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Ushmar Mukhas

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Chapter 1

"Save them! They did not deserve their fate!"

"The line of Durin was not meant to die! Save them!"

"SAVE THEM!"

Bilbo Baggins woke with a start and groaned as he opened his eyes. For some reason, he was lying partly on his side and partly into the face down into the ground. Rubbing his head, Bilbo pushed his chest off the ground and propped himself up on his elbows as he looked around. He was in a forest, that much was obvious with the trees all around him. But it wasn't the Old Forest next to Buckland, knowing what it looked like due to venturing there once on a dare. Never again!

Pushing himself up so he could tuck his legs under him, Bilbo immediately knew that there was something different with his legs. Looking down, Bilbo first noticed that his chest was a lot hairier than normal. The small triangle patch that had once fit between his nipples and mid-way down his ribcage had spread to engulf his nipples and down to the bottom of his ribcage. But that is when things got really different.

Bilbo didn't see the normal flesh with fuzzy curled top feet. Instead he saw long and nimble but powerful golden-brown legs with cloven hoofs and two smaller dewclaws a little bit above the hoofs. Eyes trailing his new legs, which ran all the way up to his hips before changing into the normal flesh he was used to seeing, before looking back further along the barrel and down the hind legs of his new… add-ons/body.

Bilbo wasn't sure how or why, but he now a Guardiano dei Cervi, a Guardian Deer in his native hobbit tounge. Truly a 'Halfling', half-deer, half-hobbit… That term was so insulting, he was half of nothing! It was the rest of the people in Middle-Earth that were so freakishly tall! Except the dwarves.

"Right." Bilbo huffed in frustration.

He had no idea how he got here, -wherever here was- or how his legs somehow became that of a deer. Especially since the last thing he recalled was… nothing. He couldn't remember what it was he had been doing before he woke up in the middle of the forest! Wait… he could remember the voice of two people, a man and a woman, pleading with him…

"SAVE THEM!"

Right. Save the line of Durin from their fate, which apparently was dying before their appropriate time. Bilbo had no idea who or what a 'Durin' was, and then his mind was filled with images of four, no five people… dwarves. The first had golden hair and a beard that flowed to the bottom of his ribcage, Víli. The second was another golden haired dwarf, except his beard was a lot shorter and his mustache was braided on either side of his mouth, Fíli.

The third one had dark hair and stubble for a beard, with brown eyes that glistened mischievously, Kíli. The fourth had raven black hair and piercing sapphire blue eyes that seemed to go right through Bilbo's heart and soul, Thorin Oakenshield. The fifth and final dwarf was female, her black beard was very fine in her own right, (but it wasn't a full facial beard like the male dwarves), and her eyes were a shade lighter than her brother's, Dís.

While he didn't know their back-stories or anything like that, Bilbo did know that he had a job to do. Find them, and save them from dying. But he wouldn't be able to find them, much less save them from dying, if he couldn't figure out how to walk. So let's try standing up, shall we?

"Ow!"

Do deer stand with their front legs first, or their back legs?

~

A few months had passed, and Bilbo had settled into a routine, after he'd figured out how to stand, walk, run, and avoid getting his antlers from getting caught on tree branches. Yes, he had antlers… and deer ears instead of hobbit ones! Find food, drink, and wood, take back to the thicket bed or cave, eat, sleep, and repeat in no particular order. A few times a caravan had come by, but Bilbo remained hidden. He didn't want to accidentally be mistaken for a real deer and killed for dinner.

In fact, today was the first time that he purposely watched one from the thicket. The first time the group of dwarves had gone by, he had almost been discovered by them as they traveled southward. After the group had passed by, Bilbo had begun to have dreams of them… or recalled memories of them while he was asleep. So they were Dreameries? Memoreams? Dreams of memories… was there an official word for that?

It was a group of dwarves, about a couple dozen or so. There were two wagons carrying food and other items, with most of the dwarves riding ponies or walking. Some of the dwarves Bilbo recognized once he saw them. The tattooed bald one with the twin axes strapped to his back and giant war hammer in hand was Dwalin, the one with the long black and white beard and unique sword-mace was Balin, the one with the funny hat and mattock was Bofur, the one with the axe in his head and boar spear in his hand was Bifur, and the one leading the procession with raven black hair, sapphire blue eyes, dark blue sleeveless coat lined with warg fur, and a petrified branch of oak tree larger than his forearm… was Thorin Oakenshield.

In the wagon directly behind him was a golden haired male dwarf with a small golden haired dwarf in his lap, and next to him was a dwarf woman who had the same black hair and many facial features as Thorin. In her arms was a bundle of blankets that had a pair of tiny arms waving about. If Bilbo could see the babe, he knew it would be Kíli. The dwarf woman was his mother and Thorin's younger sister, Dís, and her firstborn son, Fíli, was sitting in the lap of his father, Víli.

Bilbo recalled the nighttime memories that had flooded his mind for several days after he had seen the royal line of Durin for the first time. That was how Bilbo knew that he had never before met Dís; she had died the winter immediately following a quest of some sort, somehow knowing that her brother and sons had died in a battle before she had even received a message. He'd never met Víli either, the dwarf having died in a skirmish with orcs shortly after Kíli's birth. Kíli had almost died during that same attack as well.

"Sho gad adol! (Drink their blood!)"

Bilbo cringed at the sound of the tongue known as the Black Speech, having no good memories of when he had ever heard that tongue. He knew that there would be something seriously wrong with him if he did. The orcs -by the Valar, they were uglier than he remembered- burst out of the forest on the other side of the path, making Bilbo realize how fortunate he was to have not been spotted by them as he traveled earlier that day.

"Du bekàr! (To arms!)" Thorin called to his kin, who immediately answered with the sounds of battle cries and weapons being drawn. "Du bekàr! (To arms!)"

Despite not being in the battle and hidden in the forest, Bilbo felt adrenaline rush threw him as he watched. The wagon drivers urged the ponies forward as fast as they could while the remaining dwarves did battle with the orcs. Thankfully, there were no wargs. Thorin battled with a grace and skill that was rarely seen by any, almost as if he was dancing, and Bilbo couldn't tear his eyes away until Dís screamed.

Head turning so quickly he nearly gave himself whiplash, Bilbo watched in horror as a second wave of orcs attacked the wagons, which were attempting to cross a bridge over a river. Fíli had been pushed under a basket of wheat by his father, who now had twin blades that had belonged to Fíli later in his life in his hands to defend his family. Dís had tucked Kíli into another basket of food next to Fíli, and was now hacking off the head of orcs with an ax by her husband's side.

Bilbo froze as time seemed to slow down around him. An orc leapt off of a rock with his sword above his head. Víli turned at the wrong time and was unable to get his swords up in time to block. Then the orc was pulled back to the rock, and Víli still lived. Bilbo panted as he watched the orc climb to the top of the rock and ready his sword. In an instant, Bilbo knew he had to get between the orc and Víli. Dís' husband would die if he didn't.

Bilbo's legs churned, his hand closed around the hilt of a short sword of a fallen dwarf, and he was bounding over the bridge posts. The orc leapt at Víli, who turned as he pulled his swords out of the orc he had just killed, and realized that he wasn't going to survive. Dís turned her head in time to see the orc coming down on her husband. None of them saw the deer.

Bilbo sailed over Víli's head as he brought the sword in his hand down in a diagonal slash across the orc's face and chest. There was a gurgle as the orc dropped dead and Bilbo landed on his feet. Panting, Bilbo turned to see if Víli was alright, and blushed as he realized that all of the dwarves, (and the orcs), were all staring at him with their jaws dropped. His deer ears went back against his skull, not really pleased with the sudden attention, though he honestly should have seen it coming.

"What?" Bilbo mumbled.

The word had everyone, dwarf and orcs alike, springing back into the fight. Bilbo himself dodged several more orcs, stabbing each of them with the sword that he had in his hand. A baby's cry first had his ear swivel, and then his head as he realized that Kíli wasn't crying from the wagon. He was crying from the basket his mother had put him in that was now being carried down the river, the wagon having been overturned at some point.

The sword fell from the hobbit-deer's hands and he ran after the basket. He could hear Dís screaming behind him about Kíli. Thankfully there were no orcs in front of him as he ran. Eyes trained on the basket and on where he was running, Bilbo was so thankful that he knew about the hidden stepping stones under the surface of the water. Ahead of the basket carrying the dwarf, (how long had he been running?), Bilbo turned and leapt to the first stone, and carefully jumped to each new one, until he was right where he needed to be.

"Got you." Bilbo sighed as his arms scooped up the wet and crying dwarfling.

Kíli stared at him with the big brown eyes that he had inherited from his father. Bilbo knew it was nothing short of a miracle that Kíli hadn't fallen into the river when the wagon overturned. Steadying himself carefully, the flowing river ever dangerous even to someone with nimble feet like himself, Bilbo focused on the next stepping stone and leapt. A few more bounds and they were safe on dry land… Or so he had thought.

"Agh!" Bilbo yelled as his left back hip burst in pain.

Bilbo stumbled, hearing the orcs yelling as more arrows whizzed by. Damn, orc weapons were typically poisoned. He couldn't wait for the dwarves, be they Víli and Dís or Thorin, he simply was too exposed on the river bank with an orc arrow in his flank. With a glanced over his shoulder, Bilbo could see Thorin hacking down the orcs on the other side of the river bank, but the archers were on the other side of the group of 10. Their eyes met, golden hazel with sapphire blue. With his face twisting unhappily at the decision he had to make, Bilbo turned ran back into the forest as fast as he could, out of range of the orcs and their poisonous arrows. Which wasn't very fast, he was mostly hobbling and stumbling as he rushed away.

He needed to find some Kingsfoil, and fast.

~

"Did you see?"

"What was that thing?"

"It was intelligent, we all heard it speak."

"Just because something talks doesn't mean it's intelligent."

"Yeah, just look at the orcs… or Bofur."

"Hey!"

Thorin was breathing heavily as he came back to the caravan. All eyes turned to him, but there were only three that he sought out. Dís' face twisted in sorrow when she saw that he didn't have her newborn son with him.

"He's not dead." Thorin told his sister. "The orcs wounded the… deer-thing with an arrow after he crossed the river on hidden stepping stones. He has Kíli."

"If I'm not mistaken…" Balin paused as his cousins looked to him. "That 'deer-thing' was one of the Ushmar Mukhas."

Thorin blinked. Everyone else paused as well. The Ushmar Mukhas, the Guardian Deer, were believed to have been legend. Child fairy tales of a creature who was half-deer and half-something else, that had helped Durin the Deathless shortly after his awakening in Mount Gundabad. The creature, called Ásmundr, had stayed by Durin's side for his entire life and died defending him as the War of Wrath was waged throughout Middle-Earth during the end of the First Age.

"Truly?" Thorin asked.

"Yes." Balin nodded. "I do believe that young Kíli will be in safe hands. Víli certainly was."

"Aye." Víli nodded as he held his wife and firstborn close. "I wouldn't be here if he hadn't tackled that orc that was coming at me."

Thorin shivered as he recalled the orc that had nearly killed his brother-in-law. All of them knew that Víli now owed the deer his life, and that Kíli did as well. Hopefully, the Ushmar Mukhas would bring the youngest of the line of Durin back, and soon. But until then, they would have to trust that he would do as his title suggested. That he would be little Kíli's guardian, and would keep the babe whole and healthy, until he returned.

~

"Ow, ow, ow!" Bilbo whimpered as he pressed the Kingsfoil to his wound a day later.

Bilbo had not pulled the arrowhead out, only snapped off most of the shaft, mainly out of fear of permanently damaging something if he did it wrong. He'd much rather have someone who knew what they were doing take it out. The only thing he could do right now was apply something to keep any potential poison and infection down to low levels. And also to not walk or run on his back left leg as much as possible.

