Chapter Ten: A Very Unexpected Party
Third Age 2941 (70 years ago...)
Legolas was enjoying lunch in Bag End, staying in Bilbo's home for the duration if his visit this year. The hobbit could never figure out how Esgal could get to his house in broad daylight without being seen by the many hobbits outside. Then again, a part of Bilbo did not want to think about it. Sometimes the elf's ability to hide in plain sight was a little more than unnerving.
The hobbit's home was well-lit and spacious, for a hobbit that is. Bilbo's family was always a little well-off and with their desire of know things they needed a lot of room for their trinkets and books. The evidence of Bilbo's almost pack-rat habit was around the two. Books, maps, antiques, and old family heirlooms were scattered around the house, organized yet somehow a little messy at the same time.
When he came to visit, Legolas would more often than not find Bilbo poring over a map, reading about far distant lands, or smoking his pipe, deep in thought. The elf knew that the hobbit had a longing for adventure, a fire in his heart and blood that made him want to go out and explore the world. He repressed it, acting like a respectable, normal, everyday hobbit, but Legolas could still see how his eyes would stray to the maps and a forlorn look would appear on his face.
The elf had half a mind to let Bilbo to travel with him, and had even asked the hobbit a few times, but the Master of Bag End always said no. The "no"s were slower to come and less certain than they had been, but were still a "no"s. But, no matter what Bilbo liked to pretend, he always liked to hear stories of Legolas's travels and adventures. His eyes would grow as large as they had when he was a child, but they held a more serious expression than they once had.
"I've been thinking..." Bilbo said as they ate, the hobbit much more than Legolas.
"Should I be worried?" the elf asked.
Bilbo glared at him. "Your wit astounds me. Any way, I've been wondering about..." He suddenly became hesitant, looking at Legolas almost nervously. "About... your past. And you. You know a lot about my family history and my life in the Shire when I was a child, but I don't know much about your childhood..."
Legolas looked down at his plate, sighing deeply. He had not even revealed his training in Dol Guldur to Glorfindel. Ciaran's death still pained him from time to time and many things had happened in the fortress the elf would rather not speak about. Glorfindel never asked about his past, seeing it made the assassin uncomfortable, and was content with whatever information the young elf decided to tell him. Legolas was not the type to tell his life story, not even to his closest friends. After all, they did not even know his birth name was Legolas.
He barely thought of himself as Legolas at times, and was almost willing to leave that name behind him completely. Then he would remember that Legolas was the name Ciaran called him and knew him by. That one thought was enough for the assassin to remember and honor his name, but not enough for him to use it. He was Esgal, and Esgal he would remain until he found the answers he did not yet seek.
"You don't have to tell me anything." Bilbo said hurriedly when he noticed his friend's expression. "It's your choice."
The elf rose a hand to halt his awkward babbling. "I think I should talk to someone, and tell all that has happened in my past." Legolas murmured. "For your safety, I will not mention names or places, and I must warn you that my story is not a happy one."
Legolas told him everything, keeping out only names and places, and using basic, general words instead. Ciaran was "Father", The Witch-King was "Lord" or "Delorcion", Dol Guldur was "the Fortress", the orcs and evil Men were "the monsters/creatures", and so on. He told of his capture and mother's death, the events after, his training, everything up until his escape and Ciaran's death. Bilbo listened with an open ear, not gasping or "ah-ing" like one would when telling a story. This was no story. This was Esgal's past, and every terrifying, happy, or sad event he told of was personal and real.
The hobbit showed great sympathy and concern for his friend, stiffening when he told of the "Delorcion's" plan to bind him with Dark Magic and crying when Ciaran died. By the end of it, Legolas felt better, glad to have finally told someone. He noticed Bilbo's lingering silence.
"I hope I have not burdened you with this, mellon-nin."
"Of course not," Bilbo said softly. He stood up, walked over to Esgal, and gave him a hug, just like he would when the hobbit was a child. Legolas was stunned by the gesture, returning it awkwardly. "I'm glad you told me." the hobbit said. "Its just... you don't remember your past before being captured? Any of it?"
"No." Legolas said softly.
