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Chapter One

Bilbo had, in life, lived quite an amazing life for a hobbit if he did so say himself. It having been a somewhat normal and peaceful life in the Shire until a wondering wizard, who wondered off far too much if Bilbo recalled fondly with a tinge of annoyance, had gently-rather forcefully- invited a group of royal dwarves-royally a headache at the best of times more like-which had then in turn set him on a quest to face a fire breathing dragon to take back a mountain for said royal headaches.

It had been until later in life, much too late and after the heartache turned in to a dull throb with only the occasional sharp pain of loss reminding him of what he never would have.

His dwarves. His wonderful, stupid, loud and rowdy dwarves.

But then that ring, oh that cursed ring had ended up taking even more from him than he ever could imagine.

After living so many years, another sixty-far older than any other hobbit should mind you- he finally parted from the vile gold circlet, from its whispers and poisonous friendship. It had taken every bit of innocence he held, every bit of good, and tried its best to grab hold and twist it and break him. To force its will upon him. It wished him to leave Frodo, to not take up his duty as his guardian, to walk out and go-where he did no know. But he always refused it.

But then he had left the blasted thing for his nephew, not knowing the dangers it truly held! And about another 30 years later, his beloved Frodo had begun his quest to destroy the cursed thing.

Even after so long, it called to him-longed for him to take it back and never allow anyone else to touch it again. What right did that whelp have to take what was his after-all?

And Bilbo hated himself. Hated his moments of weakness. Old age was a poor excuse, as was holding on to the ring for so very long. It was the reason people gave him, but he refused to accept it.

It was his fault. He was weak.

It was his fault that yearly his nephews shoulder would begin to hurt more and more with the faint memory of the Narzguel blade burning into it annually.

It was his, Bilbo's, fault that those bright blue eyes-that had been so bright and curious and so very innocent- had hollowed and became haunted.

Bilbo had been so relieved to see his nephew follow him onto the gray ships, to set sale to an undying land where all pain would wash away.

He himself had been happy for this adventure, though he accepted this as his last, and only looked back when they had set sail knowing that if he did before they left the dock he would have wished to dart off the boat, onto a pony, and demand to be taken to the mountains. He squinted his aged eyes trying his best to spot Erebor in the hazy distance. But it was impossible.

And so Bilbo died.

He died unable to see the mountains that felt like home, and housed what had grown to be his family ever again. He died unable to apologize to Thorin and the boys.

Now Bilbo wasn't sure exactly how long it had been since his death. Death was a funny thing like that. There really seemed to be no time of day, no agenda. No passing. It just-was.

He stayed in a Smial, much like bag end, and did much as any hobbit was supposed to do. He would wake, go about gardening or eating, reading or taking small walks about the town of other dead hobbits-the town oddly enough resembled the shire- would converse, this was done lightly as for even most of his ancestors had little in common with him besides Bulroar Took(who perhaps played golf a bit too much for Bilbos tastes) and just go about doing mundane hobbitish like things.

It wasn't as if Bilbo wasn't thankful to what the good green lady had given them as a resting spot in death. The fields were always green, the crops always good, endless drink and dance and merry; never a bad day. It was the perfect afterlife.

Too perfect for Bilbo it seemed.

He at first had been elated to meet with his parents once again; to feel their warm embrace and to listen to their voices. It had been so welcoming to see those who had passed before himself, all the hobbits who had led up to his point in time.

It had been so nice, in the beginning of death, to feel the peace of bag-end once again, no dark ring hanging over him or echoes of dwarven song.

Even when he thought of his dwarves, it was as if his heart was unable to feel any sort of pain or remorse. The lonely Mountain only brought feelings of awe no loss or homesickness associated.

It felt so wrong. It was as if the feelings were fake. Forced into his heart as if it were mimicking happiness much like he acted when he sat down for tea at his great aunt Roses.

So he walked.

He walked and walked, among hay fields, corn fields, rolling hills and bubbling brooks and tiny forests. It was all so very much like the Shire, all so much like the place that had been his place of birth and much of his life.

But it wasn't the Shire. It was like a poor attempt to mirror it.

And no matter how much Bilbo walked, no matter which way he went, he would always find his way back to Bag-End. It was as if there were no true path out of his new home, there were no dwarves or elves or even humans to go see. There were no uncharted lands, no mountains no forests no oceans. Just the shire.

Bilbo began to wonder if this truly was a punishment. To continue eternally being trapped in the one place he swore, in life, he called home. Swore where he belonged. Never to seek true adventure again, to see those he would like to call friend. To call family.

He felt nothing at the echo of Thorin's parting words, and he he knew he wanted to feel disappointed in himself at not even being able to morn the loss of such a dear friend, but that was not even allowed to him.

And so he continued to walk.

He walked and walked, and every time the Shire came into view he would turn around and begin walking away once again only to return to it no matter what he did.

Bilbo was unsure how long he had been doing this, refusing to meet with his parents any longer, or any hobbit for that matter just to hear them say-he would be fine, it just took some time getting used to, how could one not enjoy this life?- until one day, one glorious day.

There was change.

Bilbo had decided to take a break from walking, and was sitting in a small wood after having just turned from where he spied the smoke rising from others smials.

He, in life, would have brought a book and some seed cakes with him to sit under a tree and enjoy the day, but in death there was no true hunger to fulfill nor any tale worth enjoying. So he just sat, looking endlessly to where he wished to see mountains on the horizon, not rolling hills and crops.

"Does it pain you so?"

He jumped slightly, though no feeling of fear or even surprise was allowed to him. Only a pleasant feeling of welcoming which was unwanted, and made him despise death all the more.

There, under the shade of a tree half hidden and cloaked, was a figure.

"What?" his voice was so odd to his ears-when had been the last he spoke? It was rare when he did.

The figure gestured about, the cloak not giving away any features, though a deep blue ring was visible on one of his large fingers,"Does this pain you?"

"I," he blinked and hesitated,unsure," I do not feel pain."

"But you wish to?"

Shaking his head Bilbo said," Why would I wish to feel pain."

"Because this isn't true happiness. Because even when you wish to feel sad you are happy, or when you wished to be frightened you are calm. What do you feel now, little hobbit?"

Bilbo was about to say happy, or perhaps content, when he paused.

This was not happiness. Happiness was being made fun of by a group of rowdy, obscene dwarves. Happiness was what followed after living through something impossible, terribly frightening, only to see smiles and hear song from those who had pulled through with you. Happiness was seeing the bright eyes and wide smiles on his nephews face.

"I feel nothing," his voice was oddly flat. Had he spoken like this in life?

The figure nodded, and for some reason Bilbo found he could not take his eyes off the ring that sat, large and gaudy but fittingly, on the stumpy fingers of the other.

"Would you, if given the chance do it all over again?"

Bilbo blinked owlishly, tilting his head to the side just slightly,"What do you mean?"

"Would you," the figure growled now approaching but Bilbo, unable to feel fear, did not budge from his spot and just allowed the other to come slightly nearer," go back to the living? To do what you had done once-but this time do. IT. RIGHT. Would you take on full responsibility of that ring, instead of shirking your duties to a mere child?!"

Bilbo so wished to be able to cry, to feel bad over the loss of Frodos innocence. But he was unable to.

It was an easy answer to such a question for him. It was as if it had been what he had been searching for.

"Yes."

He saw the figures stance change, and there was something about the atmosphere, the very feeling of the world around him changed.

"Good. Bilbo Baggins," the other approached, his ring glowing as he settled his hand on the top of Bilbo's curls,"I will give you a gift to help you along in this lifetime."

He felt the worlds slipping away from him, the loss of any sort of physical body and the only thing he was aware of was the hand, with the large blue ring, keeping him from completely being lost to the darkness he was now bathed in. But Bilbo smiled.

For as he felt himself tugged through the void, pulled off to some unknown abyss of darkness, he felt fear. True, gut wrenching, heart hammering, mind numbing fear.

And for that he was truly happy.

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Bilbo woke sweating, gasping as he shot up in bed almost falling to the floor.

He looked around shivering at the chill of his dark room. The fire had gone out. He had forgotten to throw a log in before flopping onto his bed.

Sighing he leaned forward pushing sweaty bangs from his forehead to cradle it in his hands.

"What a dream," his voice shook on the word 'dream'. As if it was a mere insult to the images that played over and over again in his head. A whole lifetime of images.

He had seen his parents die, due to an early winter much like the one they were starting to experience now. He had seen himself grow old, and see dwarves-actual real dwarves!- and elves! and many other wonderful and terrible things. He had seen war, pain and suffering and had seen his own death.

He shivered, the cold seeping past his quilts to his very bones. The feeling of mortality setting heavily on his heart.

Throwing off the comforter he went to go grab some snack from the pantry to calm his nerves.

"It is just a dream Bilbo Baggins," he said in a quite quivering voice, reminding himself his parents were just in the next room and his mother was an awful light sleeper," there will be no 'fell winter' or 'great war' over some ring," he huffed trying to bring that heavy, oh so heavy feeling, from his heart that spoke of grief and suffering," now go get you some tea and cake and quit concerning yourself over some silly nightmare. Its just a result of all those books dad keeps telling you to get your nose out of. Obviously for good reason too!"

Nodding his head and wiggling into his nightgown he went to the kitchen to rid of his tremors.

After all. It was just a dream. This was the Shire and he was just a hobbit.

Nothing bad ever happened here.

Nothing.

ENDENEDENDCHAPTERENEDCHAPTERENDCHAP;TER

Chapter Text

And Back Again

 

Chapter 2

 

 

"Bilbo Baggins!" scolded his mother, fury written all over her features as she put away her fine china-a very generous wedding gift that she treasured. While she wouldn't harm the china, her rage made Bilbo second guess the possibilities of escaping without boxed ears.

 

She paused for a moment to turn to him, perhaps concerned about the well being of the delicate cups and plates, and he flinched under her stern gaze. "Just what got into you?" She was shaking with fury and Bilbo couldn't blame her. He himself didn't know exactly what had gotten into him. Thinking back he was unsure just how things could have spiraled down so fast.

 

The day had not started out normal at all, for he had woken very early to the strange dream that made him loose his appetite and his hands to shake.

 

His parents had woken around their normal times, his father bright and early with a since of duty about him while his mother followed not long after, a slightly more sluggish pace about her.

