Rated T for some swearing

"When I awoke today, suddenly nothing happened. But in my dreams, I slew the dragon … Don't you understand, I already have a plan. I'm waiting for my real life to begin."

Colin Hay, Waiting for my real life to begin.

"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived."

Henry David Thoreau, 'Walden' paraphrased from Dead Poet's Society

Gandalf was roused from his thoughts when a tankard was thumped onto the table in front of him, a small amount of ale splashing over the rim and onto the wood.

"You look troubled," Thorin Oakenshield said, a tankard of his own in his hand. His clothes were travel-stained and he had a pack on his back, his customary shield tied to the top.

"Indeed, my thoughts were weighing heavily," Gandalf said, shifting over to make room for the Dwarf at his table. "Come, join me."

Thorin did so, depositing his pack under the table. "Can I interest you in a fill of Old Toby?" the Wizard asked, offering his tobacco pouch in return for the ale.

"Indeed, I would be grateful, my supply ran out some weeks ago." They were silent as Thorin filled and lit his pipe. It was only when there was smoke wreathed around his head that he spoke again. "It has been some time since I last saw you, old friend."

"You are returning to Ered Luin?" Gandalf surmised, based on his travel worn appearance.

"Aye, I journeyed eastwards to the Iron Hills to see Dain," Thorin said, his eyes darting around the Prancing Pony pub, constantly alert for danger, even in the quaint village of Bree. His heavy brows were lowered in a scowl and Gandalf noticed that the Dwarf had more streaks of grey in his hair than when he had last seen him.

"You look troubled also," he observed, hoping to draw him into further conversation.

"I travelled past Erebor," Thorin said, explaining the reason for his preoccupation. "The people of the area say that Smaug has not been seen for nigh on sixty years."

"And you think to march on the mountain?" Gandalf asked, realising that Thorin was brooding on the loss of his homeland.

"The possibility of such an expedition has been foremost in my mind since leaving the Iron Hills," he said. "To march an entire army from the Blue Mountains to Erebor could be disastrous, and almost certainly will be if Smaug still lives."

"Yet you still think to try," Gandalf said, recognising the stubbornness of Dwarves once they set their minds on a task. "What did Dain say on the matter?"

"He liked the idea of having an ally so close, the Iron Hills are very remote. However, he deferred promising military aid, he said he must consider the risks first." Thorin exhaled a long puff of smoke. "He counselled me to proceed with caution."

"Perhaps that is wise."

"What would your counsel be?" The Dwarf King asked, surprising him with his desire for advice. Dwarves were a notoriously private race, not liking others interfering with their business.

Gandalf thought for a moment, mulling over the implications of an army marching to Erebor and the other possible alternatives.

"You are planning battle and war," he said eventually. "A more subtle strategy might be advisable."

Thorin frowned. "You are thinking a small company as opposed to an army?"

Gandalf paused as a memory from long ago was stirred – many hundreds of years ago he had visited another world that had stories detailing events in Middle Earth. He had previously dismissed it as nonsense, but now events and names were beginning to line up with what he remembered from these tales. If he recalled correctly, Thorin's expedition would not end entirely satisfactorily.

"Gandalf?" Thorin prompted, and he realised he had been silent for some time.

"Let me think on this," he said. "I shall give you counsel, but there are questions that need answering before I do so."

Thorin nodded. "We will be having a conclave in Ered Luin in two months time. Your presence would be welcome at the meeting."

"I will be there," he promised, and then, draining the rest of the ale, stood to leave.

"Leaving already?"

"Yes, there are things to be done," Gandalf said cryptically, already thinking of the magic needed to transfer himself to another world. "I have far to travel if I am to provide the most fruitful advice to you." He nodded his head respectfully to the Dwarf. "I shall see you soon, my friend."

Lizzy drummed her fingers on the counter, idly looking around the empty bookshop. It had been a slow day and she had already reorganised several shelves, ordered new stock and tidied the storeroom. Bored, she had Tumblr open on her iphone and was surreptitiously scrolling down the Supernatural tag, occasionally reblogging pictures of the Winchester brothers. She was just wondering if her boss, who was busy doing the accounts in the upstairs office, would notice if she dashed across the road to get an ice-cream as a respite from the August heat when the bell above the door tinkled.

The man who entered was rather old, wearing a grey blazer and matching fedora. She smiled brightly in greeting and he tipped his hat at her, but he seemed to know what he was looking for and so she didn't offer assistance.

