To Your Mark

Chapter 15

Hand resting upon the hilt of her sword, the elf made her way down the stairs etched into the stone, her long legs easily carrying her down the descent as her head swiveled from side to side.

However, the others behind her were not so...fortunate.

Gandalf was also faring fine even in his old age, his own legs able to keep a more constant speed with the female yet with his ever stiffening joints, he did not walk at such a fast and brisk pace as she. And it also didn't help the fact that the stairs they were walking on were always increasing their drop, making the next step harder than the last.

Adding in the fact that all of them were rather exhausted, hungry, or wounded in some way didn't help the situation either. But still, the female trekked on.

For you see, her curiosity was blooming in the pit of her stomach. No, she had never been to this part of the world yet.

Sure, she had seen the Carrock from a distance before as she had looked down upon the valley during one of her adventures that included climbing to the top of a mountain to see all that there was to see. A quest that she had partaken upon with both her father and her oldest friend in their attempt to cross over the Misty Mountains to visit their kin.

Yet, she had never been into the forest of Mirkwood. For when she was younger, she was told not to go near that place but to stay within the borders of her own home for her own safety.

And she had not enjoyed that in the slightest. Once she had that small, minuscule amount of freedom of the world. That tiny lick. She wanted more. And she would do anything for that freedom.

So, as you can see, she always had a love for adventure. Whether it be in stories or in life, she had always loved to see the world. And you can only imagine why she was nearly rushing down the stone stairs.

"Oi, slow down, elf! Some of us aren't as fortunate as you to have such long legs, princess!" She looked back over her shoulder to watch as the wizard rounded the bend, quickly followed by Bilbo and then Dwalin who was helping Thorin down the steps, seeing as how he was wounded from the skirmish with Azog.

The rest of the Company was also in tow and was slowly making their way back down the large stone structure, exhaustion weighing heavily on them all.

Ren could only roll her eyes and said nothing else on the matter, simply wishing to reach the bottom for a number of reasons.

The first was that they needed to keep moving, should Azog and the Wargs somehow catch up to them. Second, their dwarven leader was wounded and blood continued to trickle from his wounds, not to mention that she worried about infection. And thirdly, the goblins had taken all of their supplies and they were left without food or water.

So, you can understand why the tension was high in the group.

She could only frown but kept her words to herself, knowing that her opinion wouldn't be counted for either way, seeing as how all the trust she had gained from the Company was completely gone, once again and she was lower than dirt.

Her eyes instead, cast themselves downward as she felt frustration pass over her. She would have to start from the bottom and work her way back into the group. She needed them to trust her before their journey came to an end.

Falling into silence, she instead let the dwarves pass by her, most of them not even casting her a second glance.

Save for two.

Kili and Fili both exchanged a look before glancing at the still lovely elf maiden. Despite the fact that they had learned what she truly was, though, Fili had had a nagging feeling that something was suspicious about her, she was still the same Ren in their eyes.

She had still saved them. She was still their friend and part of their odd Company.

During all their years, they had been raised to believe that elves were foul and devious creatures, only working to better themselves and caring for no one. That they were nothing but heartless beings who had abandoned the dwarven race long before they were born.

Yet, here an elf stood before them. Full of nothing but kindness. Loyalty. Courage. And sacrifice.

She showed them that not all elves were bad. Ren, and a few elves from Rivendell, were exceptions to the rules chiseled into their minds from a young age.

She had painted a different picture of elves for them. She had shown them that elves weren't what they had first believed them to be.

That they could show compassion and be caring. They were courageous and as loyal as any other creature in Middle Earth. Their Uncle had been wrong.

So, the brothers only spared her a saddened look, knowing that she was being treated wrongly just because of the simple fact that Thorin couldn't see past the fact that she had pointed ears.

Falling into step behind the two younger dwarves, Ren followed silently. Her ears however were pricked, listening for any signs signaling that the Orcs on their tail were drawing nearer. She knew that Azog would be hunting desperately for them. He never had been one to give up easily.

As the Company continued to wind down the stone pillar, they found that soon the steps began to increase dramatically in their drop.

Gandalf was leading the group at the front and having Ren bring up the rear, this allowed for the taller members of the Company to help lower the others down.

