The Hobbit and all recognizable characters are property of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema. No infringement is intended.

When is he coming back?" Bella paced nervously back and forth as she kept staring out to the darkened horizon.

"Who, Lass?" Bofur asked, watching the Hobbit pace a rut back and forth in the middle of the campsite.

"Gandalf." She answered, rubbing her hands together as her anxiety grew. Had her revelation of her vision frightened the old Wizard into deserting the party? That was not the Gandalf she knew. He was a man of good judgment and even temper, not one to give into bouts of impulsiveness.

"Don't worry, Lass!" Bofur shrugged as he poured a thick, hearty stew into a wooden bowl. Even with the scent of fresh potatoes and tasty rabbit meat, not even delicious food can take Bella's mind away from her worry. "He's a Wizard. He'll come and go, then he'll be back again."

Handing her two bowls, Bofur gave her a reassuring smile. "Would you be so kind as to take these to the boys? I'm sure they're feeling hunger pangs by now." Grabbing both bowls, Bella nearly dropped as them as the heat from the stew permeated the thick wood, burning her fingertips. She jostled them a bit to get them to cool, heading off to find Kili and Fili. Behind her, she heard Bofur scold one of his companions. "Stop! Leave some for the rest of us."

Bella didn't like walking in the dark, having only the moonlight to illuminate her way. Her large feet were sensitive to every rock and crevice in the uneven terrain. While she possessed good balance, she liked everything obvious and predictable. Plus, carrying two steaming hot bowls of steaming stew while walking in an unfamiliar area made her more than a little nervous. She found the two brothers blankly staring at the corral near the farmhouse ruins where the ponies were penned, neither saying a word. Bella stared at each of them each in turn, wondering would make either Dwarf so flabbergasted. Usually those two were never at a loss for words.

"What has you so slack-jawed?" Bella asked.

"Thorin charged us with keeping an eye on the ponies," said Kili.

"However, there may be a small. . .situation" Fili elaborated. Bella felt her body freeze as she readied herself for the next apocalypse. What is it now? Dragons? Zombies?-Drunken Hobbits? The silence lingered amongst the three for several more minutes before her foot tapped rhythmically against the ground.

"Well? What?"

"We had sixteen," Fili said.

"Sixteen ponies?" Bella nodded toward the corral. "Right?"

"Ur, yes, we did," Kili mumbled, not meeting those hazel eyes staring at him. "Now, there's fourteen."

"Oh!" Bella's eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. "How did you lose two ponies?"

"We don't know," Kili and Fili replied in union. "Thorin is going to be beyond good temper when he finds out."

"Then, I suppose we had best find them," Bella sighed, sitting down the now lukewarm bowls of stew.

"We can start with where they were and see if we can find where they are. I'm sure they're nearby and just broke free of the corral." Fili examined the rickety gate and found the rope to still be tied around it. He checked to see if any of the rails were broken or damaged, but found them in sound conditions. Several minutes later after counting all of the ponies kept in the stable, Kili was the one to pace nervously.

"Daisy and Bungo are missing."

"Well. . ." Bella said with growing nervousness. "This is bad."

"Very bad," Fili agreed. "What should we do, Bella? Uncle will have it out with us to put it mildly."

She gave a nervous chuckle. "Then, we'll just have to find them ourselves, won't we? What he doesn't know won't hurt us or give him indigestion."

"Agreed." Fili glanced to Kili. "Trust me, he's been a good mood the past several days and we don't want to spoil it."

"Surely, you jest! Thorin has been acting as though Gandalf's staff were misplaced up his -" Bella started with a snort.

"Mistress Baggins!" Kili hushed her mid-sentence. "We realize he can be difficult, but don't him get the better of you! For now, let's keep the matter of the missing ponies amongst us three. As our official burglar, we thought you might know where to start." "

Well, uh. . ." Bella stammered, trying to figure out how to solve the problem of missing horses without alerting the great Roaring Thorin. Surveying at the scene around her, she looked for signs that told the tale of how Daisy and Bungo went missing. The gate remained intact and the corral's structure was undamaged. She walked the corral's perimeter, seeing if they had jumped the fence, but found no hoof prints in the muddy soil still soft from yesterday's rain. She'd rather deal with ten monsters than another bout with a surly Thorin. "Look, ripped these tree trunks right fro the ground and that is no small task.

"We thought the same," Kili agreed.

"No ordinary animal could have done it." "It was something very big and possibly quite dangerous," Bella added. "Dire wolf, perhaps?"

