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Getting it Right

Chapter Text

Starting Over

 

Bilbo was wet. He was laying in a puddle, of course he was wet! Argh!

He was also in the middle of a wood. Trees in all directions. Beech, oak, elm, birch, ash, maple and was that a wild cherry? Oh, it was,… he was so raiding that.

Hmm… What was he missing?

Taking a minute to get to his feet and try to shake off some of the excess water and mud, he looked around. Nope, he had no clear idea of where he was.

There were three large woods in the Shire, he could be in any one of them. He really hoped he was still in the shire, if he wasn’t…? Well, best not think about that.

The Old Forest, on the east side of the Brandywine River.

Woody End, between the Brandywine and the South Farthing fields.

Bindbole Woods north of Hobbiton.

Which one of those was he in one of those? Only one way to find out.

He looked up and down, checking the positions, of the sun in the sky and the shadows of the trees, he marked shadow of one tree with a pale pebble, while he waited for the shadows to move, he got to work stripping that cherry tree of it’s luscious fruit, taking off his jacket to carry the in. After 10-15 mins, he checked the distance between his pebble and where the tree’s shadow was now, he placed another pebble and scratched a line from one to the other, that gave him east and west, which in turn gave him north and south.

Now, if he was in Bindbole Wood, going south would get him to Hobbiton, but if he wasn’t then going south could mean that he missed everything, there’s nothing but empty lands to the south The Old Forest. Woody End met the Thistle Brook, with nothing else but pipeweed fields for miles.

If he went east, Bindbole would get him to the Brokenborings, the Old Forest might get him to Bree, but Woody End would land him in The Marsh. Too many good hobbits had died in The Marsh for him to risk going east.

North meant that both Old Forest and Bindbole would take him nowhere, only from Woody End could he get somewhere.

But going west, The Old Forest would meet the Brandywine River, Woody End again had the Thistle Brook and Bindbole had the Rushrock Water.

That meant he was going west. He checked his positions again and turned in the appropriate direction. As he cleared the edge of the forest, he could make out the southern edge of the mountain range of Ered Luin. This was Bindbole Woods, he was close to Hobbiton and home.

Thank Erú.

Hang on… there was still something he was missing. What was it?

Walking around in sodden clothes was very uncomfortable and the mud irritated, he needed to do something about that. Reaching a stream with clear running water, he looked around, checking. No one about, he decided to risk it. He quickly stripped off his sodden clothes, dumped them in the water, shaking them briskly until the water ran clear, he wrung them out and draped them over some large rocks. On a bright, breezy day like it was, they should dry very quickly. He spied some more fruit trees, plum and peach, this time and went raiding, again. His hike through the woods had made significant inroads into the cherries he’d picked, adding some plums and peaches? If he hadn’t eaten them all by the time he got home, maybe he’d have enough for a cobbler. Hmm… peach cobbler, yum.

When his clothes were nearly dry he shook them out, dressed and headed down stream towards the heart of the Shire. As he came closer to Hobbiton he kept an eye out for people.

Ironically the first person he saw was Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and his nose wrinkled in distaste.

Suddenly Bilbo stopped.

This couldn’t be right. While she wasn’t a young lass anymore, Lobelia was definitely still alive when he left. How could she be in Valinor?

Without alerting her to his presence, Bilbo looked for other people. He saw many that had died before him, but he also saw many that he knew were alive after he and Frodo sailed west.

There. That’s Ferumbras, he was the Thain when Frodo brought Bilbo to the Grey Havens. But he looked to be in his late tweens, maybe even early thirties, was he even of age?

What in the name of Erú was going on?

The thought went through his head. What if he wasn’t in Valinor? What if that dream wasn’t a dream?

Carefully Bilbo made his way to Bag End, using all the back yards and sneaky paths he could. Letting himself in the back door, he quietly went to his study and his event calendar. His father had taught him at the end of the day to cross out that day’s date, ready for the next day to begin. That meant that today’s date was…?

 

23rd of September 2940.

The day after his 50th birthday.

Before Gandalf showed up.

Before the dwarrow showed up.

Before the Orcs.

Before the Goblins.

Before the Dragon.

Before the Arkenstöne.

Before the Battle.

Before Thorin died.

Before Thorin died.

Before Thorin died.

Before Thorin died.

 

It wasn’t a dream, then, he really did meet with the Valar.

There was a note written under today’s date.

 

You have seven months.

Use them well.

You will not be alone.

Others will remember.

Allies will join you.

DO NOT LET THEM DIE!

 

Well, that made things clear, didn’t it?

Now, the old Bilbo, the Bilbo of before that Quest would have likely have likely said something like, ‘Nope’ and fainted, but this Bilbo? This Bilbo had lived an entire life and was made of sterner stuff, he had faced Orcs, goblins, a dragon and even a mad King. This Bilbo just went and made himself a cup of tea. He had planning to do.

 

***

 

The blonde dwarf sat up quickly, almost screaming, his hand flying to his chest. Looking around very quickly he realised it must have been a dream.

He hoped it’d been a dream.

He prayed it had been a dream.

On the other bed, his brother rolled over and looked at him.

“Fíli? You alright? Bad dream?” The raven haired dwarf asked.

“Yes, Kíli. Just a dream.” He muttered. “I hope.”

Fíli sat on the edge of his bed and reached for a goblet and the water jug, pouring himself a drink, he looked out the window of his mother’s little house. The little house in the Blue Mountains they shared with Uncle. If it was a dream, it was a warning from Mahal. If it wasn’t dream, if it was real, then why was he here? How did he get here? Was there anybody else that would remember? Something flashed behind his eyes, it was almost like watching through a window or through someone else’s eyes, he shuddered at the thought.

Oh.

Oh, thank you, Mahal. The last thing he saw in the dream, or the not-a-dream, was a page of a calendar, there was writing on it, a note, written in soft sweeping lines of Westron, it said?

 

You have seven months.

Use them well.

You will not be alone.

Others will remember

Allies will join you

DO NOT LET THEM DIE!

 

The calendar was on a desk and the desk was in a room and the room looked like the brief glimpse he’d had of Bilbo’s study, when he had snooped around after everyone else was asleep. The walls were rounded, the windows were rounded, it was small, the ceiling low, cosy. An unknown voice spoke, deep and strong.

“You will help him. You will not be alone either.”

And then… White and he woke.

 

Fíli climbed from his bed from the next morning, his heart aching. He remembered, but so far his brother didn’t. They were so close, to not have Kíli remember was painful. He was alone. Was this how Bilbo felt? How could he help?

Over the next few days, things he remembered from the dream, happened. Uncle made decisions, sent letters, called meetings and arranged supplies. Fíli did his best to help, but uncle still saw him as a child and Kíli on his heels just made it worse.

A week after his dream, Fíli was woken by Kili’s screaming. Before he could get to Kíli, their bedroom door opened, their mother came running in.

“Kíli? What’s wrong, my little one?”

“A bad dream, Amad. That’s all, just a bad dream.” Said Fíli.

“A bad dream?”

“Yes Amad. Just a dream.”

“Sounds like more than a dream, Fíli.”

Something made him say it.

“He dreamt about his One, Amad, about losing his One.”

“Oh, my sweet boy. His One? Who is his One?”

“He hasn’t met her yet. He’s just dreamed about her.”

“How do you know? Has he said?”

“We share the same dream, the same battle, where he loses his One. And I meet and lose mine. The same battle. Leave him be, Amad. I’ll stay with him.” Amad looked him in the eyes and stood quickly.

“Yes, you stay with him.” Amad was stunned, that didn’t happen often. What did she see in his eyes that would startle her?

She left the room, passing uncle in the door, uncle looked at them, sadness in his eyes.

“The quest?” He asked, quietly

“Yes Uncle.”

“You could stay home. Stay safe.”

“No Uncle, we cannot. We travel with you.” Fíli’s voice was quiet but strong, hard. “You are not going alone.” They were going, it was the only way to save Uncle… and themselves.

Uncle nodded and turned and left, Fíli heard his door close, not until then did he get up and move to Kíli’s bed, he sat beside his sobbing brother. He leaned close and whispered in his ear.

“It wasn’t a dream, it was real, Kí. Real.”

Kíli lifted his head and looked at Fíli.

“What?”

“It’s not a dream, Kí. It was real. Real.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I-”

“How do you know what I dreamt about?” His ever curious brother asked.

“Kí, it wasn’t a dream. Our quest, Bilbo, trolls, elves, goblins, Orcs, dragons, gold madness. Sound familiar?” Fíli growled.

“Oh, Mahal. Fíli, you died, I saw you die. I died, too… Did…? Did Uncle die?”

“I don’t know, Ki, I don’t know. I didn’t see.”

The two brothers sat on Kíli’s bed for a while, but when Fíli made to move back to his own bed, Kíli whimpered and clutched at him. He ran his hand through his brother’s hair and began to hum, the two lay down and finally went back to sleep, holding each other.

 

The following week had Thorin watching the brothers, their nightmares had changed them, gone were the reckless, immature hot-heads. They were more mature, not as exuberant. He found he missed the light-hearted brats, these two with the same faces were strong, serious dwarrow.

A week after the house was woken by Kíli, Thorin sat up in bed, waking himself.

Was that what had happened to the boys?

Oh, Mahal! What had he done?!

He spent the rest of the night just sitting, trying to come to grips with what he’d done. Done to Bilbo, to his nephews, about the war he’d nearly caused. In the darkness he sat trying to work out what to do next. With Dís meeting the guild masters of Ered Luin, he and the boys had the house to themselves for a few more days, they could talk, hopefully they would accept his apology. Just because they were joining him on this Quest, didn’t mean they forgave him for leading them to deaths, for failing them.

As the light of dawn broke Thorin finally dressed and left his room, heading for the kitchen and coffee. Shortly after the smell of coffee filled the small house and his nephews came stumbling out.

“Morning, Uncle.” Kíli was far more awake than Fíli. As always.

“Hmunca.” The blonde brother grunted.

Thorin places mugs in front of them without a word. Kíli looked askance at the mugs, Thorin rarely let them have coffee, he said they didn’t need the stimulation.

Thorin nodded and picked up his own mug, sipping the brew.

When the lads looked like they were more awake, he spoke.

“I’m sorry, boys, I’m so sorry. I should have fought the madness harder. I should have listened to Balin, to Bilbo, to you. I’m sorry.” He hung his head.

The brothers lifted theirs in shock and looked at their Uncle, they turned and looked at each other, having one of their rapid ‘no-words needed’ conversations.

“Did you survive the battle, Uncle?” Kíli finally asked.

“I survived Azog’s death, I lived long enough to apologise to Bilbo, to take back my words and actions at the Gate. I did not survive the battle long.” He whispered.

“Do you remember the note?”

“What note?”

“At the end of the dream or the ‘not-a-dream’, before we woke, Kíli and I were in Bilbo’s house, in his study I think. There was a desk with a calendar on it. The date was 23 September and under that there was a note. It said

You have seven months.

Use them well.

You will not be alone.

Others will remember

Allies will join you

DO NOT LET THEM DIE!

Then there was a voice, a deep male voice and he said You will help him. You will not be alone either.’ After that everything was bright white and I woke trying to scream.” Said Fíli. “We think that means that Bilbo is the one that came back first and that we have to help him. We’re not sure who the them is, that the note talks about, though, at first we thought it might be us, but if you think about it?”

Others will remember, that obviously means us. Allies will join you, it could be talking about the Company. Or it could mean other allies. We… think that it’s the allies that Bilbo has to keep alive. Either way, he’s been there since September. Fíli remembered in October and you and I, in November. Can we write to him? Please, Uncle?” Kíli continued.

“And say what, Kíli? That we remember taking him on a quest that’s going put him in danger many times. A Quest that gets us killed? That I’m going threaten to kill him? You really think that’s a good idea, Kíli?”

“No, Uncle, don’t be silly. We write and say that Gandalf gave us his name and recommended him in regards a matter of our quest. If he does remember, all we have to do is hint at a couple of things that did happen and that will let him know that we remember.”

“We’ve been thinking about doing ourselves for a few days, but couldn’t come up with a good enough reason why. Not until you met Gandalf at the tavern again last night.”

“Do you think he’ll forgive us, Uncle? We didn’t stand by him, when you…” Fíli hesitated.

“He forgave me Fíli. Me. Bilbo is too caring not to forgive you, not if he forgave me. My irakdashshat, how could he not?” Thorin reached across the table for his nephews hands, he gave each of them a squeeze. “Write to him. At the very least, he will be warned of our arrival… And of our numbers. Blasted wizards.”

 

Dear Mister Baggins,

 

“Master Baggins, Fíli. Remember, he corrected Elrond when he called Bilbo ‘mister’.”

“Oh, yeah. Forgot that.” Fíli crossed out the mister and wrote master above it.

“Shouldn’t you start a new page?”

“No. Not until we get this right and know exactly what we want to say and how to say it.”

“Oh…, yeah. Good point.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

A letter arrived at Bag End, written in a formal hand on heavy parchment. It looked very out of place in his hand, amongst the rough paper used in the Shire.

 

Dear Master Baggins.

We have been given your name by the Wizard, Gandalf the Grey. He has recommended you to our Uncle, Thorin, Son of Thráin, Son of Thrór, King-in-Exile of Erebor. We are hopeful that you may be willing to be of assistance to us in our Quest to reclaim our home.

We understand that Hobbits value home and family above most and so we ask that you consider our request.

The Company of Thorin Oakenshield will face many dangers, including trolls, wargs, goblins and Orcs, but you may also meet Elves, Skin-Changers, Men and perhaps someone to riddle with. The wilds of the east also hold dark forests with giant spiders and river rapids. We will try to avoid these.

Our Uncle will travel to Ered Luin to meet with envoys from the Seven Dwarrow Kingdoms. We, and the 10 other members of our Company, are planning to meet with him in Bree in mid-to-late April and hope that we will have the chance to visit your home, then.

Please, Master Baggins, give us a chance. Dwarrow are noisy and can be volatile, it is true, but we are also friendly and when we like someone, we are extremely loyal. We value our friends and family greatly, just as Hobbits do.

Yours

Fíli and Kíli, Sons of Víli, Son Gr á li,  

Princes of the Line of Durin

 

Well, thank heavens for that. He’d begun to wonder if the lads were going to just turn up the same was as last time. Now he had some backup, Fortimbras was being a pain and arguing with him, Bilbo was sure it was just for the sake of arguing.

The shire was getting crowded and Bilbo had a plan, but… of course there was some objection, there always was to something new. Talking to Fortim about where some of his younger cousins could hear, well? That might have been a bit underhanded, but it got the job done. What better way to spread a rumour than to not spread it yourself?

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Amad = Mother (K)

Irakdashshat = nephew (K)

*Stone-headed = personal insult accusing someone of being dense/stupid

 

 

Chapter Text

Dwarrow and Wizards

 

Some weeks later a reply came, delivered to Thorin at the forge, he waited impatiently for the afternoon to pass, glancing at the letter many times, so very glad that Bilbo replied. He prayed to Mahal that the hobbit would remember and give them another chance. He prayed that he would get the chance to apologise. In the mean time he worked on a set of small throwing knives, if Bilbo joined, Thorin would not have him weaponless and if, in his heart, he made them with a different intent, no one need ever know.

Finally Fíli and Kíli arrived from the training grounds, where they were working with Dwalin to improve their already impressive skills. They wanted to be a little more versatile with different weapons this time around. The guard seemed delighted that the lads wanted to expand their expertise, he distrusted a warrior that used only one type of weapon and so, pushed the lads as hard as they would go.

The two lads looked so tired, he hoped that the letter in his coat would give them some respite. He missed their smiles, he even missed the pranks.

Closing the forge took little time and soon the three were entering the small house they shared. Dís would be home late tonight, her meetings often ran later into the evening and this one threatened to be later than most.

When he put the letter on the table the air in the kitchen changed, became tinged with anticipation. Wanting to get their meal out of the way the three moved around the kitchen and each other in a well choreographed dance. Food eaten, dishes done and pipes filled Thorin gave the letter to Fíli to read aloud.

 

Fíli and Kíli.

Tell that stone-headed* Uncle of yours that you three will stay here. I will tolerate no arguments to this.

Dwarrow travelling from both Ered Luin and the Blue Mountains would have to pass through Hobbiton on their way to Bree. Best use the Green Dragon Inn, here, for the Company to gather. This way no dwarrow will have to retrace their travels to get to Bag End.

Your mother is quite capable of running the Hall without your help, so I expect you here, at least the two of you, inside the month. It’s up to Thorin if he joins you or not, the parting was hard, so don’t push him. Not yet.

Let’s start as we mean to go on with. This time we need to be official, meet with the Thain, etc., but we can work that out when you get here.

Hurry up, lads!

Tea is at 4, don’t bother knocking.

Bilbo.

 

“He remembers!” Kíli whooped.

“Can we, Uncle? Please?” Fíli pleaded.

“Please?” They both begged, together.

“Yes. You can go, lads. I’ll talk to your mother tonight. I can’t come yet, I have to meet with the Ri and Ur brothers first, but once that’s done I’ll join you.” Thorin didn’t realize how much weight just knowing Bilbo remembered had removed from his shoulders.

“For now, start getting your things together. We’ll try and get you away some time tomorrow.”

“Where are they going? Where are you sending my sons?” Dís said as she entered the kitchen. The lads disappeared quickly, if they started packing maybe Amad wouldn’t argue too hard with Uncle. Maybe.

“Hobbiton, my naná. The Hobbit that Gandalf recommended to us, has offered to allow us to use his home as a base, the boys will assist him in organising whatever the Company needs. He has suggested that we use the Green Dragon Inn for the members of the Company to gather in, before meeting at his home. However he would like the boys and myself to stay with him, as he feels that we need to present a unified leadership. You know that most dwarrow are slow to accept outsiders, but we cannot afford for the Hobbit to feel this way, he must be accepted within the Company from the very beginning. Having him relaxed and comfortable with the lads and myself, will go a long way with others.”

“Hmm.”

“They are looking forward to seeing him. Let them go, sister.”

“Why? Why are they looking forward to it?”

“Because they’re a pair of curious little dwarflings.”

“Hey! That’s not fair.” Fíli pouted as he hurried passed the door with an armful of weapons.

“To open his home to the unknown after one letter-”

“And the recommendation of the wizard.” Kíli put in as he passed the door carrying their travel packs.

“Yes. Thank you, Kíli. And the recommendation of a wizard. Is this normal for Hobbits?”

“No, sister. Hobbits welcome outsiders less than we do.”

“So?, he is a remarkable hobbit.”

“Quite so.” Thorin changed the subject, he and his nephews had decided that they would not tell Dís that their dreams were not dreams, but rather that the three of them had somehow been transported back, back in time inside their own minds and bodies, to undertake their Quest again. He didn’t want to lie to her, so a change of subject was essential. The letter went into his pocket, he wouldn’t put it past Dís to snoop.

The brothers were packed to their mother’s satisfaction by mid-morning, three times she’d emptied their packs, three times she’d made them start again. Finally they were ready, packs on ponies, weapons close at hand, they hugged their mother and uncle before mounting their ponies, their smiles were back in full force. They waved and were away. Thankful of a mild winter, Thorin watched the lads until they were lost to the winding mountain road, the place would dreadfully quiet without them.

 

They left their ponies at the Green Dragon’s stable yard and shouldered their packs and began to walk. Crossing the little bridge they made their way up Bagshot Row and around the corner to Bag End. Both dwarrow were nervous as they reached the gate in front of the oh-so familiar and welcome round green door.

They both took a deep breath at the top of the steps.

“He said don’t bother knocking, but….” Kíli started.

“Mother would skin us if we didn’t.” Fíli continued, lifting a hand to knock.

Thump, thump, thump.

The sound rang through the smial.

“Coming.” Bilbo’s voice grumbled. Fíli and Kíli looked at each other and nodded, no words needed.

The door swung open.

“Fíli.”

“And Kíli.”

“At your service, Master Baggins.”

“Boys.”

Bilbo got no further before he was sandwiched in a hug between the two brothers.

“Oh, my boys, my boys. Come in, come in.” He laughed.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

They were as ready as they were going to be. The cold meats were cut and packaged, the roasts were in, as were the vegetables, they would be ready by tea time. Bilbo and the lads had spent most of the last few days cooking, some biscuits and cakes, but mainly traveling food. The rangers had given him the recipe and after a little bit of experimentation he and Kíli had worked out something that tasted quite good and still lasted.

He’d sent the lads to see that the ponies were ready for the morning and to meet Thorin, even though he’d been to Bag End before, it had been dark and Bilbo was sure he was still going to get lost. The dwarf king had no sense of direction above-ground. And of course, he didn’t want any of them seeing him confront Gandalf, that wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

Glancing at the clock, Bilbo realised it was nearly eleven. Time for the blasted wizard.

 

The wizard wandered his way up Bagshot Row to Bag End, spying a hobbit sitting in the front garden, smoking, he stopped and looked. Hmm… There was something amiss, but he wasn’t quite sure what.

The hobbit seemed thinner, but at the same time more robust, more vital, it might have nearly ten years since he was in Hobbiton, but he’d recognise one of Belladonna’s sons in a heartbeat. He was wearing calf length brown britches, a cream long-sleeved shirt with a mint-green cravat under a golden waistcoat, gleaming with brass buttons. Honey-golden locks seemed a little long and unruly, even for a hobbit, but his feet were neatly groomed. Hmm… Yes, something was definitely amiss.

But before Gandalf could work it out, the hobbit spoke.

“You’re late, Gandalf.” The was no inflection in the voice, no anger, surprise or irritation, it was just a statement of fact.

“A wizard is never late-” the wizard started.

“-nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to. Blah, blah, blah. Yes I know. I’ve heard it before.”

Before? How could he have heard it before, I just made it up. Thought Gandalf.

“Not that it matters. You’re still late. Now, get inside, I don’t think you want an audience, do you?”

“Now, see here, Bilbo Baggi-”

“Now, Gandalf.” Gandalf had never heard steel in a hobbit’s voice before and it troubled him, what would cause a hobbit to be anything but gentle? He made his way in the gate, up the steps and in the door, totally unsure of what was about to happen.

“Hat. Staff.” The hobbit held his hands out for the items and after taking them, placed them carefully out of the way.

“Kitchen.”

Once in the kitchen the hobbit filled the teapot from a bubbling kettle and placed it on the table. He also placed a glass and a bottle of fire-whiskey on the table in front of the wizard. Gandalf’s eyebrows raised. Fire-Whiskey? What in Mordor…?

“Fire-whiskey, Bilbo?” He asked as the hobbit poured dark amber liquid into the glass.

“Yes. You’re going to need it.” Again it was just a statement. Something was very wrong.

“Why do you say that?”

When the hobbit’s control snapped, it was almost audible, his hands slapped down on the table and he leant towards the wizard. This wasn’t anger. This wasn’t rage. This was icy fury.

“Tell me, Gandalf. What part of Orcs do you find entertaining? Goblins, amusing? What about a Dragon? Gandalf, do you find Dragons laughable? Defacing my home, funny?” The hobbit’s voice was beyond cold. Never before had a hobbit’s voice contained so much emotion.

“Orcs? Goblins? Dragons? Bilbo, my boy, I don’t know what you’re talk-”

“Erebor, Gandalf,” was snarled viciously at him.

“Oh.” Oh, dear.

“Yes. Oh. How dare you risk the lives of hundreds of hobbits, Gandalf. What gives you the right? Huh?”

“Hundreds? Oh, no. Not hundreds. Just one. Just-”

“Just. Me. Me, Gandalf. I am The Baggins. Not just any Baggins. The Baggins. Do you know what that means, Gandalf?” the hobbit’s voice never rose above polite volume, but the strength, the power, the anger in it was staggering.

“You are the Master of Bag End?”

“Do you have any idea what that means? How many people are dependent on me? Look to me for their livelihood? 57 families are under my care, Gandalf and you want me to risk them? For what? Your entertainment?!”

Gandalf rose to his feet, darkness drew in around him and the wizard seemed to get taller. Sterner. Harder. Stronger.

“Bilbo Bag-”

“Sit down, Olórin.” Gandalf sat, stunned. He picked up the glass of fire-whiskey and downed in one swallow.

“How?” he was nearly speechless. How did the hobbit know his name, he’d left that name in Valinor when he sailed East to Arda.

“How do I know your name? How do I know what you planned? How do I know that you’ve not told the dwarrow that I wasn’t aware of their coming? How do I know anything? I’ve been here before, Gandalf. And you, sir, have a lot to answer for. A lot.”

“Before?”

“Before, Gandalf. You want Thorin Oakenshield to hire me as a burglar to steal the Arkenstöne from Smaug. You want me to face the Dragon. Give me a damn good reason why I should risk my people for you!” The last word was almost spat out.

“I didn’t realise-”

“No, Gandalf. You didn’t think. And that’s your problem. You don’t think. You see a big picture, but you focus on it so much that you can’t see the little things. What were you expecting me to do? Run out the door? What about harvest? Planting? Rents? Maintenance? Taxes? Wages? Did you think about any of these? Ever, Gandalf? Even once? No. No, you didn’t.”

“I-”

“Oh, don’t stress on it, Gandalf. I’m going on their Quest, but no because of you. Oh, no, you?, sir, you are going to do as you’re told. As you’re told, when you’re told. For the most part I don’t care what you do, but when I tell you something, you will listen. Now, you will go speak to the dwarrow, they’re staying at the Green Dragon and you will tell them to be here for dinner at 8. And Gandalf? Leave the map and key here. Your attendance will not be welcome tonight. We will leave from the Green Dragon at an hour after dawn tomorrow. Be there.”

With that Bilbo stood and bustled the wizard out the door.

“Oh and no defacing my property. If you want a sign, I’ll put one up, but you keep you staff away from my door.”

“Of course, Bilbo.” Gandalf felt adrift. This had not gone the way he planned, this was definitely not the hobbit he expected to find.

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Naná = sister

Nadad = brother

Nadadith = little brother

 

Chapter Text

Discussions

 

Minutes after closing the front door on the wizard, Bilbo heard the back-cellar door begin to creak open. Knowing that it would be Kíli and Thorin, he called out.

“He’s gone. Aggravating wizard. Thinking he can order me around.” He continued to mutter under his breath as he made his way back to the kitchen.

He stopped at the doorway and just looked at Thorin. Over eighty years since he had lain eyes on the king-in-exile and it felt like just a few minutes had passed.

“Thorin.” He ignored anything either of the dwarrow said and crossed to stand in front of the older dwarf. For a moment it seemed that was all he was going to do, then he stepped forward and without hesitation, the hobbit wrapped his arms around Thorin, who did the same and they held on. The two stayed like that for what seemed like both forever and seconds. When Bilbo finally stepped away, he turned Thorin to the study instead of the kitchen.

“Kíli. Fortimbras will be here shortly. Can you see that there’s tea, sandwiches and cake ready. Would you be so kind as to bring them and join us in the parlour? We have a lot of planning to do this afternoon.”

“Sure, Bilbo.” Kíli headed for the dining room and the tea cart he knew was there.

Thorin and Bilbo sat in the study, looking at the small piece of wall between Bilbo’s bedroom and the hall atrium. Half was covered in a soft padded fabric that had many small notes pinned to it, they were labelled with peoples names and tasks. The other half of it was covered in a huge slate chalk-board, chalked writing covering most of it.

The slate was divided into many sections, each one with carefully scribed notes, In some sections there was an event from their quest. In addition to these there were some new categories, unknown to Thorin.

Supper.

Legalities.

Trolls.

Wrags.

Rivendell – Galadriel?

Stone giants.

Goblin caves.

Orcs - Azog.

Eagles.

Carrock & Beorn

Mirkwood - Thranduil.

Bard – Laketown?

The door?

Smaug

Gold

Payments

Recovery

The Ring.

Prayers to the Valar.

 

Each title had a box with a number in it, this corresponded to carefully laid out papers on the table that blocked the door to Bilbo’s bedroom. When Thorin curiously picked up a piece at random, he read the notes under the title.

Supper.

Outside?

Not use belladonna’s pottery?✓

Stew is easy.

Back garden?

Atrium?

Get set of apprentice pottery?✓

Empty the dining room first?✓

Pies.

Pasties.

Roast meats.✓

Plenty of sweets.✓

Spices wines. ✓

Left overs for breakfast rolls.✓

Each note was either ticked or crossed off. It seemed that Bilbo and Thorin’s nephews were working their way through each section, coming up with problems and solutions to those problems. Some of the sections he knew of but some?, confused him. Legalities, gold, recovery, the ring, prayers to the Valar?

“Bilbo? What are these?” he pointed to the sections that were unknown.

“Ah. Those.”

“Yes. Those. What are they?”

“They are things that we-. You, Balin, me or Gandalf didn’t think about before the quest.”

“Right. But? Legalities? The ring? What ring? What legalities? Prayers to the Valar? For what?” Thorin was a little confused, this is not what he expected.

“Let’s starting at the beginning, shall we? Legalities… I am The Baggins of Bag End. That means that nearly 60 families depend on me for their livelihood and homes. Gandalf didn’t take any of this into consideration, so I must. So I’ve called my Cousin Fortimbras, who is Thain, to come here for lunch to talk over our options. He and his apprentice, who is also his son Ferumbras, have already witnessed my will and met Dudo - who will take up my position as The Baggins, when I leave. I will not be returning to the Shire, so there needs to be A Baggins in Bag End. He will move in here, in a few years when he comes of Age. We’ve spent the last few months introducing him to the farmers and tenants that look to Bag End.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “Kíli suggested that as we know we succeed, sort of, we put something in place for after the quest and we each thought about that for a bit. We noted that the land around Erebor suffered badly under the dragon and the that people of Laketown had little farming knowledge. Hobbits are children of Yavanna, Thorin, just a handful of hobbits can change the land and remove the taint of dragon. Your last raven to Fíli mentioned that you and Dís have organised for a supply caravan leaving the Blue Mountains within the next few days? Yes?”

Thorin nodded.

“So, today’s meeting with Fortimbras is to finalise the details of the Shire’s assistance. There’s a handful of adventurous Took’s, Brandybuck’s and Marcher’s and even one very brave Baggins. We’ve weeded them down to 10 hobbits with farming and land skills. Two of these are a couple that are yet to marry, both being slightly under age, my cousin Drogo Baggins and Primula Brandybuck, they’ll be chaperoned by the other hobbits. Another four are already married and are land-healers, cousins Paladin Took and Saradoc Brandybuck and their wives, Esmeralda and Eglantine, incidentally Esmeralda is also Paladin's sister. There was some objection to taking both the lads, but Paladin's father Aldegrim reminded Fortimbras that the two lads don’t do well when they’re parted. Much like Kíli and Fíli. These six will be staying in Erebor after our quest. Of the remaining four, three are married and will be returning to the Shire, the last is a lass that is a land-healer, a plant-healer and a priestess of Yavanna, who has been called to care for the land of Our Lady’s Husband.”

“Your lady’s husband? Who is he?”

“Our Lady is Yavanna. Her Husband is Aulë, who you dwarrow call...?”

Mahal.”

“Yes. Tari Foxglove will be the First Priestess of Yavanna and Mahal in the east.”

“Oh, my.” Thorin was shocked.

“Yes. That was pretty much the reaction when she walked into Brandy Hall and stated her intent, the other priestess’ were unsurprised, though most were unhappy. In addition to that, this first 10 will travel with the first dwarrow caravan, but they will have their own wagons and ponies. All of them are quite familiar with travelling. There are roughly 200 hobbits of various skills that are unable to excel in their chosen field due to there being so many with similar skills. Fortimbras received nearly 150 applications to present to you, applications for hobbits to move permanently to Erebor, however that number is likely to increase.”

“150 hobbits? Move to Erebor? Bilbo? Why?”

“Even though they are happy here, they can’t progress much higher in their jobs, there’s just too much competition, always someone with more skill, or able to do a job cheaper, or quicker, some of them using poorer quality goods and materials. Add to this, land for young families to build new homes in is getting scarce in the shire, most of the land here, is already farmed on or built in. So, they are prepared to move to where they can earn a good living, build a home and have a family.” He sighed.

“We never thought about after the quest Thorin. Not once. Well this time we are. We are making plans, plans to heal the land, plans for crops, plans for skilled artisans. There are many areas that dwarrow are skilled in, but there are also many that they aren’t. Fortimbras is focusing on those areas for the present. He wants trade agreements in place where particularly skilled hobbits can travel to Erebor, teach their skills to apprentices and return to the Shire, well rewarded.”

“We will gladly take any help we can get, but maybe Balin should be here for these talks, Bilbo. He’s far more skilled in negotiation than I.”

“We already thought of that. Balin and Fortimbras met yesterday and this morning. All agreements that Fortimbras is bringing here today, have been approved and hand written by Balin, just needing you to read and sign.”

“Hold on. Back up a bit. Did you say, you’re not returning to the Shire? Why not? Where are you going?”

“Well of course, I won’t be returning here. Don’t be silly. I’ll be staying with you. You died on me, Thorin Oakenshield, not this time. No, this time you’re not getting away from me. You, sir?, are mine. We danced around this, this, thing between us, and I’ve had eighty years to think about it. Eighty years, Thorin. I’m not waiting, this time.”

“Waiting? Waiting for what? What does that mean?”

Knock, knock, knock. The sound echoed through the smial.

“You’ll see.” With that Bilbo went to meet whoever was at the door, he timed it perfectly with Kíli bringing tea, sandwiches, cakes and even a plate of sweet treats into the parlour, Thorin trailing after him, looking slightly lost.

“Here we are, Fortim. Into the parlour, if you please. Thorin Oakenshield, King-in-Exile, my Cousin Fortimbras, Thain of The Shire. Sit down, cousin. I made some banana and walnut bread for you, Fortim. Thorin, the lemon poppy-seed muffins are for you, Kíli the apple turnovers are yours. Fíli will be along soon enough. Dig in.” The group settled in the parlour and Kíli gratefully handed control of the tea cart over to Bilbo.

Bilbo handed out plates and poured tea. The four chatting amiably for the moment. When everyone had eaten a few pieces and drank at least one mug of tea, Bilbo spoke again.

“Thorin, Fortim. Kíli and I are going to leave you two to go over the agreements. We’ll be in the back spare room, I’ve set it up as a storage area, I’ve been packing my things and stacking the boxes there. Most of the furniture is made for Bag End and I’ll be leaving it for Dudo, but some pieces are sentimental and I will want them later. Fortim, don’t leave without seeing me. The same goes for you, too, Thorin. Come along, Kíli, yes, you can bring your tea and sweets.”

Bilbo and Kíli spent a few hours, shuffling furniture and wrapping his personal items. Things that he would send for after reclaiming the mountain, things he couldn’t bear to part with.

Just as afternoon tea-time was approaching, Fortimbras stuck his head around a door to catch Bilbo’s attention.

“All finished, Bilbo. You wanted to see me before I left?” Fortimbras asked.

“Ah, yes, cousin. Let’s go find Thorin. Kíli, you come too.” Bilbo left the room.

“There you are, Thorin. Come into the kitchen, please everyone.” Bilbo started pulling pots from hangers and set them on the stove-top. Filling them with marvellous smelling things at the same time as Fíli finally joined them.

“Fortimbras, Fíli.” The Master of Bag End said.

“Yes, Cousin.”

“Yes, Bilbo.” The two answered at the same time.

“You two are here to witness. Thorin Oakenshield, you are mine. I am declaring my intent to Court you. As we will be travelling and I will have no blood-family with me, I wish to claim Kíli, Son of Vili, Son of Grali, as kin. In this manner, Kíli, as my family and Fíli, as Thorin’s, will supervise and where necessary chaperone our Courtship. Once Erebor is reclaimed and Tari has her temple-smial, we can be Wed in both Hobbit and Dwarrow customs. Thorin, will you accept my Courting?” It was bluntly and clearly said, with no fanfare, no romance.

Fíli and Kíli leant against each other, laughing themselves nearly senseless. Fortimbras was more circumspect and only grinned. Thorin however? Thorin seemed to be in shock, his jaw hanging low, his eyes open wide.

“If you’re claiming me as kin, can I call you uncle?” Kíli laughed.

“Oi! What about me? I want to call him uncle, too.” Fíli complained.

“Well, lads. It’s like this. If Bilbo is claiming Kíli as kin, then yes Kíli, you can call him Uncle. As you two are brothers by birth, Fíli has the rights as Kíli, but because Bilbo hasn’t claimed him, he will remain an Oakenshield and as such-”

“Durin” Two dwarrow interrupted.

“Pardon?”

“We are of the Line of Durin. Oakenshield is a Deed-Name, we are given these after a victory or a great deed. Thorin was declared Oakenshield after the battle of Azanulbizar at the gates of Moria. We, Fíli and I, have not as yet, been granted a Deed-Name. We are young, we have time to earn them.”

“Ah. Well, as a Durin, you can still represent Thorin’s family.”

“But does this mean I can call him uncle or not?” Fíli needed to know.

“Yes. Fíli, being blood, you have the same rights as Kíli, so you may, if you choose.”

The two brothers cheered. This cheer woke Thorin from his shock.

“Bilbo? Are you sure? Is this really what you want?”

Once again it was Fortimbras that answered.

“Thorin, Bilbo has never showed any inclination to Wed or even to Court, in the past and now we know why. A dwarf is an unusual choice for a Match, granted, but Bilbo assures both the Baggins family and the Took family that it is a true Match and that you are a good hob-, sorry, a good dwarf. He’s told us how the two of you, with these two lads have been meeting and getting to know one another for some time now. He felt that this quest of yours to reclaim your home was to be a catalyst for him, he would not be parted from you and so to him that means that his home will be with you. In Erebor. As he didn’t want to just run off into the Wild, he sat with me for many days to come to an honest decision. This is the result. So?... Will you accept his Courtship?”

“I…” Thorin took a deep breath. “I need to talk to Fíli and Kíli, before I answer that.” But… Thorin smiled at Bilbo as he spoke.

“Of course, Thorin. Use the study, the sound doesn’t echo back around to the kitchen from in there.” Bilbo kept stirring and handed Fortimbras a bowl. “Beat the eggs while we wait, Fortim. They won’t take long.”

In the study, Thorin and the brothers looked at each other.

“Well, lads. That was a surprise.”

“You think so? Really?” Gasped Fíli.

“It wasn’t to us, Uncle.” Added Kíli. “Not after the way he fought for you. Not after you gave him a Mithril tunic. How could it be a surprise?”

“I…” Thorin stopped and actually thought about the question. Thought about what he remembered from the quest last time. About how Bilbo and he interacted. About how Bilbo saved him from Azog outside Goblintown, how the hobbit had rescued them from Thranduil’s prison. About how he felt at what Bilbo did with the Arkenstöne, and why he had felt so betrayed. About how when Bilbo wanted something he went after it. Really thought about it. Hard.

Hmm?

Why was he surprised?

“Alright. Any idea what we tell the Company?... And your mother?” Thorin was still unsure how to deal with it all.

“That’s easy.” Kíli jumped in. “You’ve been doing lots of travelling, smithing and getting ready for the quest. We let the Company, and Mother, think you’ve known Bilbo for ages. We won’t actually be lying, just implying. Bilbo said to me while we were moving stuff around that he’d told Gandalf off this morning and let slip that he was re-living his life again. So he won’t be surprised even if the Company is.”

“I’ve slipped a couple of time with both Dwalin and Mother and said Bilbo’s name, too. So Dwalin’s going to think that the reason you haven’t said anything to him or Mother is because Bilbo’s not a dwarf. That’s what will surprise him. Mother gave me a pair of Durin Courting Beads for each of us, just in case.” Put in Fíli.

“Huh. She gave three pairs of Durin Marriage Beads.” Kíli added.

“Durin Courting Beads, Marriage Beads. Your mother is a menace. I bet she gave them to you the night before you left Ered Luin? She said something then about Bilbo being a remarkable hobbit and I agreed with her. Damn her.”

“You mean, damn you, for not realising this was how she would react?” his blonde nephew laughed.

“Yes, that too.” Thorin grumped.

“What about Bilbo? What are you going to do?” the younger nephew asked.

“Watch and see.” With that Thorin left the study and found his way back to a kitchen now filling with glorious smells.

“Bilbo?” he asked.

“Yes, Thorin?”

“I accept your Courtship. Will you let me put a Courting Braid and Bead in your hair?”

“Of course. Why do you think I let my hair get this long? I knew you’d want to.” Bilbo just grinned at him. “Fortimbras, will you witness? Kíli, Fíli would one of you fetch a comb from my room for your uncle? We’ll be in the parlour. The cakes will be close to an hour yet.”

Fíli ran to fetch that comb, his beloved Uncle was Courting with their hobbit.

When he got back to the parlour Bilbo was sitting on the floor in front of Thorin, letting the dwarf run his fingers through the hobbit’s unruly hair. Handing over the comb and a Courting Bead, Fíli retreated to the sofa to sit with his brother. They and Fortimbras watched on, as in a joyous but restrained mood, Thorin carefully separated strands of Bilbo’s golden-honey hair and with amazing dexterity created a visually eye-catching Courting Braid. Granted that with all the curls in the hobbit's hair, it may be overlooked at first glance, but they knew it was there, that was the important part. Once complete, Thorin laid his hands on Bilbo’s shoulders and turned him around, then the two leant on each other, foreheads touching. Just enjoying the closeness.

Finally Fortimbras stood.

“Well. Welcome to the family, Thorin, Kíli and you too, Fíli. I’ll leave it to you two lads to see that they don’t get ahead of themselves. Kíli, I’ve left a package for you. It’s got a booklet covering what’s involved in a Hobbit Courtship, the do’s and the don’ts, just so you don’t get over your head. Feel free to let the rest of your Company read it, there’s nothing secret about a Hobbit Courtship. There’s also a few items, things from Bilbo’s family, once you’ve read the booklet, you’ll know when to hand them out. Now? You’ve got a lot of people coming for dinner tonight, cousin, I’d best get out of your way, I know you don’t want me in your kitchen, anyway.” Fortimbras grinned as he hugged first Bilbo, then Thorin and lastly the brothers. As he reached the door he turned.

“Oh, and better send notice, if Aunt Donnamira and Aunt Mirabella don’t get to do the delivery there will be Mordor to pay.” He closed the door and was gone. Bilbo didn’t wait to see what his dwarrow made of that comment. He bustled them away.

“Alright, Thorin, lads, let’s get back to it in the study. We only have a few hours left before the rest of the Company turns up for supper. Fíli?”

“Yes Bilbo?”

“Are the ponies ready to travel?”

“Yes. They’re brilliant! They’re from Rohan. Strong, fast and sure-footed. I Picked a sweet, pretty little mare for you and I kept the strongest ones to carry Bombur, Dwalin and Thorin. They're the biggest of us, but I did pick out a pair of matching mares for us, Kíli, you’ll like them. We have to avoid letting the trolls get their grubby, dirty paws on our lovely little ladies.” Fíli chattered away as they went back to the study.

They would spend the next few hours going over all the lists on the board. The pages were worked through, until the only one they hadn’t completed was the page labelled, “The Ring”. Bilbo explained that when they reached Rivendell they would need to consult Elrond and Galadriel about it. He then had to explain just who Galadriel was and why they needed her.

Once they’d worked through the pages, Bilbo pulled out a small notebook and jotted down the solutions the four of them had decided on. He’d just finished and added the notebook to the pile of things he needed to take with him, when the first door-knocking of the evening came.

“Time to go work, gentlemen.” Said Thorin.

The Company were arriving.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

An Unexpected Party

 

Bilbo opened the door to Dwalin, a tall dwarf, he had a mostly bald head, covered in tattoos and had a bristling moustache. He wore a brown cloak over a great fur mantle, a harness crossing his chest in the shape of an X, held his axes strapped to his back. With a War Hammer in his hands and daggers at his waist, Dwalin was every inch the Warrior that Bilbo knew him to be.

“Dwalin, Son of Fundin, Son of Farin, at your service.” He rumbled with a bow.

“Master Bilbo Baggins, at yours. Do come in. Cloaks there, weapons in that rack and if you would be so kind as to remove any muddy boots?” Bilbo turned and called over his shoulder. “Kíli?”

“Yes, Uncle?” the young dwarf answered as he approached.

“Get Dwalin to give you a hand bringing the extra chairs in from the old storage room, there’s a lad.”

“Of course, Uncle. This way, Mister Dwalin.”

“Uncle?” Dwalin growled.

“Long story.” Interjected Bilbo. “If you’ll wait until the others arrive, it’ll be easier to explain it just the once.”

“Hmf.” And with that the dwarf followed Kíli into the halls of Bag End.

The hobbit didn’t have time to close the door before he spotted the next dwarf making their way up the Row to his smial and so he just waited. The older dwarf had a shock of white hair and a beard that curved in two directions near the end. He wore a deep red surcoat over a mail vest. A striking sword at his hip was his obvious weapon of choice, but Bilbo knew that there were a number of daggers secreted about his person.

“Master Bilbo Baggins at your service. Good evening.”

“Balin, Son of Fundin, Son of Farin at yours. Yes, it is, it is, but I think it might rain later.”

“Yes, quite likely but it’ll be gone by morning, it usually is.” He ushered Balin in and closed the door. “Cloaks here and weapons there. Oh and if your boots are muddy, please remove them, I won’t have time to clean up before we leave in the morning.”

“Oh, yes. Of course, Master Baggins.” Balin undid his sword-belt and stripped off his cloak placing them beside Dwalin’s.

“I see my brother arrived, then?”

“Just moments ago, yes. He’s giving Kíli a hand with some chairs." Bilbo answered before turning and calling out. "Fíli?”

“Uncle?” came the reply.

“Come fetch Balin and show him to the dining room, please.”

“Coming, Uncle.”

“Uncle?” Balin was startled.

“Yes, and I will explain, but let’s wait for the others first, shall we?” Bilbo gestured for Balin to follow Fíli.

He then took a few deep breaths, he knew that the other dwarrow would be a minute or two behind Balin. He had time to run over what he and the lads had spent the last couple of days preparing.

Lemon tarts for Balin, strawberry shortcake for Dwalin, chocolate-almond slice for Bombur, apple pies for Bofur, rhubarb tart for Bifur. For the Ri brothers the were bread and butter pudding, golden syrup dumplings and baked rice. Oín liked passionfruit cheesecake and Gloín preferred a rich, dark fruit cake. There were more lemon-poppy seed muffins for Thorin, a chocolate mousse cake for Fíli and hopefully, Kíli hadn’t eaten all the apple turnovers. Of course he’d made a small batch of vanilla shortbread for himself, hopefully he’d have some to take with him, but Dwalin was renowned for sniffing out cookies of any sort.

By the time he’d gone through the list in his mind, he could hear more dwarrow coming in his gate. Not waiting for a knock, he opened the door and stepped back. He wasn’t going to end up on the floor under a pile of dwarrow this time.

“Welcome, good dwarrow, to Bag End, Master Bilbo Baggins at your service.” He said once they’d regained their feet.

“Gloín and Oín, Sons of Groín, Son of Farin, at yours.” Said Gloín.

“Bofur and Bombur, Sons of Borur, Son of Balur. This is our Cousin, Bifur, Son of Batur, Son of Balur. The axe is an unfortunate keepsake from past wars, it looks awful and stops him from speaking anything but Khuzdul, but he can understand Common, though.” Bofur explained cheerfully.

“Ah. Good to know. If you’ll place your weapons and cloaks here and any muddy boots over here, please. And you gentlemen?” Bilbo looked to the Ri brothers.

“Dori and my brothers, Nori and Ori, Sons of Lari, daughter of Kotri. At your service, Master Baggins.” Dori then started to bustle around Nori and Ori, getting their cloaks and setting Nori to see to the weapons.

“Ready? Then this way if you please.”

“Will Gandalf be joining us this evening?” Balin was asking as Bilbo entered the dining room with the newcomers at his heels.

“Not if he knows what’s good for him, he won’t!” Bilbo grumped. “The nerve of him. He turned up here this morning, for the first time in nine years. Nine years. I invited him in and he told me he’d given out my name to dwarrow as a burglar. A burglar, mind. I’m a respectable hobbit these days. Many years since I employed those sort of skills. He didn’t even have the decency to ask first. Dratted wizard.” Bilbo ranted for a bit as he started transferring platters of sliced meats, roasted vegetables and baked cheese dishes to the table. Thick rich gravies and luscious sauces in heavy jugs the next to be moved.

The dwarrow watched on, uncertain of how to respond to that.

“Don’t stress on it, Bilbo, at least we wrote you as soon as he told us of you. Otherwise my Company of dwarrow might have had a very different welcome tonight.” Thorin stated.

“Yes, yes, Thorin. Too true, too true. Let’s eat and then we can answer any questions. Come now lads, dig in. I’d prefer not to have too much in the way of leftovers, so eat hearty, but don’t forget to leave room for dessert, too. There’ll be coffee and breakfast rolls in the morning. We’ll bring them with us down to the Green Dragon, so we can all have a nice hot breakfast as we head off.” With that Bilbo sat himself down at Thorin’s left and filled a plate for the dwarf and another for himself.

 

The need for food dominated the next hour in Bag End. The meats were decimated and the roasted vegetables smothered in sauces and devoured. The cheeses scooped up using the crusty flat breads were the last to go. Dwarrow sat back in chairs with hands resting on well filled middles, while mugs of ale were consumed. Hums and sighs the only sound to be heard for a few minutes.

“Shall we wait on dessert a little? Let dinner settle first?” Bilbo finally said. Many grunts of agreement were heard and even a groan or two. Nori quietly asked Bofur where the hobbit fit it, he'd eaten plate for plate with Dwalin and Bombur.

“Master Baggins?”

“Yes, Master Balin?”

“Earlier you summoned Fíli and he answered by calling you ‘uncle’, you said you would explain why.”

“That can wait, brother. Master Baggins? Is that a Courting Braid I spy?”

“Indeed it is, Dwalin.” The table was roused to curiosity at this.

“Who Braided it? Who is your Intended?” From Gloín.

“That’s a Durin Bead, isn’t it?” From Dwalin.

“Of course it is, brother. You were the first of the Company to arrive, barring Thorin and the lads.” Balin answered him.

“Did the Princess Dís approve of the pairing?” Asked Bombur.

“Have the Formalities been followed?” Asked Dori.

Atkát!” Thorin stood, crying out to be heard.

When the table had settled he sat down and continued.

“The two matters are related. If you give me a chance, I will explain.” He waited until this was acknowledged.

“This afternoon in front of Fortimbras Took, The Thain of The Shire, and my nephews, Fíli and Kíli, I placed a Courting Braid in Bilbo’s hair. This has been a long time coming, my friends. I have known Bilbo for some time, but as you know, rarely does a Durin hear the sound of Mahal’s Song and when we do, it is never at a first meeting. I can, however, be certain when I heard the Song for the first time. Bilbo, Fíli Kíli and I were crossing a creek and the sound of the rushing water swelled into His Song. I knew in that moment, Bilbo would be my One. My only One.” Thorin lifted his mug and after a swallow and kept going.

“When Gandalf told me of his recommendation for burglar, I was hesitant. This quest is dangerous with many perils. Why would I expose a hobbit to that? My hobbit? Kíli and Fíli begged me to write to Bilbo about it and of course my hobbit replied. The letter bluntly informed us that Dís could run the Halls without our help, so he expected us here inside the month. I still had many things to do and meetings to attend to and so sent Fíli and Kíli on ahead. They’ve been here for some weeks now helping Bilbo acquire supplies and ponies on our behalf.”

“We have our own ponies, though.” Put in Dwalin.

“Not like these.” Said Fíli. “These are ponies from Rohan. They’re bred for strength and endurance. Sweet natured and calm, but fast when needed.”

“If they’re the other ponies stabled at the Inn, then they’re good, Dwalin, really good.” Nori added.

“Good.” Said Thorin. “After arriving here this morning, I met with the Thain. My thanks to you, Balin, your meetings with the Thain covered many areas that we will be grateful to The Shire for its assistance in. Statements were made and questions asked and the result is a Courting Braid in Bilbo’s hair, mine will be added by the morning. Now, Balin, you asked about Kíli calling Bilbo uncle?”

“Aye. That I did.”

“Right. In Shire Courting customs, it is not condoned for a Courting couple to travel without both parties having kin to accompany them. As Bilbo had no kin that wish to travel with us right now, he has claimed Kíli as kin. This means that Kíli will represent the Baggins family in regards to the Courtship, this gives him the right to call Bilbo ‘Uncle’. And because Fíli is his brother by blood, he also has the same rights as Kíli even though Bilbo has not claimed him, so he gets to call Bilbo ‘Uncle’ if he wishes.”

Here Bilbo interrupted by placing a piece of paper on the table along with a lamp.

“Gandalf left this here when he came by this morning. I don’t have to hesitate in assuming it is for you.”

Thorin looked at the map, it was of Erebor, he remembered it from the last time he sat at the head of Bilbo’s table. He knew that even though they didn’t need Elrond to read the map for them, that the Company would still be going to Rivendell. After all, they needed to consult Elrond and Galadriel in relation to the Ring of Sauron. There had to be a way to stop Saruman from helping the Dark Lord. Thankfully that was to be left to the White Council, not Thorin and his Company.

“He also left this.” Bilbo used a bit of sleight of hand to display the Key.

“If there’s a key, there must be a door.” This time it was Bofur who said the words, not Fíli.

“Look, here. On the side. Would you translate for me, Thorin?” Asked Bilbo.

“It says – Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast’. Obviously a reference to the hidden door. But… dwarrow doors can be near invisible and we do not know the maker, to look for his signature marks.”

“Gandalf said there more to this map than he could read. He may have an idea of whom we should seek.”

“Yes, we will ask him on the morrow.”

“That would be wise.” Stated Balin. “What new from Ered Luin? Did they all come?” He asked.

“Aye. Envoys from all seven kingdoms.” Replied Thorin.

“What do the dwarrow of the Iron Hills say? Is Daín with us?” asked Dwalin.

Thorin sighed.

“They will not come.” He sighed again. “They say this Quest is ours and our alone.” He waited for that to sink in. “I will take each and every one of you over and army of dwarrow from the Iron Hills, for when I called upon you, you answered. Loyalty, honour and a willing heart. I can ask no more than that. From my grandfather to my father, from my father to me, this map and key came. I will see Erebor reclaimed.” It was fairly close to what he’d said the last time, albeit only to Balin last time.

Cheers were rousing and long. While they cheered, Bilbo got to feet unobtrusively and fetched in jugs of spiced cider and trays of desserts. Subtly placing each dish near the dwarf whose favourite it was. When he sat down again, that long familiar contract was in front of his placemat. He assured Balin it would be signed for the morning.

Conversations were limited as each dwarf savoured their favourite desserts. After which the Company broke into smaller groups.

Ori, Nori, Bifur, Bofur, Kíli and Fíli were chosen to do dishes and started throwing the plates and cutlery around. Bilbo looked at Thorin and quickly whispered.

“Watch this.” Thorin tweaked an eyebrow at him in question.

“Watch the knives, you’ll blunt them.” Bilbo called to Bofur.

“Hear that lads. He says we’ll blunt the knives.” Bofur cried. And so the song started.

 

Blunt the knives, bend the forks,

Smash the bottles and burn the corks

Chip the glasses and crack the plates

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates

 

Cut the cloth, trail the fat,

Leave the bones on the bedroom matt

Pour the milk on the pantry floor

Splash the wine on every door

 

Dump the crocks in a boiling bowl

Pound them up with a thumping pole

And when you've finished if they are whole

Send them down the hall to roll!

 

That's what Bilbo Baggins hates!

 

Bilbo was trying not to laugh and only just succeeding, even if Thorin wasn’t trying hard at all to contain his mirth.

Finally dishes were done, food scraps tucked away and the Company assembled in the smoking room to wind down the evening. Bilbo bustled around finishing up his packing.

He was taking his mother’s bow and quiver, Kíli had re-strung the bow nicely for him. A new set of throwing knives he’d been given by Thorin, as a Courting gift, once the dwarf got over his shock. Two changes of clothes, extra smalls, a travel first aid kit and some spare handkerchiefs went into the bottom of the pack, next was a travel sewing kit. A collapsible fishing rod and some lures were tucked in the side. A cleverly made leather wash-kit, freshly stocked with soap and some spare combs and a silver flask of fragrant oil, good for anything a hobbit needed, from smoothing hair to something a little more intimate. If he was very lucky he might even get to use it that way. Maybe.

One more change of clothes and the pack was full. An oilskin was rolled up and tied to the bottom of the pack. He placed it on the floor beside the chair holding a change of clothes for the morning and his travel cloak with it’s many hidden pockets, containing a small first aid kit, a packet of combs, his notebook, the throwing knives and a tinderbox. His and his dwarrrow's bedrolls already in the pantry with the food packs.

In the pantry he checked that the individual bags of tea and those of herbs for stews were secure, that packets of travel ration-cakes made from dried meat, fats and fruits were separately bundled. The bags of dried meats for stews rested alongside parcels of dried fruits, nuts and rusks. This special travel mix had been handed down to him by this mother, it was a favourite for all the Took’s when they went adventuring. Lightweight and highly nutritious, it was easy to eat as you walked or rode.

As he made his way back to his room the pantry, the dwarrow started to sing. That Song. The song that moved him so.

 

Far over the Misty Mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away, ere break of day

To find our long forgotten gold

 

The pines were roaring on the heights

The wind were moaning in the night

The fire was red, it flaming spread

The trees like torches blazed with light

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

 Atkát! = Silence!

Chapter Text

Getting to Know the Burglar

 

Bilbo woke to darkness of Bag End, but with the knowledge that from tonight on he would be under the stars again. For months on end. With dwarrow. Noisy, rowdy, smelly, no sense of privacy dwarrow.

Oh, heavens above, what was he doing?

Must have lost his mind, to even consider doing this again.

Deep breath. Deep breath. Get up, get dressed, let’s get going, before you change your mind, Baggins.

With that resolute thought running through his head Bilbo climbed from his lovely, comfortable bed, wrapped himself in his dressing gown and headed to the kitchen. Once there he stoked up the stove for hot water and put the kettle on, so he could have first breakfast while the water heated. After his bath he dressed in the travel clothes he’d laid out and set about making coffee and rolls for the whole Company, plus Gandalf.

He was not terribly impressed with the wizard and what he’d learned from others of their experiences with the Grey Wanderer over the last eighty years, were not encouraging. It appeared that Gandalf’s biggest problem was that he kept missing things, things that were just out of sight. He didn’t handle refusal at all well, someone disagreeing with him was likely to have Gandalf pulling on the wizard mantle, like he’d tried with Bilbo the day before.

But for all that, at least the wizard genuinely cared about the people he dragged off on his ‘adventures’, which was something at least.

By the time Bilbo had all the rolls made and ready for stuffing, there were sounds of movement from the guest rooms. The usual sounds of Kíli trying to wake Fíli came from their room and the thump that eventually sounded was not unexpected. Kíli often had to resort to dumping Fíli out of the bed and onto the floor. The chuckle Thorin made as he heard this thump, preceded him as he entered the kitchen. He came right up to Bilbo and making sure not to get in the way of the spoon and spatula the hobbit was wielding, slid his arms around his intended and rested his chin on a not-quite-delicate shoulder.

Thorin frowned a little when his arms met firmness and not the soft rotundness that he remembered a Gentle-hobbit should have about his middle. His hands slipped and slid, measuring the strength under them. This hobbit was a hobbit to be reckoned with, he was a Hobbit, one that knew what he was capable of. This Hobbit was a stranger to weakness, but not to gentleness. A stranger to indecision, but not to softness. This was a Hobbit of remarkable renown.

Bilbo smiled as he felt Thorin’s hands moving about his body, if it weren’t for the frown and concern on the dwarf’s face it might appear that he was letting his Courtship move along a little fast, but the face gave him away.

“Bilbo, my amrâlu, I don’t remember you being quite this…? I remember you being a little softer.”

Bilbo laughed.

“The day I woke and remembered, I started to plan. Many plans. One of which is that I will not be a burden this time. I have spent the last seven months conditioning myself. Physically that is. I’ve been relearning the skills my mother tried to teach me as a faunt, some I’ve managed to pick up again and some our boys have had to reteach me. My skills with a bow are not up to Kíli’s, but are far better than any here in the Shire, but with throwing knives, I think that not even Nori can better me. My sword work however is still an issue, all the swords that Fíli brought are too heavy for me to wield for more than a few minutes, but we’ve gone as far as we can with wooden practice swords. I want my sword back, that at least was the right weight for me.”

“We’ll get them, ibîn, we know exactly where they are and we’ll get them.”

“I know, but…? That doesn’t stop me from missing it. Now pour out some coffee for yourself and the lads, please.”

“Aye.”

Moments later the two young dwarrow stumbled into the kitchen. Fíli was barely aware of anything, his tunic on back to front and his belt slung over his shoulder. Kíli in contrast was as close to neat as he’d ever been, with a comb in his hand, trying to pull it through his tangled mess.

“Morning, Uncles.” He chirped.

Fíli yawned and nodded and grunted something that could possibly be a greeting. Maybe.

Thorin gave each of them a mug of coffee and sipped at his own, the three dwarrow being Bilbo’s hands as he prepared the fillings for the rolls, eggs, bacon, sausages, onion, cheese, left over cold meats and vegetables. He set Kíli to slicing open the rolls, Thorin to adding the various fillings while he and Fíli wrapped them. He’d made sure that there were more than enough for all his dwarrow for breakfast and hopefully some for lunch, too.

Finally the food was ready. Just as they finished pouring the last of the coffee into travel flasks, two for each dwarrow of the Company and Gandalf, as well as one of tea for Bilbo, Holman Gamgee knocked at the door.

“Morning, Mister Bilbo. I brought’s me pull wagon for ya.” Said the older hobbit.

“Oh, thank you, Holman and good morning to you, too. Kíli will you give Holman a hand loading the wagon, please? Holman, would you like a roll? Mother’s scrambled egg and bacon roll? Yes? Good, good. Fíli, please pass one along. Thank you, lad. Finish your coffee, you need to wake up a bit more, yet.” The hobbit directed.

Fifteen minutes later the four intrepid adventurers and Bilbo’s gardener, Holman, were making their way down to the Green Dragon Inn. The stable master, Hirand Grampien already had fourteen of the sixteen ponies saddled and ready to go, only waiting on the packs that Bilbo had in the pull wagon. It took Hirand and his son Betran bare seconds to have the travel packs secured to the pack ponies.

As Company started making their way from the Inn to the Stable yard Betran would take their travel pack and bedroll, add it to a saddle and hand them the reins to a pony or in Gandalf’s case, a horse. And as they left the stable yard, Bilbo and Fíli, now awake, would hand them a bag of rolls and the pair of coffee-filled flasks.

The whole exercise ran like clockwork and took an amazingly short amount of time. They were well on the road by the time the sun’s warmth burnt off the morning’s mist.

Thorin and Fíli were at the head of the group, leading the way towards Bree, so Bilbo was hopeful that he wouldn’t have to step in and correct Thorin’s judgement in direction. So far so good. Kíli was practicing his Iglishmêk with Bifur and Bofur. While Bilbo could see that both Dwalin and Balin were looking for an excuse to speak to him.

“Master Balin. I believe that I am to provide you with a signed contract, correct?”

“Indeed, Master Baggins.”

“Bilbo, please. We are Company and are going to be travelling together, I would like it if you’d call me Bilbo.” Bilbo handed the wad of paper to Balin to check.

“Bilbo. Then you must call me Balin. As you say, we are Company, now.” Balin placed the paper on the travel desk on the front of his saddle and pulled his eyeglass out to view the document. “Well, this all appears to be in order, welcome to the Company of Thorin Oakenshield.” He smiled. Sounds of agreement could be heard from a number of dwarrow at hearing this, though there had been little doubt of his joining them, the night before.

Dwalin edged his pony alongside Bilbo’s and began to ask the questions that a security conscious Guard Captain would need to know.

“So, tell me Master Hobbit. Have you done much fighting?”

“Some Master Dwalin, but not for a while. Fíli and Kíli have been working with me to bring back some semblance of skill.”

“What’s your preferred weapon, then? Axe or Sword?” A hobbit that could fight?

“Ah. Neither, really. I’m not bad with a bow, but not up to Kíli’s level. As for a sword, well, it’s difficult to find one light enough for me to use, I had a fine sword, an elven long-dagger, little use to a Man or Elf, but a fine length short-sword for a hobbit. Until it was lost to bandits. But my real skill is knives and conkers.” The hobbit slid open his cloak and showed the bald dwarf the rows of throwing knives and the odd round metal-spiked timber balls.

“What in Mordor are those?” Dwalin growled.

“Conkers, of course. During the Fell Winter when the Brandywine River froze solid, White Wolves came down from the north. Many hobbits died, oh-so many. The only way we had to fight them was with farm tools or conkers. The few smiths we had started to make metal conkers, over the years they’ve changed things slightly, spikes, like these, solid metal conkers, some even with little pockets that we could add oils to make fire bombs, or ones, that when they come in contact with water, either explode or expel plumes of gas. I made these this last winter.” He pulled one out and handed it to Dwalin. “ Aren’t they lovely?”

“Lovely? How do use them?” Dwalin handed the conker on to Nori who rode on his other side.

“Hmm. See that tree there, the one with the broken branch above the knot-hole?” He pointed. Nori looked at the conker and handed it back to Dwalin.

“Yes?” replied Dwalin, passing the conker back to Bilbo.

“You do it like this.” Bilbo bounced the conker in his hand a few times and then with a sideways flick of the wrist, his hand was empty. The solid sounding thunk up in front of them caught the attention of Kíli, he looked at the conker-decorated tree and shook his head. Bilbo, Dwalin and Nori reached the tree and Dwalin looked at the ball, it appeared to be embedded well into the bark of the tree, he tried to get a grip on it but the spikes stopped him.

“Now how do you get it back?” Asked Nori.

Bilbo sidled his pony up to the tree and reached out, his much smaller hand found it easy to find a hold between the spikes and instead of pulling the ball away from the trunk, he rolled it downwards, the conker coming away relatively easily.

Nori and Dwalin asked many questions about the conkers that morning, about how the idea started and how they were made, the different uses, and Bilbo showed them how each spike was slightly square at the base, how all it required to replace a spike was a claw-mouthed tool, a small vice-grip and maybe two minutes of time. He offered to show Nori how to make a set of his own as they travelled. They discussed the types of wood and what tools were needed for a solid timber set.

After a while Ori’s curiosity got the better of him and he started to ask Bilbo about hobbit culture and customs, Bilbo happy to answer him for the most part. However when Ori asked about the Fell Winter, Bilbo struggled to keep his emotions under control, the Winters of the Shire had cost him more than most. They had taken first his father and then his mother and finally his siblings, leaving him alone and while not ostracised by the people of Hobbiton, but it took many years before he felt he was truly accepted.

Now the Shire was getting crowded, some hobbits were getting frustrated at the lack of opportunities available and so when Bilbo mentioned to Fortimbras about the possibility of making new lives in Erebor, there was interest. Initially it was only Took’s and Brandybuck’s, but after a bit, with people talking, interest flared and now many hobbits were keen to move. Of course Bilbo was able to answer so many of Fortim’s questions only because he’d been here before, but there was no way he was going to tell Fortim that. He had to let Fortim think that he’d been in contact with Thorin on the matter for some time. How he’d managed to imply the same to Balin and have the dwarf believing it, he would never know.

Because many young hobbits now had a chance to have full lives with plenty of space, Bilbo was the favourite son of the East Farthing and Buckland, young hobbits of the North, West and South Farthings were just as keen, but less demonstrative about it. All they wanted was a chance to make a home and a good life.

Bilbo knew that the quest would succeed, there was not doubt in his mind, they’d done it once, they could do it again. This time they knew (kind of) what was coming and had planned accordingly.

 

After a month on the road, the two nights the Company had spent in Bree were little more than a memory. Initially they’d planned to send Bofur and Gloín into the town to purchase their supplies, but with an injured Dori, Oín, as healer for the group, took over, deciding that two nights not on pony-back significantly improve Dori’s twisted ankle. Now approaching 30 days of actual travel, Thorin could admit that it had been necessary and gave them a chance to restock.

 

It was early evening when the Company reached a burnt out farmstead. For whatever reason, Gandalf was frustrated with their journey and beginning to be irritating. When he suddenly stormed off, Thorin and Balin could only watch him go. Bilbo stopped him for a moment, the expression on the wizard’s face could only be read as shock, but the Hobbit waved him on and came to warm himself at the fire.

He nodded to Thorin. They knew where they were and just what would happen that night. Neither looked forward to it.

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Amrâlu = love of loves (K)

Ibîn = gem (K)

The Conker claw-mouthed tool is a much the same as a mechanics wrench or spanner

 

Chapter Text

Trolls, Wizards, Wargs and Elves

 

Balin and Dwalin had spent a great deal of time over the last week watching the burglar and their leader. There was still a great deal that they just didn’t know about the Shireling, no matter how devoted he was to Thorin, they had learnt that he did not appreciate being called a Halfling. The three days after Oín had done so were a strong reminder to the rest of the Company not to make the same mistake. The hobbit, after all was a Child of Yavanna and knew plants in a way they didn’t, Oín’s rash of hives and lack of appetite evidence of that knowledge.

The brothers decided that they would need to know a lot more about the hobbit if Thorin was to continue their Courtship beyond the quest. Granted he had spoken on their behalf to the Thain. Time to ask questions. Fíli let slip that Bilbo was cousin to the current Thain and grandson to the previous Thain, making him the closest the Shire had to royalty. This explained much. His bearing, manner with tradesmen and the size of this home, how he'd purchased 16 ponies from Rohan and all the travel equipment to go on those ponies. Kíli confirmed this and added that he was The Baggins of Bag End and that there were more than 50 homes that looked to the protection of The Baggins. Maybe it wasn’t such a one-sided Match, after all.

As each afternoon passed, Kíli, Fíli, Ori, Nori and Bilbo hunted for whatever game they could find. Pheasant, grouse, ptarmigan, rabbit and hare frequently ended the day in a pot. Even Roe deer and a boar had fallen prey to the hunters.

Tonight there was to have been a rich rabbit stew or, at least, that was what Bombur had planned on there being. The young princes coming back to camp and saying that two of the ponies had been taken by trolls, changed that.

The Company spilt into three groups, Bilbo, Bofur, Fíli and Dori in one. Nori, Thorin, Balin and Ori in the second and Dwalin, Bifur and Kíli in the third, with Bombur and Gloín staying back at the camp to help Oín prepare for any wounded and pack all the Company’s belongings in readiness to move camp.

The first group moved around the Troll’s camp on the south side, the second group to the west and the third group to the east. Thorin, Dwalin and the two young princes had spent a few minutes quickly, and as carefully as possible, scratched out a plan of attack. A plan that Thorin, Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli had thought of back in Bag End, during their brainstorming session.

Ori was to use his slingshot to fire a bundle of herbs into the Troll’s soup-pot, the herbs were poisonous and would put the Trolls into a deep drugged sleep, they would not wake before the dawn could take them. Fíli and Kíli would make animal noises to distract the trolls for Ori, it wouldn’t do for the Trolls to see their soup being drugged.

Nori, Bilbo and Kíli were to use throwing knives to try and take out the Troll’s eyes if the soup wasn’t enough or they abandoned it in favour of hunting dwarrow. If this happened the rest of the dwarrow were to keep the trolls moving as much as possible. The longer the trolls were active the faster and the more the potion would work, assuming of course that they needed to.

Unbeknown to the rest of the Company, but known to Thorin, Bilbo had told Gandalf where and when to split the rock regardless of the success of their plan. As Bilbo said to Thorin, a back-up plan to a back-up plan to a plan. The hobbit would prefer that the herbs worked and that none of his dwarrow were placed at risk, particularly as the following day should be a frantic one, if memory served correct.

The eerie noises that emanated from Fíli and Kíli were more enough to distract the Trolls and let Ori plop the bundle of herbs right into the soup pot just as planned. Balin quietly clapped Ori on the shoulder in recognition of a perfect shot and silence slowly fell over the wooded area as Fíli and Kíli let the animal sounds retreat. The three groups watched anxiously as the trolls sampled the soup and, liking the taste, started to fight over it. Within each group the hobbit and dwarrow took turns in getting some sleep when it became evident that the trolls weren’t interested in anything but their soup.

Thorin was among those awake as the sky grew light, which was a good thing, as he was as bad as Fíli when it came to mornings. He woke those in his group just as Gandalf split the rock and let the dawn’s light fill the clearing. The trolls never woke, not even as they turned to stone. The wizard was surprised to see the monstrous beasts that lay around the campfire.

“Trolls? They must have come down from the etten-moors. There’ve not been trolls this far south for an age. Not since a darker power ruled these lands.” Gandalf said frowning and sharing a dark speaking look with Thorin. “They could not have moved in daylight.” He continued.

“There must be a cave nearby.” Thorin dutifully said.

Ori was sent back the camp to collect the others and bring ponies to a clearing, near the entrance to the cave that Dwalin found. Gandalf lead the way down into the stinking maw of the cave, followed by Thorin, Bofur, Gloín, Nori and Dwalin. All the dwarrow complained, the smell of rotting flesh was nigh on overwhelming, just the echo of it was enough that Bilbo was glad he’d stayed outside with the others, ostensibly to guard those inside. Thorin went straight to where he remembered the swords had been, while Gandalf looked in other areas. Thorin picked out Glamdring quickly and passed it to the wizard, reaching for Orcrist, having it back in his hand was a relief. The fact that it was elven-made, now meant little to him, the blade itself had protected him and now that it was back in his hand he finally felt armed.

As Gandalf ranted about the swords and their makers, Thorin tried to subtly look for Bilbo’s little sword, ‘Sting’, but it wasn’t until Gandalf started back to the mouth of the cave that his staff moved something and Thorin saw the long dagger. He bent down and picked it up quietly, Gandalf looking askance.

“Bilbo said that his sword was taken by bandits, perhaps this will suffice as one for him. It appears to be of elven make also, will it glow blue, too, if Orcs or goblins are near?” Thorin asked even though he knew that it would.

“Yes, it should.”

While this was happening, Gloín, Nori and Bofur were filling whatever chests they could find and burying them against the possibility that they would be back this way, they knew that the troll hoard would be found by Men and hoped that if they buried the chests, they may be overlooked. If they, themselves, didn't come back past here, then they could write to family members and tell them where to find the chests.

As the dwarrow re-entered daylight, Ori, Bombur and Oín joined them, ready to travel, they'd left the ponies in the nearest clearing.

When Thorin emerged, he headed straight for his hobbit and presented him with Sting. There were a number of dwarrow watching, as Gift-giving such as this, is a large part of a dwarf Courtship and at least one gift must be given in public.

“Sting!” The hobbit cried.

“What?” Asked Bofur.

“Sting. It’s my sword. It was lost to bandits some time ago. I have missed it. Thank you, Thorin, for my sword.” He beamed at the King-in-Exile.

“If it was Bilbo’s once, is it still a Gift?” asked Bombur.

“Given how pleased Bilbo is to get it back, I’d say that, yes, it counts.” Dori answered. “Bilbo? What say you? Is it a gift or a returned item?”

“Oh, definitely a Gift. Thorin picked it and brought it out just for me. The fact that many years ago it belonged to me is irrelevant, really. He could have chosen anything for me. That he saw this sword and knew it was for me, shows that he’s thinking not only of what is suitable, but also of what I would like.” The hobbit replied. Fíli and Kíli hid their smirks, they knew that there was no chance that Thorin would have left the ‘letter opener’ behind in the troll hoard.

Before anything else could be said, Nori, on watch, called an alert. The group had just gathered together when a sled pulled by huge rabbits, carrying the Brown Wizard, Radagast reached the cave mouth. The two wizards conferred for a few minutes before a howl was heard. Thorin sent Ori and Dori for the ponies, they would have to act fast.

Two warg scouts tried to sneak up on the group but was swiftly despatched, the first by Thorin and the second by Kíli and Dwalin.

“We have to get out of here.”

“We can’t… The ponies have bolted.” Said a returning Ori.

“I’ll draw them off.” The odd wizard said.

“These are Gundabad wargs. They’ll outrun you.” Said Gandalf.

“These are Rhosgobel Rabbits…" Radagast smirked. "I’d like to see them try.” He and his rabbits dashed from the woods and the howls followed them.

“This? Is why I wanted Rohan ponies.” Bilbo said, as they headed for the tree-line.

“So they could bolt?” Growled Dwalin.

“No.. Because they’ll come to a whistle.” Bilbo took a deep breath and tilted his head back. A piercing whistle rang out, once, twice and a third time. Within seconds the sounds of hoof-beats could be heard and as the wizard lead the dwarrow from the trees, the ponies were almost upon them. Quickly they caught up the reigns and mounted. They rode for hard long hours, all of them grateful now, for the endurance of the ponies. Even that vaunted endurance started to falter, the ponies began to tire and Thorin directed them to slow and rest their ponies as much as possible.

More howls came, the wargs may have been tricked by Radagast for a bit but they weren’t going to stay that way for long. Scouts were keeping a lookout and the troop of dwarrow were eventually spotted.

“Let’s hope these ponies are as fast as you were told, Master Hobbit.” Yelled Nori.

“To the Ford of Bruinen. This way.” Gandalf took the lead again, the hobbit keeping as close as his pony was able. The rest of the Company followed the two with Thorin and Kíli at the rear. 

“I’m almost out of arrows.” The archer called. Bilbo tossed his quiver to Nori, who tossed it to Dwalin, who tossed it to Fíli, who hooked it on Kíli’s saddle-horn, so the archer could keep shooting. Suddenly around the ponies there were horses and not just any horses but the tall elven steeds, their riders armed and ready to fight.