A soft gurgle caught Bilbo's attention, and he turned his head to smile at the babe that was wrapped up in a dry blanket. The blanket that Dís had wrapped Kíli in while they traveled had been soaked, as well as his clothes and nappie. Bilbo had managed to get to his thicket shelter, used an old shirt he'd found at the bottom of a canyon to dry Kíli off, another for a new nappie, and a final one as a new blanket. He had also found a pair of saddle bags that he could use on himself to carry food or supplies, and one blanket that hadn't been totally ruined by the weather.

"Yes, I'm happy to see you too." Bilbo cooed.

The baby dwarf gurgled again. Bilbo knew that he needed to get the babe back to Ered Luin soon, simply because he couldn't provide the mother's milk that Kíli needed to survive. The winter snows were going to start in a month or two, but he didn't know how far it was to the home that the dwarves had made in the mountains. If it was too far, he would have to keep himself and Kíli fed throughout the winter, and that would be really difficult. His best bet would be to get to Ered Luin, and pronto.

The orc packs on the road would make it dangerous, but what choice did he have?

"Alright Kíli me-lad, time for a little adventure." Bilbo sighed.

Bilbo picked up the only blanket he had, made it into a sling, and placed Kíli inside, holding the baby close to him. Then Bilbo gingerly stood back up, wincing as he kept his back leg off of the ground and hobbled out of the thicket. Glancing around, and thankful that there were no orcs, Bilbo quickly made his way back to the road and followed it to the bridge. Still no orcs, thank Yavanna. With his ears swiveling all around to catch as much sound as he could, Bilbo entered the narrow gully on the other side of the bridge.

It was difficult traveling. He hadn't gotten very far past the bridge and already his hip was screaming at him to stop. But he couldn't. Bilbo panted, and felt sweat running down the sides of his face. Damn, the athelas wasn't working was well as he wanted… probably because he had the arrowhead still in his hip. But he couldn't stop. Thankfully, Kíli had fallen asleep and didn't have to witness his suffering.

And then the orcs screeched as they jumped at him from the cliff walls.

Okay, forget not running on his leg, this was an emergency. Of course, the pain practically made him stop before the adrenaline over rode the pain and he bolted. Thankfully, four legs were faster than two, even if one was injured, and he left them behind. But he still kept running, though slowed down his flat-out sprint, because Bilbo knew that he wouldn't be able to begin running again to the orcs caught up.

After 20 minutes, Bilbo stopped running and walked slowly, not willing to stop. Once he stopped, he wouldn't move again for hours, not even to be able to care for Kíli. And if Kíli started crying, they would be found by Morgoth's filth. He had to keep going, but he needed a steady rhythm, a song with a steady beat… and he knew just the song.

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.

Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

"Who goes there?"

Bilbo startled, his feet scrambling to carry him back from the gruff voice that his mind registered as Dwalin two seconds later. His eyes had been on the stone path as he walked, repeating his Walking Song over and over again to keep him moving. The sudden change of pace made him dizzy, his hind leg and hip protesting. He managed to keep his arms tight around Kíli, who was still sleeping, thank Mahal. Bilbo shook his head to throw off his dizziness, noting that the sun had gone down quite some time ago, and focused on Dwalin.

Dwalin was standing in front of a gate to the city that Longbeards had been driven to after the Battle of Azanulbizar, seeking shelter with the Broadbeams. The dwarves had named it Tumunzahar, meaning 'hollow-building', but it was more commonly known by the names the elves called it, Nogrod. Sadly, it was mostly ravaged by time and the elements, along with falling apart during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age.

Dwalin raised the lantern he had in one hand, his axe called Ukhlat (Grasper) in the other. His jaw dropped in shock when he saw it was the deer creature, the Ushmar Mukhas, who had saved the life of Víli the other day. And the life of Kíli, if the bundle in his arms was anything to go by. While protocol stated that no strangers without permission from the royal family would be allowed entrance to their city, this was the one time that an exception would be made.

"Come." Dwalin instructed.

As he turned, Dwalin noticed that the Ushmar Mukhas had his left back leg off of the ground, and recalled Thorin saying that the orc had wounded the creature. As it hobbled after him, Dwalin took note of the red face that was covered with sweat, while the rest of him was shivering with cold. Stupid orcs, actually being intelligent enough to know what poisons did.

"Watch the gate." Dwalin instructed, knowing that the other guards would obey him unless they wanted to clean the stables for six months straight and no patrol.

Whispers followed as Dwalin led the Ushmar Mukhas threw the crumbling city. Many had heard the tale of the Guardian Deer protecting Prince Consort Víli, and then racing after newborn Prince Kíli after his basket had fallen into the river. It looked as if he had succeeded, but they didn't know if the bundle in his arms was alive or dead. Most likely alive, he wouldn't be clinging to the babe if he wasn't trying to keep him safe.

"Do ye have a name?" Dwalin asked suddenly, making the creature blink as the dwarf's words registered in his mind.

"Bilbo." Bilbo replied, hating how raspy his voice sounded because of his exhaustion and dehydration. "I'm Bilbo… at your service."

"Dwalin." Dwalin nodded. "At yours."

Bilbo panted heavily as he hobbled after the guard. With his adrenaline rush long gone, his whole body ached. He wasn't paying attention to is surroundings as he followed Dwalin, knowing that he was going to collapse after getting Kíli to his mother, father, or uncle. He just hoped that someone would know what the Athelas in his bags did. Thankfully, it didn't take too long to reach the largest building there, the gathering hall, where court was being held.

Dwalin knocked on the door four times before opening it. Thorin was surprised to see that it was his cousin and longtime friend, knowing that the dwarf was supposed to be at the main gate. Dwalin bowed as protocol stated, and Thorin nodded back, his eye catching someone else standing in the darkness outside.

"My king, the Ushmar Mukhas has returned with Prince Kíli." Dwalin stated.

Thorin found that he had run to the door the moment Dwalin had said "Ushmar Mukhas". Now that he was in the doorway, he found himself face to face with the half-deer half-something else, (too short for an elf or man and definitely not a dwarf), who was holding his squirming nephew in his arms. Bilbo had not noticed Thorin, he was a little busy trying to keep Kíli from wiggling out of his arms, but he most likely had a dirty nappie and was very hungry by this point… completely understandable.

Dís and Víli, who had been in the meeting with Thorin, appeared at his shoulders. It was then that Bilbo glanced up, and swallowed, trying to get rid of the dry throat he had. He wanted to bow, but knew that he'd end up in the dirt if he tried. Slowly hobbling forward, without saying a word, Bilbo offered Kíli back to his mother. Dís walked forward, and embraced her son to her chest while tears fell down her cheeks. Víli embraced his wife and son, tears also running down his face.

Bilbo smiled as he hopped back a step, but that was all he could manage. He had been awake since before the attack and hadn't eaten as much as he should have. The poison in his system had taken its toll, and he couldn't remain standing any longer. Legs collapsing, Bilbo fell to his right side as his eyes slid close, honestly not caring if they saw him as weak. The clamor of voices all around, and not one of them stood out, the words were just a mumbled soft-loud noise.

Calloused hands gently picked his head out of the dirt and placed it in the lap of the owner. Bilbo moaned softly as he felt hands looking at the wound on his hip, others removing the saddle bags from his back. He could hear a dwarf speaking in a gruff voice, and even though he couldn't make out the words, that tone was all Óin, most likely barking orders. Hands moved under his body and lifted him, supporting and carrying him to where Óin was directing them.

The table was solid and rough, but cushioning wasn't common in Ered Luin. Ropes tied down the barrel of his deer half, and more secured his legs so he wouldn't accidentally kick someone. Bilbo immediately knew when the shaft was touched. His nerve endings were on fire! Whimpers fell from his mouth as his legs tried to lash out. His chest started to get off of the table before a pair of arms wrapped around him and gently but firmly held him down.

The pain that was coming from his hip was too much, too much pain, too much movement, too much everything! With a cry of pain, Bilbo shuddered, and fell comatose to the world around him.

~

Translations

Guardiano dei Cervi = I'm having the hobbits have their own language, and it's Italian. The translation is: Guardian Deer. Got it off Google Translate, so anyone fluent in Italian, correct me if I'm wrong.

Sho gad adol! = Orkish for: Drink their blood! I got this translation of what Azog said during the cliff top confrontation online somewhere, (not sure where), so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Du bekàr! = Khuzdul for: To arms! This is the only one I know is right.

Tumunzahar = Khuzdul for: Hollow-Building/House. Tumunzahar is more commonly known by its Sindarin name, Nogrod, which means: hollow-bold, 'bold' being an Old English word that means house/home.

EDIT!: We know that Thorin and his kin were driven to the Blue Mountains to settle after Erebor and Anzanubizar, and that they mostly settled in Tumunzahar/Belegost, where Thorin built Thorin's Halls atop of the old ruins of the city, (according to the LOTR Wikia).

Ukhlat = Khuzdul for: Grasper, one of Dwalin's axes. Dwalin's other axe is called Umraz, which means: Keeper. Got the translations off of the Dwarrow Scholar's dictionaries, so I hope it's right.

~

Bilbo's deer breed is based off of a Roe deer, a deer native to Europe.

  • They averagely stand at 2-2.5 feet tall at the top of the shoulders, and 3-4.5 feet chest to tail, the tail adding an additional 2-3 centimeters, (very sort and hardly visible).
  • Their fur is golden red in summer, darkening to gray-brown or even black in winter, with lighter undersides and a white rump patch.
  • Their first sets of antlers are 2-4 inches long with 2 points, (1 point on each antler) and later sets are 8-10 inches, with 6 or the rare 8 points (3 or 4 points on each antler). Antlers are shed in November and immediately begin to re-grow them, unlike most deer breeds.
  • Average lifespan in 10 years. Sad.

But Bilbo does have some differences from a Roe Deer.

  • While his height and lengths are the same as a Roe Deer's, (the 2 feet tall Roe Deer's shoulder height at the start of his hobbit waist, keeping his total height at 4 feet 2 inches like in the movies, not counting his antlers), his tail is longer at 4 inches long.
  • His fur is more golden-light brown then golden-red to match his hair color, but his hair and fur do darken to a light brown-grey with hints of gold during the winter.
  • His antlers currently are that of a 2 year old Roe Deer. They shed in March instead of November, and his new velvet covered antlers re-grow to the size they are going to be that year almost instantly. Leave him be for a day or two, it causes as massive headache.
  • Bilbo will have an extended lifespan. He is 40 years old now, and will live to be around 200 years old, twice as long as the normal hobbit average.
  • His deer side gets nutrition the way that the Andalite race from the Animorph book series does, by drawing in nutrition from the ground he walks on with his hooves. This is a controlled trait, so Bilbo consciously chooses when he gets nutrition and when he doesn't. No chewing on any cud, or anything like it.

I'd recommend going to this website to see what the antlers of a Roe Deer look like, and what ages a Roe Deer is when their antlers are at a certain stage. Remember, Bilbo's antlers are currently that of a 2 year old Roe Deer.

And the answer to Bilbo's question: Do deer stand with their front legs first, or their back legs? Based on what I can find, they're like a cow and stand with their back legs first. Or that's how the newborn's do it, I'm not sure about adults.

~

On another note, arrow wounds are very serious. Do not pull an arrow out the way it went in, like what happened in Shrek, you will cause more damage and most likely bleed to death. Most of the information I could find on removal was to go to the doctor or push the arrow out the other side, depending on the location the arrow was shot into. I'd recommend the doctor.

Chapter Text

Thorin had run forward as the Ushmar Mukhas collapsed in the street, his breathing labored and heavy, sweat running down his face and body in rivets, but shivering from chills at the same time. Someone who had saved his family, no matter how different their species, didn't deserve to die in the dirt. Ignoring the clamor of the community, Thorin held Bilbo's head in his lap, his heart aching at the pitiful moan he gave when Óin started looking at the wound on his hip.

"Smart fellow." Óin praised, startling the group. "He did walk on it, probably had no choice with the orcs about, but he did use some Kingsfoil to keep the toxicity from the poison down. Would've died long before he got here if he hadn't."

