To Your Mark

Chapter 36

The sun had since began to lower into the sky by the time they reached the shore which suddenly seemed to spring up out of the fog that seemed to always surround the mountain. They had luckily been ahead of schedule and the boat had pulled up to a rather shifty looking dock that didn't look sturdy in the slightest. Some of the planks were missing and it had yet to be fixed.

They were not the only boat to be docked and up ahead, from what Ren could tell, a small house and a barn lay sat on the shorelin, as did a paddock full of horses and ponies. The steeds were no doubt for their use, given that the mountain still lay a good day's ride away and they needed a second mode of transportation.

Climbing down from the crate she had been on, Ren collected her bag where it had been stored with the others and stepped off the water vessel, slinging both of the straps over her shoulders. Helping Kili cross the gap with his leg, the two of them then began to make their way down the dock so that they may start to organize the situation with the horses. They left the rest of the Company to unload the supplies, given that they were the two wounded members of the group.

Upon seeing their arrival, two men came out of the house.

"What can I do for you folks?" The older of the two man asked, sticking his thumbs into his belt as he stood proudly before them. Kili only turned to look at his female companion who smiled slightly at him, shaking her head with amusement.

"Um, we are in need of ponies and a horse for our journey." She told him, a warm glimmer in her eye.

"Oh," He began, looking to the other man by his side with interest in his eyes. "You must be the group of dwarves that were coming from Esgaroth." He then looked back to the duo before he turned his eyes to the elf. "Though, there was no mention of a woman among them." He carefully reached out and took hold of her hand, placing a quick kiss on her leather covered knuckles.

It wasn't long before the rest of the dwarves began to come walking down the dock, carrying the various crates filled with the provisions that they would need on their trip. They were in a sort of a rush to do so, given that they were ahead of schedule and could manage to get a good distance to the mountain before the sky got too dark.

"Yes, I am the only one who requires a horse." She told them with a kind smile but Kili only glanced sidelong at her, wondering how she could do it; turn the sadness off and flip the charm on, given that the source of her sadness was walking up and down the dock, carrying supplies whilst also keeping an eye on the princess.

"Where are my manners?" The older man finally released her hand before he straightened up. "I am Arton and this is my son, Axtron." He gestured to the younger man at his side who smiled and nodded his head in greeting. "He will be your guide up to the mountain."

Both the dwarf and lady nodded their respects to the boy.

The female elf then exchanged a look with the younger dwarf and smiled slightly, knowing what was coming.

"Kili-"

"And Ren!"

"At your service." They said in unison before bowing towards the two men who only exchanged an amused look.

However, a loud whiny suddenly caused the two Company members to turn their head to the right and found that two of the larger horses were fighting. One was an chocolate colored gelding and the other was a large stallion whose coat was a dirty golden while while his mane was the same color. The larger horse suddenly reared up, his legs kicking out but when he came down, his teeth were bared and he moved to bite the younger horse.

The older man's coppery eyes flickered to the dwarves on the dock before moving back to the dark haired dwarf, ignoring the horses. "Now, shall we discuss things further indoors, Master dwarf so that you may be on your way?" Arton gestured to the home and Kili lead the way with the older man right by his side, the two of them already delving into the discussion of payment and supplies.

The two others only stayed outside, the air between them uncomfortable. The young horse breeder could only sigh in exasperation as the two animals continued to fight but let a concerned frown pull down his features as they watched the strange, blonde woman move to the railing of the paddock, her eyes transfixed upon the two horses fighting.

She walked forward to lean up the top railing of the pen. It wasn't long before the other man moved to stand beside her, for he took to watching the horses as well. It was quiet for a moment and Axtron shuffled his feet for a moment, not knowing what to say to fill the awkward air between them.

"So... You're from Laketown then?" He asked her and she finally tore her gaze away from the herd of four-legged creatures to look at the man. He was handsome, she supposed, and had short, chocolate locks and dark green eyes that seemed to hold a playful spark in them at all times. He had been smiling at her but when she turned to look at him, the smile slowly started to dissipate as his cheeks reddened under her intense gaze.

"No." She said after a moment, turning her face away from him and back to the animals. She then raised her hand up and moved the golden curtain of hair out of the way so that she may reveal her pointed ear. "Lothlorien."

"Oh!" He exclaimed then, his eyes sparkling once again as his eyes took in the sight before him. "You're an elf!" She only nodded her head in answer and he shook his head in utter disbelief, his eyes never leaving her stoic features. "Never saw an elf before..."

Her head swiveled to the side in amazement and her brow furrowed softly as she looked at him, her eyes wide. "Never?"

"Never."

"You must not get out much." She told him then, a small smile turning up the corner of her mouth.

"I can't leave my father here alone, he needs me to help with the horses. And well, not much of anyone comes around here anymore... You know, cause of the dragon..." He explained, leaning more heavily on the railing for a moment, his eyes transfixed upon her.

"But you're brave enough to live out here." Ren told him earnestly and he only bobbed his head. However, the younger man took note of the blade at her side and the bow upon her back. Two long daggers were also sheathed on her quiver.

"You yourself seem to be pretty brave." He lightly touched the sword hanging at her hip, causing it to swing in its place. He then grinned when he noticed how she tensed and placed her hand upon the hilt of the sword, keeping it from swinging. "Especially traveling with a group of dwarves." As he said this, he watched as the smile slipped away from her face and a few emotions flitted across her eyes, the spark soon flickered out and was replaced with an almost empty look. It was silent again for a moment before another loud whiny was heard and the two turned back to watch the two steeds who had not yet ceased fighting. "So..." He began again. "Do you see a horse you like?"

"The golden one." She answered immediately and the man turned his head to watch said horse rear on his hind legs again.

"Cloud?" He asked in disbelief and she absentmindedly nodded, her sapphire irises locked on the horse before her. "Oh, a nice lady like you doesn't need a horse like him. You don't want him. He's mean to all the other horses. Always gives people fits. Bit of an ass if you ask me."

It was then that the she-elf laughed.

"What's so funny?" Axtron asked her, his own lips pulled back in an amused but cautious grin.

"I've dealt with asses before." She told him, a glimmer in her eyes. "I have this black horse. Huge, mighty stallion. Bossy as can be. Very temperamental. Doesn't listen to a word anyone ever says... except me."

