The March of Time

16: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Ahh, you know what's great about three day weekends? The fact that I have enough time to upload two chapters instead of one. Yeah, it's nice...

Anyway, so here's Chapter 16, and I hope y'all like it!:)

Chapter Sixteen: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Night had descended upon the Misty Mountains, casting the mountain-side into shadows that seemed to warp and bend to the Company's movements as they ran through the trees, and in any other circumstance, Thorin thought it would have been the most beautiful night he had seen since leaving Rivendell almost three weeks ago.

The sky was like velvet, shimmering in different hues of deep blues and inky blacks, the glittering stars reminding him of the metal shavings that used to sparkle on the stone floors of the forges in Erebor. The moon was full and bright, washing the landscape in a pure silver glow and giving them good light to see by as they continued to run down the side of the mountain. It truly was stunning, but the serenity of the scene was splintered as the Warg howls tore through the night behind them, sounding much closer than they had before as they pursued the Company down the mountain-side.

Thorin guarded the rear, Orcrist solid and gleaming in his hand, glowing faintly blue, but it wasn't at its brightest, which he took some small comfort in; the Orcs weren't too close to them yet, but he knew it was only a matter of time before they caught up to them.

As they sprinted on, farther down the mountain-side, Thorin's thoughts tumbled and whirled inside of his head as he thought about the Orc pack chasing them, and he remembered the Goblin King's words with a nightmarish sort of clarity: "I know someone who would pay a pretty price for your head…a pale Orc, astride a white Warg."

Thorin knew that Azog was dead; he had cut off the vile creature's arm himself and defeated the Pale Orc, driving him back into Moria in disgrace. But at the Great Goblin's ominous proclamation, doubt had seeped back into him, and Thorin began to wonder if what the king had said was true. Thorin may have injured Azog, but did anyone really know if he had died from the wound inflicted on him by the Dwarf? Thorin had watched himself as Azog was dragged back into the Gates of Moria, in pain, bleeding and armless, but certainly not dead as his roars echoed around the plains of Azanulbizar. Maybe it was possible, maybe in some inconceivable way, it was possible…

No, Thorin thought to himself firmly as he pushed on, noticing how Orcrist was beginning to glow steadily brighter in his hand, and he could begin to feel the heavy footfalls of giant Warg paws trembling through the ground behind him. Do not let the words of some grotesque and repulsive, manipulative excuse for a king lead your thoughts astray. Azog is dead.

But the seeds of doubt were still planted in his mind, and he tried his hardest to ignore them as suddenly a shout rent the air from the front of the Company where Gandalf was leading, jarring Thorin violently from his thoughts and back into the present.

The Company had stopped running, and now they all looked in fear and panic around them, clutching their weapons as their gazes swept from side to side. Thorin looked to see what they were staring at, opening his mouth to order them on, but he suddenly stopped, realizing what exactly was wrong.

The mountain-side they had been running on abruptly ended a few meters in front of Gandalf, ending in a narrow sliver of mountain that jutted over the valley far below, a strip of cliff that pointed out like a finger in empty air. They were trapped on the mountain-side.

Thorin cursed viciously in Khuzdûl as the vibrations from the Wargs' paws rumbled closer, and he began to hear their heavy, powerful bodies crashing through the undergrowth behind them, barking and snapping and howling. Thorin looked around for any inspiration that would help them out of this mess, and his eyes landed on a cluster of tall pine trees near the cliff's edge; not his first choice for a place of defense, but it might help them all to live a while longer yet.

"Up into the trees!" he commanded, pointing to the trees as the snarls of the Wargs came ever closer. "All of you, climb!"

They sprinted the last ten meters to the trees just as the Wargs leaped out of the undergrowth, howling as they tore after the Company. Luckily, none of these had riders, and Thorin brought one down quickly with a savage blow to its neck. He hurtled past Bilbo and Nori, the latter who swung his huge battle hammer back behind his head and caved in a Warg's skull in one fell swoop, not even breaking his stride as he made for the trees.

"Go! Up!" Thorin shouted at the Dwarves, Bilbo, and Alison as he made for the farthest tree where Gandalf was clambering up into the branches. As he ran by, he saw Fili and Kili scaling one of the trees closer to the one Thorin began to climb up, some people taking refuge in one tree, some in another, and some, like Dwalin, Balin, Ori, and Dori, climbing into the one him and Gandalf were occupying.

Thorin looked to see if everyone had made it into their trees, watching as Fili hauled Alison up into the branches of the tree he shared with his brother and Bombur, his eyes lingering momentarily on the blood soaking the girl's jacket from a wound on her shoulder before cataloging the rest of the Company. Everyone was accounted for, except for Bilbo.

Thorin saw the Hobbit still on the ground, desperately trying to free his sword from the skull of a Warg he had obviously just killed, but to no avail. Thorin tensed as more Wargs drew near, making for the Hobbit, and he prepared to jump from the tree to go and save him when Bilbo finally managed to pull free his small sword and sprint for the trees, leaping up into Fili and Kili's and barely avoiding a Warg's fangs as its jaws snapped shut on the place where his foot had been just a moment ago.

Now they were all accounted for, and Thorin watched as the Wargs circled below them angrily, their predatory eyes gleaming like sparks in the darkness as more began to appear out of the trees behind them, bearing fearsome Orc riders upon their backs that surveyed the Company's defensive positions with sneers and hoarse rasps of laughter. Thorin gritted his teeth at their jeering and turned to face Gandalf, who was situated in the branches above him, planning on asking the Wizard if he had any grand scheme up his sleeve that would help pull them out of this mess. Instead he saw the Wizard whispering softly into his cupped hand, and watched in confusion as he released a tiny fluttering moth that promptly flew away, Gandalf watching it go with a certain gleam in his eyes Thorin didn't know what to make of.

