Chapter o1, in which Bilbo Baggins discovers the most peculiar thing underneath a shooting star
This was a fine mess Bilbo Baggins had gotten himself into. A fine mess, indeed. His task wasn't that difficult to perform; being the only one of his company who could roam the grounds without restrictions, he simply had to follow the elves in and out of their dwelling. Out, so that he could inspect the outer surroundings and think of new ways to break his companions free. In, because he had to keep up with the elves so as to not remain outside. In the dark. With the spiders. The bloody humongous spiders.
Bilbo Baggins gulped down a whimper. Not only did he not think of new ways to set his companions free, but he had also, as you have probably guessed, lost the elves and was now stuck outside. In the dark. With the bloody humongous murderous spiders.
Try as he might, his little structure and clumsy feet simply could not keep up with the ever graceful and prominent stature of the elves. Albeit, had he not stopped to marvel at the night sky he most likely would have been in the cosy comforts of the kitchen by now.
Bilbo Baggins sighed heavily, collapsing on the forest floor and wrapping his arms around himself. He could be such a fool at times. In the hobbit's defence, I must point out that his current predicament is not entirely his fault. Well, he was not forced to stop and marvel at the sky, but seeing as such a long time had passed since he had last laid eyes on it, he practically felt compelled to do so.
The facts were these: while following the elves, he had gazed up at the trees, feeling wary. Every so often something would scurry about, leaving leaves in their wake and making some of them fall in his hair. That was when the hobbit had noticed an empty space amid the leaves, a clearing where a pale light was shining through. He quickly ran to it, as soundlessly as he could, and basked in the moonlight while staring at the pretty bright stars in the dark blue sky. He smiled and sighed to himself, enchanted by the little patch of heavenly scenery.
That, of course, was the moment he had lost the elves, and upon realizing this he clutch tightly to his curls and started rocking himself back and forth.
Now, lying on the forest floor with his arms wrung around his person, Bilbo thought hard. How, oh how, would he get back in the Wood-elves' cave? The obvious answer would be to wait until the elves came out so that he could follow them back. But that could be at any time, and while you and I are safe in our cosy homes, sitting in our warm beds, we mustn't forget that poor Bilbo is stranded in Mirkwood, where hairy creatures with beady red eyes lurk about behind every stone.
Gazing back at the stars, hopelessness settling within him, the hobbit let a sigh pass through his lips. He could imagine the twinkling stars giggling at his misfortune. He could imagine Thorin raging at the bottommost cell of the Wood-elves' dungeons because his burglar was not coming to report the day's events. He was pretty sure he could even hear the livid dwarf from where he was sitting. Feeling a chill creep up his back- or what he hoped was a chill- the hobbit shivered and slowly started sobbing.
Why did he have to go and get himself lost? Why was he so easily distracted at such crucial times? More importantly, why had he accepted to come on this damned journey in the first place? He could have been in his bed right now, with warm tea on his night stand and his favourite book in his hands. He would sleep until midday and would wake up to chirping birds and warm sunlight, and would indulge himself a bountiful of breakfast delicacies. His bothersome kinsfolks would come knocking on his door, and he would ignore them, then he would go out on his porch and smoke from his pipe. He could be doing all that, but instead he was in the middle of a forest where everything was undoubtedly out there for the sole purpose of eating him, trapped in a quest he had no desire to be in, and if he somehow survived this situation he was sure he was going to be slaughtered by a murder-driven dwarf. And let's not forget the dragon.
The stars continued to glimmer, unaware of the hobbit's sorrows. And just as the little creature started to hiccup, he noticed a shooting star cross the evening sky. He suddenly felt overwhelmed as he remembered his dear old mother telling him stories about shooting stars. "They carry good luck," she would say, "Whenever you see a shooting star, always make a wish, my dear Bilbo." And he always would, even though at times his wishes didn't come true. And just like that, the memories of his mother and his boyhood and his beloved home tugged at Bilbo's lonely heart as he stifled another sob.
"I wish," he whispered, "From the bottom of my heart, for someone out there who could help me out of this misfortune," he cried, and wiped several tears from his cheek with his dirty sleeve.
The solitary star continued on its course, seemingly oblivious of the hobbit's plea. As it moved slowly up above, Bilbo felt his heart sink, numerous hiccups following. He sighed and adverted his gaze from the sky, when something caught his eye instantaneously, taking him off guard.
No, not something, but someone. Across from his position was a gigantic stone. On top of the stone was a form. The form was staring straight ahead at something behind Bilbo. No, not behind Bilbo, but right at him. Upon realizing this, Bilbo stiffened and held his breath. Even the creeping on his back froze. Sure enough, the figure was indeed looking at him. Perched on top of the stone, with their legs crossed and their chin resting on their fist, the figure stood still under the moonbeam, eyeing Bilbo with curiosity. Bilbo felt his blood slowly rising to his face. How could they be looking directly at him? He was, after all, wearing his magic ring. Getting to his feet and grabbing his sword as quietly as possible, the hobbit inspected the immobile form and waited for the person to attack. Instead, they continued to gawk at him, following his every move.
"Good evening," he squeaked, then cleared his throat.
"There have been better," the other exhaled.
Bilbo was dumbstruck. The other individual… was a female. He tried getting a better look at her, but it was so dark he could hardly see anything but the outline of her body. He wanted to move closer to her, but found that may not be the most sensible course of action. The girl might be lost, frightened, and his sword might put her on edge. Though the matter of how she could see him was still bothering him. Was he not wearing his ring? He would have checked, but the other spoke before he could.
