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Once Upon a Time in Middle Earth

Title: Once Upon a Time in Middle Earth
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo
Rating/Warnings: Fluff and ridiculousness
Word Count: 7554
Disclaimer: If I owned the Hobbit everyone would live.
Summary: Kíli tells Frodo the story of how his uncles met (or the Hobbit as a fairytale with asides from Bilbo when Kíli gets off track)


Once upon a time there was a young dwarvish prince who lived in the mountains of the west. Now this prince was strong and skilled and very handsome-

“Handsome, Kíli? Really? With your lack of beard and all?”
“Yes, handsome. Now shush, Bilbo; I've got a story to tell.”


As I was saying, this dwarf prince lived with his family in the Blue Mountains some leagues' travel to the west. He and his brother had grown up loved and happy even though their father had passed on when they were children, their uncle and their mother seeing that they didn't want for anything.

However, despite this idyllic existence, these dwarves still dreamed of the adventures that they would have once they were grown. So the younger prince spent many long hours practicing archery while the elder became quite skilled with knives and other blades. They trained in preparation for the moment of glory that was coming, the day when they made the world remember Durin's Folk.

The princes' mother had always told her sons that they were meant for greatness and their first task was to aid their uncle in reclaiming what was lost. Because the dwarves who made their home in the Blue Mountains had once lived in the great kingdom of Erebor, the shining jewel of dwarvenkind.

Erebor had been the richest and the most beautiful of all dwarven kingdoms, her mines filled with gold and gemstones and her springs flowing crystal clear. That was our princes' legacy for the last Lord of the Lonely Mountain had been their great-grandfather and he had ruled over his people with wisdom for many years.

However, where there is wealth and prosperity, there is also greed and jealousy, and all of Erebor's strength was as nothing when the dragon came.

“A dragon?! Really?!”
“Now look, you're getting him all worked up. He'll never fall asleep after this.”
“Of course, he will, love. We just have to get to the happy ending first.”


Smaug the Terrible came down from the north in a whirl of wind and fire which scorched the city of Dale to ashes and burned through the mighty steel gates of Erebor as though they were naught but wood. The strongest dwarven warriors could not stand against this monster and although it broke their hearts, Durin's Folk were forced to flee. They left their homeland and scattered, the surviving members of the royal family eventually settling in the Blue Mountains with a handful of their people, and yet no matter how far they traveled, they never forgot the truth of who they were.

Erebor’s king never forgot his homeland and when the time came to reclaim it, our two young princes could not refuse their uncle's call. For it was their uncle, the mighty Oakenshield, who was determined to take back the Lonely Mountain and only the most loyal of his subjects agreed to join his cause.

Most of their brethren called the quest foolish and foolhardy, believing that to stand against the dragon Smaug would be naught but suicide, and indeed, Oakenshield might never have made the attempt if not for Gandalf the Grey’s advice.

“Gandalf! The old man with the fireworks?”
“Exactly right, my dear. We know him for his fireworks but Gandalf is also a powerful wizard. Now, listen closely because we're almost to the part where I come in.”
“Ooooh. Okay, father.”


Indeed Gandalf told Oakenshield that his quest would succeed only if the dwarf king found a burglar to aid him; someone light of foot and deft of hand, and the wizard had the perfect thief in mind. Because just a little to the east of the Blue Mountains was a lush green land known as the Shire, its people small but sturdy and full of courage despite their peaceful hearts.

Perhaps the most courageous of them all was Mr. Baggins of Bag End, though he did not know it yet. In fact, the hobbit had lived quite contently in his family’s smial until the evening that a baker's dozen of dwarrows stumbled through his door.

Miners, warriors, chefs and scholars; it was an odd assortment of allies that Oakenshield had gathered for his endeavor, with our princes the youngest of those chosen for this quest. But even though they knew that the journey would be dangerous, there was no worry in their hearts because they were certain that their uncle would arise victorious. Indeed, the younger prince was nearly bursting with enthusiasm and excitement when he and his brother arrived at the Baggins’ smial to meet their burglar.

Although, the hobbit’s first impression of his visitor might have been better if he had known that his guests were coming as they believed. For while Gandalf had told Oakenshield's company that they would be expected, he had not told Mr. Baggins of his intentions and so the hobbit was understandably surprised when dwarves began arriving at his door.