"Nay, Mistress Baggins," Fili shook his head. "We're too far south of Ettinmoor for those buggers."

"Watch your language," Kili elbowed fair brother solidly in the ribs. "There's a lady present."

"I've heard worse," Bella gave a dismissive wave. "Now, let's set our sights on recovering our ponies." Though secretly, she preferred walking to riding.

"Hey," Fili turned his head in the direction from where he heard rustling. "There's a light. Over there."Bringing a finger to his lips, he motioned for the others to follow him as he made his way around branches and dipped below fallen tree logs. "Stay Low."

The trio crouched behind a fallen log, staring at an orange glow coming from two hundred yards ahead of them. The echoes of grunting and laughter cut into the silence of the night. Bella saw two or three silhouettes that seemed faintly familiar to her. The bulging heads and beady eyes attached to thick, flabby torsos with nether regions barely covered in burlap loincloths. A scent wafted from the campfire, twisted between the smell of fresh night air and wispy smoke. The scent was decaying flesh, spoiled vegetable and something akin to rotten eggs. She had smelled that particularly fowl stench earlier that day when her mind had absorbed the final moments of a family's lives before they met the ends at the hands of those- those-whatever they were. She covered her mouth to keep from retching.

"What are they?" Bella asked.

"Trolls." Kili said with newfound determination. He and Fili bounded over the log, racing toward the campsite, leaving Bella to gather her skirts and scamper over the log as best she could to follow them. When a troll lumbered by, she stifled a squeal of pure fright when she saw that the creature easily carried a pony under each arm.

"Oh!" Bella exclaimed to Kili and Fili. "He's got Myrtle and Minty! I think they're going to eat them. We have to do something!"

Kili and Fili turned in unison to Bella, nodding. "Yes, you should.

"Mountain Trolls are slow and stupid and you're so small that they'll never see you!" Kili said. "You could sneak in without them ever hearing you and free the ponies who'll find their way back to camp."

"Me? No, no, no,no, no, no, NO!" Bella argued, shaking her head with each syllable. "Are you insane? I'm not going into that camp by myself -"

Kili kept talking over Bella, ignoring her growing protests. "It's all fine, Bella. We'll be right behind you and we'll have your back."

"Promise? You won't leave me?"

"Right," Fili agreed. "If you run into trouble, hoot twice like a barn owl and once like a brown owl." Kili took the bowl of stew from Bella's left hand, using his other in the small of her back to urge her forward toward the Trolls' campsite. In fact, he pushed hard enough to cause her to trip over a low branch and stumble over her feet; a very unhobbitish thing to do!

"Twice like a barn owl," she repeated, then shook her head, trying to make sense of Fili's strange instructions. "No, twice like a brown- Once like a – What in the Valar kind of directions are those? Why do I need to sound like a bloody bird?"No one answered. Bella stopped in place, glancing slowly over each shoulder, only to find her self alone. "Why am I not surprised?"

The last thing she wanted were those three oafs spotting her, so Bella scurried through the forest and crouched behind a wide tree truck, peering around it to get a better view."

"I am tired of the same ol' thing night after night for dinner," Bert said, "And Blimey! If it doesn't look like mutton again tomorrow."

"Be thankful, Bert." William said. "These ain't sheep. These is fresh nags."

"Oh! Why can't we find a juicy human or two?," Bert snorted in disgust. "They have a much better flavor," "Hopefully better than the leathery old farmer," William grumbled. "All skin and bone, he was. I'm still picking bits of him out of me teeth."

Tom, the smallest of the three, let out a hearty sneeze. "Pardon me all's. Me allergies are actin' up.

"Well, that's lovely, that is," Bert grumbled. "A floater in me dinner."

"Well," William shrugged. "Might improve the flavor."

"Ah!" Tom said with growing delight. "There's more where that came from."

William grabbed the sneezing troll by the end of his nose, giving it a solid twist that caused the other troll to squeal in pain. "Oh, no, you don't!" Bella saw her opportunity to cover ground as she scurried to make her way to the ponies' stable. The rope knots were tight, but she worked them loose as best she could to free the poor animals. When she got out of there, she was going to give the Thorin's nephews a piece of her mind for leaving her along to free ponies without them behind her.

"Ow!" Tom howled. "Let me go!"

Bella used Tom's loud whimpering as cover for her to briskly make her way around the perimeter of their camp toward the horses. She was a Hobbit on a mission. William gave Tom a solid shove that sent him reeling back toward a large log pulled near to the fire and his constant sneezing allowed Bella to pass unheard to the corral where she saw Myrtle, Misty, Daisy and Bungo huddled together in fear.

