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Thorin Oakenshield's Majestic Diary

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Day 1.

 

20:07. Am considering throttling self with own braids. After getting lost twice trying to find this damned hobbit-hole, I’ve arrived to the sound of my company singing like a severely undertrained acapella band. Victims of the wizard’s second-hand smoke, no doubt.

Note to self: find out what he is puffing in that pipe of his and promptly confiscate it. He’s clearly too old and loony to be meddling with stuff like that in the first place. And is actually suggesting we take a hobbit with us on our quest, for Mahal’s sake.

 

20:09. Wait for them to stop singing before knocking on the door as impressively as possible. My knuckles will sting this night.

“Gandalf,” I greet pleasantly as the door swings open (why is it round, does it need to be round?) “You said this place would be easy to find,” I accuse haughtily as I step inside, “I got lost. Twice.”

Take a look around, and am pleasantly surprised that I’m not standing in a glorified fox-hole, but actually a rather comfortable home, full of light and warmth and –

Oh.

“Thorin,” Gandalf addresses me, “This is Bilbo Baggins – Bilbo, this is Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of our Company.”

“So,” I say absent-mindedly, observing the slight, small man who’s staring back at me in a worryingly bewildered way (is there something on my face?), “This is the hobbit.”

He’s a little thing (no surprises there), barely reaching my shoulders, with copper curls and wide green eyes. He reminds me of a rabbit. A rather cute rabbit-

No. No, stop it.

“Tell me, Mr Baggins, have you done much fighting? Sword or axe, what’s your weapon of choice?”

He smiles tentatively at me, all crooked and gentle.

Bugger.

“Well I do have some skill in conkers, if you must know, but I fail to see how that’s…relevant.”

Resist the urge to smile (I want to smile, why do I want to smile?) and instead try to look as unimpressed as possible. Quick – say something patronising and mildly insulting!

“Thought as much. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.” Everyone laughs at my fantastically witty joke. Obviously.

The hobbit blinks at me, half a smile still etched on his face.

Double bugger.

 

20:20. Am resolutely ignoring the hobbit and his stupid smiles. He’s gone to rustle up some soup for me as apparently my Company, fat bastards that they are, have devoured everything within walking distance. I eye the empty table forlornly, and Bombur has the grace to look sheepish.

 

20:22. Fili and Kili look well. And by ‘well’ I mean rearing to fight something obscenely oversized and dangerous (what’s new).

Kili is trying to shoot ale out of his nose, cheeks fit to bursting and eyes firmly crossed. He looks mildly deranged. Fili is crying with laughter and keeps whacking his brother on the back in an effort to make him fail.

“You’ll never be able to – ah! Gross, you got it on my sleeve!”

Good to see the line of succession prosper.

“Both nostrils! Ha!”

Durin’s beard…

“Enough,” I command in my best ‘King Under the Mountain’ voice (also a favourite at drinking parties), “If you two do not begin to act your age, expect me to seriously reconsider your accompanying me on this quest.”

That shuts them up.

Still not sure what possessed me to let them come along, especially after Dis threatened to cut my balls off with a rusty bread knife should anything happen to them.

A classy woman, my sister. She once pushed me into a river-rapid when we were youths because she was jealous of my beard coming in before hers.

“I almost drowned!” I spluttered as I dragged myself from the raging water.

“What d’you want, a medal?”

 

20:28. The soup is rather good, not that I’m telling the hobbit that.

 

20:35. We discuss how my trip to the Iron Hills went and I confirm that Dain is ‘not with us’. Because he is a lazy, gigantic dick of a dwarf.

Don’t say that out loud, but share a glance with Dwalin and sense that he concurs.

 

20:42. The hobbit insists on leaning around my shoulder to look at the map like some sort of overly intrigued magpie. I try to concentrate on what Gandalf is saying but I can feel hot breath on the side of my neck and-

Oh, bugger it.

 

20:45. “I’m not afraid, I’m up for it! I’ll give him a taste of dwarvish iron right up his jacksie!”

Ori.

Um.

Well.

 

20:47. “Well?”

“Hm?”

“How many dragons have you killed?”

Gandalf doesn't seem entirely sure how to answer this, and as ruckus breaks out over the idea I feel my patience just about snap.

Time for a speech of my own, I think.

 

20:51. “…or do we seize this chance to take back Erebor!” Damn, I’m good at this.

Am met with a round of hearty applause. Obviously.

 

20:55. So apparently Gandalf has been hiding the key to my mountain somewhere in those ridiculous robes of his. For who knows how long. Not that this angers me, or anything.

But it might have been nice if my father had given it to me.

You know.

His son and heir.

Rather than a loopy weed-smoking wizard from Mahal knows where.

I eagerly take it off him, awed by it and the sudden wave of emotion which squeezes at my throat, when Fili graces us with a little of his unbelievable intuition.

“If there’s a key…there must be a door.”

Must resist the urge to either a) clap slowly, or b) cry because we are related.

“There’s another way in,” Kili adds helpfully, grinning like a rather slow but admittedly cheerful puppy.

Stare at them both.

 

21:06. “The task I have in mind requires a great deal of stealth,” Gandalf tells us, “And no small amount of courage.” He glances at Baggins pointedly.

Wonder if the ‘small’ part was a hobbit joke.

“But if we are careful, and clever, I believe it can be done.”

I glance around at my Company. Nori is scratching his nose. Bifur is going cross-eyed again. If ‘careful and clever’ is what Gandalf thinks we’ll be needing, I’ve bad news for him.

“That’s why we need a burglar,” Ori points out.

Hear the hobbit make a sound of agreement from behind me. “A good one too, I’d imagine!” he exclaims easily.

We all turn to look at him.

“And are you?” Gloin asks.

Good one, Gloin.

Baggins does his bewildered-blinking-face again, and I hurriedly turn back around. Damn his face.

“Am I what?”

Cute.

Useless, but cute.

 

21:10. Baggins goes on to vehemently deny any type of theft-related lifestyle, and the Company begins arguing amongst themselves again. Am already tired of this quest and it hasn't even started yet.

Suddenly Gandalf seems to grow, rising out of his chair like a dark spirit complete with a booming voice of certain doom. “IF I SAY BILBO BAGGINS IS A BURGLAR, THEN A BURGLAR…he is.”

Durin’s beard.

Should probably remember that he’s an intimidatingly powerful wizard as well as a weed-smoking tree-hugger who deals in illegal fireworks.

Suddenly, I’m glad he’ll be accompanying us on this journey.

Even if he gets everyone high on second-hand smoke in the process.

 

21:14. “Give him the contract.”

Balin gives me said contract and I pass it on to the hobbit.

“Lacerations…”

Hm.

“Evisceration…!”

Oh, yes.

“…Incineration!?”

Well, almost certainly.

 

21:15. Apparently hobbits are fainters.

Bofur makes just one little comment about ‘flesh melting from bones’ and ‘piles of ash’, and with a small peep of ‘nope’ the little man is down for the count.

Excellent. We shall be relying on a burglar who passes out at the mere mention of incineration to possibly sneak under a dragon’s nose. Cannot go wrong.

 

21:17. As Gandalf goes about settling the unconscious hobbit in an armchair to recover, I act very non-interested indeed and raise an eyebrow at Bofur. “What do you think, friend? Does he look like an expert burglar to you?” No, he looks like a green-eyed little sprite or a cute little rabbit –

Stop it.

“Oh, I dunno,” Bofur comments cheerily, “It’s hard to tell. Seems a nice enough chap.”

Resist the urge to roll my eyes. “That doesn't answer my question.”

“Don’t be too quick to judge, laddie,” Balin tells me sternly, and honestly if he wasn't so old and such a good friend I’d wallop him one for calling me ‘laddie’ still. “He might be just what we need.”

Huh.

 

21:25. We watch the hobbit leave Gandalf’s side, resigned to his solitude. “You were saying, Balin?” I ask sarcastically.

Balin sighs in defeat. “It appears we have lost our burglar. Probably for the best – the odds were always against us.”

So much for Mr. Optimistic.

 

21:28. “I would take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills,” I tell him surely.

An army from the Iron Hills would be nice, of course, but you can’t have everything.

“For when I called upon them they answered,” My speeches are seriously the best, I can already feel tears coming on, “Loyalty, honour, a willing heart…I can ask no more than that.”

Well, I could ask more, but I’m not going to.

 

21:35. Time for some singing, I think. Haven’t had a good group song since Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin and I got drunk in a pub in Dale, and began singing a chorus of rather insulting shanties to some of the human men also drinking there. Dwalin’s favourite was: ‘you’re a man ne’er so smart, you’re wife’s a useless tart,’ which in our drunken stupor we had all thought was the wittiest thing in Middle Earth. Needless to say it didn't go down very well.

It probably didn't help matters that I started shouting ‘Don’t touch me, peasants,” when we were manhandled out, but I am a King, for Mahal’s sake.

Perhaps something a little more cultured for tonight.

 

Day 2.

 

08:06. Am surprised when I hear the hobbit’s trilling voice calling for us to stop the next morning as we ride out. I had not taken wagers like the rest on whether he’d come, but I had secretly predicated he wouldn’t and hoped he would. Gandalf will be unbearably smug.

 Turn in the saddle to watch Baggins’ approach, his flushed face complimented by a breathless smile and wide, green eyes that flash like freshly cut emeralds and oh for the love of-stop it. Stop it now.

“I signed it,” he tells us, proudly waving about the contract like a banner, before passing it to Balin who checks it over.

Baggins catches my eye but quickly looks away, ever bashful.

“Everything seems to be in order,” Balin announces happily, smiling down at the little hobbit who is, apparently, our new burglar. “Welcome, Master Baggins, to the Company of Thorin Oakenshield.”

There’s a friendly wave of cheering, and I impatiently kick my pony back into moving. “Get him a pony.”

The hobbit immediately tries to insist he can walk (please), but is abruptly shut up – I glance behind me to observe him scrambling about on the saddle Fili and Kili have deposited him in, looking rather put out.

Can’t even mount a pony properly. Excellent.

But he does have a rather nice-

No.

No. Stop that.

Stop it.

He notices me watching him, and we both look away so quickly I almost get whiplash.

…..

Bugger.

Chapter Text

Day 23.

 

23:10. Gloin snores like a Balrog with a chest infection.

It’s for this reason I am still up, taking watch with Fili, Kili and Balin by the fire. It would all be rather cosy was it not for the rocks digging into my ass. They have absolutely no business being there.

 

23:12. Notice something stirring out the corner of my eye, and squint into the dark.

It’s the hobbit, creeping away from his bedroll (probably too disturbed by Gloin’s symphony of snores to sleep, like I) with what looks to be an apple in his hand. He gives it to one of the ponies, murmuring softly to her.

Huh.

Bilbo Baggins: Horse Whisperer.

Sigh irritably and shift arse to a more comfortable position.

Or, perhaps, Bilbo Baggins: Waster of Valuable Food.

 

23:13. There is a low screech on the air, and we all freeze.

Bilbo turns around and stares at us as, eyes popping out of his head like a confused deer with no great sense of direction.

It’s extremely not cute at all.

“What was that?” he asks anxiously.

“Orcs,” Kili answers, and I sit up a little straighter.

“Orcs!?” Baggins breaths in horror, and he’s so skittish he practically dances towards us.

“Throat-cutters,” Fili adds on, “They’ll be dozens of them out there.”

Oh, here we go. Fili and Kili, the Great Piss-Takers of Middle Earth.

“The Lowlands are crawling with them,” Fili continues in a purposefully casual tone.

Tonight must be Scare The Shit Out Of The Hobbit night.

Kili tells him, “They strike in the wee small hours when everyone’s asleep. Quick and quiet – no screams.” He shakes his head seriously. “Just lots of blood.”

Baggins looks torn between bursting into tears and having a minor aneurism. 

Nephews begin sniggering, and I eye the hobbit worriedly.

Time to crack out what I like to call The Disapproving Uncle.

 

23:15. “You think that’s funny? You think a night raid by orcs is a joke?”

My flaming disapproval practically grinds their amusement into dirt.

“We didn’t mean anything by it...” Kili mumbles, shamed.

Disapproval, disapproval…

“I know you didn’t,” I snap at him as I walk away, “You know nothing of the world.”

What? It’s true. Fili believed in unicorns until he was 52 (which is ridiculous because the only creature in existence remotely akin to that is the Pegasus, obviously) and I am sure Kili still thinks that the elves actually do shag trees (‘tree-shaggers’ being a common insult amongst our people when referring to the pointy-eared bastards), which cannot seriously be right because the mechanics alone are mind-boggling.

 

23:16. Although, did once hear a pretty audacious rumour about Celeborn of Lothlórien and a willow tree…

 

23:18. Balin is telling them the story of the battle at Moria.

Am not getting emotional. Must pretend not to hear and continue to stare out into the distance as regally as possible. Yes, good.

“We were leaderless,” I hear Balin’s voice say, “Death and defeat were upon us…and that is when I saw him.”

Oh, this is my favourite part. It’s all about me.

“A young dwarf prince, facing down the Pale Orc.”

Ah, yes – old Milky, as I like to privately call him.

“He stood alone against this terrible foe…”

Stood alone because no one else bothered to help me out, the lazy bastards. Bombur was probably organising snacks whilst they watched.

“His armour rent, wielding nothing but an oaken branch as a shield,”

And I hacked off Milky’s arm with all the enthusiasm of a serial killer.

“Azog learned that day that the Line of Durin would not be so easily broken.”

Here’s where it gets rather majestic.

Act natural.

“We few had survived, and I thought to myself then…there is one who I could follow,”

Obviously.

“There is one I could call king.”

Turn around to find whole Company standing. They are all staring at me as if I just gave birth, or did something equally awe-inspiring and unbelievable. I suppose many of them have never even heard that story in full before, which should really be a crime because I’m rather glorious in it.

Wonder what the hobbit thinks about me now.

Not that I care or anything.

 “But the Pale Orc,” Baggins asks Balin curiously (he no longer appears to be on the verge of wetting himself) “What happened to him?”

“He slunk back into the hall whence he came,” I tell him as I saunter back over to my previous resting place, “That filth died of his wounds long ago.”

Should hope so, too. Milky was never a very personable sort, if his trying to gouge my face off with an iron mace was any indication.

 

Day 24.

 

10:40. Is raining. Heavily. Am literally up to balls in water.

“Mr Gandalf!” Dori shouts over the downpour, “Can’t you do something about this deluge!?”

Yes, Gandalf, bloody do something.

“It is raining, Master Dwarf,” he replies and yes thank you, Gandalf, for reminding us, “And it will continue to rain until the rain is done.”

I think I prefer him when he’s smoking his damned pipe, all mellow and agreeable.

 

10:42. The wizard is discussing other wizards with Baggins.

“There are five of us. The greatest of our order is Saruman the White.”

Sounds a nice enough chap.

“Then there are the two Blueses…do you know I’ve quite forgotten their names?”

Durin’s beard.

“And who is the fifth?” the hobbit asks.

“Oh, that would be Radagast the Brown!”

There’s something off-putting about having the title of ‘the Brown’ after your name. Gandalf the Grey is less than exciting, too. Wonder how it works – do wizards get assigned a colour and have to dress in accordance, or do they choose a colour to wear and name themselves thus? What if they want to wear different colours every day - do they introduce themselves by a different name just as often? Either way it seems a rather pointless exercise. You won’t catch me prancing about calling myself ‘Thorin the Royal Blue with Some Black, Grey and the Odd Bit of Silver’.

Baggins queries casually, “Is he a great wizard, or is he…more like you?”

Cover up a snort by turning it into a manly sneeze, but still have to press my lips together hard to contain myself. 

Must not laugh.

Oin is giving me funny looks, unable to hear much of anything in the first place.

Must. Not. Laugh.

“I think he’s a very great wizard,” Gandalf defends with a definite pout in his voice.

Practically inhale my own tongue. The rain is somehow making me hysterical.

Oin still giving me funny looks.

 

16:51. We settle down in an abandoned farmhouse for the night, after Gandalf storms off because he’s upset I dislike elves or some rubbish like that. ’Go to the Hidden Valley’, he says. ‘Lord Elrond could help us read the map’, he says. ‘We can get food and rest’, he says.

Well, bollocks to that.

I would sooner fight Dis and her infamous frying pan than let Lord Elrond (whoever that is) get his perfectly manicured hands on my map, and the only rest I’d ever get in an Elven homestead is the rest of death, when one of the cowardly bastards inevitably smothers me in my sleep.

“Everything alright?” The hobbit asks anxiously as the stroppy wizard passes him by, “Gandalf? Where are you going?”

“To seek the company of the only one around here who’s got any sense,” was his blunt reply.

“And who’s that?”

Myself, Mr Baggins!”

It’s withdrawal from his beloved pipe, clearly.  Someone should prescribe him some sort of self-help plan.

“I’ve had enough of dwarves for one day,” he mutters just loud enough for me to hear (undoubtedly on purpose).

Glare at his retreating back.

Bugger Gandalf. Don’t need him anyway.

 

17:15. As Bombur prepares dinner and Oin and Gloin get a fire going, I notice the hobbit has removed his burgundy jacket, leaning against a rock as he fiddles with it in his lap.

Very (extremely) casually walk up behind him until I can peer over his shoulders.

He has a sewing kit out.

Where in Durin’s name could he possibly have been hiding a-

No.

Stop it.

Watch as he attacks a loose button with needle and thread, expert yet seemingly soft fingers flying across the material-

For Mahal's sake, get it together!

“Hobbit.”

He almost falls off the rock, which I find funny, but then glances at me from beneath long, long lashes, which I do not.

“Th-Thorin!” He greets me amicably, “Er… did you want something?”

“You have a sewing kit,” I point out, still trying to understand.

“Ah, yes! I thought it might come in handy, see? The second button on my jacket has come loose. And here, the stitching on the sleeve design had come unthreaded already!” He sounds genuinely disturbed by this.

Blink at him.

“Surely you’re not going to bother fixing that, too?”

He goes a little red, but straightens his shoulders and for the first time I can recall looks me squarely in the eye.

“There’s absolutely no excuse for poor embroidery.”

Huh.

 

17:19. In need of a moment’s peace, and still a little bewildered by how highly Baggins regards fine embroidery skills, I take to majestically standing alone on the crest of the hill, just in case anyone feels like admiring me whilst they set up camp.

A little grey blob is disappearing into the brush far below, and I realise its Gandalf.

Squint suspiciously at him.

…Where does he even live?

 

23:46. Just scraping bowl clean of Bombur’s stew when Fili and Kili barge out of the underbrush, looking rather bug-eyed and flustered.

So help me, if I find out they’ve been at Gandalf’s weed again-

“Uncle!” They cry, pacing towards me, and for the first time I notice they have their weapons drawn.

Sit up straighter.

“Fili, Kili, what is it?”

“Bilbo,” Kili gasps, “He – we–”

“Trolls have taken Bungo, Daisy, Myrtle and Minty,” Fili tells me a great deal more coherently, “They’ve a camp set up not far into the forest there.” He meets my eye. “Bilbo’s gone to try and get them back.”

“We need to help him!” Kili cries.

I hear the Company exclaim their shock, and the drawing of swords and axes.

Blink.

Must resist urge to brain self against rock.

“You let our burglar – a hobbit – run off on his own to face a group of trolls.”

Fili coughs. “Just…to investigate.”

Kili is already running back into the forest like a crazed bull, shouting “Hold on, Bilbo!”

As if the trolls needed any more warning of our coming.

My nephews have always been notable champions at ‘Who Can Make the Worst Decisions Today’ (a popular game in my family line, evidently), but this is ridiculous.

“Alright,” I say as I rise, “Let’s get our burglar back, before Kili tries to do it single-handedly.”

 

12:05. Kili does, as it turns out, try to do it single-handedly.

I lead the Company forward in a pointedly stealthy manner, only to peer through the bushes and witness Kili wildly hacking at a troll’s leg, which begins shrieking and flailing and Durin’s beard, the thing is easily 10-feet tall and there are two more of them – it’s a wonder Kili isn’t already crushed into paste.  

“Drop him!” he shouts up at the middle troll, and it’s then that I notice Baggins hanging upside-down by his ankles in the ugly bastard’s humongous grip.

This is not on. I am the only one allowed to (theoretically) hang our burglar by his ankles around here.

“You wot!?” The troll exclaims in disbelief.

“I said…” Kili grins fearlessly up at him, “Drop him.”

And yes alright I might feel something like pride swell in my chest all of a sudden.

Or it’s just heartburn, who knows.

Quite unexpectedly, the hobbit is suddenly flying through the air like a ludicrous sea bird (having been unceremoniously chucked at Kili), and this is obviously our cue.

 

12:20. As I thrust my sword towards one troll after another, hacking and slashing at them in amongst my kin, I imagine all three of them are Thranduil.

It’s the little things that motivate you.

 

12:24. “Lay down your arms, or we’ll whip his off!”

I stare up into the face of our hobbit, who looks to be on the verge of a minor psychological breakdown, held tight by his arms and legs.

I could knock these trolls off their damned pedestal and tell them I’ve seen more convincing hostage situations when Bombur hogs the last of the dried beef, but I don’t. They seem annoyingly serious.

Bugger everything.

 

04:49. I am in a sack.

I am in.

A sack.

Want to cry about the indignity of it all.

“Don’t bother cookin’ em’, we should just sit on em’ and squash em’ into jelly!”

“They should be sautéed, and grilled. With just a sprinkle of sage…”

“Ooh, that does sound quite nice!”

Can already envision the histories my people will write about this day.

King-to-be Thorin Oakenshield set off on a noble quest for justice and glory, to reclaim our great and ancient homeland of Erebor, with fire and blood and hearts of courage, and everything was going so well until the daft bugger got himself thrown into a troll’s hotpot.

This is all the hobbit’s fault for somehow making me actually care about what happens to him. For just being so…and making me feel so….

Bugger it.

I hope they choke on me.

And I hope Gandalf feels so bad about abandoning us in our time of need that he builds a shrine in my honour. I shall haunt him until he does.

 

04:51. Everyone, practically piled on top of one another as they are, keeps wriggling and shouting to be set free as if it will actually work.

Am too exasperated by this point to join in.

“Wait!” The hobbit cries suddenly, “You are a making a…a terrible mistake!”

What now?

“You can’t reason with them, they’re half-wits!” Dori cries.

Good point.

“Half-wits?” Exclaims Bofur, “What does that makes us!?”

Very good point.

 “I meant with the - uh, the seasoning,” Baggins goes on.

“What about the seasoning?” The first troll asks menacingly.

What sort of pre-death conversation is this.

“Well, have you smelt them? You’re going to need something stronger than sage to play this lot up!”

Excuse me.

Everyone begins ranting and cursing again, this time at the burglar, and I join in.

“Traitor!” I shout at him, but pause. Tentatively sniff own armpit. Recoil.

Huh.

 

04:55. “Ah, the – the secret to cooking dwarf is, um…”

“Yes?” The troll urges impatiently. “Come on!”

“Is, uh…”

“Tell us the secret!”

“Yes, I’m telling you,” Baggins snaps, “The secret is…to…” He seems to consider this very hard for a moment. “…Skin them first!”

“WHAT!?”

Well. Excellent.

Skin is overrated anyway.

 “Tom,” the first troll calls behind him as we all go about shitting ourselves, “Get me filletin’ knife.”

 

04:57. It’s only when Baggins begins talk of Bombur having ‘worms’ in his ‘tubes’ that I finally take the time to look at him. Really look at him.

“In fact they all have,” he tells the trolls hurriedly, “They’re infested with parasites, it’s a terrible business – I wouldn’t risk it, I really wouldn’t.”

He’s buying us time.

Stare at him.

Clever, strange, sexy little-

“Parasites? Did he say we have parasites?

“We don’t have parasites, you have parasites!”

Oh for the love of-

Kick Kili very (extremely) subtlety through my sack.

There’s a moment of silence, then-

“I’ve got parasites as big as my arm!”

“Mine are the biggest parasites, I’ve got huge parasites!”

How is this even happening?

 

05:00. “THE DAWN WILL TAKE YOU ALL!”

Freeze. Would recognise that Booming Voice of Certain Doom anywhere.

Swivel head around to stare up at the tall silhouette above us on a wall of rock, surrounded by the rising sun.

Durin’s beard, Gandalf!

“Who’s that?”

“No idea.”

“Can we eat him too?”

With an earth-shattering crack, the wizard brings down his magic staff (clearly not a perfectly unthreatening walking stick as I previously assumed) and half of the rock wall splits clean in half (show-off), falling down and letting brilliant daylight spill into the small glade.

As our somewhat mentally challenged captors are transformed to stone, a chorus of ecstatic cheering is thrown the wizard’s way.