They made themselves at home in a rough and rowdy fashion, wiping their boots on his carpet and emptying Bag End's pantry for their feast. Even our young hero took part in the festivities over the protests of their host, the dwarves laughing and joking as they tossed food back and forth.

“The whole pantry, really? But that's so rude. Why didn't you just kick them out?”
“Don't worry, my dear. I've taught your dad better now. Dwarves and hobbits simply have different ideas of hospitality and they had no idea that I was not expecting them.”


Indeed, the dwarves were not malicious in their feasting and eventually Mr. Baggins could not help but be drawn into the fun. His guests made the hobbit remember the dreams of adventure that he had held as a fauntling, his desire to see elves and wizards and all manner of fantastic creatures before he died.

So even though the Baggins was not actually the sort of burglar that Gandalf had promised, he found himself agreeing to help Oakenshield anyway. He could not resist the dwarves' search for their homeland, not when the Song of the Lonely Mountain spoke to the longing that lived in his own heart. For even though the hobbit had a beautiful home, he had no one with whom to share it and he couldn't deny that the younger dwarf prince had caught his eye.

After all, the archer was very handsome, even if he didn't have the sort of beard that was prized by Durin's Folk, and Mr. Baggins was not the only one who was interested. In fact, the prince had been quite distracted by the hobbit from the moment that he opened the door of his smial, positively entranced by his sarcastic comments and the way that the firelight had made his curls glint like the finest gol-

Dad! You know I don't like all that mushy stuff.”
“Of course, Frodo. My apologies. I just got caught up in fond old memories. All right, now... where was I?...”


Anyway, once Mr. Baggins had agreed to join Oakenshield's company, they were ready to begin the journey back to Erebor. This trek was long and arduous even with the aid of sturdy mountain ponies, the dwarves and their burglar climbing over hill and mountain for many turns of the sun.

Along the way our heroes faced many perils, encountering wolves and goblins and even a trio of trolls who tried to devour the company. These monsters were tired of eating sheep for dinner and wanted some nice roast dwarf-flesh to sate their appetites instead. So these fearsome trolls ambushed Oakenshield's company one evening after they had stopped to camp, grabbing them and shoving them in burlap sacks for roasting one by one.

The princes tried to fight of course but mountain trolls cannot be wounded by any normal blade and so the fight was doomed from the moment it began. It was only Mr. Baggins’ clever thinking that saved their company, the hobbit using his wits to distract the trolls until the sun came up.

For such evil monsters could not stand the pure touch of sunlight and when the light of Arien fell upon them, the three trolls turned to stone.

“Stone! Really?! Are they still there? Could we go find them someday?”
“Easy, son. You need to be much older before we can think about such a journey and it wasn't nearly as heroic as your dad makes it sound. He didn't even mention that I was stuffed in a sack as well.”
“Hey, I'm telling this story my way, Bilbo. And as far as I'm concerned, you saved us all.”


Indeed the entire company agreed that their burglar was a hero and our young dwarf prince fell a little more in love that night. How could he not admire the hobbit's courage when he refused to turn back even when wargs started chasing their company, these fell beasts and their riders hunting Oakenshield's company all the way to Rivendell?

Now, Rivendell was the most western elven settlement in Middle Earth and it was pretty enough if you liked that sort of thing, all flowing water and carefully sculpted trees. Though, of course, our heroes much preferred the sight of the Lonely Mountain or any other proper dwarven kingdom with their gleaming stonework and enormous treasure halls.

Even so, none of the company could fault Lord Elrond's hospitality and indeed, the elf's assistance was crucial to their success. For Oakenshield’s father Thráin had given him a very special map, a magic map, which could only be read when the moon was right. It held a message from the last king of Erebor, a clue that would allow the dwarven company to enter the Lonely Mountain even though Smaug had blocked the gates.

“Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks and the last light of Durin's Day will fall upon the keyhole.”

That was what the message read once Lord Elrond translated the dwarven moon-runes and so our company left Rivendell with a new sense of urgency. They knew now that they must reach the mountain before the last days of autumn or they would have to wait an entire year before making this trek again. And no one wanted that, least of all the younger prince who had found his dreams of glory slowly replaced by quieter things.

Because the more time that he spent with Mr. Baggins, the more the prince adored the burglar and he was sure that he could be very happy if the hobbit would agree to marry him. But the dwarf could hardly propose in the middle of their journey, particularly when he had nothing to offer the hobbit but his family's fabled history. He would have to wait until Smaug the Terrible was defeated and Oakenshield was crowned King of Erebor for only then would he be free to pursue his other dreams.

