“Are you sure about this, Nín Merilhên?” Elrond questioned lowly from atop his silver-maned horse, frowning in the direction of the gates.
“Grandmother swore to me that the madness has passed,” Bilbo replied, his calm words a stark contrast to the anxiety spiraling like a hurricane in his heart. “She promised that their intentions for trying to locate me are not malicious. The very opposite, in fact. I need to speak with him… with them. If only to put that chapter of my life to rest.”
“We could come with you,” Elrohir offered, for the umpteenth time.
Bilbo managed to aim a small smile his brother’s way, “Gandalf has a far greater need of you than I do. Freeing the tortured souls trapped in Dol Guldur and sending them on their way into the next world will surely prove to be no small undertaking.”
“I still think you should come along with us,” Gandalf said, earning himself matching glares from all three of the Elves in their party.
“Dol Guldur is as foul a place as any,” Elladan retorted, “And Bilbo has no cause to go anywhere near it. His magic is nearly depleted as it is, Mithrandir, and he has already seen more than enough of foul places for my peace of mind.”
“I shall be perfectly fine,” Bilbo stated, after casting his gaze skyward in a plea to the golden morning sun – it was just beginning to peak out from behind the Mountain – to grant him patience. “I am in no danger and am not a child, for all that you lot enjoy treating me as if I were still one.”
“You shall always be my child, my Nín Merilhên,” Elrond said simply, “And I shall always worry over you. But, even if I do not agree with your choices, I will respect them. Be safe, Bilbo, please.”
“Yes, Ada,” Bilbo returned, reaching out to briefly squeeze his adopted father’s hand before slipping off the back of Gandalf’s horse. “I’ll see you all in a month’s time. I love you.”
“We love you too, Gwinighanar,” Elladan intoned.
“If you get the chance,” Elrohir added, “Smack that Dwarf husband of yours for me. He deserves it.”
“Bilbo,” Gandalf spoke up as Bilbo huffed at his brother’s cheeky suggestion, “If you get the urge to run off on any more perilous and world-saving quests, do wait until I can come along with you. I should like a nice spot of adventure.”
Gandalf moved off before Bilbo could assert that he was rather finished with quests, at least for a good long while. A year and a half on the road, with very little time to recuperate from everything, had made Bilbo leery of the very idea of traveling ever again.
“No quests,” Elrond instructed firmly and then he clicked his tongue to get his own steed trotting, the twins following in his wake after giving Bilbo mirroring waves farewell.
Bilbo watched them go for a few long moments before turning his gaze toward the kingdom that had haunted both his dreams and nightmares for months – Erebor
The Lonely Mountain was as majestic and awe-inspiring as it had been when Bilbo had first glimpsed it… and a hundred times more beautiful in that moment because Bilbo had been made aware in intimate detail how horrid the ugliest parts of Arda were. It towered above everything – a splendid guardian of silver, white, and golden rock that concealed and safeguarded the greatest of Arda’s kingdoms – its peak piercing through the clouds that dotted the robin-egg hued sky. It was wide enough at its base to fit the whole of the Shire twice over and bigger still on the inside, as the Dwarven tunnels and mines were woven as deep into the earth as the mountain was tall. Bilbo had dearly missed the stronghold in his absence from it – more than he had yearned for the stability of the Shire or the serenity of the Valley, even – not for the riches and sanctuary it promised, but for the thirteen remarkable Dwarrow that called it home.
Trepidation dogged his steps as he began to trek toward the imposing gates – swung open wide at that time of the day, when trade with Dale was at full force. Bilbo may have been rather done with quests, but an adventure still lay before him, nonetheless. Despite the hope that refused to wither away, he was not certain how it would end.
“Take him!” Thorin had roared, even as Fíli and Kíli desperately urged Bilbo toward the rope that hung from the Battlements. In Thorin’s fist were clutched seven slim braids, shorn from Bilbo’s hair, and the Collar which he had sliced from around Bilbo’s neck without care, nicking the fragile skin right above Bilbo’s collarbone. “Know that no love of mine goes with him! He is forevermore banished from me and mine. I shall never again have dealings with whores from the Shire!”
With no immediate access to healing medicines, the small cut had turned into a pale scar just to left of the hollow of Bilbo’s neck – it was nothing compared to the scarring upon his soul. There was only one remedy for his heartsickness, but Bilbo was not sure that it was something possible for him to obtain.
Utilizing the last dregs of his Green Magic, Bilbo slipped into the Mountain, past the formidable guards and the cheerful throng of people at the gates, without being noticed. It was not that he wished to hide, not really, but that he knew there was one specific person he had to speak to before anyone else.
Bilbo did not know where Thorin then was, but he knew where the Dwarven King eventually would be and so, with no small measure of apprehension, he pointed his feet in that direction and forced himself to move.
“It is perfectly acceptable for those of our line to court more than one individual at a time,” Marís entreated, with all the forcefulness that she had long been known for, “And for the King Under the Mountain, along with all other high-born nobles, to take more than one spouse. You could have a dozen Submissives if you so chose, Thorin, two dozen, even!”
Thorin sighed audibly and sped up his pace, “We have discussed this topic far too often, Amad. My mind is made up.”
“Ragóla is a well-respected Dwarrowdam and the niece of King Ginnar. An alliance between the two of you, even a short-term Collaring Contract, could do Erebor a world of good!” Marís responded with a disturbing level of fervor.
“I will have no one save for my One,” Thorin said firmly. “I shall share my life and bed with none other save he, no matter how advantageous they may seem to you.”
“The Halfling fled from you,” Marís snapped. “He has proven himself utterly unworthy of being a Consort of Erebor.”
“Bilbo Baggins has done nothing wrong and you will not disparage his name, Amad.” Thorin thundered.
Though she was briefly taken aback by Thorin’s display of temper, Marís recovered swiftly and forged on, “What if he refuses you again? All the work that you have done for his sake shall be meaningless.”
“It will not make a difference, nor shall it alter my decision,” Thorin answered.
“You need an heir! I exhort you to do what is necessary to provide the Kingdom with a stable future.”
“Erebor’s future is secure. If I never have a child of my own, then Fíli will be King after me,” Thorin said.
“Fíli,” Marís scoffed, “He who is to wed a Daughter of Man, polluting our line. He is as much a disgrace as Kíli.”
It took every ounce of control he possessed to not scream at his narrow-minded mother, “If Mahal did not wish for Sigrid and Tauriel to become princesses of Durin’s line then he would not have permitted their souls to be bound to my nephews.”
“I do not believe He did. Foul magic is at work here,” Marís retorted.
“Sigrid has no magic to speak of.”
“She is a Dúnedain, one of the unnatural lines of Man. There is no telling what she is capable of!”
“Amad,” Thorin growled out, “If I discover that you have been spreading such false and disgusting rumors regarding my nieces-to-be, I will throw you in the dungeons for a month. Fíli and Kíli are under no enchantment.”
“Your father and grandfather would never have put up with-”
“They are dead! Dead and gone and I am the King Under the Mountain,” Thorin cut her off. “Times have changed, and the old ways no longer serve us. Old prejudices must die. I will not speak to you regarding this matter again. Is that clear?”
“You selfish boy!” Marís voiced before storming away.
“Wow,” Frerin spoke up from where he was leaning against the wall, “I haven’t seen her so worked up in at least two days.”
