Bilba was stressed. Beyond stressed. Furious. Punching a number into her phone she called the only person who could help now. Muttering curses to herself she listening to the ring, waiting for her saviour to pick up.
“Bilba, lass, it’s 9 o'clock at night.” Balin mumbled goodnaturedly on the other end of the line. Bilba sighed and rubbed her brow.
“Balin, this is important. You know that little international tour we’ve been organising for months?” Bilba simpered.
“I am aware of it, yes.” Balin drawled. “Is there a problem with one of the venues?”
“If only, the problem is a bit bigger than that.”
“Is Heathrow shut?”
“Nope, one more guess. Involves a couple of blondes.”
Bilba could hear an intake of breath on the other end that was then let out slowly.
“Lorien…? They haven’t dropped out have they?” Balin’s tone was light, but there was an anxious undercurrent mixed with something akin to frustration. Balin was too used to the whims of musicians to be that surprised by anything now.
“Yes they have. Spectacularly. Gala rang up shouting to high heaven about how she was never working with Fin again and was sorry for any inconvenience. What am I going to tell Sigrid? She’s in rehearsals right now! After everything she did to fix that horrid mess with Fin in the first place! We have to find someone, anyone, as long as they can play well and have the same country streak as our girl! I don’t care if they’re a big name, Balin. Anyone. Please please please help… everyone I can think of is busy or on an artistic break. I tried calling Lorien’s agent but they wont speak to me! I’m not getting through to Gala, Fin or Cel so I’m guessing they’re holed up in that bloody tree house of a studio…”
“Okay Bilba, this is what we are going to do. Leave Lorien, there is no point trying to persuade them back now, you know how stubborn they are. I’ve got an idea. I know some guys who may fit the bill. Old friends of the family.” Balin’s voice was level and internally Bilba relaxed ever so slightly, no longer steering a wildly out of control ship. “I’ll give them a call, and text you the address. They have a show tonight so you can see for yourself, they’re very good. Should gel nicely with Sigrid’s style, and it would be a great break for them.”
“Balin! You're my hero! Have I ever told you that I can’t live without you?” Bilba gushed, her mind forming a plan of the best way to approach this new group that would be joining them for the next 10 months. There was no option for them to say no; an international tour with a name like Sigrid Bowman was a coveted position, especially for an unknown group. Balin chuckled on the other end of the line.
“Many times. Not that I mind hearing it. I’ll let you know the address.” Balin hung up, leaving Bilba to do a happy dance around her office. It currently looked like a bomb had gone off; papers and business cards sprawled all over the place as she had tried to find a replacement. Padding out of the room Bilba made her way to her spare room turned wardrobe and set about choosing the perfect outfit for persuading this group that she wasn’t about to kidnap them and sell them into slavery. Quickly she settled on a pair of dark blue skinny jeans, heeled brown brogues, a billowy white shirt and, her favourite part of the ensemble, a heavily beaded maroon waistcoat. Dressy, but not too formal: perfectly respectable. Quickly Bilba piled her auburn curly hair into a bun at the base of her neck, letting out a few strands around her face. Throwing on a coat and grabbing her bag, Bilba swung out of her apartment and trotted out to the street. The message from Balin came through whilst she was in the stairwell of her building.
The Man in the Moon, Holloway Road. They start at 9. Called the Durinsons. Heard the cider is good there too! B.
Grinning Bilba swung open the door and made her way to the tube. Holloway Road was only a few stops up on the Piccadilly line, so clearly luck was on her side as her phone blinked 20:46 at her. Head down against the March air, Bilba quickly tapped out a message to Sigrid, who was currently blissfully unaware of the predicament her tour was in.
