Erebor. The greatest of Dwarven Kingdoms to grace the sea, renowned for its: engineering, battlements and fleets — had fallen.
King Thrór was a brilliant King and engineer. His skill alone was shown in his Ship, The Arkenstone, a hybrid of metal, gem and wood that carried five hundred of Erebor's warriors. It was under his rule that Erebor thrived and it was under his rule that brought war.
The King's ship brought mercenaries, thieves but the worst of all and the greatest calamity in their line was The Pirate King of the North– Smaug. He had come on the tails of the early morning fog and desolated Dale, the Kingdom of Men that shared Erebors' Island and the Mountain Isle of the Dwarven Warriors home.
The lands were shocked when the news reached them, yet no help came to aid the people. Not the men and not the elves of Greenwood Isles that shared the sea with them.
Prince Thorin in the chaos had lead his people to safety with his battalion, making sure that they got to the ships and out of the firing range of Smaugs' ship 'Death'. Prince Thráin and King Thrór gathered the best of their fleet to fight back, but it was of no use. Smaug's General Azog had come with his own men on 'The White Warg' and had killed the king; even The Arkenstone could not withstand that barrage.
When his people were safe and on their way, Prince Thorin had raged and swore revenge as he came to his father and grandfathers aid, near obliterating the Orcs ship and the bastard himself. It was a skirmish, Orcrist outmanoeuvring The White Warg while aiding Dushin-Mizim, King Thráin's ship. But it was with a heavy heart when they retreated, leaving their home to the Orcs and Smaug as King Thráin and his ship disappeared.
The Erebians travelled and sought sanctuary with others of their race. Iron Hills Kingdom, Ered Luin though is where many of them settled, broken, hungry. Many of them did not survive the long trip across the seas. Little food, little fresh water, no matter what isle they stopped in they could not support themselves.
Prince Thorin was now a King without a kingdom, with the weight of his race upon his shoulders.
To you it may seem that the story ends here, but this is where it merely starts, a sad beginning full of death and destruction… hopefully the ending won't be the same.
Bilbo brushed his hands upon the two clumps of Torch Coral that marked his parent's graves. It was not often that he came to his Coral Garden; he just couldn't bear to see the brilliant flow of the purple and yellow hues of the markers. He couldn't bare the sense of loss that they caused. Some days Bilbo didn't wish to believe that they were gone that he was now alone in Bag End.
A sharp warning hiss escaped passed his jagged teeth as his eyes caught the sight of a little faunt trying to catch his little Fin. It was the last gift that his mother ever gave him before she passed and he would not tolerate someone stealing his turtle or tormenting it. Wide sea-green eyes stared back at him in alarm before she dashed away in a flurry of bubbles caused by her yellow-green tail.
With a deep sigh Bilbo bid his parents goodbye and made his way towards the entrance that lead to Bag End, waving to Hamfast who was tending to his Kelp Garden and Rose who was tending to their own before swimming through the door.
The Shire was a small Island in the west and by small I mean a small scattering of islands that clustered together and connected by large reefs and rocks below. But that is the knowledge of outsiders. To the Shire Folk and a select few of people in Arda know that the Rocks were Holmes to the Shirelings and the coral reefs their gardens.
The Merfolk, known as Hobbits by the outsiders, settled in the Green Haven after the Wandering Days. They made sure that their existence, the legends of the Merfolk fell into myth. They could not risk being hunted like they once were, could not risk seeing their babes be killed for their scales and the elders thrust into cages to sing for mere amusement or spells. None could resist their Siren voice and some had come to learn that they could sing anything and lure another to love their master or another. It was horrible, so they fled back into the sea and were guided by their new lady Yavanna to the Shire where they could be free to swim or to walk the land.
That was until Gandalf appeared one fine Sunny afternoon in front of the Garden of Bag End. The sound of others tending the land food gardens, the soft scent of the ocean breeze bringing comfort and the sound of lapping waves on the shore could be heard.
"Good morning." Bilbo greets as he looked up from his pipe. His tail had finally dried and he could now breathe easily in the fresh air of land without gasping, suffocating as his gills imprinted onto his body.
"What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or, perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning. Or are you simply stating that this is a morning to be good on?" The Man in grey asked, causing Bilbo to frown.
Something familiar tugged at his mind the longer he stared at him. "All of them at once, I suppose. Can I help you…?"
