The nights have been getting longer, the days shorter, and droves of Dwarrow have been returning to the Blue Mountains to wait out winter’s chill in the safety provided by solid stone. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the might of Erebor, it is still better than being exposed to the elements in one of the cities of Man. Thorin will accept all Dwarrow from all walks of life in these times of hardships after the fall of Erebor. Knowing first hand that tragedy can strike swiftly and indiscriminately, he has been ever more diligent in his role as king of these displaced people. Protecting his subjects and leading them through the bitter times has given him purpose since the loss of his home, of his grandfather, his father, brother, brother-in-law, and so, so many more.
With the arrival of winter Durin’s day is also soon approaching. Which is precisely why Thorin has found himself in some Mahal forsaken forest looking for the perfect present to give his nephews this year. Their earliest memories are of lives of poverty, of going to sleep with empty bellies and the stares of pity from the tall folk. Fili, only a few years old at the time of Erebor’s fall, and Kili, borne in the middle of their settling in the Blue Mountains, both boys deserving of so much more than their current fate. Not just because they are of Durin’s line, but because their hearts are pure mithril and they have brought so much light to him and his sister Dis during their darker times.
The two boys have made a special effort recently to show their maturity in hopes for a specific gift this year that they have hinted to for a while now. It pains Thorin’s heart that his sweet, little nephews felt they had to grow up soon, but he is also shamefully glad that they have taken up responsibility. Otherwise, Thorin and Dis wouldn’t have been able to work the long hours that the do. Thorin’s small family may not be barely surviving on scraps and spoiled food anymore, but they are also not living in splendor as befitting the royal family of Durin’s line. Thorin, Dis, and her two boys live in the upper levels of the Blue Mountains. They are certainly not the glamorous royal chambers he himself was borne to, but they have become a home of sorts.
He is always proud of his boys, but recently they have truly stepped up to their positions as leaders of Dwarrow, so he has set about rewarding them with the one thing he knows they will love. Most of the tax money they receive goes back into supporting the community in differing ways so they cannot afford to spend frivolously on non essentials. Therefore, Thorin cannot waste coin on his nephew’s Durin’s day gift. Not that any coin spent on his nephews is a waste. Thorin simply has to think about the wellbeing of all the Dwarrow under his mountain. There is a rustling toward his left and Thorin stretches his senses in hopes that it is evidence of the creature he is after.
… Nothing. Thorin is one of the greatest trackers in the mountain, which is just another reason that he is out searching for that special thing that will fill his nephews with too much joy for them to contain: a Hobbit. Thorin has been in these woods for almost a week and will need to return soon lest he get behind the first snows and risk getting trapped in a storm.
He continues deeper into the trees unaware of the bright forest green eyes following him from a high perch. The young Bilbo Baggins has been watching Thorin go in circles for the past few hours. The natural magics present on the forest that usually keeps unwanted guests from entering the Shire seems to be working double time. The young fauntling has never seen anyone as mixed up and turned around as the Dwarf walking below him. He has circled the same three trees and two hills seven times already, each time from a different angle so it appears from the Dwarf’s perspective to be different trees and hills.
It probably didn’t help that he had been tossing sticks and stones to land just out of Thorin’s sight range, thus providing false leads for him to follow. Everyone knows that Tooks, especially in their youth, are prone to a good prank on the unsuspecting. He had found the dwarf during his early morning explorations and decided to practice his sneaking skills by following closely. So far the fauntling has managed to get close enough to touch a boot, but the subtle motion got the attention of the strange fellow and he almost got caught. Good thing that all Hobbits know how to remain unseen if they so desire.
Bilbo learned early on that most people don’t look up our down when searching and had hightailed it up a tree before the frosty blue eyes of Thorin Oakenshield could spot him. It had become a merry game to Bilbo. Thorin, however has been getting more and more frustrated as he searched for a Hobbit for his nephews. After yet another rustle that turned out to be simply a foraging squirrel Thorin’s resolve finally begins to waver.
He had been searching all day, every day for an entire week now and had not even found any evidence toward a single Hobbit in the area. Thorin had hoped to grab a Hobbit quickly and to be on his way back to the Blue Mountains by now, but every day just rubs his failure into his face more and more. He lets out a deep depressive sigh. Bilbo meanwhile, up above in the trees’ canopy tilts his head at the action. He sees the slump of the dwarf’s shoulders and starts to feel a bit guilty.