Cannot help but grin like a fool.

Could quite literally kiss Gandalf (not that I will, might disrupt the group dynamic), and vow to never criticise his smoking habits ever again.

Quickly school features into a nice, comfy scowl before he comes to untie us all.

Pretty boring night, to be honest.

 

05: 24. “Where did you go, may I ask?”

Gandalf straightens up. “To look ahead.”

“And what brought you back?” I persist.

“Looking behind.

It is impossible to get a straight answer out of anybody these days.

“Nasty business,” he goes on cheerily enough, “Still, you’re all in one piece.”

“No thanks to your burglar,” I say, but cannot for the life of me sound genuinely annoyed. Huh.

“He had the nouse to play for time. None of you thought of that.”

I glance across the glade and find the hobbit, surrounded by my Company as if he had always belonged there.

He laughs at something Bofur says, still weary and tired but clearly relieved, and his whole face lights up like a forge fire and Mahal strike me down, I have a serious problem.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Day 25.

 

05:03. There are benefits to almost being cooked alive by trolls, as it turns out, and today those benefits come in the form of finding the beasts’ cave.

A cave full of stolen treasure (excellent).

“These swords were not made by any troll,” I murmur to myself as I pick up two rather sexy looking blades which have been lying here since approximately the dawn of time, if the cobwebs are anything to go by.

Gandalf takes one off me to examine it closer. “Nor were they made by any smith among men…” He looks closely at the metalwork and since when has Gandalf been a weapons expert? Have no idea, but then again this is the wizard who sells illegal fireworks on the side and whose old-man walking stick is actually a Magic Staff of Death.

Am just about to grab own sword handle to unsheathe it when-

“These were forged in Gondolin!”

Freeze.

“By the High Elves of the First Age…”

I glare at Gandalf accusingly. Mahal is laughing at me.

Can’t believe I thought it looked sexy, Durin’s beard…May as well start fantasising about Thranduil himself while I’m at it (shudder).

“You could not wish for a finer blade,” Gandalf tells me sternly, reading the disgusted expression on my face, and instead of throwing the damn thing away I reluctantly assess it more closely.

Well I suppose it has got quite a nice-

And the balance is rather-

Bugger.

 

05:05. Stupid sexy elven blade on my belt, I watch as Gloin, Nori and Bofur dig a big hole for all the gold they’ve found here.

“We’re making a long-term deposit,” Gloin tells me.

Dwalin rolls his eyes.

“Let’s get out of this foul place,” I announce gruffly, quickly making my way to the entrance.

Call it ‘foul’ less because it stinks and more because it’s packed full of elven paraphernalia, like the result of some grotesque hobby.

Why can’t trolls collect stamps like normal folk?

 

05:09. So apparently Gandalf has found a sword suitable for Baggins. Torn between making strangled cat noises because it’s the cutest sword I’ve ever seen and fits him perfectly, and being seriously concerned as he’ll probably end up cutting himself.

Or do a Milky and lose an entire arm.

 

05:10. Hear distant rustling in bushes. Every book I’ve ever read as a dwarfling has taught me this cannot be a good thing.

“There’s something coming!” I shout, and everyone springs into action, gathering around me, weapons drawn (still not sure how to feel about Ori favouring a slingshot).

Look over shoulder to locate hobbit.

Oh for the love of-

He can examine his new sword any time, why must it be now?

If only he’d examine my swor-

No.

Stop it.

 

05:12. Of all the things I possibly expect to burst forth from the shrubbery, it is emphatically not a wild-eyed old fogie shouting nonsense on a rabbit-drawn sleigh.

Rabbits.

Pulling a sleigh.

Have officially seen it all.

Perhaps Gandalf’s second-hand smoke has finally gotten to me? Stare at own hands.

Am I even really here right now?

“Radagast!” Gandalf cries delightedly, “Radagast the Brown!”

But of course.

Anyone looking this deranged can only be a friend of Gandalf’s.

 

05:16. Squint at them as they talk in private across the way.

Earlier suspicions confirmed: all wizards wear same colour as their name. How dull.

 

05:21. Sudden ominous howling on the wind, and am ninety-nine per cent sure it is no old fogie. Unless Gandalf keeps even stranger friends than first thought (honestly would no longer surprise me).

“Was that a wolf? Are – are there wolves out there?”

If Baggins doesn’t stop with the big green eyes and flummoxed disposition I am going to spontaneously lick him.

“Wolves…”Bofur echoes stiffly, “No, that is not a wolf.”

As if to prove his point, a huge, snarling beast that can only be a warg appears on the rise of the sloping forest ground, and promptly lunges at us.

Because obviously our twenty-four hour quota of Life Threatening Situations has not been sufficiently filled today.

The bastard thing knocks Dwalin down, and I send my (very not sexy) elven sword through its shoulder with as much force as possible, but then-

A snarl behind me and oh good, yes, am about to be eaten by Warg Number Two-

One of Kili’s arrows flies past my head, and I turn to see the beast yelp and collapse at my feet.

Well.

Must resolve not to criticize Kili’s rather elven choice in weaponry ever again.

 “Warg scouts!” I announce gravely. “Which means an orc pack is not far behind.”

Hobbit does a double take. “Orc pack!?”

He’s so bloody cute when worried about imminent death…

Gandalf turns to me, eyes blazing, and stalks over in a manner entirely too threatening for an old man (although must remember: contraband fireworks and Booming Voice of Certain Doom and Magic Staff of Death) “Who did you tell about your quest, beyond your kin?” he demands.

Durin’s beard, he’s going on the offensive. At me, no less! Why is this my fault?

“No one.”

“Who did you tell!?”

Is he deaf? (Probably.)

“No one, I swear!”

Mother of Mahal, someone get him his pipe already.

“What in Durin’s name is going on?” I half-shout at him. Even my nerves of steel can only take so much.

“We are being hunted,” Gandalf tells me matter-of-factly.

Well. Excellent.

“We have to get out of here,” Dwalin points out the obvious.

I like that plan.

“We can’t, we have no ponies!” Ori yells from the hill rise, “They’ve bolted!”

I liked that plan.

“I’ll draw them off,”Radagast announces confidently.

All stare at him.

Yes, our saviour will definitely be the mad(der) wizard with bird excrement in his hair.

“These are Gundabad Wargs, they will outrun you!”

These are Rhosgabel Rabbits!”

There is a dramatic pause.

“I’d like to see them try.

Need a bit of a lie-down.

 

07:16. End up doing unnecessary amount of running around across grasslands, whilst Radagast leads orc pack on wild goose chase.

Turns out his rabbits are fast little buggers.

Wargs must have huge inferiority complex all of a sudden.

“Ori, no!” I shout frantically, pulling the oblivious youth back by his scruff before he runs out into full view of the passing pack. He gives me an apologetic smile.

Durin’s beard, how are we all not dead already?

“Where are you leading us?” I demand Gandalf, pressed close to the huge rock as the sounds of distant snarls and pounding paws set my teeth on edge.

He just glances at me, and then he’s off again.

How is he so fit?

Note to self: Must start jogging regularly. Cannot afford to be outrun by old man with beard that weighs more than me.

 

07:33. Have Kili shoot a warg that finds our hiding spot, but its rider still lives (forgot how ugly orcs are, too).

Bifur and Dwalin get stuck in right away, hacking and slashing whilst the orc shrieks its last with unnecessary volume.

So much for staying quiet.

There is a chorus of howling on the air, a clear sign that the pack has heard our unbelievable ruckus, and we all glance at each other.

Baggins appears unusually calm.

Which means he’s probably so tired of being terrified by now that’s he just sort of regressed into himself, like a shy snail.

“Move!” Gandalf shouts, “RUN!”

Don’t argue with the Booming Voice of Certain Doom.

 

08:10. “Where’s Gandalf?”

“He’s abandoned us!”

Typical. Probably trying to sell his fireworks off to the orcs whilst they’re here. Hell, they’re probably his suppliers.

“This way, you fools!”

Turn sharply to see Gandalf peeking out behind a mound of rock.

Honestly, there’s no need for name-calling.

We all follow the wizard to find a long, dark rock-tunnel set into the earth, and one after the other we slide down.

Rather enjoyed it actually. Nine out of ten, would recommend.

Am debating having another go, but then the sound of a battle horn echoes from above. The cries of dying orcs is rather convenient, but confusing.

Durin’s beard, have they found Gandalf’s pipe and turned on each other in a weed-induced frenzy? Only explanation.

Dead orc suddenly tumbles down to land at our feet. Lovely.

Pull out arrow and inspect metalwork.

…Bollocks.

“Elves,” I spit, throwing down the arrow to convey how completely pissed off I suddenly am. Have not slept for over 20 hours due to almost being filleted by trolls, attacked by wargs and orcs, subjected to ravings of loony wizards and now a bunch of bloody elves have come to join the party.

Must prepare suicide plan in near future.

“I cannot see where the path leads!” Shouts Dwalin from the back of our little cavern, gesturing to the thin sliver of space between the bedrock, “Should we follow it or no?”

“Follow it, of course!” cries Bofur, and must agree with him.

Would rather take shady, 30-foot deep rocky path than let elves know we’re down here. They’d start lecturing us on wisdom and greed and the cons of facial hair and then I really would have to off myself.

Hobbit still looks a little bit snail-like.

 

16:47. Have spent practically whole day traveling through this infernal rock path. Walls so close together there’s no room for two people to walk side-by side, and Bombur is struggling just on his own.

Feel like sardine in particularly unforgiving tin. On plus side hobbit is right in front of me, so I get to spend hours admiring his-

…His jacket.

Yes.

Ok.

 

16:49. Finally escape claustrophobic Path of Despair, and for about 1.2 seconds am very relieved and quite cheery.

Then realize what I am looking at, down in the valley below.

 “Here lies the last Homely House east of the sea…”

Rivendell.

Meaning elves, and lots of them.

Restraining tears.

Turn to Gandalf, glaring at him as hard as possible without popping own eyes out.

“This was your plan all along,” I accuse hotly, “To seek refuge with our enemy!”

“You have no enemies here, Thorin Oakenshield,” he replies, “The only ill-will to be found in this valley is that which you bring yourself!”

Am going to spontaneously combust.

Hobbit’s eyes slide casually our way, lips pursed in a way that suggests he is restraining himself from saying something.

Good. Cannot cope if Baggins takes Gandalf’s side as well.

“You think the elves will give our quest their blessing?” I point out, “They will try to stop us.”

“Of course they will! But we have questions that need to be answered.”

Bugger. For once he’s making perfect sense.

“If we are to be successful this will need to be handled with tact,” he goes on, puffing out his chest like a pleased bird, “And respect. And with no small degree of charm. Which is why you will leave the talking to me.”

I’m done.

 

17:11. Arrive at main courtyard. Everything so sickeningly flamboyant and colourful, looks like rainbow vomited. Eyes stinging.

Hobbit seems to be enjoying himself, though. His mouth hasn’t been closed since we first spotted the damn place.

He would like Erebor too, wouldn’t he?

Not that I care or anything.

Dwalin catches my eye. We share a look of complete exasperation.

Of all the places I had dreaded ending up on this journey, besides the inside of Smaug’s stomach this was at the top of the list.

Actually, no.

Thranduil’s home in Mirkwood was the top of the list. If we ever end up there I will smother myself.

Greeted by young-looking brown-haired elf (though I suppose they’re all young-looking, bastards) who calls Gandalf ‘Mithrandir’.

Always knew he was shady, but did not realize he used aliases. Have bad feeling he is involved in more than illegal fireworks.

“I must speak with Lord Elrond,” he tells the elf quickly.

“My Lord Elrond is not here.”

He’ll be out not helping people as their kingdoms burn, no doubt. They’re all alike.

“Not here? Where is he?”

It is then that a battle horn sounds out from far behind us, and we turn around.

Elves charging towards us on horseback. Of course.

“Get back!” I cry, “Close ranks!”

Make sure to pull hobbit into the middle of us as we huddle together and bare our weapons. He looks over his shoulder at me in confusion, and I hurriedly let go. Not like I was grabbing him by the ass or anything...

 

17:15. After the elves are quite done practicing their stupid horse-show manoeuvres and have thoroughly encircled us, a particular pointy-eared bastard smiles down at our wizard as he dismounts.

“Gandalf!”

“Lord Elrond!”

How many friends does he have?

They begin talking to each other in Elvish (extremely grating language, can’t be doing with it) and can sense the Company growing restless.

For all we know he and Gandalf are insulting us for all to hear. Beard is beginning to get a bit unruly…

Touch it self-consciously.

Would kill for a good comb.

“Strange for orcs to come so close to our borders…”the elf says, finally remembering there are some of us here unable to understand the language of tree-shaggers, “Something, or someone had drawn them near.”

“Ah, that may have been us.”

Elf turns and approaches me.

“Welcome Thorin, son of Thrain.”

Honestly, so conceited…

“I do not believe we have met,” I reply bluntly.

“You have your Grandfather’s bearing…” Is he rubbing his immortality in my face and oh Mahal be good, giving me the glad-eye? “I knew Thror when he ruled Under the Mountain.”

Durin’s beard, it’s obvious.

He wants me.

Why else would he be checking me over like that?

“Indeed?” I snarkily answer, “He made no mention of you.”

There, that should be a clear enough message to keep his Elvish hands where I can see them.

He suddenly reels off some more of that flowery gibberish he calls a language, unfazed. Probably declaring his dirty intentions.

Must keep one eye open tonight.

“What is he sayin’?” Gloin demands angrily, “Does he offer us insult!”

He’s offering something…

“No, Master Gloin, he’s offering you food.”

Or that, I suppose.

Thank Mahal.

“Ah, well. In that case lead on.”

 

17:32. Follow Gandalf (if that is his real name) and lecherous Elf-Lord to dinner table.

Am distraught to discover distinct lack of meat. Vegetables everywhere.

Oh, I hate elves.

Hate them so much.

Baggins seems happy enough, but then he hasn’t stopped smiling since we got here. This rubs me wrong way entirely. Watch him for a moment. He tucks into green rubbish contentedly, eyes flitting about everywhere at once as if he doesn’t know where to look next, and then meets my gaze-

-and turn as red as a tomato.

In a daring mood, I try to smile at him. Feels strange - my face is not used to contorting this way – and think I may look more fearsome than normal. I stop.

Scowling so much easier.

 

17:35. Elf-women playing flute and harp as we dine.

Could play harp-lady under the table any day; back home am actually banned from playing because I have been known to bring grown men to tears.

It’s a self-imposed ban. Kept losing friends because they got angry at me for emotionally harassing them with sweet music and making them cry in public.

Not my fault I’m gifted.

 

17:36. Wonder what became of Radagast the Brown and his mutant rabbits?

 

17:37. Eldong (or whatever his name is) examines my very not-sexy elven sword.

“This is Orcrist,” he tells me, “The Goblin-Cleaver, a famous blade. Forged by the High Elves of the west.” He passes it back to me, “May it serve you well.”

Am polite enough to nod, as the fact that my sword is called ‘Goblin-Cleaver’ cheers me up considerably. Wonder whether Eldong would be scandalized if I used said sword to ‘cleave’ elves rather than goblins.

Hopefully can one day rename it Thranduil-Cleaver.

“And this,” he breathes as he unsheathes Gandalf’s sword (oh), “Is Glamdring. The Foe-Hammer. Sword of the King of Gondolin…”

Foe-hammer? Damn, that sounds even more majestic than mine.

Bugger Gandalf.

Maybe he is a weapons expert.

“How did you come by these?” Eldong asks, bewildered.

“We found them in a troll hoard on the Great East Road,” Gandalf replies with an ‘if-you-can-believe-that’ air about him.

Glare. Silly old fart is not meant to be giving away anything about our quest.

“Shortly before we were ambushed by orcs,” he finishes huffily.

“And what were you doing on the Great East Road?”

Shut up Eldong, honestly. So nosy.  Entirely tempted to say ‘Looking for your mother’ or something else in that vein, but realize this may be counter-productive.

 

20:55. Gandalf, Eldong, Balin, Baggins and I have relocated to some poncey hall room to discuss serious matters.

“Our business is no concern of elves,” I proclaim loudly, even though Eldong is stood right there.

“For goodness sake, Thorin, show him the map!”

No. Don’t want to.

“It is the legacy of my people,” I tell the wizard stubbornly, “It is mine to protect, as are its secrets.”

Also don’t trust anybody, dwarf and elf alike, with such glossy hair. He has used some sort of black magic to create that level of shine or I’m not majestic.

“Save me from the stubbornness of dwarves!”  Gandalf exclaims, “Your pride will be your downfall.”

Excuse me.

What, is he a prophet now, too?

“You are standing in the presence of one of the few people in Middle Earth who can read that map. Show it to Lord Elrond!”

Elrond? Who the hell is-

Oh.

Seems Eldong is not called Eldong after all.

Sigh.

Gandalf is making perfect sense again. Most inconvenient.

Reluctantly give it to Elrond even though Balin tries to stop me. If the elf starts cackling madly and runs off with it I will never forgive Gandalf.

He doesn’t run off with it, thank Mahal. Instead considers the map for a moment, and then glances up at me in surprise. “Erebor.”

So far, so good. Can evidently read, just waiting to see if he can read Ancient Dwarfish.

“What is your interest in this map?”

Nosey tree-shagger, will give him a piece of my m-

“It’s mostly academic,” Gandalf interrupts before I can say anything, cool as a cucumber, “As you know this sort of artefact sometimes contains…hidden text.”

He glances at me warningly.

Sly old dog.

Still unsure if Gandalf is utter genius or just high loon. Bit of both, most likely.

Elrond moves into the moonlight to better see the map, and Gandalf calls after him, “You can still read Ancient Dwarfish, can you not?”

Honestly, so embarrassing not being able to read a map from your own race when an elf can, of all people.

Glance at hobbit.

He looks very fine with moonlight playing in his hair-

What is wrong with me.

 

21:09. Turns out hidden message is in ‘moon runes’, meaning we can only read the damned thing by the light of a Midsummer’s Eve, and of a crescent moon.

Why my grandfather was such an annoyingly specific bastard I cannot comprehend.

“Fate is with you, Thorin Oakenshield. The same moon shines upon us tonight.”

Oh.

Well, excellent.

It’s about time fate was with me. Normally it’s busy trying to bugger me in the ass.

The moon is bright up here on this overly elaborate rock balcony. The map transforms in the light, and the glowing written language of my people appears as if by magic on the old parchment.

Neat trick, that. Should write hidden messages this way on greetings cards to family I don’t like.

“Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks,” reads the elf, “And the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole…”

Huh.

What the bloody hell does that mean?

Strike thinking pose.

“Durin’s Day?” Queries the hobbit.

“It’s the start of the dwarves’ New Year,” Gandalf replies, “With the last moon of autumn and the first sun of winter.”

Mahal above, I remember last Durin’s day. Got so drunk woke up with head in chamber pot. Have yet to live it down.

“This is old news,” I say gruffly, returning to the task at hand, “Summer is passing, Durin’s Day will soon be upon us!”

“We still have time.” Balin assures me.

“For what?” Baggins wonders.

“To find the entrance.”

Balin, no-

“We have to be standing in exactly the right spot, at exactly the right time. Then and only then can the door be opened.”

Yes, thank you Balin for pointing out the obvious and letting Lord Eldong-ond whatever his name is know our plans, honestly.

“So this is your purpose? To enter the Mountain?”

Quite literally at wits end. Cannot believe the audacity.

“What of it?” I throw back, just daring his nose to get any closer to my business. My business is not for his nose (dirty lecher).

“There are some who would not deem it wise.”

He says that as if I should actually give any shits.

“What do you mean?” Gandalf asks, ever the worrier.

”You are not the only guardian to stand watch over Middle Earth.”

Then he exits in a purposefully dramatic and elusive fashion, leaving us there all blinking dumbly at one another.

Durin’s beard.

His one-liners are even more cryptic and incomprehensible than Gandalf’s.

Hate elves so much I could cry.

 

Chapter Text

 

Day 28.

 

17:39. Have been here three days now. Was ready to leave after three minutes, but alas, Gandalf says he needs to wait until this ‘White Council’ are assembled to talk to him. Sounds vaguely racist to me.

“They are here,” Gandalf tells us as we impatiently wait for Bombur’s sausages to cook. All got sick of nothing but rabbit food and have decided to prepare our own dinners. Using the elves’ supplies, of course. Now they’re as sausage-less as we are homeless, ha.

“I must leave you now, friends. Lord Elrond will be waiting to escort me there. You remember what I told you?”

“We are to leave once we have eaten, under cover of darkness,” Balin recites amicably.

Gandalf nods sternly, rising to his feet, “I suspect Lord Elrond and the others will have much to say, without great thought to your whereabouts, but I cannot speak for the other elves throughout Rivendell. Be sure to make haste.”

“These others you speak of…” I query casually.

“Ah, that would be Lady Galadriel and Saruman the White. I believe I have already mentioned him…”

Yes, the other other wizard.

A meeting of loony wizards and elves. Count me out.

“We will do as you say,” I agree fairly, “Just keep them talking.”

Shouldn’t be too hard, elves can talk rubbish for days.

With a wry tip of his ridiculous hat, Gandalf is off.

 

18:20. Bombur breaks table.

Admittedly hilarious. Choke on Brussels sprout.

 

05:43. Sneaking out of Rivendell surprisingly easy. Elves clearly all incompetents.

Dawn breaks just as we begin to ascend the mountain path, free from clutches of Eldong and the rest of them, and I take a moment to look back on the place with overwhelming sense of smug satisfaction.

Feels fantastic. May legitimately break out into song.

Notice that the hobbit is also looking back, but body language suggests he is significantly sorrier to leave.

Why? He doesn’t genuinely like elves, does he? Mahal be good. Did Eldong try to seduce him too? Cannot stand the thought.

…Does the hobbit not find me attractive?

Impossible.

Then again…hobbit tastes most likely different to dwarf ones. Just because I am universally acknowledged hot tamale amongst own people does not necessarily mean Bilbo Baggins thinks so.

Not that I care or anything.

“Master Baggins,” I call irritably, “I suggest you keep up!”

He shoots me a rather exasperated look, but turns to follow the Company nonetheless.

Honestly, such an attitude.

 

05:50. Wonder how Gandalf is getting on at his racist meeting?

 

09:57. Terrain getting increasingly ludicrous. Rockier and rockier…

Stone in shoe. Excellent.

Eye Baggins’ bare feet.

He seems to be coping just fine, which is embarrassing.

 

14:28. Altitude increasing. Very high up now.

Not that I care. Dwarves are just more accustomed to being below ground, and, well, being on top of a mountain was never really the goal.

Am not scared of heights. Just…heights-aware.

Fili and Kili can be heard making fun of elven dress.

Smile fondly at them.

I used to carve them little wooden figurines to play with (maybe not quite as good as Bofur’s) now and again when they were dwarflings, often based on any family and friends that came to mind. Sometimes enemies, too.

“And this one,” I once told a little Fili whilst his baby brother slept, “Is called Mr. Flamboyant Moron-Face.”

“Wha’s famboyot?”

“Flamboyant,” I repeat clearly, “It’s just another word for Thranduil, really.”

I gesture at the wooden Elf-King in my nephew’s little fist. “Feel free to gouge the eyes out on that one, Fili.”

Instead of my perfectly reasonable suggestion, Fili gives it to baby Kili, whose tiny hand automatically grasps it even in sleep and promptly starts sucking on Thranduil’s head.

One of my weirder memories, admittedly.

 

21:03. Is raining again. No, storming more fitting word. Because Mahal passionately hates me.

Also is the middle of the night and am making way around mountainside on two-foot wide ledge.

Am very heights-aware right now.

“Ahh!”

Sudden commotion behind me, and turn to see hobbit leaning perilously over the edge, held back only by dwarf hands that hurriedly pull him to safety.

Heart thumping like an electrocuted badger’s. Ignore moment of total horror and try to compose self.

If Baggins wants to practice his cliff-diving he’ll have to do it some other time, honestly!

“We must find shelter!” I yell over the howling wind and rain, but am rudely interrupted by what appears to be ginormous boulder flying through the air towards us.

Of course.

The impact when the damned thing collides with the mountain above us is huge, and as bits of rock bigger than me come crashing down we all attached ourselves to the wall like desperate sea urchins.

“This is no thunder storm, it’s a thunder battle!”

If the giant stone-people are any indication, yes thank you Balin.

“Well bless me!” Bofur cries over the uproar, “The legends are true! Giants – stone giants!

Durin’s beard, is everyone just a bit slow tonight?

With an earth-shattering groan, another giant emerges from the mountain behind us, and oh good that’s two of them.

