To Your Mark

Chapter 16

Simply staring up at the ceiling above her, she lay tucked into a huge blanket that she had found stowed away in an equally large chest, just having laid down in bed due to the fact that the night was still young. The sun had set only an hour ago and the elf maiden could not find it in herself to sleep as worry began to set in.

Using her cloak as a pillow, her blue irises examined the pieces of wood above her as she listened to the snoring dwarves around her, hoping that the familiar sound would bring her comfort.

Yet, other, quiet sounds could be heard among the loud chorus. Sounds that other beings wouldn't normally hear. Sounds that were natural and made her feel safer, if only slightly. She was accustomed to natural noises, having spent numerous nights sleeping beneath the stars in the past.

Small mice moved silently throughout the house, shaggy cattle and large horses chewed their cud, goats quietly bleated to one another, simply filling the silence around her.

However, these things were not what caused the woman to smile slightly as her thoughts began to run through her mind.

Despite the fact that the Company of dwarves seemed to hate her now that they knew her secret, she couldn't help but be proud that the fifteen other members of the group were still breathing heavily with sleep, knowing that she was the cause. She was the one to thank.

She had saved them all at least once. No one had died or was left behind.

Because of her.

Shifting slightly beneath the covers, she only rolled onto her side in preparation for sleep, coming face to face with a sleeping Thorin Oakenshield who had chosen the spot beside her in case she decided to run off into the night for some strange reason.

Gazing at the now smoothed contours of his face, she had to resist the urge to reach out and simply let her fingers trace the sharp ridge of his eyebrow or the slope of his long nose.

When sleeping, he actually seemed at peace, as everyone really did. No wrinkles littered his face as he worried about his friends and family. A frown did not mar his features, making him look like an entirely different man.

A man who did not have a weather beaten face from the hardships that both he and his people had faced in the past. A man whose home was not stolen from him by a fire breathing dragon. A man who hadn't watched his grandfather be beheaded. A stubborn man who hadn't let her tend to his Warg bite.

That still irritated her to no end. She didn't doubt that he would soon get an infection if he wasn't treated properly.

As he took a deep breath in through his nose, he turned his head away slightly, causing her to hold her breath in fear that she would be found staring at him whilst he slept. His eyes remained closed as he continued to slumber and Ren herself began to cherish the idea of drifting off into nothingness.

Bringing the thick blanket up to rest just beneath her nose, she pushed those troubling thoughts away for the moment as both exhaustion and sleep began to take hold of her.

As her eyes began to slide closed, she began to give into the temptation of sleep and just as the darkness was about to engulf her entirely, she heard something that caused her to frown in her sleepy state.

Heavy footsteps could be heard near the front door of the home and her eyes shot open, thinking it to be that the Orcs had found them and were about to murder them while they were unprepared.

Raising her head up off her pillow, she was about to wake Thorin when the door to the home suddenly opened. With baited breath, she watched as a towering dark figure entered inside, not yet daring to move for fear that she would draw attention to herself.

From what she could tell, he was a very hairy man and he breathed heavily as he came to stand in the stream of moonlight lighting the room. His silhouette was distorted slightly by the light and the female only continued to hold her breath, though it didn't take long for the skin changer to catch drift of the dwarves in his home.

They smelled something awful no doubt.

"Why are there dwarves in my home?" A rumbling voice from deep within the man asked, causing Ren's eyes to widen further. "Eating my food?" He began to walk through his home, finding the mess that the dwarves had made at the dinner table. "Sleeping beneath my roof?"

The elf knew that she could remain silent for so long, knowing that the longer they remained asleep, the sooner that Beorn would become furious.

Throwing the blankets off of herself, she climbed to her feet, the man's eyes seeming to glow in the moonlight as he gazed over at her. "We mean not to intrude on you, Master Beorn. We were simply looking for a place to find refuge." She spoke and her voice echoed throughout the grandeur of the home.

For the longest time, the skin changer simply stood in the darkness, his eyes narrowing a few times as if he were inspecting her and when he decided to speak, he did not say much.

"You're not a dwarf."

Bilbo awoke the next morning to a loud buzzing that filled his ears. He also felt something come to land on his face and when he opened his eyes, he found a huge bee perched upon the tip of his nose. Waving his hand, the creature then buzzed off before another one landed upon his shoulder. With a quiet noise of distress, the hobbit waved his hand again and scared the second creature off.

Sitting up, he looked around slightly, deciding that the large home was a rather welcoming place, full of sunlight and the smell of freshly baked bread that made his mouth water almost instantly.

Hearing voices coming from the other end of the house, he got up from his makeshift cot and walked through the barn, only sparing the cows, horses, and goats small glances as he made his way toward the numerous voices.

"So, you are the one they call Oakenshield..." A huge man soon came into sight and as he spoke, he poured milk into a great mug that sat before Fili.

