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Dark the Night

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Bilbo Baggins had long since put Gandalf out of his mind, and had finished afternoon tea about an hour ago, when there was a knock upon his door. Now the time between afternoon tea and dinner was not the time in which Hobbits visited, for it was the time spent prepping for the oncoming meals of dinner and supper (though supper depended on the Hobbit). Bilbo had been in the kitchen himself preparing for his own dinner when the knock had sounded.

“Now, who in their right mind would be knocking on my door at this time?” the Hobbit murmured to himself, a little put out if he was to be honest with himself. Nonetheless he wiped his hands off on his apron and hurried to his front door before it became to late and thus impolite.

He was not, however, expecting a rather intimidating dwarf to be standing on his doorstep. The dwarf bowed slightly and rumbled, “Dwalin, son of FundÌn, at yer service.”

Bilbo swallowed, manners and long forgotten lessons on how to greet other races taking over before he could make a fool of himself. He bowed the exact same depth as the dwarf had, keeping his eyes level and greeted in turn, “Bilbo, son of Bungo, at yours and your family.”

The dwarf looked slightly surprised at the correct greeting, but it vanished just as quickly as it came and he shoved his way into the home, asking, “Where is it then?”

Bilbo closed the door behind the dwarf, brow furrowed in confusion as he took Dwalin’s cloak automatically, asking in return, “Where is what?”

Dwalin turned his head to him with one raised eyebrow and answered, “Supper, of course!”

Now Bilbo was even more confused. “Supper is not for quite some hours, Master Dwalin! Surely you know that?” he queried, but by the warrior’s own confused expression, he did not in fact know that. Bilbo frowned and then took the dwarf in fully, his frown deepening at what he saw. While heavily muscled and successfully intimidating, the Hobbit could see the slight thinness of the warrior that belied the truth.

Dwalin, while not starved, was not getting as much to eat as he more than likely should be.

“Never you mind then,” Bilbo announced, tone slightly sharp as he ushered the suddenly bemused dwarf into the dining room. “I have no idea why you might be here, but it will be falling dark soon enough and I will not have you leaving my home then. I have some biscuits that should tide you over until Dinner in an hour, now sit!”

In a flurry of movement, Bilbo had Dwalin seated at the table and large plate of biscuits set in front of him with jams, jellies, and butters to the side to use as he wished. Dwalin decided to study the Hobbit’s words later in the face of the tantalizing smells wafting up into his nose.

But what really was there to study? He had no fear of the dark, so the little being had no need to worry about him.

It wasn’t very long after Bilbo had Dwalin settled and steadily supplied with savory treats, that there was another knock at the door. Bilbo quickly headed to the door, baffled by yet another visitor at a time that was most rude indeed! He opened the door and was faced with another dwarf, who was looking up at the cloudy sky with a thoughtful look. “Good evening,” Bilbo greeted, bringing the dwarf’s attention to him.

“I fear it might rain later,” the dwarf said in return with a smile. He then bowed, slightly deeper than Dwalin’s had been, and introduced, “Balin, son of FundÌn, at your service.”

Bilbo bowed back, once again at the same depth as the dwarf had, keeping his eyes level, “Bilbo, son of Bungo, at yours and your family.” Balin eyed the Hobbit with curiosity at the proper response to a dwarrow greeting, but he had no time to ask before he was being shuffled into the home of their host, who looked a bit bemused, and then into the kitchen.

The Hobbit was soon pushed to the side of his mind when he was greeted to the sight of his brother trying to fish cookies out of a jar with his hand. Thus Balin didn’t see the cautious look crossing Bilbo’s face as he and his brother greeted each other with the customary smashing of foreheads, and the Hobbit scurried back into the actual kitchen, returning to his cooking.

It would seem he was having guests for dinner and the night, which means he needed bigger meals. Normally, he wouldn’t eat supper, but Balin had the same vague underfed look that Dwalin did, and so supper he would make. He would feed them until they popped if he had too! Starvation was something no Hobbit would condone, especially after the Fell Winter. To see evidence of it once again, had Bilbo scowling darkly down at the food he was making, knuckles white under the harsh grip he held on the utensils he was using.

He was interrupted from his steadily growing dark thoughts at the sound of double knocks on his door, and Bilbo frowned. Another visitor? A growing suspicion began to spark in the Hobbit’s mind, even as he hurried to answer the door. He was greeted by a dark haired and golden haired pair of dwarves, who greeted him with very flourished bows and a: “Fíli −and Kíli−, at yer service!”

Bilbo only a brief moment to feel very offended by the rather rude greeting (both for dwarves and Hobbits!), before the dark haired one (Kíli), grinned brightly and announced, “You must be Mister Boggins!”

Two dwarves was one thing, but four? Bilbo narrowed his eyes. Gandalf.

“I am not,” he snapped, before the two dwarf (lings, by the Valar they looked so young, and though it wasn’t as deep as Dwalin and Balin’s they also held the subtle tone of starvation to them) could shove their way in.

Kíli looked stricken, and Fíli confused, “You’re not? But you’ve got the mark and everything!” Bilbo’s eyes narrowed even further, and he slowly turned his eyes to the door, where Kíli had gesture frantically too. Glowing a pale blue was a rune carved on his front door.

A spark of hot, unrelenting rage coiled deep in the pit of his stomach, and his hand tightening on his door. The Hobbit struggled to control the rage bubbling inside, well aware his eyes could flash, and there was no need to scare the young dwarves on his doorstep. However, the two were looking at him warily, suddenly unsure, completely contradicting the confidence they had portrayed earlier.

That tempered his rage swiftly enough (but he would be having words with the wizard, when he undoubtedly showed up), “There is no Mister Boggins here, lads,” he began, tone light and softening his face into something more welcoming. At Fíli and Kíli’s confused (and still wary) looks, he smirked and added, “However, Master Baggins, that is I, do live here.”

Kíli had the decency to look all at once contrite and sheepish, “Sorry, Master Bo-Baggins.”

Bilbo shook his head, and invited the obvious brothers inside, casting one last vicious glare at the mark marring his door. When Gandalf arrived he would be removing it, and hopefully it hadn’t marred anything else. “How many of you should I be expecting?” Bilbo asked drily from behind the boys as he took their cloaks, and then their weapons when the two handed them to him. He stowed them away in an empty chest, and sternly directed Kíli to the doormat when the lad was about to wipe his feet off on his mother’s glory box.

Fíli looked at him in bafflement, “Don’t you know?”

“If I did, would I be asking?” Bilbo returned archly, raising a single eyebrow.

Balin was the one who answered, as the trio had arrived in the dining room and the white haired dwarf had caught the question easily enough as the home echoed somewhat strangely, “Thirteen of us, though Gandalf makes fourteen.”

Bilbo’s nose twitched, and he barely managed to restrain the sneer waiting to curl his lip at Gandalf’s name. “And what exactly are you doing here?”

Had the Hobbit asked earlier, he would have received an answer (a confused one, but one nonetheless), but the clock in his den gave off a loud chime, stating it was six o’clock and thus the start of dinner. It was as the sixth chime was fading that there was another loud knock on his door. Bilbo supposed he was lucky to have a large dining room that could comfortably fit twenty Hobbits at once, and that he had cooked more than enough food in his previous determination to make sure the dwarves in his home were well and properly fed.

The next hour was a blur of hurried introductions and getting all the dwarves in his dining room situated and served their dinner, before Bilbo had time to take a breather. The Hobbit was standing in the corner, unnoticed by the rambunctious group eating dinner, when he frowned noticing something. “One, two, three...,” the host murmured, counting heads slowly, ending with Gandalf. “...thirteen. Balin said there would be fourteen, did he not?” The Hobbit’s eyes flashed over to the window, where the sky was was quickly growing darker as the last edges of sunlight were fading. That was not good. That wasn’t good at all.

Bilbo’s sudden harsh bark of: “Gandalf!” had everyone freezing mid motion and turning to look at their host slowly.

The wizard raised an eyebrow at the Hobbit and inquired, “Yes, my dear Bilbo?”

He was startled when Bilbo scowled at him darkly. He had known of course that the Hobbit would be more than likely agitated at the unprecedented arrival of a band of dwarves, but he didn’t believe he would react quite like this. “You are supposed to be numbered fourteen, yes?” Bilbo asked slowly, a low growl undertone to his voice having the hairs on the back of everyone’s necks stand on end. At Gandalf’s cautious nod, Bilbo’s face contorted into a rather unnerving and feral snarl, “Confound it all!”

Gandalf cleared his throat, eyeing the Hobbit with a somewhat morbid curiosity that was more suited to something you wanted to look away from, but found you couldn’t, and asked, “Whatever seems to be the problem, Bilbo?”

Whatever answer the company was expecting it was not the one that they received.

The Shire isn’t safe after dark, especially for strangers.” As if to prove his words right, night fell completely, the last rays of sunlight becoming consumed by the darkness of night. The candles in the dining room flickered, creating shadows that seemed to dance around the room ominously, and with Bilbo in the corner where he was, he created a rather menacing picture.

His teeth were bared in a soundless snarl, showing off canines that appeared much sharper than any of the dwarves thought they could be. It was his eyes, however, that really set them all on edge. The normally brown and blue eyes were instead a deep, dark red and glowing in the shadows of the corner he was standing in.

Those eyes focused on Gandalf with a glare and Bilbo’s voice was quiet, but still with that growling undertone, as he said, “You had better hope that mark of yours didn’t disrupt the protections around Bag End, wizard.”

“...why isn’t is safe after dark?” Ori squeaked out, before slapping his hand over his mouth and looking like he hadn’t meant to actually voice that question out loud, which in fact he had.