"Have you tried...?" Bilbo stopped, smacking himself on the forehead. "That's a stupid question. Of course you've tried to regain your memories."
"I've had no luck." the elf admitted. "I cannot remember faces, places, names, or even if I had a stuffed bear. There is no memory, other than the attack and my Naneth's death. I can barely remember her face anymore. Her voice, personality, and name are all gone."
Bilbo's eyes clouded before he he sat up straight. His expression cleared and he smiled at Legolas. "At least you have memories of Ciaran. And you have me, Radagast, Glorfindel, and the new memories you'll forge with us." He hesitated, his ears turning red, but pressed on, determined to make his friend smile. "Like that time Mama punished me when I was small by making me wear a dress for an entire day."
It worked, and the assassin chuckled. "I will never forget that. It was just by luck that I decided to drop in for a visit that day... Pink is definitely your color, Bilbo."
The hobbit's cheeks matched his ears. "Well, I plan on never wearing pink or a dress again, thank you very much."
They shared a smile. Bilbo poked at his food before eating it quite daintily for a hobbit. Legolas followed suit and a companionable silence came over them. A knock on the door made both pause, looking at each other.
"If its a Sackville-Baggins I swear..." Bilbo muttered, rising to his feet. "I'm coming. I'm coming!"
He walked towards the door, another set of more insistent knocks sounding. Bilbo pulled the napkin out of the front of his shirt, stuffing it into his pocket. He jabbed the tip of his forefinger into the pipe he had in the pocket and cursed softly. Annoyed, he took the object out of his pocket, holding it in his hand. Bilbo opened the circular door, and his heart skipped a beat.
Standing on his doorstep, tall and cloaked in gray with a long wooden staff in one hand, was Gandalf. The hobbit stared mutely at the Wizard for a moment, thoughts scattering in a thousand different directions. Gandalf was here, on his doorstep, for the first time in years, when Esgal was sitting at his dining room table. Esgal, who specifically, most certainly, absolutely did not want to meet or see the elves or Wizards yet— Radagast and Glorfindel being the exceptions. The hobbit stared blankly at Gandalf for another minute before speaking.
"Can I help you?" Well, that was a little rude, Bilbo mentally chided himself.
"Bilbo Baggins." the Wizard said. "Don't you recognize me?"
"Uh..." Bilbo said, trying to think of a way to warn Esgal without alerting Gandalf something was up.
The Wizard took his frazzled, confused look as a "No" and spoke. "Come now, Bilbo. I'm disappointed that the son of Belladonna Took cannot take the time to remember me."
"Um." was Bilbo's intelligent response. "Er, uh, yes! Of course I remember you!" Gandalf brightened. "You're Gandalf! You make those wonderful fireworks." Bilbo could swear the Wizard drooped, from exasperation or annoyance he could not tell. I need to get him to leave, Bilbo thought. Etiquette be damned. I know Gandalf is friendly but he would tell the elves— or even worse, Saruman— about Esgal. He's not ready to face his kin yet, and from what Esgal tells me Saruman cannot be trusted any more than an orc. Gandalf cannot know about Esgal. Bilbo shifted on his feet uncomfortably as an awkward silence reigned on. "Is there something you need?"
"I'm looking for someone—" Bilbo almost had a heart attack. "—to join with me on an adventure." the Wizard said, looking at him keenly.
The hobbit chewed the end of his unlit pipe. "I'm afraid you won't find any hobbits willing to go on an adventure here. I suggest you go to Bree. Some crazy fool there will go with you... wherever it is you're going."
Gandalf pierced him with wise blue eyes, bushy eyebrows lowering down over the aged orbs. "All right then, Bilbo. I can see when I'm not wanted."
"Hm." the hobbit said vaguely. Leave. Leave. Please just leave.
The hobbit nodded firmly and shut the door, breathing outward in a sharp gust. He paused, sure he heard something from the other side, and peered through the curtains. Gandalf's bright blue eyes stared back at him and he yelped in surprise, leaping back. When he looked again, the Wizard was walking out the gate, staff tapping against the ground. Bilbo let out another breath, relieved, and turned.
"GAH!" he half-squeaked, half-shrieked.
Esgal was standing there, staring intently at the door.
