Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nope, Hobbit is not mine. If it were than Thorin, Kili, and Fili would not die. They would live! THEY WOULD LIVE! But sadly, I don't own Hobbit. But I write this fanfic for amusement, and I hope all you will enjoy it.

Summary: A mistake as a child leaves Elizabeth cursed, and if she falls…so shall the Durin line.

Pairings: Eventual Thorin/OC, Arwen/Aragorn, eventual Bilbo/Eleanor

(I am open to hear suggestions for more pairings, but honestly romance won't come until I feel the story is solid enough to delve into it more)

Verse: It will be a mixture of the book and movie, but probably will lean more towards the movie since it's the one I know most about. I've only read half of the book so far.

Warning: Eventual nightmares, torture, sexual themes and more

I want to thank everyone who has followed, favorited, and added this story to their communities. I am blown away by the response that this story still gets, even though I have not been very good about update. You all are amazing, and I am so grateful.

And I am giving a special thanks to the reviewers, DaniiG, twinklegoesthesea, LoverxofxNight, Jemstone259, CandyHearts22, Chica90, AriettaRyuusaki, MaryCo, NicholeRenee224, Hermione, Shuttlelauncher, Guest 1, Guest 2, sukodis, Guest 3, SuperWhoVenger214, Guest 4, Cbean81, you all are fabulous and you know it! If I missed anyone in the favs, or reviews just shout out at me in a review, or PM. :D

Guest Reviews:

Guest 1: Thank you so much! I'm glad that you liked it so much to reread it twice! :D

Guest 2: Wow! You're making me blush! I don't if my story is the best out there, but I'm happy that you've enjoyed it so much. Sorry for ruining you for any other fanfiction, lol.

Guest 3: Thorin, Kili, and Fili have hard times ahead, but in order to learn lesson they have to alive. Lol ;)

Guest 4: Thank you! This story really has been a joy to write, and it makes me so enthusiastic when everyone has liked it so much. I love doing slowburns, where the attraction simmers between two characters and slowly evolves into something deeper and deeper. Thorin and Elizabeth have kissed, and will have some sweet moments, but they still have hurtles to overcome, too. Thank you for the review! :D

Chapter Inspired by the songs:

"Awake My Soul" by Mumford and Sons

Chapter Thirty-One

"Barely Breathing"

Sinking like despair into the unfathomable blackness, Elizabeth forgot herself. All memories, all sense of individuality driven from her mind, but the canvas wasn't blank; just all the colors that had been here had been mixed up into an undefined mess, dripping and dripping downward and the canvas sagged, frayed at the edges barely hanging on. Sharp and jagged fingernails seemed to scrap across her mind, tearing at her sanity and spirit. Pain throbbed like a wildfire, scorching the blood in her veins until nothing was left, but ashes and dust. The air in her lungs evaporated, choking and stifling the cries that welled up in her chest. A desolate landscape surrounded her, full of death and misery with a dark voice whispering in a tongue so oil and evil that it made her soul feel unclean. She felt lost and without anchor, unable to find a way out of the endless void that was smothering her slowly to death. She didn't know where or how it started, but she felt a hint of warmth. A little bit of light that shined through the darkness, and she struggled—oh, how she struggled—to reach out to it. Her fingers passed through it, once and twice, but the third time she managed to grab the string of light and hold tight. She followed the line, pulling herself further and further out of the darkness.

The thread held strong, but she could tell that it wouldn't always be so.

One day the thread would break, her mind told her. And then she would have no way back.

Elizabeth gasped, her eyes fluttering open. Above her were the blurry images of Tauriel and Bombur hovering over her worriedly. She sucked in a deep breath, her lungs grateful for the air and she felt tears leak out of the corner of her eyes.

"Mahal be praised," Bombur released a deep breath; his eyes glinted with what appeared to be tears. "Thought we lost you there, lass."

"Wh—what…" She choked on her words, her throat felt like it had been scraped raw. She felt her body grow tense, and she tried to push herself up off the ground when Tauriel laid a hand on her shoulder gently.

"Do not strain yourself, Aldanniel," Tauriel whispered out, solemnly. A line of worried set between her brows, and her lips were turned downward at the corners. "You are very ill, and it would not do well to make it worse."

Elizabeth settled back down against the ground, her forehead creased. "What…what do you mean thought we lost you?" She asked, the entire sentence took effort to get out. Her chest felt painful and heavy, like her ribs were made out of stone and not bone. Her skin was cold and clammy, the blood moving through her veins like molasses.

Tauriel hesitated, her hazel eyes flickered down. "There was…a moment after you lost consciousness," the elf stated, very carefully. "You were…you were not breathing, my friend. You had the look of death, and I could not find a heartbeat."

Fear stabbed into her chest, ice cold and without mercy. Her heart had stopped? It was like having her worst nightmare confirmed, Elizabeth felt her breathing alter from deep breaths into frantic little gasp. She had to wonder if the curse was about to consume her. How much time did she had left? How many days? How many hours? Her teeth sank deep into her lower lip when Tauriel brushed away her tears, and she did her best to swallow down her panic. "We…we have to get to the others," she said, her bottom lip quivered ever so slightly. She cursed herself being so weak, in so many ways right now. "We cannot tarry here. N-not even for me."

"Lass…" Bombur started, but Elizabeth shook her head sharply.

She clenched her eyes shut over the wave of dizziness that overcame her, and her stomach kicked sharply in her gut. "Athelas and Azuradan ground roots," she muttered out, underneath her breath. "Find me some. It…it has helped with the adverse effects I suffer after a spell. I can chew some on our way."

