I do not own any of the characters or The Hobbit (just the AU storyline and my OC). These are the work of the esteemed and brilliant John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, and without his genius, this and many other fanfics would not be in existence.

For those of you who read this part, we are still working on our farmhouse. Progress is slow, in part due to Covid (because I feel others' stress around me and absorb it like a sponge, so this year has been one giant stressfest ugh). Materials prices have skyrocketed (and for a while some stores couldn't get supplies we needed in), we don't have as many people to help in stages that could really use an extra pair of hands because they have susceptible family members, thankfully my mental health counselor husband is an essential worker BUT it also meant he had to put in some overtime due to zoom sessions and technology hiccups, and my husband works during the week and we have to work on this part of construction on the weekends, so we are trying to work it all out. It's weather-tight now, thankfully! It's just getting interior supplies that is problematic. So basically, we're now at the stage we hoped to be at by this time LAST year. No one can say building a house is boring…

And lastly, I have a touch of writer's block for this stage of the story (just the capstone to the clusterfreak that is this year I guess). But I wanted you to know that I DON'T have writer's block for later on in the story (about 3 weeks from where our Company is at now, story timeline-wise) and have been actively working on it the past year in between building days, so the good news is, when I manage to overcome the block and reach that point in the story, the chapters will be ready to go and updates will come VERY quickly :D

Please go on Amazon DOT com and check out my original novel, Amazing Grace by Amanda Longpre' (have to look it up by my name...thanks Amazon (rolls eyes)), and as always (for both AG and this story) please read, review, favorite and follow! You guys are amazing for being so patient for so long!

Sorry for the short chapter, but at least it's something, right? Enjoy!

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It took the company four miserable days to finally leave the ravine behind. The first two were spent dealing with the constant dripping coming from the trees above them as the torrential rain pouring down from above made its way through the densely-intertwined branches and leaves above. That, while miserable, was greatly preferred to what they were experiencing now, at least in Cirashala's mind.

The young woman groaned as she fought the onslaught of hoards of flies around her face, and dearly wished she had goggles to protect her eyes, and some sort of oxygen mask to keep the disgusting pests from flying into her mouth…again. Spitting another one out, she groaned again…this time keeping her mouth shut. She could hear groans from pretty much every single dwarf in the company at various intervals as well as they trudged through the dim forest.

It wasn't just the flies that were bothering her either. It was the heat, and the wretched humidity. Either one was bad enough, both having both was just downright miserable. All the rain that had drenched them earlier in the week had finally made its way to the soggy forest floor, and since the trees prevented the steam that now rose from said ground from completely evaporating away, the space underneath the thick forest canopy had successfully become unbearably sticky.

Sticky. That's how every single square inch of her body felt right now. Her skin felt as though she'd just stepped out of a shower in a steamy bathroom, her clothes clung to her and felt as though they needed to be stuffed in a dryer, and her hair. By Mahal, her hair! The young woman's curly hair was damp, and it was so frizzed from the humidity that she looked as though she'd stuck her finger in a light socket. It didn't matter that her hair was braided either. Even her long braids were so puffy that they resembled cat tails.

It's times like these where I really hate having curly hair, she thought to herself, now extremely irritable and grumpy. She glanced up at the dwarves in front of her. At least I'm not the only one who looks ridiculous.

It was quite true. Even the dwarves with straighter hair, like Kili, had not escaped the curse of humidity. Not only that, but it was quite obvious that none of them had bathed recently. In order to keep the flies out of her mouth, she was forced to breathe in the foul body odor of not only herself, but everyone else near her. What she wouldn't give for them all to be able to take a hot shower! She'd even welcome an ice-cold one at this point, if it meant that they all no longer reeked to high heaven!

Bilbo suddenly coughed and sputtered next to her. Holding her hand over her mouth with just the slightest cracks between her fingers, she turned toward him.

"Bilbo?" she asked, her voice muffled by her makeshift 'mask'. "Are you all right?" The hobbit gave her an exasperated look from a slightly red face.

"I hate flies!" he muttered even as he swiped yet another one of his face. "I've been eating the disgusting things all day, and not on purpose!" Cirashala's lungs began to burn, and she removed her hand and pulled her tunic over her mouth and nose instead.

"I hate the damn things too," she replied, causing his eyes to widen in astonishment.

"What?" she asked, annoyed herself. He shrugged, before pulling his shirt up over his nose and mouth too.

"I just never thought I'd hear a lady use such…creative words," he answered hesitantly. She rolled her eyes.

"Where were you in Goblin Town?" she asked, raising her eyebrow. "That word's pretty tame, considering what I said to that stupid goblin king!" Recognition dawned in his eyes, and he nodded.

"Well, there is that," he admitted, shaking his head at her. "For the life of me, I still cannot figure out what you actually said to him. Were you speaking a language other than Westron?" Her brow furrowed in confusion.

"What are you talking about?" she asked. "I was speaking En...Westron." Shit. I hope he didn't hear that slip. Thankfully, the hobbit hadn't seemed to notice that she almost said English.

"You were?!" he asked. Now he looked confused. "I've never heard…well, the word you said before." Now she was completely bewildered.

"What word?" she asked, not quite remembering exactly what she said to the foul, disgusting creature. All she could remember was that it was a litany of the foulest terms she could think of. Bilbo avoided her gaze.

"Er, um, well…" he stammered, clearly uncomfortable. "The one that…well, starts with F. At least, I think it starts with it. As I said, I've never heard that word before." Realization dawned in her eyes, and she felt a slight flush of her own grow upon her sticky cheeks.

"Oh," she replied dumbly. "That one." He nodded.

"What on earth does it mean?" he asked quizzically. Now her cheeks were definitely red.