Bilbo could only watch the events unfold before him with curiosity, his eyes glowing with a strange sparkle. He had missed the unveiling in the goblins tunnels that Ren was an elf.

Yet, even then, he found that he could not be angry at the maiden. She was still the same lady that they had come to know. She was still his friend and that would not change just because they realized she was from a different race. For she had just done what she had to do to stay in the Company, even if she had lied to all of them.

Or as she put it, she simply did not tell them the entire truth. She had never said that she wasn't an elf.

"Are you coming, Master Baggins?" He was pulled from his thoughts by the very woman on his mind. She was currently crouched by the ledge of the stair, waiting to lower him down to Gandalf.

He turned to find thirteen pairs of eyes upon him, waiting for him to descend the stairs first, wanting to see that the woman could hold their weight. That was why Bilbo was going first. None of them had gazed over the edge, for fear that should the drop be to far, they would want to remain on the step and not move due to their fear of falling to their death.

Swallowing nervously, he calmly turned to look at Ren, her blue eyes full of warmth and kindness, silently telling him that she would not drop him. Bobbing his head, he moved towards her and he knelt down beside her. Facing the rest of the Company, he then held his hand out to Ren who took hold of it.

"Use both your hands to grasp my arm." She told him and he did so, using his free hand to take hold of her forearm so that he would not slip and fall.

Backing towards the ledge, Bilbo let his legs dangle over the ledge for a moment. Feeling panic begin to sweep over him, his eyes locked with Ren's and her eyes had grown hard as she focused on keeping a tight grip on his hand as she lowered him down.

The dwarves all held their breath as they watched, unsure of whether or not to trust the blonde female.

"I'm slipping!" Bilbo suddenly began to panic, his palms sweating profusely. He clutched desperately at the leather gauntlet Ren had tied around her wrist, hoping that he could find something to grasp.

"Bilbo, hold onto me!" She spoke and when she did, her voice was distraught and only caused the hobbit to worry even more.

However, it was all for naught.

The hobbit let out a yell of fear as his hands slipped from Ren's and he felt himself falling through the air. Closing his eyes, he waited for his painful death to come, knowing that he would meet a swift end.

"Bilbo!" A few of the dwarves called out for fear that their friend had fallen and they rushed over to the ledge.

However, the hobbit's hairy feet soon met solid ground after nearly a quarter of a second had passed. Opening his eyes, he gazed up at Ren to find her arms handing over the edge of the cliff, a glint of amusement in her eyes and a small yet cheery grin on her lips.

"Oh, that's not funny...!" He glowered up at her, not appreciating the fact that she had tricked him into believing the drop was to be nearly a bottomless pit.

The dwarves all sighed in relief when they caught sight of the Company burglar, completely unharmed and safe.

"It's only funny if you're in on the joke." She replied before sitting up and turning back around to face the dwarves who were still looking over the edge of the drop. "Alright, who's next?"

And so the events unfolded so that Ren continued to help lower the dwarves down to the next step, most of them having to drop only a foot before they reached solid ground once again.

With the heavier dwarves such as Bombur, Oin, and Gloin, she had to have assistance from Dwalin, seeing as how the dwarves themselves weighed much more than she did.

Ren had just finished lowering Fili and when she turned back around, she was only left with two of the most brooding dwarves in all of Middle Earth.

Dwalin and Thorin both stood behind her, arms crossed over their chests and dark looks plastered on their faces.

She could only turn her head away slightly before rolling her eyes, not appreciating that they were being less than pleasant around her.

"You are next, Master Oakenshield." She said as she gazed down, finding that the rest of the dwarves had helped Gandalf down and were already preparing to drop to the next level.

"Why am I to go next?" Came his deep voice, causing Ren to turn back and face him.

"You are hurt and you wouldn't be able to help me lower Dwalin down with your shoulder." She explained and he only frowned at her words, finding them to be true.

Wordlessly, he knelt down beside her. Backing up to the ledge, she extended her hand out to him. Stony blue eyes darting up to meet her own pair, he grasped tightly to her forearm with his one good arm, not being careful with her in the slightest.

She let out an almost silent hiss of pain as his fingers dug into her skin. Thorin smirked slightly upon hearing this, glad that the elf was suffering after what she had done.

