“Wait!” The cry sounded out from behind a group of thirteen dwarves on ponies and one grey wizard on a horse. “Wait!” Gandalf was the first to pull his steed to a halt, though he was at the front of the group and the last to hear the call. He looked behind them to see a very respectable hobbit chasing after them, a red cloak and hood whipping behind him, with a rather long contract gripped in his hand. “I signed it,” he said as he caught up to them, a grin from ear to ear on his face. He handed the contract to Balin who took out his magnifying eyeglass to examine the parchment.
“Everything appears to be in order,” Balin said and Gandalf grinned. “Welcome Master Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield.” Excited murmurs travelled through the group and Balin gave him a playful wink.
Thorin, on the other hand, did not look so pleased. “What are you wearing?” he demanded. Bilbo looked down at himself. Sure, his Sunday best probably wasn’t a good idea for travel, but he had been in a hurry and grabbed the first thing in his closet. He could surely make do with it. And why should Thorin care anyway? “What sort of burglar wears a red cloak such as that?” Thorin growled.
“My cloak?” Bilbo asked. Out of all the things that he had grabbed, his cloak was the most important thing for travel. His mother never left on one of her adventures without hers, though it had never gotten nearly as red as Bilbo’s. Actually, Bilbo’s pretty sure that his mother’s cloak never even got past a slightly pinkish hue.
“You’ll be seen by every person and creature we pass,” Thorin continued to complain.
“And they will know to leave me alone because of it,” Bilbo replied angrily. It was common knowledge amongst the creatures to always leave a hobbit with a red cloak alone during their travels lest they meet a dreadful end.
“I had not realized that your cloak had gotten so red Bilbo,” Gandalf cut in before Thorin could say any more on the matter.
“Many did over the Fell Winter,” Bilbo replied, though he neglected to mention that his was probably the most red afterwards when it had been completely white beforehand.
“The cloak will be of no inconvenience to you, Master Thorin,” Gandalf said to Thorin, making sure that his tone of voice allowed for no opposition on the matter.
Thorin only scowled and demanded that he be given a pony, which Bilbo immediately began to protest to even as he was lifted onto a very skittish pony. It even almost tried to bolt the moment the red cloak passed over its face, but when it got used to him and he got used to it, both calmed down despite Bilbo’s allergies.
“Why do you wear such a red cloak?” Ori asked one day as the deluge continued. The rain beating down on them was depressing on not a very good start to a long journey, but the dwarves had taken to telling stories in order to pass the time with some form of entertainment. Bilbo was expecting them to get to him soon enough, but he surely wasn’t expecting them to ask about his cloak.
“Haven’t you heard the story of the Little Red Riding Hood?” Bilbo asked. Even the men in Bree and the Rangers who Bilbo wasn’t even sure where they had come from knew the story of Little Red.
“Of course!” Ori said with a smile. Though young, he was well read and knew much about the stories of men. “It’s the story of a little girl…”
“A little girl!” Bilbo said in an offended tone. “Those men always get that detail wrong! I’ll have you know that she was a fully grown and quite respectable hobbit. Not some little girl from the towns of men.” Bilbo continued to grumble and before Ori could ask again, the rain had stopped and Thorin called a halt to the company near a collapsed building just in case they should need to find shelter from rain that started as suddenly as it stopped.
“I see now why your cloak is so red,” Gandalf said to Bilbo when he climbed out of the troll horde with a new sword strapped to his hip and another much smaller one in his hand.
“Those trolls were easy to confuse,” Bilbo shrugged. “It would have been even better if those dwarves hadn’t gotten themselves caught in the first place. I had everything well in hand with the ponies released and was sneaking away when they had to come charging in.”
“Yes, well,” Gandalf agreed. “Here. This is about your size.” He held out the small sword in his hand and Bilbo gave him a somewhat concerned look before taking it and examining it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as heavy as he expected it would be and he held it at the tips of his fingers easily, but it was still bigger then he was used to and he couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it should he have to take it out of its sheath.
“I can’t take this,” he said finally, trying to hand the blade back.
“The blade is of elvish make,” Gandalf said, “which means it will glow blue when orcs or goblins are nearby.” That would be useful, but still…
“I have never used a sword in my life,” he whispered so that the others couldn’t hear. “I much prefer my mother’s daggers.” The daggers had not let him down yet and would have been enough to save the horses without being seen if the dwarves hadn’t intervened. But, then, it seemed that the knives were so well hidden that the dwarves didn’t even know about them.
“And I hope you never have to,” Gandalf said. He looked like he would have said more, but one of the dwarves warned them that someone was coming and Thorin demanded that everyone be ready for whoever it was.
“Wolves?” Ori asked with a bit of fear in his tone when a howl sounded through the trees. “Are their wolves in these forests?”
Bilbo shook his head. He was well aware of what a wolf’s howl sounded like and that wasn’t quite right for it. “No. That’s not wolves.”
But the wargs that descended on them were close enough that Bilbo forgave the dwarf’s original mistake of their identity. And then they were running and there was not time to think on it at all.
Lord Elrond was kind enough to compliment him on how red his coat was, though he didn’t look so happy about it at all.
The goblins were not so fun to deal with and they smelled quite badly. The Goblin King was especially grotesque and Bilbo certainly did not like being in its company at all. Especially when it cried out at seeing his red cloak and ordered both him and Thorin dead on the spot instead of waiting for the torturous devices that the goblins had been carrying in.
