Chapter 5: A Mountain Shakes
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo, hints of a couple others
Warnings: Can I warn for epic fluff?
Word Count: 3702 (14,493 so far)
Summary: Kíli is a virgin. Bilbo is a unicorn. Together they fight goblins and cuddle epically.
Art: Unicorn!Bilbo 1, Unicorn!Bilbo 2.
Chapter 1: A Wizard Meddles
Chapter 2: A Quest Begins
Chapter 3: A Burglar Woos
Chapter 4: A Romance Grows
After two weeks of rest and relaxation, the dwarves saddled their ponies and set out from Rivendell, their packs full near to bursting with Elrond’s generosity. They were well supplied for the next phase of their journey and they had reason to thank the elf lord when their path began to climb.
The track across the Misty Mountains was long and arduous, low rolling foothills quickly giving way to rocky crags. In many places, Thorin’s company faced a sheer cliff on one side and a seemingly endless drop on the other, the trail itself so steep that the dwarves had to lead their ponies instead of riding them. Only Bilbo’s hooves were able to get any traction with a rider so Thorin often sent Kíli ahead to scout out the best path. Anything that the unicorn couldn’t handle would be impossible for their ponies and while the dwarf lord still hadn’t realized that the archer called his mount Bilbo for a reason, Glamdring had made him more accepting of their burglar’s disappearances.
Thus, with Bilbo’s help, the company made better time than they’d expected and morale would have been high if not for the never-ending rain. It rained in the morning and it rained in the evening; it rained in the afternoon and while the dwarves were eating. Cold water stiffened their fingers and dripped down their necks before turning the path to a pit of mud beneath their boots.
Bilbo spent most of his time as a unicorn because wet mane was less unpleasant than wet clothing, only shifting back when Kíli needed help brushing the mud out of his hair. The screaming wind tangled the archer’s locks quite badly despite the hobbit's braiding and most of their companions weren't much better off.
The dwarves spent hours trying to comb out their beards and dry their clothes each evening, huddling together for warmth as best they could. Bilbo’s ambient magic made their scrapes and bruises heal much faster, though not as fast as if he’d touched them with his horn, but the unicorn counted himself quite lucky that no one had fallen ill. Sickness was far more difficult to heal than injury and Bilbo would need his strength later if the confrontation with Smaug did not go as he planned.
Which is something I do not want to think about. On an even playing field, a unicorn was no match for a dragon and Bilbo’s scheme rested heavily on the truth of half-remembered stories about his family history.
However, there was little point in fretting until Thorin’s company reached the Lonely Mountain – the hobbit was either right or he was wrong. So Bilbo focused on the present instead, determined to live each day to the fullest just in case these were his last. Honestly, there was no guarantee that the dwarves would even reach their destination and the unicorn would feel rather silly if he was so busy worrying about Smaug that he let a rock slide kill him now.
Just this afternoon, the company had been forced to wait out a stone giant’s family squabble before continuing their journey and any one of those giants could have squashed the hobbit flat. If he and Kíli hadn’t been paying attention, the dwarves would have walked right into the battle and who knew if they would have walked back out again?
Thorin hadn’t been happy about the delay but Bilbo was firmly in agreement with his great-uncle Faustus who had justified his late arrivals with a grumpy “Better slow than dead.” The company made bad time today but at least they were still breathing and they had found a large cave in which to spend the night. It was even big enough to hold their ponies so that the only person out in the rain was Gandalf; he had wandered off to do something wizardly after dinner and had not yet returned.
But if anyone could take care of himself, it was Gandalf, and the unicorn refused to worry about that old meddler. So Bilbo just lay down next to Kíli, wrapping an arm around the archer’s waist before drifting off to sleep.
It was near midnight when the floor of the cave suddenly began to shudder. A low rumbling at first, the sound grew louder and louder until Thorin jerked upright with a start. But the dwarf lord had barely shouted out a warning when the stone suddenly disappeared beneath his feet.
The cave floor split open to reveal a mass of goblins who swarmed over the company and their ponies in an endless tide. Bilbo had slept through Thorin's warning, but the hobbit woke when one of the goblins grabbed him, the creature's touch like fire on his skin. It was all the unicorn could do to keep from vomiting as he was shoved forward with the others, the miasma of evil almost too much for him to take. He couldn't even think of shifting at first and once his hands were bound, it was too late. Changing forms would only make the ropes draw tighter and Bilbo could not risk revealing his true nature until he was free to fight. Not when goblins had a taste for the flesh of unicorns.
