Title: The Gold Zone
Author: Alania Black
Fandom/Genre: The Hobbit
Relationship(s): Bilbo Baggins/Thorin Oakenshield
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Explicit sex, canon-typical violence
Summary: In a world where the Dwarves exiled from Erebor stumbled into the warm embrace of the Shire and built their new homes in the hills surrounding it, Thorin Oakenshield has grown into one of the strongest and most well-respected Alpha Sentinels the Dwarven race has ever had. But the King Under the Mountain has never taken a Guide amongst his kin, and after almost 100 years of struggling with his gifts on his own, his people grow concerned for his mental well-being.

Meanwhile, tucked safely away in his Smial, Bilbo Baggins has grown accustomed to his quiet, respectable life. Until the day a Wizard emerges from his past with promises of an adventure Bilbo never asked for and doesn’t want, and Bilbo mind awakens gifts that no Hobbit has ever had…

Chapter One

There was a time, some two thousand years before our story begins, when a race of folk who would one day become known as the Hobbits of the Shire lived in the vales and riverbanks of the Anduin at the foot of the Misty Mountains. They lived there for many thousands of years in peace, but there was a growing darkness across the land that filled the minds and hearts of that people with dread. After a long, hard decade of ever weakening spirits, leaner harvests and deeper winters, the tribe leaders decided to move their people away from those cursed lands.

Not all of the people left, many of the stubborn water-dwelling Stoors chose to remain behind, although when their departed kin finally settled and sent word of safe harbour, the Stoors slowly trickled away from the Gladden Fields until, not long after the banishment of the one known as Sméagol and the time known as the Poisoned Well, the last of the Stoors abandoned the ancestral dwelling of the Hobbits.

The tallest and fairest of the folk, the Fallohides, chose to rely on their links with the Elves and travelled south to Lorien, rather than west with the rest of the first travellers. They were to be sorely disappointed – although they were welcomed in, given rest and respite, the Elves did not want such fleeting mortal lives to live amongst them for long. They sent word to their travelling kin that safety could not be found among the Elves and, several years later, the Fallohides were forced to leave the safety of Lorien and follow their kin in exile.

The following years were hard on the wandering people. Many died from starvation, exposure or illness – more were taken by the large predators that roamed the open plains. The larger folks had no succour or support for the smallest folks in Middle-Earth. It took many long years of heartache and suffering before they finally, finally came across the sweet green lands of Eriador and began to settle into new homes. The years following were years of building and growing, of recovery from the hardship that had been all many of their people had ever known; a time that became the Longest Winter. When they emerged, stronger and yet sweeter for it, the people became known to their new neighbours as Hobbits.

Now, in these long years of wandering and strife, the people know as Hobbits had needed protection and guidance. There had always been those known as Gifted, who could see and hear better, who could taste sickness in the water and smell ripeness in crops that had not yet been harvested. But in the first short months wandering, the Gift emerged in more and more people, and those who were Gifted took on new, stronger traits; they started to connect with the earth and world around them. And, in others who did not have the Gift, a new power developed – softer and sweeter but just as powerful. These people were known as the Guides, for they guided those with the gift away from the dangers that their gifts presented for them.

After settling in the Shire, the Gift began to slowly go dormant among their people, until the battle of Fornost, where a company of Hobbit archers made up entirely of the Gifted set out to support the final battle against the Witch-King Angmar. It marked the last of the hardships the Hobbits would face, and their lives settled into a slow, easy peace. Within a generation, only the Thains and leaders still showed signs of the Gift and, within another two generations, the Gift no longer presented among the Hobbit folk.

* * * * *

T.A. 2800

Many hundreds of years after the battle of Fornost, the Hobbits of the Shire woke one morning to find a Dwarven horde on their doorstep. The company were led by a battle-weary King Thrain and his son, the Prince Thorin. Although it had been many thousands of years since the long winter, so long that it was little but myth and tales to the Hobbit folk, deep inside their collective consciousness they remembered the pain of those harsh, cold years. The harrowed looks in the eyes of the Dwarven leaders told their tale as well as any, and the missing Dwarves in family groups – fathers, brothers, sons lost to war, wives and mothers and children lost to sickness and injury on the road.

The Dwarves had planned to continue travelling, hoping to find a new mountain to make home after the worm took their mountain from them. Hoping, perhaps, that distant relatives in the Blue Mountains could provide temporary shelter for their people. But the small folks of the Shire were warmer and more welcoming than any other people across the whole of the Middle-Earth that they had travelled through. They took their people in, gave them shelter and food and warmth, and finally, when it looked like the Dwarves were beginning to settle in, they offered them home.

On the outskirts of the Shire, only an hour or so outside the borders of Hobbiton, were the hills of the White Downs. The first hobbit settlers had made homes there, and the remnants of their dwellings provided shelter for the Dwarves through a long summer while they delved into the hills and carved out homes of their own. It was not ideal – they were nothing like the true mountains of their homes and the best they could mine were rocks and tiny gems, but the Hobbits of the Shire were always more than happy to buy what they could sell. They were also eager for good smithing work for their farming tools, having previously relied on the Men at Bree or the occasional wandering smith. The generous folk also set up an arrangement with the King for protection against threats in return for a supply of food to their new settlement – the Dwarf King did not need to know that the biggest threat they had faced in many hundreds of years had been Tilly Proudfoot’s preserves, after all.

Some 90 years later, in the year 2890 of the Third Age, the young Hobbit lass Belladonna Took married her childhood sweetheart Bungo Baggins and (with some knowing looks from her fellow Hobbits for the timeline) soon after gave birth to a son, Bilbo Baggins. Bungo and Belladonna loved their baby fiercely; and vowed that no one would find out the truth of his heritage – he showed every sign physically and as he grew of being a perfectly normal Hobbit.

Until the day that a Wizard invited him on an unwanted adventure and soon after a company of Dwarves turned up on his doorstep.

Chapter Two