Notes: Don't pay too much attention to what Thorin's nephews tell him about the Choice. The truth is being revealed when they talk amongst themselves.

One established pairing is being alluded to here, though I don't think I will ever write anything explicit about them. It's one of my all time favourites, so obviously it had to be put into the story: Glorfindel / Erestor. And then we obviously have Galadriel / Celeborn and Celebrían / Elrond.

And lastly, when Frodo speaks of the two High Kings (of the Ñoldor), he's referring to Turgon and Gil-galad as they are the two he's likely to have heard of from both Glorfindel and Elrond.

Chapter 2 - White Shores

Then (2941 T.A.)

Thorin awoke to the beaming faces of his nephews. Hang on...they were dead, and he was pretty sure that he wasn't among the living any more either. The last thing he remembered was Bilbo's face, those beautiful grey eyes filled with pain... Pain at his passing. Pain that they wouldn't have the future Thorin had promised him. Pain that even the few months they could have had... "Welcome to fair Valinor, Uncle," Kíli beamed. "It would seem the elves have it wrong after all and they don't own this place." His grin widened if that was even possible, "And I have it on very good authority that there are even a few hobbits around..."

Thorin pushed himself up, "What in Durin's name is going on?" Surely no self-respecting dwarf would ever end up in Valinor...with those pointy-eared, better-than-thou-art elves! The very people who had betrayed his grandfather and father, who had imprisoned him... Alright, maybe he had been trespassing, but Thranduil knew him! Personally! And still threw him into the cells. So maybe Thorin shouldn't have called the Elf-king every name under the sun but... But still, elves?! Why couldn't he be really dead? Like everyone had always said it would happen? Why was he here amongst...

"Well, apparently Durin's Folk have a choice to make when they die," Fíli explained. "We can either go and spend the rest of our days in the Halls of Aulë, or we can dwell here with some of our kin. Don't worry, Uncle, we kind of...made the choice for you..." At least he had the grace to look a bit guilty. "And there's a catch..." Fíli bit his lower lip and looked pleadingly at his younger brother. But Kíli was apparently really busy checking his fingernails, and his coat, and then his boots. Fíli sighed. "Well, as Valinor was made for the elves originally, us dwarves sort of, you know, have to get over our dislike of the Firstborn." Firstborn?! Everyone knew that the dwarves had been around first and had been put to sleep again because Ilúvatar wanted his precious elves to be...the Firstborn race. "We are given a lifetime to come to terms with the elves, and if we can't or won't, we are going to the Halls. The Halls looked like a boring place by the way...judging by what we were shown."

"And if you go to the Halls, Uncle, you will never get to see...certain people again..." Kíli grinned once more, and if Thorin wasn't mistaken, he was this close to actually bouncing. And for a moment, Thorin almost shared his nephew's smile. He might see Bilbo again, might be able to undo all the hurt he had caused because he had to follow in his grandfather's footsteps and got a bit fixated on the treasures of Erebor. He might get the chance to finally be the best dwarf he could possibly be and to show his hobbit just how much he really meant to Thorin. And if he had to swallow down his anger and hatred for the elves as a whole race...Bilbo Baggins was worth it.

However, certain people would also mean... "Your mother is going to kill me!" The two brothers looked at each other, shrugged, and reassured Thorin that Mother couldn't possibly kill Thorin in Valinor, she might rant and rave and scream and shout and even thump him a bit, but there would definitely be no killing. "You died defending me, what were you thinking?!" Thorin knew they had only done what was right and proper, but still. The prospect of his dearest sister... He sighed and dropped back down onto the soft pillow wishing, and not for the last time, that he was really dead and gone and not in this elf-infested place where his sister would eventually show up to give him a few choice words...


"I'd say that went better than expected...At least he didn't throw anything at us.." Fíli grinned at his brother who just shrugged. "I mean, Aulë was right; if he had asked Thorin to make the choice..." Their uncle would probably have chosen the Halls. Just because. And before even being informed about the hobbits and dwarves who roamed Valinor along the elves. Fíli sort of understood Thorin's anger, no, make that rage, where the pointy-ears were concerned, but really...he took it a bit too far.

"Ecthelion will be happy...someone new he can annoy with his tales of balrogs and fountains," Kíli snickered. They had met the Lord of the Fountain straight after their little chat with Aulë and had immediately realised that not all elves were stuck up tree-huggers like their uncle had made them believe. "Thorin will be so very happy... Do you think 'Thel will do it though? You know, speak to his friends about..."

"Well he offered. He said life had been so boring with only a few dwarves and hobbits around, so anything that might make the Halls, you know, less appealing... I think he's a bit sick of having only elves for company... We just have to ensure that Thorin doesn't run into Thingol or there'll be murder..." Yes, the former ruler of Doriath did not take kindly to dwarves...or anything shorter than elves really...and Ecthelion had suggested they stay clear of the blonde. Not that that was a problem whatsoever, for Valinor was almost as large a continent as Middle-earth, so it was easy for the hoity-toity elf and all of his friends to be as far away from the dwarf settlements as possible. Especially if the brothers' plan was going to work out. The plan they'd hatched when first speaking to Aulë...