Tauriel looked mighty tempted to protest, but relented. Bombur sat guarding her while the elf dove into the nearby foliage, and a canyon of silence yawned between them. "Bombur…" Elizabeth asked, after several heartbeats. "Will you tell me of your family again? I think I would like hearing about them again."

Bombur nodded, his chin swaying as he nodded. "Aye. I can do that."

Elizabeth listened to him talk about his wife and his children, which gave her something to focus on that was not the pain coursing through her from head to toe. A line furrowed along her brow, her throat shaking with each rattling gulp of air that was dragged inward from between her pale and gray lips. She barely heard Tauriel when she returned, but pulled out of her light doze when her shoulder was shaken by Bombur gently. She blinked her bleary eyes, looking at him in confusion until he pointed at Tauriel who had found both the herbs that she had requested.

"I brought extra with us in case you need more," Tauriel explained, twisting bits of the mushroom up and the , handing them to her. "When we make our way to Lake Town, I will try to create a tonic that I believe will help you. I may be no healer, but I know enough."

"Thanks," Elizabeth accepted the herbs, and put them into her mouth. She chewed them, grimacing at the bitter taste of the flower and herb along with the faint taste of dirt, but knew that it would help aid her in her recovery. If I recovered, the dark thought entered her mind, her jaw clenched tight. She managed to climb to her feet with the help of her two companions, and she climbed into the back of the cart while Tauriel took the reins. The cart creaked underneath Bombur's weight, and the dwarf made an unflattering comment about "shoddy elven craftsmanship" which made Tauriel roll her eyes.

The back axil of the wagon was slightly askew from the harsh ride, and made the ride a little lopsided and jumbling at moments. They followed the path and rejoined the main stream of the river, and Elizabeth rested best she could against the wooden side of the wagon. She cringed with each sharp jolt that sent her against the wooden board unpleasantly, and rubbed her palms together to push some warmth back into them. She could feel the plants start to dull the pain inside of her, and she silently prayed to Eru that the Valar would be kind and today would not be the day she died.

The Shire

Eleanor Woodbine felt panic fluttering inside of her heart. The task that had been left to her was monumental for only few hobbits even knew about Yavanna's Light, the secret crown jewel of their people that protected their lands and kept them filled with life and brightness. She never thought she'd see a day when darkness once again crept across the lands, but this was worse than the Fell Winter. It felt like the same inky darkness, but stronger and more determined to wipe them out. She didn't understand why a race so small and insignificant in the eyes of the world would matter so greatly to whatever evil came after them now, but Eleanor accepted the task understanding time was of the essences.

But she was no fighter. That was Bilbo, he had the spirit to battle even when he himself did not recognize it. She had run away from her troubles, away from the Shire unable to face memories. How was she supposed to face the trials ahead? How was she supposed to be able to prove herself worthy of Yavanna's light? She gnawed on her lower lip, trying to keep her expression inscrutable as the ranger named Strider would cast a glance at her every so often as if to check how she was dealing with the trek into the depths of the woods. It was the heart of the Shire these woods, nestled in the center of where everyone lived. She thanked Yavanna that the orcs and wolves during the Fell Winter hadn't been able to reach here. It had been so close, but Elizabeth Morgan along with the rangers had kept the beasts at bay.

"Are you well, Mistress Hobbit?" Strider inquired, his voice calm and low. He had a watchfulness about him, eyes like a hawk.

"Do you suppose I would be after everything?" She countered, having mastered the ability to take her way out of conversations she didn't feel like having. It was an art she perfected in her time at Bree, having to deal with more than a few questions and conversations that were intrusive.

"No," Strider admitted, with a smile that held a knowing sorrow, "I imagine not. I apologize if my words have less care than is intended. I only meant to inquire about whether or not you are…comfortable with the task that the leader of your people has bestowed upon you."

Eleanor considered his words, and then sighed heavily. "I can't say that I am comfortable. To remove the light from these lands has always been the last resort that none of us every believed would come to pass, for generations we had lived here safely tucked away. It was arrogant, I suppose given that our people had once been wanderers and with what happened in the Fell Winter…" she trailed off, dark shadows flickered in her gaze. "We should have never believed that we safe and secluded from the troubles of the world. We are still a part of it, no matter how removed we had been for so long."

"Such a cynical view on the world," Strider commented, lightly.

"It's a realistic view on the world," Eleanor said, sending him a look out of the corner of her eye. They came along to a grove, bursting with beauty and flowers around the mouth of a cave. The hobbit woman came to a halt with a sharp breath, staring at the cave with wide eyes and her heart trembling inside of her chest. "Here it is. The cave in which Yavanna's light is hidden."

Strider inclined his head. "I will protect you from whatever dangerous may lay ahead. Have no fear," he said, to reassure her.

Eleanor just shook her head, lightly. "The dangers here cannot be fought by blade, brave ranger. They must be fought with the mind and heart and must pass the judgment of Yavanna herself," she informed him, clutching the fabric of her dress tightly between white knuckled grip.

Strider paused, for the briefest of moment. "And if you do not pass?"

Eleanor gave him a mirthless smile.

The cave looked fearsome, with the torchlight casting moving shadows all around them. The deep passageway declined into the dark depths of the earth, and there was a scent of wet soil and undergrowth that permeated the air. It was comforting to the hobbit—to all hobbits as they had been created from the earth by Yavanna. Her hands still trembled, despite the comfort and familiarity of her surroundings gifted her. The security was cut through, cleaved in half by the fear that Eleanor always had after she left the Shire.