 

"Bilbo," he glanced up from where he had been staring into his now cold tea, fire just mere coals and his joints were stiff from having sat in one place so long. How long had he been sitting, thinking about the absurd dream? He had been so absorbed into his thoughts that he had even missed the rising of the sun, the darkness melding away into the dull grey of morning in their dining area.

 

"Oh-mom," he said slightly awkward as she frowned at him while his father rummaged around in his study down the hall. Ever since the poor harvest and early frost the Shire had been troubled about the difficulties of the coming winter. As such his father saw fit to catalog everything in their food stores and come up with meal plans for the food to last. Bilbo knew deep down it wouldn't. His mother quietly sat next to him and took the cup from his stiff hands, holding his hands in her own warm ones.

 

"What troubles you darling?"She had deep brown eyes that spoke of warmth and understanding and his heart throbbed painfully at the love he felt for her. She was a very caring and loving mother,unable to bare any other children she had poured all her love into Bilbo. Why he would dream of her death, one so terrible, he didn't know why. Opening his mouth he he felt his voice catch in his throat before snapping it closed and he tried to swallow down the knot in his throat.

 

"I had a terrible nightmare," he confessed thankful that Belladonna was a very patient hobbit. She pushed back some curls that plastered themselves to his forehead and he didn't even wave off the affections like most tweens would do. It felt as if he had went too long, far too long, feeling the love of his parents.

 

"About the winter love?" it wasn't as if the whole Shire wasn't whispering worriedly about the chill that had killed the last harvest, or the abnormal wind bringing down frost and a thin blanket of white before they had even truly had a fall. Hesitantly he nodded-as for in his dream he had watched the winter play out-the fell winter it had been called later in the horrible dream- as for he couldn't even begin to describe the extent of the dream. Of growing old and alone, so unusual for a Hobbit, and then being whisked away by her good friend Gandalf to go gallivanting with a group of insufferable dwarves, one of whom-

 

 

"Bilbo!" He blinked and looked up. Both of his parents where there, worry pinching their expressions as they stared at him. "Oh," he blinked again," I-I am sorry. I think I lost myself to my thoughts."

 

He hadn't realized until his mother once again wiped his brow how he had been sweating. And trembling. "Dear," she whispered," do not fear this winter. We are here for you." Bungo crouched down and settled a hand on his son's shoulder," Perhaps you should get some rest son. You seem unwell." Bilbo nodded numbly as he shakily got to his feet and quietly padded down the hall to his room. He tried to ignore that right when his door clicked shut he could hear the hushed voices of his parents down the hall.

 

"He's still a child," he heard his mothers muffled words, and for some reason that comment hurt him," this winter isn't going to be easy. I worry about Bilbo's health. Already Mrs. Ginger has said that she has seen more sick fauntlings within the past two weeks than she normally does in a whole winter."

 

"He is just concerned," came his fathers voice though it sounded unsure. A silence hung in the hall and Bilbo guiltily covered his ears while laying in his bed. Squeezing his eyes shut he tried to push the images of his dreams from his head. Frodo. Did he have a second cousin named Frodo? No. In his dream it had been his cousin Drogo's son. And Drogo and Primula had gotten married?!? No, that would never happen. He thought fondly about how Drogo would complain to him about the young Brandybuck as she would shadow him. Everywhere.

 

"She is outright annoying," he would groan to Bilbo," what is worse is that our mothers are friends and find it 'endearing'. She is so. . .so. . so annoying! Always wanting to do everything with me and my friends when she visits. I hate having to deal with her funny face with its big teeth and her messy hair." Drogo had always been one for being neat and tidy-like Bilbo's father and Uncle both were. Bilbo himself found life more comfortable and enjoyable when things were neat, tidy, and in order. His mother always told him it was in a Baggins's blood to be that way.

After seeing his mother return from an adventure with Gandalf, a bit scrapped and bruised, hair a wild mess-and wearing mens breeches to top it off!- he didn't doubt it. He had cleaned the mud from the carpet before she or his father could.

 

Rolling over from where he had been laying on his back Bilbo stared to the ceiling. He felt out of sorts, as if he had an energy vibrating within him and he just wanted to up and go running out of the Shire, much like he had in his dream.

 

He shivered remembering growing old and withered, weak and unable to care for himself anymore. "Its more like a memory than a dream," he whispered finding his voice horse. The dream had been so long, so detailed. His heart twisted from loss, he felt sick with a feeling of longing. A part of him wanted to find the dwarves in his dream.

"But that ring," he shivered, suddenly feeling very cold and empty,"I brought so much pain."

He thought of Frodo, and the innocent face that had soon become broken and hollow of emotion. Even though Frodo had returned from destroying the ring, it was as if he had died along the way. But there was no Frodo, again Bilbo flipped on the bed growling.

 

There were no dwarves, no ring, and no fell winter. Despite how much he told himself this, though, he couldn't convince his heart. Or block the images from his mind. Pushing his face into his pillow he yelled and kicked his feet. It was childish, as if he were a mere fauntling again, but it helped release some of that energy he felt needing released. He hadn't realized how much time had passed until a knock sounded off on his door.

 

It was soft, but fast and direct. It was his father. His mother always knocked loudly and without any real rhythm. "Come in," he said clearing his throat. His door cracked open and Bungo's round face and red cheeks pushed through as he blinked his brown eyes around the room until resting on Bilbo.

"Can we talk?" he asked straightening himself standing fully in the room and pulling at his bracers-a habit that Bilbo had as well. He nodded, and sat up fully as his father came to sit by him on his bed.

 

"Bilbo," his father started brushing some of his hair fondly,"sweetheart. You know that your mother and I love you very much." "Yes of course," his heart clinched painfully thinking about his dream. In his dream, love for Bilbo had not been enough for his father. It hadn't stopped him from dying and leaving him and his mother alone until her health eventually turned for the worst from a cough that she couldn't shift, and left Bilbo truly alone. His father smiled softly and pulled him close,"Please don't worry yourself about this winter so then." Bilbo blinked. His thoughts drifted back to the dream, so realistic it had been standing at the grave-site of his parents. It felt like there was much to worry about for the winter. Even if it were just a dream, the fear of the winters harm still clung to him. "I can not help it father," he spoke frankly and Bungo blinked. Bilbo was still a tween, and as such he was taken back by the diplomatic air his son suddenly portrayed," The last harvest wasn't even meager-it was none existent. Just how far will this winter go? Father, what if the river freezes over and wolves come into the shire?" He knew it sounded ridiculous-never in their history had there been such a winter. But for some reason, it had in Bilbo's dream.

A small chuckle came from the cherry hobbit and Bilbo felt anger course though him,"Bilbo dear why would you think such a silly thing. The river has never froze, and the Thain has already arranged for trade to be done with the men in Bree. It is not like they will not come to our aid-we have helped them with harvest many times in the past. It is unlikely they will not respond in kind."

 

Suddenly Bilbo found himself standing, shaking with barely contained rage.

"How can you laugh!"he shouted walking around his room huffing," it is very much a possibility. Never has snow came so early! Never have we lost a full last harvest! You act like you and mom couldn't possibly die from this!"

 

He spun around to see his fathers shocked face and the heat left his eyes. Bungo was not one for shouting or arguing. That was left to his wife.

"Bilbo Baggins," Bilbo flinched at his mothers stern tone," just 'what' are you yelling at your father for! Apologize this instant!" He avoided the heated gaze that held his mothers wrath, even if he felt as though he were brave enough to have survived encounters with goblins, wargs, trolls and a great many other things, his mother was still about the most frightening thing he believed he would ever encounter.

 

"I apologize for my outburst father,"he said looking to where his father was now standing wringing his hands in obvious worry. His father was good at worrying. Just not enough about this, Bilbo thought darkly.

His father and mother had left him to his thoughts then. Which was probably a greater torture than if they had put him to work, or grounded him. Bilbo paced the length of his room over and over again not able to get the dream from playing snippets of a would be life from his mind. "It's not real! It is not. real." he kept growling sure he looked mad.

 

Bilbo had finally managed to calm himself, skipping all meals until his mother called him to tea. "You have missed breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses and lunch.

Now come to tea, and have a small snack to hold you over the day. Starvation is not anyway to solve anything Bilbo!" his mother had scolded, but he could see the worry in her green eyes. He had nodded, and came out to see that Mrs.Ginger, the local physician for fauntlings and tweens seated at the table with his parents, her thick sweaters making her seem even more portly than before, her graying hair swept up into a bun and kind blue eyes looking up at him upon his arrival.

 

"Bilbo dear, why look how big you are getting. I can not believe you are 20 already!"

 

Bilbo frowned and crossed his arms looking to the 3 seated," I am not ill."

 

"We are only concerned Bilbo," his mother reasoned.

 

"I appreciate the concern, but I am not unwell,"He scuffed his foot on the floor rudely, and Mrs.Ginger gaped. He wasn't known for being rude, perhaps a bit rowdy but not unkind in anyway. He was frustrated, though, and he needed an outlet.

 

"Bilbo Baggins," His mother gasped," You are truly beginning to act quite unusual."

 

"Because you are not worried enough! This winter-"

"Is not for you to worry about," his father cut in sternly. It wasn't often his father would punish him, but when he did it had been always something Bilbo would remember and end up feeling guilty for long after it was over,"You seem to think your mother and I and the Shire are not preparing for the worst but-"

 

"You are not preparing enough!" he hissed, hot tears running down his cheeks," in my dream-"

 

"This is about your dream," Mrs.Ginger looked to the Baggins elders with worry.

 

Bilbo silenced, suddenly realizing how silly he truly must have sounded.

 

"I know,"he croaked,"it sounds ridiculous. And it is. It is just a dream,"he took a shuddering breath,"but it was so real. So fucking real that I cannot ignore it!"

 

The three hobbits looked at him with wide round unblinking eyes. It was rare any hobbit cursed-ever. Only the most foul mouthed, Bree traveling would dare utter such obscenities but even then it was rare. Though after having dreamed of traveling with the most foul mouthed of dwarves, Bilbo found himself slightly desensitize. Though not enough to stop the hot blush from rising to his cheeks-even in his dreams had he himself ever uttered such obscene words?

 

"Go. To. Your. Room. Now." Belladonna was shaking with barely contained Tookish rage and Bilbo nodded before doing an about face doing just that as he heard his parents apologizing to Mrs. Ginger.

 

"It's alright dears,"he heard the old lady respond," He is obviously suffering from anxiety."