The young fauntling had been following Thorin since he had never seen a Dwarf before, and his Tookish side took over after a while. He didn’t intend to cause Thorin to make such a defeated expression. Shoulders set Bilbo determined to make it right. Another rustle and sharp glacial blue eyes look to see a small Hobbit looking at him curiously.
‘Finally’ is all Thorin can think. Finally, Thorin has found a Hobbit. It looks like a young one too. It would make a good companion for his nephews. Thorin subtly shifts his weight as Bilbo looks at him curiously. Quick as a flash Thorin rushes toward the Hobbit, but just as quickly Bilbo jumps back and dodges the Dwarf and rushes back into the underbrush with childish giggles.
Thorin just sits there on his knees after failing to capture the only Hobbit he has seen in this Mahal forsaken forest and feels the darkness spread over his heart. His hands are clenched and white knuckled and his eyes are screwed shut. Failure. That is all he is. It doesn’t matter what he tries he is never good enough. Trying to keep his family fed and happy, his people safe. It is such a simple desire but completely out of Thorin’s reach.
Bilbo watches the gloom settle over the Dwarf with trepidation. He had intended to play a good game of chase since it seemed the stranger wanted to meet a Hobbit. At least that is really the only reason someone would enter the forest, and the looks of the state of Thorin’s cloths revealed he had been in the woods for at least a few days. But then he didn’t chase Bilbo into the brush like he was supposed to, and the small fauntling came back to see why not. He hadn’t meant to make the Dwarf seem so sad.
Thorin slowly opens his clenched eyes to see the little Hobbit peer around a tree and this time the Dwarf holds still. Hope dares to fill his chest at seeing the Hobbit again. His last attempt was an utter failure due to his impatience, and he is not sure how many attempts he might have for this. Thorin remembers his time observing the war rams in his childhood home. The younger ones were always skittish and needed a gentle hand. Slowly, ever so slowly the Dwarf reaches one hand out, palm up and open to show he is no threat.
Bilbo looks first at the open palm and then up into those piercing frost blue eyes. Those eyes are very determined and hold a strong sense of purpose. The fauntling tilts his head in curiosity. Those eyes are filled with much more honest resolve than a simple game of chase would warrant. Understanding hits Bilbo swiftly. This Dwarf must be here to capture one of the Hobbits. His mother had often told him stories of life outside the Shire. That the other free races would often take a Hobbit into their home and raise and provide for them as one would a dog or a cat.
Oh, Bilbo had seen his fair share of outsiders stomping through the trees and underbrush. Most get dangerously lost and end up in the Old Forest, but the little fauntling sometimes managed to lay eyes on them before they get undoubtedly consumed by the darkness there. He has seen their eyes from afar, but clear enough to see the greed that filled them. Bilbo usually only saw greed in the eyes of the outsiders that venture into the forest looking for Hobbits. A powerful greed that rolled off of them in slimey waves.
His mother once told him that outside the shire some folks have made it a business to buy and sell things a Hobbit might need or want and even Hobbits themselves. Some Hobbits have even set out of the Shire with the intent to become part of the trade. The little Bilbo was reassured, however, that money could not trap a Hobbit with an unsavory guardian. That the other free races would rain fire and fury on anyone that mistreats a Hobbit. Or even Mr.Radagast, the wizard that protects the Shire, would personally collect any mistreated Hobbits and punish the offenders.
Bilbo sees no greed in the eyes of the Dwarf, despite his ragged appearance and threadbare clothes that have been patched up more than once. In fact he thinks he sees a bit of desperation and resignation. What for, Bilbo couldn’t even begin to guess. He watches as the Dwarf’s crouch sinks more into a slouch and realizes that he must have been staring for quite a while. Meanwhile, Thorin’s barely present hope begins to dwindle and his shoulders sag as the Hobbit doesn’t make any move toward him and his last rush attempt had resulted in failure.
Thorin begins to think that perhaps it was a useless attempt in the first place. He can barely keep his people fed and warm at the Blue Mountains. There was no way he could provide the proper care for a Hobbit in that situation. Just as Thorin began to pull his hand back and let the feeling of failure consume him his hand is grabbed by the smaller hand of the Hobbit.