“Take cover or fall!” I yell, but then-

“What’s happening!?”

The rock under our feet begins to shift, and it’s with a numb sort of acceptance that I realise we are all standing on another giant. Obviously.

“Kili, take my hand!”

Watch with growing exasperation as the spilt in the rock between Fili and Kili widens and they reach for each other, and Mahal above it’s all getting a bit emotional-

“Kili!”

Tearing up.

 

21:18. One of the giants head-butts ours.

Rude.

 

21:20. Am almost starting getting used to flying about on stone giant’s kneecaps (its rather like some sort of children’s festival ride, only with one hundred percent more chance of death), but then the other half of the party’s giant falls backwards like a fool and his knee goes ramming itself into the mountainside.

The knee with the other half of the party on it.

“No!” I cry, because this is completely the opposite of what I want and we all race forward as the giant falls away, and oh shit buggering bollocks please don’t them all be crushed into paste-

“We’re alright!” Cries a faint voice as I round the corner, “We’re alive!”

Sure enough they are, and I practically collapse in relief to see them all lying there in a big breathing pile, particularly Fili despite him looking as though he’s just suffered an out-of-body experience.

“Where’s Bilbo!?” Bofur cries urgently, “Where’s the hobbit!?”

This must be what an aneurism feels like.

Turns out he’s hanging off the edge, and almost slips completely before Bofur and Ori grab him, but they still can’t pull him up.

Time for some majestic intervention.

Would lie and say my vaulting over the side of a mountain to save my – our burglar isn’t totally heroic and impressive, but it is. Cannot relax until he is safely sprawled on flat ground like dazed deer, but then almost fall to my own death as a result (until Dwalin catches me and hauls me to safety, thank Mahal for Dwalin).

Am by this stage at wits’ end.

“I thought we lost our burglar!”

And what about me?

“He’s been lost ever since he left home,” I rave angrily, gasping for air as I shakily stand because I almost died if anyone cares, “He should never have come; he has no place amongst us!”

What? He doesn’t. He should have stayed in his cosy little hobbit-hole where there is absolutely no danger of him falling off cliffs or being filleted by trolls or eaten by wargs. Or being all cute and lovely and making Kings Under Mountains throw themselves off cliffs to save him.

And he’s giving me heartbroken puppy eyes.

Stop it, you horrid little-

…Bugger.

Now I feel bad.

 

21:45. Ignoring hobbit and his heartbroken face.  

“Get a fire going,” I tell them as we settle inside a cave big enough to house us all, “Get some sleep. We start at first light.”

“We were to wait in the mountains until Gandalf joined us!” Balin reminds me worriedly.

“Plans change,” I tell him, cool as a cucumber, because Gandalf is not the boss of me damnit.

 

22:51. Have all settled down for the night (crumpled bedroll never felt so good). Am just nodding off when I hear rustling and Bofur’s hushed exclamation, “Where are you going?”

What? Who’s going where now? Am facing the other way and cannot see.

“Back to Rivendell.”

Baggins? Back to-

Oh, Eldong, you crafty lecher you.

He really did seduce our hobbit! And now the poor misguided fool wants to go back! Unbelievable.

“But you can’t turn back now; you’re part of the Company!” Bofur hisses urgently. “You’re one of us!”

“I’m not though, am I?”

Oh.

“Thorin said I should never have come and he’s right. I’m not a Took, I’m a Baggins. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Um.

Well…

Alright, so I might have said-

But it was more of a suggestion, really, and-

It’s not like-

Bugger.

Oh, I feel like a complete arse. The biggest arse that ever arsed. Bigger, even.

Mahal save me.

“I should never have run out my door.”

Oh, make him stop; I can practically hear the violins-

“You’re homesick,” Bofur tells him gently, “I understand.”

“No, you don’t understand, none of you do – you’re dwarves! You’re used to living this life, to living on the road, never settling in one place, not belonging anywhere!”

Low blow.

In wake of the stony silence, Baggins seems to remember himself. “Look, I’m-I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

There is an awkward pause.

“No, you’re right. We don’t belong anywhere.”

Durin’s beard, someone give me my harp. Getting all emotional.

There’s the definite sound of Friendly Shoulder Slapping, and Bofur says, “I wish you all the luck in the world. I really do.”

Honestly, there are more feelings in this cave at the moment then there are dwarves. Why don’t we all just forget about Erebor and set up a travelling support group whilst we’re at it?

“What’s that?”

Oh, what now-

…Why does it feel like the sand underneath me is suddenly sagging?

Holy mother of-

“Wake up!” I shout frantically, “Wake up!”

Abruptly, the floor opens up below us.

Am going to cry.

 

23:01. Humongous Slide of Death: zero out of ten, would not recommend.

Honestly, feel completely sick and battered to a pulp as I roll down the twisting, twinging path like a spastic penguin, but manage to catch a glimpse of Kili as he slides past me looking sort of morbidly entertained by it all. Typical.

Fili looks twice as green as he did earlier.

Land in horrific pile of fat dwarves in most undignified manner.

Where the hell are we?

This is somehow Gandalf’s fault.

Horrible screeching noises, and by the time I manage to get up on my elbows find self facing oncoming battalion of goblins charging at us like escaped mentals.

Am beginning to suspect fate is back to buggering me in the ass.

 

23:09. Dragged across rickety wooden path after rickety wooden path after rickety wooden path.

Look over the side.

Ah, seems we’re very high up. Again.

Feeling quite heights-aware right now.

Led into the heart of Goblin Town, where the ugly bastards insist on greeting us with this:

The black crack! The back crack!

The black crack! The back crack!

Down down to Goblin Town

Down down to Goblin Town

Down down to Goblin Town

You go, my lad!

Ho, ho, my lad!

Would they shut up? Don’t try singing if you can’t even harmonise, honestly.

Could write better lyrics in the bath.

Notice we’ve been brought before the fattest, most hideous goblin I have ever seen.

No, really.

“Who would be so bold as to come armed into my kingdom?” He leers down at us. That is a face even a mother could not love.

 “Spies? Thieves? Assassins?

Excuse me.

Does he know who I am?

(Is that actually a chin, or just a growth? Either way this guy has a serious condition.)

“Dwarves, your malevolence!”

Oh, give me strength-

“Dwarves!?”

Yes, bloody yes, what do we look like, Oliphants?

Oh Mahal above, childhood memories (I was not fat, damnit, I was never fat. It was puppy fat! Puppy. Fat.)

 “Well don’t just stand there, search them! Every crack, every crevice!”

WHAT.

You better be joking, Tubbs-

“What are you doing in these parts?” He demands as our weapons are manhandled off us. Punch goblin in face, still takes my sword. Resilient buggers. Knuckles stinging. “Speak!”

No one says anything.

“Very well, if we cannot make them talk, we’ll make them squawk!” Oh, but the bloody rhyming… “Bring up the Mangler! Bring up the Bone Breaker!”

Well, excellent.

Sounds friendly.

“Start with the youngest!” He cries, pointing at a bewildered Ori.

Bloody hell. Better act the leader and, you know. Lead.

“Wait!” I boom in my best King Under the Mountain voice (have I mentioned a favourite at drinking parties?), shoving through the crowd until I stand before the overweight couch potato that is the Goblin King.

Decide not to mention that Kili is actually the youngest, would hardly be helpful.

“Well, well, well – look who it is!”

My reputation precedes me.

“Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror! King Under the Mountain…” He does an overly elaborate curtsy to go with it.

Is he patronising me.

Patronising.

Me.

“Oh, but I’m forgetting, you don’t have a mountain! You’re not a king.”

I beg your pardon?

Glare at him so hard blood vessels in legitimate danger of exploding.

“Which makes you…nobody, really.”

Huh.

Am going to spontaneously combust.

“I know someone who would pay a pretty price for your head…” he trails of coyly, eyebrow raised.

Lots of people would pay a pretty price for many different parts of me, this is hardly news.

“Just a head,” he chuckles, “Nothing attached.”

Oh.

Well that’s…less encouraging.

“Perhaps you know of whom I speak…An old enemy of yours.”

He’ll need to be more specific, I have lots of enemies. You don’t go around being this majestic without inciting some jealously. 

“A Pale Orc, astride a white warg…”

What.

“Azog the Defiler was destroyed. He was slain in battle long ago!” I tell him firmly; because there is no way that Milky….he couldn’t possibly still be...

“So you think his defiling days are done, do you?”

…Crikey.

“Send word to the Pale Orc. Tell him I have found his prize.”

No one tells me anything, apparently.

 

23:36. Where in Durin’s name is the hobbit? Probably off sewing himself a new tea cosy or something, whilst we all get torn to pieces by rabid goblins. I hope it’s a bloody magnificent tea cosy or else we’ll have died for nothing.

 

00:12. Bones will be shattered!

Necks will be wrung!

You’ll be beaten and battered!

From racks you’ll be hung!

You will die down here and never be found!

Down in the deep of Goblin Town!

Cheery bastards, I’ll give them that. It’s not every day you meet people so enthusiastic about torture.

There is sudden screeching. Excitable lot, aren’t they?

“I know that sword! It is the Goblin-Cleaver!”

Manage to catch sight of the Goblin King pointing in fear at Orcrist, lain out on the ground before him, as if it were going to start reciting elfish poetry or something equally horrible.

Still, at least my not-sexy elven sword finally gets some recognition.

“Slash them! Kill them! Kill them all!”

Ah.

Guess the Goblin-Cleaver isn’t a party favourite. Suppose it’s sort of self-explanatory.

Nasty little buggers all start beating us up in rage and seriously this is not on-

One of them manages to catch me unawares and I’m pinned to the floor under its weight; it holds a long bone knife over my face with a dentally disappointing grin.

For his sake he better just be thinking of making me a sandwich with that knife, or I’ll-

“Cut off his head!”

Woah, woah, hang on! Just because Eldong gave my sword a stupid provoking name-

There’s a wave of brilliant white light, and the goblin on top of me is thrown down by the force of it, including anyone else unfortunate enough to be standing upright.

Then there’s darkness.

Blearily turn head to squint into shadow – is that a figure?

Please Mahal, anyone but Radagast the Bloody Brown. We do not need mutant rabbits right now.

The figure steps into the light, and I feel embarrassingly relieved.

Gandalf!

Might genuinely kiss him this time.

“Take up arms!” He roars, “Fight! Fight!

Alright, gosh.

Bossy.

Chapter Text

 

Day 29.

 

00:20. Gandalf is many things (user of Booming Voice of Certain Doom, seller of contraband fireworks, owner of Magic Staff of Death), but did not realize he was also some sort of Highly Trained Combat Warrior.

Watch as he throws his staff around (oh) and takes out approximately a gazillion goblins in one move.

Note to self: Really need to start jogging regularly.

“Thorin!” I hear someone shout in warning, and turn just in time to see the Goblin King bearing down on me with his gigantic skull-club-thing.

Not today, Fatty!

Block his attack with Orcrist and he goes reeling backwards, stumbling over his minions until he topples backwards clean off the edge of the platform with a screech, arse-over-tit.

That’s what you get for having no lyrical talent.

 

00:29. Gandalf sends Glamdring through a goblin’s neck, but for a moment it seems he’s missed because the goblin in question looks perfectly fine-

Gandalf taps it on the side of the head with his staff and the head goes rolling off with a pop.

Right.

Well.

 

00:33. How did the wizard even find us? Did he use the Humongous Slide of Death too?

Starting to question own sanity.

“Follow me!” he shouts once most of the goblins around us are felled, “Quick!”

I’m coming, I’m coming! Just let me-

Smack goblin hard in face with flat of my blade.

All done.

 

00:46. Follow Gandalf across platform after platform, and everywhere the huge cavern echoes with a thousand goblins’ angry shrieking.

Just because I sent their king cliff-diving, honestly.

 

01:01. Durin’s beard, I’m a brilliant fighter.

Must be like sex to watch.

 

01:27. Cross another walkway, and the Goblin King promptly explodes out of the woodwork.

Was he just sat under there waiting for us?

Seriously thought I’d offed him already.

“You thought you could escape me?” He snarls, and almost batters Gandalf to death with his skull-club-thing until we pull the bewildered old fogie backwards out the way.

“What you gonna do now, wizard?” Fatty persists with a huge shit-eater of a grin, but promptly shuts up when Gandalf rams his Magic Staff of Death into his eye and swipes his sword across his fat belly.

“Owww!” He wails and falls to his knees.

Blinks at us.

“That’ll do it.”

Gandalf cuts his throat (seriously do not want to be around the guy on a Monday morning), and when the King collapses the walkway beneath us groans ominously.

Oh for the love of-

 

01:38. Vertical Slide of Absolute Terror: minus five out of ten, would not recommend to worst enemy.

Could practically cry in relief when we land, all body parts accounted for.

“Well,” Bofur calls happily from somewhere amongst the rubble, “That could’ve been worse!”

Goblin King slams down on top of us.

“You’ve- got to be-joking!

Yes, Dwalin, exactly.

 

01:44. “Gandalf!” Cries Kili, and we all look up to see veritable army of goblins storming down towards us.

Time to go.

 

17:38. When we finally make it outside I am on the verge of kissing the ground and making a live sacrifice to whatever god has let us live.

Certainly wasn’t Mahal.

Hates me.

Gandalf is counting us off as though he were some sort of teacher keeping track of his dwarfling class on a day-trip out. Honestly.

“Bofur, that’s ten…Fili, Kili, that’s twelve…and Bombur, which makes thirteen. Where is Bilbo?” He looks around, “Where is our hobbit?”

Oh.

“Where is our hobbit!?”

“Curse the Halfling!” Dwalin spits angrily, “Now he’s lost! I thought he was with Dori!”

“Don’t blame me!”

“Well, where did you last see him?”

Need a bit of a lie down.

“I think I saw him slip away when they first collared us!”

“Well what happened exactly? Tell me!”

“I’ll tell you what happened,” I growl, because I have been at end of my tether for a while now, bloody hell, “Master Baggins saw his chance and he took it!” If he wants to leave me – us, then fine! Bugger him. “He’s thought of nothing but his soft bed and warm hearth since he first stepped out of his door. We will not be seeing our hobbit again. He is long gone.”

Don’t even care.

At all.

At all.

“No, he isn’t.”

What the-!?

Turn around.

Stare.

Oh.

Bilbo Baggins is staring back at me.

Well this is…awkward.

“Bilbo Baggins!” Gandalf cries delightedly, “I have never been so glad to see anyone in my life!”

“Bilbo!” Kili exclaims happily, “We’d given you up!”

Well, I’d given him up, and now I feel like a massive arse again.

“How on earth did you get past the goblins?” Queries Fili.

Good bloody question.

“Oh, ah…” he laughs nervously and fiddles with his waistcoat pocket.

Squint suspiciously at him.

“Well,” Gandalf intercepts cheerily, “What does it matter? He’s back!”

“It matters,” I counter, staring right at Baggins until he tentatively returns my gaze, “I want to know. Why did you come back?”

And Durin’s beard, I don’t sound too soppy and hopeful, do I?

Suddenly his expression changes.

“Look, I know you doubt me. I know you always have.”

Oh Mahal above.

“And you’re right, I often think of Bag End,” he shrugs matter-of-factly. “I miss my books. And my armchair, and my garden.”

I miss my sanity.

“See, that’s where I belong,” he tells me squarely, “That’s home.  And that’s why I came back, because…”

He glances over each and every one of us, but his gaze quickly returns to me.

“You don’t have one; a home. It was taken from you.”

Something unnatural is happening in my chest.

“But I will help you take it back if I can.”

…Well, bugger me.

Did not foresee that one.

At all.

Feel like jelly in a King-shaped mould.

There is a somewhat shamed and stunned silence, in which the entire Company seems to regard Baggins with new eyes. Gandalf just looks entirely pleased with himself.

It’s a very odd, emotional moment.

And then the howling of wargs echoes out across the mountain side.

Of course.

I snarl quietly, “Out of the frying pan-”

“-And into the fire,” mutters Gandalf and would he please stop finishing my sentences for me?

“Run!” He shouts, “Run!”

Don’t understand this need of his to constantly shout the obvious. I’m hardly going to sit down and have teatime with Baggins whilst another pack of wargs or whatever else comes for us.

Unless I wanted to off myself.

So maybe I would.

 

18:02. Running, running…

Stone in shoe. Again.

Feeling a bit homicidal.

 

18:17. So it seems we’ve reached a cliff-edge.

Time to assess my options.

Bloodthirsty warg pack in one direction, 150 foot fall to the death in the other.

Hm.

“Up into the trees, all of you!” Shouts Gandalf hurriedly, “Come on, climb!”

I was just about to suggest that.

Everyone nods hurriedly and begins to ascend.

I’m full of good ideas.

“They’re coming!” I cry warningly and oh Mahal now I’m shouting the obvious.

Bugger Gandalf.

 

18:26. Safely perched in tree like ridiculous squirrel.

All of us together probably look like a very odd flock of nesting birds. Apart from, you know. The war axes. And the beards.

Where is-

Baggins!

He’s pulling his sword out of a warg’s cranium (nice), and am torn between applauding him and his new set of balls or yelling incoherently because there is an angry warg pack bearing down on him like a particularly toothy landslide-

Oh, it’s alright, he’s found himself a tree to climb.

Good.

Not like I sort of wanted to heroically leap down and save him or anything.

…He could climb me like a tr-

No.

Stop it.

 

18: 37. Wargs everywhere.

Can this day get any worse?

 

18:45. It can, as it turns out.

“Azog,” I breathe in disbelief, unsure if what I’m seeing is even real.

Throw quick glance in Gandalf’s direction, but he’s in a completely different tree and does not even appear to be smoking his pipe in the first place.

Look back wide-eyed at my old enemy, who has quite suddenly appeared on the rocky mound below.

I am (unfortunately, as it turns out) not a victim of Gandalf’s second-hand smoke. Not today.

Milky must be…really back.

…Bugger.

Bugger everything.

 

18:48. He spews some of that filthy orc language at me and I have no idea what he is saying, which is probably for the best. We have an old habit of shouting horrible insults at each other in our native tongues, so neither of us knows what on Middle Earth the other is saying but we’ve always just assumed it wasn’t very nice.

There was one time in the battle at Moria when he almost skewered me on his mace and spat something with such fury I thought he might actually go into cardiac arrest (which would have been quite advantageous, upon reflection).

I’m almost certain he wasn’t saying something like ‘I love your new shield, is it really just an oaken branch? So avant-garde!’

Stare down at him.

 “It cannot be,” I mutter dazedly to myself.

Because denial is my only friend right now. 

Notice he is the only one with a white warg. How many breeders did he have to visit until he found a puppy that matched his own skin tone? Honestly, so vain. And almost as racist as Gandalf.

Milky points his mace at me and says something else, which I imagine roughly translates to ‘leave him to me’ or ‘that one’s mine’, and then with a wave of his one remaining arm (ha) his warg-riding goblins charge.

Sigh.

 

18:58. Wargs surprisingly high jumpers.

Arse in constant peril of being torn off.

 

19:09. Have you ever played dominos, but with 30-foot high trees? Whilst riding said trees?

I have, as of today.

My tree is the first to topple under the weight of the canine assault (typical) and am forced to leaped onto the adjacent one before it crashes to the warg-invested floor with me in tow. It continues much like this as tree after tree falls under the weight of the one before it, all of us leaping about like failed acrobats.

And of course, we end up all clinging to the very last tree which could not be more precariously placed if it tried – on the very edge of the cliff precipice. If this one topples, we’re done for.

Milky is laughing.

Am going to kill Milky. Going to bloody murder him, then bring him back to life somehow and murder him all over again.

Unless he kills me first, as in, I get flattened to the ground 150 feet below. If so I will haunt him forever and will be as annoying as possible about it.

 

19:29. Gandalf has had another genius idea.

Watch as he sets acorn on fire (or is it a pinecone?) and throws it into the warg pack, sending them howling and scurrying backwards away from the growing flames.

I say ‘genius idea’ in the loosest way possible, because hello, flaming acorns are great and everything but need I remind everyone that we are in the middle of a bloody great bastard forest. Wood tends to be pretty flammable, as far as I know.

No one else seems to have noticed this slight flaw in the plan, and Gandalf liberally starts handing out acorns like sweeties.

“Fili!” He cries, passing one down to my elder nephew, and after that its madness, everyone borrowing each other’s flames and lobbing the makeshift missiles all over the place. Even Baggins seems to have joined in.

Whole fiasco reminds me vaguely of Great-Uncle Frór’s two hundredth birthday. I’d barely grown in my beard and it was the first time I ever got drunk, but my lewd, adolescent table-top shanties were nothing compared to Uncle Frór himself, who set fire to a large wreath of flowers and tried jumping through it on his pony (this all taking place inside, might I add). No one dared try to stop him, since it was his party and he was the King’s brother and all. Granddad Thrór even cheered him on and started a betting pool.

Complete anarchy.

Didn’t end well, not only for the flowers but for Frór’s beard. He spent the whole night crying on my shoulder. Pulled me back down every time I tried to get away.

“Uncle Frór,” I implored from where I was squashed into his armpit, “I should really-”

“I’m hideous!”

“No, no. It’s…it’s a different look, to be sure, but-”

“My poor beard! Oh, oh…Thorin, good lad, kind lad – you must make it right for your Great-Uncle. Stay with me, won’t you? Everyone else keeps laughing at me.”

“Right. Wait, what? No, Uncle, I think I may seriously have a chance with Morina Blacklock over there and-”

“Sssshhh…just hold me.”

Morina Blacklock made off with Dáin Ironfoot that night, who kept giving me thumbs up the next day.

Ass.

 

19:38. Must be sure to keep beard as far away from flames as possible. Have suffered enough humiliations on this journey without the added insult of a singed beard, or worse, no beard at all. I’d be as hideous as Great-Uncle Frór.

…But Baggins pulls it off (how does he pull it off?).

 

19:40. Milky looks seriously annoyed about the flaming-acorn development.

Everyone starts cheering as our attackers back off a little, and by this stage I don’t bother joining in because I’ve learnt that our happiness is normally the cue for things to go terribly wrong.

There is a slow, menacing creak, and then our tree begins tipping backwards.

Knew it.

Everyone screams (in some cases quite girlishly) and my life practically flashes before my eyes until our descent shudders to a halt.

The tree is clinging on horizontally, so here we are, hanging like loons above what seems like the biggest drop ever.

Feeling quite heights-aware right now.

 

19:59. Dori is hanging off a branch. Ori is hanging off Dori’s boot.

“Mr Gandalf!” Dori cries pitifully, and he slips.

Moment of communal horror.

Then Gandalf stretches out his staff and Dori manages to cling on.

Oh sweet mother of Mahal. At this rate I’ll be entirely grey before we even get to Erebor.

If we don’t all die horribly first.

 

20:07.

…I have had enough.

Enough has been had.

Loony wizards, frustratingly cute hobbits, idiot nephews, hungry trolls , more loony wizards, elves, more elves, MORE elves, warg packs, inharmonious goblins, more wargs packs, and now Milky.

Need to kill something.

Stare at Milky, and he stares back.

My majestic has been suppressed too long.

Rise to my feet slowly, and it is glorious. Can practically hear majestic choir of war-angels singing in the background.

Now Baggins and all the rest of them are going to see why I’m King Under the Fucking Mountain.

 

20:09. Picking up speed.

Majestic choir of war-angels still singing.

Brace oaken shield in front of me.

It all feels a little bit slow-motion, because this is it.

This is the end for Milky, this is the final battle, this is where I chop off his other bloody arm, this is-

His warg jumps and its leg hits me in the face.

Go down like sack of potatoes.

…Ow.

Durin’s beard, this is so embarrassing.

Manage to get up, but just in time to receive a mace to the upper chest and oh whoops there I go again, down for the count.

Ow.

Bloody ow.

Alright, if I can just get up again-

OW, YOU BASTARD WARG, I AM NOT A BONE!

Mahal above, this hurts. This hurts worse than that time I fell down a mining shaft when I was forty and landed on some fool’s pick axe. Arse never quite recovered.

Cannot die like this, Milky will be forever smug.

With a strangled cry I send Orcrist slamming down into the snout of Milky’s warg, and get sent airborne in reply.

Land heavily.

Oh.

Whole body hurts.

Feeling…funny…

Ooh…

Sword at throat.

Look up into face of Milky’s right-hand orc, who grins down at me, and raises his sword.

Ugly…bastard…

Try to grab Orcrist, but it is too far away. Feel too faint to move.

So this is how it ends. How underwhelming.

There is an oddly familiar yell, and then the sword at my throat is gone.

What…the…

Could’ve sworn I saw the hobbit…

Ugh.