 

He slammed his door shut feeling very bad about having said such a thing in the presence of 2 women, one being his mother, and in-front of his father no less. How unhobbitish! How unBaggins like! It was entirely disrespectful, dream or no! He was over reacting. His heart sunk as did he onto his room floor until his mother called to him to come out an hour later.

 

And now he stood in the kitchen trying to come up with an appropriate apology for such unseeming actions.

 

"I have acted out inappropriately,"he began trying to slow his heart," I apologize to the furthest extent that I know how. I have acted very disrespectful. I just. . . That dream. . .mom." The stiff polite form he had taken for his apology melded away as he looked to his mother heart in his eyes.

 

 

And he could see his mother herself soften at his gaze. "Oh Bilbo,"she murmured and outstretched her hands," I promise you. No harm will come to you this winter. Your father and I will do all we can to prevent that." He ran into her arms, tears in his eyes once again. " What about you and dad," he sniffed," I would be so very upset if something were to happen to the either of you. I love you." His mother sighed and squeezed him harder before separating a bit to look him in the eye. "If anything ever happened to your father and I before our time, or even when it is our time and we leave you. You need to find something-someone- to live for," It was mentioned somewhat frequently that he should become interested in some hobbit lass. He was not extremely antisocial, all hobbits found the need to be near others somewhat, but he didn't have many close friends being a bit of an oddity. Always wishing to see elves in the woods, spying on passing dwarves on their way to the blue mountains, begging Gandalf for more and more stories of adventures far after even the youngest more curious hobbits had tired of them. Sniffing he couldn't stop himself," I just don't want to loose you. " Again was left unsaid. But he thought it anyway cursing himself by not being able to forget such a silly dream. "Were not going anywhere Bilbo," his mother shushed him," It was just a dream." He nodded. "Promise me you will try your best to forget this dream-please Bilbo? No more skipping meals, no more outbursts?" his mother looked at him pleadingly. He nodded. "I will do my best," he murmured," It was just a dream. I will do my best to forget it." And even at his mothers bright smile Bilbo felt sick uttering those words. ENDENDENDENDENDENDENDENDENDEND

Chapter Text

And Back Again
Chapter 3

It had been nearly a week since Bilbo had first woken from that terrible dream,
and no matter how hard he tried he found that every night, and throughout the days he couldn't stop images of the dream coming back to him. He felt ill, seeing grotesque images of a battle field full of dead in the normal corn fields, of his parents passed away while he stood at the spot in the garden that wasn't even there in his back yard where they were buried, of people he knew he had never met and most likely were not real but he couldn't convince his heart so.

But he did his best not to worry his mother and father. Every day since the dreams came, he woke for breakfast, and after second breakfast would put on a heavy coat and warm scarf and gloves before going for a walk.

This was the first day that the snow that had fallen the night before stayed on the ground past noon and he was relieved to see he wasn't the only hobbit to be concerned about it. Many were now gathering extra firewood for their hearths and adding to their food stores what they could. There still was no answer from Bree about food assistance, or anything to be sent by caravan, but Bilbo tried not to think on it negatively.

At the moment he sat on a hill, having patted down the snow to make it more comfortable and having already forgotten about the bite of chill on the end of his nose and tips of his fingers. He stared out to the east, knowing somewhere beyond the horizon lay Erebor. He had tried to find some text about the lonely mountain in the shire, but there was nothing much outside information about elves.

Why did he dream of such things? Of a ring, an evil horrendous ring, that caused so much pain and death. Of war and pain, of the elves leaving for the gray havens. Of he himself going with everyone from the fellowship eventually following? It was such a bizarre dream, he wished it made it easier to play off as unreal. But his heart twisted whenever he tried to convince himself it was not true. Even though he could not grasp how it could be possible, he couldn't completely let go of the idea that it was some type of forewarning of events to come.

In the distance he heard laughter that shook him from his thoughts and he sighed looking to the young fauntlings giggling in the snow farther down in one of the fields. Would they starve? Would wolves eat them? His stomach clinched at the thought.
He continued to stair at them not actually processing the game they were playing, just seeing the young innocent faces red with chill and carefree.

Another young face entered his mind unwillingly. Frodos. Then more. Merry. Sam. Pippin. He clinched his eyes shut. There were ghosts in their gazes suddenly, a weight on all their shoulders. Especially Frodos. It was wrong. So wrong. They deserved to live long, carefree lives-didn't they? Not be whisked away on a nearly impossible quest due to his mistakes. Pippin and Merry especially had been far too young for such a quest.

Feeling suddenly as if he could no longer stand sitting, he jerked up, forcing himself to turn from the children and block out their laughter. It made him queasy, the thought of what could happen in the coming months.

Running Bilbo ran into the treeline of the nearby wood almost running into an elm near the entrance he grabbed it and collapsed panting at its base. The laughter was in the distance, barely heard but it still haunted him.

How long would it be until the laughter stopped?

How long would it take to come back?

Bilbo steadied his breath and his gaze stopped on a fallen branch. He wasn't sure what it was about the large stick that stopped him, or made him go over and pick it up, but he did. He swung it a couple times before putting it back down to the ground finding it too heavy to swing properly.

Why was he even sitting around worried about this while doing nothing?

It wasn't very bagginslike to not find a solution to a problem.

And what he was about to propose was even farther from acting like a proper Baggins.

Spinning on his heel, a grin on his face, Bilbo made his way back to Bag-End an idea growing in his head.

If the Shire was truly going to fall to disaster this winter, why not be ready for it? His dreams may have just been that, but he was not willing to sit back and watch others suffer.

After all; he was a hobbit.
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"It is absurd Bilbo! Arming everyone in the Shire in preparation for wolves! Wolves rarely come to the Shire! And certainty not in the numbers you are predicting,"Bilbo frowned as his father continued to pick apart his idea over dinner," and that is why the ranger are here to help! They always take care of any problems such as wolves before they could harm us hobbits. You don't know what you are asking for. We are not warriors! There is no way a hobbit could fight off even one wolf!"

Bilbo pushed at his food a little, he noticed his mother had kept the meal rather small that evening, and sighed putting down his fork.

"Then I would like to request the coin to have my own weapon commissioned father. A sword as for I feel I would fair well with one," he tried to keep his voice even and any real heat from it. He knew that his father wished for him to display proper Baggins behaivor, and this was farthest from, but he couldn't bring himself to act very Bagginsish at the moment.

He wasn't sure after the dream he ever would.

Bungo sputtered and his kindly round face became pale while he seemed to eventually deflate. Softening his voice and leaning forward he put a hand to his sons," dear you are no fighter. You are a Baggins of Bag-End. I could not see you. . .wielding a weapon! Those stories your mother tells you are just that. Stories."

There was a sudden humph and Bungo looked to where his wife was staring at him pointedly her arms crossed.

"Well they are dear, he is a tween now. Far too old to be going off those wild tales," he tried to reason with his Tookish blooded wife.

Said Tookish blooded wife frowned deepened," Why my dear husband. And what of my adventures before we wed and had Bilbo? Were the travels I had with Gandalf just stories?"

Before he could answer she stood continuing as she went to stand behind Bilbo. Despite feeling slightly empowered by the dreams he had, and his mothers sudden support, Bilbo felt suddenly very awkward being between the two in what seemed to be an open argument. They didn't have many.

"And I personally think our Bilbo would look very dashing with a sword in hand,"she continued patting him on his shoulders and he forced himself not to look up from his suddenly very interesting plate as her voice became slightly wistful," possibly protecting a lass that he would later fall madly in love with!"

"Mom," he said in what he wished was a less whiny tone,"I'm 26!"

She giggled," that is when your father first gifted me our first courting flower."

"And the first of many for her to decline,"he heard his father grumbled a blush going over his cheeks and nose.

He could practically hear his mother roll her eyes at his father-it was always something to tease the poor Mr.Baggins about. 34 Courting attempts, and before the 35th could be dealt she had approached him with her own.

"What I am saying dear," she continued going over to her husband now to give him a kiss on his red cheek," is that this is not a bad thing! Bilbo has been far too shy and. . .unsocial with others his age for quite some time now. This could be a good way for him to make some closer friends outside of Hamfast. Who, by the way Bilbo, has been training under good old Holman Greenhand and has accepted his first job to tend to our gardens-So you may see more of him now that all his time will not be following around that sweet Bell."

Bilbo groaned as his mother spoke of the thing he hated being brought up at dinner.

"I'm just not interested in any girls right now," he groaned before looking up to her in hope," does this mean I can get a sword?"

"What-no!"Bungo looked shocked to his wife as she seemed to be actually considering the request,"Belladonna please! Can you imagine! A Baggins, someday to be head of Bag-End, wielding a sword!? What would the renters think? That he would raise the monthly coin by threat of his blade?"

"Why I would never-"

"It is just not very Bagginsish son, I am sorry but I must put my foot down," his father said matter of factly ," I-Its just not normal. Going around the shire-THE SHIRE- with a weapon of all things!"

Bilbo sputtered and looked between his two parents before standing," Well then. There it is. I understand very clearly.Father. Mother. I feel I must retire now," he said feeling anything but tired, but not wishing to argue this any longer. He was sure there would be a way for him to get a sword. He just had to find it.

"See here Bilbo," his father said in a pleading tone that had Bilbo pausing at the doorway," I am not trying' to be your enemy on these matters. I know for the past few days you have been mighty stressed about this coming winter-and rightly so! But to blow things out of proportion, to think of arming yourself. . .son you already have so very few friends. At this rate I fear you shall become a recluse , with no wife or children, no one to morn your passing when your time comes. "

Bilbo allowed his face to lax and to squeeze his eyes shut since he knew his parents could only see his back. His fathers words brought back memories of the dream. Having returned from his year long journey dream Bilbo had found that nearly all of his precious possessions had been sold and there had not been one damp eye in the greeting crowd. Honestly it had seemed that no one truly cared for Bilbo past the extent of his belongings and he felt his heart break at the thought. In his dream he had returned to the Shire, heavy hearted, though not empty handed, and high hoping to receive some welcome along with a hot bath and warm bed. Though he received the latter, he never could quite reconcile the relationships with his neighbors. Even Hamfast, who had been tediously working to keep Bag-Ends garden pristine for its new owners.