He quickly looks up into a smiling face with cute little dimples and the most vibrant green eyes Thorin has ever seen. This is his chance. He slowly brings his other hand up, getting ready to grab the smaller creature close to his body only to be pulled off balance by the surprisingly strong tug of the Hobbit on his hand. Bilbo has already Decided on this Dwarf with the honest blue eyes and the warm calloused hands to be his. Simply looking at Thorin filled the little Hobbit’s chest with a warmth he only felt while pressed between his parents. He is a good judge of character.
Decision made, Bilbo proceeded to drag his new Dwarf by the hand toward his home to inform his parents of his Choice, leaving poor Thorin confused as to why a Hobbit has caught him instead of the other way around. He would also need to get Mr.Radagast to approve of the Choice and assist with the transfer from the Shire to wherever this Dwarf calls home. Well, it doesn’t matter if he approves or not since Bilbo has already Decided.
They walk for quite a while, Thorin only getting stern looks from the Hobbit every time he tried to pull Bilbo back toward the direction they had come from. As they broke the tree line, Thorin couldn’t help but stop and stare at the surrounding green rolling hills. Gentle sunlight bathes the land with a warm glow and bountiful farmland stretches into the distance. The most surprising part to Thorin, though, is the amount of Hobbits that dot the area. There must have been over a thousand just that he could see. No telling how many are simply out of sight or beyond the hillscape that he can see.
Bilbo tugs on the Dwarf’s hand impatiently and frowns at the delay. They continue their way passed fields, hills, and curious Hobbit neighbors that Bilbo knows will be gossiping up a storm as soon as they are out of earshot. He half wonders if word will reach his parents’ smial before he does. Meanwhile, Thorin remains gobsmacked at the prosperity surrounding him. Less than a quarter of the fields that he could see would be enough to feed his people well in the Blue Mountains through the winter.
Thorin crushes that thought before it could grow too big. Everyone knows that Hobbits eat quite a lot despite their smaller size. He thinks for all the Hobbits he couldn’t see, they might just have enough to support themselves during the inhospitable season. Besides, to steal anything from a Hobbit (especially food) is considered the lowest forms of moral depravity across all the free races. Even an elf would be hard pressed if found denying a Hobbit food.
They reach the top of the highest hill to see two adult Hobbits enjoying the sun’s rays on a short bench. Belladonna Baggins née Took looks up from her embroidery to see her only son walking up the path with a Dwarf in tow. Mischief sparkles in her eyes while a sharp smirk curls her lips around a smoking pipe. The Hobbit woman knew a day like this was bound to happen. Her own adventurous streak stoking the fires of her child’s wanderlust.
With all the stories she told her little faunt of life outside the Shire, she is surprised it took this long for him to select his Chosen family. She does so love her husband dearly so slightly nudges him to give him some warning of the approaching adventure. Bungo Baggins opens his eyes from his light doze and removes his own smoking pipe from his mouth to see what his wife wanted to show him.
The sight of his young son with a rather large Dwarf trailing behind him gave him pause. The male Hobbit lets out a long sigh as his wife continued to cackle softly. Bungo knew his son was going to be just as adventurous as his loving wife, if not more. Today seems to be the day to prove all his worries correct. His little Bilbo has Chosen a Dwarf for his family and by the set of the little faunt’s shoulders there is nothing anyone can do to make him change his mind. Stubborn just like his mother, Bungo thinks fondly.
Bilbo and his new addition stop at the gate to Bag End and the faunt looks up happily to his adoring parents. “Hello Mother, Father. I want this one. Make sure he doesn’t wander off while I go pack my things, okay?” Belladonna lets out a hearty laugh, while Bungo nods in resignation. “My little baby has grown up so much,” the only woman in the group lets out, “Get to packing my little love. We’ll make sure nobody else snatches up your new Dwarf.”
Bilbo finally lets go of the hand he had held captive the entire walk and quickly makes his way into his home of almost ten years. Thorin remains completely confused during the strange communication of the creatures. He is unsure as to what exactly is going on. Are these two Hobbits the little one’s parents? The leaders of all the Hobbits? Or did the little one think that these two would be a better pick for Thorin to bring for his nephews.
