Chapter 28: An Omen
AN: Last chapter of the first book, guys. It's only a shorite, but hope you enjoy it all the same!
As the Eagles circle to land, their wings seem to grow wider and their feathers rustle against the soft whistling breeze. With a gentle thud mine comes to a rest at the mountain's edge, and I scramble from it's thick neck as quickly as possible. I reach out to stroke her wing in thanks and she is gone, golden as the sun which hangs heavy in the early sky.
Thorin lies at the hilt of the grey hilltop, blood on his gaunt face and eyes closed as though in sleep. His mighty sword lies discarded at his side, his oaken shield vanished.
"Thorin?!" Gandalf hollers, coming up beside him and brushing the strands of salt-and-pepper hair away from his cheek; the Dwarven king does not stir. With a graceful movement Gandalf brushes his hand across the Dwarf's face, and his eyelids flutter, blue bewildered lenses staring up at the pink and orange sky. We congregate around him, a sigh of relief humming through the air.
"The halfling?" Thorin utters breathlessly, grasping for Gandalf's arm.
"He's quite all right," the Wizard smiles in relief, "Bilbo is here. He's quite safe-"
In a sharp, jaunty movement, Thorin finds his knees and hauls himself to his feet, dismissing the efforts of Dwalin to assist him and throwing off his youngest nephew with a forceful shove of the shoulder; Kili looks hurt at the gesture, face a map of stone, and dissolves away besides his older brother.
"You," Thorin spits, eyes on the Hobbit, who stands at the point of the cliff face. The smaller man's face drops, alone and out on the edge, with the Dwarven King advancing upon him with all his fury and pride. "What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say that you would be a burden? That you would not survive in the Wild?" he takes a deep breath and a step forwards, and the last of the relief melts from Bilbo's face. "That you had no place amongst us."The Hobbit looks away from what I can only imagine to be a stare of fire and ice. The rest of us stand as statues, mere observers of the spectacle. It feels for a moment as though Bilbo believes he has no cause to retaliate; that thought dampens my heart, and a wave of disdain for the proud Dwarf washes through me. He came back. He saved your life.
But then Thorin does something truly unexpected.
He steps forward, arms outstretched, and clasps them warmly around the Hobbit, pulling him in close with a squeeze.
"I have never been so wrong in all my life." Thorin pulls away and with all sincerity adds, "I am sorry that I doubted you."
Bilbo shakes his head, as flustered and confused as I feel. "No, I... I would have doubted me too. I'm not a hero or a warrior. Not even a burglar..."
His sentence trails off, and I laugh out loud, a happy laugh that- for what seems like forever- does not come from mire relief at being alive. The happiness surges through the group, radiating warmth like a crackling fire; Thorin gives the Hobbit a reserved nod and turns back to the group, straight in my direction; without thinking I hold out my arms expectantly to him, the grin still on my face, deciding that now it's my turn for an 'I'm-sorry-I-doubted-you' speech and a big bear hug from the Big Bad Wolf.
The laughter simmers, Thorin's face hardens, and my arms fall. I laugh awkwardly in the silence, and give the noble Dwarf a friendly jab to the shoulder.
"Just kidding," I say through half-gritted teeth, flushing red; Thorin collects his sword from the ground and wipes it clean on the leathers of his tabard as he heads to the mountain's edge.
"Come, all of you. We have no time to waste; we leave now. If we can reach the foot of the mountain before mid-day-"
"Uncle," Kili interrupts, pointing a finger off the mountain's edge. I squint hard, not seeing anything of worth... but then I truly look, and I see it.
"Is that what I think it is?" I ask, and Kili nods, awe-struck.
"Erebor," Thorin breathes, the smile in his voice practically audible. Thorin begins to walk towards it, his step slow and steady, as though he is fearful to believe it can even be real.
"The Lonely Mountain," Gandalf declares, "the last of the great Dwarf kingdoms of Middle-earth."
A bird sweeps over head, cawing as it goes. "A raven!" Oin grins, "the birds are returning to the mountain."
Gandalf smiles. "That, my dear Oin, is a thrush."
"But we'll take it as a sign," Thorin decides, breathless with wonder. "A good omen."
Bilbo agrees. "You're right... I do believe the worst is behind us."
The sight of the mountain seems to send Thorin into a sort of trance, and he decrees that we shall in fact camp here, given that we have had no sleep, and can make for the road when we are properly rested. The buzz of the revelation does nothing to bring about fatigue, however, and the Dwarves sit about excitedly, slurping down the last of Bombur's broth, crunching Lembas bread and tearing apart a couple of small sparrows that Kili managed to shoot down; all the while, reminiscing of home. The nostalgia makes the company even merrier than usual.
As soon as the buzz of battle wears down, I feel the throb of pain in my leg from where the Warg latched its jaws around me- unlacing my boot, I see that the creature's attack did not break the skin thanks to the thick leather bracer. It seems, however, that I will have quite the bruise by morning. Remembering how he saved me, I wander up a little nervously to Dwalin and plop myself down beside his great form. He chews his meat in his usual silence, ripping apart bones and sinews with the occasional gut-wrenching laugh thrown in whenever one of the others cracks a joke; his laughs seem more like roars, and would definitely be taken as a threat to the untrained ear.