"I do not find," he finally said, thoughts of dwarven friends going through his mind;friends who urged him to stay in the lonely mountain at least the winter through, who clasped hands and gave hugs and begged for future visits,"that there is truly anyone in the Shire I should find to my liking. None have truly struck my fancy,"and because he was feeling rebellious and his courage was not all used up he gripped the wall harder and added on.

"Not that I think I would fancy a dainty lass much."

His shoulders tensed at the silence behind him, knowing dropping such information on his parents shoulders, especially with everything going on, was a bit much. But in his dream it had never happened, and he had been oh-so confused growing up those late tween years without a mother and father.
"T-thats," his fathers voice was slightly faint. He knew such relationships were not spoke of in the Shire. Bilbo closed his eyes feeling hot tears build up. He had so hoped his parents would have magically accepted him.
"I think that's enough for tonight," his fathers voice was tight," were obviously all stressed out about everything that has been going on lately. Yes. That's it. Right. Good. Well off to bed Bilbo. We cant be keeping you up."

His father continued to mumble as Bilbo scurried to bed darting through his door and throwing himself to his bed.

Bilbo didn't care if he made a tearful mess of himself, he sobbed into his pillow none the less. It must have been a slap to his mother and fathers faces-their only child someone whose tastes didn't quite run the way they should be. It left him offley confused in his dreams, but somehow between the intense dream and waking up with much time for thought the past few days he had come to terms with what he was.

A soft knock alerted him that his mother was at his door.

Sitting up he grabbed a handkerchief and rubbed his eyes and blew his nose,"come in."

She slipped in silent as any hobbit would, though she was holding a bundle in her arms that made Bilbo forget the pounding of his head and the weight in his heart.

"Sweetheart," she smiled at him and he smiled back shakily happy to see she wasn't completely distraught by his announcement earlier.

She came and sat down on the bed next to him, pulling another one of his precious hankies out to dab at his eyes," my dear Bilbo. Sometimes it is hard to remember how grown up you are. It sometimes feels like yesterday your father and I were wondering if we would even be able to give birth to a child."

Bilbo winced knowing that he had been an only not by choice. Most hobbit families easily had 6 or 7 children, one alone was truly odd.

"But," she continued pulling his attention back to her warm honey brown eyes," that is our mistake. And one that we should not make for it is you who suffers."

She passed the long object to him, it was wrapped in a black cloth and was heavy and long. Looking to her confused for only a moment, he carefully unwrapped it.

"Mom," he breathed blinking,"what?"

"If you feel the need to defend yourself, I do not have a sword to give you," she said smiling at him sadly and tucking a stray curl behind his ear," but this is one of the first bow-staffs I wielded while on journeys to Rivendell with Gandalf. And it may just look like a fancy walking stick, but I assure you it had came in handy in more than one skirmish I am sure you recall. Your father and I want to show our support as best we can. It just isn't always easy to remember your so grown up now."

Bilbo now stood, the wrapping having fallen to the floor as he fingered the fine wood-it was strong and sturdy, completely smooth with very fine etchings put into it by his mother recording her greatest moments on her adventures.

It was one of her dearest things, the things left over from the days she used to go with Gandalf off into the blue, and she was gifting it to him!

Suddenly he paused turning to her to see her smiling up at him.

"Mother,"he hesitated before continuing,"I am extremely grateful; I know how precious this is to you. And I promise to take really good care of it. But. . . but mother. about earlier. . .about what I said"

"Your father and I accept you no matter what Bilbo," his mother stood looking at him sternly," Yes your father is unsure of how to acknowledge this. Give him time Bilbo, as for he has been raised to merely worry and think of things how they are meant to be in the eyes of the Shire. He has little knowledge of the world beyond, or of how matters of the heart truly work."

"Mom," he breathed collapsing into her hug a new wave of tears running down his cheeks.

"We love you very much Bilbo," she murmured," I am sorry that we are not better at this parenting thing."

"Your perfect," he sniffed grabbing his handkerchief from his mother and dabbing his eyes and nose," you have no clue. Thank you mom thank you!"

Suddenly her smile was sly as she looked to her only son," Oh don't thank me yet Bilbo Baggins. I do wish to hear the lucky one who has stolen my sons eyes from from under my nose so silently. We can discuss it tomorrow," she said kissing him on the head and making the way to his door," when we go about training you to wield that properly. It is probably a better idea you start out with that than a sword. "

He nodded numbly realizing suddenly that his mother had just said she would be giving him bow-staff lessons,"well get some sleep dear, and clean up your face. And remember-if you have anything else you need to say. . . don't hold it in until it is too much to bare. Come to your father and I and we will work it out."

He nodded and she turned to leave but before she could make it out the door he called to her.

"Mom."

Turning she blinked,"yes dear?"

"I really do love you."

"I love you too," she smiled," I really do."

And she turned and closed the door.

Bilbo's heart twisted a bit and silently he promised himself. His mother would not be dying this winter. He was going to do all he could to prevent that.
----------------------------------------------

 

The next morning Belladonna had taken Bilbo to their back yard, and proceeded to teach Bilbo proper footing and handling of the staff while she held her own-though hers had a very intimidating point to the end that was made of obsidian that she had obtained on one of her journeys- rare for even the places she had been she had said.

And that is how the next several days went, they would wake earlier than normal to practice some in their back yard, have a light breakfast-in which BIlbos father was almost always absent- and then Bilbo would go off on his own to train in the nearby wood or a field- never minding the giggles and jeers the other tweens would give. Then he would head home for a quite meal with his parents before collapsing in bed.

It was about a week later, when he was just becoming used to the strange weight of the staff and feeling slightly more comfortable with twirling it about when he had been washing the dishes after breakfast that he heard a knock on the front door. His father went to go answer it and Bilbo felt his hands slow in cleaning the dishes.

His father and the person at the door spoke in hushed tones so Bilbo was not able to understand them besides the fact they sounded grim. When the door closed it was his mothers voice that chimed up with question before Bilbo could even dry his hands.

"What did they say dear?"

"Bree will not help," his fathers voice sounded tired. Heavy," more fauntlings are falling ill. And there is talk of a cold front coming. We are about to see some very dark times my dear."

There was silence before his father continued," I have to go see your father. Perhaps he and your brothers can held decide what is our best move now."

"Write him then,"began his mother.

"No," his father sounded the way he did when making his mind up during an important business matter," we are already so early in the season and many children are already ill. Not many messengers will be going back and forth, and I couldn't bare to request someone part from their family in these times. No I shall go, and go alone. It will be faster with just me, and I will perhaps bring back good news. Your father always seems able to make it appear out of no where."

"As well children," she laughed, though it sounded strained. Bilbo knew his mother did not wish for Bungo to leave, but was't going to argue it so mentioning her 11 siblings was an easy deterrent.

Bungo laughed lightly and agreed before saying he should hurry to set off as soon as possible. Bilbo quickly toweled his hands off scurrying down the hall.

"I can come too father!"

"No Bilbo I need you here,"Bungo shook his head.
"But I can help."

Bungo chose his walking stick and a warm coat as his mother silently packed him travel food and blankets," Bilbo. Please listen to me. I need someone to watch over Bag-End."

Bilbo blinked suddenly surprised.

"You are to be the future master of Bag-End. I am unsure how long this trip will take me, it may be longer than normal. This will be good for you to understand the feel of being the head of this household," his father nodded matter of factly and Bilbo found himself swelling with pride.

And all too soon his father was sharing kisses with his mother and whisking out the door leaving Bilbo torn between wanting to run to him and wanting to make him proud by doing what a Baggins of Bag-End should do. His heart fluttered at his fathers trust in him. It had been the most they had spoken really since Bilbo had made his sudden announcement the week prior. And he didn't wish to let his father down.

As he made his way back to do the cleaning he found himself slow down, and the world around him seemed to dull in color. The only thing he could hear was the rushing of his blood in his ears in the slowing of his heart beat as he felt somewhat displaced in his own body.

Suddenly the scene that had just transpired between his father and him played before his eyes, though just slightly different.
He could see his father and him conversing, much as they had done just moments before though perhaps Bilbo taking on his responsibility of acting head of Bag-End to heart more.
And he realized.
In his dream the same thing had happened.
Nearly the exact same thing-word for word. As if it were not a dream at all but a premonition.
Bilbo fainted.
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Chapter Text

And Back Again

Chapter 4

 

It didn't take long for Bilbos arms to tire the first morning of real sparring that his mother and him did together though it didn't stop the smile from spreading across his face as he lay in the snow breathing hard cheeks red both from the bite of cold and the excersize. His mother sat next to him victorious, slightly less winded though no less red.
"It has been far too long since I have done anything like that," she laughed and set her shoulder back as she looked up to the grey skies and he gave a breathy chuckle . They were silent for a moment, allowing the serene calm of winter overtake them, trying to ignore the silent promise of death with every chill breeze.

"You should go for your morning walk," his mother finally spoke not looking away from the clouds her eyes far away,"it is good you don't give up things that make you happy this winter."

Sitting up he shook his head," no mother. With father not here it is my responsibility to be head of Bag-end. I should go to market and check on everything today. Rent isn't due for several days but father always looked over business and went down to town hall once a week. I know he did not get the chance with all that has went on so I should."
"Bilbo," his mother said but trailed off taring her gaze from the clouds to her only son and he saw a pained look on her face.

Finally, after a moment of silence, she said quietly," do as you find necessary. I am proud of you. But, Bilbo, I do not wish to see you throw away your tweens so. You still are young, you still need to live your life and enjoy it to the fullest."

Bilbo thought back to the dream. To how no matter what, he knew his childhood was now over this winter, and his heart felt heavy and his shoulders slumped with a burden of knowledge he now wasn't so sure was just a dream. In fact he found himself more and more looking to the dream as a guidance of sorts.
"Mother," he said softly looking out their back yard to what little part of the road was visible. THe road he saw his father walk down. The one that in the dream, his farther did not return from alive," If father were to die trying to return home fast i would be head of Bag End."
His mother was tense and she shifted her weight to face him more fully," Is that what happened in your dream son?"

"It wasn't a dream," his voice was strangled and he felt all of the hundred plus year old hobbit he once was? Was to be? His head hurt thinking about it
.
Belladonna did not respond and he gripped his hands into bloodless fists," I remember father rushing home because I sent word you had became very ill mother. You became so ill that even when you recovered that coming spring you still were very weak. You passed away a few months after. I was alone. I"
His voice cut short and he took a shuddering breath in.

