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Stowaway

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I had never encountered dwarves before; I was walking by the river bank when I saw a group of them talking to Bard, Him I knew. They looked so strange, shorter than most humans, with a strange assortment of beards; I had to get a closer look. I watched Bard barter with them in a harsh manner before he offered them passage for a fee. I did need to return to the village no doubt my absence would become noted should I remain here any longer but I loved to venture out, I had snuck upon Bards boat many times some without his knowledge. There was no way of remaining unseen this time so I had to make myself known before they disappeared with my chance to return home.

"Bard wait, I need to get back"

I saw the light of recognition in his eyes, he sighed heavily, shaking his head “What pray tell are you doing out here Serena?”

“I was hoping to see the elves, I have never seen them before, I hear they are beautiful to behold and I….”

“I don’t have time for your musings, I would ask how you got here but I know, you owe me for all the times you haven't asked and stowed away, you thought me blind"

I felt my cheeks burn with embarrassment; I guess I wasn't as stealthy as I thought.

One of the dwarves from earlier spoke up, it was clear he was the oldest member of the group, as I surveyed their group once more. "allow the child to return home, have heart"

After much protest he allowed me to board, I felt curious of these dwarves so I skulked in the back ground as they organised themselves, I had felt a mild annoyance being referred to as a child. I was no such thing, I was a grown woman but I couldn't complain as it had gotten me safe passage home.
I watched their group curiously as they talked in hushed whispers, I did hear them saying they didn't trust Bard. I was eyeing the younger dwarf as he didn't look much like the majority of the party, he was taller and his skin looked soft, he only had stubble were the rest had full beards, he caught me staring and smiled sweetly, again I felt the burn of embarrassment in my cheeks.

The man I assumed in charge, the tallest of the dwarves, turned to me suddenly "Do you always sneak around trying to listen in to private conversations"

My face was on fire, caught out again, this was more than embarrassing now. I mumbled my response "no, I am sorry, I haven't met dwarves before I was curious of your kind, and at times my curiosity over runs my manners"

I thought he was going to scold me again but he did not, he just looked at me coldly. The youngest looking dwarf smiled broadly and began talking in an excited manner "well then you are in luck, this is the great expedition of Thorin, a strong group of fighters and one hobbit"

"Hobbit?"

He pointed to a very small quiet member of their group, I felt strange being one of the tallest among this group, I was used to being the shortest, this hobbit looked almost human but smaller and with bigger feet, I regarded him for a moment before turning back to The youngest dwarf.

"So may I ask you any questions or are all things secret?"

"Ask..."

The man in charge cut him short "We don't reveal secrets to humans"

He scowled looking me up and down, then coldly staring to me once more.

I felt a hand squeeze my shoulder it was Bard "I think you should allow my paying passengers their peace Serena"

I reluctantly followed Bard to sit beside him. I looked to him and smiled. "I am sorry for stowing away but my curiosity as you can see gets the best of me, I want to see beyond my town and my race, I want to meet others, see beautiful places, I so wanted to meet the elves"

He raised his eyes in mock disapproval as a smile crossed his lips, up to his eyes. "Yes you have always been a pain Serena"

"Bard you are so complimentary"

"Only to stowaways"

I was about to get defensive until I looked up at him to see he was teasing me as he was wryly smiling.

"You look very handsome when you smile you should try it more often". I do not know what possessed me to say it; my hand flew up to my mouth too late.

His face was ruddy and his gaze became evasive. "Are you not able to take compliments Bard, you look very embarrassed, it's quite amusing"

I giggled to myself. He went to scold my boldness but all he managed was a stern look. "You look adorable attempting anger" I was getting carried away but I was so enjoying his embarrassment, I knew I was over stepping but I felt wicked, and I was enjoying it.

"Do you always talk so plainly?"

"Yes I find being forthright has its benefits"

"Hmmm I am not sure I agree with you, should a young lady not be more reserved in her affection"

"Maybe in your time but things are changing, I am hoping to become a warrior"

Bard scoffed at my idealistic dream, I found myself growing agitated by his dismissive nature toward my hopes. I fixed him with a cold stare.

"A female warrior isn't what amuses, you a slip of a girl there is nothing of you, you would be overcome in seconds"

"Do not underestimate me Bard"

"Do you care to give me a demonstration of these skills?"

I felt put in the spot as the dwarves had hushed and turned to us. Bard smiling like a Cheshire Cat. I had to wipe that grin of his face, I had to prove him wrong. Hand to hand combat though I didn't stand a chance. "Who would steer the boat?"

