Author's Note: Well, the first mystery is solved and we've made it to some of the events you'll recognize from the movie. Any quotes you recognize are directly (or close) from the script and do not belong to me. I've been stuck in an almost 100 degree heatwave for a week plus and I don't have air conditioning so it really felt too hot to write lol. I did it for you though! :) Please review! I need the motivation and I'd love to hear what you think.
The next day Viola was predictably tired and sagged against Kili in a slightly more pronounced way as they rode along.
If she thought their conversation from the night before would lead to a new sense of camaraderie between them she was sadly mistaken.
Instead they were riding in the same neutral but still stifling silence they had been for days. It was even more pronounced because Fili finally seemed to have given up on riding beside them and trying to make conversation. Instead he was riding towards the front of the company behind Thorin.
Viola didn't imagine he was having any more fun in that company than she was.
She was just contemplating trying to take another semi-awkward nap when Bofur sidled up next to them on his pony.
"Is it just my imagination or have you had a spat with the wrong dwarf?"
"Are you implying I'm the right dwarf to have a spat with?"
"I haven't had a spat with anyone!"
Kili and Viola said at the same time, their indignant tones overlapping perfectly and earning a hearty laugh from Bofur.
"Don't worry, Kili, she seems like she has plenty of fire to argue with both of you. But you're her intended. I'm sure you'll always be her favorite target."
Viola rolled her eyes.
"To be fair I think she's been my target as often as I've been hers."
Viola shifted in the saddle, shocked into silence for a moment.
"Are you being fair now?" She asked.
She felt rather than saw Kili shrug.
"I'm trying it out."
Bofur burst into hearty laughter.
"I'm glad Thorin managed to bring some entertainment for us on this quest. It certainly makes the journey less tedious."
"I'm glad my suffering is fun for you." Viola huffed earning a chuckle from Kili. "Don't you laugh! He's making fun of you too, Kili."
Kili stifled his gentle laughter though there was still amusement in his tone.
"Come on, let's see what Bilbo is up to."
He drove his pony a little further up the line and Viola was thankful they left Bofur and his teasing behind them for the time being.
Unfortunately no sooner had they pulled their pony alongside Bilbo's than the sky opened up in a torrential downpour. She knew it wasn't true but she was so wet so suddenly that she thought for a moment one of the dwarves had managed to dump a bucket of water directly over her head.
All of the company except Thorin and Gandolf immediately began to grumble as the rain soaked them through.
"I'm sure it will end soon enough, Viola," Bilbo said, clearly going for a reassuring tone of voice.
"I hope you're right, Bilbo," She sighed. "But I don't think I'm that lucky."
It turned out she definitely wasn't.
Hours later the rain had not abetted in the least.
"Mr. Gandalf can't you do something about this deluge?" Dori called up to Gandalf, irritation obvious in his voice.
Gandalf made a noise in his throat clearly indicating his disdain for the inquiry.
"It is raining, Master dwarf, and it will continue to rain until the rain is done. If you wish to change the weather of the world, you should find yourself another wizard."
This time it was Viola's turn to make a noise of displeasure , though hers was quieter.
"That's a lot of words for 'No, I can't stop the rain'," Viola grumbled.
Kili must have heard her because he let out a sharp, bark of a laugh which he quickly stifled when multiple disgruntled dwarves shot him questioning looks.
"Are there any?" Bilbo asked, drawing Viola back to the larger conversation.
"What?" Gandalf huffed.
"Other wizards?" Bilbo clarified.
"There are five of us. The greatest of our order is Saruman the White. And then there are the two Blue Wizards... You know, I've quite forgotten their names."
"All the colors in the world and two of them got stuck with blue," Kili observed. "That seems like a slight."
"And Gandalf doesn't even remember their names," Viola joked. "Or he's pretending not to. Some kind of wizard power move…"
Kili laughed again and Viola found herself smiling against her better judgement and inspite of the challenging conditions.
"And the fifth?"