“Mithrandir. Master Oakenshield. May we be of assistance?” Bilbo recognised the blonde elf as one of the Twice Born, what elves called those who were re-born or returned to live again, but had never known the elf’s name.

“Indeed, Glorfindel. That would be much appreciated.” Gandalf responded.

Ah, Glorfindel. The elf had in his first life been killed by a Balrog of Gothmog’s ilk, it had in it’s death throws, caught him up by his hair and dragged him off a cliff to his death. The Valar kept him but a short time in the Halls of Mandos before returning him Arda. His life was devoted to protecting Middle Earth now. Bilbo wondered briefly if the blonde was to be one of those the note meant, he would be a staunch ally.

“Then, this way.” He turned his horse to the north and encouraged the pony riders to stay as close as possible. A handful of other elves turned away and sought wargs to kill.

A mad dash and then an equally mad splash and they crossed the Bruinen River as the ford. Rivendell finally.

Glorfindel allowed the ponies to slow to a fast walk and cool down. They were near spent, the many hours of being chased wearing them down, some on the verge of exhaustion. Bilbo gave his pony to Bombur and rode double with Gandalf for the last mile.

“Master Oakenshield, Master Baggins. I have a message for you from the Lady Galadriel. She wishes me to inform you that the puppet of Sauron has been removed from power and has already been taken by Cirdan to face the Valar for his crimes.”

“Thank you. That is good to hear.” Thorin replied.

“What? Who is the puppet of Sauron that you speak of?” Gandalf asked.

“Soon, Mithrandir. There has been called a meeting of the White Council, of a sort. You will find out all the details then, old friend.”

“Hmf. Why whait? You could tell me now.”

“I could… I’m not going to, though. You know better than to ask.”

Gandalf laughed.

“It was worth a try.”

The other dwarrow watched the wizard and the elf talk, uncertain of quite how to react. Thorin was showing none of his usual animosity to the presence of elves but instead, seemed genuinely grateful for the news passed to him.

The riders amassed in what appeared to be a stabling area, dismounting and removing their travel packs. They were met by a group of elves, some stepped to the ponies and some waited for the riders. The stable master shaking his head over the condition of the ponies, but not berating their riders, as it was obvious that the riders were no little better of a condition and many were showing their concern for their mounts. Kíli, Fíli, Bifur and Gloín in particular worried over their little mares.

Two identical dark-haired elves came forward and spoke.

“Master Bilbo-” said one.

“-welcome, back-” continued the other.

“-to Rivendell.”

“Adar wishes-”

“-to speak to you-”

“-and Master Oakenshield.”

“Mithrandir will-”

“-stay with your-”

“-Company. Lindir-”

“-will show them-”

“-to their rooms.”

“We will take-”

“-you to Adar.”

“Elladan, Elrohir. Stop that.” The hobbit half-growled, half-laughed.

“Never, Master Baggins,-”

“-we do it just-”

“-to annoy you.” The two grinned.

“Enough!” A third dark elf laughed. “Time is wasting and our guests need rest and refreshment. Master Oakenshield, will you allow me to take your pack to the rooms assigned to you or would you prefer one of your Company do so?”

Dwalin didn’t wait for Thorin to answer, he just reached over and took Thorin’s pack and waved Nori to do the same with Bilbo’s.

The entre group, dwarrow, elves and a hobbit made their way across the final bridge to the city proper, before having to split and go in two directions, Dwalin obviously uncomfortable about Thorin being alone with elves. A hurried conference took place between one of the Twins and Glorfindel as they walked. As the steward of Rivendell was about to change direction, Glorfindel spoke again.

“Master Dwarf?” He addressed Dwalin. “Would you prefer to accompany your group to their rooms or to stay with Masters Oakenshield and Baggins?”

“I would stay with Thorin… Please.” The last was reluctantly added and he handed his pack to Bofur and Thorin’s to Fíli. He kept this axes strapped to his back and his hammer in his hands, though.

“Certainly.” Glorfindel bowed slightly to Lindir and the dwarrow and turned to the now much smaller party. “This way, if you please.”

They were lead on a number of paths and across bridges, at last their way ended in a set of steps that opened out onto an outdoor room surrounded by columns holding up an arched roof. A small number of people sat around a large round table in the centre of the space. There were two tall men dressed in sky-blue robes that had an air of Fae-ness about them, they seemed to be cloaked in mystery. A tall dark elf, his face serious and joyous by turns, sat near the two men. Dwalin and Thorin both seemed startled to find that Radagast was also there, though how he’d managed it before them, they never found out.

It was the fifth person that really caught the attention of the three travellers. A stunningly beautiful she-elf. Blonde, tall and clothed in a gown of moonlight, a clasp pinned below her breast held a cape of shadows about her shoulders. This was Galadriel, the most powerful elf of the Age, bearer of a Ring of Power and leader of her people. She practically glowed with vitality and goodwill.

Dwalin stood stock still, never before had he considered an elf worthy of being called beautiful, but this elf? This elf was as far past beauty as a diamond was past a pebble. There was no comparison to be had.

Welcome to Rivendell. Her voice echoed in their minds.

 

Chapter Text

A White Council

 

Dwalin stood and watched the she-elf. She glowed. Glowed. How did she glow? She was so beautiful. How? He’s never seen an elf like her before. Not only was she beautiful, she was polite, she exuded goodwill and addressed not only Thorin with respect but he himself. He was just a guard and she addressed him with respect. She was enough to make him hesitate.

She turned to him and spoke.

“Master Dwalin.”

“My Lady?” he responded. How had she known what he'd been thinking?

“Why would I not treat you with respect? You have shown me respect and I return it.”

“My lady, until this night I have not be shown respect by an elf nor have I been respectful of elves. I have loathed the pointy eared bastards. I say this not to anger, but show how I thought of them. Tonight that has changed.” She at first looked startled but then smiled at his words.

“But until this night the only elves you have known are those of the Woodland Realm. This is understandable, as Thranduil has not been a good or kind neighbour to Erebor and others. This is to change. He has much to learn of the beings of Arda and has been directed to Lothlorien. For the time of his absence his son, Legolas, will assume his command.”

Dwalin thought he had no memories of Erebor, no memories of dealing directly with the elves of Mirkwood, but even so, when Galadriel said the name Legolas, an image was there. A memory, he was sure. A tall, thin, young male, his hair more golden than his father’s silver/white, similar features and the same pale blue eyes. But where his father’s eyes were cold and hard, Legolas’ eyes were warm and gentle. In his memory, the young elf-prince was playing with him, holding high and swinging him in wide arcs, laughing at his excitement. ‘Gladha-maethor nin’ the blonde called him.

“Gladha-maethor nín. What does it mean?” He asked.

“It means ‘my laughing warrior’. He called you that, did he not?”

“I think so. I’m not sure. I was only two when the dragon came. But someone swung me around and called me that.” He could see the surprise on Thorin’s face followed by a sudden, thoughtful look.

“I see your mind. Yes, that is Legolas Greenleaf. It is his voice that echoes in your mind. While time has dulled the memories they are still true.” She turned her attention from Dwalin to Thorin.

“For the present, Legolas commands the Woodland Realm, you will find him far easier to treat with than his father. Before your grandfather’s fall to Gold, Legolas was a frequent visitor to Erebor, his father felt it beneath him and so sent his son. While Thranduil hides in his Hall, Legolas moves about their Realm, dealing with Elves and Men. He does what he can to protect his lands from the darkness that creeps into what Men now call the Mirkwood.” Galadriel now turned to Bilbo.

“Tád nún. It is good that you are here. Curunír, also known as Saruman the White, has been taken by Cirdan to face the Valar. His fall to the evil that is Mordor is a great loss to Arda and we are hopeful that he may yet regret his actions. But he is no longer a threat to your quests. Twice-born, your journey’s will be difficult but not impossible. You must first free the mountain from the dragon before your true journey can begin. You may call on any of Middle Earth, to see you tasks completed, and your call shall be answered. Are there any you wish to call from Rivendell?”

Twice-born? Bilbo was twice-born? Dwalin didn’t understand what the elf meant by twice-born.

“Yes, my lady, Lord Elrond. There are four I would call, but for different tasks. I would claim Elladan and Elrohir as mine, to assist in the quest for Erebor. But for the task to come after Erebor, I would ask Erestor and Glorfindel. Ask. They may refuse and no offence will be taken.”

Glorfindel stepped forward and bowed to Bilbo.

“My hervinn and I would be honoured to assist you in any way we can, twice-born.”

“First, stop with the twice-born Glorfindel. You called me Bilbo long ago, in my last life, do it again. Second, your task will start now, you must cover a lot of ground for me. You will go to Rohan, I would have Thengel will join us, to Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth, there I would have Adrahil or Ecthelion.” Bilbo turned back to Galadriel. “I would also ask Haldir of Lorien. After my journeys are over, Erestor and Haldir will be tutors to the Heirs of Isildur, there is much they will have to face in their task of re-uniting the races of Arda.”

“Of course, Bilbo. Ah… do you understand what you mean by claiming the Twins? If you do, fine, but if not, we would not hold you to this.”

“Well, of course I understand, Glorfindel, you told me what it meant years back. They will be Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond, as well as sons of the house of Baggins. Much as Estel is son of Arathorn and the son of the House of Elrond. This will be needed when we meet the Master of Laketown and with Daín of the Iron Hills, neither has much respect for elves, thanks to Thranduil.”

Bilbo with elves for sons? Oh, the company were not going to like this.

“Oh and Elrond? If you would? Remind the Twins that if they turn my hair, or anyone in the company’s, red or any other colour that I will see to it that theirs will remain purple for the rest of their days.” He turned to Thorin. “The Twins are much the same maturity as Fíli and Kíli. Once this is all over the prank wars will begin, I am sure. The rules are simple. No injury, physical or mental, is to brought against anyone other than those directly involved in their war, no damage to structures that the involved cannot repair in one day, no animals hurt, no weapons destroyed, anything stolen must be returned, no permanent alterations, no tattoos or cutting hair or beards.”

“Oh, Mahal. Why are you bringing them, then?” Asked Thorin.

“They will enter the caves with me, when I need to get it from Sméagol. Then once we get to Erebor, the Twins will work with Fíli, Kíli and her to kill Bolg, while you, Dwalin, Legolas and I remove the head of Azog. She and Legolas will meet us as we leave the mountains behind us. We’ll have some time at Be- the Garden to work with each other, we will need to work as a team.”

“Hmmm…”

Work with an elf. Before today Dwalin would not have even considered it, but now? The memories of Legolas and the pale beauty of Galadriel were making him rethink that. But… Who was the 'she' that Bilbo meant, surely not the Lady Galadriel? What was 'it' he talked of?

“Pardon? How were you planning on telling the others?” Dwalin wondered.

It was Bilbo that answered him.

“We’ll be telling them as much as we can, but some things will have to wait. What I can tell them, I will. Eventually we plan to have them know all that I know.” He stood from his seat and walked lean against a railing, looking out over the valley. “Lady, wizards of the Istari, I would ask your assistance in dealing with the dragon. Can you help?”

Both of the blue wizards approached and also leant on the rail, one to each side of him.

“We have an idea. Allow a day or two, to confirm our theory and if we are confirmed, we will provide that which will aid you. But you know how the dragon is to be defeated and who must do it. It is his destiny to deal with the dragon.”

“I am aware. But something must draw the beast from it’s lair, it is in this matter that I would ask your assistance.” Bilbo replied.

“And if we can, we will give it.”

“My thanks, Alatar, Pallando.”

“You know our names?” The other asked, startled.

“I made a point of finding out. Gandalf thinks he has forgotten, but I was ever curious about the Istari and their tasks.”

“Our tasks lie to the East, much further than the Lonely Mountain. We try to keep the creatures of Darkness at bay. Your tasks, if successful, and we feel that you will be, will end the Darkness and allow us to complete that which brought us to Arda. We will undertake our research after our evening meal, it may take us several hours to find what we seek or it make take us bare minutes, we do not yet know. When we find it, we will know send for you, Twice-Lived. However, we have another meeting to get through today.” With that the two blue wizards returned to the table and themselves down.

“For now, Lady Galadriel, you and your council have a meeting with Gandalf to get through. Try not to break him, please? We may need him in the future.” Thorin stood and bowed to her and those seated.

“We’ll do our best.” One of the blue wizards murmured, amused.

“Oh, before I was Returned, one of the Valar, Nienna, the Lady of Mercy, said I should ask for the prayers of Holding for each of the Lords of the Valar. To embroider on a pouch to put it in. Can someone here show me that? She said I’d need to embroider each prayer in the language of their people. She warned me that I would have to use a piece of fabric made from the Everbright plant as the pouch, the thread is to be spider-silk and I must have eight colours. One for each Lord of the Valar, plus white to seal them all together and each must have a core of Mithril. The needle, too, must be made from Mithril. She said that this would contain it, so that it’s master would not be able to see it or hear it or feel it’s prescence, no matter where it was. Who can help me with this?”

All those present were surprised to hear the Valar were prepared to get involved, they had always withheld their assistance in the past. Glorfindel was the first to adjust.

“I will ask Erestor to collect these items and make you a small booklet with all the prayers written in both the language of that Lord of the Valar and in the Common tongue.” He then turned and spoke to Thorin. “I see a Courting Bead in Bilbo’s hair and the matching one in yours. Will you be teaching Bilbo Khuzdul? I ask this because, if so, then I would suggest that you teach him the prayer of Holding yourself.”

“I will be teaching Bilbo, yes, but I do not know the prayer of Holding you speak of, it was not among those I was taught as a dwarfling. I would have your Erestor do this.”

“Certainly. I will go and see to this now.”

“Wait a moment, Glorfindel.” Elrond asked. He looked at each of the others and with a final nod, continued. “If you will seek Erestor out, I will escort Bilbo and Thorin.” He stopped and nodded to Dwalin. “And Dwalin, back to their rooms and return with Mithrandir.” He bowed to the wizards and even more deeply to Galadriel, before indicating to Bilbo, Thorin and Dwalin to follow him.

The two dwarrow and the hobbit bowed to Galadriel and started after Elrond. Dwalin stopped at the top of the stairs and spoke.

“Lady Galadriel? Will you be joining Lord Elrond and our Company this evening for a meal? I would greatly enjoy seeing the expressions on the faces of our companions when they meet you. They’ve not met an elf of your like before and are likely not to believe without seeing.” He grinned.

“Yes, I shall be.” She echoed his grin, having seen the vision in his mind.

“Until this evening then, my Lady.” He bowed and hurried to catch up to the others.

“What was that all about.” Thorin asked as they followed the Lord or Rivendell.

“Never ye mind. Ye just concentrate on what ye and Bilbo are gonna tell t’e Company.” Dwalin growled at him all formality gone from his voice.

“Hmf.”

Nothing more was said until they re-joined the Company. They had been given a suite of rooms that had a large common room and a number of bedrooms opening off of it. When Thorin, Bilbo and Dwalin joined them there was a few platters of food left on a table off to one side of the room, the other dwarrow had made themselves comfortable in armchairs and sofas clustered around a fireplace opposite the table.

“Welcome back. I see you made it in one piece.” Balin wasn’t too happy that Thorin had not taken him, he had no idea what type of damage he needed to repair. Elves could be mighty particular and Thorin was not the most diplomatic dwarf he knew.

“Yep.” Dwalin drawled. “Nae problems.”

“Really? Why do I not believe that?”

“No idea, brother.”

“For a change, he’s right.” Thorin started.

“Oi!”

“Oh, shut it, Dwalin. But he’s right, Balin. We had no issues, nor gave insult to our hosts. However there is something that you, all of you, haven’t been told. We wanted to wait until Bilbo had a chance to consulted with Elrond, our host, and the Lady Galadriel, before we spoke to you. Bilbo?”

“Thank you, Thorin. The first thing I held back from you is that I am a very old Hobbit. I have lived a long and full life, dying in my 134th year, which for hobbits is extremely old, but I had regrets, so many regrets. The Valar have given me another life to live, but with tasks that I must complete before I am free live as I would choose. The first of my tasks is to retrieve something from the creature, Gollum. What that something is, I am not allowed to tell you. I am to Hold this until my second task, the destruction of Smaug, is complete. Once this is done, I will be allowed to give you more details and tell you of my third and final task. For now, know that until we reach a certain point, where I must make a slight detour, my path lies with yours. I will re-join you before you leave the mountains. Because of this detour, Lady Galadriel is sending Lord Elrond’s Twins with me.” There was complaint to this. “Now, now, they are reasonably skilled, by elven standards that is, with both sword and bow. Just because they’re a pair of brats like Fíli and Kíli, doesn’t mean they won’t be useful… I hope that the four of them will work well together.”

“Oh, Mahal, they’re like these two idiots?” Gloín groaned.

“Oi!” the two dwarrow in question cried.

“Knock it off, you two. Bilbo’s already threatened them and they're claimed as sons of the House of Baggins. There may be some pranks, but he’s set limits and our hair and beards are off limits, unless they want theirs purple… For life.” Thorin put in and was answered by laughter. “Lady Galadriel also said that Thranduil is not currently in Mirkwood with his son, Legolas, serving as Regent until his return.”

“When will that be?” Balin asked.

“When Galadriel decides that he’s ready. By the sounds of it, we won’t be dealing with him. She says we will find the son far easier to treat with than the father, apparently Legolas is the one who gets things done. He was a frequent visitor to Erebor in the days of Thrór and played with our dwarflings when his duties were done. Dwalin has memories of this, as do I.” Many of the company looked surprised to hear this.

“Aye, I do.” Said Dwalin. “Balin do ye? Ye’re pretty much right between Thorin an’ me in age, do ye remember t’e Elf-Prince? Tall, but maybe not for an elf, pale gold hair and pale blue eyes, ‘e laughed a lot, swung me around high in t’e air. Called me ‘Gladha-maethor nin’. Lady Galadriel says it means ‘my laughing warrior’.”

Balin wore a puzzled frown.

“Yes, I think I do. He or someone called me ‘tithín pened’ or something like that, I wonder what it means? He had a fondness for Amad’s lemon cookies.”

“Aye, but he didn’t like her coffee.” Added Thorin. The three laughed as they remember the faces the elf pulled as whenever they reminded him of it. "We can ask one of the Twins what ‘tithín pened’ means at dinner tonight, as they will be joining us from now on."

“Well, it seems that some elves aren’t so bad after all.” Said Bofur.

“If what Galadriel says and what we remember is right, then no, not so bad at all.” Grinned Dwalin.

“What was she like? I’ve heard people describe her as cold, as beautiful, as hard, as weak. What did you think?” Balin asked.

Dwalin smirked.

“Ye’ll see tonight. She’s ‘ard to describe, but no, I could never say she t’was weak. T’e rest, yes, I’m sure she could be cold or ‘ard, an’ she is most definitely beautiful. Ye’ll see, she’ll be at dinner t’night.” Dwalin listened to the jeers and taunts, but he wasn’t worried, they hadn’t seen her. They’d eat their words tonight, he was sure of it.

He wondered how Gandalf was going, in his meeting with the white elf.

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

tithín penedh = little speaker (S)

Chapter Text

The Second Sitting of The White Council

 

Had Dwalin but known it, Gandalf’s meeting was far more fraught with discomfort.

Elrond escorted the dwarf King-in-Exile, his hobbit and guard to the suite the Company were given, he nodded to those who noted his arrival and gestured to the wizard to join him. With in minutes they had joined those who remained at the Council Room.

“Be welcome, Mithrandir.” The White Lady greeted the Istari.

“My Lady.”

“Come. Sit here, Gandalf.” Said Radagast, gesturing to a seat beside him.

“Radagast? That was quick.”

“Indeed, Olórin. Aiwendil’s rabbits are the fastest of those from Rhosgobel.” Said one of the blue wizards.

Blue wizards? When did they get here? Why are they here? Who Called them? Why hadn’t he been Called?

“Brothers?” he asked.

“Yes?” replied the second blue wizard.

“What brings you to Imladris?”

“I Called a meeting of the White Council.” Elrond informed him. “There is much that you do not know, Mithrandir. And there is much to regret.”

“The White Council? Then where is Saruman? How can the Council meet without the greatest of our Order? Is he delayed?”

Sadness bathed the faces of Elrond and Galadriel, but those of the wizards showed anger.

“Curunir will not be joining us,… ever again.” Snarled Radagast.

“What? Why? Why is the white wizard not welcome in Imladris?”

“Curunir has fallen to the foul glamour of Mordor.” Began Galadriel.

NO! It is not possible.” Gandalf would not - could not - believe it.

“Yet it is so. He was called here to give his guidance on the One Ring. He advised that no alliances should be made, that none should be made aware of it and that once found it should be handed to him. He said he would see it destroyed. But I saw his mind, Mithrandir, he wished it only to give to his new Master, Sauron the Deceiver. When challenged on this, he threatened me. Me!, Gandalf. He threatened to end my life. It took the power of two Rings and the magic of three Wizards to wrest his staff from him and bind his powers. Cirdan was Called, he has taken Curunir to face the Valar. He has betrayed them and the tasks he was given.” Galadriel mourned.

“Oh, my Lady.” Oh, may the Valar have mercy on him.

“Be that as it may. We have other tasks before us, Order of Istari, and we must complete them.” She continued.

“Agreed, Hiril nín. The first task before us is that of the Quest for Erebor.” Said Elrond.

“There is no evidence that the dragon still lives. Thorin would not easily risk the lives of-”

“Mithrandir. We do not oppose the Quest of Thorin Oakenshield, but it is the lesser of the matters to discuss. Alatar and Pallando have the matter of the dragon in hand. No, the matter is far greater once the dragon is subdued. It is the doom of Bard of the Line of Girion to end the dominion of Smaug, but Pallando wonders if this must mean the death of the dragon. Pallando and Alatar have a different vision and seek to find the truth of it. If they find this is true, the dragon will live but Erebor will no longer need to fear it.”

“What is it you seek, brothers? May I be of assistance?”

“Nay, Olórin. This puzzle is ours and we must seek an answer to it. If it proves true we will require much from you and Radagast to complete that which will be used against the dragon.” Said one wizard.

“Of course, brothers.”

“Mithrandir? Were you aware that Master Baggins is one of the Twice-Born?” Galadriel asked.

“Bilbo? No? Surely not? But… he did say he’d been here before and knew of the quest. I assumed that he mean he’d already had contact with Thorin, but... perhaps that’s not what he meant?”

“No Mithrandir, it is not. Allow me to tell you of the life of a Most Remarkable Hobbit. He was born to Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins in the fall of 2890. He lived an unremarkable life until the death of his father in 2926, making him The Baggins of Bag End. He struggled with the duties of The Baggins, but after the death of Belladonna in 2934, his life was devoted to his title and the people of Hobbiton. In April 2941 a wizard tricked him into going on a quest with 13 dwarrow.”

“I did no such thing! I merely gave him a little nudge out the door.”

“Quiet, Mithrandir, this is not a history you know.” Elrond waited until the wizard was seated and quiet. “A month into the journey two ponies were taken by trolls, in the ensuing fight,-”

Elrond went on to tell Gandalf the story of Bilbo’s past life and his subsequent Return, he ended his narrative with a descriptive of the letters he had received from the hobbit containing these details.

Gandalf was amazed. Such a great and dangerous life for such a small and gentle being. Such suffering.

“Can this be true? Really? Why would he be Returned? Who are the others that remember? Who are the allies he mentions, Elrond? Do you know?” he asked in rapid succession.

“Yes, Mithrandir. It is true. Not only have I seen his mind, but I also have had visions of his life as it was. In my vision I was present when he was given the chance to Return and correct many wrongs, most not of his doing. But he is a Most Remarkable Hobbit and took it on himself to dispose of the Ring, he does not want to subject another to the poison that is The One Ring.” Galadriel answered.

“Bilbo now has three tasks before him. The first is to retake the Ring from the creature Gollum. We are uncertain if Gollum can be saved or if the Ring’s poison has taken too much of Sméagol from him. This will not be known until the Ring is removed from him. After this, the dragon must be neutralised, either killed or changed, this will depend on Pallando and Alatar’s research in the coming days. The third task Bilbo must face is the destruction of the Ring, it must be returned to Mordor and Mount Doom. Only then will Bilbo be free to live his life as he wishes.”

“The dragon? He must face the dragon by himself? And Mount Doom? Must he travel alone? What help and aid can be given to him?”

“He will never be alone. If you have not noticed, he wears a Courting Braid with a Bead of Durin. When his tasks are done, he will be Consort to the King Under The Mountain.”

“What?! Consort? What of Bag End? What of the Heirs of Durin? What of kin? A hobbit cannot survive without kin, not for long. The length of the quest, yes, but not to live under the mountain. How will he thrive?”

“Ah, but Bilbo has thought of that, too. This hobbit has lived for more than eighty years after he completed this same quest, much of the time since he spent wondering how it could have been changed, how the outcome could have been different and so, spent his remaining days wondering and regretting. Once Returned it was merely a case of setting the wonderings in his mind, into motion. It was he that declared his intent to Court Thorin Oakenshield and has claimed the youngest prince as kin. With the first caravan travelling to Erebor, which is already on its way, there are 10 hobbits, two married couples, another that plan to wed, three land healers, who will return to the Shire and a last is a priestess of Yavanna. There are also upwards of 150 hobbits applying to live on the slopes and surrounds of Erebor, they wish to create homes at the foot of the mountain. So, you see, Bilbo will not be alone.” Replied Elrond.

“He also claimed the Twins as sons of his House. He called Glorfindel and Erestor to his aid. Legolas and a Guard captain named Tauriel will also join them as they leave the Misty Mountains. They will remain with him until his tasks are complete. Both Legolas and Tauriel are Returned. As are Thorin Oakenshield and his nephews who will come to be called, Fíli Aurum Lion and Kíli Fox Nero.” Galadriel said.

“Unfortunately so are the Twins. Bilbo says that they travelled to the Valinor at the same time as Frodo began his journey here, they crossed paths inside the boarders of the Shire.” Elrond grumbled.

“Why would he not had told of this himself? Why leave it to the Council to tell me?”

“Would you have listened? Would you have believed Bilbo or gone to the betrayer, Saruman? Bilbo contacted me immediately he Returned, as he knew that Galadriel and I have the means to verify and the power to act on his information. He sees you as a friend, but in his words, you are also an interfering old busybody. He would not have you changing things to the point where the path is unrecognisable. He said also that you focus too sharply on one task and as he has multiple tasks that are interconnected, he felt that he would need assistance to broaden your sight. His letters gave Galadriel the thought to seek the minds of Legolas and Tauriel and determine the actions of Thranduil of Mirkwood, the result of this is that Thranduil remains in Lothlorien, until further notice. He has lost touch with his people and they have little faith in his ability to protect them, they look to Legolas to lead them, to fight the Darkness creeping across the lands.” Elrond answered him, sharply at first then with resignation.

“Enough. For now you have much to think on, Pallando and Alatar have their research to do. We will meet again in two days, after the midday meal. The Council has decided that no one will take the title of White Wizard until after the destruction of the One Ring. Thorin has asked for a week sanctuary here and I am pleased to grant him this. I hope that by the time they depart, the Twins will be firmly a part of Thorin and Bilbo’s Company.” The elf-lord finished.

“Wait a moment? Did you say that Bilbo wears a Courting Braid? Thorin’s Braid? What of children, all hobbits are able to birth children, male and female alike, how will that impact on the Line of Durin?” Gandalf pondered aloud.

“Bilbo states that Thorin already declared his sister-sons as his heirs, so unless they die or abdicate their rights, they are higher in the line of succession to the Throne Under The Mountain than any child that Thorin may father in the future.”

“Hmf. Well, it seems that the hobbit’s thought of just about everything. Perhaps I am not needed on this Quest after all.” He grumped.

“No, my friend, you are needed. Perhaps not as a wizard or as much as your pride would like, but your support will be needed. When Bilbo and the Twins search out Gollum, you must search out the dwarrow in Goblintown. Gandalf, you must also be there when Bilbo brings the Arkenstöne to the surface, it is of the same rock that the Palantirs are made, Sauron may know of this and if so, may try to poison the minds of the dwarrow, Bilbo has a plan for containing it and the Ring, but he would have you there all the same. Your presence is as a balm to those already stressed. But we will talk more, later, when we know how to deal with the dragon. For now? Rest recover. Try not to push the hobbit too hard, you will regret it, I assure you. I am not a Returned, but my Visions have shown me much of Bilbo’s past life, he lived here for many years. I have seen what happens when he’s reached the limits of his temper. It’s not pleasant.” Elrond assured the grey wizard.

Galadriel laughed as she saw the scene in Elrond’s mind.

 

Chapter Text

The Limits of a Hobbit

 

“No.”

“Please-”

“No.”

“I need-”

“No.”

“Bilbo, why-”

“No.”

“When-”

“No.”

“Will you at least-”

“No.”

“I need to know-”

“No.”

“May the Valar save me from stubborn little Halflings!” The wizard raged.

Stubborn. Little. Halfling.

The hobbit stood and turned to leave the terrace.

“You will stay and answer me, Bilbo Baggins!” the wizard’s hand descended on his shoulder.

The hobbit snarled. He grabbed the wizard’s wrist, twisted, pulled, stepped back and yanked. And….

Gandalf somersaulted forward and crashed onto the paved terrace on his back, the breath slammed from his body. The hobbit reared from his slightly crouched position and kicked the wizard’s staff away from his reach, before looking at the wizard in disgust and storming away.

“Mithrandir.” Elrond sighed in exasperation. “You were warned. Pray that this is the end of it. Bilbo’s retributions tend have long lasting side effects.” With that Elrond left Gandalf to recover his dignity.

“I still need to know what will happen and when to expect it.” He muttered under his breath as he climbed to his feet.

“No, Mithrandir, you don’t.” Gandalf spun towards the lilting masculine voice.

“Ah, Elladan, Elrohir. Yes, I do need to know.”

“No, Mithrandir. It is better for you and for Bilbo if you do not know what is to happen.” Said one of the Twins.

“Have you not thought about the how it pains Bilbo to speak of the things you ask?” Continued the other.

“Have you not asked him to relive those hurts, without consideration?”

“Have you not pushed and cajoled?”

“Have you not been warned?”

“Bilbo’s pain is great, Mithrandir. Having Thorin Oakenshield with him now lessens this pain, yes, but the memories are still there, the heartache still echoes.”

“If the beings of Arda were judged by their heart and courage, he would be the greatest of us all.”

“But to love is to feel pain. He feels that pain so much more than others.”

“But-” Gandalf started.

“There are no ‘but’s Mithrandir.”

“You have tried to force him against his will, Mithrandir.”

“Oh, no. No. I would not hurt him-” Gandalf tried again.

“You already have.”

“By ignoring his decisions,-”

“-by trying to override his choices,-”

“-by pushing him so.”

“You are forcing-”

“-him into pain.”

“His retribution will be-”

“-his and his alone,-”

“-none will assist him.”

“But so will your forfeiture-”

“-be yours alone.”

“You have done what has not-”

“-been done since the settling of Imladris.”

“You have deliberately-”

“-caused hurt to an innocent.”

“Pray he does not present-”

“-a case to the White Council.”

“Your penance could permanent banishment from Imladris-”

“-or it could be that you must face the Valar themselves-”

“-in Valinor and as it is they that Returned Bilbo to Arda-”

“-they may not be generous in their judgement.”

With this the Twins shook their heads sadly at the wizard and faded back the way they had came, a final comment came from nowhere.

“You signed the covenant when the Dúnedain first came to Imladris, you are bound by those laws as much as Gilraen and her son.”

Gandalf sat, shocked at what had happened. What he had let happen. What he had done. He had not meant to hurt, but hurt he had. Learning of the betrayal of Saruman had deeply shaken him and he had sought to find balance in answers from Bilbo, but instead he had broken a sacred vow. As the Twins had said, he had hurt an innocent, he had disregarded the wishes of another. Deliberately.

He brought much shame to his name - names.

He first thought was to find Bilbo and ask forgiveness, but it would be pointless. He had proven to the hobbit that his word meant little. Better to wait and if Bilbo spoke to the Council, he would take whatever penance they deemed. If Bilbo did not, then he would ask for a chance to regain the hobbit’s trust.

He did not know where to retreat to. To go to the Gardens of the Valar was out of the question, he would not taint their peace with his presence. In the communal areas he may meet with one of his brother-wizards or the Lady Galadriel and he was not fit to join them. In the end the grey wizard went to neither, after much walking he found himself at the Tear of the Stars. The giant crystal Tear that sank into the protruding rock floor of the cave and out again many feet below, it’s flat surface forming a natural rostrum.

Watching the setting sun’s rays hit the waterfall that sheltered the Tear, causing rainbows to dance across the valley below, grounded the wizard, but the beauty of it reminded him of Bilbo’s innocence and his abuse of it. As the sun sank lower, the light of the moon brightened. Beams filtered down and the crystal began to glow.

The wizard sent up a prayer.

“Lady of Mercy, I beg of you. Have mercy on Bilbo. I have wronged him. Ease his pain, Lady Nienna. My zealousness was wrong and I freely admit it, but my words mean little, now. I do not ask your forgiveness, Lady, for it is Bilbo that I have wronged and I am not worthy of his forgiveness. Instead I ask, ease his pain, give him peace. He deserves peace, Lady of Mercy.” Gandalf had one hand on the Tear as he whispered.

He did not expect a reply. But a reply he got.

“Olórin. You have caused much hurt to my Wife’s child.” The deep echoing voice was not that of the delicate Elf-like Lady Nienna, but was that of Aulë, whom the dwarrow knew as Mahal.

“Lord Aulë. I am sorry, but I beg not forgiveness. I am not worthy of it.”

“It is not your place, Olórin, to decide who is worthy and who is not. Your next few days will be most uncomfortable for your dignity, but if you abide by the actions of my son’s Chosen One, then the matter will be considered complete. It may take time for you to regain his confidence, but he will hold no animosity for today’s actions.”

“Thank you, my Lord. As long as he is no longer in pain, I will take whatever chastisement he wishes.”

“Good. But be warned, we will not be lenient a second time. If he falls before his tasks are complete, so to will all Middle Earth fall. He is the Balance.”

“I will not let that happen, Lord.” Bilbo? The Balance?!

“Good. He knows what is in front of him. Listen when he speaks, but do not try to restrict him. It is not your task to protect him, but rather to guide and support him. He is as volatile as my children and sees no sense in withholding his ire. He is creative in releasing his emotions… As you will soon see.” The amused voice of the Valar faded until Gandalf was uncertain if he had heard the last sentence correctly.

“I will give all that I am to see Bilbo completes his tasks and is free to life his life in peace and love.” The wizard said as he touched his fingers to his lips and then to the crystal Tear. A flair of brightness from the crystal filled the cave. The pulse of light told the wizard that the Valar had taken his comment as a vow. If he failed in the task he set for himself, then he would give his all, his power, his very life would be forfeit.

No pressure, then.

 

The next morning as the wizard made his way to find breakfast, he passed many elves, all of them looked at him, either startled or amused. What was it about his appearance that would startle an elf? When he reached the dining area, he joined many members of Thorin’s Company and a few elves. Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir and Lindir among them.

Bofur and Kíli took one look at the wizard and started to laugh, followed very quickly by the Twins.

Elrond smiled and shook his head. Even Oín and Gloín grinned.

“What is so amusing, may I ask?” The wizard grumbled.

“Have you checked a mirror, this morning, Gandalf?” Ask Balin.

“No…”

“Perhaps you should. It may answer your question.” Balin was also beginning to grin, too.

Elrond waved to an elf that was bringing a platter of sweet pastries to the table, he spoke to her quietly and within moments she returned with a tray. Elrond lifted a hand mirror from the tray and passed it to Gandalf. The wizard looked at his reflection and in doing so nearly dropped the mirror.

His eyebrows were green. The bright green of new grass in spring. But that wasn’t all. His hair was streaked, but instead of the salt-n-pepper grey that he normally saw, this morning his hair was coloured. It was different shades of blue, from baby’s breath to a rich azure, and pinks of soft blush to vibrant fuchsia, where the colours met they blended into purples, from pale lilac through to deep violet. Only his beard remained unchanged.

“Oh, my.”

“Indeed.”

“How? How did he do it?”

“Bilbo?”

“Of course. I would normally have thought it the Twins, but their reaction say otherwise. Bilbo is the only other person who has cause to be… irritated with me.”

“Ah. Well… We don’t know.” Elrond replied.

“Elladan? Elrohir? Any ideas?”

“Sorry, Mithrandir.” Said one.

“We tried for years, to work it out-” said the other Twin.

“-but we’ve never caught him and-”

“-he never showed us.”

Fíli looked at the Twins curiously.

“Do you have to do that? I mean is it instinctual or did you?, just one day decide to speak like that?”

“We don’t remember-”

“-not talking like this.” They answered with a puzzled frown.

“Adar? Did we ever-”

“-talk alone?” They also turned as one, to face their father.

“No. Even their first words were consecutive. As has been everything since. The only time they were separated they struggled to communicate at all. They truly are halves of a whole.”

“Here comes Tithin-Adar. We can ask if you like, Mithrandir?”

“What does Tithin-Adar, mean?” Asked Kíli.

Bilbo stepped up to the table and pulled out a seat as he reached for a plate.

“Tithin-Adar means little father. Much as I claimed Kíli as kin, I claimed the Twins.” He grinned suddenly. “I hope you like having more nephews, Thorin.”

Dwalin, Gloín, Bifur and Nori laughed at the look on Thorin’s face as he realised what Bilbo basically adopted the Twins meant for him.

“Cousins!” Yelled Kíli.

“Yay!” cried Fíli.

“May Mahal protect us all.” Groaned Dori. Everyone else at the table laughed at him, expect Bilbo, who was single-mindedly feeding his ravenous belly.

When he finished, he sat back with a sigh and nursed his mug of tea. He looked at Gandalf and raised an eyebrow. The wizard was a sight in green, pink and blue.

Gandalf raised one back, Bilbo smiled, nodded and nothing more was said on the matter.

The morning was spent in checking their supplies and making lists of things that needed replacement, repair or restocking. After a light lunch, the twins invited Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli to spar with them, for the first time the dwarrow would see Bilbo fight.

He moved similar to an elf, but there were marked differences. While they seemed to glide in straight lines, Bilbo flowed around them, almost in circles, but not quite so structured. The watching dwarrow at first thought it amusing, until Dwalin challenged Bilbo. Dwalin would grab and Bilbo just seemed to slip away from him, when they picked up their weapons, it became clear that one-on-one, Bilbo was very dangerous indeed. Yes, he would need more instruction on standard sword-work, the moves and counter-moves, but he was not the vulnerability they first thought.

Next up were Fíli and Kíli. Kíli was not particularly happy that he was unable to use his bow, but the Twins with permission from Elrond, offered to teach both lads how to use a double-ended short-sword as well as their weapon of choice, the long handled elven staff-sword. When the two dwarrow adapted relatively easily to the staff, the Twins and the two lads sat down and designed a weapon using the same principle, but of a more suitable size and style for a dwarf. After much discussion and many sketches, they came to a final design.

They ended up a weapon with an overall length of just below their shoulder-height, where the blade was slightly over half the total length. After an inordinate amount of time working out the design, they found way of increasing the length of the staff so it could be used as a walking pole. An extension pushed up into the base of the staff and a simple spring-loaded catch held pole of the staff and the extension together. Thorin suggested that the extension itself have another blade, this time more of a flat stiletto, that could be used as a dagger if needed.

The Twins offered to take Fíli and Kíli go with them the next day to meet with the master sword-smiths and recommend that they wait until that point to finalise all the aspects of the design, who knew what the smiths could add. Messages were sent and Telovar and his sister Teldriel invited the two young dwarrow to join them the next day, to go over the design and perhaps some preparation for forging.

As Thorin knew that they had at least one more meeting with the White Council, after lunch the next day and he agreed that the lads could spend the day at the smithy and with the consent of the smith’s, he and Dwalin would accompany them for the morning.

During the course of the afternoon, Elrond had spent a fair amount of his time talking to Bifur and Bofur. That evening Bofur stood at the dinner table and thanked Lord Elrond for the offer and that Bifur would like to talk to him more about it. They and Thorin were invited to Elrond's study for the evening and when they re-joined the Company, Bofur told them that Elrond felt that he and his healers would be able to remove the axe from Bifur’s forehead. They were uncertain at this point how this would relate to his speech centres, but that the very least he would be axe-free. It would however mean a three day delay for the Company. They would be able to do the actual removal soon after first light the next morning, the three days were to ensure that chances of infection were limited. Elrond stated that once the actual removal was complete Bifur would know within a few hours which speech centres would recover and he would be able to travel at the end of the requested three days. Elrohir and Elladan with Oín’s assistance would be more than capable of caring for Bifur as they travelled and helping Bifur with any speech therapies needed.

Late in the evening as various matters were being discussed with Elrond, Lindir, Elrond’s steward, appeared at their suite and after briefly conferring with Elrond, he spoke to Bilbo.

“Master Bilbo. Alatar and Pallando send word, they have found what they were looking for. They now know that the dragon can dealt with without it being killed.” He said. Bilbo called Thorin and Balin over to hear what the Blue wizards had discovered. “They will require the assistance of Mithrandir, Radagast, Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel. They plan to revert Smaug to what the dragons were before Morgoth corrupted them. They ask me bid you and Master Thorin think hard on the matter, as someone must be responsible for the dragon after the change.” Lindir then went on to explain what Alatar and Pallando said would happen to the dragon and why it would no longer be a threat to Erebor and it’s people.

Once Lindir finished, Balin asked Lindir if he would pass a question on to the two wizards and the elf agreed to do so. He listened to Balin’s question, bowed and departed quietly.

Between Bifur’s axe removal, the wizards construction the Company and the possibility of having elven weapons forged, Thorin and Elrond decided that the Company would stay in Rivendell for an extra five nights.

Chapter Text

Understanding The Dragons

 

When Bilbo and Thorin met the elves and the wizards at the Council Room, they weren’t expecting to be given a drawing of four arrows, each no more than a few inches in length. From what Bilbo could see the arrows were all the same, so why draw four? And why arrows?

“I thought that we weren’t going to kill the dragon?” He asked, puzzled.

“We’re not.” One of the blue wizards answered.

“Then…?” He queried.

“These will be magic, made totally of a counter spell.”

“Counter spell?”

“Alatar. You’re confusing him. Let’s go back a bit further, shall we?” Pallando waited for Bilbo and Thorin to agree before continuing.

“Dragons were not created by Morgoth as most believe, they were in fact amongst the first beings that Morgoth corrupted. Prior to this they were simple creatures used as guards, mostly to royalty, but some ambassadors would have them too, their other main use was as treasury guards.”

He paused a moment for have a sip of water from a crystal tumbler in front of him.

“When Morgoth captured an ambassador and his entourage, from Arnor to Khand, which is considerably south-east of Gondor, he saw the potential of dragons as both a beast of burden and a weapon in their own right. He killed the ambassador and took the dragon, we believe Glaurung was the first of many, to Angband and his fortress there. Over centuries he altered, tortured and corrupted the creature, finally he placed a Curse on the very blood of the beast, for a beast it had become. A beast of massive size, able to fly, breath fire and speak the tongues of Men, He removed a scale from it and using Dark Runes and Unholy Fire he burnt the Curse into the skin of the beast, knowing that eventually the scale would be regrown and the dragon invulnerable again.” He took another sip of water and sat back in his chair.

Alatar took up the tale.

“The dragon was now, as much as any could be, controlled by the will of Morgoth. He sent it out into the world, it’s task was to bring to him all other dragons. Given its changed size, capturing the other dragons wasn’t of much difficulty for Glaurung. Smaug was hatched and reared to be a breeding sow, but her will was strong and after watching her first clutch be tortured and used as little more than training tools to teach larger dragons to kill and maim, she waited until she was next gravid with eggs and convinced her mate, Ancalagon, to help her break out of the breeding cages. They fled to the north and at a later point Ancalagon was killed by Eärendil during the War of Wrath. Smaug herself stayed hidden in the north until she was near to clutching, many times, Morgoth, and after his fall, Sauron tried to re-capture her, her eggs incredibly valuable to them. The Mouth of Sauron, believing that she could be reasoned with told her of the risk to her eggs that the Arkenstöne held.” Here Alatar stopped and Pallando went on.

“The Arkenstöne was a gift of the Valar, the Heart of the Mountain. It was placed there by Aulë and Yavanna to guide and protect the people of Erebor, it guided them to the wealth of the Mountain and protected them from Darkness. When it was removed from the body of the Mountain, it became dormant, a heart without a body cannot beat. As a Gift of the Valar the stone only exuded peace, but once it was dormant, Sauron desired to destroy it, for it could oppose his will. He corrupted the mind of Thrór, if Smaug hadn’t attacked, Thrór would have become little more than a Wraith, controlled by Mordor, and would have handed Sauron the Arkenstöne and the last of the Seven Rings. But Smaug attacked.”

The other blue wizard spoke again.

“This is where our research falters a little. We cannot determine if Smaug attacked Erebor to destroy the Arkenstöne or if she attacked in the hope that the stone would destroy her or if she believed that the Arkenstöne would break the Curse. What we do know is that none of these happened. What did happen is that the attack woke the Arkenstöne and it did what it could to shield the Mountain from Evil and because evil was within the Mountain, the evil was blocked, held in a kind of stasis. While she and her clutch stay in the Mountain they will not fall into the control of Mordor. The eggs will not hatch until the evil that is the Curse she wears is removed from the Mountain, but without her the clutch will be unprotected and likely be destroyed. She will not leave her eggs vulnerable.”

Here Radagast spoke for the first time.

“Smaug is the last dragon controlled by Mordor, all others are dead. If we can break the Curse on Smaug, she will be free of Mordor and the eggs can hatch. Now, because the eggs have not hatched into the Curse, they will be as nature intended, small, gentle-if-not-threatened, guardians again. They hatch roughly the size of a cat and can take up to 50 years to reach their full size and live for roughly 300 years. At maturity they are no larger than a pony or small horse, they range in colour from red to blue and all variants in between, from the palest near-white to so dark to be almost black. Gender is random and a sow can clutch without a breeding partner, the hatchlings genetic replicas of their parent. Because in breaking the Curse on Smaug’s blood all evil will be removed from the hatchlings, they will be creatures containing no malice.”

Elrond indicated for Radagast to sit.

“That which we would do tonight is in equal parts Elven magic, Gift of the Valar and Maia spell-craft. We will each use our skill and power to blend with others to cause an enchantment to have a solid form. We will use these drawings to make four Arrows. We decided on four as you still have a difficult journey in front of you and dangers to face, there is a possibility that one Arrow could be lost. Initially we thought to only have three, Thorin, you, Fíli and Kíli are all princes of Erebor by blood, until the Mountain is reclaimed, when you will be King. The Arrows are tied to both the blood of Durin’s Line and the Curse of Mordor. It was Galadriel who reminded us that as Bilbo has claimed Kíli as Kin, he is tied to Kíli and through Kíli to the Line of Durin, enabling him to also carry an Arrow as well. So four Arrows will be made. When you meet with Bard of Dale you must give him all the Arrows, only in his hand will they swell to a usable size, until then they will remain this size, to be worn on a chain as jewellery and jewellery they will appear to be.” He paused a moment to wet his throat. “To create the Arrows we must have blood from each of the four of you to enable you all to carry an Arrow, if we don’t do this then, no one may touch their skin to an Arrow. This would make it extremely difficult to carry them on your journey.”

“All we require is one drop of blood from each of you onto each Arrow drawing. After this you need not be present when the Arrows are brought into being.” Galadriel added.

“What will happen to the dragons after this? To Smaug? To the hatchlings?” Thorin asked.

“They will be Bound to the Line of Durin, those of it’s blood and those to whom they are Bonded. They will be as they once were, simple guardians. We do not know how many eggs there will be in her clutch, anything from three to twenty are possible. We would have the Mountain and it’s allies become their home.” Galadriel answered.

“Hmm… I would speak with my Company. This is unexpected and there may be objections.”

“Of course, Thorin. It will take us time to gather our strength to do this. If you would, I would have you take the drawings and this crystal pin. If you decide to do this, simply spike the finger of each of your nephews and yourselves, allow a single drop of blood to fall on each Arrow and bring the drawing back to us here. We will perform the Rites of Erú one hour after sunset.” Alatar handed Bilbo the crystal and Thorin was handed the drawing by Pallando.

 

The hobbit and the dwarf walked the paths of Rivendell, debating, they needed to come to a decision themselves first, before they spoke to the rest of their travelling companions.

“I do not like the idea of the dragons staying in Erebor.” Thorin said.

“Nor do I. But the won’t be the same. They’ll be smaller, gentler. They may not even look the same.”

“Hmm…There is much hatred. I doubt that the dwarrow of Erebor would approve.”

“Agreed.” Bilbo sighed.

“Perhaps we can say she is the victim of Morgoth, that she came to Erebor to seek the protection of the Arkenstöne for her eggs.”

“But the fire?”

“The hatching was close. The pain of labour and the fear of Mordor controlling her babes drove she insensible.” It was plausible.

“The only thing clear in her mind, ‘get the Arkenstöne to protect the eggs’. It would take some spinning. Do you think you can get Daín and Dís involved? Have one of them leave a letter where a courtier could read? Start a rumour that way?” Bilbo suggested.

“We need more input, more ideas.”

“Let’s find the Twins then, when it comes to pranks and rumours, they have had hundreds of years experience.”

“We need Fíli and Kíli, too. The Twins may have the experience, but they’re not dwarrow, we need dwarrow input too.”

“Then, let’s get a move on, we’re going to run out of time, if we don’t.” Said Bilbo grabbing Thorin’s hand and hurrying off down a path.

 

Thorin looked at the Twins and his nephews.

“Well? Your mother travelling, her ‘office’ is open to just about any dwarf in the Blue Mountain. Would it work?” He asked.

The Twins had the first reply.

“You’d need to send two letters. The first actually explaining what and why you are doing this. The second would be the one to be viewed to the start of the rumour.”

The two princes added to this.

“Nori has some underhanded people still in Ered Luin and the Blue Mountains. Surely he has someone that can drop a couple of hints somewhere.” Said Fíli.

“No. I’ve a better idea.” Kíli butted in. “What if we come at this from multiple sides. Uncle sends those letters to Amad and she leaves the second one where it can be found. And if we get Ênod to do the same in the Blue Mountains, you know his wife is the head of the ‘rumour guild’ there and Borud’s travelling with Amad, we can get him to sneakily deliver a gift from us for her birthday later this month, you know he couldn’t resist reading a letter from you, I swear he’s got a crush on you, Uncle and he’s a dreadful gossip. I know we said we would send a raven to Tláli and get him to do it, but this would be just as good.”

“Yeah, but do we want to upset Tláli by cutting him out?”

“Fíli? What if you got Tláli to present your Mother with my gift, instead? Would that assuage his feelings?” Thorin put in.

“Oh, yes, Uncle. He would be beside himself to deliver a gift from you to Amad.” Kíli crowed.

“Pardon me?” asked a Twin. “Who is Tláli and why is it so important that he not be upset?”

The two young dwarrow looked to their uncle for permission and when he nodded they endeavoured to explain.

“Tláli is our age, a cousin on our father’s side, but he was... hurt… in a landslide some years ago. He was trapped under rocks for hours. When he was found he has some of the worst head wounds that Oín had ever seen.” Said Fíli.

“Yeah. He was never the same again. As we all grew older, so did his body, but his mind stayed the same, his mind will always be that of a dwarfling, no matter how old he gets. There aren’t many people that understand and fewer still that accept him. His parents were killed in the accident and he would have been abandoned if Amad and Uncle hadn’t stepped in, Amad claimed him as kin and he’s lived with us ever since.” Added Kíli with tears in his eyes.

“Oh, the poor lad.” Said Bilbo. “Will he be coming to Erebor?”

“Yes! We couldn’t live without our Tláli.” Both princes exclaimed.

“Of course, he is. Tláli is family now.” Added Thorin. “I think that we should find the rest of the Company and speak to them before we act on this. They may have more ideas or may wish to set their own rumours, particularly Nori and Balin.”

The other five agreed and the group briefly returned to the forge and after explaining a little of their predicament to the smiths, excused themselves for the afternoon. The smiths happily accepted their apologies and stated that all the preparation work was complete and on the following morning they would be ready to start actual forge-work on the new weapons. A final design had been agreed on.

 

Once they found the rest of the Company and explained what the wizards had come up with to render Smaug non-threatening, they listened to the objections and ideas for setting rumours in place.

The objections were pretty much as they’d thought. Prejudice, anger, fear and distrust were the most prominent. These were however soothed by the reminder that Smaug was an abused mother in the throws of labour, seeking to protect her young from that same abuse. Many of the dwarrow had heard tales of dwarrowdams and the pain they went through to bring new lives into the world. Dwarrowdams carried only one child at a time and Smaug was gravid with as many as 20, the discomfort would have been monumental.

In the end they decided that multiple sources would be spiked with rumours. They would use Borud in the caravan, Ênod in the Blue Mountains, Daín would be responsible for starting a similar, but not too similar, rumour in the Iron Hills and Nori would alert his cronies in Ered Luin with slightly different information. They spent a few hours making notes and trying to give Dís, Ênod, Daín and Fadin as much information as they could, Thorin uncertain of whether Ênod and Fadin should be given as much information as Nori wanted, but in the end, all three would be given the same details.

Ori and Balin spent the rest of the afternoon writing the letters, real with lots of details, as well as the rumour-seeding letters. Fíli, Kíli and Thorin each wrote a short letter to Tláli, the lads telling the impaired dwarf about their adventures so far and how they looked forward to seeing him in Erebor and to not forget Mother’s birthday later in the month, because they weren’t there it would be up to Tláli to see that Mother got all the hugs and kisses they would have given her. Thorin asked Tláli if he would present Dís with her birthday gift from Thorin and told Tláli exactly where to find it. He also said the when Dís brought Tláli to Erebor, Thorin had would have a special surprise waiting for him.

Nori and Bofur took the letters and went up into the foothills of the mountains around Rivendell to call one of the Ravens that had been following them since they left the Blue Mountains. These Ravens would carry their messages and re-join the Company further along the way.

While they were gone Thorin stated his intent, that once the dragon’s eggs hatched and if they were what the blue wizards hoped them to be, to match a hatching with Tláli as a guardian. Tláli being as young as he was mentally would always be vulnerable to abuse or danger, a dragon guardian might be just what was needed to give the young dwarf a sense of worth.

The was great joy and cheer that evening at an early dinner when Elrond announced that Bifur had come through his surgery well and looked to regain control of most if not all of his language centres. He had spoken in Khuzdul and in Westron, or the Common tongue was it was often called. He would be able to join the Company the next day, with Oín and the Twins seeing to his care and would be quite ready to travel when they all departed in a few more days.

When Thorin handed Elrond the drawing of the Arrows and the bloodstained crystal, Elrond warned them that it would take he, Galadriel and the wizards many hours that night to perform the Rites to make the four Arrows and that Thorin, Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli would be presented with the Arrows after the elves and wizards had a chance to rest and recover, either at lunch or dinner the next day. Bilbo responded by informing Elrond that Thorin and his nephews were to spend the next day in the forge with the smiths making new weapons for Fíli and Kíli. Perhaps the Arrows could wait until dinner when everyone would get a chance to view them, as Galadriel would often join them for that meal.

Dwalin wasn’t the only dwarf in awe of the pale elf, Oín, Gloín, Balin, and Bombur in particular were often speechless at first whenever she joined them, but soon after would be found to have regained their tongues for a chance to talk with her. Ori was ecstatic that she would sit and talk with him about the dwarrow of old, telling tales of arguments and epic drinking contests. She had often attended meetings between elves, dwarrow and Men in centuries past. She had known Durin III and Durin IV as well as Nain I and Thain I, back when there were many alliances between their races. She fondly remembered the wife of Durin III, a lovely blonde dwarrowdam who travelled with him and his household, which, he was surprised to note included a dark blue dragon-guard. After Durin I was killed by a Morgoth dragon, no king travelled without a dragon-guard, the dwarrow unaware that Morgoth had instructed his Cursed-dragons to abduct any natural dragon they came across. Durin III was the last king of Erebor to have a dragon-guard, loosing his to Scatha, the Ice-Drake, not long after their last visit to Rivendell.

The Company eagerly looked forward to dinner the following night, Bifur joining them, Thorin, Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli being given the means to remove the threat of the dragon, meant that the meal was almost a celebration. Fíli, Kíli and the Twins pleaded with Bilbo to make his spiced apple tarts for dessert and when he agreed, the cheers were resounding.

 

Chapter Text

From Questions to Giants.

 

Ori approached Galadriel as she settled back in her seat near Bilbo, an empty plate in front of her. They were only a few minutes away from leaving Rivendell and the young scribe decided to ask the questions that had been nagging at him ever since the subject of dragons was raised.

“Lady Galadriel?”

“Yes, Master Ori?”

“There is something puzzling me and I wonder if you could answer a question or two for me?”

“I will do my best, but without knowing the questions, I am uncertain.” The elf smiled at him gently.

“Thank you, my Lady.” He paused to gather his thoughts. “Master Radagast told Master Bilbo and Prince Thorin that once the Curse on Smaug was broken that her eggs would be safe and that they would be their intended size. But… what about Smaug, herself? Will she remain the size she has been, or will she too, revert to natural size for her kind?”

“Ah. We don’t know, Master Ori. There is not enough information to tell us. Radagast is hopeful, however. But Pallando does not feel the same and believes that Smaug will stay as she is physically, but that she will regain the gentle nature of her kind. Alatar feels that she is more likely to fall somewhere in the middle, that yes, she will be smaller but due to having been this size for all her life that she may not be able to revert completely. Regardless of this being the case, she will no longer be a threat to the Throne of the King Under the Mountain.”

“Thank you. That make sense. About the eggs…? What can we expect them to look like? I mean, how big? What shape? What colour? Are they hard or soft? If something happens to Smaug how do we look after them? And when they are hatched? What then? Will they only match to a dwarf? How do we match them to a dwarf? How do we tell if it’s a match? How do we tell if they don’t like the dwarf? How do we feed them? On what? What about-”

“Ori! Slowly, now.” A laughing Balin placed a hand over Ori’s mouth to stem the flow of questions. “I think that’s more than a question or two, lad.”

Ori blushed bright red.

“Never fear, Master Balin, Master Ori’s questions are relevant.” She handed Ori a small book. “Perhaps this will relieve Master Ori’s mind.”

Ori looked at the book. It was approximately six by eight inches and about a half inch thick. The cover was heavy leather, embossed to resemble the scales of a dragon and there was a cartouche in the upper centre of the front bearing the title of the book and the name of it’s author.

‘The Handling and Care

Of a Dragon

Hatching and First Year.’

 

~Gavali Durin~

 

“This was written by Gavali, wife of Morli, Grandson of Durin the First, and Mother to Durin II. There are six companion books to go with this volume, one for each one ten years of the hatchling’s life until it reaches maturity after 50 years and one that will give an overview of their general care and how to breed them. Do not despair.” She smiled at the look on Ori’s face, a cross between awe, wonder and trepidation. “If something should happen and you loose this copy, simply send a raven to Lothlorien and either I or my husband, Celebron, will send another to you. Elrond and I have multiple copies of these and are pleased to offer some of them to you and to have more copies made for those who are matched to a hatchling.”

Elrond joined them and handed Bilbo a similar book. This one’s title was ‘An Overview of Dragons, Their Breeding and Care’, also by Gavali Durin. Much the same size, although a little thicker, with similar decoration to Ori’s book, the significant difference between the two was the colouring. Ori’s book was a dark red, not all that dissimilar to red wine, whereas the book in Bilbo’s hands was a startlingly rich and vibrant blue, what Bilbo knew to be Durin-Blue, with gilt lettering.

“These was sent to Rivendell by Nerís, wife of Durin III, after the capture of his dragon-guard by Scatha the Ice-Drake. Nerís would not have these destroyed when Durin’s wrath was turned to the dragons. She wished the history of her husband’s people not be lost. This is the volume that she had made for her great-grandson, Durin IV but at the decree of the King was never presented to him. Guard it well.” The elf-lord said.

“I will, Lord Elrond.” The hobbit replied.

“We will send copies of any relevant volumes we find, by ranger to Erebor.” Said Alatar from the other side of the table.

“When we receive word of your outcome, Master Baggins.” Added Pallando.

“Thank you, Alatar, Pallando. We will send a raven as soon as Bard has dealt with the Curse.” With that the hobbit addressed the Elves. “I would like to thank you for your kindness and understanding, not only of my situation, but for your assistance to Bifur. His cousins tell me that he has suffered headaches, dizziness and disorientation for many years as a direct result of the axe-blade.” He paused and quirked an eyebrow. “I’m not sure who’s idea it was to clean up the blade, re-shaft it and give it to him, but… I dare say it will come in handy at some point.”

“He’s had it for so long that he’s going to miss it one day.” Laughed Bofur as he trotted past with an armful of bedrolls.

“Oh, aye. One day he’ll want to return it to an Orc.” Added Gloín, carrying a swath of blankets or cloaks, Bilbo wasn’t sure which.

“Quite likely.” Commented Bilbo. “Well. I guess it’s time to go.” He turned to Galadriel. “My Lady. Lord Elrond.” Bilbo disliked drawn-out, formal farewells. He clearly remembered his departure from Erebor and also watching Frodo’s from this very balcony.

“Master Baggins. Travel safely.” Elrond and Lindir bowed to the hobbit.

“Namarië, Bilbo. I would name you, elvellon – elf-friend – of Lothlorien.” Galadriel stood and watched at Bilbo and Ori went down a staircase and joined the altered Company at the bridge that lead to the trail to the Mountains. As Bilbo shouldered his pack and took his place in the group, she raised her hand in parting.

 

As they made their way up the stepped path to the north towards the Misty Mountains and the High Pass, Thorin called out teasingly.

“Master Baggins. I suggest you stay with us. Don’t leave the Company behind.” He waited until Bilbo huffed, but paused to look back at the sight of Rivendell bathed in dawn's soft light. It was such a pretty place and if things came out the way they intended, he would likely not be back in the West again.

“Be on your guard, we’re about to step over the edge of the Wild. Elladan, you know these paths, lead on. Elrohir, you next, try to hold back my hobbit if you can.” Thorin continued.

There were a few laughs at this, they’d discovered since leaving Bree that Bilbo could walk comfortably and still keep up with the ponies. He was far more used to ‘walking holidays’ than most of the dwarrow, though Fíli and Kíli could keep up with him, for a while anyway. And a walking holiday it certainly felt like, what with the fine weather and the clear paths.

The hunting was plentiful allowing Bombur and Bilbo to avoid using the dried meats that Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli had spent some evenings in Rivendell’s kitchen preparing for this part of their journey. As they moved higher into the Mountains, game became scarcer and many nights they were forced to use a packet of pre-prepared stew mix.

Finally their good fortune ran out and the weather changed as they reached the High Pass, the wind rising and the rain falling. Various members slipped an slid, almost falling off the path, Dwalin and Bofur catching Bilbo as he lost his footing and the Twins bracing Balin and Bombur. The Company struggled on, until a boulder the size of a house of Men hit the Mountain above them, Dwalin calling an alert.

They huddled close in to the cliff face, the dwarrow grasping at the rock, the Twins and Bilbo at a loss, their fingers not strong enough to dig into the rock itself, all they could do was hunker down and wait it out.

“This is no thunder storm.” Cried Balin. “It’s a Thunder Battle… Look!” he pointed out into the rain.

“Well, bless me. The legends are true. Giants! Stone Giants!” Screamed Bofur.

The next few minutes were a rush, trying to get away from the battle, half the Company made to safe ground, but Bombur, Bofur, Ori, Dwalin, Fíli and Bilbo were not so lucky. They had a terrifying ride on a giant’s leg, until finally a boulder thrown by another giant knocked it’s head from it’s shoulders. The five dwarrow and the hobbit pushed onto a small ledge as the giant fell into the chasm. As the dwarrow gained their feet it was suddenly obvious that Bilbo wasn’t among them.

“Where’s Bilbo?” Asked Bofur.

“Where’s the hobbit?” Asked Nori.

They looked down and saw him, clinging by his fingertips to the edge of the path. As Ori and Bofur leapt towards him, his hands slipped and he started to fall, but managed to grab hold of another ledge. Ori and Bofur both crying for him to grab their hands. Thorin, however, never hesitated, he leapt from the path to a ledge off to one side of Bilbo and pushed him up to the reaching hands. As the hobbits hands met Ori’s the ledge under Thorin gave way and he was now the one dangling by his hands. Dwalin’s fast reflex’s catching him before he dropped allowing the guard to pull the dwarf prince back to safety.

“I thought we’d lost our burglar.” He said as both Thorin and Bilbo struggled to steady their breathing.

At this point Bilbo remembered that in his last life, Thorin has made a disparaging comment about the hobbit having already been lost, but not this time. This time he clapped Ori and Bofur on the shoulders and touched his forehead to theirs.

“Thank you for my hobbit. I would be lost without him.” He turned to Dwalin and did the same, before beckoning Bilbo past the others and gathering him in his arms.

“Oh, my hobbit. We would all be lost without you.” The two touched foreheads for a few seconds, but the weather was against them.

Dwalin and Fíli stepped back to let them pass and saw the mouth of a cave. They entered to find a dry space, with a sandy floor. They made their camp for the night without a fire, Thorin remembering that this was the entrance to Goblin Town. He and Bilbo spent a few minutes talking together and finally Bilbo spoke.

“Lads? A moment?” When he had their attention he continued. “In Rivendell I told you of my tasks. Well… this is the point that we must part for a short while.” He waited as they called their objections. “No, lads. There is no choice, here I, and the Twins with me, must go in a different direction. In a few minutes the floor here will split and we will all drop down into Goblin Town, but the Twins and I have to drop even further into the mountain. We must meet the creature Gollum. He has something that I must retrieve, without it Middle Earth will fall to Mordor and I cannot let that happen. Strap your packs under your cloaks and do not fear, Gandalf will find you. Once we have dealt with Gollum, the Twins and I will meet you on the far side of the mountains.” He stepped up to Fíli and Kíli, seeing the fear in their eyes, he laid a hand on the back of each neck and pulled them to him, resting his forehead against theirs. “Never fear, my boys. I will find you. Yavanna and Mahal will guide me.” He released the boys and reached for Thorin, the two clasped arms and looked into each others eyes, they nodded and stepped back.

Bilbo stood between the two elven lordlings and smiled at the Company.

“This is not goodbye, my friends, just a detour, a delay. We’ll be with you in a matter of hours.”

As he was speaking, the Twins were tying a rope about him, to themselves. Tying the three of them together, then to an outcrop of rock so they would not fall instantly. The three of them needed to descend through the cave floor separately to the others or they risked capture by the goblins.

Hurriedly the dwarrow did as Bilbo said, slipping off sodden cloaks and putting their packs back on ahead of re-donning their cloaks.

Thorin looked at Bilbo and then at the Twins. He reached out to them and slowly placed a hand on each of theirs.

“Look after my intended, keep him safe,… nephews.” For the first time Thorin acknowledged the relationship he now had with the Twins.

“We will not let-”

“-him come to harm, Rhûd-Adar.” They said.

Thorin nodded and set his jaw hard as Bilbo’s sword lit it’s scabbard with blue fire. Sands shushed and the floor opened beneath them. They fell into darkness.

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Namarië = farewell (Q)

Rhûd-Adar = rock father (literal translation – Rock-hewn Hall Father) (S)

Chapter Text

Reclaiming Sméagol 

 

Elladan waited until the sound of dwarrow cries faded, before he let the rope play out to drop he, his brother and their Tithin-Adar into the depths of the mountain. Bilbo sobbed in Elrohir’s arms as they passed the claw-like cage used to hold anything that fell from the cave above. By the time they touched bottom the hobbit had obviously regained control over his emotions and was dry-eyed again.

He lead them around a few stone spires erupting from the floor of the enormous cavern. He was looking for mushrooms. Not the sort to eat but the giant slimy things that had hidden him from Gollum’s notice. Spying them Bilbo started looking at the ground, hunting for the Ring. Elladan gave him an elven light, the mix of chemicals waiting to be activated, simply add water and shake. The brightness of the glow dependent on how much water is added. In this case, not much at all.

It took less than five minutes of shuffling around in near darkness until…

“T’Adar? Here. I think this is it.” Elrohir called quietly.

Bilbo and Elladan made their way towards him, trying to stay as close to silent as they could and for an elf and a hobbit? That’s pretty darned close.

“Yes.” Breathed Bilbo, almost dreading the need to be so close to such an evil thing. “That’s it. Move over a bit. I need to use a stick to move it.”

The hobbit carefully manoeuvred the Ring using a stick he’d picked up after leaving Rivendell, there was nothing special about the stick, he just didn’t want to touch the Ring and risk it the possibility that it or its maker could know he was Returned. Just being that close to it, turned his stomach and he was ever so glad that he hadn’t eaten earlier. He’d been too nervous.

With the Ring in the first of the pouches he’d spent days making, and ready to seal, the three cave-divers set about the next part of their mission below Goblin Town. They each pulled things from their packs. Bilbo - sweetened travel cakes, Elladan - basic savoury rations and Elrohir a flask of a mild cordial that Galadriel had provided. The cordial was made from peaches and should make Sméagol a little happier. Only time would tell if it would work on him(It)? They all hoped there was enough of Sméagol left to be a ‘him’ and not the ‘it’ of Gollum.

With all three items in from of them, Bilbo carefully sheathed Sting and tied the light to his belt.

“Sméagol? Gollum? Precious?” He called, softly, knowing they had been heard.

The stick-like creature slowly emerged from the rocks and crouched in front of the trio.

“Bless us and splash us, Precious. That’s a meaty mouthful.” It said in it’s squawky squeaky voice.

“Ah, there you are, Sméagol.” Said Bilbo calmly.

“Wh-what did you call us?”

“Sméagol. That’s your name, isn’t it?” The hobbit didn’t wait for an answer. “Anyway we wanted to wish you a happy birthday.”

“B-birthday?”

“Well, yes. It’s your birthday. We weren’t sure about Gollum’s or Precious’, but we knew when yours was, so… here we are. We brought food, sweets and a special drink. We knew you wouldn’t have had a chance to have a decent party for ages, so we decided to bring the party to you.” With that Elladan thrust a travel ration at the newcomer. It was lush and fatty and rich with meat and Sméagol closed his hand around it, still more than slightly confused. Most creatures or beings either ran from him or tried to hurt him, but these three gave him food. He cautiously brought it to his mouth and extended his tongue to taste it.

Flavours near forgotten burst across his tongue. He quickly jammed the ration-cake into his mouth, suddenly afraid that someone might try to take it from him, but no,… Elladan was holding another out to him, smiling.

Smiling.

Someone was smiling at him.

He crept towards the tall thing, the smiling thing. It looked like an elfs. It smelt like an elfs. But it was smiling at him. Elfs didn’t smile at him. But this elfs was.

The other elfs took the stopper off a flask and held it out to him too. His hand reached out of it’s own accord and took the flask, bringing it to his nose.

Oh.

Oh.

Oh. He remembered that smell. Sweet and juicy. Round and fuzzy. Grew on trees. The colour of a babe’s cheeks. The flesh inside looked like the sunset.

He put it to his mouth and tipped it back.

Oh. The flavour was so rich, so fresh, so… right.

The next couple of minutes he alternated small bites of ration and sips of juice. When the ration was gone, he looked at his hand, a pout on his lips. A hand came into sight, a different looking thing in the hand.

“Here. It’s a special type of birthday cake, just for you.”

He wasn’t sure about this one, but it was right there. And it was his birthday. Wasn’t it? It had to be, the not-an-elfs said so.

Sweet and squishy, soft yet crunchy, sticky and crumbly. He’d never had something like this before. This is good. He liked this.

While Sméagol was distracted by the food, Bilbo very carefully tied of the drawstring of the pouch and placed it in another pouch very much the same, but with a flap cover, too. Finally Bilbo no longer felt the metallic taint of the Ring in his mind.

Now they would see if there was enough of Sméagol left to recover or if Gollum was completely lost to the Ring.

 

Slowly the creature relaxed and lost that hunted defensive look. He/it (No they had to have hope. So Sméagol was ‘he’) raised his head and looked straight at the elves. For the first time Elladan let his healing ‘touch’ reach out to Sméagol. He ‘saw’ that Sméagol was definitely Sméagol and not Gollum. That was good, but it was the end of the good news. Sméagol was… damaged? But… the damage was not from the Ring? No. The damages were far more a part of his makeup. Was he a damaged child? Was he born with that damage? Was there any way to find out? Would it make any difference?

Sméagol’s eyes opened wide and a guileless, innocent look came into them.

“Elfses are nice. Nice to Sméagol.” He squeaked.

“Yes, they are.” Bilbo smiled, he’d seen the nod and the pleased, but slightly pitying smile that Elladan had given Sméagol. “They are.”

Elladan moved and put his pack back over his shoulder.

“If we’re going to catch up with Rh’Adar and our selens, Tithen-Adar, we’ll have to leave now.” He said.

“Leaving? Eflses are leaving? Elfses are leaving Sméagol?” Sméagol’s face dropped and his eyes filled.

“Hmm… what if? What if Sméagol came with us? Would you like that, Sméagol?” Bilbo asked.

“Ooh, yes pleases.” Sméagol beamed.

“T’Adar. No.” Elrohir countered.

“Oh, pleases. Sméagol goes with. Pleases.”

“Tithen-Adar. We are travelling. It’s not safe.” This time it was Elladan who spoke.

“Pleases. Pleases. Sméagol be’s good. Sméagol be’s safe. Sméagol do’s what Tithen-Adar says. Sméagol wills. Sméagol promises.” Sméagol bounced around Bilbo like an over-excited puppy.

“Sméagol, we are travelling with friends. They are dwarves. You have to be nice to them.” Bilbo knew that Sméagol would only them as dwarves and not as dwarrow.

“Yeses, yeses. Sméagol be’s nice to dwarves’s. Sméagol wills.”

Bilbo made a show of thinking about it for a moment or two.

“Lads. I think that if we left him here, Sméagol would just follow us. It’s better if he comes with us, at least that way we know where he is.” Bilbo knew from Frodo's stories that Gollum had followed them all the way from Moria to Mount Doom, if they left him now...?

“Yes’s, yes’s, yes’s.” Sméagol leapt and danced.

“Yes, Tithen-Adar.” The Twins sighed.

They had planned this earlier. That if there was enough of Sméagol left and if he responded to them positively that they would try and get him to come with them, they could leave him with Beorn if needed. That he had apparently chosen Bilbo as his person was the best outcome they could have foreseen.

With Sméagol happily bouncing along and the trio following, they left the caves and headed down the mountain side to meet up with the Company.

Outside they could hear the dwarrow arguing from quite a distance.

“We can’t just leave them in there.” That sounded like Dwalin.

“We have to go get them.” And Bofur.

“They’re part of the Company.” And Balin.

“We’re not leaving them, just-” That was Thorin.

“No, we’re not.” That sounded like Gloín.

“Atkut!” Fíli rarely spoke out so loudly.

There was silence. Bilbo, the Twins and Sméagol had almost reached them, now.

“We. Will. Not. Leave. Them.” That was Dwalin at his most adamant.

“No, we aren’t. Bilbo insisted that we give him a certain amount of time. That time’s not up yet. We will wait. But… I am not leaving my intended in that mountain. Or our irakdashshats. You have my word, Dwalin.”

“Thorin.” He growled.

“No. I’m not. I swear.”

“Are you two going to argue all night or can we get a move on?” Bilbo asked as he stepped around a tree, Sméagol at his heels.

“Bilbo!” Bofur and Ori cried at the same time.

“Bilbo Baggins! Is that the creature Gollum?” Gandalf yelled. Sméagol cowered behind Bilbo at the sound.

“No, Gandalf. This is Sméagol. Sméagol will be coming with us, for the moment.”

“But-”

“No, Gandalf. No arguments.”

“Orcses! I smells Orcses.” Whimpered Sméagol, clinging to Bilbo's leg.

“Orcs? Where?” Thorin asked.

A howl rent the mountainside.

"There."

“Out of the frying pan-” Growled Thorin.

“-and into the fire….Run!....Run!” Cried Gandalf.

The Company ran down the mountain as best they could. Sméagol gambolling along like the whole thing was a great game, encouraging and calling to the Twins and Bilbo. As Bilbo went around a rock, a warg went over it and skidded around to face him, Bilbo didn’t slow down as he drew Sting, he levelled the small blade and kept running. The blade went smoothly into the warg’s head and it dropped to the hobbit’s feet, dead. By the time he’d managed to get the blade free the rest of the Company had passed him and had reached the cliff-face.

As soon as he realised that they were on a cliff Gandalf ordered the Company up into the trees. When Bilbo and Sméagol reached the cliff edge there was not a body to be seen, but at least this time he knew where they were, he made his was to the last tree to have stood last time and with the help of the Twins, both he and Sméagol were at last in the branches. Bilbo yelled to Gandalf.

“Gandalf! There’s a moth, call Gwaihir for help. Now!”

Gandalf looked at Bilbo for a second and then extended his staff to scoop up the moth, he whispered to it for a few moments and released it. He watched it fly away, determined to have a chat with a certain hobbit. He might not need to know everything, but some details would be good.

The wizard looked back in time to see a huge white warg ridden by a near white orc enter the clearing. Thorin in particular looked at the orc in a fierce and determined way, but without the shock or surprise shown by some of the other dwarrow. Hmm.