His confusion is cut through by the sudden bloodlust in the air. He quickly turns toward the female Hobbit and sees her sharp grin. Thorin almost reaches for his sword. To attack a Hobbit is a grave sin, but the truly predatory look on the Hobbit’s face makes Thorin wonder if that rule is not for the sake of the Hobbits but more for self-preservation. Her male companion gently twirling a lock of her hair also looks more sinister than the soothing gesture it usually is.
Before too long, Thorin sees a suspicious figure in a long robe and wide brimmed hat coming up the path from the opposite direction he just came from. The figure walked briskly and carried a twisted, gnarly staff, belying his identity as one of the wizards. Radagast the Brown, the keeper of the Hobbits. It makes sense that he would be here, in the land of Hobbits.
Thorin will have to make a reasonable argument for acquiring one of the Hobbits. Radagast is the protector of the Hobbits and everyone knows not to cross a wizard. Even one as eccentric-looking as Radagast the Brown. With his dirt covered robes, small animals nesting in his sleeves and some bird poop in his hair, he could easily be mistaken as a madman. Thorin will not be deceived by such looks. This man could just as easily strike him down as greet him.
He stands tall, chin up, shoulders back and spine standing straight. Thorin’s regal upbringing aiding in his first impression to the wizard. He can still feel the unnerving eyes of the Hobbits sitting next to him, but doesn’t take his gaze off of the wizard. The two take a moment to stare the other down, taking in all they could while not breaking eye contact. “You made it through the forest.” Radagast’s voice was deep, but a little raspy around the Common vowels.
“I was brought.” Thorin replied, his own voice rougher on the language than his natural Khuzdul. The wizard’s eyebrows rose to his hairline, “Really, now?” They both remain silent for a moment longer. The silent moment is broken by the opening of a green door and the little Bilbo Baggins exiting his smial with a large pack on his back and a face splitting smile. Belladonna looks toward her son, “Did you get all you actually need, or did you just stuff your favorite toys and that one book into a bag?”
The youngest Hobbit looks toward his mother with confusion. He didn’t think he needed much more than that. The female of the group simply laughs again and leads her son back into their home to properly pack away the things he will need. Radagast continues to eye the Dwarf in front of him. In all his years guarding the Shire and Hobbits within, none of the other free races have been able to enter uninvited.
Thorin continues to stand there, tall and proud, despite being unsure as to the situation around him. He came here to bring back a Hobbit for his nephews, and now that he has actually found the land of Hobbits he will not leave without one. “Here for a Hobbit, are you? Oh, of course you are.” Radagast the Brown’s voice rasps out. He eyes the Dwarf again. It isn’t the first time that a Hobbit has Chosen a family, but usually that happens outside the Shire borders and not directly in the heart of it. Thinking about the family that lives in the smial next to him though, he can’t say he is surprised.
Radagast’s eyes sharpen, “Do you have the means to properly care for a Hobbit? Food? Shelter? A warm hearth? An open and loving heart? I do not tolerate the mistreatment of these small and gentle creatures. There is more to them than meets the eye.” His voice trails off at that last ominous statement. Thorin stares straight into those sharp eyes, can feel the power and threat behind those words, “I will give everything that I have to ensure any Hobbit in my home is both happy and healthy.”
There is honesty and determination emanating from the Dwarven king’s eyes and the wizard can easily see it. “Sometimes,” Radagast begins, voice equally cautious and warning, “everything you have still isn’t enough.” He doesn’t mean it as a slight on the scruffy image Thorin presents, though the Dwarf almost takes it as such. It is true though, and the brown wizard doesn’t want to present any illusions. Many a time has Radagast reclaimed one of the small folk from poorer homes that didn’t have enough food or fresh air and sunlight to properly support a Hobbit’s wellbeing. His feelings for the nature-loving Hobbits cannot be described in mere words, so his actions will have to do.
Thorin takes those words in and really absorbs their meaning. His close family certainly is decently cared for. They do not miss meals anymore or face the threat of starvation like their early years of exile, but Thorin could not confidently say that they want for nothing or live an easy life. He does remember the times he and Dis sacrificed their own pitiful scraps so that his nephews Fili and Kili could have even something to fill their stomachs.
