Chapter 1: One
“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
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Warning: Brief discussions of suicide and slavery
Thorin put off reminding Bilbo of the world outside the steamy haze they had cocooned themselves within for as long as he possibly could – his beautiful Hobbit husband had fallen into a peaceful doze after his earlier panic had been quelled and Thorin was loath to disturb the rest that Bilbo so clearly needed – but eventually the Luncheon hour grew near enough that he could no longer ignore it.
“Ghivashel,” Thorin spoke, prompting Bilbo to stir in his arms. The Submissive blinked his eyes open and looked up at Thorin with so much trust and affection that it momentarily took the Dominant’s breath away. “We need to dress. I dare not put off getting a proper meal in you and the Company will wish to see you as well.”
“I've missed them,” Bilbo murmured, stretching. “I’m sorry about earlier.”
“It was a perfectly natural reaction,” Thorin replied. “You went through hell, Bilbo. I would be concerned if you were not affected by all that happened.”
“I thought I was okay,” Bilbo said, not protesting when Thorin carried him up out of their bath.
“You will be,” Thorin promised, “It will take time, perhaps longer than you may like, but you will be.”
Thorin sat Bilbo atop one of the obsidian countertops, cushioned by one of the thick golden towels they owned. He used a second to carefully dry every inch of his love, from the curls on his head – sunshine and fire and shadow all at once – to those on each little toe. It would not do for Bilbo to catch a chill after everything else he had endured.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Bilbo spoke.
“I want to,” Thorin replied earnestly and was rewarded when Bilbo nuzzled their noses together – an innocent and much used gesture of affection in the Shire.
After drying himself off in perfunctory fashion and tying a towel closed around his waist, Thorin helped Bilbo down off the counter and wrapped him up as well.
“These are the softest towels I have ever felt,” Bilbo told him, “And I spent most of my childhood in Rivendell.”
“They silk they were made with was harvested from Milk Spiders and imported from the east – one of the final shipments Thrór ordered before Smaug descended. You may eventually hear the Tailors’ Guild refer to it as grade three, because there are only two silks superior to it in quality and rarity in all of Arda,” Thorin related, taking Bilbo’s hand and leading him into the hallway that was connected to their bathroom.
“I think I recall Lindir moaning about this kind of silk once or twice,” Bilbo laughed a bit, “He was very dramatic as he lamented how impossible it was to get a hold of.”
“Blacklocks despise Elves more than any other clan of Dwarrow; they would burn their own stock before they sold it to an Elf,” Thorin admitted, “They are also… more violent in nature and their caste-based society is quite rigid. I imagine you would find it extremely distasteful.” That was an understatement, Thorin knew, as Bilbo would surely be made horrified and furious by the majority of the people in Ulf’s kingdom. He quickly continued, “The silk was made by artisans skilled in the Craft. Over half of your clothing was made from the material.”
“Wait, what?” Bilbo demanded, only to gape when Thorin guided him into the space that would serve as both his closet and dressing room. “When you said you had clothing for me, I thought… by the Grace of the Green Lady, Thorin, I could wear a different outfit every day for a year and not wear everything in here!”
“There is a year and three months’ worth of everyday clothing ready for your use; that was all I had time to have commissioned while you were gone,” Thorin supplied helpfully.
“I had rooms devoted to clothing in Bag End and the Nórui tower in Rivendell.”
Thorin nodded, “Fíli and Kíli might have mentioned that. They’re shameless snoops, just like their mother, which is, at times, quite useful.”
“Even still, I did not have half the amount of garb as is in here.”
“I had to ensure that you had clothing aplenty, as is fit for the Arch Consort of Erebor,” Thorin said.
“You have… you still want me to be the Arch Consort?” Bilbo inquired softly.
As Thorin’s husband, he already was a Consort, as the title was used for all spouses of Ereborian royalty, and he had to be obeyed implicitly by everyone outside the Royal Family. Once officially declared the Arch Consort during a session of Court, Bilbo’s authority in the Mountain would be second only to the King of Carven Stone.
“I would have none other save you,” Thorin assured. He hesitated for a moment before walking over to a pair of smooth silver doors and sliding them into the walls, “Our dressing rooms are connected this way – these doors can stay open or closed as it pleases you.” Retrieving a ring from his vault, he returned to Bilbo’s side and held it up for him to see, “This is your signet ring, it marks you as a member of the Royal Family.”
“It’s made of Mithril,” Bilbo noted, letting Thorin slide it onto his thumb.
“They all are and each one is unique. All have the Crest of Durin, but while mine has a wolf and Orcrist,” Thorin offered his up for examination, “Yours has-”
“Sting surrounded by roses,” Bilbo said.
“Among its many uses, it is the key to your vault. That door there,” Thorin gestured to his left.
Despite his obvious confusion, Bilbo still walked over to the door and pressed his signet ring into the lock. The door popped open and Bilbo swung it easily toward him – Thorin had purposefully designed it to be light, ever mindful of his Hobbit’s physical capabilities. He was by no means weak, but there was no denying that even the average Dwarf was far stronger than he – Bilbo more than made up for it with his determination and loyalty and fierce love.
“Thorin Oakenshield,” Bilbo breathed after a long minute of utter quiet, “If I learn that you emptied the Treasury to make all of this, I will be very cross with you.”
Thorin laughed, “You saw the obscene amount of wealth in the Treasury, Lasleluh, you know that I did not.”
“Still… there is a not so small fortune in here, Thorin.”
“Yes,” Thorin agreed, because it was true. “You can consider it a portion of what you are due as a member of the Company, if you like, though it was not intended to be. Except for the more intimate pieces, those are definitely gifts.”
“Oh no, mister, I gave my share to Bard and Thranduil,” Bilbo crossed his arms across his chest and frowned at Thorin in mild consternation.
“It was unanimously agreed amongst the Company that you shouldering that entire burden was hardly fair, or right, and so the cost was evenly split fourteen ways. It was a matter of honor and justice,” Thorin related, kissing Bilbo’s scrunched up nose tenderly. He picked up a flat oaken box from the nearest shelf and carried it over to the plush cream chaise that sat, at an angle, in one corner of Bilbo’s closet; in between the silver floor-length mirror and the equally ornate dressing screen. “The things in here belong to you. I took them from you at the pinnacle of my madness and I spent each day since then regretting it.”
Bilbo sat beside him on the chaise and looked at him in silence for a moment before removing the lid and carefully setting it to the side, exhaling sharply as he caught sight of what the chest had concealed, “My beads and my shirt.”
“When I came back to myself and realized what I had done… I would have shorn myself bald had Dwalin and Dori not held me down. I was not allowed to be left alone with weapons until I swore not to use them against myself,” Thorin revealed softly, shamefully.
Bilbo looked up at him sharply, understanding writ upon his lovely features, “I was briefly furious with my parents and Gandalf for pulling me out of Mordor.” Thorin felt himself choke at that. “But, I’m quite grateful they did so now. I rather adore your hair, Thorin, and I’m glad our family stopped you from cutting it.”
And Thorin knew that Bilbo was not simply speaking about the locks on his head.
“Can you put my beads back in?” Bilbo requested, “I’m positively hopeless at braiding my own hair.”
The happiness that Bilbo’s adjure brought crashed through Thorin’s body. An avalanche of sacred rock, it cascaded all the way down his person, grounding him and granting him, for the first time in his life, the surety that he was truly capable of handling the inviolate duties assigned to him at birth. There was no doubt that Mahal had known exactly what he was doing when he had bound Dwarven and Hobbit souls together, because with Bilbo at his side, Thorin could move mountains – he could be the ruler that everyone needed him to be.
