Right guys, this is it. Last Chapter.
I don't even want to gab to much at this point so I'll make it as short as possible. First a massive, massive Thank you! to Feathered Filly who was somewhat the stumbling block for this story by giving me the simple plot bunny "Write Kíli being injured by the Great Goblin". I'm still amazed how a simple plot idea like that turned into a massive 50 Chapter project but I'm more than glad that it did. Second massive Thank you! to annarien, who regularly kicked my butt and talked over plot ideas with me and motivated me with wonderful Tolkien chats.
And of course the biggest Thank you! goes to all of you people who have reviewed, followed and liked this story. The feedback was amazing and I feel most honoured and grateful that you guys enjoyed this story so much.
Now, enjoy the last Chapter and I'll hopefully see you again in future stories!
Winter passed by and soon spring returned to Middle Earth.
The snow began to melt away, running down the slopes of Erebor in small, spluttering streams, the days grew longer and the sun cast the first warm rays of light down on the Desolation of Smaug. The grassland soon began to bloom with daffodils and dandelion and from the ruins of Dale, the sound of hammers and saws echoed across the valley, for the Men of Esgaroth and many Dwarves of Erebor had begun to rebuild the glorious city, Bard merrily bustling amongst them.
Within the massive fortress city, Fíli had established himself as a just and gentle King, strong and stern if he needed to be but with all the battles passed, his cheerful, cheeky ways soon returned and he remained prone to playing pranks on various members of his royal household, together with his brother of course. Dáin had returned to the Iron Hills, leaving Erebor with the confidence and knowledge that a true Heir of Durin sat on the throne once more and even Glóin had to admit that Fíli had the ability to be quite regal, though he prayed to Mahal that the youngster might show that trait some more.
Bilbo still enjoyed the Dwarven company and the first days of spring delighted him endlessly, for even though Hobbits lived under ground as well, the dark Halls of Erebor had soon begun to depress him a little. He spent most of the days outside, wandering around the spurs of the Lonely Mountain, following the little torrents that came gushing down the slopes and he listened to the ravens and thrushes that had returned after the hard, cold winter. The desire to return to the Shire grew stronger and stronger with each passing day, yet he was reluctant to talk to Fíli and Kíli about it, for he saw how cheerful and happy they were and he did not want them to worry for him.
One morning, it was mid-March already and the sun had already driven the chilly temperatures away, Bilbo was woken by soft knocks on the door to his chambers. He opened the door in his nightgown, to find the beautiful Lady Dís standing there, a smile on her gentle face and a mug of steaming tea in her hands.
"Good morning, Master Baggins."
"G-Good morning!" Bilbo chirped, quickly putting on a dressing gown, his ears burning again. "Can- Can I help you?"
"You can indeed", she smiled, handing him the mug. "You could get washed and dressed and then have a quick breakfast."
"Quick, yes. There is a surprise waiting for you."
"F- for me?" the Hobbit blushed and immediately began to bustle about, washing himself in the room next door and putting on his pants, shirt, vest and he looked most surprised when Dís handed him his cloak as well, still smiling gently. He followed her downstairs, grabbed a few bites to eat and wondered silently, what that surprise she had spoken of would be. She led him straight to the Gates and when he stepped outside, he stopped dead in his tracks and stared in wonder.
"Good morning Master Baggins. Beautiful day for a journey, isn't it?"
Before him stood four ponies, small and sturdy and packed with provisions and the few belongings that Bilbo had brought and received in the past weeks. They were saddled and bridled and on three of them sat Fíli, Kíli and Ori, looking like they had done the day they had first appeared in Bag End.
"We figured that you might have enough of Erebor by now but travelling to the Shire alone would be a tad boring right?" Kíli smiled and Bilbo stood speechless. "So we'd like to keep you company as well, if you don't mind."
"You- you'll take me home?"
"You helped us returning to our home, so it's just naturally that we help you return to yours now", Fíli smiled as well.
"Though you will be greatly missed here, Master Baggins", Bilbo turned around when he heard Bofur's voice in his back and he found the whole company standing by the Gate.
"I- I", the Hobbit stammered, failing to find the right words and tears dwelled up in his eyes for he had longed for this day and yet a sudden sadness befell him. Returning to Bag End meant to leave behind those wonderful, wonderful friends he had made.
They said their goodbyes, hugging the crying little Hobbit, tousling his hair and they tried to cheer him up again, thanking him for the wonderful times and complimenting his non-existent skills as a burglar. Even Dís embraced him lovingly and kissed his forehead, making Bilbo blush badly again. When they finally set off, he looked back over his shoulder many times, waving and crying quietly and when he searched his pockets for a handkerchief, he cried even more for he found the rag that Bofur had given him on their departure from Bag End.
Fíli had left Erebor in the hands of his mother, insisting on guiding Bilbo back home personally and the Hobbit felt very much reminded of their time at Radagast's house. It was the four of them again, the closest friends of the whole company. Fíli at the lead, Kíli close by, Ori smiling quietly, equipped with maps and empty notebooks for his drawing and stories and Bilbo, secretly wishing for this journey to never end. They passed through Dale and Bilbo said his goodbyes to Bard, who wished him a safe journey and invited him to come to Dale once it was rebuilt, an invitation that Bilbo gladly accepted.
The Hobbit looked back at the impressive Gates of Erebor, framed by the two massive statutes of Durin and Thráin the First and he looked at the waterfalls crashing down into the valley again and it dawned on him, that he had been part of one of the most glorious adventure one could imagine, for he had seen a Kingdom rising from the ashes.
