I do not own any of the characters or The Hobbit (just the AU storyline and my OC) Those are the work of the esteemed and brilliant John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, and without his genius, this and many other fan fics would not be in existence.

Kili coughed and sputtered, feeling as though his chest was unable to expand. The pain from his broken ribs seared through him as he gasped for breath, stars swimming before his eyes as the edges of his vision turned black. The last thing he could remember was pain as he felt wet rags scrubbing at his broken skin, and a very bitter drought running down his throat before darkness claimed him.

He could barely hear through the rushing sound in his ears, but the tongue being spoken next to him sounded very strange. More than once he discerned the distinctive higher pitch that clearly belonged to the voice of a small child, but he could no more comprehend the words than if he were to speak Khuzdul to Bilbo and expect the hobbit to understand him. Suddenly he felt someone lift up his head, hot steam assaulting his face a moment later.

"Breathe!" the older voice demanded in Westron, and Kili complied as best he could, though it pained him to do so. The steam entered his mouth and lungs, and though the effect was very subtle, he found his frantic gasps begin to slow ever so slightly.

Wh-where am I? Where is Cira?

XXX

The fog was still very dense as the young woman raced back toward the cabin, the peppermint firmly clutched in her trembling hands. Waist high corn stalks surrounded her, brushing on her tied nightgown as she ran, but she paid them no mind in her haste.

The quiet stillness of the early morning was only punctuated by her own gasping breaths as the sunrise began to filter through the fog, casting a soft orange and red glow to her left. She could hear the forest behind her beginning to stir even as the smell of wood fires permeated the air.

Her mind went to the young dwarf, deep concern clouding her features as she recalled his struggles to breathe. The blue tinge of his lips had not been lost on her, and his desperate gasps greatly worried the young woman. Cirashala dearly hoped that Meril had listened to her and boiled some water- hopefully the steam could at least break up anything that might be obstructing his airways and buy her a little time.

She was so focused on her goal that she didn't hear the sound of footsteps approaching, until she crashed into something solid, sending her flying backwards onto the tilled soil with a cry. Startled blue eyes looked up as a tall, broad man emerged from the fog, clad in a brown tunic and trousers. He seemed equally surprised to see her. His dark eyes widened in astonishment, before quickly narrowing in suspicion.

His hair was quite light though tangled, as was his scraggly beard, and Cirashala noticed his feet were clad in deerskin just like Meril's. His appearance faintly reminded her of the men of the Riddermark in Lord of the Rings, much to her surprise.

The woodsman spoke to her in a strange tongue, uneasiness forming in the pit of her stomach at the way his piercing gaze roamed over her. She shook her head, hand slowly grasping the fallen peppermint lying on the ground where it had fallen in her fright.

"I don't understand," she said slowly, rising as she kept her gaze on him. Seeing the shadowy shapes of the cabins behind him, Cirashala swallowed heavily, her whole body trembling.

The strange man stepped toward her suddenly, and with a cry she darted to the side, jumping over the row of corn next to her and sprinting toward Meril's cabin, just out of his reach. She did not look back for fear of him and his strange gaze right behind her, and headed straight for the door, her heart pounding with fright.

XXX

Meril looked up as the door to the cabin banged open, the pale girl shutting it quickly behind her as she leaned against it, panting. The young dwarf coughed again, the sound deep within his chest, and the young girl looked up, worry and fear in her eyes.

"Why did you need the peppermint?" Meril asked as the girl quickly rushed to Kili's side, the young woman not answering as her worried gaze traveled over the young dwarf. It did not escape the woman's notice that she'd tied her nightgown up in a loose knot just above her knees.

At least the hem is not ripped, though I hope that no one else saw her like that.

"Breathe, Gisli," she whispered as she began breaking mint leaves off her bundle and dropping them in the steaming water, her eyes misty. "Just….just breathe, please."

Meril watched in confusion as the crushed leaves were dropped in the water, the sweet fragrance beginning to waft up from the pot after a moment. As far as she knew, mint leaves could be brewed in tea, but she never heard about them being used to aid in breathing before.

The lad's gasping seemed to calm after a few minutes as the scent of the herb grew stronger, his body relaxing slightly as his chest began to rise, more so than it had before. The young girl's shoulders seemed to relax a bit as well, and the old woman heard an audible sigh of relief from both her and Freida. The child had moved to the foot of the straw tick during the commotion after the young girl ran out, her little eyes wide as she clutched her rag doll tightly.

The near silence was broken by a rooster crowing outside, and Meril looked up. Glancing toward the window, where the first rays of dawn began to shine through, she moved to stand up, laying the cooling pot next to the straw tick. Now that the young dwarf's breathing was stable, she needed to get busy.

After all, there was always work to be done, and breakfast wouldn't get itself on the table.

