Bella Baggins had always wondered about what lay beyond the Shire; it was the Took in her she was sure but the Baggins always kept her within the boundaries of the Shire. She did indulge in books, however, and read anything and everything she could get her hands on. Bella taught herself Sindarin just so she could have the pleasure of reading even more books. Elves fascinated her and she had often begged her mother to tell her about them and never tired of hearing how she had made the trip to Rivendell. She was also fascinated with all the other races Arda had to offer as she had never seen any of them other than Men and Hobbits. Bella was probably about thirteen when she found out about Dwarves for the first time and she remembered the conversation forever:
“Oh, Mama! Are they our size?”
“A bit bigger but a good size, all in all. They’re very broad too with great beards, like the curls on their feet have migrated to their faces.”
“That can’t be true, can it? It sounds so unreal.”
“I assure you it is real, my petal. I’ve even met one, bit gruff but nice.”
That was all it took to solidify Bella’s interest in Dwarves because the very next day she begged her father to get her a book on them when he next went down to the market. The poor Hobbit had to order it especially from Bree and got an odd look from the vendor for his trouble. Bella had devoured the book, it had illustrations of battle-hardened warriors and swords with patterns so fine and intricate it hurt to look at. The obsession spread from there; Bella would often rope her Took cousins reenacting great Dwarven battles or make lone treks through the forest hoping to find some Dwarves hidden in a fox den or something of the like. Bella’s obsession calmed as she entered her tweens. She was still known as an odd Hobbit, they said she had one foot out of the Shire in spirit even though she had never gone any further than Bree, they said she was a bit too much like her dead mother. With all of that said years later when she heard there was going to be a Dwarven vendor at the market in Bree that next month she nearly fainted with excitement.
Bree was bustling as always and she grinned as she traversed the market, jingling the gold in the purse she had stuffed in the pockets of her skirt. It took her no time at all the find the stall, she just had to follow the gossip.
The person who ran the stall wasn’t a Dwarf but a Man which perturbed her but he was nice enough, friendly and approachable and he smiled and asked her if he could help her when she peered up at the great axes he had displayed behind him.
She grew flustered all of a sudden, “Well, I just heard you were in town and I’ve heard a great deal about how marvelous Dwarven craftsmanship was.” She tended to flatter people when she got nervous, it was a trait she got from her Baggins grandmother and she hoped he didn’t think she was being sarcastic like her Took relations often did.
The vendor seemed to take it at face value and grinned, “You heard right then, missie. I do believe we have something you might like, hair beads perhaps?”
She had seen the swords and great hammers and axes he was also selling and sighed in relief when he didn’t suggest those. Hmm, she had been thinking about what to do with her hair now it was longer.
“I was sold these back in Ered Luin and couldn’t pass them up. I think this one might suit you,” With that he produced a beautiful bead, silver with delicate carvings with some blue stones set in it.
“It’s beautiful,” She breathed, “how much?”
“Two gold coins, but since I like you I’ll throw this in for free. It’ll be a proper set then.” He picked up another bead which seemed to glimmer in the light and she didn’t know whether she was getting swindled or not but she didn’t care and practically floated her way back to the Shire once her other errands were done with both beads clasped in her palm.
Once back at Bag End, she was faced with the conundrum of how to put a hair bead in, she barely knew how to braid her hair since it was kept in check with a ribbon most of the time. It took her a few tries but in the end she secured it in a hastily done french braid that curled from her temple down to her right ear so the bead fell just below it. Bella looked at herself in the mirror and nodded, pleased with her work. After that she wore the bead every day, ignoring the odd looks it got her from her neighbours.
