- Dark Themes
- Fix It
Gandalf made a great show of being very contrite. He sat patiently and allowed Bilbo to lecture him, explaining in great detail everything they had been through since Gandalf had left them on the edge of Mirkwood.
“And another thing!” Bilbo said, poking Gandalf in the arm with the tip of his pipe (and don’t think he was letting Gandalf off easily, just because he’d supplied Bilbo with some Old Tobey he had smuggled away somewhere). “Just what were we supposed to do, hmmm, when Durin’s Day came, us sitting here on the top of a mountain, and you no where to be found? Don’t enter the mountain without you, you told us. Were we to twiddle our thumbs in Lake Town for a whole year until we could try again?”
“I think you’re being a tad over dramatic. I think you had things well in hand, Bilbo. Things seem to have gone fine.”
“Fine!” Bilbo repeated, puffing up like pastry. “Fine, he says! I was about eaten, Gandalf! Singed!”
“I understand you did very well, riddling the dragon. At least until it broke free and burned all of Lake Town.”
“Mustn’t forget that,” Bard muttered from his place at the end of the table, but he was largely ignored.
“I had very important things to deal with myself, Bilbo.” Gandalf pointed out. He had already told them about meeting Galadriel and the rest of the White Council to fight the shade of Sauron, and of the fate of Thorin’s father, Thrain.
Bilbo wrapped his lips around his pipe, and crossed his arms, showing Gandalf just what he thought of all that.
“Where is Thorin?” Gandalf finally asked. It was a question obviously long on his mind, as he’d been assured they all lived and yet Thorin’s presence was obviously missing and Fili wore the Crown of Ravens.
“Gold-mad.” Fili said shortly. “We’ve put him in the lower levels for now.”
“I had hoped,” Gandalf began, but then trailed off. He looked exceedingly sad, but also resigned, and Bilbo had a sudden, terrible realization.
“You knew this would happen,” He said in amazement. “You knew that Thorin would go mad within this mountain and you let him come. Worse, you encouraged him to come!”
“I suspected,” Gandalf admitted, “But I had hoped otherwise. Thorin never wore one of the rings of power, unlike his father and grandfather. In all the time I have known him, Thorin has never seemed in any way affected by gold. I had hoped the curse would be lessened in him enough that it wouldn’t have mattered.”
“It wasn’t worth it,” Bilbo said, shaking his head. “You could have waited, waited until Fili or Kili were old enough. They’ve already explained to me how they don’t have the curse that Thorin labors under. You’d already waited a hundred years! What was a hundred more!”
“Darkness was growing in this region, Bilbo. I still don’t understand it, but Sauron has fixed his gaze upon this region and his attention rarely wavers. Leaving Erebor in Smaug’s control allowed darkness to continue to fester. Another hundred years would have made all the difference. It had to have been now, or the quest would never have been successful. Thorin knew the risks. He accepted them. He thought that, for the betterment of his people, it was worth it.”
“Sod what Thorin thought! Nothing is worth anything to him anymore, nothing but gold. You might have weighed the fate of the world against one dwarf and thought it worth it, but it wasn’t, Gandalf. It wasn’t because now I’ve lost him. I found him, and then I lost him.” Bilbo felt about ready to burst, as grief and anger and hurt and dread all built inside of him until it all seemed unbearable.
“Not lost,” Kili assured Bilbo, coming around the table and hugging him tight. “We’ll get Uncle back somehow. You said it yourself: as long as he never touched the Arkenstone, he could be saved.”
Bilbo sniffed back the tears that threatened, and leaned into Kili’s warmth. “I did say that. I don’t know what’s come across me. I’ve never been one to give in to anyone or anything, and I’m certainly not going to give in to this.”
Gandalf peered at him closely. “Are you feeling alright, Bilbo? You’ve lost weight, even since Beorn’s. Why, you’re practically wane for a hobbit.”
Bilbo knew how he looked. He had watched his father Waste away, after all, and knew that comparisons could be made between them.
“It was difficult,” Bilbo admitted, “Being in Mirkwood. The darkness there, where things should have been green and growing… Hobbits aren’t meant to go into such lands, Gandalf. It was like the darkness was trying to lynch the light out of me. I feared I’d never see light again, and it was hard… so hard to even remember there was goodness in the world yet. When the elves took Thorin, it gave me something to fight for. The darkness didn’t seem so unmanageable after that.”
It was easier to be brave with Thorin around, easier to find joy.
“I think I’d like to go see Thorin, now, actually. I’ll bring him his food.”
“Take Dwalin and Tauriel with you.” Fili told him. “And put at least two others on the door.”
“I’ll go with him,” Gandalf said, standing.
