Title: Fire Cleansed
Pairings: Previous Bilbo/Thorin
Fandom: The Hobbit
Warnings: Canon Typical, Character Death
Word Total: 2556
Why was he doing this again? Bilbo wondered for the thousandth time. He was nestled down between the wings of the Great Eagle who had come to their aid. Gandalf was sitting up, enjoying the ride.
If it wouldn’t scandalize the old meddler into keeling over from shock, Bilbo thought he would curse the man in some of the Khuzdul he had picked up. He hated, hated flying. A hobbit was meant to have his feet on the ground, not lost in a sea of feathers.
“How are you doing, Bilbo?” Gandalf called.
Tilting his head to the side Bilbo kept his eye shut as he cleared room to talk. “As well as can be expected, Gandalf.”
“So you are, so you are,” the Grey Wizard agreed, amusement lacing his words.
Bilbo huffed as he rolled his face back into the eagles’ feathers. If the wizard kept on being amused like the, he was going to see if he could give a Maia a hangover the next time they were drinking in Bag End. Sadistic bastard.
Conversation ceased and Bilbo concentrated on his breathing. The things he did to protect the dwarrow in his life. Attack orcs, riddle dragons, fight in battles, fly on eagles! The whole lot of them owed him fiercely for all this discomfort.
Hours passed and from his position between the wings, Bilbo could feel the steady beat slow. The angle he way was lying at changed and then the eagle flared out their wings to land. As soon as they bumped down, he drew in a deep breath before he slid off and dropped to the ground.
As soon as he touched the surface, he hissed. “The ground is foul here Gandalf,” he called. Turning to Gwaihir, he pulled the hobbit pouch with their provisions and asked what they wanted for dinner. One cow later Bilbo gingerly made his way to where the wizard was sitting. Thankfully the condition of the ground wasn’t impacting his physical form.
“It’s that bad then?” Gandalf asked as he watched him walk.
“Not even Goblin Town was this infected,” Bilbo reported grimly. “Where are we?”
“Gondor, close to the border with Mordor,” Gandalf told him, voice quiet and just as grim. “I knew the rot was spreading, but not this bad.”
“I’m sorry Gandalf,” Bilbo murmured before pulling two meat pies out of his pouch. Offering one to the older being he wasn’t surprised when it was refused. The water skin was accepted though.
“Why are you sorry?” Gandalf asked after a long drink.
Chewing the pie slowly, Bilbo tried to figure out his impressions. Swallowing he nodded. “Because I have to tell you how bad it is, I suppose. It feels like a river of muck and cess flowing from that direction,” he waved a hand at the cloud on the horizon. “To the rest of Arda. And it feels like it’s the same type of mess that was running under Thranduil’s kingdom and circling Erebor. I’m afraid it wasn’t just Smaug that was causing the devastation.”
Gandalf drew in a deep breath at that and then nodded. “I am not surprised. It fits certain events I observed during that time. When we left Erebor, did the area around the mountain feel any better?”
Bilbo rocked a hand back and forth as he popped the crust from his last pie in his mouth. A hobbit’s gift of earth sense was vastly different from the dwarrow version. Bilbo could tell if an area was fertile if the ground was clean and what would grow best in soil and that was the extent of his gift. Tooks and Baggins were gentle hobbits after all and his garden was for fun, not survival. Unlike say, Farmer Maggot who could tell everything a field had ever grown with a look. And that was the least of the Farmer’s abilities.
“It was very early days when I left Gandalf,” Bilbo reminded him. “I’m sure Bard and Dain are working to rehabilitate the whole area.”
“I’m sure they are,” Gandalf agreed before he pulled his pipe out.
Laughing softly, Bilbo drew a pouch of Longbottom Leaf out of his store and handed it to the wizard. At Gandalf’s happy chortle he smiled. It was good someone was getting some pleasure out of their trip. As he tied his supply pouch closed his fingers brushed the edge of the pouch with the Ring in it. “Gandalf, when we reach Mt. Doom, should I take the ring out and dump it? Or just throw the whole pouch in?”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to take it out of the pouch to make sure it gets into the lake of lava at the heart of Mt. Doom,” Gandalf said after ruminating on the question for several minutes. Fragrant smoke curled up from his pipe and brought its own measure of comfort.