"Said his name is Bilbo." Dwalin grunted as he removed the saddlebags from Bilbo's back.

"Hold up." Óin reached for a green plant sticking out of one of the saddlebags. "Good, he brought more Kingsfoil with him."

"A weed?" someone from the crowd mocked with disgust.

"This weed is what kept you from dying when you from that poisoning that you got from eating that blue-ringed octopus from the men-folk three years ago." Óin sneered back before studying Bilbo's hip again. "We need to get him inside, the arrowhead is still in his hip."

Thorin, Dwalin, Víli, Glóin, Óin's brother, and Balin lifted Bilbo from the street as gently as they could and moved him into the area that Óin had long ago claimed as his medical room. Placing him on the table, Thorin stayed by his head while Bilbo's deer body and legs were strapped down to prevent injuries, to himself or to Óin while he worked on him.

"This is going to be painful." Óin sighed as he examined the wound again. "The head has dug in deep. If I knew what to use and how much of it was needed, I'd put him under first. Here's to hoping he'll pass out so he won't experience all of it."

Thorin was originally going to leave, but knew that he couldn't after hearing Óin. Bilbo would try to flee form the pain, simply acting on basic instinct to run from pain that was normally inflicted by a predator, and he needed to remain still. Óin slid fully into doctor mode, and firmly grabbed hold of the remaining shaft. Bilbo immediately began to lash out, the ropes around him preventing him from running away, trying to get away from the agony that was originating from his hip as cries of pain fell from his mouth. The upper half of his body left the table, and Thorin instantly wrapped his arms around him and held him back down on the table. Bilbo kept thrashing and crying before he shivered with a final yell of pain, and blacked out.

Thorin exhaled and relaxed his hold on the Ushmar Mukhas that had fainted on the table… Bilbo, Dwalin said he had introduced himself as Bilbo. He felt empathy for the deer creature, knowing full well how painful the orc arrows could be with their barbed heads and poisoned tips, having taken one to his back left shoulder when he was younger. It was actually better that Bilbo passed out instead of being awake while Óin removed the arrowhead from his hip. Thorin wrinkled his nose as the stench of rancid flesh permeated the room. Eyes flicking to Óin, he was surprised to see that the doctor had removed the arrowhead already and was pressing a Kingsfoil mixture into the wound.

"That was the hard part." Óin sighed. "Now for something a little easier. What am I saying? It's never easy to keep infection down after it has had time to fester."

"Will he be alright?" Thorin asked.

"It depends on him." Óin replied. "But he needs to stay off that leg. No walking, no running, nada."

"Dís and Víli will insist that he stays with us while he recovers." Thorin sighed softly, resisting the urge to run his fingers through the golden curls on Bilbo's head.

"Life debts, I get it." Óin nodded. "Lots of liquids, I'm not sure what he eats. Just don't let Fíli climb all over him. I'll be by later to check in on how he's doing."

Thorin nodded, and undid the ropes holding Bilbo to the table while Dwalin, Víli, Glóin, and Balin came back into the room to carry Bilbo to where he would be staying while he recovered. Bifur and Bofur kept the curious crowds back while the Ushmar Mukhas was transported, many wanting to touch him 'for luck', or so they claimed. They all went running when Dís went to meet her husband with an axe in her hand. She was scary when pissed off. The only female of the royal line of Durin 'escorted' her brother and the rest carrying the Ushmar Mukhas back to the home that herself, her husband and sons, and her brother shared with each other. Bilbo was placed on a pile of straw that was covered with a bed sheet in Thorin's room, the only place they had space for him.

"How is he?" Dís asked once Bilbo had been settled.

"Óin said that he did have an infection, but the Kingsfoil kept it from being worse than it could have been." Thorin replied. "Give him lots of liquids to drink since we don't know what type of food he eats, keep Fíli from climbing all over him, and he'll be by later to check in."

"Then let's take care of Bilbo." Víli said as he kept the crawling Fíli from getting into Thorin's room.

~

Bilbo groaned softly as he opened his eyes. He really couldn't remember much of what happened after he collapsed in the street and got his wound looked at by Óin. He did remember waking up a few times with water being poured down his throat, cool damp cloths dabbing his face and forehead, or his hip being examined by someone. Now, he felt a small body next to his deer belly. Turing his head, Bilbo spotted the five year old Fíli, looking to be about one and half years old by the standards of men, curled against the soft fur of his stomach.

Fuzzy warm heat source or scratchy blanket that holds not very much heat? Is that a trick question? Bilbo smiled as he pushed his upper body up slowly, the blanket that covered his hobbit half nearly slipping off his shoulders. His movement woke Fíli, who looked at Bilbo with his blue eyes before smiling back at the hobbit-deer. A baby crying diverted his attention for a moment before Bilbo focused on Fíli again. Dís or Víli, or even Thorin, would get Kíli.

But after a minute of Kíli crying, Bilbo frowned as he looked to the door of the room he was in. Did the dwarves just leave their children to cry? He honestly didn't know, but it certainly wasn't the hobbit way. Making sure the blanket was secure around his shoulders, Bilbo scooped Fíli up in his arms, carefully stood up, (keeping his weight off of his back left leg), and hopped out of the room to find where Kíli was being kept.

Ears swiveling, Bilbo quickly decided that there was no one else in the house. Thorin and Víli were probably working, and maybe Dís had simply run out for some groceries while Kíli was down for a nap. But the little fellow had woken sooner than expected. Finding where the cries were coming from, Bilbo nudged the door open and hopped over to the cradle. The first thing he noticed… was the smell. No wonder Kíli had woken up.

"Just my luck." Bilbo sighed as he shook his head, but his lips were still twitching in a half smile.

Shifting Fíli to one arm, Bilbo scooped Kíli out of his cradle and moved to the area that had been designated for nappie changing. Hands moving with practiced motions, -who knew having so many cousins would actually have come in handy one day?- Kíli was soon cooing instead of crying. Of course, since his nap had been interrupted, he was soon crabby and fussing, Fíli joining in. Bilbo couldn't decide if he should hum or groan. This was normally the point when he'd give the baby back to their mother, but Dís wasn't back yet.

Well… he did know a few lullabies. But those songs were sung to fauntlings, not dwarflings. What was he talking about? He wrote his own songs all the time and could change a couple of lyrics to make them 'dwarf friendly'. Shushing the fussy babes in his arms, Bilbo rocked them gently as he slowly made his way back to their beds.

"La-la-lu, La-la-lu
Oh, now youthful, strong warrior,
I'll hold the scabbard for you.

La-la-lu, La-la-lu
Little strong, valiant sleeper,
Here comes a broadsword for you."

Bilbo heard footsteps approaching the bedroom, but he remained focused on Fíli and Kíli, who were dozing off in his arms. Gently placing Kíli down in his cradle and tucking in the blanket, Bilbo rocked it with one hand while he lay Fíli down on his little bed and tucked him in as well. The door opened, and Bilbo knew that it was one of the Durin's, but he honestly didn't know which one since his focus was on the children.

"La-la-lu, La-la-lu
Little wandering pebble,
Rest your feet, close your eyes.

La-la-lu, La-la-lu
And may Aulë be your keeper.
La-la-lu, La-la-lu, La-la-lu."

With both boys sound asleep, Bilbo smiled as he tucked the blankets even more firmly around them for the sense of security and comfort. Fíli wiggled a little before settling back down, and Kíli just remained sleeping as he was gently snuggled into his cradle before Bilbo tightened his hold on his blanket around his shoulders.

"There, there now little warriors." Bilbo whispered softly. "Dream on."

With one last gently smoothing of the blanket, Bilbo finally turned to face the dwarf that was standing in the doorway of the bedroom. When Thorin had seen Dís about in the market, he had left the blacksmith's shop to check on the boys, who were meant to be down for their naps. To his surprise, he found that the Ushmar Mukhas, Bilbo, was awake and tending to them. Óin would pitch a fit most likely, but it was nice to see the children settle down so easily with the lullaby.

Bilbo's ears flicked around as he looked at Thorin. The dwarf's eyes pierced right threw him, and left him breathless for some reason. Swallowing hard, Bilbo bowed his head. Thorin blinked as he realized that he had been 'staring intently enough to start a wetland on fire', as Dís had long ago put it. Shaking himself, Thorin stepped into the room.

"Thank you." Thorin said, finding that he couldn't say anything else.

Bilbo looked up. From what he recalled, Thorin had never said 'Thank you'. Praised you or scolded you depending on what it was you did, but manners seemed to elude him most days. Still, this was about… how many years prior to his memories of the past? Seventy… five? Ish? A lot can change in that amount of time. It was during these thoughts that Bilbo noted Thorin's hair was all black, and that there were no hints of silver strands. Then again he was… 118, right? That's like the prime age for the dwarven race.

"You're welcome." Bilbo replied with a small smile.

Thorin found that he couldn't stop staring. Bilbo just seemed to… make things better when he smiled. It was a nice feeling. When Thorin realized that he was smiling back, he shook himself and cleared his throat, hoping that his beard would cover any potential reddening of the cheeks.

"We should probably get you some food." Thorin said softly, walking out of the bedroom. "You've been fighting off an infection for five days."

"Five days?" Bilbo whispered as he hopped after the dwarf.

Thorin had Bilbo lay himself down near the fireplace in the living area, which was the main room of the house. Bilbo was hesitant to call it a home, simply because it didn't have a very homey feel about it. The king-in-exile brought Bilbo some soup and bread, meager portions really, but there wasn't much to go around. The men they had been trading with had jacked up the prices, believing that the dwarves had overflowing amounts of gold in their pockets. And that was why they only brought back two wagons of food the day the orcs attacked. It was all they could afford.

"Why don't you try in the Shire?" Bilbo asked, making Thorin startle as he realized that he had been talking out loud again. "I'm sure you can do something there like fix locks and pans, maybe help guard their boarders against wild animals in the winter, or even sell some of your goods in trade for some food and coin."

Thorin blinked heavily. He had never considered the Shire. The hobbit-folk all watched with suspicious eyes every time they traveled through their lands. Some even ran when they saw them coming down the road. When Thorin voiced his reasons for not trying before, he was surprised when Bilbo actually had the audacity to laugh.

"You haven't traveled far enough south then." Bilbo chuckled as he wiped an eye dry. "The hobbits you have been seeing are the Baggins, Proudfoots, and Bracegirdles, and they believe that speaking with someone who isn't a hobbit makes them completely unrespectable. The hobbits that are more open to the outsiders are the Took and Brandybuck families. You need to speak with the Thain, Gerontius Took."

The jolly hobbit who had once been Bilbo's grandfather was seventy-four years old. His mother, Belladonna, was only twelve years old. If that didn't make your head spin, Bilbo honestly didn't know what would! But back on topic…

"And this, Thain, will be able to help?" Thorin asked, still feeling skeptical.

"He is the main leader of the Shire, being the one most will go to for guidance and council, and holds the most power in terms of political authority." Bilbo shrugged as he nibbled on the bread. "The Mayor is the only elected position, and doesn't do much but solve petty squabbles. The Master of Buckland is in charge of the Bounders, the hobbits version of militia, but they mostly just keep watch on the Old Forest on the eastern end of the Shire."

"You seem very well informed of all this." Thorin grew suspicious.

"Well…" Bilbo blushed and grew uncomfortable. "I didn't always have deer legs, and was considered to be a 'normal' hobbit."

"You're a halfling?" Thorin blurted out.

"I am half of nothing!" Bilbo snapped on reflex. "It's the rest of Middle-Earth that is so freakishly tall!"

Thorin blinked at the sudden ferocity, but then Bilbo blushed as his brain caught up with his mouth while his hand actually covered his mouth. Thorin felt his lips twitch, and then he was laughing. Bilbo could only blink as he stared at the dwarf. Was he okay? And just what was so funny about getting yelled at by a guest?

"I'm sorry!" Bilbo blurted out once Thorin calmed down. "It just… slipped out."