Several minutes later he approached the counter clutching a single book, which he placed next to the till.

Lizzy grinned when she saw that it was a copy of The Hobbit. "It's a great book, I'm sure you will love it," she said, scanning the barcode.

"I read it a very long time ago, and now I want to reread it," the man explained, and Lizzy felt that there was something familiar about his voice. "I cannot help but feel that there is something wrong with it," he added, almost too low for her to hear.

"Maybe it's the ending," she said, placing the book in a bag.

"What do you mean?"

"You've read it, right? I won't be giving you any spoilers?" she checked, and the man nodded. "Well, don't you think it's strange that Dain ends up King? He is a practically unmentioned character, in fact he flatly rejects the notion of retaking Erebor." She braced her elbows on the counter as she continued, unaware of the intense look the man was giving her. "I mean, Thorin dying is kind of understandable, he succumbed to the dragon sickness, the lure of the treasure. But Fili and Kili?" she pulled a face, remembering how annoyed she had been at their barely mentioned deaths. "I remember thinking when I first read it how inconvenient it was that only those of the line of Durin died, and someone not directly of the line became King after all the trouble they went to."

"Yes … that is precisely what is wrong with the story," the man said slowly, seeming deep in thought. He suddenly looked up at her, his eyes sharp. "You say it is a favourite of yours?"

"Yeah, bit of a Tolkien nerd," she said with a smile. "I am actually travelling to New Zealand in a few months with my little brother. I can't wait to see the film sets."

"You wish to see Middle Earth?"

"More than anything," she said with a dramatic eyeroll, and then grinned at her customer, remembering that he had yet to pay for the book. "That will be six ninety-nine, please."

He handed her a crisp ten pound note and when she gave him his change he placed it all in the charity tin by the till.

"Have a good day," she said as he gathered the bag to leave.

"You too, my dear," he said, and then paused at the door. "Might I enquire your name?"

"Elizabeth," she said, smiling at him once more. "Lizzy Darrow."

Two months after a chance meeting in Bree, Gandalf found himself striding through Thorin's Halls in the Blue Mountains, approaching the meeting room where the Dwarves conclave was being held, not even pausing to admire the finely carved, vaulted stone ceiling.

"Well, what have you got to say?" Thorin asked imperiously from his ornately decorated chair almost the moment Gandalf entered the Hall.

Gandalf pointedly took his time settling into his designated seat, pulling out his pipe and lighting it before replying. "I stand by what I said in Bree," he said eventually, expelling a puff of smoke. "Open war would not only be useless but practically impossible to organise. You will have to try something simpler and yet bolder, indeed something desperate."

"You are both vague and disquieting," Thorin said, his brow heavy. "Speak plainly."

"Well, for one thing you will have to go secretly. No messengers, heralds, or challenges for you, Thorin Oakenshield. At most you can take with you a few kinsmen or faithful followers," Gandalf said, nodding towards the other members of the conclave. "But you will need something more, something unexpected – or rather, two things unexpected."

"And they are?"

"As you know, Smaug is both old and cunning, you must allow for both his long memory and his unparalleled sense of smell. You can be sure that he remains vigilant for the faintest air of Dwarf in his domain, as well as the sound of Dwarf-feet."

"You make your stealthy approach sound as difficult and hopeless as any open attack," said Balin. "Impossibly difficult!"

"Difficult, perhaps," Gandalf allowed, "but not impossible, else I would not waste my time here." He paused, judging the Dwarves dour expressions at his proclamation. "For the first unexpected addition to your company, I suggest you take a Hobbit with you. Smaug has probably never heard of Hobbits, and he has certainly never smelt them."

"What?" cried Gloin. "One of those simple food-growers down in the Shire?"

"Indeed, there is one that I have my eye on as a companion for you, Thorin. He is clever and shrewd, and far from rash. And I think he has courage. Great courage, I guess, according to the way of his people. Furthermore, he is as soft-footed as any Hobbit. When I said that you would need stealth, I meant it: professional stealth."

"Professional stealth?" repeated Balin, taking Gandalf's words in a rather different vein than he had intended. "Do you mean a trained treasure-seeker? This Hobbit is a thief then, is that why you recommend him?"

At this, Gandalf threw caution to the wind, recognising that the Dwarves would not see past their prejudice of Hobbits unless he gave them cause to, and, if his sources were to be trusted, Bilbo would indeed take the role of a thief. "A thief?" he lied with a slight laugh. "Why yes, a professional thief!"