The man simply frowned at him in something akin to disappointment. "I'm Gandalf! And Gandalf means … me."
Flashes of memories of fireworks lit up the sky, laughter as he fought off a man with a wooden sword as he lapped in the Party Pool beside the great Party Tree. Memories of his mother and father arguing the eve of the great winter when food was scarce, the land near barren… and finally it is of his mother's voice as he asks her about him in stories,
Listen to me Bilbo, Gandalf the Grey may be a good wizard but he comes when he intends mischief. I left with him thrice in my life and three times I have come back tired and scarred. He is a dear friend but pain comes with his uninvited appearances. Be diligent when he does come, my little pearl, do not let his own Siren Song twist your words.
"Gandalf." Bilbo's voice fell flat even to his own ears. "What a pleasure to see you again, why are you here?" Oh Yavanna, his father would be rolling around in his grave at the lack of manners.
"I'm looking for someone to share in an adventure." Gandalf informed as he leant heavily on his staff, the words causing Bilbo to choke and splutter as he wheezed out the puff of smoke he inhaled.
"An adventure? Now, I don't imagine anyone west of Bree's Shores would have much interest in adventures." Bilbo managed to get out through his coughs. "No, they are nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things."
Once he was able to breathe again he stood unsteadily on his legs and marched towards his home.
"To think that I should have lived to be dismissed by Belladonna Took's son…" Gandalf wisely shut his mouth with an audible click as Bilbo whirled around and glared at him, his face twisting into that of his merfolk form for a second in rage.
"Do not utter my mother's name; I will not hear it from you Gandalf." The word was spit with venom. "You did not come when she passed; I have not seen you since I was a babe, my mother ten years before that. So do not speak her name as if she were friend." The words were gruff, Bilbo making sure that his vocal cords did not change with his face.
Gandalf seemed to age before him, his eyes sad. "I did not mean for the years to pass as they did Bilbo. I come asking for aid that only one of you can provide."
The words were not lost on Bilbo and his eyes flashed before suddenly finding himself in front of the wizard. This was beyond respectable by a landslide but the words sparked a rage of fury in him. "One of us? You come asking one of us to aid you, you know the laws like any other Gandalf, there is no us." The words were sharp and it had drawn the attention of a few of his kin who snapped their heads up in alarm.
A growling hiss escaped Bilbo's lips before he pivoted on his foot and told the wizard to follow into his home. Bag End looked like a regular home, rooms and furnishings for when the big folk came but the true heard of the home was under the hill it was carved into. No, not carved. His father had built the hill and tunnelled into the little alcove of air that created the little pond below. That is where they slept and ate, where their true treasures lay while the mathoms rested above.
"Now Bilbo, I did not mean your… merfolk side. Though that will come in handy my boy but I need someone who knows the waters well, who can lead and eventually swim to the depths of the ocean." Gandalf sighed, no longer needing to act old and frail.
Bilbo hissed low in his throat and sighed. "My apologies Gandalf, but mentioning us makes us all angry. Explain to me like you would my mother and I will decide."
"What do you know of Erebor?" Gandalf asked softly causing Bilbo to frown.
"The old dwarf kingdom far in the east? I thought that was just a fairy-tale, why?" Bilbo asked his eyes narrowing down at the wizard.
Gandalf spluttered. "Fairy-tale! Bilbo, the great kingdom of Erebor does exist and —."
"Yes but what has it got to do with me Gandalf?" The word 'me' was stressed and the wizard could hear the slowly slipping patience crumble again.
"My company and I need a navigator to Erebor and to the location of the – well I cannot tell you what but they wish to take back the kingdom." Gandalf explained causing Bilbo to bristle. "They need a navigator of the lands and a diver; they're down at the Green Dragon, their ship docked offshore as they could not navigate the reefs."
"No, I will not go and risk my people Gandalf, I'm sorry but no. Try across the water or near Bree." Gandalf was disheartened to hear Bilbo words, where was the fauntling who had attacked him with a wooden sword, where was the fauntling that went searching for mathoms in the wrecks or through the offlands for elves?
With a deep sigh Gandalf moved towards the door. "Where is the fauntling who begged me for adventures like his mother?"
"Died alongside his parents, good day Gandalf." Bilbo farewelled softly and shuts the door to Bag End behind him.
When all sound of the wizard left, Bilbo didn't waste time but ripped off his clothes and dove into the water, his heart clenching in pain before screaming. He screamed until his voice felt raw, till the pain lessened behind his chest.