Bella was making the trip to Bree again so she could replace her trowel as the handle had fallen off. The weather was nice, not too hot, cold or windy; Bella hummed to herself as she walked over the Brandywine bridge. Her feet were starting to hurt and she debated whether or not a new trowel was really worth the trip when she abruptly stopped in her tracks. Everything was very quiet, the birds weren’t singing, animals weren’t rustling through the undergrowth. In fact the woods surrounding her were eerily silent and she looked around her worriedly before remembering that nothing bad ever happened in the Shire anymore and that she was safe. Though that didn’t stop her from picking up her pace as she made her way along the dirt path.
The feeling that something was definitely wrong didn’t lessen as she walked, especially when she saw a very suspicious dark something or other lying on the road. Bella wasn’t sure what it was but it certainly wasn’t some cargo that had fallen off of a cart, certainly wasn’t a Hobbit either as no self-respecting Hobbit would wear anything so dour and drab.
As she approached hesitantly she was stuck by the smell of iron, she could almost taste it and it made her shudder. Heart suddenly pounding, she looked around her desperately, not knowing what lurked but certain that she was in mortal peril. Bella couldn’t see anything, but her mother’s stories had told her that the worst danger wasn’t always what you could see with your eyes, true danger often lurked in the darkness lying in wait for an unsuspecting soul.
As she edged ever closer to unknown lump she found herself evermore certain that it was indeed a living being and not a particularly dark sack of potatoes. As she got closer she saw that it was a person writhing around in pain. Either a Dwarf or a particularly short Man with bloodied face and torn clothes, she didn’t know what to think, her mind was racing. The worst thing she had seen prior to this was time some poor fauntling who had fallen out of a tree and broken their arm.
The stranger’s pack was some five feet away from him, with ripped clothes strewn about the path around it. She wondered if the rest had been stolen, there was no food, no personal items. It reminded her intensely of horror stories she was told as a faunt about what would happen if she left the Shire. The poor soul groaned and Bella let out a cry of fear and as she rushed towards the Dwarf she crashed to her knees, uncaring of the sharp stones that dug into her even through her skirt. She moved his long inky hair to the side to inspect his forehead where blood was trickling sluggishly from a gash there. He noticed her presence then and lept into action, thrashing terribly and shouting guttural things she could tell were curses.
Bella was scared but stood her ground and grabbed his arms which were flailing wildly. It was a testament to how weak he was that she could stop him from hitting her. He looked up at her with nearly-black eyes, he seemed drawn to her hair and his hand reached gingerly for her braid and she let him. The Dwarf twisted it around before relaxing in her hold
“....bahîth (friend)…” He then fell unconscious and Bella was left with blood on her braid and no conceivable way to get him back to the Shire as she could hardly pick him up and take him back.
Bella was suddenly thankful that she had brought some water with her as she took her handkerchief and poured some on it to clean up the poor sod, the wound on his forehead had dirt in it which she cleaned out quickly knowing what a danger infection could be given half a chance. The stranger had given up any fight and let her take care of him as best she could, Bella only hoped he wasn’t too badly hurt as her healing skills began and ended with cleaning and dressing minor wounds.
The road from the Shire to Bree is fairly busy with farmers peddling their wares back forth throughout the day which wasn’t a fact Bella had paid much attention to. She had never been so thankful for it though as about quarter of an hour later she heard the telltale clop of a farmer’s cart trundling along the road. As soon as she saw the Hobbit on the cart, a tanned Hobbit by the name of Mr Fiddlehead who looked ready to keel over with shock, she yelled frantically for him to help her. He looked alarmed but helped her get the poor Dwarf to the healers. They both had to help putting him into the cart and set off at breakneck pace for Hobbiton; he groaned terribly whenever the cart went over uneven ground but she kept him relatively still by holding him down as he still thrashed slightly every now and then. His eyes were open but it didn’t look like he was seeing anything, like he didn’t know what was happening to him or where he was-he just looked at her with those unblinking eyes.
The healer’s smial was an understated affair on the outskirts of the Shire and not a place Bella had ever been before and neither had Mr Fiddlehead for that matter so it took a bit of time to find it. The smial itself was well kept with a herb garden instead of the usual flowerbeds that sat proudly outside most Hobbit homes. The inside was surprisingly homely, if pungent smelling as they dragged the Dwarf inside.