They began to travel on the same road they had taken on their way to Erebor, passing through Esgaroth again and then following the river up to the Mirkwood. They visited Beorn's house again on the way and stayed with him for a couple of days, telling him the story of Smaug and of the Battle of the Five Armies and Beorn once again enjoyed their stories and rewarded them with honey and milk. They even climbed the Carrock together and marvelled at the wonderful view overlooking the Anduin and they glimpsed at the borders of Lothlórien in the South. They slept under the stars again and travelled in the bright sunlight, laughing and singing and chatting and it was then that Bilbo came up with the verses that would remain in the memory of the Dwarves forever.
The Road goes ever on and on,
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted Inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet!
While they travelled, Bilbo looked back on the adventure they had shared and he remembered many moments that made his little Hobbit heart swell and often tears dwelled in his eyes but they were tears of joy for the memories were beautiful and happy and brought a smile to his face.
He remembered Fíli and Kíli standing at his door in Bag End, smiling bright at him.
"You must be Mr Boggins!"
He remembered their song and laughter and the flying pots and plates and he remembered Thorin stepping into his home, tall and proud.
"So. This is the Hobbit."
He remembered Balin smiling at him, the contract in his hands.
"Welcome, Master Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield!"
He remembered standing in the forest, two bowls with stew in his hands and Fíli and Kíli by his side, staring bewildered into the dark.
"We were supposed to be looking after the ponies."
"Only we've encountered a slight problem."
He remembered Fíli standing before Lord Elrond while his brother was gravely wounded.
"Neither am I a warrior, nor have I ever seen wounds like these before. In fact, I have never travelled this far in my life and I never had to fight Goblins or other foul creatures. And never was I afraid for my brother's life before. I am only standing here as an ordinary Dwarf, asking you to save my brother."
He remembered the countless pranks the boys had played on him and Thorin telling them off every now and then and it only dawned on Bilbo then, that Thorin might have liked him more than he would have admitted.
„Boys, what did I tell you about bullying the Hobbit?"
„That it is all fun and games until he has a heart attack."
Bilbo had been most surprised when the Dwarves agreed to rest at Rivendell once again and Lord Elrond welcomed them in his beautiful home. They stayed for a few days and Bilbo marvelled at the glory of Rivendell once more, while Elrond honoured Fíli as the new King under the Mountain and listened to the tales of their adventures, promising a good and prosperous relationship with the Dwarves of Erebor once again. When they set off again, the memories came back and again, Bilbo smiled along the way.
He remembered their stay at Rhosgobel and the many headaches Radagast had suffered from with Fíli and Kíli playing pranks and Ori cleaning all of his belongings.
"WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE VALAR ARE YOU TWO DOING?!"
He remembered how he had beat Fíli in a fight.
"That was most unfair, Master Baggins! But very effective. Very effective indeed… ow…"
He remembered Kíli shooting an arrow into Beorn's behind.
"Oi! Paws off our food!"
He remembered how Ori had saved them by telling the story of the Nauglamír and how he had honestly ridden a real horse, just like Bullroarer Took had done.
He remembered Kíli swooning over Dáin.
"Dáin is his childhood hero."
He remembered the battle down in Mount Gundabad and the bravery of the youngsters.
"BOLG OF THE NORTH! THE DWARVES OF EREBOR HAVE COME TO CLAIM YOUR HEAD!"
He remembered Thorin smiling at him, the Key to Erebor in his hands.
"You indeed are a brave and most talented burglar, Master Baggins. I am sorry that I doubted you."
He remembered venturing out into the Mirkwood with Kíli to ask the Elves for help in saving Fíli's life and he remembered the face of the youngster when he thought of his brother.
"It's a nice thing, you know. To have a brother. They protect you and keep you warm and teach you everything they know. They take the blame when your mother scolds you, they stand up for you and they know how to beat you up well enough until you learned your lesson. And when you're close to losing them, you're close to losing the most important part of your life and it feels like choking slowly."
He remembered Kíli standing up to Thranduil, proud and brave like only a Dwarf of the Line of Durin could.
"My name is Kíli, son of Dís, nephew of Thorin Oakenshield."
He remembered the tears in the brothers' eyes when they first saw their home and the joy he had felt for them that day. He remembered how they had found him in the Hall of Thráin and how they had embraced him and held him close while he was crying.
"Oh dear. There, there, we're all fine."
He remembered the youngsters picking out their golden harps and playing them.
"We don't need much."
"Only music and happiness."
He remembered Kíli's face when Fíli awoke again after the dreadful battle, alive and sound and never before had he seen such relief and joy.
"You've come back to me."
"Promised you, didn't I?"
He remembered Fíli's coronation and the beautiful feast and the many merry moments he had spent in Erebor, in the company of his beloved friends that had grown close to him like brothers would and he missed every single one of them greatly already.
They arrived in Bag End on a warm midsummer's eve and when they rode down the narrow paths between the countless Hobbit Holes and the green hills, the Hobbits stared at them in awe for they had dressed up nicely on purpose, looking most noble and proud and Bilbo nodded greetings at them, silently smirking at their dumbstruck faces.
The Dwarves stayed with Bilbo for many days, reminiscing about their adventures and they tried not to mess up his home again and Bilbo greatly enjoyed their company and wished for them to stay with him forever. The day of their departure came soon however and even Fíli, usually calm and collected, shed some tears when he said his goodbye to the Hobbit.
"You will be in our hearts forever, Bilbo Baggins. Never forget that."
When he looked after them, waving and waiting by the door until they had disappeared down the hill and out of sight, he stepped back into his home and looked around himself and it suddenly felt very surreal to be back in Bag End. So much lay behind him, so little ahead and he clung to the many memories he had left and he smiled, certain that he would, one day, return to Erebor and see the marvellous beauty of this shining Kingdom again.
And he saw Thorin standing before him, tall and proud and he remembered the last words he had spoken to him and he quietly smiled to himself.
"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."