Bilbo seemed determined to discover all he could about wizards and Viola probably would have found it fascinating under different circumstances. As it was she found everything vaguely annoying even her friend's inquisitiveness.
"Well, that would be Radagast the Brown."
"Is he a great wizard, or is he more like you?"
"Bilbo!" Viola hissed. "Don't insult our only wizard."
Luckily Gandalf seemed too caught up in his tale to fully register the implication of Bilbo's question.
"Well, I think he is a very great wizard... in his own way. He's a gentle soul who prefers the company of animals for others. He keeps a watchful eye over the vast forest lands to the East, and a good thing too. For always evil will look to find a foothold in this world."
"It's not just this world," Viola mumbled glumly, the cold from the ongoing rain seeping into her bones and leaving her chilled.
She shivered against her will and tried to curl back closer to Kili's front as though his equally soaked form could offer her some shelter from the weather.
Kili must have noticed her shivering because he reached back and pulled the edges of his cloak until they wrapped partially around her arms.
Truth be told the material was heavy with water and did little to add any warmth back into her limbs. The thought was sweet though. The only spots on her body that still felt relatively human were the patch of her stomach where Kili's arm rested with the reins gripped loosely in one hand and the center of her back that was pressed against him. He seemed to be somehow still radiating heat despite the continued onslaught of precipitation.
She supposed she needed to add "perpetually warm" to the list of dwarf superpowers she was mentally composing.
And so the next few hours passed much like the few before it, completely wet and miserable.
By the time they stopped to make camp that night Viola was more than ready to hop down from Kili's pony. Fili wasn't waiting to help her to the ground but she managed well enough on her own, landing with a sad sort of plopping sound on the sodden earth.
She took a moment to take in their surroundings as she stretched to get the worst of the kinks out of her back.
She had noticed as they rode that day that the ground they traveled over had been slowly becoming more and more hilly. Patches of trees had also begun to pop up, limiting the view somewhat compared to the open plains they had traversed so far.
The spot that had been chosen for that night's campsite was a relatively small grass oval surrounded by several rocky outcroppings and a patch of woods thick enough that she could only make out the first few feet past its boundary.
Maybe it was the fact that she couldn't see the surrounding landscape as well as normal or maybe it was the cluster of dense trees that had her unsettled, but Viola felt distinctly uneasy as they set up for the night.
There was something ominous about the atmosphere that had Viola on edge.
It didn't help matters that with the ground and all of the available sticks being wet none of the company had managed to get a fire going. This seemed like another thing Gandalf should have been able to help with but she didn't think it would do much good to suggest it.
If he had been inclined to start the fire for them he would have done it by now and bringing it up would only make him grumpy. She didn't have the energy to deal with a grumpy wizard.
So they all sat huddled in the growing dark while Dwalin and Bombur fussed over the non-existent fire in attempt to get them some light and food.
Viola was still cold and she found herself scooting closer and closer to Bilbo until she was pressed lightly against his side. He seemed a little flustered by her closeness but didn't tell her to move. Much to her disappointment she discovered that Hobbits did not seem to be the natural furnaces that dwarves were.
Fili and Kili were sat only a few feet away and she could feel their eyes on her but she didn't dare go seek out warmth with them. She could only imagine all of the many ways that scenario could lead to layers of awkwardness that would probably linger long after the cold was only a memory.
A howl erupted from somewhere in the distance and both she and Bilbo jumped.
"What was that?" Bilbo asked, his voice shaking.
"It was probably just...I don't know...a fox or something." Viola assured him, attempting to be comforting but cringing at how ridiculous her answer sounded to her own ears.
"A fox?" Kili's amused voice broke in and Viola inwardly cursed his inability to let her admittedly stupid comment go. "That was a warg scout checking in with an orc hunting party no doubt."
"What's a warg?"
"What's an orc?"
Bilbo and Viola asked their nervous questions at the same time and Fili and Kili exchanged a mischievous look before answering.
"Wargs are like wolves, but bigger and meaner than any wolf you could ever imagine," Fili answered, his tone dramatic. "They'll rip your throat out before you even know they've found you."
