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A Fairy's Tale

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Thorin did not disappoint.

Frerin had discovered the elves of Mirkwood greatly enjoyed celebrations. They had a huge ballroom and he’d promptly dragged Bilba to it, insisting it was vitally important for her to see what an amazing dancer he was in a proper setting.

Bilba approved.

The floor of the room appeared to be the base of what had, at one time, been a massive tree. Rings spread out from the center, various areas lighter or darker shades of brown revealing when, in years past, there had been exceptionally heavy rain or similarly extreme drought. The floor had been lacquered and sanded to a flawlessly smooth, brilliant shine.

Frerin was ecstatic.

When Thorin appeared in the doorway Frerin didn’t even pause but continued moving across the floor with Bilba. Thanks to him, she’d started picking up on a lot of the dance moves he’d learned as a child in Erebor and was able to match him, their moves an easy glide across the floor.

“Frerin.”

“Here to thank me are you, brother?” He did not look at Thorin as he spoke, his eyes locked on Bilba’s.

“I will not deal with that elf,” Thorin growled.

“You didn’t,” Frerin replied. “I did.”

“Frerin--”

“Let’s see where our respective strategies have taken us, shall we?” Frerin asked, not breaking step in the dance routine he and Bilba were going through. “Mine got us a place to stay for the night, supplies and an aid from the elves in dealing with the dragon. Your strategy--” Here he finally stopped dancing with Bilba to look at his brother, “got you thrown in the dungeons.”

Thorin glowered. “That elf--”

“Is a king just as our grandfather was,” Frerin said, “and came to aid us in spite of how badly Grandfather treated him, particularly at the end. He also came to our aid in spite of the fact that it was our own damn fault a dragon attacked. When he saw we were fleeing safely, and the dragon was already inside in a confined space where it could hide under mountains of treasure, he chose not to sacrifice his own people fighting it.” He raised an eyebrow at Thorin. “Exactly what part of that justifies rejecting his help now? He’s not even asking for a portion of the treasure, he simply wants jewels that, by right, already belong to him.”

There was a muscle twitching in Thorin’s jaw. From experience, Frerin knew it usually meant his brother was aware he was fighting a losing battle but his stubbornness and pride wouldn’t let him admit it.

Thorin growled something under his breath, spun on one heel and marched out of the room.

 

***

 

Bilba watched him go with a worried frown. “He loves you,” she said to Frerin. “You shouldn’t fight.”

“He’ll be alright,” Frerin said. “He just needs a little time for his ego to recover.” She continued to give him a concerned look and he responded by tilting her chin up and kissing her.

Since Beorn’s he’d been using pretty much everything as an excuse to kiss her so she wasn’t particularly surprised.

“I have no intention of lording it over him that I was right,” Frerin said, “or of making it widely known. I’m not interested in undermining his authority.” He paused to kiss her again before pulling back to gaze into her eyes. “I just want you safe.”

Bilba felt her face heat. “Are you sure I will be? In Erebor?”

“I am,” Frerin said confidently. He hesitated and, for the first time, the briefest hint of uncertainly appeared in his eyes. “There’s something I’ve been thinking of, since we left Beorn’s.”

“Really?” Bilba asked. “What?”

He took both her hands in his. “I had been thinking to ask you if you would officially allow me to court you.”

Bilba’s eyes widened and her stomach felt unsettled. “You had been thinking?”

“I realized,” Frerin said, “we’ve already been courting and asking to make it official would simply add a wasted step. Not only that but courting is usually a way to get to know one another. I’ve known you for eleven years and, I may be wrong, but I think you have a pretty good understanding of me as well.”

“You’ve ensured I do,” Bilba said dryly. Even after they’d left the Shire, nearly five months earlier, he hadn’t stopped spending nearly every second with her, not only telling her about himself but showing her. His love and loyalty toward his brother, his affection and patience with his nephews, his leadership and intelligence toward the rest of the Company coupled with the ease with which he stepped back to allow his brother to be the true leader. And, last, his bravery, his courage and his protectiveness of her.