When Bilbo looked over at the young dwarf, his eyes were no longer red, but the dwarves could still feel the aura of predator surrounding the previously thought soft Hobbit. “The Shire protects her caretakers, Master Ori, and she does not take kindly to strangers wandering her paths after dark, when foul things stalk in the shadows, unseen but there all the same.”

“You talk as if the Shire is alive, Master Baggins,” Nori said warily, fingering one of the knives hidden on his person.

Bilbo’s smile was cold and slightly condescending, “Are not the mountains your kind live in alive, Master Nori? Or the greenery that grows from the earth? Why not ask Master Bofur, whether or not the rock is alive?” With that, the Hobbit slipped from his shadowed corner and announced, “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a dwarf to find.”

In the next moment, he was gone, and the dwarves all turned to Gandalf, and Balin was the one that asked, “And just what exactly have you invited to join our Company, Tharkûn?” Gandalf found he did not actually have an answer for that question.

xx

Bilbo crept silently through the shadows of the Shire, eyes glowing in the dark of the night, though they were not red as they had been before. The Shire was a low murmur beneath his feet, her disquietude a dull throb through the hills. Even as he searched for the wayward dwarf, he tried to soothe the unsettled land, sending her feelings of lost companion and not stranger to try and fend off the no doubt stalking Hobbits already.

It was pure chance that Bilbo stumbled upon the misplaced dwarf of his sudden guests, and it was fortunate that he had when he had. For creeping in the shadows towards the unsuspecting traveller were two Hobbits, there eyes glowing a dull, dark red. The earth was humming in anticipation, for while the Shire could feel Bilbo’s own feelings, the greater amount was of fear and mistrust and stranger from the other Hobbits, easily overruling the lone Hobbit’s feelings.

Bilbo took stock of the situation in scant seconds, before he made his decision. Pulling a sleek knife from a hidden pouch on his trousers, he dropped behind the dwarf, and snarled, flashing his teeth and knife. “Begone! He is with me!” he called, the rumbling growl undertone swift in gaining the other Hobbit’s attention. It also gained the dwarf’s attention.

One of the Hobbit’s in the shadows narrowed their eyes, and growled low in their throat, “Then why is he wandering after dark, Bilbo of Baggins’ Bag End?”

“Indeed,” the other Hobbit drawled, voice as silky as a spider’s fine web. “You know what stalks the shadows, dear cousin.” The two prowled through the shadows, circling the duo on silent feet, that had the dwarf tensing, his own eyes glowing in the dark, though not as brightly as the Hobbit’s.

Bilbo smiled, but it was all teeth and no humor, “He simply got lost, cousin.”

The dwarf shuffled his feet, puffing up in indignation, but was smart enough to stay silent in the unknown situation. The growling Hobbit’s eyes flashed, the red deepening in color as he demanded, “Then where were you? Should you not have a guide for your guest?”

Bilbo straightened his back, eyes going from a dark red to a brighter, more acidic red that had both Hobbits flinching back, and barked, “Desist at once!” His knife flashed in the moonlight and there was a low hissing sound in the air as Bilbo continued, “Any Dwarf bearing the mark of Kuduk is off limits, do you understand me?”

The other two Hobbits stiffened at the Hobbitish word, there eyes dimming in there red color as they took in the elder Hobbit and his piercing gaze. After a moment, the Shire humming nervously beneath their feet sensing the tension between her caretakers, and not liking it one bit, the spider silk voice murmured, “Very well, cousin. I shall spread the word.”

“Do try and keep them inside after dark, Baggins,” the second Hobbit growled, before both of them slinked back into the shadows to continue their hunt. The dwarf had been a stranger, yes, but there were other things, more foul things, on the prowl that night. Bilbo grimaced at their leave, before turning to the dwarf he had just put under his protection.

You are very lucky Master Balin told me how many of you I was to expect in my smial, Master Dwarf,” Bilbo greeted, and continued before the warrior could respond, “And I will be having words with that confounded wizard. Honestly! Springing thirteen dwarves on an unsuspecting Hobbit, what was he thinking?”

“...Our burglar, I presume?” the dwarf rumbled, tone dry.

Bilbo narrowed his eyes (still glowing red, though it had dulled back down to the dark red), and said sharply, “A burglar, am I? We shall see.” Then motioning with his hand, he ordered, “Come, Master Dwarf, it is not safe to linger here. The night grows darker, and thus so do the dangers.” He waited for no response to his order, simply pushing the dwarf in the direction of Bag End, keeping a sharp eye on the shadows. The Shire had finally calmed about the stranger feet walking her paths, and had turned her attention to the darker things in the night that were trespassing.

It was only when they crossed the threshold of Bag End’s gate, that Bilbo’s tense state relaxed. The mark on his door had been removed while he was gone, and it seemed like there had been no damage done to the protections surrounding his home because of it. “We are safe here, Master Dwarf, and just in time for supper,” Bilbo announced, ushering his last guest into his home. His knife vanished back into its hidden pouch and the Hobbit turned to the warrior with a bow and introduced, “Bilbo, son of Bungo, at your service.”

The dwarf eyed him for a minute before he bowed (slightly higher than the one Bilbo gave) and rumbled, “Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thráin, at yours.”

“Now then, let’s get you some food, and you can explain what all this burglar nonsense is about, and why I have thirteen dwarves and a wizard invading my smial!” Bilbo said eyes finally faded back to their brown and blue, taking Thorin’s coat and ushering him into the dining room, where the rest of the company was still milling, though they were all whispering furiously to each other. They stopped abruptly, however, the moment Thorin and Bilbo stepped into the room.

“Bilbo−,” Gandalf started, but was cut off by said Hobbit.

“No! Supper is first! I will not have my guests going hungry,” Bilbo snarled, waving his finger at the stunned wizard, missing the wondering looks the rest of the dwarves were giving him. “You can explain just what sort of nonsense adventure you have decided I am apparently a burglar for after we eat.” Satisfied his point had been made, the Hobbit entered the kitchen where he had a large pot of rich soup bubbling away and buttery rolls keeping warm in the oven. In no time he had the table reset and the food served, and under his stern eye had the dwarves eating said food.

The meal was quieter than the one before, most everyone lost in their thoughts, but when the meal came to an end, tension began to creep in. “Now that everyone is fed, what exactly are you doing here?” Bilbo asked, folding his arms and raising an eyebrow at the group.

Thorin shared a look with Balin that consisted much of silent words and gestures, before Balin began the tale of Erebor’s Fall. Throughout the tale, Bilbo’s face was a mask of concentration, and he made no noise through it, he continued to be silent even after Balin had finished with the reason they were all here, and why they had been under assumption he was to be their burglar and knew they were coming. After a rather nerve wreaking few minutes of silence, Bilbo finally asked tone carefully neutral, “Why would you risk waking a dragon to reclaim Erebor?”

Thorin answered this time, voice grave and silencing any indignant protest the others were gearing up to make, “To reclaim a home. My people are barely surviving in the Blue Mountains, and our sources are practically down to nothing. I risk waking a dragon, so that I am able to give my people a true home. A place where they will no longer have to worry about hunger, or how they are to make ends meet, or if they will lose someone else to bitterly cold winters.”

Bilbo locked his gaze with Thorin’s, searching for something, though the uncrowned King had no idea what this strange creature was looking for. But whatever it was, he apparently found it. “An adventure is something not done, as they are dreadfully nasty things, and make you late for supper,” Bilbo began, making the dwarves bristle, but the Hobbit continued, “A quest, however, is a noble thing and it is an honor to be invited to one.”

He then smiled at the group and said, “It seems you have found a burglar for your quest.”

Chapter Text

The origins of Hobbits is truthfully unknown to the whole of Arda. The main belief is that Hobbits are descendants of men, and thus children of Ilúvatar, but to Hobbits, that was further from the truth it could ever be. Hobbits had in fact been there close to if not before the creation of the elves, but it was not of the Valar that they were created.

The Marring of Arda had the very earth screaming for someone anyone to come take care of her, to help shield her from the taint of Melkor, and Hobbits answered that plea for help. They were beings created specifically to repel the taint of Melkor and help cultivate the good of the Valar’s creations. They were the coins. The ones with two sides.

One side to fight against the taint; the other to tend to the land.

They were fighters and farmers.

Farmers and fighters.

In the beginning, they were in the shadows fighting back the taint, but with Men born, they slowly made their way from the shadows and into the light. Eventually they settled in the Vales of Anduin, splitting into three groups so as to better help Arda. None were the wiser about the other half of a Hobbit, and they certainly weren’t telling.

However, the taint soon became too much for the Hobbits in the Vales of Anduin, and the men and elves were beginning to grow suspicious of the strange folk living in the valley, so they began the start of their Wandering Days. Some of the Stoors remained behind, but they began to fade into the background, returning to their start in the shadows. The rest eventually settled in what became the Shire, a piece of land that was miraculously free of much of the taint of Melkor, compared to the rest of Arda.

She was also aware.

And welcomed her caregivers gladly.

 

xx

 

It was only when he had all the dwarves settled in the many guest rooms of Bag End, that Bilbo sat in front of the fire crackling in the den. In his hands was a sturdy, black square of fabric, a needle, and red thread. Each member of the company would be receiving a token. Unfortunately, he would only be able to make temporary ones, but they would suffice until he knew them better.

Bilbo didn’t know the Company well enough yet to feel comfortable making them a traditional and lasting token. When the time came, however, he would make personal tokens for each member, for he had no doubt that he would become close to them. Dwarves were a stubborn and secretive lot, but Hobbits were even more so.

The moon was beginning to lower in the sky when Bilbo finished with his task. He now had fourteen one inch by one inch squares with red thread cutting the corners off and an incomplete tilted square with a line going down the middle threaded also in red in the center of the square. To anyone but a Hobbit, it was simply fabric and thread, but to a Hobbit it was the mark of the Raja, and it was touched with a magick only the Kuduk knew.