“Of course I will,” Thorin granted, and if his voice shook a bit, Bilbo did not call attention to it.
Thorin rose briefly to fetch a comb and beading loop from Bilbo’s dressing table – most of the beads he had been tasked to weave in were far too intricate to simply slip on – and the returned to his husband’s side. Sitting cross-legged with Bilbo facing him, Thorin selected the first section of hair to be braided, which was to be a shade thicker than the other six, and carefully ran the comb through it.
“I’ve never seen pearls in those colors before,” Bilbo pointed to the comb, “Blue and green and hues in between.”
“They are cave pearls from the Iron Hills,” Thorin said, “Erebor has them too, in some of the hot springs, but they come in shades of red, orange, and yellow due to the difference in minerals in the water. The pearls were a wedding gift from Dáin to you. My cousin said that you impressed him mightily during the Battle and that he would be glad of the chance to meet you properly one day.”
“You mean when there’s not a war on?”
“Exactly. Dori suggested using the pearls to create one of your evening raiment, which was done, and then I set those that remained into this comb and a matching brush and hand mirror,” Thorin told him as he carefully twisted soft groups of hair into a seven-strand braid.
“Along with diamonds, golden butterflies, and ivory flowers,” Bilbo noted. “It’s gorgeous, everything is. Balin briefly spoke of there being protocol about what I’m meant to wear at certain times.”
“You can wear whatever you wish whenever it pleases you,” Thorin declared, placing the largest of the twenty-one beads at the end of the braid and securing it in place with a tiny hair tie.
The Beads of Betrothal and Marriage were crafted by every Dominant Dwarf upon their coming of age if they knew they had a One waiting for them. These beads were then constantly kept on a Dwarf’s person until the time came to weave half of them into the locks of their perfect mate and the other half into their own. The Bead of Courtship was another matter, only crafted after both individuals had met. Typically, The Dom presented the bead to the Sub first and, if it was accepted, the Submissive would present a bead to the Dominant seven days later, initiating the start of a typical seven-month courting period.
Thorin and Bilbo had not done things the typical way.
Only moments after Kneeling for Thorin and accepting his Collar, Bilbo had entreated the All-Mother in a stunning display of Green Magic and created a bead shaped like a blossoming purple rose, which he had given to Thorin without delay. Thorin had affixed it to the end of a Courtship Braid gladly and had found, with time, that the gem – it had to be a gem though Thorin had no name for it – held some of Bilbo’s magic inside of it, for the braid never became unraveled. Thorin had not even waited seven minutes before he had offered the bead he had forged only the day earlier in return, a golden cylindrical piece marked by a Mithril wolf and blessed with an ancient good luck charm.
Only two days later, the pair were wed.
Bilbo chuckled a bit,” You love tradition when it means you can spoil me with gifts, but the moment it inconveniences me you throw it out the window.”
“Well, yes,” Thorin shrugged, because it was true and there was no point denying it, and gently turned Bilbo’s head to the side to better reach the hair he needed next.
“Ridiculous Dwarf,” Bilbo said fondly, “I followed Elven protocol in Rivendell and Lothlórien and Hobbit customs in the Shire, so I can dress as your people expect me to here in the Mountain. I draw the line at shoes, though.”
“No one would dare suggest you wear them,” Thorin promised warmly.
Bilbo prodded Thorin’s knee, “Tell me.”
“The three primary tiers are day raiment, evening raiment, and court raiment,” Thorin illuminated as he worked. “Every outfit in the first category, which is also the largest, is made of grade three silk and has gemstones sewn onto the outermost parts. Your evening raiment are made of grade two silk – which comes from the Giant Spiders – and are more elaborately adorned, with jewelry sets to match them all.”
“How many…” Bilbo trailed off.
“Seventy,” Thorin answered all the same, “And you have half that number in the third group. The biggest differences with your court raiment are that they are all cut in Dwarven-style, complete with cloaks and gloves, and have either purple or green incorporated into them, as those are your official colors. The clothing is all separated by what group it belongs to, if that is a help to you.”
“Alright, that seems simple enough, I suppose,” Bilbo replied, “And utterly extravagant at the same time.”
“I think ‘utterly extravagant’ better describes the festival raiment that Dori has planned for you,” Thorin commented wryly.
“I tried to have it toned down, but I was outvoted.”
“You’re the King!” Bilbo protested.
“Only to a point where you are concerned, which is all your doing,” Thorin teased, “You did name them Baruf, after all, and they take the responsibility very seriously.”
“I know they do, they scolded me terribly when they learned I couldn’t swim,” Bilbo stated with a sigh as Thorin arranged the last bead of the fourth braid into its place with the wire loop, “And they had this horrible idea of trying to teach me. I told them repeatedly that Bagginses can’t swim, but they didn’t wish to listen.”
“You were burning up with fever at the time,” Thorin reminded, “And I do not believe you learning such a vital skill is so terrible a scheme.”
Bilbo looked at Thorin, “Thorin, darling, when I say I can’t swim, I mean that quite literally. I understand the mechanics of swimming just fine, but Bagginses, Tooks, and Brandybucks are incapable of staying afloat in deep water. Certainly, there are Hobbits amongst the other families who swim – though most avoid the activity, regardless – but I cannot be counted amongst that number.”
“Why is that?” Thorin asked in surprise.
“Hobbits of the three Noble Families all bear the weight of Green Magic, even though only Submissives can wield the heights of it,” Bilbo told him, “The Mother’s Grace is a dense thing and that manifests in unusual ways, I suppose.”
“I thought all of Yavanna’s sons and daughters had magic,” Thorin remarked evenly.
“Perhaps a sort of it,” Bilbo responded, turning his head in the other direction at Thorin’s urging, “Though it is not really considered such by my own people. The natural abilities all Hobbits have – feeling the earth, encouraging it to be bountiful, growing fauntlings – are perfectly normal for us. It is like the Dwarven abilities to sense gems in stone and craft absolute masterpieces; they are the little, day to day magics that are always with us.”
“Yes, I see,” Thorin said, because he understood the point Bilbo was trying to make easily, “What is the norm for one group of people may seem other to a second group and vice versa. At any rate, I’ll ensure the swimming lessons are placed in indefinite hold.”
“Are they angry with me?” Bilbo inquired then, the touch of real fear catching Thorin’s attention, “For leaving so suddenly?”
“Not in the slightest,” Thorin was quick to assure, “They have missed you so much, Ûrzudel, and will be overjoyed to see you once more.”
Bilbo relaxed minutely, “I’ll be very glad to see them too. Is there anything else I need to know about the clothes?”
Thorin did not protest the subject change, “You have a crown that you can don or not as you please. As the King, I must wear mine whenever I am out in public, but there are no such regulations for the rest of the Royal Family. They are encouraged at Court, but not mandatory – you will find Fíli and Kíli almost never wear their own.”
“Is it heavy, my… crown?”
“It is made of Mithril and green diamond. It weighs about as much as your beads do altogether,” Thorin said. “Aside from the crown, you have clothes to garden and paint and cook in, sleepwear, autumn and winter coats and cloaks, and training garb ready for you.”
“Everything I could possibly need,” Bilbo echoed Thorin’s earlier words, “And then some.”
“That was my intent.”
“Thank you,” Bilbo murmured, “I honestly don’t know what else to say, just… thank you, dear heart.”
“You’re most welcome,” Thorin replied, finishing the second of the three braids on the right side of Bilbo’s head and moving to start the third, “I will do anything for you, Bilbo, anything. You need only ask it of me and I will see it done.”
“I want to never have to leave your side again, though I know how absurd a wish that is,” Bilbo revealed pensively.
“It is not,” Thorin contradicted, “And I will be more than happy to grant it. I do not wish to be parted from you either.”
