I do not own this book/movie at all. Now that that is out of the way please enjoy the story.
"Take your leave." Thorin said with a nod to the distance. "I have no wish to interfere in the affairs of wizards."
"We will not be far and we will not take long." Gandalf said with purpose as he and Radagast made their way over to an adjacent clearing where they could speak without interruption.
"Rest now while you have the chance, but don't get too comfortable." Dwalin said his voice easily carrying over the clearing his blunt words prompting a laugh out of most of the dwarves.
The company stood around relaxed but still ready to move at any time. Bilbo was tempted to sit, but after a month on the road he knew better, sitting lead to staying. If he sat down there was a good chance he wouldn't want to get up and it was foolish to set up camp, so to speak, so early in the day. So he took to standing and reminding himself that the ground would not make a good seat anyway. Not when compared to his armchair in Bag End and how dearly he wished to sit in it by the fire and just read. He frowned and shook off the thought of his warm hearth and comfortable chair, those things were not for him anymore.
He resisted, just barely, the temptation to creep over and get a clearer angle to listen in on what Gandalf and Radagast were saying. He'd never really gotten out of the habit of eavesdropping to the consternation of both his parents. But they had learned quickly never to discuss things too heavy for his ears unless he was away. Hobbits as a whole were a bit notorious for their propensity to gossip and no gossip was better than the kind that was straight from the source. What little he did manage to overhear was unpleasant enough for him to want nothing to do with it, though he was curious enough that he might creep closer soon anyway. He had no wish to see giant spiders, haunted fortresses, orc strongholds, the sudden deaths of small cuddly animals, or any of the other horrors they were talking of. Not anymore than he wished to see the dragon at the end of this journey and he had no great wish to see the wyrm.
Perhaps it was time to distract himself from the temptation of listening in. His ears were beginning to itch and that was never a good sign. He looked around at the others who had gathered together in small groups chatting amiably amongst themselves. Without thinking he'd found himself catching snippets of conversation hoping to find a conversation that he could join in on. It was easier to listen in on them, even when they respected the wizards' unspoken wish for quiet they were boisterous beings. Though the conversation was frightfully dull or in some cases just plain frightful, at least to a Hobbit who had no wish to know anything of battle. There was quite a lot talked of jewels and gems and how certain members of the company wanted to use their gold.
There was no talk of flowers, or gardening, or cooking, or blacksmith techniques, all topics that Bilbo was knowledgeable or interested in. Fili and Kili had thankfully decided not to bother him for the moment and he wondered if it had anything to do with his shiny new sword. Though from the copious amount of weapons the two of them carried he doubted that was the case. Still without them in his hair he found himself wanting for conversation. Oin being the healer or Bombur being the company cook would probably be his best choices for conversation. They would most likely not tease him as relentlessly as the younger members of the company and with any luck he would make a friend.
Medical herbs were common enough knowledge in the Shire and swapping recipes was a great way to pass the time. He looked between the two of them and decided that between the two of the he'd much rather talk to Bombur. He was still feeling that cold burn from Oin's salve and truthfully he hadn't quite forgiven the dwarf for slathering him with it. But as he made his way over to talk with them he stopped his ears twitching at a noise that was almost faint enough for him to dismiss as his own imagination. It almost sounded like howling, but distant and far off, faded on the wind enough to be an illusion. He shook off the sound but his fingers tightened around the hilt of his blade.
A long moment passed where Bilbo stood frozen his heart beating like a war drum in his chest when he heard the low howl on the wind. His ears burned as the sound seemed to echo in them and the hair on his feet tingled. His breath jumped in his chest as the cold of winter and the bite of ice crawled its way up and down his spine and pooled in his chest freezing his heart. Growls and howls teased at his ears and the scent of blood was thick in his nose. Memories and the remnants of nightmares danced behind his eyes taunting him leaving him breathless. He stood straighter his legs aching with the need to run. "Was, was that a wolf?"
"Are, are there wolves out here? Please tell me that there aren't any wolves." He took a breath that didn't seem to fill his lungs and he felt breathless even as he spoke words spilling out of his mouth like water. "Gandalf didn't say there would be wolves."
"Wolves." Bofur shook his head his hands wrapped around his mattock. There was something ominous in his tone, something that set the hair on Bilbo's feet tingling. "No Bilbo that was no wolf."
