Actions

Work Header

Little Bunnies

Chapter Text

The Care and Feeding of Hobbits
Written By The Company Of Thorin Oakenshield, Illustrated by Ori Son of Ari

 

Introduction
If you are reading this book, you are interested in hobbits, so welcome to this collection of knowledge gathered from twenty of the most knowledgeable experts on the subject. So whether that means you are raising or breeding a hobbit, found a young hobbit that got separated from their Shire, or have been the happy companion of a hobbit for several years now, and want to either integrate it with others or explain some new behavior your hobbit is displaying, this book will prove to be an invaluable must have resource.

Hobbits seem to be very simple creatures to keep happy at the outset, but are in fact one of the most complex creatures to keep hale and sound over the course of their lifetimes due to their size and temperament. But the extra time and attention is well worth it, for if you happen to earn a Hobbit's love and loyalty, there is nothing your hobbit will not do for you.

Neglect is the number one cause for hobbit behavioral issues, and the reason that so many are misunderstood and abandoned. When people fail to realize the amount of time required, so many hobbits wind up abused or abandoned on the side of the road, their companions thinking that they will fare better in the wild, when it is never the case. Hobbits cannot survive alone! They need others in order to feel secure and happy, so please, never abandon a hobbit! If you or someone you know truly cannot deal with a hobbit, please call one of the numbers below and a representative for hobbit rehabilitation will be happy to help you in finding the closest Hobbit center or sanctuary.

Rivendell Rescue 1-888- Imladris (46-52-3747)

Grayhame Haven 1-888- Gandalf (426-3253)

Beorn's Beasties 1-800- Carrock (227-7625)

Or if you are rehabilitating one of the abused hobbits from the Isengard Incident, please call 1-800- hobbit1 (462-2481) to speak to a specialist.

 

Chapter 1 Hobbit Comfort

Hobbits are very neat, tidy, and comfortable creatures. If you ever come across a Shire Nest of wild hobbits, you will see just how true this is. Hobbits have magpie tendencies of collecting soft and comfortable things for their smials and are very emotionally attached to special things which have been gifted to them from family members over the years. Never move anything in a Hobbit's nest or comfort zone, they are meticulous about everything's placement and have an eidetic memory about where things belong, so for it to be moved without their knowledge or permission will stress them out greatly.

Hobbits should be fed a minimum of five times a day to stay healthy, six to seven is ideal, eight if you have a particularly energetic hobbit who is quite more active than normal.*

*Please see Hobbit breeds for more information

Hobbits nest in Smials in large family groups of about ten to fifteen members which can span several generations. Many Hobbits do not like to separate from each other, as evidenced by the Great Smials that the Tooks and Brandybucks can build and which have been known to easily house over one hundred members. To find a Smial with less than five occupants is very rare, for hobbit couples usually have several children called fauntlings.

While Tooks and Brandybucks will nest together neigh on indefinitely, Baggins, Proudfeet, Boffins, and several other breeds of hobbits will remain at home with their parents only until they come of age. The adolescents will then court another hobbit, most times of the opposite sex, sometimes not, and once that courting is accepted, the new couple will make a new smial very close by. Other hobbits, such as Grubs, Maggots, Mayflys and Merryweathers, will bring a mate into their parent's smial if there is enough room instead of building their own, especially if the smial has very few members. Most will then desire a smial of their own when children are on the way, unless as previously stated, the smial has far fewer than average numbers.

If your hobbit does not have a mate or other family members, they must be constantly socialized and given lots of affection and attention. A withdrawn or lonely hobbit is an unhappy hobbit, prone to lack of energy, decreased appetite, behavior issues, and increased nervousness and grumpiness. If you or your family cannot give the hobbit a minimum of three hours of attention every day, it's best not to become a hobbit companion.

 

If you are taking your hobbit away from his regular environment or Comfort Zone, especially for an extended period of time, please make sure that you pack all of your hobbits' favorite things to keep them happy and unstressed. Hobbits are a bit of hoarders, but surrounded by well loved and familiar things will make them much less nervous about this drastic change in their routine. And whatever you do, do not forget their handkerchiefs! Handkerchiefs are like a hobbit security blanket, they feel quite lost without one or several near to hand, so if you happen to forget your Hobbit's handkerchief after leaving their Comfort Zone, you must substitute for one immediately. Acceptable substitutions include : sacrificed coat pockets, part of an old shirt cut into a square or several squares, part of a bed sheet or blanket, or any other handily available fabric that you can cut a decent sized square from to give to them. A hobbit will at first be skeptical about these 'substitute handkerchiefs' because they will not feel the same, but within a day or two they will be very protective of these new handkerchiefs. Do not be concerned if you never see these handkerchiefs again. Your Hobbit has not thrown them away, he is hiding them where he feels them to be safest, usually somewhere in his shirt, most likely around his wrist, where he can feel it and still have it close enough to use.

Hobbits are constantly concerned about the well being of others, you will notice that your hobbit will automatically attach themselves to the youngest or weakest member(s) of your family and tend to them, bringing them food, blankets, clothes, whatever they feel is needed to insure that they are being taken care of properly. Your hobbit will never view themselves as the weakest member of a group, even if they are more delicate. This behavior can be slightly curbed by having more than one hobbit who will not become a mated pair. They will each view the other hobbit as the one most in need of care and tend to them accordingly before doing the same to other members of the family.

Hobbits possess a natural camouflage technique which helps them to blend into their surroundings and avoid danger. Don't be alarmed if something spooks your hobbit and you can't find them the next moment, this is perfectly normal. Hobbits are small and swift to begin with, their natural reaction to danger is to either duck down and hide, or to dart away quickly and conceal themselves, it happens so fast that your hobbit most times has no idea they have done it, and if the situation is not dire, calling their name should be enough to get them to come back out. If not, give your hobbit time to calm down and let them reappear on their own. The only exceptions to this duck and hide response, is if it is not the hobbit who is in danger, but another of their group or one of their companions. Hobbits are very protective of what they consider theirs, family above all else, so if you have fully bonded with your hobbit, do not be surprised that if something happens, your hobbit rushes to your defense with no regard for themselves. This is a compliment of the highest order, and should be rewarded appropriately.

