The fire blazed as Bilbo polished his blade with a piece of ragged cloth. He had obtained the blade long ago, early in the journey, when he had stolen it from the trolls' stronghold. Bilbo still remembered that day, when he'd thought that he was going to be burned at the stake and eaten for lunch. He shuddered at the memory.
All around him, the dwarves were talking and laughing as if at a party, but Bilbo didn't feel up for joining in. The day had been full of hiking and hardships, and the dwarves hated him and he only wanted to go to bed. He was about to slip away and do so, when he became aware of a strong, warm presence at his side. Thorin.
Ever since Bilbo saved Thorin from the Orcs, Thorin had constantly been chatting with Bilbo and fussing over his well-being. He had offered to share his blankets at night when he noticed Bilbo shivering. He had taken notice to all of Bilbo's petty injuries, and making sure that he was okay. At night, Thorin occasionally stayed up to comfort Bilbo when nightmares of trolls and Orcs arrived. Bilbo couldn't forget about Thorin, and the way he had hugged Bilbo. He could almost feel Thorin's arms wrapped around his body, in thanks for saving his life, which in turn saved the quest. Bilbo, as well as the other dwarves, knew very well that the journey would not have continued if Bilbo hadn't done what he'd done.
Bifur, who was sitting to the left of Bilbo, scooted over to make room for Thorin, who wrapped an arm around Bilbo's shoulders. Bilbo was slightly surprised at this action, because although he knew that Thorin saw him as a friend, and was being awfully nice to him lately, he had never shown Bilbo much affection before, except for the hug on the hill. But that was different. Bilbo happily nuzzled into Thorin's form, inhaling his scent of musty things and pine trees. He loved it.
"Our burglar seems to be softening up." Oin commented. "Not that he was ever actually strong and decent before." This produced multiple laughs from the other dwarves, who unlike Thorin, hadn't taken a major liking to Bilbo.
"Again I doubt Gandalf's motives. This burglar has been of barely any use to us from the beginning." Dwalin added. "Speaking of which, the meat is a bit dry tonight, and I recall that the burglar was in charge of cooking it. Really, I had high expectations on the food, considering what it was like back in the Shire. But again, I was wrong about him."
"Right, he's pathetic." Bombur agreed. "I barely got any thing on my plate tonight, Dwalin."
"Not to mention that I had to carry him all day." Dori put in. "He may be small, but I wish he could try to be a bit lighter." This brought on more laughs.
"Be quiet! All of you!" Thorin shouted. "The disdain to which you are giving the burglar is truly embarrassing. Meat's a bit dry. Never was strong. He should try to be lighter. We aren't living in a palace, Dwalin. Dori, I bet that the poor Halfling is lighter than you ever will be."
He glared at all of them.
"You all shut your filthy mouths or I will shut them for you. Without the Hobbit, you would all be heading back in defeat, and I would be gone from this Earth. So I suggest to all of you, that the next time you wish to insult Mr. Baggins, you'll think about the fact that he had the courage to save my life when none of you did."
The dwarves were shocked, and Bilbo was too. Thorin had never stood up for Bilbo like that before, and Bilbo had never thought that he would. Throin wasn't the kind of dwarf who did that. He didn't stand up for Halflings. And yet...
"I'm sure that our burglar is exhausted and upset, and would like nothing more than to sleep. I will be taking him back to the cave."
"But he's supposed to be on first watch tonight!" Gloin exclaimed.
"I'm sure that one of you can handle the watch." Thorin said coldly. "It's the least you deserve, anyhow. Come now, Halfling."
Stunned, but grateful nonetheless, Bilbo followed Thorin back up the slope of the hill and into a hardly visible cave. There, Thorin arranged his blankets and Bilbo lay down. His eyes were already closing, and he would have fallen asleep within seconds if Thorin hadn't spoken.
"I'm sorry, burglar."
"What do you have to apologize for?"
"My company. I understand that it must be hard on you, living with savages that call themselves warriors. And I personally think that the meat was wonderful."
"Why thank you. But you don't need to apologize for them, Thorin."
"Nevertheless, you did save my life, and it would be wrong for me to just stand by as they mock and tease you. I will be forever at your service, whatever may happen." Thorin stroked Bilbo's forehead, relaxing him. "Goodnight, burglar."
Bilbo barely heard those last words as he fell asleep.
When Thorin returned to his company, talking was more subdued. Thorin felt slightly embarrassed for making such a show over the Halfling, but that was mostly distinguished by anger. He would not let Bilbo, the brave burglar who had saved his life, be mocked and teased and taken for granted. So it was settled. Thorin would not take back his words. He would not turn to his company and say- "I agree in some parts." He would stand for the burglar, no matter how it came across to anyone. Besides, if they were disrespectful or rude to him, Orcrist would be meeting some friends. That was the unspoken rule. It always had been.