Satisfied with his work, Bilbo set about packing a satchel for the quest, and writing several important letters. By the time he was finished and dressed for a new day, the sun was beginning to peek over the hills of the Shire, and chase away the last dredges of the foul things lurking. Bilbo started in on making a breakfast worthy to start off a quest, and the smells of good food was quick in gaining the dwarves awakening.

Fíli and Kíli were the first ones in the kitchen, surprisingly, bright eyed and bushy tailed and obviously hungry. Bilbo smiled warmly and greeted, “Good morning, lads.” He ushered them into chairs stationed at the high counter of his kitchen and slid a plate of fresh pastries in front of them.

“Morning, Master Baggins!” Kíli chirped, eagerly digging into the pastries. Fíli repeated the greeting, though a touch more warily than his brother, obviously remembering the strange happenings of last night. Not that Kíli didn’t remember, he did, but he was a lot more observant than most gave him credit for. Kíli had noticed that Bilbo’s home was that of a bachelor; no one else lived with him and there was a brittleness in their host’s eyes that reminded him of every dwarf that had survived the Fall of Erebor.

Bilbo Baggins was lonely and a little broken.

The rest of the company soon gathered in the dining room in various states of awareness, some more awake than others. “Don’t take to much time eating, we will want to be out of the Shire before dark falls,” Bilbo announced once everyone was at least a little more awake and aware.

Ori perked up from his pastry, and asked curiously, “What is it that comes out after dark, Master Baggins, if you don’t mind me asking?” The other dwarves began paying attention to their host while they ate, remembering the strangeness of the previous night, and Thorin’s uncharacteristic acceptance of the Hobbit.

Bilbo paused, turning his eyes to the young dwarf with a shadowed gaze. “One day, Master Ori, when I know you better, I will answer that question. The things that creep through the darkness of night are not something one talks about idly,” the tone spoken was grave, and had Ori nodded in understanding, and many of the dwarves looking at the Hobbit with a new respect.

xx

The dwarves had taken the tokens given by Bilbo with the same grave solemnity that the Hobbit had gifted them in, and when he explained just what they meant, well. All of them felt deep gratitude and a new kinship to him. The tokens weren’t just something one gave to another for any reason. No. Bilbo’s tokens were a mark of putting the dwarves under his protection and thus into his family. It was only rarely ever given out and in fact had only been granted a total of three times before.

The weeks of travelling afterward were spent in high spirits and getting to know one another. Bilbo delighted in telling the company many tales and legends, though he still did not expound on the Kuduk origins and what exactly it was that made the Shire so dangerous after dark. In turn the dwarrow (they had corrected the Hobbit swiftly on the correct way to say dwarf in plural) treated him to stories of their lives and own legends.

It was one night when they camped out on a hill under an outcropping of rocks, that Bilbo brought Ori’s question up once more.

“You asked me, Ori, just what it was that comes out after dark,” the Hobbit started, quickly gaining every dwarf’s (and Wizard’s) attention completely. “And I have found it time to answer that question. Before I do, however, I would like all of your words to keep silent on the matter.” Bilbo’s gaze was serious as he continued, “What I am about to tell you is a Kuduk, that is Hobbit, secret that we have kept to ourselves since our creation.”

“Should I not have asked?” Ori questioned, looking incredibly worried as it came to attention that the matter of what he thought to be a simple question was instead a rather grave matter.

Balin nodded, “Yes, if it is something that should not be shared, we would not want you to share it. We understand the importance of matters known only to those of kin.” The rest of the company were nodded along to the dwarf’s words, and even Gandalf inclined his head in agreement. The wizard had known that he was not privy to a many great things about Hobbits, but he had never fathomed it was something of this great secrecy.

Bilbo smiled calmly, truly touched by their words. “No, I have come to see you as kin, and I know that the bond shall only deepen as we continue on our quest. I only hope you view me as such if not now, then sometime in the near future.” The dwarrow were extremely touched by his words, and knew the truth that he spake. While it was still too soon for them to view him quite as close as kin, they knew it would only be a matter of time before they began to see the Hobbit as such as well.

Nodding to himself, Bilbo settled more firmly in his seat and began his tale, “The Marring of Arda is the beginning and the end for the Kuduk, for it is because of such a grave event that we were created, and it is the same thing that makes for our continued existence. The taint of Melkor (the name was spat out with such vehemence that the group was a little taken aback) crept low beneath the earth and sunk its bitter claws into everything.

“The world was in excruciating pain because of his taint that it cried out with such ferocity and desperation that the very first Kuduk was born. He was our Raja; our King. Many followed, but we hid in the shadows, unwilling to expose ourselves to the other beings and never to Melkor. It is there we found our purpose.”

The company was enraptured by Bilbo’s tale, knowing it to be the truth, though they could not say what caused them to believe it. Gandalf in particular was astonished. He, like all of the other beings inhabiting the world, had believe Hobbits to be descendants of Men, but to find that they were not even creations of the Valar? It seemed to explain everything, yet nothing at the same time.

Melkor’s taint thrived in the darkest parts of the world. Twisting and distorting into strange creatures that didn’t so much as have their own thoughts, as much as the instinct to hunt and destroy as much as they possibly could. To spread fear and terror wherever they found themselves. The Makhluk Gelup, as we called them, are your nightmares; your fear; the shadows you see from the corner of your eye. They are everywhere and nowhere, and they stalked every being’s steps in the world.

“We were created to follow after such creatures and destroy them, but as long at the taint remains in the very earth, we will forever be hunting them. It is our role. Our purpose. In the Third Age, we left the shadows and settled in the Vales of Anduin (everyone made a shocked noise, as the Wandering Days of Hobbits had been forgotten by many, though not all). However, Arda retreated to farther shores when the Shadow of Dol Guldur fell over Greenwood.

“Our Raja made the decision to follow her, and the Wandering Days over the Misty Mountains began. Eventually, they found the Shire, where little taint had reached and settled. Our move to the Shire, however, caught the attention of the Makhluk Gelup and they were swift to follow our steps. We are caught in a never ending battle each night because of it, and it is unsafe for strangers, for if there is one thing those created by the taint fear it is a Kuduk on a hunt. And they will do anything to get away.”

The company was silent for a moment, as they digested all they had been told, before Dwalin asked, “If yer fighting those creatures every night, how is it then that the Shire is so peaceful?”

Bilbo smiled, honestly pleased with the question. He had wondered how the dwarrow would take his people’s history, but they believed, and it was so rare that one did. “Ironically enough, it is because we do that the Shire is peaceful. Though most do not realize why, people will avoid coming to the Shire, and in fact anywhere where a Hobbit dwells. For the things you fear are lurking in the shadows of our grassy hills, and everyone tends to avoid what they fear. It is only through desperation that the Shire is ever invaded.”

“Then how come we were able to reach the Shire and thus your home?” Ori questioned, fingers twitching to write everything down, but could not because of his promise. No one wanted to point out Bilbo’s dark tone when saying those last words, obviously realising there was a truly unhappy story behind his words.

At this, Bilbo raised an eyebrow at Gandalf, and said drily, “You all had an invitation, given by Gandalf because of his mark on my door.” The wizard had the decency to look contrite at that. He had honestly forgotten how protective Hobbits were of their homes (Belladonna’s tongue lashing of the one time he had accidently set part of her garden on fire, now rearing its head in his memories). The questioning was interrupted by distant howls breaking the air, that had everyone tensing.

Bilbo’s eyes flashed in the dark, and he shuddered. He did not like the sound of Wargs (for that was what those howls belonged too, and it did not bode well for their quest.)

xx

The Trolls had been quite unpleasant.

But Bilbo was starting to wish that was all they had to deal with. Being chased by Wargs was not on his list of things he wanted to do, and he was beginning to doubt the supposed intelligence of wizards. And don’t get him started of the bloody orcs. The taint of Melkor was poisoning the very air and it sent his blood pumping furiously through his body. Orcs were unnatural; they didn’t belong.

Radagast had lost the interest of the Wargs, and then in was a free for all. Bilbo was a blur of movement, the Elvish dagger thrumming in his hand as he wove through the enemy. His eyes were glowing a dark red, and his teeth were bared in a feral snarl as he slid under the belly of one of the Wargs, its teeth missing him by inches. He drove his blade into its belly, forcefully dragging it deep across its stomach, and blood spilled messily behind him.

The guttural roars of the dwarrow battling furiously against their opponents, spurring the Hobbit further as he spun to block the oncoming weapon of an orc. Gandalf was leading them towards one of the many rocks dotting the mostly barren land, and Bilbo could feel the faint tingle of ancient magick brushing against his senses. “ORI!” the fearful shout pulled Bilbo’s attention instantly.

The young dwarf was nearly surrounding on all sides by snarling Wargs, and the rest of the company would not make in time to help. Bilbo, however, could. The Hobbit ducked and weaved, slipping in previously unnoticed shadows, eyes merely a flash of color that resembled ghostly flames in the dark, as he swiftly moved for the dwarf. The brave lad was firming his stance and obviously preparing to fight his way to the end, when Bilbo appeared at his back with barely a whisper, simply a warm presence at the young dwarf’s back.

“Together, shall we?” Bilbo murmured, a frightening smile baring more teeth than humor, and Ori found a new, more steady, courage running through his veins.

“Together,” the red haired dwarf agreed.

In a flurry of movement the Wargs attacked, but between the dual blade wielding odd creature and the fists of a frighteningly strong dwarf, they didn’t last. The rest of the dwarrow company reached their two wayward members and in the brief reprieve that they gained from Radagast driving his sled through the enemy’s group, they made it to where Gandalf had disappeared too. Before too much confusion could start, Bilbo shoved the nearest dwarf into the hidden pathway, and then quickly ushered the rest of the company in as well.