"But that's nothing. When you hear a warg an orc is never far behind. They're horrible, little monsters. They attack in the dead of night, quick and silent and slit your throat, no time even to scream."
"Good heavens," Bilbo gasped.
"They're just messing with us, Bilbo," Viola told him, doing her best to sound certain. "Don't listen to them."
The thing was she knew what she had told Bilbo was true. She could see the brothers were enjoying the attempt to scare them plain as day. That didn't mean it wasn't working on her a little bit. Sitting in the dark and being told a scary story was a pretty standard terrifying experience and despite her attempts to appear unaffected she knew that wasn't entirely truthful.
"Rivers of blood and orcs shrieking, the last things you'll ever experience!" Kili was embellishing when suddenly Thorin appeared in front of them.
"You think an orc attack is something to laugh about?" He demanded and the smiles slid from his nephews' faces instantly.
"We meant no harm, uncle," Fili tried only to trail off when Thorin fixed him with an icy glare.
"Our journey has only begun and the two of you continue to insist on acting like children. Do not speak of that which you do not know."
Thorin stomped away and an awkward silence settled over the group until Balin wandered over sympathetically.
"Don't mind him, laddie. Thorin has more cause than most to hate Orcs."
There was another moment of silence and then Viola found her voice. Now that she had finally solved the mystery of Kili and Eira she felt as though she could indulge her curiosity about her companions in general.
"Why is that? If you don't mind my asking."
Balin offered her a small smile and then began to tell a story she was sure he had told many times over many years.
"After the dragon took the Lonely Mountain, King Thror tried to reclaim the ancient dwarf kingdom of Moria... but our enemy had got there first. Moria had been taken by legions of Orcs, led by the most vile of all their race, Azog the Defiler. The giant Gundabad Orc had sworn to wipe out the line of Durin. He began by beheading the King. Thrain, Thorin's father, was driven mad by grief. He went missing, taken prisoner or killed; we did not know. We were leaderless, defeat and death were upon us. That is when I saw him; the young dwarf prince facing down the Pale Orc. He stood alone against this terrible foe, his armour rent, wielding nothing but an oaken branch as a shield... Azog the Defiler learned that day that the line of Durin would not be so easily broken. Our forces rallied and drove the Orcs back; our enemy had been defeated... but there was no feast or songs that night, for our dead were beyond the count of grief. We few had survived and I thought to myself then 'There is one I could follow. There is one I could call King'."
He said it with such reverence that Viola found herself feeling secondhand love and loyalty for Thorin. No wonder Kili and Fili were so worried about impressing him and living up to his legacy. She wouldn't want to have that on her shoulders either.
Thorin had clearly been listening from across the camp but if he had any feelings about his life story being told like the world's most intense campfire story he didn't make them known. Instead he called out to Fili and Kili to check on the ponies which had been turned loose to graze earlier. They'd wandered beyond the edge of the trees and were no longer visible.
She expected the two princes to grumble about the menial task but to her surprise they both jumped up and headed off without complaint. Apparently they were eager to redeem themselves in Thorin's eyes, one small accomplishment at a time.
A few minutes after they disappeared into the trees Dwalin finally got the fire going and a roar of approval went up among the rest of the company.
Before long Bombur had a pot of stew bubbling away and ready to be distributed to the hungry mouths gathered around.
"Here you are, burglar," Bombur said, shoving two bowls into Bilbo's hands. "Take these to the lads."
"Me? In there?" Bilbo asked nervously, eyeing the dark tree line hesitantly.
"I'll go with you," Viola offered, swallowing down the fear she felt. Bilbo was her friend and she couldn't send him into the scary woods alone even if her own nervousness was encouraging her to do just that. "We'll be fine."
Bombur shrugged and went back to ladling soup into bowls.
Clearly they would get no motivational pep talk from him.
Viola sighed and steeled herself against the urge to tell Bilbo she had changed her mind.
"Come on, Bilbo, into the dark, spooky forest it is."