"Bilbo," Belladonna paused and then sighed," I want to help you however I can. I truly do. And if you say this dream is true than I shall do my best to believe you. I apologize that it is a lot to take in . . .but. ."

Blinking away tears Bilbo looked up to his mother,"but?"

"I just find it a bit much-out of all who have been born and lived in that you would be. . .given a message? A chance to relive a life? I am not sure what you are thinking," she frowned at him," I am trying to support you as best I can Bilbo. But talking like that . . .would get anyone anywhere marked as mentally unwell. Not just in the Shire. "
Belladonna looked to him worry evident in her eyes and he looked away.

Softly she put a hand to his shoulder,"I do want to believe you Bilbo."

Snow decided to start lazily falling sometime during their talk and now they sat as it began to blanket them in big fluffy pieces.
"I should go down to town hall and check up on the going on. You should keep your strength up and stay home. Wait for dad," he could only think about how, in his dream, it stuck out how his mother had offered to do that and had went down to do some of the choirs that the head of bag end should do. He silently wondered if that was why she had fallen ill.

Standing up he bid his mother goodbye, she kissed him on his cheeks and nose, and told him to stay warm.

Walking silently down the road leading around the hill Bilbo rubbed his aching head trying to straighten his thoughts.

He had so hoped for his mothers full support and acceptance. Though he could not blame her, a small part of him still felt a rush fo anger at her explanation. Not wishing to be angry with his mother he tried to think of other things-mainly the future and what was to happen. Why would he be given the knowage of what was to come? It must be important.
It was difficult to piece certain things together within a set time-frame. He knew events happened, big ones such as a war, him having a cousin he took in as heir, traveling to the lonely mountain with a company of dwarves, and his parents deaths. His age at these large events cued him into about when in life it would happen. His parents died due to this winter-he remembered that clear enough.

But all of the in betweens. Birthdays. Parties. Walks. Rainy days. crying, laughing, singing dancing, writing, eating. When went where? Sometimes memories would be very clear, the memory of his father leaving, of his mother falling ill within the coming month and him sending a message for his fathers return. News of his fathers massacred remains being found alone in the cold. These were clear and if he focused he could think of things after. His 33 birthday party. Collecting the rent at the beginning of the month. Being the respectful master Baggins of Bagend for many years. Too many.
There was a noise ahead of him and Bilbo startled out of his thoughts to see that he had in fact passed the market place nad had ended up straight at town hall where a disturbance seemed to be gathering most of those who were outside their simials.
Blinking Bilbo observed from afar the steadily growing group of hobbits outside town-hall and he wondered if perhaps he would ever have the chance of getting in to see what the fuss was about. Sighing he straightened his jacket set himself tall, and headed to the edge of the group.
"Excuse me,"he spoke loudly, gaining fews attention as he approached the group," let me through please let me through. By the green lady what is going on?"
After much squeezing, and many pardons given but not well met Bilbo finally made it to the center of the group to see what had been making the disturbance and he was not disappointed.
There, in the middle of town-hall, stood the last thing he would ever expect to see.
Dwarves.

Chapter Text

And Back Again

 

Chapter 5

"We simply do not have the resources," one of the Proudfoot clan heads was saying to what seemed to be the leader of the group of 4 dwarves,"Our crops were all killed early in the season. We are all feeling the pain of this winter. And you will not even tell us what you are doing in the Shire other than it is of absolute secrecy!"

Bilbo stood and stared trying so hard to remember where in his crazy dream this had happened. But nothing came remotely close to this, and for the first time since waking early the cold morning weeks ago he begun to truly question if he truly were going off his wild imagination.

"We needn't your green stuffs. Simply some spirits, and meat if it is available, perhaps a warm bed to rest in before we return to our journey," one of the dwarrows stepped forward, he was dressed in armor much like Bilbo recalled from his dream during a battle of 5 armies when dwarves came from the iron hills had came to defend them from someone-though Bilbo could no longer recall the threat and wished not for the first time he had written everything down that morning. With the head dwarf as an exception, he dressed in gold and furs, a very formidable hammer strapped to his back that twas longer than he was tall.

"Perhaps try the green dragon yonder," spoke up one hobbit in the crowd.

"Or the prancing pony in Bree," another pipped from Bilbos right.

"You could,"spoke the Proudfoot head again," hold off this venture till when the cold lifts and summer has returned. In any case, us hobbits are only interested in comfort of home and family, not housing dangerous dwarves that could bring on who knows what kind of trouble to our peaceful homes."

The head dwarf snorted through a pointed nose- why did it have a striking familiarity to someone he was sure he should know?- shaking his head that was covered in thick silver hair that fell thickly to his shoulders in eccentric braids that wove into a very impressive beard tucked into his belt buckle that had a familiar looking ruin on it, but for the life of him Bilbo was unable to remember from where.

"Come," he spoke to his small group silencing the crowed. His voice was powerful and his presence demanded respect as he turned beady black eyes upon the crowd of smaller beings with a sneer of disgust," we need nothing from soft and weak folk who jump at their own shadows."

As they begun to walk away one of the soldiers turned and with a frown seen through his fiery beard growled out in Khuzdul. Bilbo, of course, didn't understand what he spoke-though his inner linguist interest was perked at the guttural words- but he stopped at one familiar word.

"Durin."

Bilbo perked up to the retreating backs and watched as the leaders dark blue cape twirled until he was able to see the full symbols on it-one of which he remembered from his dream- was worn by the head of Durin.

"Wait!"

Hobbits around him jumped blinking in surprise as he began to push through-though it was easier now that all of his kinsmen were parting as if he himself were as frightening looking as the dwarves-and when he came to the front of the crowd the group was now turned to him, faces looking grim and as unmoving as the stone they were said to be carved from.

"What is it halfing?" snorted the guard with the fiery hair," we haven't time for games."

"Nor do I," Bilbo said straightening himself up and putting on his most convincing well-to-do buisness air about him much like his father would be able to pull up at town meetings and business transactions,"but I do believe I heard the request for a bed and mead. Which I would like to extend the offer to my simial."

The leader, someone of Durin's family Bilbo thought, stepped forward stony expression cracking just slightly and his eyes that had been far away for much of the exchange seemed to return to the present conversation without such a frightening glint to them.

"And why," the dwarf spoke," would a halfing extend such an offer when his kinsmen so surely are against our being here. Especially such a young one."

Bilbo sniffed and pointed his nose higher trying to remain dignified-though he surely was not wearing his best suit and his foot hair could have went with another brushing," I, and my kinsmen, are half of nothing my good dwarf," he started ignoring the whispering and gasps from the hobbits, his name hopping from one to another but even so he kept with his manners and introduced himself,"My name is Bilbo Baggins, at your services my good dwarrows," he said bowing low before straightening up," and I suggest if you truly wish to rest and have some meat and ale before your journey that you follow me to my simial."

"Bilbo Baggins," Bilbo winced slightly and braced himself at the particular screech from Primrose Bracegirdle who burst through the crowed closely followed by her son and daughter- 19 year old Blanco and 15 year old Lobilia- and stopped next to him tapping her umbrella angrily on the ground," what is the meaning of this?"

"What ever do you mean Mrs.Bracegirdle," he smiled tightly," I am just doing what any hobbit would-extending my hospitality to visitors."

"How disrespectful," she sniffed,"what would your father say if he were here-"

"My father is not here Mrs.Bracegirdle," he said cooly though still keeping a buisness like manner about him as his eyes narrowed," and as such 'I' am currently head of BagEnd. Now-if anyone else wishes to argue this please speak up now or by goodness write the old Took but let me get our guests out of this blasted cold!"

There was a ringing silence before the Hobson Gamgee stepped forward a stern gaze on the still crowed," Well if young Master Baggins says the dwarves are to go to BagEnd, the' let him make tha' choice. He is right, his father is not aroun' and has left him head," the gardener gave a stony glare not afraid to challenge other hobbits," though young master I do say I worry for yee," he gave a look as ssupsicoius as any dwarf in the group right back to them," I wouldn't trust folk who give no say as to why they are here or wha' they be doin'."

"I appreciate the concerm but it is misplaced when judging our guests unfairly," Bilbo turned from the crowed to the dwarves who were all stone faced and raised a brow," well gentlemen will you come with me to dinner? "

They didn't say anything in response but began to follow him, the only acknowledgement from one of the 2 identical dwarves that were silent most the time stating almost grimly," well if it be for a meal I do not see the reason to deny invitation."

Dwarves, Bilbo sighed mentally, were impossible to the vary last.

"May I at least know your names?"Bilbo asked behind his shoulder in an attempt to break the silence that had encased the small group while trying to remain respectful and be a good host. But a Baggins never failed to scrounge up some sort of proprietary response in any situation.Though Bilbos nerves were now on edge at the thought of what he would be serving them-they had no seed cake left but there was a roast they had been saving.

"I would not trust you with our full names quite yet," grumbled the redheaded guard who had begun to walk along side him as if he wished to lead the group, sharp eyes swerving from snowy mound to mound as if expecting evil to jump from the very depths of the earth. Thankfully they were nearing his familiar round green door, and hopefully the tension could be lessened with at least ale.

Yes, Bilbo thought, that sounded very much like the stubbornness of dwarves. And so thinking he fought the urge to rub his brow in frustration, sending a prayer to the good green lady that he would live through the night and he had not just made a terrible decision.

"I," rumbled the Durin with the pointed nose," am Thrain the 2nd from the house of Durin," he spoke as they arrived at BagEnd and Bilbo turned at the strange sound in his voice as did the other dwarves," And Bilbo Baggins, I believe you are the halfing I have been searching for."

At that all Bilbo could see was the shining blue ring on the dwarves thick fingers and it was as if he were dead once again for all he could now see of the world was the blue of the ring and a dwarf-not Thrain that he was certain of- who was promising him a second chance at life.

In response while still in the throws of his absolute inner turmoil all he could squeak out was ," I am not half of anything." before promptly passing out on his front doorstep.

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END CHAPTER

Chapter Text

And Back Again

Chapter 6

When Bilbo began to came to, the first thing he noticed was his splitting headache. He groaned lifting a hand to his brow while clenching his teeth. The other was how warm he was-it had been weeks since they had lit fires to such a roar that the house was toasty as if it were a normal winter.

