Actions

Work Header

The Worth of a Lifetime

Chapter Text

Dwalin had lived a long life. So long, he had forgotten what it meant to feel young. All his friends and family had passed on before he did. One thing he had learned over the years was that secrets were to be kept to instill a semblance of peace. No one wanted to talk about the bad things, yet they plagued him.

 He never told anyone how much those years hurt. He never talked about the Battle of Moria. He never talked about how much he cared for Dis. He never talked about the Journey, where he supported Thorin the best he could while keeping an eye on the younger folk. 

He never talked about the scars he earned from the Spiders and the Flame of the Dragon. He never told them about how he confronted Thorin in his Gold Madness after the Burglar had almost been thrown from the ramparts. He never told how he was the only one beside Thorin that witnessed Belle's death.

He never talked about how each and every one of the people who come to care about died over the years. About finding Thorin holding another little hobbit's body and attacking him for it before understanding that orcs had done it. About how he felt when he encountered Balin, Oin and Ori in the tombs of Moria. About carrying Thorin to Mount Doom and watching his best friend die covered in ashes and superficial wounds that hid what was on the inside.

He never talked about his tears when he went to the royal family's funeral. About visiting Bofur's, Dori's, Nori's and Bombur's graves. He never admitted that if he could, he would do it all over again if he had the chance. In his final moments, all he did was shed a single tear...

And then, he woke up to see wooden boards above his head. His body was sore, and when he looked at his hands...they were not his own. Or, at least, they were not those of his elder self. He sat up faster than he had in years, to see the mirror across the room. The mirror had a wooden carving of a pony frolicking in a meadow, but that's not what got his attention.

In the reflection, was a face he hadn't seen in nearly a hundred years...his own? The face was without wrinkles, and he still had hair on his head. As he felt his body, he noted the scars from the Journey were not there. Physically, he felt better than he had in years. Mentally? He was struggling to choose between fainting and screaming.

He chose the latter.

Chapter Text

Balin woke up. He knew that scream. He knew it better than anyone. He remembered when his brother was born, how he cried his first cries. Balin's first instinct was to protect his little brother. He ran into Dwalin's room, eyes widening as memories of a past long ago rushed in.

Dwalin stared back at him as the brothers let their tears flow freely. The brothers embraced just as the others seemed to realize what was going on, dropping their weapons in shock. Oin and Gloin were nervous about touching one another, unsure whether or not they were dreaming. They eventually pinched each other's cheeks. Dori drew his brothers into a crushing hug, sobbing. For once, they didn't complain as they hugged back. Bifur, Bofur and Bombur all tackled one another to the floor, laughing and crying at the same time. Kili dragged Thorin and Fili into a group hug, hopping up and down, even as Thorin was in a state of statue-like awe.

Fili, always the inquisitive one, asked, "How is this possible?"

"I do not know, but I think I know someone who does," Thorin said. "Let's find Gandalf."

"Um," Bofur said, looking at their states of undress. "Mayhaps we get dressed first?"

They all nodded. As much as they had all seen each other naked before, they knew the folk outside the room hadn't. The dwarves were tentative as they left their rooms. Everything was as they remember about the Prancing Pony. The mold in the wooden walls was barely grown in. The bartender was calm as he cleaned his glasses. The place was practically empty. The wizard could not be found. Where was he?

The dwarves selected a corner to discuss what knowledge they had, sharing the regrets and joys of their previous lives. More than a few tears were shed. For once, Ori didn't mind his brothers' clingy nature, and Bofur wouldn't let Bifur out of his sight.

Balin nodded. "Ori and Oin were at my deathbed. We had dug too deep in the mines and released a Balrog while trying to hide from orc forces."

It needn't be said how Ori and Oin died. Dwalin had seen their corpses and the mention of the Balrog seemed to be enough of an explanation. Dori and Nori held Ori tighter while Gloin squeezed Oin's hand.  They were all huddled together, unwilling to let go.

"Rotten beast," Dwalin grunted, making a crack in his mug from his clenched fist. His rage and grief were palpable in the air. He and Thorin went on to tell them about the War of the Ring, where everyone got a bit in. He looked at Fili, Kili, Bombur, and Nori. "So, if it's not too much, what happened to you?"

Bombur cleared his throat, eyes watery, "I had learned that forces were moving towards Gondor and went to warn them. Orcs found me and knocked me out. I don't recall anything else after that but a light calling for me."

"Forces tried to invade Erebor," Fili stated, his voice growing harsher as he spoke. "Kili and I were at the battlefront with Amad with cousin Thorin and Gloin. Gloin killed a mountain troll, but by the time he got to another his armor had taken too much damage..."

Fili broke off, his voice hoarse. Gloin shuddered, holding his forehead as Oin squeezed his hand in comfort once more, "I'm sorry, but you, Dwalin, lived longest. What of my wee lad Gimli?"

It was odd thinking that Dwalin lived longest. No offense to his brother, but Dwalin was known for being reckless and throwing himself into danger. No one, including Balin, ever expected of him to die of old age. Technically, he was the oldest now by the number of years he lived. Balin loathed the idea of when Dwalin would point that out. However, he couldn't help but wonder at what his brother had become. It would be interesting to grow with him again.

Dwalin smiled softly, his eyes more ancient than some could bear, "He survived and lived amongst the elves as a celebrated hero of all races. He also is the only dwarf known for traveling to the Undying Lands when his time came."

The group was split in roaring in shock and cheering for the young dwarf. Thorin shouted at them to be quiet and asked for Fili to continue his tale to keep them distracted. It was nice to know that some things could never change. The dwarves still had spirit, though torn and pieced together repeatedly it may be. This was a second chance for them.

Fili agreed, "Amad, the warrior she is, tried to defend Gloin. The forces were too great. Tauriel was slain alongside her." Kili was shaking as he recalled everything. Fili wrapped an arm around his shoulder, not stopping the shivers, but helping ease them if only slightly. "Kili and I stood back to back in the end, before we too were overwhelmed. We died together."

Nori snorted pitifully, "Should have known you two would go together. You're never separate for long."

"And what of you?" Dori whispered brokenly. "What happened?"

Nori thought for a moment, "It is a bit of a blur, but I believe I was killed by Shelob when I tried to sneak into Mordor. On the bright side, I took down most of her offspring. Practice from Mirkwood might've helped with that, and you Dori?"

Dori furrowed his eyebrows, clearly uncomfortable about talking on death so easily. "I don't even remember dying. I just remember hearing of your death and going to sleep after days of mourning..."

"They said you died of a broken heart," Thorin croaked. "Bofur died in a mine collapse."

Bifur started questioning his cousin in Khuzdul viciously only for Bofur to shrug. "I got careless. Everything felt so...hollow, and I didn't pay attention to my surroundings until it was too late."

A dark silence hovered over them as each of them became lost in their own thoughts. Kili finally broke it, chuckling, "This is strange, even for me. How are we all calm about this? We've seen loved ones die. We died. We should be more..."

Balin patted patted his shoulder, "We are all confused and in shock lad. We all will have a breaking point, but that is not today. We are here. We are alive. There must be a reason as to why. Besides, I think we could all use some air. We all have a lot to consider."

 Nori went outside first, to get a smoke in and keep an eye out for the wizard. A few minutes later, he raced inside, breathless as he held a hand over his heart. Oin went to him, tying to find out what was wrong as Dori assisted him. Nori shook his head, whispering unintelligibly. He then lifted his head to the startled bar keeper, "Is there a Belle Baggins in the Shire? Daughter of Bungo and Belladonna?"

Another heavy silence overtook the dwarves. The bar keeper paled, "Yes, she lives in Bag End. You're not thinking of hurting her, are you?"

"Never," Thorin murmured. To the dwarves he uttered, "Never again."

The looks at Thorin were still mixed after all this time. They adored their king, and hated him at the same time for the wrongs he had done. Thorin could not blame them. Nori wheezed, "Gandalf is gone because he is going to see Belle. Think about it, we're all young again, and today is the same date we went to see Belle to take her on our adventure. That means Smaug is alive, Azog, Bolg...Nothing we did last time remained but within our memories."

The words hit them, and Balin felt his heart stutter as the realization. Everything they did might have become unraveled. The dragon could be alive and...

"Sauron might still be alive," Thorin murmured. In other words, his death had just become meaningless. "Whatever brought us back here, also brought back Middle Earth's greatest enemy."

Ori stuttered, "B-But, why would they let us live? Or Belle? Or Gandalf?"

"Lads, for now we have a more pressing matter, and a debt to be paid," Bofur spoke solemnly.  "If we go to Rivendell, the Lady Galadriel might be able to help. She was around last time according to Gandalf, remember? Right now, I'm more concerned of Belle."

If she was alive, what would she say? Would she hate them? Thorin was visibly panicked at the thought of seeing the hobbit again. Balin knew that he had felt guilty for years, and had lived out his life as she wanted him to, but Thorin did technically kill her, so he did have a reason to be afraid to see her. After all, how does someone face their murderer? In Belle's last moments, she had done it with a smile. This time? Who knew? Although, there was one thing for certain about it being bad for Gandalf seeing Belle.

Dwalin spoke his thoughts for him, "We all know that hobbit well enough that we know  if an idea gets in her head, she'll follow through regardless of her doubts. If she goes again, who's to say she'll live?"

"We have to stop him," Dori gasped. "She gave us a chance, now it's our turn."

Balin shook his head, the bags under his eyes more apparent in the light, "It may already be too late."

Fili pounded the table, "Not if we can help it. Let's go!"

All the dwarves got onto their ponies and rode as if their lives depended on it into the Shire. No, they couldn't endanger her again. In each of their minds, they recalled the last moments of Belle Baggins.  No, never again. She should be able to live in the Shire peacefully, away from them.

Dori panted, "Okay, we need to find Gandalf, and not Belle. Can we agree on that?"

"Yes," Thorin said, revealing the conflict in all of their hearts as he spoke.

All of them cared about Belle, and all of them wanted to see her if only to see she would be okay, but they also knew they shouldn't. Balin could tell Thorin believed Belle would not want to see him and that he did not deserve to see her. Yet, he also knew Thorin longed to see her. They all did. However, the thought of her dying again was more than enough to motivate them otherwise.


 

The ponies halted in front of a market area. It was crowded, hobbits everywhere as they chatted and bought goods. One hobbit, a female wandered over to them. She wore a bonnet and a green dress. She also had dark brown hair and dark eyes that scoped them cautiously. She smirked at them holding her chin. Balin had a bad feeling about her.

"Belle Baggins!" she screeched, turning around to another female figure. "More outsiders for you!  As if the wizard this morning wasn't enough, you always attract trouble in one way or another."

All of the dwarves tensed horror shivering up their spines. A short way from them was a hobbit surrounded by laughing children with a book in her hand. On her head was a handkerchief and her dress was of cerulean blue, making her amber eyes shine almost like gold in the sun's rays. She had a warming smile upon her lips as she looked straight in their direction, but thankfully didn't seem to notice them yet. It was most likely due to the large crowd that was even possible.

"Scatter," Thorin ordered, all of them splitting up so she wouldn't see.

Unfortunately, hobbits tended to be more observant than any race would like.

"Lobelia, were those dwarves?"

Chapter Text

Thorin pulled Dwalin and Fili to the side, muttering in dread, "Oh Mahal, it's Wednesday."

Dwalin perked his head, "Wednesday? Why is that a bad thing?"

"In the daytime, hobbits gather in the middle of the week to re-supply stocks and share news," Thorin huffed. "They share whatever gossip they can, trade, etcetera. Everyone is out here and they're going to spread word about dwarves here."

"How do you know this?" Fili asked.

Thorin looked offended, "You know I lived with them for over sixty years before. I learned much about them..." Around the corner a lass in a blue dress appeared without notice until she passed them in a hurry. All three tensed, silently begging for her not to see them. "And yet, they can still surprise you after all that time."

"Right, we hired her as a burglar for a reason," Dwalin muttered.

Fili tilted his head, "What do you think she was doing with children?"

"It's a Wednesday thing," Thorin brushed off, croaking slightly as he watched Belle walk away in the direction of the trading tents. "I'll explain later."

"There's Gandalf," Fili squeaked, pointing in the direction of a familiar gray hat and staff over the hills.

All three exchanged a look and ran as if their lives depended on it. Thorin yelled, "Give me my father's key and map you insane son of a-!"


 

Bofur panted with Bombur and Bifur. Bombur wheezed, "Do you think she saw us?"

"Hope not," Bifur spoke in Khuzdul. "Where'd the others go?"

"After Gandalf and away from Belle," Bofur said, patting his brother's and cousin's backs. "Now, what in blazes is going on here?"

In the center of a field was a tent where lads and lasses danced, skipping up and down, laughing merrily. A little ways off were young mothers with newborns while other hobbit lasses and lads played with the children. All were either, dancing, eating, or giggling. In another area were folk seeing plants and looking at animals with deep intrigue.

Bombur stated, "It's like a market."

"More like a festival of sorts," Bofur replied.

"Actually, it's just Wednesday." All three jumped at the voice to see a bonnie lass with pale curls and eyes similar to Belle's amber ones smiled."Is this your first Wednesday in the Shire?"

"Aye," Bombur said, backing away from the strange lass. "So, this is a normal occurrence?"

"Yes," the lass said, holding a tankard of ale. "It's the middle of the week, so everyone stocks up on food and other supplies. Others get ready to travel, namely the Tooks, since Winter is coming in some months. For now, because it's Spring, we're all sharing a bit of the load with the fauntlings...Would you like to join?"

Bofur blinked at the tent, eyes wide at the amount of food displayed. "Is that proper?"

"The only folks around here who care about propriety are the Baggins, and any that share their name," she teased. "Besides, if you're invited, then you're always welcome." She smiled, and curtseyed, "Amaranth Brandybuck, at your service."

Bombur blinked at the song the hobbits were playing and singing, "It sounds an awful lot like the Man on the Moon."

"Is that a dwarvish song?" Amaranth said as Bifur took the tankard so she wouldn't have to take the load.

"Aye," Bofur said, pouting.

"It'd make sense," Amaranth said. "After all, you gentlemen are children of Mahal and we of Yavannah. We're practically step-siblings in some aspects."

"Hobbits are children of Yavanna?" Bifur yelped.

Amaranth tilted her head, and Bofur explained. She nodded like it was no big deal, "Yep.  By the way, why were you avoiding Belle?"

"Belle?" Bombur mumbled, tugging the collar of his shirt from his sweaty body. "Who's Belle?"

Amaranth raised an eyebrow, "You guys are terrible at this you know. Besides, word travels fast in the Shire. And considering the wizard went by her place this morning, I take it you were supposed to take her on an adventure, but something's changed your mind?"

Bofur furrowed his eyebrows, "I thought word traveled quickly, so why trust you?"

"Because I'm a businesswoman," she replied. "We always hold secrets no matter the race. Besides, Belle is a cousin of mine. I think I have some right to be worried."

Bombur pouted, "It doesn't matter, we're not taking her. If we do, she'll be put in great danger."

Amaranth considered his words, "Say, whether you take Belle or not, are you gentlemen going to be passing by Greenwood?"

"You mean Mirkwood?" Bofur asked.

"It wasn't so murky once," she scoffed. "Some of us Tooks are heading around that area in the winter."

Bombur shared a look with his brother, "Why?"

Amaranth winked, holding a finger over her lips, "Old hobbit secret. Anyway, we'll be traveling with caravans of food, medicine, and other supplies. It's nice that you guys cared, even  if it seems you're a little misguided about Belle."

"How are we misguided?" Bifur inquired.

Amaranth raised an eyebrow, thinking for a moment while addressing him, "I'm not entirely sure what you're saying, but I'm reading you correctly, you're wondering why you might be wrong about Belle."

"How?" Bombur said, eyeing the food display briefly.

"She's an odd one, even for us hobbits, but her heart is often in the right place, and she can read people like a book. She doesn't let anyone decide something for her, and to assume otherwise can be an insult depending on the matter at hand. So, if it is dangerous, I'd suggest you let her decide whether or not to take that risk, regardless of what you do or do not know."

She smirked then, "So, are you passing by Mirkwood?"

In the dancing area, the hobbits began dancing more vigorously. Bofur could've sworn he saw a few of them glowing, but it could have been the beer getting to them. Or maybe he was seeing things differently because he died once.

"...We're headed towards Lake-Town. Could you give out supplies there?" Bombur said almost pleadingly.

Amaranth was visibly surprised, "Are you sure? You'll not have anything for yourself?"

"Perhaps," Bofur replied. "But we're more concerned for Lake-Town. Their mayor is a right bastard who only cares about gold rather than the sake of those he is supposed to care for. You can see a fellow named Bard. He'd know what to do from there."

"Hmm," Amaranth hummed. " We've never been as far as Lake-Town. Not since Belladonna Took, but it should be manageable. First though, can I know your names?"

"Bifur, Bofur, and I'm Bombur. At your service."

She smiled, "No, at yours. I hope meet you again soon."

Bofur couldn't help but shiver as she watched them leave. There was something off about that lass.

Chapter Text

"Mistress Baggins, what are you doing?" Thorin asked the hobbit as she cupped her hands up to the moonlit sky.

She giggled, "I'm holding the moon in my palms. You could do it too you know, anyone can."

Thorin furrowed his eyebrows, looking in her line of sight to see that it did in fact appear as though she were holding the moon in her hands. "You should sleep. Tomorrow you're going into the dragon's lair. You need as much strength as you can muster. "

"I know," she said, instantly serious. "But this also helps me with what's inside."

"And what's that?"

She finally turned away to look him in the eye, "Fear."

"Mistress Baggins, anyone would be afraid about going into-"

She winced, "Not for me. What if I mess up and someone gets hurt? I don't mind if I get hurt, but you- you all mean something dear to me. Maybe you won't ever see me like the way I do all of you, but it feels like I have a family again."

He smirked, "You needn't go that far Mistress Baggins.

I'll do whatever I can to make sure you all live to see Erebor rebuilt, I swear..."

Thorin Oakenshield should have never doubted her under the Gold Sickness, for she had always kept her promises. He...hadn't. However, one promise that he would make was to keep her safe this time, from every danger including him. He raced ahead of Fili and Dwalin, recognizing the paths they couldn't. How odd was it that he had gotten lost, twice, through these hills? Now he knew them like the back of his hand, which had been covered by crimson ever since that day. He could hear Dwalin and Fili calling his name as they struggled to catch up. The wizard was just around the corner.

Thorin's boots skidded on the other side, and he cursed when he saw the wizard was gone. Fili and Dwalin finally caught up, nearly keeling over. Fili panted, "Uncle? Since when have you ever been this good at navigating?"

Dwalin collected himself, "That's right, even in the Blue Mountains you got lost."

"The Shire and Erebor each were my homes," Thorin said. He remembered chasing after Frodo through these hills, doing his best to make sure the lad wouldn't get hurt. "The Blue Mountains never were." He bit his lip harshly, "Damn it. Where did that wizard go?"

"Well, come to think of it, he did disappear whenever he wanted to on the Journey," Fili commented. Why would it be any different here?"

"So we have to find a wizard that disappears as if he has the One Ring?" Dwalin groaned. palming his forehead with a resounding clap. "That was a pain enough last time, but at least you could still hear whoever was invisible or see their footprints!"

Fili quirked his head, "Does that mean Gandalf is more powerful than the One Ring? Seriously, what does the Ring do besides turn people invisible?"

"That's enough," Thorin grumbled. "Let's just find him, the others, and not Belle. Then we defeat the dragon, reclaim Erebor, and find and destroy the One Ring. Then we can all live relatively peacefully."

Dwalin scoffed, "We all know it's not going to be that easy."

"Besides, we don't know what forces are at work here. As far as we know, Morgoth could have sent us back, or Sauron himself. Sauron is capable of raising the dead. Possibly Saruman since he was Sauron's...minion."

"But are any of them truly capable of sending us back to this time?" Dwalin argued back.

They were passing by a river, complete with a dock and fences where hobbits sat as they smoked and fished. However, they seemed to maintain a distance from the water. Children ran rampant much to the irritation of their elders. Ropes were placed at the edges of fences, in case of emergency to toss to someone who might be drowning.

Fili's eyes widened, "There's another thing. Belle told Gandalf before...you know when-" Thorin flinched, but said nothing. "Um, she said she found it in the Goblin Caves, but we don't know the circumstances surrounding that since she could never tell us..."

Thorin glared at his first-born nephew, "We. Are. Not. Bringing. HER!"

Dwalin placed his hands on his hips, "Thorin, he does have a point. After thousands of years of being missing, it was Belle who found the thing, and she was able to avoid its affects for almost over a year without us ever knowing. Not even the greatest of Men have been successful in that regard. Damn, Gandalf and Galadriel had to cast a protective shield over it and they were still tempted."

Thorin grunted, slamming his fist into a nearby fence, "Don't you think I know that?! Look, we can just send another member of the Company hurtling over in the Goblin Caves."  Both Fili and Dwalin took a couple steps back. Thorin knocked his head repeatedly against the fence. "Forget that, please? That was just stupid."

"Wow, you must really hate that fence." On the other side were Gloin, Ori and Dori. Gloin dusted off the fence, looking at the cracks in it. "I always knew you were hard-headed, but this really takes the cake. It's almost broken now. Seriously, what if somebody get hurt?"

Thorin grimaced, petting the wood as if that would soothe it's wounds. He picked up some rope on the ground. "On the contrary...Frodo used to jump up on this and pretend he was protecting me or riding eagles into the sunset. Then he'd look out at the Brandywine, and blow a kiss to it..."

Thorin didn't mention that Frodo did it because his parents had drowned in it. He pet it again, switching a sign above where the rope was to 'Replace Soon'. Yes, he knew this place almost better than he knew himself, and understood why Belle must have loved it so much. Or, does, since she's alive again. He sighed, looking for the wizard once more. The others stared at him in confusion.

"I will only say it one more time; I lived here for over sixty years and raised a hobbit child. I have a better grasp on how rules and society work here. And I do not get lost anymore, at least here."

"So you're an expert on hobbits now?" Gloin queried. "Then why is it so hard to find Gandalf in this place?"

Ori elbowed him, "'Cause he's Gandalf. What else do you expect? So, any ideas about what to do next?"


 

"Explain how I'm stuck with you three," Nori said, practically glaring at Kili, Oin, and Balin.

Balin patted Kili on the back, who was still trying to gather his breath, "Well, you mistook Oin for Dori and Kili for Ori, and for some reason I was dragged along by Oin."

Oin picked up his ear piece, "What? Damn it! Why couldn't I have been made younger if we had to live through this again?!"

Kili looked around, "Um, does anyone know where we are? I feel a bit like Thorin when he tries to find the bathroom at night..."

"Laddie, he does not have that terrible of a sense of direction," Balin said, squeezing the bridge of his nose. " So quit exaggerating. Now, we must find the wizard and-"

"Excuse me?"

The dwarves became still as statues once they heard a familiar voice behind them. Slowly, Nori turned and confirmed his worst fears. Belle was right there, with a book in her hand and an inquisitive look on her face. He swallowed harshly, knowing it'd look bad if they ran. Ice spread though his chest, painfully. It ached seeing her face, so gentle and soft, before they ever came into her life. Before...

"Um, yes miss?" Balin answered, much to Nori's gratefulness.

"Belle Baggins of Bag End," she tilted her head, "I'm sorry, I saw your group earlier and was worried. Did I do something to scare you off? If so I didn't mean to, everyone is welcome in the Shire. We're not that dangerous."

Oin dropped his horn, hardly believing what he heard. Nori couldn't help but feel like the same. All but Balin were driven speechless. "Don't fret my dear. We just thought you looked like someone we used to know. Normally she'd be terribly angry at seeing us as we are."

She blinked, curiosity all over her face, and Nori could sense she wanted to ask as to why someone would be upset at them, but she wrinkled and wriggled her nose like she had always done when she was nervous. Beorn had even nicknamed her a bunny because of it. Now, she gave a haphazard smile that wasn't like her warm one at all. In fact, it hurt more to see her faking that everything was all right. He'd rather she'd cry, hit them, something. Anything. He wished she would hate him for not being able to protect her. But, oddly enough, the strongest urge he had was to pull her into his arms, and hold on tightly. He wanted her to be safe this time though, and that meant cutting her out of their lives.

"Um, I hope things will get better for you," she started, only for the children to call her name. "Coming! Oh, welcome to the Shire. I hope you enjoy your stay here."

Balin gave her a full-hearted smile, complete with sadness and ache when she turned around. Nori squeezed Balin's shoulder, looking in the same direction. Balin wiped his eyes, which had become watery for reasons no one had to explain.

"It never gets easier, does it?" Kili asked.

Balin shuddered, "No laddie, it doesn't..."

Oin chose that moment to state the obvious, "She doesn't remember us, does she?"

"And if she doesn't remember," Kili gasped, "Then does Gandalf?"


 

"You know the dwarves, don't you?"

Belle shook her head as she checked a fence that had cracks in it. Thankfully someone tied a rope around the loosening wood so that no one would get hurt, but the extent of the damage was, questionable. "No Amaranth, I don't. By the way, did a wolf attack this? Or did someone throw a boulder at it?"

"Quit ignoring the question," Amaranth said, folding her arms. "They acted as if they knew you when they passed by the tent earlier."

There was a heavy sorrow in Amaranth's eyes, almost like grief. The sight puzzled Belle, for Amaranth had a heart encased with steel. She cared deeply, but had difficulty showing it, afraid to let anyone close.

Belle frowned, holding her chin, "I honestly don't recognize them, but you do have a point. The four I ran into earlier also acted nervous and tried to dismiss me quickly." Belle paused, stuck in her thoughts, "As mother used to say, 'There are no coincidences'. Gandalf was here this morning to invite me on an adventure. He never mentioned dwarves, but Gandalf has always been vague to say the least."

Amaranth leaned back, "Hey, you know him better than I do. I still remember you and Hamfast attacking him with swords, flowers and mudpies..."

"We were kids, but I guess that doesn't really change anything in his eyes," Belle glowered.

"Then there's the time you stole his staff, his cloak, his fireworks and nearly got us all killed...Who knows, maybe he wants a little revenge. You were extremely vicious back then. A true Took child, you know, without yearly visiting the old Homelands."

"That's enough Amaranth," Belle grumbled. "So, any information you want to tell me?"

"I'm a businesswoman, and I made a deal with some folk not to tell anyone," Amaranth said, winking and making Belle roll her eyes as she waited patiently. "Hmm, I can't help but wonder to myself out loud though why dwarves would be inclined to send a caravan to Laketown just outside of Greenwood by the Misty Mountains."

Belle raised an eyebrow at her cousin's sly smile. "You're terrible at acting, just like those dwarves."

"At least I can gather information out of people," Amaranth retorted.

Belle thought of her geography, "Mother once told me of a kingdom called Erebor that was taken by a dragon...That's the only thing I can think of." Realization overtook her. Belle became pale and Amaranth had to steady her. Amaranth kept her on her feet until she found a suitable place for Belle to sit. "Gandalf wanted me to. Face. A. BLOODY. DRAGON?!"

"I can't tell if you're going to faint or attack the wizard when you see him. Also, you're kind of jumping to conclusions there. Just being around dwarrow, and the idea of where they come from, doesn't mean you're gonna face a dragon."

"Who knows, maybe I'll do both. It'll certainly keep things interesting," Belle groaned sarcastically. "Yavanna, there are so many ways that could go wrong. And yet...Why a hobbit? Especially one with no experience fighting? No, he doesn't want me to face the dragon. He's got something else in mind."

"So, what are you going to do Thains Heir?"

"I wish you'd stop calling me that. We both know I don't have those sort of leadership skills, or bravery...I think whatever is going on is a riddle, and you know how I feel about those."

Amaranth smirked, "You can't let them go unsolved. You do realize that this is very improper?"

"We're both half Took Amaranth. Besides, I need to interrogate Gandalf."

"Lobelia's going to get on you for that."

"Good, she can join in. How do I even find him? He's always moving from place to place and vanishing."

Amaranth shrugged nonchalantly, "My guess is that you find the dwarves, and you just might get lucky."


 

Thorin Oakenshield had been having a bad day. He trampled through chickens and mud and hay to catch Gandalf. He ran as quickly as he could, finally getting ahead of the wizard and smirking triumphantly as he blocked the rest of the path with his arms, yelling, "You. Shall. Not. PASS!"

Mahal, he had wanted to say that ever since the wizard did in the mines of Moria. Across the way, Dwalin grimaced, clearly exasperated as were the others, who were also covered in feathers and who knew what else. The implications of whatever else they might be covered in was enough for him to refocus on the wizard. Gandalf had the face of total innocence, and a youth he hadn't seen in nearly a century.

"Why Thorin, I thought you were in Bree with the rest of the Company," the tharkun said cheerfully. "Now we can..."

"Gandalf the Gray, you have some explaining to do."

 

Chapter Text

Belle, Belle Baggins. Not Bell Boggins or Mad Baggins. Not "Belle you spawn of-", add whatever you'd like there. Her name was Belle Baggins. She did not mean to be vain, but she liked her name. Whenever she thought of it, she recalled her parents.

However, sometimes that could be painful. Bungo died, and Belladonna had followed. Belle had hated her mother at first, because it seemed in Belle's eyes that she wasn't enough. The same went for other hobbits, who either wanted to court her for profit, or pretended to be her friends while talking behind her back.

The only ones she moderately got along with were the Thains-heirs, and even they maintained a steady distance. Amaranth, whose name meant 'eternal flower', was the only one who approached her when they saw one another. Amaranth always seemed older than she really was, and that was saying a lot considering Amaranth was nearly a decade younger.

So, when she saw Gandalf that morning, it hurt. Memories of him were memories of her parents, which was why she really stuttered and did her best to avoid him. Yes, it was rude, but being around him was painful, and hobbits always avoided pain. No, it didn't matter if he was trying to get her on an adventure, if she could break free, she wasn't going to throw away everything she defended and kept safe from those who hurt her.

Then, the dwarves arrived at her door, and nothing would be the same.

Dori felt tears dance across his cheeks as the memories started to take control from being suppressed so long, even as he saw Ori pounce on Gandalf. Ori held the wizard by the collar, not even caring for the darkening clouds above as the wizard glared.

However, the clouds dispelled as Gandalf saw Ori's heartbroken expression. Ori croaked weakly, "Gandalf the Gray, you have some explaining to do."

"What?" Gandalf asked, stunned.

Thorin wheezed, "We've been on this journey before. We lived out our lives. The dragon died, Erebor was reclaimed, and now we are back at the beginning, why?"

Gandalf raised an eyebrow, "Whatever do you mean?"

The once shy Ori began shaking Gandalf by the collar, screaming as if the world were falling. "Don't play coy wizard! We faced trolls, orcs, wargs, Beorn, Thranduil, Smaug, the Battle of the Five Armies...I watched my best friend die! Then Balin and Oin, and I starved to death when I was trapped by the Balrog in Moria! We got Erebor back, and for what?! And then you have the gall to do this again?! You had no right!"

Ori's hands weakened as he sobbed, "You had no right..."

Gandalf dropped his staff, embracing Ori, "My dear lad, whatever it is that is ailing you, I did nothing to cause it-"

"The price of reclaiming Erebor, of stopping the gold madness, was Belle's death," Balin said, appearing with Oin, Kili, and Nori.

Nori, worried about Ori, embraced him and Dori hugged them both, the ache in his heart bittersweet as he held his brothers, feeling their heartbeats close to his, much like he had when they were young. Across the way, Kili tackled Fili to the ground, and then both proceeded to attack Thorin, who embraced them tightly, afraid to let go. Dwalin and Balin bumped foreheads, lingering momentarily before Balin continued.

 "We traveled the journey, all of us, to reclaim Erebor. We succeeded with Belle's sacrifice, and then came the War of the Ring, where only my brother survived to the end of his days," Balin said grimly. "However, I'm sorry Thorin, we saw Belle earlier, and she did not remember us."

Thorin's expression was a mixture of ache, relief, and confusion.  "Then what about-?"

Gandalf shook his head, disbelief and horror still in his expression "I do not recall a thing of us ever going on a journey together. I think it would be best if you sit down and told me the whole story."

Kili looked around, "By the way, where are Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur anyway?"


 

"Why is this blasted place so confusing?!" Bombur yelled. "We're lost...Again!"

Bofur and Bifur were covering their ears at that point. "Now I understand how Thorin got lost so easily. You stray from the path Gandalf said in the slightest way, and the place becomes a maze. It's almost as bad as Mirkwood."

"No," Bofur said. "In Mirkwood it was far worse because Belle got really, really sick..."

"She didn't get better afterwards either," Bombur said. "I remember how much she'd try to hold in her coughing and sneezing just so we could get sleep during the night in Lake-Town. Oin and I had to wrangle her into bed and watch over her."

"Didn't she kick you with those huge feet of hers?"

"Aye," Bofur said, rubbing his chin as if easing a wound although it was perfectly fine. "We thought she'd lost her mind until she said she couldn't be weak 'cause we were depending on her. I had never seen Thorin look so guilty until..." He croaked, rubbing at his eyes. "She was such a blundering idiot..."

"But she was our blundering idiot," Bombur finished with a bittersweet smile, a couple of tears escaping his closed eyes, laughing bitterly. "Still those feet hurt, a lot."

"Hobbit feet tend to do that."

All three dwarves jumped and turned to see yet another hobbit. This one was male with dark hair and amber eyes that were lighter than both Belle's and Amaranth's, and his form was more lean than most hobbits, but still round enough to be healthy.

He smiled brightly, almost glowing in a way that reminded the dwarves of a comforting light from the dark. He lifted up a pipe, bringing it to his lips. "Hey, want to share some Old Toby? We rarely get guests around these parts."

Silence reigned for a period of time. They had been running around for a while. Perhaps they should sit down and relax a little...? It was really tempting, but they really ought not to....

The hobbit pointed to where he was sitting previously, "We've got ale."

Drat. All of them exchanged a look.

"We're not that desperate for a smoke, are we?"Bifur kept an eye out for Belle.

"Mahal's balls we are," Bombur murmured before returning his attention to the hobbit. "We accept!"

Bofur slapped his forehead and rolled his eyes. Bifur knew he thought this was a bad idea, but Bifur pointed out that Belle couldn't possibly be in the nearby area, they were exhausted, and it was free ale with hobbits, which were pretty much harmless.

Each of them, warily by Bofur, took out a pipe and the hobbit poured them in. "I've got to warn you now, this stuff is mighty potent, so I'm not sure how dwarves will handle it."

Whoever the hobbit was, he knew something, something that the others did not. Now that he thought about it, Belle often seem to know things they didn't, but she never mentioned those ideas until she put them to use. Was it a generic hobbit habit? Try saying those last two words three times fast.


 

Kili noticed things. He had to as an heir of Erebor, even if only really in name. So, of course he noticed how much the other hobbits in the bar watched them. He noticed how certain ones shared looks while other didn't seem to give a care.

Something else he noticed was that they all had amber eyes that practically glowed in the shadows of the room. Yes, they were all different shades of amber, but amber still. A stray thought passed while the others conversed, didn't Belle have amber eyes? Not like these ones though. These glowed either dimly, or like a fire that threatened to burn all in their path, much like Smaug's fire.

One of the smaller ones approached him, wearing an emerald cloak with an acorn button Wait; did the acorn have wings on it? The child smiled up, no hints of being shy or afraid in any manner. Kili had a bad feeling traveling up and down his spine.

"Hello, I'm Primula Brandybuck, and you look funny." Kili choked on his drink while the others laughed. Finally, they had something to smile over. Primula then looked over to Gandalf. "He looks funny too...And why do you all have bunny butts on your faces?"

Thorin and Gandalf were the only ones who didn't look even the littlest offended by this notion. Instead, they chuckled and snorted. Thorin got up and kneeled before the children, "Tell me little one, where are your parents?"

Primula pointed to a squat little male and a surprisingly tall female hobbit, who also seemed to be very roguish looking. Still, she grinned at Thorin, who led her daughter by the fingertips, back to them. The woman nodded in silent thanks.

"Sorry about the-"

Thorin held up his hand, "It's no problem. I've had to raise a few children myself. Oh...and it might be a good idea to teach her how to swim."

He walked back over to the table, where Dwalin started grumbling about the fauntling. Some of his words became more inappropriate than really necessary and Thorin smacked the back of his head. Dwalin pouted, his expression demanding an explanation.

"Careful, that's the mother of my child you're talking about."At their stares, he sighed and added, "As in I adopted her son. Honestly, I know I'm despicable, but I'm not that bad. Anyways, hobbits, unless they're Stoors, normally don't have facial hair...Oh, and never insult their cooking, it's an invitation to start a food fight to solve the disagreement."

It was unnerving for Thorin to be knowledgeable on hobbits. Before, he was the most clueless one of the bunch. And now? He was able to navigate this place with little to no difficulty, and he understood how to thrive in the oddly peaceful community. Kili had almost forgotten for a moment that most of them lived long, and their experiences may have altered how they dealt with situations. No one was sure what to think.

It made Kili wonder how in Middle Earth they were going to work together again. It was hard enough the first time, and while now they supposedly knew what to expect, their dynamics were questionable to say the least. Not to mention that Gandalf didn't know what happened. Surely there had to be some reason the wizard had disappeared so often last time.

So many things had been answered by the time they had died, but since then countless more had arisen. How were they alive? Why? What was their next choice? Should they still head to Rivendell knowing what they did? Should they travel down the same path as before? Should they face the Trolls to make sure they claimed no more victims? How were they going to deal with Azog and Bolg?

Kili twitched at the thought of the latter. Bolg had been the one to deliver the killing blow to Fili when they were overwhelmed. From those experiences, what had all of them seen? How much had they changed?

"Gandalf, is it possible that Sauron sent us back?" Thorin asked. Kili nearly choked on his drink again, and not in a funny way this time. "The Ring offered to bring everyone back when I was about to toss the Ring into Mount Doom. I refused, but..."

"Anything is possible," Gandalf said solemnly. "However, it does not appear as though any of you have been touched by darkness despite your claims. In fact, it's almost as if you've been blessed."

Thorin looked nauseous as he croaked, "Blessed?"

"Yes...But by whom, I do not know." The wizard smoked from his pipe contemplatively. "Powerful magic has touched you. Nor do I know these are visions of the future, or if you have truly been brought back. It is extremely troubling that I cannot recognize this sort of magic, or its owner. Is it possible Mistress Baggins has something similar?"

Nori shook his head, "Like you, she doesn't remember what we've been through. This is a Belle who doesn't know us at all."

Gandalf grimaced, "I also find it disturbing how you all refer to her on a first name basis. I never imagined you and she would ever grow that close."

"Then why did you invite her in the first place?" Gloin growled.

Gandalf smiled softly, "Because I remembered a child who was mischievous, and snuck around to her heart's content, thrilled for an adventure like her mother." He closed his eyes. "I also remember when she accidentally lit up a firework, and stood up with a wooden sword to protect everyone even though her legs were shaking. She was brave, caring, and anything but proper, and she really hated dresses."

Dwalin snorted. Some things never changed, and others apparently did, "That was our Belle? What changed?"

"I do not know my dear Dwalin," Gandalf said. "But I do know this, when she cares about someone, she cares deeply. The Shire is her home, but I wanted to show her the world like she wanted to when she was younger. I wanted to see that same joyous smile...What happened to her?"

Thorin suddenly paled, and was backing out of the booth. The rest of them moved away from Thorin, and out of the wizard's sight. Kili felt himself sweating. Right, Gandalf dearly cared about Belle, and was practically her godfather. The first time this happened, Gandalf was physically and emotionally unable to attack Thorin. Not to mention he was preoccupied with the Ring.

Right now? He had no such issues or obligations. Now all Kili had to do was count backwards before the wizard exploded. Three...Two...

"THORIN OAKENSHIELD!"...Dang it, he didn't even make it to one. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY HOBBIT?!"

How the tables had turned...Should he start counting down again?


 

"Belle, you shouldn't try to climb so high," Amaranth warned. "You'll fall, and when you do, it's going to hurt."

Belle sat on the branch of the tallest tree in the Shire, which overlooked the green hills. It reminded her of moving water touched by the breeze. Silently, she wondered if the ocean was like that. She closed her eyes, sniffing the air and recalling the sea shell her mother brought back. It made a sound Belladonna said was like the ocean.

"Amaranth, have you ever felt like you don't remember something important, but you still want to find whatever it is?"

"More than you could possibly know," Amaranth said, regret on her face. Belle curled her hand into a fist near her heart. "Look, I'm glad you finally found something to distract you from this life, but you don't even know these dwarves, and what if you're wrong about your theory, or worse, what if you're right?"

"I'm not so stupid that I'll just run off without considering what I'm doing," Belle said. "Especially not someone that may be as important as this, at least not without sleeping on it first."

There was a long silence, "There are many things that could happen Belle. You could have the greatest time of your life, but I find it more likely that you'll either feel miserable in the end, or you won't come back at all."

"You're acting strange." Belle looked at her cousin as she stood up on the branches, walking forward and looking at the other branches to find a clear path so she could see more clearly. "You're the daring one, so I thought you'd be encouraging me to go after them."

"I'm your family before I'm a Took," Amaranth grunted. "I just want to make sure that if you go with them, it is something you have given forethought to...Do you remember how you helped us during the Fell Winter? And how scared you were to even get out your front door?"

Belle stiffened, memories flooding her mind.

"Can you handle it? Can you take any suffering or anger that comes your way? Can you consciously make a decision when it could involve lives? How far would you go?"

"Amaranth, I don't even know them. At least, not yet. How can I make that decision right now?" She stepped onto one of the thinner branches. "I think you're going a little overboard with this."

Amaranth sighed, "I just want you to be okay. I've seen you at your low points Belle, and every time I do you amaze me with how you're able to stand up again, but I'm afraid of when that strength may fail."

Belle was nearing the edge of the branch, leaning out to the sky and looking at the plummet below. She could clearly feel fear in her heart, but the view was so tempting that she felt the urge to take one more step towards something she couldn't even touch.

"It's not strength," Belle replied. "It was never that. I just followed my heart, and that's what I'm going to do next, wherever it leads me."

"Even if it means you'll fall?" Amaranth said, gazing forward.

Her eyes were following a figure too distant for Belle to see. "That depends on me."

Just then, a strong gust of air hit the tree with enough force for Belle to start falling with a small scream. The figure in the distance paused with whatever he was running from, and ran towards the falling hobbit. Amaranth, who had been reaching for Belle frantically, smiled, watching from a ways away as her cousin fell into another person's arms.


 

"So, you're a Thains Heir?" Bofur asked in Bifur's place.

The hobbit blew a smoke ring into the air, so that it encompassed the sun, "Yep, there's thirteen of us right now. As the Thain grows older and older, there will be fewer and fewer until the Thain narrows it down to the final heir, and their time comes...It's not that big of a deal."

"How can you say that?" Bombur asked. "Isn't a Thain like a King?"

The hobbit sighed, "No, it may be a hereditary position, and one normally of leadership, but being firstborn doesn't mean anything if you're a poor leader."

The dwarves weren't' quite sure how to respond to that.

"Besides, the Thain rarely has to do anything major as a military leader since it's so peaceful. The economy practically runs itself and the Thain may be mediator, though rarely. We regularly converse with Rangers, and evaluate what little defenses we have."

"Then, why must the position be hereditary, if it's not what makes a good leader?" Bifur asked.

Bombur translated this time and the hobbit grinned, "Some things can't be taught. That's why Tooks travel, because then they learn all on their own about what it truly means to fight and struggle. What it means to live in every small moment. We're the only clan that does that...And, there are some things that can only be passed down through bloodlines."

Bofur tilted his head, "It sounds a little contradictory, doesn't it, Isengrim?"

"Really?" Isengrim said. "And since when is anything that clear?"

Bombur changed the subject, "So, are you excited to be a Thains Heir?"

"Not really, besides, the chances of getting into the position are pretty slim for me. I'm more of a follower than a leader, "Isengrim Took claimed, nolstagia in his eyes. "You never know what might happen next."


 

Dori had always been the second fastest after Bombur, and he was the third quietest after Belle had joined the Company last time around. He had been scouting the area with Nori, trying to find the Urs while also finding out where Belle was so they could avoid her.

That's when he saw her. She had been standing precariously on a tree branch, talking to another hobbit. It sounded like they were arguing when a breeze that shook those on the ground, knocked her off her branch.

What should he do? It had been obvious the dwarves were avoiding her earlier, so if he saved her, there was a chance she'd try to know them due to her inquisitive nature. If he didn't though, she could get seriously hurt or possibly die...Damn hobbits!

Dori ran and held out his arms, giving a small grunt as her weight settled against him. He fell to his knees for a different reason though. She had looked up with fear in her eyes. Mahal, she had died, and here she was in his arms, breathing and whole. It felt like he was hugging his brothers again after seeing them this time around.

Belle looked up at him, obviously anxious, "Um, thank you, but I think you can let go now."

Dori ran out onto the ice where Thorin was hunched over. He rushed over frantically looking around for Belle, praying she was okay. That's when he saw it, a bloodied hand limp on the ground with Thorin's reaching for it. There she was, in Thorin's arms, with eyes closed. She was smiling, like she used to in her sleep before the Goblin Caves.