Bugger it.

Time to pass out.

 

04:22. Have weird dream where I’m flying with a giant eagle.

Gandalf and that pipe of his, honestly.

 

05:18. Wake slowly.

Have to blink approximately a thousand times before it hits me.

…I’m not dead?

Well.

Excellent.

Gandalf is smiling down at me. He better not have kissed me. There’s only one person I’m willing to accept CPR from…

“The halfling,” I query weakly and oh Mahal be good, I sound awful. 

“It’s alright,” Gandalf assures me, “Bilbo is here. Quite safe.”

Manage to stumble upright (with some help, yes ok), and find we are all on top of what appears to be a great Carrock. Once again, I am in a very high place, but too tired to start complaining even to myself. And too relieved.

Note to self: Find out how we got up here and whether it had anything to do with giant eagles.

Spot the hobbit, who’s tentatively smiling at me.

He saved me. This small, strange, cosy little hobbit actually took up and arms and defended me against Milky, he actually-

He actually…

Oh.

Oh my.

“You,” I blurt out, and his smile drops. “What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed!”

He blinks in a bewildered manner, and I slowly move towards him, because oh Mahal above, this hobbit…

“Did I not say you would be a burden? That you would not survive in the wild?”

I crowd into his space, but he just looks horribly upset.

Resist urge to grin like a heart-struck fool (might look somewhat psychopathic).

“And you had no place amongst us.”

He lowers his gaze, cowed.

By my beard…

I’m going to do it.

Right now.

I’m going in.

“I have never been so wrong,” I tell him breathlessly, “In all my life.”

I wrap myself around my burglar like an overly attached blanket, and am not sorry in the slightest.

Ladies and Gentledwarfs, we have made physical contact.

Physical contact has been made.

He’s warm.

And soft.

And the bravest little bugger I have ever met, oh Mahal, my heart is going to explode out my chest and then I’ll die from blood loss but I don’t even care-

There is an uproar of delighted cheering behind us.

Gandalf will be unbearably smug.

Still don’t care.

Bilbo relaxes against me, and I can feel his smile rather than see it.

For the first time in far too bloody long I do not feel suicidal. Quite the opposite, in fact. I tighten my hold around the hobbit, unwilling to let him go, but just as quickly realize everyone has just about stopped cheering and pretty soon will be giving me the suggestive eyebrow.

Let Bilbo go.

“I am sorry I doubted you,” I tell him gravely.

Please let him forgive me. I realise I am a certified arse sometimes (most of the time), and I have arsed all over the poor fellow far too often in past weeks.

“No, I would have doubted me too,” he tells me bashfully. “I’m not a hero, or a warrior,” He glances at Gandalf, “Or even a burglar!”

Cannot stop smiling at him.

My face isn’t even aching.

 

05:41. There is a low screech on the air, and we all turn to watch as a group of giant flying eagles disappear back into the clouds.

Huh.

That explains that, then.

Turn back to grin creepily at Bilbo some more, but then notice something on the horizon above his curly hair.

…Thank you Mahal.

For once, he does not hate me.

“Is that…what I think it is?” The hobbit gasps quietly and yes, yes, Bilbo Baggins, that is what you think it is.

“Erebor,” Gandalf announces as we walk to the edge of the Carrock in awe, “The Lonely Mountain. The last of the great Dwarf Kingdoms in Middle Earth.”

Too happy to be annoyed that he is pointing out the obvious again.

“Our home,” I breathe to myself, and I am definitely coming over all emotional, where the bloody hell is my harp when I want it-

“A raven!” Cries Óin as a twittering birds flies past in the direction of Erebor, “The birds are returning to the Mountain!”

“That, my dear Óin, is a thrush,” Gandalf corrects him.

Honestly, is this any time to be bird-watching?

“We’ll take it as a sign,” I murmur, too cheery to really mind, “A good omen.”

Smile at the hobbit again.

Still don’t care if I look nutty.

“You’re right,” Bilbo agrees with a contented sigh, “I do believe the worst is behind us.”

Smile freezes on my face.

Earlier thought of mine comes back to me.

Our happiness is normally the cue for things to go terribly wrong.

…Bugger.

 

Chapter Text

 

When things get tough, tend to ponder how I even ended up on this journey towards Peril and Inevitable Disaster.

As ever, answer is simple.

It’s all Gandalf’s fault.

 

12 Exasperating Months Previous

 

“Mind if I join you?” The stranger asks me as I dine (‘The Prancing Pony’ - what a truly atrocious name) after already sitting down.

Well yes actually, I do rather mind you old-

“I’ll have the same,” he tells a barmaid as she passes by, gesturing to my plate of rapidly cooling food.

What is this.

He seems to notice my extremely put-upon expression.

“I should introduce myself. My name is Gandalf,” There is a pause undoubtedly designed for dramatic effect - “Gandalf the Grey.”

“I know who you are,” I reply stiffly, extremely aware of the ugly ruffians who’d been about to pounce on me prowling in the shadows, eyeing the infamous wizard with trepidation and distrust. Am strongly reminded of Fili and Kili’s matching expressions when faced with Dis’ cooking. Admittedly am thankful for the old-timer’s sudden intervention, but does nothing for one’s ego when an un-groomed fogie is apparently more threatening than you.

“Well now!” He exclaims happily. “This is a prime chance!”

Is it.

He leans in closer, squinting at me with highly inappropriate interest and Mahal be good can’t a dwarf enjoy his lacklustre pub meal in peace?

“What brings Thorin Oakenshield to Bree?”

Certainly not the food, that’s for damn sure.

“I received word of my father, seen wandering the wilds near here.” Mad old bat, who can say what he’s been doing these past years. Knowing father’s wily ways he’s probably found himself an island full of fine dwarven wild-women who fan him with leaves and feed him roasted chestnuts by the dozen. “I went looking…but no sign of him.”

Wizard comes over all sympathetic. “Thorin, it’s been a long time since anything but rumour was heard of Thráin.”

“He still lives!” I whisper hotly, “I am sure of it.”

Gandalf the Grey looks unimpressed.

Well bugger him. My father is still out there; being ravished by sexually liberated wild women without a care in the world. I know it. Feel it in my beard.

“My father came to see you before he went missing,” I remind the old man as the barmaid serves him his equally underwhelming meal. “What did you say to him?”

“I urged him to march upon Erebor.”

What.

“To round up his supplies and dwarves.”

Um.

“To destroy the dragon and take back the Lonely Mountain.”

Doesn’t ask for much, does he? No wonder father high-tailed it off the face of the earth.

“And I would say the same to you.”

Blink at him.

He leans in closer and it’s getting a wee bit intense now-

“Take back your homeland!”

Right, I’ll just go get my non-existent fireproof army then, shall I? Honestly.

Lean back (away from wizard’s looming face) and take deep drink from tankard.

“This is no chance meeting, is it?”

“No, it is not. The Lonely Mountain troubles me, Thorin. That dragon has sat there long enough. Sooner or later darker minds will look towards Erebor.”

Thank Mahal, I was in dire need of some cheery dinner conversation and Gandalf the Whatsit has delivered impeccably. Now I certainly won’t go and throw myself off a cliff like I’d been planning all week long.

It’s only when he shoves a piece of cloth at me with Black Speech inscribed on it, apparently taken from ‘unsavoury characters’, that I decide to actually listen to the mad coot.

He translates it: “Promise of payment.”

“For what?”

“Your head.”

…Huh.

“Someone wants you dead.”

Wouldn’t be the first time.

“Thorin,” he frowns at me, “You can wait no longer – you are heir to the Throne of Durin. Unite the armies of the dwarves. Together you can fight in power and retake Erebor.”

It’s not that easy, you daft tart!

“Summon a meeting of the seven dwarf families,” he continues. “Demand they stand by their oath!”

I hiss back, “And seven armies swore that oath to the King’s Jewel. The Arkenstone.”

Oh, the Arkenstone. Could write sonnets about it.

Not that I have, or anything.

“That is the only thing that will unite them and in case you have forgotten,” I continue testily, “That jewel is stolen by Smaug!”

Hurriedly stop whispering like incensed loon when I notice those same ugly ruffians leaving the inn, sending us suspicious glares.

Gandalf turns back to me, and is he smiling? “What if I were to help you reclaim it?”

Stare at him. “How? The Arkenstone lays half a world away, and is buried beneath the feet of a fire-breathing dragon.”

Not that I’m pessimistic at all.

“Yes it does.” His smile widens. “Which is why we’re going to need a burglar.”

Well, excellent.

…So where in buggering hell do I find one of those?

 

Day 36.

 

05:12. Loitering about whilst Bilbo spies from behind rocks is dull but admittedly not life threatening, so can’t complain.

Note to self: Positive thinking is key to a healthy mind. Just because we’ve spent the last week running from Milky and his flea-bitten posse after the Giant Flying Eagle fiasco does not mean I should be any less elated. We finally got to see the Mountain (albeit from a rather depressing distance). We have a heading now. A goal made tangible and real.

May cry.

“How close is the pack?” Dwalin asks our burglar as he scurries towards us.

“Too close. A couple of leagues, no more. But that’s not the worst of it!”

Naturally.

“They’re not onto our scent!” Bofur exclaims, aghast.

“Not yet, but they will be.” He’s still gasping for breath, trying to get his words out.

Must find something less adorable to stare at…perhaps that tree…

“We have another problem,” he announces.

“They saw you?” Gandalf asks disbelievingly (because the hobbit really is good. Not that good, or anything, but you know…good. He’s good. That’s the general opinion. Not mine. Or anything.)

“No, that’s not it.”

Gandalf grins, carefree. “What did I tell you? Quiet as a mouse!”

Everyone nods and voices their agreement, discussing amongst themselves the benefits of Bilbo Baggins.

 

05:15. He certainly proved himself in The Flaming Acorn Battle and we all love him now, apparently.

In a platonic way.

 

05:16. “Will you just listen!” He snaps, and Company promptly shuts up. “I’m trying to tell you there is something else out there!”

Well I’ve been listening, and am not remotely surprised.

“What form did it take?” Gandalf asks tentatively. “Like a bear?”

That’s rather specific-

“Y-yes…! Yes it did. But bigger, much bigger!”

Sigh.

 

05:17. “You knew about this beast?” Bofur exclaims, to which Gandalf answers by turning on his heel and striding away.

Honestly, such drama. Avoiding confrontation will solve nothing and someone so old should know better.

“I say we double back!”

Temples are throbbing.

 “And be run down by a pack of Orcs?” I remind them as patiently as can manage.

 “There is a house!” Gandalf booms suddenly, “Not far from here; we might take refuge…”

That is a heavily-emphasised ‘might’ and it makes me leery.

Whose house?” I demand. “Friend or foe?”

Foe might be preferable. Am not in a hurry to lead my Company into the homestead of another one of Gandalf’s lunatic friends. A rabbit-drawn sleigh is quite enough ridiculousness for one adventure, thanks ever so.

“Neither. He will help us…or he will kill us.”

Excellent. Sounds promising enough.

“What choice do we have?” I ask with zero optimism.

From across the rocky hills a deep, viscous roar echoes through the morning air.

Gandalf raises his brow. “None.”

Pointing out the obvious again.

 

09:47. Grasslands. Running. Stone in shoe.

Incredible, it’s almost as if I’ve experienced this utter buggery before…

 

13:20. Woodland. Trees. Running. Angry Warg pack in close pursuit.

Quite, quite incredible...

 

13:24. That same bellowing roar again, makes every hair stand on end like startled cat.

The Company shudder to a near halt, unnerved by how dismally close that sounded and Gandalf is swift to give them a kick up the arse, “Quickly, this way!”

Must have lost stone in weight by now.

 

13:26. Open field comes into view and there, across the way, stands a large, large house.

Would say ‘overkill much’, but then remember I aim to reclaim an entire kingdom for myself full of gold and gems that shine so bright they’ve been known to give folks cataracts. Shouldn’t be hypocritical.

 

13:27. Bombur must either fear for his life or smell something truly delicious because in a burst of speed he’s overtaking everyone, rocketing towards the house like a thing possessed.

Stare at him and he storms past me.

Thought I was getting fitter.

 

13:28. “Come along, get inside!” Gandalf yells as we race through the front garden and is that a bumblebee or a flying guinea-pig because Durin’s beard no insect should be that size.

No time for further inspection of mutant bees as we slam into the towering front doors like mentally deficient birds. Bombur collides with such violent impact that he simply must have assumed his enthusiasm would send him clean through the wood.

Glance over shoulder.

Stomach drops.

From the tree line bursts what can only be described as a…bear-wolf? Wolf-bear? Giant wolf-bear?

A wolf-bear-thing.

And it looks sufficiently annoyed.

“Open the door, quickly!”

Kili and Fili are doing a fine job of being useless layabouts, as usual, watching everyone else frantically scramble at the wooden lock as they skitter about at the side-lines, shouting unhelpful commentary such as, “Whack it harder, Mr Dwalin!” and “Mahal, that bear could swallow us whole! Hurry up or we’re all going to die!”

Have to do everything myself.

 

13:30. Good hit from my axe splits the lock in two and we pile inside, slamming the door closed behind us-

Right onto the bear’s muzzle.

It really is huge.

And notably unfriendly.

“Push!”

Bilbo has his little sword out, pointing it defensively at the snarling beast as if preparing for battle.

Horrendously cute.

With a final heave, we manage to slam the door shut and slide the lock into place.

Everyone stands there gasping like beached fish for a while as the beast grumbles outside, until Ori turns to Gandalf, “What is that!?”

Gandalf looks exasperated.

“That…is our host.”

…What.

No one tells me anything.

 

13:32. Look around oversized yet fully-furnished home we’ve found ourselves cowering in.

It’s a wolf-bear-thing.

Why would a wolf-bear-thing need a table? Or shelves? Or…is that a chaise-long?

“His name is Beorn.” Gandalf explains with a coy smile, “He is a skin-changer.”

A what-changer? That sounds painful.

Should I expect to come across a wardrobe full of skin during my stay?

“Sometimes he’s a great black bear, sometimes he’s a great strong man!”

Right.

“The bear is unpredictable but the man can be reasoned with.”

Well that’s good to-

“However, he is not overly fond of dwarves.”

Durin’s beard.

 

13:35. “He’s leaving!” Ori whispers loudly.

“Come away from there!” Dori hisses, dragging the lad from the door. “It’s not natural, none of it!”

If he thinks a shape-shifting bear is unnatural he ought to pay closer attention to Kili’s non-existent beard.

“He’s under some dark spell!”

“Don’t be a fool,” Gandalf grumbles. “He’s under no charm but his own.”

Whatever that means.

“Right - now,” he carries on. “Get some sleep, all of you. You’ll be safe here tonight.”

Stop staring at Bilbo fiddling with his hair long enough to notice the wizard’s frown when he mutters, “I hope.”

Gandalf the Grey: Inspiring confidence since never.

 

Day 37.

 

06:48. Wake with majestic yawn. Sun just beginning to filter through the large windows and I lay in my bedroll for a short while listening to the Company snore.

Always rise early, always have. When I was nothing but a dwarfling I used to sneak into Dis’ room and play with her toys while she slept, out of spite. She never let me play with them when she was awake, so it was with a great sense of satisfaction that I innocently greeted her each morning at the breakfast table after a few fun hours of making her dolls kill each other. She remains ignorant to this day.

Eventually stumble into action and dress self (where are my damn boots?). Bilbo is still sleeping, hair in a knotty mess and mouth open slightly; soft little snores escaping with every breath.

Oh.

Something shuffles behind me.

Whirl around, prepared to give one of my Company a smack in the face and then a hasty explanation as to why I was silently staring at our burglar like a creeper.

But it’s not a fellow dwarf.

It’s a pair of thighs.

…Which are attached to a torso (obviously), and brawny arms, and up up up to a wild man-face. Honestly, neck already hurts.

Blink up at him.

“And you are…?”

“Beorn,” he replies in such a deep timbre even Gandalf must have voice-envy, “Master of the House.”

The wolf-bear-thing. Huh.

“Thorin Oakenshield,” I introduce myself, although why I should even bother anymore is beyond me, I mean surely every knows who-

“I know who you are, dwarf.”

See?

He is staring at me.

Now he is staring at Bilbo.

Wait, what?

Just because I sort-of-maybe-stare at my burglar sometimes doesn’t mean you can, you beastly-

“You watch the Halfling closely,” Beorn says with a definite question in his voice and oh, piss off.

“What of it?”

“Why?”

Think fast.

“He…had a bee on his face.”

Good save.

 

08:31. Beorn pours milk with more attitude than the act should ever require. Can’t fault his food, though – the gigantic table is packed to the brim and everyone is tucking in without complaint. Can hardly see hobbit over bread bowl.

Beorn glances at me.

“So you are the one they call Oakenshield.”

Am sure we’ve already covered this…

“Tell me, why is Azog the Defiler hunting you?”

Oi, he’s not hunting me - I’m not a bloody dear! Just happen to be running away from his general direction.

Interesting question, though. Amongst obvious reasons there was also that time I called his mother a-

Hang on.

“You know of Azog?” I ask. “How?”

“My people were the first to live in the mountains, before the Orcs came down from Middle Earth. The Defiler killed most of my family. But some he enslaved. Not for work, you understand, but for sport.”

Classic Milky.

“Caging skin-changers, torturing them…”

Well this got heavy fast.

“There are others like you?” Bilbo asks curiously.

Boern almost looks annoyed by the question. Feel the oddest urge to throw pail of milk in his face.

“Once there were many.”

“And now?”

Bilbo really.

“Now…there is only one.”

A stony silence in which everyone determinedly avoids his gaze.

Well.

This is awkward.

 

08:35. “You need to reach the mountain…before the last days of autumn.”

“For Durin’s Day of course, yes,” Gandalf confirms.

Beorn tuts. “You are running out of time.”

Am being chastised by a wolf-bear-thing.

Entirely unacceptable.

“Which is why we must go through Mirkwood!” Gandalf announces matter-of-factly.

What.

“A darkness lies upon that forest,” Beorn points out. “Terrible things lurk beneath those trees…”

‘Terrible things’ is right.

….Elves.

Not just any elves, either. His elves.

Thranduil. Tree-shagging, blonde-haired, flowery ponce with no sense of loyalty or nobility what-so-ever. Hear his son is quite the bastard, too. The fact that the goat-riding git was even granted the ability to reproduce at all is sacrilege in of itself.

“There is an alliance between the orcs of Moria and the Necromancer in Dol Guldur. I would not venture there except in great need.”

Honestly, so long as we don’t take the bloody Elven Road-

“We will take the Elven Road,” Gandalf nods. “That path is still safe.”

…Have to look away and have a private moment.

Beorn raises his brow (truly an impressive sight when you consider the length of his eyebrow hair). “Safe? Less wise, and more dangerous. But it matters not.”

What is the bastard name of Mahal-

“What do you mean?” I turn on him passive-aggressively.

“These lands are crawling with orcs. Their numbers are growing. And you are on foot,” He almost shrugs. “You will never reach the forest alive.”

Well not with that attitude.

He stands. “I don’t like dwarves. They are greedy, and blind.”

I’ll have you know my vision is perfect, you-

“Blind to the lives of those they deem lesser than their own.”

Now, hold on just a damn minute-

…Why is he picking up that mouse on the table?

He raises the little white creature towards his face, and for one horrifying moment I swear by Durin’s beard he’s going to eat it whole in order to prove some ridiculous point-

“But orcs I hate more.”

Well, that’s…thank you?

He just holds the mouse, stroking its head affectionately with his giant thumb.

Looks at me. “What do you need?”

My sanity back.

 

10:44. Nice to be on horseback again. Or ponyback, whatever.

Beorn earns points in good books for providing ponies, at least, even if he apparently hates our entire race.

“Go now while you have the light,” he tells us in that growly deep baritone of his. “Your enemies are not far behind.”

Excellent.

 

13:10. Forgot how bloody awful long rides can be. Arse rubbed raw.

 

16:52. Upon arriving at edge of Mirkwood, it is apparent why no one goes on family walks through these parts. ‘Ominous’ is understatement of crippling proportions.

Once, just once, why can’t quests lead us through fields of buttercups and forests of giant daisies? All elf-free, of course.

 

16:55. “Set the ponies loose!” Gandalf orders gruffly, “Let them return to their master!”

Am about to try and ask the old loon what’s crawled up his wrinkly behind this time, but Bilbo interrupts train of thought.

“This forest feels sick,” he murmurs, approaching the treeline warily. “As if a disease lies upon it.”

He’s a doctor now, apparently.

Doctor Baggins.

…Oh my.

He fidgets. “Is there no way around?”

“Not unless we go two-hundred miles north. Or twice that distance!” Gandalf says.

Yes, but is two-hundred miles north full of elves or…?

 

16:58. Gandalf has shambled off into treeline to make googly-eyes at some eleven statue.

Typical.

 

17:02. “Not my horse!” Gandalf raves as he comes bursting out of the forest again, “I need it!”

What’s he rambling on about now?

Nori stops unbuckling Gandalf’s saddle from his horse and stares at him questioningly. We all stare at him questioningly.

“You’re not leaving us?” Bilbo breathes in a somewhat horrified tone, and must resist urge to go over there and stroke his face.

“I would not do this unless I had to,” he declares regretfully.

This is not on.

Bilbo looks down; clearly trying to hide his upset and Mahal above someone get me my harp.

“You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins,” the wizard offers kindly. “You are not the same hobbit that left the Shire.”

Emotions everywhere.

“I want to tell you-” Bilbo blurts suddenly, “I…found something. In the goblin tunnels.”

Huh?

“What?” Gandalf voices what we’re all thinking as we not-so subtly eavesdrop. “What did you find?”

Long moment where Bilbo seems to be choking on his own tongue. Fiddling with his pocket again.

“…My courage.”

Beautiful.

“Good.” Gandalf says happily. “That’s good!”

Bilbo smiles.

“You’ll need it.”

Bilbo’s face drops.

Durin’s beard.

 

17:10. Gandalf gives me a hard look as he makes his way to his horse.  “Do not enter the Lonely Mountain without me.”

With a lingering glare he turns away.

Why does he always penalise me? Like he thinks I’m the one least likely to listen to him, or something, which is…actually…probably…most likely true.

Huh.

“This is not the Greenwood of old!” He tells us as he mounts his ride. “The very air is heavy with illusion. It will seek to enter your mind, and lead you astray!”

“Lead us astray?” Bilbo ponders with a furrowed brow (disgustingly adorable). “What does that mean?”

Just sounds like the same effects of Gandalf’s pipe, in my opinion.

“You must stay on the path! Do not lose it. If you do, you’ll never find it again.”

Send him filthy look and turn my back.

Lack of faith is troubling.

He calls back to us as he rides off, “No matter what happens, stay on the path!”

Alright mother, honestly.

“C’mon, we must reach the mountain before the sun sets on Durin’s Day! We’ve got one chance to find the hidden door!”

Lead my Company into Mirkwood, determined not to dissolve into tragic puddle.

So long as no more nasty things try to kill us and don’t come across Thranduil’s smug self, might just emerge from this damned forest mentally stable.

 

Chapter Text

 

20:13. Am falling into ginormous whirlpool of despair.

“Try this way!”

“No, that’s not right-”

“I’ve seen that rock before. Sure we’ve not passed through here already?”

“It’s a rock. How can you tell rocks apart?”

“I just can. That one looks like Aunt Grundi.”

“But not as round…”

“Ha!”

“Oi, anyone seen my carving knife?”

“What y’need your carving knife for?”

“He’s gonna whittle us a compass.”

“I just wanna know where it is!”

“Up your arse, is where it is. Now shut up and help me find my water pouch.”

Am going to cry.

 

21:45. Mirkwood is aptly named: it is murky as hell.

Dark, dank, silent as the grave and a general air of nastiness about it the likes of which I haven’t been subjected to since the days of my childhood, when Dis would dare me to sneak into the prison cells deep below the mines.

Once locked me in a cell and was stuck in there a whole day. Genuinely thought I was going to die surrounded by criminals.

Oddly, do miss Dis. Pain in the arse like you wouldn’t believe, to be sure, and birthed the unholy hell-spawn that are my nephews, but truly she has always been a good and loyal sister. Wise in her own way, too. Even though I am King (albeit one without a crown right now), Dis is still my elder, and a good adviser whenever I am unsure.

Dis would know what to do with this rabble am somehow calling my Company.

“We’ll be fine – just need to stay on the path!”

“But it’s taking forever!”

“Kili-”

“Aye, and everything looks the same!”

“Fili-”

“It’s all over, Mr Gloin,” Kili flaps dramatically. “This path leads to nowhere but more forest.”