It was the warmth that had him opening his eyes and shooting up though he regretted the movement instantly, a sharp pain going through one side of his skull to the other. Closing his eyes he breathed trying to gather his bearings, remembering dimly that he had fainted.

And he had invited dwarves over!

"Glad to see you awake boy," he stiffened before opening his eyes and swerving them to a chair pulled into a dark corner of the room where the Durin sat.
Bilbo stayed silent for a moment surveying him. Bilbo was pretty sure he had never met the dwarf before, this life or his past-or dream or whatever the blasted images may have been. He was proud, but also very calm and collected for a dwarf. It was unnerving and demanded respect and his full attention.
"You said you were searching for me your majesty? "
The beady black eyes narrowed and the dwarf raised his head a bit," it would seem so. Though you seem as soft and weak as the rest of your kin-so I still remain uncertain."
"Who sent you?" Bilbo asked gritting his teeth, faint memories swarming to the surface of his mind of another dwarf reminding him how soft and weak he was, and how utterly useless his presence had been. Why was it, then, that he felt so drawn to the dwarves? Felt a sense of responsibility and the need to protect them? He pushed these thoughts away, not wanting to take his attention from the king dwarf.
Thrain was silent for another moment, making Bilbo feel very uneasy, when he reached back to his hand and-oh. The ring. It was a beautiful thing, a large blue gem on a simple golden band. But his gut wrenched at the sight of it.
That ring. It had been that ring that had brought him back to life. Or brought him the memories of another life. He was sure of it. And the dwarf that had pulled him from the afterlife must had gifted it to Thain. Bilbos headache was dulling at the sight of the ring but his heart begun to beat rapidly.
"I am not fully sure of who he was," the dwarf finally spoke eyeing the ring he wore before removing it from his finger his face twisting as if he there were a sour taste in his mouth. Bilbo watched every movement with the up most scrutiny," But he informed me of you. Of a hobbit boy that would play an important role to the future of the dwarves Erebor and . . ." he trailed off, as if unsure if he should continue.
"And?"Bilbo whispered hoarsely.

Thrain seemed to snap out of a trance and regarded Bilbo again before frowning," it does not matter. I am not even sure if I believe him, yet here I am. I will only stay tonight to gift you this ring, and in the morning we journey out to rejoin our people. Our quest must not be hindered.."
Bilbo mouthed 'quest' and his gut clenched and heart stopped though he couldn't find a reason for this sudden horror that he felt.
"He has asked me to gift you this ring. And I have sworn to do so, on my honor and on the future of my people I will do so," he sniffed a bit," though it seems quite a loss it gifting to someone so small and soft. But it must be enchanted; it has been more of a burden, it urges me to bring it to you. So I gladly give you the damn thing.." Though his eyes lingered on the jewl and he stroked the golden band for a moment and Bilbo could see how torn the king was at truly doing as he said.

"I am only small and soft," snapped Bilbo finally coming out of his stupor the possessive look the king gave the ring frightening Bilbo," Because that is the way of my people. We are not warriors, nor fighters in any sort. We are a gentle folk. So it proves difficult for me to be anything but weak and soft when I have no knowledge of battle or the darkness of the world! You jugging me on this is about the same caliber as me judging the ability of your kind to grow tomatoes!"

They both sat in silence with growing tension for a moment, and Bilbo held his breath wondering if he had insulted the king or had gone too far. Before his panicked mind could begin to think the worst the king laughed loud and hearty, causing the hobbit to blink confused.

"Aye you speak well. And I am pleased to see a fire burning in you that may be brought to life yet," The king stood a smile still on his lips," I thank you-long has it been since I have found reason for laughter. You amuse me greatly. Would be good if you met my son-times have been hard for such a young dwarrrow. But back to business- this ring is now yours. It is something that will guide you and grant you the power when you most need it apparently. But blasted wizards have never been clear in any of their messages, and I have learned little good comes of trying to figure out what they are scheming."

Billbo latched onto the word "wizard" and before he could stop himself he said," Not Gandalf."

The dwarf shook his head as Bilbo caught himself short-almost about to say that Gandalf never looked a thing like a dwarf. But he figured if he admitted knowing the wizard, had said that there was a possibility he may have once lived this life and died, perhaps the suspicious dwarf would not take kindly to the news-most likely would retract any alliance he was setting up.

He gave Billbo one last hard calculating stare before standing and setting the glinting ring onto the table and heading to the door," I shall notify your mother of your waking. Do with the ring as you please. "

And with that the door shut with a deafening click. But Bilbo paid it no mind. Didn't hear the chatter outside the hall. His main focus was on the ring.

He watched the blue of the jewel closely as it seemed to thrum with power. And as it did he felt his heart beat in sync with it. His stomach twisted and he wanted to run-to rid of the ring and never see it again. But he knew he couldn't. Because deep down he knew that this ring was what brought him back to this world.

And as he reached out and gripped it in his hand his stomach twisted at the unsaid knowledge.

And it was the only thing keeping him there.

 

PAGEBREAKPAGEBREAKPAGEBREAK

"He is awake," Belladonna looked up from where she was setting the table, the twin dwarves assisting in setting the table as the third dwarf seemed to keep a consent vigil glaring out the round window that overlooked the hill, though in the darkness she could see nothing she didn't doubt the glinting eyes of the dwarf were able to see into the inky blackness of night.

When they had first arrived hours ago, with Bilbo collaspsed in taller twins arms- Thalnor- while the guard dwarf-Fundin- made a grand introduction of Thrain and himself, leaving the twins to give a parroted "at your service" to the panicking mother followed by their names-the tall one Thalnor and the shorter one Thelnar. It wasn't until later, when some of the armor had been removed and they had spoke more, that Belladonna realized that Thalnor was in fact a female. She didn't linger too long on this fact, after all dwarfs were well known for their beards. She assumed that the same probably went to their women, where as in hobbits it was odd for many races to hear their males did not grow facial hair.

After she had calmed and set Bilbo to bed, and they had spoke for a good long while she had offered up a dinner, coming to understand that they were on a journey and must leave first light. Fundin had seemed grim, and her heart ached for them. From what she had gathered they had lost their home, and were on a journey to win back a some mines to which they would then call home, gather resources and win back their original mountain. She could not understand the comforts the twins attempted to portray of the mountain, they seemed young as as such their tongues were not as tightly held as the guard or king. Especially when offered good hobbit ale and food.

"He should be out soon then," she nodded," I thank you for looking after my son. He has worried much with this winter."

The king studied the woman's face. It was thin, not quite gaunt but she had the look of someone who had lost much weight in a short period of time. She was small and wore no footwear as the rest of her kind did, and still had a nice softness around her middle that made her comely along with her grin.

Looking away he pursed his lips,"I believe his fears are well placed," he responded. He knew the hobbits were downplaying the winter, and was aware that it most likely would be the death of many of them. The foolish soft creatures. But as a king of an exiled people, staying in the blue mountains at a fraction of the grandeur that they had known in Erebor, he couldn't find it in him to worry much over the shorter people. He had his own to worry for.

Belladonnna seemed to loose herself to her thoughts before nodding slowly and returning to the pot boiling over the fire muttering about needing to feed them well before they left in the cold to such dangers, and the twins laughing as they wrestled over cutlery at the table before she wacked them with a wooden spoon admonishing their behavior.

He couldn't allow himself to worry for such overly trusting peoples. Even if it was told to him that one in particular may be the future of his own. And the whole of Middle Earth.

Chapter Text

 

 

The night was perfect for the discussion that had just ended. A drizzling rain made the air smell fresh, the clouds blotted the pregnant moon whose light demanded through the haze dimly.

Thrain had parted from the growing festivities, preparation had been made and now a small celebrations was commencing in the growing excitement at the thought of moving forward to carve a home of their own in the mines of Moria.

The excitement was justified. The agreement between all Dwarven houses had been made that night to go to Moria. They would need all houses in agreement; the mines where surely riddled with the disgusting pestilence of Orc, overtaking every cavern, every tunnel,and any nook and cranny that made up Moria.

While others celebrated, Thrain distanced himself to worry. His father, who had never been quite right after the finding of Arkenstone, but had seemed to return to them somewhat ever since their residing in Ered Luin, eye's shined with the idea of overtaking Durins Bane and finding what strengths, prehaps another ring of power, that lay in the mines. Thrain twisted the ring on his pointer finger. Thrain had been gifted the ring by his father shortly after finding a home, even temporary and not quite that of grandeur, here in the Blue Mountains.

He had been surprised at first; his fathers lust for gold and treasure had been unquenchable when in Erabore. The eyes that looked back to him that day had been clear, unclouded by gold lust and held fair judgement; so he took it with a clear conscious and lighter heart.

Though it had been he, Thrain, who had pushed to find another home. His heart sung for Erabore, as did his people with loss and wishing. His young daughter, just inching into her 40s and growing into a beautiful young woman, had fallen in love. His steely daughter who rarely showed her heart, had it nothing but in her eyes all the time recently after he granted her courting of a Broadbeam with something of a title to himself 4th in line or so.

Seeing his youngest so made his stone heart wince. It hadn't warmed nor moved since Erabore, he had lost his heart song in those mountains and with its loss came the dwindling of its fires. She had perished at the attack of the dragon.

Now his daughter, a spitting image of their mother with her thick brown tresses falling past her shoulders, her beard shapely and soft, her eyes a hardened brown that melted into chocolate pools occasionally for family or, in this case, a love interest.

And even though they had carved a home here in Ered Luin, his daughter having been very young at the delicate age of 10 when the dragon attacked clinging to her older brother with open sobs, and she now courted a Broadbeam- whose family was well known for being as unmoving from their homeland as the stone they bore from it-he still ached for a true home, a home of grandure and honor that he had known his life, to be known to any potential additions to the Durin line.

His daughter probably was the only one who could give a true furthering of said line from his children. His middle child, Ferin, stood out like a sore thumb among the dark family. And so did his demeanor. perhaps it was having been a middle child, but even though the loss of his loved mother and home, he kept a grin at hand all the time, his blue eyes sparkling the only sharpness from the mischift they bore, and hair glittering golden in the sunlight. Many a dwarrow and dwarrowdam swooned to his golden son, and yet his heart was young and indecisive, his eyes more for books and weaponry than for any future suitor.