Before he could ask what the Wizard had done though, there was a sudden sharp intake of breath from Balin beside him on his right shoulder, and he looked hard to the older Dwarf. Balin's face was almost as white as his beard, and his eyes were as round as saucers, reflecting the light of the moon as he stared at something on the ground with an expression of shock and disbelief.

Thorin's heart rate increased just from looking at his friend's face, and in some trepidation, he looked to where Balin was staring as every instinct in him screamed, Don't look! Whatever it is, just don't look! But it was too late.

A figure was emerging out of the trees, a huge, powerful profile that rippled with muscle and malice, astride a Warg that was twice the size of the others, with thick fur that gleamed white in the moonlight and yellow eyes that glowed like lanterns. But Thorin's attention was not riveted on the Warg, but rather its rider. As the figure came closer, entering into the beams of moonlight shining upon the cliff-edge, its pale skin shone almost translucently, almost as white as the moon itself, yet criss-crossed with deep, ugly, puckered scars, some self-inflicted, and some from battles. Even from this distance, Thorin saw the Pale Orc's eyes lock onto him, freezing him in place with the hatred and anticipation that filled the Orc's cold, pale eyes, and he felt as if a burning dagger was being pushed into his heart as he realized that one of his worst nightmares was unfolding right before him.

"Azog," he breathed, almost frozen completely as the Orc smiled lifelessly at him, his features looking like they were carved from iron.

The Pale Orc inhaled exaggeratedly, his eyes never once leaving Thorin's face. He began to speak in the Black Speech, his words rasping down Thorin's spine like razor blades, cold and unyielding. Thorin, who had picked up on Black Speech from lessons long ago that he had been implored to go to by his father, listened as Azog spoke, his blood moving almost sluggishly through his veins.

"Do you smell it?" Azog rasped in his forsaken tongue. "The scent of fear?" He smiled again, directly at Thorin, his scarred features alive with amused hatred. "I remember your father reeked of it, Thorin, son of Thráin."

The Company listened to the Orc in bewilderment, but Thorin had understood everything perfectly, and he felt as if a cold hand had clamped down on his windpipe, making it hard for him to breathe.

"It cannot be," he whispered, but he knew that this was real, that his mind was not playing tricks on him, no matter how much he wished that it was. Azog the Defiler stood before him in the flesh, very much unchanged except for the mace that now substituted as the arm Thorin had cut off so long ago, the same arm that had beheaded his grandfather, had held up Thrór's head in triumph and tossed it to Thorin's feet with contempt. Thorin felt physically sick as he remembered the glassy stare of his grandfather's lifeless blue eyes boring into him, and Azog chuckled low in his throat, as if knowing what Thorin was thinking of and enjoying watching him suffer.

Azog pointed his mace-arm to Thorin, grumbling, "That one is mine. Kill the others."

On the Orc's orders, the rider-less Wargs began to leap for the Company members sheltering in the trees, using their powerful haunches to push them off the ground and propel them high into the air, snapping at the Dwarves' feet as they bit and clawed at the trees with a ferocity that extended beyond primal instinct; this was pure, black malice.

"Drink their blood!" Thorin heard Azog command over the tumult, and he gripped Orcrist so hard he felt his fingers going numb. Suddenly, there was a splintering crack, and Thorin heard voices crying out and Alison's distinct feminine gasp over the sound. With difficulty, Thorin tore his gaze away from Azog's and watched as Fili, Kili, Bombur, Bilbo, and Alison's tree's roots ripped out of the ground, causing it to topple over into the other tree the rest of the Company was perched in with a resonating groan.

As the tree fell, the three Dwarves, the Hobbit and the girl jumped from their branches and landed among the other Company members, but they were having the same problem as they did. The Wargs had also uprooted their tree, and with the combined weight of the others and its neighboring tree falling into it, that tree began to lean and fall as well.

The Wargs continued to bite and snap at the Company as they began to leap into the tree Thorin and the others were in, making the trunk wobble unsteadily from the increased weight. As the last of the Company jumped into the branches of their tree, the other two pines toppled over the cliff-edge and knocked their own tree off-balance, causing it to tilt and dangle over the very edge of the cliff. Thorin glimpsed the dark valley floor far, far below them as he clung onto his branch with the available hand not occupied by Orcrist, watching as the two pines were swallowed by the shadows swathing the valley below before returning his gaze to the predicament currently unfolding before them.

Azog laughed at the precarious situation the Company was now in, and the other Orcs joined in, as well, drawing their weapons as if sensing how close the Company was coming to dying, either by falling or fighting. Both options were rubbish, but as Thorin's gaze locked with Azog's again, he felt rage boiling in his blood, whipping his survival instincts into a frenzy and awakening the guttering flame of vengeance that had been in his heart since the day Azog had destroyed his family. The Orc would pay for what he had done.

Thorin began to struggle to free himself from the entwining branches of the tree as Gandalf said, "Fili!" from somewhere above him, and he spared a cursory glance as the Wizard lit a pine cone on fire with his staff and pitched it to the circling Wargs below, causing them to skitter back in fear as the undergrowth began to catch aflame. Gandalf lit another pine cone and tossed it down to Fili, who was immediately below him on a branch he shared with Bilbo.

Bilbo grabbed up a pine cone, as well, using the flames from Fili's to start his own cone on fire, and soon everyone in the Company held blazing pine cones. They started chucking them at the Wargs and Orcs, who hissed and snarled in surprise and frustration as a blaze started amongst the greenery, forming a sort of barricade between them and the Company.

