Chapter 1: The Irate Bard
"Did ya see him!? He didn't even look me in the eye! Hardly could! And when he did there was contempt. The hell did I do to gain his ire!?" Bofur bellowed and complained within the chambers of his manor.
"Now now, I'm sure he noticed you well enough like he did with the rest of us, cousin. He didn't look too much towards Nori either, but I believe the fellow was right thankful for that matter since he'd already been reprimanded for his foll-up of trying to take more than his contracted share," Bifur explained as he raked his thick fingers through his graying hair.
"He did appear somewhat distracted. There is a lot to take in at the moment. With Bilbo leaving, then having to deal with the people of Dale, and the blasted Elvenking in Mirkwood. Surely it is to be quite the busy next few months for Thorin, big brother," Bombur suggested as he removed his helmet to shake his head and scratch his cheek.
"Tha's easy for you lot to say! He damned near praised your stew on the journey at every chance he got!"
"Well the stew was good, Bofur."
"I ain't denying that!"
Bofur groaned loudly, removing his hat to rake fingers through his own crop of brunette hair as he tried to process everything over again. It had been an emotional few days for them all and was bound to be a very exhausting next few months given all the repairs, restoring, and cleanup that everyone was expected (if not required) to lend a hand and assist with restoring Erebor. It had started with Fili, Kili, and Thorin suffering grievous wounds after the successful victory of the epic battle had taken hand. Not in all their years of living upon Middle Earth would any of them witness such a thing again; Man, Elf, and Dwarf all working together to bring down Orcs and Trolls alike. The swooping cries of the Eagles and Beorn literally throwing himself into the fray only rallied them all to keep fighting. Everyone within the Company had survived, but the three Durin Kin had suffered the greatest. They spent days, almost weeks, in the infirmary to recover and many a time the lot of them had thought Thorin would surely pass into the embrace of death, but as all Dwarves the three of them were hardy and stubborn. Too stubborn to allow Death to take them away from their victory. Bilbo had hardly left Thorin's side during their recovery, he was the most delighted to see the King finally on his feet once more. Then came the celebrations and mourning, but more so the celebrations. Thorin being crowned King of Erebor finally, Dain and his folk from the Iron Hills busy clearing the mess and continuously singing of their victory, the people of Dale exhausted, but overjoyed as they tended to their wounded with the extra process of trying to restore their homelands. Thranduil providing his services, his Elfkin healing. Though the Dwarves refused such a kind gesture as respectfully as a Dwarf could without instigating another rise of conflict. This only followed up with the rites and practices of those of the Company not only being given their fourteenth share of the riches to be had, but also to obtain newly established titles. All of them were advanced to the Royal Erebor Guard and personal titles to confirm not only their authority, but the value, loyalty, and respect among their people that only a King could bestow upon them.
Bofur was indeed happy for all of this. Sad to see Bilbo leave, for he needed to return to the Shire before the winter got too harsh to travel in, but his sadness had been redirected into song and dance or work needing to be done within the new manor that all of them had each obtained. Yet it wasn't the leaving of his Hobbit friend that left a bitter and sour taste in the back of the Dwarf's throat at the moment. The ceremony of gaining his wealth and titles was grand, beautiful even, with the stores of wine flowing freely and decent food to be had. Nevertheless, it was the King's reaction and gestures that didn't sit well with him and he wasn't the only one to notice this either. Others within the Company gave awkward glances and nervous raise of brows at the trade off of reactions between King and Bard that made the tension in the air unnervingly palpable. If anything, it only caused questions to be had, yet unspoken openly. Bofur had not screwed up during the ceremony and for once he was actually quiet and kept the air of respectability to himself. That alone was a rare feat even for him to act out on given that he had the awful habit of being outspoken and opinionated.
King Thorin's looks, from what he could obtain, felt like contempt and something of annoyance. The smile was strained. He couldn't even look Bofur in the eyes, he was so swift to look upon Bifur or Bombur who stood by his side, and when eye contact was made, Bofur retaliated with his own challenging gaze to confirm he was not only insulted by Thorin's lack of general social courtesy, but genuinely hurt by the rebuffing of respect and equality that the others obtained so easily. Dwarves were social beings among their own kind; the acts of hand gestures, physical interaction, and eye contact meant a lot to them. Thorin had gone down the line, thanking them all with a hug and a firm pat on the shoulder for it was their way of showing appreciation to one another. "Thank you for the help upon this Quest. Your acts and deeds do not go ignored." "Thank you, my King. I shall serve you henceforth." It was simple and direct, little to no formality to be had, but it confirmed friendship between their King and the unity of the Company for they were all like kin now. When Thorin had attempted to approach Bofur with the same gestures, Bofur could tell the rigidness and stoic form of the body to confirm something forced that didn't make him raise his arms to return the hug and when Thorin attempted to pat him on the shoulder, he feigned stepping on his own foot to jerk his shoulder away before quickly apologizing for his clumsiness and giving an even bigger grin back at the King.
"This isn't like you. Why do you dwell on such trivial things? You make it sound like as if he detests you?" Bombur asked as he started to remove a few flecks of dust from his helmet.
"Hardly! Do not let such small things obstruct your vision, cousin. Making mountains out of hills does nothing, but cause unnecessary stress on yourself. Leave it be!" Bifur nagged as he always did when it came to his kin.
Bofur huffed loudly and scratched the side of his cheek, the dispair and anger from within his mind was still present, but his cousin and brother's kind (but nagging) words rang loudly in his ear to where he was able to shrug it off and give a smirk towards them both in agreement. As he always did when faced with emotional struggles, Bofur began to laugh and was quick to drape his arms over the two, pulling them both into a tight hug to practically smother them against his shoulder. Bifur and Bombur laughed, Bombur made a jesting remark which only made the other two burst out with more laughter to only bring fourth complaints from Bifur.
"Maybe the King turned away because from the rank of your hair! By my beard, Bofur! You are to get split ends!"
"Agreed! It smells of onions and garlic!"
"Oi! It smells fine enough! I bathed!" Bofur snapped defensively.
"Apparently not if your hair is to smell of leeks and tubers!" Bombur paused to grab one of the pony tails to give a sniff. "Actually..it smells like onion soup? Where did you get--"
"They were cookin' it down at the main hall! M'not gonna pass down a good onion soup!"
Bifur and Bombur looked to each other then back at their kin before busting out with even louder rows of laughter again, which only made Bofur join in to hug his kin even tighter.
Chapter 2: Discourse
Bofur reveals that he's not an idiot all the time and Gloin makes an ass of himself.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
With nightfall there came the starting cusp and signs of fall settling in to a degree where the temperatures were cold enough to even freeze, if not initiate snowfall, although the warmth and heat of the still glaring morning sun that rose higher and higher at its peak was always swift to melt such chills away. Nevertheless, the cool was still present enough to cause warm breaths to be seen. Weeks had passed and the improvement of repairs to restoring Erebor to its natural wonder and glory were coming along swiftly that it allowed the Company to be eased the burdens of to focus on their routine guard duties and their rounds upon the post upon the royal chambers and halls where Thorin and those of higher status dwelt. At the moment, the Company were deliberating on the situation of current events which led to be a very stressing and mentally exhausting trial. The King had been preparing himself for the oncoming situation of parlaying new trade routes with Mirkwood and Dale, the debates of sharing in Erebor's wealth still did not sit well with many of the Company, nor with Thorin himself, for why should they even trade with Elves who had imprisoned them? Who garnered no need to help when they were at their lowest? Weather it was the hate of Elves or the greed that all Dwarves harbored when it came to their wealth, the entirety of the situation and their stubbornness had set back the visitations of Thranduil and Bard which in turn had caused a lot of questions and unneeded tension to arise.
"Never trust an Elf! To hell with the lot of them knife eared sneaks! Why should we give them anything when they came upon us and our home with an army!?"
"Agreed! The only good Elf is a dead one! As if we need their help!"
"We can not allow age long hate and grudges cloud our judgements! We're beyond such petty squabbles, are we not?! Why should Dwarf and Elf have anymore ire!?"
"The King made a promise to share his wealth with ALL! He should uphold that promise and given that we are of his Company, we should too support such vows!"
"If you are to be corrected then it should be known that he promised the people of Laketown! Not Elves!"
"The very people who showed ire upon us! We had to sneak in!"
"And that was of our own paranoia! The people of Laketown have suffered equally as we have!"
"They trade with the ponce of an Elfking! If anything the lot of them are equally no better!"
"They also had the Arkenstone in their possession!"
"A mild falter! Do not bring the Hobbit's actions into this! His motives were of the concerns and health of the King! Unrelated!"
"Bard killed Smaug! His people are suffering!"
"He also tried to stop us!"
"AND he rode side by side with Thranduil with his army!"
"Surely that does not mean he agrees with Thranduil's judgement! Why do we need to fight with the Elves!?"
"Piss off, ya Elf lovin--"
"Never trust an elf!!"
"To hell with ye'!!"
"They need our help!"
"And why should we help those that didn't help us!?"
"They will starve!"
"Îsh kakhfê ai-‘d-dûr-rugnul!"
"Zasabbathmî dashatmêzu azbâh nî dumê khî!!"
More shouting and yelling was to be had, cursing followed by the throwing of food at the table which only led to blunt threats and even the brink of some wanting to throw a fist to the face, but it was all quite normal given Dwarven politics. Nevertheless, it was still a loud and boisterous display that only raised in volume and rage that made Thorin stand from his seat to pound his fist on the table.
"SILENCE!" he bellowed out like the roar of a lion.
It was the thunderous clap of his voice that made all go quiet and the lot of them drop either food or goblets that were about to be thrown across the table of the opposing side. Those standing were quick to sit down and others that were about to choke or punch lowered themselves to grumble and take their seat as well. Thorin stayed quiet, pinching the bridge of his nose with labored breaths to confirm his state of health that he was still recovering from his wounds. Balin drew near with intentions to inspect, as did Dwalin who stood to provide some means of support, yet Thorin stopped them with a raise of his hand and they were quick to return to their seats.
"The lot of you act as if we are barbarians! Calm yourselves this instant! Weather or not what your opinions may be, the debate is not on a racial matter, but a political one! Winter is drawing near and we are in a situation that demands our attention! I called upon your input on the matter not because of loyalty and trust, but because ALL of you have had various experiences with both Elves and Man alike! You have been outside of these walls, the walls and domains of your homes! You have traveled far and may be requested to do so again in my place if the future calls for it, which means that ALL of you represent not only your King, but of the Khaziad of Erebor!" he snapped loudly, revealing his anger and intense gaze in amber eyes. Thorin panted, taking a moment to recover and stand tall before the Company.
"Balin, retrieve pieces of paper and charcoal for each of them. We will deliberate on this matter further once we have come to a vote. Afterward we will discuss further on the matter until we have come to a tolerated agreement before I shall make my final decision on the matter. The conflict is if we should proceed and pick up trade with Dale, in addition; Should we involve the Elves on the matter. Write yes or no on your piece of paper and we shall tally each side," Thorin explained as Balin began passing out the charcoal and paper.
There was silence to be had, a few whispers and murmurs were overheard for a few seconds, but the warning glares from their King made them quickly go back to silence that allowed only the scritch of charcoal against parchment to be heard in union with the crackle of the fireplace nearby. Once the votes had pooled together, Balin went about tallying them up, splitting the pile equally in half before grumbling low to Thorin who grumbled right back to confirm there was confusion to be had. The others of the Company stayed quiet, a few nervous glances followed by shrugs before Thorin threw up his hand to give a sigh and turn to face the others with a strained look of frustration on his face.
"It is a tie."
At an instant there was an uproar; both sides began shouting and pointing fingers, insults of every sort to be had, followed by Thorin and Balin roaring in union this time to silence the others who quickly sat back down with rude hand gestures to be had.
"By Mahal, who the hell didn't vote!?" Dwalin growled angrily.
"Tha'd be me," a voice piped up from the far end of the table.
Bofur had been oddly quiet and for that personal and thankful matter, he was right grateful for. Not many in the Company had known him to be quiet, for he was a babbler and rambler to the highest degree. Yet to see him now, quiet and diminutive compared to the others who had just been at the brink of ripping beards out, was a very strange and surprising sight to see. All eyes were upon Bofur, who couldn't even look up at the moment, too busy picking at the charcoal which only stained his fingers black as he felt anxious and damned near scared since he could feel some of them glaring.
"But of course," Dori hissed in a condescending tone which was quickly hushed by Nori shoving an elbow in his side.
"Why didn't you vote?" Fili asked, obviously speaking up on what everyone else was thinking.
Bofur opened his mouth as if to say something, but quickly closing it shut to give an awkward shrug and toss the piece of charcoal on the table by his goblet filled with wine. He gave a few nervous fidgets and picked at his sideburns which only caused a few to groan in frustration. They knew those gestures that the Dwarf was indecisive and anxious which only drove Bombur to reach over to stop Bofur from digging his nails into his cheek.
"Bofur," Thorin started off. His tone was calm and encouraging, but even the Company could pick up on the sternness in his voice that was either a warning or an order to be had. "Stand and explain to us why you did not vote."
Bofur did not stand at first and it took Dwalin drawing near for him to finally (and quickly) pull himself upon his feet to clear his throat and blurt out his answer.
"Give him what he wants," he said with voice calm.
Such a remark drew even more confusion of arched brows and rubbed temples of frustration since it gave little explanation of his words. Bofur cleared his throat again in attempts to force his charisma at play in hopes to sway them.
"L-look, m'not too grand with this whole political stuff. The-..the Elfking. I'm thinking the only reason why he came at our doorstep with an army is because he wanted something that we've got. I don't even believe it be the gold or even the Arkenstone, but those white diamonds or whatever. Sooo..we should, I dunno. Give'em over?"
"Let him finish!" Thorin snapped angrily at Gloin.
Bofur pursed his lips tight and sucked in a sharp breath to puff his chest out. "If Thranduil is willing to come to Erebor with his entire damned army, what makes ya think he wont do it again? Technically we got what he wants so it means if we make mention to give them back, he'll be swayed to comply to whatever we want? We currently hold all the cards in this game--"
"It's not a game, Bofur."
"I get that, but I'm sayin if we give him what he wants, we can request for him to sod right off with an agreement that we assist one another if the Orcs decide to rise up again. Meanin that if he doesn't help us like he did prior, then it won't be an easy ride for him in the long run since he won't be fond of losing more of his kin with fightin both Orcs AND Dwarves. He minds his business, we mind our own and don't get involved with each other. We ain't gonna be able to stop the hate between our people, but we'll at least quell any future problems that might transpire, aye?" Bofur said quickly.
There were murmurs of agreement to be had with this suggestion. Most didn't like it of course, but at the same time it did seem to ease the tension well enough to where the majority of the Company.
"But that doesn't conclude if we should trade with them or not?"
"Sure it does! It confirms that trade won't happen and will at least allow some time for both sides to lay such issues to rest until the tension has died down. We've got more to worry about at the moment with beasts and hell-things running amok in our lands. If both sides consider to come together to talk trade then..well..that's up to whatever be happenin' in the future."
"But what if Dale begins trading with them?"
"Who cares? That's Dale's business! They were trading with Thranduill as well with Thrain and Thror well before Smaug came into the picture, why get involved with their politics when we've got our own to worry about?" Bofur snapped defensively.
"And of Dale?" Thorin asked with a bemused expression that almost sounded as if he were mocking or even entertaining Bofur with such ridiculous suggestions.
"Uphold your promise. A King that goes back on his word is often frowned upon and morals begin to be questioned. Folks ain't keen on being allied to a flip-floppy King," Bofur said as bluntly as ever.
Such a remark caused another small uproar, Dwalin and Gloin quick to stand and snap right back at Bofur, damning his words and insulting his such crass and forward words as inappropriate, if not insulting. Dwalin was damned near close to drawing his weapon and call the guards which only triggered Bifur and Bombur to quickly stand with attempts to defend their kin who only stood to bark more remarks at Gloin who's face was going as red as his beard.
"You be a traitor to your kind! Having us barter with Elves and Men! Insulting your King in such a way!"
"It be just as traitorous to retract oaths and promises! He asked for m'input and I gave it! Don't be sitting there questioning my loyalties!"
"I WILL NOT SIT HERE AND LISTEN TO SUCH TREASON! NEVER TRUST AN ELF!"
"TO HELL WITH YOUR HATE, GLOIN! WE EITHER MAKE PEACE OR THERE WILL BE MORE BLOOD!"
"P'TAK KAHZIAD!" Gloin sneered before spitting in Bofur's direction.
So much happened at once that one second there was silence, then the uproar of literal screaming that only caused the domino affect of everyone being stirred into a panic. It started with everyone looking at Gloin with wide eyes at his remark and gestures of spitting at Bofur, Oin was quick to take a step back which made Gloin look at his older brother in confusion. Even Balin and Thorin inhaled sharply. All eyes were on the red headed Dwarf which allowed Bofur the few split seconds to remove his hat, throwing it across the room onto the floor and climb over the table to charge upon Gloin.
"BOFUR NO!!" Bifur shouted loudly.
It was at that moment that everyone in the Company looked in time to see a boot collide with Gloin's face then the pony tailed Dwarf pounce on his companion to begin wailing his thick fists into his face, the riotous screams and roars from the two scrapping on the floor only combined with the shouting from the others standing up and quickly running over to pull the two apart. Bombur had come upon his brother in time to scoop him up with ease, plucking him off of Gloin to allow Dwalin enough time to help the Dwarf to his feet. Unlucky for Gloin, Bombur had a difficult time containing Bofur who easily slipped and wriggled himself free from his coat to lash out yet again with a final blow to Gloin's face. Both of them were bloodied, Bofur's nose and lip busted due to Gloin throwing his own punches, a cut that was sure to bruise was on his cheekbone as well, but the other Dwarf looked far worse, his first eye already starting to swell up with the second one following suit. Then the busted lip and missing lower tooth only clashed with bloodied nose and Gloin doubling over to cradle his side. Oin was shouting up a storm as was Dwalin with their own threats and curses at Bofur just as Balin intervened to wrap his arm around his little cousin's neck to pull him into a choke hold.
"Get him OUT OF HERE!" Dwalin roared.
Bombur and Bifur didn't need to be told twice and they were already dragging Bofur towards the double doors. Bofur managed to pry himself free from their grip, quick to run back with gestures of grabbing his hat before turning tail to storm past his kin to stomp through the threshold. The others of the Company were still riled up, Gloin and Oin shouting remarks about disgrace and shameful acts from their fellow brethren to act in such heathen ways. Dwalin agreed, calling for an arrest for assult as Nori was quick to protest, defending his friend stringently by shouting at Gloin for his vicious and heartless remarks that only made Dori try to restrain his young brother from lashing out at Gloin as well. It was at that moment Thorin intervened once more with his booming voice yet again, silencing them all.
"Cease at once! Dwalin silence your self!" he spat when he heard the taller Dwarf snarling more crass remarks under his breath. Thorin stood slowly, gripping the arm of his chair as he leaned slightly to have Balin draw near for support once more. "We will reconvene tomorrow evening to discuss this further. Pray that your tempers are contained than they were this evening. Away with all of you!" he snarled in warning, waving them off the be dismissed.
"Are you to do nothing of what just happened!?" Dwalin hissed when the others began to gather their things to herd their way towards the door.
"It will be handled in due time, Dwalin," Thorin grunted right back.
Thorin was quick to turn around, the menacing glare upon his face, shadow casted over his eyes from sloping brow as he shot Gloin a warning that pushing the confrontation was bound to land them in a most unwelcome position. Gloin was quick to be silenced by the look and was even quicker to turn away to push the tissue further against his nose as his brother encouraged him to leave. Balin and Dwalin lingered, being the closest to Thorin as something of his brother in both diplomats and battle.
"The discourse be rather palpable this evening. Are you sure you wish to reconvene tomorrow evening? Should we not give them a few days to quell their anger upon one another?" Balin suggested as he motioned for his brother to stay silent for the time being.
"We do not have that time to spare! Every day that we stall on this matter is only more tension to be had between our people and the people of Dale!" Thorin hissed angrily.
"Then I suggest we go with Bofur's suggestion," Balin said quickly.
Thorin and Dwalin raised their brows in surprise at Balin's answer which only made Dwalin scoff loudly, taking such a statement as a joke which only made his brother give a twitch of the corner of his mouth in agitation. "Bofur may not be the wisest of Dwarves within the Company, but he made himself known this evening by having wit that none of us have had for weeks! Who would have thought? Nevertheless; his words rang truer over all else and it appears that his inherent desire to be non-confrontational has given him clarity over this very trying issue that needs to be put to rest if not now, then very soon, less we have another contingent at our doorstep yet again," Balin said in a biting tone.
"Non-confrontational? Were we not in the same room just moments ago or are you starting to go blind, brother?" Dwalin snapped right back.
"I would have done the same damned thing if I were called such a sort. Anyone else would have acted in the very same way, albeit they would have respectfully waited--"
"Silence," Thorin interrupted quickly less another argument erupt right before him. There was silence between the three until Thorin spoke up once more. "I wish to retire for the night. Balin, send word that I wish to have the others to reconvene a bit earlier than tonight. Make sure to state that if such hostilities are to arise again, then they will find themselves being cooled off behind bars and I do not tolerate such ridiculousness within my private quarters in the future. Dwalin, fine them both."
"Enough to get them to apologize and to make it known that their actions were disrespectful to their King. Away with both of you."
Îsh kakhfê ai-‘d-dûr-rugnul! - Pour my excrement upon the naked-jawed ones!
Zasabbathmî dashatmêzu azbâh nî dumê khî!! - You would deny your own son an inheritance!!
P'TAK KAHZIAD! - PETTY DWARF!
Chapter 3: Apologies and Confessions
Bofur musters up what dignity is to be had and apologizes to Gloin.
Fili and Kili come to Bofur's defense in hopes to further sway their uncle to the more peaceful alternative.
The next evening, the Company returned to the private hall of Thorin's royal quarters as mead and food was served. The rumbling and bustle of conversation was to be had between the drinking and chewing, but there was still the apparent tension to be had as everyone was doing their best to stay in high spirits. Three seats before the table were left empty which raised red flags and concern among the others, more so Nori who kept casting glances towards the doors in hopes to see them open. Questions were had of course, but they were done under breaths or when drinking from tankards with the twitch of brows or nudge of elbow to be had. Suddenly, there was the noise of the double doors being swung open by the guards to introduce and make Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur present within the dining quarters. They walked with backs straight and donned themselves in their noble finery. All were quiet as they approached the table to stay standing, quiet as ever. Thorin arched a slow brow to sit up within his seat and lower his tankard to place it upon the table as he kept his eyes upon the three.
"You are late."
"And for that we apologize," Bifur stated with a forward tone as he took an owlish side glance at his cousin who stood between them holding a large drawstring sack. Bofur did not look the least bit happy, but his lips were pursed tight and he did not look up for the time being. The silence and tension was thick as all eyes were either upon Thorin or the trio, but the silence only drew on for so long before Bifur pushed Bofur forwards. "Mine cousin has things to say if you shall allow it, my King."
Thorin took a moment to process the situation, then gave a cant of his head in confirmation that Bofur had the floor to speak. The Dwarf grit his teeth, jaw jutting out dangerously to confirm he didn't like the idea of doing this, the humiliation far too much, but Bifur's owlish glare was turning into something quite savage that made him inhale to speak.
"I stand here before the Company and my King to apologize for my disrespectful words and actions that had transpired the night prior. I also wish to apologize to Gloin for my assault upon him by paying for not only mine, but his debts that Dwalin had fined us earlier this morn if it so pleases you and Gloin, my King," he said sadly to confirm that at least the apology held some genuine tone to it.
That alone made the others perk up in surprise, more so Gloin who looked at the gold then towards Thorin for a response. The King was silent, casting judgement on Bofur's words, testing and mentally prodding while watching the other expressions to be had. His lips were drawn into a flat line as he stood once more to give a nod and smirked at Bofur which only made the Dwarf quickly break eye contact to look down at the floor again. The act made Thorin squint as he cast his attention to Gloin.
"Do you accept his apology?"
"Aye, though I wonder why he is paying off my fine. That ain't be any of his business."
"I too am curious of that. I believe we all are."
Bofur fidgeted and reached up to scratch the side of his cheek again, Balin reaching to grab his wrist and pull the hand away which only made Bofur jerk his hand away from the strong grip.
"I don't like conflict or grudges between family members," Bofur said quickly while putting his hand down.
"We are not family?" Gloin replied with confusion.
Bofur froze and his nose twitched at that remark. At first his face had shown something of a disheveled annoyance, humiliation and the blow of his pride had been more than enough of a punishment, but those four words seemed to had struck a serious nerve that actually made the Dwarf wilt and falter on his words for a few seconds. Again, Bofur was silent, his mind still processing Gloin's remark with eyes showing the raw hurt that was quickly masked by a big grin. Bifur cursed under his breath and Bombur shook his head slowly as averted his gaze to have Bofur give a small chuckle.
"Ah no..Bofur.." murmured Nori sadly.
Bofur stopped Nori's sad tone by giving a quick wave of his hand to hush him. The awkwardness made a few shift and move in their seats, Thorin studied Bofur's actions, taking note of the quick way of masking his emotions with that strained smile. Yet the look in the Dwarf's eyes gave Thorin a red flag in warning.
"Don't be worryin about it then, Gloin! Just..see it as m'way of apologizing!" he said quickly as he took a step back from the table. Gloin felt a ripple of guilt push against his mind, the biting of his tongue was had and his own stubborn pride didn't allow him to speak up until he looked towards Thorin who was casting his piercing gaze in his direction. He knew well enough what that unspoken look was indicating and sat up from his slouched position to begin formulating his own apology.
"Don't," Bifur interrupted him before the red headed Dwarf even had a chance to speak up. Weather it be a suggestion or warning, Bifur placed his hand on Bofur's shoulder to quiet the restless mind he could tell that his cousin was fighting with and motioned towards Bombur to escort Bofur outside less the Dwarf begin rambling and cause yet another stir. Compliance was had as the brothers left and Bifur turned his attention towards Thorin to give a deep and low bow.