NEVER yell at or berate a hobbit for a behavior you don't approve of, this can result in the death of your hobbit! If a bonded hobbit feels betrayed by their companion they can become depressed and anxious to the point that they fade. This is a variation of their natural camouflage instinct, but unlike blending, fading doesn't stop when the event is over. You will not be able to find your hobbit, no matter how you look, because the hobbit doesn't want to be found. The hobbit no longer feels safe in his environment, it now perceives you as the threat. The hobbit might even stop eating, just so they won't give away the fact that they are still there, and may even try and leave. If your hobbit has faded you must call for assistance, your hobbit will not come to you on their own. Another person they are bonded to will be able to coax them out if you are nowhere nearby, but reforging the bond with your hobbit once it has been broken is almost impossible. Your Hobbit will not accept gifts or affection or even make eye contact or allow the most harmless touch from someone who has broken the bond. There is only one recorded case of a hobbit bond being salvaged after it was broken, a companion who had broken the bond actually saved the Hobbit's life in a terrible tragedy at great personal loss and risk to themselves.

A/N: Yes, fluffy crack. This one followed me home from the kinkmeme, and then I lost the prompt. will continue when the bunny wakes up again.

Chapter Text

The dwarves and men had lived in fear of the dragon inhabiting the mountain for as long as anyone could remember. There were rumors that it had once been a dwarven city filled with treasure, but there were few who believed it. As long as Smaug received his monthly tributes he left the villages around the mountain in peace. No one was allowed to forget the time sixty years ago when one of the leaders of men had decided to withhold the tribute, because it had been his own niece that had been selected in the yearly lottery when there had been no convict to send. But that summer the dragon's sacrifice did not come, and in retaliation Smaug had left the mountain and razed half the town of Dale to ash, killing hundreds. His tributes were never late again.

Every week Smaug was gifted food, and twice a year, during the solstice, he was given a live human sacrifice, one from Dale during the Winter Solstice, and one from Lake Town during the Summer Solstice. Usually those convicted of severe crimes (or not so severe if the time was drawing neigh, and the prison was empty,) were always the first to go to the dragon, but when there was no one else, the lottery was held and the unlucky winner was sent to their doom.

The men and dwarves didn't always play fair, or keep their misfortune to themselves. They had captured outsiders over the years, travelers passing through the forest or even on the open roads often went missing the days before the solstices, and one selected in the lottery was granted a reprieve thanks to these 'volunteers'. They were known to have occasionally bought from slavers to save themselves, and there were even rumors that once or twice an elf had been captured and used to sate the dragon's hunger, though no one could confirm it, and Thranduil had never retaliated if so.

Nearly the whole area knew to stay well away from the Lonely Mountain, and the towns of Dale and Laketown, that it was a dangerous place and strangers often went missing. Unfortunately no one had warned Bilbo Baggins, a cartographer by trade, who just so happened to be traveling through the Green Wood making his maps, and charting the river that flowed through it. He followed it down to the great lake and had plans of measuring the lake over the next month while he had so much light now that it was nearly Midsummer.

He paid with good coin at an inn, but was much too distracted with his measurements to pay attention to people, people who were paying a great deal of attention to him. They plied him with food and drink, until the room was spinning, and the last thing he heard was two men offering to help get him settled to bed.

When Bilbo awoke in the morning his head was aching, actually all of him was aching. And he was laying on something cold and hard. His vision returned gradually and he decided it must be mid morning due to the sun's position, and then he realized, he wasn't in even still in Laketown, he was at the foot of the Lonely Mountain, on a large table, surrounded by food, and livestock tethered and showing the whites of their eyes, his possessions bundled at his feet, and he was laid out as if he were the main course. Worse yet, like the animals who were collared and tethered, his foot was shackled to the stone, and he couldn't escape.

Part of him wanted to call for help, the rest of himself knew that was a supremely bad idea. Whoever had laid him out like an entree and bound him to the table, it was not for a joke, and getting the attention of whatever was wanting to eat him was a supremely bad idea. He tried to surreptitiously find a way to open the shackle without making too much noise, but it was locked with what was obviously a dwarvish lock and the end of the chain was bolted straight through the stone. But he certainly wasn't going to just sit around here and wait to be eaten. No sirree.

Oh it was so hard sneaking with one's leg bound in iron, but thankfully there was at least four meters of slack, and he could get down off the table. There were sheep and pigs and chickens, even a few slaughtered and smoked deer, baskets of eggs, cooked hams and geese and ducks, and sixteen braces of rabbits, laid out pretty as you please, all surrounded by barrels and barrels of the freshest fish, and set out like an offering at a shrine to a deity. There were several casks of wine and whiskey and ale, even some fresh milk, but the strangest thing was the trinkets, baskets filled with items wrought of silver and brass and copper, broaches, necklaces, rings, and coins. There was even a tray of fine weapons. Bilbo had no idea what was going on but he wanted no part in any of it.

First thing's first was to assess the situation, he'd been drugged and set out as monster food, shackled to a stone table with a dwarvish iron chain, so there was no breaking through that, unless he was a dwarf or could get a dwarf to help him. He was several leagues from aide, no shelter away from the mountain, with the only people around being supremely untrustworthy or possibly hostile. Assets: food, drink, weapons, lock picks, possible shelter under the table. And his belongings, which was really dumb of them to leave untouched unless they were simply trying not to leave any evidence of him behind, but they hadn't even bothered to search him so he very much doubted their cleverness. So he had his camping supplies, his lock picks, and his cartography tools too, and he could reach the stream that flowed from under the doors of the mountain. He was quite unlikely to die of hunger, thirst or exposure to the sun, so that left chill, damp, illness, and injury from predators.