Dwalin was also by her side in a moment and also gripped tightly to Thorin's arm before they both began to lower him down.

His nephews stood beneath him, waiting for him to be lowered enough so that he could drop and they would help steady him when he landed.

Her muscles strained under the weight of the dwarf lord, as they had with Bombur, Oin, and Gloin.

Thorin felt the quiver of her muscles as she struggled to keep a grip on him and he raised his blue eyes up to her, warning her that should she drop him prematurely, she would be yelled at.

"Drop." She commanded and both her and Dwalin released their hold on him at the same time.

The dark haired dwarf fell the short distance to the ground, landing easily upon his feet even though his sister's sons were there to help should the need arise. Ren let a sigh of relief slip passed her lips as she lay on the rocky ground for a moment before turning to look at Dwalin who had risen off the ground.

"Alright, Dwalin..." She murmured before he too knelt down beside her, gazing at her with his eyes, a less than approving look on his face.

"Don't drop me, elf." He warned her before holding his tattooed hand out. Grasping his forearm tightly, she held her breath in worriment, knowing that he was going to be a heavy one and she wasn't entirely sure if she could do it.

But she was also worried for another reason.

She could prove herself to him and all the other dwarves. They didn't believe that she was strong. And to be in the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, you had to be strong.

If Ren wanted any chance of being a part of the group again, she would need to have Dwalin beside her, knowing that his opinion was valued greatly by Thorin.

Gritting her teeth, the large dwarf let his legs dangle over the edge of the drop off, causing her muscles to strain under the weight.

Being pulled forward by the added weight, the elf's free hand shot out to grip tightly to a stout rock that was protruding from the rocky surface of the Carrock.

Taking a deep breath, she then continued to lower Dwalin down until she was nearly hanging over the cliff herself, signifying that it was safe for the dwarf to drop back to the ground.

"Drop." She hissed out and as he did so, she felt relief wash though her muscles, knowing that she had proved herself slightly, seeing as how the rest of the Company had been watching her.

Simply lying on the ground for a moment, she then got up onto her knees before backing towards the drop off before easing her own legs over the side.

Gritting her teeth slightly as she hung from her hands, she glanced down and found that the ground wasn't far away at all. Releasing her hold on the ledge, she easily dropped to the ground, finding the task to be rather easy.

However, when she turned back around to face the group, her eyes caught sight of the steps that remained. There was three more of them.

All the dwarves let out relieved groans as they were lowered back down the last stair so that they were on the ground level.

Ren herself was just finishing up dropping down onto the rocky ground below her, the Company of dwarves moving on and simply leaving her nearly forgotten. A rope was wound and hung across her chest, given that she had used it to lower the Company to the next levels given how steep the next steps were. She hadn't been able to reach that far but she had been able to slowly lower herself down despite the dull ache that still inhabited her side.

Again, the woman brought up the tail end of the group, Gandalf leading them forward and into the unknown. Ren herself loved to explore and venture into the unknown but she didn't like the feeling of them being watched.

And yet, she could only follow behind the rest of the group, knowing that should she speak up, her opinion would be disregarded without a second thought.

So, the Company of Thorin Oakenshield began to walk and they did so for many, many hours.

Ren dismissed the feeling of someone watching her as simple paranoia, as it always was. She had been in the world long enough to know that this feeling was usually just a feeling. Someone was never actually watching them.

Moving through the rocky terrain, she never spoke a word as she added all there was to see to the mental map of Middle Earth that she had engraved into her mind.

The sun only continued to ascend into the sky, seeing as how they had arrived at Carrock around dawn. As they continued to trek onward, dark clouds began to roll across the sky, almost signifying that bad news was awaiting them.

As if her thoughts had caused the problem itself, she heard a distant howl and her head snapped in the direction of the sound, her eyes searching for the source as she felt dread bleed through her system.

They were coming.

Looking back to the Company, she found that none of them had heard the Warg howls yet, all of them just quietly talking among themselves as they continued to move through the rocky mountainside.

Panic began to set it. For Ren knew that it was only a matter of time before their scent was picked up and the enemy would be upon them.

