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Yavanna's Warriors

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Bilbo Baggins hummed to himself as weeded the memorial garden he had planted for his parents after their deaths several years ago. The flowers were doing well, and the scent of his father’s favorite lily of the valley soothed him while his hands dug into the soft earth to remove the unwanted plants.

“There you are, Bilbo Baggins. You are one difficult hobbit to find,” a deep voice called out, dragging the young hobbit out of his pleasant thoughts.

“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” Bilbo called out, watching the gray robed figure standing near him. Something about the man was familiar, but the Master of Bag End was not quite certain what it was.

“I am Gandalf the Gray,” the wizard introduced himself. “You knew me when you were much younger; I was a friend of your mother’s.”

“Oh yes, I remember now,” he answered softly. “The wizard that guided Mother through her adventures,” he replied, rising to his feet and shaking the dirt off of his hands. “You have not been seen in the Shire for quite a long time, Gandalf. I know my grandfather has missed you.”

“I know it has been a long while; I just could not return to the Shire after hearing of her loss,” Gandalf said, looking very sad. “The Thain knows of my reasons for not being here before now, and we do keep in touch through letters.”

“That he did not mention,” Bilbo replied. “However, he is busy with his responsibilities and there are other things to talk about besides missing friends and family. What brings you back to the Shire,” he asked, moving into the shadow so he could look up at the wizard.

“Actually, I am looking for someone to share in an adventure,” the gray wizard answered, watching the young hobbit.

Bilbo was silent for a moment, brushing a stubborn lock of curly hair out of his eyes.

“Is this an adventure that would take someone out of the Shire,” he asked, meeting the blue-gray eyes of his mother’s friend.

“It would indeed, and I was hoping that you would come along for it,” Gandalf said. “I remember you being full of spirit and a thirst for adventure when you were a fauntling.”

“My grandparents would say that hasn’t changed for me, but I know it has been tempered somewhat due to my responsibilities. Gandalf, you know I cannot leave the Shire without the Blessing and that requires you speaking to the Thain about it. This is a binding Rule that has been set down for as long as my people have existed.”

“I had somewhat forgotten,” the bearded man answered, looking sheepish as he admitted to that failing. “I shall gather the group and head to the Thain’s home so that the leader of the company and myself can present the request to him.”

The hobbit gave him a gentle smile, easily forgiving the wizard for his forgetfulness. He knew the man didn’t fully understand their ways, but it was easily remedied.

“Regardless of the answer, this company and yourself are welcome to stay in Bag End until they are ready to depart,” he offered. “Tookborough can be overwhelming for those not used to it.”

“I thank you for the invitation, Bilbo. With myself included, the number will be fourteen and we shall be at your grandfather’s house tomorrow.”

“Fourteen? Oh my goodness, I’ve not hosted a dinner party that size before,” he said.
“Gandalf, if they are men, they might not find my home comfortable. I’ve only enough man sized furniture and the like for one.”

“Worry not, Bilbo, they are dwarves and will find your home just the right size for them. I will see you tomorrow then, my young friend,” Gandalf said, hurrying out of the yard and onto the road with the hobbit watching him.

Once his guest was gone, Bilbo quickly cleaned up, then headed to his gardener’s home. He spoke to Holman’s wife first, feeling relieved that she would be willing to watch over the meals being cooked once he was called to his grandfather’s home.
Afterwards, he engaged Holman and Hamfast, the gardener’s apprentice, to help him move heavy furniture to prepare for tomorrow.

Within an hour, the three hobbits had the dining area set up for fifteen people as well as ensuring everything was in place for his guests. Bilbo thanked them with some coin and a basket of treats he’d baked the day before, knowing they would enjoy them.

Once that was finished, he set meats to marinade overnight and began baking throughout the rest of the day to ensure that everything would be ready for the next day.

Bilbo woke early the next morning and after dressing, he put two pots of heavy stew on to simmer through the day. The hobbit soon had a broad assortment of snacks prepared so he could feed those to his guests while the rest of the meal was put together when he and the company returned to Bag End. The table was set, bedding aired and ready for the night by the time the message came to him that his presence was required at his grandfather’s home.

Holman’s wife took the list he gave her and headed into his home to continue the work he’d started, turning his offer of part of the meal for her family down. He smiled at the good woman before hurrying off to the Thain’s house at a good pace. Leaving guests or his grandfather to wait was not a good thing.

When he arrived at the large smial, his grandmother opened the door and gave him a warm hug before sending him to his grandfather’s study.

“Bilbo, my boy, I am glad you came so promptly,” the Thain said with a smile, rising to greet the child of his beloved daughter.

“I had no wish to leave you or your guests waiting for very long,” he admitted with a shy smile that made his eyes light up.

“You did well,” the head of the Took family told him. “Shall I introduce my guests to you before we head to outside to the Grotto to present their request and ask for guidance?”

“I would love to meet them, Grandfather,” Bilbo replied, turning alongside his family member to face the fourteen individuals sitting in the study.

“Gandalf you know already,” Gerontius began. “These are Dori, Nori, and Ori,”

The three dwarves rose, giving polite bows as Bilbo did the same. Once they sat down, the introductions continued.

“The next three are the Brothers Ur, Bofur, Bifur, and Bombur,” he said. “We also have Gloin and Oin, who are brothers as well. The next two are Balin and Dwalin, and seated beside them are Fili and Kili. Lastly, we have Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the company.”

“Welcome to the Shire,” Bilbo greeted, smiling that shy smile again before turning to his grandfather. “Shall we head to the Grotto,” he asked, knowing the dwarves would be anxious to hear the answer to the question as to whether or not he could go with them.

“We shall indeed,” he replied. “I shall go tell your grandmother where we will be so she’ll know not to send anyone looking for me. In the meantime, please tell our guests of what needs to be done for this?”

He nodded, waiting until the older hobbit had left before speaking to the dwarves and wizard.

“I know this may be uncomfortable for you due to tradition and the like, but there are a few things that must be done before I lead you outside. First of all, please remove your boots, armor, and all weapons you have with you. No one can enter the Grotto armed. To do so will invite trouble that we do not wish to see happen. I’ve no wish to see any bad luck follow you on your quest.”

There was quite a bit of grumbling, but a sharp word from Thorin silenced them as they followed Bilbo’s request. Once done, the hobbit spoke again.

“Thank you,” he started. “Where we are going is a sacred place to us. I must ask that none of you ever speak of what you will see or discover here to anyone. Like your people, we hobbits also prefer to keep our culture hidden.”

“You have my word that nothing will be revealed,” the dwarf leader told the young hobbit. His own people were a secretive race, and the king would ensure his word was kept regarding what they learned about the hobbits’ culture.

“Thank you, Master Oakenshield. Now, if all of you will follow me?”

Bilbo led the group outside and onto a well maintained path as he headed towards the Grotto. The young hobbit had spent many hours of his life here and knew the way well enough to travel to it blind folded.

The group of dwarves behind him drew in a sharp breath at the sight of the Grotto. It was impressive with stone pillars and arches that formed a cathedral. Beautiful flowers and ivy grew along the pillars and spread along the arches to provide a roof that cast shadows and hues of color from the blossoms onto the soft grass of the Grotto. What was interesting is that the plant life, while growing abundantly, never covered the carvings along the stone.

“I thought hobbits did not work with stone,” Balin asked, staring in awe at the stonework that had been done for this sacred area.

“We do not,” Bilbo answered. “When my people were led here by our Parents, we were met by dwarves who helped us build the Grotto as well as ensuring we had what we needed to survive. Even exposed to the elements, the carvings have never faded and they tell the tale of how we were created, taught, protected, and of our journey here to the Shire.”

“It’s amazing work,” Bofur murmured, still staring at the beautiful Grotto. “I’d no idea that any of our people had been in the Shire before.”

“It isn’t as often as we would like, but we do welcome them when they come,” the hobbit replied, turning when he heard footsteps. He spotted his grandfather making his way towards them.

“Adamanta is watching for anyone who might require me,” Gerontius said, nodding at Gandalf. “So this can be done without interruption.”

The Thain led them into the Grotto, and the company was taken aback yet again by the soft, short grass that tickled their feet. None of them spoke a word, not wanting to break the reverent silence that filled the sacred area. Only the soft breeze made a bit of noise as it danced around the elegantly carved columns and arches.

Bilbo and his grandfather moved to a beautifully carved altar, placing a basket of fruit and grain onto it. The sharp eyes of the dwarves could spot pieces of quartz of various colors that had been worked into the intricate weave of the basket. Two elegantly carved candles were placed into holders that had been worked from the stone of the altar.

To the dwarves, this was a masterful piece of work and all of them wondered who had been the dwarves that had created all of this with the early hobbits. It astounded them to know that such a harmonious place, created by the hands of two different races, existed.

Soft chanting in a tongue none of the dwarves or wizard understood was heard, filling the air as the words were carried away by the breeze. The voices soon quieted as a powerful presence swelled within the Grotto and before long, two figures appeared in front of the altar. The dwarves immediately recognized one and, as one unit, all thirteen sank to their knees with their heads bowed in front of their creator and his wife.

“Greetings, my children,” a beautiful feminine voice called out in gentle tones. “We have heard your summons and have come. Gerontius, Thain of my children, what is it you seek?”

The older hobbit smiled, head bowed in respect.

“Our Father’s children have come, seeking the aid of one of Your Chosen, Mother,” he began. “It is an honorable quest, but we do know that Your Chosen cannot leave the Shire without the Blessing of our Parents.”

The eyes of the two Valar moved to look over the children of Mahal, and the male Vala addressed the group.

“You seek to reclaim your home,” the creator of the dwarves began. “Why do you seek this?”

Thorin’s voice was reverent as he answered the question put to them; his head never lifted from its bowed position.

“I seek a home and shelter for my people, Great Father,” he told him. “We have suffered so much since the worm took our home, and I would see us have shelter where we can raise our families without fear of attacks or starvation.”

“There are thoughts troubling you, son,” he commented, watching the descendent of one of the first dwarves he had made.

“I fear that we will fail, Great Father. I also fear the curse that has followed my line; I do not want my sister-sons or myself to fall under that curse,” the exiled king replied, sounding troubled and honest.

“I am aware of that curse, son, and if you remain true to the wish of finding a place of refuge for your people, then I will not abandon you to that fate.

“Thorin, son of the line of Durin, my children have forgotten their brothers and sisters. In doing so, you and your people have become bitter towards men and elves. In your own heart, you resent the addition of what you call an ‘outsider,’ do you not?”

“Yes, Great Father,” he admitted, fists clenching at his side.

“You forgot about my loving wife’s children, who could have helped you and yours had you remembered. The memory of the hobbits are long, and they would not have turned you away. It is time you and yours open your hearts to your siblings, my child, for although the hobbits are the creation of my wife, I love them and gave them gifts as she has given my children gifts. The two are meant to work together in all things.”

“Yes, Great Father,” he replied, hearing the soft agreements of his fellow dwarves.

Somehow, their history had managed to erase the fact that Mahal also favored the children of his wife and the bond between the two peoples. Thorin would ensure that it was brought back to the histories and would speak to Balin and Ori about it. Maybe the hobbits had information they could share so that the histories could be complete once again.

“I will not forget you,” Yavanna’s gentle voice reassured the dwarf king. “Like my husband, I shall do all I can to ensure the wellbeing of my husband’s children for I love them as dearly as I love my own children. Fear not, Thorin, for you have not been forgotten.

“Gerontius, it has long been questioned as to why the number of my Chosen changed in Bilbo’s generation and now you shall see why this is.”

Both Valar turned their gazes to the young hobbit beside the Thain. Their gazes were gentle but firm, matching their voices as each spoke in turn.

“Young hobbit, we knew you were needed for events beyond the borders of this peaceful home my wife has created for you. At your birth, I not only gave you my blessing but also two gifts. The reason for this has now been revealed.”

“You, my dearest son, have been chosen to heal the gap between my husband’s children and my own offspring,” Yavanna told him. “You will help them regain their home, work to heal the land that the worm has destroyed, and teach them about their siblings. Your heart will call the mountain home and bless the kingdom with your love and devotion. My husband’s children will heal due to you and later, my children and his will share the love of both myself and Mahal.”

A tremor went through the slender form of the young hobbit, listening to his Mother’s words. He knew what it meant, and his heart threatened to break for it meant that he would no longer call the Shire home.

“Mourn not, my little one, for the rewards shall be great for you and my husband’s children after the trials have been faced,” she reassured him.

“As You will it,” Bilbo answered. “I shall heed Your commands, Great Mother.”

“Our Blessing is given,” Yavanna said to Gerontius. “My Chosen may leave this green home to help my husband’s children and himself to find the home that their hearts have longed for.”

“We shall miss him, Great Mother, but we will be proud of him for being the one You have chosen to help our brothers and sisters.”

“Be safe,” she said with a soft smile. “And know you are loved.”

The two Valar disappeared, taking the food the hobbits had left for them as an offering. The candles guttered out, and everything was silent.

“Well, it seems we have our burglar,” the wizard stated dryly, breaking the silence that had fallen within the Grotto.

Bilbo collected himself, giving his grandfather a hug before murmuring something in his ear. The old hobbit nodded a few times, whispering something in return. After that discourse was handled, the younger male headed towards the group.

“Master Oakenshield, I would be honored to host you and your company within my home. Given the circumstances of our trip, I will need two days to see to it that my estate here in the Shire is settled before I leave with you. This should give your party a chance to rest as well as take advantage of our markets to stock up on goods for the trip,” he said to the dwarf king.

“I thank you for your hospitality, Master Baggins, and two days will be fine,” Thorin told him. He didn’t like waiting, but he knew that Bilbo would not be returning home and it was only fair to give him time to get things settled.

“If you and your company will go retrieve your belongings, we shall head to Bag End,” Bilbo said to him, giving a small smile as the group of dwarves and wizard hurried into his grandfather’s smial to get what belonged to them.

Once alone, Gerontius gave his grandson a hug before heading in to talk to Adamanta about what was going on. Like him, she would be proud but heartbroken at the idea of their oldest daughter’s only child leaving their green home.

Bilbo leaned against a tree, eyes sweeping over his grandfather’s home and lands. There was a mingled look of sadness and excitement in the blue depths; he would miss his home here in the Shire, but the idea of a new home was not unappealing either. He wasn’t sure what to expect but could not wait for the start of his journey.

Chapter Text

The journey to Bag End was a pleasant one for the most part. Bilbo showed them where the forge was as they passed by it, commenting that it had been closed down for a while, and pointed out the market before mentioning some of the items that were commonly offered there. He could hear the dwarves murmuring, making plans for the duration of the down time to ensure they had everything they needed for the journey.

“Bilbo Baggins!”

The hobbit sighed, murmuring just loudly enough for his companions to hear.

“Merciful Yavanna, not Lobelia. I can’t handle her today,” he commented, turning slightly to see the female heading towards him. At the speed she was moving, there was no way to avoid her. “Good day, Lobelia.”

“What are you doing with these…people,” she questioned, ignoring the bristling coming from his companions.

“They are my guests, and I am escorting them from my grandfather’s home. They will be staying with me until they are ready to continue on their journey.”

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins gave him a sharp look when she heard his answer, questioning him quickly on it since she wasn’t certain that he wouldn’t mislead her.

“Old Took knows they are in the Shire?”

“Yes, Lobelia, he does. He welcome our siblings to our home himself,” he warned softly, not liking her tone. “Now, if you will excuse us, there is much to be done in order to ensure my guests are comfortable. Have a good day, cousin.”

Bilbo moved forward, going swiftly so that his cousin could not try to speak with him anymore. He shuddered once they were out of range, and Balin spoke up.

“Are you all right, laddie?”

“I am now, thank you for asking,” the hobbit answered, managing to keep his voice calm. “She is a very annoying individual to talk to on her good days, and it’s difficult to avoid her when she’s determined to have a word with you. I apologize for my cousin’s poor attitude.”

“No harm done,” Balin answered gently. “Not everyone is as accepting as you and your grandfather are. We’re used to it.”

“You shouldn’t have to be,” Bilbo answered, unlatching the gate for his yard and moving towards his large green door. “Everyone has a right to be treated equally, and it shames me to see one of my own family members acting so atrociously.”

Their host turned in front of his door, smiling warmly at the company.

“I only ask that you remember to remove your shoes and place them by the door please whenever you come inside the smial. Everything has been set up and prepared for your arrival. Welcome to Bag End,” Bilbo commented, opening the door to allow the wizard and dwarves entry into his home.

Thorin gave him a regal nod, stepping in front of the group.

“Thank you for your hospitality, Master Baggins.”

The group entered, taking their boots off and setting them neatly against the wall. They hung their cloaks up and began exploring the smial that belonged to their newest member of the company.

“This place is amazing,” Kili commented. “I never expected homes built like this to be so nice.”

Bilbo laughed, shaking his head as he wiped his feet on the mat and headed towards his kitchen so he could finish cooking the meal he’d started earlier that day.

“Those who aren’t familiar with hobbits assume we live in dirty holes, not comfortable smials like this one. The Baggins family home is somewhat bigger than my home,” he answered. “My father built Bag End for my mother, and they lived very happily here.”
“I can see why,” Bombur said quietly as he followed his host into the kitchen. “Is there anything I can do to help you, Master Baggins? I’m the cook for the company.”

“I’d be delighted, Master Bombur,” Bilbo answered. “As long as you are not too tired from your journey here to the Shire from your home.”

“Oh no, I’m not,” he exclaimed. “So what can I do?”

He set Bombur a task and began working himself, the two having a grand time discussing recipes and various ingredients they enjoyed using. It was nice getting to know the heavy-set dwarf, and it made the hobbit relax when he realized he’d have at least one friend by the time the journey began.

“Excuse me,” a shy voice broke into the conversation. Bilbo looked up, spotting what had to be the youngest dwarf of the group.

“Can I help you, Master Ori?”

“The snacks are done,” he answered, blushing a bit from behind the plates and platters he carried. “What shall I do with them?”

“In the sink please, Master Ori. I’ll have dinner on the table soon,” Bilbo told him.

“Thank you for clearing the table for me.”

“You’re welcome, Master Baggins,” the scribe answered, setting the stack of plates and platters into the sink. He was careful, making sure that nothing cracked or chipped before he ran water over them to make it easier to clean them later.

“Thank you again, Master Ori,” the hobbit said with a smile. He chuckled when the young dwarf left the kitchen, looking to Bombur. “He seems to be a shy one.”

“He is,” Bombur answered, chuckling as he stirred the soups. “Clever lad and brilliant scribe but extremely shy. His brothers are protective of him, and they should be. Younglings are special to us.”

“They are considered precious to everyone here in the Shire as well,” Bilbo replied, wiping his hands. “Now, I think it’s done. Let’s get this out onto the table, shall we?”

The two of them worked together, setting the food out before taking their own seats. Bilbo could see the looks of amazement on all of the dwarves’ faces as they realized just how much their host had done for them.

“I hope you enjoy it,” the hobbit said quietly and after his words were spoken, the silence broke as platters were passed around so everyone could serve themselves.

Bilbo ate silently, listening to the happy voices of his guests as they enjoyed the food. It was nice having so many within the smial; he’d been lonely since his parents had passed. Every once in a while, he’d have some family members stopping by for tea or lunch, but Bag End had not hosted a party like this since his parents’ deaths.

“Are you well, Master Baggins?”

Blue eyes looked up to see the speaker and smiled, nodding as he did so.

“I am, Master Dori. Thank you.”

“You looked to be rather lost in thought there,” the dwarf commented, sipping at his ale.

“In a way, I was,” the hobbit replied. “I’ve not had company like this in quite a while, and I think it’s a wonderful memory to make in the last few days I will spend in my home.”

“It doesn’t seem right that you’ll be leaving your home behind for good just to help us regain ours,” the young dwarf sitting beside Dori interjected.

“Yavanna and Mahal have plans for me that do not include my remaining in the Shire,” Bilbo told him. “From what I understand, I have a part in helping you rebuild your home and find my own home there as well. I trust them and will continue to do so.”

“As you should,” Oin said sagely. “Our Maker has never steered us wrong, though it seems we’ve forgotten a great many things over the years.”

“I wonder how all of this information got lost over the years,” Ori questioned. “From what Master Balin has said, we’ve always been cautious to ensure no part of our history has been lost. Even with losing the library at Erebor, the other dwarf kingdoms should have this written down.”

Thorin nodded, contemplating what the scribe was discussing. He had been wondering the same thing, and he had a feeling part of it was due to his people’s habit of keeping outsiders at bay. Someone might have been closed minded enough to remove any mention of Yavanna and the siblings she had given to his people. Siblings that would have helped them after Erebor had been taken had they known that the hobbits would aid them due to familial love and duty. It burned inside of his heart, knowing this now and wondering who had been the culprit behind creating such ignorance within the dwarf race.

“Regardless, it needs to be remedied. Ori, I would like you to sit down with Master Baggins to get as much information as you can regarding the ties between our people and the hobbits – stories, histories, and the like. This will be the first new book for Erebor’s library, and I will have copies made for every dwarf kingdom still standing.”
Bilbo smiled at the order and Ori’s eager acceptance of it.

“I have books that can be copied for the library as well that can help explain things,” he offered. “This way we can expand everyone’s knowledge. Maybe even do cultural exchange by some dwarfish history being translated to our native language and sent back here to the Shire so the fauntlings can learn about our siblings.”

“Would you be willing to help Ori in this task, Master Baggins?”

“Yes, Master Oakenshield, I would be very willing to do so. I have a fairly strong grasp on languages and can even help translate other languages to Westron for another scribe to translate to your language,” he offered.

“Then we shall ensure this starts once Erebor is reclaimed and the rebuilding has started,” the azure eyed monarch stated. “There will be a great deal of work to be done once the worm has been destroyed.”

The hobbit nodded, hoping he would be able to assist the dwarves with the rebuilding in any way he could. A thought occurred to him, and he turned his gaze back to Thorin.

“Master Oakenshield, the lands around Erebor have lain fallow all this time?”

“They have not been touched since the worm attacked. To be honest, I am uncertain if the land will even be fertile,” Thorin replied. “Smaug laid waste to everything outside of the mountain, and the forests and farms outside of Dale burned. Why do you ask?”

“Fire does not always have to mean that the soil is infertile,” Bilbo said. “Occasionally, there are controlled burns here to help with growth. I may set the problem before one of the best gardeners I know and have him plot out several ideas in regards to farming the lands again. I’ll send word to my grandfather on this and once Erebor is yours again, we can have the supplies ready for cultivating the land.”

“You would do this for us,” Dwalin asked, looking baffled and a tad suspicious.

“Yes, we would,” the younger male replied softly. “Your Maker is our father through our Mother, Master Dwalin, and hobbits are very loyal to their family. We will do all we can to help your people, although aid will be needed in regards to getting the supplies to you.”

“Aye, that we can certainly provide,” the warrior replied, still looking and sounding shocked by the answers they were hearing from their host. “Chances are good there will be a lot of caravans between Erebor and the Blue Mountains once we regain our home. Supplies from the Shire can be picked up on the way back to Erebor.”

“Sounds good,” Bilbo agreed. “I’ll make sure my grandfather knows this. I’ve a lot to put together in the few days before we leave, including plans for the future of our home.”

“In that case,” Thorin said softly. “Why don’t you go ahead and start with that, and we shall see to the clean up? The meeting regarding our plans and the path we’ll take can happen tomorrow or the day before we leave.”

“I don’t wish to leave any mess for my guests,” the hobbit began, not liking the idea of being a poor host. His argument was cut off by Bombur, who shook his head.

“You’re part of our company now, Master Baggins, and we do what we can to help each other. You’ve done a tremendous job with this wonderful feast. It won’t take us long to clean up and put things away while you start preparing for your departure. Since we’re staying here, we’ll want to help with the cooking and whatnot in order to keep our host from working too hard.”

“If you insist on it, then I’ll gladly accept. If you don’t know where something goes, just pop your head into my study and I’ll be happy to show you,” Bilbo said with a soft smile. “In the meantime, I must insist all of you call me Bilbo.”

The smaller male chuckled at the happy calls of acceptance and insistence that he do the same for them, and he smiled as he padded into his study. The hobbit took a seat at his desk, pulling parchment in front of him and, after dipping the quill into his inkwell, he began to write his first letter.

 

The Honorable Gerontius Took,
Thain of the Shire

Grandfather,

After receiving the Blessing and hearing that I will not be returning to the Shire once this quest has finished, I have given a great deal of thought as to who should be given ownership of my home. In truth, Grandfather, Bag End was built for my mother due to the conditions of the bridal contract between you, her, and my father. Because of that, I know that ownership of my smial cannot be given to any of my Baggins relatives as this property should revert back to the control of the Head of the Took family.

What I should like to do is sign the deed of Bag End over to you and allow you to choose someone in the Took family who will love and take care of my old home with the care that my parents showed it. I want happiness in these halls, and I know you can determine the best family to take over ownership.

In regards to my belongings, I must also ask if you would be willing to store the items that I wish to keep with me once Erebor is reclaimed. I will have them packed up and ready to take to wherever you deem proper to store them. I do not wish to have my belongings in the way of Bag End’s new family. If not, please let me know so that I can make other accommodations.

During the meal with my guests, I realized that the people of Erebor will be starting from scratch in regards to farms, orchards, and the like. I shall be speaking to Holman Greenhand about this and see what he recommends. If possible, Grandfather, perhaps the Shire can put together seed as well as food stuffs that will last the long journey from our home to Erebor. I have received assurance that the dwarves will ensure the protection during the journey. I know our Parents would approve, and this would certainly aid our siblings as they rebuild their home.

I will also have documents ready for my accounts so that they will flourish under your hand until I can call for the funds to be withdrawn and brought to me, along with my belongings.

Thank you for your assistance, Grandfather, and I shall see you soon with the documents in hand.

I remain, your obedient and loving grandson,
Bilbo Baggins-Took

 

Bilbo sighed, blowing a curly bang out of his eyes, before drying the ink and putting the letter into an envelope. He sealed it, using wax and the family seal, and then addressed the envelope and set it aside. Another sheet of parchment was pulled in front of him, and the hobbit began making a list of what needed to be done as well as items he needed to pack for his journey and to be stored away to send to him later. It took a while to finish, and he frowned a bit during his long task.

“So much to do before I leave,” he murmured, leaning back in his seat after he finished his list. He rubbed a hand over his face, then blew out the candle.

Bilbo picked up his letter, dropping it into his pocket, and headed towards the parlor. He picked up his pipe and other smoking implements, then headed outside. The letter was placed into the mail box, and then the hobbit sat down on the bench to relax and mentally unwind.

The flavor of Old Toby coated his tongue when he took a deep inhale of his lit pipe, and the young male felt his body slowly relax with each breath he took.

“Is everything all right, Bilbo?”

“I’ve a lot to do, Gandalf, and though I know it is Mother’s will that I help my guests and then remain, it is heart breaking to know that I will be leaving my home for good.”

The wizard took a seat beside him, lighting his own pipe. He could understand his friend’s thoughts on leaving and also wondered what the Valar had planned for the hobbit.

“It will not be easy, but I do know you will do your best to follow their orders. The will of the Valar is something that can be difficult to understand.”

“Our Parents order something, we obey,” Bilbo said to him, lightly tapping his lower teeth with his pipe. “It won’t be easy, but I will see to it that my siblings have their home. As far as my task after that is done, either She or Father will let me know what they have planned when the time is right. I will obey, but I will also miss my home.”

“You are stronger than I remember, Bilbo Baggins, and it is an honor to be able to travel with you.”

The small hobbit laughed, blowing a smoke ring afterwards.

“You say that now, Gandalf, but the journey has yet to begin. Let’s see what the future brings before you comment on strength and honor. I might just drive everyone insane before we reach Erebor.”

The wizard chuckled, remembering the scrapes the boy had gotten into. Belladonna had laughed, knowing the Took blood was incredibly strong in her son, and she had been proud of that fact. In truth, so had Bungo and Gandalf remembered those tales fondly.

“I can’t wait to find out, my boy.”

Chapter Text

The next couple of days practically flew by for Bilbo. He spent time packing up the belongings he wanted with him once he settled in Erebor, making sure each truck was filled properly. His books, maps, the portraits of his parents, his mother’s glory box, his father’s recipe books, his own clothing, and his father’s favorite armchair was packed up into a wagon by his guests and driven to Tuckborough to be stored in an empty room of his grandfather’s house. Thorin had accompanied the wagon, handing the deed to Bag End to Gerontius, and the Thain had reassured his grandson’s visitors that the smial would be given to a kind couple just starting out.