"Well, why didn't you bring him with you?" She smiled again slightly.

"When you're climbing over mountains... horses don't do well..." The elf told him but he soon grinned himself, understanding what she meant. "Plus, we got tangled up in Mirkwood and are sort of fugitives of the Elvenking..."

The man raised his head with a smile upon his face but when she saw the serious look in her eyes, he sobered immediately. She hadn't been joking.

"What did you do to draw his wrath?" He asked her.

"Our group had been traveling through the forest when we were attacked. A a troop of elves saved us from some horse-sized spiders and were were taken as prisoners..." She faded off then but one corner of her mouth pulled upward again. "I was engaged to the prince."

"Engaged?" He squeaked in surprise, an amused glint entering his eyes when he saw the less than pleased look now upon his face. "How'd that turn out?"

"We escaped." She told him before twisting one of her fingers around the third one on her left hand. "Technically, we're still engaged. Haven't called it off yet. I've still got the ring in fact." She tapped her ring finger where the item still lay. "The Elvenking probably thinks that the dwarves had kidnapped me."

"Did they kidnap you?" Axtron asked and the elf only smiled while shaking her head.

"No. I wanted to leave." She told him earnestly. "Thranduil didn't like how I behaved and he tried to force rules upon me. I've never done well with rules." Ren told him and yet there was still afar off look in her eyes. Was it possible that he was seeing... longing?

Once again, they fell quiet but the pounding of hooves could be heard as the horses continued to fight. "No one can ride him you know. Not even me." He lazily gestured to the large stallion, an unimpressed look upon his face.

"You seem to be quite the horseman." She told him as she watched him reach into his pocket and hold his hand out, a couple sugar cubes resting in his flattened palm. Four ponies immediately approached them and eagerly took their share of the snack from his palm.

"Grown up around them all my life." He told her before he suddenly leapt the fence so that he could walk through the herd before he came to stand before a silver mare. "Here, you'd like Hezza." He stroked her dark muzzle affectionately.

Ren undid the buckles of her sword and quiver before slinging them over the post before she carefully climbed over the rungs of the fence, mindful of her shoulder before she crossed over to the silver horse. The she-elf carefully placed her hand upon the flat plane of her long face and closed her eyes for a moment. She then moved passed the man and reached down to touch her legs.

"How fast is she?"

"She's a good distance horse. Doesn't need to rest much throughout the day when traveling at a walk."

"Which is your fastest horse?" Ren asked him. The man hesitated for a moment, shifting uncomfortably in his place, not wanting to answer her question. "Axtron...?"

"Cloud." He admitted quietly as he rubbed the back of his neck, not liking where this conversation was going.

"Then I'll take him-"

"What about Kilner?" He walked over at patted a stocky chestnut steed. "He's strong and relatively fast. He may be a little old but he's a good horse."

"I need the fastest horse if I'm to outrun a dragon." She told him and for a moment he thought she was joking but when he saw the serious expression on her face, he frowned in concern. Turning her eyes away from the other horses before her, her irises zeroed in on the golden stallion. She began walking towards him and the two animals who had been fighting stopped suddenly, their ears flicking to turn in her direction as she approached.

"I wouldn't get too close!" He warned her, grabbing her upper arm and tugging her away but she shrugged him off, never taking her eyes off the horse, a small but awestruck smile upon her lips.

As she drew nearer, the horse turned his ears backward and lowered them so that they were flattened against his head, showing that he didn't want her to come any closer or else he would bite. However, she didn't heed his warnings and instead extended her hands outward, her palms perpendicular to the ground as she proceeded in her quest to touch him. He snorted his nose and then let loose a loud whiny before he reared up, his hooves aggressively pawing at the air. The she-elf seemed to be completely unfazed by his aggressive manor.

It was also at this time that the Company had finished unloading the crates and were about to make their way into the house when they heard the shrill cry of a horse. Their attention was immediately drawn over to the fence surrounding a large pasture beside the horse barn and Thorin felt his eyes widen in fear when he saw his elleth standing before an angered stallion who was rearing up and was threatening to crush her smaller frame beneath his huge hooves.

He immediately strode over to the edge of the fence, the rest of his group following behind him but they held interest in their eyes.

"Ren!" He called to her, his blue eyes wide but his voice fell upon deaf ears as she continued towards the horse who was obviously displeased with her proximity to him.

She continued to hold her hands outward and it seemed as if all of Middle Earth held its breath as she proceeded forward. He could hear that she was murmuring things in elvish and it seemed to help calm the beast until he stopped rearing and instead threw his head back, still showing that he did not want to be touched. It wasn't long before she stood right before him then and all the dwarves felt their hearts stall in their chest as fear settled in. The stallion would surely charge her.

However, she carefully reached only one hand out, letting the other fall to her side before she offered her remaining fingers up to the golden beast. He only snorted and his nostrils flared as he took in her scent and the horse's brown eyes were wide and alight with a fiery warning, silently telling her that she was not simply messing with an old trail horse. No, he was a mighty and wild stallion that would not so easily be tamed by a woman with soft words and a soothing aura about her.

After a very long moment though, his breathing was not quite so frantic and aggressive. He did however continue to take in her smell, his dark nostrils still flaring but it was slower, calmer. The whites of his eyes no longer were visible and instead, he only stared back at her with his soft brown irises.

Licking her lips out of nerves, Ren took one more tiny step forward, closing the distance between her and the steed so that she placed her leather covered palm upon his soft muzzle. And the horse did not flinch, nor did he rear or throw his head.

He just stood there, his eyelids then falling half closed and the Company watched as the elf smiled then and ran her hand along the plane of his face before slowly moving to his side so that she could stroke the soft sandy fur of his thick neck. The entire time, she was speaking soft words to him, praising him and telling him what a gorgeous yet powerful beast he was. She was telling him that she knew he didn't want to be ridden but she told him that he would get to see the hills and race along the valleys, if only he allowed her to ride him.

Both Axtron and Thorin felt their eyes widen once again in horror when she suddenly moved to his right side and reached up, her fingers tangling themselves into the thick golden hair at the base of his strong neck.