Thorin was exceedingly doubtful that a time would come when he would be comfortable without his husband directly within arm’s reach. The very idea seemed like the worst kind of nightmare, if he were being perfectly honest with himself.
“I can barely contemplate the notion,” Bilbo stated, the words a mirror to Thorin’s own thoughts on the matter, “It’s unbearable to imagine us being separated again – it hurt so much before.”
“I will fight tooth and nail to keep it from happening again,” Thorin oathed. “There, Madtithbirzul, all done.”
Seven braids framed his face, twenty-one beads split unequally between them. The braids were flanked by an enchanting mess of curls that just reached Bilbo’s bare shoulders, marginally brushing the tips of the boldly hued wings inked across Bilbo’s back. Beautiful was not word enough to describe Bilbo Baggins; alluring, beguiling, and transcendental were, perhaps, better ones, but they still were not good enough.
“I suppose I ought to dress then, unless you would prefer to skip lunch and take me to bed.”
“You need to eat,” Thorin replied, trying and mostly failing to sound stern about it, “Besides, the Company will surely revolt if they learn I kept you from seeing them for longer than absolutely necessary.”
“Yes, alright,” Bilbo stood and stretched, letting the towel fall away as he did, “Are there underclothes somewhere?”
Thorin had to shake himself before he could reply, “In the armoire. The champagne-colored pieces are for the colder months and the cream ones are for the warmer ones.”
“The cream are linen,” Bilbo noted as he explored the contents of the wardrobe, “And are these wool?”
“Woven from the hair of Ebrian rabbits,” Thorin nodded, moving quickly to retrieve his own set of underclothes and a suitable outfit, keeping Bilbo within his line of sight, “It’s lightweight, but also soft and warm. There used to be thousands of them living on the mountainside, but they vanished when the desolation came to Erebor. So far, no one has spotted any signs of their return; they may very well be extinct.”
“Where did the material for these come from then?” Bilbo asked as he pulled a pair of pants on.
“Erebor is rich in many things besides gold and gems, Khajmel. Salt, coal, and chalk, to name a few, have been mined in abundance as well. There are great storehouses full of extremely useful resources that the cursed worm took no interest in; miles and miles of Ebrian wool was in one of them. A portion was set aside for the Royal Family’s use, but most of it was distributed amongst the people over the past year – I will have no one freeze in my kingdom.”
“Of course not,” Bilbo agreed lovingly, “You’re far too good a person to allow that. Is that where the wood for all the furniture and the shelving in here came from, a storehouse? Was there a type of tree that used to grow this silver and gold wood on the slopes of the Mountain?”
“The wood was a gift from Thranduil’s Queen, given to Erebor when my grandfather was just coming of age. It’s called Twixenwood and only Queen Gwilwilathel knew the secrets of growing it; her grove died with her, a few years after I was born. I split most of the wood between you and Tauriel” Thorin shrugged his overshirt on and buttoned up his trousers, “I figured that the two of you would appreciate it better than anyone else. Your day raiment begins on the far side of that wall.”
“Does it matter which I choose?”
“Not at all.”
Bilbo nodded once and then picked the first outfit up, “I’ll just wear them in order then; at least until I have the time to properly sort through them.”
“You should wear your Mithril shirt beneath your other clothes,” Thorin blurted out before he could stop himself.
“Do you think I’m going to be attacked?”
“It’s certainly not probable, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility,” Thorin responded. “Anything could happen. Not that you’re not safe here, because you are, but…”
“Are you wearing armor, darling?”
“You want me to wear it because it will make you feel better,” Bilbo concluded.
Thorin winced a bit, “Yes.”
“Alright,” Bilbo conceded.
“Really?” Thorin questioned, astonished by the easy capitulation.
“Really,” Bilbo confirmed. “Healing a relationship takes the combined efforts of both participants, not just one. If me wearing the Mithril helps you, then I will do so gladly. I’ll keep Sting at my side if you like, as well.”
“I would be most grateful,” Thorin accepted, “And relieved.”
“Mind you, I’m still bloody awful when it comes to properly wielding her,” Bilbo said, plucking the armor from the box and working it over his head, “It’s been mostly luck that I’ve had any success at all with using a sword or any other close combat weapon. I’m better with archery, and throwing knives, and my magic, of course – ranged things.”
“I can fix that,” Thorin returned, already plotting out a training schedule for his husband in his head.
“Oh,” Bilbo gasped, staring down into the oaken chest intently.
Thorin wanted to hit himself as he remembered the two other things that were inside, things that had been tucked under the shirt. It certainly was not the crown that had produced the blush painting Bilbo’s cheeks a rosy hue.
The Collar that Bilbo lifted delicately out of the chest had been crafted at the pinnacle of Thorin’s grief and regret. It had been designed to mimic the one he had cut off of Bilbo’s neck so cruelly on the Battlements, with seven cords of braided Mithril replacing the green leather that had been easily sliced through and a lock of green diamond substituting for the golden one of before. The inscribed endearments were the same as they had been, but the ones on the new Collar were filled with slivers of Habanûrzudaz – a feat that had proved to be exceptionally challenging, but Thorin had been determined that Bilbo would never have to fear the dark again.
“That, too, is yours, but please don’t allow its existence to trouble you; I have no expectations,” Thorin said lowly.
Bilbo bit his lip briefly, “Do you not want me as your Submissive anymore?”
“That’s not it at all,” Thorin moved to stand in front of Bilbo and cupped his face with all the reverence he was capable of. “Your Submission was a gift that I should have treated as priceless and I… I took it for granted, as if it were something I was owed. I let arrogance and unchecked pride pry away the shields of honor and reason from my mind and madness took me as a result. I failed you as your husband, as your Dom, and as your One. When I cut…” Thorin closed his eyes in pain, “When I cut your Collar off, I forever lost the right to ask for that level of trust from you again.”
“You don’t have to ask,” Bilbo all but whispered, “I trust you, Khaeluh, and you didn’t fail me. I won’t deny that what happened on the Battlements that day hurt me, because it did, a great deal, but you were not in your right mind. Even as furious as you were, you did not intentionally attempt to harm me physically. The cut was an accident.”
“I should have exercised greater; no, I should not have done it at all.”
“Yes,” Bilbo agreed, “But the sickness is gone. You beat it when no one else in your line ever has. I am proud of you, Thorin, not afraid of you… please don’t be afraid of yourself. You’ve spent a year punishing yourself, is that not enough?”
“I don’t know,” Thorin replied honestly, “It doesn’t feel as if it is.”
“Guilt is a noxious thing,” Bilbo asserted, “It can eat away at your soul if you do not keep it at reasonable levels.”
“Do you still want me to be your Dom?” Thorin asked, because the answer was far more important than any other consideration.
“Yes,” Bilbo professed without hesitation. “There is no one else I would consider ever Submitting for. You are it for me, whether I wear your Collar or not.”
There had been dregs of hope he had not been able to quell during the bleak period that Bilbo had been gone, hope that one day Bilbo might grant Thorin the permission to Dominate him again. Thorin had believed that if such hope was sound it would take Bilbo years to build up his faith in Thorin to the point where such an occurrence could come to pass. Truthfully, most of him had been sure that there was no chance of his husband doing anything of the sort.
Bilbo really did love proving him wrong.
“We can speak to Balin after Luncheon then,” Thorin said, “And he can draw up a Collaring Contract for us.”
“We didn’t have one of those before,” Bilbo tilted his head in open curiosity.
“Which was negligent of me,” Thorin opined, “I intend to rectify all of my past mistakes.”
