Forra was happy to find that the family reunions were mostly peaceful, even if rather tense. She had decided to sit in on them along with Lark and Rhunda, as well as a small group of rotating guards. Between reports from the prison guards and her own observations, Lark had managed to connect all of the familial dots.
The brothers Gloin and Oin were first. They both seemed very pleased to see the other. Still, they shared their glares at Forra and her compatriots. At least until Lark was ‘kind’ enough to return Oin’s hearing trumpet and Gloin’s portrait of his wife. They both became remarkably respectful at that. Rhunda was almost taken aback.
And if she had looked at the portrait of Gloin’s wife earlier with a tinge of jealousy, no one brought it up.
After fifteen minutes of brotherly bonding, they were sent back to their cells.
Next were the Lin men, which had all of the guards a little tense.
As prisoners, the brothers had been complete opposites the past two days.
Balin had been utterly polite. He behaved well, was quiet but not to a suspicious point, ate what he was given with thanks, and had often offered to do what he could to help the situation, whether it was participating in peace talks or negotiations or what-have-you.
Dwalin had been downright offensive.
For the first few hours of imprisonment he had just sat and glared, like his king. No one really minded. He even took his bath with decent obedience. But the evening after and that night all he had done was roar and curse and bang on the bars of his cell.
Considering the number of curses laid upon the guards’ mothers and how often he told them they should bring out the ‘real dwarrows’, it was a powerful testament to Forra’s strength of will to not have him brutally beaten.
But here she was, sitting in the corner and shining her hammer, while he chatted with his brother.
After a few minutes they were taken away and the Ur family was returned to itself. These worried Forra the least by a large margin. A fat cook (though it annoyed her how many of the guards had been talking about his beard with such…flowery words), a lanky toymaker/miner, and a wounded soldier. The axe-headed one she actually found to have an understanding with. Not verbally; she had barely spoken to any of them. But having a horribly mangled face was something they had in common, and though his mind seemed a bit off at best, when he entered they shared a look. He didn’t mean harm. Neither did she. No need to scar anyone anymore.
What did surprise the tunnel queen was how closely Lark watched the family. Her eyes never left them.
Well, her eyes never left the miner.
But Forra said nothing, gritting her teeth and saving her words for a better time.
Though she thought she might explode when she saw Rhunda eyeing Bombur’s beard.
Eventually that meeting ended too and the Ri line was brought together. This family did worry her.
Forra had asked Lark more about Nori and none of it pleased her. More so, his older brother Dori (who was not of the same father, oddly enough) was one of the most muscled dwarves in the Company under his fine robes. Their little brother Ori (who shared Nori’s father) was rather adorable though, small and constantly hugged by his eldest brother, being asked if they had hurt him.
While the youngest and eldest brothers checked each other over, it was the middle son who kept watch. Nori peered at the guards constantly, especially Forra, as well as Lark and Rhunda who stood on either side of her in full armor. It may have been a tad excessive for prison wear, but it hid their genders better than any binding.
However, their reunion ended as well, and it was time for the finale. The line of Durin.
And its new member.
“I’ll go get the hobbit. Go ahead and let the boys see their uncle,” Forra said as she rose to leave.
The brothers were brought in first, and nearly jumped at each other. They began speaking ridiculously fast, almost making it impossible for the guards to understand. Fíli was checking his little brother over while Kíli told him about how they had knocked him out for his bath. The brunette was very offended.
Thorin arrived a few minutes later, still glowering at the guards, but rushed to embrace his nephews at first sight. He glanced with cautious curiosity at the soldiers around them. Why were they doing this? He had seen the rest of the Company come and go from his cell, but why? No one came back tortured or scared, but actually quite pleased. It unnerved him.
But his nephews were healthy, so what was there to worry about?
Forra tried to not grin hilariously when she knocked on the hobbits door. This was going to be hysterical.
Bilbo answered the door politely but appeared rather worried.
“I have a meeting ready for you, Bilbo, but what troubles you?”
“The dwarves. Can’t you just let us go?” he pleaded. She sighed.
“I’m sorry, Bilbo, but I have a responsibility to my citizens. If your Company knows who and what we are and have now found us, it could put us in terrible danger. I just need to know.”