It was just as well that he had rushed them, as the Wargs had ignored Radagast and were racing towards them at a furious pace. Bilbo curled his lip at the tainted wolves and stepped back into the hidden path, eyes glowing ominously in the sudden dark. “Do we follow the path?” someone asked.

“Of course!” Bofur answered, panting slightly and already making his way down said path, muttering something along the lines ‘do we follow the path? of course we do, where else could we go? bah!’ Bilbo snickered, turning around to follow as well, and found Thorin staring at him steadily with a thoughtful look.

The Hobbit gave him a questioning look, but the leader simply shook his head and began making his way down the path as well. “Where are you leading us, Tharkûn?” Thorin rumbled, eyeing the wizard suspiciously.

“To safety, Thorin Oakenshield,” Gandalf replied sharply.

Bilbo rolled his eyes and pointed dryly, “And by that he means Rivendell. The natural magicks of the land will keep us from further harm, though the inhabitants of said land I can not say the same.” Thorin’s face twisted into a grimace of distaste, and the rest of the dwarrow murmured irritably among themselves as well. Gandalf shot an exasperated look at the Hobbit, only to find said being not paying him any attention.

“You can sense it too, can you not, Bilbo?” Bofur queried, a somewhat dazed look on his face as his fingers hovered just barely above the rock that created the tunnel in which they were walking.

Bilbo hummed, a similar dazed look on his own face, “Yes. The land is rich with memories and feelings. It welcomes us gladly and will see that we are not harmed.” The company fell silent at the words of two of their own, watching them with confused faces, not quite understanding what they were talking about. Nori, however, had a look of comprehension on his face, as if a puzzle he’d been particularly stumped on had suddenly solved itself.

“Oh,” the thief breathed. “Bofur has Stone Sense, and I bet our Hobbit has something very similar.” The rest of the dwarrow’s faces changed to quiet awe, though Bombur and Bifur already knew of their brother (and cousin)’s gift.

“We are truly safe, then?” Thorin asked, missing the indignant look on Gandalf’s face (who was rather offended his word was not being taken).

Bilbo smiled, losing the dazed look and resting a hand on Bofur’s arm, who still looked dazed and moments away from actually touching the stone walls. “Oh yes, we are quite safe. She will not let anything or anyone harm us, as long as we do not harm any under her care.” Bilbo then gave Thorin a piercing gaze and he said seriously, “You may not like elves, Thorin, but manners will get you many things from many people.”

The not yet King inclined his head, taking the warning to heart. He may not have to like it, but he knew the truth of those words, and he was rather inclined to trusting the words of their Hobbit. If he had to behave himself, he would. And if he were to be honest, he knew his company needed the rest and the knowledge that they would be safe even if only for a few days.

Plus there was the map they needed translating.

Blast it. He would have to be nice.

Chapter Text

Bilbo Baggins had been odd, even for a Hobbit. His talents came to easily, he was too silent on his feet, he was too much. The Baggins side of the family whispered of trickery and deceit, while the Took side whispered of ancient kings and rulers. In a way both sides were correct. Trickery was how Belladonna had hid her own oddness, and Ancient Kings is what Bilbo’s oddness pertained.

Hobbits didn’t have Kings anymore, the Thain was the closest thing, but wasn’t the true King.

There had been one, before the Vales of Anduin, when they were still in the shadows and helping the earth heal and repel the taint. He was the one to lead them through the shadows and then into the light of the valley. He was the one to split them into groups, and then the one to lead them through the Wandering Days. He was the one who claimed the Shire as their own.

There had been no King since his death.

Belladonna Took had known she was special. It wasn’t until she held her child in her arms did she realize just how special she was. Bilbo Baggins had the eyes of the Raja; the King. One brown. One blue. But they glow acidic red on top of the dark red.

Her baby was King.

 

xx

 

Rivendell had been more relaxing and welcoming with a group of more or less civil dwarrow, even when Elrond discovered what their quest was truly about, than it would have been with a borderline hostile group of dwarrow. However, the Company still had to leave under the cover of darkness, and so the Misty Mountains became their path. Bilbo was more than happy to settle in a dry and relatively warm cave after the disaster with the Stone Giants (and hadn’t that been a shock; those beings had not been seen for more than an Age!).

However, the Hobbit was quick to notice Bofur’s uneasy expression as he glanced around the cave. “Bofur? What is the matter?” Bilbo questioned quietly, hand automatically wrapping around the handle of his beloved dagger. The dwarf startled slightly, turning to look at his companion, a frown marring his usually smiling face.

“This cave doesn’t feel right,” the miner turned toymaker answered somewhat distractedly, his hands tightening around his pack and eyes shifting around wildly, searching for an answer. “It feels...distorted? somehow.”

The Hobbit wiggled his toes, staring down at the stone floor, before cocking his head and then marching determinedly over to Thorin. “I suggest we don’t sleep tonight, and if you do to keep your gear with you,” Bilbo said to the dwarf.

Thorin raised an eyebrow and murmured in return, “And why do you suggest this?” He was genuinely curious, the Hobbit had proved himself from the very start, and had only continued to do so. Thorin would admit to even beginning to think of Bilbo as kin, something he thought would never have been possible outside of his own race.

“Bofur doesn’t like the feel of this cave,” Bilbo started, and then added a touch more grimly. “And I find I don’t much trust empty caves in mountains.”

Thorin agreed with the sentiment and the group settled into a sleepless, but somewhat rested night, all holding their gear and keeping one wary eye open. So it was a mostly prepared group of dwarrow (and a Hobbit) that went sliding down the tunnel into the Goblin’s Lair.

Bilbo landed behind the group, immediately crouching down to avoid the Goblins sights as they eagerly surrounded the group of dwarrow. The Company didn’t go without a fight, and it was only Kíli’s sharp eyes that spotted the wayward Hobbit, who lifted a single finger to his lips in a gesture for quiet. Kíli nodded and unleashed another arrow into a goblin’s face, before switching to the sword at his belt.

Bilbo slunk into the shadows of the mountain, loosening the ties on his blades for easier access. The shadows curled around him eagerly, crooning silently at him in excitement. It has been so long, they whispered, You have returned

The last word was a jumbled croon of unintelligible language. To everyone but a Hobbit, that is. The Misty Mountains themselves began to awaken from their deep slumber, feeling the touch of the magick of the Kuduk, and the excited chattering of the shadows clamoring for Bilbo. He hushed them gently, a small smile on his lips even as he followed his unfortunately captured dwarrow.

The acidic red glow of his eyes was the only sign he was there, and any that caught a glimpse of red felt a sense of foreboding crawling down their spine. “Who would dare enter so boldly into my Kingdom?” the dreadful Goblin King roared fiercely, eyes gleaming wickedly.

“Dwarves, your malevolence,” a goblin leered, eyeing the huddled group hungrily. “Fell right through our front door, they did.”

The Goblin King narrowed his eyes at the group, lips curling up to bare his teeth, “Well now, and what are you doing in these parts?” The dwarrow remained stubbornly silent, and could only feel disgust at the rather disturbing figure of the Goblin King. Bilbo was much more terrifying and much more impressive then the thing. “Won’t answer, eh? Fine then! Search them!”

The dwarrow began to struggle, but before even the first dirty clawed hand could so much as begin its search a deep, guttural voice echoed through the mountain, “I would refrain from such things, Oh Goblin King.”

“Who speaks?” the goblin demanded harshly, eyes searching wildly for the source. Laughter was the only response, and the goblins began to murmur uneasily. The dark laugh had echoed around the caverns and the firelight was flickering ominously, and there were whispers beginning to creep along around them. The dwarrow huddled closer together, recognizing the voice, but unsure what the plan was. Bofur was looking around cautiously, a wary look in his eyes, and that had the rest of the group on edge.

“Have you wondered, Oh Goblin King, what a mountain feels?” the voice asked, tone curious, but with a razor sharp edge and undercurrent of danger. There was a low rumbling noise as if to punctuate the words, and the previous low whispers escalated in noise, making the goblins flinch and even more uneasy.

The goblin King shifted nervously, but managed to respond, “And why would I care how a mountain feels, if it even could?”

Bilbo clicked his tongue, “Tsk, tsk, Oh Goblin King.” He shifted through the shadows, subtly nudging them to make the whispering louder, while the mountain itself made an unhappy rumble. Dwarrow were the only ones a mountain liked within its halls, and now that they were awake, very unhappy with the unwanted infestation in its halls. “You should take more care to know what your kingdom feels, Oh Goblin King. The Mountains of Mist are awake, and none to happy with you.”

Bifur signed something rapidly to his cousin, and Bofur signed an answer back just as quickly.What Bilbo said was true. The Mountains had woken up. And they were not happy in the slightest bit. “What are you speaking about, voice? Mountains are not alive!” the goblin sneered. There was an ominous rumble, and dust began falling along with some rocks, as the very mountain shook, and the whispers reached a level of noise closer to a shriek. The goblin fell back onto his throne, and his subjects began to mill around anxiously.

“For shame, Oh Goblin King!” Bilbo scolded, his voice deepening with a growl and allowed the goblins to see his glowing eyes, making some shriek in fright. “Everyone knows the very earth is alive. And you have encroached on the mountains, Goblin, and are threatening the children of stone!”

Bilbo moved around until he was next to the goblin king, standing in the shadow of the throne and whispered in his ear (while trying not to gag at the stench), “Did you think you could get away with threatening dwarrow within the very halls of the Mountains of Mist, who have sheltered the dwarrow kind for more than an Age? Where the Seven Lords were born?”