So the hobbit huddled next to Kíli, his dwarf's bright innocence helping to hold the dark at bay as the goblins brought Thorin and his companions to their king. This enormous goblin greeted his captives by name and then launched into a ridiculously long welcome speech; truthfully, he sounded like the old drunk Gaffer at a party and Bilbo would have ignored his words even without the headache that was pounding through his skull.
However, the goblin king's verbosity had its uses. His speech gave the unicorn time to recover, the stabbing pain behind his eyes lessening slightly as he got used to it. The goblins' presence was still painful but soon Bilbo could think again and thus he could plan as well.
First he needed to free himself and his companions so that the dwarves could grab their weapons while the goblins were distracted; they would need to be armed in order to escape. So Bilbo tugged on Kíli's sleeve, tilting his head to the left when the archer glanced at him. Thankfully his dwarf understood his meaning and the pair slowly shuffled over to Fíli, ducking behind their companions whenever a goblin glanced their way.
“Tell me you have a knife still hidden,” the hobbit whispered once they had reached Fíli. The dwarf had shown Bilbo his collection of blades during one very boring portion of their journey and if anyone had managed to hide a weapon from the goblins, the unicorn was sure it would be him. Indeed, Bilbo was right because Fíli met his question with a wicked grin.
“Top of my boot,” the dwarf murmured. His hands were tied behind his back so he couldn't reach the knife himself but the hobbit was able to pull it out with Kíli's help.
Together Kíli and Bilbo managed to cut Fíli's bonds and then the dwarf returned the favor, the unicorn breathing a sigh of relief as the ropes fell from his wrists. Fíli pulled out another tiny knife – this one hidden in his earring – and gave it to his brother, the two dwarves splitting up to free the rest of their company. A ripple of awareness moved through the dwarves as their bonds were severed, Fíli and Kíli telling the others to get ready; they would attack on Bilbo's shout.
Which would have to be soon because whatever Thorin had just said to the goblin king made the monster scream with rage.
Their leader really wasn't the most tactful fellow – a marvel of diplomacy, that was Thorin Oakenshield. But Bilbo didn't love Kíli for his relatives, now did he? The hobbit loved Kíli for Kíli and he was quite capable of protecting his beloved on his own.
Or, at least, with a little help from his companions and Bilbo took a deep breath before shouting, “Attack,” as loudly as he could. The dwarves attacked the goblins en masse, taking their captors by surprise and clearing a space for the unicorn to change. Bilbo shifted as soon as he was able and the light from his horn sent the goblins reeling back in shock. He charged forward to press the advantage, striking out with his hooves while the dwarves scrambled for their weapons and the goblin king screamed insults at them all.
Thorin's company fought fiercely, Bilbo's light growing brighter with every goblin killed. Or wait, no, it was Gandalf, the wizard's staff shining like a star as he burst into the cavern and called for his companions to take arms.
Which, you know, we're already doing, the unicorn thought with some annoyance. Did Gandalf think that we were just sitting around waiting to be rescued like bushy-bearded damsels in distress?
Still, Bilbo couldn't deny that the wizard's help was useful. Indeed, the goblin king was so shocked by his arrival that he fell backwards off the platform, his expression stupefied and his arms windmilling frantically. Fíli and Kíli ran into the gap that his fall had created while Bilbo and the others followed closely on the princes' heels. Thorin's company couldn't hope to fight the goblins off forever – though Thorin himself had looked prepared to try – but if they could reach the surface then they might have a chance.
So the unicorn let his light fade, saving his strength for the race that was upon them now. Bilbo and his companions were fleeing for their lives, sharp drops and hordes of goblins facing them at every turn.
Blast, the hobbit cursed when one of his hooves broke through the wooden slats beneath him, the unicorn barely faltering in his dash across the swaying bridge. Then Kíli stumbled, catching himself on Bilbo's shoulder even as Dwalin urged them on.
This goblin architecture would never have passed muster in the Shire; it was all fraying ropes and swinging structures, treacherous footing as far as the eye could see. On open ground, the unicorn would have easily outrun their enemies but the goblins had the advantage in the mountain and perhaps this was just as well. Given the choice between saving Kíli or saving his companions, Bilbo would choose the archer but Kíli would never forgive him if he left the rest behind.
Which meant that Thorin's company must live or die together and at the moment dying seemed the more likely course. However, the unicorn had fought off wolves and orcs during the Fell Winter; he refused to be slain by goblins with his beloved at his side.
Of course, determination couldn't stop the dwarves from being cornered when the goblin king suddenly reappeared before them, his massive bulk blocking the path ahead. Bilbo skidded to a halt, holding off the great goblin with his horn while Fíli and Kíli looked for another route. But they were trapped on another of those flimsy bridges with more enemies coming up behind them rapidly.