What if she was a hobbit no longer? It was a silly superstitious, she had told herself. An old wives' tale that parents told their younglings to keep them from leaving the safe borders of the Shire and venture too far away because it was unthinkable for a hobbit to be adventurous. So if a hobbit were adventurous that must mean they lost what made them a hobbit, or so that's what the hobbits of the Shire told themselves to feel better. And yet Eleanor was now wondering if it had been true on some level, given that she would have to pass this test. Perhaps, it would have been better for Lobelia to come here or Primula to have championed for Yavanna's light.

What if she was a hobbit no longer and could not do this?

They reached a large circular cavity in the caves, that was filled with life. The hard granite could not contain the weeds, vines, and flowers that sprouted out along the cracks that grew in spite of the darkness. White lilies and violets wrapped around a dais, and settled there a blanket of moss was a stone that shined so bright that it must have been made out of starlight. Eleanor heard Strider's intake of breath for he must know now just what Yavanna's light was. Only few knew the tale of the Silmarils here amongst the Shire and even fewer in the lands of Men, but the elves recalled the Two Lamps and their destruction which sparked many battles over them for many centuries thereafter. "You know what it is, yes?" Eleanor questioned, sending him a look over her shoulder.

"But it cannot be," Strider replied, his voice filled with awe. "The tales told that the Silmarils found their long homes, in airs of heaven and the fires of the heart of the world and the last in the depths of the sea. There were no others than the three."

Eleanor bit her lower lip, and let out a deep sigh. "The Silmarils are gone, and will not be returned until a time far beyond now, but they were not the only objects saved from the destruction the Two Lamps. After Yavanna mourned that her creations such as plants and trees would be cut down and used by the inhabitants of Middle-Earth, she wondered if any of what she created would ever thrive. So she returned to the site of the Two Lamps and her husband Aüle found her, consoling her. Together they managed to pull a last bit of hidden light from the roots of Two Lamps and hid them away from those who would harm it. This is one of those hidden lights known as Yavanna's Grace and this is one of two that are in existence," the hobbit divulged, with a breathless tone of voice as she stepped towards the dais. Her heart fluttered in her chest, feeling apprehension dropped in her stomach like a lead weight. "One gifted to us, to protect it and it would protect us in return. A light to guide a way to home, and thus we thrived off of its light."

"And the other?" Strider asked.

"Given to her husband though there is no tale of what he did with it," Eleanor answered, her hands hovered above the beautiful jewel. It was a small globe shaped rock, flawless. It gleamed with the intensity of thousand bolts of lightning and with a brightness that put the sun to shame. In the center of the stone was a bright core that hummed with a song that pulsed through her veins, beckoning her to reach forward and grasp it.

Her hands wrapped around the stone, and all Eleanor's world exploded into pain.

Outskirts of Mirkwood

The rapids slowed, crawling to a slow pace and the dwarves used their arms to row to the shore. They split out of the barrels, some of the heaving their guts up on the shoreline and Bilbo sank weakly in the sand and dropping Sting along the rock, running his wet curly hair. His heart was still racing in his chest, and his stomach turned violently, bile burning the back of his throat. Yet there was relief too, a sweet relief of being away from the sickness that permeated the forest. It felt like being released from chains that were constricting his lungs, and his heart.

The hobbit was shaking, and nearly jumped out of his skin when a hand landed on his shoulder. "Yavanna's sagging…" He bit off, giving Bofur a tired glower. "Don't do that to me, Bofur."

Bofur chuckled, pulling his hat off his head and wringing it out. "Jumpy, eh?"

"Anything behind us?" Thorin asked, scrubbing the murky water out of his eyes.

Balin raised his head, to peer behind them. His old eyes were still sharp as ever, and he could not see a hint out enemies on their trail. "Nothing that I can see. I think we've outrun the orcs for now, but we've lost the current and we'll be slow on our feet," the old dwarf concluded, grimly.

Fili was thumping Kili's back as the younger dwarven prince dry heaved, and Kili lifted his head weakly when suddenly he went absolutely ridged. His dark eyes were pinned on the figure leaning against a nearby tree. Fili glanced up, and saw the elven prince standing there. He reached for his weapon when his uncle stopped him. The air crackled with tension, the group watching the perceived intruder and threat with all the wariness of wounded wolf, teeth bare and sharp ready to pierce flesh if the wrong move was made.

And Bilbo just sat there, eyes darting back and forth with a fretful expression.

Thorin glared at the elf tensely, but his expression was slight more subdued than the outright hostility that came off his brothers in arms. Instead, the elf prince smothered a yawn with an unblemished hand, and then pushed off of the tree he had rested against and strolled towards them with a leisurely and self-assured gait that just set the dwarf's teeth on edge. "Tell, me, what does Thranduil's son get out of helping prisoners escape?" Thorin asked, his voice rolled off his tongue like thunder. "I hesitate to call such acts childish rebellion for you look well past the years of a child, but then again, understanding the time that you elves keep eludes me."

"I am not a child, no, but I suppose I rebel nonetheless," Prince Legolas agreed, with a dip of his head. "I have reached my majority naught ten years ago, so if I were to gauge myself in maturity compared to your dwarves I would say that I am more closer to the mindset of your nephews and the younger of your group."

"No one should use the princelings as a gauge for maturity," Nori muttered, under his breath. "Just because they've reached a number of years, doesn't mean they've reached the maturity to match."

"Hey!" Kili whispered, offended.

"That does not answer my question," Thorin hissed, with his jaw taut and teeth gritted together. "Why did you help us escape, elf? There is no love lost between our kinds, so why do you extend such kindness to us now? I will know what reasons that have driven you to give us aid."