Dori automatically dropped her upon recalling where he was. She squeaked and he backed away, trying to resist the urge to help her. It was as tempting as protecting Ori from the smallest dangers imaginable. She looked up at him quizzically, her eyes widening in some form of recognition.

"Thank you again, I'm Belle Baggins, but I think you already know that. Can I know your name?" Dori started walking away, silently begging for her to ignore him. Instead, she opened her mouth again. "Wait, you're one of the dwarves with Gandalf. Please, I need to find him."

"Um, I think he left already."

Of course, that's when the the Ur brothers had to show up, and Thorin with the rest of the Company as he tried to avoid a raging Gandalf. Thorin wasn't even looking in front of him as his gaze was stuck on Gandalf. Dori covered his eyes as Thorin rammed into Belle, knocking her back into the ground. Dori had the sudden urge to strangle a certain king.

Chapter Text

Belle sat in her room, pulling her knees to her chest. These dwarves were just impossible! They invaded her home, stole her food, and their leader flat-out insulted her. And they wanted her to steal from a dragon? Were they all just as mad as that blasted wizard?! Confound it all!

She was tired of people like them, like Lobelia, like Gandalf who always insisted she was either something she wasn't, or trying to change her into something that she could never attain.  Yavanna, they belittled her and her home, the one her parents made out of love.

The hobbit held her hands over her ears as they started singing. Ugh, not to mention their choice of music was atrocious! It was too deep and dark and...It reminded her of another time. Slowly, she peeled her hands from her ears, listening cautiously. Were they trying to brainwash her? It was not going to work. It wasn't going to...

They were all singing it now, and in the back of her mind, Belle could hear the voices of many more singing too. Belle wasn't too keen on the idea of "long forgotten gold", because that wasn't what they were really looking for, was it? No, they missed something, they missed their home.

She didn't understand it completely, but she did understand that they had families, and no home, while she had a home, but no real family. Yes, there were a few hobbits she could talk to, but no one really to connect with. Who was she to deny everyone else's chance at happiness just because of the dwarves with her now?

Wait, she really ought to sleep on it first. After all, she would be an un-chaperoned female amongst men she barely knew. Belle doubted Gandalf would purposely send her into that kind of danger, but then again he did try to hire her to steal from a dragon earlier...This decision wasn't going to be as easy as she'd hoped, would it?


 

Thorin didn't even have time to blink when his body fell against a decidedly feminine one, and he was flung somewhere in the cold. Dizzy, he sat up, only to see Gloin and Oin taking the woman by the hands so she could sit up. Amber eyes met his blue ones, and Thorin froze.

She began tilting from side to side, holding her head and groaning. Thorin trembled as Oin spoke, "Lass, are you alright?!"

Gloin and Dori glared at Thorin as Dwalin helped him up. Thorin could barely stand as he watched her. He had hurt her, again. Mahal, what had he done?!

"Lass, how many fingers am I holding up?" Oin asked, sounding more professional than usual.

"Five," she chuckled. "No worries, I'm fine. It's take a lot more than that to cause damage."

She tried standing up, only to waver once more. Gloin and Dori caught her, and Oin began questioning her again. She answered all of his questions. Slowly, a smile broke out on her face, and she began giggling for a reason Thorin could not fathom. Wasn't she scared? Shouldn't she be terrified of them? Of him? Or hate him? She should be screaming at him! She should be-

He then recalled Nori's words. This Belle didn't know him at all. Still, he glanced at his hands, and saw red. He blinked at her and for the smallest of moments, he saw her falling with wounds from the Carrocks, Mirkwood, and the Battle of the Five Armies. He saw crimson where her heart was, and he croaked. He killed her. He killed her. Hekilledher. Hekilledherhekilledherhekilledher...

Dwalin squeezed his shoulder, waking him from his stupor. Thorin stared at her once more, fighting to sort out his mind. He dared not get any closer to her, but he couldn't stop from calling out, "Are you all right?"

"Yes," she said bluntly, no doubt somewhat irritated, and yet she still smiled honestly. Thorin's heart felt as if it were ready to crumble. She nodded at Oin, Gloin and Dori, "Thank you." That's when she turned to him, "Are you?"

Thorin had to bite his lip, hard, to keep from crying in front of her. He had learned to cry a lot more in his sixty years without her, just as he had learned to laugh and smile because of the fond memories they had shared before...She had taught him how to live, and here she was, living and breathing in front of him after so long.

Dwalin answered for him, "He's fine lass."

Belle continued watching him furrowing her eyebrows with an expression he couldn't read, before facing Gandalf. She smirked maliciously. She growled, "Gandalf..."

"My dear Belle, what on earth is the matter?"

Now that Gandalf was learning the truth, even he was wary, cautious.

She folded her arms over her chest and began tapping her foot. She had that pout she used to have whenever she was irritated or exasperated with his nephews' or Gandalf's behavior. "What’s the matter? You came to my home this morning and tried to get me on an adventure, as if pretending I was my mother. Next thing I know, these gentlemen appear in the Shire, running from me."

"Oh, they’re quite a merry gathering, once you get used to them," Gandalf chuckled, his eyes showing he was contemplating many things all at once. Thorin hated that look. Usually when the wizard was planning something, trouble would follow. He didn't want any more trouble for Belle. No, he didn't want any of this for her at all.

"Gandalf," she warned. "I've been chasing you all day. I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but when you mentioned taking me on an adventure, you mentioned dwarves or possibly anybody needing help."

All the dwarves tensed, turning in unison to glare at Gandalf. Right, they remembered how he tricked her. Gandalf awkwardly cleared his throat. "Well, I-"

"And you certainly did not mention a plausible dragon," she said, not backing down. Thorin just about had a heart attack. "When were you going to mention this? When they were at my doorstep?!"

No, after they had already invaded her home and taken her food, Thorin had the urge to say, but he kept silent. Thinking back, even in the War of the Ring, a lot of bad stuff happened around Gandalf. What was the likelihood of everything that happened being coincidental? As Belle once told him, there are no coincidences. Still, how did she know about Smaug?

Gandalf sheepishly grinned, "How about we all sit down to discuss this?"


Bofur was losing his mind. His best frien, aside from Bifur and Bombur, was standing right in front of him...And she had no clue who he was. Deep down, he had no doubt that being around her like this was painfully bittersweet for everyone else as well. Still, it shouldn't have come to this. If only Thorin hadn't run into her then, then-

Then they wouldn't be here, and he'd be out of his mind even more than he was now. He'd be worried about dark forces chasing her regardless of the Ring. As far as the Company knew, they were the only ones who remembered what happened, but Bofur didn't like those chances, especially since they didn't know what forces brought them back.

It didn't matter what Gandalf said about them being blessed, (okay, it did somewhat but that was beside the point) he couldn't help but feel terrified. Within a few decades, he'd lost his best friend, his cousin, and his brother. He hated feeling empty, and he didn't want to deny his feelings with logic or practicality at that point. Still, he also knew that wasn't how the world worked, nor was it how he worked.

He wanted Belle near them as much as possible, but he also wanted her away from them so they couldn't hurt her. He had treated her like a joke previously, but she not a object for his amusement. Far from it. There was a time where he had believed he'd fallen in love with her. Then he realized he loved her, but was not in love with her.

Seeing her now, he found himself contemplating that position once more. Thorin was his king, but did he honestly deserve Belle? Bofur knew that he himself did not, after all, he was just a different kind of cruel in the beginning than Thorin. However, in the end, Thorin destroyed her, and Bofur couldn't stop hating his king for what he did, even if Belle was alive and whole in front of them now.

However this ended, Bofur was going to make sure Thorin didn't hurt Belle again.

No matter what it took.


"Thorin, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori...Ori," Gandalf said as he counted them off.

As he did, Belle mentally examined each one of them. Her head dizzied at such similar names. How does one ever keep track? She supposed she could start off by the physical appearances. Another could be that they were all related. Family trees were easy to remember, especially after living in the Shire. Then, she could discern from there.

She started off with the bloke who had run into her. Thorn Oakensomething? No, Thorin Oken...She'd figure it out later. He appeared to be middle-aged, with a few crinkles around his eyes. His nose was hooked, much like a bird of prey's. He wore a short beard quite well, making him appear almost handsome. He also had silver highlights in his hair...She felt very jealous of his hair.

Then there was Fili and Kili. Both had features of Thorin mixed in. One, the one with sunshine hair, had his cheekbones. The other, had hair that was as dark as the fertile Earth, and full of possibilities (who knew what would bloom from the young lad). Okay, he didn't have a beard, but he did have the chin. One had bright blue eyes, the other's was dark.

Not following Gandalf's chronological order, she looked at the closest one to her. Ori was probably as young as Kili and Fili. His haircut, if it was cut, was in the shape of an upside down bowl. Two medium-sized braids cascaded past his cheeks and a smaller one rested between two points of a rather short beard. The color of said hair could be compared between chestnuts and walnuts.

In his arms was a book and under the other arm was knitting needles and yarn. His posture indicated that he was the shy sort and it was obvious from a peek to part of a page from the book he was gifted as writing and drawing. There was a lifelike sketch of Bag End's front yard and garden in there...When was he at her home?!

Next to him was a large, muscular dwarf sewn with tattoos on his arms. He was fairly tall compared to the others, and watched other hobbits with distrust. On his back were axes and his dark eyes were fairly intimidating. Still, there was a kindness in those eyes. He meant no ill will, although he certainly seemed hungry from the sound of his stomach grumbling. He gazed longingly at a cookie jar across the way. Belle suspected that there was something underneath that hardened exterior.

She glanced at the dwarves who helped her earlier.

Dori had silver hair. Not grey, but silver. And it was incredibly neat. Intricate braids (what was it with dwarves and braids?) held down his hair and beard without a single strand out of place. He also had ear cuffs, their purpose unexplained. She supposed that he could be considered very handsome to dwarf and hobbit alike, but she felt no attraction.

What concerned her, more than it should have, was the strength hidden under his clothes. He didn't show off his muscle like Dwalin, but she could see that he was just as thick in the limbs and hands. Something about him was rather frightening, but she saw how close he and Ori wandered together. The bond between them was strong. He constantly watched Nori with suspicion, but there was some affection there as well. He did seem more protective of Ori than anyone else. Belle had to admire those qualities.

As she turned to look at the others, Oin trotted up to her and touched her head. Belle tensed from the touch, she was unused to it, but waited for him to remove his hand. "Master Oin, it is just a scratch, so you needn't worry. I've dealt with head trauma before and I have no symptoms of it," she stated.

Oin was elderly. His gray hair was frayed and whisped everywhere. He had a mustache that curled downwards and two braids in his beard that defied gravity as they curled towards the ceiling. His nose had a similar arch to Thorin's and, as she realized, so did Gloin's, Dwalin's and Balin's. Were they all related? Despite his hearing troubles, Belle could tell he knew what he was doing. His hand reached for all the right places on the skull to make a diagnosis. He also had a glint in his eyes that suggested that he knew more than he let on.

"And how do you know that lass?" he inquired.

She winced at the memories of the Fell Winter, "I've some experience."

Belle didn't elaborate further as she examined the others. Another dwarf, Gloin, with flaming red hair and beard with silver beads, and an axe larger than even Dwalin's spoke with the healer. Hopefully the size of the weapons was not just a statement for masculinity. Then there'd be a dreadful fight in Bag End or Belle would die on the journey due to useless tools. (Hey, not those kinds of tools!)

Somehow, he reminded Belle of her father. It was the look in his eyes that all parents' got once they experienced raising a child they loved. It was boundless joy and fervent concern. However, he wasn't just that. Several scars decorated his face. They were made by blades. This fellow had seen battle and not the tickling kind by young ones. A family man and a soldier? No offense, but should he really be out here if he has someone back home?

The others were equally strange in appearance, though she shouldn't judge since she knew almost nothing about dwarven culture. Bombur was incredibly large, even for a dwarf. The hair on the top of his head was rather flat, but it expanded as it spiraled downward. It came to form a humongous braid that twisted in a semicircle to the other side of his face. The braid itself was so long, it reached his stomach. His chin was bare, so the beard was probably fashioned to grow from sideburns.

He constantly glanced at her timidly, and was flushed. She smiled, thinking he seemed awfully shy, since she hadn't heard a word out of him even if she saw him talking to his family. Well, they were also pretty unusual. Bifur was a fair-sized dwarf. His hair was gray, dark as night, and very, very wild. It stuck up all over the place. In his beard there was three tightly wound braids. There was a huge one in the middle, surrounded by two smaller ones. What should have been a major detail for her, yet wasn't for some reason, was the piece of an axe embedded in Bifur's skull.

She should've known her brain would have turned off at the most practical of times. And here she was supposed to be considerate. Still, she was determined not to stare at it. No one should be stared at for a scar like that. He probably got it in a battle or war. Besides, if Dwalin was anyone to go by, dwarves didn't seem bothered by such things, so she wouldn't be either.

Bifur made more gestures and pointed to her. The first one had two fingers making a walking position. The second looked like he was breaking something in half. (Did he want her broken in half?! What'd she do?!) The third and final used both hands, and it was as if he were fumbling with a key. Someone walking, breaking something, and having to do with a key? No wait, a lock.

...Did they want her to break into something? The dragon's lair perhaps? Oh, they wanted her to sneak into the dragon's lair for something, so maybe they didn't want her to fight it. Bofur didn't really have a beard like the others.  He had a goatee though and a fairly large mustache to compliment it.  His hair was as dark as the bark on a Douglas Fir. Poking out from his large hat were two braids that twisted into the air. So far, she hadn't seen him stop smiling at her. Was he a cheerful fellow, or was he trying to creep her out? Was he making fun of her? Or was he hiding something that he thought was funny?

Nori was taller than Ori. His hair was more ruby than flame, but his mischievous eyes let her know that many women (and possibly men) could fall for his charms. His hair rose into the air by three points, like the top of a star. His beard was also separated into three parts, with large metal bands holding them together. Thick eyebrows came to fine points on both sides of his face.

She couldn't help but notice his clothing was lighter than others and he wore colors that would blend into the night. Not to mention, his fingers were constantly twitching, yearning to grab something. Unlike Ori though, this person was not nervous. In fact, his aura suggested someone with an eerie and arrogant confidence. Was he a thief?

Lastly, but certainly not least, was Balin. He was an elderly fellow. Or at least, he looked elderly. Who knew with dwarves? His beard was a silken white that curved into two points. He also shared the same arched nose and dark, knowing eyes as Dwalin. Actually, now that she thought about it, their noses were somewhat similar to Thorin's. Were they related? Perhaps that was why there was such a similarity in their names.

In the Prancing Pony, they all sat down. She still couldn't believe she had to chase them all the way to Bree just to get answers. The sad thing was, she felt like she would've trekked all of Middle Earth to learn whatever she was about to learn now. Was she going mad? At this point, yes, yes she was.

Dora came over, "Oh, it's you gentlemen again. More ale?"

Belle wrinkled her nose as the males agreed. Dora turned to her, "The usual Belle?"

"Yes, and please put it all on my tab," Belle said, ignoring the dwarves' protests. "Oh please, you would've been my guests if Gandalf had his way, and I'd be a pretty poor one if I didn't at least help get some food in you."

Dora glanced at Gandalf. "Wine please."

"Be right back"

Normally she'd go in the back with Dora to help her prep, but the dwarves seemed anxious to be on their way without her. It was somewhat insulting for them to avoid her so without giving her a chance...Not that she was interested but...Oh, who was she kidding? Of course she was interested!

"Thank you mistress Baggins, " one of them, Thorin, practically croaked. Belle didn't understand it, what wass\ so frightening about her? "We'll pay you bac-"

"Don't you dare," Belle stated sternly. "I'm too tired for this. If it helps you cope, I'm doing this because I want answers, and the blasted wizard are going to provide them."

Dora returned with lemon water and a tray of ale for the group. Belle gratefully accepted the lemon water and the men their ale. Some of them made strange expressions at her choice of drink, but said nothing. She was glad for it, she wasn't a fan of ale, and if they were pint-sized here. Belle raised an eyebrow at her cousin, Dora, when her gaze lingered on the Bifur longer than would normally be deemed appropriate.

"Sorry Dora, but I think we're going to need a little privacy over here. Could you make sure no one gets too close?" Belle gave her a small smirk and Dora blushed profusely, nodding and hurrying away to serve another customer. "Sorry about that. Now, Gandalf?"

For reasons unknown to her, Gandalf was hesitant, looking to the dwarrow.

"Mistress Baggins, you have to understand. This mission is very important to us and-" Fili had started, but Belle cut him off.

"I can't believe I'm about to say this, but get straight to the point," she mumbled. "How about this? Just tell me what adventure Gandalf wanted me to do. Deal?"

Gandalf clenched his hand, but pulled out a map in horror to the dwarrow. "My dear Belle, far to the East, over ranges and rivers, beyond woodlands and wastelands, lies a single solitary peak."

He nodded to Thorin, who reluctantly laid down a map. Belle read it, her fingers brushing over the words carefully as if it would shatter in front of her with the slightest touch. "The Lonely Mountain."

"The task would be difficult enough with an army behind us. But we number just thirteen, and not thirteen of the best, nor brightest," Balin said, glancing at the others.

There was a group exchange in those moments, as if they all knew his words and understood the weight of them. Belle wasn't sure what to make of it. Had they all rehearsed this before?

"Rumours have begun to spread. The dragon Smaug has not been seen for 60 years. Eyes look east to the Mountain, assessing, wondering, weighing the risk," Thorin said. He kept glancing at her, but never made full eye contact. Not since he had bumped into her. Belle could see the doubt in his eyes. The dragon was alive, and they knew it somehow. Seriously, these dwarves were awful liars. He held out a key, "And now we have the key of my father to the hidden passage inside."

So, Belle's theory was right. Gandalf wanted her to face a bloody dragon. Still, maybe she ought to refrain from saying too much.

Gandalf lit his pipe, "The task I have in mind will require a great deal of stealth, and no small amount of courage. But, if we are careful and clever, I believe that it can be done."

"That's why we need a burglar," Dori finished.

Belle's eyes widened with rage as she looked at Gandalf. "That's what you wanted me for, isn't it? I've only stolen one thing in my life Gandalf, and that was when I was barely a babe. I'm not a burglar."

"I’m afraid I have to agree with Mistress Baggins. She’s hardly burglar material," Balin said.

"Aye, the wild is no place for gentlefolk who can neither fight nor fend for themselves," Dwalin added.

The relief was evident in the dwarves, but it turned to horror as Gandalf spoke. "Enough, if I say Belle Baggins is a burglar, then a burglar she is."

The wizard had a strange look in his eyes as he spoke more to her than others. "Hobbits are remarkably light on their feet. In fact, they can pass unseen by most if they choose. And while the dragon is accustomed to the smell of dwarf, the scent of hobbit is all but unknown to him, which gives us a distinct advantage. You asked me to find the fourteenth member of this company, and I have chosen Mistress Baggins. As you know, there’s a lot more to her than appearances suggest, and she’s got a great deal more to offer than any of you know, including herself. You must trust me on this."

Why was Gandalf insisting on her? Thorin and several of the others began shouting; speaking in a language she didn't understand. The pure rage in each of them nearly made her huddle in a corner with fear, and she had seen Gandalf when he was angry.  And yet, reclaiming Erebor would not just be about these dwarves, but an entire people. Belle had been in this kind of position before, and it had horrified her. Still, she never regretted some of the things she had done, because it gave others a chance. She had to say something, and she needed answers on a personal note.

"Gandalf, with all due respect, I am not my mother," Belle said, silencing the room. "I'm not nearly as great as she was. I am, and always will be, an ordinary hobbit. I'm no hero. I'm no warrior. I'm not even a burglar." She flinched as she continued, "And it's obvious to all, that I'm not enough for everything they need, and I never will be."

Thorin made a gagging noise; his eyes alight with pain and fear. He opened and closed his mouth several times, clearly wishing to say something, but eventually kept it closed. Belle looked at the map once more. No, she wasn't sure if she was enough, but she wanted to be, and desperately.

So, she sighed, "Do you honestly think I can help them? Do you believe it wholeheartedly based on me, and not who you want me to be?"

"Yes," the wizard said without hesitation, receiving more glares.

Belle considered the situation. "Can you promise I'll return home?"

"No. And if you do, you will not be the same," Gandalf stated factually, with an undertone of worry.

She glanced back at the dwarves. Ori was biting his nails nervously. Gloin was squirming in his seat with Oin nudging him. Balin tried to appear as stoic as possible, but as obviously struggling. Dwalin's expression didn't change, but she could see he was biting the inside of his cheek. Kili and Fili held each other's hand, and seemed to be uttering a prayer of some sort. The ale in Dori's hand was shaking, a sweet fragrance dripping onto the table. Even the plausible thief looked to be in some form of pain.

Bifur and Thorin appeared the most uncomfortable, horror written on both of them. However, one seemed to be overprotective like a family member might while the latter was a kind of protectiveness she could not recognize. It was odd that she couldn't read someone. Then she realized, he was begging her not to do it. Belle would've been offended, if not for the concern He wasn't just horrified, he was afraid, both of her and for her. She had never seen it before. How could someone fear another, yet be concerned for them at the same time? Besides, they barely knew one another.

Still, there was the bigger picture to consider. If she didn't go, these people might die. However, they could that anyway since she wasn't much of a threat...She couldn't just stand by though, could she? No, she wasn't involved, but...Yes, she was. A voice rang in her mind, one she couldn't recognize, informing her exactly why she couldn't just sit and watch. Now it was up for her to make the choice. Belle relaxed, listening to the voice in her mind. It was comforting, and reminded her of a time long forgotten that she could not place.

She furrowed her eyebrows, coming to a conclusion. "No one will be responsible for my choices or my fate except for myself, and I won't pretend to be something I am not. So here's what I'm going to do..."


Belle read the contract once more, knowing that there was not much time left. It was now or never if she wanted to do this. In all honesty, she was terrified of leaving. She didn't know them. Yet, a voice deep down told her that she wanted to.

So, she dipped the pen into the ink and wrote down her name, shivering at the letters scratched across the page. Then, she ran. Over the hills, past the river, and through the fields. Inside, a song echoed inside her that she hadn't heard in years.

The breeze echoed in her mind, as did another voice. "Belle! Where are you going?!"

Belle briefly looked at Amaranth, waving farewell. "I'm going on an adventure!"

She finally reached the dwarves giving the paper to the eldest, gentlemanly dwarf. He nodded, smiling warmly. "Everything appears to be in order. Welcome, Mistress Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield."

To her great surprise, a number of the dwarves cheered. Their leader, Thorn Oakenjerk err...Shield? He's the leader, right? Right, Thorin Oakenshield, was obviously skeptical. That was okay. She could take it...Until he said for them to get her a pony. She pouted at him, protesting the need for one, since dwarves obviously didn't understand hobbit stamina when it came to moving on their feet. Still, why did she get the feeling he would purposely make her life incredibly painful?

Chapter Text

Belle wasn't a fan of Nori. First of all, he was a thief. That in itself was horribly improper. In the beginning she might have been a little charmed by his good looks, but then he opened his mouth. Honestly, he was worse than Bofur sometimes, and she thought people couldn't get crasser or have a complete lack of manners (with the exception of Thorin).

Worse than that was what kind of thief he was, a poor one. Honestly, she could hear him a hundred feet away when he was trying to be sneaky. And he was so against her in the beginning that he tried to steal her stuff constantly. She'd seen better tactics from a fauntling breaking into a cookie jar. No wonder Gandalf wanted him replaced.

However, after the trolls she noticed a difference in his temperance towards her. There had been the barest hints before, but he warmed up to her, even asking about any injuries she may have had after facing the trolls. It frightened Belle, because that meant he might care.

It touched her deeply. So she began leaving the trivial things around, making sure he still had a challenge and practiced his skills. He never knew, or at least she thought he never knew, that she did it on purpose. She learned soon after that they had a lot in common. For example, they were both social outcasts because they did not follow the stereotypes. He learned of her hidden mischievous side, and she learned of his more understanding side.

Eventually he taught her how to be a little more manipulative. She was still bad at keeping secrets, but at least by the Goblin Caves, she had learned to stall long enough to survive. She often found herself wondering if things had been a little different, even if the idea was highly improper, that they could have been the best of friends.


 

"...When do you have to leave?" The silence in the room threatened to suffocate her. Her hands shook as she tried not to look into the dwarves' eyes. What could they possibly be thinking? Wait, why did she care?  "Aren't we supposed to be talking about some sort of quest? Or are all of you going to daydream for the remainder of your stay?"

Dwalin raised an eyebrow, trying to be imposing. He wasn't going to fool her anytime soon. Yes, he was scary appearance-wise, but looking into his eyes, deep down she knew he wouldn't really hurt her. "What's your decision lass?"

"It depends on your answer," she retorted.

Balin nodded at Dwalin, "At daybreak."

Gandalf cleared his throat, "Balin, isn't there something Belle would need to sign if she decides to go on the journey?"

If looks could kill... "Ah, yes."

The elderly dwarf pulled out a slip of paper, which unfolded several feet. Belle gaped, shaking hands grasping the paper. She sat down, reading over everything and swallowed harshly, "'The present company shall not be liable for injuries inflicted by or sustained as a consequence thereof, including, but not limited to...lacerations. Evisceration...Incineration'?"

"Oh, aye, he'll melt the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye," Bofur said quite seriously, his eyes having widened for a fraction of a moment from how calm she was to even say those words.

Belle caught the glint in his eye. They were trying to scare her off. What she couldn't figure out was why. They already knew Gandalf wanted to hire a hobbit, didn't they? What else were they expecting when it came to a race known for, if known at all, rarely being involved in anything outside their society? And it was a soft society that worked more in the realms or mind games and respectability.  These folk were specifically scared for her. Yavanna, she really was a fool of a Took for her blasted curiosity.

Bofur smiled as if he had the most brilliant idea in all of Middle-Earth. "Think furnace, with wings."

"Very helpful Master Bofur," she grumbled, folding up the paper.  Belle sighed, standing up. "I'm going to think on this," she responded, trying to sound and failing to be brave. "Meanwhile, feel free to stay the night here on my tab. It's too late tonight for me to head home, so I'll be staying too. Good night gentlemen... "

She gave a small curtsey and went over to the bar where Dora was, carefully tucking away the contract. Dora raised an eyebrow, "Are you okay?"

"No," Belle said honestly. "I'm confused."


 

"Dwalin, we have to do something," Nori said.

Dwalin glared at him, "Like what? If your brother hadn't-"

"If he hadn't caught her, Belle could have been seriously hurt, possibly killed if she fell in a wrong way," Nori exclaimed. "And then we'd regret not saving her again. What would you have done if you saw her body like that again, knowing Dori could have saved her, but didn't."

"I'd have attacked him, like I did Thorin when I thought he killed that wee hobbit lad," Dwalin admitted.

Nori raised an eyebrow, "You? Attack Thorin?"

"It was literally another lifetime ago. Remember how he keeps saying he lived here for sixty years?"

"No, we were separated," Nori gestured. "But I did hear that he adopted a baby hobbit."

"He raised a hobbit lad who was a lot like Belle. They looked almost nothing alike but, there was something about the kid when I visited," Dwalin explained, rubbing his brows.  "The kid was brave, and had a heart that was unbelievable. Not that bright, but kind. Orcs invaded the Shire when Sauron's forces first came around again, for reasons we don't know. Frodo was one of the casualties, and I found Thorin holding the lad like he did our old friend."

"Wow, now it's no wonder you went after him " Nori murmured, feeling the slightest ping of pity for their King. He also couldn't help but feel the urge to have met the boy. 

Before he could speak again, Dwalin mumbled, "Right isn't the best time, but in the other life, what did you do? I traveled with you for a while, and then returned to serve under Fili...I can't believe I'm saying this, and you'd better not tell the runt, but I believe those were some of the best years Erebor had seen in a long, long time. Not even under Thror's rule did it prosper so."

Nori snorted, his eyes softening, "He made a better kind than any of us hoped, I'll give him that...I had kids." Dwalin almost choked on his drink, and Nori continued, a light flush on his cheeks. Nori wasn't usually the kind to get embarrassed, but he knew it would be hard for others to believe. Even Dori could hardly believe the wedding announcement when it came. "We had twin girls. One had silver hair, and the other's was chesnut brown...I wish I had seen them grow up..."

Dwalin nodded, "I wish I could've met them."

Nori sighed, "Still, we haven't answered the main question: what are we going to do about Belle? How many times will her death affect us and yet we do nothing to prevent it? You attacked your best friend when you were reminded of the lass's death..What if she gets hurt? What will you do then?"

Dwalin shuddered, keeping silent for a good, long while. "I honestly do not know, but I know that I do not want to. The same would go for any of you."

"Especially Balin," Nori said, glancing at Belle as she went to a room. "I could drug her, and we could leave at dawn." Dwalin proceeded to smack him in the back of the head. Nori held out his hands in surrender, "What? It could work."

"Yes, and then what?" Bofur came storming over, apparently having overheard the conversation. "The lass is clever, and this time is only time I can think of that she forgot something. She saw the map, and I doubt she'll let go of it that quickly. No, if we truly believe she shouldn't come, then we need to convince her of that. And we can't do the same thing as last time. We unknowingly invaded her home, took her food, messed up her house, and even bullied her on the journey. Yet, she still came for a reason I cannot fathom."

Thorin soon sauntered over, "It's because she knows this isn't just about us."

Bofur folded his arms, "And why should we care for your input? Because your our 'King'? At least Fili didn't try to kill those who stayed loyal to him-" Bifur called out his name, but Bofur shrugged him off. "No, Thorin didn't just try, he succeeded. Now we have a second chance, and frankly, I don't want him getting near her. You were more of a bastard to her than I was. Who knows, maybe you've changed, none of us know that for sure. Actually, we're not sure of anything now, but I know that I'm not going to let any of you hurt her again, no matter what she chooses,  I'm not going to fail my friend again."

Nori had never been scared of Bofur of all people. Even when he bullied people, there was a light, something to smile at. Now? There was something more frightening than even Gandalf to be reckoned with when it came to their hobbit. Perhaps, none of them truly knew how much one life meant until it was gone. For Bofur, he lost not only Bifur, but Bombur and Belle as well. If what he claimed about his death was true, then it meant he may have suffered more than the rest of them, because he never truly moved on.

At least Dori had been living instead of surviving, even though Nori's death caused his heart to break, and he died in his sleep, but Bofur had become lifeless. He had to go for years before finding peace, only to have it taken from him. Now that he had a purpose again, Nori wouldn't doubt how far he'd go to keep his loved ones safe. Nori wondered what the old Belle might have thought if she could see them now. Would she be glad they all did their best to live out their old lives, or would she be sad many of them hadn't succeeded?

Thorin stared at Bofur, regret in his expression, "I swear I will not-"

"Belle vouched for you once when you made a promise, "Bifur said harshly. "And where did it get her?"

The King Under the Mountain flinched, a shadow of his former self. Then again, weren't they all? As much as Nori would love to see Thorin get chewed out, there was still something they'd been avoiding. "Calm down, and you know it's bad if it's coming from me."

The dwarves settled slightly, but their anger was far more visible than before. Dwalin and Balin remained by Thorin's side, albeit at a larger distance than they would have before. Kili and Fili stood off at the side, merely watching. Nori briefly wondered what their opinion was on this. Thus far, they appeared neutral. How disturbing was it that they had all been allies being together for a common cause, and now were being separated by the death of someone who wasn't even one of their own kind.

"What are we going to do? If we don't make a decision, then we really have doomed the lass," Nori said.

"The only way we can be sure of her fate, is if she comes."

The dwarrow turned in unison to see Gandalf. Nori scowled, "Is that why you told her so much?"

"It's because I care about her," Tharkun answered somberly, leaning against his staff. "And because, if what you said is true, she holds the fate of Middle Earth in those small hands on hers, or she will eventually."

Bombur scowled, "And what of her death?"

Gandalf explained, "I do not understand this at all, meaning I'm to be kept in the dark...Whatever did this, will undoubtedly come for her. Do you honestly think that the Shire is qualified to protect her?"

"And we are?" Thorin gestured to them, specifically himself. "Gandalf, you don't know what we did, what I did to her-"

"Would you do it again?"

"No," Thorin started. "But we're just dwarves..."

Gandalf smiled softly, "And she's supposed to be an ordinary hobbit. Besides, last time I recall, 'just' dwarves would not travel to their homeland to fight a dragon with only thirteen in their group. Yet, here you are. If you truly care about my hobbit, I ask that you let her go with you, and use your knowledge to keep her safe, and to let her live as she should have done."

Nori's heart felt like snapping in those moments. This stranger, was she really their Belle? This wasn't just another version...This was their Belle. The magnitude of what was said didn't just hit him, but all of the Company appeared inspired by Gandalf's little speech. If they didn't keep her with them, they wouldn't know what would happen. Could they forgive themselves if something happened to her because of them? Because of their choices?

Nori excused himself. He got onto a barrel, jumped up to catch the Prancing Pony sign, and swung up onto the roof through a series of maneuvers. It was after he started to relax slightly that he saw a small figure in a cotton dress watching the stars. It was Belle, and she looked frustrated. Reluctantly, he moved to sit next to her. She didn't even blink, so he cleared his throat. She smiled, finally looking at him.

"I could hear you a hundred feet away," she stated factually. "Are you supposed to be a thief?"

He stared at her, finding himself blushing, "Yes...You could hear me?"

"Yeah. It's kind of obvious where all of you dwarves are. You guys suck at being sneaky," she giggled, a hint of frustration in her eyes.

He had the strong urge to retort something, "What's the matter?"

"I'm, not really sure...Would you think me mad if I told you I heard voices in my head?"

Nori would've been really worried if Thorin or the other Durins had said that, but he wasn't really bothered when Belle said it. "You mean a conscious? Everyone has one of those."

"Not quite," she said tensely. "I belong to two major clans in hobbit societies. One if the Baggins, from my Da's side. That's my more rational side and is the one I can count on. I have a Took side from my Ma. Tooks are known for being idiots and always getting into trouble." Nori tried not to wince from the bittersweet nostalgia of that last statement. "They're always at odds..."

"So, what's the matter?"

"...They finally agree on something, about joining you on your quest," she croaked. "It's frightening, because I wanted to do something like this in so long, but I don't know why I want to even if it could mean the end of me. It's as if something is calling me. Yet, I'm afraid...These feelings don't make any sense, and I can't stop the sense of dread whenever I think of traveling with you. It's as if I desire something from the bottom of my heart just as much as I fear it. It sounds completely mad, doesn't it?"

Nori stiffened before shaking his head, knowing the feeling fully well. He plastered a smile on his face, trying to keep his composure, "I've experienced something similar..."

She tilted her head, "Like what?"

"I found two kids and against all instincts I took them in," he admitted. "I had never been so afraid before, because I knew my actions could put them in danger if anyone knew how much I cared for them. Still, I wanted those two more than life itself. I was scared for myself too, because I hadn't felt that way before, and I didn't know what they were doing to me."

Belle smiled, "Sounds like my Ma and Da..."

Nori chuckled, "As much as I'd like to say that, what matters more is that theychose me without thinking of some intended fate or destiny. I've done my best to show her how much I care..."

He didn't tack on that he died before they could all live out their lives together, or that he didn't get to see his daughters grow up. No, if Belle thought she was mad over something like this, he wasn't sure she could handle the truth about how they all knew her, or how much she had changed each and every one of them in a lifetime that she had never known. Belle continued to smile at him.

"Are the rest like you?" she inquired. "The other members of the Company, I mean."

"I'm not sure. Most of us haven't seen each other in years," Nori conceded, thinking about Thorin's new-found knowledge, and Bofur's rage. "So much has changed since the last time we saw one another, including ourselves. It's not a good idea to assume previous traits about on another just yet. You'll most likely see some fighting every once in a while, but I can promise you that none of them would purposely hurt you."

"...Why is that?" She looked up at him with her huge eyes. "I'm just a hobbit, so why would you all be so protective?"

Because none of us want you to die again. We're afraid to see you hurt. Seeing your tears may kill us. Every moment near you is bittersweet agony, and we're  more terrified than when we face Smaug. Please, please don't come with us.

Nori had to come up with something quickly, "I know your people don't share the same view as we do, but females are rare among our kind. To harm one is a high offense. Don't get me wrong, we have strong women, many of whom we respect, but they're also precious to us. The thought of endangering someone like you, frightens us because it feels wrong to do so. If you do go, I'm pretty sure they won't let anything happen to you."

Belle raised an eyebrow, "But if they don't let anything happen to me, then nothing will ever happen to me."

The dwarf chuckled, looking at the stars, "I suppose you have a point there...Have you made a decision yet?"

Belle opened her mouth to say something when singing reverberated through the tiles. Her eyes widened, and for a minute, she sat there pouting.

"Home is behind. The world ahead, and there are many paths to tread," she whispered softly. "Through shadow, to the edge of night."

This tune managed to catch his heart equally as much as the folk song. Yet, there was somehow an even sadder tone to it. He didn't know hobbit songs could be sad. He stiffened when many lights in the distance shone. That was the Shire...The homes shone like stars in the darkness, and Belle's voice echoed in the night. Nori could have sworn many more joined hers, as did the number of amber eyes glowing softly like fallen embers. He wondered how the Company hadn't heard it by then.

"Until the stars are all alight. Mist and shadow, cloud and shade. All shall fade. All shall, fade." A lone tear fell down her cheek, and she gave him one of those fake smiles. "Sorry, hobbits don't have many songs for times such as this. Mourning or loss isn't something we'd normally come across, so I-"

She swallowed, and it looked painful. That's when Nori realized, she had sung to honor his fallen brethren. "Thank you..."

"Do you have a spare pen on you?" Shakily, he handed one to her, and fought not to panic as movements of her wrist and fingers seemed to seal her fate. She sighed, "Can you help me pack supplies please? I've only gone as far as Frogmorton once, and the road ahead is very frightening. I'm not sure what to get ready for."

Nori was oddly happy that some things wouldn't completely change. "Well...You could always pack a handkerchief..."


 

"Everything appears to be in order. Welcome, Mistress Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield."

Belle thanked Balin, and excused herself to finish packing. Yavanna, she was going on a real adventure. A few feet away, Amaranth appeared. "Hello Belle, how are you?"

"A little sore, thank to you," Belle humphed. "How were you so sure they'd catch me?"

"...Because they care about you."

Belle thought back to Nori's words. "I think they're just protective of women in general."

"Belle. please, I need you to trust me," Amaranth said. "There's much more at stake here than a dragon or mountain full of gold...And it was partially Tom Bombadil's idea. You and I both know that male knows things, things no mortal or immortal should. I think you're supposed to do this."

"If that's true," Belle mumbled. "Then why ask so many questions to make sure I wanted this opportunity?"

"Belle, you're closest thing to family I have," Amaranth touched Belle's handkerchief.

Belle recalled the detailed threads in the handkerchief showing the bonds of their lost family. Her  were different shades of light blue and grass-like green.Belle's was a copper-gold and Amaranth's was a forest green. The handkerchiefs generally matched at least one of the parent's colors normally, but Belle's had always been different, she never knew why. Amaranth's had decayed slightly over the years. Both amber-eyed hobbits looked at the fabric.

"Do you remember how we made those mud pies and threw them at Gandalf?" Amaranth grinned. "And we'd always disappear when he came after us?"

"Yes, but they weren't always made of mud that I can recall," Belle snorted.

Amaranth chuckled, "Don't let him know that. Anyway, those were good times. I still remember how much trouble we used to get into, and I was the one who had to pull us out...I won't be there this time around, and the stakes are much higher this time. I don't care if it's against fate or destiny, I'm tired of losing loved ones Belle, and I know I have no right to determine your life or your choices, but I don't' want to see..."

She didn't finish the sentence. Belle gave her a lop-sided grin, "It's okay, I'll be fine...Hey, could you make sure the Sackville Baggins don't try to break into Bag End while I'm away? I'd bet that Lobelia will try to take some of my silverware if she ever got the chance."

Amaranth laughed, painfully, "Okay, I'll make sure that doesn't happen. Just let Bag End have a person to be waiting for."


 

"My lady, are you sure it's a good idea to let them go?" Isengrim asked. "Last time around, things didn't work out."

The hobbit in question inhaled deeply, "No, I'm not..."

"...You could see him again if you wanted, "Isengrim said. "I'm sure he misses you."

Amaranth smiled softly, "With how I look right now? He had better standards than that. Besides, he's most likely forgotten all about me by now. He certainly made the effort to last time I checked. Anyway, we need to gather the other Thains Heirs. We've got work to do."

Isengrim blew hair out of his face,uncovering his amber eyes, "Honestly though, what were those dwarves thinking when they considered me as a possible Thain? I don't think I've ever heard of something so ridiculous before."

The female hobbit only turned to other amber eyes watching her, members of all ages, eagerly awaiting her command. Amaranth sighed, "Onto the Mathom-House...It's time to relearn what this people have forgotten."


 

Nori was a thief. Sure, he made a very bad o ne, but he was a thief nonetheless. He was the kind who lied easily, and had plenty of experience. He was a fighter, but moreover he was a defender or people like his brothers as well as the innocent. She found out, after following him, that he sold her stuff to others to provide not only for the Company (which included his siblings), but to those who needed the money along the way. He stole from the rich, and gave to the poor. There was more honor to him than he'd ever admit...She started leaving more things around, not even minding if they were expensive or costly to her.

In the end, Belle regretted many things. One of them was never telling Nori what an amazing person he was. Every time he doubted her gave her a reason to stand her ground and fight smarter.  She admired his strength, courage, and generosity. Not to mention, he was a very dear friend, who had inadvertently saved her life many times by teaching her how to stall and out-wit her enemies without backing away in fear. The Company overall  had taught her what it meant to be brave. Each person taught her a lesson in addition to that.  Nori taught her was sacrifice meant, and she could only hope her own was worth something.

 

 

 

 She missed them all.

Chapter Text

Bofur was a puzzle that Belle felt like she needed to solve. He smiled constantly, almost impossibly.  That was how she knew, people don't smile like that. They can pretend to smile, and that's what he was doing. She supposed there was a charm to his odd humor, but that's what it really was, a charm. It was all a facade. She had lived in the Shire long enough to know that. What she didn't get was why he did it.

Still, he was crass, and he did insult her. She wasn't offended though. Instead, she just found herself feeling more and more curious as why he did those things. Why hide how he really felt, and lash out at the world. One day, he mocked her, saying it was no wonder her parents had left her alone in Bag End. She hadn't told them about her past, so she assumed Gandalf had. She excused herself, and went to a nearby river, and cried for the first time in years. He was right though, her mother didn't stay in the end. Didn't that mean there was something wrong with her?

Bofur caught her, so she did something she had had to practice for years, smile. He hadn't known. He asked about the handkerchief, and she explained its true purpose. They got to know each other. They were both incredibly clumsy and where she was proper, he complimented the situation with something almost entirely inappropriate. Over time, he finally showed her real smiles, and she adored seeing them every day.

She learned something then, she wasn't alone, because those who smiled brightest, were the saddest.


 

Belle stood in front of the pony, wide-eyed, "Um, what's it's name?"

"Oh, the pony's name is Myrtle," Bofur said, translating for Bifur...They gave her a pony named Myrtle? Admittedly the flower had many, many uses.. But why did they get her pony whose name was a symbol or marriage?! Whose idea was this?! "Do you like her?"

She pet it's name, sneezing once, only for Bofur to hand her a...handkerchief? Why did he have that on hand? "Um thank  you. May I ask who purchased the horse?"

Bofur grimaced, "Thorin did..."

"Oh, which one is he again?"

Bifur snorted behind them, and Bofur and Bombur grinned, "The broody one."

Her eyes automatically found the dark-haired dwarf with silver highlights, the one with the fancy hair. So, did dwarves know of hobbit traditions? No, she didn't think so. Since when did hobbits give away such information...Then again, it might explain why they were so nervous."Oh."

"What are you thinking of lass?"

She shrugged, "The pony's just seemed kind of familiar."

Bofur made an odd expression, but didn't comment. Across the way, Thorin, at a steady pace, got onto Minty's back. The pony seemed to grin skeptically at him. Belle had a bad feeling, and remained on guard. Trying to get comfortable, Thorin flipped his outrageously-long hair out of his eyes. The pony followed suit, mimicking Thorin and whacking him in the face with his mane. The oh-so-majestic king spat the hair out of his mouth, but retained a smile.

"Nice to meet you too, Minty," he leaned forward and rubbed behind the pony's ears.

In turn, Minty leaned into it, enjoying the sensation. This pony's name seemed very fitting, unlike a marriage proposal.  Mint represented healing, exorcism of evils, love, and protection of travelers. All of their paths carried the possibility of great evil, but they were able to rid themselves of it. The dwarves were doing this for their love of home. They wanted to regain something taken from them.

She turned her attention back to the Urs, who were getting onto their ponies. Bofur managed to get onto his with ease. Bifur's went just as smoothly after they shared a carrot (wait, what?). And Bombur...His pony was incredibly strong to say the least. Now the issue was getting onto her own pony.