“We’ll end up driven mad and start making love to the trees like a common elf!” Fili adds helpfully.

“Fili, I’m scared.”

“It’s alright, Kili. I’m sure Uncle will guide us true.”

They both simultaneously turn and smirk at me.

Trying to get a rise out of me. Well, it’s not going to-

“Silence, both of you.” Blurt before I can help myself. “You are acting like children.”

“Just trying to lighten the mood.”

“Everyone’s so miserable.”

“Because you two won’t shut up.”

And because this journey is taking far too long, but don’t say that out loud.

 

Day 38.

 

17:18. “Nori,” I ask as I find him at the front of the group. “Why have we stopped?”

He points at something. “The path…it’s gone!”

What is the name of-

Huh.

The path is, indeed, gone. A huge cavern separates us from the other side where the path continues on into the forest yonder.

Deep breaths.

…Am calm. Am in control. Positive thinking key to a healthy mind, remember?

But really. Gandalf knew nothing about this? How long has this been this way? No one bothered to build a bridge or some sort of cavern-defying transport? Elves may have freakishly long legs but even they cannot jump this far.

Would love flying eagle or two right now.

 

Day 39.

 

21:02. “Nothing’s familiar,” Balin shakes his head.

That, Balin, is because we’re lost.

We’ve lost the path and now we’re royally buggered.

…And why does the bastard air feel so thick?

 

Day 40.

 

23:12. Head feels…funny.

Maybe Gandalf was right about the illusion-air…

Haha. Illusion air.

Ha.

Mahal help me, can’t stop laughing.

Why is everything suddenly hilarious?

Mushroom on tree. Hilarious. Oin scratching his stomach. Hysterical. Ori trips over something and I’m practically choking on my own tongue.

Keep seeing things, too.

First there’s Dis, who is suddenly walking besides me in her favourite dressing gown, petting her thin beard coyly.

“My my, little brother! You look awful. When did you last redo your braids?”

“Go away, Dis,” slur slowly in the style of someone intoxicated on foreign woodland gases. “Y’not real.”

“How rude. I’m just concerned for you…By the way, when are you going to get on with it and give the hobbit a good seeing-to?”

Almost fall and brain self against rock. Manage to catch balance, but Dis is gone.

 

23:35. Rest of the group all seem to be fairly distracted, too; although we do manage to remain in formation, slowly shuffling forward in the vain hope of finding a way out of this mind-addling forest of nightmares. Nori is staring at something far above his head. Dwalin keeps smacking his ears as if little people were whispering lewd things in them. Bofur is speaking to his hat.

Try to breath into sleeve and avoid bastard illusion-air, but clearly isn’t working because in the next instant Thranduil appears, leaning against a tree with his arms crossed and eyebrow raised – very image of the piss-taking poncey prat I know and don’t love.

“Well, Thorin son of Thráin son of Thrór, you look tired. Dwarf legs are not made for lengthy treks, I imagine.”

Glare at him as I walk past. “Bugger off, you goat-riding tree-shagger.”

Suddenly his great antlered steed is there, and says in a regal yet offended tone, “I’m an elk, you uneducated swine.”

Blink at it.

“Oh, and Thorin?” Thranduil calls after me. “Do make haste and lay with that burglar already.”

Think subconscious may be telling me something.

 

Day 41.

 

12:03. Ooh. Head feels like a balloon full of rainbows.

No. No, stop it. Must remember the quest. Must keep walking…

…What’s the quest again?

“You’re out of your head, aren’t you? Silly dwarf.”

Blink. Realise Bilbo Baggins is in front of me, walking backwards as I walk forwards, arms behind his back coyly and a teasing smirk plastered on his face.

…Um. But Bilbo doesn’t smirk.

Take look around, and sure enough the real burglar is further down the line, walking dreamingly besides Dori.

Glance back at Make-Believe Bilbo.

“Y’not real…”

“You are a clever one, aren’t you?” He flutters those horrendously long lashes at me. “I like the clever ones.”

Gulp.

Not real, not real, not real-

“Thorin, my King,” (oh that’s sounds delicious when he says it), “Why in all darnation haven’t you ravished me already?”

“Um. Well. I, I don’t-”

“I mean, honestly,” he pats his belt where his little elven sword hangs. “I thought you wanted us to…cross swords?”

Gape at him.

Smiles saucily back at me.

Durin’s…beard…

Smack face-first into a tree.

Ow.

 

12:34. Determined to ignore apparently filthy imagination, and suddenly unable to look Bilbo in the eye, I stay near the back of the group and try to breathe shallowly as possible.

“Look!” Ori exclaims as he plucks something off the ground.

Dori snatches it off him. “A water pouch…” He blinks slowly. “There are dwarves…in these woods…”

Mahal above, he sounds drunker than my father at Summer Solstice (let us never speak of it again).

Bofur investigates the pouch next. “Dwarves from the Blue Mountains no less…this is exactly the same as mine!”

Also sounds extremely drunk.

What is in this bloody air?

Suddenly Bilbo is there, looking annoyed and indecently ruffled. “That’s because it is yours. Do you understand? We’re going around in circles – we are lost!”

…Huh?

“We are not lost; we keep heading East.” Dwalin nods matter-of-factly.

Need a lie-down…feel funny…

“But which way is East?”

“We’re lost!”

“We’re fine!”

Can hear Bilbo muttering something to himself (please Mahal let it be an ingenious plan to save us all from this misery), but Company starts arguing amongst themselves, which in typical dwarf fashion involves lot of shoving and growling noises.

Leave them to it, I say. Had quite enough of this idiotic-

Pause.

Listen.

Scowl.

…Huh. My danger senses are tingling. Just as they come in handy when Dis intends to serve me her cooking, also quite helpful when enemies are near.

“Enough!” Roar at them (quite impressive if I say so myself, not to pluck my own harp or anything), “Be quiet! All of you!”

They are quiet.

Look at them gravely, and whisper-

“We are being watched.”

 

12:48. Bilbo gone up tree to investigate our exact location. Which is good, an all, but…

But really. Upon planning this quest never thought it would involve so much tree-climbing. Leave that sort of thing to the elves, usually.

 

12:53. “Where’s Ori?”

It’s Nori that notices his missing brother first, and Dori is instantly mother-henning all over the place.

“Ori? Ori!”

Danger-senses suddenly going ballistic.

Eerily quiet.

And is that the sounds of… clicking?

Slowly, slowly, look up.

A web-covered, cocooned Ori-shaped figure dangles from the trees above, and crouching over him like a giant ugly shadow of death is the biggest spider I’ve ever seen. Same size as a horse.

Try flushing that bastard away.

Spider screeches, pinchers snapping, and lunges at me.

Just about have time to think: Bugger.

 

13:20. Must be asleep…

Blankets are a bit tight…

Bit stuffy in here…

…Where the bloody hell am I? Can’t remember shit.

Wiggle about a bit.

No.

No, definitely wrapped up in something.

Manage to open eyes and-

Durin’s beard! The spiders! The bastard spiders! I’ve been wrapped up in filthy cobweb like a party sausage you’d pop into a napkin and save for later.

And am hanging upside down. All blood rushed to head.

Wriggle with more fervour.

I am no one’s sausage, damnit!

…That didn’t sound right.

Can hear screeching and hissing and the ring of a sword, and oh – someone is fighting those bastard spiders out there! Thank Mahal.

Hope I’m not only one cocooned like this. Tad embarrassing.

There’s the sound of cutting and heavy breathes, and suddenly the sensation of falling-

Oof!

Assume I’ve just been cut free. Not smoothest landing ever, but never mind.

Finally get hands free and tear makeshift prison open, to find myself surrounded by Company in similar predicament.

Not just me then.

 

13:33. Running from giant murder-spiders about as fun as running from angry warg pack.

Not very.

 

13:35. Fighting giant murder-spiders much more satisfying, but am somewhat worried for Ori who already has bad case of arachnophobia. Poor lad won’t sleep for weeks after this fiasco.

 

13:36. Catch them in a jar, Mother used to say.

Have feeling that simply won’t cut it this time.

 

13:38. We actually manage to pull the legs right off of one. Disgusting.

Honestly, kings just aren’t supposed to do this sort of manual labour.

Think Ori is going to faint.

 

13:40. “C’mon!” Yell behind me, hoping we can outrun last of the eight-legged wankers, but am faced with yet another one as it springs up before us like malicious flower.

Raise sword to send the thing back to hell when suddenly-

An elf lands on its head.

A blonde, perfectly groomed elf who slides off the downed spider and comes to a measured stop just feet away, arrow drawn and aimed at my face (typical). His elven cronies surrounded us instantly, and honestly would start shouting abuse were it not for the appearance of this particular blonde elf that has me gobsmacked with horror.

Terribly sculpted cheekbones, smooth hairless face, cunning blue eyes and unnaturally straight, pale hair glossy enough to piss even Eldong off…

By my beard.

Let it not be true.

But the resemblance is uncanny…

I’ve found his son. His son.

And now no doubt this pointy-eared bastard is going to take us straight to daddy dearest.

Thranduil.

Well bugger.

Bugger the spiders, bugger the wizard and most importantly bugger the elves. Bugger them right in the ass.

“Do not think I won’t kill you, dwarf.” The son sneers at me. “It would be my pleasure.”

Would be mine, too. Someone needs to kill me soon or I’ll be forced to do it myself. Simply can’t go on.

…Still.

Rude.

What to expect though, really? Bad genes.

 

13:56. Start leading us away, when-

“Kili!” Fili is shouting at the top of his lungs, staring into the trees yonder, and by the beard of Durin what now.

…Huh.

Kili has somehow been left a little behind and is fending off another group of giant murder-spiders by himself (badly). Am just considering whether I could get away with sprinting over there without getting an elven arrow in the arse for my trouble, when a redheaded lady-elf appears from nowhere and proceeds to make Kili look like an incompetent child as she destroys the eight-legged bastards.

Not impressed or anything.

But bloody hell, as if the situation isn’t embarrassing enough, now nephew has been saved by elf woman like some whimpering damsel.

He must be annoyed as all hell.

Watch as elf-lady leads Kili back to the group.

…What. He doesn’t look upset or annoyed at all.

In fact, he’s staring at the elf as if the sun shines out of her arse.

Squint suspiciously at him.

 

14:10. Leaving nephew’s odd behaviour aside, am one hundred percent done when the elves start searching through our things.

Thranduil’s spawn wrestles Gloin’s treasured locket off him. Inside I know there to be pictures of his family.

“Who is this?” The spawn asks snidely, gesturing to the first picture. “Your brother?”

Gloin splutters incoherently for a moment. “That is my wife!”

Quite the lady, Gloin’s wife. Unerringly loyal to him, but well known for her come-hither eyes when drunk. She’s loudly announced to entire rooms before (with her husband present) that she should have married me so she could have bathed in jewels all day long and bossed Gloin around more than she already does.

Joking, of course.

At least hope so…

“And this horrid creature…probably a mutant.”

“That’s my wee lad, Gimli!”

Spawn raises a well-groomed eyebrow.

Probably better this way – the enduring animosity between elves and dwarfs. Could you imagine if there was ever an honest friendship between the two? Unnatural.

 

14:14. One elf in particular has been relieving Fili of concealed weapons for well over five minutes now, and he’s still finding them.

In his jacket, in his belt, in his sleeves, in his boots-

With a face like he’s just sucked a lemon, the elf draws an inexplicably large blade from within Fili’s hair.

Fili looks entirely pleased with himself. In reply the elf apparently gives up and wanders away, looking perturbed.

Shan’t bother mentioning the fact he tends to keep a switchblade in his underthings as well, then.

My cunning heir turns and winks at me.

Durin’s beard.

 

14:19. Feel bare without weapons. Like being fresh out the bath in nothing but a towel.

And Thranduil’s spawn has Orcrist.

The nerve.

He’s admiring it, speaking in that flowery gibberish they call language and holding it up to the light as he runs his filthy elf hands all over it.

Ignoring the fact that the sword itself is, well…elven.

Stupid sexy blade-

“Where did you get this?” He glares at me suspiciously.

Excuse you.

“It was given to me.”

He thrusts Orcrist at my face business-end first, and spits, “Not just a thief, but a liar as well.”

Excuse.

You.

I am a king! I do get gifts, you know. Evil little-

He shouts a command in his native tongue and suddenly we’re being roughly ushered along like common cattle. Tall, nasty, pompous bastards; I’ll stick them all with my elven sword and ask them how the irony tastes-

“Thorin!” Bofur whispers as he’s dragged past. “Where’s Bilbo?”

What do you mean where’s Bilbo-

…Bilbo?

Look around (not panicked at all).

Bilbo?

Oh.

No.

No no no. Where is he, where’s my burglar?

Where in buggering hell is he?

Am going to cry.

 

15:32. Approaching the Woodland Elves’ huge palace, made from old stone and twisted wood overgrown with forest leaves is not the lovely spectacle Bilbo would no doubt proclaim it to be (oh, Bilbo), but is for me instead akin to coming face-to-face with a living nightmare. Haven’t felt this dejected since Erebor burnt, which was a bummer of previously unheard-of proportions.

Am shoved through the towering, pale gates, and can actually pinpoint the moment some of my already scarce sanity slips into the abyss.

 

15:35. Where in Mahal’s name is Bilbo? Honestly, don’t even mind if he’s off knitting tea cosies like a useless layabout - so long as he’s not dying painfully in a hole somewhere.

So long as he’s safe.

 

15:48. Inside, it’s like being within a giant tree. Huge braches serves as walkways and levels upon levels of houses are carved into the walls.

Like a not-as-great version of Erebor’s own stone structure. Always knew Thranduil was jealous of us dwarves but really, must he copy our architectural designs too?

 

15:55. They take us to the cells first (where else), and must wait in line like good little prisoner as my Company are thrown behind bars one by one.

Fili is kicking up a fuss as he’s wrestled into his cell, but still manages to look sheepish when the guard disbelievingly draws yet another huge knife from his coat lining.

Good grief.

“Aren’t you going to search me, too?” I hear Kili ask, and look over to see the same redheaded elf woman preparing to close his cell door. He blinks at her innocently. “I could have anything down my trousers.”

Choke on tongue.

What.

Is he…flirting?

Is Kili even capable of flirting?

The elf cocks a brow at him, and swings his door shut. “Or nothing.”

Damn. She’s on the ball, this one.

Unfortunately Kili doesn’t appear at all disheartened by this gigantic insult to his manhood. Rather, he’s once again looking up at the red-haired archer as if she were sculpted from the Arkenstone itself, eyes as round as saucers.

Am just starting to feel a little lightheaded upon observing the foolish grin my nephew wears following the elf’s departure, a terrible suspicion forming in mind, when-

“You’re coming with me, dwarf,” the spawn tells me roughly, all tall and blonde and…tall. “My King would speak with you.”

Bugger.

 

16:12. Thranduil. What sort of a name is that, anyway?

I’ll tell you what sort of a name Thranduil is.

A stupid one.

It’s stupid name, befitting of a stupid face.

Which he has.

“Some imagine a noble quest is at hand. A quest to reclaim a homeland,” he glances over his shoulder at me, “And kill a dragon.”

That’s the jist of it, yes.

Mahal. Can’t believe I’m actually here. Actually in the same space as this traitorous good-for-nothing tree-shagger. After so many years you start to just assume you’ll never run into certain folk again.

If only.

“I myself expected a more prosaic approach.”

He stills beside me and cranes his neck around to stare into my face, and good grief can’t he just stand straight like a normal person? If he wants to practice ludicrous muscle exercises he can do it another time, surely.

“You have found a way in…you seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule.”

Already have the right to rule, genius – I’m the bloody heir! Born and bred!

“The King’s Jewel,” he deduces brilliantly as he sits upon his poncey antler-throne. “The Arkenstone.”

Don’t talk about my Arkenstone, you-

“It’s precious to you beyond measure,” he grins thinly at me, “I understand that. There are gems in the mountains I too desire. White gems, of pure starlight…”

Bloody hell. Forgot about Thranduil’s fetish for all things sparkly (but is anyone really surprised). Always hated how Erebor was so full of lovely sparklies he could never get his well-manicured hands on.

Here it comes; the inevitable offer of ‘help’ in return for pretty gems he can braid into his ridiculous hair…

“I offer you my help.”

Amazing. He even bows his head like he’s not full of utter shite.

“I’m listening,” I reply genially.

“I will let you go,” he tells me, “If you return what is mine.”

Oh.

Oh, this is too rich.

Turn away. Think.

“You have my word,” he continues. “One king to another.”

As if we’re part of some club, or something. The nerve. The nerve.

Can actually feel the rage rising up within me. Am a living volcano.

“I would not trust Thranduil, the Great King and all of his kin, if the Ends of Days were upon us!” And I’m shouting in earnest now, turning back towards him like an enraged cat, “You! Lack all honour!”

He looks shocked. As in, flabbergasted. Staring at me with wide, upset eyes as if I’d just kicked his goat square in the face.

“I have seen how you treat your friends,” I spit, and oh I’m on a rampage now – “We came to you once; starving, homeless, seeking your help! But you turned your back. You turned away from the suffering of my people and the inferno that destroyed us!”

Sneer at him as nastily as possible. “You can ishkhaqwi ai durugnul!” And that, I’m afraid, is possibly the filthiest Kuzdul I’ve ever spoken.

Suddenly he’s in my face.

I will punch the King of the Woodland Realm right in the chin I swear to Mahal-

“Do not speak to me of dragon fire!” He hisses. “I have seen its wrath and ruin!”

He shudders, visibly concentrating, and in the next instant his face is melting away, revealing horrific burn marks down the left side.

Well bugger. That’s a mental party trick if I ever saw one.

“I have faced the Great Serpents of the North,” he snarls, leaning away again (and thank Durin for that, getting a bit nauseous there for a second). “I warned your grandfather of what his greed would sow him. But he wouldn’t listen.” He begins to ascend his fancy staircase, no doubt enjoying the even greater height difference as he looks down on me.

Waves his hand.

Instantly, his guards have me by both arms and are dragging me away.

Getting real tired of this manhandling buggery-

“Stay here if you will!” Thranduil booms after me. “And rot. A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf!”

And now he’s rubbing his immortality in my face.

Am feeling a bit homicidal.

 

16:47. Shoved into cell.

Cosy.

“Did he offer you a deal?” Hear Balin ask me from the adjacent cell.

“He did. And I told him he could go ishkhaqwi ai durugnul! Him and all his kin!”  

Can practically hear Balin’s exasperated eye-roll.

“Well that’s it then. The deal was our only hope.”

No, Balin.

Grip my prison bars tight and think upon a mop of honey curls, sturdy feet and quick green eyes.

“Not our only hope.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Day  45.

 

17:04. Am dying.

Stuck in elven prison for days with no foreseeable rescue on the horizon: Complete Lunacy.

How did it come to this. Where did it all go wrong?

(Probably around same time I actually decided to listen to Gandalf. ‘Reclaim Erebor’ this and ‘Kill A Dragon’ that. Durin’s beard.)

No matter. What’s done is done. Must be positive. After all; positive thinking key to a healthy-

Bugger it.

Being optimistic too exhausting. Must reserve energy for more important matters such as feeling sorry for myself and trying to figure out how in the name of Mahal we can escape this wretched place.

And Bilbo.

Oh, Bilbo.

Unsure if angry at him for getting lost and subsequently not saving us right now, or pleased he wasn’t also caught by the elves and thus not currently locked up in here with us. The fact that the only non-dwarven member of my Company is also the only one who didn’t manage to get himself elf-whipped is one we mustn’t linger on.

 

18:12. Kili having conversation with redhead archer lady through his cell door.

Can’t hear what they’re saying but he’s showing her the talisman Dis gave him before he left home, and she’s smiling at him and he’s smiling at her and oh Mahal spare me.

My own nephew, smitten with an…an Elf-woman!

Durin’s beard.

Knew something was wrong with him when he used to stick priceless gems up his nose to see if he could become a living treasure cove, but this is a whole other kettle of fish. In addition to this travesty Fili seems either oblivious or uncaring as he slyly watches from his cell opposite, which is just not on. Raised them better than this.

Honestly. May have to shag way through entire female dwarf population just to ensure I have better heirs.

 

Day 46.

 

06:57. “I’ll wager the sun is on the rise,” Bofur calls from his cell despondently. “Must be still dark.”

Someone sighs loudly.

“We’re never gonna reach the mountain, are we?”

Damnit Ori, not with that attitude. (Also known as my attitude, but that’s neither here nor there.)

And then it happens.

As if he can actually hear my sanity slowly slipping away, Bilbo Baggins appears before my cell, shaking a large set of keys and smiling smugly.

“Well, stuck in here you’re not.”

For long moment am trapped in state of paralysis, in which mind tries to compute the fact that yes Bilbo is alive and yes he is actually going to get us out of this hellhole and yes his hair looks devastatingly ruffled but that’s not relevant nevermind.

He spars me a smaller, more private smile (just for me just for me), and in the next second I’m pressed up against the bars like an overly attached starfish.

This shall go down as The Greatest Day There Ever Was. Might simply cartwheel the rest of the way to Erebor, am that chuffed.

Try to say something witty and charming and express my immense pleasure at his arrival but instead end up just staring at him, mouth hanging open gormlessly. He’s looking back at me, and for a moment I swear we’re having A Moment.

Am interrupted by Company.

“Bilbo!” They shout ecstatically.

“Bilbo!”

“Bilbo!”

“Sssh!” He hisses, already unlocking my door. “There are guards nearby!”

Bugger the guards. Bilbo has my cell door open and there’s precisely nothing from stopping me leaping upon him like a wild-

He turns and goes to release the others.

Oh.

Er, right.

Cough loudly and look busy. Thinking of escape strategies, an’ all that.

 

07:10. Running up and down ridiculous elven stairways quietly as possible. Release Company member one by one. Predictably laborious.

Am hopeful Mirkwood’s security is as laughably lax as Rivendell.

 

07:24. It is.

Bilbo leads us to a deep storage room with no trouble whatsoever. Elves most likely all elsewhere, busy not saving people from murderous fire-breathing dragons .

Oh. Not all of them, it seems: We follow Bilbo down into the cellar and finds two guards in our path, sat at a drinking table and quite spectacularly nodding off without a care in the world. Hilarious. Elves always so proud; making out they never get drunk, but its utter horseshite. I’ve heard of the debauched scoundrels in Lothlórien and their escapades. ‘Fairest forest realm of the elves’ my arse.

“I can’t believe this! You’re supposed to be leading us out, not further in!” Bofur whispers aggressively at Bilbo, and can feel my hackles rising at his tone. If I had hackles, that is. Which I don’t.

Bilbo hisses something back at him and am starting to not like this whispering business at all. Less whispering, more escaping, please and thank you.

 

07:30. Elves must have released we’re missing by now, surely.

Incompetents.

 

07:32. “Everyone,” Bilbo whispers as he directs us towards a long row of conveniently dwarf-sized barrels, “Into the barrels, come on!”

“Are you mad?” Dwalin is the one protesting this time. “They will find us!”

“No, no they won’t – I promise you. Please, please, you must trust me.”

Everyone is looking at each other, clearly unsure if our halfling is as wise as he is brave.

Bilbo turns and looks up at me with pleading eyes.

“Do as he says,” I snap at them before so much as thinking about it, and try to ignore Bilbo’s thankful smile. Cannot handle that face right now.

Wriggling into horizontally-stored barrel certainly injuring to one’s pride but admittedly not the most degrading situation found self in during this journey, so can’t complain.

Bilbo is pacing up and down as we lie there on our sides and I watch as his large feet disappear and reappear in my line of vision. So repetitive almost lulls me to sleep before he suddenly stops.

We all poke our heads out and look at him.

“What now?” Bofur asks.

Bilbo sighs, and sounds almost…regretful?

“Hold your breath.”

Hold my-

Huh?

Bilbo pulls a lever, and suddenly the panel of wood beneath our barrels tips like a seesaw, and we’re rolling down into the dark.

Huh.

For a moment am simply spinning so fast my brain hurts, and then hit water with an almighty crash. Underwater. Freezing. Hair will be ruined. Then miraculously resurface and my barrel manages to turn upright. Gasp for breath like loon as we are pulled gently down the underground river.

Dammit Bilbo, a little warning would have been nice.

Spinning Log Flume of Surprise: two out of ten, possibly enjoyable when prepared for but in this case not – would not recommend.

 

07:38. Hang on.

Where’s Bilbo?

No sooner finished thought when the panel tips open again, and Bilbo is sliding down with a dismayed cry until he disappears into the water below.

Am trying not to laugh when he resurfaces.

“Well done, Mr Baggins,” Tell him as he clings desperately to Nori’s barrel, blinking water out of his eyes.