He put his hand on Bilbo’s shoulder, but Bilbo hardly noticed. Nor did he notice that he had slipped his own hand into his pocket, or that the tips of his fingers were starting to stroke the ring that he kept there. His thoughts were consumed by Thorin, and the fear that he would never come back from the madness.
Weeks went by. Snow began to fall upon the Lonely Mountain. Ravens were sent out daily, to see how Dain’s advancement to Erebor went.
The Men of Lake Town were trained as best as they could be in such a short amount of time; most of them had never held a true weapon before. They’d all be found good, dwarven-made swords and axes. Erebor’s armory had been overflowing with such things. Unfortunately there hadn’t been much in the way of armor, at least not any kind that could fit a Man. Those in the Company that were skilled in smithing did their best to outfit as many as they could. The Elves, at least, all had good quality weapons and armor, and hundreds of years of training on how to use them.
Fili spent hours in meetings with Gandalf, Thrandiul, and Bard, attempting to plan the defenses as best as they could. Erebor itself was defensible, for all that the dragon had put several large holes into her. The Elvish archers were uncannily accurate and would be their main line of defense, with a hundred of them stationed in hidden alcoves designed just for that purpose. Dwarrow weren’t fond of archery, and tended by and large to train in melee fighting, but Kili wasn’t the only dwarf to take to the bow and arrow. The ground troops, several hundred more Elves and just shy of three hundred men from Lake Town, would defend Erebor’s main gate. They could retreat into the mountain itself if necessary, but it would mean a slow and terrible death for all inside. They didn’t have the food to last even a week under seige.
Their best hope was that Dain would arrive before the orcs, but the last raven they’d received from the Lord of the Iron Hills indicated their march had been slowed by deep snowfall in the final mountain pass they had to cross. They could not depend on reinforcements from that end, not with the orc army, several thousand strong, due to arrive at any time.
“You must stay inside the mountain, Bilbo.” Fili told him, sternly. He had taken Bilbo aside after a meeting Bilbo had sat in on. “You have no place out in that fight.”
“I can’t! You all will be out there fighting, and I should be too.”
Fili shook his head, “No. Ori and Oin aren’t going to be out there, either. If it comes down to it, Bilbo, we’ll need someone that can lead the women and children away from here. The secret entrance leads out the other side of the mountain. If necessary, you will be able to lead them away from here while the orcs are distracted by the fight at the main gates. Head South, for Gondor. Once you leave the women and children in one of Gondor’s settlements, you, Ori, and Oin can head east into Rohan, and then up past Isengard into the Shire. You should be safe enough; the Men keep their lands pretty well cleared of orcs and goblins, but stay clear of Fangorn Forest. It wouldn’t do your hobbit-y self to venture into those woods. I’ve heard they’re cursed.”
“Azog is coming for you, Fili. You and Kili. I can’t… I can’t leave you to fend for yourselves. Thorin would never forgive me.”
“Uncle would never forgive us for allowing you out into a battlefield. Kili and I have been trained since birth for battle. We’ve been taught by both Thorin and Dwalin, the two best fighters our people have ever seen, since we were big enough to hold weapons. We are not the Men of Lake Town, who are unprepared for this. Thrandiul’s son has set his mind upon killing the Pale Orc, and Legolas is as deadly a fighter as I’ve ever witnessed. Tauriel will not let Kili stray from her, and I know my duty as King. There is nothing you can do for us out there, except make us worry and divide our attention trying to protect you. And that will endanger us more than anything else could.”
Bilbo wanted to keep arguing, but he couldn’t. He looked up into Fili’s eyes and wondered again where the playful dwarfling he’d met at Bag End had gone. Before him stood a king and Bilbo wouldn’t dishonor him any further with pointless arguments.
“I will stay with Ori and help Oin with the wounded.” Bilbo finally agreed, “But, I will ask something of you. I trust Tauriel to keep Kili safe, but there is no one out there who will look after you. So, please, do this one thing for me.”
“Whatever you ask, Bilbo.” Fili agreed.
Bilbo dug into his pocket and held out his little magic ring. “If you are in danger, if you need to hide. Put this on.”
Fili took the ring and examined it closely, with a frown. “What is it?”
“I found it in the goblin caves. It is what let me sneak so easily around those elvish dungeons, and it let me riddle with a dragon. It has saved my life, and this quest. It’ll turn you invisible, Fili.”
“Invisible.” Fili repeated, intrigued.
“Yes. If you need to hide, put it on. Promise me.”
“Okay.” Fili said, as he tucked the ring into his breast pocket. “I promise.”
Distantly, through the walls of Erebor, an elvish horn blew. Fili and Bilbo both turned towards the sound, Fili with determination and Bilbo with dread.
“It is time.”
“Stay with Ori and Oin,” Fili ordered. “I’ll remember my promise, if you remember yours.”
And then he was gone. The battle was about to begin, and the Ring of Sauron was about to awake.