"I wouldn't..." The guide warned her and he took a step forward but he was too late. Standing on the horse's side, she suddenly hopped before swinging her leg up onto his back so that she could pull herself up. Her shoulder left shoulder twinged slightly as she did so but she gritted her teeth and pushed through the pain, not caring if it hurt so much in that moment.

She was the happiest she had been in the last day and she simply ignored the burn in her muscles.

Ren continued to pull herself up until she sat upon his broad back. The stallion only shifted his weight on his hooves for a moment but didn't make too much of a fuss about the woman upon his back, evidently having acknowledged her words and accepting them. The lady only beamed in success, her eyes then looking to the younger man.

"I thought you said that he could't be ridden?" She teased him slightly.

"Uh..." The boy seemed to be at a loss for words as he came to stand by the horse then, still shooting the animal distrustful looks. "He can't." Axtron replied while he looked up at her but he did not touch the horse for fear that he would suddenly spook and throw the woman. "He'd normally have bucked you off by now."

"He's just a big softie, this one is." She told him, reaching out to pat his thick neck. She then sat back and used the heel of her boots to gently prod him in the sides and he immediately moved forward, tossing his head slightly as he did so but he was obedient other than that. He wasn't used to carrying a person with him as he moved. The elf then began to guide him around the paddock until she decided to see just how fast Cloud was.

With a faint smile on her face, she turned him towards the large and open pasture.

"Ya!" She only had to nudge his sides with her heels before he reared up as he tooking off. His hooves pounded loudly beneath him as his long, powerful legs seemed to eat up the ground before him.

Ren's long hair streamed out behind her as he accelerated to a full gallop and all she could really do was hang on. However, she was not afraid despite how fast they were running across the flat pasture. No, she felt so full of life. She felt like she was actually flying across the ground and she couldn't help the happy laugh escape her throat as they continued to race around the grassland before they then reached the other side of the fence and the golden horse made a large curve before they raced back across the open plain where the rest of the horses and ponies were grazing.

The two of them then came to a sudden stop in the paddock, causing all the other steeds to become frightened and they moved out of the way.

Both of them were breathing heavily when they arrived back and a huge smile lit up Ren's face.

For the first time that day, the familiar sparkle was in her eyes and it warmed Thorin's heart to see her that way. He didn't care that he wasn't the source of her happiness. He was just glad that she was showing a bit of her old self once again.

Slowly riding up to the dwarves lined up along the fence, she pulled the horse to a halt right before them so she could gaze down at them, her eyes lingering briefly on the dwarf lord before they danced across the rest of the Company, a small smirk pull back one corner of her mouth as they rested upon Fili who had an awestruck smile upon his face.

"So... When do we leave?"

About an hour later, the Company was just about ready to leave for the mountain, all that was left to do was disperse the bags out evenly on the horses so that the ponies weren't quite so weighed down.

Thorin picked up the last four food bags in his large hands and then glanced around at the open yard, finding the rest of the group to be finishing up tying their bags down and saddling their ponies.

However, his sights then set itself upon the large golden horse off to the side who was standing quietly as his rider finished tightening the girth beneath his stomach. She then patted his rump and adjusted the supplies already stored in the saddlebags that they had been rented.

Taking a deep breath to steel himself for the sour encounter that was about to occur, he then proceeded forward but faltered in his step as he watched the younger horseman approach her, a wide and enthusiastic smile on his face as he did so. He then approached the female elf and said something to her that he did not hear before he also patted stallion's neck though he did so shyly, almost as if he were still afraid the horse would bite. His words then caused the elf to smile and the dwarf lord felt a pang of jealousy strike in his heart.

It infuriated Thorin that their exchange upset him greatly, for when the elleth turned away, a soft, almost dreamy look entered the stable boy's sparkling eyes as he gazed at her form.

Thorin only narrowed his eyes at the younger man, knowing that that flame would need to be extinguished quickly. For he could only wonder just how many men would throw themselves at the Elven princess before the journey was over? He already had to worry about the princeling, the bargeman, and now their trail guide!?

The dwarf couldn't blame them really though. Galaren was most definitely a beautiful woman, maybe the most divine creature in all of Middle Earth, but not just in body but in mind. She was a free spirit and most men found her to be too overbearing and wild in nature but some men, like himself and evidently the horseman, found it to be very attractive and charming.

His mind began to wander then and his thoughts suddenly flickered back to his father and grandfather. For like Thranduil, they would have no doubt frowned upon her unlady-like behavior and probably said something along the lines of: "It is unnatural for a woman to behave so". She would have been too loud and boisterous for liking, to confident with her words and knowledge of the world. She would have no doubt questioned their judgement as she used to with him. He knew that he would not be allowed to marry her for those reasons along, let alone the feud between the elven and dwarf kingdoms.

However, Thorin was to be King Under the Mountain and he could do whatever he pleased.

Once again steeling himself, he then marched over to her then and the two who had been conversing grew quiet at his approach. The horseman saw him coming and muttered something to her which caused her to tense. Axtron only stared at the dark haired dwarf for a moment while Ren had her back to him but he could tell that she did not want to see him, given that her head was bowed slightly and her shoulders were hunched.

"I'll take it from here." Thorin told the boy who hesitated a moment before nodding and moving off to retrieve his own horse from the stable. It was then silent between the two of them and the woman absentmindedly reached out and wiped some mud off of the stirrup at her side. She then also tugged on the reins of the horse slightly, really doing anything to keep her shaking hands occupied. Thorin only stood behind her, so close that she could feel the heat emanating from his chest.

"Galaren..." He began quietly and his voice cracked with untold emotion. For this was the first interaction that he had had with her since the incident and he didn't know exactly what to say to her. He opened his mouth to say more but no other sounds came out. Instead, he only sighed deeply through his nose and placed two of the food bags down on the ground. Hesitantly reaching out towards her, he placed his hand upon her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze as he tried to tell her he was also feeling the same remorse that she was.

"Don't." She had spoken, her voice also quiet like his had been. Despite that it was meant as a firm command, it did not hold the force behind it and instead was very weak. It sounded like she was fighting against her own emotions and she was fighting a losing battle. "Please... don't..." Her voice was so broken and it caused pain to form in the dwarf's chest.

It was silent between the two of them for another long moment before Thorin slowly let his large hand slide from her thin shoulder before it came to rest back at his side.