How dare he! Bilbo seethed as he swam back and forth, pacing.
But they need help… the voice in his mind – suspiciously sounding like his mother – whispered.
"It does not matter if he needs help or not!" He spoke hoarsely, frustrated when the sounds warbled under the water.
Not Gandalf, the company who wish to reclaim their home… they need your help… This time it was his father's voice who spoke. Bilbo sighed at this, he could not for the life of him deny someone aid when they seek for a place to live. He had a home but there were so many who didn't, they didn't have the comforts or safety that it brought forth, his shoulders slumping as he made up his mind.
Bilbo found himself leaning against the post that the rowboat was hooked onto and waited, at his feet was his mother's travel pack and in it was his uncles travel clothes from when he and his mother went traveling in their tweens.
He fingered the pendant at his neck, a small metallic blue charm that was enchanted for his mother when she had left the safety of the Shire so that if she were indeed to get wet she wouldn't change. He had grabbed it, the one his mother had made for him and his father's just in case he may need them if – Yavanna forbid – lost one.
"Who are you?" A rough voice demanded of him and Bilbo cast his eyes up to the bald headed dwarf before him who held an axe at his throat.
Bilbo dropped his hand and raised his brows before casting a look towards Gandalf whom was trying to hide his smile at the back of the group. "I was told you needed a navigator and a diver." He hummed. "That is what Gandalf had told me when he came to ask for my aid."
The dwarf before him bristled so did many of the others.
"Gandalf said that you chose not to come, Navigator." The dwarf at the front exclaimed, his eyes sharp and hard as the blue mathoms his mother brought back from one of her adventures. Bilbo also didn't miss the way the word navigator was spit out as if it was a bad taste.
It took everything in him not to hiss or growl at the rude dwarf. "Tell me Master Dwarf, if someone came by your home when you have naught but seen him since you were a babe and asked– no practically try to coerce you into joining an adventure with no moment notice, would you agree then too?"
This time it was Gandalf who was spluttering as the dwarves before him turned their eyes upon the Wizard with hard stares. He had told them near a month ago that he had found them a Navigator, someone who knew the seas better than them in Eriador and the lost kingdom of Arnor. They had travelled from Ered Luin, a long two months at sea from the Shire and to find out that their navigator had changed his mind.
"Are you telling me Lad that the wizard did not inform you a month ago but yesterday?" Balin asked slowly, his hand clutching his King's arm to still him.
"A month ago? No, I haven't seen Gandalf for nearly what twenty years and he suddenly appears on my doorstep yesterday…" Bilbo trailed off, smirking – a twitch of the lips really, must not show teeth now – at Gandalf.
"Balin, son of Fundin, at your service." Balin greeted, dipping his head to the navigator before them.
Bilbo bowed slightly, he knew the customs of most races thanks to his mother and uncle. "Bilbo Baggins, son of Bungo at yours."
"Everyone on board! We must make our way back to Orcrist." Thorin yelled as he stormed past his companions and completely ignored Bilbo in turn.
Balin had helped the Navigator in when he saw the lad's uneasiness, his eyes narrowing in thought. Gandalf had explained and praised for the lads ability to navigate seas but to be uneasy on a boat? "Tell me lad, have you navigated this land much?"
"Oh yes, I know the waters of my home well and beyond it thanks to my mother." Bilbo explained as he settled in between the odd one with a hat and the one who had shoved the axe at his neck. He scanned the others of the group, only five in total. One young one with knitted gloves and a large book clutched in his arms, a shifty eyed one that reminded him of a starfish sat across from him with Balin and their Leader at front.
"I'm surprised that you even got this boat in here without a guide or did Gandalf bring you in because this part of the shire is full of Reefs." Bilbo continued, smiling softly as the young one began to write down what he was saying with eagerness. "Then before that is the rocks that protect the reefs of the Shire, well this part of the Shire. They get more frequent and bigger out in Tookland to the south and then Buckland to the far east."
"See what did I tell you?" Gandalf crowed proudly and a smug.
Bilbo glowered at the wizard. "I sent a note to my uncle with Hamfast this morning Gandalf— no, don't you glower at me in disappointment, you of all people know it is the law to inform the Thanin when one leaves the Shire. I also sent word to him to have Drogo to take over the estate and make sure the business runs well."