He grinned. “I’ve certainly tried.” His face grew serious and he got that intense look in his eyes that made her stomach do all sorts of odd things. “What I’m trying to say is I’ve spent decades watching the world pass me by and eleven years specifically watching you pass by. Now that I’m free and my will is my own I find it impossible to let the same thing continue to happen.”

He went down on one knee, still holding her hands.

Bilba froze, gaping at him. “What are you doing?”

“I love you,” Frerin said, his eyes never leaving hers. “My life hasn’t been the same since I met you and I can’t imagine it without you.” He took a deep breath. “Bilba Baggins. Will you marry me?”

Bilba’s eyes went wide and her heart lurched in her chest. “Frerin – I – I mean – what about--”

He stood up and wrapped an arm around her waist. “How do you feel about me?” he asked. His eyes were locked on hers, his gaze completely focused on her and Bilba felt her heart lurch wildly in her chest.

She put her hands on one of his forearms and his bicep.

He pressed his forehead against hers. “How do you feel about me?” he asked again. His voice was gentle, no pressure behind it, and his arm around her was loose. Bilba had no doubt if she tried to move away he wouldn’t stop her.

“I love you,” Bilba whispered finally. “I have for some time now.”

He kissed her and she wound an arm around the back of his neck. When he pulled away she left it there, arching her back so she could still look up and see his face.

“Then marry me,” he said again. “Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past, or what might happen in the future. Whatever may come, we’ll face it together.”

Bilba found herself nodding slowly, a smile spreading over her face almost of its own accord. “Okay.”

This time it was his turn to freeze. “Okay? Is that a yes?”

Bilba laughed. “Yes. That’s a yes.”

He shouted, then proceeded to put an arm under her legs, lift her up and kiss her. Bilba wrapped both arms around his neck and hugged him.

“We can ask Thranduil to do it,” Frerin said. “Or you can, I suppose. If I asked he’d probably just laugh at me.”

Bilba jerked her head up and gave him an incredulous look. “You want to get married now?”

“We’re leaving in the morning,” Frerin said reasonably. “Marrying on the road isn’t very romantic and I don’t think Erebor will be in shape to host a wedding after we get rid of the dragon.”

“So sure of our success,” Bilba said dryly. “And what about your brother? Isn’t he a king?”

“Indeed,” Frerin agreed. “But we’re in someone else’s kingdom. It’d be rude to ask my brother instead of Thranduil.”

Bilba considered him. “You know he’s going to kill you, right?”

Frerin grinned. “I’m hoping there’s still some residual ‘my brother has returned from the dead’ feelings left over that’ll get me out of it.”

Bilba’s eyes narrowed. “You’ve been planning this awhile haven’t you?”

“It’s possible.” As he spoke he was moving slowly, dancing while still holding her in his arms. “What do you say?”

Bilba tried, and failed, to prevent a smile of her own. “Well, I would hate to waste all your hard work.”

His only response was to kiss her again.

She could get used to that.

 

***

 

Thorin was not surprised that Frerin had convinced Bilba to marry him or that he’d managed to convince her to do it immediately.

He was actually more surprised Frerin hadn’t managed it sooner.

He had, after all, grown up with his brother and was well acquainted with his impatience, a trait which appeared to have grown far worse after his suffering at the hands of the Necromancer.

He did have a problem with Thranduil overseeing it.

In the end they comprised. Thorin would perform the ceremony while Bilba smoothed things over with Thranduil.

Frerin wasn’t precisely sure where the compromise came in to play. Thorin’s response was to tell him to shut up and be happy he was getting married.

Frerin had to admit he had an excellent point.

 

***

 

The ceremony was held that evening.

Upon hearing about it several of the elven women had whisked Bilba away, calling for sewing kits and other items as they did.