“Fools!” the goblin king roared. “You thought that you could run from me! I will be roasting dwarves for breakfast and have unicorn kebabs for supper afterward!”
“No one's eating Bilbo!” Kíli shouted back, running forward and ducking under the creature's waving arms. The goblin king didn't seem to notice, too caught up in his culinary fantasies to acknowledge one puny dwarf's attack.
His arrogance was his downfall. Kíli's blade bit deep, the goblin's triumphant sing-song ending on a squawk of pain. Then the unicorn leaped forward, rearing back on his hind legs and striking the creature with his hooves. The Great Goblin stumbled backward, Kíli's sword pulling free with a wet squelch as the goblin fell again.
“I'll get youuu....”
His voice faded into the depths of the mountain, dwarves and goblins alike standing frozen until he'd disappeared. Kíli hadn't actually solved their problem – Thorin's company was still surrounded – but Bilbo had a desperate urge to hug him anyway. No one else had ever defended the unicorn like that.
Before the goblins could recover from their leader's sudden death, the bridge beneath Bilbo's hooves started shaking, tattered ropes unable to take the weight of thirteen dwarves, a wizard, and one small unicorn. The hobbit shifted back but it was too late; the bridge supports snapped with sharp crack and Thorin's company fell into the deeps.
All they could do was hold on to each other, trying not to lose their balance as the bridge slid down the cavern wall. Most of the dwarves were shouting curses, Thorin's voice rising in an outraged screech above the rest.
Only Gandalf and Bilbo kept their silence. The hobbit grabbed onto Kíli even as the dwarf reached back for him, the pair holding each other tightly as they fell. Bilbo wanted to be close in case the archer was injured when they landed and there was comfort in the feeling of Kíli in his arms. His beloved fit there perfectly despite the difference in their heights and if this was to be the unicorn's last moment, there were much worse places he could be.
In contrast, Gandalf just seemed indifferent to their peril, pulling a pipe out of his robes and smoking calmly even though hot ash should have been spilling everywhere. A waste of magic that, or perhaps the wizard simply knew something the rest of them did not.
For when Thorin's company finally crashed to a halt in a cloud of shattered timber, no one was badly hurt at all. Just a few bumps and bruises that Bilbo healed easily. The unicorn didn't even have to think about it, his ambient magic reaching out to soothe their injuries. He helped Kíli to his feet and climbed free of the wreckage before looking back to see what had stopped their fall.
“I should've known,” Bilbo chuckled to himself when he saw that the goblin king had saved his enemies. The dwarves had landed directly on his body in a wild stroke of luck and the unicorn was starting to think that the Valar must truly have a soft spot for Thorin's company.
Or maybe they just like to see us struggle, he corrected, looking up to see a massive swarm of goblins pouring down the cavern walls. Definitely time to run again.
So that's exactly what Bilbo did. That's what they all did. Pounding across the stone on feet and hooves, Kíli's fingers tangled tightly in the hobbit's mane. The unicorn was right on Gandalf's heels as the wizard led them toward the surface and he gave a little skip of joy when he finally felt the sun upon his face. Bilbo had spent quite enough time underground; he wanted weeks of sunshine and wide open meadows after this.
Of course, what the unicorn got was sparse pine forest and rocks beneath his feet, but even that was gorgeous to his eyes. Gorgeous and wonderfully free of goblins; for their pursuers were unable to follow them while daylight lingered on the mountainside.
Gandalf kept running until the tunnel entrance was out of sight and then he stopped, counting heads to check that no one had been left behind.
“...Ori, Bofur, Nori and Dori. It seems everyone is here so we should be moving on. These hills will be crawling with goblins once the sun goes down.”
“What are you talking about? I do not see Bilbo,” Thorin replied, stopping the wizard short. “He is Kíli's fiancé and while I may not like him; I will not leave him in the hands of goblins. That would be dishonorable.”
“We need to leave, uncle. And Bilbo is right there,” Fíli said, waving at the unicorn while the rest of his companions stared at their leader in disbelief. Thorin had to be the most oblivious person in the world if he hadn't noticed their burglar's magic yet. It's not like the other ponies had survived their capture and Bilbo had shifted in plain view more than once.
How dense can one dwarf be? the hobbit wondered as Thorin looked around the clearing. Though at least he doesn't actually want me dead. I can deal with open dislike as long as he doesn't try to stab me in the back.
“I do not see Master Baggins," the dwarf lord growled after a moment. “If this is a joke, nephew, it is in poor taste.”
