I'm alive guys...and this is an actual update. Surprise! Sorry it took so freakin' long. I deleted the stupid poem, I felt bad whenever I looked at it. c:

I'm sorry if it's bad, I just got over the worst case of writer's block ever. e3e

Chapter Seventeen - Red Runes

Unbidden tears sprang to Bilbo's eyes as he slowly opened them; his head felt as though it had been smashed into several pieces and thrown into a particularly sweltering fire. It was the strangest sensation, and he clamped his eyes shut in a feeble effort to keep the ache at bay. He remained that way, sprawled on the floor, for several minutes before suddenly remembering why he was there in the first place. Ignoring the pain and vertigo that moving at all brought on, the Hobbit began the arduous task of dragging himself back into the room.

After several minutes of pained gasps and barely-controlled nausea, Bilbo closed the door quietly behind him and leaned against it, closing his eyes once again. Though he was beginning to feel a little better, and a quick examination of his head revealed there was no bleeding, the Halfling was still at a loss of what to do next. It was obviously he should try to find Thorin, of course…but what could he possibly accomplish once that was done?

Steeling his mind against such thoughts, Bilbo pulled himself to his feet and shuffled over to his bag. It was still night, fortunately; the strange kidnapper could not have gone far; but the absence of light worked against Bilbo as he searched for the Ring and a tonic to sooth his aching head. A plan had begun to form amongst the haze of his thoughts, still jumbled from the whack to his head, and he clung to it, relieved to have something to keep his mind off the fact that Thorin could be… The Hobbit's stomach clenched for a brief second, but relaxed as his fingers closed around the familiar coolness of the Ring. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips as he took a deep breath and slid the band onto his finger. He then belted Sting around his waist and checked to be sure Jango was still fast asleep before heading out into the hallway.

Bilbo was quite glad he was invisible as he began to search through the shadowy hallways; his belt kept inching up his hips and under his shirt, reminding him of how foolish he looked stalking around an inn in his nightclothes. Thankfully (though it wouldn't have mattered anyway), he saw no one as he followed the trail of faint, muddy boot prints and upturned corners of carpets. The kidnapper was apparently unafraid of pursuers, as he had made no attempt to conceal where he had taken the Dwarf-king.

A shiver crept up the Hobbit's spine as he surveyed the world of the Ring closely for the first time. It was as though all color had been sucked out of the living world, to be replaced with whipping winds and ghostly, flickering lights. He quickened his pace and returned his thoughts to the task at hand, trying and failing to shake the unsettling feeling of being watched.

Glancing down to the floor, Bilbo stopped abruptly as he realized that the trail had stopped several yards back. He retraced his steps and cursed under his breath; the malicious Dwarf had apparently taken Thorin into one of the near rooms, but the Hobbit couldn't be sure which one. Hopefully it wasn't locked.

"Well," he said aloud to himself, "I won't find out standing here…" Bouncing on the balls of his feet for a moment as he screwed up his courage, Bilbo crossed to the nearest door, turned the knob as gently as possible and pushed it open. It swung on silent hinges, revealing nothing but an empty room, beds made and ready for guests. Not bothering to shut the door, Bilbo moved to the next one, becoming slightly more worried as it too revealed an uninhabited room. His hand stopped on the knob of the third door; he could hear obnoxious snoring from inside, and decided not to try his luck with an occupied room.

Finally, after many more doors and one close call involving a young girl screaming about ghosts only to be shushed by her father, Bilbo pressed his ear against the door he was looking for. A sigh of relief slipped passed his lips as Thorin's voice drifted to his ears. The Dwarf-king sounded woozy and disgruntled, but, mercifully, very much alive. Unsheathing Sting, the Hobbit pushed opened the door as little as possible and slithered inside, pausing for a moment before making his way into the room.

Thorin had stopped speaking mid-word, and was now staring at the door with a strange mix of emotions on his face. Bilbo stifled a chuckle; he could almost see the gears grinding in the Dwarf-king's brain, piecing together what must have occurred. The moment dissipated, however, as the scruffy Dwarven kidnapper twisted to see what had drawn his prisoner's gaze. Upon observing the empty room, he turned back to Thorin, and Bilbo released the breath he was unaware he had been holding. He began looking around to the room, praying for a relatively easy way to remedy Thorin's situation.