“Deary me!” A high-pitched voice called from the next room, “You can’t just come barging into my smial, you know. I may be a healer but I’m not-” she immediately stopped as she poked her round the door and saw the state of the Dwarf, “Eru! Get him into the other room now!”
Bella and Mr Fiddlehead obliged and he was soon spread across a bed that he was far too wide for.
“Has he been lucid within the last half hour?” She asked Bella.
“Yes, well, kind of. I mean, does thrashing and yelling nonsense count as being lucid?” She said, scratching the back of her neck.
“It does. In that case I’m going to have to give him something that’ll numb the pain because I can see from here that he’s badly hurt.”
“You mean his head?” Mr Fiddlehead piped up.
“No, I mean his chest. Can’t you see the blood?” She replied incredulously and Bella felt like the biggest fool in existence as she looked down and saw the now quite obvious patch of blood on his tunic.
Mr Fiddlehead left as soon as he could but Bella stayed behind to help him. It was grim affair in truth, far worse than she could have imagined, not that she had ever imagined anything like that.
“I need you to take off his coat, miss…” The healer said, rushing around picking up various things that Bella had a feeling she wasn’t used to using.
“I’m Bella Baggins.” She muttered, with burning cheeks.
“A Baggins, ay? Wouldn’t have expected that. I’m Gardenia Stoor.” She said as she set up her equipment on the bedside table.
“Well? Get his coat and tunic off, I can’t very well tend to him with his shirt on.” Gardenia tutted,
“Right, of course not.” Bella then got ahold of herself and took off the Dwarf’s coat and tunic while Gardenia dipped a few sewing needles in what Bella guessed to be alcohol.
Luckily the Dwarf was well out of it by the time Gardenia was ready to stitch him up, he didn’t look like he was asleep exactly, more like he just wasn’t there which was disconcerting.
“Here’s what I need you to do, Miss Baggins. I wouldn’t ask this of you if I wasn’t completely sure I couldn’t do this alone...but this is going to be painful for him and while he won’t remember it when he wakes up he’ll be perfectly able to fight back and I’ve heard enough about Dwarves to know that I don’t want to have a Dwarf thrashing about so I want you to hold him down.” Bella’s face must have given away her thoughts because she spoke again, “Don’t worry, though! He won’t be able to fight properly, he’s far too unaware for that.”
“That’s not what I was worried about. Um, where do I hold him? It’s just not proper!” She began her sentence nervous and ended with a shriek that rang out awkwardly throughout the room.
“Yavanna, lass! I know it’s not proper but come on, he’s a Dwarf-it’s not like his chest is attractive. Look at him! He’s not got an ounce of fat on him.” The healer said gruffly.
Bella didn’t say anything, just blushed. She had known for a long time that she had liked the farmer’s sons a lot more than she had liked her social equals, chubby bellies had never called to her the way strong muscles had. It was one of the myriad of reasons why she was doomed to be a spinster, in fact.
Any thoughts of muscles and proprietary ended, however, when Gardenia started on her first stitch. The Dwarf who had been up until this point deadly still reared up off of the bed with a great roar of pain, arms flailing wildly. In fact, Gardenia barely dodged an arm herself as Bella caught an elbow to the stomach as she put all of her weight into keeping him still. He hadn’t fought that hard when he had been on the road, she thought, but maybe he had regained some energy.
“Eru! He’s a feisty one, isn’t he?”
“You’re not the one holding him down!”
Even though the effort of holding the thrashing Dwarf down made her arms burn she didn’t relent, she would not let him go without treatment, she’d rescued him from that road and she would be damned if he died because the healer couldn’t stitch his wounds. Once his wounds were stitched Gardenia moved on to the various bruises dusting his body with swathes of deep blue and purple fading to revolting yellows and greens, whoever had done that to him were monsters. Over the next half hour the Dwarf’s wounds were treated and he was tucked in bed in a drugged sleep. After having a cup of tea with Gardenia who was a lovely Hobbit when she wasn’t shouting orders Bella left for her smial already thinking about when she could next make the trip to Bree.