"Who exactly are you referring to?" The dwarf lord spoke as he sat away from the large table, wary of the large man who owned the home they were staying in, afraid that should any of them say something out of line, the man would turn into a bear once again and tear them all limb from limb.

"She informed me of your situation." The hairy man spoke slowly, letting his head turn to the side to find the blonde female of the group.

Being seated at the overly large table, Ren only looked up from where she had been pulling apart a warm roll when she felt more than a dozen pairs of eyes upon her after she was mentioned.

As if drawn in by some force, she glanced at Beorn before her eyes zeroed in on Thorin's own icy pair, seeing nothing but anger and betrayal in their depths as he glared back at her from across the room. It seemed as though Bilbo had walked into the room at a very tense time, seeing the glare that was being exchanged between the dwarf and elf.

"And exactly... how much did she inform you of?" Thorin rumbled as he crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes never straying from the woman.

"Enough." Came Beorn's voice, which sounded more like a growl the longer they listened to him speak. "If not for her, you would have been cast out into the darkness last night." He informed them, none of them realizing that Ren had been the one to convince the skin changer to let them stay in his home.

Heads turned on a swivel from Thorin to Ren herself, gratitude showing throughout the faces of the group. None of them had known. None of them had even heard the skin changer come into the home last night, all of them to warn out to stay even mildly alert.

"But, tell me... why is Azog the Defiler hunting you?" Beorn slowly asked again, walking around the edge of the table, the pitcher of milk still clutched tightly in his hand.

"You know of Azog? How?" Thorin asked, pushing off the pillar he had been leaning against to approach the skin changer.

"My people were the first to live in the mountains before the Orcs came down from the North. The Defiler killed most of my family but some he enslaved..." It was at this time that Bilbo's eyes were drawn to the single shackle that lay clamped around the man's wrist, the halfling's brow furrowing softly as he did so. "Not for work, you understand. But for sport. Caging skin changers and torturing them seemed to amuse him."

They all watched as he made his way over to Ren and poured more milk in her over sized mug, receiving a small smile from the woman.

"There are others like you?" Bilbo asked once he had taken a seat at the table beside Ren. The large man slowly let his head turn so that he could also find the strange little being that had arrived with the group.

"Once, there were many..." He replied, his growling voice growing quieter.

"And... now?"

"Now, there is only one." Beorn explained and Ren stopped chewing her roll for a moment at hearing this ill news. She had never suspected that it would have gotten this bad. To be the very last of your kind, she couldn't imagine what that felt like but it nonetheless made her heart clench painfully. She put her bread down, her appetite suddenly gone. "You need to reach the mountain before the last days of Autumn?" He quickly changed the subject, the room silent as they let his words absorb into their minds.

Thorin frowned again at this, looking to the female with a heated glare. She had told the skin changer too much and also without his permission. However, he found that she now sat quietly, staring at her oversized mug with her hands folded in her lap.

"Before Durin's day falls, yes." Gandalf explained from off to the side where he had been smoking his pipe.

"You are running out of time."

"This is why we must go through Mirkwood." The Maiar continued.

"A darkness lies upon that forest. Fell things creep beneath those trees. There is an alliance between the Orcs of Moria and a Necromancer in Dol Guldur. I would not venture there except in great need."

"We will take the elven road." Ren's voice cut through the air, her sapphire eyes suddenly blinking back to reality. "That was the plan all along. Despite winding through the dark forest, it is the lone road that remains safe."

"Safe?" The skin changer turned to look at the blonde woman. "The elves of Mirkwood are not like their kin. They are less wise and more dangerous."

And as the man said this, all the dwarves looked to the blonde, wanting to see just how she would react upon meeting up with another branch of her kin.

Thorin himself gazed upon the female with his eyes narrowed, watching as her face didn't change in the slightest. However, in the depths of her eyes, he could see a slight shift of something. Something akin to... fear?

"We are aware of that fact..." She went onto explain, blinking away the worriment and fear from her eyes. "But anyone can be reasoned with."

"It matters not." The hairy man said, his eyes straying from the lone female of the group to rest upon the dwarven leader.

"What do you mean?"

"These lands are crawling with Orcs. Their numbers are growing and you are on foot. You will never reach the forest alive." He stood up from his large and cushioned chair, having to duck beneath a rafter of his roof so that he could move towards Thorin. "I don't like dwarves. They are greedy and blind. Blind to those whose lives they deem lesser than their own..." And as he said this, he picked up one of the tiny white mice that had been crawling across the table top, carefully holding it in his huge hand. "But... Orcs I hate more. And I like her." He pointed back at Ren who had a few of the smaller mice crawling through her hair and between her fingers.

The moment that Beorn had laid eyes upon the blonde woman in the night, he had known that she certainly wasn't a dwarf nor any woman of Man.

Despite the fact that he made an effort to avoid them, Beorn recognized an elf when he saw one, their pointed ears visible or not, for they also held a distinct smell about them but on this one, it had been more subtle, no doubt because of her travels with the dwarves. She most certainly held herself like all of elven kind and when she spoke, her voice was sweet upon his ears and her physical appearance alone was soft on his eyes.