It was far too tall. It also meant she wouldn't have stable ground to stand on. To depend on another completely was frightening, especially when you didn't know the mind taking care of you.  Do we have to ride them? I'd much prefer to keep my feet on the ground."

Bofur chuckled, getting down from his pony, "Here, I'll help you lass."

She squeaked when he held her by the waist and put her up on Myrtle, who Belle could've sworn her steed delighted at her nervousness. Ponies had a very sick sense of humor. Her small noise alerted the others as they looked back. Belle was surprised at all of the glares at Bofur. Well, Nori was the exception as he snorted and winked at her.

Right, this...Company, hadn't been together for a long time. The only two who seemed absolutely connected were Kili and Fili. Everyone else, it was like they were surrounded by walls. True, for some those walls were thinner, like siblings or close family, but she wondered how they didn't freeze to death from the cold.

"Come on, Nori, pay up." Nori tossed a sack of money to Oin. More sacks of money begin passing between the dwarves. It was rather well rehearsed. This could only mean trouble.

"What’s that about?" Belle asked.

Gandalf smiled mischievously. "Oh, they took wagers on whether or not you’d actually join. Most of them bet that you wouldn’t."

From what she understood, they hadn't really wanted to in the first place.

Belle looked in small awe at the path ahead. The world just got a whole lot bigger than she remembered it to be. What was out there? "What did you think?"

Gandalf caught a sack of money tossed to him and put it in his bag.  "My dear Belle, I never doubted you for a second."

The wizard had the gall to gamble? Well, this was Gandalf after all, so why not?

The strong one, Dori, slowly rode up to her. "You know that you always wrinkle your nose when deep in thought?"

She chuckled, "A gift from my father I'm afraid."

"Not your mother?"

"No, she rarely ever thought about consequences or deeply on any  matter. She used her wit to get out of danger, and truly represented what it meant to be a 'Fool of a Took'...Not that I mind, but shouldn't you be with your brothers?"

Dori frowned, "Ori needed a little space. We're all recovering from the past..."

"You're worried," Belle stated factually. "And you want to protect him, but you can't because what's bothering him is something only he can deal with?"

Dori smirked, "I should've known you'd be able to figure that one out."

"What gives you that impression?"

Dori flushed, "Well, you seem the clever sort."

She sighed, "Doubt it. I may like riddles and puzzles, but that doesn't mean I'm any good at them. Besides, I haven't been able to practice my skills in a long time."

Dori held his chin, "Okay, what is as big as you are and yet does not weigh anything?"

Belle rolled her eyes, "Your shadow, but that's an easy one."

"Well, it's not like riddles are going to save your life one day," Ori said, riding alongside them. "But, I suppose it would be fun while we travel. Here, until I am measured, I am not known. Yet how you miss me, when I have flown! What am I?

Belle had to think carefully, "Give me a mo- Time, the answer is time."

Soon enough, the younger members of the Company surrounded her, asking questions while Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin,  and Thorin stayed at the front, almost wary as they searched for perils. Honestly, what could possibly be over here by Bree?

"You can hold it without using your hands or arms. What is it?" Fili asked.

"Your breath," Belle responded.

Kili pouted, "C'mon, how about you ask us some?"

"And if it loses? What then? Well, if it loses, Precious, then we eats it!"

...What in Yavanna's name was that? It was gone almost as soon as it had appeared.  Perhaps the horse hair was getting to her? Belle shook her head, surprising herself by thinking of a riddle she didn't think she'd ever heard of before. "What has roots as nobody sees, is taller than trees... Up, up, up it goes, and yet, never grows?"

Gandalf's expression of amusement changed and before any of the dwares could answer, he called out, "Lads, I thought I heard something. Perhaps we should focus less on riddles and more on our surroundings for now?"

Belle was vaguely disappointed as her audience dissipated.  She sneezed again, searching for her handkerchief when Gandalf shook his head.

"You’ll have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs and a good many other things, Belle Baggins, before we reach our journey’s end. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you; the world is ahead."

The world is ahead? It sounded very much like their songs of mourning. The world ahead was very scary. She felt as though she was blind, and she didn't like it. She was vulnerable. She was weak. She was...nothing like them, was she?

The rest of the days seemed to be filled with glances and as few words as possible. Every time she looked up, at least two members of the Company had eyes on her. Otherwise, they were constantly vigil with what surrounded them. By nighttime, the company camped for the night near the edge of a cliff. A moth fluttered by Belle's face and tickled her ear.

She giggled like a small child, much to her embarrassment. Thank goodness that most of the dwarves were asleep. The only ones who were awake were Gandalf, Fili, and Kili. Gandalf was watching the horizon and the boys were far too deep into planning pranks and other strange topics to notice. She looked around to make sure no one was watching her.

Belle walked over to her pony and gave her an apple, hoping that the pony wouldn't give her such mischievous looks anymore. Minty began whining so she gave her own apple, the only food she had on her, to that pony. She winked at them and held her finger over her lips.

"It’s our little secret, you must tell no one."

A loud howling echoed in the distance. The dwarves bolted upwards. Immediately, they moved back to back, their eyes searching for danger. Belle's heart pounded anxiously and painfully, and she found herself clutching it as the dwarves realized she was gone.

"Belle!" Bofur yelled.

Shivering, she ran in their direction. Bofur tugged her into his arms, holding out his mattock in a defensive maneuver. Belle listened with her ears, trying not to blush as she was against a strange male's body. That's when Belle realized that she was in the center of a circle. Were they all trying to protect her?"

"Throat-cutters. There’ll be dozens of them out there. The lowlands are crawling with them," Fili exclaimed, keeping an eye on her.

"They strike in the wee small hours, when everyone’s asleep. Quick and quiet; no screams, just lots of blood," Kili said hoarsely, gazing anxiously at his brother.

Belle had a sinking sense that these boys had seen things no one their age ever should. It was sad, especially since they were so honestly cheery before. She focused her hearing again, sighing, "They're approximately twelve leagues from us. Even at full speed, it'll take a while for them to reach us. Should we head out anyway?"

"How can you tell?" Balin asked. Belle pointed to her ears. "Ah."

"Hobbits are also sensitive to the earth. Once we focus on a sound, we can tell what direction they're coming from. Sound, especially in the ground, moves in waves," Belle explained. At their blank stares, she sighed, "I think carefully, and I use my ears to detect where stuff is."

Gandalf burst out laughing as the dwarves slowly put away their weapons. Thorin glared at the wizard, "You think that’s funny? You think a night raid by orcs is a joke?!"

The wizard pouted. "I didn’t mean anything by it."

Thorin opened and closed his mouth several times. He walked off to the edge of the cliff and stared out over the valley. His eyes burned of rage and loathing. She had he urge to reach out to him, to find out what was wrong, but something deep down told her not to. Actually, both halves told her to give him his distance. That in itself was extremely disturbing.

Balin patted her shoulder. Nolstalgia shone in those eyes, that seemed so much older than should have been possible. Belle couldn't help but wonder what they had all been through. "Don’t mind him, lass. Thorin has more cause than most to hate orcs. After the dragon took the Lonely Mountain, King Thror tried to reclaim the ancient dwarf kingdom of Moria. But our enemy had gotten there first."

Belle couldn't help but lean forward to listen to the story. No, it wasn't just a story, was it? She had a feeling it would be something more.

"Moria had been taken by legions of Orcs lead by the most vile of all their race: Azog, the Defiler. The giant Gundabad Orc had sworn to wipe out the line of Durin. He began by beheading the King. Thrain, Thorin’s father, was driven mad by grief. He went missing, taken prisoner or killed, we did not know. We were leaderless. Defeat and death were upon us."

The firelight glow reminded Belle of the one that haunted her home once. This wasn't just a story of one person's history at all. No, this was the history of their people. As much as she loved stories, few could ever compare to this one.

"That is when I saw him: a young dwarf prince facing down the Pale Orc. He stood alone against this terrible foe, his armor rent, wielding nothing by an oaken branch as a shield. Azog, the Defiler, learned that day that the line of Durin would not be so easily broken."

"Our forces rallied and drove the orcs back. Our enemy had been defeated. But there was no feast, nor song, that night, for our dead were beyond the count of grief. We few had survived. And I thought to myself then, there is one who I could follow. There is one I could call King."

Thorin appeared to be ignoring them, as he cupped his hands in the air. Belle gasped, wondering who would be returning the gesture when the sun rose. "But the pale orc? What happened to him?"

"He slunk back into the hole whence he came. He's alive now, but I do not know where yet," Thorin muttered.

No doubt he was thinking of the creature, along with his father. That, and the many other deaths would explain the ache in his voice. Well, who wouldn't be angry knowing that the killer of someone they cared for was still out there? She couldn't blame him. Wait, was that why they were so overprotective? Did they know someone from before, someone who could fulfill that promise to return?

"Is that why you're so protective?" Belle asked. The dwarves tensed. "It is, you lost the other person that holds the promise."

Thorin finally looked her in the eye for the first time since he ran into her in Bree, "Promise?"

"In hobbit culture, it's a tradition that's normally kept secret among a specific clan, in times of danger or travel," she started. "At least two people are usually involved. One person offers another the moon in their palms. Anyone can do it, but not everyone reciprocates the gesture, because of the worth of the gesture."

Balin tilted his head, "How does one reciprocate? And why?"

"Well, they raise the sun. Basically...And this is hard to translate, but basically one person raises the moon, to be a light in the dark until they return safe and sound to the ones they care about. The other party raises the sun, to say they are glad their loved one has returned, and that warmth has returned to their lives."

Bofur frowned, "We weren't told that..."

"There are circumstances where someone doesn't the inform the other. For example, if they're not sure they're coming back. Or, if they didn't believe how they felt would be returned." Thorin looked stuck, as did the others, and Belle knew she had been incredibly tactless. Whoever they missed was incredibly important to them. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that."

Bofur gave her a small, sad smile, "No, you were being honest. So, we're supposed to raise the sun for them?"

"Mistress Baggins, what are you doing?" Thorin asked the hobbit as she cupped her hands up to the moonlit sky.

She giggled, "I'm holding the moon in my palms. You could do it too you know, anyone can."

Belle tried not to react to what her mind had just shown her. But, why wouldn't they know if she did that? Or, was it some kind of vision? Hallucination?

"Only if you mean it," Belle said. "If you don't, then it's meaningless."

They exchanged glances, and Bofur ushered her to bed. After a relatively restless night, Belle yawned to the rising sun. All members of the Company were up, and they all held out their hands to the sun. Belle's own heart warmed at the gesture. Whoever their friend was, they cared about her deeply. What happened to them? Belle's heart shivered, knowing full well that it couldn't have been good, if the dwarves were so protective of her.

She went back to sleep, and a couple of hours later, she got up again. After a quick glance around, she realized that she was the only one even remotely awake. The others were snoring and drooling, peacefully. Well, as peacefully as dwarves could sleep. Gloin was somehow breathing in moths and exhaling them whilst leaving them alive and intact. How was that possible?!

Was it possible that dwarves had larger and stronger lungs than most? It might be, considering that they lived in both high altitudes and the deepest depths of the earth. Over time, their lungs could've expanded and...

Agh! Stop thinking like that! She had work to do! She slapped herself into a more awake mind. Was it unorthodox? Yes. Did she really care right now? Nope. She quickly stretched, doing various positions to make sure she wouldn't strain herself during the day.

Belle stood up and grinned. It was beautiful out today. The sky was a nice hue of blue and lavender, the birds weren't awake to twitter, and the sunrise of a new day made her day. It really was a pity, but she had to focus on other things instead of pondering on how the day looked. Things such as, as her stomach begrudgingly reminded her, breakfast.

Hold on, shouldn't someone have been keeping watch during some parts of the night? She searched the area and found, in the shade of the trees, a very tired Nori. Oh, this was going to be fun. He didn't seem to notice her until she was right next to him.

His eyes widened, and became remotely jovial upon seeing her. Belle had a feeling he really wasn't that glad to see her at all. "To sneak up on me takes great skill."

Belle shrugged, "Wasn't really trying to. I just wanted to ask a favor."

Nori instantly became suspicious. She couldn't blame him. After all, he didn't know much about hobbits or their behaviors. She had a feeling that only Gandalf ha some sort of clue, which would only stir up trouble.  As far as Nori could be concerned, she could be pulling a trick or preparing to murder those he cared about. Sure, he was overprotective, but he also didn't know her. Belle needed to rectify the situation.

"What?"

"May I make breakfast? The others seem tired. Not to mention your appearance isn't exactly healthy either. If you want, you can watch or join me?"

He watched her cautiously before nodding. "I'll assist you."

Belle smiled, relieved. He tensed for some reason and she hid her grin. Was it really that hideous? Maybe she shouldn't do it so often. "Thank you. Mind if I ask you something?"

"You just did."

She rolled her eyes, opening their packs while he started a fire. His fingers fumbled with the flint, shaking too much from exhaustion. Not to mention there were bags under his eyes, along with redness that indicated he had cried...She decided to start the fire instead, telling him to lie down for a while. Specifically, that she deliberately threatened to fetch Oin if he didn't. He did so, grumbling all the way.

"How many meals do dwarves eat?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Three, why?... How often do hobbits eat?"

"Please grab the pan?" He procured the iron piece and she cracked the eggs methodically. She had to be careful; one could easily get salmonella if this wasn't cooked correctly. "That's odd; I thought Gandalf would have told you and the rest of the Company. Then again, he didn't tell me about the dragon so..."

She sighed, exasperated, "We hobbits regularly consume seven meals a day with snacks in between." He began choking on something, so she quickly fisted her hands around his midsection and pulled repeatedly. He coughed up the cap to his water container. "Are you all right?!"

S-seven?" he gasped. Was eating that much really so horrifying? "Mahal..."

"With snacks." Once she assured herself that Nori wasn't in any danger, Belle started enjoying the instant warmth the fire brought. She frowned at the sky, disappointed. "It's going to rain again soon."

"Do hobbits starve if they don't eat that much?!" Nori looked close to yanking out his hair. That wouldn't do well...She didn't want to clean up bloody hair. It was quite a messy task to do. "What is it with you hobbits? You make no sense!"

She raised an eyebrow, cracking a few eggs into the pan. "We are perfectly capable of eating three meals a day as long as we eat and excess of something every few months. Grab the plates please." He huffed, but did as she asked. "And what do you mean? We hobbits are fairly simple, once you get to know us."

"Oh, Ori likes them easy." Belle took extra care with Ori's, serving it onto a plate. Nori nodded his thanks as he took the plate. "How are hobbits simple?"

"Wake the others, will you? We have a long journey ahead." She heard Nori going through her pack when her back was turned. "Put that back."

"Confound it all!" He mumbled, nearly kicking Dwalin awake.

In turn, Dwalin caught him by the foot and pulled him onto his backside. The eggs went flying into the air and Belle moved swiftly to catch it. She did it, barely. Unfortunately, to catch it, she pretty much tripped over Thorin and her head smacked backwards into the ground with a loud crack.

Still, she sat up immediately and said, "Caught them!"

The noise woke up the rest of them, making the big, burly dwarves scream like little maidens. Belle also rubbed the back of her head. Currently, she was seeing fluorescent spots everywhere. After a few seconds her vision cleared...Enough to see a very cranky Thorin. Yeah, she doubted that was how he wanted to wake up. Nobody quite liked seeing her face early in the morning.

She handed the eggs to a flittering Ori. "Nori said you liked them easy, is it okay?"

Slowly, he tried a bit, and a kind smile erupted in his face. He gave her thumbs up, but Belle thought something was wrong. She frowned, "You're just trying not to gag right now, aren't you?"

He swallowed, looking nervous and confused. "No, it's delicious. It's just...it reminds me of mom's cooking."

"Your mother's?" she asked.

The two elder brothers paled considerably. Was the woman deceased? Oh dear. She lowered her eyes, not sure if she should face them. She knew that her emotions would be running wild if she was reminded of her mother or father in any way.

"If I have offended you in any way..."

Ori shook his head. "No, it's not that. I just haven't seen her in a while. I'm feeling a little..."

Belle smiled. "Homesick? It's nothing to be ashamed of. Okay?"

Ori nodded and squeakily said, "Okay."

She worked with Bombur to serve more food. Thankfully, he prepared Thorin's breakfast instead of her. She had the feeling Thorin wasn't exactly pleased with her right now. It took Belle a minute yo eat. After a quick head inspection from Oin, they moved swiftly to get ready for their travels. Nori brushed past her and handed her a pickaxe.

She swung it a few times, much to the nervousness to the dwarves, to test the leverage. "We'll be going mountain climbing soon?"

"How can you tell?"

"Pickaxes are used for climbing. Mattocks, such as Bofur's," she indicated, "Are used for digging. Mattocks have a flattened adze instead of a chisel head, making it more effective at digging through dirt and chopping wood." She gave it another twirl, grimacing. "It really ought to be sharpened, but I'm not sure how to do that."

"How do you know so much about them then? If you don't even know how to sharpen them?" Bofur asked.

"I love reading," she said simply. "And, when I was younger, I used to dream about adventuring, so I read as much as possible and even went to my mother to learn a thing or two..." Her voice drifted off as her memories did. "And, I had a bit of a knack for tinkering and conkers."

Something about her statement made them smile. She must've reminded them of their friend. scoffed. Bofur's smile widened. "So, are you an expert at that?"

"No, I just like figuring out how things work, and how to fix them." Belle hesitated, her curiosity getting the best of her. "Please be honest, and if you don't want to answer, you don't have to...What was your friend like?" She had struck them speechless, always a bad sign. "Never mind."

"No, it's fine," Bofur wheezed. "Um, let's see. She was beautiful, clever, kind, wise, observant willful, sarcastic...There was no one else like her. Her heart was unfathomable, and her strength and endurance saved us on numerous occasions..."

Belle winced, "She sounds perfect"

"Bifur began laughing and Bofur translated for him, "Oh, she was far from perfect, but I mean it when I say there is no other like her."

"So what happened?"

Bofur scowled, glaring at Thorin who probably felt it if there was anything to go by the way their leader flinched. "S-She was killed, trying to give us a chance at a better future." He clenched his fists, "In the beginning, we were harsh with her because she seemed so innocent and naive. It turned out naivety is not a weakness. All of us had a special bond with her as individuals, so it hurt when she died."

"And you all went your separate ways?" Belle asked. "Did you hate her?"

"No! Why would we-"

"Because she had the choice of living and dying," Belle said. "And she chose not to...My Da died when I was younger, and my mother started fading away because of it. For a long time, I was angry at her, because she barely put up a fight, because in my eyes at the time, that meant I wasn't enough for her to keep on living...It's okay to feel angry."

A terrible ache stretched across Bofur's expression, and then a mixture of emotions marred it. He did feel conflict, didn't he? Belle got up and hugged him. Slowly, his arms wrapped around her as well. She closed her eyes, not minding the hot tears that fell against her shoulder. Belle found herself being hugged by the other Urs as well. It was kind of creepy, but if this helped them on some level, then maybe it wasn't so bad.

After a while, they broke apart, and the dwarves began laughing. That too, was odd, but she didn't really mind. Unfortunately, the sun was covered by rain clouds and water began to patter all around. The smiles on both of them disappeared simultaneously. It was like snow. Belle stood up and patted herself down, drawing her hood over her head.

"We'd...better go," she mumbled.

Bofur raised his hand, as if to touch her. She just backed away and got onto her pony. The others soon followed, with Thorin at the lead. The Company rode their ponies through a muddy forest as it rained. They were all cold, wet, and miserable. Oh, and Belle could've sworn that Thorin was glaring at her and Bofur constantly, but whenever she looked up, he was still looking forward. How did he do that?

Bofur felt the same way, so he made profound gestures at Thorin while his back was turned, biting his bottom lip. Belle covered her mouth to stifle a giggle, but it escaped anyway. Thorin looked back and glared more harshly at Bofur. In turn, Bofur whistled an innocent tune, winking at Belle. She palmed her forehead. Were those two ever going to get along?

 Dori waved his arm into the air, gesturing at the darkness surrounding them. "Mr. Gandalf, can’t you do something about this deluge?"

Gandalf just seemed annoyed. "It is raining, Master Dwarf, and it will continue to rain until the rain is done. If you wish to change the weather of the world, you should find yourself another wizard."

"Are there any?" Kili perked up. Was he actually listening?

"What?"

Bofur rolled his eyes. "Other wizards?"

"There are five of us, as both masters of the Baggins household know. The greatest of our order is Saruman, the White. Then there are the two Blue wizards...you know, I’ve quite forgotten their names."

"And who is the fifth?" Gloin inquired.

That would be Radagast the Brown."

Fili grinned evilly, “Is he a great Wizard or is he...more like Gandalf?”

Gandalf looked more than a little annoyed. “I think he’s a very great wizard, in his own way. He’s a gentle soul who prefers the company of animals to others. He keeps a watchful eye over the vast forest lands to the East, and a good thing too, for always Evil will look to find a foothold in this world.”

Later, near dusk, when everyone was tired and sore, they came upon the burnt dwelling of what once was a farmer’s home. Belle examined the ruins long enough to find a doll that once belonged to a little girl. She hugged it to her chest before giving it a burial. She looked again upon the home, wondering what happened to it.

Thorin and Gandalf somehow had the energy to argue. Bofur and Nori glared daggers at his royal-pain-in-the-butt and made a few hand gestures how they felt about the fighting duo. Belle palmed her forehead. "Seriously, it's as if they're a married couple. Or in-laws, whichever one is more devastating."

Nori cackled, but frowned when she took out her medicine and drank some of it. It tasted as foul as it smelled. Actually, it tasted fouler than that. "What is that?! Doesn't smell at all like brandy."

She swallowed it down with a harsh gulp. Ugh, it was nasty, but it had its purpose. "Medicine, to help me control my monthlies."

"...Monthlies?" Bofur whimpered. His eyes were wide and he scooted a distance away from her on the log they had been sitting on.

"What's the big deal? We're off to face a dragon and a female's needs makes you squeal like you're a kid that's seen a garden snake? Am I really that disgusting to you guys?" What? Having a period wasn't that gross. Dori was flushed, and panicking? She felt his forehead. "Are you ill? Should I get Oin? I think I have something in my bag. How do you feel?"

"Sorry, I sometimes forget that you're a woman," Bofur said, instantly sputtering out apologies.

Belle didn't know if she should be offended or not. "Just don't do it again. So, what are they  fighting over?"

"I don't know, considering neither of them want to stay here," Dori said, elbowing Ori as he sat with them.

"Nori, can I have my handkerchief back?"

He smirked, not exactly innocently. "When'd you find out?"

"I saw you take it when we were loading the ponies, but I thought that we could put whatever's between us to rest if I let you get away with something. Unfortunately, it was my mother's, and I really would like it back."

He held it out to her. Their fingertips brushed and he jolted away from her. She asked him if everything was all right. He said that it was, but he maintained his distance from her as if she were diseased. Yet, he didn't leave her side either. Belle tired to see into his eyes to find answers, but had no luck. Why were males so confusing? And why were the majority of the Company afraid to even touch her? She didn't smell bad or anything, did she?

Belle recalled the detailed threads in the handkerchief showing the bonds of their lost family. She still had no clue why, but she told the dwarves of them anyway. In turn, Ori showed her his family bead, which was a mix of emeralds, onyx and silver with vines strewn throughout.

"So, we dwarves have family beads and hobbits have handkerchiefs?" Dori asked, overhearing that part of the conversation.

"Well, that and our family history, but whose family doesn't carry secrets?"

Closing her eyes, she listened for any running water. There was a river nearby. She walked over to Bombur. "Do you need any help cooking tonight?"

"I'll be fine lass. Where are you off to?"

She turned her head where the soft breeze from the water was coming from. It gently brushed her stray curls away from her face. It was refreshing. "Oddly enough, water is hard to come by the closer we get to Rivendell. I think I should take a bath before we run into anything that might cause problems."

Balin took a sip of water from his canteen. "What makes you think there's trouble?"

"It's been too peaceful; something's bound to happen soon."

Thorin shouted, or at least spoke very loudly, to Gandalf something unintelligible. The wizard huffed and angrily stomped off. Ori stuttered as he spoke, "E-Everything alright? Gandalf, where are you going?"

“To seek the company of the only one around here who’s got any sense.”

Belle looked around, "Considering what insane mission this company is trying to complete, who the heck would that be?”

“Myself, Master Ri! I’ve had enough of dwarves for one day.”

Belle pursed her lips. He hadn't even considered her. "Ouch."

“Come on, Bombur, we’re hungry," Thorin said, as if Bombur was a woman, waiting at home to follow her husband's every whim.

Thorin had been getting on her nerves increasingly as of late. He constantly glared and avoided her. She didn't need an entourage or attention from, but for goodness sake couldn't he act a little more civilized?!  Sure, he was supposed to be the king of his people, but he didn't have to be a jerk about it! What a chauvinistic, royal-pain-in-the-arse!

Bilbo spoke to Balin apprehensively. “Is he coming back?”

Balin was uncertain. Belle peered skyward, where dark clouds still covered the sun. "We better hope so. I'll be right back."

"Take someone with you," Thorin ordered. His eyes were brilliant green with hints of smoke and shadows from the demolished house. They threatened to burn her unless she complied. Too late, she'd already been burned...More than once.

She glared at him. "Excuse me?"

"It's dangerous out here. You need protection," he tried to explain.

He certainly did a poor job of it. Belle put her hands on her hips, watching him as if he were a child ready to snatch pastries and sweets when it suits him. "Look, I get you're scared, but don't try to put that fear onto me. I am not your friend Thorin Oakenshield, nor your family, nor a lover. And you are not my king. Nowhere in the contract did it state that I had to follow every order you gave, so sod off!"

What did Thorin want her to be? An obedient puppet on strings? Doing every little thing that he wanted on whim? Was he reasonable in some aspects? Yes, but he'd been such a jackass lately. Maybe she should nickname him that for whenever she was angry with him. Yep, Thorin Oakenshield was a complete and utter ass. There was no other description that best suited him.

Belle wasn't quite sure what to think when she saw the company, with the exception of Gandalf, in sacks and being slowly roasted by three, large, and gangly creatures. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as one of them snorted green goo, ready to drop into the pot.

She knew these creatures. Her mother had described them once. Belle snapped her fingers thrice before smacking her head. That jogged her memory. They were either ogres or trolls. More likely trolls, ogres generally had no clothes. While there was barely any cloth, it was still clothing of sorts. Unfortunately, she didn't' exactly have to use her imagination to know what was under there...Ew.

Odd, trolls were supposedly dim-witted, so how was the Company captured? She had three guesses: Kili, Fili, or Thorin. Was it all three? Well...unless the trolls were geniuses, and thus far she'd yet to see that, she was willing to wager it had to do with at least one of them.

Belle sighed, dragging her hand through her hair. Where was Gandalf when he was needed? The trolls were arguing about how to cook the dwarves and the...flurgaburburrahobbit? Burgleobbit? Wait, burglar-hobbit! They were talking about her? Just what had the dwarves concocted while she was away?

Bombur began talking about how to properly cook them...and she almost screamed with laughter when he mentioned skinning the dwarves. She loved Thorin's expression especially. What? He was a bit of a jerk. She couldn't help but revel in his misery.

Belle saw Gandalf running through the trees, and nodded to herself. She did the ballsiest thing she could think of. She casually strutted into the clearing and offered the trolls the biggest smile she could while clicking her tongue. Belle sounded like she was ready to scold three little children instead of tricking three gigantic (and terribly odoriferous) trolls.

What were the chances of this ending well?


 

Belle had been so glad to see he was alive in the Battle of the Five Armies. It was saddening he most likely didn't see her after the event on the ramparts. Of all of them, she wanted to call his name. They came all that way, and he had been her best friend. The one she could tell her secrets to, and share everything. It was because of him that she hesitated on her way to Raven Hill.

All the others she had stopped only to make sure they were safe. For him, she was tempted to stay. Then, maybe he'd know she wasn't abandoning him, like her mother did her. Still, he and the others deserved so much better than this...And if this was the only way to give them that chance, then...She'd finally be enough, just as the Company had been more than what she deserved.

 

She wished them all the luck in the world.

Chapter Text

Belle wasn't always as observant as she ought to have been. For example, when she met Bifur. The most obvious thing that should have stood out to her was the axe. Yet, it wasn't. What got her attention about him was his enthusiasm and energetic spirit. In so many ways, he was incredibly child-like. Not only that, but he found ways to make everyone else feel young too.

It was only later on that she finally looked at his axe, and realized he was a lot like Bofur. No, he wasn't embarrassed about his axe, and actually seemed proud of it. It was another scar that showed his bravery. What was sad was that he didn't know when his last day would be. Yet, was that really sad? It meant he truly lived every day to the fullest in his own ways.

Belle wanted to see him spend more days like that. To see people live out the gift they'd been given.


 

"Oh dear, how naive you are. Pardon me master trolls, but you see, my fellow 'burgleobbit' depends heavily on me for his meals and therefore has no clue how to cook dwarves. May I be of some assistance?"

Hopefully, this would stall them long enough for Gandalf to get whatever he needed together. She also hoped these guys were even bigger twits than she.  Still, that didn't mean she couldn't have some fun with this. She was tired, cranky, and kind of sadistic at that time...Wow, this trip was really messing with her psyche.

The lead troll blinked. "Aren't you scared of us?"

"Verily," she replied honestly. Seriously, she almost peed her trousers (which were very unfeminine)."However, my hunger is far stronger than that. We 'burgleobbits' eat seven meals a day and, of course, demand the best food only. I, for one, am positively famished, and would love to have some dwarf. In exchange, we can trade recipes."

"Oi, why should we trust your cooking?" one of them quarreled.

Okay, they were slighter smarter than they looked...That wasn't really saying much. "Burgleobbits are trained from the time they're fauntlings how to cook because it is a major part of our society. We use our cooking to make friends, attract mates, and strengthen bonds. Without our cooking skills, our society would collapse."

Wow, it was hard to keep a straight face through all of this, but it was a necessity. After much bickering, the trolls agreed to her terms. Maybe now she could get back at her certain members of the company for annoying her so much. She walked over to Dwalin and Thorin before gesturing at them. Time to bluff her mouth off.

"As I'm sure you fine gentlemen know, all meats vary in size and thickness. Dwarves such as these specimens are very thick, especially in the head."

Thorin glared, practically gnashing his teeth together, but said nothing. Dwalin was ready to throttle her. Seriously, a vein was visibly pounding in his forehead. Belle didn't really care at that point. She was desperately trying not to panic. She had to keep a cool demeanor...

"Full of hard muscle, yet not delightfully crunchy in any way. The best way to cook them would be to first marinate them for an hour at most. Then you'd have to slowly boil them to bring out the broth. The marinating is important because it will remove any parasites they may have."

The dwarves protested loudly at her suggestion, most cursing at her in their language. Belle winked at Thorin subtly, briefly glancing at the trees where Gandalf was. The dwarf king nodded, his cheeks slightly flushed, and kicked the protesting dwarves. They silenced and looked at their leader in confusion. Belle playfully scrunched her eyebrows together before kneeling next to Kili.

She held her chin, acting concerned. "Oh dear, you may have to marinate them longer than that."

"Why?" the lead troll growled, no doubt getting suspicious.

"See the lack of hair on this one? Or that one," she looked at Kili, then Ori. Both of them looked incredibly self-conscious. She did feel bad about that. "That means that they have huge parasites, perhaps even as big as their arms. See, parasites absorb nutrients from their hosts, causing the lack of hair. If you eat them now, there is no doubt the stress of the buggers will kill you."

"What about the ones with hair?" the dumbest of the troll trio asked.

She mockingly winced. "It's already shown up in two of them, which would indicate that the parasites spread quickly...I personally wouldn't risk it, I really wouldn't, but it's your funeral if you wish." The trolls conversed with one another and Belle waved a hand in front of her nose. "Seriously though, marinate them in something. They smell ghastly."

The dwarves glared at her, some were grumbling. The lead troll grunted. "So what do you say we should do then? Let them all go?!"

Belle muttered, "Well..."

"I'm not daft; I see what you're doing. You're trying to have us to let them all go!"

Belle grinned maliciously as Gandalf started cracking the giant stone behind them to unleash the dawn. "No, I was just stalling."

"Stalling, for what?" the second troll asked. Light hit them and the trolls began writhing in pain.

Belle snuck a look at Gandalf and smugly said, "For that."

The lead troll screeched and tried to grab one of the dwarves. She grabbed a fairly large stone off the ground and threw it. She wasn't as good as a professional knife-thrower, like Fili, but she managed to hit him between his eyes. He turned his rage on her and she scowled. She reached for some more rocks. The monster reached over and grabbed her by the feet to hang over his mouth. Belle heard Thorin scream and the troll's roar echoing in the air. She breathed heavily in relief and in pain. Pain, why was she in pain? Her ankles were trapped in a strong, stone grip. Her feet were being crushed.

If anybody knew anything about hobbits, it was that their ears, nose, and feet were extremely sensitive. Yes, the bottoms of their feet were like leather, but even that paled in comparison to hard stone. Not to mention that blood was flowing to her head, making her nauseous. She whimpered, vaguely hearing everyone call her name. Shoot, her feet were starting to go numb.

She called down, trying not to throw up from being hung upside down for so long. What? It'd be a terrible waste of good food. "Are you guys alright?"

"We're fine! Are you?" Bofur replied.

"My feet are being crushed and I can barely feel them. What the bloody hell do you think?!" she screamed.

The dwarves set to work, hacking her out with axes and hammers. Kili decided to be helpful by shooting an arrow at what he assumed to be a weak spot. That ended up with her cursing him out to the point of tears.  Crap, she was actually crying, she'd never experienced pain like this, at least physically.

Fire and smoke made it hard to breathe, but it wasn't as hard as the pain inside. Her back hurt, and there were bruises under the Mithril. He had hurt her. Her really hurt her. Why didn't he see? Why didn't he see how she was fighting for him? And then, he tried to kill her...She wasn't worth anything to him, after everything she did?...That's why she didn't get through, she wasn't enough, and she never would be...

Belle gasped. What in Yavanna was that? For what it was worth, the dwarves were excellent with maneuvering her out of the rock (or maybe they were just good at breaking things). She landed on Bombur and apologized profusely; he merely shrugged it off. Belle struggled to stand on her feet, nearly falling over the first few times from the numbness and stinging as blood flowed to the right places.

Thorin rushed over, pale, and grabbed her shoulders. "What on Middle Earth were you thinking?! You could've gotten all of us killed!"

"And if I hadn't done anything, we'd have been dead anyway!" she protested. She had meant all of them. "What, do you just expect me to wait around and watch you guys become barbecue?!"

"Yes!" Thorin yelled.

The others glared at him. She growled, "What's wrong with you?! If I hadn't done something, the trolls probably would've have found me anyway since they can smell prey, and with you here, you couldn't have protected me even if you wanted to!" Thorin's eyes widened, horror-stricken at the thought. "And let's say I did get away by some miracle, that would've meant families wouldn't see their loved ones again, and your people's possible last hope to regain Erebor would've been gone..."

Gandalf started, "Belle-"

"I'm not going to throw myself in danger; believe or not, I'm not that stupid. But for crying out loud..." She palmed her face, extremely aggravated. "Do I even want to know how all of you managed to get captured by trolls? Or who came up with 'burgleobbit'? That's got to be he second most stupid thing I've ever heard."

A knowing, yet somewhat amused glance was shared with the dwarves. Belle frowned, not understanding in the slightest how any part of this situation was funny.  Seriously, yes she had been a little sadistic while trying to save them, but she was hurt and...She was about to question them when her feet collapsed underneath her. Bifur caught her, and had her sit on a nearby rock.

Oin reached for her feet and Belle almost smacked them away, but stopped herself before she did. The dwarves looked on in confusion and Belle sighed, holding his head to keep the pain under control. He shook his head after a second.

"Go ahead, just keep in mind not to do it when we're not injured. Otherwise it means something more...scandalous to our people."

Kili and Fili looked at their feet and took several steps back. Ori and Dori did the same. Oin examined her feet. She clung to Bifur's shoulder in an iron grip. It hurt, it really hurt. She closed her eyes and bit her lip, trying not to cry out. Bifur put his hand over hers and squeezed.

Gandalf walked over and kneeled before her. A smile lightened his weary face. "You need to stop facing raging beasts far larger than you. It's becoming a habit."

Belle glared, her eyes bugged out. "Wasn't it you who originally wanted me to go on this journey?!"

"Last time you were a fauntling facing a fiery dragon, now it's trolls."

"Don't forget the real dragon. I'll have to face him as well," Belle stated.

Once again, she was ignored. Meanwhile, some of the dwarves began conversing over the idea of her having already taken on a dragon. Oh Aule, don't tell her that they thought Gandalf meant a real one! Oin clicked his tongue.

 "Well, nothing's broken, but both feet are bruised and swollen.  You need to stay on your rear for a while. Drink this."

She folded her arms, sticking out her bottom lip. After a moment, she reluctantly took the medicine and swallowed the awful thing. Ugh, it tasted worse than Lobelia's burnt scones. "Gee, thanks... If I am needed, I won't sit around, got it? I simply won't."

Thorin growled, "Don't do anything stupid."

"Oh come on now, you know I can't promise that."

Oin shook his head and muttered about seeing to the others. Thorin joined him.  As they turned their backs, she made a profane gesture and stuck out her tongue. Then, she acted innocent when they peeked back. Kili and Fili gave her thumbs up. Was that good, or bad? Bifur helped her limp back to camp and sat her onto a log. She sighed as her butt hit the wood. It was comfy, warmed slightly by the fire.

Thorin seemed to forget how good hobbit's hearing was. Thorin faced Gandalf.  “Where did you go to, if I may ask?”

“To look ahead.”

“What brought you back?”

Gandalf grimaced as he looked at the twins.  “Looking behind. Nasty business. Still, you are all in one piece.”

Belle pretended not to notice Thorin looking in her direction, "Barely. We were supposed to take care of the trolls before they could put her in harm's way. I should've figured that Belle would've ended up saving us."

...What? They purposely put themselves in harm's way to protect her? No, she wasn't going to pretend anymore. "I can hear you, and here's the thing." She got off of her perch and marched up to Thorin so that he was backed against a tree. Seriously, he was willing to go that far not to touch her. "I have not seen you guys fight. I don't doubt that your experience, but I have nothing to go on other than words. How can I depend on you to protect when I have to save you?"

A myriad of emotions flitted across his face.

"Thorin Oakenshield," yes, she finally remembered his name. "I don't care how much I remind you of your friend, I'm just a hobbit. I've got no real family waiting back in the Shire. You're a king, and they have families of their own. If anybody has to die, mine will come with the least consequences."

"Yes, there are people who would miss you," Thorin said in a tone she couldn't place. "More than you know."

She studied him for a moment. Belle didn't like not knowing these things, "Perhaps, but I'm fairly sure many more would miss you. I know you can't promise not to do anything idiotic, but stop fighting for me, and remember who you're here for."

Belle tilted her head at the younger members of the group, who were wrestling with Oin. Thorin smiled softly at them. As he did, she finally touched him by gently squeezing his shoulder. Something ached inside. It was a mixture of fear and anticipation. She was scared, but she still had the desire to comfort him. There was something nostalgic about it. His gasped as if burnt by the fires of Morgoth, and she let go, offering him an honest smile of her own. She chuckled, placing her hands behind her back.

"Honestly, we're not even halfway through this mess. Just...I'm not going to ask you to immediately believe in me or trust me with your life, but at least give me some with my own. And the same goes to everyone else who's pretending to not listen," she said, snorting at the rest of the Company.

They smiled back, at least until she tacked on, "Seriously though, you all are in need a bath of something. You smell like troll boogies and it's starting to scare off the ponies."


 

Bifur kept an eye on Belle as she slept while the others were out. It had been foolhardy to leave her alone like that, even if Gandalf promised to be nearby in case. Why in Mahal's name did they  do that? Even Kili thought it was a bad idea, and they still followed Thorin.

His thoughts were broken as Belle sat up gasping, biting her hand so she wouldn't scream. She used her other hand to grab at her chest.  She examined her surroundings. He looked around to see what she did. Dawn had barely arisen. The moon was still out and the nighttime sky still cradled the stars. Cautiously, she stepped outside of the camp, holding herself together until she knew she was alone. One at a time, the tears began to fall.

Bifur's heart lurched as she bit her hand even harder, muffling her sobs. Blood droplets fell. Instinctively, he reached towards her, but held back, understanding she needed some space in that moment. Instead, he pulled out the small medic kit that Oin had given him before the healer left to join his brother and the others as they bathed.

He stepped on a twig, causing it to snap. Belle twisted, getting out her knife and arming herself.  He gave her a concerned expression. Whose bright idea was it to leave him with her when they knew the hobbit wasn't able to communicate with him?! Right, Thorin as usual. Why was it every time they said no, he said yes?! Bifur frowned, pointing at her face. Quickly, she wiped away her tears.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to be weak. I'll, I'll just head back to camp." No, she wasn't weak, she was far from that, and they had forgotten that. Bifur tried to tell her that, but then remembered that she couldn't speak Khuzdul.  He sighed, showing her the bandage. She winced. "Oh no, now the others are going to freak out and-"

He pat a nearby rock, gesturing for her to sit down. She did, and after cleaning the wound like how Oin had shown him they prepared to bury Belle. It sounded disturbing, but he wanted to assist Oin not just because the healer was his friend, but because Belle was too. She had tended to his injuries many times before, stalling his imminent death from his axe. He recalled how Oin had to stop sometimes because it was too hard even with his years of experience.

Bifur had continued, not allowing himself to be hurt by how pale she had been, or how many scars she had received. She had never looked at his with pain or disgust, so he would not either. Instead, he chose to remember her brave, brave soul, and her kind heart as she held the burden of so many wounds. No, he wasn't going to shy from her pain.

The current Belle, the living Belle, blinked at him.

"How are you so good at this?" It was bittersweet, knowing that he could help her now, but it wasn't bad either. He shrugged, looking in the direction of the river where Oin was. Belle made an approving noise. "I wonder if I could be a healer. Then again, I don't think I have the hands for it. They're too soft, see?"

Bifur did look at her hands. One was dirtied by the long travel and most likely throwing rocks at trolls while the other was wounded from whatever haunted her. And yet, here she was. He knew these hands. They were the ones that protected the Company, that helped heal him...And fell to the ice when she died. He remembered cleaning them afterwards, cleansing the wounds and removing dirt and blood from her fingernails. In all honesty, he admired these hands. They held the power to heal as much as they had to break, even if she didn't see it herself.

He laid one of his hands over hers, hoping to convey something to her. She appeared confused, but appreciative.  Still, he had a question. It was something left unanswered from the previous Belle, and he found that it happened with this one as well. Bifur then pointed to the axe in his head. He held up one finger, mimicking a one. He then made glasses, with his hands, in front of his eyes.

Somehow, she understood. "I'm not quite sure why I didn't notice that at first. Normally what catches my eye is pain or sadness.  I don't think that hurts you or disables you. While it can make your life difficult sometimes, it's a part of who you are."

Shakingly, Bifur held out his hand, waiting. There were tears in his eyes. She panicked. "Did I hurt you Bifur?! I didn't mean to if I did..."

He kneeled, grasped her hand and kissed the back of it. Belle's cheeks and ears ignited. She was redder than roses or rubies at that point. He then let go of her hand and embraced her, saying things in Khuzdul he knew she didn't understand.

Her eyes watered, but she made sure they didn't spill. Very slowly, she returned his hold. When he stepped back, she flinched from the cold. Belle cleared her throat, her eyes abashedly lowering to the ground. "Thank you Bifur, it was nice. Just one thing, why'd you do that?"

"Lukhudel," Bifur exclaimed.

"What?"

He pointed to the sun, and the light emanating across the sky from it. She narrowed her eyes, "Sunlight?"

He shook his at the sun, just pointing at the light.

"I'm...Light?" she asked. He nodded vigorously. "I...Thank you..."

Now that she was in a better mood, he gestured to her hand. "I just remember feeling terrified. There was fire, and smoke, and my chest started hurting. But, it felt more like I was broken-hearted than having an actual injury. I don't remember anything beyond that."

...Oh Mahal, she was starting to remember. They should have suspected something when Gandalf mentioned the mysterious aura flaring around her as they spoke of riddles...Her mind had always been strong. But since when did Belle play games of riddles with them last time around? He would ask the others at a later date, but for now, he needed to keep her safe. No, he didn't think she was a damsel in distress that needed saving, but he did want to keep her safe, so that he wouldn't have to clean her hands like he had when it was too late.


 

Gandalf and Thorin examined the stone trolls after they returned. Belle winced when she reflected on the night before. The Company could've been lost if she hadn't done something...She also could've lost her feet. How frightening was that?! “They must have come down from the Ettenmoors.”

Thorin was skeptical. “Since when do mountain trolls venture this far south?”

“Not for an age, not since a darker power ruled these lands," Gandalf said warily, his eyes falling on Belle sadly...What was with that look? He glanced meaningfully at Thorin, no ire or anger in his expression. Merely worry and exhaustion. "They could not have moved in daylight."

"There must be a cave nearby."

It didn't take long before they found the cave. For some reason, the dwarves as a whole seemed to stall, glancing at the ground or whistling along the way. The place was fouler than the dwarves and troll boogers put together. The smell was horrific.