“Please! I can’t tell you why we were traveling, but it certainly wasn’t this! The dwarves didn’t know this place existed!”
“Would they have told you if they did?” she asked with a slight chill. Bilbo opened his mouth to speak, and closed it. Would they?
Just two weeks ago Thorin had treated him like he was less than nothing, and then put a marriage bead in his hair without telling him what it was! He could have lied about a lot more. And even if Thorin didn’t know, there could be others in the Company that did.
But then there was Gandalf.
The wizard had told him to go on this quest, recommended him to the dwarves. Gandalf would never do anything less than honorable. Bilbo had faith in that. Belladonna and Gandalf had been friends since her childhood.
“I can’t testify for all of them, no, but…What if I tell them?” Bilbo asked.
“What?” Forra’s eyes snapped to him, cold and sharp.
And suddenly, Bilbo discovered his bargaining chip.
“What if I tell them? About you and this place and your women?” he said much more boldly. For the first time since joining the quest, Bilbo felt like he had power.
And then Forra stepped towards him, and he promptly lost that feeling.
She moved towards him swiftly and strongly, until they were just inches apart, and Forra turned her head downward just to look at him, because—right he forgot—she was more than a head taller than him.
Her stormy eyes bored down at him like swords and her scar made his skin crawl when he saw it up close, the grooves in the melted flesh. He could smell the leather of her clothes and just glimpsed one corner of her massive hammer over her shoulder.
“Don’t.” Her snarl was an order, unquestionably. “I would die for my people, Bilbo. And I would kill for them. Don’t make me. Don’t let your tongue put my girls’, your Company’s, and your life in peril. Don’t you dare say. A damn. Word.”
Bilbo gulped and nodded vigorously.
Forra backed away and her features softened as she opened the door.
“Come now. Your fiancé awaits.”
Bilbo suddenly remembered who he was really mad at, and strode through the door.
“THORIN OAKENSHIELD!” Bilbo roared when Forra let him into the room. The male dwarves (and a few of the female ones as well) jumped at the sound. “How dare you! How dare you put this bead in my hair without telling me what it is!”
Forra moved back to her place between Lark and Rhunda and shared a smile with them. She should have brought snacks for this.
Bilbo continued to shout at the dwarf king for some time, the princes split between cowering in fear of the hobbit and snickering at their uncle. The dwarf women had to bite their lips and clench their jaws to not laugh, though many were smirking the whole time. Some had wondered if Bilbo shared his mother’s ferocity. He did.
“Perhaps we should break them up before the carpet gets stained. You know how hard it is to get blood out,” Rhunda whispered jokily.
“I suppose this little mercy has turned rather vindictive, hasn’t it?” Forra answered.
“It wasn’t a mercy,” Lark growled humorously, “It was an attempt to squash rebellion. Won’t do much if somebody dies, now will it?”
“Oh, but we should let the new couple have at least some time together,” Rhunda said with an evil grin, “Be a shame to separate them when they have been apart for so long.”
“I agree. No harm in being a bystander,” Forra agreed.
Bilbo ranted and raved for a good while, without ever letting the king get a word in. Lark took notes. But eventually the hobbit ran out of energy, and the dwarrow tried to explain. Apparently, he had wanted to stake a claim to the hobbit before anyone else could, and was going to tell them after the quest was completed.
Bilbo quickly went on a verbal rampage about how Thorin shouldn’t have tried to make such a decision for him. Rhunda had to stop herself from yelling ‘You tell him, girlfriend!’ Bilbo tired after a while and demanded an ‘actual’ proposal, so Thorin actually proposed, Bilbo actually agreed, and Lark, Fíli, and Kíli all actually made gagging noises when they kissed.
And they kissed.
And they kissed.
Fíli and Kíli, as well as most of the guards, were nearly to the point of vomiting before Forra broke them up. Seeing as they had taken enough comfort in each other’s well-being, she told them. The love birds exchanged sad and sorry goodbyes that had the princes and Lark again making gagging sounds.
Forra and Lark accompanied Thorin back to his cell, taking a precaution. They dropped him off and began walking back to the war room, when they passed Nori’s cell.
“Hey, can I speak to ya for a moment?” he asked. Forra flicked her eyes to him with a bored expression and kept moving. “Hey, hey! I just wanna ask about that lass!” That put a hitch in both Lark’s and Forra’s steps. They kept moving.