"Don't sneak up on me like that," Bilbo chided. "Can't you learn how to make some noise when you move."
The elf shrugged easily, still looking at the door. "Who was that?"
Bilbo's annoyance faded, a serious look coming over his face. "Gandalf was here. I was a little unwelcoming with him and sent him on his way, don't worry."
The worried look on Esgal's face faded and he smiled at the hobbit. "Thank you, Bilbo. I appreciate that you'd let him think you're a stiff, respectable hobbit for my sake." the teasing vanished and the light blonde-haired elf frowned. "What did Gandalf need you for?"
Bilbo snorted. "He wanted me to go on some adventure with him. No thank you, I'm happy here, at bag End. I don't want an adventure."
"Are you sure?" Esgal questioned. "There is much to see in Middle-earth. There are many beautiful places to visit."
"There are also many dangers," Bilbo pointed out. "And from the sounds of it, this "adventure" wouldn't be a tourist trip. Knowing Gandalf, I'd probably end up in a Spider's nest. I'm happy with being a respectable hobbit, thank you."
The elf looked at him with a mix of amusement and knowing. "If you say so." He glanced outside with piercing violet eyes. "While Gandalf is here I will make myself scarce. I will return tonight."
With that, the elf vanished out the door, none of the hobbits noticing him as he left Bag End.
That night found the two at another meal, Bilbo just putting two cooked fish on two plates. Esgal had returned earlier that evening, prepared to leave the next morn. He would be heading straight back to Mirkwood, having been away from the darkening forest for over six months. He should return.
"Why did Gandalf have to come today?" Bilbo sighed.
"I could come back in less than a year," Esgal offered.
The hobbit shook his head. "No. You're needed in Mirkwood, to keep the shadowed trees calm. They're getting worse and more violent, you said, and they'll only listen to you."
"You are right," Esgal said, sounding tired and a little withdrawn.
His violet eyes were dark and far away, and his pale, perfectly carved features were tight with strain and something Bilbo could not decipher. Esgal could still hide his emotions like he had none, but Bilbo noticed as the years went by that the elf was willing to show his own worry and pain a little more each visit. Bilbo instantly felt bad about bringing up the darkness in his friend's home. At least this time Esgal had not put his "assassin face" on. That lack of expression terrified Bilbo at times, and the hobbit knew that the elf could see that. Maybe that was why Esgal let emotions show here that he would normally hide.
"Sorry." Bilbo apologized.
The pain vanished, covered up by the awkward, strained smile Esgal tried to use around Bilbo instead of his emotionless mask. "It is not your fault that the Shadow is growing steadily stronger." his friend said gently. He ran a hand through his long, pale blonde hair. "It is just... draining. To see my home spiraling down so slowly..." He shook his head and set his jaw. "No. I will not speak of my troubles here and ruin the last part of my visit. So tell me, Bilbo. Have the Sackville-Bagginses still been bothering you?"
Bilbo nodded, a scowl appearing on his face. "They're lunatics, the lot of them! They want Bag End, you know, so they can sell all of the antiques and heirlooms inside. I do not dare think about what would happen if I somehow gained a small fortune—" A knock sounded on the door. "Valar curse it! Another visitor?"
Esgal looked at the door, a knowing smile on his face. "Go on and answer it."
Was Bilbo imagining things, or did the assassin sound amused?
Pushing his friend's odd mood to the back of his mind, the hobbit walked up to the door for the second time that day. He twisted the knob, opening it... and gaped. A dwarf was standing on his doorstep. He had dark hair and a bushy beard, an earring in each ear. He wore his weapons openly, and had the feel of a warrior, almost like Esgal. Well, not quite like Esgal, who was mush more alert and ready to fight even when half asleep, but almost the same. Bilbo could see the dwarf's eyes roaming around as he looked for danger, one hand on his weapon.
Even though the dwarf was not much taller than Bilbo, he seemed to loom over the hobbit. He seemed like the type of person to get in a bar fight against ten others when extremely drunk... and win. The dwarf's eyes landed on the hobbit, piercing and scrutinizing him. Bilbo swallowed nervously, but was more annoyed and confused than intimidated.
"Dwalin, at your service." the dwarf said.