"May I make a request, mine King, if it be possible that we abstain ourselves from being present from future diplomatic meetings until further notice?"
Thorin was quiet, leaning back in his seat to scrub fingers over his growing beard.
"You and your cousins are more than welcome to participate in these meetings, Bifur. You are part of the Company which means that even if you are not related by blood, you are still considered and seen as family. Your input and opinions hold value within this court and future proceedings. Your request has been denied," Thorin said carefully as he cast a sideways glance towards Gloin who's face was going bright pink, then red with both anger and shame. Thorin, in a way, had indirectly struck a blow at the Dwarf's pride without outright humiliating him, but it was more than enough that the others gave nod in agreement to their King's words to add salt to the proverbial wounds. Bifur didn't speak up at first, processing the gesticulations and expressions of the other Companions whom were waiting for his response that only came with a slow nod, then a quick one followed suit that he not only complied to Thorin's orders, but accepted the denial of his request before turning away to make his way out.
The air was thick with silence, only the shuffle of bodies and the clearing of throats to be had before Thorin seated himself back down to rub his chin thoughtfully at everything that transpired. Conversation picked up once more, the majority of the subject being current events, Bofur's apology, Bifur's request, and whatnot. Gloin spoke to noone for the time being, simply drinking down the dregs of his goblet and staying quiet which drew pursed lips and suspicious glances to that red face glaring hurtfully right back at them. The King drew his attention to his nephews who were whispering softly to one another, taking careful note of the way they discussed the situation and part of Thorin felt that familiar rush of relief upon seeing their faces for they had suffered just as equally as he had with fighting Azog the Pale Orc. After the battle and when they all awoken from their unconsciousness, Thorin became ridiculously overprotective of Fili and Kili until he was sure that his sister Dis could confirm her presence in Erebor. So far the brothers had indulged greatly in the luxuries and royalties that they did not often receive in the Blue Mountains, yet he was forever watchful over them, sometimes even requesting Nori's keen eyes to secretly follow their footsteps as they wandered the massive halls. Yet that was quickly lain to rest by Balin he deemed such acts asinine and had to remind Thorin that the infringements of privacy between himself and his nephews was reaching dangerous levels and that he should back off. Thorin rebuffed the warnings at first with his excuses that he simply wished to be reassured that there were no complications with their physical and mental health, but after yet another firm nagging from Balin, he ceased his spying. Nevertheless, he watched the two in hopes to get their attention; Fili looking more like their father, Kili looking more like their mother only reminded him of simpler, if not happier, times. At the moment, it appeared the brothers idle whispering in conversation was shifting to something of a heated matter, then suddenly a sneering argument that was driving Kili to shove his brother against his seat as Fili was quick to parry the move by grabbing the back of his little brother's neck to press him against the side of the table.
"Fili," Thorin warned. It was a tone he had been using since they were Pebbles and it was a firm indication that the older sibling needed to cease with his harassment of his kin.
The blonde Dwarf turned to look up at his Uncle defiantly, obviously frustrated over something that was causing the two to dole out physical punishment between one another.
"He's being childish! Again!"
"You are! You always are! It should be spoken of! Should have been spoken of ages ago!" Fili complained.
"Sshsh! Shush! Hush! It's nothing! It's absolutely unnecessary to any of--"
"By Mahal's saggin' left nut it not be nothing!"
"Language!" Dori snipped from across the table while sipping at his wine.
"Tell him, Kili!"
"By my beard, I think it be right and proper you confess about it now! He's got every right to know such a thing especially with everything that's going on, brother!"
"I-..I-I'd rather not! Not here! You always do this! Tattling on me! Why?"
Thorin groaned, more so growled something dangerous, to confirm that he was in no mood for the back and forth he was hearing between the two brothers. The King was a patient and far more tolerant leader compared to his father, but these past few weeks had strained his patience so thin that he was becoming quite cynical and bitter to confirm his needs of wanting to have one day where he wouldn't have the duties of a King.
Woe to the King for the Crown is a heavy burden. Is that not what the tales of old spoke of? It will be a blessing from Mahal when the days come where I will not have to endure such foolishness! Thorin thought to himself as he pinched the bridge of of his nose to clench his eyes shut. "Make your point, boys," he finally spoke up.
Fili shoved Kili again, pushing more peer pressure and encouragement to finally speak on what they were arguing over. Kili fidgeted more, expressing his obvious reluctance to speak up, but it was a rapt shove once more from his brother that forced him to heave a very loud groan of protest.
"I agree with Bofur's suggestion!" Kili snapped out loudly to silence the others.
All attention redirected to the young Dwarf who kept that classic stern gaze that was too uncannily familiar to the very Uncle he stood before. Thorin showed little expression to the remark, but it did draw his attention to the forefront as he lowered his hand from his brow to look back and forth between the two. Fili was quick to stand up as well, with a clear of his throat and wiped the crumbs from his mustache.
"I too support this notion of agreement!" Fili was far more formal with his words compared to his younger brother, but the words showed the unsurprising eagerness that made Kili give a smile, very pleased that his brother was both supporting and showing the obvious protective nature he had over him at times.
"Lords above, I must be getting rather old if these two are starting to get involved with politics," Dwalin teased while nudging Balin who only snorted a few chuckles.
"Enlighten us on why you two support such a notion," Thorin ordered as he picked up his goblet. Surely this was rich and now he was genuinely entertained, curious too, that his nephews were being so vocal on such a serious topic. Sometimes he forgot that those two were technically considered adults and there was the bad habit of treating them as so, but Fili and Kili had matured so vastly in both body and mind that Thorin was rightfully proud of his nephews for standing before him this evening to be more involved. Even if their statements were of mockery or taken lightly, their input was still appreciated.
"The lot of you don't take the fellow too seriously, but he's quite the keen Dwarf. If it were not for Bofur and Tauriel, I would have been dead sooner!" Kili said defensively when he heard the murmurs and chuckles around the table.
There was quiet once more at Kili's defensive tone as Fili gave an agreeing nod. "It's quite true! Seen it for myself, Uncle! Bofur sought out the medicine and retrieved it for the Elf lass to use it on Kili. He was at the brink of death on that table, but those two did a fine job tending to that poisoned wound he got from that Orc arrow. That and she also helped us escape Smaug when he came down to ravage and burn Laketown. If it weren't for Tauriel..well.." Fili trailed off quickly, detecting the tension that always came when Elves were brought up around his kin. Kili put his hands in front of himself, nervously glancing about before clearing his throat to pick up right where Fili ceased. "None of us would have made it out alive and we wouldn't have met you here in Erebor for the battle to be had. She-..saved us."
"Why did you refrain from informing me of this information?" Thorin asked with his temper starting to rise once more.
"She's an Elf, Uncle. After what happened last night? We were cautious and wanted to tread carefully on the matter given the discourse between our races as well as your strong intolerance of them. We were not sure how you would feel knowing that members of your company had been associated with Elves, especially one that appears to be rather close in association with King Thranduil," Fili said quickly to interrupt his brother from speaking up once more.
Kili appeared to be insulted that he was forced into silence, but the cautious glance his older brother gave him over his shoulder made him close his mouth quickly and look down at the table to avoid their Uncle's intimidating gaze. Thorin looked back and forth before looking towards Fili, quietly giving praise to the eldest for his eloquence with words to confirm that Balin's teachings had indeed paid off.
"Do you believe that because of your temporary association with this she-Elf has clouded your judgement in any way on this matter?" he questioned carefully.
"No, I do not believe Tauriel has influenced me or the others on the subject at hand, but I do share Bofur's clarity on the matter of ceasing the tension between our people which appears to be growing as the days pass. With Dain and the others out upon the edges of territories hunting down the last of the Orcs as we speak and the people of Dale far too preoccupied with tending to their own, the supposed implications of King Thranduil returning with another contingent of his soldiers would be in ill favor on our end, Sir. The last of what anyone needs at this moment is more unnecessary bloodshed. I do not enjoy the idea of simply giving away anything that rightfully belongs to our kin within this mountain, but if it means gaining an ally in the future.." Fili explained as he trailed off to pinch lips and keep eye contact with Thorin.
Of all the times to be had, never in anyone's right mind did they suspect that Fili would ever go about agreeing with the idea of making peace with Elves, for he was part of the direct descendant of Durin and he had been told the tales of how the Elves had betrayed his kin, how they had lied and cheated, slaughtered his people and even upon the conflicts of Erebor before Smaug's much welcome death. Indeed it appeared he had somehow unknowingly inherited a far stronger tolerance and patience even above Thorin's own that sat before him which only signified that when the time came, he would indeed be a proper heir to the throne if Thorin were not to bear offspring. All were quiet, hanging on the anticipation of the King's opinion on the matter and indeed there were the questions to be had that were bound to be investigated at a further time, but at the moment there was a stalemate. Topaz eyes scanned the Company that were present and Thorin could see that even without speaking that many were in agreement with the plan that was laid out, yet even now that age old Dwarven greed and stubbornness made itself present in his mind. It was an insatiable itch that nagged and pecked at all of their minds, more so Thorin and his bloodlines due to the inherent of Dragon Illness being known in their family, even falling victim to it himself. He thought back on that for it was mere months ago; driven mad by an insatiable lust for anything gilded. The want, need, and demand to hoard the riches that lay beneath the Lonely Mountain, and such greed did not focus on the singular of treasure and gemstones, but of those part of the Company as well. They were his favorites, his family and beloved, his to order and command with an iron fist, his to do as he please with and if they denied him then they would feel his fiery wrath.
A hand rose to scrape along his jawline, beard growing back and as thick as his hair, though the highlights of gray were making themselves known finally as he leaned forwards to grab his tankard full of mead, taking a generous swig of the contents and slamming it down to stand up from his high seat. Not a single word was spoken, the tension was unnervingly high as Thorin pulled away from the table to turn away and relocate into his private bedchambers. More thought was needed, his mind roaring as if two lions were at battle with one another and at that moment he was simply too lost in thought to give a direct answer to the Company. The last thing they heard were the doors slamming behind Thorin which made the lot of them flinch out of reflex.
Chapter 4: The Stubbornness of Dwarves
Thorin finally convenes with Thranduil and Bard over future endeavors, yet almost exposes a weakness.
Balin gets a bit nosy which draws Thorin towards sad memories.
Dwarves, with any other race, were always overwhelmingly difficult to interact with to the point where one would rip their hair out while screaming when it came to anything. One advantage, if not a fault as well, is that Dwarves were extremely stubborn and mistrusting. It wasn't an art to be perfected nor was it something they trained for, but something that their creator had simply imbued into their very core to ensure that corruption of evil and shadow would not be welcome upon their souls without consent. Of course there were the obvious faults to be had since diplomacy with such a race was in comparison to the attempts in trying to make a reinforced brick wall move. Weather it be bartering, casual conversation, or even in combat, Dwarves just wouldn't back down for nothing until it was their way or nothing at all. There politics were thrice worse which Bard and Thranduil came to find out swiftly that it was far easier to simply let the Children of Aule do what they want their own way as to not drag on the tedious and exhausting process of dragging even the most baseless and petty arguments for days on end, which the Dwarves sometimes gladly instigated without showing any shame. The proceedings in discussing peace went as expected; tense, arduous, a lot of shouting, and insults, then agreements and the sharing of wine to quell the rage.
Thorin agreed to uphold his promise to the People of Laketown (now the People of Dale) by giving them a stipend of Erebor's treasury. That alone did not cause much disgruntlement for the inhabitants of Dale and the Dwarves of Erebor were always in good company with one another. Although Bard was wary and still somewhat bitter over Thorin's acts of waking Smaug which caused plenty of death and damage, all was properly forgiven when Bard made the suggestion of opening trade with Erebor once more. Thorin gladly agreed, which gave confirmation that it would provide jobs and well off incomes for their people. Although Thorin was never actually keen on Bard, they could at least agree that they wanted what was best for their people. Thranduil sat quietly, watching the interaction between Man and Dwarf with silent scrupulous judgement, but made no comments or complaints on the matter until attention was drawn towards him which made his semi-slouched posture be replaced with a more respectable and upright position. There was little to discuss between Dwarf and Elf, most of what they exchanged between one another was done in argument of insults and petty tirade that Bard was force to play referee to less it became physical. Bard himself looked downright emotionally exhausted in having to deal with these two, but he endured and encouraged Thorin to proceed with the transaction. The chests of white diamonds, pearls, silvers, and gold were brought in one by one; three chests in all, the smallest containing the white diamonds of pure starlight, their tale and trade from one Dwarf hand to another, then between Elf hands, then back to Dwarves, had been legendary and one of the few (if not rare) things that Thranduil wished to have and nothing more. The two chests containing silver, pearls, and gold were mere stipends, but greatly appreciated with a low and respectful bow with Thorin forcing himself to look away less he strike the Elfking square in the jaw. Fey soldiers in leather came to retrieve the the chests, carting them away and Thorin eyed them viciously before brow lowered to look upon Thranduil once more.
"Where is the she-Elf known as Tauriel?" he asked.
Such a question made the Elf guards halt and only made Thranduil pause with following Bard to leave the room who also stopped to turn and look upon the Dwarven King with suspicious scrutiny. Thranduil didn't speak up at first right away, instead he fully turned to face Thorin with hands by his side and Bard standing close behind with arms crossed over his chest.
"May I ask why you are wishing to know the whereabouts of Tauriel?" the Elfking asked in a slow, airy tone.
"My reasons for asking of her whereabouts be of my own. I simply wish to know of her current status and location," Thorin snapped right back.
"Then it is nothing of my concern."
"Answer the damned question!"
"Please! Peace!" Bard insisted, damned near warning the both of them.
Thranduil did not break eye contact with Thorin, his own icy blue gaze staring upon the fiery Topas that refused to falter for even a second. The Elfking slowly canted his head to the side to draw his hands behind his back as he bowed to settle himself at eye level with the Dwarfking.
"If you wish to know the whereabouts of one my people then I request to know your reasoning behind it."
Thorin sneered so awfully that his upper lip curled so high and brows pushed down so low that a shadow almost cast itself over his snarling gaze. Not a single twitch or falter in posture was to be detected, but the apparent disgust and rage of was upon the very air of him that Thranduil's brows pinched slowly together to challenge him further.
"I wish to thank her."
The Elfking was caught off guard by that statement that his brows rose high and he was forced to draw himself to stand correctly as he took a respectful step back to allow the space between the two of them to broaden somewhat.
"Why do you wish to thank her?" Bard asked curiously, for he too wondered for Thorin's wants.
"She saved four of my own when Orcs infiltrated Laketown as well as safely relocating them out of harms way when Smaug attacked. Three being kin. One being-.." Thorin silenced himself for a few seconds, finally showing some measure of faltering that both Elfking and Bard caught on to. Thranduil took great note of Thorin's hesitation with words while Bard squinted in surprise. It wasn't like the Dwarfking to skip and halt in such a way when speaking.
"Few Elves take the effort to assist my kind. Even fewer to have the patience to get to know them on a personal level," he said pointedly with eyes still upon the Elfking.
Outside the noise of guards marching by drew a little of Bard's attention at the moment, for there was no danger to be had. The commotion of children laughing and the din of gnawing saws, hammers, and raw ores being smelt in the nearby confirmed the noise of repairs to be had that confirmed the progression of restoring Dale back to its former glory. The silence between Dwarf and Elf was broken by Thranduil giving a nod of his head again which provided little of an answer to Thorin's disgruntled dismay of frustrations. The Elfking left without another word, causing Thorin to move forwards as well with all intentions to stalk Thranduil down and demand a response from him. Elves were just as equally difficult to converse with for they spoke little and far too eloquently, some more so than others, which only led to them answering in singsong riddles or not even at all. With came great age came their skill of being silver tongued.
"Don't!" Bard hissed low as he did not block Thorin's path, but simply encouraged the Dwarf to cease with the chase of conflict by a single word. "Thorin please. Leave him be!"
"I shan't and won't until I have gotten a forward and proper answer, less I use the locks upon his very head to strangle the answer out of him!" Thorin hissed right back.
"Listen to me! We are all very exhausted with this! You can not tell me that today and days prior have not drained you empty?"
"Not as much as I had suspected," Thorin said bluntly.
A glaringly obvious lie, but there was some truth to it for when it came to the matter of Elves, weather it be in battle of willpower, words, or physical, Thorin never balked or backed down until he knew for a fact that they were put down.
"Do not lay hands upon the Elfking and please put this issue to rest. We've all obtained what we've wanted this day. For once, we can all relax and finally we are at peace, but you are still in this mindset of battle and war. Go home. Find comforts in your kin and your victory, King Under The Mountain," Bard encouraged as he turned to leave the privacy of the royal quarters within the main hall of Dale's centre hall.
Thorin was alone now, his head pounding and thoughts spinning every which way while replaying the interaction over and over again in his head. He should have had Balin by his side for the Dwarf. Although Thorin had had his fair shares of head butting and debates with other neigboring nations of the races of Man and Elf alike in his long lived life, Balin was an expert of diplomacy as well as keeping him far more level headed, yet as he replayed everything for a third time in his head again, Thorin concluded that it could have been worse and possibly even led to all sides not getting as they pleased. He knew even now that such a thing would have never happened in his father's time. Elves and Men alike coming under one roof to discuss such things that were bound to be viewed as trivial and unnecessary to Dwarves. And yet here he was, among them. Was he a disgrace? Would his father, may he rest peacefully in Mahal's Halls, approve of such transactions? As far as he had deducted there was little to no conflict. Everyone was content enough and although there were the forever strain and hate between Elf and Dwarf, had they both not come to the strenuous achievement for the betterment of both sides and for Dale as well?
Without a doubt I have achieved far greater than what my father had. There is peace once more and my people do not need to know the details of what sacrifices were made to atone for my personal and father's past mistakes. Surely he would be very proud of me this day.
Thorin paused with his thoughts to exit the building and make his way through the halls. The Dwarven guards followed suit as he saw Dwalin and Balin waiting for him outside below the many steps that made the King look upon the sites of remnaints of Dale starting to improve under the tedious and diligent work of the people hellbent on getting a majority of the city back in order. He remembered Dale during the days of glory for them all and surely it would return to such a state.
"She saved four of my own when Orcs infiltrated Laketown as well as safely relocating them out of harms way when Smaug attacked. Three being kin. One being-.."
You've gone and gotten yourself smitten with Bilbo then?
Rather quick to judge. I was giving praise for his accomplishments. He stood up to Azog while I was down and then some.
I would have done the same if the said situation didn't involve us hanging for our dear lives over a percarious cliff in a damned tree!
Jealousy, Bofur? How uncouth of you.
Defensiveness. If you're keen on him then so be it, but don't be in denial about it to yourself or with me.
Then why are you asking?
Reassurance. Also to make sure you don't go and upset the poor fellow as you have been up until recently. You've been sowin' the seeds of doubt in his head. He doesn't think he belongs.
He doesn't. Didn't. I am free to change my mind as I please when it comes to my judgement on others. I apologized and admitted my mistake for misjudging the Burglar. My feelings do not go beyond appreciation and for that matter; why do you stand before me questioning my affections for Bilbo when you yourself have a particular fondness of him as well?
So you admit that you have a fondness for him too then?
Leave me be, Bofur, it's late.
M'just saying that..since we're--
I'd be fine with it! If you two..you know. I'd be right content in seeing you happy with him, but I'd be worried. Hobbits are a really reserved folk and Bilbo misses his home greatly as much as he enjoys our company and traveling by our sides. I wouldn't want to see you gettin in too deep and him just skirtin' off with Gandalf back to the Shire..cause..
If Bilbo makes you happy, then so be it, but keep in mind that others be caring for you as well. I don't like seeing you hurt, Thorin. None of us do.
I will keep your words of warning in mind. Is there anything else you wish to say?
Out with it then. My patience is wearing thin!
I...nothing, my King.
I'm just worr--
I said goodnight!
The King blinked a few times, dragging himself out of the memory as he found Balin ascending the stairs looking up at him with concern. Thorin cleared his mind swiftly, for he knew Balin had drawn near enough to see the scrunched up faces to expose some symptom of pain to be had. He waved Balin off who began to look over him, reassuring his friend that he was fine and that the dealings with Bard and Thranduil had turned towards success, although the tone of his voice clearly indicated frustration that it felt far from complete or successful in Thorin's eyes. Balin seemed very pleased by the turn of events as Thorin went into detail of what transpired as they descended the stairs.
"I believe your father would be most pleased, Thorin," Balin said happily as they mounted their ponies to begin their leave.
Such a remark made Thorin perk up with interest as he looked towards Balin. It was ironic really, the very questioning and concerns he had of gaining his father's approval were one of the things constantly on his mind. He did not fear the means of being a King nor the crown, but he merely wished to be a good and kind leader, a Dwarf that his people could rely on and trust to know that they would be happy. Safe. They had all faced the horrors of Middle Earth in some way or another and it was Thorin's drive to cease their suffering and torments in hopes to be a noble King that they looked up to. Balin smirked at catching Thorin off guard and that accusing look he was given that only made him tug on the reins and encourage the pony to begin moving.
"You've not only witnessed the death of Smaug, but you've managed to slay the very Orc that has caused our people strife, reclaimed a home and its wealth that is rightfully ours, and had a hand in bringing peace among our people, the people of Dale, and of Thranduil's people? Impressive indeed! Yes, he would be very pleased by all of this. Of you," Balin reassured.
"I find your sudden acts of praise and compliments suspicious, Balin. What is it that you want?" Thorin teased lightly. Of course the compliments had worked, Thorin found himself in lighter spirits with the remarks of approval that he was sure his father would agree to in some proverbial sense. Balin smirked, his deceptions with charisma were caught, but this did not make him hinder or falter with his attempts to pry further. Although he was far too old to be getting involved with the personal affairs of others, he made key exceptions for those within the Company these days and often acted as the wise, old codger that the younger lot went to for advice and input when Thorin was unable to be the voice of reason. Being the advisor and speaker of course had its perks, but at the moment he could tell that his King was troubled by something that needed to be addressed sooner than later.
"I simply wish to inquire with how you fare."
"Ah. Being nosy then?"
"An old Dwarf's intuition!"
"Everything's fine, Balin," Thorin droned slowly, knowing well enough that Balin wasn't going to cease.
"Is it?" Balin pried further.
Thorin raised a single brow high to give Balin a suspicious look as he ushered the ponies to make their way through the city. Everywhere they went, the people of Dale cheered, waved, or bowed in greeting the King of Erebor which, to be quite honest, did make Thorin pleased for although he wasn't a ridiclously cocky Dwarf, he did enjoy having his pride and ego stroked to an extent. He used the praise as a way of a distraction to divert his attention to give respectful nods and noble waves back. Balin saw right through this ploy and rolled his eyes to keep his attention on the road.
"Dwarves with swollen heads are unable to get through open doors, my King."
"Pity! Of the swollen heads. Are they ill? We should gift them hats until they have been healed!" Thorin said, promptly, rebuffed by the lecture.
"I believe that you prefer certain hats, one in particular that belongs to someone else!" Blain snipped right back.
That alone made Thorin go rigid and whip his head around to cast his low brow glare at Balin who only grinned back with some snarky smile. At first, Thorin put it aside, tried to disregard and focus on the path back to Erebor for it would be a good few hours before they properly return. The roads were safe and patrolled constantly, but the idea of traveling back and forth from Erebor to Dale for the coming weeks to discuss trade with Bard did not sit easy with Thorin. He did his best to contemplate a halfway point, something to establish a better form of communication to where both wouldn't have to spend so much time going along the road for both of them agreed they would strongly prefer discussing things in person than between others or letters. Nevertheless, Balin's words (as they always did) came back into his mind and as much as he willed himself to disregard, resist, and distract himself, by the time they made it out of Dale and were properly on their own with just the four guards traveling behind them, Thorin finally gave in to exhale a deep, slow breath, to mentally prepare himself for the prying and lecturing from the younger Dwarf.
"I am curious to know on who told you?"
"I'm curious to know why you chose to keep it a secret in the first place? I do not believe anyone would have objected or protested. Complained and voiced their opinions, but not to be too disgruntled. More or less why him compared to others?"
"Who told you?"
"No one. I connected the dots well enough on my own and kept the information to m'self."
"Does anyone else know?"
"Save for myself and Nori? N-"
"Oh come now! Surely that was bloody obvious!?"
"Why! How!?" Thorin hissed under his breath as he moved the pony closer to discuss this without being heard.
"They've known each other since they were Pebbles, Thorin. Did you think he wouldn't tell him!? Who do you think comforted him when he was mourning when you two separated to begin with?"
"He was mourning? I was informed that us ceasing interaction didn't bother him too much?"
"Maybe not openly, he does a rather well job in masking plenty behind a smile. That still does not answer my questions. Why him? Why keep it secret?"
Thorin inhaled slowly, trying to remember back, his thoughts wandering in and out with eyes facing forwards. He remembered so many talks with others in private, though there were few moments far and in between where he could forge between the two of them. Where many rested in deep sleep, the early hours before morn and just after nightfall where everything was the most quiet. They always spoke in hushed whispers with one another, always caution and careful even when they knew it was secure to be free with their affections. Why had they been so private? Why so secretive?
Winters were always so cold in Luin, but that year it had been especially freezing to where everyone had stoked the flames and spent all they could to keep the fires going. Cold currents from the sea flowed in through the riverside which brought an especially strong damp chill to everything within the city. Yet on nights like these, it was clear and vivid with starlight that danced with the moonlight within the skies. Thorin stood upon the threshold of his balcony, brooding and thinking over anything. Everything. As per usual, Bofur rested nearby, although tonight he did not appear to be in the happiest of spirits; his demeanor was dour and he was quiet. Something that Thorin found unnerving for Bofur was a talkative sort that was rarely silent. If the Dwarf wasn't speaking, then he was humming a tune or whispering low enough as to not disturb the silence.
