''What did you see?''
A sigh of relief traveled through the entire company in unison as each member re-sheathed their weapon and tried to relax again. This was however instantly answered by the grumbling.
''For Durin's sake!''
''Just conkers? Where's the Orcs?''
''Don't wish for Orcs!''
Bilbo turned his gaze up, giving Thorin a weak, lob-sided smile as he held up a handful of the green casings with held the conkers. The dark haired Dwarf let out a long sigh, turning from the Hobbit and made his way back to the company. It didn't take long for Bilbo to come scuttling after him back to the grumbling company, with a hand full of conkers though unable to hide the grin from his face.
The company followed him with their eyes, falling silent in interest at what the small Hobbit was planning on doing. Though all came clear when he began winding in and out of the Dwarves, handing them all a conker each, and moved back in front of Thorin, delicately offering him a conker too though obviously with baited breath as he awaited the reaction of the company's leader.
Thorin raised an eyebrow, giving a slight smirk at the burglar's obvious carefulness around him. He didn't try and hide it.
''I suppose you are wanting us to stop?'' He asked, staring down at the Hobbit.
''I-'' Bilbo shrugged quickly, looking anywhere by into Thorin's eyes. ''I mean...we don't have to. But we've been walking all day in the dark. I thought maybe...I mean you've told me how to use a sword..I thought...maybe I could teach you?'' There was a moment of silence after Bilbo finished his sentence, that was once again followed by the company erupting behind them.
''Let the Burglar show us his trick of the trade.''
''I've got to see this.''
''Come on, Uncle.''
''We have been walking all day - we've made good progress.''
''Fine.'' Thorin said, rolling his eyes and putting his hand up to stop the shouts from behind him. Making that much noise, they were certain to gather company. ''We will make camp here.''
Bilbo beamed widely.
''Okay, we all need a bit of string each. Hrm,'' Bilbo lowered his brow as he took his hand out of his pocket. He had not packed string. The whole concept of finding and trying to teach Dwarves how to play conkers hadn't really occurred to him when he had packed hurriedly all those mornings ago. String was another thing he had forgotten about, though he had to be honest with himself, he didn't miss it as much as his pocket handkerchief - and of course there was always the positive that if he had packed string, he would most likely have been eaten by now.
''Er,'' A small voice spoke up, making Bilbo turn his gaze up in search for the owner. All thirteen Dwarves sat together, around a large fire - the only light in the forest that could be seen - in a wide circle, looking intently at Bilbo and waiting for instructions. It was a rather ludicrous sight, and Bilbo had to force his face straight as he looked back at them as the teacher. ''Y-you can use some of this.''
Ori smiled sheepishly at Bilbo, offering him several pieces of wool that had fallen from his scarf over the past days, after being caught on tree branches and other members of the companies weapons. They seemed long - long enough that they could be split in half and still be enough to use in the game.
''Thank you.'' The Hobbit gave a grin and he reached over, taking the wool from the young Dwarf. He offered them to Fíli - the first on his left - who quickly sliced them in half with a small pocket knife and began handing them round the circle. ''Okay, everyone got one?'' He couldn't help the smile that crossed his face.
He would have never dreamed of talking to the company like this - as a teacher. On the road he was the always the one learning. He had never done anything like an adventure before, though even the youngest in the company of Dwarves had at least been on an overnight hunting trip so had managed to learn the basics before being accepted into Thorin and Co. However, Bilbo had not. And after several months of each Dwarf talking his turn to teach Bilbo something whenever they got the chance, from packing horses, or the best way to cross rivers, and everything else, Bilbo was happy to have this chance to teach the company something from the Shire.
''Okay,'' Bilbo said, clasping his hands together. ''What you need to do is make a hole through the middle of it, right here with your sword, or if Fíli will let us use the pocket knife again - yes that's right - and then try and thread your piece of string, kindly donated by Ori, through said hole.''
It just felt so odd. Odd to have all eyes on him - not that it was a new thing - but he was actually telling them something no one else there knew. He felt...sort of special.
''Like this Bilbo?''
''Yes, Kíli. Just tie it at the bottom so the conker doesn't fly off - speaking from personal experience, it's not great to get a conker in the eye. Had a black eye for at least a week.'' He chuckled as the young Dwarf gave a nod in agreement, and busied himself in tying the string at the bottom in a tight knot.
