Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are copyrighted by Warner Brothers and the J.R.R. Tolkien estate. No infringement of these copyrights intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. I write this fanfiction only for love of the The Hobbit and not for profit.
The next morning, I awoke, still in that pleasurable haze when one wakes feeling refreshed from a good night's sleep. Thoughts of Thorin Oakenshield lingered around me: the scent of smoke, the feel of his rough, callused hands on my skin, his deep baritone resonating off the hardwoods of my hobbit hole as he sang of ancient days of glory and future years of hope. I lost myself in the recollection of how his kisses were long, tasting of ale and honey. I remembered how his curly black hair brushed against my cheek and how his deep voice resonated in my dreams as he sang, "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold."He hummed it softly, as a lullaby to draw me deeper into the realm of dreams and hopes. Oh, my heart wrenched in my chest with the sadness haunting his melody.
I reached over, expecting to feel his warm presence in my bed, only to find that I was alone. I listened in a half-daze, expecting to hear the rustlings and rumblings of roused Dwarves and a grumpy wizard. The only thing that met my ears was the usual silence that greeting me every morning when I woke: the sound of only my own solitude. I felt the coolness of the linens of I reached for him and they were unrumpled. I knew in my heart that he had never been there. Thorin was only a reverie created by my mind. In a rare moment of self-pity, I felt hot tears prick the back of my eyelids.
My eyes snapped open and I rose from my bed faster than I had in an age. In that moment, I felt something pressing against my hip, small and concentrated and not at all comfortable. Taking the small object between my index finger and thumb, I saw that it was small silver bead that I had seen the previous night in my dream as it gleamed in the moonlight. I had seen it on one of the braids of Thorin Oakenshield. I failed to understand what prompted me to have salacious dreams about a saturnine dwarf with a personal bias against being civilized was beyond my comprehension.
Thorin Oakenshield was churlish, arrogant and patronizing when he wasn't altogether scornful of my existence. Yet, the Dwarf in my dreams treated me gently as though I were more fragile than my mother's pottery. He had held me tenderly to his chest, humming songs in that language that dare not be spoken around outsiders. It was a night when I knew the veils between the dream realm, the common world and the future were thin. My mother often told me the reason the Tooks were considered wild and unpredictable, by Hobbit standards of course, was because of the ancient Fae blood rumored to flow in our veins. Occasionally, it lent itself to vivid dreams and, in rarer events, visions of the future.
Was it only a dream of my lonely heart, longing for a strong Dwarven prince to make me complete or was it a portent of things to come?If the veil between dreams allowed a path between the present and the future, sometimes a tangible item may be left behind as proof of things we wish for. . .or things to come. Somewhere stars crossed in the night in such a right way the universe rewrote my destiny and Thorin Oakenshield was part of it. I saw my proof between my fingers.
As I walked through my home, I noticed each item used had been cleaned and restored to its rightful place. I felt quite contrite when I realized that the Dwarves hadn't been the uncultured ruffians and buffoons I imagined them. Rather, they had been polite, conscientious, if not boisterous, guests. They had brought a liveliness and festivity to my home that hadn't lingered there since Lobelia Sacville-Baggins had thrown a hen night for their third cousin twice-removed, Dahlia Starwine, a scandalous woman of questionable heritage.
"Hello?" I called, hoping that a gruff voice might answer. Instead, only silenced greeted me. Growing anxiousness replaced my lingering joy when I realized that I was alone. I rushed into the hallway hoping to see Dwarves sprawled and sleeping through my home, but instead, I was greeting only by the silence of a meticulously tidy house. In my desperation, I peered up the chimney for any evidence that the tribe of beards might still be hiding somewhere.
"Yes," I said, with a brief feeling of satisfaction. My home was restored to it's proper order and cleanliness. I walked through the smial that had always been cozy and comforting. Now, it felt vast and empty, a tomb that housed relics and doilies rather than memories and good friends. The epiphany I had in my dining room was that I had never felt more lonely in all of my days. My life was hollow and staid, without substance or meaning. Was this all there was to my existence: my mother's china and my great-grandmother's table?
I saw the contract laying on the table from where it had been the night before, witnessed by Balin and signed by Thorin Oakenshield. The Company hadn't taken it with them and at that moment, I knew no matter what last night meant, I had to go on adventure. The dream of the previous evening wasn't the manifestation of a lonely Hobbit's heart; it was a sign that I was meant more to do with my life than read books and maps or dust figurines.
