Epilogue: Lepidolite

"How was the journey here?" Thorin asks later that night, when most of the Dwarves have nodded off and only he, Balin, Dwalin, Gandalf, and Fíli and Kíli remain awake. Fíli and Kíli are seated on the floor next to the hearth, both clasping empty mugs to their chests and smirking at each other intermittently. Balin is half awake in one of Bilbo Baggins' armchairs, and Dwalin is sitting in the chair next to Thorin's watching the boys.

Fíli looks up and gives him a confused look. "What? What journey?"

"The trip between the Blue Mountains and the Shire," Thorin says patiently, and Dwalin chuckles at Fíli's inebriation. "Did you make it safely, or did you run into any dangers?"

Fíli exchanges a glance with Kíli, who grins widely and nods enthusiastically. "We found a massive cave of mithril and then shot someone and then they shot us – or was it the other way around? – and then we found the ponies and saw lots of trees but there was another cave and this one had a little man who knocked Fíli out with a lantern – or was it an axe? I don't know – but we didn't get out until we knocked out a big man as well as the little man, actually we knocked out a lot of men – it was heroic, wasn't it, Fíli? – and then rode off into the sunset except it was mid-afternoon not sunset so we didn't really ride off into the sunset."

"Is this true?" Thorin asks Fíli, not entirely sure that Kíli is telling the truth, making up a story, or too drunk to tell the difference between either.

"The little man was an Elf and the big man was a Dragon," says Fíli seriously, then laughs uproariously and toasts with Kíli. "And we met a Ranger who chased the Dragon and lived happily ever after!"

"You'd be better asking them in the morning," says Balin with a little chuckle. "If they had any more to drink they'd come out the other end of drunk and go straight to stone cold sobriety."

Thorin sighs, but he can't argue with Balin because Balin is right. Balin is always right.

"I wouldn't ask them in the morning," Dwalin says with a large smirk. "They won't be answering anything with the headache they'll have."

Gandalf, who has taken to making smoke ships sail over the sleeping Dwarves' heads, lets out a chuckle. "Dwalin tells the truth. I would be very surprised if either one is laughing before ten."

A companionable silence descends, but for Fíli and Kíli's giggling and assorted Dwarven snores.

Suddenly, Fíli speaks up once again, poking at his foot in an odd, distracted sort of way. The expression on his face is not unlike that of a lost puppy, only far more pathetic and almost humourous.

"There's a stone in my boot."