His guests had been an incredible help with the packing of his things as well as helping around Bag End so that their burglar could handle the necessary work needed to secure his estate. Thorin and the other dwarves had not realized that Bilbo was a wealthy hobbit, and the monarch understood the necessary steps his host had to take in order to ensure that everything was transitioned to the next owners of the smial. Thorin did take time to ensure that the hobbit was not going to lose any money out of his accounts and was pleased to know that the funds would be delivered to Bilbo once Erebor was reclaimed.

Once the packing up of the personal items he wanted to keep was completed and all other business taken care of, Bilbo turned his eyes towards packing for his journey. Due to his status, he had certain items most hobbits did not have.

In the knapsack, he put several changes of clothing as well as a few leather hair ties in case he lost the one he usually used to keep his long curly hair out of his face. Bilbo also packed his sharpening set, a sewing kit, and a medical bag that had herbs, salves, and clean bandages. He knew Oin would have more, but it never hurt to have a spare kit. His bedroll was tied to the bottom of the knapsack.

The morning of their departure, after a hearty breakfast, Bilbo went back to his room and began to dress. A thick shirt of gray-green was donned and tucked into a pair of heavy brown trousers that went down to his ankles. He fastened on a thick belt before slipping into his leather coat. Although heavy and long, the coat also was loose enough around torso and arms to enable him to move properly when the situation called for it. The leather was treated to repel rain and had a hood to protect him properly from the elements.

Once that was done, the hobbit picked up his knapsack and put it on. The strap it was on went over one shoulder, clicking onto his belt in the front via a heavy clasp and from the back left side through a small hole in the leather that allowed for the strap to go through it and fasten on the back of the belt. There was a flap that would go over that spot if the knapsack wasn’t on. Bilbo shifted his weight, ensuring the pack would remain settled from his right shoulder to left hip. It wasn’t a big pack, but it was long and ensured he could move easily without being weighed down or his agility hindered by the pack.

“Bilbo, are you about ready?”

“I’ll be out in just a moment, Fili,” he called out, pulling on leather gloves that were padded in the palm and only covered up to the middle of his fingers. “I just have a couple of things left to get, and then I’ll be outside.”

“All right,” the blond haired dwarf called through the door. “Uncle is getting everyone ready to leave and asked me to let you know.”

“Thank you,” he called out, fastening his cearcall on his left hip as well as one of his corran on a hook beside it. The other corran was placed on his right hip, and then the jacket was allowed to flow over all three weapons.

Satisfied that everything was secure, Bilbo headed outside to meet the company as they spoke to each other as well as the Thain. He could see that several dwarves were checking the packs that had been strapped to the ponies as well as the rest of the dwarves waiting on top of their particular pony.

“Ah, there you are, Bilbo.”

“Good morning, Grandfather. I had not expected to see you or Grandmother here,” he said, giving Adamanta a warm hug.

“You didn’t think you would leave this morning without a farewell from family, did you,” she asked, kissing his forehead.

“I’m pleased you came,” he told his grandmother, holding her for a moment as she murmured a blessing and prayer to Yavanna to protect him. Once she was done, she looked into his eyes.

“I am proud of you, Bilbo Baggins-Took, and never forget that. Once you’re settled, you had better write me often. Hear me?”

“I will, I promise,” he said to her, kissing her cheek one last time before being pulled into his grandfather’s arms. The older hobbit held him close, giving his own blessing and prayer to Mahal for Bilbo’s safety.

“You’ll do well, grandson, and I know you will represent the Shire admirably. The Great Mother knew what She was doing when She created you to be one of her Tèarmunn. Never doubt Her or yourself, Bilbo, and you will do well.”

“I’ll try not to,” he told Gerontius, looking into the other hobbit’s eyes. “I’ll do my best; thank you for everything, Grandfather.”

“I am happy to be of service,” the Thain replied. “Bag End will be taken care of as Belladonna would have, and I’ll ensure the other things you entrusted to me are done. I will be waiting for your letter to know when to get things ready for the caravan. Now, off you go, Bilbo, and please be careful.”

He smiled at his grandparents and headed towards the ponies. Bifur showed him which one he was to ride, and the young hobbit swung up onto the animal. He was experienced enough as a rider to be able to do this with relative ease, and Bilbo made himself comfortable in the saddle.

“Master Took, you have my thanks for everything you have done for my people,” Thorin told the Thain. “I will not forget this.”

“Bilbo’s fate lies with you,” Gerontius said. “All I ask is that you watch over him and ensure he is happy once your home is taken back.”

“You have my word,” the monarch said somberly, keenly aware of what the company’s new burglar was walking away from. “He is giving up a great deal for us, and this debt will be repaid.”

“I respect your word, Master Oakenshield. May the Great Mother and Father watch over all of you, protecting and guiding you until our paths meet once again,” the older hobbit said, causing the entire company to lower their heads in respect for the blessing.

Thorin gave a soft command, and the group began riding away from the smial. Bilbo looked back one time to wave at his grandparents before focusing himself on the quest at hand. It hurt to know this was possibly the last time he would see his family, and he prayed that the Green Mother would help him through the pain.

“All right there, Master Bilbo,” a soft voice questioned, drawing the blue eyes of the hobbit towards the speaker.

“I think I will be, Ori,” Bilbo replied. “It’s not easy to leave family behind; my grandparents have always been a very strong presence in my life. I just hope that they’ll be all right.”

“I’m sure they will be,” Fili said to the pair. “They’ve got two Valar looking after them and the Shire, and we all know how powerful Mahal is. He won’t let anything bad happen.”

The Tèarmunn nodded, thankful that the blond dwarf had reminded him of that.

“Very true,” he replied. “Let’s just hope he and the Great Mother will watch over us as well. Fighting a dragon will not be an easy undertaking, and the journey from here to Erebor will be a lengthy one. Valar only knows what can happen.”

“I’m not looking forward to the dragon,” Ori commented. “I’m all for introducing dwarfish iron up his jacksie, but it’s the hot fire and claws I’m worried about.”

“Has there been any sort of plan put together for this yet,” the hobbit asked, looking at the two riding beside him.

“Ah, not yet,” the blond dwarf replied. “I know uncle is going to focus on it when he can, but he’s been worrying about getting us to Erebor first.”

“I suppose that’s the best thing for now,” Bilbo answered. “It’s just that’s a rather large issue to be dealt with, and doing it with minimal loss of life or damage to property would be the best result to hope for. Maybe all of us can come up with ideas once we know what everyone can do in regards to fighting and the like.”

Fili nodded, realizing that his uncle was probably planning on doing just that. As he had stated prior, getting to Erebor was what was the most important at the moment. It was a long way away with a lot of ground to cover, but it would give the group enough time to get to know each other. Trust was essential for a quest like this, and the time would be key to helping that grow between all of them.

Chapter Text

The company had been riding for a short time when a familiar female voice shrilly interrupted the soft chatter of the group. Balin heard the groan from their hobbit friend and a soft mutter in a language he remembered hearing in the Grotto before it switched to Westron. There was a note of impatience in the hobbit’s voice, which was a new experience for all of them as he had been remarkably patient with the group thus far.

“Merciful Yavanna, I had hoped for a peaceful send off on this journey. Why do I have to deal with her so early in the morning? I could’ve left the Shire and not had to speak with the shrew at all. That would’ve been a fantastic going away gift. What have I done to deserve such torment today?”

The dwarf coughed, covering his mouth to hide the laughter that was threatening to emerge when he heard Bilbo’s comments. The hobbit ignored the smothered laughter, shifting in the saddle to spot the glaring female. He kept his expression calm, not wanting to fuel whatever it was that had his cousin so out of sorts this morning.

“Good morning, Lobelia. Today looks to be a beautiful one, don’t you think?”

“Don’t you good morning me, Bilbo Baggins-Took. Where in Yavanna’s name do you think you’re going?”

“Do you remember the journey my guests are going on that I mentioned the last time we spoke?”

The strict looking matron nodded, hands on her ample hips as she stared at her cousin. There was a look in her eyes that Balin didn’t want to translate as it didn’t bode well for anyone. He admired their hobbit companion for keeping his patience because he wasn’t sure he would’ve been able to do such a thing in Bilbo’s place. He would rather face elves than this harpy of a hobbit.

“Our Mother and Father has asked that I go with them and aid them in their quest. Grandfather knows; he was there with me when I sought the Blessing.”

There was a look of avarice on her face that appeared at that news, and her voice lightened just a tad when she addressed the male.

“So you’ll be gone a while, then?”

Bilbo simply smiled, answering her with the knowledge that what he was telling her would anger and disappoint the hobbit matron. It shouldn’t please him to know that he was puncturing the other hobbit’s dreams of owning his smial, but he couldn’t help the glowing satisfaction that was growing within his heart.

“I am leaving the Shire, Lobelia, and my estate has been handed off to my grandfather for him to manage until I call for my things. Bag End’s deed has been turned over to him so that he can chose someone from the Took side of the family to claim it.”

Her eyes narrowed, anger burning out the greedy expression that had been her prior expression. The feeling of satisfaction kept growing within Bilbo when he recognized the expressions on her face, and he managed to keep it from showing.

“A Took? Bag End should go to a Baggins!”

The young male shook his head, curls dancing along his shoulders as he did so. He’d known this was going to happen and had hoped that he would be out of the Shire when the news reached Lobelia. His grandparents would be able to handle this confrontation easier since it would have been within the privacy of their home and not out in the open. It was not comfortable having this discussion on the road in front of his companions.

“Bag End was built for my mother as part of the marriage contract forged between the Thain and my father. Because of the agreements made, the smial is considered a Took property and not a Baggins one. Grandfather has the keys and deed, and he will see to it that Bag End will be given to a couple who will take care of and love it as much as my parents did. The Baggins heirlooms that I did not wish to retain were sent to the Baggins family smial to be held in trust until Drogo comes of age. He is older than your son and is the direct heir so all is as it should be.”

“No, all is not as it should be, Bilbo Baggins-Took,” she replied, voice sneering and full of anger. “You may be set aside as Tèarmunn, but you have no right to cheat me out of what should be mine! That smial should go to us, not some horrid Took.”

The dwarves nearest to him could see his eyes become cold even as they narrowed while gazing on the greedy matron. They had no idea how the hobbit managed to keep his temper and thought he would have been justified in doing just that. The woman’s greed seemed to know no bounds, and they couldn’t believe she would speak of his family like that. Despite his emotions, Bilbo’s voice remained calm.

“I would not speak of the Thain’s family in such a manner. He would not take it well if he had heard your words. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, Bag End would never have been yours, Lobelia. Your husband is part of the Baggins line, yes, but you would never have been able to claim it. The estate is entailed in the proper manner, and the Thain will not yield to your demands. It is locked up now until he finds the right family to move in, and they will be Tooks. Everything has been handled properly and legally. Now I bid you good morning as we have a long journey ahead of us,” he said, nudging the pony to start moving again.

The company followed his signal, riding past the speechless female. All of them ignored the woman, focused on their journey and the thought that they did not want to cause their burglar any trouble. It was a battle to remain silent for a lot of them since dwarves held family to be the most important thing in their hearts.

Thorin looked back, noticing the small figure slowly starting to relax from the too stiff and angry posture their new member had been settled into. Concern colored his deep voice as he called to the Tèarmunn, hoping that the smaller member of the company would not carry the dreadful woman’s harsh words in his thoughts.

“Are you well, Master Baggins?”

“I will be,” he answered back, then laughed after a few seconds of contemplation. “Thank the Mother this was the last time I’ll have to deal with Lobelia. She’s my grandfather’s headache now, not that she’ll try much with him.”

“Why’s that,” Dwalin called back, curious about the hobbit’s answer. The shrew of a matron didn’t strike him as someone who would back down if she wanted something, and she had seemed to want Bilbo’s home pretty badly.

“My grandmother, Adamanta, is a force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t put up with nonsense and dislikes hobbits like Lobelia. She’ll have her out on her ear if she tries to pester Grandfather about Bag End.”

The warrior chuckled at that, picturing it easily as Thorin’s sister was just as formidable as Bilbo’s grandmother. Dwalin had the feeling that the two women would get along rather well and wondered if the two would eventually meet due to their companion’s work regarding seed and food caravans for Erebor once it was reclaimed.

“Sounds like quite an amazing hobbit matron, your grandmother.”

“She is,” Bilbo said with a laugh. “She most certainly is. I’ve seen her evict drunk hobbits on her own or with my aunts throwing out the rest of the drunken group. Never mess with a Took woman when her smial is under threat of being demolished.”

That had the company laughing quietly and before long, stories of strong women of their acquaintance was passed around. Bilbo listened, occasionally adding tales that he remembered of his mother or ones of his Took relations.

It made the Tèarmunn feel relaxed and accepted as he listened to the stories that were being told. From the legends, he knew that the dwarves were not the kind of people that shared much of themselves and he was happy they were relaxed enough to include him like this. He gave back, showing his own trust as he wove the funny stories of the women that had helped mold him into the hobbit he was today. Truth be told, the ache of his mother’s passing seemed to ease with each story he shared with the group.

“You said your mother was one of the few women to leave the Shire on an adventure,” Ori asked, sounding curious about the hobbit woman.

“Yes, she was,” Bilbo replied with a soft smile. “My grandmother figures that’s how I was chosen as a Tèarmunn because her Tookish blood refused to be settled by my father’s Baggins side when I was born. My Baggins grandmother agreed with her on that, and my Baggins grandfather allowed me to carry both names to honor the blood that fired my gifts.”

“Is it just this one family that births these Tèarmunn?”

“Yes, Ori, the Tooks are the only ones that do so,” he told him. “According to tradition, they carry the fires of adventure and justice in their souls and that is why the family was chosen by our Honored Parents to be the protectors of our people. There are other families who are also adventurous, but they mostly focus it on boating or swimming instead of leaving the Shire. If the Tèarmunn send out a call for assistance, they are the first to respond.”

“It’s strange to think that an entire race of people would isolate themselves and never travel,” Dori commented. “Even though we keep to ourselves, our people travel for trade and the like. I can’t imagine someone never stepping foot outside of their home territory.”

“We’re nurturers of the earth,” the hobbit explained. “Outside of the Tèarmunn, most hobbits have never seen a weapon or had any experience with violence at all. For a hobbit to leave the Shire, it means extreme vulnerability, even with the gifts our Parents gave us. Hiding only goes so far, and we are vulnerable to those outside of our home. For safety’s sake, it’s best they do not travel but I do not believe in isolating ourselves in regards to news of the rest of Arda.”

Nori shook his head while Gloin responded to the final comment that Bilbo had made, and the thief was in agreement with the red haired dwarf.

“It doesn’t seem smart to ignore the news of the rest of the world,” Gloin said. “It’s a good way to ensure you’re not prepared in case of some kind of disaster that could reach the Shire.”

“Exactly,” Bilbo agreed. “Fortunately, my grandfather and uncles also feel the same as you do, Master Gloin, and often host travelers in Tuckborough to gain news from outside the Shire. It’s helped us in the past, and I know that he and my uncles will continue this habit to keep our people safe.”

“Which reminds me,” the young blond dwarf began. “What exactly are the Tèarmunn?”

“Fili, that may be private,” Thorin scolded, making the younger dwarf flinch a bit.

“I don’t mind sharing this, Master Oakenshield. Since I will be making my home amongst you, it’s better to explain what I can,” Bilbo said to the leader.

“As you wish, Master Baggins-Took. I did not want my nephew to pry into affairs that are considered sacred to your people.”

“I do appreciate that,” the smaller one replied. “I will be happy to explain things but first, Master Oakenshield, if we remain on this path, it takes several days longer to leave the Shire. If you’ll allow me, I’ll show you another way out. It’s hidden, but it’ll take quite a bit of time off of what it would normally take.”

The monarch stared at him a moment, then nodded. As far as he knew, the hobbit had not been informed of Thorin’s issues with directions so this was not done in jest.

“A shorter route is always appreciated,” he told their burglar. “Lead the way.”

Bilbo smiled to himself, taking the unmarked path off of the trail they had been taking and taking the time to organize his thoughts so he could explain to his fellow quest members about what he was.

Chapter Text

For a few minutes, the only sound that could be heard was that of the tack of the ponies jingling with each step they took on the unmarked trail Bilbo had them on. The hobbit said nothing for a short period of time, aware of the dwarves waiting for the answer to Fili’s question, but he needed to gather his thoughts together. He drew in a slow breath and broke the silence.

“For me to properly explain what the Tèarmunn are, I will need to tell a story. It is a tale that is well known to us hobbits and used to be well known to your people as well.”

“Please tell us, Master Baggins-Took,” Ori piped in. Bilbo looked to his left to spot the young scribe with a book open and pen ready to transcribe. The hobbit chuckled, amused by his dedication to his craft, and began the tale.

“In the beginning, when Arda was young, two Valar wed under the happy eyes of the rest of their companions. To show their joy at the joining of the two lovers, the Valar approached Eru with a simple wish. While her groom had children of his own, the bride had none and they wished for Eru to weave a song of life so that the bride could give her husband’s children siblings.

“Eru heard his children’s request and looked upon the love that the bride and groom shared; he found it to be a rich and beautiful thing. Pleased by the depths of their love and devotion to each other as well as those they counted as family, Eru wove a simple song of life and gifted it to the couple.”

He paused for a slow sip of water, noticing that all of the dwarves were listening to his tale and seemed very interested in what he was sharing. Bilbo sealed his water skin, placing it back where it belonged, and resumed telling his story.

“Mahal and Yavanna were thrilled by the gift, and he watched as his beloved bride began to add her own melodies to shape the song that Eru had granted them. When the song was nearly finished, she asked her husband if there should be more added as she wanted the children to be close to both of them and his children.

“At her request, Mahal added his own touches to the melody. He gifted the children with sturdiness, the ability to dwell within the earth as his firstborn did, and then he made a suggestion to his wife. He knew that these new children would be gentle gardeners of the earth and wanted to find a way to protect the little ones. Yavanna agreed, wanting their children to be safe, and they wove a melody for a special line within these children.

“The hobbits soon came into being, along with the special ones. Yavanna named the specially made ones the Tèarmunn, the protectors of the hobbits. For every generation of Tèarmunn born, there would only be six. Each of them would be stronger, faster, and heartier than the ones they protect. Mahal trained the first few generations himself and once he was satisfied that the training could be handled by the older generation, he took a step back and now crafts the weapons for each generation of Tèarmunn born.”

“You mean the weapons you carry now were made by Mahal,” Bofur asked, sounding amazed. It had been some time since the Valar had interacted with their creations and to know Mahal did this with their siblings was rather incredible.

“They were,” Bilbo replied with a smile. “Every generation is gifted with their weapons, which are bound to us. If the cearcall is thrown and unable to be retrieved during a battle, I can summon it back. That’s one of the gifts He imbued our weapons with.”

There were a few other traits Mahal had imbued them with, but he wasn’t going to give all of the secrets away at once. He smiled to himself, listening to the chatter going on around him. It seemed the story was impressing his dwarven companions, which he didn’t mind too much. They needed to hear this anyway to help build up the history the dwarves had forgotten.

“So the Tèarmunn protect the hobbits from anything bad?”

“Yes, Kili, they do just that,” Bilbo answered truthfully. “If it had not been for them, the Fell Winter would have been catastrophic since the Rangers arrived late to battle the wolves and goblins that invaded the Shire after the Brandywine River froze.”

“With you coming with us, doesn’t that leave the Shire short one of you,” Nori asked, turning in his saddle to look at the hobbit.

“No because there were seven born in my generation,” the curly haired male informed him. “The elders were unsure of why this happened until the Blessing a few days ago. This way I can go and the Shire will have the same level of protection they had before.”

“That is good to know,” Dori replied, sounding thoughtful. “I do find it interesting that both Mahal and Yavanna wanted a Tèarmunn in Erebor. None of the dwarven settlements have this so I am rather curious as to what the two are thinking.”

“I am as well,” Bilbo informed him. “I know I’ll be given instruction once I get to the Lonely Mountain and everything is handled. I’ll just have to be patient until they inform me of what my purpose will be. I have faith in the path that has been set before me. They would never guide us onto the wrong path.”

“From your lips to our Maker’s ears, Master Baggins,” Balin commented.

“Bilbo,” the hobbit reminded him, not wanting formality amongst the company in regards to his presence. “And yes, I’m certain our words have been heard.”

The group smiled at that, hoping that their hobbit companion was correct. The quest meant a great deal to all of them, especially Thorin, and success was something they were praying for. Home was important for every member, knowing their women and children desperately needed a place that was safe.

Bilbo hummed to himself as they traveled along the path, speaking up only when he knew they needed to change direction. Each time, he noticed one of Thorin’s nephews giving him a grateful glance and it made him rather curious as to the reason why they would do such a thing.

The curiosity grew until he called out to the dwarf riding close to his position in the group.

“Balin, I have to ask something. Is there any particular reason why Fili and Kili are looking at me like that whenever I give Thorin directions?”

That question caused a loud groan from Thorin while the rest of the company began laughing, firing Bilbo’s curiosity even more.

“Well, lad, it’s like this. All dwarves are blessed with stone sense; it’s a gift from our Maker that allows us to travel underground without getting lost. It’s an instinct inside of us that always guides us true. That being said, we tend to get a bit lost out in the open but manage to learn to navigate the best we can. There are those who simply cannot seem to manage it, and Thorin is one of the worst for it.”

“I’m not as bad as all that,” the king commented, causing a riot of laughter and catcalls as the rest heard his words.

“No, you’re worse,” Gloin called out to his cousin. “Dis nearly murdered you when you decided to take the lads out on a hunting trip and got lost for a week. You were in an area you’d gone through hundreds of times.”

Bilbo nearly choked, staring wide eyed at the red haired dwarf.

“Truly?”

“Aye, truly. A forest area that’s typically rich in game and full of paths that we take for hunting and traveling. He has travelled through it so many times for both hunting and work. We sent several search parties and didn’t find them.”

“How did they get back then,” he asked, interested in hearing the rest of the story. The question seemed to just set the laughter off even louder, and Dwalin snickered while answering.

“Kili had decided he’d had enough and navigated his way back out of the forest, leading his brother and uncle along the way. Lad hadn’t even hit his majority yet and had bested both of them in being able to find a way out.”

Bilbo hid his laughter with a gloved hand, shoulders shaking as Thorin gave a half-hearted swipe at his friend. Obviously, the group had not let the monarch live the incident down and the hobbit approved. A joke like this was always one to savor while bringing it up again and again.

“I imagine his sister hasn’t let him live it down,” he asked Balin, who laughed harder.

“Oh no, Dis reminds him of the story quite frequently. She told it right before he left for the quest, telling him he needed to let Kili do the navigating.”

The Tèarmunn couldn’t hide the giggle that emerged, making the dwarves beside him chuckle at the high sound. It was a tad out of character sounding for a male but oddly enough, seemed to fit the hobbit.

“She sounds like a very spirited lady,” he ventured, blushing a tad.

“That’s one way of putting it,” Dwalin chuckled. “She pretty much terrorizes everyone into doing what she wants, and Mahal help those who have an opinion that’s contrary to hers. I’ve seen her go against Thorin and my brother, both who are trained in diplomacy, and she won most of the time.”

“I think she plots to usurp me if anything goes wrong,” Thorin commented. “I doubt any would deny her rule either; she’s got all of the dwarves at Ered Luin fearing her wrath if she has to handle something that’s gone wrong.”

“She reminds me of my grandmother,” Bilbo laughed. “IF she and Dis ever met, they’d probably find a way to take over Arda.”

“Mahal help your grandfather when the caravan stops in the Shire,” the king countered. “Dis will be leading it, and I have no doubt she’ll meet your grandmother.”

The hobbit giggled again when Dwalin interjected with a comment.

“Better him than me! My ears are still ringing from the day before we left,” he grumbled.

“You shouldn’t have gotten into her biscuit stash,” Fili told him. “We warned you not to do it; Mum is incredibly protective of her sweets.”

“She smashed a skillet over my head!”

“There wasn’t a dent in it either,” Kili chirped. “Uncle Thorin made this one stronger than the last four she’s dented over people’s heads.”

Bilbo doubled over, losing himself to a peal of giggles that was easily heard over the deeper laughter of his companions. This was something he had missed after his parents’ deaths, and he had forgotten how good it was to laugh with others. He whispered thanks to the Blessed Mother for sending him on this quest and hoped to be able to share more with his comrades. Only time would tell what those experiences would be, and he was looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

It hurt when they crossed the borders of the Shire, and Bilbo’s head dropped for a moment when he felt the warm energy of Yavanna’s touch within his old home disappear. He sighed, praying silently for the strength needed to face the tasks ahead of him. Not being able to sense his Mother’s energy around him would be difficult for him, and he hated the empty feeling around him.

“You all right, laddie?”

The Tèarmunn looked up to find Dwalin looking over at him with a hint of concern in his eyes. Bilbo gave him a small smile, admitting the truth. Honesty would be needed to form friendships here in the company, and he knew he would need those friendships while he acclimated himself in his new home.

“One thing special about the Shire is that you can feel our Mother’s touch in every blade of grass, every inch of the soil,” he told the warrior. “Now that we’re out of the Shire, I can’t sense Her energy anymore. I’ve gotten used to it, having grown up with Her touch everywhere, and it’s going to be a change now that it’s gone.”

“I think we felt something similar when we lost Erebor,” the tattooed dwarf informed him. “All of us who were born there were used to the song of the stone and when we had to leave, the stones of wherever we took sanctuary simply didn’t sound the same.”

“Did you ever get used to that change,” he asked, watching the one riding beside him.

“No,” Dwalin admitted. “Another reason why we want to return home so badly is because we miss the song of the stone we’ve known since birth.”

“We’ll get your people back to where they belong,” the hobbit promised. “I hope that Mother will grace the land around Erebor with Her touch so the people within the mountain and outside of Erebor will have bountiful harvests.”

“As well as comfort one of her own as he makes his home amongst dwarves, aye?”

“There is that too,” Bilbo answered with a small smile. “I don’t think I’ll be homesick there if She does that, and the land will be able to heal faster with Her blessing upon it.”

“It will be something we will all hope and pray for, laddie, and not just because we’ll need to eat,” Dwalin said, showing a bit of insight and compassion before speeding up to ride at Thorin’s side.

Bilbo sighed and remained quiet for the rest of the day, sliding off of his pony easily once they’d stopped for the night. He removed the saddle and tended to his mount, ensuring she was taken care of before dropping his pack near Gandalf’s side. The hobbit disappeared, intent on gathering firewood for that evening’s fire.

When the Tèarmunn returned to the campsite, he dropped off a stack of wood beside the fire pit that had been dug for the night.

“We were wondering where you’d gone off to,” Bofur commented, handing the kindling to Gloin to get the fire started.

“Once I got Myrtle settled, I thought I’d make myself useful,” he replied, heading back out to find more wood. Granted, he couldn’t carry as much as a dwarf could but he wasn’t afraid of making multiple trips to ensure they had enough wood to last the night.

Bilbo kept himself busy, helping with the setting up of the camp, and once everything was done, he set up his bedroll and then settled on it. He was quiet as he watched the group interact with each other, picking out what looked like family units, and the familiarity that some of the dwarves used with their family members made his heart ache.

“Bilbo?”

Blue eyes turned to meet the matching blue of the Istari, and the hobbit gave his friend a soft smile.

“I’ll be all right, Gandalf. Just thinking of things I probably shouldn’t be,” he admitted. “Some wounds never heal.”

“Some do, some do not,” the wizard replied. “I miss them almost as much as you do, my boy.”

Bilbo nodded, giving a soft sigh for a moment. Leaving his grandparents behind was hard, and he would have to find a way to set the pain aside and focus on what was important. They had been there for him after he’d lost his parents and while the ache for them had been renewed, it was difficult to accept that he wouldn’t see them for a very long time, if ever.

The hobbit slipped off his coat, then looked to Bombur and called out to the heavy-set dwarf.

“Do we have a bit of time before the meal is ready?”

“We do, Bilbo,” he acknowledged, giving the smaller one a smile.

“Thank you,” he replied, getting to his feet and looking for a clear area near where the others were setting up bedrolls and attending to their weapons.