Yet their quest was still far from over and Oakenshield's company had many more trials to face before they would see their home again.

“All right; it's time for bed, Frodo. We can finish the story tomorrow.”
“What?! No! Dad! Please, you have to finish it. I want to know how you killed the dragon and everything.”
“Okay, okay. But only if you do all of your chores without complaining tomorrow and help your father take the laundry down to the well for a week.”
“Of course, I promise. Just tell me what happened next.”


Well... after Oakenshield's company left the safety of Rivendell, they journeyed deep into the Misty Mountains where the land itself became another thing to fear. There were fierce storms that threatened to throw their burglar down into rocky crevices and such rain as our heroes had never seen before. One evening the mountains themselves rose up to threaten these weary travelers, stone giants battling out some unknown feud amidst the thunderclaps.

These creatures were as large as the crags in which they made their home and the dwarves could not hope to understand what drove them to rage that night. Indeed, these warriors and their burglar were nothing more than ants to the stone giants, ants that could be killed without a care.

Only luck and agility saved the company from being crushed or thrown off the mountainside and for one terrifying moment, the younger prince believed that both his brother and his hobbit had been lost. He had never been more frightened than he was when the dust finally settled and his loved ones were missing, but Mahal was still smiling down upon his children and it was not their time just yet.

However, the princes barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief before their lives were imperiled yet again, the company set upon by goblins as soon as they stopped for the night. The dwarves were too exhausted and outnumbered to put up a proper fight, the goblins dragging our heroes down into the deeps to meet their king. But while this creature was as grotesque and monstrous as you might imagine, his vicious song was not what struck new terror in the younger prince's heart.

No, what made the archer look around in panic was the absence of one member of their company. Their burglar had disappeared again, perhaps already slain and tossed into the darkness, and the prince vowed that he would see these goblins suffer if they had dared to hurt his friend.

Though, of course, vengeance was forced to wait on his own survival, something that was in no way guaranteed. Because dwarves and goblins were fierce and ancient enemies and the goblin king would not allow such a great prize as Oakenshield to slip between his fingers easily. In truth, the creature wanted his prisoners to suffer before he killed them and yet his cruelty was the only thing that saved their lives.

For their wizard had not been captured and the goblin king's grand monologue gave Gandalf the time that he needed to find Oakenshield's company. Indeed, the monster had just ordered one of his minions to claim the dwarf lord's head when a bright flash of light burst through the cavern, the goblins jerking back with screams of pain as Gandalf shouted for his friends to fight. This was an order that the dwarves were only too happy to obey, grabbing their weapons and turning the tables on their enemies.

Every member of the company was soon armed and ready and while the quarters were too close for the younger prince to use the bow slung across his back, tunnels are as natural to Durin's Folk as the open sky to man, and he did not let this handicap slow him down.

Instead he pulled out the sword that his uncle had given him before their journey, the bright steel flashing out even as his brother's daggers moved too fast to see. None of the company would back down from this challenge, not when they were fighting for their very survival and the Valar had allowed them another chance. So they fought and they fought proudly, cutting down their enemies as they ran for the light.

But when the dwarves spilled out onto the mountainside, their burglar was still nowhere to be seen. They had lost him and without the hobbit, defeating Smaug would be near impossible.

Indeed our young prince was ready to run back into the goblin caves to find Mr. Baggins when the hobbit stepped out from behind the trees. He was dusty and a bit bedraggled but uninjured and at the sight of his sheepish smile, his friends let out a cheer.

“You know, one of these days you're going to tell me what happened to you in the Misty Mountains.”
“Sorry, love. A hobbit has to have some secrets to stay mysterious.”
“Aww, but father... I want to know how you survived. Please!
“All right, Frodo, someday I'll tell you everything. For now, it's your dad's turn to shine.”
“Thank you, Bilbo. Now shush, the both of you; one of my favorite parts is coming up.”


For the Valar had a cruel sense of humor and Oakenshield's company had barely won free of the goblins before a fearsome howl echoed off the rock. This signaled the arrival of Azog the Defiler, the greatest enemy the Line of Durin had ever known and a foe whom the dwarf lord had thought slain many years ago. But while the orc had been gravely injured by Oakenshield at the Battle of Azanulbizar, his festering hate only made him stronger.