Yet, that was not what he liked in her. She had seemed at peace with all the animals around her. She seemed at peace with all living things.

After having left her bed to speak with him, she had been careful to step around the family of mice beneath her feet and she had stroked the muzzles of his horses and cows on her way by. And he found this very grand for someone of her kind.

She had stayed up late into the night speaking with him about all that had happened to them on their journey. She retold him the tale of how they had been captured by a band of goblins before being hunted by the Orcs, led by Azog himself.

However, when Beorn asked why he should let the troop of dwarves remain in his home, she had to tell him the truth.

That one of them was the Heir of Durin and his name was Thorin Oakenshield. That the group was trying to make it back to Erebor to slay the dragon and take back the mountain, for the sake of both dwarven kind and Middle Earth.

"And it was by her doing that I am allowing you refuge in my home for a few days."

All the dwarves and the lone hobbit let out relieved sighs upon hearing this, glad that they could rest for a few days without having to watch their backs all hours of the day and far into the night. They could recover without fear.

"You are free to explore my lands. If you wish to bathe, there is a small stream that branches off the Anduin that lies Northwest of the house. It should be easy to find and its waters are rich with fish. But, I must warn you, don't stray far from the stream, for your enemies will surely descend upon you." He explained before he moved off to do who knows what. He was a skin changer after all, not much was known about them.

The dwarves quietly finished their breakfast before they all decided to bathe. None of them had realized it, but they nearly slept throughout the entire day, exhaustion weighing down on them and requiring that they sleep more which meant that they had technically eaten lunch.

So, after another small yet much needed nap, the entire Company, minus Gandalf, decided to venture out to the river in hopes of cleaning the dirt and grime from their skin so that they may rest more peacefully over the course of the next few days.

Ren remained at the table for a moment as she watched the dwarves and lone hobbit file out of the house and into the sunlight.

However, she watched with concern as Thorin was the last to leave the home. He carried himself in a way that told her that he was hurting and she wouldn't doubt it, considering that Azog's nasty Warg had attempted to take a chunk out of him. The wound would no doubt be tender and she only imagined how much it really hurt. She knew the King though and reasoned that despite the pain he was feeling, he would not show it in front of the others.

Glancing over, the elf's eyes met Gandalf's and he had a knowing smirk upon his face, knowing that the dwarf's pain wasn't only just bothering him. It was bothering Ren as well.

He could only chuckle as he continued to smoke his pipe before she herself grinned and moved from her seat before making a dash for her things, her hand subconsciously moving to her own side which still twinged but at least it was now manageable. Throwing her satchel over her shoulder, she raced out the door behind the dwarves and the old wizard could only chuckle to himself once again.

Though many years had passed where he and Ren had not seen each other for some time, he was surprised by how much she hadn't changed.

Having known her when she was merely a child and even up until what would be considered her young adult life, she still seemed to retain the boundless energy and love of all things that moved in the light, not to mention her infatuation with adventure and things of the curious sort.

Despite what dark happenings had occurred in her past, she had remained unchanged and Gandalf was eternally grateful for that, both for her sake and his own.

For, she was proof that light could prevail over darkness even when the darkness nearly snuffed out all things good.

Listening as the birds overhead chirped and sang their beautiful songs, Ren silently made her way through the sunlit forest, the glowing orb in the sky causing the air around her to be pleasantly warm and teaming with happy life. Beams of sunlight streamed down through the branches of the surrounding trees, giving the entire scene a warm, golden glow that at times, reminded her of her home.

In the distance, she could hear the quiet babble of the stream that Beorn had mentioned before and the thought of being clean nearly caused her to run the rest of the way to the water.

Despite the fact that she was an elf and that elves despised getting dirty, Ren, at times, found that it was almost easier to not bathe, especially when traveling with a group of unhygienic male dwarves.

This was not one of those times when she found it unnecessary to clean herself. No, her skin nearly crawled upon the thought that she had been touched by the disgusting horde of goblins and was covered in their filth and stench.

Oh, Valar. She wanted to be clean.

It wasn't long before the stream came into view and the female only stalled in her tracks as she watched a group of naked dwarves run by her and into the cool water, shouting cries of happiness in Khuzdul.

She only let out a noise of disgust before turning her head away slightly, holding her hand up to shield her eyes, remembering her propriety.

However, off to the side she heard a quiet noise of pain and glanced over to find that Thorin had seated himself upon an old log. He was currently hissing in pain as he shrugged out of his coat, letting the article of clothing simply fall to the ground and leaving it there beside his belt, vambraces, and Orcrist.

He then moved to take off his boots, only for him to stop when he found the task too difficult.

"Do you need help?" The dwarf nearly jumped from his skin when he heard the quiet voice come from behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he found that it was the female in their Company who had snuck up him, her own tunic untucked from her trousers and the jerkin over the top loosened. No doubt she wanted to bathe as well.