"Thorin!" She called out to the dark haired dwarf at the head of their group. Though their names weren't called, the rest of the group also turned to look at her, amazed that she had finally spoken after hours of silence.

"What is it?" He nearly snarled upon recognizing her voice before he slowly turned back to look at her, his eyes stone cold with annoyance.

"They're coming." Her voice caused fear to blossom in the pit of all their stomachs, the female not having to go into detail of exactly who was after them.

"Are you sure?" He asked her as he stepped away from Dwalin, the large dwarf having been helping the prince along due to his injuries that he had refused to let Ren see.

To answer his question, a long and low howl rang through the small hollow they were standing in and his eyes widened slightly as his gaze stayed locked with the elf's.

"Master Hobbit." He called for the burglar to step forward, his eyes never leaving Ren's. Bilbo quickly appeared from behind Gandalf, the two of them having been engaged in a wonderful conversation about aged wine. "You will accompany the elf to locate our followers." He commanded and the female only rolled her eyes.

"A-Alright..." The hobbit began as his eyes flashed to the woman who looked less than pleased with the situation.

"Hurry, Bilbo." She said, though it was half hearted as she turned and began to race back up the stony trail they had been following until they reached a small peak.

Taking cover behind a few boulders, both of them peered through a small dip between the two stones hiding them.

Just across the valley, on the peak opposite of theirs was the band of Orcs that were pursuing them. And at the head of the pack?

Azog the Defiler.

Coming to halt at the top of the mountain ridge, he sniffed the air, almost picking up a familiar scent. Letting his eyes rake over the valley where the scent was coming from, both Ren and Bilbo ducked back behind their boulders in hopes of not being seen.

Not seeing what his nose had found, he growled and spurred his white Warg forward, frustration evident in his eyes.

Both the she-elf and halfling raised their heads up from behind the stones, finding that the coast was now clear as the Orcs continued on their way.

"Do you think that-" A hand slapped itself over his mouth as Ren heard something else move in the undergrowth. Something huge. Something very near to them.

With wide eyes, they silently watched as a huge bear-like creature came through the tree line before coming to a halt at the top of another ridge just a ways higher on the mountainside. He was absolutely massive in size and was black as night.

His body beginning to shake, Bilbo looked to Ren and their eyes met for a moment, one silent word passing between them.


Ren stayed hidden behind her boulder a moment longer, watching as the hobbit slowly eased himself out from behind his hiding place before he bolted down the mountain, racing back towards the group.

Checking to make sure that the coast was clear for herself, she also silently ran down the mountainside, nearly jumping from her skin as the mighty beast let loose a roar that shook her to the bones.

"How close is the pack?" Ren easily caught up to the hobbit with her longer legs as they both raced down the path they had just taken.

"Too close!" Bilbo panted as he came to a stop in the gathering of dwarves. "A couple of leagues, no more."

"Have the Wargs picked up our scent?" Dwalin asked, watching as the female elf also walked into the ring of dwarves.

"Not yet." The shorter creature told them. "But they will soon." He panted, still trying to catch his breath. "We have another problem."

"Did they see you?" Gandalf asked, his eyes flashing to Ren who had remained silent. She only turned to the wizard and sent him an angered look, one that he misinterpreted. "They saw you."

He concluded and Ren deflated slightly, not finding it reassuring that the wizard didn't have confidence in her.

"No that's not it..." The halfling interjected, his eyes widening.

"What did I tell you?" The Maiar beamed with pride towards the two. "Quiet as a mouse. Excellent burglar material, the both of them, don't you agree?" The group of dwarves soon began to chatter among themselves, have first doubted Gandalf's words about how hobbits were light on their feet.

"Burglar?" Ren asked quietly, wondering if she had heard Gandalf correctly. "Both of them?"

Gandalf only spared the female a small glance out of the corner of his eye, pushing that problem to the back of his mind, knowing that they would certainly talk about it later. She wouldn't forget his words.

She never forgot anything.

"Will you listen?" Bilbo said yet he was ignored. "Will you just listen?!" He raised his voice, all the dwarves growing silent upon hearing the usually quiet hobbit raise his voice.

"Gandalf..." Ren said as she stepped further into the ring of dwarves. "There is something else out there." Her eyes were hard with barely concealed fear.