“Gugh,” he gurgles back at me.

“C’mon, let’s go!” Shout at them as we try and create greater speed using our hands like oars, bobbing down the narrow river in a desperate bid to reach open sky.

Turn corner.

Mahal be praised!

The tunnel reaches its end and we are cast out into daylight. Not that I’m not pleased an’ all, after being trapped in an elvish prison for days on end, but ugh. So much natural light. Bad for the eyes, I say. Perpetual darkness much easier on dwarf retinas. And reflects the state of my blackened soul.

Am happy for about 2.4 seconds until notice the massive waterfall we are about to freefall over.

Right.

“Hold on!”

 

07:45. Underwater again. Breathing a problem. Hair an utter disaster.

 

07:47. Having survived waterfall, the bone-bruising water ride apparently not yet over. We’re cruising down a river-rapid (bad memories, thanks ever so Dis) and it’s a struggle to not only stop too much water sloshing inside barrel but also keep an eye on everyone else as we are pulled along by the current. More than once end up smacking into each other and at this rate will have severe case of whiplash.

 

07:50. There is the sound of a horn on the air, and with mounting horror realise the elves are trying to close the gates that will cut us off from escaping into the world beyond. The stone bridge running over the river supports a built-in iron gate beneath, and with great disbelief watch as a guard pulls on a huge lever.

“No!”

Slam into gate just as it groans shut.

Company smack into me from behind, like huge dwarven drain blockage.

Felling a bit homicidal.

Can hear the guards draw their swords from above the bridge.

Excellent. Just bloody fucking-

A growl. The sound of steel meeting skin, and-

A guard falls into the water with a smack.

Orcs.

Orcs are attacking the elves.

Not sure whether to be morbidly pleased at this unexpected turn of events or outright horrified.

 

07:59. Orcs in river now, attacking us.

Our luck is so bad it simply can’t be real.

 

08:00. Bilbo sticks an orc right in the neck with his little sword.

Cute.

 

08:02. Everyone wildly hacking away at orcs like party piñatas. Kili manages to find an escape and struggles out of his barrel, twisting and slashing at the orcs in his path at he works his way up the side of the bridge. Clever lad. He’s going for the lever to open the gate.

Always knew he wasn’t a daft as he-

“Kili!”

Fili’s frightened cry gets my attention, and realise with horror Kili is standing utterly still, orcish arrow sticking out of his calf. He looks surprised more than anything, as if wondering how it got there.

“Kili,” I whisper.

He sinks to the floor.

Orc spots this newest prey and dives towards him, and I’m already leaning out of my barrel even though there’s no possible way I’ll get there in time but it doesn’t matter, damn it, it’s Kili-

The orc stumbles and falls, arrow sticking out its back.

…Huh?

Everyone simultaneously looks for the source of this unexpected saviour and Mahal help me-

It’s her.

Redhead archer lady.

Can’t even be annoyed she’s saving Kili’s moronic arse for the second time (a possibly romantic gesture), at least someone is doing it.

Orcs swarm forward, out to finish her off-

And the spawn bursts out the bushes like an enraged blonde wasp.

This is just too much.

 

08:11. Feel bit useless bobbing around in barrel whilst the Elf-Buddies do all the work, but can’t deny they get the job done.

Kili looking a bit grey.

Really think he needs medical attention, like, now-

What.

He’s getting up!

Watch in amazement and barely-veiled exasperation as the idiot pulls himself to his feet, struggling towards the lever. He’s clearly ailing, but with a final burst of effort throws himself upon the thing and lets his body weight pull it down.

The gates open.

We flood out in our waterlogged barrels one by one.

Am chuffed for about 1.8 seconds, and then-

Of course.

Waterfall.

 

08:13. Manage to catch glimpse of Kili leaping from the bridge into his barrel with a cry of pain that could probably be heard from Mordor, just before being submerged in water again.

What is the point.

 

08:16. River-rapids.

Hate river-rapids.

 

08:17. Cannot remember what dry feels like.

 

08:22. Orcs still attacking, chasing us down the river bank and trying to shoot at us with arrows or leap upon us from overhanging branches. Manage to staple one to tree with borrowed orcish axe.

Such larks.

 

08:26. Bombur’s barrel catches on something and goes flying into mid-air, hitting the river bank with such speed that he squashes many an orc as he furiously rolls over them, bouncing around until he comes to a standstill.

Watch as his arms and legs burst out of the battered barrel, and almost outright laugh at the sight of the round wooden container running about on tiny legs, hacking at orcs with tiny arms.

Once he’s broke free of his wooden armour somehow Bombur manages to leap back into the river and land squarely in another empty barrel.

Knew he was surprising athletic but this is ridiculous.

 

08:31. Redhead archer lady and the spawn have caught up with us. Still picking off orcs with disgusting ease. Am about to start shouting insults at them over the roar of the water for no other reason than to alleviate some repressed anger, when the spawn leaps into the river.

Instead of landing in water, he lands on Dwalin’s head.

Unsure if reluctantly impressed by his unreal control over own balance or enraged that he’s using dwarf skulls as stepping stones.

He leaps from one Company member to the next, staying above water and shooting at orcs without a care in the world whilst we all try to understand what just happened. When he reaches me very nearly bite his foot but he’s bounced off my skull before I get the chance. Feel violated.

Head throbbing. Blood pressure increasing.

So when he reaches the shore again, seething rage is the only explanation can find to explain why I throw an axe straight into the face of the orc that was about to severe him two (really would have only made the world a better place).

With orcs seemingly taken care of for now, the spawn stares at me, apparently angered and confused in equal measure, and too late I make a rude hand gesture as we disappear around the corner.

Never mind. Makes me feel better, anyhow.

 

08:37. Wonder what Gandalf’s up to.

Most likely nothing at all, the selfish bastard.

 

10:43. “Anything behind us?” Shout behind me for the umpteenth time with little hope.

“Not that I can see!”

No offence to Balin, but wouldn’t trust his eyesight at best of times.

“I think we’ve outrun the orcs!” Bofur announces as we bob downstream, rowing with wooden sticks (how the mighty have fallen).

“Not for long. Make for the shore!”

 

10:46. Dry land (or in this case, rock). Could cry am that relieved. Legs feel like jelly and am so waterlogged clothes feel as if they’ve absorbed entire river, but am on dry land. Mahal be praised.

Then Kili is stumbling to his knees and groaning and clutching his leg and generally making a fuss.

Honestly, it’s just an arrow to the calf. Personally had worse (as previously mentioned: falling down mine and landing on pickaxe, arse never quite recovered. Everyone extremely sympathetic besides Dis who laughed so hard she had to actually lie down).

The arrow appears to have been lost during all the commotion but the wound remains, and looks deep.

Kili hissing like an injured snake.

“Are you alright?” Bofur whispers intelligently, whilst Kili glares at him in reply.

“I’m fine.”

“On your feet!” Order them as I walk past.

Fili scowls at me. “Kili’s wounded – his leg needs binding.”

“There’s an orc pack on our tail,” Remind him calmly as I’m able. “We keep moving.”

Am I being an arse again? Doesn’t matter. Sometimes an arse is necessary.

Wait, that didn’t sound-

“To where?”

“To the Mountain,” Bilbo pipes up, shaking out his soaked clothes. “We’re so close!”

Exactly, everyone listen to Bilbo and why doesn’t he just take off his clothes he’ll only catch a chill at this rate and no, no stop it.

Stop it.

“A lake lies between us and that Mountain. We’ve no way to cross it!”

Bugger Balin and his practicalities. Let me live in ignorance for five bloody minutes.

“So we go around it!” Bilbo argues.

“The orcs will run us down for sure,” Dwalin points out. “And with no weapons to defend ourselves…”

Of course. They took Orcrist, the pointy-eared bastards! Suppose I was oddly attached to the stupid sexy elven blade after all.

“Bind his leg, quickly,” I tell Fili and Bofur. “You have two minutes.”

 

10:54. Two minutes was two minutes too long, because as we set about getting Kili on his feet, Ori makes a strange squeaking sound. All look towards him, alarmed. He’s sat at the water’s edge in the middle of draining his boots. Looking up.

Looking up at a tall silhouette stood high on the rocks against the sun, aiming an arrow right at him.

So help me Mahal, if it’s the spawn I’ll-

Dwalin jumps in front of Ori and makes to attack the stranger with his stick of wood (amazing) but gets an arrow shot into it for his trouble. Everyone leaps up, ready to fight, but this archer is just as quick as the elves and shoots the rock Kili was going to lob at him clear out of his hand.

“Do it again,” he tells us in a gruff tone, “And you’re dead.”

There was no racial slur in that death threat. Not the spawn, then.

Still. Yet another unsavoury character we must suffer.

Notice Bilbo is closest to me, sort of backing up slowly as if wanting to burrow against me for reassurance.

Must not start grinning like a mental.

“Excuse me, but, um,”Balin now is not the time for a cup of tea and a chat, “You’re from Laketown, if I’m not mistaken?”

The stranger turns towards Balin, arrow still readied, and sure enough as the light catches his face it becomes obvious he’s of the race of men. Dressed in a thick brown coat and scuffed boots, with ill-brushed brown hair (not that I can talk right now), he looks the ‘free ranger’ sort.

Better man than elf in any situation, I say.

“That barge over there,” Balin continues, gesturing to the large boat across the water we’d all somehow missed completely, “It wouldn’t be available to hire, by any chance?”

 

11:04. “What makes you think I would help you?” The man-stranger asks a he loads our barrels onto his barge.

“Those boots have seen better days. As has that boat.”

Balin, it’s not polite to insult the man with the only immediate form of transportation across this bastard river…

“And I’ll wager you have some hungry mouths to feed!”

Good grief.

“How many bairns?”

How can he even know if this man has childr-

“A boy and two girls.”

Well.

“And your wife; I imagine she looks the beauty!”

The man looks away. “Aye. She was.”

…Was.

Balin. Stop before you hurt yourself. Or get hurt by the big, brooding, obviously emotionally constipated man with the boat.

The old dwarf looks suitably embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“Oh come on, come on, enough of the niceties.” Dwalin growls from behind me, sounding about as patient as I feel.

Man-stranger glances sharply at him. “What’s your hurry?”

“What’s it to you?”

Durin’s beard. Atmosphere is so aggressive could practically wrestle with it.

“I would like to know who you are,” the man tells us matter-of-factly. “I want to know what you’re doing in these lands.”

So do I.

“We are simple merchants from the Blue Mountains, journeying to see our kin in the Iron Hills.” Balin smiles at him innocently.

Doesn’t seem convinced. “Simple merchants, you say?”

If you want to get to the point you better do it yourself. “We need food, supplies, weapons,” I tell him. “Can you help us?”

Looks at me. Looks at the barrels. “I know where these barrels came from.”

Good for you.

“What of it?” I sneer at him.

“I don’t know what business you had with the elves, but I don’t think it ended well.”

I could write a dissertation on Business I’ve Had With Elves but that’s hardly relevant at the moment.

“No one enters Laketown without leave of the Master.”

Feel eyebrows steadily disappearing into hairline.

Sounds suspiciously kinky.

“All his trade is with the Woodland Realm. He would see you in irons before risking the wrath of King Thranduil.”

See us in irons…

Definitely kinky.

But really. The wrath of Thranduil. What’s this ‘Master’ character afraid he’ll do to him, run him over with his goat? Honestly.

Nod meaningfully at Balin. Fix this.

Balin gives me the hairy eyeball in return. Turns to the man again.

“I’ll wager there’s a way we can get in unseen!”

“Aye. But for that you would need a smuggler.”

“For which we’ll pay double.”

Man-stranger looks at him with sudden interest.

Buggering hell. Better get to Erebor soon or I’ll have no money at all.

 

16:30. Lake is freezing. Shards of ice quite literally floating about on the surface, broken up as the barge takes us quietly across.

Foggy as all hell, too. More than once Bilbo almost whacks me in the face trying figure out whom he’s sat next to. Don’t even mind.

 

16:44. Almost run into large stone structures that loom suddenly out of the fog, spotted about the water like icebergs.

“What are you trying to do, drown us?” I accuse hotly.

The man almost smirks. “Master Dwarf, if I wanted to drown you, I would not do it here.”

Can feel eyebrow ticking.

“I say we throw him over the side and be done with it,” Dwalin grumbles sensibly from behind me.

“Bard,” Bilbo tells us grumpily in-between his shivering. “His name is Bard.”

“How do you know?”

Yes, how does he know?

“Ehhhh, I asked him.” Bilbo retorts dryly.

So he’s all buddy-buddy with the man, now. Wonderful.

Cross arms.

“Don’t care what he calls himself, I don’t like him,” Dwalin mutters.

“We don’t have to like him, we simply have to pay him!” Balin points out cheerily. “Come on now lads.”

“How do we know he won’t betray us?” I murmur in Dwalin’s ear (and how do we know he won’t ride off into the sunset with the hobbit on his stupid boat). “Do it.”

If not I’ll push him over the edge myself.

 

16:56. Bard.

Bard.

…But where is his lute?

 

16:57. If he’s a bard he should have a lute.

And be a good singer.

 

16:58. Does Bilbo like good singers? I’m a good singer. Must have made him cry when I sang Misty Mountains back at his hobbit-hole, surely.

Didn’t even have my harp back then, either.

Well, Bard, I see your lute and I raise you a harp.

Have made grown men cry before, can do it again.

 

17:05. “There’s, erm…there’s a problem,” Balin announces quietly so Bard doesn’t hear. “We’re ten coins short.”

Well that’s what you get when you double the price.

No, we’re not short…

“Gloin,” I sing-song, raising my eyebrow at him, “Come on.”

Gloin acts quite offended as everyone stares at him expectantly. “Don’t look to me!”

Keep eyebrow raised.

He splutters, “I have been bled dry by this venture!”

Hang on. On the horizon, up there…

“And what have I seen for my investment?”

Oh…

“Naught but misery, and grief, and-”

Gloin seems to abruptly realize no one is paying his rant the slightest attention, and follows our gaze out across the fog-coated water.

Erebor.

The tip of the mountain, unmistakable even after all these years, peeks out from beyond the mist like a beacon.

Coming over all emotional.

May cry.

“Durin’s beard,” Gloin breathes to himself. “Take it, take all of it!” He thrusts a pouch of coin that apparently hadn’t existed until now at Balin.

Bilbo covers laugh with cough.

 

17:14. Bard leaps down from his post at the rear of the boat and strides towards us. “The money – quick, give it to me!”

And they call dwarves greedy.

“You’ll have your money when we get off the boat and not before.”

“If you value your freedom you’ll do as I say.” He nods towards the water. “There are guards ahead.”

Turn.

…Bugger.

Damn his lute, he’s right.

Laketown has emerged out of the fog, all wooden structures on tall stilts above the water, and on the pier are the vague but obvious shadows of men, keeping watch of the gates below.

Have had enough of guards and gates and water for a lifetime.

 

17:16. Wonder why they’ve constructed practically everything in sight out of wood?

I mean, they’re barely half a mile from a mountain currently housing a giant fire-breathing dragon.

Something very wrong there.

 

Chapter Text

 

17: 28. Somehow, am once again in barrel.

Entirely unacceptable.

“What is he doing?” Whisper to Bilbo who is stuffed in the barrel next to mine. He has a clearer view of Bard on the docks than I.

“He’s talking to someone.”

Not particularly helpful.

“He’s...pointing right at us!”

Reflexively slouch even further down into barrel. Bard has gone ahead to work his smuggling magic whilst we wait on the barge in hiding.

Mayhaps he’ll sing the guards a song or give them a tune on his lute to distract them whilst we scurry ashore. Or, more likely, he’s lying about the contents of these barrels. No, good sir, no. No dwarves in there!

Durin’s beard.

“Now they’re shaking hands!” Bilbo whispers through his barrel’s air hole.

What?

“What?” I hiss back.

Smell something fishy and it’s not the fish.

“I knew it,” Dwalin grumbles nastily, “He’s selling us out!”

“No, no…” Can hear Ori moaning pathetically.

Going to kill him. Going to take his lute and shove it up his arse sideways-

Barrel lid is taken off. Light stinging eyes.

Tense in preparation to leap up and strangle the first throat I find-

Am hit in face with a fish.

…A fish.

Then another. And another, and another, and suddenly am utterly drowning in dead fish as they’re tipped inside. Judging from the muffled squalling of Company we are all suffering the same degrading fate.

Smell is definitely fish this time.

 

17:33. Boat moving again.

Can practically feel Bard’s smug smirk through the fishy tomb am currently encased in.

Dwalin and certain other members of Company still audibly complaining.

Can hear Bard whacking someone’s barrel in reprimand. “Quiet!” he hisses.

The nerve.

After shoving lute up his arse sideways am going to find biggest fish in this barrel and smack him across the face with it.

Hard.

 

17:35. It’s a good plan, objectively speaking.

A delivery of a dozen or so barrels of fish? Not suspicious at all. (Apart from the surprise dwarf prize hidden within, obviously.)

Subjectively speaking this is a load of horseshite.

 

17:39. Almost wish I was back in the Woodland Realm. Would rather drown in water than in dead things.

Will stink like dead thing when this is over. Perhaps we shall all smell so terrible Smaug will simply choke on our fumes and leave?

Positive thinking key to a healthy mind.

Feels like we’ve reached the gates. Some man is shouting in our direction. “Halt! Wait for inspection! Wait please!”

Good grief.

“Oh, it’s you Bard!”

“Morning, Percy.”

Typical. He’s horrible and yet popular.

There is no justice.

“You have anything to declare?” This ‘Percy’ character asks innocently.

“Nothing. But I am worn and tired, and ready for home.”

Know the feeling.

“You and me both.”

Sounds as if Percy shuffles off somewhere.

Wasn’t so bad. Might actually get away with this…

Percy approaches again. “There we are, all in order-”

“Not so fast.”

A new voice.

Bugger.

Bugger it all to hell.

There’s always some spontaneous prat hanging around just waiting to ruin my day.

“This has been signed for empty barrels coming from the Woodland Realm…only…” The stranger comes closer, footsteps creaking on the wooden dock. “They’re not empty, are they Bard?”

Nosy, nasally-voiced little shit. Should like anyone who clearly doesn’t like Bard on principle, but in this case the interfering bugger has his nose far too close to my business (get away from there).

“If I recall correctly you’re licenced as a bargeman, not a fisherman.”

“That’s none of your business.”

No it is not. You tell him, Bard. Smack him with a fish if you must.

“Wrong. It’s the Master’s business, which makes it my business.”

Here’s talk of this ‘Master’ again. Kinky ruffians, the lot of them. The race of men may be less aggravating than the elves but Mahal knows they’re just as deprived.

“Oh come on, Alfred, people need to eat!”

“These fish are illegal. Empty the barrels over the side.”

What.

“People in this town are struggling!” Bard shouts in a mild panic as guards begin to board the boat. “Times are hard, food is scarce!”

Oh no, no no no…

“Not my problem.”

Am going to hunt Alfred down and give him a Pale Orc Special. See how he likes bossing people about without an arm to wave around. Milky didn’t like it and neither will this sanctimonious wanker.

Barrel begins to tip sideways. Someone’s pushing it over.

Tipping, tipping….

“And when the people hear the Master is throwing fish back into the lake?” Bard suggests slyly. “When the riots start?”

Oh, that’s clever. Knew he could spin a good tune.

Ha.

A good tune.

Because he’s a bard, with the lute and the singing…

Shouldn’t laugh at own puns but Mahal save me I’m good.

“…Stop!” Alfred shouts with detectable loathing.

Barrel stops tipping.

May sort of hate Bard but might also respect him a little now, too.

Just a little.

Like how you’d respect a mangy dog that turns out to be rather good at fetch, or something.

 

17:46. After Alfred is quite done slagging Bard off, we are let through the gates.

Would laugh in relief if I wasn’t going to choke on fish for my trouble.

Oh. Apparently Alfred is not yet done slagging Bard off. “The Master has his eye on you! You ought to remember – we know where you live!”

Well that’s…creepy.

“It’s a small town, Alfred. Everyone knows where everyone lives.”

Oh ho! Damn, Bard.

That must have burned worse than Smaug’s fire-breath.

 

17:48. In difficult times such as these, like to think about the proverbial ocean of gold that awaits me in Erebor. Imagine swimming it. Diving in it. Using impossibly rare and beautiful gems for buttons, for rings, for decorations in Bilbo’s hair-

Wait what.

 

17:54. Bard finally moors his stupid boat. Kicks barrel over.  Come sliding out as if I were being born for a second time, as slimy and bug-eyed as any newborn babe (although should hope no woman’s uterus smells so much like dead fish). Look around for a second, acclimatising to the fresh air. Honestly might be having a spiritual experience.

Bard is trying to help Dwalin out of his barrel, but Dwalin is having none of it.

“Get your hands off me!”

Well.

 

17:56. “You didn’t see them, they were never here,” Bard murmurs to an old fogie who has apparently been watching the whole time whilst thirteen dwarves and a hobbit re-enacted the miracle of childbirth. No wonder he looks so perplexed.

Bard presses a few coins into the man’s hand, and after a moment’s consideration – “The fish you can have for nothing.”

Should think so. Who’d want them now anyway?

Bard pushes through, and shouts in a hushed tone, “Follow me!”

Alright, bossy.

 

17:58. Think I might actually miss Gandalf.

…No.

No, that was just trapped gas.

 

18:01. “Da!”

A young boy runs up to greet Bard (he really does have children, go figure) and tells him in a hushed panic, “Our house – it’s being watched!”

But of course. Why should anything be made easy for us when it’s so much fun teetering on the edge of a psychotic rampage?

 

18:05. Bard’s house is shabby-looking and on the small side, but is at least two stories high, so his living situation isn’t as pitiful as I’d imagined. Playing your lute for drunkards at the inn won’t put much food on the table but the man is evidently doing alright for himself anyway (must have great talent).

Make for stairs that will take us to the first floor door, but a hand smacks into my chest and pushes me back.

Bard is practically tutting at me. “Not that way. People will see.”

Can feel eyebrow twitching. “And which way would you suggest? Through the plumbing?”

Everyone laughs at my fantastically witty joke.

Obviously.

Bard is smiling (why is he smiling).

“Actually…”

Oh.

You little shit.

 

18:08. Am royalty. Refuse to scurry about in a sewage outlet like some sort of miserable rodent.

Should be spending my time swimming in gold, not shit.

 

18:09. “I’m starting to think you’re not even a real bard,” Tell him snidely as I make to follow Dwalin though the little door that will take us up into the house’s drainage system. “Haven’t heard you sing once.” Point knowingly at him. “I’m onto you.”

Just stares back at me as if I’ve lost my marbles.

Oh, he’s good…

 

18:13. What appears to be the eldest of Bard’s two daughters is staring at Dwalin as he tumbles out of the loo, followed closely by myself. “Uh…why are there dwarfs coming out of our toilet?”

Sounds like the start of a terribly crude joke.

Oh, wait.

That’s just my life.

“Will they bring us luck?” The littler daughter asks excitedly.

What am I, a leprechaun?

Suddenly realise how we all must smell.

Sniff clothes. Recoil.

... We’re bringing something, but it’s not luck.

 

18:17. Mahal is cruel and evidently still hates me.

Honestly, when the dwarf scribes come to me and ask for details of our adventure in order to add it to the history archives, I’m going to have to edit so much  of it out they’ll have almost nothing left to work with.

 

18:18. Dis will die laughing if she ever hears about this. Can just imagine it now:

You what!? You had to – haha! Ha! King Under the Toilet!

May cry.

 

18:19. Bilbo pulled out of toilet. Looks like drowned sewer rat and still somehow makes me feel all gooey inside, which is…unsettling.

 

18:29. After thorough scrubbing with clean water and soap, am feeling much better. Bard has given out blankets and currently am wrapped up like a toasty dwarf fajita.

Find myself stood by the window, staring out over Laketown so I don’t accidently glimpse Bilbo washing himself and have a heart attack.

Notice something atop a narrow, high tower made from the same wood as the surrounding houses, looking battered and worse for wear but standing strong.

Blink a few times.

Then stare.

The shape of a large, crossbow-like contraption standing nailed to the top of the tower is unmistakable.

“A dwarfish windlass…”

Haven’t seen one of those since the Smaug catastrophe. And before that, when mad Great-Uncle Frór took Dis and me to see one when it was loaded. He began pointing it at me, laughing like a loon whilst I almost threw myself off the battlements in terror. The old bastard liked to do stuff like that, but he always picked on me, never Dis. He said it was because I was to be King someday, so I had to learn to ‘overcome fear’, but really it was because he had a soft spot for my sister and knew how much she liked to see me squirm.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Bilbo comments practically into my ear, and only just manage not to jump a foot in the air. Glance at him.

