Chapter 6: Change of Place
It wasn't easy to join the dwarves again. She was no longer the same hobbit she was before Laketown. She certainly wasn't the same hobbit that had left the shire, recklessly pledging her help to their quest, wanting out, wanting adventure, maybe even wanting death if it could be without guilt. Over the past months she had thought she had etched out a place for herself with the company, a place cemented by Thorin's acceptance after the goblin caves.
Now that place chafed. It wasn't even just because of her own hesitance at confronting the dragon. She knew that it had to be done, for the good of Laketown as well as the dwarves. The dwarves were not the same as just days ago. They were all on edge of course, especially since Kili had been forced to stay behind in Laketown to let his injury mend, but felt like more than that. It was as if a miasma of greed and paranoia had settled onto the company, and it only seemed to worsen the closer they got to the mountain.
Thorin was the worst of the lot. He pushed the group hard on minimal rations and sleep. Moving or resting, any talking among the group was met with suspicious stares, and if anyone besides him tried to converse with Bluebell or help her through any rough patches, they faced his wrath. At first, Bluebell had thought he was punishing her for her friendship with Bard and his family, but soon it was clear that she was somehow the only one of the company he didn't have a problem with. As much as he was fixated on reaching the mountain, he was also fixated on her, keeping her near him at all times, jealously guarding her attention. It frightened her, but she didn't know what to do about it.
Most of the company didn't even seem to perceive how Thorin was acting. They went about their day in a haze and it was rare that any of them would notice her enough to incur their leader's wrath.
For her part, she felt like she was living in a dream world, not a good dream, nor a nightmare either, but one of those dreams a person can sometimes experience where they feel like an observer, pulled along and unable to affect the order of events. The days passed for her like sand falling against stone, the hard travel and the disturbing behavior of the group slowly wearing her down into a sense of complacency. When the thrush knocked, she woke.