"Well, I hope you're gonna gut these nags. I don't like the stinky parts," Tom nodded toward the ponies. "I like fresh an' all, but I'd like to cook 'em, first."

Bert soundly hit Tom upside the head with a heavy cast-iron skillet. Tom bellowed and whimpered, cowering away from him.

"Oh, shut it. "I'm starving," William whined. "Now are we eating tonight or not?"

"Shut your cakehole. You'll eat what I give you," Bert said.

"How come he's the cook?" William demanded. "Everything tastes the same. Everything tastes like chicken."

"Except the chicken," Tom chuckled.

Bella tried manipulating the thick, tight knots into loosening, but they were too strong for her to undo. Still, she refused to be undefeated. Her mother always had told her as a Tween, "Use what you have around you to make your way rather than wish about what you were without." How Bella wished that advice did her good at that moment.

"What tastes like fish?" William asked them.

"I'm just saying, a little appreciation would be nice," Bert said. "Oh, how nice to hear you say, 'Thank you very much, Bert. Lovely stew, Bert.' How hard is that?"

Then, Bella saw the curved blade hanging from the back of Bert's belt; the same knife that she had seen in her vision used to- Bella couldn't finish the thought as she scampered back to the corral when the ponies began neighing. Crouching low next to the fence, Bella hushed the horses. "Come on, girls, not now!"

Bert reached behind him for his belt pouch, his hand only a few inches away from the crouching hobbit. "It'll be tasty stew, all right. Just needs a sprinkle of squirrel dung."

"S-sorry," Tom stammered and gave a nervous giggle which annoyed the other troll, prompting Bert to hit him again with the large frying pan across the right cheek. When Bert's attention returned to Tom, he gave him a scowling glance that caused the smaller Troll to cringe. High, quivering whimpers came from the middle troll as he quickly handed the still-full bull back to Bert.

"Ooh," Bert drawled, after taking a sip of the noxious-smelling concoction he dared to call stew or grog. "That teases the palate it, it does. William, try a sip of me broth, eh?"

William inhaled deeply of the murky green liquid in the ladle before slurping down the contents.

"Tasty?" Bert asked. William nodded eagerly.

"Very."

"And that's why I'm the cook," Bert thumped his chest, grinning in satisfaction at his newfound victory.

Tom stood up and scratched his arse, barely missing the Hobbit by inches. Bella withdrew her attempt to get the fileting knife, waiting for just the right moment to land what she needed to free the ponies. A loud squelch came out his backside accompanied by a smell akin to rotten eggs and decaying flesh with Bella in the path of his flatulence. The toxic green cloud hovered over her for several seconds as she tried in vain to wave it away, forcing her to stifle a gagging reflex while remaining conscious. She saw her moment, carefully rising from her crouching position to make another play for the knife.

So close! Just a little more.

"Oh," William groaned, holding his stomach. "Me guts are needing some eatsies. Flesh, I need Flesh!"

"Ah! Ah!" Tom cackled with wide eyes, grabbing for a rag hanging his belt and instead, grabbed hold of Bella by the skirts. He brought the tiny hobbit to his nose, baptizing the poor burglar in a thick layer of gooey green snot. "Crikey! Bert! Bert!?"

"What are you bellyaching' about now?" "Look what's come out of me hooter!" Tom gawked at the the Hobbit who was stiff with fright in his hands. "It's got arms and legs and everything."

"What is it?" Bert asked. "I don't know, but I don't like the way it wriggles around,"

Tom stared down at Bella in disgust, before tossing her several feet away from him onto the ground. Bella landed with a solid thud, causing her to roll and become covered in a sticky layer of mucus, twigs, earth and leaves. She scrambled to her feet ready to make her escape, but the trolls quickly surrounded her.

Bert quickly pulled out a large dagger, holding it out ready to use it when the opportunity arose. "What are you, then? A Dwarf who has cut off her beard?"

"Oh, Valar, no!" Bella declared, offended by the notion that any creature would take her for a Dwarf. "I, Sir, am a Hobbit!"

"A Hobbit?" Tom asked. "Is she as tough as Dwarf? Can we tenderize her?"

"We can try." William said.

"She wouldn't make more than a mouthful," Bert grumbled. "She's barely enough for one, let alone three."

"Perhaps," William reached for the Hobbit. "there's, more Hobbits around these parts. Might be enough for a pie or a nice stew with some wildly grown vegetables."

