OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOOoOoOoOoOoOoO o

"By Aule! Hobbit, if you continue to make so much noise I will silence you in a manner that you will not enjoy!" Thorin hissed angrily at the small creature behind him, as Bilbo unceremoniously tumbled awkwardly into a bush .

The Hobbit however, was in no mood to be hushed. "You make twenty times more noise in a single hour than I on this entire journey!" Getting up with a dark scowl that was unusual for the jovial Hobbit, he glared at the Dwarf Lord.

"Where are we anyway?" He asked, changing the subject.

Thorin looked heavenwards in annoyment, as if asking for patience, and replied with an edge, "We are not lost. If that was what you were thinking. These lands are well known to me, and there is little chance of becoming lost in them."

The Hobbit and the Dwarf had been traveling at a great pace for hours, having become separated from the Company and now attempting to lose an annoying but small pack of orcs that were not giving up easily. Needless to say both the travelers were mentally lamenting the fact that they had such ill luck as to be stuck with the other. Bilbo did not like the sullen Dwarf, nor Thorin the Hobbit.

Thorin was especially disappointed with the hand that fate had dealt him, as now it seemed to him that he must play nursemaid and care for this ridiculous Hobbit. It was only honor and the thought of Gandalf's wrath that had kept him from leaving the poor fellow behind.

Bilbo however, was growing tired from the constant running, and Thorin still showed no sign of slowing.

"Have we lost them yet?" came that foolish Hobbit's voice yet again. By Durin's beard! The Hobbit knew little next to nothing of the world outside his Hobbit Hole! Why on earth had Gandalf wanted to bring the useless creature? To hold his staff and hat when required? For this was indeed the only use Thorin could see for Bilbo.

With yet a sharper edge , "No Mr. Baggins. We have not. And we will not if you carry on so."

"It wasn't my idea to go along with you! You are the last person I should want to be stuck with on this..." he waved his hand angrily searching for the word, "Ridiculous treasure-hunt turned disaster!"

Thorin turned at that, "Ridiculous treasure-hunt?!"

Bilbo had started, and perhaps his Tookish side had something to do with it or his growing disgruntlement, but at any rate he was not ready to stop. "Yes! Ridiculous! All of it!"

Thorin looked as if he heartily disagreed with that statement, but then appeared to settle down, "Of course, you are but a Hobbit, and I should not expect you to understand the ways of the world." He smirked condescendingly.

Bilbo bristled at these words. "That may be so," The Hobbit answered with an air of dignity,"But it is no cause to be uncivil. And that's precisely how you have been behaving these last few hours Thorin."

"We'll turn Northeast here." Thorin said, on purposely changing the subject. Although he would not admit it, he was actually somewhat ruffled by the Hobbit's observation. Perhaps he was indeed letting his disdain for the Hobbit show too clearly; perhaps he ought to make a greater effort... It wasn't as if it was entirely the Hobbit's fault. Gandalf had been the one to insist that he be brought along after all.

While Thorin was having these thoughts, Bilbo sighed and shouldered his pack. This would be a long day.


"I think I'll write a book. I've been taking so many notes on the peoples we've encountered, so I expect a book is as good a use as any for them." Bilbo mused out loud.

"Shh!" Thorin glanced around the woods and gingerly tapped the ground with his boot. His brow furrowed in puzzlement.

"Something's not right..." He said slowly.

"What are you talking about? I can't hear a thing!" Bilbo looked worried. He should have been the first to hear anything...

"I tell you, the Earth is rumbling in displeasure! Just listen! I can feel it! Something has happened!" Thorin stroked his beard.

"But-" Bilbo began.

"Mr. Baggins, if it is impossible for you to keep silent-", Thorin never finished this sentence, for much to his terror, and that of Mr. Baggins, the ground caved in below him in one terrible and hungry opening. With a shout Thorin disappeared.

"Thorin! Thorin!" Bilbo squeaked in dismay.

Scampering around the edge of that gaping hole, and nearly falling in himself once or twice, he craned his head attempting to discover Thorin's fate.

What he saw relieved him. Thorin, covered in a good amount of soil and looking terribly displeased and anxious for his own safety, was hanging by a single large tree root. Luckily his position was one which Bilbo could reach, and he started forward to offer his hand.