Whatever he said, it was not worth hearing.
“Oh come now! As long you’re being nice to keep us quiet, you could at least toss us a bone.”
It was the way he said it that stopped Forra in her tracks. That leer, with the smirk he was wearing, and that obviously-fake charming tone that sounded as if he was flirting with them. That was what made Forra turn to glare at him.
“My dear king,” Nori said with a smile, “Where we come from dwarrowdams are so exceedingly rare, I’m sure I haven’t had one in years! And that lass looked quite comely if you ask me. She didn’t have a marriage bead in her hair either.” Lark cursed herself internally. Forra was growing increasingly enraged. “Can’t you just spare one lass for a night?”
The queen was red with fury. Her eyes were burning with hate at his words and her clenched fists shook. Nori noticed.
“Oh? Are you upset? Did I hit a sensitive spot? Do you also have an eye for that little diamond?”
Lark began to study the bars of his cage, and tried to figure out if they were strong enough to hold Forra back from snapping the dwarf in two.
“Either way, simple fix. Just send me a wench and I’ll be sated in a couple hours.”
“Apologies, Master Nori,” Lark cut in with a voice a few notes lower than normal, “but your mother is already with another. Kori should be done in a few hours though.”
This time it was Nori’s turn to be furious. His humorous eyes went dark and his laughing face glowed hatefully. He lunged at her, shaking the bars and throwing curses like knives. Lark was happy she had seen to disarm him. Forra was mighty surprised at both her friend’s and the dwarrow’s actions, but it quelled her anger and she started walking towards her goal, Lark right behind her, and Nori roaring from down the hall. When his voice quieted, either from distance or hoarseness, Forra spoke.
“That was a bit unfair.”
“He was asking for it.”
“I meant to his mother.”
Lark shrugged, “Ah, Kori would understand. Mahal knows she wouldn’t approve of her son saying such things. Besides, it’s a little hard to offend the dead.”
“Wait—Kori was his mother?!”
“You called him Nori, Son of Kori.”
“Yeah. That’s what he goes by.”
The queen was surprised. Few ever went by their mother’s name.
“Why?” she asked curiously.
“Oh,” Lark gave a pondering look, “Something about his father being an abusive, drunk, cheating deadbeat if my memory serves.”
“Does that run in the family?” Forra asked bitterly.
“Not really,” Lark answered, “I mean, he’s slept around and isn’t about to settle down, but he’s never done anything horrible to an innocent person more than a light pick-pocketing.”
“One of your Not-So-Bad Bad Guys?” Forra said, recalling their inside joke of male stereotypes.
“Beats a Not-So-Good Good Guy, any day.”
Forra nodded strongly. There were some unfortunate facts of life in the world, and they knew them well.
They made their way to the war room and found Rhunda waiting for them, already out of her gender-concealing armor. Lark joined her.
“I think we should let them go.”
The others stared at her.
“Why?” they asked in unison. They had both wanted to get the dwarrows out as fast as possible. Each understood Forra’s reasoning for keeping them and found it sound, but having males in the city still unnerved them.
“From what we have seen they were completely surprised and shocked by our existence, and they haven’t shown any inclination to have figured us out. Besides, even if a few do know they have since seen our forces. I don’t think they will be coming back. And if they did, we’d be ready.”
The pair nodded agreeably.
“What do we do?” Rhunda asked her queen.
“We’ll take them to the edge of the forest tomorrow and return their supplies. And maybe a little extra. We don’t need Thorin to be any more pissed off at us.”
“Will Bilbo keep our secret?” Lark said suspiciously.
“I believe we can put our faith in him. If our secret was given away, we’d know exactly who did it, and I doubt the majestic Thorin Oakenshield would put his beloved in danger,” Forra said with a small smirk.
“Good,” Rhunda said, “I’ll prepare a security team to escort them. We’ll leave at dawn.”
Lark grinned, “Well, if that’s all settled, let’s eat! I’m starving. Those damn dwarrows took their damn time with their damn reunions.”
The three friends smiled and laughed, feeling their hearts lightened with the new decision. Normality would soon return.
And then a guard came running in, looking frantic and scared, and breathing hard.
“Queen Forra! The dwarrows have escaped!”