Author's Note: Hello dear readers! It's been a terribly long time since I even had the time to write and I am so so sorry! For some of you who have read my "Stories up for adoption", the main character in this story might seem a bit familiar. However, although that story was set to take place during the War of the Ring (which is still might), this one takes place during the Quest for Erebor. Before you start reading, I just want to say: give it a chance. My main character may turn out to not be all that they seem at first.. Enjoy and please don't forget to tell me your thoughts!
Chapter one: An unexpected rescue(r)
Thorin chanced a glance around the corner, before he gave the clear sign to his Company. As one, they crept down the corridor, as quiet as could ever be expected of a group of thirteen Dwarves and a Hobbit – although the latter was considerably more silent than his companions. They came to another stop soon and Thorin again took it upon himself to peer into the next hallway.
Empty. They moved again.
The first rays of sunlight already filtered through the open arches into the deserted corridor when suddenly the leader of this curious party, Thorin Oakenshield, raised his hand in warning. Another glance around the corner confirmed his suspicions; an Elven guard was slowly approaching, the halo of his torch lighting the still largely darkened hallway.
Turning to his second in command, and coincidently best friend, he spoke under his breath: 'A guard is coming; we must find another way out.'
Dwalin, son of Fundin, nodded briskly, before relaying the order to the other members in signed Iglishmêk. The Dwarves started after their leader again, back down the corridor from which they came. The Hobbit, of course having not at all understood the order given in the Dwarvish sign language, trailed behind them, confused and a little upset that they had missed breakfast to come all this way, only for them to go back. Was it a mere scouting mission, Bilbo Baggins wondered silently. No, he was quite sure that Thorin had told them they would be leaving the Elven valley this morning. In all truthfulness, he would not have minded staying in Rivendell for a little longer and he had even considered taken the Elven Lord up on his offer of remaining there as the Company left.
Whilst Bilbo pondered the matter of his missed breakfast and the Elven city, they had come to a stop once more. The poor Hobbit could not see what was going on through the throng of Dwarves and so contented himself with getting some rest now that he still could.
At the front of the Company, Thorin cursed lowly under his breath in Khuzdul as another torch appeared at the far end of this corridor as well. They were surrounded.
Low muttering arose as this realisation also filtered into the minds of the other members of the Company. If the Elves caught them now, they would surely be stopped!
'Itkit!' Thorin hissed at the complaining Dwarves, effectively shutting them up and giving him some quiet to think about their next step. They could not move forward, nor could they very much go back. At least not if they did not want to explain to those blasted Elves why they were trying to sneak out. But what other..-
'This way,' a voice suddenly called out. The startled members looked up as a cloaked figure appeared from a darkened, up until then unnoticed, third hallway. When none of the Dwarves made any intention to move, the figure beckoned them impatiently 'Hurry now, unless you fancy being caught!'
That got the Dwarves into motion. After a short nod from their leader, they hurried into the corridor, following the cloaked figure as it led them expertly around many bends and corners.
As they followed the figure, Dwalin and Thorin shared a look. Neither knew what was going on, or where the cloaked figure was taking them, but both considered any option better than being caught by the Elves.
When at last they emerged from the maze of hallways and entered into a woodland area, the sun had already risen past the horizon and the Company members finally got a look at their guide.
From the look of his clothes, as well as the length of his legs, it quickly became clear that their guide was part of the same race that they were trying to escape.
'An Elf?' Dwalin hissed, unbelievingly 'Where is it leading us? For all we know he is leading us into an ambush!'
'Keep up, Master Dwarf,' the Elf spoke, its head still fixed on the path in front of them. 'The way to the Mountains is a long one and we have not nearly put enough distance between us and the city to stop for breakfast.'
'Should we follow him?' Dwalin asked his King, mindful this time to keep his voice down. He had heard stories about the keen hearing of Elves.
Thorin looked calculatingly at the back of their guide, then sighed 'It appears we don't have any other choice, Dwalin. If anything, we can easily overpower him if he tries anything.'
For a moment, both Dwarves thought to hear a low chuckle, but the sound quickly faded and their guide gave no further inclination of having heard their whispered conversation.
At the back of the Company, Bilbo was just admiring what could possibly be the last view of Rivendell he would ever have when the mention of breakfast reached his ear – and his stomach rumbled in response. Turning his eyes back to the road, he realised he had been falling behind as he had stopped to admire the Elven city one last time, and he quickly sped up to fall into step behind the young Dwarven Princes. As it so happened, they were just taking bets on the motives of their mysterious guide.
'What exactly are you doing?' The Hobbit questioned them, raising his eyebrow as they were quietly whispering among themselves.
'Kíli here,' here Fíli, son of Dís, slapped his younger brother good-naturedly on the back 'Seems to believe our guide is a rebel, who has nothing but good intentions and love for Dwarves!'
The brunette Dwarf scowled at this 'I did not say that! I merely said that I don't think he's trying to cause us any harm. He could have just left us in that corridor to be discovered.'
Bilbo nodded in agreement, glad that at least one of the Dwarves did not share in the preposterous suspicion the other members seemed to have of Elves.
Thorin felt an almost tangible weight fall of his shoulders as their guide led them onto a rocky path and the valley of Rivendell, at last, moved out of view. Even before he had a chance to enjoy the temporary lessening of his many worries, he was reminded of the Elf that was still leading the Company – his Company – towards the Mountains.
'We stop here for lunch,' he called out demonstratively at the next clearing they passed. The sun had now fully made its way into the sky and they had been walking for several hours. They were far removed from the Elven city and it was high time he put an end to this madness.