The blond haired elf tilted his head, a minute motion that would have been missed by someone not looking. He pondered the question for several heartbeats before his lips parted in an answer. "Lady Aldanniel is wise for her race, the many years she has seen has given her a care and caution that other mortals lack. It has also given her the ability to see a deeper truth, I think," Legolas commented, a slight furrow settled along his brow. He almost seemed pained by the admission as if he had come to an unsettling conclusion and had to swallow back his pride. "She sees not only the follies of men, but the follies of elves and dwarves. Dark times have fallen upon the lands, the Forest Sickness and now the threat of a Dragon. In times like these if we cannot remember out oaths and keep to our word, then darkness will divide us further and consume us bit by bit."

Thorin narrowed his eyes. "So you wish to form an alliance?"

"I wish to honor the alliance between the Greenwood and Erebor," Legolas corrected, lightly. "I know my father wished to protect his own from the wrath of a dragon, but he offered no aid to your wounded in the aftermath of the Sack of Erebor. I would see that wrong righted if you would allow me, Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror."


"Like we'd believe that!"

All manner of exclamations came from the dwarves, but it was the words voiced by the hobbit that cut through the dwarves' righteous outrage. "He is speaking the truth," Bilbo spoke up, his hazel eyes turned beseechingly towards Thorin. "Thorin, I know that you hold much against the elves and I don't think many would blame you for your mistrust, but Legolas and Tauriel are the reasons we were able to escape so swiftly. Legolas helped clear a path to the cellar for our escape, and Tauriel has Bombur and Elizabeth with her, and managed to smuggle out some of your weapons from what I understand."

"Where are they now?" Ori questioned, worriedly. "Do you think the orcs—"

"Nonsense!" Dori blustered, immediately cutting off the horrid thought even though a glimmer of doubt was seated in his gaze. "Those orcs were nothing more than an annoyance! I daresay that Lady Elizabeth and Bombur could have taken the whole lot on and came out fine! And I suppose the elf with them was passable enough with a bow to help as well…" He added, turning a shade of green for praising an elf for anything.

Legolas looked more amused, and then offended. "If you have doubts on Guard Captain Tauriel's skill, I'm sure she would love to show you how passable she is with a bow."

Dori's eyes went wide, his mouth agape like a fish and he flushed not having expecting the elf to have heard his underhanded comment. Nori elbowed his older brother, lips twitching despite the circumstances. "Elves have superior hearing, you ninny," Nori said, in a mock whisper.

"I know that—oh, shut up!" Dori smacked his brother of the head, and then tucked Ori into his side as if to shelter him. Nori rubbed the back of his head, and said unflattering things underneath his breath about his older sibling. Bifur made hand gesture to the three of them, and it didn't take one to know that he was clearly telling them to 'be silent' except with more crude and impolite terms.

Balin ran a hand along his sagging wet beard, eyeing the elf. "If the elves truly did that, I suppose it would not be remiss to hear this…proposal out at the very least. The elf could have aided his kinsmen in capturing us, but instead he guarded us along the way," the old dwarf commented, his eyes flickered to Thorin who stood stock still.

Thorin grimaced at the advice, but by Mahal, it was sound. The elf had killed several orcs in their defense, even putting himself in harm's way. His honor demanded it of him to at the very least pay back such a debt, even though it burned him to his core that he would owe such to an elf of all the creatures in Middle-Earth. "Very well," Thorin grumbled, looking as if the words choked him.

"Fine," Dwalin huffed, displeased by it all. "Fine! But I want my weapons first!"

The sound of hooves halted the conversation, and the elf's eyes moved down the coast where a wagon came around the corner. The wheels bounced along the uneven rocks, and a red headed elf—the Guard Captain Tauriel, if Thorin recalled correctly—sat at the helm with Bombur in the back, clearly complaining about the bumpy ride. He did not see Elizabeth right away, and his stone heart clenched beneath his breast, and he stepped forward, with his hands clamped into fists at his side. The wagon drew to a slow halt about fifteen feet from the group, and Bombur dropped out of the wagon as fast as he could. He gave an exaggerated put upon sigh, and looked at everyone. "Don't go riding in a wagon with an elf," Bombur imparted his wisdom, breathing very heavily. "I can't count how many times we were nearly killed."

"And yet you arrive unscathed," Tauriel huffed, with a light laugh.

In the next moment, Bifur and Bofur launched themselves across the sand towards Bombur. It was a heartfelt reunion, with a few tears though the trio would deny and bash anyone's head who claimed they had been crying. Bombur bumped heads with his cousin and brother, whispering them to the in khuzudul about what all had occurred when a shaky figure dropped out behind from the wagon. With a complexion sickly and sallow, Elizabeth staggered towards the group with each footstep seeming to cost every ounce of courage she had. She raised her head, weakly and in such a fragile motion that it knocked the breath out of him and her eyes lifted up from her feet.

He felt his heart beat stop when he saw them move sharp, the harsh unnatural glow more bright and the veins of obsidian seemed to contrast in a way that made his blood run cold.

Her curse was worsening.

Elizabeth stood there for a moment, her eyes clashed against his where it just felt so surreal that they were here now—free from the forest that had tormented them in so many different ways, and she instinctively reached out for him. Thorin was there in the next second, enveloping her in his strong and warm embrace chasing off the chill and demons that lingered in the back of her mind. His mouth slanted passionately across her, silencing her words and she gave a light murmur of surprise. His lips were dry, but soft and heated against hers that were so cold, desperately seeking the heat of life again. His beard crushed against the softness of her skin burned in a way that left her heart racing just a bit faster, and her body swayed restlessly against his. Her hands trembled before she knotted them in the fabric of his tunic, and she pressed forward, deepening the kiss. She reveled in him, the taste and feel of him surrounding her and drowning out everything else. When her tongue flicked out across the seam of his lips, Thorin groaned and his tongue dove deep to taste every inch of her mouth.

