Chapter 11: Dreams of Diamonds
Dreams of Diamonds
"Take my hand."
I offer my palm to him, and he encloses it within his own. We lie down next to each other, the pair of us rather embarrassed, and I wish him goodnight, closing my eyes.
I awake on Bilbo's velvet sofa, curled up like a cat; I allow myself to wake properly before walking through to the room where Fili sits beside his brother. Kili is sat bolt upright, having recently felt the lurch back into consciousness that I am now myself becoming accustomed to. Fili lets out a sigh of relief and skims his large hand around the back of his younger sibling's skull, pulling Kili forwards and pressing their foreheads together.
"You fool, little brother," Fili says, eyes closed and smiling with relief, "you utter fool." He smacks him against his ear then and winces. "You have been asleep all day! Did I not warn you about drinking too much?" Upon his release Kili's eyes find mine, and we exchange a brief nod of understanding. "Come," Fili tells the both of us, "we ought leave now. Uncle has been waiting all day."
"What time is it?" I ask; Fili tells me to look out of the window, and I see that it is dark.
When the three of us make our way to the living room, I whisper in the corridor to Kili of Gandalf's tale that he has simply been effected by the Hobbiton wine; he frowns a little at the lie. The scene in the parlor is much the same as it was late last night in this world; the Dwarves gathered around the fireplace, smoking on pipes and drinking slowly from their kegs. They cheer upon seeing Kili, all but Thorin, who watches the boy with an uneasy eye.
"You're late," he says. "We were supposed to leave this morning; we are hours behind now, due to your excessive drinking."
Kili bows his head somewhat. "Sorry, uncle."
Thorin nods; he does not seem too irate, surprisingly. "We ought make haste now, catch up on some of that wasted time. Nori, Fili, prepare the ponies. The rest of you gather our belongings; we leave, now."
"Now?" Dori asks, "but what about dinner? We were supposed to be waiting for Mr. Baggins to return from the grocer's."
"Dinner can wait. Besides, we've exhausted the Hobbit's reserves enough. We leave; Kili, go and help with the ponies. Satchel them."
"I thought Bilbo was supposed to be coming with us," I interject, "shouldn't we wait?"
"Mr. Baggins has made it quite clear that he shan't be coming," Balin tells me; I find myself quite disappointed at that.
"The open road is no place for wee folk," Dwalin grumbles, sucking the last sinews of meat from the bone of a lamb, "or girlies, besides... but we'll watch out for you, Lass."
I smile after him as he leaves; out in the courtyard the Dwarves mount their ponies. For some reason the idea of the oh-so-grand Prince of the Dwarves galloping around on his field pony tickles a funny bone, and I can't help but laugh as Thorin climbs atop his mare. I marvel at the size of the equines- they are far larger than those back in the real world. My world, I correct myself; after finding Kili in my bed earlier, I'm becoming quite certain that this world is real, too.
"That's a big-ass horse," I say to Gandalf as he climbs atop his own mare.
"This horse is of a typical size- you, my dear Lavender, are simply perceiving it from your shorter height."
"So I've shrunk? Is that what you're telling me? Because Kili's still got the Dwarf-ears and huge hands when we're awake back in the real- I mean, my world."
"You are of Dwarven height, but have retained your Atani features; by what you've just told me, the reverse is true for young Master Kili. Perhaps your forms have adapted to the company you're keeping," Gandalf suggests.
"Like camouflage? Does that mean I'm a Dwarf here?"
He shrugs a little and I roll my eyes. You're supposed to be a Wizard, I think. I haven't seen you do one Wizard-y thing since I got here.
"Try not to think so loudly, Miss Lavender," Gandalf says to me; I look up in surprise, and he lends me a smile. "I would not need to be a mind-reader to understand what your demeanor is suggesting."
"Not everything can be explained away; if it could, the world would be a much smaller place. We have established that when you travel, your body remains here, which is good progress so far."
I nod, reaching up and stroking the face of Gandalf's huge horse. I don't think it's going to be easy, getting used to all these huge animals. I glance across the quaint fields of Hobbiton, illuminated through the growing darkness by tiny lanterns, and catch sight of the flock of sheep who first pursued me, now penned up beyond a picket fence and grazing happily on the luscious green grass of the field. Bloody horrid things.
"Has she got a name?" I ask the Wizard, "your horse?"
"No; perhaps you ought name him for me. It is a he, not a she."
"Oh... let's call him... Dumbledore. Do you like that name, Dumbles?" I croon, scratching the huge beast behind it's ears. I grin to myself as the Wizard rider nods in contentment.
"As good a name as any. You ought find yourself a seat, my lady."
I drift to the back of the company, counting the ponies as I go, and realise that there are not enough for us all; we fall short by one, as two of the horses are covered entirely with satchels and bags and all sorts of items from crockery to weaponry.
"So," I call, "uh... where am I going to ride?"
"You'll have to share," Fili says.
"Let her ride on one of the pack-ponies," Thorin calls back from his own steed before riding ahead of us all, "they are meant to carry the baggage."
Oh, ha ha, sassy pants. Fili offers me an apologetic gesture as I grimace a little.
"I get the feeling that your uncle doesn't like me very much."
"I oughtn't worry, he doesn't like anyone," Fili reassures me, offering out his hand before adding with a grin, "especially not Kili. Take my hand, you can ride with me."