“I swear she is growing worse,” Thorin muttered.
“Well, she can no longer elicit the kind of sympathy from others that she got when we were displaced in the Blue Mountains. I don’t think she shall ever forgive you for actually succeeding in reclaiming our homeland; she fully expected you to die tragically. She was devastated when the news came that you killed Smaug,” Frerin shrugged. “I think she has been miserable for so long that she became used to the feeling of it and now she is afraid of being happy because it would require her to change and let go of the past.”
“She wears grief so wonderfully well, doesn’t she?” Thorin said. “Did you need something, Nadad?”
“Just wanted to give you a head’s up, there’s an issue brewing between two of the Pleasure Houses.”
Thorin’s study was a work of art in true Dwarven style. Accented in silver and Durin-blue, the ebony furniture was carved in sharp angles than evoked the jet wings of Ravens in key places. One entire wall was dedicated to the most-beloved creation myth of the Dwarrow – Mahal dipping his eldest son, Durin, into a sacred pool, depicted on the wall by what had to be at least a hundred sapphires, to wake him while his younger brothers, yet stone, looked on. A rug of dark grey sat beneath Thorin’s desk that was nearly the same color as the flooring and the decently-sized fireplace that sat in one corner of the room.
It was to the hearth that Bilbo gravitated, allowing the low burning flames to chase away the lingering chill of the late-Autumn day. Dropping his pack and Sting at the foot of one of the chairs, he plucked a throw of thick black fur up from its place on an ottoman and wrapped it around himself. He sat as close to the fire as he dared to get and hugged his knees to his chest, fighting desperately to keep his panic at bay.
If Thorin no longer wanted him… if the gold-sickness had not been the true cause of the Dwarf’s cold caprice in those last few days spent together… Bilbo’s devastation would know no bounds.
Bilbo did not know how long he waited, hopeful and miserable in equal measure, before the doors to the study finally opened and a heavy tread upon stone sounded.
“I will deal with the rising feud between the Amagurel Malmezel and the Kidhuzurupndarel Malmezel at the session on Mersday,” it was Thorin’s voice, deep and beautiful, though Bilbo’s view of his One was still blocked by the couch. “For now, I would appreciate a few hours’ peace to get the paperwork under control.”
“One of the privileges of being King Under the Mountain,” a new male voice spoke in response. “Don’t worry, Nadad, I’ll make sure you’re undisturbed for the rest of the morn. Do make it to luncheon today, though, or Amad will have another fit.”
“I will, Frerin, thank you,” Thorin said, and then Bilbo heard the study doors being closed and latched.
Well, there was no way for him to back out now.
A profound, mournful sigh echoed in the room and then Thorin moved into Bilbo’s line of sight as he all but stomped to his desk. Unceremoniously, Thorin removed the crown on his head and basically tossed it onto the wooden surface. Though dressed more finely than Bilbo had ever seen him, Thorin seemed diminished somehow. Not in a sickly way, but as if some horrible weight was pressing down upon him. Bilbo stood shakily as Thorin sat and uncapped an inkwell, the lid clinking gently against its ceramic body.
“Thorin?” Bilbo voiced, softly, but without a quiver.
Though seemingly concentrating fiercely on the reports before him, Thorin’s head snapped up immediately when Bilbo spoke, his blue eyes ensnaring the Hobbit in their acute gaze without pause.
“Bilbo,” Thorin whispered through barely parted lips, plainly shocked.
“I… I’m here… Bilbo stammered. “I came back… back to you… if you still want me.”
“If I still-” Thorin cut his own statement off and practically threw himself over his desk, scattering papers and various items indiscriminately. In seconds, he stood in front of Bilbo, looking absolutely wrecked, “Oh, Ghivashel.”
And then Thorin’s lips were on Bilbo’s and their bodies were pulled flush against one another as Thorin kissed him. The fur blanket pooled at Bilbo’s ankles as he grabbed onto Thorin’s arms and clung, returning the gesture with as much vigor as he was capable of. The world fell away from them in that moment, during that kiss – a kiss that felt like salvation and untempered magic and a most sacrosanct oath all at once.
Bilbo was heaving by the time Thorin pulled just far enough away to pepper Bilbo’s face with smaller kisses, whispering endearments into Bilbo’s skin with each reverent touch.
“There’s ink getting all over your rug,” Bilbo murmured, “It’ll stain.”
“Fuck the rug,” Thorin replied, flippantly.
“I would much rather you fucked me,” Bilbo declared.
Thorin growled, sending pleasurable shivers down Bilbo’s spine, and swept him up off his feet only to hastily but carefully settle him on his back on top of the blanket. Kissing the Hobbit again, Thorin tore at Bilbo’s tunic, ripping it off him at the seams and throwing it away. Thorin’s mouth moved to Bilbo’s chest, latching onto his right nipple and sucking, letting his teeth just graze the sensitive area.
“Thorin,” Bilbo gasped through the haze of desire as natural slick began to leak from his hole uncalled for – the first loss of control he had experienced since his early training days – and stain his trousers, “Please.”
The rest of Bilbo’s clothing met the same fate that his shirt had, in short order, and the Thorin was fantastically bare as well – though Bilbo could not recall how that had occurred. As their bodies writhed together almost torturously, two of Thorin’s fingers pushed inside Bilbo, seeking that sweet place that never failed to make Bilbo scream in delight when touched. Practiced as they were, despite the long hiatus between the two lovers, they located the spot within a scant minute and Bilbo shrieked into Thorin’s neck.
Thorin stretched him for what felt like an eternity before speaking into Bilbo’s ear, his voice reverberating with desire, “Do you want it like this?”
“Yes, yes, Thorin, please.”
The fingers slipped out and Thorin hitched Bilbo’s legs up, ordering, “Lock your ankles around my waist.”
Bilbo obeyed and was rewarded by Thorin plunging his cock, so much longer and thicker than the Dom’s fingers, into Bilbo’s opening.
Thorin pounded into him almost viciously, moving in time to a rhythm that felt like dual heartbeats. After a few minutes, he grabbed both of Bilbo’s wrists in one hand and pinned them to the floor above Bilbo’s head, shifting their bodies so that he could plunge even deeper into the Submissive. Pressure built inside his body as Thorin began methodically nibbling at Bilbo’s chest and torso in tandem with the fucking, pushing Bilbo just to the edge several times as pain and pleasure spiked through him in delicious harmony. And then Thorin’s mouth covered Bilbo’s left breast and Thorin bit down hard.
Orgasm hit him relentlessly, his body threshing wildly as it earned the release he had so yearned for. Wild Green Magic rushed into Bilbo’s core in explosive and sporadic bursts that left him breathless. Only once Bilbo’s body and magic begin to settle did Thorin come, his essence spilling in Bilbo to be absorbed into the Hobbit’s deepest parts – an act that shored up Bilbo’s magical reserves by leaps and bounds.
Seconds or minutes or hours later, Thorin rolled over, pulling Bilbo nearly on top of him. As if they had been magnetized, Bilbo’s fingers moved over to the wolf which howled in vibrant ink on Thorin’s left side, right above his heart. Resting his head on Thorin’s chest, he closed his eyes in pleasure as Thorin traced the edges of the bold colors on Bilbo’s back in return. How easy it was to let himself drift in the pleasant haze of Subspace, every worry he had ever known rendered null and void whilst Thorin cradled him close.
