Thank fuck I packed some wine, thought Mona as she took a long slug of it out of the skin. Her hands shook slightly as she put the stopper back, and groaned as she stretched up to re-attach it to Cai's saddle; the mad dash of the orc chase had made her legs wobbly with shock, and sore with use.

It was funny, she mused, as she leant her head on Cai's still sweaty neck as they plodded along the path; Da had always taught her to be prepared, to fight when the time came- but when she first heard the blast of the orc pack's horn and their insane shrieks, she had frozen. The only thing her brain seemed to be thinking about was how fucking terrified she was, not of how she was going to spring into action with her sword drawn. Only when the dwarves had launched their ponies into a gallop and were bellowing her name had her brain ground back into gear, only then had she urged Cai to gallop alongside them, and only then did she finally draw her sword.

Speaking of which, the sword that she picked up from the troll hoard (at which Fili and Kili had snorted with mirth when she showed them over supper a few nights back) had served her well. She had been right to gauge its use in proportion to her size, and the blade itself had proven itself sharp enough to hew its way through several orc and warg necks; overall, she was rather proud of it.

Mona frowned slightly as she looked down at her sword at her hip, as she was still yet to give it a name; she snorted suddenly as she considered giving it an Elvish name, just to piss Thorin off.

Having said that, Dwarf Prince had actually just saved her life, and, in an even more astounding turn in events, had thanked her for saving his own. Mona scratched under Cai's chin absentmindedly as she peered towards Thorin, and of how easily he had thrown that axe…

A sniff to her right pulled her out of her reverie. Looking around, she saw Bilbo wiping his nose on his cuff with a look of mild disgust as he did so; he was obviously still mourning his lack of handkerchiefs. The hobbit was also extremely pale.

"Are you alright Bilbo?" said Mona, as kindly as she could. It was plain that she wasn't the only one who had had a shock.

Bilbo nodded, his eyes to the ground. "It's just…when you look into their eyes, they really want to kill you, you know?"

"I know," she replied gently, "It's a shock, I understand. You're not the only one, trust me."

Bilbo's brow furrowed. "Really?"

"Really. I was bloody terrified. Still am, if I'm honest with you."

The hobbit gave a short laugh. "Right. Well. If you're terrified, I'm even more fucked than I thought possible."

Mona stopped so suddenly that Cai lurched forwards a little. "Bilbo!"

"What?" said Bilbo, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

"You just-didn't you-? Didn't you realise what you just said?! You swore! You said fuck!"

Colour flooded into Bilbo's cheeks and his eyes widened with horror.

"Oh my goodness! Oh my- why did I say that? I've never uttered that disgusting word in my life! Good gracious, what is happening to me?! Oh my lord, good heavens, I can't believe it- Mona, Mona, why are you laughing? This isn't funny in the slightest-"

For Mona had thrown her head back and was snorting her strange, slightly unsettling laugh, with tears of mirth streaming down her face. At last she straightened up and started walking on again, still giggling as Bilbo trotted alongside her, gibbering.

"Good heavens- please- please try to forget I ever said that Mona-"

"Forget?" choked Mona, "Forget?! How could I possibly ever forget that? No, I'm sorry Bilbo, I'm afraid that's burnt its mark in my memories forever-"

"Oh, shut up," snapped Bilbo, yet again in a most un-Bilbo way, as Mona continued to grin broadly.

Bilbo's mood turned steadily grumpier as they plodded along the shadowy, stony path, until at last, they all stepped into brilliant sunshine. Mona blinked in surprise, and what she saw below in the valley took her breath away.

"Rivendell!" breathed Bilbo, and she was pleased to see that his black mood seemed to have vanished; instead, a look of wonder was on his face, very similar to those of the dwarves too.

"Rivendell indeed!" said Gandalf cheerily. "We'll stay here for tonight. And don't look like that Thorin, you know full well only Elrond will be able to read that map of yours; he will help us."

Thorin gave a short bark of mirthless laughter. "Help? Help? And were was his help when Erebor fell? Where was the help of his people to mine-"

"I think we've heard all this before, Thorin," said Gandalf testily, "Please spare it for a night when we have quite exhausted every other possible topic of conversation, and even then I can't guarantee I'd be happy to hear it again."

"Bit harsh, aren't you?" muttered Mona to Gandalf, as the wizard ushered the dwarves in front of him.

"Hark who's talking," Gandalf said out of the corner of his mouth, "I've been chased by several orcs today and do not wish to make this day any more dreary then it already has been."

"Oh, alright," said Mona, "But no more chastising me about my apparent sharp tongue, ok? Looks like you can give me a run for my money in that department."

"I shall ignore that last comment of yours," replied Gandalf loftily, "Been teaching Bilbo any more swearwords recently?"

Some strands of hair fell from her bun as she giggled.