Gandalf came just in time to their rescue and Bilbo was glad for it as they ran and the dwarves fought around him. He would have liked to help as well, but the goblins stayed clear away from him.
Bilbo had always been quite a big fan of the climbing of trees, just like most other fauntlings, but he was certainly not having any fun at all as he clung to a tree that was hanging over a cliff’s edge with nothing but its roots to hold thirteen dwarves, a wizard, and a hobbit aloft. He was quite certain that, any moment now, the tree would lose its grip and send them all careening to their death. He was soon distracted, however, as Thorin stood upon the trunk, sword at the ready, and charged towards the great white orc called Azog only to be trampled by his large white warg. Before he could stand again the wargs teeth sunk into him, kept from crushing him only by the oakenshield that Thorin always carried with him, and tossed him to the side where he landed on a hard looking rock and Bilbo was quite done with that.
The hobbit charged from the tree with his own sword in hand as another orc moved forward to take off Thorin’s head. With a war cry, he tackled the orc to the ground and began stabbing him over and over again until it stopped breathing all together. Red blood splashed onto him and he was only glad that his cloak was still closed from when they were in the goblin tunnels. It wouldn’t do to get any blood on his clothes.
Azog scowled at him and urged his big white ride forward, but the creature took a step back instead, turning its face to the woods where another sort of howl sounded. Now that was certainly wolves and Bilbo smirked as a large pack of them came bounding out of the trees and fighting and killing all of Bilbo’s enemies. With another war cry, Bilbo took a dagger in the hand that he didn’t hold his new sword in and charged into the masses. He certainly wasn’t going to let the wolves have all the fun.
After a while, Bilbo was surprised to notice that some of the dwarves had joined the fight. He was almost concerned that they may also be attacking his wolves, but they were smart enough to realize that the wolves were on their side and, therefore, would not harm them. Unfortunately, in all the madness, Bilbo did not see Azog and his warg escape, but he wasn’t too concerned about it when the battle was over and he turned to see Gandalf crouched over Thorin.
“The Halfling,” Bilbo heard their leader say and he couldn’t help but to sigh his relief.
“It’s alright,” Gandalf assured Thorin. “Bilbo is here. Quite safe.”
Kili and Dwalin both rushed forward to help Thorin as he tried to stand, but once he was on his own two feet again, he pushed them away. “You!” Thorin demanded. “What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed.”
“Excuse me,” Bilbo said with an affronted tone. “I’m perfectly able to fight as you well know.”
“What?” Thorin asked. “I did not think you had any ability to fight at all.”
“But you said that you knew the tale of Little Red Riding Hood?” Bilbo asked. One of the wolves came forward and bumped his leg, so Bilbo reached out to pet its head. It was the alpha of the pack and soon he was surrounded by them all wanting him to give them his attention. There were far too many of them, however, for them all to get him to pet them, so Bilbo finally just sat down and allowed them to cuddle around him.
“That tale is about a little girl who is attacked by a wolf and saved by a huntsman.”
“I beg your pardon!” Bilbo said.
“Perhaps,” Gandalf said with a smirk, “the story was somewhat changed as it made its way to The Lonely Mountain where these dwarves surely first heard it.”
“Somewhat changed!” Bilbo cried. “That is more than somewhat changed. In fact, it’s completely wrong. No it was Little Red who saved the wolves from the huntsman. We Hobbits were created by Yavanna to protect the forest and the creatures within it, so when she came upon some poachers attacking a pack of wolves that had several pups, she protected the wolves by killing the poachers, though she let some of them survive when they begged forgiveness and promised not to do it again. Her white cloak was so soaked in blood that it was forever stained red. Ever since that day, hobbit children have been given white cloaks and very few of us have managed to get enough kills to turn our cloaks red. My mother’s only got to be pink and the only reason mine is red is because orcs came to the Shire during the Fell Winter and I was one of the ones that helped fight them off.”
Ori, who had been writing all this down, suddenly looked up, “but how do you decide who gets the redder cloaks. Is there a certain amount of kills you have to get before your allowed to dye your cloak darker?”
“Dye it?” Bilbo asked. “We don’t dye our cloaks. What would be the point of that? It would hardly warn predators away from us. Red doesn’t really frighten them, you know. It’s the scents that tell them to stay away.”
“The scents of what?” Ori asked, still writing away.
“Of the blood, of course,” Bilbo said. “The more blood, the redder the cloak and the more scents to tell predators to stay away. It is, of course, a pain to keep it from ruining our cloaks, but we’ve learned methods to keeping it from drying that ugly crusty color.”
By now all the dwarves were looking at Bilbo as though he had suddenly grown a second and possibly even a third head.
“Did I not say you would be a burden,” Thorin said finally, stepping forward. The wolves growled at him, but Bilbo shooed them off so he could stand and face the dwarf. They still stood at his back, ready and willing to protect him if it should come to that, and the alpha still stood at his side with a snarl just barely held back, but Thorin continued forward nonetheless “That you would not survive in the wild. That you had no place amongst us.” Thorin paused and Bilbo couldn’t look straight at him. Those words did still hurt to hear. “I have never been so wrong in all my life.” And suddenly Thorin threw his arms around Bilbo and pulled him into the strongest hug the hobbit had ever felt as the others cheered. It would certainly get much better from here on in.