Gandalf took pinecones and using his staff set them on fire. He threw it at the wargs at the base of the trees. Fíli, Kíli and the Twins quickly found cones of their own and once alight, lit others to throw at the milling beasts. Ori was a particularly good shot, he aimed for noses and more often than not, hit them.

Azog spoke in his own dark tongue. Wargs surrounded the trees, jumping up and biting off branches, trying to get to the dwarrow just out of reach. Their weight changed the balance of the trees and first one toppled into another, the dwarrow quickly making their way into the next and a second, and a third fell, until only one tree stood. The combined weight of thirteen dwarrow, two Elves, a wizard, a hobbit and Sméagol weakened the roots of the tree and it started to tilt. It came to a shuddering halt at a shallow angle.

With no sign yet of the Eagles, Thorin looked to Bilbo and tilted his head at Azog and lifted an eyebrow. The hobbit sighed and nodded, then indicated that Thorin should alert the others. As they were having this new silent conversation, Ori and Dori slipped from their branch and hung out over the edge. Gandalf used his staff to catch them and Thorin decided he could not wait any longer.

He rose to his feet, balancing for a breath. He strode calmly down the trunk of the tilted tree until he reached the base. He unslung Orcrist from his back and made his way towards the pale orc, knowing that Bilbo and probably all four of the nephews would be close on his heels. He carefully increased his speed to a slow run, waiting for the moment that Azog would send the warg at him. The moment the warg leapt from the rock, Thorin dropped to his knees with Orcrist raised above his head. While he knew that killing Azog here, now, was not possible or wise, killing his mount, his pet, might be. His blade scrapped the belly of the beast, but unfortunately was not enough to wound or kill the animal. They would face the beast another day.

It only took seconds from the warg’s leap to Thorin being knocked from his feet and separated from his sword. Azog, assuming he’d won, assuming Thorin was defeated, told an underling to bring him the dwarf’s head. As he approached and prepared to take the killing swing, Bilbo knocked the orc from his feet, the two rolling for yards. The orc trying to get the upper hand, punched at Bilbo, only to connect with Sting, the recoil giving Bilbo enough room to force the orc to its back and push Sting into its chest. The hobbit wasting not time and gaining his feet, stood in defence of his intended. Azog ordered Orcs to kill him and they advanced, but suddenly there were other fighters, Fíli, Kíli, Dwalin and the Twins were there, between Azog and Bilbo.

Somehow, and Bilbo was never going to be certain of how, he’d entered the fight and had gone from facing one orc to another, ending up on the ground in front of Azog again, the pale orc stalking him. He scurried backwards on hands and feet to get some distance, but the warg kept pace with him. As the orc took a swing at him, Sméagol was suddenly there, the blade digging deep into his bony frame.

“No!” cried Bilbo and let Sting cut deep into the face of the white Orc's mount, he grabbed at Sméagol and held the emaciated body to his chest. The warg reeled back from the pain of having it’s nose nearly severed from it’s face.

The cry went up as the Eagles arrived and wargs scattered. Knowing what was coming, Bilbo quickly shoved Sting back in it’s sheath and without letting go of a panting Sméagol, reached out a hand and pulled Thorin’s oak shield to his side. When an Eagle had lifted the dwarf from the ground in it’s massive talons, it also gathered up his elven sword, but his shield fell from his arm and lay forgotten.

Not this time.

Bilbo had time to slide his arm through one of the grips on the rear of the shield and wrap his arms around Sméagol again and take a deep breath, as an Eagle spread it’s talons to grasp the two small beings. This time he wasn’t dropped to the back of a second Eagle, but gently carried in it’s talons. He had enough room to adjust his hold on Sméagol so the gaunt male could grasp at him with weak hands. Sméagol was in pain and given how deep the blade bit into his body, his injuries were severe if not fatal. Once they landed at the Carrock, Oín and the Twins would see to him.

“Thorin!” Bilbo heard Fíli cry. There was no answer. Not yet.

By the time the first Eagle had deposited it’s passengers on the Carrock, Bilbo’s hands and sleeves were soaked in Sméagol’s blood. Bilbo was loosing hope for the poor thing. Thorin was the first down followed by Gandalf, then Fíli and Kíli. The Twins, Dori and Ori next, then Bilbo and Sméagol. The Twins came to him and gently took his burden from him. He quickly moved out of their way and over to where Thorin was being helped to his feet by Dwalin. Bilbo reached out and slid an arm around both Thorin and Dwalin, neither of them pushing him away. Gandalf went to help the Twins with the injured Sméagol.

“You found it then?” Thorin asked.

“Yes. We found it. Sméagol wanted to come with us. The Twins weren’t sure but I remember Frodo telling me that Sméagol followed him from the mountains here, all the way until they destroyed it. So I knew he would just follow us, anyway. But-”

Bilbo got no further, Gandalf calling him over. The look on Gandalf’s face answered his question before it could be asked. Sadness, pity and resignation. Sméagol was dying.

“He’s asking for Tithen-Adar, Bilbo.”

“Thank you Gandalf.” Bilbo knelt down beside Sméagol. “Sméagol. I’m here.”

“T-Tithen-A-Adar?”

“Yes, I’m here. I’m here.”

“Sméagol hurts, T-T Adar.”

“I know, Sméagol, I know. Not for long though. Be brave, little one.”

“Sméagol been alone for a long time. But not now?”

“No, Sméagol. You’re not alone now.”

“Sméagol cast out, banished. Have no family. No friends. No one wait for Sméagol. No one to want Sméagol. Sméagol has been naughty. Sméagol will not see Her Golden Fields.” The once-hobbit murmured. Pain written across his whole being.

Thorin knelt beside Bilbo and spoke.

“You have friends, Sméagol. Friends that will miss you.”

“Sméagol has friends?”

“Yes, Sméagol has friends.”

Bilbo abruptly stood. He scrambled for his hastily dropped pack and quickly rummaged in it. With a cry of success he held up a small bag, he opened the bag and dipped his hand in it. Coming back to Sméagol and Thorin, he knelt and opened his hand.

“Oh. Sméagol remembers that.”

That was a piece of wood with a carving of a Lady with flowers falling from Her hands. Bilbo placed the carving in Sméagol’s hands and stood again.

“Lady Yavanna. This Child of Yours seeks Your presence.” There followed a few words in a lilting and almost song-like tongue.

Initially nothing happened, then a breeze rose carrying the scent of new grass. A twist of vine poked it’s head over the edge of the Carrock and rose tall, small flowers bloomed and a voice echoed on the breeze. All bar Bilbo were surprised that it spoke in Westron.

“My Child. Why have you Called? I cannot aid your injured.”

“My Lady. That is not why I Called. Sméagol has been hurt, My Lady, he is dying. He fears that he will not see Your Fields. The corruption of Melkor and Mairon has eaten at him and made him do things that would bar him from Your Grace. What can be done?”

“My Child, he is free of evil now. He will see My Fields.”

Bilbo knelt and spoke to Sméagol.

“Do you hear Her, Sméagol? She say you will see Her Fields. You will!

“But,… no one there for Sméagol. Sméagol be alone forever. Forever.” The dying hobbit whispered.

“No. You will not. Lady? I would claim this Child to my hearth. He will be a Baggins, a brother to me. Lady what must I do for this to happen?”

“Bilbo?” Thorin asked. “What do you mean? To your hearth? A Brother?”

The breeze answered.

“Bilbo is not married yet, so claiming Sméagol to his hearth, makes Sméagol his brother. If Bilbo was married Sméagol would become his son.”

“Thank you, Lady” Thorin said.

“Bilbo Baggins, son of Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins, stand by the one you would claim. Take my flower and mix your blood with his and give him the name his family will call him by.”

Thorin handed Bilbo a small knife and held his hobbit's hand still so Bilbo could make a small cut. Bilbo put his hand out to the vine and a flower fell into it, still holding the flower Bilbo put his bloody hand over the worst of Sméagol’s wounds and pressed gently.

“Mother always wanted more children, she would want me to give him one of the names she chose.” He took a deep breath. “I name my brother, Peldin. Peldin, son of Bungo and Belladonna Baggins, brother to Bilbo, brother to Feldar, brother to Clover, brother to Sorrel, brother to Rildon.” Bilbo bent close to the dying hobbit and spoke into his ear. “Will you be my brother? Will you be Peldin?”

“Not Sméagol anymore?”

“No, not Sméagol anymore. Now you are Peldin, my brother.”

“Peldin. I is Peldin, now. I is a brother.” His breathing faltered.

“Rest easy, Peldin. Be at peace. Our parents, our brothers and sisters wait for you. Just as one day, you will wait for me, my brother.”

“Parents. Brothers. Sisters. Not alone.” The newly named Peldin whispered, as he breathed out for the last time.

“No. Not alone. Never alone. Our family waits for you. Go to them.” Bilbo let tears fall without shame.

The breeze ruffled what little hair there was on Peldin’s head and then the distant voice spoke again.

“Peldin Baggins, Child of Mine, your family waits on you. Come to them.”

The Company then saw something impossible.

The breeze intensified and grass and dusty eddied around them, slowly coming together and forming shapes. Six shapes. Dust and dirt from Peldin also rose and formed another shape, it wafted gently over to join the first six. More fainter voices on the breeze could be heard.

“Peldin.” Said a woman’s voice warmly.

“We have a brother.” It sounded like a girl-child.

“Another brother.” A lad laughed.

“A son.” A husky man’s voice.

“Go with your family, Peldin. Wait for Bilbo together.” The breezy voice of The Lady drifted around them.

All but one of the shapes drifted out over the edge of the Carrock and were caught by a gust of wind, whipping them away. One remained, it drifted towards Bilbo and Thorin where they knelt beside the body of Peldin.

“Bilbo, my sweet boy. Thank you for Peldin. He will be well loved here. Your tasks are great, but your heart is greater. Do not fear evil. Pity those tainted by it. I will not see you again before you join us. You have chosen well and I would give you something, put your hands out, love. For your husband’s Marriage Gift, my son. We love you. Stay well.” The little zephyr of breeze whipped around Bilbo and slowly faded, leaving Bilbo with tears on his face and a stone in his hands.

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

T’Adar = abbreviation of Tithen-Adar = Little Father. (S)

Rh’Adar = abbreviation of Rhûd-Adar = Rock Father (S)

selen = cousin (S)

Atkut = silence (K)

Irakdashshat = nephews (K)

Chapter Text

Saying Goodbye

 

Kíli watched as Bilbo cried. There was so much pain in the hobbit right now. He heard his uncle whisper to Bilbo, but heard little of Bilbo’s reply, a word here and there was about it.

Hunt. Frodo. Gondor. Strider. Samwise. Frodo (again). Crack. Finger.

Nothing that made sense to Kíli. Sometimes he wished that Bilbo had let him, yes and Fíli too, read that book. Bilbo had spent an hour or two most mornings working on it, usually between first and second breakfast. Fíli was awake but rarely aware during this time, so it gave Kíli almost one-on-one time with his favourite hobbit and Fíli had the same sort of time in the evenings when Kíli crashed out not long after dark.

Maybe there was something in that book that explained why Bilbo was so upset about the death of Sméagol, oops, Peldin.

Thorin held Bilbo while he cried, the rest of the Company, Gandalf and the Twins, stood around looking like they wanted to be anywhere but there, right now. Eventually his tears eased and he leant on Thorin. There seemed to be no strength left in the hobbit, he slumped against Thorin like a liquid hobbit, completely boneless.

It was one of the Twins, Kíli still had trouble telling them apart, he thought it was Elrohir, that looked over the edge of the Carrock and raised an eyebrow.

“How, pray tell, Mithrandir, do you plan on us getting down from here?, Rh'Adar’s injured and we’re not leaving Peldin’s body here either, so what’s your plan?”

“Ah. Beorn has carved stairs into the surface of the Carrock. I think we’ll be using them, don’t you?” The wizard replied.

“No, Gandalf.” Oín put in. “These ‘stairs’ as you call them, are too tall for any dwarrow, let alone an injured dwarrow.”

“I hardly think that they’ll be too much for such dwarrow as yourselves, Master Oín.”

“Not too much? Gandalf, each step is at least eight foot in height. That’s taller than you and even the Twins.” Nori was as blunt as ever.

“Eight feet? Oh, no. Surely not…” Gandalf petered off as he approached the first step and actually looked at it. “Oh, dear…. Well. Give me a bit and I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

Bifur, Bofur and Bombur weren’t in the group looking at the stairs, they were huddled at the side of the Carrock, Bofur and Bombur each with a grip on Bifur’s belt as he leant as far as he could out over the edge, looking down. He nodded to his brother and cousin and they pulled him back in at the same time as Dori spotted them.

“What do you think you are doing?” He screeched, rushing over and pulling them away from the edge.

“Checking the distance between the flight of stairs.” Said Bombur as if Dori had missed the obvious.

“Checking the-? Why in Mahal's name would you be doing that?” Dori spluttered.

“You seem to forget that me cousin, me brother and me aren’t nobles like you lot. We’re miners.” Said Bofur.

“Yes..?” Said Dori. “What does that have to do with Bifur leaning out over the edge of nothing?” he was puzzled, as were quite a few of the others.

“What Bofur’s trying to say is that we’re uthâk so our packs are athâk-fakts.”

“And for those of us who are not familiar with just what makes a …miners(?) pack important right now? Could you please explain? Bofur? Bifur?” A Twin asked.

The fact that the Twins could speak Khuzdul may have upset the Company initially and Bilbo wasn’t sure if Thorin was aware of it yet, but it was turning out to be very handy, particularly in dealing with Bifur and his recovery. His sentences were still a mish-mash of Khuzdul and Westron.

“Oh, for Mahal's sake. A miner’s pack opens out into a miner’s chair. Yeah, sure, some who only use them as a form of transport preferred a chair with a timber seat, but for those of us that use them for hours on end, we prefer a leather or canvas version, softer on our butts, see.” As he talked, Bofur took his pack off and demonstrated as he continued. “You undo these buckles here and this opens like this, right? This part becomes the seat and this the backrest. Straps clip on here, here, here and the same on the other side. All six straps clip onto a single ring, like this. A rope goes through the ring and can be used to lift and lower a miner. Swap the top straps with the lower ones and it can be used to move objects, too.”

Bifur turned to the Nori and asked a question, mostly in Khuzdul.

“Zûr sigin a jezer have you fakt’l?”

“Me, Dori and Ori each have about 250 feet of rope. Why? What are you thinking?” Nori answered.

“It’s roughly 60 feet between each flight of stairs. Bifur’s thinking that we can use the packs to lower each of us to the next flight. There’s good rock here, a belay point knocked in on each flight means that the last person down can belay themselves and no one has to climb down the stairs.” Said Bombur

“Yeah, that all well and good.” Bofur interrupted. “But we don’t have many belay points and there’s a lot of flights of stairs.”

“Elladan and I can-” Started Elrohir.

“-manage the stairs.” Added Elladan.

“We can take turns,-” they continued.

“-one being the-”

“-anchor point and-”

“-one being lowered.”

Bifur and Bofur conferred with Bombur quickly, their heads nearly touching as they talked. A few minutes pasted before they re-joined the group.

“That’ll work. But not alone, Dori’s the strongest, but he’s injured, Nori’s the next strongest so Bifur wants Nori and Dwalin to pair with you. Say, it’s Elladan and Nori paired and then Elrohir and Dwalin. Elladan and Nori are first anchor. They brace the belay rope together, the first down is the other pair, the last down is the Nori. When they hit the next flight Dwalin and Elrohir will start setting up for the next belay, so when Elladan has navigated the stairs, he and Nori will be the first on that belay. This will give everyone a bit of respite between belays, but will still keep us moving as consistently as possible.” Bombur was clear but adamant.

After more discussion a solution was arrived at. Things would be done the way Bifur said. The only difference was that there were three packs they could use. Bifur’s, Bofur's and Bombur’s. It was quickly decided that the smallest of the pack’s, Bifur’s would be used solely for Peldin's body. The largest, Bombur’s would be used for Bombur, Bofur, Gloín, Oín, Dwalin, Thorin, the Twins and Gandalf. The rest of the Company, Ori, Dori, Fíli, Kíli, Bilbo, Balin, Nori and Bifur, would use Bofur’s.

 

It took them over six hours to make their way down from the top of the Carrock to the start of the tree-line, roughly 800 feet down. From there, it was another 1000-1400 feet to the valley floor, a roughly estimated 2000 feet in total, give or take a couple of hundred feet.

The only problem to be had, and it was a significant one, was Gandalf’s staff.

On the second last set of belays, the wind buffeted as Gandalf was just below the flight, nearly 40 feet above Elrohir, Dwalin, Gloín and Fíli. The sudden gusts caught everyone by surprise and in that surprise it happened.

Gandalf dropped his staff.

Now that might not seem like a significant problem, but remember, this is a wizard’s staff.

Elrohir saw it start to fall and dived… The elf-prince dived down over the lip to the next step below.

Dwalin saw it start to fall and dived… The dwarf’s hand opening to grasp the staff.

Fíli saw it start to fall and dived… His hand open under Dwalin’s.

Gloín saw it start to fall and dived… Knuckles hitting the rock under Dwalin and Fíli’s arms.

The staff hit Dwalin’s hands and there was an almighty sound, a sound more felt than heard, deep and low. A cloud of greenish-blue smoke exploded from the staff, very much like a flash-flame bomb of Balin’s, but it glittered and shimmered in the bright afternoon sun. Sparkles like tiny diamonds, clung to the three dwarrow as the smoky haze cleared.

Oops.

Gandalf signalled to Elladan and Nori and was quickly lowered to the step. He picked up his staff, looked at it intently and held it to his ear.

“Well, could have been worse.” He murmured.

“Uh, ûdar?” Said Gloín, startled.

“Tharkûn?” Asked Fíli.

“Kulhu balâ jalânukh’l?” Dwalin growled.

“Oh, dear. Let me see if I can fix that.” The wizards tapped each dwarf on the head with his staff very softly. A slivery mist fell about each of them and Dwalin grumbled again.

“Gandalf? What just happened?” he repeated, this time managing to speak in Westron and not Khuzdul.

“You caught my staff. And while there was no ill intent, it’s never wise to handle a wizards staff. Because you sought to help, my staff sought to help you, it amplified that need to help. Well,… no…, not really the need to help, but more like,… the ability to help? No. That’s not it either.” Gandalf lifted the staff to eye level and looked at the crystal shard nearly hidden in the twisted knot on the end of the staff. “Ah. That’s it. You wanted to help. You’ll give off a aura of being able to help, to those that need it. It should wear off in a few days, a week at most. Never fear, it’s not permanent.” The wizard chuckled as he wandered over to see where Elrohir had ended up.

“What?! Gandalf! Can you get rid of it?” came from Dwalin.

“What type of help?” asked Fíli.

“How will we know when it’s gone?” asked Gloín.

“Now, now, Master Dwalin. It’s a gift from my staff for you wanting to help me. So…, no I can’t ‘get rid’ of it, as you so politely ask. Don’t worry too much, Fíli, it’ll be mostly small animals that will approach you. And, Gloín, for the moment you shine. When the light hits you, you’ll shimmer like those pretty gems you all like. When the glimmers wear off so too, will the staff’s gift.” He chuckled again. “It won’t affect you in any other way.”

Dwalin could be heard to mutter in Khuzdul under his breath for the rest of the day, but that didn’t stop the shimmering. Or the little animals that were to approach the three dwarrow at different times over the next week, seeking help, mostly birds with chicks fallen from nests and other small animals with cuts and the like. But it didn’t stop the rest of the Company from teasing them for glittering like a tray of gemstones in the sun.

Gloín and Dwalin conspired and plotted, they planned revenge on the wizard for after they reclaimed Erebor. Fíli wasn’t too fussed, he didn’t mind the shine, Kíli and Bilbo liked it and that was good enough for him.

 

Upon reaching the tree-line the general feeling in the Company was relief. The trip from the Carrock’s platform to the trees was a truly unpleasant one. Three injured and a dead body do not make for an easy outing. Bilbo stayed as close to his new brother as possible while still trying to fuss over Thorin and Kíli.

The young princeling not only had a few scrapes but also had some nasty burns on the fingers of his left hand, the only part exposed to the flaming pinecones. Thorin on the other hand? He had massive bruises on his chest and ribs, from having been picked up by Azog’s warg at some point and a glorious goose-egg on the side of his head from where he tried to make a crater in a boulder using only his skull. Thankfully he failed. Oín and Elladan spent the first few minutes checking that none of the injured had been hurt in the descent.

Elrohir spent his time hunting with Nori for game, this would be the last chance for fresh meat, as once they hit Beorn’s territory proper, there would be no killing of any animals for food. They planned to be on the move by morning, as they knew that Azog and his Orcs would be hunting them, furious that the Eagles took his prey from him. Bilbo and Thorin assumed that Azog would know where the Eagles had likely dropped them. A hot meal tonight and again in the morning, an early stop with a long night to rest, should go a long way to improving moral all around.

Bilbo however, spent his time sitting with one hand holding Thorin’s and the other resting on Peldin’s chest, thankful that Gandalf had used a little magic and stopped Peldin's body from beginning the decaying process. His body was going to be given to Yavanna with as little damage as possible, he deserved that. Holding the Ring for over 500 years without handing it to Mordor or it’s wraiths, earned him the right to have a decent burial, surely. Once they reached the valley floor and running water, Bilbo could start the rites and lay his new brother to rest.

 

Two nights after the Eagles left them on the Carrock, the Company stood across a small spit of land that jutted out where two waterways came together. In front of them stood Bilbo. Tears ran down his face, silently. He placed a small timber flower, Bofur had carved him a sunflower, in Peldin's hands and pressed a kiss to a cold forehead.

Finally the hobbit stood. He stood there, chest heaving for a few minutes, before starting to sing.

In Her golden fields we stay

Among trees of brightest green

With family and friends we play

Our gentle Lady we’ve Seen

In Her peace forever we lay

 

Bilbo’s voice rang out, sweet and pure. Far stronger than any thought possible for such a small person. Even Gandalf’s eyes opened wide at the serene strength in the voice soaring higher than the clouds.

Only the first verse of Bilbo’s song was in Westron, the rest was in the same lilting tongue that Bilbo used to call the Valar, Yavanna, to the Carrock. When he indicated, the Twins came forward and gently lowered Peldin into his flower lined grave. Each member of the Company came forward and placed a flower on his body as Bilbo continued to sing. Finally his song came to an end and he put a acorn on Peldin’s lips and crossed the spit to Thorin’s side.

“Shall we cover him?” Dwalin asked, green glimmers sparking on his clothing as it caught the light.

“No, Dwalin. The Lady will see to that, we have only to witness and bid him farewell and sun filled days.”

“Peldin, 'aimugalikh.” Said Bifur, Bofur and Bombur.

“Farewell, Peldin.” Said Oín and Gloín.

“Sunny days to you, lad.” Added Dwalin and Balin.

“Goodbye, Peldin. Be at peace with your family.” Murmured Dori, Nori and Ori, tears on their faces.

“Oh, 'aimugalikh, little iraknadad.” Cried Kíli, holding a sobbing Fíli.

“Navaer, nosta-selen.” From the Twins.

“Nadadul ê amrâl, 'aimugalikh.” Whispered Thorin.

“Bye, brother.” Was all Bilbo could get out before collapsing against Thorin.

“Blessed be your days in the sun, Peldin Baggins.” Gandalf called to the last rays of the sun as it sank behind the mountains.

The wind picked up and the ground trembled. The sides of Peldin’s grave crumpled and the earth covered him. Bilbo and Thorin stayed there until last light left and the river gleamed black.

 

Uthâk = miner (K)

Athrâk = miner’s (possession) (K)

Fakt = pack (K)

Fakt’l = packed (K)

Zûr sigin a jezer have you fakt’l? = how long a rope have you packed (roughly translated) (K)

Ûdar = wizard (K)

Tharkûn = what the dwarrow call Gandalf, in Khuzdul. (K)

Kulhu balâ jalânukh’l? = What just happened? (K)

'aimugalikh = farewell. (K)

Iraknadad = cousin (K)

Navaer = farewell (S)

Nosta-selen = little cousin. (S)

Nadadul ê amrâl = brother of my love (K)

Chapter Text

Watching the Company        

 

Brown eyes looked out from the trees. There were dwarves in his lands. He would not allow that. The skin-changer took a deep breath in preparation for letting his bear-self out, out to tear dwarves to pieces.

The breath froze in his throat. That was not a dwarf. It was an elf. He disliked elves too. But… elves disliked dwarves far more than he did. So what was a pair of elves doing travelling with dwarves?

Hmm. There might be a story in this.

Another being entered the clearing. A Wizard?

Oh, yes, there was a story here.

Two more, far younger dwarves, one blonde and one dark, joined those around the fire, one plopping himself down beside the elves, the other falling and laying across the laps of both the elves. One elf having lifted his bowl of food high and the other swinging his wide, told the skin-changer that this was not the first time the blonde dwarf had used them as a bed. This was impression was furthered by a large redheaded dwarf’s laughter.

Hmm. This story could be interesting.

One of these young dwarves, glittered where the light caught his clothing, as did the robust redhead, now sharpening a tall war axe.

Hmm. This story could be very interesting.

Within seconds the skin-changer was convinced of that. A tall dark-haired dwarf, likely a parent to the two young ones, approached the fire with his arm around the shoulders of a much smaller being. It took the skin-changer quite a few seconds to realise that the small being was in fact a Holbytla from his youth, but the Holbytla’s had been driven from the Gladden Fields many hundreds of years ago.

Why was a Holbytla travelling with dwarves? From the way the little one had a hold of the dwarf’s belt, smiling and laughing, there was no unease in this group of? Ten? Eleven? Twelve? No. Thirteen dwarves.

Thirteen dwarves.

Two elves.

One wizard

And?

A Holbytla.

Oh, yes there was definitely a very interesting story here.

The fact that not only were they travelling together, they were travelling together willingly, but also happily. In good spirits, if the two young dwarves, the two elves, the older dwarf and the Holbytla’s behaviour were anything to go by.

He would like to know this story.

The young dark-haired dwarf picking up a dwarf-sized but clearly elven-crafted weapon, but one that had many dwarfish lines. He swung it around and met the elven long-dagger the Holbytla carried, the two danced and parried for a minute until a round redheaded dwarf manning the fire held up two more bowls. Quickly the weapons were stowed and spoons became the weapon of choice and used eagerly on bowls of stew or soup.

No. He needed to know this story.

He crept some distance away and finding a trail that would lead him back to the group’s fire, started up the trail, allowing himself to make enough noise that someone, probably one of the elves, should be able to hear him coming.

When he finally entered the clearing. The wizard had stood, along with the Holbytla, his dwarf, the two elves and a tall bald-headed dwarf holding a war hammer who, interestingly, also glittered. The rest of the group had sat up and were paying attention, ready to jump to their feet at a moments notice.

“These are my lands.” He said, his curiosity clear. “Why are you here?”

The wizard started to speak, but the skin-changer ignored him, it was clear to him, just who the leaders of this party were.

The Holbytla answered him.

“You must be Master Beorn. Radagast told us of you. We were hoping that we might be able to stay with you for a few days and replenish our supplies. The goblins of the mountains took a lot of our food stuffs and Azog’s Orcs left us with injured. We mean no harm to you or any under your care.”

“The defiler?”

“Yes. We had the misfortune to meet him just after we escaped from the goblins. My intended and kin were injured in the clash and we are in need of medical assistance.”

“You have elves with you. Can they not help?” Intended?

“Most certainly, but without medicinal herbs and plants, there’s not much they or our healer can do.”

“Ah. Now I understand. I will help you. I dislike dwarves and elves, but I like Orcs far less. We are two days travel from my home, will your injured make it there? I can supply some herbs and plants now, but no bandages until we reach my Home.”

One of the elves came forward.

“Master Beorn? Do you know where we might find some athelas? If we were to have some, then I do not doubt that we would reach your home without too much trouble.”

Athelas? Don’t know it. Does it have another name?”

The dwarf leader spoke.

“Master Beorn, athelas is often called kingsfoil by those of us not elves.” He said with a smiling glance at the nearer of the two elves.

“Kingsfoil, I do know. There’s a patch quite close by.” He pointed down the trail towards his home. “Down that path about fifty yards, you’ll find a clump of birch tree seedlings, about ten of them. The ground their base is very rocky and in those rocks you will find many kingsfoil plants. You may take as much as you need, but leave enough for the plants to survive.”

“Thank you, Master Beorn.” The elf was up and nodding to the dwarf leader.

“Elladan?”

“Rh'Adar?”

The skin-changer spoke little elfish, but didn’t ‘Adar’ mean father? An elf calling a dwarf ‘father’, this story he needed to know.

“Take a light with you. I don’t want to have to send Fíli after you, because you got lost in the dark.”

“Ah. Yes, Rh'Adar.” The elf mumbled and rummaged in a pack for a lantern, the size and shape of a large egg, perhaps an eagle or one of the large flightless birds of the deserts. The elf then flipped a catch on the side of the handle and the entire top folded back on a small hinge, he added water from a pot kept away from the fire and gently shook the lantern after closing and securing the handle. The lantern began to glow with a soft blue-ish green light that slowly became stronger until it would be more than strong enough to read by.

The elf picked up a small leather bag and nodding to Beorn and the dwarf leader, he and the other elf, headed off up the path that Beorn had directed.

“Where are you headed, that you pass through my lands?” The skin-changer asked the dwarf.

“Would you sit with us, Master Beorn, while I introduce my Company and explain of our journey? We’ve a hearty stew on tonight.” Said the dwarf leader.

“I will sit, I do not however eat meat, nor will I allow hunting on my lands.”

The Holbytla bustled around and seeming to ignore the skin-changer’s words, by dishing up a large bowl of the stew and handing it to him.

“Oh, no, Master Beorn. There’s no meat in this stew. Radagast did warn us of this, so we’ve not killed anything since we reached the flat lands, we did get a few rabbits and an injured doe, but that was still in the foot hills. We dried the meat and will keep it for after leaving your lands. This is a potato, carrot and split pea stew, thick, hearty and very warming.” With that the Holbytla sat himself back down on a log beside his dwarf, who smiled down at him and lifted an arm for the little one to slide under. The two younger dwarves quickly approached and sat on the ground, one on each side of the Holbytla’s legs, resting their heads on his knees. They sat comfortably, this was clearly how they sat at rest.

“Thank you.” The skin-changer tentatively tasted the stew given to him, he found it to be all he was told and very tasty as well.

“Good stew.” He said. The round dwarf answered.

“Thank you Master Beorn, I did the best I could, but in all honesty, I’m not used to cooking without meat. Bilbo guided me on the herbs and spices, I hope it’s not too spicy.” The dwarf fretted.

“No. No, it’s good.” Turned to the dwarf leader. “You said you would give me an explanation.”

“Indeed Master Beorn.” The dwarf answered. “I am Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, this is my intended, Bilbo Baggins, son of Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins, of The Shire. These two young rascals are my sister-sons, Fíli, to the right and Kíli, on the left. This one here,” he indicated to the bald dwarf with the war hammer, the one that glittered, “is my cousin and captain of my Guard, Dwalin, son of Fundin. Beside him, with the white beard is his brother, Balin, my chief advisor. The red-bearded one with the axe is Gloín, son of Groín and our healer with the ear trumpet is his brother Oín. Next we have three sons of Lori, the eldest being Dori, the one with the tri-point hair is Nori and the youngest is our scribe, Ori. Bofur is wearing the dreadful hat and his brother Bombur is our chief cook, their cousin Bifur is still recovering from a severe head malady and struggles with languages.” The dwarf accepted the mug of what smelt like tea from the one he called Oín, the healer, and sipped, making a face at the taste.

“And your journey?” He wasn’t going to be distracted. This was turning out to be a story not to be hurried.

“You may be aware that Thrór, my grandfather, was King Under the Mountain when the dragon stuck. We are here to correct this.”

“The dragon is not dead. He will attack, not just you but all this side of the Misty Mountains. Why should I let you go any further?”

The Holbytla then spoke.

“There’s a number of things about this dragon that you and nearly everyone else aren’t aware of, Master Beorn.”

“Like what, little Holbytla?”

“Master Beorn, I am a Hobbit, not a Holbytla, the Holbytla’s are our ancestors, true but we are no longer the same. But to the dragon. Firstly Smaug is a ‘she’ not a ‘he’. According to the blue wizards, Alatar and Pallando, dragons were gentle and peaceful creatures before being captured by Morgoth’s troops. The first dragons were tortured and cursed to do the bidding of Morgoth. Thanks to the joint efforts of Galadriel of Lothlorien, Elrond of Rivendell, Gandalf, Radagast the brown and the two blue wizards, we have the means, not to kill the dragon, but to free her from the curse placed upon her blood. While she remains within the mountain, she is of no danger to anyone. Alatar believes, and his research is so far proving him right, that Smaug can feel our intent towards her. And as we mean not to hurt or kill her she should stay placid long enough for us to break the curse.”

“A female dragon?”

“Yes. The blue wizards believe that the reason she attacked Erebor was not the gold itself, but rather the Arkenstöne. The Arkenstöne is the Heart of the Mountain and it is currently protecting her unhatched young from that same curse, by holding them and her in a type of stasis.”

“Stasis? Wait. Unhatched young? She’s a mother?”

“Yes.” Thorin, the leader said. “We don’t know whether she thought the Arkenstöne would kill her or break the curse, but clearly it was a desperate move to protect her babes from the torture of Mordor.”

“A mother?”

“A mother trying to save her children.” Said the Holbyta, no…, the hobbit.

“What do you plan to do with them after, if you break this curse?” the skin-changer asked.

“Many centuries ago, dragons were guards, they guarded royalty, ambassadors and our treasuries. We would bring that back and also have them guard our most precious possessions. Our children.”

There was a brief interruption when the two elves returned with a bag of kingsfoil and more in their hands.

The healer, Oín, quickly stood and joined the two and they bustled around the fire making whatever concoction they deemed necessary to treat their companions.

“These two are Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond, lord of Rivendell and adopted son of my family.” The hobbit said.

“Why would two elves travel with thirteen dwarves and-”

“Dwarrow, please, Master Beorn.” Interrupted the hobbit.

“What?”

“Dwarrow is the word used for a group of two or more dwarf.”

“Dwarrow?”

“Yes. Dwarrow.”

“Hmm. Alright, why are two elves travelling with thirteen dwarrow, little hobbit?”

“Hey! Uncle Bilbo’s a good height for a hobbit.” One of the young dwarrow put in. The blonde was Fíli?

“My apologies. Fíli? Wasn’t it?”

“Yep, that’s right. No worries, it’s just that Uncle Bilbo doesn’t like being called short or small. When he’s not happy, it puts him off cooking and then on one’s happy. Fare warning.” The other youngster chirped.

“Kíli. Enough, please.”

“Sorry Uncle Bilbo.”

“Alright then. Why are two elves travelling with thirteen dwarrow? And why does this young dwarf call you ‘Uncle’, Master Hobbit?”

“Ah, that. Well, you see, it like this-” and the hobbit went on to tell the skin-changer how they had come to this point. From his waking in a puddle, to a letter from his boys, to letters to Elrond and Galadriel, to multiple sittings of the White Council and their journey so far. Some of this was new to the company and there were exclamations of surprise. They were under the impression that Bilbo had known Thorin and the lads for years and it was a shock to find it was truly otherwise. Even more of a shock was to hear that Thorin and the lads were also Twice-Born and that they had already lived through this Quest and the reclaiming of Erebor.

Dwalin and Balin, in particular, were angered at what they at first saw as a lack of trust, but eventually they seemed to understand that this wasn’t the case. Rather that Thorin didn’t know how to tell them and that Galadriel and Elrond agreed that telling them too soon would lead to too many changes.

Bilbo also explained that Erebor and Smaug were in fact only a minor part of why he was Returned.

“- so, until we deal with Smaug and have Erebor back under the control of dwarrow, I cannot tell you of my next task beyond this. That which I retrieved in the caves below Goblin Town must be destroyed.”

“In addition to that item, there is the chance that the curse of Mordor has tainted the Arkenstöne. If it is tainted, then it too, must be destroyed.” Here the others protested. “Wait. Wait. If it’s tainted, then it will spread that taint to the Mountain itself, right now all of it's strength is directed at Smaug. While the Arkenstöne was dormant, Suaron was able  to poison the mind of Thrór using the Ring he wore. If Smaug hadn’t attacked, it’s very likely that Sauron would have convinced Thrór to simply hand over the stone and the Ring when asked for it. The stone protected the Mountain against the evil of Mordor, Sauron wants it, for without the stone to protect us, Erebor is vulnerable. With the stone, Erebor is a bastion of strength in the East, a light against the Darkness, a hope against madness. It must stand, if it falls, so too does all of Middle Earth, it's position is of strategic importance. Sauron cannot leave unopposed such a mighty fortress. For all the deaths that occurred during the attack, I’m still thankful that the attack was able to stop this, as Sauron would have completely destroyed Erebor and razed the Mountain to rubble.”

There was silence in the clearing, nothing more than the crackle of the fire.

The skin-changer stood and stretched tall, joints popping and cracking.

“If you follow this path,” he pointed to the same path down which the Twins found the birch grove and kingsfoil plants, “and take the right fork at the elm arch, you will reach my Home and Garden in? Hmm… It takes me less than two days from here, but you’ve injured and your legs are not as long as mine. Hmm… Do you think they can ride? Your injured, I mean.” That last bit was addressed to Oín and the twin elves.

“If we had a little valerian or poppy milk, then yes. Dori and Bofur have leg strains and muscle damage. They and Thorin are the least mobile, but with poppy milk they would be more able to ride than walk. At least pain-wise.” Said one of the elves. Beorn wondered how the dwarrow - interesting word that – dwarrow were able to tell the two apart, obviously they could, but how?

“In that case? I’ll send word home to fetch some ponies. Stay on that path and go right at the elm arch and I’ll meet you as soon as I can. Once you have the ponies, they’ll take you to my Home, my animals will provide you with whatever supplies I have that you need. I’ll delay any Orcs that seek to follow you. Rest well tonight, no Orcs have left the mountains, yet. With ponies, you should be at my Home before the Orcs reach the flat lands.”

“Thank you Master Beorn.” Thorin said as the skin-changer handed his bowl and spoon back to the round dwarf. Bombur was the cook, right?

“It is of no consequence. I hope you have a plan for Mirkwood. It is not wise to travel there without planning.”

“We do. We are expected. The people of Eryn Galen no longer trust to Thranduil to protect them, they seek the guidance of his son Legolas Greenleaf. So, Lady Galadriel has called Thranduil to Lothlorien to relearn acceptance. Legolas was a friend to me in my last life and is also a Tád Nún, a Twice-Born. The elves of Eryn Galen keep watch and when our Company approachs your Home, Legolas and a Captain of the elven-guard, would ask that you allow them to join us. Our injured must have a chance to recover, but just as importantly, if we are to rid Arda of Azog and his spawn, Bolg, we must become one Company. This elven captain, Fíli, Kíli and the Twins must fight as a team, so must Legolas, Dwalin, Thorin and myself.” Bilbo took a deep breath. “There will be a battle before the Gates or Erebor. Men, elves, dwarrow against the forces of Dol Guldur and Gundabad. We will win. We must win. If we loose…? There is a far greater battle coming and the Enemy will be much weakened with the loss of Azog and Bolg.”

The hobbit’s casual talk of Sauron, scared the skin-changer. This wee thing, talked of battles, death, destruction, Mordor, dragons and Orcs with a great determination. He would see that this Hobbit was not alone, he and what remained of his allies would join him in fighting for peace.

But for now? They had injured and he had ponies to fetch.

“Your elven friends may join you. I will welcome those who fight the Fires of Mordor, no matter who they be. The rest we can talk of at a later time. For now rest, tomorrow may be a painful day for your dwarrow. I’ll send a hawk with poppy milk as soon as I can.”

With that the skin-changer left the light of the Company’s fire and was swallowed by the night. Very shortly afterwards, they heard the roar of a great beast, warning intruders off his territory.

Strangely enough the Company found this to be reassuring and all slept soundly that night. Even Dwalin and Nori.

 

Chapter Text

The Company  Increases - Again

 

Beorn was as good as his word. By the middle of the following afternoon, the Company saw a small herd of ponies – and three horses – approaching across a clearing large enough to be called a field. While none of them wore saddles or bridles, they seemed calm enough that Gandalf, who’d been with the Company from the start, thought the dwarrow should be able to manage to stay away from the ground.

After watching Thorin hold his ribs and start to slide a number of times, Bilbo gave up and leant forward to speak into the ears of the pony he was, supposedly, riding. The pony sidled up to Thorin’s and Bilbo very carefully brought his knees up to the pony’s back and rose to his feet, he stepped back onto the pony’s broad rump and then across to the rump of Thorin’s pony. He quickly knelt and then sat, sliding forward to sit snug against Thorin’s back. While this was happening, many members of the company were doing what they could to distract Thorin and keep his attention away from Bilbo and his hair-raising manoeuvre.

Kíli in particular watched closely, both to see that Bilbo didn’t fall and to see how he did it, as within a few minutes, he’d done the same with Fíli and his pony. Fíli, apparently, was the worst rider of the lot of them and had been holding onto the pony’s mane with a death grip and upsetting the poor pony, with Kíli behind him he settled and leaning back against his brother, started to enjoy the ride.

The rest of the afternoon passed quickly and as evening approached, the dwarrow were surprised to see Beorn clearing what could only be a campsite for the Company. He stood as they neared and greeted each pony and rider as they reached him, the riders sliding from the pony and bowing to the skin-changer, the ponies each nuzzled at his hands and he in turn rubbed their heads and ears.

After getting Thorin, Dori and Bofur down from their respective mounts, Dwalin, Gloín and Bifur came to Beorn and asked if he would object to them building a type of ramp for their injured to use as a mounting block, if he preferred, they could dismantle it before leaving the next morning. It was just that getting the three onto and off of their ponies had been an exercise in pain and frustration, on all sides, that they would rather do without.

Beorn assured them that a pile of rocks in the middle of a clearing such as this would draw lizards and other small creatures to it. He was most amused, as in truth was Gandalf, to see many small animals approach the three dwarrow, who still glittered in the early evening light, seeming to ask for their help. While Dwalin and Gloín helped Oín assist a squirrel that somehow had many thorns stabbed into it’s tiny little paws, Fíli told Beorn how this had happened and what animals had sought their help. Thanks to Bilbo’s forward thinking, Fíli had kept a list of the animals they had helped and where they had been, Bilbo’s thought had been that they could give the list to Beorn to follow up and make sure that none of those helped needed further care.

Beorn said he would take the list from them once the ‘spell’ had worn off, but warned the dwarf that the animals in the area were terrible gossips and that even after the ‘spell’ had worn off, they would likely still find animals coming to them. Their aid had endeared the dwarrow to the animals of the Beornings and Beorn had already been told that some of the larger animals, stags, bears, wolverines and in one very memorable case a mountain lion had been helped by the ‘shiny ones’, as the animals called them. He was also told that the dwarrow were under the protection of the Beornings animals. They had heard what the ‘shiny ones’ had said about a war coming and had held a meeting of the clans to decide what to do about their ‘shiny ones’. The result was that all the predatory animals and the porcupines would defend their ‘shiny’s’ and their ‘shiny’s’ clans. It seemed that the ‘shiny ones’ had done the impossible.

Wild animals would protect dwarrow.

The mood that night was both happy and sad. Happy that they would not fight alone, that tonight they need set no watches and that the animals they’d helped would be looked after in the future. Fíli had become quite attached to a mountain lion cub from the night before. It’s mother had heard of the ‘shiny ones’ and approached one to have a stick that had became embedded in the flap of her ear removed and because her cubs were too old to leave in a den without them wandering, she had brought them with her. The golden ‘shiny one’ had been the first to help her and when he’s seen the stick, he’d called one that didn’t shine to help him. The lion mother had been around Beorn enough to pick up some of the Man-talk that he used and she was thankful that the ‘shiny ones’ and their clan used the same Man-talk, most of the elves to the east used a different Man-talk and so she avoided their territories. After the stick’s removal her cubs played with the ‘shiny one’ and another that must have been his litter-mate.

The mood was also sad. The Company knew that there was a battle coming and, in the way of battles, not everyone would live to see it end. How many of the animals that they’d helped and that would help them, would live? How many would be injured? How many young would suddenly be parentless? How many would no longer be able to protect themselves or their young? How many would no longer be able to feed themselves or their young?

Who would look after them?

Late that night, Fíli crawled from his spot near the fire, to Thorin’s side.

“Uncle?” he asked.

“Yes, Fíli?”

“Uncle, what will we do about the animals? The ones that get hurt? Bilbo said that there were some injured in the battle. I feel bad about that.”

Before he could go any further, Kíli joined them.

“I’ve been thinking about that, too, Uncle. What if…? What if Tauriel and I make an animal infirmary? Outside at the foot of the Mountain, near the Gate, we could build a barn. Beorn could teach us and we could help the animals, not just those that help us, but Bilbo’s Hobbits are coming and they’ll have animals, too, cows, pigs, sheep, chooks and goats. Then there’s the ravens and the ponies, we could help them, too. And the dragons. Tauriel’s a woodland elf and as Fíli’s your main heir, there’s not a lot for me to do, yet, and we both like being outside, this would give us a something to do that’s helping, too. Please, Uncle?” Kíli prattled on for a bit, slowly coming to a halt.

Thorin grinned at him, while Fíli looked on and shook his head in amusement.

“I had thought that you and this Tauriel, who by the way, I don’t remember, would form an archery corps. But even then it’s unlikely that you’d have enough dwarrow interested, to keep the two of you busy all day. An animal infirmary sounds like a good idea, Kíli. You’d have to find a few likely helpers, for there to be enough staff to have shifts. In the mean time, spend as much time with Oín and the Twins as you can, you’ll need to know how to apply balms, mix potions, use herbs and bandages. Not to mention, you’ll have to learn how to make rosters and organise shifts.”

“Oh, thank you, Uncle! Thank you. We will. We’ll also ask Beorn for help.”

“Don’t forget to talk to Daín, too. He breeds those bloody great Battle Boars and War Rams.” Bilbo put in, mostly asleep, curled up in his bedroll at Thorin’s side.

“Oh, yeah. I’d forgot about them. Thanks Uncle Bilbo, I will.” He chirped, now happy enough to go lay down. “Uncle, there’s no use in me telling you about Tauriel. You have to meet here and see for yourself, what she’s like. If we get to Beorn’s tomorrow with the ponies, then she and Legolas should be there the next day. So you can meet her then.”

Suddenly Beorn appeared out of the darkness.

“Ah, little fox. Why wait? I sent a bird messenger to your friends when I called for ponies. Assuming my messenger arrived yesterday, your friends should be at my home before you.” The skin-changer said. “I will stay here with you tonight and will leave you in the morning. Given how much ground you covered today, if you are prepared to have a long day tomorrow, you can sleep in proper beds tomorrow night.”

Bilbo sighed wistfully.

“That, Beorn, would be lovely.” The hobbit replied.

Fíli stayed and talked quietly with Thorin until both Bilbo and Kíli were asleep.

“Uncle?”

“Yes, Fíli?”

“What happens after the battle? Has Bilbo told you what he plans to do? I mean, we know he has to destroy it in the fire. But, has he said anything about how? How to get there? What if something goes wrong?”

“Fíli, lad, easy. Bilbo’s not all that certain, yet. Some things, yes. But about some, no. After Bard breaks Smaug’s curse, Bilbo wants to see how big she is. He’s hoping that she may help us to, if not to destroy it, then maybe transport us there so we can destroy it, or perhaps she can create a distraction so we and get there safely. So many variables. Too many to make plans yet. What we have decided on is that those that come with us must do so of their own choice, no contracts. This will far more dangerous than our Quest is. I would have only those who want to join us. We will talk about this in more depth after the battle to come, more things will be fixed by then. For now, lad, get some sleep. An early morning tomorrow and a long day. Sleep, now, irakdashat, please.” Thorin desperately wanted to sleep.

 

The sun had set and darkness was fast approaching as the herd of ponies and horses finally came close enough for their riders to see the lights of Beorn’s home shining brightly.

This was a welcome sight to tired eyes and tired bodies. The riders weren’t the only ones tired, either, the ponies and horses, too, showed the efforts of the day. Long hours carrying riders, in some cases more than one rider. Thorin, Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli weren’t the only riders to double up, by mid morning to was clear that both Dori and Bofur were finding it hard and painful work to stay balanced on a pony without a saddle. So much so, that when the Company stopped for drinks and to drain bladders, Oín and Elladan spoke to Beorn about doubling Dori with Ori and Bofur with Bifur. Beorn agreed that it was possible but that like Thorin and Bilbo and Fíli and Kíli, they would have to change ponies fairly often, otherwise their ponies would struggle to keep up with the group.

By the time everyone was on the ground and beginning to make their way into Beorn’s home, the three injured dwarrow had very definitely reached the end of their strength, staggering and barely able to stay on their feet. They were quickly hustled inside, sat down and handed bowls of a thick rich barley and vegetable soup along with slabs of warm fresh bread. Once the three had eaten, along with their riding partner, they were gently guided through the house to a separate building, joined by a covered walkway, that had steam escaping from the open doorway. This building proved to be a hot-spring fed bath-house and the weary travellers were stripped down and helped into the soothing waters.

They were left there to soak while their riding partner tended to their injuries and then they were carefully dried and helped into clean clothes before being shuffled off to bed. Thorin objected, he wanted to speak to Legolas and meet Tauriel. Bilbo disagreed and that was the end of Thorin staying up.

 

Bilbo left the room that he, Thorin, Fíli and Kíli were to share while at Beorn’s, heading back to the large dining-living area.

“Uncle Bilbo. Over here. Come sit with us.” Fíli, Kíli, Tauriel and Legolas were gathered in front of the huge fireplace.

“Just a moment, Fíli. I need to speak to Dwalin and Balin first.” He replied, making his way around the massive pieces of furniture to join the older members of the Company still sitting at the table finishing their dinner.

“He go down alright, laddie?” asked Oín.

“After some grumbling, yes. He wanted to stay up and talk to Legolas and Tauriel. Stubborn dwarf.” the hobbit muttered.

“Ah. Talking of Legolas and-”

“-Tauriel. Bilbo, can you-”

“-introduce us? It has been-”

“-many hundreds of years since-”

“-we’ve spoken to Legolas and-”

“-even then it was only in a formal-”

“-setting with a great many others.” The Twins asked in their usual fashion.

“That would be good, Bilbo, if you would.” Agreed Balin.

“Of course. Just let me get another mug of tea, please.”

Bilbo watched as Beorn poured him a mug – very large mug – of tea. He then added milk and sugar to his preferred taste and pinched a slice of bread, slathered in butter and honey.

While he was doing this the rest of the Company had gathered around the fireplace, picking out seats and making themselves as comfortable as possible.

“Introductions, if you please, Tithen-Adar.” Reminded Elrohir.

“Yes, yes, Elrohir. I’ll start from the dining table side of the fireplace. First we have Fíli, he’s Thorin’s nephew and first heir, he prefers double swords, beside him is Kíli. Kíli is Fíli’s brother and Thorin other heir, he uses a bow, but for close fighting chooses to use a short-ish sword. Next is Tauriel, she is a Captain of the Guard of the Woodland Realm and is also a Twice-Born. Her weapons of choice are the bow and she’s also proficient with two short swords. The next is Legolas, he is Thranduil’s son, yes. He is currently in command of the Woodland Realm while his father is in Lothlorien. Like Tauriel, he prefers the bow and short swords.” Here Bilbo paused while he sipped his tea. He then addressed Legolas and Tauriel as he introduced the rest of the Company.

“The young dwarf next is Ori, he’s our scribe and while his weapon of choice is a slingshot, he’s also quite handy with a war hammer. His brother Nori is our thief, knives and information are his weapons, but he uses an axe in battle. Dori is their older brother and I’m while sure that the two younger brothers would say that Dori’s weapon of choice is fussing over them, he is quite handy with a sword. He also one of our injured members, as is Bofur, he wears that dreadful hat and uses a mattock. His brother Bombur would like to use his iron ladle, but can be quite dangerous with either a sword or a mace. Bifur had an axe imbedded in his forehead at Azanulbizar and since it was removed, just recently at Rivendell, he now carries it on his belt. As you can see he also carries a bill-spear.” Again Bilbo paused for tea and Beorn took advantage for this to give him another slice of bread and honey.

“Ah, thank you Beorn. The redhead there is Gloín and yes, Legolas, he is Gimli’s father and like his son he uses a great axe.”

“My son? Why would he know my son?” Gloín asked.

“Once introductions are done, I’ll give the Company a brief outline of Tauriel and Legolas’ life and answer your question then, Gloín. Please be patient. Óin is Gloín’s brother and he prefers an iron tipped staff and trust me he’s very good at wielding it. Óin is also the Company’s original healer and now works with Elladan and Elrohir. You won’t be able to tell them apart easily, so there’s not much point in trying.”

“Oi! That’s not-”

“-fair, Tithen-Adar.”

“Fair or not, it’s still true, you pair of terrors. Now be quiet, I’m almost done. The bald lout is Dwalin and he is Thorin’s Captain of the Guard, he wings a mean hammer but is quite graceful – and deadly – with his axes. Lastly we have Balin, Thorin’s chief advisor and councillor, very handy with that strange looking sword of his. Thorin is our leader and currently his weapon is Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver, he’s also in bed injured. Gandalf you all know, he now has Glamdring the Foe Hammer. That leaves me, I am Bilbo Baggins, I’m barely alright by dwarf standards with a sword, my bow work is improving but my specialty is sigil ne-mâb, which means ‘knife in hand’, basically hand to hand, but I tend to use a long dagger. Well…, what for my size is a long dagger. Oh, and conkers too. Now that’s everyone. What’s next?”

“You were going to answer how Legolas knew about my Gimli.” Put in Gloín.

“Ah, yes, I was, wasn’t I? Where should I start? Legolas? Where would you prefer me to begin?” the hobbit asked the elf prince.

“I do not care. They, he, should know my life. But I have one question before you start.” The blonde elf answered.

“Of course. What do you want to ask?”

“Master Gloín. I have spoke much with the Lady Galadriel and I would ask you this. When does your son Gimli come of age?”

“Come of age? He’s 62 as yet, so not for another 3 years. He was mightily vexed that Thorin would refuse him for a matter of three years. Why do you and the Lady want to know?” Gloín replied.

“That’s kind of complicated. As Bilbo has told you I, too am Returned. In my past life, I was a part of your quest. At the orders of my father, your Company was taken prisoner and held in our dungeons, Bilbo stole you from us, using barrels and the Forest River. We came to Erebor to fight for my father against dwarrow, but ended fighting a greater enemy, Azog the defiler and his spawn, Bolg. It was I who killed Bolg and threw Orcrist to save the life of Thorin, but his still fell to Azog. Many years, decades, later Elrond of Rivendell called a meeting of the free peoples of Arda. The One Ring of Sauron had been found. A Fellowship was forged to take the Ring to Mordor to the very heart of Mount Doom to destroy it. In this Fellowship there was two Men, one of Gondor and the other a Ranger from the North, that would become Elessar Telcontar, King of Gondor and Arnor. The Ring Bearer was a young hobbit called Frodo Baggins, his father was Bilbo’s cousin, Drogo, but Bilbo considered him nephew and Heir. He was accompanied by three other hobbits, Merry Brandybuck, Pippin Took and Samwise Gamgee. The last two members of the Fellowship were myself and… and Gimli.” Legolas was forced to pause while members of the Company raged. Raged, not at him, but at what they must do.

“We went from Rivendell, across the nearly the whole length of Arda. Master Gloín, your son, Gimli became my greatest friend and my most trusted companion. Lady Galadriel believes that when Gimli comes of age, he too, shall be blessed with the memories of another life, a past life, a life in which we travelled together, a life we shared. I say this not to cause you pain but to tell you of the depth of my affection, Gimli is, as a dwarf would say, my One.”

 

Chapter Text

Swearing Allegiance

 

How nine dwarrow, three elves and a skin-changer could have two separate furious arguments in near silence, Bilbo didn’t know. But that is exactly what they did.

Gloín, Legolas and Bilbo were the only guests that had no input into this pair of chaotic discussions. Dwalin and Óin were arguing with Balin, Bombur and The Twins about whether Gimli and Legolas were a politically sound pairing. Fíli, Kíli and Tauriel argued with Nori, Bifur and Beorn about whether Gimli was just a little too young for the elf prince.

Bilbo, Gloín and Legolas just watched for a while. Eventually the three non-combatants made their way to the dining table and took up positions at one end. There was much to discuss.

“Legolas?” asked Gloín.

“Yes, Master Gloín?”

“Do you know if Gimli returns your affections?”

“Aye, Master Gloín, that he does. Two years after the War of the Ring, we were wed on the Battlements of Erebor, on Durin’s Day, by Dain’s son Thorin Stonehelm, King Under the Mountain. Gimli braided a Durin Marriage Bead, given to him by Princess Dís, into my hair and I the same into his. My father himself, gave to me two Starlight Gems to set into Mithril for our Marriage Bands. Being that I am an archer and Gimli a axeman, we decided that we would wear our Bands as Cuffs on our wrists as opposed to Rings on our fingers.”

“Well, that makes sense. And all the formalities were completed?” the redhead asked.

“Oh, yes. That was fun. The look on my father’s face when we told him was one I will hold dear until the end of my days, but the argument that followed is not. In comparison, your and Lady Bírzel’s reaction was quite subdued. Master Dwalin was, surprisingly, our most ardent supporter. We presented each other with the required number of Gifts, from Gimli I received a golden arrow pendant attached to an ear-cuff by a delicate Mithril chain, a pair of exceptionally well balanced long-daggers and he crafted our Marriage Bands, himself. I gifted him with a pair of gloves, I spent weeks on those blasted things, but I was never happy with the stitching across the palms. As I was the one to kill it, I was permitted to claim the skin of the White Warg that Azog now rides, I had help to make it into a floor rug, so my Gimli could feel a part of your Quest. My last gift to him was the hardest for me to acquire, I spent many weeks with Beorn, working with him and his animals, but finally I learned to speak Raven and went to the summit of Erebor to ask a Karku’zund to partner with Gimli. That also took weeks of negotiations. I am not looking forward to doing it again.”

Gloín chuckled at the expression on the elf’s face, he did not look eager, but rather resigned, however there was no doubt that he would be doing the same again. For a moment the two shared a glance of sympathy, Gloín knowing that Gimli had probably told the elf of the Courting Gifts between his parents. With Bírzel being a renowned beauty of the Ered Luin, Gloín had spent nearly a decade proving himself a Master of his Craft, before Bírzel would consent to his Courtship. He Gifted her with the finest stiletto blades to be forged in Ered Luin, a set of elongated hair pins made from silver, sharpened to a point to hold her glorious golden mane in the elaborate designs she favoured. The gift that he was most proud of however, was the one least mentioned, a pair of boots. The soles hiding a false base to conceal a set of knives, a dagger and small claw-shaped mazn-zegâr per boot, with them his golden-love would never be defenceless.

“A Karku’zund is a princely Gift indeed, Legolas, but I know that the one he would value the most, would be the rug. Yes?”

“Indeed. He claimed it to be among his most treasured possessions. To me, the daggers were my favoured. That I never had to use them in battle, I’m sure Gimli regretted, he preferred me to use them over my elven blades and eventually so did I. I feel unarmed without them now and find myself reaching for them at the most inopportune times.”

By now the others had realised that they were on their own. First Kíli and Tauriel joined them at the table, followed by Óin and the Twins. Beorn quickly left the discussion to see to drinks, which caught the attention of those still near the fireplace.

“Legolas?” Asked a Twin. “Would you have wed Gimli?”

“Yes, Elrohir. We did marry.” He repeated what he’d told Gloín about their Courtship and marriage.

“Well, I can imagine that Thranduil wasn’t pleased.”

“No, he was not. If Gimli has been anyone other than a member of the Fellowship, I’m sure that father would have denied us, but… as it was, the elves of Eryn Galen knew of our intent and after so many deaths and knowing what we had risked to achieve peace, they supported our happiness. My father was forced by his people to give his consent, but he was never happy about it. After my Return, he was less so. I was forced to consult with Lady Galadriel, to find answers. I do not think I have been happier, since my return that is, than when I received Bilbo’s letter. How, may I ask, did a Hobbit get a Raven to deliver a letter to an Elf of the Woodland Realm?”

“Ah. When I received a letter from Fíli and Kíli, I decided to take a pro-active stance on this quest and my future tasks. I sent a letter back to the lads, one to Elrond, another to Galadriel, these were all sent by the usual means. Galadriel’s response told me that Legolas and Tauriel were also Returned, so I set myself the task of convincing a raven to carry a letter. Not an easy task when you don’t speak Raven-tongue, but finally a particularly smart bird realised what I wanted and it brought a Raven to me that spoke Westron and I was able to barter terms with her.”

At that a large glossy Raven flitted down from the rafters.

“This is Töarc. When Fíli and Kíli finally arrived they came with a young male Raven, Mörat, who has travelled with us, Töarc re-joined us while we stayed in Rivendell. When we went into the cave on the Misty Mountains, Thorin told them to meet us here at Beorn’s House. They kept an eye out for us and met us a few miles away. Mörat has found a roost for the night, but Töarc is very sociable and likes to be involved in conversations.” The Raven bobbed her head at those who addressed her, but didn’t speak, she was shy around the elves, still.

“Knowing I wasn’t the only one Returned was a relief. To find that there was more than a just Bilbo and I was a pleasant surprise. To hear that Thorin Oakenshield and both of his nephews were also Returned was a great shock. It wasn’t until I spoke to Galadriel however that I was informed that we needed to increase our numbers even further, to include Tauriel and the Twins.” Said Legolas. “Oh, and of course there’s Glorfindel, but he was Returned during the Second Age. So, he wasn’t Returned just for this.”

“And what of Tauriel’s history?”

“No.”

“Excuse me, Bilbo?” Asked Balin.

“No, we won’t be discussing Tauriel tonight. Thorin will want to be present for that discussion, so that’s not happening tonight. Now, I think it’s time that we all turn in for the night. We’ve a lot of planning to do and only a few days to do it in. We need to be clear headed. So, goodnight gentlemen.” The hobbit stood and pulled Kíli, who pulled Fíli, along with him. “See you all in the morning.”

 

The sun shone brightly down as Thorin listened to Gloín tell him what Legolas has to say the night before.

“Well, it’s good to know that your lad was brave enough to battle Sauron and protect Bilbo’s nephew. Not sure how I feel about him marrying Thranduil’s son, though. I doubt that Thranduil was any happier.”

“No, from the sounds of it he wasn’t. That in itself is enough to encourage me to support the union, but even I could hear the affection in the lad’s voice as he spoke about Gimli. To know that my son is so well loved, I can tolerate him being related to Thranduil to have that.”

“Hmm. Yes.” Thorin stood carefully, still feeling the tenderness in his ribs from the warg jaws. “I’m going to sit out on the veranda, and try and get Captain Tauriel to speak with me. If you see her or Bilbo, would you send them my way, please?”

“Of course, Thorin. I’ll find Bilbo and ask him to bring you whatever concoction Óin and the Twins have ready.” Said Gloín as he headed for the kitchen.

Thorin made his way outside, keeping a hand on the wall to ensure he stayed upright. He found a huge outdoor lounging chair and eased himself on to it, pleased that the extra height meant that he didn’t have to lower himself much to reach the seat, but instead just slid across until his back met the rear of the chair.

After a few minutes Bilbo and Tauriel joined him.

“Bilbo said you would want to talk with me this morning, Thorin Oakenshield.” The she-elf stated.

“Indeed, I do.”

“What can I tell you?”

“First, tell me what we are to call you, then if you would, please tell me of your history.”

“I am Tauriel. I would prefer to be called that, however if formality is needed, then I am a Captain of the Guard of Eryn Galen. I am a silvan elf like many of those who live in Eryn Galen and Lothlorien. My mother was a weaver and my father a warrior. He was killed in the days before my birth and my mother began the Fade when I was but a small child, scarcely more than an infant. Thranduil saw that I was provided for, but now I see that there was much I lacked. I was given food, clothing, education and a place to live, but I missed out on things like care, affection, praise and a family. Legolas became my family, much to the distaste of his father.” The slender redheaded elf, sat down and leant against a pillar, bringing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. “It wasn’t until my squad and I were sent to provide support to Legolas as he coordinated your capture, that I began to realise that there was more to life than I was living. The care you gave to your nephews, the care your Company showed to their families. It made me curious.”

The three were soon joined by Fíli, Kíli and Ori, the young scribe’s thirst for knowledge clear as he hung on the elf’s words.

“Seeing the care your people felt and showed for each other, made me pause. I spoke with Kíli, at first as I would with any prisoner, but after a short time, we spoke as two people, not an elf and a dwarf, but two people. When you escaped, I was glad. I knew that Thranduil had no intention of releasing you, he had said as much to Legolas within my hearing. Legolas was not pleased with his father’s action and spoke of goodwill. Thranduil disregarded these words. Your escape gave me an opportunity I had not previously considered, that there was more to see than just Eryn Galen.”

“There is more, Tauriel, so much more.” Thorin’s heart ached for the elf, to have never known a mother’s love, a father’s protection.

“Lake Town just cemented my desire to see more, Thranduil resented his elves going even that little distance. Travelling with the survivors of Lake Town showed me how much was missing from my life. I so nearly went with Kíli to the mountain, only my duty and loyalty to Legolas, my friend, one I called family, kept me from it. I rode with him to Gundabad and on our return he reported to his father while I tried to find out what had befallen Kíli. Joining the battle, I was terrified, not for myself but for Kíli, and strangely enough for those that cared about him. Watching Azog kill Fíli, my heart wept. Knowing that Kíli had seen that and was now fighting for his life against Bolg, frightened me in a way I had never felt before. Watching Bolg pierce his heart, hurt, more painful than anything I had ever known. Having Thranduil tell me that what I felt was love, I think made it worse. I was banished for the Woodland Realm for my defiance and Legolas no longer respected his father. He went to Rivendell and I stayed in Dale, I could not leave without seeing what Kíli had died for, completed. Once Erebor was restored, I and a small contingent of fighters, mostly Men but a few elves that could not bear to return to Eryn Galen, decided to destroy Gundabad. To rid it of Orcs. I was the last to fall. In one hand I had Kíli’s stone, the one his mother gave him, I tried to return it to her, but she said that if Kíli had given it to me, he would want me to keep it, and in the other, his sword, handed to me by Daín Ironfoot himself.”

Kíli sidled closer and leant against her shoulder from one side. Thorin was slightly surprised to see that Fíli was mirroring his brother on her other side.

“Waking up back in rooms assigned to me as a guard, was startling, one of the first people I saw, was a guard that I knew had been killed during the battle at Erebor. This made me hold my tongue when around others, particularly Legolas, earning me a rebuke from my prince after he spoke with Lady Galadriel. My initial reaction was hesitance, but once he spoke of our ride to Gundabad, I quickly realised what this meant. Then Legolas received a letter from Bilbo Baggins, telling of the Quest to come. With Thranduil recalled to Lothlorien, Legolas is Regent and I have followed his command. But I have come to the decision that my life is not to be lived within the borders of Eryn Galen any longer and have told my prince of this. My life now belongs to Erebor.”

The elf stood and moved to face Thorin, she knelt and offered her bow and knife to the seated dwarf.

“I Tauriel, daughter of Jessarian, do offer my bow and blades in fealty to Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, King Under the Mountain, and his sister-sons, Fíli, Crown Prince of Erebor and Kíli, Prince of Erebor. Command me, my liege.”

Thorin’s jaw dropped. Even Fíli and Kíli looked stunned. The elf stayed kneeling and Bilbo gently bumped Thorin to bring him out of his stupor, Thorin took a deep breath and reached out to the elf. He took the bow and the dagger from her hands. He held them for a moment. Raising his eyes from the elf, he saw the entire Company were gathered to watch and listen to her tale. Balin and Dwalin nodded and Gloín smiled.

Another breath and Thorin knew what to say.

“Tauriel of Erebor, rise.” The elf stood at attention, Thorin held out first the bow and then the dagger. “Take this bow and this blade, use them in defence of our kingdom. Your duties with be finalised after the reclamation of Erebor, but some are already planned. You and my sister-son Kíli, Prince of Erebor will form an archery corps. In addition to this, Prince Kíli has expressed a desire to create an Animal Infirmary, you will work with him to make this happen.” The redhead took the bow and dagger from the injured King and bowed low. She stepped back and sheathed the blade at the same time as she brought the bow to her back.

“You will be known formally as Tauriel Khûthuzu-Erebor.” The King finished.

This was heralded by cheers and not just from Kíli, either. Gloín, Dwalin, Fíli and many others, the only ones not to cheer were Balin and Bifur. And even they looked pleased, but knowing it was a formal event had tried to stay serious.

“Oh, that’s lovely. Can we eat, now?” Trust Bilbo to be thinking with his stomach. His question was greeted by laughter.

“Yes, Bilbo, we can eat now.” Thorin chuckled. “After lunch, I’d like to get a start on combining our skills.” As they made their way back around the sides of the house towards the door, Thorin continued to talk, it distracted him from the pain of his ribs. “Fíli, Kíli, Tauriel, Elladan, Elrohir and Nori. I want you six to work together. Your only task during the battle is to kill Bolg, try not to get injured, please. Dwalin, Bilbo and Legolas, you three will train with each other and as soon as Óin clears me, I’ll work with you. Bofur, Bombur and Bifur, you three already work well together, so splitting you up is foolhardy, something I refuse to be. Dori, you and Gloín are going work one Ori, turn him into an Axeman, his strength is an asset now. Óin, you will set up an infirmary inside the mountain, Beorn, you and any animal that joins you will work towards destroying as many wargs as possible. Any warg that refuses to fight for the Orcs is to be spared, unless it threatens our allies. Legolas, is there someone within the elven Guard that you trust to lead elves in battle? Don’t answer now, think about it for today. Tomorrow I would have you send for them.”

Before Thorin and the Company could go any further, there was a commotion at the gate into Beorn’s yard.

Looking out they found the Mountain Lion from a few days prior, a cub hanging from her mouth, injured. The cub had a nasty gash running from it’s shoulder and down along it’s ribs. The wound was still oozing blood and the cub was barely aware.

“Oh, my.” Said Thorin. “Kíli, Tauriel, Óin, please work with Beorn. Help them.”

“Please, please, help him.” Fíli was on his knees in front of the mother, gently taking the cub into his arms, as he did so the mother collapsed. Blood pouring from her mouth, she was dead before she hit the ground.

“Where are the rest of her cubs?” Whimpered Ori.

The Twins stepped up.

“Master Beorn, we will go look.” As one they turned to the gate, before stopping at Dwalin’s voice.

“I’ll go with you. If we can find where whatever it is happened, I’m still glittering. Maybe that will help. Anyway there were four cubs, that leaves three unaccounted for, you two can't manage three cubs by yourselves.”

Beorn yelled and a pony and two horses came running. A number of birds flittered around the horses. Óin and Tauriel rushed off, one for heading for Beorn’s kitchen and the other for the storage room attached to the hot-spring bathroom.

“Fíli, you carry the cub, Kíli hold this cloth to the wound. Come this way.” Beorn bustled them away.

“Will the cub be okay?” Asked Ori, still visibly upset at seeing an injured baby.

“Beorn and Óin will do everything they can, Ori. All we can do is wait.” Replied Thorin.

“No, dear, that’s not all we can do. We can prepare a bed for the little one and broth, for when Beorn says it can eat. When Dwalin and the Twins get back, we’ll need more for the other cubs, plus we need to lay this beautiful mother to rest. Nori, Gloín can you pick her up? We’ll pick a place out of the way but somewhere quiet. Thorin, Bofur and Dori, you can make some sandwiches for us, Bombur, you are in charge of getting a broth going. Use some of our dried meat, best do it out side. That cub is going to need proper sustenance, but we don’t want to upset Beorn if we can avoid it.” Bilbo waited until the four had gone inside, before continuing. “Ori, Bifur, I’m sorry but you’ll need to dig a hole for the mother. Balin, see if you can find a large rock with a flat face that we can use as a headstone for her.”

With that Bilbo ran inside to where Beorn had shown the hobbit the cupboard he kept the linens in, he took a sheet, intending to wrap the mountain lion in it, he would have preferred a leather hide, but as Beorn didn’t kill animals, that wasn’t going to happen. So the skin-changer was just going to have to give up a sheet for the fallen lion.

Running back outside, he saw Bofur’s mattock being swung by Bifur. He hurried over and spread the sheet on the ground. Gloín and Nori laid the dead lioness on the sheet, but Bilbo didn’t cover her yet. He whispered to Ori that the hole needed to be at least four feet deep before he left them.

He leant against the wall of the house as he got his sobs under control. He followed the sounds of Fíli singing to the cub. Well, how about that. Apparently Beorn had a space just for infirmary use. He reached the building and stuck his head in the door. Óin and Tauriel were cleaning the wound, Kíli handing them clothes, swaps and little bladders of tepid boiled water. Fíli crouched at the cub’s head, his golden hair blending in with that of the injured animal. Bilbo could hear the young prince crooning a lullaby to the little lion. Beorn paced backwards and forwards between the door and the table.

“Beorn?” Bilbo called quietly.

“Master Hobbit?”

“We’ve taken the mother lion, Ori and Bifur are digging hole for her and Balin is looking for a nice stone that we can use as a headstone. Do you have any preferences? I’ve sent Dori to make a meat broth for the cub using our dried meat, I told him to set up a fireplace outside. We don’t mean to offend but that cub’s going to need the substance that meat brings and it’s going to need milk too, it’s not weaned yet.”

“Of course, Bilbo. These four are doing fine, better I think than I could. Let’s leave them to it. We have other tasks, now.”

With a last glance at Fíli’s face resting against the cubs, Bilbo followed the skin-changer from the building. He was right, they had lots to do before the day was done.

 

Chapter Text

Learning to Trust

 

Bilbo and Beorn came back to the southern side of the house to hear Gandalf yelling at Bombur.

No meat! No animal flesh! I told you that! Radagast told you that! Bilbo even told Beorn that you’d been told that. And now what do I find?! You’re cooking a rabbit stew!”

Poor Bombur couldn’t get a word in. He didn’t have chance to tell Gandalf what had happened that day.

“Take that over to Nori and empty it in the hole he’s digging. Now!”

“No, Gandalf-”

“Do it, now!” the wizard continued to yell at the dwarf.

“STOP!” Beorn was forced to bellow at the top of his lungs.

“Master Beorn, I’m very sorry about this. I did tell-”

“Stop, wizard.” the skin-changer said, tiredly. “Just stop.”

Before Gandalf or Beorn could speak again, Ori came running from the copse of trees where he and Nori were taking turns to dig a grave for the mountain lioness.

“What is it? What happened? Is the cub okay? It didn’t die? Please tell me it didn’t die?” The young scribe was nearly frantic.

“No, Ori. So far, he’s still with us. Don’t panic, lad.” Bilbo answered him.

“Oh, thank Mahal for that.”

Both Bilbo and Beorn turned to Bombur, completely ignoring the wizard.

“How is that broth coming, Master Bombur?” their host asked.

“Quite well, Master Beorn. If you only want clear broth, then it’s ready now, but if you want the flesh for the cubs to eat, then it’ll be another half hour, yet.” The round dwarf replied.

“Cubs? What cubs?” The wizard put in.

“Dwalin and the Twins should be back soon. Ah, Thorin, Bofur, thank you for making lunch.” The man said as the two dwarrow came to meet them.

“You’re welcome, Beorn. Any news on the cub, yet?” asked Thorin.

“No. Not yet. Give them time.”

“Time? It’s been nearly an hour. How long can we expect to them take?” Ori was beginning to get worried. No. He was already worried, he was getting more worried.

“Well, that depends on how bad his wounds are. There’s two ways to look at this, Ori. One – the cub is still alive, or they would have given up by now. Two – it’s not bad enough to be fatal or they wouldn’t still be working on him.”

Just as this was said, there came the sound of hoof-beats. The group left Bombur to his fire and ran to the gate, not knowing what they would find. What they found was an angry dwarf and two distraught elves.

“What…?”

“We found the other cubs. The only thing that could do that sort of damage are Orcs. I’d say that one of the Orcs must have spotted either a cub or the dam. They destroyed the den, uprooted the tree above and dug it out. They didn’t stand a chance. We brought them back to put with their mother. How’s the little one doing? Please tell me those beasts didn’t wipe out the entire family.” Dwalin growled, visibly upset.

“Óin, Tauriel and Kíli are still working on him. Fíli wouldn’t leave him, so he’s there too.” Replied Beorn.

“Elladan, Elrohir, come down here, sit with me. Our little one is still with us. We will look after him.” Bilbo beckoned the Twins to him.

Just then Tauriel came around the house. Everyone rushed to her. All asking after the cub.

“Whoa, easy now, easy. The cub is…, he’s going to be okay. Right now, he’s asleep, but he should wake in a few minutes. Which is why I came out. He’s severely dehydrated and we’re concerned about the possibility of infection.” She said, leaning against Legolas, who appeared from seemingly nowhere, her exhaustion making her shaky. “Fíli is staying with him for the moment, with Óin supervising. Kíli and I will take over in a few hours. We’re going to need some food, though, both for us and for Bahîth.”

“We’ve got some broth and some goat’s milk for the cub.” Said Beorn.

“Bahîth. Fíli’s calling him ‘Bahîth’, I’ve no idea what it means, but that’s his name, now.”

“Bahîth, means ‘little friend’ in Khuzdul.” Thorin told her and Bilbo, who looked confused.