He sat down once again by the roaring fire and wiped his face with a wet cloth. Orcrist lay beside him on a log, and Thorin polished the blade with smooth even strokes across the metal. He sharpened it to perfection as Balin spoke.
"Taken a liking to him, eh?" Balin's face offered evidence that he was amused.
"Do you have a problem with that?" Thorin answered coldly.
"Why-Why no. It's just that- well, he's a hobbit. Small and skimpy. We can't let him distract us from reaching the mountain, or else he could be our death-"
Balin was cut off as Thorin scooped up Orcrist and directed the point of the newly-sharpened blade at Balin's chest. "The death of us? Balin, think about what you are saying. The burglar saved me. He is not the death of us. If anything, he's is the life of us. He is the reason that we were able to keep going. He saved me, and by doing that he saved the rest of our company!"
"But Thorin!" Bifur exclaimed. "He's merely a hobbit! He's a horrible cook, can barely ride a pony! He's useless! You're falling right into the trap that he's created! Don't-"
That's when Thorin snapped. Deep down inside, Thorin loved his companions and always would. But at that moment all he wanted was to distance himself from the disgusting creatures that were now pigging out by the fire. He roughly stood up, grabbed his sword and pack, and stalked off without another word. Whether he would ever return- well, that was a question for later.
Thorin didn't know where he was going. His mind blazed with anger. Thorin's feet seemed to be taking him somewhere around the edge of the cave where Bilbo was sleeping, and Thorin decided to let them take him there.
After a while, he reached the top of the rocky hill where he and his company were camping for the night. By now Thorin's anger had cooled considerably, and with that came a sense of shame. He didn't regret anything that he had said or done, but it was embarrassing to have lost his temper at something so small. Yet, Thorin did not exactly feel inclined to head back to his company's camp.
After strolling for a little while longer, Thorin discovered a stream. It was small, but large enough so that Thorin and his company would be able to take a nice bath. Thorin was delighted. After washing his hands and feet in the stream, he began the long trek back to the campfire.
Thorin was halfway back when something stopped his breath and froze his blood in his veins.
A soft, light glow was emanating from Bilbo's cave. His sword.
Which meant that enemies were nearby.
Bilbo had been sleeping soundly. For the first time in almost a week, no nightmares of Orcs or trolls or Thorin and his companions dying had troubled him. Bilbo had been rather enjoying it.
But when Bilbo awoke it wasn't because dawn had arrived. At first he thought that it was because of the hard, rock floor of the cave that he was taking shelter in. Then Bilbo noticed that no others were in the cave with him, and a sense of confusion began to settle over him.
Then Bilbo saw it. His sword, lying beside him on his pack, was glowing blue. And Bilbo knew what that meant.
In an instant Bilbo was on his feet, grabbing his weapon and pack, and dashing back off to camp. He could only hope that he was not too late, that his companions were still safe. Even though they were nothing but nasty to him, they were still his companions, and Bilbo did not want to see them dead.
He suddenly became aware of a low, continuous, growling sound. And snarls. Warcs.
It had to be Azog. Azog was coming back to kill Thorin and get revenge. He was going to torture him and maybe even show Bilbo the horrific sight of his mangled body. He was going to slaughter the rest of the company and fuel Bilbo nightmares for eternity.
The icy cold wind felt like fire against the exposed skin on Bilbo's wrists and legs. The air felt thin, and Bilbo struggled to breathe as he sprinted through the night, the growling of the Warcs intensifying by the minute.
Screams froze Bilbo as he ran. Screams that belonged to a dwarf. Then came that clash of steel on steel, and horrible laughter split the air.
Was the company already being attacked? That was the only option that Bilbo could think of. And although he wasn't a warrior, Bilbo knew that he had to help the dwarves fight. He had saved Thorin; who knows, maybe he would be able to conserve the lives of Fili, Dwalin or Nori?
Now Bilbo could see silhouettes of dwarves, he could see the firelight glinting off polished weapons. He picked up the pace, panting and gasping. He was about to call out, scream a battle call, when a rough hand clamped over his mouth and Bilbo was lifted by the feet and turned upside down in the air. A stiff sack was trown over Bilbo's body, and what little sight he had was stolen. Bilbo gasped as he was thrown over what he guessed was a Warc.
Bilbo could hear laughter and hissing as he was roughly carried to an unknown destination. After several minutes of painful riding and stuffy confinement, Bilbo felt the sack lift off his head and he could see again. But before he had time to think ropes were tied snuggly around Bilbo's wrists and ankles. Biblo struggled against the Orcs that were restraining him, until and all-too familiar icy voice made him freeze.
"Ah, yes. perfect. This will make the filthy King under the Mountain cooperate."
Azog. Bilbo was near frozen with fear, but he knew one thing. Azog was going to use him as bait, and if Thorin bit the fishing rod, things would get really ugly.