While the words were whispered to the King, they were heard through the mountain. The goblins surrounding the group of dwarrow scuttled back and away from them, especially as the mountain had begun to shake again, and there were cracks forming on the walls. There were shrieks and bellows throughout the halls, and it was in that moment that Gandalf arrived in a flash of bright light. The dwarrow all leapt for their weapons, which had been taken (though not their packs, for some reason), and Kíli was the only one to spot Bilbo in all of the chaos.

The Hobbit slipped from the shadow of the throne, and eyes glowing fiercely, slit the throat of the Goblin King. “Filthy things,” Bilbo spit as he slid into the group easily, cutting through a goblin stupid enough to try and bludgeon Bombur on the back of the head. The mad dash towards the back door of the Goblin-City, was with little trouble as the mountain moaned and groaned around them, stones shifting as new paths were formed and old paths blocked.

The goblins were scurrying around in a panic due to the death of their King, and the sudden vengeful mountain they had once called their city distorting their paths and works. The group of guards at the door tried to fight the oncoming dwarrow, wizard, and Hobbit, but they only fell quickly to the bite of weaponry wielded, and the group burst out into the sunlight.

Bilbo could hear Gandalf counting under his breath as the wizard looked over the group, but the Hobbit was too hyped from the energies swirling around his feet to pay much attention. The Mountains of Mist waking up had pushed the surrounding lands to become aware once more, but it was slow going and Bilbo could sense on the very edge of his reach that the lands were in pain. His being on the solid ground beneath his feet, was causing the land to awaken quicker and he knew the more he continued, the quicker the rest of the land would awaken as well.

He was unsure if that was good thing just yet.

The howls of Wargs soon echoed behind the group, and with little time to breath the Company was moving once again. However, they soon reached the edge of a cliff, and there was nowhere to run as the Wargs were much faster than their own feet and the feral wolves soon had them surrounded. “Up the trees! Quickly!” Gandalf shouted, and they all scrambled up the trees as best as they could, knowing when they were out numbered.

It was just in time that they were all up as the Wargs were soon upon them, snarling and howling furiously as they scrambled at the trunks of the tree, trying to bite at their prey. Gandalf struggled to come up with a plan, and catching sight of the pine cones littering their current perches had a splendid idea. He swiftly plucked one from the branches around him and set it aflame, grabbing another one and letting the flames lick at it until it too was aflame. He handed it to Ori, who had made it into the same tree as him, and soon flaming pine cones were slamming into the Wargs and their riders.

However, their enemies were smarter than thought to be and they were swift in making the plan backfire by slamming their bodies against the trees in an effort to knock them down. Unfortunately, the Wargs on fire in turn set the trees alight as well, and it helped make the trees weaker. Bilbo clung to his tree as with a mighty groan in began to tip, and there was only the sound of rushing air as it fell, the flames burning even hotter and higher than going out.

It was then, as the Hobbit was gaining his bearings that he appeared. Azog. There was a ringing in his head, and his vision was blurring with with smoke from the flames, but it proved to not  stop Thorin, as the dwarf stood slowly up on the trunk of their tree. The flames burned around them, but it did nothing to deter him, his mind clouding with rage at the sight of the foul being that had wrought such grief and pain to his family.

None of the dwarrow could reach out and stop the Prince as he rushed towards the orc with an mighty roar. Bilbo stared, stunned after the dwarf, wondering how on Arda the dwarf could be so stupid?

They could only watch as Thorin was tossed around like a rag doll, and Bilbo looked around at the others, to see if they would help, but they were either trying not to fall off the cliff or staring dumbly at their Prince, obviously stunned.

And Bilbo wasn’t going to have any of that.

Eyes glowing dark red, they took in the various shadows surrounding the area, and finding one relatively close to where Thorin was lying on the ground, Azog and his Warg above him, laughing wildly, slipped into the shadows. The weapon Bilbo drew to defend the dwarf was not the Elvish blade gained from the Troll Hoard, nor the dagger he had pulled in the protection of Thorin back in the Shire.

It was the blade that every Hobbit is gifted on their Coming of Age.

The blade was a truly wicked looking thing. The metal of the blade was a solid black, and the length from the tip of the blade was serrated before smoothing out into another sharp edge extended past the guard. The handle itself was wrapped in worn leather (also black), but there was a rune at the base where the blade met the guard, an acidic red in color. And if anyone were to get a look at the rune they would find it was the same mark as the one on the tokens gifted to the Company.

It was this weapon Bilbo drew for the defense of Thorin, and he brandished it forward with a steely gaze as the flames flickered off the blade dangerously. The riderless Wargs took one look at the ominous blade and let out piercing howls, but it was not one of hunting. It was a howl of fear. The Wargs knew the feel of that weapon and they didn’t want anything to do with it and its wielder.

The beasts didn’t know what it was, but they all had a base instinct to fear any weapon crafted with such material. Ignoring the confused and outraged shouts of the Orcs, the Wargs turned tail and ran. Bilbo let a sharp, feral grin spread across his face, his eyes shifting from dark red to the acidic red glow, and Azog felt a sliver of true fear for the first time in his life. The White Warg beneath him let out a piteous whimper, pawing at the ground agitatedly as he was prevented from running away like his kin, tail tucked between his legs.

Thorin stared in bleary confusion at the back of the Hobbit of his Company, standing in front of his heavily wounded body like some kind of Guardian. It was in that moment that Thorin knew Bilbo had become kin. Smoke burned his lungs and the pain was close to overwhelming him, but still Thorin watched as Bilbo fought Azog with the burning ferocity of any dwarf protecting their kin, peripherally aware of the rest of his Company joining the battle with mighty roars. But he could no longer keep himself awake, the pain overwhelming him completely and his vision went dark.

Dwalin kept one eye on the Hobbit, in awe despite himself. Bilbo looked as if he were dancing, his dark blade flashing in the firelight as he protected his Prince’s (King’s) prone body. The little thing was a fierce fighter, and if every Hobbit fought against the things of the dark every night like that, then Dwalin never wanted to go to war with the Shire folk.

The screech of an eagle was the only warning the group got, before in a flash of feathers and claws a giant eagle swept by, taking a Warg and its rider and flinging off the cliff’s edge. Others were picking up dwarrow and dropping them off on the backs of even more, while a different group continued to pick the Orcs off one by one with angry screeches. Dwalin only had the chance to see Bilbo dive for Thorin’s body and latch onto the Prince just as an eagle swept the dwarf (and Hobbit) up into the air, before he too was picked up by an eagle.

The flight was both long and short, and when they reached the edge of the beginnings of a sort of forest covered valley, Mirkwood looming on the edges like a deathly shadow, the Company was quick to converge on Thorin and Bilbo. The Hobbit was pressing his hands against Thorin’s chest, right over his heart, lips forming words, but none of the dwarrow heard actual words. Gandalf swiftly pushed his way through the group, staff already lit up as he joined Bilbo next to the dwarf.

After what felt like an eternity, both of them leaned back, looking vaguely tired (Bilbo more so than Gandalf), “He is safe,” Gandalf declared, just as Thorin’s eyes snapped open and he would have sat up if not for Bilbo’s restraining hand.

“None of that now!” Bilbo scolded, eyes steely and frowning.

Thorin looked up into the blue and brown eyes of the Hobbit and said breathlessly, “You have proven yourself since at the very beginning of this quest, and have only continued to do so, Bilbo Baggins, and if you would have it, I− we − would be proud to call you kin.” Bilbo stared at the dwarf with wide eyes. He had hoped, but deep in his heart he had never thought it would happen. The Company watched, waiting with bated breath for their Hobbit’s answer.

Bilbo had called them kin when he had explained the origins of Hobbits, and while they had been touched, they hadn’t really believed, but like Thorin had said. Bilbo had proven himself, over and over to the group, and they had all begun to see him as kin, and hoped he still saw them in the same way.

After one breathless moment, a bright smile spread across Bilbo’s face. “It is me who would honored to call you, all of you, kin,” he answered, voice filled with so many emotions, and the whole Company burst into cheers. Half their journey was finished and the group was only growing closer with each trial they came against and conquered.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Coming of Age for a Hobbit was the true start. It is when they receive their blade. The blade that will be with them until the end and follow after them. But the blade isn’t normal in the sense of one made by Dwarrow, or Elves, or even Men. Its a weapon made solely to fight against the taint. Its forged from the very Shadows, leaving a blade as black as night, and the power to cut through the Makhluk Gelup, when no normal blade can.

But its the rune carved in the base where the blade meets the guard that holds the true power. The rune is one that a Hobbit spends the first half of their lives creating, specializing it to themselves, and no one else. And it is that rune that is carved and then sealed with their very blood. While the blades may be similar in appearance, its the rune that sets them apart, and it is the rune that won’t allow anyone but the blood giver wield the weapon.

Blood means life, and freely given it is a most powerful thing.

xx

When the Shadow of Goldur fell over the Greenwood, and the Hobbits left the Vales of Anduin, the earth had still been awake and aware. The Wandering Days of the Kuduk had spread their touch even further, but with it came the Makhluk Gelup following behind. They did their best, but the earth began to shy away from the taint. By the end of the Wandering Days, most of Arda had fallen in a deep slumber, no longer having the strength to fight against Melkor’s taint.

It was why finding the Shire awake and aware, and shockingly mostly free from the taint was such a joyous thing. But because it was mostly free of the taint, the Makhluk Gelup fought to make it stronger and fester. It was why the Kuduk fought every night against the creatures of the dark. It had only been sheer luck that Bilbo hadn’t had to fight any Makhluk Gelup so far on the quest, but he knew it wouldn’t last.

It happened when they reached the bottom of the Carrock; Gandalf had wanted to continue, but it was nearing the end of twilight, and thus would be unwise to continue. The Company was exhausted physically and mentally, and so Gandalf promised to keep watch for them.