A Submissive who willingly wore a Dominant’s Collar for more than three days without both parties signing a Collaring Contract was automatically subject to Erebor’s regulations. The rules for non-contacted Subs were archaic and, thus, stringent enough that Thorin knew Bilbo would find them more than a bit debasing – a non-contracted Sub, for example, would have to receive written permission from their Dom each and every time they wished to travel anywhere outside of their residence without being leashed. Thorin fully intended to create a better standard in his Kingdom, but he could not alter those particular laws without approval from the Mavens of all seven of the Mountain’s Great Pleasure Houses, and such ratification was no easy thing to attain.
“So… what should I do with this?” Bilbo held out the Collar.
Thorin accepted it from him and took a seat on the chaise again, “Kneel.”
A gust of air escaped Bilbo’s lips and he visibly shuddered at the Dominance in Thorin’s voice moved through him, sinking to his knees in between Thorin’s spread legs, “Oh, thank Eru. I thought you were going to make me wait.”
Thorin huffed out a laugh, “I know better. Will you accept this Collar from me, as a symbol of the chains that shall shackle our hearts together, of your willingness to be the very source of my strength, and of my oath to be the shield that safeguards your body, heart, and soul from all dark things?”
“I will,” Bilbo pledged and then bowed his head.
Thorin leaned forward and settled the Collar around Bilbo’s throat, gently tapping the two ends together to lock it in place. There was no physical key – the lock required Thorin’s touch and the utterance of a special phrase.
Bilbo collapsed against Thorin’s legs, clutching at the fabric of his trousers and breathing heavily.
“Easy,” Thorin gentled, “I’ve got you.”
Subspace was an intense experience for Bilbo, Thorin knew, even the edges of it.
“I’m okay,” Bilbo managed.
“If you need a few minutes that’s fine.”
Bilbo blinked up at him, Green Magic flashing in his eyes, “We can’t be late for… something. I can’t remember.”
“It’s half-past noon and Luncheon is at one,” Thorin reminded, running a hand through Bilbo’s riotous curls.
“Mmm, yes, that,” Bilbo agreed, “Mustn’t be late. Can I suck your cock before we go please?”
“You can tonight,” Thorin countered, and it took every nuance of determination he had not to cave to Bilbo’s subsequent pouting, “There are things we have to do first.”
“Oh, are you going to fuck me again?”
"Non-sexual things, Ghivashel.”
“Sounds boring,” Bilbo muttered into Thorin’s knee.
“I can guarantee they won't be.”
A few minutes later, Bilbo looked up at him, “Can you help me up?”
“Of course,” Thorin stood, keeping an arm wrapped around Bilbo’s waist. A necessary precaution, because Bilbo’s legs nearly gave out once he was upright, “It's alright, lean on me.”
“It’s because it’s been so long and I practically depleted my core of magic,” Bilbo related. Coming further out of the haze, he waved a hand flippantly, “You know, with the Battle and everything that came after.”
“You said before that doing so was unhealthy,” Thorin chided.
“I didn’t have much of a choice.”
“I would have understood if you had been intimate with another whilst you were gone,” Thorin said, “I would have far preferred it to you dying because of core damage.”
He would have hated it, but he would not have held it against Bilbo. He would have had no one but himself to blame, after all.
“I bound myself to you with Green Magic, darling,” Bilbo lightly touched Thorin’s rose bead, “You are the only person I can be intimate with for as long as my love for you exists. It doesn't go both ways, if you were worried.”
“I wasn’t,” Thorin denied. “Though you have, in fact, ruined me for other people.”
Bilbo smiled at that and began dressing again, “I did figure it had been awhile – you ripped my clothed off.”
“If you behave, I’ll do it again once night falls,” Thorin said, affixing his crown atop his head.
“I think the Tailor’s Guild might commit regicide if you do,” Bilbo rejoined, admiring the russet silk brocade of the waistcoat in his hands, every point of the woven chestnut leaves accentuated with triangular slivers of orange spinel.
“They shall more likely see it as an opportunity to sell you additional clothing,” Thorin responded, buckling his boots and strapping Orcrist to his waist.
“So, you’ll be doing them a favor and building up the local economy, then,” Bilbo teased.
“Quite so,” Thorin deadpanned, picking up Bilbo’s jacket and helping him into it. “Ready?”
“I need Sting,” Bilbo said, “I think I left her in your study, with my pack… and my ripped clothes.”
“We have time enough to fetch her,” Thorin assured.
“Should I wear the crown?”
“That is entirely up to you.”
Bilbo deliberated for a moment before picking it up and placing it on his head, “I don’t want there to be any doubt. I will stand by your side in all things, good and bad, as your husband and your consort. I will surrender myself to you and be your touchstone as your Submissive. I can and will be all that you need of me.”
Thorin’s heart swelled, “There is no doubt, Lasleluh, I have complete faith in you.”
“What’s that room there?” Bilbo asked as they passed through their bedchamber; the white oak doors on the western wall were unadorned and firmly shut.
“The Carven Stone Nursery,” Thorin revealed. “It’s barren, at the moment, because I had all the décor my grandfather selected stripped out. It was... disquieting, to say the least. I did not wish to do ant further redecoration without your input.”
Bilbo leaned his head against Thorin’s arm in a silent display of gratitude, “I love you.”
“As I love you.”
Thorin kissed his head and then they exited into the parlour – to find the whole of the Company waiting for them.
“Idadith!” Kíli exclaimed and then Bilbo’s arms were full of a sobbing Dwarf prince, Kíli clinging to him with all his, not inconsiderable, strength.
Bilbo held on to his nephew tightly, perfectly cognizant of the fact that Thorin’s quick reaction and sturdy presence at his back was all that was keeping the pair of them upright, “Kíli!”
“I’m so sorry,” Kíli wept, visibly trembling.
“What in the Green Lady’s name do you have to be sorry for, Little Raven?” Bilbo questioned in bewilderment.
“Word came from Gondor an hour ago,” Fíli spoke, prompting Bilbo to look up at the pale face of his elder nephew, “A letter from King Aragorn, detailing a very dangerous journey that was undertaken to destroy Sauron by one Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.”
Which rather explained why Bilbo’s Dwarven kin looked so shaken and distraught. Many of them seemed to be holding back tears of their own – Nori looked murderous and Óin practically apoplectic; Dori and Bombur appeared to be on the verge of nervous fits. Their reactions were certainly not what Bilbo had been hoping for, to say the least.
“Is it true,” Ori asked, fiddling with his Collar – platinum and a rainbow of gemstones designed to mimic ink splotches – with one hand and holding onto Dwalin with the other.
“The ring I found in the Goblin tunnels was the One Ring,” Bilbo confirmed in a calm voice that was entirely calculated, “And I did cast it into Mount Doom. I won’t lie and say it was easy, but I survived and now I’m back.”
“You were alone,” Kíli cried, “We should have been with you.”
“No,” Bilbo retorted at once, sharply enough that it got Kíli to look at him directly. “No, Kíli, you should not have been. I knew that all of you were safe and far, far away from Sauron’s touch. If I hadn’t known that… I would have failed. You were exactly where you needed to be, ensuring that I had a home and family to return to. So there’s no need to be sorry or feel guilty.”
“Your parents went after you,” Kíli pointed out, the words a shade petulant, “And your grandparents and siblings and Gandalf.”
“Facts that I was blissfully unaware of until all was said and done,” Bilbo rejoined. “In any other circumstances, I would have been bolstered by your presence, Kee. But, with the Ring… having to fear for your lives would have been a torment that I could not have borne. Do you understand?”
“I think so,” Kíli hiccupped and then added tetchily, “You’re not allowed to leave again.”