"Is that why the hobbits get so offensive at being called 'halfling'?" Thorin asked as he got his breathing under control.

"Yes." Bilbo admitted, feeling like he was talking to an Elf King about wine barrels and keys to dungeon doors.

"Where did that term come from anyway?" Thorin mused softly.

"It comes from the Sindarin word Perian." Bilbo explained. "It roughly translates to halfling. We were called such because even when we're full grown we're only half as tall as a full grown man. Finding the term to be insulting, we constructed a word based off of the Rohirrim term, Holbytla, which means Hole Dweller. I don't know if the dwarves ever came up with a term for us."

"We do." Thorin admitted with a nod. "Zantulbasn and Sharbrugn, or Malkûn. The first two words mean hobbit, but the second is a rude term, and the third one means half-man or halfling. I shall attempt to refrain from calling you the second and third words."

"Thank you." Bilbo smiled again, although he was surprised that Thorin used Khuzdul and translated the words for him since it was considered to be a secret language.

The two lapsed into a silence as they continued to eat. It wasn't too much longer that Dís came back with her arms filled with food. Even from by the fireplace, Bilbo could tell that most of what she bought needed to be eaten immediately if not sooner, and would only last until tomorrow if she was very careful in her cooking methods. The female dwarf ignored her brother in favor of putting the food in her arms on the table and examining it again.

"Hello sister." Thorin greeted.

"Hello." Dís replied absent mindedly, while giving a weird look to several different types of squash.

"Bilbo is conscious and coherent." Thorin continued.

Dís spun around, (how had she managed to find raspberries this time of year?), and blinked once upon seeing Bilbo next to the fireplace. Bilbo smiled softly at her, and she found herself relaxing like Thorin had earlier. Then Víli came inside, groaning about how much the council irritated him and that he wasn't meant for politics. Bilbo giggled at his words, (and Thorin's shoulders were shaking in laughter at his brother-in-law's comments), making Fíli and Kíli's father stop short as he realized that the Ushmar Mukhas was fully awake.

"Has anyone gotten Óin yet?" Víli asked, being the only logical one at the moment.

"Not yet." Thorin admitted.

"Be right back." Víli turned and went back out the door to get the doctor.

Bilbo found himself laughing softly. Thorin should have probably done that once he realized that Bilbo was awake, and the blush of Thorin's face told him he had figured it out as well. He was looking forward to getting to know this family, and hopefully watching Fíli and Kíli grow up. He wasn't sure why, but he hoped that he would be able to stay.

"I hear our guest has woken." Óin stated as he marched through the door, followed by Víli.

"I have." Bilbo nodded his head, tugging the blanket around tighter his shoulders at the chilly air that had entered the room with the dwarves. "It's nice to meet you, um…"

"I'm Óin." Óin said lowered himself to the floor. "Now let's have ourselves a look then."

At age 90, Óin was definitely a lot more spry. His air was a dark red instead of dark gray, he had no ear trumpet, and he amazingly knew what he was doing as a doctor very well. Bilbo held still as Óin examined his leg before putting some more of the kingsfoil mix he had brought with on the wound. Bilbo winced as the mixture went to work fighting off more of the infection.

"Not looking to bad." Óin hummed. "But it is going to take 3-6 months to close fully, your health prior to the attack, how much food and medicine you get during this time period, and a couple other variables adding or decreasing time."

"Thank you." Bilbo whispered as he looked at his wound.

"Just stay off of that leg as much as you can." Óin warned.

"I will." Bilbo promised.

Óin nodded once, packed up, and left. It was then that Bilbo realized that everyone was glancing at him nervously. As if they didn't know what to say to him now.

"I'm not going to bite anyone." Bilbo sighed, and stared at them as they jumped before blushing.

"Ba!" Fíli yelled.

All heads turned to see the five year old dwarf was crawling out of the room at top speed, his blanket halfway on his back making a tail. Fíli went straight to Bilbo, who brushed away any concerns from his family, and curled up against Bilbo's furry tummy. Bilbo chuckled as he smiled at the golden haired lad. The wide eyed looks from the dwarves had him laughing more.

"I woke up with him curled against me." Bilbo explained with a shrug. "Same spot. I guess he likes it."

"Why?" Víli asked.

"Let me think…" Bilbo hummed. "Fuzzy warm heat source or scratchy blanket that holds not very much heat? Is that a trick question?"

"As long as you don't mind." Dís still looked a little hesitant.

Bilbo nodded his head once, and that was enough for the dwarves. Bilbo turned his head to look at Fíli, who cooed at him. Bilbo laughed and ticked his little stomach, prompting giggles from the boy. It was then that Bilbo realized that they had never 'introduced' themselves to each other.

"Uh, my name is Bilbo." Bilbo said, making them look at him. "Not sure if you knew that."

"Dwalin, the guard who brought you in, told us." Thorin nodded. "I am Thorin. That is my sister Dís, and her husband, my brother-in-law, Víli. The lad curled against your stomach is their firstborn son Fíli, and the babe you rescued from the river is their second born son Kíli."

"Okay, Dwalin brought me in, you're Thorin, your sister is Dís, her husband and your brother-in-law is Víli." Bilbo listed on his fingers. "The one curled up next to me is your nephew Fíli, and the lad who woke up earlier with a dirty nappie and is now sleeping is Kíli. And the doctor looking at me is Óin."

"That sums it up nicely." Dís nodded as she gave some squash an odd look.

"That's an acorn squash." Bilbo supplied, making the only female dwarrow in the home look at him with surprise. "You slice it in half, remove the seeds, and cook it in an oven face down in about an inch of water until you can take the flesh out easily with a fork. It tastes really good with melted butter and a little bit of brown sugar after it's cooked."

"Really?" Dís hummed and held up another vegetable. "Do you know what this is?"

"Rhubarb." Bilbo nodded. "Very tangy, perhaps a bit sour depending on when it was harvested. Can be eaten raw or cooked."

"Could you identify everything I got today?" Dís questioned.

"Maybe." Bilbo smiled. "I can't really see what's on the table though, and Óin basically forbade me from walking too much. I did see you got raspberries. Where on earth did you get those this time of the year? They went out of season a month ago."

"The rangers." Dís replied.

"And they probably got them from the Shire." Bilbo shook his head and gave Thorin a pointed look.

"Alright, I'll go!" Thorin huffed.

Dís and Víli blinked in surprise while Bilbo grinned in triumph. Thorin sighed, but felt a glimmer of optimism. Hopefully they would be able to get good food from the hobbits, and that would help the dwarves of ikh-Khagal'abbad (the Blue Mountains). His sister cleared her throat while giving Thorin a pointed look. She wanted to know what was going on.

"I have been convinced to speak with the Thain of the Shire about trading for food." Thorin admitted.

"The halflings?" Víli asked in disbelief.

"Not half of anything." Bilbo grumbled, pouting. "It's everyone else who is way too tall."

"Say what?" Dís asked.

"The hobbits were labeled as 'halflings' by the men-folk due to their short stature." Thorin explained. "It's just as bad as the elves calling us Naugrim (Stunted People)."

"Oh." Víli nodded and then glanced at Bilbo. "Why did you get to offended then?"

"I was a 'normal' hobbit until I woke up with deer legs." Bilbo held up his hand. "I don't have any one to return to, no one who cares at any rate. I am considered of age by my kin, so where I go and what I do with my life is my choice. And I chose to stay here and let my leg heal."

"Stubborn." Víli shook his head.

"So the rumors of dwarves having rock-thick heads are just rumors?" Bilbo asked lightly.

Thorin and Dís started to laugh, knowing that Bilbo's statement about Víli was so true about him, and about themselves and the rest of their kin as well. Víli blushed before conceding the point. He was thick-headed and stubborn, a downright mule at times, but it was mostly Thorin who was grumpiest most days. He did seem to be lighter and happier since Kíli had been brought back, even if they were worried about Bilbo not surviving his fever.

Thorin began to make plans. If he wanted to get to the Shire and back before the snow flew, he would have to leave within the next few days. And there really was no telling if they had any food to spare at all. But the produce they had indirectly given Dís via the rangers was good quality, so it was worth a shot in Thorin's forge.

Glancing up, Thorin made eye contact with Bilbo, who seemed to know what he was thinking about. Or maybe he didn't. But either way, he gave Thorin another smile before going back to answering Dís' impromptu quiz about the produce she had brought home.

Maybe things were looking up for them after all.

~

Translations

Ushmar Mukhas = Khuzdul for: Guardian Deer.

Perian = Sindarin for: Halfling, or a rough translation of it. Perya means half, and -ien means-ing. Like I said, it's a rough translation, and J.R.R Tolkien is the one who came up with it.

Holbytla = Rohirrim for: Hole Dweller.

Zantulbasn and Sharbrugn = Both words are Khuzdul for: Hobbit, male or female. The second one is considered to be very rude though, like a curse word. Zantulbasân and Sharbrugân are to be used if you're talking about more than one hobbit. Thank you Dwarrow Scholar!

Malkûn = Khuzdul for: Half-man or halfling, referencing a male hobbit. Malkûna means half-female, referencing a female hobbit. Malkân (male) and malkâna (female) is to be used if you're talking about more than one male or female halfling. Thank you again, Dwarrow Scholar!

ikh-Khagal'abbad = Khuzdul for: the Blue Mountains. Once again, this was gotten from the Dwarrow Scholar's dictionaries. I'm actually taking a stab at this one. I could only find Khagal'abbad, which means: Blue Mountains, not The Blue Mountains.

I couldn't find the Khuzdul word for the word 'the', and looking at the dictionary found many options, (ib- id-, ig-, ik-, ikh-, il-, ir-, it-, and ith-, all mean "the"), but it came down to two options. The best I could figure it could be is: ik-Khagal'abbad or ikh-Khagal'abbad. I then discovered that it really depends on the Khuzdul word that is being used, and figured it out by looking at other Khuzdul words.

If the Khuzdul word begins with the letter "K", the "The" it will have will be ik-, ex. ik-kabâr means: The beasts. If the Khuzdul word begins with the letters "KH", the "The" it will have will be ikh-, ex. ikh-khafâsh means: The bats. So Khagal'abbad should be ikh-Khagal'abbad. Does that make sense?

Naugrim = Sindarin for Stunted People. It's just as bad as calling a hobbit 'halfling'. Very insulting.

~

I should have mentioned this sooner, but the year is Third Age 2864, 1264 by Shire Reckoning. The ages of Gerontius Took (74), Belladonna Took (12), Fíli (5), Thorin (118), and Óin (90) are accurate.

~

The lullaby that Bilbo sang is based off of the one from Disney's 'Lady and the Tramp' movie, titled La-la-lu.

~

I tried to research how long it takes arrow wounds to heal, but couldn't find anything. The best I could find was information for a gunshot wound, which is different, but they're both items being shot into you, so there has to be some similarities. It does take 3-6 months for the wound to fully close, and then more for physical therapy. Plus, there are a whole bunch of other variables, like how healthy you were before you were hurt, how old you were, what kind of treatment you get during your recovery, and more variables which increase or decrease your recovery time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Thorin departed for the Shire 2 days later, in the early days of October. Bilbo had drawn him a very detailed map of the Shire, and had written down instructions on how to get to Tuckborough, where the Thain lived. Bilbo had drawn and numbered landmarks on the map, and numbered and underlined the landmarks in the written instruction for comparison. If Thorin discovered a landmark in his travels that wasn't on the map, he had traveled too far, not far enough, or it wasn't actually a landmark.

It took a good week and a half to reach the Took family smials. The whole time he traveled through the Shire, Thorin found himself marveling at how much squash and other late season produce was still in the fields. There were so many in numbers, size, and different varieties! The dwarves were lucky if they got any of the plants they planted to last until mid-July.

"What do you want?"

