Note: This story takes place during Chapter VII,
Winterlude, of “And Back Again”
Faith poured more water over the heated rocks in the centre of the sauna. She heard the hiss, and watched the steam rise from them. She leaned back, basking in the heat. Sweat beaded on her skin, and her dank hair hung down around her shoulders. She didn’t care. She thought that maybe she’d stay here until spring.
She and Beorn had returned from another patrol of the lands surrounding his home the night before. Faith had experienced cold before in her life, but never for such an extended period. There had been the time she’d gone to Inuvik in February to help the local Slayer deal with some ice demon. In absolute terms that had probably been colder—a lot colder—but she’d only had to be outside in it for a couple of hours. She had just spent two weeks during which she was sure that the temperature had never gotten above 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with only a few respites, visiting farmers whose cabins had been heated above freezing—barely.
Beorn’s sauna was bliss, after that: feeling the heat permeate her body; feeling the sweat run down her skin. She felt a bead drip from her chin, down onto her chest, to run down between her breasts. She wanted to stay here for the rest of the winter, but she knew that she couldn’t. Soon she would have to go outside, take another plunge into the snow drifts surrounding the house to cool herself off before she could return to this wonderful heat.
Faith heard the hinges of the door squeak, and felt a cool draft on her skin. She half opened her eyes to look, but she didn’t see anything. For a moment she thought that she’d imagined it, but she felt something. Powerful magic was at work near her. She closed her eyes again.
She wasn’t sure how she felt about Bilbo’s ring. There was power there: great power. It made her skin itch to be near it…but it seemed harmless enough. A magic ring that turned him invisible. In other hands it might be a danger, but in Bilbo’s…it just let him exercise a sense of humour almost as low as her own—accentuated by the cabin fever that they were all feeling. Gandalf knew about the ring. He was one of the people wise to the ways of this world. If there was any danger, he’d say something, wouldn’t he? Faith had decided to ignore the feelings that she had about it, so she sat with her eyes closed, listening to the nearly silent pad of Bilbo’s bare feet across the floor; feeling the slight change in the drafts against her skin.
She heard the slight tinkling sound of ice cubes jostling each other, and tried to roll aside, but she’d waited too long. The ice-water splashed across her skin. Faith gasped from the sudden cold, almost like scalding heat against her skin.
She lunged at where she knew Bilbo had to be, and scooped him up in her arms. She felt him wriggling in her grasp, his skin against hers, but both of them knew that his struggles where futile.
She carried him to the back door—the one that led outside. “No!” he cried as she opened it. She felt the chill of the outside air against her skin. Bilbo cried out as she tossed him into a snow drift.
Faith slammed the door closed again, shutting the cold, and the annoying Hobbit, outside. She scooped up another ladle of water and dumped it over the hot rocks, listening to the hiss as more steam formed. She sat back down to enjoy the warmth.
It was going to be a long winter.