"What is this thief's name, or the one he uses?" Fili, Thorin's heir and oldest nephew asked.

"Hobbit's use their real names," he explained. "The only one he has is Bilbo Baggins."

"What a name!" Kili, Fili's younger brother, said with a laugh.

"And this second unexpected addition to the quest, what of that?" Thorin asked, speaking up once more.

"Another companion, a human, an advisor of sorts for the company," Gandalf said, being careful not to give out too much information.

"This business is the concern of Dwarves, I doubt a human could give us any advice of consequence," Thorin replied contemptuously, his brows lowered fiercely.

Gandalf straightened in his seat, feeling in his heart that both Bilbo and the young woman from Earth must go with the company, or else the whole quest would be a failure. In the course of his research in other worlds he had found several sources that detailed the Quest for Erebor and, despite their myriad variations, they all had one thing in common: Bilbo Baggins joining the company.

The clever young woman he had met, however, was unmentioned, yet Gandalf felt that she would be instrumental in insuring that the kingship of the mountain was held by the direct line of Durin.

"Listen to me, Durin's Folk!" he said, letting power seep into his voice. "If these two people accompany you then you will succeed, if not then you will fail. A foresight is on me, and I am warning you. If you refuse my advice them I have finished with you."

"Strong words!" Thorin said, recognising the seriousness of the Wizards tone. "I know of your fame, and I cannot help but wonder if your wits are simply addled in this foresight you claim to possess."

"My wits are addled by an exasperatingly proud Dwarf who seeks advice from my and then rewards me with insolence," Gandalf snapped. "Go your own ways, Thorin Oakenshield, but if you flout my advice then you will walk to disaster. And curb your pride and your greed, or you will fall at the end of whatever path you take, though your hands be full of gold."

Thorin's eyes flashed. "Do not threaten me, I will use my own judgement in this matter."

"Do so then, but remember that you asked my counsel for a reason." Gandalf paused, and then continued in a softer voice. "'I can say no more-unless it is this: I do not give my love or trust lightly, Thorin; but I am fond of both of these people, and wish them well. Treat them well, and you shall have my friendship to the end of your days."

It was said without hope of persuading the Dwarf King, but he could have said nothing better. Dwarves understand devotion to friends and gratitude to those who help them.

"Very well," Thorin said eventually. "They can come with us on one condition."

"Name it," the wizard said, hoping it was something he could acquiesce to.

"You must join us also."

Gandalf stroked his beard, weighing the implications of such a request. Unlike Bilbo's presence in the company, his own participation in the quest was not universally agreed upon in the sources he had found. He had been banking on the time to convince the White Council of the Shadow's growing threat.

"I shall come with you," he said eventually. "But I cannot promise my presence throughout the whole of this venture. Your deeds may seem of vital importance to you, but they are only a single strand and I must concern myself with the whole web."

Thorin nodded his understanding.

"With that settled, let us reconvene in the Shire in the middle of April," Gandalf proposed. "I shall put a thief's mark on the Hobbit's house, which can be found easily enough in the village of Hobbiton, and we shall set out from there."

"Make it the evening of the last day of April," Thorin interjected. "Not only must I gather a company together, I am due to travel north to a meeting with Dain's envoy, we are anticipating ambassadors from all seven of the Dwarven kingdoms."

"Be sure to keep this venture quiet, Thorin," he reminded him. "There is no point in stealth if the world knows your business."

Thorin nodded once more, and the conclave moved on to discuss other matters while Gandalf slipped quietly out of the Hall.

Several months later, Elizabeth Darrow found herself on a high ridge, looking out over a stunningly blue lake in the midst of New Zealand. She flung her arms wide and spun on the path, nearly knocking into her brother with her pack.

"Isn't this just beautiful?" she said, her golden-brown hair catching the sun as it fanned out while she twirled. "I feel like I am on an adventure already."

"Your adventure is going to end with you falling off the ridge if you're not careful," Peter, her younger brother, said as he squinted out over the lake.

"Kill joy," she said, sticking her tongue out at him. "How long till we get to the campsite, do you reckon?" she asked, hoisting her medium sized backpack higher on her shoulders as they started walking again.

"An hour or so, maybe less," Peter said, following behind. He cleared his throat when she stepped off the path towards a small forest. "You're going the wrong way."

"I most certainly am not," Lizzy said, mildly affronted.

"The map says we follow the path along the ridge," Peter pointed out, clutching the guidebook.