"What form did it take?" Gandalf asked the female elf whose eyes still held a spark of worry in their depths. "Was it like a-"

"It was a huge, hulking mass of bear." She said, her tone full of barely concealed dread. The Company exchanged worried glances around her, wondering if her words were true. "It was larger than any creature I have ever seen."

A grumbling sound came from the wizard's throat, not letting his eyes meet the female's any longer. The dwarves saw this and suddenly, they knew that Gandalf had been aware about the creature hunting them.

"Y-You knew about this beast?" Bofur said as he clutched tightly to his large pick ax, the same questioning look radiating around the circle. "I say we double back!"

"We will be run down by a pack of Orcs..." Thorin protested the first thought and the group of dwarves began to chat among themselves again, throwing random ideas about that certainly wouldn't work.

Ren's own mind was sent racing wondering how they were going to get out of the mess that they were in.

"Is there nothing we can do?" Came a quiet voice from her side.

Gazing down at the hobbit at her side, she could see the pure fear that lay in his eyes as he looked to her for some sort of reassurance that everything would be fine. She was his form of comfort, so it seemed.

"I don't know, Master Baggins." She pressed her lips into a firm line before placing her hand upon the hobbit's shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze. And it was true. She didn't know what they could do.

The rest of the group soon began to shout in distress, continuing to throw out ideas and battle strategies that may work but were more likely to fail. And as Ren cast her eyes around the group, she let her eyes meet with the stony blue of their group's leader, having a dangerous plan unfurl in the very depths of her mind, one that may actually work.

"I will draw them off." She spoke up and upon hearing her words, the entire Company grew silent. Ren just continued to gaze at the dwarven prince, knowing that she would make it work. She would have to make it work. "It would give you enough time to sneak passed them. There is a good chance that Azog will follow me. However, there is a small risk that he won't but that is a risk we have to take." She swallowed thickly, letting the fear show in her eyes. "The plan may work better if I have something that smells like you so that our scents mingle and Azog would have no choice but to follow. I would need to use your coat-"

"No." He interrupted her and this caused her to stop, her eyes wide as she looked at him. For they didn't have much time if she was going to put her plan into motion.

"We don't have many other options. This plan will work-"

"No." He growled again, his own eyes flashing with a strange sternness. "You will no doubt be caught." His voice was low as he spoke to her, taking a small step forward. "And you will be tortured and played with like some toy in their demented games." Of course, she already knew this but being reminded of what lay in store for her still scared her to no end. "You will wish for death and even then, they will not kill you. No, they will only use you for their own enjoyment until you are worn down to nothing and are simply a hollowed shell of what you are now." Finding that his words, were so agonizingly true, she allowed her gaze to fall to her boots, no loner able to met his eyes. And she was so scared but she knew that this plan would be the only one to work. "No, I will not have you subjecting yourself to that type of defilement and torture…even if you are an elf."

At hearing his words, the blonde couldn't help but allow herself to look up and straight into his icy gaze. And as they looked back at one another, Ren thought to herself that maybe, maybe, beneath all the gruff demeanor and hateful attitude, lay a genuinely kindhearted man.

One who cared for those who were dear to him. One who would one day be King Under the Mountain.

"There is a house." Gandalf's voice cut through the silence around them like a knife, for a nearly deafening one had settled over the group after hearing what Thorin had to say. "It's not far from here, where we might take refuge."

"Whose house?" The King asked, his eyes leaving Ren to settle on the wizard. "Are they friend or foe?"

"Neither. He will help us or... he will kill us." All the dwarves were silent then as they contemplated the wizard's words.

"What choice do we have?" The dark haired dwarf asked his troop and they once again began to murmur to one another.

"I will draw off Azog-" Ren began again, not liking the idea of staying in a house with a possible enemy.

"Silence." Thorin ordered her and as she turned her blue eyes back to the dwarf, he swore he could see blue flames raging on the inside of her irises.

However, she did not speak again despite how much she wanted to.

A near deafening roar suddenly resounded across the valley, causing all the dwarves to turn for fear of being attacked and when hearing the beast's roar, it pretty much settled the argument.

"You have no choice." Gandalf said dryly before he turned and began to run down the mountainside.