“Lovely. I’m going to get some sleep then, while our feathered friend digests his dinner,” Bilbo announced after several horrified heartbeats. He didn’t want to touch the One Ring ever again and yet, he was going to have to. Maybe he had packed some gloves?
Hours later he was woken up by Gandalf and barely bit back everything he wanted to say. None of what he was keeping behind his teeth was polite. The ground he had slept on was hard, the area was foul and it was just going to get worse before it got better. Rubbing his hands over his face he ignored the way his whole body felt before rolling to his feet.
“Let’s go,” he suggested after he took care of his morning business. He was very willing to get back on the eagle if it meant he didn’t have to touch the ground again. He wasn’t going to think on how bad it would be when they were actually inside Mordor.
Eyes gentle with understanding, Gandalf nodded before boosting him onto Gwaihir. With great flaps of his wings, the eagle took off, his passengers back on their preferred places.
Bilbo settled into his spot and dropped into an uneasy doze. There was no way he could truly sleep without chancing falling, but he needed the rest. Most of his attention was wrapped around his children, working to keep them safe from their environment. He wanted no taint of gold madness to touch any of them. Concentrating on them, he tried to figure out who he would plant first. They were moving within him, each grabbing his attention for a time before making way for a sibling.
“Bilbo, we’re here!” Gandalf’s voice cut through his daydreams.
“Bloody hell, already?” Bilbo asked, looking up from his nest of feathers. They were circling a mountain, slowly gliding in. Kneeling up, Bilbo got ready. The plan was that Gwaihir wasn’t going to actually land, he was more going to tip them off at the first available spot.
“On three!” Gandalf called. “One… Two… Three!”
The shock of landing pulled a cry from Bilbo and he gritted his teeth against letting lose anymore. By Yavanna, the ground was gross. There was the underlying horror of the volcano, but mostly there was the foulness of Sauron and it hurt to walk anywhere.
Staring up at the mountain he sighed. If only there was an oversized Dwarven statute to guide the way, Bilbo thought, wistfully. “How do we get…”
“We get in there,” Gandalf cut in, pointing at the oversized entryway.
“Did Sauron have the same problems with size the dwarrow do?” Bilbo asked as he started climbing up.
“Whatever do you mean, dear Bilbo?” Gandalf called as he scouted ahead of the hobbit.
“The oversized pretentious architecture,” Bilbo panted out. Eyeing the next bit of stone in front of him, he hauled himself up and found himself on a flat area before an opening into the mountain.
“Mayhap,” Gandalf murmured before leaning on his staff. “Courage, Bilbo.”
“Courage my arse,” Bilbo gripped before stomping forward at a near run. “I want this thing gone. I have a garden to plant.”
“Of course you do,” Gandalf called.
The walk into the heart of Mt. Doom was wretched. And after the trip with his dwarrow, he could honestly say this had the horrors he had seen with them beat. The Goblin king only wished his little rotting kingdom was this nasty. And Erebor with Smaug had smelled better than this place.
Peering over the edge, Bilbo flinched back from the heat. The red and orange mass of liquid rock below them seethed and bubbled, sending up gusts of stinking air. It was also a very long way down.
“Just drop it in?” Bilbo asked as he reached for the pouch holding the Ring,
“Yes,” Gandalf agreed, keen blue eyes trained on the area around them. “You might want to hurry though. Orcs abound here. We don’t want the Ring to call any to its aid.”
“Ick,” Bilbo agreed before he untied the pouch and poured the Ring out into the empty air over the lava. As soon as the little gold bit started to fall he leaned out to make sure it didn’t get stuck on the way down. Shining with a manic inner light, the gold of the Ring hit the surface of its destruction and sat there. “It’s down on the lava and starting to glow.”
“Time to go then!” Gandalf exclaimed before scooping Bilbo up and running for the door.
Bilbo kept an eye on the area behind them and gasped when a gush of lava burst above the area where he had been standing. A second and a third followed it and he held onto the wizard for all he was worth. Mt. Doom was not happy with his gift,
“No it really isn’t,” Gandalf huffed before bursting out onto the flat area in front of the entry into the mountain. “Gwaihir!”
The eagle seemed to have been waiting for just that summons and dove down on them, talons spread to scoop them up. In a manner that had to be practiced the wizard relaxed into the grip as Gwaihir clawed for altitude, working hard to get away from the hot mass of destruction heading their way.