"Get her!" Bert screeched as Bella freed herself from the smallest Troll's grasp, weaving between legs and around bodies as she looked for a line of escape. Kili and Fili were only right about one thing: these Trolls were slow.

"She's too quick!" Tom whined. When Bert tried to bash Bella in the head with a large iron ladle, she dashed beneath Tom's legs and darted between them. The chase was on with three trolls in hot pursuit and heavy hunger.

"Right," William growled. "Come here, you little-" he deftly grabbed Bella by her calves, hoisting her into the air until she dangled upside down in his grasp, her skirts sticking to her legs due to Tom's earlier use of her as a makeshift handkerchief. "Gotcha! Are there any more of your kind hiding where you shouldn't?"

"No," she uttered quickly.

"She's lying!" Tom hissed.

"No, I'm not, you overgrown snot bag!" Bella retorted quickly.

"Snot bag?" Tom screeched in astonishment. "Did you here what the wench just called me? Hold her toes over the fire. Make her squeal!"

A shrill squeal escaped Tom as searing pain coursed across the back of his calf when Kili brought his sword in a perfect arc, severing some tendons in the Troll's leg. "Drop her!" Kili bellowed, an urgent look of determination on his face as he kept his eyes on Bella. "I will save you, Milady!"

"You what?" Tom asked. His head lopped to the side as he giggle. "Awww...ain't that sweet? The little Dwarf fancies the lass with the hairy feet.

"I said," Kili grinned with growing anger and embarrassment at having his affections revealed by a witless Troll. He stepped forward as he twirled his blade once in his hand as a display of his prowess of swordplay. "Drop her."

Tom growled, bring back his arm and hurling the unprepared hobbit in Kili's direction. She flew in a perfect trajectory so that she collided solidly into him and both went tumbling head over heads onto the ground. A loud yelp escaped Bella when she impacted with the stout, young Dwarf and they went rolling over one another.

Several battle cries fill the night in both Westron and Khuzdul as the company of Dwarves broke through the treeline with Thorin leading the charge. With blade drawn, he raced into the clearing and charged the first Troll in his path. His blade slashed into the monster's hand, causing him to howl in pain. Being so much shorter than their foes, the Company focused their attacks on knees and backs of the legs, slashing tendons and piercing skin where it caused the most pain. Hammers came down with Dwarvin strength, smashing toes and shattering kneecaps.

"Get them in the sacks!" William bellowed above the chaos of clattering steel against the Trolls' stone-like skin. "Get them in the sacks!"

Bella knew she was no warrior and was more of a liability than an asset in the midst of the battle. Glancing across the clearing at the corral, she saw her chance to finally free the ponies and to cause a distraction so that the Company could make their escape. She watched in frank admiration as Kili slid beneath one of the Troll's grasp, deftly out of his reach, the rose to his feet to arc his blade toward the Troll's midsection. Tom screeched in agony as Kili's blade found it's way between the layers of blubber into the troll's abdomen and more pain followed immediately as Bombur attacked with the frying pan the Troll had earlier dropped. Tom was the chosen victim by the majority of Dwarves and Balin found great satisfaction of Balin's mace finding his way to Tom's backside while Dwalin's twin battle axes came around in a perfect curve, the sound of shattering china filled the air when he knocked out several of the Troll's teeth. She found the fileting knife lying on the ground (actually, it for her size it was more of a saw) and took it in hand.

Leaping over Dwarves, she put blade to rope, cutting through the thick hemp to free the ponies. They neighed as she waved them on and to be free; she also caught the attention of the wrong Troll.

"Bella!" Kili exclaimed, rushing forward to rescue the wide-eyed hobbit. Only the strength of his uncle restraining him kept the younger Dwarf from charging to his death. The Company gasped in collective shock when they saw two Trolls on each side of Bella holding an arm and a leg.

"Lay down your arms," Bert instructed. "Or we'll rip hers off!"

Wide hazel eyes stared into stormy blue. Bella saw Thorin weighing the choices in his mind in those few endless seconds: save Bella with risk to his kin or sacrifice his One for the sake of his quest. In his mind, they were one and the same and Erebor couldn't be restored without his Queen at his side. Sighing with resolution and defeat, his heart spoke to him with a clarity that made the decision no less difficult. He plunged his sword into the craggy ground, staring defiantly at the Trolls who had beat them by using his love as a weapon against him.