"There be any reason for this?" Bofur finally asked, breaking the quiet while sitting up higher in bed to pull his legs over the side to cover his front with more blanket.
"Multiple reasons. More so personal," Thorin replied back slowly as he kept his back towards the Dwarf.
"The council has come to an agreement that my objectives are far too outlandish and life threatening to allow pardon or funding into, so I will need to spend the time and attention to focus on the important matters of gathering my own previsions and money for what I have planned," Thorin explained.
Bofur scrunched up his face in frustration. He always hated when Thorin got this way. The formal and matter of fact tone never sat well with him and they had grown far too close that the both of them had gained comfort and confidence to speak to each other as equal lovers than commoner and a figure of authority. Thorin could detect Bofur easily and was quick to give a gesture of his hands to sign an apology which caused the other to nod in acceptance.
"So you're still goin' with it then? The Quest I mean. Should have known, it's all you can talk about these past few months and ya' threw a right awful fit the other day. That why you were pissed cause the blokes up their said no to your idea?"
"Aye, but what do they know? They have a home. They have the comforts and luxuries that come with it! I know they mourn and feel empathy for my people's plight, but they do not understand the suffering and the tarnish of our pride! Sitting up there high and mighty while we settle in the murky waters and mud beneath their feet!" Thorin hissed as he was quick to wave another gesture of insult that only made Bofur quickly stand to drape the blanket over his own shoulders and draw near.
"Well, I dunno about mud and water. Luin isn't that awful? Your people have homes and jobs, they've got some comforts?" Bofur suggested as he pushed against Thorin to rest his cheek against his shoulder to wrap the King in the robe to keep him warm.
"Comforts and homes are enough to an extent, but Erebor will always be our home, Bofur. You wouldn't understand the plights of losing your ho--..."
Thorin went quiet at the realizations of his words and pinched his lips tightly at the movement of Bofur tensing up rigid that only brought upon the sharp inhale of breath from the Dwarf. He felt guilt now, knowing full well of Bofur's kin and their own predicament for they too had suffered the casualties of a nightmarish beast of flames and evil that wrought nothing but death and horrors among their people. Yet Thorin did not compare his loss to Bofur's, but found closer kinship with the other that he was unable to gain from those that were not from Erebor. Bofur didn't falter or balk away from Thorin and his remark, another thing he found so endearing in him, as he felt the warm touched of calloused fingers rub along his bicep to drag themselves up higher against his shoulder. The gesture alone seemed to ease Thorin's temper that flared up so quickly nowadays which only grew tenfold in the passing that only encouraged Bofur to attempt to distract or quell it in private.
"I'm sorry. I didn't--"
"S'quite alright. I've gotten rather used to yer mouth."
"Jokes aside, what are you to do next?"
"Work on gathering the means of starting my Quest to destroy Smaug and reclaim Erebor for my people."
"And of us?"
"As I said; there are more important matters that need my attention for the time being, Bofur."
There was silence to be had between the two, Thorin could tell that Bofur had many a thing to say, more so complaints and comments for he was constantly talkative, constantly questioning and cautious to ensure the situation suited in his favor that confirmed the Dwarf had his own mindsets that made him greedy not in gold, but by other means. It was a great fault to have that Bofur often willingly indulged in for he favored the comforts and luxuries of food and a warm bed over the gilded wiles of treasures and coin that most other Dwarves vied for. Nevertheless, it was because of this fault that Thorin found attraction in him for Bofur cared little for his title and wealth, but having a stronger preference in wanting him or the warmth they shared under the covers. But oh! He was ridiculously greedy with it! He could share a pint, share his meal, even spare a few coins if needed be, but when Bofur loved he loved strongly and was blindly territorial with those he adored! It was disgustingly beautiful, sickeningly sweet in some ways, annoying in other. The quiet, for once, made Thorin paranoid as he looked over his shoulder to frown down at Bofur.
"Out with it then! Say your side and begone with you!" he snapped, hinting at the nervousness with his tone of voice.
"The duty of a King be of the well being of his people. S'good that you're putting them first, Thorin. Ah'll be right peeved for a bit that we won't be at our nightly visits anymore, but-.."
"We couldn't..." he paused to pull away from Thorin, exhaling a deep sigh to give a sad shrug. "What we got right now just be..foolin about. We couldn't even be open about that because of our statuses and it'd be right bit scandalous. I'd likely be killed out of spite and jealousy, you'd have ta deal with a whole lotta folks bitchin, but..aye..this is for the best."
Bofur inhaled a sharp breath, Thorin didn't even have to look to know that words were about to be spoken, obviously more needed to be said, but Bofur was quick to shut his mouth and retreat a few steps back to give Thorin space. That alone finally made Thorin turn around to look down at the shorter Dwarf, silently encouraging him to speak up, eyes demanding and ordering that unspoken command for him to say it, but Bofur stayed quiet, looking up at him with brown eyes that showed a mixture of contempt and confused frustration clashing with humiliation and blind adoration for him. Thorin was practically begging him to say those words that they both knew wished to be spoken, but their pride and stubbornness refused it. He knew that if Bofur spoke them then he'd drag him back, pull him beneath the covers once more, put a pause on his objectives just for a few more weeks, to indulge a bit more, to find comfort with one of the few beings that actually brought him some sense of temporary peace. Bofur made him forget, made him smile...peaceful even. He could see Bofur was scared, reluctant even, knew that even though he indulged in affections and adoration for his King that there was fear behind those words. Fear and danger. But alas, Thorin didn't care! He just wanted to hear those three words!
Bofur averted his gaze, he couldn't look upon Thorin at the moment and did his best to distract himself by getting dressed and collecting what little belongings he had placed nearby back in their proper places. He was quiet, keeping eyes downcast to the floor and focusing his attention everywhere, anywhere but upon Thorin who was still watching his every move, taking in every little detail of his hands and gesticulations of his body that always made him both flattered and anxious. Thorin moved in, quick to push against Bofur, embracing the Dwarf close against his chest to bow his head low enough to press nose against dark brown hair and lips along the start of earlobe to brush along the boar tooth earring that was always worn.
"One more song?" he whispered softly against the ear, pushing his mouth upon earlobe.
Bofur shifted, fidgeted nervously and pulled away from Thorin to quickly turn around with a sad smirk as he reached up to adjust the floppy hat placed upon his head. No words were said from the Dwarf, for he couldn't find himself to speak, let alone sing. Heart and mind ached too much that for once, Bofur was genuinely at a loss for words and wouldn't, couldn't, speak of what Thorin was quietly begging from him at that moment. Again there was that sickening anticipation between both of them; Thorin looking upon Bofur expectantly, Bofur looking back up at him with equal gasp of breath being held and in between there was the forever stoic and thick silence that they both found unwelcome at that moment. They were both waiting for the other to say it, but neither one of them willing to falter or weaken to such an emotional state. Not now. Not at this time. Neither one of them backing down.
"Thorin?" Balin spoke up finally.
He had become distracted again, his thoughts wandering and getting the best of him, but he was quietly thankful for Balin's clear voice to break the fog of sad memories from his mind, but even now they still lingered, making Thorin grit his teeth with jaw clenched tight in quiet anger.
"He couldn't say it, the bloody coward!" he spat under his breath.
Balin raised his brows in surprise and confusion, for the abrupt remark did little to answer the questions he had asked his King and only made him frown with genuine concern for the King that he rode side by side with. Thorin was quick to detect Balin's worry and gave a quick roll of his shoulders to shove off and disregard the conversation at hand. Such subjects brought upon a dour mood and he was not enjoying the idea of being pushed once more into dour moods.
"What of the next objectives, Balin. What am I to do next since times of peace are to be had and the politics are almost complete?"
"Aaahh! And here I thought you'd never ask! We celebrate of course! What better way to bring upon a proper end of the year than to party as we Dwarves do best!?" Balin said cheerily as he beamed at Thorin.
The King couldn't help, but smile back. Indeed, celebrations were to be had. He hoped that the distractions of food and ale would ease the burdens of his mind.
Chapter 5: Dwalin Trades Words
Erebor and Dale celebrate their victories.
Dwalin is forced to endure Nori's snark and Thorin's emotional turmoil.
"Nori!" came the deep growling voice from behind the thief.
Nori instantly tensed up as he whipped around, knowing full well who that voice belonged to and in the back of his mind he almost leapt for joy when he caught sights of Dwalin approaching. That beast of a Dwarf stood taller than most and even if the wars had ended for a time, that fellow was always battle hardened and ready that only made Nori's heart skip a beat. Their relationship (if one could call it that) was always dynamic in its own way; Dwalin being of order and control that upheld the laws of their people, once a guard captain and now leader of the Royal Company in Thorin's stead. Nori himself was a thief, and hell; he technically still was, but upon a professional level that sounded better to the ears and didn't make others wary; Informant. Others of the Company may have not been oh so keen on his past occupations, but he enjoyed the thrill and he was damned good at what he did. It was only right for Thorin to give him the position of being the eyes and ears of Erebor for not many a Dwarf took it upon themselves to learn the skills of deception, shadows, and trickery as he did.
At the moment, everyone was excitable and distracted, a more than perfect time to refresh his skills in pick-pocketing, but of course Dwalin had rudely interrupted as he always did, but Nori kept himself respectable, hands behind his back, chest puffed up and a respectful bow to be had, that was quickly disregarded as Dwalin glared down at him with forever suspect that the Dwarf never up to any good.
"What are you up to?" Dwalin asked, tone still gruff and demanding with accusation.
"Ohh, the usual. Looking. Listening. Nothing out of the ordinary!" Nori said as he drew his hand up to look over his nails with an oh so casual tone.
"I've come with questions that you needin' to be answerin' this instant!"
"Listen, I don't know what Dain might have said before his leaving on that hunt of his, but I had absolutely nothing to do with his boots being filled with Smaug's dung!"
"Wh- No! What? The devil are ya talkin about!? I wanted to ask if you'd come with me to the celebrations this evenin! What's this about dragon shit in Dain's boots!?"
"Pay no mind to that. What's this about a celebration and you inviting me?"
Dwalin took a moment to squint dangerously at Nori before giving a slow cock of his head with thick arms crossed over his broad chest. "M'askin' if you want to go? The lot of us are expected to be there. Thorin's invitin' a big lot of folks down from Dale and we're settin' everything up right near the gates."
"On the battlefield no less then? Suppose the people of Dale will get to experience a Dwarven Funeral after all! But my my! You asking me to such an event? What has come over you? Are you ill? Is there not some blushing maiden in Dale to fawn over you?" Nori asked curiously as he started to walk around Dwalin who only gave a twitch of the corner of his mouth that was hidden by the thick beard.
"I'd be more keen with inviting one of me own than some fishwife. Are you to accept my invitation or should I herd m'self down to Dale ta make you jealous once more?" Dwalin teased right back.
"I'll be more than happy to accept your invitation. Under one condition!"
"But of course," Dwalin growled with sarcasm as he turned to face Nori and grab the Dwarf's wrist in time to stop him from stealing his coin-purse.
"You come back to mine?"
"For a spot of tea. A bit of chit-chat. Nosh on some of Dori's wine that he managed to stow and hide away from everyone else."
"I'd prefer we be in public."
"I didn't take you for the voyeur type?"
"I'm quite fine with having a go right atop the table before the King himself. Maybe it would pull him from the ever so depressive slump he's been in!"
"We'll have it be a gift. He'd love it! Tie a bow right on your--"
The Dwarf couldn't help himself, he had to laugh at the expression on Dwalin's face and the reaction that was a combination of disgust and flustered confusion that he always seemed to get out of him. Yet the red face and low brow of a glare made Nori stop and grin with a shake of his head before raising his hands up in mock surrender to confirm that his words were somewhat in jest.
"Fine fine fine! I accept your invitation! I suppose it's to be formal wear? Have you told Dori this yet? Please tell me you have because I'd like to go home and not have him throwing a right fit over my selection of clothing."
"Dori was the first to be informed in advance, you know me better than that!"
"Too many Orc fists to the face has rattled your memory a bit!"
"He's already in a right enough fit as it is, so be prepared to deal with him either way."
"By the way, Thorin spoke of this being quite the event. He wants everyone to be present."
"So you've said."
"Everyone in the Company."
"I don't believe we'll be able to get Bilbo here in time?"
"Don't be coy. We speak of Bofur. He wants him present as well and as a matter of fact, the fellow hasn't been seen since that whole apology spiel. The others are growing concerned, more so his brother and cousin for they've not seen him either."
"Quite a pity that is! If I see him, I'll be sure to pass you lot's concerns to him!"
Dwalin's tone changed from casual to stern once more, his authoritative posture swiftly returning which only made Nori tense up in return, his own hands being placed upon the front to confirm that he too meant business on this subject and that it was a clear, nonverbal indication that he was more than prepared to trade words on the subject of his missing friend.
"He's not been present on his nightly rounds, nor has he been present in the council meetings in the past few days. Where is he?"
"I too have been aware of his absence and I have no clue where he's skirted off too. Have you checked the taverns?"
"Ya know damned well where he be and I suggest you be out with it before you get carted off to the dungeons!"
"Pray tell, by who's authority?"
"By order of the King and m'self!"
"Then have the King make presence so that he may speak for himself on this matter!"
"Nori don't be like this! Bofur must show up to the celebration or Thorin--"
"Or what? Enlighten me!"
Dwalin kept rigid where he stood, obviously not keen on sharing such information even with Nori which only made the other draw near with curiosity and concern.
"He's gonna have him thrown in the dungeons? What for!?"
"He's callin it insubordination. Ya know well enough how Thorin be and he's not likin the idea of one of his men bein so elusive. Specially in present times."
Nori contemplated the situation, lips drawing in tight to weigh out his options as he averted his gaze for a few split seconds to stare down at their boots then back up at Dwalin to confirm his own conflicts on speaking the truth on the matter.
"Listen, I'll tell you as much as I know--"
"When in fact you know every damned detail!"
"Dwalin please! For once could you and the rest of the lot stop being so involved with everyone else's business?! I am sure Bofur appreciates the concern that his friends and the King have over him, but I'm not about to stand here and tell you his private ongoings!"
"What if he's up to something!?"
"Like what? Plots and conspiracies to overthrow Thorin?" Nori scoffed in jest.
"That be right treasonous talk, lad! You and I both know that!"
"You and I both know that Bofur is literally the LAST Dwarf to be going on about overthrowing the crown, Dwalin!"
"Then you best be telling me somethin right this instant before folks start askin questions!"
"The hell you want me to say!? As far as I know, Bofur is sick! He's not fit or in the right mindset to be runnin about being present at parties and formal events!"
"Bofur. THE Bofur. Not wanting to come to a party because he's sick? You takin the piss with me now! That's complete bullshit!"
"As far as I'm able to tell and what've seen so far, Bofur is damned sick, Dwalin! He mopes about all damned day in his room, barely eats, and has isolated himself from his kin! I go to visit him every other day to give a report on things and to relay messages between him, his cousin, or his brother! As far as the letters go I-...well.."
"You what? Go on."
"I admit that I was right nosy and took a peek, but all I glimpsed at was just shit about things goin about at the Blue Mountains, mourning, and prayer so I assumed someone Bofur was close to has passed on. Meaning he's upset about it and not mentally in the right mindset to be dealin with folks! Fuckin hell ah don't like this kind of talk and ah ain't keen on going further with this conversation! This stops now, Dwalin!"
"It stops when you give me enough information! Out with it, Nori!"
Dwalin was quick to reach out and grab the thief again, but as always he was far too agile to be taken by brute force. Nori saw Dwalin's attempts steps ahead and acted accordingly by jerking his arm away from reach and taking a few steps back to broaden the space between them which only encouraged Dwalin to curse loudly under his breath and try to reach out in hopes to grab Nori again.
"If I would have known we were to be playing Cat and Mouse again, I would have worn the outfit you so love, Dwalin!" Nori jeered tauntingly at his companion.
"Blasted Theif! You should have been locked away an age ago! Why Thorin allows you to skulk about is beyond me, you fiendish thing!"
"I'm good at what I do best and for that matter I have heard little complaint of my skills! Especially when I am within your bedchamber!" Nori snarked again.
The Dwarf simply reveled in the red face of rage and humiliation that was given to him by his words and before Dwalin had a chance to make a rebuttal or warning remark, Nori was quick to skirt himself into the small throng of people and dart himself in the opposite direction with Dwalin doing his best to trail behind, but giving up once Nori had eluded him yet again.
Upon the mark of the last rays of sunlight to sink upon the horizon did the celebrations reach their peak and did the massive congregation of Dwarf and Man join together to indulge in what they all loved best; food, music, and good drink. The people of Dale, for the first time in a long while, got to experience what there was to be had when it came to the true meaning of a "Dwarven Funeral" for although there was the somber and sad acceptance in passing of their fallen brethren, there was also the elation and praise to be had that they were no longer bound by their mortal coil and that they were with their All Father known as Mahal, joining him in the forever festivities of their people and to forever be by his side in battle against the darkness where they joined his ranks and trained by their Almighty Father. Songs were sung of their glorious victories and sorrowful hymns were rhymed for the sacrifices to be had, but where there were tears there was also laughter, warmth, light, and plenty of drink to be had. And when Dwarves partied, they partied ridiculously hard. From what started at the peak of the sun at its highest in the skies, did it continue well into nightfall and with how the looks of it, it was surely to pass well onto in the morning. That night, Dale was bright with lantern and fires as it had been and for the first time since even the eldest of Dale soldiers could remember as wee lads, Erebor was ablaze with light with the forges and smelting to be had. Dain had returned from his hunt and with him came Legolas with his small contingent of his own brethren as they had fought side by side. Of course there were the riotous conflicts between the two, clash in authorities and leaderships, but in the long run there were hilarious moments upon both sides as well as the strained relationship of teamwork to be had when hunting down the last of the Orcs to send them fleeing back into the caves. The Elves were welcome...somewhat. Although the people of Dale greeted them with cheers of joy to be had, there was the disgruntlement between the Dwarves that left the awkward and bittersweet taste in the back of their throats that even the sweet mead couldn't hide they provided. Thorin condoned Legolas and his gathering to stay put, although being permitted into Erebor was a risk he would not allow for the sake of his kin and their safety.
"Things seem to be going rather well so far!"
"You're getting sloshed, old friend," Thorin mused lazily as he watched Balin drink down his eighth tankard of ale.
"Sloshed indeed! I intend to drown! You've been looking dour and down for hours now! Of all people you should be the most of smiles!"
"I find my needs and wants redirected into more of the areas of privacy than within the forever eyes of the public."
"A king will always have eyes upon them, sadly. One of the many drawbacks of having the crown."
"Lack of sleep, indigestion, no peace of mind, and short temper just to name a few. Ironically enough you appear to have all of the above already! Thankfully they will not develop into something serious since it seems you have grown an adaptation!" Balin teased.
Thorin couldn't help, but laugh at his remarks which finally made him smile as the others went about their loud conversations with one another. For the time being, he watched everyone else interact, taking the time to dwell and ponder on things in hopes to ease his troubled mind for he kept obtaining nagging thoughts that distracted him from his routine objectives. Balin had complained hours prior of him having his attention elsewhere which was starting to wear the old Dwarf's patience rather thin to the point where they ceased with diplomacy to prepare for this evening's events.
"I suppose there are fewer perks?" Thorin teased again.
He knew full well of the advantages to be had. Authority and wealth, adoration that came with enjoyable responsibilities, and of course doing as he pleased, but such a thing seemed to be rare at the moment and although he was not one for indulgence, there were..well..moments where he could have sated himself in some way, but those were fleeting situations. Rare. Yet as he sat proudly at the table laden with savory meats and divine foods fit for any king, his eyes wandered upon his Company to admire the smiling faces and for once he was taking the pleas of Balin to lighten up. As much as cheer and joy that were to be had among his people, Thorin found that massive celebrations such as these were not only tedious, but excessive. Indeed he could find merriment and joy with a few pints, good music, and even finer foods, but his preference for more isolated parties with the company of those he trusted brought him better comforts than to hear the belches and boisterous bellows of Dain's soldiers colliding with the hoops and hollers of his own kin. Nevertheless, he kept the mask of smiles and jovial tone present when others approached with greetings and firm pats on the back. It wasn't until Dwalin approached did Thorin show a meager attempt at a genuine smile that his old friend detected easily.
"You're tired," Dwalin stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
"I prefer smaller company. Festivities are all well and good, but the worship strains my patience," Thorin corrected more formally.
"Irony. Damned irony!"
Thorin stopped with walking to look up at the Dwarf with suspect and curiosity. Such a remark made the King want to inquire with unspoken encouragement as Dwalin gave a bemused chuckle.
"We spent about a year on the road to reach Erebor. Fought Orcs n' Wargs. Trolls. Spiders. Elves. A bloody fuckin' dragon! Smaug the Terrible! We survived a great war as well and I stand before mine King, hearing him complain about a wee ickle party!" Dwalin scoffed once more.
"In what laws does it say a King is required to be sociable? Can I not have a moment to myself? I feel solitude is a luxury that I can not afford even with all the riches that may be within my kingdom!"
"I believe it's pretty much a requirement for a King to be sociable and present at all times, Thorin. Don't tell me you're regretting all of this?"
"Not a day goes by do I not revel and indulge in the wonders of our victories! The rebirth of my kin's, our kin, to former glory! I am simply...troubled."
"I ask as friend and shield brother what ails ye? M'willing to put down anything and everything to help you, but can't do that if left so dim on the matter."
"I've simply found certain socialization difficult. Sometimes it ails me greatly to merely be present even upon The Company at midday to discuss duties and events. I don't wish to sulk about like some pining waif, but it does draw strain that I am forced to look upon them daily, yet too cautious to approach with apology or admittance. It confuses me greatly! I can face Smaug head on, look him in the eye as he spewed forth the flames hotter than hellfire upon mine kin, but these..these..feelings draw illness and confused ire! Never have I been this addled in both body and mind. My thoughts are clouded daily and my stomach churns with some guilt that I shouldn't be burdened with! Upon the quest, I at least had the distractions of awful beasts and Orcs, but even then I would look upon their face and be flooded with far too much emotion that I would find myself stumbling on words to where I could no longer look at them. In turn I believe that hurt them more!"
Dwalin went quiet at Thorin's small outburst, obviously the situation was a rather serious thing if his friend was having a bit of a fit over it. He knew well enough that Thorin wasn't the type to express his emotions so freely with others, few could break the exterior of the royal aloofness. Although Thorin's dour moods of melancholy and bitterness had subsided greatly after their victories, it was of no lie that Dwalin had been speaking in concerned whispers with his brother over Thorin's health over the past few weeks. Balin had suspected and assumed that it was the conflicts of recovering wounds and the predicament of politics that would make the most stubborn of Elda Darrow fret and be weary. Dwalin make the assumption that maybe he was ill, infection, or merely in need of more rest. No surprise that Thorin was a light sleeper and rarely (if ever) obtained proper rest during nightfall. Yet this was a strange and new thing that had befallen his friend and King. He had never heard of this side before and it made Dwalin's browns raise high to express concern.
"Could this stomach churning be of some parasite? Have you been eatin?" Dwalin suggested as he began treading carefully on this subject.
"My digestion is fine, thank you fo asking," Thorin said with a bite in his tone, obviously not appreciating this form of commentary.
"Right. Right right. If you be taking my advice on the matter, and that be all up to you; maybe you should confront this "Them" person if they be the source of your problems. You ain't one to back down from anything, so why start now?"
"And if they rebuff?"
"For Mahal's sake! Don't be a Pebble, Thorin! I've never in my day known you to recoil from much of anything save for snakes and bats! What fears you so much to put halt on your bravery?"
"It is not every day that I find myself blindly smitten like some dame! It is of a serious matter that I would like to handle with some fragility!"
"Smitten? Smitten by who!? Bloody hell was it the Burglar? Everyone--"
"Pray tell, shield brother; why does everyone think I have affections for the Hobbit? Nevertheless, it's not him. I've got my eyes set upon another. As a friend and kin I am asking for your input on this trying situation."
"I'm flattered that you sought out m'advice, although I would strongly recommend Balin next time. Either way, if you have these strong feelings, confront them as you would with any other issue. If your feelings for this..."other" go as well as you hope for, then ask upon them and their family if you may have permission to court. M'highly doubtin' anyone's gonna deny you such a request anyways."
Thorin thought hard on Dwalin's words. The Warrior Dwarf was wise even if most never got to witness his keen observations, mayhaps not as keen as his brother Balin, but there were just reasons why Thorin was hellbent on making Dwalin Captain of the Royal Guard and Balin his Advisor. Both were almost as old as he was and both had their experiences, yet nevertheless, Thorin was genuinely surprised that Dwalin seemed to have a proper answer to his emotional conflicts. Even if they were perceived as childish, Dwalin still upheld that respect and unwavering loyalty to his King and shield brother. He took care with his advice, genuine contemplated what words to use without mocking Thorin and indicated reassurance, if not optimism, upon his conflicting troubles. Eyes wandered and lingered upon the festivities once more, a jovial tune that roused the already high spirits even higher as his kin raised their tankards above their heads to cheer at the familiar lyrics which only invited many of them to begin singing in chorus. The King admired the revelry of his people, not in an age had they had reason to celebrate in such a way that he was sure it was to be something of a holiday to give them yet another excuse to celebrate and drink. He counted familiar faces, taking in their smiles and laughter, yet even though he wasn't close enough to hear the lewd jokes and commentary of their conversations, he could read lips well enough to gain an understanding of what was being said. Thorin paused to count again, eyes squinting in suspect as he looked around the great hall yet again, then back at the Company who were closest to him and Dwalin.
"Tell me, brother. Where are Bofur and Nori?"
Chapter 6: Fire and Thieves
Bofur recounts a memory involving Bilbo during the Quest, yet his want for nostalgia is done during a very conflicting situation that leaves tempers flaring and him being in trouble.