I snatched it from the table, thinking about what I needed to pack. Mental note to self, I thought, don't forget to pack extra handkerchiefs. I went to my bureau, hastily grabbing a few undergarments and skirts for the journey. I packed a few cheeses and apples for the trip along with my best traveling shears. Haphazardly, I rolled a traveling blanket and small pillow into a lump, cramming it into my rucksack along with a bar of soap and my favorite brush and comb. Satisfied I had all that I needed, I grabbed the contract as my speed picked up from a sprint to a dash. My feet grew wings as I darted at the door at a mad pace along the path winding through the Shire. I heard the sturdy papyrus flutter behind me as I ran, unfurled like a flag billowing in a strong wind. I knew that I had little time to find the Company before their trail became lost to me, but they had drank and caroused late into the night, and it had already been half-past eight when I awoke. I knew they couldn't be more than a half hour ahead of me and I knew the shortcuts through the hills, dales and glens of the Shire. I had mapped every acre of it for the local school and the school council had paid a fine amount for it, too.
No mountain was too high nor any pumpkin too round as I bounded down the hill through Tom Cotton's garden, vaulting over him and wheelbarrow holding his precious orange treasure that I knew he meant to show at the local fair in a day's time. I sprinted through the back portion of Rufus Burrows's backyard, where out of the side of my sight I saw him also tending to his prize garden, no doubt hoping to best Tom Cotton in their long on-going rivalry as to who has the best pumpkins in the Shire.
"Mistress Bella, where are you off to?" Rufus called after me as though I were on my way to a fire. I didn't cast him a second glance as I darted around a couple of his chickens dangerously underfoot. I had one passion and objective: to embrace my heart, my destiny and to know an adventure.
"Can't stop, I'm already late!" I answered as I passed him, my eyes locked on the road before me.
"Late for what?"
I kept running, looking for any sign that I was nearing the company. "I'm going on an adventure!"
My heart pounded in my chest, keeping time with the rapid cadence of my feet as I raced through the fields and along the paths of the Shire. I let out a whoop of joy as I ran, feeling the joy well within me to the point it became like wind beneath my feet. For several minutes I bolted along the path from the shire that led to the forest just a few miles down the road and I wasn't disappointed when I nearly landed one of my feet in a fresh, steaming pile of pony dung. I knew I was close and my ears confirmed my hope when I heard familiar grumpy grumblings. It was impossible not to recognize Dori's voice in the short distance with whom I still had a small annoyance because he had drank the last of my camomile tea. "I said it. Didn't I say it? Coming here was a waste of time."
"That's true enough," I heard Gloin reply as he continued chatting with his brother, Oin. I remembered Oin entertaining the Dwarves and I the previous night with tales of healing while he and the others fought in the battle of Dale.
I had already developed a growing fondness for the half-deaf dwarf because he was one who liked to meddle, well-meaningfully, in the affairs of others. It was his nature because he was the Company's healer, but had admitted to me that evening that he also understood a woman's constitution for he he had been a midwife more than once to many of his clan's female kin when they gave birth. He had given excellent advice on how to deal with my reactions to pollen and dust, suggesting that I visit the local beekeeper and obtain some local honey. While hard of hearing and a bit of a curmudgeon, he had made me smile by pulling forth some some runes from a well-worn leather pouch that hung from the side of his belt. I remember how he read the runes, telling me that an adventure would find me and that I would find my heart's true love buried by gold in the deep within the heart of a mountain. I thought it a strange foretelling, but I never put much stock in such things.
"What a ridiculous notion," Dori sniped. "Use a Hobbit? A woman? Whose idea was it anyway?"
I made a mental note to to correct Dori's antiquated, sexist mindset when I had a chance to give him a piece of my mind. He would properly apologize for his chauvinism and then I'd forgive him once he replaced all of my chamomile tea that he guzzled like a lush after I would have soundly beat his Dwarvin arse at a good game of Conkers.
My heart pounded against my ribs, feeling as thought it had swollen to the size of one of Tom Cotton's pumpkins inside my bosom and threatening to explode. My lungs burned from the constant hard run across the Shire that I hadn't attempted since I was a Tween lass and much more fit. My ears rang with the sound of my pumping blood rushing through my veins with the force of a mighty river. I drew what air I could into my chest and bellowed, "Wait! Wait!"
Thorin's voice met my ears as he commanded the company to halt in their tracks. My eyes met his as I rushed to catch up with the company, piercing and blue like sapphires was his gaze as his eyes widened slightly with surprise of my arrival. As I passed Dori, I suppressed the urge to raise my middle finger in salute and I headed straight for the wisest and kindest Dwarf in the part. Approaching Balin, I excitedly waved the unfurled contract in my hand. "Balin, I signed it! Here it is."
As he took it from me, the snowy-haired Dwarf gave me a smile and a wink, "Good lass."
Balin pulled out his monocle, in itself a work of art with it's polished, curving glass and the octagonal frame of burnished brass in which the lens sat. Taking the contract from me, he peered through his monocle, clucking his tongue as he mentally ticked off all of the places on the contract that needed my signature. Once he was satisfied, he gave a solid nod. "Everything appears to be in order. Welcome Mistress Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield."