"One of our capable dwarves can manage for a moment, they would be glad of the entertainment"

"Yes I am sure they want to see you get your ass kicked"

I crossed my arms defiantly. Bard smiled. I readied myself, in a fighting stance, Bard swung a fist lightly, I blocked it swiftly and countered with more power than Bard expected, he stumbled back. The dwarves let out a cheer. Bard didn't hold back this time, he swung fast and hard, I took the sting out of the blow with my elbow, but I felt the pain in my defending arm, I ducked avoiding his quick succession of counters, I swept my foot round, knocking him down. Another cheer came From the dwarf company.
I took a bow before feeling a tinge of guilt for hurting and embarrassing Bard. I rushed over to help him up, he pulled me down upon him and in a swift motion pinned me to deck. With all my strength I barely budged his hands. "See, over powered"

"I had you floored twice so don't discount my fighting skill just because you can overpower me, I wouldn't let a foe this close"

He smiled drawing closer, his lips grazing my ear as he whispered softly "So you let me get this close"

I was feeling nervous and strange, and now his weight pressed upon me was giving me confusing thoughts and feelings. I wanted him but I was aware we had an audience "point taken can I have my wrists back"

"Sorry"

He let go and I shuffled myself away, circling my wrists gingerly, I couldn't bring myself to make eye contact. Bard returned to steering the boat, the dwarves seemed disappointed, I sat in silence for a time, trying to gather my thoughts, a dwarf offered me a hand I couldn't bring myself to look up, then look down once I was standing.

"Are you ok?"

"Yes thank you"

I finally looked into his eyes, sweet and gentle looking dwarf, his smile was light and contagious.

"I have not met many humans, and a human woman, you fight well and you look so fair"

"Thank you"

I blushed under his scrutiny, bard commented "master dwarf should you be conversing with your party"

"I can speak to who I choose"

I had no idea what was going on, I felt a tense atmosphere forming "Bard he is not bothering me, I am happy to speak to him"

He grumbled and returned to silence.

"What was that about?"

He whispered. "I have no idea, what is your name?"

"Kili, and yours?"

“Serena”

“I like that name, it suits you, feminine but a warrior name”

“You think so?”

“Yes very much”

He was so sweet, kind and full of enthusiasm, not what I had expected, he was a delight to be around, and his smile was contagious, I found myself smiling, with no clue as to why.

“So where are you travelling to?”

“we seek to reclaim our home”

Before I got to say anything a booming voice cut me short "Kili do not tell the human of our mission it is not knowledge she requires"

My eyes widened as he walked over.

“I will not have dwarven secrets passed on by a young dwarfs wondering eye"

"He has told me nothing, nor have I asked"

He turned to me as close as he could get to my face, still managing to be very intimidating, he narrowed his eyes, trying to figure me out but he didn't appear successful.

Bard chipped in “Back away mater dwarf or you can get off my boat right here and swim”

He grumbled before walking away, I took a deep breath retreating to Bards side. “Do you have this effect on all men”

“Ha ha ha Bard you are so funny but thank you I admit I was a bit intimidated for a moment”

“Great warrior you will make”

“Oh please you are telling me warriors don’t feel fear?, well if that’s the case they aren't human”

“True enough however you may want to watch using that term around other races, the comparison may offend”

I must confess I had never thought about that but Bard had a point, what could we say in place I pondered. Before we approached the town the dwarves had to be hidden in barrels, I quite enjoyed helping Bard tip fish on the leaders head, he was the only one I didn't apologize to, when it came to Kili I apologized profusely. He just smiled up at me and told me that I needed apologize, I found myself smiling again.

Bard returned to steering the boat, I followed “You seem to like the young Dwarf”

“Yes he is very sweet in nature, not what I expected”

“Aww how sweet you have a crush” Bard teased.

“Yes I do but you have the wrong person”

He looked confused for a moment, narrowing his eyes, again I am unsure where I found this mystical confidence because I have none, I kissed bard on the cheek quickly. I expected him to be horrified, angry but he looked neither. Shockingly he pulled me close, brushing his fingers over my cheek into my hair, kissing me softly on the lips. A loud dragging sound pulled us out of our fantasy, Bard steered the boat out of danger before looking to me smiling bashfully “Look at what your distraction has done to my boat, you will have to pay for this” He winked.
I felt my heart flutter, I wonder how he planned to make me pay, I shivered at the thought as my mind wondered to all the delightful possibilities.