Calm The Fire: 61

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Open sky and green grass with lavender plants swaying in the breeze would have been a peaceful image. One which could easily be admired by anyone. But not now. Not at the moment. With as much speed as they could all muster the company went running through the plant scattered grassland. Every so often Gandalf shouted out with encouragement for them to keep going.

Soon the open grassland disappeared and they were back amongst the trees. They all skidded to a sudden stop though when another echoing roar filtered through the trees.

Gandalf who was still at the head of the group, turned and looked at the figures behind him. Gesturing an arm he ushered them all forwards, as quickly as they could yet again. “This way!” He exclaimed and took off running again. The small safety of the trees disappeared and was replaced with yellow green grass, the small house was in sight. Situated underneath and around trees, it was shadowed underneath the canopy of the leaves.

“Into the house! Run!” Gandalf shouted and stopped when he reached the gate, with each member that past he kept his eyes on the woodland they had just left. “Come on! Get inside!” He watched as the still woodland got suddenly ripped apart by a huge black form. It crashed through the trees and the bushes and was making its way steadily closer to them. “Open the door!” He too turned away and started to move towards the door which everyone was seemingly having problems with opening.

Being near the back of the group, Thorin pushed forwards and reached out for the clasp which was acting as a lock. Pushing it up the surrounding group hurtled forwards into the new open space. Shutting the door was as hard a job as seemingly opening it. No sooner had the thick wood been eagerly pushed did it suddenly get shoved by the large head of the huge creature which was previously chasing them. With a great struggle the door did eventually get shut. It was something the creature wasn't happy with because it let out an irritated growl.

“What was that?” Ori asked gingerly, as if wary of the answer which he was about to get.

“That is our host.” Gandalf said so simply and somewhat smugly that everyone looked up at him baffled. “His name is Beorn, he's a skin-changer.” Gandalf explained while having a quick glance around. Turning slowly he sought to explore this little house which they'd found themselves in. “Sometimes he's a huge black bear, sometimes he's a great strong man. The bear is unpredictable, but the man can be reasoned with. However, he is not overly fond of Dwarves.” Everyone listened to this, even some of the company that had started exploring had stopped and looked to Gandalf upon hearing this. As if agreeing, Beorn outside growled and snorted lowly, he was pacing his home as if trying to find a way in.

Ori was still standing near the door and listened to the noises as they retreated. “He's leaving.”

Dori reached out and grabbed onto Ori's arm. “Get away from there! It's not natural, none of it. It's obvious he's under some dark spell.” He looked up at Gandalf as he slowly started to walk forwards.

He looked at the Dwarf with a bemused look. He found what he said to be truly silly. “He's not under any enchantment but his own.” Reaching up he took his hat off and sighed lightly. “Right! Now, get some sleep, all of you. You'll be safe here tonight.” He said while looking around as everyone tried to find somewhere to get in and make a bed for the night. “I hope,” he said lowly so no one else could hear but himself.

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Náriel laid wide awake looking up at the ceiling above her. Night had fully sunk in now. Thick shadows hung in the corners of the room, or barn, she wasn't too sure what to wholly class it as. Giving a small fidget she frowned, hay wasn't exactly the best bedding in the world. It was itchy, and it wasn't good for padding. Though when compared with rocks and mountains it was a grand change. Everyone else seemed to be asleep. Everyone but her.

Hearing another quiet rustling sound she lifted her head up. Bilbo, her eyes watched him curiously as he did more or less the same as her. He lifted his head up, looked around and then rolled onto his side slightly while pushing himself to sit. In his hand he held something. It glittered in the pale moonlit room.

“Psst,” she said quietly, she was across the room from him so she tried to be as quiet yet firm as possible. Hearing her caused him to flinch. As if he had just been struck by lightning Bilbo shot up to sit fully and looked to her with a startled expression. She sat up and picked hay out of her hair. “Can't sleep?” She asked with a small smile.

“No, no, you?” He asked while giving a small cough in between.

Náriel smiled and leant against her knees and shook her head. “Despite it all, no, we should be tired out.” She looked around at the peaceful sleeping group around them. “I envy them being able to sleep anywhere. I struggle, so do you clearly, unless you are awake not from not being able to sleep but because your mind is distracted by something else.” Her eyes looked at him coolly, it was a look which Bilbo had never received from her before and it caused him to stiffen and fidget. Slowly the hardened look disappeared and she smiled. “I do not wish to know what has captivated your mind, Bilbo. I’m just glad to see I’m not the only one struggling to sleep.”

“Why are you struggling?” He asked curiously while slipping his hands into his waistcoat pockets, it was an action which Náriel watched curiously. Her eyes slowly slid to look at him, she gave a small sigh.

“We're nearing Mirkwood.” It was three simple words which caused Bilbo's eyes to widen and for her to look bitterly around. Tilting her head to the side she looked to the nearest window. She couldn't see the moon, though she could spy lazy grey clouds rolling by.

“What's it like?”

Náriel started to lay back down but she looked at him with a sidelong look. “It is like no other wood you're ever likely to find yourself in.” She said it in a way that the message got across immediately and Bilbo didn't find himself questioning her more. Watching her settle back down he too settled down, though the two of them quickly glanced at each other when they heard sounds from outside, slowly the door got pushed open. They pretended to be asleep, but both could see the large figure of a man walking slowly inside.

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(A/N: Slightly shortish, in comparison to previous chapters. Only because I thought Beorn deserved to have his little talking moment in a chapter all to itself.)

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