“It's not a joke, uncle. Bilbo is a unicorn," Kíli protested earnestly. However, the dwarf lord just scoffed harshly, pinning his nephew with a judgmental glare. Stronger warriors than Kíli had broken beneath that stare but the archer was used to Thorin's regal disappointment face so he simply dismounted with a sigh.
“You had better show him," he said, patting Bilbo on the neck. “We'll never get this bunch moving otherwise."
Kíli was probably right; while the unicorn had enjoyed messing with Thorin's mind, the time for jokes had passed. So Bilbo shifted back into a hobbit, smoothing down his waistcoat before meeting the dwarf lord's eyes. The hobbit expected Thorin to show some surprise at his transformation – or at least to change expression – but he did nothing of the sort.
“There you are,” the dwarf lord said brusquely, taking Bilbo's sudden shift in stride. “Try to keep up next time; you've delayed us needlessly.”
“Uh... what? I was here.”
“You were not,” Thorin retorted while Bilbo stammered helplessly. “Unless you were hiding behind my nephew's pony; where did your mount just disappear to, Kíli? We could have used a horse.”
“I... You... Are you blind?” the archer asked. He looked over at Bilbo for assistance, but the hobbit just met his eyes with a baffled shrug. Thorin seemed to be serious and if shifting hadn't proved his true nature to the dwarf lord, he didn't know what else to do.
“Never mind,” Thorin continued when his companions failed to answer, the other dwarves too busy gaping to speak coherently. “We can discuss your duties later, nephew, including the proper treatment of a mount. But first we must seek shelter; we will not be able to fight off the goblins if they find us in the night.”
“A wonderful idea!” Gandalf agreed, his voice pitched loud enough to cover both Fíli's frustrated, “That's what I was saying!” and Nori's quiet, “None of us will ever win this bet.”
“In fact, I know a guy,” the wizard added cheerfully. “Beorn isn't much for visitors but he hates dwarves only half as much as goblins and he lives quite close as eagles fly.”
“I don't find that very comforting,” Dori muttered to his brother and overhearing him, Bilbo quite agreed. He might not be a dwarf but he had a vested interest in keeping his companions alive and bursting uninvited into this Beorn's house was likely to get them killed instead.
“And what's all this nonsense about eagles? We're stuck on foot without our ponies and those cliffs will take hours to hike down.”
Instead of answering Bofur's question, Gandalf just smiled – the smug all-knowing grin that made wizards so annoying – and pointed to the sky just as the sound of beating wings filled the air. These eagles had good timing, Bilbo had to give them that, though the hobbit couldn't imagine what Gandalf had promised for their help. In his experience, most birds were far too proud to be ridden unless paid extremely well.
However, these eagles lifted Gandalf from the ground without an ounce of hesitation and soon the wizard's companions were soaring through the air as well, no matter how much some of them would have preferred to walk instead.
Indeed, Bilbo was not fond of flying and he kept his gaze fixed on his eagle's feathers even as Kíli looked around with open wonder at his side. The archer had no fear of falling; he kept leaning over to see the ground until Bilbo finally wrapped a hand in his coat and tugged him down again.
“Please stop wiggling. You're gonna be the death of me,” the hobbit said, pushing Kíli into the center of their eagle's back. He could see the Misty Mountains when he looked over the dwarf's shoulder and a brief glance down at the ground showed goblins spilling out of the tunnels like red ants from a hive.
“Looks like we got out just in time,” Bilbo murmured before settling against the archer so that they were pressed back to front. Kíli wrapped strong arms around his waist, shifting closer until the hobbit almost managed to forget that they were a mile off the ground. If he had to trust his life to an eagle, this was the way to fly.
“We were lucky. Our quest has been more dangerous than I expected but at least the Valar have been on our side so far. The Valar and one awesome unicorn,” Kíli added, nuzzling Bilbo's neck with a contented sigh.
“I have been pretty fantastic, haven't I?” the hobbit agreed. It was always nice to be appreciated and the honest admiration in his dwarf's voice was the only reward that Bilbo needed for his bravery. The unicorn was incredibly grateful that this gorgeous person returned his love in kind and he would thank the Valar daily once they were back in Hobbiton.
“Yeah, you ha-” Kíli started, his response broken by an enormous yawn.
“You might as well take a nap,” Bilbo told the archer. “I won't sleep while we're flying and at least one of us should be rested when we land. We don't know if this Beorn fellow will be friendly and you'll want a clear head if you need to fight again.”
“All right, if you're sure,” Kíli replied. He yawned again before resting his chin on Bilbo's shoulder and murmuring sleepily, “Goodnight, lansûn. Wake me if you need me.”
“I will, my dear. I will.”
Chapter 6: An Archer Dreams