The Company cheered, emboldened by their small victory, but the cheers turned into panicked cries as the tree groaned and tilted even farther down, now hanging almost halfway over the cliff's edge. Ori lost his grip on his tree branch, and with a strangled cry, he fell until he grabbed hold of Dori's ankles as the older Dwarf dangled in mid-air, barely being able to hold on to his own branch as it is. Dori gasped, clinging on tighter to the branch, and Thorin hesitated as he finally managed to pull himself up onto the trunk.

He couldn't leave Dori and Ori clinging on for their lives, he couldn't ignore them. But as he looked from the fearful faces of his friends to the narrowed gaze of Azog, he also couldn't ignore the beast inside of him, roaring for revenge, either. He took a deep breath and steadied himself, standing up on the tree trunk that sloped down to the ground and removing his shield from his back, strapping it to his forearm.

"Gandalf," he said clearly. "Help them." He gestured with his head to Dori and Ori as he finished strapping his shield to his arm, and the Wizard's eyes widened as he realized what Thorin was about to do. The rest of the Company looked to him with shock and fear as it dawned on them too, and Dwalin struggled to climb onto the trunk as well, saying, "Thorin, don't—"

But Thorin turned away from them, staring down the Pale Orc as he started down the tree trunk, raising Orcrist in his hand as he began to charge at the Orc, hefting his shield as he went. How befitting it was, that he should go into battle with the Pale Orc once again, wearing this same shield, hewn from the very oaken branch he had gotten his name from, the very branch that had saved his life in combat with Azog in the first place. Azog's eyes widened fractionally as Thorin barreled closer, obviously recognizing the shield with an angry twitch in his jaw, raising the mammoth mace he carried in his real hand as his fake one glinted in the moonlight.

Thorin charged closer, the blood roaring in his ears and his heart pounding out a steady beat like an anvil in the forges, and when he was a few meters away from the Pale Orc, Azog spurred his Warg forward, the creature leaping for Thorin with a roar.

Thorin didn't have time to dodge, and the Warg's heavy paws smashed into his lower abdomen with enough force to drive the air from his lungs and cause an explosion of pain to rip through his gut, making his insides burn as he landed on his back, gasping for air like a fish out of water.

Have to get up, he thought through the haze of pain clouding his mind. Get up. He blinked the fog from his eyes, wheezing in air as he struggled to his feet, keeping a firm grip on his sword and shield as he straightened up. He had to keep fighting. He couldn't stop until this vile creature was dead, this monster that had killed his family. He had to destroy him.

No sooner had he gotten to his feet then Azog was there again, this time slamming his mace into Thorin's chest, and Thorin could feel the crippling blow even through the protection of his armor. He sank to the ground once more, spots dancing in his eyes as his chest heaved desperately, trying hard to suck air into his lungs once again. Distantly, he saw Azog's Warg round on him again, and by its master's urging, the creature clamped its powerful jaws around Thorin's upper body, crunching down so hard Thorin felt his ribs compressing under the pressure and its fangs digging into his unprotected skin like individual knives, causing him to bellow in pain.

Mustering the last of his strength, Thorin raised Orcrist and sliced the blade down the Warg's muzzle, earning a snarl of pain from the creature as its grip on him slackened. Unfortunately, Thorin had only infuriated the creature instead of causing any real harm to it, and the Warg let go of him as it flung him through the air with a savage growl.

Thorin flew like a rag-doll, crashing into a large rock protruding out of the ground, and he felt Orcrist being knocked out of his hand from the force of the impact, skittering away across the stone and landing beyond his reach. Thorin was dazed, and he stared at the stars twinkling coldly above him for a moment before bringing his eyes back down to earth.

He saw Azog watching him with hatred etched into his iron features, his scars rippling as he said five words in the Black Speech to the Orc nearest him: "Bring me the Dwarf's head."

Smiling malevolently, the towering Orc next to Azog swung down from his steed and approached Thorin leisurely, his grin widening as he unsheathed his great, broad sword, the edge gleaming cruelly in the light from the moon.

Thorin reached for his own blade, his fingernails scraping against the rock and tearing up his skin as he searched desperately for the sword, but it was too far from his reach. Thorin glared defiantly at the Orc as it approached casually, fingering its blade thoughtfully as it smiled down at him. Thorin tried to articulate words, but no sound came out; his tongue was weighed too heavily with pain to speak, though he would never allow the Orc to see that.

Thorin felt the cold steel of the blade kiss the skin on his neck, and he thrust out his hand in one last effort to reach his sword, but his bloodied fingertips still grasped on nothing but stone.

The Orc raised the sword high above its head, ready to chop Thorin's own off, but with a sudden battle cry, a small figure launched itself at the Orc and knocked it to the ground, wrestling with the giant creature in the grass. Dimly, Thorin realized that it was Bilbo who had attacked the Orc, and he felt a flicker of incredulity go through him before that was swallowed up by the pain enveloping his body. He was fading, losing consciousness as he watched Bilbo take his sword and plunge it into the Orc's chest, killing it, and Thorin felt as if he were watching everything happen as if from a great distance as Bilbo got to his feet, swinging his sword threateningly at the encroaching Orcs and Wargs around them.

He had to stay awake…he had to… But Thorin was slipping away, his eyelids fluttering as the acrid smell of smoke hung in the air, burning his nostrils, and the distant sounds of what seemed like a battle reached his ears…

Thorin suddenly saw the faces of his father and his grandfather swimming in front of his eyes, and he felt a stab of pain lance through his heart as they seemed to stare sternly down at him. I'm sorry, he tried to say. I have failed you. I'm sorry.