Several minutes later, after some being stuffed into sacks and others tied to the spicket and being rotated over a roaring fire. Thorin seethed at their smacking defeat. I never should have listened to that mad Wizard or to Gloin. 'Restore your people to Erebor,' they said. 'Find your True One,' they said. Now, thanks to a prudish Hobbit that I deluded myself into believing was My One, my kin will die because of my foolishness. Mahal, if you can hear me, spare them and let me die in their stead.

"It's hot! It's hot!" Nori exclaimed as he rotated and the spit over the campfire along with several others of the company.

"Don't bother cooking him," Tom whimpered with growing hunger. "Let's just crush the into a nice jam and be done with it."

"No, no," Bert disagreed as he sprinkled some spices over the roasting Dwarves. "They should be basted in a nice vinaigrette with a touch of basil and a light rub of sea salt and honey to give them that nice sweet and salty flavor."

"Is this really necessary?" Balin asked, the flames crackling too close to his beard and singeing the ends.

"That does sound quite tasty," Tom eagerly agreed. "Let me go" Bombur demanded as he wrestled to get free of the burlap and twine holding him captive.

"Ooh, I'm going to like this one!" Tom poked the portly Dwarf in the side. "He is going to be all kinds of tender and juicy."

"Eat someone your own size!" Gloin added as he struggled to free himself of the bag surrounding him. All they succeeded in doing was bumping and bruising one another.

"Never mind the seasoning," William cut them both short. "We ain't got all night. Dawn ain't far away. Let's get a move on. I'm not fond of being turned into a statue come sunrise."

Turned into a statute? Trolls become stone at sunrise! Bella thought, an inspiration dancing in her mind. She looked at the sky and saw it wasn't black, but varying shades of blue in the east which meant that dawn wasn't long in coming. If only she could stop the Trolls long enough for the sun to rise to turn them into permanent lawn fixtures, she and the Company might have a chance of making it out alive and unscathed. She clicked her tongue in desperation as her mind raced through various scenarios of freeing her fellow company. She had no way to free her hands to get out of the bag without being caught by the three stooges by the fire playing easy-bake Dwarf. One fancied himself quite the master chief who was the be-all-and-end-all of spice mastery.

"Wait!" Bella exclaimed. "You're not doing things right."

"Bella," Dori exclaimed as one of his braids caught fire on the downward rotation of the spit. "You can't reason with them. They're idiots!"

Bella pushed against one of the Dwarves to force herself to her feet and hopped over to the campfire toward the hungry trolls. "I meant with-with the seasoning!"

Bert leaned toward the little Hobbit with newfound interest. "What about the seasoning?"

"Well, have you smelt them?" Bella nodded her head in the campfire's direction, crinkling her nose in disgust. "You're going to need something stronger than basil or vinaigrette before you can take a bite of these boys."

"Treacherous wench!" Bombur bellowed. "May Mahal smash you with his hammer of justice."

"What do you know about cooking Dwarves?" William inquired, his skepticism lacing his words.

Oh, joy! Bella rolled her eyes at Fate's irony. Now, stupid trolls started actually having intelligent thoughts. Why me? How do I get myself into these situations? I eat six meals daily and too many spices can ruin an otherwise perfect dish. Some foods need prepared in different ways at different temperatures. Now I'm suddenly dealing with INTELLIGENT trolls.

"Let the uh, hobbit-thingamajig talk," William shushed the others, avidly interested in something other than what Bert offered. "I've heard Hobbits are quite handy in the kitchen."

"Indeed, we are." Bella quickly agreed. "It's not often known, but Dwarves are a delicacy amongst my people and the secret to cooking Dwarf is," Bella began, trying to come up with an amazing statement that would immediately end the dangerous they faced without bringing harm to any of the company. She had nothing. "Is. . ."

"Yes?" Bert asked eagerly. "Come on! Tell us the secret!"

"Well," Bella stuttered, "it's, uh-" "Yes, well, the secret is," she searched her brain for anything that might get them out alive. "to...skin them first!"

"What?" Nori yelled. "Skin us?" The Dwarves protested loudly behind her and she wished by Valor that the Trolls had gagged them as well as bound them.

"What a load of horse dung," Bert said. "I've ate plenty with their skins on. Eat them, I say, clothes and all."

Tom agreed. "There's nothing wrong with a bit of raw Dwarf." He picked up Bombur, dangling him over his mouth until his braided beard tickled the Troll's chin, causing him to let loose another loud sneezing fit.

"Oh! Not that one!" Bella hollered, she looked at the sky which was a brightening shade of rose in the east. "He's infected!"

"What?" William asked, not quite understanding.

