Dinner had already begun by the time Billa had joined the Company at the table, seating herself in the conspicuously open seat that was between Dwalin and Balin. Lord Elrond had paid her a visit an hour earlier and told her to rest as much as possible since her head had sustained some sort of injury and only brushed aside her offer of coin for the trouble and then her profuse thanks. It felt wonderful to be clean once again, especially since it gave her the chance to get her hair enough under control that she could hide the bandage beneath riotous curls and not worry the rest. It was terribly rude to cause unnecessary worry, especially at Supper, and more particularly during Supper as a guest.
The only acknowledgment of her presence was Dwalin’s hand reaching out to squeeze her own before he let go in favor of eating while Balin cheerfully asked her about where she’d been. Her response was partially a truth since she had been in the baths, just in a bath that was more private. Balin laughed and then joined Dori in attempting to coax Ori in eating ‘green food’. Billa was more than happy to eat what young Ori refused to and it was only until she was mostly full that she really began to pay attention to the conversations around her. Most of the dwarves were grumbling about the lack of meat, and she tuned them out in order to concentrate on the conversation being held at the head table. They were talking about the swords that had been gathered from the Troll Horde and curiously she looked at her own blade, which she had strapped to her side the moment she had finished getting dressed.
“I wouldn’t bother lass.” Balin said, looking towards her before flicking a glance at her elegant blade. “Swords are named for the great deeds they do in war.”
“What’re you saying? My sword hasn’t seen battle?” She asked, offended on its behalf for she had, somewhat against her will, grown fond of the little thing.
Balin looked at the table, clearly not wanting to offend his future sister, assuming all when well, but obviously doubting anything that had to do with her sole real weapon, “Well, I’m not actually sure it is a sword.” Billa looked down at the blade in her grasp in confusion and he continued, “more of a letter opener really.”
I’m going to pretend he didn’t just say that about you, she mentally informed the blade whilst sliding it back into its sheath. You and I will go a long way together and though I may wish it otherwise I should think I might need you before the end of this adventure. What little of the blade that still peered from the sheath glimmered against the deepening sun as though it agreed and Billana smiled, quite satisfied.
Such satisfaction did not last however when Gandalf asked for her company when Thorin, Balin, and Lord Elrond began walking off together after dinner. At first, she was more than willing to join them, eager as she was to explore more of the fine city.
“Our business is of no concern of elves.” Thorin rumbled once they reached a place that was filled books on one side and an open balcony on the other. The moon and lamps shed just enough light to make the place seem beautiful yet grand, familiar yet granting a distinctive unwelcoming feeling. Though perhaps it was simply her imagination since everyone around her seemed rather tense despite the Elf Lord’s continued silence.
“For goodness sake Thorin, show him the map.” Gandalf insisted
“It is the legacy of my people,” The dwarf was stoutly ignoring the wizard in favor of meeting the Elf’s gaze and keeping it there while Balin paced near him, clearly wanting to argue against the wizard, though he kept silent. “It is mine to protect as are its secrets.”
Not that you really understand what secrets you are attempting to guard. Billa mentally sniped, though she kept silent knowing that the reason she was here was not to participate but to watch and listen.
“Save me from the stubbornness of dwarves.” Gandalf breathed, “Your pride will be your downfall. You stand here in the presence of one of the few in Middle Earth who can read that map. Show it to Lord Elrond!”
The Great Lord turned his knowing gaze towards the dwarves as though unsurprised by their attitude. He waited in perfect silence with a patient countenance and such an outward expression of that patience that Billa was almost certain that the elf lord had children, for only parents (she had learned with her young Took cousins) could truly deal with childishness in other people with pleasant expressions. Silently the blue eyed dwarf dug into his over robe and without blinking pulled out the map, brushing aside Balin’s hand when the white haired dwarf attempted to stop him.
“Erebor…” The Eldar breathed when he saw the contents of the map. “What is your…interest in this map?”
Evidently, the map had hidden runes written on a certain day with a certain cycle of the moon. Fortune was evidently with them in that the right time and moon phase was happening that very evening. In the end, the dwarves revealed their own purpose, despite Gandalf’s previous statement, upon hearing what Lord Elrond revealed about the contents of the moon runes. The elf looked wary and for a moment Billa thought she had seen a dark and terrible fear flash through his eyes before his expression cleared and he frowned at Gandalf while handing the map back to Thorin with a heavy expression.
“You are not the only guardian that stands watch over Middle Earth.” Elrond’s voice was ominous and Billa did not like what it implied even as they followed the elf back through the corridor. He escorted them as far as the hall nearest to the terrace the dwarves were using and bid them good night.
