In Thranduil's Halls
Buffy grinned to herself. She might not have mentioned it to the Els just yet, but she was over not getting to go kick Big Bad ass at Dol Goldur. The halls of the Wood Elves might not be as fancy as Arwen’s Menegroth, but they were pretty nifty. She hadn’t expected caves to be so pretty. Or so comfortable.
Which was not to say she wanted to make it a permanent thing- if she had to choose, she’d still take Imladris or Lothlorien over Thranduil’s halls any day. In fact, she was starting to miss Imladris. She was sure Dawn- no, Tindomiel- was getting into all manner of trouble, particularly since she wasn’t the only underage one there. Buffy was a little put out she hadn’t gotten to meet Estel, but if he made her sister’s life less boring, he was of the good in her book.
What wasn’t of the good was the sensation she had that she was being followed through some of the lesser used corridors. The feeling was starting to bother her, because it had a touch of malice to it that she didn’t like. So she focused on moving quietly. As it turned out, Slayer hearing was a touch more sensitive than elvish hearing- or maybe it was the odd combination of Slayer + elf which was unique to her.
She heard what other elves wouldn’t- which had made hunting trips interesting the first few times she had accompanied Thranduil or Legolas into the forest. Right now she could hear the sound of very
quiet footsteps echoing hers. She took a few random turns, confident by now in her ability to find her way around, and then, when she was positive she was being followed, stopped so abruptly that her invisible tail nearly ran into her.
She grabbed, and was somewhat surprised when her first try came up empty-handed. Oh well, it wasn’t the first time her opponent was shorter than she’d expected. She adjusted downward, gauging her next move by the shocked intake of breath that was perfectly audible, and this time she struck gold. Or struck something, anyway.
“Oh, I say!” someone squealed.
For a split second, Buffy was startled by the feeling of pure and unadulterated evil that she had only previously known when face to face with Glory. Then the feeling vanished, replaced entirely by something that was nothing more or less than a normal- albeit very short- person who appeared out of thin air, struggling in her grip.
She wasn’t entirely sure what it was she was holding, as he was child-sized, but clearly an adult male of his kind, blinking at her in surprise. She caught the motion of him pocketing something- presumably whatever had let it pull the invisibility trick- and wondered if that was also the source of the horrible evil.
“Bilbo Baggins of the Shire at your service,” the little man stammered. “I promise I mean you no harm, my lady.”
Buffy stifled a giggle. She was fairly sure Bilbo Baggins wouldn’t have been able to do her harm even if he meant to. Then again, she had been underestimated many times herself…
“Anariel, daughter of Elrond,” she replied, hoping she was getting the manners right. Up until now, her brothers had always been around for introductions to keep her from accidentally straying into rude. “What exactly are you, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire?”
She set him carefully on his feet, and then backed up a few steps, making it clear by her stance and expression that he had nowhere to run.
“I am a hobbit, lady Anariel,” Bilbo Baggins replied. “I did not know Lord Elrond had daughters. I am very sorry we were not introduced at Rivendell.”
“You were at Rivendell?” Buffy asked curiously. Neither Dawn nor Arwen had mentioned anything about hobbits!
“Yes, some months ago,” Bilbo said, sounding sad not to be there still. “The dwarves I am travelling with and I enjoyed your father’s hospitality for several nights.”
“Dwarves? Ohhhh,” Buffy said, the light bulb abruptly going on.
She’d been present for part of Thorin Oakenshield’s interview with Thranduil. While she privately agreed with the dwarf that the wood elves were being a bit harsh locking the dwarves up for basically being lost in the woods, she could also see Thranduil’s point that Thorin had been rude and insulting. And she was pretty sure she herself was the only elf not bothered that the dwarves had drawn the spiders in to break up more than one feast in the forest. Even her brothers had been annoyed after the first time.
“You have met my companions, then?” Bilbo asked wryly.
“Yep. Know where they’re all locked up,” Buffy replied. “What’s your deal?”
“Well, as I’m the only one not locked up- yet, that is-“
“I’m not going to rat you out,” she assured him. “So unless you were planning on making yourself known to other elves-“
Bilbo shook his head, and launched into a brief telling of how it was that he, a respectable hobbit of good family from the Shire, came to be in Mirkwood Forest with thirteen dwarves he was not quite in charge of. Buffy got the feeling that a few interesting details were being left out- in particular the how exactly he got away from the goblins in the Hithaeglir.
“So I’m trying to work out a way to get my friends out,” he finished.
“Aren’t you putting the cart in front of the horse?” she asked.
“How do you mean?” Bilbo said, his little brow furrowing.
“Well, getting them out of their cells is no big, since I’m guessing pickpocketing is pretty easy for the invisible,” Buffy said, grinning as Bilbo flushed. “But once you’re out, then what?”
“We escape and continue on to Laketown,” Bilbo said.
“Mmm,” Buffy nodded. “You might want to work on the nitty-gritty of that plan. I mean, not to throw stones or anything, but once you get out of the gates, you’re still in the forest. And your dwarves don’t seem to have been doing too well out there.”
Seeing Bilbo about to argue, she snorted.
“Don’t even try to say you had it under control. I’m a fighter and I wouldn’t say I could control the spiders. Being invisible’s nice, but there’s only one of you and a butt-ton of them.”
“A button?” Bilbo asked in confusion, glancing down at a waistcoat that had clearly seen better days.
Buffy sighed. Not for the first time, she wondered how much longer it would be before the Els judged they had visited long enough with the wood elves. Messing with Legolas was fun, but she wanted to get back to the Scoobies. She missed being around people who understood her.
“Lots,” she clarified. “Way, way more than one.”
“Oh,” Bilbo said, looking crestfallen. “Yes, I hadn’t thought on that.”
“I could tell. You might also want to start thinking about the ‘how to deal with the dragon’ part, because I bet you all the gold in that mountain your dwarves are going to leave that entirely up to you.”
Now it was Bilbo’s turn to nod, ruefully, as he acknowledged that she was likely right. Buffy felt the urge to clap the poor little guy on the back and tell him things would probably work out in the end- they usually did. But truthfully, even she thought that sending someone three feet tall to deal with a dragon was asking a bit much.
“Well, let me know when you have a plan,” she said, making to retrace her steps toward more populated areas of the caves.
She grinned as Bilbo’s little eyebrows shot up.
“It occurs to me that once you have a workable plan, a distraction might help with the getting away part,” she explained. “Trust me, when it comes to distraction, I’m your girl… uh, elf.”
“I will think on it as you say, Lady Anariel.”
Buffy was pleased to note that he didn’t need her to explain that he should come find her once he had his plan. Even if he wasn’t invisible, he moved quietly enough to escape most wood elves’ notice. But that made her remember the feeling that had accompanied the invisibility.
As he turned to go, Buffy couldn’t help herself.
When he paused, she said it in a rush, before she could change her mind.
“You should save the disappearing act for when it’s really important. Magic always has a price, and I suspect the trick you’re using has a high one.”
She moved back up the corridor before Bilbo Baggins could reply. She wasn’t sure why she’d said it, except that something about the hobbit reminded her of Xander when she first met him- in a little over his head, but determined to help his friends all the same.