Then there was his oldest. Thorin. Thorin, who had been only in his 20's at the time of Smaugs attack had changed the most since. He had remembered well the pleasures of Erabores life, had carved his way in their kingdom showing promise to being a strong ruler. He had been easy to smile and easier so to forgive before the attack. Neither seemed to be seen in recent days. The word of taking back Moria had given the boy a youthful look he hadn't seen in the past 29 years, and he knew that his oldest son wished as well for the wealth and greatness for their people, Ered Luin was not enough.

Thrain slowly came to from his deep thoughts not from the distance party goers, not from the rain plastering his dark hair to his face, but from a pair of un-moving unnaturally glowing eyes that had both been there but also appeared.

He blinked rapidly, having seen the dwarrow but just having registered his presence pulling him from his deep thoughts.

The figure was shorter than he, perhaps more from a hunch of age than having been born short, coming up to Thrains shoulders at most. His beard was silver and grey, tumbling in intricate braids Thrain did not recognize past his belt line, a long gray walking stick that was as knotted and weathered as the hand that held it had wraps of metal up the line of it from iron and silver and gold, to even a thin line of mitheral at the top which caught Thrains eye.

Never in his life had he seen this dwarf, and he had never seen an odder thing. Mithril on a mere crutch! What a waste! And yet- who was this dwarf to hold such a precious metal on his walking tool. He wore a dark cloak that covered his features, and aside from the glowing green eyes and bent nose, he was unable to see any features.

"Thrain, Son of Thror, the son of Dain I, the forever prince, never king, of the lonely mountain. "

Even though the figure must have been a good 20 paces from him, it was as if he heard the voice as clear as if the dwarrow stood within arms reach.

"Who are you?"He stepped forward puffing his chest out, itching for his sword.

This seemed to amuse the other dwarf.

"So predictable. Oh my prince, how you worry your head for your family or what is left of it"

Rage, white hot, moved through him and he found himself bounding those 20 paces only for his blade to meet air.

"Wha-?"

"I suggest," the voice whispered," if you love your family and wish for the former greatness you grew to know to be known to them once again, you listen to me and listen well."

He felt froze, not from the veiled threat that the words gave, but froze none the less. The confusion crumbled his anger faster than it had built.

"Good," the figure circled to his front, but did not raise his head, all Thrain could see was the beard with its beads with ruins Thrain could not make out the only thing he could see from under the hood. It was as if an unnatural darkness followed the dwarrow, defeating the natural ability for dwarves to being able to see exceptionally in the darkest of places like in mines where they belonged.

"Tomorrow you and your kin begin the march to a battle, a battle that WILL make the books of history and completely turn the tide of events to come for the whole of Middle Earths history. You and your kin will be sung of after, the success of falling the mass of Orcs awaiting you never being forgotten."

Thrain didn't speak, barely even breathed. This was no dwarf, he concluded, and even though the promise of winning their surely largest battle yet to be sounded nice, he was suspicious of it as for it sounded too good. Knowing what this information came from.

A chuckle," At least you are not as thick-headed as some of your kin. Yes. I am a wizard. And here I am, to help you turn the tide for middle earth even further."

"For your own gain?"

He could feel the dwarf grew pleasure out of the response.

"They always said your daughter had gotten her sharp mind from her mother, but I am begginging to believe those belifes not wholly true. Yes. I will gain from this. What that is none of your concern other than it shall not hinder your goals in the least, nor change antyhing that is to be written in this battle. It shall play out how the valar wish it be."

Thorins jaw worked," then why present it at all?"

"More forward thinking my dear prince. This is, as I said, for the future of the whole of middle earth. These changes take time to take, and so I shall grant you a special mission to make this so."

From the folds of his robe he produced a ring and Thrains eyes widened. The blue shone brighter and crisper than that of his own ring, the last of the 7 great rings of power the dwarves held. It also glowed with an enchantment that came with many magic rings.

"Accepting a magic ring from a mysterious wizard. I am not very much convinced," he was lying through his teeth. The glint of the golden band beckoned to him, and if he had been able to move he may have reached for it.

The other must have known this for he chuckled," It is not yours to keep. For it is for you to deliver it to a hobbit. A hobbit of a Shire, who goes by the name of Baggins. It is he who will begin the major turning of events that will lead to a great war, and he who will determine the movement of your people and most importantly your son."

Thrains eyes lost their stare of the glinting gem to go back to the shadow of the hood, those unearthly green eyes peering from the darkness.

"I give this chance to you now. If not taken, there is another I can approach, though it was the line of Durin I wished to turn to before any else."

Thrain wetted his lips, thoughts racing. He dared not argue with the wizard.

"What is he to be for my son," he thought of his two sons, wondering which of the two would befriend or need support from a mere hobbit- a gentlefolk that where barely taken notice of from the dwarves. He decided to make the assumption it was his younger son, Ferin, who would become close to the soft thing, for he could never see his eldest interacting with anything he perceived as weak.

The other laughed lowly," No, I will not be answering your questions. You take this, and stop by Bag-End on your quest to deliver the ring to its owner, or I send someone else."

Thrain was silent at that for a moment before,"Who is this other you would send."

"A promising elf, by the name of Legolas."

"I will do it," the other roared with laughter, and Thrain found he could move once again.

"Give this to the young Baggins of Bag End," was all he said, simply holding the glittering ring out to the dwarven prince. And the urge to just reach out and grab it was not stopped by any invisible enchantment, and the minute his fingers wrapped around the small band, it was as if he was alone in the darkness once again.

He looked around for a moment before sheathing his sword and stared down at the pretty thing. It had a thick golden band, with a simple we've at the top weaving around the large gem that glinted oddly. He couldn't quite call it a Sapphire or Zircon nor could he say it was Tanzanite, but its cut and depth, with color, made it similar to being between the 3.

"There you are father!" it was Thorin, an energy and grin that was extremely rare at these times touching his voice and face. Thrain found he didn't want his son to see the ring or know of the wizard, and quickly pocketed the small thing," The celebrations are going strong and you are not present!"

"My son you are young yet, and I am old. I know what this battle is to hold."

The smile dissipated, and he knew this the wrong thing to say. The pinch to his sons mouth said as much, the words the boy growled out not needing to be said. It was an old argument.

"I was around for the burning of our home, the loss of so much. I helped carving our way here to the blue mountains and helped fight every warg, every orc, wolf, spider and other creatures encountered. I am the one who was there for Ferin and Dis', while you- you what? You did NOTHING. I am READY for this battle, and you have already declared me ready why-why belittle me so?!?"

"Take no ill from my comment son," Thrain attempted to sooth," I did not mean insult. I merely mean, I have been in a battle such as this. And having seen these battles, I now must prepare myself for the journey t come. Not that you are ill-suited."

Thorin didn't utter a word, his jaw set, eyes sharp. But he eventually gave a sharp short nod.

"Ferin and the others are asking for your whereabouts, seeing as how it was you who called for this the most."

Thrain nodded. The hobbit, the ring, and the soon battle could all wait.

He had his family to be with.

***

Thrain had left the hobbits house, feeling somehow relieved yet at the same time drained by ridding of the ring. He did not see how this mere halfling could be linked to the line of Durin in the least. And that was if the thing survived a mere winter. These gentlefolk where not built for the cold, or for battle. How could one alter the history of Middle Earth? No matter, it was better than an elf being the one to touch and taint such a ring, and possibly having a foothold for moving forward with the history of all of Middle Earth.

The cold had set in even more that night, so the following morning was sharp and crisp. The hobbits had shivered and quaked at the burst of cold air at the door during their farewell. Thrain once again felt guilt for the suffering that was sure to come.

He said it before he even registered that he was talking," Upon our retaking of Moria, we are to come by and see the Baggins'. "

The dinner plate eyes from all his dwarves made him inwardly grimace but he didn't show it," That Bilbo. I want a full report on his health and status after. We will have to send word to the blue mountains, and when doing so we will check on the halfling."

He left the sentence as a statement, no room for questioning. He walked ahead, spying the far off speck that was the thousands of dwarves headed to Moria.

It wouldn't matter, he needn't explain himself. And if he did, it could wait until after they reclaimed their mines.

_______________---------------------

 

Bilbo held the ring, thumbing the blue glittering gem, feeling electricity shoot through him warming him. He hadn't realized how absolutely. . .empty he had felt until given the ring.

Now he was sure that his 'dream' wasn't just that. It was a premonition? Or the past? He wasn't fully sure, but he heeded its call.

Slipping the ring on his thumb, and feeling a fire alight in him, he thought of the next thing he would prepare for.

Defending the shire against the wolves.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

It had been only ten days since the dwarves departure, but it was as if with the dwarves parting, so did any remains of the warmer winter weather and lively Shire with them. The chill had turned into an all out freeze, the air stilled with the cold, the land became bleak and still.

The snow was dry and stiff, not good for making snowballs or snowmen and it crunched breaking the eerie silence. It didn't matter, the silence was rarely broken by any hobbit as for they left the safety of their smials less and less as the days passed. Fauntlings grew sick with fever and deep coughs, and the ones who had not became ill stayed indoors out of the freeze. Food stores began to dwindle, and communication between any of the hobbits all but stopped.

Bilbo stood in the doorway of the living area, his mother in front of him on a stool as still as the frozen world outside. He shivered as he tugged his sweater over his fingers, fingers traveling up to the warm ring that hung from a chain around his neck- he had not parted with it since Thrain had handed it to him. He felt alive, as if the ring gave him meaning just by being there. Before he had simply been himself, but now he thrummed with an unknown need, an energy that would suddenly at times gather in him and he would walk or suddenly start cleaning to rid himself of it.

They wore warm clothes in the house these days, and slept in the same room keeping only a few of the fires of the house lit. It had been two days since they had left the home, covering the windows and front door with the thickest curtains and quilts they could find to fight the chill.

"I heard wolves last night," Bilbo said finally to his silent mother. She sat at the dwindling fire, thumbing another log as if unsure to feed it to the flames. They still had nearly half a cord, but if this cold lasted as long as he had predicted it wouldn't last. The winter normally started at this time, and was short lived lasting 4 to 6 weeks of cold. But it had already been about a month of snow already, and there had been no harvest for their normal end of year fall harvest.

It was obvious to all now, they where in trouble. And no help was coming.

A shuddering breath,"In your dream Bilbo . . ."

Her shoulders trembled and she stopped, as if unable to continue.

"There where wolves in my dream mother."

"You're father?"

He held his tongue. He couldn't say it.

"This is not my dream, mother," he finally responded," this is the here and now; I will be sure it is different. It already has been."

