Chapter 9

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"The sun's on the rise," Bofur spoke up. "Must be nearly dawn."

All hummed in agreement, feeling fatigue beginning to set in. "We're never going to reach the mountain," Ori sighed heavily. It was true; their chance at finding the hidden door was slipping away.

"Not in there you're not." Their heads picked up at the new voice, rushing back to their doors and seeing their bugler standing just outside Thorin's cell holding a set of keys. All were surprised yet overjoyed to see him.

"Bilbo!" Kíli exclaimed, the others joining in as the Hobbit opened the prince's door.

But he quickly hushed them, whispering harshly under his breath, "There are guards nearby!"

Bilbo rushed around to every holding cell quickly, Poppy pulling him in for a tight hug. "I'm so glad you're all right," she breathed.

He returned the gesture, "I'm glad you were unharmed too."

"Up the stairs," Thorin's voice whispered as the Dwarves began making their way to the upper level.

"Not that way!" Bilbo spoke harshly under his breath. "Down here. Follow me." The company shared a look, watching, as Poppy didn't hesitate to follow him, before changing their course and moving further into the Elven Kingdom.

It wasn't long before they found themselves surrounded by wooden structures filled with wine as barrels were scattered throughout the room. Their eyes landed in one of the corners seeing a table set up with two Elves passed out drunk from the consumed alcohol.

"This way. Come on," Bilbo coaxed them forward.

"I don't believe it. We're in the cellars!" Fíli exclaimed.

"You were supposed to be leading us out, not further in!" Bofur protested.

"I know what I'm doing!" Bilbo spoke quickly, trying to keep his voice down. "This way! This way!" They followed him uncertainly further in, eyes flickering around as if the Hobbit was leading them to their demise and Elves would emerge out of the shadows. Coming to the back of the cellar the only thing left was a mound of barrels laying on their sides and stacked on top of each other. "Everyone climb into the barrels, quickly!"

Confusion couldn't even begin to describe what they were feeling as the Dwarves exchanged looks. "Are you mad?" Dwalin hissed. But Poppy was already climbing inside one of the lower ones. "They'll find us!" Her head poked out of the top watching as the company began to protest this idea of hiding in plain sight.

"No, no, they won't. I promise you. Please, please," Bilbo begged. "You must trust me." Muttering amongst them, Bilbo looked to Thorin for help with pleading eyes to force them inside the drums before the guards came looking. They were wasting valuable time.

"Do as he says," the prince spoke lowly over them.

Following their leader blindly by climbing into their own the Dwarves struggled to get settled from the tight space. Bombur nearly didn't fit, it taking three of the company to shove him in. Being sure that they were all inside, the Hobbit did a quick head count before walking back to the last one.

"What do we do now?" Bofur asked. The Hobbit turned, watching as every head stuck out of the barrels to stare at the burglar in wonder.

"Hold your breath."

Their brows furrowed in confusion. "Hold my breath? What do you mean?"

And Poppy's eyes widened as her cousin reached for the lever in the floor. "Oh no..."

Tugging on the wood the flat surface below them began to tip from the weight as the latch was released. Crying out in surprise the barrels tumbled over the edge with a loud splash as each one hit the water below. Bobbing in the pool many tried to still their frantically beating hearts from the sudden drop, some of them having gotten wet in the process.

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