"Ugh, I hate this blasted stench!" Nori wheezed, cursing in Khuzdul...Why was that one phrase used so much?

"It’s a troll horde. Be careful what you touch," Gandalf warned.

The place was full of treasure. There were gold coins and bins and other containers of gold and jewels. Belle felt her heart quiver and she looked behind herself to see Thorin holding himself, appearing sickly and far older than even a dwarf should have been. He looked old in comparison to even Balin or Oin. He swiftly marched a large distance away from the cave.

She had the urge to follow him, but Belle saw a pile of bones in the corner. "There's undoubtedly dead here."

Belle held her handkerchief over his sensitive nose. She was prepared to gag. From the corpses or the stench, she knew not. Still, work had to be done. Gently, she picked up bones, not minding the stains covering her hands. Ori stopped in his ministrations, looking directly at Belle. He couldn't voice what he wanted to ask, so Belle tried to reassure him.

She smiled sadly. "Don't worry; I'm used to burying the dead."

Belle went on about her business, occasionally wiping her forehead with her sleeve as she molded the soft Earth to cradle the bodies she could put back together. Footsteps sounded near her. She recognized them, Ori and Dwalin.

"What are you two doing here?" she inquired, honestly curious.

Ori flushed, clutching his sketchbook. It reminded her of a time where Belle treasured a small wooden sword. It was a mathom now, but she used to hold it many a time in Bag End. Ori really cared about it, didn't he? "Oh, we were wondering what you were doing."

Dwalin was frowning. He disapproved of what she was doing. She dusted the soft dirt off her hands. "They looked tired."

"You're giving them a resting place?" Dwalin stated.

"Yep, I think if I survive this, I'll stop by Moria too, if I get the chance. You couldn't bury all of your dead, right? I don't know if they'd appreciate hobbit burying rituals, but I feel like I should do something."

Dwalin and Ori quickly began assisting her, dirtying their own hands. She wanted to ask them why they were helping her, but she knew deep down that they yearned to do it for a reason they wouldn't say.  As they did, she sang her people's funeral song in the Hobbit language. Not many knew it, for it was uncommon and most of the time, irrelevant. Still, she struggled to answer Dwalin's and Ori's questions on the matter.

"Belle means following her heart, and always keeping her promises, doesn't it?" a familiar voice said.

It was Gandalf. In his hands was a scabbard. The design looked similar to the ones their mother described in her journals about the elves. There were elvish blades in the treasure hoard?  Gandalf held the small sword out to her. "The blades are of Elvish make which means they will glow Blue when orcs or goblins are nearby."

She reluctantly took it, silently admiring the craftsmanship of such beautiful make. It felt right in her hands, like a lost old friend. Belle couldn't explain the feeling, but it felt like a piece of her had been returned. "I've only ever used a wooden before, and it's been a long time since then. I don't think it's a good idea for me to use it. "

"I hope you never have to," Gandalf looked at her, and her alone. No, in that moment she wasn't just Belladonna's daughter. She was Belle. "And if you do, remember this: true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one."

The sun glinted off of the blade, flashing red. For some reason, the colors scared her, but she also felt much safer with the blade in hand. Her ears twitched. Several, fast footfalls pounded not too far away. Her body reacted in a way she did not expect. She pointed one foot towards it, and the other foot slid back in a perpendicular position to the other foot. Her sword's grip was by her waist while the blade was directed at the incoming sound.

"Thieves! Fire! Murder!" a man screamed atop a sled pulled by rabbits.

"Mistress Baggins, what are you doing?" Thorin asked the hobbit as she cupped her hands up to the moonlit sky.

She giggled, "I'm holding the moon in my palms. You could do it too you know, anyone can."

Kili and Fili had mysterious choking noises while the others looked on in wonder. Gandalf stepped forward, disregarding the dwarves' sniggers at her possible nickname. "Radagast! Radagast the Brown. What on earth are you doing here?"

"I was looking for you, Gandalf. Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong!"

“Yes?”

Radagast opened his mouth to speak, but shut it. He opened his mouth again, but closed it again. "Just give me a minute. Oh, I had a thought, and now I’ve lost it. It was right there, on the tip of my tongue." He curled up his tongue, and looked surprised. Gandalf pulled a stick insect out of Radagast’s mouth, causing the dwarves, and Belle, to be disgusted. "Stick insect! Anyway, that's not the point. We need to talk."

Belle frowned when Gandalf indicated that the wizards need to speak privately. That was never a good sign. Belle leaned over to the Urs, "What do you think they're talking about?"

Bifur made an explosion sounding noise. Bofur murmured, "Nothing good."

"Aye," Bombur agreed, cursing softly under his breath.

She thought for a moment, "Why did he call me by n? I don't think I've ever seen him before."

Bombur almost inaudibly mumbled something along the lines of "But he's seen you."

She doubted she was meant to hear that. Belle really did not like not knowing things. A few minutes ago, she had thought she finally solved the riddle as to why they were so cautious around her. And now? Every time she found an answer, many more questions appeared. She wasn't sure her theory was so sound. For some reason, fire and smoke and the screams of many filled her mind in that moment.

Ugh, she needed to calm down . In an attempt to occupy herself, Belle examined her surroundings. The Ris were calming the ponies after being startled by the bunny sled.Thorin and Dwalin were in a deep conversation with Gloin, their eyes searching once more. Were they expecting something? Belle's ears began twitching again, but the rabbits weren't moving...

"Shh..." Belle said. When no one quieted down, Belle harshly whispered, "Will you all shut up?!"

When her ears twitched again, the dwarves became silent. Howling echoed in her ear. They sounded close, too close. She knew those sorts of howls. Her eyes widened. "Wargs. They're here."

Thorin asked her what she said, cautiously moving closer to her, pulling out an elvish blade he no doubt got from the cave, but she didn't hear. She was listening for other things. Perilous things. She slowly pulled out her sword, ears twitching cautiously. Her body was in a similar position as it was before, and she could hear Gloin mutter, asking how she knew it. Honestly, she didn't. From behind a nearby crag, a Warg appeared and leapt at them. Belle shoved Thorin away as the warg fell atop of her. Blood soaked into the ground.

"Belle!"


 

 Sometimes actions spoke louder than words.

In all honesty, Belle loathed her hands. They were a part of her she couldn't change, yet she needlessly didn't like them. They weren't built for sewing or knitting or gardening. Heck, they weren't even built for a sword. She and other hobbits did wonder every once in a while what their purpose was.

She discovered she could fix things. She was good at it too. The problem was that she didn't want to fix things, at least not what other people thought were broken. A child scratches a table, and the parents declare it ruined, not considering the memory of someone's youth was put there. A stain was on the rug. Did no one think that maybe it was added color from an irreplaceable time? Or what about a person?

None of the dwarves were broken in her eyes. They didn't need fixing. Their scars and markings told her who they were. They spoke of the dwarves' lives and experience, both the good times and the bad. They needed a hand to hold, to see who they were. Who was she to decide whether those hands would be hers?

That's why Bifur didn't need to be fixed. She didn't care what the rest of the world said. She liked him as she was, even if she couldn't understand a word he said. He showed her how to speak Ingleshmek, and that was the first time she liked her hands. He showed her how to speak without a word.

 

She hoped what she did told them how much she cared about them.

Chapter Text

"Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together? The winds in the free-top, the winds in the heather. The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower, and bright are the windows of Night in her tower," a woman sang sweet to a clothed baby in her arms.

The child closed its beautiful eyes, fisting in her dress shirt. The woman leaned over, kissing the babe's forehead, her pale golden tinted curls falling over her shoulder, brushing the child's cheek. " Dance all ye joyful, now dance all together! Soft is the grass, and let foot be like feather! The river is silver, the shadows are fleeting. Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting."

A deepened voice joined hers from the doorway, and she smiled at her Heart. He smiled back, and kneeled next to her. She handed him their child, His forefinger stroked the child's face, so much like his own. The baby yawned and mouthed his finger. The woman laid her weary head on her husband's shoulder, melding her voice with his in their lullaby.

"Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him! Wind him in slumber and there let us leave him! The wanderer sleepeth. Now soft be his pillow! Lullaby! Lullaby! Alder and Willow!" The woman felt her own eyes drooping as her husband carried their son to his cradle. "Sigh no more Pine, till the wind of the morn! Fall Moon! Dark be the land! Hush! Hush! Oak, Ash, and Thorn! Hushed be all water, till dawn is at hand..."

As he finished, he laid by her side on the bed, pressing her forehead to his. "Sleep, my dearest one."


The woman woke up, her heart aching, yearning to see the eyes of her child and beloved. She missed them far, far too much. A hand covered her shoulder. "Amaranth, are you all right?"

She stared at the male. He had hair similar to her own, but darker, as were his eyes. Yet, a majority of the hobbits in their traveling group had chesnut eyes, or as the dwarves called them (with their fascination over gems) amber. She began recalling where she was, and who she was, as well as the identity of the hobbit in front of her. This was Rorimac Brandybuck.

...In fact, she knew many things. For example, his wife, Menegilda, was at home with child. She had cyan green-blue eyes...Amaranth also knew that two future sons of theirs would share her eyes and Rorimac's curly, golden hair, who would in turn pass his looks to his son. That son would befriend a nephew of Amaranth's, who would have his father's looks of blue eyes and dark hair.

Yes, she remembered it all. Rorimac grimaced, "Was it about Belle's funeral?"

Amaranth partially wished it were, "Not this time..."

"It was about the family you had, wasn't it? The one that you lost?"

Amaranth quickly composed herself. "I'll be okay...Are there any problems with the wagon? Is anyone hurt?"

"What? I can't be there for my little sister when something's wrong?" he teased her. He held out his hands menacingly. Amaranth's eyes widened and she quickly began scooting back. Before she could protest, he began viciously tickling her. She couldn't stop herself from laughing. "Got you!"

"Hey, you're attacking her without us?"

Oh no...Didonas and Dodinas, the twins who could give Elrohir and Elladan a run for their money. They also tackled her, tickling her mercilessly.  Few could tell them apart with their honeyed hair and chestnut eyes. It was bittersweet that the legend behind those features would one day run out. Amaranth finally managed to get out of their attack, giggling.

Someone cleared their throat and Amaranth instantly stood at attention, straightening her hair and clothing so that she appeared completely calm. It was IsengrimTook, who was the direct Thains Heir at the moment.

"Rory, Dido and Dodi, may I speak with our sister, alone?" All three looked at her for her permission, worry in their eyes. She smiled and nodded. Cautiously they left, watching Tom in a way they hadn't before. Isengrim grimaced, "They still don't trust me, do they?"

Amaranth bit her lip, "Well, they're still trying to get used to us not being who they thought we were."

"...You're still their sister though, and I their brother?"

She snorted, "Yes but...It's complicated."

Amaranth glanced at her other brothers, who were in a wrestling match. Smirking, she closed her eyes, seeing her beloved and their son. She missed them so much. 

"We have not received word yet from our informants," Isengrim claimed. "You could visit him you know."

She bit her lip. "I've tried for so long, and every time I've failed. I failed them, so many times...I can't do it again. I can't let Belle die again. I can't bear to lose any of them-"

"I'm sorry, for you having to watch Belle pursue the Journey," Isengrim apologized. "I know you're scared for her, but this must be done. She found the One Ring and was immune or at least strong enough to resist it for so long. Golem rotted in less than the time she had it with her. She kept a stable mind and used it in ways no one could anticipate. To make such an ugly thing beneficial was almost inconceivable...She may have the power to destroy it. If not, then she can take it to Mount Doom with the previous carrier-"

"He remembers though," she replied, more harshly than she intended. At his flinch, she sighed. "Sorry, I suppose I am biased by the idea that he killed her...But no one could believe it when he was able to bear the Ring because of his Gold Sickness. The only explanation Elrond could think of was that her sacrifice helped him become immune to it. Because that sacrifice hasn't happened in this timeline, how are we sure he won't be affected?"

Isengrim did not meet her eyes, "I know you don't trust him but-"

"I have complete faith in the others though," she responded. "They will keep hersafe, no matter what."

Her brother took out a pipe with swirls of languages long forgotten. "It's funny, how much a single life could shape the world...Belle and her Company are nearing Rivendell. I've sent word to Galadriel and Elrond about the importance of the matter. They don't know anything, but I'm willing to bet Galadriel will soon find out once she gets close enough to our cousin."

Amaranth winced, "We'll be stopping in Rivendell too, won't we?"

"Yes...Won't you be glad to see them?"

"Are you?"

He didn't answer, his gaze lowered.

"I don't know if I'll ever be truly glad to see anyone," Amaranth said. "And you know very well why. I can't help but think they'll hate me, especially considering what happened to Celebrian. Oh no, I didn't even think of how Arwen or Elladan or Elrohir might react! This is a suicide mission for me! Whose bright idea was this?!"

"Yours." Okay, he deserved a glare for that. "You remembered. The story you told was hard for any of us to believe until you told us things no hobbit should ever know. Now, we're starting something and for the first time in millennia, we, myself, my wife, and the Thains Heirs are going to change fate. Not even Bullroarer Took was in a full-fledged war. I had thought hobbits forgotten such things."

"Yes, and no." A group across the way were paired up, fighting each other with weapons and wearing armor from the Mathom Museum. She didn't like the sight. Hobbits were meant to provide peace, not a means to an end. She hoped it wouldn't come to the point they were anticipating. "It's odd, thinking that hobbits could hold so much power, yet never use it."

"They haven't had to in a long time." Rorimac Took stepped forward, a letter in hand. "Gerontius gave us the go ahead. We've amassed enough Rangers, with that specific Strider fellow you mentioned. He doesn't like the idea of being there for his own good as you put it...There are also enough Thains Heirs there as well."

Amaranth nodded, "Good. Now, let's put our newfound abilities to the test."

Isengrim's eyes began to glow. Now she really understood why the dwarves called them amber eyes. They glowed anew, like the stone in front of a fire. Ancient, yet beautiful. His hands flexed, his ears grew pointier. He slid out a sword from a scabbard on his waist, pointing it at her. In the moonlight, it shimmered. Vines on its handle breathed, full of life despite being cover in dust for so long, acting as a second limb for him.

"Shall we begin?"

Amaranth grew up with Belle. They used to steal things, throw "mud-pies" at Gandalf, and even pester the crud out of Lobelia. As they grew up, they grew more apart. At first, it was their differing philosophies of how to behave in public. Then the Fell Winter came and Belle was changed. She wanted nothing to do with adventures of danger anymore. Amaranth chose to follow her heart, just as Belle had hers. Every once in a while they had met up again for a chat or about reminiscing. Imagine Amaranth's surprise when Belle had finally gone on an adventure, running out her door like there wasn't going to be another tomorrow. Amaranth had been happy for her.

Then, the dwarves brought her back. Worse yet, one specific dwarf came with them. He had killed her cousin, one of her best friends. She wanted to hate all of them, but she saw how much they really cared. She got on surprisingly well with the one named Gloin, who bragged about his son often. However, she couldn't bring herself to stop hating their leader. She visited Belle's grave every day, swearing that if she could change one thing, she'd want to spend one more day like they had so long ago.

Now, she had that chance. Not only with her cousin, but with all those she left before the last times. The ones she failed again and again...She would not do so again. Amaranth drew a blade of her own, one more wild than Isengrim's, "Ready."

Chapter Text

On the Journey, Belle tended to get injured, a lot. From the way Oin got mad at the others for getting hurt, she'd been terrified to let him know whenever she was hurt. Especially since his medicines made even her, a strong-bellied Took-Baggins, want to gag or vomit from the sheer smell. Oddly enough though, it wasn't until she was surrounded by complete strangers in Rivendell of all places that she finally asked him for assistance.

Rivendell was full of healers, yet when she considered seeing them, she didn't feel safe. And she had no reason to feel that way as far as she could tell. She had been clawed by a warg while running. Her vest had taken a majority of the blow, but it had hurt for longer than it should have. Even he looked shocked when she went to see him.

Don't get her wrong, she was scared of him too, but perhaps it was the idea that she knew what to expect from him that she was more comfortable. Wow, her mind was really, really messed up on so many levels. Oin used plants from Rivendell's healing wards anyway, and with Nori's help, he snuck a few things that helped them later on...One word, dwarves.

He had been critical to say the least, but he had also been surprisingly kind and gently, as if she were an injured, wild animal in a corner, ready to bolt. He knew she was scared, and she realized he was as well. He must've been used to working with dwarves, but hobbits were beings not many people understood or knew about.

After a while, they finally started talking and sharing stories and knowledge. There was something magical about it, in a non-literal sense, about starting a friendship so cautiously. No one knowing what will happen, and taking that leap of faith anyway.


Belle gasped, her chest hurting as the hilt of the blade collided with her sternum, just as her blade was shoved through the warg's. It howled in pain, the heat of its skin unbearable as was the rotting scent of its flesh. Black blood dripped onto her cheek. Yavanna, this thing was foul and...

And she just took a life. What had she done? As the warg was moved off of her and she saw Dori, Oin and Thorin. Belle's heart stuttered, and she couldn't hear what they were saying. She saw their mouths moving, and their frantic expressions, but her mind couldn't take it. She knew what she had done. She had saved one life at the expense of another...No, her reasoning was justified. Life was precious but-

Her hands were covered in blood. She froze staring at the freezing, scarred and mangled digits. Sounds of battle echoed around her, nearly bursting her eardrums. She wanted to scream, anything to stop this senseless madness. How could anyone not realize what they were doing? Wait, they did. They just didn't care. She held her hands over her throat, fighting not to cry as she heard a bear roaring in the distance. No, now was not the time to freeze. Now was the time to act. She had a mission, and she would not stop until they were all safe...

Belle's hearing came back as the pain dissipated from her ears. Then she heard it, Thorin's voice was the first thing she heard after being so scared. "Belle?! Can you hear me?"

"Y-Yes, sorry." She sat up. She just killed something, for a dwarf that she barely knew...Why? "Is everyone okay?"

Oin snorted, checking her for wounds, "Of course she'd ask that. We're fine lass. Another warg came by, but Dwalin took care of him."

She glanced around, seeing a warg with an axe in its skull. "I can see that." Kili stepped forward, waving his hand in front of her. She glared at him, catching his hand so he couldn't make her any more dizzy or nauseous than she already was. "I'm okay, I'm just in shock...Can someone get my sword out of the creature? I think it's stuck."

Fili kneeled by her side, much to Oin's irritation, "Are you sure you're alright?"

"She's in shock lad," Oin grumbled, standing up. "Her mind is calming itself. This will affect her greatly later."

"Why?" Ori asked, taking out his notebook.

Thorin answered for her, surprising everyone there. "All hobbits have some affinity for all life. While they love certain meats like bacon or chicken, they usually wait to a point where the animal is either sick with someone that won't affect them or has just passed away from age because killing is a cultural taboo, even if those living things may be of darkness-born."

Belle glanced at the warg that was giving its last breaths. She winced, petting its fur. It relaxed into her touch, and stilled. She shuddered, knowing full well that it wasn't the warg's fault for what happened to them. She croaked, "That also includes animals or people that have been tainted and twisted by something wrong."

She flinched when Thorin's hand hesitantly touched her shoulder. His look was one of bittersweet pain. He gave her a smile. Right, she needed a calm head. Belle stood up, blinking as Gloin handed her back the sword.

"Thank you," she said, her voice a bit stronger. "And, sorry for worrying you all...What's our next move?"

Dwalin thundered, "We have to get out of here."

With a soft look, and noticeably with no anger at all towards the warrior, Ori argued, "We can’t! We have no ponies; they bolted."

Dwalin cursed in Khuzdul, and Belle's brows wrinkled at the word. "Why does everyone use that phrase when something goes wrong?"

"I’ll draw them off."

Belle took a long, good look at this other wizard. He reminded her of both Gandalf and Tom Bombadil. He was eccentric with his odd clothing and staff, but like Tom Bombadil she sensed little to no harm from him, unlike Gandalf. There was a twinkle in his eye, and bird poop in his hair. She tried not to giggle at that last thought. Still, he didn't look like the type to fend off orcs. Then again, the dwarves thought her to be fragile so...

"Those are Gundabad Wargs; they will outrun you."

Gandalf sounded concerned. Maybe this was a bad idea after all. The pounding in Belle's ears grew louder. For some reason, they still ached from whatever dream or vision she had (hallucination maybe?).She calculated the time by counting the distance by the rate or pace that they were moving at...Gandalf was making a point about about the wargs being fast.

"We're got five and a half minutes," Belle said drily. "We need a plan, and fast."

Radagast gave the Company a knowledgeable smirk. "These are Rhosgobel Rabbits; I’d like to see them try."

A minute later, Radagast and his rabbits shot out of the forest. Making a mocking expression (the kind where one crosses their eyes, sticks out their tongue, and make unintelligible noises), he called out: "Come and get me! Ha ha!"

The orcs and wargs chased him, howling and cackling like chalk against glass. She squeezed her eyes and held her terror back. The vision was threatening to take control again, the one with a bloody battlefield. As much as Belle wanted answers in that moment, she also recognized that they had to run for their lives. Now was not the time to panic or get too distracted.

"Come on!"

The Company rushed across the rocky plane. As the Company ran, they heard wargs chomping at the back of the sled. The clamber grew louder, so they hid behind giant boulders. Gandalf ordered them to stay together.

"Move!" Thorin barked.

Belle caught sight of Radagast driving his sled beneath an overhanging stone. Thankfully, he ducked and pursuers were knocked off their seats. Thorin stopped behind a rock and most of the Company screeched to a stop behind him. Ori nearly revealed himself until Thorin pulled him back by the scruff of the shirt.

He almost threw him back into the safety of his brothers' arms. They readily accepted him. Dori said his thanks, but Belle searched out for Gandalf. The grey wizard appeared out of nowhere, making her wonder why he couldn't be the burglar.

"Come on! Quick!"

They ran again, Thorin halting once to say something to Gandalf. She didn't really pay attention to their conversation. One of the wargs froze and sniffed at the air. Belle checkered her inujries and sure enough, none of her blood had been spilt as of yet.  Did they smell the dwarves? The thirteen did have a rather strong... scent. That was nicest thing she could think of besides that they reeked abominably. That was why she not-so-secretly wanted them to be marinated by the trolls. Oh well, people can't always get what they want.

The Company took cover once more behind a protrusion of rock. The scout and warg jumped on top of it, scenting the air. Thorin looked pointedly at Kili and nodded. Preparing an arrow, Kili quickly stepped out and shot the warg. The despicable creatures tumbled, scrambling to kill.

Dwalin and Balin slew them thoroughly, Balin chopping the head off of the orc and Dwalin stabbing the warg in the throat first, then the heart. Unfortunately, they had not been fast enough. The sounds of struggle echoed to the enemy in the distance, making them turn around. They stopped pursuing Radagast and began pursuing the Company.

"Move. Run!" Gandalf yelled.

"Duh!" she and Ori quipped.

They dashed across the grassy plain. Nori narrowly avoided an orcish arrow. Belle and Ori bared their backs to Fili and Kili, permitting them to guard them.

Gloin glowered, "There they are!"

"This way! Quickly!"

At this point, she was getting really tired of the wizard's voice and the repetition of that phrase, over and over again. Orcs and wargs surrounded them on all sides. She could see the whites of Kili's eyes, but they weren't afraid of the situation for himself. Actually, he looked scared for her and Thorin. She had those eyes once. Thorin was a father figure to the boys, wasn't he? If he was so great, why was he avoided like a plague?

"There’s more coming!"

Thorin was worried for the lad, but he needed him as well. Still, his actions spoke volumes, far more than any of his words. “Kili! Shoot them!”

Fili panicked, the knives in his hand clanking and clattering in fear. However, most of his fear was held towards his brother and uncle.  "Where is Gandalf?!"

Kili aimed and fired at the wargs, killing some of them along with their riders. Ori shot rocks at them with his slingshot, with little to no effect. Belle picked up some rocks of her own, helping him. After constantly hitting her mark, Ori smiled at her, asking if that was from conkers. Normally Belle would retort something more harsh, but she had a feeling he was trying to help the both of them. She merely confirmed it.

Balin's weapon, some strange dwarven cross between a sword and a battle-axe, was knocked from his hands, far away from him. Belle kicked his attacker in the face and gave her blade to the dwarf. She gave him a stern look when he tried to give it back. He returned it with a glare.

Thorin slid out his own sword. "Hold your ground! Belle, stop nearly getting yourself killed!"

"I will make no such promises," she said.

Belle rolled across the ground, retrieving Balin's weapon and tossing it back to him. He caught it easily, even if the toss was a little lop-sided. What? She wasn't used to the weight of it. She barely dodged another orc blade, grunting when she felt her bandages her sternum screeched in protest at the movement.

Gandalf popped up from a crack in the rock. "This way, you fools!"

"Come on, move! Quickly, all of you! Go, go go!" Thorin commanded.

Belle saw an arrow directed at Fili and shoved him out of the way. "Look out!"

As she did so, the arrow whizzed past her ribs. She and Fili tumbled downwards, his arms wrapping around her, caging her. They landed harshly, the golden prince grunting from the weight on top of him. Belle quickly rolled off, easing the pressure on his chest. Quickly and inoffensively, she inspected him for any serious injuries. Thus far, she found none.

Thorin and Kili jumped into the cave last. Sounds of screams and bellows and the clashing of swords raged outside. The Company listened to the conflict from inside the cave. One of the orcs, shot by an arrow, fell into the cave. Thorin plucked out the arrow and examined its make.

“Elves...We should leave the cave once we know its safe. They will provide us aid."

Fili raised his hand to Belle's side to steady them both, and she couldn't stop the hiss that came out. A small trickle of blood wept through her clothing. Oin cursed and rushed to her side.

"When'd you get this lass?"

Belle probed her memory, "I think just now."

Oin was about to say something when they heard someone call out in Westron, "Will the Company of Thorin Oakenshield please step forward?"

The faces of the dwarves and Gandalf included were almost priceless. A few of them gave her an odd look, namely Dwalin and Nori, before staring out the mouth of the cave. Belle climbed up, against Oin's protests. Outside were Big Folk, with pointed ears similar to her own, atop horses and adorned in armor. So, these were the elves?

They were all angular and admittedly beautiful. Two members of the group caught her attention, and she tilted her head at the spectacle. There were two dark-haired, grey-eyed elves, clad alike in bright mail beneath cloaks of silver-grey. They appeared identical with the exception of a few features. For example, one of them had eyes a tad shade lighter than the other...It was something she had to learn growing up when surrounded by so many relatives.

Thorin got up, dusting himself off, and soon the Company followed. They formed a circle around her, and she rolled her eyes. Then again, looking at the corpses of the ground and seeing that the elves were armed and were easily big enough to overpower her, she didn't quite mind all that much. The leader, whom Thorin was talking to, looked very much like the possible twin elves. She wondered if they were related in some way.

Speaking of which, she still hadn't found out how or who all the Durins were related to. She added that to her fairly large and still growing mental checklist of things to investigate. What? The dwarves were keeping secrets and she wanted to know what they were. She wasn't going to go as far as learning their people's secret language or certain things that the race as a whole kept amongst their own kind, but Gandalf had a poor poker face and whenever the dwarves said something suspicious, she knew it not only from their behavior, but from Gandalf.

Their leader smiled at her and gave a small bow, "Thains Heir Belle Baggins, it is an honor to meet you." ...What? He stood up. "I am Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, the Last Homely House."

Belle was struck speechless for a good second. Then, she recalled her training when it came to diplomacy. She curtsied then, despite not wearing a skirt. "It is an honor to meet you as well Lord Elrond. May I ask how you have heard of me?"

The dwarves appeared eager to know that answer as well, but they were apprehensive too. The circle around her seemed to grow tighter. Elrond didn't mind, "A friend of yours, Tom Bombadil contacted me for the first time in centuries to tell me about you and you Company."

She absorbed his words, and whistled a small tune. The wind around the circle grew more fervent and sure enough, a will o' the wisp appeared. These were Bombadil's friends from the woods. She and Amaranth chased them many a time much to the amusement of Tom and his lady Goldberry. The spirit made a childlike giggling noise, waved at her, and faded into the wind once more.

"What was that?" Gloin asked, very nervous. "A ghost. I don't like ghosts."

Just as he said that, the wisp came again, sitting on his shoulder. He became wide-eyed and tried to blow it away. With a yelp, he fell onto the ground. Belle palmed her forehead, nodding to the will o the wisp. Then, she heard something from Dori mentioning that the wisps could be just as useful as the eagles? What eagles?

She wanted to ask, but Nori and Ori had covered his mouth and were grinning in an obviously fake way meant to distract her. Okay, there's another thing to add to the list. Maybe she should get some paper and write this stuff down. Her head might burst from the number of questions and lack of answers. There was too much and too little to keep in there.

"No Gloin, spirits are not ghosts," Belle said. "They're a part of nature Bombidil is just unusual because he can communicate with them in ways most can't. I just don't know how Elrond would know him."

Elrond smirked, "Tom Bombadil is older than Gandalf and has advised people has all races for millenia.  He was supposed to retire with his wife in a peaceful area for the hardships he's endured. He did so willingly. Gandalf had the option as well, but felt the need to continue his own mission."

"Is he a wizard?" Dwalin asked.

Elrond was stunned, "I...Actually do not know. We simply know him as 'Eldest'."

Belle gaped. That was news to her. And what did Tom do in order to receive retirement from the work of the Valar? She didn't think he was a man per se, but she had considered him to be a part of the Dunedain or Half-Elven, which would help explain stories of him living longer than the oldest of hobbits in many generations. And, it was very disturbing that Bombadil was someone older than Gandalf, a Maiar, one of the first protectors of Middle Earth.

As a Took and a Thains-heir, basic mythology and history had been crammed into her head about the Valar, Morgoth, and more. She had been trained to notice things and put them together. But this? Yes, it made in retrospect, but the idea of it was still baffling. There are many things she could observe and conclude, but something on that plane of possibilities is something she didn't normally consider. It was a huge paradigm shift. Still, it did make sense. She wondered what other secrets were in her life she did not know about, besides the dwarves. Surely nothing of that sort surrounded them.

Belle's thoughts came to a stop as she felt her wound burning, and she became dizzy. Dori caught her, and picked her up. Her breathing was labored, and she felt feverish. Elrond called out something in Elvish and she found herself being handed to one of the twin elves. There, she was on a horse with him, and her vision went black.

Belle had a headache, a massive one. Okay, what could a headache entail? Since she couldn't remember much of anything at the moment...Head trauma, amnesia, possibly a brain tumor (which would explain many of her behaviors), etc.

Perhaps it was the brightness of the room giving her a migraine. Honestly, the room was beautiful. Across from her was a pure white balcony with crisp, flowing curtains. She blinked, wondering if she was dreaming. No, her dreams were darker than this. Where the heck was she?

Hold on, what was she wearing? Was she wearing silk?! Egad, she was wearing a dress! The horror! No, don't scream, don't scream. Calm down. First, she had to find out where she was. Then she had to locate the Company, and then get out of this damn death trap! She hated dresses!

Agh, she was sore. Her side was bandaged up. Did Oin do this? Maybe she was overreacting. Yeah, she probably was, but she still had to stay on her toes. Her feet  were a little sore, but the ache was dull. At the door were two man-sized guards. To her surprise, they had pointy ears like she did. So, were those elves? Ack, now she remembered, they were in Rivendell!

Why place guards at her door? Where was the Company? She had to find them. The identical elven guards had long tresses of dark, mahogany hair. Upon their brows were crowns. Were they royalty? Together, they bowed cheerfully at her. They were...almost handsome. But like all elves, she found them lacking somehow.

"Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Lord Elrond, at your service." they said in unison, gesturing to each other to differentiate themselves.

...She supposed they were easy enough to tell apart. Elladan's eyes were lighter than Elrohir's. Elrohir had dimples and Elladan's chin was a bit more chiseled than his brother's. Not to mention that Elladan's voice seemed a little more assertive then Elrohir's. Ugh, she really needed to stop doing that. It was one thing to figure out how to separate family members, and it was a totally different thing to analyze people that treated you as guests...The dwarves were fair game though since they annoyed her and she was traveling with them.

She flushed as the twins moved to both sides of her. Elrohir held out his arm to her, like a perfect gentleman. After traveling with dwarves for this long, she couldn't help but think, what was the catch? It turned out there was none so far. The twins just gave her a tour as they located the Company. The halls were gloriously sculpted. Light practically sang here. The graceful curves of architecture bent to the will of nature. Part of her loved it; another knew something even better was out there. What could possibly be lovelier than this palace or the arts?...Certainly not what she saw around the corner.

The twins paled and Belle...Found herself trying not to laugh at the sight of Elrond's expression of the dwarves bathing in an ancient fountain. Wait, were they chicken-fighting? She really ought to have been flustered or something, come on, they were naked after all, but she found out she really wasn't. Still, her shocked appearance must have worried the elves.

"Um, Lady Belle, are you all right?" Elrohir asked, worried.

Her shoulders began shaking against her will and the twins started to panic. The splashing slowed and Belle couldn't contain it any longer. She fell on her rear end laughing to the point where she started crying. Her ribs hurt and so did her feet, but Yavannna, the whole situation was like a burst of sunshine on how scared she had been, and it felt good.

"Belle?" It was Oin, who was one of many that were confused. He was only wearing trousers.

"Sorry, sorry. It's just, Lord Elrond's expression and the chicken fighting the fountain..." Nope, she wasn't going to make it. "Hahahaha!"

The twins got some color back into their cheeks, sighing in relief, as did Elrond and everyone else in the immediate facility. She must've seemed mad, but when she sat up, there was Thorin across the way, smiling honestly at her. In fact, he was watching her almost tenderly. She immediately stopped laughing as her heart jolted.

She stood up, clearing her throat. "Um, sorry. I'll head inside and wait for you guys to get dressed."

How could Belle not have been bothered by that?! The impropriety of it all! Thankfully everyone had covered up either with trousers or towels. That didn't stop her cheeks from catching fire though. Still, was she blushing from the naked dwarves, or from Thorin's look?...It was the naked dwarves. Definitely the naked dwarves.

The twins led her to another room, "We'll escort you to our sister. She's heard much about you. Would you like that?"

Belle did not mind, but she couldn't help but look backwards at the Company. They assured her that the Company was in good hands. Tentatively, she agreed, keeping a grip on her staff. They posed no real danger and Belle met Arwen, princess of the elves.

Arwen was beautiful. Her braids of her dark hair were touched by no frost, her white arms and clear face were flawless and smooth, and the light of stars was in her bright eyes, grey as a cloudless night. Her brothers shared those eyes and dark locks as well.

The princess of Rivendell was very accommodating. Belle had expected Arwen to be the stereotypical princess. The kind in faerie tales that always needed to be saved by some better man. Arwen was more girl-like than Belle (especially with that figure that Belle felt envious of), but she was no damsel in distress. In fact, when they first met, Arwen was training in full battle gear, and she was teaching a group of rangers on how to defend themselves. One of them had the gall to question her mentality as a female and Arwen flipped him onto his back, and had a dagger pointed to his throat.

She was intimidating, yet admirable. She actually showed the man how to avoid that move if it happened again and gave him a few words of wisdom. Eventually, she and Arwen talked of politics and such, and Belle learned some things about the Company's past. The dwarves of Erebor had pleaded for aid from their neighbors, when Smaug attacked, in Mirkwood, the elves. Thrandruil, the ruler of the elves there, refused them. This forced the dwarves to live in exile, far, far away from their home. Tension had arisen for unknown reasons before then, but the betrayal was what had really hurt both peoples.

"I find myself puzzled though," Arwen admitted. "Most dwarves would meet us with animosity. There's still an underlying distrust, but I expect that. What I didn't expect was that, even though I heard to our fountain-" Belle blushed. "They've actually been communicating and sharing information with my father...Tell me, why would my father ask me to return home from my ambassadorial mission with the rangers of the North?"

That was news to Belle. "I don't know. Hobbit folk rarely ever leave our homes. I came because I wanted to help them regain theirs."

Arwen slowly nodded. "I apologize, I should not have-"

"It's okay; I can tell you're worried about something. Is something wrong?"

Arwen actually blushed, and starting playing with her fingers a little, "I, um, there's someone I really care about. He's a ranger and he was ordered to remain in the Shire for reasons I cannot comprehend. My father said it was for his safety, but-"

Ah, Arwen was in love. Belle had seen it hundreds of times with her many, many relatives. She had seen something similar for her parents. Much a disappointment to many who wanted Bag End or the family name, she never yearned for love. Instead, when she was younger, she dreamed of being a knight who'd save the day. She had nothing against couples or lovers, she just couldn't see herself like that. What Arwen said was confusing though, and made little to no sense.

"But how could the Shire possibly be safer than Rivendell? I lived there my entire life. The only time it was dangerous during my lifetime was in the Fell Winter, when the Brandywine River froze and wargs and other wild animals invaded. My father died from an infectious bite, but he was one of few casualties. We're utterly defenseless without help from the rangers."

"And yet, here you are," Arwen commented. "...You're still bother, aren't you?"

Belle tried smiling, "We can't fix everything. It's just every time I think I have an answer, it turns out they're only more questions. It'd be nice to have a sure answer, just for once."

"Obviously, how we view the world, isn't always the way it actually is, no matter how we may wish it." Belle found herself giggling. Arwen gave her an odd look. "What is it?"

"Nothing, wishes just reminds me of an old tale my mother told me, that was passed down from her father and beyond...I think I'll head back to the Company. Surely they're dressed by now, and most likely very embarrassed. Thank you for letting me have a much needed conversation with you."

Arwen curtsied, "I look forward to a time where we may meet again, Belle Baggins of the Shire."

As she walked alone and unsupervised, Belle took note of where the library and kitchen were. Rivendell was beautiful, and perfect. She loved it, but there was also a part of it that felt very fake. Perhaps, it was too perfect. None of the elves noticed her as she rounded corners and surveyed areas. Good, this could be practice for the dragon.

"Try it. Just a mouthful." That was Dori's voice. He was nervous, why was he nervous? He also sounded protective. If she knew anything about him, she knew he cared dearly for his brothers, especially Ori. "You're going to stay the same, aren't you?"

"I still don’t like green food," Ori mumbled. "That's definitely not going to change anytime soon."

The dwarves were sitting around tables in the Elven court, eating. However, the majority weren't very appreciative of the Elves’ vegetables. Belle giggled quietly as Dwalin stuck his hands in a salad bowl, unable to hide his disappointment. "Where’s the meat?"

Oin held up a vegetable with his knife and looked at in disgust. Ori glanced around and spoke to a nearby elf, "Have you got any chips?"

An elf maiden played a harp in the background. Belle sighed. The harp had always been her favorite instrument. The tune on it was a lullaby.  Another elf maiden played a flute. Oin obviously didn't like the sound, and stuffed a napkin in his hearing trumpet. He was euphoric that he could no longer hear the music. Belle wondered if she should reveal herself or not. No, she shouldn't. They were all safe and happy without her.

It made her start to rethink about her role in this. She seriously endangered them earlier with her hesitance. What if her trying to help, was only hurting them more? She meant to do something good, but what were the intentions worth when compared with the results? Sure, no one was hurt now, but what if she did that again? Knowing her clumsiness and mentality...

No, she wasn't going to falter like this. She wasn't going to further question her choice to come...But why shouldn't she? No matter how friendly she became with the dwarves she got, they were hiding things. No, she wouldn't expect them to be that forthcoming, they were strangers after all.

"...We need to tell Belle the truth," Oin said out loud.

Okay, now it was really tempting to stay hidden.

"You know we can't, She would never believe us. Not to mention Belle would never trust us again," Thorin stated. "Not after all we've done."

"You mean after what you've done," Bofur growled.

She had never heard that much open hostility from Bofur before. Sure, she suspected things, but to hear it out loud was altogether a different story. This hatred scared her. And why was it always directed at Thorin? Sure, her was a jerk sometimes, but was the kind of hatred for people willing to kill. What did Thorin do to earn such rage?

"Lads, she doesn't remember us, and perhaps that's for the best," Balin stated. "Thorin, you lived amongst hobbits for years. You know their ways of life and general views on subject matters better than anyone here, possibly including the elves or even Gandalf..."

...Since when had she met dwarves before?! It wasn't like she had amnesia or anything. She remembered almost everything of her life, albeit more so than she'd like. It wasn't like these guys were forgettable. But...Maybe it would explain some things? Like how they were so overprotective. She had to consider the possibility that they all knew each other once, and that maybe something happened to her to make her forget.

"That doesn't mean I understand how Belle thinks," Thorin interrupted. "She's not like the others, I learned that the hard way. Hobbits may be fairly peaceful, but there's chaos and battles there too that happen between the higher members of certain clans. The kind of minds. For example, Lobelia Sackville Baggins. She nearly had me, a seasoned and hardened soldier; break down crying and screaming within a minute."

Ori swallowed, "Hobbits can be really, really scary."

Huh? Since when did Thorin live with hobbits? And, why hadn't he used his abundance of knowledge with her? Surely it would've benefitted him in some way for her to like him a little more. For example, less arguing with him in front of his men?

And what about Lobelia? There was a reason Lobelia's tactics worked, she was straightforward and bluntly honest when challenged. She never tried to insult anyone, she merely stated fact to have her opponents face the truth that they so often deny. Belle had learned her battle tactics long ago and sometimes willingly stepped down because she knew Lobelia was right about those things on some level...But Lobelia didn't show any signs of knowing him. Did she misinterpret something?

Then again, how much of her life was a lie? Tom Bombadil had some relation with the Valar after all. The Shire was keeping secrets. And then there was her own mind. What if Thorin was right? What if she had forgotten something? Something important? But...Why would she? Yavanna, she remembered her parents' deaths, and had come to accept them.

"I don't know how Belle thinks, or what she will think once she learns the truth," Thorin said. "Of what we did. Of what I did. Mahal, I can still see her blood on my hands..."

Everything was blurring together, and her body felt cold. Belle stood up from the pale orc's body, her hands bleeding. She was shaking, horrified, and covered in wounds that pained her greatly. Still, it didn't compare to the pain in her heart as she saw Thorin's rejection and hatred of her. He roared, rushing at her with his sword. She blocked his attack, fear clouding her mind momentarily.

"I should have let you die long ago you miserable traitor!"

...Thorin hurt her? These visions, dreams, memories? Whatever they were, were they connected to the dwarves more than she initially suspected? They appeared to be happening more and more frequently as she spent time with the Company. Was there a part of the past that she had forgotten? For her it was out of the realm of possibility, but the theory did make sense in some ways.

She was tired of hiding in the shadows. She didn't feel comfortable with how she was gathering information. Yes, if this kept on, she might learn everything they were hiding from her, but she wasn't going to do this to them, no matter how much her curiosity demanded her to. If she wanted answers, she wasn't going to hide. Instead, either they would willingly give her answers, or unknowingly by their actions.

"I don't want to hurt her again."

...She wasn't going to listen anymore. Some secrets shouldn't be solved so quickly, and this was too much right now. Belle knocked on the wood. "Don't want to hurt who?"

"Nothing lass," Balin said with a fake, sweet smile. "Anything else you hear m'dear?"

Belle hated lying. She absolutely loathed it. So, semi-lied, and then built a distraction to work off of. "I was in the hallway, so I didn't catch much. How come? Are you guys comparing or something?" At their mortified faces she added, "That was a joke."

"I know," Kili said, extremely pasty pale. "But that's not normally a topic you're comfortable with."

She couldn't stop her flush, "Yeah well, I'm trying not to b such a stick in the mud. Am I doing okay?"


Oin noticed things. He had to as a healer. Belle heard more than she let on. Perhaps they didn't know how she thought, but Oin had seen her lie numerous times about her health to recognize when she was hiding something. Or at least he thought he did. Her ability had improved greatly to the point where apparently not even Nori picked up on it. The only reason why Oin did, was because she had made up excuses around him repeatedly during the first Journey in order to avoid him.

After dinner, he searched her out. He followed her around a corner, but then she disappeared. He blinked. The room he was in had a centerpiece statue, holding the fragments of a sword. Across from it was a painting of malevolence. He knew the figure well. It was Sauron, and on his finger was the Ring they needed Belle to find. He glared at it for a few good minutes, considering how much his nephew must have gone through because of it. How much the survivors of the Company had to endure. He hated it with almost every fiber of his being.

There was an odd parallel between Belle and the Ring. At a glance, no one could expect such small and almost ordinary beings were capable of until they were burned by flame, one being more literal while the other was more metaphorical. How strange was it, that it was a hobbit that held the fate of Middle Earth in her hands for a year, and used it for good instead of its intended malevolent purposes? Would Middle Earth have even stood a chance if not for her actions? Belle may not have realized it, but she had saved Middle Earth the day she got the Ring. Yes, it was the combined efforts of many, including Thorin, Gandalf, Dwalin, and the rest of the Fellowship, which had brought all races together in the unlikeliest of ways.

"Now let the songs begin! Let us sing together! Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather, light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather, wind on the open hill, bells on the heather, reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water: Old  Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!"

