Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Note: Apparently The Hobbit was what my LotR muses needed. Here's this. To begin with. ;-) More fics (and updates) coming soon.
Special mention to Elliska, who always manages to make me feel guilty enough to post. *g* Cheers, hon!
Summary: Bilbo Baggins finds someone to talk to before (and after) the Battle of the Five Armies.
A Hobbit and an Elf
Bilbo Baggins, not for the first time, wished he were home. Sneaking into the lair of a live dragon was one thing – and a bad enough thing on its own. But standing here, amidst a crowd of Elves and Dwarves and Men preparing to battle an army of Goblins and Wargs? Standing here in the uncomfortable knowledge that if he died on an Orc's sword he would never go home to keep his mother's furniture safe from the Sackville-Bagginses' greedy hands?
All around him, armed, battle-ready warriors were splitting into small groups. The Dwarves were polishing armour and sharpening axes, laughing raucously at the thought of the coming fight and passing around flagons of ale. The Men were silent, tense, looking to Bard for orders and following them quietly.
The Elves alarmed Bilbo more than either the Dwarves or the Men. They were silent as well, but they were not tense. They were silent with a barely-leashed fury that terrified the Hobbit down to his toes.
Bilbo had never angered an Elf. He had never, for that matter, seen a truly angry Elf. The Elven-king had seemed merely put out by the trespassing Dwarves and Thorin's refusal to bargain. Irritable, perhaps, but not furious.
King Thranduil looked furious now.
He no longer wore the woodland crown and light cloak he had worn for the forest feast. He was clad in armour, hefting his sword in his right hand with the air of one who knew how to use it. A small group of Elves surrounded him. Bilbo recognized one of them, a slender, golden-haired archer, as the leader of the group that had taken Thorin captive. He could hear them speaking, rapid, hasty murmurs that sounded somehow more beautiful than anything he'd ever heard.
Bilbo sighed. He had hoped not to die so far from home.
The Elves around Thranduil finished their conversation and separated to issue orders to the others. The Elven warriors began to gather in their ranks, racing through the camp on light feet. The air was heavy with tension.
It was only when a light, cheerful voice asked, "What worries you, Master Halfling?" that Bilbo realized he'd been staring moodily at the ground for several minutes.
He looked up to see the golden-haired Elf looking down at him. Bilbo found himself responding to the concern in the archer's gaze.
"I've never been in a battle before," he confessed.
He expected to be laughed at, but instead the Elf nodded as though that was perfectly reasonable. Bilbo wondered how many battles he had been in. "There will be no time for fear in the heat of the fighting. You will do well."
He spoke with some hesitation, not fully at ease in the unfamiliar language.
Bilbo shook his head. "I've never been in a battle before. I never even held a sword until Gandalf came with those blessed Dwarves and called me a burglar! I have never fought anything!" He shook his head. "I don't understand… Why do you fight?"
He expected to be brushed aside, but the Elf gave the question serious consideration before saying, "To defend my home. And because it is my duty. Why do you fight, Master Baggins?"
"I don't know."
The Elf looked sympathetic. "Battle has been forced upon you. I do not envy you."
"Do you –" Bilbo hesitated over the question, certain it would offend his companion, but it seemed pulled out of him. "Do you never resent your King for forcing you to fight?"
An odd expression passed over the Elf's face. Bilbo trembled, certain he was about to killed, but in the end the Elf shrugged. "It is true that the King orders me into battle, but I would go in any case. I do not enjoy it – it would be a terrible thing to enjoy destruction, even the destruction of evil creatures. But the King is not to blame. He does the best he can. It is not easy to hold our borders against the evil in the woods."
A soft horn sounded nearby. The Elf sighed.
"Is that a signal?" Bilbo asked.
"It means I must go. The archers are ready." The Elf bowed formally. "Elbereth protect you, Master Baggins."
"Wait!" The Elf, about to turn away, paused and cast a questioning glance at Bilbo. "I don't know your name."
The Elf smiled slightly. "My name is Legolas. It was a pleasure to meet you, Master Baggins."
As Legolas walked away, somebody called his name. Bilbo watched as he turned and hurried back to the King. There was a hasty conversation, and Thranduil cast a darkly suspicious glance in Bilbo's direction. Bilbo felt a strong urge to hide, but Legolas appeared unperturbed, so he stood his ground and nodded politely at the Elven-king.
