In a hole, in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty hole infested with worms and other insects of the like, this was a hobbit hole and that meant comfort.
In a hole, in the ground, there lived a hobbit.
In a hole, in the ground…
In a hole…
In a hole…
Bilbo gasped, sitting up abruptly. He looked around the room in which he laid and, to his dismay, came to the conclusion that the stone walls and bared windows were not that of his home. He sighed deeply, burying his face into his hands, wondering if he had managed to fall asleep or if he had just been so engulfed in his own thoughts that he had believed them real for a split moment. Yet, Bilbo soon concluded that it didn't matter because he was not in his home.
He was in a stone room, in a castle where he would live for the rest of eternity. And it wasn't a beautiful, rich castle filled with life and merriness – no, it was a rundown castle with bared windows, cold stone tiles and a chilling breeze which meant discomfort. Said castle was huge yet only occupied by two souls, including Bilbo, and it smelled of moss and rot. The hobbit was ready to swear that all parts of the fortress were ready to cave in but nothing had fallen since his arrival (and Bilbo couldn't even remember how long ago that was).
Bilbo tossed and turned in his mildly comfortable bed, pulling the covers just a tad over his chin as to gain the most warmth possible but to no vain. He was terribly exhausted by the day's work, however his restless mind kept him awake as it did every night he had spent beneath the decaying castle's roof thus far. Desperately, he tried closing his eyes and forcing himself in the dream state but the blessed sleep he desired would just not come to him. Bilbo began to think it was a result of the contract he had made. Nonetheless, he kept his eyes closed and tried to encourage himself to slumber by conjuring positive thoughts of the past – another past.
First, he thought of Thorin with his flowing black hair and hard stare, then of Fíli who was very similar to his uncle in character but resembled a lion more than a wolf, and finally he thought of Kíli with his boyish grin and hot headed thoughts. Once upon a time, those three Dwarves had been a big part of Bilbo's otherwise dull existence and had pulled him into a life of adventure. Though he had had many more companions, it was safe to say that Bilbo had grown most attached to the three mentioned.
Bilbo wondered how they were doing even if he occasionally did get the chance to see them. But the moments were short lived because his contractor would always busy him with tasks as was agreed in the contract. Still, Bilbo supposed that that was better than not seeing them at all. Things could have been much worse. He was thankful that his contractor wasn't such a bad man.
Speaking of the contractor, he was the second man living in the decaying castle alongside Bilbo. And although the hobbit spent most of his time around him, he never saw his face nor heard him utter his true name or title. Thus, it was for those reasons that Bilbo had taken to referring to him as the Contractor.
"Mister Baggins?" a sinister yet familiar voice whispered eerily. Bilbo let out a yelp, nearly jumping out of his own skin but he soon calmed when the sight of the Contractor came to view. The man (if a Man he was) was dressed in his typical black cloak, the hood pulled over his head, masking most of his face as it normally did. In the given darkness, one would assume that the man was an assassin. "You're still awake?"
"Is that supposed to be a joke?" Bilbo asked in return, he wasn't too sure whether it was or not.
"No, not at all, Mister Baggins." The hooded Contractor answered bluntly.
"Good…" Bilbo supposed. The Contractor was meant to be a somewhat serious and glum man (if, as said before, a Man he was), thus joking would take away his credibility.
However, now that Bilbo had given in his answer, his cold room was plunged into an uncomfortable silence. The Contractor clearly had a question for the hobbit but seemed to hesitate to ask which was odd because he normally didn't hesitate to do anything. "Tell me, Bilbo," he began after a moment. His voice was unnaturally soft, as if he meant to understand Bilbo with his upcoming question, "Why did you want this? Are the lives of those people really more important than yours?"
Bilbo seriously considered the question for a moment. He tried to ask himself, truly, if he indeed thought that the lives of the three Dwarven royalties he had met in another past were worth his life. And in spite of his stalling and pondering, Bilbo came to the same conclusion he had every time he pondered his decision.
"Yes," he said, a soft smile spreading on his face as he looked at the Contractor, "I suppose they are more important. Those three didn't deserve to die that day, not when they had sacrificed so much for their people, not when they had so much more to live for."
The calm expression overtaking Bilbo's face faded as his thoughts continued – as he replayed the events of a past that no longer existed. He remembered Thorin yelling at him to leave his sight once he had learned of his betrayal and seeing the desolated faces of his two nephews. Then, he remembered walking pass the many tents erected after the Battle of the Five Armies and passing by two gurneys on which laid Fíli and Kíli, lifeless with a white cloth covering their faces. Finally, he remembered speaking to Thorin one last time and bidding him a heart-breaking adieu as the King Beneath the Mountain took his final breath and followed his kin to Mahal's halls.
"I would have followed him after that battle, you know…" Bilbo nearly whispered as his eyes watered, "and I would have called him my King…"
"I know…" the contractor whispered back.
"So when I found that Elfish book and learned that all I had to do was give my life for them to live once more," Bilbo choked pass the tears streaming down his face, "I knew before I actually considered doing it that I would."
The contractor uttered no word as Bilbo cried in his bed with a pathetic smile on his face. He stretched out his hand and reached for the hobbit's cheeks from which he wiped away one of the many tears. Oddly enough, Bilbo seemed to relax under his touch but that was because the Contractor was rich in magik and was using his powers to help his servant unwind. When the sounds of sorrow ceased even as the tears continued to flow, the Contractor removed his hand and left the room silently.
"Sleep now, Mister Baggins." He whispered soothingly as the door clicked shut behind him.
But Bilbo knew sleep wouldn't come to him and that he would spend another night dabbling in memories of an inexistent past in which he smiled and laughed all the while surrounded by thirteen Dwarves and a sly Wizard. Thus was Bilbo Baggins' punishment for altering the tides of the past by using the powers of darkness.