He stood up on the table and got his directional bearings from what little he could see in the valley. Thankfully he had used the mountain as a reference point when he had come out of the Greenwood, so now being so close to the mountain and able to determine how high it was, and able to pinpoint the river's location, he could figure out exactly where he was and how far away he was from the edge of the wood even though he couldn't see it, and once he had his calculations for that measurement of distance, it wasn't hard to figure out how far away he was from Raven Hill, Dale, and the Long Lake, make a rough layout of the topography and landmark that he could see around him now, then sketch out a map. It wasn't looking good away from the mountain, because there was nothing around, his best bet was to somehow get to the back side of the mountain and head west, avoiding all men, and get back to the forest as fast as he could and take shelter in the trees or with the elves, who had not seemed to mind his presence. He'd have to use his ring once he left the shelter of the mountain's shadow, because he couldn't afford to cast a shadow of his own.

He cautiously climbed down from the table and washed up at the creek, took care of his needs, and then offering or not, he went ahead and ate some of the food that was laid out. Because it was easier to think when one's stomach wasn't empty, and stupid to deny himself food when it was sitting right there. After breakfast and drinking his fill of water and fresh milk, he felt much revived.

Bilbo took a dagger from one of the baskets, then took out his lock picks and began feeling out the tumblers on the shackle around his ankle. There were endless times he found himself grateful to his mother's unique talents that she had insisted on teaching Bilbo, because one never knew when it would be useful. He'd used her wisdom countless times to get out of scrapes, none quite as bad as this one, but that's why he had these skills in the first place, because he kept in practice.

After three hours he had to take a break, the lock was just too intricate, and he needed a rest before he panicked and messed up. It was early afternoon by now with still no sign of the monster this offering was supposedly for, so Bilbo ate some venison, and drank some milk, submerged all but the top of the metal drum the milk was in into the stream to keep it cold and fresh, for even now, at the height of summer, the waters ran icy cold, and then went back to work on the lock.

Even with the added light of summer, it wasn't long enough as the last of the light left the sky and Bilbo could no longer squint and see anything in the darkness, for the mountain's shadow had fallen over him long since. His fingers were numb and stiff from the encroaching cold, the shadow of the mountain cooling the land far quicker during the late afternoon, so that by evening he had been shivering, and there wasn't really any wood to make a fire. But he layered his clothing, put on his cloak and thick woolen socks, lit his oil lamp, and stopped for the night.

He had figured out the location of all of the tumblers, fourteen of them, a truly intricate lock, and now he just needed to discover the sequence and he would be free. He laid out his bedroll under the table, the animals had mostly calmed down by that point, and were huddled close to the table for either shelter or warmth, which would in turn keep him warm too by keeping the heat inside his shelter. He wrote about his day in his journal, knowing how important it was to not let your mind dwell too long on a bad situation you couldn't do anything about yet. He sketched out the lock, and the tumblers he had felt. He couldn't afford to use up his oil, so he didn't stay awake long, he made himself comfortable, snuffed the tiny flame, and fell asleep.

What he found in the morning made his blood run cold. Half the fish was gone, the barrels tipped over and empty, so was half the venison. The sheep and pigs were bleating in hunger and thirst, and the chickens needed care too. He spent the morning collecting what little grass he could reach, for he could no more free the sheep and pigs than he could himself, but the chicken's cages were easy enough to break open since they were naught but wicker cages. They were quite thrilled to be let out, and it didn't surprise Bilbo that none of them had laid a thing. He gathered water in one of the barrels after he washed it out, and did what he could for the animals, which wasn't much. The reality of the danger he was in was settling over his shoulders, and strangely he felt like he was being watched. He ate more of the venison, and some smoked ham, drank more milk, and broke apart one of the barrels so he could use just one plank of wood to build a fire long enough to hard boil as many eggs as his little camping pot could fit. He did it thrice, so he didn't have to worry about his provisions spoiling so fast, then made a fish stew for lunch. He separated the cooked foods from the uncooked, and tucked it all away in another of the cleaned out barrels, which he strapped to the back side of the table, where it made a very nice wind break. His belongings were stashed safely underneath the table, and then he once again got started on the lock.

By the third day he was beginning to panic, at least inside. There was no way to pick the lock by himself, he'd need two more sets of lock picks, which he didn't have, and four more hands. The rest of the fish and uncooked eggs had also been taken silently in the night. If it was his captor's intention to terrify him or make him become paranoid, it was working, but he didn't wish to give them the satisfaction of seeing it. But inside he was now praying to Yavanna, for there was little else he could do.

The next morning he saw that the front gate to the mountain was open. There was a glint inside, shrouded in the darkness, possibly of a set of eyes, they were huge if that was the case, but Bilbo had had enough and he picked up a sword.

“I don't care who or what you are, getting your amusement by taunting your prisoners, torturing helpless animals by depriving them of food and keeping them shackled so they can't fight back, I could never be afraid of such a coward! Why don't you come out into the light and face me monster?!”

The ground rumbled and shook in alternating waves beneath his feet, and Bilbo felt himself blanch as he realized that it wasn't an earthquake or the trembling from a rock slide or a cave in... the monster was laughing at his taunts, and was big enough to vibrate the earth itself. He pretended to ignore this revelation, after nothing happened, and set to breaking apart the rest of the barrels for firewood a few minutes later, keeping one for menial use, and one that he was keeping the food in that was serving as a kind of wall. He poured portions of milk into a bucket that had been holding daggers, and offered it to the sheep and pigs, which they were too hungry to refuse since he had nothing else to offer them. He mostly ate eggs that day, and offered a few to the pigs, knowing the sheep would refuse. He took his frustrations out on his chain, beating it with a rock, even though he knew it was useless. Dwarvish iron, like Elvish steel, and True Silver, was the stuff of legends.

He thought the rest of the food would be gone the next day, and perhaps himself along with it. But the next morning nothing was missing, in fact there was now a bale of hay, a sack of oats, and a sizable stack of broken wood. There was also a pole driven into the ground, and there at the top of it, hanging from a small nail, there was a key that looked like it would fit his shackle. Now Bilbo may have had a good deal of experience climbing trees, but a smooth vertical wooden post was another matter entirely, especially when he'd have to try and drag a heavy iron chain along with him.

