There was an unmarked letter lying on the doorstep when Bofur left Dwalin’s rooms in the morning. Dwalin, assigned to the four AM to noon shift guarding the King for the next few days, must have missed it when he crept out earlier. Or possibly – Bofur smiled to himself, feeling warmth all through him at the very possibility – Dwalin had left it himself; a love note perhaps. Not that Bofur needed or even particularly wanted such tokens, but after a year of formal courtship with Dwalin, Bofur still treasured every gift his lover gave him, however small.
A love note would be unexpected, but then Dwalin had proven unexpectedly sweet in the gestures he made. Though after the third gift of magnificent weaponry, Bofur had gently told him that really he didn’t have much use for such things down in the mines. A few days later, during a quiet evening shared in Dwalin’s quarters, the big dwarf had brought out a book he’d borrowed from Ori and read aloud the ballad of Tharkar and Nuë, the most beautiful love poetry Bofur had ever heard.
The envelope was sealed with red wax, but bore no sigil imprint. Humming, Bofur put the envelope in his pocket. It was probably for Dwalin, as it had been left on his doorstep. But the sense of possibility in an unmarked letter was delicious.
It could hold something mundane, a bill perhaps, offered by a merchant too intimidated by the warrior’s ferocious scowl to deliver it in person. Or a summons. A ransom note, perhaps! A declaration of love, an offer of a duel…
Bofur smiled at his own fancies as he made his way deep into the mountain.
But in the end, it slipped his mind completely, and he found it again the next morning when he pulled on his clothes. He might as well open it; Dwalin wouldn’t mind even if it turned out to be addressed to him.
Tugging on his surcoat, Bofur broke the wax seal while wandering into the common room of the quarters he shared with his brother and cousin. Where on earth had he left his boots?
He pulled out the single sheet of parchment and unfolded it, only half paying attention. But when he saw his own name at the top of the letter, he left off searching for his boots and sat down to read it.
MR BOFUR: it said in neat lettering, WE KNOW YOUR SECRET. YOU WILL LEAVE 500 GOLD COINS AND THIS NOTE AT THE BOTTOM OF MINE SHAFT 25 BEFORE MIDDAY TOMORROW OR THE KING WILL BE INFORMED