But already the images of them were fading away, just like Thorin, and the last thing he saw before sinking into oblivion was the clearing burning around him, alight with red and orange flames, and his foggy mind was reminded of the dragon fire that had destroyed his home, that had taken all that he had. Then the flames themselves burned out as his eyes closed, and he knew no more.

Bilbo watched the clearing below him burning with a detached sort of fear as the Wargs and Orcs circled around the flames, eyeing them with frustration at the barricade that had formed between them and the Company perched precariously in their tree.

Bilbo knew he ought to have been more terrified concerning their current situation, but he wasn't, not really. Maybe he was still emboldened by his great escape from the goblin-tunnels and killing a Warg, or maybe he had just reached the maximum capacity for fear to where he didn't feel it anymore, but either way, he certainly felt a lot braver than he ever had on the journey so far.

However, he began to rethink his observation a bit as the tree they were perched in tilted alarmingly, and suddenly they were all dangling in empty air out over the shadowy valley far below, and Bilbo clung onto his branch for dear life, watching as Dori and Ori nearly fell from their branch a couple meters away from Bilbo's.

Bilbo watched the two Dwarves flailing in a panic, wishing that he were close enough to help them. He had always liked the quiet and polite Ori, and though he had never really interacted with Dori, he didn't want to see the Dwarf fall to his death, either.

"Gandalf," came Thorin's voice from behind Bilbo. "Help them." Bilbo turned around with difficulty on his branch, seeing the Dwarf king standing up steadily on the trunk of the tree, his oaken branch shield strapped to his forearm and the blue blade of Orcrist glowing in his hand. His blue eyes roiled with rage and a haunted sort of hatred, but his shoulders were broad and proud, and silhouetted against the gold of the fire and the backdrop of the smoky night sky, Bilbo thought that he looked more like a king than he had seen him before.

Bilbo's eyes slid past Thorin's profile to the clearing beyond, and he saw Azog the Defiler there, astride his gigantic Warg and watching Thorin with a hungry gleam in his gaze, and Bilbo guessed what Thorin was about to do. He looked to the Dwarf king with wide eyes, and everybody else did, too, as they realized what was about to happen also.

"Thorin, don't—" Dwalin said, grunting with the effort of trying to pull himself up onto the trunk beside him, but with one last look full of determination and anger, Thorin turned and began to charge down the tree trunk, roaring a challenge as he barreled closer to Azog. But as he watched, Bilbo saw Azog's Warg lunge for the Dwarf king, knocking him flat on the ground as he laid there, slightly disoriented from the sudden attack of the Warg.

Bilbo continued to watch, his heart in his throat, as Thorin got to his feet, but immediately being knocked down again as Azog charged by, swinging his mace and catching Thorin in the chest with a staggering blow. This time, though, Thorin couldn't force himself to his feet, and the Warg circled around again, clamping its huge jaws around Thorin's torso and biting down, hard, causing a roar of pain to rip out of Thorin's throat.

"Thorin!" Dwalin yelled, and by this point, everyone in the Company was struggling to free themselves from their branches and clamber onto the trunk, desperate to save their leader. Even Bilbo found himself straggling out of his branch, watching in horror as Thorin raised his sword and cut at the Warg's muzzle, causing it to fling him through the air until he landed painfully on a rock, his sword clattering out of his hand.

By some unknown force, Bilbo found himself clinging to the tree trunk, and he dragged himself into an upright standing position, balancing on the swaying trunk, his eyes riveted to the scene before him.

An Orc was sauntering over to where Thorin lay, nearly incapacitated on the ground as Azog and the other Orcs and Wargs watched in anticipation, and Bilbo saw Thorin groping for his sword, but it was too far out of his reach.

As if his movements belonged to somebody else, Bilbo found himself unsheathing his sword, the blade shimmering blue at the surrounding Orcs' presence, and he held it steady, watching as the giant Orc looming over Thorin took out its own great, curved blade, examining it thoughtfully as Thorin feebly struggled beneath him, still trying to reach his blade.

Bilbo turned quickly as he heard a terrified shout come from Ori, and he saw Dori's grip slipping on his branch, and he cried out, "Mister Gandalf!" before his hands slipped entirely from the branch. He and Ori fell for a few feet before Gandalf jutted his staff downwards and Dori grasped it, Ori still clinging to his older brother's ankles in fear as they dangled far above the valley floor below.

Seeing they were safe for now, Bilbo turned back to watch the Orc as it skimmed its blade across Thorin's neck, and Bilbo knew he had to do something. Steeling himself, and vaguely wondering what on earth he was getting himself into, Bilbo raised his sword and charged at the Orc, his feet gliding almost soundlessly over the ground and giving him the advantage of surprise, for the Orcs were too wrapped up in their spectacle to see him coming.

As the Orc raised its sword above its head, preparing for the beheading swing, Bilbo tore into the clearing and launched himself at the Orc, slamming into it hard and knocking it to the ground as the Orcs and Wargs behind him snarled and hissed in surprise and fury.

Oh, help me, Bilbo prayed to whatever force was listening, as the Orc roared and bucked beneath him, trying to reach its sword, but Bilbo was pinning the Orc to the ground with his body, and he raised his own sword in his hands, driving the tip of it down into the Orc's chest.

The Orc screeched as the blade sank in deeper, and Bilbo tried not to faint at the feeling and noise the sword made as it plunged into the Orc's chest. He removed the blade quickly and practically leaped off of the Orc's body as it choked and went still, and he turned and faced the surrounding Orcs, stumbling slightly as he raised his sword and met the gaze of Azog.

The Pale Orc looked enraged, but it was hard to tell since his features were so carven, but Bilbo got the idea of what the Orc was thinking as he rasped out words in the Black Speech that Bilbo couldn't understand and the Wargs and Orcs began to slowly advance on him.