"Can your horse carry these bags?" His voice rumbled then and he was still close enough that she felt his chest vibrate. Her knees weakened slightly when his velvet voice fell upon her ears and she had to hold herself back from looking at him. But, again that was a losing battle and she could no longer help herself when she heard him speak so softly and so carefully.

She was still for a moment before she slowly turned back around to face him, her blue eyes shinning in the bright afternoon sunlight. Ren held his eyes only for a moment longer and the dwarf lord felt his chest tighten when he saw the traitorous pain cross her blue irises.

Instead of speaking, she only answered him with the nod of her head. She then extended her hand and Thorin placed two of the bags into her palm and using her good arm, she hoisted the first one up and tied it to the saddle before she repeated the process with the other. However, when she moved to hoist the third one up onto Cloud's back, she winced when a stabbing pain bled through her body from her shoulder given that the bag was too heavy for her to lift with her good arm alone. Her shoulder was still not healed entirely despite that the superficial wound was just raised, pink flesh now. It was the muscle beneath the skin that still needed to finish healing.

Grimacing in pain, it felt as though the arrow had embedded itself into her shoulder all over again. With the bag now dropped, her good arm cradled her injured one to her chest as the white hot pain continued to flare. And she was so focused on the pain that she managed to ignore the set of warm hands that took the other bag from her and tied it to the saddle.

She only pressed her forehead to the leather of her stirrup where here thigh would rest as her face remained contorted in pain as the sharp ache had yet to recede. The elf did not know if she could stand on her own and instead leaned heavily upon the golden horse at her side. For a moment, Ren wondered if it would ever stop and she buried her face further into the leather in hopes of keeping herself from crying out in pain. Her eyes watered then and she bit her lip in hopes of stopping the whimper that lingered on her lips.

"Are you alright?" Came his voice which was now close to her ear and she ever so slightly turned her head so that she could gaze at him, though her eyes were glassy with the tears that wanted to fall. Holding them back, she quickly shut her eyes once again but this time, she did not ignore the warm hand that touched her cheek which felt like it was ablaze with a fire within which caused great concern for the dwarf lord.

And just as she felt as though she was about to collapse because of the fire in her veins but it all of a sudden stopped. Just as quickly as it appeared, the stabbing feeling receded and she let her eyes weakly flicker back open. The sight that she was met with caused a shuddering breath to escape between her lips as she gazed into his icy pools that were so filled with concern.

"I'm fine." She answered sharply after swallowing thickly but her eyes fell down to her boots as she did so, pushing lightly off the saddle. Sensing the cold being directed towards him, he nodded his head but did not take his eyes off her, not liking the way that her skin was suddenly so hot and coated in a sheen of sweat.

"Your skin feels warm." He told her, his brows furrowed deeply in worry.

"It's hot out and I'm wearing a thick coat..." She insisted, reaching a hand up to check on the bags and make sure that they were all tied securely, her hand also briefly swiping across her forehead to rid her skin of the sweat. "It would be strange if I didn't feel warm."

The dwarf prince only looked at her, his eyes still coated with worry but he said nothing on the matter.

"We are going to leave. It would be wise to mount." Thorin told her after a long moment of tense silence between them. Again, she didn't speak and instead nodded before she reached up and took hold of the saddle-horn and stepped into the stirrup before pulling herself upward. However, when she felt her left arm begin to strain, a hand took hold of her boot and pushed her the rest of the way up into the saddle, lessening the pain in her shoulder.

Once settled in the leather seat, she looked back down at the dwarf whose hand remained upon her boot. His blue eyes stared right back up into her own pair and once again, he caught sight of the heartbreak she was feeling. Seeing it only caused Thorin to feel even lower than dirt, given that he was the source of her pain. However, he knew that now was not the given time to discuss what had happened. He did not want to attract attention to their relationship, or at least, the relationship they had had. He would wait until they could speak alone.

And so, Thorin only squeezed her booted foot before letting his hand fall away and leaving her so that he may mount his own pony so that the Company would finally depart.

Ren had only been seated quietly upon the back of Cloud for a moment before she heard hoof beats and looked up just in time to see Axtron come trotting up on a large blue roan who had a jet black mane, tail, socks, and muzzle. He also had darker spots and flecks in his blue tinted fur.

"Are we ready to move out then?" He asked her as he came to a stop beside her and the golden stallion beneath her snorted and let his ears flicker back when the other horse approached.

Ren's brow furrowed then and she lightly slapped the stallion on his neck as a warning before muttering a few words in elvish, evidently telling him that he needed to be nice and get along with the other horses. He nickered quietly before flicking his tail but calmed. She only adjusted her grip upon his reins before looking to the boy, shifting her weight in the stirrups.

Glancing back, she checked the rest of the Company and found them to all be mounted and she slowly nodded in confirmation.

"Alright. Here we go then." The younger man replied before spurring his gelding forward so that it headed down the trail that led towards the singular mountain peak looming in the distance. "Move out!"

"Ya." Ren said quietly before nudging the horse's sides and the golden stallion lifted his head in excitement and took off at a trot after the blue roan and their guide. The ponies then filed into line behind her and Cloud, all of them more than anxious to get on the trail after having spent so much time locked up in the paddock.

The Company stopped a few hours later while the sun was still up so that they could still set up camp while they had the light to do so. However, the sky was beginning to grow darker with clouds that promised rain.

Tying the horses and ponies up under one of the rocky overhangs that they had found, the Company then began to haul their supplies up a little further from the road to another overhang. For the ponies took up all the space underneath the overhang and if it was going to rain, they didn't want to be stuck under the there with the chance that they would be stepped on.

And just as it always had been and always would be, Ren was the last to leave the steeds to their business. And over the months spent together, Thorin had come to realize this and it led to easy planning upon his part.

He had watched her all day as she rode along on her horse, plodding along on the trail behind the stable boy. A golden horse for his golden lady, he had mused and it had been the cause of the single raise of his lips all day.

So, he had waited, hidden in between the ponies until she was done tending to them so that he could make his move.

She had just finished patting the golden stallion after having run a brush over his thick fur and was now about to feed him an apple from one of the food bags when he decided to strike.

"Those apples are not for the horses." He told her as he pushed off the rock that he had been leaning against. She currently held her hunting knife in her hand and was using it to cut the apple into two halves.