Eventually, Thorin spoke, “I have Habanûrzudaz Amùmach in my desk if you need it.”
“You didn’t break skin,” Bilbo pulled himself back up out of the delightful fog a bit ruefully, “It feels good.”
Thorin did not respond, prompting Bilbo to look up at the Dwarf. Thorin’s eyes were fixed upon the ceiling and his countenance was one of stone, but tears were flowing freely across his features.
“Thorin?” Bilbo questioned in alarm; all vestiges of Subspace gone in an instant.
He had never seen Thorin cry before.
“I’m sorry,” Thorin’s voice was rough with contrition and no small measure of self-flagellation. “I am so sorry, Bilbo. I behaved no better than a savage beast the last time we were together. I deserve death for the things I did to you in my madness; I was so weak. I’m sorry.”
No pain could have been greater than seeing Thorin so immersed in wretchedness and dolor, “I forgive you.”
Thorin’s gaze flicked to Bilbo’s own, “You cannot.”
“I can and I do,” Bilbo returned, “I forgave you for what happened a long time ago.”
“Ghivashel,” Thorin said, looking as stunned as Bilbo had ever seen him.
“I’m sorry about the Arkenstone,” Bilbo swallowed heavily, “I never wanted to hurt you, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You did nothing wrong. The fault in those days was all mine, Bilbo,” Thorin told him. “You acted out of love and unwavering loyalty – I know that now. I could never deserve having someone as true and good as you in my life.”
“I’m still sorry,” Bilbo said, “For the pain I caused you then, if nothing else.”
“If it’s my forgiveness you need, then know that you have it without reserve,” Thorin replied, causing a knot of anxiety to come undone in Bilbo’s chest. “Seeing you again feels like a miracle. I have been so terrified for you – no one knew where you had gone or if you were safe.”
And the anxiety came rushing back.
“Er, yes, about that…”
Bilbo hesitated long enough for Thorin to gently interject, “You need not explain if you do not wish to.”
Briefly, Bilbo wondered how much that had cost Thorin to say. Before the mess with the gold-sickness, his husband would not have been able to surrender that level of control for anything.
“You’re going to find out anyway,” Bilbo took a deep breath, “It is only sheer providence that the news did not reach here before I did. It’s best if you hear about what happened from me directly.”
“I’m afraid I was rather farther south than you or the Company would have guessed,” Bilbo stated.
Thorin paled, “The battle in the White City, were you…”
“No,” Bilbo answered, drawing out the one syllable word before blurting out, “I went to Mordor.”
If Thorin had seemed washed out before, he became positively ashen then as the implications and ramifications of Bilbo’s words sunk in, “The ring you found in the Goblin tunnels was the One… you went to Mount Doom. You destroyed Sauron, didn’t you? Of course you did, you’re you… I’m going to murder your Godfather.”
“Gandalf didn’t actually know about the Ring until Mount Doom erupted. He and my Elven kin spent months chasing after me – they were briefly waylaid in Gondor – and reached me in time to save me,” Bilbo explained. “The very air of Mordor was thick with a cold toxin that made me incredibly sick for a bit, but they stripped the poison away.”
“You went to Mordor on your own?” Thorin huffed out.
Bilbo nodded carefully in response.
“You are never leaving my sight again,” Thorin swore lowly.
“Does… does that mean I’m allowed to stay?” Bilbo asked with a timidness that he wished was not present.
Thorin inhaled sharply at that, “Allowed… oh, Lasleluh, of course you’re allowed to stay. I would bear any physical pain gladly if it meant I would never again have to endure the agony that was being parted from you, knowing that I had no one but myself to blame, not even sure if you were alive,” Thorin’s voice broke on that word as he cupped Bilbo’s cheek deferentially with his free hand. “Stay, Bilbo, please. Please stay, even if you never permit me to touch you again, just please stay.”
The relief Bilbo experienced then was truly a heady thing, “Why on Arda would I not let you touch me?”
“I hurt you,” Thorin answered.
“You were sick,” Bilbo reminded.
“Do not make light of what I did to you,” Thorin retorted firmly, “My actions were utterly despicable, no matter how potent the thrall was. I nearly…” his fingers traced the scar on Bilbo’s neck, “You have every right to be terrified of me for what I did, for how I treated you.”
“I forgive you,” Bilbo repeated. “I have never been afraid of you, Thorin Oakenshield. Afraid for you, yes, tremendously so, but not of you. Never that. I would have run back to the Shire, or Rivendell, or, hell, Gondor if I was afraid of you. I certainly would not have come back here.”
“You were trembling before I kissed you,” Thorin pointed out, not unkindly.
“I was… concerned,” Bilbo admitted, averting his gaze to Thorin’s wolf. “Not that you would hurt me, but… you did not claim me until after you glimpsed Erebor during the Quest and I… I was worried that your desire for me, your affection, was perhaps an early symptom of the gold-sickness. And, if that were true, then I had taken advantage of you and you would every right to hate me for it.”
“Bilbo, look at me,” Thorin instructed and only once aquamarine had met sapphire did he continue, “You could summon another Dragon to this Mountain and I would find it difficult to muster up even the slightest displeasure with you. I could never hate you – I love you more than anything in this world and the next, Lukhudel. My desire for you began long before we stood together atop the Carrock. I wanted you the night we met; wanted you in my bed, in my arms, and in my heart for always. I was an unmitigated arse, because even then I feared losing you, my One.”
“You called me a grocer,” Bilbo recalled fondly.
“I did… I was a fool,” Thorin said. “I insulted you in your home and then erroneously took offense when you did not come to me that night, after I sang for you.”
Bilbo sat up abruptly, stunned, “You were singing for me?”
“It is an ancient Dwarven courting rite, gifting your One with music to acknowledge their place in your life,” Thorin grimaced a bit, “Had I been in possession of my harp, I would have chosen a far more romantic ballad. It certainly would have also helped had I the sense enough to realize then that you had no way of knowing anything about Dwarven courtship.”
Bilbo felt himself flush with pleasure, “It worked, you know. The song worked.”
Thorin’s brow furrowed, “What do you mean?”
“I was furious that night, mostly with Gandalf because Godfather is an old coot, but a little bit with you too. I had all but convinced myself to disregard the Mother’s Magic and turn to celibacy to keep my peace of mind, but then… I heard you singing,” Bilbo quirked a shy smile down at Thorin. “Your voice touched a part of me that I hadn’t known existed. I ran after you the next morning chasing that melody, because I knew I could not live without it. I threw myself into Sub training once I came of age, honing every skill anyone was willing to teach me and expanding my core relentlessly in a desperate attempt to fill a void in me that I did not understand. And then you came barreling into my world and sang and… the void was gone, as if it had never existed at all.”
“Dwarrow call it the Longing, that emptiness in our souls. It is how we know our One is waiting for us to find them,” Thorin said.
“I suppose most Hobbits never feel it long enough to remember it; I had met every Hobbit in the Shire by the time I was a year old. If you ever feel the urge to sing for me again,” Bilbo relayed, resting his head on Thorin’s chest again, “I promise I’ll come to you, Khaeluh.”
“You’ll stay then?” Thorin questioned, “Here, with me?”
“I mean to never leave your side again,” Bilbo promised.
Thorin kissed him, gently and devotedly.
The kiss ended after what seemed a blissful eternity so that the pair could grin at one another in lovesick delight and then Bilbo abruptly burst into giggles.
