Bilbo watched in awe as Thorin Oakenshield strode determinedly down the fallen tree trunk towards the pale orc, smoke and flame surrounding him as he clasped his sword firmly in thick calloused hands.
What bravery and sense of duty must rest in the dwarf king's heart? How could he move so confidently towards what could only be certain death? Bilbo's eyes widened as he took in the sight before him, trying to make sense of it through the haze of terror he'd been engulfed in. There was no way Thorin could win. How many orcs and wargs stood before them?
Bilbo swallowed dryly as the orc urged his white mount to lunge at Thorin. The dwarf swung his sword, managing to clip the warg's shoulder, but he was thrown easily to the ground. Bilbo watched helplessly as the beast grabbed Thorin up and shook him like a useless toy, each of Thorin's cries of pain piercing Bilbo like a knife to his heart. Horror gripped him when the king hit the ground with a grunt, and did not rise.
Looking back, the little hobbit could not say what he thought he could do against the terrible foe. His thoughts were consumed with the same mantra.
Thorin can not die. Not Thorin. Not Thorin.
It was all he heard in his head as he traced the same path Thorin had just taken towards the menacing orcs before him. The ground was still hot with ash under his leathery feet, the smoke catching in his lungs and making his eyes water. He moved with purpose, and his heartbeat was a roar in his ears, adrenaline pounding through him as he lunged forth and tackled the orc standing over Thorin's still form. Rage and determination had taken over as he plunged his little sword into Thorin's would be murderer. He leaped up and stood between Thorin and the pale orc, who sneered and cackled at him in amusement. Bilbo struggled not to crumble in his fear, but he firmly planted his feet and took a steadying breath.
Bilbo's hands shook as they held his sword in front of him, slashing sloppily back and forth in an attempt to hold the orcs before him at bay. Azog laughed again at the hobbit's sorry attempt to defend the king and kicked his warg to charge at the small creature. His advance sent Bilbo stumbling back towards Thorin, his sword flying from his scrambling hands. Azog grabbed him by the jacket and held him aloft before the dwarf, grinning menacingly as the would be king lay helplessly at his mounts feet.
“A body guard, Oakenshield?” he asked mockingly. “There is none who will save you now.”
Azog threw Bilbo aside effortlessly and dismounted. He strode towards Thorin, blade raised to finish the job himself.
Again Bilbo threw himself in harms way to protect his fallen friend. He jumped between the two completely unarmed, and threw his hands out beside him, as if shielding Thorin from the foul orcs view could possibly save him.
Azog spat at him, raising his blade again threateningly. “Move, or I will cut you in two.”
“No.” Bilbo's voice was soft, but sure. He lifted his chin in defiance, though his body was wracked with fearful tremors.
Thorin looked up at the determined hobbit in disbelief, rolling with great difficulty onto his side with a painful groan. “Bilbo, no-” he bit out between clenched teeth as he reached for his sword.
Bilbo glanced back at Thorin when he called out his name, relieved to hear him speak, confirming he was still alive. Azog took his chance and reached out to grab the halfling again, picking him up off the ground by the front of his shirt.
“You dare to stand in my way! Do you really think I would let you survive? Are you ready to die for him, you pathetic creature?” he roared at Bilbo.
Bilbo looked at Thorin, staring directly into those too blue eyes and lifting the corner of his lips as he responded. “Yes. A thousand times.”
“No!!” Thorin roared as rage overtook him. He grabbed his sword and tried again to rise, but stumbled back onto the dirt just as a great shriek echoed over them all.
The eagles had finally arrived. Thorin couldn't help but wonder as his vision grew dark, would the hobbit be spared? And, if Bilbo would not live, did Thorin even want to be saved?
* * * * *
Bilbo couldn't say when it had happened, but on some point in his journey with the company, he had become quite attached to its leader. At first, he found Thorin quite rude and didn't care much for him. His harsh tongue and flippant remarks seemingly always aimed at Bilbo, rubbed on his last nerve. He was quite convinced that Thorin hated him. It was rough going from the very start, standing in his own home being circled and sized up like a prized pig at the Hobbiton fair. The king had obviously found him wanting, and made no secret of his disapproval of Gandalf's choosing the hobbit as their burglar.
Not that Bilbo was a burglar at all to begin with, but that was certainly not the point.
The hobbit felt as though the entire company was wary of him, in the very beginning, though Bofur had always been friendly. That first night on the road, after they had made camp somewhere outside of Bree, Bilbo found himself sitting quite alone on the cold ground. He watched the surrounding company, trying to make head or tails of how the dwarves related. He was a bit fascinated by the dwarves mannerisms, or lack of manners really. Disgusted in some cases. But the ribbing and crude humor were a bit endearing, when he took the time to see the relationships between his companions.
At the moment, Bofur was sitting by the princes, telling some crude tale about a maiden he'd met in a tavern somewhere. Bilbo couldn't hear what was being said, but he smiled as he watched Fili and Kili fall over themselves laughing. Ori sat to the other side of the pair, and he was suppressing his own giggles with a face of crimson.
Bilbo's eyes traveled over the rest of the company not far from the merrymaking. Dori was sat with Bombur, Oin, Gloin, and Bifur. Bombur, Bilbo was sure, was telling a tale of the wife they had all been hearing about for the better part of the day, while Dori frowned in disapproval across the flames at his youngest brother, who had been pulled into a playful scuffle with the princes.
Bilbo couldn't help but laugh a bit as Dori finally had enough and strode over to pull the trio apart, grasping Ori and Kili both by the ear. A nearby chuckle startled Bilbo out of his observing, and he looked up as Bofur plopped down on the ground right next to him.
“Always riling them up. I can't help meself,” the dwarf said with a jovial smile, “it's far too humorous watching that one get his beard in a knot over his little brother playing too rough.”
Bilbo joined Bofur in laughter, nearly rolling as they noticed Fili making faces at Kili from behind a fuming Dori, who was obviously giving Ori and the younger prince an earful. Bilbo shifted his gaze as he chuckled, and found a pair of intense sapphire eyes blazing into his own. His breath caught and he froze, but Thorin's calculating stare had already dropped. Bofur elbowed him playfully in the side, and Bilbo chuckled again half heartedly, turning his attention back to the dwarf next to him.
“I think it's high time for a song!” Bofur declared. He went off on a verse that Bilbo thought had to have been improvised, about a dwarrowdam whose beard was so long she could braid it into her hobbit lover's foot fuzz. It was all too much for Bilbo. He sighed and shook his head in amusement and looked over again to where Thorin had been, but the king was gone.