The Dwarf-king was currently sitting on the floor, his arms tied behind his back and around the leg of a heavy table. He was dressed in nothing but a pair of thin trousers and a shirt usually worn under his clothes, and his eyes were blazing; Bilbo could see no reason why he wasn't putting up more of a fight. The Halfling pushed this from his mind as his eyes fell on the kidnapper's staff, which was currently propped against the wall behind its owner. An uncharacteristically wicked grin spread over Bilbo's face as his plan blossomed into being. It was perfect, he thought; easy and ironic.

Closing the distance between them in several strides, Bilbo hefted the staff and gripped it tightly with both hands before swinging it as hard as he possibly could at the back of the strange Dwarf's head. It connected with a nauseating crack and the Dwarf crumpled. He was lucky to be alive; if Bilbo had been only a few inches farther away, heavy, spiked head of the staff would have been buried in his skull.

Bilbo nudged the Dwarf with his foot several times before removing the Ring and scampering to Thorin's side. The Dwarf-king was apparently lost for words; he stared up at his little friend in questioning disbelief for several seconds before speaking.

"How…how did you-" Bilbo shrugged as he placed a finger over his own lips, signaling for silence. He began searching for something to cut Thorin's bonds; there would be time for talking later. A small hunting knife caught his attention, and he was soon back at the Dwarf-king's side. The knife was satisfyingly sharp and cut through the thick rope in mere seconds. Bilbo smiled, pleased with what he had achieved.

"Thorin… I'm glad you're safe. He didn't hurt you?" The Hobbit rested a tentative hand on Thorin's muscled forearm as his previously content visage was replaced with one of concern. He had rarely seen the king ashamed or embarrassed, but there was no mistaking the slight color to Thorin's cheeks, or the expression on his face. "What's the ma-"

Bilbo clapped a hand over his mouth as Thorin gingerly pulled the shirt off, which the Hobbit now saw was covered in blotchy bloodstains that were barely visible against the dark fabric. He threw the knife, which was still in his hand, across the room; it was obvious now what it had been used for. Small runes had been carved in Thorin's skin all over his back and shoulders, and were oozing freely onto the floor. Resisting the urge to retch, Bilbo glanced over to the unconscious Dwarf and back to Thorin, who was sitting rigidly, his breathing shallow.

"I- Oh Thorin… I'll go get Gandalf-"

"No!" Bilbo, who was already on his way to the door, paused at the vehemence of Thorin's voice. "This is my burden, and I won't have anyone fawning over me. I'm- I'm fine."

Bilbo bit his lip hard to stop himself from protesting as the Dwarf-king struggled to his feet. Small drops of blood plopped onto the floor as he began to follow Bilbo to the door.

"Thorin, we can't just leave! He certainly can't stay here," Bilbo motioned to the other Dwarf, "and you're in no shape to be moving at all, let alone traipsing around the inn! You've lost too much blood already." The Halfling crossed his arms and glared up at his Dwarven friend; though they may be small, Hobbits were extremely stubborn, and Bilbo simply refused to let Thorin do something so incredibly stupid. Unfortunately however, Dwarves were also obstinate creatures.

"The cuts aren't deep, and they're hardly bleeding anymore." Thorin's voice was a low growl. "You can't carry him, and neither can I. Tie him up, and we'll come back later."

Choosing to ignore the evident flaws in this plan, Bilbo did as he was told; in minutes, the old Dwarf was bound in the same place as his captive was previously. The Hobbit then scooped up Thorin's shirt and walked back to his side.

"Can you put this back on, at least? So you're not…dripping everywhere?"

The Dwarf-king nodded slowly and allowed Bilbo to help slide the shirt up his arms. Wincing as the fabric scraped across his shoulders, Thorin took an abnormally shaky breath and straightened as much as he could. Though he hid his pain well as he walked proudly from the room, Bilbo could see the tiny winces and hitches in his step that only someone close to the king would notice.

Sighing as he followed Thorin, the Hobbit wondered for the umpteenth time since they had met what exactly was going on inside his friend's thick skull. If Thorin was aware that he was being incredibly dimwitted, Bilbo couldn't tell, though he sincerely hoped that the Dwarf-king learned something from the pain he was putting himself though.

"Please," Bilbo whispered to himself, "just let him be okay. Please…"

If Thorin had heard, he made no move to react.

Horrible ending, sorry. c: AT LEAST IT'S DONE- *le is shot*

I'm in the middle of a chapter for The Part that Hurts the Most as well. Getting The Hobbit on DVD and watching it four days in a row helped me get over my block.

Please follow, favorte and REVIEW PLEEEAAAASE because I think I might die if I don't get some response. I'LL DIE GUYS, I REALY WILL- *le is shot again*

Hope you enjoyed this long overdue update!