Gandalf looked up at the moon, which had just reached its zenith and frowned. The nights had grown colder as the days grew shorter, but that night it was exceptionally chilly. The stars seemed muted in their glittering paths in the sky and the wizard realized exactly what was making him uncomfortable. The forest was blanketed in silence. He couldn’t hear any sign of life but the Company’s heavy snoring.

He tensed a more wary gaze sweeping around the clearing they had settled in for the night, his grip tightening on his staff. Something wasn’t right, but he couldn’t see anything strange. A breeze rustled the canopy above them, and the wizard strained his ears to try and hear something, anything.

But only silence greeted him.

Unseen by the Grey Wizard, a tendril of black slithered its way from the shadow of a tree on the edge of camp, a seething hatred saturating the thing to its very core. A low hissing noise followed in its wake as it bypassed the dwarrow completely, heading straight for the only Hobbit of the group. The tendril paused at the foot of the Hobbit’s bedroll before slowly, it rose from the ground increasing in size as it grew taller and taller. It loomed over the Hobbit, a seam splitting across the shape and revealing large, needle like teeth, and a dark, malevolent shriek split the eerie silence of the woods.

Gandalf spun around, a shout on his tongue, but could do nothing in the face of the looming shape above Bilbo that opened its mouth wide and swallowed the Hobbit instantly. The wizard stared at the strange creature with a pale face, unheeding of the suddenly awake and confused group of dwarrow. The thing oozed malice as much as it seemed to ooze in general, and there was a low static like sound in the background that seemed to be growing louder by the second. “Where’s Bilbo?” Bofur shouted, panic settling deep in his stomach as Gandalf stared at the Hobbit’s bed roll with a wide eyes. A shadow flickered at the corner of the dwarf’s eye and he spun around, mattock held at the ready.

But there was nothing there.

Where is Bilbo?” Thorin roared, knuckles white around the hilt of Orcrist and eyes searching around the clearing wildly. Shadows kept flickering out of the corner of the group’s eyes, and they immediately grouped together, brandishing their weapons in front of them, though they couldn’t find any visible threat.

The static sound soon turned into a low shriek that was growing louder and louder with every second that passed. The dwarrows tensed, knuckles white in their grips on their weapons as they scanned the clearing with a wary horror they couldn’t quite describe. The screech soon reached a pitch that had the group struggling to not cover their ears, and Ori let out a low whine. It was cut off abruptly and suddenly Bilbo was there, eyes glowing acid red and a vicious snarl curling his lip as his blade gleamed.

Something black, sticky, and wet splattered on the ground and dripped from the Hobbit’s blade. “Kematian atas kamu,” Bilbo spat, flicking his blade so the black goop left the wickedly curved blade. HIs eyes gleamed in the darkness of the night, and a furious howl sounded and with it appeared grotesque monsters all surrounding the camp and glaring at Bilbo with wild eyes.

Kíli would never admit it even under pain of death but he let out a terrified squeak at the sudden appearing monsters. They were truly vile looking things, and even Dwalin would admit to fear twisting his stomach at the sight of them. But the shock of the monsters sudden appearance wore off quickly enough and with a mighty roar, Dwalin swung his axe at the nearest monster. The dwarf only had a brief moment of fierce victory as the axe swung true in a killing blow, only to have that feeling turn into a sort of disgusted horror when the creature’s mouth split into a wide, monstrous parody of a grin, revealing needle like teeth.

And right before his eyes the monster’s upper half stretched itself down in tar like consistency and reattached itself to its lower half with a sickening squelch sound. Scratchy, malicious laughter echoed from the thing’s mouth and bulbous, yellow eyes blinked open, reptilian like slit pupils contracting wildly. “Show me your fear, little stone child,” the thing hissed, voice raspy and mouth never shaping the words.

Quick as lighting a large claw like appendage formed and shot forward, the tips barely brushing against the skin of the dwarf’s forehead, as Dwalin jerked back violently. Fear was quickly building up in the dwarf, and he couldn’t even bring his usual confidence to the forefront, and it was threatening to overwhelm the usually sturdy dwarf. It only continued to grow as the creature began to morph. Its body twisted and contorted, and in a truly nauseating way shifted into a new shape.

Dwalin felt his throat go dry and his mind blank.

For standing in front of him was his father.

The dwarf was bloody and bruised, and his gut was sliced open with his intestines spilling forth in a truly gruesome picture that Dwalin remembered with vivid clarity from the Battle of Azanulbizar. The monster wearing the form of his father opened its mouth and it wasn’t even the monster’s voice that spoke; it was his father’s. “It’s your fault, inùdoy. I would still be alive if it were not for you; Ferin would still be alive; you couldn’t even save your One, how could you save−”

It wasn’t given the chance to continue its speech as Bilbo’s blade cut the monster in half with his blade, a truly frightening look on the Hobbit’s face as he did so. The monster’s form distorted back into its previous shape just before it exploded into a black goop with the consistency of sticky tar. Bilbo’s burning red eyes bore into Dwalin’s own eyes, and the dwarf know knew the meaning of the Hobbit’s words on just what the taint of Melkor was.

The Makhluk Gelup was literally the embodiment of all your fears.

Dwalin took a deep breath, forcefully squashing his fear down and squared his shoulders. Bilbo nodded sharply, and then said, “Use my token.” and then flitted away over to Ori, who was cowering from another dwarf figure looming over him, and from the truly wicked and insidious grin on its face was saying rather unpleasant things. Dwalin shook himself harshly, and pulled out the token the Hobbit had given them all at the beginning of their quest.

He had no idea what he was supposed to do with it. It was only a piece of cloth with some stitching after all. There was another dark form shifting up from the ground in front of him, and Dwalin, feeling utterly foolish as he did so, brandished the little piece of cloth at the thing. Then, much to his astonishment, the thing flinched back with a deafening wail. Dwalin flapped the little piece of fabric and watched with a sort of disbelieving fascination as the thing skittered backwards and away from him, with a high pitched whine.

The rest of the company was brandishing their own tokens, looking baffled as it seriously worked in warding off the dreadful things. Nori even went as far as touching his foe with his token, watching in bewilderment as it caused the thing to smoke violently and scramble to get away from the dwarf. Bilbo was cutting down the dark creature (looking suspiciously like Thorin himself) in front of Thorin, and shouted, “Gandalf! How far away is that friend of yours?”

The wizard had attached his own token to the end of his staff and was poking the creature in front of him with it, but looked up at the shout and answered, “About a day or so!”

“And if we run?” Bilbo countered, skewering a thing that was trying to creep up behind Dori, shying away from the token the dwarf was holding in front him all the way.

Gandalf raised a bushy eyebrow, absently knocking the head of another thing with his staff, “Half a day, thereabouts.”

Bilbo frowned, before calling out, “Grab anything close to you and start running! Don’t let go of your token!”

“Why are we running, if the tokens ward them away?” Bofur called out, though he was eyeing the shrieking thing in front of him with wary eyes, and grabbing the nearest pack. The others were also grabbing any of the nearest supplies, but it was evident that they wouldn’t be grabbing everything if they were running.

Bilbo had already strapped a pack to his back and killed another thing trying to creep up behind Kíli this time, and answered, “They won’t last forever, and I can’t protect you all night. We have to get to Gandalf’s friend’s house as quickly as we can. The token is limited, and I can explain that all later! Now go!” Gandalf took the lead, and everyone followed after swiftly, brandishing their tokens a bit awkwardly, while Bilbo brought up the rear end.

Bilbo set a harsh pace for the group, a grim and vicious look on his face as he flitted around the group, cutting down any Makhluk Gelup that got to close to any member of the Company. The dwarrow helped as best as they could, brandishing the tokens like a shield and cutting the monsters with their own weapons to at least slow the things down, as their blades could not kill them. However, the things were not above shifting into the group’s fears and taunting the group of dwarrow and the wizard, as they kept pace and shifted from shadow to shadow.

Despite the harrowing experience because of their fears being broadcasted, it helped the group grow closer in its own way. Thorin’s especially helped, as it made the Company realize that their leader, no matter how untouchable he seemed, was still only a dwarf. Finding out the dwarf’s fear was himself was truly an eye opener, and the Makhluk Gelup’s words even more so.

You’re leading them to their deaths.”

You aren’t strong, Thorin Oakenshield, and that same curse that afflicted your grandfather, and even your father, will consume you as well. Then where will you be?

It will all end in fire.”

But it wasn’t just Thorin’s fears that the beings of taint threw at the group, but all of their fears.

Poor little scribe, you were just begging for it weren’t you? So young; so beautiful−”

You’re just the spare. No one really wants you.”

Proud? Who would ever be proud of you?

A healer? You couldn’t even heal your−”

Thief; scoundrel; scum; no one would ever love someone like you.”

What good are you? You are amongst Royalty and true Warriors. What’s a miner turned toymaker any good to them?

You failed. Their blood is on your hands. You couldn’t even make them listen; it’s all on your head.

Protection? You couldn’t even protect yourself. What makes you think you could protect your brothers?

Marrying you was a mistake.”

You should have been the one who died. How come I died instead?

If you hadn’t been so greedy, they wouldn’t have had to lose everything to you.”

It’s your fault we’re dead.”

You think you can help? The world can’t even help itself.”

Unworthy. Unworthy. UnworthyunworthyunwORTHYUNWORTHYUNWORTHYUNWORTHY.

But the night was growing longer, and the creatures were growing agitated the longer their prey was kept from them and distorted into more and more frightening shapes as the moon crossed the sky. Bilbo kept them away from the group as best has he could, wielding his dagger with scary efficiency, eyes glowing brightly in the dark, but he was, in the end, only one Hobbit.