Sitting almost unseen on a bench by the statue was Belle, sniffling. Her back was against the wall, and her eyes closed. Oin took a step and her ear twitched. Her eyes opened, amber eyes glowing in the ever-growing darkness of the night. He flinched despite having seen them for over a period of a year in his life. Wasn't that odd as well? How one in  hundreds of years could change because of one person? Even if you hadn't seen them again after all this time?

Oin began questioning again as to why they hadn't been reverted to younger ages, where they could have done so much more and would've had fewer weaknesses. Whatever force, good or bad, that had brought them back was cruel in many, many ways. Thus far it had been a bittersweet and nostalgic, but Oin knew that many parts of the Journey before had remained the same. That worried him.

"Oin, am I going mad?"

He sat down, "I don't know. Why would you think you're going mad?"

"I've been having these dreams ever since we started this journey. Some I recognize since they're from the Fell Winter, where I lost my parents." Oin...Did not know that. "I was young at the time and had to fight to keep my home because I wasn't viably an adult yet."

Oin's eyes widened, "How old were you?"

She glared at him, "Keep in mind that Hobbits don't live as long as dwarves." Oin nodded. Thorin had given him advice on hobbits and how to treat certain kinds of injuries. Reflecting on it, he was surprised Belle hadn't died before the Battle of the Five Armies from the lack of medical knowledge on his part. "I was twenty-seven, okay?"

...Mahal, she had been but a babe? No, wait, hobbit don't live as long so if he did his math right..."So, you were a teen?"

"We reach our majorities when we turn thirty-two. The reason I was allowed to keep my home was because I convinced other hobbits that I was respectable and proper for someone my age and a Thains Heir, so people hoped that my own independence would enable me to grow into a model citizen all the unruly children could look up to. I took on the act too well, and it became a part of my natural demeanor. I hadn't noticed until I met all of you."

She smirked when she caught him frowning. "Don't worry about it. I stopped long ago. I've grown up and now I'm middle aged. Every once in a while memories come back, so I'm used to it."

She stopped smiling honestly after saying that. He knew it when she faked smiles. Often times he liked to think he knew her, but in all honesty, he never had. Even on the other Journey, Belle had kept mostly to herself. Unlike Thorin, who brooded so openly, she smiled brightly, so that no one would notice. At one time, he believed Belle could heal Thorin. It wasn't until Moria her realized that both of them had been broken on some level, and that Thorin could relate to her on some level because of it. She had been someone who barely knew them, and didn't cast a judgment like most did. Instead, she saw them as people with emotions and strengths as well as weaknesses. He may be a healer, but he had learned that there are things you can't always fix.

"But recently, I've been dreaming of other things. Like fire and smoke, and blood mixing with the wind," her voice was low, and soft. Belle's eyebrows were furrowed, and her nose wiggled. She was concentrating, making herself look back at what she could remember. "Thorin is screaming at me. Others where I don't see anything, but I feel pain or heartache. Just before you came over, I saw myself in a cave with a lake..."

Oin's heart had fought not to burst the truth out, but then she mentioned a cave with a lake...There was no place like that in Eerbor or any of the places they had been as a group. The only times they had really been separate were when Belle gave away the Arkenstone, Mirkwood, and...The Goblin Caves. All they really knew, and they had heard from Gandalf, was that Belle found the Ring in the Goblin Caves. As much as he didn't want to trick her to do something...

"Tell me about the cave," he said, trying not to sound too suspicious. It was confusing, he could know all about Belle's habits, but never truly understand her. She turned out to be often smarter than she looked, and somehow she could read most like an open scroll. She gazed at him for a long moment with an expression he couldn't place. "Please. I'd like to help."

He really, really did want to help her though. Honestly, he did. How couldn't he, after everything they'd been through? She may not remember everything right now, but this was the Belle they knew, right? The one they had traveled with? She fisted her hands on her skirt, hiding part of her face with her hair. He couldn't see her eyes. "I was falling, and I hit the ground, hard. For the next few minutes, it's really dark. I think I wake up..."

She told him about how she found a cave with a lake that was black as night and mushrooms surrounding it with a foul stench. How she found a deformed creature and they played a game of riddles for her life...Oin wanted to cry at that point. Why did everything try to kill her?!

"I don't remember much beyond that, but the ring scared me. Yet, for I felt like I had to keep it, for something important."

...She had kept it for them. Why else would Belle have kept it? She never used it for her own gain that they know of, and she didn't seem to be influenced by it whereas even the wizards had been tempted. They had all underestimated her, and it would be wise not to do so again. Unfortunately, it was something he tended to do more so than he would ever have liked.


Belle watched Oin. "What do you think? Am I going mad?"

"Trust me lass, you're not," Oin replied sternly.

She raised an eyebrow, wondering how much more should she push? Dare she truly trust them, even as they kept secrets from her. Yet, they also had been reluctant to allow her on their journey in the first place. "So, are they memories?"

Oin began coughing, no doubt in shock. Perhaps that had been cruel of her. Still, at least she was getting answers out of this. "What makes you think that lass?"

He was still gaping at her so she sighed, "It also explains more so why you're all so cautious around me. You had to have known that Gandalf was hiring a hobbit since you were brought to Hobbiton, how could you not? Yet, that didn't bother you, it was only when you saw me, that everyone freaked out. I do not think you're lying about your over protectiveness because of a lost friend. Maybe you could've been talking my mother I suppose, since we share some looks and she helped many in her days of adventuring...But the Company specifically mentioned me instead of Belladonna Baggins nee Took."

"How are you sure we were nervous around just you? All you hobbits appeared soft."

A vein in Belle's forehead ticked. No, must resist urge to retort. Must use brain now, not emotions. All of this was a huge riddle she needed to solve with high stakes. She couldn't afford a mistake. "Because some members, such as Thorin or the Ur brothers, interacted with other hobbits with no worries whatsoever. By the way, in the Shire, word spreads fast. We're horrible gossipers."

Oin was mortified at that point. Belle held her chin. Maybe this had been a bad idea after all.

"Hmm, I have amnesia, and the more we travel, the more I'm learning things. Sometime in my past, I was somehow affiliated with all of you. A tragedy happened, and Thorin has felt guilty ever since. That's why he's been avoiding me...Just tell me one thing Oin."

He blinked, "Um, what?"

"What's so important about that cave? Is it essential for us to go there?"

Oin considered her words. "Yes."

"So why not tell me that instead of telling me to steal from a dragon?"

"Because...We don't know where it is. It's holds an important artifact that, while you did not know it, changed everything. You were the last one who had it, and you may be the only one who can find it. We didn't want to bring you along because of how dangerous it was. We didn't even know how you first had contact with it besides it possibly being in the Goblin Caves in the mountain pass. Even then we might be wrong."

Belle unclenched her fists, "That's why you tried to convince me not to go, isn't it? Not only are you all scared of hurting me yourselves, but of whatever I had to do in order to get that?"

"...I honestly do not know. The risk of using it could be too dangerous."

The question was, why? They didn't seem the kind to desire power, but she had been wrong before about people. Both the Baggins and Took part of her were telling her to trust them, which was something miraculous in itself. The problem was that it was too miraculous. It was too good to be true. They were too good to be true. Oin was still hiding something. They all were.

"Why get a it if we aren't going to use it?"

"To keep it away from other forces. Remember the orcs earlier? They too seek power. As do many other folk. All magic, comes with a price."

Comes at a price? Did that include her memories? At her nose wrinkling, Oin called her name. She shook her head, "Thank you Oin. At least I can rest a little bit easier knowing that I'm not going insane..Please don't let the other know what I know. I don't want them shrinking away from me again, not when they're starting to warm up to me again."

"...I promise. Healer's confidentiality."

"Thank you."


The healer set down his tea cup that had been shoved onto him by Dori, "Belle, I need your help."

"With what?" Belle asked, extremely confused.

"Well, as you are aware, Thorin has been graviting towards you." Belle groaned. They had arrived at Beorn's a couple days ago and Thorin had been asking so many questions about her culture and life that it nearly drove her mad! "I need you to be his medicine."

..."Huh?"

"Thorin has had a rough time in his life." Well yeah, his home was stolen, his grandfather beheaded, there was a faint mention of his brother dying in battle, his father disappeared and did she really need to think of any more at that point?! "As you may have noticed, he's also had a hard time sleeping, and I believe it affects his mental health."

That was true, but what could she do about it? He practically hated her until she nearly tried to kill him for throwing himself at an orc like that! Or at least she wanted to until she saw an orc ready to kill him. She turned her bloodlust towards the creature and...Shockingly, killed it. Whenever she had thought about killing something in that past, she never really meant it.

It was more like she felt the need to be violent until whoever caused her anger was comatose on the ground...Really, don't ask about Otho Sackville-Baggins. It was before the Fell Winter and he'd been an even bigger jerk than Thorin. Wait, she needed to focus her attention on Oin again.

"What do you think I can do about it?"

"He becomes more relaxed when you're around," Oin said. "That's quite an accomplishment. So, I need you to try talking to him, and maybe get to know each other a little better. If you two develop a positive relationship, whether that's as good acquaintances or even friends, I think you can fix him."

Belle had issues with Thorin in many ways and the list could go on for mountains-worth. However, that didn't mean she thought he needed to be 'fixed' as Oin said. And wasn't a healer. She was more of a tinkerer. She did her best to understand things and people. Learn what made them tick and what made them sing. Belle never wanted to fix things, because some things should never be forgotten.

Thorin, just needed someone who was willing to listen. So, she would. "Oin, I'll do my best to help him, but I can't heal him, or fix him, or even really save him. I know I saved his life, but that's not the same thing. Only he can help himself. All I can do is stand with him in case he needs me. The choice though, is his."

"And that alone would be enough lass," Oin commented.

Belle doubted that. She had never been enough before. Why would she be now? A whisper from her pocket told her that she never would be. She scowled at it on her way out. It was right, but something about the ring she found was disturbing. The only reason she kept it was because it could help her against the dragon. Otherwise, she would have rid herself of it the day she found it.

Chapter Text

Gloin, how did one describe him? Well, he imbibed almost more than Bofur...Almost. He jumped into every dangerous situation. In short, he was cocky as heck. Seriously, it was like he constantly held out his arms to say 'Come at me! I shall pummel you into dust!'

Compared to her simplistic life with little danger whatsoever, she felt very inferior at times. Not to mention that they had ery little in common. There wasn't any animosity between her and Gloin. Nor was there interest for friendship. Both just...Were. They participated in conversations and gave opinions. Even with their major differences, they remained acquaintances.

And then...There was the Arkenstone.

Gloin had been exhausted searching for it. So, she showed him her secret treasure to cheer him up. She regretted it almost instantly after seeing his puzzled expression. Of course, hobbits weren't the same as dwarves. Like how she couldn't understand their fascination with rocks, they probably wouldn't understand her people's affinity for all life. Interestingly enough, he gently held it in his hands, trembling as if he'd break it.

"...Why'd you keep this?" he asked.

She shrugged, "Hobbits have an affinity for all things that grow. I was going to plant this once I got back home, so that I can always remember everything."

"Like what?"

"The good, the bad, those who survived, those who didn't..." she smiled, thinking fondly. "I planted Belladonna and Forget-Me-Nots when my parents passed away. By planting, we remember those who were lost, and celebrate the life they had. Sometimes, if the plant is sturdy enough, we add decorations of moments shared."

He hesitated, "Is life that precious to you?"

"Yes," she replied calmly as he handed the acorn back to her.

"Then, what does it mean if someone kills in your culture?"

She tensed, realizing Gloin was reflecting on the things she had done for them. "Um, you don't need to worry about that-"

Thorin called them to search once more, causing guilt to pool in the bottom of Belle's stomach. She was doing this to them, not just Thorin. She needed to do something soon...


 

"No."

Elladan pouted, "But you don't even know what we're going to ask."

"I may not have siblings, but know enough about them that it's a bad idea to trust them," Belle said stiffly, sipping on her tea. Yavanna, she had missed mint herbal tea. It somehow managed to wake her up while calming her nerves.

Elrohir peeked upwards, "From who? The dwarves?"

"You do realize that they can hear us?" The brothers quickly apologized. The dwarves made small grunting noises in return. She couldn't tell if they were genuinely brushing it off, or muttering curses under their breaths. Belle glared, "Partially. I also helped raised many, many cousins."

"Is that what you were doing the day we saw you?" Kili asked, his mouth full of food.

He looked like an adorable chipmunk. "Oh, that was a Wednesday. Since it was the middle of week, hobbits go out and shop to provide for their households. Since I wasn't married, nor did I have kids of my own, I volunteered to help watch over the children while their parents were out."

"Oh, so you're good with children?" Fili asked, quirking a brow.

Belle chuckled, "I, wouldn't say that. It's more like they tolerate me and my attempts to connect. The only time they really pay attention is when I tell stories."

She took another sip, starting to regret her action as soon as Elladan smirked. This is why it was a bad idea to mingle with siblings, "Dad told us about your mom, and some stuff about your dad. Is there anyone else special? Perhaps someone who's courting you?"

Belle began coughing profusely, and Oin helped her clear her throat. "W-what?!"

Elladan had a knowing face while Elrohir leaned against his twin's side, mimicking the expression. "Ooh, so you have?"

A vein in Belle's forehead looked ready to burst. "Men and women alike have asked to court me or for me to court them. Some did it repeatedly. I only courted one, and that was for a short time. Besides, he was just a friend, and I only agreed to it because he wanted to make a boy jealous for breaking up with him... We had a mutual dislike for him."

From the dwarves' sudden and mysterious coughing and choking on their drinks (it was a whole lot funnier to watch than to experience), she hadn't told them the last time she traveled with them. She winced at the thought.  

To summarize what she knew: the dwarves knew her at one point and she had amnesia which is why she didn't remember them. Possibly what caused that amnesia was something Thorin did and/or was related, which was why he avoided her, and seemed to watch her strangely sometimes. It also explained why her behavior around them had been so strange. She may not have remembered them consciously, but somewhere in her mind, those memories lay waiting.

She also had to locate a cave with an important artifact; because she had somehow found it before, which was probably the only reason the dwarves were letting her join them in the first place. Stupid overprotective...Were they overprotective? They had been in danger multiple times now, and she had been injured.  And from the dwarves' reactions to her, she'd been hurt far worse in ways she could not recall. It had been enough to horrify them.

However, as far as she knew, only Oin knew what she knew. There was obviously more to the tale, but she really ought to slow down a little bit. Normally she was relentless when it came to mysteries or riddles, but this time the answers were even more mind-boggling than the questions. Some part of her, one she could not recognize, desired the answers more and more...But right now another voice told her she was terrified of them. It was incredibly disturbing for a hobbit not to desire the truth, especially her.

Still, how much did the dwarves' know about her life? Obviously, nothing. Thorin in particular seemed lost. His blush nicely contrasted his eyes and-

NO! No, don't even go there until she knew the whole truth! Besides, Thorin supposedly hurt her before, right? She didn't know how yet.  She didn't feel physically different, but she knew her body knew more than she did. Was that why her heart ached around him, or she had both the urge to touch him and run away? No, why would her heart ache? The trembling she might understand, but heartache? And it wasn't the emotional kind. Well, partially it was, but a lot of it was physical. It was a fatal area, so did he try to kill her? No, that wasn't his mindset. Sure, she had no doubt that he was a warrior and had most likely killed before, but why would he kill her?

She was just a hobbit. There wasn't anything special about her. Sure, she was technically a Thains Heir, but how special was that in the grand scheme of things? She wasn't exactly wealthy to dwarves. So, was there some kind of accident that Thorin blamed himself for? And how in Yavanna's name was she supposed to ask that? Sure, she could try the same tactics she did to learn the other information, but it was now a question of whether or not she wanted the truth.  It was terrifying not knowing, but somehow the truth was even more frightening.

She shared a brief look with Oin. If he had told her secret, she couldn't tell. The dwarves were terrible actors, but then again so were a majority of hobbits. Not to mention that the dwarves had become more relaxed around her as of late, making it harder to read them. Belle wouldn't say she'd become relaxed around them, but she had to admit that she was warming up to them.

Fili collected himself, "So, is courting uncommon?"

She rolled her eyes, "How many fauntlings did you see?" At his blank expression, she added, "What do you think?"

Gloin spoke up next, "I think we just find it very difficult for you not to have courted before."

"...Most males in the Shire were either my direct cousins, or were after my home," she hesitated, but stated calmly. "I've found myself attracted to a female every once in a while,  but their reasons for being interested were pretty much the same, or they tried to change me based off of rumors. Overall, I couldn't find someone who could like me for me."

The hairs on the back of Belle's neck stood up as she felt Thorin watching her. Why was it his eyes that affected her more so than most? Agh, stop that! Thankfully, Ori distracted her from her thoughts by suggesting that they go to the library. Thank goodness, she giggled as Ori led her there.

"Thank you Ori, it was stifling back there," she said.

He flushed, putting his hands behind his back."You looked uncomfortable."

"Yeah well, relationships of that nature are awkward. I just have a hard time understanding the extreme things people will do for one another. It's fun to read, but once you look into such things, you really start questioning one's actions," she uttered, picking up The Tale of Beren and Luthien.

What? She was a sucker when it came to tales about adventure and forbidden romance. She'd like to write a story such as that one day. Ori got a copy of the same book, oddly very quiet...They were about to tango, weren't they? "Extreme things?"

Yep, they were going to dance around the oliphaunt in the room. "Like in this tale, I like the story, but how far is enough? Luthien risks and does so much. I understand that Beren is a mortal man, but it feels almost hollow in retrospective because it feels like he didn't do as much. I don't have much experience in that sort of thing, but aren't partners supposed to work together?"

Ori blinked, his hands were shaking. "Aye, that they should."

"Also, what's with the sudden relationship stuff? We have to find out how to defeat a dragon. This library is huge, so there's bound to be something useful," she said, picking up another book. She squinted at the tiny elvish writing as she turned the pages. "Hobbit Habits?"

Belle opened the book and her breath was taken away. In the delicate pages were paintings of her mother sparring and annoying Elrond. There was another of her and Arwen pranking the elven twins. There was even a painting of her laughing at Bungo's expense with his confused expressions. The next one featured her sparring with a beautiful male, blond elf, and a young man with stubble and dark hair.

In another, Belladonna stood next to Elrond, two female elves with blond hair, Gandalf, and another wizard Belle couldn't recognize. Belladonna was annoying the other wizard besides Gandalf in one of the paintings, and the wizard had a faint smile to his lips, despite appearing so grim elsewhere.  In the last one Belle looked at, Belladonna sat with Bungo next to her, with a swollen abdomen.

Belle hadn't realized it, but tears streamed across her cheeks as she turned the page once more. The last image was of Belladonna and Bungo holding a bundle with amber eyes, sucking its foot. The babe had Belladonna's eyes, Bungo's hair, her sharp ears, and his chin. Belle smiled, holding a hand over her mouth. Slowly, she fell back into a chair, her hands shaking as she held the book.

"Belle? Is everything all right?" Ori asked worriedly.

She nodded, giggling, noticing her mother's and father's handwriting on the right for the first time. She gently caressed the page, reading her mother's text and following the curving letters. The letter slid out of the book easily, so she set the book aside.

My dearest Belle,

I congratulate you on finally going out to see the world. I asked Elrond to keep this a secret, so please don't be furious with him. It is oftentimes that the best things found at hidden. If you're here with me, then I hope we have the times of our lives. I can't wait to show you the wondrous world ahead. If you're in Rivendell alone, then I apologize for not being able to come for whatever reason, then know that whatever you choose to take, whether it is adventure or propriety, you will always be my precious little girl.

Life will only get harder as you grow, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't love it. As long as you do your best to live each in every day in your own way, your father and I will be happy for you. I only ask one thing in return, please make friends and if you can't do that, annoy these elves on my behalf. They are far too proper for their own good. Seriously, it sucks the fun out of events. I'd recommend a food fight or throwing pies at them... You can do the same to the White Council if you ever run across them.

With love,

Your very strange mother.

PS This part is your father's:

Belle darling, I ask that you at least go easy on the elves and not attack Saruman. Galadriel and the others may stand for it, but that grump of a wizard most likely never will. Feel free to get Gandalf though, he's fair game.

PPS

I'm going to snog your father now.

Love you forever, Belladonna and Bungo Baggins, your awkward parents.

Belle snorted somewhere between laughing and crying. Her parents had always been like that. Belladonna always caused trouble and Bungo tentatively went along, or at least got her mother to slow down a little before she got hurt. Belle sniffled, clutching the letter close to her heart. This was what she needed in all of this madness with dragons and secrecy. She just needed a little bit of home.

Ori stared at her, no doubt confused, Gloin having had joined them at some point. She laughed, showing them the letter and then the book. The pair laughed too, and found the pictures to be perplexing, except for the one where Belle had her foot in her mouth.

"So, that's what you looked like?"

Belle flushed, "Yeah, I had a habit of sticking objects into my mouth. I stopped after eating a bug once."

Ori hunched over, his shoulders shaking. Gloin nodded, "I remember when Gimli did that as well. He stopped after trying to bite into greens though."

"Do dwarves just not like salads or vegetables at all?" Belle asked.

Gloin chuckled, picking up the book. Part of her was terrified of seeing his roughened hands holding it, but there was something tender about it as well. With Ori, she had seen him with his sketchbook and how he handled such objects. With Gloin, the contrast was staggering.

"I never knew you had a son, what's he like?"

Gloin snorted, as if recalling a distant memory as he looked at her. "I'll tell you, if you let me train you."

Belle tilted her head, not sure if she heard that right. Thankfully, he caught onto her momentary confusion and repeated the message. In all honesty, Belle still wasn't sure exactly who to trust. While the possibility of them wanting to harm her was unlikely (considering how much they did to try and protect her), she did wonder sometimes if they were just using her. It wouldn't have bothered her before, after all she'd been hired to burgle from a dragon, but then there was the whole possibility of a magic ring and...Her head hurt from it all.

However, she had thought the same thing about others. In the end, people either left her, or didn't last long enough to stay by her side. Belle glanced at the book with that last thought. It would be beneficial for her to learn something to defend herself if only slightly. She looked back at Ori.

"Can you continue to look for something to help us against the dragon?" He gave her a mock salute and she faced Gloin once more.  "Okay, where to? I don't expect we'll be training in the library?"

He was still grinning at her. "Just follow me lass."

As she did, she heard Ori snort something along the lines of wishing her luck. She really didn't like that. No, she didn't like that idea at all. As it turned out, Gloin was far more menacing than she gave him credit for. Perhaps she had been momentarily thrown by the idea he was a father? Yeah, that was a bad thing to think on her part. Seriously, she needed to stop underestimating these dwarves.


Gloin chuckled as Belle squeaked. They weren't using real weapons, but he had to admit that the sight of him charging at her probably terrified her. She paled, asking nervously, "Um, is this how everyone trains?"

"It's how I did it, and how my son did it," Gloin admitted. "Practicing basic moves is helpful, but you need to apply them. So, I'm not holding back."

She barely blocked another strike, "It feels like you're preparing for a war-" His heart stuttered as he tried to keep his cheerful disposition up. "Instead of a dragon."

"Lass, that beast took over Erebor in a matter of hours. Even with an army, it's always good to be prepared."

Belle's eyes widened with a different kind of worry momentarily, "Maybe I should've stayed with Ori. Two pairs of eyes are better than one."

She was wrinkling her nose again. "You seem to be good at this. A lot of nice and fancy footwork. Are you a dancer?"

She made that cute flush again. Honestly, Gimli would do something similar every once in a while. Young ones were so adorable. "Not really. I danced a lot as a little girl, and with my parents, but I couldn't find the right partner to sweep off of their feet."

Gloin wanted to ask why it wasn't for someone to sweep her off her feet, but he saw no such desire in her eyes. "Lass, what did you want to do with your life?"

She blinked, shrugging. He threw himself in her direction again, and her quick and silent feet allowed her to dodge the blow, and nearly get one on him, "When I was younger I dreamed of becoming a knight and adventuring while other girls wanted to be a princess and live happily ever after. I found that idea to be boring." This time she got him across the ribs. "When I got older, I wanted to be a storyteller."

Gloin jumped out of the way of one of her blows. She was rather impressive for a beginning. Not an expert, far from it, but she was doing better than he anticipated. Perhaps he ought to push her some more. "Why not a tinkerer? I heard you were good at that too?"

"I guess," she said, wincing. "There wasn't much demand for it in the Shire though. I wanted to do something useful...Besides giving up my home. If telling stories to young ones was useful, and it made me happy, then I thought I could be content..."

"But you weren't," he said, swinging the staff towards her.

This time, the blow got her arm and yelped out a little. Gloin dropped his staff and called for Oin. Belle grinned then and swung her staff, knocking Gloin onto his rear. When Gloin looked up, her staff was pointed at his throat. The bruise was appearing on her arm, but she still smiled victoriously. He ought to have been more careful, but he was glad she used the situation to her advantage.

However, her injured arm was trembling, He slowly pushed the staff out of the way, and held the injury. She flinched, but said nothing. Guilt sunk into his stomach.  He had purposely been rough so that she could learn how to better defend herself, but he ended up harming her himself.

She narrowed her eyes, helping him up. "Please don't do that. I'm worried that one day you guys might save me from death at the expense of your own lives. You have a son waiting for you at home. Don't give that up by being scared for me."

Yes, Gloin knew life was precious to hobbits. He never told any of his compatriots, but in hobbit society, suicide or sacrifice was enough to condemn a hobbit out of Yavanna's Gardens. The rare exception usually tended to be when it meant saving another, more worthy life. For example, wolves did comes into the Shire every once in a while and there was one time a child had been endangered. The Thain had killed it in order to protect that child. Thorin told him about the incident, and how it had been one of the rare times he'd been scared of a hobbit. Gloin understood though. No matter how numerous they may be among hobbits, children were precious.

Gloin smiled, pretending everything was all right, "Aye lass."

The world knew very little about their kind. Most suspected from their rumored peaceful lives that they were harmless. Then Gloin heard about Bullroarer Took. Belle and Gandalf had told the story the last time around. The great hobbit who saved the Shire. He had been a Thains Heir and his brother was the Thain, as well as Belle's direct ancestor. The Thain had been gravely injured, so his brother had to take the lead and succeeded.  

Then there was Belle's mother. Gloin knew of the White Council because he escorted his son to the Council or Elrond., but he had never known that hobbits had partaken in the events. Why was Belladonna Baggins nee Took with the White Council in those images. From the positions and stature, it would appear she had been a member at one point.  However, he had thought only the most powerful could be a part of it...So why was a hobbit there? And Belle's mother no less?

Then Gloin recalled the Urs brother's encounter with two hobbits. Gloin recognized Isengrim's name, as Thorin had to describe the coming downfall of the Shire during the Council of Elrond, and the loss of the last Thain. He didn't recognize Amaranth's name though. Also, why would hobbits travel to Mirkwood? They hadn't last time, did they? If they had, then they should've been killed by Spiders or Orcs.  The images that his mind came up haunted him, because one face that came up was Belle's pale one as she was entangled in webs.

Gloin still held anger at Thorin, however he'd been shocked as anyone when it turned out Thorin was more immune to the effects of the Ring than anyone else in the Council or Elrond. After all, he had not only been influenced by the Arkenstone, but he killed Belle because of his obsession with it.  It was then that he had finally talked to the former king after so many years.

"Gloin, it has been a while," Thorin said, emptiness in his eyes.

The dwarf in question held his hands behind his back, struggling not to hit him, "Indeed. Dwalin tells me that you've been living with hobbits. How was it?"

Thorin looked stricken, a bittersweet expression on his features. "It was lonely at first, and I figured I deserved it. Then a little boy lost his parents and I took him in, and raised him. He was planning to get married in a few weeks..."

Gloin didn't like the past tense. He asked about it and Thorin's tears somehow managed to move him. "The wargs came and...There was so much blood..."

Gloin's stomach turned in horror, "Was he a son to you?"

"Yes," Thorin swallowed. "I loved the lad as if he were my own..."

Gloin hesitated, his anger softening to the point where he wondered if they could have a civil conversation after all these years. "My own son is here, my wee lad Gimli? Do you remember how he used to try and eat your beard?"

Thorin chuckled slightly, "Aye, he tried to eat your wife's too."

"Try to remember that when you travel with him," Gloin said. "You already killed someone I considered an equivalent to a daughter, don't take my son from me, as one father to another."

Thorin's fists clenched as he glared at the sunset in the direction of Mordor, "Not again, never again."

This was not the Thorin he was used to. He had changed. If only for the briefest of moments, he was glad that Gimli would be with Thorin Oakenshield, former King Under the Mountain. As he did, he stared upwards, hearing a song the Company had sung, everyone including her, in harmony of the future.

"I'll be traveling back to Erebor," Gloin admitted. "Forces are moving there. "

"Be careful," Thorin said, a hoarseness in his voice. "And, can you greet my sister and my sister-sons on my behalf. I send them letters but-"

"I will," Gloin replied, feeling glad that this may or may not be their last time seeing one another. No matter how this ended, nothing would ever be the same. It was good to see Thorin one last time before everything changed. "Farewell, old friend."

Gloin walked up the steps to Thorin's side. "You  know, it is very inappropriate to watch her like that all the time. You could talk to her."

Thorin certainly wasn't expecting that. ""I shouldn't even be traveling with her. What if I-"

"Lad, you saved Middle Earth and stopped yourself from falling under the One Ring's influence. I doubt the Arkenstone will be that troublesome this time around. You've lived for over half a century with her death and your guilt on your mind. I'm not going to say that excuses you from what you did, but it has to count for something."

Thorin grimaced, "I'm not worthy. Gloin, I learned afterwards that she might have been my One. What kind of monster kills their One, Arkenstone or no?"

"...The kind who leaves everything he worked for to keep a promise he made, who raised a son not of his blood, and who saved thousands of lives," Gloin tentatively said.

"I don't forgive you for what you did...Frankly I do not think any of us can, but this distance is hurting both of you. Remember last time around, when you did something similar? It did not work, and you both lost time that could have been worth so much more. Don't take advantage of her because she can't remember, but don't waste this opportunity either. Treasure each moment before it is too late."

Thorin stared at Belle as she laughed and stuck out her tongue at Oin, "...What do I do when she learns the truth?"

"Respect her wishes," Gloin answered simply.

"You sound like Balin," he replied. "You're much more patient. How much have we all changed?"

"Enough to last a lifetime," Gloin shrugged pushing Thorin forward. "Go before I change my mind."

Thorin dimly nodded, entering the arena, and hesitating before going up to her.

 A voice rang out beside him, "It appears that even the smallest person can change the course of the future."

Gloin tensed, seeing for his own eyes for the first time the elven lady Gimili had described in his letters before the elder warrior had perished in Erebor. The sound of her footsteps was like a stream falling gently downhill over cool stones in the quiet of night. Her hair was lit with gold as though it had caught in a mesh the radiance of Laurelin. A pure, white gown flowed around her like the waters of a river in the moonlight. Yes, twas the Lady Galadriel.

She grinned at him, "The time will soon come when Hobbits will shape the fortunes of all..."


 

Amaranth flexed her hand, flicking the disgusting orc blood from her hands and glanced back. "Any injuries?"

Isengrim shook his head, "No, we've taken care of it. The trainees are significantly better now since they've gained some hands-on experience. How close are we to Rivendell?"

"Not very," she answered as stoically as possible, looking at the blood on her hands. Part of her inside was screaming at the thought of taking a life, but the other rationalized that the orcs had attacked them first, so they had every right to protect the caravan with lethal force. Across the way,. Tom Bombadil gave them a pitying gaze. She understood why, but she still hated it. "And how are they mentally?"

Isengrim's hands were shaking, but he did his best to appear nonchalant as possible, "We all knew what we'd have to-"

"That's not what I asked."

He hesitated, "In all honesty, it's one thing to speak of doing such a thing, rather than actually doing it. They have agreed to remain though."

"They still know their options? This was never their fight, or yours."

Isengrim smiled, "This is our fight. It will not end here. With every victory this evil will grow. We refuse to live our lives away from the light and let darkness descend. Are we are not part of this world? Since when did we let evil become stronger than us?" He patted her shoulder, "I will not deny that it has been a long time since our kind has experienced true bloodshed, but it is something we need to overcome. We were once warriors of Light, and we can be again."

Amaranth grinned back, placing a hand over his, "Thank you, old friend. Sometimes I forget the strength of hobbits."

"We're far from strong," Isengrim stated almost factually. "We all just try to do what we feel in our hearts to be right, and you are one of us, no matter what your past may have been. I believe in you, as I do our cousin." Amaranth thought of Belle. She was worried how quickly Belle's memories may have been returning. Isengrim cauhgt her eyes. "Belle is strong, and if she does remember-"

"She will fade," Amaranth said. "She fading away the moment Oakenshield tried to throw her off the ramparts, and none of them knew that she was already dying because of that idiot dwarf. If she remembers, then she may not last long enough to even see the dragon..."


Belle thought heavily about her decision. It felt so wrong, but she knew it was necessary in order to protect them. They were her new family, and hobbits don't give up on family. They protect them no matter what. Even if it means their wrath in the end. She knew deep down that they'd be upset to say the least, but there was a chance, however slim, that they'd be safe.

No, she was not going to lost them as she had her parents. Even if she couldn't stay with them, the brothers' would still have one another, as would the brothers' and cousins and nephews and sons...No, never again would she fail a family in need. So, she finally swung the rope over the side, and climbed down to whatever fate awaited her, with the Arkenstone in hand.

Chapter Text

Belle was used to being afraid. She had to face the Fell Winter, seeing many of those she cared about die. She could still remember the blood washed across the snow, and the sounds of wargs and orcs clamoring through their homes. It's why she had to grow up fast, it was why she had to act with a great deal more of responsibility. It was why she missed everything and everyone she lost.

She tried to tell herself it was safer to live in an empty house, where she could find some comfort in the spirits and memories of her parents. She told herself it was better to live by the fireplace, with her food and books. Yet, Gandalf appeared years after she needed him, and he brought dwarves and the promise of a life-changing adventure.

But amongst those in the group, was a generous soul that went by the name of Balin. Throughout her journey in the Company, Balin was always a comforting hand, and someone who would help her find balance in how she felt, and what she needed to do. He was someone she always felt safe confiding to.

"Lass, how are you feeling?"

The dragon's cave, Erebor, was across from Laketown, across from them. She grimaced, leaning on her arms as she peered out the window. "Anxious, afraid, but...Somehow it feels good."

He arched a brow, awaiting an answer. She inhaled, "I'm afraid to die in the cold, Balin. I'm afraid of  seeing those I love die. And, I guess I'm afraid of dying."

"It's natural to feel fear, lass, more so with what may happen very soon," he paused. "Few would blame you for running after the dragon."

She shook her head, "That's just the thing, I don't think I'm afraid of Smaug."

Balin, possibly the oldest one there, and the most experienced, stared in surprise. "I beg pardon?"

She smiled sadly. "It sounds mad, but dying by fire or being crushed is better than slowly dying in the cold. At least the other things might be quicker..."

The hobbit worried if he would ask further. "Cold, huh?"

Seeing her parents' bodies in her mind, covered in ice and battle wounds, she uttered, "I never want to die like that."

Not long after that, came the Battle of Ravenhill. Maybe it was a kindness from Balin to have her body burned...For that way it wasn't so cold.


 

 

Belle realized someone was staring at her, and her gaze met Thorin Oakenshield's. He blushed, and hid his eyes before they were encompassed with sorrow. The hobbit considered in that moment, what if her relationship hadn't just been allies, or even really friends? Had they been more? She stood up, and dusted herself off before approaching Oakenshield. He looked terrified, but for some reason, the fear and anger she'd been feeling, was starting to fade.

"Care for a dance, Master Oakenshield?"

Since when had she been so bold? So, outspoken? She was a Baggins, a true, proper hobbit. Yet, looking at Thorin and the rest of the Company, for some reason this all felt like, home. So, maybe she ought to take a chance on them?

"Miss Baggins, I-"

"It's a simple yes or no question," she smiled, offering her hand.

His cheeks were still reddened, and he appeared anxious. That's when Belle caught Balin nodding at Thorin, giving her a fond look. Thorin slowly, shakily, took her hand. He swallowed loudly enough that she could've sworn the sound echoed. She barely resisted the urge to laugh. Instead, she brought him further onto the marble floor. She adjusted one of his hands to be on her waist, and the other interlacing with her fingers. That's when the elves started to play their slow, steady music. Belle Baggins was the one who took the lead.

Thorin hadn't been able to meet her eyes until the middle of the piece, when he heard her giggle at how strange the situation was. That's when he smiled back in a way she didn't think she'd seen before. Well, at least from him. Bungo Baggins used to give his beloved the same smile. He spun her and as the tempo increased, so did their footsteps and heartbeats. For some reason, it felt so right to hold his hand, to be there with him. It felt right, to be around someone she barely knew, and it frightened her.

At the end of the dance, Thorin truly looked in her eyes then, pain and sorrow reappearing as he thanked her for the dance, and walked away. Her hand began to reach for him, but she pulled it back.

Belle ran around a mountain of gold, grunting as coins and jewels struck her, the dragon close at her heels. She ran for her life, wondering why in her right mind did she think dying here would be better than dying in the cold. Why did she think speaking riddles with a dragon was okay to do just because she did it with the Gollum thing and those giant spiders?! It was a dragon for crying out loud!

The gems and gold stopped raining upon her, and she was grateful her ability to evade capture was getting better and better throughout the journey to Erebor. It might just have saved her life. Running up the stairs, she blindly ran straight into Thorin's chest. She yelped, trying to jump back in instinctual fear, only for his hands to travel up and down her arms, her shoulders, then her face. She wouldn't quite realize it immediately, but she understood he was checking her for injuries. Or, at least she hoped he was.

"You're alive," he gasped, and the hues of blue almost made her heart stop more than it had the dragon. Thankfully, the heat and exercise managed to cover up her blush. But, then those blues darkened into something near unrecognizable. His hands released her then."Did you find the Arkenstone?"

Wait, how was she supposed to search through all these mountains of gold, in what little time she was in there?! Does he not see how much there is?!

"The dragon's coming," she whispered harshly, trembling as she looked over her shoulder.

"Did you find the Arkenstone?" he repeated breathlessly. "Did you find it?"

She gaped at him, then growled, "Do you see, how much gold there is?!  How in the name of Yavanna, am I supposed to find it like this? Also, there's a bloody dragon coming after us! Is this really the time?!"

Normally in other instances, his expression would be amusing, but in this case, it was getting scary. She took his hand, trying to pull him out of there, "C'mon, let's go!"

He halted her, pushing her back with the flat side of his sword. She tensed, suddenly wondering not only what came over him, but if she might actually be safer with the dragon. "Thorin?" The point of it was directed at her-

Bell held her head in pain. That attracted some attention from the others, including Thorin. He asked her name worriedly, and she got dizzy.

Belle had wanted to die in the cold. But she also never wanted to hold another lifeless body in her arms. Her eyes meeting Thorin's icy ones, she couldn't stay with them. It hurt so much, knowing what happened next. She was afraid, but at least he and the others might be happier in the end. As she felt a single tear traveling down her cheek, burning on her freezing flesh, she wondered if anyone would care when she died. 

She stopped fighting then, the cold of the blade starting to burn as it pierced her skin. His eyes were widening, the darkness in them lightening. Yet, the colors and light around her began to dim, even as she fought to stay concious. She needed to tell him she was sorry. She needed to tell him how much she needed him to-

The world halted in that moment, lasting for what felt like an eternity as warm wetness seeped through layers of clothing. But, Thorin would be okay, even if she wasn't. Maybe, dying in the cold wasn't so bad after all. Her face was contorted with pain, and yet she smiled as she fell.

The ground was harsh and unforgiving. It was getting harder to see, but she could briefly see Thorin's horror as he dropped the blade. He fell on his knees, reaching for her. No, it wasn't safe for him. She swallowed, shivering, "I-It's okay. You're safe now." Everything thing hurt, and the cold stung her skin. It felt like it was burrowing inside of her. "P-Please, live."

Thorin gasped. "B-Belle, please. I-I..."

He held her face just like he did in Erebor. Yet, his eyes became lighter, his hand gentle. Tears fell down her cheek, hoping everything would be all right. She smiled, again.

"Belle?" he rasped. "Belle? Please, do not go where I can not follow. Please." Shadows flew over them, but she couldn't recognize what they were, unable to see. "Look Belle. The eagles are here...The eagles are here..."

Belle broke out of her reverie when Balin laid a hand on her shoulder, "Lass?"

Seeing Thorin behind him, the worried hues of his blues still bright, even if they seemed a little lifeless. She swallowed, "I uh, just some bad memories. Excuse me."

Walking away, she heard frantic murmuring, and ran towards the gardens.

What happened?


Balin watched the growing space between Belle and Thorin, the situation of Thorin's making. As she had reached for him, a question on her lips, her form froze, and she wheezed, holding her head with an expression of agony. The dwarrow ran to her, but her silence lasted seconds more than anyone wanted. He touched her shoulder, first calling her by name, then with, "Lass?"

She finally blinked then, fear in her eyes as she looked past him and at Thorin. "I uh, just some bad memories. Excuse me."

The hobbit left then, confusion in her expression. Thorin made a croaking noise, his own hand starting to reach towards her until he clenched his fists and placed them at his sides. Kili spoke first, "Do you think she remembers?"

Oin tensed, "There's something I need to tell you."

Balin and the others heard his story, and Thorin turned away, unable to face any of them. "She's starting to remember."

He said it as if he had to confirm it to himself. Balin heard them all starting to bicker, but decided to check on the hobbit. Finding her in the gardens, he couldn't help but notice her dried tears. "Miss Baggins?"

She didn't answer him at first, lost in her own thoughts. "Please, it's, it's Belle."

He nodded, gesturing to the seat beside her. She nodded and he sat down. "What happened?"

"I," she started, unsure. "I don't remember it all but, Thorin had a sword and, it was pointed at me. He sounded so angry. What did I-?"

She was hiding something, but still being honest. Balin rubbed his beard hair, considering what to do. "Thorin, fell into the gold madness. It consumed him just as it did his grandfather. He wasn't in his right mind, and he started doubting your integrity. He question everyone there, where our loyalties lay. He's never forgiven himself, nor has most of the Company."

Her fingers began to bury themselves into the wood, leaving marks of her nails. She grit her teeth, "Then why does it feel so right to be near him sometimes?"

"...You two were friends. You, could've become much more. From what I observed, he cared for you, just as you did him."

She was silent once more, and inclining her head, she told him she was going to bed. Yet, Balin knew she might not get much sleep tonight. She had a lot on her mind. He saw Thorin at the edge of the gardens, far enough that he likely didn't hear, but enough that Belle might've heard him. Thorin looked like he was going to say something, that he desperately wanted to. He stopped himself, and turned back from once he came.

These two, needed to talk.


 

Belle enjoyed confiding in Balin. He rarely ever judged, and he never demanded she be something or someone else to suit others' needs. Most of all, he was loyal. So, she never told him about her plan. She never told anyone.

When Thorin nearly threw her off the ramparts, Balin lead the others to stop the King Under the Mountain. If he hadn't, she wouldn't have lived. Belle wondered in the last few seconds of her life, if he'd be one of few who could care. She wondered, if he remembered how scared she was dying as she was. She wondered-

Balin's voice was one of the last she ever heard.

She was sorry.

 

 

Chapter Text

If Belle had to describe the Dwalin before they started their journey, she would've used "snippy," or maybe even "terrifying".

...To quote Thorin, "I have never been so wrong in all my life!"

He was a big sweetheart under it all, even if he trained her to the point of bruising, For all the comforts she had missed of home, and all the times she'd been afraid, she helped her returned that fear with determination.

Turns out Hobbits are capable of spectacular feats. She didn't know she could do half the stuff she did until Dwalin. After all, she had managed to get help from Elrond, somehow may have found the One Ring in a cave full of goblins, faced Azog to protect absolute strangers, had merry chats with a shapeshifter who loved being a bear, a way to escape from elves with a lot of pointy things directed at at all of them, braved a possible fatal illness in Latkretown, mocked a dragon, and...

Comfort may have meant home, but maybe her smial wasn't home anymore. Maybe being around Dwalin and the rest of the company, was.


 

"You're brooding."

Thorin scowled, leaning on his palm. "I do not brood."

Dwalin smirked, then winked at Kili and Fili, who appraoched with gigantic grins. Thorin stilled, "Boys, no-"

The two sat next to Thorin, mimicking his posture perfectly. Then, they began making various forms of chicken noises. At some point, some of the other members of the company copied them, causing the elves to look at them strangely. Dwalin couldn't blame the leaf eaters in this case. This was not an ordinary sight to behold. Thorin stood up, throwing his hands up in the air. "I do not brood!"

Nori snuck up behind him, "Bawk bawk!"

Thorin yelped, jumping, groaning. Still, they did get him to smile a little. "Okay, fine, maybe a little." At the dwarrows looks directed at him, Thorin grumbled. "Maybe more than is healthy?"

"Duh," Fili chuckled, leaning against one of the walls, and catching a turkey leg from Bombur. "Thanks!"

All were eating when Thorin inhaled, "...We died."

He and Dwalin's gazes met. "Didn't we figure that out already?"

"Still a lot to take in, brother," Balin said. "I think we've been putting it off since the lass joined us."