Frerin, meanwhile, was ordered to the baths to get ready himself. When he emerged it was to find his clothing cleaned and mended and laying out on his bed.

Thorin was also there, standing next to it.

“You were right,” he said simply as Frerin got ready.

“Of course I was,” Frerin replied. “About what?”

“I should be grateful,” Thorin said shortly. “I’ve got my brother back and soon I will have my kingdom, far sooner than I would have without your involvement.”

“You’re welcome,” Frerin said. He began putting his braids back in, using the metal beads Thorin had given him soon after they’d met up. The beads had the appropriate markings showing his bloodline instead of the generic ones he’d worn before.

Thorin held his hand out, palm up. “Here.”

He had two more beads in the palm of his hand and Frerin’s eyes widened, recognizing them. “Where did you get those?”

“I’ve always had them,” Thorin said. “It honestly never occurred to me that you or Dis might not know. I apologize for the oversight.”

Frerin picked the beads up almost reverently. They were marriage beads, solid gold, the crest of Durin etched in mithril. The last time he’d seen them they had been gracing the marriage braids of his parents. They’d originally belonged to his grandparents. After his grandmother had passed Thror had given them to his son upon his marriage. After their mother had died unexpectedly their father had removed the beads and Frerin had never seen them again.

“These are meant for the oldest son,” he said, “not me.”

Thorin shrugged. “They are mine. I can do with them as I wish and I wish to give them to you.”

Frerin hugged him.

Thorin started but hugged him back easily enough.

“Do the hobbits have a custom?” he asked after he pulled away. “To mark the fact that they’re married?”

“Rings,” Frerin said, “on the second to last finger of the left hand. I doubt Bilba just so happens to have any laying around but, once Erebor is retaken, I’ll have some made. That way the customs of both our cultures can be respected.”

“You’re so sure of our success?” Thorin asked, unconsciously repeating the same sentiment as Bilba.

“I am,” Frerin said. “I refuse to accept any other outcome.”

Thorin clapped him on the shoulder and headed to the door. “I will pray you are right. Come on, then. You’ve waited long enough, I gather.”

 

***

 

Bilba stood outside the door to the ballroom and tried to focus on breathing.

What if Frerin had changed his mind? What if he wasn’t even waiting for her?

“Relax.” One of the elven maidens who’d helped her get ready smiled. “Rarely have I seen anyone so utterly in love as that Prince of yours.”

Bilba smiled back in gratitude, her nerves settling a little. She smoothed her hands down the dress the elves had loaned her. She had no idea where it had come from. It was pale gold and white, with off the shoulder straps and was designed as a single piece flowing down her body with no break between a bodice and skirt. The elves had somehow managed to alter the dress in a ridiculously short time so it fit her perfectly, clinging to her body until it reached about her knees where it flared out into yards and yards of fabric that pooled on the floor and created a shimmering circle around her.

They’d freed her hair from its braid and curled it, an act that had taken hours, pulling some of it back and arranging it in an elaborate design with a netting of gold thread and diamonds worked through it.

They’d loaned her earrings and a gold necklace as well. The chain of the necklace at one point changed into a design of delicate flowers and plants, dipping down into a pendant of sorts in the front.

“Are you ready?” the young woman asked and Bilba nodded. Her stomach was fluttering and her nerves were jangling so she took a moment to focus on breathing.

She couldn’t believe she was really doing this. On the one hand it felt like it was all happening to fast. On the other, it felt like she’d been waiting forever.

The doors were pushed open and Bilba caught sight of the Company, arrayed in the best clothing they had, waiting near the center. Thorin was also there. Elves were at the edges of the room, including Thranduil, who looked amused more than anything while his son, standing next to him, simply looked confused.

Then Bilba caught sight of Frerin, standing near Thorin, and relief coupled with a sense of calm flooded her.

She took a breath and walked to him, taking his hands as soon as she was close enough.

“You look stunning,” he whispered.

