The Turning of an Age by AStarryNight

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"The Turning of an Age"

Disclaimer: I own nothing from The Hobbit or LotR.

A/N: For LotR events, I'll be drawing more from the books; but for several mentionings of the Hobbit I'll be drawing much from the movie. To be perfectly honest, I've never been able to read The Hobbit as a book all the way through, though not without lack of trying. On this my fourth attempt to get through it I've gotten as a far as the Battle of the Five Armies.

After watching the movie The Hobbit, I was decidedly impressed by Thorin. He seemed like such a hard-ass in the beginning, especially with Bilbo, but he was courageous and loyal and noble all the same, and I couldn't help but like him. (And when he embraced Bilbo after telling him he was wrong to doubt him at the end of the film, it melted my heart.) Afterwards, however, I couldn't help but wonder what Thorin would have made of the One Ring and the events that transpired and, especially, what he would have made of Frodo. Would he doubt Frodo as he had once doubted Bilbo, or would he have learned from his past mistakes? So that was my inspiration for the story you're about to read, and I hope you like it. One last thing I have to say about this story is that this is NOT slash-- at all. This is simply a Thorin-Bilbo friendship, a mite confusing at times, I suppose, but still ONLY a friendship.

 Enjoy!

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Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain of Erebor, was admittedly a stoic fellow, certainly the doughtiest of Dwarves (and also one of the most stubborn), but recent events had him ruffled, and not just with anger. No, Thorin Oakenshield was well and goodly troubled and frightened by recent events. The fright, however, was not for a vague something but a specific someone.

"We look for a small Halfling, one known to have accompanied you on a journey nigh eighty years ago and a small trinket he carries."

He had not seen Bilbo Baggins for all those near-eighty years, but up until some thirty years ago he had received several letters a year by the small hobbit he had grown to care about so much until, for some inexplicable reason, they had stopped.

For a long while he had been afraid that something had happened to Bilbo, but word had finally reached him that the hobbit was still living happily in the Shire, head of his family and still dwelling in the home he called Bag End. This news both relieved and confused him. He was glad that nothing had happened to Bilbo, but at the same time he wasn't sure why the hobbit had stopped his correspondence. True, he had been rather harsh on Bilbo for several years following their seizing Erebor again, thinking himself betrayed by the hobbit's giving the Arkenstone to their enemies; but time had cleared much of the anger and bitterness away, and numerous talks with Balin had helped him eventually see that Bilbo had only been acting on what he thought had been right when he had done so.

Not to mention the letter he had received from the hobbit only a year following his departure from Erebor, telling Thorin he was sorry for any bitterness between them and that he would liked to have left on better terms. Thorin had torn the letter up and thrown the pieces into the fire, watching them blacken and crumble; but the letters had continued unabated every six months no matter how many the Dwarf-king tore up or burnt or ignored, and finally there had come a day when Thorin realized he missed talking to Bilbo, and he had hesitantly written back.

It still took him several years to write his forgiveness, but it had seemed enough for Bilbo to simply have Thorin corresponding and so he never mentioned the betrayal again, choosing instead to speak of happenings in the Shire: of obnoxious relatives, tea parties, festivals, birthdays, the birth of a cousin he would in later letters talk about very fondly, and of his writings. Thorin had done the same and wrote of rebuilding Erebor and ridding the city of Smaug's filth and destruction and of his duties as king.

So why had Bilbo's letters, always on time and quite lengthy, abruptly stop?

Whatever the reason, he would receive the answer soon. He hoped.

He had been to Rivendell during their quest to take back Erebor when Gandlaf had led he and his Company of Dwarves there without their knowledge. He had not been impressed by the preening Elves then, and he certainly wasn't now; he wouldn't have ever set foot back here if not for the Council that was being held in a few days' time. He could have easily stayed behind as Gloin and his son Gimli went but he had found he was too worried about Bilbo not to go. Even if it meant dealing with more Elves.

What he had not expected, however, was to find that Bilbo was at Rivendell himself, and had been for several years it seemed. It had been a chaotic bustle arriving at the Elvish land after a long, harrowing trip. He had immediately noticed, however, that there was something decidedly off about the place; the calm, tranquil atmosphere that he remembered from his previous visit was now charged with anxiety, a low hum of fear that he could feel like an underlying current. The Elves that greeted his company of Dwarves now were almost distracted, their thoughts and concerns placed with something else.

‘Ruddy Elves,' he thought to himself, watching their retreating forms as they left to put their guests' weapons and cloaks away. ‘Can't even do us the decency of a proper greeting.' He noticed Gloin looking at him all too knowingly and scowled at him fiercely.

Then his attention caught sight of a small figure hidden in the shadows of the room, peering around at the company of Dwarves. He almost called aloud in his surprise; this was no Elf. This stranger was small in stature, only three feet or so, with a full head of curly hair that hung shaggy and unkempt, so different from any Elf's, and Thorin was sure that this fellow wore no shoes and instead had large hairy feet.

A hobbit.

His first thought was that it was Bilbo, but then he realized that this hobbit was too small and slender to be him; besides, it wouldn't be like Bilbo to simply watch old friends arrive and keep silent. Then a second shadow moved and another head of curly hair peered past the first. Thorin blinked. What were two hobbits doing here in Rivendell? His keen ears picked up quiet whispers:

"--just arrived, Merry," whispered the first. "What do you think for?"

"I don't know," replied the second, "but don't worry about that now, Pip. Come on-- we need to go see how Cousin Frodo's doing."