"No." He replied coldly before turning back around and bending over to take the boot off. Trying to tug it off, he winced in pain again and his eyes closed when the strain in his wounded shoulder was too great.

Feeling careful fingers push his own hands away, his eyes shot open and he watched as her hands took hold of his boot and wordlessly, he pulled his foot from its confine, leaving his toes to rest upon the cool green grass that blanketed the forest floor.

Silently setting his boot beside the other one, she only sat back upon her knees, her sapphire blue irises rising to meet his own.

"And I suppose you'll need help with the armor as well?" She raised a playful eyebrow in his direction, an equally playful smirk upon her lips, and eyes glistening with mirth.

"No." He grumbled though when he reached back to undo the ties to his armor, he found that he would need two hands to undo the knot, his bad shoulder not able to support the weight of his thick arm.

Ren only sat back on her knees still, a smug and knowing look upon her face, knowing that he would need her help.

Wordlessly, she rose from her place on the ground to step over the log he was seated on. He did not protest in her helping to undo the armor, knowing that he would have had to ask one of the other dwarves to do it and they were already preoccupied washing up and splashing about in the cool water.

"I'm going to undo the string all the wall down to the bottom so you don't have to lift it over your head." She explained before she pulled the last part loose and the armor shifted on his body.

Holding his arms out, he let the plated shirt fall to the ground before him beside his other clothes, leaving him in only his blue undershirt. She took note of the fact that his left shoulder was stained brown from dried blood.

"I suppose you'll need help with the shirt, too..." She said as she moved to his side but he only turned to look at her, a warning lying in his blue irises.

"No." He replied again, finding it appalling that he was to take his shirt off in front of her. She had already helped him enough.

The elf only rolled her eyes before letting out a frustrated huff. "Don't be so naive to think that you are the first bare chested man that my eyes have ever seen. I'm a healer for Eru's sake." She scolded him as she would have scolded a child, her brow furrowing and her tone becoming short.

"This is only a ploy so that you may treat my wounds..." He grumbled, knowing that it had been her plan all along even if she did not say it herself.

"Indeed, that was my intention and you would be wise to remove your shirt. Now." She stood up from her kneeling position, crossing her arms over her chest as she did so. If he was going to be hard headed, then so would she.

"Why should I do anything that you ask? You lied to us the entire journey-"

"You shall do as I ask if you want to reach the mountain alive." She snapped at him, her eyes growing hard as she continued to gaze down upon him and that fiery spark of anger entered her eyes once again.

A spark Thorin actually liked to see. He loved to make her angry.

Seeing this tiny spark of anger caused him to smirk internally. And the thing was, it was so easy to make her mad.

Seeming that she was getting nowhere with her current method, she thought of something else. Maybe scaring him would work.

"Master Oakenshield..." She slowly turned away from him and began to pace, her arms clasped behind her back. "You are aware of the fact that Wargs love to eat decaying corpses, correct?" He said nothing and instead glared at her. "And you are also aware that the rotten flesh remains between their teeth after they finish their meal?"

Again, he said nothing, his eyes only watching her pace before him.

"Those same razor sharp teeth that had just been eating rotten bodies, cut through your skin and began to fill your bloodstream with infectious bacteria. And, if you don't let me see your wounds, then I'm afraid that you will soon become one of the corpses the Wargs are feasting on." She went onto explain before slowly circling behind him so that she could lean down and whisper in his ear. "And then you would never be able to find your precious Arkenstone..."

Feeling her hot breath upon his ear, the dwarf froze in his place, his ears intently listening to her soft voice as spoke of his possible death, though he heard none of it.

He was listening to her voice but not her words.

However, he did happen to catch her last sentence, the one concerning the the jewel that once belonged to his grandfather. Turning to look over at her over his shoulder once again, he narrowed his blue eyes at her, not liking how she was tempting him with the one thing he desired most.

It infuriated him that she knew exactly which strings to pull to make him cooperate, like he was a puppet and she the puppet master. She was brilliant at it, very well practiced and deceptive.

Like an elf.

He turned his brooding face up to her then, letting the glare dissipate and instead, holding his arm out for her to help him in his defeat.

With a smug smirk that he did not see, she silently moved over to his extended arm and when she took hold of his sleeve, he pulled his uninjured arm through. Thorin himself slowly and carefully slipped his bad arm back through the sleeve of his tunic, leaving him simply sitting with his arms inside his shirt.

Coming to stand behind him, she was hesitant for a moment before she carefully reached out and parted his black mane of hair before brushing it off to the side so that she may take hold of his collar.

Thorin was unmoving the entire time as her fingers brushed against the warm skin of his neck.

Carefully, she tugged on the shirt to get it to come loose before she eased it up over his ears, letting his head slip through the opening.

His dark hair came to rest about his broad and strong shoulders. Immediately, her eyes began to search his body for injury and when her eyes fell upon his shoulder wound, she only frowned but on the inside she was cursing him.