Bilba smiled.

 

***

 

Thorin was speaking but Frerin couldn’t have repeated a single word of what he said.

When the doors had opened and Bilba had walked in he’d literally felt as if his breath had been stolen away.

He definitely knew his heart skipped a beat.

Thorin cleared his throat and he blinked, looking at him in confusion.

“The beads?” Thorin said wryly.

“Oh, right.” Frerin got them out, only to feel a flash of panic as he realized he’d never explained them or their significance to Bilba. “These are how dwarves show others that we’re married.” He said in a rush, showing them to her. “We have a specific braid and then these are put on them.”

Bilba nodded and Frerin, who was proud his hands were only shaking a little, managed to get the braid and bead in her hair before showing her how to do the same for him.

Before Thorin could continue, she caught Frerin’s hand. She reached into a small pocket on the dress and came back out holding two small rings. One was a simple gold band with a chain threaded through it while the other was thin and designed to look like a flower.

“In the Shire we wear rings,” she stammered. “These were my parents and I know my father’s is far too small for you but I thought maybe--”

Frerin took the smaller ring and carefully slid it onto the proper finger of her left hand. He raised an eyebrow in question and she hesitantly stepped forward and raised up on her toes to clasp the chain and second ring around his neck.

The act brought her in perfect position for him to wrap his arms around her, which he proceeded to do.

Thorin began repeating the standard dwarven marriage vows which Frerin repeated, followed by Bilba.

After that his brother’s voice faded away again as Frerin got entirely lost staring into Bilba’s eyes.

That was until his brother started clearing his throat again and Frerin turned to glare at him.

“You’re married,” Thorin said, his tone long suffering. “Kiss her already.”

“About time,” Frerin growled. He turned and proceeded to do precisely that.

Around them cheers and applause broke out and Frerin wished, for just a moment, that they could just freeze time there and never have to leave to face a dragon or another Necromancer or anything else of the sort.

Then he remembered his own words to Bilba about not worrying about the future and decided to take his own advice.

And he would start, he decided, by kissing his wife.

Again.

 

***

 

The elves of Mirkwood proved their reputation for enjoying celebrations was well earned.

The festivities for Bilba and Frerin’s marriage lasted well over two days. The good mood was apparently contagious for Thorin didn’t insist they leave early the next morning as planned but allowed them all to relax and enjoy the party.

Bilba and Frerin joined in for part of the first night, accepting well wishes and thanking the elves for their hospitality. At some point, however, they quietly retired and were seen very little after that. They knew, after all, there was little time for them before they would have to leave for Erebor and wished to make the most of it. A few times they were spotted wandering through some of the gardens of Mirkwood or watching the stars together on one of the viewing platforms high in the trunks of one of the trees.

On the dawn of the third day they finally appeared back in public, so to speak, as the Company was preparing to leave. Thorin, having nothing better to do, had ended up actually speaking to Thranduil during the two days they’d tarried. Frerin doubted the two had become friends, and couldn’t say they ever would, but they had come to a, grudging, sort of mutual understanding.

During their talks the two had come up with a plan to deal with Smaug. Thranduil could, if he wished, march his entire army to Erebor. The second they tried to march inside, however, the dragon would wake up, if he were still alive, and incinerate them before they could enter. Then he would undoubtedly leave the mountain and take to the air, an action which would have devastating consequences. The air was where dragons were king. They could incinerate entire ranks of soldiers while remaining untouchable or they could swoop from the skies and break battalions in one pass.

Apparently the two had come up with a plan that involved a small group of elves traveling with them to the mountain. Thranduil would come behind them with his army. If the plan were successful he could help secure the mountain from any wishing to plunder it. If the plan failed they could, attempt, to contain the dragon within Erebor.

Thorin refused to discuss the specifics of the actual plan until they’d arrived. According to Dwalin this meant it was probably an insane one. After this the Company ended up creating a betting pool on what Frerin’s reaction would be once he found out.