I stare at his hand, and then at the hide of the beast.
"I... have no idea how to get on a horse."
"This is not a horse, this is a pony. And besides, that is why I am offering you my hand." He curls his fingers in a gesture for me to hurry up.
"No need for that," come's Dwalin's voice, thick and fast from behind me, "come here, Lass."
Quicker than I can turn around I feel his broad hands at my sides. I'm lifted into the air with a yelp, and before I know it I'm sat on the back of one of the unoccupied horses; Dwalin skips his leg over the steed and props himself up in front of me, taking the reins, the fur at the back of his wide coat tickling my face and making me sneeze. He clicks his tongue loudly and the pony begins to ride forwards; I clutch my fists together in a panic, trying my best to stay balanced. I hear the two brothers laughing from behind me as the party moves ahead. Riding a pony in a skirt proves to be graceless, and I spend every other second pulling at my skirt to maintain some semblance of modesty.
"Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go... Thorin can be Grumpy, Balin can be Doc, Bofur can be Happy, Ori can be Bashful; after today, Kili can be Sleepy; that means you're Dopey or Sneezey, Fili. Definitely Dopey."
"What was that, Lavender?"
"Nothing, just that you're Dwarves and... oh, never mind." I let out a little yelp as the pony swishes down the path a little faster.
"You have to hold on," Kili calls to me; I stare at Dwalin's back, more than a little terrified of the colossal Dwarf.
"The lad is right," he booms, "I'll not be stopping to pick you up if you fall off; grab hold of my sides, Lassie."
With great caution, I do; we ride onwards into the night, having left Bilbo behind.
"It seems a shame to have left without saying goodbye to the little Hobbit," Ori says fondly.
"I said it, though," Nori barks from ahead of us, "didn't I say it? Coming here was a waste of time."
"That's true enough," Dori adds, "a ridiculous notion. Use a Hobbit? A Halfling? Whose idea was it, anyway?"
Gandalf clears his throat nervously; from the distance, a gentle voice floats through the dark path.
"Wait! Wait!" I turn with the others to see the tiny Hobbit running up the path, his large hairy feet padding along quickly. "Whoa, whoa... I signed it! Here!"
Bilbo runs up alongside Balin and hands him the contract from earlier; the old Dwarf inspects it a moment, holding it up in the darkness to get a better look, and nods.
"Everything appears to be in order," he proclaims with a contented grin, "welcome, Master Baggins, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield."
There is a fluttering of cheers in which I join; Thorin turns about on his steed and calls,
"Give him a pony."
"Oh, well that's just unfair!" I proclaim over Dwalin's shoulder, "I sense gender discrimination going on here-!"
"Be quiet," Fili instructs me in an uneasy tone, "before he kicks you out of the company."
"It is a little unfair, brother," Kili says in my defense, "Given, Mr. Baggins will be a lighter load to carry-" Charming- "but we could have spread the bags out and given Lavender her own."
"Thank you, Kili," I say with a smug smile; I can practically hear the grin in Fili's voice as he asks,
"Do you know how to steer a pony, my Lady?"
I frown and decide not to answer. Fili laughs under his breath for a lot longer than I would have liked.
"These woods go on forever," Nori complains. "Nothing but grass and trees."
Ori calls, "do you think we'll see any Ents?"
Balin shakes his head. "There haven't been Ents in these parts for hundreds of years."
Nori laughs ahead. "Ents aren't real."
A long discussion about whether or not Ents are real follows; not knowing what an Ent is, I stay quiet.
"These forests are nothing like those back home," Kili says, "they're a lot more... woody."
"Well, it is a woodland," I say, "what were you expecting?"
"You're a long way from Ered Luin now, Lads," Balin calls to the pair.
"Is that where you're from?" I ask the brother's sleepily, burrowing further into the fuzz of Dwalin's coat.
"Born and raised," Fili assures me, "The Blue Mountains, in the common tongue. Our home."
"Not your true home, Laddie," Balin corrects the Dwarf, "your true home is Erebor. Remember that as we travel; it will make the load seem lighter."
"Tell us the story, Balin," Kili goads with the disposition of a child begging for a tale at bedtime; Balin tries to hide a smile. I'm almost asleep against Dwalin's broad back, his occasional laughter at the other's comments vibrating through my cheek.
"Oh, you don't want to hear that, my boy. You and your brother must have heard it a thousand times."
"And we would hear it a thousand more," Fili adds, "tell us, Balin."
Balin needs little convincing; the company falls into silence as he begins to describe a plethora of riches, the shimmering rivers of gold within the mountains of Erebor, glittering statues encrusted with diamonds and emeralds and rubies, towers of sapphires and sinews of silver stretching up into onyx pillars; he describes to us the King's throne, a monument of topaz, jade, nacre and emerald, carved with iron and studded in its centre with the Arkenstone, an opalescent wonder representative of the divine right of rulership which was bestowed upon Thorin's bloodline many years ago in the days of Durin the Deathless. The eloquence with which Balin tells the tale and the gentle nature of his voice is enough to lul me into a half-sleep daze; I almost slip from the pony twice, to which Dwalin chuckles in his low grumble, moving himself forward along the spine of the creature that I might have a little more leverage. I close my eyes, crystals and silver in my minds eye, my arms gripped around the Dwarf's middle. With Balin's soft words in my ear and the warmth of the night enveloping me, and feel the tug of sleep wash me away.