Apologies for taking so long. Work and health issues and life in general has been happening. Thank you for your patience. Also, many thanks to those who are sticking with my little story and my smart-ass character. Jose loves you, and I love you.
I don't own any Tolkien characters just the one and only, Josephine Abinoke, and the original elements of my plot.
Ch 17 – What Makes You Strong
Jose looked at her face in the mirror and cringed. The sight turned her stomach. Although the elven magic was helping her to heal, the Necromancer's wrath had severely damaged the left side of her face. It had been days since the dwarrow and Bilbo had arrived in Lothlorien, but she still would only receive the four she felt closest to: Bilbo, Thorin, Kili, and Fili.
Her body, however, was healing nicely. Already Jose was getting stir crazy staying in her room and in her bed all day. She longed to get out and see people - see the elves who had taken care of her, see the dwarrow who had ran across Middle Earth for her; but one look in the mirror always stopped her.
"I just can't stand for them to see me like this." Jose looked apologetically to Thorin. "I'm not vain, Grand-dad, but still..."
"Jose, the elf witch..." Thorin began.
"Lady Galadriel is her proper name, Thorin." Bilbo admonished.
"Galadriel left this for you." Thorin handed Jose a mask - a half-mask in fact. It was the colour of ivory, as smooth as porcelain, but flexible and soft.
Jose slipped it on and felt it curve molding over her forehead and cheek bone then around to the side of her face. Looking at herself in the mirror again, she said to herself, "Great, I'm a female version of the Phantom of the fucking Opera. I hate Michael Crawford's would be sexy voice – best thing he ever did was 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'."
Bilbo and Thorin looked at her like they always did when Jose slipped into some reference they were oblivious to – sympathetic smiles and kind eyes. Jose was getting use to it by now. So she let it go and sighed.
"My dear," began Bilbo, "they raced across Middle-Earth to find you. They will not think the less of you because of your injuries."
"Aye, lass," the dark headed dwarf added, "Rather the opposite. They will be in awe of your bravery."
In a small voice, Jose replied, "I don't want their 'awe'. I just want to be me again."
"And you will be, Jose. You will be." Bilbo smiled encouragingly.
Taking a deep breath, Jose nodded to Thorin to let in the waiting dwarrow. "Okay. I'll see them."
Thorin, impressed by his grand-daughter's continued strength, smiled at Jose as he opened the door. The rest of the company almost fell in on themselves, and Bilbo had to smile at the memory of them falling into Bag End all those months ago. Shuffling around her bed so that all of them could see her, the dwarrow smiled as they all wished her well and welcomed her into their family as their kin.
Jose finally relaxed - comforted by their presence. They had given up so much to come after her. As that thought entered her head, her smile faded. "You lot, you didn't even make it to Lake Town, did you?"
At that, no one spoke. Finally, Thorin answered, "No, my brave girl. We came to find you."
Jose sat there – amazed. "You've risked Erebor – for me? When you didn't even know that we were kin?"
"You saved Bombur. You stood up to Thranduil." Thorin began.
"Besides," Kili added with a cheeky grin, "Bilbo threatened to cut Uncle off from sex if he refused to come after you."
"Kili." Bilbo warned in his serious tone.
Kili backed down but couldn't hold back a parting jab, "Okay, Uncle Bilbo."
But Jose refused to be distracted by their banter. "Hang on - how long till Durin's Day?"
"A week. But, the Lady Galadriel is supplying us with fifteen horses, food, and weapons. We'll be able to leave at first light." Ori declared with a grin.
"Why only fifteen? I've seen Gandalf since I've been here. Isn't he coming with us?" Jose asked; and as soon as the last question left her lips, she inherently knew the answer.
"Lads, you better leave us." Thorin voice ordered as he glared at Ori. This was not the way he wanted Jose to find out about their departure.
Jose sat straight backed. Her eyes focused accusingly at Thorin although she kept her voice calm. "Were you even going to tell me? Or were you going to leave that to the elves?"
Thorin found it hard to meet her gaze. "Of course I was going to tell you. . . I just had not found the words yet."
