Description: Darkness is stirring everywhere in Middle-Earth and the Shire is no exception. With wolves and spiders and other foul things crossing the Bounds, Bounder Bilbo Baggins is sent to Bree with the hopes of find a Ranger or Bree-Hobbit to train the woefully unprepared Shire Bounders in the matter of defense. Instead he finds dwarves.

Warnings: Bounder!Bilbo, Female!Ori (cause…cause…he's just so damn cute in the movie, I couldn't resist!), Wandering Dwarves, AU, Slash (Main is a Bagginshield) and Het pairings, blood and gore, cursing, Utter buggering of the timeline and cannon.

Pairings:

Main (so far): Thilbo/Bagginshield, Fíli/Female!Ori

Others: Glóin/Ragna, Nori/Mjöll, Bifur/Eydís, Drogo Baggins/Primula Brandybuck, Hobson Gamgee/Daffy Roper

Language Notes:

"Westron"

»Khuzdul«

*Iglishmêk*

Others: As we're out of the Shire, I'll be sticking with the Steward's Reckoning (SDR). When we get back into the Shire, I'll add on a SR (Shire Reckoning) if needed.

Last Time: The Bounders decided that something had to be done and Bilbo found himself drafted into an adventure.


A Defensive Matter

Chapter 2

The Road to Bree, Part 1

Súlimë 17, 2927 SDR

The Old East Road

"I've a thought," Bilbo announced as he stood unsteadily before the lip of the Brandywine Bridge, both hands grasping his pack's straps in a death grip, "why don't we just send a letter out?"

From where he was busy chatting up the guards to the North Gate of Buckland, Rory paused and shot him an incredulous look. "A letter...really, cousin?"

Bilbo's had the decency to blush heavily at that, especially at the less-then-amused look Hobson Gamgee sent him, knowing just as the Bounders did that there was no post between Bree and the Shire, but a hobbit had to try, didn't he? His stomach was all a-knot, rebelling around the honey-walnut biscuits that Daffy Gamgee had made for them.

It had taken them almost three days to get to the East Bound of the Shire and that was about how long it had taken for Bilbo to convince himself this was all some terrible mistake they were making. But he had given his word not only as a Bounder but as a Hobbit, so he daren't let himself pull out. That and Rory was damned and determined to go, and as the younger hobbit was a brother to him in every way, that pretty much left him with his hands tied.

The bright spot was they'd gained a fourth; Holman Hayward had surprised them all by waiting for them by the gate, packed and ready to go, as well as accompanied by a massive apricot mastiff, the hound easily coming up to the tiny hobbit's shoulders. When asked about his sudden appearance, Hols had simply shrugged and stated that he couldn't leave Hobson (whom he was a second cousin) alone with such company if he ever wanted to see him again, especially as the Gamgee family had grown a few year prior with the birth of Hamfast. Rather than be slightly offended by the remark, Rory had simply laughed and told the young Hobbit his Bolger-side was showing something awful.

Bilbo was far too relieved to have another Bounder (and said Bounder's massive bear-like dog, ironically named Tiny) joining them.

"Come on then, Baggins," Hobson said gruffly from his side, taking him by the elbow, "best to just do it all at once with these kind of things," and all but escorted him across the bridge.

Rory hollered a farewell to the various Bucklanders who had gathered to watch them go by the North Gate, all fairly aghast they were leaving the Shire at such a miserable time and much convinced they'd not be seen again. Each step they took away from the Bounds filled Bilbo with an unquenchable excitement and unbearable terror. But as they made slow but sure progress down the paved and well-beaten path that was the East Road, with the sun shining warmly on their faces and wildflowers dotting the country side fresh and awake from the spring rains, the Baggins found his fear slowly ebbing and gained a spring to his step.

They fell into cheerful chatter, looking quite the bunch as they walked; talking endlessly with their matching liripipe hoods and shoulder capes, robin egg blue padded jacks making them appear like a line of walking, chittering bluebells, their swinging lanterns the bonnets cap. This made them all quite happy, for if there was one truth about Hobbits (that is besides the fact that they love to eat and smoke and till good earth) it was that they adored gossip and spent many of their hours a day indulging in the nasty habit.