Raises an eyebrow at me.

“That’s because he has,” Balin butts in (typical). “The last time we saw such a weapon, the city was on fire. The day the dragon came. The day Smaug destroyed Dale.”

Look away.

Am careful to emulate utter boredom. Won’t do to start sobbing like a little girl in front of Bilbo, and besides, no point coming over all emotional now. What’s done is done.

Doesn’t mean I’m not going to chop Smaug’s tail clean off and feed it to him, though.

“Girion, the lord of the city, rallied his bowmen to fire at the beast.”

Yes, yes, it’s a wonderful story an’ all but quite frankly there’s not enough me in it.

“But the dragon’s hide was tough. Tough as the strongest armour! Only a black arrow fired from a windlass could have pierced that hide…and few of those arrows were ever made.”

It was a black arrow Great-Uncle Frór had been aiming at my vulnerable backside, too.

Mental old fogie.

“The storm was heading north when Girion made his last stand.”

And his last stand was a total cock-up, wasn’t it?

“If his aim had been true that day,” I murmur scathingly, “Much would have been different.”

Suddenly Bard is there, being a clever little busybody as usual. “You speak as if you were there…”

Glare at him. “All dwarves know the tale.”

Bard’s son appears from behind his father just as suddenly, and Mahal save us they are far too alike. “Then you would know that Girion hit the dragon - loosed a scale under the left wing. One more shot and he would’ve killed the beast!”

Bard, control your child. He’s being all smart-mouthed and…thinking.

Dwalin is laughing. “That’s a fairy story, lad. Nothing more.”

More importantly…

“You took our money,” I point out. “Where are our weapons?”

Bard sighs at me. “Wait here.”

Blink and he’s gone.

How does he do that?

 

18:37. Balin, Bilbo, Kili and I have gathered into some sort of ludicrous circle of gossip. “Tomorrow begins the last days of autumn.” I remind them.

Balin nods. “Durin’s day falls on the morning after next. We must reach the mountain before then.”

“And if we do not?” Kili presses. “If we fail to find the door before that time?”

“Then this quest has been for nothing.”

Good grief.

Can you imagine? Will end up throwing myself off the mountain and this time they’ll be no convenient flying eagle to save me.

No.

No, we won’t fail. We can’t. That gold is mine and am going to reclaim every last coin. Am going to roll in it like a pig in dirt and shall enjoy every second.

Mahal above, miss being rich so much.

 

18:40. Bard returns and lays out our new weapons on the table.

Look at them.

Look at Bard.

Look back at the weapons.

…What.

Everyone grabs something from the assortment of atrocities to inspect the shockingly shabby craftsmanship.

“What is this?” Practically spit at him.

He glances at what I hold in my hand - a long shaft of wood bearing the claws of a griphook at the end. It’s the worst and possibly the funniest ‘weapon’ I’ve ever laid eyes on.

“A Pipehook. You’ll do well with that tool.”

If I want to harpoon a porpoise, maybe, but not a bloody dragon!

“And this?” Kili gestures to what looks like a second-rate warhammer.

“A Crona, we call it. Fashioned from a smithy’s hammer. It’s heavy in hand but it works.”

Well, wonderful. If I want to waste time making proper weapons at least I’ll have the tools to do so. Honestly.

“We paid you for weapons,” Gloin declares what everyone’s thinking, “Iron-forged swords and axes!”

“It’s a joke!”

Everyone throws the weapons down angrily. Manage to feel slight sympathy for Bard’s table and put Pipehook down gentler. Bards simply can’t afford new tables every other week with their income.

“You won’t find better outside the city armoury!  Iron-forged weapons are held under lock and key.”

Well. It looks like we’ll have to simply do some more sneaking, then. To the armoury!

“Fine.” I tell him.

Everyone looks at me, including Bard, who’s starting to develop an exasperated air about him.

Realise he’s still under the impression that we are simple merchants. Would love to rub my royalty in his face but wouldn’t be particularly productive.

 

18:45. Balin has taken me aside and is lecturing me again. As if breaking into Laketown’s armoury and stealing all their weapons isn’t a good idea.

“Why don’t we make do and go? I’ve made do with less – so will you!”

No I won’t, you silly old badger. I’m a king. I’m supposed to have the best of everything.

“I say we leave now!” he carries on.

Bard scowls. “You’re not going anywhere!”

Dwalin bristles. “What did you say…?”

Can foresee a round of fisticuffs in the very near future.

“There are spies watching this house – and probably every dock and wharf is the town…you must wait till nightfall.”

Well. At least he’s not a complete wet lettuce. Stealing made much easier with a bard on our side, surely.

 

18:47. Kili looking suspiciously grey.

 

18:52. Loitering about in Bard’s house while he’s gone out. Feel like simpering housewife waiting for lute-playing husband to return.

This is awful.

Bilbo appears to have found Bard’s small collection of books and is getting stuck in to a rather thick volume.

Extremely subtly wander over to him.

“What are you reading?”

He glances up and me and smiles (oh). “The City of Dale: A Merchant’s Guide to Trade Beneath the Mountain. It’s quite interesting! Not that I understand trade of any kind, but some of the wares that were once sold in Dale are truly wonderful! Here, see, it says of a collection of priceless gloves-”

He’s still talking, but am too interested in the way his eyes go all big and bright when he gets excited, the way he gestures wildly with his hands and the way his hair falls on his cheeks.

Oh dear.

“-but it seems it was stolen by a passing thief. Such a shame…Thorin? Are you alright?”

Huh?

“Huh? Oh, yes. I’m fine Master Baggins.”

“You’re thinking about the weapons, aren't you?”

Better explanation than the truth.

“Ah…yes.”

“I thought so. You needn't worry – I’m sure it will all go swimmingly, and we shall reach the mountain fully prepared.”

Gaze down at him. “Well, we do have a master thief amongst our ranks. How can we go wrong?”

For a moment, he stares back at me.

Then his whole face flushes red and he hurriedly looks back at his book. “Th-thank you. I shall do my best.”

Need a bit of a lie down.

 

19:04. Kili still looking notably ghost-like.

 

19:12. After a bit of a lie down near Bard’s fireplace and heart rate is under control again, start to get fidgety.

It’s dark now. And Bard expects us to wait any longer?

…Bugger this.

“Everyone,” I announce loudly. “…We are moving out.”

 

19: 21. Skulking about in the dead of night sort of thrilling, especially when you have a hobbit clinging to your arm and whispering ‘all-clears’ in your ear. Feel like protagonist from terrible erotic novel, in which the two lovers must find some place to hide from the authorities.

Of course, this isn't a terrible erotic novel and we’re looking for an armoury so we can kill a dragon, but never mind.

“There!” Bilbo hisses, pointing to a high window. “We can get in there.”

“Alright,” I tell him. “Be careful.”

Not sure what his expression is in the dark, but he’s definitely looking at me.

“I will.”

Dwalin, Bofur and Oin position themselves in front of the window, crouching over so that they make a set of dwarven stairs, and Bilbo takes a running start. He jumps onto the back of each dwarf and then propels himself through the window, like an acrobatic circus dancer.

Rather fun to watch.

 

19:30. In armoury. Never been so happy to see weapons in all my life.

“Are you alright?” I ask Kili as he takes another warhammer off me. He’s looking increasingly off-kilter, all clammy like a…clam.

“I’m fine,” He assures me, turning away, “Let’s just get out of here.”

As if he thinks I’ve forgotten he got shot in the leg with an orcish arrow.

 

19:32. Kili trips.

He’s carrying three times his own body weight in weapons and he trips.

Down the stairs.

Noise is unbelievable.

We all freeze once it’s over, waiting in the dark silence-

And the sound of guards shouting at each other outside is quite frankly a kick to the balls.

Alright, no need to panic, we just need to-

“Run!” Dori shouts at the top of his lungs, and everyone swarms towards the exit like dwarves possessed.

Obviously.

 

19:34. Manage to get outside, and meet the business-end of a spear.

…Rude.

 

19:40. Cannot believe the audacity.

The menfolk have brought us before the Master’s house, surrounded by a crowd of more angry, screaming menfolk.

Caught pinching weapons. Suppose that’s rather bad.

Not going to apologize, though. They can all kiss my arse and be done with it.

 

19:42. There is a loud bang, and the Master’s front doors swing open.

A large, ginger, wet-eyed, pot-bellied man come striding out, and am dismayed to realize this stunning example of menfolk genes must be the good Master himself.

“What is the meaning of this!?” He roars.

“They were caught stealing weapons, Sire.”

Alfred.

Finally, a face to put to an annoying voice.

He’s thin and slightly hunched over, stringy black hair and a crooked, smarmy grin.

Thought Bard’s moustache looked silly but in retrospect he’s actually quite the looker, isn’t he?

“Enemies of the state, eh?” The Master drawls.

“A bunch of mercenaries if there ever was, Sire.”

Shut up Alfred.

“Hold your tongue!” Dwalin spits. “You do not know to whom you speak!”

Ah.

Er, Dwalin-

“This is no common criminal!”

I’m flattered an’ all, but-

“This is Thorin! Son of Thráin, son of Thrór!”

Well, excellent. The cat is most certainly out of the bag (never understood that phrase, what on earth does it mean).

May as well get to rub it in their ugly mugs now (finally).

Stride forwards. Look majestic as possible.

“We are the dwarves of Erebor!” I announce in my best King-Under-the-Mountain voice. Crowd starts muttering (they love it). “We are come to reclaim our homeland.”

The Master looks as if someone just spat is his fish soup.

“I remember this town,” I tell the attentive masses. “And the great days of old. This was no sickened town on a lake. But a place with boats in the harbour, filled with silks and fine gems. This was the centre of all trade in the North!”

They’re lapping it up.

Mine are the best speeches.

“I would see those days returned! By the real and great fortress the dwarves, to send wealth and riches flowing once more –to the whole realm!

The crowd burst into a roar of cheers and applause (obviously). Can’t resist glancing over my shoulder to stare out the Master. He looks as if he just found out his fish soup doesn’t actually include fish.

Finally, something going my way.

 

19:50. “Death!”

Oh for the love of-

What now?

Turn.

…Bard?

“That is what you will bring upon us! Dragon-fire and ruin.” He comes storming through crowd, looking entirely pissed-off (what did I do?).

Durin’s beard, he’s off on one.

Sounds like Thranduil.

“If you awaken that beast…” His face spasms uncomfortably. “You will destroy us all.”

…Pft. Dramatic, much.

“You can listen to this naysayer,” I tell them all, “But I promise you this; if we succeed, all will share in the wealth of the mountain!”

They’re getting excited again.

“You will have enough gold to rebuild Laketown ten times over!”

More cheering.

Suck on that, Bard.

“All of you! Listen to me!” He’s yelling. “Have you forgotten what happened to Dale? Have you forgotten those who died in the firestorm? And for what purpose?”

Alright, you’re starting to piss me off now, you lute-playing little-

“For the blind ambition of a Mountain King.”

Excuse.

You.

“So driven by greed, he could not see beyond his own desire!”

Better stop talking about Granddad Thrór like that or I’m going to pull your tongue out through your-

“Enough! Enough!” Shouts the Master, “None of us must be too quick to lay blame!”

That’s right. One brilliant speech about flowing riches and he’s changed his tune quicker that a skilled bard-

Damnit, brain! Enough with the bard puns.

“Let us not forget that it was Girion, Lord of Dale – your ancestor,” he points at Bard aggressively, “That failed to kill the beast!”

By Mahal, what a comeback! And Bard thinks he’s so sharp-tonged.

Alfred can’t help butt in, “That’s right, Sire! We all know the story. Arrow after arrow he shot, but none of them hit its mark.”

The crowd is tutting.

Bard scowls, then looks at me. Approaches.

“You have no right.” Shakes his head. “No right to enter that mountain.”

Excuse me?

“I have the only right.”

Arse.

Address the Master. “I speak now to the Mater of the Men of the Lake. Will you see the prophecy fulfilled? Will you share in the great wealth of our people?”

He’s thinking about it.

Come on…

“What say you?”

A pause.

He grins. “I say unto you…Welcome! Welcome, Mountain King!”

The crowd explodes in joyous cheer.

Try not to look to smug, but Bard is glaring a hole into my head and the biggest, most shit-eating grin spreads across my face.

Don’t try and out-speech me, lute boy.

It won’t end well for you.

 

19:59. The prophecy.

Ah, the prophecy. How does it go again?

The Lord of Silver Fountains

The King of Carven Stone

The King Beneath the Mountain

Shall come into his own.

And the bells shall ring in gladness

At the Mountain King’s return

But all shall fall in sadness

And the lake will shine and burn.

Not sure what that last part is on about, but poets are oft strange folk.

 

Chapter Text

 

Day 47.

 

06:52. Morning. Finally, finally heading to the Mountain.

Everyone cheering. Decked out in rather fine new clothes and armour, courtesy of the menfolk. Feel worryingly good-tempered.

"You do know we're one short? Where's Bofur?" Bilbo is fretting again.

"If he's not here we leave him behind," I say.

Bilbo frowns at me.

"We'll have to, if we're to find the door before nightfall. We can risk no more delays!"

See? Balin agrees with me.

The people of Laketown are all out to see us off, peering from windows and crammed onto every balcony and dock in sight as we board our provided boat. Starting to feel like a proper royal. All I need now is some looney to go sending me disturbing letters and rooting through my rubbish. Then fantasy will be reality.

Kili tries to board boat. Shove arm in his way.

"Not you." Mahal, this won't go down well. "We need to travel with speed. You will slow us down."

He grins at me like we're having a bit of a joke. "What are you talking about, I'm coming with you!"

"No, you're not."

Continue putting weapons into boat. Must avoid eye contact.

…No use. Can feel his stare in back of my head, like particularly grief-stricken tickle of feather duster.

Turn to face him.

"I'm going to be there when that door is opened," he tells me surely, but there's the hint of a tremble in his bottom lip which reminds me of when he was younger, trying valiantly not to show how upset he was when he was being punished. Shockingly adorable and heart-breaking, like wet puppy. "When we look upon the halls of our fathers-"

"Kili," I interrupt him (why must I always be the arse of bad news?), "Stay here. Rest. Join us when you're healed."

Excuse me if I find the idea of sending my injured nephew into a dragon's lair to be nonsensical. And I'll be the Big Bad Uncle for it, too. No justice.

"I'll stay with the lad," Announces Oin. "My duty lies with the wounded."

Very good, Oin.

Unless the rest of us end up rolling around with third-degree burns, in which case someone with medical training might be nice to have on hand, but never mind.

 

07:03. "Uncle…"

Fili is trying to persuade me to stop being such an arsebasket. Kili is sat sulking off to the side, ignoring everyone whilst they prepare the boat.

"We grew up on tales of the Mountain – tales you told us! You cannot take that away from him."

Damn Fili and his reasonable powers of…reason. Gets that from his father. The bloke could have cut your throat whilst you slept and still manage to convince your ghost that it was somehow your fault for falling on his blade.

"Fili-"

"I will carry him if I must!"

Horrific mental images of Fili giving Kili piggybacks quickly take form – Fili dropping Kili and waking the dragon, Fili losing his balance and waking the dragon, Kili pretending Fili is a horse and waking the dragon. He's a buffoon enough to do it.

No. Kili will stay in Laketown, where he can't get us all barbecued and jeopardise my gold. It won't spend itself.

"One day you will be king and you will understand. I cannot risk this quest for the sake of one dwarf. Not even my own kin."

Fili gives me filthy look and strides past me.

"Fili!" Grab his arm. "Don't be a fool. You belong with the Company."

There's that filthy look again. "I belong with my brother." He shrugs me off and marches over to Kili's side.

Not sure whether to praise his heart-warming loyalty or go smack the attitude out of him.

 

07:21. Boat pulling away.

Everyone cheering. Master making dreadful farewell speech. Fili and Kili sitting on docks giving me the hairy eyeball.

Can't be all wine and roses, I suppose.

 

07:22. They'll get over it as soon as I'm filthy stinking rich again. Before you know it it'll be, 'Why, Uncle, you know how much we love you and never meant to give you all that attitude…so can we have solid gold statues of ourselves erected in the throne room please?'

Nasty little bleeders.

 

07:46. Bilbo is wearing a frankly horrendous steel helmet with thick fuzzy trim around the edge.

He looks ravishing.

 

08:25. As we cross the lake, can't stop staring at Mountain.

Realize Bilbo is giving me worried looks and try to arrange face into something less emotionally-vulnerable.

 

10:47. Walking.

Much walking.

 

11:16. Uphill walking.

Rocks everywhere, including in my shoe.

Am fine.

 

11:17. God, but I hate rocks.

 

13:29. Keep confusing myself when turning to check on the nephews out of habit - see what they shouldn't be doing now – but they aren't there.

It's actually peaceful and relatively quiet.

Don't like it.

 

15:34. When Dale comes into view – rising over the crest of a yonder hill – am so overcome have to take a moment.

Bilbo is eyeing me sideways again. "What is this place?" he asks.

"It was once the city of Dale," Balin butts in. "Now it is a ruin. The desolation of Smaug."

I don't know…maybe a lick of paint, some throw pillows…

I announce, "The sun will soon reach midday. We must find the hidden door into the mountain before the sun sets."

Bilbo is looking worried again. Graze his back with my fingers as I pass him by, and he jumps. Hurry away and act innocent.

"Wait!" He cries.

Bugger. Did he catch me out? Am not a creeper, dammit, I just-

"Is this the Overlook?" He questions me. "Gandalf said to meet him here; on no account were we to-"

"Do you see him?" I growl perhaps more bluntly than he really deserves. "We have no time to wait upon the wizard. We're on our own. "

But Mahal above, it's always 'Gandalf this', and 'Gandalf that'. If he likes crusty old wizards so much why doesn't he just marry him? And they'll have a stupid wedding, and I'll go just to tell them how stupid it is, and I'll eat three slices of cake just so there's not enough for everyone else, and then I'll be sick all over Gandalf's shoes and leave. And then they'll have stupid wizard-hobbit children and they'll be horrible little criminal masterminds just like the old fart, and Bilbo will start drinking because no one appreciates him, and he'll come running back to me and I'll buy him everything he wants with my ludicrous wealth and I'll make Gandalf come and lick his shoes in forgiveness but we'll both just laugh at him and retire to my chambers and spend the night having joyful, vigorous-

Anyway.

"Come!' I order, and quickly leave before I have to hear anymore moaning about Gandalf the Bloody Grey.

 

15:50. Wonder what he's getting up to right about now. Probably laughing with Radagast the Brown about us behind our backs whilst he smokes the day away.

Utter trash.

 

16:56. According to the map there should be a set of ridiculously steep and narrow stairs carved into side of mountain to lead us to the door. Inclines of rock shoot up from the the ground around the base and make it hard to see where they might be. Do I need spectacles? Mahal help me.

Squint at map. "If the map is true…the hidden door lies directly above us." This map has already proven to be nonsensical and riddled with moon-runes; who knows what other tomfoolery Granddad imbued it with. Wouldn't be much surprised if there are no stairs at all.

"Up there!"

Oh.

Bilbo is waving from across the way, gesturing behind a large rocky outcrop.

Run to meet him, and am pleasantly surprised.

Sure enough, the stairs are there, carved up, up, up the mountainside.

Cannot help but grin. "You have keen eyes, Master Baggins." I'm right up in his personal space, but he doesn't seem to object to my sharing it. In fact, he's blushing.

That's right.

Be charmed.

 

17:14. Those stairs really are steep.

Honestly, they must come under at least three different Health and Safety code violations. Who on earth had them commissioned? Probably Great-Uncle Frór, the nutter.

 

17:33. When we reach the top and manage to scramble onto safe, flat inlet ledge of stone, and see mysteriously large door carved into the side, actually almost shed a sneaky tear.

"This must be it," I murmur, approaching it like one would a chocolate Bilbo sculpture - reverently, and with great desire. "The hidden door…"

Oh.

Oh.

I feel a speech coming on.

Turn to face Company.

Ooh, yes. Here it comes: my 'King Under the Mountain' voice. "And all those who doubted us," I shout, holding Father's key up high, "Let them rue this day!"

Company cheering, thoroughly inspired. Obviously.

"Right then!" Dwalin cries, running to the door. "We have a key, which means…" His hands trace across the stone. "There must be a keyhole."

Huh. De ja vu.

Do I slow clap?

Notice the sky has turned a deep shade of orange, and our shadows are cast across the stone. I consider the setting sun and a passage from the moon-runes comes back to me.

"The last light of Durin's Day will shine across the keyhole…"

Of course! The sun should guide us to the keyhole before it sets!

Am so clever.

"C'mon," I urge them as Nori joins Dwalin in effort to find the damn thing. "We're losing the light."

 

18:27. Dwalin has begun kicking the door.

The solid stone door.

That will certainly help.

"Stop it!" Nori shouts. "I can't think with all your thumping!"

"I can't find it," Dwalin frets. "It's not here!"

Durin's beard.

The sun is nearly set.

No no no. It can't end like this. Not after all the effort, the danger, the unrelenting sexual tension of this damned journey!

My gold is waiting for me, and I'll bloody well have it.

Blast it all. Dwalin's technique suddenly doesn't sound so bad.

"Break it down!" I order them.

"Aye!"

Am desperate.

"It's no good!" Balin cries, sounding defeated. "The door is sealed. It cannot be opened by force. There's a powerful magic on it."

The sunlight fades. So does our hope.

"No…" I stride to the door. Pull out the stupid map.

Look at them all. "The last light of Durin's Day…will shine upon the keyhole." Am aware my voice has broken a little, but cannot help it. Don't understand. How can anything in life be this unfair? We were so close. How could we not find it?

Hold the map out. "…That's what it says!"

They all look defeated. Even Bilbo. He cared too, I realise. Just as much.

Look to Balin. He's the Old Wise Codger in this shambles of a fairytale. He has to know. "What did we miss?" I approach him. "Balin…"

He shakes his head. "We've lost the light…there's no more to be done." There a shift in the air, as if it has been been pulled straight out of my lungs. Feel like a beached whale.

Balin lowers his eyes, lips tight and remorseful. "We had one chance." He turns away.

They all do.

"Come away, lads. It's over."

Watch them shuffle back towards the stairs, downtrodden. Cannot move.

"W-wait a minute!"

Bilbo.

"Where are you all going?" He's looking around as if they are all strangers, baffled. They ignore him.

He stands between the retreating Company and myself, and his face tightens, fists clenching. I realise, despite the few yards that separate us, that he is standing with me.

"You can't give up now!" He voice is raised and thick with feeling.

Watch him, fascinated.

He turns and looks at me, as if expecting me to snap them out of it, to tell them to stop being such pussywillows and get back to work. He looks up at me as if positive any second I'll put everything to rights again, as if he knows my determination alone is one to match his. Somewhere deep in my stomach there's a preening, fluttery sensation of delight, but my heart is too heavy.

Turn away.

Consider the key for a second, the useless, bastard key, and then let it slip through my fingers. It clangs to the ground and slides perilously close to the edge.

Hear Bilbo's concern as he says my name. "Thorin…"

Turn and stride towards him.

He's pleading."You can't give up now-"

I press the map to his chest as I walk past him, and just for an instant I pause, pressing my fingers gently into his chest through the old parchment. Can feel the weight of his stare in the side of my head, the touch of his hand on mine as he holds the map to him.

Then I walk on.

 

19:18. We make our way back down the shitey stairs.

Bilbo has yet to follow us. If he doesn't catch up soon someone will have to go back and drag him by his silly pointed ears, the damn stubborn little-

No. Needn't take this out on Bilbo. He's just full of too much hope. Not like me - an old, grouchy dwarf who will be nothing more than a poor, wandering blacksmith for the rest of his miserable life.

Should have known it would all come to nothing. When has anything ever gone my way, really? Right now, I cannot think of even one instance.

Feel empty, as if I haven't eaten for a week, and numb, as if I've gone past caring. Maybe that's right. Maybe it's time to stop caring about things that won't ever be, even if the injustice burns me from the inside out-

An echo calls down from higher up the mountainside.

"Come back! Come back!"

Eh? Bilbo?

"It's the light of the moon!"

Honestly, can't even have an internal breakdown anymore without being interrupted-

"It's the last moon of autumn!"

Everyone has stopped, looking to each other in confusion.

Feel my heart do a skip-and-a-jump.

The last moon of autumn.

"It's the moon," I murmur to myself, heart pounding. "Not the light of the sun, but the moon!"

Turn and sprint back up the stairs with nary a care for the sheer drop. Feeling spectacularly heights-aware and not a single bugger given.