Bilbo kept his eyes on the scene below him. He hated flying, but he and Gandalf had just destroyed the One Ring. It was only right he watch the destruction of Mordor. It was horrific. Mt. Doom exploded, taking out the land around it and bringing the lava lake to the surface. The half-finished Black Tower fell as the ground under it melted.
He didn’t want to think of everything that died that day, but hopefully, one day the ground would grow something other than Orcs. After all, fire cleansed. And Mt. Doom had a lot of fire.
It took them three days of steady flying to return to the Shire. As soon as they landed Bilbo could feel the peace and contentment of the place seep into his bones. It was welcome after the filth and horror of Mordor.
Making sure to thank Gwaihir for his assistance, Bilbo extended the offer to come to tea to the Great Eagle. He also promised to send a raven to Dain to suggest they be allowed to nest on Erebor’s slopes in thanks.
Gandalf stayed a day to make sure no one got any ideas about pillaging Bag End again before he slipped off.
“I need to see if I can gauge how things have changed, my dear Bilbo,” Gandalf murmured before turning to look down at him. “What we did will echo through Arda in ways no one could expect.”
“True,” Bilbo allowed, rubbing one hand on his breastbone. The destruction of the Ring had given him a hollow feeling for several days, almost like the ache left behind when Thorin had died. It made him glad he hadn’t touched the Ring when he had dumped it into Mt. Doom. Bilbo was sure things would have been very different if he had held the little thing one more time.
“You are planting in the spring?” Gandalf pressed.
Bilbo dropped his hand and nodded. “Yes, I will be planting two I think.”
“Twins?” Gandalf mused. “There is no word for twins in Khuzdul.”
“Then Mahal had better give them one,” Bilbo told him tartly. “I have four children to plant and that’s two sets of twins. Thorin was happy when I told him.”
“So he knew?”
“Before he died, yes,” Bilbo confirmed. Clearing his throat he handed over a large pouch of Longbottom Leaf “This isn’t a Hobbit pouch, but it does hold more than you would expect.”
“Thank you, Bilbo,” Gandalf told him with a smile before tucking the treat away. “Until I see you again.”
Bilbo watched the wizard as he walked down Bagshot Row humming a walking tune in time to his steps. Bag End pulsed against his awareness as he leaned against the door jam. “He’ll be back.”
“I hope not! He’s turning you into a disgrace to the Baggins name.” Lobelia called from her spot by his gate.
It had been open when Gandalf had headed out, but it appeared his smial didn’t like his cousin by marriage. “The only disgrace brought to the Baggins name has been you and your wastrel of a husband. Now be off. You’re fouling my air.”
“I will not!” Lobelia called, slapping the gate in her ire. “You were barely here two months before you went gallivanting all over Arda. With that Wizard no less. Have you no shame?”
“Not a drop,” Bilbo told her, voice cheerful and full of polite poison. “I learned something while I was away, and you would be wise to heed it. I don’t have to bow down to the petty little twits in my life to be happy or follow social conventions that are frankly stupid. You may want to live your life according to society’s whim, but I don’t. Now get your abusive self off my hill.”
The sound Lobelia let loose sounded like an outraged huff, but Bilbo didn’t care. He was done living his life by the whims of the Shire. He was the Baggins of Bag End, and the small-minded nitwits he lived among needed to remember that.
Bilbo walked down the steps to his gate and raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you going to tattle to Thain? Because you really have no one to report to among the Baggins, now do you? Especially since you can’t get me to care about what the narrow-minded biddies you call friends think, now can you?”
“Ooh!” Lobelia screeched before stomping away.
“Drama queen,” Bilbo muttered. And after Thorin and Thranduil, he knew from drama queens.
As Lobelia turned off Bagshot Row, the gate unlatched itself and swung open again. Bilbo turned to look back at his smial. “Show off.”
With the riff-raff gone, Bilbo had a list of chores to get done. He needed to stock up for winter, do some day walks to find what he needed for his cradles and try not to climb the walls as he settled back into his old life. Maybe he would write down his adventure.
Plans made, Bilbo stepped out onto the road and whistled the tune Bofur had sung in Riverdale. It was a good day after all.