"How can you accuse me of that? He was with the dwarves for ages before he met me…"

Gandalf pursed his lips slightly as he looked ahead to the little hobbit, who was pleading with Myrtle to keep walking. "He's changed rather since leaving Bag-End, hasn't he?" he said quietly.

Mona also looked at Bilbo. "Yeah, I suppose he has. Not much though."

The wizard continued to look thoughtfully at the hobbit. "Hm...I quite agree. The biggest changes are to come, I'd wager- Bombur! BOMBUR! Do not tou- DON'T TOUCH IT I SAY! Curse these ridiculous dwarves!" Gandalf huffed as he swept past Mona in a rage.

"Wizards," said Bofur wisely to her, "Tempers like thunderstorms."

Mona chuckled as she drew alongside him. "I always try to stay in his good books, myself."

Bofur grinned. "Likewise. Come on lass," he said suddenly, "Come now, not far to go."

Mona had just opened her mouth in confusion until she realised that he was talking to his pony, Gilly, not her. She looked at the pony closer, and saw the hair on her left flank was matted with blood.

"Oh no," Mona said softly, "How?"

"Arrow. Looks worse than it is, mind. Grazed her really. If it had hit her properly I don't think either of us would be here now," said Bofur, rubbing Gilly's forehead. Despite his words, he looked worried.

"When we get to Rivendell I'll help you," said Mona, touching his shoulder briefly, "I reckon I've got enough healing salve in my bags to last an age."

Bofur smiled at her. "Cheers lass. Me and Gilly get on, you see. Bit like you and yours," he said, nodding his head at Cai.

Mona turned her head towards her horse, whose head was starting to droop with tiredness. "Yeah, I get you. He was my father's really, hence why he's a bit too big for me; but I love him to bit. Always have," as she rumpled his forelock affectionately.

Bofur and Mona chatted until at last the company reached the gates of Rivendell. Here they all stood around rather awkwardly (especially Thorin) until a blast from a horn rang through the air; suddenly, they found themselves surrounded by several Elvish horsemen.

"Elrond!" called Gandalf, "How good to see you, old friend."

With this, a tall, dark haired Elf swung down from his horse. A light silver headpiece adorned his forehead, and his eyes were a deep, almost dark, blue. Looking at him, Mona felt very small, and looking at him further, noticed how good looking this Elrond was; she grinned very slightly to herself. Must be his aura of wisdom or something.

Bofur caught her eye and smirked at her. Somehow, he knew what she was thinking. She looked away hurriedly.

Elrond strode towards Gandalf and they exchanged a few words. He then turned towards the dwarves.

"Welcome, Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain, and his Company! Please rest here tonight, as you have had a somewhat unsettling journey; later, when you had eaten and rested somewhat, I will answer any questions you have. Please," Elrond said, bowing slightly, "If you would follow Anhaulwen through to the parlour, where food will be waiting."

"No."

Thorin's voice cut through the pleasant air like a knife.

"I had no intention of leading my Company to this place, and it is plain that it is only through the will of a certain wizard to why we are here. However, since you have offered us food and shelter, it would be ungracious of us to refuse," said Thorin, speaking with deliberate care.

"That being said," his voice hardening, "While I will gladly let my Company eat and rest now, I will not. You have readily said that you probably know the answers to my questions, and I intent to get them. So, I will have them, with no further delay."

It was very quiet. Gandalf looked furiously at Thorin, and Bilbo's eyes flicked in between Elrond and the dwarf nervously. Balin however, was looking at Thorin with immense pride, and Dwalin gripped his axe threateningly.

Elrond simply looked at Thorin. At last, he said, "But of course. Anhaulwen, please show the Company the way to the parlour. Thorin, if you would follow me."

Thorin nodded his head to Balin, and the two followed Elrond. Mona had turned Cai to follow Bofur and the others, when Gandalf swooped down upon her.

"You had better come too. Leave Cai with the others, they'll look after him."

"What? No!" she said in outrage, "I was going to help Bofur heal Gilly! And I'm starving, why can't I eat now and join later-"

"You will join me now or not at all," said Gandalf dangerously, and swept off to follow Elrond, Thorin and Balin.

Mona groaned. "Bad luck lass," said Bofur sympathetically, "Don't worry about Gilly, I'll manage."

Mona rummaged in one of Cai's saddlebags. "Wait, hang on- yeah, there you go," and she extracted a small clay pot. "This is the salve. Use the whole lot on her, I have loads."

Bofur took the pot and smiled at her. "Cheers. I'll rub Cai down and feed him, don't worry. And cheer up lass," he smirked and leant towards her, "You'll be able to spend some time with that Elrond, won't you-"

"Oh, shut up," Mona snapped. Bofur roared with laughter.

"I'll save you some food," he said, giving her a wink, and left to join the others in the parlour.

And so Mona set off after Gandalf, wondering grumpily what could be so incredibly important that she was missing supper for.