You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;

Eight months.

Billa rolled the seeds around in her hands as she recounted the days that had gone by. They seemed like so many, all leading to this moment—and yet, they had gone by so fast.

Eight months…and now she was finally here.

Now she was ready. He was ready.

And the Day had come.

"You'll look so lovely for the king, my dear," Freya said, curling short auburn locks and pinning in small white alyssums (worth beyond beauty), and white arbutuses (thee only do I love), and the beauty of white jasmines (I attach myself to you) into her hair—all beautiful flowers of words, emblems of meanings that truly were at the heart of, what Billa thought, her and Thorin's relationship was.

And her bouquet, lying on the table nearby, was brightly, elaborately filled with even more: Azaleas (first love, fragile passion, temperance), white chrysanthemums (truthful, loyal love), cornflowers (delicacy), daffodils (regard, rebirth, new beginnings, unrequited love, you're the only one, chivalry), lily of the valley (return of happiness, purity of heart, sweetness, humility, you've made my life complete), gladiolus (strength of character, remembrance, infatuation, splendid beauty, I'm really sincere, admiration, you pierce my heart like a sword), sunflowers (always following the sun), red tulips (believe me), blue violets (watchfulness, faithfulness, I'll always be true), and, of course,scarlet zinnias (constancy).

In truth, they were almost ready—her hobbit friends' work almost done. And it touched her, really; it meant so much to her that these three who had first dressed her for the king all those weeks ago had once again come together to help dress her now for her wedding.

They were there with her at the beginning, and they were here with her at the end.

It was…beautiful. So sweetly so.

"You guys—" she started to say, in order to thank them, but Nona spoke up, interrupting before she could utter a word, "—hey, by the way, Billa, how's the ankle? Think you'll be able to dance for him?"

Oh—that. Well, that was quite important. Billa couldn't help but grin, knowing she'd give the three hobbits her thanks later, so in response to the question, she wasted no time lifting up the hem of her dress and robes, pulling up her leg to roll around her ankle for them all to see.

They gasped and cheered in response—to which the hobbit merely and meekly blushed, straightening out the skirts of the traditional marriage-gown that female hobbits wore. It would be a blended wedding, they had all decided; Thorin would be dressed in his ceremonial furs and the beaded, dark velvet robes of his father, and she would wear her white and flowered gown, gradient into different hues that matched the variety she would hold in her bouquet.

And—as was the tradition of hobbits, as well—after the ceremony and coronation, she would dance for her king (not that Thorin knew this part was happening, of course; Billa had worked hard to keep it hush-hush and surprise him, since the poor dwarf had hated her being bedridden for so long thanks to her broken ankle).

But it would be worth it. It would all—very much—be worth it, because at the end, once the partying and the dwarven traditions were over and the feast was eaten, together they would walk by moonlight thanks to the open ceiling now above the palace gardens—an architectural edit that marked the first time in dwarven history where sunlight was allowed to finally reach an area within Erebor's mountain-castle—where finally, Billa's myrtle seeds could be planted—the absolute and perfect symbol of their life together. It would be everything, and it would mean everything, because like so many other things in their relationship, they would work together to make it grow—and to give the tree meaning.

It was…everything she had been hoping for—and more—and the fact that it still all came out from such a trying time made Billa close her eyes and smile in happy, fragile joy.

"Oi—Halfling, don't fall asleep, yet. I've got one more thing for you."

Ah. Yes.

And then there was Dis.

Smiling brightly and fondly, amusedly, Billa straightened as she opened her eyes to see her future sister-in-law in the mirror, holding a handful of small, pinkish somethings in her hand that, from her position sitting down, the hobbit couldn't quite make out.

"What is it?" she asked curiously, head tilting—but immediately, Freya and Dis both straightened her head in correction, the she-dwarf scolding, "Shush, now—and don't move—I'm going to put them in your hair, because I think you need these—more so than any other…numerous flowers you've got in here."

Billa merely blinked, keeping still as instructed. "Oh…what are they?"

Dis grinned, and once her work was complete, she stepped back. "Surprised you don't know, Halfling. They're myrtle tree flowers. Took me forever to find some—apparently, they're not so common here in the new Dale marketplace."

The hobbit's eyes widened in shock, and she fought the hard urge that arose to reach up and touch the small pink buds with the greatest reference. My tree flower—mine—she got some for me. "Dis…"

The she-dwarf merely shrugged, her grin softening as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Thought you should have some. After all, you may think that the tree you're planting has this sort of significance, but…in reality, you're our little myrtle tree, Billa. I've heard they're commonly understood as sign of love—and when I heard that, well…" she chuckled a little, but terribly fondly, and it made the hobbit's chest warm all the more. "…I couldn't help but think, 'You know…I know someone who fits that very word better than any other stupid flower I know.'"