“You tore my clothes off, dear heart, you actually tore them off,” Bilbo told him.
“Well, they were very poorly constructed,” Thorin decided.
“They were hand-stitched by Woodland Elves.”
“Like I said, poorly constructed,” Thorin reiterated with a smile, “Terrible craftsmanship all around, really. No Dwarven stitches would tear so easily.”
“It was the sexiest thing I have ever experienced,” Bilbo announced, “And I shall treasure the memory of it until the end of time.”
Thorin chuckled, “I’ll ask the Tailor’s Guild if they can repair them.”
“Mmm,” Bilbo shrugged in Thorin’s arms, “They were traveling garb and I don’t intend to do any more of that any time soon. I’ll write to my grandmother and ask her to send some of the clothes she keeps for me in Lothlórien. I have a spare outfit in my pack, though I’ll need to wash it before I put it on.”
“I have clothes for you,” Thorin revealed.
“You do?” Bilbo scrunched his nose up in confusion.
Uncharacteristic nervousness flashed across Thorin’s features, “The moment I woke after the Battle, I began searching for you. I sent Ravens in every direction I could think of – obviously, I never imagined you would be heading to Mordor. My intention was to locate you so that I could go after you and beg for your forgiveness, beg you to return here with me. I never dreamed you would come back on your own. Your spine of Mithril continues to astound me, time after time, Ghivashel. I knew that you would have every right to spurn my request, with prejudice even, but I hoped… I could not help but hope. To that end, I wanted you to have everything you could possibly need to live here, happily and without regrets for making such a choice.”
“Thorin,” Bilbo spoke with no small measure of suspicion, “Did you do something absolutely over the top and dramatic whilst I was gone?”
“I did what was completely necessary and it is far less than you deserve,” Thorin responded confidently.
Bilbo was far less assured by that than Thorin probably intended for him to be.
“Let me show you?” Thorin requested.
Bilbo nodded, “Yes, alright.”
Thorin stood, pulling Bilbo up at the same time, “I need to speak to Bombur about supplementing your meals with regular cups of warm milk and snacks of dried fruits, nuts, and cheeses. The amount of weight you have lost since I saw you last is not healthy at all, Madtithbirzul. Honestly, you should not have been traveling in this state; I can hardly believe that Elrond allowed it.”
“I, er, more or less bullied him into it,” Bilbo explained. “I needed… I needed you, and Emel eventually concluded that I would heal faster if I were with you. Ada agreed; albeit reluctantly, but he did.”
Thorin’s countenance softened considerably and he picked up his shirt, holding it out to Bilbo, “This should be long enough to cover you.”
Bilbo took it and pulled it on, becoming amused when he realized that its bottom hem reached all the way to his knees. Long enough, indeed, and Bilbo had to roll the sleeves several times to find his hands again. It smelled comfortingly of Thorin, like Oak and amber and molten gold.
While Thorin pulled on his trousers and boots, Bilbo picked up his husband’s crown from where it had been laid on the desk. It was solid in his hands, but not overly heavy like Thrór’s had been, and was a great deal less disquieting to look at too. Standing on his tiptoes, Bilbo placed it carefully atop Thorin’s head, earning an adoring smile from the King.
“This crown suits you far better than your grandfather’s did,” Bilbo decided. “You feel more real… does that make sense?”
“Aye, Khajmel, it does,” Thorin said. “Come with me.”
Instead of moving to the study’s exit, Thorin led him toward the wall where Mahal and the Seven Fathers were portrayed. Placing his palm flat on the likeness of Durin, Thorin spoke out it Khuzdûl, “Jund.” A large chunk of the wall swung inward at the command, revealing a dark passage. “This is one of the many entrances to the Nala-dum Durinul, a complex series of secret tunnels that traverse all of Erebor. It is one of the most precious secrets of this Kingdom.”
Bilbo was silent for a moment, touched by the obvious display of the faith which Thorin had in him, before clearing his throat, “Do we need a lamp?”
“No,” Thorin shook his head, guiding Bilbo into the passage and allowing the door to seal seamlessly behind them.
For a few seconds it was pitch black and then the tunnel began to glow – lit brilliantly by thousands of crystals which were emitting a cool, blue aura.
“It’s like being surrounded by stars!” Bilbo exclaimed.
“Stone Fae used to live in the Mountain, during the First Age. They grew these crystals out of the very rock for Durin I and his Queen.”
They moved quickly through the tunnels – thank Yavanna that Thorin was present, because they were a virtual maze which Bilbo could not then have navigated on his own – climbing higher up into the Mountain. After about five minutes they came to what seemed like a dead end, if not for the notch carved into the stone. Thorin gripped it and pulled, opening a second stone door that was blocked on its other side by thick cloth. Thorin paused for a moment, listening for the sound of any others moving about, Bilbo realized, and then he pushed aside the hanging weave. Following Thorin, Bilbo stepped out into a warm hallway that was lined with a long carpet of dark blue silk.
“We’re at the very heart of the Royal Wing,” Thorin revealed, closing the door – which promptly vanished – and letting the tapestry fall back into its place against the wall, “The Carven Stone Apartments are just around that corner.”
“The Royal Wing, this is where you live?”
“It is where the entire Royal Family, including the Company, lives,” Thorin clarified. “Dwarven families do not tolerate separation easily; we keep our loved ones close.” Rounding the aforementioned corner, Thorin brought them to a halt, “The entrance to our suite.”
Bilbo looked past Thorin’s broad shoulder and his breath became trapped in his throat as he caught sight of the mirroring doors that stood before them. Though they did not form a perfect circle, they still carved far more than any other entrance Bilbo had noted in the Mountain and, what was far more striking, they were green. Not because of any paints or dyes, but because they were covered, every inch, in emeralds and peridot in an angular Dwarven fashion. Even the twin knobs were two large grass-colored stones with gold shot through them like lightning; they sported so many facets that they appeared to be nearly perfect spheres in shape.
There could be no question in regards to what those doors were meant to evoke.
“You…” Bilbo trailed off and then tried again, “Why did you…”
“Do you really not know?”
“You missed me,” Bilbo said quietly, but with absolute conviction.
“Every moment of every day,” Thorin confirmed without pause, “Not having you with me was like living with my heart torn out of my chest. Every single time I see the color green, I think of you, Ghivashel. I recall your smile, your vibrancy, your clever mind. I had these doors designed this way to give you back a small sense of Bag End, to be sure, but also because they reminded me of every good and happy moment we spent together. The emeralds mean everlasting love and the accenting peridot is a symbol of hope and healing – my dearest wish for us is portrayed here, the restoration of our hearts to full health and the eternal endurance of our love.”
“That’s my wish too,” Bilbo told him, “Falling in love with you is the best thing I have ever done. I like the motif… and the runes around the doors.”
Though his knowledge of written Khuzdûl was far more limited than what he could speak, Bilbo still recognized the runic phrase inlaid in gold, seven times repeating, ‘Ghivashel ra Khaeluh’.
“The pattern is called ‘Muhudel’ or ‘the greatest of blessings’ and is commonly used as a petition for Mahal’s favor, but can also serve as a reminder of the things in life that make it worth living. It is second in age and consequence to only one other motif amongst Durin’s Folk, the Emùlhekh, and was designed by the First Queen.”