Spitting out soil the Dwarf, seeing the danger to Bilbo's plan shouted out, "Don't be ridiculous Baggins, and don't come any closer! I'm much too heavy for you. and you won't be able to pull me up without falling in yourself."

One must remember that Thorin was one of the larger Dwarves, and therefore a good deal larger than Bilbo. This, combined with the light armor and mail he was wearing and the treacherous soil, would undoubtedly be too much for Bilbo to manage.

"Well what am I supposed to do!?" Bilbo shouted in vexation.

Thorin attempted to find a foothold, and was about to say something, "Baggins, I-"

"Wait wait wait wait! I have an idea! Hang on!" Bilbo disappeared and Thorin sighed, and muttered morosely, "That is precisely what I am doing..." He glanced down at the rumbling earth below him. It looked to be a terribly long drop.

He was suddenly interrupted from his thoughts by a rope promptly falling into his face accompanied by a shower of soil. Coughing on the dust, he shouted back out, "Good work Baggins!"

Bilbo called back, "Just half a moment!" a slight pause and then, "Right! Can you pull yourself up?"

Thorin gladly swung himself onto the rope, climbing up the shaft with ease. Bilbo had wrapped the line around a tree, bracing himself against it and giving it all he was worth. The look of relief on Bilbo's face when Thorin appeared from the edge was indeed sincere, although his dirty appearance was of a comical nature, and any other person might have laughed.

Bilbo gave a grateful sigh, "Well! I thought I'd lost you there for a moment! Good to have you back", Bilbo grinned and he meant it.

Thorin had a strange look, and genuinely seemed uncomfortable. "I am..., indebted to you Bilbo, and I owe you my life." He coughed here, possibly because of the soil, or possibly for other reasons, "Thank you."

Bilbo looked surprised. Thorin actually acting civil? Well this was the age of miracles. "Well, that's what friends are for, or so they say." He managed out with a wry smile.

Thorin, seeming to catch the Hobbit's unspoken amusement smiled back, as he said, "Well, it seems you are finally earning your keep." On a more serious note he added, "I will not forget this Bilbo Baggins. You have done me a great service."

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOo O

"I leave for but a day, a single day, and I return to find that you have misplaced your leader and my burglar!" Gandalf said with a good amount of irritation.

"It wasn't exactly our fault Master Gandalf." Balin replied , "It might have all been avoided if you saw fit to stay with your chosen company." He eyed Gandalf with some defiance.

"As I told you before, I had business elsewhere. I had trusted in your ability to safeguard yourselves for at least a little while. But even that proved disastrous. And now you have no leader or burglar. A fine mess if I might say so." Gandalf glared at Balin, as if to drive his point in still harder.

Balin looked as if he might return the glare, but perhaps better judgement kept him from angering the wizard further. He seemed to inwardly sigh, "Very well. Perhaps you will now help us to correct the situation."

The wizard, sensing his triumph went on, "Yes, I will. There are some ruins a days journey up the road. Wait there until my return; I will attempt to find your leader for you."

With stiff politeness Balin bowed slightly to Gandalf, "A generous offer. You have our gratitude."

Gandalf said nothing, and merely smoked his pipe for a few moments in silence. Watching as Balin directed the other dwarves into making preparations for another day's travel, however, Fili and Kili did not seem very pleased. They approached the wizard with very determined looks on their faces.

"Master Gandalf." Fili began, "We would accompany you on your quest."

Gandalf, guessing their reasons and looking incredibly amused by them, took his pipe out of his mouth, "And why, might I ask?"

Fili answered, "It's a matter of honor and friendship."

Kili nodded in agreement. "Our uncle and a friend is in possible danger. We would not stay behind when there is something we can do."

"And if I refuse I suppose I would have to order Balin to tie you both up. It seems the entire line of Durin is as stubborn as the earth itself." Gandalf mused aloud.

Fili and Kili grinned, "We'll take that as a compliment, thank you very much."

Gandalf thought this over for a moment, as Fili and Kili hung onto that pause, and then gave his verdict.

"Very well, very well. Make ready then. I will wait for you."

Fili and Kili bowed in unison, and left to gather their belongings.

Gandalf smiled. The joy in these youngsters was indeed wonderful to see. Their zest for life and their unquenchable spirit for adventure made all around feel lighter as it was. A pity their sunlight had not penetrated Thorin.

But life is full of unforeseen turns. Who knows? Perhaps one day. He thought.