Ori held himself, and Dori hugged him. "...Flames were everywhere. It was worse than Smaug. At least with him, there was a chance of running. We were cornered when it happened. I, I've never felt that much pain before."

"Aye," Balin agreed, not meeting Dwalin's eyes. "We should never have dug so deep. While we may not have found an Arkenstone, the evil that came with it was just the same."

Thorin looked to Fili and Kili, anxiety visibly ran through him. Kili murmured, "I always told myself that I wouldn't last as long as everyone else. I've always been reckless, but often, those were the best parts of my days, and memories I love as well."

"Well, you were a little reckless when you died trying to protect me, as I lay dying," Fili acknowledged. "But, you were brave too, and...I was scared to see you like that."

"Same here," Kili uttered, his voice deepened with emotions.

And so on the group went, sharing their experiences, holding themselves and each other. Dwalin was second to last, Thorin haven't spoken. "I had a lot of regrets in life before all of this. Most of them include not being able to save those I care so much about."

Everyone went silent then, just taking in the moment. Kili began crying abruptly, and found himself being embraced, as did Ori and Balin and Fili and...Were they all gonna hug? Seriously? That wasn't exactly...

As Dwalin held his brother, the Durins were all huddled together, Fili and Kili's forms engulfed by Thorin's coat. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I wasn't-"

"We can change the past, but we can alter the future," Balin said.

Dwalin inclined his head in agreement. "We could have Belle leave after finding the ring?"

"Problem, Belle was the one resisting its charms last time around," Dori pointed out.

"But he later became immune to its powers when he brought it to Mordor," Dwalin said, narrowing his eyes. "I know because I helped him get it there. I doubt either that ring, or the Arkenstone, will warp his mind as it did last time."

Thorin hadn't said anything, his body never moving, nor his expressions. In fact, Dwalin's best friend just seemed exhausted. Nori frowned, "How much are you willing to bet on that?"

"My share of the treasure, and thirteen barrels of apples," Dwalin stated with an annoying grin.

"We're mad," Bofur snorted, shaking his head. "We're all mad."

There were various nods. "So, once the lass finds the ring, we'll just dump her?"

Thorin's hands clenched, the whites of his knuckles paler than the wall. Dwalin decided to speak up, "No, she could travel back here with Tharkun. She could bring the ring to the White Council and-"

He cursed then, "Saruman. Shit."

"Gandalf knows," Thorin had finally spoken. "And I heard him telling Elrond of his betrayal. One of the elves, the gold haired one, went through my head without me wanting to. She believes our story at the very least."

"Wait, so we're just okaying that you've added a few other members to our group," Dori scoffed. "How can we trust them?"

Thorin grit his teeth, unable to answer. Dwalin stepped up though. "I was by Thorin's side during the War of the Ring. I saw every struggle, every step. I also know that even though the Lady Galadriel, she still entrusted Thorin the power of the Ring, wary of how it could control her. Many of Gandalf's words and actions were questionable, but his morals and determination to do what's right stayed true." He looked at each member of the Company, sans Belle. "I trust Thorin, as well. As we changed, so did he."

"...What if she can't return to Rivendell with the One Ring because Saruman needs to be dealt with?"

"Then we will continue to ensure Belle is unharmed to the best of our abilities, and protect the Ring as we travel to Erebor," Dwalin uttered. "Once we meet Gandalf at Beorn's, we'll further discuss the matter."

Nori drummed his fingers on his thigh. "At least we know Smaug's weakness this time around. We can prevent the attack on Laketown from happening entirely."

"There's still the Battle of the Five armies," Fili said. "Orcs have already been moving, assembling their army."

"Tharkun said he was getting help to deal with the matter," Thorin replied. "What that help is, we do not know."

"But we trust him?"

"Yes, we're going to trust him...I feel like we're going to regret this."


 

The Dwarrow carried lightly this time into the mountains, fully aware of what may happen. They waited for the storm to end before entering the pass. Still, all of the dwarrow were wary of going there at all. Unfortunately, there weren't any other routes that were either safer, or even available when it came to getting to their destination at a certain pace. 

Ori had stayed by Belle's side, as had Bombur, when they set up camp outside the mountain pass. She may not have said anything out loud, but everyone there now knew how uncomfortable she was around storms. For some of the dwarrow, they huddled close because they had their own memories of battles.

Climbing up the stone, Belle was placed in the middle, to better protect her. It was agreed upon whoever was closest or most able in the Goblin Caves would go with Belle. This was partially to protect her, but another was also to better know what happened. Thorin grimaced at the idea, for in another life he and Dwalin met Gollum. The creature was unpleasant, and as they learned near the end of their journey, murderous beyond saving. His greed and desire for the Ring had been his downfall.

Suddenly, the ledge they were on began cracking. Dwalin begged on the inside that they weren't on a giant. He hoped it wasn't one, considering the aftermath of the damage left behind. It was a good thing they had waited this time.Thorin pushed everyone else upwards, away from where it was breaking, but he wasn't fast enough. To everyone's surprise and horror, it was Belle who caught his hand and arm. Her face was scrunched up in pain and determination as she tried to lift the dwarf far heavier and denser than her, the latter in more ways than one.

Dwalin got onto his knees, helping her save Thorin, just as Dwalin had done many times during the War of the Ring. Both Belle and Dwalin yelled as they pulled him up. Belle wheezed then. "We, we almost lost you."

Thorin froze, emotions fluttering across his face when she said that. Dwalin knew what was likely on his mind.

Belle fell, and Thorin helped in rescuing her. 

Once they were safe, Bofur gasped, "I almost thought we'd lost our burglar."

Bofur murmured, "'He's been lost ever since he left home'."

Dwalin had the urge to punch the little hat off of him, but Thorin placed a hand on Dwalin's shoulder, trying to calm him. Belle was still on her knees, in shock. Thorin tentatively stepped towards her, offering his hand.

"Thank you, Belle."

His voice was hoarse when he said it, but eyes soft. Dwalin snorted at the sight of it, but stilled at the sight of the cave. They had all agreed the strongest of them, Dori and Dwalin, would try to stay with her. Fili and Kili insisted on staying near her as well, and the trio were falling asleep soon enough. When her sword began glowing, all prepared to fight, everyone near her.

None of them could prevent themselves from screaming as they fell. It was just as nauseating the second time around as it had been the first. Landing on the edge of the trap, Dwalin saw Belle accidentally knocked off over the ledge...And Thorin with her.


 

It was Dwalin who looked the most scared when she had been held by the throat under Thorin's grip. He had known just as much as Gloin how strong their kind were in comparison the hobbits. Despite all the feats she had managed to do, she still wasn't strong enough to stop Thorin, in more ways than one.

Dwalin and Gloin had worked together to free her, and she remembered seeing him, fighting with him during the Battle of the Five Armies. As soon as she began to run once more, somehow she realized that he knew what she had chosen. There was also confusion and pain in his eyes. Did he believe her to be a traitor like Thorin had? Did he hate her? It wasn't unfathomable.

But, she would do it all over again, if it meant saving them.

Chapter Text

Thorin groaned as he sat up, his head aching. He turned his head, horrified at the sight of Belle unconscious with a small cut on her forehead. He started to reach for her-

"The Arkenstone is in this mountain! This is a trick!"

"It's no trick," a soft voice said.

His heart stopped, and anger began to take over as the hobbit told him that she traded the Arkenstone, as a guarantee to Thranduil and the others that they would receive her portion of the treasure. He lashed out, grabbing her by the throat. He enjoyed it when he head cracked against the stone, her heartbeat pulsing against his hand-

Thorin gazed at the blade in his hands, the blood dripping warmly onto his hands. Her blood, it was the hobbit's blood. The burglar's. Belle's. Pain hit him as he saw the light starting to fade from her eyes. He collapsed onto his knees, reaching for her, calling her name. Mahal, what had he done?!

She swallowed, shivering and stuttering. "I-It's okay. You're safe now." She was comforting h im, again. She was still looking out for him, even as she lay dying. "P-Please, live."

 His fingertips halted within inches of touching her. He was scared, so scared he was afraid to touch her. Yet, he had also allowed himself the guilty pleasure of holding her hand, if only a few seconds. Feeling her pulse under his fingertips, was almost too much to bear.

Harsh footsteps echoed near them, and Thorin drew his blade, shielding Belle with his sword. It was a Goblin, who bore razor teeth and a grin full of malice. It laughed at him, until it saw her. Horror filled its eyes. Namely, it was looking at her amber eyes, which had glowed for a moment. Or perhaps it was because she stepped into the light that her eyes looked as though they changed?

"No, it can't be."

Belle was awake, and glaring in a way Thorin was unsure he'd ever seen before. She grinned then, "Beware the Tooks."

It screeched and she stabbed it, watching it fall before turning to Thorin, "You all right?"

"...Yes," he said slowly. His normal discomfort of being around her, and guilt, massive guilt, washed away for a moment as his mind struggled to process what happened. "Uh, are you?"

She nodded, wincing as she touched her forehead, "Cut myself a little, but we hobbits can take some damage. Who knows, maybe I'm getting as hard headed as you dwarves."

Thorin snorted, "You wish."

"Maybe a little, that way rocks wouldn't hurt so much." She frowned when he paled. "Calm down. You, worry too much."

How ironic considering it was the other way around before. "You just fell, from what is basically a cliff, and you're wounded, and we were just attacked by a goblin. That's not normal."

"And we're also going to face a bloody dragon," she muttered, wrinkling her nose. Damn it, Thorin, don't think about how cute or endearing her expressions are, now is NOT the time. "As for the goblin thing...Goblins invaded the Shire once some years ago. My great uncle, Bandobras or 'Bullroarer' Took, lobbed off their old king's head with a club. Once the goblins also realized it was the Tooks destroying their forces..."

Her voice drifted off, but Thorin grinned, "Goblins fear your bloodline."

"That, and some Tooks, like Bandobras, have similar or the same eyes that I do," Belle explained. "Something passed down to us, I suppose. For some reason, to them it's not only an identifying feature, but terrifying. Seriously, why would someone be scared of eyes?"

Smaug's eyes burned into them more than his flames had-

The tower in Mordor had a searching eye, constantly gazing at the orc forces, searching for the One Ring-

Belle's eyes were pale as her skin, the life in them gone forever-

"...I can think of a couple examples," Thorin said to himself, grateful Belle was distracted with trying to find an exit. That's when Belle stilled, shivering. "What is it?"

"Something feels wrong. I can't describe it very well, but everything, for a moment it felt cold, and hollow. I, it felt like when, when we were invaded during the Fell Winter," she whispered.

The One Ring. Thorin began sensing its presence too, for both ring bearers knew it well.

Thorin nodded, "I'm starting to feel it too. It's in that direction."

He began walking, his sword drawn out.  Belle looked ready to protest, but stopped when both saw that miserable creature dragging an orc that had likely fallen down there. Gollum was starting to peel back its skin, his teeth already red for reasons Thorin did NOT want to know. Belle covered her mouth, fear in her eyes.

Thorin watched as the traitor stood up from Azog's body, her hands bleeding. She was shaking, horrified, and covered in wounds that must have given her great pain. Good, she deserved them and more. He roared, furious that the witch had taken his revenge for him. She had no right! She blocked his attack, fear in her eyes as she called out his name, over and over, shaking her head. Good, she should be afraid.

"I should have let you die long ago you miserable traitor!" He shrieked, his hatred for the small creature burning. She said his name again, brokenly, pleading. No, she would get nothing from him. "You have no place amongst us! And you never will!"

She shuddered once more, looking away briefly as her eyes watered in pain. 

Instinctively, THorin's hand held her free one, squeezing to silently reassure her it was going to be all right. Both failed to notice when Gollum appeared though, his shriek piercing as he leapt through the air. Thorin pushed Belle aside, and Gollum barely veered away from him. As he and Thorin fought, Thorin saw in the corner of his eye the One Ring as Belle picked it up from the cave's shores.

Gollum followed Thorin's eyes, and the king knew he'd made a mistake. Gollum crawled quickly to her, and Thorin stood at her side, tugging her face into his chest as he killed the creature, separating its head from its body. Belle was trembling, and Thorin panicked, "Belle?"

"I, I thought he was going to-" Her eyes widened, "This...Why is the ring speaking?"

Oddly enough, Thorin could hear its Black Speech as well. Wasn't that only supposed to happen to the wearer? That was disturbing. "...Because its a ring of power, the One Ring."

Belle's eyes widened, and her face paled. "What? Wait, is this what I was supposed to find?"

Thorin winced, "Yes, and no. We don't want it, Belle, but there are forces, dark ones, building. We need to destroy the Ring as soon as we can."

"...How did you know it would be down here, when no one has known its location for centuries?"

The dwarf inhaled sharply, shutting his eyes. "Because, you've found it before, and my greed...I, I hurt you when I got too close to such objects as it. This creature he, he took it from me."

All of that was technically true, but it still felt horrible to hide such things from her.

She blinked, her expression unsure, "So, that's why you've been so skittish around me?"

Sure, let's go with that. He grimaced as he nodded. "And, I lost my memories from the trauma?"

"We aren't entirely sure why," Thorin admitted. "But, we are happy to see you alive, and scared that you're going to do this..."

Again.

Belle merely wrapped the Ring in a handkerchief, and smiled as she put it into her pocket. "At least I finally got something out of you. So, have any idea how to get out of here?"

Yes, it was one of those times he was grateful dwarrow live in mountains, in the dark. They could see things in shadows others could not. "This way."

She grabbed his hand, and he flinched, only to see her flushed cheeks. "Sorry, hobbit eyes aren't accustomed to this little light."

Thorin gave himself into the desire as they walked out, even lingering their touch as they escaped the caves. Lo and behold, there was the rest of the Company, including Gandalf who was counting them all off.

The ache in Thorin's heart, somehow lightened.

Chapter Text

Fili and Kili were the closest of the dwarrow. One could not see one without the other. Yet,  Fili, despite being the heir to the throne, was usually the unseen one, or the forgotten one. It was obvious Thorin loved him, but it often seemed like they expected much from him, and as he always met their expectations, behaving as others wished, there was no need to bother them. 

Still, he often asked questions of the Shire, or appeared to notice small things that everyone did, seeing to their health and care. He even brought her tea more than a few times during the mornings, knowing it would help her tremendously...Especially in more delicate times of a month.

He wasn't all knowing either.  He didn't find out until later in the journey why she always insisted on being proper, on holding herself back, once he heard what Bagginses were, and why she needed to hide her truer nature. He understood her habits sooner than most.

Both he and Belle defied Thorin to protect the ones they loved. In the end, Fili might  have helped save his brother's life. And Belle, she got hurt so many times, but still believed in them.

Belle knew one day he would become a great ruler, she just wished she'd been there to see him.


 

The crown prince of Erebor had been ecstatic once he saw his uncle and Belle, safe and relatively sound. More so, neither he nor Kili could stop the small smiles upon seeing the two holding hands. Belle walked a little faster than Thorin did, so it seemed like she'd been more than willing to hold him. As the Company clamored around the duo, Dwalin smirked at Thorin, frowning as Thorin's face turned to guilt once more.

Gandalf looked nervously at them, eyes widening when both Thorin and Belle nodded, the latter slightly overturning her pocket to reveal the One Ring. Gandalf ushered for her to put it away immediately while the dwarrow checked for Azog. They knew he was coming, as had Gandalf upon being informed of what happened last time around. She complied, blushing a little in embarrassment. Thorin tentatively held out his hand, and her fingers interlocked with his. Did that mean-?

None of them had a chance to ask questions as warg howls broke through the air. Belle paled instantly, knowing that sound well, as did the rest of them. Gandalf said that horrible thing about a frying pan and fire. To everyone's surprise, the king who had been so afraid to even touch Belle, swooped her up into his arms, almost as he would if she were a bride, and called out to the others to give instructions. Belle squeaked, and one could see him whisper an apology as they ran. Now, it seemed as though her cheeks lit up for an entirely different reason. She didn't protest to Thorin's sudden actions, instead holding tight onto him.

What happened when they were getting the One Ring?! Gandalf was already raising and waving his staff. The first had been for the eagles, and the second he made fire with it. Kili and Nori had climbed up the tree they clung onto last time, passing down acorns. Belle was placed in the tree too, none wishing to have her get harmed.

They were not losing her again.

Azog appeared, and like last time, insulted Thorin and the Durin's lineage. Insteading of giving into his hatred, Thorin narrowed his eyes. In those eyes, he saw Thorin's rage, his grief, but also his resolve. Fili grinned as the orc was distracted by Thorin yelling at him, and the latter smirked as Kili fired an arrow into the orc's eye, Nori shooting the other one so that Azog was blinded. The bastard still lived, but his group panicked when fiery pinecones burned them. That's when Thorin took advantage of the situation, leaping through the flames to plunge his blade into the orc's gut, and then slash his throat so that black blood drained, spilling down the neck and covering the Pale Orc's form with its inner darkness. The rest of the company attacked as soon as Azog was dealt with, slaughtering the orcs.

That's when Thorin had his back turned to one of the orcs as he fought a warg. No one was able to get close to him to save him, but then Belle appeared, killing it. Thorin was obviously terrified, but nodded as the two fought back to back, nearly in synch. Dwalin and Gloid looked so proud of their pupil. 

The eagles appeared, and Belle's eyes widened, taking them in. More orcs appearing, the company leaped towards the mighty birds, making their escape as the orcs discovered their leader's demise. 

Belle was with Thorin on his eagle, the two oddly close. Landing on the Carrocks, Thorin turned to scold Belle for rushing into a fight, but she astounded everyone when she began to scold him instead. "You son of an orc! What was that?! You nearly got yourself killed! Why do you always try to get yourself hurt? Why do you keep trying to be a shield when I don't even need one!"

Thorin was backing up, alarmed and holding up his hands as a white flag. "You're a member of our Company, one of us! Why wouldn't I?!"

The others tried not to show anything as they recalled Thorin's words to Belle a lifetime and so many years ago. How many situations were going to be reversed now? How much were things going to change from what they knew?

Belle scowled, "That's not a good enough answer. All of you have been doing it!" She became quiet, sighing. "I know you told me you hurt me Thorin, possibly enough to forget things, but I do care and worry about you just as much as everyone else here. So, if you want to keep me safe and sound, stop trying to give me a bloody heart attack!"

Neither Fili nor Kili could hold back their snickering, or really wanted to for that matter, at least until she spoke again. "I know I'm  not a hero, nor a warrior. Heck, I'm not even a real burglar, but I want to share in your perils, I want to fight and stand with you. I want, to be your friend."

Thorin hugged her then, his eyes watering over her shoulder so that she wouldn't see them. She slowly, tentatively, hugged him back. He murmured to her then, "You have a place amongst us, and we will always care for you too. Maybe you didn't realize it, but you are worthy in our eyes and, we already count you as our friend, if you'll accept us."

Her embrace on him tightened. Both silently cried a little, possibly losing themselves into the moment. "Of course I do."

Fili smiled, turning to see Erebor over on the horizon, a thrush gliding through the air, and past the Company. They all looked at what lay in the distance, but as Belle's eyes took it in, she whispered, "Erebor."

Thorin nodded, likely tempted to say  'I do believe the worst is behind us.' Instead, he said the words that Belle had last time around. "We’ll take it as a sign, a good omen."

Belle was eerily silent, her form tense. Thorin and Oin worriedly asked what was wrong, and tears, true tears, fell from her eyes. Fili noticed it before anyone else did: Belle was holding herself right where Thorin had stabbed her in his previous life.

When Thorin asked her name again, she murmured, not looking him in the eye, "Thorin, I'd like to ask for something before we get to Erebor, if you're willing to give it."

The King was visibly torn, and said, "With all of the power I have, I will protect you. I, I never want to hurt you, again. But, if you ask something of me...I will give it."

Next thing everyone knew, Belle had twisted around, and grabbed Thorin's coat, tip toeing up to him, and pressing her lips against his. Thorin made a sound of surprise, starting at Belle as she sat her heels back. She cupped his cheek, and Thorin's hand covered hers. She smiled then as he leaned down, pausing just short of her mouth, asking silently for permission. The hobbit met him halfway, with a smile on her lips.

When they pulled apart, Thorin was stuttering, confused, and Fili desperately wanted to know what happened in the caves now.Some coins were tossed, causing Belle to laugh, and Thorin to break out of his reverie, eyes softening as he saw her merriness. She held his hand then, and Thorin relaxed much more easily into her touch.

 He murmured her name.

"Thorin, don't freak out, but, I remember."

All went silent, including the insects around them.

"...What?" Thorin breathed, trembling.

"I remember, everything, and, I'm a little confused, trying to take this in, but if there's one thing you can grant me that I have no doubts about...I don't expect you to feel the same, but I just want you to know that I love you."

While the others tried to find something to say, Thorin uttered, tentative as he placed his forehead against hers, "Belle, you've no idea how wrong you are."


"Was the Fell Winter truly that dangerous?"

Belle searched Fili's eyes, trying to find an answer just as much as he did her. "Any kind of battle is dangerous, and costly. I learned the hard way you can never expect who will live and who will die."

"I don't understand, you said why your father died, but what of your mother?"

She clutched the area above her sternum. "...She faded away, and died of a broken heart."

 

Chapter Text

Arathorn II, Chief of the Dunedain, Heir of Isildur, had let an interesting life. For one, as he was part elven, his lifespan was longer than most, so he was given many oppurtunities.

For one, he had been raised by Elrond, and considered his sons to be his brothers. The twins had always helped him when he struggled, and gave advice when he needed it most. Strangely enough, he'd never the chance to meet Arwen, where she was supposedly with the Lady Galadriel. Meanwhile, his father, Arador, lived in the wild until he was killed by a troll.

Arathorn despised trolls for it, along with orcs. e The lass had approached him, wishing to know him in ways he hadn't expected. She had wanted to make sure he would be the right ruler to their people. They courted even though her father was against it, understandably  because of both their age difference , for Arathorn may have appeared to be in his late twenties, but was almost sixty years old. Gilraen had been twenty-two. Not only that, but the likelihood of Arathorn living long due to his heritage was not...Good.

Thankfully, Gilraen's mother, with the gift of foresight, told her husband that, "If these two wed now, hope may be born for our people; but if they delay, it will not come while this age lasts."

Arathorn had cared little at first for having a child, worried about what would happen to them, or his wife. But, eventually Gilraen became pregnant, and Arathorn came to hold his son for the first time.

Aragorn II, Heir to Isildur, to be Chieftain of the Dúnedain .

They lived together happily for a time, where Arathorn taught his son how to walk, speak in multiple tongues, and even how to move through the woods. Gilraen even hid the occasional trinkets and treats for their son to find, the elven twins with them as protection.

One day, Arathorn, Elladan, and Elrohir, searched the woods for food due to the harsh winter to arrive. He should've kept his guard up more than he had. Last thing he remembered was pain as something pierced his eye, the cold ground, and muffled voices combined with a familiar roar.

In the end, he died as his father did, and he hoped his wife and son were safe, that they would be happy.

Then, he woke up, no longer Arathorn II, Heir of Isildur, but rather Isengrim Took, an Heir to the Thain of the Shire.


 

"Ale, I need ale," Isengrim groaned. Amaranth gave him an unimpressed look. "Sister, my son is in Rivendell, along with my adoptive father and brothers. How in the Valar's name am I going to face them?!"

Amaranth merely took a swig of water as they arrived the gates, "We do what we pretended to do a long time ago, act as if we're no different from anyone else. As for seeing those people again...You do realize that Arwen is technically your sister too, at least by adoption?"

"I've never had the fortune of meeting her," Isengrim admitted. "She was in Lothorien with her grandmother, the Lady Galadriel. Something about a prophecy?"

Rori groaned, "No offense, Grimmy, but I'm mostly concerned about Isembard."

"Don't call me, 'Grimmy'," Isengrim scowled.

"How about Grumpy then? I hear that's a good dwarf name, and since we might be related to the dwarrow soon enough, might as well try some of their customs."

Rori had to run then as he was chased by Isengrim. Amaranth only looked up when elves came into view. Calmly, she greeted them in Sindarin, asking for refuge while their people recovered from their travels. She even ignored when Isembold joined the squabble behind her, the Tooks tossing gold at eachother as they made bets. Yep, they would fit in with the dwarrow just fine.

Entering the majestic city, some of the hobbits tried to look impressed, but instead held great nostalgia. Some were even whispering about their youths and the memories they had made. Isengrim stilled as he saw Elrond, as had Rorimac. Amaranth greeted him merrily, having no outward problems whatsoever.

Elrond raised an eyebrow, "May I ask where you are traveling?"

"Depends, have you talked to Gandalf and his Company? I'm fairly certain he'd have given you a task regarding a certin wizard."

The elf lord made an expression that was similar to one he'd make had he been slapped. "How do you-?"

"Short explanation, answer the question and I'll tell you."

He hesitated, "Yes, Saruman has been dealt with, with the aid of the Lady of Lothorien, and three other wizards beside myself."

"Oh good, he was an asshole," Amaranth deadpanned. "And a traitor."

Elrond placed his hands behind his back, trying to maintain what little composure he had. "May I ask-?"

"Tooks are descended from a union with the Fae," Amaranth explained, taking things out of her pack, even munching on some bread. "We Thains and Thains' Heirs are from that bloodline, The Fae were supposedly immortal and could look back at memories within their bloodline to save themselves. Some are even in hiding not too far from home.Some of us get these little tweaks in our blood, so that when something truly traumatizing happens, we can access memories of a past life to save ourselves. Personally, I think someone messed with that, just a wee bit."

"...You are all reborn?"

"Yep," Amaranth said flatly, looking around as if her words meant little to nothing. "If I recall, the bathing rooms are this way? If you pardon me, I'm covered in goblin and orc blood. It's rather disgusting, and disorienting."

 Isembold burst out laughing, while the majority of Thains' Heirs just paled or fidgeted. One, Isengrim, cleared his throat, "Er, the men's ones are over here, if that's alright with you, Lord Elrond?"

His voice had croaked at the last bit, and Elrond was likely having an aneurysm. "Y-yes, you may."

There was some more gold tossing, and many averted eyes as Isembold stripped and ran to the fountain. "Oh, how I've missed this place!"

Elrond coughed, "Was he uh, was he a dwarf?"

Rori sighed, "Strangely enough, no. Just some goblin hunting, adventurous maniac. I think the trauma got to his head in strange, strange ways."

"...Ah," Elrond said, trying to clear his throat. "I, I will help get rooms ready. How many are in your group?"

Isengrim answered instead of Rori, "Twelve. There might've been more, but the others stayed behind to better protect the Shire."

The Lord of Rivendell nodded, and walked away for the sake of his sanity.

After all the hobbits were cleaned up, even Isembold was nicer and more well behaved, but that didn't mean the elves wouldn't look at him warily. At least, they did until he showed that he loved their salads. Of course, no dwarf would ever do that.

Amaranth sat next to Elrond, as did Rori, with Isengrim next to Amaranth. Elrond appeared fairly uncomfortable, and unsure what to say. None of the hobbits could blame him. For his sake, Elrohir and Elladan appeared, trying not to seem intimidated. Elrohir spoke first, "How can we believe that you're what you say you are?"

To their dread, the female hobbit dabbed her mouth, and turned to them with an evil, gentle smile. "Elrohir used to hide up in the rafters when he played games as a child so that no one could find him since no one ever looked up and only at eyesight or below. He and Elladan used to sneak sweets up there until Celebrian scolded them and made them promise to get the insects out of their hiding place. Oh, and Elladan got a scar on his bum from falling from said hiding place. You could prove it here and now if you'd like."

"Nope, I believe you!" Elladan squeaked, hiding behind his twin. His cheeks were flushed, eyes downwards from the trauma of being teased by a hobbit. There was rarely anything more mortifying than such an act. "Ma'am, do you just not care for propriety?"

Rori mouthed something to Elrond, 'She doesn't give a-'

Amaranth's smile found Rori, and he shut up quickly.

"Well, I supose it makes sense that you would've been an elf. After all, only elves were in Rivendell at that time," Elrohir said. "...Do we, do we know you?"

"I'm not Celebrian, if that's what you're thinking," Amaranth's voice softened, her tone solemn. "But I did know you, all of you. However, it is rarely a good outcome comes of telling others besides other Thains Heirs what your true identity was in a past life, so please pardon me from revealing such information-"

Dido and Dodi shrugged, "Amrod and Amris, former elves at your service."

Elrond choked on his drink, gaping as he saw the two mentioning old memories they ought not to have, even laughing at more than a few of them. One of the elves just threw their hands up in the air, and walked speedily away. Amaranth slapped her face, "Great, now you two will be in more danger now that someone knows your identities."

Dodi snorted, calmly drinking. "Quick question, why is it we elves are usually the reincarnated ones?"

"We've had had hobbits reincarnated," Amaranth grunted, covering her eyes and groaning when Isembold called out that he was here.

Rori and Isengrim held up their hands, "We're not telling."

"By the Valar, that would be awkward," Rori mumbled.

Isengrim's breath caught when a man similar to his old appearance entered the room. Yet, the man had his mother's cheekbones and her eyes as well. There was even the hint of dimples that once belong to Gilraen. Seeing the once boy there made his heart ache. How much had he missed? His little boy grew up without him. Aragorn stood by the entrance, utterly confused at the sudden silence from the hobbits. Elrond noticed, as did the other elves. 

"Have I done something to offend?" His son, no, just Aragorn, asked.

Isengrim had to keep his composure. "Everything's fine. We uh, just weren't expecting to see you here."

That's when he saw the marking of the Dunedain upon Aragorn's clothing. He truly had missed everything, hadn't he? He briefly excused himself, unable to reign in his emotions. Sometime in his wanderings, he came across an unfamiliar room. His heart stopped upon seeing the statue of his late wife, and he shattered inside as he knelt before her stone form."

He was alone for several minutes until Elrond appeared, pain in his eyes too. "She loved you too, Arathorn."

The men, the hobbit and the elf, hugged as if they were old friends.


 

Rori and Amaranth watched from a distance, the former's heart warm at the sight.

Amaranth had her eyes folded, and gaze cool. "Will you tell Elrond who you are?"

Rorimac held a wistful look as he watched his friend, and his brother embracing each other. "No, hobbit lives are too short compared to elves. He already lost Celebrian, and he doesn't need to lose Elros a second time."

Amaranth chuckled lowly, wetness in her eyes. "This wasn't supposed to happen."

"I know, but everything is different now, little one," Rorimac said. "And what will you do, when it comes to seeing him again."

Amaranth's stare remained on the statue, hardening until she began walking away.

"What of it? According to them, I no longer exist, even in their memories."

Silence followed briefly, and Rorimac inquired, "Why did you break the rules regarding who we tell about our pasts?"

"We need allies, fast ones," Amaranth stated. "Beyond that, Elrond already knew of Belle and the dwarves having past lives, even if not to the extent we have. By showing we know them, even if not revealing our identities, we may be able to convince him to more readily join us when it comes to fighting."

Rorimac narrowed his eyes at her, "You, are a craft little thing."

She sighed then, "C'mon, we need to make sure Gror, Bandobras, and Ecthelion don't die of alcohol poisoning."

Ecthelion and Bandobras, Gror not far behind, rushed passed them naked, straight for the fountain.

"I'm the Lord of the Fountains!" the Balrog slayer called out cheerfully.

Amaranth's face twitched, and Rorimac barely held back a cackle.

"...Aule, give me strength," Amaranth pleaded.

This time, Elros, Tar-Minyatur, son of Earendil and Elwing, one of the previous kings of Numenore, who had been reborn as Rorimac Brandybuck, did in fact, laugh.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Rorimac Brandybuck hadn't thought much of himself the first time around. He was a hobbit, and hobbits meant comfort.

The second time around, he wasn't just a simple hobbit anymore. He almost longed for the simplicity once he understood the Took's family secret. It was the kind of secret only the Thain could understand, and those who remembered who and what they were. As for Rorimac...

His father, Earendil, loved the sea. He would take Elros and Elrond fishing or even just sailing. He could taste the salt of the sea, and see the brightest of smiles with his father and brother. One day, he built a ship, Vingilot, and disappeared into the Blessed Realm of Aman. Too many years later, the Valar had allowed Earendil to fight in the Dark War against Morgoth, where he slew Ancalagon the Black, the most terrible dragon of all time. He was turned into a star following that, his memories cast to the heavens for all to see.

The lady Elwing, Elros' and Elrond's mother, was the granddaughter of Beren and Luthien, the cross starred lovers whose legends surpassed time itself. She had inherited her grandmother's beauty, but it was her heart that Earendil fell for. They met in the sanctuary in the Havens of Sirion,  where Elwing escaped from the Sons of Feanor, who killed most of her family for one of the Simarils. These bright stones held the essence of the light of the Valar, namely Yavanna.

They wed, and had two sons, whom they loved. EWhenthe sons of Feanor attacked once more, she that she cast herself off a ship, taking one of the Simarils with her.

Elros remembered that out of guilt, two of the sons, Maedhros and Maglor, decided to take them in. They too, died, where Maedros cast himself into the fiery center of the Earth, with one of the Simaril, unable to bear the suffering of his injuries and guilt.

Leaving Elrond and Elwing alone in the world, the Valar gave him and Elrond the choice of which part of their half elven heritage they belonged to. Elrond chose his elven one, and Elros to mankind. It had broken both of their hearts, but they loved each other nonetheless, even after Elros became the First King of Numenor. The people of Numenor later sailed to Middle Earth, and he died when he was four hundred and ten, Elrond at his bedside as they said goodbye.

Rorimac wondered if he should have told the brother from his first life, "farewell," instead. But, he didn't exactly expect to return either. No, after all the trials and perils that he and Elrond went through, after seeing Elrond's despair at his deathbed, Elros, Rorimac, couldn't bear to add this life to their tragic tale. Yet, he couldn't deny the utter happiness at seeing his brother once more.


 

Rorimac watched as his brother greeted one of his many, many son. It was heartbreaking to learn what Isildur had done, and how far he fell despite his family, and his adopted one, having fought Melkor and Morgoth for centuries, if not thousands of years. Now, he could see two of his latest descendants side by side the brother Elros, Rorimac, had left behind.

Looking back, at all they last, Elrond had always lost those in his life at other's hands, even Elro's. He should've treated Elrond better. He should have told him that he loved his brother far more often than he did. But, he didn't want to make him suffer more either.

Yet, that's when he saw Aragorn and his brother's daughter together. For some reason, the two of them reminded Elros of his great grandparents, Luthien and Beren. There was love there, and while Rorimac was a bit disturbed realizing one of his descendants had obviously fallen for his niece, Aragorn was Elros' distant descendant of thousands of years and countless generations. Aragorn and Arwen were not cousins, even if it took a moment for Rorimac to remind himself of that. Aragorn was far more human than any elf lineage he carried.

Still, the image of Beren and Luthien was staggering as Rorimac stared at the two. If their story was anything like his great grandparents, then that meant Elrond might once again be alone in the world. His brother's story had been a tragedy for far too long, and it was clear he was losing hope, even with the warrior's spirit within. He deserved so much more than this.

Thankfully, Elrond was smiling, eyes watering as he beamed with the young man he raised once upon a time, the two looking pleased with the reconnection. Isembard saw his son, or rather his previous life's son, and inhaled sharply, getting a gentle pat on the back. Elrond murmured, "It's your choice, and no one will fault you if you don't.'

"He'll hate me."

"He's always loved you," Elrond reassured. "He misses you too. Seeing you again, even if in a different form, will cause him greater joy than you could ever imagine."

Something tightened in Rorimac's chest. Elrond had always deserved so much more. As Isembard left Elrond, Rorimac hesitantly cleared his throat. "Lord Elrond, may we take a walk?"

Elrond appeared confused, and he followed Rorimac to a river. It reminded Rorimac of one of the kinder, brighter parts of their lives. As he searched for a way to speak, Elrond said, "Do you enjoy water? That would be an odd trait for a hobbit."

Rorimac chuckled, "I'm one of few who could swim. My mother died drowning."

"Which one?" Elrond uttered softly, his eyes showing Rorimac that he didn't have to answer if he didn't wish to.

Elros, Rorimac, raked a hand through his hair. "My first mother...My father also disappeared at that time, having traveled the seas."

"I'm sorry for your loss," Elrond murmured.

Rorimac didn't address the apology, instead looking up at the stars where his father, their father, resided. "...Yes, father loved the seas. He taught me and my brother how to sail. I remember this one time where we brought our mother sea shells, crafter a necklace and tiara for her. She teased, saying we wreaked of fish, and father tackled us all into an embrace. That was one of the best times of my life."

Elrond had stiffened, likely apprehensive of what Rorimac was saying. Elros swallowed, "I remember when we first learned how to play the lute. We hurt our fingers so many times that father remade the strings into smething lighter so we could play with mother-"

"...Elros?" Elrond whispered, afraid.

Rorimac smiled softly, "Do you look to the stars anymore? You know, to see the constellations we used to make? I wonder if that's why Father-"

This time, the salt water came from a far different source as the lost brothers hugged tightly, scared to let go. Elros had missed this warmth...He'd missed his brother.


 

Amaranth gazed out at Isembard speaking to Aragorn, and Rorimac to Elrond. She didn't agree with their choices, but she did understand them.

She thought of white blond hair, stern eyes, but a smile full of dimples.

"Amaranth?"

"Yes, Deagol er, Mirabella?"

The female hobbit looked haunted, clutching the area over her heart. "Do you think Belle feels the way I do? You know, about-?"

Amaranth thought grimaced. "You could still go home. You don't need to face him again."

If anyone might understand Belle's possible struggles, Deagol might. After all, both had loved, cared deeply about someone close to them, only to be betrayed by them over trinkets of power, ones that controlled minds and desires. After all, Deagol was the hobbit that Smeagol killed for a ring once long ago. Mirabella was pale, holding herself.

"No, I want to do this, whether or not I see him again," Mirabella adamantly said. "I, if there's a chance of saving my cousin, I want to-"

"Do you still remember your previous life as Mirabella Took, what Gandalf told us?"

Mirabella winced, "I still want to try, if he'll let me."

Yes, Mirabella shared quite a few traits with Belle.

"...Please go ask the elves for weaponry then, namely bows and daggers. A few swords would be nice, but there's no guarantee," Amaranth said, watching as Mirabella brightened a little, but then frowned. "What is it?"

"I've never been in a War before."

"You still don't have to," Amaranth uttered, holding Mirabella's hand to comfort her. "I've fought before, and in the end I fought to my last breath to protect someone I loved. I've never questioned whether or not it was worth it, but I've never regretted it. If you can save your cousin, then I wish you luck. But, I also ask that you take caution. He has killed many, even in this lifetime."

"Thank you, Amaranth," Mirabella wheezed. "You've no idea how thankful I really am."

Amaranth knew she might be cruel in that moment, for she remembered Thorin once saying in another Journey how he would kill Smeagol, Gollum, if the creature ever betrayed him. Even if it was another lifetime, she wouldn't doubt that the King Under the Mountain would do anything to keep his loved ones safe...Just as she was.

Chapter Text

Walking down the stone paths on the Carrocks, there was a great deal of looks, along with silences. Thorin had been hesitant to be near Belle at all, until she led him by the hand down the slopes. They helped each other more than once, both knowing the path to take, but Thorin helping her down, even carrying her - much to her irritation - sometimes. There were also some hesitant coins being tossed about, all unsure and trying to maintain composure as they trekked down onto smoother ground.

At the end, everyone had fully realized what happened, and their shock died down. Nori was the one who cleared his throat. "So um, Belle, what helped you remember-?"

She frowned, unable to meet their gazes. Fili's expression showed concern the most, recalling her initial reaction. "I, I think it was when I saw Erebor. For some reason, everything just, clicked, into place. For a few seconds, I was confused because of all the memories trying to make sense of things, but then they began to sort themselves out."

She blushed then, glancing at Thorin for the briefest of moments before groaning and burying her face in her hands. Thorin softly uttered her name, and she squeaked, "By Yavanna, I just snogged Thorin Oakenshield."

Thorin smirked, leaning towards her with his hands behind his back, "By Mahal, I just snogged Belle Baggins."

Her ears glowed with her cheeks, and he tentatively held out his hand, brushing her loose hair behind her ears without touching the latter. He had learned a great deal of things about hobbits while he lived with them in his previous life...Ears were not to be touched without permission, and usually between spouses. She looked at him with wonder, and a soft, trusting smile. It stung Thorin for a moment, but lightened him as well.

"You're not, angry?" she asked in astonishment.

Thorin's smile was soft as well. "There's a lot we need to talk about, Belle Baggins. But, hopefully in a safer place?"

Most of the dwarrow had turned their backs, as had Gandalf, to give the two a little more privacy.

"Right, Beorn's," she said, furrowing her eyebrows. "It's, strange, connecting everything once more."

Gandalf agreed. "By the way, Miss Baggins, as we travel, we all have some questions for you."

"As I do you. I mean, I uh," her body language conveyed her anxiety. She coughed, "Er, I don't remember anything after...Thorin, told me that eagles were coming."

The hobbit was trying to be tactful, and failling. Thorin had appeared to, near miraculously, forgotten what happened, if only for a moment. Guilt showed in his features, and he started to move away, wary of his actions. "Belle, I-"

Belle took his hand, "I just want to know what happened after I...Was lost. Thorin, I don't blame you for what happened. I just wish..."

Her voice drifted, the conflicting feelings palpable. Thorin grit his teeth, "How can you stand to be near me, much less talk to me, or hold my hand?"

She interlocked their fingers once more, and he couldn't refuse her. "Because I also remember some royal pain in the butt that cared for his family, that fought for his people, and who had the uncanny ability to make me smile without even trying. And, you are way too overprotective of those close to you. Please don't go after an orc again...Nearly broke my heart there."

There were more than a few snickers as Thorin gaped, flabbergasted until he smiled once more. "Always were a cheeky thing, but I never minded that."

She snorted, and they continued walking. The discussion was obviously far from over, but it was a start. She turned to everyone, "So, how did you all live after the Battle?"

Each of them told their stories then, including the War of the Ring and its costs. Belle's eyes were watering at each one, and she hugged them.

"I'm so sorry and, wait, the One Ring is that thing Thorin and I, and I got, earlier?! We need to destroy it, right now!"

Gandalf stroked his beard, "There's a slight problem with that..."

Dwalin gruffed, "You and Thorin are the only ones who managed to avoid its temptation."

The hobbit and King Under the Mountain shared a look. "But, how-?"

"I thought of you, everyday," Thorin admitted, his fingers tightening ever so slightly. "And when we get to Erebor, we're going to throw that blasted rock into the deepest caverns within the mountain, or even shatter it if need be, then throwing it in a chasm."

She stared, "Well, that was...Graphic. But, the Arkenstone-"

"Is just a stone," Thorin growled, then he looked at her with emotions that some had a hard time fathoming. "And you are worth far more than any treasure."

Kili made a gagging noise, snickering, "Ugh, is there going to be another snogging session?"

Belle walked over, grinning. "Most likely, but I also remember you having a certain fondness towards a certain elf captain."

The dwarf spluttered incoherent noises, nearly being knocked off his feet by Dori, who patted his back.

It was nightfall when they were halfway to Beorn's. Belle tapped her chin, "Gandalf, why couldn't the eagles just fly us to Erebor?"

"Because they aren't pets, and despite what you may think, they can only travel for so long in terms of both distance and time. And my dear, you're not the first to ask this, apparently."

Dwalin snorted, "We asked the same thing when it came to traveling into Mordor. The eagles would've just gotten shot by enemy forces."

Nori nodded, shivering, "Too bad one of the few ways in included getting past giant spiders. Should've gotten that fancy light stuff from the elves."

"Aye, and we should've told those idiots to stop digging too deeply," Ori scoffed, knitting a new project. "Balrogs are rather unpleasant."

Ori's brothers made pained noises while Balin nodded in agreement, Dwalin paling considerably. Thorin laughed, "Remember what Gandalf did?"

Multiple dwarrow called out, "You. Shall. Not. PASS!"

Belle gawked, and the maia actually blushed in embarrassment. Into the night, they talked of times both good and bad, of their lives. The dwarrow finally heard of the Fell Winter, and they told her more about the War of the Ring.

"You beat Gollum , through a game of riddles?!"

She was surprised when she learned Thorin had lived amongst hobbits, her intrigue growing.

"You had a son?"

Thorin flushed, taking in some more pipeweed. "Yes, his name was Frodo, Frodo Baggins. I believe he was...Your first and second cousin once removed due to him being the child of Drogo and Primula."

"Those two had a child? That's unexpected," she giggled as the others started falling asleep.

He shrugged, "Why not? Primula's may be the daughter of a Took and Drogo a Baggins, but I've learned the children of such unions are quite remarkable."

"...What'd he look like?"

Thorin chuckled, "The lad had his mother's dark hair, his father's bright blue eyes and-"

"If he weren't a hobbit, it sounds like he'd be your son," Belle remarked.

The dwarf hesitated, "As he grew older, I, I sometimes wondered, if it were ever possible, that he could've been, well, what could've happened between us once long ago. I decided not to indulge such thoughts though. I wasn't truly his father, and, I didn't want to compare him to what could have been when he was already there, and he was his own person deserving of love, and not to be treated as an object to bend to my whims."