“Emùlhekh means ‘majesty’,” Bilbo remembered, from one of the many vocabulary lessons he had received during the latter half of the Quest. “Are the knobs some kind of crystal?”
“They’re green diamonds. Such stones are exceptionally rare and these were the only ones of their like in the Treasury. The gold streaks are a quirk acquired in their creation – it is possible they were once one gem that was subsequently split in two – and are considered lucky.” Thorin gestured to the doors then, “You’ll find these doors are nearly weightless, for their base is solid Mithril; one of the defenses our apartments boast.”
Bilbo released Thorin’s hand to reach for the knobs, wondering at the excitement the other was trying and failing to conceal. Bilbo twisted his wrists in opposite directions and then pushed, the doors parting as easily as Thorin had said they would. Wordlessly and with wide eyes, Bilbo stepped into the most beautiful parlour he had ever seen.
It was large, large enough to fit the entire Company thrice over, and opulent, but cozy at the same time. A statement of wealth and power, yes, but also the epitome of home. The furniture was gilded oak, the warm red-brown wood covered in gold-filled carvings of oak leaves and acorns. Each piece was made even more welcoming by its soft design and by the bright splashes of colored velvets and silks – strawberry red, leaf green, butter yellow, sky blue, and berry purple – that served as upholstery, or covered the many plush throw pillows, or were stitched into lovely quilts.
The fireplace was enormous and arched, composed of an artful puzzle of multi-hued river rock that had been fused together with golden grout. It was wide enough to fit several grown Dwarrow inside and, by Bilbo’s estimation, would surely create enough heat to keep the entire space comfortably warm should the complex system of hot air pipes that the Mountain utilized in the winter months become damaged as it had been during Smaug’s occupation.
The floor was carpeted wall to wall, the first Bilbo had seen of such in Erebor, with thick wool the color of rich clover honey. The russet stone walls were covered in effervescent prints and tapestries and paintings that depicted a variety of pleasantly gentle subjects. Above the mantle, in a bejeweled frame and flanked by a pair of shields carved from two red-gold Dragon scales, hung a much larger print of the map the Company had used to find the Secret Door, with the moon runes plainly displayed – it was a perfect copy, Bilbo noted with a flash of guilt, despite the fact that his Dwarves had not had access to the original. A number of round and oval shaped tables had been placed strategically throughout the room and all been covered in a fine lace of shimmering gold.
Most striking of all, were the flowers.
Not real ones, of course, for that was an impossibility as close to winter as it then was, but flowers painstakingly fashioned out of gems to appear real. Displayed in numerous crystal vases were everlasting bouquets of sunflowers, violets, tulips, orchids, hyacinth, lavender, honeysuckle, and every color rose Bilbo knew of. Expertly draped across the mantle and a few other surfaces were vines of lotus, complete with the joyful flame-like blossoms that made it a Shire favorite. Hanging from the ceiling were little baskets simply overflowing with lively fuchsia and clusters of lantana. Catching the light from the room’s golden chandeliers and magnificent hearth, the myriad of blooms seemed to be aglow with Yavanna’s Grace and helped to light every corner and crevice of the parlour.
It was not Bag End, but if Bilbo had ever put himself to the task of imagining what a living space designed to suit him and Thorin both would look like, he would have dreamt up something almost as faultless as that parlour. How easy it was to picture the two of them curled up together on one of the loveseats, the room filled with the laughter and goodwill of their family; perhaps, one day, their children as well. Bilbo craved that future with an intensity that startled him.
“Oh, Thorin,” Bilbo murmured, turning to face his husband, “This, all of this, it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s perfect.”
Tension drained out of Thorin, “I know nothing could ever replace the home your father built, but I hope that one day these apartments will bring you similar measures of comfort and peace, Lasleluh.”
“They were designed by the person I love most in all of this world,” Bilbo replied, “They already do, Khaeluh. You made me flowers.”
“Winters are both fiercer and longer in duration here than they are in the Shire,” Thorin explained. “There will be stretches as long as several weeks where going outside shall be impossible. I know how much strength you derive from the sun and the green earth of the Amadel; my intent was that the blossoms would help make the winters more bearable and to remind you, in those dark times, that spring will return.”
Bilbo reached out to stroke a pale blue rose petal, finding it smooth and warm to the touch, “Did I ever tell you about Lithe?”
“I don’t believe so,” Thorin answered.
“It is the most sacred holiday in the Shire. Most Elven scholars will tell everyone that Hobbits came into being at the beginning of spring, but it actually happened on Midsummer’s Day. Yavanna woke the original eleven families – the Tooks, Brandybucks, Bagginses, Proudfoots, Bolgers, Underhills, Hornblowers, Burrows, Chubbs, Whitfoots, and Rumbles – on Lithe sometime in the middle of the First Age. It is our day of life and also the day when Yavanna renews our connection to her Grace. The responsibility of High Green Magic is bestowed upon those of three Noble families who have proved themselves capable of wielding it on Lithe too.” Bilbo pushed up the sleeves of Thorin’s shirt to reveal the eleven blood red roses and curling, dark green ivy on each of his arms, “I received my roses and the Fae wings on my back during the Lithes after I completed the eighteen month training periods at the House of Roses and the House of Green; the inkings were done as part of the rituals in which Yavanna blessed my core.”
“You told us at Beorn’s that the inkings were magical,” Thorin recalled. “Gandalf interrupted before you could explain any further.”
“They are not the source of my magic, but… well, I suppose the best explanation is that they are the physical form of the covenant betwixt the Mother and me; a contract writ upon my skin more than they are a symbol of accomplishment,” Bilbo said. “Does that make sense?”
“It does, Dwarrow are not so dissimilar.”
“I bring up the topic because at Lithe all the Green Life in proximity to a Hobbit shines and looks very similar to how you have made these flowers glow. I do not think you could have created a more perfect reminder of Arda’s flourishing than these,” Bilbo told him, a tear slipping, unbidden, from his left eye as he smiled at Thorin.
Thorin caught the tear carefully with his thumb, sweeping it away, “I’m pleased. I had feared the winter months might do you harm, make you ill.”
“Hobbits are social creatures,” Bilbo shrugged, “So winters in the Shire tend to revolve around spending as much time as possible with your loved ones. Not that I have much current experience with winters in the Shire. Until last year, I spent every winter in Rivendell after my fifteenth year; barring the two I spent secluded in the Pleasure Houses, of course.”
“What were winters like in the Valley?” Thorin asked.
“Basically, nonexistent,” Bilbo admitted. “There are only two Elves more magically talented than my Ada and my Emel and those are my grandparents; after the Fell Winter, Ada did not even permit a light frost to touch the Valley. Often, it felt as if time did not exist in Imladris at all and I would be surprised when someone would announce that spring was upon the rest of the world.”
“I will take you to Rivendell each year if that is what you need,” Thorin offered, no trace of jest in the words.
Bilbo felt as if his heart had swelled then, “As long as I am with you, with our family, then the winter months shall not overtly affect me. There is no need for you to torture yourself, darling. I know that being in Rivendell was a cloying experience for you.”
“It would not be a torment if you were there,” Thorin returned.
“Maybe in a few years,” Bilbo compromised, nuzzling Thorin’s nose with his own in an entirely Hobbitish display of affection, “Once people have stopped talking about me destroying Sauron. Do you know that my cousin had the nerve to get all his people in Gondor to bow down to me? I wanted to give Estel such an ear-tugging for that.”