She had barely made it back to her smial, however, when frenzied knocking resounded throughout the house. Bella grumbled about rude relatives and opened the door ready to dish out the rant of a lifetime when she saw the pale and panicked face of young Marigold Brandybuck.
“Miss Bella you have to get down there!” The tween practically yelled.
“Aulë! Where exactly?” She blustered, already pulling on her cardigan.
“The healing smial! The Dwarf is fighting and won’t be calmed, he keeps yelling in that language of his and he won’t speak or understand any Common. You need to help.” Marigold was panting both from exertion and from how fast she was speaking, “Come on! We need to get back before he kills himself or Mrs Stoor!”
With that both Hobbits took off, this was probably the most danger the Shire had seen since the Fell Winter she realised as she pelted down the lane. Bella could hear the shouting long before she reached the smial which acted as a makeshift hospital, mostly for ill faunts and farmers who dropped their rakes on their feet.
“Ithmir! (Get away)” A loud bang and it got worse as she rushed towards the smial and she had to take quite a few panicked breaths before she was ready to go in.
What greeted her was a very angry-looking Dwarf brandishing a fire poker at a terrified Gardenia who was trying to calm him down to no avail.
“Bella! Praise Yavanna you’re here! He’s been like this since he woke up ten minutes ago, he’s burst the stitches in his side and he’s not going to last much longer if I can’t get to him.” The healer was still eying the Dwarf and said Dwarf had lowered the poker and was staring at Bella. He took two great steps forward grabbed her by the arm and dragged her back to the other side of the room with him, she could feel the blood soaking through his tunic and she blanched.
“Master Dwarf! Put that poker down!” Bella yelled as if she were addressing a faunt, “You need to let our healer treat you or you’ll die.” She looked up at him, trying to put how close they were out of her mind.
He seemed to consider it for a few seconds before speaking, “Do you vouch for this...healer?” His voice was deep but clear and not at all like she would have expected it to sound from the Khuzdul she’d heard him from him up until then.
“I do, Gardenia Stoor would never hurt anyone.” Bella said, her nervousness choking her voice slightly.
“Then I’ll let her treat me, but if she does anything untoward I’ll not be responsible for my actions,” Gardenia was a braver Hobbit than Bella gave her credit for because she just strode over to the Dwarf and bade him sit on the thoroughly rumpled bed.
“Right then, your antics have burst your stitches and we’ll have to put them back. You were out cold when I put them in, have you had stitches before?” She said, no-nonsense and a hand on her hip.
He scoffed, “‘Course I have.”
“Right then.” She sniffed indignantly, Gardenia then set about redoing the stitches and even though the Dwarf was putting on a brave face he was pale and biting his lip until it turned bright red and Bella grabbed his large and calloused hand in both of hers and squeezed reassuringly. Once he had been tended to Gardenia called her over to the other side of the room.
“He’s going to have to stay somewhere else because frankly I don’t trust him with my other patients, I have a wheelbarrow and you can take him back to your smial in that, that is if you want him there, I know it’s a big thing to ask. It’s just I can’t have him here and I don’t think anyone else will take him in.” She whispered guiltily and Bella looked over to the Dwarf who was gazing blearily at her with an unreadable expression; she just nodded at the other Hobbit.
Bella trotted over to him, “You’ll have to come with me to my house, I’m afraid. But I’ve got a lovely guest room and lots of food.”
The Dwarf just grunted, the pain had gotten rid of any bravado he had not five minutes ago.
The trip back to her smial was both arduous and highly embarrassing as Bella had to push the Dwarf there in a wheelbarrow of all things, he paid no mind to it and had cheered up a little as he was laughing and waving to the shocked Hobbits watching them.