He tasted like heaven, like home. She moaned, the noise barely audible over the thundering of her own heartbeat. By the time the passionate kiss ended, the pair was out of breath and Thorin rested his forehead against her. "You are alright," she whispered out, breathlessly. "Thank Eru, Yavanna, Mahal and every other Valar that I can't think of right now. When the wargs and orcs came, I admit that I began to fear the worst."

"We are all fine," Thorin reassured her, running his hands up and down her arms as she shivered. "Worse for wear, I will admit, but we're all whole and together. That's more than the orcs can claim."

Elizabeth smiled, her eyes warm and soft looking up at him. The feel of his arms around her made her feel safe in a way that she had never experienced before. There was always spark, heat, warmth in the way he touched her like he was the embodiment of fire and flames, and she felt her eyes close when his thumb stroked across the apple of her cheek. Her heart felt so full of joy and relief, knowing that he and everyone else was safe. For a moment, fear was behind them.

"When…" Fili broke off, clutching the side of his head like he was seeing the end of days.

Thorin sighed, the corner of his mouth twitched in the vaguest hint of amusement while Elizabeth buried her face into his shoulder, chuckling low underneath her breath. "When what, Fili?" Thorin demanded, arching a brow at his nephew.

"When did this happen?" Kili said, loudly in his brother's stead. His hands violently gestured to Elizabeth to Thorin then back to Elizabeth again, making him resemble a flailing chicken with its head cut off.

"I'd like to know as well," Dwalin added, gruffly. "I placed a few wagers on just when you two were going to get down to it."

"W-wagers?" Elizabeth sent him a wide eyed look before tumbles of laughter left her lips. She should have expected this from the dwarves, so she wasn't sure why she was so surprised by it. "You dwarves are your wagers! Do you bet on everything?"

"You don't?" Bofur countered, with a sly glint in his eyes.

"They first kissed down in the dungeons," Bilbo said, helpfully adding to the playful teasing.

"Bilbo Baggins," Elizabeth admonished the cheeky hobbit.

"I suppose we need to be asking if you left the lady with her honor intact?" Nori asked, giving an embellished waggle of his brow.

Elizabeth laughed until her mirth stuttered into a wet cough, and she turned her face into the elbow of her shirt, sighing heavily. "Eru's breath, I felt that move all through me," she said, with a light wince. Her eyes creaked open when Thorin's hand touched her chin, and she saw the unspoken question in his eyes. She just gave him a sad smile in reply, and the lines around his eyes tightened with worry. "I'll be fine. I can find some herbs that will…help my condition, but first things first, we must keep moving. The orcs will pick up our trail eventually and I'd rather face then later than sooner."

Thorin drew in a slow breath, and then nodded. "Agreed."

Legolas approached Kili and Fili, inclining his head to the dark haired dwarf's leg. "We will need to bind his wound," the elven prince stated, with a frown upon his face.

"Wound?" Tauriel asked, her voice suspiciously light. Her eyes flickered down to Kili's leg where half of the arrow still remained, and the blood that now seeped from it. Her lips opened with a minute tremble along her jaw, and she looked into his dark eyes. He gave her a slight smile, but he couldn't hide the pain. "I have supplies."

"Wait. When did we agree to trust the elves?" Gloin demanded, eyeing the blond elf with a fierce glare. He shook the water off of him, shaking like a dog before he marched up the bank and pointed an accusing finger at the elves. "They were amongst the ones that captured us in the first place. How do we know they don't intend to steer us back straight into the cells in that blasted forest?"

"Master Gloin, they aided our escape," Bilbo argued, tiredly.

"Bilbo speaks truth. Legolas and Tauriel have put themselves at great risk to aid us. Not only against the orcs that hunt the Company, but they are now at odds with their King and kingdom," Elizabeth spoke up, her eyes turned towards Thorin. She looked up at him, imploring with her eyes and rested her hands on his chest lightly. She continued, "Thranduil will not be able to ignore this perceived betrayal, not even for his own son. They've given up a lot on the whim that this quest is right, but if that is not enough to sway yours mind, then trust my judgment. I would not put my faith in anyone, old friend or no, if I thought they would bring the Company harm."

Elizabeth could see the struggle play out across Thorin's features. He utterly loathed the idea to ally the Company with elves, but he was also a man taught strategy and she knew he could see the uses for people as skilled as Tauriel and Legolas. "Just imagine how Thranduil would feel knowing his son is helping you out," she added, with a knowing smirk on her face.

Thorin snorted, a smirk twitched on his lips though he stifled it. He sent an exasperated glance down at her, and his dark brow lifted upward. "I thought you were supposed to appeal to my better half," the King-in-Exile commented, with dry amusement.

She blinked up at him, innocently. "You have a bad half?"

"For Mahal's sake, lass," Dwalin groaned, dropping his head into his hand. "Stop giving the bugger compliments. He already has an over inflated sense of self as it is."

Thorin gave Dwalin a sharp look which his oldest friend just grinned at him cheekily. The raven haired dwarf glanced back at the elven prince who looked at him with infinite patience and then to Guard Captain who was bandaging up his nephew with great tender and care, and Elizabeth could see the many oaths he held back on his tongue. It took an exceeding amount of willpower for him to hold them back and she watched his eyes flash as bright as steel. "They may accompany us to Laketown. If they shall venture forward with us further is a discussion tabled until we have the safety of walls surrounding us," Thorin decided, his voice dark and blunt. He would not place his Company's wellbeing against a dragon in their hands, but the fact he was willing to extend a bit of trust to let them prove themselves was more than Elizabeth had even hoped for.