She looked up from her work then and Thorin felt the worry in the back of his mind bubble to the surface once again when he noticed how pale her skin had gotten.

"You're right, they're not for the horses." She muttered, raising one of the halves to her mouth and taking a large bite out of it. The elf chewed her snack as she gazed back at him with her irises which were full of spite and then she suddenly dropped the apple which landed on the dusty ground beside her boots. "Oops," She said through a mouthful of food, "Can't let that go to waste, now can I?"

With a small but smug smirk upon her lips, she swallowed her own food before bending over and picking the discarded fruit from the ground, wiping the apple slice upon her breeches to rid it of dirt. Holding her palm extended and flattened, the golden stallion happily accepted the gift.

At seeing how she was trying so hard to push him away with her apparent anger, the dwarf only chuckled quietly whilst shaking his head in disbelief. She was trying to hard for his liking.

"We need to talk." He finally spoke as he crossed his arms over his wide chest, the amused glint in his eyes disappearing and instead being replaced by one of guilt. The elf had only stared at him wide eyed for a moment before she let a deep breath out through her nose, her shoulders sagging as she did so before continuing to stroke the horse on his tan muzzle. "I have waited long enough."

"What is there to talk about?" Ren replied quietly and the dwarf watched as the horse suddenly pushed his head into her chest lightly, asking for more treats.

"About what happened in Esgaroth." He snapped slightly and the elf's eyes flashed with anger despite that she wasn't looking at him, wondering why he was choosing to speak to her now after having been silent since the incident. "About what you saw."

It was then quiet between the two of them and the only sound around them was the gentle wind and the miscellaneous sounds the ponies were making as they searched the rocks for what little grass they could find.

"Why did you do it?" She asked quietly after what felt like an eternity of silence, her fingers gently brushing through Cloud's golden strands. "Why did you... kiss her?"

He sighed heavily through his nose and his hand over his face in frustration, knowing that he had a lot of confusion to clear up and the elleth would no doubt make it difficult for him to do so. "Galaren-"

"WHY. DID. YOU. DO. IT?" She shouted at him.

"I'M TRYING TO TELL YOU!" Thorin shouted right back at her, catching her off guard and causing her eyes to widen in shock. He hadn't raised his voice at her like that since they had stood upon the Carrock. At seeing her doe-eyed, almost fearful expression, he softened then slightly and the dwarf felt ashamed that he had yelled at her. So, he tried for a second time, his voice now much softer. "I'm... I'm trying to tell you."

At hearing his gentler tone, she shut her eyes tightly and the dwarf lord swore that he saw her lip quiver. Her hands fisted themselves into the horse's mane as he continued to press his long face to her torso.

"Normally, I pride myself on being somewhat of a diplomat, given the station that I will take over once we take back the mountain..." He began, taking a few steps towards her while he clasped his hands behind his back in a very regal manor. "However, all my years of training and practice, has never prepared me to give an apology such as this." He paused for a moment as he came to stand beside her and even then, she did not look at him. "Over the course of the last day, hundreds of different scenarios of our conversation about this have been invading my mind from the moment I saw you turn and run from me..." He told her and it was quiet again for a moment as he gently reached out took hold of her wrist. In his grasp, her muscles relaxed and her fingers loosened their hold upon the stallion's thick locks. "Yet, this was not one of the times that I pictured." He told her and looked up from where his eyes had been looking at her slim wrist to search out her own irises but he found that her face was turned away from him. "Do not think that what happened and what you saw isn't tearing me apart inside as well. You are not the only one who feels pain in their heart. You are not the only one who has lost sleep over the matter." He licked his lips nervously. "And you must know, that guilt still has a firm grip upon my mind... And that same aching guilt only increased tenfold when my nephews began to question me ab-"

"You told them?!" She snapped at him again, her eyes suddenly opening but her brow was creased deeply as she glared dangerously at him.

"How could I not?!" He growled right back at her, not liking how he was suddenly becoming the criminal despite the fact that he was trying to explain himself, even when he was not the one at fault. "How could I not tell them?! Especially when you ran out of the inn cr-" He cut himself off then, finding the next words to tug at his heartstrings, especially when he knew he was the reason for those tears. "When you ran out... crying."

He took a shuddering breath then and he reached out with his other hand to take hold of her other wrist which also fell limp in his grip. He then slowly began to turn her towards him so that even though her glorious eyes were shut, he could still gaze upon her soft features.

"Ever since I thought I had lost you in Mirkwood to the spiders... and then to the elven prince, I have held nothing but infatuation for you and only you." The dwarf told her earnestly and he watched as a few tears then began to fall down her cheeks. He carefully reached out and brushed his thumb over the smooth flesh of her cheek, capturing the stray tears as he did so. "I was so scared, Galaren. So scared... that I could not have you." He whispered to her as his thumb then began to stroke her jawline, his touch light as a feather.

"Then... why did I find you as I did?" She swallowed thickly and her voice broke slightly as she spoke. "If you wanted me so badly that is." Her voice then took on a bitter tone as she spoke and an angry spark once again filled her irises.

And even though she was trying to be so angry with him, Thorin could still clearly see that she was hurting and just like an injured animal, she would lash out to those who tried to help her and in return, they would be the ones to be hurt in the end.

"Unless it was that you lied..." She swallowed thickly again but looked at him with such malice in her gaze. She was trying to push him away again. "Unless you only told me lies of how much you cared. How much you needed me."

"I still do care." He nearly spat at her, shaking gently as he did so. "I still do need you... more than you will ever know."

"Do you really need me then? Or can another woman so easily take my place...?" Ren's blue eyes bore right back into his own pair, the tears now ceasing and she had suddenly hardened herself to anything he could say. She would no longer listen to his words, for they may sound sweet but to her, they were bitter. "Do not touch me." She warned him before yanking her arm free but upon hearing the request, Thorin had loosened his grip.

He watched as she began to walk up the path to the camp and he felt his own anger rise in his chest. A disbelieving chuckle suddenly escaped his lips and he shook his head, not entirely believing what he was hearing. He had tried to fix the situation. He had tried to right the wrong that he had done, even if he wasn't truly the villain in the situation.