Bilbo nuzzled Kíli’s nose, “I don’t intend to. I’m properly sick of travelling and, besides, you promised it would take a decade to show me all the wonders of Erebor. My schedule is rather full for years, I should say.”
Kíli’s grin was blinding, “You’re going to love everything, Idadith. There’s so much to see.”
The rest of the Company were starting to seem marginally happier as well, so Bilbo figured that he ought to continue steering the conversation away from his escapades in the south.
“You accepted Tauriel’s Collar,” Bilbo gestured approvingly to the interlocking Ithildin arrows that perfectly ringed Kíli’s neck and were studded with hundreds of tiny grey and black diamonds in a color-sliding pattern.
The Collar practically radiated protective Elven magic – Tauriel had to have expended a great deal of energy to fashion the Ithildin into a solid and permanent shape for Kíli. Bilbo had only seen non-liquid Ithildin a few times before and always in the hands of very powerful Elves.
“A few days after the Battle. I thought Uncle would protest, but he just sighed at me and named Tauriel a High Lady of Erebor,” Kíli announced shamelessly, eliciting a huff from Thorin. “Yes, Uncle, just like that. He said we cannot start Courting until we’ve been together for a year, which I don’t think is fair because Fee gets to marry Sigrid and he hasn’t Collared her at all.”
“You’re getting married?” Bilbo turned to Fíli in delight, noticing the Courting and Betrothal Beads in his golden hair for the first time.
Ten bright orbs, which must have been Ereborian Cave Pearls, were connected by an intricate net of fine gold chains on the left side of Fíli’s head. Displayed proudly in front of these was a crystal disk with a thin braid of gold inside – a lock of Sigrid’s hair, Bilbo realized. Hair was sacred to Dwarrow, so Sigrid gifting Fíli with strands of hers was a bold promise that Bilbo thoroughly approved of.
“In two weeks, on Durin’s Day,” Fíli confirmed.
“Oh, how marvelous!” Bilbo exclaimed, pulling him into a hug. “I’m so happy for you, Little Lion. I’ll have to find you both a proper present.”
“You’re here,” Fíli replied, tapping his forehead against Bilbo’s with all due care, “That is the best gift I could hope to receive, Idadith. You’re really here.”
Fíli’s words acted like a catalyst, dissolving the lingering melancholy and bursting open a dam of raucous cheering. The next several minutes of Bilbo’s existence consisted of an abundance of heartfelt embraces and a charming cacophony of ‘welcome home’s and ‘I missed you’s and the reaffirmation of the kinship betwixt him and his Dwarrow. Surrounded by the family he had chosen, Bilbo felt the last of the shredded bits of his soul start to knit themselves back into place.
He was finally home.
“Yer so light,” Glóin commented, setting Bilbo back on his feet after spinning him around.
“I may have lost a bit of weight.”
“A lot of weight,” Thorin corrected, but mildly, “He needs to eat.”
“Aye, and he’s to go straight to the Healing Halls after Luncheon for an examination,” Óin declared.
Bilbo, rather wisely, chose not to protest.
“This is yours, by the way,” Bofur announced, passing Sting over to Bilbo with a smirk.
Bilbo grimaced in understanding, “You lot went to Thorin’s study first, didn’t you?”
“Yep,” Nori said, popping the ‘p’ and grinning like a Fauntling who had managed to sneak away an extra plate of sweets.
Which meant that the Company knew exactly how Bilbo and Thorin had spent the first half an hour of their reunion.
“I don’t know what the two of you have to be smug about,” Bilbo spoke in mock haughtiness, “After I caught the pair of you in-”
“La la la la!” Nori interjected, covering Bilbo’s mouth hastily with both of his hands.
“Right, sorry,” Bofur said loudly, “We’re sorry! No need to dredge up old memories.
Thorin laughed – something that startled all the Dwarrow in the room – and wrapped an arm around Bilbo waist, kissing his ear, “You ought to know better than to provoke our Burglar.”
“It’s not many who can outwit a Dragon,” Dwalin agreed.
Bilbo blushed, “I distracted Smaug. There’s a difference.”
“Not from where we were standing, Laddie,” Balin said.
“Either way, I never would have managed to strike him down if not for you,” Thorin concluded, “Though I would prefer if I never saw you in such a position again.”
“I promise, Khaeluh, that the next time we’re forced to slay a Dragon, I shall let you do the insulting,” Bilbo told him in as dry a tone as he could manage.
“I appreciate the concession,” Thorin replied wryly, “I’ll be sure to keep it in mind if ever we venture to the far north.”
The doors to their apartment slammed open then and a sturdy Dwarrowdam marched inside, a scowl firmly affixed upon her features. A circlet of gold and pinkish-orange sapphires rested on chestnut hair that, even thickly braided, went all the way to her knees. Her dress looked like a sunset, but far more interesting was the inking that encircled her neck – a tattoo of silver and gold Ravens.
“Here you all are!” she huffed in exasperation. “For Mahal’s sake, Thorin, Amad is having a proper fit. Why can’t you ever be on time?”
“How bad is it?” Fíli asked.
“Your mother and Frerin are doing their best to calm her down,” the Dwarrowdam answered irritably, “But your Uncle Marrin is being his usual unfortunate self and undoing all of their bloody work!”
“Peace, Namadith,” Thorin spoke, “We’re coming now.”
“Good and you better have an excellent excuse this time because… oh!” She gasped as she caught sight of Bilbo. “Oh, Nadad.”
“Ghivashel, this is the second of my sisters, the Princess Trísi, Maven of the Bâhzundushel Malmezel,” Thorin introduced, “Trísi, this is my husband and Submissive, Prince of the Shire and Erebor, the Arch Consort of Carven Stone, Bilbo Baggins.”
“It is an honor,” Trísi graced Bilbo with a smile and a shallow curtsey, “The people of Erebor owe you an enormous debt, Your Highness.”
“No, no debt,” Bilbo rushed to correct, “None at all. And, please, do call me ‘Bilbo’. It’s lovely to meet you.”
Trísi’s eyes widened at that, “It would be exceedingly rude of me to refer to you by your given name, sans an honorific, until we have known each other for at least seven weeks.”
“It would?” Bilbo blinked at her and then turned to Thorin, “How badly, exactly, did I insult all of you, then?”
“We realized fairly quickly that you didn’t know,” Ori supplied, when Thorin hesitated, “And Gandalf told us that Hobbits don’t really use titles, especially those who are related to the Thain.”
“There are no strangers in the Shire,” Bilbo admitted, “Everyone knows everyone, just about. I’m terribly sorry.”
“Ach, don’t worry,” Bofur dismissed, “We knew by the time you saved us from the Trolls that we were gonna keep you.”
“You’re our dear little Hobbit and no one else can have you,” Nori teased, bussing his cheek.
“I’m not little,” Bilbo huffed.
“Kunjâlmuzmith,” Bifur said proudly.
“Very funny, Bifur.”
“You called Thorin by name when you met and he didn’t tell you off for it?” Trísi inquired in surprise.
“Uncle forbid it,” Fíli remarked with a wink in Bilbo’s direction, “A conversation which revealed that Bilbo was his One.”
“And also that, if we left things up to him, Uncle would muck everything up terribly,” Kíli divulged. “Admittedly, our plan to have him swoop in heroically and rescue Bilbo from the Trolls didn’t quite pan out as we hoped.”
“You two planned that?” Bilbo half-shrieked, even as Fíli smacked the back of his brother’s head.
“Er… no,” Kíli lied, very, very badly.
“We nearly ended up cooked into pies,” Bilbo scolded.
“But we didn’t and I, personally, think that’s the most important aspect of the entire situation,” Kíli said. “Also, everybody learned a valuable lesson.”