“Oh, that make sense. Thank you, Thorin.” The she-elf said.

“Balin?” Thorin looked for his chief advisor.

“Yes, Thorin?”

“When Ori get his composure back, I want you, and he, to make a note. Bilbo, Tauriel and the Twins…” here Thorin paused frowning. “… and Legolas, too. I want the two of you to teach them Khuzdul.”

“All of them? The Elves, too. I mean…, I understand Tauriel, but the other three? Are you sure, Thorin?”

“Yes. The Twins have been adopted by my future Consort and Legolas is Gimli’s One. Besides this, we are to be partners in battle, Markh’nadad, Shield-brothers. In the heat of battle they must be able to understand us.”

“Of course, Thorin.”

“Ah, Thorin?” Elladan looked embarrassed.

“Yes, Elladan?”

“We thank you for the offer, but… We should have told you… Elrohir and I… we… we can already speak Khuzdul. Amar taught before we reached our first century. Durin IV told Adar that the seven dwarrow Kings that declared that no outsider should be taught, but as we already knew, he suggested we keep it to ourselves. Sorry… we should have told you. Sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry.” The elf was nearly sobbing, the shock of what they had seen and now having to tell Thorin that they’d inadvertently kept something from him, was too much.

“Oh, Elladan.” The dwarf reached out and gathered the elf in his arms, the height difference not important right now. As Elladan felt Thorin’s arms enclose him, his knees gave out and he crumpled to the ground. His brother knelt beside him, he was no less upset, but was trying to hold it together. Thorin lifted an arm and slung it around the second elf and that was the pick that cracked the rock. Both elves sobbed. Thorin looked over their heads, tears in his eyes, too.

“And you, Legolas? Will you learn Khuzdul?” he gasped.

“Aye. I will. Gimli was teaching me, but we hadn’t got very far. I would be honoured to learn Khuzdul, King Under the Mountain. I have news from Lothlorien, too, when you are ready. It may change some things.” The blonde elf replied.

“Tell me. I haven’t the patience to wait and I need a distraction.”

“As you wish. Lady Galadriel sent a messenger, a bird of the Galadhrim. My father will be travelling to Valinor, he appoints my elder brother Lendarion as Lord of Eryn Galen, Galadriel approves of this and he has said he will honour the agreements we have made. He is on route as we speak, he will meet us at here and will travel with us to Erebor. He plans to lead the elves of Eryn Galen in battle, himself. After the battle, he is appointing me to be his Ambassador to Erebor and has given his consent for me to Court Gimli, but recommends that I remain with you and your Company in Erebor, I am not banished, but he has made it clear that my welcome in Eryn Galen is limited.”

“Well, that’s good and bad news, laddie.” Said Gloín. “Good that you’ll be with us, that there’s someone you trust to lead the elves, with their best interests in mind and that we won’t have to deal with your father. No offense meant. But bad that you won’t be welcome in your own home, though. Not good that.”

“Do not stress, Master Gloín, it has not been a home since my mother sailed West. There is not much to miss anymore, my father grows more distant by the year and my brother gave his allegiance to Celeborn and Galadriel many years since. The one that I would miss most would be Tauriel, but she, too, will reside in Erebor. Since I met Gimli, wherever he is, has been my home, be it a great city of Men, a Hall of elves, a Fortress of Dwarrow or a campsite in the rain.”

“Well said, Legolas, well said… I think that you can dispense with ‘Master Gloín’ and just call me ‘Gloín’. We’re past that, now.”

“Thank you,… Gloín.” Legolas beamed as he savoured the trust shown by the dwarf.

“Alright. That’s enough. Let’s get these two inside. Nori, Balin? Are you right help me with the other cubs?” Dwalin was holding to his control by a thread and wanted nothing more than to collapse with the Twins, but the cubs deserved to be laid with their mother. He would see it done, before he let go.

Bilbo and Beorn gently bullied the Company inside and sat them at the massive table. Beorn bustled around getting them mugs of brandy, while Bilbo made a pot of tea. Dori got a bladder and filled it with warmed goat’s milk and when Bombur brought in a pitcher of broth, the mother-hen did the same with that.

Legolas offered to take the two bladders out to Fíli and bring Kíli back, he would carry the young dwarf if necessary.

 

Late afternoon sun broke through the gathering clouds, sending shafts of light across the clearing to the north of Beorn’s house. Thorin watched as Kíli, Tauriel, the Twins, Nori and Fíli sparred against, Bilbo, Dwalin, Legolas and Gloín. It was an uneven fight, but the whole idea was team-work, not winning. Thorin gave each team a target to achieve and the opposing team had to stop them, without know exactly what the target was.

It quickly became clear that each team had two halves. What surprised Thorin was the composition of those half-teams. He’s automatically thought that Kíli and Tauriel would work with one of the Twins, but that wasn’t the case at all. Kíli worked best with both Twins and Tauriel worked best with Fíli and Nori. He’d been closer with his own team, but it still surprised him that Bilbo and Dwalin worked just as well as Legolas and Gloín. Perhaps Legolas’ experience with Gimli would work in their favour after all.

Óin had told him that he could finally start sparring the next day and he was impatient to get moving again. In distance they had roughly four weeks worth of travelling in front of them, the good new there was that it was nearly six weeks until Durin’s Day. As they were avoiding weeks locked in elven cells, they had time to devote to preparation. Sitting around doing nothing was never his choice, even if it meant that he got to cub-sit a clingy Bahîth.

Four days on and the cub was rapidly recovering from his injuries. The slice down the cub’s side wasn’t the only wound Bahîth received at the hands of Azog’s Orcs, there were a number of cuts and the fine bone in his rear leg was broken. Thanks to Óin’s skill and Tauriel’s patience, they were able to set the bone and used birch-bark to make a mould to hold Bahîth’s leg immobile, giving the cub a better chance at a full recovery.

Finding the remains of the other cubs changed the way Dwalin viewed the Twins and now the dwarf was actively working with them and their team to blend the different styles of fighting together. Legolas having fought alongside Gimli in their last life, gave him a familiarity with dwarrow fighting styles and how to use that to increase his own strengths.

Whenever there was a break, Dwalin and Gloín would spend what time they could training Ori in axeman-ship, with the young dwarf’s untapped strength and the expertise of Dwalin and Gloín, it wouldn’t be long before Ori would out class his tutors.

The other surprising thing to come of this training, was that Dwalin reverently handed his single-bladed axe, Keeper, to Ori. As a Courting Gift!

Thorin had no idea that Ori was Dwalin’s One, none at all. For all Thorin was shocked, his shock was nothing compared to Dori’s. Dori was rendered speechless, not even able to form words, to object or approve. Nori on the other hand, didn’t seem surprised in the least and heartily approved. Ori seemed stunned, though. He barely managed to stammer a ‘yes’ to Dwalin’s Offer and blushed almost violently when Dwalin handed over Keeper.

Thorin was brought out of thoughts by Bahîth’s mewling. The cub was in the basket that Beorn had found, but obviously wasn’t happy to be so far from the warmth that snuggling up to a dwarf provided. When Thorin went in to wake Fíli that morning, he’d found the cub in the bed, with his nephew curled around it. The cub mewled again. Thorin sighed and after looking to see where his nephews were and seeing neither of them close by, Thorin gave up and gently lifted Bahîth from the basket and onto his lap. The cub nuzzled into his fur coat and started a rumbling purr. Thorin’s fingers found their way to the cubs ears and began to pet them, sliding over the silky fur there. It took the cub a few minutes but finally he was where he liked to be. On a dwarf. His body resting on the dwarf’s chest and his head tucked under the chin of whatever dwarf he could convince to hold him.

Bilbo looked at them and smiled.

 

A day later, Legolas introduced his brother, Lendarion to Thorin and his Company. Lendarion, like his father and brother was blonde, but with a copper sheen and he had his mother’s green eyes and olive skin. He sat calmly and listened to what Bilbo, Thorin and Legolas had to say, not speaking at all. Just when Thorin was starting to wonder if the elf planned to participate in the conversation, Galadriel interrupted.

“Thorin, Lendarion. Mithrandir.”

“Yes, Lady Galadriel?” Asked Thorin.

“My Lady?” asked Gandalf.

“Hiril Nín?” asked Lendarion.

“Before this discussion gets too involved. Mithrandir? You and I will not be staying.” The Lady said.

“Not staying, my Lady? I think it best that I do stay.” The wizard answered.

“No, Mithrandir. You and I have another task this day. We are to meet Elrond, Alatar and Pallando, where the Anduin and Gladden Rivers meet. We five must drive the Darkness from the ruins of Dol Guldur. Azog’s army will have already left by the time we reach the fortress. Sauron is weakened and he must be driven back to Barad-Dûr, for only then can we gain the time we need to gather our armies. We must strike before his minions know this. It must be done, or Erebor will fall. That must never happen, Erebor is to be a Bastion of Hope in the east, a Beacon for Men, Elves and Dwarrow to look to in the days to come. May the armies of Darkness cower before the Gates of the Mountain.”

“Must it be so, my Lady?” the wizard asked.

“It must, Mithrandir. We leave in one hour. I suggest you pack. Lendarion, I would speak with you.”

“Of course, Hiril Nín” Legolas’ brother stepped quickly to the other elf’s side and offered his arm. “King Thorin, please excuse me for a few minutes. I shall returns as soon as I am able.”

“Of course, Lendarion, we have time, yet.”

The two elves moved away and settled under a willow tree.

“You should not be so hard on your brother, Lendarion.”

“I know, Lady, but it’s hard, you said he forfeited the life of the eldar to be with a naugrim. That he’s lived beyond the greatest battle of Middle Earth and he’s been Returned to an earlier time to stop this before it happens. But, Lady, the only thing he’s doing is staying with these naugrim. Nothing else. There’s a battle coming and he’s playing with naugrim.” The elf’s frustration was very clear.

“Lendarion. Let me tell you of dwarrow. Thorin Oakenshield and his nephews, Fíli and Kíli, all fell at Ravenshill. Azog killed Fíli and Thorin, Bolg killed Kíli. Daín Ironfoot became King Under the Mountain, he restored Erebor and assisted in the reconstruction of Dale. Nearly eighty years later, Daín lead the dwarrow of Erebor in battle, alongside Thranduil of Mirkwood and his elves. They won. But the losses were enormous, Men, Elves and Dwarrow alike. Daín was the King, but he was no leader to inspire bravery under such adverse conditions, he had not the heart and strength of will to be the banner, the leader, they needed. Legolas spoke to those who lived through the War and I have Seen in my Mirror. We both wonder, now. What would the dwarrow do for a true leader? For Thorin Oakenshield? For a king who puts his people first, a king that fights alongside his people? A King that died for his people.” Galadriel tried to get Lendarion to understand.

“Watch him, Lendarion. Watch him and how he treats his people. Not just the dwarrow, but the hobbit, the elves his intended has claimed, and Tauriel. Watch how he treats his nephews, his cousins, his friends. Watch how he treats their host. Watch how he treats your brother, an elf, the son of the elf-lord who locked him, and his Company, in prison cells for weeks on end. Watch him. See what he can be.”

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K) 

 

Bahith = little friend (K)
Markh’nadad = Shield-brothers (K)
Lendarion = sweet royal son (Thranduil’s pride and joy)
Hiril Nín = My Lady (S)
Naugrim = dwarrow (derogatory) (S)

 

Chapter Text

Dol Guldur

 

The whistling hiss as the Ring wraith disintegrated around Elrond’s sword stung his ears. There followed silence. Leaves blew across the landing. Elrond and Gandalf drew deep breaths. The fight with the Nazgûl was draining on both their strength and magic, fighting the evil of Mordor was enough to weaken even the greatest of them all.

The silence lasted only seconds before there was a low sound, an explosion of fire atop a flight of stairs, blasting the arch above into nothing. Flames flowed outward from a central eye of Darkness. The figure of Sauron could be seen within the flames, his tall spiked helmet instantly recognisable to any who seen it before.

“It has begun... The east will fall…. So shall the Kingdom of Angmar rise…” as it spoke in the black tongue, around it the fallen wraiths rose again. “The time of the elves is over…The age of the orc has come…”

There was fear in Elrond's heart, he knew that he and Gandalf stood no chance against the might of Sauron. Even a weakened Sauron.

As Elrond looked at the black lord in fear and anger, a vision passed before him. Galadriel as he had never seen her. Instead of white and silver, she was cloaked in power, all her light going to the phial of Eärendil in her right hand. Elrond fell to his knees in shock. All the vibrancy was leached from her into the phial. Her hair was drained, her skin was pale and gaunt-looking, even her clothes appeared drained of light.

She stood with the phial held high before her. The very Light of it fought against the Darkness.

“You have no power here… servant of Morgoth.” The Fires tried to fight and flared brightly before dimming, this was repeated many times. “You are nameless. You remain formless… Go back to the void from whence you came.” Her voice echoed with power, the power of all those born to the Noldo in Aman.

The flaming Eye surrounding Sauron flickered and faltered, a last flare of light from the phial and the flames flew, the impact of that light throwing the flames away from Dol Guldur, back to the east and Mordor.

The shock wave from that impact knocked Elrond from his knees and prostrated him on the ground, Gandalf retained his feet, but only thanks to his staff, he was force to drop Glamdring or he too, would be cast from his feet. As the flames flew into the distance, the phial ceased to glow, the suddenness of this rocked Galadriel and she started to fall, she staggered backwards, crying out in either pain or shock. Elrond surged to his feet and caught her before she fell.

“Ammen ista-car’n gweria’d.” He said.

“The spirit of Suaron endured.” She confirmed.

“And has been banished.” Added Gandalf.

“He will flee to the East.” Galadriel corrected him.

“Gondor should be warned.” Elrond advised.

“They will be. Glorfindel and Erestor are already in Rohan. I will send a messenger to them.” The pale elf still trembled.

Suddenly Radagast was there, stumbling in, from the Valar knows where.

“Gandalf.” he called, frantic. “Gandalf, come quickly. Dwarves. Alatar found dwarves.”

“Dwarrow, Radagast, dwarrows.” Gandalf corrected, too, tire to connect the meaning behind the words.

“Fine, dwarrows, then. Alatar found dwarrow, Gandalf.”

“What do you mean? Dwarrow? Where?” Finally, his mind caught up.

“Here. Here, in the fortress. Some of them are in dungeons and some are in cages. There’s dozens of the them, Gandalf. Dozens.”

Pallando was fast approaching and he was able to give them more details.

“There’s more than four dozen, Olórin. That live. There are many times that dead. Not all that live are, I think, saveable. They are mindless as beasts, I do not know if they can be helped.” He paused and sighed. “My lady, Olórin. You two are the best with healing minds. Can you tell?”

As this discussion was being had, Elrond and Galadriel were following Pallando and Gandalf, Radagast, as usual, had rushed off, not waiting for them to follow.

The sight that met the two elves and the two Istari, was gut-wrenching. Dwarf after dwarf locked in cramped cages hanging from iron hooks. Each one snapping and snarling as the group drew nearer. The stench of unwashed bodies and excrement filled the air.

Galadriel looked at each dwarf closely, her face paling even further at what she found in their minds.

“They’ve been blocked.” She said, her anger rising. “Their minds have been blocked from their bodies. Right now they are animals. Some are too far gone to help, but not all. Those that can be helped, will remember little of the intervening years. Some of it, yes, but not all, thankfully not all. The things that were done to them, Mithrandir, they’ve been tortured and beaten. Oh, Sweet Nienna, have mercy on them.” She took a deep breath and rose to stand firm on her feet, no longer leaning on Elrond. Turning to Pallando, she added. “With your permission, I will show you how to free their minds.”

Once Pallando nodded, Galadriel forced into his mind what had been done to the dwarrow, how to reverse it and how to tell if a mind was lost. The last thing she did was show him how to shut down the last part of the minds of those that were not salvageable and give them a painless merciful death. She then turned to Gandalf and Elrond did the same with both of them.

“Radagast. Bring Alatar to me.” Her voice held power, not like earlier, this power was the power of love, of green things, of beauty.

“Yes, yes, of course. I’m going. I’m going. Alatar! Alatar!” the brown wizard’s still frantic voice could be hear disappearing into the cramped corridors of the fortress, then suddenly it was back. “Gandalf. Thráin. Thráin’s here! Gandalf! Gandalf!”

Gandalf hurried to the cage that held Thráin, son of Thrór. He held out his hand and the ring on his middle finger began to glow, as did the crystal in the end of his staff. He chanted the words that Galadriel gave him and watched as awareness smothered the blankness in the eyes of the dwarf.

Nanwen sáma-lya ana hroa-lya

Ú-in essë véra i Valarin

Can-nyë lya, nanwen.

 

Watching the eyes of the dwarf change, seeing the blankness fade and the rich startling Durin-blue stare at him, was a relief to the wizard.

“Tharkûn?” the dwarf croaked, his voice harsh and gravelly from lack of use.

“Thráin, son of Thrór. Rest easy, my friend. You are safe.” It took bare seconds and the cage was open, the dwarf falling to the ground and laying there panting.

It was nearly an hour later that, Gandalf and Pallando finished freeing the dwarrow and uniting them with their minds. As the last group of five dwarrow were helped to what, in times past would have been a great hall, a cry was raised.

“Adad!” A dwarf that Alatar was supporting, his once broken leg badly healed, yelled and flung himself at Thráin. The son of Thrór, clutched the other dwarf to him and broke down in rough sobs.

“My son. Oh, Mahal. My son.”

Gandalf looked intently at the other dwarf and thought he recognised the dwarf, he could be non other than Frerin, son of Thráin, brother to Thorin Oakenshield. Never in Gandalf’s wildest imaginings had he ever thought that both Thráin and Frerin could be alive. Rumours abounded about whether or not Thráin was dead or captured or just missing after Azanulbizar, but Frerin, was confirmed dead after that battle. It seems that the statement of his death was incorrect.

“Thráin?”

“Tharkûn?”

“Is this truly your son? Is this Frerin, brother to Thorin and Dís?”

“Oh, Adad. I saw Thorin fall. The pale orc, Azog, killed him. Oh, Adad. Oh, my nadad.” The younger dwarf cried.

“Oh, my son. We will mourn him as a Prince.”

“Ah, Thráin? I have the great pleasure to tell you that both Thorin and Dís are still very much alive.”

“Thorin’s alive?!”

At this point Galadriel interrupted.

“Mind you, if Fíli or Kíli get hurt in this next battle, Thorin will wish he wasn’t, Dís threatened to have his innards for boot-straps, if they got hurt.” She laughed.

“Who?... Who are Fíli and Kíli?” the older dwarf asked.

“Oh, my friend. There is so much to tell you. Dís, your daughter, married a promising young silversmith, Vili, son of Grali. You have two fine strong grandsons, my friend. Fíli is the spit-image of Frerin, here, and Kíli is a Durin in his looks.” Gandalf too a deep breath. “Both of them and Thorin are Twice-Born. They have lived and died and been Returned to Arda to complete a most important task. As we speak they are travelling through Eryn Galen.”

“Thranduil’s realm? He will not let them pass.”

“Thranduil travels to Valinor. He no longer rules the Green Wood. His son Lendarion commands. Lendarion is no enemy to Erebor.” Galadriel said.

“But he is Thranduil’s son, he cannot be trusted.”

“Lendarion may be the son of Thranduil but he is no follower of that elf’s path, he does not walk as his father did.”

“How can we trust him? Why would we trust him? Why should Thorin trust him?”

“Because Lendarion has given his consent to his brother, Legolas’ request to stay in the Company of Thorin Oakenshield. Not just Legolas, either, a Captain of the Guard, Tauriel, Daughter of Jessarian - the warrior assigned as personal bodyguard to Lendarion - was banished by Thranduil, she has sworn her fealty to Thorin, Fíli and Kíli. Not only that, it's quite likely that she will become a Princess Consort, Thorin has given Kíli permission to Court her once Erebor is reclaimed.” She said.

“My grandson will not marry an elf.” The dwarrow growled.

“Your grandson will do as he pleases and your son will support him…. Thráin. They are Twice-born. They have lived and died, they have seen what will become of Erebor without trust. Your son and grandsons died for Erebor, Tauriel died seeing that their deaths were not in vain.” Gandalf rebuked him.

“I can show you, if will allow me.” Galadriel said. “I can show you what your son and grandsons lived through, and I can show what is to come.”

“Tharkûn? Do you trust this elf? How do I know what she shows me is true?”

“Galadriel is the wisest elf on Arda, if she says it is so, then it is so.” The wizard said.

“But if it will comfort you, Thráin, son of Thrór, I am able to show a small number of people the same thing at the same and those people are able to interact with each other during my visions. Elrond, Alatar, Pallando, Mithrandir and Radagast are all aware of what Thorin and the other Twice-Born have been through, any of them can confirm or deny details. I can show as many as four people, at one time, my visions. Who would you choose? Thráin, son of Thrór, who would you choose to See with you?”

“I would have Tharkûn, my son, Frerin, Tolban Truth-Seeker and Elrond, lord of Rivendell. I know that Elrond is as honest as an elf can be.” Thráin pointed out Tolban to Alatar and Pallando and the two Istari went to fetch the dwarf, carefully helping him to his feet and supporting him as they guided him over to join the Princes of Durin’s folk.

“Prince Thráin. Prince Frerin. How may I be of service?” He whispered, his voice rough of lack of use, his right arm cradled to his body, the missing hand clearly evident.

“You are Tolban Truth-Seeker? It was said you can tell a lie from truth. This elf wishes to show us the lives of my son, Thorin and my grandsons. I would have you See and tell me if it be truth or elven lies.”

“I would be honoured, my Prince.”

Alatar and Pallando helped Tolban sit down with the dwarrow princes, Elrond and Gandalf with them. Galadriel held out her arms towards them, Gandalf and Elrond, placing their hands on one arm and indicating to the dwarrow to do the same.

“Are you ready? It can be a little unsettling at first, so I will start slowly, once you are stable I will let it flow faster.”

The three dwarrow nodded in concert and took a deep breath.

The experience was startling, it was like they were in the vision. Standing and watching, even though they knew they were sitting and felt the ground under their hands, their eyes told them they were standing. It was like they were actually a part of the vision. It jumped and changed. Starting with Gandalf’s first meeting with Thorin, to the party at Bilbo’s, to Rivendell, the goblin caves, Azog, the cells beneath Mirkwood, Laketown, finding the secret door, the dragon, Thorin’s fall to gold sickness, the battle, Fíli’s fall to Azog, Kíli’s fall at the blade of Bolg, Thorin’s last words to the hobbit, ending with Daín as King Under the Mountain. All who watched, felt tears slide down their faces, but none lifted a hand to wipe them away, these tears were a tribute to the fallen.

“This is what they lived through and how they died. Next is the greatest battle that Middle Earth would ever see, this is the battle that would follow. Your son and grandsons now fight to see that it doesn’t happen.”

They saw a travelling party, Gandalf, two Men, an elf, a dwarf and four smaller people. They walked across valleys and hills. They entered Moria and the dwarrow safe in Dol Guldur watched in horror as the Balrog, Durin’s Bane, came after the Walkers, they watched as Gandalf barred the bridge, they watched as the Balrog fell and took Gandalf with it. They watched the Walkers escape Moria and enter Lothlorien. The watched a battle at the Falls of Rauros and the Walkers split company. They saw two of the halflings captured and the other two enter Mordor. They saw the fall of a Man and watched in awe as the other Man lead the elf and the dwarf on a chase that should be legend, day after day after day of running, no rest, no sleep, little food or water. Still they ran.

They watched the trio of Hunters greet the horsemen of Rohan and cursed as the two lots of halflings suffered. They watched the three Hunters enter Fangorn Forest, they watched as a changed Gandalf was Returned to the Hunters, they watched as Gandalf countered the treachery of Saruman the White in the Golden Hall of Meduseld. They watched as the four became three again, as Gandalf left to find the Rohirrim lead by the King’s sister-son, then two as the  last Man fell. They watched one lot of the Halflings talk to trees and the other pair capture a spindle legged being that attacked them. They watched in amazement as the last Man returned to ride to Helm’s Deep and told of an army of Orcs, an army 10,000 strong! They watched as less than 500 Men, 300 elves and the three Hunters fought the Orcs. They cheered when Gandalf returned with a small army of Rohan’s finest horse-warriors that broke the spirit of the Orc army.

They watched the destruction of Orthanc and the death of Saruman. They saw the battle at Minas Tirith, they watched as a slight blonde girl, barely a Woman, killed the witch-king, the leader of the Nazgûl. They watched as an army of Orcs and goblins attacked Erebor, saw the fall of Daín side-by-side with the King of Dale, they sobbed at the fall of Dís, the last dwarf to die before the fighting stopped.

Interspersed with this was the journey of the two halflings across Mordor. And the final destruction of The Ring.

“Now we shall see what can be if Thorin is to lead Erebor.”

They watched the Meeting of the White Council and the plans made to un-curse the dragon, the addition of two elves to Thorin’s Company. The watched the Halfling and the elves regain the Ring and salvage the spindly creature, they laughed as Dwalin, Gloín and a blonde lad, whom they learnt was Fíli, shimmer and glitter in the light. They grunted with approval as they three helped the animals that came to them, they shuddered at the sight of a family of big cats laying shredded in a clearing totally destroyed by Orcs. The watched a redheaded she-elf swear fealty to Thorin and his sister-sons, Fíli and Kíli. They watched a battle, saw the lad, Fíli fight alongside the she-elf and a dwarf and saw Kíli fight beside the two elves from the Company. They saw Thorin fighting as a team with Dwalin, the Halfling and another yet elf.

They saw the dragon sitting between the ruined gates of Erebor, her head held high, burning any orc, troll or warg that got too close. They saw children of Men, running out and bringing back wounded, taking arrows to elven archers, food and drink to Men, elves and dwarrow. They saw Thorin crowned King Under the Mountain, with the Halfling at his side, wearing the Consort’s crown, Fíli and Kíli with them.

Then the scene changed again. Again it was Erebor, but this was Erebor at it greatest, traders, merchants, farmers, builders, halflings, men, elves and dwarrow talked with those around them. At the same time they watched the Halfling enter Mordor and they watched as the Halfling sighed in relief as he dropped a delicate pouch into the Fires of Mount Doom. They screamed in warning as the Fires exploded and lava ran across the ground, sighed in relief as they saw the Halfling standing with Thorin in what could only be the White City. They cheered as Mordor collapsed.

To have the sight fade from their eyes and to see the ruins of Dol Guldur was disconcerting. Before Thráin could say anything, Tolban Truth-Seeker spoke.

“My Prince. There was not one lie in that, not one. Not even those that would have be a mercy. That was as honest and as brutal a truth as I have ever Seen. We are in no condition to fight, right now, and regardless we wouldn’t get to Erebor in time for that first battle, but the second one? I will swear my sword to your son, Thorin. That is one I could follow, that is one I could call King, that is one I would die for… But… I would prefer to live to follow him.”

Frerin sat there with tears running down his cheeks, but a huge grin stretching his lips wide.

Thráin, however, was in tears. His son was going to be a great king, a far better king than he himself would ever be able to be. Thorin’s people knew that their king stood and fought at their sides, that he cared about them, that he would, and had, died for them. It changed the way Thráin thought, he was forced to rapidly reassess everything he believed in.

“I too, will swear my fealty to Thorin, King Under the Mountain.” Said Thráin. “He will be the King to bring Erebor to Greatness again.”

“I don’t have to swear, Thorin already has my fealty and he knows it. Tharkûn? Lady? Are we going to Erebor? More to the point when are we going to Erebor?” The young Prince asked.

“Frerin, Thráin, Tolban, gather your people, I have mind-spoken with my husband, Celeborn of Lothlorien, riders and wagons are coming. Those of you who can ride, will ride with my elves and will be take directly to Erebor. Those that cannot, that require healing, there are wagons coming for you, you will be treated and as soon as you are able, the wagons will bring you Erebor.” Galadriel was never gladder that she had the ability to mind-speak over distance.

“Huh.” A thought occurred to Gandalf. “Leaving now, we should get Erebor, only shortly before the first of the wagon caravans from Ered Luin. Dís commands the first caravan and left Ered Luin within days of Thorin’s Company leaving the Shire.”

“My sister? Scatterbrained Dís? That Dís? Is that wise, Tharkûn?” asked Frerin.

“Frerin, Azanulbizar changed her. Her smiles are rare, now. She is a strong and sometimes hard dwarrowdam. She is no scatterbrained young dwarfling anymore.”

“Huh. That’s going to take some getting used to.”

Separately Galadriel and Thráin were talking about what was needed before the dwarrow could leave.

“Food?, yes, definitely. The Orcs fed us, but only once a day. Most of us are on the verge of starvation, some have taken their own lives, others were so desperate that they became slaves to the Orcs in exchange for food, they are the ones to pity, they all died. Every one of them. Clothing would be good and a wash, I can’t remember what my skin looked like, clean. The only wetting we got was the rain. How many of us are left? Do you know?” The dwarrow asked.

“There were 31 chained in the dungeons, 12 in the cages and another 9 locked in smaller cells. A total of 52. Unfortunately some were so badly off that mercy is the only option for them. There were two with injuries that were untreatable, another two that their starvation was beyond the point where we could help them and one whose mind was lost. 47 of your dwarrow will return to see Erebor. Five will not, they will be laid to rest within the Mountain.” The elf answered.

The pair looked up as Elrond approached.

“Healing, food and clothes are coming. We will stay in the vale outside the forest tonight and tomorrow, we will begin your return to Erebor, Thráin, Prince Under the Mountain.”

“My thanks to you, Lord Elrond. Will a messenger be sent to Erebor?”

“There is no point in sending a messenger right now, but as we travel, yes, a message will be sent. The battle will take all their attention and once it is over they will be tending their wounded. We should arrive at about the same time. Galadriel is sending healers, bandages and food with us. We will have supplies in wagons that are made to travel fast, they are too rough for passengers, but food stuff, medicine and other supplies will weather the journey better. A week, perhaps ten days and you will see your home, Thráin. Rest now, you’re safe, rest.”

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)   

 

Ammen ista-car’n gweria’d = We have been deceived (roughly) (S)

 

Galadriel’s Mind Healing Chant

Nanwen sáma-lya ana hroa-lya

Ú-in essë véra i Valarin

Can-nyë lya, nanwen.

***Translation*** from Qyenan
Return your mind to your body
In the name of the Valar
I command you, return.

 

Chapter Text

Elven Kings are Handy Things

 

Elven Kings are handy things to have along. If the reactions of an elf patrol were anything to judge by.

Lendarion had watched Thorin and his Company for a day, before approaching Thorin and Bilbo. The conversation was stilted, at first, but over the course of the evening, the hesitation wore off and by the middle of the next morning, the elf-lord was comfortable enough to broach more delicate matters. Alliances, treaties and trade were discussed in the midst of sparring sessions and healer's assessments.

The (yet to be crowned) Elven King resembled his father, it was true, but it was becoming quite clear that his world-view was more that of Galadriel and Elrond, than of Thranduil. In looks, Lendarion wasn’t that dissimilar to Legolas, but there were enough differences that one would not be mistaken for the other.

Both were blonde, Legolas was brighter almost gold, compared to Lendarion’s pale silver with hints of bronze and copper, glinting in the sun. Legolas was not as tall as Lendarion, closer in shape to a Man.

Lendarion was thankfully, quite an able warrior, having been trained by Tauriel’s father, who had been his bodyguard. He may not have been to the level where Legolas was now, but as Legolas had fought in the Battle of Five Armies and the War of the Ring, that was to be expected.

Leaving Beorn’s house was difficult, not the hardest thing they had done (or planned to do), but it was not the easiest, either. Lendarion had sent a messenger to the Elven Halls and requested riders and horses. Hints of Legolas’ humour were spotted when the king failed to tell the riders that they would be carrying dwarrow passengers to the Laketown of Esgaroth. Some of the riders wanted object, but under the hard gaze of the new king and his brother, nothing was actually said and within a short amount of time they were mounted and away.

Legolas’ horse was brought for him as well as steeds for Tauriel and the Twins. Kíli rode double with Tauriel, Fíli in front of Legolas with Bahith very carefully strapped to his chest, Bilbo with Elrohir and Thorin with Elladan. The rest of the dwarrow were spread out over Lendarion’s riders and Bombur was not the only one to struggle with his unusual seat.

At the recommendation of the patrol leader, the group headed south to the Old Forest Road. With a few changes of horses, they would reach Laketown much quicker than if they were to take the Path from the Forest Gate through Mirkwood to the Halls and on to Laketown. Not to mention that it would be easier on them, physically… them and the cub.

Thanks to this, they saw the clearing at the edge of the River Running a little over a week after leaving Beorn’s. They planned to camp here for two nights, this would allow all the riders and their horses a well earned rest. By this stage all were comfortable with the company they kept. Dwarrow and elves worked in tandem to set up the camp and see to the animals. Kíli, Fíli, Tauriel and (surprisingly) Lendarion saw to the cub and as Fíli, Dwalin and Gloín still glittered, they had called stops many time times to aid animals that came to the path. As Beorn had predicted the animal rumour mill worked well and before the camp was complete there were a number of injured animals waiting patiently for a ‘shiny one’ to see to them. The elves found this to be startling at first, then amusing and finally, one by one, they began to help, too.

An hour before dark on the second night, a messenger bird arrived from Galadriel. Their task at Dol Guldur had been completed, she was sending elven warriors to Erebor, they should arrive in time to help the people of Laketown in moving into the Mountain. In addition to this she was sending healers and supplies that would arrive soon after the battle. The last thing she said left Thorin in shock.

They had freed dwarrow, being held prisoner in Dol Guldur.

Those able bodied were travelling with her, those weaker or more injured were travelling as part of a supply caravan and would arrive shortly after the first caravan from Ered Luin. She would bring with her a list of names of all those found in the fortress. She hoped that they would family to help them once they reached the Mountain.

Thorin wondered briefly if his father could possibly be among them, but quickly discarded the thought. His father was dead, he was at rest in the Halls of Mahal with Thorin’s brother Frerin and their Amad, Farís.

 

It would be another four days before the group saw the water-falls at the end of the Long Lake. When they finally climbed the escarpment to the shore of the lake, Thorin and Bilbo were unsurprised to see a barge moored to rocks at the water’s edge. As they approached a voice hailed them.

“I see you finally got here.”

Thorin spun, reaching for Orcrist, before realising he knew that voice.

“Bard of Dale. We have arrived, yes.” He said.

“I hope you have a better plan this time. Or do you have a Windlance hidden somewhere?”

“Better. We have a plan to make Smaug an ally and the means to see it done.”

“An ally?! How is that possible?”

“If you would give us time to see to our companions, we will tell you of it.” Bilbo put in, he could see Fíli and Kíli struggling with Bahîth and wanted the cub treated, fast. They’d learnt that the cub, when in pain, keened at a pitch that went right through the ear-bones of the elves and was painful to Bilbo himself.

“Of course, Master Hobbit. I’ve a campfire over here. Your bird messenger didn’t warn me that there were elves with you.”

“Ah. Sorry about that. We weren't sure that someone might not have intercepted our message. But we’re here now, so we can give you all the details in a few minutes.” The hobbit continued, as he rummaged through a pack for a rabbit leg to distract Bahîth with.

The Man was surprised to see elves with them, yes, but it was the Mountain Lion cub and the other animals that were the most surprising. Every now and then he thought he caught a sparkle of light around some of the dwarrow, he wondered if he was seeing things that weren’t there.

It didn’t take long for a camp to be prepared, an elf and the round dwarf spreading his campfire and adding pots for food. Two of the younger dwarrow (he thought he remembered that they were brothers? Hadn’t he heard one call the other, brother?) worked with a pair of elves, seeing to the wild animals (really? Wild animals in a camp?), cleaning cuts and trimming furs. A wolf (a wolf!) sidled up the blonde dwarf and allowed the lad to open it’s mouth and remove a bone jammed between it’s teeth, a fox showed up a bit later and the dark-haired lad sat and with it in his lap, cleaning a nasty cut on it’s leg before binding the wound. He talked to the fox and Bard hoped that the animal was smart enough to understand what the dwarf said, otherwise that bandage would chewed off in minutes.

The elves, dwarrow, Hobbit, Man and animals, sprawled in-elegantly around the fire after enjoying a hearty meal. The canine animals, including foxes, wild dogs and wolves were enjoying bones. The felines too were enjoying their dinner, mostly it consisted of rabbit and some birds, there were two Servals, a Caracal, a Panther, a Lynx and a second Mountain Lion, this one a large adult lioness. The trees were host to a number of predatory birds, hawks, kites, falcons, owls and eagles. The only non-predatory animal still present was a Giant Porcupine, that looked slightly unnerved to be around that many meat-eaters, but it wasn’t making any effort to leave.

“Now, I believe we owe Bard an explanation.”

“Not just the Man, I think my patrol deserve one, too, Master Hobbit.” Said an elf.

“I, too would like to hear everything, Bilbo.” Said the blonde elf that Bilbo had introduced as Thranduil’s son, Lendarion and the new Elf-King of Mirkwood and brother to Legolas. Legolas, he remembered, but not the brother. Why not? Had he not been involved last time?

“Very well. I shall start at the beginning.” The hobbit replied. “I woke up wet.-”

The hobbit went to tell not only his story but Thorin’s and that of his nephews and of Tauriel before deviating into that parallel history that Legolas had lived through. He welcomed each person giving extra or specific details about their lives.

 

A stunned and silent Bifur could only listen. He had heard the abridged version in Rivendell, the child friendly version (he’d thought it cleaned up for Ori, Fíli and Kíli), but to hear it complete from the hobbit? That made all the difference. To know that his princes had not survived the battle at Erebor, the battle that came to be known as the Battle of Five Armies, was devastating. To hear that they had been Returned to live again, to do this quest again, left him with a feeling in his stomach that he hadn’t not felt in years. Not since Tolban had been killed at Azanulbizar. Having his One’s bill-spear (with only his hand still wrapped around the haft) found by Bofur, was awful. It made the recovery from his own wounds even harder, the headaches from the axe-blade made worse by his grief. The battlefield healer’s dealt with Tolban’s body and now all he had of his husband was a single wrist cuff, a pair of rings and his spear. His heart ached for his love, but he knew he wasn’t ready to join him in Mahal's Halls just yet.

Dwalin shuddered, wanting to wrap his arms around the younger princes and hold them. The idea that they had died, gutted him. He remembered none of this, but still he felt guilty at living, until Bilbo told those around the fire what plans they had made and steps they had taken to see that it didn’t happen again. Now Dwalin understood why Thorin had accepted the elves. Legolas had already saved his life once, but just as importantly he had saved the lives of all Arda. The guard had often wondered in the past few days, what if Gimli didn’t Return as Legolas had? They were banking a lot on a vision the Lady Galadriel Saw in her Mirror. He had wondered, what if she was wrong? Now? Listening to the entire saga, to all their stories? He no longer wondered. He no longer doubted.

Gimli would be Returned to Legolas. There could be no doubt, not now.

 

Bard listened and asked questions where he needed to, but on the whole he stayed quiet and listened. He remembered broken negotiations, the battle, the aftermath. This dwarf in front of him, Thorin Oakenshield, this was a dwarf that he could see as a King. This was not the mad king he remembered. He remembered dealing with a mourning Daín Ironfoot, wracked at grief at the loss of his cousins, one a king in his prime and his two young heirs. This King would reclaim Erebor and would honour all those who fought against Mordor.

Then the dwarf made an offer that threw the Man.

“Bilbo tells me that you became King of Dale after the battle.”

“Yes, I did. The people expected it of me. I never sought it. I do not want this again.” He answered.

“I am glad of this. I would offer you Dale again. The Master of Laketown is a mercenary Man. I remember this, you told me this. Daín told me this. Legolas and Tauriel confirm it. He shall not profit from Erebor. I would have the people of Laketown shelter in Erebor during the battle to come, or if they will not leave their homes, pull up the bridge that connects the town to the land to stop the Orcs from burning it. I would have you stay in Dale, you and any who would follow you. You, not the Master. I would support Dale in all ways.”

“Think about it, Bard. Don’t refuse out of hand, think about it.” The hobbit put in. “We have taken steps to heal the land, too. The first caravans from Ered Luin should be arriving little more than a week after the battle, with them are a few hobbits, Land Healers and a Priestess of Yavanna. They will heal the land and guide those who will tend the farms. In the next year there could be as many as a 200 hobbits coming to Erebor, to forge new lives. Along with them, Thorin has offered most dwarrow - most - not all, from the Blue Mountains, a place here.”

“Each dwarf will be assessed on their merits and needs. We will not turn away those who need our help and will value our home. Those who seek riches and positions of power will not be welcomed. I sought the Mountain for the wrong reasons, but I died for my home and my family. I have learnt and I will not forget that lesson and what it very nearly cost me.” Thorin looked at his nephews and then at Bilbo as he said this.

That was when Bard saw it, a bead in the hobbit’s hair. He looked closely at it and then spotted a matching bead in the dwarf’s hair. What was the importance of those beads? Because they were important, that much was obvious.

As the group bedded down for the night, Bard saw the blonde prince (which one was he? Fíli or Kíli? He'd never been given their names last time and this time they were introduced together) joined by the injured Mountain Lion cub. Their bedroll laid next to that of his brother and the she-elf Tauriel. As he watched, most of the animals faded into the night, silent as ghosts, only a few remained. A wolf, the Lynx and an owl. It was almost like they were guarding the group. No, he was wrong, there was a fox, too, the one the prince treated earlier, bandage still in place. It was sneaking around behind the logs, heading where? Ah, the prince. The fox waited until the princes and the elf were laying down before crawling between the two princes, it gave the Lion’s ear a lick and curled up around the cub, nuzzling the hand of the darker dwarf prince (he really needed to figure out who was who).

 

The next morning, Bard told Thorin that he would return to Laketown and tell those unhappy there of Thorin’s offer. He suggested they still seek a meeting with the Master and tell him what was coming. Bard would tell his people to pack all they could and when they got to the Mountain, they would be given space there until dale was liveable again. They need not decide immediately, only remain in the Mountain when the Master and his people returned to Laketown, unless of course the Master went with the idea of staying and just pulling up the bridge. In which case, they would need to pack lightly and take boats to the shore. They could be scuttled and salvaged at a later time.

It was Lendarion who told Bard that this would not work. Bard was needed at Erebor immediately. It was he who would have to go with Bilbo and Thorin to save Smaug and her unhatched young. Lendarion and Legolas would go to Laketown, they would speak to the Master. If there was someone that Bard trusted then Legolas would speak to them. Nori and Gloín told the elf-king that they would go, too, as representatives of Thorin’s Company. Balin wished them well and told them not to sign anything, anything at all. Dori implored Nori to keep his light fingers in his own pockets while on official business. Thorin simply looked at them and said only one thing.

“I trust you to do the best for Erebor and her allies.” He touched foreheads with each of them and stepped back.

Lendarion, Legolas and two other elves, gathered their horses and mounted, the two dwarrow seated behind their new elven friends. The rest of the travelling party, including Bard packed up the camp. Bard would travel with them to the Mountain and the elf patrol-leader would see that someone brought him back for his boat, as soon as possible, knowing that it would likely be needed to transport his children and their possessions to Dale.

They made their way across the causeway at the head of the falls and mounted, knowing that it would be a full day of hard riding before they would rest in the shadows of the Mountain that night. Fíli rode with the patrol leader and it took them a few miles to work themselves out, the cub uncertain it wanted the elf that close to it’s ‘shiny one’. Eventually they rode in peace, the cub dozing in the sun.

They would deal with the dragon the next day.

Bard hoped that the hobbit knew more than he had told them about the dragon. Facing it scared him, how could it not scare the hobbit?

It appeared that the Halfling knew exactly what he was thinking. As they rode, the two elves riding with Thorin and Bilbo rode one to each side of the Man. They told him everything they knew and exactly what they planned. It was a good plan. If it worked, the dragon would be a useful ally. If it worked. As they made a camp in the ruins of dale, Bard prayed to all the Valar that he knew of, that it would work.

Like Thorin, he was ready to have real a home again.

 

 

Chapter Text

Smaug the…?

 

Bard and Bilbo paused when they heard someone running behind them. Turning they saw Elladan sprinting towards them with Thorin and Elrohir much further back, but they too hurried towards the Man and the hobbit.

“Bilbo! Bilbo!” the elf called, trying not to yell. They had no idea if Smaug could hear them coming or not.

“Elladan? What are you doing? You shouldn’t be here. Go back to Dale.” The hobbit chastised.

“There’s been a message from Rohan, from Erestor.”

“Rohan? Erestor? What? Elladan, what are you talking about?”

“Erestor sent a message from Rohan. When Glorfindel told Fengel about Smaug, he mentioned a book about dragons, in the library of Meduseld. Erestor found and read the book, he recognised the hand-writing. It was written by Eärendil! It says that ‘once dragon saliva is introduced into the blood-stream of Man, Elf or Dwarf, it will render the person immune to gold-sickness, gold shall be of no more import than iron or wood.’ It’s a cure!”

“A cure? Are you sure? Is Erestor sure? Really, sure?”

“Erestor would never pass along information that he wasn’t certain of. He’s sending the book itself, he’s asked a swan to bring it. This message was brought by a peregrine falcon, the fast bird alive, the poor bird is exhausted and severely weakened. Kíli is tending to it, hopefully it will be will be well. Erestor only hoped that it got here before we all went into the Mountain.”

Thorin and Elrohir reached them.

“Thorin, you shouldn’t be here.” The hobbit fretted.

“I am coming with you. I will not enter the Gates, not until Smaug is free of Morgoth, but I will come with you. I must.” The dwarf said.

“You will not enter through the Gate! Your word, Thorin. Swear it.”

“Oh, my hobbit. I swear I will not step through the Gates of Erebor without your leave, Bilbo.”

“Good enough. What about you two?” Bilbo asked the elves.

“We will stay with Rh'Adar.” Elladan spoke for the two of them.

“Fine… stubborn dwarf… reckless elflings. You will keep your word, all of you, or I will see to it that you regret it for a very long time. Understand me!?” The hobbit did a very good imitation of a Dwarroven growl. The three assured Bilbo they would, suitably nervous about Bilbo’s comment. The hobbit might be small and delicate, but he had a number of dwarrow and two elves near terrified of his displeasure. What was the little one capable of, that would scare so many, so much larger than himself? Bard found himself slightly alarmed at that thought.

Before Bard could rethink this plan – again – the Man hurried after Bilbo as the hobbit made his way to the Gates. There he turned, going to the elves he patted their hands and hugged them, with the dwarf however, he touched his forehead to the dwarf’s and they simply held hands. After a moment, the two parted and Bilbo turned back to the Gates.

He took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders and raised his head high. Resolutely he marched into the cavern. Following the map that Thorin gave them, and hoping that his sense of direction was indeed better underground than above, the two approached the treasury.

The treasury of Erebor was a marvellous thing, fully visible from many places, but accessible in only one. Bilbo and Bard took themselves to the largest viewing platform and Bard hung the torch he carried onto a bracket. It was now up to Bilbo to speak to the dragon and somehow assure her (her! That had been a shock!) that they meant her and her hatchlings no harm and would in fact fight to defend them. Bard hoped that the hobbit was as good a storyteller as the dwarrow all believed him to be.

Bilbo walked to the edge of the platform and taking care not to lean too far out he called.

“Smaug? Smaug, oh guardian? Will you speak with us?”

At first there was nothing, no sign that the dragon had heard, but soon there came a sound. A hissing, like water running over rocks. There was a rustle and coins began to move, sliding in waves away from the flanks of the creature. The waves grew and became torrents. Torrents became landslides. Landslides that exposed her deep red scales.

A growl rumbled in the dragon’s throat.

“Well, thief. I hear you, I smell your breath, I feel your warmth. Where are you?” the voice slid like silk across their ears, seducing their senses.

“Here, oh glorious one.” Bilbo waved using a white tunic he’d ‘borrowed’ from the Twins. “And I would be much obliged if you would not call me thief, as I have no desire to take anything of yours.”

“No, intruder, then why are you here?” the huge head, easily the size of a Man’s wagon asked. “Why have you brought a Man of Laketown?”

“We are here to free you.” Was all that Bilbo replied.

“Free me? Free me? And how, do tell, would a Man and a…? What are you? You are not a Man or an Elf or a Dwarf. So what, intruder, are you?” the massive muzzle twitched as the nostrils flared.

“I, oh mighty Smaug, am a Hobbit. A small and insignificant Hobbit.”

“A Hobbit? How does a Man and a Hobbit plan to free me from the curse of Morgoth? Do tell me, little Hobbit.” The silky voice whispered.

Bilbo held out his hand, on it the four Arrows that had been created in Rivendell.

“Arrows? Such arrows would never pierce my scales.”

“Oh, no, never, that's not what they’re for. No ordinary arrow will pierce you, but we do no want to pierce your scales.”

“No? Then what do you want, little Hobbit? What are your little arrows for?”

“These are no ordinary Arrows, true, but they are not designed to cut flesh, instead these four Arrows are your freedom. They are created wholly as a counter spell to the curse of Morgoth.”

“Really, intruder? How then, do they work?”

“These Arrows are a spell become form, created by the joint efforts of Maia, Elves and Gift of the Valar. When I give one to this Man, it will activate the first part of the spell and the Arrow will swell to the size of a hunter’s arrow. This Man will then fire the Arrow at your breast, aiming for the spot where there is one, and only one, scale missing. When the Arrow touches your skin the second part of the spell will start, the Arrow will disintegrate against you and be absorbed into your skin. Then the final part of the spell will begin to work. It will seek out each and every spell-rune in your blood and hidden beneath your scales and dissolve them.”

“You would have me bare my only weakness to a Man with an Arrow? Truly you ask much, intruder.”

“Why? You and I both know that nothing less than a Black Arrow can pierce your flesh.”

“Hmm… This is true.” The dragon swam through the piles of coins until she was partially submerged. “What do you get from this? Why would you do this?”

Finally! Finally she was curious.

“What do I get?” the hobbit asked.

“Yes, little Hobbit. What do you get from this, from freeing me?”

“I get a home. I get to see your hatchlings. I get to see my children grow in peace.”

“Why should I believe you?”

Bilbo laughed.

“Oh, Smaug, you know I’m telling the truth. You can taste it, smell it. Dragons are the guardians of Arda, your kind can tell lies from truth. I would free you and give you purpose again. I would have you guard the greatest treasure of the dwarrow.”

“I have their greatest treasures. What can dwarrow treasure more than gold?” the silky voice growled again.

“Ah, no. Gold is important, true, but it is by no means their greatest treasure.”

“Then tell me, if not gold, what is?”

“The greatest treasure of the Dwarrow are their children. Their children and their dwarrowdams. What good is gold if you have no one to share it with? To gift it to, when you die? To decorate with it?”

“Finally. I wondered if there were any who though of kin first. I smell dwarrow on you, do you think your dwarrow thinks as you do? Why would he trust me with his young?”

“If you would swear by your young, by your life, to guard his. He would accept your oath. He would defend your young, if you would defend his.”

“You think he would do this? A dwarf would defend a dragon?”

“He would.”

“Where is this dwarf of yours? I would hear this from his mouth. Bring him to me.”

“We cannot. He is of Durin’s line.”

“I care not for his line, only for his word. Bring him.”

“Great Smaug. The Line of Durin are vulnerable to Gold Sickness. To bring him here, to the treasury is to risk his fall.” Bilbo was firm.

“Neither will I leave this space to go to him.” She was, too, adamant.

Bard stepped forward.

“Might I make a suggestion?” the Man had no idea how to address the dragon and so left off any appellation.

“Speak, oh Man,… speak.” The dragon replied.

“What if we were to fetch a dwarf that Thorin Oakenshield authorised to negotiate on his behalf? An ambassador? Would you talk with one who speaks for the Line of Durin?” he asked.

“Hmm…” the dragon buried herself in the masses of coins, still humming and mumbling to herself (or maybe to her young, unborn as they were).

“Very well. Bring me a dwarf who will speak for the Line of Durin. I give you one hour. After that…” Smaug buried herself in the coins and was silent.

Bilbo looked at Bard.

“Let’s go talk to Thorin.” Was all the Man said.

They made their way back to the Gates, getting turned around only the once. Thorin met them, looking worried, he’d heard the rumble of the dragon from where he waited.

“Bilbo?” he paced backwards and forwards until the hobbit was within grasping distance. Snagging the hobbit’s arm, he pulled Bilbo into his arms and held on tight.

“She wants to talk. To talk to someone with your authority.”

“What?” Thorin looked to Bard for answers.

“She wants to talk about the defence of her young and yours. But whoever she talks to must have the authority to speak on behalf of the Line of Durin. They must go to her. She will not leave the treasury.”

“Balin. We will send Balin.” Thorin said.

“No.” Came from Bilbo. “We can’t. He’s a Durin, too. More distant, but still a Durin. He’s just as susceptible to Gold Sickness, he can’t go.”

“Magandul! The rules out most of the Company. Why won’t she talk to you about it, Bilbo?”

“Because I’m not a dwarf, Thorin. She insists on speaking to a dwarf.”

“Well, that leaves only Bifur, Bofur and Bombur.”

“Why them? Why not one of the others, Dori, maybe? He’s a fine dwarf. Or young Ori even, he’s a scribe.”

“No. This goes no further, Bard. I…. they are Durin’s blood. My grandfather at five removes, Gloín the first, had a mistress and she is the grandmother at four removes of Dori, Nori and Ori. They are of the Line of Durin and I will announce this publicly, once Erebor is resettled. Dwalin, Balin, Óin and Gloín share a grandfather, Farin. Farin’s grandfather and mine also share a grandfather, we are Cousins, at three removes. They, too, are of Durin’s Line. No, Bofur, Bifur and Bombur are the only ones not to share blood with us.” Explained Thorin. Bard shook his head, it was much too convoluted for him to follow.

Bilbo groaned.

“Let’s rule out Bifur straight up. He still slips between Westron and Khuzdul without warning, that would not help our cause.” He added.

“No, that would not. I suggest crossing out Bofur. That one is rarely serious enough for this type of negotiation.” Put in Bard.

“I agree, Bard. That leaves… Bombur.” Sighed Thorin.

“Bombur. Agreed.” Said Bilbo.

“Bombur, it is. Shall I fetch him, or shall we send one of these tall elves of yours, Bilbo?” Bard asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere, seeing both the elves listening, but uncertain of speaking up.

“Elrohir. You go. Bring Bombur here, but please do not say why. I would not have him upset… yet. Nor the others.” The dwarf ordered.

“Yes, Rh'Adar.” The elf began the sprint back towards Dale. A Raven could be seen to circle the city and fly on towards the Mountain, it spotted those at the Gate and dropped down on a boulder near them.

“Thorin Oakenshield?” it croaked.

“I am Thorin Oakenshield.”

“A message from Daín Ironfoot, to Thorin Oakenshield… Where the *bloody binder* are you? Have you reached that rock of yours yet? And what about your uslukh? Is she a mother yet? Liberating that She-Dragon and reclaiming the Mountain. Madness. You open your mouth again and I’ll ask that shireling of yours to shut it for you, permanently. You lukhâ claim-jumping twit!” The Raven was doing it’s best to roar.

“Thank you.” Thorin was trying not to laugh, really he was. That snicker didn’t come from him. Not at all. “Are you to take a message back?”

“Yes, I am. I would like a rest first, though. This is my first decent flight since clutching.” The Raven replied.

“Good. I would have asked you to wait. We have a meeting to get through before I will ask you to return to Daín. Rest, have some water. Once you’ve drunk your fill, there’ll be food, too. And congratulations on your clutch.”

“Thank you, Oakenshield.”

Elladan stepped forward and spoke to the bird.

“Mistress Raven, if you will permit me, I will provide a perch for you, I would take you to Prince Kíli, he has begun his schooling in animal husbandry. He will care for you until Rh'Adar…ah, Thorin has need of you.”

The Raven looked at the elf and at Thorin, when the dwarf indicated his agreeance, the bird hopped from one shoulder to the other. Elladan nodded to Thorin and Bilbo and headed back to Dale.

“What is it you called Oakenshield? I don’t know that word. What does it mean?” the bird asked.

“I called him ‘Rh'Adar’ it is a shortening of ‘Rhûd Adar’ which means ‘Rock Father’. The hobbit Bilbo Baggins, claimed my brother Elrohir and I to his house, we are the sons of Elrond of Rivendell and sons of the House of Baggins. Thorin is Courting Bilbo, whom we call ‘Tithen-Adar’ or ‘Little Father’. We felt that if we were to call Bilbo, ‘father’, we should also do the same to his intended, but did no want to simply call him ‘Adar’, that for is our birth father. Elrohir came up with the solution. ‘Rock Father’ is suitable for a dwarf. ‘Rock Father’ in Sindarin is ‘Rhûd Adar’, and as I said Rh'Adar is the shortening.” The elf chattered as they headed towards Dale.

“Huh. Your brother is Elrohir, you said. But what of you? What are you called?”

“I am known as Elladan, mistress Raven.”

“Teräc. I am Teräc.”

“Well meet, Mistress Teräc. Welcome to Erebor.”

After that Bilbo and Thorin could no longer hear the conversation between Elladan and Teräc. Thorin held his breath until he could not contain his mirth any more, he burst into laughter, Bard joining him.

He and Bard were still laughing when Elrohir and Bombur arrived a few minutes later.

“Why is my brother talking to a Raven?” he asked and set the pair off again.

Bilbo just shook his head.

“Never mind, Elrohir. We’ll explain that later. Bombur, come over here, we have need of you.”

“Me, Bilbo?” The round dwarf asked.

Still laughing Thorin took a ring from his finger and pressed into Bombur’s hand.

“You’ll need that.” He said between gasps and finally sat on the ground and gave up trying to contain himself.

Bilbo sighed and took Bombur by the arm.

“Come along, Bombur. I’ll explain as we go. Bard! You too. Keep up, Lord of Dale.” The hobbit knew exactly what to say to deflate the Man’s amusement and he followed grumbling about sober-sides spoiling a man’s fun.

As the three made their was back to the viewing platform, Bilbo told Bombur what had happened to this point and why he was there. The rotund dwarf was distressed, but determined to do right by his King.

The next few hours were the worst the dwarf had ever experienced, goblin caves and Eagle rides included. Negotiating with a Dragon for his King? Not even Courting his beautiful Razdûna was this stressful.

Three and a half hours later they had an agreement. Bilbo would give Bard an Arrow, Bard would fire the Arrow at Smaug, breaking the curse of Morgoth. She would be permitted to bite (gently) each member of Thorin’s Company and thus render them immune to Gold sickness, in exchange, Smaug would be able to lay her eggs, these would be guarded by her in the treasury, until they hatched and Thorin would see that each of her hatchlings were bound with a being (be it Dwarf, Man, Elf or Hobbit) that would bring the hatchlings into their families. They would be the guards of children, females, the infirm and the wealth of that family. The hatchling would be tied to that bloodline for the rest of its life. The hatchlings would be cared for and all medical aid would be provided by Erebor and the Throne Under the Mountain.

Dwarrow would be able to return to the Mountain that night, as long as they left the dragon to lay her eggs in peace. Dragon and Dwarrow would jointly defend Erebor, as well as the young, be they Dwarrow young, Elf young , Man young, Hobbit young or Dragon young.

It was decided and etched on a bare stone wall. Smaug made her mark under the etchings, as did Bilbo, Bombur and Bard. Thorin would add his gulâ-mark before Smaug laid her eggs.

Bilbo leant against the wall, relief filling him. He reached into the collar of his shirt and pulled out the chain holding a delicate silvery Arrow. Bard opened his hand and Bilbo dropped the Arrow into it. There was a rushing sound like air escaping a waterproof bladder. The Arrow shimmered and began to rock, slowly gaining size until it was the same size as yard-cloth arrow. The dragon reared back and exposed her breast. With a twang the Arrow left the bow and a cloud of ruby-red dust exploded around the missing scale. The dragon fell backwards with a great cry, she writhed and twisted on the coins, until she pushed her way down into the coins and the undermined piles collapsed in over her.

The coins pitched and rolled, creating hills and valleys that were constantly on the move.

Finally there was silence, stillness.

The three beings on the viewing platform waited, they had no idea how long it would take for the spell to remove each curse-rune. They had no way of knowing how big she would be without the curse deforming her. All they could do was wait.

Bard estimated it was another 25 minutes, roughly, before there was a reaction from the treasury floor.

The dragon slithered her way out of the mountain of treasure. At least they assumed it was the dragon. Yes, the colour was right,… sort of. Her scales were no longer dull and matt, but bright burnished finish of a highly polished ruby. The crown of spikes on her head were softened, they could be seen to sway gently as she moved. But it was her shape and size that were the most different.

The Man guessed that she was now close to half her cursed size. Her body shape changed too, the neck was still long, perhaps even longer, her body was stockier, more solid, not so long or slender. Her legs, too were much longer holding her higher above the ground. There was little change to the tail, unless it, like her, neck was longer. Wings spread out and fanned, were much the same, a little deeper but her wingspan seemed scarcely changed, in comparison to the rest of her size, giving her a look of being almost being swallowed by the scaly membranes. The wing-bones were heavier, as too the muscles across her chest and she almost appeared front heavy as a result.

She was still huge, many times the size that nature created, but nowhere near what she had been earlier that day. Now, Bard figured her length to be somewhere about 40 feet from nose to tail.

She clambered her way up to the platform and looked at the hobbit standing there.

“Little Hobbit. You are not so little, anymore. This is good. Take me to your dwarf and I will see him free of the lure of gold. Our bargain will bind us, I will fight for him and he shall fight for me. Lead the way, Oh Hobbit.” Her voice had changed too, it was lighter and much more feminine now.

Thorin heard them coming and placed himself in front of the entrance. He could see the dragon walking elegantly behind his hobbit.

“Bilbo?” he called.

“Thorin, son of Thráin, son of Thrór, this is Smaug, daughter of Sirra, daughter of Glaurung. We have set a bargain. Will you hold to that, to which your chosen delegate had given his name?” the Hobbit asked formally.

“I, Thorin, son of Thráin, will abide by the conditions agreed upon and witnessed by my representative, Bombur, son of Borur, Son of Balur. We have a bargain and I am grateful for it. I greet you, Smaug, Daughter of Sirra. What is it require you of me?” Thorin drew on his memories of his father and grandfather formally greeting dignitaries.

“Call your Company, Thorin Oakenshield. When their skin is pierced by my fangs, our bargain will be set.” Thorin nodded and stepped aside to speak to Elrohir and send him to Dale for his dwarrow.

“Two of my Company are, at present in Laketown, we do not know when they shall join us.” He said on re-joining them.

“Do you believe they will abide by your word?” The dragon asked.

“I know that they will. They have followed me through much. For the sake of a home and freedom from Morgoth, I know they will follow me in this.”

“Very well. We will not wait on those missing. We will take their agreement as given. To cement our agreement I will hand into your care that which, according to your speaker, you call the Arkenstöne. Your intended informed me of your concern that it may be tainted by the curse I bore. I can assure you, as a guardian and as one been cursed by Morgoth, I can feel evil and it’s taint. This stone has no odour of either.”

“Do you know what you give me?” Asked an awed Thorin holding out his hands for the stone.

“I give to you the Heart of Erebor. The Gift of the Valar, themselves.”

They talked of exactly what was agreed on and by the time the remaining dwarrow had reached the Gates, Smaug and Thorin were speculating about how many eggs she was carrying, she had no idea how many there were, but as she’d laid 11 in her first clutch, they both felt that more was likely. The Arkenstöne had halted her pregnancy in it’s tracks, she was no closer to laying now than the day she entered the Mountain. Now with the curse broken the stone was again dormant and her pregnancy progressed again.

Bilbo suggested that perhaps the stone should be reinstalled in the rock of the Mountain so as to return the Heart of the Mountain to the Body of the Mountain, hoping that it would re-awaken the stone as it would have been in it’s natural state. Smaug offered to set into the stalactite above the Throne of the King Under the Mountain, high enough that no dwarf would ever reach it, where it would shine down on all the dwarrow of Erebor. After further discussion, this was to be done before nightfall, dwarrow could sleepy knowing the Heart of the Mountain was safe once more.

The other things they discussed, were the things to come. Bilbo told Smaug their history, she was visibly upset at what had come to pass in that alternate quest, not just her death and that of her young, but also the evil that would spread like poison across the land, Thorin assured her that they had taken steps to see a better future. They told her of the battle and what the Company have planned, to deal with the Orcs. Beorn and the animals were mentioned, plus Bahîth explained. Roles in the coming battle and in the peace after were raised. Finally Bilbo told of the One Ring. She was distressed at it’s presence, but calmed once Bilbo clarified it’s containment. When asked, the dragon admitted that she was unable to feel it’s taint.

Bard grinned at the look on the faces of the dwarrow as they approached and saw the dragon resting, curled around a boulder, her head on the ground next to Thorin and Bilbo.

“Thorin? Elrohir said you wanted us here?” Balin asked.

“Indeed, Balin. Bombur has been my voice in negotiating with Smaug. A bargain has been reached and I have stated that I will abide by that bargain. Before she retires to lay her eggs, Smaug would see me attach my gulâ to our contract, etched on the treasury wall, however, to do that I must enter the treasury. As I am of the Line of Durin, I am liable to fall to Gold Sickness. Smaug, according to information provided be Erestor and Glorfindel, holds a cure. She has offered that cure to all within the Company. The cure is contained within her saliva, once it enters the blood-stream within minutes the bearer is immune to gold.” Thorin took a deep breath, this next bit would be the deciding factor on how successful their future relationship would be. “To do this, she will pierce our skin with her fangs, letting the saliva enter our blood. I will be the first. I would have my heirs be next, but the rest of you may decide the order amongst yourselves.”

Fíli stepped forward.

“I’ll go after Uncle. Kíli will be after me, followed by Dori and Ori. Then Bofur, Bifur and Bombur. After that it will be Óin and Balin. Dwalin will go last. When they arrive, Nori and Gloín will attend Smaug’s presence. They have been spotted leaving Laketown. They lead the column of town’s folk coming to the Mountain. They are still some hours from here, though.” It was clear to Thorin and Bilbo that Elrohir had told the Company what was expected of them.

“That is of no consequence, I can wait, the need clutch is not yet urgent. Thorin Oakenshield. Step forward and feel the sharpness of my fangs.” The dragon called, her voice no longer that deep silky sound, now it was light and sweet, but still retaining the smoothness that was seductive.

Thorin came forward, he held his bare arm out and the dragon leant down, her fang cut the skin of his arm, just barely enough to leave a red welt.

“I do not think that this is sufficient, guardian.” Said Elrohir. “If you will allow me?”

The dragon lifted her head and looked at the elf, after a moment she nodded.

Elrohir told hold of Thorin’ arm and taking a soaked cloth from a pot he had placed at his feet, he wiped it over Thorin’s arm.

“Leave that for one minute and it should be numb. Once your arm is numb we'll wash it off and we’ll be ready. Dori will you assist me?”

Without saying a word Dori reached for the pot and began to wipe the liquid over bared arms.

Once numbed and then washed, Elrohir held Thorin’s arm and with the elf controlling the pressure, Thorin’s arm was sliced by Smaug’s fang. Deep enough for blood to run, then the dragon swiped her tongue across the wound and Elrohir bound it. He would wait for half an hour, and the arrival of Elladan, who was packing their camp in preparation for moving into the Mountain, and they would close the wounds and repair the damage. Bilbo was never so glad that the Twins had their father’s Gift with healing.

Smaug returned to the treasury with Thorin to test the cure and to add his gulâ -mark to their contract. When he showed no signs of desiring to hoard the coins there, it was declared a successful cure and one by one the Company, including Bilbo and three of their four elves, had their arms sliced by a fang. Bard offered his arm even though it was not required of him, he had seen the damage the Master had done in his lust for gold and wealth, and wanted not part of that. When Lendarion, Legolas, Gloín and Nori finally arrived they looked to the others and seeing no illness or distress, they, too, gave their arms to Smaug fangs.

The dragon left to make her way back to the treasury, the need to clutch now growing by the minute. Bilbo, Kíli and Tauriel following, to keep her company, they said.

For the first time in 151 years, dwarrow would sleep in Erebor again. They and the Men from Laketown had six days before an army of Orcs were expected.

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Magandul = (that which is excavated) slang for ‘Damn it!’ (K)
Bloody binder = mining insult (binder = impurity in a seam of coal) (K)
Uslukh = Dragon (K)
Lukhâ = idiotic (K)

Gulâ = signature (K)

 

Chapter Text

Prepared for Battle

 

A scream rent the air and brought guards running. The sight that met them was both unexpected and expected. Bard had warned them that the Master had little respect for another’s possessions. That they expected. What they didn’t expect was that it wasn’t gold he had tried to take.

Smaug growled, her massive clawed foot holding the bloated form of the so-called Master of Laketown, flat on the floor of the corridor outside the treasury, a child could be seen enclosed in the dragon’s wing, protecting her from the man.

“I have sworn to protect the young within this Mountain Kingdom. This Man tried to harm a child in my domain. I will not have anyone break the bargain I hold with the Mountain.”

The Master continued to scream, demanding the guards free him from the dragon’s grasp. None made a move to do so. One guard sent for Thorin and Bard. This was outside what they could deal with.

It took very few minutes for the King(-to-be) and the Lord of Dale to reach the corridor and the commotion.

“What did he do, now?” Bard groaned, keeping his voice low.

The dragon answered, raising her voice to be heard over the still screaming Man.

“You, Lord of Dale, warned that this Man may try to take gold and gems. No one warned me that he would try to take a child. A child. A child I swore to protect.”

“A child?” Thorin was sickened at the thought of what fate the child may have suffered. Unfortunately for the Master he had threatened a child in a dwarrow settlement. There were laws to protect children and dwarrowdams. This they could deal with.

Bard stepped forward.

“Whose child? Whose child did he try to take?” he turned to Braga, the chief of Laketown’s constabulary. “Why would you let this happen? Why have you not stopped him?”

Braga sighed and answered.

“It’s only the last few weeks that I’ve known what he was doing. Alfrid kept changing the guards to those who would do anything for the Master’s favour. The child he tried to take? Was spite. You’ve been named Lord of Dale and people are following you, leaving Laketown.”

“I…? I don’t understand? What is that do with the child?”

“Tilda. He tried to take Tilda.” Braga sighed. “None of his guards would face the dragon and Alfrid is too much of a coward, so he was forced to try and grab her, himself. I’m sorry, but it was the only way to catch him in person. I would not have let him get any further than this corridor. I swear it, Bard.”

“Tilda?! My Tilda?! He tried to take my daughter?” Bard was beyond shocked.

Da!” the child wriggled out from under the dragon’s wing and leapt at Bard.

“Tilda!” He hugged her close.

“Bard, he made a mistake, to just threaten a child in Erebor is a crime.” Thorin stated.

“What? What do you mean?” Braga asked.

“Threatening a child within Erebor is among the gravest of offenses. It carries a death sentence. It matters little what he intended to do with the child, all that matters is that he did intend to harm, in some way, a child.” Thorin informed them, finally silencing the Master’s screaming.

“Death?” Braga was nearly speechless.

“Indeed.”

“How?” Bard was still trying to make sense of his Tilda being threatened.

“Under normal circumstances, he would be executed out on the sides of the Mountain and left for the wild animals to dispose of. Now? I think we can just put him out there and as we’re expecting an army of Orcs tomorrow, they can have him. How do you feel about that, Bard? You’re the family of the injured party.” Thorin asked.

“Wait! I have a question.” A new voice was heard, a woman’s voice, followed by the woman herself. She was not a young woman, but not long past her prime.

“Who are you? What would you ask and who would you ask it of?” Thorin wasn’t keen to waste time, he wanted this slime out of his Mountain.

“My name is Rosemary. I want to know if Alfrid was the one to get the children for him.” She turned to the so-called Master. “Did he? Did Alfrid get children to feed your foul appetite?”

The answered as fast as he could.

“Yes. Yes. Alfrid brought the children to me. He did.”

“Of course he did. When my husband tried to keep your men from taking our son, your guards arrested them.” Rosemary spat on the man still held by the dragon. “Neither my son or husband survived.” She turned to Thorin. “Is his confession enough to see that Alfrid has the same fate?”

Braga and Thorin both grinned wickedly.

“Indeed, Lady Rosemary, it does.” Said Thorin, setting the Master screaming again.

Smaug leant down over him and hissed at him, before looking at Bard and Thorin.

“Where, my Allies, shall I put him? Your men and dwarrow are still busy, so I shall take them.” She turned to Braga. “Bring the other one to the Gates, I will deposit this one and return for the other.”

“Take one to the north arm and the other to the western arm. Let the Mountain take them. They are not accepted in Erebor.” Said Thorin.

“Nor are they accepted within the borders of Dale.” Added Bard.

“As chief constable of Laketown, I, also declare them banished from Lake Esgaroth and it’s shores.” Continued Braga.

“Let it be known by the people of Erebor, Dale and Esgaroth, they are banished.”

“And Eryn Galen will not welcome them within it’s borders, either.” Lendarion joined them. He didn’t ask why, if all three settlements banished the two men, then he would do so as well. No questions asked.

Braga offered to fetch Alfrid and see him to the Gates, he was already as armed as much as he planned to be.

Thorin and Bard left Smaug and Braga to their task, Bard went to see to his children and Thorin headed back to the armoury. Most of the men of Laketown were now armed. They’d sent a group to Dale for Man-sized weapons and what armour was to be found. Once Daín had arrived, he had assigned the dwarf the task of seeing the Men armed as best possible.

They were as ready as could be. They’d made their plans, mostly based on what Bard, Legolas, Thorin, Fíli, Kíli and Bilbo remembered from their previous quest. The two teams that were to face Bolg and Azog, had spent the last week sparring and getting as comfortable working together as they could. Bofur had done them proud, he’d found a herd of wild Rams. He’d spent as much time as possible working with them to have them rideable by the time the Orcs arrived.

Balin, Bifur and Óin spent their time working with some of the women-folk of Laketown to have the infirmary as ready as possible. Dori and Bombur split the remaining women into two teams, one to set up kitchens and a dining area, the other to see to getting living spaces cleaned. There were many more dwarrow coming in the days after the battle, some with Lady Galadriel from Dol Guldur and then there was the caravan from Ered Luin.

The caravan contained nearly a hundred dwarrow and not to forget the ten hobbits. Bilbo was keen to see his cousins, he wanted the hobbits to get started on Tari’s Temple-Smial. He wanted to add Peldin to the Baggins family Registry, he felt that Peldin deserved that acknowledgement, after all he’d been through.

Thorin, too, was looking forward to the arrival of Galadriel. He’d gone up to the Raven rookery and discovered that Legolas was right, there were Giant Ravens still on the upper reaches of Erebor. That gave him the cheeky thought to send a Karku’zund to Dís. He wanted to let her know what they were up to and to tell her of Galadriel’s finding dwarrow in DolGuldur. Dís’ amazement and joy at this, mirrored his and her shock at the size of the Raven was worth the effort, of convincing the bird to carry his message. He wondered how long it was going to take Legolas, to get one to consent to being a Courting Gift to Gimli.

Further ravens to the Elven convoy to keep them informed, returned to say that they expected to arrive sometime the day after the Orc army. They had warriors with them and felt that these would be sufficient to deal with any Orc stragglers they may come across. Just knowing that they would be bringing healers, medicines and bandages gave Óin relief. Bombur and Dori were pleased that they would bring food and cloth with them. While Dwalin and Balin were more concerned about the dwarrow with them, Thorin refused to think about this, he needed to concentrate on one thing at a time. The battle was his overriding concern, once it was done, then came the resettlement.

Thorin had created teams for after the battle, to see to different tasks of resettling Erebor and repairing Dale.

Bilbo and Legolas were charged with seeing to the rescued dwarrow after the battle. They needed to get names, family connections and health levels.

Balin would be seneschal, he would bring the important matters to Thorin,

Dwalin would be in charge of the security of Erebor.

Dori would be their Major Domo, in charge of the housekeeping and accommodations.

Nori had agreed to be Erebor’s Intelligence Master, Bilbo had to laugh at the irony of the appointment.

Ori would be taking a few of the older folk to the library, he wanted to find any maps and accommodation listings that would help in the resettlement as dwarrow returned to Erebor.

Óin and the Twins were to run the infirmary, of course. The Twins father, Elrond had offered his time and skills to Erebor if needed and would be travelling with Galadriel.

Gloín would be the Master of the Coin, he would work with Smaug and some of the children to sort through the treasury. The aim was to catalogue the non-coin items and he’d work with Ori to see if there was any way of determining ownership.

Bifur and Bofur planned to check out the collapsed areas, seeing how much work would be needed to make it an area safe.

Bombur would continue to run the kitchens and dining area.

Kíli and Tauriel had laid rocks to mark out where they planned to build the animal infirmary. A number of the young adults of Laketown had volunteered their time to help them, Kíli told Bilbo that he suspected that it was mostly to see Bahîth and (hopefully) the dragon hatchlings.

Fíli was to spend most of his time flitting from team to team, reporting back to Balin and Thorin on progress. They were taking in account that initially Bahîth was still injured and would need company and the one he wanted to be with was Fíli, much to Tilda and Sigrid’s displeasure, the two girls and Bain had asked to help Kíli and Tauriel in the animal infirmary.

Thorin knew his time would be filled with Bard, Daín, Braga and Lendarion. It was decided that Braga would return to Laketown, most of the fishermen would be going with him, their skills would very likely be needed.

Once the caravan finally arrived, Dís would be able to help out wherever needed. Bilbo would rotate between the rescued dwarrow and monitoring the hobbits, seeing if there was anything needed there.