The brothers had died within seconds of each other and had woken at the same time. They knew they were...well...not dead any more, but that they had died. They were together though, so whatever could possibly happen, they would be able to face it as a team. And what happened was Aulë. The Vala had appeared in dwarf form, only somewhat taller than your average, or not so average, dwarf. And he had informed them that they could either stay in the Halls or dwell in Valinor proper. The visions of the Halls he made then appear in front of them say the least. Durin himself was there, apparently still pondering the whole Balrog incident and unwilling to admit that he might have mucked up somewhere along the way. And with him were almost all the dwarf lords of old, apparently unwilling to go anywhere that wasn't 'dwarf only territory'. For some reason neither their grandfather nor great-grandfather were there.

No, they were in the visions of Valinor, discussing things with...were those really elves?! Their uncle had apparently exaggerated the whole dislike between Erebor and their elven neighbours a bit. Yes, like there's a little bit of water in the ocean. So Thrór and Thráin were both there... And that was when Fíli asked, "So if we go to Valinor, can we have a new Kingdom under the Mountain?" And Aulë just laughed and nodded. A Vala...laughing... Astounding didn't quite cut it.

"There is a slight catch though. If you do decide on dwelling in Valinor, you will have to get along with all of its inhabitants. Including the elves." He emphasized that last bit, and gazed at them intently. "And while I do not believe this will be any problem for the two of you, there are dwarves who will join us here soon who might be...less agreeable." There was no question in the brothers' minds as to who Aulë was referring to. So they had failed protecting Thorin... "Having said that, some of my kind have plans and for those to work, certain dwarves need to be in Valinor. So I think it might be best if the two of you were to...explain about the Choice. And feel free to...improvise..." The Vala surely wasn't suggesting... "Those dwarves need to be here, or else I will never hear the end of it..." Hang on; Aulë was actually scared of someone? Only two of the other Valar could possibly fit that bill, Manwë himself, and his wife, Varda.

The two young dwarves looked at each other, shrugged and bowed, "At your service." And Fíli added, "We'll make sure they make the right choice." Aulë had beamed at them like a proud father and then showed them the way out of the dusty Halls. Outside they were greeted by an Elvish company...a welcoming committee of sorts it would seem. They were lead by a tall...well, all elves were tall but...dark-haired male, dressed in blue robes, the image of a fountain emblazoned on his chest.

When he saw the two dwarves...Aulë had meanwhile disappeared...he placed his hand over his heart and gave them a slight bow. "Welcome to Valinor, Fíli and Kíli of Erebor. My name is Ecthelion, Lord of the Fountain and I will be your guide this fine day." He all but shooed his companions away and beckoned the dwarves to follow him. They heard him mumble something under his breath and first thought it might be Elvish but then they caught bits of it like "...stupid Turgon.." and "...was most definitely not my fault..." and so on. At least he made no comment about them being of Durin's race. Elves could be just as snobbish as their uncle seemed to be. Ecthelion suddenly stopped in his tracks and Fíli had to grab Kíli by the neck or he would have bumped into the elf.

"Right... So first of all let us drop those wretched formalities... Call me ‘Thel. And secondly, you two look as if you like a prank or two...and there is this thing I am planing and I might need some help with it..." And within all of thirty minutes the two young dwarves had not only made a friend and ally, but also found a fellow prankster and co-conspirator. Thorin...and indeed all the inhabitants of Valinor...wouldn't know what hit them. And ‘Thel had promised to help them with their little New Erebor project. He'd found out where Thrór and Thráin had made a home and with the two quickly on board as well, the first phase of the plan was put into action...recruitment.

"So, how did it go?" Ecthelion had wandered into the little cottage the two brothers, and now their uncle, called least for the time being, a bundle of scrolls under his left arm and a basket with something that smelled simply delicious in his right. "Did he buy it?" Kíli made shushing sounds while Fíli pushed the elf out of the door.

"You know, he might be headstrong and all that good stuff, but he can hear! And believe me, I am not going to explain him just yet. We did what we had to and that's the end of it." Fíli glared at the elf. "We failed saving him, we'll be damned if we fail him again...and Aulë for that matter. Don't want to know what an angry Vala looks like if that's alright with you." Ecthelion just nodded and handed the basket to Kíli, who almost immediately sauntered off with it in the direction of the kitchen. The elf then held out the scrolls like a peace offering.