"And that lovely Kiwi man we met in the bar the other night said we can cut about half an hour off the walk if we take the path straight through the forest," she countered.

"I think the map in the guidebook is more accurate than some drunk dude."

"He wasn't drunk, he said he has lived here all his life so I think he knows what he is talking about," she said in a blasé fashion. "Besides, the guide book is probably written by people who have never been to the area. And if you look at the map the campsite is literally just on the other side of the forest, the path on the ridge just goes around the outside of the trees," she added, snatching the book from her brothers hands and flicking to the page with the map to show him. "This is a short cut."

"Since when do your short cuts work?" her brother asked, folding his arms.

"My short cuts always work, thank you very much," she said, properly affronted now.

"Uh, remember that time you drove me to Matt's house? We ended up on a dirt road."

"Yes, but we still got there eventually."

"After having to do a u-turn."

"Details," Lizzy said, waving a hand. "This is an adventure, we've got to take the path less travelled and all that jazz."

Peter snorted. "You should have done an English degree if you're going to quote poets at me."

"I happen to like Politics," she assured him, having recently graduated from University with a degree in Politics and was now enjoying her belated gap-year.

Her brother shook his head, returning to their original argument. "I still think we should take the ridge."

Lizzy bounced on the balls of her feet and grinned at him. "Well, if you're so certain how about we make it a race?"

"Last one to the campsite has to put up the tent?" he suggested a cocky smile of his own lighting his face. He shoved the guidebook into her hands. "Here, when you get lost on your shortcut you will be able to find your way back."

"Oh har har, we'll soon see who's laughing," she said, shoving the book into the side pocket of her backpack nevertheless. "See you later."

Peter waved over his shoulder, already heading down the ridge path, so Lizzy turned towards the forest. The path the Kiwi man had described was clear as day, so she strode confidently through the trees, occasionally humming to herself.

The sun was bright, it being New Zealand's summer time, and the trees provided a welcome shady respite after walking all morning. She and her brother were making the rural hike around the lake from the town they were staying in to a campsite on the far side, where a group of other travellers were planning on having a barbeque.

After about twenty minutes of walking she slowed down and checked her watch, remembering that the man who had recommended the path said it was only a ten minute walk through the small forest. After walking for five more minutes and not seeing the any sign of the edge of the trees she stopped again, consulting the map in the guidebook and checking the small compass that dangled from the zip of her pack. She was definitely going in the right direction, and the forest wasn't very large at all. The path was clear behind her, so she continued on, knowing that she could easily double back and catch up with her brother on the ridge path, the only thing lost being her pride.

The trees started to thin and she soon found herself by the forests edge, only instead of the campsite she was expecting there were broad plains and hills, not a single building in sight. Frowning, she checked the guidebook once more – apparently the western edge of the forest, which her compass told her was where she was, went straight onto the campsites land, yet she could see nothing.

She was hesitating on the edge of the trees, confusedly wondering what she should do, when she heard a twig snap behind her.

"Hello?" she said, scanning the trees.

The rustling stopped. "Who calls?" a masculine voice answers.

"Uh, hi – over here," she said, and there was the sound of heavy footsteps through the undergrowth. A branch was swept aside and she was startled to see the most strangely dressed man she had ever met. He was rather short and broad, possibly an inch taller than her five foot one frame, had long blond hair and, interestingly, a braided moustache. He was also dressed in a long leather coat with an intricate design and a broad belt, and had a sword strapped to his waist.

"Whoa, awesome costume," she said admiringly as the man looked at her in confusion. "Are you cosplaying?"

"I beg your pardon?" he said, a slight frown on his face.

"Or is it one of those LARPing things?"

"Larping?" he repeated, still staring at her as if she was the strangest thing he had ever seen.

"You know, live action role play?"

He shook his head bemusedly, the braids of his moustache swaying. "What are you talking about?" he asked, and then glanced around. "Are you out here alone, my lady?"

"Yes – well, no," she added. "I'm with my brother, but we are meeting at the campsite." She gave him a winning smile. "Can you tell me how to get there?"

"Do you refer to the camp on the shore of the River Lune?" the man asked, looking mildly concerned now. "It is at least a days walk from here."

"Um, no," she said, never having heard of this river before in her extensive research of the area. "It's called Kawerau," she said, stumbling a little over the New Zealand pronunciation and opening the guidebook to show him the map.

"What a strange book," he said, stepping closer to look. He seemed more interested in the book itself than what she was trying to show him, flicking curiously through the pages. "I have never seen such vivid paintings."

