Translation of Elvish: Noro lim - run fast (ride fast), Mellonen - my friend.


Chapter 12 - Waiting

Now (3021 T.A.)

Whenever someone asked Thorin later, he couldn't recall how he had returned to the camp. One moment he was on his knees by Bilbo's side, the next he was stumbling almost blindly into the camp. The Company were laughing at something Balin said, and it was Ecthelion who commented, loudly, "Well, it looks like an early start is out of the question, Master Dwarf. Clearly Thorin has exhausted our dearest hobbit to such an extent he now has to carry him." Balin and both elves chuckled, Ori put a comforting hand on Frodo's shoulder and his nephews...

"What happened?" It was Kli who first noticed that something was wrong, and it was Kli who rushed over to Thorin's side. "Bilbo?" And then he saw the crusted blood on Bilbo's temple. "No...what...what happened? Uncle?"

"I need to lay him down. Out of my way..." Thorin rasped, and Kli all but ran towards the tent Bilbo had shared with the dwarven king to open the tent flaps. "He needs rest...he simply needs to rest." You wish it were so, don't you? You would lay down your life to make him open his eyes. And as he lowered his precious burden onto the bedroll, the bedroll they had shared throughout their journey, where only last night they had shared... Thorin blinked, furious at himself. He would not break down! He had to be strong, for Bilbo.

"Thorin...what happened?" That was Balin, Frodo standing beside him. "Did he..."

"How could you all just let him run off on his own?! You know how treacherous the mountains can be! How could you, Balin?!" Thorin was shouting the last, but Balin didn't back down, didn't look away. Instead he knelt down next to his king and put his arm around Thorin's shoulders. "He won't wake... Why won't he wake?" Thorin whispered. "I...I found him. He had tripped over a root and... He fell and his head..." he swallowed and reached out to gently stroke Bilbo's face, "He hit a rock."

Suddenly Frodo was there as well, wrapping his arms around the king, holding on tightly. "He will be fine. He has to be fine!"

It was hard for Thorin to rouse himself. But as long as he was busying himself, he wouldn't have to face the possibility of... No! Don't even think of that. He will be fine. "Stay with him," he told Frodo and then pushed Balin out of the tent. "Fli, Kli. Ride ahead and fetch in. Tell them to send a waggon..." Fli was already readying his pony, but Kli simply stood next to the tent and didn't move. "Do it now!"

"No," Kli whispered.

"What? Kli this is not the time to argue with me..." Thorin was getting dangerously close to losing his temper.

"No, I will not leave him, Thorin. I won't go." And before Thorin could say another word, Kli ducked into the tent.

"I...I can go with Fli," Ori volunteered. "I can arrange for the waggon to be sent back as a matter of urgency and... I can go." Thorin knew that everyone was looking at him to see how he would react. Fli especially seemed beyond worried. Not surprising considering Kli's actions. But Thorin simply nodded. "We will be as fast as we can possibly be, my King..."

Fli had finished his preparations by then and was now walking over to his uncle. "Ori is right, Thorin. We will return with aid before you even know it." And then he pulled the older dwarf into a hug. "I don't know what's gotten into Kli, but don't be too hard on him. I think he's doing a great job of that himself already." Thorin didn't reply, but wrapped his arms around his nephew and held him tightly. "He will be fine. Bilbo will be fine. He's fought wargs and orcs and massive spiders. He's played at riddles with a dragon, Uncle. He will be fine." Then Fli pulled back and motioned for Ori to hurry.

The two elves who so far had been standing aside, talking amongst themselves, were now approaching Thorin. "Allow me to take a look at Master Baggins," Glorfindel said. "I might not be a healer like Lord Elrond, but I may be able to do...something."

Thorin nodded towards the tent, but as Glorfindel started towards it, the dwarf reached for the elf's wrist and held it in a viselike grip. "Don't hurt him. Whatever you do, don't hurt him."

The Elda smiled and nodded, "You have my word, Master Oakenshield." Then he entered the tent and Thorin was left to stand just inside the entrance. "He is out cold, but his breathing is even. If there is a fracture, it is not..." He trailed off, but Thorin knew what Glorfindel had been about to say. Fatal, it wasn't fatal. "He also seems to have broken his ankle, and this I can do something about. But..." he turned towards Ecthelion, who was standing next to Thorin. "You have to return to Tirion and get my Lord Elrond. He will know what to do if Bilbo does not wake within a few days." With a worried look at the hobbit on the bedroll he added, "Noro lim, mellonen, noro lim." Thorin didn't know what it meant, but Ecthelion simply nodded, bowed to the dwarf king and quickly readied his horse. Within minutes he was gone, as were Fli and Ori.