"Blueprints... Thrór and Thráin stuck their heads together for two days and came up with this. It is just a start obviously, but..." Fíli unrolled one of the scrolls and gasped. These were magnificent. Similar enough to Erebor to remind them of their home, but different as well so it could really be a fresh start. "And I do apologise. I...I know that he must not know the truth, at least not yet. Maybe once that hobbit of his is here?" He sighed. "I really wish we could find out what is going on back there... I do miss 'Fin... And I would love to know what the Valar are plotting this time. Last I checked, their plans were always, know..." He suddenly looked up at the blue sky as if he was expecting to be struck down by lightning. "Well, they let ‘Fin and me die and then sent him back instead of me. Not very smart if you ask me..." The blond dwarf just shook his head and went back to the scroll in his hand. They might have only known Ecthelion for a short while, but they had heard about the whole dying and rebirth business a few times already and knew exactly what ‘Thel thought of it all.

The elf and Fíli were still perusing the blueprints when the door of the cottage burst open a few minutes later. "Oh, you're finally up," Fíli grinned. "Uncle, please meet Lord Ecthelion of the Fountain. He'll be staying for dinner." And if it had been possible to die of heart attack in Valinor, Fíli was pretty sure his uncle would have...

Now (3021 T.A.)

It was really like Gandalf had said...the sea was like silver glass, calm and quiet despite the wind that carried the ship to the west; to white shores where both he and Frodo would be able to heal before the end. "Galadriel said it wouldn't be long now, Uncle," Frodo glanced at him hopefully. "To be honest, I can't wait to feel solid ground under my feet again...all this water..." Yes, for a hobbit, no matter how adventurous, water was still something to be avoided wherever possible. And especially for Frodo, having lost both his parents in a boating accident... The younger hobbit raised a hand to shade his eyes and then pointed excitedly, more excitedly than he had been ever since... "There it is...Valinor! We're finally here!"

Círdan himself walked over to them and nodded, "Indeed, young Frodo. There they are, the White Shores of Aman. Give it another hour, my dear hobbits, and we will be there. And I am sure there will be quite a few people there waiting...for the Lady of Lórien and the Lord of Rivendell." There had been an ever so slight pause, and Bilbo began to wonder. What on earth could he mean though? Surely there are no elves who would be waiting for you or Frodo... Unless they want to see the Ring-bearers with their own eyes. Was that his destiny then? To be paraded around as the foolish hobbit who found the One Ring? And poor Frodo as well? Frodo, who had been fending off the pull of the Ring for so long, until finally, at the Cracks of Doom he lost his fight and claimed the Ring for himself; thus failing his quest. If it hadn't been for Gollum... At least Bilbo had done the right thing in not killing the creature. Yes, at least there was that...

Slowly all the elves travelling with them appeared from the bowels of the ship, eyes bright and small smiles playing around their lips as they beheld the shore that was creeping ever nearer. Only Galadriel looked somewhat saddened. And no wonder. She had said farewell to her husband and there was no way of knowing when Lord Celeborn would finally make his own journey to the West. And Elrond...he had left behind all three of his children, and only two would ever join him in Valinor. Arwen would stay behind and eventually fade and die. But at least he would finally see his wife again... And Galadriel her daughter and only child. And everyone on the ship knew, in detail, whom Lord Glorfindel was eager to see again. It had been Ecthelion here and Ecthelion there the whole journey, and if Master Erestor had eventually stayed as far away from his mate as possible, Bilbo couldn't begrudge him that. How those two had ever...

Yes, everyone had someone waiting for them there beyond the white shores. But not the two hobbits. For them it would be a foreign place and they would be the outsiders, no matter how much their elven friends tried to make them feel welcome. How will you ever be able to fit in? Amongst elven nobility and brave warriors? What will two hobbits of the Shire amount to? Two Ring-bearers... His hand went to his chest, feeling the heavy ring under his shirt, a sad smile on his lips. He had been a Ring-bearer indeed, though not only in the way Frodo had been. And sometimes it seemed that it was Thorin's ring that weighed so much heavier than...

"Uncle? Are you alright?" Bilbo just nodded, his hand dropping to his side again. Frodo knew of the ring, though Bilbo had still been unable to find the words to express exactly what it meant to him. How very much he treasured the ring; far more than his sword or Mithril shirt. How giving up the One Ring had been painful, but how it would have been impossible to forsake the heavy dwarven band. He sighed and turned to his nephew, giving him a small smile. Frodo had endured enough and there was no need for him to live through Bilbo's nightmares as well. And maybe they would finally ease though the old hobbit wasn't sure that was what he wanted.

"We will be able to meet the High Kings, Bilbo, both of them... And Glorfindel's friend... We will have two elves talking about balrogs..." Frodo looked slightly sick at the thought. "But maybe Gandalf can turn the tables on them and tell them about Durin's Bane..." Frodo still held on to that plan it seemed. So far it hadn't worked on Glorfindel, so Bilbo wasn't going to get his hopes up for the future. "And they will want to know about the Quest, won't they?" Bilbo nodded slowly. "I wish I had made another copy of our book...but maybe we could rewrite it?" Frodo trailed off, mumbling about books and balrogs and rings... At least they would have each other. Yes, there was always that. Little did Bilbo know just what, or rather who, was waiting for him...