"So why exactly do you need me," Bilbo asked.
"Well, you're a hobbit and the dragon most likely hasn't ever smelled anything like you before. That means you can sneak in when we can't," one of the dwarves stated. I didn't have all of the names down pat just yet.
"Have you given him the contract yet," Thorin asked the older dwarf to his right.
"No I haven't," he replied and began to rummage around in a bag. "Ah here it is," he exclaimed pulling out a thick piece of parchment and handing it to Bilbo.
Bilbo took the parchment and began to read it muttering to himself. That was when Gandalf turned to me.
"Tell us more about yourself young Nissa. I'm sure we would all like to hear your story," he stated smoking on his pipe.
I instantly felt uncomfortable. It had long been ingrained in me that speaking of the Fae was punishable by death. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I since I no longer was allowed in the Fae lands, then I could speak freely of them.
"Like I said before I'm from the Western Fae Kingdom. My mother died giving birth to me and my father died dong his duty as a member of our border patrol. My family wasn't very well liked. But I did have friends. However, while I am no longer welcome there, I can't tell you everything you want to know. I still wish to protect my former home in return for everything they have taught me," I answered.
The dwarves nodded in understanding. However, the one called Thorin seemed unsatisfied with my response.
"I get the feeling you aren't telling us everything," Gandalf stated.
I nodded in agreement. "Isn't everyone allowed to have secrets they keep to protect themselves," I asked.
"Perhaps," Thorin stated. "But even so, there are times when even secrets must be shared."
"Maybe someday I will tell you those secrets," I responded.
"You can either tell me those secrets now, or I play the part of judge and keep you as my prisoner until you have seen the error of your ways," Thorin answered standing up.
The young dwarves I was sitting next to barely had time to grab my arms before I lunged at Thorin, anger easily seen on my features. Yet again Thorin had a weapon pointed at me.
"Don't you dare judge me! You know nothing of me or the things I've been through," I exclaimed struggling to break free from the dwarves pulling me back into my seat.
To my surprise Gandalf was chuckling. "I've often heard of the fae having fiery tempers but seeing it in action is quite different." He took another drag on his pipe.
"Funeral arrangements? Lacerations? Incineration..," Bilbo muttered turning back towards the rest of us, completely unaware of what transpired in his dining room.
One of the other dwarves piped up. "Aye, he'll melt the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye," he stated as if it were no big deal.
Bilbo began to breathe heavily getting more nervous by the second as he pondered the words and the contract.
"You alright laddie," the dwarf that handed him the contract, Balin I believe, asked him.
"I think I'm going to faint," Bilbo replied.
"Think furnace, with wings," Bofur stated.
"I need air," Bilbo muttered.
Bofur continued, "Flash of light, searing pain, then poof you're nothing more than a pile of ash."
Bilbo tried to get his breathing under control but seemed to be failing. "Nope." He fell to the floor. Everyone seemed a little bit stunned.
Gandalf got the help of the two youngest dwarves, the brothers Fili and Kili to carry Bilbo into his sitting room and prop him into a chair. Gandalf roused him and began to chat with him.
I was pulled aside by Thorin. He cornered me in Bilbos kitchen and began to talk. "I don't trust you. It's not just because you aren't telling me everything. That is a part of it. I can't place it entirely. But since I can't trust you I have no choice but to take you along with us."
I glared at him. He had no right to be making decisions for me. I could handle myself perfectly fine. Well, I would be able to once I had a decent weapon.
Thorin continued on his rant. "If you make one wrong move I promise you it will be your last."
Just then Balin cleared his throat getting Thorin's attention. Thorin walked off to discuss something with the man. I wandered back to the dining room leaving them to their devices.
"It appears we have lost our burglar. Probably for the best. The odds were always against us. After all, what are we? Merchants, miners, tinkers, toy-makers. And now a fairy. Hardly the stuff of legend," Balin stated to Thorin.
"There are a few warriors amongst us," Thorin replied with a small smile.
"I will take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they answered. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask for no more than that."
"You don't have to do this," Balin stated. "You have a choice. You've done honorably by our people. You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains. A life of peace and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor."
Thorin paused before replying, "From my grandfather to my father, this key has come to me. They dreamt of the day when the dwarves of Erebor could reclaim their mountain. There is no choice Balin. Not for me."
Balin nodded his head. "Then we are with ya laddie. We will see it done." He patted Thorin on the arm in comfort.
It seemed like I was to not be left alone. When the other dwarves, not counting Thorin and Balin, had moved to Bilbo's sitting room I was dragged along with them. Bilbo had already shown me where I could spend the night away from the others in privacy. But now here I was, stuck with the dwarves for the time being.
As Thorin and Balin walked in the others began to hum. It was deep and earthy, slowly sending me into a bit of a trance.
That was when Thorin began to sing, his voice like a deep rumble:
"Far over the misty mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day to find our long forgotten gold…"
The other dwarves began to join in and I started slipping farther into my trance when I noticed Gandalf watching me.