Legolas nodded, giving no argument. "Those are reasonable terms that I can agree to."

The Company seemed disgruntled, but did not question Thorin's decision. Their loyalty to him seemed endless and unbreakable and unshakeable. Elizabeth doubted there was a force strong enough on Middle-Earth that could ever break it.

In Bilbo's pocket, his magic ring sat out of sight. And it whispered.

The Shire

There was so much blood and destruction. So much more than she had ever seen before, with bodies falling from turrets and crashed into the paved path hundred feet below in a horrid bloody mess. She saw visions of orcs rushing into a fray, attacking a row of archers who shrank back losing their nerve. Upon their shield was a white tree, and the image rushed forward once more. Howls of agony and bloodlust ran in her ears, as men and women were slaughtered and when Eleanor Woodbine opened her eyes, pain and blood seemed to envelope her vision still. She felt like she had been running for her life with her heart pounding with all the force of thunder against her ribcage and the stone clasped tight in her hands. She wobbled on her feet and Strider reached out to steady her with a hand.

"Mistress Eleanor?" He inquired, his tone questioning.

Eleanor looked up at him with tears running down her cheeks, and she let out a harsh breath through her nose. With a quaking hand, she wiped away the tears and stared down at the stone clasped in her other hand. It was warm and pulsing with life, and she whispered out, "I passed. I don't even recall the test. I felt…felt as if something was judging my soul and if I failed I would be burnt up alive, but I survived the fire and the vision. I just don't understand what any of it meant."

"Thoughts for another day," Strider inclined his head, with a grim touch to the edges of his mouth. "For now, we must return to the others. I do not think time favors us with evil so close," the ranger added, leading her back out of the cave. He would toss her a concerned glance ever once in a while when her footsteps became too sloppy or her breathing too labored, but Eleanor pushed forward determined not to be weak. She had felt so weak for so long, but if she was strong enough to pass the test that Yavanna had set for the stone, then she could handle a few more steps.

When they returned to the market of the Shire, the hobbits were in an uproar. It was clear that the Thain had informed every one of the decision he had come to and it was not going over well with the populace.

"Leave the Shire? Are you mad?" Ignatius Proodfoot shouted, angrily.

"But how can we stay?" A frightened young hobbit woman who cradled her squalling babe in her arms countered, hotly. "Those beasts will come back! They'll come back and devour us all!"

"We survived beasts like this during the Fell Winter!" Another hobbit scoffed, though the ashen color of his face showed that he had not ounce in faith in the words he blustered. "We can survive it again!"

"You, Master Hobbit," Strider interjected, in a respectful tone of voice, "have not faces beasts like these before."

The sea of hobbits turned towards the man who towered over them, some shrinking back and others glaring at him. Strider paid them no heed as he escorted Eleanor up to the podium where Gerontius Took stood with a weary look on his weathered face. The Ranger turned slowly towards the crowd, giving them a stern and fierce look. "Are you frightened?" He asked them, in a low and raspy tone.

"O-of course, we are!" One young hobbit spoke up, while several nodded.

"Not nearly frightened enough. I know what hunts you," Strider told him, his eyes sharp and serious. A cold harsh wind swept through the market, and a grey gloom settled over the sky casting them all in shadow. "They were once men. Great Kinds of Men that were blinded by their greed and deceived by a darkness far greater than you can comprehend, and are slaves to the evil's will. They are the Nazgul, neither living or dead. I know not what has drawn them to the Shire, but they will never stop hunting their prey—they will never stop hunting you. You are not safe here in the Shire."

"He's right," a quiet voice announced. Everyone turned with pale and stricken faces to Lobelia Sackville-Baggins who were a torn and bloodied dress, with trembling fingers fiddling with the wedding ring on her finger. Her eyes were glazed over as if distant, and she wasn't entirely present in the moment. She had been in a state of shock ever since she had seen her husband murdered by an orc. "We aren't safe here. We aren't safe anywhere."

Her words plunged the entire group of hobbits into fits of panic, many of them crying out about what they were going to do. Strider drew a deep breath, stepping forward to kneel down in front of the group and set about explaining what they needed to pack and what needed to be left behind. Some stubborn hobbits walked away, determined to stay inside of the Shire. But the majority stayed and listened.

Gerontius grasped Eleanor's arm gently, startling her ever so slightly. "Do you have it?" The Old Took whispered out, and Eleanor wordlessly showed him the stone that she had wrapped up in the edge of her cloak. "You must carry it and protect it, Eleanor Woodbine."

Eleanor felt her eyes go wide, and she went to protest vehemently. Gerontius pressed the stone back into her care and shook his head side to side. "You are the only one here that knows what the outside world is like, and how to navigate it," the Old Took said, his voice rough and gravely. He gave a low hacking cough that rattled his frail frame and his looked at her with solemn eyes. "You are the only one that can carry that burden now."

"But you—you are the Thain. To give me this—" Eleanor stumbled over her words, in shock.

"I cannot do this myself. I am old and feeble in my age," Gerontius sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. It was a gesture that was so much like Bilbo that it made Eleanor's heart hurt. "I can feel it in my bones that wherever our journey will come to an end that I will not live to see it. That means I must leave the task in hands of someone capable enough to protect themselves, who knows what the world beyond the Shire is, and will do everything to keep Yavanna's light from falling into the wrong hands. That is your task, Eleanor Woodbine. There is no one else."