He charged toward the dwarves and their burglar on a snow-white warg while the rest of his pack howled its hunger and as one the company turned to flee. Perhaps it wasn't the most glorious of tactics, but a true warrior knows when the best chance of winning is to retreat.

So they ran, alighting to the trees like elves when this speed failed them and Oakenshield’s quest was starting to become ridiculous. Our younger prince had expected danger but not this endless array of foes nipping at their heels and he was beginning to wonder if their company would survive to see the Lonely Mountains fabled halls.

Indeed, Oakenshield had similar doubts growing in his own heart and so he decided to die fighting against his enemy if he had to die at all. But the dwarf lord was not the true hero of our story and the tale could not end so easily.

Instead, Azog struck the warrior down with one blow from his crude mace, Oakenshield's company watching in horror as their king fell to the ground. Yet one of their number did more than watch; Mr. Baggins showed his true courage one more time. The hobbit ran to defend Oakenshield even though he had neither the training nor the strength of his fellows and the line of Durin came to owe him a great debt that night. For he saved the king of Durin's Folk, defended him against his enemies until Gandalf could work another miracle.

Because if this quest proved anything, it’s that a hero should always bring a wizard on his journeys whenever possible. Wizards have tricks that no normal soul can master and on that dark night, Gandalf saved his friends again.

He sent a message to the great eagles who live high in the mountains and those regal creatures answered the wizard's call. They swooped in at the last second to rescue Oakenshield's company from the jaws of death that threatened them. Only when the eagles had nearly reached Mirkwood did they come back to earth, leaving our heroes battered but ready to continue on.

“But why didn't the eagles just take you all the way? Wouldn't that have been easier?”
“You know, I always have wondered about that. Well, love? What do you think?”


Because this was a quest, of course. The journey wouldn't mean anything if our heroes did not take each step themselves and these eagles were no beasts of burden to fly our dwarves around at whim. No, the eagles of Middle Earth are proud and ancient creatures and Oakenshield's company was lucky to have received this much aid from them.

“Well, I guess that makes sense. I wouldn't want someone barging into our home and ordering me around. But you really survived all that? That's amazing!”
“Yes, it is. But I knew your father was special from the first time that I laid eyes on him.”
“Lies, Kíli. You were too busy eyeing my beer to notice me. Though I do appreciate the compliment.”


Well, whether our youngest dwarf prince had fallen in love with the company's burglar at first sight or now, he was quite smitten by the time they left the Misty Mountains far behind. Because Mr. Baggins was brave and stubborn and quite cute when he was angry and the archer just wanted to spend more time with him.

Admittedly, this was rather a lot to wish for since our heroes were so often beset by danger and even the homestead that Gandalf led them to that evening was not without its warning signs.

For the hall's master was a skin-changer, one of a rare people who could change at will between the forms of man and beast, and he did not like dwarves at all. However, Beorn hated orcs even more than he hated Mahal’s children and amongst the laws of Middle Earth, nothing is more important than hospitality.

So when Oakenshield's company arrived on his doorstep with Azog's fell wargs already baying at their heels, the skin-changer did not send them away. No, he gave them succor and safety and although he lived simply, Beorn offered the best of what he had. Indeed you would find no finer larder in all of Middle Earth, except perhaps the Shire, and the dwarves feasted until they felt strong and hale again. Beorn helped our heroes even though they could offer nothing with which to barter and it is such simple kindness that makes this world beautiful.

Kindness and love, nothing is more powerful, and over the days that followed, our young prince found both. For the archer used the respite that the skin-changer had granted them to seek out Mr. Baggins and the two of them grew closer with every day that passed.

They were friends now and perhaps they could be more if the evils of this world would ever let them be. But Erebor was calling so Oakenshield's company could not stay forever and the next trial that lay before them was quite fierce indeed. Mirkwood is not like the friendly forests and groves that you see in the Shire; it is an older wood and it does not like visitors. In those days, the trees were dark and hungry, every branch seeking to waylay careless travelers and our heroes had lost their guiding light.

For Gandalf had been called away on matters of wizardry and wisdom, leaving thirteen dwarves and one hobbit to make their way alone. Now, Oakenshield's company did not lack for courage despite all that they had faced already, but Mirkwood was not an enemy that could be defeated by bravery.