Thorin, and the pony he was riding, startled at the sudden voice. Getting his mount under control, Thorin looked around and spotted a male hobbit with a single long pheasant feather in his hat. Thorin didn't know this hobbit's name, but he did know that he was a Bounder, the hobbit's version of militia that mostly kept an eye on the Old Forest on the eastern end of the Shire, but did a few other things as well. The hobbit was giving Thorin a critical look, having followed the dwarf ever since he had entered the Shire's boundaries 5 days ago.

"I am here to speak with the Thain of the Shire." Thorin replied, not feeling nervous about the critical look he was getting since he got them from the race of men… a lot.

Isengrim III, Gerontius Took's 32 year old, and firstborn, child looked Thorin up and down again. The faded and worn clothes, calloused hands, and gaunt face, was a good indication of why the dwarf wanted to see his father. To trade for food. But he had to get passed Gerontius Took's inspection first. Despite his jovial nature, the Old Took was very serious about his duties as the Thain. He had turned down several trading propositions because the traders were attempting to take advantage of him.

"Follow me." Isengrim instructed, and turned down the road.

Isengrim led Thorin on the path that Bilbo had mapped out for him. The dwarf felt his heart lift a touch at the prospect of possible food for his people, but he squashed it down. To many times he had gotten his hopes up, and every time they had been crushed, so it was best to not let it happen in the first place. Not too much longer, they reach the Tuckborough Family Smials. Thorin marveled at the sight of all the healthy hobbit children running about as their families worked in the fields. He truly wished that his sister's-sons would be able to do the same one day.

Isengrim looked over his shoulder at the dwarf. He was surprised to see the soft look in his eyes as he watched the kids, and the hidden longing underneath, having heard that the dwarves were greedy and didn't actually care for the wellbeing of the other races of Middle-Earth. Maybe they had been wrong about their northern neighbors.

"Father, there is someone here to see you." Isengrim called once he was within earshot.

Gerontius Took turned his head to see his eldest son leading a dwarf on a pony towards him. Sweet Yavanna! He was so gaunt, so skinny! Most folk who wanted to trade with the Shire had chubby bellies, thinking that if they looked and acted like the hobbits it would endear the little folk to them. Gerontius had sent them all away with sore bottoms, seeing only people who made themselves fat and leaving others to starve. All the hobbits in the Shire had plenty of food to eat, that being the only reason they were all so chubby at times.

"Thank you son." Gerontius nodded.

Isengrim bowed his head and left to head back to his post at the northern border. Thorin swallowed, suddenly not knowing what to say. He was desperate for this to work, but his social skills were… flatter than a pancake, as Dís and Balin liked to say. He needed to produce food for his people from the Shire-folk, and if he failed…

Taking a deep breath, Thorin pushed his fear down, and opened his mouth.

~

Bilbo had mostly remained awake during the early morning and late evening hours, and slept the remaining time. Óin said that was normal for a deer, most active at sunrise and sunset, but it also might have to do with his wound. Once the king was gone, many of the dwarves that were living in Tumunzahar had crowded outside of Thorin's home, believing that the Ushmar Mukhas would bring them good luck if they were to see him, and that it would triple if they touched him. Dwalin, Balin, Víli, Glóin, and several other guards/volunteers kept a watch rotation until the novelty of Bilbo's presence wore off, and people stopped trying to sneak into the house.

Fíli's favorite place to hang out was quickly discovered to be by Bilbo's deer tummy. The lad loved the soft deer fur that kept him warm. Bilbo's hadn't minded, and always positioned himself so his legs would curl around the lad and keep him tucked safely next to him. Víli had been jealous for about a day, until Dís pointed out that Fíli only did that when he was getting sleepy. Kíli also liked to be near Bilbo, somehow knowing that the hobbit-dear had rescued and cared for him during a brief time.

As the weeks went by, Bilbo spent even more time sleeping. The only time he woke for an extended period of time was they day Thorin returned in early November, about four weeks after his departure. It had shocked Dís when Bilbo hopped out of Thorin's bedroom in the middle of the day, but his swiveling ears had her remain silent as Bilbo listened to what was going on. Instincts had played an important role in keeping the dwarrow alive for as long as they had, and maybe Bilbo's would help them branch out into other areas that would keep them safe.

"Thorin's back." Bilbo smiled. "And he has company."

Dís scooped up Fíli, who had been playing with some wooden toys made by Bofur and Bifur on the floor, and headed out the door. Kíli was dozing on the… what was being used for a sofa, and Bilbo would watch him while his mother was out. Bilbo smiled and settled next to the fireplace in the living space. It wouldn't be wise for him to hobble outside right now. Óin would be really mad at him for over-exerting his leg, and there were too many germs and overly curious dwarrow who still wanted to get close to him.

Dís passed Fíli to Víli, once the dwarf caught up with his wife, and the two quickly made their way to the market square, where the wagons were being parked and unloaded. Thorin was in the first wagon with Gerontius Took. The Thain of the Shire was happy to help their neighbors, and was also curious about Bilbo, simply because no hobbit had turned into a Guardiano del Cervi since their Wandering Days of the Second Age. With them were several more wagons filled with food, and driven by a dozen or so hobbits of the Took family. And of course, the Tooks were singing one of their infamous inn/tavern/beer songs.

"Hey-Ho! To the bottle I go,
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
But there'll still be… many miles to go.

Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And the stream that falls from hill to plain.
Better than rain or rippling brook,
Is a mug of beer inside this Took."

Bilbo's ears twitched as he heard the song, and softly sang along before he chuckled and shook his head at the silliness of his relatives. He then found himself wondering if the hobbits or the dwarves would be drunk under the table before the Took's stay was over. He was personally betting that it would be the dwarves that would get well and thoroughly smashed, and that the hobbits would only be mildly buzzed before proceeding to beat anyone who wasn't drunk that wanted to play at darts or poker against them.

"They're certainly lively." Víli commented. "Not like most of the hobbits I see."

"That's because the hobbits we see are the ones all about maintaining their respectability, or are their country's guardsmen who keep the peace with the outside races." Thorin told his brother-in-law as he stepped down from the wagon, Gerontius hopping off the other side. "The Tooks and Brandybucks are much more open with visitors."

"What did you get?" Dís asked as she tried to peek over the wagon edge.

"Each sack in this wagon is bushels of wheat, half of the sacks in the second wagon are bushels of potatoes, and the other half are bushels of onions." Gerontius launched into an explanation. "The third wagon is filled with fruit and vegetable preserves of all shapes and sizes, carefully wrapped so the glass jars don't break. The fourth wagon has more bushels of wheat, and half of the fifth wagon has more bushels of wheat, and the other half is bushels of potatoes."

The wagons were quite large, something Víli would have expected a family of the race of men to drive, and were nearly overflowing with the goods they had. And yet the ponies that were hitched up to them were still wanting to go-go-go! Eyes looking over the wagons and the goods that were being unloaded, Thorin knew that this would get his kinfolk threw the winter okay, and would last well into next summer as long as they were careful.

"Now, I do believe there was someone you wanted me to speak with." Gerontius turned serious.

"Aye." Thorin nodded his head and looked to his sister. "Dís?"

"He's back at the house." Dís replied, knowing her brother was speaking of Bilbo.

With a nod of thanks, Thorin led the way back and stopped short when Dwalin ran passed, chasing yet another dwarf away from his home. But the dwarf that was running away was limping awkwardly, as if someone had kicked him in certain areas. Getting to the door of his house, which was partly open, Thorin pushed in open to see Bilbo was cooing at Kíli on the 'sofa'. The baby dwarf was giggling at Bilbo's silly faces, and the sight brought a smile to Thorin's face, and Gerontius' as well.

"Bilbo." Thorin called softly as he and his hobbit guest stepped inside, getting his attention. "There's someone here to see you."

"Hello Thorin, it's nice to see you again too." Bilbo replied, a little bit sarcastic, but mostly amused. "I'm doing well, thank you for asking."

Thorin's jaw dropped at the rudeness, but Gerontius doubled over in laughter. He had said nearly the same thing to his family members whenever they didn't say "Hello" and inquire about his health. Thorin shut his mouth and cleared his throat. He had been a little rude to Bilbo, so the hobbit-deer had been a little rude back. It had been so long since someone who wasn't a close friend of family member had snarked at him. It was actually a good feeling.

"Greetings Bilbo." Thorin said most graciously and a bit over the top. "It is wondrous to see you after my long and hard travels. May I inquire your current state of health?"

Bilbo wore a blank face as he stared at the dwarf, and raised an eyebrow. Gerontius fell to the floor in his laughter. Thorin looked back at Bilbo with an impassive face, but the humor in his blue eyes was obvious. Bilbo's lip twitched, he snorted, and that set both the hobbit-deer and the dwarf off in rounds of laughter.

"You didn't have to be so dramatic." Bilbo said once he got his chuckles under control.

"Go big, or go home." Thorin smirked. "And since I was already home…"

Bilbo snorted again and shook his head. Thorin noted that when Bilbo snorted, it sounded more like a deer snort than a human/hobbit/dwarf/elf snort. Interesting. Gerontius finally managed to get his laughter under control and got back to his feet, a few chuckles escaping now and then. Taking a deep breath, the hobbit calmed down and went to his business side, the side that was needed to keep his kin safe and healthy.

"Now let me take a look at you." Gerontius said smiled as he cast a critical eye over Bilbo's half-deer body. "I was quite shocked when Master Thorin spoke of you. None of our people have changed to this form since we settled in the Shire."

All Bilbo could do was shrug with a somewhat helpless look on his face. He didn't know how he had changed to this form, nor did he know how to change back. After Thorin helped Bilbo get to his feet, the Thain examined Bilbo's antlers, ears, legs, (tsk'ed at the arrow wound), and hoofs, making sure that he truly was healthy. He kept looking into an old book he had brought with him, which most likely was the hobbit's only book on the subject of the Guardiano del Cervi. With a hum, the 74 year old hobbit finally stepped back with a pleased look.

"Aside from the arrow wound, you're as healthy as a… as a deer." Gerontius shrugged, not wanting to say 'horse'.

"That's good." Bilbo sighed. "Though I think Óin will be mad that I kicked someone below the belt."

So that's why that dwarf had been limp-running.

"Mad that you kicked, or mad that he has to treat that area?" Thorin inquired.

"That I kicked." Bilbo clarified. "Don't know who it was, but they broke in while I was the only one here, save Kíli. Dwalin ran him off after he screamed like a girl because of the pain."

"You were defending yourself." Gerontius waved his hand dismissively. "This Óin will probably be mad that your injury was aggravated, but also thankful that you can still kick someone who deserves it in the balls."

Bilbo blinked as he started at the hobbit who had once been his grandfather. He had never heard that sort of talk come from him before. Then again, Grandma Adamanta Took née Chubb probably had something to do with that. During his last lifetime, The Old Took had died 3 years before Bilbo turned 33, at age 130. Currently at age 74, Gerontius still had 56 years to go before he passed on to Lady Yavanna's Gardens.

"Does that book say how we change forms?" Bilbo asked.

"Nope." Gerontius shook his head. "That was passed down by word of mouth. Something about a king's plant and a night's shade as an infused drink. Then you could change back and forth at will."

"Athelas, aka kingsfoil, and belladonna mixed together as a tea." Bilbo translated easily.

"The frost just killed all the plants, even in the Shire." Thorin shook his head. "You're going to have to wait until spring or early summer."

"I'll live." Bilbo replied.

Thorin then excused himself to help with the unloading and storage of the food. Gerontius sat himself down in a chair and studied Bilbo more critically. Bilbo's ears went flat against the back of his skull, feeling like a fauntling with his hand caught in the cookie jar. He did not like that look, not at all.

"How old are you?" Gerontius asked.

"40." Bilbo replied.

"I don't know who you are." Gerontius admitted, making Bilbo swallow heavily. "I do know that there were no Bilbo's born in the Shire 40 years ago. And your information about where Master Thorin should go was too detailed for one who had never been visiting, yet none can recall your presence. Who are you?"