Bilbo stopped, closing his eyes for several moments as he sent a tendril of consciousness to the earth beneath his feet, feeling for the spark of life. It took a few moments because he was used to doing this in the Shire where Yavanna’s touch was so prevalent and always made this exercise much easier. The roots in the soil beneath his feet pulsed a few times, acknowledging his will, and he let them go after sharing a bit of his energy with them.

Gandalf, who had sensed what the Tèarmunn was doing, watched him for several long minutes. Noticing his distraction, Thorin threw him a querying look and the wizard, despite his attention being mostly focused on the hobbit, answered in a low voice.

“You are about to see something that is rarely seen by non-hobbits,” he replied to him. “One of the training exercises Mahal gave to the Tèarmunn to train the next generation as well as keep their reflexes sharp while practicing on their own.”

The corran gleamed in the setting sun as Bilbo drew them from his belt, twirling them once before setting into a defensive posture. There was a scant second of a pause before the small body exploded into movement, fighting against an opponent that only the hobbit could see. The weapons sparkled as they moved, lunging and defending simultaneously.

All of the dwarves were silent, watching in quiet admiration and amazement as the smallest member of their company displayed a wide range of flexibility, speed, and skill while working through the exercise. Once he had finished the first one, the corran were pulled close to the belt and several seconds passed before another exercise was begun.

As Thorin watched this, he was feeling quite a bit better about the decision to include Bilbo into the company. This was the final sign he had needed in regards to the hobbit’s presence. The fact that the halfling had given up so much to follow the orders of Mahal and Yavanna as well as ensure the success of the mountain once it had been reclaimed had also played a large part of the king’s acceptance. He had been concerned about taking someone on who could not defend themselves and despite his small stature, it was obvious that the Tèarmunn had been training for most of his life.

“Lad has talent,” Dwalin commented quietly, eyes on Bilbo as the hobbit continued working through his exercises.

“He does,” the king replied. “Despite everything he’s done and given up for this quest, I had my concerns as to whether or not including him was the right thing to do.”

“The wild is no place for gentle folk,” the captain of the guard replied. “This one isn’t as gentle as he seems to be. I think the Stone Father did well in ensuring his wife’s children were protected.”

Thorin nodded, still watching as the Tèarmunn kept working until something made him pause and slide the weapons onto his belt. The hobbit crouched, hands sliding into the grass for several moments as his eyes closed.

“What’s he doing now?”

“Acclimating himself to nature around him,” Gandalf replied to Dwalin’s question. “One of the gifts their Mother gave to Her chosen is the ability to use nature if needed. He is used to being surrounded by Yavanna’s energy and will need to connect with nature without that extra help.”

“I’m not certain I understand,” Thorin replied.

“I cannot give much more information than that,” the wizard replied. “I may be in the service of the Valar, but I am not privy to all of the secrets that surround Yavanna’s Tèarmunn. I doubt even Radagast knows everything there is to know about them.”

“If he requires time to practice in the evenings, we’ll see to it that he gets it,” the blacksmith said softly, turning his attention away from the hobbit once Bombur had called out that the meal was ready. It had pulled Bilbo from his concentration, and the small male had returned to the company.

Chapter Text

Bilbo passed the rest of the evening merrily enough, listening to his companions as they teased each other and told stories about various exploits they had done in the past. He was having an interesting time getting to know them through their antics and was grateful the group was so friendly. It made things easier for him, being used to his own family unit, to have such merry companions around him.

After helping with the clean-up, the hobbit pulled out his maintenance kit and began polishing the blades of the corran. He hummed his grandfather’s favorite drinking song under his breath, allowing the familiar motions to relax his thoughts as he did so. A quick check showed no need for sharpening so he ensured the weapons were clean before returning them back to where they belonged.

“You go through exercises like that often, lad?”

A quick check identified the speaker as Balin, and Bilbo nodded while putting away his kit.

“In the mornings and evenings,” he answered the older dwarf. “I tend to get a little fidgety after the day’s work is done, and I use the exercises as a chance to center myself so I can relax for the evening. It was Papa’s suggestion after the second time I nearly upended his inkwell while he was working after dinner. It worked rather well so I kept the habit even after I came of age.”

“Somehow, I can’t see you as being fidgety,” he said, recalling the tranquil nature that the hobbit had showed during their short acquaintance.

“Only because of carefully planned exercises throughout the day to help burn off the energy,” he admitted with a sheepish smile. “Apparently, all of us Tèarmunn have this problem and we have to make sure to focus on our exercises or we have to dodge pots being thrown at us by various family members. My grandmother has a scary accuracy with cookware so I make sure to burn off any excess energy before visiting.”

“Which means you could become as much of a nuisance as these two are,” Dwalin asked, indicating the two princes with a jerk of his thumb.

Bilbo hid his laughter when said two protested the burly dwarf’s comment. Obviously this was a common complaint regarding the brothers.

“I’ve no idea what those two can get up to,” he answered, voice showing part of his mirth. “I can get a little hyperactive at times and when that happens, it’s easy to fix.”

“Just let you burn it off,” Dwalin said, giving a wide grin.

“Pretty much,” the hobbit agreed. “I tend to settle down for a while until I need to do it again. It’s not as bad if I’m active through the day but if I’m still for long periods of time, then I really need time to exercise.”

“So we’ll just let you work it off while we find the nearest stream to calm the other two down,” he teased, smirking at the princes who protested once again.

“We’re not that bad, Mister Dwalin,” Kili protested, pouting a tad as he did so.

“No, you’re worse,” Thorin replied, expression calm but his eyes betrayed his amusement. “Maybe we ought to take a page from Master Baggins-Took’s book and have you both practice more often during the day. I’m certain Dwalin won’t mind putting you two through your paces more often.”

At the evil grin from the older dwarf, the two younger ones paled and stared at each other for several long moments. Bilbo hid his grin before chirping in to help tease the pair.

“I wouldn’t mind having someone to spar against,” he commented, hearing the chuckles from the other dwarves and Gandalf. “It’d be good to learn to fight with your styles anyway. Besides my fellow Tèarmunn, the only other people I’ve sparred with over the years were a few of the Rangers that actually entered our borders to speak with my grandfather.”

“That’s something we shall have to do,” Dwalin answered, understanding Bilbo’s need to learn their styles so he could mesh into the unit. “It’s a bit late for that tonight but if we make good time tomorrow and have enough sunshine left to us, we can start working on that.”

Thorin nodded, adding his own thoughts to the conversation. His friend had brought up a valid point, and he would see to it that it would be carried out.

“I agree with Dwalin, it’ll be good to keep our skills honed in case something runs into our path. Having an unknown in the group would be a problem so learning to add you into our battle formations is a wise idea.”

Bilbo was pleased with the acceptance and later settled himself to begin first watch with Bifur, keeping his senses sharp as the group slept. The communication impaired dwarf showed him what he was working on, then held the knife out to ask if the hobbit knew how to work with wood as well.

“I do,” he murmured softly to his companion. “My grandfather is fond of working with wood, especially carving, and taught me how to do it.”

The hobbit smiled as he was handed a small block of wood, and he pulled out the knife he kept with him. The rest of his woodworking set was packed away and waiting for shipment back in Tuckborough, but he’d kept his whittling knife with him just in case.

The pair whittled while keeping watch, shavings being dropped into the fire when either one got up to feed it so the company was kept warm. The scent of wood was calming to the hobbit and once it was time to wake his replacement, he was ready to sleep.

Bilbo gently woke Balin, who came awake rather easily, and gave him a few moments to mentally wake up before retiring to his own bedroll to rest.

The hobbit slept well, sensing the sleepy murmurs of the grass beneath him, and that helped him rest easily.

Bombur woke him early, and the Tèarmunn greeted him with a sleepy smile. He replied to the good mornings with groggy responses as he set about with his morning routine.

Once the morning meal of porridge and dried fruit was eaten, everyone worked to break down the camp, putting things away and saddling the ponies. Bilbo found himself singing one of the morning hymns to Yavanna as he worked, the old Hobbitish words spilling from him while he saddled his pony.

Though they didn’t understand the meaning of the words, the melody was soothing to the listeners and Gandalf smiled to himself, watching as the plants reacted to the ancient melody and turned their faces to the sun.

“What was that,” Nori asked after the song was over and the group had started traveling. “I’ve never heard something like that before.”

“It’s a hymn to our Mother,” the hobbit replied, adjusting one of his gloves so it sat properly. “It’s our way of greeting Her in the morning as life begins to wake for the day. Most of the ones we have come from our earlier days; occasionally, someone will write a new one and teach it to the rest of the Shire but that doesn’t happen too often.”

“It’s lovely,” Ori said to him. “Peaceful but uplifting at the same time.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” he answered. “It’s a normal thing for me to do in the mornings so I hope it won’t bother anyone.”

“It shouldn’t,” Gloin replied. “Some of us might grumble if we’re hung over, but mornings like that won’t be too plentiful during the trip.”

“It’s part of your faith,” Thorin commented. “No one will say anything towards it because we understand the rituals and actions towards our own creator.”

“Thank you,” the hobbit replied, feeling better now that he knew some of his morning ritual would not offend the group. The morning songs to Yavanna always made his day better, and it would help him remain focused while on the journey.

The topic of music remained for a good part of the day, and both the dwarves and Bilbo found that their cultures weren’t too dissimilar regarding their love of drinking songs. It amused the company to find that their hobbit companion knew a few tavern songs that were a touch more ribald than their own, and Bofur was rather quick to request to be taught them. After his brother and cousin laughed at the miner’s request, the Tèarmunn was informed that Bofur had a habit of singing said songs at the most inopportune times which could cause interesting problems when that happened.

The talk of tavern songs soon brought up tales of drinking contests, and Bilbo didn’t bother hiding his laughter as the company shared stories of various contests that had gone on in the past. It seemed most of them had experiences with these contests, including the quiet Ori and Thorin, and the hobbit snickered at the stories shared by those who had been witness to these contests.

“What about hobbits, Bilbo?”

“What about them, Fili? Do we have drinking contests?”

“Do you,” the blond haired dwarf asked, then blinked when the hobbit’s laughter grew.

“Oh Yavanna yes,” he answered. “It gets extremely rowdy as well when that happens because each of us has at least one neighbor that brews their own beer and ale. That makes the standard drink sold in the taverns and inns rather mild for us hobbits. The first one I was ever a part of was right after I came of age, and I accompanied my grandfather and uncles to Bree for business.”

“What happened,” Oin asked, watching the small figure.

“There was a mixed group at the inn where we were staying, and someone decided it would be fun to challenge the hobbits to a drinking contest,” he said, face alight with laughter as he shared the story. “I think there were two dwarves and five humans when it started.

“Three of the humans had passed out before any of us were starting to feel the effects of the alcohol; the dwarves hung on for a while. It wound up being between me and the oldest dwarf in their group,” he added, shaking his head.

“Who won,” Kili asked, curious now.

“I did, but it was pretty close. I think the fact that I’d been snitching from the Gaffer’s brew since I was in my tweens helped,” the hobbit admitted. “That hobbit makes his brew incredibly stout. I’ll be honest, I really don’t remember much after the dwarf fell over. I just remember waking up and then wishing I hadn’t; I was so sick and had to stay with my family since we were heading back to Tuckborough that day. I was their escort for the journey and was trying so hard to stay alert. My uncles were laughing the entire trip home; they’d bet on me and had won a fairly tidy sum.

“The bad part about it was I was still hung over when we got back, and Grandmother went after all of us with her frying pan. She was screaming at me for being so foolish and at my uncles and grandfather for letting me do something that stupid.”

“What happened then,” Bofur asked, chuckling at the story.

“I was too sick to even think of running so I let her catch me, listened to the extremely long lecture before being stuffed full of her remedy and went to bed,” he said. “I heard Grandfather and my uncles wound up hiding at another family member’s smial for two days before Grandmother calmed down enough to let them come home.”

“Are we certain we want her meeting Dis,” Dwalin asked, setting the entire company off into laughter when they heard the terrified tone in the burly warrior’s voice.

Chapter Text

Despite the conversation about the hobbit’s need for exercise throughout the day that had been held the night before, Thorin had decided to press them through the day without really taking any breaks and lunch had been devoured on horseback. Because of that, Bilbo was nearly squirming with pent up energy and had to force himself to calm down after they stopped for the evening. He helped set up camp, gathering firewood and foraging for a few vegetables and roots that would go well in the evening’s meal.

Bombur had listened to his explanation and added them once he and Bilbo got them prepared for cooking. Dwarves weren’t much for vegetables, but the company’s cook knew that adding them to stews and other kinds of meals would help fill their stomachs better and keep from draining the supplies of meat as fast as they usually would. The supplies were important since hunting would not always be an option on this journey.

“Bilbo,” a voice called, making him turn away from the rotund cook to face where Dwalin was standing.

“Yes, Dwalin?”

“You’re probably ready to burn off some energy. Feel up to a quick spar with one of the lads,” he asked, pointing to where the two dwarves in question were fussing with their belongings.

“I’m certainly open to it,” he answered the older dwarf, eager to get some exercise. “Which one should I spar with?”

“Kili needs to work more on his melee skills since he devotes more time towards his archery abilities,” Thorin commented, interested to see how his nephews did against the Tèarmunn. “I’d start with him and move on to Fili if you’re still energetic enough.”

Bilbo went to his pack, dropping his coat onto it, and stretched before heading to the clear area to wait for Kili. The young dwarf drew his sword, stepping to where the hobbit was waiting. The smaller male drew his corran and settled into a defensive position, eying the other with an experienced eye to judge his stance.

There was a pause before the archer launched himself towards his opponent, and Bilbo ducked out of the way before the sword could connect. The butt of the corran in his left hand hit the dwarf’s stomach, winding him briefly while the Tèarmunn ensured he was out of range when the young one stood up.

“You’re faster than I expected,” Kili commented before striking again.

The blade skidded across the one corran raised to block the sword’s strike while the other was spun and the wooden shaft grazed along the dwarf’s ribs. Bilbo was using sparring methods he’d been taught since he was a fauntling, not wanting to harm his opponent. Kili was acknowledging each tap so he was obviously used to the same rules.

“I have to be,” he said grimly, shifting and turning to hit the dwarf’s head with the butt of the corran not engaged in holding the sword back. “I’m a member of the smallest race on Arda; we have to be fast and accurate or we won’t make it in battle.”

The sparring exercise continued for a short while, and Bilbo could see the frustration building on the archer’s face as the dwarf only managed to get through his defenses a small handful of times. He backed off, letting the young one vent what he was feeling. The last thing the younger male wanted was for Kili to get too upset and not be able to focus on the spar.

“I’ve been practicing this kind of melee combat for years so I should be able to land a hit on you more than I have; what in Mahal’s name am I doing wrong?”

“You really want to know,” the Tèarmunn asked, staring into the dark eyes of the young dwarf to judge how serious he was about finding out what he needed to improve.

“Yes, I do,” he replied, sounding earnest. “I know archery is my main specialty, but I’ve never been beaten this badly.”

“Who do you usually spar against,” Bilbo asked, placing the corran back into his belt for the moment.

Dwalin and Thorin watched and listened to the conversation but said nothing, waiting to see what the hobbit was going to tell the youngest Durin. Kili was strong, well trained, and would do well in battle, but they both knew he had a long way to go in certain aspects of combat due to inexperience. While the king worried for his nephew, he also knew that the company would help against any vulnerabilities the archer had.

“Mister Dwalin, Uncle Thorin, and Fili for the most part,” he admitted. “When she’s got time, I also practice with Mum.”

“You’re going for brute strength,” the hobbit pointed out, hoping Kili would understand what he was trying to impart to the archer. “Our Father explained this to us when the first Tèarmunn were being trained by Him. Lord Mahal designed our siblings to be heavier in bone and musculature. It makes you a more difficult opponent and gives your people an advantage in quite a few ways. Where it would take me three strikes to bring my target down, it could take one for you.

“That advantage can become a disadvantage because our Father did not make all of His children the same way. Of the company, you, Fili, and Ori are the smallest in build, which means you cannot rely strictly on brute strength to get you through every situation.”

“What do I need to learn then,” Kili asked, showing a great deal of focus. This was something Thorin had only seen at specific times, and the hobbit’s words were true. If he could help his nephew learn what he needed to survive, then the monarch would say nothing.

“Speed and agility,” the smaller male answered. “You learned how to fire your bow quickly for combat situations, right?”

“A slower archer means death for the people he’s protecting,” the dwarf replied somberly, processing what the younger one was saying.

“So does a slow swordsman,” Bilbo shared, keeping his eyes focused on his sparring partner. “You need to rethink the style you’re using and start speeding yourself up. Given your lighter size, you could be what changes the tide of battle because most opponents are used to the brute strength approach your people have and won’t expect one of Mahal’s children to be that quick.

“With enough time, practice, and experience, you’ll be able to combine speed and strength as I have no doubt your uncle and brother have done in their own way,” he finished, knowing that Thorin was a bit bulkier than his youngest nephew and would utilize strength more than speed.

“How do I learn this,” he asked. “With archery, it was practice and repetition.”

“It’s a lot of training to build up speed for both action and reaction,” Bilbo warned. “It will mean a great deal of repeating the same exercises until mastered, then speeding them up.”

“Would you teach me,” the dwarf asked, staring at the Tèarmunn.

“Me,” he asked, a bit stunned by the question Kili had asked him. This was something he hadn’t expected at all and found himself feeling honored that the dwarf felt he could teach him what he needed to become better in swordplay.

“You’re the smallest and know this method better,” the archer answered.

Bilbo looked over to Thorin, silently asking permission since he had no wish to cause offense. The dwarf lord nodded in response to the question; he was pleased his nephew was taking initiative in seeking guidance to help his combat skills. The hobbit’s methods might be what Kili would need to push himself in regards to improving his melee.

“Are you willing to endure repeating exercises over and over again? To be able to push down being annoyed by actions I might take to train your reactions to be quick? Will you keep an open mind?”

“Yes to all of that,” Kili told him, sounding very earnest. He wanted to learn this and do well so his uncle and brother wouldn’t worry about him. The archer had promised his mother that he would do everything he could to protect his family and himself during this quest.

“Bilbo, may I join the lessons too,” an unexpected voice called, making the hobbit turn his head to face the scribe.

“Ori, no,” the oldest Ri brother called out but was ignored by the younger.

“Please,” Ori asked, meeting Bilbo’s eyes as he did so. “I’m not exactly combat trained, and I have no wish to be the weak link in the company.”

Bilbo eyed him for a long moment, noting the slingshot the dwarf carried. He didn’t understand the choice of weapon considering the adversities they would potentially be facing, and he wanted to do what he could to help the scribe.

“You’re agreeing to the questions I asked Kili,” he asked, watching his face and seeing only honesty when the dwarf answered.

“I am,” he told him. “I’ll do whatever you ask me to do and not complain. I promise to work hard and do my best every time.”

“Is that the only weapon you carry? Can you use others?”

“I have no formal training in weapons,” he admitted. “I spent most of my time in my apprenticeship with Master Balin.”

“Speak to Dwalin or any of the others, see if there’s a weapon that calls to you,” the hobbit ordered. “If they’re willing, they can give you instruction in the use of the one you choose. I will work on endurance, speed, and agility. You have to work hard, Ori, because you are further behind than Kili is. All he has to work on is speed and agility; he has the rest of the knowledge to support him when in combat.”

Ori nodded, heading to speak to Dwalin but was cut short by the outraged protest from his oldest brother. The upset dwarf stomped over to the smaller male, glaring at him as he grabbed at his shirt.

“You have no right!”

“Let go of me,” the Tèarmunn replied in a low voice while meeting the dwarf’s eyes fearlessly. “I will not be manhandled like this.”

Nori hurried over, pulling his older brother back as he didn’t want to see a fight happen. Dori snarled again, eyes focused on his target.

“You have no right to encourage Ori to do this!”

“Someone needs to encourage him because you have handicapped him,” Bilbo answered, watching the two brothers. Only Dori seemed surprised while Nori looked both resigned and accepting of what the smaller male had to say.

“He is not handicapped in any way,” the oldest of the brothers protested.

“No? Whose idea was it to send him out into the wilds with only a slingshot to protect himself with? Unless he gets lucky and can incapacitate his opponent with a shot to the eye, all he’s going to do is annoy the adversary and make himself a target who can’t protect himself.

“Right now, we’re in an area that’s relatively peaceful and we should take advantage of that so those who need instruction can get it. If you discourage him, stop him from learning, then you will bury him before we reach Erebor,” he warned.

“We can protect him,” Dori protested, though his voice didn’t show the resoluteness it had moments ago.

“Can we? If we’re beset by a pack of wolves or worse, can you be absolutely certain someone will be able to remain at Ori’s side the entire time? What if Nori ends up needing aid? Can you choose between your brothers? You wouldn’t have to if you step back and realize your brother is no longer a child, and he needs to be able to protect his brothers and the company as well as himself. Stop handicapping him.”

Nori gently drew his brother away, realizing now was the time when his elder would finally listen to him. As they walked away from the hobbit, he turned his head back towards the small male and mouthed ‘thank you’ to him.

Bilbo nodded in response, fingers curling into fists for a long moment before turning his attention to another dwarf. If he didn’t vent off this emotional turmoil then he would probably do something he’d regret or affect the environment around the company, which was definitely a bad thing.

“Fili, feel up to a spar?”

Realizing that the hobbit needed to burn off emotion as well as energy, the blond gave him a playful grin and drew his swords. He would welcome a challenge and had hoped he’d have a chance to spar against the Tèarmunn.

“I’d love to play,” he quipped before launching into an attack.

Bilbo drew his corran as he ducked, hoping that this fight would center him as he needed. The argument with Dori had upset him, and he needed this time to calm down. The only good thing was that he was now able to help two members of their party grow as fighters so they would have a better chance of reaching their goal alive. To him, that was worth more than all of the gold stored within Erebor.

Chapter Text

By the time the spar with Fili ended, Bilbo had burned off all of the energy accumulated throughout the day as well as getting his emotions under control. He’d enjoyed the spar thoroughly since the blond haired brother had obviously understood the necessity of fighting with speed instead of relying solely on brute strength. The Tèarmunn promised himself that he would ask for more sparring matches from the fair haired dwarf because it had helped him test his skills, giving him things he would need to work on to improve. This meant he would need to work on those in between sparring and teaching Ori and Kili; organizing his limited free time to accommodate all of this would be interesting, but he was determined to see it through.

“That was a fantastic spar,” Fili called to him with a grin, heading to his pack to pull out the equipment needed to maintain his weapons. There was still time before dinner, and he wanted to make sure that his blades were at the level of sharpness they needed to be. He was a tad bit worried because he knew that Bilbo’s weapons were forged by Mahal, and he wasn’t too sure how his own would hold up against those.

“Yes, it was,” Bilbo returned, sounding a bit breathless. “I’d love to do it again whenever we have time to do so.”

“Definitely, tomorrow after you finish giving the lessons,” he offered, grinning even wider when the hobbit nodded.

“You did well today in handling Kili, Ori, and Dori,” a voice behind him stated, stopping him from moving away from the area where the spars had taken place.

“Thank you for allowing me the chance to train the two, Thorin,” Bilbo replied, recognizing the speaker’s voice. “I’m afraid Dori might be angry with me for a while. I never meant to cause friction in the company, but I don’t want to see something happening to Ori.”

“It’s never easy accepting that those under your care no longer need the protection they once did,” the king said softly, speaking from experience. “He will calm down and accept what needs to be done. In time, he’ll be grateful to you for taking Ori under your wing.”

“They’ll always need the love and protection from those who love them and they love in return,” the Tèarmunn answered. “The problem was that there was no balance between the loving shielding he does and allowing Ori a chance for independence. The imbalance will cause their relationship to fray before someone ends up hurt or worse because of the over-protection.”

“Nori has been after his brother to allow Ori to train with Dwalin or one of the other teachers for several years,” Thorin replied, sharing a bit of what he knew about the brothers. “Dori never wanted to accept the need; I think you’ve opened his eyes enough where Nori can help him with creating the right balance in their family.”

“I just don’t want to see a family torn apart by death,” Bilbo murmured, knowing how painful that could be. “Not if I can help it.”

“The Ri brothers haven’t been touched by death since their mother passed shortly after Ori was born,” he said to the hobbit. “It’s what’s made them so protective of Ori over the years.”

“My grandmother tried to be the same after my parents passed,” he replied, eyes distant for a moment as the memories played through his mind. “I was considered to be too young to be on my own, but Grandfather intervened before the Baggins family could step in and try to take over. Due to my training, he knew I could handle being on my own and could assume responsibility over my father’s businesses. He kept an eye on things once a week to ensure I was handling the business side of things properly, and I was visiting them often so I wouldn’t worry my grandmother.”

“How old were you when you lost them,” he asked, seeing the type of pain in the other’s blue eyes that the king had personal experience with.

“They were going to Bree and had been attacked by bandits. Usually, the road to Bree doesn’t have a problem with bandits so they didn’t ask for a Tèarmunn to go with them,” Bilbo murmured. “It was right before my twenty-fifth birthday.”

“That is much too young,” Thorin said to him, wincing at the thought of anyone being so young and alone.

“By our standards and yours,” he answered. “Hobbits have the same lifespan of our siblings, but our coming of age is sooner due to our Mother’s proclamation shortly after our birth. I don’t really know why it happens at so young an age, but She deemed us ready. None of us ever thought to question Her on it as we trust Her judgement.”

“I’ve learned to never question the will of the Valar because it usually ends up haunting you,” Thorin replied.

“Very true,” Bilbo answered, tilting his head when Gloin was set to chop down a sapling to boost the firewood supply for the night. “Not that one,” he called to the red haired dwarf, stopping him before he could damage the young tree.

“Why not?”

“It’s healthy,” he told the axe-wielding dwarf. “Always try to cull the unhealthy ones first, it helps the grove remain strong.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know a healthy tree from an unhealthy one,” Gloin replied, not afraid to admit that he couldn’t follow the hobbit’s suggestion. “We understand stone, lad, not nature. For most of us, a tree just looks like a tree.”

“It’s a good thing you have a hobbit with you,” the Tèarmunn teased, pulling his cearcall from where it was resting. “Otherwise, you’d be completely lost.”

“What are you planning to do with that weapon,” Thorin asked, arching an eyebrow in surprise when the hobbit gave him a playful grin.

“Save Gloin a bit of work,” he replied, then turned his gaze to the unhealthy tree that needed to be brought down.

As the group watched, the hobbit threw the weapon and everyone’s mouth gaped open in shock when the circular piece of metal went right through the tree. The cearcall lodged itself into a small rock formation a short distance behind the now felled tree.

“That should do it,” Bilbo commented, grin growing wider at the looks of shock on the company’s faces.

Gandalf broke into laughter, enjoying the reactions as well. He’d seen the weapons used during an orc invasion several centuries ago, and he’d learned to respect them over the years.

“I have seen the cearcall cut through solid armor, flesh, and bone before,” the wizard shared. “One Tèarmunn I had the honor of fighting alongside actually decapitated three opponents that had the misfortune of standing behind each other. The cearcall she wielded didn’t stop until it had hit a stone wall.”

“Doesn’t that leave the hobbit with one weapon less,” Dwalin asked, shaking his head as he inspected the trunk. The weapon had cut through the wood cleanly, no ragged edges at all.

“Dwalin, move two steps to your right please,” the hobbit said, eyes shining with mischief.

Once the dwarf was out of the way, Bilbo extended a gloved hand, palm outward, and applied his will towards the weapon. It pulled itself out of the stone and hurled towards the hobbit, who snagged it with ease.

“How did you do that?”

“It’s one of the gifts our Father imbued the weapons with,” the Tèarmunn said to the stunned captain of the guard, hanging the cearcall back onto his belt. “We can summon them back with a mental call. The corran can be thrown too if need be,” he told him.

“Useful,” the mostly bald dwarf commented, shaking his head. “Mahal definitely put a lot of thought into the weapons He made for you.”

“I think so,” the hobbit replied, going towards his pack to get his bowl when Bombur called out that it was time for the meal.

The company ate together, sharing stories as they did so. Bilbo listened, enjoying the stew as he ate. All of them were talking about different adventures they’d had, comical mishaps during travels, and other things that happened to them.

Once the meal was over, he worked with Nori to get everything cleaned up. As the pair scrubbed the dishes, the thief looked over at the hobbit.

“I wanted to thank you for what you told Dori earlier,” he said to the smaller male. “I’ve been trying to get my brother to loosen the restrictions on Ori for a while now. He didn’t want to let go, and I was worried about what might happen while we were on this journey. You’re right, a slingshot won’t protect him at all.”