“Not to argue with you when you tell Trolls that we have parasites, because you’re probably doing so for a good reason.”
“You should feel privileged,” Trísi announced, “They only almost accidentally kill people whom they like, Prince Bilbo. And we should get going before Amad really loses it.”
“Lead the way,” Thorin requested, taking Bilbo’s hand.
Bilbo only caught glimpses of the rest of the Royal Wing as they quickly navigated a maze of hallways, ensconced within a circle of Dwarrow as he was. Eventually, the ground beneath his feet changed to a silver-blue brick and Bilbo deduced that they had left it for the more public parts of the Mountain.
“We’re sorry about the Trolls,” Fíli offered as they walked, “The plan was poorly conceived. We just… Uncle was miserable, and we didn’t stop to wonder if you had a reason for not acknowledging him. Kee and I felt awful when we realized that you didn’t know anything about relationships with Dwarrow.”
“It never occurred to us that you didn’t know you had to acknowledge him,” Kíli added.
“I forgive you,” Bilbo said easily, “But don’t do it again.”
“Course not,” Fíli grinned.
“We never do the same stupid thing twice,” Kíli assured.
“Scamps,” Bilbo accused fondly.
“I’m still irritated with you two,” Thorin disclosed, “You put all of us in terrible danger.”
“Oh, but, darling, they didn’t mean any harm,” Bilbo defended, “And they only did it because they adore you so.”
Thorin sighed, “I’m only letting it go because I’m in too good of a mood to punish you both for it, and you can thank Bilbo for that.”
“Yes, Uncle,” the boys chorused.
“Do you have any idea what time it is?” a new voice hissed out and the Company parted just enough for Bilbo to see a group of richly-garbed Dwarves and an Elf standing just outside an open set of gilded doors.
“Bilbo!” Tauriel gasped, moving forward at once, “Thank the Valar! We have all been so worried about you.”
“It’s good to see you again, Tauriel,” Bilbo took her hands into his own and murmured a Sindarin greeting.
Tauriel repeated it tearfully, “You saved him, on Ravenhill, when I couldn’t. I feared I would never get to thank you.”
“You need never thank me for protecting our family, Starling,” Bilbo replied, patting her cheek.
“As you can see, Amad,” Thorin told a Dwarrowdam with silver hair and all-black clothing and jewelry, “Things have much changed since I saw you last. Proper introductions will have to be held off, we’ve kept the people waiting long enough.”
Thorin led Bilbo past his mother and the others, through doors that were covered in depictions of all kinds of hearty food and drink, and into the largest dining hall that Bilbo had ever seen.
Opalescent floors were paired with golden tables, chairs, and benches, with room enough for forty-nine thousand – as the Mountain had once been home to so great a figure. Much like the doors, the walls were covered in portrayals of all types of good things to eat.
“The Hall of Plenty,” Thorin informed him quietly, “Where no one is permitted to go hungry.”
There were, perhaps, three thousand Dwarrow inside – only nine thousand had survived Smaug and less than half of that had eventually made it to the Blue Mountains, after the Battle of Azanulbizar. Thorin had told him how his people had slowly been vanishing whilst living in King Ginnar’s domain, how a person would disappear and never be seen again, how reclaiming Erebor had been the last hop the Longbeards had of surviving.
All quieted as they began to take note of the Hobbit at their King’s side; the silence became almost deafening as everyone stared. Bilbo did not enjoy the attention, but he would be damned if he allowed himself to be cowed by a room full of strangers after all he had gone through.
At the highest of the tables, two chairs sat alone at one end, both marked with the Crest of Durin. Thorin led him to these and, once everyone else had been seated, he spoke, “My sincerest apologies for being late today, but before we eat, I must pronounce these glad tidings. After nearly a year, my husband, who together with me slew the worm, Smaug, has returned to Erebor to take his place as the Arch Consort of Carven Stone. He has not been idle in his absence, though dearly missed was he, for while we have been rebuilding our home, he was ensuring that it would not be stolen from us again. With the purity of the All-Mother’s light guiding him, he alone marched into the heart of Mordor and cast the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, vanquishing Sauron once and for all!”
The reaction to Thorin’s proclamation was deafening, to say the least, and Bilbo really could have done without his husband making it. The shock in the room morphed into awe and blatant admiration, which was irksome, because Bilbo was hardly a hero. He had done as he had to save his family, not for any selfless reason.
Eventually, everyone began to settle back down and harried servants lifted jeweled covers off of giant dishes so that Luncheon could properly commence. Thorin served the food for them both, as Bilbo would not have been able to lift the heavy utensils, ladling thick venison stew into their bowls and loading their plates with choice cuts of beef, crispy potatoes, hunks of brown bread, and links of sausage. Mulled wine was poured into their goblets from the several enormous bottles set on their table.
It felt strange, to eat because he wished to and not because he knew he had to – and then Bilbo felt discomfited because it was strange to him.
Only when Bilbo’s plate was more than half-cleared did Thorin deign to make introductions of any sort, “Bilbo, to my direct right is my first brother, Maven of the Khael Malmezel, the Prince Frerin.”
Like Trísi, Frerin had a tattoo ringing his neck, though his had wolves instead of birds.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Prince Frerin,” Bilbo acknowledged.
“Likewise,” the Dwarf returned genially, his violet eyes warm, “And may I offer my thanks for saving my brother and nephews? Your rescue of Fíli and Kíli from Azog’s grasp has already become legend, along with your slaughtering of Bolg to enrage the White Orc.”
“Beside Frerin sits my first sister, the Princess Dís and the Chief of the Crystal Carvers Guild,” Thorin continued, nodding to a Dwarrowdam who could have been his twin, save for her slightly softer features and much longer beard. “And the Dwarfling she’s scolding is her daughter, the Princess Líra, who believes that turning thirty means she knows everything. The twins, Princess Míra and Prince Míli, are next and then there’s Dís’ husband and Submissive, the Prince Consort Víli.”
Where Líra had the golden blonde hair of her father pinned up in elaborate loops, Míra and Míli had bluish-black locks that just touched their shoulders in a waterfall of braids. All three wore coronets of silver and sapphire.
“You need not be concerned about using honorifics with the children,” Thorin assured, “It’s quite acceptable for you to call them by their given names. Beyond my brother-in-law, you know everyone until we come to Gimli, Glóin’s son and a Captain in the Guard, and next to him is his mother, the High Lady Gélaní. Beside Óin is his wife, the High Lady Glorís and then her younger sister, Lady Florís. Glorís runs Dori’s tea shop, the Silver-Winged Raven, and manages the tenants of Pearlbrick Lane. Florís and her wife, Rannvá, both run Nori’s tavern, Dragonsbreath, and handle the shops and stalls on Blackgold Street.”
“Erebor has streets?” Bilbo questioned. “I mean, that makes sense, of course, I just never thought about it.”
“It is a kingdom, Khajmel, it would be chaos if there were not streets,” Thorin told him. “Pearlbrick Lane and Blackgold Street are, respectively, the smallest and largest of the Royal Bazaar’s seven heptagon-shaped streets. Blackgold Street has the largest quantity of storefronts, while Pearlbrick Lane is considered the most exclusive place to have a business. Nori and Dori purchased the rights to the two from the Crown. Glóin owns Rubystone Way, in addition to serving as the Master of the Treasury, which Gélaní is in charge of. Bifur’s wife, High Lady Lechí, manages Silverock Road for him as well as the Toy Treasury, a shop Bifur and Bofur co-own. Ori owns the street next to Dori’s, Diamondust Path, and is the Master Scribe of Erebor, in charge of the Mekebel. The other streets, Jacinthstone Road and Peridot Path are not currently open, due to, well, due to lack of available businesses.”