"He has, uh, worms. . .i-in his, er, tubes!" Bella crowed, happy with the sudden burst of inspiration that came to her. Tom quickly tossed Bombur back onto the pile of struggling Dwarves as though burnt by merely touching the Dwarf. "In fact, they all are. I wouldn't risk it if I were you. I really wouldn't. You already have seen what the bugs on that Dwarf are doing to your poor friend. If you eat these Dwarves, you'll be itching and scratching and sneezing for days. You'll have parasites crawling out your nethers."

All three trolls looked down in the direction of their loinclothes.

"Parasites?" Balin asked Kili.

"Did she say parasites?" "We don't have parasites!" One of the Dwarves bellowed in protest. You have parasites."

Idiots! Bella, trying to remain collected and convincing long enough for the Wizard to cast his magic or for the sun to rise above the campsite, whichever came first. Her palm came to rest soundly against her forehead when she prayed to the goddess for the miracle of a binding agent to silence the obstinate Dwarves. A sigh escaped her as she held back the sob building in her throat and she cast a glance at Thorin. His eyes met hers for a moment when she gave him a look that screamed, Shut them up! I'm trying to save your lives.

Thorin knew Bella to be many things in their short time together: burglar, cartographer, fussy, ill-natured, but never a liar. Until now. His eyes widened when he realized what the little burglar was trying to pull over their captors and he planted a solid kick in Oin's back to silence him. The silver-haired dwarf glanced at his Prince in outraged confusion, who then gave him a curt command in Khuzdul to be silent. Kili heard it as well and whispered it to Gloin until the entire company became silent for a few seconds.

"I've got parasites as big as my arm!" Oin bellowed at the Trolls.

"I've got huge parasites crawling out my arse!" Fili chimed in for good effect. "Big ones too!"

"We're riddled!" Another Dwarf declared and the entire Company chattered with enthusiastic agreement. "Yes, we are, badly."

"What would you have us do, fluburhobbit? Let them all go?" Bert demanded of the little burglar. "Become best buddies and use their worms for fishing bait?"

"Well. . .yes." Bella shrugged.

"You think I don't know what you're up to?" Bert growled as he returned to the spit and began rotating the Dwarves over the open fire. "This little ferret is taking us for fools?"

"Ferret?" Bella scoffed, offended by being called such an odorous animal. Wench or Traitor, but ferret? Of all the nerve! "Listen to me, you pathetic excuse of a blubber bag. You obviously have the worst eyesight a troll can have. I am NOT a Dwarf and I sure as hell am not a ferret. I am a Hobbit of Bag-"

As Bella stamped her foot against the cold ground as best she could while confined inside the burlap sack, a familiar voice echoed across the stone cliffs surrounding them. "The dawn will take you all."

"About time, Gandalf." Bella muttered aloud. 'Where have you been?"

"Who's that?" William asked.

"No idea," Bert shrugged. "Can we eat him, too?"

Tom's stomach growled. "Can he cook?"

With his Wizard's staff raised high to the sky, behind Gandalf it was a mosaic of vibrant blue, rose and pure gold as the morning morning sun burst from behind the clouds. Bringing it down with one solid motion, the bottom of his staff cleaved in two a large bolder as tall as any Troll, allowing the bright sunshine to directly enter the enclosed clearing.

The Trolls bawled in agony as the sunshine found their flesh, searing it with its brightness and causing their skin to smoke and sizzle like bacon cooking over a campfire. They turned away from the light, raising their arms to shield themselves, but nothing could stand in the way of the morning sunshine. Their struggles slowed to twitches and their howls became nothing more than gurgles in their throats as they settled into their permanent stillness. Bella gawked at the trio of statues from one to the next, trying to process what she had just seen and still finding it difficult to believe. Perhaps, she had underestimated Gandalf after all and owed him more credit that previously given.

Thirteen Dwarves stared at the Wizard, dumbfounded by what just occurred and unable to utter a single word in thanks or protest. They remained mute for several seconds until a collective cheer rose from them at their unexpected deliverance from their petrified captors. Bella's eyes met Thorin's in disbelief and he flashed her a rare grin. His One, his Love had saved them all. He quickly realized that she was like raw ore, appearing little more than something plain, but once polished, the beautiful gem beneath was revealed. Bella Baggins was a troublesome minx, but, sometimes sassy and always feisty, but loyal and true to the Company. While neither beautiful nor brave, she was, indeed, resourceful. Perhaps, the Wizard and Gloin weren't so off their rockers so much after all.

"Would you please untie me?" Bella asked the Wizard.

To Be Continued...