There was a growl and the sound of branches snapping behind them. Bilbo spun on his feet going very much against hobbit instinct to run and find a place to hide where he would not be found. His sword was in his hands and he wasn't sure how it got there, but he was holding it in front of him his knuckles white as his fingers clenched around the blade. A horrible creature, much bigger than a wolf with a squarer jaw and dripping fangs that were far too reminiscent of memories better left forgotten, hopped out from the undergrowth above them. It leapt past Bilbo and Bofur with a feral growl leaping onto Dori brandishing it's fangs at the dwarf king. Thorin dodged its attack sliced into the beast's head with enough force to split the skull leaving the creature curled on its side dead. There was no time to celebrate the victory as with another low growl one bounded out of the woods coming from behind Thorin. Kili using his bow took out the creature with an arrow. He hit it between its eyes sending it crashing into a tree. As another one came snarling from the same direction Dwalin hit it with a twist of his axe.
"Warg scouts." Thorin spat as he loosened his blade from the warg's head, looking down at the creature with disgust. "No doubt an orc pack is not far behind."
"Orc pack?" Bilbo let out a heavy breath looking over at Thorin with a kind of fearful disbelief, as though if he didn't believe there was an orc pack then there wasn't one and he was safe. Well as safe as one could be when traveling through untamed lands.
Gandalf walked over toward Thorin his voice booming with the kind of authority only a wizard could possess. "Thorin who else knows of our quest, who have you told beyond your kin?"
"I've told no one." Thorin said anger flaring in his voice.
Gandalf took a step closer brandishing his staff as though he would like nothing more than to hit the dwarf over the head with it. "Who?"
"I swear I have not told anyone." Thorin said sharply, he moved almost beginning to pace before he turned back to Gandalf looking at the wizard with fire in his eyes. "What in Durin's name is going on?"
"We are being hunted." Gandalf said gravely. "I fear news of our quest might have reached the ears of those who will stop at nothing to see us destroyed."
"We have to get out of here." Dwalin said sheathing his axe on his back.
"We can't." Ori said running up to them from the ridge. "We have no ponies; we lost them when the trolls attacked us."
Gandalf hurried to the edge of the clearing. "Then we must flee on foot."
"I'll draw them away from you and distract them for as long as I can." Radagast said as he hefted himself onto his sledge.
Gandalf turned to Radagast his eyes grave as he grabbed onto the other wizards arm. "They will catch you."
"Only if I let them." Radagast said shrugging off Gandalf's grip before sending his rabbits off into a run.
Howls and bays dogged their steps as they ran through the forest. They burst from the trees into brilliant sunshine and fear of being spotted set their feet flying faster. Bilbo felt like he was flying as he followed the dwarves into the rocky hills just outside the forest borders though he did not much enjoy the feeling, not with danger nipping so close to his heels. They hid behind a large boulder and watched as Radagast led them away seeming to taunt the wargs with how close he was.
"Go." Gandalf said as Radagast and the orc pack tailing him vanished over the hillside taking off toward another grouping of large boulders.
The company chased after him, the sounds of howls and snarls spurring them on. Bilbo kept close to Gandalf as they darted from one boulder to the next. Radagast was leading the orcs in circles, mocking them and jeering at them as his rabbits dragged him across the plains. He led them in a deadly dance managing to take a few orcs out with his sledge. He swept through the plains in wide arcs and sharp turns sometimes coming closer to the company than he intended. But the distraction did not last for long as a few wargs and orcs broke off from the pack picking up a different trail. Though Radagast tried to draw their attention back to him he couldn't keep it, they'd found their original target and soon only a few were still chasing the brown wizard. Gandalf saw the breaking of the pack and he stopped behind an outcropping. The dwarves stopped with him, though Ori ran out from behind their cover before he was dragged back by Thorin's grip on his arm.
"We're going to be caught, might as well take a few of the bastards with us." Nori said flatly even as he drew one of his knives from his sleeve.
"We can take a few pesky orcs and their mangy wargs." Kili hissed under his breath confidently.
"That is not a few pesky orcs and those are trained wargs, we'll be in for quite the battle." Dwalin said crossing his arms over his chest like he often did.
Gandalf sighed. "We may not have much choice but to stand our ground." He looked at the dwarf king. "Thorin this is your company, the decision is in your hands, what would you have us do?"
"We keep moving." Thorin said as he looked over the company. "Have your weapons at the ready, if they corner us we fight, but until they do we run."