" – the last time, I will not be call'n my boy 'Hammie.'" Hobs ground out, the hand holding his lantern-pole twitching.

"Why not?" Rory probed, sending a wink to a snickering Bilbo, "I think it's kind of catchy, Hammie Gaffer. Ham, Hams. Hammie-boy. What do you say, Hols, have we found a winner?"

From where he was walking, a single hand raised high and buried deep in his dog's fur, Holman shrugged. "Certainly no worst then Hamfast to begin with."

"What?!" Hobson sputtered, glaring death at the back of his cousin's head, "Ya lil' traitor! Like you've got any right ta judge. Who name's a monster like tha' Tiny?"

That proved the last straw for poor Bilbo, whose heartfelt laughter sent Rory into a fit of giggles himself.

"…it was supposed to be ironic." Hols muttered after a moment, looking slightly put out at the deep laughter.

"You know," Bilbo began after the worst of the mirth had left him, "I heard the most interesting thing from your sister Primula."

Rory eyed him with no small level of suspicion. "I wasn't aware you and my sister corresponded."

"Oh yes," The Baggins said with great relish, a sharkish grin on his face as his blue eyes danced with amusement, "You know the two of us have become such good friends since she married my cousin, Drogo." Rory was looking even less pleased, if that was possible. "She said she caught you and Miss Ruby Proudfoot by the byre –mph!"

His cousin had leapt forward, face beet red, and slapped both hands over the gleeful hobbit's mouth. But the damage was done.

"Ruby Proudfoot?" Hols repeated in astonishment, his head snapping around to stare at Rory in disbelief, "the dog-faced girl with the lisp?"

"Oh, laddie," Hobs chuckled, "you could much better."

"I happen to find her quite fetching," Rory snapped, crossing his arms angrily, hurriedly talking over Bilbo's not so quiet 'I bet I know what you find fetching,' "and I'll have you know her lisp has all but disappeared!"

That set Bilbo off again, this time with the deep guffaws of Hobson and the clear laughter of Hols joining him.

The Brandybuck heir let out a huff, "You are just the worst type of folk."


Arien drove the sun low in the sky, and as the golden orb left, so did the small group's good mood. This was to be their first real night in the wild.

They managed to find a thick brake that had a narrow bower towards its center and Hobson used his axe to hue a hole just big enough for a hobbit to climb through without a pack. It was luck alone that made Tiny fit. The hope was that the prickly thicket would keep the monsters of the wildlife away from while they slept. They didn't dare make a fire, not with the way attercrops were drawn to such things, but the spring air was warm enough that they did not truly need one.

They broke the night into four watch shifts with the first, much to Hols irritation, going to the youngest as they were awake for most of it anyway. The four of them lay almost flank to flank, head to heel, in the small hallow and spoke in soft tones as the moon rose higher and higher in the night sky.

"I must admit I have my reservations with this plan." Hols admitted from where he was nestled into his large dog's side, looking even tinier and younger against the beast. "What if we find no-one amongst the Bree or Straddle kin?"

"There is always a Ranger or two in Bree." Bilbo said matter of fact. At Hols' raised eyebrows he corrected himself, scratching the side of his nose in embarrassment, "Well, that's what I've heard anyway."

"And if there isn't?" Hols asked softly. "If we can't bring anyone home? What then?"

"Worry'n 'bout all this will won't be doin'n anyone any good, lads," Hobs cut in firmly. "If we find tha' no-one can help us in Bree-land, we'll figure sumthin' out. Don't be forgetting we hobbits founded the four farthings. We had to fight for a home once, I reckon we can do it again."