That dark forest could only be endured; their only hope to reach the other side before its trickery could bind them and yet this was one task that our heroes could not complete.

“What?! No! But you survived!”
“And if you'll give me a moment; I'll tell you how. You have to be patient, love. All the best things come to those who wait.”
“Right, because you know how to be patient. You're worse than anyone about surprises and he's your son in that.”
“Sssh. Don't tell him that. I'm trying to be responsible.”
“The story, dad. You haven't finished it.”
“See? Impatient. Just like one silly dwarf prince who keeps shaking his presents the week before Yuletide.”


Right, well, Mirkwood was awful and that's pretty much the end of that. It was dark and terrible and scary and Oakenshield's company soon found themselves hopelessly lost. Lost and beset upon by giant spiders, one more monster that thought the dwarves would be tasty when they're actually a tough and gamey race.

Perhaps after eating nothing but elves for decades, these spiders were simply rather desperate for something to cover up that leafy taste. Whatever the reason, the creatures ambushed our dwarves one morning, wrapping them in webs for safekeeping until they planned to feast.

Yet just as Azog the Defiler had done, the giant spiders had not reckoned on one hobbit's fierceness, the burglar showing his true spirit whenever his friends' lives were on the line. He might have been afraid, but he would not let that stop him, and Mr. Baggins earned his sword a name that day. The burglar called it Sting for the way that it cut through his enemies, chasing them off so that he could release the rest of the company.

Truly Gandalf had been correct and Oakenshield's quest could not have succeeded without the burglar. The dwarves would have faltered long before because they were straightforward creatures with no skill for traps or trickiness.

They needed a hobbit for that; one very clever hobbit who would always be there to cut them free. Of course, no sooner had the dwarves been released from one prison then they fell into another, because the elves of Mirkwood were no kinder than the forest's beasts.

These elves took advantage of the weakness brought on by the spiders' poison to capture our heroes, dragging them through the forest to speak with their king. Now, King Thranduil was a thoroughly unpleasant fellow and he did not take well to trespassers. Indeed, he did not care that the dwarves of Erebor simply wanted to reclaim the home that had been taken from them; all the elf king worried over was his own borders and the chance that Oakenshield might awaken Smaug the Terrible. So he threw our heroes in the dungeons to rot even as Durin's Day drew ever closer in the year.

This was the worst fate that our heroes could dream of, to be imprisoned so close to their goal and yet have it still be out of reach. But what could they do, they were trapped without hope of rescue and none of Thranduil's people were moved by sympathy.

“You aren't going to tell him about the elf-maid, Kíli? About the way that her hair shone in the moonlight and her bow-work made you swoon.”
“I'm afraid that I don't know who you mean, my darling. There was no elf maid, none at all, and even if there was, you had nothing to be jealous of. Elves are rather too tall and pale and skinny for my tastes; I prefer someone with a little more to hold – if you know what I mean.”
“Kíli! Not in front of Frodo! Keep your hands to yourself, you horny dwarven flatterer. At least until the lad's asleep.”


Yes, indeed, the company's time in Mirkwood was boring and uneventful and there was certainly no one else who caught the younger prince's eye. So while a few of the elf king's subjects might have felt badly for their prisoners, there was no assistance to be had from that quarter and our heroes began to believe that their quest would fail after all.

The only thing that kept them from losing all hope was their burglar, for Bilbo had not been captured with the others and the hobbit searched tirelessly for a way to rescue them.

“Um, excuse me, but I resent that. It was very tiring. And exhausting and terrifying and really your uncle never seemed to appreciate my hard work very much.”
“Of course he did, Bilbo. Thorin’s just not so good with the part where he uses his words for things.”
“You mean gran-uncle, Thorin? He always says that I talk too much when he watches me. But last time he let me hold his axe when I kept asking and it was awesome. At least until I dropped it.”
“And that is why he's not allowed to baby-sit without supervision anymore. I don't need any more slashes in my nice wooden floors.”


Anyway, the hobbit's difficult and very much appreciated efforts eventually paid off when he discovered a way to sneak his companions out of Thranduil's dungeons secretly. For the elf king was very fond of parties and all those wine barrels that he emptied were sent back to Laketown along the river road. So even though the elves of Mirkwood thought that their prisoners were safely locked away, the wonderful cleverness of Mr. Baggins soon proved them wrong.