"The pines were roaring on the height,
The winds were moaning, in the night,
The fire was red, it flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light…"
That was all it took for me to start seeing. It was a combination of the past and the future. I saw Dale burning, then felt a searing pain in my left shoulder while catching glimpse of trees burning all around me on an outcropping of a small mountain. Then it jumped even more into the future allowing me to see glimpses of an upcoming war.
I must have cried out at some point because next thing I knew Gandalf was shaking me to get my attention. All eyes were on me.
"Nissa! Are you alright," Gandalf asked me, worry clearly etched on his face.
I nodded, not yet able to gather my words together. I slowly stood up with Gandalf's help. "I'm fine. I think I'm probably just tired," I answered. With that I left the sitting room to head to the guest room Bilbo was letting me use. It didn't take me long to fall asleep that night.
I awoke the next morning to find Balin about to knock on my door.
"We'll be leaving in a few minutes lassie. Hurry up," he stated before walking away.
It didn't take me long to gather my meager pack of belongings and join the rest of them outside. Dawn was just beginning.
"There you are young Nissa," Gandalf called. He was holding the reins of a horse and a pony. I walked over to him. "This here is your pony. His name is Tom," he said handing me the reins.
Tom was a dark gray color. I nervously looked around me, watching the dwarves finish tying things to the saddles.
"I take it you've never ridden a pony before."
I jumped at the voice behind me. It was one of the younger dwarves, with dark hair very similar to Thorins. I shook my head. Ponies were never needed in fae lands, especially when we can simply travel from tree to tree.
"Kili, right," I asked still unsure of the names of all the dwarves around me.
He smiled. "Let me help you." He took my small pack and tied it behind the saddle on the pony, keeping it to where it was easily accessible for me. Kili then turned back to me. "Would you like some help getting in the saddle the first time," he asked.
I bit my lip. I'd never ridden before and I wasn't in the mood to make a fool of myself. "Sure," I replied with a small smile. "But no funny business."
Fili smiled even bigger if it was possible. He pointed to the foot hold on the side of the saddle closest to us. "This is the stirrup. Your left foot will go there and your right foot will go in the one on the other side. Try getting in the saddle. I won't let you fall."
It didn't seem too difficult to me. I put my left foot in the stirrup and swung myself up and over onto the saddle putting my right foot into the other stirrup. I looked down at Kili with a questioning look. I could handle fighting but this was completely out of my territory.
"Perfect," he said pulling the reins up over the ponys head and handing them to me. "These are your reins. You use them to direct the pony in which direction you want to go. Those are the basics. Ride by Fili and I. We'll make sure you're a pro at this in no time," he stated before returning to his own pony.
I looked at the company I was with. Excluding the young ones they all seemed serious about the quest they were about to embark on. And here I was about to be dragged into it. I didn't ask for this. I only wanted to mind my own business. But at the same time, they were headed in the same direction I was. At least this way whatever spies the council had sent after me would definitely know that I was following the rules of my banishment.
Soon enough were on the road, just as the sun started to peek her rays over the horizon, Gandalf and Thorin leading the train of dwarves closely followed by Balin and his brother Dwalin. The rest of us just kind of followed along in no particular order. I noticed that every now and then both Thorin and Gandalf kept glancing back at me, both for entirely different reasons.
Fili and Kili were very talkative. As stoic and silent as I tried to be, they soon had me laughing along at their stories. Eventually a bet was taking place on how soon our former host would be joining us. It astounded me just how fast I considered myself a part of this group. I had never felt like I belonged in the fae lands but it had been my home. Now though, I was nothing more than an addition to a group with a goal in mind: taking back their own home from a dragon.
Soon enough Bilbo came hollering from behind calling out for us to wait. He ran up to where Balin had stopped his pony.
"I signed it," he stated trying to catch his breath.
Balin looked it over closely before replying, "Everything appears to be in order. Welcome, Master Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield."
Everyone chuckled a little bit before Thorin called out for them to get Bilbo on a pony. Despite his protests Bilbo was soon placed on a pony.
Gandalf came back to ride next to Bilbo, behind Fili, Kili and myself. They started to chat for awhile until bags of gold began to fly around. Gandalf ended up explaining the situation before catching his own winnings.
I had a feeling that Gandalf wanted to discuss last night with me and sure enough Fili and Kili left to go bother one of the other dwarves and Gandalf pulled up beside me.
"I have a feeling you don't want to tell me every detail of what happened last night," he stated before looking over at me. I hung my head before agreeing. Gandalf continued, "Will you at least tell me what happened?"
I thought about it before answering, "One of the gifts I have is the gift of sight. It's never triggered in the same way twice. Sometimes it's a smell or a word that is spoken. Other times, like last night, it's a song. I never know when it's going to happen. It just does."
Gandalf was quiet for a few minutes absorbing what I had told him before asking, "Care to tell me what you saw?"
"When it makes more sense to me I might tell you, but even if I wanted to I couldn't explain any of it right now," I replied.
Gandalf left it at that and we continued on our journey eastward.