There were various nods of agreement and the group fell silent. Bilbo fell asleep almost instantly, despite his fear and discomfort, and slept hard. It seemed that he had only just drifted off when Rory was shaking him awake for his turn at watch. Bilbo sat up, fingering the sharpened end of his pole-tip and fiddling with the iron fittings on the lantern, wishing dearly he could have some light, as he fought the urge to lie back down.

The young hobbit tugged at the long tip of his hood around, chewing on it in a manner that would have gotten him smacked if his father was around to see it, and pressed his forehead against his lantern-pole as he wearily watched the dark forest around them. It seemed that dark places truly inspired dark thoughts and before Bilbo knew it, he was thinking heavily on the conversation they'd had before he'd drifted off.

Hobson words were brave, yet he had not found the comfort in them that Rory and Hols apparently had. Fighters? Hobbits? It was utter nonsense. Whatever part of their culture that had inspired their founders to carve the Shire out of the wilds, it was all but gone at this point. No, the young Baggins truly feared that if they could not find someone in Bree to rile up whatever Fallohide blood was left scattered across the Tooks and Brandybucks and Bolgers, the Shire would face true hardship for the first time since its founding.

He himself, three-fourths a Fallohide through his Took mother and paternal Grubb grandmother, was as far from a warrior as possible. Why, Bilbo couldn't even be counted as brave! He had nearly fainted the first time he even heard a wolf's howl. And he'd had three years of Bounding under his belt and was safe inside a Bounding Hut at the time.

With a sigh, the Baggins burrowed his chilled hands in his pockets and gazed up at what little he could see of the star studded sky. Truly, if they did not find someone to help them in Bree, then Bilbo feared…well, best to not think such things, less he set some sort evil upon himself with his grim thoughts.

But…but what would he do, if it fell to the Bounders alone to defend the Shire? How long, wondered the young hobbit, could they even last?

Bilbo shuddered.

He knew his answer well enough.


Súlimë 19, 2927

West Gate of Bree

»I do not like this place,« Eydís announced, eyes narrowed as she watched the town folk scurry about in the shadow Bree-hill, her fingers twisting in the ends of her beard, »these Men have no decency about them. Shameful, really.«

From where she stood ever so slightly hidden behind the broad shoulders of the red head she-dwarf and the even stouter Eydís, Ori let out a soft huff. She wasn't particularly fond of the place they'd found themselves in either, but she didn't know why Lady Eydís had to point it out every few minutes. From the corner of her eye the blond could just make out Mjöll rolling her eyes at the noble-born's antics.

The Bree-folk had been giving them a wide berth since they'd made their way into the small development. They most likely wouldn't have been allowed entrance at all if had not been for some quick thinking on Mjöll's part and no small amount of bribing. Dwarves were not a liked bunch to begin with and it only doubled so when they came with a caravan. The wagon was a sign that they were travelers, homeless wanders – not adventurers or miners with deep pockets.

»Tis a good thing they treat us with such malice, Eydís.« Mjöll said evenly after a moment, » If only that it means they will keep their distance

The last word was stressed and in it Ori could feel the older dwarf's displeasure. It was rare – almost unheard – for a group of dwarf-women such as themselves to be out and about in the wild like this, alone. Comprising of only a third or so of the population they were kept deep in the heart of dwarven settlements. Far, far away from outsiders.

For a young dwarf like Ori, this was the first time she'd ever been near a different race, much less roamed about without one of her male relatives. Indeed, she wouldn't want to be anywhere near her elder brothers at the moment. At sixty-three, Ori was barely considered an adult, and the age gap between herself and brothers was considerable, with almost a hundred years between her and Nori alone. Ori's mother Sygr had always said she had been the last gift her father had given, impregnating his wife late in life.

She felt more than a little off balance without her brothers by her side, but the blonde dwarf was relieved to have her sister-in-law, Mjöll, with her. Like all she-dwarves, the ravenette could be a fierce fighter when needed, and she had a calm nature about her that help keep order about her. Which was important because…well…because Ori tended to be over-anxious.

