- Death-Minor Character
- Canon Divergent
He'd really prefer another quest.
Bilbo blinked slowly. For a moment there he was confused, unsure where he was. The soft mattress and warm bedding were unexpected after the months on the road, first with the company, then with Nori, Tauriel and Gilraen. He could feel Nori beside him, awake but relaxed, which helped him to stay calm as well. He knew he was safe right now.
As he woke up more, he remembered where he was. He remembered returning to Erebor on the eagles. He remembered throwing the ring into Mount Doom. He remembered Tauriel and Gilraen staying behind at the foot of the mountain to keep the orcs that had spotted them from intercepting them, to buy him and Nori more time. “Gilraen and Tauriel?”
Nori pulled him closer, carefully cupping his head and encouraging to hide his face in his neck. “Tauriel is here. Óin is taking care of her. Gilraen fell in Mordor. Tauriel brought her back, to give her to Elrond to be buried in Rivendell.”
Bilbo did not try to hold back the tears. The four of them had grown close over the courses of the past weeks as they had made their way to Mordor. They had talked, about their homes, their families, so he knew she had a little boy back in Rivendell, only just ten years old. A little boy who would never see his mother again.
“We’ll offer the services of one of our sculptors,” Nori said quietly. He ignored the way his voice shook. “He deserves a reminder of what she looked like. What she did for him.” They knew very well, after all, why she had joined their mission.
They stayed curled up together there, grieving from their new friend they had already lost.
Finally Bilbo’s tears dried. He rubbed his cheeks, trying to wipe away the salty trails. “How late is it?”
Nori extended his stone sense. As a dwarf, he was able to judge the time of the day without any daylight, just from the way part of the mountain was warming up from the sunshine. “It’s late morning. We slept through dinner, the night and breakfast.” His nose flared, then he smiled at Bilbo. “But it seems either Bombur sent something for us or Dori brought something back for us. There’s food waiting for us outside.”
“We’ll have to thank them.”
“After we’re back from reporting to Dís and Thorin.”
Thorin could not stop pacing, no matter how much he knew it was annoying Dís and Balin. He knew they were worried about Bilbo and Nori as well but they did not, could not understand what he and Dwalin were feeling. Balin had no One and no interest in a relationship and Dís had never found hers, though she had loved Fíli and Kíli’s father dearly regardless. But it meant that they could not understand what it meant to know that their Ones were nearby, that they were hurting but that they could not do anything to help. Even if they had the right, they had no idea what had happened and what they could do to make them feel better. At least his boys weren’t here to see him like this.
He stopped short suddenly when he noticed a familiar heartbeat coming closer. And how had he managed to miss this? How had he not noticing over the course of their quest that he could pick out Bilbo’s heartbeat, that he was unconsciously listening for it whenever he was not in his side? It certainly explained some of the problems he had been having with his sense of hearing since he had woken up after the battle.
But he could not greet him like this, pacing and frazzled. He quickly returned to his seat, straightening his clothes and hair. He ignored Dís’ snort. “Bilbo. Nori,” he greeted them when they entered.
“Thorin,” Nori replied. He held his eyes for a moment, then bowed. “My king.” He smiled at Dís. “My princess.”
“My raven,” Dís said.
Thorin suddenly remembered all the times Dís had mentioned news she had received from her raven. She had never meant messages sent by raven, had she?
“After the battle, we realized that the ring Bilbo had found was trying to influence him,” Nori began. “When we told Tharkûn and Elrond, they figured out it was the One Ring. Hiding it was too risky and there was no army ready to march on Mordor anytime soon.”
“I offered to sneak it into Mordor, to Mount Doom,” Bilbo continued. “Nori offered to go with me.”
“Prince Legolas offered his assistance but Thranduil forbid it. Tauriel went in his place. Thranduil swore to take back her banishment if she returned alive. Gilraen then offered her aid as well, in the name of the humans and for her son.”
“Tauriel is banishment from Mirkwood? What for?” Dís asked.
“She disagreed when Thranduil wanted to withdraw his forces before the battle was decided,” Nori replied. “She and Prince Legolas helped us at Ravenhill, killed Bolg before he could hurt the boys.”
“She saved Kíli twice then.” She waited for Nori to nod, then asked: “What about the human, Gilraen? Her armour did not look like the one of the humans from Laketown.”
“She is – was one of the Dúnadan of the North. She came with Elrond.” Nori paused. “She was of the line of the first chieftain of the Dúnedain and the widow of Arathorn II, the last chieftain.”
“Her son is Isildur’s Heir, the rightful King of Gondor,” Dís realized.
Nori inclined his head. “Which is why she accompanied us to destroy Isildur’s Bane.” He paused. “We managed to get to Mordor without being detected. We had almost reached Mount Doom when we were spotted. Tauriel and Gilraen held them off, to give us time to get up on Mount Doom and destroy the ring.”
“The ring tried to influence me again but even the casual bond between us was enough to shield me,” Bilbo said. He ignored Thorin’s flinch at the mention of the friendly bond he currently shared with Nori instead of Thorin, his Sentinel. This was not the time. “I threw it into the fire and then the mountain just” he waved a hand, trying to find the words, “collapsed.”