Gandalf snapped his mouth shut at that, turning away from Bilbo's glower.
"Give him the contract." Thorin ordered, causing Balin to sigh and pull out a thick bound paper and handed it to Bilbo's waiting hands.
"It's just the usual summary of out-of-pocket expenses, time required, remuneration, funeral arrangements, so forth." Balin explains, watching as the small Halfling before him unravelled the contract and began to read, humming.
The contract was a joke, that was the first thought that Bilbo had when he began to read. His name was not mentioned, only that he was called The Navigator.
I, the undersigned, [referred to hereinafter as Navigator,] agree to travel to the Lonely Mountain, path to be determined by Thorin Oakenshield, who has a right to alter the course of the journey at his so choosing, without prior notification and/or liability for accident or injury incurred.
Cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of the total profit [if any]. Not including any of the gross paid to other parties in lieu of royalties or help and provisions given or loaned.
"Terms: Cash on delivery, up to but not exceeding one fourteenth of total profit, if any." He hummed, eyes flickering to the side of the boat and back as he saw a glimmer of light in the depths of the water as they scrape by a coral reef, he would have to apologise to Mrs Hornblower when he gets back.
All traveling expenses guaranteed in any event. But refer to attached and appended conditions, clauses and riders regarding any Return Journey. 'Traveling expenses' shall be understood to mean basic fare as seen fit by the Company. 'Luxury' catering or accomodation over and above this standard shall be enjoyed only at Navigators' considerable [but justifiable] expense.
Funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for. Basic funeral to 'commoner' or peasant standard is allowed for only. Lavish ceremonies and jewelled (sic) or gilded coffins not provided. Plain pine box is the normal standard. Transport of any remains, in whole or in part, back to the country of Navigator's origin is not included.
The sound that came out of the Halflings throat had them all pausing and staring at the Navigator in shock. They did not know that his people or any people could make such an odd hissing growl, let along loud enough to startle them.
"Bilbo." Gandalf warned softly with a frown, though his warning was to Bilbo himself, his ire was at the contract. He had not seen it, nor knew that Balin had one but he knew that the others did not sign one.
"Tell me, did all of you sign this?" Bilbo asked flat, holding the contract aloof. "Because it is insulting otherwise. Funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for. Basic funeral to 'commoner' or peasant standard is allowed for only. Lavish ceremonies and jewelled (sic) or gilded coffins not provided. Plain pine box is the normal standard. Transport of any remains, in whole or in part, back to the country of Navigator's origin is not included." He read out loud watching as the brute next to him and the one with the hat stared ahead in shock.
"If I guess correctly that if I were to die, then I would be left there to rot? That you will just cast me in a shallow grave on whatever rock you come across? That is only a fraction of insult you give me, the other clauses are worse." Bilbo growled low. "My people's customs is to wrap their kin in seaweed and coral before letting them rest in the sea. I would rather you toss me overboard of your ship than bury me on land."
"Balin, you surely did not write this?" Nori asked aghast as he snatched the contract from their Navigators hands and read it over, Ori too.
"May I borrow your writing quill and ink Master…?" Bilbo trailed off as he realised that the only person who he knew of by name was Balin and Gandalf, Thorin the leader by default of the farce of a contract.
"Just Ori." Ori stammered out as he handed over the pen in his hand to the Navigator. Bilbo hummed and thanked Ori before writing out his adjustments and handing them back to Balin, the pen with it. He watched as the whitehaired dwarf scanned over his adjustments and signed the changes before handing them back all the while ignoring the harsh talk of their tongue over him and signed the bloody thing.
"Well then, it is done." He explained while handing the now bound contract back. "Shall we get a move on, I do believe you wish to reach your ship by nightfall, if you would make a slight alteration on our current course a fraction to the left you'll pass the coral reef safely."
Bilbo held back a smirk as the leader glowered at him and commanded the brute – now known as Dwalin – next to him to change course. He didn't even make a remark that was biting the tip of his tongue and held behind his clenched teeth as they just missed the now visible reef of one of the larger families in Hobbiton.
Waryness set in as Bilbo realised he was leaving his home, that he was now honourbound by contract and a sense of dread hit him for two realisations. One, he knew they would find out sooner or later about what he is and Two, they were heading now in the wrong direction…
It was going to be a long adventure.
Author Note: This is how i'll sit for now, I wrote this under my other penname but it'll be on this account!