"My name is Bilbo Baggins." Bilbo admitted. "I was born in 1290 by Shire Reckoning, 26 years from now, and died in 1422 as an old hobbit. The Green Mother and her husband, the Stone Father, came to me as I died, and begged me to save the dwarves of the Line of Durin. I woke in the forest by the mountains several months ago, my memories of the future faded, save for certain details, and have done my best to do what has been asked of me."

Bilbo had some odd dreams while Thorin had been away. But the main point was that he had been able to figure out that the Green Mother, (Lady Yavanna), and the Stone Father, (Lord Aulë), had been the one so plead with him to save the Durin's. And honestly, who was going to tell a Valar 'no'. Not Bilbo, he wasn't that crazy.

Gerontius leaned back in his chair while he processed what he had been told. That he hadn't been expecting. He had been betting that it had been a hobbit lass that had mated with a non-hobbit, (man, elf, or dwarf, he didn't know), and then ran off after discovering she was pregnant, Bilbo being the result of that union. But that wasn't it. The Green Mother had chosen Bilbo, taken him from his own time and placed him here to protect these dwarves.

"That's that then." Gerontius nodded his head.

"Really?" Bilbo asked, completely bewildered.

"My Great-Great-Uncle Bandobras 'Bullroar' Took was chosen by the Green Mother to protect the Shire when invaded by goblins before I was born." Gerontius replied with a one shoulder shrug. "When the Green Mother chooses us for a task, there is nothing we can do but complete what we have been instructed to do."

Bilbo hummed, and smiled. That made things simpler. Here he had been worried that he would be forced back to the Shire 'for his own good'. At least the hobbit who had been his grandfather was willing to not push where it was not needed. With a small groan, Gerontius pushed himself up off the chair he had been sitting in.

"Now, I don't know about you, but I'm going to go see how well the dwarves fare against my granny's homebrewed moonshine." Gerontius grinned, making Bilbo roll his eyes.

Of course.

~

Gerontius stayed with Thorin, Dís, Víli, Fíli, Kíli, and Bilbo while he was in Tumunzahar. The Old Took made sure that the food was stored properly, and corrected them when stored improperly. He was very concerned about the food going bad before it could be eaten, and didn't have any more to spare for the northern neighbors. When the hobbits weren't storing food, they were looking over the fields the dwarves had made, to see if there was any advice that could be offered to make the food they attempted to grow better.

A shout of disgust from Gerontius himself had the dwarves running to see what happened. The hobbit had come across a black fungus that was buried around 2 feet under the soil. He had seen in before when he was young, and knew how bad it was. The mold sucked the nutrition and moisture out of the soil it was in, and gave back an oozy slime that the plants used to grow instead. The wheat or whatever else was growing became infected, and any very few actually survived to full maturity. And if they did, the infected food would infect those who ate it with all sorts of illnesses and other problems, like poor fertility rates in male and female alike, and failed pregnancies.

An all hands in the field call went throughout Tumunzahar, the dwarves bringing shovels, wagons, buckets, tin tubs, and whatever else they could get their hands on. Bilbo kept his eyes on the children under age 30 with the help of Dís, which consisted of the 30 year old Bombur, 21 year old Bofur, 27 year old Nori, 2 year old Ori, (despite Dori not wanting anyone else to take care of his brothers, he was needed in the fields), 5 year old Fíli, and 1 month old Kíli, while the older dwarves shoveled out the mold and contaminated soil. The polluted contents were taken away in wagons to a few miles away, where it was all dumped and burned. Any wheat or other produce that the dwarves had managed to grow was taken away and burned as well.

Several of the Tooks departed back for the Shire immediately to get some new soil, and lots of animal manure for compost, for the dwarves. Thorin was simply floored that these hobbits would do all that for them. First they were willing to trade food and let them sell their wares in the Shire, and now they were helping them remove a disgusting fungus from their fields, and also to prepare them for the next growing season. The hobbits worked quickly, and it went even faster with the dwarves shoveling the soil and 'compost' into the spots that the hobbits directed them to.

It was late November by the time they finished. The snows had held off, but wouldn't for too much longer. On the day that Gerontius, the Tooks that had traveled with him, and several dwarves that had offered to guard them, left the mountain city, he offered Bilbo a chance to go back to the Shire with them. Bilbo smiled, but shook his head. He was considered an abnormality in those green and rolling hills. As much as he wanted to visit, it was better to wait until he could change back. Even then, Bilbo knew he wouldn't stay in the Shire to long. He had his dwarves to keep an eye on and keep safe, especially the mischievous Víli, Fíli, and Kíli. Gerontius understood, and promised to come back in the spring to look the fields over again.

"They're nice people, those hobbits." Dís comment later that evening.

"There's a bad apple in every bushel." Bilbo replied as he tickled Fíli's tummy.

"Hm?" Víli glanced over from where he was on nappie duty with Kíli.

"I think Bilbo means something along the lines of, 'there's one bad sword in every armory'." Thorin mused from the front doorway, where he was smoking his pipe.

"If that means there are bad people in every family/city/kingdom/race, then yes." Bilbo agreed.

~

With the new food properly stored away, Thorin led a couple wagons filled with food northward to their sister city, Gabilgathol. The Firebeard clan was very happy to receive the goods; their harvest had been very poor as well. The dwarf king and his guard were held up for a week by bad weather before they were able to return to Tumunzahar. It was mid-December by the time Thorin was back to stay for the rest of the winter. But those few weeks was enough time for Thorin to notice that his family and kin had more color and fullness to their cheeks, and not the pale and gaunt looks that had become normal over the last few decades.

Bilbo had awoken shortly before Thorin's arrival, like when he had come back with the hobbits, and was able to exchange brief pleasantries before going back to sleep. The next time Bilbo woke that evening, he explained that his deer side wasn't getting any nutrition. And since he couldn't change back to his hobbit form, he slept more to balance out the lack of steady green grass during the winter months. 4 months after his arrival in Tumunzahar, in early February, Bilbo awoke briefly in time to hear Óin proclaim his leg healed  and could begin to walk around fully on it. Bilbo tried, but he was just so tired, so he didn't really move around that much.

It was a great relief to all when spring finally arrived 2 months later. Bilbo gained more energy as the days grew brighter, hobbling around on all four legs and occasionally stumbling as he gained his strength. Once approved by Óin, the hobbit-deer fully embraced being outdoors again, and stayed in the woods for a couple of weeks to regain his strength. Dwalin stayed close by in case of wolves or orcs. The day Bilbo re-entered the Thorin's Halls, he had a splitting headache caused by the shedding of his antlers. His old pair fell off, and a new velvet pair came in full-sized instantly. Bilbo brought the shedded antlers back for Bofur's father to make into some toys, and then proclaimed he was taking a health day, do not disturb until he initiates contact.

Thorin honestly found it a bit amusing.

Gerontius came back with several of his relatives, and more bountiful Shire soil and animal manure. Gerontius admitted that these first few years would be spent trying to get the soil content to a healthy level to grow food, and that the crops planted were there, while they could be eaten, were too simply to help hold the soil in place. The dwarves would still need to trade for most of their food until then, and that was totally fine with Thorin.

"How is Bilbo doing?" Gerontius asked his first afternoon back.

"Wonderful now that he can be in the forest and 'actually have the energy needed to get through day-to-day life without taking an 8 hour nap'." Thorin replied with a somewhat sarcastic tone. "His words, not mine."

"It does make a difference." Bilbo agreed as he came over, holding onto two little giggling bundles in his arms.

Fíli was making faces at the 6 month old Kíli, who was trying to mimic the looks back to his brother. It was just so cute that the adults couldn't help but smile. Fíli had recently turned 6 years old, and had been over the moon about his new big boy bed that his father and uncle had made for him, no longer having to use an old shirt stuffed with hay as his sleeping mat.

The dwarves had finally gotten use to the Ushmar Mukhas walking about in the village and fields, and stopped trying to touch him, (more specifically: his antlers), without his permission. They understood that Bilbo was intelligent and actually challenged their own thought processes to find new ways to do old tasks. Many of the dwarves had sworn off eating venison ever again, and other tried to not eat any meat… period. Bilbo had stopped that shortly after it started, stating that while venison was probably off the menu, he didn't have any issues if they, (or himself), ate pig, chicken, fish, cow, goat, sheep, turkey, or most other wildlife.

"So what are you going to do now that you're all healed up?" Gerontius asked.

"I've got my hands pretty full." Bilbo grinned back, pointedly looking at Fíli and Kíli.

Gerontius chuckled while Thorin rolled his eyes, and then frowned. That same question had been plaguing him for a while, but he had never asked it. He didn't want Bilbo to leave, having gotten use to the Ushmar Mukhas' presence in his home, but it wasn't his place to demand that Bilbo stay. If Bilbo wanted to go, that was his choice.

"These dwarves wouldn't know the right end of a hoe or a pea plant if it wasn't for me." Bilbo commented, bringing Thorin out of his morbid thoughts. "And someone needs to make sure the fields grow and flourish. If they'll have me, that is."

"Of course." Thorin replied.

Bilbo smiled brightly at Thorin again, and Gerontius snickered behind his hand. The poor fools were so besotted with each other, and they didn't even realize it. Maybe some nudges in the right direction once Bilbo was a little older, in about 20 years. Could he wait that long? After watching the two sneak glances when the other wasn't looking, Gerontius knew that he would have to.

~

Translations

Tumunzahar = Khuzdul for: Hollow-Building/House. Tumunzahar is more commonly known by its Sindarin name, Nogrod, which means: hollow-bold, 'bold' being an Old English word that means house/home.

Ushmar Mukhas = Khuzdul for: Guardian Deer.

Guardiano del Cervi = Italian/Hobbitish for Guardian Deer.

Gabilgathol = Khuzdul for: Great Fortress. Like Tumunzahar/Nogrod, it is more commonly known by its Sindarin name, Belegost, which also means: great fortress.

~

Previous chapters EDIT! As it turns out, many of the dwarves settled in Tumunzahar/Nogrod after Smaug took Erebor and the Battle of Azanulbizar, where Thorin built Thorin's Halls atop of the old ruins of the city, (according to the LOTR Wikia, not sure what their citation was… any-who). So this chapter and the previous chapters have been edited to reflect that.

On another note, we don't actually know if it was the Broadbeam clan or the Firebeard clan who settled in Tumunzahar/Nogrod. Tolkien never specified that detail. So, my head canon says, 'Broadbeams in Tumunzahar/Nogrod, Firebeards in Gabilgathol/Belegost'. Live with it.

~

And so the male and female voices who were begging "SAVE THEM!" back in Chapter 1 are revealed to be Lord Aulë/Mahal and Lady Yavanna/Kaminzanbdûna. How many of you guessed that? Honestly.

~

Bushel of wheat = 60 lbs.

Bushel of potatoes = 55 lbs.

Bushel of onions = 57 lbs.

~

Bilbo is currently 40 years old, and that means that he looks and is considered to be age 20 for a normal hobbit. He needs to age for 26 more years, (and be 66 years old), before he will be considered of age in the Shire.

~

The ages of the dwarves I got off of the LOTR wikia. Or, I got their birth year off the LOTR wikia, and did the math. So the ages are 'accurate', but (to my knowledge) are not officially recorded in any of Professor Tolkien's notes about the dwarves.

Chapter Text

Not too much later, many of the hobbits headed back to the Shire, but some of those in their late tweens stayed to help tend the fields, while the dwarves who worked for the men-folk in the summer left. Though about 1/3 of the dwarves went to the Shire first, and they came back with more food and money in two weeks then what they got from the men-folk in two months.

While wandering in the forest, some point in mid-June, looking for different types of food that could be eaten, Bilbo stumbled upon some Athelas and Belladonna plants. Very gently, Bilbo uprooted both plants and brought them back to Tumunzahar. It had only occurred to him in that moment that he didn't know if it was the leaves, the flowers, the roots, or different parts of the whole plant combined that was needed for the tea he needed to change between his cervitaur* form and hobbit form.

This was going to be a painful trial and error.