Firstly, nothing to worry about love! Lorien have dropped the ball on us, hardly surprised. Going to The Man in the Moon to persuade Balin’s recommendation to join us. Don’t panic! Everything is under control. Don’t kill them before I get a chance to do it first. Get some sleep, I’ll let you know how it goes xxx
Bilba sent it before she could change her mind. Sigrid was lovely, but she would start panicking as soon as she read this, even though it was necessary to keep her in the loop. Jumping down the stairs of the station two at a time Bilba made it onto the next train with seconds to spare, speeding underground into zone 2. The polite lady of TFL informed her several nerve wracking minutes later that this station was Holloway Road. Darting off the tube and reaching ground level, Bilba swivelled around a few times to get her bearings before brusquely jogging toward the aforementioned pub. The windows were covered in moisture and loud acoustic music could be heard from the street. People spilled out onto the street drinking and laughing around rickety tables. It looked jam packed, which was a hopeful sign; Bilba trusted Balin entirely, but the prospect of poaching a band for an international tour that was leaving in a few days, and knowing nothing about that band, was a slightly scary nothing. Straightening her spine Bilba drew herself to her full height and marched into the pub (only dodging a handful of drunkards).
It was loud. The room was long with a bar running one side with several harassed looking bar staff dashing about. From the bar to the opposite wall was a sea of people. At the other end of the room directly opposite the door was a slightly raised stage that the Durinson’s, she assumed, were currently setting up on. Lively guitar music played through the speaker system as the band prepped. Shedding her coat Bilba made her way to the bar with a lot of oh excuse me’s and pardon sorry, but she made it in the end, shimmying between two bodies either side of a small gap. She tried not to frown at the bar coming up to her mid chest even in her heels. After a few failed attempts to get the busy staff’s attention the body on her looked at her over his shoulder with an amused look. Bilba didn’t spare him a glance and continued her quiet, slightly passive aggressive, attempts at getting service. The man turned entirely to face her, outright grinning at her. Bilba raised an eyebrow.
“Can I help you?” Her voice was clipped, but damn it she was still polite. The grin changed into a smirk.
“Would you like me to get their attention for you?” His voice was deep and gravelly, somehow still carrying over the music and chatter, and definitely condescending. Bilba have him a levelling look.
“I am perfectly fine, thank you.” Bilba said primly whilst turning back to the bar with a raised chin. A barman approached… and walked away. Bilba did not turn to look at the man again, resolutely examining the whisky bottles on the other side of the bar. The stranger however had different ideas and leant across the bar and shouted,
Bilba would be lying to say she didn’t squeak in indignation, a hand flapping over her heart as she turned to face the brute.
“Don’t holler at the poor lad! Really, that’s very rude, it’s clearly busy.” Bilba chided him giving him the best impression of her father she could (slightly raised brows, pursed lips). The stranger did not respond as the barman, apparently Nori, sauntered over to him and stopping in front of them. He had wild hair pointing upward in an oddly diamond like shape, eyebrow piercings and a curly moustache. Bilba blinked at him several times before smiling at him.
“Hello, could I –“ She stopped abruptly when Nori held up a hand to her, still looking pointedly at the man next to her.
“Thorin, I don’t serve minors, even if you are my mate.” Nori said in a level, bored voice. Bilba could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as she spluttered at his words.
“I am not underage! Here, there’s my driving license.” Bilba flustered before pulling said legal document out of her bag and thrusting it into Nori’s hand. He took it with a disbelieving look and gave it the once over. His eyebrows raised and a smile spread across his lips as he handed it back, leaning on the bar. It was such a common occurrence that she generally took an annoyed approach.
“My apologies, Miss Baggins, though I hope you take it as a compliment. How was your 28th birthday? September is such a lovely time of year.” Nori drawled, catching her eye. Bilba, now caught in his scrutinizing gaze, greatly wished the stranger would speak up again. He did not. Bilba snatched back her licence.
“Yes, well, thank you. It was lovely. May I please have an Bulmers?” She said, making sure her tone was even as if the situation hadn’t entirely flustered her. She felt herself getting side eyed from her left. Entirely fed up with whatever was happening as she had a job to do, she turned to face the stranger.
“Thank you. Though you really didn’t need to shout.” Even when confronted with strangers at a bar, Bilba’s manners were always impeccable. “Thorin, is it?”