Thorin raised an eyebrow at him, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Ukradel, but I do not believe people shall cease discussing your feat even once a thousand years has passed by.”
A disgruntled sigh escaped Bilbo’s lips, “Do let me dream, dear heart.”
“As you wish,” Thorin conceded with an amused quirk of his mouth before he turned to shut the doors. The inner sides were adorned with hundreds and hundreds of crystals in tiny slivers that formed a lavender rose; the amethyst knobs almost looked like petals themselves. Beneath the left of the handles was a square chuck of the purple gemstone that Thorin twisted and the pressed in, “Our doors have two locking mechanisms – twisting this stone to the right engages the first lock and the second is engaged by pushing it. To unlock them again you simply must pull on the stone and then twist it left.” Thorin demonstrated the process for him, “I do not typically lock these doors during the day; it is hardly necessary because of the guards, both the patrolling and stationary ones. Also, the servants could not get inside to tend to their duties if I did. If you ever feel threatened by anyone or anything and you cannot get to me, for whatever reason, you can come here and be perfectly safe once the locks are in place – not even Nori is capable of picking them. Only Fíli, Dwalin, and I have access to the three unique keys which will grant entry.”
Bilbo frowned, hung up on one particular aspect of Thorin’s statement, “What do you mean by servants?”
“The Dwarrow hired and trusted to tend to the fires, keep the rooms clean, do the laundry, deliver packages, and take care of various other things throughout the day,” Thorin related. “They are on a schedule and will not return until after luncheon.”
“Why can’t I take care of those things myself?” Bilbo asked plaintively. “I took care of Bag End for years, on my own, perfectly well.”
“Because I have been reliably and repeatedly informed by my Chief Advisor that such mundane tasks are inappropriate for the Royal Family to participate in,” Thorin responded wryly. “If Balin won’t concede to my feelings on the matter, then I doubt he will change his mind for your sake. Ereborian royalty and high nobility have never been permitted to toil in the physical sense, at least, not outside of what training, battles, and their hobbies demanded of them. Even if you were not my One, you are the uncle to two Dwarven princes and the brother of ten Golden Lords.”
“Cleaning could be one of my hobbies,” Bilbo tried, more because of the burgeoning discomfort of having strangers in his personal space than any real love of dusting or mopping or scrubbing.
Thorin chuckled, “The servants will endeavor to be as unobtrusive as possible, I assure you. After a bit of time has passed, you shall barely notice their presence anymore.”
Bilbo very much doubted that, but he nodded all the same.
“You will find, if you look, that behind many of the tapestries and paintings in this and the other rooms are weapons hidden, tucked into specially carved grooves in the walls,” Thorin said, pointing at one piece, a tapestry with a grove of oaks in every color stitched onto it, “That one, for instance, has a pair of axes secured away behind it. Also, many of your flowers have knives – in various sizes – built into them.”
“Is that a normal precaution?” Bilbo blinked, “Or should I be concerned?”
“Most Dwarven homes have such safeguards,” Thorin told him with a shrug, “I have no reason to believe that any specific threat is on the horizon.”
“There are a lot of Orcs who wish me dead; they may track me here.”
“Orcs are always a threat, but they will not enter this kingdom easily. If it comes down to it, I can always seal the Mountain,” Thorin spoke with confidence. “I do not make light of your safety, Lasleluh, but I also do not wish for you to live in fear. I will allow nothing to harm you.”
“Alright,” Bilbo replied, feeling a bit overwhelmed but unsure as to why. To change the subject, Bilbo wandered toward a nearby archway, “What’s through here?”
The smaller chamber was dominated by a circular table with two dozen chairs evenly spaced around it. Bilbo could not identify what the table itself was made out of, as it was covered by a shimmering swathe of aquamarine silk, but the chairs were ornate twists of platinum upholstered in alternating shades of cream and ivory. Before every chair was a setting of opal-encrusted platinum dishware – plates, bowls, goblets, utensils, and other such necessary items – and in the center of the table was a miniature oak tree that had tiny strands of opals draped through its metal boughs. The flooring was an off-white marble and every inch of the walls were covered in crystals laid out in patterns both swirling and angular – it took Bilbo a few moments of examination to realize that he was looking at a mosaic of abstract trees against a cerulean sky.
“This is a lovely space, dear heart.”
“It’s our breakfast room,” Thorin related from behind him. “Every morn, food shall be brought to us in here, delivered directly from the Mahblugîn-nud under armed guard. I imagine it will be second breakfast for you, as Hobbits sleep less and wake earlier in the day than Dwarrow. I can arrange for your first to be brought here, as well, or you can prepare it for yourself in your kitchen, if you desire.”
“I have a kitchen?” Bilbo questioned, stepping back into the parlour
“Your talent as a cook surpasses even the majority of the Masters in the Chefs’ Guild. It would have been a travesty if you did not have your own space to cook and bake,” Thorin stated, without a trace of irony.
“It was my raspberry honey biscuits that enchanted you, wasn’t it?” Bilbo teased.
“Mmm, and your dandelion jelly tarts,” Thorin returned, “To say nothing of your lavender and tea-infused cakes.”
“Those who insist Dwarrow eat nothing but meat have no clue how commanding your sweet tooth can be,” Bilbo said with a delicate snort.
“That is the entrance to our library,” Thorin gestured to a second archway along the right wall, “Where our personal collection of books will be kept. It is a bit sparse at this point; unfortunately, reading for pleasure has not been something I have been able to engage in since before the Quest due to lack of free time. The silver doors at the far end over there lead into our bedchamber and the rooms beyond it.”
“And clean clothes?” Bilbo asked with a grin, “Not that I mind walking about clad in only your shirt, but people might talk.”
“Aye,” Thorin agreed, his eyes darkening a bit with what Bilbo recognized as arousal.
Thorin enjoying Bilbo wearing his clothing was definitely something that the Hobbit would have to remember for later.
Thorin led him over to the doors – embossed with the Emùlhekh pattern and many tiny acorns – and swung them open, revealing a spacious room in shades of blue and purple and silver. Bilbo moved inside without truly thinking, so utterly captivated was he by a solitary feature of the chamber.
It was not the rich silver carpeting or the decadent and oversized bed with its numerous special hooks and loops in all sorts of locations. It was not the fireplace in the middle of the room crafted from chunks of blue and purple diamonds or the tufted armchairs and benches. It was not the forest of silven trees – maples and oaks and cherries – stamped upon three of the four walls.
No, it was the massive, thick panes of what had to be the clearest crystal in all of Erebor that comprised an entire wall of the bedroom, letting in glorious sunlight.
Balin had once told Bilbo that there were no windows to be found in the Lonely Mountain – and Bilbo had been prepared for the sacrifice that would be – but here was one. The effort that had to have gone into installing a window in the King’s chambers was unfathomable; by Yavanna, the crystal had to be at least ten feet thick. Bilbo knew, right down to the auburn curls on his toes, that it had been done solely for his sake.
“You put in a window,” Bilbo marveled, absently wondering if he looked as dumbfounded as he felt and simultaneously chiding himself for continuing to be so surprised.
“Would you like to go out to see the rest of it?”
“Go out,” Bilbo echoed in confusion, “You mean, we can go out there?”
“Well, yes, of course,” Thorin declared. “It would have been the height of foolishness to build you a garden and not provide you with the means to get in and out of it.”