Three hobbits? Would surprises never cease, Thorin thought to himself as the two shadows retreated. Asking one of the Elves who the two were, he discovered even more disturbing information than what he had come to deliver. Why would four hobbits flee the Shire? And why would the Ringwraiths be looking for one of them? And they had tried to cross Rivendell's borders? It was by asking about the named Frodo Baggins that he found out that Bilbo was, in fact, in Rivendell.

Which now, in turn, explained his searching for the room he'd hopefully find Bilbo in. Luckily he found it easily enough, but he found that he could do nothing but simply look at the door for a long moment, almost afraid to see Bilbo again. But then he shook himself-- he was the king of Erebor, blast it-- and let himself into the room.

The first thing he saw was the immense bed, big enough to hold five Dwarves. Seated beside the bed, wrapped in a blanket with an open book, was a small hobbit that was clearly resting his head on the blankets; sleeping. Thorin almost backed out, but he made too much noise-- the hobbit's head shot up.

It was Bilbo-- but a much older Bilbo than Thorin remembered. But of course he would be well over a hundred at least, the Dwarf thought to himself. The hobbit's face was heavily lined, his once-thick brown hair now thinner and a greyish-white, but there was still the same fire and spirit in his eyes that Thorin remembered. Seeing him, Bilbo almost cried aloud, a slow delighted smile spreading across his face, but then he seemed to shake himself and clamp down on his outcry. His voice came out as a hoarse whisper:

"Thorin?"

The Dwarf was taken aback at how much older he sounded as well, but he rallied himself quickly and attempted a smile.

"The very same, Burglar Baggins."

And Bilbo couldn't help laughing, delight very much lighting up his face, and he disengaged his hand from the blankets of the bed and climbed down from his chair; he moved more stiffly as well, although the old bounce was still there. Upon closer inspection, Thorin saw that Bilbo looked virtually exhausted, however, and not with age. He was worried, his face haggard from lack of sleep and deep circles under his eyes from worry and sorrow. But he didn't speak of this and instead allowed an embrace that took a while for them to step away from. When finally they did, Bilbo smiled tiredly up at him.

"I apologize that I did not come to meet you, old friend," he said softly. "But I'm watching over my boy, you see."

"Your-- boy?" He had never thought Bilbo had settled down and married; certainly none of his letters had mentioned anything of the sort.

Bilbo nodded towards the bed. "Frodo. My nephew." He walked back over to the bed; and Thorin, following him, realized that the bed he had thought was previously empty was, in fact, occupied.

The hobbit in the bed was clearly recovering from a terrible illness; the remnants of a fever flushed normally pale skin a faint pink, and his dark brown, almost black, hair was stiff with dried sweat.

"What happened to him?"

Bilbo sighed and took the other hobbit's slender fingers in his own gnarled and knotted ones. "He was attacked, from what the Elves will tell me, by those Black Riders. They attacked my boy and stabbed him in the shoulder with a cursed blade." The anger in his voice told Thorin how upset he was, and he could tell from the echoes of grief in his old voice that Bilbo's nephew had had a close call indeed.

Stabbed by a cursed blade...

"Lord Elrond had to search for a sliver of the blade still in Frodo twice before he finally found it only a few hours ago," Bilbo was continuing, shaking Thorin from his thoughts. The older hobbit's hand unconsciously reached up and stroked his nephew's dark curls; somehow, Frodo seemed to sense his uncle's presence and moved into the touch, shifting beneath the covers, thick eyelashes fluttering uneasily. "Easy, dearling," Bilbo murmured, the Dwarf-king momentarily forgotten. "Sleep." And his words seemed to work; Frodo quieted and slipped back into deep sleep, and Bilbo sighed deeply with relief. He turned to Thorin with another tired smile, and saw Thorin looking at his nephew strangely-- almost jealously.

"I am sorry, Thorin," he said finally, "about Fili and Kili."

Thorin stiffened, and Bilbo almost regretted saying anything at all. Fili and Kili had died defending Thorin as he lay bleeding and terribly wounded on the battlefield. But then Thorin relaxed a little.

"It was-- hard-- to know what happened to them for a long time," he said gruffly. "But what's done is done. They died honorably, and they died knowing they had saved me." He looked back down at Frodo. "How did you get a nephew on your hands?"

Bilbo sighed again. "He is actually my cousin, but Frodo grew up calling me uncle. His parents drowned on the Brandywine when he was twelve, and I brought him to live with me at Bag End when it became clear he was stifled growing up in Buckland. He is a bright lad, you'll find, with a mind for learning, and there's a reason why his name so aptly suits him-- ‘Wise One' indeed. And certainly more extraordinary than this old and achy hobbit."

Thorin frowned, wondering what his old friend meant by that, but decided that ultimately that it didn't matter. Something else did. "Why did you stop sending your letters?"

Bilbo blinked. "Did I--?" Then he seemed to remember and he groaned to himself. "Time slipped away with me again!" he exclaimed softly, and turned to look at Thorin guiltily. "I became quite focused on my writings, my friend, and a growing tweenager had not been the easiest thing for time."

Thorin frowned deeply; it didn't seem a good excuse simply to say he forgot, but if the past had taught him anything it was that some things weren't important enough to dwell upon. He was here now, and he would be able to catch up on news now.

"I suppose," he said, and surprised himself by meaning it. "But come-- we can share stories by light of fire and smoke a pipe like days past."

The looming Shadow could wait for one more night.

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A/N: I've started the second chapter already, so it shouldn't be too long before you see an update on this. Some of you may be wondering why I choose to kill of Fili and Kili-- well, to be honest, I've been reading a lot of fanfictions where all of the Dwarves survive, and logistically and statistically speaking, there should have been at least a couple tragedies in a battle like the Five Armies.

 




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