-Smut (oral sex)
Ugh. UGH! I am so sorry that I've not updated this in some time! Real Life is a killer sometimes and to be honest I wanted to take a bit of a break to focus my attention on other things, but LORD I am glad to be back! Here's a chapter for you guys with a nice bit of smut and then some intense action. I'm sorry if it feels like out of the blue (and even a bit of a cliffhanger too? wowie!) but I swear it'll all be explained in the next following chapters!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Slowly, love! Why are you always so quick to do this!?" a voice hissed lowly in the shadows.
Panting breaths were drowned out by the noise of loud snores and the muffled grunts of farm animals resting soundly. Bofur pressed himself against Bilbo while hands tugged at tunic and trousers, only giving halt when smaller hands pushed back, yet it was the peek of a grin and muffled laughter against his own that made him push the Hobbit against the bale of hay once more. The encouragement to relax was familiar to both of them, Bofur calming Bilbo's nerves by rubbing shoulders and back, only to have hands wander themselves lower upon hips to squeeze at thighs. Nervous fidgets were to be had from Bilbo, but the press of kisses and the tickle of that damned mustache made him grin wider as he found himself easing into the familiarity of this routine. The warmth and affection that had often been disregarded and rebuffed by the other Dwarves within the Company was gladly given with eagerness by Bofur that Bilbo was genuinely afraid of it at first. Yet Bofur had insisted and Bilbo had relented because there was that tire of his hands that had become dull and not as satisfying.
"I'm quick to start and finish given our current situation! As much as I be more than willing to indulge further, traveling tends to hinder such things and timing does play a part on this!" Bofur hissed softly.
The kiss came upon Bilbo's stomach with more confidence now, more bravado with tongue pressing along the blond strands that started the patch of pubic hair just beneath the belly button. The awkward tug and nudge of suspenders slipping free from shoulders, the wriggling of hips with small hands tugging down trousers that caused the muffled grunting sounds. Bilbo shivered when a cold breeze hit bare thighs, but were instantly warmed by Bofur's strong hands spreading them open before he gave a soft gasp at the sensation of a willing mouth pressing against his groin. The kisses made him grin, cheeks flushed with pink as hands rested upon head to push the floppy hat back. Bofur was one of the few that were welcoming to Bilbo touching his hair, the Dwarves were so finicky about it that he could never understand why beards, body hair, and their hair atop their heads were so important, but Bofur simply shrugged it off with a simple answer of it being a cultural thing.
Anxious wriggling of anticipation was met with heat upon prick that made Bilbo gasp again, fingers raking through hair and the shiver of delight going up his spine that only made his face go so red as he did his best to stay quiet. He felt the swirl of tongue, the push of the center area of tastebuds press against head and the aching twitch of glands being smothered with wet and heat. This clashed with the subtle sensation of teeth gently raking along the base where pubic hair started, chin covered in hair pressing against is sack made his hips arch and roll upward as he felt head bump against the roof of Bofur's mouth to slide back further. There was adoration to be had with Bilbo grinning at watching Bofur's head bob up and down between his legs, grappling the handful of too soft hair that was almost black and only made his own somewhat tanned skin stand out more. Not much could be said on the affections, Bofur was the only one who was so nice and generous to him, even when the rest of the Company took some time to find trust upon him, Bofur seemed more adamant on becoming his friend. Yet to say they were lovers was a far reach that even he didn't want to cast hopeful thoughts on. 'Body Hospitalities' is what Bofur had called it. Kind gestures of sexual gratification to be had between members of the Company, though as far as Bilbo was aware, Thorin had been rather stringent on such common practices since the Quest wasn't a get away for his men to slop about.
Soft pants picked up into more fervent gasps to match the heave of chest being risen when Bilbo arched his back. The calculated movements of Bofur pushing and rolling his tongue in all the right places almost forced Bilbo to release a throaty moan if it were not for the less than obvious inclination that they were surrounded by the loud grunts and snores of their companions within the barn-like home of the mighty Beron. Yet with all hazards aside, Bilbo was yet again impressed by Bofur's skill that only made him fret more as he gave subtle tugs, wanting the Dwarf to sit up once more to express gratitude for the unexpected pleasure to be indulged in. Bofur sat up in time to retrieve his kiss from Bilbo, hardly chaste with the taste of precum and the honey from their meal hours earlier still lingering on his tongue, but he took in the Hobbit, bracing against him with the pile of hay as their support as he tucked both hands close, one cupping cheek while the other gropped hip with the means of unspoken encouragement. Bilbo's own hands explored, pressing against torso to feel the small start of stomach that gave into the firmness of muscle and gut before going lower to squeeze along hip and inner thigh. Bofur let out a small noise in warning, reaching down to push the hand away only to have Bilbo be far too fast for his own good and gave a defiant grope between his legs. Bofur was quick to pull away, shoving Bilbo's hands out from between his legs as he gave a warning glare at the confused expression on the Hobbit's face. Bilbo looked as if he had been struck with a backhand to the face, glaring up at Bofur with a clenched jaw as few words were spoken for a moment.
"You don't like it?"
"It ain't that, Bilbo," Bofur hissed with annoyance.
"Then what is it? Every time we've done this, you're rather persistent in pleasing me, but never the other way around. I may not be one of your lot, but I'm pretty sure the whole give what you owe back is rather universal when it comes to this thing?" Bilbo pointed out, being careful with his selection of words.
"I just--I dunno. I ain't used to it," Bofur lied as he averted his gaze to sit back upon his knees.
"You're not a very good fibber. Is there something wrong or be it another Dwarf thing?"
"Yeah it's a Dwarf thing alright, but m'not keen on havin everyone here from Luin goin on about it!" he hissed a bit too loudly.
Bilbo was quick to reach up with hand pressing against Bofur's mouth to silence him as both went stiff to listen to their surroundings. More snores, the occasional grumble from one of the others talking in their sleep. Creaks and groans of floorboards with the stomp of hooves from the occasional barn animal shuffling about only gave confirmation enough for the both of them to allow their shoulders to go slack. Bofur leaned to look about before looking back down at Bilbo to give a condescending glare over the Hobbit who was merely smirking up at him.
"I am simply asking that you let me return the favors you have done onto me, Bofur. May I ask further on the issue so that I may understand? Please at least let me be aware so that I know better as to not push on the matter in the future," Bilbo murmured softly as he tapped fingertips over Bofur's mustache.
Soft kisses were pressed against fingertips as Bofur looked down and gave Bilbo some help with fixing his trousers back into place, the wants in pleasing the Hobbit had ceased once questions had happened which only drove him to avert his gaze in attempts to avoid the question.
"Listen Bilbo, you know I'm fond of you and whatnot, but such things really shouldn't be discussed at the moment. Not here. Not now. We've got this objective to focus on and right now I believe assisting Thorin on his quest is a bit more important than this kind of talk."
"Then when we reach Erebor? If we've defeated Smaug and we all come out of this right and proper, we'll talk over tea and see where this goes," Bilbo said politely with a matter-of-fact tone.
"See where what goes?" Bofur hissed softly, now sounding worried.
"I--with. W-with us. Well I thought--and--.." Bilbo inhaled sharply to shake his head and rold up his hands to stop himself from fumbling about with his words, but he only stammered more as he cleared his throat. "I-I meant with you an-..well talk of it when the time comes!" he finally said quickly while fumbling about to stand up and dust hay from front.
Bofur looked dubious with suspect and caution in his eyes, but he stood as well, to help Bilbo right his jacket and to adjust his hat back into place. He was unable to pry his attention away from the Hobbit, curious on his words and what he was getting at, but doing his best not to pry on the matter as he picked straw from his hair. The sudden intrusion of personal space was met with Bofur turning in time to be met with Bilbo pressing his mouth against Bofur's, inviting him into a kiss that Bofur didn't balk away from. Yet there was the nervous hesitation, Bofur's subtle reluctance only melting away as he cupped Bilbo's face to smile against the kiss. Bilbo only smiled back, bumping nose against nose as he cupped Bofur's face in return to mouth three words quietly and Bofur found himself shuddering with an all to familiar fear going up his spine.
"Bofur..Bofur..are you alright, Bofur?"
Burning. It was hot. Hot as the smithy and heat from the bellows of roars from raw ores smelt and hammered upon anvils within Erebor. It reminded him of the fires of Laketown that Smaug had unleashed upon the dilapidated homes and structures. The choke of smog that clung to one's throat, the sweat from brow and the back of neck, the smell of smoke and burning, wet wood. Charred and blackened stone, Screams and shouts of danger to flee or to bring help. The noise was muffled by the loud ringing in ears as Bofur felt blood dripping down the side of his face. His body bruised as he had struggled to free himself from his binds. The escape from the burning building did little to help, a log from a support beam had fallen onto his back, but thank The Maker that he felt little pain from the embers and wood that almost broke his neck and shoulder. He could hear Nori calling out his name, screaming it along with the men by his side trying to put out the fires. He was slow with moving, a wound on the leg gave clear enough indication of bleeding from the gash that tore at pant leg, yet at least he was grateful enough to apply the sharp edge of wood glowing bright by embers and flame to sever the binds over his wrists and torso.
The groaning and creaks of the support beams indicated he didn't have much time, already he could hear the tumble and fall of heavy baseboards from the rafters falling. Bofur scrambled as best as he could towards a hole in the run down building, no bigger for a cat or a dog, but strong enough kicks with his good leg, the forceful punches of already torn and bruised knuckles gave him a large enough gab to shimmy and crawl through in time to drag himself to breathe cold air that stung his lungs. It made him heave and cough hard, the retching gag of smog clinging to his throat made him spit as he pulled himself to his feet only to have a hand grabbing at one of his ponytails to jerk him hard. He screamed, turned to see crooked dirty teeth, black hair greasy over a busted face that was still bleeding. The creaks of the wooden boards that made up the docks groaned under their weight as it shook. Bofur gasped, eyes glaring up at Alfrid to see dark eyes glaring down at him. That hateful and disgusted look, a dagger being brandished that made the Dwarf reel and struggle in the man's grip in attempts to free himself.
"You couldn't just leave things be! Nosy goddamned BASTARD! Short and hairy fetcher ye' are! I'll have your throat slit for this!" Alfrid bellowed out angrily, spewing spit and blood in Bofur's face.
"No right! You've got no right taking what isn't yours! Those belong to the King! How you went about getting them is beyond me, but you ain't supposed to have'em!" Bofur hissed back angrily as he saw the blade raising higher.
"Too right about that! What's everyone to think now that I've got you red handed with them gemstones in your pockets?! You and that other one skulkin about! It'll play out all proper and dandy for me! GUARDS!! GUARDS! HERE! OVER HERE!" Alfrid bellowed out.
"NO!" Bofur shouted as he finally managed to break from Alfrid's grasp to slam a fist into the man's gut. Alfrid toppled, almost falling to his knees as Bofur turned in attempts to flee in the opposite direction.
The swing of that arm came down hard upon Bofur's back, the loud clink of the dagger's blade striking his back caused him to gasp out loud as if in pain before back going rigid. Guards came running up from behind Alfrid, Nori close behind as he shoved through their legs to make way, shouting at them to get back and to make room, for once asserting his authority as Royal Guard before finally stopping short to see Alfrid pushing the dagger in deeper with a sadistic grin on his face. Yet there was a halt, a frown of confusion with eyes going wide as Bofur stood perfectly still, the sudden lurch of his shoulder of tattered tunic being exposed, wraps beneath it revealing the faint glint and gleam by firelight of something upon shoulder and spine that only made lurch forwards to turn and glare upon Alfrid with a newfound wrath that looked raw and tempered.
If it wasn't for Nori intervining at that very moment, Bofur would have stomped the old Deputy's face. The guards followed Nori's lead, grabbing Alfrid to make him stand as Nori held back Bofur who was now cursing the very wrath of the Gods upon the man. The fires had drawn a commotion, the locals and general public now in a panic over the flames that could possible catch on and attach themselves to other buildings. There was disdain at their newly built building for Trades and messages was now burning to cinders. Screams of accusations and confusions as buckets of water were passed to control and douse out the flames.
"He tried to have at it! He gets every damned blow and threat as just!"
"Hold yourself, lad!"
"Hold your tongue!" Nori barked loudly.
"He's the one tha' started the fire!" Alfrid managed to shout out. "I caught'em tryin to steal the King's treasures and he went about startin the fire!"
There was a small uproar behind the guards from the common folk who had heard Alfrid's outburst which only made the guards tense themselves as they stood upon the two Dwarves with suspicious glances. Yet there was a faltering in their movement, hesitation and concern to be had. They did not wish to risk the wrath of the King of The Lonely mountain for inciting such disrespect upon his people. That and they had already witnessed Alfrid stab one of them, yet the ex-deputy had supposedly "changed his ways". Turned over a new leaf to even where Bard had shown enough mercy to allow the man some means of proving himself. Who could they believe?
"I saw him! I saw them both in fact! Check their pockets and see for yourself!" Alfrid spoke up again.
"He lies!" Bofur barked out again as he shoved Nori's hand away from his mouth.
There was the mumbling from the guards, one of them stepped forward upon the Dwarves to finally settle the dispute and calm the growing tension that was sure to possibly break out into a riot if the two were allowed to argue further.
"Beggin m'pardon, sirs, but this would be loads easier on both sides if you were allow me to check your pockets. I ain't none to fond of Alfrid either, but if he seen's you stealing then by all rights I need you to be checked just to be sure," the guard said carefully and respectfully.
He knew well enough to keep his tone cordial as possible, yet there was still that hinting of doubts. That wary indication that he too did not trust these two Dwarves in their presence. Why were they here? Why not back in Erebor with their people? What were they doing so far into Dale and for that matter, why the docks? Nori stiffened, still hanging on to Bofur to restrain him as he felt the push and give of the dagger still embedded into the back of his shoulder that only made him attempt to cover that and the glint showing which only made Bofur pull and limp back away from the guard coming so near. Unlucky for the both of them, the guard had caught sight of something that shined under Bofur's tunic which made him give a sound of alarm.
"Oi! What's that there then!? On your--"
"Say another damned word and I'll slit your God forsaken tongue right from your mouth!" Nori hissed as he stood tall, pushing Bofur behind him with eyes showing contempt and courage. Already hands were resting on the sharp blades resting upon the belt on his hips.
"Empty your pockets or I'm placing both of you under arrest!"
"Then arrest us!" Bofur spat with venom on his tongue as he disregarded the confused frown Nori was giving him. "Arrest us and be done with it!"
The guard faltered, the muffled gasps to be had behind him as he gave a raise of his hand to gesture towards his companions behind him. There was silence to be had as Alfrid gave the snarling grin at the success of what he was about to hear. "Someone seek out Bard, inform him of this mess! Speak that we will need of his council on the matter! Be swift about it!"
Abrâfu shaikmashâz! - Descendant of rats!
Chapter 7: Thranduil's Pardon
Bofur and Nori are confronted by Bard who attempts to quell a riotous crowd. Thranduil questions Bofur and makes a calculative decision.
Fingers pushed against the tussle of red hair that was tangled, another pair of hands found themselves in the mess of it as Tauriel sat obediently as best as she could. Her face was scrunched up with discomfort, the anticipated frustration at the brink as two girls attempted to comb and brush at her hair, trying to pluck free the brambles of twigs and sticks before braiding it back in order. There was something of a polite respectability she upheld with Bard's daughters, although they saw more into it as a true friendship that they were hellbent on upholding. While their brother was busy tending to the blade in his lap, fawning with sharpening it, their father and King Thranduil loomed near the fireplace discussing current events with brandy in chalices and the small start of a buzz lingering upon their minds. Thranduil was chipper enough, although he didn't express it openly, the usually cold and distant vibe he expressed had been replaced with something more lax. Shoulders sat loosely, the decanter of brandy passed back and forth, small smiles were had when Bard gave small jokes or witty replies. Then again, he still acted stifly in comparison to the rest of his kin and soldiers that were merrily drinking and singing along. Dancing on the tables along the great hall while the section where himself and Bard's children had been isolated for privacy while the two rulers discussed future opportunities.
"The old Master used to be particularly fond of our wines. Had two barrels privately delivered separately at times from the usual stock that used to be ordered in Laketown. Never truly was fond of him," Thranduil mused gently.
"I've had more than enough encounters with him to be fully aware of his little tirades he had. Most of them were marinated in the very wine you provided," Bard scoffed back with his own rasping voice low as to not draw attention to the two.
No laughter to be had, they were both leaders of few words unless it was required of them, but a smirk was traded. Bemused smiles and half lidded glances while hiding their cheeky grins with their cups as they redirected their attention back towards the map upon the nearby table.
"Are the Dwarves allowing you to cut the dead trees you requested?"
"And then some. They've paid little mind. We'll need all the lumber we can get too if we intend to rebuild the rest of Dale. Honestly, I don't believe Thorin actually cared? He seemed fairly content--"
"You can tell?"
"Sometimes. It's rare, but he was pleased to know that we would be removing the dead trees. I'm assuming he wants any reminder of Smaug to be removed from his presence--and the free labor of course."
"But of course."
"You're not pleased."
"Merely annoyed. My tolerance for Dwarves is unremarkably short."
"Come now. There's no reason to mock their height like that."
Another trade off of grins, another sip of the alcohol that made Bard nudge a stamp against the map to follow the trail of the river that wove itself through the lands. He moved closer, making himself welcome by the King of Mirkwood's side to have his hands behind his back. One thing Bard could admit that he enjoyed about the Elfking's company was that there wee fleeting moments of appreciating the silence and to simply think. While others were quick to act, quick to run blindly into conflict, they both seemed to have an agreement to be tactful. A mutual respect had always been had between his family and the Elves. Hardly anything of kinship, but even now as he looked over his shoulder to admire his daughters whom were now giggling cheerfully as Tauriel educated them on how to do elf locks within their own hair. This was nice. This was what he wanted for so long. Of course he never hungered for power and authority, but it was peace and in seeing his people thrive once more. To see the smiles on his children's faces without the worry of danger or threat to be had.
"She's never been one for children. Wanderlust."
"No? Don't be coy now. I've heard the giggles and whispers f your younger years, Bard. They still titter and blush over it."
"Young and stupid--"
"But oh so charming."
"I'm curious; what is your perspective on all of this?"
"My perspective. On the dead trees?"
Thranduil took a moment to contemplate his words, the cant of his head caused a few strands of his white hair to fall forwards over his shoulder as he looked down upon the map. One hand still held the chalice of brandy, the other tapped over his lips then over the map to give subtle sighs of words under his breath.
"Fleeting. Temporary. Even now I feel an ache deep from within that all is not well throughout other lands. Where we may have peace here, others are sure to be suffering. Even if Mirkwood is gradually being cleared of its infestation of spiders, their poison lingers. Seeps and runs deep into the roots to taint wherever it may."
"How depressing. What a grim perspective, King. Careful or you'll start sounding more like Thorin than yourself."
A sharp glare of blue eyes didn't deter Bard from his impish grin, in fact he looked right back, noticing that Thranduil was sure to scold him as if he were a child again, yet before the Elfking could even open his mouth, the din and noise of an uproar caused them all to halt with attention. Tauriel was the first to take action, first to rise to her feet to push the girls behind her while their brother stood second with sword ready in hand. Yet as the double doors drew open to reveal the booming noise of a small riot of people gathering at the stairs, all anyone could really see was the shillouette of a being that was moving closer to reveal a very angry and very terrified looking Alfrid with a bloodied nose.
"Alfrid? I thought--"
"They've attacked us! They've bloody attacked us!!" He screeched out angrily.
"Who!?" Bard said as he stormed forwards.
He could already hear the commotion outside growing louder which only caused more confusion. Bard made note of plenty of angry citizens shouting at one another and a few beings that had been forced to the ground at their feet which only made him tense up. He disregarded Alfrid's words to storm outside where he was met with the commotion of his people arguing and shouting, some fighting with one another, many of the guards fighting back others that were trying to break through to grab at two Dwarves that stood with their backs straight and hateful glares upon their face. Bard's presence only caused a larger uproar to be had before his own booming voice thundered out to quiet them all down. And still there was the occasional shout, the shove and noisy grunt of bickering to be had in the back that was quelled by the hiss of hushing from others nearby.
"What is the meaning of this commotion?" Bard bellowed out again as he looked upon the two Dwarves with confusion.
Shouts from the background, murmurs up front, Bofur and Nori stood with such unwavering confidence and wrath that the dark shadows over their faces expressed the disgust with the people of Dale. Bofur was quick to step forwards to speak, but was yet again interrupted by the sneering, nasally voice of Alfrid speaking up first.
"These two cretins were caught stealing, M'Lord! Caught red handed taking the Elfking's gifts from the People of Dale! Shock and awe that Dwarves be stealing what ain't there's! Especially under the shadow of their own horde within the mountain by their Ki--"
"I promise upon my Ancestors if you even dare speak of my King in such a way I will end you m'self!" Bofur snarled.
"Pray to your God for mercy and be thankful that we're choosing to be shackled! How dare you! How dare ALL of you! To accuse of thievery upon us! My friend is wounded! He needs he--"
"Hold your tongue, sneak thieves! I saw them m'self! Skulking around! And when I caught them in the act, they decided to burn the whole treasury down!"
Murmurs of anger and confusion, the shout of 'Hang them!' made others rouse into agreement.
"LIAR!" Bofur yelled out to quell the noise.
"SILENCE!" Bard barked back again.
The Master didn't pace or fidget, he stood as stoic as a statue as he looked upon the crowd hungry for blood, at Alfrid's sneering look of disgust. Then towards the Dwarves-- those two looked familiar enough and he could hardly trust them just as much as he could hardly trust Alfrid who had the very nasty reputation of instigating riots and rousing confrontation even if there was none to be had. There was movement from behind, the shuffle of feet followed by Bard's daughters emerging with Tauriel close behind who seemed unsurprising by the commotion when she looked down upon the Dwarves, but there was the glint of curiosity in her eye. Most of the commotion was broken off when Bard's daughters making a noise of surprise when they noticed Bofur and Nori in chains.
Then, King Thranduil made himself known, which made everyone go still, the quiet footseps met with piercing blue eyes looking about as if to collect on what was going on. It didn't take him long to assess the situation and he was careful with his steps, gliding with each gentle movement as he descended the stairs to look upon Nori and Bofur with quiet contempt. Eyes looked back and forth, then head slowly canted as he crouched down to get at eye level with Bofur.
"They say you stole from me."
Bofur didn't speak up, couldn't even look Thranduil in the eye as he pursed his lips tight to confirm he was clenching his jaw to almost grind his teeth into nothing.
"Empty your pockets."
"I can't when they got me hands bound like this," Bofur snapped defensively.
"Are you that imbolent where you're unable to request--"
"The People of Dale of treated me as if I am an Orc; ready to behead without hesitation! I've been falsely accused of thievery without a just trial, I've been attacked multiple times, threatened, m'friend treated with equal hostility, and now the Elven King of Mirkwood stands before two members of King Thorin's Royal Guard to mock us? I request that you please unbind us less we choose to remove these binds ourselves and reconsider the option of not informing The King Under The Mountain of you and Dale's "hospitality" and of what crimes have been witnessed on this evening that's supposed to be a celebration of peace!"
Not a word save for the cawing of crows in the distance and the crackle of fire from torches. There was a blanching, a balk and awkward quiet of Bofur speaking up in such a way. Even Nori looked with shock, blue eyes wide and mouth so small that it could hardly be seen, but Bofur could easily tell with a quick side glance that his friend was smiling even if it wasn't properly expressed this evening. Bofur looked around, easily unbinding the rope around his wrists as Nori did the same even though Thranduill was drawing near to assist, for once, biting his own tongue in annoyance.
"I stole from you."
Now there was a murmur of surprise, the surge and ripple of whispers to be had within the crowd that was only silenced by Bard raising his hand.
"Not for a challenge. Not because on a whim, but because others were already stealing from you--and us. I was in Dale this evening because there was a caravan traveling to Bree. I was hoping to intervene so I could deliver letters to a friend in Bree who would then deliver them to a friend in The Shire."
"Does the King know of this?" Nori interrupted.
"He does. Somewhat. He's aware that I come down to Dale at times to do this. He ain't paid much mind to it since everyone else in the Company ain't got time to do it themselves. Speakin of which--" Bofur paused to clear his throat, attempting to get back on track. "I got into a fight with Alfrid's lot. Caught them stealing from the treasury. Tried to stop'em. The scuffle led to Alfrid throwin a lamp about which started the fire."
"And of what you stole?"
"I grabbed what I could before I got out of the fire."
Alfrid scoffed loudly, laughing even, as he raied his hand to disregard the whole story as if it were a comical tale. His minions that were near also jeered and laughed at what they heard which only made Nori stiffen as he did his best to bite his tongue. There was so much to say, many words that he could speak on at the moment, but found himself quiet on this whole matter. Bofur was a talkative Dwarf, it was his strongest skill and often he had witnessed his friend pull himself out of a multitude of harrowing situations by mere verbal skill alone, yet he could tell when Bofur was faltering, when they were withholding and careful with what they spoke. Be it because of his wounds or the situation, Nori was fully aware of him not speaking the whole truth.
"A proper good tale, mate, but it hardly brings any much truth when you're wearing the stolen goods around your neck! Give back what's not yours!"
"It ain't stolen goods! M'wounded you bloody fookin idiot! One of your mates tried pullin a belt 'round me neck so hard that it tore!"
Suddenly there was movement, Thranduil reaching down, the subtle touch followed only by Bofur balking and trying to reel back from wandering hands that led rope and shackles to be removed before dropping to the ground at their feet. Bofur was careful with moving, but after King Thranduil moved towards Nori who also stiffened at his movements of removing their binds, he was quick to move towards his companion to force an arm over shoulders to be supported.
"It seems that you've been pardoned. Leave," Bard said with affirmation of Thranduil's actions.
"And you're to just allow it!? To let thieves go!? What if they're to steal again? To come back with more of their lot and start pick-pocketing! You're so quick to trust Elves and Dwarves over your own Men, Bard!" Alfrid sneered with disgust.