“You built me a garden,” Bilbo spoke weakly.
“Yes, I… are you going to faint?” Thorin demanded in concern, reaching out for him.
Bilbo did sway just the slightest bit, but, “No. No, I’m alright. A… a garden is the most intimate gift a Hobbit can receive, Thorin.”
“Intimate like sex?” Thorin wanted to know.
“More than,” Bilbo flushed a bit, “Gardens are a reflection of our souls, a visible representation of the unique melody in each Hobbit. My people have far more in common with green life than most realize. We eat so often because, like plants, our bodies are constantly converting food into energy; plants feed from the soil they are planted in non-stop. We don’t wear shoes because they would block our connection to the earth; if you wrapped roots in leather the plant would quickly wither. In the Shire, the provision of a garden is the same as promising to love and nurture a Hobbit’s soul until time ends.”
“Good,” Thorin announced, “Because I am promising you that.” Thorin lifted one of Bilbo’s hands then, kissing the center of the palm and then each one of its fingers with a tenderness that caused butterflies to dance around merrily in Bilbo’s stomach; never before Thorin had he been able to derive pleasure without pain also being a factor. Finished accentuating his oath, Thorin carefully tugged Bilbo over to one of the three arches, the one that was sans a door of any kind, where a wide and spiraling staircase awaited them, “If you were to head down, you would discover my Craft Room, a weapons vault, and my personal forges with their individual supply caches. We’re heading up.”
Bilbo let Thorin guide him up, pressing as close to the other as he could without become cumbersome. There was a handrail of green granite to match the carpet that twisted up the steps, but Bilbo ignored it, trusting Thorin to keep him from falling if he managed to misstep. They came out into an elegant little study with a soft, dark red floor and cherry wood furniture adorned in purplish-red velvet. Dragons were carved onto every inch of the wood; Dragons that breathed roses fashioned from garnets instead of fire and sported eyes of jade. On one side of the room was a large and octagonal tea table with lots of little drawers and next to it was a small fireplace of red and gold granite built into the wall.
“Your study. Bofur and Bifur insisted on designing this furniture – all of the Company assisted in building these apartments, as a point of fact – and I allowed it because they were so fervent about the matter. I am, personally, not a huge fan of the Dragons, but they saw it as honoring your confrontation and distraction of Smaug.”
Bilbo found himself laughing, “I’m sorry. It’s just that I cannot help but remember Bofur’s ‘furnace with wings’ comment the night I met you lot. I cannot dislike the carvings as you do, darling; they do not remind me of Smaug at all, you see. More than anything, I wish to sing that ridiculous, wonderful song the others came up with whilst waiting for you.”
“Blunt the knives and bend the forks. Smash the bottles and burn the corks,” Thorin intoned in mock seriousness, “Chip the glasses and crack the plates.”
“That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates,” Bilbo finished merrily. “I was angry that night, but now the memory of it is one of the fondest I have.”
“Speaking of your song, do look up at the ceiling.”
Bilbo obeyed, finding it was covered in Khuzdûl runes of jade and garnet in swirling waves. He could not translate it in whole, but from the parts he could, “That’s the song up there, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Thorin confirmed. “Feel free to blame Fíli and Kíli, it was their idea and they made all the runes themselves.”
“Of course it was,” Bilbo replied, his tone fond. “I suppose I owe them as many maple treats as I can divine in thanks. Though, I don’t imagine that the Mountain shall thank me for doing so.”
“Our nephews on a sugar high, Mahal forbid,” Thorin smirked at Bilbo. “The copper plated door leads into your kitchen and this one,” leading Bilbo to the second with its rainbow of diamond whorls, “to your Craft Room.”
Golden oak flooring – a shock to see on its own – was offset by the numerous cabinets of linden; cabinets that held every imaginable color of thread and paint, stacks of sketch paper and canvases in all sorts of sizes, golden brushes and palates, and a variety of other supplies behind crystal doors. In one corner was a large and heavy sugar maple loom with a curved bench attached too it; Bilbo had enjoyed winter weaving in Rivendell, but the loom he had owned in the Valley had been much smaller in size and certainly not been inlaid with golden Faeries. In another corner was an easel of black oak with veins of gold wrapped around its legs to resemble flourishing ivy. The walls were adorned with at least a hundred gilded roses encrusted with all manner of jewels.
Everything was extravagantly beautiful, as Thorin had no doubt intended, but Bilbo found himself drawn to the set of doors fashioned from gold and a triangular puzzle of colored gems, through which he could just make out a terrace. At Thorin’s encouraging nod, Bilbo made his way out into the glorious sunshine, out into his garden.
And what a garden it was.
Bilbo was indeed standing on a terrace, a vast one of white marble with long padded benches for Bilbo to lie upon and soak up the sun’s rays. Herb and spice boxes lined nearly the entire thing and there were spaces marked or growing both pipeweed and tea leaves. Backed against the Mountain, on either side of the doors, were great chests full of gardening tools crafted just for his hands. A second spiraling staircase – the walls of it poked with dozens of holes and filled with soil so that Bilbo could plant hanging flowers to grace it – led down into the main part of the garden.
Geometric flower beds, big and small, paired well with the sections sat aside for berry and vegetable patches. Three little streams cut the space; two of them had stepping stones of amethyst and aquamarine and flowed straight over to the far wall and through tiny grates to create twin waterfalls on the mountainside and the third had a golden bridge and ended in a pond full of dappled fish. There was a gazebo of green granite on the western end of the garden, complete with a copper table and chairs, and on the eastern was the largest greenhouse that Bilbo had ever seen, made from crystal and gold. Giant honeybee hives, places for small apple, peach, and cherry orchards, and even a few hills of grass to picnic on were also features of the garden.
Under the terrace was a shimmering and weighted black curtain that could be tugged aside to reveal a closed cave system lit by the same stones as were in the Nala-dum Durinul. A dozen and a half groves of mushrooms already grew inside the cool, damp tunnels – mostly Bilbo’s favorite varieties, such as the golden Chanterelles, meaty Porcinis, and honeycomb-shaped Morels.
Bilbo’s garden in the Shire had been the largest in Hobbiton and probably the fourth or fifth largest in the entirety of his homeland – the garden Thorin had built for him was at least ten times as large and the entire thing was encased in a net of bluish steel.
“You… you have utterly outdone yourself, Khaeluh,” Bilbo breathed. “This is nothing less than magnificent. You won’t be able to drag me back inside come spring.”
“We have been collecting seeds for the past nine months so that you could start planting as soon as the weather permits. Beorn swore to deliver some of his bees if you agreed to return,” Thorin related. “If anything is not to your liking, it can be altered.”
“Not to my liking? Thorin, love, it’s absolutely perfect. I do not believe that any Hobbit in all of history has been so blessed,” Bilbo returned. “My magic shall root here even before the thaw and our children will flourish in this earth.”
“You still desire that, to raise children with me?”
“Well, yes,” Bilbo replied, “Do you not?”
“I do,” Thorin assured him quickly, “Though I deserve the honor not.”
“You do so. You’ll be a wonderful father, an amazing one, I dare say,” Bilbo retorted, raising a hand to stroke Thorin’s cheek.
“I have not earned such faith as you have in me, but I swear that I shall not fail you again,” Thorin said in a low, serious tone, wrapping his arms around Bilbo.