Eleanor swallowed, thickly. "Well…shit."

Outskirts of Mirkwood

The Company headed down the riverbank, towards Laketown that was still a day's travel off. The dwarves were still a bit peeved by the newest additions to the group, though Tauriel received a much warmer reception from them when they learned she had healed Bombur and taken care of him in spite of the other elves that had wanted to leave him to rot. Legolas was treated to thinly veiled disdain, but the elf seemed indifferent in the face of underhanded insults. Not even the return of their gear had melted their hearts to the prince, but Elizabeth hoped with time that they would overcome such suspicion and mistrust. They would need to in order to face what was to come, of that she was certain.

Her eyes turned towards Thorin, who didn't quite have a smile on his face but the great worry that had set upon his brow when she saw him down in the dungeons had smoothed out. Her hand reached out lightly to brush his and she felt a rush of pleasure go through her when his hand captured her hand before it could escape, linking their fingers together. If anyone saw it they did not comment on it, but she was certain that more bets were occurring behind their backs. (Ori had surprisingly won—sweet Ori had placed bets on her and Thorin—much to his brother Dori's mortification.)

"Where do your thoughts reside?" She asked him, her tone light. It was a blessing to see all the Company out here and free. She counted her lucky stars that Legolas and Tauriel had saw fit to help them, and that Bilbo had found a useful ring, even if she was still wary of the unassuming piece of jewelry.

"On a great many things," Thorin replied, on a hearty sigh. "On what we will face in Laketown and the Mountain beyond it all, on you and the curse that takes more of you each day further and further away. I can see the way you struggle with your pain."

Elizabeth felt her heart clenched. She didn't tell him of how close to death she had been, afraid to put more weight on his shoulders than he already had. Her joints ached and throbbed with each movement, and her muscles felt overused and shredded. Still she carried on with little protest, refusing to give into the hurt knowing they were so close to the Mountain. She had to be strong so the rest of them could be strong, and did not worry—Thorin, most of all.

She drew the pad on her thumb across the back of his hand and there was a knot wedged into the back of her throat. "We shall make it through it all. We've come too far to allow the thought of anything else to take root. No matter how impossible it may seem, especially when we stand in the shadow of the mountain," she said, her tone gentle and more calm than she felt, "we shall survive this and come out stronger in the end. We have to hold onto that."

Thorin gifted her with a smile, his blue eyes turning bright by her words. "Such optimism."

"One of us has to be," Elizabeth grinned, giving a small shrug.

Up ahead, Bilbo, Dwalin, Ori and Fili were sent to scout a path. Not too far from the group that if danger arose they couldn't be there swiftly, but far enough that they were not in plain sight of the others. "A barge," Fili exclaimed, seeing the ship as they overcame a pile of rocks. "What luck."

Ori seemed hesitant. "It's been anchored. The person it belongs to is probably nearby…"

Unbeknownst to them, a man snuck through the trees and bushes behind them. He notches back an arrow, his dark eyes filled with suspicion and aims the arrow at Ori. It seemed that Dwalin noticed that something was off because he turned around and saw the threat. Dwalin went to reach for his battle axe when the arrow was released, slicing across the back of his hand in warning and reprimand for the action. Fili pulled out a knife with the intent to throw it, but as swift as lightning, the mysterious man shot it out of his hand.

The knife clattered to the ground, uselessly.

"Do it again, and you're dead," the man growled out. He was very tall with long dark hair that fell to his shoulder, with large eyes the color of garnet and classically handsome features. Lines of worry were etched into his face and he made no attempt to hide that the misgiving burning in his gaze.

The hobbit held up his hands, in the universal gesture to show that they meant no harm. "Uh, hello," Bilbo said, with an awkward smile. His mind raced to salvage this situation because the barge was the best solution to getting down the river quickly, and to get time back on their side. "It appears that we have…have gotten off on the wrong foot. I'm Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit of the Shire."

The man's brow rose, a hint of surprise. "A hobbit, you say? There have been no tales of your people around these parts for centuries. We had believed your kind to be a myth," he commented, with a slight tilt of his head. He did not ease up on the arrow trained on the group, nor did he move to lower it much to the hobbit's consternation.

"Step aside!" Tauriel's voice rang clear, and she had her bow drawn. The man whipped around to face her and the two stared each other down in silence as the rest of the group caught up. Elizabeth went to retrieve her weapons, but Thorin clasped her hand in his. She glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, and he gave a minute shake of his head. She didn't know if he was trusting that Tauriel could fend off the threat this stranger presented, or wanted to see how the situation would unfold. She gnawed on her lower lip, but slowly relaxed, having faith in his judgment.

"This is a Laketown vessel," Legolas commented, his eyes roamed over the barge and turned speculative glance at the man.

"Aye, that is true. What is also true is that those barrels come from the Woodland Realm. Given the nicks and dents in them, whatever business you had with the elves of the Mirkwood does not seem to end well even if there are two elves amongst your…strange group," the stranger stated, his dark eyes flickered across the mismatched group with the vaguest trace of amusement. "No one enters the Laketown but by leave of the Master. All his wealth comes from trade with the Woodland Realm. He will see you in irons before risking the wrath of King Thranduil."

"We did face a rough patch on our journey, but these signs of battle are from orcs," Elizabeth spoke up, omitting there was a possibility that the damage had been done by the elves, too. "We are—or rather were part of a merchant caravan."

"With those weapons?" The stranger asked, finally lowering his bow.

After a subtle nod from Legolas, Tauriel did the same.

"Have you ever seen dwarves without weapons?" Elizabeth laughed, lightly.