The burglar stole a set of keys off one guard’s belt after he had drunk himself into a stupor and used these to set his companions free. Then he led them down to the lowest level of the dungeons, helping the dwarves into the elves’ empty wine barrels and sneaking them out under Thranduil's watchful eye.

Yet nothing could be so simple when the fates were seeking their amusement and our heroes were attacked before they'd gone a league. Not by elves, although their captors had already begun a hue and cry for their missing prisoners. No, it was orcs who fell upon the dwarves and their burglar, Azog's kin who had been chasing them ever over hill and stream and road.

Once again Oakenshield's company found themselves outnumbered, their weapons still locked away in Thranduil's halls. But as always, our heroes fought bravely despite the overwhelming odds and this time it was the younger prince's chance to shine.

Indeed, he leaped to the bank with a fierce battle cry, carving a bloody path through his enemies. He fought his way to the lever of the sluice gate that was blocking his companions’ path to freedom, activating it just as their enemies proved themselves no good cowards and shot him from behind.

“No! Really, dad? They shot you?!”
“Yes, they did, Frodo. I still have the scar and everything. Do you want to see it?”
Yeah... Can I really?”
“Of course, just let me li-”
“Do nothing, right? Our son does not need to be seeing your battle scars right now.”
“Right, yes dear.... Sorry, Frodo. Another time, I promise.”
“I heard that, Kíli. Why don't you go back to exaggerating your heroism and stop making foolish promises?”
“Truly, Bilbo? You don't think it was heroic at all?”
“Well, maybe it was a little heroic. But I much prefer you uninjured then running off recklessly.”


In fact, the prince did regret his impulsiveness slightly when the arrow slammed into his thigh, the pain worse than anything that he had ever felt before. But it was worth the injury to see his friends and family safe, the archer leaping back into an empty barrel as it floated by. He held onto the wood tightly as the current carried Oakenshield’s company downstream, the water leading to Lake Esgaroth and Erebor beyond.

They were so close to the Lonely Mountain now and when the wine barrels came to a rest against the riverbank, the prince just allowed his brother to bandage his wound as best he could before soldiering on. There was no other choice for he would not be left behind when they would need every warrior to face the dragon and he assumed that the shadows on the edge of his vision were simply due to the pain of his injury.

However, what the archer did not know was that the orcish arrow had been coated in the foulest of dark poisons, the toxin working its way into his blood with every step he took. It should have killed him within hours but dwarves had always been a sturdy people and he lasted long enough to see Laketown for himself.

Oakenshield’s company entered Laketown in secret for they were not certain of their welcome, and yet the dwarves soon found the men greeting them with open arms. For the descendants of Dale had lived in Smaug’s shadow all their lives and when the Master heard that Oakenshield intended to kill the dragon, his people took to the streets to celebrate. If the beast was slain then they could finally return to the city of their forefathers, rebuilding Dale in joy and prosperity.

Only Bard the Bowman spoke out against their mission; the man warning of dire consequences if the company should fail. And perhaps Oakenshield should have listened for Bard was the distant child of Girion, the last king of Dale before the city fell. But the dwarves could not be turned aside and the people of Laketown were too entranced by thoughts of golden treasure to heed his prudent words.

So after many speeches about glory and ancient friendships, the Master gave his guests new weapons and armor with which to fight their greatest battle and then sent them on to Erebor.

“It was a bit more complicated than that dear. Are you really going to gloss over all the fine nuances of politics?”
“It’s a bedtime story, Bilbo, not a treatise on kingship. I think our child will survive. And, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t paying all that much attention anyway.”
“You’re lucky that you’re pretty, Kíli. And that Fíli is the heir.”


Indeed, the younger prince had never been very good with diplomatic matters and his focus was further hampered by the pounding in his head. By this time, the effects of the poison in his wound were growing more obvious and when Oakenshield’s company made ready to set out, the dwarf ordered his nephew to stay behind.

Oakenshield did not want to risk his sister-son against the dragon when he was already injured and although the prince was not pleased about this decision, he could not convince his uncle otherwise. In fact, he had hardly opened his mouth to protest when his knees buckled underneath him and the darkness sucked him down. The prince might have died there if his brother had not decided to stay with him in Laketown over their uncle’s protests, the dwarf lord trying to convince his heir that he should be standing at his side.