 

For now all they could do was eat and try and get some sleep in preparation for the Battle the next day. The elven scouts had spotted the Orcs in their encampments, only a few miles away.

Tomorrow would bring a battle.

 

 Sindarin = (S)           Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Karku’zund = Giant Raven (K)

 

Chapter Text

Snippets of a Battle

 

Later, when the Company, plus Daín, Bard and Lendarion, sat down and talked about it, their memories of the battle were found to be random and spasmodic, all over the place. Ori tried to write down what he could, he knew that at a later point Thorin, Bard, Daín and Lendarion would all want a Record for their archives. Certain things were clear and it was these that Ori noted down on paper.

 

Kíli

  • Nori throwing a dagger at Bolg, but not where or whether it hit the Orc.
  • Fíli swinging low with the sword-staff and loping off the Orc’s foot.

Fíli

  • Elrohir and Elladan crossing their swords around the neck of the Orc.
  • Tauriel slicing off an arm. Kíli sneaking with a group of foxes towards the signal flags manned by the Orcs.

Tauriel

  • Fíli being knocked from his feet and the crack as a bone in his leg broke.
  • The Orc’s foot coming straight at her face and ducking to avoid it

Elrohir

  • Nori being tossed aside by the Orc and a sickening thud as he landed and skidding head first into a boulder.
  • Kíli with foxes running up his back and jumping off him to attack the signal Orcs

Elladan

  • Holding the head of the orc high and throwing in the ranks of Orcs below Ravenshill.
  • Standing back to back with his brother as Dire-Bats attacked

Thorin

  • Bilbo leaping up and stepping into Legolas’ cupped hands and flying over the top of Azog and cutting his sword arm from his shoulder.
  • Azog’s blade, still in his now unattached arm falling through the air and slicing the across the back of Dwalin’s shoulder.

Dwalin

  • Thorin impaling the Orc on Orcrist and nearly gutting it.
  • Fíli and a mountain lion driving wargs towards the dragon, before tapping foreheads with the lion’s head and mounting a Ram, that was unaware of the lion, and heading for Ravenshill.

Legolas

  • The swing as Dwalin decapitated the orc and having to dodge the head.
  • Seeing a group of wolves heading for Dale, tearing apart wargs and goblins as they went.

Bilbo

  • The body of the orc falling towards him and having to dive to avoid being crushed by the twitching remains.
  • Looking up and seeing the Beorn change shape in mid-air with a squadron of birds behind him.

Daín

  • Seeing Bofur riding the on head of a troll, its arms and legs encased in steel clubs, crushing Orcs and goblins as he cleared a path for the Rams on their way to Ravenshill

Bard

  • Orcs streaming out of Dale heading towards Erebor, and leading men and elves to decimate the numbers as they left the shattered gates of the city.
  • Watching an orc fall from the city wall, it blade slicing down the back of Balin’s shoulder.

Bombur

  • Bifur stabbing his bill-spear into the head of an Orc and getting stuck, but not letting go until Bofur helped him get it back.

Bofur

  • Bombur stepped from a rock to Bifur’s back to the Orc’s head and around to the Orc’s back, pulling it down onto the frozen river
  • Daín’s War Boar trampling Orcs and goblins, goring trolls and having a grand old rampage.

Bifur

  • Seeing Balin driving a war wagon leading the herd of Rams until it was safe for them to split off and begin the climb to Ravenshill

Ori

  • Running alongside Dori and having orc heads and arms fly has they went past.

Dori

  • Realising that Ori had no idea just how strong he really was, the look of shock on his little brother’s face as orc lost limbs to the young dwarf’s Courting gift.
  • The Eagles and lesser birds attacking and driving off the Dire-Bats from Gundabad.

Balin

  • Taking the war wagon all the way to Dale before loosing the rams to panic.
  • Standing beside Bard at the Man defended his people.
  • Beorn’s animals attacking wargs randomly.

Lendarion

  • Seeing the heads of first Bolg and then Azog come falling over the frozen waterfalls, seeing them sliding on the ice, leaving trails of black blood behind.
  • The faces of the Orcs and goblins as they understood they were on their own and that there was little chance of surviving.
  • A pair of wargs that turned on the Orcs and in turn shredded what little of their leadership lasted.

Beorn

  • Standing toe-to-toe with Orcs and trolls. Seeing his wolves bring down a troll with a battering ram on its head.
  • Carrying a Ram back to the mountain.

Smaug

  • Watching the children dash out and grab fallen warriors, dragging them back within the safety of her flames.
  • A troll with the catapult on its back, on fire, runing screaming across the field towards the river, but being felled by the troll being ridden by a dwarf.
  • An Eagle screaming as a goblin spear pierced it’s wing.

Óin

  • All Óin saw were the injured, they were brought in by the children, the older ones carrying wounded on stretchers, the younger ones guiding the walking wounded.
  • The women-folk and elderly, gently cleaning the wounds of dwarf, elf or man and not showing any prejudice for race.
  • A man with a peg for a leg and missing one arm, said he had been a healer in his youth. Óin set his to triage and assess the injured as they arrived and the different levels of need were sent to different areas of the infirmary.

 

 

The silence was the first thing that those inside the mountain noticed, that was when they knew that the fighting had ended and now the hard work of treating the wounded would begin.

Thorin clearly remembers the spike of fear, as he watched Tauriel carry Fíli from Ravenshill and the relief he felt as Fíli swore in pain. If he was swearing, he was alive, Thorin would let the lad’s mother deal with his swearing.

The list of injuries was remarkably short, given the number of Orcs, goblins, wargs and trolls they faced. Fíli had a broken leg, Kíli dislocated his thumb, Balin and Dwalin had matching slices down across the back of their shoulders.

But because of the planning and foreknowledge, there were few dead. Less than a dozen dwarrow, most of them from the troll that Bofur had eventually taken over. Five elves fell to arrows and perhaps the most thankful, only three men fell defending Dale. One child was injured running back to the mountain, she fell and broke her wrist. The worst of the injured were those cut by the orc-blades, whatever foul coating they used, caused infections and in many cases the healers would be forced to amputate limbs to save lives.

Óin had never before waited and hoped that an elf would hurry up. He and the Twins were on their last legs, they’d been in the infirmary for over thirty hours. Even the endurance of elves began to fade after fighting for hours, then using their healing gifts, thirty hours and they were nearly done in.

Hearing that Lady Galadriel’s convoy were sighted nearly drove the stoic healer to tears, such was his relief.

 

Thorin told Smaug that the elves and the dwarrow were welcome in Erebor and asked one of Daín’s men to take them to the makeshift infirmary. Those not needing to receive or provide medical attention should report to Daín, he would assign them duties to suit their current capabilities, it should have been Balin but he and Dwalin were on the inactive list, due to their injuries. Thorin headed for the battlements and hopefully a few moments of respite. Seeing to the wounded, the repairs and his injured family, had drained the King, both his energy and his patience.

He looked out and his mind wandered, what would his father think? Would he approve of Thorin’s actions, of the alliances he’d made?

“Well, laddie. Those rukh scum left a mess behind, didn’t they? Hope you’ve got a good plan for cleaning it up.”

“Aye, Adad. The warg’s, they’re for Smaug, make her a good feast, they will. The Orcs, goblins and trolls? We’re going to use the Men’s farming rakes and drag them just past the south-east ridge, the wind blows down off the mountain there and out to the east. So with some coal and dragon-fire...? Let them burn.”

“Not a bad idea. What about your injured? How many of them?”

“Not including those Galadriel brought? We’ve 27 minor injuries, needing treatment. 8 major, Elrond and Galadriel are seeing to them.”

“And the Men?”

“That’s in total, I’ve no idea of the breakdown. I’ll visit the infirmary later. Right now, I just need some quiet, Adad.”

“Understandable, lad… You’re taking this very calmly. Or are you just too tired to react?”

The voice of his father was so familiar that it took a while for it to register, his exhaustion not letting him realise that it wasn’t his imagination. It wasn’t until Bilbo, appeared at his side and poked him gently.

“Oi, you. Manners. Introduce me.”

“Bilbo. Oh, my hobbit. I’m so tired, I was talking to myself, don’t mind me.”

“Yourself? Thorin you must be tireder than you look. There’s a dwarf standing beside you. Now, introduce me.” The hobbit’s voice hardened.

Thorin looked at Bilbo, all vestiges of exhaustion gone. His eyes opened wide and he trembled. The hobbit watched this and saw fear and dread slide across his dwarf’s face. He subtly reached for his sword and twitched an eyebrow, Thorin blinked in reply and taking a deep breath turned to face the unknown dwarf.

The breath left his body in a whoosh, he shook and staggered back a step.

“Adad?”

“Oh, so now you figure it out? For Mahal’s sake, boy, you’re a King now, you’ve got to be smarter than that.” The older dwarf scolded.

“Adad? Adad, I’m not imagining it. Bilbo, my amrâl, tell me I’m not imagining it. You see a dwarf, he’s tattoos on his forehead, going up in a point from his nose? Please, Bilbo?”

“Well, of course I… see…him…” Bilbo was beginning to think that maybe there was a reason Thorin was so unsettled. His hand slid away from his sword, it was unlikely to help.

“You do? You do!” Thorin grabbed the hobbit and picked him up, spinning around in a circle, laughing.

“Do you plan on putting him down, anytime soon, lad? Maybe for that introduction he wants.”

Thorin gently released his hobbit and spun, without warning he grabbed the other dwarf and hugged him tightly.

“Adad. Adad. Adad.” Was interspersed with laughter.

Bilbo was getting irritated by now.

“Thorin!” His foot smacked repeatedly on the flagstones underfoot. “Thorin!”

The two dwarrow turned to the hobbit and for the first time he got it. They had the same eyes, those amazing blue eyes. This dwarf was related in some way to Thorin and given that Thorin was calling him ‘Adad’, that meant that the likelihood of this being his dead (or not-so-dead) father was pretty high. Oops. He’s just lectured his intended in front of his perspective father-in-law. Not good, but mother would be amused.

“Adad. This is Bilbo Baggins, son of Bungo Baggins and Belladona Took, of the Shire. My Consort-to-be. Bilbo, my love, this is Thráin, son of Thrór, son of Daín the first. My father.” Thorin beamed, until his exhaustion returned with a vengeance and his legs began to collapse.

“Bloody stubborn dwarf!” Bilbo snarled. “You need to rest!” he turned and yelled over his shoulder. “Gloín! Gloín! Gloín, get your ass up here!” Dwarroven boots could be heard running, they rang against the stone stairs. The redhead burst through the open doorway and was at Thorin’s side before he registered the second dwarf. He froze and his jaw dropped in shock. He knew that dwarf. He knew that dwarf was dead, too.

“Gloín!” the hobbit snapped. “Help Thorin now, worry about dead kings later. Move!”

The dwarf shook himself and throwing Thorin’s arm over his shoulder, dragged him off.

“Sorry about that.” Said the hobbit. “Now. Where were we?... Oh, yes.” His voice hardened again. “That’s right, you’ve come back from the dead.”

“Not dead. Was never dead. Not even when I wished I was.” Thráin replied, tiredly.

“Convince me.”

“Azanulbizar. We were captured. There were probably a hundred of us, maybe less, certainly no more. We were taken into Khazad-Dûm. We stayed there for ages, I have no way of know long we were kept in the tunnels below the city. I do know that we were in Gundabad for 10 years roughly, before being taken to Dol Guldur. There we stayed until the Tharkûn and the elves came. I have no idea what year it is, even. The elves, that Lady Galadriel, she brought those of us that were able to ride with her. The rest of us are coming by wagon.”

“Well, that’s an eye-opener, that is. Any more dead family I should be expecting?” Bilbo was only joking.

“Yes.”

“What? I…? I was only joking.”

“ I know… but… my son, Frerin…Thorin’s younger brother. I didn’t know he was taken. They kept us separated, I never knew he was with me. He’s here, he’s in the infirmary. The ride here was harder on him than anticipated. Oh and I understand that Bifur, son of Batur, is a member of your Company?”

“He is.”

“Among those brought here by the elves is Tolban Truth-Seeker, Bifur’s husband. He, too, is in the infirmary, he lost an arm at Azanulbizar, it healed, but not well. The elven healers want to recut the bone and repair the stump. He’ll need that done, if he’s to have a false hand fitted.”

“Oh, my. Has anyone told Bifur. Or Bofur and Bombur?”

“No. No one’s been told that I’m here either, I saw a young human lass and she told me that Thorin had left, wanted some time alone. This is where he always came whenever he needed quiet, it made sense that he’d be here.” He pulled a sheet of parchment from his cloak. “This is a list of all those recovered in Dol Guldur, on the back are those that died. The blonde elf said you were in charge of our re-integration to Erebor. I am in your hands, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. When my son wakes, I will swear my fealty to him as King Under the Mountain. He will lead Erebor to greatness. And I will follow him.”

“Hmm.” Bilbo thought for a minute. “I think that we best house you with the rest of the Company. It’s unlikely that Gloín has managed to keep his mouth shut. So…? They’ll probably know. Let’s get you sorted, then.” The two left the battlements and worked their way down through the halls that Thorin had shown Bilbo. They opened out into a large room, Thráin remembered that it was the meeting room for the Royal Wing. The hobbit pointed to a door off to the side (Thráin knew it to be Thorin’s personal rooms), he opened the door and stepped in.

“Bilbo?! Gloín brought Thorin back, rattling on about Thráin and that-” Balin stopped in mid-sentence. Thráin had entered the room behind Bilbo.

One by one the members of the Company realised who the dwarf with Bilbo was. Well, most of them, Ori, Fíli, Kíli and the elves had no idea. Bilbo sighed.

“From left to right, we have. Balin and Dwalin, you already know them. Next is Óin and Gloín, you know them too, or should. Then there’s Dori, Nori and Ori, they’re related to you via Gloín the first’s mistress, Isélda. Bifur, Bofur and Bombur aren’t related, but are now a part of our family. Legolas Greenleaf is the golden blonde and Tauriel Khûthuzu-Erebor the redhead, the two brunets are the Twins, Elladan and Elrohir, they are Elrond’s sons and claimed to my house. The other elf is Lendarion, King of Eryn Galen and the Man is Bard, Lord of Dale. Lastly, I have the great pleasure to introduce, Fíli and Kíli, sons of Dís. For those of you who have yet to figure it out, this is Thráin, son of Thrór, son of Daín… Thorin’s father.” Bilbo introduced them to Thráin.

There was silence until…

“Grandfather? We have a grandfather?” Kíli was across the room and hugging the dwarf before he could react. That was the catalyst. Soon Thráin was surrounded by dwarrow and a pair of stunned elves. Legolas and Tauriel dragged along. Fíli, Dwalin and Balin sat on their cots, not able to move. Not able to do more than look on in shock.

Suddenly Bilbo recalled what Thráin had said about Bifur. How was he supposed to tell him?

“Ah? Bilbo?”

“Yes, Thráin?” After the way they met, Bilbo wasn’t going to bother with formalities. This was his future father-in-law and that was what mattered, not titles.

“Why is there a Lion cub on the cot beside...? Which one of the lads are you?”

“Oh, that's Bahîth. He’s been with us for a few weeks now and as you can see, he’s decided that Fíli belongs to him.”

“Oh…, alright. Is it? safe for me to come over there?”

“Of course it is, Sigin’Adad. He might grumble if you try and take him away from me, but not if you join us. He likes people.” Fíli replied happily.

“Good, good. I’ll leave Thráin with you, I’ve another errand to run. Bifur? Would you come with me?” Bilbo asked.

“Kun, of course I will.” Bilbo had learnt that ‘kun’ was ‘yes’ in Khuzdul, but up to date lessons weren’t all that important.

The two wound their way back to the main level and the infirmary. Bilbo quietly checked with Elrond, the first elf he saw, and asked where he would find the dwarf he sought. Once he had a direction, he and Bifur went that way.

Bifur stumbled in shock when he recognised the dwarf sitting on the edge of a cot. The dwarf looked up and called out.

“Bifur! Bifur, my therrêl, you’re here. The elf said you were, but I was so worried. Oh, Bifur, oh, I am so glad to see you.” Bilbo pushed Bifur, until he was in front of the dwarf and then finally Bifur reacted and leapt at his husband, pushing him back onto the cot and basically climbing in with him.

Bilbo decided that discretion was a good move and eased out of the room. He went back to Elrond and asked where he’d stashed Frerin. He intended to bring the dwarf up the company if it was possible.

Elrond showed him to the blonde dwarf and he finally understood where Fíli’s hair come from. The golden mane clearly marking him as related, if you knew Fíli. The eyes, however, were all Kíli’s. At first glance Bilbo was unsure why Frerin was in the infirmary, but as he approached it was clear, Frerin was pale and sweat beaded his forehead. His leg was bandaged and elevated on cushions, the shape of the leg clearly showed a break healed without being straightened.

“Frerin. This is Bilbo. Bilbo, if you can wait for a few minutes, Nareal will give you a hand in removing Frerin to somewhere… better suited for him to rest.” Elrond said.

“Thank you, Elrond, that would be much appreciated.” The hobbit said before turning to the dwarf. “So…you’re Frerin?”

“Yep. That’s me. So, who are you, Bilbo? And why are you here?” For all his injuries must be painful the dwarf was as bright and as direct as Kíli.

“Well, that’s a story.”

“I’m not going anywhere in a hurry. Going to tell me?”

“Alright. Why not?” the hobbit took a deep breath and started. “My parents are-”

An hour later the dwarf sat and looked at the hobbit.

“You’re really going to marry him? You do know that he’s got no sense of direction, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes. He got lost in Hobbiton once, I don’t know how, there’s only two roads, how could he mess that up? The first time we did this quest, he got us lost so many times. The only times he didn’t, was when he listened to Gandalf. And yes, I am going to marry him, no doubt about it.”

“Master Baggins?” a new voice asked. Bilbo looked to his left and saw a she-elf waiting patiently.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you waiting on us? We were just chatting.” He responded.

“Do not be concerned, what time I waited, gave me the first chance to sit, I’ve had since arriving. It’s been a busy day. Now, Frerin here, is looking better since you arrived to distract him from his surrounds. I agree with Lord Elrond, he would do much better elsewhere.”

“Good. It’s time he met the rest of the family. Are you Nareal? Elrond did say something about Nareal giving me a hand to get him out of here.”

“I am. Where are we taking him?”

“Like I said, it’s time he met the family, so we’re taking up to the Company. Not sure how they’re going to take it, but, too bad. Shall we?” he asked Frerin.

“I guess so. Anything to get out of here. No offence, lady, but it’s not the most comfortable place, you know?” he said to Nareal.

“None taken, Master Dwarf. Master Baggins, if you’d lead the way.” The healer replied.

Bilbo stood and headed back to the company. They got not more than a few yards, before meeting up with Bifur and his husband.

“Bilbo! This is my Tolban. Tolban, this is Bilbo, he’s Thorin’s consort-to-be. Bilbo? Who’s this?”

“Ah. This? Bifur, this is Frerin.”

“Akân... Ku is Frerin supposed to be?” Bifur asked.

“Bifur. Look at him. Who does he look like?”

The dwarf stared intently at the blonde for a few seconds, before his eyes widened and he looked to Bilbo quickly.

“Really? Really? He’s Thorin’s nadadith? That Frerin?”

“Yep.” Bilbo grinned. “Want to see Kíli’s reaction?”

“Oh, yes, milâ.” Bifur’s smile was nearly as wicked as Bilbo’s and the hobbit’s smile made Frerin rethink his opinion. This one was a prankster to watch out for.

Bilbo had been gone from the Company’s quarters long enough for everyone to have settled down for the night. He could hear Bombur snoring in concert with Gloín. A quick peek around the door saw only Fíli and Kíli still awake. Bilbo quickly indicated to them to stay quiet and thanking Nareal, directed Frerin into the room.

Kíli caught his breath, this new dwarf was the very image of Fíli, or what Fíli would be in about a hundred years.

“Quietly, lads. This is Frerin. Do I need to tell you who he is?” he said.

“Irak’Adad? Irak’Adad Frerin? Really Bilbo? Any other surprises?”

“Funny you should ask. Bifur? Are you coming in?”

“Kun, we’re coming.”

“We’re coming? Who’s we?” asked Fíli.

The miner and his husband entered the room on stealthy feet.

“This is Tolban. My husband. Tolban, these two are Fíli, the tafhûn and Kíli is the brunette.”

Kíli looked at Fíli, confused.

“I thought Bifur’s husband was dead? Didn’t he die at Azanulbizar?”

“Yeah that’s where we were all captured, I think. Certainly me and the two princes were. I lost my hand there.” He held up his right arm, he was missing the hand, wrist and at least half the forearm. “But I’m still alive, and now I’m with my rhûd and that’s all that matters to me right now.”

“Yeah, I akân with Tolban. Bilbo, you brought me here, where are you putting me? I need some sleep.” Frerin watched with a little trepidation as the hobbit grinned a truly evil smile.

“Oh, boy. You’re in for it now, Irak’Adad.”

“You hush, Kíli. Frerin, I think that there’s enough room for you right here.” He indicated. “Thorin’s covered the bedframe with bedrolls, maybe not as good as a mattress, but still better than the floor. Here’s a blanket. In you go.” With that the hobbit gently but firmly manhandled the dwarf onto the bed and covered him up.

Both Fíli and Kíli giggled at the look of befuddlement on their uncle’s face.

“Mahal. I hope I’m awake before Thorin in the morning. I want to see his reaction.” Kíli turned to his brother. “Five on Thorin kicking him out of the bed, before he figures it out.”

“You’re on!” Was the response.

 

 

Rukh = Orc (K)
Amrâl = love (K)
Khûthuzu-Erebor = Elf of Erebor (K)
Sigin’Adad = grandfather (K)
Therrêl = rock (K)
Akân = alright (agreement) (K)
Ku = Who (K)
Nadadtih = little brother (K)
Milâ = please (K)
Kun = yes (K)
Irak'Adad = Uncle (K)

Tafhûn = blonde (masculine, singular) (K)

 

Chapter Text

Reunions

 

Thorin hated waking up. His mind drifted, as he slowly became more aware of his surroundings. Laughter and voices could be heard. He tightened his arms around the dwarf snuggled up to him, wondering which of his nephews had snuck into his bed. Balin and Dwalin argued with Thráin, much as they always had.

Why did that bother him…?

His eyes began to open, a bare crack at first. He saw gold hair. As his eyes opened more he saw Bilbo across the room helping Fíli to a chair, his leg splinted, Kíli, his hand bandaged, getting in the way. Legolas was carrying Bahîth, who wanted to be with his dwarf. Thorin rested his chin on the blonde head beside his and hummed, searching out the rest of his Company.

Balin and Dwalin were stiff and bandages clearly showed above the collars of their shirts.

Dori and Nori were talking with Bard, all three had scrapes and cuts, some on hands and some on their faces.

Ori and another dwarf that Thorin didn’t know, leant over sheets of paper, making notes and scratching out others.

Bifur watched the two with affection and amusement on his face, while he redid the bandages on Bofur’s hand.

Fíli stretched and nuzzled back into Thorin’s shoulder.

Bilbo handed Fíli and Kíli mugs of tea and a bowl of milk for Bahîth.

Thorin blinked, going still. What…?

Óin and Gloín stomped into the room, distracting him from whatever thought was trying to make itself heard in his still-sleepy head. Trying and failing, obviously.

Gloín strode over to the fire where Bombur handed him a bowl of porridge and a mug of tea.

Thráin laughed at a look of disgruntlement on Gloín’s face.

Thorin stiffened. That stray thought had finally caught his attention. He looked from the blonde head, tucked mostly under his chin, to Fíli. Logic slowly catching him.

Who was the blonde in bed with him? And why were they so familiar? He looked up and caught his father’s eyes…. Hold on a second. His father?!

Memories from the afternoon before, flooded back. His father was alive! Galadriel and Gandalf had found him and others in the dungeons of Dol Guldur and brought them to Erebor, along with supplies and healers.

Something poked him sharply in the ribs. He jerked and looked down. He met warm chocolate eyes, familiar eyes. His head flew up and he focused on Kíli across the room, before flying back to the eyes right under his nose. They laughed at him, those eyes.

“Awake yet?” his father asked, smiling.

He was ignored as Thorin continued to look from the blonde in his arms to his nephews and back, again and again. By this time everyone in the room was looking at him.

Why?

The blonde in his arms laughed. Thorin’s eyes went comically wide and his jerked back. Unfortunately, his arms hadn’t let go of the dwarf and he too was jerked across the bed. The Company’s laughter filled the room.

“Kud id-arzâd astnu thuhr ith zai?” he growled.

“Westron, please, dear.”

“He asked what we were laughing at, Bilbo.” Thráin told the hobbit.

“Oh. Is he usually this bad after a shock? I mean, last night? He thought he was talking to himself. And now,… this?”

“No, Bilbo, he’s not usually this bad. Give him a chance, he thought we were dead, lad… Why…? What other shocks are you going to be throwing his way?”

“That?, my dear agnât’adad to-be, is between he and I. Keep your beaky nose out of it. You too, Fíli, Kíli. You’ll find out later. Lets deal with one thing at a time. Thorin?”

Thorin hadn’t taken his eyes of the blonde dwarf. Not once. Just in case he vanished.

“Thorin? Nadad? Thooorrriiinnn?” The blonde chanted.

“Frerin? Frerin?!” Thorin leant back and pushed his brother away enough to look at. Frerin grinned at him.

“Hello, nadad. Um, I’m not dead? Alright? Sorry if you thought I was. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t yours either. The rukh’s did it. And you whooped their asses, I heard about the battle here.” The blonde was beginning to babble. Kíli crossed the room and put a hand over Frerin’s mouth.

“Enough, Irak’Adad.” He laughed softly. “Give him a minute.”

Everyone stilled and watched Thorin.

Finally his head caught up with his surrounds. He blinked at Frerin and grinned wildly, snatching the blonde back into his arms and squeezing him tight, making him squeak with it. Suddenly a thought struck him and he laughed wickedly.

“I know that sound. What are you up to, nadad?” Frerin asked, laughing.

Thorin looked at Fíli and Kíli and asked them.

“You saw my reaction. What’s your mother’s going to be like?” he laughed again.

Fíli and Kíli went pale.

“Oh, Mahal. Mother. Oh, magân! She’s not going to be happy. Not at all. Not on top of Fíli breaking his leg.” Kíli groaned. Fíli whimpered and leant into Bilbo.

“You’ll protect me from her, won’t you Bilbo?” The young blonde pleaded.

“Oi! What about me? Who’s gonna protect me?” His brother argued.

“Lads. You’ve got no chance. This time, I think it’s Thorin that’s going to need protection from Dís.” Added Balin, laughing at their antics.

Bilbo just nodded.

It was Bard entering that ended their begging and pleading.

“Thorin.” He looked surprised at see the dwarf king in a bed with another dwarf. more so that no one seemed worried about it, Bilbo included. It distracted him and caused him to stammer. “Ah…? We’ve, ah…? We’ve got a raven. Ah…? I, ah…, I think its from the dwarrow caravan. Daín sent me to fetch you.” he looked around, noticing for the first time that there were additions to the group.

“New people, huh? Will they be staying with you? I thought Daín had them all in one place until their families arrived?” he asked.

“They are family.” Kíli answered. “This is our Sigin-Adad. Um… Our grandfather, Thráin. And the one cozied up to Thorin is Frerin, our other Uncle. The other one is Bifur’s husband. They were all in the group brought by Galadriel. Of course they’re staying with us.”

Bard blinked in astonishment.

“Yep. That was Thorin’s reaction, too.” Laughed Fíli. “Which reminds me… who won the bet?”

“Not me.” Said Kíli. “I had five on Thorin kicking out of the bed before realising who he was.”

“Me neither. I thought he’d take it in his stride.” Said Kíli.

“Dwalin won this one, lads. His words were, ‘five minutes and he’ll be squeezing the breath out of Frerin. Then he’ll be thinking about Dís’ reaction.’ So I think its safe to say he won this time.” Gloín told them, ending the bickering. “Let’s get some breakfast in Thorin and Frerin and then we’ll be ready to face Daín. He’s not going to be happy with us.” He groaned.

“Perhaps, I can relieve Daín for the morning?” Offered Dori. “That way you can have some privacy.”

“Thank you, Dori. That would be much appreciated.” Thorin answered.

Dori stood and nodding to Thorin, Thráin and Bard, left the room.

Bard sat at the table, joining Bilbo and the young princes in some tea. He was getting to like the time he spent with Thorin and his Company. Between them, they knew an amazing amount of things that he would need to learn if he was to really be Lord of Dale. Last time he’d not really accepted the position and was little more than a figurehead. This time was going to be different. He would not tolerate interfering merchants and those only wanting positions of authority without actually doing any work. Last time Dale never thrived, he would see that change. Dale would be a home to his people and a safe place for those who wished to raise a family.

Talking with Bilbo, he knew that there were Hobbits coming with the dwarrow caravan, they would help to heal the land and would guide those wanting to learn farming. That there were still more Hobbits coming, made Bard even more determined that Dale would be safe. They knew that not all hobbits were as gentle as they appeared and could be quite vicious if you threatened someone they loved. Bilbo was a prime example of this. They were quite small however and he would rather have it known up front that Hobbits were welcome.

Thorin was still eating when Daín arrived, thumping onto the room without looking. He came to a halt as he saw the extra dwarrow. His initial frown evaporated as he recognised two of them and became a look of confusion.

“Thorin?” he sat beside his cousin. “I think I shook something loose in the battle.”

“Why’s that, Daín?”

“I’m seeing things.”

“Really? What sort of things?” Thorin was enjoying this.

“Well, firstly, understand that I did get tossed around by that troll.”

“So you said.”

“So, maybe that’s why I’m seeing your father sitting near the fireplace.”

“Hmm? No, I don’t think so.”

“Then why? Why would I see Thráin?”

“Why? Maybe because, he’s really there?”

“But…?”

“Daín. Adad, Frerin and Tolban, he’s Bifur’s husband by the way, were in Dol Guldur. Galadriel and the wizards found them in the dungeons.”

“Oh… Huh… Nope.” Seconds later Daín’s eyes rolled back in his head and he slid off the bench to the floor. Kíli tossed a coin to Fíli with a grumble. Thorin just picked up the pitcher of water and poured it over Daín’s face.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Later that day, sixty-odd miles to the south, a caravan of wagons emerged from the forest of Eryn Galen. They’d travelled the Forest Road from the Old Ford at the Anduin River, and now followed the River Running northwards towards Lake Esgaroth. They were less than three days from Erebor – from home.

Dís kept her eyes lowered, she wanted her first view of the Mountain to be unmarred by trees. She remembered little of Erebor, but had grown up on Thorin’s and Frerin’s stories of running through the halls, of outings to Dale, of sneaking into the upper halls and looking out over the cavernous Throne Room and the Great Hall. She sighed. There were days that she really missed her golden brother.

Finally all the wagons were clear of the forest, it was late afternoon and they planned to camp here. Here, where they could see their home.

Dís raised her head and at long last, sought the distinctive shape of The Lonely Mountain. Of Erebor. Her heart soared at the sight. She revelled in the thought. Home.

There was a crunching noise from the rear of the caravan and the dismayed call of her marriage-cousin, Bírzel yasthu-Gloín. Dís spun saw Gimli, cousin to her sons, had fallen, he lay on the ground, twitching. She rushed to Bírzel’s side.

“What happened, Bírzel?”

“I’m not sure. He looked up at the Mountain, grabbed his head and groaned, the next thing, he falls from the back of the wagon. Mírtja!” she cried as she saw her sister-in-law leaning over the lad. “Mírtja? What’s wrong with him? Why did he fall?”

“Steady Bírzel, give her a chance to see to him.” Dís’ demeanour clamed Bírzel considerably, but she was still worried, this was her son, after all.

“Bírzel? My notes are packed and I can’t get to them. When did he first start have those banâd-abarâsh, again?”

“Um? November, late November. Is it one of them?”

“A severe one, yes. Primula? Primula! Fetch some poppy milk please, lass.”

“No poppy. Valerian.” For the first time the lad spoke, his eyes still shut tight, a hand blocking any possible light.

“You’d be better off with poppy, lad.” Mírtja corrected him.

“No.” Gimli was firm.

“Gimli.”

“No. Poppy.” He was adamant.

“Alright, lad, valerian it is. Prim? You heard that?”

“I did. I’m coming” came a disembodied voice from somewhere in Mírtja’s covered wagon. A moment later a hobbit emerged, a hobbit Gimli knew to be Primula Baggins. Baggins…. Baggins…. Frodo. Frodo!

Gimli sat up in a rush. Oh, Mahal!

“Mother? I need to talk to mother and Aunt Dís. Now.”

“Just a moment, lad.”

“No! Now!” For the first time Mírtja looked the lad in the eye, what she saw made her pull back in shock.

“Right away.” She agreed. “Bírzel? Dís? Come here. Prim, leave it here, if he needs it, he’ll take, but I’ve got the feeling that the pain is gone, now. Off you go, lass.”

“Aye, it is.” Gimli assured her.

Bírzel and Dís sat beside Gimli. He waited but Mírtja made no effort to get to her feet and leave. He looked at her and frowned.

“No need to frown at me, Gimli Gloín-ul, I’m not going anywhere. Get used to it.” She said.

“Very well. Amad?”

“Yes, I’m here, Gimli.”

“Right. Ah…?”

Gimli raised his head an looked at his mother, her gasp made Dís look from her to the young dwarf. She saw it, too.

His eyes. His eyes were not the eyes of a child. These eyes had seen things no child should ever see. These eyes had seen battle. These eyes had seen death. The only thing that stopped Dís from crying, was that these eyes had also known love. They knew laughter and joy. They knew wonder.

“Something’s wrong, Amad. Really wrong. I remember things I shouldn’t. Like, coming to Erebor. Like-” Gimli spotted Primula talking to Drogo. “Like we didn’t have any hobbits with us. We didn’t have enough food or blankets for the winter and many died from the cold.” He glanced at Dís. “Not everyone survived the battle.”

“What battle, love?” his mother asked.

“There’s been a battle at the Erebor in the last few days.” It was Dís that answered Bírzel, not Gimli.

“What?!” Exclaimed Bírzel.

“Aunt Dís?”

“Yes, yes, I know about the battle. I’ve been getting reports from Thorin and Balin since they reached the mountain. Smaug is free of her curse. The Orcs arrived when Thorin expected. We lost less than 20 people, five of those are elves and three are men, the rest are dwarrow from the Iron Hills. Balin and Dwalin are injured, but not badly according to Thorin, Kíli busted a thumb, Fíli has a broken leg and everyone is covered in cuts and bruises.

In the last message from Thorin, he wrote last night, he says that the elf-queen arrived with dwarrow they rescued from Dol Guldur, with more to come. She brought 16 of the least injured dwarrow, medicines and healers with her. There are another 31 dwarrow coming by wagon. They’re about a week behind us, in a larger convoy from Lothlorien, with more supplies.” There was something in this young dwarf’s eyes that told her he should know, plus… there was that message for Gimli, too.

“But..? That’s not what…” Gimli was confused.

“He sent a message for you, too.”

“Me, Aunt Dís?”

“Yes, Gimli. I think Thorin knows what’s happened to you. The message he sent was this; ‘Tell Gimli he’s not alone. Needless to say, we changed things.’ Does that make any sense to you, lad?”

Oh, Mahal, thank you. Yes, Aunt Dís, that’s so good to hear, you have no idea, how good.”

Thank Mahal that someone knew what was going on. What did Thorin mean, ‘changed things’? Okay, patience, patience, lad. They were only three days from Erebor, he could wait three days. He remembered tromping halfway across Arda as part of the Fellowship of the Ring. He’d learnt patience, he could wait.

He spent the evening chores wondering what Thorin had changed (besides the fact that he was alive) and how they’d done that. He puzzled on this, as the sunset passed and darkness fell. Bedding down beside his sister (Mahal, Gimrís, looked like a child!) and his mother, under their wagon. All their worldly possessions were in that wagon. They had four ponies to pull the wagon, two pairs of strong mountain bred ponies.

What he found the hardest to deal with, was his body. The body he remembered was that of a full-grown dwarf, strong and battle-hardened. The body he had now, was that of a child, not yet fully mature, his (physical) coming-of-age was still nearly three years away.

He would wait to hear what Thorin had to say. In the mean time he had chores and now that he remembered living another entire life, the few chores he had now were a welcome break. He was more used to spending hours in the forge before an afternoon of administrative duties. At least that was what his mind remembered, his body however, remembered a very different way to spend his days. It remembered chores of feeding cows, ponies, chooks and sheep. Cleaning pens, fixing fences, all the things his father would have done, if he hadn’t joined Thorin’s quest. In all honesty he would much rather do the physical chores in his father’s place, he detested paperwork, that was more Legolas’ specialty.

Legolas. Oh, Mahal. What about Legolas? Would his husband remember him? Or would Gimli have to win him over, again?

He went to sleep redesigning, in his mind, the Gifts he’d made for his elf, as Courting Gifts. The ear pendant and cuff were good, this time, he’d like to put a little more engraving on the cuff. The Falcata daggers were a different matter, those he was exceptionally proud of, there would be no changes there. Their Marriage Bands each had a Starlight gem embedded in them, the gems were given to them as a betrothal gift from Legolas’ father Thranduil. There were changes he had, over the years, thought he would have liked to have done. Hindsight was a marvellous thing.

Dawn woke him, the rays of the sun shining brightly into his eyes. He stretched and relaxed again. Three days. Three days and hopefully Thorin could give him some answers. He climbed to his feet and began his morning chores. After a hasty breakfast and Dís sending a raven to Erebor, the caravan was ready to move. For their midday meal, the caravan halted and everyone dismounted and chunks of bread, cheese and ham were passed around.

A screech was heard and a bird circled the caravan grouping. At first glance it appeared to be a raven, but as it circled lower and closer, it became clear that this was no ordinary raven. Gimli was not concerned and neither it seemed was Aunt Dís. People looked in awe as the huge bird swooped around the camp a second time, before alighting on a wagon wheel in from of him.

“Gimli dashutu Gloín?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Good. A blonde elf asked me to carry his message.”

“Thank you.”

Hervenn nín. Lle Aran thel eneth’d nin naugrim-mellon. Ni dartha-na hon Hûd. Hon tog-an-lle. Tol-na-nin, mela-nín. Galen’lass.” The Karku’zund spoke Sindarin, roughly, true, but still Sindarin. Gimli was glad that he’d been a more diligent student than Legolas. “There’s also a written message, too.” The bird held out leg. “I’m to wait for a response.”

“Thank you. Have something to eat and drink. I’ll see to that message.” He took the message from the raven’s leg message-capsule. He unrolled the parchment, reading the note. “Please wait while I speak to our caravan leader.”

“Kun, I will.”

Gimli quickly sought Dís and showed her the note.

“Well.” She said. “We’d best find you a pony, then. Now, you’ll want your bedroll and some food for tonight and tomorrow. If you ride til near dark and set out at first light, you should reach Erebor by tomorrow night. Send a raven, so we know you’ve arrived.”

“I will, Aunt Dís. Would you see to a pony, while I fetch my bedroll and some food? I still have to send the Raven back to the Mountain.”

“Don’t forget to tell your mother. You won’t be pleased if you don’t.”

“Yes, Aunt Dís.” Gimli headed for his mother and their wagon.

“Gimli? What’s happening?” Bírzel asked.

“A message came by Raven. Thorin sends for me. I’m to take a pony and ride for Erebor. I leave as soon as Aunt Dís has a pony ready.”

“But, why? Why would the king send for you?”

“The message didn’t say. It just said Thorin requires my attendance. I’m to take a pony and ride ahead.”

“Well, you gather a change of clothes and your bedroll and I’ll get some food bagged for you. Gimris! Come here.” Bírzel turned and headed for the supply wagon, while Gimli reached into the wagon and pulled out his bedroll. He had to reroll it, because a bedroll suitable for travelling in a wagon was not rolled the same to go behind a saddle. After that a couple of sets of clothes and he was ready to go. Everything else could stay in the wagon.

When he was ready, he made his way back to Dís and his mother. He tied his bedroll behind the saddle and his bag of clothes went into one saddlebag while the food his mother had gathered went into the other.

He pressed his forehead to his mother’s, then his sister’s and finally to his Aunt’s. Collecting the reins, he approached the giant Raven.

“Thank you for bringing me this message. If you would return to the Mountain and deliver my messages I would be most appreciative.”

“I will.”

“Please tell Thorin that I’m leaving now. And if you would tell the elf – Ni bo nín lend. Cen-lle thinness. Lle Êl’naur.”

“Will they understand?” the raven asked.

“If you take it to the same elf, yes, he will.”

“Good.” The bird bobbed his head and took flight. He was so large that the down draft from his wings buffeted the dwarf and flung his hair into his face, getting in his eyes and mouth.

Spitting his hair out of his mouth, he mounted the pony and headed for Erebor and, hopefully, some answers.

 

 Sindarin = (S)                       Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Kud id-arzâd astnu thuhr ith zai = What the blazes are you lot laughing at? (K)

agnât’Adad = father-in-law (K)

Nadad = brother (K)

Rukh = Orc (K)

Magan = damn (roughly) (K)

Sigin’Adad = grandfather (K)

yasthu = wife of (eg. Yasthu-Gloín = wife of Gloín (K)

banâd-abarâsh = Headaches/migraines (literal trans. head-pains) (K)

Gloín-ul = Gloín’s son (K)

Legolas’ message (S)

My husband. Your king has named me dwarf friend. I stay with his company. He sends for you. Come to me, my love. Greenleaf.

Karku’zund = Giant Raven (K)

Kun = yes (K)

Gimli’s message. (S)

I’m on my way. See you soon. Your Star-fire.

 

Falcata are the short swords/Daggers that Legolas prefers

 

Chapter Text

Reunions - Part 2

 

It was just on dark when Gimli passed through Dale, the guardsmen there waving him down, only to hand him an elven travel-light. He remembered making one of these for Legolas, he’d added a little more Dwarroven style to the thing, to even out the prettiness with some good strong lines. He hooked the light on the pole the old Man gave him and with a little wrangling, got it secured to his saddle and stirrup iron. Then another guard told him to stay to the left of the white stones and he’d avoid any holes or Orc-traps.

He was only three miles from Erebor. From home. From his elf. From his cousins. And hopefully from some answers, magan it!

The mountain shone with light. Gimli was pleased, it meant that the crystal lukhûd-hezars were still in place, he remembered them being okay, but… with Thorin changing things….? The crystals let light refract up or down them, during the day they lit the deep spaces of the city and at night the lights inside made the mountain look like it was pierced in hundreds of places. He wondered briefly if Daín had brought crystal farmers with him or if his mother and her sister were to be Erebor’s only chance of growing the crystals needed to light the city. Were there any others who knew how to make the crystals grow into a desired shape?

The mountain loomed over him, a tangible presence. Erebor lived again.

At the gate he was met by a dwarf and an elf. Not his elf. Where was his elf? This elf took his pony and nodded in greeting. The dwarf asked his business in the mountain and upon showing the note brought to him by the Giant Raven, the dwarf blinked, wrote his name in a ledger and gave him directions to the King’s rooms in the royal quarters.

Uncertain of what had been told to the masses, Gimli decided to avoid the main thoroughfares and areas where he remembered that the dining areas were and where the refugees had camped. He took unused corridors and stairs, rubble littering the floors. Three flights of stairs up, four halls to the east, and one to the north, brought him to the guard’s entrance to the Royal Apartments. Light spilled from a door, a familiar door.

Why did no one tell him that the rooms he’d chosen, after his coming of age, had been Thorin’s? Why hadn’t Dís told him?

He strode to the open door, as he got closer he could see Kíli and his redheaded elf sitting at a table, an unknown dwarf sat with them. Thorin was the same as ever, no sense of social division and so he was the one pouring tea. Whoever was nearest did the job, regardless of their social standing, Kings included.

What the..? Gimli saw Fíli, but sitting beside Fíli was another blonde dwarf that looked so much the same, that Gimli wondered if he was seeing things.

Enough with the waiting, he needed answers. He didn’t bother knocking, his King had sent for him and Thorin wasn’t one to wait. Entering the room, he saw his father and Uncle Óin along with another unknown dwarf, an older dwarf this time. Bombur had a pot over the fire and a grill rack in front of it, a hobbit that he assumed was Bilbo Baggins, with him. His only memories of Frodo’s uncle were from the meeting at Rivendell when the Fellowship was formed, there the hobbit had been old and reclusive. Bifur sat beside the first unknown dwarf along with Bofur and Dori. Now there was a fine stamp of a dwarf, silver hair and beard intricately braided. His two brothers seated opposite, Nori at the end of the table, then Ori and… what the…? Was that Dwalin? With an arm wrapped around Ori? Dwalin?

“Gimli!”

Fíli’s cry pulled his attention back to the first side of the room. Balin had his arm in a sling, much the same as Dwalin. Fíli sat on a bed a Lion cub between the white bearded dwarf and Fíli. A lion cub?

What in Mordor has been going on?!

“Gimli.” Thorin acknowledged him.

“Thorin.” By this time Gimli was so confused that he forgot that Thorin was now a King with a kingdom. “What is going on? Why do I remember things differently? I remember arriving in Erebor just in time to attend your funeral. Yours, Fíli and Kíli’s. I remember a broken Erebor. Is this what you meant when you said you’d changed things? And what did you mean by ‘not alone’?” He wanted answers.

“Hmm. That’s going to take some explaining. Why don’t you sit down here and Bilbo will fill you in. Have you sent a raven back to your mother yet?” the King asked.

“No, not yet. I wasn’t sure if there was something you wanted to add to it.” The young redhead answered.

“Right, then. Nori, would you see to that? You’ve finished eating. Oh and if you could tell Legolas, Gimli’s here, he’ll want to see his naimlini’d.” Thorin directed the middle Ri brother.

“Right, you are, arthâkh.” He was out the door with his mug of drink still in his hand.

“Naimlini? Thorin, what the arzâd is going on?!” Gimli’s temper came from the Line of Durin and it was beginning to spike.

“Bilbo, fill him in, please, Amrâlu. I’ve got to sleep or I’m going to pass out. Thank Mahal, Daín’s on duty tonight.” Thorin staggered to a bed near the wall and collapsed on it. Now that Gimli actually looked at him, his cousin looked drained to the point of exhaustion.

Gimli turned to the hobbit.

“Let’s sit over here.” The hobbit pointed to a pair of chairs near the fireplace. “Kíli, get Gimli a bowl of stew and a mug of tea. Then, yes, you can join us.” He waited until Gimli was seated. “I’m going to start right at the beginning, my beginning. Alright?” When Gimli nodded, Bilbo continued. “Good. I woke wet.-”

Over the next couple of hours Bilbo him brought up to speed, telling Gimli of Bilbo, Thorin, Fíli and Kíli being Twice-Born, the arrival of dwarrow in Hobbiton. Their journey, the trolls, Rivendell and the White Council. Claiming the Twins, the goblin caves, the first meeting with Azog, the Eagles, Peldin, the Carrock and Gandalf’s dropped staff causing sparkly dwarrow. Meeting Beorn, helping animals, Tauriel swearing fealty to Thorin and the Mountain Lioness bringing Bahîth to Beorn’s House. Saving the cub’s life, Legolas being told that his father was sailing West, his brother becoming king, meeting Lendarion and travelling to Lake Esgaroth. Galadriel finding dwarrow prisoners in Dol Guldur, Bard joining them, Bilbo speaking to Smaug, Bombur having to do the negotiations and of the cure for Gold Sickness. The people of Laketown moving into the Mountain, the master kidnapping Bard’s daughter and his and his man Alfrid’s execution by Orc. The arrival of Daín and his dwarrow, the battle, the deaths of Azog and Bolg. The aftermath, the injuries, the arrival of Galadriel, Elrond and the rescued dwarrow. Finding that among those rescued were Thorin’s father, Thráin and brother, Frerin.

The last thing Bilbo told him was that the White Council believed that the ten of them that were Returned were sent by the Valar Themselves, for the express purpose of dealing with the One Ring, hopefully without anyone being tortured by it’s malicious substance. Mahal knew that Gimli and Legolas would do a lot for their hobbits, but this…? Hang on… where are their hobbits?

“Bilbo?” He needed to know.

“Yes, Gimli?”

“Gimli! Mela-nín! Finally, you’re here.” Legolas came running into the room. Gimli abandoned Bilbo for his elf. They met in the middle of the room, his elf going to one knee, their arms clinging to each other. Gently he brought his head down to meet the blonde’s, their foreheads resting together for mere seconds. Gimli lifted his head.

“Legolas, ufkak-ê, it appears Thorin has his hobbit. Where are our hobbits?”

Legolas laughed softly.

“Oh, my dwarf. Haven’t you figured it out? Gimli, they’ve not been born yet. Frodo’s the eldest and it’ll be nearly thirty years until he’s born. Didn’t his parents travel with you?” Legolas shook his head at Gimli’ blank look. “Bilbo? I thought you said they were in the first caravan?”

“Oh, yes, Drogo and Primula sent me many messages through Dís. Merry and Pippin’s are with them, too. Young Samwise’s parents will be in the next caravan. It took me weeks to convince Hamfast and Bell to make the trip, but the chance for their children to all have homes and families of their own, went a long way. When Tari Foxglove told the Thain she was coming, Bell was on board, there was no way she was letting her foster-sister leave her behind.”

“But,… what about-” Gimli started.

“Aragorn is in Rivendell, right now, he’s ten years old?” Legolas directed the last bit of that at Bilbo, who nodded. “Ten years old. Our hobbits aren’t born yet. Neither is Boromir, his father is much the same age as Aragorn. As for Éomer, his grandfather, Thengel is not yet forty and has yet to announce his intent to marry. Our fellowship is safe.”

“Just give ‘em time to be born. Is that what you’re saying, ya long streak of green?” Gimli grumbled.

Oh, but his elf’s laugh was a balm to his heart, so light and joyous.

“Alright, alright, that’s enough, outta you. Kíli?”

“Yes, Oh mighty hunter?” the raven-headed dwarf grinned.

“Forget it. Fíli? Are you ready to answer questions or are you going to be an idiot, like your brother?”

“Oi!”

“Kíli, enough.” Dwalin was tired and Kíli squawking was enough to push a dwarf past the point of tolerance.

“Thank you Dwalin. Dwalin…? No it can wait. Fíli. Who are these other dwarrow? I mean which is which? I’m fairly sure the blonde is… Frerin? Right? So, would that make you, Thráin?” Fíli nodded, grinning. “That leaves you. Who are you?” He asked the final unknown dwarf.

“Gimli, lad. This is Tolban Truth-Seeker, my husband. He was with Thráin and Frerin in Dol Guldur. Tolban, Gimli is Gloín’s lad and Legolas’ Bonded.” Bifur explained.

Gimli shook his head. Not-so-Dead Princes. Not-so-Dead Uncles. Not-so-Dead husbands. Not-so-Dead Kings. Not-so-Dead Princes. Not-so-Dead Dragons. Not-so-Evil Dragons. Oh, Mahal, what in the world had he walked into this time? A thought occurred to him and he spun to face Thráin.

“Dís has no idea that you and Frerin are alive.” He growled. It was not a question.

“No. If we sent her a Raven, would she believe? I wouldn’t and given what Thorin tells me of her life, I couldn’t expect it of her. No, lad, the best option is to prove it to her and the only proof she’s likely to accept is Frerin and I in front of her.” Thráin answered.

“But not close enough to touch. Not until she’s got it out of her system, ‘cause she’s gonna be khezrar.” Put in Kíli.

“Oh, I think Adad and I can handle our little bird.” Frerin smiled.

Dwalin snorted.

“Five weeks o’ midnight shifts says she hands t’e pair of ye, yer stones ina bag.” The guard offered.

“Five weeks?!” Thráin gasped. Dwalin nodded. “Are you that sure of her?”

“ I trained ‘er, so, aye, I am. I’d offer more, but in six weeks Daín’s heading back t’ those Zirinhanâd of ‘is, so we’ll have to rearrange the rosters agin. I s’pose we could wait ‘til they’ve gone home. In which case I’ll offer season’s wort’ o’ midnight shifts.”

A whole season?! Dwalin must be confident.

“Ah, Frerin? I think we might be wise to listen to your irakdashat. What do you say?” Thráin asked.

Frerin was still hesitant, but Dwalin was never generous to his students, if he said she could do then chances were, she could.

“Yeah, but I want to see her spar.” He stated.

“Mother doesn’t spar.” Said Fíli. “She fights, full out, she gives no quarter.”

“Aye, every session wit ‘er tis like a full battle. Twill be a while afore I can hold my own o’ field again, maybe never, if Elrond’s right.” A wicked grin split Dwalin’s face. “Maybe we should give that invigorating task t’ Gimli? Legolas assures us that he’s t’e best barkûn he’s ever seen, including Daín’s guard Kofté an’ I.”

“Dwalin, you and Kofté faced Orcs. I have had to stand against Uruk-hai. The closest you’ve seen to Uruk-hai are Azog and Bolg, but even they were poor imitations, weak and inferior. Uruk-hai are stronger, faster, feel less pain and can tolerate direct sunlight for much great lengths of time than the weaker Orcs. Uruk-hai were bred by the White Wizard, Saruman, he used them to destroy anything and everything he could.” He sighed. “They killed the bravest Man I have ever had the honour to know, he faced Lurtz, their commander, alone. He fought valiantly, stood between the Uruk and our hobbits, it took four arrows from the Uruk’s bow to take his life. From the first arrow he knew death came and still he fought.” Gimli let his head fall in remembrance.

“We gave him the rites as best we could, Gimli. Boromir would not hold it against us. We saw to it that his sacrifice was not in vain, we saw Merry and Pippin freed, the Ring destroyed and Frodo and Sam brought back to Minas Tirith. We honoured him in the halls of his home.” Legolas added.

“Aye. The lad’d be more like to whinge that he couldn’t share the ale from the Halls of the Dead.” Gimli allowed.

“I think that’s enough for tonight, boys. That caravan is getting closer and we have only a day and half to try and be ready for them. Gimli?… Dwalin would like you to take on personal bodyguard to Fíli, at least until his leg is healed, he may also call on you to deal with any more physical troublemakers. They won’t be welcome if they cause that sort of trouble and as you can see Dwalin is.. limited at present.” With that Bilbo began pointing people, dwarrow, elves and the man to various doors and quite efficiently shut down the discussions for the night.

“Gimli, Legolas. A word? Now lads… I know that you’re Bonded and you’re both Returned. But no one outside these rooms does. Thorin will deal with that, after the first caravan arrives, but until then, these rooms are your sanctuary. No one, outside the Company and those in Thorin’s rooms tonight, must know. Got it?” They nodded. “Legolas has chosen rooms for you, just down the way. Off you go now.”

The two Bonded beings watched as the hobbit waved them off and closed the door almost in their faces.

“Now what, my elf?” the dwarf asked.

“Now, my dwarf, we sleep. As Thorin’s hobbit said, we have a lot to do and little time to see it done.”

The dwarf followed the elf. Oh to sleep with his elf again. Thank you, Mahal.

 

They weren’t ready, not nearly ready. There were still so many things to be done. But they had no choice now. The caravan had been sighted leaving Dale, less than three miles away.

To the outsider, to someone watching, it must seem a most astounding sight. The battle may have been won by a coalition of Man, Elf and Dwarrow, but right now the Mountain was ruled by a Hobbit. Three days before, Bilbo had shook his head and taken over. He put a stop to the multiple construction works, the cleaning and any work in the treasury.

One large crew was set to repairing a corridors one at a time and the rooms opening off of each one. A cleaning crew came in behind them, removing decades of grot and grime, ready for inhabitants. A small crew were sent scavenging for furniture to make the rooms habitable.

Another team was sent foraging for late season plants, for whatever could be found. This team was predominantly elves and Men, but after the first day, a few dwarrow joined them without fuss. Grains and grasses went to the animal infirmary, but any other edible plants went to the mountain. Healing herbs, however all went to the mountain, Elrond and the Twins had set up a processing centre and all the healing plants went through them, some were sent to Kíli’s Lavan-Cardh and others to Óin’s Birshîn as needed. What wasn’t needed immediately was kept in the Madj-kirîn.

As there were so few hunters among those in the mountain, Beorn was approached and asked if the animals would help in the search for food. It was gratifying to see wolves, foxes, lynxes, Mountain lions, hawks, owls and Eagles bringing in game animals. By the hobbit’s suggestion (order) the animals hunted to the north or the east, to the south and the west were areas closer to Beorn’s territory and Bilbo was adamant that the creatures that looked to Beorn would not be harmed.

Kíli, Tauriel and a handful of others, manned the animal tents, they were some time away from having the solid barn for the infirmary that they had set their sights on. In the mean time, they practised their new skills. There were birds, Ravens, hawks, Greater and lesser Eagles. A Ram and a number of the smaller canines were being tended to. Most of the meat brought in went to the animals in the tents. One Eagle (Bilbo was uncertain but he thought it was the same Eagle that carried he and Peldin from the Misty Mountains to the Carrock) had taken to bringing in a wild sheep or cow every day. It stayed on the mountain, high above the Raven rookery, only coming down to see that the injured Eagle (perhaps it’s mate?) ate some of the meat that was brought.

Any extra game was always taken up to the communal kitchen run by Bombur. Edible plants went into stews, enriched by the herbs brought from Laketown, with many of the women-folk busy with the wounded, this left the kitchens to be run by Bombur’s crew of men-folk.

 

For all that it was a momentous occasion, having exiled dwarrow returning to the Mountain, there was little time for ceremony.

As each wagon arrived at the Gates, their names were taken and a billeting number given to them along with a map and a child from Laketown as a guide for the first day. There was enough room inside the Gates, in the Cargo compound for all the wagons, but not for the wagons to enter the mountain proper. There were ingenious trolleys, though. They had two large wheels at the front and one at the back, each was pulled from the front and guided from the rear. There were two sizes of these, the smaller could be pulled by a dwarf or by two Men, it would hold a small amount of produce, the flatbed being six foot long but only three foot wide. The larger trolley, was ten foot long and six foot wide and needed to be pulled by a pony, if the load was particularly heavy then a pair of ponies could be harnessed to it.

Each incoming wagon was assigned a pair (one large and one small) of these trolleys. Once the wagons were empty they would be taken to the livestock compound and their ponies tended there.

 

Dís might have lead the caravan but she refused to enter the mountain until her people were in their home. Like her brother, she put their people first. Her wagon was pulled to the side and she directed the next wagon in line to go ahead.

She watched as Gimli, a tall blonde elf, a hobbit and the youngest Ri brother took names and handed out maps and introduced children.

“Amad!” Dís wasn’t the only dwarrowdam to turn at the cry, but it wasn’t her sons that called. Gimli ran to his mother’s side and hugged her tight. “Amad, you won’t believe what’s happened. Oh, it’s so good, Amad. We’ve got rooms put aside for you and for Aunt Dís. Aunt Dís! Come on over here. Leave your wagons here, Bofur’s and Bifur’s crews will bring your things up. Oh, have we got a surprise for you, Aunt Dís! Bilbo says that Thorin thought he was imagining things. Fíli and Kíli lost money to Dwalin over it and Daín fainted when he found out. Come on, Aunt Dís! We’ll be back down here for a feast later tonight. Everyone’s in the King’s Personal Assembly Chamber. Only the Royal family and those Thorin considers a part of his Company are accommodated in the Royal Wing. That’s likely to put noses out of joint, but this is Thorin, those fussy old advisors are going to learn the hard way that Thorin’s not his grandfather and as for Thráin…? They’ll learn. If they don’t they won’t be welcome here after the winter.” Gimli chattered on as the group made their way through the corridors and up flights of stairs.

As they reached the Royal Apartment Wing they saw a gaggle of older dwarrow from Ered Luin, ones that thought they were going to have positions of authority in Erebor. They were being blocked from entering the Wing by Daín’s guards.

Before Dís could speak up, another voice rang out.

“Quiet!” Once those gathered stilled, Thorin continued. “What’s going on, here?”

“Prince Thorin, these… guards will not allow us entry. They-”

“And why should they? You are not of Durin’s blood.”

“We are advisor’s to the King. We should-”

“By right of Blood and Declaration of Succession, I am King. Hirún, Gáril, Harló, you three were present, along with my father and brother, do you deny you witnessed King Thrór presented to me the Ring of the Heir of Durin before he took the field at Azanulbizar? You were the ones to carry his headless body to the fires. You dare to call me Prince, now?!”

“Ah, no, Your Majesty. As your advis-”

“My Council is set. You may have been advisor’s to Thrór but you will not advise me. By your encouragement, Thrór committed dwarrow to Azanulbizar, we lost nearly half. Half! Of our warriors that day. On your advice. Not again. When I called for assistance to reclaim Erebor, you would not commit your help. So, those that did, those that stood at my side, those that fought at my side, they are the ones who will advise me. You have been given billets, go to them. You will not be permitted in this wing.” The King said and his bearing was that of the Kings of old. A true King.

She must have made a noise of some sort, because suddenly Thorin glanced in her direction, their eyes meeting. Very clearly Dís could see that her sable brother was enjoying himself immensely, his eyes blue twinkling brightly.

Bírzel caught her intent before even she had recognised it, Gimris and Gimli bare seconds behind their mother. As one the three dwarrowdams went to their knees, heads bowed.

“My King” Gimli intoned formally. “I have the honour of presenting the Princess Dís, daughter of Thráin, son of Thrór. The Lady Bírzel, daughter of Nizrél, son of Zarnûn, wife to Lord Gloín, son of Groin, son of Farin. And Lady Gimris, daughter of Gloín, son of Groin. They request admittance to the Royal Apartments. Will my lord King grant them residence?” While he may not like formality, Gimli was no stranger to it.

“Well do I welcome the Princess Dís to Erebor, may her beauty grace our Halls for many years. The Ladies Bírzel and Gimris are likewise, welcome to Erebor, I would have them live here in peace.” Thorin bowed his head to the three dwarrowdams. “Welcome, my sister, I have missed you, as have those rapscallions you call sons. I fear they may have met their equal in our latest addition, however. Come, comfort your boys, my naná.” With that Thorin escorted the four into the Royal Wing.

“Oh, brother, I have missed your irreverence. Gimli said you have a surprise for me?” Dís hugged her brother as soon as the doors shut behind them.

“Indeed. Through that door, there, Dís.” He directed.

Frerin lay at one end of the elongated day-bed, Fíli at the other. The two had their splinted legs cushioned on pillows. Fíli was allowed up on crutches, but knew that he was far better to be off his feet when his mother entered the room. Frerin had suffered Elrond to re-break his left leg and arm, as they had never healed properly, he hoped that when they healed this time, that he would be able to walk without pain. He heard the voices of a dwarrowdam in the entrance chamber, but he had no idea if it was Dís, she’d been less than forty when he last saw her, still a child, really.

The dwarrowdam that entered the room was a surprise. Not nearly as tall as Thorin, but with his bearing, her gold hair that she shared with their mother, Farís and with Frerin, the startling Durin blue eyes, glowed as she looked at Frerin. She was a true Princess of the Line of Durin.

For one moment she looked at him happily, but then her expression changed, she glanced at Fíli at the other end of the bed and back to him. She did this a few times before turning to Thorin, her voice hard and cold.

“Where did you find this imposter?”

“Oh, no, Dís. Look closer, this is no imposter. Go see for yourself.” Thorin threw Frerin under their sister’s wagon without a single second’s hesitation.

Dís walked, no stalked, across the room, she reached the bed and looked him in the eye. He twitched his eyebrow, how she hated that he could do that and she couldn’t. She frowned. He smirked and crossed his eyes, a trick she adored. Her eyebrows raised, but she was still unsure.

“Naná? Something wrong little, Goldfinch?” he asked, knowing the he was the only one to ever call her that, it had been their secret.

Dís spun back around and went after Thorin, intent on making him pay. He should have told her that Frerin was alive. As she passed an unsuspecting Nori Ri, she grabbed a knife from his belt, and continued after her older brother. She drove him backwards, the knife flashing in her hand, her sons were injured, her brother hurt and he didn’t even have the decency to send her a message. He would pay for that lapse, she would shear off his braids.

Her name was called in a near forgotten voice, distracting her for a few precious seconds. She tracked Thorin across the room, hiding behind a hobbit would not save him.

She has taken no more than three steps before someone took hold of her arm, she turned to snarl at them, only to face her father. She froze. She looked to Frerin, to Fíli, to Thorin and then to Thráin.

“Adad?” she faced Thorin again. “Really, Thorin? You couldn’t even send a bloody message?! Really?!” With that the steel left her spine and her chin wobbled, she fell into her father’s arms, for the first time in over a century and a half she cried. She cried for her lost brother, her dead husband, her lost father and for her sons, injured in battle.

Thráin carefully relieved her of the knife, handing it back to Nori, before guiding his daughter over to the bed where her brother and son lay, waiting to greet her.

Kíli sat tight against Fíli, and for the first time she realised that what she had thought a rug, was in fact a living, breathing lion cub trying to hide it’s head under Fíli’s chin. Frerin reached out and tickled the lion’s tail where is rested against his leg, the cub flicked it’s tail out of his reach and used it to swat his splinted leg, causing him to wince and pull his hand away.

“What in Mordor, have you three been up to?” Dís growled.

Her sons knew that tone. Frerin remembered their mother using a very similar one when she was angry with him. Maybe having Elrond re-break his leg should have waited a few more days. Now he had no way of escaping the wrath of an irate dwarrowdam. Magan it!

All three, Kíli, Fíli and Frerin, went pale. May Mahal, help them.

 

 Sindarin = (S)                       Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Lukhûd-hezars = Light-Tubes (skylights) (K)

Naimlini’d = intended (K)

arthâkh = direct! (slang for boss) (K)

Amrâlu = love of loves (K)

Mela-nín = my love (S)

Ufkak-é = my archer (K)

Khezrar = supremely angry (lit. trans supreme anger/fury/rage) (K)

Zirinhanâd = Iron Hills (K)

Barkûn = axe-man (K)

Lavan-Cardh = animal building (S)

Birshîn = infirmary/hospital (lit. trans wound-place) (K)

madj-kirîn = herb-store (K)

Magan = damn (roughly) (K)

 

Chapter Text

Explanations and Rumours

 

Dís listened. She had no choice but to listen. As the she-elf, Galadriel, had begun her explanation, Dís had listened raptly. For the first half hour there was nothing that could have drawn her from the elf’s side, but then… she was told of the deaths of her sons and brother. Her first reaction was, of course, that Thorin failed to protect her sons and she intended to take it out of his hide. No sooner had she stood, than the elf had frowned and Dís was frozen, unable to move, to speak.

She continued to stand, frozen, in front of her chair, while the elf continued her tale. Hearing of the War of the Ring and the deaths of so many, brought the princess to tears, but still she was frozen in place.

Then Galadriel told of a meeting of the Valar in Aman, where the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, was given a chance to right so many wrongs. A decision was made and as there had been 9 Walkers in the Fellowship of the Ring, so there would be nine souls Returned to Arda.

Bilbo took it upon himself to carry the Ring and Nienna, the Lady of Mercy, told him of a prayer of holding that could contain the Ring and render it harmless to those around it.

But who to help him? Who to Return? Erú Ilûvatar was consulted and it was he who would choose Bilbo’s Allies. All those with Children offered them. Erú thought long before revealing his choices.

Thorin Oakenshield’s heart was already tied to that of Bilbo Baggins so he would Return. Lady Yavanna feared for the heart of the dwarf-king with the deaths of his sister-sons and begged Erú to include them. Mahal willing gave of their souls, for in truth, Thorin, Fíli and Kíli never accepted their deaths and kept pleading for the hobbit to be allowed to join them after his death. Their cries and laments when the hobbit journeyed to the Undying Lands, were never ending. They mourned at all times.

And so Fíli and Kíli were to join their uncle. Mahal swore that he would release no more souls.

Nienna Returned Elladan and Elrohir, their healing abilities would surely be needed at some point and being the grandsons of Galadriel would give them influence with their elven-kin.

Tauriel was the heart bond for Kíli, even if the Bond had not been fulfilled, her heart was crafted to beat in cadence with his.

Bard of the Line of Girion was the only human to be Returned. It was the Doom of his Soul to draw his bow on the Dragon. It was Vairë that reminded the Valar gathered that the dragons were once the most trusted of the Dwarroven Allies, could this alliance not be rewoven? Must the dragon die? Could not the curse of Morgoth be revoked? Broken?

Manwë asked who would be the last of the 9 souls to walk again. Varda, his wife, was forced to remind her husband that Elladan and Elrohir were but one soul, they were truly halves of a whole. There were two more for Erú’s choosing.

Erú told then of his search, of reading the memories of those involved in the Reclamation of Erebor and the War of the Ring. He found three souls that knew the worst of Mordor, that stood against all that Melkor and Mairon could raise. Further he found that two of these tenacious souls were Bound together, that even though their peoples still distrusted, they had Bound themselves and Wed. Not just for the mortal life of one but for the eternal life of the elder. If one was to Return, so must the other, or apart they would Fade and Fall.

Legolas Greenleaf and Gimli Gloín-ul would be the last of the Returned.

Tulkas and Oromë pleaded with Mandos and Vairë that the Returned be allowed to keep their memories, that they had been chosen because of the strengths they had gained. To deprive them, would weaken them and allow discord within the group, stopping them from becoming all they could be.

If the 9 Returned failed, Arda would fall.

Then Ulmo raised the question of how they would be Returned. After all, not all of them were dead. Thorin, Fíli and Kíli were in the Halls of Mahal and Bard was in the Halls of Mandos, it was true, but Tauriel of Greenwood was held as but a strand by Vairë, waiting to be rewoven.

While Gimli and Legolas were still alive, Bilbo, Elladan, Elrohir were in the Undying Lands. How would they be Returned and would they be told why?

Erú listened to the voices of his Valar and finally he silenced them.

Bilbo would be Returned in September. He would know the most, he was the last to leave Arda and so would have the greatest idea of what and why. He would need time to prepare and would be Returned two full seasons before the Istari approached him.

For the rest, they would Return in order of their deaths or departures from Arda.

Elladan and Elrohir were second. There would be a single day between their Return and that of the hobbit.

Fíli would be next, at the last moon in October. The blonde may have died but minutes before his brother and Uncle, but he would have a week before he was joined. The energies needed to Return a soul to Arda were immensely draining. The Valar had learnt this when sending the split-soul of the twin elves so close after sending the hobbit. The Valar needed a full month of recovery after that monumental error. Their exhaustion nearly lost the twin’s soul in the void, something the Valar almost drained their Light to regain.

The first moon phase in November saw Kíli’s Return to the Blue Mountains and his brother.

Thorin Oakenshield woke to the next moon phase in that same month.

Tauriel saw the first snowfalls over the Woodland Realm in December.

The night before Yule was when Bard Return to Laketown and his children.

Legolas awoke the morning of the New Year in his Father’s Halls and was a very unhappy elf. Estë and Irmo were greatly alarmed at the anger and thoughts of retaliation that went through his mind, the Valar deemed it fortunate that Thranduil did not call for his son that day, or there would likely have been murder and mayhem in the Halls, for the young prince initially believed his father responsible.

Gimli’s age fought the Valar, physically his body and mind were not matured and none wanted to force a Return on the dwarf. Estë and Nienna tried for months to wake his mind but every attempt failed, leaving the dwarf with severe headaches. They were forced to turn to Tulkas and ask his intervention. Tulkas and Manwë believed that the dwarf had the strength his for soul to re-integrate with his body, without damage. That the moment they chose, was the moment the young dwarf saw the Mountain of his forefathers, was a poetic coincidence.

Irmo and Erú conspired and sent dreams to a select few on Arda. Among them, Gilraen, wife of Arathorn chief of the Dunedain, mother to Aragorn, the heir of Isildur , also to Elrond of Rivendell, father to Elladan and Elrohir. Glorfindel had been Returned to Arda for more than an Age past, his knowledge would be needed and were Glorfindel went, so too did Erestor. Galadriel of Lothlorien had the ability to speak mind-to-mind and she was shown the meeting of the Valar. The last to dream was the Istari, Alatar and Pallando, who were prompted to investigate whether to dragon must die.

The elf continued with the tale, telling of the plans the hobbit. Of letters to the Blue Mountains, Rivendell, Lothlorien and Mirkwood. The young princes arrival in Hobbiton and the plans the three made. Of hobbits to heal the land around the mountain. Of skilled artisans to come to the Mountain and teach those who would learn. Of a future in the Mountain for a hobbit and his dwarf.

Still frozen, Dís was forced to listen to the journey anew. A journey that kept to the same path and timeframe, but with minor differences. Most notably their stays in Rivendell and at Beorn’s. The additions of the elves to Thorin’s Company now made sense.

But what shocked Dís the most was Smaug. Even though she’d received and read the letters that Thorin had sent she was still uncertain of what Thorin intended the future to hold for the dragon and her (her!) hatchlings. First the gender of the beast and then the curse? What other surprises were in store for them?

Finally whatever Galadriel had done that froze the princess was gone and Dís fell back into her chair, tears ran down her face and she knew that her sons, were so much more than just hers. Now, they were the embodiment of Erebor’s future.

Thorin, Fíli and Kíli had died for Erebor and now they lived for Erebor. She had always believed her sons were destined for more than being smiths and fletchers in the Blue Mountains, but this was beyond anything she could have imagined. Her brother and sons were the face of the dwarrow nation, for many generations to come.

It would take some time for the dwarrowdam to adjust her thinking.

 

Nori was mad. No. He was more than mad. He dragged the unconscious dwarf by the leg, not at all concerned about the dwarf’s head bumping along the stone floors. Throwing open the door to Thorin’s private audience chamber, he continued to drag the dwarf until he reached the centre of the room, where he threw the dwarf’s leg away from himself and stomped to a chair.

It was a full table that met his eyes. The White Council, Lendarion, Thráin, Daín, Balin, Bard, Óin, Dís, Bilbo and Thorin.

“Nori!” Thorin had jumped in surprise when the door had been thrown open. “What? What’s wrong with Bofur? Óin? Would you-”

“Leave him.” Nori growled low and viciously.

“Nori?”

“He’s drunk or was until I knocked him out. Dori, Ori, Bifur, Bombur and Gloín are trying to contain the situations. This… binjabl lulkhel!He was telling tales, tales of the Twice-Born, of Thorin, Fíli, Kíli, Gimli, Bilbo, Bard and our elves. It was one of Bombur’s little ones that told him, she wanted to hear the rest of the tale!” The thief-turned spymaster continued to mutter and swear in Khuzdul for some minutes, while those gathered around the table tried to make sense of what he’d just told them.

Thorin shuddered. He knew Bofur liked to drink, he’d boasted that one reason he’d joined the Company was for the free ale. But this? Thorin was stunned. He would never have expected this of the miner. If his own brother and cousin took action against him, then there could be no doubt of his actions. Bofur had not been pleased when the Company voted not to tell the mixed population now residing inside the Mountain, of the Twice-Born and their tasks, but agreed to hold his tongue. It appears he changed his mind. Why? Why now?

“The listeners?” Thorin asked.

“Like I said. Dori and the others are trying to contain it, but… I don’t think they’re going to succeed. I’m sorry, ê-Uzbad, there are so many of them and most of them weren’t that drunk, I don’t think there’s much chance of them not remembering Bofur’s words. I don’t think we can keep it secret much longer. It effects too many people. And, arthâkh, while I agree that it’s your call, for a spy or informant, that type of secret is like a seam of Mithril. Besides, we can use it to our advantage.” The spy spoke to Thorin, ignoring the others.

“How? What’s ticking around in your head, Nori Ri?” the King asked.

“Dís wasn’t a elf supporter. She wasn’t a Man supporter. She wasn’t even a hobbit supporter, not really anyway. Not until Galadriel got hold of her. If we have the elf tell some, not all, of the tale 9 Returned, it would cut the chocks(*) out from above them. with that one tale, we could ensure that you never face opposition or rebellion, nor Fíli or Kíli, either.”

“We have the ability to prove it. The Urzamu-u-Mahal came with Dís and there’s Tolban and Daín’s son Stonehelm, they’re both truth-seekers. And let’s not forget Tharkûn, either. No offence, Lady Galadriel, but not many dwarrow are likely to believe an elf without some sort of verification. Even if what you’re telling them is what they want to hear.” Óin assured her.

“There’s others, too.” Said Daín. “Others that can tell when someone lies. We have some of the best body readers in my army. If they can read which way someone’s going to move from a person’s eyes, surely they can read a lie.”

“And how, exactly will that help?” Thráin questioned.

“I thought better of you, prince Thráin. If someone’s not lying, then they must be telling the truth. Right?” the spymaster tutted.

“Ah… didn’t think about it in those terms, but… yes, I see your point.”

Thorin thought for a minute, letting the others talk around him, finally he made a choice.

“Nori?”

“Arthâkh?”

“If we can’t contain a rumour, then we’d best use it.”

“I Ijbilabî. What’s the plan?”

“Simple, my Master of Spies. We’re having a feast tonight to celebrate, firstly reclamation of the Mountain, secondly the Freedom and Alliance of Smaug, thirdly the destruction of the Orc army and lastly the arrival of our families.”

“Ah, yeah? And your idea is…?”

“Well, there’s always speeches at feasts, right? So we simply have the speeches made as if the Twice-Born were common knowledge.”

“Arthâkh? I’m not sure how you mean.”