She raised an eyebrow, "So, you want to have a dwobbit?"

"I'm, unsure if that's possible."

Belle raised her other eyebrow, "Do you remember what the Stoors looked like? The rumors around their heritage?"

"There was nothing explicit about what their ancestry involved," he started, eyes widening. "You don't mean to say that-?"

The hobbit took a sip of water, "It's not the first time it would have happened. Hobbits, are fairly fertile, and it helps that we carry features of other races that make us more compatible."

Thorini gawked, turning towards her. "Hobbits, can have children with any other race?"

"Well, there's no rumors about orcs, thank goodness, but there has been confirmed fae, elf, men, and possibly dwarrow."

That's when it hit both of them what they were talking about. Belle asked, "Thorin, what are we? Before all of this, we weren't lovers or even courting. Now, we're talking about...Dwobbits."

Thorin coughed, but managed to look her in the eye. "I, don't want to pressure you into anything. I don't even know...You said you loved me, and from how you sacrificed yourself to wake me from my madness, I think you know how I feel, don't you?"

She frowned,, flinching, "I, it sounds cruel now, saying that out loud. Back in the battle, I suppose my mind told me something else."

Thorin grimaced, "You left the Ring with Gandalf, and ran to me, to your death."

There were some rustling sounds, and neither doubted that some of the others were secretly awake and listening.

"Yes," she admitted. "I, I knew just hurting me wouldn't work because of..." She touched her throat, and Thorin remembered the bruises he placed on her in another life.

"It's not healthy, being with someone like that," Thorin said. "With me. I've endangered your life too many times, and one of those times did kill you."

"I'm also the one who plays riddles with things that want to kill me," she tried to joke.

He placed a hand over his heart dramatically, "Including yours truly."

"No, you've just always been endearingly unobservant," she teased, "I've never played games with you, Thorin Oakenshield."

He placed some more hair behind her ears, careful as he did so. "You know how I feel."

"And you know  about my feelings in turn," she replied. "But, in a way, we're still strangers. I mean, you've lived another lifetime without me. And me? I suppose I didn't tell you much of anything about my own past."

He thought deeply for a moment, "This is another lifetime, another chance. Belle, I don't feel worthy of courting you." She opened her mouth to protest, and he added, "But I would like to know you, if you'll let me."

She laughed, "Considering I jumped you and kissed you like there's no tomorrow, I think the idea of me wanting to know you was pretty clear."Belle reached for his hand then, and he returned her touch. "...I'm no queen."

"I don't expect you to be," he replied. "I didn't fall in love with a queen, I fell in love with you." He looked her in the eye, "You're my One, Belle, but that doesn't mean you need to accept me. I just ask that we both have a little more time before jumping in headfirst."

She leaned her head against his shoulder, snuggling into it. "I'd like that too."

If they fell asleep against one another, watching constellations, and giving each other the moon and sun, well, that was something none of the others needed to see or hear.

 

 

Chapter Text

It had already been difficult keeping track of the family tree before. Now? Now things were far more complicated seeing as the Thains Heirs, including Belle, were all related to more ancient beings somehow. After all, a large number of Elrond's familial ties were in the current mix, which may have been the only way that his sons had any idea who some of them were.

"We should NOT have given Bandobras a club," Rorimac groaned, helping some of the other hobbits cover their ears as goblins screeched in pain and terror. Bullroarer Took was the infamous hobbit who had killed Golfimbul and thrashed the goblin king's armies many years ago. He also arguably one of the most violent out of them, arguably. Where war tired most, sometimes it enthralled others. At least the warrior was on their side. "The damned arsehole is sadistic as-"

He halted himself, flushing as the once Elros addressed his nephews, "Don't use that language! It's very bad!"

Elrohir and Elladan were narrowing their eyes at their uncle. "You do realize we're centuries years old and-"

"NO BAD LANGUAGE!" He insisted, "I've helped raise not only my own children, but hundreds of hobbits and I know very well no matter how young or old, you don't curse."

The twins looked doubtful, and snickered when Dido and Dodi whispered something in their ears. Evil, the whole lot of them. And why was it always twins who were so mischievous? The few that might be able to challenge both groups were Merry and Pippin...Who apparently may have had a little bit extra in them than any realized. At least it partially explained parts of their chaotic and wild natures, and why at least one of them had been willing to take up a sword and fight. And maybe even why it had been so easy for them to grow as much as they did...Maybe it was also-

"Mirabella, I'm not sure if..." Amaranth was helping Mirabella, Deagol, as they prepared for the possibility of encountering Smeagol. There had turned out to be some fairly disturbing concepts they all needed to address, but none had hoped for meeting the ones who had killed them in a previous life. Seeing her mother so hopeful, Amaranth sighed, "We'll try, but there are no guarantees."

"I've already lost my sister, one of my daughters before, and now I might lose more of my family," Mirabella uttered. "I at least want to try to save Smeagol. He's family too."

Even if Primula was alive again, her initial death always had hit Mirabella, hard.

One of Mirabella's sisters, Hildigard moved to the front, standing with Rorimac, and Isengrim, raising a brow. "Fairly sure that Ecthelion would like a piece of the action. And so do I."

"Oh come on, Haleth," Rorimac began, only to see her expression. It was nearly as daunting as Aldagrim's. "Well then, go forth, slayer of over nine thousand orcs."

She took out her sword, and raced forward into the caves with a mighty roar. Isengrim winced, "Over my lifetime I've learned to respect, even fear women, but some of these hobbits are just plain bloodthirsty...Never thought that could happen."

After a few moments, everything went quiet. Elrohir whispered, "Is it safe now?"

There were more screams and shouts, the hobbits audibly counting each other's number of kills.

"...Screw this!"

Isengar cheered, taking out his weapon ad rushing into the fight. Rorimac palmed his face, "And there goes Ecthelion, slaying orcs like he slays balrogs. I swear, him dying's done things to his head. He used to be a lot more polite."

"Do you guys use your current names, your old ones, or both?" Elland asked.

"Both," came the automatic reply from the other set of twins. "It's complicated. We feel like out old selves, but we're also here with more that we love and understand. Trying to combine who you once were and who you are now, is tricky to say the least."

"Well, how about you keep some names the same so we don't lose track?" the elf groaned. "It's bad enough trying to remember thirteen of you, and now we need to remember all of your previous lives too?!"

Best tell them the others besides their family members that were reincarnated. It seemed a great deal of Thains Heirs were reincarnated members of Elladan's and Elrohir's family lines.

"Mirabella is Deagol and cousin to Smeagol, who killed said cousin because the One Ring messed with his mind.And the violent ones are Hildegard, Isembold, and Isengar, who are Heleth, Bandobras, and Ecthelion respectfully." " The twins were staring, confused, and very much in pain. "Then there's Aldagrim who's...You know. And I was previously an elf."

There was no way the latter two were going to talk more about their previous identities. That was probably why they got along so well, despite the fact that they should be enemies. Aldagrim grimaced, always making sure to keep his distance from Elland and Elrohir. It was dreadfully uncomfortable for all of them.

"...Which one's the dwarf again?"

"Gror is Hildifons, and we should be grateful he's taking a nap instead of-"

"GRAAAAAHHHH!"

After a lengthy pause, and Amaranth looking like she was about to cry, Rorimac sighed, "Great, he found his axe. Should've known he wasn't taking a nap. How can anyone sleep through this?"

The competitive counting grew louder. And worse yet, there was an explosion. Now everyone understood why Hildifons had such a knack at tinkering and making stuff that went 'boom!'. He was a damned dwarf at heart. Amaranth palmed her face, "I was hoping it was because he was a dwarf before, and they sleep like the dead. I was wrong, so terribly wrong."

"Of course you were," Donnamira sighed, leaning next to her sister (maybe brother at this point? Whatever gender they preferred). Deagol leaned against her shoulder, exhausted. "Let's just hope we get to the secret tunnel to Mirkwood."

At least the elven twins bothered to remember their own heritage, "Did Lady Idril really make all those tunnels, Lady Melian?"

Idril, former Princess of Gondolin of the house of Noldor, Mother of Earendil the Half Elven, and grandmother to Elrond and Elros, had struggled a great deal in her life. First, she learned she wasn't a hobbit. Then she remembered how she had always made secret tunnels whereever she lived and traveled to so not only to protect her and her loved ones from dark forces of Lord Morgoth, but also to get away from her stalker of a cousin with incest issues.Her legend was well remembered, for without her, most of those who challenged dark forces would not exist.

As for Melian, now known as Donnamira, was once a Maia, a sorceress, and an old friend of Galadriel. From Melian, Galadriel had created an enchanted barrier around the realms of their homes, where those who would attempt to enter would become hopelessly lost, their food and supplies run out, and perish. Those barriers also defended the realms from Morgoth, and all manners of darkness. The only ones who could cross such barriers, were those more powerful if not in power itself, then by power of will, or hope, or love. One of two who had crossed, was Beren, who loved Melian's daughter, Luthien. Her child fell in love, and created one of the greatest love stories, and tragedies, that all would ever know.

Melian and her husband, Thingol, were allies of Finwe, who was the great, great grandfather of Idril. Melian had been there to help raise Finwe's descendants, and fought together with them and her own descendants again Lords of Darkness from Melkor, to Morgoth, and now to Sauron, just as Idril and the rest of their families had. If the latest of the Lords thought she was afraid, they knew not the power she, nor those who aided them, knew what was coming.

Isengar appeared, covered in all kinds of matter no one wanted to think about. "The path is clear!" 

He got a shoe thrown at him. Donnamira had stolen it from the elven twins, and was somewhat happy to see them chase after it, cursing her out. Of course, that got Rorimac scolding them.

Someone was going to die, and not of fun. Donnamira focused, breathing in and out, searching for Idril's magics. Finding it, she touched a wall, allowing the stones to glow. Rori whistled lowly, "Idril and Galadriel really picked up on your protective spells, didn't they?"

"She could give Gandalf a run for his magic," Dido exclaimed. "Well, kind of did considering Gandalf couldn't find these. It'd make the journey way shorter then."

Closing her eyes, she uttered, "There is dark magic here. Can't you sense it, Adalgrim?"

They all stepped aside for the hobbit in question, the son of Hildigrim, a cousin to Belle Baggins, and the only one of whom had not only amber eyes, but ones that ebbed between dark and light. They held a slight, reddish twinge to them. He turned to his aunt Donnamira, and nodded to him in turn. None would've guessed that this one would be related to his once sworn enemies. Yet, here they were, and with memories of being a hobbit, finding peace in his life, he felt no desire to fight his new family. In fact, he knew he'd protect them all of them, whatever the cost.

He little no attention to the most recently conceived of Elven twins, knowing he made them, everyone who knew his true identity, uncomfortable. He had intended to hide it, but knew he'd lose trust otherwise. Donnamira kneeled next to him as he bent froward, touching the darkened ground, nose wrinkling. "What is it?"

"There was definitely dark magic here," he murmured, voice deep and rumbled. Elrond's twins flinched, afraid said voice would shake the very earth itself. He grinned, knowing that once upon a time, it had. "But, we will conquer it."

Elves, Wizards, Dwarrow, Humans, Hobbits, and more were all part of their family now, and always had been whether they realized it or not. All of them had faced greater threats than they were, and came out above all odds.


 

"It's odd to think, Aldagrim, that your son and daughter will have children of their own that will travel to Mordor."

He was quiet for a long moment, concerned of how he was perceived by others, primarily Donnamira. "...I worried for them the first time  Peregrin and Meriadoc traveled there, and now I will do everything in my power to prevent it." After a great deal of hesitance, he murmured, "With the exception of Elrond's sons, how are you all so, lax, about me? Especially you and Asphodel?"

"I would've thought you'd hate them, or me more," she whispered, both watching as the more active and violent members of their group pushed aside and, more or less, cleaned up corpses. "Seeing as it was Elrond's and Elrohir's father who killed you." When he said nothing, she sighed, "The number of Tooks who remember? This number has never happened before. And you? This will not be the first time you have been a grandfather, and from what I suspect, it will not be the last."

"...In my first life, I was cruel, and not just bloodthirsty," he admitted, shutting his eyes for a moment. "I was, a monster. Sometimes I wonder if I still am."

"You were crafted by Morgoth," she tried to comfort. "As are orcs and goblins. All were were once elves and some maybe maia. Now? They still act cruelly, but I can't help but wonder..." They paused by one of the corpses. Donnamira, Melian, winced. "I can't help but wonder if they were like us too, somewhere deep down."

Aldegrim tried not to speak often, somewhere deep down he was afraid he could hurt someone with his voice alone. "And what of me?"

"We may not know exactly what dragons were before their corruption, but you were an experiment, harmed and destroyed multiple times over. If anything, you were a prisoner enslaved by Morgoth, and we were blinded by war and hatred, fearful of what it would mean to truly think of the possibilities." She held his cheek, smiling, "For what it's worth, we are your family now, and I know for a fact that you raised your previous children with love and kindness, and we both know you will do the same for your descendants here."

He clasped a gentle hand over hers, tears falling. "Thank you, aunt Donnamira, Heir of the Thain, and once the great maia Melian."

She kissed the top of his head, remembering the little boy she had seen grow up, the one who she loved teaching how to read and write, and played with so he could learn how to live. She just hadn't realized how much she and other hobbits had truly done that.

Hugging her nephew tightly, she whispered, "Thank you, my dear nephew Aldagrim, son of my brother Hildigrim..."


 

Down in the bottom of the caves, Mirabella let out a sound of pain. There by a lake, was a figure, one that was pale, barely clothed, and had lost a great deal of hair. His eyes were pale, body hunched, and teeth dark and bloody.

Amaranth held her back. "Deagol, your cousin is not once as he was."

"...We can save him," Deagol, Mirabella, insisted, tears falling down her face.

"I don't think we can," Donnamira said, walking over with Aldagrim who, like his aunts, appeared pained.

She touched the creature lightly, only for him to fall limply, lifelessly. There was a hole in his chest, right where his heart was. Mirabella's tears ran faster, and she let out a cry of grief. Aldegrim hugged her, comforting her best he could. She was held by the rest of her family as well, for any single one who grieved, shared it with others, no matter who it was they grieved.

There was a crunch then, and Aldagrim swung out his sword, scowling at the sight of a group of goblins. Inhaling in and out, he glanced back at the rest, seeking permission. None had seen him fight in his newfound form yet, and he needed the practice. He had wished for violence to no longer easily part of his nature, but it still echoed within his memories.

It was Donnamira and surprisingly, both sets of twins who nodded. Who knew one of the greatest enemies of the elves would be fighting alongside them now.

His teeth sharpened, ears pointed more with darker hues coloring them, and his eyes glowed not amber, but red. His fingernails turned into claws. As he stepped forward, he couldn't stop the smirk that sent the goblins into terror.

"...Boys," Amaranth said to Elrond's sons. "Properly meet the strongest of the Thains Heirs..."

Arguably the youngest one there hadn't wanted to scare any of those he sought to protect, but he wouldn't deny his inner nature either.

He growled, leaping through the air, flying with darkness and shadows behind him, eyes burning into his opponents' very souls.

With a grin, he said, "Beware the Tooks."

 

 

Chapter Text

"I could flay him alive for you."

Amaranth was finding it harder and harder to deny various temptations, especially with so many bloodthirsty Thains' members there. Biting her lip, she shook her head. "No, we're not here to kill him-"

"I could bludgeon his head," Bandobras offered. Please, please stop offering. "I'm fairly good at it with goblins and orcs. It'd be interesting to figure out what could happen to an elf's skull."

"No thanks," Ecthelion sighed. "In case you hadn't noticed, most of us are elves, and died very horrible, painful deaths."

Haleth took out her sword examining it. "I should probably sharpen this. It's always worked well on necks."

"Will you please stop offering to off my ex?!" Amaranth groaned. "I appreciate the sentiment, but we're here to be political, and get some allies. Besides, I haven't met Legolas yet, but do you really think he can handle being on the throne?"

There were some nods, shrugs, and frowns. Arathorn mumbled, "He looks lost half of the time, or just really confused. Are you sure he's your son?"

Don't think about the near days of labor. Don't think about nearly strangling Thranduil. Don't think about punching the crap out of Arathorn, no matter how satisfying the last two things were. "Well, I am Amaranth Brandybuck now, and not a queen nor married to that son of a bitch. So, technically, I'm not Legolas' mother, in the slightest."

Melian was skeptical, but called Elros and Aldagrim to help her rid the barrier. Elros pursed his lips, "You know as soon as we get do this, we're going to be surrounded by elves with all manners of pointy things."

"Well, I'd rather this instead of getting lost and starving because that would be a really stupid way to die," Melian said, giving him a hard look. Aldagrim nodded vehemently, allowing his features to change a little. "Aldagrim, your claws, if you'd please."

Grumbling something to himself, he grimaced as he had his nails lengthen to dagger-like pointlessness, and sliced off the ends. Thinking briefly, he asked, "Wait, do you need me to be declawed? I can do that if we need to, but it's kind of-"

"The clippings will do," she admonished. "Elros, if you will."

They both raised their hands over prepared magical materials, including the dragon's claws. Amaranth narrowed her eyes, "I thought ony those more powerful than you could break the barrier. So why-?"

"It's already been partially breached by dark forces, hence why the woods are now known as Mirkwood instead of Greenwood," Milian explained. "And unfortunately, because it was darker forces that initially broke part of it, we need some dark magic to finish it. Then, both Elros and I can reconstruct it. We may even be able to rid the place of those blasted beasts of attercops."

"You do realize once we cross this point, we can't use our original names?" Mirabella said, approaching the leaders. "That means, we're all hobbits again, true hobbits. We have to pretend as it nothing came back to us."

Amaranth couldn't meet their eyes, "I've always known that."

"Personally, I'd love to be a normal hobbit again," Aldagrim said. "But, we've got a dragon to slay, idiot kings to save, and a dark lord to defeat so everyone can have happily ever after...Hopefully. Knowing me, I'm either going to get killed by my tiny excuse for a distant cousin, or by the dark lord himself. Who wants to take bets?" More than a few hands raised. Isengrim admonished the elven twins, and Rorimac looked pained. "...Should've seen that one coming."

"Are we going to break things now, or what?" Dodi asked, gesturing to the barrier few could see. Dido nodded, "Then, we get to slaying."

"The spiders or Thranduil?"

"Both."

Amaranth held out her hands at their throats, then pulled back, slowly breathing in and out. "Murder is fun to think about, but it's not a good thing to do. So, let's just kill the spiders."

Donnamira nodded, everyone getting their weapons out. "Ready? One, two, three."

There was a burst of light, and everyone covered their eyes as a swirling storm of darkness poured out, spiders instantly appearing. Donnamira whispered words, including a curse that she still wished she had her old staff, and raised her hands, eyes turning white. It was a stark contrast to Aldagrim's darkening features. Isengar stepped forward, "If I can handle a Balrog, I can take on a soon to be bloody spider."

Arrows flew from both sets of twins and Amaranth, the rest charging. Donnamira called out, "We need to get to one of the healthier oaken trees!"

"Why an oak tree?!"

"They hold powers of the old, and are some of the strongest plants out there," Donnamira said, slicing through the air.

Two spiders were sliced in half by the air alone, and Aldagrim paled. "If I ever get my wings back, please don't do what you just did to those guys' legs."

He helped her get through the horde, the other elven members of the troupe covering them. Reaching their destination, Donnamira chanted, and slammed her hand onto the tree, a burst of white spreading and shoving the spiders out. Aldagrim was knocked back onto his rear end, gritting his teeth until Donnamira touched his shoulder, the white glow softening around him.

"By the Valar, that hurt," Aldagrim grunted, willing his draconian formation away.

"If you weren't also a hobbit, that could've turned out very badly," Donnamira admitted. "It would've been worse if you had ill intentions."

As she helped him stand up, he muttered, "Thanks, auntie Donna."

He chuckled as she lightly ruffled his hair, leaning into it. Elland grinned, "He's like a little puppy."

"Yeah, and I bite too," the secret dragon joked. "Just ask my wife. She likes it." His eyes sparkled, "She's amazing."

"Okay, I know our current race breeds like rabbits, but that was way too much information," Mirabella scowled.

"Sure, Mom," Amaranth mocked, the two of them grinning.

Soon enough, they began to hear quickening footsteps. Elrohir and Elladan rolled their eyes. "Sneaky, they are."

"We could prank them," Dido offered. "Just a little."

"We're here to make peace, not war," Amaranth reminded them. "We, are Thains Heirs. We protect, we fight, and we serve. That's what we were literally born to do, and shall continue to do so."

"...So I can't tell Thranduil where he could shove that flashy crown of his?" Hildigard said.

"Unless you can do so in a civil, political manner, I suggest not."

"Yes, your majesty. Kindly please, show us your majestic coronet so we may recommend where we feel it best suits you," Hildigard, formerly Haleth said with some kind of posh accent. "Honey, I was a leader of Men once. I know how to schmooze people before I kill them."

"No killing," Amaranth murmured quietly, all sensing how close the woodland elves were.

Soon enough, the elves were upon them, all pointing pointy stuff at them. Aldagrim and Donnamira swapped coins, earning the interest of the ones watching them. "Told you."

"Never thought I'd lose to you," Donnamira chuckled.

In fact, multiple bags of money were tossed, including to Amaranth. Elladan and Elrohir stepped forward. "We are the sons of Elrond, Half-elven, and Lord of Rivendell. We come escorting the Thains' Heirs of the Shire-" Aldagrim gave a little wave, and one elf actually waved back. "Who seek to make business arrangements and a treaty."

It took a great deal of effort for some of them not to roll their eyes. Politics, what bullshit.

Amaranth's heart stopped when she felt something, someone, familiar.

"Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together? The winds in the free-top, the winds in the heather. The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower, and bright are the windows of Night in her tower," Amaranth sang sweet to a clothed baby in her arms.

The child closed its beautiful eyes, fisting in her dress shirt. She leaned over, kissing the babe's forehead, her pale golden tinted curls falling over her shoulder, brushing the child's cheek. How closely they matched. " Dance all ye joyful, now dance all together! Soft is the grass, and let foot be like feather! The river is silver, the shadows are fleeting. Merry is May-time, and merry our meeting."

A deepened voice joined hers from the doorway, and she smiled at her Heart, at Thranduil. He smiled back, and kneeled next to her. His eyes were alight as he gazed at both of them with a tender smile. She handed him their child, His forefinger stroked the child's face, so much like his own even as young as the child was. The baby yawned and mouthed his finger. The woman laid her weary head on her husband's shoulder, melding her voice with his in their lullaby.

"Can they not speak for themselves?"

By Eru, he sounded so much like his father, and Amaranth didn't even need to turn around to know he'd be nearly as tall, with light hair, eyes like the sky as a mixture of her's and Thranduil's, and green, their Little Leaf would wear so much green. He always gravitated towards it as a child. No, she couldn't cry. She shouldn't feel. She couldn't show. Don't let him see. Don't let any of them see. Be what they all needed her to be. She could do this.

Swallowing, she felt Isengrim hold her hand, trying to comfort her. Amaranth shook her head subtly, and turned to see her son after so many centuries. The boy she once held in her arms, had grown up so much, and he'd grown up without her. It hurt, so much. Swallowing, she tried to keep her lips upward, to make it meet her eyes. No, he wasn't her little boy here, he could never be, not anymore.

Thankfully, he hadn't noticed her yet. Isengrim stepped forward, clearing his throat. "My apologies, but we know not your people or how they would act towards strangers. We ourselves are learning how to interact with those outside our realm, and are in desperate need. Please, hear us and our plead?"

Little Leaf, Legolas, turned to Elladan and Elrohir here, who showed their agreement. None were lying, but they weren't exactly speaking the truth either.

"Please, we will hand over our weapons if it will make you feel safer," Isengrim offered. "This is your home, and we mean no ill intent. No one should feel unsafe in their sanctuaries."

Legolas frowned in doubt. "Why do hobbits need weapons?"

"There's a war coming," Isengrim said. "One that may destroy our people, and others as well. We mean to protect ourselves on our journeys, but not at the expense of lives, or friendship."

"You can trust them," Elrohir stated.

The Prince of the Woodland realm tentatively accepted the offer, all handing over their swords and daggers and bows and arrows, bowing as they did so. Here, they needed to submit. But, that didn't mean they couldn't hold their heads high as they walked. The entire time, Amaranth tried to stay away from her little one, needing to hold onto her current family for support. No one said anything, but their actions spoke a great deal.

It was only at the gates, when Legolas and the others inspected their weapons, that the princeling paused, stroking a bow. Amaranth's insides froze, not expecting for him to take out his own, and compare hers to his. He had her bow. He had her bow. He had learned how to use her bow to protect himself. The one she made for herself. She was supposed to make one for him, but didn't get the chance to.

The markings on both of their weapons were nearly identical, the patterns laced with memories. Trembling, she tried not to react, grateful when Elrohir and Elladan explained they lent weaponry they had in Rivendell to the hobbits. It was, again, truth and lie all at once. Amaranth hadn't been able to use the other bows there, the grip and tension feeling wrong no matter how beautiful or functional the others were. How foolish was she, to make such things again?

Sentiment did not belong here. Not, when her rage could instead.

Did Legolas even know it was hers? Did he know anything about his mother at all? Did Thranduil tell him anything?

The doors opened, and they walked familiar halls. She snorted a little, seeing that Thranduil, an even bigger fool than her, still hadn't put something up to prevent people from simply falling over the edge of the bridges and pathways there. Seriously, someone had to have fallen to their deaths by now. The damned king was terrible at making decisions, especially fashionably functional ones. He tripped on his royal garb when he first became a king, insisting he had to be graceful. Instead, he fell flat on his face when he tried walking up the stairs.

Wait, no, no sentiment!

"And, who are these?"

Ah, the bastard himself deigns to grant them an audience. How wonderful. Around him, were both heaps of luxury, and desolation. How could he have allowed their home to fall to such ruin? Isengrim and Elladan told him the things he'd want to hear, based on her advice. As for her? She couldn't be trusted around him. She couldn't speak to him because she'd scream and rage.

Had their love, the memory of her mean so little to him? Did he truly decide that she'd best not exist by having everyone forget her? That he never even told their son how much she loved both of them?

Gritting her teeth was the next best thing to biting her tongue. She'd likely lose it if she didn't. She barely had an open ear to hear Isengrim speak.

"Dark forces surround us, and Rivendell cannot provide all of our people weapons. We not ask you for your assistance, but rather an arrangement. We were told of your limited supplies," The Thains Heir said. "Hobbiton is bountiful in food, animals, and cloth. We can trade with you, as you trade with Laketown."

Thranduil still sat upon his throne, practically hovering over them. "And why should I trust your word?"

"They are our allies," Elladan supplied, his statement barely affecting the king.

Breathing in and out once more, Amaranth built the strength to step forward. "We are Thains Heirs, protectors, warriors, and servants of the Shire and all Hobbit kind. To put it mildly, we are essentially the heirs to a foreign kingdom, akin to royalty." His eyes narrowed upon her, and she struggled not to do the same. "That is far different from making a deal with the Master of Laketown. To broker this, would mean countless generations trading with you, where Laketown is in ruins, and may fall any day. You would be trading not just with the effective rulers of not a town, but an entire race, who will vow to help you, with the hopes you do the same for them. We are a simple folk, but one who does not break their word. We have done this with other rulers, and will do the same for you."

His eyes widened, something in his expression changing. No, had she done something familiar? Had he recognized something? Slowly, he began to grin, and Amaranth realized, no, he didn't. That was greed, and she had known it well. "I shall, consider your generous offer. In the meantime, you will be guests. May it be that those who visit Greenwood not think us poor hosts."

Great, he either found them amusing to be considerate, or he was about to throw them into the dungeons as he did Thorin's Company.


 

She was roomed with Hildigard, Donnamira, and Mirabella, all physically women, while the males slept elsewhere.

"That was, unexpected," Hildigard said tentatively, odd for her. "Are you all right?"

Amaranth didn't even look at her. "...I am no longer the person he once knew, and he's certainly not the person I thought I knew."

Her fists clenched the sheets, trying not to tear them apart just as memories did her. This was all far, far too familiar. It was almost unbearable. Mirabella held her daughter, and held her tight. "I'm sorry, my child. I'm sorry."

Don't show. Don't feel. Don't let them know how much it hurts. "I'm sorry, but I need air." Trembling, she walked to a wall, pressing a stone so that a doorway opened. "I'll be back soon."

This place, it had once been theirs. It had once been her home. It was their sanctuary, and he desecrated all of it.

It was foolish doing this, but, maybe this will make things easier.

Stepping outside, tears began to fall. It was an area with a garden, with a fountain and...It was all overgrown, the statue of two lovers crumbling. The moonlight reflected the water around the moss, and it was easy to see that anything with her old face had been crushed, turned into rubble. There were scorch marks where her favorite flowers once grew, the ones she wanted to show her son.

Turning her back on the memories, she braved going to one of the balconies.  Across the way, she could see visions of her and Thranduil when they were young, back when he'd laugh and hold her in his arms. Back when they were in love, when they would kiss, when they had a future to look forward to. Placing her head against the cool, stone banister, she slid down the wall, drawing her knees up to her heart so that it would grow numb. Please, just let this end. She needed it to...No, she needed...

"How did you get out here?"

She gasped, horrified she hadn't sensed him. Her son peered down at her, worry in his eyes instead of anger. "Are you all right, Miss Hobbit?"

Amaranth laughed wetly. No, he wasn't her son. She just needed to keep reminding herself of that.  "Why does everyone keep asking me that? Do I seem that fragile?"

"Well, right now, yes," he whispered. Pausing, he decided to sit next to her, looking upwards. "This is one of the few areas you can see stars."

"You know this place well?" she tried to joke. "It's almost a maze."

"Yet, here you are?" he asked, nay, said.

Wincing, she decided to look up instead of at him. "I miss home.I, I'm not sure how I found myself here, in all honesty. I can go, if you want? Either to my room or just out of your home. Either is fine."

There, honesty. Such a grand thing, wasn't it? "My father doesn't need to know."

Blinking, she finally looked at him. "Why not?"

"You don't mean harm," he shrugged. "None of you do. I, I can feel it."

Please, don't. It only got worse when he began to hum the old tune she sang for him. That she and Thranduil sang to him. "What's the song you're humming?"

"I don't really know. It just, it's special. It's comforting."

Thranduil, the bastard. He couldn't even tell their son about that? Did he even treat their son, as his own? As hers? "It sounds like a lullaby I've heard."

"Can you sing it for me?"

Maybe, she could indulge herself, just this once. He had been a baby. Of course he wouldn't remember her. He couldn't even have known it was her, because Thranduil never...

She croaked at first, closing her eyes as she remembered better, kinder things that didn't hurt so much. In her mind, the past and present blended, threatening to tear her apart at the seams. "Sing all ye joyful, now sing all together? The winds in the free-top, the winds in the heather. The stars are in blossom, the moon is in flower,and bright are the windows of Night in her tower..."

They sat there, the memory of her with Legolas, even if only for those brief moments. For those few moments, she could be his mother again, and he would never know it.

He began crying at the end of it. "Prince Legolas?"

"I'm sorry, it's just...It feels so..."

Distract him. Seeing her son...Legolas, like this, was more painful than anything else. "Did anyone ever sing you lullabies?"

"I don't know. Maybe the handmaids did?"

Her knuckles cracked, and she was thankful he didn't ask. "What about, your mother? Surely she sang for you?"

"She died, and Father never told me how or why. So, I don't know."

Jaw clenched, she wanted more than ever to break down, to cry, to tell him who she was. She wanted to tell him- "Shouldn't someone have told you, if not him?"

"They can't. Father ordered them not to. I've been told the memory of her is too painful for him."

"That's bullshit." The words escaped. She needed to stop, now. "If he truly loved her, loved who she was, he'd remember their love, how much he cared for her, how much he loved you. You're the child of their love. To deny her, is to deny a piece of you." Her eyes watered against her will. "What kind of a heartless person does that? Decides that his love isn't worth remembering?"

Before the prince could say anything, she covered her eyes. "I'm sorry, I got carried away. I, I have some bad memories of something not unlike what I know of your father. Please, please, excuse me. I need to go back to my room."

He frowned, but nodded, insisting on escorting her. She agreed, neither saying anything.

Legolas wasn't her son. Thranduil wasn't the love of her life...Because that life was gone now.

Her life had been worth nothing to him.


 

Legolas looked like he wanted to approach her, to ask something, but every time he did, Amaranth either excused herself, or avoided herself completely.

Isengrim spoke often with Thranduil about how to arrange business, how to solve small problems, and Amaranth was glad he was the one doing it. To her surprise though, the red headed guard, the one Kili fell in love with a lifetime ago, chased after her. The elf glared at her, hands on her hips.

"Where did you get your bow?"

Better give a semi-honest answer again. "Rivendell, why?"

Shit, she had both bows. Amaranth screamed in her mind instead of on the outside, still refusing to show anything. "Rivendell doesn't make bows this way."

Shrugging, the hobbit merely said, "Do I look like a weapons master to you? Or someone who normally uses this stuff? Besides, unlike some realms, Rivendell welcomes people of all kinds. Perhaps a woodland elf dropped by and gifted them."

"It would be difficult for the former Queen of Greenwood to have given this. The wood cut is fresh, and these are her markings."

Amaranth paused, pretending to be stunned. "How should I know that? Why not ask Elladan or Elrohir? It was made in their home as far as I'm aware. Not sure how I could possibly be related to it other than it being a gift."

The Captain of the Guard was obviously frustrated. "Lord Elladan and Lord Elrohir are the sons of Lord Elrond, and heirs to Rivendell. What right have you to call them-?"

"Not only have they granted us permission to use their names as their allies, but as a Thains Heir, I, and my family in this place, are considered to be equals," Amaranth stated coolly, her glare causing the elf to freeze. "I recommend that you speak to Elladan and Elrohir, as I should know nothing about this bow or how it came to be. I have never encountered the Queen of Greenwood in this life, and in this same life, the first time I've encountered a Greenwood elf was a few days ago when we got here."

All was truth, and it felt good to see the red haired guard look thoroughly terrified. At least, it did until she murmured, "Those, you have the eyes of an ancient soul."

Amaranth exhaled, nonchalantly ignoring the comment best she could. "I've seen death, and known loss. I will not do so again, not if I can help it. So please, leave me be. I seek no quarrel with you, any of you."

The elf reluctantly bowed, and left the hobbit be.


 

Rubbing her forehead, Amaranth asked for directions to the kitchen, not truly needing them. Again, she had an escort, although she accidentally slipped up every once in a while as she walked quicker than he did, knowing the path by heart. He didn't say anything about it. Amaranth sat down in the kitchen, carefully asking the chef if she could make chocolate chip cookies, and some lembras bread, explaining that they would need it on their journey home. That she learned the recipe for the later through elves who insisted on teaching her.

Though royalty she may have been in another life, being pregnant with Legolas meant that she needed ways to reduce stress, and baking and cooking had been part of it. For some reason, he had always craved lembas. Why? It was beyond her. Amaranth wondered if he still loved it. Would he make that adorable little smile that made her want to hold him? Would he-?

He is not your son. He is NOT YOUR SON. HE IS NOT YOURS!

Something she could never have expected, was Thranduil entering the kitchen, nose high as always. Seeing her baking, he glanced at the cook, and paced towards her. He really shouldn't do that, especially when she had a blade.

"What is your name, Miss Hobbit?"

" What is your name, my lady?"

Continuing on her task at hand, she only imagined stabbing him instead of actually doing at. "Amaranth Brandybuck, your majesty."

"Ah, you're the one worrying the prince."

Really? The title? He couldn't even say that Legolas was his son? Use his name? Say something to show some care? "I apologize if I have. It was not my intent."

"You've also frightened my guard."

Did he even know Tauriel's name? "Again, it was not my intent. I shall apologize to both."

Thranduil studied her expression, searching. Maybe she should make the offer that Hildigard said was a good, civil way of dealing with the situation by suggesting where some very pointy objects could go. "You don't like me."

"...Your reputation, and various forms of gossip, spread far and wide, even reaching the Shire," she said factually. "Some of which, depict your character as very, disagreeable for a lack of better terms. I was admittedly reluctant to come here, but I know my role and how I can serve my people, even if it means doing things I don't like. I imagine the same goes for you?"

Bullshit, he always left things he didn't like to her. For instance, dealing with the dwarrow. How many times had she needed to deal with Thorin's ancestors and prevent war because Thranduil wouldn't get off his high horse and-

"I try to, but sometimes fail," he said carefully, still studying her reaction. "Can you tell me why you hate me? Why your view of me is so dark?"

She smirked then, allowing some venom to show. "In alphabetical, or chronological order, your majesty?"

See, that was civil. "...The most relevant in your opinion." When she remained quiet, he suggested, "Then the ones closest to the topic?"

Narrowing her eyes, she asked, "If I may be so bold, why are you interested in my opinion? Why not Isengrim's, or any of the others' who are more likely to become the true ruler of the Shire?"

She was curious. At this time, she was nothing in comparison. Maybe she'd always had been to him. "Because you've gained the intrigue of my son, my guard, and myself." What? "Legolas finds you fascinating, speaking of you greatly. Tauriel finds you suspicious on account of your recent behavior and the weapon you carry."

Oh, so he admitted he had a son. Great. "And you?"

"You stepped forward to speak instead of your fellows being afraid to step around me," he said. "Such behavior, is rather brazen, not easily a quality of your kind. Nor is how you avoid answering questions. I wonder, if you could be trusted."

Racist, stereotyping piece of shit, how did she ever fall in love with him. Just, why? Arching a brow, she said, "And have you met hobbits before?"

They both know the answer to that. "...No."

"Then are you not judging on rumors just as I have you? The difference is, I try not to allow my opinions or emotions cloud my judgement, nor my actions, " she answered coolly, finishing slicing the bread, and offering him some lembas, taking another slice for herself to show it wasn't poisoned.

Sneering at her, the arsehole took it, taking a bite. His eyes widened then, and he gaped at her. "You, how do you know this recipe?"

Amaranth began cursing herself profusely. That's what she got for letting nostalgia get to her. Although, the concept of reincarnation wasn't something most would automatically come up with. She could save this. "I read it in a library, back in Rivendell. It was by an elven woman. Why?"

The elven king said nothing at first, conflict in him as he ate the food she made. It would've almost been domestic had neither of them been ready to slice the others' throat. "Why, why do you hate me the most, above of all reasons?"

Should she say it? Really say it? Would she be free of all the pain, the anger, the ache? There was only one way to find out. "...You willingly chose to forget your wife, and the mother of your child, as though her memory meant nothing to you. That, she, meant nothing to you. No one, means anything to you."

There, simple. No need to continue the conversation. That should've been a good enough answer, one they needn't continue. What relevance would such words, her words, hold? The anger in her had seeped through a little, but Thranduil's rage was far more visible. He reminded her of a toddler, irritated at being caught rather than caring of her words or his actions at all. Why had she expected any differently?

"I choose to forget her, because the pain is too unbearable. I am supposed to lead my people, how can I do that if I'm about to fade away?"

Oh no, he was not going to get away with that. Standing up, meeting his enraged gaze with her murderous one, she said stonily, evenly, "And you left your son regardless, with no idea of what happened, or even who she was. How much her love mattered to either of you." Seething, she added, "Do you know what she wrote about you? Of how she loved you, your son, and you, you threw her away. You decided that love meant nothing."

Where he could scream because of a whisper or a few words, she always had to hold back, even when they'd been married. He was barely scratching the surface of the chaos inside of her, or everything she felt. He knew nothing, and would always know nothing. He was too afraid to grow and be anything more.

She interrupted him before he could retort anything, with all the hatred in her burning heart, "You threw her away. You killed her just as the orcs who ripped her limb from limb did. If she were alive, you would break her heart over, and over again, and for what? You may claim that you still love her, but what proof have you when no one even knows her damned name? Not even her own son, the one you promised to cherish? Instead, what little proof you have of her existing, you've hidden away while his life is passing by. You destroyed everything here. Your home is dying, your people are dying, your son is dying, and you are dying, but you don't give a damn!"

How many people had died, been destroyed, because of this? How many lives lost? Elves, humans, dwarrow? Did it matter? He still stood idly by, and watched everything happen instead of doing anything besides destroying everything the two of them ever loved.

He was pale, horror there. Good, he deserved it. "You wrote her out of history, out of your story, out of life. She. Is. Nothing. Because of you. "

Standing above him, Amaranth hissed, "You want to know why I hate you Thranduil, son of Orophir, King of Mirkwood? It's because you've shown that you care for no one besides yourself and your own gains." Tears began to spill. "You're a coward, who decided life isn't worth living, for anyone. That's not grief, it's selfishness and apathy."

Shaking with far too many emotions than she could take, the once wife of Thranduil, mother to Legolas, and previous Queen of Greenwood uttered, "Congratulations. By the Valar, I hope you're satisfied, your honorable, royal, majesty. I really do."

Amaranth didn't look back, or at him, as she left.

"Feel free to take whatever you like or don't, your royal majesty. You always have."

She couldn't wait to leave, not when she was dying all over again. Not when he was killing her. Not when he had killed her, and everything she was.

 

Maybe, dying in battle again would be more merciful than this.

 

 

If it was, she'd welcome it.

 

 

Chapter Text

They all had the eyes of old souls, ancient ones. Thranduil was genuinely interested in their offer, but he also wanted to understand why they were the way they had been. And then, there was the angry one.

The other hobbits were angry, but her? She was burying rage and wrath near incomprehension. It was stronger than Oakenshield's, but she hid it well. If he and Legolas hadn't been of the higher powered elven, he might've missed it.

He wanted to know more, needed to.

And more than that, he wanted to know how the barrier was brought down, only to be replaced. That was something that made him distrust them, but the fact they put up a far healthier one, a barrier that threw out the darker shadows in his realm, was confounding. He didn't confront them for it, yet, because he wanted to know if they would own up to it. So far, none had.

But, his mind was constantly occupied with that one female hobbit's. Her eyes, why did they burn into his soul so much? How dare she even do that and-

Why didn't he feel truly angry? Why didn't he want to lash out, or question her, or berate her? Was this part of some spell? Were they controlling him? They certainly had the ability to if they were capable of remaking the barrier.


 

Legolas told him of the lullaby, of how she never bore him hatred, but her words were full of it for Thranduil.

How would the hobbit know of the lullaby when it was an elven one? No, she had been to Rivendell, and currently traveled with the sons of Elrond. She could've learned it from any of them.

"Father, I don't think she realized she was singing it in Sindarin."

The hobbit knew elvish? It was one thing for her to know the lullaby, but to sing it in its natural form?

Since when did hobbits do that?

.....

The captain of the Guard, Tauriel, of all people, got scared of a hobbit.

"Your majesty, she had an ancient soul, one that, has seen too much."

Keeping his hands out of sight and out of view, he considered everything. There were too many missing factors.

The bow, he had questioned himself over and over again how it could be possible to make, when his wife was dead.

.....

It was likely his love of pastries that had gotten him into trouble. There was the most mysterious hobbit of all. He wanted to scream, to yell, to try to understand how with speaking so few words, she was starting to make his word crumble apart.

So, he tried to be polite, patient. He wanted to know, why her eyes the way they were.

He regretted it. He wanted to fight her, to defend his actions, but then he realized, everything she said was true. He had demolished all of his beloved's things, her statues, the memories. He had wanted his son healthy, to be without pain, but he was just using it as an excuse for himself. Look at their home, and how it was rotting away. Look at his people, look at his son, look at him.

How could a hobbit's words hurt him so? Because they were true.

...He walked to the secret passageway, the one that led to their sanctuary. The one he could never bring himself to see again. He slowly turned the knob on the door, unexpectedly finding that the dust had been partially wiped away.

Someone had been here.

In the garden, it was all ruins. There were no signs of someone having changed anything. Dust and ashes still lay everywhere. The flowers never grew back. The fountain stopped producing water and in its bowl was moss and muck and rot. His hands clenched by his side.

"You're made of absolute shit. You know that, don't you?"

At first, he thought it was his own thoughts speaking to him. Instead, it was another one of the female hobbits. She was one of the more feminine, delicate looking ones. Unlike everyone else though, her curls were muted, more flowing like a river instead of  twisting to the sky. Her eyes were possibly the oldest ones there.

Growling, he said, "How are you here? Why are you here?"

She hummed, not disturbed by his anger in the slightest. "I came seeking herbs. We hobbits have very good noses you know. They help us when we're lost. There's some very nice rosemary in the corner over there. Do you mind?"

He should burn her alive. "This place is sacred. Leave."

The hobbit nonchalantly looked around, arching a brow. "Sacred? Are you so sure about that?"

Why were female hobbits so enraging? He was about to say something that likely should not be said in polite company, but stood still when the hobbit's hands began to glow. From ashes, plants appeared and started to bud. She went over to the rosemary patch, healing it as well. "There, much nicer, don't you agree?"

Those had been her flowers. They were never supposed to grow without her. He couldn't, wouldn't let that happen. He couldn't...

He hadn't let anything grow. Not the plants, not his people, not his son...Not even himself.