“They will be again,” Bilbo said confidently, “It’ll just take a bit of time.”
Thorin nodded, “I dearly hope so, for my people’s sake.”
“Time,” Bilbo repeated.
“Beside you is my third and youngest brother, Prince Itharin-”
“Finally,” Itharin interrupted, “You took forever, Nadad-”
“I’m sorry, I forgot how impatient you are.”
Itharin stuck his tongue out at Thorin and then focused his silver eyes on a spot near Bilbo, “I’m very pleased to meet you, Your Highness. Don’t worry at all about the seven-week rule, the time shall fly by and we will be good friends – anyone who can make my dear eldest brother sound less of a grump is surely worth knowing.”
“Itharin is the High Divine of Erebor. He and the other Divines tend to the Alters of Mahal and protect the Rock Creche.”
“I may have been born blind, but my Stonesense is the best in the Kingdom,” Itharin said cheerfully, “No one gets past me. Not that there’s anything to guard right now.”
“What do you mean?” Bilbo asked.
“The Rock Creche is where Dwarrow Carve their children into being,” Thorin explained, “Only it is currently utterly barren.”
“A lingering side effect of the Dragon, but his taint will not last forever. In time, the Rock Creche will be as bursting with children, as it ever was,” Frerin reassured.
“And you can Carve a child of your own,” Itharin said to Thorin and Bilbo.
“No,” Thorin denied firmly, “Our children will be grown saturated in Bilbo’s magic, not mine. I will not risk the spread of the gold-sickness to our little ones.”
Bilbo frowned, “Darling, that’s-”
“I will not argue this point with you,” Thorin stated stubbornly, “My mind is made up and shall not be swayed.”
“Alright,” Bilbo conceded, because it did not actually matter to him whether their babies came about due to Mahal’s blessing or Yavanna’s, so long as they did, in fact, come about. Thorin’s self-reproach was far more concerning, but it would not have been appropriate to tackle it then, “Do continue providing me with names, please.”
“Trísi you’ve met, but next to her are my third and fourth sisters, the Princesses Krísta and Frídda,” Thorin said, with a nod toward the two Dwarrowdams whose white blonde hair matched Frerin and Itharin’s in color, though their eyes were dark brown. “They’re both Submissives and are the Chiefs of the Goldsmiths’ Guild and the Silversmith’s Guild. Next to Frídda is my mother, the Dowager Queen Marís, and after her is my second brother, Prince Marrin.”
The derisiveness in Thorin’s voice at the last name caught Bilbo’s attention and he looked closer at Marrin. The Prince, dripping in diamonds and rubies and gold, was unabashedly drunk, despite the hour, and was doing far more leering at the Subs leashed to his person than eating – four Dwarrow with silver-purple hair and shimmering paint on their bodies in lieu of clothing lounged on pillows around him.
“This isn’t an Exhibition, why aren’t they wearing anything?” Bilbo whispered, uncomfortable.
“They have Pet status,” Thorin muttered.
“I don’t know what that means, but I already don’t like it.”
“Slavery has never been permitted amongst Durin’s Folk, like it is amongst all the other clans, in varying degrees,” Thorin related after taking a deep breath, “But there have always existed Submissives amongst the Longbeards who prefer to have no say in anything in their lives, they rely completely on their Dominant’s will in all things. They are known as Pets.”
“Yeah, I was right,” Bilbo said faintly, “I don’t like it.”
Thorin cupped his cheek, “It bothers you because, outside of the bedroom, you are on of the least submissive Submissives in all of Arda, Ghivashel, and I adore you for it. But there are many others who require different things to be happy. The range of dynamics in this world is vast.”
“It scares me,” Bilbo murmured, covering Thorin’s hand with one of his own and closing his eyes for a few moments, “The idea of it.”
“I will never let that happen to you.”
“They agreed to the status, Arch Consort,” Frerin said, “They signed legal contracts.”
“Those four have never had an original thought in their lives,” Itharin retorted. “Marrin ordered them to sign their bodies over to him and they did. We all know he purchased them.”
“There has never been any proof of that,” Frerin returned, voice laced with disapproval. “For one thing, he had not the funds to do so when he brought them in.”
“Are there any other… Pets in the Mountain?” Bilbo inquired.
“Six, but only my brother’s are required to remain unclothed at all time,” Thorin said. “Marrin’s Subs are called Kizuri, Norazim, Navraz, and Uzerra. They are allowed to speak to no one but each other and their Dom – legally, they cannot ignore you, but it will distress them greatly to disobey Marrin and he will punish him for it.”
“That’s their dynamic,” Thorin responded. “After Marrin, you know everyone until we come to Bombur’s tykes, all read heads, Balbarí, Halbarí, Terbarí, Norbarí, Chalbarí, and the youngest and only boy of the brood, Rombur. Next to Bombur is his wife and Domme, High Lady Rínalí. She is the Chief of the Architect’s Guild and was the only child of a very affluential Lord in the blue Mountains – which is why she and Bombur are so blessed with bairns.”
“You have to pay to have children?” Bilbo questioned, aghast.
“Not in my kingdom,” Thorin illuminated, “But in others, yes.”
Bilbo did not approve of the other Dwarven kingdoms, “Who are those Dwarrow at the very end of our table? They weren’t waiting outside with everyone else.”
“That’s because they’re not part of Erebor’s Royal Family,” Thorin answered, “They are relations of King Ginnar. His only sister, Princess Grigga, and her Sub, Lord Fó, sit directly opposite us. The four others are their children, the Princes Lógar, Rógar, and Zógar and the Princess Ragóla.”
“They’re all quite terrible,” Itharin volunteered.
“Nadadith,” Thorin and Frerin chastised in harmony.
“I hate it when they do that,” Itharin commiserated to Bilbo, “It creeps me out.”
“My big brothers said that you have magic,” a new voice spoke from Bilbo’s side, and Bilbo turned to see that Líra had escaped from her seat to speak to him. Her little hands were on her hips and she looked entirely expectant, “I want to see.”
“Líra,” Dis called, having realized that her daughter was not where she was meant to be, “Now is not the time. The Arch Consort is eating.”
“I don’t mind,” Bilbo spoke, calling upon the magic swirling in his core with ease to summon a large rose into his palm.
“It’s changing color!” Líra cried out in delight, loud enough to spur her younger siblings and Bombur’s children into scurrying over to the head of the table too.
Bilbo smiled at the innocent display of wonder and then blew onto the flower in his hand, splitting it into a hundred gossamer petals that danced around the Dwarflings and then grew into roses of their own. Within moments, all the children in the hall – all forty of them – were dashing about, jubilant in their play.
“Why do your eyes turn green?” Líra wanted to know, bouncing in place.
“My magic is a divine gift from the Green Lady, from Yavanna,” Bilbo said, “My eyes turn green to denote that I am preforming a sacred art in her name.”
“They look like green diamonds, with just a hint of golden lightning,” Líra commented, “Like Uncle Thorin’s doorknobs! Does that mean your eyes are lucky? I think they must be lucky! Can you make any kind of flowers? Fee said you made a great forest of thorns during the Battle and whipped Azog in the face with vines.”
“I’m afraid creating roses is the only thing I can do without invoking a spell.”
“I want to see a spell,” one of Bombur’s daughters, Norbarí, declared.
“Me too,” Míli added excitedly.
“Show us a spell!” Terbarí said.
Bilbo raised an eyebrow at them.
“Please, Líra caught on to what he had been waiting for, “Please, please, please!”
“Yes, please, show us a Hobbity spell,” Míra begged.