That in no way stopped him though. He fed and watered the sheep and pigs, and the chickens were faring well enough on their own, and he had no shovel to move the animals' filth further away, but that was not his problem at the moment. His problem at the moment was getting the key.

He quickly learned that he couldn't climb the post, it was too wide to get a good grip on, and even if he could, he measured the distance and his chain would not allow him to scale the distance even halfway. It was meant as a taunt, placing hope just out of reach, But hobbits were nothing if not innovative, not to mention a crack shot. He took his slingshot out of his bag and had the key off the peg and in his hand in five hits.

Unfortunately the key did not fit his shackle, the monster was taunting him with false hope and the allure of freedom, and it was disgustingly cruel. Every morning a new key appeared, and every morning, it was not the key to free him. It took him three days to figure out they were the keys to the animal's collars, he could free his fellow prisoners, but not himself. But he also knew that if he freed them, he would also lose a potential food source, because there was no knowing how long he would be kept out here, and as a survivor of the Fell Winter, he knew better than to be frivolous with his food, or any potentially limited resource.

He'd been there a week now, and he was still alive.

That afternoon a group of people wearing dirty white, gray, and black cloaks, their skin marked with soot and ashes, came in a procession up to the table, with incense burning in large censers swinging back and forth, spewing clouds of potent fragrance in their wake. They didn't see Bilbo under the table at first, and set about cleaning off the table, feeding and watering the animals, repairing the chicken's cages and setting them back inside, and laying out new offerings of food. Bilbo scared them terribly when he crawled out of his hiding place, sword shaking in his hand.

“Whoever you are, please, you have to let me go. Unlock this shackle.”

The men were shocked to say the least, it took them several moments to realize that Bilbo was expecting some kind of an answer.

“We cannot release you, you have been sacrificed to the dragon, and to release you would be to incur his displeasure and wrath upon ourselves and our homes and towns. We are the Servants of the Ashes, we tend to his altar, and deliver his offerings, we would never steal from our master, to do so would mean certain death.”

“Well I've been stealing from him all week and he has yet to rain down any kind of wrath or death on me. And if he wanted to eat me surely he would have done so already, but he hasn't razed your town in displeasure yet, so why not just let me go?!”

“He savors his solstice meals, toys with them, though it is unusual for a full week to pass, you still belong to the dragon and so here you shall remain. Though if it will relieve you of your suffering, I can slit your throat or break your neck before we leave.”

“You'll do nothing of the sort!” Bilbo cried in alarm. The priests shrugged as if it were all the same to them.

They cleaned and tidied the whole area, including the animals, and even scrubbed him head to toe, but left his belongings be, and tied up two more sheep and a goat, before laying out more food for the beast that lay in the mountain.

“I am High Priest Wrendell. We usually return weekly, but I shall return tomorrow, with food for you. Do not incur his wrath by taking more of his offerings.”

“If his food is eating his food, is it really stealing?” Bilbo queried in his most sarcastic voice.

High Priest Wrendell was not amused, but Bilbo didn't care, he wasn't amused either. No matter how he pleaded with them to let him go they wouldn't listen, and departed the way they had come.

Bilbo wasn't aware of it, but the news reaching the towns that Smaug's human sacrifice was still breathing a week later, caused fear and panic. Some thought they should send another right away, because obviously the offering hadn't been accepted. Perhaps it had been too small, but Smaug hadn't descended on them because they had made the offering as expected. The towns people had no idea what to do, but one thing was for certain, they weren't about to let their sacrifice starve or freeze to death, it was just poor form.

They sent up baskets of vegetables, bread, fruit, cheese, and fish, all things the two towns had plenty of, since it was only meat, fish, milk and eggs the dragon wanted. So the rest were in greater supply, but Lake Town had more than plenty of fish to feed the two of them. The women folk sent blankets and pillows, a thick blue jacket, and a bar of soap, the men sent wine, whiskey, and plenty of hay and firewood, and one child from Laketown named Tilda, had sent him a rag doll so he wouldn't be scared.

No matter what the Priests said, he took the offerings he wanted anyway, for he was annoyed at them and the dragon for prolonging this mess far beyond what was necessary, because it was cruel, and the dragon at least, reveled in that fact. But no matter what he ate, even when he took half a barrel of fish and smoked it for himself, still the dragon did nothing.

The priests saw that he still remained there the next week, and the week after that, and when it was apparent that Smaug was not going to raze the town in retaliation, everyone breathed a bit easier. Bilbo settled in for the long haul, figuring it could take months for the dragon to decide to eat him or for the people to finally see sense and let him go, and he refused to be uncomfortable in that time. By the time he had been there a month he'd asked to borrow tools, shovels, pick axes, hammers, and saws. He started breaking and collecting rocks from the surrounding area to close up the sides of the table from the elements a bit better, mixing mud and straw to pack in the crevices and keep out the chill night winds. He had only finished one of the smaller sides before the people of Dale and Laketown heard about it. The townspeople gifted him lumber, nails, mortar, and rope, and he fortified every side with wood and mortared stone.

He dug deeper under the table so he could easily stand without trouble, and used the extra soil to cover the stones outside and make the whole thing as close to smial looking as he could. The side with the barrel he kept right where it was, and built over top of it, removing two planks from the inside to make a proper pantry for himself, and the extra wood went towards building himself a door. He evened out the floor and lined it with fresh straw, he dug a small sleeping nook and lined it with planks of wood and cushioned it with the gifted pillows and blankets.

He built a simple but proper pen for the animals, with a lean-to to protect them from the winds and rain, and a place for the chickens to nest properly. He made a compost pile in one corner of the pen that the pigs would happily turn and trample for him. He asked for garden tools, that he paid for with coin from his own pocket, and borrowed a small plow. Bilbo cleared a small patch of land, the goat helped him plow it, and he planted many of the things he had been given. Squash, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, beans, peas, celery, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, he even planted orange, peach, lemon, and apple seeds, just on a lark, even though he knew he'd probably never get to see them grow, let alone mature. He had a right proper little garden going.