But the elder prince would not leave his brother, not even for his uncle and all the gold of Erebor, and so Oakenshield’s company was not at full strength when it finally reached the mountainside. Yet the dwarves could not have waited, for they had barely found the grey stone of which Thráin's map had spoken before the last light of Durin’s Day revealed the kingdom’s hidden door.

This was ancient magic, dwarven magic built of stone and craftsmanship rather than the light and fire of a wizard's spells. But it was powerful nonetheless, the secret door sliding open as smoothly as it had on the day that it was carved.

Once the passage had been opened, Oakenshield sent Mr. Baggins forward to do what the burglar had been chosen for. He was told to seek the Arkenstone, the symbol of the dwarf lord's kingship over all of Erebor, and steal it from beneath the dragon's claws. For once this gemstone had been reclaimed, Mahal would look kindly upon his children and the company would be sure to triumph against its enemy.

Yet only Mr. Baggins knew what happened in that mountain, what clever tricks and dangers the dragon brought to bear. For no one else had the courage to follow in his footsteps; the dwarves of his company huddling outside and wincing every time the stone shook with fire and with rage.

Even Oakenshield did nothing but wait and while his nephews would have wished to help their hobbit, they were still in Laketown fighting for the younger prince's life. So only Mr. Baggins could have said what ignited the dragon's ire and turned his rage toward Laketown on that chill winter night. Indeed, the fire drake rose from the Lonely Mountain on wings of death and hatred, the men of Laketown looking toward the sky with terror in their eyes.

But even as the rest of his fellows ran to and fro in panic, Bard the Bowman stood firm against the dragon's strike. He had been waiting for this moment all his life; Bard and his father and his father's father all the way back to Girion had been waiting for the day when they would have the chance to redeem their kingdom's fall.

So Bard stood firm as Smaug dove down over Laketown, enormous mouth open wide as flame poured out between his jaws. The Bowman pulled an arrow from his quiver, the Black Arrow that was his ancestor's legacy, nocking it and then letting the arrow fly.

His aim was true, the arrow seeking out the fire drake's one imperfection, the bald patch where one scale was missing from his chest. Though he only knew where to aim because of Mr. Baggins, the hobbit having seen the dragon's weak spot when searching through Erebor's treasure hoard. He saw it and he told the birds of the Lonely Mountain who carried this secret to the Bowman before he let his arrow fly.

“You didn't kill him, dad? But you're so good with a bow.”
“Yes, well. I would have, but I was still rather injured at the time. My fever had barely broken and I didn't even have my bow anymore. That was lost in Thranduil's dungeons and I didn't get it back for many years.”
“Well, okay then. But the story would have been neater if you'd shot him down.”
“Duly noted, Frodo. Next time I'll tell the tale like that.”


However, the truth was that the younger prince had barely regained consciousness before Smaug attacked the city, only his brother's support keeping the dwarf on his feet when the dragon fell. For Smaug crashed into the lake with a sound like thunder, the wave created by his landing ripping half of Laketown off its moorings before the water settled once again.

As soon as the shaking stopped, the elder prince grabbed his brother and ran for the mountain, terrified that the drake's attack meant death for Oakenshield. But when the dwarves arrived, they found the rest of their company hale and hearty, busy celebrating the death of Smaug the Terrible.

For they had seen the dragon fall, his bright flame doused in the deeps of Esgaroth, and with his death their homeland was returned. Erebor could once again rise in peace and glory, her halls filled with laughing families and her mines echoing with the sound of hammers striking stone.

Only there is no end to greed and weakness in the hearts of men and elves, nor those of dwarves for that matter, and in this hobbits are far more sensible. Because the men of Laketown needed someone to blame for their recent hardship and who better than the dwarves who had promised them that the dragon would die easily? These men were joined in their anger by the elf king Thranduil, who wanted vengeance for the humiliation that his prisoners had caused him and whose heart craved the sight of gleaming moonlit gems.

So they descended on the mountain with anger in their hearts and weapons in their hands and who could blame Oakenshield when he took this as a threat? Indeed the negotiations ended before they even began, Erebor's former allies now turned to enemies.

This was the last thing that the dwarves or their burglar had desired and yet, none of the dwarves were willing to defy their king. In truth, Oakenshield was well within his rights to deny claim of men and elves on that which his blood had died for and yet, the world is rarely as simple as the bards would have their audience believe. For the path of righteousness would only lead to bloodshed and surely there had been enough death already in the halls of Erebor.