“Yes I did, they’re all hopeless when it’s busy. Miss Baggins.” Thorin dipped his head in a mock bow before taking another mouthful of his beer. Bilba took a moment to assess him discreetly. He stood at about 6 foot, making him nearly a foot taller than her, and was built like a house. He looked mid thirties, with a few lines creasing around his eyes. Dark hair streaked with silver. A sharp, long nose making his face a regal profile. Though they were in the dim, she was fairly sure he had blue eyes. He was dressed in jeans, a very smart pair of leather boots and a gorgeous dark leather jacket. It looked like it was made for him; snugly fitted around his waist, it broadened out with his shoulders and sheathed his thick arms. Bilba wondered vaguely if his forearms were bigger than her thighs. Quickly nipping that thought in the bud, she placed money on the bar for Nori, nodded to Thorin again, before slipping off toward the stage. The perk of her size was that she could slip through a crowd like water; in the music industry, it was a blessing. Bilba tucked herself in at the corner of the stage with a perfectly clear view of her potential replacements.
Set up was finished and, after a few experimental notes with their backs facing the crowd, The Durinson’s were finally ready to perform. Her phone buzzed in her bag, and she fished it out. If anyone was watching, they would have seen the colour pour out of her face and Bilba take a long drag from her drink. Several messages had apparently come through during the bar debacle that she had missed.
ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS
Tell me you’re not serious
I’m going to kill her. You can have her head for Christmas. I can’t even describe what I’m going to do to Fin. Cel may be spared with mental scarring.
Are you genuinely serious?
Of course you’re serious. It’s Fin, for fuck sake. What did Balin say about them? We can’t mess up this tour.
I called Balin. You’re serious. Fuck
Are you there yet?
What are they like?
They have some stuff on iTunes, it’s pretty good.
I can’t believe The Loriens bailed on me, after I was so nice to them at Reading. Should I come too?
My rehearsals are done. New costumes are great, I want to wear them forever.
You’re the worst PA ever, sometimes. I’ve messaged you enough to warrant some response. I’m coming over, and yes Dwalin is with me. No he is not happy, I had to buy him 5 mars bars for this. You owe me. Xx
“Bugger.” Bilba muttered. She quickly tapped out a reply.
They’re just about to come on, and I am not the worst; may I indicate that I’m not Bofur. No need to come darling, I need you tip top and well rested tomorrow! But if you do the barman is called Nori, shout at him to get his attention. Apparently I’m underage again. Tell Dwalin I have biscuits in my bag if he’s worried of dying of starvation. Xx
Bilba tucked her phone away as the lights dimmed slightly and the background music shut off. The Durinson’s had finished their set up and were turning to face the crowd. There were four of them total; a singer and guitarist, a bassist, a violinist and a drummer. The drummer was broad and burly, with almost grey hair despite appearing to be in his thirties, and had an incredibly intricate beard. It hung in two thick plaits from his chin that curled up at the ends, and reached the bottom of his neck. The bassist was skinny and lanky, seemingly still a teenager with ginger hair spilling out from a lavender beanie, and seemed slightly drowned by his instrument. The violinist radiated confidence and was waving and hollering to someone in the crowd. He was tall and broad with long dark hair and dark eyes, and even on the stage he seemed graceful. The guitarist seemed related to the violinist, despite being the opposite colourings of blonde and blue eyes. He wasn’t as tall as the violinist but even prior to their performance his presence on the stage was impressive. He held himself with confidence and a slight hint of arrogance, Bilba noted. Parts of his hair had been pulled back from his face with plaits, and he had a scruffy, but impressive, beard. He was also the reason Bilba’s heart dropped like a stone; blonde, self possessed, guitarist. A deadly combination when Sigrid Bowman was involved, Bilba thought with an internal groan.
“Good Evening you bunch of bastards!” The blonde shouted, a cheer erupting from the crowd in response, “We’re the Durinsons! Well, we don’t have all night, do we?” With a laugh the guitarist nodded to the drummer who counted them in.
With that they launched into their first song and, almost instantaneously, Bilba’s niggling nervousness melted away.
Far over, the Misty Mountains cold…
They blended perfectly, and were exactly the sound Bilba was looking for. They were enthusiastic and excited, an energy that the crowd reciprocated, and deceptively laid back in their performance. Bilba had to admit that she was transfixed, their music making her think of great, unexpected journeys and epic adventures. It was earthy, almost; rawness seemed to pervade their sounds. Especially the singers’ voice. It was low but rich, and Bilba had to admit, it would be a perfect companion to Sigrid’s singing voice. Before she knew it the song was over and with little ceremony they launched into the next. The violinist was leaping around on the amps as he played, his hair whipping about him as he sang along with the crowd. The bassist was far more focused but occasionally looked up long enough for Bilba to see he was blushing before he looked back down again. The drummer was grinning but apart from that seemed nonplussed about the whole affair. The frontman however was in a league of his own. Due to his mic being on a stand he wasn’t leaping about like his probable brother, but he was rocking in time to the music as he played and sang. Despite his limited movement he seemed to own the stage. Bilba was actually quite in awe of the band. Pulling out her phone, she quickly wrote a message to Balin.