The chickens now regularly gave him eggs, the goat gave him fresh milk once she had her kid, and he even built himself an outdoor oven and a small smoker with the remaining rocks and mortar. When the townsfolk heard that, they gave him bags of grain and flour, lard and yeast, salt, herbs and spices, and always more milk, cheese, vegetables, fruit, and fish. The lady who had sent him a covered pot, a pan, and utensils was officially his favorite though. Needless to say the priests were not pleased that he had turned their altar into his own personal house and farm, but he simply stated that if the great wyrm didn't want him doing it, then he'd surely stop him, and end this ridiculous standoff, which shut them up quite sufficiently for the most part.

He'd been there two and a half months now, and he looked very little like the richly dressed traveling hobbit who had been taken and tied up there. It was a hard life, no doubt, and absolutely back breaking work to try and do all by himself, but he had nothing else to do, and nothing but time, and it kept his mind occupied and his hands busy so he didn't have time to panic about being trapped. There was nothing to be done about it, so he tried his best to make due. Thank goodness he was a hobbit who had grown up learning everything there was to know about farms and building a proper smial from his father, neighbors, and their children. Hamfast Gamgee had been one of his dearest friends, and there were no better gardeners than Gamgees. His father had always won second place behind their neighbor.

He had never wanted a farm or garden of his own, even if he had always been rather good at it. He had wanted to adventure like his mother instead, making maps of all the places he had been to, and wanting to sell them to other adventurers for them to have an accurate way to navigate through their own adventures. Because the thrilling or terrifying point of all of his mother's stories had all began the same way: 'And then we lost the road, and the next thing you know...' so he wanted to make the best maps so that people on adventures could avoid the really dangerous places. Everything was marked: Areas he'd found trolls, goblins, orcs, places he had run into bandits and slave trader routes, and which villages were the friendliest, and which disliked outsiders. Most times he had never even been noticed because he wore the magical ring that made you invisible that his mother had given him. She'd used it all but twice, after riddling her way out of being dinner to a creature under the Misty Mountains, she had found it on the route back to daylight, but said she couldn't bear the cold feeling or the washed out way the world looked. She'd fetched it out of her jewelry box for him when he had announced that he was going adventuring himself, hoping that it would keep him safe. But now he had a little farm whether he had wanted one or not, because Fate was ironic sometimes.

Two days later the priests brought a dwarf servant with them who had long dark hair streaked with silver and the deepest blue eyes Bilbo had ever seen. The dwarf had a small cart filled with tools and wood and coal, and had four others with him, a huge mountain of a dwarf that was mostly bald and heavily tattooed, an older dwarf with a long white beard, a gray haired dwarf with an ear trumpet, and what might have been a lady dwarf, perhaps, it was difficult to tell if that full black beard was covering up a bosom, and he was not used to seeing women wearing trousers, save for the rare warrior elf maiden, like Tauriel. But that one seemed more feminine than the others, especially in the face.

“Mister Baggins.” High Priest Wrendell greeted, in the exasperated tone that suggested that Bilbo's continuing existence there was the cause of all of his worldly suffering and woes. It was about the only conversation Bilbo could get out of the man, or most of the other priests. There was one priest, Haverly, who came sometimes and chatted with him while he did his work, but he was not there that day.

“Wrendell.” He replied, as coolly civil as he could and went back to mending the shirt one of the villagers had sent up for him, next he had a pair of pants to alter so they would fit him. The priests cared for the animals as they always did, it was the one day a week that Bilbo considered it his 'day off', when the priests did the chores instead of him. He always spent the day cooking instead, making stews and baking bread, a real feast to fill up on.

One of the other priests, Sander, came over with the new faces.

“Hello Mister Baggins, how are you faring?”

“Same as always Sander. Hoping today's the day you'll catch onto the fact the dragon doesn't want to eat me and will let me go. They're not my replacements are they? That would be quite cruel of you, leaving four instead of one.”

“No, they are here to lengthen your chain. I think High Priest Wrendell is hoping you will decide to build your dwelling away from the sacred altar if you have more space to move.”

“Well then he should have done that before I fortified the sides and finished the place. If he wants me living elsewhere now, he can either unshackle me or build me another house himself. But the longer chain will be welcome, I've run out of rocks I can reach.”

“This is Thorin, Dis, Balin, Dwalin, and Oin.”

“Hello. Would you care for some tea? I can never get these ones to touch anything out here, even if it's not supposed to be for the beast. There's mush, and toast with butter too, if you'd like.”

He noticed that the one called Dis stomped on Thorin's foot when he didn't reply quickly enough, then replied in his stead.

“Thank you Mister Baggins, tea would be very nice, and I for one would love a spot of breakfast. These three can have theirs after they finish setting things up. Are you coming Balin?” Dis said graciously, and it seemed that she was a female after all.

“Honey and lemon in mine, the throat's a bit scratchy this morning.” the gray haired dwarf grumbled and began setting up a folding table, and unloading the two satchels onto it. Dis rolled her eyes and followed Bilbo into his 'house'.

“There's only the one stool to sit on right now, I've started working on a bit of a table too, but I'm out of nails for the moment.”

Dis saw the table, barely begun really, and had an idea.

“Then don't use them. If you notch these parts here to fit through a hole you can cut here, and put a support beam here, it all fits together, and you just use a few wedged pegs to keep them secure, then you can dismantle it just by removing the pegs and taking it all apart.”

“How clever, I never would have thought of doing that!”

Throughout the day Dis and Balin kept Bilbo company and comfortably sitting down, drawing up designs for things to make out of scraps and bits and with few or no nails at all, and even started helping him make a few of them. Thorin and Dwalin had built a portable forge and were heating a section of Bilbo's chain well away from the area it could affect his ankle, and Oin gave him a thorough looking over, and left him with quite a few basic medical supplies should he need them, and also managed to get some padding around Bilbo's ankle so the shackle wouldn't chafe him.

Thorin and Dwalin didn't really speak to him at all, far more focused on doing their work, but at lunch time, when there was nothing more to do but wait for the iron to heat enough, Bilbo poured each of them a serving of the rabbit stew he had made. They were hesitant at first to accept, but one glance at Dis had them putting spoons to mouths.