Such words caused a murmur of agreement, the rouse of "Yeah!" and "Traitor!" were heard from Alfrid's men, whom were hellbent to egg their leader on, feed oil into the fire in hopes to instigate confrontation which only made Bofur and Nori start to skulk away. Yet their path was blocked by too many from the crowd that only made them try to push before Tauriel hissed in their direction from an alleyway she had slipped into nearby. While Alfrid was on his tirade of Bard's questionable loyalty to his fellow man, she was keen to take advantage of everyone being distracted to lure the two away from further confrontation.
"He means to be an end to us! To sell us out to this so called "King Under The Mountain" and "King of Mirkwood"! Have the people of Laketown have not suffered enough!? Where are our rewards! The Dwarfking gives graciously to the Elfking! Three treasure troves and then some, yet what has he done for us that had to endure Smaug's wrath that he awoke? What has he done for those that took him and his people in at their lowest only to betray us with their greed!? Who--"
Alfrid went on and on, rousing the crowd into a riot again, the yells and anger now redirected at Bard which seemed to make not a single hair upon his head falter or shift. It was a collide of supporters and opposers of Bard, even now the Master could see the dispute getting ugly to the point of violence. Even rotten fruit was thrown at his feet, thrown at his children which were quick to back away, yet as Thranduill joined him at his side, he was quick to raise his hands to quell the noise that lowered somewhat.
"Guards! Arrest Alfrid and his men!"
"On what grounds!?" Alfrid said, his newfound confidence of the people on his side made him too cocky too soon.
"How is it that you know the information of exactly how much King Thranduill was given? Nobody has made word of this detail until you have spoken right now. Guards! Arrest him!"
More noise and commotion, but by the time Bofur and Nori had slipped away with Tauriel, Dale was already at their backs, only the warmth and glow being a distant fade upon their backs while the chill of the lake brought little comfort as Tauriel guided them home.
Chapter 8: Woe! The Crown is Heavy!
While Thorin entertains a few of his Company members with a small after party, he meditates on Dwarven Courtships and predicts that there's bound to be more trouble than peace in the near future.
Kili eavesdrops and discovers his Uncle is up to something.
"I'm sure they've just pissed off to Dale for whatever reason. You know how Nori is, he's always been a bit of a bad influence on Bofur ever since they were Pebbles. Then again, I wonder if it be the ther way around sometimes," Dori insisted with a chuckle.
There was no alarm to be had for the two missing, but it did draw concern from the inner circle of Thorin's Company that had now opted to have a more private after party to gossip and converse on current events, more so at Thorin's request since it was one of those rare nights where he was restless and found little peace in isolation. Most of them were drunk or tipsy anyways. Poor Bombur had gulped down enough to kill a bull and then some which only forced Bifur to have four other younger Dwarves cart him off home to be tended to. Oin and Gloin had not bothered, they had opted for an early bedtime, so for the moment it was the remaining few upon the balcony, enjoying the sights of the night skies and Dale below lit aglow with the obvious confirmation of celebrations to be had. Thorin didn't openly voice his concerns, he kept quiet with hands behind his back or occasionally taking a chug at tankard or cup that was offered to him by his nephews.
"Ye think they're in trouble?" Dwalin asked with a slouch of his body.
"Oh of course, but they tend to get out of it rather well. I've not worried much about Nori when he's about with Bofur."
"Because the fellow's so charming, eh? I don't see it. You and your brothers seem to be keen on the fetcher. Tell me, since you've known him since he was so young, what's his story? Hoe were him and Nori to become such good friends?"
"None of your damned business!" Dori snipped right back rather quickly.
The retort only made Ori snort out in laughter rather hard, then to choke a bit on his mead as he tried to avert his gaze away from the glare of the Captain. Dwalin was perturbed, but he seemed to not be letting go of the conversation entirely. He was tipsy, so it meant he was being nosy and picky, but at least his gruff demeanor equaled to a more laid back and at ease state in comparison to his strict attitude that put off plenty that weren't used to him. Dori eyed Dwalin carefully, with obvious judgement as he poured more wine from the decanter into his chalice.
"Mahal knows that you're getting plenty enough information about damned near everyone from my brother, Dwalin. Pray that you don't start with your flirtatious banter with me! Those silly cat and mouse games are hardly fit for my tastes!"
"Hardly so! You'd likely topple over your own two feet if I ever were to chase you!"
"I've not toppled or fell since I was a Pebble."
"But you fell just this morning, remember? Tripped over your own feet!" Ori chastised.
The remark only caused a bellow of laughter from the others, Dori's face flushed redder than ever as he rolled his eyes while sipping at his wine, doing his best to hide his own bout of snickering while giving Ori a nudge with his boot. Thorin smiled, didn't join in the laughter right away, but the company was nice enough at the moment that he kept his back towards the others with arms crossed over his chest and his shoulder against the threshold of the massive doorway as he looked towards the horizon. Even though it wasn't outwardly expressed, there was the shadow of worry looming over his shoulders. Always with the internal struggle of emotions that he needed to meditate on, but his thoughts were sluggish this evening due to the mead and ale running far too freely that his mind was swimming. He'd not risk conversation at the moment since he felt that he'd ramble or speak on things that weren't suitable for public chatter. Why ruin the good atmosphere with melancholy, yet the Company was greatly used to Thoirn keeping quiet and he was hardly shy, merely a silent Dwarf that preferred listening and enjoying the presence of others. How had his father put it? A wise King listens and watches. It was because of this age old saying that Thorin knew plenty enough about the others that gauging them for inquiry was hardly needed at this point. Even now when he looked over his shoulder to eye them, he could see their mirth and joy upon happy faces, their smiles and belches confirming that today had indeed been a good day. Yet he also saw sadness. Worry. Stress and exhaustion. They were tired. War and ruin had aged them a good few years, which was a brash case of judgement given that Dwarves aged so slowly, but Thorin could see the weary lines of his friends and family that had experienced so much. Where they had expected a period of pause after the Quest and countless battles--a war even--they were quickly shoved into their positions of power, forced to be betrothed with the tasked assigned to their titles and ranking, forced to work more. They had no choice, but to pick up extra duties until their families and allies from The Blue Mountains would arrive.
A Dwarf's life is never easy, Thorin. We work hard and fight now so that we may be at ease in the future. So that our kin can know peace! But never forget, m'boy! You wrought the metal too much, hammer it too hard, overheat it. It makes for a brittle weapon and a brittle weapon in battle is as useless as three legged horse!
It was a conflicting situation that he had hoped, surely, the celebrations would at least be a sign of ease for them all, but all he foresaw was more work. More stress. Moreso for his companions than himself, but he knew in due time that was bound to shift. Already word had been sent out to the other holds, all of them thrilled that Erebor had been reclaimed and Thorin crowned the rightful King. For it meant trade, diplomacies, bargains, bribery, more political nonsense that would have to be settled as well as refugees and kin returning to their homes. Many would want to lay claim to the wealth and treasures that lie beneath the mountain which only triggered the internal grumblings of himself and his companions. Clans would need to be reestablished, homes and buildings restored or improved.
By the Gods they'll expect me to court!
Dwarrow Dams from every hold, from every family, will be lining up attempting to court him be it for strengthening their political ties or to proclaim their devotion. The attempts of seduction and fawning. All eyes on him as Thorin will be forced to pick or have a wife chosen for him through the slip of the hand of advisors mumbling in his ear all the time. Forced to endure having Dwarven women that were bred and doted upon up until they were of age before being damned near sold to the highest bidder. Of course Dwarf women were rare, like a sacred gemstone; hardly seen, rarely spoken about, and often overlooked. To their own kind, they were treated as treasures. Life givers and child bearers. Damned near worshiped and restricted within the underground walls of their homes, rarely permitted to fight in battle even though they were thrice as strong willed and far more vicious with their minds or plays on words in comparison to their male counterparts. Thorin would probably be forced to pick the most docile, one that doesn't have a family too high on the political ladder. Someone a bit more compliant and submissive to their traditional ways. Someone fair and beautiful (as far as Dwarf standards go) that would cater to his beck and call behind closed doors. The high demands and expectations to produce an heir, though at his age he wasn't sure if he could rightly tolerate offspring, let alone the idea of being with a Dam just for the soul purpose of sex and reproduction really didn't sit well upon Thorin's mind the more he meditated on it.
If anything, a consort would keep them all at bay for the time being. At least giving a clear enough indication to rivals and would be suitors that I am actively considering on the acts of courting. Drive them away only long enough for me to juggle every thing else that is bound to be thrown upon me and the others at once.
The others were bound to adore the attention. Most of them were used to some means of comfort before leaving to Erebor. Thorin knew well enough that most of them had already gone and been married once, their lovers lost in battle or illness. Others had offspring, or at least nephews, nieces, cousins, and grandchildren elsewhere within Middle Earth that they hadn't seen in some time. More so Thorin was worried over his nephews whom were still young and hard to corral. He knew well enough that they would bounce inconsistently between the trysts of lovers and partners that he was sure to hear about sooner than later. Fili and Kili were still far too young to actively go about with courting, but given their standing and being akin to him, Thorin knew that he would have to advise and make them aware of the situation before it was too late. Dwarves were slow and just as stubborn with producing offspring as they were with anything else, but children born outside of marriage was not uncommon and Mahal knew that if Fili or Kili were to come upon his doorstep in a panic that they've gone and bred with someone outside of courting or marriage, the drama alone was bound to make Thorin's beard go white from stress. Family scandals were a thing and Dwarves enjoyed gossiping just as any other race did from time to time, especially if the scandal was between royal bloodlines. Last thing Thorin needed was the common folk and public mocking his nephews for their sexual shenanigans and foll-ups body hospitalities.
Thorin pulled himself out of his trance when he heard the flutter of wings over his head that came descending upon his shoulders. He neither balked or flinched when the large raven rested upon his shoulder to blink black eyes. For a few seconds he thought he saw something moving along the curtains, someone pushing them aside, but quickly stopping. Must have been the wind or someone upon the other side opting not to bother him.
"My King," the raven croaked politely, keeping her voice low as to not make her presence known to the others.
"You have news?" Thorin's voice also stayed low.
"A fire burns in Dale. Two Dwarves and an Elf travel on the lake to Erebor. Clouds hide them."
"Tell the guards to expect them to arrive and let them through."
"And the Elf?"
"Give her the King's gratitude and inform her that word will be passed along in due time."
"Any word to the two Dwarves?"
"Tell them that once they have recovered then they are to meet their King within the Temple."
"What if they refuse?"
"Then I will seek them out personally."
The raven bowed her head respectfully, a quick peck at Thorin's hair before the strong flap of wings hoisted her into the air. Perfect timing for an updraft to blow along which allowed her to spread her wings wide and glide gracefully down the overcast of the mountain. Thorin exhaled slowly, but paused when he looked over his shoulder to see Kili giving him an owlish stare, face blank, but eyes speaking more of frustration and confusion. He also saw shame, the unnerving realization that Kili had just heard everything that was said.
Chapter 9: Kili Questions Tauriel
Kili confronts Tauriel of the ongoings in Dale, but she refuses to indulge the Dwarf.
"You've gone and gotten us in trouble!"
"Well I thought it'd be a nice change if we switched it up a bit, since yer always the one that's getting us both fucked, Nori!"
"This isn't a joke! Even I wouldn't go this far! You've gone and almost ruined everything our King has been trying to reestablish with those people!"
"My intentions were to not cause such chaos?"
"You went too early! We were told to stay away from Dale until the King gave us the consent, and you went against direct orders! "Sending letters to Bilbo" my arse! Now you've gone and gotten yourself hurt! Lookit you! Ya look like ya need to be locked up!"
Bofur grinned, he couldn't help, but get a laugh at Nori being so worried over his well being. Often the positions were switched; Nori was often the one to be getting reprimand by Bofur like an old mother hen for his shenanigans. Then again, Nori hadn't been the cause of a building being burnt down since they were kids, but he had to refrain from laughing as Nori pressed cold hands against his side to test and make sure no ribs had been broken. Bofur winced at the touched, the sharp inhale didn't indicate any serious damage, but there was still the bruising to be had which didn't look the least bit pretty on his tanned skin. Tauriel didn't exactly keep her eye on the two, her attention focused more on ahead and their surroundings which made her far too tense for her own good. Yet there was a fog, hardly too thick to be a mist, that always clung to the lake and river that separated Erebor from Dale. With it being dark and their only source of light being the small lantern that had been brought with them, she was hellbent on keeping her eyes on their surroundings. It wasn't as if the Dwarves would even bother with her presence to begin with and her objective was fairly simple; get them back home safely. Though with how loudly they spoke, she gave a small hiss for them to keep their voices down which made both Bofur and Nori look upon her with worried frowns.
Nori, of course, wasn't outright keen on following orders from an Elf of any form, but Bofur didn't look upon Tauriel with contempt or disgust. He hardly could since he had witnessed her saving Kili by mere prayer and plants alone. He didn't revere or look upon the Elf in awe as most did, but there was politeness and respect. Though obviously Bofur was rather forward and gave a friendly attitude with just about anyone that showed him respect first.
"You think we're to be followed?" Bofur asked with his voice going low. He grimaced when Nori started tending to his wounded leg. It wasn't broken, thankfully, merely aching and possibly torn muscle, but easy to mend as far as Dwarf health went.
"I think we are to be eavesdropped on easily by other boaters if we are not to be careful."
"Boaters?" Nori repeated, having doubts.
"Some stay out late. Come out early. Fishermen. It would be advised that we stay quiet until we've reached shore and then some."
"Just because we're working together, doesn't mean you've got rights to boss us about!" Nori hissed back under his breath.
Tauriel's ears gave a small twitch, clearly hearing the condescending remark, but giving Nori the benefit of not snarking back with her own haughty tone. There was no point and in a way the Dwarf was correct.
"I'm surprised, really."
"That we survived?"
"Of what nonsense you've caused. From what tales say, descendants of Durin tend to be the most stubborn. Are you not kin to your King?"
"I ain't. Nori is, but he can hardly pass up the good coin and the chance to have a fancy at being a sneak."
"Then what have you found out?"
"I can't say."
"Can't or won't?"
Tauriel frowned in annoyance, looking down at the Dwarf with the floppy hat who only gave a cheeky grin back up at her. Nori rolled his eyes hard, not wishing to join in on the conversation. Cold day in Mordor before he were to play niceties with an Elf, it was already insulting enough that Bofur was enabling the woman to keep talking with them. Yet the talk went quiet when they reached the banks that allowed the boat to grind against gravel and stone to let the two climb out of the boat. They were met by a faint glow from within the fog that was drawing near which only made Tauriel stand tall as she moved to place a hand on her sword before shoulders went lax when Kili came into view. He looked cautious, troubled, since he was technically not permitted to be out this late.
"Ah shit. Thorin knows," Nori hissed under his breath.
"Knows wot? Why you lot not come up from the main road for?" Kili asked as he held up the lantern a bit higher.
"You pay no mind to it. Why you out so late for?"
"Why didn't you take the main road? Why by boat?"
"Does Thorin know you're out here by yourself?"
"Then he won't find out about you being out so late on your own. With an Elf," Bofur said pointedly as he grabbed Nori's shoulder for support in hopes to hide his wounds.
Kili took the moment to look upon the two with concern, but he let them pass, reluctant to gain any form of ire or instigate any confrontation as his attention drew towards Tauriel. Both of them seemed to smile with their eyes, the flush of warmth drawing Kili to step closer to assist Tauriel with tying the boat down. She watched, quietly, admiring his skill with the rope and waiting patiently before they began to walk along the banks of the lake.
"You look well, Kili. Fuller."
"And you look as radiant as ever! Tell me, what brings you here? Uncle has forbade your lot from coming this far up unless it's on business, but here you are practically dragging Bofur and Nori across the water. Are they alright?"
"Quick and to the point as ever. Not going to ask how I've been?" Tauriel teased.
Their last encounter with one another had been fleeting and a traumatic one. She witnessing Kili and his kin being stabbed by Azog, exiled by her King, forced to endure the scorn and stubbornness of the Prince whom was fond of her, running away to the wilderness to survive on her own, only to be called back by the very King who banished her for a special objective. Even by Sindarin mischievousness and tact, the entire ordeal was even well above her head. She was only given so much information, and even then it was cryptic. All she could do was accept their request and follow orders whenever they came through.
"You've gone through hell," Kili said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Just like all of us have. So, you're tired, you want to go home, you want to rest, but you're not allowed to. Which only makes me question why you're here. N-not that I'm complaining! It's a blessing. This. Us. I-I mean us getting to have the time to talk--"
Tauriel couldn't help, but smile as she ushered Kili to follow, going further down the bank to where they could rest upon large rocks. Kili didn't hesitate to climb in joining her as they sat in silence, merely taking in the whippoorwill crying to confirm dawn would be upon them soon. No touching to be had at first, Kili fidgeting nervously, he could barely stand being silent for even short periods of time given that young Dwarves had yet to learn to control their social filters. He was used to noise, used to the commotion of his companions and kin with their voices and sounds--how the Elves ever tolerated it was a mystery to him.
No wonder they've probably gone bonkers. Forever immortal and hardly a peep. The silence is depressing. Shouldn't we be talking? Singing? How else am I to--
Kili silenced his thoughts the moment Tauriel scooted closer to place her hand over his in hopes to soothe troubled thinking. It worked. At an instant Kili seemed to be calm shoulders slack and the lean to press his side against the Elf's thin frame brought the familiarity of slouching against a young sapling bending to his weight, but still holding strong to support him. And for the longest time, Dwarf and Elf simply sat in the darkness to watch the first rays of sunlight peek over the horizon. It was cold, but chills and shiver from the mist rolling along the lake were disregarded, the shallow sighs of their breaths heard by one another didn't break them away from the marvel of what lay before them.
"I think this is my favorite time of the day," Tauriel whispered softly.
"Mhmm. It's the one time of day where things are truly quiet. Peaceful. Everyone is either just waking up or retiring for rest. The Hour of Contemplation. You can hear the sunrise and its call for a new day."
"Hear the Sunrise?"
Tauriel insisted Kili to be quiet once more, canting her head to the side to watch the Dwarf's reaction as he pulled dark hair back to show his own large ear in attempts to hear any noise. Yet all that could be heard was the whispering sigh of the morning wind against the creak of dead trees, the lap of water hitting rocks and gravel, whippoorwills giving their early morning cries, a bell in the distance from a fisherman's boat. He closed his eyes, clenched them tight, in hopes to listen more and gave an indignant huff when nothing, but the rumble of a storm was the last thing he could muster of any noise. Tauriel laughed, airy and singsong, but she shook her head to give a playful nudge at Kili. Such a gesture made him grin something endearing as he laughed along.
"Why have you come here, Tauriel?"
"I can not say."
"Can't or won't?"
"Both. All I can tell you is that I was instructed to return your kin to Erebor. We're bound to both be reprimanded for this detour we've taken. How did you know I was to be here?"
"A little bird told me. Are they alright? Bofur and Nori I mean."
"I believe their pride is damaged more than their own bodies, but they'll recover. It'd be advised that they keep their distance from Dale and its Master for the time being. Especially Thranduil."
"What've they gone and done now?"
Tauriel and Kili both looked up when they heard the loud croak of a raven above their heads. The black bird circling high in the air watching them with careful judgement before swooping down to land on a low hanging branch to caw at them again.
"The King sends his gratitude, She-Elf," the Raven croaked with chest puffing proudly. "Word will be passed. Informed in due time. Also--" the Raven paused to tip her head to the side, almost hanging it upside down towards Kili before sitting upright to ruffle her feathers. "The King says that it is unbecoming for Gentlemen to be out past curfew and that if he is required to seek them out then their reward will be extra duties for the coming week!"
It was a condescending tone that made Kili balk, eyes going wide as he quickly stood to hold Tauriel's hands. He kissed and kissed them, pressing mustache and stubble against knuckles now fumbling over his words in a panic.
"I-I must leave!"
"Oh? So soon?"
"The King--my Uncle--"
"There's a curfiew."
"He's bloody awful when pissed!"
"That hardly sounded like a threat."
"Did you not hear the damned bird? He said Gentlemen! I must be leaving, please forgive me! If he finds me out here--with you--"
Kili didn't even finish, he was quick to climb off the rocks with Tauriel supporting a bemused smile upon her face. She knew well enough of Thorin's attitude, and although she paid little mind, there was that hint of worry to be had for Kili's sake. She watched the Dwarf run--surprisingly fast for such small stature--and stood herself to look towards the Raven who was already flapping her wings to take flight, following Kili above to caw and cackle at the Dwarf's panicked pace.
Chapter 10: A King's Rage
Thorin is collectively pissed once he's given the details of what happened in Dale and poor Nori suffers the brunt of it. In turn, Thorin confronts Bofur and old flames are rekindled.
To say that Dwarves were never a peaceful minded lot is a very deep misconception, for they often had peace of mind through their diligence and hard work, hyper fixating on the things they adored, hellbent on reaching perfection of their crafts that even the very Elves could never seem to match. For many, they found peace in smelting their ores and irons, making armor or weapons. Others found the arts of gem cutting or wood carving, even mining, ascribing, and cooking were favored pastimes rarely spoken of among outsiders. Yet one things all Dwarves found some solace or sanctuary from the troubles of their long lives was music. Whether it be by song or by instrument, music came to them naturally and they sang or played at any given moment be it work, in celebration, or in mourning. It was so deeply ingrained into their very being that their form of worship to their God was to sing and dance. And of course; nobody partied harder than the Dwarves be it for sadness or for joy.
It was because of this that Thorin sat within the great chambers of The Great Halls of Mahal; a cathedral carved into the very mountain itself; thrice the size of any hall built for grand duke or King, and by law it was required to be one of the largest chambers within any great Dwarven City for it was here where they worshiped. Even Smaug, of all his horrifying and terrible strength, couldn't breach the very doors of those sacred doors that had been enchanted countless times over the centuries by the blessings and blood of Dwarrows young and old. Here they performed the rituals and rites passed down from generation to generation, where they prayed, where they received and gave blessings. Their song and dance being the beginning and end to any religious related Holiday of their customs for when Mahal made his the First Seven, they gave praise by singing and dancing in his honor, giving thanks to both Forgemaster who crafted their bodies and the All Father; Eru Ilúvatar, who gave them the breath of life so that they were brought into being. Yet the Dwarves gave higher praise to Mahal due to his unyielding love for his children and he greatly adored the way they moved and how their voices bellowed back at him. Thorin sat upon the massive stage; an oversized podium made of marble and embroided with diamonds and pearls, the reek of incense and burning sage had done wonders to one's senses and to bring some sense of emotional comfort. A gilded harp was between his legs as he sat upon a stool, eyes closed as fingers strummed upon the strings gently to fill the hall with the most enchanting music.
A hundred years and then some spent perfecting the instrument, yet Thorin still struggled. He wasn't as relaxed as he should be, his shoulders were too tense, arms hardly lax, the thick coat he wore felt like a burden of thick weight upon his back, the stool was too small for his backside, his position was all off--all these things were making his eyebrow tick in such an odd way, but even then he disregarded and kept playing while Nori entered to place his hands upon the feet of the heroes of old to take his blessings before stopping before the stage to look upon the great statue of Mahal holding a mighty forge hammer and the First Seven at upon their knees holding their gifts and blessings bestowed upon them. All carved from stone and marble, wrought by the greatest artisans now long dead. Mahal's very eyes were golden while his beard held every gemstone and then some weaved into the braids of each lock. Yet Nori looked away, had to out of respect for looking upon the eyes of Mahal for too long was considered a great insult. Instead he looked upon his King, tense and focused on his prayer that needed no explanation upon it. Nori knew why Thorin was giving for he was hoping to receive in return. Be it metaphysical upon the insight and awareness of his current troubles, or be it actually literal by a mere bonk on the head by a falling stone. Anything. Far better than nothing.
"Where is Bofur?"
Nori's back went straight as he put his hands to his side to take the stance of a soldier. He cleared his throat, reluctant to speak in lies in this situation given that although he had no absolute loyalty to nobles and The Crown, his loyalty to Thorin was of a personal level.
"I'm assuming--hoping--the infirmary. Or home."
"I gave orders for both of you to meet me here."
"And I'm very much aware of that, but--"
"Did I not make myself clear, Nori?"
"Your message was very clear, my King, and I understand why you might be upset given the circumstances and all, but you must understand--"
"Tonight...tonight was a rather important event. A celebration they're sure to make into a Holiday and as expected I required everyone within my Company to be there. Dain gave quite the speech."
Thorin trailed off to stop playing the harp as he stood to push the harp away, slamming it against the ground to hear it clang loudly as he gave a wave of his hand in frustration. He dared not curse aloud in such a holy place less the scorn of his ancestors were to be watching and listening.
"He gave praise to all of our feats and accomplishments in battle, a rambler sort my cousin is as we all know, but he's got quite the keen eye. A gift he uses in battle, glorifies it, but he saw everyone's exploits. Saw how you and your brothers fought so valiantly, even made a very lovely remark about being saved by Ori. Truly a kin to Durin! To think. Ori. Hardly that old, older than Fili and Kili, but just as young in heart and mind. And yet.." Thorin turned to face Nori. Looming, shadow cast over his face to show contempt and a rage within those eyes that almost glowed, but were masked by the deadpan and calm expression. It made Nori balk--flinch--as he took in a sharp breath to watch Thorin descend the stairs as he spoke up again.
"When he came to you...you were not present. He mocked you. A pity! Off sneaking about again? Cheeky bastard is never about unless someone flips a proper coin in his direction! I won't even begin on the things he said about Bofur. It was quite a tangent and everyone obtained quite a proper laugh. Pray that the mead and ale make their minds muddled and clouded so that they may forget and pray that Bofur--as well as you--are aware of what humiliation the rest of us have had to endure this evening!" Thorin said with his voice rising to expose more of his anger.
Nori was quiet, head down with the obvious reluctance to look Thorin in the eyes at the moment, but that rage was so prominent that even he could feel himself having that instinctual need to fight or flee. There was that fear that he would be hit, backhanded like a child for their clumsy and easily avoidable error.