“Alright.” Thorin sighed. “I have to make the first speech, so I’ll thank Galadriel and Elrond for assisting Bilbo, thank the wizards for having their information ready for us. Thanking Elrond for allowing his sons to join us on our Return. Then Galadriel can respond. Something along the lines of, her mirror showing her what we would need and when. That our changed goal of not just reclaiming the Mountain but of also freeing the dragon, gave her the cause to Call the White Council to Rivendell to create the Arrows that Bard would use to break her curse. Then Bard could put in a comment about being glad he didn’t have to use a Windlance this time.” He picked up his goblet and sipped at the clear sweet juice it held. “Finally Daín can talk about how quests and battles and loss taught me the value of second chances, even if saving dragons was a mad idea. Something like that. Well, Nori? Think you and Balin can work with that? Write speeches for Daín and I. You’ll need to give Galadriel and Elrond a dwarf’s point of view on theirs, too.”

“Nori and I can write them, not a worry, laddie… Sorry, Thorin.” Balin corrected himself.

“Balin, it’s alright, just occasionally you should remember that I’m 17 years older than you. And your King. Just occasionally, that would be nice.” Thorin teased, causing the others to laugh. “I don’t want anyone to say anything obvious about us being Twice-Born. If someone had been listening to Bofur, then we would be confirming what was said, without a formal decree.”

“Hmmm… If we do it right, then most people will think that the only reason we haven’t spoken out about being Twice-Born is because we had other things to deal with and being Twice-Born wasn’t as important as an army or Orcs, our injured and incoming caravans. Nothing hidden, but not important in the face of everything else.” Balin added.

“Nori, perhaps you should take Bofur somewhere else, he stinks. Let him wake up… will he remember that it was you that knocked him out?” Daín asked.

Nori’s smile was quite vindictive.

“Oh, yes. According to Bombur, Bofur remembers everything that happens when he drinks. Bifur says, Bofur can’t always figure out why he did something, but he always remembers that he did it.”

“Right, well, toss him in some out of the way spot and let him fret about what’s going to happen next.” Daín chortled.

 

Nori sighed in relief, listening to the small gathering discuss the speeches. Most of these dwarrow were from the Iron Hills with a smattering from the Blue Mountains and Nori was pleased to see Daín’s lad Thorin Stonehelm and a pair of dwarrow that Daín swore should have been truth-seekers, among them. All but those three of the gathered dwarrow were among those that had been there when Nori had knocked Bofur out.

Thank Mahal, that Gloín had the forethought to have Nori and Ori knock Bofur out as though it were an accident and the thief volunteering to take him to the infirmary while the scribe offering to fetch their healer Óin, helped. That all four of them were part of Thorin’s Company, cemented the fiction.

The conversation he heard gave him a feeling of satisfaction, Thorin was right, these dwarrow had listened to Bofur, but doubted his story. The truth-seekers listened to the speeches and heard no lies, so they believed. That the two groups met and talked, that the speeches supported what Bofur said, that Thorin and the lads acted like it was of no importance, this was the reaction they had hoped for (and Nori was not going to admit it, but he’d even prayed for it).

Within days, everywhere that Nori went, he heard the tale of the Twice-Born, the King and the Princes who died for Erebor and the dragon. Whispers of thanks to Mahal were uttered by many dwarrow, of thanks to Yavanna by the hobbits, Men gave their thanks to Mandos and the elves to Nienna, lady of mercy.

All his spies reported that confidence in the King and his Heirs was at an unexpected high, the only ones not delighted with their King, were Thrór’s advisors. Five of seven dwarrow were still of the opinion that it should be they that Thorin heeded, but with the population favouring Thorin, they had few options. The remaining two, they were a different seam to hew. One had already, very quietly approached Braga, the Laketown Chief and asked to be allowed to practise as a healer in the floating town. The other, asked Thorin and Gloín if they would recommend him to Bard as ugbash or dwarrow ambassador, he would swear fealty to Thorin, but he feared the Mountain and the Dragon, he had only just escaped with his life when she attacked all those years ago. Thorin knew of the dwarf’s reputation for being scrupulously honest and had no qualms suggesting him to Bard.

The dissenting five had made clear their intention to leave the Mountain come spring. If Thorin would not heed them, they would not stay. They sought dwarrow to join in their trek to the White Mountains to the west of Gondor. Daín and Thorin gave leave to any dwarf that wished to go south.

Erebor would have only dwarrow that wanted to be there. Thorin and his family were determined to made the Mountain a home and see it flourish.

Nori set off to find the soon-to-be-crowned King, to pass along what his ears and spies had heard. Then he planned to spend the evening with his beautiful little Zeri.

 

 Sindarin = (S)           Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

binjabl = brainless (K)

lulkhel = fool of fools, idiot of idiots (K)

ê-Uzbad = my King (K)

arthâkh = boss (slang version lit. trans = direct!) (K)

Chocks(*) = a mining term for a temporary roof support (K)

Urzamu-u-Mahal = Believer of Mahal (K)

Ijbilabî = agree! (K)

Ugbash = treasurer (K)

 

Note: A truth-seeker is exactly what is sounds like. Tolban has taken being a Truth-Seeker, as a Craft similar to being a lawyer, but no defence or prosecution, only truth.

 

Chapter Text

Negotiations and Eggs

 

For all that the six of them had agreed to help each other, a contract was difficult to finalise. To provide labour, materials, food, accommodation, military assistance and training. These were the main areas of concern, but hammering out the details? That was a proverbial pain in the hobbit’s butt.

Hobbits, Men, Elves, Dwarrow and the Animals of the Beornings.

 

Bilbo knew what the Hobbit’s wanted and what they could provide.

Thorin knew what the Dwarrow wanted and what they could provide.

Lendarion knew what the Elves wanted and what they could provide.

Bard knew what Dale needed and what it’s people could provide.

Braga knew what Laketown needed and what it’s people could provide.

Beorn knew what the animals needed and what they could provide.

 

Working out who provided what and when?

For a week now, the six had been behind closed doors, trying to sort out the finer details. Bilbo was sure that Alatar and Pallando were regretting offering to chair their meetings. From breakfast to supper the six had negotiated, bartered, bargained and swapped of items.

Finally the hobbit had enough.

“Enough!” he yelled, not bothering to get to his feet.

Silence met him.

“That’s quite enough, thank you, gentlemen,”

“Bilb-”

Quiet. Now.” He waited until Thorin sat. While Thorin respected the hobbit, occasionally he needed to be reminded that Bilbo wasn’t the young oh-so respectable hobbit that he knew. “Food is the first priority. Yes?” The other five negotiators and the two mediators nodded.

“People will note how many hours they spend in gathering edible items, they’ll be in teams of five, to inhibit slacking off. There are six communities, so gathering should be in blocks of six hours. What they bring in will be divided by the amount of hours. One parcel will go to each community. The same will go for those providing materials, be it wood, stone or coal, or anything else. Hour for hour, gentlemen. For every hour that a person spends in preparing food, fishing, hunting or gathering, an hour will be provided by the allies in the same manner.” There were grumbles from the table.

“Gentlemen. We need to survive the winter, we need to rebuild homes, we need to face the future. None of you can do this alone. Yes. Possibly Lendarion’s people and those of Laketown can. Possibly. But together you are stronger.” Said Pallando.

“Bilbo’s ideas have merit.” Added Alatar. “We also have the dragon eggs to think of.” He started.

“No.” both Bilbo and Thorin stopped the wizard before he could go any further.

“Let’s deal with one thing at a time, please.” Thorin continued.

“Ah…Very well, Thorin.” Said Alatar.

“Bilbo’s idea is a sound one.” The constable from Laketown said. “I vote we use that as a basis of exchange, but… only within ourselves. What I mean by that is, if a fisherman goes out for seven hours, then one parcel of the catch is his. He can sell it a dwarf who cut stone for seven hours and has an hour’s worth of stone available. Or he could sell it for plants, wood, meat or even for gold. An equal amount of hour’s worth.”

“So, we’ll need to determine what an hour’s value of gold is.” Said Lendarion.

“When you take into account the mining process, the smelting and forging process. Gloín seems to think that it breaks down to two gold coin an hour, in silver that’s 12 coins, in copper that’s 144 coins. Using the breakdown that one gold coin equals 6 silver coins and one silver coin equals 12 copper coins.”

“I like this.” Said Bard “Six hour shifts, but people can add extra hours. We’ll have to limit how many extra hours some can work.”

“Dwarrow shifts are usually eight hours.” Said Thorin.

“Hobbit’s work a ten hour day.” Said Bilbo.

“The fishermen of Laketown were limited to eight hours, too.” Added Bard.

“Elves also use a ten hour day.” Lendarion told them.

“My animals only hunted when they need to eat.” Said Beorn.

“Well.” Put in Alatar. “That make things simpler, doesn’t it? What say we have six hour shifts with the option of up to another three hours for personal barter? Beorn? We’ll get to the animals and their input in a moment. But first, what about travelling merchants and traders? Knowing of our needs and quite probably expecting desperation, they are likely to increase prices to extreme levels. How do we plan to deal it that?”

“I’d like to suggest that we have only two or three people from each settlement dealing with the traders. If someone wants something, they add to the dealer’s list the item, a description and how much they’re prepared to pay or the amount of hours they’re prepared to contribute. As Thorin and I discussed last night, if it’s an essential item, then Erebor will cover the cost. Basics like clothes, pots, pans and the like will be purchased en mass. We’ll have one person to deal with the traders for those type of things. It’s the more luxury items that people will have to contribute for.” Bilbo replied.

“I that, but I’d like to add that we have one place for the traders to set up their wares. That and I think that our dealers should work together when meeting them, particularly for the essentials.” Lendarion added.

“Where would you suggest?” asked Bard.

“There’s a cleared area outside the wall of Dale, on the south-east. It’s been a farmed area in the past, but we could use that for the moment. I know that Dale is a hike from Laketown and for the Elves, but I’m offering to store items and come spring to help with transport. We have some good strong ponies and a number of wagons, now that the caravans are coming.” Thorin replied.

Lendarion leant over and whispered with Braga for a minute before responding.

“That’s fine. The Halls of Eryn Galen and the houses of Laketown are the most established. Our needs are fewer.” The elf said.

“Those who lived in Laketown are free to come and collect any personal items from their homes. If you’ll help them with wagons, that is?” Braga added. Thorin nodded his agreeance.

“That’s decided, then?” Pallando asked. All those around the table nodded.

“Right. To the next item on our agenda. Master Beorn? I’ve been thinking about the animals too, their hunting that is. The only thing the Coalition can offer them, is homes and healing. Is it going to offend any species if we, for the purpose of this meeting, put all of them under one banner?”

“At this point, I doubt it, but that depends on the outcome.”

“Fair enough.” Responded Pallando. “I think what Alatar is getting at is? There’s not a lot the herbivore’s can do but the predator’s can provide meat, from outside your lands of course.”

“Ah. I understand now. Well. Let’s see. The birds can provide feathers for quills and down for pillows, plus some can gather hard to find herbs and plants. Most of them are prepared to give a couple of unfertilised eggs, some of the feral farm fowl will give fertilised eggs to start another flock. Larger plant eaters are prepared to give up their elderly for their skins and bones, at or near the point of death. The same with those with injuries that we cannot heal, or that after healing they still would not be able to tend to themselves. Deer and horses with broken limbs rarely heal well enough for release. I know that the meat would be tough, but it is still edible and we always loose the aged and weak over winter, they’ll give the bodies of those, too. Goats, sheep and cows are prepared to give a portion of their milk, as long as it doesn't deprive their young. Also there are some rabbits and goats that have extremely long fur and after the winter, they and the sheep are happy to give you their fur and fleeces for spinning and weaving. Rodents take no notice of any laws and will move into your grain stores if given a chance, Ferrets, Stoats and cats can keep them out and will require little more than the vermin they catch. Most of the canines won’t help, some of the wolves have already adopted your people and they are likely the only ones to keep in contact with the Mountain. The cats, however, are a very different story. Young Fíli and Bahîth. They have inspired many of the cats to try and find a ‘shiny’, as they’ve taken to calling people, of their own. While most are feral domestic cats, there are a couple of Caracal and a Lynx that have chosen a ‘shiny’. There are birds of prey that are happy to bring excess game, in exchange for new hunting grounds. The Mountain has always bee off limits to hunting animals, because of the dragon. For birds and smaller land based animals, the chance to live and hunt on the Mountain, having to give up a portion of their kill is a minor concern. More are concerned with what will the dragon eat?” It was the most Beorn had ever had to say, even when the Company were staying with him.

“Master Beorn. You may assure the animals that Smaug and her kits will not eat them. Alatar and I have spoken with the Eagles of Manwë and they have offered to hunt for her until the eggs hatch at the very least and quite probably for longer. They will hunt the wild cattle to the East and the wild sheep and mountain goats to the North. They have offered this for two reasons. Firstly in thanks for the care the Mountain is giving to their injured and secondly, they know how much she will not wish to leave her eggs and once they hatch, they’re going to be voracious little eaters for the first week or two.”

“Alright. That’s decided, then, gentlemen?” Alatar asked. When the group nodded, he continued. “So. Now all we have left is the military aid. Any ideas?”

“I have thought on this much and have a suggestion.” Thorin responded.

“Go ahead.” Alatar urged.

“If the coalition agrees not to declare war on each other, then we all will come to the aid of any one in distress. If Orcs or goblins attack Lendarion, then Bard, Braga and I will come to his aid. But if one of us declares war on another, then the four not involved will determine the reason behind this and the one at fault will no longer be a member of the coalition, but his people will be given the chance to move to another’s territory. This is so that in the unlikely event of a leader becoming a tyrant his people do not have to suffer. Plus a clause that any person may take a valid concern in regards to their leader to any coalition leader. If found to be in breach of coalition agreements or to abusing his power, that leader can be removed from his position if the other five leaders vote unanimously to do so. They must then, again unanimously, chose his successor. But… If any person, not matter who they are bring a charge against another, any other, that is known to be false and is proven to be false, the falsifier will be banished by all members of the coalition. A charge brought against another where there is genuine concern by the charger will be dealt with in earnest. Punishments will be issued in accordance with the land in which the crime took place. As an example, the late Master of Laketown threatened a child within Erebor, this is a death sentence. He declared no regret or entered any excuse for such behaviour and indeed, confessed that he’d frequently sent another to fetch a child for him and that he’d changed shifts for the constables to ensure that he had no opposition. He was executed. If a dwarf entered Lendarion’s land and cut down a tree that was denied him, he would suffer whatever punishment the elves deemed appropriate to the crime.”

“Oh, very nice, Thorin.” Lendarion all but purred. “That puts us all at the same level. And holds all of us accountable to each other. We must support each other or be removed. Very nice, indeed. I agree to this.”

Beorn simply nodded.

Braga and Bard exchanged glances and they too, nodded. This was better for them than they’d expected, but the dwarf King was showing himself to be a just and honest negotiator.

“I told you last night, Thorin. I think it’s the best deal for all of us. Of course, I agree.” The hobbit grumbled.

“Very well. I’ll have contracts ready for signatures by the end of the day. One each, plus one for the White Council.”

“Thank you, Pallando.” Said Alatar. “Now, gentlemen. Is there anything else that we need to discuss today?”

“I have a question.” Beorn said.

Nearly everyone blinked, surprised. The Shape-shifter rarely spoke at these meeting and today he’s spoken more than at all their other meetings put together.

“Go ahead, Master Beorn.” Alatar encouraged.

“That Battle Boar that your dwarf Daín left?” Beorn was met with differing reactions. Bilbo started to giggle while Thorin groaned. Lendarion and Bard made strangled noises, like someone trying not to laugh. Braga looked confused.

“What of the boar, Master Beorn?” asked Alatar, he, too, looked confused.

“Well… why did he leave it here?”

“He had no choice, Beorn. The ibsên-daftzagar took one look at Smaug and refused to move. It stays at with the eggs at all times.” Thorin grumped.

“What does ‘ib-sen-daft-sager’ mean?” Bard asked. Bilbo grinned widely.

“It’s ‘ibsên-daftzagar’ and it means walking-bacon. Daín threatened to turn it into bacon when it refused to leave the treasury for more than a few minutes at a time. Prior to that the poor beast was named ‘Bubbles’. I think it prefers ibsên-daftzagar over Bubbles.” The hobbit giggled as he spoke. He was meet with snickers.

“Bubbles?” Beorn’s eyebrows rose. “”Yes, I think Walking Bacon is better than Bubbles.”

“Anything is better than Bubbles.” Bard added.

“So, it’s staying, then?” Beorn questioned.

“Unfortunately, yes. At least until the eggs are hatched and then? Well, we’ll see what happens.”

“When will the eggs hatch?” asked Braga, curious.

“We’re not really sure. According to the guidebooks that Galadriel and Elrond furnished Bilbo and Ori with, and the one sent from Rohan, by Erestor, they should already have hatched. Pre-cursed dragons only incubate their eggs for one turn of the moon, 28 days. But Smaug says that the cursed dragon eggs take a full year to mature. Pallando, Alatar and Radagast think guess it’ll somewhere about the middle, so at present we’re planning on about six months. Late spring to early summer.”

“How many are there? Do you know?”

“We’ve counted 18. Smaug tells us that there will be 11 females and 7 males.” Thorin was the one she talked to the most.

“How do you tell the difference?” Asked Lendarion.

“Apparently the eggs mottled with one colour are the females and those with two colours are male. In the wild or natural state, there should be an equal distribution and while that’s not what we’ve got, we are fairly close.”

“But they’re all multi-coloured.” Braga put in.

“No, Braga, they’re not. Most are either marbled blues or marbled reds. The few that have marbling of both blue and red are the males. They’re also the smaller eggs, too. Smaug says the males are the protectors, the fighters and the females the guardians.”

“Ah. That makes sense. What are you going to do with them? Are you going to keep them all here?”

“No. We promised Smaug that all of them would have good homes. Homes they can guard and protect, families to watch over. We’ve spent a lot of time with her trying to work this out.”

“And did you?”

“Nearly… we’ve decided on homes for 17 of them, but there’s one female, we’ve yet to allocate.”

“So… where are they going?” asked Alatar.

“Five of the males are staying here. Kíli and Bilbo will each be having one. As will Gloín, he’s taken on the position of Master of the Coin and we feel that having a dragon in the treasury is a deterrent to theft. Nori is our Spy Master and he has a young daughter, Bilbo suggested that when Nori’s not available a dragon would be a good substitute. The fifth will go to Gimli and Legolas. Eventually they will settle the Glittering caves behind Helm’s Deep in Rohan, but before they settle there, they have a fair amount of travelling to do. Bilbo will explain about that, later, maybe after lunch. The other two males will be going to Minas Tirith and Rohan, one to protect the line of the steward and the other to protect the royal house of Edoras.” Thorin answered.

“And the females? What of them?”

“Ah, now. The females are going all over. Yes, most are staying here. One for Fíli as heir and another for Frerin. Gloín’s daughter, Gimris, has found her One, but as yet is not old enough to Court, but like Gimli, she will end up in the Glittering caves. Strangely enough Dwalin and Ori asked for a female, don’t ask why, but Smaug agreed, so that’s what they get. Óin’s betrothed Mírtja requested a female, as she’s going to be opening a crèche for busy mothers. Bard, we’re offering one to you, well, to your family, to be a guardian to the line of Girion, now and in the future.” Thorin grinned as Bard groaned.

“So, Tilda gets a dragon, just like she wanted.” The hobbit put in. Braga and Lendarion laughed gently as the tragic expression on Bard’s face.

“Oh, don’t you laugh, Lendarion. One’s going home with you, too.” The hobbit snarked at the elf. Braga laughed harder at that.

“Yeah, we thought about sending one to Laketown, too, Braga. So, get over your humour or we just might.” The hobbit continued to grumble. Not even that could stop the Man’s laughter at Bard.

“One is going to a very young boy, his father was the last chief of the Dunedain. One day this lad, Estel, will become Aragorn, King of Gondor and Arnor. Another goes to Dol Amroth to guard their line. That brings us down to two females. There’s a young dwarrow lad, cousin to Fíli and Kíli, on their father’s side. Tláli. He was involved in a serious accident as a youngster barely into his twenties. He suffered severe head injuries and is now… damaged. Physically, he’s much the same age as Kíli, but mentally? He’s still a 22 year old dwarfling. He’s been working hard with Kíli and Tauriel in the Lavan-Cardh, Tauriel says that he calms the animals with his very presence. The first thing I thought of when told by Alatar and Pallando that dragons were the guardians of Arda, was of Tláli. A guardian would give him more independence and freedom, he wouldn’t need someone with him at all times, anymore. When I told the Company of Smaug and her eggs, I said then, that I would match Tláli with one. The last female? Yeah. We’re still thinking on that one.” Thorin said.

“What are your options? Perhaps we can help.” Bard asked.

“Right now we can’t decide between Braga, Elrond in Rivendell, the regent of Thorin’s Halls in the Blue Mountains and the Hobbit Temple-Smial, here, outside Dale.” Bilbo answered.

"It's no good sending one with me." Braga commented. "My wife and I have no children, there's only the two of us."

“Why is it so hard? Elrond is a good ally.” Commented Beorn.

“Elrond doesn’t want one, he plans on sailing to the Undying Lands in the next century and with the twins staying here, the dragon won’t get to know them well enough to bond. His daughter Arwen is unsuitable. Don’t tell Elrond but in sixty years or so, she’s going to marry young Aragorn. We thought about the Twins, but they are so focused on each other that a dragon could easily be overlooked, apparently those siblings that share a single soul never marry or have children.”

“Aragorn? But… the age difference. Isn’t Aragorn a human?” Bard asked, slightly alarmed.

“Aragorn’s one of the last Dunedain. The long lived. Not that it matters, once the dragons bonds with him and Arwen, they’ll have the same lifespan. It’s part of the individual bonding. Now, don’t fret Bard, you’ll be bonding your Line to the dragon, not yourself. It won’t change your lifespan at all.” Bilbo replied. The man had a near panicked look on his face.

“And the regent in the blue mountains?”

“Well, to be honest, I don’t like him all that much. I mean, as a regent he does the job, but there’s no real connection there, between him and the other dwarrow or him and I.” Thorin answered.

“Alright. What about the Temple-Smial?”

“Tari’s a vegetarian. I don’t know how she’ll go with handling raw meat to feed a dragon kit.” Bilbo replied.

“Bilbo. That is the weakest excuse I have ever heard of. If that’s the only reason you have against her, I’ll see Tilda is there at feeding times to help.”

“See. I told that was a lousy reason. Right the last female goes to the Temple-Smial. Good work, Bard, he wouldn’t hear that from me.” Thorin didn’t give Bilbo a chance to object.

“Thorin? Can you explain a little about the bonding process?” Lendarion asked.

“Hmm… that’s going to take some time. How about we get into that after lunch. I can hear someone’s tummy growling.” Thorin grinned as he nudged Bilbo playfully.

“Yes, please.” The hobbit answered. “We’ll bring Kíli, too. He’s been studying the guidebooks we have, every chance he gets.”

“Balin’s quite impressed. He’s never been quite convinced that Kíli knew how to read.” Thorin laughed.

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

 

ibsên-daftzagar = walking-bacon (K)

Lavan-Cardh = animal building (S)

 

Chapter Text

Bondings and Plans

 

Kíli came rushing into the meeting room just as everyone was taking their seats.

“Sorry, I’m late. Smaug wanted some help turning her eggs.” He said, hurrying over to greet Thorin and Bilbo. “Hey, Bard? Tilda and Sigrid are with Tauriel, they’re taking the Eagle, Dorolkin, out to get some flight-muscle exercise. Nothing off the ground, just, the Eagle’s too big to stretch his wings out properly inside the tents.” He assured the Man.

“Ah. I wondered why the girls were laying out rope.” Bard answered.

“Yep. They got together with Primula and Eglantine and did a whole heap of washing yesterday. I think they plan to use Dorolkin to dry it. Who knows, maybe it’ll work. Did you know that hobbits have these wooden pegs they use for keeping their laundry on the ropes? Fíli and Uncle Frerin are still not allowed up and about for very long, so they’ve started making these ‘pegs’. Amad and the other ladies really like the idea. I wonder where it came from? Bilbo? Any idea?” Kíli chattered away.

“Talk to Drogo about it. He can tell you everything you never wanted to know about them.” Bilbo advised.

“Oh, alright. Ah…Bilbo?”

“Yes, Kíli?”

“Why am I here?” The young dwarf asked hesitantly. “I mean, Balin said Uncle Thorin wanted me here. But why?”

“Thorin!” Bilbo sighed.

“What? I told Balin to ask Kíli to come and tell Bard, Braga and Lendarion about the bonding.” Thorin defended himself.

“That’s not what he said to me.” Kíli told him.

“What, exactly, did he say?”

“All he said was; ‘Thorin wants you to attend the meeting with him this afternoon’ and left in the direction of the store-rooms. Nothing else, at all.” Kíli informed him.

“Blast it. I will be so glad when the next caravan arrives and his assistant Tevrin gets here.” Thorin muttered. “Alright, lad. Sorry to spring this on you, but… Lendarion and Bard, and probably Braga, too, want to know about dragon bonding. Are you right to talk about that now?”

“Oh, is that all? Sure, Uncle, no problems. Ah? I’m going to start at the beginning. Okay?” The young dwarf asked, taking a seat at the opposite side of the round-ish, slight ovular table. He looked at each person from his Uncle on his left, past Bilbo, Lendarion, Alatar, Pallando, Beorn and Bard to Braga on his right. Each of them nodded as he made eye contact.

“Right, here goes. When dealing with Dragons there are two types of Bonding. Bonding to the Line, the Bloodline that is, and Personal Bonding.

Personal Bonding is like it sounds. Personal bonding can be done with one or more people. It involves blood from each person being introduced to the bloodstream of the dragon and the dragon’s saliva being introduced into the person’s, or people’s bloodstream.

For Line Bonding there needs to be the blood of at least two generations. Same again with the blood and saliva as for Personal Bonding.

Both types of bonding needs to happen once a day for six days or until the dragon seeks to stay with a bonded person overnight. Then once more on the next day and the bonding will be complete. For the Bloodline Bonding? Same again, also, for best effect, it’s recommended that each person of a new generation be blooded to the dragon. One person in each generation will be chosen by the dragon as it’s primary companion, the dragon will want to remain as close to that person as possible. Sleep with them, eat with them, bathe with them, etc. It will taper off as the kit gets older.

A nice side effect of the bonding is that the saliva of dragons renders people free of any chance of falling to Gold Sickness. From what the book that Erestor sent from Rohan says, once a person is bonded to a dragon, they fall ill less often. In effect their overall health improves. They’re less likely to suffer from common ailments, they heal from injuries faster and they tend to live longer.

With those Personally Bound to a dragon, their lifespans are much the same as the dragon’s. Now with natural dragons that’s about 300 years, but with a Cursed dragon, it’s supposed to be about 2000 years. What it is for Smaug? We have no idea, she’s already over 1000, well… just. For her kits? We don’t really know. Smaug feels that her kits will fall somewhere between her current age, as the age when the curse was broken and what should be natural for them. Radagast thinks that as her eggs are roughly halfway in size between a natural egg and a cursed egg, that if we estimate somewhere about the middle, we’re likely to be close. For those Personally Binding with a dragon, and in this room there’s only Thorin, Bilbo and I doing that, we’re suggesting that 500-600 years could be the expected lifespan. But, in all honesty? We just don’t know for certain.

Now for those that are of a Line Bonded to a dragon, we do know. You will live the natural lifespan of your species, plus half again. Bard, for Men the lifespan is about 100 years. Right?” The Man nodded in response to Kíli’s comment. “So, what that will mean for you, is that barring accidents and the like, you will live to about 150. It depends a little on the family line, some family bloodlines already live longer than others. What it doesn’t mean is that you will age at the same rate you are now. Instead your body will age slower, once it has matured. It doesn’t affect maturity. Tilda, Sigrid and Bain won’t be stuck as children for another 20 or 30 years, they will mature as normal for a Man and once mature, they will age slower. That’s all.

Lendarion. For elves and other immortals, and don’t ask me about the other immortals, it doesn’t say anything in Eärendil’s book, other than Line Binding with a dragon will not change your lifespan. If you’re mean to be immortal then you’ll stay immortal. But… Personal Binding will change that. Personal Binding with a dragon will be the same no matter the species, Man, Elf, Dwarf or Hobbit, all will live about the same. Lendarion…, I should tell you that your brother Legolas and Gimli both intend to Personally Bind to a dragon, as do Tauriel and I. We know this will shorten their lives considerably, but Galadriel has said that Tauriel and I are destined to be Heart Bonds, when her hearts stops, so will mine and vice versa. While Gimli and Legolas have already Soul Bonded, so even in death, they won’t be separated.” Kíli sank back in his seat and reached for a goblet on the table, draining it in one draught. “Anything else you want to know about it?”

Bard looked a little less apprehensive, now that he knew more. Braga and Lendarion? Not so much.

“And the actual Binding? How does that happen? I mean what actions are taken?” Braga asked, quietly.

“Bard, you were there when we did something similar to this. Because we didn’t introduce our blood into hers, there was no bonding. What will happen is much the same. Elladan and Elrohir will coat the bonding person’s forearm in their magically numbing goop and let it do it’s work. Then once the forearm is numb, it’s washed, carefully, and Elladan will hold the arm and use the bonding dragon’s fang to make a slice down the arm. Elrohir will make a similar sized slice into the dragon’s tongue as quickly as possible. Then the slice on the tongue and the slice on the arm are brought together and held there for, according Gavali Durin, who wrote or compiled the guidebooks we’re using, half a minute. Or until the person feels their arm tingle and dragon’s tongue does the same. Once that happens, regardless of time, the wounds can be treated. The slices will heal overnight and will leave no scars. Anything else?”

“What about the hatching? What are we supposed to do then?” Lendarion looked a little pale.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got you covered. Galadriel and Elrond gave Bilbo and Ori guidebooks. We’ve, Ori, Tauriel and I that is, have been spending every minute we can on copying them. we’ve got enough of the ‘hatching and first year’ books, but we’re still a few down on the ‘overview and care’ and the others. If we’re right about the eggs not hatching until May, we should have enough time to get the other copies done.

For the most part, all the kits will do for the first week or two is eat and sleep, much like any newborn. Bonding can happen on any full moon after their appetite stabilises. For the kits that are leaving the area, someone from here will take them to their new homes and stay until their Bonding is complete. At this point, we’re not sure just who will be going with them.” Kíli reassured the elf and the two Men.

“Elrond will be leaving us tomorrow, Meneldor, an Eagle of Lord Gwaihir’s will be taking him back to Rivendell. Lord Gwaihir has assigned Meneldor to bring Elrond, Estel – Aragorn - and Elrond’s daughter, Lady Arwen, back here, either in the last week of April or when we send them word of an imminent hatching.” Thorin informed them.

“Erestor and Glorfindel have already been to Rohan and are heading for Minas Tirith, they’ll stay there for the winter before heading west to Dol Amroth.” Added Bilbo.

“Why? I don’t understand why you’re involving these other nations.” Said Bard.

Kíli and Thorin turned to Bilbo.

“This is your plan, Bilbo, you tell them.” Thorin said.

“Right. Has everyone got a drink? This is going to take a while.” The hobbit warned them.

“We’re all good, Bilbo. Just tell us. Please?” Bard was beginning to be worried. All he wanted was to get settled with his children and start living again.

“Alright. All of you know my story. Yes? Just checking. All of you know what happened after I left the One Ring for my adopted nephew, and no Lendarion, I haven’t told you his name, there is a reason for that. So, my boy had to cart the Ring from Bag End to Mordor. All the while, the rest of Arda is preparing for war. The greatest war since the fall of Sauron, because of course, that’s who they’re up against. The poor lad is stabbed by a Morgol blade before he even gets to Rivendell. He and his companions face all sorts of problems, they loose Gandalf in Khazad-dûm to a Balrog. They visit Lothlorien before being split up. Merry and Pip end up in Isengard, with Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn chasing them all across Rohan and into Fangorn Forest. Gandalf comes back from the dead and takes the three hunters to Rohan and sends them on to Helm’s deep, where he meets up with them later. From there Gandalf takes Pip to Minas Tirith, the other three head to Harrowdale and the Rohirrum Mustering, where Elrond tells Aragorn to take the paths of the Dead, Gimli and Legolas following him, as always. My lad and his faithful Sam are not alone now, Gollum is with them and by this time they’re in Ithilien and meet the son of the Steward, who they thought a ranger, he takes them by force to Osgiliath where the Nazgûl and the Ring almost break my lad, only Sam saves him. The young Steward frees them and they head east again. Merry rides with the Rohirrum to join the battle at fields of Pelennor, hiding with a disguised princess of Rohan, these two are responsible for killing the witch-king, leader of the Nazgûl. There’s fighting inside and outside the city when the three hunters turn up with ship loads of dead and that pretty much is the end of that battle. Aragorn and his advisors decide to mount an offensive on the Black Gates at Morannon, while Sam and my lad are still in Mordor. There’s a fight drawing the attention of Sauron to the Gates when Gollum takes the ring to his death. There’s a tussle between him and my lad, resulting in Gollum falling into the molten core of the mountain and melting the Ring. When the Eagles and Gandalf find them, my lad’s lost a finger and they both are nearly dead from heat, dehydration and starvation. Sam recovered fine, but my lad? Neither he nor I ever really recovered from carrying that poisonous thing, he finally found peace in the Undying Lands, but me? I missed my dwarf too much. When I was given the chance to right all the wrongs that the two wars created, I jumped at it, plus I got my dwarf back, so that was good.”

Kíli interrupted with a groan.

“Uncle Bilbo, please stop. No soppiness, please. We’re trying to be serious here.”

“No, Kíli, I am being serious. If I hadn’t got my dwarf back, I might not have done this, the risk was so high.” The hobbit sighed. “So many alliances were formed in those battles. Alliances that aren’t likely to happen now, unless someone, and that someone is us, sees to it. I remember Gimli telling me that Aragorn fought alongside Thengel of Rohan at one point and at another was a guard in Minas Tirith. He was in his eighties when the fellowship was formed, by looked like a Man in his prime. We need to form these connections again. Thengel is a prince in Rohan right now, so it’s a good time to have Aragorn start his training. Some time in all these places with these people will give him a good grounding in what being a King of Men is really about. Plus it will give the other young princes a connection to him, tie those alliances even closer.”

“But that’s not all you’re suggesting is it, my hobbit?” Thorin asked.

“Well, no, not really. I want to set up a system where the young princes are fostered for a year or two in each other’s kingdoms. Not just their kingdoms either. I want all of them to spend time in Rivendell, in the north as rangers, in Rohan with the Riddermark , in Ithilien as rangers, in Gondor with the Tower Guard, in Lothlorien with Galadriel and here in Erebor with us. I want them bound together, not just as part of an alliance but because they care about each other and the other’s lands. I want them to be Shield-Brothers.” Bilbo replied.

“Ah… Now that makes more sense.” Said Bard.

“Indeed, it does.” Thorin put in. “It’s not just about politics, it’s also about regaining what they lost. While most of them may not know it, Gimli and Legolas do and they miss the bonds formed during that time. My gentle-hobbit wants all those hurt before to live full and happy lives this time. And it is good politics, too.”

Braga suddenly leant forward and spoke.

“What about this One Ring? Are you talking about the Ring of Sauron? That One Ring?”

“Yes, Braga. That’s the it.” Bilbo answered.

“Where is it? What’s going to happen to it?”

“Bilbo has the Ring in a specially shielded pouch, designed by the Valar for that purpose. As for what’s going to happen to it? Galadriel and her elves are staying for the winter and come spring they’ll all head back to Lothlorien. Elrond, as we said earlier, leaves tomorrow, but will be back in the spring for the Hatching and after young Estel – Aragorn – has Bonded with his dragon, they will travel with us to Lothlorien. We’ll continue on to Rohan and Minas Tirith, while the White Council meets and decides what they want to do with the Ring.”

“But… it’s so evil, how can you tolerate it near you?” Braga asked.

“The pouch it’s in is covered with a Prayer of Holding, from each of the seven Valar Lords, this blocks it. Right now it’s useless, it master can’t see it, can’t feel it, can’t sense it and it can’t influence anyone, can’t touch anyone’s mind. Nothing. It’s just a waste of space. Nothing more.” Bilbo assured those gathered at the table. “Don’t stress on it, it’ll get dealt with.”

“Who’s going? To take the dragons to Rohan and Minas Tirith, I mean?” asked Alatar. It was the first thing he’d had to say since lunchtime.

“Well, besides Bilbo and Thorin? No idea yet.” Replied Kíli. “Fíli will be Regent for them, Thráin and Balin will be helping him. Tauriel and I will probably go, we’re the closest to animal healers we have and by the time we get there we’ll have several months experience dealing with the kits. Legolas and Gimli also, Bilbo wants them to start training the young Steward in Minas Tirith. Other than that…? Let’s wait until we need to, to decide that, please? There’s so much to do in the mean time that, it’s kind of unimportant just yet.”

“Kíli’s right. Erebor’s Gates aren’t ready yet, nor are the walls of Dale. Housing is slowly progressing. Living and repairing should come first. At least for the moment.” Said Bard.

“We have all winter to work on housing within the Mountain and Dale. Other things just have to wait. We can only plan so far. Until things start happening we can only guess how long it will take and how hard it will be. We’ve got no inkling of how many traders and merchants are coming, so planning for them is a little vague. We do have another caravan coming from the Blue Mountains before Yule, that’ll be another 112 dwarrow to add to our workforce.” Thorin consoled them.

“And the dwarrow that Galadriel found in Dol Guldur are finally here, they’re all progressing well. Elrond’s happy that even the worst of them will recover, if not completely, then certainly enough to be able to contribute. At present, there’s nearly 20 of them working with Gloín in the treasury, the children fill buckets with coins, gems and items and the dwarrow are sorting it, counting it and documenting any unusual items. There’s another 10 helping in the kitchens and the crèche that Mírtja set up. All in all, there’s probably less than 10 that are still needing medical attention.” Bilbo’s new cheered everyone in the room.

“Is that it? Do we have anything else we have to discuss today? I, for one would like to spend some time with my family. What about you Braga? Lendarion? Please, someone, tell me that’s it for a few days.” Bard begged.

“I suggest we have a weekly meeting until the winter is over, then we can drop that down to a monthly one. Any objections? No? Good. Bard? That’s it for a few days.”

Pallando was met with a round of sighs from all at the table.

Yes!” Was all bard said.

 

 

Chapter Text

Unexpected Bondings and the trials of a Smart Kit

 

The morning had started off so good.

In retrospect, probably too good. Bright sunshine filtered down through the lukhûd-hezars, bathing the inside of the Mountain in light. A quiet first breakfast with his hobbit and a happy, but noisy second breakfast with the rest of the family and Company, gave Thorin a false sense of pleasant anticipation.

The first indication of issues, was Kíli running in just minutes after finishing breakfast, to tell Thorin and Bilbo that Smaug said that the eggs were starting to shake. When that happened there were only hours, between 6-10, before the eggs hatched.

The next was Mírtja asking for help to find Nori’s daughter, Zeri and Lendarion’s daughter, Senaria. The two were turning out to be explorers of a the type to make most parents shudder in fear and Lendarion did so on a daily basis, Nori, however, he just suggested they take some chalk with them to mark their passage to find their way home.

Sending Fíli and Frerin to welcome the few guest that weren’t staying in the Mountain, Thorin and Bilbo joined the searchers. An hour later, the two girls were found. Two father’s were growled at by Mírtja and by just about everyone else. The girls were where they were supposed to be, for a change, in Nori’s rooms.

Then there was the numbing lotion. Somehow and no-one’s admitting how, instead of almost clear, it’s bright, bright purple.

Then it was the numbing lotion, again. When washed off, it stained, so there were quite a few dwarrow wandering around with purple forearms.

And now this?

Thorin wasn’t sure who to yell at.

The Bonding ceremony was supposed to Bond Smaug with the Line of Durin, but somehow and again, no-one’s admitting how, what happened is that Smaug has Bonded with Thorin and Bilbo and with the Line of Durin.

Later Elrond and Alatar speculated that it was the order of the bonding that caused the problem.

First Thorin’s arm was sliced. Then Bilbo’s. Alatar and Elrond worked out that at this point that meant that Smaug was Bonded to them Personally. But then Thorin called Fíli up to have his arm sliced, followed by Kíli, Frerin, Thráin and Dís.

At this point, three generations of the same Bloodline cause the Personal Bond to expand to a Line Bond, which was the intended Bond for Smaug, but it wasn’t until the Urzamu-u-Mahal spoke up, that anyone realised that the priest of Mahal could ‘see’ the Bond. The priest called a halt to proceedings before anyone had any idea that there might be a problem. When Thorin questioned the priest, he said that he could ‘see’ the Bond forming between the line of Durin and the dragon. Thorin was initially pleased about this until the priest said that the Bond was different and not as strong as the Bond between Thorin, Bilbo and the dragon. That was where the problem lay.

Thorin never intended to Personally Bond himself with the dragon, let alone with Bilbo and the dragon. The priest said that the Bond between the three of them was bright and strong, whereas the Bond to the Line was softer, more subtle. Then he knocked the breath from Thorin by stating that the Bond between Thorin and Bilbo was as strong as any Marriage Bond ordained by Mahal.

Kíli and Ori were sent scrambling for the guidebooks, to see if there was anything in them about this. It took the two only minutes to find the relevant passage.

‘When both a Personal and a Line Bond are in place, the Personal Bond will always be the stronger bond. If two unrelated people Bond with a dragon, this will have the same impact on the two people as a Soul Bond would. The Line Bond is still in effect, but won’t take precedence until the Personal Bond is severed by the death of the Dragon’s Bonded person or persons.’

In essence, by putting Bilbo before a Durin, Thorin had basically married him by way of dragon Bond.

Bilbo found it entertaining, after all their wedding was set for the first day of summer, just two weeks away. But Thorin and Dís? Not so much.

At least the priest stopped them before they started to include non-Durin’s, that would have messed everything up and changed the Bond to who-knows-what. No-one wanted that.

From that point on, those swearing fealty to Thorin, did it the old fashioned way. Drawing their blood and swearing by Mahal to follow Thorin and abide by his laws, to care for his people, to work for the good of the Mountain and to answer when Thorin called them arms. They would recognise Fíli and Kíli as his Heirs and that they ruled in his absence. They recognised Bilbo as his Consort and to acknowledge his right to rule alongside Thorin.

 

One of the first things Thorin intended to do as soon as the celebration feast was over was to ditch the crown, the wing shaped panels of the raven-crown’s fore-piece made from gold, obsidian and black tourmaline was the most uncomfortable thing he’d ever worn. Panels pushed in on his temples and having to wear it for hours on end gave him a headache of epic proportions. Maybe he could ask Smaug to ‘accidentally’ knock it from it’s pedestal and crush it.

Surely, she’d consider it, now that they were Bonded?

He’d just decided that enough was enough, that it was time to use whatever excuse he could come up with, to leave this feast early, when Gimli’s young sister, Gimris, entered the Hall, unobtrusively she made her way to the King’s table.

“Cousin Thorin?” It had taken weeks, and Thorin refusing to answer to anything else, for the dwarrowdam to call him by his name and not his title.

“Yes, Gimris?”

“It’s the eggs. They’re cracking. Smaug says for you to come. Right now. You and all those bonding with the kits. Mírtja’s sent children to fetch Rosemary, Mother and Sanja.” These three women would be amongst those tending to the kits going to Rohan, Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth. “Shall I tell Lord Elrond? And the others in the Company?”

“No, Gimris. You go back to the treasury and tend your kit. Bilbo, will you alert Elrond? I’ll tell the Company. Off you go, Gimris, hurry now.” Thorin directed the lass and reached for Bilbo’s hand, gave it a squeeze before giving the hobbit a little shove in the direction of the stairs.

The dwarf King stood and made his way down the length of the table to where the Company sat. He quietly spoke with each of those who were bonding with a kit.

Ori, Fíli, Kíli and Frerin looked excited and were up and out of their chairs faster than anyone else at the table could react. Close on their heels were Bard, Elrond, Lendarion and Nori, the children were with Mírtja in the treasury already. Dís had overheard Gimris and had collected Dwalin, Gloín and Óin, the latter to support his betrothed as her kit hatched. Thorin started to the stairs and stopped, he stepped back to Dori and indicated for him to walk with Thorin, as soon as they were out of sight of the Great Hall, Thorin eased the painful crown from aching head and handed it and his heavy formal cloak to Dori, asking him to put them out of sight.

The King rubbed his temples as he strode to the treasury. He was met with a slightly confusing sight, each egg was in a basket and each basket had two or three people clustered around it, a pot of finely diced meat, a bowl and jug of milk at their side. Each group had moved their basket apart from the others, no-one wanted the kits to fight over their first meal, not when there was plenty for each of them. Spread out, the 18 little groups were taking up much of the floor space of the treasury, Bilbo was the only one to have not moved away from the large form of the kit’s mother. In fact Bilbo sat between Smaug’s front legs with the basket held securely by her huge clawed feet.

Making his way past many groups he paused often to whisper words of encouragement to those huddled over rocking eggs, some with large cracks and others with faint, barely visible lines fracturing the shells. Settling beside Bilbo, Thorin found that due to Smaug’s size and location, he had a clear view of each kit as it broke free of it’s shell.

Once a bonded was nominated and Smaug approved, she spent hours flitting over her eggs to choose the right egg for the right person. She warned them that the smaller the egg, the smaller the dragon kit. The smaller the kit, the more aggressive it could be, none of the kits would be aggressive unless they felt their bonded person or chosen companion was threatened or someone tried to remove (steal) something without a bonded consent. The larger the kit the smarter it would be, the largest male was for Bilbo and it would also be the smartest male, the largest female, Smaug had decided was for Tláli, he would need her in the future. The females would be calmer anyway, the smallest female, even if she was smaller than a male, would still be calmer than the male.

Perhaps that was why Thorin and Smaug were not surprised that the smallest egg of all, a male, was the first to hatch. The shards of it’s shell broke and the little kit lifted his head for the first time. Nori and Zeri carefully wiped him down before he became aware of his hunger. Within a minute or two, the little, predominantly blue, kit had climbed from the basket and twined himself around Nori’s arm, the tip of his delicate tail coiled around Zeri’s ankle as she sat beside her father, holding out small cubes of meat. The kit would swing his head around to her hand and delicately, oh-so delicately take the meat from her fingers.

The next to emerge was another blue male, this time his shell fell away leaving him floundering on his back. Only the quick actions of Gloín and Bírzel, stopping the kit from belting his head on the flagstone floor, they gently righted him and wiped the egg fluid away. He curled himself up between Gloín’s legs, accepting meat from Bírzel, before trying bury his snout in the milk jug.

It took a few hours for most of the eggs to hatch, leaving just Tláli and Bilbo waiting. Kíli, Tauriel and their red male, sat near Smaug’s feet, the kit draped across their laps, his distended belly rocking with his snores. Fíli and Frerin leant on Smaug’s shoulder, their blue females draping over arms and legs, tails twitching as they slept.

Finally Dís made a sound of encouragement and handed Tláli a towel and helped him to clean the large blue kit. She was close to twice the size of Nori’s kit, she slid out of her shell and to the floor before fully cleaned. Dís held out pieces of meat as Tláli held the kit close to his chest. The young dwarf’s grin could have lit up the deepest, darkest of mines, it was so bright. Thorin knew that the kit would never want for attention.

A movement of Smaug’s head had Thorin returning his attention to the mottled blue egg in front of his…? Consort? It rocked and trembled before the shell split into pieces, leaving the kit laying curled in the bottom half of his shell. He raised his wedge-shaped head and looked at Bilbo. The hobbit wiped the kit clean as Thorin held a chunk of meat out, before the large male stretched his body out and climbed out of his basket. Bilbo crooned to him wordlessly as he stroked the kit’s soft scales, Thorin continuing to hold out meat. The bowl of meat nearly empty when the kit burped and swivelled his head, his nostrils flaring. Bilbo accepted a bowl of milk from Dwain and placed it on the floor, the kit’s eyes following the move, then there was a splash and the bowl held both milk and as much of the kit as would fit.

“Steady now, little one. You want to drink it, not bath in it.” The kit lifted it muzzle and crooned at Bilbo questioningly. “That’s right. Just drink it. There we go.” The hobbit murmured. “All finished?” The kit didn’t answer, instead it swarmed up the hobbit’s lap and onto his body, until it rested with it’s tail wrapped around the hobbit’s arm, body across his chest. Bilbo looked a sight, formal robes wrinkled and milk splattered, the young dragon pinning his right arm to his chest, a blue head resting on his right shoulder, the body and neck looping up his chest and around the back of the hobbit’s neck.

Thorin looked at the pair and spoke quietly.

“Bilbo?” he continued. “I don’t think the name you picked it going to work. His colour is all wrong for what you were going to call him.”

“Yeah.” The hobbit sighed in pleasure. “He’s not really plant toned is he?”

“No. He almost Durin blue, maybe you can call him Cobalt? Or Azure? Oh… Oh, I know. What about Steel? His ridge spines are steely blue, but his belly scales are nearly white, they’re so pale. His colouring is so, so strong. Is strong the right word, Bilbo? He goes from near white to Durin blue to dark steel blue for his spines.” Thorin was enchanted with the little one.

“This one will be trouble. What is the Khuzdul word for one who causes trouble, Thorin, King of mine?” the voice rumbled from above him. Smaug’s neck was arched, so she could look down at the three of them.

At the sound of his mother’s voice the little kit flung his head back and warbled at her, it was an unmistakable warning. Stay away from his people. Bilbo hushed the kit and reassured him with pets.

“Mischief makers are often called ‘rûkhuz’, it’ a broad term, the closest Westron translation is villain.”

“Then I suggest that is what you call him, then, for he will be like his father, my mate, Ancalagon. Always trouble.”

 

And trouble he was. By the end of his first week, Rûkhuz had lead a group of the other young kits, mostly male, Dwalin and Ori’s Kibrîn the only female among them, on a rampage through the treasury, wiping out any order Gloín had managed to instil. When ousted from there, it took them a few days until they found their way to the library and there they had a joyous time pushing books from shelves. The scholars chased them out and so they found themselves on the balconies above the marketplace that was still being used as a communal dining area and they played happily on the balconies and walkways for nearly a week. Today they’d been there since luncheon and by now, empty bellies were beginning to be felt.

A runner found Bilbo in the infirmary visiting some of the dwarrow injured when a retaining wall gave way under them on the south parapet extensions.

“Consort Bilbo! Consort Bilbo.” He called.

“Tímun, what have I told you about calling me that?”

“Sorry Mr Bilbo, but my Amad won’t let me call you that. she said I have to remember my manners.” Bombur’s youngest son, Pérri chirped.

“Hmm… well, I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with your mother, lad. Now, what seems to be the problem, hmm?”

“It’s the dragons, Mr Bilbo. They’re in the kitchen with Adad. He sent me to fetch you. He sent Morzy to find Master Dwalin or Master Ori. Fanah’s gone to get Miss Tauriel and Junah’s gone find Sanja and Rosemary. I spotted Prince Legolas on my way here and told him. Please, Mr Bilbo can you come?” The dwarfling was frantic, he kept reaching towards Bilbo, but pulling his has back before touching him. Bilbo took the lad’s hand and nodding to Óin, headed for the door.

“Of course, I’ll come. Lead on, young Master Pérri.” They went through various halls until they reached the kitchens. Gathered outside the entrance the dwarrow and the elf were hesitating, the loud noises coming from the interior putting them off. Bilbo pushed Dwalin and Tauriel aside to look in the door.

It was chaos. Pots everywhere, vegetables on the floor, plates shattered, spilt flour, spilt grains, Bombur’s staff backed into a corner by a hissing dragon kit.

“Rûkhuz!” Suddenly silence reigned in the kitchen, a pale blue head lifted and looked over a bench. The kit’s eyes widened when he saw Bilbo. “Rûkhuz, come here. Now.” Bilbo spoke calmly, but firmly. The kit slunk around the counter and hunkered down at Bilbo’s feet.

“What are you doing? Why are in the kitchen?” With each question the kit hunkered lower. “That’s enough. Go to your basket. Go. Now.” He pointed in the direction of the royal apartments before turning the others gathered at the door. “Collect your kits. They’re all grounded, they stay in their baskets until supper time.” With that Bilbo entered the kitchen, the other kits had heard Bilbo and were looking at him. As the others entered behind him, the kits danced over to their people, not understanding the trouble they were in. Dwalin picked up his Kibrîn, Rosemary had Anzar and Buzrul under her arms, Legolas grabbed Scout and Gloín had a hold of Khalthâ within seconds. Bilbo waved them off and turned to the kitchen staff.

“Oh, my.” They were covered in flour, bits of soup, pieces of vegetable and scraps of fruit. Bombur looked distraught. “Oh, dear. Don’t’ stress on it, Bombur, I’ll help you get cleaned up. Alright?” The dwarf nodded in relief.

For the next hour, Bilbo helped Bombur and his staff clean up the kitchen. Thankfully the meats and roasts were already in the ovens, as were the trays of vegetables. So at the very least, the kits’ games wouldn’t mean a hoard of angry, hungry dwarrow and guests.

Making his way to the rooms he now shared with Thorin and Rûkhuz, Bilbo decided to stop in at Thorin’s office and bring him up to date on the kit’s latest escapade. However when he opened the office door, it was to be met by the sight of Rûkhuz snuggling up to the King.

“Rûkhuz. I said ‘Basket’. Now. Go.” The hobbit snarled. The kit took one look at the angry face and raced for their rooms.

“Bilbo?! What the…? What was that for?” Thorin had not seen the hobbit be anything other than loving to the kit.

“How long has he been here with you?” Bilbo asked.

“About an hour, maybe a little more. Why?”

“In the last ten days that little horror and his mates destroyed the treasury, the library and now the kitchen. I told him to go to his basket an hour ago. It’s taken me, Bombur and his entire kitchen staff the last hour, just to clean up the mess. Thankfully they’d just put the roasts and trays for dinner in the ovens or we’d be out flat out trying to feed everyone tonight. All the males and Kibrîn are grounded until supper time. Rûkhuz will be staying in his basket until then. Got it?” Bilbo was a very unhappy hobbit and it showed.

“Ah… yes. I got it. Ah… will you stay with him, to make sure I mean?”

“Well, of course I will, Thorin. I’m angry with him, not cruel. I’ll stay will him, you’ll have to give my regrets at dinner to everyone, I’m not going to leave a distressed kit alone.” He ginned. “Not even for a meal.”

“I can do that, Bilbo. Don’t be too hard on him, he is just a babe.”

“Oh, I know. I don’t plan on being hard on him at all. But just like any other child he needs to learn the boundaries and this is one. He will stay in his basket until supper time and I’ll stay there to make sure of it. If you could bring a tray for us for dinner that would be most… that would be good. Thank you Thorin.” Bilbo put his arms around the sitting King’s neck and leant on him for a minute, just soaking up his calm strength.

Sighing the King’s consort left the King and made his way to their rooms. He opened the door and saw Rûkhuz curled up in his basket with the most woebegone expression on his muzzle. He looked at Bilbo pleadingly.

“No, little one. You’re staying in there. You know better, your mother assures us you’re smart enough to understand, so,… if you’re smart enough to understand, you’re smart enough to learn your boundaries. No playing in the sorted part of the treasury, no playing in the library and no going to the kitchen without Thorin or I. If you’re hungry, come find one of us, or one of your sib’s people and ask nicely, we’ll see that you get something to eat. Understand, Rûkhuz?” Bilbo asked.

The kit sat up in his basket, he crooned at Bilbo in a resigned tone, it was clear that he wasn’t happy at being stuck in his basket, but he was definitely much happier knowing that was the extent of his punishment. A week ago he’d leapt onto the table and attacked Thorin’s dinner once and been punished for it, he’d had his snout smacked (gently, Bilbo would add, after all one doesn’t hit toddlers hard, ever!), sent to his basket and (worst of all) been denied bath playtime. He liked bath-time, really liked it.

Sometimes Bilbo wondered if Rûkhuz wasn’t actually smarter than Smaug gave him credit for. True the kit couldn’t talk yet, but his croons were vastly communicative, he could say so much with them and his expressions were clear too, his eyes and muzzle were fabulously mobile. So it was clear that while he wasn’t happy, he wasn’t too distressed either.

For the kit, the only thing he wanted was to sleep with his people. His dwarf had ordered a new set of rooms to be made big enough to house Rûkhuz, his Amad, their dwarf and their hobbit. Amad told him that they and the un-Bonded kits would going on a journey to take the other kits to their Bonded people. Soon they would pack their pretties and Rûkhuz really hoped that Thorin take his new crown, well, really he wanted Thorin to make him a collar like his new crown, it was all feather shaped pieces that linked together, the links meant that it could fold flat, but he liked it best when Thorin let him wear in around his neck, it slipped and rattled and sparkled so nicely.

He liked sparklies, nearly as much as he liked bath-time.

 

 

 Sindarin = (S)                       Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)

 

Lukhûd-hezars = Light-Tubes (skylights) (K)

Rûkhuz = mischief maker (slightly ambiguous trans = villain) (K)

Kibrîn = beastie (Dwalin said “Well, she’s a sweet little beastie, isn’t she? And now she won’t answer to anything else.) (K)

Anzar = steward (Anzar’s going to Misas Tirith

Buzrul = of the plains (Buzrul’s going to Rohan)

Khalthâ = sky blue (Gloín’s not very imaginative, is he?)

 

Chapter Text

Antics and Escapades 

 

Bilbo leant back against Thorin and enjoyed the summer sun on his face. Light danced across his face, reflected by the scales of Rûkhuz’s tail, as it twitched. The kit was growing well and was, according to his mother, a fine young dragon. According to Bilbo and Thorin he was a menace with bouts of good behaviour.

Thank the Valar that Bilbo had so many years experience with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin and their pleading eyes, if he hadn’t, who knows what damage Rûkhuz may have caused. Ori, Frerin and Lendarion were the least successful, when it came to denying those eyes. Gloín, Nori, Gimli, Estel (Aragorn) and Elrond held out the longest.

There was no denying that the clutch of kits were making life interesting.

 

Nearly a week after her hatching, Kibrîn caused havoc in poor Ori’s life. She decided on her sixth night that she had to stay with the scribe, but not just Ori, she needed Dwalin there, too. The two ended up spending the night on a pallet in the Company’s gathering room, neither of the dwarrow terribly happy, but with a delighted kit. While Dori was more than slightly scandalised, Thorin just reminded the Major Domo that if he and Bilbo Binding with a dragon was considered to be the same as a Marriage Bond then, the same applied to Ori and Dwalin. The fussy dwarf’s reply of ‘only if you agree that it’s the same for Kíli and Tauriel as well as Legolas and Gimli’, was received with alacrity by Thorin and Bilbo, but hesitation from Dís. The princess really wanted a formal wedding for her baby, Thorin consoled her with the knowledge that Fíli was working on his first Courting gift and had the consent of the dwarrowdam’s only living relative, Daín’s guard Kofté.

 

As for Lendarion? The orange-ish red female that his daughter called Rûnya, seemed to be a model of decorum. That was until Lendarion and Legolas were packing the elf’s rooms in preparation for his family’s return to Eryn Galen, four weeks old after the hatching. Clearing out the room that Senaria shared with Rûnya, the elf king and his brother found 4 dinner knives, a carving knife, 3 daggers, two blades without hafts and even one surgical scalpel. It seemed the fiery-coloured dragon liked blades. Lendarion was alarmed that all of these blades were found under his eight year old daughter’s bed. Bilbo was of no comfort, he offered to teach the elfling how to use a small dagger, his premise for this was if the child knew how to handle a dagger, she was less likely to injure herself by incorrectly handling the blades stashed by the kit.

 

Marilla ran from Dís’ ire on a daily basis. Frerin’s Bonded had a hankering for Dís’ hair-clasps and snuck into the princess’ rooms every night, no matter how tightly the door was locked, somehow the kit still managed to break in and steal Dís’ favourite clasp. It was obviously a game to the kit, because on the morning after Dís spent the entire night in the forges, making a near identical clasp, she offered a clasp to the kit as breakfast, but the kit feigned disinterest until Dís was eating. Then the kit, with as much stealth as possible, slid onto the chair beside Dís and with lightning fast reflex’s stole the two clasps from the table, she was off the chair and out of the room, before anyone at the table realised she was moving, Dís after her, crying foul.

 

The blue male that Legolas and Gimli eventually called Scout, also had a taste for retrieving. Only Scout? He had a tendency to retrieve things that others misplaced. For days Ori moaned over having misplaced his favourite pair of knitting needles, it wasn’t all that surprising really, given how much activity there was under the Mountain and on the road to Dale as those who planned to live in Dale worked on repairing the houses there. For three days, Ori moaned about his needles, Scout sitting diligently at his side seeming to listen intently, on the fourth day, he listened to Ori at morning tea and chirped reassurances at the dwarf. Suddenly he sat up straight and chittered at Ori for a minute before leaving the room in a very determined manner. Ori asked Gimli for a translation and Gimli’s response startled the young dwarf. Gimli said that the chittering noise was what Scout made when he was asking if someone wanted something, which is why Gimli had said ‘yes, please’. When the Company met for luncheon, on the table where Ori sat was a half made scarf, a bundle of yarn with his favourite needles push through it.

Over the next week, he retrieved Nori’s favourite throwing knife (from Rûnya’s stash), Estel’s spinning top, Thorin’s crown (the new one) it had slipped off Rûkhuz’s neck and fallen into the unsorted part of the treasury and Rûkhuz diving after it had dislodged a huge amount of coins and buried both the crown and the kit, Rûkhuz took minutes to burrow his way out, much to Bilbo’s panicked horror, thankfully the kit was unharmed, but certain he would be punished for loosing the crown. It took Bilbo a few minutes to explain that an accident was something that you didn’t mean to do, but it still happened anyway. He wouldn’t be punished for accidents.

 

Anzar could be found in the armoury on most days or, frequently, trying to tug a sword across the training grounds, he wasn’t interested in anything other than swords or, on occasion, shields.

 

Buzrul was well suited to his intended Bond Line, if anyone turned from their horse or pony for more than a second, when they turned back, they often found the red dragon kit perched on the saddle. He liked nothing more than to drape himself across the rump of one of the huge draft horses Bard had purchased from the traders. The horses may have been skittish initially but quickly became familiar with the slinky red kit, he would spend hours winding his way through their legs. When one was injured by a falling rock when the parapet extension collapsed, Buzrul spent as much time with the stallion in the (nearly complete) animal building as Kíli would allow, crooning and humming whenever the carers were tending it.

 

Estel found Mahtar’s stash of chess pieces only a few days before the travelling party were to leave. The poor lad had to stand up at lunch and apologise and ask Bilbo to help him made a sign so anyone missing pieces would know where to find them. Thorin made a chess set of pewter and silver with a dozen extra pieces and promised to teach the lad how to play as they journeyed south.

 

Peony brought Tari rabbits and small grouse each day until the priestess managed to get the kit to understand that Tari didn’t eat meat. After that, for a few days Tari would find the kit watching everything prepared in their kitchen. Then Peony began to bring her person early season fruits, how the kit picked the fruit without breaking the delicate flesh was anyone’s guess, she also kept bringing rabbits and grouse, but instead of giving them to Tari, they now went to either Primula, Esmeralda or Eglantine, whichever she saw first. She was very proud of feeding her hobbits.

 

Nukhda and Carmine would bring Gimris gems, the closer the stones matched their scales the happier they were. While Nukhda was not the smartest of the kits, Carmine probably was, but neither ever minded that each night after settling the kits, Nukhda in Gimris’ bed and Carmine in her lovely nest-basket in the Company’s gathering room, the dwarrowdam would give the day’s gems to her father to be catalogued. On the days that Gimris took Nukhda out and about, Carmine would happily play with Halwâ and the children of the crèche.

 

Halwâ spent every day at the crèche, playing with the dwarflings and the human children. At any given point someone could look into the room and find her wrapped around a child, hanging from a shelf, romping between legs, bounding across tables, climbing walls or hanging from lanterns. When the children lay down for they naps or quiet time, Halwâ was usually in the middle of a puppy-pile of children, often the only part of her visible, was the tip of either a tail or a wing. When a child had to be taken to the infirmary, and let’s be honest, injuries happen when children play, the kit would be running alongside until they got to the infirmary. Once in the infirmary she would sit up on her back legs to see the child, watching carefully as Óin treated the injuries before slithering up onto the bed and curling up as close as she could get to the child’s head, crooning all the while.

 

Khalthâ might not have been all that large, but he made up for it in bravery. He was less than two weeks old when some bright spark, just arrived from the blue Mountains, decided that if some mates distracted Gloín, he could scoop up a flagon-full of coins. He didn’t expect the kit to be any trouble, it normally stayed with Gloín and played in the tub of unsorted coins at his side, but Khalthâ’s head lifted when he heard the sound of coins moving. He looked across the huge hall and with a screech that brought more than half a dozen more dragon kits down over balconies, swarmed across the piles of gold and grappling with the dwarf, other kits arriving and joining him, by the time the guards got to them the dwarf was completely encased in dragon kits, his arms and legs restrained. Khalthâ’s tail twisted around the would-be thief’s neck, his body and neck held out away from the dwarf’s head, tendrils of smoke issuing from his mouth as he hissed. The dwarf and his three accomplices were happy to be lead away from the treasury, they were kept in the cells overnight before being given the option of returning to the Blue Mountains or of joining Daín’s army. All four chose Daín’s army.

 

Markhel, like his Bonded, loved weapons. If she saw a weapon laying anywhere unattended, she would take it to Fíli. It reached stage that Fíli like Estel, asked Bilbo to make him a sign, well, signs, he hung one on the wall in the communal dining area, he asked for (and got) a notice board beside Dwalin and Gimli’s Guard office, where he put another sign, a third sign was on a wall in the marshalling yard, where riders gathered before leaving the Mountain and the last was posted on a notice board in Dale. The prince kept all Markhel’s trophies in a large basket beside his desk in Thorin’s office, the king would often see the kit bring another dagger or axe into the office and drop it straight into the basket, without Fíli even noticing. If she wasn’t stealing knives she was cuddled up to Bahîth or playing tag with the young mountain lion, the two so close, they slept with the kit tucked up under the lion’s chin or with the kit’s tail gently looped around the lion’s paw or neck. Sometimes the kit could be seen riding on the lion’s back, stretched out, her head resting between the lion’s ears, her body perfectly aligned with his.

The last thing Tauriel did every evening before leaving the animal building, was to check the name tags on all the stalls and cages, corresponded to the treatment folders kept in a basket on the door of the stall. Sabâs would remove the folders from the doors and bring them to the carer’s desk. Kíli had Bofur make some timber-framed slates that bolted to each door, too, but this only had the name and species of the animal, nothing about it’s injury or treatment, this was in the treatment folders, one for each patient, the same as Óin did in the infirmary.

 

The elf had noticed that many of the animals in their care would be much calmer if Tláli was around and this had not changed once Tláli Bonded with Galâm. In fact the larger animals would remain restless until the blue kit arrived each morning, with or without her dwarf. Once she’d arrived, Tauriel and Kíli could begin the morning’s treatments, on the few days that the kit didn’t join them, they struggled to see to many of their injured.

 

Askâd might have been the smallest of all the kits, but more than made up for it, he had no sense of fear. The tiny kit could often be seen hanging from balconies, leaping from one broken landing to another and scrambling into semi-blocked passages. The only time someone tried to push Nori’s daughter out of their way the kit climbed the offender and tore of part of his ear. Since then people were polite with any child, especially as Thorin refused to compensate the injured dwarf, stating that children were their most precious resource and should be cherished, that there was little difference in pushing a child away to pushing a child over. The dwarf was lucky not to have been charged with attempting to harm Zeri.

 

Tilda and Sigrid spent most of their time working in the animal building, they weren’t able to much in the way of treating injuries, but instead made up medications, rolled bandages, cleaned stalls, filled in notes, but in all this they left the comforting of the injured to the dragons. Honey, Galâm and Sabâs made their rounds alongside Tauriel and Kíli, snuggling horses, Rams, an Eagle and a multitude of smaller animals. The canines and felines had not qualms nuzzling the kits, while the birds were a little standoffish. On the few times the girls visited Dale to observe the progress there, the kit would follow, leaping from rock to rock, climbing walls and bounding across roofs. Like Askâd, Honey had little sense of fear.

 

Rûkhuz was without a doubt the ringleader when it cam to the kits. Khalthâ may have raised the alarm in the treasury, but it was Rûkhuz that orchestrated the capture of the dwarf and it was Rûkhuz that stayed outside the cell (until Bilbo came to collect him) hissing and growling. He could frequently be found with Askâd delving into tunnels or helping Anzar carry swords. Bilbo suspected that it was Rûkhuz that showed Marilla how to get into Dís’ rooms, and Thorin had seen their kit and Scout chittering at each other and the king firmly believed that his Bonded was telling the other exactly where he could find a missing item. Balin and Tevrin had spotted Rûnya and Rûkhuz eyeing off daggers or knives only to hear later that someone was missing that particular dagger or knife.

 

Bilbo was glad that, besides Rûkhuz, only seven kits were going to be travelling south with them, Sabâs, Marilla, Scout, Mahtar, Buzrul, Anzar and Carmine, especially as Gandalf would be travelling with them. The wizard had arrived and within minutes he’d been mobbed by the kits, but they weren’t interested in the wizard at all, oh no, all they wanted was to touch their snouts to the crystal hidden in the wizard’s staff. When asked, Smaug said it was because the crystal buzzed and gave them a tingly, happy feeling, she said that Rûkhuz compared it to when Bilbo and Thorin cuddled with him before bed. It made him want to purr, like Bahîth. Wherever the wizard went he had kits tailing him. It wasn’t until evening that the kits suddenly deserted the wizard and went looking for their Bonded people.

Two days south of Lendarion’s Halls, Bilbo found himself looked forward to seeing Lothlorien, Rohan and Minas Tirith. Galadriel was the only elf that Bilbo had spoken to that knew, first hand, anything about the original dragons. Hopefully she would be able to tell them more and identify any major differences between their kits and what the dragons had been. Thorin hoped that travelling with Smaug would keep the kits mischief at bay for a while, he also was looking forward to the kits seeing Beorn, who was meeting them where the Old Forest Road left the Woodland Realm. The skin-changer had no idea what he was in for.

 

 

Rûkhuz = mischief maker {Bilbo and Thorin} blue male

Marilla = pearl {Frerin} blue female

Markhel = shield {Fíli – personal and eventual line bond} blue female

Sabâs = spice {Kíli and Tauriel - personal and eventual line bond} red male

Kibrîn = beastie {Dwalin and Ori} red female

Halwâ = sweetie {Mírtja and Óin – line bond} blue female

Khalthâ = sky blue {Gloín’s and Bírzel} blue male

Askâd = shadow {Nori and Zeri - line bond} blue male

Scout {Gimli and Legolas} blue male

Honey {Bard – line bond} red female

Runya = red flame {Lendarion – line bond} red female

Anzar = steward {Anzar’s going to Misas Tirith – line bond} blue male

Buzrul = of the plains {Buzrul’s going to Rohan – line bond} red male

Mahtar = warrior (Estel – Aragorn} red female

Galâm = sparkles {Tláli) blue female

Nukhda = colourful {Gimris} blue female

Carmine {Dol Amroth – line bond} red female

Peony {Tari Foxglove & Temple-Smial – line bond} red female

 

 

Chapter Text

On the Road Again.

 

Beorn watched as the group of travellers left the darkness of the forest, he knew that dwarrow – very interesting word, that – and the elves got along better now, but to see dwarrow riding double behind an elf, with no concerns? That alone made the Skin-changer all the more interested in these dwarrow and their hobbit.

“Beorn!” Prince Kíli called.

“Oh, Beorn, it’s good to see you.” Added the hobbit.

“Welcome, my friends.” He started to say. The sight of the dragon, emerging from the trees, halting his speech. He’d seen the dragon, before he left the dwarf-city, but the sight of her still made him catch his breath. She was a beautiful creature, albeit a deadly one.

As she came closer he was able to see that it wasn’t just one dragon. There were kits hanging on her, three of them, two blue kits and a red one. As the riders reached him, Beorn now saw the other kits. Thorin had a blue kit twined about his body, it’s head resting on his shoulder. Kíli’s elf-lady had a red kit standing on her horses rump with it’s forepaws holding her sleeve, a head just visible peeking out of the elf’s hair. Another red kit, lay curled on a leather pad behind one of the Twin’s saddles, asleep. A young human boy, rode beside Elrond of Rivendell with a red kit draped across his shoulders like a living cloak.

Nine Elves.

Seven dragon kits.

Six dwarrow.

Three wizards.

Two human children.

One hobbit.

And.

One adult dragon.

It was a good thing he’d already cleared an area for a camp. This could turn out to be an entertaining story.

“Thank you, Beorn. If you’ll give us a minute to get sorted, we’ll see to introductions and an update on Erebor.” Thorin replied.

“And we’ll happily tell you a tale or two of the antics of these scaly devils.” The hobbit said.

“I look forward to it, Bilbo. I’ve a camp set up for you, just over the rise with a pot of potato, onion and mushroom stew keeping warm, oh, and I asked the hawks to bring a few rabbits for you, too. I’ll leave the skinning and cooking of them for you, shall I? There’s a hot spring there, too, I spent the last few days waiting for you, by enlarging it into a run of pools. You can have a good soak and get clean before dinner, if you like?”

“Oh, master Beorn, that? That would be glorious.” One of the elves sighed.

“Nareal, you could have travelled with Galadriel and her convoy. You do know that? Don’t you?”

“Of course, I could have, Lord Elrond, but I would not have. There is no way I was leaving my patients, not until I am absolutely certain of their recovery.” The medical attendant had stayed in Erebor for the winter, her time split between the infirmary and the royal quarters, pushing the princes and bullying them and Tolban in their rehabilitation.

“Ah... No, no, of course not. My apologies.” The elf-lord murmured.

The kit using Thorin as a perch lifted his head and swivelled it to face the forest, he crooned in pleasure before turning to the kit trying to blend into Tauriel’s hair and the two chittered happily for a minute.

A sudden clattering of hooves could be heard, still within the forest, horses or ponies were moving fast. The group turned to the forest, a rider already? What could have happened to have Erebor, Dale or Laketown sending a rider so soon? Glimpses of a single rider could be seen between the trunks of the tree and quickly it became clear the rider’s mounts were ponies, making the rider either a child (unlikely) or a dwarrow.

As the lone rider exited the trees, Thorin could be heard to groan, while Kíli sighed and shook his head in exasperation. When the shaggy mountain ponies joined the group, Bifur and the Twins all reached their hands into various parts of their clothing, retrieving coins which were passed along to Bilbo.

“Fíli. What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be acting as Regent. Explain.” Thorin growled.

“Sorry, Uncle. It wasn’t my fault. Four days after you left, Amad stormed off and when she came back she grabbed me by a moustache braid, dragged me down to the gates, handed me the reigns to a pony and kicked in the butt. She told me, I was no bloody use and that I should hurry if I wanted to catch you before Lothlorien. Then she told Dwalin not to let me back in the Gate. She kicked me! Uncle Bilbo! It’s not funny.” He complained as Bilbo laughed uproariously. Thorin had to reach out and grab hold of the hobbit before his husband fell from his pony.

Kíli and Tauriel, too were laughing at the image of Dís kicking Fíli in the butt, it was so clear. Elladan and Elrohir made no effort to hold in their mirth, Frerin, Tolban, Bifur and the elves, no better. Elrond and Arwen, alone, able to control their amusement. But poor Estel, he had no idea why everyone was laughing about Fíli being kicked, Bain may have understood, but he wasn’t about to laugh at someone being kicked. The dragons, though, were making chirruping-chuckling noises, more because their Bonded people were laughing than any else.

It took a few minutes but eventually Fíli and Thorin relaxed enough to let the visual draw laughter from them, another handful of minutes were needed for the group to regain control.

“Come on, you can share your story when we reach my camp.” Beorn said.

“There’s nothing to tell. Nothing more anyway. That’s it. I thought everything was going okay, maybe not great, but okay. Then Amad just up and kicks me out!” Fíli argued. “I went to Dale and Bard gave me a week’s worth of supplies and another pony, I topped up at Laketown and swapped ponies at Lendarion’s. He also sent a coupe of scouts with me, but they headed back when we saw the edge of the forest.” He sighed, exhaustion written all over him, his face, his body, even his voice.

“Come along, Fíli. Let’s get you off that pony and soaking in Beorn’s hot springs. How does that sound? Hmm?” Bilbo move his pony alongside Fíli’s and patted him gently on the thigh.

“It sounds grand, Uncle Bilbo, just grand. I’m so tired, I haven’t had a decent sleep since you all left. Even Markhel is getting crabby with me, I think she misses our snooze time. She’s been so good since we left Erebor, she either rode with Bahîth, sat on the saddle-pad or curled around my waist and held onto my shoulders. I’m so glad, now, that Dwalin and Nori designed those shoulder guards. At the rate we’ve been moving, without them, my shoulders would look like a pincushion. Bahîth stayed in his basket the whole time, he’s been wonderful, at least with the two of them, until we hit the forest I wasn’t too worried about setting a night watch.”

At the sound of his name, the mountain lion peeked his head above the basket and looked around, he made a curious sound, a kind of coughing chirrup. It was clearly a questioning sound.

“Yes, Bahîth, you can get down. Give me a second and I’ll be there.” The exhausted dwarf said, steeling himself to move.

“No, Fíli. You stay on your pony. I’ll get him.” Elrohir said swinging down from his horse. He moved to the pony Fíli was leading and when the young lion stood, he gently lifted Bahîth from the basket and placed him on the ground.