The dwarrow were growing weary, and despite their best efforts, they were growing frightened of the dark creatures dogging their steps and shrieking and hissing at them menacingly. Their words growing sharper and sharper and more and more convincing as the night wore on, and the Company were rapidly gaining respect for Bilbo, and every Hobbit on Arda. If the small beings fought those things nightly then they were made of tougher stuff than everyone seemed to believe. Bilbo refused to stop, eyes glowing fiercely as he repeatedly cut through swathes of inky blackness, holding the tendrils away from his Company with everything that he had. He knew he couldn’t keep this up for much longer, but by the Valar he wasn’t going to stop until he was dead.

Kematian atas kamu!” the sudden shout was the only warning anyone got before there was the flash of a gleaming blade and a Makhluk Gelup was ripped apart from its spot looming over Ori. The Company stuttered in their steps, but didn’t stop their running, even as another figure dropped from above, slamming into another creature attempting to pull Óin into its reaching claws, shouting the same words as the other.

The first voice was a female Hobbit with dark hair and dark skin, lips stretched in a feral grin, canines glinting in the dark. She wielded a set of twin daggers, their edges smooth and curved wickedly with tassels hanging off the end of their handles. Her eyes were gleaming dark red in the night and she moved with a deadly grace the spoke of years of experience.

The other voice, however, was a male Hobbit with equally dark hair and dark skin, but his face was set in a close lipped smile that was no less fierce. His weapon wasn’t a dagger, but a short sword with a curved edge and a half circle cut out near the tip. His eyes were also glowing a dark red, and his moves were that of a powerful predator. Between the three Hobbits together, the creatures were severely decreased in their numbers and dawn was finally beginning to approach.

“We are almost to the edge of Beorn’s territory!” Gandalf called back, voice dripping with relief. The female Hobbit flitted past Nori with a saucy wink as her daggers tore into a Makhluk gelap about to grasp the gasping dwarf.

The other new Hobbit nudged Fíli out of the reach of another desperate creature, and called out, voice rougher than Bilbo’s rather lilting dialect, “They will dwindle significantly once you cross the threshold, Abu-Manusia.” Gandalf started slightly at the new word, which was obviously referring to him. It touched an old memory, but he couldn’t quite grasp what it was. The Hobbit’s words were proven true when suddenly the numbers dropped even further, and the dwarrow noticed that trees surrounding them seemed much brighter.

Touches of dawn were beginning to paint the sky, and it was as the beams of morning sunlight broke through the canopy of leaves above him that the Makhluk gelap finally vanished, their hissing shrieks dying away. The Company slowly stopped running, heaving and panting greatly and bodies trembling at the overexertion. Bilbo slowly loosened his grip on his dagger, muscles spasming at the heavy work it had just done for hours on end. Eyes still gleaming their acidic red, he turned to his fellow Hobbits and said, “My thanks, cousins.”

The two stared at the other Hobbit with wide eyes, and then the woman breathed, “Raja.”

Bilbo jerked and the glow died abruptly, and as luck would have it, Ori heard the Hobbit lady’s word and queried, “King? Bilbo?”

The male Hobbit turned his head sharply to the young dwarf, lips turning down in a harsh frown, and eyes darkening into a glare, but before anything could come of his sudden anger at the obvious understanding of their language, Bilbo straightened. “They are kin,” the Shire-Hobbit informed sharply, making them both jerk back.

There was silence as the three Hobbits eyed each other, before finally the two newcomers bowed and introduced, “Oleander −

“−and Nerium

“−at your service,” he finished, strapping his sword to his back in one obviously familiar move. Nerium also sheathed her twin daggers, smile back on her face and red glow dimming to reveal gold colored eyes. “You had best get to Beorn’s home, if you wish to catch him in a relatively welcoming mood,” Oleander continued, eyeing the group of dwarrow with slitted eyes, though the red glow has also faded revealing identical gold eyes.

“He likes stories, though he’s not fond of dwarrow,” Nerium added, throwing a wink at Nori, who was watching her with a curious gaze. “Even better if the story is true.”

Bilbo inclined his head, “You have our thanks.”

Kíli looked at the two Hobbits with confused eyes, “Are you not coming with us?” Fíli looked at his brother with a raised eyebrow. The twins (it was fairly obvious now that there was actual light to see them) had no reason to stay with the Company.

Oleander gave the dark haired dwarf a bland look, “We have to return home and inform the Master of the Fields the cause in the sudden surge of Makhluk gelap. What you are doing is no concern of ours; we simply aided our cousin in his battle, and in turn protected our land at the same time.”

Bilbo grimaced, “So it was an unusual amount.” Nerium nodded, and that was the end of it, as both Hobbits stepped back into the shadows of the trees and vanished from sight. Bilbo sighed and then began ushering the group in the direction they had been going, “Well, we best hurry now. The sooner we get to this Beorn’s house, the sooner we can actually rest.”

Chapter Text

Gandalf’s original plan of going to greet Beorn two at a time was dashed to pieces as Beorn had come out to meet them instead. The great bear of a man had taken in the ragged group of dwarrow, pausing on Bilbo, who was clutching his knife and staring at the man warily, and then announced, “It would seem you have an interesting tale to tell. Though I am not fond of dwarrow, I will welcome you in my home to rest and tell your story, before I decide what to do with you.”

Wrung out and wanting in rest, there were no arguments from the Company, only relief. Beorn’s land was like a balm to Bilbo’s soul - it was flourishing and singing with life and Arda was cautiously blooming into full wakefulness once more.

She was crooning softly, reaching out to one of her children, her first born, her son - to soothe, to love, to welcome back to life. Sleepy though she was, she recognized the touch of her child on the Children of Stone - children born from her mountains, crafted by Aulë - Mahal - one of the Valar - and granted life by the Father - and she greeted ( welcomed) them too.

It was similar to the Shire, but with Beorn’s care and the life within those borders - there was no reason or space for the Makhluk Gelup. The efforts of the Kuduk in the surrounding area helped keep the Makhluk Gelup back even more - leaving the land virtually untouched and healed from Melkor’s taint.

Bilbo relaxed, his knuckles loosening around his blade and he closed his eyes, the red glow fading. Bofur was looking down at the ground in bewilderment, noticeably keeping his steps careful - Bifur, meanwhile, was looking around with a happy little look on his face, almost giddy in his manner. The rest of dwarrow could feel the touch of Arda , even in the faintest of ways - and it was comforting in its familiarity to the mountains of home.

 

H

 

Bilbo was working on something in his hands when Ori found him. It was the day after their harrowing arrival to Beorn’s and it was agreed they would stay for awhile to rest and heal after sharing their story. Ori had decided to take the opportunity to ask Bilbo about the questions that had been gnawing away had his mind. “Bilbo?” the young scribe asked, sitting down next to the Hobbit cautiously.

The male looked over warmly and asked, “Ori, what can I do for you?” He paused in the motions of his hands, keeping whatever it was hidden from sight, and Ori thought better of asking about it.

“The other Hobbits, your cousins, they - they called you King,” the dwarf trailed off a little uncertainly, unsure if the question was welcome or not.

Bilbo hummed, turning his gaze out onto Beorn’s lands instead, a contemplative look on his face. “I believe you dwarrow have someone similar to what I am,” he said after one long moment, eyes shuttering in melancholy. “Durin the Deathless - the elves have it in Glorfindel the Balrog Slayer - and the Men in a lesser form of the Heir of Isildur - the Kuduk have it as their Raja - their King. It is only me and it is many times. I am he of the past, as much as I am myself in the present.”

Ori stared, unsure how to respond, but knowing truth when it was spoken.

The hobbit smiled gently and continued, “I will be reborn again when I die in this life - again as Kuduk and the cycle will continue until the stain of Melkor is erased. When that time has come I will return to Arda ’s embrace once more.” It was the way of King and it would continue to be his way until he had cleansed Arda ’s land.

“...Not to Yavanna ’s grove?” Ori asked shyly, curiosity shining in his eyes at the new knowledge and wanting to know more of this species that held little writings on. He flushed a little at the warmly amused expression Bilbo sent to him, shaking his head slowly.

“No - we were created for and by Arda and we will return to her in the end,” Bilbo said gently. “Lady Yavanna has done us good, but she is not our creator and so not her’s to guide in death.”

Ori frowned thoughtfully and then asked, “And if you bind to someone outside your race? What then?”

“It is rare, but Arda gives us the choice of going with our partner, or returning to her,” he answered easily, a somewhat secretive smile on his face, but with a tinge of sadness. “She is welcoming to all who wish to join their partner in her own embrace, but the Kuduk also receive her blessing  to join their partner if they so choose.”

The dwarf stared at the other’s profile silently - wondering at the heartache in Bilbo’s eyes, and wondering if perhaps the King had a partner once, either in this life or his last, and had already passed on into death. Bilbo glanced at Ori and smiled sadly, reaching out and patting the young dwarf’s hand gently, “I have lost someone, yes,” he told him quietly. “But that was my last life and they chose to find their happiness in death and returned to their creator’s embrace. I do not begrudge them - not when I will be reborn and live for many years yet.”

Ori felt indignation spark at the hobbit’s plight, but deflated just as quickly, “Will you find another?” he asked a little despondent.

“Perhaps,” Bilbo huffed softly, a fond smile curling at his lips. He turned to the dwarf and held something out, “This is for you, young Ori. It is a statement of kinship and  will serve as protection from the Makhluk Gelup .”

Ori looked down at his hand, and nestled on his palm was a bead - carved with painstaking care and detail, a shimmer of red coating the smooth surface. What made it truly stand out was the fact the red coat seemed to shift and waver across the surface - as if a thick liquid had been captured.

And yet the bead was smooth and dry.

Bilbo smiled and closed Ori’s fingers over the bead, “It is never your fault, and you strength is surviving and not having it control your life.”

And then the hobbit returned inside.