There was the falter, the shiver up the spine that made Nori purse his lips tight in some attempts at refusal, but there was the unbridled presence of his King reaching out to grab him, he had not spoken up in time and Thorin was grabbing his ear to pull which brought forth a loud yell of pain as Nori was forced to be tugged before Thorin for his insolence and he fell to his knees before his King expecting more reprimand. Hardly a coward even if the option of fleeing was more profitable than combat, Nori felt like a child being punished and it was outright humiliating. A proper blow to his pride before the very eyes of their God, for Thorin was as closest as they came to the lineage of Durin and of Durn there was Mahal's hand at play. As demeaning as it was for both of them, Thorin was combating the petulance of his kin with a firm hand of warning that more hurt was to be had if he didn't speak up.
"I don't know!" Nori yelped angrily as he grabbed at Thorin's wrist. But that grip was too strong, the pinching of his ear only made it go red with pain.
"You lie! Here? Of all places!?" Thorin snarled as he pressed down harder.
"No, my King! I speak only in truths! Please!"
Thorin released Nori's ear to give a wave of his hand at the Dwarf.
Nori sobbed under his breath, almost cursed, but bit his own tongue while rubbing at the crown of his ear to soothe the ache to be had.
"I-I followed him--"
"Bofur! I went to go see him earlier, before the party started, to see if he was ready since I wanted to leave early. Ori asked me to drop some books off for him at the library, which only reminded Bofur that he wanted to deliver some letters. I told him that we couldn't go about being late and he said that it wouldn't be long and to cover for him. A trip into Dale, then a trip back. He said somethin about takin the boat. I confronted him on his letters and tried to stop him, he refused, said they were important--"
"Is that why he's been shirking his duties!?"
"I suppose!? I've already gone about telling Dwalin that business! All I know Bofur's been depressed and angry over some sort of nonsense back home!"
"What else? Out with it!"
"I followed'em to Dale and he was delivering the letters just like he said he was, but I ended up losing him in the crowd. When I found him again he was being yanked into this..this building and there was a scuffle! I tried getting in, but ended up getting confronted by these brutish lookin blokes. Then the fire started! We got out, so did some others, I didn't see Bofur till I heard him yellin round the back! I sees'em fighting with some greasy bloke and the fellow's got a knife on him before gettin up to scream bout how Bofur stole from the lot of'em! Next thing I know there's an angry mob, Bard, that wretched Elfking--"
"They were about ta hang us! We both got accused of stealin and th-..he.." Nori inhaled hard to catch his breath and raked his fingers through his hair to compose himself back to a more proper state. "The Elfking pardoned us and tha' she elf helped us get outta the city!"
Thorin finally showed mercy on Nori, stepping back to turn away in frustration as he looked upon the feet of their ancestors. Shuffling behind him confirmed that his kin had endured enough humiliation, thankfully no one had witnessed such a demeaning act and although Thorin felt some means of remorse for his own actions, he felt it was justified enough. Divines knew he could have done worse and even Nori was aware that the punishment could have been some time locked away in the dungeons or given extra work. A wounded pride could be mended faster than the sufferings he could endure from the overwhelming surge of extra labor on his shoulders. Nori didn't exactly wait for the confirmation to be dismissed, Thorin walking right past him to disregard any remarks or statements was more than enough of a signal that their discussion had ended. It allowed the redheaded Dwarf to wait for Thorin to leave, he didn't speak up until Thorin's heavy footfalls were unheard before he began to pray. Nori prayed for forgiveness, he prayed for mercy, and he prayed for his friend whom was bound to be unprepared for the King's anger that was soon to be upon him.
He remembered these streets. The great bazaar where three large marketplaces interconnected with one another. It was of no surprise that Bofur and his kin had claimed the the great manors that overlooked them along the cliff sides from above, and it was of no surprise to the King that he heard music playing faintly among the echos of wind billowing through from the far ends of abandoned vending stalls and tents where traders and keepers once sold their wares. Even now he remembered the mirth and the smell of street food, spices, and fresh bread. Spiced mead from the taverns and delightful music from the inns and lean to's.
Soon this place will be like it was; happy and dangerous. Far more colorful though and it will be filled to the brim with travelers and traders from all around. Maybe even delights from our allies if it's promising.
Thoror had been too finicky and stringent with this place. Seeing the bazaar as a den of inequity and sin. A place that often brought forth thieves and troublesome folk for their people, but Thorin as a young lad had adored the bazaar for all the right reasons; good food, good music, and good entertainment. How many times had he snuck out with Dwalin and Balin to be wooed and charmed by belly dancers? To be swayed by their rythm to the music and to savor meals made by hands beyond Erebor. Indeed the nostalgic memories did bring some means of happiness to dissuade the thunder and roar of anger in his thoughts, but it was interrupted by the music growing stronger as he started to ascend the stairs.
Bofur you imbecile! Petulance! Petulance and Pestilence is anything you are! A burden! Why have you caused so much trouble! You could not have waited at least before the year was over with before throwing yourself into the gullet of the beast! You complete idiot! Buffoon! Pray that your kin box some nonsense into that thick skull of yours! Why would you ever have the gall--the idiocy! You could have demolished the peace between Dale, Mirkwood, and Erebor! Your ancestors would be ashamed! Have you no honor!? No pride!? You've undermined me every step of the way from the start of this Quest up until now! You're lazy! You never listen! You ignore orders and commands! Incompetent! Mouthy! Obnoxious! Drun--
Thorin stopped with the internal shouting that was roaring in his mind. His brow was low and the hateful glare within his eyes with jaw squared quickly eroded away when he made it upon the final steps to lay his eyes upon a sight that he hadn't seen in quite some time. Often the dark hair was in those sloppy pig tails, Bofur never paid mind to the etiquette and management of his own hair, citing that he was too poor to afford proper oils and a decent brush to keep up with everyone else who was so hellbent on staying groomed and proper for appearance's sake. Yet for once his hair was down, long and reaching just past his shoulder blades, draped over one shoulder as he seemed to lurch forward a bit to give a peek downward and around. Thorin caught the sight of his back, between the shoulder blades grew crystals from the very muscle and flesh; the roots of stone stained pink red with blood while the opalescent sheen seemed to almost make them glow as they caught the light from the nearby hanging lamps above the doorway. He caught an even more exposed sight of Bofur's back when the Dwarf pulled his hair to the side, tugged at it to bring it over the side of his shoulder as he had already put the flute down to start brushing away at his hair. The King didn't speak--couldn't--as he stood quietly to watch Bofur's movements of being unaware of his presence and Thorin indulged greatly by keeping his breathing low and finally moving to carefully lean against the rail to simply enjoy the display before him.
Bofur moved in ways that other Dwarves' didn't, like music in some ways; crooked and awkward at first, but once the flow had been found it was fluid and elegant even if his limbs were thick with muscle to confirm strength. Narrow torso followed up with strong built and a firm backside, slightly tanned skin was littered with scars that confirmed Bofur had suffered both from work and punishment. Yet it was Bofur's back that seemed to almost hypnotize, Thorin constantly. Even with eyes darting from hair, to shoulders, to hands, to arms, he seemed to always return to looking upon the crystals that were so dangerously exposed. Bofur's humming was soothing, but of course it was given the Dwarf was bardic in his own way and always had a tune to his voice. Thorin moved, shuffled a bit and cleared his throat while reaching over to grab Bofur's overcoat to move in. Bofur in turn stood straight and almost stumbled off the edge of the walling from the balcony, thankful that quick hands and his own instincts had saved him.
"Bloody hell! Come to toss me over then!?" Bofur said angrily.
"I've come to talk," Thorin growled right back as he held up the coat to hand over.
Bofur was quick to grab and snatch the clothing, Thorin not to dare look upon Bofur's body any longer as he waited for the Dwarf to cover himself. Once confirmation was given did Thorin finally look upon Bofur to take in the sight of a wounded and tired individual that looked all the more ready for the verbal beating he was about to receive. Thorin was just about to give him what was justifiably earned, and damned right Bofur deserved the lash out. He knew it would lead to both of them shouting, an argument that was bound to blow out of proportion for Bofur wasn't one to conform or to lay down quietly when reprimanded, especially if that reprimand came from anyone with power. Stubborn. Willful. Mouthy. Truly a Dwarf in all the best (and worst) ways possible. Carefulness was had in movement when Thorin moved in to stand next to Bofur who was now taking a step back to turn and face the balcony again, yet shoulders that were tense relaxed when Thorin exhaled an exasperated sigh to lean upon the balcony as well to look upon the view of the bazaar.
"You know, this place used to be quite beautiful. Many thought that Erebor's wealth came from the very mountain itself with all the riches and glory mined from below, but truly it was the--"
"Is this one of yer lil tales that ends with a message? Cause if it is I'd rather deal with you screaming at me," Bofur interrupted rudely.
Another exhausted sigh forced Thorin to bite his tongue, literally, and shake his head slowly as he tried to process exactly how to speak with Bofur without this leading to confrontation.
"What--what happened tonight, Bofur? Enlighten me on what happened in Dale and how you ended up face to face with Thranduill--yes I know," Thorin said quickly as he stopped Bofur from interrupting again. "Just...for once..explain in the simplest way you can without all of your senseless banter and petty commentary?"
Bofur pursed his lips tight and gave a judgemental squint, but he relented and cleared his throat to follow Thorin's actions by looking ahead. "I went into Dale without consent because I wanted to deliver letters. Bilbo asked us to write to him when we got the chance. I volunteered to hold the letters for everyone until we could find someone--anyone--that was able to deliver them. Or at least send them as far as they could. Ah didn't bother to think on sending them by raven since it was a lotta letters. Word had spread that there was a caravan traveling to Bree. S'the closest they could get to the Shire, but surely someone would deliver'em. There were also some of Dain's soldiers traveling to Luin, small contingent, but they were under the instructions to spread the word of Smaug's defeat." Bofur took a moment to gather his thoughts, nails being picked at as he bit the inside of his cheek. "I overheard talk about barters and sales, them mockin' Elves and Dwarves durin' the war, while I was makin my way back. I got caught eavesdropping, they didn't take too kindly to that. Didn't take kindly to when I saw them tryin to haul some of the Elfking's property either. A fight broke out, then a fire, I got hit over the head pretty hard, and woke up in time to haul me arse out. Then I got confronted by an angry mob--"
Thoirn raised his hand again to silence Bofur who gave a judgy side glance. Another exhausted sigh came from the King as he pinched the bridge of his nose, his head was starting to hurt and there was the straining want of a strong drink growing in the back of his throat.
"Why are you always in trouble? How do you always throw yourself into trouble like this, Bofur?"
"It's not m'fault. Lots of folks would be callin it a blessing in some ways that m'able to get out of such wild situations unharmed. Well..somewhat unharmed."
"Pray tell; how many lines do you intend to cross before you're thrown into the dungeons..or worse?"
"Give or take hundreds more before m'struck down, Sir. Thank Mahal that I make all of your lives so thrilling! Eventful! Why if it weren't for me the lot of you would be lazy and fat! Sluggish!"
"And at peace!"
Bofur had to laugh at that and his chipper snorts of chuckling that only led to full blown laughter. Thorin did his best not to smile, but Bofur making light of a serious situation was simply the Dwarf's personality as a whole and it drove him to move closer to give a firm pat on Bofur's shoulder. It was hard to be upset, to be dour, especially with someone that was so hellbent on being optimistic and happy all the time, but it was good to see Bofur smiling--laughing--in such a way even if tonight's events were bound to haunt him in the future. Bofur reached up to nudge at Thorin's hand, but halted instantly when the King leaned in and without thinking Bofur leaned right back to press their lips together. Bofur was quick to reel away though, the sudden abashed and noise of surprise at the situation that he was already blaming himself for. A reflex on both sides of it all, they had spent so many times being affectionate to one another that the slip of them both being together and happy for the first time made bodies reconnect. Thorin didn't give Bofur much of a chance to recoil, he reached out with hand pressing against Bofur's side to hook him in closer which only made Bofur hiss in pain and grab at the King's forearm.
"Nothing serious. Bruising mostly."
"You're literally standing on one foot."
"I've got a cane."
The Dwarf huffed in defiance and tried to play his suffering off as casual by shrugging and trying to pull away from Thorin, but yet again the King absolutely refused to release Bofur from his grasp and it didn't help that Bofur was having difficulty maintaining eye contact with the King who seemed hellbent to have him look back. Silence overcame them both and Bofur finally relented by giving small nudges to confirm that Thorin had won the small bout of argument to be had and it was time to let him go.
"Let me help." Thorin's words were soft, whispered so carefully that Bofur had to steady his own breathing just to hear what was spoken. Another bout of awkward silence that made Bofur give a fidget as his hands slid up Thorin's arms to feel the fabric of his overcoat and robe that only matched the firmness of muscles beneath that only made Bofur take a few seconds to admire the physique.
"Alright. Fine.." Bofur finally said back. He was nervous, cautious at least, but quick to drape his arm over Thorin's shoulders as he was graciously assisted towards the front door. There was the brief hesitation to be had, reluctance to let a King enter his home, but Bofur shifted his weight for a few seconds and nudged Thorin forwards to take the lead. There was the creak of hinges before the door promptly closed behind them.
Chapter 11: King's Steel
Thorin and Balin have a discussion on the upcoming events revolving around diplomats from other Holds coming to bargain alliances and treaties, yet Thorin has other things on his mind and finds himself far too distracted.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Slow moving at first, the draw and tug of clothes being removed. The curve of shoulder, the bend of an elbow, strong hands reaching out to grasp and squeeze. Breath smelling of a spiced mead that came from a wanting mouth. Bodies pressing against one another with the forceful tugs of under coats and tunics being yanked free. Gasps of breath, the muffled moans, nails scratching against skin, the press of mouths against whatever it could reach to taste. The arch of back, the press and give of shoulders against the mattress that only came with a rolling of hips. Gruff voices whispering to one another as if telling secrets.
Thorin gave a bleary blink, his mind wandering while he sat upon the throne looking at piles upon piles of letters and scrolls to be had. Balin was by his side looking just as put out as he was, but more alert and focused as he rubbed his temple in attempts to regain focus.
"You've got introductions to perform. The first of our kin have finally started to arrive from Luin and they're happy to be back. The talk of news from the other holds, the Broadbeams and Firebeards are sending their Speakers and guides over as well, we should be seeing them in time if that's the case. Suppose that means we should fancy up a bit, eh?"
Heaving chest blanched with dark hair, thinner and softer than his own. The rise and fall of each breath coming with the throaty gasps of pain and pleasure. Sweat dripped down along the throat while hands squeezed thighs to part them. His hand slid lower, pressing and pushing to illict more noise. He felt the bluntness of nails scratch at his forearm, unspoken pleas to slow down, to steady himself. Another taste of the flesh; salt from sweat, sweet aftertaste of soaps and oils clashing with ore and stone.
"Do ye'think they're to send the whole lot or just a few? There's been word that the main road is far more secure now. Here's hoping they bring good news! Be the first bit of promise we had from beyond these lands in quite some time!"
Teeth found the fat of thigh and bit down to leave a bruise to match others, he felt the flex of muscle, heard that muffled groan against the covers with head turned to the side, and it made him go lower and lower until his mouth tasted what it had been wanting for all these years. The press of groin against his mouth, the smear of clear fluid against beard and mustache that tickled which only caused his lover to jolt and gasp again. Tongue curled and pushed more pressure, a moan when the jolt of pleasure ran down his spine when he felt a hand grab at his head to feel calloused fingers rake through the graying hair.
The taste from betwixt legs was always so strong, prominent like a tart wine, but it was never enough to properly sate his thirst. He always wanted more, forever wanted to stay here, but his lover yelled in protest. Demanding more of something else. He pinned him to the bed, a hand around the throat when he rose to kiss him. The aftertaste of brandy on his mouth mixed so perfectly, he felt teeth bite down on lower lip, the recoil of pain was disregarded. Fingers pushed and pressed, another moan, the reflex of muscle jerking and pressing back against his own frame only made him want to make his love scream. To beg. To demand more from him.
The King blinked hard and pulled himself back to reality as he looked towards Balin with a confused frown that only warranted a frown of bewilderment right back from Balin who only raised brows with concern at his friend. Thorin sat up in his seat to look down at the piles of papers that only followed with the hollow thumping against his ears as he tried to recollect himself properly.
"You suffering from the terrors again, hmm?" Balin asked suspiciously.
"Something like that. Colder months don't bring happy memories," Thorin murmured slowly under his breath.
"So you've gone back on old habits then?"
"Wandering the streets in a somber mess of drunken confusion."
Thorin gave Balin a judgmental glare at such a remark which only made Balin raise his brows right back. He didn't have to cast judgment right back, he knew that his friend had problems just like any living being did these days. Self depreciation, shame, drinking to excess, mourning losses, more self loathing, reflections on the past, depression, and then finally stumbling home to black out for a few days. Then again, Balin suspected more behind Thorin's half admission of not being able to sleep properly for often the King had a look upon his face that expressed the countless hours of wallowing in his own anger and doubts of a heavy crown. In a way, Thorin looked refreshed which was suspicious since they were discussing lack of sleep.
"You've up and wandered yourself away every weekend at this point. Only the weekends too."
"A King is never really off duty to begin with. I've opted to keep up with my sobriety during the days that are most active."
"They say you've taken to your evening walks as well. Proper dangerous given your position at the moment. They'll be hungry mouths to feed soon, things to rebuild and work upon."
"I'm very much aware of our current situation and I've discussed things with Dain to provide us with supplies until we've successfully reestablished a trade and treaty with the other Holds."
"Dain of course is always so helpful. We should send him something nice as a thank you."
"I'll make note of it so you can send it to him personally."
Balin gave another judgmental side glance as he kept writing on the scroll of paper. It made him scrunch up his nose in quiet annoyance as Thorin was quite thankful that his growing beard had done its job to hide the cheeky smirk.
"Back in my day--"
"In your day?"
"Our day! Remember when it was customary to send a concubine as a thank you for such charitable acts?"
"I remember it greatly and I've always found that tradition odd."
"I would assume that sending a feast. A mighty boar or bear. A chest filled with finest gemstones, befitted better as a respectable thank you. Not one of our own for weeks of body hospitalities."
"It's quite an honor really. Remember when yours was sent to you by the Firebeards? She was proper lovely and a gorgeous singer. And then there was the one the sent by the Broadbeams--"
"Why this talk of concubines? What are you plotting this time?" Thorin asked as he already felt himself growing weary.
Balin didn't hesitate to sit up straighter in his own seat as he adjusted the small glasses on the bridge of his nose. He cleared his throat, which made Thorin internally groan as he mentally prepared himself for whatever Balin was about to unveil for him.
"I was thinking on the other Holds. Some of our own kin are mere days away. It's been quite some time weeks since Nori and Bofur's lil' fiasco in Dale that surely Bard and King Thranduill have disregarded. It's likely not affected the issues of our peaceful treaty, in fact it seems to have strengthened it since Thranduill appears to not see all Dwarves as greedy and deceptive as we see them. That being said, with the Holds sending their envoys to discuss the rebuilding of old bridges and it has been quite some time since Erebor has had any proper connection. That and you did make a promise to the Blue Mountain Clans specifically to repay their hospitality after taking us in. They've given you quite the lovely status where you ruled over their port city for quite some time--"
"More or less it was their tactic to have our people act as the first bulwark if they were to be attacked by invaders."
"Nevertheless, they gave our people a home--"
"A home thrice and then some not befit for our people."
"Yes, but a home no less! It wasn't a grand palace and nothing compared to what we have now, but they took us in, gave our people home and food, occupations to keep us distracted from what we've lost. They let us bury their dead with their own--"
The white bearded Dwarf sighed and removed his glasses to pocket them carefully in his coat as he looked upon Thorin with a wan smile to grit his teeth at the exasperated expression he was given in return.
"I believe it's only respectful that you should be informed, since it was supposed to be a surprise, that both the Broadbeam and Firebeard clans have gone about sending their Dams to travel in hopes that you will seek out one suitable to wed so that they may establish a stronger alliance. Dain is also sending a few of his own. Cousins of cousins--"
"Oh for Mahal's sake!"
"Come now! It shouldn't be that complicated! Imagine, it would be no different from your younger years when you had your dalliances! Simply pick one or two out that you find the most appealing!"
"And if I refuse?"
"Then you're bound to go about upsetting a pretty respectable lot that won't take kindly to the King Under The Lonely Mountain refusing their offer to one of their lovely Dams that I'm sure are more than thrilled to be courted by a King."
The King only grinned, proudly at his own snark that made him lean to rest along the arm of the mighty throne seat. Balin went on to discuss the promising situation of both clans from the Blue Mountains hellbent on gaining the King's favor. Including the prospect of seeing more of their people return. Families reunited meant that even those of Dain's men that had come from the Iron Hills to help fight could return or stay put to wait for their kin to either join or retrieve them. Balin was dubious, but Thorin could tell by the tone of his voice that he was excited--thrilled even--at the idea of Thorin choosing a betrothed, the ongoing rambling of courting and the possibility of offspring made his stomach ache with ominous concern and it only forced him to retreat into his thoughts of contemplation.
"I saw you earlier today."
"I'm aware. You're getting distracted just as you did when we first had our trysts."
"Consider not being so distracting."
"Consider averting your gaze."
He was supposed to be brushing Bofur's hair while they were busy reading on the mines of Erebor. Sitting behind him was a comfort to be had from the cold air billowing in from the nearby window while the blanket was draped over his own shoulders to cover them both. Getting the kinks and knots out of the hair was a simple task, but Thorin was distracted as ever by shoulders and neck, to smother the Dwarf with his affection. There was the discoloration along the throat and shoulder, marks from being bitten to hard, bruising left behind by his mouth that he had forgotten looked so fetching on Bofur. All the more reason for Thorin to brush the hair back and nuzzle the scruff of his own mustache and beard against where sideburns met temple. The slow push of hands pressing against chest to give the affectionate squeeze before sliding lower and lower to push between thighs once more. Bofur didn't balk or shove Thorin away from the intrusion, in fact he welcomed it with joy as he leaned back against the Dwarf's chest to be smothered by the heat of his body. Gold and firewood, there was always that lingering layer of dust of gold from Erebor's Treasury where Thorin had spent time in that day, weighing and measuring out the costs for things to be purchased in the future, trying to comprehend a logical income. Bofur had to admit that the look of faint glitter from the dust upon the graying hair did look nice, but it was bothersome. Nevertheless, he enjoyed Thorin's scent that mixed so well with his own iron and stone reek from toiling in the mines earlier that morning.
Fingers pushed in and out slowly, more rubbing to press against the wanting body to send small jolts of pleasure up the spine. He heard Bofur give a grunt of satisfaction that only led to the grind against his hand as he felt the press of weight and warmth against his knuckles. Thorin didn't stop Bofur from his insistent grinding, teasing by going slow to get every inch of pleasurable sensations to roll against his body, but he breathed in tandem with the uneven gasps and pants that held back the wanton moans he had grown fond of hearing again. Bofur gave wordless protest, struggled lazily as he arched hips forwards and pushed back to grind his ass against Thorin's already hard prick that had been poking his lower back for some time. He pushed more into his lap, steadied himself just right as he encouraged the King to meet him by sitting up on their knees upon the bed. Thorin hardly protested, another murmur of affection against the ear came with the hitch of breath and teeth biting at earlobe.
"I was trying to read. Ye'were supposed to be fixing m'hair!" Bofur complained lazily as he gave a bump of his backside back against Thorin who only pushed back in defiance. "M'supposed to read this you know!"
"Then by all means, read! Don't mind me!" Thorin chided back with a condescending tone. That glint in his eye that was given when Bofur looked over his shoulder honestly didn't help the situation at all and once fingers slid free to smear the trickle of spit and fluid against his inner thigh, Bofur watched as Thorin put wet fingers right into his mouth to suckle hungrily, the low rumble sounding like thunder against his broad chest. It made him blush something awful, the defiant glare of judgement to be had, but by the gods it was damned hot watching the King savor him in such a way. Who else, but Thorin of course, and the fact that he absolutely refused to break eye contact made Bofur purse his lips and refuse to balk or look away.
"You're supposed to be reading?"
"I'm dis-...you know..you..and tha'...the fuck, Thorin."
"Can hardly help it. I blame you, really."
"Cream...sweet. Savory. Warm. Damned near burning. A furnace starved and in need."
Bofur did his best not to laugh or grin, his face getting redder and redder as he felt Thorin lean against him, to grind and push his prick between his thighs. Another wanting rumble from thick chest that only came with the push of weight forcing Bofur to stay upon his hands and knees down.
"It's quite the honor, you know."
"To take the King's Steel."
"Oh please," Bofur scoffed as he bowed his head to hide his snickering. "I've taken your raw ore plenty of times as it is!"
"Yes, but not when I was King."
"I did. Very much so! Last night, in fact! Two days prior from that! And before that we were almost caught by poor Ori in the library when ye'thought it be humorous to try and forge yer "King's Steel" down me thr--"
Bofur was forced to silence himself, more so he was cut off by Thorin pushing against him, cock grinding against far too sensitive areas that came with a shudder and the surprised noise of his hair being pulled by a rough hand grabbing it by the root. The pain of his scalp melted against the pleasure of being pinned in place by the King. He pushed back, tempted Thorin who only pushed more into him when he felt a far too thick cock accommodating itself within far too tight confines. "Are you not to read your book?" Thorin chided again as the motion of his hips were slow and steady. It only made the Dwarf under him struggle, writhing in protest, for it was far too sensitive below and to have Thorin pushing his cock in and out so deeply only made every single inch be felt without a hesitation to be had. Bofur moaned, muffled it by lowering himself and tucking his face against the pages of his book in hopes as to not cause too much of a commotion. The bump of his body being pushed forward, then pulled back came in tandem with gasps of breath.