“So, uh, this is my smial. If you’d grab my arm I can take you in.” Bella stuttered and the Dwarf just smiled weakly.
“Aye.” He then stood up abruptly and Bella barely had time to drag him into the living room before he ran out of energy and sagged in her hold.
“Aulë, you’re heavy! Gardenia said you need to eat. Are you allergic to anything?” He just looked at her blankly, “I’ll take that as a no, then. Right, I’ll be back in tick Master…” She realised she didn’t even know his name, how improper!
“Kili, son of Vili at your service,” Bella guessed he had practiced that as he looked mightily pleased with himself.
“I’m Bella Baggins.” She said wearily, “Well then, Kili son of Vili, I’ll go make us some tea and something to eat. You rest in this armchair, it’s the comfiest one I’ll have you know.” Bella then bustled out of the living room and into the kitchen. She had no idea how in Yavanna’s name to tend to an injured Dwarf but she knew how to host a guest so that was what she did.
Five minutes later a much calmer Bella walked in with a tray laden with food and a steaming teapot.
“So, Master Kili, how just you come to be in the Shire? We don’t get many Dwarfs-none in fact until now.” She said, slightly nervous at the prospect of having to make small talk with a Dwarf.
“Just Kili, if you please, and I’m here because I’ve got nowhere else to go.” His voice was still resolutely cheery but Bella could see the sadness lurking in his face.
“Call me Bella, then. I, uh, I’m sure you’ll be able to find work in Bree.” Bella offered weakly, feeling like a prize idiot.
“Nah, I just came from Bree actually when I was...accosted. I figured I might as well go and see the Shire since I hadn’t heard much about it.” Kili leant back slightly in the chair, wincing slightly as he did.
Bella laughed, “Most folk go somewhere because they heard good things about it, not nothing at all!”
“I’m not most folk.” He took a bite out of the sandwich with a look of obvious trepidation crossing his face, “Could you tell that healer lady I’m sorry? I wasn’t in my right mind, I was in pain and all I saw was those Men that attacked me.”
“Of course, though I’m sure she’s already forgiven you-you’re hardly the first one to get nervous under her ministrations...probably the first to threaten her with a fire poker, though.” As she spoke she gave some thought as to how to proceed, this wasn’t just some cousin staying the night, this was a real life Dwarf.
“Ah, speaking of, do you know where my weapons are?” He said with careful nonchalance but Bella knew how important his weapons were to him, it was stressed heavily in every book she had read.
“Yes, actually. Gardenia said she’d send them over tomorrow but the Shire isn’t a place you’re going to need them.”
“How can they just take away my weapon? This is ridiculous!” He exclaimed suddenly, “She can’t do that.”
“You’ll get them back.” She placated.
“I’d better…” Then, after a pause, “I’m sure I’ll be feeling better by tomorrow so you can put me to work however you see fit.”
Bella squashed down irritation like bile as she tried to remind herself that Dwarven culture was probably much different to her own, “You don’t owe me a thing, Master Kili. I’m happy to help you for as long as you need it. You really don’t need to do anything.”
Kili’s face showed plain as day just how foreign that concept was to him, he opened his mouth but thought better of it, just shaking his head slightly with a small smile, nothing like the impish grins he’d shown before. “Aye, alright. But I refuse to sit on my arse for a month, any odd jobs you have; locks that need fixing-anything like that-come to me. I’m not as good as my uncle but I am a Dwarf and as such I’ll get the job done no problem.”
“I can live with that...now, how do you feel about some tea?” She said, thinking of her rickety gate.
The rest of the night passed in that talkative fashion, they talked and ate and Bella found herself liking her new houseguest, and while Kili didn’t offer up much about his family he spoke at length about his home in Ered Luin and she found her cheeks heating slightly as he rambled happily, he looked so enthusiastic and joyous. Bella wondered then not for the first time why he trusted her so much.