“I probably have not endeared myself to your brother by what I’ve done and said,” Bilbo told him. “I just don’t want to see any loss of life if I can help it.”

“He’s thinking on it now,” the dwarf replied. “He didn’t want Ori to come, but Mahal that boy is stubborn when he wants to be.”

“Comes by it honestly,” the hobbit teased lightly, making the other laugh.

“That he does, from both of us,” Nori chuckled. “He does have the strength of our line and, as you said, his size puts him more at an advantage. If he can combine the strength with speed, he’ll be a hell of a little fighter.”

“That’s the plan for him and Kili,” Bilbo reassured him. “Did he find something that works for him?”

“A pair of single handled axes, light enough to be utilized at a fast pace but can take the brute strength when he needs to use it,” he told the other. “They were Gloin’s; they’re his backup pair if his bigger ones end up damaged and can’t be repaired. Since they’re well crafted, he didn’t see that happening anytime soon and gave the smaller ones to Ori so he’d have something to protect himself. He and Dwalin promised to teach him how to wield them properly.”

“I’m pleased to hear it,” he said, rinsing the last bowl. “He’s a sweet person with a good heart, and I enjoy being around him. I want him to make it through this quest and share this story with the future generations.”

“That he is,” he answered, giving the other a wide grin. “No idea where he got it from.”

“Both of you, I imagine,” the hobbit chuckled. “You both were his strongest influences as he was growing up.”

“Dori’s stubborn and overprotective, and I’m a thief,” the dwarf pointed out, not seeing what the smaller male was referring to.

“You got involved in that because of the need to support your family, am I right?”

“My craft is one that wasn’t in much demand in Ered Luin,” he said with a sigh. “I learned how to get the money we needed to survive. Dori hated it, but young dwarves require a lot more money for their needs than he could make with just his craft. He frets over it when I’m gone on a run to try to get the money we need, but it’s a risk I have to take to make sure he and Ori have what they require to survive.”

“You did what you needed to do,” Bilbo reassured him. “That is what family does. People may not say that you’re a good person because of what you do to support your family, but you did it out of love. That comes from a good heart.”

Nori stared at him for a long moment before giving him a soft smile. Outside of Ori, no one had ever said such words to him before and it touched him to hear them.

“You’re a good person, Bilbo Baggins-Took,” he said, picking up the pot Bombur had used to cook with. “Thank you.”

Bilbo blushed a bit, picking up the bowls. He wasn’t used to compliments, but he was happy that he’d done the right thing regarding Dori and Ori’s situation.

Chapter Text

After returning to the camp with Nori, the hobbit was glad to find that he didn’t have first watch that night. For some reason, he was feeling incredibly exhausted and it was a battle to stay awake. Bilbo didn’t participate too much in the singing and sharing of stories and finally excused himself, retreating to his bedroll. It was odd for him to feel this tired at this time of night, but he had learned to listen to his body over the years.

With a sigh, the Tèarmunn got himself comfortable and burrowed under a blanket, giving a drowsy response to the company’s “good nights” before he drifted off to sleep. What he hadn’t realized when he’d fallen to sleep was that the exhaustion had been arranged by the Valar and Irmo was sending a message that Mahal and Yavanna knew needed to be sent.

It was dark and fiendishly hot, and Bilbo could hear the sounds of screams echoing around him. The cries of agony and fear were accompanied by the sounds of low growls, almost wolf-like in nature but deeper and more frightening. He was quick to recognize the hideous Black Speech, though his very being shied away from the twisted language, and the Tèarmunn soon realized that he was within Irmo’s grasp.

As soon the Vala realized the warrior of Yavanna understood what was going on, the darkness shifted and revealed a battlefield soaked in blood. The young hobbit could see dwarves, elves, and men fighting alongside each other against a huge horde of orcs and wargs. A massive mountain, solitary in the horizon, loomed over the battlefield and whispers filled the air. The words were easily heard despite nearly being drowned out by the terrifying sounds of the fight that was raging on the battlefield.

~I have been poisoned, Child of the Blessed Pair, and my children are hurt. I know not what to do.~

The voice was deep but gentle, carrying a feminine quality to it that soothed Bilbo. His eyes drifted to the mountain for a moment, realizing who was speaking.

~What happened, Mother?~

The title came from him easily as his heart recognized her as the mother who had nurtured and protected her children since Moria had been lost to the dwarrow of Durin’s Folk.

~I was infected by a great poison,~ the mountain replied. ~An evil thing designed to corrupt my children and draw darkness to me. I had hoped and prayed it would not be found, but it was and drew a creature of Morgoth to drive my children out into the wild.~

The sight of a dragon flying around the mountain was seen for a few moments, striking terror into the Tèarmunn’s heart, and he took a moment to force himself to focus on the mountain.

~Are you saying this poison was planted in hopes of drawing a dragon to you and driving out the dwarves? Why would someone do this?~

~I speak the truth, Chosen of Yavanna. It is known by all that the children of Mahal would unite under the banner of Durin to fight alongside the other races in order to purge Morgoth and his disgusting creatures from Arda. So Morgoth acted in many ways, influencing Mahal’s children and driving them away from their true siblings. He also implanted the blood lust within a certain line of orc, and they will destroy the House of Durin if not stopped.~

Blue eyes were drawn back to the battle, and Bilbo could see two pale orcs atop white wargs. They were hunting a trio, who he recognized as Thorin, Fili, and Kili, and his heart began screaming when the two dark beings ripped the three dwarves apart. A shadow began to fall as the body of the last Durin struck the earth, and the hobbit turned back to the mountain. His voice was full of fear and determination, knowing he had to do what he could to ensure what he had seen would not come to pass.

~What must I do to stop this?~

~Destroy the source of the poison, heal my children, and find my true heart,~ the mountain answered, grateful that was someone would help her.

~What is the source of the poison? How will I know it?~

~All things living seek it,~ Erebor replied in a fading voice. ~It draws them close and poisons them to become slaves to greed and death.~

Bilbo saw the darkness wrapping around all of the other living beings on Arda, watching as hobbit, man, elf, and dwarf fell to it. The two white orcs kept laughing and ripping through the three Durins over and over again, and the last sight the Tèarmunn saw before he was removed from the vision was an orb of white that radiated multiple colors.

The hobbit launched himself out of his bedroll, running to the edges of camp to be violently ill. The others, who had not retired for the night, watched in concern. They had noticed that he had been in the grips of a nightmare and despite the signs of terror, Gandalf had not allowed them to wake him. They hadn’t been pleased with his decision, but Thorin could see concern and something else on the Istar’s face that kept him from protesting.

Bilbo returned to the camp, taking the skin of water that Nori had given him, and dropped onto the ground not far from the fire. His shirt and hair were soaked with water from where he’d cleaned himself of the sweat of the nightmare. He took a deep drink from the skin, looking up when Gandalf’s voice broke the silence.

“You were touched by Irmo tonight, were you not?”

Blue eyes met the deep blue gaze of the king of dwarves and held, not answering the wizard’s question but asking another and the hobbit could see the stunned surprise at the words that came from him.

“Are you aware you and those of your line are being hunted?”

“What? No, I was not aware of it,” Thorin replied, taken aback by the question. “The only one I knew that held that kind of grudge of is dead; he took a fatal injury during the Battle of Azanulbizar and died within Moria.”

“A pale orc, heavy with scars and metal device driven into the bone where his left forearm once was, rides on a white warg alongside another orc, as pale as the first, who is younger but similar,” he told him. “They hunt you and yours, Son of Durin.”

“Are you certain of this,” the dwarf asked, a raw edge to his voice.

“I am,” Bilbo answered, voice a bit ragged. “They seek your line out on orders from their master, who wants the Line of Durin destroyed.”

Gandalf straightened up, leaning forward as he eyed the hobbit. He’d been right, Irmo had touched him tonight, and the Istar had a feeling that the message was more than just the two orcs showing in the Tèarmunn’s dream.

“The Defiler was given orders regarding Thorin’s family,” he asked, knowing all eyes were on the hobbit now.

“He was,” the younger one answered. “I’m not sure I can explain what I saw, Gandalf. The dream was a warning, and it wasn’t just about the orcs. There are other things at play here, and I am having difficulty making sense of it all.”

“Are prophetic dreams normal for Tèarmunn,” Oin asked, watching the halfling closely. The lad looked worn out and very anxious, and he didn’t like it.

“Not usually,” Bilbo told him. “If our parents need to tell us something, they usually just appear in the Grotto at the times when someone is taking care of it. This is new for me, and I’m not certain I like this method of giving messages. It’s confusing and makes my head ache.”

“Irmo can be a bit abrupt,” Gandalf soothed him. “Especially if the message that needs to be sent is something urgent.”

The blue eyes of the hobbit stared into the fire for several long moments before he broke the silence to ask something that hadn’t made much sense to him since he was a hobbit that dealt with the earth and nature.

“Can mountains speak?”

That question caused a stir amongst the dwarrow and Bifur soon answered it, his cousin translating for him as he did so.

“We feel the stone around us,” the toymaker told the curly haired male. “All of us are born with the ability to sense and hear it, but only those with a very deep, profound bond can hear the voice of the mountain. It’s rare for something like that to happen.”

“I heard Erebor,” Bilbo said, nearly too quiet for his words to be heard. “She sounded frightened and worried for her children; I promised to do what I could to help, but the shadow she fears is something I’m not sure I can fight on my own.”

“With a bit of luck, you won’t have to,” the wizard said softly. “Can you tell us more?”

“I don’t know if I can,” he rasped out, anxiety building within him. “The images burn in my mind, and I am so afraid inside. The words need to be spoken, but I cannot.”

The Istar gently carded his fingers through Bilbo’s long curly locks, hoping to soothe the distraught hobbit. Those who had not had visions like this before could find themselves overwhelmed and despite the Tèarmunn’s strength, the dream tonight had caused a panic within him as well as confusion. It would take someone with more experience in these things to help bring the message to light.

“Do not fight it, Bilbo,” he soothed him, hearing the trees groan around them as nature reacted to the male’s building panic and powerful raw emotions. “I know of someone who can help you sort through this and speak the warnings that need to be shared.”

Oin murmured something in Thorin’s ear, and the king nodded. The message that Bilbo had been given needed to be heard, and he would do what needed to be done in order to ensure the dream was shared properly.

“What will he need,” the dwarf asked. “If Erebor has spoken and my family’s lives are in jeopardy, I want to know the full message. What is it he will need?”

“Bilbo needs to speak to the Lord of Imladris,” the wizard replied, still trying to soothe Bilbo. “Outside of Lady Galadriel, Lord Elrond is the only other person I know in Arda who is familiar with this sort of thing. He will be able to help Bilbo face the dream calmly and be able to speak of it. Since he is familiar with visions, Elrond can also aid in any interpretation that might be needed as well as teach him how to do this on his own should Irmo touch him again during the quest.”

“I dislike going to the elves,” the king said, eyeing the tree near him as it swayed and groaned. “However, a message from the Valar should not be ignored so we will make for Rivendell in the morning. In the meantime, is there a way to calm him down before the trees uproot themselves?”

“They’re reacting to his emotions,” Gandalf informed him, sounding worried for the hobbit. “Oin, do you have something that will calm him down enough to sleep?”

“I do,” the healer replied, already digging through his packs. “Bombur, get the kettle on.”

Before too much longer, a cup of tea was pressed into the Tèarmunn’s hands and he sipped the potent herbal mixture. Bilbo could feel the remedy begin to work before he finished the cup and by the time he’d finished it, he was already nodding off.

The hobbit never heard the shifting of the dwarves as one of the company rose, picking up the sleeping figure and tucking him back into his bedroll. Nor did he hear the soft words in Khuzdul, asking Mahal to allow the smaller male a chance to sleep well tonight.

All he was aware of was the deep lure of an exhausted sleep, and he was grateful for the quiet as his body and mind took the rest it needed.

Nature relaxed as he slumbered, and the dwarves were rather happy when the noises and movements stopped. This had been frightening, and they could only hope that their change in course would provide what was needed to help the hobbit work through the message he’d been given tonight.

Chapter Text

Despite the restless night and the remedy he had taken, Bilbo woke before most of the others and settled himself in position to meditate. He could feel the warmth of the rising sun caressing his skin, basking in it for several moments before sinking into the exercises to calm his thoughts and work on his connection to nature.

The Tèarmunn sensed the sleepy murmurs of the plants and vague stirrings of the bedrock beneath it and sent his energy into everything, strengthening his connection to them. They took his energy, sending their own back, and he gave a quiet smile.

It was always peaceful listening to nature, and it never failed to cheer him up whenever he was shaken or unhappy by events that had taken place. It was helping now, and he took the comfort as it was offered.

“All right there, Bilbo?”

Blue eyes opened to find Kili crouching in front of him, looking worried, and the hobbit gave him a small smile. He had a feeling the company might be worried about him due to the vision he’d had last night, and the curly haired male didn’t want them worrying if he could help it.

“I am now, Kili,” he replied. “Thank you for asking.”

“You worried us last night, and I just wanted to check on you. I’ve never seen anyone react like that to a dream and then to hear it was a message from the Valar. I don’t blame you for being so off balance and upset,” the archer commented.

“I appreciate that,” Bilbo murmured. “I’m hopeful Lord Elrond can help me make sense of this so I can figure out what the message is and who I need to tell it to.”

“Uncle said we’re going to head to Rivendell today,” the dwarf offered. “Gandalf seems to think Elrond can help you since Lothlórien is too far to make for. He and uncle decided that time was too valuable to waste since we need your dream interpreted.”

“I’m grateful for their decision,” the hobbit said, stretching for a moment. “If Irmo is going to continue to relay messages like this, then I need to know how to handle it. This is not a skill any of Yavanna’s Warriors are taught, and I can’t risk losing control like I did last night.”

Looking over at the group, he could see most of them were slowly coming awake but Ori was alert. He grinned as an idea came to mind. This would be a good way to get his two students started and allow him to focus on something else.

“Ori, feel up to some exercise before breakfast,” the Tèarmunn called out, catching both Kili and the scribe off guard.

Ori turned towards Bilbo and nodded, putting his book away before heading towards where he and the archer were talking. He was determined to learn and would do everything he could to master what the hobbit would teach him.

Once the two dwarves were in front of him, Bilbo patted the ground in an invitation for the pair to sit down. He could see the dedication on their faces and was glad to see it. This meant he wouldn’t be wasting his time working with them.

“We’ll start with agility and range of motion in the mornings and work on speed after we make camp each day,” he began. “The agility is important and will help with your speed in the future.”

The trio spent the time before breakfast with Bilbo teaching the two dwarves a series of stretches designed to work on flexibility, helping them with each stretch while explaining what the exercise did. He could hear them groan occasionally but not a single word of complaint was spoken.

The hobbit let them go once they’d finished the exercises and advised them to do them each time they stopped, holding it longer as soon as the stretches became easier. Both dwarves agreed, promising to do so, and they headed to rejoin their families and get their breakfast.

Bilbo enjoyed his meal, turning the bowl over to be cleaned, and he sang as he got his gear together and pony saddled up. The hymn was a different one, a bit faster paced than the one he’d sung the morning prior.

While the song was going on, the dwarves could see the trees and flowers stir and nearly dance along with the melody. It was amazing to see, and Gandalf had a feeling that the Tèarmunn’s connection to nature was growing. That was reassuring to the Istar because Bilbo would be able to use it if they were attacked without too much of an issue.

Once the song ended, the company mounted and were on their way. Bilbo could hear Bofur humming the hymn and smiled, having a feeling Yavanna would enjoy hearing that from her husband’s children.

“You don’t mind him doing that,” Bombur asked, looking over at the smaller male.

“Not at all,” he replied, still smiling. “The children of Mahal are the children of Her heart so She wouldn’t take offense to anything done with respect.”

“I’m glad,” the heavy dwarf told him. “Bofur is fond of music, and he approaches hymns with respect. I imagine he’ll be learning whatever you can teach.”

“I wouldn’t mind teaching whoever wanted to learn,” Bilbo offered. “Hymns, tavern songs, or any of the other kinds we have. I think we share a love of music with our siblings.”

“It sounds like it,” Gloin replied, overhearing the conversation. “We have our own songs for Mahal as well as music for most events in life. Most of the races may not think so, but we do enjoy music of all kinds for the most part.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” the Tèarmunn grinned. “It’s good to know our races have some things in common besides that fact that our parents are wed to each other.”

“Do you mind teaching it,” Bofur asked with a hopeful note in his voice.

“I’d be happy to,” Bilbo told him, smile bright as he did so. “Fortunately, the words are in Westron so you won’t have to learn to pronounce everything in old Hobbitish.”

“Consider that a good thing, Master Bofur,” Gandalf told the dwarf. “Old Hobbitish can be a confoundedly complicated language to learn. I’ve been in the Shire quite often over the centuries, and I still get things turned around when attempting to speak it.”

The wizard’s comment made Bilbo laugh, making a few others chuckle as well. Once the mirth had died down, the hobbit began sharing the words to the hymn.

“High is the moon tonight…hiding its guiding light, high. Heaven and earth do sleep, still in the dark so deep, I will the darkness sweep…I will the moon to flight, I will the heavens bright, I will the earth delight…Open your eyes with me, see paradise with me, awake and arise with me…I am the Dawn, I’m the new day begun; I bring you the morning; I bring you the sun; I hold back the night and I open the skies; I give light to the world; I give sight to your eyes; from the first of all time, until Time is undone, Forever and ever and ever, and I am the Dawn and the Sky and the Sun – I am one with the One…and I am the Dawn.”

It only took Bilbo singing the hymn twice before Bofur, Kili, Fili, and Ori had picked up the lyrics and were singing along with him. The others were humming to accompany the singers, and the Istar simply relaxed as the song was sung by the Tèarmunn and dwarves with reverence and no little joy as the day was shaping up to be a beautiful one.

The morning passed by quickly, broken by the appearance of heavy storm clouds. Bilbo looked up at the sky and shook his head, feeling the approaching rain. From what he could hear from the plants around them, a storm was approaching and could possibly be a lengthy one.

“If you’ve got something to help keep you dry, I’d suggest putting it on now,” the hobbit called out to his companions while drawing the hood of his coat up.

“You think it’ll rain,” Dori asked, looking at the leather hood that cast the smallest male’s face into deep shadow.

“I can feel it in the air; the plants speak of it also,” Bilbo affirmed. “It won’t be an easy one either. This area goes through a lot of rain during this time of the year.”

A crack of thunder was the overture the storm needed to break, and all of the dwarves were scrambling to pull hoods up or don their cloaks to help keep themselves dry. Bilbo just shook his head, smile hidden thanks to the hood he was wearing.

“I guess you hobbits have songs for this too,” Bofur asked, making the hobbit laugh quietly.

“We do,” he answered in a mirth filled voice. “Though I’ve a feeling the company may not want to hear them right now.”

That comment made quite a few agree with Bilbo, who simply laughed again and settled himself to enjoy the weather for the moment. He had a feeling the rain might last a while, and there was no reason to allow himself to feel frustrated with it since the storm had its purpose.

The Tèarmunn hummed to himself quietly, knowing the rain would keep the melody from being heard. The last thing he wanted was to agitate his companions at that moment, but he still wanted to show his gratitude for the storm that was now helping the plant life around them flourish.

The days passed slowly, and Bilbo was proven to be correct in regards to the rain lasting a while. It had rained day and night for nearly a week, and even the cheerful hobbit had taken to hiding his grumbling about the persistent precipitation that refused to stop. He was busy glaring at the rain and nearly missed Gandalf’s comment about finding another wizard to stop the storm.

His hooded head perked up when the Istar began talking about the other Istari that walked the land, and the curly haired male grinned when he heard Radagast’s name mentioned.

“That’s one I haven’t seen in a while,” he called out.

“When was the last time he’s been to the Shire,” the wizard asked, turning to look at the hobbit.

“Nearly two years,” Bilbo answered. “We’ve been worrying about him because he always comes for certain mushrooms and several barrels of Old Toby once a year, and he always brings seeds and saplings of new crops to try.”

“He keeps watch over certain areas as Yavanna asked him to,” Gandalf said with a frown. “I have heard that the Greenwood is having problems, and that might be what is keeping him from his usual visits to the Shire. If he has yet to stop this year, I will go look for him once this quest is done and see if he’s all right.”

“Please do, he still owes me a rematch,” the Tèarmunn said with a grin.

“What did he lose this time,” the Gray Pilgrim asked his friend.

“One of his favorite books,” Bilbo laughed. “He was very upset about it and promised me a rematch the next time he visited the Shire.”

“He should know better than to challenge you at conkers, my dear boy. You are very much like your mother in that respect; she had an amazing ability to hit her target nearly every time. Have you broken her record yet?”

“Three years ago,” the hobbit answered. “I didn’t miss the smallest target during Grandfather’s Midsummer’s celebration.”

“A shame I wasn’t there to see that,” Gandalf said, chuckling. “Though one might say allowing a Tèarmunn to compete is a bit of a foolish thing to do. They have a distinct advantage over everyone else.”

“I had two Brandybucks and a Took saying they could beat me,” Bilbo told him with a wry shrug. “What was I supposed to do? Grandfather was goading them on so I had to accept the challenge.”

“That sounds like something Gerontius would do,” the Istar commented, then smiled as the rain began to let up.

Bilbo pushed his hood back, shaking his head so his hair could settle itself outside of the leather jacket and hood.

“Think it’ll rain again, Bilbo,” Fili asked, twisting in his saddle to see the hobbit’s face.

“Doesn’t feel like it,” he replied. “The plants are quiet regarding anymore storms so I think we’re going to have sunny weather for a while. I will let you know if that changes.”

“Which we need,” Thorin grumbled. “Let’s find a place to camp so we can dry out our gear. Fili, Nori, scout ahead and see what you can find.”

The hobbit tilted his head up to the sun, closing his eyes for a moment as he let the warm rays soak into his skin. Being dry and warm sounded like a good thing, and he hoped that the two would find a good campsite soon.

Lover of nature or not, a week’s worth of rain was more than enough for anyone and this hobbit was certainly ready to enjoy the sunshine!

Chapter Text

The area the two scouts had found was definitely a drier location, but it troubled both Gandalf and the Tèarmunn because of the burned out embers of the house. The wizard was concerned about what had happened to the farmer and his family, and the hobbit was trying to listen to the plant life to see if he could determine what had occurred here.

Despite his link with nature, everything was stubbornly silent on what had happened and he frowned, not liking that silence at all. He shook his head at Gandalf, informing him wordlessly that he had no idea what could have caused the devastation here.

The Istar attempted to convince Thorin to push on for a while longer, but the dwarf lord had no wish to do just that. He believed the campsite to be a good one, and he had no desire to push his tired company any further for the night. The argument was quite fierce before the Istar stormed off to try to calm his temper.

Shaking his head at Gandalf’s antics, Bilbo set himself to helping set up camp before changing into dry clothing. He hung his clothes and coat to dry before working with Kili and Ori with their lessons. The pair went through their stretches, pushing themselves hard before the Tèarmunn began the exercises designed to increase speed and endurance.

One of the first ones he tried was fairly simple, running laps around the campsite and forcing them to run faster at certain intervals. Tèarmunn were given this exercise right at the start of their training days to help build endurance and to teach their bodies to push themselves when needed. The sprinting helped build up the ability to go quickly for long periods of time without becoming winded.

What impressed the elder dwarves was that Bilbo ran with them, not asking anything of them that he was unwilling to do himself, and they could see that the hobbit had built up quite a bit of endurance over the years.

Once the laps were done, the Tèarmunn built a pile of pine cones and had the two dodge as he threw the items at them. Whenever he spotted a chance for improvement, Bilbo taught them a better way to stand or shift so they could maneuver out of the way quicker.

“I know you’re wearing horrid boots, but pick up your feet,” the smaller male ordered, realizing Kili was sliding across the grass at times. “You waste energy dragging them, and it slows you down.”

“I remember a similar exercise when I was younger,” the archer panted. “This feels harder though.”

“Your body was trained to move in the way of heavier dwarves, that’s why,” Bilbo replied. “We have to retrain it to move lighter; it’s not impossible. By the time you’ve mastered this, you will be able to dodge pine cones from multiple people.”

“You must be joking,” Ori stated, leaning over to catch his breath.

“No, I’m not. When I trained with my fellow Tèarmunn, we would have some of the family members who were watching us throw pine cones at us. Each time one hit us, we had to run laps before trying again. My cousin, Donnabella, had a run of bad luck one day. I think we were running laps for hours until she finally got it right,” he shared.

After a few more exercises, Bilbo had them walk to cool down before offering to spar with Fili, who agreed to do just that. The pair sparred for nearly three quarters of an hour before darkness began to fall, and Thorin sent his nephews to keep an eye on the ponies.

The hobbit helped Bombur with the food, eating his own meal before frowning when he caught a whisper of something being wrong. He swallowed the last bite before rising to his feet and heading towards Thorin, who looked up at him with a questioning expression.

“Is something wrong, Master Baggins?”

“I finally heard something from the trees,” he answered. “I’d like to see if I can’t find more answers; there’s something near here that has everything hushed to the point where they won’t respond to me. That’s incredibly unusual.”

The dwarf lord knew something had been bothering the Tèarmunn and since he was being respectful about this, he was willing to let the hobbit do what scouting needed to be done so he could get the answers he was searching for. While Thorin didn’t understand the connection Bilbo had to the plant life around them, he respected it enough to know that the hobbit warrior would not mislead the company.

“Take your weapons with you,” he told him. “One of the company should accompany you as well.”

“No offense but you all walk too heavy and will pull my attention away from what I need to focus on,” Bilbo answered. “I promise to check in every so often so you know I’m all right.”

He didn’t like it but would accept the compromise. He nodded, and Bilbo checked to see his weapons were with him before slipping into the darkness.

The Tèarmunn meandered through the woods, listening to the trees and other plants in hopes of discovering the source of disquiet running through the area. His eyes grew wide when the cause finally came out along with another warning; his company was in danger!

Bilbo ran through the underbrush, bare feet making no noise, and he slipped between several trees to spot the clearing. His blue eyes widened when he spotted his company, and fury filled his veins. Several dwarrow were tied to a spit, being roasted, and the rest had been stuffed into bags to be cooked later.

A soft prayer to Yavanna for guidance and protection slipped past his lips in the ancient language of his people before he reached out for the plants laying trampled at the feet of the trolls. The warrior of Yavanna fed his power into the vegetation, healing the damage before pushing them to grow at an incredibly advanced rate.

The vines grew, capturing the trio and ensuring they couldn’t pull away, and Bilbo slipped out of the darkness. He heard a shout from some of the company members, but his eyes stayed focused on the targets as the plants wound their way tighter around the massive bodies. Tendrils reached around their heads, pulling them back to expose their throats.

Bilbo pulled out the cearcall, letting it fly three times to bite into each troll’s throat. The circular weapon cut into the tough hide with precision, slicing through arteries, windpipes, and muscles with ease. He snagged the weapon for the last time, shaking the blood off as the bodies crashed to the ground with an earth shaking crash.

He drew his corran after placing the cearcall back onto his belt and kicked dirt over the fire before cutting the dwarrow on the spit loose.

“Everyone all right?”

“A bit singed and annoyed, otherwise we’re okay,” Bofur told him, heading to the bags to begin freeing everyone.

“The plants, that was you,” Fili asked when Bilbo began cutting the bagged dwarrow free.

“It was,” he replied. “I did say the Green Lady gave Her Tèarmunn gifts, and being able to manipulate plant life is one of them. I hate having to use them like that, but She gave the ability for us to do such a thing for a reason.”

“I sincerely doubt She would be displeased with you doing so to protect your companions,” Thorin assured him when the sharp blade of the corran sliced through the rope and burlap to free him.

“I agree,” he answered, turning to face the corpses once the dwarrow were free and redressing themselves. “They’re filthy abominations that goes against everything good and balanced in nature.”

“Creatures of Morgoth usually are,” Gandalf stated, coming around a stone to look at the three dead bodies. “They must’ve come down from the Ettenmores.”

“Rather far from their normal range, aren’t they,” the monarch asked.

“Indeed, trolls have not been seen this far out since the days when a darker power threatened the balance of Arda,” the wizard replied.

“They could not have traveled in the sunlight, which means a cave is nearby. We’ll search for it after we’ve rested; chances are good we might find something useful,” Thorin stated, watching as his sister-sons retrieved the missing ponies.