A few hours later Thorin was sitting on a log near the rekindled fire, staring into the flames. He would not think of what might happen, could not think of it. He would be strong, if not for himself, then for Bilbo and the remainder of his Company. Bilbo... He had felt so small and vulnerable in his arms, light as a feather...almost unreal. Surely the Valar couldn't be this cruel...to return Bilbo to him, the missing part of his soul, only to rip the hobbit away from him again after only a few weeks. His eyes were stinging again, and once more he blinked away the unshed tears angrily. Bilbo would be fine and there was no reason for tears.

"Uncle?" Kli hadn't spoken since he had all but defied Thorin. He hadn't left Bilbo's side...until now. Fear closed around Thorin's heart like an icy hand, squeezing tightly. Bilbo... "This is my fault. If I had thought to bring more herbs, Bilbo wouldn't have gone off. He wouldn't..." His nephew's voice was breaking, and there were tears in those dark brown eyes. "I should have followed him, to make sure he was safe... It's my fault..."

That was ludicrous. How could Kli even think such a thing?! "Sit with me." The young dwarf complied but would not catch Thorin's eye. "This isn't your fault, Kli. Bilbo went in search for those herbs because he saw them yesterday, not because you didn't think to bring any. You did well preparing this journey...and I am proud of you." Thorin reached out to touch the younger dwarf, but Kli flinched away. "And Bilbo is proud of you. If he could see you now..."

"He...he can't leave us. He can't go..." And with that, Kli broke down. This time he didn't move away as Thorin wrapped his arms around him but buried his face in his uncle's furs. "I love him, Uncle. I love how happy he makes you... He can't leave..." And Thorin could only agree. Please Aul, don't let him leave me and go where I can't follow.

---

In the days that followed, it was Balin that took over the lead of their little group, running the day to day duties of keeping the camp as efficient as possible. He was aided almost exclusively by the Lord of the Golden Flower who, after checking on Bilbo every morning, would see to everyone getting fed, even if it meant almost forcing food down both Thorin's and Kli's throats. Especially the youngest dwarf amongst them had been hit extremely hard by Bilbo's continuing unconsciousness, but Thorin fared hardly any better.

After the initial outburst, their king had withdrawn himself from almost anyone, sitting by the fire most of the day and staring at something only he could see. When someone would approach him, the pain in Thorin's eyes was gutting; clearly he expected news of...the worst kind. And no matter how often Glorfindel assured them all that Bilbo was in a stable condition, that he would wake when his body had healed, it was clear that Thorin was losing hope fast.

Surprisingly, Frodo didn't despair. He had conviction and believed in the healing powers the elves possessed. He himself had been saved by Lord Elrond once, after having been unconscious for days as well. "Bilbo always had a thick skull, he has to have considering all the times he butted heads with Lobelia." But despite his words, the young hobbit's worry was palpable and there was nothing Balin could do to ease his pain. Words were inadequate, or so Balin thought.

Three days after Bilbo's accident, evening found Frodo, Glorfindel and Balin around the fire. Kli was with Bilbo as always, nothing and no one seemed to be able to tear him from the hobbit's side, and Thorin had wandered off...probably to where he had found Bilbo. Balin had tried to reason with his king, had tried to make Thorin see that he was grieving the loss of something that hadn't been taken from him, that Bilbo was very much alive still, albeit unconscious. But to no avail. Thorin hadn't shouted, hadn't said anything. He had only glanced at Balin, his eyes doing all the talking for him. And Balin began to fear for the king. Before Bilbo's arrival, Thorin had merely existed, but with the hobbit by his side, the dwarf king had been given a new lease of life, and now... What would happen if Bilbo never woke...or worse...

Glorfindel was once again assuring Frodo that his uncle would be fine, that he had seen such prolonged times of unconsciousness before after someone suffered a head injury. "He will wake. His ankle is healing remarkably well, his breathing is even and regular and his heartbeat is strong...stronger than I would have expected in someone so small. He is a fighter, always was. Besides, we are in Valinor. Things are a bit different here than in Arda." And while the elf lord wouldn't elaborate, his words clearly gave Frodo much comfort. Glorfindel's gaze fell on Balin then. "How is he doing, Lord Balin?" The old dwarf only shook his head. "I wish I could reassure him somehow. But I suspect he believes me to simply wish to ease his pain... And maybe I would be the same. If it were Erestor in that tent..."

"I worry about him, and Kli. Neither of them has slept for more than a few hours since it happened, and..." Frodo looked up at Balin, pleadingly. "Is there nothing we can do? Kli is blaming himself for what happened to Bilbo, and no matter what Thorin or I tell him, he just won't believe us. I know how headstrong Bilbo can be, he would have gone to get those herbs even if Kli had brought the entire cottage kitchen with us." The young hobbit sighed. "But Kli won't listen to me. He was entrusted with organising our journey, and he thinks he's failed us all. And he loves Bilbo...I never knew how much my uncle meant to the Company... The thought of being responsible for Bilbo getting hurt..."