Thorin and Óin weren't happy when Bilbo told them the news, but began to stock up on charcoal as a precaution. The day that started, Thorin and Bilbo went to Óin's doctor area, where the dwarf had prepared a number of combinations. It took three days, and a very ill Bilbo to discover it was a combination of Athelas leaves and flowers, and the Belladonna roots. Instead of feeling nauseated and drained of strength after drinking the tea, Bilbo felt a surge of energy, and was able to change to his hobbit form immediately after.

The hobbit laughed when both Thorin and Óin squawked in surprise at his sudden transformation and nakedness, abruptly turning with their bright red faces away and tossing a blanket (Óin) or coat (Thorin) at him. Still laughing, Bilbo examined his legs and feet to make sure he had all 10 toes and curly golden hair on the tops of his feet. Satisfied, Bilbo pulled on Thorin's blue sleeveless coat and used the blanket to tie the front closed.

"Okay, I'm decent." Bilbo snickered, and the dwarves faced him again. "You do realize you technically saw me naked all winter, right?"

The new reddening on their faces had Bilbo almost falling over as he laughed even more. With a growl, Óin pushed Bilbo onto the table that the hobbit had lain on with an arrow in his hip 7 months ago. The doctor examined his feet and legs, also checking his hip for indications of wrongly healed muscles, simply making sure that Bilbo was healthy.

"And you can change back to your deer form?" Óin asked.

With a nod, Bilbo switched back to having four legs instead of two, before switching to his hobbit form and back and forth a few more times before settling with his hobbit form. In this form, Thorin's coat fell to his ankles, and it was very soft and warm. Bilbo smiled as he snuggled the fur along the collar, gently inhaling the smoky scent that clung to it.

"You'll be lucky if you get your coat back." Bilbo smirked. "It's soft and cuddly."

"You'll be lucky if you get away from an upset Fíli wanting his 'fur blanket' back." Thorin smirked back.

"Go fall down a mine shaft." Bilbo deadpanned.

Thorin spluttered while Óin roared in laughter. It had been ages since the healer had seen anyone make the dwarf stammer, the young royal forced to grow up rather quickly -thanks to Smaug and Azanulbizar- and hide his emotions behind a mask. Óin got his laughter under control before they left the healer's hut, and walked out onto the street. Many of the dwarves stared as they realized that Bilbo had been telling the truth about being a hobbit -very few called them 'halfling' anymore, the Tooks left lasting impressions- and then waved with a greeting before going back to their business.

A few of the Tooks that had stayed behind for the summer came running over once they saw that Bilbo had his normal legs again, and pressed some bundles of special clothes that would be able to be 'absorbed', (for lack of a better term), into his skin when he shifted. Bilbo thanked the youngsters and went to get changed. They were different from the trousers and waistcoats he was use to wearing from his last lifetime, but Bilbo knew he would adjust to the mid-thigh length sage green tunic with no vest and semi-tight mid-calf length tan trousers.

And apparently when Thorin said that Bilbo was welcome to stay in Tumunzahar, he literally meant for Bilbo to stay in the house he and his immediate family shared. There wasn't enough space to add another room to the house, it would block street traffic, so Bilbo continued to share Thorin's bedroom, which now held two single dwarf-sized beds, as a place to sleep when he wasn't slumbering out in the woods as a cervitaur.

True to his word to the Thain, Bilbo remained in Tumunzahar to help the dwarves with their harvest and planting the winter crops to hold the topsoil in place. When the hobbit wasn't helping in the field, he was helping in the kitchens to prep the fruits and vegetables for immediate consumption or preserved to be eaten at a later date. Bilbo was more than happy to show several frustrated dwarf mothers who to mix fruit and veggie puree into food that the dwarflings like to eat.

"Are you sure this is going to work?" Dori asked.

The dwarf, (who was around age 10 by the standards of men and 15 by the standards of hobbits), had been the caretaker for Nori and Ori after the mother passed shortly after Ori's birth, was watching Bilbo mix spinach in with some red tomato sauce, meat, cheese, and wide lengths of pasta, in a concoction the hobbits like to call lasagna. Bilbo chuckled as he nodded his head.

"You think that dwarflings are the only ones who refused vegetables?" Bilbo snickered softly. "Getting a stubborn fauntling to eat what they don't want to, oy! That's a new level of nightmares."

Was what he was doing deceitful? Yes, yes it was.

But all the dwarves ate all of their veggies and had a well-balanced meal, and that made Bilbo happy.

The ravens that were with the dwarves liked Bilbo too, or rather, they liked picking the ticks and other bugs off of his deer body when he was in his cervitaur form. During the next winters, he remained in his hobbit form and was able to help around the house with Fíli and Kíli more. Before Bilbo knew it, five years had gone by since he had first awoken in the forest and rescued Víli and Kíli from the orc ambush, and he had not once gone to the Shire… but Bilbo found that he felt more at home with the dwarves then he ever had felt with the hobbits.

One night, after everyone was sound asleep, Bilbo startled awake and immediately changed to his cervitaur form. Ears swiveling to catch any sounds, the hobbit heard the footsteps of a young dwarf. The door to Thorin's room opened and shut, and Bilbo struck a match to light a candle. The room filled with light, (and Thorin snoozed on, somehow unaware of what was happening), allowing Bilbo to see who was in the home of the royal family.

"Nori?" Bilbo gasped.

The 32 year old dwarf stared at him. In terms of the race of men, Nori was only about 9 years old. As a hobbit, he was around 13 years old. Still a bit young, a things considered. The auburn haired dwarf was panting a bit, and reminded Bilbo of a cornered squirrel. Extremely flighty, and would bolt at the first sign of trouble.

"What is it Nori?" Bilbo asked. "What's wrong?"

Nori's eyes flicked to Thorin, and Bilbo looked at the -somehow- still slumbering dwarf who usually was the first awake when there was an intruder of some sort in the house. Apparently this was something that the royal dwarf needed to know. Bilbo set the candle on the small end table that was in the room, and poked Thorin in the arm while whispering the dwarf's name. Thorin grumbled, and swatted Bilbo's hand away with a grunt. Bilbo sighed and rolled his eyes, catching the amusement on Nori's face.

"Thorin." Bilbo hissed and poked his arm harder.

Thorin grunted again, this time pulling the bed covers over his head. Well, that confirmed that he was in the land of the living, but really wanted to go back to sleeping like a stone. Bilbo huffed at the stubbornness, but honestly, what else could he expect from a dwarf? The hobbit tapped his finger against his lips and then smirked.

"Thorin, Víli's gotten your blackberry jam." Bilbo called in a sing-song tone.

Thorin's blue eyes shot open and he was up and out of his bed in less than two seconds. Then he groaned as Bilbo and Nori started to snicker at his reaction. Unfair, so unfair to threaten his secret stash of blackberry preserves to get him out of bed. Glaring at the cervitaur, Thorin sat back down on his bed with a sigh, wanting to go back to sleep, but knew he wouldn't until Bilbo told him why he was up… wait, why was Nori here?

"Nori has something he needs to tell you." Bilbo nodded to the young dwarf. "And since he's here in the middle of the night, I think it's important."

Nori nodded, still uncertain about speaking the dwarf king. Thorin yawned and scratched his beard as he blinked his sleepiness away, a gesture that Nori had seen Dori do, and relaxed at touch at the familiar movement. Thorin may be their leader, but he was still a dwarf who knew the same sufferings that his own family did. Definitely more approachable then some of the nobles that demanded they get the best of everything.

"I was at Óin's apothecary dropping off some tonic bottles from Ori's bout of flu." Nori said softly, making Bilbo nod since he knew about Ori's recent illness. "I was heading home when I heard some dwarves talking. Normally, I would ignore this because it's so common, but when I heard them talking about Mr. Bilbo, I stopped to listen…"

Nori swallowed heavily and took a deep breath.

"They were cursing Mr. Bilbo's existence, and for him rescuing Prince Consort Víli and Prince Kíli from the orc ambush 5 years ago." Nori continued, occasionally swallowing as if he was trying to keep his dinner in his stomach. "They were talking of needing to remove him from the picture, and how now was a good time because it had been five years and no one had ever suspected them of hiring the orcs to attack the caravans… so they wouldn't suspect them hiring more to get rid of Mr. Bilbo, and maybe Prince Consort Víli, Prince Fíli, and Prince Kíli while they were at it."

Bilbo's hands were pressed to his mouth to keep him from shouting, whether it was in outrage or fear, he wasn't certain. Why would anyone ever want to kill children? Víli was a touch more understandable since he wasn't a born royal… he wasn't even a born noble. No, Víli was known as a commoner, a simple miner/blacksmith, depending on the needs of his family. But Fíli and Kíli were born royal threw their mother, despite there being no actual mountain kingdom that the royal family dwelled within.

Thorin had clenched his hands tightly, the fabric of his sleep pants bunching and threatening to tear under the strain. He had suspected a plot against his family, but he never had any proof of his worries… until now. Taking a few deep breaths so he didn't explode in anger and scare Nori, (who was merely the -very brave- messenger), Thorin frowned and looked up to see how Bilbo was taking this. The hobbit's deer ears were pricked, indicating that he was listening intently.

Without warning, Bilbo blew out the candle he had lit only minutes before. The attitude baffled Thorin, until he heard what Bilbo must have heard. Heavy footsteps of a dwarf sounded in the streets, and were getting closer to his house. Bilbo had long ago figured out the footsteps of those close to Thorin, (Dís, Víli, Dwalin, Balin, Glóin, and Óin), and several others in the community, (Dori, Nori, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur), and these footsteps were not any of those dwarves. The dwarf, (yes, a dwarf because they walked too heavily to be a hobbit), stopped near Thorin's window, stayed for a minute or two, and then walked away.

"We're being watched." Thorin said lowly.

"Nori, you'll need to stay here tonight and go back to your family in the morning." Bilbo spoke firmly as Nori opened his mouth to protest. "Those dwarves who want me dead are watching this place. What will they do to you if they see you leaving in the middle of the night?"

Nori closed his mouth and nodded. With a smile, the cervitaur nudged the young dwarf to his bed and tucked him in, despite the feeble protests of 'being too old to be tucked in' and 'not a baby'. Once Nori was situated, Bilbo moved towards the door of the bedroom.

"Where are you going?" Thorin asked, amused.

"To the sofa?" Bilbo replied, a bit confused.

"You mean the, and I quote, 'lumpy piece of furniture that's better off as fire fuel'?" Thorin smirked.

Bilbo didn't know Thorin had heard him grumbling about the state of the furniture in the house, and flushed. He so grateful that it was dark in the room. Though, dwarves were supposed to have excellent night vision to see in their mountain tunnels, so… yeah, never mind. Thorin knew that he was blushing. A groan came from Nori.

"Just share Mr. Thorin's bed for tonight already." Nori mumbled as he pulled a pillow over his head.

Thorin pressed his hand to his mouth to stifle his laughter, and Bilbo blushed even harder as he attempted to sputter reasons why they should not. Of course, it all just sounded like nervous stammering, and Thorin eventually rolled his eyes before reaching out and hauling Bilbo over to the side of his bed. Bilbo stopped talking as Thorin's blue eyes shone with amusement and patience while he waited for Bilbo to change back to his hobbit form so they could get back to sleep. With a sigh, and knowing that Dís was somehow going to find out and use this as blackmail material, Bilbo shifted back to his hobbit form and curled up next the dwarf king, his back to Thorin's chest.

Thorin smirked again when Bilbo finally joined him, and gently nuzzled the head of golden curls. The hobbit yawned, which in turn set him off. A couple of more yawns later, they both fell asleep. They would worry about the plot against the line of Durin in the morning.

~

"Rise and shine!"

Bilbo jumped sky high, shifting to his cervitaur form as he looked around wildly for a route of escape. Feet landing on the ground, Bilbo sighed with relief, trying to calm his rapidly beating heart as he realized it was Dís who had awoken them by yelling as loud as she possibly could. Thorin groaned as he glared at his sister. Bilbo had taken the blanket with him when he leapt out of bed, so he was colder now, and not as happy. Nori had jumped at the loud noise, like Bilbo, but he landed on his butt on the ground instead of his feet.