However, as he watched her retreating form, he felt an unexplained amount of rage fill him. She would not listen to him and his reasoning so he would blatantly right out tell her even if she wouldn't listen.

Anger always seemed to give him boundless confidence so naturally he had marched after her and his hand soon closed around her wrist once again, causing her whip around to face him, her own blue eyes ablaze due to the fact that he had failed to heed her prior command. He then pushed her up against one of the boulders lining the path.

"It would do you well to know, my lady, that the innkeeper was the one who kissed me." The dwarf had sneered her title yet explained suddenly and Ren opened her mouth to interject but he didn't give her time to speak. "She forced herself upon me." He told her and watched as confusion crossed her eyes upon contemplating the meaning behind his words.

Swallowing thickly, the dark haired dwarf then released her wrist and took a small step back, moving to make up his way up the path and back to the camp but he paused once again, for a shard of anger still lingered within his heart.

"And how dare you..." Thorin called back to her, his tone taking on a hint of sarcasm. He laughed then, though it was extremely bitter and showed the underlying emotions that he was so reluctant to show. "How dare you." He reiterated, his voice sharp despite that the words that were about to be spoken were not sharp in the slightest. "How dare you believe that someone else could own my heart..." He took a deep breath but found that the next words were not so hard to say and when he looked at her, they easily rolled off his tongue. "...when it so rightfully belongs to you."

He watched as she then raised a shaking hand to cover her trembling lips, her eyes once again filling with tears of overwhelming joy and disbelief though Thorin mistook them for something else.

"And now that you know that my heart is only yours for the taking, you may have it and even though you may never have me again, for your forgiveness is hard to come by and it is one of the only things I truly desire-"

"What else do you truly desire?" She spoke quietly, though her voice cut his own off like a sword slicing through air.

Thorin only stood there for a long second and he found that in that moment, he was so weak, just by being in her presence. He had not felt so weak emotionally since Frerin had passed. And in that moment of weakness, he could not help himself but to stride right back down the path so that he may stand before her and he took her face gently into his hands.

"Your own heart." He whispered to her, his fingers carefully threading into her hair so that he could pull her head towards him and rested their foreheads against one another. The aforementioned organ was pounding rapidly in her chest, threatening to burst through at any moment yet unbeknownst to her, Thorin's was the same way.

"And why would you... the King Under the Mountain, want such an item?" Galaren whispered back to him, more joyful tears streaming down her face. "Why would you want such a simple thing as a heart when you can have precious gems and fine metals?"

His thumbs gently brushed the remaining tears from her face, his blue eyes never leaning her own intense sapphire gaze. She was waiting upon his every word so it seemed. However, he soon released her face and took a small step backwards, only leaving a few inches between their chests.

"Because, Galaren, even though you do not feel the same for me I feel that I still need to tell you..." He then drew back the left side of his coat for a moment before he reached inside the inner pocket and withdrew a very familiar, yet slightly crushed, purple flower. "I love you."

He then extended the daisy to her and she carefully took it into her own fingers, her sapphire eyes shinning as she looked at it but when she glanced up, he was gone. Her mind briefly felt a little put out at his sudden disappearance, for it was not proper to tell someone that and just leave. However, she quickly pushed those thoughts away as she completely registered what he had told her.

However, little did he know that when she had hardened herself towards the lies he was telling her, she found that there was still one sentence who could break through the walls she had built to keep him out and away from her.

"Thorin." She had breathed then, her eyes frantically searching for him and when she peered around the corner, she found that he was making his way up the path to the camp.

She moved forward then, wanting to reach out and tell him the same thing. She wanted to hold him. She wanted to kiss him. She wanted to be with him. She wanted to tell him that she loved him too.

With the daisy, clutched tightly in her fingers, her booted feet easily moved across the rocky ground. Just before she was about to reached out to grab hold of his hand, however, she felt something inside her snap.

She had stood still then for a moment, her blue eyes wide until she suddenly felt the ground beneath her rushing up to meet her body. Landing hard on the ground, she did not even register the pain it caused in her, for she could feel nothing then.

As Thorin had been walking up the path, he had listened for the telltale signs of footfalls behind him and knew that after he professed his love for her, there was a strong chance that she would come after him but paused instead when he heard none. And even then, there was also a chance that he had assumed right and that she did not feel the same emotions for him but the token she had left at the inn was a sign that she held feelings for him.

If she did not, though, he would accept her wishes and not pursue her further. But, he suddenly felt as if something were amiss and he turned around then to search for her despite that was against what he wished of himself but the sight that greeted him caused his heart to seize in his chest.

"Galaren!" He had called to her before racing back down the path to where she lay upon the ground, her face hidden from view by her hair. When he reached her, he dropped to his knees immediately, not caring about the small stones that dug painfully into his flesh. "Ren!"

His hands were on her then and he carefully turned her over to find that her sapphire eyes were staring up at the sky above him. Now, she was blinking but she was not seeing. He ran his fingers along her cheek, trying to elicit a response from her but he received none and this only caused him more worry.

"OIN!" He screamed, fear shaking his voice as he did so.

The Company who sat a short distance away looked up upon hearing Thorin's desperate cry and when they caught sight of a body lying in his arms, they all stood up. The healer was immediately grabbing for his bag and ran over to his King and the she-elf, dropping down much like Thorin had.

"What's wrong?" The older dwarf had asked, his hands immediately reaching up and touching her clammy and pale forehead.

"I-I don't know." The dwarf lord told him, fear evident in his blue irises as he gazed back at the healer. "She seemed fine a few minutes ago but now..."

"She's burning up." Oin told him before throwing open his bag and searching his things. He glanced up from his herbs to find the rest of the Company with concern upon their faces as they made their way over.

Bilbo, being the smart and good hobbit that he was, also scrambled to grab Ren's satchel of medical supplies before racing over to the healer dwarf.

"She looks like Kili did when he was sick." Fili said and this caused Thorin, Oin, and Bilbo to look up, finding that the rest of the dwarves were now standing around them, concern written upon all their faces.

A shudder then wracked her spine but she did not cry out in pain.

"No, this is different." Oin told them as he frantically searched for the herbs he was looking for. "She has yet to scream like he did and she herself said that elves couldn't get sick."