“What about Markhel? Would she like some down time, too?” asked Thorin. “I know that Rûkhuz and Sabâs would. Wouldn’t they, Kíli?”

“Definitely, Uncle. I think all the kits would.” Sabâs was nodding his head vigorously as Kíli answered the king.

Within seconds there was a pile of kits chasing the lion as he bounded in circles, they continued this as Beorn directed the travellers to his camp.

“Come now. This way. It’s only a half mile and you can rest, little lion.” He said to Fíli. The massive Skin-changer encouraged a very tired dwarf and the group, to continue just a little further.

With Beorn leading the way the group of travellers reached the camp-site in a matter of a few minutes. A cheery fire raised their spirits and the huge cauldron of bubbling stew caused many to sigh in relief. The thought of having to set up a camp, get a fire going and prepare food, just too much for them today.

Thorin watched as the hobbit bustled around, seeing that everyone was down, had a bowl of stew, a mug of hot tea or was soaking in the hot pools. The energy of hobbit was truly amazing, he’d done same travelling as the rest of them, but he was the only one to not fall to the ground in fatigue. Fíli was without a doubt the worst of them, Thorin could see the muscles in his nephew’s legs trembling with the effort of staying upright.

Bilbo gently chivvied Fíli over to the sheltered hot pools and helped him strip down, once the lad was in the water, the hobbit brought him a bowl of stew and a mug of chamomile and valerian tea. The tea would help ease his muscles and stop them cramping.

Beorn must have known that there would be ladies with them as each of the hot pools was sheltered by wattle screens woven from willow and hazel twigs. Seeing through them was not easy, but speaking over them was. Arwen, Nareal and Tauriel quickly claimed one and spent the next half hour cleaning, themselves and their clothing, finally emerging in long kaftan-like robes.

“Master Beorn. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I know we’ve only been on the road for a fortnight, but…? with all but two days of that within the forest? Ugh.” Tauriel turned to Thorin. “I’m reminded of how glad I am, that swearing allegiance to you and Erebor means I don’t have be out in the forest every day. After every patrol, I’d have to come in a wash the blight of darkness from my body.”

“Ni weera na lle os-taw, gwethil’en nín nest. I, too, felt besmirched after patrols.” Legolas agreed. “Thankfully, it’s now Lendarion’s task to rid the forest of the taint of evil. I would not have known where to start.”

“We’d start where you always start, injamu-amé, at the beginning. If your brother wants our help, we will give it.” Gimli replied from behind one of the wattled screens.

“As will Erebor.” Thorin spoke from behind another screen.

“On behalf of our king, we thank you.” One of their elven-escorts responded, sincerely.

“You - and Lendarion - are welcome. Even if it were not for the agreements we have in place, we would still help. I find I like your brother, Legolas. He will be a good king. And a good friend, too, I think.” Thorin said as he emerged from the hot pools.

By the time everyone was clean and fed, few of the travellers could keep their eyes open, so the hobbit was left with the wizards, who needed little sleep, and Beorn, who seemed to thrive on Bilbo’s stories. Bilbo sat leaning against the hip of a quietly snoring Thorin, Rûkhuz curled in the hobbit’s lap with his tail securely wrapped about the dwarf’s arm, he was not letting go of his Bonded people. Bilbo had his four listeners smothering their laughter as he told them of the antics of the kits and the reactions of those staying in Erebor.

 

The following morning, dawn broke way before anyone was ready to face it, travelling the tainted forest was draining on all of them. The dwarrow and the hobbit seemed to be the ones to recover the fastest, the elves appeared to gain little respite from their night’s rest. Even the dragons had felt the effects of the forest, but the kits regained their bright attitudes quickly. Their mother, however, was very clearly still feeling the impact of the toxic nature of the forest the next morning. She gently nudged Thorin and tried to nuzzle into him, it was an astounding sight, a dwarf comforting a dragon, whose head was longer and taller than his nearly 5ft frame, her body stretched out, encircling almost half of their camp. No-one laughed, though, Smaug’s distress and need for comfort, aroused no humour, only concern for her wellbeing.

It was Tauriel that suggested Smaug hunt. They were headed for the Anduin River, if Smaug few to the foothills of the mountains, she could be there, hunt and still have plenty of time to meet them at the river, it would be a full day’s ride on horseback, but less than an hour’s flight for her. That it was also not a part of Beorn’s lands, was a consideration, she could hunt whatever game was there without reprisal.

After a few minutes encouragement from her kits and her Bonded, the dragon heaved herself into the air, the drain of the forest making it an effort. She circled a few times to gain height, before breaking off and winging her way westward.

Those on the ground eventually mounted and followed her, the kits warbling in pleasure, where possible they draped themselves on rumps with wings spread, revelling in the sun’s warmth. A short break for lunch and they were on the move again, all eager to get to the river they would follow south to Lothlorien.

Finally they crested a rise and saw the stretch of water laid out below them. A mile or so south of the river’s closest point, a large barge-like boat could be seen, it’s sail furled, leaving the mast looking like a twig from a distance. Thorin looked at Bilbo with a raised eyebrow, but the hobbit looked just as puzzled.

“Elrond? You know anything about this?” the king asked.

“No…” the elf was uncertain.

“Tharkûn? Alatar? Pallando? Any of you know about this?”

“It’s not of my doing.” Gandalf replied.

“Nor ours.” Alatar added.

“Nareal? Sorrant? Either of you know about this?”

Both shook their heads, looking slightly bewildered.

“Are we sure it’s for us?” Bilbo asked.

“May I suggest we head down and find out?” Gandalf prompted.

A round of yes’s was heard, so with kits and Bahîth leading the way the group altered their direction and made for the boat.

As they got closer, Legolas rode to the front and when they were about a mile from the river, he cried out.

Glorfindel. It’s Glorfindel and Erestor.”

“What? Are you sure?” Bilbo asked, startled.

“Yes, yes. Glorfindel is laying out wood for a fire. Erestor is filling a pair of water-skins at the river bank. They’ve set up a cleared space. I assume it’s for us.” The blonde elf said positively.

By the time they were within hailing distance, most of the travellers could see Erestor and Glorfindel waiting patiently for them. It was Estel that called out a greeting to them, he nudged his pony into a trot and then a canter to cover the distance as quickly as possible.

“Glor’,’estor , hi suilad. I missed you. I have a dragon, see? Her name is Mahtar. Kíli and Fíli each have one, too. Aren’t they sweet?” The boy continued to chatter away to the elves until the others reached them.

“Nest-Adar? Are we going on the boat with Glor’ and ‘estor, to Lothlorien? Or are they going to ride with us? We don’t have enough horses or ponies for them, but what will happen to our ponies if we go on the boat?” the lad couldn’t seem to decide which was more important.

“Estel. Quildë, please. Nothing has been decided. Elrond, Bilbo and Thorin knew nothing of our intentions.” Erestor cautioned his student.

“Indeed.” Replied Elrond. “What’s say we see to our mounts and then a meal? We can discuss the options over some roast mutton and a vegetable stew. Bilbo? You’ve been soaking those grains all day, they won’t take much cooking, now.”

“And where, my lord, do you plan to get mutton to roast?” Glorfindel asked, mockingly.

“Turn around, my friend, and look up.”

“Argh!” the sight of a huge dragon, wings spread to slow her descent, with a pair of sheep in her claws, shocked the elf so badly that he staggered backwards and fell to the ground. Erestor was a little better, but even he was stunned at what he saw.

“Thorin, my tsvaare’d. Kíli Sabâs-Bonded. Come, take these. There were many in the lower mountains and I have fed very well. One of these is for the kits and one for you, my tsvaare’d. If I hunt again in the morning, I shall not need to feed again for a week or more. I had forgotten the joy there is in flying.” She turned to the hobbit. “I am so pleased, now, that you came into the Mountain, that your sought to free me. For the first time in my memory, I am happy.” That last sentence was said as though Smaug was surprised at what she said.

“I am happy.” She repeated. “My kits are safe. They are happy. They will remain safe in the care of people who view them with fondness. People who would protect them.”

“Well, of course, we will. They’re ours, now. Like our children, we will keep them safe.” Fíli spoke will certainty, as Kíli and Thorin hurried to her side. They each took a sheep and dragged them clear of the campsite, before setting to the task of skinning and gutting each animal.

The kits keened, they were hungry and could smell fresh meat.

“You must wait.” Their mother said. “Your tsvaare’d will call you, when it is ready. Patience, my kitral, patience. Not long now.” She crooned, calming the kits.

Thorin and Kíli made short work of the sheep, doing basic butchering, they cut as much meat from the bones as possible. The kits might be dragons, but as yet they were little heavier than a human babe, their heads much the same size as Bilbo’s hand, there was no way they could deal with most of the bones in a sheep’s carcass. Cuts were quickly handed to Bilbo and Frerin to be taken for roasting, the rest was diced into chunks.

“Rûkhuz?” Thorin called. “You and your sibs, get your bowls and bring them here, please.”

The blue kit chittered, first at Thorin and then at his clutch-mates. They dashed for the saddles gathered near the ponies, each kit’s bowl was made from steel, like a round bottomed shallow bucket with a handle, enabling a bowl to be hooked over a tag on a saddle or tied with a piece of leather. The kits quickly returned to Thorin, lining up smallest to largest, with no pushing, shoving or growling, they’d learnt that to do any of these, put them at the end of the line.

Scout, Sabâs, then Buzrul, was followed by Markhel and Marilla. Next Anzar, Mahtar and Rûkhuz. Lastly waiting as placidly as ever was Carmine. Each held their bucket/bowl by the handle in their mouth. They would all resort to putting the bowl on the ground and dragging it away. Hence the rounded bottom to the bowl. It made for some funny scenes, particularly with the smaller kits, many of them in their first week, literally rocking themselves to sleep in their bowls. Scout and Sabâs could still curl up inside their bowls, just. Another week or two and they will outgrown them.

With the kits fed, they curled up in a puppy pile and snored. Thorin shook his head, it was a food coma and lasted for less than an hour, but it gave their people a chance to eat and wash undisturbed. A blessing, they had discovered.

“So…? What are we doing? Are we going to ride or sail?” Frerin asked as he dropped his washed bowl onto his pack beside his bedroll.

Over the next hour, they debated back and forth. In the end, it was decided that they’d take the boat. Bilbo the only one who would happily ride a pony for hundreds of miles, just to avoid being on the water.

“Hobbits and big water don’t mix well.” He said. But in the end, the time they would save, convinced him. That and Erestor told him that when he and Glorfindel had left Rivendell, they’d taken all the ponies that the Company had ridden from Hobbiton with them, they were all happily getting fat in Lothlorien. The next morning they would bid farewell to the pair of elves that Lendarion had sent with them, the need for guides no longer am issue. The horses and ponies had would be left with Beorn to collect on their return journey.

 

The trip down river was one that Bilbo was happy to forget. Nothing went wrong, but hobbits and water? No. Not a good mix, at all.

They moored their boat at a dock just north of the Celebrant Rivulet. The hobbit’s relief was evident as he stepped from the boat to the dock to greet Galadriel. The elves of Caras Galadhon welcoming them with joy and curiosity, few of them had met friendly dwarrow and fewer still had met a hobbit or seen dragons. Smaug’s arrival caused upset, but after seeing her greet the hobbit and his dwarf, seeing the affection she held for them and her young, it wasn’t long before one brave elf lad approached and spoke shyly to the kits and their mother.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Right now Bilbo was trying to do damage control. It was the middle of summer and the kits were just over eight weeks old. They’d been in Lothlorien for two days and now?

Now, the kits had learnt to fly.

It had all been a mistake, of course. Galadriel had invited them all, kits included, to share a meal, they’d all climbed to a high flet and the meal itself was fine, no problems there. It wasn’t until they were finished and enjoying a chat, that a problem occurred.

Rûkhuz, Anzar and Markhel had been rolling around, wrestling, staying out from under feet, when suddenly Buzrul dived into the fray. The kits rolled and before anyone knew it they’d reached the edge of the flet. Rûkhuz and Markhel rolled over the edge and were gone. Fíli was up and heading for the edge, when Markhel’s head popped back into sight, but Rûkhuz?

They all heard his cry, then there was a pop and a startled chirp and they saw Rûkhuz with his wings open glide across the clearing, he crashed into a tree on the far side, falling a few feet to a lower flet. He picked himself up, shook himself off and looked over at them, Bilbo and Thorin leaning against each other in shock, he chirped again and lifting his head looked up the nearest tree. He reached the trunk and started to climb, he climbed to the first branch, where he leapt into the air and extended his wings again. He soared in an arch, tipping and tilting his wings, sometimes flapping, he circled the clearing maybe a half dozen time, before deciding he’d had enough. He flapped hard to gain height and then glided around until he could tumble onto the flet where his bonded were. His chirped and crooned, chittering until…?

“Bil-bil-bil-bil. Tor-tor-tor-tor.” It was the first time any of the kits, had made anything that could be recognisable as words.

Galadriel lifted the tired kit’s head and spoke to him, slowly and clearly.

“Bil-bo, Bil-bo. Bilbo.” She said.

“Bil. Bilb. Bilb. Bilbo.” He copied.

“Yes, little one, that right. Bilbo.”

“Bilbo.” He chirped. “Tor?”

Thorin. Thor-in. Thor-in. Thorin.” She corrected.

“Thor in.”

“No. Thorin. Thorin. Try it again.”

“Thorin. Thorin.” The blue dragon was so proud of himself. He nuzzled the elf’s hand and turned to his two Bonded, scampering across the flet, he flung himself into the hobbit’s arms.

“Thorin. Bilbo. Thorin. Bilbo. Thorin. Bilbo.” He chirped, nuzzling each of them in turn as he said their names.

That was a few hours ago. Now? Now Fíli, Frerin and Bilbo were clambering from one flet to another, apologising for an unruly clutch of dragon hatchlings. They’d watched their biggest brother and decided if he could fly, so could they. There’d been some near misses, a couple of crashes, some elven screams, some elven cursing (or as close to cursing as elves get), a few shaken fists and a lot of raised voices. Thankfully there’d only be one casualty and that was, of course, when Buzrul crashed through a window onto some poor unsuspecting elf’s dining table, right in the middle of a meal.

Thank heavens they weren’t staying here any longer, only one more night, they were leaving for Rohan the next day. Smaug was getting anxious about her kits not all being Bonded yet. So they were leaving the wizards, Elrond and the two human boys in Lothlorien for another meeting of the White Council and the rest of them, plus Erestor and Glorfindel were riding for Rohan.

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

Ni weera na lle os-taw, gwethil’en nín nest = I agree with you on that, sister of my heart (S)

injamu-amé = leaf of mine (S)

nest-Adar = heart-father (foster father, Elrond taking in Estel and his mother Gilraen after Arathorn’s death )

quildë = hush/quiet (Q)

Tsvaare’d = Bonded (D)

Kitral = children (D)

 

Rûkhuz = mischief maker {Bilbo and Thorin} blue male

Marilla = pearl {Frerin} blue female

Markhel = shield {Fíli – personal and eventual line bond} blue female

Sabâs = spice {Kíli and Tauriel - personal and eventual line bond} red male

Scout {Gimli and Legolas} blue male

Anzar = steward {Anzar’s going to Misas Tirith – line bond} blue male

Buzrul = of the plains {Buzrul’s going to Rohan – line bond} red male

Mahtar = warrior (Estel – Aragorn} red female

Carmine {Dol Amroth – line bond} red female

 

Chapter Text

Minas Tirith here we come.

 

Erestor sat on a log beside his husband, grimacing at the news he’s had to deliver. It would change this new Company’s plans, make them rethink all they hoped to achieve, both now and for the future.

Bilbo looked gutted.

To hear that Fengel, son of Folcwine, King of Rohan, had already fallen to Gold Sickness, that after listening to Glorfindel and Erebor’s plans, he’d accommodated the elven pair for two nights before asking them to leave, was devastating. Erestor had initially thought the king would agree to the alliances, after all he had given the elves free access to his Hall and his people, but it was not to be, whether sickness or paranoia, it mattered little. His people were close to despair, a Marshal of the Riddermark told Erestor of the lack of food, of the king selling anything and everything he could for gold. Children went without clothes, farmers went without grain for crops, horses went without feed and riders of the mark went without their weapons. The marshal told of a son of the king living in Gondor, no one knew where the two daughters went, he hoped they were with their brother.

Glorfindel advised the hobbit and his dwarf-king to cross Rohan off their list of allies. Erestor corrected him, cross Fengel off the list, add Thengel instead. Go straight to Minas Tirith, find Thengel, treat him as a prince of Rohan, Bond Anzar to his line, hoping of course that Thengel knew where his sisters were. The thought that Fengel in his greed may have killed them, no-one was prepared to consider, they were his daughters, instead they hoped that like Thengel, they had been exiled.

Thorin knew that royalty, even royalty in exile, was still royalty. If they could find the prince and princesses, they would be treated as royalty.

Bilbo finally commented that this may not change his plans for Thengel anyway, nor his children. This may actually make things easier, Thengel had no hesitation in leaving Rohan, him agreeing to fostering of the royal children might work in his favour, too.

It was decided. Rohan would be left to Fengel, for now. Once Thengel took the throne, assuming he’d agreed to the alliance, then all alliance parties would assist in the restoration of Rohan. They would be old hands at restoration of nations by that time, after Dale, then Erebor and Eryn Galen, Rohan would be of little difficulty.

During their time in Rohan, Glorfindel and Erestor had purchased a number of Rohan war-horses, mostly to stop them being sold to the Haradrim or the Khandese to the south. If that happened, many strong bloodlines would be lost forever and Rohan would be much weaker for it, so the two elves bought five of the finest stallions and a dozen mares in foal, as well as another dozen mares that could be ridden now and bred at a later date. Of the sixteen ponies that Bilbo had bought for the Company’s journey, 11 were mares and the others were geldings. With this in mind Glorfindel had also paid good gold for another six mares and 5 stallions, knowing that the dwarrow of Erebor would likely keep some of these for themselves.

For now they would bypass the horse nation, following the Anduin, but the question now was? Would they ride or take a boat? A boat would get them to Minas Tirith much faster, but not allow them to take as many horses or ponies. Two-thirds of the way by boat with fewer mounts or a longer journey? At a bare minimum they would need 8 horses, 7 to ride and a pack horse, if they asked Smaug to hunt the east-lands they could cut down supplies to just one pack horse.

They would have to double up, but who would ride with who? Some were given. Gimli would ride with Legolas and Kíli with Tauriel. But the others?

Elladan and Fíli were already good friends and Elrohir and Frerin were heading in that direction, too. Leaving Glorfindel and Erestor to ride with Tolban and Bifur, as there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Thorin and Bilbo would ride together.

The other option was to forego the boat and ride all the way. They each would have their own mount, they’d be able to carry more than just a change of clothes and their bedrolls. The dwarrow and the hobbit were the most prepared, having had only limited supplies since leaving Hobbiton.

The only thing they had in abundance was gold, sewn into the linings of their cloaks and bedrolls, the hems of most of their clothes as well as multiple pouches stashed about their packs and persons. With the dragons travelling with them, there was little fear of bandits and even if some brave soul tried to rob them, they were all armed and capable of using their weapons.

Nareal had finally declared Fíli, Frerin and Tolban as healed as they were going to be, now it was just a case of learning to live with their limitations. Frerin like Kíli was an archer, Tolban and Bifur had spent the winter working on a lightweight sword that Tolban could use one-handed as Bifur wasn’t giving up his bill-spear even to his husband.

It was Smaug who reminded them that the summer was passed it’s peak and autumn was coming fast. If they wanted to get back to Erebor for the winter, they had to get a move one.

So they would travel by boat, again. Bilbo sighed, hobbits and boats?

Glorfindel was left to see to the boat, while Erestor took the, now reduced, company down to the livestock area to choose horses. They would need strong, but agile mounts, ones that were comfortable carrying two riders. Legolas chose a light grey mare that reminded him of Arod, who carried he and Gimli during the War of the Ring, Tauriel picked a buff-coloured mare that kept lipping at Kíli’s hair. Elladan and Elrohir chose solid mares with matching stockings, while Erestor pointed out the geldings they had brought from Rivendell, that he and Glorfindel would share with Tolban and Bifur.

Bilbo thought is hilarious that the biggest, darkest stallion in the yards, took one look at Thorin wearing his usual sash of Rûkhuz and started following the dwarf as he walked the yards, the stud would snort and spook away any horse that Thorin got too near. When Thorin finally turned and fronted the beast, it went to it’s knees and nudged at the dragon kit and the dwarf until Thorin clipped a lead to it’s halter and rubbed it’s head. The horse lipped the edges of the kit’s wings as the hobbit leant on the fence and laughed. Whether or not the stud would tolerate being on a boat was unknown.

 

The sight of the White City, made Bilbo catch his breath, it was a stunning sight in the bright midmorning sun. As they rounded the edge of the Druadan Forest, the North-South road turned directly south and afforded the riders a sight few dwarrow had seen before. A soldier from Cair Andros gave them time to absorb the sight, as he directed the Gondorian Ranger, who had lead them from the Firien Wood Waystation, on how to find the barracks at Cair Andros.

As he drew nearer them, the soldier lifted his arm and a hawk dropped down out of the sky. Rûkhuz and Anzar chirped and chittered, but the bird had eyes only for the soldier. He inserted a slip of paper into a tube fastened to one leg and lofted the bird into the air, the hawk screeched and winged it’s way south, towards the city.

“To alert the Tower Guard of your arrival.” Was all the soldier said, nudging his horse into motion, he lead the way, following the direction of his bird.

The day passed and the city loomed larger, growing more with each hour they rode. It was truly massive, even Erebor was not it’s match in size. Thorin and Bifur chattered away in Khuzdul, occasionally Frerin or Gimli would add a comment. When Bilbo asked, Kíli told him they were discussing the stone work that went into the crafting of the city. How much white granite had to be found to make the massive walls, all the building within those walls, the five inner levels framing the spine of the mountains, and the citadel on the spine’s ridge, along with the higher royal quarters. The work that had gone into building the seven levels of the White City of Gondor was staggering.

The horses were left with the stable master, a man called Delenor, who assured Thorin that he himself would see to Lízul, as Thorin had taken to calling the horse. The stallion reluctantly went with the man, looking back many times until they rounded a corner of a building.

Their soldier-guide shook his head.

“That, sir? That is a very possessive horse. How old is he? Is he hand reared?”

“Erestor was told he’s about 6 or 7 years old, so we’ve no idea if he was or not. He was only purchased late spring, when we chose horses for this trip, he kept following Uncle around, he likes Rûkhuz, kept playing with his wings.” Kíli happily told the soldier.

“Spring? This Spring? You’ve not had him longer?”

“Oh, no. Erestor bought horses in the spring on Uncle’s behalf, but we didn’t get to Lothlorien until a little over a month ago. We were there for nearly a week when Uncle saw Lízul for the first time.”

“A month? One month? Really?... That’s impressive.” The soldier muttered, but never said why he was impressed.

Instead he lead them to a platform were a large wagon-like device hung suspended from a cable that’s span reached from the lowest level all the way to the citadel. The company entered the wagon at the encouragement of the soldier, who held gate in one end of the wagon, open, he closed and secured it after them. He nodded to a guard who pushed a lever and the wagon rocked, slowly beginning to climb.

As they reached the top of the city spine, the wagon came to a gentle halt, a guard standing on another platform opened the wagon’s gate and waved them out. The soldier who’d escorted them from the Druadan Forest stayed with them, leading the way to the grand Hall that was overshadowed by the watchtower to one side of the Hall’s steps. The doors were opened and they were ushered in by their soldier.

The doors opened into the main throne room, a room to compare to the Halls of Erebor, three levels high, with a domed ceiling above the empty throne, a simple wooden chair sat at the foot of the daisied throne. A heavily robed man of middle years sat in this wooden chair, a desk in front of him, a page at his side.

“Greetings Ecthelion, Steward of Gondor.” The soldier said quietly.

“Greetings to you, Tomas. Who brings you to the Steward’s desk on this fine evening?” he was answered in a weary voice.

“I bring travellers. Glorfindel and Erestor of Rivendell and their companions, my lord.”

“Ah. And who are their companions, Tomas? For you to escort them yourself, they must be considerable. Do I want to know?”

“Quite probably not, my lord. I did not ask their names. They rode some of the finest Rohan horses I’ve ever seen. This dwarf here? He rides a stud that barely tolerated Delenor to handle him and then only at the order of the dwarf.” Their soldier answered cheerfully.

The Steward suddenly sat up straight.

“A dwarf riding a Rohan stud? Without coercion?” he asked.

“I met them at Druadan’s Bend and rode with them here. We stopped three times, my lord and each time the stud stayed near the dwarf with no restraints, frequently I could see it nudging the dwarf or the shireling. Whenever the dwarf stood the stud would rest his head on the dwarf’s shoulder. Willingly, my lord.”

“Willingly. I see. Thank you, Tomas. You may be assured of their welcome.”

“Thank you, my lord.” The soldier nodded to the Steward, bowed slightly to Glorfindel, Erestor and Thorin, he turned sharply on his heel and left them with them.

“Lord Glorfindel of House of Golden Flowers. Lord Erestor of Rivendell. Welcome to Minas Tirith. Will you introduce your companions?”

“Of course, Lord Ecthelion. Kíli and Frerin, Princes of Erebor and Fíli, Crown Prince of Erebor.” He was interrupted before he could continue.

“Erebor? These dwarves are of Erebor? Are they attempting to reclaim the Mountain?”

“Nay, my Lord. Erebor is reclaimed. Dwarrow live within the Mountain again.”

“Truly? But what of the dragon? The Beast Smaug? Is it dead? Did they kill it?”

“Smaug is no beast, she’s a good mother.” It was too much for Fíli to listen to her being scorned.

Mother?!” The Steward fell back in his seat in shock.

“My lord, if you will, I would tell you a tale.” Bilbo stepped forward.

“And who are you, little shireling?”

“My name is Bilbo Baggins and I would tell you a tale, the like of which has never been heard in these Halls.”

“Very well, Master Baggins, tell me your tale.”

Bilbo drew a deep breath.

“Wait.” The Steward lifted a hand. “It can wait until you are refreshed.” A page came forward at Ecthelion’s signal. “Show them to suitable quarters, see they are given a chance to wash and bring them to my personal quarters, please.” He bid

“My lord.” The page bowed to him before turning to the travellers. “This way if you please, my lords.” They followed the lad from the hall, he took them to an enclosed garden with many adjoining suites. After they chose rooms, the page showed them the communal bathing rooms and informed them that their luggage would be brought to them, he would see to it personally. He shut the garden door behind him and the travellers looked at each other for a moment.

“Dibs on a bath.” Said Bilbo, already striding for the room he and Thorin had chosen, undoing buttons as he went. By the time he finished lounging in a positively decadent bath, the page had returned and laid out clothing. They left the kits playing in the garden and followed the lad through the corridors to an unremarkable door, the guards opening the door as they approached and the page announced them before leaving.

Ecthelion waved them in.

“Come. Sit. Eat. This is my wife, Sordrina and our son Denethor. These two beauties are our girls, Ferina and Luwren. My dear, this is Glorfindel, Erestor and Bilbo Baggins. Master Baggins has a tale for us, one that will introduce their companions, I hope?” That last comment was directed at Bilbo, as the Steward introduced a small sandy-haired woman and a boy, who looked much the same age as Estel and Bain and two lovely dark haired girls just entering the bloom of womanhood.

“Indeed it will, my lord. Fíli, would you be a dear and fetch me a drink and something to eat?”

“Sure, Uncle Bilbo.” The Steward was startled that the shireling asked the crown prince of Erebor to fetch food for him and even more surprised that the prince did so and called him uncle.

“When I opened my eyes, I was wet-” Bilbo was a Master storyteller and his tale was one of intrigue, mystery, adventure and bravery. Now Ecthelion understood why Tomas was so impressed with these people. The hobbit went on to divulge his plans for an alliance of all the nations of the west.

“This Thengel you speak of? I know him, he is one of our Horse Masters, in the morn, I will send for him and you can tell your tale again, Master Baggins. The kit? The one you wish to?... Bond was it? With my line? I would meet this kit.”

“Of course, my lord. Kíli, Tauriel? If you would?” Bilbo replied.

“Of course Uncle Bilbo. Be right back.” The two left the room, coming back within minutes herding the group of kits.

“Sorry, Uncle, it was easier to bring them all, than to try and get the others to stay there.”

“I know, Kíli, I know.” The hobbit sighed.

As the kits entered the room, they split up and went to their Bonded people, Rûkhuz going to Bilbo and curling himself around the hobbit, reaching out and wrapping his tail around Thorin’s arm, Carmine coming to curl about the hobbit’s feet. Sabâs stayed at Kíli’s side, while Markhel snaked behind the chairs until she reached Fíli, she slid up onto his shoulders and draped herself across him. Marilla bounded across the room to Frerin and sat at his feet with her head in his lap. Scout delicately walked across the room, avoiding feet and chairs until he could slither around Legolas’ legs resting his head and neck on the elf’s arm as it lay on the back of the sofa. Anzar and Buzrul slowly approached and sat just in front of Thorin, uncertain, wondering if they were in trouble.

“So introductions all round. Yes? Yes. This here is Rûkhuz, he’s the chief trouble maker amongst the dragons and this lovely lady here is Carmine, Sabâs is beside Kíli, Markhel with Fíli, Marilla with Frerin and Scout is using Legolas as a pillow. These two in front of Thorin are Buzrul and Anzar. The two of them are aptly named. Buzrul is a term to describe something that is ‘of the plains’ and we intended to see if Thengel will bond his line with Buzrul. Anzar literally means ‘steward’ and it is he that we would Bond with your Line, he seems well suited.” Bilbo explained.

“Particularly as he keeps trying to take swords from the armoury.” Fíli stuck in.

“Hmm… Denethor? Ferina? Luwren? Come here, please. Would you like the dragon as a companion, Denethor? From what Master Bilbo tells us, he’s a smart critter. Maybe he can keep you out of trouble, boy.”

“I don’t get into trouble papa.” The lad said.

“No? Then the bookseller was wrong about you trying to take a book without payment?” his father asked.

“I’m a Steward, he should have given it to me. I shouldn’t have to pay for it. We’re the rulers of Gondor.”

“No, boy. You are not a Steward. You are the son of the Steward. And the Steward only rules in the stead of the King.” Ecthelion corrected.

“There is no king, so it doesn’t matter. We rule.”

“Not with that attitude you don’t.”

“There is a King. Or perhaps I should say? There is a youngling who will one day be King of Gondor.” Erestor put in.

“No!” The boy cried. “They’re all dead!”

“Not all.” The elf chided.

“What do you mean? Eänur was the last King to reign in these Halls.” Ecthelion told them.

“Yes, he was. But he was not the last of Elendil’s heirs. Eänur’s grandfather had cousins and it is from them that the King will come. The one who will be King can trace his line back through the chieftains of the Dunedain for 15 generations. The first chieftain was Aranarth, he was the son of Arvedui and Firiel. Arvedui was descended from Elendil’s son Isildur and Firiel was descended from his other son Anárion. This lad, can lay claim to the thrones of both Gondor and of Arnor.”

What?! But… but. Where is he? Why is he not with you?” the Steward asked in shock.

“He is safe. An enemy grows in the east and were he to take the throne today, Aragorn, son of Arathorn would not be able to defeat that evil, for he is but a child, now. He is not with us, because of both this evil and his age. He is but 10 years old.” Glorfindel said.

“This is why Master Bilbo plans to foster the sons of the thrones of the west, together?”

“Precisely. Have the princes grow up together, get to know each other, not just as names on a page, but as friends, training partners and as shield-brothers. Together they can raise the West to a greatness undreamt of. For your son to have not just one, but many kings call him ‘brother’? To have the Kings of Eryn Galen, Erebor, Rohan, Gondor and Arnor as his shield-brothers?” Bilbo replied.

“Further than this. Elrond, who has fostered Aragorn since his father’s death, has suggested, and Aragorn has agreed, that two new princedoms shall arise, with your grandsons to be named princes of Ithilien and of Osgiliath. He would however, ask that Denethor remain at his side as his most trusted Steward.” Glorfindel added.

“Osgiliath is a ruin, not much of a princedom, there.” The lady Sordrina muttered.

“It will not be that way for much longer, my lady. The White Council sits to decide the fate of the One Ring’s destruction. Osgiliath will rise.”

“Why destroy the Sauron’s Ring? Why not use it to defeat him?” One of the girls asked.

“Would that it could be so, but when Sauron forged the Ring, he poured his malice and his need to dominate all others, into that circle of gold. Through that Ring he would control the wearer. The only way to defeat Sauron is to destroy the Ring, his soul is bound to it’s existence.”

Bilbo remained silent as Glorfindel explained this. Bilbo had worn the Ring many times in his last life, but there was nothing that a hobbit could do of benefit to the Dark Lord and so he had been left alone with the ring drawing out his life until Sauron could have the Ring claimed by his wraiths. Too bad for Suaron that he would not get that chance. Too bad for Sauron that the Valar had given Bilbo the means to render the Ring impotent.

“My son? Steward to the King Returned, his sons, princes in their own right? Can this be?” the Steward whispered to his wife.

“For this? We must trust them. Them and the White Council. They have never lead us astray.” She reminded him.

“Papa?” Bilbo could see Denethor now wore a new expression, his face glowed with wonder and determination. Gone was the arrogance, the sneer of one who believed himself above others. The son of the Steward had been offered more than just the seat of the Steward, he had been offered a position among Kings and princes.

“Papa? I would Bond our line with the Dragon, it will be many years before I have sons to be princes, but if I am to train at the side of a King? If my sons are to be princes? Bonding with the dragon will give me a connection with the King, a shared experience. Besides, if he goes with one of my sons, the dragon won’t be far away. I would Bond with-? What is his name, again?”

“His name is Anzar.” Bilbo answered.

“Anzar. Anzar? Will you Bond with me? With us? With my father? With my sisters? Will you Bond with the Line of Hurín?” the lad asked the kit directly.

Anzar sidled over to the lad, raising up onto two legs to be on eye level and looked him in the eye for a few seconds. He chirped and leant forward to rest his head against the lad’s chest, right over his heart. Then the kit began to croon.

“Right then. Master Baggins? How do we do this? How do we Bond with Anzar?” the Steward asked.

  

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

Ni weera na lle os-taw, gwethil’en nín nest = I agree with you on that, sister of my heart (S)

injamu-amé = leaf of mine (S)

nest-Adar = heart-father (foster father, Elrond taking in Estel and his mother Gilraen after Arathorn’s death ) (S)

quildë = hush/quiet (Q)

Tsvaare’d = Bonded (D) (tsvar red)

Kitral = children/kits/young (D) (keet ral)

Lízul = coal (K)

Ferina (feh rina)

Luwren (lou wren)

 

Chapter Text

Unexpected Developments.

 

“Huh. That is a story, Master Baggins. Make no mistake... If I hadn’t spoken with Tomas and Delenor or seen that stud playing, playing mind, with your dwarf this morning, there’s not a chance in Mordor that I would have believed you. But…” he sighed. “That stud, your dwarf and the dragons? Yeah. I believe you. I would like to meet the mother, Smaug first though. It’s such a big thing you’re asking. From what you say it will increase the length of my life, those of my siblings that also Bond with the animal and those of our children.”

“Ah. Not quite. Erestor spent a part of the evening yesterday in the City’s library and found additional information on the subject. Yes, it will increase your lifespan, your siblings lives, but only the children of the one it chooses as that generation’s companion, will live longer.”

“Okaaay. And in Westron, that means what, exactly?” The exiled prince of Rohan asked.

“Basically, if you and both of your sisters Bond with Buzrul, the Bond will increase the life of all three of you, but if you are that one he chooses as your generation’s companion, then only your children will have an increased life, not those of your sisters’ children. Just as when you have children of your own, Buzrul will choose one of them as companion and so that child’s future children will have increased lives, but not those of your other children, unless,you Bond all the children to Buzrul. In which case, all the Bonded will have lengthened lives.”

“Oh, yes. That makes it very clear.” Bilbo liked Thengel, he’s a sarcastic git.

“Alright. The really simple version. Only those Bound to the dragon and the children of the Companion will have longer lives. Is that better?” the hobbit huffed, playfully.

“Much better. Thank you.” The prince of Rohan replied, with a grin. “I still want to meet Smaug first, though. As I said this is a big decision, it affects more than just me.”

“Yes. I, too would like to meet her.” Ecthelion added.

“And me? Can I come too, papa?” The young steward-son asked, his face hopeful.

“Bilbo? Do you think that’s a good idea?” The steward asked, doubtful.

“That’s fine, Ecthelion. The children in Erebor like playing with Smaug. She’s a good attendant for the older children. For some reason they like to snuggle under her wings.” Bilbo shook his head as he said this.

“Very well. If it’s acceptable with you, Thengel, Bilbo, can we wait until after luncheon? I have a few things that must be completed this morning and I’d like to have a chat with the guards, just in case Smaug returns with us. I don’t want one of them trying to shoot her out of the sky.”

“I’ve no problems with that. There’s a few things I should see to as well. Bilbo?” Replied Thengel.

“No, nor I. If I may? I’d like a tour of your House of Healing. I did promise our healer to ask after a couple of treatments. He’s not had much cause to treat Men-folk before and many are staying in Erebor while Dale is rebuilt.” The hobbit asked.

“Of course. Shall I have Denethor take you?”

“No, please. Denethor has promised to take Fíli, Kíli and Frerin on a tour of the city. Seems that the four are becoming friends. I think Gimli and Legolas are planning on trailing after them, mostly to be annoying. Just a page will do, if he’ll introduce me to your head healer, that will be fine. Oh and if you’d send someone to fetch me for luncheon, that would be grand.”

“Of course. Please excuse us. I’ll send a page along shortly.” With that the Steward and his son stood and left the room.

“I, too, will take my leave. Until luncheon, Master Baggins.” Thengel also departed.

Bilbo was glad to have a moment to himself. His stomach rolled, reminding him of why he’d asked for a tour of the Healing Houses now instead of waiting until after the Bondings were dealt with. He took a couple of deep breaths and got to his feet, perhaps walking would distract him. On his third lap of the room, his stomach began to settle and on his fourth a knock was heard at the door.

“Come.” He called. The door was opened and a livery-dressed page entered and bowed.

“Master Baggins? My lord Steward said you wished an introduction to our Master Healer and a tour of the Healing Houses?” When Bilbo nodded the page continued. “I have been tasked with escorting you to Master Tarret. Is there anything you need to take with you, sir?”

Bilbo crossed the room and picked up his note-book.

“Just this.” He said.

“Certainly. Please follow me, sir.” The lad instructed.

For a few minutes the hobbit followed the page through corridors, down stairs and across courtyards. They reached a set of doors, where the page spoke to a guard for a few seconds, the guard opened the door and they entered. More corridors that opened into a large airy Hall, with many small cleverly partitioned areas. The page asked Bilbo to wait and disappeared into a door off to the side.

Within minutes he was back, accompanied by a pair of older people, a Man and a woman.

“Master Baggins? May I introduce you to Master Healer Tarret and Matron Kestral?” The page indicated to each person as he said their names.

“Thank you Tarrin. You may go back to the Steward.” Master Tarrent waved the lad off.

“Thanks, Grampa. Don’t forget, Mellie’s name-day dinner is tonight. Do you want me to come by here, after my Lord finishes for the day?” The lad asked, grinning brightly.

“Ah. Thank you for the reminder, Tarrin. And yes, please, otherwise, I’m sure I’ll forget again. For now, off you go. Master Baggins will want you to fetch him for luncheon, surely.”

“Right you are, Grampa. I’ll be back in a few hours, Master Baggins.”

“Thank you, lad.” The hobbit replied, as the boy trotted out of the room.

“Now, Master Baggins? What can I do for you? I doubt that our Healing House is all that much different from any other Healing House, so? What can we do for you?”

“Two things. Erebor’s healers aren’t all that familiar with treating Men and neither are the elves of Eryn Galen. If you would have a text of some basic illnesses and their treatments, that I could provide Master Óin, that would be very helpful.” Bilbo inquired.

“Ah. Most certainly. We have a number of student manuals that I would be delighted to send, plus we have a couple of problem students that have copied some of our more detailed books, so I’ll have a few of those sent, too. And the other thing, Master Baggins?”

“Oh. That would be lovely. The other thing… tell me Master Tarret, do you know much about Hobbit physiology?”

“Hobbit physiology? Well, not a lot really. Although, after news of your arrival yesterday, I did hunt up the only medical tract we have on hobbits, but I’m dubious of it’s authenticity, though. Why do you ask? Is there something wrong?” The healer lean forward in concern.

“There is an… issue. What does your tract say about hobbit reproduction?”

“Well, I’m not sure how accurate our information is… Master Baggins, to be brutal, there are so many holes in our information on hobbits and I have no idea what’s correct and what’s not. The only tract I could find states that hobbits are hermaphrodites and like I said, the inaccuracies…”

“Oh, good.” Bilbo sat back in relief.

“Good? How is that, ‘good’?” The healer said in frustration.

“Well, it got that bit right, anyway.”

“What? That hobbits have hermaphrodites in their population? Nearly all species have some hermaphrodites.”

“No, sir. All hobbits are hermaphrodites.”

“All! But…? All? That’s… amazing. All? Truly?” The man was nearly speechless.

“Indeed, Master Tarret. And there in lies my concern.”

“In what way, Master Baggins?”

“Well, sir, I have begun to suspect that I may be pregnant.”

 

Bilbo paced back and forth along the balcony of their room. The view east did little to calm his nerves, as thoughts ran riot through his head.

We have Bondings to do for Denethor, Thengel and their sisters later tonight.

The prince of Dol Amroth is arriving a few days.

How do I tell Thorin?

Ecthelion wants me to assist his scholars searching out maps of Ithilien and Osgiliath for surveying building sites.

The Stable Master wanted to talk with Thorin about getting Lízul to service some of his mares.

How do I tell Thorin?

Frerin wants Thorin to go with him and Gimli to check out the City Forges.

Kíli and Tauriel are to meet with the Animal Healers tomorrow, they want to take all the kits.

How do I tell Thorin?

Legolas and the Twins want to go up to the Hallows and the slopes of the Mountain, Smaug said she saw a white seedling there.

Thank the Valar that Ecthelion made that proclamation about Smaug being friend not foe, the unBonded kits were missing her.

How   do I tell Thorin?

I wonder if the White Council have come to a decision, yet?

The last raven from Erebor said Sigrid accepted a marriage proposal from Vendarian, Lendarion’s son. Bard must be so annoyed.

How   do I tell Thorin?

There’s still the Ring to deal with yet.

And I’m pregnant...

Valar help me. How do I tell Thorin?

Bilbo spun around as the door to their room opened, Thorin walking through it.

“Bilbo? Are you alright? The page said you wanted to stay in the Healing House for the afternoon. I thought you wanted to spend some time with Smaug? You’re not sick are you?” Thorin asked crossing the room.

“Sick? No… not … sick.” Bilbo answered, very hesitantly.

“Bilbo? Bilbo, what’s wrong? Was the fish last night off? Did it give you food poisoning? Is that why you didn’t have second breakfast?” Thorin hurried over to his husband.

“Food poisoning? No. No, don’t stress, it’s not food poisoning. It’s just…” he paused.

“Just what? Bilbo? What?”

“It’s just… I’m pregnant.”

There was silence while Thorin digested that.

“Ah? Bilbo? You’re male. Males don’t get pregnant.” Thorin spoke slowly and very clearly.

“Maybe dwarf males don’t, but hobbit males do. Didn’t Gandalf tell you that? Where do you think all the hobbit children came from? Why do you think hobbits have outgrown the Shire?”

“But…? Bilbo…? Pregnant? But…?”

Bilbo turned Thorin around and guided him to a chair near the fire. He waited patiently, he knew that Thorin would take a few minutes to think his way through that information before he acted. While he waited Bilbo put the kettle on the coals of the fire and got a pot ready for tea.

Suddenly the dwarf leapt forward.

“You’re pregnant? A baby? You’re having a baby? We’re having a baby? Oh, Bilbo. Oh, my burglar.” Arms surrounded the hobbit, crushing him to Thorin’s chest. The dwarf was laughing and crying at the same time and it was a huge relief to the hobbit. That Thorin was happy, shocked but happy, allowed Bilbo to let go of his frantic panic.

“Bilbo, amrâlu’ê? How? I mean. How does a male get pregnant? It’s not… is it common in hobbits?”

“Oh, yes. It very common. Look, dear. I think I need to explain a bit about hobbits. All hobbits are hermaphrodites, that is, we all have both male and female reproductive organs internally, I’ll spare you the medical details, they’re kind of gruesome. There are three major milestones in a young hobbit’s life. Until we’re 11 we have a genderless name, and are all treated the same, basically sexless little monsters. When we reach 11, we have our Preparatory-day and that’s when we start to experiment, with clothes, with mannerisms, with names, that sort of thing. At 22 we have our Tween-day, we decide what gender we want to associate as, we choose a name and in most cases, we choose an occupation. In my case I was the eldest Baggins in my generation and so became The Baggins. A hobbit’s Coming of Age is at 33, until that point, our bodies aren’t completely mature, we can’t get pregnant before then nor can we make someone else pregnant, it’s not physically possible. Oh, yes, there is the very rare case, but there’s not been an Early Blooming for three generations, at least. Many hobbit couples live together prior to coming of age, after all there’s practically no chance of an unwanted babe, but they can’t marry until they come of age.” Bilbo reached for the kettle that was bubbling away merrily on the coals, making a pot of tea gave him something to do with his hands as he talked.

“I was sure that Gandalf would have told you, but obviously the old meddler didn’t. Typical of him. Alright, now. What else is there? Oh, yes. A hobbit pregnancy last for 25-27 weeks, roughly 6 months, the healers here tell me that it’s probably due to our small stature. Most couples share the pregnancies, taking turns that is. Although occasionally you’ll hear of a couple that have misjudged and both are with child at the same time, it’s not that common, but it happens maybe once or twice a year.”

“Ah, Bilbo? You do know that dwarrow males can’t get pregnant, don’t you?” Thorin asked, hesitantly.

“Yes, yes, dear, I know. I don’t mind. But… you’re going to have to help, Tooks like large families and Baggins’ tend to have multiple babes at once. I’ve no idea how many I’m carrying yet, won’t for at least another month. I don’t mind doing the carrying, but if there’s two or more, then I’m going to insist on at least a year between pregnancies.”

“Two? More? How many…? I mean… is there a limit? To how many times you can be pregnant?”

“Well, that depends. I’m 51 and the Baggins’ side usually stop ovulating by about 55, but the Tooks? now the Tooks, they’re still fertile well into their sixties, something to do with one of their ancestors having a fairy for a wife? I’m not really sure why. I think we can safely say, I’ve got at least another 3 pregnancies after this one, maybe more.”

“Three? Three? You’d do this again?”

“Of course. Look, Thorin, I talked to the Healers here and they think that a dwarf-hobbit pregnancy is likely to be a week or two longer than a typical hobbit one, but hobbits have extremely easy births, it’s rare for complications of any sort. The more active we stay, the easier the birthing, the few cases of a parent not being active lead to a difficult birth, so we try to stay as active as possible, right up until we go into labour. Labour itself is a matter of 3-10 hours, again depending on how active the parent was. I like fauntlings, they’re entertaining little horrors. Bag End was always full of them, I seemed to be the go-to adult for any hurt, upset or hungry faunt and after Frodo came to live with me, never a day went by where I didn’t have dozens of the rascals running through my halls and garden.” Bilbo paused while he poured out tea for the two of them.

“I’d like more than father wanted, though, he wanted a small family, but mother? she would have liked many more than what they had. Mother wasn’t able to get pregnant, she’d been injured as a youngster and damaged her female organs, so Da carried me and my siblings.”

“I remember you said you had siblings when we buried Peldin. Would you tell me about them? You don’t have to if it's too painful.”

“It’s difficult to talk about them, just… the way they died wasn’t nice, Thorin.”

“It’s up to you, amrâl. I will not push.”

A few minutes passed before Bilbo spoke again.

“I had four sibs. Feldar, Rildon, Sorrel and Clover. Feldar and I were born together and Rildon was born later that same year, both chose to be male and we played all over the Hill. The following year Da birthed twice, Clover first and Sorrel the second time. Clover was a Late Bloomer, she was near 30 before she decided to be a girl, but Sorrel knew right from the start that they were meant for Yavanna. Sorrel never chose a gender, ever. I always saw Sorrel as a little sister, but Rildon used to call Sorrel, ‘his brother’. I lost them all. Da was first. He got sick the winter I turned 36 , he developed a chest infection but hid it from mother until it was too late. The floods came in the spring and Rildon drowned saving Ashley Marcher, he was in labour, but thanks to Rildon, he and his babe survived.” When Bilbo stopped, his chest heaving and so Thorin poured him another mug of tea.

“I was 38 when Feldar and Sorrel were killed, they’d been inspecting a new Temple-Smial, the Smial-Crafters were happy but Feldar thought the hill unstable. It was and they were both killed, along with four others when the hill collapsed, they were buried alive. Mother was next, it was winter again, she went to fetch firewood, but never came back, we found her the next day, she’d been hit by a falling branch and probably knocked out, the healers didn’t hold much hope and she never woke up again. She lasted a week before joining Da, it was eight years to the day, since we’d lost him.”

“And Clover?” Thorin asked quietly.

“It’s only been three years since I lost Clover. It was the first childbirth death in Hobbiton in over two hundred years. What made it worse, was that Clover’s wife, Amber had died from blood poisoning just a few days earlier, the healers think that the shock of Amber’s death caused Clover to go into labour early. The babe only lived for a few hours, it was too young and it’s lungs weren’t fully formed. My whole family were gone. I was alone.” He sobbed.

“Not now, Bilbo. Not anymore. I’m here now. Me, Fíli, Kíli, Tauriel, Frerin, Dís, Dwalin, Ori, Adad, the Company, the Twins, Smaug and the kits. We’re all here. You’ll never be alone again, my amrâl. Never… And now you’re pregnant, we’re having our own babes. We’ll look after them. Óin and the Twins will help keep them healthy.” Thorin held Bilbo until he’d cried himself out. The last thing running through the hobbit’s head, was?

I’m pregnant and my husband is happy about it. Oh, bless you, Yavanna, bless you!

 

The healer’s tea wasn’t all that bad, Bilbo decided the next morning. It certainly settled his stomach anyway, he was ready for second breakfast, now. He watched as Thorin stumbled out of the bedroom and out onto the balcony, he sat, or rather fell into the other seat at the cunningly wrought metal table that Frerin had spent an entire hour drawing and altering for a more dwarrow-styled look. The hobbit poured his dwarf a mug of coffee and sat back, nibbling on a slice of toast.

He wasn’t taking any chances, if his stomach didn’t reject it, then he’d feed the ravenous beast that seemed to have taken up residence in his belly. Yes, that tea was heaven-sent, he’d have to ask for more, or some plants, with so many dwarrowdams having such debilitating sickness during pregnancy, Óin would want them, too. He reached for bacon as he scooped some eggs onto the toast, tomatoes next, followed by some luscious looking mushrooms, Bilbo paused, turned from the food platters and quickly found his ever-present notebook and a pencil. He made a few notes and was back eating by the time Thorin had finished the first of many coffees.

Kíli and Tauriel joined them, their kit slinking into the bedroom to wake up his brother, Bilbo noting that the elf looked a little paler and her cheeks a little more flushed than usual. He had a though on that, and so, just poured her a mug of the healer’s tea. As he handed it to her he whispered in her ear.

“It will help.” She shook her head. “Trust me, it will help, my dear.” Her eyes widened and Bilbo nodded, Tauriel took the mug and sipped at the tea, sighing in relief. The elf quirked an eyebrow at Thorin, Bilbo nodded and rolled his eyes, but when she tilted her head in the direction of the other dwarf, he gave a slight shake. When Bilbo nodded towards Kíli, Tauriel shook her head and the two shared a wicked grin. They both had an idea of how Kíli would react.

“Morning Uncle Thorin, Uncle Bilbo.” The prince chirped brightly, pouring himself a juice. “The Bonding went well last night, didn’t it?”

“It did. Good morning Kíli, Tauriel. Are you still taking the kits today?” Bilbo answered, knowing that Thorin was still not quite awake yet. He and Fíli were definitely not morning people.

“Yes, uncle. The animal healers here are worried that they don’t know anything about dragons and even though we’ve got copies of the books for them to study, we felt that some hands on time would help. We’re going to do two sessions, one this morning and another this afternoon. Oh, and the Animal master wants to attend one of the Bondings, I told him that we’d have to get permission from the Steward and from Thengel for that. I sent a page with messages, so we should know soon enough.” The young dwarf chattered for a bit, before standing up. “Well. Time we were moving, getting eight kits altogether and herding them into the city is going to take a while. Thank Mahal, that we’ve only got to go up two levels.” As he spoke Kíli went into the bedroom and emerged, dragging Sabâs by the tail, the kit had given up trying to wake Rûkhuz and climbed into his bed with him. When Sabâs’ head came into view, the hobbit swallowed a laugh, the red kit had closed his teeth on his brother’s tail and so poor Kíli was left to drag two kits behind him as they left.

It took awhile but finally Thorin was aware, sort of, of his surroundings. Enough that Bilbo broached the day’s plans with his dwarf.

“What are your plans for the day, dear?” Bilbo asked, fingering the embroidered pouch that contained the Ring as it sat on the table beside his plate.

“Hmm… Frerin and Gimli want me to go to the forges with them. Frerin has finally decided that he’s going to Court Larzi, or at least he’s going to make a Courting Gift and offer it to her. Then I’m to meet with Stable Master Hector about breeding with Lízul. What about you, Bilbo? What are you doing today? More Healing House or the Herb Gardens this time?”

“Well, neither, actually. I thought I’d spend the day with Smaug, maybe take a little flight with her before we tell everyone I’m pregnant. You know they won’t let me fly with her once they know.” Maybe it was wrong of him to tell Thorin before he was really awake, but… if he waited, Thorin wouldn’t approve either.

“Well, try not to do anything too strenuous.” Thorin continued to eat and sip his coffee as Bilbo got to his feet and made to leave the balcony. “Don’t forget, you’re pregnant, so take some snacks with you.” Bilbo nodded and left the dwarf to his thoughts.

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

Lízul = coal (K)

Amrâlu’ê = love of mine (K)

Amrâl = love (K)

Chapter Text

Unexpected Reactions.

 

“This is not a good idea, my tsvaare’d. Not at all. But… I agree, it must be done.” Was all that Smaug said when Bilbo told her what he intended to do.

They flew north-east, skirting around Osgiliath, no need to alert the garrison there, of the dragon’s destination. Bilbo spent the majority of the flight laying back between Smaug’s wings, covered by the triple-layered blanket he’d nabbed off their bed on the way out the door. Even with the blanket the cold was biting and many times Bilbo had to ask Smaug to stop and let him warm up under her wings. Each time it took longer and they covered less distance, but eventually the Mountain the elves called ‘Orodruin’ and everyone else called Mt Doom, was in front of them. At their last ‘warming’ break Bilbo and Smaug discussed exactly how to get the Ring into the Fires, but until they saw the mountain, they weren’t sure.

Bilbo had thought that he might enter the mountain on foot and drop the pouch into the Fires, but obviously Smaug had other ideas. She glided up the side of the mountain, staying low to avoid being seen, when she reached the mouth of the crater, she flared her wings and began to hover, slowly letting them down into the mountain. When they were just feet above the walkway, she craned her head back to look at the hobbit.

“To the left, my tsvaare’d. Toss it to the left.”

Bilbo huffed, but did as the dragon bid him. They both watched as the brilliant green pouch, embroidered with red, blue, yellow, orange, purple, black, gold and white writing, fell in a gentle arc. As it landed in the lake of molten rock, a blaze of light emerged, all the colours of the embroidery glowing. Slowly it started to sink below the surface.

“Time to go, Smaug. Nothing can reach it now, not even a balrog can tolerate the Fires of Mt Doom. Let’s go back to our family.”

“Agreed, tsvaare’d.” The dragon beat her wings strongly and they quickly cleared the rim of the crater, she slid on the air currents until they were well away from the mountain. Her speed increased and even Bilbo felt the need to get away from the mountain, why? He didn’t know, but it was there and it was driving.

The ridges of Minas Morgul were almost below them, when they felt a change in the air. Bilbo looked over his shoulder and screamed at what he saw behind them. Smaug’s head flung around to see what caused Bilbo’s scream, her eyes widened and filled with fear, she began to push harder, beat her wings faster, stronger.

Behind them the ground of Mordor heaved and fell. A great gout of flame rose towards the heavens from where Mt Doom had once stood, the mountain now gone, swallowed by fire. As the hobbit watched the flames slowly bloomed into a gigantic mushroom shaped cloud, red and orange with tinges of green and black. Below the cloud the ground fell away, swallowed back in on itself, pulling more and more land in to the gaping hole, it was miles across and still growing. It continued to pull Mordor in on itself and from somewhere water was entering, steam erupting from the depths of the hole.

Smaug flew hard against the wind that threatened to pull them back into Mordor, she dropped lower until she was barely high enough for her wings to clear the ground, here the winds lessened, they still pulled, but not as hard. Once past Minas Morgul and it’s mountains with Osgiliath in sight, the wind dropped to a stiff breeze, but the ground was still heaving, twisting, rising and falling. As Bilbo watched the ring of mountains that formed range of Ephel Dúath to the south and Ered Lithui to the north, began to fall. They rippled and twisted, collapsing over themselves to the east like waves nearing a beach, gaps appearing and spreading. Water roiled and poured through those gaps, filled the spaces and pulling more rocks down into it’s embrace.

Maybe it was the shock or maybe it was the wind blowing in his face, but Bilbo heard nothing more than a hissing, rushing noise. Like that of a slow moving river, it was almost silent. As they passed over Osgiliath the wind dropped completely and Smaug lowered herself to a battlement and finally the pair were able to see what had happened to Mordor.

It was gone. While the water still issued steam in places, it was clear the Mordor was no more. Now all that lay to the east of Gondor was an immense inland sea, not even Mt Doom or the tower of Barad-Dûr remained. The water rose until it reached the road that ran to the east of Osgiliath and Ithilien, where the mountains had been was now a bank sloping down to meet the water.

“Wow.” Was all Bilbo could say.

“Indeed. I think we had best continue. Our tsvaare’d will be looking for us. I fear he will be unhappy with both of us.”

“I think you could be right, my dear. Are you alright? You didn’t strain yourself, did you?”

“I am… not… comfortable. Yes, I have pushed hard, but the alternative was unacceptable. After this… It will be unlikely that I will be able to fly for a few days. My flight muscles already ache, but we still must reach the city.”

“What can we do to help? Warmth? Cool? What do you need, Smaug?”

“Rest, mostly. And perhaps… perhaps Kíli would make me a muscle relaxant?”

“I’ll see that he does.”

“Thank you, tsvaare’d. Now, hold tight. This is going to be rough.” With that Smaug fought her way back into the air. She was right, it was rough, it was like riding the river rapids in a barrel, again, the dragon literally clawing through the sky.

 

A few hours earlier back in the city, Frerin had come to fetch his nadad. He might have missed over 140 years of knowing his brother, but Mahal made Thorin consistent. He was no more liking of mornings now than he had as child, perhaps less so. He was good this morning, the hobbit’s influence, no doubt. He was dressed and waiting, sipping on yet another coffee, having finished eating already.

“Galkhâ-baknu, Thorin.” He looked around the door into their room. “Where’s Bilbo this fine morning?”

Thorin grunted and gave him a flat stare.

“With Smaug.” Was all he said, Frerin considered that almost an entire conversation for Thorin at this hour.

“Alright, nadad. Are you finished? I want to see the forges and see if I can convince the master smith to let me use one to make Larzi a Courting Gift. You coming with me?”

Thorin didn’t answer, but he did get to his feet and head into the bedroom, emerging a minute later with his cloak and his pair of leather forge-gauntlets. The two left the balcony and on leaving their communal garden, met up with Gimli and Legolas. A short discussion there and the three dwarrow left the elf in the garden and with Gimli leading the way, headed for the lower levels and the City’s great forges.

Frerin worked as best he could on Larzi’s gift, but wielding a hammer again was hard on his arm, finally Thorin stepped forward and took the hammer from him.

“Tell me where you want it hit and I’ll hit it.” He grumped.

Working with Thorin was an eye-opener for both Frerin and Gimli. Neither had any idea of his skill, it was startling to say the least. Thorin had worked hard to support his people after Smaug’s arrival in Erebor and just as hard to keep them together after Azanulbizar. When Frerin finished the basic shape of the hair combs, Thorin continued to work, a blade emerging from the coals, delicate and strong, a blade to match his much revered Orcrist. When Legolas called them for lunch, Frerin was surprised that Bilbo was not already there and asked after him.

“He went for a flight with Smaug.” Thorin answered.

He didn’t miss the look of alarm that passed over the faces of Gimli and Legolas.

“What?”

“Did he say if they’d be back for lunch or not?” Legolas asked as they joined Fíli, Kíli, Tauriel and the Twins at the table set for them under an awning in their garden.

“No, he didn’t, but I did tell him to take some snacks with him.” Thorin answered.

“Ah, well. In that case? There’s probably no cause for concern.” Legolas hedged.

“Probably?”

“Well, it’s just… hobbits and Mordor…? If the Ring wasn’t in Lothlorien, I’d be more worried, but as it is…? …What? What is it?” Something on Thorin’s face made the elf’s heart lurch.

“The Ring? Bilbo had a pouch this morning. It was on the table beside his plate, I’m not sure if it had the Ring or not, but…? This is Bilbo.”

“And Bilbo is a Baggins, Frodo had to get it from somewhere.” Gimli rumbled.

“What’s Bilbo done this time?” Kíli asked.

“Well, we’re not sure, but it’s not like him to miss luncheon. If he does have the Ring, then it’s possible he’s convinced Smaug to take to Mt Doom. Maybe.” Frerin told his nephew.

“But isn’t he…?” Tauriel didn’t finish.

Thorin’s head rose and looked at her in alarm.

“Yes, he is.” He groaned. “I told him to take some snacks. You know what he’s like when he’s hungry.” Everyone winced, they’d all seen Bilbo hungry.

Before they could decide just what to do about their missing King’s-Consort, a guard ran in.

“King Thorin? Lord Ecthelion wants you at the White Tree.” Thorin was about to beg off, when the guard continued. “There’s something happening to the east. Please come, Your Majesty.”

“That woolly-footed menace… Lead the way.” The guard left at a run, Thorin at his heels, the rest of the Erebor contingent close behind. Through corridors and up a flight of stairs that opened out onto the Tree’s courtyard. The guard pointed to Ecthelion standing at the point of the pinnacle of the City’s mountain-spine, looking to the east.

A pillar of orange rose from the beyond the mountain, to the sky. Bright like fire, it blazed in the sun, before expanding to mushroom shaped cloud. A wind began and blew hard from the west. They watched in amazement as the mountains to the east changed shape and crumbled, Mordor was being swallowed by a huge mass of water.

“There!” cried Elladan. “There, do you see? Smaug. She lands at Osgiliath.”

“Excuse me? What’s going on? As soon as the pillar of light, fire, whatever it is, was spotted, I called for you. Do you know what it could be?” Ecthelion asked.

“Unfortunately, we may. It possible be that Bilbo had taken it on himself to destroy the One Ring, my Lord.” Fíli was the one to respond.

“The One Ring?” the Steward questioned.

“I told him not to do anything strenuous. He’s pregnant, damn it! Oh Mahal help that hobbit when I get my hands on him.” Thorin continued to rant, unaware of the sudden silence around him.

Finally Elladan spoke again.

“She’s in the air again. Coming this way.” The elf’s words were the key that opened the way for the others.

“Pregnant?” Kíli turned to Fíli. “Did Uncle say Bilbo’s pregnant?” Fíli nodded. “But Bilbo’s male. Males can’t get pregnant. Can they?” The frightened dwarf begged his brother.

The questions persisted until Smaug’s body loomed above them. She landed heavily, awkwardly. Thorin barely waited until Bilbo undid the harness designed to hold him when in flight, before stomping forward and grabbing his husband. He ranted in Khuzdul with the occasional word in Westron thrown in, Bilbo had no idea what he was saying and so ignored him.

“Kíli! Smaug’s strained herself, pulling against that wind. Can you help her? Something to ease her flight muscles, please?”

“Yes, Uncle Bilbo… I'll get to that right away.” The young dwarf started for the stairs, he paused, his head just visible in the depths of the stairwell. “Ah, uncle Bilbo? Maybe you’d best talk to Uncle Thorin? He seems to think you’re pregnant.”

“What?” Bilbo was surprised at this.

“Yeah, sorry, but he was going on about you not doing anything strenuous, you were pregnant. He might not like me saying that, but you deserved to know.”

“Rats. We were going to wait until the Bondings were complete before we said anything. Trust Thorin to loose his mind and blurt it out.” The hobbit muttered, Kíli’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “Kíli! That potion for Smaug, lad, hurry up.” Kíli shook him self and stumbled down the stairs, not paying any attention to where he put his feet. Bilbo had just blown his mind.

“Bilbo? What do you mean? Since when do males get pregnant, or are you a male?” Fíli asked.

“Hobbits are different to dwarrow, Fíli-lad. I’d much rather have this chat sitting down, preferably with some food. Thorin? Thorin? Thorin?!” The hobbit broke his dwarf’s rant. “Can we sit down, please? My legs are wobbly and Smaug needs somewhere warm to lay down. She’s going to be muscle-sore for a few days.”

Elrohir called their attention to the east again.

“Bilbo what happened out there?”

“Please? I need to sit. Then I’ll tell you. Please?” Bilbo swayed and Tauriel stepped forward, scooping the hobbit up into her arms, she walked away, the others scurrying after her.

It took a few minutes, but soon Bilbo was ensconced on a outdoor lounge, his husband at his side holding a platter of food. Smaug in front of them curled around a fire-pit with a number of lit braziers positioned about her, the kits doing what they could to warm their mother, as she lay under the effects of Kíli’s potion. The Erebor Company were joined by Ecthelion and young Denethor.

“Bilbo. What happened?” Ecthelion asked.

“How can you be pregnant? Kíli asked.

“What-?” Gimli started.

“Wait!” When they calmed Bilbo went on. “Look. I’ll start at the beginning. I’m a hobbit, hobbits aren’t like dwarrow or men. A hermaphrodite is someone who has both male and female reproductive organs, right? Well, hobbits are hermaphrodites, all of them, every single one. Like I told Thorin last night most hobbit couples take turns at being the one to be pregnant, one after the other. My mother was injured as a child and so our father was the one to carry my siblings and I. With me, still? Good. Hobbit pregnancies are easy, if we stay active, that is. The more active we are the easier a time we have. They last for 25-27 weeks and while the healers here think that a dwarf-hobbit pregnancy might be a little longer, they’re guessing maybe a week or two more.” Bilbo paused here and quickly snarfed down a roll stuffed with ham and salad makings.

“Now, as for today? I told Thorin this morning that I planned to take a flight with Smaug, because I knew that once we’d told you lot I was pregnant, that none of you would like me flying with her. As for the Ring? The White Council can deliberate as much as they want, but the Valar made it clear that it was my task to destroy the Ring. Yes, I left a pouch with Gandalf, but it wasn’t complete, the embroidery wasn’t finished and it was empty. The pouch with the One Ring came with me. Smaug took me over and she hovered inside the crater, I tossed the pouch into the lava and we waited until we saw the embroidery on it flare and it sank beneath the surface, at that point we decided that nothing could retrieve it, so we started back. We’d nearly reached Minas Morgul when the wind started, Smaug dropped low and we kept going. Once we cleared the mountains, the wind eased and we headed for Osgiliath. We stopped there to check out the new view for a minute before we came here. Anything else?”

“Yes, but what happened? There’s a huge lake out there now, it used to be mountains, not water.” Frerin asked.

“When I first looked back, Mt Doom was collapsing, it was being pulled in on itself. The whole of Mordor was pulled into the hole that used to be the mountain. Then the water came. I don’t know where it came from, the closest large body of water is Lake Núrnen, but that’s at least 200 miles to the south-east. The Bay of Balfalas isn’t much further than that, but to the south-west. The mountains were swept into the waters, much like waves sweep a beach, the waters stopped when they reached that road, just to the east of Osgiliath.”

“Alright. We understand that. But. What. Happened?” asked Fíli.

“I think, what you mean? is why did it happen that way? I don’t know, Fíli. Maybe the Valar planned this. Maybe it was the Prayers of Holding breaking down that caused the mountain to collapse. I just don’t know.”

“Why, my hobbit? You’re pregnant, why would you do this now?” Thorin asked, finally calm enough to ask and not scream at his husband.

“Because I’m pregnant, it had to be now. I wasn’t going to let this hang over us any longer, it had to be dealt with. And now.” Bilbo was adamant. Nothing was going to threaten his family.

“What to we tell Gandalf? The White Council? They’re going to want answers.” Thorin said.

“Well, they can want. This task was mine, not theirs. The Valar gave me a chance to have a new life, this was the cost – destroying the Ring. I’ve done that, now it’s time to get on and life my life. The White Council can moan all they want, it’s not up to them, not this time. Gandalf wanted me in this quest because of my unpredictability and that’s exactly what he got. Now he has to live with the consequences. Enough of Mordor, it’s gone, sunk beneath the water. Fíli?”

“Uncle?”

“You still seem a little puzzled, lad. What’re you thinking about?”

“How…? You said both male and female. How does that work?”

“Oh, Fíli. Think about it for a bit longer and if you still want to know, come see me after supper and I’ll explain. Alright?”

“Thank you, Uncle.”

“Kíli?”

“Yes, Uncle Bilbo.” The youngest prince chirped.

“How’s Smaug doing? Is that potion working?”

“She’s good, Uncle. I think the potion might have been a little strong, she’s a bit out of it right now.” He hurried on to say. “That’s good. Out of it, means she’s not in any pain and it gives her flight muscles time to recover. I don’t want to drug her too much, but she might need it again tomorrow. We’ll see how she is in the morning.”

“Thank you, lad. Tauriel? How are you doing?”

“I’m good, but I wouldn’t mind some of that tea you had this morning, if you don’t mind, that is?”

“No, dear, not at all. It was rather good wasn’t it?” The hobbit smirked.

A guard unobtrusively approached Ecthelion while Bilbo spoke with the dwarrow and the elf.

“Thorin? I believe this is for you. It’s from Gandalf, apparently.” The steward held out a slip of paper, the dwarf king took it and quickly read the message.

“Where’s the other pouch with the Ring? The Council have reached a decision and we need to act now.”

Gandalf’s message was the exact opposite of how the wizard talked.

“Anyone have a quill and ink or a pencil on them?” Thorin asked. Bilbo reached into his cloak and extracted a pencil.

“I want that back, please.” He said, handing it to the dwarf.

Thorin crossed out Gandalf’s message and turning the slip of paper over, he quickly jotted down three words and handed Bilbo back the pencil.

“Ecthelion? Would you have this returned to the messenger bird, please?”

“Certainly.” The guard came forward and with a bow to Thorin and the Steward, took the paper and left the garden.

“Thorin?”

“Yes, Bilbo?”

“What did that old meddler want, now?”

“He wanted to know where the pouch with the Ring was. The Council have decided what they want to do and he said they need to act.”

“Oh, dear. What did you tell him?”

“I told him the truth. ‘It’s dealt with.’ I said.” Thorin said.

 

 

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

tsvaare’d = bonded (tsvar red) (D)

Nadad = brother (K)

Galkhâ-baknu = Good morning (K)

 

Chapter Text

Unneeded Plans and a Shopping List.

 

‘It’s dealt with.’

Dealt with? Dealt with? Dealt with?

“Mithrandir…? A translation? What does ‘dealt with’ mean?” Celeborn asked, frowning.

“Well… I assume… it… ah… it…” Gandalf mumbled.

“You don’t know, do you?” Elrond queried with a smirk.

“No.” Gandalf sighed, in frustration. “I have no idea.”

“If the Ring is dealt with, does that mean Sauron is next? Or does dealing with the Ring deal with Sauron, too?” Haldir inquired.

“It could mean either. We’re too far away to know for sure. Mithrandir? I think that you and I must go to Gondor.” Elrond stated.

“Yes, you must.” Said Galadriel, quietly. “Haldir, Bain and Estel will go with you.”

“But my Lady? If Estel goes to Minas Tirith won’t he be forced to take the throne of Gondor and Arnor? He’s still far too young for that, my Lady.” The blonde marchwarden argued.

“If the Ring has been dealt with as Thorin Oakenshield states, then there is little pressure for Estel to take the crown now, he will have time to grow into it. Without the Ring of Power, Mordor is no longer the world destroying threat it was, we will have time to prepare before war is upon us.” The Lady of Lothlorien declared. “I would have the five of you depart in the morning.” She rose to her feet and gracefully exited the conference area.

“It appears we must ready ourselves to travel, Haldir. Mithrandir? We will meet you at the docks, at first light. If you will excuse me? With Estel’s gelding lame, I’ll have take my young ward to the stabling areas to choose another mount.” The lord of Rivendell bowed and left the marchwarden and the wizards to talk.

Very quickly the elf stood and also excused himself, he had no intention of listening to the wizards debate on a subject for which they had no information. He had not the patience or the time for that.

 

The Five travellers unloaded their horses from the barge, in near darkness, having arrived late at the falls of Rauros. In the morning they would take the same path as the dwarrow and their companions, turning south-west skirting Rohan and riding around the Mouths of the Entwash delta until they found the Firien Woods. From there it was less than a week’s ride to the White City. They made their camp for the night and huddled around the fire, the air damp.

Dawn had Haldir standing watch at the edge of the escarpment, a look of confusion on his face. Elrond approached him, making a little noise, it was never wise to advance on the marchwarden without warning.

“Something wrong, Haldir?” he asked, keeping his voice low and calm to avoid a violent response.

“I thought that Mordor lay to the east of Gondor?” The blonde elf asked.

“It does.” Elrond confirmed.

Haldir pointed an arm in the direction of Mordor.

“Does that look like the Mordor you remember?”

Elrond followed the direction Haldir point in. He caught his breath, what in the name of the Valar had happened? He expected to see a mountain range, but all he saw was water.

“I’ll wake Mithrandir. He should see this.” Elrond hurried back to the camp. He picked up a pine cone and tossed it at the wizard, he’d learnt centuries ago not to wake a sleeping wizard if it could be avoided. He saw no other options, this time.

Gandalf sat up and swung his staff in a sharp circle, expecting to catch an attacker off balance, but there was none near.

“Mithrandir, Haldir has seen something that you must see.” The elf lord said from a distance.

“It was a long day yesterday, Elrond. Can’t this wait?” the wizard grumbled.

“Well… it’s not going anywhere, but… I think you need to see it all the same.”

The wizard climbed to his feet, groaning, he was getting soft in his old age, he missed sleeping in a good bed. He followed the elf along the path to where Haldir stood.

“Well?”

“Well, what, Elrond? What am I supposed to see?” It was too early for these games.

“That.” the elf pointed south-east.

“Wha-… Oh… Oh, my.” The wizard took in the sight of the watery expanse. He looked at the lack of Mordor for many minutes.

“Hmm…It appears that ‘dealt with’, means not just the Ring but Mordor, too. I wonder how they did that?”

“What do you mean? Don’t you know?” Elrond was quick to ask.

“Elrond. I’ve been in Lothlorien with you, since they left. How, may I ask, am I supposed to know what they did? Galadriel is the mind reader, not me. You can send a bird, if you want, but I dare say we’ll find out when we see them.” The wizard continued to study the new scenery intently as he ate and the five of them readied to ride.

As they rode and the days passed, the wizard puzzled on how Thorin did it, how he drowned Mordor. His frustration mounted daily, his temper growing shorter, hour by hour. Estel and Bain took to placing themselves between the wizard and the elves, Gandalf having more patience with them than the adults, but even they were starting to leave plenty of space around the wizard by the time the White City came into sight.

 

19 days after leaving Lothlorien, Gandalf stalked through the corridors of Minas Tirith, looking for a dwarf or a hobbit. He spotted a dwarf one level down from where he stood and dashing forward to a wide window, he saw an enclosed garden with Smaug curled with the kits draped over her. The wizard huffed and made his way down stairs and through more corridors, until he faced a door to that protected garden.

The door flew open and banged against the wall behind it. This caused Bilbo to jump in surprise.

Bilbo Baggins! What did you and that dwarf of yours do? You were supposed to leave the Ring with the White Council. Why did you take it? What did you do to Mord-?” the wizard’s rant was cut off in mid-word. He looked down. A child had kicked him in the shin.

“Mean man! Meanie. You leave Auntie Bilbo alone. You’re mean. You should be nice to him, he’s preg… preg… he’s having a baby. You’re a bad man.” The child yelled and kept kicking him, until a laughing Kíli came forward and gathered the child up.

“What is this child saying?”

Bilbo stood and not for the first time, the wizard was faced with a being that was so much more than he appeared. Once again he was faced with the hobbit’s icy fury.

“Wizard of the Istari. I was given a task by the Valar and I have seen that task completed. If you and your precious White Council do not like that, then you know exactly what you can do about it. I was chosen for a reason and I have done what I was chosen for. You have two choices. Accept it or… take it up with the Valar. But!... You will never speak to me or my dwarrow in such a disrespectful manner. Ever again. Do I make myself clear?” Bilbo’s voice was calm and polite, but no one could mistake the authority in it, he spoke with the certainty of the Valar-chosen. “If you can not abide by this, I will, without hesitation, request that the Valar bar you entrance to the lands East of the Misty Mountains.”