"Oh!" Dís caught sight of the middle 'Ri brother. "When did we get a guest?"

"Last night." Thorin said as he sat up, pulled his blanket off of Bilbo's deer back, and wrapped it around his shoulders. "He overheard some sensitive information and came straight here."

"How sensitive?" Dís asked with a frown.

"Dwarves paying orcs to attack the caravans five years ago, sensitive." Bilbo inputted as he grabbed a fresh blue tunic.

Dís' jaw dropped, and then she grew angry. The female dwarf knew that these dwarves had almost caused the death of her husband and second born five years ago, and she wanted retribution. Many, including Bilbo, had believed that Thorin was the most lethal of his family members, being a seasoned warrior… but it was Dís who did the really dirty work in the shadows, using poisons, abductions, and many other underhanded methods to get rid of those who threatened her family.

"We don't know who is behind it, but we do know they want Bilbo dead for saving Víli and Kíli, and Víli, Fíli, and Kíli dead as well for having common blood instead of 100% noble or royal blood." Thorin explained, and watched his sister file the information away.

The daughter of Thráin would probably be the first to figure out who wanted to harm her family. Thorin did not pity the ones who thought they could challenge his sister by threatening her family and get away with it. But they, like all the others, would ultimately fail.

~

Later that day, Bilbo sighed again as he glanced around. He was in the forest, gathering mushrooms that could be eaten. Dís loved his stuffed and baked provolone cheese and shiitake mushrooms. But he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. Loud baying from hunting dogs made him startle, and the sight of the four deerhounds running towards him had his instincts running at high gear. Turning, Bilbo ran away as fast as he possibly could, heading back towards Tumunzahar.

'Oh yeah, this is really a good rush adrenaline.' Bilbo thought to himself briefly, and then focused on running as fast as he could. 'I'm definitely going to sleep good tonight.'

While Bilbo did run slower than a dog, he might be able to run for longer periods of time, depending on the breed of the hound. Still, he didn't want to get caught, it would most likely be his death before whoever owned the dogs could get them off of him. Bounding out of the forest, Bilbo made an abrupt turn to the left, and ran up the road to Tumunzahar. The deerhounds didn't seem to be tiring, and Bilbo knew he was starting to run out of energy. Thankfully Dwalin, who was once again guarding the front gate, had known that Bilbo was in the forest somewhere that day, and had prepared for the hounds when he heard them howling.

The dwarf had a net laid across the ground in the gate to Thorin's Halls. Once Bilbo ran passed, the net would raise to block the door, and stop the hounds from getting into the city… and from tearing Bilbo to pieces if they got their teeth in him. Bilbo ran through the gate of the city, and heard the rigging system haul the net up into place. The deerhounds yelped and howled as they got caught in the net, their 'prey' getting away.

Any dwarf in the street quickly scampered off to the side at the sight of Bilbo charging down the road. The hobbit didn't stop, just in case one of the dogs had gotten through the gate before the net went up, and slipped past Dís and Víli into the house, slamming the door shut. Thorin looked up, startled by Bilbo's sudden entrance. He opened his mouth to ask what was wrong, but shut it again when he heard the hounds baying nearby.

With a groan, Thorin hauled himself to his feet. The dwarves who dwelt in Thorin's Halls had refused to purchase any form of canine that was used for large animal hunting, so these hounds probably belonged to the rangers or a visiting dwarf lord from one of the other dwarven cities. Thorin took Bilbo's hand and led him to the bedroom, where he took off the saddlebags filled with mushrooms, and settled the spooked cervitaur into his bed, curled up under a blanket. After the poor hobbit was properly situated, Thorin quickly left the house and headed to the gates to see what type of mess the dogs had brought with them.

Aye… Great, just great.

The hounds belonged to Thorin's 102 year old cousin, Dáin Ironfoot. His epithet came about because Dáin had lost his lower left leg during Azanulbizar to Azog the Defiler. His first prosthetic foot had been made from a mix of different metals. This current one was made of iron, and had been made by Dáin's wife, Jovina of the Stonefoot's, as one of her courting gifts to the stubborn dwarf.

Dáin had said in his last letter that he was going to come by for a visit to see how his family was doing, but he never mentioned bringing deerhounds with him. Didn't that dwarf pay any attention to what Thorin had written in his letters in the past 5 years? Thorin knew that he had mentioned Bilbo, and that he was an Ushmar Mukhas. Unless it was Jovina who had been reading the missives and Dáin had not been paying attention at all… yeah, that was probably what happened.

"Thorin!" Dáin yelled from the other side of the net that was keeping the dogs out of the city. "What's the meaning of this? You'd keep your own cousin from seeing you?"

"Haven't you read any of the letters I've sent you in the last five years?" Thorin asked as he got to the net, flicking one of the dogs in the nose to get it off the netting.

"Yeah." Dáin replied, not understanding what the point was.

"No." Jovina called from within the small caravan that was behind her husband. "I read them, he wasn't paying attention."

Called it.

Thorin groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. This was going to be a problem. Even it Bilbo shifted to his hobbit form, his scent would remain too similar to his cervitaur form, and drive the hounds ballistic. Several dwarves would have to go back to the Shire, or even Bree, with the dogs, since Thorin really didn't want Bilbo to get hurt, accidentally or otherwise.

"Yes, I'll admit that I'm not interested in hearing about Kíli getting his 11th tooth." Dáin groused. "What's that got to do with my dogs though?"

If looks could incinerate… practically every dwarf in Tumunzahar was glaring at the Lord of the Iron Hills, Dís and Víli's as hot as Smaug's firebreath. Dáin registered to looks, but still didn't understand why they were glaring at him for bringing some on his hounds with him, which several of the nobles of the city had asked him to bring from Bree! He was just trying to be a friendly neighbor and keep the dwarves of the Broadbeam clan happy with the Longbeards being here…

Thorin groaned. He so wanted to take his cousin by the ears and beat the stone-headed idiotness out of him in the training grounds. He was fairly certain that if Dáin's wife had known about the dogs, Jovina would have stopped her husband… so that meant his cousin hadn't come all the way from the Iron Hills with the hounds, they had to be a recent pick-up.

"Where and when did you get these dogs?" Thorin asked.

"In Bree, around 2 weeks ago." Dáin replied. "Lord Lýthur and Lord Reinaldur asked me to pick up their order and deliver the dogs here since it was on the way."

The looks of dragon-fire incineration were turned to the mentioned two dwarves, who had started to back away once Dáin said when, where, and why he had gotten the deerhounds. Thorin recognized Lord Reinaldur as the dwarf Bilbo had kicked bellow the belt five years ago when the hobbits first came to Tumunzahar with all of the food, Dwalin having chased him out into the woods for over a week because he had entered the king's home without an invitation. Lýthur was one of the dwarf lords who kept complaining about 'not getting his share of food or traded goods first' or that 'the commoner dwarves certainly didn't need that much food'. Dwalin was able to tackle Lýthur to the ground as he tried to run, but Reinaldur managed to escape into the back alleys.

Dáin just stood watching in complete confusion. Why on earth would they be so upset about these two dwarf lords wanting deerhounds? To Dáin's understanding, they needed all the food that they could get by means possible, including hunting animals.

"So the Ushmar Mukhas in your letters truly exists?" Jovina asked.

"Yes, he does." Thorin nodded his head.

Dáin felt stupid. The legendary half-deer creature that had lived with Durin the First, called Deathless… Wait, didn't they go extinct in the Second Age? No, they probably just went into hiding due to their exoticness by being two different creatures with one body. And now there was one living near Tumunzahar. No wonder everyone had been mad when they saw the deerhounds.

"Right." Dáin sighed, hoping to be able to fix some of this mess. "Andar and Tórur, take the deerhounds back to Bree. Say there was a misunderstanding in which breed of canine that was wanted, and that you're willing to take a partial refund. Make sure you get, at minimum, half of the coins back."

"Yes sir." Andar replied as he and Tórur bowed, took the four dogs, snapped on collars and leashes, and dragged the still baying hounds back down the road that led to the Shire and Bree.

Once the dogs were out of sight, Dáin turned back with a… sheepish/hesitant look on his face, as if the dwarf wasn't certain it was okay for him to ask if he could still come into the city and visit his cousins. Thorin sighed and relaxed a touch. Dáin hadn't known about Bilbo, (though he really should have), and was trying to make up for his mistakes. Besides, it was Lýthur and Reinaldur that they really needed to worry about. One dwarf was in custody while the other was loose in the city somewhere and could cause even more problems.

"Lower the netting and let our cousins in." Thorin ordered, once he was certain there was no way the deerhounds would be running back up the road.

Dwalin barked orders to the dwarves who had been holding the net up across the doorway. The system was a last line of defense so the dwarves in the city could get the main gates closed in case of an attack, while keeping orcs or bandits out… or in this case, the deerhounds. Dáin hesitantly crossed the threshold, heading straight to Thorin. If his cousin was going to punch his lights out for what he had done, Dáin rather get it over with. Thorin sighed, and flicked Dáin's ear like he had when they were younger. Dáin yelped like a dwarfling, and glared at Thorin while rubbing his abused ear, but smiled because he knew that everything was eventually going to be okay.

~

Bilbo remained curled up in his bed. He was still shaken from his deer-side emotions, and had no desire to leave his safe haven. He wasn't even aware of the bedroom door opening until a hand gently touched his shoulder. The hobbit startled, jerking up into a sitting position to see Thorin with his hands held in an 'I surrender!' pose. With a shaky exhale, Bilbo found himself pressing his head into Thorin's chest as he tried to get his heart rate back under control. Thorin wrapped his arms around Bilbo, letting himself be the support that was needed during his emotionally high time.

"I'm okay." Bilbo mumbled, but made no move to leave Thorin's embrace.

"Physically, mentally, or emotionally?" Thorin asked quietly.

"Physically." Bilbo answered after a pause, knowing his state of mind and inner feelings were still in panic mode, but he hadn't had any bodily injuries.

"The hounds are being taken back to Bree." Thorin reassured Bilbo. "My cousin didn't know about you or that you are and Ushmar Mukhas, though he should have since I did include you in my letters to him and his wife. Two of the dwarf lords here were the ones who purchased the deerhounds, most likely they were the ones who wanted you and my sister's-sons killed."

"Where are they now?" Bilbo asked.

"We have Lýthur in the prison, but Reinaldur escaped into the city." Thorin admitted.

"Five gold says Dís finds him first." Bilbo mumbled.

"No deal, I know that will happen." Thorin shook his head.

"Oh…" Bilbo pouted, which made Thorin smile because the hobbit looked so cute. "Darn."

~

*Cervitaur: A half-deer half-human creature that is human from the waist up, and a deer from the waist down. If you look this up on Google, it will find results that say a mythological half-deer, half-human creature, and probably show you several picture examples. Previous chapters have been edited to reflect this.

~

Lýthur, Reinaldur, Andar, and Tórur are Outer Male Dwarf Names that I found on WordPress, my thanks going to Dwarrow Scholar.

~

Translations

Tumunzahar = Khuzdul for: Hollow-Building/House. It is more commonly known by its Sindarin name, Nogrod, which also means Hollow-House.

Ushmar Mukhas = Khuzdul for: Guardian Deer.

~

In regards to Bilbo's speed and the speed of the hounds. What I've found for a roe deer's speed is 40 mph for a brief stretch, (panic mode), and somewhere between 20-30 mph, (I'm being chased, here's my continuous running), and can last for 15-20 minutes. But don't actually quote me on this because my sources were several different websites. I kept getting answers like, "fast enough to get away from my ATV".

A Scottish Deerhound, (which is the dog breed I'm basing these ones on), can run at speeds of about 38 mph, and apparently can do so for extremely long periods of time so they can run down and kill their prey. I couldn't find an exact length of time, so if anyone can find it or knows off the top of their head, please let me know.