“It's so nice to have a bit of company, even if it isn't under the best of circumstances. Is there any chance you might visit again? You could come with the priests, the beast never emerges when they come around.”

“So, you've seen it then? The dragon?” Dwalin asked, it was the first time he had spoken to Bilbo since arriving.

“Not really. I just wake up and large portions of the offerings are gone in the mornings. But I know he's real, a few days after I got here, the gates to the beast's lair were open, and there were two giant eyes glinting in the darkness. When I took up a sword and challenged him, the ground rumbled and churned beneath my feet, and then I heard it, the dragon, laughing at me, strong enough to shake the earth itself. I nearly fainted in fright. I hear him and feel him moving around the mountain and I've heard him twice right outside, eating his dinner. But he has never emerged fully in the daylight, so I haven't seen what he looks like. Why?”

Balin cleared his throat. “There are some who believe the dragon died off ages ago, but that the priests wish to remain in power, and so pretend that he is still alive.”

Bilbo shook his head. “Unless they have a way of creating earthquakes, and that voice I heard, and the foul breath I smelled when he was just outside... I'm very much willing to believe there's a live dragon in that mountain.”

Thorin got an inscrutable look on his face, set his empty bowl down with rather more force than was strictly necessary, and headed back to work. Bilbo turned to the rest worriedly.

“Was it something I said?”

Everyone looked more subdued. And Dis shook her head.

“Just an old hope Bilbo. You see, Erebor was once a dwarven city, the greatest dwarven city of this age, even before Khazad-dum was lost to us. The dragon drove our people out over six generations ago. Most of us found a new home in the Iron Hills, the Black Hills, or even Erid Luin. Durin's folk were scattered to the winds and though we were weakened, we did survive. But there are some of us, whose bones are forged of this mountain, and could no sooner leave it than they could choose to stop breathing. While we can't imagine that the city has survived the reign of a dragon for so long, it is still home to us, we cannot live elsewhere, and so we linger on the edges, hoping, praying that one day his reign will end, and we can return home.”

“So you were hoping that the priests were lying, and that all you'd have to do is prove that the priests were lying before you got your home back.”

Balin nodded. “We haven't given up on reclaiming Erebor, even if we probably should. Dwarves are a stubborn lot,
and it's gotten us into worse trouble than this before.”

Their lunch was finished in silence and Balin, and Dwalin joined Thorin afterwards, Dwalin working the bellows, Balin fetching water, and Thorin setting the glowing open link onto his chain and one end of the new part before he began hammering it closed.

“I don't suppose you'd be willing to let me escape when you break that chain would you?” Bilbo asked Thorin quietly as the smith worked.

“You won't have a chance to get away, I'm adding the extension to your chain with only a single link between them, then I just break the single link and your chain is longer. And even if I did let you go you'd never make it far, there's armed guards hidden in every direction, besides, if you did escape then we would be blamed, my work would be considered worthless, and no one would dare to do business with me again. That is of course, unless they didn't just decide to put me in your place as punishment. We have a family back in the town, children, we can't leave them on their own. You aren't the only one with unfavorable options here.”

“I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be selfish-”

Thorin glanced around quickly. “Besides, it's not the chain you should be trying to get out of.” And looked pointedly at Bilbo's ankle.

“I can't pick it, it has too many tumblers.”

Thorin shook his head. “Shackles are made of two separate pieces held together. If you can't open one end, open the other.” he mumbled only loud enough for Bilbo to hear right before he struck the link closed.

Bilbo looked at the shackle closer and gasped, the hinge was held together only with a single pin.

“My people were forced to make this shackle, but made it so no dwarf could be held by it, we don't turn on our own. Put it back together before you run, and wait a few days to escape, so no one suspects us.”

“Thank you.”

“Lunch was good.” The dwarf grumbled, and went back to work. When the time came it was Dwalin who broke the link, and even he needed time to do it. In the end Bilbo gained thirty meters of room to move, and a few new friends.

He waited a week, and then planned his escape. But when the time came, the pin wouldn't budge. As he got angrier and more frustrated with the hinge, he missed the beginning of the low, rumbling laughter until he could feel it vibrating through the earth. He ducked outside and once again the doors were open, the dragon's belly glowing in the darkness.

“Is the latch not opening the way the dwarf said it should little mouse? I caught onto that trick after the second one escaped. I sealed the pin with my magic, so only I can move it. What's wrong pet? I thought you had accepted your lot in life, building your little house, planting your crops, I even granted you more freedom. Was I mistaken to do so? I can bind you back onto the altar if need be.”

Bilbo picked up a loose stone and chucked it at the dragon.

“Why don't you just end this?! What purpose does it serve to keep me here like this?!”

“You amuse me. And imagine the sorrow the dwarves will feel once they learn that their fail safe escape route has led straight into my jaws for centuries.”

 

 

 

 

 

“You have to stop the human sacrifice thing, it's bad for your reputation.”

“No.”

“Yes. Listen to me, you are fearsome and mighty all on your own without intentionally destroying your workforce, it makes it very hard to replace it. No more human sacrifices.”

“I'll eat the whole town.”

And leave no one to bring you food, yes, very smart of you, then you'll have to hunt for yourself again.”

“I'll eat YOU.”

“As you've been threatening to do for seven years now. The idea of eating hobbit obviously disagrees with you.”

“I like the taste of man-flesh.”

Bilbo heaved a huge world weary sigh. “Alright, how about criminals only? Then we can make you into some sort of advocate of justice.”

“I don't care what they do with their insignificant lives, they all taste the same going down.”

“That isn't the point! The point is that if you are insistent on having human sacrifices, that it isn't something your workforce fears doing. If only the guilty and wicked get eaten, they feel safer, they make sure not to do anything that would get themselves eaten, they lead better, more productive lives, and don't mind turning over the criminals because it means that they themselves are safe. Humans are ridiculously easy to manipulate if you know how to do it right., I'll send out missives to surrounding kingdoms, offer them a stipend for their criminals sentenced to death, it shouldn't matter to them if their criminals are hanged or beheaded or eaten by a dragon as long as the deed is done. But even if there does get to be a surplus of human sacrifices, we don't increase it to more than twice a year, but if there's enough, I might give you two humans instead, if we forego some of the other offerings.”