“Back to camp,” the dwarf lord instructed. “The night is waning fast, and we need to rest. Since we are up so late, we’ll have a later start in the morning to allow everyone a chance to sleep.”

That met with cheers from the company, and he turned his gaze to where his eldest nephew was standing beside the Tearmunn after handing the ponies over to Bofur. It was obvious he was trying to appease Master Baggins somehow because the hobbit looked rather unhappy.

“Will he be all right,” Thorin asked.

“Bilbo? I imagine he will; it’s not his first fight or kill, but it’s never easy for a Tèarmunn to take a life, abominations or not. It’s part of the design that Yavanna put into Her hobbits and although Mahal ensured the Tèarmunn had the mental and physical strength to take lives to defend their charges, it still makes it difficult after the act is done. Give him time, and he’ll be back to his normal self.”

Thorin nodded, somewhat understanding what Bilbo was going through. Abomination or not, it was never easy to adjust to the fact that there was blood on your hands. The dwarf sent a silent prayer to Mahal, asking that Fili would be granted the wisdom needed to aid the hobbit.

Chapter Text

Bilbo leaned against a tree, taking first watch as the company settled down to rest after the excitement from the trolls. His mind was too chaotic to try to rest so he’d volunteered for the watch in hopes he would be able to calm his thoughts down before it was time to trade shifts. Fili’s words rang in his ears, and he sighed as he contemplated what the dwarf had told him.

There was no shame in taking a life to defend others, the fair haired swordsman had said. The lives taken tonight would prevent more innocents from being killed like the farmer and his wife had been. His actions had been the right thing, the prince had insisted.

Fili’s words had helped, but Bilbo’s actions against the trolls still went against the hobbit nature Yavanna had instilled in the basic instincts of Her hobbits. This was something he’d gone through over the years whenever he’d had to take a life to protect someone he was in charge of. The Stone Father had given a stronger protective instinct in the warriors that emerged in the ranks of His younger children, but it caused a conflict for every Tèarmunn who faced this particular problem.

His grandmother had often said it was a bit of a design flaw, but Bilbo had considered it to be a way to keep the Tèarmunn balanced so they remembered their true purpose and didn’t allow their power to go to their heads.

“Are you all right?”

Bilbo turned his head, spotting Fili reclining on an elbow with a look of concern on his face.

“I will be,” he murmured. “It’s just one of those things I have to work through. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

“Came too close to losing members of the company today,” the fair haired male replied softly, not wanting to wake Kili who was sleeping next to him. “Up until tonight, I knew what we’re doing is dangerous but it really didn’t sink in until now.”

“Keep the memory of what you’re feeling close, Fili, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Use it to keep you sharp and ready for what’s coming because there will be more perilous situations we’ll be facing as we continue with this journey. We were fortunate no one was hurt tonight, but that might not always be the case,” he said gently.

“Almost everyone in the company is family to me,” Fili told him. “I’ve seen them come and go from the settlement to raise money to help with repairs or buying food for the winter season, but it never occurred to me that I could lose them.”

“It’s not an easy thought,” Bilbo replied. “I’ve spent my entire life training as one of Yavanna’s Tèarmunn, and the younger generation were nowhere near ready when the Fell Winter came. It was an eye opener for us because we’d never thought that we’d actually put our training to use considering how peaceful the Shire is most of the time. All of us had our first kills then, and most of us were injured at one point or another during that horrible winter.

“Even that brush with death didn’t help me understand until my parents decided to take a trip to Bree and thought that a Tèarmunn wouldn’t be necessary since the roads are usually peaceful. It’s been years since then, and I can’t stop thinking about how differently my life would be if I had been more forceful in changing their minds regarding an escort. The idea of losing those you love because of inaction is a life changing thing,” he said softly. “It’s been almost fifteen years, and I can’t stop thinking of it. I use that life lesson to remind me to do all I can so others will never have to wait at home for someone who will never return.”

“I’ll try to remember that; thank you, Bilbo,” Fili said, looking thoughtful.

“You’re welcome, Fili. Get some rest; I have no doubt we’ll be dragged out of bed too early to look for the troll hoard and considering how badly the trolls smelled, I think we’ll need the rest to make sure we don’t disgrace ourselves by vomiting all over the place when we find the malodorous place they slept in.”

He chuckled in response to the playful words, laying back down and falling asleep not long after.

Bilbo smiled to himself, looking up at the stars while keeping his senses alert. He felt better now that he’d shared with the prince and was glad that Fili had been concerned and spoken to him about the thoughts that had been weighing heavily on his mind. The hobbit had a feeling he was making a good friend there and hoped that he was right.

Once he had finished with his watch, Bilbo woke Dori for the next watch and went to his bedroll to try to sleep. The sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of the tree was the lullaby that eased him into a restful state, and he didn’t wake until the last person on watch called for the company to rise.

After breakfast had been eaten and everything packed up, they led their ponies back to the clearing to see about finding the cave where the trolls had been living. Bilbo’s nose wrinkled when he caught a whiff of the stench and shook his head, deciding to stay away from it.

“I’ll wait with the ponies,” he told Thorin and Dwalin, looking a little green. “The smell is too much for me, and the ponies will need someone with them since the stench will unsettle them.”

“That’s a good idea,” the dwarf lord commented, looking back at the company. “Ori, Dori, stay with Bilbo and help him keep the ponies calm.”

The two dwarrow joined the Tèarmunn where the ponies were tethered, and they heard him humming a hymn while petting and soothing the animals. They pet the ponies, listening to him as he hummed while they waited for the company to emerge from the troll hoard.

The group eventually emerged, and Gandalf came up to the hobbit to hand him an item.

“I know you are well equipped, Bilbo, but I have a feeling this might be useful in the future.”

Bilbo took the sheathed blade, pulling it from its protective covering to examine the weapon. In the hands of big folk, it would be a beautiful dagger but for him, it was the right length for a sword. Gandalf was right, it would make for a fallback weapon if he couldn’t retrieve the cearcall or corran during a fight.

“Thank you, Gandalf,” he told the wizard with a smile, fastening it onto his belt behind one of the corran. “Hopefully, it won’t be needed but...”

His voice trailed off as the plant life began screaming warnings at him. He called out to the company, drawing his weapons as he did so.

“Attackers are on the way,” he shouted as a sled pulled by rabbits emerged.

“Attackers,” Dwalin asked, making as if to put his axes away because he didn’t the see the odd looking wizard as a threat to the group.

“Behind the wizard,” the Tèarmunn answered, focused on the warnings he was hearing. “There are wargs and more; we should move before they catch up to us.”

“Agreed,” Gandalf answered, sending Radagast to meet them in Rivendell so they could speak of whatever it was that had drawn the brown wizard from the territory he protected so carefully.

The company moved swiftly, mounting their ponies and following the gray wizard as he led them towards a place of safety. Moments after they left the clearing, the howling of the wargs could be heard and Thorin’s eyes narrowed.

“Ride hard and follow Gandalf,” he ordered, spurring his pony to pick up the pace.

The group rode hard and fast, trying to keep well ahead of the orc pack following them. Bilbo turned his head, spotting one getting way too close to Balin, and he drew the cearcall. He angled himself and took swift aim, letting the hoop of metal fly. It sang as it cut through the air, close to the adviser’s head, and sliced through the neck of the orc. The warg kept running with a headless body, the head of its rider bouncing twice before stopping.

The hobbit focused, hand extended as his mount kept running to stay even with the company, and he snagged the weapon with ease. He kept it off of his belt, keeping an eye out in case of any further danger to the company.

He could hear the earth shouting for them to keep going, telling him that safety lay ahead as the elves were on the move. Bilbo called out encouragement to their leader, knowing this would help keep them safe.

“Thorin, keep going ahead,” he shouted, seeing the king-in-exile raise a hand in acknowledgment.

Bilbo kept an eye on the group following them, cearcall flying as some got too close to the dwarrow near the rear of the group. It wasn’t easy trying to ride and defend, but he knew he had to keep everyone safe. There was no way Kili could fire any of his arrows since he needed two hands to do so, and the pony needed guidance during their mad flight.

The sound of the horn being blown echoed across the land, sending relief down the hobbit’s spine when the sight of the elvish hunting party was seen. He heard the arrows moving through the air to cut down the wargs and orcs, and he guided his pony past the group and slowed to allow the poor animal a chance to rest and catch her breath.

“How did you know,” Bofur asked, voice audible over the harsh breathing of the ponies.

“The earth told me help was on the way and to continue in the direction we were going,” he answered, letting poor Myrtle walk to cool down.

“I’m glad you heard it,” Dwalin replied. “Thank you for keeping my brother safe.”

“We’re a company, and I will protect everyone to the best of my ability,” Bilbo told him, straightening when the elves caught up with them.

“Mithrandir informed us of your arrival,” Elrond stated. “You are welcome to take sanctuary in Imladris, Thorin Oakenshield.”

“You have my thanks,” he answered, voice cool but polite. “The chance for respite is a welcome one, and one of our own is in need of your aid.”

“I will help where I can,” the elf lord replied, keeping pace with the ponies as the rest of the group surrounded the company to provide more protection. “You must have one of Yavanna’s Tèarmunn with you. It has been a while since I have seen decapitations that smooth.”

“That would be me,” the hobbit spoke up from his position between Kili and Fili. “Bilbo Baggins-Took, Tèarmunn of Yavanna, at your service, my lord Elrond.”

“Baggins-Took? Are you any relation to Belladonna Took, who married Bungo Baggins?”

“She was my mother,” he replied. “It is good to finally meet you after hearing stories of you, your family, and your home.”

“As it is to meet you, Master Baggins. My children and a few others will be very pleased to meet you; we have long hoped you might seek us out after her passing,” the elvish lord informed him.

“As Tèarmunn, I was unable to do so but I have permission to be with Master Oakenshield’s company, so I hope to hear more tales of my mother if we have time to do so,” he said to him.

“I believe there are quite a few of us who have stories of the infamous Belladonna Took,” Elrond chuckled.

Bilbo smiled at that comment and hoped he would have time to hear the stories; he had a feeling his mother might have kept a few of her misadventures quiet, and it would be wonderful to celebrate her life through stories with people who cared about her.

Fili leaned in, murmuring softly.

“I had no idea your mum was so well traveled,” he said. “I’d always heard that hobbits tend to go no further than Bree if they must leave the Shire.”

“She was very curious about the world beyond the borders of home,” the hobbit said with a soft smile. “As soon as she entered her mid-tweens, my mother was exploring what she could. I know she took several journeys with Gandalf before she married my father.”

“Marriage tamed the urge to travel,” Kili asked.

“Oh Yavanna no, if anything, she was forever dragging my poor father out onto smaller adventures. They went to Bree at least once a year to spend time alone, and my father always seemed happier when they returned. I think the small adventures she organized helped him get away from what was expected of him as a Baggins.”

“I think we’d have liked your mum,” Fili stated, smiling when the hobbit laughed.

“Oh she’d have liked all of you too,” he replied. “No doubt she’d have found a way to come along since she’d never gone further than Rivendell and was forever talking about wanting to see what lay beyond the Misty Mountains. In a way, I’m glad Yavanna and Mahal allowed me to go so I can make the journey in honor of her memory.”

The dwarrow didn’t have much to say to that, and the group soon went through a pass that led into a beautiful valley.

“Welcome to Imladris,” Elrond said to the company. “Baths will be drawn and a feast prepared to welcome you to my home.”

“Once again, you have my thanks,” Thorin answered, eying his company for a moment. “We are grateful for the hospitality.”

The elf smiled and nodded, leading the group down the paths to where the horses would be taken so they could be fed and cleaned.

Bilbo took in as much as he he could, unsure as to how long they would be here and hoping Elrond would be able to help him in regards to his dream. He didn’t like not having answers and having instruction in case of future dreams would be useful. Also, he looked forward to hearing stories about his mother and hoped there would be time to hear a few before they had to continue on their way to Erebor.

Chapter Text

After being shown to his quarters, Bilbo gladly took a long bath and turned over his dirty clothing so they could be washed. Elrond had sent a tunic and trousers for him to wear, knowing how fastidious hobbits could be regarding their appearance. Granted, the garments were made for children but since they were clean, the hobbit had no qualms about wearing them.

Bilbo combed his hair, tying the front part of it back in a style he’d seen Kili favor, and left the room to do a bit of exploring. He went down a hallway to find Fili coming out of a room, dressed similarly to how he was. The only difference between them was that the dwarf was armed.

“You do know we’re safe here, right,” he asked, feeling a mix of amusement and irritation at the distrust being shown.

“It’s hard to put aside the enmity between our races,” Fili explained. “What are you up to?”

“I’m exploring; we have some time before the meal, and I’ve been anxious to see Imladris for myself ever since my mother spoke about it when I was a fauntling. There’s a lot of things I wish to see.”

“Uncle won’t be pleased if any of us wander alone,” he said. “Mind company?”

Bilbo shook his head, watching as Fili opened a door to call out in their native language. When he heard an answer, he closed the door and grinned.

“We’re good; uncle said he’d meet us at dinner.”

“Right then,” he answered, setting off to explore the elvish kingdom.

The pair meandered for a while, finding themselves in an unusual room with a statue holding a tray that contained the broken pieces of a sword.

“Damn,” Fili said, looking at the pieces. “Whatever shattered this blade must have been huge and swung with some force. This is of elvish make, and they do know their metalwork.”

“That is Narsil,” Bilbo said, recognizing it from his lessons. “This is the blade that cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, wielded by Isildur. Mama told me once that there is a legend saying that this sword will be reforged and given to Isildur’s heir so that Gondor will once again have a king on its throne.”

Both of them spotted the mural, going to examine it. The dwarf shook his head, eying the dark figure of Sauron.

“That was one frightening foe,” he said. “The detail is so perfect; it’s like this was painted by someone who had been at that battle.”

“It’s very detailed,” Bilbo agreed, admiring it despite the chill it sent down his spine. “Is it me or does the Ring seem to be glowing?”

“It’s not you,” Fili murmured. “It does look like it’s glowing; it really draws the eye to it. It’s hard to believe that little thing caused so much trouble for everyone. Do you think it really went into the sea after Isildur’s death?”

“I don’t know,” the Tèarmunn answered, looking grimly at his companion. “What I do know is that evil is never so easily defeated. That ring was tied to one of the darkest foes Middle Earth had ever seen outside of Morgoth, and evil that insidious rarely disappears. I would never presume to guess what lies next on Vairë’s tapestry regarding the ring.”

“I agree with you on that, but I do hope it is lost in the depths of the sea, never to be found again.”

“So do I, Fili,” he told him, rubbing the back of his neck as he headed out of the chamber.

They meandered a while before an elf called to them, letting the pair know that dinner was about to be served. Bilbo thanked him, asking for directions, and soon, Fili and the hobbit were on their way to the formal dining room.

The company had arrived, dressed in elvish garb and fully armed. The Tèarmunn frowned, shaking his head as he stared at the group.

“I understand there’s difficulties between your race and theirs but honestly, have you never heard the saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” Bilbo asked, hands on his hips.

“Can’t say that I have,” Bofur commented.

“It means that by treating your hosts nicely, they’ll treat you with equal respect. Considering the things we need their aid for, you would think you’d do your best to be polite guests. Would you go armed into a feast held by your king?”

“Dwalin would, but that’s because he’s Thorin’s Shield,” Kili answered, shrugging at the glare he got from the hobbit.

“What does that mean exactly,” he asked, finding a seat and watching as everyone got comfortable in their chosen seats while waiting for their host.

“Every member of the royal family gains a protector, known as a Shield,” Balin explained. “Dwalin is Thorin’s, and we have not yet found one for Fili or Kili. When they wed, their spouses will be assigned Shields as well. The pair must have a strong bond and trust each other implicitly.”

“It makes sense to keep them protected even if they can protect themselves,” Bilbo said quietly. “Do the shields need to be around the same age?”

“We try to keep them at similar ages,” Thorin replied. “It doesn’t always work that way, but we do try to find someone that will get along with their charge. Gloin’s wife is my sister’s Shield, and Dis counts her as her dearest friend and companion.”

“My wife feels the same about Dis,” Gloin told his cousin. “Thicker than thieves those two are, always plotting mischief whenever someone upsets either of them. The things I’ve seen them do to people who make them angry would make a dwarf fear for his hammer and stones.”

Thorin laughed softly, shaking his head at his cousin’s words. Gloin was right; Dis and Ylva were downright brutal whenever someone had really upset them. There was a reason most dwarrow did everything they could not irritate the princess.

“Your lad has bonded well with Fili and Kili,” he said to the other. “I think we may see about training him to become a Shield for one of them.”

“Fili,” Kili said to his uncle. “Gimli and I are close, but he and Gimli really have a stronger connection. Fili makes time to visit and help him train or study; I think the two would work well together.”

Gloin nodded, thinking about what his young cousin had said. Gimli did have a very strong respect for Fili where his relationship with Kili was more playful as the pair didn’t have as much in common.

“I think you may be right,” he said, looking at Thorin. “I may send a letter to Ylva and have her start Gimli’s training if you will allow it.”

“I will,” the king-in-exile replied. “Even if they don’t end up working together, it’s good training for Gimli and should keep him from being unhappy about having to remain in Ered Luin.”

“I’ll send the letter tonight if I can find a way to get a message back to our families,” he told him. “Ylva will be pleased.”

“As will Dis,” Thorin murmured as Elrond and Gandalf entered with a few more elves. “She was worrying about finding someone for the lads to be their Shields. Now all we have to do is find one for Kili if Fili and Gimli work out.”

“Someone better at melee,” Fili said, finally speaking up. “With him being an archer, I’d feel better if he had someone to ensure his safety.”

“We both would,” his uncle answered. “Hopefully, someone will show potential and we’ll see if they match. I don’t want to leave it for too long, but I have to hope that Mahal will provide.”

The topic was changed as their host took his seat, welcoming them to dinner. Thorin remained as polite as he could, knowing there were things that had to be done here in Rivendell. Bilbo’s earlier comment about honey and vinegar made sense, and he would try to be as diplomatic as he could.

The conversation flowed as food and wine were served, and the blades Gandalf and Thorin had found in the troll hoard were examined and named. It was rather humbling to be given a blade with that much history to it, and the dwarf lord resolved to himself to ensure that he added to that history as well.

“You mentioned something about a member of your company needing aid,” Elrond asked. “How can I help?”

“I recently came into a document that hails from some point in Erebor’s history,” Thorin answered, trying to keep this subtle and not do anything to reveal the quest. “I am certain there may be something hidden on it, but our scholars are unable to find it. Gandalf reminded me that you have experience in matters such as these, and I was hoping you might be able to discover what may be hidden so that we can ensure it’s written down for posterity. Not many items survived the loss of our home.”

“I would be honored to help,” Elrond said. “After the meal is finished, I will examine it to see what clues can be discovered.”

“You have my thanks,” the dwarf lord replied. “Also, a member of my company is in need of your unique expertise.”

“Oh?”

“I was given a dream by the Valar,” Bilbo said, playing with his wine glass. “Normally, Tèarmunn are given messages directly and being sent a message through dreams is not something I am used to. I’m having a difficult time with it and believe the message being sent is important. It’s my hope you may be able to teach me how to recall the dream properly and interpret it so that I can relay the message to whoever it’s meant for.”

Elrond was quiet for a moment, eyes looking distant. Gandalf caught the expression and frowned, not disturbing his friend nor allowing the others to pull him out of this trance.

“I know your purpose, Thorin Oakenshield, and have been instructed to provide what aid I can so that your quest will be successful,” the elf lord told the king-in-exile.

“You know?”

“As Gandalf has undoubtedly informed you, I have the gift of foresight through visions and dreams. Last night, I was warned of a group coming and told I needed to assist them in everything they require if it is in my power to do so. Just now, I saw the mountain you call home and Bilbo standing before it. I will follow the orders I have been given. Bilbo, after I examine the document, I wish to get started on aiding you with the dream you had.”

“Thank you, Lord Elrond,” the hobbit replied. “I will not deny it has been weighing on my mind since I had it, and I would very much like to know what it means. I have a feeling it’s incredibly important as what little I could speak of warned of two orcs hunting Thorin and his line.”

Elrond’s eyes moved from the son of his dear friend to the dwarf in question.

“Which orcs?”

“Azog the Defiler and another who must be related to him,” Thorin said, sounding angry and terrified. “I had thought that foul creature had died of his wounds, but it seems I was greatly mistaken on that. I must do what I can to keep my family safe from his vendetta against those who hold the blood of Durin’s line.”

“That would explain the increase in orc activity near the borders of my lands,” the elf murmured. “I have sent hunting parties out several times a day, but I have not uncovered the reason for it.”

“There is more, my lord,” Gandalf said to him, gesturing to Radagast. “He has news to present to you once you have time to meet with us.”

“I will send for you once I am done aiding my guests tonight,” Elrond told the pair, who nodded.

The meal ended with everyone feeling well fed and relaxed, except for two members of the company, and Bilbo and Thorin rose to follow their host out of the dining hall. Neither of them knew what to expect and hoped that the information revealed tonight would aid in the quest.

Chapter Text

Once in Elrond’s study, the elf lord examined the map that Thorin handed him and tilted his head slightly.

“You were right, Thorin,” he said to the dwarf. “There is information that has been hidden through the use of moon runes.”

“Can you read them,” the dwarf asked, looking hopeful.

“I should be able to when the moon is in the right phase,” Elrond informed him. “The runes are of the kind that must be read in the phase and season that they were written in. The moon phase we need will occur in three weeks.”

Thorin’s face grew grim, not pleased at the length of time needed for the runes to be read. However, there was nothing he could do but wait.

“You and your company are welcome to remain here while you wait,” the elf said. “This will give you time to rest, make what repairs you need, and I will use the time to ensure you have everything you require when you are ready to depart.”

“Thank you for your assistance and hospitality, Lord Elrond,” Thorin replied, giving a small bow. “Would it be possible to make use of your training fields? We are not a people who take idleness easily, and my sister-sons will need to be kept busy or I fear for the mayhem they could cause.”

A look of dread mixed with weariness crossed their host’s face.

“You have a pair of those too?”

The question caught the king-in-exile off guard, and he looked curiously at the other.

“What do you mean?”

“My sons are the same; if they are not kept busy, they turn to pranks and all sorts of mischief in order to entertain themselves,” the elf lord told him with a note of dread in his voice.

“I usually keep them under control, but their mother has a better time of it.”

“Their mother did too before she left us to heal,” Elrond said, a note of loss in his voice. “I do my best to keep them from becoming too mischievous, but there are times I know they use the pranks as a means of trying not to think of their loss.”

“My condolences,” Thorin said, realizing that his host and his family were trying to cope with the loss of the Lady of Imladris.

“Thank you,” he said. “I will do my best to keep Elladan and Elrohir from crossing paths with your company.”

“I will do the same with my sister-sons,” the dwarf agreed.

“I will have someone show you where the training fields and smithy are so that you and your company can make use of them,” Elrond said. “My library is also open to your company should anyone be interested in reading. I know Bilbo will be there if he is anything like his parents.”

Bilbo grinned widely; he had inherited his love of reading from both of his parents, and he was looking forward to exploring the library. His mother had spoken of it with awe, and he had hoped that things would work out so that he would get a chance to see it for himself.

Thorin spotted the expression on the hobbit’s face and chuckled, knowing that at least two members of the company would be living in that particular room.

“Just make sure you and Ori surface for meals and training,” he told the younger male, knowing that Ori would probably try to move into the library and having a feeling that Bilbo might be the same.

“We will,” Bilbo promised, making both of the lords chuckle.

“His mother was the same way,” Elrond said with a smile. “I can’t tell you how many times I had to send someone to find her, and it wasn’t easy since she found places to read that we didn’t know existed.”

“Advantage of being small,” the Tèarmunn answered. “We find nice cozy places that fit us just fine.”

“Very true,” Thorin said. “I did the same in Erebor’s library when I had a moment to myself to indulge in reading for pleasure. I’d find a nice quiet place to curl up in that was out of the way.”

“I used to sprawl across one of the shelves in a spare pantry in Bag End,” the hobbit admitted, blushing. “It irritated my father because he’d have to go checking the pantries to find me when I was late for lessons or meals. It was the perfect place to read during bad weather.”

His companions chuckled before Elrond sobered, changing the subject.

“Now, about this dream,” he said. “What I’d like to do is relax you enough so your mind will not try to withdraw from it and have you speak of what you see.”

“You can do that,” Bilbo asked.

“I can,” the elf answered. “Once that is done, I will use the time you are here to teach you how to handle dreams like this so you can remember and share what you saw.”

“Thank you,” the smallest male said softly. “If Irmo and the Valar are using dreams to give warnings, then I need to know how to do this so important messages won’t be missed. I’ve a feeling they may try it again.”

“You will be prepared,” Elrond promised. “Do you want Thorin to remain?”

“Yes please,” Bilbo replied. “Someone from the company needs to be here to observe this so we can discuss what needs to be done afterward.”

Thorin nodded, taking a seat not too far from Bilbo’s location. He watched as Elrond moved a chair close to where the hobbit was sitting, and he noticed the gleam coming from a ring the elf wore. The king-in-exile had a feeling he knew what it was but said nothing as he observed what was going on.

Elrond murmured softly in Quenya, using his gifts to lull the hobbit into a deep state of relaxation, and then he guided Bilbo back to the dream he’d had. He asked several questions and soon, Bilbo was describing his dream in detail.

Each description sent chills down Thorin’s spine, but his heart nearly stopped when he heard the hobbit describe the deaths of his sister-sons. This could not be allowed to happen; his boys were the source of his joy, and he would not allow this to come to pass!

The chills turned into absolute dread when the conversation between Bilbo and Erebor was shared; the hobbit’s side of the conversation was spoken in Westron while Erebor’s was spoken in perfect Khuzdul. The language of the dwarrow was one the king-in-exile knew the hobbit didn’t speak so he could only assume that the dream had allowed him to understand Erebor.

The two lords shared a look of concern once the recitation of the dream finished; this was not a good situation, and Thorin knew he would have to try to figure out what Erebor’s true heart was in order to aid her in her healing. In the back of his mind, he knew the Arkenstone had been wrong but hadn’t been able to say anything about it.

Thror had been obsessed with the stone, foolishly having their allies swear allegiance on the stone instead of on the blood that flowed through the veins of their family. That action is what had their people in such a dire situation because Thorin could not gain the aid he needed to recover the home that would enable the dwarrow of Durin’s Folk to thrive.

Once Bilbo came out of the trance, he looked over at the leader of the company and questioned him softly.

“I don’t understand what she means by the poison,” he said. “What is she talking about?”

“A few years after my grandmother went to Mahal’s Halls, a stone was found by a miner,” Thorin began. “It shone with an inner light that drew attention to its beauty. My grandfather took it as a sign that he was meant to rule, deemed it the heart of the mountain, and named it the Arkenstone. He had out allies swear allegiance on the stone, which means that if our family tries to call for aid, we must produce the stone. The idea of our allies needing the stone to be loyal to us has never sat well with me, but I was not of age back then and could not say anything.

“Shortly after the stone was found, the gold sickness overcame my grandfather and he became more focused on the gold and treasure than he was the needs of his people. My father and I took on what we could, but more and more of the craft of our people were stored in his treasury instead of being sold or traded for items we could not produce. Had this continued and Smaug not come, I would have had to challenge my grandfather for the throne as soon as I came of age in order to keep our people fed.”

“Why didn’t your father do it,” Bilbo asked.

“My father was an intelligent and compassionate dwarf,” Thorin said, looking sad as his hand rested where the key lay over his heart. “However, for all of his intelligence, he did not see the Arkenstone as the root of our problem. With Mother’s health so poor, he would have succumbed to the lure of the gold as my grandfather did. I could not take that risk with so much at stake.”

“I had suspected the madness to run within the blood or was due to the ring Thror wore,” Elrond said, watching as the dwarf shook his head.

“The ring Celebrimbor gifted to Durin did not influence those who wore it,” he told the lord of Imladris. “When my ancestor realized that our dear friend had been deceived and was murdered, he went to Galadriel and she, along with other elves of power, were able to minimize Sauron’s influence on the ring through the One Ring. They couldn’t cut it off completely but their work, combined with the stubbornness of dwarrow, enabled the one who wore Durin’s ring to wear it without any ill effects. I believe the other six were brought before them as well before they were lost.”

“She never mentioned it,” the elf mused. “All this time, most of us had the wrong impression regarding the illness your grandfather suffered.”