"We have an opening." Gandalf said as he saw Radagast hit the lead orc with his sledge managing to anger the leader enough to catch his attention again leading them away from the company.
The company ran ahead as Thorin watched to make sure no one was left behind. His suspicions about the wizard were growing; this was not the way he'd intended for them to go. "Where are you leading us?"
"To safety, what else matters?" Gandalf said taking off as the last dwarf went running ahead of him. Thorin ran after him overtaking him easily as he caught up with his company. They ran stopping when a warg got too close, either turning in another direction or waiting until it passed to run again. They kept together and huddled behind a rock outcropping to catch their breath and hide from one of the wargs and its rider. The warg jumped up onto the rock Thorin looked over at Kili who nodded and strung an arrow onto his bow. He took two steps away from the outcropping turning and releasing the arrow in one fluid motion. He hit the mount on its leg making the monstrosity buck under its rider. The orc readied his signal horn, but Kili fired another arrow. The second hit sent the warg and its rider falling down the rock.
The orc staggered from his fall but he brought the horn to his lips. Dwalin rushed at the rider bringing his war hammer down on him before he could blow the signal horn. Bifur rushed in stabbing at the creature with his boar spear and Thorin joined in teaming up to take down the bigger creature. The snarls and howls stopped and Bilbo felt his spine tingle as he remembered how quiet it was right before the wolves struck. The baying and howling started up again getting louder with each passing moment. Gandalf stepped forward looking into the distance as wargs and orcs came over the hillside.
"Move! Run!" Gandalf shouted.
The chase was on again, the wargs and their riders were claws and teeth at their backs as they ran as fast as they could. Wherever they ran they were cut off by the monstrous hounds and whenever they turned they found themselves running into their hunters.
"There they are!" Gloin shouted as wargs appeared over the hillside. "They're gaining on us!"
"This way!" Gandalf pointed away from the pack with his staff and ran. "Quickly."
The company followed after him, but they were but off by another group of orcs. It seemed like every moment there was another cry about how there were more wargs, more orcs, and more danger.
"There's more coming!" Kili shouted an orc rider close on his tail as he ran to the group.
"Kili! Shoot them!" Thorin shouted.
Bilbo ran with his heart in his throat and a heavy inking feeling in his belly. Death hung heavy over them darkening the bright day in his mind. With every startled exclamation from the company he felt his hopes sink lower and lower. There were orcs on every side of them. They were being backed into a circle, no place to go.
"We're surrounded!" Fili shouted as he ran over to them. "They've cut us off."
"Where's Gandalf?" Dori shouted his eyes wide as he looked for the wizard's tall form and found nothing.
"That wizard abandoned us!" Dwalin's fury was almost a physical thing biting into the air with sharp teeth.
"That doesn't matter." Thorin's voice carried over the company. He held no fear and he was as cold and unyielding as ice. He drew his sword his eyes narrowed in anger as he shouted. "Hold your ground."
Bilbo held up his blade with a white knuckled grip, feeling more like a lost child than anything, and with a teary eyed twist of his lips he bitterly acknowledged he was. Kili with his bow and Ori with his slingshot did what they could, but the numbers were too great. Kili had nearly exhausted his supply of arrows and the rocks from Ori's sling seemed to do little but annoy the beasts and their riders. The company backed up as the wargs drew closer jumping at them and snapping herding them together for the kill. They had no choice but to play into their enemies' ploy, there was nowhere left to run, or so they thought until they heard Gandalf call out. "This way you fools."
Gandalf waved at them from a hole in the ground beneath a nearby cluster of rock, gesturing with his staff.
"Come on move quickly all of you." Thorin shouted as he turned and ran toward the hole.
Bilbo sheathed his blade and ran toward safety. He didn't even bother to worry about the steep incline that led into the cave he just slid down until he hit the bottom and he made space for whoever came next. He ducked back unable to see but able to hear as those who hadn't yet escaped down the hole covered for those who already had. Bilbo moved back as the front of the cavern began to fill his hands gripping his walking stick perhaps a bit too tightly.
"Kili run!" Thorin shouted and Bilbo began to worry that perhaps the entire company wouldn't make it after all.