Kili was the first to spot him when he and Bilba finally reappeared. “I’m surprised you two showed up on your own. I figured we’d have to come drag you out.”

Bilba immediately went bright red and Frerin, exasperated, smacked Kili on the back on the head. “Stop embarrassing my wife, imp.”

Kili flashed an unapologetic grin. “Sorry, Uncle.”

Frerin went to go speak to Thorin while Bilba helped Kili load up supplies. Thorin clapped his brother on the back and led him off into a separate room.

They’d barely been gone when the sound of loud voices came through the closed door, earning a concerned look from Bilba.

“Don’t worry about it,” Kili said happily. “Frerin is just finding out what the plan is for dealing with Smuag.”

“What is the plan?” Bilba asked.

“No idea,” Nori said cheerfully walking past, “but I’m stood to make a fortune off it either way.”

The door opened and Frerin stalked out, his hands clenched in fists at his side. He caught sight of Bilba and made a clear effort to control himself, flexing his hands and taking a few deep breaths.

He strode over and gently put his hands on her shoulders before leaning forward to rest his forehead against hers and close his eyes.

Finally he pulled away and opened them. “I’m sorry, Darling,” he said casually, “but it looks like I’m going to have to stage a coup, kill my brother and rule Erebor in his stead.”

“Oh, no,” Bilba deadpanned. She reached up and slid her arms around his neck, interlacing her fingers together behind his head. “What about our plans to have him marry us again in Erebor?”

Frerin wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer, pretending to consider. “Well, I suppose we could always have Elrond do it in Rivendell. I’m sure the elves would love to be there.”

“Hmmm,” Bilba leaned back, putting it so her weight hung off her arms. “That would put us closer to the Shire.”

“Precisely,” Frerin said, “which would make it easier to do our third wedding in the Shire for Primula and Drogo to attend.”

“We’d still only get three weddings, though,” Bilba said reasonably, “you wanted at least four, remember?”

Frerin made a tsking sound. “True.” He grinned at Kili. “Hobbits believe in going to the extreme on things, you know. You should see how many meals they have.” He turned back to Bilba. “I suppose I could let him live…for awhile at least.”

“We’ll probably all get eaten by the dragon anyway,” Bilba said cheerfully.

Frerin’s eyes lit with humor. “Excellent point, my Love. The bright side it is.”

With that he linked arms with her and led her off to speak to one of the other Company members nearby.

Behind him, Kili frowned. “Why would you want more than one wedding?”

Fili strode past him to grab a sack of supplies. “Multiple wedding nights,” he said immediately, hefting the bag over his shoulder. “Can you blame him?”

Frerin half turned from where he and Bilba had been speaking to Gloin. “Fili, stop ogling your Aunt.”

“Sorry, Uncle.”

 

***

 

They left a few hours later.

Thranduil’s son, Legolas, went with them, leading a small complement of their finest archers.

Bilba, walking arm in arm with Frerin at the back of the group, raised an eyebrow at the longbows and large supply of arrows.

“Do I want to know?”

“Probably not,” Frerin said. He slowed as he spoke, increasing the distance between them and the rest of the group.

Bilba wrapped both arms around his bicep and moved to lean her head against his shoulder. “So,” she started, “I’ve been thinking--”

“No,” Frerin said immediately, “you can’t try to reason with the dragon before we try to kill him.”

Bilba straightened, glaring at him. “You don’t know that’s what I was going to say.”

Frerin stopped and turned to face her, taking her hands in his. “I’m sorry, Love,” he said, “what is it?”

Bilba’s eyes narrowed, catching the humor in his tone. “I’m not predictable.”

He cupped a hand around the back of her head and kissed her. “Of course not.”

“And you can’t just distract me by kissing me,” she said even as he kissed her again.

“Of course not, Darling.”

Bilba sighed in annoyance. “You don’t know I can’t reason with him.”