“She did it to keep us safe,” the dwarf said softly. “Sauron was looking for them, and she wanted to try to keep the dwarf lords from falling to him as the nine kings of men had.”

“So how do we destroy this stone,” Bilbo asked. “I imagine shattering it with a hammer isn’t going to work.”

“No,” the king-in-exile replied. “We heat the main forge until it reaches the right point and melt it down. What’s left will be put into a metal lockbox and then sent to be cast into the sea.”

“I didn’t know you could melt stone,” he said, blushing slightly. “And finding Erebor’s heart?”

“I’ll have to speak with the others on this,” Thorin stated. “I am unsure what she meant by that, and it will take research to see if we can discover what it is. Perhaps this is one of the reasons our Makers wanted you with us?”

“It’s possible,” the Tèarmunn answered, chewing on his lower lip as he thought about it. “I had thought it was because of the ground Smaug burned, but it’s possible they had other tasks in mind for me as well as helping with the damaged lands. I’ll have to meditate on it and ask for guidance; hopefully, I’ll get an answer.”

“We should tell the company about the dream,” he told Bilbo, rising to his feet. “You have my thanks, Lord Elrond.”

“You are most welcome, Thorin,” Elrond answered. “I shall do some research myself and see what can be done to help you.”

Once they were gone, before going to speak to the two Istari waiting for him, the elf lord summoned one of his most trusted friends. When the blond arrived, Elrond looked into the vibrant blue eyes of the ancient elf.

“I have a task that will require your expertise, my friend,” he began. “How do you feel about going on a hunt?”

“What’s the target,” the new arrival asked.

“There are two orcs, larger than most and pale, who seek to destroy the line of Durin,” Elrond answered. “Glorfindel, they need to die and as soon as possible because a great deal hinges on the survival of Thorin Oakenshield and his line.”

The Balrog Slayer smirked at his friend, anticipating the hunt.

“I will see to it they are destroyed,” he told Elrond. “I will need warriors with me in case the two are not together.”

“Take what you need,” the dark haired male said. “Be safe but do this as quickly as you can.”

“It will be done,” Glorfindel promised, exiting the room to gather his gear and form up the two parties who would go hunting with him.

Elrond rubbed his temples for a moment, knowing his actions would hopefully make things easier for the company. This was all he could do for now so he rose and went to speak to the two Istari who were in his halls. Hopefully, their news would not be as stressful as what he had just finished.

Chapter Text

Sitting on a branch, Bilbo leaned against trunk, idly nibbling on an apple he’d snatched from the kitchens as he watched the elf lord pacing. Something had upset Elrond, and the hobbit had a feeling it wasn’t just because of the dream their host had helped him to share. He suspected the wizards had something to do with it, but he wasn’t sure what it had been. Radagast’s presence in Rivendell only worried him since it was well known that the wizard did not leave his chosen territory often and had not been seen in the Shire for quite some time.

“Something troubling you, Bilbo?”

At the familiar voice, Bilbo looked down from where he was perched to spy the very wizard he’d been thinking of. He smiled, slipping down from the branch to land beside his friend.

“Worried that something is wrong,” he told his friend. “You haven’t been seen in the Shire for a long while, and now you’re here.”

“I am sorry, my friend, for making you worry,” Radagast said, sitting on the ground and patting the spot beside him.

The hobbit sat down, still holding onto his apple as he looked at the wizard he’d known all of his life. He could see the concern on his face and hoped that it wasn’t as serious as he feared.

“What happened, Radagast?”

“I know I usually make a trip into the Shire for supplies,” he answered. “However, something has started infecting the Green Wood. Plants and animals are dying from poison and darkness; there are webs, Bilbo, giant webs that block out the sun.”

“Spiders that size haven’t been seen in centuries,” Bilbo whispered, remembering the history he’d been taught by his family as well as the wizards whenever they came to visit the Shire.

“I know,” Radagast said, looking grave. “Yet these spiders are of the size of Ungoliant and must be her spawn.”

Bilbo shuddered, knowing that this kind of evil would kill any plant or animal. Ungoliant had played a large role in the destruction of the two trees, and it was well known that the webs from spiders descended from her would be of a similar size.

“This does not bode well for that area,” he murmured, looking at his friend. “You say this infection has begun in the Green Wood?”

“It has taken a strong foothold, and even the elves cannot fight it. The woodsmen in the area have changed the name of the forest to Mirkwood because light has difficulty getting through the webs. Even the waters have become tainted.”

“Merciful Yavanna,” the Tèarmunn exclaimed. “Radagast, do you know where these spiders came from? Ungoliant has not been seen for a very long time.”

“I traced the path back,” the wizard answered. “The darkness has come from Dol Guldur.”

It took Bilbo a moment to realize where he’d heard that name before, and a shiver went down his spine. This was troubling in more than one way, and he could see the fear in his friend’s eyes.

“You went to Dol Guldur? Radagast, what did you find?”

“Dol Guldur is no longer abandoned,” Radagast shared, voice too soft to be heard by anyone other than Bilbo. “I was attacked by what looked to be a Nazgûl; I was able to chase it away but saw something utterly evil. There is a necromancer there, Bilbo, and he is powerful enough to waken one of the Nine.”

The dread turned into fear; Bilbo knew what the Nazgûl were, and this was not a good thing. He chewed his lower lip, staring at his friend for a long moment.

“Has it left Dol Guldur, do you think?”

“Not yet,” the wizard replied. “I’m not sure it’s strong enough to do so yet, but it troubles me a great deal. I brought evidence to Rivendell for Elrond and Gandalf to see – a Morgul blade.”

“A simple sorcerer or wizard could not raise one of the Nine,” Bilbo stated, shaking his head. “When I asked Gandalf about it after one of my lessons, he said the Nine were buried in tombs that were heavily enchanted.”

“Now you understand my concerns.”

“I do indeed,” the hobbit answered. “Radagast, just how far has the infection of Green Wood spread?”

Radagast drew a rough map of the forest, and he showed his friend just how far the darkness had spread. It was sickening to both of them to see just how much of the forest was sick from the corruption emanating from Dol Guldur.

“I need to tell Thorin,” Bilbo murmured.

“Why would you need to do that,” the Istar asked.

“Our path takes us through the forest, through the heart of the infection,” the Tèarmunn replied. “We will either need to find another path or ensure we are prepared for what we will face.”

“You mean to retake Erebor,” Radagast stated, looking worried.

“We do, and it has the blessing of both our Mother and Father,” he told the other male. “Lord Elrond knows and is seeking to help where he can. I think I see why the quest has the blessings of the Valar.”

“How do you mean?”

Blue eyes looked into the blue-gray of the wizard as the warrior of Yavanna answered the question put to him.

“If the darkness continues to spread and this necromancer is more than we think he is, then keeping a dragon within reach is not wise. Smaug must die before the darkness reaches Erebor,” he told him. “There’s something else you should know too.”

Quietly, Bilbo shared the dream he’d been given and Radagast leaned back against the tree as he thought over the hobbit’s words. This was troubling, and something had to be done about it and soon before the darkness became too entrenched in Middle-Earth to be removed.

“The dragon must die and the Arkenstone must be destroyed,” the wizard agreed. “However, this new heart for the mountain will take some thinking on. If I come up with something, I’ll let you know. Just promise me you’ll be careful.”

“I will,” he said with a sigh, rubbing the back of his neck for a moment.

Thinking on Radagast’s words, Bilbo knew he would have to present all of this to his Parents and hope the Valar would have answers for him. This quest had become even more dangerous, and he wasn’t exactly sure he could keep his friends safe.

“Bilbo!”

Looking up, he spied Kili, Ori, and Fili approaching them. He smiled and introduced them when they were close enough, and the archer tilted his head.

“Are you the one that plays conkers against Bilbo?”

“I am,” Radagast answered with a chuckle. “I should have known better than to play against one of Yavanna’s Tèarmunn; they are blessed with better hand-eye coordination than the other hobbits. I lost a book to this one last time I played.”

“It made for a very nice read,” Bilbo teased, eyes sparkling with mirth.

“You still owe me a rematch, scamp,” the wizard replied, poking him playfully.

“I will happily oblige you; we just need to find a horse-chestnut tree first,” the hobbit said with a grin. “I’ve not seen any yet.”

“Southern most garden,” the Istar said, getting up when Bilbo rose to his feet.

“Well then, lets see if the tree is accommodating so we can have our rematch,” the smaller male answered, following Radagast’s instructions to the southern garden.

There were a few horse-chestnut trees there, but no chestnuts to be found.

“I guess this means you can’t play,” Ori asked, sounding disappointed as he and the other two had wanted to see what a game of conkers looked like.

“Wait and see, Master Dwarf,” Radagast said with a smile.

Bilbo shook his head, laying a hand on the trunk of one of the trees as he pushed a bit of his power into it. He could hear the exclamations of awe as the tree absorbed his energy and began growing the chestnuts needed for the game. Once the chestnuts were ready, he stopped and took a couple of steps back to eye his work.

“That was amazing,” Fili said. “We saw the trees react during your nightmare as well as what you did with the trolls.”

“I just loaned my energy and asked the tree for chestnuts,” the hobbit said, climbing the tree to find the conker he wanted.

It took time to prepare the conkers for the game and by the time they were ready, Kili had retrieved the company so they could watch the two play. All of them had heard of the activity before but had never played it themselves or seen it played.

“Since you asked for the rematch, you can go first,” Bilbo offered with a smile, holding the conker up as the string dangled from his hand.

Radagast wrapped the string around his hand several times and took a swing at the dangling conker. He missed, and it was Bilbo’s turn.

The hobbit didn’t miss as often as the wizard did, though the string tangled several times, and there was a rush of “snags” as both opponents tried to claim the extra turn. The two kept playing, breaking into laughter when the conker swung back to hit them.

Bilbo could hear the murmurs from the dwarrow as the game continued, and he finally won after a few rounds when his conker hit just right and cracked the wizard’s. Radagast shook his head, grinning at his small friend.

“Good thing we didn’t put any stakes on this or I’d be missing another book,” the Istar said with a laugh.

“True enough,” the Tèarmunn answered, chuckling as he did so. “You’ve been practicing; you didn’t miss nearly as often as you did during our last game.”

The Istar soon left, citing a need to chat with Gandalf and Elrond, and the others approached once the wizard was gone.

“That was amazing,” Bofur chirped, sitting on a bench as he did so.

“You were not joking about the hand-eye coordination needed for the game,” Fili said, shaking his head. “You say hobbit children play this game?”

“As soon as their parents deem them old enough, fauntlings are taught to play conkers and there are competitions during various festivals and parties,” Bilbo answered.

“Looks to me like a good way to put an eye out,” Oin said. “I can see older children playing this, but there’s still a large potential for getting hurt.”

“There’s always bruises,” the hobbit answered. “But we learn quickly to keep vulnerable areas guarded while playing. Hobbits were blessed with good hand-eye coordination, and conkers is one of the ways we train our fauntlings to work on that as well as keep in practice ourselves. My father could knock birds out of the tree from a fair distance, and it’s not unusual to see farmers and their families keeping stones in their pockets to chase off birds trying to nibble at their crops.”

“Sounds like a good way to train the younger generations,” Kili told his uncle. “Might find some long-distance fighters that way and get them started learning the bow when they’re ready.”

Thorin nodded, contemplating what his sister-son had suggested. Archers were not always considered to be good fighters by his people, but he had seen Kili do some amazing things with his bow and knew that having archers on the battlements of Erebor would come in handy in the future.

“Bilbo, when and if the opportunity arises, would you be willing to teach this game to the younglings? It would not only help with potential warriors but also any form of crafting could benefit from it,” the king-in-exile asked.

“I would be honored,” he answered. “Just come up with an age that will be right for them to learn, and I’ll teach them to play. In fact, since we’re waiting on the moon, I wouldn’t mind teaching the company if they want to learn.”

Quite a few agreed, interested in a new game, and as they discussed all of this, Bilbo went to Thorin and pulled him aside.

“When things calm down, we need to talk,” the Tèarmunn told the leader. “There’s some things I learned today that will have an impact on the quest.”

Thorin eyed the hobbit for a moment, seeing the seriousness on his face, and he nodded.

“It might be after dinner, but I will make sure to find time for this conversation,” he promised. “Just us or should I have Balin with me?”

“Balin helps you with planning,” he asked.

“Balin is my head adviser, and Dwalin is my Shield as well as the leader of my guard,” he answered.

“Bring both of them,” Bilbo answered. “You’ll need their input for this, and it’s best we have a plan in place before we leave Rivendell.”

“It’s that important?”

“Yes, it’s that important,” the other responded before slipping away to answer questions about the game he was going to teach them.

Thorin watched him go, feeling his stomach churning with anxiety. Whatever it was, it had to be crucial for him to know because he’d not seen that expression on Bilbo’s face before. He sighed, praying that this would not put his family at too serious a risk or hinder the quest.

Chapter Text

It turned out that the conversation Bilbo needed to have with Thorin had to take place after the evening meal, and he met both the king-in-exile and Balin in the dwarf lord’s bedroom so they could have some privacy.

“What is it you needed to speak with us about,” Thorin asked Bilbo.

The hobbit paced a moment, trying to gather his thoughts, and both dwarrow were concerned about the Tèarmunn.

“I had a talk with Radagast earlier,” he began, sinking into a chair that faced the two males with him. “There’s some things he told me that will be a hindrance and serious concern for us after we cross the Misty Mountains.”

“What did he tell you,” Balin asked.

“The reason we haven’t seen him in the Shire is because there’s a darkness that’s been steadily infecting the Green Wood,” the hobbit began. “Plants and animals are dying from the darkness, and giant spiders have infested the wood with their webs and more poison. He believes they’re Ungoliant’s spawn.”

Both dwarrow sat up straighter, recognizing the name. As nobles, they had been given a deeper education in history and they knew the name of the spider who had aided Morgoth in destroying the two trees.

“Is he certain?”

“I’m afraid so, Thorin. For all that Radagast can appear as crazed, the Istar knows nature as well as hobbits since Yavanna and Vána gifted him with the task to watch over the things that grow. This poison and darkness is infecting plants, animals, and has tainted most of the water sources in the forest. It’s gotten to the point where people are calling it Mirkwood now; the elves have not been able to destroy it.”

Balin ran a hand over his beard, thinking hard over the information Bilbo was giving them. This didn’t bode well for the part of the journey that would take them through Thranduil’s realm.

“Did Radagast give you any idea of where these spiders originated or where the source of this darkness might be,” the adviser asked.

“He followed the trail of the spiders,” the Tèarmunn shared, looking very disturbed. “It led him to Dol Guldur.”

“He went to that accursed place,” Thorin asked, eyes wide.

“He did,” Bilbo said, shifting some in his seat. “He discovered that the old fortress is no longer abandoned and was attacked by a Nazgûl.”

Thorin and Balin looked startled, sickened, and frightened by his news. They shared a long look before the king-in-exile questioned the company’s burglar further.

“Is he certain of it? They were entombed after the war ended, and history speaks that there were powerful spells laid upon those tombs.”

“He brought evidence of the attack – a Morgul blade,” the hobbit answered softly.

“What in Mahal’s name could have brought one of the Nine out of their tombs,” the white haired dwarf asked.

“Radagast spoke of a necromancer,” Bilbo shared. “This person must be incredibly powerful to go through the spell and raise one of the Nazgûl like this.”

“Bilbo, is this wizard to be trusted?”

“Yes, Thorin, he is. He is wise and knowledgeable, acting for the good of others without the plots that the other Istari have,” the smaller male replied. “I trust Radagast to speak the truth.”

Thorin got up to pace, mind working at a furious pace as he worked through the information Bilbo had shared. This was ill news, and it worried him deeply.

“I think I understand now why the Valar sent the vision to our host along with orders to help us,” the dark haired dwarf stated. “The reviving of one of the Nazgûl can only mean that someone is hoping to aid Sauron in regaining his power.”

“A lot of people believe him dead,” Bilbo said. “But the kind of power it would take to handle the enchantments on the tombs means that this necromancer had to get it from someone who has ties to Morgoth.”

The dwarrow shook their heads, and Balin shared something that was not spoken outside of Durin’s Folk.

“We know the One Ring was tied to Sauron’s life force; he poured too much of himself in the crafting of it. As long as it remains lost and whole, the Dark Lord will not die.”

The hobbit looked startled, and the elder dwarf explained.

“The elves and Istari are not the only ones to know of the Rings of Power, my friend. The last elf to hold the title of Dwarf Friend was Celebrimbor,” Balin told him.

“The one who learned to create the Rings of Power and crafted the ones given to men, dwarrow, and elves,” Bilbo stated, blinking when the dwarf nodded and continued.

“Sauron deceived all of them, teaching them to craft these rings. Celebrimbor didn’t know what he had done until it was discovered that this Annatar was indeed Sauron, and he shared his worries with the king of Khazad-dûm. The One Ring wasn’t discovered until our friend’s death, but we knew enough of the creation of these rings to realize that Sauron had to have done something to tie himself to the damned thing.”

“With all of this in play and no one knowing the whereabouts of that damned ring, the Valar want to clear the board of anything that Sauron can use against the people of Middle Earth,” Thorin said. “It’s why Elrond was told to help us; Smaug has to be destroyed before this darkness can reach out to him and convince him to ally with the necromancer.”

“So we’re not only destroying a potential weapon but also providing a stronghold in the East against the darkness,” Balin sighed. “This is going to be an incredibly difficult task; we’ve no idea how badly the mountain was damaged by the dragon as well as time.”

“We shall endure and make do as we always have,” Thorin stated. “We’ve never balked at difficult tasks before and won’t do so now. Balin, go and fetch the company. We need to talk about what Bilbo has shared with us.”

The adviser nodded, leaving the room, and Bilbo watched as Thorin continued to pace the room. It was obvious there was a great deal on his mind, and the hobbit wished there was something he could do to ease the other’s worries.

“Bilbo, thank you for sharing this with us. We have a chance to plan as much of this as we can now that we have an idea of what we’ll be walking into,” the dwarf lord told the other.

“I knew you needed to know,” he answered. “It’s been weighing heavily on my mind since Radagast told me.”

“What do you think Elrond’s response to this information will be,” Thorin asked.

“I think it will strengthen his resolve to follow the Valar’s command,” the Tèarmunn stated. “More than likely, he will send word to the other members of the White Council so the information and evidence can be presented and discussed.”

“Which could possibly put our quest in jeopardy as I doubt the other members of the council will give us their blessings,” the dark haired male muttered, just loud enough for Bilbo to hear.

“From what I’ve read, I think Lady Galadriel and Círdan will not argue against the quest. Like our host, both are gifted with the Sight and will be given warnings by the Valar not to hinder us. According to the histories, Círdan’s abilities with the Sight far surpass any of the elves in Arda,” Bilbo shared.

“Which leaves the White Wizard,” the other stated, frowning. “He is the one who troubles me.”

“How so? Isn’t he the Istar trained by Mahal?”

“He is, but he has no love for the children of the one who taught him,” Thorin said. “There have been times when requests have been sent to him for advice or aid by various clans, and he turned them away with harsh words. We know him to have no respect for most beings, outside certain elves, and we have heard rumors he shows little respect for some of his fellow Istari.”

“Do you think the council will listen if he tries to forbid the quest?”

“Based on what you and I have read on the other members of the council, it is my hope that they will override his wishes on forbidding the quest,” the king-in-exile stated. “Regardless, this company will leave after the map is read, even if it means sneaking out of Rivendell.”

“I’ll do some nosing around and see if I can’t find another way out of here,” Bilbo offered. “If we’re lucky, there may be an exit that isn’t watched too heavily that will be closer to the Misty Mountains than the main entrance or the one we came in.”

“That will be helpful,” he answered. “I’ll get Nori to help you, but you might not be noticed as easily as a dwarf would be.”

Bilbo nodded but was unable to answer when Balin came in with the rest of the company. Everyone found seats where they could, some perching in windows or sitting on the floor, and once they were settled, Thorin shared everything Bilbo had told him.

The company listened in silence, and the hobbit could see expressions of concern, fear, and anger settling on the faces of his companions. He could sympathize as he’d been feeling all of that since Radagast had shared the news with him.

“With this news, I have come to the decision that I will not hold you to the contracts you signed,” Thorin stated once he’d finished delivering the news. “We never anticipated running into darkness this evil; we cannot be certain the Nazgûl will remain in Dol Guldur. Should you wish to return to Ered Luin, I will give you my blessings.”

“You’re continuing, aren’t you,” Bombur asked.

“Our people need a home,” he answered. “Our circumstances have not changed, but the pressure to reclaim Erebor is now greater because of the need to remove Smaug from the board before this necromancer can entice him to his side. Our mountain is needed as a stronghold should this darkness continue to spread. Knowing all of this, I will not be swayed from this quest.”

Fili and Kili shared a look before kneeling in front of their uncle. They spoke in perfect unison with their heads bowed and hands fisted over their hearts.

“We offer our blades, axes, and bow to your service, Thorin Oakenshield, King of Durin’s Folk. We will follow you wherever you lead; your quest is our quest. We are yours to command, my liege.”

Thorin’s eyes softened, and he laid a hand on each of his nephew’s heads.

“I accept your oaths, Fili and Kili, sons of Dis, and I value your loyalty.”

Once the two backed away, the rest of the company swore themselves to Thorin’s service, going by family units. The oaths were spoken with surety and determination, and Bilbo could see that the dwarf lord was touched by the show of faith his company was giving. When Bombur, Bifur, and Bofur had reclaimed their spots, the hobbit rose and knelt in front of Thorin as well.

The Tèarmunn mimicked the company by placing a fist over his heart and bowing his head while he spoke to the leader of the group.

“Before our parents, Mahal and Yavanna, I swear to follow you, Thorin Oakenshield, on this journey. Your quest is my quest, and my weapons are at your service,” he vowed, relaxing only when the dwarf rest a hand on his head.

“Thank you, Bilbo Baggins-Took, Tèarmunn of Yavanna. You honor me with your oath, and I shall do all I can to guide this company as safely as possible to our destination,” he promised. “My oath to all of you – my sword and ax will always work with yours in order defend our people and home.”

Bilbo rose and returned to his seat, feeling better now, and he tilted his head when Fili spoke of something that hadn’t crossed his mind.

“There is something we haven’t considered,” the heir said to his uncle.

“What is that, Fili?”

“Bilbo has a connection to nature because of being a hobbit, and it’s strong since he’s a Tèarmunn. From what I understand, it’s a very strong connection. How is he going to handle being in Mirkwood since it’s poisoned?”

Thorin froze, and all eyes turned to the hobbit. The smallest member of the company sighed, shaking his head.

“I’m not sure,” Bilbo answered, glad Fili had thought of this problem. “I’ll see if I can’t find a way to present the question to our parents and see if a solution presents itself.”

“How serious a problem is this,” Oin asked.

“It depends on how extensive the poisoning is,” the hobbit replied. “If it’s bad, it will affect my health. We will need to try to go as quickly as possible without compromising our safety if I don’t get an answer from the Green Lady.”

“We will do what we can to ensure you stay healthy,” Thorin promised, looking worried. “Fili, thank you for bringing this up. I had not thought of this potential problem.”

“I hadn’t either,” Bilbo said, rising to his feet. “If you lot will excuse me, I will see if I can find an area where I can meditate and ask for advice.”

The group quickly waved him on, and he headed out of the room. The Tèarmunn had a lot weighing on his mind, and he hoped Yavanna or one of the other Valar would have some answers.

Chapter Text

Bilbo’s wanderings through the various gardens of Imladris eventually led him to a quiet area with a small stream and gorgeous flowers. He was surprised to find to discover a statue of Yavanna and mused that it looked remarkably like her. A part of him wished his family could see it; most of the images of their Mother and Her husband were carved in the grotto as no one had attempted to paint or recreate the images of the two Valar anywhere else in the Shire.

This particular spot in the gardens felt right so he sat on the ground, hands resting comfortably in his lap as he began meditating. The problems that had been raised over the last few days were weighing heavily on his mind, and it was a struggle to keep his thoughts organized as he tried to reach out to the Valië who had created his people.

“Something is troubling you,” a deep voice spoke, causing Bilbo’s abilities to spike in recognition.

“Quite a few things, Great Father,” he answered in a respectful tone. He was rather surprised Mahal had answered instead of Yavanna, but he was just happy to have gotten any form of response.

Mahal sat beside the Tèarmunn with a look of concern on His face. He knew that there were quite a few problems troubling this child and while there were some things He could not answer, He would do his best to provide what comfort He could.

“I will answer what I can, young Bilbo,” He said to His adopted child.

“Firstly, the path through Mirkwood will cause significant problems due to my ties to nature,” Bilbo began. “My friends and I are worried that this will be an issue that could slow our quest down, and I have no wish to be a burden on them. Reclaiming their home is incredibly important.”

“This is a problem I can aid you with,” the Vala said with a smile, reaching into a pocket and placing a pendent around the hobbit’s neck. “After I finished making it and laying my own blessings on it, this pendent was enchanted by my wife and Vána to ensure the sickness of Mirkwood will not affect your health. You will need your wits about you in that forest, and we knew that you would not be able to focus on what was important if you were ill due to the poison that is destroying Mirkwood. My lady wife has asked that once Erebor is reclaimed and you have time that you help purify the woods. The infection has reached the point where the elves cannot do this so a Tèarmunn must help the land recover.”

“I will,” Bilbo promised, pleased to know that a solution had been found.

“What else is worrying you?”

“The necromancer Radagast found in Dol Guldur,” the Tèarmunn answered. “He is not one to react to danger as he has so this is a problem of extreme significance.”

“I will not lie to you, son,” Mahal stated. “Radagast is right to be so alarmed; the darkness in Dol Guldur is tied to Morgoth and His servant. You must proceed cautiously because there are forces at work who do not want the Line of Durin on Erebor’s throne once more. Thorin Oakenshield is a formidable leader with a lot of experience leading his people in times of peace and war, and the enemy has no wish to face an army that will rally to his banner.”

“Is this why Azog was so determined to end the Line during Azanulbizar,” he asked, stumbling a bit on the name of the battle.

“It is,” the creator of the dwarrow answered, watching the hobbit. He was glad the young male was putting things together on his own since this was bordering on the edge of what He was not able to answer.

Bilbo thought for a moment, chewing on his lower lip as he did so. Something was odd here, and he could almost put his finger on it.

“That battle was so long ago,” he murmured, working things out in his mind. “If he was so determined then, this must mean that someone was pushing him to go after the Line that early. Morgoth’s servant must have been worried about Erebor being reclaimed even then.”

“Khazad-dûm is in a unique place in regards to strategy,” Mahal replied. “It is close to three of the elvish kingdoms and also gives the ones who hold the kingdom closer access to Rohan and Gondor. It’s a strategic location the servants of darkness could not give up.”

“Since the Line of Durin was the one to call for the clans to unite to fight against the orcs occupying Khazad-dûm, it was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone,” he murmured, running fingers through his hair.

“Exactly,” the Great Smith commented. “With Thror anxious to regain that fallen kingdom, Azog was allowed to go after the royal family but could not do so once the Longbeards settled in Ered Luin.”

“They would have had to go past Rivendell as well as deal with the rangers,” Bilbo said. “That’s why they didn’t try to continue the hunt for those of Durin’s blood.”

Mahal nodded, waiting for Bilbo to continue with his other concerns.

“That explains some of the dream I had,” he murmured to himself. “I’m just confused as to what Erebor’s true heart is. No one knows what it could be, and this is the only way to keep the mountain safe.”

“That I cannot answer,” He said with a note of regret in his voice. “The solutions you seek will come to you in time. What I can tell you is that the first act after Smaug is killed is to destroy the Arkenstone and ensure the remains of it are disposed of outside of Erebor.”

“Thorin has plans to melt it down in one of the forges,” the Tèarmunn told Him. “I didn’t even know stones and gems could be melted down, but he says it can.”

“It takes an incredible amount of heat to do so,” Mahal shared. “One of the great forges deeper in the mountain can produce that amount of heat so that would be the ideal location to destroy the Arkenstone.”

“Is there any advice you can give me before we leave Rivendell, Great Father?”

“You will be called upon in many ways once you leave this sanctuary,” He told him. “The company will provide what assistance that they can give, but you must be strong as there will be actions you must take in order to ensure this journey is successful. Some of the things you must do may very well anger you, but you need to focus on those affected and not the one who has roused your temper. Stay alert, my son, and do not be afraid to rely on others when you need to.”