"Well, what if she is sick and its just different for her?" Kili spoke up from his place, his brown eyes wide with fear. "What if she can't scream?"

Oin then paused and looked up, meeting Thorin's desperate eyes before he looked to the hobbit at his side, his eyes finally landing upon the female who continued to just blink, her lips slightly parted as she breathed.

But, Kili was right. Ren most certainly could not scream.

For it felt as though a crude and rusted knife had been stabbed right between her ribs and into her heart. And the pain had yet to cease as the white hot burning from before filled her entire body, making her feel as if she were alight with actual flames. Her heart was thudding painfully in her ears, not allowing her to hear, not like she could focus on what was going around her anyway.

It hurt far to much to think of anything but the pain.

"Check her bag for Athelas." The healer commanded the hobbit who still clutched tightly to Ren's leather satchel. Unceremoniously, he nodded his head and drew the flap back so that he could dump all the contents out onto the ground.

Should someone's life not be on the line, it would have been a rather humorous situation given the large number of items that fell from the small satchel. But no one cared about it in that moment.

"She doesn't have any." Bilbo reported, his eyes having searched frantically for the weed but found it to be missing.

"There is a small grove of trees back down the hill, go check for Kingsfoil." Thorin commanded the Company and nearly all of them began to scramble down the mountainside in search of the missing herb.

Not paying further attention to them, the dwarf lord looked back to the female who had now started to shake as if she were freezing but her skin was burning beneath his touch. He brushed a few strands of sweaty hair from her forehead, his eyes alight with huge amounts of fear and worry.

"There isn't any Athelas here!" Nori cried as he swept his eyes over the clearing and the surrounding trees that the Company was currently searching, all of the desperately trying to find the blasted weed.

"We need to find some!" Kili yelled back to him as he checked around a few trees for the missing plant but only ended up empty handed. In his haste to help Ren, he had threw his crutch to the side, not caring about his own pain in his leg. "Ren's life depends on it!"

"Spare your breath, lad!" Dwalin called back as he too searched for the elusive herb. "Yapping about it isn't going to help us find it faster!"

For another few moments, all the dwarves and even Axtron, were turning up every log and boulder in hopes of finding the Kingsfoil weed. However, they came up with little given that the ground was still lacking foliage, save for the trees who had somehow managed to thrive.

However, Kili was just about to reach for another curious patch of red flowers when a hand suddenly held a bundle of white flowers in his line of sight.

"Is this what you're looking for?" Upon hearing the soft and melodic voice from his dreams, he looked up, his brown eyes huge and he felt awe and relief wash through him at the mere sight that stood before him yet he didn't question her presence.

They might just be able to save Ren after all.

Ren only wanted to cry. She wanted to scream out in pain. She wanted to pull her hair out. Anything beside lay there upon the ground with poison flowing steadily through her veins and slowly wrapping its cold fingers around her heart.

There was nothing but pain in her own world now.

She could not hear. She could not taste. She could not feel or see anything but a black numbness.

However, she decided then that that would change. Should she really die right then and there, she would not die seeing blackness. She would not die feeling nothing but pain.

And so she focused. She forcefully pushed the pain away with all the strength she had left within her. When she did this, her senses began to rush back to her.

She could feel sharp stones digging into the flesh of her back. She could hear distant and muddled voices but she nonetheless heard them. However, a sense of comfort washed over her when she felt warm, familiar hands upon her face.

She knew that he was there. She could feel him. She could smell him beside her. And she wanted nothing more than to see him again.

She wanted to see his dark mane of hair and the scruff upon his jaw. She wanted to see his sharp nose and his soft lips. But more than anything, she just wanted to see his crystal clear blue eyes again.

Ren then strained once again and let her mind fall further into her body and slowly, the light came to her.

There was no longer only darkness but there was color. It was hard to discern the shapes at first but when things finally cleared, she was finally rewarded with the one thing she desired most in that moment.

She stared up into those soulful blue irises that she had so desperately wanted to see one last time. And she saw his dark hair and scruff. And his nose and lips. She saw him and only him.

But he suddenly looked so sad and immensely desperate, as if his entire world was about to ripped away from him.

And then there was a faint and lingering though in the back of her mind, trying to remind her that she had something to do. Something immensely important.

I need to tell him I love him. She realized then and her own voice in her mind scared her, for she had been silent up until then. He gave his heart to me. Now it's my turn to give him mine.

Thorin looked up as he heard rapid footsteps approaching.

His blue eyes widened momentarily when he caught sight of the two elves approach but then he saw what they held in their hands and decided to hold his tongue. The redhead and the prince immediately dropped down at her side.

"The left shoulder." The she-elf reminded him and Legolas quickly undid her belt buckle before he nearly tore her coat off her person before tossing it away. He then quickly yanked her tunic sleeve free from her gauntlets and rolled up her sleeve so that he could see her wound.

However, he only discovered pink, raised flesh where a festering black wound should have been.

"The wound is healed..." Tauriel voiced his thoughts and he nodded absentmindedly as his brain continuously searched for an answer to the question as to why Galaren was currently lying on the ground, her skin hot as fire and damp with sweat.

And then it struck him.

"The wound may be healed but the poison never left the body." He told his companion before she nodded and began stripping the Athelas into a water skin that they had brought with them.

"What are you doing?" Thorin finally demanded after having watched them work for a few moments. He didn't care if they were in there in that moment. All he cared about was save his Galaren.

Quickly mixing it with the water, the redhead then pushed Legolas out of the way and brought the rim of the pouch to her lips so that she could pour some of the herbs and water into her mouth.

"The poison still festers within her. The wound was never fully cleansed." Tauriel told him as she then began to mutter elvish as some of the water slipped down the blonde elleth's throat. Her green eyes raised themselves to the heavens as she prayed and pleaded with the Valar to save her.

The rest of the Company had only just arrived back and Fili placed a hand upon Thorin's shoulder so that he may gaze down upon their friend.

All of them were quiet for a long while, instead listening to the redheaded elf as she chanted the elvish healing spells, they themselves having begun to pray to Mahal that they would help save their female companion.

No, their friend.

When all at once, everything grew silent.

Tauriel suddenly ceased in her rapid muttering and she stopped tilting the water skin up to the elf's pale lips. Something had stopped her. She herself did not know why but she had stopped in her incantation, her green eyes now gazing upon the female.