They started walking again, holding hands. “But I do know he’ll probably try and set you on fire before you can get a word out.”

“I can be invisible if I want.”

“And if he simply lights up the entire room?”

“Stop being logical.”

“Stop trying to talk to dragons.”

***

 

Thorin had originally planned to pass through Lake-town on the way to the Mountain, refreshing their supplies and hopefully gaining the support of some of the Men there.

With the help of the elves, however, this became unnecessary, particularly with the potential threat to Bilba in a town full of strangers.

Frerin, therefore, was in complete agreement with his brother, for once, on passing the town entirely and continuing on to Erebor.

They arrived with time to spare and easily located the back door, mainly because Frerin had actually gone the day their father had wanted to show it to them, as opposed to Dis who’d slept in and Thorin who’d been off hunting.

The heavy block of stone moved in with a grating sound and Bilba saw the change in Frerin and Thorin’s eyes as the corridor beyond was revealed.

They both moved forward, touching the walls reverently. Several of the others who’d also been in Erebor before its fall reacted in much the same way, while the younger dwarves who’d been born in the Blue Mountains were merely curious about the kingdom they’d grown up hearing so much about.

Bilba hung back with the elves, standing near Legolas who was eyeing the dark passage beyond the door.

“I’m surprised you married one of them,” he said, “You really want to live inside a giant rock the rest of your life?”

“I want to live with him the rest of my life,” Bilba corrected, “and he wants to live inside a giant rock,” she shrugged, “and it’s not as if I can never leave it.” Frerin had explained his belief about Erebor and its location and how he believed it would protect her and she agreed with his reasoning. “I doubt another Necromancer will be able to get as close to me.”

Legolas frowned. “Another one? You’ve had a run in with one already?”

Memories flooded her and Bilba felt a chill run through her. She pressed her hands together and looked down, nodding.

“Are you alright?” Frerin was there, glaring at Legolas, and Bilba stepped forward so he could wrap his arms around her and she could rest her head on his shoulder.

“It’s not his fault,” she said. “I was just remembering bad memories.”

“I apologize,” Legolas said instantly. “It was not my intent.”

“It’s okay.” Bilba straightened but stayed in contact with Frerin, holding onto his shirt to keep him close. “Just what is the plan for the dragon anyway? You’ve all been very secretive about it.”

“We’re going to sneak through the Treasury, lure the dragon into the rest of Erebor and shoot it in the eyes with longbows,” Legolas said.

Bilba blinked in surprise and looked at Frerin who shrugged. “Don’t look at me like that. It was my brother’s idea.”

“Sounds like something he’d come up with,” Bilba said. She frowned as she said it, glancing in Thorin’s direction. He’d been acting…off the closer they’d gotten to the Mountain. His mood, instead of lightening as she’d have expected so near to his home, had soured. He’d become short with everyone, quick to anger and prone to brooding. He’d also become almost irrationally obsessed with the Arkenstone.

Frerin had kept her away from him and had taken to staring at him, his eyes far away as if seeing something, or someone, else. Bilba hadn’t asked him about it yet and he hadn’t volunteered anything but, if it continued, she would bring it up soon.

The implication of Frerin’s words hit her. “Wait, you want to lure him out and shoot him in the eye? That means you plan to wake him up?”

“You need to stay out here,” Frerin responded. “You’ll be safe and if anything should go wrong you can always take refuge inside the tunnel.”

Bilba gave him a horrified look. “You want me to stay out here alone while you go bait a dragon?” She shook her head. “No.” Frerin started to argue but she simply repeated, “No, Frerin, I won’t do it. You can’t leave me out here.”

She didn’t know what scared her more, being left alone or Frerin facing a dragon while she waited outside with no idea of what was happening. She did, however, know which fear would get through to her husband. “Please, Frerin.” She stepped closer to him, her hands tangling in his shirt. “Don’t leave me alone out here.”