"Is there something wrong?" His voice drew her from her thoughts and she swallowed, knowing that the dwarf would only want to hear good news.

"The bite is slightly pink around the edges. It might be slightly infected..." She explained as she came around to his left and straddled the log he was sitting on so that she could get a closer look. She carefully began to prod at the wound, causing the dwarf to hiss in pain. "Go wash off in the stream and when you're finished, come back here." Ren told him as she rose off the log and picked up her satchel that had been discarded a few feet away.

Thorin just watched as she began to walk up the stream from the dwarves, her bag slung across her chest. "Where are you going?" He called after her, also standing from his place on the log.

"To wash up." She threw over her shoulder at him before she faced forward. "I'll be back."

However, Thorin was not finished with her yet. He had seen the spark of anger that he had ignited inside of her and he wanted to see what it would take for an inferno to be set ablaze.

"What of my trousers?" As he said this, he couldn't help the slight smirk upon his face as he awaited her reaction.

The elf only paused in her walking, her shoulders dropping slightly as she listened to his words before she turned back around to face him, a small smile on her own lips that made him second guess himself.

"I've seen numerous naked men throughout my lifetime, Master Oakenshield. I know what lies beneath their trousers. You all have one. It's nothing I haven't seen before." She said before her smile turned into a smirk. Thorin felt his cheeks warm slightly at her words. "Besides, I already took care of your trousers..." She said and held her hand up before opening her palm, revealing the black strip of leather that normally held up his pants.

And as her words registered in his mind and the object in her hand was noticed, his blue eyes widened in terror.

Without warning, his trousers suddenly fell to the ground around his ankles, leaving himself completely naked before the blonde female. His hands immediately shot down to cover himself and Thorin swore that he had never blushed so hard in his entire life.

Looking back to the elf, her eyes were alight with mirth as she calmly gazed at him, a small snort coming from her nose. The dwarf could only let his mind race as he wondered when and how she had even got that belt off his pants in that short amount of time.

There was suddenly a loud roar of laughter that came from the stream causing the dwarf lord to look in their direction.

However, when he looked back at Ren, he found that she had tossed the leather belt so that it landed at his feet and she was already off and walking through the green trees as if nothing had happened.

She had caught him in a trap. She had been waiting for him to ask about his trousers.

Walking further into the forest, she could hear the sound of rushing water getting closer and she soon came upon a small waterfall with a pool beneath it. Finding that it was a suitable enough place, she set her bag down on the pebbles beside the water and pulled her boots from her feet.

Untying the gauntlets from around her wrists, she placed them into her boots before she pulled the already loose jerkin over her head, tossing it down beside the rest of her clothes. Stripping herself of the rest of her clothes, she tossed them to the side as well before wading out into the water.

Her body bare save for the three bangles around her wrist, she only frowned when she caught sight of them before she glanced back at the water an caught sight of her own reflection.

Without warning, her vision faded to black and her breathing grew shallow. Letting her mouth fall open slightly, she could only stare at the water and wait until her little episode ended.

The dwarves had nearly spent the entire afternoon romping about in the stream, having a merry old time. For you see, it had been a rather long stretch where the journey had been a long and tasking one.

There had been no time for fun and the dwarves basked in the fact that they were actually safe for once.

Thorin had replaced his trousers and boots on and was seated on the same log where he had last seen the lone female of their group. He only sat quietly by himself, the rest of the Company still relaxing both in and around the wonderful stream. His cheeks were still ablaze with the thoughts of her seeing him completely naked and he made sure that his belt was in place and was knotted twice before she came back.

Nearly a half hour had passed and Ren still had not shown. The dark haired dwarf only continued to wait, running a hand through his still damp mane of hair as he awaited her arrival. She said she would return.

However, as his mind began to wander, he couldn't help the thought that maybe she had run off. Maybe, she had left them.

He remembered the fear in her eyes when Beorn brought up the issue with Mirkwood. She didn't seem to enjoy the fact that they were to travel through the dark forest but he couldn't blame her. He himself didn't want to step foot inside the Greenwood.

He was about to call for his nephews to go and find her when he caught sight of the two of them in the water, Fili dunking his younger brother beneath the surface and holding his dark mop of hair down, a bright grin on the blonde dwarf's face. Soon, the younger of the two began to struggle from lack of air and Kili must have kicked his brother and he soon resurfaced before tackling Fili, both of them grinning like mad.

As he watched this, Thorin let the corners of his mouth turn up slightly.

Seeing the two brothers smile had become a rare sight to see, even rarer since their quest to reclaim Erebor had begun. Ever since their father had died, neither of them had been the same.

Being left without a father figure, they had turned to their mother's brother in hopes of finding someone they could look up to. Someone who could teach them all their was to know. Someone who would show them Middle Earth.

