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Calm The Fire: 71

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“Why to the wine cellar?” Bilbo chanced whispering,

Náriel led the way in silence, though she did pause to make sure he was still by her side. Eventually she realized though that she could never be sure if he was still by her side because she couldn't see him. She could either just believe he was, or know he was. Which led to her lightly holding onto his hand, it was an action which caused Bilbo to protest meekly. He found it a ridiculous act, it didn't need to be done. But he soon realized why she did it. The more they walked away from her room the more Elves appeared. Soon small clusters appeared and of course, upon seeing their Princess they'd walk to her and speak to her.

Náriel held onto his hand tightly to make sure Bilbo wasn't nudged aside. She did her best to deter as many conversations as possible. If she lingered to long Bilbo gave her hand a squeeze, she often used the excuse of: “I must go find my uncle, please, have fun tonight.” And then they'd scamper off again.

Right now they were walking along a rather quiet corridor, Náriel had informed him of where they were going which caused him to look around confused. “Lethuin and Elros will be there, no doubt.” She glanced down to her side where Bilbo's invisible form walked beside her. “No doubt drinking. We can get the keys.”

“Ah,” Bilbo whispered with a small nod and got tugged down a set of stairs. The wine cellar was full of barrels and wine racks, it was dimly lit and rather dingy.

“Princess!” One of the Elves exclaimed. “What brings you here?”

“I'm looking for some wine, what else would bring me down here?” She laughed and passed the Elf which had addressed her. She took to feigning interest in bottles within a rack, Bilbo stood beside her looking around curiously.

“These empty barrels should have been sent to Esgaroth hours ago.” Náriel looked quickly over her shoulder at Elros, he looked at her briefly before looking back to Lethuin and the other busying Elves down here.

“Do you see them, Bilbo?” Náriel whispered while picking up a bottle.

“I do.”

“That's your way out.” Her eyes flicked up to see Elros put the heavy keys on a nail on the wall. “Go get those keys, I’ll talk to them so they don't notice.” She said while letting go of his hand. She presumed that the keys would levitate in the air as soon as the invisible Hobbit had picked them up. Bilbo didn't need to get told twice, as Náriel walked over and started talking, Bilbo had walked quickly over to the keys. Náriel watched and when she saw the keys had disappeared she'd bid the Elves farewell before running out of the cellar.

“Bilbo?” She whispered lowly while looking around. She flinched and put a hand over her mouth when she was tapped on the arm. “Ready?”

“Yes.”

“Let's go,” Náriel smiled and turned and started to run down the corridor. Bilbo jolted and ran as fast as he could after her. There was a dire need to set the Dwarves free before anyone realized the keys had been taken.

----

“I'll wager the sun is on the rise. Must be nearly dawn.” Bofur said from the back of his cell. He had sat down and tightly crossed his arms across his chest. There wasn't a whole lot else to do when locked away.

“We're never gonna reach the mountain, are we?” Ori said quietly and sadly as he turned from the bars of the cell door.

“Not stuck in here you're not.” Bilbo peeked around and jangled the keys. He promptly tucked the ring in his waistcoat pocket.

“There is a schedule to stick to, remember?” Náriel peeked over top of him with her hands on his shoulders.

“Bilbo? Náriel?!” Balin exclaimed while sitting up quickly and walking to his cell door.

“What?” Someone else exclaimed, which was quickly followed by their names being exclaimed.

“Shh! There are guards nearby!” Bilbo exclaimed while moving quickly alongside Náriel to Thorin's cell and unlocking it.

Náriel stood and looked around to make sure no guards were nearby. When she realized there weren't she turned around only to get suddenly embraced tightly. She let out a struggled sound. “Too tight...Thorin, I can't breathe!” She said while being let go, she coughed and rubbed her neck. “It is good to see you too.” She smiled and put a hand on his chest. The two exchanged a look before looking to the other freed Dwarves.

“Which way?”

“Not that way, down here follow me!” Bilbo said while looking to Náriel, she merely gestured a hand to him. He was going the right way, there was no reason for her to say otherwise. Though it was clear the further they were going, the more quiet complaints were suddenly bought up.

“Can you have faith?” Náriel said while moving forwards to stand beside Bilbo. The two exchanged a look. “Told you.” She said while looking to the sleeping drunken forms of Elros and Lethuin.

“We're in the cellars!” Kíli said in hushed annoyance while walking down the steps.

“You're supposed to be leading us out not further in!” Bofur said while looking to Bilbo.

“I know what I’m doing. We figured this plan out earlier, trust us.” Bilbo said while ushering them along. When everyone had walked down the small aisle which was between a bottle rack and a stack of barrels, Bilbo and Náriel exchanged a look. “Climb into the barrels, quickly!” Bilbo said as seriously and firmly as he could.

Dwalin pushed forwards and looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Are you mad? They'll find us!”

“No, no, they won't, I promise you.” Bilbo retorted. “Please, please you must trust me!” He said pleadingly. The Dwarves just mumbled uncertainly, Bilbo looked to Thorin.

“Do as he says,” he commanded while jumping down the stairs. Each Dwarf helped the other to get into the barrel.

“What do we do now?” Bofur asked while peeking out from his barrel.

“Hold your breath.” Bilbo said while walking to the leaver.

“Hold my breath? What do you mean?” Bofur asked again just as the leaver got pulled and the door slipped open and the barrels started to roll downwards into the water below. The door shut quietly and Bilbo looked to the empty space. “Oh.”

“Didn't think this fully through.” Náriel looked to the side through the shelves of a bottle rack. “They're waking. Bilbo, I must go, I have to.”

“But-”

“I believe in you,” Náriel put her hands on his shoulders. “I believe that you will find a way out. But I have to go. If I am found here I will never be able to leave.” She squeezed his shoulders and smiled, and quickly turned away.

“Couldn't you just...” Bilbo said while Náriel's form disappeared. “Pull the leaver for me?” He finished off, though the prospect of that didn't bode well with him. There had to be another way out. He paced to and fro while trying to ignore the waking Elves a little way away from him. He tapped himself on the forehead before jumping up and down on the floorboards. It was seemingly the only way out. Hearing oncoming voices he halted and looked wide eyed at the staircase. The more he shuffled back the more he was aware of the floorboards slipping backwards, tilting may have been more apt. Bilbo stood frozen as he fell backwards with a small startled noise. He splashed into the cold water and briefly saw the floorboards slip back up with a quiet thud.

-----

(A/N: I completely forgot to say this in the previous chapter: got to the 70's! And, got to 12,000+ views, idk how I managed that, cos I really hit a brick wall earlier on in this and I was going to delete it. But anyhow! Thank you, all, for reading and continuing to be an encouraging force to be reckoned with xD)

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