Perhaps this wasn't the best idea after all, Bilbo thought as he swung his sword threateningly, but it was like waving a stick for all the good it did him. One of the Wargs nearest him swiped its tongue eagerly over its lips, and Bilbo gulped, sure he was about to die, when suddenly a battle cry came from his right, and as he whipped his head toward the sound, he saw most of the Company come charging at the Orcs, swinging their weapons and yelling fiercely as they crashed into the Orcs.

The Wargs reared back and staggered from the sudden attack of the Dwarves while the Orcs hissed and tried to stay on their mounts, brandishing their weapons at the Company as the fight began.

Once Bilbo got over his initial shock at seeing the Dwarves come tearing into the clearing, he figured he should probably help instead of just standing there with his mouth hanging open, and he raised his sword once more, yelling as he lunged for a Warg standing near him and cutting its flank, making the creature howl in fury as it turned on him.

The Warg stumbled as it faced him, the cut on its side throwing off its balance, and with a cry of surprise, the Orc rider on its back toppled off from its movement. Instantly the Orc was on its feet again, rushing at Bilbo along with the Warg, but suddenly Alison was there, swinging at the Orc with her Twin Blades flashing in the fire and moonlight with an intensity that matched the steel in her eyes as the Orc turned its attention on her and began to fight.

Bilbo faced the Warg by itself now, and as the creature charged towards him, he side-stepped and brought the blade down on its neck; not hard enough to kill it, but causing enough damage to where it slipped on the grass and crashed down on its side, its paws scrabbling on the ground as it struggled back to its feet, growling viciously. It came at him again, and this time, Bilbo wasn't so lucky.

He moved too slow, not getting out of the way in time, and the Warg barreled into him, throwing him off-balance and into the path of another Warg. Bilbo smashed into the Warg's muzzle, and he realized with a stab of fear that the Warg was the one that bore Azog on its back.

The white Warg shook off Bilbo and knocked the Hobbit down as Azog started in surprise on its back, his eyes narrowing as he realized who Bilbo was. Azog spurred his Warg forward, but at that moment, there was a piercing shriek from above, and Bilbo looked up along with the Orc, his heart nearly bursting with what he saw.

Eagles, great, powerful Eagles with feathers that glimmered like burnished gold, bronze and copper, and wingspans that spanned the length of several tall Men were swooping down upon the clearing, crying out with their clear, strong voices as they descended upon the cliff-edge.

Bilbo watched as the Wargs and Orcs reared in fear, and the Eagles began to swoop in, using their talons to pick up Wargs and fly them through the flames surrounding the clearing before dropping them off into empty space with howls of terror. Soon the nauseating scent of charred hair and flesh swept over the clearing as the Eagles fanned the flames with their wings, driving the Orcs and Wargs back from the Company as the Dwarves began to climb onto their offered backs, and Bilbo finally realized what Gandalf had been doing with that moth in the tree earlier: he had been sending a message for the Eagles to come and help them.

Suddenly, there was a groaning crack coming from the extreme edge of the cliff, and Bilbo looked over to see the tree Gandalf, Dori, and Ori were still in finally tear its roots free of the ground and fall over the edge, Gandalf still in the branches while Dori and Ori lost their grip on the Wizard's staff and began to free-fall, until suddenly an Eagle soared in and the Dwarves landed on its back, the great bird bearing them away up into the smoke-filled sky as another Eagle did the same for Gandalf, who had jumped out of the tree and landed on his Eagle's back with one deft movement.

By this point, most of the Company had climbed onto the Eagles' backs, and only Bilbo and Thorin were left in the clearing as most of the remaining Orcs and Wargs fled back up the mountain-side in terror. Azog stayed behind, his eyes wide with rage as he saw the Eagles escaping with the Company, and suddenly those eyes found Bilbo, the penetrating coldness of the stare freezing him in place as two more Eagles swooped in, one for Bilbo and one for Thorin.

Bilbo, suddenly realizing that the Eagle was about to pick him up with its talons, started to sputter and back away, but the Eagle took him up into its claws and promptly dropped him. Bilbo yelled, until suddenly another Eagle swooped in below him, catching him on its back as it shrieked and banked, soaring upwards to join the rest of the circling Eagles with the other Company members upon their backs.

"Was that really necessary?" Bilbo gasped as he clung onto his new Eagle's plumage, shooting a look over his shoulder to the one that had dropped him so unceremoniously. But the Eagle had already flapped away, and instead he saw the last Eagle picking up Thorin and his sword in its talons, the Dwarf king unconscious as he was borne away from the clearing. As Bilbo watched, Thorin's oaken shield, which had been dangling loosely from his arm, slipped off and fell back down to the clearing below, where it was swallowed by the flames still raging on the cliff's edge.

The last Eagle bearing Thorin joined their wheeling group up in the sky, and with the last member of the Company safe, the Eagles began to bank and soar over the Misty Mountains, leaving the burning clearing behind them. A roar echoed behind the retreating Company, a wild, enraged bellow that rang around the mountains and seemed to follow the Company the farther away they flew, and with a bad feeling, Bilbo knew that this was not the last time they would see Azog. The Defiler would be back, and he would want revenge on all of them.

The Eagles continued to bank and soar over the snow-capped peaks of the Misty Mountains, and Bilbo realized how high they must be if they were flying over the peaks, high enough to where they could see the snow dusting the tops of the mountains and feel the crisp, sharp coldness of the air, which came as a relief after the fever and heat of the fire in the clearing.

The Company soared on through the night, until the bright stars began to wink out one by one and the moon gave up its place in the sky for the sun, the inky blue of the night giving way to the bright serenity of the dawn.