With few shouts of fear, the dwarves and the single hobbit began to run off after the wizard, leaving Ren at the tail end of the group with a wounded Thorin and a helpful Dwalin.

"What are you doing? Get going!" Thorin barked as he and Dwalin began to quickly limp across the rocky ground. Another loud roar sounded behind them and Ren only turned her back on the dwarves and drew her elvish blade out from its sheath, ready for the beast to attack at any moment.

"I won't leave anyone behind!" She said as her sharp eyes watched for anything moving in the darkness, giving the dwarves more time to get down the mountain. "Not again..."

When she felt as though the coast was clear, she quickly rejoined them, not even having to run far to catch up with the rest of the Company.

"Come on!" Gandalf waved his hand back to the group behind him, knowing that they were beginning to saggy behind due to the long days that had just occurred.

However, their fear pushed them forward as they ran across the marsh-like plains before plunging into the forest across the way.

Seeing as how they hadn't seen or heard from the beast for some time, Ren had taken up point beside the wizard at the head of the group.

Keeping her sharp senses alert, she continuously swung her head side to side, having problems hearing anything else coming through the trees due to the fact that she had thirteen loud dwarves who apparently insisted on thoroughly stomping the ground as they ran.

However, she skidded to a halt, as did the rest of the Company when they finally heard the beast let out another ear-splitting roar.

"This way! Quickly!" Gandalf beckoned them forward before he to began to run once more.

Ren moved swiftly as easily through the forest as if she had lived there her whole life. From the back of the group, Thorin took note of this as she easily leapt over a fallen tree, her feet landing almost silently on the hard ground.

No, she most definitely was not the same clumsy girl who had fallen in the troll horde.

Running out across another stretch of grassland plains, they soon ran through a tall, thick hedge that concealed a home and a rather large one at that. Stopping beside the entrance of the hedge, Ren quickly took a silent count of the Company, coming up with thirteen dwarves, one hobbit, and a wizard.

"Hurry!" Gandalf called and when Ren peered inside the hedge entrance, she found that the dwarves were struggling to reach a latch high upon the door that would bring them safety.

"Gandalf!" The woman called to him and when he looked over at her, she jerked her head towards the entrance. He only nodded his head and she moved in ahead of him.

As she was halfway up the path, she heard a mighty roar and turned to watch the huge bear break through the tree line, its paws causing the ground to shake as it barreled towards them at an unbelievable speed.

Letting her eyes widen in horror, Ren turned and sprinted towards the door and she jumped up and undid the latch, letting the dwarves enter inside the home.

They all entered with loud shouts of fear as the bear drew nearer. Quickly entering the home with the wizard, Ren only turned back around to watch as the dwarves began to close the doors.

However, before they could shut it completely a large and scarred muzzle forced itself through the crack made by the two doors, keeping it from shutting.

The creature let out a mighty roar as it pushed against the door and Ren moved from beside her old friend to press against the wooden door in hopes of getting it closed.

"Someone get the doorjamb!"

"Ren!" She heard the familiar voice from behind her and glanced back to find the hobbit trying to pick up a thick board that lay beside the door. However, it was rather heavy and the hobbit most certainly wasn't strong enough to lift it. With a yelp of anticipated pain, the heavy board fell down upon the small creature and should she had not been busy keeping danger at bay, the elf would have laughed out loud.

Instead, Ren could only grit her teeth as she refocused on pushing the door, only for her eyes to open as she felt two bodies appear on either side of her. Kili and Fili both braced the door beside her in an attempt to save themselves.

"Hold the door!" Thorin cried before stepping away from the entrance. "Dwalin!" He called for his strongest dwarf and the two moved for the thick board to move it off the hobbit.

The blonde could only let her eyes widen in terror as the two left, knowing them to be the two strongest members of the Company. The creature would surely break in and she only looked back to the door and pushed as hard as she could. And no doubt that they would met a swift death but being torn apart by a gargantuan bear wasn't the way she had envisioned her demise.

The board lifted easily off Bilbo with two of the strongest dwarves holding it and with a couple grunts of exertion, they heaved it above their heads. The loud roaring of the beast caused the door to vibrate and Ren could only shut her eyes as she waited for the wood to simply shatter.