The one there in the garden with him clicked her tongue, as though scolding him. "This place was beautiful once, wasn't it?"

Walking towards her statue, trembling, he cupped what was left of his beloved's face...He, he couldn't even remember her name. How could he have forgotten her very name? "Yes, she was."

"Then why do this? Any of this?"

How dare anyone speak to him this way? Especially one who couldn't possibly even know him. One who shouldn't know him. Gritting his teeth, he whispered, "Because, I was in pain."

"Pain is what's needed to grow," she said. "And it seems after centuries, you still haven't learned how."

Turning to face her, he hissed, "Why do you all speak as if you know me?"

"Because we do. She wrote about you," the hobbit said calmly. Yet, it was with those calm words that his heart and eyes burned. No, he hadn't cried in centuries. He couldn't, not since the day that Legolas lost his mother. "Her words said how you met when she nearly shot you with her first bow and arrows. How you called her your lady despite it. How you grew up together and when she held you after you and your father traveled North. She wrote how you loved sweets and tarts, of how clumsy you used to be. She wrote of how you sung with her to Legolas when she was pregnant, and after. She wrote, about loving you."

Please, stop. He made the request out loud, pleading. "Was it truly pain that drove you to forget her? Or the fact that she went to her death to save your son? Of how she died? Of how you were forced carry out your son, and you had to leave her behind?" There was a pause. "Did you hate her, Thranduil, for choosing her son, both the lives of her son and love, over her own?" No, don't. "Do you hate her, because she loved you?"

Thranduil gasped, the armor weighing him down, and cutting into the limbs of the babe inside his arms. His son was covered with his blood,  her blood. He called out her name, begging her to answer.

"T-Thranduil..."

By the Valar she sounded so weak. And, she was on the other side of a wall, of a tower buried in rubble. She had pushed him out of the way, getting him and their son to safety. Legolas was screaming, arms reaching for someone, anyone, to hold him without hurting him. Thranduil whispered a tearful apology, placing his hand on the stone.

"Please, beloved, hold on. We're coming-"

There were screeches and victorious yelling of orcs, causing Legolas to cry harder, louder. His cries were attracting them. "Please, Little Leaf, please don't cry. We need to save your mother. We need to..."  Why was she so quiet? "Beloved?"

There was a sharp inhale, and her voice was wet. She was crying just as he was. "Thranduil, you need to go."

"No, no..."

"Please, live, my Heart. Please, live, and teach him how to live. Please, be the parent I can't."

He shook his head, "We're going to save you. We're going to get you out of here. We will"

The screaming grew louder.

"Thranduil, I can't feel my legs," she rasped. No, no, please, if anyone was listening, don't let this happen. "Please, save him. Leave me. I-"

They were in the room with her then, and she screamed in agony. Thranduil hit the wall, trying desperately to break through. Legolas' cries were nearly as loud as his, and it was enough to remind him that his son was there at all. Thranduil couldn't stop the pain wrenching at him as he ran, her face, her voice racing through his mind.

He didn't save her. He didn't save her. Why didn't he save her?!

Please, make this end. Make it end. MAKE IT STOP! 

"I'VE NEVER HATED HER!" Thranduil finally screamed, his mind struggling. It didn't make sense. None of it made sense. It needed to make sense. He needed things to make sense again. "I loved her. I still love her. I never stopped."

He was crying, and his chest ached. Please, make it stop. "Yet, you abandoned her, in life and in death."

"I didn't-"

All the hobbit had to do was gesture around her, and the air was knocked out of him. "You abandoned her, your son, your people...Yourself. You made sure that she died for nothing."

Air, where was the air? Why couldn't he breathe?

She narrowed her eyes, and sighed. "I've known a man who was lost to madness of his past. When he was in his madness, he killed someone he cared for, that he loved, her blood staining him. Yet, he carried her memory, raised a child with love, and remembered who he was as a leader. He gave up that power, afraid of what he'd done. But when he was needed, he took on the responsibilities to ensure those who needed his aid, his leadership, could thrive. He may have murdered her, but he honored her memory by acting in ways he knew she would believe in. He acted as himself, and the man she knew him as." After a lengthy pause, she said, "...He's one of the most broken, kindest souls I've encountered, and he chose to remember the love that he killed, by remembering her. He remembered what she could've done had she lived, what she'd wanted and treasured most in the world."

"Who was he?"

"Is that relevant?"

Swallowing, the King of Greenwood, Mirkwood, shook his head. "No, it's not."

Closing her eyes, they softened upon opening. "The Tooks have oft traveled to learn more of the world, learning new things, reliving experiences others cannot fathom. I learned of magic and its role in life. It should not be what solves your problems, for there is no easy way out of anything without a price. But there are moments where I have used what lay in my power to do better. I broke your barrier and resurrected it. Now, it's your time to use your power to do the same for your people. Heal, Thranduil, and be the king your people need you to be."

The hobbitess disappeared, likely through some kind of sorcery. He couldn't bring himself to care. Instead, he fell to his knees in front of her statue.

"I, I'm so, so sorry," he gasped. "I'm so sorry beloved. I'm sorry..."

He repeated the mantra over and over again, the pain never leaving him.

What had he done?

......

The hobbits were supposed to leave, to continue their journey soon. They were gathered by the door, and if fate would have it, he may never see them again. Thranduil didn't know how to feel. He didn't know what to say anymore.

"Father?"

His son, he looked like her. Sounded like her. It made the king want to scream, to run, but...It was his boy. He was killing their boy. He had been killing everyone, and for what? She had never wanted any of this. She hadn't wanted...

Amaranth, there she stood, watching him as he stared at their, his son. Why did he think 'their' for a moment? It made no sense but, Amaranth, she reminded him of her. They looked nothing alike, least of all in height, but, for a moment, there she was. And she was seeing what he would do.

She narrowed her eyes, and mouthed, 'This is where you hug him.'

This was the boy that she died for, that had once been been covered in their blood. This was the boy, who became an adult before Thranduil had, and he'd missed it all.

The hobbit was right, this is where he hugged his boy. Legolas had frozen, startled and confused. By the Valar, what kind of parent didn't even hold their own child? "Father, what's wrong?"

In that moment, Thranduil didn't care about how much his kingdom saw him then. Yes, he was their king, but this was his son, and he had missed too much. In the corner of his eye, he saw Amaranth smiling, the image of his beloved over hers. His heart stopped. That's what truly made them alike. Amaranth had her anger, her joy, her kindness. Trembling, Thranduil held onto his boy for just a little longer.

"Someone, just reminded me of how much I love you, Legolas."

A king couldn't afford to be weak, so if crying and facing the things haunting his mind meant facing his pain, growing, becoming stronger, then how could tears be a sign of weakness?

Stepping back, he hesitated, looking to Legolas first before walking to the hobbits. Swallowing, he thanked them, and wished them well. Amaranth lingered for a moment, and to her he said, "Thank you, Amaranth."

She jolted, staring at him in disbelief. "What?"

"Thank you, for telling me all I've done wrong," he admitted. "I needed to hear it. I was too stubborn and blind to..."

By the Valar, that smile, her smile, was going to break him. "...I wish you all the happiness in the world Thranduil."

He wasn't going to ask for forgiveness of any kind, but he needed to start somewhere.

.....

He'd had a long day, and hadn't expected it when Legolas appeared, knocking on the door.

"Father, I wish to go after them."

So did Thranduil, for some inexplicable reason. But, he couldn't, he shouldn't. "May I ask what for?"

"It's a dangerous world and, I don't think they were here just for trading. They're walking to Laketown, and one of them, Aldagrim, he was speaking to Donnamira. Did you know she wields magic?"

The one from the garden. "Yes, I was. She informed me she had reconstructed the barrier. Why?"

"Dark forces keep attempting to breach the borders, but the barrier holds well," Legolas informed him, visibly uncomfortable. "Father, they're out there with those forces. Perhaps we should send more to help them."

It took a moment for Thranduil to process that. He barely knew the hobbits, or any in general. They were certainly more, opinionated, then he thought they could be, and abrasive. They fought hordes of spiders, and wielded weapons, and were with Elrond's sons, but..."What do you think of their abilities?"

"I believe they are stronger than we can recognize," Legolas admitted under his breath.

There was still something bothering him. The boy had his mother's furrowed eyebrows. "What is it?"

"...Father, I heard one of them telling a story to one of the young ones. It concerns me."

"How so?"

Legolas could barely look at him. "I-"

Trying to be better, Thranduil suggested that the prince speak of it as the hobbits had, as a story.

"Once upon a time, in lands far away, Yavanna made hobbits with the traits of all races. They had the fairness and connection to nature of the elves. They held the resliency and adaptiveness as the dwarrow-" In other words, little to none. "And the ability to appreciate life and merriment as Men did, having lifetimes nearly as short as theirs. She did this, to help the races always find places to belong, no matter their differences. So that hobbits, would always know, and give, peace."

That was an odd way to consider it, but it also sounded a little self absorbed. Then again, who was he to think such things. "Legolas, I don't understand how it's relevant."

"One of the leaders of the hobbits, who had led their people to a bountiful land, made a deal with a king to live on his land. They agreed to all of the terms, and kept them far long after said king perished, tending to the land and people there when he could not. One of these leaders, found a being with immense powers, one who was far more ancient than any elf or maiar. They found, a member of the fae."

A chill traveled up and down Thranduil's spine. Few knew of the fae. How would hobbits know of them? "It was the first born of the Took clan, and the fae they had found was wounded. Not knowing of the fae's nature, they tended to the being, even though they didn't understand it. The two became friends, and when the fae told them who it was, offering gold, glory, or even immortality, the hobbit didn't care, and offered their home in return, with food, and drink. The fae came to see that hobbits held no desire for wealth or fame or swayed by greed easily. Instead, the fae and hobbit came to fall in love, the two having children, and passing down unique abilities within the Took clan, including their sense for adventure, their questionable courage for probably foolishness, and their ability to lead. More so, the fae had unknowingly given them something else."

Thranduil was really, really not starting to like this. "The fae were the first race ever created, bearing more power than any elf or maia, and were considered closer to the Valar than most. They held magic, or foresight, or memories of the past. The fae held similar things, meant to guard themselves from danger, and to protect their own."

Legolas looked sadly outside, where the hobbits had faded away into the distance. "The fae relived previous lives, and for the Took bloodline, to be a Thains Heir, one must be able to recount history, and secretly gain abilities from their fae ancestors to be the leaders they are needed to be. And, since hobbits have pieces of all races within them, it's not just hobbits nor fae reborn within their line..."

No, it couldn't be. That was impossible.

"...You willingly chose to forget your wife, and the mother of your child, as though her memory meant nothing to you. That, she, meant nothing to you. No one, means anything to you."

Amaranth's expressions and words flooded through him again. His own words joined them.

"I choose to forget her, because the pain is too unbearable. I am supposed to lead my people, how can I do that if I'm about to fade away?"

"It's all of the races that can live within them. If souls are reborn, they can be from anywhere, or be anyone, including elves."

Hobbits didn't normally use magic.

"The Tooks have oft traveled to learn more of the world, learning new things, reliving experiences others cannot fathom."

Hobbits weren't aggressive.

Standing up, meeting his enraged gaze with her murderous one, she said stonily, evenly, "And you left your son regardless, with no idea of what happened, or even who she was. How much her love mattered to either of you." Seething, she added, "Do you know what she wrote about you? Of how she loved you, your son, and you, you threw her away. You decided that love meant nothing."

Hobbits didn't confront elven kings on things that were supposed to be private or forgotten.

 "You threw her away. You killed her just as the orcs who ripped her limb from limb did. If she were alive, you would break her heart over, and over again, and for what? You may claim that you still love her, but what proof have you when no one even knows her damned name?"

How could she know what happened centuries ago?

 

Hobbits, don't show that much pain when talking about others' misgivings, or at least they shouldn't.

"You're a coward, who decided life isn't worth living, for anyone. That's not grief, it's selfishness and apathy."

She was looking at him with disgust, hatred, and all he was, was paralyzed. He couldn't stop listening, just as he couldn't look away from her tears. Why did looking into her burn him instead of the other way around?

He had thought he'd known nothing, but he never knew anything at all, did he?

"Father?"

"Do you believe it to be true?" Thranduil asked brokenly, hoping they were both wrong.

Legolas looked at him, really looked at him. "Father I, perhaps it's a foolish hope, but, I know not what I'd see if my mother were really there. I don't know what I should expect. I don't know, her. But, I do know that as soon as I saw her, I wanted to hold her close, and protect her. I was going to cry, and scream. I, saw and heard things I know I shouldn't."

And that was Thranduil's fault. "What did you see?"

"...I drew her." He nearly fell to the ground at the sight of the sketched face. It was the face of a woman suffering, but smiling. A woman holding her child, and crying with relief. She was wearing armor, with crumbling buildings behind her. It was her. "Father?"

No. Legolas wasn't supposed to remember. No one was supposed to remember. He didn't want any more pain for anyone. And one hobbit came along and-

"You wrote her out of history, out of your story, out of life. She. Is. Nothing. Because of you. "

The bow...

"You're a coward, who decided life isn't worth living, for anyone. That's not grief, it's selfishness and apathy."

The signs had always been there.

What had he done?

Staring out the window, he whispered, "She hates me. She hates me. She hates me..."

"Father? Please, may I go after her? Maybe I'm wrong but-"

"We're both going," Thranduil growled, determination in his eyes. "We'll leave Tauriel in charge. Call Glorfindel to come with us. I don't care how far away he is or what he's doing. We're going to get my wife."

He was not leaving her, not again. Never again.

There was another knock at the door, the poor servant terrified. "Er, sire? We have dwarrow at the gate? One of them's Thorin Oakenshield."

...Thranduil had higher priorities right now. "Just give them rooms and anything they bloody need to go after the dragon as long as it's not at the expense of the lives of our people. And, get my reindeer."

He was getting the love of his life back and the dwarrow could go fuck themselves.


 

 

Thorin watched as Thranduil rode past them, having prepared for confrontation, death threats, anything with violence of any kind. And yet, there the asshole went.

Belle whispered, "What just happened?"

Legolas followed close behind, some gorgeous bastard with him."Hobbits, hobbits happened. Good luck on killing the dragon."

He rode off too, and the dwarrow were shown to nice rooms, with good food and WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED?!

 

 

Chapter Text

Belle tiptoed down the stairs of Erebor, prepared for battle as her dwarrow surrounded the beast...Only to bump into, Aldagrim? Little Aldagrim? Why was he tiptoeing around the dragon?! That was her job!

"Smaug, you little pipsqueak of an inglorious bastard! Get your pert little tail down here!"

It was supposed to be her job to taunt the dragon, but this idiot had more of a death wish than she did. 

Speak of the spawn of evil, and he shall come. "What fool dares insult me so?"

Suddenly, her little cousin gained dark scales, claws, sharp teeth, and blood red, glowing eyes with cat-like pupils. "A fool of a Took, and one who will scorch your shiny, metallic ass, if you don't beat it out of here."

Smaug laughed like thunder, echoing in the caves. "And why should I do that, little one?"

Aldagrim punched the dragon, sending him flying with a maniacal grin.

"Boy, I, literally, ate worms like you for breakfast, and I'm pretty famished right now. Hobbit metabolisms and all that."

He sailed through the air at Smaug, standing atop his snout, grinning down at the beast.

"Lookie here, you're just in time for second breakfast."

(Yeah, this isn't gonna happen for sure, but it's fun to write. I wonder if people know which dragon Aldagrim is?)

 


 

"We are not talking about this when we're about to die!"

Thranduil sliced through an orc. "Oh, yes we are. You tell me I abandoned our child, and you just did the same thing! What kind of a wife and mother are you?!"

"I am NOT your wife!"

Amaranth swung above his head, decapitating one of the fowl creatures.

Legolas watched both of them, "Mommy, Daddy, please stop fighting."

(Definitely not going to be in there, but I might put in something similar?)

 


 

Haleth stood back to back with Tauriel. The elf scowled, "Now what, little hobbit?"

"Bitch, I was the chieften of Haladin, and I led my poeple through desolate mountains with a shit ton of orcs. I killed over nine thousand of them!"

Tauriel pulled out some kind of glowing spectacles with numbers jumping all around it. Haleth blinked. "Over nine thousand, you say?"

"Yes, nine thousand."

There were other elves with similar glasses, and all crushed those spectacles, chorusing, "HER POWER LEVEL IS OVER NINE THOUSAND!!!"

"WHAT?" Thranduil called out from his overly majestic horse. "NINE THOUSAND!!!"

"...What are you doing?"

"NINE THOUSAND!!!"

(They're trying to make you into a Super Saiyan, Haleth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiMHTK15Pik   -  This is most certainly not going to be part of the story)

 


 

"Do you just have a thing for red heads, Legolas?" Kili asked, shooting beside the elf as they stood back to back.

Legolas squinted, "Why would I have a thing for red heads?"

Kili decided to try something. "No reason. Oh look, it's my cousin, Gimli."

"What, where?"

It took a moment, but Legolas paled.

"Oh no, he's hot."

Somewhere, Thranduil died of a heart attack.

(I'm really starting to wonder if I'm going to include any of this. I'm just having a writing spree at the moment.)

 


 

Another version of Belle encountering Aldagrim in Erebor.

"Aldagrim, why are you down here? Why are you in Erebor at all?!"

He picked up his cousin and lifted her into the hallway, wincing when he had to cover her mouth. Smaug raged on outside. "Er, Belle, this isn't a good time-"

"You better explain what's going on right now, young man!"

Under his breath he mumbled, "Honey you have no idea how old I really am."

"Excuse me."

Shit, don't back sass. Bad idea. Abort, abort! "Er, it's complicated cause uh...Look, we need to shoot that giant lizard in a hole in his chest. That way, nobody dies."

"How do you know about the hole?!"

"Er, I've got good eyesight? And great observation skills."

"Oh, do you now?"

Both slowly turned to see the wyrm himself, smirking at the them. Aldagrim sighed, allowing his more draconian features to come out.

"Screw this. FUS RO DAH MOTHERFUCKER!"

(You know what, my brain gets really weird sometimes, especially when I'm half asleep. Have fun making sense of any of this.)


 

Gror peeked out over the cart at the elves circling Laketown.

Ecthelion stood with him, both wary. "What could they want?"

"No idea," Gror said. "But who the fuck is that good looking bastard with the hair?"

Seeing Glorfinedel, Ecthelion palmed his face. "That's my good looking bastard with the hair."

Gror stared at the elf in hobbit form, and sighed, patting Ecthelion's shoulder comfortingly. "There there."

 

(I may ship Glorfindel and Ecthelion, just a wee bit.)

 


 

 

 Ecthelion glared at Thorin, causing the dwarrow to still. This was Belle's relative, one who remembered what he did before. Oh no, he needed to get on his knees and-

"Give me back my sword."

..."What?"

"Orcrist, was my sword."

Don't say, 'It's mine now'. Don't you dare say it. Grumbling, Thorin handed it over. Ecthelion muttered something under his breath, causing the sword to glow. Swinging it, the blade sliced through the air, and through stone. Thorin gaped as Ecthelion gave it back.

"You were using it wrong."

"B-But, h-how-? When-? What?"

Ecthelion smirked, "It was used to slay a Balrog. You really think glowing's all that thing can do?"

(Congratulations Thorin, you're a padawan to an elf.)

 


 

Gror waved Ecthelion forward and behind the giant rock before running away, the latter flushing as he saw Glorfindel laying down. Glorfindel was grinning that stupid smile as he watched birds flocking across the sky. The elf still didn't know who he was. He didn't know if he ever wanted Glorfindel to find out his supposedly beautiful partner was now...There was no shame in being a hobbit, but to the eyes of others, they were less than pleasing to the eye. And Glorfindel? He was the most beautiful, second to Luthien, the Golden Flower.

 But, there was always something that Ecthelion was good at besides fighting. Taking out his flute, Ecthelion swallowed nervously, but played. Glorfindel always loved sleeping underneath the sun, no matter how foolish. He looked exhausted though, so this might be one of the few exceptions...He always fell asleep to Ecthelion's softer music, the lullabies played. They used to make music together in Gondolin before it fell, but now? This would have to be the best he could do now.

Playing the melody, he watched as Glorfindel slowly fell to slumber, his breathing easing.

It was later that night, that Glorfindel approached the hobbit, graceful as always with those flowing locks dancing in the breeze. Ecthelion rolled his eyes. Ever mister perfect to everyone. If they only knew that he snored. The beautiful bastard stopped, shuffling his feet. What did he have to worry about?"

"...Thank you, for the song."

Don't blush. Don't blush. "You were tired. You needed it."

Glorfindel smiled softly, "You say that every time, and you always play the same tune, our tune."

What?

The elf sat down next to Ecthelion, gaze shy. "We keep meeting, whether you're an elf, a man, or now? A hobbit. Yet, you've never stopped taking my breath away, Ecthelion."

He knew. He bloody knew. And he-? "I, I only remember my first life with you, and this one which has occurred twice now, little flower. I am sorry."

"You didn't remember those lives either," Glorfindel murmured, tipping Ecthelion's chin, eyes lowered to his lips. "But I always will, and I'll always find you, if you'll have me."

Hesitant, Ecthelion murmured, "Even if I become a dwarf?"

"If you become a dwarf, you'll most certainly have the most beautiful beard in all of Arda."

By the Valar, this idiot was going to drive him mad.

Gripping Glorfindel's face, Ecthelion pressed their lips together. And if anyone got an eyefull? They could go to the Halls of Mandos for all he cared.

A short distance away, Gror cheered on for his best friend, and may or may not have lit a few fireworks. Thank goodness they didn't kill anybody.

(Fine, I don't just ship them a little. I ship them a lot. Happy? At least Belle and Thorin aren't the only ones snogging anymore.) 

 


 

 

Sauron, in his full armor, glared at Melian, who stared flatly back.

"A hobbit, comes to challenge me?"

Arching a brow, Melian said, "I am the reincarnation of Melian, wife to Thingol, and mother to Luthien. Luthien, as in the woman who kicked your pathetic ass when you dared to harm her love." He stilled, and Melian slowly smirked, "Think very carefully. Luthien learned everything from me, and she defeated you, easily. What makes you think you can defeat me, when you couldn't defeat her?"

(Yep, Luthien wasn't ever just a pretty face, and her mother isn't someone to be underestimated either.)

 


 

"To hell with shiny things!" Gror yelled, throwing the Arkenstone into the deepest pits of Erebor.

All stared, and the former dwarf scowled. "It's always magical shiny things. There were the Silmaril, then the Rings, then the Arkenstone...When is people obsessing over freakin' shiny stuff going to be a good thing? Do you have any idea how many people died over any of those things? WHY?!"

"But, the Silmaril-?" Milian started, only to get shushed by Gror.

"Those are a bunch of shiny, burning rocks! They do almost nothing but look pretty! Even Fili is more useful!"

"HEY!"

Melian shook her head, "But, they're supposed to hold the light of the Two Trees! They're supposed to shape the fate of all! They're-"

"SHINY ROCKS!" Gror yelled. "I get that they're supposed to bring about an age of 'eternal bliss', but for Mahal's sake why don't we fix what's here instead of being fascinated by things we can't even understand?! The Valar are supposed to get it again, if they haven't already. So, stop depending on those things, and get your own arses up instead of depending on miracle rocks."

"But, Morgoth stole them many years ago?"

"Yeah and he put them in his little tiara," Gror said in a high pitch tone, pretending to flick his hair back. "The Rings? They mess people up! Look at Galadriel! She's been fucked up! And don't even get me started on the bloody Arkenstone, or those pretty little gems on Thranduil's sparkly necklace. Seriously, Thranduil, you're majestic enough as it is, who in Mandos' Halls cares about how flashy you are?!"

"But, the Silmaril-"

The dwarf screeched, "Morgoth can stick them wherever the hell he wants. Heck, I'll personally show them where they can go!"

Somewhere, Morgoth had the sudden sensation of being afraid, being very afraid.

(I'm not too familiar of the Silmarils, unfortunately, but for some reason, people keep getting obsessed with shiny things, and ironically, dwarrow are not the issues with a lot of these stories - I actually do like what I have read/researched so far, but I call out bullshit whenever I can.)


 

"Hey, Melian? Did it ever bother you that Luthien fell for someone outside her species?"

Melian gave the asshole a look that sent shivers up his spine. "I'm not an elf, but I fucked one. Trust me, forbidden romances aren't a thing in this bloodline."

(Yeah, star crossed lovers my ass. If my information's right, Melian outlived Thingol, so the whole mortal/immortal concept? As long as her daughter's happy, everyone can screw themselves.)


 

"He's a dragon, who's also a hobbit?"

"Yeah?"

"That's stupid as fuck."

(Quoting some family members. Headcanon is that the dragons appeared when the fae disappeared...For reasons.)

 


 

Belle and Thorin held the Ring together, and Belle smirked, "You know, when I thought of getting you a ring and sharing it with me, this isn't exactly what I had in mind."

Thorin blushed, and said, "I'll get you better rings, soon enough."

Grinning, she kissed his cheek, "I'll hold you to that."

Together, they threw the ring into the fires of Mordor. Getting onto the Eagles, they flew out, Thorin making sure Belle stayed on, only for him to nearly fall off as the sharp wind caused by the explosions hit them. She caught him instead, their faces close. Belle's hands accidently drifted as she pulled him back up, coming across something hard. This time, she was the one blushing.

In her attempt to recover, she teased, "Got something in your pants?"

Smiling nervously, Thorin led her onto the stone that the Eagles settled them on. And in front of everyone, he knelt, pulling out two rings from his pocket. "As a matter of fact..."

(These two still have a lot to talk about and develop throughout the story, but this is a sweet scene my head concocted.)

 


 

 "Hey, Aldagrim? Which dragon were you? Were you big?" little Tilda asked. "What was it like being a dragon?"

He hesitated, trying to find the words to tell someone so young and innocent. How does one speak of torture, of being shaped and reshaped into something unrecognizable from who you were? Of feeling rage and sadism without knowing why, wondering if the reason was because you wanted others to suffer as you had? Of being a weapon and prisoner, with the world believing you were evil...And knowing that you were evil. Wondering if you still were?

"...Being a dragon, was full of loves, and failures," he murmured. "Having scales, meant you shielded yourself from love in the world, and denied it so you wouldn't be vulnerable, so that you wouldn't be hurt. But, the few joys that you could have, were from things you could keep to yourself, and to fly with the little freedom you had."

Dragons kept hoards, because they wanted things of their own. Some hoarded food, animals, humans, or even gold. For Aldagrim?

"What did you keep, what did you hoard?"

Shutting his eyes, he saw all those who burned under him. He saw Tilda's fear within his mind, knowing once upon a time, she too, had to face dragon fire. How she could stand to be near him... "I hoarded power. Control over others, because I had no control over myself."

Tilda placed a hand on his arm. "What do you hoard now?"

The hobbit, the dragon, looked up at the people he'd come to know, of all races. "My family. I treasure them, and their happiness."

Bard's youngest daughter nodded. 

"I bet you were big, big and pretty. You still are."

Seeing that kid smile, yeah, he still felt big.

If he was always going to be the bad guy, then he might as well be one for the right reasons.

"Uncle Aldagrim?" He hummed in response. "Who were you?"

"...The biggest, and most foolish dragon to ever exist," he murmured, his smile turning soft. "Maybe enough, to become a Fool of a Took."

(Writing Aldagrim/dragon boy, is always fun. Redeeming characters can be tricky, but seeing them melt? That's when you know you've done something right.)

 

 

Chapter Text

The dwarf king blushed as he saw his beloved...As a male. She/he/they blushed even more than he did. "Is this a bit weird?"

"You're gorgeous," he said automatically. 

There was a long pause. Before Thorin could apologize, Belle grinned, "Y'know, my mother wanted to name me Bilbo if I were a boy. Wanna try calling me that?"

"Yes."

They stared at each other, both smiling.

"Bedroom?"

"Bedroom."

So much for propriety.

(Thorin doesn't care about that stuff Bilbo/Belle, he just wuves you - I'm a Thilbo shipper regardless of gender/sex.)


 

"Uncle, what were you called back in the Shire? When you lived there? Did you still keep your title?"

Thorin couldn't look his nephews in the eye, glancing at Belle from the corner of his eyes. "Well, beside Thains or Mediators, there's no true positions of authority there. And, I was never a king to them, so they didn't really care about that stuff."

"So, what were you called then?"

"...Master Bagginshield."

If Fili and Kili nearly choked on their ale, Thorin didn't notice.

(I had to and I'm not sorry. - The mediator concept comes from Mynuet's The Mediator: https://archiveofourown.org/works/779298/chapters/1467271)


 

"So, you and Mistress Amaranth knew eachother when you lived in the Shire?"

Amaranth and Thorin shared a look, the former not even giving Thranduil a glance. "Yes, I helped him raise children together. They were adorable."

"WHAT?!" both Thorin and Thranduil yelped, the elf king about to murder the dwarven one.

The lady hobbit merely tossed coins with Elrond and his sons, and smirking at the chaos around them.

(Yeah, Amaranth is really bitter, at both of them.)


 

Aldagrim made a small noise when he saw Bard cleaning up the black arrows, the newly made king arching a brow, only for his eyes to widen.

"Oh, that's right, you're a dragon."

The poor hobbit choked a little, paling. "Eh, it's not seeing dragon guts or stuff that could kill you that bothers me. It's..."

Bard inspected the metallic weapons, scrunching up his brows. "You knew these, from before Smaug."

Unable to look Bard in the eye, he whispered, "I know who they're made from. That's what I need to deal with."

"'Who'?" Bard asked, the human himself gaping. "These were made from a dragon?!"

"Not just any dragon," he murmured, shaking as he picked it up, grimacing.

"Why?"

"Yeah, I do," Aldagrim sighed, flinching as he cleaned the spear-like objects. "...People can't easily kill dragons, but dragons can kill dragons, even in death. It's why the one who killed the 'Father of Dragons' had a helmet crafted from the creatures. It's why Thranduil wanted the necklace the dwarrow of Durin's people have...It was made from the teeth of Scatha, the youngest of us-" He swallowed, "The last dragon of Morgoth."

Bard swallowed, worried. "And, these?"

Aldagrim merely continued cleaning the blade before setting it down. His tone was still neutral, eerily calm. "Ancalagon the Black, I believe was his title. He was the largest dragon to ever have been created, his body crushing the three volcanoes that Morgoth was connected to, and defended his realm. Those volcanoes were also the highest points in Middle Earth at the time."

"Smaug is the last of the dragons," Bard breathed in realization. "Or, he was."

Smiling anxiously, Aldagrim tried to contain his trembling. "Please, can we not discuss this anymore? While I am ashamed of my actions and the actions of my kind..."

"You miss them," the archer said, tentative when placing a gentled hand on the hobbit's shoulder. "I'm sorry for those you lost."

Laughing bitterly, Aldagrim huffed, "The dragons committed atrocities I can't even begin to list. And I was one of them."

"That doesn't make their lives or the memories you shared worth any less," Bard replied. "Look at Durin's blood, Aragorn's, and even some in Elrond's family. There are terrible people in all races, all who have committed terrible acts. But we loved them all the same. And, it is that love that save all in the end." Meeting the tiniest hobbit's sorrowful and conflicted gaze, he uttered with a kind smile, "You were all burdened by Morgoth and his heirs, and suffered because of him. If you have been reborn, then I have little doubt the others will finally be granted peace as you have the chance to."

The hobbit slowly smiled back. "Can I, can I tell you of them? And my wife?"

Bard's own smile grew, "Of course you can."

There was love in all lifetimes, and more than enough to share.

(I love the idea of those who are supposed to be enemies becoming friends. Bard the Dragonslayer becoming friends with a dragon? Talking over being dads? Maybe it won't happen in the fanfic, but I like the idea at the very least.)


 

Continuation of Aldagrim talking to Bard about being part of a dragon family.

"It was true that Glaurung was known as the Father of Dragons," Aldagrim snorted, helping Bard with the rubble. Rebuilding Dale was going to take a lot of time and effort, but it would be worth it. "But he was a shitty dad. He hated being locked up, being a 'surprise tactic' for Morgoth's wars. And since we were locked in with him, he'd take out his temper on us. He practiced using his skills in warping the mind on us. Maybe that's part of what fucked us up so much."

Glaurung had done a lot of things, including erasing the mind of a traumatized elven woman. That, led to a lot of problems, including his inevitable demise, and a tale of horrific incest because of the amnesia. The rotten bastard got the vengeance he'd wanted in the end after all, when both his slayer and the woman killed themselves, the truth of their identities revealed to them. And that was one of the kinder tales that Aldagrim knew.

Bard winced, "You must've hated him."

"At first, but he'd also take our beatings from Morgoth for us," Aldagrim admitted. "Or, maybe that was his mind games. He usually made reality hard to figure out...I wish I could say he cared for us a little, being someone who was to watch over us by Morgoth's own orders, but maybe that only made him angrier." Aldagrim frowned, his hands gaining cuts. "We were supposed to be strong, and never show weakness. We were never to think, to feel, to..."

His jaw clenched, Aldagrim's eyes glowing red for a moment before returning to their more hobbitish colors. "Everyone else made a pact to keep Scatha, the youngest of us, safe. He brought us treasures in turn. He liked dwarven works most of all, saying they were the prettiest. We said that his hording would get him killed, and, it did."

Allowing his sharpened claws to appear, Aldagrim sliced through stone, making it more mobile for those who needed to move it. "We used to play hide and seek, and chase the sheep. His favorite food was sheep, especially the ones with horns. 'Makes it easier to clean the teeth', he said. Well, you idiot, I guess you had teeth nice enough to go into those pretty jewelry you always liked."

"Aldagrim?" Bard asked, worried.

The hobbit transitioned back into his current form. "Gostir laughed when he witnessed Gothmog slain at Gondolin, his orders having been to burn the place down. Morgoth's wrath wasn't kind. Poor bastard got lashes hard enough to break off his scales. The guy became a right terrible sight to behold. Everyone, everyone, would run away from him sooner than they did the rest of us. He never regretted it though. Gothmog was an asshole...I think in different circumstances, in another life, he and Ecthelion might've been friends. He might've even liked you, and called you 'spunky'. He did for me."

"I'm flattered?" Bard asked, causing Aldagrim to snicker.

"Chrysophylax might've liked you as much as he did me or anyone else for that matter. He uh, found sentient beings of all races to be very appetizing, including one of the hatchlings. Little fella, he was only a few days old when he accidentally crawled into the wrong nest. He thought, he thought it was his mother." Bard was going to say something in disgust, when Aldagrim said, "He had been starved often by Morgoth and his forces. He nearly bit of parts of me enough. Poor bastard had lost his mind, over and over again.

His tense form relaxed a little. "Drogoth, I only ever heard of so I'm not even sure his existence is true. He was a strange one though. He liked people, but in a very different way from Chrysophylax. He found them interesint, and he loved music. He made friends with goblins, even if he wasn't a fan of their savagery. Then, he made friends with elves and dwarves in a time of great need. Last I heard, he, and Glorfindel fought together to keep Morgoth's army from Rivendell. I don't know how he died."

 Becoming quiet, he whispered, "I didn't have these abilities before, these memories. I was just a hobbit, one who got married, had children, and they had children...Those children were friends with Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Nothing about them was unordinary besides their fun and chaotic loving nature, the little pranksters. They loved hide and seek too...And now, I don't know if I should have children. How would they live? Would they suffer because of me? Would my returned powers pass onto them? Should I even-?"

This time, Bard only hugged him. There were no clear answers, and certainly none the archer could provide.

(Dragons are usually portrayed as pure monsters in Tolkien's works, wanting power or greed. What if, there was some good inside them even before the possibility of a chance at happiness? Again, this might not happen in the actual fanfic.)


 

 

Gror stepped inside Erebor, his hands brushing against familiar, crumbled stone. He could see his brother laughing as the siblings embraced, their own sons greeting each other. He saw their boys playing and reading together.

He was there when Smaug came. It was the second time one of his homes had been invaded, attacked by another dragon. He lost one of his brothers there, the ever smiling Fror. He helped Dis escape, and did his best to keep Frerin from scarring. Frerin, he'd been named after Fror. Thorin had broken down, Thrain calling for his father, and the Battle of Moria?

Gror saw the older brother he had once sworn to fight beside, decapitated by a pale orc. He saw his brother's confused expression frozen in time. Gror's son, Nain, he was supposed to protect his boy. His son died there, leaving Dain fatherless, and enraged at Gror for failing to stop the death of someone they both loved. Frerin? He died, almost like how Fror was.

Dain hated him for it all. He hated Gror for his uncles all dying. He hated how Gror couldn't defeat the orcs. He hated Gror for...

There he was. The dwarfling had become a dwarf, with an iron foot. Gror finally understood how Amaranth, Ecthelion, and Aldagrim felt.

There were too many regrets to feel.

"And what is your name, little hobbit?"

Gror's grandson held out his hand, smiling at the hobbit with a hopeful expression he'd never held for Gror himself.

No, Gror didn't think he'd ever tell the boy who he was. He knew he was being greedy for it, but, he wanted to see those smiles more. The smile of Fror, of Frerin, of Nain...

"Hildifons," Gror said in the most pleasant tone he could manage, shaking the familiar hand. "Hildifons, Hildifons Took."

(Why am I writing angst? Anyways, not sure if I'll keep this kind of dynamic/initial storyline I had for these two. There's too much angst everywhere.) 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Thorin Oakenshield had lived two lifetimes, and in one of them, he had raised so many children that he could make songs of their stories.

Fili may be his heir, but he was also so much more. He was the little boy that grew up watching over his brother, learning how to be cautious and observant. Kili found some joy wherever he went.

Daisy, Hamson, Halfred, May, Marigold and Sam had become part of his family in the Shire. Didonas and Dodinas had made his new home familiar, their mischief reflecting his dearest nephews. Primula and Drogo were children when he first met them, and they grew up too. He lost them to a river, and raised their child, little Frodo.

As years passed, he helped raise so many, lessening the ache in his heart.

And now? They were there, in a battlefield, in the Battle of the Five Armies.

Hamfast came, choosing to fight alongside the Tooks, and Thorin could only think of the life the hobbit once had. He was a gardener, not a warrior.

Dido and Dodi fought alongside Fili and Kili, panic in their eyes. Both sets of nephews clearly remembered battles long past, the scars having been left behind. Both Prim and Drogo were there, and Thorin tried not to scream at the memory of little Frodo, all alone. But, the fauntling didn't even exist yet. He might not if this kept happening.

All Thorin could think as he watched both of his families in the bloodshed, was he prayed they all make it out alive.


 

Thranduil stood back to back with his hobbit, his beloved, his wife. At least, they had been in another lifetime. Seeing her bleed again, made his heart stop, ice filling it. "Why did you run away? Why'd you run away from Legolas, from me? Surely you know we love you. You know I would fight for you. That I can't lose you again."

She tensed, then laughed bitterly, wetly. The last time he had heard her cry, was when she was about to die. When she begged him to get their son to safety. When she had been torn apart, nearly nothing left behind. They hadn't a body to bury. "Oh Thrandy-"

For a moment, he gave into a smile, his soul lightening at the old nickname.

"Do you even remember my old name?"

Their eyes met, hers searching his, eyes watering even more than they had before. He racked his mind, desperate. He fell to his knees, choking. "I-"

Amaranth Brandybuck shook her head, her voice shaky. "No one remembers. My life didn't exist, didn't mean anything to you. And what hurts the most, isn't that I doubt our son even knows, but where everyone that's been reincarnated remembers their own names, I don't. There's barely even a hint of me existing here. The only true proof is our son, and you decided he couldn't know who I was, either."

His heart shattered, and he bowed his head as she raised her blade towards him, his shame filling him. Instead of meeting him, the sword sliced through an orc behind him. She was shaking her head at him, tears streaking her cheek. "That's not love Thranduil. That's not real love. That's making me nothing more than something to throw away. I'm just something to use, and maybe I always have been."

She turned her back to him, still for a moment, and ran forward, running at the orcs and screaming a battle cry filled with agony. As for Thranduil, he wondered if he was already dead.


 

"You never answered his question." Amaranth faced Legolas, the part of her past she had fear the most. "You didn't say why you left."

Amaranth's jaw clenched, and she tried not to lash out at the person she loved most in this world. "Because...I don't deserve to hold you in my arms. I don't regret going after you, fighting for you, giving my life for you, but I hate myself for not being there. I'm so angry at Thranduil for making what happened to me hurt so much, even if thinking about him sometimes..."

She couldn't finish the sentence, instead finding words for something else. "And I can't bring back the mother that you should have had. I can't bring back the wife Thranduil...Did he love me? I can't be who any of you want me to be. I can't be what you deserve. I can't be the person I was before. I'm not a queen, or an elf, or a mother. I'm, just a hobbit. A hobbit that's trying to do the best she can, and failing."

Legolas hugged her, his tears hitting her just as hers did him. Shaking, she held him tight, never having gotten to before.

"My lifespan is so short now," Amaranth croaked. "I wanted you to have a better future. I didn't want to hurt you. I didn't want you to know me, and then lose me so soon. I thought, it'd be kinder to everyone. I thought, I was doing the right thing."

Her son choked out, "I've wanted my mother, for so long. I wanted my family. I don't care if it's just for a few moments. I want to spend as much time as I can with you two. You don't have to spend it together. I just want what I never had."

Most people did. Her fingers clutched onto him, wanting to feel him closer to her heart. "Gi melin, little leaf. Gi melin."


 

Dodi screamed as Dido fell, a sword in his twin's shoulder. Jumping on top of the foul creature, he slit his throat, relieved to see Kili and Fili aiding and protecting his sibling.

Terror in his expression, he breathed when Kili said, "He'll be fine, but we need to get him out of here.

Please, don't die again. Not like this. Not in battle where they'd been separated so distantly that they could only watch. That they couldn't reach. Please, don't let this happen.


 

Thorin tossed Etchelion Orcirst intermittently as they fought, both covering the other with Thorin's Oakenshield. Both wielders of the sword moved fluidly as the fiery blade sliced easily through their opponents, smoke swirling in the air.

They were both worthy, and would save their people, again.

(Seen Avengers Endgame? Yeah, that battle with Thorin and Cap teaming up? No spoilers, but that's what I imagine with these two.)

 


 

"Ten!"

"Fifteen!"

"Haleth! Gimli! Stop competing! That's my thing with my boyfriend!"

"Sure thing, Legolas! Laters Gimli!"


 

(Don't normally do this, but what if...)

 

"I should have let you die long ago you miserable traitor!" He shrieked, his hatred for the small creature burning. She said his name again, brokenly, pleading. No, she would get nothing from him. "You have no place amongst us! And you never will!"

She shuddered once more, looking away briefly as her eyes watered in pain. What right did she have to cry when he was the one betrayed?! When he had trusted her?! When she had stolen what was most precious to him?! Then she looked up, and something didn't feel right. Something about her eyes, they pierced him. Why did this feel wrong? She would deserve whatever befell her, right?

That's when she murmured something that caused his heart to twinge slightly. "I'm sorry I wasn't enough."

Thorin watched as the traitor finally stopped holding the blade a bay. Instead, she appeared resigned, a single tear and fearsome eyes glowing in the setting sun as his blade pierced her. The skies and ground already had been colored red and yellow, but these colors hurt him even more then what was on the battlefield. The golden glint of his blade in the light was no longer beautiful-

The King Under the Mountain choked, heavy arms tugging him back, and another squeezing his wrist until he dropped the blade. Growling, he twisted to hit whoever it was, only to get punched himself. In front of him, was Dwalin, wounds all over. Next to him, was Fili and Kili, the latter running to Belle's side as she fell to her knees. Thorin coughed, touching the sore, blooming bruise on his jaw.

Staring, he realized what he'd almost done. Belle's shirt was slightly red, her sword away from her. His eyes found his own, reddened, reddened with her blood. She began falling over, Kili picking her up.

He, he almost killed her. Wait, did he kill her? He rasped her name, horror taking over, all rage dissipating. He did this. He did all of it.

Kili glared, running with Fili as he carried her, saying things to keep her awake, to keep her alive. Dwalin also looked upon him with anger, fists clenched. Shaking his head, he backed away.

What had he done?

...

He couldn't bring himself to see her. Not after what he did to her. But, somehow, she found him. When she did, she kicked him just as she had when he teased her in her own home. He took the blow, not complaining.

Belle had never been angry before, not truly. Disappointed, frustrated, irritated, but never angry. She was frightening.

"Why," she whispered. "Why wasn't I enough?"

He didn't stop her as she left the mountain, when she left him. He couldn't bring himself to. He never deserved her or her kindness. He had called her lost, when he was more lost than she ever had been.

So, he let her go. 

(There are multiple ways this kind of AU could go, like how these two can spend the rest of their lives away from each other, and maybe meet for a final time during the War of the Ring. There are a lot of fun ideas that could branch from this, but for now, angst.)

 

 

 

Chapter Text

EDIT

12/11/2019 - Hey everybody, a group and I had a research project for a few classes that involves a survey. We needed a larger sample size. I'm happy to say that we got more than enough responses for the project and I just wanted to thank everyone for helping out.

If you want to check out the results, here's the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-5ZFXQ8JS7/

Thank you!