“Alright, alright,” Bilbo agreed, settling the loud chorus of pleading that the little ones had dissolved into. After a deep breath, Bilbo began to sing, “Mam o fy nghalon, rhowch fi eich gras. Cynortwyo fi amddiffyn y plant o hyn lle. Adenydd y glöynnad byw rhaid gwarchod yn erbyn y tywyll a stopio du hud rhag gadael ‘r nod.”
Butterflies burst out of Bilbo’s palms in a flash of sparkling green and purple and gold light, flittering all around with wings of iridescent blue and bodies of living silver. One by one, they alighted on the middle finger of each Dwarfling, their legs wrapping around the digits to form rings even as their wings turned to crystal. At least a dozen of the little creatures darted out of the Hall of Plenty, to Bilbo’s surprise.
“Are there children not eating?” Bilbo asked Thorin, leaning against his husband a bit tiredly.
“There’s a minor illness going around that keeps them in bed; seventeen of them are sick, I believe,” Thorin said. “I recognized a few of the words. That was a protection spell, yes?”
“You remembered,” Bilbo replied, pleased.
“You need not seem so surprised,” Thorin told him.
Bilbo’s smile widened, “It’s considered a good luck charm in the Shire, one just for children. My grandmother, Laura Baggins, goes around the Four Farthings every year to make new ones for all the babes. They’re not usually those colors, though, mine was green and copper.”
“I’m not a baby,” Líra protested.
“Of course not,” Bilbo agreed, “But you are also not yet of age and so Yavanna has willed that you be blessed with luck. One should never argue with the Green Lady; that’s just asking for trouble.”
“I suppose,” Líra acquiesced, admiring her ring, “I would not want to upset the All-Mother.”
“It’s time to finish eating,” Thorin instructed, “Everyone, back to your seats.”
Begrudgingly, the children obeyed, darting or toddling back to their mothers or fathers or assorted other relatives.
Líra hesitated and then quickly hugged Bilbo, “Thank you for my pretty ring, Idadith,” before returning to her seat.
“Are all Hobbits capable of such things?” Frerin inquired, after a long moment.
“Only Submissives from the three Noble Lines who have entered into covenants with Yavanna can invoke spells,” Bilbo answered, taking a sip of wine, “And there are different levels of each covenant type.”
“How many types are there?” Itharin wondered.
“Three; each of the Elite Pleasure Houses prepares a Submissive to accept a different type of covenant. The House of Roses, managed by the Bagginses, keeps the Defensive Spells. The House of Green keeps the Wild Spells and is managed by the Tooks. The Healing Spells are kept by the House of Sun, managed by the Brandybuck line,” Bilbo revealed. “The more sessions a Submissive completes at an Elite House, the more in-depth their covenant is. A Submissive who completes all three possible sessions at a House is noted by a special distinction – they are known as a ‘Rose’, or a ‘Fae’, or a ‘Sundrop’, or a combination of the three in sporadic cases.”
“Did you complete three sessions at one of the Elite Houses?” Dís questioned.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Bilbo admitted, “I actually completed three sessions at two of them, the House of Roses and the House of Green. I bear the tertiary marks of dual covenants.”
“So, your people would refer to use as a ‘Rose Fae’ then?”
“A ‘Red Rose, Summer Fae’, actually,” Bilbo clarified, “As I’m a Masochist. If I weren’t, I would be called a ‘White Rose, Spring Fae’, Princess.”
“Your devotion to the All-Mother is admirable,” Itharin praised, “Such training denotes a keen mind and a willingness to be taught, which is a refreshing change from the Subs in the Blue Mountains.”
“I love to learn,” Bilbo replied, “Emel calls me her Parfhên, her Book Child.”
“Bilbo trained at the Premier Pleasure House in Rivendell as well,” Thorin said proudly.
“I only did one session at the Silverbow House; I’m not an Elf, so completing more would have been utterly impossible,” Bilbo spoke.
“It’s still an impressive feat,” Trísi interjected. “Few non-Elves have managed the same. How did you come to be raised by Lord Elrond and Lady Celebrían, may I ask?”
“They, my Mama, and my Papa formed a Quartet,” Bilbo told her, causing her eyes to widen with blatant shock. Bilbo did not blame her for her reaction, as such groupings were exceedingly rare, “Two Doms and Two Subs… I have always had four parents, Princess Trísi. When the Fell Winter claimed two of them and my infant sisters, I went to live with Ada and Emel in the Valley and didn’t go back to the Shire until I came of age.”
“To train,” Trísi deduced, empathy flashing through her eyes.
Bilbo nodded, “I spent eighteen months at each House in total.”
“Are Exhibitions common in the Shire?” Frerin wanted to know.
“Very much so,” Bilbo confirmed, “There is always at least one scheduled on any given night just in Hobbiton alone. Are they here?”
“The Exhibition Theatres are not finished being rebuilt,” Thorin said, “Nearly everything else took preference. I imagine they shall be much used once construction is complete, however.”
“Did you participate in many?” Frerin questioned.
“Only Collared Submissives are permitted to be Exhibited in the Shire, but I was in several in Rivendell and Lothlórien.”
“None of your own people ever tried to Collar you?” Trísi asked, “With your level of training, I imagine you would have been coveted.”
“They tried,” Bilbo speared a potato, “They were vehemently denied. For a multitude of reasons.”
Thorin wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him a bit closer, “Masochists are singular amongst Yavanna’s sons and daughters and, likewise, so are Sadists. Bilbo’s dynamic did not mesh with any of the Hobbits who offered him a Collar.”
Thorin’s siblings accepted the explanation easily; dynamic mesh was of the upmost importance to Dwarrow, Bilbo knew. If only it had been so highly regarded in the Shire.
“I have only ever worn Thorin’s Collar and I will never willingly wear another’s,” Bilbo said, matter-of-factly.
Bilbo would sooner drive a knife into his heart, but that was inappropriate Luncheon conversation and so he did not bring it up.
“Are all the Mavens of Erebor Submissives?” he questioned instead.
“Aye,” Frerin replied, “By the decree of Durin I. Every Maven has a Collar tattooed around their neck as a sign of loyalty to their House. Even those who have Doms must put the good of their Houses first in their lives.”
“Most Doms don’t appreciate that,” Trísi added.
“It’s just as well for me,” Trísi shrugged, “I quite enjoy the variety that comes with ‘here then gone’ partners. It spices things up.”
END CHAPTER TWO
- Lasl Hurmâl – The Rose Consort
- Kurduejùzêr – Heartchains
- Khaeluh – My Great Wolf
- Ghivashel – Beloved
- Lasleluh – My Rose of all Roses
- Baruf – Family
- Ûrzudel – Sun of all Suns
- Madtithbirzul – Little Golden Heart
- Khajmel – Gift of all Gifts
- Habanûrzudaz – Gem of the Sun
- Idadith – Little Uncle
- Amad – Mother
- Nadad – Brother
- Nadadith – Little Brother
- Namad – Sister
- Namadith – Little Sister
- Bâhzundushel Malmezel – Greatest Raven Pleasure House
- Kunjâlmuzmith – Little Bunny
- Khael Malmezel – Greatest Wolf Pleasure House
- Mekebel – The Great Library
- Nórui – Sunny (Bilbo has a tower suite in Rivendell, where he spent most of his childhood)
- Emel – Mother
- Parfhên – Book Child
- Ada – Father
- Mam o fy nghalon, rhowch fi eich gras. – Mother of my heart, grant me your Grace.
- Cynortwyo fi amddiffyn y plant o hyn lle – Help me protect the children of this place.
- Adenydd y glöynnad byw rhaid gwarchod yn erbyn y tywyll, a stopio du hud rhag gadael ‘r nod. – Butterfly wings shall guard against the dark, and stop black magic from leaving a mark.