 

It had been 15 years since the towns people had bound him to the stone. And you wouldn't recognize the Lonely mountain these days, covered in greenery, and farm land. He had appointed Thorin and Dis as overseers of the mountain's inner workings, it wasn't the title of king or queen, but it was as close as they could come with the present circumstances. The forges were re-lit, industry and wealth flowed into the mountain in a constant stream, the people were about as hale and happy as they could be all things considered. Bilbo went down to the prisons, it was time for the selection process for the next sacrifice. Dwalin was there waiting, he made an excellent guard captain.

“Hello Dwalin.”

“Emissary Baggins.”

“Selection time, what have we got?”

“Slane's people sold us a bunch of prisoners from the Black Hills, Laketown sent them up. I haven't finished going through all of their records, they just came in last night, haven't even gotten to inspect them yet. The hunters brought in six orcs though, so we can delay the selection a few days if needed.”

“At least it's not goblins, it takes fifty of those to fill him up. I'll feed him those and a barrel of fish, he'll be fine. And I'm here now, we can inspect them together.”

“They've been given water for bathing, and food and drink, but they haven't been unchained from their cells. The handlers weren't very careful with them, or patient. You know how I feel about that.”

“Then we need to find a group who are willing to treat them better, and still set foot on our lands. Right now Slane is the only one who will even come to Laketown. You find me different slavers, I'd be willing to do business with them as well.”

The prison was run like clockwork, and no prisoner was purchased without a full written record of their crimes from the prison they came from, a full physical description including all marks, tattoos, and scars, or an authorized signed and sealed drawing from a scribe. Bilbo wouldn't let the slavers get away with snatching random people up to try and sell off as prisoners for the dragon in order to make more coin. Each bought prisoner was given a locked metal collar with a number, and the same number was marked on their file before they were brought to Erebor. They had twenty-two prisoners to inspect and judge their value this time. If they had an honest trade and the crime was not too severe, they might be spared and put to work, and if they did not reform their ways, then they were put into jail again and kept for the next solstice. But murderers and other terrible crimes were not eligible for such a reprieve, they were slated straight for the Dragon Walk.

There was nowhere to hide yourself in the Erebor Dungeon, a round common room surrounded by cells lined only with bars, and observed from a raised guard tower and six guard posts around it, a bathing area and latrine in the back. No nooks and crannies, no walls, nothing to keep someone out of anyone's eye, and grouping up was harshly discouraged. And the only way in or out was straight through the guard chamber, which had a surplus armory in it. Guard rounds couldn't be memorized, because the schedule, times, and patterns changed daily, and was decided by Dwalin closing his eyes and pitching a few darts at the schedule and patterns hanging on the wall of his office. Any prisoner brought here hated it immediately.

“Attention. My name is Bilbo Baggins, The Dragon's Emissary here in Erebor. All new prisoners are going to be inspected. Pray that you pass, for if I evaluate you poorly, you will be removed from this cell and taken to Smaug Row, where you will stay until it is time for your sentence to be carried out. Prisoners who pass inspection, have a viable trade, and are willing to work, will be set to work on probation, for a time span of my choosing. If you fail to meet my expectations while on probation, you will be returned here, and placed on Smaug Row.”

The first two were killers, and were removed by the guards and taken kicking and screaming to the guard tower and the second wing, where only those meant for the dragon were kept. Most of the rest were petty crimes, though the one convicted of rape and looking very sure he'd get the probation, was shocked when Bilbo had him sent to the dragon instead.

In the last cell, is where Bilbo found him, a career criminal captured in several different lands on charges of larceny, theft, illegal gambling, smuggling, fencing stolen goods, cut purse, falsely representing a member of the guard, escaping prison, evading arrest, giving false testimony, and cheating at cards. No prison had held him long enough to sentence him though, he had always escaped. His file was as thick as all of the others combined Whoever had finally caught him had very much had it out for him getting sent to the dragon, to have gone to all of the trouble of contacting those other prisons and getting his records

“My my my, quite the record that you have here Mister- Nori Son of Kori. A criminal history spanning seventy-five years and twenty-six prisons, out of which you have managed to escape from every last one. I'm-.”

That's when he looked at the man behind the bars, and saw the only reason that Nori hadn't escaped now too.

“Dwalin, his leg is broken quite badly. Did you seriously have guards incompetent enough to put him in here without noticing that, or has someone broken my first rule?”

“I'll find out.” Dwalin growled furiously. Prisoner abuse was NOT tolerated in Erebor under any circumstances, in fact if you were caught doing so, you would be joining the prisoners as one of them, and chances of being granted probation were nearly non-existent. Bilbo did not take kindly to bullies, EVER.

Bilbo pointed at two guards. “You and you, fetch a stretcher and take him out of there and to the infirmary, and confine him to the bed, but if I see even one more mark on him you will all be punished severely. And you,” he said pointing to a runner near the door, “Fetch Master Oin at once, he has a patient who urgently needs his attention.”

Dwalin turned to Bilbo once they were back in the guard post. “Should I slate him for the dragon? You didn't sentence his file, and you didn't seem impressed.”

“On the contrary, I was quite impressed with him. Someone who can escape from even one jail is noteworthy, somebody who makes a career out of it and has countless disreputable contacts, can be quite valuable to me.”

“He'd just as soon slit your throat as turn honest, thieves have a code, and they don't break it.”

“He's not the throat slitting type, he's the distract and run to steal another day type. He's a survivor, not a killer, and if he ever has slit a throat, it was no one anyone ever missed, because it's never been brought up as a charge against him. Let's see how he heals up first before we make any decisions.”

“I think you're making a mistake in trusting him.”

Bilbo gave Dwalin a smirk that was all wickedness and teeth. “My dear Dwalin, whoever said anything about trusting him?”