XXX

Cirashala watched as Meril stood up, relieved that Kili's breathing had slowed down and become steadier, and that her idea of using steam and mint had worked.

I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't. Maybe I can make a paste to rub on his chest as well, like vapor rub.

Glancing down at the remaining bundle of leaves, she picked it up, before looking up at Meril. The old woman's gaze was questioning as she began to put flour into a wooden carved out bowl, and Cirashala flushed as she realized she hadn't answered her when she asked why she needed peppermint.

"The mint will help open his airway so he can breathe better," she said quietly, her gaze moving toward Kili once more as Meril nodded. "The steam helps it get into his lungs, and a paste may help too."

The young dwarf still panted a bit as he lay there, sweat beading on his pale forehead, a stark contrast to his flushed cheeks and damp, dark hair. Cirashala reached toward his forehead with her hand to brush his bangs aside, frowning as she felt the heat emanating off of him.

"He's feverish again," she said quietly, before her gaze returned toward the old woman. "Ma'am, can-can he have some more willow bark tea soon?"

"I will make some as soon as I get the biscuits in the oven," Meril responded, pinching what appeared to be salt from a small container in the bowl. Muttering to Frieda in what sounded to be the same language the man in the cornfield had used, the child nodded and went back into her room, emerging a few minutes later in a brown dress and leaving the house. The old woman turned and grabbed the washboard, sticking it in the full washbasin before looking back toward Cirashala.

"Might want to start on the washing if you want clothes to wear," she said matter of factly as she returned to her biscuits. "And after breakfast, I will show you where the clothesline is, as well as the broom so you can start your chores."

Cirashala heard the command in the tone, and nodded. Slowly, she stood up and moved toward the washtub, grabbing the bar of soap next to it on her way.

I said I would work off our debt, she thought to herself as she dipped her hand in the warm water. She glanced at Kili out of the corner of her eye as she began to soap up his soiled tunic. Her thoughts went to the company as she began to scrub. If they survived the encounter with Azog on the mountain and made it to Beorn's, surely they must think him dead by now.

Please Eru- help me get him back to his family alive.

XXX

Bilbo heard a large buzzing that sounded vaguely familiar, frowning in his sleep. Suddenly, something landed very lightly on his nose, causing his eyes to fly open in bewilderment.

A giant bee flew up, seemingly just as startled as its chosen perch was. The hobbit watched it in wonder, never having seen such a large bee in his life before.

It seems as though everything is large here, he thought to himself. He vaguely recalled seeing a giant man, if he could be called a man, enter the house late last night before he had finally fallen into a deep sleep in his exhaustion.

Is that our host? Gandalf said he was sometimes a great big man.

Looking around, he could see most of the other company members slowly waking up as well. Dwalin groaned as he cracked his neck from side to side, muttering quietly about the "smells of a stable" as he sat up. Balin rubbed his eyes, clearly still exhausted as a large yawn escaped him. Nori's hair was even more disheveled than before, various pieces of hay sticking out of it at odd angles.

Bilbo slowly sat up himself, fairly rested despite waking in the night at least once. Rubbing the sleep out of his own eyes, his gaze landed on Thorin and Fili, still fast asleep in the corner. The dwarf king's head was laid back as he snored rather loudly, his hand still resting on the blonde head. Dark circles rested under his eyes even as tear tracks still lined his cheeks.

I wonder if Fili even knows that he stayed up to watch over him.

Remembering the tears of anguish and words spoken in grief the evening before, Bilbo's heart went out to the king and his nephew. Losing Kili was a tremendous blow to the company, both in terms of numbers and morale. The young prince had been a constant source of optimism and cheerfulness throughout most of the journey, despite the pranks he and his brother had exacted on various unsuspecting members of the company. Still, Bilbo was quite certain that the company would now welcome his pranks, if it meant that the lad were still alive and with them.

Losing the young woman, though it may not have affected some of the company as much as others, had been equally hard, especially after he heard of her ill fated attempt to save Kili as he fell. She had tried very hard to become accepted amongst the dwarves, he could see that fairly early on, and had been willing to defend those who were somewhat outcasts of the company. He could see that Bombur and Ori and Bofur missed her presence as well, as they along with himself had come to call her friend.

His thoughts then went back toward his home. How would he feel if Bag End had been taken over by a dragon, his family and the rest of Hobbiton burned and killed? The thought initially began in the forest outside of Goblin town, but it re-entered his mind now. The hobbit swallowed heavily at the thought as his gaze once more landed on the sleeping king and young prince beside him, the two having already lost so much for the mountain.

How great will the cost be, in the end?

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A response to guest reviewer Guest: Not really magic- just how it happened to land lol ;) And yes it did- and I could seriously see Dwalin having an awful time keeping his laughter in check on that one! ;P

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