Her gaze momentarily diverted to Legolas who was at her side, his hand clinging desperately to Ren's. She then looked to the dwarf lord who had tears glistening in his eyes as his eyes bore down onto the face of the woman he so obviously loved.

He too was holding her other hand but intertwined between their fingers was a strange, purple flower. However, she pushed those thoughts away when the dark haired dwarf suddenly let out a sharp breath as he gently ran his fingers along the skin of the blonde elf's cheek.

Her blank sapphire irises suddenly gained a small spark back in them and she diverted her blank gaze from the sky above her directly to his own icy pools. However, he could see in her eyes that she was so weak and that she was hurting.

His fingers then stopped caressing her skin and he instead cupped her face in his large hand and turned her towards him so that she could gaze at him more easily.

"Z..." He had to blink in surprise as he heard a sound come from between her lips. And as he blinked, he felt a few tears escape and run down his cheeks. "Zâ-Zâ..." Thorin only felt his heart clench painfully as he watched her struggle so, knowing that she should be saving her strength despite that it did not appear that she would win this battle. Her brown then furrowed softly as she wet her throat. "Zâyu..."

It only took the dwarf lord a moment to register that she was trying to speak Khuzdul and his heart once again restricted painfully in his chest, so much so that he felt as though it were going to shatter.

He felt as his own shoulders began to shake as his emotions began to leak out from behind the wall he had put up.

Seemingly slightly frustrated with herself, she once again furrowed her brow and opened her mouth to speak once again, Thorin giving her his full direction as he did so.

"I... I..." She breathed as she continued to struggle with her words, finding that the darkness was pulling her down into its depths again, so much so that she was nearly drowning in it. "I... lov..." But the words eluded her and she felt herself finally be silenced as she was tugged further into the darkness fighting to claim her.

A single tear then dripped out of the corner of her eye as she turned her gaze to look up at the dwarf who she truly and wholeheartedly loved.

He saw the hazy look in her eyes then and knew that he was about to lose her and a cold hand had begun to wrap around his own heart.

"Please... Stay with me..." He whispered to her, as he continued to cradle her face in his hand while his other so desperately clutched to her hot fingers. "Please do not leave me here alone." He pleaded to her, his thumb stroking the soft flesh of her cheek. "Don't leave me to live in this world without you." He told her, more tears spilling from his blue irises. "I need you here beside me, my love."

Thorin... She thought to herself though she could not say it out loud. I love you. So, so much. The she-elf mused as she felt herself drift further into the blackness and away from the light above her. Fully and wholeheartedly.

A shuddering breath escaped his throat as he watched the glimmer of life slowly flicker out in her sapphire irises, her eyelids then slowly drifting shut and her head lolling to the side, as if she were going to sleep.

However, everyone in the Company was aware that this sleep would be an eternal one.

"No..." The dwarf lord croaked and his shoulders shook aggressively as he felt his heart clench agonizingly as he did so. "Mahal... Not my Galaren... Not my love..." He whispered as more tears ran down his cheeks into his beard, his head turning skyward for a moment as he pleaded with the heavens.

Behind him, the Company could only stand solemnly behind their King as he wept for the one who would have become their Queen.

Balin only stood beside his brother, a grim look on both their faces. For she had become a friend and companion to both of them. Bofur and Bombur couldn't help the silent tears that streamed down both their cheeks while Bifur remained close at their side, the fog his injury caused clearing for a moment so he understood what was happening. Both Dori and Nori had their arms wrapped around their younger brother as his own thin shoulders shook and he quietly cried into their chests. Gloin simply stood quietly beside Balin, Dwalin, and Oin who had taken a step back to let the elves handle the situation. The ginger dwarf was careful to keep his face blank of emotion despite that he had come to enjoy the lass's company in their time spent together. Bilbo stood with his mouth clamped tightly shut as his lips quivered with emotion that he so dearly wanted to hold back but it was all for naught as he silently cried a river of tears for the she-elf who he proudly claimed as one of his most cherished and valued friends.

Kili stood silently beside his brother, his shoulders shaking violently as he too wept though he had tried so hard to hold the tears at bay. It wasn't until he let out an audible sob that Fili had reached for his baby brother, drawing him tightly into his side as he wrapped his arms around him in a crushing embrace as he too mourned the loss of their dearest friend and mother on the quest, remorseful tears dripping down his tanned cheeks and dampening his braided mustache. Both of them sobbed into each other's hair then as they clung so desperately to one another.

And then there was Thorin who had swept his elven beauty into his arms and had crushed her body to his chest as loud and uncontrollably sobs wracked through his entire being and into his soul. He mourned the loss of the one woman who he loved so fully in his life, for in that moment, he wished that it was he who was the one lying dead on the ground and not her. She did not deserve a death such as this, let alone death at all.

His Ren could not be dead.

She would have not left him in Middle Earth alone, not when he had just given her his heart. Not when he had just told her that he loved her. Not when he had just stumbled upon the greatest treasure in Middle Earth. Not when he had just found her, the one thing that meant more to him than the Arkenstone itself.

Wow.

I have never cried so hard when writing something in my entire life.

That was actually very rough to do, I have to tell you guys. This chapter was a huge emotional whirlwind. At first, it starts off all happy and cheery and then it turns into river of tears.

Honestly though, I cried hard when I was writing this, especially when I was writing the Company's reactions. I myself let out a loud and ugly sob when I got to Kili and Fili's part.

Oh, fuck. There go my feels.

Sorry for the language but I feel that miserable right now. I'm probably beautiful right now with my puffy eyes and snot running down my face.

So yeah, just tell me what you guys thought. Follow me on tumblr. Check out my YouTube. PM me if you feel the desire to. Just hit me up really cause after this chapter, I need to have some reader love.

Thanks again for all the reviews last chapter. I hoped you guys didn't cry to hard when you read this one. Sorry for the ugly sobbing and tears that are sure to follow this chapter.

So, you know what to do, read and review.

See? I'm not even cheery enough to capitalize my damn jingle thing.

Love,

Blue

P.S. If you guys think this story is over now that Ren's dead, it isn't. They still have to take back Erebor after all. But again, reader love would be appreciated, I'm really sad after writing this chapter.

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