"And leaving me behind..."
"Keeps you safe." Thorin's steel blue orbs locked onto Jose's of the same colour. "There is no safer place in Middle Earth right now than Lothlorien."
"Ha," Jose laughed as smirk crept up the right side of her face. "You've changed your tune about elves, Grand-dad."
"When someone saves my grand-child, they have earned my trust."
"A fact that none of you knew about until they told you."
"That is not the …. Hang on, are you saying that you knew? You knew before me? You knew and said nothing?"
"No, of course not. The Necromancer taunted me with it. I didn't know to believe him or not. Then I heard Galadriel tell you. So, it's not as if I was holding back anything. I didn't have the time – unlike some people."
"I did this to protect you – the way I should have done before."
"You were in no position to protect me in the first place."
"Had I know what was to happen..."
Jose cut him off. "Everything would still be as it is. Nothing is your fault."
"But if I let you go with us now and something happens to you, I will never forgive myself."
"Don't be ridiculous. Nothing will be changed. My fate, the fate of our line, is already sealed. What difference does it make if I die tomorrow or a year or ten years or fifty years from now?" Jose's voice had started off soft but rose in volume until she was yelling at the end.
"The difference matters to me." Thorin's voice was soft, but he refused to meet Jose's gaze.
"And what if I want to make my own choice. I want to be able to help." She looked to the hobbit, "Bilbo, please. You know I could help."
"Have your memories – of before you came here – have they returned?"
"Some of them – not all. But more comes back everyday."
The dwarf interrupted, "What difference does it make that her memories return?"
Bilbo looked sheepishly at Thorin. "Ah, it's not for me to say."
"Oh, bog! I knew information about the quest because I read about it when I was a child. But, when I jumped in the river after Bombur, I lost that knowledge. It's been slowly coming back to me though. I can still be of use to you. I don't want to be left behind."
Bilbo thought for a moment and sighed. "The Lady Galadriel is in charge of your care. If she thinks it's best for you to stay, you should listen to her."
"It doesn't matter what the elf witch says, Jose. You're not coming with us."
"The elf witch actually agrees with you, Master Oakenshield, in theory." Galadriel's other-worldly voice glided over them with soothing tones as she hovered at the door. "However, as Lady Abinoke would simply run away following you within half a day of your departure, I must advise that she go with you."
Thorin tilted his head looking up at Galadriel. "You cannot be serious."
"She will go on the road regardless of anyone else's wishes. Therefore, she is safer in a group of fifteen than on her own."
Thorin turned to Galadriel, "Can you not," the dark headed dwarf lowered his voice, "keep her secure until our quest is over? Others of your kind are quite good at that sort of thing."
"You mean 'imprison'. You want me to 'imprison' your last living descendent and heir?"
"As I said, you lot have had no qualms before about keeping the heirs of Durin as your special guests in the past."
The gentleness in Galadriel's voice faded away - a sternness in its place. "I am not Thranduil; my answer is no; my decision is final. I will instruct provisions to be made for one more."
"Thank you, Lady Galadriel." This quiet voice came from Jose.
"You are welcome, child. Before you go, I have something else for you."
Alone, in the privacy of their room, Thorin stood with his hands on his hips looking accusingly at Bilbo, "You knew and didn't tell me?"
"Jose wanted it to be kept a secret. She promised that no one would die from her withholding knowledge. I believed her then, and I believe her now."
"Why do you believe her?"
"I don't know why I did in the beginning, but now – she gives me hope."
"Don't you see? If she is your grand-daughter, it's perfectly clear. You survive, Thorin. You survive this quest and have children who will one day end up as Jose."
"I had thought of that, actually."
"You didn't mention it."
"Because it also means that we don't stay together, doesn't it? I will have to find a female in order to have a child who will go on to eventually have Jose. I love Jose, Bilbo; but I don't want to lose you." Thorin's eyes glistened - deep pools of rich blue water.
Bilbo pulled him close and kissed him with all the passion in his heart. "Shh, shh, don't think about that now, my love. Just come to bed."