Thorin had tried his best when raising the two dwarves, grooming them and teaching them how to behave properly due to the fact that they were both heirs to the line of Durin. They would one day rule beneath the mountain.

And, despite what his sister had told him, he had scolded his nephews numerous times for acting childish, even though they really were still just children. They weren't ready to have the responsibility of ruling anything, save for maybe the kingdom the both of them had dreamed up as adolescents. Over the years, he had engraved the idea that they were royalty into their young minds despite them being young boys. And royalty had little time for fun and laughter.

So, it warmed his heart to see his nephews at least showing some enjoyment in what little relaxation they had.

Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, he turned and watched as a clean Ren finally came walking through the trees. In one hand, she carried her boots and in the other, she carried her leather jerkin, sword, and quiver.

Her skin was perfectly smooth once again, unblemished and clean as it normally was. Her hair was still stringy as it loosely hung down to rest in the middle of her chest, water still clinging to the golden strands. A clean and crisp, long sleeved, green tunic hung about her smaller frame, the shirt obviously too big for her but she nonetheless wore it. She still had on the same pair of dark brown trousers and her feet were bare as she walked across the soft grass.

"I'm glad to see that you waited." She said as she set her own things down beside the log.

"You took nearly an eternity..." He teased lightly as he watched her pick up her satchel before moving across the small clearing that was littered with the rest of the dwarves' belongings, finding that he wasn't so hostile after bathing, almost as if the water had washed away his anger.

"If you'll take a seat, Master Oakenshield?" She said as she came to stand beside a stream of bright sunlight that broke through the trees overhead, figuring that she could use the sunlight to better check his wounds. Wordlessly, he rose from his place before coming to stand in the beam of light and easing himself down onto the ground. Crossing his legs, he sat with his back straight and his blue eyes calmly watched as she knelt down before him, her bag in her hands.

Pulling open the flap, she dug around inside for a moment before she withdrew two small wooden bowls and a small cup. Next, she brought out a few vials of strange herbs and powders. She also withdrew a strange, weed-like plant and placed it before the other supplies, lastly taking out a long roll of cloth bandages and a few rags.

Pulling her waterskin from her bag as well, she dumped some of the clear liquid inside one of the bowls before pulling the cork off of one of the vials. Taking a sniff, Ren deemed that she had the right medicine and poured a tiny amount into the water, turning it a green, cloudy color.

Picking up the cup, she also poured a small amount of herbs from a different vial into it before adding water and sloshing it around slightly to mix it.

"Drink this." She commanded him, holding out the cup to the dwarf, her eyes still transfixed upon her work. The dwarf glowered at her for a moment but nonetheless took the cup. Peering down into it, Thorin frowned slightly before raising it to his lips and taking a small sip. He chortled back into the cup when the bitter taste touched his tongue. "All of it." She murmured as an after thought as she began to pull the small white buds off the weeds before she picked up a stray stone and began to grind them up.

"That was disgusting..." He told her, grimacing after finishing up the last of the poison, or at least that was what he assumed it was, that she just gave him.

"I never said it was going to taste good." She said as she continued to crush the weeds in the bowl before adding a tiny lick of water to create a thick, green paste.

Watching with interest, she then dipped one of the rags into the strange, greenish liquid, letting it soak for a moment before ringing it out. Moving closer to him on her knees, she brought the bowl with her and set it slightly off to the side, wary that it may get knocked over with what was to come next.

Still on her knees, she tentatively reached out and slowly brushed his hair back over his shoulder so that she could clearly see the wound. Thorin did not move as the space between them suddenly became smaller. Leaning in, she was just about to touch the damp cloth in her left hand to his shoulder when he decided to speak.

"Is is going to sting?" He asked quietly and Ren was so close to him, she swore she felt his chest vibrate as he spoke.

Sitting back slightly, she only looked off into the trees for a moment, her eyes distant before she wrinkled up her nose and faced him once again. "I suppose that I have lied to you enough so I won't any longer. Yes, this will, in fact, burn like mad but it will help the wound heal quickly."

Thorin met her eyes for a long moment, a surprising emotion flickering through his pale blue irises. Trust. Or rather, a nearly nonexistent amount of trust.

He then slowly nodded his head and she leaned forward once again. Turning his head to the side slightly, he gave Ren more access to his neck, seeing as how the Warg bite wrapped all the way around his shoulder, ranging from the base of his throat to the outside of his arm. It then reached as low as his well defined peck on both the front of his chest and on his back. The wounds themselves were jagged and deep, a Warg's teeth being very long and equally sharp.

Bracing her right hand on his thick bicep, she carefully pressed the cloth to one of the puncture wounds near his neck, silently taking note of the rest of the pale scars that littered the dwarf's body.

Ren really hadn't been lying when she said that the medicine would burn like mad. Thorin just hadn't believed her, sure that she was just jesting with him as she had many times before. He sure believed her now.