Chuckling flowed throughout the company at my addition. I watch some whom I knew were pleased at my addition while others laughed in disbelief. My eyes turned to the Dwarvin Prince who had come to haunt me in my dreams, who shook his head as one of the skeptical, but a grudging smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Give her a pony."
"Pony?" I gulped. "I don't need a pony. No, no that won't be necessary." If Hobbits were meant to be be higher than their heads, the Queens of the Valar would have given us wings. "Thank you. I'm sure I can keep up on foot. I've done my fair share of walking holidays, you know? Even got as far as Frogmorten once-"
My sentence was abruptly cut short when two Dwarves, one on each side, caught me under my arms on each side, hauling me several feet off the ground. I squealed in violet protest, my feet kicking the sides of their ponies in an attempt to get myself firmly back on the ground. In case, you haven't figured out, Dear Reader, I am dreadfully terrified of heights. I thrashed in their grasp to no avail and before I knew it, they had soundly set me astride a pretty brown pony with a thick, shaggy mane.
I remained petrified in the saddle as we rode along, wondering if the beast would buck or gallop at any moment. My grandfather several times great, Bandobras Took, may have ridden horses, but that didn't mean I meant to follow in his footsteps of impetuousness (and occasional stupidity.) I had feet for a reason and I meant to use them for the purpose for which they intended. However, a band of hardheaded Dwarves had other thoughts about the matter. I held fast to the rope reigns until my knuckles turned white from fear.
After an hour or so, I finally relaxed as my body grew accustomed to my pony's slow trot, named Myrtle, and whom I found had a fondness for red apples. She and I came to an unspoken agreement, I feed her apples from time to time and in return, she remained at a nice, slow pace. Relaxed enough, that I heard coins clanging through the air as the Dwarves tossed bags of them about in the air. Was it some sort of game that they played to pass the time during travel. I saw Gandalf riding beside me and he was a wizard of wisdom, so he seemed the best person to ask about it. I greeted him and nodded to the small leather pouch heavy with coin that buzzed past our heads. "What's that about?"
I saw Oin deftly catch of of the flying pouches in his hand and stuff it into one of his pockets. Dori grumbled about how Oin cheated because he had foreknowledge of my arrival and he considered it cheating. I scoffed, truly wanting to hit Dori upside his thick Dwaven skull with a cast-iron frying pan. He did absolutely nothing to endear himself to me. "Knowledge of what, Gandalf? What is that git rambling on about?"
"Oh, they took wagers on whether or not you'd turn up," Gandalf shrugged. "Oin predicted to the minute the time you'd appear, that's all. Most of them bet that you wouldn't."
I couldn't say as I blamed most of them for thinking that, I agreed silently. After all, I was a respectable lady, a Baggins of Bag-end and not some wandering vagabond who wore her skirts above the knee. Still, my inner Took had once again overrode my common sense and there I sat astride a pony taller than me while chatting with a Wizard. Life tends to give us all surprises, I figured. "What about you, Gandalf? What did you think?"
"Well..." he drawled, looking over his should at Oin and shrugged. Never taking his eyes off the Dwarf, a soaring bag of coins made its ways into the Wizard's hand and found its way into his traveling pouch. "Dear lady, I never doubted you for a second. You have the mind of a Baggins and the heart of a Took."
As he spoke, I felt a burning itch invade my nostrils that culminated into a loud sneeze. I sighed in resignation that knowing while I was on an adventure, my sensitivity to pollen and dust followed me.
"Oh, bother! Dratted horse hair. Having a reaction." I rummaged through my pockets and found nothing in them, I reached deeper, searching for my hankerchiefs. I huffed in frustration as I remembered that I forgot to pack extra handkerchiefs for the journey. "No, wait, wait stop! Stop! We have to turn around."
"What on Adra is the matter, Mistress Baggins?" Gandalf asked, half-exasperated and half-worried at my sudden declaration.
"I forgot my handkerchief," I rolled my eyes. "I had a very Hobbit moment in the hullabaloo of packing."
"Imagine that," Gandalf chuckled.
"Here!" Bofur, a sociable dwarf with twinkling eyes and congeniality to match called to me. He ripped off a piece of cloth from his tunic and tossed it to me. "Use this."
I caught it in my hand and the stench of tobacco and sweat met my nostrils. Against my fingers, the rough fabric felt like burlap and I saw a few food stains. I knew that he was trying to be polite, but an unsolicited, "Ewwww" escaped me.
The Company had a good, hearty chuckle at my disdain for a few seconds before Thorin gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "Move on!"
"You'll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs and a good many other things, Bella Baggins, before we reach our journey's end," Gandalf lectured me as I tucked the offending rag into one of my coat pockets. "You were born to the rolling hills of the little rivers of the Shire, but home is now behind you. The world is ahead."
To be continued...