Belladonna did not ask how it had changed from his dream. Only gripped the wood more. If the house chilled too much, the plumbing they had would freeze, the pipes cracked and any flowing water could burst through and destroy the house. She tossed it into the fire, never minding the few sparks that jumped from the hearth to her toes.

"What of your father Bilbo Baggins."

It felt as if there was an egg in his throat that he could not swallow nor speak around. His mother turned to him, eyes wet and full of worry. It was as if she didn't need to hear the words, but just the look on his face, to know what he said.

"No," she whimpered," when?"

"I-I don't know. Just after the wolves-" he cut off, eyes screwing shut. In his dream he had been terrified, he was frightened now but in his dream the fear had froze him into stillness. His mother had kept him in, boarded up the windows tight, and kept him in the farthest room as she fought to breath with the fluid in her lungs. When the wolves had became brave enough to start coming to the hobbits homes in the day, boring into the ones they could. The screams echoed in his ears so loudly for a moment he thought it had been happening now.

"When the wolves," he continued screwing his eyes shut,"began to hunt us during the day. They would go through windows or even doors and I heard the screams. Later I saw. . ."

He stopped. He recalled that at that point his mothers own cough had been deep and shuddering in the dream, keeping her weak and by his side. He had feared they would break in, and he wouldn't have been able to protect her weak form. He was glad now she seemed healthy, strong, willing to fight.

"What day?'

"What?"

"What day? How does your father .. . "

He swallowed," we. . . we heard horns. There was fighting. I remember rangers had came killing the wolves. Father. . .father did not make it back to us. Grandfather had came, and told us that he had been caught off guard."

His mother wavered, pale.

"We will not let that happen this time though. This time things are already doing well in comparison"

She screwed her eyes shut, and seemed to take a steadying breath. Finally, nodding, she opened steeled eyes.

"You are right, Bilbo. We will not let them get him."

Bilbo nodded grimly,"No we won't."

"And that is why we must fight back even more. I have a plan," his mother set her eyes to him firmly and he listened.
------
It was cold. He cursed it not for the first time.

Despite gloves and thick coats and scarves leggings and hats, Bilbo felt chilled to the bone, shaking having stopped, but so did the use of his fingers.
He tried to weave another knot, he and his mother having spent the day setting traps where they could, marking them with flags to hopefully warn any hobbits or men. The traps where not meant to kill- just to incapacitate. Bilbo didn't know what he would do if he accidentally took a young faunts life for curiosity, or a neighbors. Not that either of them believed anyone would emerge form their homes, but it was better to err to the side of caution.
But between his frozen fingers and the dwindling sight from the dim light of twilight Bilbo could not seem to get the ones facing the West roads of hobbition set up.

"Come now," he grumbled," One more. Just one more and I will go home."

He had been saying this for nearly an hour at least.

Closing his eyes he took some deep calming breaths, feeling the ring on his chest thrum and send a strange tingling throughout his body, his body seeming to not feel the cold. Snapping his eyes open he dropped the rope in surprise.

"What?" he breathed to the frosty air, before slowly reaching to pick up the rope which was heavily frosted.

A long lonely howl run threw the air chilling him even further and stilling his hands as his ears perked. Should he return? Stop setting traps and hope what they had would stop or hinder any attacks that where sure to begin that night-Bilbo had tested the lake water. It was frozen solid enough to jump on. Even though the river that separated them was a fast running river, it even surely would be frozen enough to cross by any day now. Another howl.

Closer.

He dropped the rope, fear stabbing his heart. He tried to grab his bow staff, but it felt weak in his grip. His previous bravery forgotten, as he began to head to home, hoping beyond hope his mother would be there already. Another howl. His pace quickened until he was running.

"Be brave Bilbo Baggins," he thought trying to calm himself as his eyes stayed peeled open despite how they teared from the dry air.

Ahead he soon saw Bag End, the windows boarded and empty in the distance. Smoke rose delicately from the fire, and he knew his mother must have been home for the fire was strong. The neighbors windows had been boarded as well; it had been one of the first things they did. Go to as many homes, spread the word the river had froze and wolves could come attacking hungry as they where with the lack of food. But even through the boards Bilbo saw no light. But as he neared he noticed even through the boards no light slit through the cracks. Was his mother not home? Had they boarded and covered the windows so well no light escaped? He couldn't recall. He faltered at the mouth of Bagshot trying to remember if he saw light when leaving earlier that day.

The door to the Gamgees opened as he neared and he nearly screamed. His mother stood there eyes wide," Bilbo! You should not be out so late!" Her voice was quite, a hiss. Another howl broke the evenings air as the last light of the sun slowly dipped down the horizon, "Come. We stay with the Gamgees tonight. "

He nodded and scurried inside; even though Bag end was within sight, it felt as if the distance itself was pushing itself. Inside was Hobson, pacing worriedly was his wife Iris her eyes wide in fear as she lay a hand on her swollen belly. As soon as the door closed Andwise, the eldest son and nearing his 30th birthday, bolted the door shut, and shoved a heavy chest in front of it.
"Thank goodness you made it," He grunted as he shoved the chest to the door with a huff," We did not wish your mother to leave as it was becoming dark out but didn't know if you had returned home without us seeing."
Hamfast, the second oldest of the three Gamgee children, soon to be twenty-four, approached Bilbo quickly.
"You looked chilled to the bone! And what with the wolves coming-" another howl. He was cut off. Continuing in a whisper he said," well no matter. Come warm up."
Bilbo then realized, now surrounded by others the company only dwindling his fear to a dull roar, that he absolutely was burning. It was as if every nerve ending in his whole body had been set afire, and as though the cold would have been more inviting. The closer to the small fire they had made he got, the worse it became. He hesitated, hissing with discomfort as the burning increased.

"Do not fight it," his mother said sternly tearing the clothes off him," you are to dry up and warm up, off with everything wet. You will become ill at this rate- oh Bilbo why did you not return home sooner! "

Soon Bilbo was naked, under a blanket, and close to the fire his mother forcing soup down his throat. It would be stupid to let himself become ill due to this cold she said. He silently agreed.

"Why are we hiding from the wolves?"Young May was only 3, her little face just begging to show signs of malnutrition cheeks flushed with a fever. Bilbo vowed to bring more food to the Gamgees the next day," are they not nice doggies?"

"No my sweet," hushed Iris patting her golden curls," and we must stay quiet. For they could hear us and try ever harder to come in."

"I wish we could be friends," coughs cut off her innocent thoughts.

Her mothered ushered her to lay down on a makeshift bed close to the fire that was part of a group of beds. They where all sleeping in the front room then. Smart move Bilbo, seeing as the Gamgees did not have the same indoor plumbing BagEnd held.

"But moma," she rasped," I wanted to invite Bilbo to my birthday party! Can they pwease come!"

Even with a snotty nose and hollowing cheeks May was adorable.

"That's right!"Bilbo exclaimed," Why you turn 4 just next week!" He was so glad they had the calendar near enough and marked in bulky letters for him to spy upon the little girls mention," I will be sure to be here. But first- you must get better so we may have the party. And with that you need to listen to your mom and sleep!"

May gave a little happy shout before coughing and not fighting her mothers urges for her to sleep.

It was at that, and at the distant sounds of grunts and growls that silenced them all.

They stayed huddled there that night, in front of the hearth, barely moving to feed the fire in turns, and keeping it low- just enough to warm them for the feared too much of a roar or smoke would attract the wolves. The dinner stayed to the broth soup, not that they had much meat to cook regardless but the idea of cooking flesh to entice the beasts was horrifying.

There where screams in the distance. Bilbo screwed his eyes shut, memories sharp of a time once before this happened. And he had failed to stop it.

***

Bilbo knew he was dreaming. Perhaps that was why he was at peace. He felt more relaxed than he had since waking from the dream of a past life.
He knew his eyes where closed, and he kept them that way even though something urged them to open. Frowning he sighed.

"I wish to sleep darn it."

"You have slept far too long Bilbo Baggins."

A familiar guttural voice had Bilbo shooting up and eyes flying open.

He was in a forest. A summer wood that he knew. The woods, despite the sun in the sky and brightness of color around him, ended in complete blackness the darkness swallowing the trees and foliage of anything that lay beyond what made up the grove that he and the dwarf in blue robes resided in.

"Where. . . ?" the question died in his dry throat.

"You know this place Bilbo Baggins," the others beard clicked as beads that adorned various complex ed braids swung together as he himself observed the surroundings,"It is what had been your place of rest, after your first failure."

Bilbo couldn't speak. This, this was that empty afterlife that went on the same day by day, only the Shire and the hobbits that had passed as he had resided there. There was something sick about that. Something amiss, though it was as if it where a memory he couldn't quite grasp.

"That," the dwarf lifted his hand and pointed with a finger that had once held the very ring around Bilbos neck," is my gift to you. It is now one with you; use it well. With it, you may save those who you love most, and with it you can harness the power to change the destiny that was written if only you learn to harness it."

"How. . .," Bilbo, generally a hobbit of many questions and even more words to pair with them, seemed to be resorted to short clipped one word responses. It was as if his throat would contract not allowing anymore words to pass.

The dwarf side, grumbling something about mere mortals," Here I cannot teach you. It is doubtful that. . . well it is unlikely we will meet anytime near in the world of the living. It is what I leave to you to learn- harness it how you will. But on one condition."

Bilbo looked imploring him to continue, unable to speak.

"When the time comes, and I demand it, you shall help me and support me. That, or I could easily part you from all that you will become," a bitter smile was barely visible from under the dark hood.

Bilbo wanted to respond, wanted to argue and know what it was the Dwarf would have him do, but it was impossible for the world and dwarf seemed to melt away as he drifted back to the land of dreams.

The last thing he recalled was thinking what had been missing from that terrible afterlife had been a person. Or people. There was a presence lacking that he yearned for, even as he woke slowly in his bed, unable to move even those his eyes opened and teared. His heart pound in his chest and he tried to cry out to his sleeping companions, but it was as if ropes bound him keeping an invisible hold ensuring he could not move. Eventually the paralysis released him and he gasped and tears ran down his cheeks.

He never wanted to return to that horrible land. To think it was what awaited hobbits in the afterlife left Bilbo feeling hollow and fearful despite someone having thrown another log in the fire.

He fingered the ring around his neck, and again that warmth spread through him.

"I cannot ever go back to that."