With a loud hiss of pain, the dwarf reacted naturally and reached out to grasp hold of the female before him, his large hands taking hold of her hips. Fingers digging painfully into her skin through the fabric of her trousers, Ren herself winced in pain, surprised by the dwarf's physical reaction.

Pulling the cloth away from his wounds, the dwarf slowly opened his eyes, not realizing that his hands had moved on their own. It was just out of instinct evidently.

Seeing the pain in her eyes though he did not hear about it, he loosened his grip that he had on her, his hands falling back to land in his lap as they had before she had applied the disinfectant medicine. He turned his head away from her then, not wanting her to see the warm glow on his cheeks.

Looking at him with worry for a moment, she only braced herself and began to clean his wounds once again. Thorin was ready for the pain this time and he was prepared but surprise came over him when he found that the burning was not as intense as before.

Her jaw was clenched and her eyes were hard as she worked to spread the strong medicine, only stopping and leaning back when she had to wet the cloth rag again.

The pain in his shoulder soon became nonexistent and Thorin remained perfectly still as she continued to work, his eyes closing so that he may instead focus on his surroundings by relying on his sense of touch and smell.

He focused on the feeling of how carefully her hands cleaned the bite, how gentle they were. Her right hand had a careful grip upon his strong arm as she worked, her fingers light as a feather. He also relished in the warmth that was provided by the sun that was streaming down upon the two of them, providing Ren with a wonderful source of light.

That was not Thorin's favorite part, though.

Ren, having washed up like the rest of them, now somehow smelled like a mixture of rain upon dry earth and the crispness of a green forest. It was a fresh scent, one that radiated off of her entire being and the dwarf was tempted to lean in closer to that he could get a stronger whiff of it.

There was also something else, something he couldn't quite put his nose on when he suddenly nailed it down. Vanilla.

This scent brought many memories to the forefront of his mind.

In his younger days at Erebor, there had been a stand run by an elderly woman dwarf. She had sold an abundance of different herbs and spices but she was widely known for her special vanilla that she grew in her own private garden on one of the high mountain cliffs. There had always been something special about this vanilla as well.

She had been paid large bags of gold to sell her vanilla to the royal family so that they may use it in their cakes and other pastries when feeding guests and the King and his family themselves. For this vanilla had been a delicacy and always made their desserts taste like food for Mahal himself.

It also reminded Thorin of his mother, the female dwarf having been fond of the scent herself and had worn it often before she had passed.

He was brought from his thoughts as Ren stood up and silently moved to kneel behind him so she could begin her work again. Once more, he let his eyes slide closed and simply relished in the feel of her fingers upon his skin.

Once again being transported to his past, it seemed as thought something about her struck him. Something of recognition.

Frowning softly as he searched his memories, it did not take him long to pinpoint where he had sworn he had seen her before. Turning slightly, he glanced back over at her for a moment and in his mind, he knew that what he believed was right. He had seen her before the quest had begun. However, he had not the courage to tell her at the moment.

Later... He promised himself.

After finishing on the back, she then returned back to her things and dumped the remaining fluid out onto the ground so that she could place the bowl back into her bag.

Taking the second bowl into her hands, she knelt before the dwarf again and stuck her fingers into the green paste. Applying the crushed weeds to the wounds, this process did not take her long and she was soon wrapping the long length of bandages around his chest. It wound up underneath his armpit to rest upon the back of his neck so that it wouldn't slip down and Ren had to lean in and reach around him to grab it on the other side of his head.

She turned her head to the side for a moment so she could see the bandage but found that her nose was only inches from the dwarf's. For a moment, their breathing mingled.

Almost in a haze, Ren stopped in her wrapping and looked Thorin directly in the eye, as if her irises were pulled up to his by some strange force. He held her gaze for a long moment, simply relishing in the fact that she was suddenly so close to him. His eyes darted down to her lips for a brief second and as if drawn to each other, they began to lean in ever so slightly, Ren's hand coming to subconsciously rest upon his strong shoulder. However, just before their lips met, the fog seemed to clear and the woman realized what was about to happen. Quickly turning her head to the side, she only stared at the ground beside them for a moment, her heart beating wildly in her chest.

Thorin himself let his eyes widen in horror of what he had almost just done.

Clearing her throat, she released his shoulder and began to work again. She quickly wrapped the bandage around his left shoulder before she carefully tied it in place. Nearly scrambling to do so, she moved to sit back on her heels, deeming him taken care of.

The entire time that she had been wrapping him and applying the paste, the dwarf had simply been staring at her whilst also paying close attention to the touch of her hands upon his hot skin.

"You should be fine now." She spoke finally, her voice quiet and he looked up at her, detecting a faint blush upon her cheeks. "The herbal tea you drank helps to fight off the infection in your bloodstream. It will also help to ease your pain. The burning medicine was only a strong disinfectant and should have cleared out any dirt or germs lingering there. And the paste is just a precaution in case the infection comes back and a fever sets in." She took a deep breath, her hands resting on the legs of her trousers. "I think you will live..."