“I will, Great Father,” Bilbo answered, bowing his head respectfully. “Thank you for taking the time to speak with me; your aid is greatly appreciated.”

The Vala rested His hand on the blond head for a moment, offering comfort and support before disappearing.

The hobbit rubbed a hand over his face, trying to pull his thoughts together. Although he’d been given some answers, he still was worried about what lay ahead of them in the future. The Vala had seemed rather worried about the darkness, and Bilbo knew that Morgoth was dangerous. He was well versed in the histories, and he wished that Isildur had been strong enough to destroy the One Ring after it had been cut from Sauron’s hand. If he’d done so, his friends would not be facing this darkness now and there was no telling how long the darkness would remain because that cursed item was lost.

With a deep sigh, Bilbo rose to his feet and went to find Thorin, knowing he needed to share what he had learned with the leader of the company. He wasn’t sure how the king-in-exile would react to the news about why his line was being hunted, but he knew the dwarf deserved to know.

He found the dwarf lord in one of the training fields, sparring against his eldest nephew while Kili was practicing the exercises the hobbit had given him in regards to increasing his speed. He could see Ori working with Dwalin, learning how to fight with the axes he’d been loaned by Gloin.

“Bilbo!”

The Tèarmunn smiled at Kili, waving in response to his greeting. Both Thorin and Fili turned when they heard the archer’s voice call out the name of their hobbit.

“Is everything all right,” Fili asked, looking worried when he saw the tired expression on Bilbo’s face.

“I’m not sure,” he answered, sitting down on the ground. “I just finished meditating, and the Great Father came to talk to me instead of Lady Yavanna.”

With that bit of news, Thorin, Kili, and Fili joined him in sitting down. They were surprised by the information Bilbo had just shared and hoped that the news he had to give them would mean good things for their quest and future.

“I was told Radagast was right in being worried,” Bilbo began. “The darkness in Dol Guldur is tied to Morgoth and His servant.”

Thorin winced at that, having hoped the necromancer was a simple human with unnatural powers but had known that it would take more than that to break the enchantments on the tombs of the Nine and raise one of them.

“This is ill news,” he said, shaking his head.

“It doesn’t get better,” the hobbit warned. “I found out why Azog is so determined to wipe out the Line of Durin.”

Two pairs of sapphire blue eyes and one pair of warm brown were focused on him even more intently at the announcement, and Fili was the first to ask the question burning in their minds.

“Why?”

“The servant of Morgoth knows that if Erebor is reclaimed and Thorin rules as king, he will be able to muster an army to stand against him. There are not many who will refuse to rally to his banner, and the evil one knows that,” Bilbo shared. “This is why Azog was put on the task of destroying those of the royal line.”

“They were that threatened by my family that they started this hunt during Azanulbizar,” Thorin asked, sounding a mix of angry and saddened by the news he was listening to.

“I think your family came to the enemy’s notice when the clans united under the banner of the royal family of Durin,” the hobbit answered, having had time since the discussion with Mahal to think on it a bit more. “Khazad-dûm is a strategic location for both sides and not just because of the ores and gems that lay within its mines.”

“Rivendell lies to its west and the other kingdoms to the east,” Kili commented. “If they lost Khazad-dûm, the only staging grounds they would really have would be the Gray Mountains and Mordor. That puts them at a greater disadvantage for attacking the lands to the west.”

“Exactly,” the dwarf lord replied, giving his youngest nephew an approving nod. “Although it is difficult news to hear, I am grateful you were able to answer the questions that have been haunting my family for so long now.”

“I’m glad I was able to provide those answers,” Bilbo replied, running a hand through his hair and dislodging the leather thong he used to keep the shoulder length mass tied away from his face.

“That leaves two more important questions,” Fili said. “The true heart of Erebor and how to get you through Mirkwood without you becoming ill.”

“He was unable to answer about the true heart; all He could say was that the Arkenstone needed to be destroyed as soon as Smaug was killed,” the smaller male said with a sigh, tying his hair back once more. “He recommended one of the great forges to handle the task and then dispose of the remains outside of the mountain.”

“I may ask Gandalf to take the remains and dump them in the ocean,” Thorin rumbled, sounding anxious to have the source of poison outside of his home. “That way whatever is left cannot poison anything else.”

“Not a bad idea but check with him first so that we don’t poison the water,” the Tèarmunn suggested. “He might be able to enchant a container or something so that the remains don’t find their way out of it and poison something else.”

The king-in-exile nodded, realizing the hobbit had made a wise suggestion. He would make sure to talk to the Istar about this, maybe even ask Radagast since that particular wizard had a stronger tie to nature than the gray clad magic user.

“And what did the Stone Father say about Mirkwood,” Kili asked, knowing this particular problem was laying heavily on all of their minds.

“He gave me this pendent and told me that He had made it as well as blessed it, then the Green Lady and Her sister, Vána, enchanted it so that the sickness within Mirkwood would not affect me,” he said, holding the pendent out that he’d been given.

The three dwarrow took in the pendent their friend had been given. It was an acorn, which suited the hobbit quite nicely. The nut portion was crafted from a piece of topaz that was a warm shade of brown and had been polished smooth. The cap and stem were made from a metal that they were quick to recognize as mithril, and the metal had been perfectly engraved to mimic the cap and stem of a real acorn. The chain the pendent was fastened to was also crafted from tiny links of mithril. It was a gorgeous piece of work, and all of them were relieved to know that the Tèarmunn was now protected.

“I’m happy to know that you’re no longer at risk,” Fili said, looking rather relieved.

“As am I,” Thorin agreed. “I would keep that beneath your clothing, my friend. While the company would never do so, there are others who would steal that from you due to the metal our creator used to fashion it.”

Bilbo nodded, tucking it beneath the layers he wore.

“The only other thing that was spoken about was that the Great Mother wishes me to purify the woods,” he stated. “The Great Father reminded me that even though some people might anger me to the point where I may not wish to lend my aid, I must be mindful of those affected by the areas afflicted. I’ve a feeling I am going to have a lot of work to do once things settle down.”

“We will do all we can to support you through it,” the king-in-exile promised.

The hobbit smiled at them, happy at the knowledge that he had such good, caring friends. Being a Tèarmunn in the Shire meant there was a gap between him and the other hobbits he called family and neighbors. Only the Tèarmunn of his generation or the ones that preceded his understood, but most of those lived in other areas of the Shire. He’d only seen them during official training days or while making their rounds to ensure the borders of their homeland was safe.

The company understood him because violence was a very real threat in their lives; they respected his skills and encouraged him as he sought to improve himself so that he could protect those he called friends. Those who had combat experience often shared advice to help him better his abilities, and he was allowed to teach those who were willing to learn. They trusted him to not only fight alongside them but to protect them as they protected him.

This had given Bilbo something very precious, and he was willing to do all he could to ensure that every friend made it safely to their destination.

Chapter Text

Time passed slowly in Rivendell, and the company used their time in the elvish sanctuary wisely. They made use of the training fields, ensuring that everyone not only kept their skills sharp but also improved them. Bilbo found himself training Ori and Kili several times a day, and he also sparred with various members of the company so that he continued to better his skills as well. He wanted to be prepared for the next part of their journey and found that the others felt as he did.

Once the training was done, it was not unusual for him to find Balin, Ori, Fili, and Thorin in the large library that Rivendell contained. All of them were hoping to uncover any evidence of what Erebor’s true heart could be as well as information on the Nazgûl, Sauron, Morgoth, and dragons. Thorin had read the account of the battle where Isildur cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand, and Bilbo and Fili had been quick to show the others where the shards of the famed Narsil rested. Kili, who had been wandering the halls, joined them when he was told where they were going. The chance to see the legendary sword was too great an opportunity to pass up.

“I never thought to see this,” Balin murmured as they looked upon shattered sword. “I’ve read the account of Isildur’s battle against Sauron many times and often wondered if the drawings of Narsil were accurate.”

“I didn’t think anything could break elvish metal work,” Fili commented, blinking when his uncle spoke up.

“Elves did not craft Narsil,” Thorin told his sister-son, sharing a part of history that most people had forgotten. “The smith, Telchar, crafted it for the descendants of Elros, the first king of Númenor. We were honored to know that Isildur used it to bring down the Deceiver as many of us loathed him for his part in the death of a dear friend to the dwarrow of the Longbeard clan.”

“It’s a rare thing to be able to look upon something that played such a huge part in history,” the adviser stated.

“Legend states that the sword could once more be made whole and wielded again by one of royal blood,” Ori shared. “If it’s true, I wonder if Lord Elrond will have it reforged here or ask a dwarf to do it.”

“If one is here when Narsil is needed once more, I will ask a dwarf to reforge it,” a new voice stated, answering the scribe’s question. “Though we craft amazing things, the skill of the dwarrow is incredible and it would be an honor to have a dwarf mend what was broken.”

Thorin bowed his head slightly, acknowledging the compliment his people had been paid. Elves weren’t bad at crafting weapons, often creating things of beauty like the blade he now carried, but Mahal had taught His children how to coax the metal into forms that were strong and beautiful. Dwarrow had their own magic, taught to enchant each item in unique ways to protect their owners and ensure good fortune or health as well.

“If we are successful, send word when it is time to see Narsil whole and the finest weapon-smith Erebor has shall be sent to reforge this into a mighty blade once more,” he told the elf lord. “I will ensure my descendants will be informed of this promise and will be in readiness should you send the call.”

Elrond placed a hand over his heart, bowing in both gratitude and honor. He was being offered an amazing gift, and he would not refuse it.

“I am grateful,” he told the king-in-exile. “If you are willing to listen, I have some advice in regards to problem of bringing your people home safely.”

“I am willing to hear your words,” Thorin stated, knowing the other might have some useful advice for this issue.

“I am often in contact with the Dúnedain and can arrange for the chieftain to liaise with your regent so the caravan from Ered Luin to Erebor will have safe passage,” the elf offered.

“Please do so,” the dark haired dwarf said, looking somewhat relieved. “My regent is my sister, Princess Dis Axedancer. I will send her a letter to let her know to expect this and instruct her to ensure the arrangements are in place so they will be ready when I send word that our home is ours once more.”

“You are welcome to use our messengers,” he said. “If you’ll follow me, I can show you were to write your message and send it off.”

“I guess that means we should write Mum too,” Kili frowned, knowing their mother would want to hear from her sons as well. “I’ll write one from both of us, but you get to write the next one.”

“I promise I will,” the blond dwarf told his brother, who nodded and went with his uncle and the Lord of Rivendell.

Balin soon departed, murmuring something about continuing with his research, and Ori went with him. Bilbo knew they probably wouldn’t see them until dinner since both dwarrow were devoted to their crafts and research was a part of that craft. He would probably need to warn Dwalin or Dori about where they were in case the pair became so immersed, they ignored their growling bellies. One of the two would make sure the researchers stopped and ate the evening meal.

Once alone with Fili, the Tèarmunn looked back at Narsil, wondering if the blade would ever be reforged or if destiny will be altered with how things have been progressing so far. With the Nazgûl already moving, the hobbit was worried that this meant darker things were moving in the shadows and they were nowhere near prepared to handle this. He remembered one of his teachers commenting that prophecy was never really set in stone so it did make him curious as to what the future would hold from this moment on.

“Do you think we will see the sword reforged in our time,” the dwarf asked his friend, unknowingly echoing the thoughts he’d been rolling over.

At Fili's question, Bilbo shook his head, thinking about what the other had asked.

"That is Vairë’s domain," he said softly. "Narsil's future is supposedly bound to the One Ring so it's unknown if the prophecies will hold true or be changed. I guess it depends on where that damned ring is."

“True and since you shared Radagast’s news about Dol Guldur, I wonder if that ring will be found sooner rather than later. If it’s sooner, I think uncle would enjoy being the one to reforge this particular blade,” Fili commented, stepping away from the statue holding the tray where the pieces of Narsil lay.

"He might or might not be the one to do it," he said quietly. "We can't see Vairë's tapestries, and only She will know who will be the one to reforge Narsil. Truthfully, I'd love to see the prophecies rendered useless. There is a lot of bloodshed ahead of the ones tied to the fate of this sword, but I can somewhat understand why Thorin would want to be the one to remake it."

“I know he would but if the call is sent to Erebor, he would send his next best weapon-smith instead of going himself,” the prince pointed out. “As king, he’d not be able to go do it, especially if there’s that much bloodshed tied to Narsil’s fate.”

“Why couldn’t he leave you in charge so he could do it? You said he’s the best so it’d be madness to turn down such an opportunity,” Bilbo rebutted.

“Well, if the council tried to stop him, I’m sure Mum could put them into place,” he said with a smirk. “They know better than to cross her when she has her mind set on something.”

The hobbit laughed at that, having heard the stories about the fearsome princess. He knew her family was proud of her for her spirit and courage, and he was looking forward to meeting her in the future. Bilbo just hoped that the dwarrowdam would be friendly towards him.

“We’re going to have to be incredibly careful after we leave Rivendell,” the Tèarmunn said, thoughts going back to his worries.

“The Nazgûl as well as the dream,” Fili asked, watching the other closely.

“That and Saruman too,” Bilbo answered, running a hand through his hair and dislodging the hair tie. “I just hope the White Council can keep him under control and prevent him from interfering with the quest.”

“So do I,” he sighed. “I have heard so many stories about his attitude as well as his dislike for dwarrow. I think the Maker must be disappointed in him.”

“I have to wonder why He hasn’t stepped in and tried to put the wizard back on the right path,” the hobbit mused, pulling his shoulder length hair back into another ponytail at the nape of his neck. “Since he is the Istar taught by the Stone Father, he should be willing to help His children whenever they are in need.”

“You’d think so, but he doesn’t. I know my great grandfather sent a request for aid in finding a new home,” the blond dwarf said, heading out of the room where Narsil was exhibited. “Saruman sent the messenger away with bitter words, told him to tell the king not to bother him again.”

Bilbo fell in step with the other, listening to Fili. He shook his head, horrified by what was being shared with him.

“Unbelievable,” he murmured. “I don’t know anything about the Blue Wizards, but I know Radagast and Gandalf do all they can to help people. It’s so disappointing and infuriating to hear that the so-called leader of the Order will not do the same. What does he spend his time doing?”

“Research probably,” the dwarf answered in a dry tone of voice. “Collecting odd artifacts and telling people what to do whenever he deigns to communicate with them. I’ll be willing to bet that he only tolerates the other members of the White Council.”

“Círdan and Lady Galadriel must be incredibly patient if that is so,” Bilbo replied, shaking his head. “I don’t understand why they keep him on the council if that’s the case.”

“Because he is powerful and knowledgeable,” a new voice answered, making them turn. “His attitude is frustrating, but we must abide by it as his knowledge has been useful in the past.”

The elvish lord was standing near the path, and both of them gave a small bow as they greeted him.

“Good day, my lord,” Fili stated, eyeing the small child standing beside the lord.

“Good day, Prince Fili,” Elrond answered, smiling at the pair. “I would like to introduce my son, Estel. He had spoken of wanting to meet a dwarf and hobbit, and I spied the pair of you as he and I were walking to his lessons.”

“Hello Estel, I am Fili, son of Dis, at your service,” the dwarf said, bowing as he introduced himself.

“I am Bilbo Baggins-Took, at your service,” the hobbit stated with a warm smile.

“Hello Prince Fili, Master Baggins-Took,” the tiny child answered, bowing in response. “I am Estel, son of Lord Elrond, at your service.”

After the introduction, the little boy looked up at his father for reassurance and was given a proud smile and nod.

“Well done,” he praised, gently patting his shoulder.

“What lessons are you heading to, young master,” Fili asked, hoping to put the child at ease.

“Archery,” Estel answered, beaming happily at them. “Father is teaching me how to shoot.”

“Is that so? My brother is a good archer himself,” the dwarf shared. “He’s got very keen eyes for a dwarf, and he’s put food on the table for my family and others with his bow. Archery is a good skill to have.”

“Do you shoot,” the child asked.

“Oh no, I use throwing knives or axes,” Fili answered. “I didn’t have the patience for it, and Kili took to it like a hog to mud so I just learned to be accurate with my knives and axes. It’s always good to have a back up in case you can’t use your main weapons.”

“Very true,” Elrond stated. “Estel will be learning the sword in a few more months. At the moment, he has been learning hand to hand combat as well as working on his endurance. We have to pace him because of his youth.”

“I work hard,” Estel said, not bragging but speaking the truth. “What about you, Master Baggins-Took?”

“I use a hobbit weapon known as corran for close combat and a cearcall for ranged attacks,” Bilbo explained. “I can show them to you later once you are finished with your lessons provided your father agrees.”

“I certainly do,” the elf agreed. “It would be good for Estel to be exposed to the combat techniques of other races, and your race is not very well known. Perhaps an hour or two before the evening meal?”

“I am agreeable to that,” he answered. “In fact, if he is willing, Fili and I can spar together so Estel can see how these weapons work as well as get an idea of how our people fight since I doubt he will get this opportunity again.”

“I’m certainly willing,” Fili said, earning a wide smile from the lad. “Shall we say two hours before dinner? We can meet in our usual training field.”

“Two hours before dinner,” Elrond stated. “We shall meet you there. For now, I must get Estel to his lesson before he is late.”

“See you then,” the boy chirped, making Bilbo and Fili smile.

Once the pair were gone, the Tèarmunn looked at his companion with an apologetic expression on his face.

“I’m sorry if I volunteered you for that,” he began, blinking when the other cut him off with a warm smile.

“You didn’t,” the dwarf insisted. “Sharing knowledge is never a bad thing, and I would never pass up an opportunity to spar with you. It’s a learning experience each time we spar.”

“It’s the same for me,” Bilbo said. “Though I also find sparring with Thorin, Dwalin, or Balin a challenge as well. I’ve learned a lot from them and you.”

“That’s good,” Fili said as they continued on their walk. “Uncle says a warrior must never stop training and learning. The experience can save your life.”

“My teachers said the same thing,” he shared. “I have been enjoying the chance to spar with new people. After a while, you get used to what your normal training partners can do and that gets a bit old after a while.”

“True,” the other commented. “I’m still gaining in experience so I haven’t hit that point with my usual sparring partners. I think it’s because they’re constantly learning and adapting too.”

“Speaking of learning, do you think the company might be interested in learning my people’s language,” Bilbo asked, taking Fili by surprise. “I know your language is a hidden one, but there might be occasions where a different language might be useful. As far as I know, no one except Gandalf and Radagast knows our language.”

“I can’t speak for the others, but I’d like to learn. Don’t you hold your language as secret like we do?”

“It’s not something we share,” he admitted. “Gandalf and Radagast know because they’ve become friends of the Shire, even if Gandalf is often called a Disturber of the Peace. They were gifted the language because of things they’ve done to help us. All of you have become my friends, and your home will be mine so I want to share something with you.”

“I am very honored, Bilbo Baggins-Took, and I know the others will feel the same,” Fili said, surprising Bilbo by giving him a hug. “Let’s go talk to the others and see what they have to say about this, shall we?”

Bilbo grinned, hugging him back before walking back to the area where the company’s rooms were. He was glad Fili had accepted the offer and hoped the others would too. In his heart, he knew that offering the language was the right thing to do and just might come in handy in the future.

Chapter Text

The offer to learn the hobbit language was accepted by all, and the company had been honored to find that Bilbo held them in high enough esteem to make this offer. Bilbo spent the rest of the time in Imladris studying various texts in regards to solving their problems, sparring, teaching, meditating, or simply enjoying the company of the dwarrow.

He had found a secret way out and hoped they wouldn’t have to use it as it would be a bit difficult to reach. When told this information, Thorin had nodded, looking thoughtful as he processed what the hobbit had to share with him. Like Bilbo, he knew that an easier way out would be better considering most dwarrow were not built for stealth. They could do it if they needed to, but it would be difficult.

The dwarrow had occasionally found the hobbit in the gardens with Radagast, listening as the wizard instructed him on something. Knowing the Tèarmunn had a connection with nature, they didn’t interrupt these sessions because they had a feeling the extra knowledge would be needed for what the future held. They took inspiration from his dedication and spent time training, making sure they could work together in various combinations.

Thorin was growing more confident that this mission he and the others were on would succeed; they were coming together in ways he had never thought possible, and it was such a relief to see. With the assistance from their host, who had surprised him with his willingness to help them, and the king-in-exile believed even stronger in the success of their quest.

He did notice that the separation between his people and the elves was starting to erode. Balin had as well and had commented on it to him, prompting a discussion about what to do regarding this situation after Erebor was reclaimed. Having a treaty with Elrond and his people would benefit his people even though Rivendell was some distance away. His adviser agreed as well, and they made time to speak with the elvish lord about a treaty.

Elrond listened to Thorin’s words, knowing that the Valar were nudging this to happen. His own people, who were as equally stubborn as the dwarrow, were softening towards the company, and he was glad to see it. He knew his friend, who was gone on the mission he’d sent him on, would be happy to hear the news.

In his mind, it made sense that it would be the Longbeards that would be the clan of dwarrow to see the rift starting to heal. Thorin’s kin had been the final clan to maintain relationships with elves, claiming the elven craftsman, Celebrimbor, as an honorary dwarf. Elrond had been a child then, but he remembered his foster-father commenting on the closeness between his nephew and Narvi, the dwarven crafter who had been Celebrimbor’s partner.

The dissolution of the relationship between the elves and the Longbeard clan had taken place after Celebrimbor’s tragic demise. Things had unraveled horribly quick due to the turmoil that had shaken all of Middle Earth; Khazad-dûm had been lost, and the elves had been unable to aid them. That had been the catalyst for the breaking of the relationships between the Longbeards and most of the elves. Thranduil’s actions had finalized the distrust; not that Elrond could blame the dwarrow for no longer trusting his people. The elvish king of the Greenwood had broken a treaty by not coming to the aid of the dwarrow when Smaug had invaded.

Thranduil should have given aid to the ones who had been injured, offering sanctuary and supplies. He didn’t blame the king for not going after the dragon, but the neglect of the injured and homeless went against one of the mandates from their creators. That was an affront to all of them, and even Galadriel had distanced herself from the ruler of Greenwood. There was an unspoken decision that had been made between him, Galadriel, and Círdan that they would not include Thranduil in anything until he made amends for what he had done so they had not invited him to join the White Council.

Elrond pulled himself away from his thoughts, focusing on the conversation at hand.

“I do agree that such a treaty would be welcome for both of our people,” he said. “I am able to offer seedlings and seeds to help with the restoration of the lands the dragon destroyed. I know Master Baggins-Took will do all he can, but I’m certain extra hands will be of help.”

“We would be grateful for it,” Thorin answered. “My people know little of farming, and I’ve no idea if the men of Laketown will wish to rebuild Dale or if they retained the knowledge needed to feed their people.”

“I have people who can teach them,” he replied. “Or teach your people should the men not wish to rebuild Dale once the dragon is handled.”

“Again, we would appreciate that,” the dwarf lord stated. “Feeding my people is a priority. We can send trade goods once the forges are lit and supply whatever you need. I know your smiths are good ones, but my people have talents in things that your crafters do not.”

“A dwarf-forged item is a reliable and remarkable possession to have,” Elrond agreed. “I would be willing to open my doors to the merchants.”

“Before we depart, I would like the opportunity to discuss a formal treaty and try to have a rough draft of it drawn up.”

“Agreed,” he said, nodding. “I will make myself available in a day or two so we can have this discussion and see what Imladris can offer Erebor.”

“And what Erebor can offer Imladris,” Thorin commented. “I will wait for your messenger, Lord Elrond. Thank you for considering this.”

Thorin and Balin left a few moments after, and the elf lord leaned back in his seat. The offer of a treaty was a welcome one, but it surprised him to know that the head of the Longbeard clan was willing to do this.

“It may not be such a surprise to find him changing,” an unexpected voice commented, startling Elrond.

The male rose and turned, finding Galadriel entering his study through a set of doors that led out into one of his private gardens. He bowed, showing her respect before answering her.

“In truth, I had become used to thinking of dwarrow in one way only. A habit, I fear, that most of our fellow elves have fallen into. Thorin Oakenshield has surprised me several times since he entered my home,” he told her. “I believe he may have a few more in store for me before he departs.”

“You mean to allow them to continue on this quest?”

“I do mean to, my lady,” he replied. “I have Seen why this is important, and I will follow the orders of the Valar.”

Galadriel walked towards him, making no noise as she did so.

“I have Seen things too,” she said, looking rather haunted. “I had no idea the Longbeard clan had gone through so much difficulty nor did they receive much aid from the other clans. Saruman did nothing to assist them either.”

“We did not at the time,” Elrond answered, admitting to his own sins in not aiding an ailing people. “A fact I find myself deeply regretting. Even though they did not pass near Imladris, I should have sent riders to them with food and healing supplies.”

“Celeborn and I regret it as well. They might not have accepted it, but both kingdoms should have made an offer of assistance,” Galadriel answered, sitting down in a comfortable chair. “Thranduil’s betrayal left a very deep wound on their hearts, and I cannot blame them for it. He was as touched by greed as Thror had been.”

Taken aback by her words, he stared at her for a moment. This was something he had not considered, and it was troubling to know that one of their own could be touched by such a sickness.

“He came under the influence of the Arkenstone,” Elrond murmured. “According to the dream Irmo sent Master Baggins-Took, the Arkenstone poisoned the mountain and the people within.”

“He was touched by Irmo?”

“He was, and I believe he will experience more dreams as his path continues,” he replied. “He is a Tèarmunn, one of the few touched by Yavanna and Mahal each generation, and was chosen for this quest and for duties following it.”

“I had heard rumors,” Galadriel said, eyes a bit wide. “Yet I had no confirmation of such people existing. I only knew that halflings are a quiet people, fond of home and hearth.”

“Hobbits,” he corrected with a wince. “A dear friend of mine did her very best to correct me of that particular habit. They find the term halfling to be quite offensive so if you do happen to meet him, please try to remember that.”

“I will,” she agreed. “I should like to meet him as well as the others with him.”

“You will not attempt to stop their quest,” Elrond asked, feeling rather relieved when she shook her head as she answered.

“No, I will not hinder them nor will Círdan,” the Lady of Lothlórien told him. “He sent a message to me about the time my first vision came. He received one as well, and we have committed ourselves to aiding them when we can. I believe, as does he and Celeborn, that it is time for the relations between our people to be mended. My cousin would be disappointed with us in allowing the breaking of the friendship we enjoyed with the Longbeards.”

“I will be forming a treaty before they go,” Elrond said. “Also, based on Master Baggins-Took’s dream, I sent Glorfindel with a few warriors to find Azog and his spawn. Thorin and his nephews are the last of this direct branch of the line of Durin, and that orc is determined to kill anyone of that bloodline. According to what I was told, it’s because Thorin is a formidable leader and people would rally to his banner if he called to fight against the enemy.”

“Such a leader must be protected,” she murmured. “Glorfindel will enjoy that hunt; you chose wisely.”

“I feel it was the right choice,” he stated. “He won’t give up the hunt until he is successful, and that should make their journey a bit easier if they are not hunted by the pair.”

Galadriel nodded, lost in thought. There was something else preying on her mind, and it had been lingering since the first vision had come to her.

“What’s troubling you,” Elrond asked her, knowing his wife’s mother well enough to know that something was weighing on her.

“Saruman,” she answered after several moments of silence. “Images of him have been brought to me either in dreams or my mirror. I have heard more and more of him refusing to aid others, including the children of the Vala he was taught by. Something is wrong.”

“He has always been standoffish with others,” he told her. “Mithrandir does not seem alarmed by it, and you would think he would know if something wasn’t right.”

“Perhaps,” the lady murmured. “We should be mindful in case something is wrong, and Mithrandir is not aware of it. We both know he rarely crosses paths with the head of his order, and he is not one to be overly suspicious unless given reason to be.”

“Very true,” the elf lord commented. “We should not inform him of the company’s presence here and their mission. I know he would not approve, even with our reports of the visions we have Seen. Any attempt he makes to stop them will be against what we’ve been ordered to do. I think it’s best not to risk it.”

“I agree,” Galadriel replied. “We do need to ensure that they are not hindered. You do realize that Thranduil will stop them if they go through his forest?”

“I know and have no idea on how to prevent it,” he sighed, rubbing his forehead.

“Perhaps a letter with our signature stating that we approve of this quest might help them,” she suggested.

“It might help or it might not,” Elrond said, looking weary. “Our silence towards him and his jealousy over the Rings will not soften him towards our requests regarding the company.”