Lizzy smiled a little condescendingly at him. "Are you not allowed to break character or something?"

"Fili!" a voice hollered from within the trees and she raised her eyebrows at the familiar name.

"Over here," he called back and moments later another man stepped out from the trees. He was equally short and also dressed in leather, but with darker hair, stubble, and a bow across his back.

"How long does it take to gather firewood?" he said teasingly and then paused, noticing Lizzy and raising his eyebrows. "Good evening, my lady. Kili, at your service," he said with a bow.

"Fili and Kili," she said, smiling now, appreciating just how well made their costumes were. "Are you guys doing some kind of story re-enactment thing?"

"Do all humans speak in this strange way?" Fili asked, holding the book loosely in one hand.

She sighed. "Look, I get that you guys can't break character, but I am kinda lost, so if you could just point me in the direction of Kawerau that would be great," she said, taking the book from Fili and opening it to the map again since he had lost the page. "I could have sworn I was going in the right direction."

Kili looked interestedly over her shoulder at the book. "This is a map," he stated, sounding almost surprised.

"Uh, yeah," Lizzy said.

"It is not a map of the region we are currently in," he added in the air of one stating the obvious.

"Yes, it is," she said in an equally patronising voice. "I started here this morning, and now we should be around about here," she said, pointing out the town and campsite on the map.

"Where is our map?" Fili asked his companion.

"In my pack, at the camp," Kili replied.

Lizzy blinked at their mention of the camp." So you do know where the campsite is?"

Fili gestured towards the trees. "Come with us, my lady. You can share our meal and look at our map, and we can see if between us we can figure out where you are going."

She thought about it for a second and then shrugged her acquiescence. "Okay, and don't call me 'my lady,'" she added. "The name is Lizzy."

"An unusual name," Kili said, leading the way into the trees.

"Not really," she said bemusedly. "You guys really go all out with this cosplaying thing, don't you?"

"What is this cosplaying you keep mentioning?" Fili asked from behind her.

"Dressing up in costumes, pretending to be people from stories," she said, a hint of patronisation entering her tone once more.

The two men shared a look, and then Fili spoke. "These are our normal clothes, you are the one who is dressed strangely," he said, his gaze flickering briefly down over her layered t-shirts, black cargo trousers and walking boots.

She was spared from replying as they arrived at their camp – or rather the clearing where their two leather bags were stored, a small circle of stones in the middle for a fire that was sadly lacking in firewood. Kili went straight to one of the packs and rummaged around inside, eventually coming up with a folded piece of parchment.

"This is our map," he said, handing it over.

Lizzy unfolded it curiously and then smiled indulgently, instantly recognising the map and being amused by their antics. "This is a map of the Shire."

"So you do know the area," Fili said, sounding pleased.

"Very funny," she said, handing the map back. "We aren't really in the Shire."

"Not technically yet, we are approximately here," Kili said, pointing to an area called the Evendim Hills. "We will cross the Shire's boarders tomorrow."

"Okay, stop it now, this isn't funny," she snapped, folding her arms.

Kili paused. "I was not telling a joke, Miss Lizzy."

"Sure," she said sarcastically. "So what is this, some kind of prank you Kiwi's play on the tourists? Trying to trick people who come to see the film sets that they actually are in Middle Earth?"

The two men shared another confused look. "We are in Middle Earth," Fili said.

"No, we are in New Zealand," she countered with the air of one talking to a particularly slow child.

"New Zealand," he repeated. "I have never heard of this place."

Lizzy straightened her shoulders and gave the pair of them a withering look. "You know what? I refuse to sit here and be mocked. If you guys won't help me then I'll just retrace my steps to the edge of the forest."

Fili stepped forward, one hand slightly raised. "Miss Lizzy, night is falling, you should not wander alone. Truly, if you wish to find this place you speak of you should at least wait until morning. You are welcome to share our camp for the night."

"What do you mean, night is falling? It's barely mid-afternoon."

Kili glanced up at the trees. "It will be dark in less than an hour. Will you at least allow one of us to accompany you to the edge of the forest?"

"No," she said adamantly. "Thanks, but no thanks."

As she turned to stalk out of the small clearing the air was rent by a distant howl.

She paused, confused. "Was that a wolf?"

"Aye, the Dim Hills are crawling with them," Fili said.

"There are no wolves in New Zealand," she said, sounding less confident than she had a moment ago.