The King's glare only intensified, but Legolas said something that made him turn away from Bilbo and look closely at the archer. His expression softened, and he patted Legolas' shoulder with something almost like affection.
Bilbo stared. That the proud, haughty Elven-king was even capable of affection was something he would never have imagined.
Legolas and Thranduil parted, Legolas going to the archers who stood waiting some distance away, Thranduil mounting his horse and moving towards the head of the army.
Bilbo was packing when Legolas found him again. He was glad of it; he had wanted to say goodbye to his new friend before he left.
"Mithrandir tells me you do not wish to set foot in the forest," Legolas said without preamble. Bilbo flushed, hoping he hadn't offended his Elven companion. "I do not blame you," Legolas said with a wry smile, correctly interpreting the Hobbit's reaction. "There are few now who do. The darkness of the Enemy descends upon us."
Bilbo nodded, not knowing what to say. Legolas seemed remarkably composed, considering the ferocity of the battle they'd just seen.
"You are troubled." The Elf shook his head. "We have just won a famous victory, Master Baggins. You will have many tales to tell your people when you return."
Bilbo thought of the Shire, warm and comfortable, with its green growing things and its gentle streams and his own hobbit-hole under the hill. Then he thought of dragons and mountains and treasure.
He wanted to cry.
Legolas' gaze was gentle. "It was your first battle." A light hand dropped to Bilbo's shoulder. "I was far older than you are, I think, when I faced my first battle. I could not rest for days afterward."
"Thorin's dead," Bilbo said. "He was good. Stubborn, but good."
Legolas smiled. "Kings can be like that. From what I have heard of him, Thorin was a great king and a noble warrior. His friends will mourn his passing."
"It was all for treasure, though. That was what they wanted, the goblins. Treasure. Was it worth so many dying to protect some gold coins and colourful stones? Was it worth the Dwarves having to face this grief in what should have been their hour of triumph?"
"Thorin Oakenshield did not die for gold and silver. He died to defend his home, lost and reclaimed at such great cost."
"Did you…" Bilbo hesitated over the question, but Legolas had been courteous. "Did you lose any of your friends today?"
A shadow passed over the Elf's face. "Some of my kin have fallen. It has been a hard victory."
"Was it worth the cost? To the Elves?"
"Had it not been, we would not have taken the field. We have spent countless years holding the borders of the Woodland Realm against the shadow. The Watchful Peace was no more than a respite, and now…" Legolas shook his head. "The days grow dark, Master Baggins. We who patrol the Elf-path know that better than any. Your company of Dwarves was fortunate we found them; their fate might have been far worse than a few days in the King's cellars."
"It was weeks," Bilbo pointed out.
"Days, weeks." Legolas shrugged. "In any case, the King might have released them if they had told him their purpose."
Legolas laughed. "I believe so. He has no love for Dwarves, but he was more concerned about what harm they might intend to our people. But he must like you; I hear he has named you Elf-friend." As Bilbo fastened the last strap, Legolas helped him slide his pack onto his shoulders. "May the stars shine upon your journey, Master Baggins. We will meet again."
Bilbo opened his mouth to respond, but he was interrupted when a voice said abruptly, "Legolas."
Elf and Hobbit both turned to see the Elven-king standing a few feet away. He still wore his mail and carried his sword.
"My King." Legolas bowed formally.
"Are you injured?"
"I am unharmed."
"Good." Thranduil turned to Bilbo. "I take it Legolas has not managed to induce you to change your mind about entering the forest." It was not a question. "Have a safe journey home, Master Hobbit. And if you ever visit us again, do so without bringing an entourage of stone-eaters."
Legolas' twinkling smile warned Bilbo not to take the Elf-king's words too seriously. "Goodbye, Master Baggins."
"Goodbye… King Thranduil." Bilbo bowed awkwardly. "Goodbye, Legolas. Thank you."
Bilbo hurried away. At the edge of the camp he turned for one look back. Legolas and Thranduil were standing together, neither speaking. The Hobbit had a feeling that, perhaps, words were not needed.
Yeah, I know I need practice. But the Muses are just waking up again. ;-) The next one will have more plot!