The wizard gasped. There was no give in the hobbit in front of him, no compromise. He was being issued an ultimatum, but one look at the hobbit and he knew, knew, that this was no bluff. If he objected, the hobbit would do it. How had he misjudged this being, so badly? When had his judgement become so faulty? When had he began to act so abominably that Bilbo would consider such action, logical. For logical it was.

“Master Baggins… My behaviour… I apologise… I am not accustomed to those who actually do what they are chosen to do. I forget that hobbits take their duties seriously. I will endeavour to remember this in future. My sincerest apologies.”

The hobbit looked at him coldly for a moment or two, before he huffed and shook his head.

“Wizards.” He muttered, heading over to Smaug and the kits.

“I could say the same about hobbits. You can learn all there is to know about their customs and traditions in a month, but even after a hundred years, they can still surprise you.” the wizard said, with a small smile watching the hobbit scratch the dragon’s head spikes.

“You have no idea.” Kíli sighed.

“Why? What has he done, now?”

“Didn’t you hear Mellie?”

“Who is Mellie?”

“Mellie is the young lady who’s bruised your shins.”

“Ah, the child that called me a ‘meanie’. That child?”

“Yes, that’s our Mellie. Remember what else she said?”

Gandalf thought for a few seconds. His eyed widened.

“Pregnant?” He wheezed.

“Yep.” Kíli sighed. “Bilbo and Tauriel are both ‘in the family way’. Thank Mahal for Elladan and Elrohir.”

“Oh, my.”

“Yes. That was pretty much our reaction, too.” Suddenly Kíli laughed. “You should have seen the look on Fíli’s face after Auntie Bilbo finished telling him about how hobbits are both male and female. He was a really bad shade of green. Then Tauriel up and told me she was pregnant, too.”

“Well, ah… congratulations, Kíli.”

“Thanks, Tharkûn. You just caught us, you know. We’re heading home in a few days. Thorin… and Bilbo, want to be back in Erebor before the babies are due. We’re hoping that Bain and Estel will come back with us, but we’ll see.”

“Babies? Babies? Did you say ‘babies’, as in more than one?” Gandalf spluttered.

“Yep. According to Elladan and Healer Tarret, Bilbo’s got three little dwobbits in there. Three!”

“Dwobbits?”

“Denethor and Tarrin come up with the term. They squashed dwarf and hobbit together and ended up with dwobbit.”

“Goodness.”

“Yeah.” Kíli sighed. “I’m glad Tauriel’s only having the one. I barely know what to do with one, I’d be completely lost having three. It’s going to be an interesting trip home.”

“Certainly sounds like it. Hmm… You said… you’re leaving Gondor in a few days, going home? But if you sail up the river, it’s less than three months from here to Erebor.”

“Yeah but if we plan to get there before the babies arrive, we have to leave soon. Auntie Bilbo says that hobbits are pregnant for six months and he insists on birthing at home. He already sent a raven to Hobbiton.”

“Hobbiton? Why Hobbiton?”

“Because he said that two of his aunts have demanded the right to attend him for the births of his first children. They’ll travel with the next caravan of hobbits leaving the Shire.” The dwarf said.

“And what of the reason you came south? How has that gone?”

“Good. It’s gone good. We bypassed Rohan-”

“Why? I thought you intended to Bond a kit with the prince of Rohan?”

“We did. Erestor told us that Fingel, the current king is a greedy, money hungry, paranoid man and that his three children had been exiled. There were rumours that they’d travelled to Gondor. After discussing it we decided that we would bypass Rohan and come straight to Gondor.” Fíli added as he joined them. “We told Ecthelion of our plans and he sent for Thengel, the prince of Rohan and after talking to Smaug, Thengel agreed to the bonding and over the next week we did Bondings for Anzar and Buzrul. The prince of Dol Amroth arrived as planned and he, too, agreed to Bonding with Carmine. He, his son, Adrahil and daughter, Imralas, all bonded with Carmine, like we hoped. They left here this morning, promising that next spring when Denethor and Thengel come to Erebor for their first year of training, that Adrahil, will join them.”

“And Auntie Bilbo is still hoping that Elrond will let Estel travel home with us and Bain, it would give Estel time to adjust to non-elves, Bard has already volunteered to house him until next spring.” Kíli added in a hopeful tone.

“Auntie Bilbo will speak to Elrond before we leave, don’t worry, Kíli.” Fíli responded.

“Fíli? Why do you call Bilbo ‘Auntie’? Is there a reason?”

“Yes. Explain that to me, too, please.” Bilbo muttered as he sat down at the table beside Fíli.

“Khuzdul doesn’t have a word for anything that describes what Auntie’s doing, the closest is ‘mother’, but as Bilbo is male, so is ‘father’. So we decided that we already have uncles, but so far we had no aunts. If Frerin marries Larzi then she becomes our aunt, so, as Bilbo is married to Thorin, that made him our uncle, but he’s pregnant, in dwarrow culture, only the dwarrowdams can give birth, so that makes him our aunt.” Fíli answered, bamboozling the wizard.

“Besides, it annoys him. What other reason do we need?” chirped Kíli. Gandalf and Fíli laughed at the look of frustrated affection on the hobbit’s face.

“Best reason there is.” Agreed the wizard, causing Bilbo to groan.

 

600-odd miles to the north-west, a karku’zund descended on the Great Smials of Tuckborough. At first the hobbits scattered, for the bird was almost the size of a Tween, but when it just sat on the fence-post, they slowly reappeared. Seeing the hobbits, the bird spoke.

“Thain Fortimbras? Thain Fortimbras Took?” It croaked. The hobbits huddled together, whispering before a youngster ran off into the door of the smial.

“Coming. He’s coming.” A brave hobbit-lass said, pointing to the door. Within seconds the youngster was back with a much older, but still in his middle years, hobbit-male.

“Thain Fortimbras Took?” the bird croaked again.

“Yes, I am.” The hobbit bowed and the bird held out a leg.

“A Message. Thorin Oakenshield. Bilbo Baggins.” It added.

The hobbit ever so timidly came forward and retrieved the message canister tied to the bird’s leg.

“Can we get you anything?” The hobbit asked.

The bird just tilted it’s head and said nothing. Quickly the hobbit opened the canister and pulled the letters out. There were three. One addressed to him by name, one to his aunts Donnamira and Mirabella. The third was also addressed to him, but to him as the Thain. He tore open the first letter.

 

Dearest Fortim,

This is Beläc, a Raven of Erebor. He speaks little Westron, but he does understand more and was prepared to carry letters anyway. Please give him some water, bread or scones and fresh meat, he likes ham best.  

Well, It seems that I’m more Baggins than expected. I’m pregnant. With triplets! Yes, you read that right. Triplets.

If Aunt Donnamira and Aunt Mirabella want to attend the births, they’d best join the next caravan headed for Erebor, we plan on being back there before I’m due. We’re in Gondor right now.

I’ve quite a shopping list for you, I hope there’s time before the next caravan leaves.

See if Toldi Wintergreen has any rocking chairs, if he has, could you purchase one or two for me? I’m sure that once Thorin understands what I mean by ‘rocking chair’, either he or Kíli will make some metal ones. Dwarrow. Why everything has to be made of metal, I’ll never understand, but it keeps them happy, so….

Are there any Party Tree seedlings, this year? I’d like one or two, if they can be spared. Tari’s Temple-Smial would look much more hobbit-ish with a Party Tree next to it and I’d like one to put in the courtyard Garden that Thorin had built for me over the winter. It’s certainly big enough for a Party Tree, I swear it’s over an acre, more like two, but it’s south facing and sheltered so I should be able to grow some decent tomatoes this year, I hope.

If he’ll part with them, I’d like some of Walted’s seeds. Some tomatoes, peas, beans, carrots, pumpkin and parsnip seeds, etc., all the usual ones.  

Some fruit trees, too. Apple, pear, peach, some of Jumee’s blood plums, mother’s cherry plums, Da’s cherries, Grandmother Adamanta’s nectarine, Luda’s lemon, Marna’s Lime, Feather’s Orange and Farmer Maggot’s Mandarin. Four of each for me and any more for the hobbits if you can get them, plus a pair of grapefruit trees for the Temple-Smial, too, please.

I asked Homan Gamgee to take cutting of all the plants in Bag End’s garden for me, especially Da’s Rose, Mother’s Lavender, Feldar’s Hydrangeas, Rildon’s Rosemary, Sorrel’s Echinacea and my Lemon Thyme. Have Yavanna’s Children chosen a plant for Peldin, yet? If they have, add some of that too, please.

Some berry plants, too, strawberry, gooseberry, blueberry, blackberry, Raspberry, red and black currents. As well as the herbs, I left a list with Holman before I left.  

The cradle that Da carved? I was leaving it for Dudo, I thought that I was like Feldar and wouldn’t be able to have children, but obviously I take after Da. Would you ask him to send it along?

If there’s anything else you can think of, that I would miss, add it for collection. Beläc will carry a return message, if you give him a decent feed. Once the babes arrive, I’ll get Ori to draw some portraits for you.

My love to Lalia,

Bilbo.

 

Oh, Yavanna help us. Fortimbras thought. Thank heavens that the next caravan was a week and a half away.

“Beläc? If you come with me, I’ll get you something to eat.”

“Appreciated it is. Shire is far from Erebor.” The raven croaked. It hopped to the ground and bounced along after the hobbit into the smial.

“Indeed it is. Daisy? Find Ferumbras and send him in, would you? Thank you. lass.” Fortimbras spoke to a hobbit-matron as he entered the kitchen.

Within minutes Ferumbras found him, the lad was startled to see the raven, but true to his training, made no comment other than to greet the bird when his father introduced him.

After seeing the bird on it’s way back wherever Bilbo was, Fortimbras turned to his son.

“Best get yourself a cuppa, lad, we’ve got very busy time in front of us. Bilbo’s given us a shopping list. We’ll have to add at least another two wagons to the next caravan. I’ll have to get Flambard to put off leaving for an extra few days, you and I will need those extra days to get everything on Bilbo’s list. I’ll speak to Flambard, you head to Hobbiton, you can stay in Bag End. You’ll need to see Hamfast Greenhand amongst others. I’ll write you a list.”

There was so much to do in such a short time.

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

tsvaare’d = bonded (tsvar red) )D)

Nadad = brother (K)

Galkhâ-baknu = Good morning (K)

Karku’zund = giant raven (K)

 

Chapter Text

A Took Trait, Gardens and Deliveries.

 

Oh, Yavanna, Bilbo was tired of this stupid pony cart. Alright, it wasn’t actually a pony cart, but he would still have much rather have ridden. Lízul was no happier than the hobbit, he was only pulling it because it was Thorin that put him between the shafts of the ‘thing’, as Bilbo and Thorin had taken to calling it. Lendarion called a dog-cart, it looked very similar to a pony cart but scaled up to be the right size for a horse to pull, even then, Lízul looked almost too big, pacing along sulkily.

Blast Lendarion, anyway.

The sight of the mountain soothed his irritation slightly. The knowledge that his time in this useless contraption was almost over. He rubbed a hand over his swollen belly, humming. Thorin lean over and nudged him with this shoulder.

“I know.” He whispered, trying not to speak loud enough for Kíli, Tauriel or Fíli to hear. “I don’t like this thing and neither does Lízul, Bilbo, but we agreed with Elladan and Elrohir when they suggested it. You said it yourself, you’re much larger than expected, whether it’s carrying triplets or the half-dwarf part or whether it’s both combined. With twisting your ankle at Lendarion’s, riding it out of the question.”

Bilbo sighed.

“I know, but…”

“Yeah.” Thorin sighed, too. “But it doesn’t really make it any easier to bear.” The dwarf finished. They both sighed and a few minutes passed.

“Can we stop at Drogo’s, please? I should warn him that Aunts Mirabella and Donnamira are coming for the delivery. Primula won’t thank me for not giving her some warning of her mother’s arrival.”

“Of course. Anything to get out of this thing. If we take it slow, do you think you could walk the rest of the way?” Thorin was quick to ask.

“If we walk with Lízul and it gets too much then there’s the ‘thing’ to sit in.” Bilbo reasoned.

“Alright.” Thorin lifted his head. And his voice. “Kíli!”

“Irak’adad?” Kíli directed his little mare, Topaz, close to the wheels of the cart.

“Bilbo and I are going to stop in at Drogo and Primula’s for a bit. Bilbo wants to given them some warning of the aunts coming from Hobbiton.”

Kíli’s eyes widened.

“That’s a good idea.” The prince assured, clear memories of Primula’s actions over the winter, when people surprised her unpleasantly. The, “We’ll continue on, shall we?” Was said almost pleadingly.

“That’s fine. We’ll keep Lízul, of course.” Thorin responded.

“Of course. Good luck, Auntie Bilbo.”

“Thank you, Kíli.”

Bilbo winced in anticipation, watching the travel party follow the main road into Dale and on to Erebor, while Thorin gently turned Lízul to the west. The hobbit settlement was on the Dale-side of the southern arm of Erebor, the smials excavated into the foot of the mountain itself. Doing this was practical from a hobbit point of view but was looked at by the dwarrow as literally carving life into the mountain again and was quite admired. The land between Dale and South Arm, as the residents called the hobbit-ed area, was beginning to show the care of the hobbit land-healers. Patches close to the edge of the arm that were lush and growing well when they’d left in the spring, now had healthy growth that had extended it’s reach towards Dale and Laketown by many hundreds of yards. With more hobbits coming in a few weeks, the green would spread quickly.

Crops of wheat and various vegetables were planted in neatly marked beds, pots and clumps of stones were used as planters for flowers. It gave the area a bright, cheery atmosphere, making the pair of weary travellers feel welcome. It reminded Thorin very much of the Shire and Bag End.

“Ah, Bilbo? Which one? Which one of these is Drogo and Primula’s? How do we tell?” Thorin asked as so far all the smials they’d passed looked much the same.

“Oh. I never explained that, did I? Well, each when each hobbit is born, or adopted into a family, the nearest Child of Yavanna* will choose a plant that embodies certain characteristics of the babe. Mine is Lemon Thyme, which is hardy and frost tolerant, mother and Da couldn’t understand why that was important, but now?, knowing I’m going to be living here, in the north, where it’s cold? It’s kind of obvious, now. Prim chose to name herself after her plant, the primula is an alpine or cool climate plant that prefers to grow on and around stones. Ironically enough, the particular variant that Sorrel chose for Prim was Primula ‘Goldlace’, it has a gold centre, deep burgundy petals that are edged in pale gold. Drogo’s plant is the Camellia Sinensis, it’s the main type of plant grown for tea and favours a sheltered easterly position. Any of that sound like anywhere you know of?” Bilbo grinned.

“Sounds like Erebor, Amrâl.” Thorin’s grin echoed his.

“Doesn’t it, just? So Prim and Drogo’s Smial will have camellias, neatly trimmed, under the windows, with rock edging with bunches of yellow and burgundy flowers.” Bilbo summed up.

“Like that one?” Thorin asked, pointing to a smial up in front of them.

“Yes!, exactly like that one. Well done, love. What’ll we do with Lízul while we’re inside?” Bilbo was proud of his dwarf.

“If I take him out of the shafts, he’ll happily nibble some of the grass there and wait for us… Ah? Bilbo? Isn’t that Holman Gamgee, your gardener, the one that brought his pull wagon to carry our packs to the Green Dragon?” Thorin indicated to an older hobbit that was carrying boxes into the next smial.

“I believe it is. After we’ve seen Drogo and Prim, I’ll have to stop and speak to him. I ordered some plants from Hobbiton, I didn’t think he’d be coming yet. Oh, well. I’ll talk to him before we head home.”

Thorin held out a hand for Bilbo to brace himself with as he descended out of the ‘thing’. As soon as he was on the ground, Thorin quickly released Lízul from the cart, the horse lipping at the dwarf’s cloak in gratitude.

A hobbit fauntling approached cautiously.

“Mister dwarf?” it asked. Thorin crouched down to answer.

“Yes, little one?”

“Das a big ‘orse. Is ‘e f’endly? ‘e not go’na bite me?”

“Oh, no, little one. Lízul is friendly, he would never bite a friend.” Thorin beckoned and the horse arched his neck down and whiffled his nose through the faunt’s hair. “See? My hobbit and I have to go and see Drogo and Prim Baggins, would you like to stay here with Lízul?”

“Please, Mister, please? Can I? ‘is nose is so soft. It’s like… like…”

“It’s like sage, isn’t it?” Bilbo asked.

“Yes! Sage. Soft and fuzzy. It tickles.”

An older child joined them, leaving a young hobbit-lass to watch them over some rocks, the hair and eye colour indicating older siblings, perhaps.

“Tiddee, wachta doing?” The newcomer asked.

“I’s talking to a dwarf and his horse. ‘is nose tickled me. Here, feel.” The little one said.

“Oh, but ‘e’s big. How’d you know he’s friendly?” The older faunt asked, worriedly.

“I ask’d. Dat’s ‘ow. I’s little, not silly, Ashee.” Tiddee scolded.

“Sorry, Tiddee.”

“Is okay, you forget. Come feel. Mister, can Ashee pet the ‘orse, too?” Thorin had to bite the inside of his cheek in an effort not to laugh at the pair of fauntlings.

“Certainly. If you’re both gentle, then you can both pet him. His name is Lízul.” Thorin answered the child. He then stood and address the older lass still sitting near the rocks, her skirts spread out around her.

“Lass? Would you keep an eye on Lízul and the little ones? My husband and I need to speak with Prim and Drogo Baggins and while he won’t wander off, I’d not like him to eat something that is important to someone.” When the lass nodded, quietly, he added. “If he starts to, or does something he shouldn’t all you have to do is say ‘Lu’, best say it like you would say ‘no’ to a fauntling.” The lass grinned and nodded.

“I will, mister dwarf.” she said.

“Thank you, lass.” Thorin left the horse with the fauntlings and joined Bilbo in front of a simple unpainted door. At Bilbo’s urging he pulled the bell-pull and together they waited.

When the door opened, the hobbit did so inattentively, obviously not expecting to find Bilbo and Thorin on her doorstep. She put her hand to her chest as she gasped.

“Bilbo Baggins! Blast you! Why can’t you give a body some warning? Get in here, you menace.” she scolded, ushering then inside and into a sparsely furnished parlour, sporting sturdy collapsible travel chairs.

“Well, now, Prim. As we weren’t sure just when we’d get here, how am I supposed to send warning?” Bilbo responded, tartly. He stepped forward to hug his cousin-in-law, when her arms enclosed him, his belly pressed against her.

“Oh Yavanna! Bilbo!” She stepped back and holding the hobbit at arms length, looked down at his swollen belly. “Oh, no, no, no. No way, I am not delivering your child. Not a chance.” She continued to sprout negatives, until Bilbo was forced to interrupt.

“Not asking you to, Prim.” He finally cut in.

“Wha-? Not? You’re not?”

“No, dear.”

She sighed in relief before frowning.

“Then? Then who’s going to? I mean Mama and Aunt Donnamira usually do the first births in Hobbiton.”

“And that’s why I’m here.”

“What? Why?”

“When the healers in Gondor confirmed my pregnancy, I sent a raven to Hobbiton immediately. If my aunts wanted to attend me and keep their promise to my mother, they needed to join the next caravan, the raven came back with word from Fortim, that he would tell them. Last week a ranger from Bree caught up with us, he said that the two of them are in this next convoy and were about a week behind us.”

“Oh, my.”

So, this is me giving you notice. Notice, that Aunt Donnamira and your mother are on their way, they should be here in a week or so. Fortim has had to add an extra three wagons to the caravan, to carry all the things I asked for.”

“Oh, my.” Prim looked a little faint. A wicked though went through Bilbo’s head and without hesitation he acted on it.

“I even asked for the cradle that Da carved, hopefully it big enough to sleep these three.” He said, rubbing a hand across his middle.

“Three?... I … I.” ker-lunk. Prim hit the floor, just as Drogo entered the room.

“Oh, dear. What did you do, Bilbo?” He asked as he passed Bilbo to scoop his wife up off the ground an put her in one of the chairs. Bilbo waited until Drogo turned around and raised an eyebrow.

“Oh. Oh, well, that answers that, doesn’t it?” Muttered Drogo.

“Hmm…” Thorin hummed in a considering tone.

“What?” Bilbo and Drogo asked at the same time.

“I always thought the fainting thing was a Baggins trait, but…?” Thorin asked.

“Oh, no. That’s a Took trait. Prim’s mother is Mirabella, Bilbo’s mother’s sister. Fainting first, then doing something reckless is a Took thing. I mean, when Bilbo went to the Thain and then fainted telling him about you, no one was surprised when he started to organise a new hobbit settlement here. Exactly the sort of thing a Took would do.” Drogo chuckled. “This shouldn’t have surprised Prim at all, but… obviously it did.”

The three laughed.

Suddenly a man’s voice could be heard through the window of the smial, it was an aggressive tone and a child’s voice was raised in protest. Thorin frowned and quickly headed outside, the other two at his heels.

A human man was standing over the three huddled faunts, sneering at them. Thorin smirked, the man had yet to notice, either them or, Bard standing behind the man. As the man reached for Lízul’s reins, Bard moved them away from the man’s reach. The man waved his hand around feeling for the dangling reins, but there was nothing to meet his hand. He turned and started, finally he’d seen Bard.

“Fenman.”

“My Lord Bard. I…” he stammered.

“I don’t want to know. You’ve had three warnings, Fenman. No more. You have three hours to leave Dale, word will be sent to Esgaroth and Eryn Galen, you will not be welcome in either place. Leave, now.” Bard snarled. The man took one look at the expression on the face of the Lord of Dale and ran.

Bard crouched down by the faunts.

“Are you alright? He didn’t hurt you did he?” he asked.

“No.” The older lass answered. “No, he didn’t touch us, but he did scare Ashee. Ashee’s very sensitive, Mama says.”

“Ashee gets scared and forgets things easy. ‘nd that man was mean.” Tiddee turned Thorin. “He want’d to take your ‘orse, but I tol’ ‘im, dat the ‘orse b’longed to a dwarf and ‘e laughed. Dat’s when this man,” Tiddee pointed a thumb over a skinny little shoulder at Bard. “sneaked up and scared the bad man. T’ank you.” the faunt directed that last bit at Bard.

“You’re welcome. Why don’t you take Ashee and go with Drogo, while I have a chat with your mister dwarf?” It was said with a grin at Thorin.

“Okay.” Tiddee stood and pulled Ashee and the hobbit lass over to Drogo’s side. Drogo took hold of Tiddee’s hand and gently guided the three into his smial.

“Thorin, Bilbo.” He paused, looking at Bilbo. “What happened to you, Bilbo?”

“Ah, it’s a hobbit thing. I’m pregnant.”

“Preg-…? Excuse me? Would you repeat that?”

“Pregnant. I said I’m pregnant. It’s a hobbit ability.”

“Pregnant. No. I don’t want know…” He sighed, “Yes, I do. Damn it.”

“Come up and have dinner with us this evening, then. We’re going to have to explain to the company the in’s and out’s of hobbit pregnancies, you’re more than welcome to be there. It’s going be a nightmare.” Thorin groaned as Bilbo spoke cheerfully.

“I’ll do just that. Perhaps you two had best head up to the mountain before Dwalin sends a search party out after you, Smaug and the kits arrived hours ago. I need to send word to Braga and Lendarion. Excuse me.” Bard muttered, as he turned back to Dale.

Bilbo waited while Thorin harnessed Lízul back into the ‘thing’. They walked side by side with the stallion the rest of the way home.

 

Eight days later, Bilbo had watched from the battlements as three wagons entered Erebor, they carried Bilbo’s shopping list from Hobbiton and his aunts, he hoped.

Over the next few weeks, he met with his aunts and discussed the births, he puttered in his garden, Thorin, Fíli, Kíli, Dís, Frerin and Thráin did all the heavy work, not letting him do anything that the aunts didn’t approve of. Within a few days, the fruit trees were in, the vegetable beds were in place, composted and ready for planting. The only tree he was allowed physical involvement in the planting of, was the Party Tree seedling, it had pride of place near the entrance to the Garden, the most sheltered from wind and the worst of the weather, but still exposed enough to get sufficient rain and sunlight to thrive.

The Garden itself was hidden from view, from the road that is, by one of the massive statues of Mahal the Maker, it was to the east side of the road from Dale, with an aqueduct system reaching further to the east to a waterfall to provide fresh spring water for the Garden. As well as all of this, Thráin and Dís had commissioned a custom-made glass-house to fit against the wall near to the Party Tree. His Garden was ready to face the winter, wattle screens, provided by Beorn, protected the still fragile plants from the bitter winter that was to come.

Thorin had given Kíli permission to make a similar garden on the western side, for Tauriel as a Marriage Gift. Stone masons had started excavating within hours of Thorin’s approval. There was even talk of making a public walled garden just outside the main Gates of the Mountain.

During the winter while everyone camped in the Mountain to shelter from the cold, the hobbits had made friends with many people, dwarrow, man and elf alike and when a faunt reached an important day, they invited their friends to help celebrate. There had been four Preparatory-Day parties, three Tween-day parties and two Coming-of-Age parties. But Bilbo’s pregnancy was still a shock to the residents of Erebor and Dale, not that it lasted long, the joy of having children being born in the Mountain quickly overrode the shock. When Tari and the Priest of Mahal sat together and told of how Yavanna created hobbits to fruitful and of the gift that her Husband Mahal gave them, the gift of digging within the earth for their homes, there were nods and agreements. When Tari told of how hobbit were so fruitful, again there were nods and agreements, it made sense in way and most of them knew of a nu’asfâlul. There weren’t that many dwarrow after all and they were dread gossips, a scandal or a meaty story could feed their imaginations all winter.

That Bilbo and Thorin’s children were the first to be born after resettlement, was a cause for celebration, there were few if any who were unhappy about it. The guards of the Throne room were inundated people leaving with gifts for the children, gifts of toys, clothes, weapons and even jewellery.

Now it was just a case of waiting until the babes arrived.

 

Finally Bilbo went into labour. He estimated that he was about 28-30 weeks along, between three and five weeks longer than an average hobbit pregnancy, but still some five weeks less than a typical dwarrowdam carried a dwarfling.

It was just after first breakfast when the first contraction hit. A calm descended on Bilbo, Aunt Mirabella described it as being engulfed in Yavanna’s Bliss, the meditative state that hobbits tried for but rarely reached outside labour. To Bilbo it felt like that state where you’re not quite asleep, but you’re also not quite awake. There’s no pain,… yes, there’s pressure, but no pain.

Bilbo sent Kíli to wake Thorin and Tauriel to fetch the aunts. He wasn’t doing this alone.

The next few hours were best forgotten. Uncomfortable contractions, cramping fingers, sore legs, a raspy throat, an aching back and sore privates were unwanted. But the end result was three beautiful children. The children themselves were a surprise. One looked completely hobbit in every way, a true hermaphrodite like Bilbo. One looked completely dwarrow in every way, fully male like Thorin, but the third was a perfect blend of her parents, hobbit sized, yes, but she was clearly a female.

By the time Bombur and his assistants place platters on the tables for lunch, it was all over and Thorin realised he hadn’t even alerted the Company. There were quite a few shocked faces when Bilbo sat down to a hearty meal with a infant in his arms, Thorin holding another as was Dís.

The dwarrow boy and the hobbit-sized girl, as per dwarrow tradition were given names within minutes of birth. The boy was named after Thráin’s brother that had died within hours of his birth, Brelór. The little girl was named after Thorin, Frerin and Dís’ mother Farís. The other little hobbit was given the temporary name of Binafsâl, which literally meant genderless, but would be called Sâl until they were old enough to choose their own name.

Pity Gandalf wasn’t here, fireworks would have been a grand end to the dwobbits’ naming party. Ah, well. Thought Bilbo. Next time.

 

 

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)          Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

Irak’Adad = uncle (K)

Child of Yavanna = a priest or priestess of Yavanna

Nu’asfâlul = two-sexed (literal translation – two sexuality-like) (K)

 

Chapter Text

Another Reunion, or Two.

 

Why did Thorin, King Under the Mountain, have to summon her? If she never returned to Erebor, it wouldn’t matter. Loosing Frerin meant that nothing mattered anymore. 146 years since his death, since her father’s death, since her brother’s death. 146 years since Azanulbizar.

Why couldn’t she let go? They were children, Frerin was 48 and she was a year younger. But the pain was still there. Every day.

And now his brother was summoning her to Erebor. She’d ignored every letter that Dís had sent every month, for the last four years, the first arriving within a week of Erebor being Reclaimed. But a Royal Summons was not to be ignored. It was just so painful to think of them, safe in the Mountain, without their blonde brother. Her khi-amrâl.

She only looked up at the Mountain when she reached the Gates and Dwalin blocked her path.

“Larzi. About time ye got here. They’ve been running around like headless chooks since Braga sent word ya’d left Laketown. Here ‘old this.” The Guard shoved a wriggling bundle into her arms.

She automatically closed her arms around the bundle, before looking down at what she now held, she jerked in reaction, she held a babe. A very small babe, it couldn’t be more than a few hours old, surely.

“Dwalin? Who’s babe is it? Why do you have it? Why give it to me?” She was a bit rattled.

“Tha’s young Belrís, Thorin youngest girl, she’s about two weeks old now and ‘er brother, Thrórlin’s got a touch of colic, so I volunteered to have ‘er for the day. Bilbo and Thorin t’were both knackered, what wit' the older t'ree up and running now, so? I took ‘er so they could sleep.” Dwalin rumbled.

“But why give her to-? Did you say two weeks old? No, she can’t be more than a few hours old.”

“Nah. Two weeks and two days, about.  And I handed ‘er to ye, cause it’s hard to look at ‘er and pay attention to where I walk.” He grunted. “Now, come on. There’s things here tha ye should see. If ya’d read Dís’ letters, it would’na come as a shock, but ye be a stubborn lass. Ya missed a lot, Thorin's got five 'o these now, the Triple Terrors are comin' up on two, soon and now? this lil darlin' and 'er brother.” Dwalin put a hand on her shoulder and steered her around corners, up stairs and through doors, stopping beside a padded stone bench, he took the babe and told her to sit.

“What did you mean? When you said ‘things I should see’?”

“Well, lass. Before we got ‘ere we stopped for a few days wit’ the biggest man ye’d ever see, only Beorn weren’t a man, he’s a shape-shifter, see? While we was there, the elf queen, Lady Galadriel told Tharkûn, that he and Elrond and the other wizards needed to go to Dol Guldur with her and deal with some sorcerer there, I never got the straight of it an’ I don’ wanna, no’ now. So they left and went south. We kept on and got here, we got ready to fight the rukhs and t’ goblins. And the night afore they was gonna get ‘ere, Thorin gets hisself a message from Galadriel, she and the ûdâr ‘ad found dwarrow ‘eld as prisoners in the ruins of t’ old fortress.”

“Prisoners?” she put her hand to her chest in shock.

“Aye, lass. Galadriel said she and her people would bring t’ able-bodied by ‘orseback and t’ rest would come by wagon. She got ‘ere t’ day after the battle and right glad we was t’ see ‘er and ‘er elf healers, we ‘ad injured tha’ Óin and t’ Twins were strugglin’ to treat, by then the t’ree of ‘em ‘ad been working t’ infirmary for over 30 hours. T’ey could barely stand.” He gently bounced the babe in his arms and stroked a finger down her tiny face. “T’ dwarrow she brought? We knew ‘em, or some of ‘em anyways. Every battle we fought against the rukhs, the mongrels took some o’ our injured as prisoners, as toys to play with, to torture. Most of ‘em were taken at Azanulbizar, but by t’ time Galadriel finds ‘em, t’ere’s only 47 dat lived to se Erebor agin. 47. 47 of our people came ‘ome, Larzi.” He lifted the child and held her close to his face, tickling her with his beard. “Not everyone we mourned is dead.”

“What do you mean?” Hope burst in being in her heart, she tried desperately to push it down.

“For the first time since Náin Split-Beard, we’ve a nearly full Court.” Dwalin was trying to be subtle, but it wasn’t his strongest weapon.

“A full Court? I don’t understand. What’s that mean?”

“A nearly full Court. King and Consort, two Heirs, a Uzbad-zai’adkhut, a Uzbad-naná, a Uzbad-nadad and five Uzbad-dashshat and Uzbad-nuthâ. The only thing we’ve not got is the Queen-at-Rest.”

Only one phrase jumped out at Larzi.

“A Uzbad-nadad? But I thought Thorin only had one brother?” It couldn’t be.

“Aye, lass.”

“But that would mean…?” It couldn’t be. Could it?

“Aye. Frerin’s alive.” It could. “And tha’s not all.”

“What?”

“Lorzin’s alive, too.”

“My brother’s alive?”

“Aye, lass.”

“If my brother’s alive, why didn’t he write to me, himself?” she snarled.

“Two reasons.” A long unheard, but not forgotten voice came from behind her. “Firstly, I knew you wouldn’t believe it and secondly? It’s a bit hard to write without fingers, my little zomor.”

She stood and turned, Lorzin looked much the same as the last time she’d seen him, a little skinnier and greyer, perhaps, but he still looked the reckless idiot their father lamented would never grow up. Larzi walked over to him and drawing her arm back, punched him in the gut with all her strength. He doubled over gasping, while Dwalin laughed. When he finally straightened, Larzi reached up and gently pulling him down, tapping her head to his.

“You lulkhe. Of course I wouldn’t have believed, but… I would have come sooner just to make sure it wasn’t true.” She growled.

“Larzi?” Her brother’s voice got quiet and serious.

“Lorzin?”

“Frerin? Is he still important to you?”

“How can you ask that? You would dare?” she snarled viciously.

“Easy, lass. He’s no idea what ye life ‘as been like.” Dwalin stepped between the siblings, still holding Belrís.

“Larzi, please. There is a reason I ask. Please.” Lorzin offered.

“I fail to see your reason, nadad. But yes, Frerin is still important to me.” She said.

“Tell ‘im the rest, lass. He needs to know.” Dwalin urged.

Larzi took a few deep breaths, gathering her courage.

“When Thorin brought Amad our father’s sword, she took to her bed, when he gave me Frerin’s sword and bow, I collapsed. Amad Faded, she lasted only a few weeks. I nearly Faded, too, but Leztra needed me and so I had to keep going, she was the only thing that kept me going at all. I never wed, never accepted a Courtship, I wear mourning braids and Frerin’s Beads. I became as if Craft-Wed. I worked hard to provide for our baby sister, to see she was fed, clothed and educated. She grew into a beautiful dwarrowdam and a talented silversmith, she trained under the same master as Víli, Dís’ husband. He was good but she’s exceptional. Then Jédrin asked permission to Court her, he gave a share of the business he’d built as the Family Gift, so that I’d not struggle to support myself when Leztra moved out. They’re in this caravan, too, nadad. Our baby sister is grown up and married, now.”

Lorzin swayed in shock, reaching out a hand to prop himself up on with the doorframe.

“Easy, lad, easy.” Dwalin quickly pushed the babe into Larzi’s arms and grabbed her brother, easing him down onto the bench.

For the first time Larzi looked at the space they were in. It was a huge sheltered garden, lush with growth, a sapling tree stood behind a series of stone benches, a glass-house off to one side. Fruit trees were espaliered across the back wall, giving the impression of a living wall, garden beds were spaced out, leaving a grassed area all around the sapling and it’s benches. There were stone planter-pots dotted here and there, filled with sweet smelling flowers and herbs. A small section in the middle of the space was obviously for a memorial garden or shrine, each plant there had an engraved plaque, with a vase of flowers, in front of it.

Larzi brought her attention away from the garden and back to her brother, he was regaining his colour. He looked at Dwalin.

“You didn’t think to tell me about Leztra?” he said hoarsely.

“Ah. Kinda forgot she was ya sister, truth be told.” Dwalin grimaced.

“Oh, lay off Lorz’, Dwalin wouldn’t do that on purpose. You know that.”

“Aye, I suppose…. Oh, did you ever finish the underlay on that quiver you were making as a Courting Gift for Frerin?” Lorzin asked.

“I did.”

“Did you keep it? Or did you get rid of it?”

“Lorzin. You should know better than that. I kept it of course. I even kept the three mantles I’d made as a Family Gift. I figured that if Frerin wasn’t smart enough to Court me, I’d Court him.”

“Did ye bring them with ye?” Dwalin asked.

“I did, they’re in a trunk in Leztra and Jédrin’s wagon. Why?”

“Larzi, Frerin has offered a Family Gift and I have accepted it. He gave our family rooms in the Royal Wing and with Thorin’s approval has formed a guild to help the elderly and those permanently injured, so that their families won’t suffer or struggle anymore. He named me a patron and has employed people, men, hobbits, dwarrow and even a few elves, their tasks are to visit, chat with and provide assistance as needed to those that are unable to support or care for themselves. It was watching me learn to eat and dress myself without all my fingers, that prompted him.” He held up a hand, he wore a glove-like thing, it was a strange contraption made of wood and steel. “This lets me hold a mug, a knife, a fork or a spoon, I can, on a good day, manage buttons and buckles, on a bad day I wear clothes that have no buttons, buckles or clasps. Hair is the hardest to manage, I can’t braid anymore, but thanks to these things, I can at least pull it off my face and fix a clasp in it, not the same, but… Independence is a good thing. So many don’t have that, so many were more severely injured than I was.”

Larzi looked pleadingly at her brother.

“Frerin?”

“No, Larz. They broke his arm and his leg, many times. Neither healed well and when we got here, Elrond of Rivendell was forced to re-break the bones to reset them. He walks with a limp and probably always will, but he walks, runs and jumps. His arm healed well and while he can’t swing a hammer all day, he can still manage an hour or two and he can still use his bow just as well as ever.”

“Larzi?” Dwalin interrupted. “Wouldn’t ye rather see Frerin than talk to ye ham-fisted brother?”

Larzi handed Dwalin back the now sleeping child and nodded.

“Yes, I would. Definitely. You can take Lorz, here, and introduce him to his brother-in-law.” She grinned wickedly. Jédrin looked like a walking haystack, but spoke much like a scribe, he’d started studying to be a scribe until Azanulbizar changed the lives of so many, after that he became a wheel-wright and he was a damned good one. He made carts, for hand use, for ponies to pull and even some for horses.

“Tell ye what? Lorzin and me’ll show ya to ya rooms and I’ll have ya trunks brought up straight away, then ya can dig out ya Gifts. I’ll send me husband, Ori or one o’ his brothers, prob’ly Nori, ‘e’s always got time on ‘is hands, to take ya to Thorin’s Personal Assembly Chamber, tha’s where the Company meet in t’ evenin’s. Frerin’s like to be there waitin’, and knowing ‘im, prob’ly, ver’ impatiently.” All three laughed.

“Quite likely.” Lorzin said as the three began to make their way back inside. They’d not gone far when Thorin appeared and without a word, reached for the babe in Dwalin’s arms.

“She’s fine, Thorin. Slept like an angel, she did.” The guard said gently placing her in her father’s arms.

“Thank Mahal for that, Thrórlin’s finally settled too, he, Bilbo, Rûkhuz and the Terrors are sleeping in a pile in the middle of the nursery floor, the Terrors pulled all the rugs, blankets, quilts and pillows into a pile and now the six of them are out to it. I plan on taking this little miss and…. joining them.” The king rumbled, the babe stirring and nuzzling closer to her father.

“You do that… Your Majesty.” Dwalin mocked.

Thorin wrapped one arm securely around his daughter and swatted Dwalin with the other, before turning and disappearing through a plain door.

The other three wandered down an adjacent corridor, as they walked a group of dwarrow coming the other way rounded a corner, pulling a trolley upon which Larzi spied her trunks.

“Hey, lads. This room ‘ere.”

Dwalin indicated a door with a rose vine carved into the door. He opened the door and the dwarrow manhandled the bulk of the trunks into the sitting room, when the trunk containing the Courting Gifts she’d made for Frerin all those years ago was put down, she opened the trunk and pulled out the boxes, one held the three glorious mantles she’d made for Thrór, Thráin and Thorin and the smaller box with the quiver she’d made and meticulously engraved.

She held the two parcels in her trembling hands. Her life had changed so dramatically in such a short time that she wondered if she was dreaming, so many times, she’d dreamed that somehow Frerin had been found alive, waking up had meant facing his loss all over again.

Neither, Dwalin, Lorzin or Larzi spoke as they headed for the King’s Audience Chamber. At last Dwalin stopped outside an ornate set of double doors.

“This is it.” He said to Larzi, before addressing the guards standing one on each side of the door. “This is Lady Larzi, I speak with the King’s authority when I say she has the right to enter the Royal Quarters at any time.” Both the guards stood at attention.

“Yes, Master Dwalin.” They said simultaneously, one then stepped forward and bowing to Larzi.

“Lady Larzi, welcome to Erebor. Prince Frerin is inside and we’ve sent for tea for two, my Lady.” He said.

“Well, lass, we’ll leave you to it.” Dwalin nearly pulled Lorzin along with him as he walked down the corridor and around a corner.

“Ready, my Lady?” the guard asked, with his hand ready to open the door for her.

“No. Not nearly.”

“How can we help?” the other guard inquired.

“I… I… Can? Does it have to be… formal? Can you just open the door and I slip in?” she asked.

“We can do this any way you want, my lady. If you wanted a formal entrance, then that’s what we’d do, but a quiet entrance is just as easy.”

“Oh, yes, please. If I can slip in, then maybe it won’t be so stressful.” Larzi whispered. The guard didn’t answer, but he did very quietly open the door, just wide enough for the dwarrowdam to slip through.

As she entered the room, she saw a blonde dwarf, sitting on an ottoman in front of the fire, his head in his hands. She watched as he sighed and climbed to his feet, he rested his hand on the edge of the mantle-place, his head still down.

She didn’t know how to alert him to her presence without startling him. Finally she tapped her boot on the tiled floor. The dwarf straightened, his shoulders tightened, but he didn’t turn.

“Frerin?” She asked, still half believing it was a false hope.

The dwarf spun around, his eyes wide. He looked as nervous as she felt.

“Larz?”

The two just stood and looked at each other for a few minutes. In the end, Larzi stepped forward, Frerin matched her, step for step. When they stood within arms reach, Frerin grinned and bounced on his toes, his hands reaching out to touch her face. He wiped away a tear at the corner of her eye.

“Don’t cry, Larz, please.” He begged. “If you start, so will I and that’s not how I want this to be. I want this to be a happy day.”

“I’m happy. I’m happy.” She chanted.

She dropped the two boxes on the chair beside them and leant forward to touch her forehead to the prince’s.

“Oh, I have missed you, Amrâl, so much.” She sighed.

“I’m here now. We can finally make that start we wanted.”

“Yes, yes, we can.” She agreed with that.

“I have Gifts for you.” Frerin went over to the desk in the corner, he brought back an open box. As he neared she saw what was inside it.

A set of beautifully wrought engraving tools, all different shapes and sizes, perfect for a Master Metal Engraver to create magic with. She knew without a doubt that he’d made them.

“Oh, Frerin. They’re beautiful.”

“My arm limited me, so Thorin was my hammer most days.” He warned.

“I don’t care, they’re still beautiful.”

“Will you accept them? Will you accept me? Will you let me Court you?” he asked.

“I will. I have a Gift for you, too.” She turned to the chair and paused. “Actually if I’m being honest, I have a Gift for you and also a gift that Mother and I made as a Family Gift. I’m not sure what to do with it now.”

“Will you show me? Maybe I can help.”

Larzi didn’t respond with words, but she reached for the larger of the two boxes and lifting the lid, she held a magnificent cloak mantle up for Frerin to see. The mantle was black, glossy black and it was covered in black raven feathers, each feather’s blue-black sheen catching the light.

“Whoa, that’s stunning, Larz, stunning. And you made this as a Family Gift?”

“Mother and I made three of them, we intended one for Thrór, one for Thráin and one for Thorin, but now…? I don’t know what to do with them.” She sighed.

“I do. Give one to Thorin and one each to Fíli and Kíli. They’re his Heirs and the lads are closer than even Thorin and I were. These would be perfect on them.” Frerin assured her.

“Then they can have them. This is for you, though.” She laid the mantle down and picked up the smaller box, holding it so Frerin could see inside and the prince reverently reached in and lifted out the quiver. It was made from two layers of leather with a thin sheet of steel between the leather, this enabled her to cut away the outer layer of leather and engrave the metal underneath, giving a three dimensional look to the hunting scenes running around the quiver, climbing in a spiral to blend into the elegant filigreed edging. The metal had been treated and blue and purple tints gave depth to the images, the leather engraving showing a delicate hand, while the metal work showed strength and precision.

“Will you accept this token of Courtship?” Larzi asked formally.

“Yes.” Frerin was nearly speechless at the work involved, he knew Kíli would be jealous, but too bad, this was his, made by his intended for him.

Think of Kíli and the demon-child appeared. A smaller door off to one side creaked open and two heads, one dark and one blonde, peeked around the frame. The two spoke to each other like there was no one else in the room.

“How do you think that went?” The darker one asked.

“Who knows, nadad? I mean, Frerin looks happy enough and she’s still here, so there’s a good chance she agreed.” The blonde replied.

“Should we ask them?”

“Might as well.”

The two stood and entered the room.

“Fíli” The blonde said. Larzi caught her breath, he was the spit image of Frerin.

“And Kíli” Added the brunet, this one was Thorin all over.

“At your service.” They said in unison, bowing.

“Well, Irak’Adad? Lady Larzi?” Fíli asked.

“What’s the verdict?” followed by Kíli’s question.

“Yes, lads, you get another Aunt, but I’m still not convinced that Bilbo is happy about you calling him Auntie.” The lads cheered and bounced over to offer their congratulations.

Larzi was hugged by each lad and touched foreheads with them, before remembering the mantles. Just as she was about to reach for them the small door opened again.

“Unca F’erin, Unca F’erin.” A tiny dwarfling waddled out, followed by an even tinier, more delicate child and a small sandy haired hobbit. He carried yet another tiny child, the king at his side, his arms full of babes. Kíli rushed over and gently relieved Thorin of one bundle.

“Careful, Kíli, she’s just been fed.” The hobbit warned.

“Yes, Auntie Bilbo.”

“Larzi? You remember Thorin, of course? And this is Bilbo Baggins, Bilbo is Thorin’s husband and carrier of these five. Here we have, Brelór.” Frerin picked up the dwarfling and tickled him for a moment, he handed the child to Fíli, and picked up the smaller child. “And this little one is Farís. Bilbo’s holding Sâl, Thorin’s got Thrórlin and Kíli’s greedy and got Belrís. Brelór, Farís and Sâl are often call the Triple Terrors. Tharkûn's coming for their second birthday in a month and a half, Bilbo's asked him show of his whiz-poppers. Whatever that means.”

"You'll see, just you wait."

Brelór squirmed to get down and Fíli quickly lowered him to the floor and stole Farís from his uncle, cuddling her close and tickling her face with his moustache braids.

Bilbo gently lowered Sâl to the floor and took Thrórlin from his husband. Before anyone could say anything else, Larzi gathered up a mantle and offered it to Thorin. He lifted it to shoulder height and studied it.

“This is remarkable work, Larzi. Frerin will look good in this.”

“No, Thorin, not Frerin. I wasn’t sure that Frerin would ever Court me, but I wanted to be ready, while you all went to Azanulbizar, mother and I worked on them, I figured, if Frerin didn’t Court me, I would Court him, but… that’s not how things worked out. Mother and I made these as a Family Gift, there’s three of them. We planned one for Thrór, one for Thráin and one for you. Frerin suggested that I offer them to you, Fíli and Kíli. Would you like it?” The dwarrowdam said.

“Larzi, if Frerin hadn’t already given a Gift to Lorzin as Family Gift, I would be delighted to grant you permission to Court my brother, but as he has? I will happily accept this as a gift from my sister-in-law-to-be.” The king replied.

Fíli lowered Farís to the floor to join her siblings and the dwarf prince scooped up another mantle to drape over his shoulders.

“Aunt Larzi, this is lovely. Thank you so much.” He beamed.

Kíli handed Belrís to Frerin and was admiring the mantle he’d laid over the back of a chair and was stroking it gently.

“I can see Sabâs, Markhel, Marilla and Rûkhuz sneaking around the raven rookery hunting feathers to get their own feathered harnesses.”

“Oh, Mahal, don’t encourage them.” Thorin groaned.

Bilbo sidled up to Larzi and gently plopped his son into her arms.

“Welcome to the madness that is the royal family of Erebor, my dear. Tell me, what are you like in the kitchen?” The King’s hobbit husband asked.

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

khi-amrâl = one love (K)

Rukhs = Orcs (K)

Ûdâr = wizards (K) plural

Uzbad zai’adkhut = king at rest (K) Thráin

Uzbad-naná = king-sister (K) dis

Uzbad-nadad = king-brother (K) Frerin

Uzbad-dashshat = princes (K) Fíli & Kíli

Uzbad-nuthâ = princesses (K) Brelór, Farís , Sâl, Belrís & Thrórlin

Zomor = owl (K)

Lulkhe = idiot (K)

 

Chapter Text

Memories.

 

There was to have been a grand party to celebrate 50 years since Erebor was resettled, instead it was a feast of remembrance. Bilbo leant on Thorin, as they watched the pyre burn, unashamed of the tears running down his cheeks.

Smaug was no more.

Playing with the dragons that returned to Erebor for the celebration, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the guardian of Erebor, as the youngsters had taken to calling her, had saved the lives of some hobbits that were not where they were supposed to be. Merry and Sam, at nine and eleven respectively, shouldn’t have been on that part of the Mountain, but where Frodo went, so too, did Sam and Merry, never mind that Frodo was supposed to be training with Bilbo that day. The three hobbits would spend a few more days in the infirmary, but Bilbo had not the heart to deny them their farewells.

It was a sad day for all.

 

Later that evening Bilbo watched on as the feast got under way. His eyes found those that he had know only through Frodo’s tales in that other life.

After Aragorn and Denethor, the eldest of those who fought against Mordor was Théoden. It was a relief to the hobbit and his dwarf to have Thengel sent word of the birth’s of his children. First Théoden, followed by Fréoval, Éomris, Féowyn and lastly Théodwyn. His wife Morwen, had said five was enough, she was done.

Seven years after Théoden’s birth, news came from Adrahil of his son’s birth, he and his wife, Finduim named the lad, Imrahil. Bilbo recalled that Pippin had said something about Imrahil standing in for the Steward during the last days of the War, as Boromir and Denethor were dead and Faramir lay in the House of Healing, which stood to reason as he was Denethor’s brother-in-law.

It was another long wait until Bilbo attended Prim for Frodo’s birth, the proud parents naming Bilbo and Thorin as prospective guardians for the fauntling. With his colouring he’d fit into their diverse family, at least in looks.

This brought Bilbo’s thoughts to his children, all spread about the Great Hall doing their duties as Princes and Princesses of Erebor. Brelór took after his dwarf father so much that no one could questioned his parentage, his time was spent trailing after Dwalin, who wouldn’t take him as apprentice until he was 50. He only had one more year to wait, but like his Adad, he had little patience.

Sâl, who was a true child of her hobbit father, had chosen the name Sâlrís, at her Coming-of-Age, but still preferred to be called Sâl, she now worked side-by-side with Tauriel and Kíli in the Animal House.

Blonde Farís was a perfect princess, delicate and softly spoken, she was, nonetheless, not someone to underestimate, she swung a sword with dwarrow-strength and skill. The Triple Terrors as these three were known, had no sense of fear and frequently dragged their fathers from their duties to retrieve them. Thorin dreaded that look of apology from Nori, who was often the first to know what they’d done, as he interrupted the day’s Court.

Thrórlin took after his blonde uncle and cousin, but like his hobbit father, books ruled his life, he’d taken an apprenticeship under Ori and was loving every minute of it. Belrís had spent weeks convincing her fathers to let her study with Óin and the Twins, finally Bilbo agreed, Thorin however encouraged her immediately. If she was in the infirmary and Thrórlin in the library, there was less chance of them getting into mischief.

Trendâl also had the looks of his Adad and the outlook of his Da, but he went into organisation, he was meticulous in his planning and as a result Balin had taken the dwarfling under his wing, teaching him the diplomacy and tact he would need if he was to stand as advisor to his cousin, when Fíli took the Throne.

The last of their brood of seven, like Sâl, was a true hobbit and chose the name Reldin, he said it was to honour the uncles he would never know, it was a combination of Rildon, Feldar and Peldin. He like many Tooks before him was a land healer and he studied with Paladin, Saradoc and Tari at the Temple-Smial.

A laugh beside him cause Bilbo’ mind to abandon it’s wanderings and refocus on the present, he turned to Frerin and raised an eyebrow, Frerin pointed across the room in response. Bilbo, too, laughed at the sight.

Boromir, 13 year old son of Denethor of Gondor was halfway up one of the tapestries that lined the walls of the Hall, he was leading his younger brother, Faramir and Théodred, Théoden’s teenaged son, up to the balcony above, they hung halfway, trapped, Denethor above them and Théoden, below them. Damned if they did, damned if they didn’t. Bilbo watched as cheeky grins appeared on their faces and they proceeded to shimmy up the rest of the fabric until in arms reach of Denethor, the Steward grabbing the lads one at a time and hugging them all, holding them at arms length and scolding them equally. He then wrapped an arm around each of his sons and dragged them back to the tables, Théodred trailing behind, the lads still grinning.

As they passed him, Bilbo reached out and snagged Boromir’s arm, the four stopped.

“Boromir, Faramir, Théodred . In the morning, come have second breakfast with me and afterwards, I’ll show you my favourite places inside and outside the Mountain for climbing.” He said.

“Bilbo.” Denethor groaned. “Please don’t encourage them, they’ve taken to climbing the spine at home, instead of using the cable-wagon.”

“You hush. You’ve got enough on your plate with Aragorn’s wedding to Lady Arwen, if you leave the lads and I alone for a few days, I might persuade Trendâl to give you a hand with the planning.”

“If get me Trendâl for a week now and the two weeks before the wedding, I’ll let you take the lads anywhere you like. Oh, that reminds me, Finduilas said ‘yes’. It’s now up to you.”

“Mama said yes to what, papa? Mister Bilbo?” Faramir asked, hanging onto his father’s arm.

“I’ll tell you tomorrow, lads.” Bilbo answered, as the Steward directed the lads back to their mothers. Finduilas and Elfhild sat together with Théoden’s sister, Théodwyn, the women all admiring Théodwyn’s sleeping toddler, Éomer. Beside Théodwyn sat Eglantine and Paladin with their newborn, Bilbo knew that one day, Pippin would be the most reckless hobbit he would have the joy to meet, but right now, he was barely big enough to fill the hands of the King of Rohan.

From what Bilbo remembered of Frodo’s story, the only important person missing was Éowyn and that was likely only because she was a few years younger than Éomer.

 

Across the room, Thráin, too, watched as Boromir lead the two lads on their climb. It reminded him of the Triple Terrors and their climbing stunts. The first time they’d done it, half the Mountain had been in uproar. Fíli, Kíli and Frerin had all stood at the base of the wall, looking confused, they never figured out how such small children could climb that far up an almost smooth wall. Bilbo, stood and laughed, as Thorin frantically tried to get Smaug to fetch them down. As Thráin had watched, he too, was worried and trying to work out what to do next, Bilbo, however had just shucked his clothes until all he wore was a shirt and trousers, he stepped up to the wall and before anyone could react, started to climb, he quickly reached the children and whatever he said to them had each of them pouting before shimmying back down the near vertical wall. Thorin had grabbed each child as soon as they were in reach and hugged them tight.

Having so many people around him was sometimes too much to bear and Thráin was glad that his family gave him space whenever he needed it and the children were always up for a cuddle if when he need them. With more children arriving every year, Erebor was growing again and everyone knew that the King-at-Rest was happy to cuddle an infant for a busy parent.

His time as prisoner of the Orcs wasn’t clear, Galadriel told him he may never remember all of it, but one thing stood out clearly, Grórli had been one of his personal guards and had been captured at his side, but he struggled to cope with the malice and cruelty of their captors and eventually it was too much, as they were being readied for the move from Gundabad to Dol Guldur, he slipped his chains, climbed one of the towers and leapt to his death. Thráin considered joining him, but the stubborn Durin blood in his veins wouldn’t let him give the Orcs the satisfaction and now?, looking back, he was glad he fought on. His family were pretty damn impressive.

 

Thorin watched Bilbo stop Boromir and speak to the three lads and he knew that for the next few days, he would be lucky to see his hobbit much before supper time. He remembered Bilbo taking the Terrors and teaching them all the best, and safest, places to climb, inside and outside the Mountain.

Coming back from dale one day he spotted the four of them actually scaling one of the statues of Mahal at the Gates, a crowd of worried dwarrow scrambling around under them, Rûkhuz and Marilla sitting calming on the edge of Mahal’s axe, watching as Bilbo and the Terrors reached Mahal’s elbow and his heart nearly stopped, until he saw that Bilbo had attached belaying points and all four wore harnesses, the Terrors were tied to Bilbo and he in turn was attached to a belay point.

As he passed the statue, a whistle pierced the air, knowing it to be Bilbo, he looked up.

“Put the kettle on, dear. We’ll be down in ten.” Bilbo called.

Thorin just waved an arm and kept on riding. Dwarrow, seeing their King’s lack of fear, began to get back to their work, although, Kíli, Tauriel and Larzi stayed to watch the descent, chatting amiably.

There was no fear that Bilbo might fall, during the rebuilding Thorin had seen Bilbo scale city, from one balcony to another, just to see what was there and at times the hobbit liked to sit on the ledge above his garden and watch the sunset’s bathe Dale in colour.

 

Fíli sat beside his wife, Dazbûna, nursing their sleepy son, Víli, named after Fíli and Kíli’s father. He too, was remembering his cousins climbing, but he was thinking of the time that sweet gentle little Belrís got her revenge on her older siblings for taking her book and hiding it, she’d taken their favourite possessions and hid them, Brelór’s throwing axe, Sâl’s copy of Gavali Durin’s book on dragons and the dagger Thorin had made for Farís. She’d told them where to find a map with a number of locations marked, in each location there was a puzzle chest, inside the chest was a clue to opening the next chest. Every chest was in a location that was on the ‘Off Limits’ list and because of this, it took the Terrors four days to solve Belrís’ challenge and they made sure to never push her too hard, again. That she’d not been caught placing any of the 30 odd chests, was in itself amazing, Fíli had never managed work out how she’d done it without missing work or alerting the very inquisitive dragons, personally, he suspected Bilbo’s involvement.

 

 ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

On Bilbo’s 150th birthday Gandalf set off the most amazing show of whizz-poppers ever seen, flowers, trees, waterfalls, snowflakes, leaves and the showpiece was a larger-than-life Smaug soaring up the valley, over the Gates and up the side of the Mountain.

Bilbo was glad of the fireworks, but Thorin wasn’t so sure. After the stunt that Gloín and Dwalin pulled on Gandalf, the king wasn’t certain inviting the wizard at all was smart.

Somehow and no one, including Dwalin and Gloín, was saying how, the wizard’s robes had disappeared overnight on one of his visits, leaving him with only a bathing robe to wear, that however wasn’t the problem. The problem was that once Gandalf left Erebor with new robes, he travelled west to Rivendell, by the time he’d crossed the Misty Mountains, his robes had… grown. Gloín’s wife Bírzel was one of the few crystal growers left, the only one in Erebor that could seed cloth with crystal spores. Given sunlight and moisture, the spores grew and by the time the wizard reached Rivendell, he was the sparkly one. A raven arrived from Elrond wanting to know what could be done to remove the spores and could they be transplanted? There wasn’t enough crystal spore to waste, so Gimris had travelled with her brother, Gimli and Legolas, a week behind the wizard, just far enough for him not to sense them, to recover those spore that had grown on the wizard’s robes.

But as Bilbo reminded Thorin, with the Ring gone and Arda at peace, the wizards were ready to leave Middle Earth. Galadriel, Celeborn and Elrond had informed the nations of the east that they and a fair few of their elves would be sailing into the West. They had planned to go before this next winter hit, so it was the last chance they would see the wizard.

So Bilbo got his fireworks and Gandalf, Dwalin and Gloín came to an understanding, the wizard would leave the dwarrow alone and the dwarrow would leave the wizard to enjoy his visit with Bilbo’s family.

 

Galadriel and Celeborn accepted an invitation to Bilbo’s birthday, mostly due to Aragorn and Arwen’s attendance. This would be the last chance the two high elves had to spend with their granddaughter, Arwen and her children, Eldarion, Lanariel, Elaria and Fariel, so they travelled north to Erebor with the Gondor contingent. They planned to travel stay for the summer and head west with Gandalf within days of Bilbo’s party.

At the feast Galadriel rose to her feet and lifted her voice so that all those present could hear her. Leaning against a massive stone tub of riotously blooming gardenia, she spoke to the gathering.

“In appreciation of a wondrous meal, I would tell a tale and relay a Gift. Many years ago, by mortal reckoning that is,” laughter met her gentle jab. “I received a letter from a hobbit. I, at first, had no idea why this would happen, but as I read this letter, much that it said alarmed me, it told me of a hobbit that was born, lived a full life and died, but this hobbit had many regrets and so the Valar gave him a chance to change that. He was Returned. Returned to his own body as it had been two full seasons before the greatest challenge of his life, or lives as the case may be.” People were sitting forward listening intently.

“The Valar gave him two clear tasks. One was the destruction of the One Ring of Sauron. The other was to save the lives of the Guardians of Arda. The dragons. As all here know, Bilbo Baggins is an exceptional hobbit. A hobbit that bargained with the Valar. He would not do this alone. And so the Valar gathered to discuss who would be Returned with the hobbit. Nine souls were chosen, nine souls, but ten lives. They journeyed, they met, they met evil and fought it, they united as one family and when Erebor was in sight, the hobbit spoke to the dragon and convinced her to give them a chance. She did and for 50 years, Smaug stood with Bilbo and Thorin as Bonded. She watched her kits Bond and grow, she watched over Bilbo and his growing family, she carried messages and healers in dire times. She saved lives. She was a true Guardian.”

She turned to Bilbo and held out a hand, in it two scales, dragon scales. The colour and size of them, telling Bilbo and Thorin instantly that these scales belonged to Smaug and Rûkhuz.

“The Valar give a great Gift in thanks for the lives of their Guardians. It is two-fold. The first is this? Many here, wonder how the dragons can live and breed without the debilitating effects of inbreeding. The Valar’s Gift is that for the next 10 generations, or until the dragons number 10,000, every dragon hatched with bear no genetic relation to any other dragon. In short; no dragon alive today is related to any other dragon, breeding between them will cause no ill effects.” A sigh of relief could be heard from Kíli, that caused a few laughs.

“The second is that even in death you shall not be parted from your Bonded. No matter who departs this life first for the Halls of Mandos, Smaug will be waiting for you and the four of you will wait together until the world is rebuilt. The Valar have decided, due to your bravery, honesty and caring hearts, that there will be no restrictions on the those who have passed, and those who will pass, through the Halls of Mandos. Those in Mahal’s Halls may visit Yavanna’s Golden Fields or those of Nienna’s Gardens and vice versa.”

She gave Bilbo a blue scale and Thorin a red scale.

“Keep these as a token of this Gift. Rest assured that any that Bond with a dragon will never be parted from them. You completed the task the Valar gave you, you saved many lives and enabled others to do the same, you rebuilt nations and formed alliances that have raised children to desire peace. Your tasks are complete, twice-born. Your live is now yours to live as you will. The Valar thank you.” Her words were met by cheers, Bilbo and Thorin were well loved by their families and by the people who knew them.

Thorin stood and raising his arms for quiet, replied.

“We miss Smaug every day. That the Valar have given a Gift such as this, we will treasure greatly. To know that our children, our kit’s children and theirs will find each other again is pleasing.” He paused for a few seconds. “What is also pleasing is the feast before us. The people of Erebor, South Arm and Dale have themselves proud, food like this, in a setting like this, is a wonder. Friends, guests, family, enjoy!” he cried. More cheers and whoops of joy filled the valley in front of the Gates.

Hobbits from South Arm had taken over the Mountain’s kitchens as well as dwarrow had setup fire pits for cooking, the variety of dishes, was enough to satisfy any hobbit. The men of Dale had created a Shire-like wonderland, they (meaning Trendâl) had planned it for over a year, there were trees in tubs, bushes in barrels, flowers in pots and they were everywhere. Paths of crushed granite outlined in white pebbles and rocks, meandered here and there, benches were ensconced in corners created by pots, tubs and barrels. Grass had been grown and the land hobbits had encouraged every blade they saw to grow and spread.

If it weren’t for the Mountain looming over them, Thorin felt like he could have turned a corner and seen that round green door again, it was a true slice of the shire, but the interesting thing was how Bilbo reacted. He enjoyed it, he danced and ate and talked and had a fabulous time, but as they entered the Mountain many hours after darkness had fallen, he sighed and for the first time that day, Thorin saw his husband relax. The tension dropped from his shoulders, his smile reached his eyes and pleasure was writ all over his face.

When Thorin asked why? Bilbo’s reply was simple. The Shire is nice to visit, but Erebor is home, now.

From a corner hidden amongst flowering shrubs, Galadriel watched the dwarf and the hobbit, she leant into her husband’s arms and whispered, “And they shall live happily ever after to the end of their days and beyond.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Together Again - Forever.

 

Bilbo watched Rûkhuz struggle for breath, he knew it was only a matter of minutes now before his Bonded passed into the Halls of Mandos. He knew he should call Ori or Gwali, but this was the last few minutes he would get to spend with the dragon and he didn’t want to share. Greedy, perhaps, but Rûkhuz was his Bonded.

Bilbo lay beside the blue dragon offering what comfort he could. Claws curled around fingers, both needing that contact.

The minutes passed and so did Rûkhuz, Bilbo waited for dawn’s soft light before he slowly climbed painfully to his feet. He crossed the room and pulled a tassel, he heard the bell connected, ring and a patter of feet.

The door opened and his granddaughter, Dwerís, entered.

“Grandda? You alright?” she asked. “What can I get you?”

“Hullo, dear. Can you run a message for me?”

“Of course, Grandda. Where am I going?”

“Please tell King Víli that Rûkhuz, son of Smaug has joined his mother and my husband, Thorin.” It hurt to say those words.

“Oh, Grandda.” The dwarf caught her breath.

“And then, would you ask Dwali or Talin if they would see to his body? I’ll stay with him, I don’t want him to be alone.”

“Of course not, Grandda. I’ll send Uncle Ori along, shall I?” The lass gently guided the old hobbit back across the room and brought a chair so Bilbo didn’t have to sit on the floor again.

“Thank you, dear.”

Ten minutes later Ori held his hand while Fíli’s grandson, Dwali and Kíli’s grandson Talin picked up the body of the dragon. As they passed him on their way out of the room, a scale fell from that precious body. A scale, a dull blue-grey scale, it was a shock to Bilbo to see how much colour his Bonded had lost in recent days, old age had drained much from them both. Bilbo still remembered him as a bright Durin-blue, with spines that deepened to a steely blue, not this washed out grey.

“Let’s follow them shall we?” Ori asked.

“Yes, I want to see him at rest with Thorin.” The hobbit replied, as the pair of them slowly followed the two princes. For an old hobbit the walk to the crypts was long and painful, along the way more people joined them and by the time they reached the tomb of Thorin Oakenshield, there were nearly 50 people gathered to farewell the dragon.

“It’s just us now, Bilbo.” Ori sighed. “I’m tired, my friend, and I miss them.”

“As do I. Hobbits aren’t meant to live this long and I’m ready to go. All the children are well grown, most have their own dragons, their own children. It’s time.”

“Please, not right this minute, though.”

“Not, Ori, but soon.”

Gwali, Dwali’s twin entered the room at nearly a run.

“Tevi’s clutch is hatching. Uncle Bilbo, do you want to come?”

Bilbo had attended the birth’s of all the first-born Hobbits and every dragon hatching that happened in either Erebor or Dale.

“Please, Gwali, that would be good.” The dwarf stepped in a scooped Bilbo up in his arms and left the room heading for the crèche.

“You’re getting lighter, Uncle.” He chided gently.

“I know, but food has no appeal now. I’m tired, Gwali, I miss Thorin.” It was ten years since his dwarf stopped fighting the effects of old age and not a day went by that he wasn’t missed.

“I never thought I’d say, but so do I. I think about Gimli and Legolas a lot, too. I even miss Dwalin.”

Bilbo laughed faintly.

“I doubt he’d appreciate hearing that.”

“No. I doubt it, too. I doubt any of them would.”

All the Company were gone now.

Bifur and Bofur were the first of the Company to journey to Mahal, a rock slide caught them unawares. Bombur was an old dwarf surrounded by his family when he drew his last breath. Dori, too, was surrounded by family, Ori, Nori and Zeri at his side. Ori was forced to farewell Nori less than a decade later, a chest infection ran through the Mountain and took over a hundred dwarrow, including Nori and his daughter. Askâd wouldn’t live without his Bonded and no one tried to force him to.

Gloín and Bírzel, too, fell to illness, Khalthâ refusing to leave them, even to feed, he passed within seconds of Bírzel.

Gimris shattered many hearts when she died in child-birth with her 8th child, a record for a dwarf, but something tore inside and she was gone before a healer could reach her side, Nukhda stayed with the babe and lived until she was 493.

Óin, Mírtja and Halwâ were returning from visiting the Glittering Caves when bad weather caught them, a sudden temperature drop meant they weren’t found until the following spring, huddled together in a cave, frozen.

Dwalin had passed 83 years earlier in an assassination attempt, a dwarf from the Iron Hills had drunk too much hobbit moonshine and decided that he could do a better job of running Erebor than Fíli. Dwalin saved Fíli’s life, but at the cost of his own, the injuries that Fíli suffered, made him hand the throne to his son Víli, he spent his time helping teach ravens to speak Westron and Sindarin, but eventually the pain was too much to bear. Markhel remained at Víli’s side for another 61 years.

Kíli mourned his brother and given the closeness of their connection, no one was surprised that he began to Fade, less than a year after his brother passed, he too, died. Tauriel, of course having a Heart Bond with her dwarf, died at his side she outlived him by perhaps two or three minutes. Sabâs stayed with their daughter Firíziel for 27 years, but it was clear to that saw the red dragon, that he was mourning his primary Bonded companions and one morning he just failed to wake, joining his Bonded in the Halls of Mandos without fanfare.

A viral illness 37 years ago took Frerin, Marilla, Tláli and Galâm and 20 others from both Erebor and Dale.

The last fifteen years saw the loss of Honey, guardian of the line of Girion, Peony of the hobbit’s Temple-Smial, Carmine of Dol Amroth, Rûnya of Eryn Galen and Anzar of Osgiliath, all due to old age.

Six months ago Scout, Legolas and Gimli saved the life of a dwarfling, the act breaking the dragon’s neck, death was instant, but Gimli and Legolas hung on for almost a day while Víli promised he’d watch over Bilbo.

Just last month news came from Gondor via Rohan, both Buzrul and Mahtar had been laid to rest.

Kibrîn joined Dwalin five days ago, leaving Rûkhuz as the last of Smaug’s kitral.

Of those Bonded to the original clutch, only Bilbo and Ori, still lived. Bilbo was the younger at 553 and Ori was a very old dwarf at 594.

Gwali carried the hobbit down many flights of stairs and gently deposited him in a chair set for him on a small dais, from here he had a prime view of the eggs and their intended Bonded. Over the next few hours the large clutch of 63 eggs hatched. Kits swarmed people, ate and drank, before falling into food induced comas.

At lunch Dwali brought him some soup and bread, but Bilbo had only a few spoonful’s, before putting it aside. It was afternoon tea-time when Víli arrived, his presence, as it had since Thorin’s death ten years earlier, made Bilbo’s breath catch, he looked so much like his great-uncle that Thorin swore that one could use the other as a mirror.

“Uncle Bilbo?” he said hesitantly.

Bilbo looked up. He saw the expression on Víli’s face and knew. He was alone again. Thorin promised that he’d never be alone. He promised.

“Uncle Bilbo, Uncle Ori is gone.” The dwarf knelt and hugged the hobbit.

“Somehow, I knew you were going to say that, lad.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle.”

“No, lad, no. Nothing for you to be sorry about. Ori was tired, I knew that this morning. He misses Dwalin and Kibrîn. Now, lad. There’s only three eggs left, are you going to stay and watch with me?”

“I’ll stay, if I may Uncle?”

“Lad, you’re King Under The Mountain, now. You don’t need to ask my permission to sit down.” The hobbit huffed.

“Old habits, Uncle. Adad would’ve whacked me upside the head for not asking, King or not.”

“Oh, he was a brat, your father. In public he was the perfect prince, but in private? Argh! A brat.”

For the next hour, Bilbo and the King chatted about various family members. When the last kit hatched, Bilbo found himself suddenly exhausted.

“Víli? Would you call Gwali or Dwali for me? I think I’ll have a little lay down.”

“Of course, Uncle. Shall I bring supper to your rooms?” They all tried so hard to get him to eat, but it was pointless, really, he ate so little, these days.

“That’ll be fine lad.”

When Dwali left him, he lay looking at the ceiling for a minute or two. He was so tired, it was time. He closed his eyes, hoping that Galadriel was right about the Valar’s Gift.

Two hours later when Víli arrived, he looked at Bilbo laying still and quiet, he saw the sweet smile and knew that his hobbit uncle was finally with his beloved Thorin. Bilbo was at peace.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Every day for the last 502 years, Bilbo woke to the rumbling croon of a dragon. He could hear that croon now. His eyes opened and all he saw was silver, the bright white silver of freshly molten Mithril. Slowly his eyes focused and he realised that the silver he saw was actually the bright Mithril eyes of his Bonded dragon, Rûkhuz.

“Wakey, wakey, Bilbo.” The dragon chirped, as happy as ever.

“Rûkhuz, leave him be. Please.” That was Thorin’s voice.

Bilbo sat up, pushing Rûkhuz’s head out of the way.

“Move it you scaly lizard.” He laughed.

“Lítra, do you hear that, he called me a lizard.” The dragon grumbled.

“Well, if you would keep getting in the way, you must expect that, kitrê.” Smaug sweet voice washed over the hobbit and he grinned wide.

Sliding across the bed, his feet hit the floor with a smack.

“Thorin. I’m starved. What’s for supper?” Thorin looked just as he did the day he first walking into Bag End, tall, dark, but with a brilliant smile gracing his face.

“Whatever you wish, my hobbit. But…? The Company are waiting outside, you do know you are the last to arrive, don’t you?” He scolded.

“So? They should know better, by now, than to get between a hobbit and food.”

“Indeed, they should, tsvaare’d.” Smaug agreed, smugly.

The four laughed, but Bilbo took the dwarf’s works as the warning it was and flung open the door that looked exactly like the one to their rooms in Erebor’s Royal Quarters, and stalked out.

He made all of three steps before being swamped by dwarrow. Fíli and Kíli got to him first, the pair young again, happy and pain-free, Fíli glowed with joy, Kíli’s grin stretching his face wide.

Ori’s sheepish smile, as he clung to Dwalin, so typical of the scribe.

Óin, Gloín and Gimli, lifted the hobbit off his feet and passed him from one set of arms to the next. Bofur then Bifur, to Bombur and Balin, across to Dori and Frerin, before Nori slipped him free, Tauriel swooping and stealing him, passing him Legolas who hugged him and plopped him into Thorin’s waiting arms. Then each of the dragons stuck their heads over their Bondeds shoulders and chirped greetings.

“Shall we go to the main dinning Hall and see everyone else?” Smaug asked.

Balin, who was the closest to it, opened the door and bowed low. A shriek was heard and Bilbo and Thorin were suddenly knocked to the floor.

“Bilbo!” He had an armful of hobbit, it took a few seconds to realise that it was Peldin, before his sweet sister Clover was there, their brothers hot on her heels. Looking up Bilbo saw his parents, indulgent smiles and all, like it was nothing new having all five of their children together. “Bilbo, thank you! I has a family. I has a Mama and a Dada. Peldin has a sister. Has two brothers.”

“Three, Peldin.” Belladonna’s wispy voice was a welcome sound.

“Three, Mama? Who’s the three’d?” Peldin asked.

“Bilbo, of course. He’s your brother, too.”

A look of awe settled on Peldin’s face.

“Bilbo?” he asked, “Is Bilbo, Peldin’s brother, too?” He looked almost afraid it wouldn’t be so.

“Yes, Peldin. I’m your brother.” Arms circled his neck and a face pressed into his shoulder and sobs could be heard. Thorin rubbed gently on Peldin’s back and sung a calming song. Finally Peldin lifted his head.

“I has Feldar and Rildon and Clover and Sorrel and Bilbo and Mama and Dada. Who does Bilbo has?”

Fíli knelt down and gently hugged the hobbit.

“Bilbo has Thorin, Rûkhuz, Smaug and all of us. We are all Bilbo’s family and so are you. And if you like, Peldin, we would be your family, too.” The dragons chirped, crooned and sang their agreement. All the dwarrow nodded, they liked the idea. Peldin’s grin rivalled the sun for it’s brightness.

The hobbit who was shunned and abandoned now had a family, a big happy family. He would have a family until the world crumbled and was ready to be rebuilt.

He would never be alone again.

 

 

Sindarin = (S)                        Quenya = (Q)                        Khuzdul = (K)                       Dragonspeak = (D)

Please note that Dragonspeak is completely from my imagination. Any similarity to another language is purely accidental.

 

Lítra = Mother (D)

Kitrê = Son (D)

Tsvaare’d = Bonded (D)