And then, with the gentlest of hands, Dis then took hold of the hobbit's chin, bringing her face around so she could place a small kiss at the top of her forehead. "Love has come to Erebor in the form of a very small hobbit," she murmured quietly as she then pulled away, a soft smile on her lips. "And I consider myself very…very fortunate to be able to call her my sister."

Billa's lips began trembling, eyes wide and shocked and touched and— "D-Dis…"

But the she-dwarf only laughed. "Now, now! Don't you cry—you'll ruin all the hard work we've put onto your face—and you don't want to do that. You've got a wedding to attend! You've got the rest of your life to cry away—so for now, be happy—smile, like you were meant to. The tears can wait this time."

Tremulously, disbelievingly, so unbearably happy that she couldn't believe this was real, Billa did.

…and then, of course, Dis said it. Leaning close to her ear so that her other (still respectable, she supposed, because by now, Billa had accepted she was going to be far from respectable after everything that had happened) hobbit companions wouldn't hear the words, she whispered confidingly, "Oh, and by the way…to answer your question from that other day: I actually do think it'll fit. But you'll find out tonight…won't you?"

And the hobbit couldn't be blamed for busting out laughing so hard, her face turning a deep shade which made all of the red flowers she had in her bouquet look pink, she might have split the bodice on her dress.

the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

This was it.

Oh gosh…this was it.

Billa stood on the threshold of her life, right outside of the giant throne room, flowers in hand, unable to calm her breath and believe…that this was even happening. It was too unreal. Too surreal. Too…much of everything wonderful and exciting and terrifying.

Once I walk through those doors…I will never be the same. Erebor will never be the same. I'll be a married hobbit. I'll be queen.

Oh gosh.

"This has been quite the adventure, hasn't it, my dear Miss Baggins? And I must say, I'm rather glad you took my advice."

Oh, thank everything wonderful and holy—Gandalf.

Relieved beyond measure, Billa turned around and spotted her dear friend approaching her, just tucking his milkweed-pipe into his robes. He had changed, she noticed, for the event—his robes were far more formal, now, with special trimmings and silver-lined edges that looked rather handsome on his tall and slender figure.

"You act like you knew all along that was going to happen," she chided with the twitchings of a smirk on her face. "I didn't planfor it to get that massive, mind you. In fact…" She swallowed harshly, remembering how it all began. "…in fact, I hadn't wanted to be in the competition in the first place."

"Yet here you are," Gandalf murmured, warm and low, fond as he reached her side in front of the closed door. "Winner, champion, hero, and almost queen."

A smile flickered onto Billa's face, soft and delicate as a butterfly as she meekly bowed her head at the praise, cheeks flushing softly. "I-ironic, really, isn't it?" she managed to stutter out in the middle of her bashfulness.

Gandalf merely smiled gently, curiously. "…did you ever think it was all for a reason?"

Billa blinked, head snapping up to look at him in curious surprise. "What was?"

"The entire thing," the wizard in grey supplied thoughtfully, humming as he tapped his fingers on his chest. "Do you ever wonder if somehow, somewhere, the events that have occurred happened for a reason? As if it were…Designed?"

The hobbit frowned slightly, pursing her lips as she considered that. "I…I don't know…"

"It certainly is a curious thought," Gandalf continued pleasantly, and Billa suddenly realized that he was distracting her, keeping her calm—and she became immensely grateful for it. "Because think about it: if you had not gotten so close to the king, and had not been where you were, who you are, and done what you did…the orcs might have very well massacred not only your people, but also Thorin and his army. Erebor might have fallen that day due to their longtime plans, had it been any other person, in such a time as that."

The smile stretched across her face again, and she diverted her eyes away. "You…you give me too much credit. I…I only did what I could—and what I had to. It was…truly fortunate Smaug was there in Mount Gundabad as well. Else, everything would not have happened…"

Gandalf grinned back, a merry and knowing twinkle in his eye. "Fortunate," he responded, "or Divine?"

But the hobbit couldn't answer that, and instead remained quiet as they soaked in the mid-morning air.

Finally, the wizard in grey spoke up again, quietly and thoughtfully, "There is, of course, one thing that I don't understand…"

"Oh?" Billa blinked at him, turning to her friend. "What's that?"

"The dragon—Smaug, you said his name was—how on earth did you get him to agree with you?" He asked—and at his clueless expression, the hobbit couldn't help but suddenly burst into laughter. "No—no, don't laugh—see, now there's a whole league of those fire-breathing worms around Middle-Earth, holding to some sort of 'code' about equal and fair treatment—that I'm sure is the same thing he spoke of that day on the battlefield—"

"—it was…" But Billa could hardly talk, her sides stitching with disbelieving laughter. She raised a hand from her bouquet and rested it against the side of her bodice, as if it would ease the aches. Gosh, she was going to rip this thing if she laughed anymore. "It wasn't anything too grand—I just…I just told him about the Golden Rule—that's all. And he…well, apparently, he took a grander liking to it than I thought."

