No. Anything but banishment. They can’t be doing this to him. His mind flashes back to a distant cousin of his—sentenced to banishment. No one was allowed to look at him, to talk to him, acknowledge him at all. He had finally left, and was never heard from again. The dwarfs can’t be doing this to him.
I have nowhere to go, thought Bilbo. If I go back to the Shire I’ll certainly be banished there too, and I don’t think I can handle that. Why can’t that stubborn dwarf see that I took the Arkenstone for his own good?
The worst part by far was saying goodbye to the rest of the company. They all knew that Thorin was being irrational, and they had tried to talk him out of it—they really had. They had begged on Bilbo’s behalf, but Thorin would not be budged. You’ll regret this, laddie, said Balin. Please, uncle. He saved our lives. He doesn’t deserves this, said Fili and Kili. Thorin’s response had been that they should be glad Bilbo hadn’t been sentenced to death. He should have been sentenced to death, and he would have been, if not for some last shred of compassion in Thorin’s heart. Bilbo, however, would gladly take death over the fate that now awaited him. At least with death he wouldn’t have to face the cold, judging eyes of those in the Shire, or the pity of the men in Lake-Town, or the utter indifference of the elves. The whole company appeared to say goodbye to Bilbo—excepting Thorin, of course. The goodbyes were somber—even Fili and Kili were quiet, knowing that they would likely never see their burglar again.
How could he do this to me? Bilbo asked himself as he rode out of Erebor with Gandalf. I loved him. He loved me. How could he think I would do this out of malice?
Days later, Dis arrived with the first of the caravans from the Blue Mountains. She had hardly arrived when she was pounced on by her sons.
“Thank Mahal you’re both still alive and unharmed,” said Dis. “I would have to seriously injure your uncle if you weren’t.”
“You may still have to—“ said Fili.
“Oh, Ma, he’s done something terribly stupid…” said Kili.
“What in Durin’s name have you done?” asked Dis, storming into Thorin’s room.
“He stole the Arkenstone! He’s lucky he wasn’t sentenced to death!” said Thorin.
“Why can’t you get it through your thick skull that he did it to save you?” asked Dis. “And from what I hear, he saved your ungrateful arse several other times besides!”
“He betrayed us!”
“He did what you were too stubborn to do! You banished your one love over a god-forsaken rock,” said Dis. “You know as well as I do you’ll never love again.”
“It’s not just a rock—“
“You’re right, it’s not. It’s the rock that caused Smaug to come and killed our grandfather. I refuse to let it destroy your life too.”
“Well it’s too late now,”
“It’s never too late,” said Dis. “Be grateful you get a second chance. Most of us aren’t so lucky.”
“What if he doesn’t want a second chance? What if he hates me now?”
“You know what Thorin? You may be king, and you may be older than me, but I can still kick your arse quite easily, and I’m going to have to if you don’t go after him.”
It was not uncommon for hobbits to almost completely shut down when extremely upset, and that was exactly what happened to Bilbo. He rode in silence next to Gandalf, staring straight ahead. He said nothing, his face gave away nothing. His mind was somewhere else, somewhere far away.
He thought of what could have happened had he not been buried. He imagined a happy life, living as Thorin’s consort. In his mind’s eye he saw Erebor grow and prosper, he saw Fili and Kili grow up and marry. He saw Thorin step down from the throne in favor of Fili. He imagined a life with Thorin—a perfect life. He knew that would never come to pass now. He would live out his days alone in Bag-End, if he wasn’t banished. If he was forced to leave the Shire too, then he would go to Rivendell. He would live there and wait for an apology that would never come. A love that he would never see again. A life that he could never have.
Gandalf and the unresponsive Bilbo were nearing Mirkwood when they were intercepted by a lone rider.
“Wait!” the rider called.
“Well, it took you long enough, Thorin Oakenshield,” said Gandalf, turning his horse.
Thorin’s glare at the wizard quickly turned to a look of concern upon seeing the empty look of the Halfling.
“What is wrong with Bilbo?” Thorin asked, quickly dismounting his pony and going to him.
“Hobbits often just shut down when they are extremely distressed,” said Gandalf. “He has withdrawn from his body. He is fine—physically at least. Mentally, that’s another story. In the Shire, banishment is the worst punishment possible.”
“How do I get him back?” asked Thorin, distraught.
“You don’t. You have to wait,” replied Gandalf. “You caused this, it’s up to you to fix it.”
“Should we take him back to Erebor?”
“I think he would benefit from that.”
Bilbo heard someone calling him back very faintly, but he decided it was just Gandalf. Gandalf could wait. Bilbo would much rather stay in this other world, this world where nothing had gone wrong and they were all happy.
The calling grew louder, and more insistent. Damn wizards, won’t give me a moment’s peace, thought Bilbo. I suppose I’ll have to go back soon.
The company was waiting for them when returned to Erebor. They had been ecstatic when they had heard that Dis had finally made Thorin see reason, but had been forbidden to go retrieve Bilbo with Thorin by Dis, who had said this was something Thorin needed to do alone.
When they saw Bilbo, they immediately knew something wasn’t right.
“What’s the matter with him?” asked Ori, concerned.
“He is withdrawn,” said Gandalf. “He shut himself off. It is common among hobbits when they are extremely distressed.”
“How do we get him back to normal?” asked Bofur.
“That is up to Thorin,” said Gandalf.
Under order of Thorin, they took Bilbo to Thorin’s room and settled him in his bed. Thorin sat by the bed to wait for Bilbo to wake.
“Would you like us to wait with you?” asked Balin.
“I would rather be alone,” said Thorin.
Two days passed before Bilbo’s mind finally returned to his body, with Thorin remaining ever vigilant beside him the entire time.
The first thing Bilbo saw when he woke was Thorin.
“What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be looking at me! You’re not supposed to be here! You banished me!” said Bilbo.
“It’s all right, calm down. It’s okay,” said Thorin. “Let me explain myself.”
“I must be dreaming still,” said Bilbo. “You said you hated me. You banished me.”
“This is no dream, my dear burglar, and I did indeed say those things, but I have finally realized how wrong I was. Forgive me for taking so long.”
“But—you were so angry—“
“My sister reminded me of the fates of my father and my grandfather, whose lives were ruined by that cursed stone also. She would not allow me to throw you away over it, and I am grateful for that. I see now that my actions were wrong, and I hope you can forgive me for them.”
“Of course I’ll forgive you,” said Bilbo. “Just promise me that you’ll put the Arkenstone somewhere where it can’t affect you, or your nephews.”
“I will. It will not destroy another generation of my family, I swear.”
And thus a new age of Erebor began—the age of Thorin the Valiant and Bilbo the Lionheart.