After Harlow and Will had tucked Dellvan into bed, they pulled out weapons that they thought would never see light again and their leathers and furs that were worn from travel.
They had expected Bilbo Baggins’s house to at least be somewhat noisy, but when they arrived, the only thing they could hear was the party down towards the bottom of the Shire. “Maybe he cancelled?” Will suggested with a yawn. “I wouldn’t blame him.”
“I don’t think he would have just asked for bodyguards and then cancelled the night before he was supposed to leave.” Harlow reasoned, trying to blink the sleepiness out of her.
“There’s only one way to find out, you know.” Will shrugged and scratched his chin.
Harlow didn’t respond and instead, reached forward and gave three, strong and clear knocks. They waited, anxious, the only sound being their breathing.
After a moment and exasperated sigh and the shuffling of feet came from the other side. The door opened to reveal Bilbo Baggins, the very man they had been hired to protect. His soft face looked worn down from stress and his shoulders visibly relaxed when he saw fellow Hobbits and not rowdy Dwarves.
Bilbo’s hazel eyes gazed on the two, swirling in confusion.
Harlow gave him a soft smile to make up for her cousin’s lack of manners and to try and comfort Mr. Baggins. The poor lad must’ve had a rough time, telling by how exhausted he looked.
“Hello, Master Baggins.” Harlow and Will gave him a slight bow of their heads.
“Harlow, William!” Bilbo exclaimed, surprised, “What are you two doing here?” The hobbit was much to tired for formalities at the moment and only slightly cared if he came off as a bit rude. After all, a crowd of thirteen Dwarves that weren’t the politest, did that to you.
William frowned, more awake. “We were hired to be your bodyguards. You didn’t know?”
A wave of clarity washed over Bilbo’s expression. “Gandalf!” He turned back inside his house with pursed lips. What nerve this wizard had!
The gray wizard came into view. “I almost thought you wouldn’t come.”
Harlow and Will stepped into Bilbo’s house, careful not to track any more mud for the sake of the Hobbit, though, it really didn’t matter, telling by the state of the house. “Aye, and we almost didn’t.” Harlow and her cousin glared at the wizard. This human knew too much of their past. The only ones that knew this much were Will’s sister, Victoria, and the Elves of Rivendell, who were all under the oath of secrecy.
“Let me introduce you to the leader of our company, Thorin Oakenshield.” Gandalf nodded as a Dwarf stepped out from the crowd of Dwarves that surrounded them.
He had black hair that mingled with gray, like smoke and Sweltering sapphire eyes. Though he wore simple clothes of fur and leather boots, he gave off an heir of regalness and majesty.
Harlow and Will went rigid. Thorin Oakenshield? The Dwarven prince of Erebor? This trip was getting more worse by the second.
“You never said anything about two more people joining the company.” Thorin growled at the wizard, “Children and one a girl, no less.”
Gandalf sighed as Harlow bristled.
Will couldn’t help a grin. Harlow was never good with dealing with people who had sexist beliefs, having grown up with fiercely independent women and working in the forges with her father and hunting with her uncle. “Mr. Oakenshield, I am afraid you are quite mistaken.” Harlow seethed, “We are not part of your company, but are simply Mr. Baggins’s bodyguards for his journey.”
“Who are you?” Thorin turned to look at her. No one had dared to talk to him in such a way before. Just who did this child think she was?
Harlow’s back straightened. “Harlow Ironheart, not at your service.” She didn’t feel the need to grovel, even if he was her prince. Years of living among the peaceful, free Hobbits only strengthened Harlow’s sense of freedom.
“Shouldn’t you be home, tending to your children and husband?” Thorin continued to put pressure on her, “How do you expect to defend not only yourself, but two others if the only weapon you know how to hold is a kitchen knife?”
Harlow barely restrained herself from pouncing on the Dwarf and ripping his guts out. “I must ask that you keep your personal thoughts on me to yourself unless I should ask, Oakenshield.”
“Mr. and Ms. Ironheart are perfectly capable of protecting Bilbo on this quest and that is all that matters.” Gandalf intervened before things turned deadly.
“What quest?” Bilbo pipped up, a confused frown plastered on his face.
“You said we were going to Erebor, but why exactly are we going there?” Will ignored Bilbo.
“A quest to reclaim Erebor. To retrieve the Arkenstone.”