Looking ahead, his fingers still grasping the soft silkiness of his Eagle's feathers, Bilbo thought he had never seen something as remarkable or extraordinary as the dawn he was seeing before him. Up here, in the highest reaches of the air, the colors spread and shone like the richest, purest light in the world, touching all the vast reaches of the horizon in hues of pink, violet, orange and gold as the sun rose up before them, splendid and surreal in all of its glory.

Imagine what the others back home would say if they saw what I was doing right now, Bilbo thought giddily, and he smiled to himself, suddenly not being able to stop as relief bubbled up in him, mixed with wonder and exhilaration at what he was doing. He was flying on an Eagle, a creature he had only ever heard or read about in legends back in the Shire. He was on an Eagle, flying over the Misty Mountains, on an adventure. Somehow, the notion didn't sink in truly until that moment, and Bilbo felt equal measures of excitement and terror flooding through him. He was actually on an adventure!

"Thorin!" Fili's voice yelled out from somewhere behind Bilbo, and Bilbo turned around to look at the older Dwarf prince, his attention snapping back to reality. Fili was practically standing up on the Eagle he shared with Kili, his gaze worried as he looked to somewhere to the right of Bilbo.

Bilbo craned his head over the side of his Eagle, seeing the one that was carrying Thorin swooping beside him. The Dwarf king was still unconscious in the Eagle's talons, and in the light of the dawn, Bilbo saw why Fili was so concerned. Thorin's face was ashy and pale, and even from where he was Bilbo could see the bruises dappling his skin and the dried blood crusting the numerous cuts and abrasions all over his face from his fight with the Pale Orc.

Thorin looked on the brink of death, and Bilbo felt dread run through him at the thought of what would happen to them all should Thorin die from his injuries. Hold on, Thorin, Bilbo found himself thinking almost subconsciously. Just hold on.

And he kept repeating this to himself, over and over again, as the Eagles soared above the mountains, flying towards the rising sun before them.

Alison hoped her Eagle didn't mind that much as her blood seeped onto its feathers, clotting the beautiful coppery plumage no matter what she did to staunch the bleeding. It had slowed down considerably since she had jumped onto her Eagle's back, but she could still feel the heat of it running down her arm from where it oozed out of her shoulder.

Since they had been running from the Orcs for most of the evening, she had never stopped to patch up the bite wound she had received from one of the goblins on her shoulder, and while it had seemed shallow at the time, all the exertion she had done and the strain she had put on it climbing and jumping through trees and fighting the Orcs had opened it more fully, and as the adrenaline in her system wore off, boy did it hurt.

Alison felt like her whole arm was going numb with the pain from it, and the wound itself throbbed and flared with the slightest muscle twinge or movement. She gritted her teeth and kept her eyes fixed on the horizon, though, watching as the velvet night shifted into a dazzling dawn and using her hand to apply pressure to the wound even as she felt like she was about to pass out from the contact.

"Thorin!" Fili's voice cried from ahead of her, and Alison looked up to see Thorin, dangling limply from the talons of his Eagle and looking like he was practically on death's door. Alison's breath caught in her throat, flashing back to the fight between Azog and Thorin on the cliff's edge while the fire had raged around them.

She had felt like claws were digging into her heart as she watched Thorin being overpowered by his greatest enemy, on the verge of being beheaded until Bilbo had surprised them all by killing the Orc and turning into the hero of the day.

As Bilbo had charged at the Orc about to decapitate Thorin, Alison had finally managed to clamber up onto the tree trunk and draw her swords as all the others besides Gandalf, Dori, and Ori made it up as well, drawing their own weapons again. They started forward, yelling battle cries, and Alison made to follow when suddenly a hand grabbed her arm, forcing her back gently, yet firmly.

"Alison, don't," Fili said, pulling her back, and Alison looked to him in confusion. "These are Orcs, not goblins. They are seasoned warriors, and you are not. Stay here. Don't get hurt." His gray-blue eyes searched hers, and Alison stared back, not quite believing what she was hearing.

"You want me to stay behind?" she repeated, hoping he was joking, but he wasn't. The look in his eyes and the grip on her arm was enough to tell her that. She tried to pull her arm from his grasp, but he held fast, his gaze still beseeching hers.

"Just stay out of this one," he implored, hefting one of his own iron swords in his other hand as the sounds of battle reached their ears. "You're not ready to take on these kinds of adversaries. Don't do this."

Anger boiled in Alison as she slid her gaze over his shoulder, seeing Bilbo tackle a Warg with his small sword as the rest of the Company surged around him. She couldn't sit on the sidelines for this one. She had to help Bilbo and the others.

"Watch me," she replied, and with a forceful tug, she yanked her arm free from Fili's grasp and hurtled to where the Hobbit was, watching in fear as a Warg and an Orc advanced on him, and without thinking, Alison launched herself at the Orc, bringing up her swords for a battle position.

One thing Alison had realized, though, as she had engaged the Orc, was that Fili was completely right. These weren't dim-witted goblins that couldn't tell the difference between a sword and their foot; these were Orcs, led by Azog the Defiler himself, and they had been trained on how to fight; and, more importantly, how to kill.

So when the Orc had come at her in all of its towering, fearsome brutality, she was completely taken off-guard at how ferociously the Orc fought, swinging and cutting and hacking its blade at her in such fast increments she had had to go on the defensive, using all of her strength and wits just to keep the Orc's blade from hitting her. In just a few moments, she was exhausted, and she had felt the wound on her shoulder open even further, trickling blood down her arm inside of her jacket sleeve, making her moves more awkward and clumsy.