"We're to ruin the covers? And the book?" Talkative. Bofur was so rambly even during these more lurid times, but Thorin paid no mind since most of the time he enjoyed Bofur's banter becuse he knew it was he Dwarrow's way of distraction to either gain the upper hand or to keep himself composed to endure the overwhelming surge of pleasure he had to endure. "Then let them be ruined!" Thorin snipped back quickly as he pushed at Bofur's head to face the book once more. The unspoken order to read made Bofur gasp out again, the moan coming from the fact he had been hilted by the final slow thrust. He could feel Thorin deep inside of him and it made him reach back to grab Thorin's hip for support and to dig his nails into the thick skin before letting out another loud noise at his hair being pulled. Sweat was dripping from his brow, falling upon the pages that only caused the starting smear of ink on some of the words that only made Bofur attempt to slow again, but Thorin was having none of it as he gave another demanding pump into the confines of Bofur's body.
It didn't take long for Bofur to disregard any concern or worry for the bed sheets, let alone the unlucky book that had been tossed aside onto the floor as he fisted a handful each of the covers to grip and cling to while his back arched and hips pushed back to shove Thorin's cock back inside of him. So much heat that even each huff of heaved air could cool either one of them down, Thorin kept up with Bofur's tempo, but there was the unspoken demand to push the hair out of the way to admire such beauty to be had. The exposure of back revealing the glint and glitter of opalescent shine, how it moved in such easy tandem with the spine, how the shape of them formed into refined and unevenly cut crystals pointing downward. Yet they were rising against the mold of flesh and muscle, like the quills of a vicious Bristleback, each unrelenting thrust and merciless pump into that wanting body made every shard tremor and arch upward to give peek of tender skin beneath that was making the entirety of the morphed area flush with a pink hue due to being stained and fed by Bofur's blood. He knew not to touch, a far too vital an area, but he found himself eyeing it, watching the iridescence and the drip of sweat falling down from behind his neck that only followed with the rise and fall of each crystalline stone.
"I'm--I'm.." Bofur arched and the thick shards rose, flared up as his upper back arched. Thorin didn't let the Dwarf lie back down and there was the temptation to lash out with reprimand when Bofur wanted to return to a slower pace, but Thorin pressed against him, his hips grinding against thighs and ass to rut the Dwarf, pinning him in place as he felt the tension and ache from within coming at every passing second. The painful scrape of those shards drew welts over his hair ridden chest and he felt the clench of the body, felt the long lasting spasms that made Bofur shudder and gasp before crying out loud with wild abandon. Thorin growled something primal against Bofur, tasted flesh and blood when he bit down, felt the thrum of heartbeat and body tremoring on his cock that was sure to drive him to madness. So close now and Bofur was pleading, begging in escasty and delightful demands for him to keep going, to fill him up and to not stop until he was sated. The arch and roll of his hips getting more powerful as he could feel his cock throbbing for release that only mounted into the crescendo of--
"Thorin are you alright?" Balin asked as he looked over his King with genuine concern painted over his face.
The King looked like he had just seen Smaug himself; red faced and jaw clenched so tight, a shadow cast over his eyes with brow low. But there was sweat dripping from forehead to temple and his head was down as if he had just awoken from a hard and restless nap. His pupils were small and Thorin had to give a few seconds to clear his head and sit up straight as he looked towards Balin with a confused frown.
"I said are you alright!? You look like ye had the shakes there for quite a bit!"
"I--..no. I'm simply tired, Balin. Maybe you're right, maybe a rest is needed."
Balin had doubts and he was dubious as he pursed his lips to side eye his King. He didn't want to cast judgement, nor should he, but there were thoughts of suspect brewing in his mind.
"Maybe you should lie down until supper. I'll fetch someone to wake you if--"
"That won't be necessary, Balin. I appreciate your concern, but I'll take you up on that suggestion to rest for some time."
"And what of what we've been discussing?"
"Oh for Mahal's sake, Thorin. You've not been listening to a word I've said!"
Thorin didn't exactly admit to his disregard for Balin's lecturing, but he did give a wry smile and averted his gaze as he stood to pull his robes to adjust himself in attempts to hide the obvious and thankfully Balin wasn't paying attention as he was clearly annoyed with Thorin's lack of attention. Although the King was older than him, he still upheld the dignified and respectable attitude of having the "old soul" and being the Advisor meant that he had to act as not only a quiet mediator in the affairs of the King, but he had to also uphold Thorin's interests and well being. Thorin's blatant disregard for the conversation of courting and finding a bride was not only bothersome, but was bound to develop into an issue in the future.
"Balin. Mercy. We shall speak of this when I have clarity and I'm capable of having less a head filled with fog and stones."
"Sometimes I'm to wonder if your head isn't just that and only that. With all that's happened in Dale and whatnot. Word has it you were proper harsh to Nori and Bofur--mind you I see no objection. Those two were long overdue for a proper act of discipline."
"That reminds me--hail Bofur to my private quarters."
"He hasn't informed me of an update upon the condition of the western mines. I'd like his update so I can record the information later."
"Anything else you'd like for him to fetch?" Balin joked with a chuckle.
"Something sweet. Tell him I expect him to look presentable instead of looking like he's gone and crawled himself out of a pit," Thorin mused as he walked away.
Balin raised his brows high, damned near balked and made a noise in attempts to explain to the King that his remark wasn't to be taken seriously, but before he had a chance to speak up, Thorin was already making his leave from the throne room to leave the Dwarf both befuddled and amused.
Oh hey I am not that great at writing smut and I apologize for that, but it's still some pretty good content! Also I'm glad to finally be working on this story again after a much needed pause to get some things in order. Welcome to all the new bookmarkers and thank you so much for the kudos!!
Chapter 12: The Dwarrow Return!
Bofur goes about trying to cheer up Nori in attempts to pull him out of a bout of depression.
Part of the past is revealed and Dwarves from the Blue Mountains return to Erebor bringing joy for all, but hell for Bofur.
Not gonna lie, this took some time to write out properly. I feel like it's excessive and riddled with a lot of fluff-filler, but there was a bit of explanation needed and I had to build up that tension as well as leave with a bit of a gasping cliffhanger!
I apologize for such the long wait and I hope that my readers are entertained!
"Ow! Ow ow ow! Dori please! Mercy!"
"Well if you were to brush it more often then it wouldn't be a damned rat's nest, Bofur. Hold still!"
Dori was having trouble keeping Bofur still since he was doing the Dwarf's hair. As much as he was amicable and tolerant of Bofur and his kin, he had to admit that he was absolutely not fond of having all three of their company in his manor, but they needed help. None of them were used to such formal events and their etiquette was deplorable, if not worse. For the past six days, the Ri brothers had been helping their "relatives" prepare for the banquet to be had for their families were returning and with them came emissaries, nobles, and speakers of the Blue Mountain Clans that wished to form an alliance. Which meant that all of them had to be respectful, presentable, and fluent in the arts of socialization. And for the Ri brothers it had been quite the exhausting ordeal, but already he could see their lessons had paid off well enough for Bofur, Bifur, and Bombur. The fellows weren't like kin of Durin, in fact their bloodlines were unknown--mixed and all over the place no doubt, but their status before the Quest was lowly. Commoners and simple folk; Bombur owned an inn and was a fine cook at one time, adjacent to it was Bifur's toy shop who worked tirelessly always enchanting and carving some of the most fantastical toys that even the Elves themselves tittered with curious delight at his craft. And Bofur-well...he was technically a bard (or so he proudly claimed), but his main skill branched off into so many areas. Servant. Miner. Wood Carver. Stone Cutter. Musician. Yet he was mostly known around Luin for being a very adept miner and was damned good at the job even though his passion lay more with song and dance. Nevertheless, none of them had much for class save for the basic greetings and polite bows when in the presence of royalty. Yet now? They were the royalty in a sense. High ranking officials part of King Thorin's Royal Guard, given not only property, but the very wealth from Erebor's Treasury itself. Advisors and Speakers of Erebor, they could and would at some time be sent out one day to act as emissaries for Erebor if Thorin saw fit to make them travel. Who else to help them in the arts of perfecting speech craft than the Ri brothers? Ori was book keeper and lore master, always listening, but he spoke so fluently and kindly that he was often seen as innocent, Nori was a burglar by trade, but in his younger years he was charismatic and knew how to speak so efficiently that he was a translator between Man and Dwarf, sometimes even Elf if the situation called for it, and Dori was a tailor and maker of wines that Dwarves in three separate holds knew of his craftsmanship.
Bofur huffed, staying still and looking over his shoulder in time to see Ori and Bifur assisting Bombur with braiding his long beard and hair that had to be draped over shoulders like a scarf less he were to trip over it with his own two feet. They were busy weaving it with care, attempting to almost crochet the designs of diamonds upon it while Bifur fretted quietly to weave gemstones within the smaller braids. His own hair was being manhandled by Dori's skillful hands weaving braids and tugging it back for it to be formed int a tight ponytail.
"I shan't and won't! It's a waste of time gettin' all prim and proper for our own!"
"Forgive'em, Dori. Bofur's always been a sour pot about dressing up for formal stuff. If he's not trying to escape them, then he's trying to ruin them," Bifur mocked with a deep chuckle.
"A rat's nest and then some be tucked upon this skull! Honestly the lot of you are a proper mess! I feel as if Bombur's the only one out of the three of you that's got any decency to stay mediocre at best!"
"I'd be more compliant if I were to do this on me own you know!" Bofur nagged right back at the two. "That and you're quite the heavy handed sort, Dori! You've been yankin and tuggin on the scalp as if you're tryin to tan hide!"
"If you don't hold still you're likely to have a tanned hide!"
More struggling to be had which only led to Dori throwing up his arms, succeeding in taming Bofur's wild hair who only retaliated by rubbing at his forehead and temple at the strain to be had with scalp and root of hair being pulled on for far too long. Dori took a whack at his knuckles with the brush before nudging him to stand.
"Go on then! Fetch Nori and tell him to hurry up. He's usually not this slow to move about in the mornings. We're all to be late if he doesn't get a move on!"
"Oh? He sick?"
"Dwalin and him got into it--"
"Still bitter over the nonsense in Dale, you know how Dwalin is; can't let go of much, less he's ordered to. Both of you did a bad, got punished, but Nori's been in bed for ages. No idea why he's going on about it still. Be a dear and try to cheer him up, will you?" Dori said gently while giving Bofur a nudge towards the corridor.
Slow and careful to move about, Bofur ambled his way down the broad hallways of the manor, paying no mind to the old paintings and statues that were gradually being restored by Ori's hand. It was odd really, how the Ri brothers seemed to always be picky and finicky against one another, but were so willing to live under the same roof. As much as Bofur loved his brother and cousin, he could never outright see himself living in the same home as them, next door from one another sure, but like this? Too cramped, all three of them enjoyed their space and they were all a bit personal on decorations and interior design. Yet dark green hallways, doors replaced by blankets and curtains, only led Bofur to follow the smell of incense and burning tobacco leaves as he quietly slipped into Nori's room to look upon the display of the Dwarf's private area. A circular room rife with the bits and baubles all upon shelves, the pile and chests of gold stowed away in a corner and covered by a thick blanket. The massive shawls and drapes of curtains, silk sheets, and tapestries hung high upon the ceiling and walls, over the bed, and even covering some of the windows to give the affect of green, orange, and blue lighting over everything. The fire place was still burning--smoldering with the last traces of embers still providing a small bit of warmth, but from what could be seen Nori was tucked under the thick blanket of bear and woolly goat pelts to shield himself from the cold creeping in. Bofur moved in, no hesitation to be had as he sat down on the bed next to Nori to remove the pipe from his hands. The poor Dwarf was sullen, depressed and melancholy with deadpan expression on his face and eyes bloodshot to confirm that more than one night had been spent drowning in tears. Bofur was gentle with his movements, a hand reaching over to push thick eyebrows out of the way including the tress of hair to show more of the face, but his hand was quickly grabbed and he was forced to cup Nori's cheek, who started to quietly cry.
"Nori...come on. You've got to get up. This ain't good for you--"
"He called me a traitor."
"He's an idiot. Head fulla stones."
"He says we ain't loyal to the King."
"We're damned loyal and you know it."
"Don't! I ain't about to sit here and coddle you, Nori. I know yer upset and you don't wanna do this, but we gotta, alright? You can't spend the rest of your days moping over what happened!"
"Hardly! You're not the one who got--"
"I got punished just as much as you did. Let's not debate on that again, please? Come on! You've got to get up Nori! Even if I gotta drag you about on me own--and I will!"
"Why bother? What's the use? Everyone's bitter with us and we're sure to--Good lord what's gone on with your hair?!"
"Shut the fuck up and get dressed!" Bofur snapped defensively as he hauled the Dwarf out of bed to help them to their feet.
It took some time for Nori to get properly bathed and dressed up, the slow progression of sluggish movements and the begrudging depression pushing down on his shoulders didn't help the minor objective. Yet Bofur was there. He was always there. If it wasn't to boil the water and encourage to raise his arms to bathe beneath them, then he was assisting with sliding sleeves on one at a time and even kneeling down to push boots onto his feet. It made him cry out of shame, but his friend's insistence and catty banter made him laugh, made him disregard Dwalin's hurtful words with jokes and snarky puns at every turn Nori tried to belittle and degrade himself. Bofur wiped away his tears of sadness and replaced them with tears of joy, that only came with that forever optimism and encouragement from that singsong voice. It was sadly ironic how Bofur was so quick to cheer others up when hardly nobody was there in turn to care for him, which of course Nori stated in apology and more guilt, but he was quick to receive a rapt punch on the shoulder to confirm that eventhough it was appreciated, it was to be of no concern. As Bofur went about assisting Nori with his hair, because there was so much, there were occasions where he paused to look down upon his neck and between shoulder blades. Gemstones greener than jade and sharper than glass protruded from flesh and muscle, the layer of spiked crystals folded themselves down flat, only moving in rythm to the soft breaths being released with each steady sigh. The flecks of gold dotting against them seemed to blemish in tandem with the freckles splotched over shoulders and the rest of Nori's back.
"Ah've always envied yours," Bofur whispered softly.
"Shut up!" Nori scoffed back loudly.
"It's true! You can tell you've spent hours tendin to it!"
"Actually, Dori helps me. He says it reminds him of mother when he helps me tend to it. S'the only time me and him actually have any peace between one another."
"Didn't think he was one to go about helpin with that sorta thing. Thought he was a Traditionalist like the other lot."
"Surprisingly not. I mean he was for a while, but I suppose he's reached that age to not give too much of a damn. Doesn't Bombur or Bifur ever help you?"
"Bifur's still a bit of a Traditionalist. I mean, he had a fit when I told'em, kicked me out for a bit--"
"I remember tha', but he seems rather tolerant of it now?"
"Tolerant enough, he's just more upset because ah didn't skirt off with some noble and bring in coin to the family. Bombur's gotten funny with it recently though cause of his family comin' to Erebor. Y'know what he asked me this morn? Asked if I ever resent makin that choice. Asked if I'd ever-..." Bofur trailed off to give a deep sigh of annoyance as he draped the amulet around Nori's neck to lock the clasp.
"Do you?" Nori asked with curiosity as he adjusted the front of his coat to fix out the wrinkles.
"Come on, we're to be late if we keep prattling on like this!" Bofur nagged again as he tossed some clothes at his friend.
"You're to be the end of me, you know that?"
"Hardly! You've gone through enough as it is, I hardly doubt a bit of laughter will be the death of you!"
Thorin was, for once, all smiles. Grinning from ear to ear as Bofur sat across from him at the table. The tavern was loud as per usual; the riotous cheers and jeers of Dwarf folk talking, music and laughter to be had, the smell of tobacco and mead clung on breath while spiced stew reeked from the nearby kitchens. Menfolk were present as well, sailors and fishermen singing shanties. Someone stepped on a cat's tail, another made one of the barmaids squeal with laughter, someone outside was getting roughed up and the guard was being called in to break it up. It was a rather shock to see Thorin among these people, but more than half were too drunk to care and those that took notice greeted him with respectful bows and murmurs of polite greeting which he waved off. He was tipsy, or at least buzzed, the tankards of mead between him and Bofur were greedily drunk down and it was something of an unspoken bout of competition, for he knew the Dwarf across from him had notoriety in Luin for being one of the heartiest drinkers and best singer of this side of the port. So far, they were both tied and had gotten so deep into their stubborn nature that there was a moment they almost came to blows in a friendly sense. Or as friendly as it could be between two Dwarrow. Yet they were both oddly happy, which was weird because neither one of them had had the easy life and it was even more curious that they were finding joy in one another. More so Thorin finding peace in Bofur with good jokes and happy song that drew him to this place day by day. And as days turned into weeks, weeks flourished into months of sturdy foundation upon their friendship of meeting up, talking about their days, joking and mocking, drink, food, the occasional bar fight, then parting ways to go home and sleep off their hangovers.
Bofur yawned loudly, standing up to stretch as he rubbed his eyes while grabbing his tankard to gulp down the strong mead in a fell swoop that even made Thorin raise his brows in surprise as Bofur slammed the empty tankard down on the table. He wasn't even given the chance to complete his own, Bofur was quick to snatch that as well, chugging it down with heavy gulps that hardly made him choke, but sure as hell made Thorin give a twinge of something waking up from within. A mighty belch was to be had, Dwarves and Men alike applauded and cheered Bofur own as he bowed to stumble a bit to catch the edge of the table. Not totally drunk, but damned close! Bofur gave Thorin a grin and a polite bow in his direction before making his way out of the tavern. There were never any farewells when they parted to retreat back home. Simply a bow, a smile, and on their own little ways. Which was something Thorin preferred since the legality of his position often made people exuberant and too subservient to his liking. Yet this time, Thorin turned to watch Bofur teeter himself out and he stood to pay for their food and drinks, then followed the Dwarf out.
The air was cool, reeking of fish and murk from the docks, but Thorin kept moving on, looking through the throng of drunkards in hopes to catch up to Bofur. It was a bit harder than he expected, his boots felt too heavy for their own good and the onset of dizziness was making him focus harder than he should have, but in due time Thorin finally managed to reach out and grab at Bofur's shoulder to give a hard tug to make the Dwarf stumble back. He heard the cursing and protest, obviously Bofur was quick to retaliate with fists at being manhandled, but he stopped short when he saw it was Thorin grabbing for him.
"Oi you stalkin' me now?" Bofur asked with a wide grin as he snorted out a laugh.
Thorin had to grin back, that smile was infectious in odd ways. "I--wanted to talk more. We didn't get the chance. Too loud."
"We were too busy stuffin' our faces and gettin plastered!"
"I heard no complaints from either side, but I'd thought we talk. Walk."
*hic* We're barely standing as it is? Yo-you sure about this?"
Thorin could only nod as he guided Bofur to follow, using the Dwarf's shoulder as a mild support to steady himself as they started to walk towards the direction of the docks. At first they were both quiet, minding their own and taking a moment to notice that the crowding dissipated the more they awkwardly stumbled and slumped themselves along the wooden planks to admire the clear view of the vast lake that lay before them. Upon the horizon they saw the flow of mist and fog that always seemed to linger which only gave the faint peek of open sea and edges of shoreline. Hardly sunrise and well past sunset, Bofur took to looking up at the stars to admire all their glory, he leaned against a post to turn his attention towards Thorin with the wan smile still on his face.
"What did you want to talk about?"
"I want to make an agreement. Between us and only us. Given my position, it's not easy to find companionship. Everyone's so quick to be at my beck and call or to treat me--"
"It's lonely at the top. I may not get what it's like to have that level of power, but I understand what you mean. I like you too."
"That's not what I--I don't--"
Bofur raised his brows to look towards Thorin who he didn't expect to be stammering in such a way, but it only made his grin broaden as the King seemed to scoot closer towards his companion in attempts to keep them warm. This only came with Bofur moving in closer to hog as much as the comfort that he could. Another bout of silence made Thorin stiffen up before he finally moved to bow his head just as Bofur was looking up. A bump of the head came with Thorin pressing into the Dwarf, mouth against mouth only made both frames tense up harder before Bofur started to pull away. Yet Thorin pulled him back, insisting on a second kiss that came with the muffled gasp of breath came with the taste of mead that forced Bofur to press back against the kiss that made him rise up a bit, Thorin quick to press back just as hard while strong hands cupped his face to rake nails through the beard that grew into sideburns. Ponytails were pushed back, body leaned and the familiar draw of lips against throat came with the scrape of teeth that bit down upon flesh to make him give another sharp inhale in hopes to hold back a moan. He fought back though, shoving Thorin in attempts to stop him, retaliating with a third kiss that came with the harsh bite of lower lip, yet he stood up, quick to cease all the attention as he found himself pushing Thorin back.
"W-we can't be doin this! I mean we're--"
"It's because of my status?"
"Or because of your lowly one? I don't care. You make me happy, Bofur. I bravely say that it's been quite some time since I've felt much joy for anything."
"I'm very much aware of that, but--"
"Then what is it? You hardly seem like the type to care what others think or say, let alone you seem rather hellbent to go your own way. I've heard how others talk about you; hardly follow orders unless it suits you, rebellious, quick to talk than to think!"
"It's got nothing to do with that and I dunno who you've been--"
"I've also heard that you're hardly the prudish type with others. Your shenanigans at the brothels? Your dalliances while traveling with the caravan? Not to mention that scandalous gossip within the mines--"
"It's because we're drunk and--" Bofur went instantly quiet, forcing himself not to ramble himself into an angry tangent. "I just..don't want to do this sorta thing while l-like this. Drunk. Tipsy. It-it ain't right. I don't like it. And by the docks? Of all places! That and you spoke of this agreement that ah'd like to think more into too!"
"I want to court you..."
Those words made Bofur's back straighten while Thorin stood to give that solemn expression that slowly began to melt into the low brow of anger. Bofur hardly balked, but there was the flinch of a coward who was mindful of his own well being, knowing full well that Thorin by mere voice alone was not a being to reckon with. He was reluctant to reach out at first, but he mustered up the motivation to step closer, grabbing Thorin's hand to stare down at the battle worn scars and thick knuckles that only made Bofur give a small smile at.
"You wish to court me and as much as I appreciate the offer, I think we should call this a night, Thorin. We're--" he paused to shake his head to shirk off the haze and slur of his words. "I don't want any regrets. No..no mistakes."
"I am as clear headed as I can be! I feel as if you're mocking me!"
"Then you will let me court you!"
"No! It wouldn't be right! That and there's things ya don't even know about me, Thorin! We can't just stay with what we've got already? Go home! Rest! We'll talk on this when we're sober and sane!" Bofur snapped back as he started to walk away.
Yet Thorin was hellbent, angry and frustrated that he was being denied. Of course it was the mead that made his mind swim, made it harder for him to be coherent and sensible with his emotions, but he didn't like the idea of Bofur walking away from him and he reached out to grab--to manhandle again. His hand grabbed at Bofur's shoulder which made the Dwarf tense up and pull away, there came a tug at the scarf and jacket which only followed with Thorin jerking his hand back in revulsion to feel the sharp jab of stinging daggers piercing his skin. Blood was drawn along the cuts that made him look down at his hand then upon Bofur's back. Thick shards of opalescent crystals, edges sharp as glass, had pierced through the fabric of his overcoat. Translucent with the moonlight catching each small glint and shaped shard of the crystals that had strings from the now torn scarf straggling upon it in strands. Bofur was quick to fall to his knees, the muffled sobs and deep breaths drowned out, but his hands were gripping the floppy-lop eared bands to pull at them, making the hat pull down harder as he rocked forwards and back. Thoin was at a loss, now he too was scared--confused--but his eyes were wide and he kept looking upon his bloodied hand, then upon Bofur's back again and again.
The coronation of the arrival of refugees from Ered Luin brought upon a massive display that looked more like a parade than the ceremony of welcoming back those that had lost their homes and loved ones to Smaug. Yet as all Dwarves did best; it was a celebration for the ages because families of The Company were reunited and then some. Dain had sent a portion of his own people; healers, miners, and workers hellbent on providing their assistance where it was needed. Nobles and emissaries from the Blue Mountains came donned in robes and finery that none of them had seen in quite some time, and in their wake the Dwarrow Dams followed suit with one that looked all too familiar to the Company. She was in the finery just like the nobles of her kind, yet her gown was dark blue with the the embroidery of patterned gold laced with pearls that she even had what appeared to be silver coins flattened to be made into their own jewelry of bracelets and necklace. More pearls strung along the sleek black hair with highlights of soft gray, strands of curled locks that matched the curls of hair along cheek and jawline. The Dam smiled, made her way before Thorin as the other Dam's behind her, that were dressed just as regal, curtsied within the King's presence. Yet she stayed put, looking upon Thorin with quiet admiration, her sharp gaze looking upon the rest of the Company who gave polite bows.
"Lady Dis of Erebor."
"Thorin. Oh..King Thorin of The Lonely Mountain it is now! By Mahal's hammer your beard is growing back and you're practically glowing!" she praised while reaching up to flick a bit of hair from the King's face. "Where are my boys?"
Fili and Kili made their way to the front to stand on each side of their Uncle, beaming to see their mother whom was quick to reach out for them both to give each of their faces a gentle pat on the cheek. Dis was almost in tears, but she kept herself composed as her son's kissed the rings on her fingers in both quite praise and respect. "Cease! Don't be bothered with that! Look at you two! Fili you're looking more and more like your father and Kili!" She gasped to run her painted nails through the showing thickness of a beard finally starting to grow in. "You've got your Uncle's gaze! The classic Durin's glare! Ah--that reminds me! Thorin, there's word that you're to go about courting soon. How impeccable timing! I'll be able to lend my assistance!"
Thorin tried not to balk, but it was hard to hide the look of shock on his face at such information being revealed. The reaction from his Company was mixed, most of them were staring just as wide eyed as he was, others were trying to contain their laughter, but even they were still in a fit of confusion on how the King's sister discovered such information. Nevertheless, nobody questioned it and they watched as Dis moved on, the Dam's following in tow as they held up hands and fans to hide their laughter from the gawking faces. Some leaned to look, to watch the flow of gowns and attempt to listen to the soft spoken voices. Bofur and Nori watched the Dam's leave for the longest out of them all, some of the Dam's had their backs exposed; some had gemstones embedded upon flesh and muscle, radiant of rubies and sapphires, some had stones as smooth as pearls, round and pebble like, others had crystals that spiked upward and outward, glowing blue, green, or yellow. Other's nuggets of gold clung to their spines and upon bare shoulders that made Dwarrow stop with what they were doing to bow and stare.
