Word Count: 815
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Summary: Bilbo, like all hobbits, is amazing with ranged weapons
Bilbo Baggins really didn't understand all the fuss.
"It's not like I did anything special" the hobbit said, frowning at the dwarves gathered before him. They exchanged skeptical glances and a muttering rose from the group as they discussed this dubious claim.
"Nothing special!" Kíli finally yelled, unable to contain himself any longer. "You knocked Azog off a cliff with a pine-cone! I mean you rescued uncle too, which is great and all but, pine-cone...to...the...face!" He flailed his arms excitedly as he talked, staring at the hobbit in awe.
Bilbo shrugged, uncomfortable under the young dwarf's scrutiny. "He was like 4 feet away, it wasn't a difficult shot. I didn't even have to throw very hard once I calculated in the breeze, his mace and the swaying of the warg. I'm sure any of you could have done it if you hadn't been stuck in that tree. It's not like I'm particularly skilled."
"Not skilled?....And just what exactly do you considered skilled, Master Baggins?" Thorin asked, looking at Bilbo as though trying to see beneath his skin.
"Oh, well, I mean, don't you know?" Bilbo asked in astonishment. "Skilled is Old Brandybuck and Bullroarer who used to keep their wives' best china in the air for over a minute by hitting it back and forth with stones. Without breaking it mind you, Madame Bullroarer would have killed them if they'd so much as chipped a glass. Or skilled is like the Boffin Thain who once killed three ravens with a single stone when they tried to steal his crops; he was master of the slingshot ricochet. I haven't practiced enough to be more than average really, no better than any other hobbit." He said earnestly as the dwarves listened on in disbelief.
"I see..." Thorin murmured pensively, revising his future plans to accommodate this thought. "Well our wizard is right and there is far more to hobbits than first meets the eye if you are common by the standards of your kin. But average or not I am in your debt." Then he was hugging Bilbo fiercely while the hobbit blushed and patted him awkwardly on the arm.
When the majestic hug was over, the company made their way carefully down the great rock spire before stopping for the night and tending to their wounds. But when Bilbo went to help Bombur cook dinner as usual, Thorin pulled him to the side instead. "Fíli, Kíli, Ori," The dwarf called out, "Take our burglar here and try him on your weapons, I want to see the damage an average hobbit does."
And though Kíli's bow was too large to use comfortably, the dwarves watched in awe as Bilbo's slingshot missiles hit and his axe flew straight and true. "But it's really nothing special," the hobbit continued to protest as they made him attempt ever more difficult shots. And perhaps for hobbits it was not, but he missed one target out of fifty and that because he sneezed.
The dwarves were overjoyed to hear this news and tried to arm Bilbo immediately, each offering his favorite ranged attack. When the hobbit resisted taking any weapons, still not believing that he had some kind of martial talent, Thorin pinned him with a fearsome stare.
"You signed the contract, Master Baggins, which means you will arm yourself as I see fit. And I say, if you are an average hobbit, then I would take a score of your people over all the elves in Middle Earth to fight battles at my side. Embrace your skill and use it to slay our enemies before they slay us, humility has no place on a battlefield."
Bilbo had no response to that and so it was a newly armed hobbit who continued the journey, the sword at his side joined by a sling over his shoulder and axes on his belt. From then on, when Kíli went hunting it was Bilbo who joined him, stones flying true to hit birds on the wing. Indeed, the young dwarf remained in awe of Bilbo's skills and flattered by the attention he soon took Kíli under his wing. Bilbo taught him to see as the hobbit did, to look with all his senses not just his eyes. And when Kíli finally grasped it, his accuracy improved in leaps and bounds and he soon rivaled the hobbit in their ongoing contest of impossible shots.
Watching this change, Bilbo finally began to understand that the skill hobbits used for farming and for fun had much more lethal implications out in the wider world. And for the first time he was optimistic about their chances, believing that he really could be the burglar that his company required. Indeed Bilbo wondered why he'd ever been frightened at all, for what was a dragon but a giant target with wings?