Do I seriously have to explain what the F word means to him?! He stared at her, clearly expecting an answer, and she sighed. Well, I had to explain periods to Kili, so I guess this is easier than that…I think.

"Um, well…" she trailed off, refusing to meet his gaze. "It…it means…uh…" She sighed heavily again.

"It's all right," Bilbo assured her. "You don't have to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable." She shrugged.

"I'm more worried about it making you uncomfortable," she admitted. "I've heard my fair share of curse words, and most don't really faze me that much anymore. You, on the other hand…" The hobbit shrugged.

"Well," he reasoned, leaning close, "since starting this insufferable quest, I've certainly heard my fair share of such words from our rather…odiferous friends, so I suppose there's nothing you could come up with that's worse than theirs!" The look on his face as he wrinkled his nose nearly made her laugh, and she couldn't help but smile just a little underneath her makeshift fly mask.

"All right," she conceded. "But don't blame me if you regret my explanation." He nodded, and she took a deep breath.

"Well," she said, still feeling a little bit of warmth in her cheeks. She was unsure if it was from the heat, or a faint blush, and guessed a little of both. "The…F word…pretty much means, well…it's something that two people who love each other very much do…in their…well…bed." His eyes widened considerably as shock entered his features.

"That's what it means?" he squeaked, turning quite red himself. "By Mahal, Cira…even the dwarves curses aren't that bad! Why would you say something like that?!"" His reaction caused several others to glance in her direction, and the young woman felt her own face turn crimson in embarrassment.

Well, that didn't go as well as I thought it would.

"Uh…" Now she really felt awkward. Why did he have to ask? "It was the worst curse word I could think of?" The hobbit gaped at her, and Dwalin started chuckling.

"You think that's bad?" he asked the aghast hobbit. "Wait til you hear the lads' mother! She will make your ears fall right off if you make her mad!" Thorin gave the burly dwarf a withering glare, and Fili and Kili nodded their heads earnestly in agreement.

"He's right," Fili interjected. "When mother gets angry, even a balrog would not be able to withstand her!"

"Aye," Kili added. "You do not want to make her mad! Trust me, she-" Thorin turned his glare toward his nephews.

"Enough!" he growled, interrupting him. The pair suddenly looked small in front of him. "You will show your mother respect. Do you understand?"

"But, Dwalin—" Kili protested. Thorin cut him off.

"Do you understand?" The dwarf king repeated, stepping toward the young prince and looking him dead in the eye. The younger swallowed and nodded.

"Aye, unc-Thorin," he quickly corrected. Fili nodded too.

"Forgive us, Thorin," he apologized, laying his hand on his brother's shoulder. Thorin glared at them both for a moment, before looking at the rest of the company.

"We are wasting time," he stated. "No more stopping just because someone says something that surprises you. We cannot afford delays if we are to leave this accursed forest behind." He turned and continued on, and Bilbo looked apologetically at Cirashala.

"I'm sorry, Cira," he said quietly. "I just, well…I never expected a lady to use those words is all." She shrugged.

"I guess I've just heard them so often that I don't think about it anymore," she replied. He nodded.

"I suppose so." They continued walking in silence, and she sighed internally.

I have got to stop using modern words here, lest I give myself away.

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A response to guest reviewer Tryssa- Wow, thank you! I'm glad you liked it ? It always makes me blush when someone says they binged it so fast lol! Thank you! What part of Idaho are you from? I live in north Idaho myself! As for updates…I'm trying, but with the stress of Covid, my brain hasn't been overly cooperative. I HAVE, however, been working ahead of my snag, so hopefully when we get to Thranduil's Halls, updates will be more frequent, as I have a LOT of that written so far, and keep adding on each day ? Our lovely company just isn't quite there yet (literally, lol).

Onto story review part- I'm glad ? I don't really believe in love at first sight (lust, maybe. Infatuation, maybe) not deep, profound love. That kind of love, true love, could only grow over time I think. Besides, with her grief, she's having to heal enough from that to be able to love again. It's only been about two months since her family died, but circumstances and her heart's capacity to love others has allowed her to slowly start cracking it open again (if you're familiar with MBTI, she's an INFP personality type, to give you an idea ? ). That personality and capacity for love is also why she's so protective and loyal to her friends ? Even if it is also somewhat reckless at times ?

Thank you on Tolkien comment! I didn't get into it until I met my now-husband, as my parents banned anything with wizards or magic in the house. Once I saw his brother watching it (my first exposure was the Lothlorien scene right when the company met Galadriel and Celeborn), I borrowed the extended editions, fell in love with it, then have devoured everything, book and film, I could get my hands on (and am now on theonering DOT net, under my first original character's name Cirashala) over the past 13 years 3 months less one day (he was watching it in a marathon for the Bilbo Birthday Bash Sept 22, 2007). That knowledge has REALLY come in handy, and it has worked out in my favor, as it got me writing again, which led to my first novel (historical fiction) published on Amazon Oct 2017 ? So now I'm a published author too!

Anyway, I'm glad you liked it so much ? We're doing well, more or less, other than the stress (husband is child mental health therapist, and I can literally feel/sense his stress, and my kids are stressed too (homeschooled, but have tons of friends and playdate coordination is difficult right now), so that part has been rough. I'm looking forward to this all being over…

Thank you for your lovely review Tryssa! If you log in and pm me, I'd be happy to converse with you more in detail than here (and give you some juicy spoilers if you want, since your review was so lovely ?). Fanfiction hasn't been great at notifications with emails on the site, but I'll try to check it more often so I don't leave people hanging ? Like Tolkien, I enjoy chatting with readers, even if I am introverted in real life ? Thank you so much for your lovely, constructive review! Tweetzone86 aka Amanda Longpre', author.