"You never answered my question from earlier, Bofur," Nori said low enough only for his friend to hear.
Bofur gave a a deep and slow sigh as he felt his shoulders go slack when the question was brought up again. What could he say that would cease such a conversation? It made him grit his teeth against the inside of his cheek so hard that he was tasting his own blood. He was just about to speak up, to finally give an answer to hopefully change the subject, yet the heavy footfall of boots made them both turn in time to see the steady march of soldiers, a small contingent of Dwarves donned ready for battle marching by that made them stand back to give space. Upon the mount of a dark gray ram, horns gilded and painted with yellow ink sat a Dwarrow of impressively strong build with luxurious black hair, sharp gray eyes that could pierce fog if needed be and it only came with an intimidating gaze that made Bofur's blood run cold.
"I am Turic of The Blue Mountains. Noble House Chief of Clan Kastath. I seek the one known as Bofur, son of Balfdallah and Loftur!"
"For what cause?" Thorin asked as the rest of the Company looked upon the stranger with judgement.
"For the crime of treason against my clan! Against our people!"
"On what grounds!?" Nori spat with disgust.
"On the grounds of assassination!"
Chapter 13: Sins of the Past
Nori recounts the first time he met Bofur which leads to some very emotional conflicts.
Bofur does his best to stay composed during trying times.
Slow breaths and even slower footfalls made the Dwarrow as quiet as a mouse. The great manor had been on Nori's eye for quite some time and he had been planning this operation for over a month if not more. Infiltrating the help wasn't as easy as he thought it'd be, but a good few coins slipped into the right hands always made words flow twice as easy. Then again, this was a heist that was sure to be written down in the books for himself since he hadn't obtained the confidence just yet. Years of panhandling and pick pocketing was nice, but he felt ready for burglary and a few homes nearby had given him plenty of practice as well. Yet Clan Kastath had something he had been eyeing for quite some time and word had gotten out that they had obtained a rather lovely treasure that was now part of their larder. It was the gossip for the whole year, but exactly what this supposed treasure was had yet to be seen since they were waiting for some grandiose moment to have a reveal celebration. Yet the Clan members had boasted about it for so long and for so much that everyone was growing weary of their flaunting that there were doubts growing or at least suspect that they were simply ruffling feathers for whatever ridiculous reason. Scaling the sheer cliff of the wall side was bound to be difficult for anybody, but for Nori it was simply a minor complication as he climbed to reach the first few windows, ducking and dodging to avoid the light of passing housemaids carrying lanterns, as he forced himself to ascend the wall and reach the highest window.
As far as Nori was aware from the gossip within the manor, he had been informed of the treasure being kept high like a diadem on the mantle instead of below with the rest of the Clan's stock. That and some of the help had made whispers of nightly visits of Baron Varstath making his way into this private room to deliver particular things only led to more questions and concerns that he and the family that knew of whatever it was, were taking all measures to secure it. Of course they had not suspected anyone to make the adventure through their security by scaling an almost vertically straight cliff side with the handy use of hooked nails and beeswax adhesive bound upon their hands. Nori kept going until he finally managed to hang from the windowsill with a quick blessing of thanks to shadows pulling themselves to embrace him.
"Now now, my dear. You must eat. Please don't be like this. If you were to simply accept this. Your family is--"
"My mother would have never agreed to this without my consent! Please! Let me go!"
"Your mother accepted the costs! You've done a very noble thing!"
A loud noise of disgust and anger that followed with the sound of plates and silverware clattering onto the floor. There was scuffling of boots, the loud grunts and muffled noise of a struggle, strained yelps that came with the loud sound of a hand smacking a face before a body stumbled to the floor.
"As much as your fieriness arouses me, your ill temper and misbehavior is not only imprudent, but very annoying! You will be my bride or I will break you!"
"Then break me and be done with it!" the woman shouted back with equal anger. "I will die before I ever become bound to you or your family!"
Baron Varstath cursed loudly, a hand waving in disgust at the Dwarrow Dam as he stormed his way towards the door to make his way out. He paused, hand on the door as he held his back straight. The Dam spat in his direction on the floor, her own curse spilled from her mouth like venom as she rubbed her bearded cheek to ebb away the sting from the slap.
"Your family accepted our offering, you have restored their honor, and our soon to be marriage will pay off their debts. They will no longer starve, they will know no suffering that most common Dwarrow must face in these trying times. Whether you like it or not, you are mine and will always be mine."
The door slammed hard behind the Baron, which only followed with the cup being thrown hard to shatter shards that only made the woman scream out more curses and blatant insults. Nori managed to pull himself up properly to look inside and although there wasn't much to fawn over, the interior of the room was rather impressive. Lavish curtains and canopy bed wrought and melted into the very stone floor, all the fineness and comforts that any Dam could imagine to desire, but the room itself looked rather confining. Only a singular window that hardly provided light or air, there were even rusted bars for that classic prison cell aesthetic that gave Nori far too many grim reminders which only made him sit up and lean inward to examine the Dam. She was rather beautiful; dark brown hair curly as ever pulled up and out of the way with dark red gown made of silk and satin with patterned trim colored silver. He could see that there were tears upon the face that were easily wiped away, yet one of the things that made him perk with interest was there was hardly the start of beard forming save for thick sideburns, although the more than obvious mustache rested under nose that was braided with small, silver beads woven against it.
"It's always a pity to see such lovely things wounded," he whispered gently.
The Dam quickly stood up straight as they looked around hopefully then turned their sharp gaze towards the window to see the fiery hair and sharp blue-green eyes that showed something mischievous upon them.
"Oh thank Mahal! Who are you?" she said quickly as she ran up towards the window to tug on the bars a bit. "Did mother send you? I knew she'd not be tradin' me off like this to some Baron!"
"Dunno your mum, love. Why are you locked away like this? The hell you do?"
"If being myself be an act of insubordination that makes me be locked up, then ah'll probably be here until the end of my days! I ain't done shit!"
"Why you've got a rather harsh mouth on you, love! But please, I'm not here for you. I'm here for--...something else. A treasure. Baron Karstath and his kin have been boasting rather proudly of it for some time now. Do you know where it is?"
"Irony. I am the treasure you're talking about!"
Nori blinked twice, shook his head to try and process this admission, but he frowned, leaned to try and look into the small room again before looking back at the woman to examine her again. He couldn't believe this. Surely there was a mistake? He didn't hear wrong on the gossip of the Clan Kastath's newly obtained prized treasure didn't equal to some homely, but impressive looking, Dam stowed all the way up here to be guarded as if they truly were the treasure. Nevertheless, Nori opted to take advantage of the situation. Even if this woman might be lying to distract him from his primary objective, having someone that was on the inside of the Clan's manor home was bound to be useful in the future. Yet the Dam turned, pulled up the veil and cloth that covered her back to tug at the sleeve and collar of her gown. Upon her back were gemstones, opal and clear upon the edges, milky and going white the further upon the root. From shoulder blade to shoulder blade they covered her upper back, trailing lower to end in thick, tanned flesh with flecks of gemstone still peeking through. It was enough confirmation to make Nori look in wide eyed awe, taking in the coloration of pinks and blues that only shifted to yellows and oranges when firelight were upon it. The Dam was still young, too young to be wed off by how the gemstones were still growing in.
"What's your name?" he asked with his voice soft and gentle, nudging a hand through the bars to offer an awkward greeting.
The Dam looked at the hand, frowned at the excess of beeswax and the thick iron nails embedded against the gloves that were fashioned to hook like cat claws. She was reluctant shake his hand at first and there was the obvious falter, but she inhaled and gripped the messy gunk to give a firm handshake which quickly retreated to wipe it away on her gown.
"H-how..how about we not--no names. No real names at least! Nicknames, yeah?" she asked while looking over Nori curiously. "I think to call you--"
"Fox? Everyone seems to say I--"
"I beg yer pardon?"
"A magpie! You know, like the bird?" she sighed happily and leaned against the windowsil with her hands cupped together. "Da once traveled to the Red Mountains! He said he saw these lovely birds there, but they were black as night with red markings! Sneaky things, they stole a lot of shiny stuff and they're very playful! Da had one as a pet that would--"
"Oh so I'm a pet now?"
"No! You remind me of how he described them. 'Cause ya managed to sneak all the way up here and obviously you're hellbent on gettin something pretty!"
"Does this mean I can call you a goat? You've got the scruff of one on your chin."
"Excuse--well..I suppose it does! I've been called worse. Lil Goat is hardly that bad."
"Well then tell me, Little Goat. How'd you end up here?"
By the time Nori had finished getting to know his newfound ally, he found himself mentally exhausted. Overwhelmed really since the Dam was a talkative lot, but she was surprisingly mouthy and strong willed. Of course that was of no surprise, but the way this one held themselves, how they spoke, the way they acted. Yet the information obtained was enlightening to the point when Nori finally found his feet on solid ground, he had to crouch down between statues to recollect himself.
"So you'll get me out of here, then?"
"Moral ambiguity. Also I've got my own keenness about myself. All you've got to do is help me escape out of the city."
"Moral ambiguity don't put bread on the table."
"Suppose you're right on that. I'll make it up to you, I swear's by me da's soul! You let me out of here and I'll go's about helpin' you steal. Or whatever else you think a pretty face would be good for!"
"A day. I need a day to think on this."
"A day's to scoot by and I'll likely be wed or sold off! I can only offer loyalty for now! The guard be comin' soon! Go!"
The events revolving around that woman was hard to process at first; the disappearance of her father that was a nomad, her mother being direct descendants from Moria, how she and her mother had mourned, the disgrace they had to endure from her mother's kin due to being born out of wedlock, how she was forced to work beside her mother to make ends meet. The confrontations of the Baron and constant onslaught of other Dwarrow wishing to wed her. Questions of confusing thoughts, how she felt displaced and unwelcome, but desired at the same time. A freak to be gawked at because she preferred the handle of a hammer or sword over the crafts of home and politics. How she had a stronger fondness to fight and to hunt or to sate her wanderlust than stay confined within city walls or caves even if she did adore the wonders of her people's realms. It was..daunting. Yet as Nori rose to his feet, he found himself looking up along the wall to see the dim light high above the shadows and for some reason he felt an odd sense of being restored, invigorated by such a singsong voice and such naive optimism from the Dam that he found himself smiling as he climbed over the wall to retreat from encroaching danger. He returned that very night just as he promised, and agreed to assist the Dam with her escape.
"I always knew they weren't right," Oin grunted as his brother seemed to give a small nod in agreement.
"Well of course he wasn't right. He's never really been alright. We all knew that. Bofur was always a niaeve idiot, but he was our niaeve idiot," Fili grunted as there was the familiar mumbling of agreement from others in the Company.
"I'm honestly not surprised. I've got a suspect he's been knowin' for a while that his past was bound to catch up with him," Gloin grunted low. "He's been actin' funny ever since we started on rebuilding Erebor. A complete flip over from how he was on the Quest if y'ask me."
"Well nobody fuckin asked ye' Gloin, so I dunno why you think your opinion holds any weight," Nori snapped angrily as he stood in front of the fireplace.
Nori's anger was a shock to many, an even bigger shock that he spoke in such a way to others in the Company in such a way. Often he was snarky and tongue in cheek comical with his witty retorts just as Bofur was, but he was always respectful and courteous enough to respect the level and rank of status within the Company. That and usually the Dwarf wasn't one for political discussions of any sort. If it involved the concepts of religion or the politics of his people, then he was usually quiet; simply observing in the background and hardly giving any input until days later or not at all.
"Bofur's a fellow I've known for years. Ages. I just--I can't see him going about murdering someone? And by assassination? No. S'bullshit. Bofur's hardly the type to go around slaughtering folks," Nori said with a firm tone.
There was hardly any noise to be had, the awkward shuffle of movement to adjust in their seats that only came with quick glances and worried frowns. Yet double doors opened to reveal the small contingent of soldiers being led out by Turic who seemed to have a rather stormy look upon his face that showed the intensity of a glare upon the Company who did not stand or barely made eye contact upon him. Nori was half tempted to spit at his feet, but merely turned away to look back upon the fireplace in attempts to restrain himself, yet he looked up again when he saw Bofur and his kin follow Turic, then behind them came Thorin and Balin looking just as equally displeased by the entirety of the situation. A deafening silence only ended as the rest of the Company stood to look upon their King expectantly which only came with his own gaze expressing both an unbridled rage and sorrow. Fili and Kili knew the look all too well and they gave worried frowns towards Bofur, Bifur, and Bombur who were already starting to make their leave.
"There is to be a trial," Balin spoke up after clearing his throat.
Attention was now on the white bearded Dwarf, brows raised as the Company took a few steps closer to ensure they could properly hear their companion speak. Thorin looked upon Balin for a few seconds before giving a nod of agreement to let the man rest. He could tell his old friend was exhausted from playing mediator between the conflicting situation.
"Bofur will stand before his ancestors as well as his peers and a neutral mediator. He will give his side of the story and be judged on the matter, as will the rest of us."
"What do you mean? None of us had any involvement with his actions?"
"No, but Turic believes that because of our connection to Bofur, and him being involved with the Company by contract, then by all rights we are to stand trial as well. I assume he suspects one of us to be an accomplice in some way or another."
"That's bloody ridiculous! Are we to be accused as well!?"
"No, but I'm assuming Turic will likely use our allyship as an advantage in some way or another. To gain information," Balin said as he rubbed his brows to straighten them back in order.
"Are you to partake in being the mediator then, Uncle?" Fili asked curiously.
Now there were more looks, all attention on Thorin which drew a few grumbles of concern, more so from Nori who was on the brink of spitting some harsh insult about loyalty if it wasn't for Dori resting his hand upon his shoulder to give a warning squeeze. Thorin didn't hesitate to look back at Nori to challenge that look with his own harsh glare.
"I am unable to mediate given my position of power as well as my connections to Bofur. I assure you I enacted as much will as any King is able to on this matter, but it would not only look like favortisim, it already looks questionable enough as it is, but also cripple whatever possibility of peaceful alliance and allyship with the Blue Mountains. Turic's clan is old and very notable within both council seats within the Blue Mountains. He holds no jurisdiction here, but his influence is strong."
"Bofur's not a damned murderer!"
"I'm not to stand here and listen to this! Are we to turn our backs on a good friend so--"
"How dare! How dare you question the King's loyalty to his friends and family!" Dwalin snarled angrily as Nori contorted his face into pure disgust up at Dwalin in return.
Thorin raised his hand to quell to confrontation, which only made Nori close his mouth quickly as Dwalin kept his eye on the thief. "That is not the only reason why I have refused to enact as mediator to the trial. I..." Thorin went quiet as he tried to think carefully over his words before looking towards Balin who only expressed a hint of shame at what was to come. "I feel that Bofur may have a chance at succeeding if we all cooperate on this situation. He's bound to ask some or all of us to recount our prior interactions with him. Luckily Dain's to act as mediator, which could be rather promising given his--"
Suddenly there was yelling, the din of a booming voice, the clank and clatter of a pedestal holding a torch was knocked over that only followed with three voices shouting in union with one another.
"YOU ARE TO RUIN US!"
"I DON'T! COUSIN PLEASE!"
"MERCY THAT MAHAL STAYS MY HAND!"
"UNHAND ME! AH'LL TO PUNISH HIM M'SELF! SHAME! SHAME ON YOU!"
"SHUT UP! YOU'RE TO BE THE DEATH OF US! CAN YOU NOT ACT RIGHT FOR A SINGLE DAY?"
The others had managed to catch up in time to see Bombur wedging himself between his brother and his cousin, shouts so loud that the very Gods would surely look down upon them all. Nori and Dori were quick to grab Bifur to stop him from unsheathing his blade, Bombur tried to shove Bofur back more when he stood, ready to wield his own weapon in defense. Just as soon as the confrontation had started, it had ended with Bombur protesting loudly for them to both to cease their antics with a booming shout that even made Thorin cease all movement. Heavy breaths, Bofur was tense as ever with Bifur glaring disgust in his direction.
"You...you shame us!" Bifur heaved as he tossed his blade to the ground, the loud clang echoing through the silence has he broke free from Dori and Nori's hold to storm off.
Bofur managed to stand on his feet, dusting his front off while trying to shrug off the tense situation. His back was towards the others, straight with shoulders squared as he looked over himself to make sure there was no serious damage done.
"He's come back to his old self again ever since we've got that axe bit yanked from his head. Didn't slur his words one bit!" Bofur mused sounding genuinely impressed.
"Bofur he didn't mean that. You know he didn't," Bombur said quickly as he helped his brother steady himself.
"I know. He's just scared. Not a good time right now, Bombur. Keep an eye on him yeah?"
"Where are you going?"
Bofur gave a shrug, unable to respond right away, as he didn't bother looking towards the others as he walked away. Once the others had cast their own judgment over the situation, they too parted ways while Thorin followed Bofur's path to investigate further.
Chapter 14: Bath and Beers
Bofur tries to calm himself the best way he's able to; hot baths and cold beers. Thorin visits in attempts to bring some clarity to Bofur, which in turn becomes relief from stress for them both. Nori and Balin consult to each other on current events which leads to Nori being defensive.
"Ye' d'atus rukhskanâd mi fekham..." -- You are to fight wargs with a fork
"Biraikni y'umal! Non tatahi zai targ mamahrul! Jalâdishi 'ala!" -- Please! No more of pulling beards! I hate this!
"Your mother ever tell you to not to drink alone?"
Bofur turned in time to look up at Thorin staring down at him as he tried to pull the rag over his front for decency's sake. The dimly lit room provided an overwhelming surge of heat, steam and smoke from hot water within what appeared to be a massive tub dug into the ground provided the smell of salts and oils which only clashed with the reek of warm alcohol that came with a few empty bottles laying along the edge.
"I know you're King of the whole damned mountain, but you've still got to knock when you enter people's home."
"And here I thought I was welcome within your manor at any time?"
"What do you want, Thorin."
Thorin didn't say anything after that, but he watched the reaction from Bofur who seemed to be quickly disregard the remark with a dismissive shrug as he sank deeper into the tub pit to slouch against the edge. Another bottle was grabbed as an awkward glance was given.
"I'm fine. Things are just a rough spot at the moment."
"You've neglected your duties within the mines. You've been accused of tampering with peace treaties."
"My involvements in Dale were under your instructions."
"You're fighting with your own kin. Your friends and the Company state that you've isolated yourself from them. Hardly your cheery demeanor that we're all used to."
"I'm allowed to be sad, Thorin."
"You're being accused of murder. The assassination of a very high ranking clan leader and his son is now within my kingdom, tromping about as if it's his own. Yet you hide yourself here, to drown yourself in the bottle and to disregard it all. Like you've always done."
"I'd prefer the acts to be referred as 'communing with my ancestors'."
"I'm sure they'd be thrilled to witness a naked drunken Dwarrow."
Bofur laughed and tipped the bottle upward to drain down the last dregs of it before tossing the bottle to join the others. Yet Thorin wasn't laughing, in fact he gave a frown of disapproval that led Bofur forcing himself to sit up higher as he attempted to take the situation seriously by pushing long hair behind his ears to get a better look at his King.
Thorin was quiet, looked towards Bofur who flicked a bit of the soap suds away from his shoulder while pulling himself out of the tub to sit at Thorin's feet. Yet there was the subtle and awkward tap of wet hand on his boot that made the King look down and quickly reach down to force Bofur to stand. Protesting was had at first as he covered himself with a robe to block away the cold, but Bofur stiffened when he felt Thorin place hands upon his face to cup jawline. Peace settled between them, the frantic breaths of worry and concern subsided into slow, steady sighs that followed with the small nudge of the foreheads between them both.
"Ye' d'atus rukhskanâd mi fekham..."
"Biraikni y'umal! Non tatahi zai targ mamahrul! Jalâdishi 'ala!"
"It's true. You know it's true," Thorin murmured gently as he pushed his thumbs against Bofur's cheeks to wipe the tears away.
Bofur snorted a small laugh, hiccuped a small breath as he gave a shrug and kissed Thorin's hands. Soft whispers of affection was shared between the two within the dark bathroom that only came with chuckles and pecks on the cheek that only followed with Bofur reaching up to hold calloused hands.
"Every time I let you out of my sight, you get into trouble."
"Why you here, Thorin? You know they're bound to be watching. You show any favor on my end and it'll look worse for both of us."
"I'm aware of the consequences, but I'm here to check up on you and possibly help in what ways I can."
"Unless you can implement some kind of immunity--"
"I wouldn't ask for such a thing! Protecting and harboring a fugitive assassin would ruin whatever envoys and trade you'd have with the Blue Mountains."
"It would be worth it."
How could he not smile at that? Cheeks flushed with color and Bofur did his best to stand up straighter as he felt Thorin rub fingers against sideburns before raking through his hair to massage his scalp.
"I don't want you going through any of this. You give me the word and I'll have Turic thrown out."
"My word is that you not extend the crown so ridiculously, for starters! Secondly, I'll be fine. Turic has little to no proof, he wants to use my involvements with his father to pin the blame on me instead of confessing for his own sins. I knew this day would come sooner or later."
"He's to expose you," Thorin said with revulsion which only made Bofur give a solemn nod.
"He knows that even if I did kill his father, by all rights my actions were justified. He doesn't want to bring up anything that would shame his kin, let alone what his lot did to trigger such a retaliation. I never completed The Rites so me being like this, even now, is illegal and blasphemous to Mahal. To our religion and our ways. By all legal rights and on paper, I'm still a Dam and still technically under the property of Turic's family."
"So you're nothing, but a long lost treasure. A family heirloom."
Bofur gave a dismissive shrug again, looked away and tried to fight through the emotions by smiling. Thorin refused to stop touching, clinging by holding his hand, the look of disgust on his face as he watched Bofur pry free from his grasp to lean upon the threshold that separated the balcony from the inside of the manor. Wet hair going cold was pushed to the side as Bofur opted to stay quiet for now to look upon the stars in hopes that they would guide him in some obscure way.
"When you leave be mindful to exit from the back where you won't be seen."
"Are you asking me to leave?"
"I'm only giving you the notion that if you decide to--"
"Do you want me to leave?"
"Do you want to stay?"
He could hear the hope in wavering tone that was trying to be hidden by neutral demeanor, it made Thorin smile even if Bofur weren't looking upon him while he moved in to murmur lazily.
"I'll stay if you--"
"You'll take the guest room."
"If Turic's to have spies listening in--"
"Then they'll endure whatever they'll witness this evening. I'll not have espionage and trickery ruin our visits. If you're to have me sleep in the guest room, then you're to join me."
But Thorin was already pulling away, already giving Bofur a shove to beckon his attention which gave the Dwarf plenty of time to turn to see Thorin removing cape and crown while making his way down the hall. Bofur watched his King turn into one of the rooms--his room--which only made him bite the inside of his cheek to give a smirk at the assertive display that was being done within his own home. Any other Dwarf would have raised hell, possibly barked insults and thrown Thorin out even if he were King, yet Bofur could only smile as he watched the hall for a moment longer. Silence was only disrupted by the loud and demanding order of Thorin wanting Bofur's company, yet it was quickly interrupted by Bofur storming into the bedroom to slam the door behind him.
"It's dangerous that they keep meeting."
"Both of'em are faulting in their own ways, but I'm genuinely impressed by their stubbornness. Kinda sweet given all the stress going on."
"Tell me, Nori. What are your insights on this?"
"You didn't hear my outburst earlier, Balin?"
"I heard a fellow that was hurting because his best friend has just been accused of assassination. Now that things have calmed down, I'd like your keen input on every thing."
Nori was quiet, fidgeted where he stood as he watched from a distance. Balin stood with hands behind his back, eyes forward with what little wind that flowed within the mountain making his beard sway back and forth slowly. The other Dwarf paced back and forth for a few moments, contemplating it all in under the small window of the few moments he was asked.
"I've never got the chance to interact with Turic, but I get the feeling he's a fellow that gets what he wants. And if he doesn't, then he takes it. His family are a long line of Barons and noblefolk that have always had their hands in the pockets of powerful people within the Blue Mountains. I know that he's hellbent on getting Bofur even if it means framing the fellow with murder."
"Do you think he's to act on impulse?"
"I think he believes that Bofur is his family's rightful property and if he's willing to go to these lengths? To travel this far? Mahal knows what he'll do."
"Thorin won't allow it. He's proper smitten."
"Nah, he won't. That's what I'm afraid of. Afraid for them both, more so Bofur. Thorin gets just as hostile with those he loves. You combine that with Turic being as demanding as he is and it's like fire to a keg."
"You know more of this than what you're letting on."
Nori gave a dismissive shrug as he leaned upon the ledge to tuck his hand under his chin to look down at the steep view below. He found it unnerving how Balin was looking to him for inquiry on everything going on. It was even worse that Balin was doing the run around of prodding for information on personal matters. Not that he didn't have any respect for the old man, but Nori was justifiably private given his occupations and connections.
"I know enough and know that you shouldn't pry for your own safety."
"If you've got information that could make things easier--"
"I've got information, but it'll make things twice as troublesome. I'm not to make any of this more complicated than what it already is."
Balin finally managed to lift his head to look towards Nori, the look of pity on his face as he exhaled an exasperated sigh. A reassuring pat on the shoulder came with Balin moving closer to jostle the man in hopes to get his attention. There was the quiet smirk from Nori to be had, it made him stand straighter as he reached to return the gesture.
"Be mindful. Be careful. These are trying times and do us all a favor with going about tending to Dwalin. There's enough tension as it is!"
"Now hold on--"
"Aha. No. Tend to my brother or I'm likely to commit my own assassination on both of you!"