After blocking a jab from the Orc's sword, she hadn't even realized its other hand swinging out of nowhere until it connected with her stomach, forcing the air out of her body and making her sink to her knees, her mouth gaping as she struggled to breathe.

In a daze, she watched as the Orc raised its blade, preparing for the killing blow, and she brought up Natrem weakly, knowing that the blade couldn't help her at all. She was entirely at the Orc's mercy, and time seemed to slow down as the blade swung towards her, cleaving through the air right for her head—

But the blade missed by inches. Not from the Orc's own personal doing; no, the problem was the blade sticking out of the Orc's chest, and the Orc looked down at it in surprise, as if wondering how it had gotten there. Then, with a sickening squelching sound, the blade was yanked from the Orc's chest, the tip disappearing, and the Orc crumpled to the ground at Alison's knees.

She stared at it, speechless, and then looked up, seeing Fili standing in front of her, his sword dripping with thick, oily blood and his eyes sparking with anger. He opened his mouth like he was about to say something to her, but the words cut off as suddenly a shriek had sounded from above them, and they looked up to see the Eagles swooping in to save them.

Alison had gotten on her Eagle without question, her arms weighing like lead as she had replaced her swords in her scabbards, and now here she was, bleeding and incredibly sore, perched on an Eagle's back as they flew over the snowy peaks of the Misty Mountains as the dawn sky stretched out before them.

They flew for another hour, and the sun was truly beginning to rise as they emerged from the largest of the peaks and flew low over some smaller ones, and Alison saw a towering mass of rock in front of them, like a naturally carved stone platform, and the Eagles made for it, circling around it as they went one by one to deposit the Dwarves on their backs. Thorin's Eagle went first, gently laying the Dwarf king down on the rock with Orcrist settling next to him, and then Bilbo's Eagle, then Alison's, and so on.

When Alison slid off of her Eagle's back, she nearly crumpled to the ground as a wave of dizziness washed over her, and she pressed her hand harder into her shoulder as it hit her just how much blood she had lost.

The other Dwarves began to congregate on the rock, staring at Thorin with worry and fear as the Dwarf king still lay motionless, the dawn light casting his bruised and bloodied face into deeper contrast. And then Gandalf was there, sweeping off of his Eagle and hurrying to the Dwarf king's side.

"Thorin," Gandalf said, and when there was no response, Gandalf put a hand over the Dwarf's face and began to mutter an incantation Alison didn't understand.

As the Wizard worked, Alison saw Óin approaching her and she turned to face the Dwarf as he neared, taking out a small pouch from the inside of his cloak.

"Here, lass, let's get you cleaned up," he said. Alison nodded, peeling away her torn jacket and shirt to reveal the bite mark on her shoulder, wincing slightly as the soaked fabric clung to her skin a bit where the dried blood of the wound was. Óin clucked his tongue in disapproval and set to work on her, using a rag torn off his shirt to rub away the blood since they had no water-skins to use to clean the blood off. After he cleaned it up as best as he could, he took some herbs from his medicine pouch and gently rubbed it in to her shoulder, patting her arm comfortingly as she sucked in a sharp breath at the sting of the herbs as they worked their way into her wound.

"There," the Dwarf said, dressing her wound with a strip of bandages he found shoved in the bottom of his pouch. "Luckily those goblins had no need for a medicine pouch and decided to leave it. Are you hurt anywhere else?"

"A scratch on my arm," she said, extending her forearm to show the healer Dwarf as he looked to her in confusion, not being able to hear her very well through his flattened trumpet. "But it's not as serious as my shoulder."

"Aye," he agreed, inspecting the wound closely. "It's very shallow, not too much to worry about. Put some of this on it and you'll be fine. You won't even need a bandage." He offered her a tiny bottle of salve, and she wondered what all that Dwarf had managed to fit inside such a small pouch as she rubbed it in, handing back the bottle before he moved away to tend to the others.

Everyone was still watching Gandalf try and revive Thorin anxiously, but another Dwarf was approaching Alison, and she tore her eyes away from the still figure of the Dwarf king to see who it was. To her dismay, it was Fili, and she stifled a sigh as the Dwarf prince marched over to her, his eyes hard and angry.

She was forcibly reminded of the day he had pulled her out of the river, and she felt guilty as she realized she had done something stupid and reckless again and he had had to save her, and then she felt irritated that she felt guilty. She had been trying to help this time, not show off, and if Fili was going to jump down her throat for it, she'd fight back, no matter how much her heart was fluttering at the sight of him as he drew closer.

"Okay, look," she said. "I know you're about to lecture me about what I did, so let's just get to the point. I know what I did was impulsive and dangerous, that I wasn't thinking, and I'm just reckless and stupid—"

But she suddenly cut off as his hands reached up and cupped her face, his eyes softening, and in the next moment, his lips were on hers, and everything she had been about to say died in her throat as he kissed her.

There were shocked exclamations from the Company and a whistle from Bofur, but Alison didn't pay attention, every fiber of her being focused on the soft, yet unyielding way Fili's lips moved against hers, and she reached up with her own hands, anchoring the back of his head and pressing his mouth more firmly against hers, wanting to do this since practically the first day she had met him. It wasn't a long kiss, but still she felt her heart pounding and her fingertips pulsing as they broke apart after a few long seconds, meeting each other's gazes with wide eyes.

She had no idea where that had come from, and as she looked at the burning depths in Fili's stormy eyes, she could tell that he was just as shocked as she was. Alison was clueless as to what to say to that, or what was possibly going to happen now as his hands still held her face and his eyes locked with hers, and she was only vaguely aware of the Company still openly staring at them in bewilderment. She debated on whether to say something romantically-cheesy or anything, but decided against it as Fili spoke for her.