"Uh." Bilbo said dumbly. "Bilbo Baggins... at yours. D-Do we know each other?"
"No." the dwarf growled and pushed past the hobbit, walking into the house. He looked around the house. "Which way laddie? Is it down here?"
"Is what down where?" Bilbo asked.
He glanced at the kitchen to see that Esgal had vanished. Before he had time to wonder where the elf had gone, Dwalin threw his cloak at the hobbit. Bilbo caught it, a befuddled expression on his face. The dwarf grinned at him, heading towards the kitchen.
"Supper. He said there'd be food. Lots of it."
"He-He said?" Bilbo spluttered. "Who said?"
Dwalin did not answer, instead sitting down and eating Bilbo's fish. As a person who did not know Bilbo, he did not think that the second fish and plate was odd, eating that too. Bilbo watched with a mix of shock, disgust, and anger as the dwarf devoured his and Esgal's meal. The hobbit's eyes flicked around the room and paused on a closet that's door was the smallest bit ajar. Bilbo backed away from the dwarf, standing outside the closet. Dwalin was too busy eating to notice.
"What are you doing?" Bilbo hissed softly.
Esgal's voice drifted out from the closet, tinged with amusement. "Observing. There's another dwarf coming, plus some more on their way. They're causing quite a stir— your neighbors are noticing them. They're not exactly quiet. The next one should knock right about... now."
There was a pounding on the door. Muttering a curse, Bilbo hurried to the door, opening it to reveal a second dwarf. This one had white hair and a bushy white beard.
"Balin, at your service," the white-haired dwarf said with a bow.
"...Good evening." Bilbo said weakly.
"Yes, yes it is." Balin said with a smile. He walked into the house. Did these dwarves know the meaning of the words "private property" or "home invasion"? "Am I late?"
"For what?" Bilbo asked, dread rising within him.
Balin did not answer, catching sight of Dwalin and greeting him happily. The two smiled, grasping each other's arms... before headbutting each other. They laughed and chattered, ignoring Bilbo as he tried to get their attention.
"I'm not entirely sure you're in the right house..." the hobbit said.
There was a knock on the door. Resisting the urge to groan, Bilbo reluctantly pulled it open, revealing two more dwarves. One was blonde, the other brown-haired, and both had near-identical grins on their faces.
"Fili." the blonde one said.
"And Kili." the brown-haired one said.
"At your service." they chorused.
Bilbo greeted them wearily, thinking, How many more are there?
Within a few minutes, twelve dwarves were in Bilbo's kitchen, along with Gandalf. Bilbo was rushing around the house, trying his best to keep the dwarves from ruining it. Chairs were moved, maps pushed off tables, and his pantry was raided. The hobbit could only watch, astounded, as the fat dwarf— Bombur might have been his name— wandered out of the pantry with four blocks of cheese in his arms.
"Put that back! Put that back! Don't touch that! That's an antique! That's a book not a coaster! Put that map down!" he shouted, running around and flailing like a chicken with its head cut off.
Yet while this was all going on, he carefully kept the dwarves away from the closet where Esgal was hiding. "No. Don't go in there. Off limits." he would say firmly whenever a dwarf approached the closet. It was hard to keep track of them all. There's so many of them! And they're obviously not leaving. Why did Gandalf tell them to come here of all places? The hobbit silently whined. Bilbo did not need to look to know the assassin in the closet was laughing at him, watching the scene with utter amusement.
The Grey Wizard pointedly ignored Bilbo's glare, counting the dwarves around him. "Fili, Kili. Oin, Gloin. Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur. Dori, Nori, Ori... We appear to be one dwarf short."
"He is late is all. He met with our kin to the north," Dwalin said. "He will come."
As the twelve dwarves began a food fight in the kitchen, the hobbit whose house they had invaded crept away, to a closet close to the other room. "Esgal?" he whispered. "Can you leave now?"
"One more is coming." the hidden elf replied softly. "Once he arrives, I will depart."
Bilbo scowled. He could hear the amusement in Esgal's tone. "You may find this very funny—"
There was three solid knocks on the door. The dwarves quieted, all looking out into the hall. Gandalf smoked his pipe, smiling slightly.