But if there any situation that would allow for anxiety, being stranded from the rest of their caravan was one. She wasn't quite sure how they'd gotten separated from the other wagon that held her brothers and Bifur, Bombur and Bofur, but it had something to do with that terrible storm last night. They had been a part of refugees that had settled in a small settlement north of here, scraping a living off of wild game and whatever trade could be done with the neighboring villages. Ori herself had been trained as a scribe and an artist, of all inglorious things.

But their numbers had dwindled and dwindled until only two families remained and when word hard reached them of the dwarven village that Prince Thorin had established in the Blue Mountains, it seemed the logical progression. But now they were here, in the middle of the wilder lands of Men, with miles and miles to go until the Blue Mountains and – oh dear.

Ori felt her hands twitch and began to rub them together, fingers counting the stitches of her knit gloves nervously as she eyed the walking men nervously. They were dressed as males and armed to the teeth, so surely no one would be looking to take advantage of a group of she-dwarves.

A large hand clasped her fidgeting hands and Ori looked up to find Mjöll smiling kindly at her.

»Nothing to fret about,« the smith said with an affectionate squeeze, »your brothers will be strolling through those gates at any moment, sputtering off all sorts of angry rubbish about the foolishness of women.« She gave a deep laugh, »We'll be hearing about this for months to come, just you wait and see. Nori is going to be impossible.«

»Oh yes, dear,« Eydís chimed in, reaching out and smoothing out the plaits in Ori's beard, »my Bifur will be here in no time. I'd like to see one of those Men tell me to keep my sticky hands to myself with him around! Why, nothing can stop my Bifur, not even-«

»- an axe to the head,« Mjöll finished dryly, »I do believe we've heard the story a few times before. From you, in fact.«

Eydís shot the other dwarf an icy glare before ho-humming, »Yes. Well. Nothing wrong with a little pride in one's husband's prowess.«

Mjöll's eyes narrowed. »And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?«

»Well my husband certainly didn't require any saving from the stocks.«

»Oh, truly? Well perhaps if Bifur could keep from destroying every orc he sees - oh wait, excuse me, did I say orc? What did the last 'orc' turn out to be, Ori?«

»Uh-«

Mjöll carried on over her stumbled reply, »Oh that's right, some poor potter's kiln. Maybe then my husband wouldn't have to be so creative to restore our coffers!«

Eydís puffed up, nostrils flaring and Ori let out a groan, bringing a hand up to smack at her face in frustration at as the two she-dwarves began to argue.

It was going to be a long wait.


Appendix II:

Arien: The Maia maiden who guides the Sun across the sky.

Brandybuck Bridge: Also called the Bridge of Stonebows, it is the main crossing of the Brandywine into the Shire along the Old East Road.

Iglishmêk: Gesture language of the Dwarves, kept secret.

Khuzdul: Language of the Dwarves, rarely spoken around outsiders.

Liripipe Hood: A hood that has a long, almost exaggerated tip. Sometimes they could be so long people would use it to wrap around the forehead, like a headband. Bilbo's only falls to about his mid-back.

North Gate: The Northern entryway to Buckland. Guarded twenty-four seven by a pair of Buckland Bounders, it rests at the start of the Brandywine Bridge with the Brandywine River on one side and the High Hay on the other.

Shoulder Cape: A cape that is only lengthy enough to cover the shoulders, a part of the breast and back area.


…review? Please? I'm dying. I need to know what you all think. Did you like the hobbit's interactions? Do you have a favorite hobbit so far? Did you like how I showed the prideful, strong dwarf-women?

And Ori…ahahahaha…Ori's a chick now. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. I loved him in the movie, he was like my favorite dwarf besides Balin but he looked pretty much how I imagined a girl dwarf would when I was kid: shorter, smoother, with an awesome short beard. And he uses a slingshot. Against orcs. I dunno. I wanted a gender bend and…dude, it's Ori, and I find Fíli/Ori adorable. They're to be my storybook dwarf romance.

Next Time: Bilbo is nearly eaten, the Hobbits are greatly impressed while the Dwarves are, well, not so much.