"You are reckless and stupid," he agreed, grinning at her, and she laughed as he stepped away, dropping his hands, and she tried to ignore the feeling burning in her fingertips that just made her want to grab him and kiss him again.

However, the moment was shattered as Gandalf stood up behind them, saying, "Thorin!" in relief. Alison turned, seeing the Dwarf king's eyes open, and her heart leaped as she saw that he looked fine; beat up and slightly bloody, but otherwise, totally fine.

"The Halfling?" Thorin croaked, stiffly trying to sit up.

"It's all right," Gandalf replied, helping the Dwarf king to his feet as Thorin stood up with some difficulty, wincing slightly. Alison saw Bilbo standing on the other side of the rock, facing them with his back to the horizon behind him and looking immensely relieved as Thorin stood upright. "Bilbo is here."

Thorin saw where Bilbo was and started towards him, his expression as stony as ever as he said, "You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed!"

Bilbo looked to Thorin in alarm at his harsh tone, and the Company watched in trepidation as Thorin stepped forward more towards the Hobbit. Alison started forward, clenching her fists, but Fili held her back, shaking his head silently.

"Did I not say you would be a burden?" Thorin said, stalking closer to Bilbo, and the Hobbit looked down, hurt flashing briefly in his eyes. "That you would not survive in the Wild, that you had no place amongst us?" There was a slight, tense pause, and then Thorin stepped forward once more, and to everyone's intense surprise, he said, "I have never been so wrong, in all my life."

And with that, he embraced Bilbo, and Alison almost laughed out loud at the befuddled expression on the Hobbit's face as he reached his arms around Thorin and hugged him back, patting his back uncertainly.

"I am sorry I doubted you," Thorin said, stepping back from Bilbo, and Bilbo smiled, looking genuinely relieved.

"No, I…I would have doubted me, too," he said. "I'm not a Hero, or a warrior," his gaze met Alison's as he said this, and she smiled before he swept his gaze over the rest of the Company and then looked back to Thorin. "I'm not even a burglar, really."

At that they all laughed, and then the Eagles, who had been wheeling in the sky near them and circling around for the past several minutes, cawed a final farewell and took to the sky again, soaring gracefully back over the mountain tops as the Company watched them depart in awe.

"Is that what I think it is?" Bilbo said from behind them, and Alison and the others turned around to find Thorin and Bilbo standing on the edge of the cliff, gazing out at the land before them.

Alison and the rest of the Dwarves walked over to the edge beside them, and Alison's breath caught in her throat as she looked out over the vastness of the Wild before her, green forests stretching out and filling her vision everywhere she looked. But that was not what had captured her attention.

Far off in the distance, a lonely peak jutted into the sky, silhouetted against the dawn sky like a beacon that awaited them, and Alison realized with a jolt what she was seeing a second before Gandalf spoke from behind them.

"Erebor!" the Wizard said, as everyone stared at the peak in awe and wonder, so far away but now so much closer than it had ever been since the start of their journey. "The Lonely Mountain. The last of the great Dwarf Kingdoms of Middle-earth."

"Our home," Thorin said, and he gazed at the mountain with an expression of such joy and longing that Alison, who stood beside him, reached out her hand and placed it gently on his arm, smiling at him as he looked to her, his eyes shining and his face looking as unlined as she had ever seen it.

"Look!" Óin said, pointing above them to a bird that was fluttering overhead, flapping in the direction of the Lonely Mountain. "A raven. The birds are returning to the Mountain!"

"That, my dear Óin, is a thrush," Gandalf pointed out amusedly, and Alison joined in on the older Dwarf's slightly crestfallen look; she didn't know the difference between a thrush or a raven, either.

"Well we'll take it as a sign," Thorin said, turning his gaze back to the golden horizon. "A good omen."

"You're right," Bilbo said from his other side, as they all stared out at the Lonely Mountain together, the rising sun spilling forth all of its light into the sky above them and seeming to light up the Mountain like a flame, beckoning them forward on their journey. "I do believe the worst is behind us."

And so marks the end of An Unexpected Journey, part one of this story. But Desolation of Smaug is here now, YEAHHHH! Well, in a couple of chapters. Gotta fill the space between the two movies first, no matter how short the space, because I'm just like that. It's all in the details for me.

*You can skip this next part; it's literally me just ranting*

SO, list of things that went down in this chapter:

1) Thorin's POV: So basically I just wanted to capture his thoughts in what was going through his mind as he fought Azog, because the movie's just kinda like "okay you can fight now", and while his struggle is hinted at, I just wanted to convey what I personally think was going through his mind in those moments.

2) Bilbo's POV: I just basically wanted to show how much Bilbo had changed since first leaving the Shire, and what better way to do that than writing his heroic moment from his own eyes and his own thoughts?

(Jesus, I talk a lot. I'm almost done!)

And 3) Alison's POV: IT HAPPENED. THEY KISSED. OMG GUYS EVEN I WAS FANGIRLING WHEN WRITING IT. But don't fret if it wasn't romantic enough or anything! This was just a teaser for what is yet to happen...mwahahaha!

And now they see the Lonely Mountain! Things should start to get pretty interesting from here on out...

Okay, sorry for the long commentary, but I'm in a really talkative mood right now haha. So anyway, thanks for reading this chapter and for sticking with me thus far! I posted this story like a month ago and it's my first fanfic and I love all the support I'm getting for it! Like I reached 100 followers Saturday night and I was so excited because I never thought it would do so well!

Anyway, thanks again for reading, and for all of your reviews last time! (Do I really need to say keep them coming anymore?) Lol, but thank you SO much lovelies, for everything!:) Until next chapter...

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