Frerin sighed. “Bilba.”

“You should stay out here with her,” a voice said and they both turned to see Thorin standing there. His eyes were lit with an odd light and there was an almost feverish look to him that had Bilba itching to step forward and try to heal him of…whatever it was. Frerin had already moved, though, putting her slightly behind him and blocking her path to him, or his to hers.

“Thorin--” he started to say but his brother cut him off.

“You’re married now, brother. Your responsibility lies with her. Mine is to the mountain.”

That wasn’t particularly fair, Bilba thought. She had no doubt Frerin could bear both responsibilities with little difficultly. After all, their father and grandfather had both been married and ruled at the same time without problem…well until the dragon came but that had nothing to do with them being married.

Frerin was silent, clearly warring with himself. Then, to Bilba’s surprise, he stepped back, putting himself firmly in front of her. “You’re right,” he said simply. “I’ll wait here. Good luck, brother.”

Thorin seemed as startled as Bilba felt by Frerin’s easy capitulation. He nodded and the two clasped forearms. The rest of the Company came forward and Bilba and Frerin wished them, and the elves, luck.

Then all of them were funneling inside the tunnel and she and Frerin were left on a ledge with the wind whistling past them.

Bilba shivered, her stomach clenching with fear at the thought of any of her friends coming to harm. “I should go in,” she repeated. “What if one of them needs to be healed?”

Frerin wrapped his arms around her, his grip tight enough to hold her back if she suddenly tried to run after them. His own face was grim, his jaw set. “It’s a dragon, Sweetheart. If one of them gets injured there won’t be enough left for you to heal.”

Bilba swallowed hard. “Why did you agree so fast to stay?”

“Because he was right,” Frerin said. “He exaggerated, as usual, but, in this instance at least, he was right. There are plenty available to go face the dragon. There was no reason to leave you alone.”

Bilba managed to turn around in his arms to face him. “Are you angry at me?” she asked. “Do you blame me?”

Frerin tore his eyes away from the doorway and looked at her with a frown. “What? No, of course not.”

He kissed her and she responded, her fingers curling into his biceps. When he pulled away his eyes were still dark but it wasn’t directed at her. He took her by the hand and led her to sit near the doorway.

And there they waited.

 

***

 

The mountain shook and a long, low sound came echoing from the tunnel. Bilba leaned over and gasped at the sight of orange light flickering off the walls. “Frerin.”

“I know,” he said, his grip tight around her waist. “It’s awake.”

The sound continued. Every so often the entire mountain seemed to tremble. Frerin shut his eyes and leaned his head back against the stone, his face drawn.

Bilba flinched at every noise and rumble, her terror increasing at the thought of a creature so large it could literally shake a mountain.

Then the sounds and tremors stopped.

Bilba held her breath.

An explosion sounded from somewhere below them, off to the left.

Frerin swore viciously and suddenly was surging to his feet, dragging her with him. He pulled her inside the tunnel before crouching down low, holding her with him.

Bilba looked through the doorway and felt her breath freeze in her lungs at the sight of a massive dragon spiraling upwards. As she watched it snapped its wings out, going into an easy glide.

It was massive, she thought numbly. Frerin had been right to not let her go speak to it. Its teeth were probably bigger than she was. She would have been so petrified it was unlikely she’d have gotten a single word out.

The dragon was heading away from them. Frerin got up behind her and stepped out. “I’m going to see where it’s going. Stay here.”

Bilba put her hand in his and held tight. He looked at her and then wordlessly strode out, pulling her with him.

As he did Bilba’s mind went to the others in the mountain and wondered what the dragon’s exit meant. Were they still alive? Injured? Trapped somewhere?

Frerin was afraid too, she could tell, but going inside when the dragon could return at any moment wouldn’t help anyone.

So they went to see where it was going and tried not to think of what might be behind them in the ruins of Erebor.

Or of the fact that they could well be the only living beings currently on the mountain.