The thought of any of his companions being injured further made the hobbit sick inside; the thought of his young prince dying made him weep and although the archer tried to comfort Mr. Baggins, there was no comfort to be had.

In fact, the situation was even worse than any of Oakenshield's company could imagine, for the armies on their doorstep were not the only ones with their eyes on Erebor. The orcs had spies everywhere and they had also seen the death of the dragon, a death that made the Lonely Mountain vulnerable.

So the orcs and goblins marched from the west even as Oakenshield's kin marched south from the Iron Hills to aid him and these armies met on the plains of Erebor. However, there was good to come even from such danger because this greater threat forced the men and elves and dwarves to put aside their petty squabbling. Instead they were forced to fight together to have any hope of survival and it was a grim dawn that rose over that battlefield.

“You're not even going to mention the part where your uncle tried to kill me, love? I rather thought that was your most heroic rescue of them all.”
“Yes well, I'm trying not to give our son too many nightmares and he's so very fond of Thorin now. We can leave that part out until he's a little older, don't you think?”
“Fair enough. It is a rather unpleasant memory and your uncle has done his best to make it up to me. Even if that great glowing gemstone is a bit much for my mantelpiece.”


Now most bards that sing of the Battle of the Five Armies only talk about the glory that was won. They sing of the courage that our friends and allies showed in battle and how such cooperation let the day be won.

But the truth was rather more bitter and the price paid much higher because one must never forget the horrors of war even as some battles must be fought. Indeed a great many lives were lost that day, lives that were cut short far before their time. There was sorrow and there was sacrifice and no matter how our heroes fought, it seemed that they would fail.

“No! But you were the good guys. Heroes always win in the tales.”
“That's because no one sings about the failures, Frodo, but in this case you are right. After all, we survived to be here to tell this story, did we not?”


In fact, Oakenshield's company stood at the center of the fighting, orcs cut down by the dozen as they faced off against Azog the Defiler once again. For the pale orc was at the head of his army even as Erebor's king led his warriors' charge and when they clashed, the sound of their steel meeting rang across the battlefield.

This time the fight was not so uneven, the dwarf lord taking strength from his people and the allies at his side. Indeed this battle raged back and forth across the plains, neither combatant gaining an advantage over his enemy.

So if not for Mr. Baggins, the pale orc and dwarf lord might still be fighting to this day, but the hobbit began to grow impatient when the duel dragged on. He was tired of all this bloodshed, tired of being told that glory meant foolhardy bravery, and while Oakenshield had ordered his subjects not to aid him, Mr. Baggins was a burglar.

Indeed, Mr. Baggins answered to no one but the Thain of the Shire and that upstanding hobbit was nowhere to be seen. Which might help to explain what happened next.

Because as Azog and Oakenshield fought their way back toward the dwarf lord's company, the pale orc was struck by an arrow from afar. An arrow that could be traced back to the bow of a young dwarf prince, this archer staring rather incredulously at the burglar who'd nudged his shot.

This was not how the story was supposed to end; this was no epic journey and all the prince could do was smile sheepishly as Azog crumpled to the ground. With the orc's death, the fight was over, Beorn and Gandalf swooping in at the last minute for a rescue that was rather unneeded now. Instead their rescue turned to clean up, the last orcs and goblins chased from the shadow of the Lonely Mountain so that the wounded could be healed.

Yet even if this was not how the bards would tell it in their ballads, this was a fitting ending to our hero's tale. For the hero of this story was not Oakenshield but the hobbit who cared more about his friends then anything. The hero of this story was the dwarf prince who decided that he preferred love over glory and followed Mr. Baggins back home again when their quest was through.

“So that's how I met your father, darling. And it's even mostly true... Frodo?... See, I told you he'd fall asleep.”
“That you did, love. But maybe next time you can make the story a little shorter because I think it's past time for me to go to bed as well.”
“Already? And waste the evening? We get so little time alone these days.”
“I said I was going to bed, Kíli; I never said that I was going to sleep. Though I suppose I am rather tired after all.”
“What? Bilbo, you dirty little tease. Come back here so I can kiss you properly.”
“Only if you can catch me, husband dear.”
“Oh, I will, love; just wait and see.”


So the prince and his burglar ran off in a peal of laughter as their young charge slept on peacefully and while the story was not yet finished, it was safe to say that they would live happily ever after for as long as they still breathed.


End