It was two and a half months of bed rest, the badly broken leg had required Oin to not only re-break it because it had been healing wrong, but also to perform surgery and brace it with pins, then suspend the leg so there was no pressure on it. Nori had been the perfect patient at first, but began to grow wary with every day that passed. Mainly because there was not a day that Bilbo didn't visit Nori for an extended period of time, and Nori was a captive audience. Bilbo would bring him treats from the kitchen, or sit there and read to him, or give him small crafts so he could keep his hands busy. The thief was suspicious at first, guarded and wary, but as the days passed and Bilbo asked nothing, made no sly comment and fished for no sort of information, gradually the thief relaxed. By the end of the first month Nori was actually looking forward to Bilbo's daily visits, so it was surprising to him when one day Bilbo didn't show up. Bilbo arrived the next day as usual, and when Nori asked him if everything was alright, Bilbo smiled and apologized for having missed the day before, urgent business had prevented him from coming.

By the middle of the second month, Bilbo was asking small questions about the thief's family, sharing information of his own in turn and how he had ended up in Erebor. Nori wasn't very detailed in his responses, but more than enough for Bilbo's needs. Nori didn't know it, but no action, no word went unnoticed. Ten weeks was the longest assessment period Bilbo had ever granted someone.

Once Nori was mostly recovered Bilbo came to him, record in hand. He looked very worried.

“Bilbo? What's wrong?”

“I don't want to send you to the dragon. I want to put you in the probationary program, but your record... your record has proven time and again that you show no signs of staying anywhere for an extended period of time, especially if you're in trouble. You have to understand, the only reason Smaug lets me keep some of the prisoners as workers is because they remain in the mountain, and that way if they mess up again they go to him anyways. If I put you in the program and you took off... it would bring the whole program down. All of the workers, prisoner and non-prisoner alike would get eaten, our work force would be systematically destroyed, which means our production would halt again and everyone who has relied on Erebor's prosperity would once again be left with nothing. Smaug wouldn't care, he just wants treasure, and his preferred food source. He cares nothing for the people who live here. I'm trying to save lives, only feeding him the worst criminals who are beyond hope or do not deserve a second chance. But if I took that risk on you and it proved false... don't you see? It would ruin everything! But I have also grown very fond of you, I don't want to send you to him, and you could prove invaluable to me in the program. Please Nori, give me some way to trust you, something I can believe in and use to convince others of your sincerity. I only have the rest of the day before I HAVE to sentence you, the tributes for the solstices are being marked, I've delayed as long as I can. Please Nori, I don't want to see you killed.”

“Bilbo-” Nori pulled him down and kissed him. “You spare my life, I'll do anything you want. I know a thief's word isn't worth anything, but I've always been an honest thief, I don't betray people, hang them out to dry, or stab them in the back if they haven't done it to me, especially if they have proven themselves a trustworthy ally, or if I like them as much as I like you.”

Nori-” Bilbo kissed him again, deep and hungry, but then pulled back and turned away. “No, no, I- I can't have a lover, Smaug would never allow it. I belong to him, he considers me his toy, his pet, if my attention wandered away from him, I couldn't bear what he would do to you, and everyone else in the mountain.”

Nori pulled him back down into another kiss, groping, pulling, until Bilbo was straddling his lap quite happily, grinding and kissing, and Nori was giving as good as he got. “Then I won't be your lover. But surely your master wouldn't begrudge his pet from having a toy or pet of his own to play with so he doesn't get bored...”

“You're awful.” Bilbo moaned, grinding harder against Nori “He'd make me keep you on a leash everywhere if that were the case.”

“Kinky.” Nori groaned, slipping his hands down the backs of Bilbo's trousers and groping appreciatively.

“If we do this here, Oin will have my head.”

“He visited me ten minutes before you arrived, he won't return until after lunch, plenty of time for you to sneak a clean sheet and smuggle these to the laundry if needed.”

“You wicked wicked dwarf.”

“Always.”

Their fucking was rushed and clumsy, having not been planned for, and Nori still shackled to the bed, as well as having nothing nearby for lubricant, but still, the kissing was brilliant, and the touching was hot and good, and their hand's on each others cocks was more than enough to finish the job. The sheets even stayed clean, both coming into Bilbo's handkerchief in quick succession.

“Fire take me, you're going to be the death of me aren't you?”

“Not if I can help it Bilbo. The longer you stay alive, the longer I do, so I have a vested interest in keeping you breathing.”

“Don't run away Nori, please. Please don't make me regret this.”

“I won't run away Bilbo, I promise. You're saving my life.”

Bilbo kissed him again before setting both their clothes to rights and standing up again. “Thank you Nori.”

It was a very pleased Bilbo who came back into the guard's tower. Dwalin groaned. “Oh ashes and soot Bilbo, are you really keeping him?!”

“I really, really am.”

“You've lost what little sanity you had left. You'd better have your affairs in order for when this all goes arse over tit.”

 

brings Nori to one of his meetings

"Oh you brought me a snack!"

"No! Bad dragon! Nori isn't for eating, he's my pet, you have your offering table if you're hungry.”

"What do you mean pet?"

 "I mean he's my pet, he keeps me company, I play with his hair at my leisure, he protects me from potential assassins and looks adorable in a collar. He's my pet."

"You mean he's your lover."
 
"No, I mean he's my pet. Yes I've fucked him, but 'lover' implies equality and feelings. I purchased him from a slaver because he was pretty and he keeps my bed warm. He's my pet."

"I see, and this 'pet' of yours, did you know he has the smell of a thief?”

"Well I should certainly hope so, because it's his job to break into the other dwarvish strongholds and return with treasure. In fact that's why we've come today, Nori brought you a present. Go on Nori, give Smaug your present.”

Nori creeps forward and gives him a chunk of Mithril the size of his fist.

"He got that from Moria, right from under the goblins noses. He'll be very useful, and I want to keep him.”

*Smaug eyes the shiny

"Fine, keep your pet, if he causes trouble I'll eat him and then you.”

"Understood. Come along Nori.”