These guys are incredible! Good genes, Mr Fudinson.
The band seemed to be winding down. They had been playing for an hour, sweat was dripping from the ceiling, and the energy seemed to fill the air. It was at this point when Bilba felt a hand on her shoulder. With a strangled shriek she wildly turned to see Sigrid, who had the decency to look sorry. Bilba glared at her.
“I hate it when you do that.” She shouted over the din. Sigrid raised an eyebrow.
“I’ll stop doing it when you stop sneaking up on me all the time!” She retorted. This was a circular argument that they had far to frequently. “Anyway, how are they?” As Sigrid spoke, the front man began introducing their last song.
“… and it’s about our favourite place to play; right here!”
There is an inn, a merry old inn
Beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
One night to drink his fill…
Bilba watched Sigrid as she observed the band. Her arms were crossed, but she looked pleasantly surprised. She was nodding a long to the song, scanning each member of the band as she did. Then she seemed to properly focus on the frontman, and narrowed her eyes. She raised an eyebrow at Bilba, an expression that she favoured above all others. Bilba raised her hands in innocence and mouthed ‘blame Balin’. At this point Dwalin appeared at Sigrids shoulder holding three drinks, and promptly passed them out.
The round Moon rolled behind the hill
As the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
They all went back to bed!
The crowd exploded into applause and cheers as the band bowed and, slowly, began to pack up their kit.
“What d’you think?” Bilba asked Sigrid, who was still watching the band like a hawk.
“They’re good, I like their sound. Dwalin why didn’t you say you had musical relatives?”
Dwalin grumbled something about pushy pop stars. Sigrid laughed and rested her head on his shoulder, taking a swig of her drink. The friendship between the bodyguard and the star was an odd one, but a strong one. It was then that Bilba realised what Sigrid was wearing.
“Sigrid, darling, I don’t think you should be wearing your new costumes around yet…? What if someone took a photo of you?” Bilba asked incredulously. Sigrid stuck out her tongue.
“I told you, it’s comfortable. And I got dragged out to help sort out my tour, I didn’t have time to change, so it was this or pyjamas. Would you like me to go change into my pyjamas?” Sigrid drawled, grinning at Bilba. Admittedly, Sigrid being seen out in pyjamas would be worse. Still, Bilba was nothing if not a stickler for details.
“But, you look so… you know… scandalous.” Bilba muttered. Dwalin coughed, though it definitely sounded more like a snigger, and Sigrid outright laughed.
“Loosen up, Bilba. I’ll tell you what, next time I have a fitting I’ll get something similar for you alright?” Sigrid teased. Bilba pursed her lips even as she blushed.
“That won’t be necessary, thank you Sigrid.” Bilba said primly, pointedly ignoring her laughing friends. Admittedly, Sigrid did look good. But it was difficult for Sigrid not to look good. Currently she was encased in tight high waisted leather trousers that seemed to be sewn onto her skin they were that tight, and a cream and black bralet top. A slither of creamy skin could be seen between the two. She had a red plaid shirt thrown over the top with the sleeves rolled up, Bilba thought the shirt had once been Fin’s, and a pair of beat up black converse that were her rehearsal shoes. Sigrid’s mid length hair fell in waves around her shoulders, the light blonde reflecting the lights overhead. She still had quite a bit of make up on; dark smokey eyes, making her green iris’s pop, and dark red lips. Bilba, despite her often fussy behaviour, had to admit that Sigrid did look wonderful, if a little scandalous. It was then that Dwalin nudged Sigrid and nodded over to a door that the band had disappeared into.
“I gave Kili a call on the way over, we can go see them.” He grumbled, taking Sigrid by the elbow and leading her over before she could respond. Glancing back she called for Bilba to follow. Bilba straightened her shoulders and marched after them; time to steal a new band for the tour. This, Bilba could do.