 

H

 

Given his own, Ori noticed when the others gained their own beads - and that all had that strange red shimmer, but all were hand carved and their own unique shape. Ori had threaded his own into a braid near his temple - but Nori had hidden his behind his ear and Dori had painstakingly cored the bead along the curve of his scalp, the bead glimmering against the silver locks.

Bifur’s was proudly displayed in a braid next to axe in his forehead. Bombur’s in the middle of the thick braided rope around his shoulders - and Bofur’s dangled out from under his hat, swinging often with the boisterous dwarf’s movements.

Gloin’s had taken a place of pride next to his marriage beads, and the slightly clumsy one from his son, Gimli. Oin had gently threaded his into his beard, within reach of his weathered fingers. Dwalin had tied his close to his scalp, next to his warrior beads, while Balin had placed his own next to the beads indicating his status and titles.

Despite knowing Kíli’s general distastement for braiding his hair, Ori had found the young Prince determinedly braiding the gifted bead into a place of prominent display in his dark locks - an awed and humbled glint in his eyes. Fíli had placed his bead in a purposeful place amongst his familial beads, a silent statement of how he viewed Bilbo.

Thorin’s had shown up with the barest hint of gold amongst the glimmering red, and had been obviously threaded with gentle, but firm, care into his Royal braids - a noticeably thoughtful look in his eyes that was unusual for the the dark, brooding determination that usually haunted his gaze.

Ori had even been surprised to find Gandalf with his own bead, flushing when the wizard had caught the young dwarf staring and shooting him a wink as he continued smoking his pipe.

The days spent with Beorn were peaceful in a way the dwarrow hadn’t felt in a long time - but time waited for no one and with Durin’s Day creeping closer, it was time to continue their journey. Beorn supplied them with rations and more water than they had expected, and sent them off with dark eyes and words of caution, “The Forest is not as it used to be, Company - be vigilant and take nothing from the Forest, and keep your feet to the path.”

After the harrowing journey to get to the shapeshifter’s house, none of the dwarrow were keen to disobey the warning - taking the words to heart and straightening their shoulders. As the group approached what once was Greenwood - and now was Mirkwood - the large man’s words made frightening sense. Thorin frowned heavily at the dour and uninviting entrance into Mirkwood , and rumbled unhappily, “This is even worse than when we were fleeing our home.”

Bilbo was also frowning at the Forest - unhappy with the state of Arda ’s land and ashamed of himself for not returning to this land to help . “We must  be cautious,” he murmured darkly. “There is … more lurking in these lands.”

Then the hobbit was turning to Gandalf, head cocking to the side, ears perked as if listening to something and Gandalf sighed wearily. “You must leave,” Bilbo stated, eyes flickering from the wizard and to the distance - where the Shadow of Goldor loomed, its sickness seeping deep into the earth around it, making his skin itch and teeth clench with righteous anger. His eyes flashed acid red for a brief moment, and then he reached out and touched the weathered hand solemnly, “You only have to ask and the Kuduk will aid you, my friend.”

“I pray it does not come to that, dear one,” Gandalf sighed heavily, looking older than he ever had before. Then he seemed to fortify himself and turned his attention to the dwarrow , “Do not enter the Dragon’s Lair without me - a foul curse has been building in that place and it would behoove you to not enter. Find the door - enter the mountain - but go no further than that hall .”

Thorin looked furious for a moment, but than seemed to visibly pull himself together and nodded tightly, “We shall do as you say,” he rumbled lowly - not liking it per se, but unwilling to put his Company at risk by being foolish. The soon to be King reached out to the wizard and clasped his forearm tightly, rumbling in khuzdul , “ May you win thy battle and defeat thy foes.

Gandalf nodded solemnly, grasping back firmly - and then was swinging onto his horse’s back and galloping off to the Shadow of Goldor.

The Company watched the wizard solemnly before he vanished over the horizon and then they turned to Mirkwood , grim but determined expressions on every face. Thorin eyed each member and then nodded firmly, “Let us go.” They all had no doubts that this particular leg of their quest would not be an easy one and all guards were up.

 

H

 

The journey through Mirkwood was not pleasant. The trees loomed overhead and blocked the sky from view, next to no light penetrating the thick canopy. There were distant clicking noises that none of the Company enjoyed and remained wary of - but with Bilbo’s urging and guidance the group was keeping to the path and rationing their wares.

Hurry - hurry -

You’ve come back - don’t leave us -

You must hurrrrrry - they click and clack - and spin their webs -

They trap and bite and -

Hurry - you must hurry -

The small shadows clinging to their path whispered urgently at Bilbo as his bare feet touched the cobbled stone - warning him of the dangers, rushing him to the end - and begging him to stay and free them. The only saving grace of this journey so far was the lack of Makhluk Gelup dogging their steps - whatever else was in the forest, it would seem the fears had no interest in their small group.

“How much further do we have?” Dwalin grumbled darkly, bags under his eyes and weariness lining his face. No one in the Company was any better.

Even with a dwarrow ’s preference for the underground and the darkness that brought - there was nothing safe and familiar about the cloying darkness that shrouded these woods. And there was no comfort to be found from the land as they had in Beorn’s.

Bilbo grimaced, “A few more days yet. I know we are weary, but we must press on. I fear we may not be lucky for much longer.” The whispers were growing more and more insistent, beginning to mesh and overlap each other in their urgency for his attention. His eyes were glowing acid red in the gloominess - and had been for the past two days.

A sound like distant laughter carried on a wind that was not actually there and Bilbo urged them forward, biting out, “We must go - quickly - we are nearing the river and it is not anymore safe.” The Company hurried forward - tired but still determined - and in a few hours that felt so very much longer they came to the rushing river cutting through Mirkwood and meant all the more closer to Erebor .

A dilapidated bridge crossed the river and Bilbo eyed it sharply and then nodded, “We must be careful, but we should be able to cross. One at a time and keep your eyes forward - do not let your attention stray.”

One by one the group made their way over the creaking bridge and then - Bilbo’s ears twitched and his hand shot forward and snagged at Bombur’s pack, dragging him back and away from the bridge just as the glowing, ghostly form of a large stag leapt past them - vanishing further into the gloom. “Carefully now, Bombur,” Bilbo murmured grimly, and the slightly shaken dwarf nodded.

Once they crossed the bridge, Bilbo took a moment and knelt down, resting a palm to the decaying earth and closed his eyes for a moment. The shadows whispered to him, coiling and shivering around them all - but there was no more desperate sense of urgency. It would seem they were on the right path and away from the source of the darkness. There was a sharp crack and the shadows seemed to rear back and skitter in fright and Bilbo spun around his blade at the ready and -

The willowy frame of an elf was pressed against his blade, blue eyes wide and pale hair shimmering in the gloom. The dwarrow instantly readied their weapons and closed ranks around each other, eying both the elf and their surroundings warily - waiting for more elves to emerge from the trees, and yet none did. Bilbo frowned, eyes glowing and taking in the form and then slowly retracted his blade, and quiered politely, “Is there a reason for sneaking up behind us, Kayu-itu ?”

“Is there a reason a group of dwarves and a … halfling ... are traveling through Mirkwood ?” the elf returned curious, one eyebrow quirked.

The hobbit’s eyes narrowed sharply and he reprimanded, “I am not half of anything, thank you very much.” Then with a more scolding tone that was sparked with indignant anger, “And you call this place by that name? Have you forgotten your roots, Kayu-itu ? Do not let the Shadow of Goldor swallow your history as well.”

Bilbo snorted harshly, uncaring of the indignant and insulted expression on the young elf’s face. “And we are travelling, what are you doing so far from your Kingdom?” he returned in question, eyes flickering red and then fading back to their blue and brown. The shadows slowly returned and whispered secrets in his ears - telling him of the frosted King and the weary Prince - the fiery passion of red hair - the stagnant lethargy of the woods - and the spiders that encroach further and further -

“Scouting for threats,” the pale haired elf responded flatly, eyes narrowed - but there was a glint of curiosity sparking behind the wary caution.

Thorin scowled and then responded tightly, “We are of no threat to you - we are on the path and have done no wrong.” The yet King was biting his tongue to keep from saying more dangerous words - anger bubbling in his gut, but tempered by the journey thus far. He wanted nothing more than to rage at this elf - to tear into him for the young and elderly and wounded that were lost in the wretched aftermath of Smaug - no help from their neighbors and supposed allies - even as he watched those same allies help the remnants of Dale -

Bilbo kept his gaze on the elf - watching him puff up slightly at the sharp words of the dwarf - and yet could not actually say anything to refute them - “Well -! I - I never said -,” the young elf spluttered slightly before seeming to pull himself together and saying more firmly, “It is not safe to travel without an elven escort. Seeing as … you do not have one - allow me to guide you out.”

Thorin desperately wanted to tell the elf to shove it - that they needed no guide and had made it so far - but he could see how young the elf actually was, and could lay no blame at the feet of an elf that was more than likely still a teen when Smaug came and was only now a young adult - so much like his sister’s sons. “...Very well,” he finally grunted, sheathing his weapon and the Company reluctantly followed suit, eyeing the elf warily, but trusting in their King.

And so the Company followed the lead of the elf for the last days of their journey - honestly too weary to put up much of a fight - and even found it in their surly dispositions to thank the young elf when they finally saw sunlight again after so many days of not.

And Erebor looming against the sky was like a balm to their souls, their quest soon reaching its end.

 

H

 

tricksterkat: sorry for the long delay in this chapter!!! I lost a lot of drive in this story and fell out of the fandom for a couple years, but found the inspiration again to finish up this chapter finally. I do have a plan for this story and know how its going to end, it's simply getting there that remains. 

For now, enjoy this long time coming chapter and hears to hoping I'll be able to continue and finish this story soon!!!