But soon after Fili, then Kili, and after them Thorin slid down the hole. They huddled together weapons raised in case the orcs decided to storm the cave. A tense sort of silence fell over them as a horn blew and the sounds of fighting resumed. An orc stumbled down then rolled into the cavern the head of an arrow broken off in its neck. Dwalin nudged it with the end of his axe checking to see if it as alive and Thorin reached down and yanked the arrow from its neck. He threw it down with a disgusted look. "Elves."
Gandalf gave Thorin a stern glare which the dwarf king answered with a dark look of his own. Bilbo watched the two uneasily aware that there was more going on here than he was currently aware of. The tension in the air was broken by Dwalin running toward them from where he had gone exploring the far side of the cavern shouting. "There's a pathway, but I can't tell where it leads. Should we follow it?"
"We should follow it." Bofur said with a chorus of agreements from the other dwarves.
"I think that would be wise." Gandalf said with a nod as he waited for the others to pass.
Bilbo stood and watched Gandalf as the dwarves rushed by them. He walked over to the wizard deciding that there was no harm in voicing his curiosity. "Why did Thorin seem so upset about the elves?"
Gandalf smiled fondly. "That my dear Bilbo is a question better answered by Thorin. He knows the tale far better than I; it is his own after all."
Bilbo sighed following the company dutifully with Gandalf walking beside him. "I don't think he would answer me."
"Now that didn't stop you from asking me now did it?" Gandalf said with a laugh. "You should ask them questions and try making friends with them. This is a long journey, it doesn't have to be a lonely one, but it will be if you let it."
Bilbo looked up noticing that they were walking through a large crack in the earth as he could see the sky. It was almost comfortable, being surrounded by rock on all sides and still being able to look up at the sky, it was almost enough to distract him. He sighed unable to avoid replying for long. "I'm not lonely."
"You're a very poor liar Bilbo Baggins." Gandalf said with a tone that was stern but not at all unkind.
"I'm not sure if I believe you. I've kept my secrets well enough." Bilbo said his voice low enough that it would remain between him and Gandalf and not carry to the rest of the company.
"Keeping secrets is not the same thing as lying and I would know better than most." Gandalf said his voice tinged with laughter. "Now if you'd quit distracting me from the matter at hand I can assure you that you will find friends if you look for them. You'll only be lonely if you choose to be."
"And what if that is what I want?" Bilbo said stopping and looking up at Gandalf with a meaningful look.
"Then I think that you are trying to prove a point, but you are still not a good liar." Gandalf said returning his look with one of his own.
They fell into silence as they followed the path, but it did not last long before it was broken.
"I've found the end." Nori shouted and the company seemed to pick up speed, not really running but walking faster nonetheless.
They reached the end of the path and stepped out into fresher air, the smell of running fresh water and the green things growing strong. Bilbo felt his heart skip a beat at the sight in front of him. It was even more beautiful than he'd ever imagined it. The pictures he'd seen and the stories he'd read and heard held not even a candle to the true magnificence of it. He could barely wait to see it up close and see it all for himself, the waterfalls, the statues, the gardens, and the architecture.
Gandalf looked down into the valley spread out below them. "The Valley of Imladris, in the common tongue it is known by another name."
"Rivendale." Bilbo said with awe.
"Here lies the last Homely House East of the Sea." Gandalf gestured to the kingdom nestled in the trees.
Thorin stormed up to him his voice low but menacing. "This has been your plan all along. You've led us here to take refuge in the house of our enemies. The elves will not lift a finger to help us."
"You have no enemies here Thorin Oakensheild unless you choose to make them yourself. Lord Elrond has done you no harm and he holds nothing against you. The only ill will to be found here is that which you bring with you." Gandalf snapped.
"You think the elves will give us their blessing, they will try to stop us. We will have no help from them not when they would rather see the wyrm make its home in Erebor than have us regain our mountain." Thorin said practically seething.
"They would rather see that no one comes to harm, but it is true they will attempt to stop us. That does not mean they will succeed. Besides we have questions that we cannot answer, not without help." Gandalf said the snap gone from his voice replaced with the calming tones of an adviser.
Bilbo could see the stubbornness drain out of Thorin as he bowed in acceptance. There was no other way for them to continue and even Thorin could see that they needed answers if nothing else.
"Now." Gandalf said his tone much lighter but still serious as he began to walk down the small path to Rivendale. "If we are to be successful this will need to be handled with tact, and respect, and no small degree of charm. In matters such as this diplomacy is our friend, which is why you will leave the talking to me."
Thank yous to everyone, who read, reviewed, followed, and/or favorited.