"He is here."
The Wizard opened the door, revealing a serious-looking, majestic dwarf standing on Bilbo's doorstep.
"Gandalf," he greeted, entering Bag End. "I thought you said this place would be easy to find. I wouldn't have found it at all if not for that mark on the door."
Bilbo's eye twitched and he glared at Gandalf fiercely. The Istar almost winced. If he did not know any better, Mithrandir would have sworn that the hobbit had been taught to glare by an elf.
"Bilbo Baggins, allow me to introduce the leader of our company. Thorin Oakenshield."
Bilbo had heard of the King Under the Mountain from Esgal. He knew what Thorin and his people had gone through, and how much the King had sacrificed and done for them. So when he spoke, he bowed low and his voice was tinged with obvious respect. "It is an honor to meet you." he said sincerely.
A couple of the dwarves exchanged confused or stunned glances. Gandalf looked slightly taken aback and Thorin's eyes brightened with surprise. Bilbo took the moment they were all musing and stunned by what he said to glance over his shoulder. The closet door was closed, a leaf stuck to the handle. Bilbo knew what that meant. Esgal was gone. The hobbit prepared himself to face this new guest, waiting with a patience taught to him by Esgal that few possessed. They would tell him why they were here. Eventually.
And, after hours of ignorance and bewilderment on Bilbo's part, they did.
The next morning, Esgal watched the dwarves and Gandalf leave. He waited until they were down the path before entering Bag End. Bilbo was sitting at the empty table, dark shades under his eyes. In his hands was gripped a document. Esgal scanned it quickly, getting the main idea of what it was. His eyes, like Bilbo's rested on the empty space next to "Burgular".
"Well?" he said softly, ignoring Bilbo's start of surprise. "What are you going to do?"
"This is not my fight." the hobbit said softly. "I am not a warrior or soldier. I've never been out of the Shire. Why would Gandalf come to me, and ask me to join in on this mad journey?"
"The dwarves are trying to regain their home." Esgal said wisely. "Is it madness to attempt to reclaim the great city they lost?"
"No. Not madness." Bilbo admitted. "Desperation. Determination. Bravery. Foolishness. I do not know which. But why would Gandalf come to me?"
Esgal knelt next to his friend, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Because he saw something special in you, Bilbo Baggins. You are an extraordinary hobbit. Despite your claims, you do wish to go on an adventure. You do not want to stay in Bag End for the rest of your life, or be a boring, respectable hobbit. This is your chance, if you wish to take it. The journey will not be easy, but it just might be worth it."
The hobbit looked at him with wide eyes before going deep into thought. He picked up the contract, lips moving silently as he read it over again. He paused, placing his head in his hands. Legolas let him think, waiting patiently. Five minutes passed before Bilbo moved. His head rose from his hands and his eyes were bright. Legolas smiled. The hobbit had made his decision.
"Go on," the elf said, not needing his friend to speak to know what he had chosen. "And if you pass through Mirkwood, I will be there. Go reclaim a kingdom."
Bilbo grinned, an almost childish look crossing his face as his excitement shone through. He gathered up a few belongings and ran out of Bag End like a madman. The contract trailed behind him like a banner.
"I'm going on an adventure!" he shouted, and laughed as he ran.
Delorcion: My created version of "Bastard"
Mellon-nin: My friend
A/N: This chapter was SO much fun to write! :D There are some lines from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in here. I don't own them.
Thanks for all of the epic reviews! Have I ever mentioned how much I love you all? :D
Responses to Guest reviews:
To "DT": Thank you! Legolas will reveal himself to them in a few chapters. I won't say when. ;)
To "Issy": Thanks! There is a great significance that things happened differently in reality compared to Elrond's vision... You'll have to read on to see what I mean.
To "lyria": Thanks!
To "KP": Thank you! I plan on completing this story, don't worry.
To "Fishina": Thank you! Yes, he can glow if he wants to.
To "Joe": Thanks!
To "Fletcher": Thank you! Everyone needs friends. :)
IMPORTANT NOTE: It might be a few weeks before I update again. I do not know when I will next have internet access I can update from. Don't worry if I don't update for a few weeks. I will update as soon as I can.