“The crater’s edge collapsed inward,” Nori explained, “and the molten rock rose up and poured down the sides. Then the eagles came. It seems Kára, my spirit animal, contacted them somehow and requested their assistance. They picked us up before we could get hurt by the molten stone and carried us all here. But it was already too late for Gilraen. I could no longer hear her heartbeat when they carried us away.”
“I had Bifur take her to the halls deep in the mountain where the humans and dwarrow who have fallen in the battle here were taken. Her body will be safe there until Elrond can arrange for her to be brought to her final resting place,” Dís said.
Nori waited patiently for them to ask further questions or dismiss them. The important points had been reported now, though he would at some point with Dís to go through the details and to answer her questions about Tauriel she was sure to have.
“Master Baggins. Bilbo. We cannot repay all you have done for us, to help us regain our home and to safe all free people from the threat of Sauron’s return,” Thorin said. “We have – I have failed to treat you with the respect you deserve, both as a member of my company and as m- a Guide. I formally apologize and would like to take back my words.” He paused, then cleared his throat. “I… hope that, one day, you will forgive me Even if you don’t you will always have a place of honour here in Erebor.”
“Of courses I forgive you, Thorin,” Bilbo quickly assured him. He smiled at him, his hands twitching, as if wanting to reach for Thorin. “I do not blame you for your actions while you were struck by goldsickness. And I would be happy to stay here with you. With you all, I mean.”
“Good. That’s… that’s good.” Thorin smiled back.
Nori carefully avoiding meeting Dís’ or Balin’s eye. If he did, he knew he would start laughing.
“I hope you will be happy here,” Thorin said.
“I’m certain I will.”
“We’ll endeavour to help you find home and happiness here. A place of safety.”
Bilbo frowned, confused. “Safety?”
“If you stay in Erebor, we can keep you safe.”
“Keep me safe? Who saved whom here? Without me, you would not even have reached Erebor, you would have been eaten by trolls or spiders, you would have died at Azog’s hand or still be guests in Thranduil’s dungeon! I’m not some helpless tween in need of your protection, you… urgh!” Bilbo whirled around and stalked out before he said something he might regret later.
“What was that?” Dwalin demanded. Thorin was supposed to reconcile with Bilbo and begin courting him, not insult him.
“It could have been worse,” Balin mused. “Bilbo did not bring up what happened on the battlements.”
“My brother putting his foot in is hardly anything new and was bound to happen at least once during the courtship,” Dís said dismissively. “Nori, they were asking about the current state of the King’s Council. Do you know anything about their loyalty and the likelihood of their returning to Erebor?”
“There were seven councillors. Two of them died without heirs, one when Smaug came, the other later. Of the families still living, I believe only two or three might be interested to return. Many of them have married nobles, councillors of other kingdoms. They enjoy the effortless influence they have there is more attractive to them than putting in effort and money into rebuilding Erebor.”
“You are well informed,” Balin commented.
He did not outright formulate a question but Nori understood what he meant either way. “Nolir, the previous spymaster, kept track of them. He was preparing to change the law about the spymaster not being allowed to have a family with Prince Thrain but neither of them survived the Battle of Azanulbizar.”
“He was? I was not aware of that law or that someone was interested in changing it. Had he also found his One?” Balin asked.
“Not his One, but he had family he wanted to acknowledge. Nolir…” He paused. “Nolir was my father.” He kept his gaze off in the distance. “I do not think my mother was his Guide or One, they merely took comfort with one another on the road. I most likely inherited my senses from him. There have been no Guides or Sentinels in my mother’s family since…”
Not since King Óin, the father of Náin II, the grandfather of illegitimate dwarrowdam Nori and his brothers descended from. They were all well aware of their shared family history, though it had never been official.
“My brothers show no sign of having the potential awakening as Guides or Sentinels, they only have the physical strength. In me, it combined with my senses.”
“What do you mean?” Balin asked.
Right, Balin had not been with them at Ravenhill nor any other time when he had fully immersed himself in his Sentinel side. During his training as spymaster, he had learned to downplay just how strong he was, to the point that he was able to hide his being a Sentinel even from other Sentinels and Guides. Individual stronger senses were not that unusual, especially in the precarious situation in Ered Luin, but a full-on Sentinel, with all senses enhanced, drew too much attention and assumptions. Now he loosened that control, just enough to make his baseline obvious.
“Mahal,” Balin breathed, while Dwalin and Thorin were just staring at him, eyes wide.
“I did theorize that He arranged for Nolir’s Sentinel senses and Ysora’s strength to combine in a child,” Dís said casually, enjoying their reaction. “Between the quest and the discovery of the One Ring, it would not surprise me if two powerful Sentinels awakening around the same time in the Line of Dúrin was by Mahal’s will.” She was well aware that he rivalled Thorin in strength. They were lucky that he took his job of keeping their family alive and well so serious, that his strength came with utter loyalty to them.
“Now then, I will go see where Bilbo has gone.” He looked Thorin square in the eye. “I expect you to treat him well. A repeat of the battlements and Dís will be acting as regent until Fíli is ready.”
The sound of Dís’ laughter followed him out.