There was another howl, this one sounding slightly closer.

"Please, for your own safety, stay here tonight," Fili said, sounding genuinely concerned.

She chewed her lip, not willing to stay with them but also much more nervous of the forest than she had been a moment ago. "Fine, one of you can come with me," she all but snapped. "But I am still going, it should only be a twenty minute walk to the ridge."

Kili shoved the map back in his bag and hoisted his bow higher on his shoulder. "Get a fire going while I am gone, won't you?" he said, and Fili nodded.

Giving Fili a slight smile, she left the clearing and led the way through the forest, quickly finding the path she had been on before. They walked in silence for several minutes, and then Kili cleared his throat behind her.

"Are you sure this is the way?" he asked, sounding doubtful.

"This is the path I was on before," she said confidently, and decided to make more conversation. "So where are you from?" she asked, since his accent sounded vaguely Celtic but she couldn't place it, despite being English herself.

"Ered Luin, a mountain range to the north-west of here," he replied, his eyes scanning the trees.

"No need to pretend, your buddy isn't around," she said. "He won't know if you break character."

Kili gave her a bemused look. "You are a very strange person."

She snorted. "This coming from the guy who is dressed as a Dwarf."

"I am a Dwarf," he said seriously.

"Right, I get it," she said, her tone patronising once more.

They walked in silence for a few more minutes, until their tramp through the undergrowth startled a pheasant from beneath a bush. Almost quicker than the eye could follow, Kili had pulled his bow from his shoulder, nocked an arrow and let it fly, shooting the bird down onto the path.

"Whoa, great shot," she said with genuine admiration, never having seen anyone do something like that before.

"Thank you," Kili said with an easy smile, holding the pheasant by its neck. "Fili will be pleased to have meat for supper, our rations were beginning to run low."

They continued on through the forest, and Lizzy noticed that it was beginning to get dark. Checking her watch, she saw that it was just passed four – the sun shouldn't be setting for another few hours at least.

"This isn't much of a path," Kili pointed out, breaking the silence once again and interrupting her musings.

"It did seem bigger earlier," she said, less confident in her navigational abilities now. She checked the compass once again and was relieved to see they were still heading eastwards – as long as they stuck in that direction they would reach the ridge and lake regardless of whether or not they were on the forest path. She found herself wondering if her brother had reached the campsite yet. "We are going the right way though."

"What is this device?" Kili asked, looking at her small compass with great interest.

Lizzy smiled condescendingly. "It's a compass, it shows you how to find north."

Kili examined the compass and then squinted up at the sky. "Interesting," he said, fascinated. "It really does point north."

She rolled her eyes, really beginning to tire of their pretending now. "Should only be a few more minutes," she said, and then smiled as she noticed the trees beginning to thin. "There, I can see the edge."

Hurrying out from the trees, she stopped in her tracks when she saw broad, grassy hills as far as the eye could see – no ridge, no path, and certainly no sparkling lake with a faint view of the town in the distance.

Her jaw gaped, staring wide-eyed at her surroundings. "This is impossible," she muttered.

"Miss Lizzy?" Kili said, his voice jolting her back to reality – or at least, what she thought was reality. She stared at him, taking in once more his braided hair, the travel stained clothes and the bow he held in one hand, remembering the map he had shown her barely twenty minutes ago.


Turning on her heel, she bolted in the direction of the hills, wanting to get high enough to see her surroundings properly.

"Miss Lizzy!" Kili called from behind her, but she didn't stop and she heard him start running behind her.

Panting and giving herself a stitch in her side, she reached the top of the closest hill, Kili arriving just behind her with the limp pheasant still dangling from his grip. From this high vantage point she could see out over the forest they had just left, noticing the lush green plains for miles in every direction.

"No, this … this is …" She spun around to look, still gasping for breath and feeling absolutely overwhelmed.

She felt a tentative touch on her shoulder. "Miss Lizzy, are you alright?"

"No! No, I am not alright," she wheezed, feeling very light headed, black spots dancing in front of her eyes. "Everything's … oh fuck, I think I am going to -"

Suddenly, in an act that she would come to be very embarrassed about, which Fili and Kili would occasionally tease her with in the coming months, the ground rushed up to meet her and all she saw was darkness.

Lots of the conversation between Thorin and Gandalf is taken and adapted from Tolkien's Quest for Erebor in the Unfinished Tales.

Hope you enjoyed the first chapter, reviews and constructive criticism are most welcome.

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