"It was already telling that he let Fli go on without him. They were never apart for more than a few hours, if that. And now..." Balin gazed at the fire, the flames flickering merely, not caring for the worries of dwarves, hobbits or elves. "Master Baggins was...he was the heart of our Company, Frodo. Especially after he'd saved Thorin's life. None of us could believe that this small creature was willing to face down the pale orc, to put himself between certain death and Thorin... But he did. And we all saw him in a different light after it. But Thorin...the change in him was palpable, it was as if some of the weight on his shoulders had been lifted and he allowed himself one of the simplest of pleasures. He allowed himself to love and be loved in turn. Allowed himself to be happy. Which in turn made Bilbo part of their family in the eyes of Fli and Kli. Kli had been seeking out my brother's advice until then for...pretty much anything. But after...it was Bilbo he turned to." And now the young dwarf couldn't do so. Seeing those sad brown eyes had nearly broken Balin's heart.

"I do not believe anything we say or do will change how young Kli feels, and what he thinks of himself. I think there is only one person who can bring him back to us, who can ease Kli's suffering. And unfortunately he is unconscious at present." Glorfindel smiled sadly. "I do not doubt that I would have been the same...had I survived the fall of Gondolin. I should have been there by Ecthelion's side when he faced down Gothmog. And it does not matter that I was exactly where I was needed, I still blamed myself. 'Thel...he was livid when he figured it out. I think he even scared Nmo lashing out at me as he did. But no one else could have done it."

"So there is nothing we can do?" Frodo asked the blond elf, who smiled ruefully before shaking his head.

"All we can do is wait, Master Frodo. For Bilbo to wake...for Lord Elrond to arrive..." he sighed and added in a whisper, "At least we are not waiting for the thing both Thorin and Kli seem to be expecting. Yavanna and Aul...they would not take Bilbo away from Thorin like this. The Valar are not cruel in that way. However, I feel that this was meant to happen, that it somehow is part of their plan..."

"And how, Master Elf, could this possibly be part of anyone's grand plan?" Thorin had returned to the camp unbeknownst to the three companions and was now glaring daggers at the Elda. "Why would anyone want to hurt Bilbo for some stupid plan?! Tell me this, Lord of the Golden Flower, if it was your lover in that tent, would you suffer anyone saying such a thing? Would you let them keep their tongue?" Glorfindel had risen to his feet, but despite the difference in height, it still seemed as if Thorin was towering over the elf. "Explain to me, oh wise Elda, what I have done to displease the Valar so much that they will not let me have at least this happiness? If we are destined as Bilbo believes, then why do they continuously tear us apart? Why did they allow for the gold-lust to cloud my better judgement, why did they allow the Arkenstone to seem more important than the hobbit I loved? Why?!"

By the end, Thorin's hand was resting on the hilt of Orcrist and he was standing dangerously close to Glorfindel. But the elf only reached out to touch Thorin's shoulder. "I do not know, my friend. What I do know though is this. There are but a few in E who would have borne this as you and Master Baggins have. You have faced such hardships together, and apart, and still you held on to the love you share. You are stronger than many of my kin, those whose passions swept them away and drowned them. Your feelings...they give you strength. I saw it, more than my Lord Elrond did, in those years Bilbo lived amongst us. It was not only the One Ring that kept him alive through all these lonely years, Master Oakenshield. It was his love for you." And then he added with a warm smile, "And it is that love that will keep him alive now as well."

Thorin turned to look at the tent. "I hope you are right...I hope you are right." The previous anger had been washed away by sorrow more profound than it had ever been. Balin had seen Thorin like this before, longing with all his heart for their burglar. But back then, Bilbo had been beyond reach, living out his days in Arda. Now though he was near, just a few meters away, but just as far as he had ever been.

And as Thorin slumped down on the log next to Balin, the older dwarf's arm went around his king's shoulder almost of its own volition. "Listen to Lord Glorfindel, laddie. Bilbo will be good as new soon, and he will be less than amused to find that you've been fretting so much." And if Balin remembered the hobbit correctly, Bilbo would be that, and more. "He didn't leave you when you told him he wasn't part of the Company, when you all but told him to just go back home. Why would he leave you now? I don't believe Master Baggins is a fool, Thorin, and it would be beyond foolish of him to depart now." Please, Aul, help them through this. And bring Bilbo back to us all...

---

Inside the tent, Kli was sitting by Bilbo's side, the hobbit's hand clutched in his own. This was his fault, and it didn't matter that everyone thought he was being an idiot for thinking so. He should have brought more herbs, he knew after all how much hobbits loved their herbs. And he should have insisted on accompanying the hobbit. No matter how ill at ease he had been around Bilbo that morning after hearing... And now he wished he could hear his uncle and Bilbo in the throes of passion once more. He would give everything to be able to stumble into a clearing to find them in each other's arms...to see Bilbo lower his eyes in embarrassment at having been caught. But those eyes wouldn't open, and as Kli pressed a kiss to Bilbo's knuckles, more tears started to fall from the dwarf's eyes.