Jeanne's thoughts were adrift, gazing out towards the sky as a variety of colors began to shift together. It flared up, burning bright in this crimson shade that resembled fire. Then turned into molten gold, like flickering embers. Then lastly, into a smoldering, charcoal black. The darkness didn't seem normal though and moved in an unnatural way like it was alive. It swept over the lands like a plague and gradually got closer to where Jeanne was sitting, inch by inch. Before it could touch her though, Bard's voice spoke up.
"Are you still unwell?" he came up behind her and set a gentle hand down on her shoulder. He must've surprised her too since she jumped and frantically looked back at him.
Jeanne took a breath and rested a hand over her pattering heart. "Yes, but…not in a way that could be understood." She looked back towards the sky but saw that it had returned to a normal shade of dusky gray, as it was before. Her jaw set when she realized what she saw was probably a vision of some sort, telling her something that she had yet to fully grasp. "I feel as if something foul is just beyond the horizon…something not yet seen…but instead felt."
Bard frowned deeply at her mysterious words. "Let's hope something like that doesn't come to pass." He took a seat and presented her with a role of fresh bandages that came with the Elves when they arrived in Dale.
Jeanne kindly took them and began to unravel the old bandages on her arms, rewrapping them with the new ones that felt silky and gentle against her delicate skin. It brought her much relief to get them changed at long last. "Are you going to talk to Thorin soon?" she asked.
"Yes." He nodded but saw her features scrunch up with doubt. "Do you believe it's worth it?"
"I cannot say for sure…but something causes my heart to ache, and it's not because of these wounds."
"Should I be worried?"
"I'm saying…carry on as you always were…but also tread with caution." She clasped her hands together tightly as they shook with anticipation. "I believe the world is on the brink of change. I don't know what will happen…but it's been plaguing my dreams day and night for a while now. Perhaps it has something to do…with my 'connection'. She wiped away the concerned look on her face and smiled kindly in a way to not scare or worry him. "But as I said…carry on with what you believe to be right for your family and people."
"I wish I understood what it is that has you so frightened…but I can see that it's your burden to bear."
"It's just something I have to live with." Jeanne gave a light laugh. "It would probably be best if you head out now before the daylight fades."
Bard dipped his head low and nodded. He wished to talk more, but even if he did, he had a feeling her words would only cause more questions to come up. She speaks with riddles far too much, but it might be intentional. She's probably staying vague to not cause any more worry to his people. "I suppose you're right," he said and got up. "Are you sure you don't want to come with me?"
"I'm sure. Now go." She waved him off with her usual kind smile and sat silently as Bard headed off towards the mountain to speak with Thorin. Her smile fell rather quick though when she sensed an odd coldness coming from behind. "What is it?" she spoke coolly and looked over her shoulder as Thranduil approached from behind, completely soundless. Bard probably had no idea he was there, but Jeanne knew that chilly gaze anywhere.
"By 'connection'…you mean with the one whose face you've stolen," he said with that menacing stare that cut deep into her delicate skin.
Jeanne looked back towards the sky, so she won't have to look into his eyes and feel uncomfortable. "I believe what I said to be true. The world is changing and half of us are not even aware of it. Not even you."
"Why? Because of those dreams, you claim you have? Did it even occur to you that those dreams…mean nothing? Even a child could do it."
Jeanne tightened her jaw and balled up the loose fabric of her dress. "Yes, but…I'm not a child. I've stolen the face of someone very, very dangerous, and you want me to look the other way? Let me say this as a friendly warning…" she took in a deep breath and looked back at him. "keep an eye on the shifting skies."
Bard rode up towards the Lonely Mountain as the day began to slowly fade away, leaving only dim light to shine on what Thorin and his people have been doing this whole time. It seemed that they had totally blocked off the entrance with giant chunks of stone, leaving no way inside through the front. Thorin himself looked quite different too but not in the way he was dressed. His face seemed sharper and colder than he once remembered.
"Hail Thorin, son of Thrain. We are glad to find you alive beyond hope." Bard called out to the top balcony where Thorin and the rest of his company looked down at him.
Thorin sneered at him. "Why do you come to the gates of the King under the Mountain armed for war?" he said, gesturing the awaiting army back in Dale.
"Why does the King under the Mountain fence himself in like a robber in his hole?"
"Perhaps it is because I'm expecting to be robbed." Thorin snapped back.
"My Lord, we have not come to rob you, but to seek fair settlement," Bard spoke with a cocked brow since Thorin really wasn't acting like himself when they met back in Dale. He wished He had brought Jeanne with him because she might be able to read him better than he could. "Will you not speak with me?"
Thorin seemed to relent to Bard's request and slowly stepped down from the balcony. He met the man privately down at the stone wall where there was a hole big enough for them to talk through. Thorin slipped in view of the opening but kept his eyes averted. "I'm listening."
"On behalf of the people of Lake-town, I ask that you honor your pledge. A share of the treasure, so that they might rebuild their lives," Bard requested firmly.
"I will not treat with any man, while an armed host lies before my door." Thorin spat.
"That armed host will attack this mountain if we do not come to terms."
Thorin shook his head and kept his eyes averted. "And your threats do not sway me."
"What of Jeanne's sacrifice then." This got Thorin to finally look at him. It was subtle but he did see that cold facade crumble a bit at the mention of Jeanne's name. True, Thorin wasn't yet aware that she was actually alive, but Bard had made a promise beforehand to keep it a secret for the time being. "Does it not tell you our cause is just? My people are in ruin because of what you stirred up inside this mountain, and if Jeanne didn't do what she did…we would all be dead.
Thorin immediately clenched his jaw and pulled his stern mask back on. "Don't you dare use the name of someone I care about as leverage," he said darkly. "When did the men of Lake-town come to our aid but for the promise of rich reward."
"A bargain was struck!" Bard clapped back.
"A bargain? What choice did we have but to barter our birthright for blankets and food. To ransom our future in exchange for our freedom. You call that a fair trade? Tell me, why should I honor such terms?"
Bard was at a loss for words at the man standing across from him. "Because you gave us your word. Does that mean nothing?"
Thorin didn't say another word more and slipped beyond Bard's view. He stood there for a moment to think as a fury of red hair and a pale smile flickered across his mind, just as it did back in the deep caves when the mountain was still under Smaug's rule. He had a fear of Jeanne burning up within the flames…but he never thought that it would actually come to pass. Thinking about what she must've felt. What she must've been thinking in those final moments…it made his body feel extremely heavy and sluggish.
"Begone! Ere our arrows fly!" Thorin shouted back.
Bard tightened his jaw and backed away from the wall when he realized that he wasn't going to get anywhere with Thorin. Jeanne spoke to him vaguely about her feelings on this matter, but she must've known in the back of her head that Thorin wasn't going to budge when it came to the riches inside the mountain. As it was now though…there was no way they could avoid a war.