“If I am not back by first light, leave as quickly and as quietly as possible. Wait for me in the mountains. I will catch up with you there.” The Grey One murmured to them lowly before following the Noldorian elf.
“Do you think everything will be alright?” Billa asked the pair of dwarves quietly as her eyes followed the path of Gandalf’s retreating figure. For all that he was, at times, unreliable, he was still a familiar figure- one who, given the circumstances, the Hobbit felt she could trust.
“We do not need constant guidance from him.” Thorin rumbled before stalking off. Balin simply patted her back with a gentle hand.
“Go get your things lassie. Best come and sleep with us in case we have ta’ leave suddenly.”
Billa nodded and scampered off, hopes of being able to discover more of the ethereal city dashed in moments. “And I so wanted to find the library…” She huffed, as she gathered her things and the clean linens that had been set out for her sometime after her bath. After ensuring that everything was in its place and a quick slip into the kitchen (“Always follow yer nose” Old Took used to tell her.) Billa carefully traced her steps back to the company, using the place where they had dined as a reference, not that she needed it since the dwarves weren’t exactly quiet.
Everyone greeted her warmly with much excitement, evidently someone else had found the kitchen and with it the meat. Wincing as they burned broken pieces of fine elven furniture, Billa settled her things down beside Dwalin’s and smiled when he tugged her over to sit beside him, though not too closely when Gloin and Oin narrowed their eyes at him in silent judgment. With the fire going and the cheerful, though raucous, noises of the company Billa felt herself slowly relax at the familiar sight, privately glad it was not her house or dining room that suffered such atrocious manners and loudness.
She was openly laughing at Fili teasing Kili when a summer breeze caught her hair and blew it in such a way that an edge of the white of the slim bandage, which had been so wonderfully hidden before was revealed and Ori’s cry of shock drew the attention that she had been so desperately trying to avoid.
“Are yeh alright lass?!” “What happened?!” “When did it happen?!”
Too many voices all at once, each trying to drown out the others made the Hobbit-lass wince, which was evidently the cue for Dwalin to come to her aide with a frightening growl, as he tugged her into his arms.
“I’m alright. Really I’m fine.” She protested wiggling against his grip which only tightened in response. “It was just a bit of a cut is all, really, I've had worse in the kitchen.”
“Oin!” Thorin had but to call his name and the healer was handing Dwalin a strip of leather to get her hair out of the way, something the dwarf did with surprising ease, before muttering in something in Khzudul that sounded like “I give you permission.” though she wasn’t exactly certain. By this point Billana knew she had to give up and let the dwarves look her over before she would have any peace, and so, reluctantly, she stopped trying to escape and sat still.
Oin’s large hands were surprisingly gentle as he peeled away the bandage and looked at the wound. Someone hissed and another let out something that she thought was a swear word.
“What happened lad?” Oin asked, gentle fingers brushing the wound and Billa jerked to the side more out of instinct than actual pain or fear.
“I’m a woman Oin.” She reminded the dwarf, who scowled down at her until she sighed, “I got tackled by a warg when I was heading for the cave. I must’ve hit a rock or something when I fell.”
Several people, Kili and Thorin included paled, knowing exactly why she had been so far behind while Dwalin, with shaking hands, held her tightly, muttering quietly into her shoulder. Silently she placed her hand over his left arm, reminding the warrior exactly where she was. Here with him.
“Who treated yeh’?” Oin grumbled, “Stitched it up well enough.” He held out a hand and Gloin silently gave over a small case of a paste that smelled terribly dreadful.
“There is no way you are putting that awful smelling stuff onto my head and into my hair.” Billa said flatly, “Not after I just washed several weeks’ worth of dirt and grime, troll snot and warg drool out of it.”
“Now lass this is no time ta’ be picky.” Balin said soothingly.
Green eyes flattened into such a deadly and cold look that some of the dwarves could have sworn that Durin the Deathless himself was within that gaze. “This is not pickiness. This is my body and therefore mine to rule. I can assure you that Lord Elrond attended to me personally and informed me before Supper that it would heal and leave not even a hint of a scar. Should you wish to check, please do, however, I will not have that stuff in my newly washed hair for at least three days. After that, if I haven’t bathed, then you made do as you please to heal the scratch but until then my answer is no. Cross me and you will know exactly why it is that Hobbit women are the true leaders of the Shire.”
Steely eyes trained on each and every dwarf, save Dwalin, waiting until they looked away before moving on to the next. Oin put away the poultice and re-wrapped the bandage before settling back in his former spot. The rest hovered for a bit longer but after recalling what she had done to the trolls, soon everything was seemingly back to normal, though if it was a little quieter Billa certainly didn’t call them out on it.