She was surprise that as she spoke, her voice did not waver much like she expected and for that, she was proud of herself despite what had almost happened. However, the blonde female risked a glance at him, not taking notice that his eyes were trained not on her face but upon her neck as they caught sight of something he hadn't noticed before.

As she began to stand up to gather her things, his hand shot out and took hold of her wrist, keeping her on the ground and at his level. She sent him a questioning yet nervous look before he released his tight grip and his hand tentatively reached out, the thought of what had almost happened nearly a minute ago still fresh in both their minds.

The elf maiden froze in her place, her blue eyes tracing the movement of his fingers as they moved closer to her face, her breath coming out in shallow puffs. Instead, his thick fingers ghosted passed her cheek to brush a few strands of golden hair back from her face so that it lay behind her ear.

His blue eyes carefully traced over the softly pointed tip of it that had been hidden from his view, his fingers then carefully moving to run up the length of the soft skin, just brushing over her ear. His other hand weakly stretched out and moved to push her hair back from her other ear but a hand suddenly pushed his away.

Eyes flashing to look at Ren, he found that her own pair of sapphire irises were alight with anger as she glared at him.

"If you simply wished to see my ears, Master dwarf, you need only ask." She snarled before pulling back the curtain of her own golden hair, revealing the ugly scratches that the goblin had caused with his dirty claws as he had revealed her elven bloodline to the Company.

Standing up from her place before him, she dumped the rest of the contents in the bowl onto the ground just as the other dwarves were arriving back to reclaim their weapons and boots that they had discarded around the area.

Also bending down, Ren picked up his blue undershirt and threw it at him so the article of clothing hit him square in the chest before coming to rest in his lap.

Gathering her own things, she angrily slid her boots on over her feet before tossing the jerkin over her head, not even bothering to tie it in her rage. Also throwing the strap of her satchel over her head, she then picked up her gauntlets and weapons before stomping off into the trees without risking a single glance back.

"Ren you missed all the fun in the..." Kili called after the elf who was currently stomping away from the rest of the Company, each stride full of purpose. "...water." The dark haired dwarf finished in confusion, wondering why she was acting the way she was.

Bilbo also watched as she hastily moved off through the trees, his hair still flat seeing as how he and the youngest members of the Company had gotten into a splashing war and it had only finished moments ago.

"What's wrong with Ren?" Fili asked as he soon came to stand beside his brother, shooting their Uncle a questioning look as he wrung some water out of his hair.

"She's an elf..." Thorin grumbled as he too watched her disappear into the tree line, a slight frown upon his face, his fingers idly twisting into the fabric of his tunic which lay in his lap. For a moment, he had simply forgotten the fact that she was one of his enemies and that she was simply a beautiful, gentle woman. He had almost forgiven her as her fingers moved across his skin, light like that of a fluttering leaf in the wind. He had almost kissed her. "That's what's wrong with her."

Guess who's back? Back again? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back?

Holy cow, this song has been stuck in my head forever since the new season of Sherlock has begun. I was really depressed. I didn't get to see the new episode today. I was busy in the city and had to get my hair cut so I had to miss it.

We had it planned for sometime but I had forgotten that the Sign of Three already came out this Sunday. And apparently watching an episode of Sherlock is not a good enough excuse to miss a hair appointment. Urgh.

Anyway, yeah. I already pumped out another chapter for you guys cause ya'll are awesome! I got 17 reviews for this chapter alone. Do you know how amazing that is? It's bloody brilliant!

Can we keep the reviews rolling like that? If you do, I'll write faster!

I may even get most of another chapter done tomorrow, considering that they've already cancelled school cause it is supposed to be DAMN cold tomorrow. Like 30 degrees below zero.

So, I'll probably write a lot tomorrow, if my mother doesn't bother me with things like cleaning tomorrow. Or homework. Yuck.




P.S. Did you guys like the bit of humor I put into this chapter? Lol Ren pants-ed (sp) Thorin and he was all embarrassed about himself.

And no, Ren is not a whore just because she's seen naked men. If you didn't know, elves really have no problems with being nude in front of each other. They aren't ashamed of their bodies. Plus, she's a healer and has been through numerous battles, tending to the wounded and sometimes, the wounded were men and their wounds were around that general area.

Anyway, this story was also supposed to have a bit of romancy theme to it as well. Ren taking care of Thorin.

I was going for the idea that Thorin could forget that she was an elf for the moment and be in love with the general woman that she was, dismissing the fact that she was one of the enemy. So, yeah. Hope you guys picked up on that. We might see more of that later.

Also, if you want to have music to set the mood for this chapter, I would recommend Feast of Starlight, Kingsfoil, or Beyond the Forest from the DoS soundtrack.

I don't know if I have any artists out their either but I'm still looking around for some cover art for my story. Anyone wanna make something that I can use? If you just PM me with like a link, I'll choose the winner and make it my cover!

Anyway, thanks again guys.




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