"I didn't get the chance to thank you earlier, Dwalin," I manage eventually, giving him the last of my own bread as a gesture of good faith; he swallows it down quickly, brushing the crumbs from his mouth. "You were awesome out there. The way you pounced on that Warg like it was a bull in a rodeo..." I realise he won't know what I'm talking about, so settle with another heart-felt thank you and go quiet. He nods in response, ever stoic, and reaches out for another piece of the Elven bread.
Within the hour I can barely keep my eyes open, so lie down in the middle of the widest point of the cliff and prepare for sleep.
"Just gonna put this out there," I murmur,with my head against my bunched-up cloak, "but, uh... couldn't our feathered friends have stuck around a little longer and just dropped us off- oh, I don't know- maybe at the mountain? Perhaps that's too much to ask; or just not on top of a giant flipping hill that it's gonna take us all day to climb down? That would have been... heh... that would have been nice." I exhale heavily, totally out of breath. "Not that I'm complaining."
"You're always complaining," Kili says through a mouthful of hardened Elf-bread, nudging me with his boot and throwing a handful of crumbs my way. I brush them from my hair, eyes still closed, and let out a yawn.
"Well, lovelies, it's bed time for me. See you all in a few hours."
I pull my blanket up over my shoulders, huddle down and let the warm arms of sleep envelop me.
"We're safe now, Jos," I say with a yawn as I wake up, eyes still closed as I enjoy the coziness of the sofa; despite this form having been asleep for however long my mental tiredness overpowers, and I quickly decide that the rest of today will be spent day-dreaming with my eyes firmly shut and my blanket to comfort me, and perhaps re-writing that ridiculous essay for tomorrow morning if I can muster up the motivation to move. For once, Josie's joyful mania does not bombard my ears at first wakening; I open one eye, and determine that she must have gone out, or must be asleep herself.
Never mind; there will be plenty of time for Josie later. Right now, I have some well-deserved mental detox to be getting on with.
Ouch. Something stabs into my lower leg, right where the Warg got me, and I wrench away; an arm flies in my direction, then again, until i'm being bombarded by a string of hits and kicks. I sharply sit up to find Josie is asleep on the sofa with me too, her one foot sticking out on my pillow.
"Oi, maniac," I moan, shaking her lightly, "you've got a bed of your own, there's no need to play octopus here... Jos? Josie, come on."
Nothing. I decide I'll go and get in her bed instead, and throw back my covers to see that she is in nothing but her underwear, mis-matched Wonder Woman knickerbockers and a pink polka-dot bra. For a moment I have no idea what is going on, until I see Kili's unconscious body has been dragged from the sofa and onto the floor. Josie has put the horse head on him, and there is a piece of paper wedged in its buck-toothed mouth. I wrench it free, stomach growling in anticipation and panic, because I know what is coming... I realise what she's done.
Oh, Josie, you bloody fool.
The note reads:
I know this whole other-worldy stuff works weird sometimes, so I'm writing this just encase one of you wakes up or the pair of you pop by before whatever has to happen happens. First things first; Al, don't be mad. I've got something, and it's gonna help you, and I couldn't wait because you're really really gonna want it so just hold on and I'll give it to you. Besides, I keep asking you to take me to Wizard World and you won't, so this is my free ticket to fun land.
Don't be mad.
"She can't of," I say, wringing my hands, "no, no, no... God damn, it, Josie! God damn you!" I tear the paper in half and give her another firm shake; she must be sleeping. Just sleeping, I can wake her up, because she can't of... I would have felt it somehow, recognised her touch as I was falling asleep. But I passed out, it happened so fast... she would have been there with us when I woke up, I would have known...
I should have known.
"Wake up!" I yell at her, crying now, "wake up!"
Josephine Maddox does not wake up; Josephine Maddox does not do anything at all.
I sit with my back to the old leather sofa, beside the drooping unconscious body of the Dwarf I brought into this world, and sob.
AN: DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN
END OF BOOK ONE
Josie, where dafuq are you?
A question for you all; should I start the second book as a new story, or just continue it in this document? Not sure which would be best yet.
As a bit of end-of-first-part-fun, I thought I'd show you some of the reviews from the Russian version of the story, brought to you by the terribly poor translation skills of le Google Translate. Here goes:
What happened to Keely? I certainly understand that session, I have it also raided :)) So good luck to all of us :) And if possible, I would like to see purged :))) Spaibo you!
kasandrasss (June 2, 2014, 23:40) Nuuuu what is there with keels that?
Sofka_Vayens (May 19, 2014, 07:34) I read sitting in school and tried not neighing to the whole class. Just fucking head, write quickly sell, because your fanfic the only thing that cheers up when you sit in school)
LoraLee (May 19, 2014, 00:18) Wow! I'm just thrilled, "a fan of Star Trek!" it is something! When continue to wait? I am all impatience!
kasandrasss (May 18, 2014, 22:13) Oh I can not get out from under the * table * by a genius! Forward to continuing.
...crying. Thank you and привет, dear Russian readers.
See you all soon and thanks for reading and potentially reviewing,