And at the revelation, Gandalf's face slowly stretched into fond, sparkling amusement. "Oh-ho—so that's what it was—oh, you clever hobbit. Very clever, indeed. Your mother would be quite proud. Teaching a dragon…and then riding it, even—of all things! Yes, your mother would be proud, indeed."

And at the mention of Belladonna Took, Billa couldn't help but warm to a softened and contented silence. "…I hope so," she then murmured quietly, happily. "Oh, Gandalf, I hope so…"

The wizard in grey continued to smile at her in gentle fondness. "So in the end, it appears to me, then…that it seems as if even the wise and old Balin was wrong—and at the very beginning of this entire thing, too."

"What?" Billa blinked at him, surprised and shocked. "Why do you say that?"

"Because clearly, all this kingdom really did need…was just a little hobbit."

The praise made her flush strongly again, and opening her mouth to respond, Billa found herself cut off as strings and drums and clarinets and harps burst forth into harmonious sound on the other side of the door, snapping her attention to it in shocked awe.

She quickly swallowed, closing her mouth again to rejuvenate it, before she stuttered out, "W-well…I…I suppose that is our cue."

Gandalf smiled merrily at her. "Indeed, I suppose it is."

But then—unexpectedly—the hobbit's smile widened, stretching with happy, nostalgic delight as she gazed at her friend who was standing beside her in fond memory. After all, everything had begun very much like this—hadn't it? Just with them two, and a road in front that lead to the great unknown—to a promising adventure that would be used to make even more happy memories and cherished times that would make her both so uncomfortable and so alive.

And now, what remained before them, they knew, wouldn't be perfect.

But it would be good.

And that was all that mattered.

"Will you…will you accompany me to the altar, Gandalf? I…well, I don't want to be…alone."

And the old wizard nodded, his smile brightening as if he had been waiting for her to request his company for a very long time.

"It would be my pleasure, Miss Baggins."

Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the
myrtle will grow…

(Isaiah 55:12-13a)


Crystal's Notes: And so it ends, my friends. With that bid, I leave you also with one last song to perhaps stir the creative and nostalgic juices, aptly titled: "Magic of Love" by Two Steps From Hell, which I believe to be a particular gem, rather uplifting, and one that I cannot beat as a perfect ending to this adventure.

Before I give my final thanks and farewells, I thought I ought to explain how I came to the title of this story. Of course, it starts with Esther, of who this story is now, technically, inspired by, instead of based off of. As most of you know, she was, indeed, Hebrew. Her Hebrew name, then, was "Hadassah" which meant "Myrtle Tree," instead of the Persian one she had been given as "Esther." So of course, curious, I look up as much myrtle tree information as I could find…and I happened to find the verse that I included above, which I thought generally fit and embodied some pieces and themes of this story very well.

Of course, you don't have to be Christian, I hope, to enjoy what has transpired here. 8D This is a tale for everyone. I, myself, as a Christian, just thought that verse was significant, and highly poignant when in conjunction with this story—so I couldn't help but include it as I would a piece of poetry in any other fanfic.

And for those who might want the rest of verse 13, and who wouldn't mind the final lines, and who also, wouldn't mind me giving thanks for this story to the One who has made everything possible and who is the Great Storyteller, writing our own great adventures day-by-day, here it remains:

This will be for the Lord's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.

With that, then, my friends, I conclude this story. :) Each and every one of you have been incredible and such a joy to get to know throughout this adventure—so first off, before anyone else is thanked, I want to thank you so incredibly much for sticking with it, for reading, for reviewing, and for enjoying what has turned out to be my longest and most successful work yet.

I also want to thank Elsa—my lovely, lovely Elsa—who has beta-read everything since the first, uncertain words were penned way back at the end of February. Ironically, I still remember bringing up this story idea to her way back then, starting off by saying, "Okay, so, um, I'm not even sure if I'm going to publish this thing, but I couldn't help but start writing it. The idea won't leave me alone. Would you mind reading?" And she was like, "Oh! Sure"—as amazingly willing as always to read what crazy ideas come to my mind (patient, amazing, amazing young woman).

I could tell both of us had our reserves about it at the beginning because it was just so…out there. xD Fem!Bilbo. Esther. AU-Middle-Earth. Orcs allied with dwarves. It was just all so…strange, and we weren't sure if anyone else would take to it.

But I took a chance and put it up, and well, I would say…to my surprise—that it has erupted into something I had never even imagined. I owe you guys everything for that.

I have decided to indeed start a sequel—it is now underway—but that won't be published for at least a week, so I can give myself a tiny little vacation-break of sorts after this effort. (And to mourn the conclusion of this adventure, because let's face it—I'm rather sad this is over.)

But the journey will continue. :) This will not be the end.

And until it comes time to embark upon that quest, my dearest, dearest and most courageous readers, rest easy. You deserve it.

May the sun ever shine upon your brow. ;)