The Company members gratefully made their way into the clearing, dropping their packs – and themselves – in the lush grass. However, food did not made its quick appearance as it usually did. Instead, all eyes were focused on the tall Elf that stood by the side of the clearing, staring out at the path ahead of them.
'Elf,' Thorin addressed him, his dislike for the race obvious in his voice.
The figure turned around slowly, the hood of the blasted cloak hiding his expression from the Company. If he was at all offended by the lack of respect the Dwarven King showed him, they could not tell.
'Why are you here?'
'You needed help,' the Elf replied simply, as if an Elf helping Dwarves was the most common thing in the world. Thorin ground his teeth together.
'We would have found the exit by ourselves.'
'Of course. And maybe if you would have made good time you may have reached the Lonely Mountain before Durin's day next year.'
The Company grew silent at this remark and their leader narrowed his eyes at the stranger. 'What do you know of Erebor?'
'I know it was your home, before it was taken from you by the great drake Smaug. I also know you are on a Quest to reclaim it.'
The Dwarven King was in front of the Elf in a second, fisting his hand in the fabric of the grey woollen cloak as he pulled their guide to eye-level. 'How did you come by this information?'
The Elf was momentarily thrown off by the swift action of the Dwarf, as well as the unexpected experience of being intimidated by someone almost half their size. 'The Wizard told me before he met with the White Council.'
Thorin let go of the woollen cloak, his anger for the Wizard temporarily occupying his mind. First he had led them to the Valley against his explicit wishes, then he tells some Elf about their sacred, secret Quest!
He stepped back, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he assessed the still hooded Elf, trying to pin the grey eyes underneath down with his glare. 'What is it to you?'
'I want to join you on your Quest,' the Elf replied bluntly.
The Dwarven King stared at the figure a little bit longer, then he picked up his packs. As he moved back towards the road, he called back to his kin 'We continue.'
The Elf was passed without another glance of the King, though some of the Company members gave the lone figure a confused and – in all cases except for the Hobbit – somewhat suspicious look in passing. Why would an Elf wish to accompany them on their journey?
'You need a guide!'
Thorin stopped in his tracks, his eyes flashing with impatience as he turned back to the Elf, who was still standing in the little clearing. 'I am sure we will be able to find the way to our home.'
'Your path will lead you through Greenwood the Great. The only safe passage through there is by taking the Elven road. Except, you are no Elves. You will lose the path within mere hours. And when you do, there's no turning back…' The Elf spoke lowly and a shiver ran over the backs of the members of the Company at the dark, ominous tone. They did not know what awaited them once they would enter the forest – and luckily so, for if they did they might never venture there – but none liked the implications behind the Elf's words.
'We have a Wizard,' Balin countered in a diplomatic voice, being the first to recover from the unpleasant feeling.
'Indeed, I see no sign of him now. Besides, it was him who asked me to come on this journey.' The Elf paused, turning his head to the side. 'Would you risk falling under the spell of the Greenwood over accepting help from one who freely offers it? I ask no recompense, no reward. I ask only that you let me come along.'
Thorin took a step towards the strange figure, his eyes narrowed in suspicion 'Who are you?'
The Elf slowly stepped from under the tree canopy. As he pulled the hood down in a fluent motion, light golden hair spilled from under its cover. 'My name is Ardhoniel.'
As the Elf spoke and the mid-morning sunlight lit up the face that up until now had largely been covered by the woollen hood, the Dwarves – or at the very least some of them – realized their mistake.
'A woman?' Gloín all but shouted. 'First a Hobbit and now that blasted Wizard decides to bring along a woman?'
Whispering broke out among the Company as those who had not already come to that conclusion themselves now also noticed the soft, womanly curves of the guide. Of course, to their defence, it should be mentioned that all Elves do look rather alike for Dwarf standards (and of course the opposite is also true), and Dwarves are generally of the opinion that all Elves, both males and females alike, look like.. well, feeble maidens.
'Is there anything wrong with that, Master Dwarf?' The Elf, Ardhoniel, raised an arched eyebrow. 'I am a trained warrior with the use of sword and bow! I am… captain of the guard of Lord Elrond himself! I will not be a nuisance on this journey if that is what you are afraid of.' She crossed her arms in front of her at this, locking eyes with the Dwarven King.
He held her gaze for a moment. They had no time to waste and it was true that they might need a guide.. 'And yet you stand here, unpacked, unarmed and hardly prepared for such a long journey. We will not pass another town until we reach the other side of the Greenwood and I will not let harm befall my kin because of some Wizard's whims to bring along a She-Elf.'
The lady in question narrowed her eyes threateningly at him, opened her mouth and closed it again, then promptly stormed passed him. Her pace did not slow as she went up the rocky path, before disappearing around another bend.
'What do you..?' Kíli started.
'I have no idea,' His brother answered, sounding equally as bewildered. They had not a clue of what had just transpired and Kíli even rubbed his eyes confusedly, to see whether it was not all just a crazy dream. But sure enough, just as he lowered his hands, the She-Elf came back around the corner, looking a bit more composed than a moment ago. Moreover, she now had a rucksack thrown over her shoulder and weapons strapped to her person.
Thorin said nothing to her reappearance, choosing instead to just brush past the She-Elf silently as they continued on their journey. Given that his last argument had been concerned with her preparations, the female in question concluded that he had given his silent – and very reluctant – approval.
With that conclusion in mind and a smile tugging at the corners of her lips, she fell into step at the back of the group. That had gone better than expected.
~ Itkit = Be silent