“We will send it with them and hope for the best,” Galadriel decided. “I would very much like to meet them.”

“They usually join me for dinner,” he answered. “I can introduce you at that time if you like?”

“I believe I will enjoy it a great deal,” she said with a smile. “I shall go and relax for a while before it is time to dine.”

Elrond politely stood, acknowledging her words, and then sat down to draft the first edition of the letter that would accompany Thorin and his company as they made their way to Erebor. He could only hope this would help them if Thranduil caught them while they traveled through the Greenwood.

Chapter Text

Bilbo, Fili, and Kili were chatting together idly when Thorin and Balin had gone to discuss something with Lord Elrond, leaving the three friends to figure out how to pass the time. The archer had been curious about a particular move his brother favored, wondering if the Tèarmunn could counter it or even perform the maneuver with his corran. Once he’d mentioned it, they had dragged him out to the practice area to see if his curiosity could be appeased.

They had been talking and working through the maneuver when Bilbo froze, swaying on the spot as his weapons hit the ground with an incredibly loud noise that startled the brothers. Both Fili and Kili were quick to steady him and were shocked when their eyesight went dark, unexpectedly drawn into the vision Irmo was sending to the Tèarmunn.

The first thing Kili heard before his sight returned was the sound of battle but louder and more intense than anything he had ever experienced before. He blinked as light returned, and his breath caught in his throat when he realized where he was positioned.

Erebor was in front of him, standing as majestic as his family had described, and his heart pounded with instinctual recognition. The mountain was pulling at him, drawing him home, but he was quickly distracted by shouts in voices that sounded familiar. He turned, looking for the source of the disturbance, and was quick to find it.

Warm brown eyes focused on where the cries of anger and grief were coming from; he had to fight his stomach to keep its contents down when the archer spied his own body laying near the broken looking figure of his uncle. What broke his heart was the sight of Bilbo carrying a familiar body from another area of the battlefield.

The hobbit bore his burden with a gait that showed he was also badly injured, and Kili was near tears as he watched this scene play out. His brother was limp in the Tèarmunn’s arms, and he had never seen their friend look so broken or defeated. The strength he was so used to seeing in Bilbo was gone, and he was struck by how haggard and small he looked.

His thoughts were disrupted by a choked sound from beside him, and Kili turned to spy his brother watching their friend. Fili’s blue eyes were locked on Bilbo, not the figure he was carrying, and there was a look on his sibling’s face that he had never seen before. The look of grief and worry was etched onto his features as he watched the hobbit, and it made the younger one realize that his brother had started to have deeper feelings than just friendship for Bilbo.

The vision soon ended, and the dark haired dwarf was lost in thought as Bilbo dropped slowly to his knees. Fili looked at their friend, voice rough as he spoke to the hobbit.

“We won’t let this happen, Bilbo,” he assured the Tèarmunn as he helped him back to his feet. “We have the warning so we know to be careful and do our best to avoid this fate.”

“I know,” the hobbit whispered back in a voice that was nearly too quiet to hear. “I don’t understand why I had to see this again; the only difference was I was in the middle of everything this time. I’m so very confused right now; I thought I had gotten the warning from the first vision so why send another one?”

“We can ask Lord Elrond,” Kili suggested, knowing Bilbo’s question was one they needed an answer to. “He may have an idea why this particular vision was seen after you got the warning from the last one.”

The archer had his own suspicions as to why, and he would try to find a way to speak with the elf lord on his own if he could. If he was right about his brother’s budding feelings for their friend, then maybe Irmo had sent this vision so Kili could help the pair find their way into a relationship that would make them happy for the rest of their lives. It was even possible that the relationship was part of what would prevent the deaths they had seen.

Knowing his brother, keeping silent about his thoughts would be for the best since Fili would be determined to deny it for a while. It was best to let things grow and interfere only when necessary. He would talk to Balin and Thorin about it too in case he needed help dealing with the stubbornness that ran in their line.

The trio were a bit more subdued throughout the rest of the day, going to dinner when word was received that it was nearly time for the evening meal. Kili could see the concern on his uncle’s face when the elder dwarf saw the signs of low spirits, but his attention was quickly drawn to the new guest that had accompanied Lord Elrond into a parlor.

Elrond was quick to introduce Galadriel to the company, starting with Thorin first, and he made his way down the line. As expected, she was gracious and kind, not showing any signs of the prejudice that had colored the relationship between elves and dwarrow. She even greeted Bifur in Khuzdul when she realized that was all the dwarf could speak due to his injury.

Kili drew on his lessons, bowing politely when it was his turn to be introduced to the lady. He knew she was important in elvish society, and he did not want to do anything to shame his family or clan. It was all he could do to hide his nervousness, and he had no idea an elf could be so gracious, kind, or lovely as she gave him a sweet smile.

“It is an honor to meet you, Prince Kili, son of Dis,” she greeted him.

“As it is to make your acquaintance, Lady Galadriel,” he replied courteously. “We are honored you wish to dine with us this evening.”

“It has been much too long since I broke bread with the dwarrow of Durin’s Folk,” she answered with a bright smile. “My cousin was incredibly fond of your kin, and I have not had the honor of spending time with those of your blood since his passing so long ago. It is a mistake I very much wish to remedy.”

It took a moment before Kili remembered who she might be talking about; it was the last elf that had been considered Dwarf-Friend, and his loss was still mourned to this day.

“Do you speak of Celebrimbor, my lady?”

Her smile widened, though it was touched with sadness as she nodded.

“I am gladdened the descendants of Durin remember him,” Galadriel said quietly. “Most of my people do not speak of him, not even my husband, and it has made it difficult over the years. He and I were very close, and I mourned him for a very long time.”

“Every dwarfling is taught of Narvi and Celebrimbor,” the young prince told her, making sure not to give too much away. “Even though Khazad-dûm is out of our reach, the Doors of Durin are an incredible feat that should never be forgotten.”

“Oh it was,” she agreed. “I remember seeing them for the first time, and the sight was so incredibly impressive. My cousin and Narvi had outdone themselves, and I know they often worked together on smaller projects after the doors were crafted. I asked him about that, and he told me that he found Narvi to be peaceful but a challenge to work with. He said that Narvi pushed him to try new things, to find a new alternative to a method he’d used for years, and Celebrimbor was truly happy in his presence.”

“Many of us wonder, even now, what their relationship was,” Balin said, having listened to the conversation. “Narvi never said, but his own death to retrieve Celebrimbor’s body spoke of someone missing their beloved. No one ever knew if they were lovers or not; Narvi never declared himself as craft wed.”

Galadriel was quiet for a moment, recalling the conversations she’d had with her cousin, and she finally shared something that had been confided to her so long ago.

“Celebrimbor wanted very much to court Narvi,” she said to them, knowing they deserved to hear this part of the story of the famous pair. “He wasn’t sure how to approach him since elvish courting is vastly different than dwarven, and he’d been trying to get answers on how to do so. I remember him telling me that Narvi was his Light and since I was the only family member he spoke to and acknowledged, he wanted my approval.”

The group of dwarrow were quiet for a moment, and Thorin broke it a few seconds after she’d shared that with them.

“Did you give him your approval?”

“I did,” she told him, giving a sad smile. “I knew that the life they would share together would be short, but I wanted him to be happy for whatever length of time the Valar granted them. I never dreamed that it would be his death that would separate the two of them and not Narvi’s. It was why I granted the king’s request to have them buried together instead of asking for my cousin’s body so he could be buried the elvish way. I couldn’t stomach the thought of parting them and pray that the Valar has allowed them to be together in death where they had been unable to in life.”

 

All of those who were of Durin’s blood bowed their heads in gratitude, and the king-in-exile shared something that only those who wore the crown knew.

“While we never knew what their relationship was, I do know that when word was received that the Deceiver was using Celebrimbor’s body in such a disrespectful way, Narvi went to the king and presented a request to him. He said he would be accompanying the troops that would be dispatched to recover Celebrimbor and that if something happened to him, he wanted to be buried with him. Narvi said that he didn’t care if it meant that he couldn’t be buried under stone as long as he and Celebrimbor were not parted in their final rest.”

The dwarrow, not knowing of this, stared at their king, and the elves and hobbit listened in amazement as a hidden part of history was revealed.

“Most people assume that dwarves are not open to relationships outside of their own race,” Elrond said softly. “To hear this story, as sad as it is, would certainly change those assumptions. Thank you for sharing it with us.”

Thorin shook his head, giving a sad smile of his own. He knew that people assumed that and also knew that the isolation his people had chosen often led to assumptions like this particular one. The king-in-exile also knew that it would take time to change that since most dwarrow, like himself, were insular due to remembering recent betrayals.

“No, there are a few tales known only to my people,” he answered. “Mostly dwarrow with humans and one with an elf. There aren’t many, and those we have stories of are ones that really stood out due to the extremes the couples went to prove their love and fight for it. We are an insular race, and those stories are popular for us but not shared outside of our culture. I am unsure of how soon the changes will take place, but I hope to put a stop to the habit of remaining so isolated.”

“The fault for that aspect of your people does not solely rest upon them,” Galadriel assured him. “In truth, the elves were not as truly welcoming of Aulë’s children as we should have been considering Ilúvatar adopted them as His own. As we are siblings, there should be more trust and affection between our two races. I sincerely hope to see that happen before the time of elves reaches its end.”

“I hope to see it too,” Thorin said to her. “I know that it will take time, and I will more than likely have joined my ancestors in Mahal’s Halls before it happens. However, I will make sure it is a task that my heirs will take up once my time here on Arda ends.”

Fili and Kili both nodded their heads, understanding what their uncle was wanting them to do, and the two brothers would do their best to see their uncle’s wishes were carried out. Thorin was right; things had to change or the children Mahal had created would suffer alone when darker times reached them. Outside help might be able to change the fate of their people, and they would do their best to see to it that their people didn’t die out in isolation.

Kili was reminded of his own thoughts regarding the vision, wondering if the possible relationship between his brother and Bilbo might be the start of build a better future for the dwarrow. It was something he would have to think on, and he hoped that his uncle and Balin might have a keener thought to share about this. First though, he would need to speak to the elf lord and see if his translation of the vision was correct.

A servant came in, calling them to come to the evening meal, and the company followed their host. Most of them were talking quietly, obviously subdued by the revelations shared just moments ago, and it gave the archer time to focus on his own thoughts. He took a seat by his brother and jolted slightly when he heard the voice of Galadriel in his mind.

~I know many things weigh heavily on your mind, young prince. Elrond and I will gladly meet with you after dinner,~ she told him, making him breath a sigh of relief.

~Thank you, my lady,~ he thought back at her, knowing she heard him when she gave him a soft smile in return.

Kili turned his attention to the meal, determined to enjoy it and the stories that would come while the food was shared. For now, he would focus on his family and friends and would worry about the future once he was able to meet with the two elves.

Chapter Text

The meal would be one Kili would remember throughout his life; it had been full of stories and laughter, and the barriers between the two cultures had been dropped for that night. It was an experience he had thoroughly enjoyed and hoped to repeat again. Hopefully, they would be able to host Elrond and Galadriel in Erebor once things were repaired and the kingdom was established enough to repay this hospitality with the traditional generosity the dwarrow were once known for. It was a thought he would have to bring up to his uncle and brother, knowing his uncle would wish to repay the hospitality once he was able to do so.

Once the small feast was over and the final sips of wine drunk, Galadriel slowly rose to her feet with a warm smile.

“King Thorin, I would like to borrow your youngest nephew for a while, if I may?”

Thorin, who had relaxed during the meal, looked to the golden haired lady with a puzzled expression on his face. He was a bit surprised by the request, and his gaze turned to Kili when the young dwarf spoke softly in their native tongue. The younger dwarf knew his uncle needed an explanation for the elven lady’s request, and he did not want to alert their hobbit to the situation just yet.

“Bilbo had another vision, uncle, and it was one that Fili and I were able to see,” he explained. “I believe she can help me understand why we were able to see it as well as why our hobbit friend had another one despite us understanding the warning of the first one.”

The king-in-exile nodded, understanding his nephew’s concerns, and his blue eyes met the silver touched ones of the Lady of Lothlórien.

“You are welcome to borrow him, my lady,” he said with a soft smile. “Just be warned, he can be a mischief maker.”

“So are my grandsons so I have no worries on that point. He will be returned just as you see him,” she promised, waiting until the young dwarf was at her side before leading the prince into a private garden she often used to spend time with her granddaughter while visiting Imladris.

Once they were settled in comfortable seats around a small table, Galadriel turned her gaze to dwarf sitting next to her. She could sense his kind heart and determination, and the seer knew that this young one would make a great many changes in regards to the relationships between his people and hers.

“Now, my young friend, may I see what it is that has been weighing on your thoughts so heavily?”

“How will you do that,” he asked, tilting his head slightly.

“Just relax and I will use my gifts to see it in your mind. I promise I will not seek anything out other than the vision you shared with your brother and Master Baggins-Took,” Galadriel told him, smiling when Kili nodded.

She used her powers and found the vision, watching it in silence. Her heart ached at the sight the dwarf, his brother, and the hobbit had been exposed to in this particular sending from Irmo. Galadriel bit her lower lip, a habit she thought she had lost when she was a young elfling, and used the pain to help distract her from the distress the vision brought to her.

The Lady of Lothlórien knew that one of the reasons the vision had been shared like this between the three of them was to unsettle the dwarrow enough that she would notice it. This was confirmation that she had been right in speaking to Círdan and her husband about helping the dwarrow where they could. Not hindering the quest was not enough. She’d seen the armies fighting and knew that the forces of Lothlórien had not been there; even a few battalions of their forces would be enough to turn the tide, and she would insist on sending them as soon as she knew Thorin and his people were close enough to Erebor. Celeborn might balk at this, but she knew she had to do all she could to ensure this vision did not come to pass. Simply reestablishing diplomatic ties weren’t enough, and Galadriel wouldn’t permit this future to come true.

“My lady?”

Kili’s voice drew her from her thoughts, and she gave him a small smile in hopes of relieving his worries.

“I think, my dear friend, that one of the reasons you shared this vision with your brother and Master Baggins-Took is that it would be unsettling enough to attract my attention. I have had visions of your people lately, and a decision was made to help where we could. However, outside of approving the quest and establishing diplomatic relations, there had been nothing decided in regards as to how to help you. I believe this vision was a warning that your company will need military aid before the end of the quest.”

The dwarf thought for a moment, obviously replaying scenes in his mind, and he nodded once he understood her belief about the vision.

“The armies fighting the orcs weren’t very numerous and if the men are from Laketown, they won’t have a lot of training in fighting,” he agreed. “Extra help could mean changing things in a more positive way for our side.”

“That is my hope,” she told him. “When I return home, I will make sure we have troops ready for when the time comes.”

The tension that had been lying in the compact frame began easing at her words, and she continued since she knew he had his own interpretation of the vision.

“I also believe that you are right in regards to Master Baggins-Took,” Galadriel said. “He seems to be key to all of this, and the fact that this particular sending from Irmo seems to be focused on him and your brother means you may very well be correct.”

“We weren’t in the Shire for long,” Kili said. “But it was long enough to see that family is the important thing to make a house a home. Bilbo’s smial was a house since the family was gone, leaving him alone. I think, having family in Erebor, will be part of what helps him find his place there. The link between him and Fili could be a serious contributor in helping Bilbo.”

“The question is will your people allow such a relationship? Your brother will be the crown prince once the quest is successful,” she asked him.

“No since we have no issue with races intermarrying when it happens,” he answered. “Given Bilbo was sent to us by our creator and His wife, that makes it even more blessed in our eyes. The continuation of the line will fall on me, which isn’t a hardship since there’s a dam back in Ered Luin I’ve had my eye on and hope to court once this quest is finished.”

“I wish you well on that,” Galadriel said with a smile. “I know courting can be a challenge, but I believe you will succeed.”

“She’s worth fighting for,” he blushed. “Thank you.”

“As far as your brother and Master Baggins-Took, do you believe your brother to be open to such a relationship?”

Kili shifted in his seat, thinking about the question for several long moments. This was important, and he didn’t want to give an answer that wouldn’t match the situation. He knew his brother fairly well, but Fili had his hidden depths too.

“I think he would if he believed the time was right,” he stated. “Fili takes his position as uncle’s heir very seriously and tends to overlook his own happiness. I’m the one who usually drags him into pranks and the like or he’d literally forget to remember that life is more than books and lessons.

“I may have to get uncle and Balin involved, but that may or may not be a good thing.”

“How so,” she asked.

“Uncle is very protective, and Balin is too. Dwarflings are rare for our kind, and uncle is a father to us in many ways. Balin and Dwalin had a hand in raising us too,” he admitted. “They may not like the idea of Fili finding his One this soon, but they do want him to be happy.”

“You and your brother are considered of age, correct,” Galadriel asked, frowning a bit.

“We are,” Kili answered. “But we’re still young too. Most courtships don’t take place until we’ve hit our first century mark at least. There have been a few that were sooner, but those mainly happened after we lost Erebor.”

“Where the continuation of the race was needed,” she murmured. “I see why you are concerned about this; I would remind your uncle that Master Baggins-Took is needed and the relationship would help ground him sooner. They don’t have to bond soon, but a courtship would at least provide the two with something to hold onto when things become dark.”

“I’ll do so,” he agreed. “Fili deserves to be happy; the work we’ll face after reclaiming our home will be difficult for everyone, and I have a feeling that he will need someone to keep him anchored so he won’t lose himself in the tasks that’ll be set on his shoulders as crown prince. Mum will keep uncle anchored so I won’t have to worry about that.”

“The burden of ruling is a heavy one,” she acknowledged. “Having support for the family is always a wise decision. Know that Lothlórien will aid in the rebuilding whenever we are able. Elrond mentioned that he was going to have a treaty between Imladris and Erebor discussed and written up while your company is here. I will do the same for Lothlórien and take the notes home to my husband so we can formalize an agreement once your home is yours.”

Kili bowed his head in gratitude, knowing that this was something that would help his people for quite some time. Even though he was young, he knew that the work ahead of both the clan and royal family would be a very heavy burden and assistance from allies would be appreciated. He just didn’t envy his uncle the difficult time of hammering the news into the skulls of the council members.

“We would honor such a treaty, my lady,” he said. “I will mention it to my uncle and have him and Lord Balin speak with you regarding this when you are ready for this discussion.”

Before she could speak, Galadriel was struck by a small vision. She could See an older version of Kili, wearing a crown of Erebor, smiling as he played with a group of dwarflings. At least two resembled him a great deal and it made her smile as the scene faded. That was when she knew the right decisions had been made that evening.

“I will also inform Elrond of my decision so he can ensure we have the time to discuss this with your uncle,” she said to him. “I thank you for your trust this evening, Kili, Prince of Erebor. We will ensure that the visions your friend has had will not come to pass; you have my word on that.”

Kili rose to his feet, bowing properly and with as much grace as he could muster. He pulled on every lesson that had been hammered into his head, knowing this was important.

“I thank you for your word, my lady, and hope that both Lothlórien and Erebor share a friendship for many generations to come.”

Her smile grew wider as she rose too, giving a small curtsy. Galadriel was charmed by the young prince and hoped that she would be able to meet with him again once Erebor was reclaimed and on its way to regaining its strength.

“As do I, Prince Kili,” she told him, then bade him a pleasant rest before departing to find her son by marriage.

Once alone, Kili gave a deep sigh, staring at the doorway where the Lady of the Golden Wood had disappeared. His mind replayed the entire conversation, and he gave a small smile.

“Here’s hoping Uncle Thorin will be receptive to all this,” he murmured before leaving the garden to find his family.

The young prince knew he would have a lot of explaining to do and hoped he wouldn’t make a mess of this. It was too important, and he needed to make sure that Thorin and Balin understood and agreed with what was going on.

Chapter Text

Kili returned to where the company was staying to find his uncle and cousin waiting for him, smoking while conversing quietly; the others seemed to be missing for the moment, and he was curious as to what had drawn them away. It was rare for the company to part during the evenings while in elvish territory even though they had been given a warm welcome from their host.

“Welcome back,” Balin greeted after taking a puff of his pipe. “I take it you did nothing to irritate the Lady of Lórien?”

“No, Balin, I held true to the teachings and was very polite while speaking with her,” he answered, feeling mildly upset with the question.

“Did you get the answers you sought,” Thorin asked, watching his sister-son take a seat beside him.

“I did,” Kili answered, getting comfortable and pulling his own pipe out. He packed it, accepting a spark from his uncle’s pipe to get his own going. After taking a lung full of dwarvish pipe-weed, he slowly exhaled and began the explanations he knew the two older dwarrow were waiting for.

For Balin’s sake, the young dwarf shared what he and Fili had shared with Bilbo. He looked concerned at the paleness of the advisor’s skin when he’d finished sharing that, and Thorin was quick to notice it too.

“Balin?”

The advisor took several deep drags off of his pipe before he managed to calm himself enough to answer. Kili could detect the shakiness in the older dwarf’s voice and realized that his teacher was more shaken by this than he’d suspected. A glance to his uncle verified that the other had come to that same fact himself.

“It’s difficult to know that one small being is so important to all of us,” he said softly. “Granted, I like Master Baggins-Took and he seems to be a fine upstanding hobbit. We don’t know much about him, and I am not sure I am comfortable that so much rests upon his shoulders in regards to how successful we will be.”

“We all bear the burden, Balin,” Thorin reminded him. “However, we knew he would be important when we heard our Maker say such a thing before we left the Shire. I just never thought he would be Fili’s One.”

“Aye, nor did I but it matches something that has long been suspected by scholars,” Balin said softly.

“What do you mean,” Kili asked, blowing a smoke ring afterwards.

“As you know, when the Seven Fathers were created, Mahal only crafted six wives instead of seven. Durin was not given a bride crafted by our Maker just for him,” the scholar began, knowing he was repeating information that both of his companions were very familiar with. “However, there is mention in the ancient texts that Durin found his bride while he wandered Middle Earth. There were hidden references to a people similar in stature to our kind who were the children of our Maker’s Wife, and that one was especially crafted for Durin himself.”

Both Thorin and Kili stared at him for several long moments, and then the elder of the pair spoke. His voice was soft and held a note of shock in the deep tones.

“Are you saying the father of our line married a hobbit?”

“The scholars think so, and I have to agree with them,” Balin answered. “It makes sense honestly. Dwarrow have never been the most fertile of beings, but Durin had quite a number of them.”

“And judging from all the little ones we saw while in the Shire, a hobbit wife would certainly explain why he was given so many pebbles,” Thorin mused. “If we could get some form of confirmation on this, it would make it easier for Fili and his One.”

“More like make it easier for Fili to accept,” Kili muttered, shaking his head. “You know that he’ll try to object since he thinks he has to provide an heir for the next generation. Having this told to him about Durin might make it easier to show him that this is all right.”

“Lad is stubborn,” the king said, frowning. “He knows we would accept a One from any race.”

“He’s a Durin,” Balin reminded him. “Of course he’s stubborn. We’ll have to handle this carefully as I don’t want to see him with a bond broken before it can form, and I don’t know how hobbits take rejection from their Ones.”

Kili was quiet for a moment, contemplating all of this. He tapped his pipe idly against his teeth for a moment before looking at his two companions.

“I have a feeling Bilbo may know more about the story of Durin’s wife,” he proposed. “I think it might make for a conversation after dinner one night since we tend to gather here before we head to our rest. It wouldn’t hurt to ask him, would it?”

“No, it’s a good idea, sister-son,” Thorin said, affectionately squeezing his nephew’s shoulder. “I have a question for you; has Fili spoken of having the dreams yet?”

“No, he hasn’t,” Kili said, frowning a bit. “I don’t think he’d hide it from me; I didn’t when I started to have my dreams of Jóhild.”

“I imagine that he will be having them soon since Irmo sent this last vision,” Balin said quietly. “We’ll have to keep an eye on him and do our best to help guide him without breaking our Maker’s rules regarding these things.”

Both uncle and nephew nodded, knowing Balin was right. They would have to do their best to keep an eye on Fili and hope that he wouldn’t be too stubborn about what Mahal was trying to tell him. Though, knowing how their family was, it would be a miracle if the eldest son of Dis would be anything but stubborn.

“In the meantime,” Thorin suggested. “Let’s head to the Hall of Fire and see if the company is there. If they are, maybe we can see if Master Baggins-Took does know the story and can fill in some blanks for us.”

“If he does know it, I’m having him sit with Ori to record all of it,” the advisor grumbled as he rose to his feet. “It’s past time the Longbeards had the truth of it outside of vague mentions in the records stored in Erebor’s library.”

“Our ancestors brought what they could when we lost Khazad-dûm,” Thorin said softly. “This would be a boon to our clan if he does have this answer.”

The trio headed to the Hall of Fire, finding their company exchanging stories with their elvish hosts. It warmed Kili’s heart to see the distrust between both races slowly starting to fade. He knew it would take time, but he was proud of his uncle for starting this and for their friends for continuing it. He just hoped that they could keep on with this once Erebor was theirs once more and their people home.

“Bilbo,” he chirped, heading to his friend.

Bilbo, who had been nibbling on some pastries, gave his friend a smile. He’d been sitting with Fili and Bofur, sharing the treats while listening to the stories. The Tèarmunn had been hoping it would ease the frown on his blond haired friend’s face, and it hadn’t done what he had hoped. Fili was still tense and looking worried about something.

“Hello Kili,” he greeted, offering some of the treats to the dark haired prince. “Balin, Thorin,” he greeted as well, spying them sitting beside some of the other company members. “You’re in time to hear more stories.”

“Actually, Master Baggins-Took, we were talking about our history and wonder how much of history hobbits remember,” Balin began.

“Oh, we do our best to keep the oral traditions alive even though we write everything down now,” Bilbo answered, sipping his wine. “One never knows if our people might be displaced again so every fauntling is required to learn the songs before reading them.”

“Wise decision,” Thorin said softly.

“Our elders decided it long ago,” he told him, then tilted his head. “Why do you ask?”

“A lot of our histories were lost when we had to flee Khazad-dûm,” the monarch said to him. “What we had in Erebor was based on what little we could bring as well as what was gifted to us from the Iron Hills along with what our scholars remembered. There are hints about the founder of our line and that his life might have a tie with your people.”

Bilbo thought for a moment, a small frown on his face, and then he smiled and nodded when he’d realized who they were talking about.

“I hadn’t thought about that story in years,” he admitted. “Truthfully, we probably should have given my own situation as being the seventh Tèarmunn in my generation! I’ll have to write Grandfather and remind him of it.”

Fili gave a soft huff of laughter, then shook his head as the other’s antics pulled him out of his darker thoughts. Bilbo’s distraction was rather amusing, and he reached out to lightly poke his friend.

“I think we’d all like to hear the story, Bilbo,” he teased, grinning when the hobbit’s ears turned red with embarrassment.

“Sorry, I tend to get distracted when a thought occurs to me,” he admitted. “I’m translating from my native language so if it seems rough, I apologize. In the time when the world was new, Hobbits had been created and the first Tèarmunn were being taught by Mahal to protect the children He and our Green Lady had created together. However, despite the decree by the loving parents, seven were born of that first generation and no one knew the reason why. Our parents were quiet on it, and the Stone Father only smiled whenever asked.

“Time passed and the Tèarmunn were of age when a stranger entered their small community. He was welcome but considered an interesting oddity as only the Stone Father had hair on his face,” he said with a laugh, causing the company members and elves who were listening to chuckle as well.

“That’s when the hobbits learned that he was a dwarf, and he was exploring the world. Apparently, he had not been traveling for very long when he had stumbled across their community. When he shared he was a child of Mahal, the hobbits welcomed their brother and offered him food and shelter. He called himself Durin, and he stayed with the hobbits for nearly two years.

“During that time, he fell in love with one of the Tèarmunn, a clever maiden named Sage,” he continued. “He trained with her, teaching the seven more tricks and learning things from Mahal at the same time. When he felt the urge to keep moving, he went to her father and to Mahal to ask to marry her. That was when Mother told him that the reason the seventh Tèarmunn had been born was because she had been grown to be Durin’s beloved cariad. It was also the reason why he had not had a wife carved for him at the time of the dwarrow’s creation.”

Everyone went quiet for a moment, elves and dwarrow alike, as the answer to the question about Durin was finally answered.

Kili turned, giving his uncle and Balin a significant look. Not only was a gap in their history answered, but they now had precedent to convince Fili if he tried to be stubborn about all of this.