. (Oh My)
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and her mother Camelia had just cut themselves two large slices of seedcake and waited for the boy to return and fill the teapot again. The door creaked open. “Shut that door!” They screeched. It wasn’t enough for the boy to be late with the firewood, did he also have to chill them to the bone?!
Then they noticed his companion, taking account of her (potentially; one could never tell with elves) polished armour and regalia. The two bobbed a curtsey, reminding the elf-maid of those two dwarves who pushed the wheeled device along the tracks of the mine. Tauriel stifled a smile and introduced herself. The two she-hobbits made her welcome with some bread. It was a little stale but otherwise fine.
She told them of her plight, about the king and his unreasonable demands. At this point a plan started to float around in the otherwise empty recesses of Camelia’s brain. It was two cups of tea and a hot buttered scone for the three of them later that Camelia spoke again (maybe the thought needed to bump into the sides of her mind first.)
“I’m sure the boy can find some apricots, he’s in and out of that place all the time!” Shoving her least fine basket at him, the hobbitess felt very clever indeed, she would surely receive a great reward from this mighty elven warrior, even if she did wear trousers like a male. The young male gazed mournfully at the empty plate that had held the slightly buttered bread. Tauriel suddenly had a horrible feeling that it had been meant for her new friend’s supper. But the two hobbit ladies were pushing him out of the door and calling after him with such confidence that Tauriel couldn’t help but feel as though everything was going to be alright.
And so, Bilbo Baggins, a mere hobbit armed with nothing but a small wicker basket, set off into Mirkwood in search of a fruit that wasn’t there.