''So, basically each player just takes it in turns to try and completely destroy their partners conker.'' The Hobbit looked around the circle, taking in the interested faces and also the slightly, less interested ones - Thorin. ''There are several important rules, this is the boring part but trust me, conkers are great fun.''
''I wouldn't describe thinking we were under attack, fun.'' Thorin commented quietly, a little off set from the rest of the circle.
''Trust me, when you get started it is.'' Bilbo swallowed. It was blindingly obvious that Thorin didn't really like the threat to his role as company leader. Bilbo just needed to make it clear to the older Dwarf that he wasn't trying to steal his post, he was just aiming to lighten the mood slightly after being trapped in the cold, suffocating darkness of Mirkwood for so long. ''So, aim is to-''
''Hit the other person's conker.'' Fíli said, grinning in joke menace at his brother. There was clearly a war on.
''Exactly. Basically, the next rules are,'' Bilbo continued, rapping the string of his own conker around his hand. ''You wrap the string around your hand like so, draw the conker back,'' He did. ''And you are ready to strike. You aim opponent is striking, hold your conker around an arms length and let them it hi. If you miss the other players conker, you are allowed to up to but no exceeding two more tries.'' He explained, pleased that he seemed to have gathered the entire companies attention - and checking out of the corner of his eye, even Thorin watched as he released his conker as an example.
''If your string gets caught together, the first player to shout 'strings' is allowed another shot. This also applies to two other rules. If the string goes in an entire circle, first one to shout 'around middle-earth' is allowed another go, and if you drop your conker - or it's knocked from your grasp - the first to shout 'stamps' can jump on it. However, if this is your conker, you might not want to do this. Feel free to try and shout 'no stamps' before your opponent, and you get to keep your conker. It just goes on like that until one, or both, of the conkers is completely destroyed.''
''That's it?'' Thorin asked, raising in eyebrow and smirking slightly.
''No, Fíli that's not stamps!''
''It's on the floor isn't it?''
''It was still in my hand when you yelled stamps.''
''It's still stamps.''
''No stamps!'' The brunet yelled, shoving his brother's foot quickly away and grabbing his fallen conker before it was crushed under Fíli 's large boot.
The company was alive. More alive than Bilbo had seen it for a while - probably since they had left Beorn's house and traveled into the dark, confided place of the forest. It was good, everyone was enjoying themselves. Though, as Bilbo looked straight at his opponent's serious stare as he glared at the conker, Thorin was probably taking it a little too seriously for his own good.
They had all paired up, which had mostly ended up with sibling battles. Of course, Fíli with Kíli , Dwailn with Balin, Bombur and Bofur with Bifur watching intently but happy with not playing himself, Dori with Ori, Glóin - surprisingly - was with Nori but with Óin close too, once again more content with watching the battles than actually taking part. Which had left Bilbo with Thorin.
''You ready?'' He asked sheepishly, taking in the dark haired Dwarf's lowered brow. He couldn't tell if he was angry, or just concentrating overly hard, but either way...Bilbo couldn't help to find it a mixture of both amusing and highly disturbing.
''Ready.'' Thorin let go of his conker suddenly, quickly Bilbo threw his hand out further in surprise as he let the Dwarf a clear swing. ''Your turn.''
''Around Middle-Earth!'' Thorin yelled, catching Bilbo off guard once again.
''Y-yes.'' He said, trying to untangle the two bits of string. ''Your turn again then.''
Bilbo brought his gaze up, stunned by the noise the company was suddenly making.
''Kíli you missed that.''
''No way, you saw that. You watched it hit yours.''
''You're just trying to cheat - like normal.''
''I think you'll find you hold the record of number of times you've cheated in games over the years.''
''Bilbo-'' Thorin let go of his conker, causing Bilbo to drop his string as the Dwarf's connected with his. ''Stamps!'' Thorin shouted suddenly, pressing his foot into the conker that had fallen to the ground, unaware that the rest of the company had fallen silent at the unexpected shout from their apparent disinterested leader.
Bilbo swallowed, looking down at the mangled crumbs that was once his conker. Maybe...maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all. He would never live down the fact that he said he was meant to be good at conkers. He had lost to a first time player. Was certainly convinced that he had started something now, and was even more positive that he would live to regret it.