"A fair point, but you milady are no dwarf," he pointed out, with a half-smile.

She felt Thorin shift a little bit closer to her, and caught his jaw clench slightly with displeasure. A few of the dwarves sensed the disposition change, and hedged a bit closer to her as nonchalantly as possible. Bofur slung an arm over Elizabeth's shoulder, and she stumbled slightly forward underneath the force of his half-hug. "She's adopted! Several years ago, my family stumbled upon a burning—a right grim sight if there ever was one," Bofur said, with his overly cheery smile. "But wouldn't you know? A little babe somehow survived. It seemed one of her parents had gotten her out before rushing back in for the other young'uns but didn't make it back out. She's been with ever since."

There was a beat of silence, where Elizabeth just stood there with the blankest expression on her face trying to comprehend what all he just said and how she was supposed to react to it. Kili had to disguise his laughter as a cough with Fili pounding him on the back and using his long hair to hide his own grinning face. Biblo pursed his lips together, and swung his arms aimlessly at his sides. Legolas had a perfectly composed expression, but she could feel the inner laughter that radiated off the smug prince. Tauriel kept her eyes downcast and took more effort in putting away her arrow than was necessary. The rest of the dwarves did things to hide their amusement and laughter, and she had to applaud their efforts truly.

The stranger looked at them with a wide eyed expression of thinly veiled disbelief.

"Poor wee lass, we had to let her join the Merchant's Guilt because she couldn't find a suitor. It's the lack of beard, you see," Bofur continued, with a put upon sign and stroked his own beard. "We dwarves find them quite fetching on a woman. We tried helping her by gluing one on at one point—"

"The man doesn't need to know our entire life story, brother," Elizabeth said, with a peculiar tone of voice. It was the tone of voice reserved for moments where she wished the world would just swallow her whole, or she could find the closest rock to hide underneath.

Bofur just looked horribly pleased with himself.

"And the hobbit who accompanies your group? Is he too adopted?"

"I wanted to the see the world," Bilbo said, with a sheepish grin. "And there, uh, is safety in numbers. No better people to watch my back than the current Company I keep."

"Master Boggins," Kili said, wincing lightly. He looked mighty pale and clammy, having to lean on his brother to keep upright, but he still managed that mischievous grin. "I'm touched that you think so highly of us."

"That stance can change," the hobbit warned, with an exasperated and half-hearted glare.

Several of the dwarves snorted at the mild threat.

"And I suppose the elves have a reason for being here, too? A strange sight to see dwarves and elves in the same company," the stranger said, with a sort of resigned expression settling over his face. He put his arrow back into his quiver and slung his bow across his shoulders.

"The Woodland Realm has been having difficulties with orcs, as you can see," Legolas replied, with a faint smile. He gestured to the damaged barrel as evidence of his claims, and smoothly continued with the lie that fell off his lips. "We have been charged with safeguard of seeing travelers through the forest, and to Laketown by the King himself. These dwarves are simple merchants from the Blue Mountains who are journeying to their kin in the Iron Hills hoping for sanctuary after losing much of their supplies and nearly their lives. Nothing more."

Elizabeth shot the blond a look. His father wouldn't be pleased by that lie, and it made her wonder just what Thranduil would do when he heard it. Would he allow the lie to stand, keeping his pride and vanity unscathed by the implications that things in his realm were far beyond his control? Or would he be enraged and take vengeance for the sting of betrayal setting aside the pretense of his image?

"Now," Legolas smiled, thinly, "is your barge for hire?"

The stranger gave him a narrowed eyed look in reply.


Next Chapter: Laketowns problems become the Company's problems, the hobbits are on the move and Thorin and Elizabeth navigate further into the feelings they share, but in the shadow of the mountain can anything healthy grow?

pAuthor's Note: The story in the beginning was predominantly focused on the Company, and while the main focus will stay on them, as the story progresses through the events of the Hobbit and the Battle over the Ring that will eventually occur, I have to add more players into the story which is why we are seeing so much of Strider and Eleanor. Like I said spotlight is on the company, but others will come in from time to time because the direction the story is taking makes that a necessity for the storyline to flow and fit together. I've had people question about the inclusion of characters before and why it was necessary so I added this author's note to clear things up hopefully.

Author's Note 2: Originally Yavanna's light was going to be Silmarils, but the more I twisted the lore about there were discrepancies that kind of wouldn't fit the plotline. So given how upset Yavanna had been when Aule that much of her creations—such as trees—would be needed by men, and left her wondering if anything of her making would survive (btw, this is why Eru created Ents to appease her), it made sense to me that Yavanna would perhaps return to the Two Lamps and with her husband was able to salvage a little bit of light. Yavanna's Grace is not as strong as the Silmarils, but to those that would guard them, the light would protect and help them thrive.

Athelas: (also known as King's Foil) The blue-flowered plant has thrived on the continent ever since Númenóreans brought it with them when they assaulted Barad-dûr, and is now employed by remedy makers in a variety of therapeutic potions. The common folk can use Athelas without any knowledge of herblore by chewing the flower petals to create a numbing agent to apply to sore muscles or wounds making it a popular remedy.

Azuradan: (also known as Blue Mist or Farmer's Sorrow) this rooted plant grows tall, hale, and hearty across Middle-earth. Considered a burdensome weed by many, it has great medicinal value. Its beguiling and sweet azure shoots are often added to draughts to alleviate the pain from kidney stones. The roots of the plant, when chewed, diminish the pain of a headache, and healers have noted the plant's therapeutic value in the balancing and restoration of the humors. (Considered to be part of the herb family.)

RRs are appreciated.