“I would sooner starve myself to death than let any under my care go without a single meal. I will fight to my last breath to protect all those dear to me. All the love in my heart belongs to those that allow me to call them ‘family’.” Thorin could feel the finality in his voice settle over his shoulders, giving him strength. As he spoke he felt the truth in his words. The Dwarf’s glacial blue eyes never wavered in their stare at the wizard.
Radagast is slightly impressed with the Dwarf. Not many are able to stare down a wizard, even as eccentric-looking as the Brown. It is easy to make such claims, but holding true to them will prove a much more difficult task. As such the wizard is more than prepared to act should such claims not be carried out.
“Very well.” Radagast relents. Should the Dwarf’s words hold false it wouldn’t be the first time Radagast personally rectified such a mistake. Thorin suppressed an inward sigh as the relief slowly washes over him. He did not expect so much ceremony in acquiring a Hobbit. He had really just expected to lure one out and capture it in a sack of some sort. Thorin actually isn’t too sure how he had planned to capture a wild Hobbit in the forest, but he was sure that he wouldn’t leave without one.
The door to the Hobbit home opens again and this time little Bilbo walks out with a larger pack and Belladonna carrying a cloth covered basket. The youngest Hobbit happily skipped out of his childhood home and toward the Dwarf he had Chosen as his own. They may have only known each other for less than a few hours, but Bilbo is sure of his Choice. The two walk down the path and Bilbo stands next to the Dwarf looking up into his impressive blue eyes. Thorin looks back down at the Hobbit barely reaching his hip.
“His name is Bilbo.” Radagast informs the Dwarf. Thorin looks back to him. “He is a mix breed of Baggins and Took. All of the wild adventurous nature of a Took with the calm poise of a Baggins.” He pauses to glance down and smiles at the young Hobbit. “He may prove to be quite a handful.” Bilbo laughs at the words of the wizard. Oh, yes, he is quite the handful.
“It matters not,” Thorin responds, “He will be loved and cared for in my home.” The tiny Hobbit glances back up to his new Dwarf and smiles brightly.Thorin looks down to the little Hobbit and returns the smile, “I am Thorin Oakenshield, my word is my bond.” Belladonna approaches the two and leans down to talk directly to her only child. “Now my child, do you remember all the rules?” Bilbo looks to his mother with a smile, “Always speak in the Hobbit tongue and never any of the other languages. Never, ever, EVER, let anyone know that Hobbits are a member of the free races. But most importantly, love your family with all your heart.”
Belladonna smiles at her son. The secret of the Hobbits has been well guarded since the beginning. Not even the elves know this, and continue to treat the small folk like the highly intelligent animals they portray themselves as. Hobbits are all about comfort, and what is more comfortable than having all your needs willingly met by others. Hobbits are fed, clothed, housed and protected by the other free races. The other free races are also punished should they allow any harm to befall a Hobbit. It is truly an existence of complete comfort.
The female Hobbit sends a vicious smile up to the Dwarf that is about to take her precious baby for the adventure of a lifetime. She would not begrudge her little one his wild-side, but she certainly will miss him and worry for his safety. If this Dwarf does not keep her little boy healthy and happy not even Radagast could stop her from dishing out due punishment. The respectful wariness in the Dwarf’s demeanor let her know that he could understand her threat.
Belladonna hands the basket over to Thorin and returns to her post by her husband. Bungo merely watching as his son and wife as they went about their business, gives an approving nod to his little boy. The husband and wife duo will certainly miss their bundle of rambunctious energy, but are both proud that he is setting out to see the world for himself.
“Now then, off you go.” Radagast makes a shooing motion with his staff. “You’ve got what you came here for, now back to where you came from and with haste. Hobbits aren’t much for camping for long periods of time at such a young age.” Thorin departed with his new charge only after giving respectful bows to the adult Hobbits and wizard. Little Bilbo following along with a hop in his step and excitement coursing through his veins.
The two travel long into the evening, only stopping for small snacks from the basket in Thorin’s hand or to give the young fauntling some rest. They head toward the Blue Mountains, toward a new home and a new life. The two both hopeful and anxious about the drastic changes their lives will have.