 

19:30. Arrive at the ledge to find Bilbo prancing about like a loon, looking for something on the ground.

"Where - it was here! It was here, it was just-"

He turns, and his foot hits something.

As I watch it flying through the air, I realise with a sudden wave of horror that it's the key.

It's skids within an inch of the edge before my boot comes slamming down atop of it.

Bilbo grimaces and does his best impression of a not-guilty person. "Sorry…"

Not even mad.

Slowly pick up the key. Stare at it. Feel the Company approach behind me, also staring at it.

Then I stare at Bilbo.

He blinks back at me, and for a moment am worried the intensity of my gaze has somehow paralysed him. I approach him, key in my fist, and am pleasantly surprised that he doesn't shy away. Instead he looks up at me boldly as I look down at him.

Seriously consider doing it.

Kissing him, I mean.

Was wrong before. Something has gone my way, at least once - I got to meet Bilbo Baggins.

Smile at him, then move around him to find the keyhole. They'll be time for kisses after we slay the dragon. I hope.

I press the key into the small keyhole (how could we not find it before?), and a deep grating noise echoes through the stone.

I push, and after a moment's pause it gives way - a perfect dwarf-height door swings away into the mountainside, revealing a long, dark passage.

"Erebor…"

Need to take a moment.

"Thorin," Balin approaches me, about to say something, but he seems to choke on the words.

Turn to face him. He has wet eyes.

Durin's beard, we can't all start crying or else they'll be no point in facing Smaug at all - I shall have already died from acute embarrassment.

Pat him awkwardly on the shoulder, then turn back to the passage to face my destiny.

…Well, my gold.

I'm here for the gold.

 

19:49. "This stone…" Am stroking the tunnel walls like a loon. "You remember it, Balin? Chambers filled with golden light…"

"I remember," he nods, all emotional and dewy-eyed.

Mahal above, it seems we are all having A Moment and the only one who doesn't seem to be about to start sobbing into their handkerchiefs is Bilbo.

 

20:01. Within the passage entrance, Ancient Khuzdul is carved above the door.

"Herein lies the seventh kingdom of Durin's Folk," Gloin reads, "May the heart of the mountain unite all dwarves in defence of this home."

There is a carving beneath it - one I recognise instantly.

"The throne of the king," Balin tells a clueless Bilbo.

"Oh," the hobbit murmurs, squinting up at the old drawing. "And…whats that above it?"

Balin looks at him, and with a reverent murmur says, "The Arkenstone."

"The Arkenstone…" Bilbo hums to himself, curiosity singing off him in waves.

Mm. The Arkenstone. Bilbo. Bilbo and the Arkenstone.

Mmm.

"And what's that?" He asks obviously.

What's the Arkenstone? Only the most beautiful, flawless and brilliant gem ever taken from stone - so dazzling you just want to lick it a bit and rub your face against it.

Ooh. I could just answer him, straightforward, no fuss…

But being dramatic about it sounds like such fun.

"That, Master Burglar," I tell him, "Is why you are here."

He looks a bit intimidated.

 

20:15. Wonder how Kili is getting on.

Hopefully his wound hasn't festered further.

No, I'm sure he and Fili are quite happily slagging me off whilst they relax in Bard's house with a cup of tea and a tune from the man's lute. Easy for some.

 

20:48. Balin is about to escort Bilbo deeper through the tunnels, until they find a point from which the hobbit can go the rest of the way on his own. To find the Arkenstone.

And possibly a dragon.

Am sweating just thinking about it.

Watch as he accepts everyone's wishes of good luck. He smiles graciously, politely (I expect politeness is so deeply ingrained within Hobbits that they'd apologise if you killed them and got blood on your shirt), but his smiles are thin.

He's afraid.

"BIlbo," I catch him before he joins Balin.

He turns to me, wide-eyed.

"Yes, Thorin?"

"I…" Durin's beard, why has my throat closed up all of a sudden? "I just… do not be afraid. Have trust in yourself. Gandalf recommended you to us personally, and whilst I still think he's a bit looney, he is a good judge of character. If he trusts you, so should you." Did I really just compliment Gandalf? Mahal save my black, twisted soul.

Bilbo regards me closely. "And you? Do I have your trust, as well?"

Cheeks burning. Hands clammy. Witty one-liners exhausted. How does this little halfling get me in a juvenile tizzy just by talking to me? Sorcery. Perhaps he is a wizard as well.

"You do," I tell him honestly. "I should have trusted you from the beginning."

Bilbo's smile is, for he first time in the past hour, genuine. "Then I shall do my best."

Probably look like a tomato by now. Can feel Dwalin silently laughing at me.

Please don't die, I want to say as he disappears into the tunnels with Balin, but he's already gone. And it would be foolish to follow. Balin can take it from here.

 

21:00. I'm following.

Damn it. This is so sneaky.

I keep to the shadows, staying a good distance behind them as Balin leads Bilbo down, deeper towards the main chamber where the gold resides. Feel like a spy. Or a stalker.

Oh dear.

"You want me…to find a jewel?"

They've stopped. Bilbo sounds worried again (what's new).

"A large white jewel, yes." Balin replies.

"That's it? Only I imagine there's quite a few down there."

"There is only one Arkenstone, and you'll know it when you see it."

That much is true. When I first saw the stone above Grandfather's throne as a child, I found it to be so blinding and pure that I was convinced I'd somehow died and the light of heaven was calling me towards the afterlife.

"Right…" Bilbo doesn't sound convinced.

Balin sighs. "In truth, lad, I do not know what you will find down there."

There is a long pause.

"You needn't go if you don't want to," Balin tells him kindly. "There's no dishonour in turning back-"

"No." Bilbo says firmly. "Balin, I promised I would do this…and I think I must try."

Oh.

Do you hear that?

It's the sound of my heart slowly melting into a puddle of feelings.

Brave, tiny, amazing little-

Balin is laughing. "It never ceases to amaze me!"

"What's that?"

"The courage of hobbits." I can almost hear Balin's smile.

Oh Mahal, I'm smiling! To myself! What a soggy, wet lettuce I've become. Am sort of jealous, that Balin got to give him this little prep talk. This is valuable Bilbo Bonding Time and it should have gone to me, really.

"Go now," Balin urges Bilbo. "With as much luck as you can muster."

Small footsteps signal the sound of Bilbo heading on his way.

Well, at least he's had some encouraging, inspirational words to spur him-

"Oh, and Bilbo…"

"Hm?"

"If there is in fact a…live dragon down there? Don't waken it."

Outstanding.

He definitely won't have an aneurysm now.

 

21:52. We've retreated outside whilst Bilbo goes about trying not to get eaten.

Can't help but feel a bit guilty about it.

"He'll be fine," Dwalin (of all people) tells me.

Nearly fall over. "What are you saying?" I spit defensively. "I wasn't thinking of Bilbo at all!"

"And I never said I was talking about Bilbo," Dwalin smirks. "Yet here we are..discussing him."

Dwalin needs to go back to the hell hole he crawled out of and stay there. Before I slug him across the face and ruin many years of friendship.

Now that I think about it, our friendship has always revolved around Dwalin teasing me. As King, I've the right to have his tongue cut out for insolence…wonder why I never have. Perhaps because friendship transcends being mean to one another. Or perhaps because if I had Dwalin's tongue cut out he'd just try to kiss me with it afterwards (ugh).

"He's a member of this Company," I tell him maturely. "I should be concerned for his safety, should I not? More over, I am relying on his life being kept intact in order to have the Arkenstone within my grasp once more. Isn't that enough?"

Drop it, drop it…

"All good reasons, but that still doesn't explain why you stare at his ass all day."

Of course Dwalin chooses to say this as I'm taking a swing of water, which ends up sprayed all over Nori. He scowls at me as his beard drips.

"Dwalin, shut your mouth!" I splutter, red-faced. "It's not even remotely like that-"

"It is though," Dori pips up sheepishly. "That is to say, you do pay him an awful lot of attention, your Majesty-"

"That's the part your forgetting, Dori: Your Majesty. I am your King, or I will be once I have my throne, and you-"

"I think it's lovely," Ori sighs, doodling in his sketchbook. "A dwarven prince and a kindly hobbit, united by a noble quest in which life and limb is at constant risk, destined to either overcome all odds or perish together for the sake of glory."

Everyone stares at him.

Can feel my mouth hanging open.

Ori looks slightly affronted. "W-what? I'm writing a story about it."

Think I need a lie down.

 

22:37. Am still trying to process the idea that Ori has apparently been writing illicit fiction about Bilbo and I when a great, deep rumble echoes through the mountain. Everyone jumps to their feet, disturbed.

"Was that an earthquake?"

"That, my lad…" Balin turns to face us and oh Mahal he's being dramatic as well, "Was a dragon."

Smaug either a) snores even more loudly than a Balrog with a chest infection or b) Bilbo has woken the blighter up.

Well.

Time to go be a hero and save my damsel.

…Just imagined Bilbo in a dress.

Huh.

 

22:56. Running, running…

No stones in my shoe for once-

Oh, no. There it is.

 

23:00. Make it to the main chamber, and skid to a standstill.

Oh, Mahal above!

There's gold. Everywhere I look, gold, and jewels and more gold, covering the entire chasm, stretching far off into the distance. Forgot how bloody huge some of these halls could be. Wonder if the first Durin was compensating for something…

Not that any such problems have been passed down. No, no.

Hear hurried footsteps, and in the next instance Bilbo is charging up the stairs towards me. He looks as if he's smack in the middle of a nervous breakdown combined with an existential crisis.

"You're alive!" I cry in delight.

"Not for much longer!' He gasps as he reaches me.

"Did you find the Arkenstone?"

"The dragon is coming!" He gestures wildly behind himself, but I'm suddenly overly focused on the fact that he appears to be evading my question.

"The Arkenstone," I press urgently. "Did you find it?"

He pants gently, blinking up at me as if not sure what to say. I can feel my hackles rising. If I had hackles, that is.

"No, we have to get out-"

He makes to leave, but I block the exit with my sword. Slowly, I press the side of the blade against his chest, pushing him back.

"Thorin…" He's worried, maybe even a little scared. So am I. I need that Arkenstone. I can't be a true King to my people if I don't have it - I'll just be some fool with a fancy crown and a lot of gold. True Durin kings sit beneath the Arkenstone, as they always have-

"Thorin!" Bilbo is definitely scared now.

Realise I am pointing my sword right at him. He's looking at me as if I've grown a second head.

Oh.

I didn't mean to-

Not to Bilbo-

Before I can unglue myself and stop acting like a complete fruitcake, Bilbo's gaze slides away from me, and his entire face goes white as milk.

Bad feeling, oh, very bad feeling…

Follow his gaze.

There, perched atop a yonder hill of gold, rests Smaug, his fiery gaze fixed upon the two of us as if we were bite-sized horderves.

But of course.

With the roar of several war cries, my Company suddenly arrive, swords drawn, and all simultaneously choke a little when they see the colossal, towering figure of Smaug staring them down.

This was such a great plan. Who suggested this whole thing again? Oh, yes - Gandalf! The loopy bastard, I'll strangle him with my braids if I survive this to ever see him again-

And Smaug is charging towards us.

"YOU. WILL. BURN!"

We all scream like girls, and promptly leap off the walkway into the sea of gold below. A roar of white-hot flame rushes over the walkway above us as we all scramble to get away.

Feeling quite fire-aware right now.

 

23:29. Fairly certain my back is aflame.

"Ahh!"

Yep.

We escape into a small alcove, and I just manage to join everyone else inside as flames roll past the entrance, leaving my clothes smouldering.

Rolling on the ground like a dog to put the fire out isn't exactly how I wanted my underlings to remember me, but I suppose by this point we've all seen the worst in each other (oh, Mahal, Bilbo probably hates me now). My dignity is somewhere in the void.

Jump up as soon as I'm confidant I'm no longer burning to death and shout as smoothly as I can, "C'mon!", leading them into the next tunnel as if nothing happened.

Am still cool.

 

23:54. We're higher up in the mountain now, many levels above the ground. You could throw a stone off the edge of one of these walkways and never hear it hit the bottom, which gives me the willies a little.

Am not actually feeling too heights-aware, though. Perhaps because the mountain is my home, and it is comforting even so high up. Or maybe because falling to my death doesn't sound like quite the ordeal when compared to Death By Dragon Fire.

We near another walkway. It is surrounded by open air, and it's a long stretch to the other side. A long way to fall if you slipped off the edge, too.

Look about as best I can, but no sign of the dragon. Surely something so big cannot hide easily…

Note to self: tell Smaug he's fat at next available opportunity.

"We've given him the slip!" Dori enthuses.

"No," whispers Dwalin, "He's too canny for that."

Why must dragons be smart as well as fire-breathing and monstrously powerful? Seems a bit of an unbalanced advantage over, well, everyone.

"So, where-to now?" Bilbo whispers.

"The western guard-room," I whisper back (it's all very hush-hush, as Smaug probably has supersonic hearing, too, just because he's that brilliant or whatever), "We might find a way out."

Balin shakes his head. "It's too high, there's no chance that way!"

"It's our only chance!" I hiss. "We have to try."

 

Day 48.

 

00:04. Walkway is long. Too long. At this pensioner-shuffle pace we'll have died of old age before we get to the other side, nevermind Smaug. We have little choice, however - if we run across like a herd of wildebeest the dragon will hear us and roast us all in one go.

We should be fine, long as we stay nice and-

A coin drops from Mahalknowswhere and hits the stone, ringing like a siren song of imminent death.

-quiet.

Squint over my shoulder accusingly, half-expecting one of them to have dropped it like the halfwits they are, but then-

Bilbo slowly looks up, and we all follow his gaze.

Ah.

Smaug's huge, serpentine body slowly prowls over the walkway above us, coins that were stuck to his belly slowly falling off one by one, raining down around us. He hasn't seen us yet - but he's looking.

This is fine. This is totally fine. Won't be grey by the time this is all over, truly. Positive thinking key to a healthy mind.

Oh, bugger it.

 

00:40. After nearly dying a third time, our skulking about leads us to the western guard-room, but upon arrival we find the old entrance to the outside blocked by rubble, and the room filled with the half-skeletal bodies of my people who died trying to escape when the kingdom fell.

Of course. Not only is our escape plan a no-go, but fate has decided to leave some dead dwarves here just to really hit the message home: You're Going To Die Here, Nice And Cripsy.

"We could try to reach the mines…might last a few days." Balin suggests morosely, looking about at the bodies and quite clearly imaging his own miserable fate.

Oh.

Oh, I feel it.

I feel a speech coming on.

"No." I tell him. "I will not die like this; cowering, clawing for breath." I face them all, raise my voice. "We make for the forges."

Dwalin shakes his head. "He'll see us, sure as breath."

"Not if we spilt up."

"Thorin…we'll never make it." Balin implores me.

"Some of us might."

I'm there, people. I'm at that stage. Sacrifices might have to be made to do it, but Mahal help me, I'm going to kick this bastard dragon's arse back to dragon hell one way or another.

Am officially done with his shit.

"We lead him to the forges. We kill the dragon. If this is to end in fire, than we shall all burn together."

Just so they know in advance.

I mean it's not as if I'm deliberately trying to be morbid or anything but…

 

00:59. "FLEE, FLEE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! THERE IS NOWERE TO HIDE…"

Durin's beard, but he does have a big gob.

 

01:22. After much yelling and running, somehow we have managed to lead him to the massive forging hall without being burned to cinders.

"This way, it's this way!" Shouts Balin behind me.

Skid to a halt and turn - Balin and Bilbo are waiting at an open passageway that I somehow ran right past. Where the hell is my head today.

Oh, yes.

It's slightly preoccupied with the gigantic dragon trying to kill us all.

Make to go to them, but that's when the Great Fiery One decides to barrel his way around the corner. The moment he sees us, his throat begins glowing from the inside and he opens his huge jaws - the only indication we get that things are about to quite literally heat up.

Am too far away from them. "Follow Balin!" I shout to Bilbo, who looks as if he's about to try and pull me towards him.

"Thorin!"

With an almighty roar, a river of flame rages towards me - I spin on my heel, just managing to catch a glimpse of Balin pulling Bilbo out of harm's way, and then I sprint for the nearest open mine. Can feel the heat on my back when I leap majestically into the pit, falling straight down for a sickening moment before landing on one of the mining pulleys - it swiftly coils downwards into the dark whilst Smaug chases me.

Brilliant.

He's persistent, I'll give him that.

 

01:28: "Thorin!" I can make out Dwalin's cry of alarm as I speed down into the darkness, dragon on my tail, and in the next instance the pulley jerks to a standstill.

Oh Mahal, no no no!

Smaug opens his great jaws, about to catch up, about to swallow me whole-

And then the pulley goes flying back up.

Narrowly miss Smaug's huge mouth as I zoom back up towards the surface, his great eye glaring at me as I sail past it. Hear him turning around with a roar, chasing me back up. Dwalin must have reversed the cable.

Am fine, am totally fine, just need to get back onto stable ground so I can run away properly, theres no need to panic, I'm going to make it, I'm going to-

The pulley cable breaks.

"Ah!"

For one long, awful moment, am convinced I am about to fall to my death, but then-

Land on something, balancing awkwardly.

"Oh…"

Am balancing on Smaug's nose.

"Uh…!"

His jaw opens, throat glowing with searing fire and oh gosh what fun this is-

There's another pulley dangling nearby, and I leap for it.

Above, someone hits the lever and I go sailing up again, a stream of flame racing after me.

"Thorin!"

"Ah!"

Leap off the pulley as it reaches the surface and throw myself onto the ground, narrowly missing the torrent of fire as it shoots up out the mine like a volcano.

Bloody buggering bastard balls!

 

01:39. "C'mon!" I shout, pulling Nori with me through a set of columns into the next great chamber - the forging hall.

The rest of them are waiting for me.

"The plan's not gonna work," growls Dwalin. "These furnaces are stones cold!"

The furnaces are huge, tower-like contraptions, about eight of them in total throughout the hall - and all of them need a hell of a lot of firepower to heat them up. Somehow don't think Dori's trusty set of matches is going to do the job.

"He's right," Balin adds, "We've no fire hot enough to set them ablaze…"

…Huh.

"Have we not?" I say, grinning for what feels like the first time in a thousand years.

We've got a hot enough fire, alright. We just need to get Smaug to cooperate.

Time to do what I do best: insult people.

"I did not think to see you easily outwitted!" I shout back the way I came, through the columns where the dragon must still be lurking.

One huge, clawed wing appears from the pit, rising to the bait (idiot, ha).

"You have grown slow," I shout at him with great enjoyment, "And fat, in your dotage!"

Did promise myself I'd tell him he was fat, after all.

Smaug's face is one of true loathing when it appears out of the darkness.

A little weight-sensitive, are we?

"Slug!" I shout, just to really piss him off.

His expression of absolute fury is pretty clear.

Turn to the Company with a grin. "Take cover!"

As we hide behind the great columns, flame raging past us, I feel better than I have all day.

 

01:57. Smaug's fire brings the forges to life perfectly (I'm an utter genius).

Suddenly am giving orders like it's nobodies business, whilst an apocalyptic Smaug tries to smash through the columns so he can eat us all.

"Bombur, get those billows working!"

"Ay!"

"Bilbo!" I cry, looking for him, but he's already running towards me. "Bilbo, up there, on my mark, pull that lever!" I tell him with a hand on his shoulder, gently pushing him towards a huge lever atop the stairs that will release the water pipes on my command.

He runs for it instantly, so I turn to Balin. "Balin, can you still mix a flash-flame?"

"Aye, it'll only take a jiffy!"

Smaug roars in rage, and the columns break.

"We don't have a jiffy!" Dwalin cries.

Bloody hell.

 

02:18. Seeing Smaug belted with gallons upon gallons of water and bottles of flash-flame is the good for the soul, I find.

 

02:24. Manage to release the newly-melted molten gold from their huge cauldrons, letting rivers of the stuff rush through the casting funnels.

Perhaps I'm inspired by our barrel-riding incident on the Elvish river in Mirkwood, but my next ingenious plan is to grab a wheelbarrow, throw it into the liquid gold and ride it on the funnels, letting the stream of molten gold carry me into the Gallery of the Kings.

"Lead him to the Gallery of the Kings!" I order Dwalin as I ride past him, narrowly avoiding Smaug's stomping feet and lashing tail.

Glance behind me to see Bilbo right in Smaug's line of view, clearly terrified.

"Keep going Bilbo! Run!"

Am going to have a heart attack.

 

02:45. Have a plan. But they have to get him to the Gallery of the Kings first.

I'm not done messing with this fat, scaly wanker yet.

 

03:15. Am ready. Stood atop the biggest cast in the kingdom - a huge, towering statue of a dwarf, as tall as Smaug himself. It's filled with hot, liquid gold, and I have the chain that will open the cast in my hands. All I need now is for someone to lead the bastard dragon here…

Smaug crashes through the wall at the opposite end of the hall, poor Bilbo just in front.

Well, that's that then.

"You think you can deceive me, barrel-rider?" Smaug snarls, as Bilbo dives beneath a fallen tapestry for cover. "You have come from Laketown…is there some sort of scheme hatched between these filthy dwarfs and those miserable top-trading lake men? Those snivelling cowards with their longbows, and their black arrows…Perhaps it is time I paid them a visit!"

He turns his great, coiled body around, making to leave, and am about to shout something rude at him in order to gain his attention, when amazingly, Bilbo abruptly stands up.

"No, this isn't their fault!" He shouts desperately. "Wait! You cannot go to Laketown!"

He must be off his rocker. Brave, stupid creature. If he survives this I'm going to smack him, and then hug him. Not necessarily in that order.

Smaug appears amused. "You care about them, do you? Good. Then you can watch them die." He makes to leave again.

My time to shine.

"Here! You witless worm!" Oh, that's a good one.

Smaug's head snaps in my direction. His eyes narrow. "You."

He's probably still smarting from that 'fat' comment I threw at him earlier.

"I am taking back what you stole."

So majestic.

Smaug approaches, snarling, "You will take nothing from me, dwarf. I laid low your warriors of old. I instilled terror in the hearts of men."

He rises up, so we are eye-to-eye.

"I AM KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN!"

Excuse.

Me.

"This is not your Kingdom! These are dwarf lands, this is dwarf gold! And we will have our revenge."

Oh, but I do the best speeches.

Shout the order in Khuzdul, pull the chain, and one by one the rest of the Company, who are stationed behind me on the ground, do the same.

The chains around the cast fall away, and the stone crumbles. I cling the the chain and swing out of the way as the stone falls away, revealing a huge, solid gold statue the likes of which no man or beast has ever seen before.

Smaug is obviously enchanted, and for a moment appears to forget he wants to kill us (excellent). Instead he inspects the golden idol, eyes round a saucers.

Then the whole thing collapses into a river of molten gold.

Smaug roars as the torrent washes over him, pushing him to the ground (hilarious).

Within seconds he is lost beneath the tidal wave, and the entire hall is transformed into a yellow, glistening lake. With a final thrash of his tail, the dragon is submerged, and all goes quiet.

Everyone holds their breath, but there is no movement.

Durin's beard, we might actually have done it!

Am amazing. Am a genius.

Let it be known throughout the world, that this is the day that Thorin Oakenshield slew the greatest calamity of all-

With a roar, Smaug rises from beneath the lake, plastered from head to tow in shining gold.

Damn it all to hell!

I just made him pretty.

"IT BURNS!" He shrieks, clambering away towards the exit. "BURNS!"

He charges away, roaring and shrieking.

"I WILL SHOW YOU REVENGE!"

Then he crashes his way through the front gate and out into the night.

Oh.

Well.

At least we got him out the mountain, right?

 

03:48. Follow Bilbo out into the night. Watch him as he climbs up onto a high rock in order to get a better view.

In the distance, Smaug's great, hulking silhouette can be seen cutting through the air, heading straight for Laketown. Straight for Fili and Kili.

Bugger it.

"What have we done?" Bibo breathes quietly, horrified.

 

03:55. Well, theres a bright side I suppose. Ori will have fantastic material for his erotic novel. The dwarf king and the perplexed hobbit fight off a dragon together, and might actually make love afterwards, if the dragon doesn't kill an entire town first and the king isn't acting like a nutter and can stop pointing his sword (his steel sword, that is) at the poor hobbit for five seconds because the king obviously has an unhealthy relationship with shiny things and he apparently turns into a gold-digging basketcase if he keeps being denied-

It will need to be heavily edited. Lest a tale of romance turn into the story of me becoming a tyrannical gold-whore who abuses people and lets the dragon kill hundreds of innocents.

Durin's beard.

 

04:00. …I miss Gandalf.