"Why are you crying?"
"I am not crying!" Bilbo shrieked, though he assumed that would do nothing to lessen the other's already low opinion of him.
"Then, why are you making all that noise?"
"Well I find myself… to be quite lost."
"And the noise makes you feel less lost?"
"Well it makes me feel… less alone."
"I see," oddly enough, his answer seemed to please her. Bilbo could detect the slightest smile in her tone, though he couldn't be sure.
"How is it that you are able to see me?" he asked.
"Well, you're right there. It's hard not to see you," she explained.
"But I am invisible," Bilbo confirmed to himself, feeling the ring with his thumb.
"In others' eyes, perhaps."
Bilbo observed the woman like figure cautiously. She resembled a child of Man, though logically speaking chances were she was an Elf. That still didn't explain how she was able to see him, though. He had wandered the elves' caves for a long time and none had even suspected his presence.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Nobody but myself."
Bilbo scoffed. "What are you doing?"
"Looking at you, obviously."
"Yes, but what are you doing here?"
Bilbo could feel his exasperation increasing by the minute.
"Not very sharp, are you? You need to be precise about the things you wish to know," she twittered.
Before Bilbo could recompose himself, the woman spoke again.
"Why are you here?"
"Well, I am lost, as I have said."
"Why are you lost?"
"Not that it is any of your business, but I was separated from my party!"
"You're not very important, then, if your party hasn't noticed your absence."
"Well, that was the point, somehow. That they weren't supposed to notice my presence."
"I see", she giggled again, and went silent for half a second. "Where is your party?"
"If I knew that, I wouldn't be lost, would I?"
"But you do know where it is."
"I do, just not the exact direction."
"Then you are truly lost."
"Yes. Thank you for confirming that," Bilbo grunted, rubbing his free hand through his hair. "As a matter of fact, have you seen about a dozen elves walking around these parts?"
"I have not," she answered, and Bilbo let out another grunt. "But I know of a place where you can find about a dozen elves that is in these parts."
"You do?" Bilbo's eyes went wide as new found hope started filling his heart. He regarded at the girl as if she were his salvation and nearly sprinted to her to cling for dear life. But first, he had to make sure she wasn't going to kill him.
"Are you going to kill me?"
That was good enough as far as the hobbit was concerned.
"Can you take me to where the elves are?"
The hobbit started feeling giddy, eager to get back to the caves and out of this hobbit-eating death-trap. However, it seemed to him that for every fidget he made, the she-stranger would become more relaxed. He stared expectantly, but she never moved. It occurred to him that perhaps the girl could not see him anymore.
"Can you still see me?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered, unfazed.
"Well then, will you take me to where the elves are?"
She tilted her head and looked away from Bilbo, as if considering his request for the first time. Mr Baggins was beginning to think that he was, in fact, the sharper of the two.
"I will," she decided and hopped down from her sitting place.
She seemed to skip as she approached him, but again, Bilbo couldn't be sure in this- for lack of a better word- light. Just as she was about to reach him, the girl didn't stop and instead continued skipping right by him, and the hobbit assumed he was supposed to follow.
An odd character she was, prancing about like she knew exactly where she was heading. Bilbo was starting to realize that perhaps it had not been wise of him to trust the girl; for all he knew, she actually could be leading him to his death. Just as he was about to flee, the strange female abruptly stopped and regarded the gates of the Mirkwood elves with a jaded countenance. Mr Baggins, on the other hand, could not be more ecstatic. He inspected the gates, caressing them with his cold hands, and beheld his companion with what could only be gratitude, though the aforementioned didn't seem to share in his glee. Bilbo looked back at the gates, and as realization dawned on him, his before joyful expression turned grave. Obviously, this was going to be another problem: how would he get inside?
"Will you help get me inside?" he questioned.
Bilbo whipped his head in the girl's direction, pure terror written all over his face, "Why not?"
"Will you tell me your name in exchange?" she asked after a moment's consideration.
"My name?" the hobbit was confused. What importance did his name have in all of this? "Why, my name is Bilbo Baggins, and I am a hobbit of Bag-End." His answer seemed to satisfy her, for she smiled sweetly and faced the mighty gates once again. "Do you have a name?" he queried.
"Of course I do," she retorted and pounded unceremoniously on the gates with her fist. The hobbit stared at her, suspecting he would not learn her name for the time being.
"Who goes there?" a voice asked, and while Bilbo couldn't point out the exact direction from which it came from, his female companion didn't seem to care.
"I am of the fairy folk. I come bearing the words of the Fairyqueen for the Elvenking to hear."
Mechanisms were put in motion as the elves prepared to grant the so-called fairy entrance. Bilbo ogled with new found purpose; he had never before seen a fairy, much less heard of its existence. Now that she was much closer to him, he could tell she was neither a child of Man, nor Elf, though she strangely resembled both. Her figure towering over his, she was slender and stood elegantly on the tip of her toes, swinging herself from side to side. She was even taller than the dwarves, perhaps, Bilbo thought, reaching the same height as the elves.
"You would have gone inside regardless of my request," the hobbit suddenly realized, feeling rather silly and not at all sharp.
"That is so," the fairy admitted casually, and proceeded to skipping into the dimly lit hallway with the hobbit trailing close behind.