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The First Time I Saw You

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The heat of the forge burned on Thorin’s forehead. Pushing past the heavy cloth which covered the entryway to Master Groin’s smithy, he was careful to avoid the collection of metal tools which stood hooked on racks on the walls which led to the inner chamber. As he made his way further in, the full blast of the fire hit his face.

‘Master Groin?’ he called into the room. He shaded his eyes and peered into the shadowed recesses. He was probably away, Thorin suspected, drinking no doubt. It was not unlike him to leave the forge and fire unattended in his absence.

‘Master Groin!’ he called again for surety, and if Groin was asleep in a back room, to wake him.

‘He’s not here my Lord.’

Thorin turned towards the entrance, and saw a dwarf much younger than the Master leaning on the door jamb, wearing a smither’s apron and gloves. An apprentice, thought Thorin.

‘Away for the day I presume,’ muttered Thorin stepping forwards, pulling from a brown leather bag his father’s notched sword. Groin, aside from being often incapable with drink, was the best smith in the Blue Mountains, and Thorin would see to it that when sober, he would quickly mend the sword to a near perfect condition. Groin was cantankerous and grouchy at all times- and angry when drunk, Thorin had also brought a sizeable bag of coins with him to ensure the job was done promptly. The apprentice stepped forward to take the sword from him. Emblazoned in the deep orange glow, Thorin could catch a better sight of the young dwarf. Shirtless apart from the apron and gloves, his lean torso gleamed with sweat, and a little dirt, the dark lines of some tattoos pigmenting his arms. His face was yet somehow familiar-

‘Am I right in thinking you are Gloin, Groin’s son?’ asked Thorin. Although the young dwarf had a shorter, redder beard than the old Master, and a full head of hair, there was no mistaking the prominent, straight nose and swarthy black eyes that were unmistakeably Groin’s features. The dwarf’s mouth quirked in a smile.

‘Aye, that’s right.’

Gloin, son of Groin, turned away and the light from the forge fire caught several gold earrings in his ear, and one on his nose. Thorin narrowed his eyes sharply at this, wondering if it was in fact real or false gold, and if real, how a smither’s son managed to come by it. He said nothing however, and watched as the apprentice set the sword on a low table. Suddenly, a memory struck him.

‘I have seen you yet before,’ he said.

‘Aye,’ Gloin replied turning back to Thorin. ‘I was only a small child at the time. But I remember you...’ The memory of the Battle of Azanulbizar was shadowed his eyes, and he turned away to prepare tools. He took a cloth from a bundle at his side and spread it over one shoulder.

‘You must have been very young.’ Not even near his adolescence, thought Thorin.

'I was only a boy, ordered to stay well behind the lines to tend the wounded with my mother and give weapons to the men with my brother Oin. I didn't fight-' his voice faltered and his eyes darted downwards and away.

‘You’ve definitely grown-’ Thorin started, but chided himself for stating something so foolish. Luckily, Gloin seemed busy. Thorin cleared his throat. ‘My father requests only for Master Groin to fix the sword, for it is for his services he has specifically asked’.

Gloin turned sharply around, fixing Thorin with a dark stare.

‘You doubt my abilities, Lord?’ he said.

Thorin went silent, dumbstruck.

‘I… nay-‘

Gloin stepped up to the other. Even though Gloin was a bit shorter than Thorin, he had a presence, which his piercings and tattoos helped set.

‘I shall do it then’. He hitched the gold pouch from Thorin’s hand, and pocketed it. But before Thorin could get angry, Gloin's face then broke into an impish grin.

‘Trust me!’ he said, turning back to the workbench, ‘or have my head if it isn’t up to my father’s standard!’ Thorin raised his eyebrows, although he was slightly amused by the boldness of this young apprentice.

‘I shall trust you, or on your own head be it if you ruin my father’s sword,’ Thorin said. Gloin looked over his shoulder with a smile, and winked.

‘On my head, my Lord.’ He chuckled at Thorin’s expression; his eyes were still disbelieving. ‘You still doubt me?’

‘Of course, until I see the results.’

‘And such results they will be. Will that be all, Master Oakenshield?’

Thorin stood for a moment, watching the dwarf’s hands run over the metal and wood.

‘Aye, that’s all. I will return in a day or so.’

With that, he turned and wiping the sweat from his brow, made his way into the dim street outside.

Something about Gloin intrigued him. His appearance? His manner? He was certainly odd. Thorin rubbed his eyes- they stang from the heat of the forge- and made his way north to his halls in the mountain.