"DUCK!" Thorin shouted and all the dwarves and lady easily complied. Ducking under the wooden plank, the two strong dwarves dropped it into the doorstop. Ren quickly ducked and rolled out of the way to come to land on the floor of the building, a soft patch of hay cushioning her fall.

The door continued to jostle about as the beast continued to rage in an attempt to get into his home. The rest of the dwarves also dropped back onto their rears, all panting and breathing heavily from all the sprinting and pushing that they had just done.

Thorin and Dwalin were the only two still standing when Ren's eyes finally looked up from the floor once she had caught her breath. The two large dwarves were also bent over breathing heavily, but also warily eyeing the door.

"What is that?" Ori panted from beside his brothers.

"That is our host." Gandalf explained and all the dwarves turned to look at the wizard as if he had gone mad. And it appeared as though he had, given the smug smile upon his face as he gazed around the large home. "His name is Beorn... and he's a skin changer." The wizard explained before further moving into the house, not surprised to find that a number of animals had taken up residence inside, having their own stalls to rest in.

Ren just turned to look at the quaint home, finding it to be a simple yet welcoming residence. However, as she heard Gandalf speak of the skin changers, she felt her eyebrow twitch in recognition of the name. She had heard of the creatures before but never had a chance to meet one personally.

"Sometimes he's a huge black bear. Sometimes he's a great, strong man. The bear is unpredictable but the man can be reasoned with. However, he is not overly fond of dwarves..."

The Company soon began to search the large home, though, a few of them remained by the door to keep watch.

"He's leaving." Ori quietly informed the group, his brother quickly rushing over to him to try and pull him away from the door.

"Come away from there! It's not natural! None of it!" Dori tugged his little brother away from the door before looking to Gandalf. "It's obvious. He's under some dark spell!"

A quiet laugh could be heard from the kitchen of the small home, causing all the dwarves to grow silent at hearing the bell-like giggle.

Ren herself emerged from the kitchen, her arms full of food that she had found in the gloriously large pantry. Setting down a wheel of cheese, a few loaves of bread, and a basket of fish, she turned to face the group.

"Spell?" She asked, finding the white haired dwarf in the room who still stood beside his little brother. "Skin changers don't need spells. It's in their blood." She explained before turning back to the food.

Pulling one of the knives from their place on her quiver, she began to gut the fish in preparation for cooking it.

"She's right. He's under not any enchantment but his own." Gandalf explained as he looked back to the female. "Now, let us have something to eat before we sleep. You have no need to worry. You'll be safe here tonight... I hope."

Hey guys. How's it going?

I know that many, many people have been waiting for this story to update. Well, here it is.

Now, as many of you know, I have a number of fanfics. And those fanfics have sequels or just continuations as this story does.

I am also in the process of going through my old stories and editing them. Honestly, my old work is dreadful. It really is just rushed and not descriptive in the slightest.

I have completely rewritten my very popular Thor story called Thunderstruck. I edited 84,000 words in little under two months. I know that feels like a long time but when you factor in my sports and other social activities, you can at least feel my pain.

My Avengers story that I am currently updating? It went from 84,000 words to 124,000 words. It has taken up a crap ton of space on my computer so I hope ya'll are grateful.

Also, I'm still updating and fixing tiny things with the new draft. So, if you go and say, read that story, it may be confusing. I believe that I'm only 17 chapters deep in the update. Seventeen out of thirty seven. Ouch.

So, I am just warning you that updates may be slower, considering that I still have to write this story and another story that has been severely delayed due to the rewriting.

I apologize to all my Thor fans who have been waiting for the third installment of Sam's story to come out.

Can you wait a little longer? Please?

Rewriting Thunderstruck seemed to drain me of all my Avengers squee for awhile so bare with me. I'm going to write more of my Hobbit tale before moving on.



P.S. Anyone go and see Desolation of Smaug? I know nearly all of you reading this have.

Wasn't it great? I loved how they did Smaug. OMFG! Benedict Cumberbatch's voice is just... OMG! I nearly died when he started speaking.

And don't worry, I have a little Ren scene with Smaug. And, I hope, it will be epic! Just stay tuned and thank you to all who reviewed!

I seriously love you all! I would kiss you if I could!





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