“I believe you.”
“We have some time before luncheon if you would like to bathe,” Thorin offered a few minutes later.
Bilbo snorted, “Is that a hint?”
“Not hardly,” Thorin denied, “You know that such things do not overtly bother me, but they do bother you. You nearly scrubbed yourself raw when we were in Rivendell.”
A good long soak did sound heavily and Bilbo hoped that it would, perhaps, help settle him, “Will you join me?”
“What is the net around the garden made of?” Bilbo asked as they made their way back down to their bedchamber.
“It is Everbright Steel, a special metal that never rusts or grows dull and can only be cut by Mithril. It is difficult to reach, but, even still, please make no attempt to do so, Bilbo, as the wire is extremely sharp and could cut you badly,” Thorin requested before continuing at Bilbo’s acquiescing nod, “Its name is a bit deceptive, for rather than reflecting the light that touches it, it absorbs it. This makes the net invisible from the base of the Mountain and from the air as well after a distance of a quarter mile is reached from it – Erebor’s Ravens do an excellent job from keeping interloping birds away. Further concealing your garden is the mist produced by the falls; there are several other waterfalls around the Mountain so yours do not stand out.”
“I liked the rainbows they made,” Bilbo said, “They helped to add to the enchantment of it all, even if their purpose is as a defense mechanism.”
“Beautiful and functional,” Thorin agreed, “You’ll find that most Dwarven-made things insist on being both.”
A door of black oak on the eastern wall of the bedchamber, with green diamond accents and a golden knob, led into a luxurious bathroom. The floor was so heavily polished that it was almost a mirror despite being composed of large slabs of obsidian with golden grout. The tub was big enough to fit ten grown Dwarrow comfortably and was made of solid emerald that had been laid into the ground – steam rose from the water that was already swirling inside of it. Golden shelves lined the walls, holding up soaps, perfumes, and bathing oils; enough to fill the Long Lake.
“Fresh water is constantly pumped through the basin from one of the many hot springs in the Mountain,” Thorin told him, “So you never need worry about the water becoming murky as dirtied water is flushed out immediately. This particular water is rich in calcium, bromide, and potassium, so it is particularly beneficial to bathe in.”
“That’s rather ingenious, far cleverer than the plumbing in the Shire,” Bilbo praised, shamelessly stripping off the shirt he had been loaned and barring himself to Thorin.
“The water can be stopped up too, if you ever desire to mix in an oil or some of the salts,” Thorin furthers, removing his own coverings as well, “The flowing water is diverted around and beneath the basin, keeping the water inside warm.”
Thorin held out his hand and Bilbo took it, following the other down the steps into the tub. The water came up to Bilbo’s chest and he relished in the experience of it – as he leaned back to wet his hair, he could practically feel a year’s worth of aches and pains being soothed away. In the middle of the tub was a column of gold that opened up when Thorin pressed down on an engraved rune. Inside was a half-empty vial of green shampoo, an orange chunk of soap, and – to Bilbo’s pleasure – a set of emerald chains.
Thorin plucked the vial out of the column and uncorked it, infusing the air with the scent of mint, “I need to add your touch to the Royal Wing’s ward stone so that you can interact with the Bloodrunes. You will not even be able to adjust the lighting in most of the rooms until I do.”
“I noticed that most of the lanterns held Habanûrzudaz and not flame,” Bilbo replied, inclining his head ever so slightly when it became clear that Thorin intended to wash his hair.
Thorin’s fingers moved diligently through Bilbo’s curls, lathering the hair section by section, “It is a symbol of status as much as it is a security measure – Habanûrzudaz are expensive and cannot be dosed by an intruder as fire can be.”
“They feel nice,” Bilbo responded, moaning slightly when Thorin began to massage his neck and shoulders, “Probably because I’m a Hobbit. You are really good at that.”
“Massage techniques were one of the specialties taught to Doms and Subs alike at the Khael Malmezel,” Thorin said, “During the first session, actually. Doms who completed the second training period are capable of creating Habanûrzudaz, which is no mean feat.”
“You completed three sessions there, that’s why your wolf is infused with silver, gold, and Mithril,” Bilbo remembered then, “You told me that more than once when I was in Subspace.”
“Aye, and in my third session I was trained to draw strength and endurance from the very ley lines of Arda while in a fight,” Thorin related, “The ability to utilize this talent is very rare.”
“It’s why you survived the Battle,” Bilbo realized in a subdued tone of voice.
“You distracting Azog with your wall of thorns certainly helped, Ghivashel,” Thorin stated, “Are you ready to rinse the suds out?”
Bilbo dipped below the surface of the water, his chest growing tighter with each passing beat of time. He came back up gasping for breath and with tears flowing freely down his cheeks.
“Bilbo!” Thorin cried out in alarm, grasping his shoulders.
Bilbo threw his arms around Thorin’s neck and held on as if for dear life, “Don’t let go. Please, Thorin, don’t let go!”
“I’ve got you,” Thorin held Bilbo against his chest, “I’m here, ‘Atmêl, I won’t let you go.”
“I saw you die!” Bilbo sobbed against Thorin’s throat, “Over and over again! That wretched Ring knew I meant to destroy it and every time I closed my eyes it showed me your death. You and the boys and the Company being tortured and killed in every possible way! I almost gave the Ring to Sauron just to make the visions stop. I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Thorin whispered fiercely, “Nothing. You destroyed the Ring, despite it all, and I and our family are healthy and hale. We live because of your courage.”
“I was so afraid.”
“And yet you persevered – that is bravery,” Thorin insisted, “The absence of fear defines stupidity, not valor.”
“I feel as if this is a dream,” Bilbo forced out, “Like I’m going to wake up choking on poison in Mordor, terrified that I’ll never see you again.”
“This is real and I am here and you are safe, Ûrzudel,” Thorin determined without wavering, “This is real and I will tell you every day for the rest of eternity if you need me to. This is real.”
“Hold me, for a little while, please,” Bilbo begged
“Always,” Thorin promised.
END CHAPTER ONE
- Lasl Hurmâl – The Rose Consort
- Kurduejùzêr – Heartchains
- Khaeluh – My Great Wolf
- Ghivashel – Beloved
- Khajmel – Gift of all Gifts
- Lasleluh – My Rose of all Roses
- Lukhudel – Light of all Lights
- Amad – Mother
- Nadad – Brother
- Amagurel Malmezel – Greatest Bear Pleasure House
- Kidhuzurupndarel Malmezel – Greatest Lion Pleasure House
- Khael Malmezel – Greatest Wolf Pleasure House
- Habanûrzudaz – Gem of the Sun
- Habanûrzudaz Amùmach – Gem of the Sun Spread, or Paste [Dwarven healing ointment that I made up for this universe]
- Madtithbirzul – Little Golden Heart
- Ukradel – Heart of all Hearts
- Jund – Open
- Nala-dum Durinul – Path Halls of the Durin Line
- Ra – And
- Muhudel – Greatest Blessing
- ‘Atmêl – Breath of all Breaths
- Ûrzudel – Sun of all Suns
- Emùlhekh – Majesty
- Amadel – Greatest Mother; Dwarven term for Yavanna
- Mahblugîn-nud – Eastern Kitchen
- Nín Merilhên – My Rosechild
- Ada – Daddy
- Gwinighanar – Baby Brother
- Emel – Mother