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your Axe to my throat, my Knife to yours

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Nori thought he'd gotten away, darting around a corner at full speed, when a big hand like iron closed around his bicep. He was thrown roughly against the wall of the alley, knocking the air out of him. He had no time to think of fighting before he felt the kiss of a very sharp blade against his throat.

step one of brilliant escape plan: go still. go very very still
step two: open eyes to assess the idiot who's grabbed you
… oh fuck

Biggest Dwarf he'd ever seen, definitely. Bald head sporting tattoos, slightly graying beard, scar across his face, nose broken at least a few times, expression difficult to read. Not angry... disgusted? possibly bored? Enormous shoulders. Enormous biceps. Enormous forearms with more tattoos. Very nice knuckle-dusters, good craftsmanship, distressingly sturdy and used looking. Very sharp axe against throat, hard to see from this position, probably matched the one still on the Dwarf's back, though, very nice looking. A harness of leather straps across his chest to hook his axes to that only accentuated the breadth of his shoulders.

war veteran, definitely, possibly more than one war. the right age for Azanulbizar at the least
too strong to slip away from, too experienced to be tricked with a sob story, and not likely to trade a quick fuck for freedom...
but oh, isn't that a thought, holding on to those straps for dear life while he pounds into you with all that strength...
NO!
bad idea
see: knuckle-dusters, axe, unhappy facial expression
do not attempt!
remain still for now

The giant leaned in close. His voice was a low, rough rumble that Nori could feel all the way into his bones.

“Reach into your sleeve, very slowly, and take out the quill.”

Do.
Not.
Moan.
ignore the heat of his body, ignore the wild animal scent of him
just do what he says

Nori obeyed, slowly. It was a beautiful quill, long and delicate, bright orange and iridescent green – he had no idea what sort of bird it might have come from. He just thought Ori would like it, and he hadn't come to see his baby brother for so long.

he has to let go of you to take the quill
he'll feel it if you tense up, stay relaxed
be ready
in three...
two...
...seriously?

The giant shifted his grip on the axe, pressing it just slightly deeper into Nori's neck while the handle rested against the stone wall behind him. He couldn't move away toward the handle, and if he moved the opposite direction he'd slit his own throat.

The giant let go of Nori's bicep and took the quill. He tucked it into his jacket and took out a short length of thick cordage.

“Turn around, slowly, hands behind your back.”

sweet Mahal that voice...
Do. NOT. Moan!
just do as he says.
maybe smile, that'll disarm him a little, a nice little 'that's a good guardsman please not the knuckle-dusters to the face' smile
no, no that is the wrong smile
No

Nori could feel his face spreading into the shark smile, the 'I've got you where I want you' smile, the 'I win' smile. It was not the sort of smile to disarm anyone. The giant tensed. The axe pressed deeper against Nori's throat as he growled and glancing around behind himself. Of course, with that smile, he assumed Nori was being rescued.

No such luck, unfortunately.

Nori pressed himself tighter against the wall, breathing shallowly. The pressure of the axe blade on his throat was getting more than a little uncomfortable, but still he couldn't help notice the giant's ear.

Orc bite on that ear, I'll wager... and he got it pierced anyway
nice looking earring, solid craftsmanship
bet he'd like it if you wrapped your teeth around it and tugged just a little bit while he bent you in half and...
NO!
axe, knuckle-dusters, suspicious expression
stay still

The giant was definitely not pleased now.

“Turn around and hands behind your back,” he growled, glowering down on Nori. Nori could tell he was definitely on the road toward a face/knuckle-dusters encounter but he couldn't. The axe was too sharp and pressed too tight and he really couldn't move without opening his neck right up.

He glanced up at the giant, and then at the axe, and then back up. The giant was tensing further, not understanding. This was very very bad.

“axe,” Nori whispered, and even that tiny motion was enough to start to split the skin. He didn't even dare wince for fear the motion would make things worse.

There were several terrifying seconds before the giant understood. His heavy-browed blue eyes widened as they dropped to the axe. Unfortunately, he did not jump back the way a less experienced guardsman might. He slowly eased the axe off of Nori's neck, took a firm grip on Nori's bicep, and turned him around, pressing him to the wall with an elbow.

so close to perfect
imagine those big hands on your hips, fingers digging in hard enough to bruise
bet he fucks like an animal, all sweat and fire and muscle with his teeth in your neck...
stop
just... stop

Nori obediently put his hands behind his back, and the giant tied his wrists expertly. He growled when Nori tried to hold his hands in a way that would give him slack. It was strong cordage, thick, and unless Nori was mistaken... yes, definitely had metal chain in the middle so it couldn't be cut. The giant had tied him very well. Not unnecessarily uncomfortable, but with no slack to work with and no way for Nori to reach the strings.

The giant gave him a brief frisking, taking the most obvious of his weapons.

ooooh those hands...
no
do not whimper
do not moan
shuddering also not allowed

and then took a bruising grip on his elbow and towed him to the jail. It was a very routine sort of arrest. Nori was searched. More of his weapons, and almost all of the other stuff he'd nicked at market, was located and taken away. Then the giant had the privilege of tossing him into a solitary cell.

Nori rolled, of course, as soon as he hit the straw-covered stone floor. He bounced back up on his feet before the door even clanged closed behind him, but he didn't rush the door. He watched while the giant locked it, getting a very helpful glimpse of the shape of the key.

time to be friendly... now you're in and he's out, everyone knows where everyone stands
makes life a bit easier if everyone's civil about the whole thing
start with a smile, a nice 'thanks for not giving me the knuckle-dusters to the face' smile
not that smile!
no, stop it!

Nori could feel the shark smile on his face again, as he casually leaned against a wall. The giant snorted and walked away, and Nori watched him go. He looked just as good from the back as he did from the front.

“Who was that?” Nori finally asked the Dwarf in the cell across from him.

“The old wolverine?” she asked, laughing. She was working on something, knitting... was a bit incongruous, knitting in a jail cell. “Roughed you up, did he?” she indicated her neck with a twitch of her thumb. Nori reached up to his own neck, touching the still damp blood from the thankfully small cut.

“No more than he had to,” Nori admitted. She chuckled, shaking her head at him.

“That's Dwalin, and you'd best not be thinking of revenge. Good sort, the most honest guardsman you'll ever meet, but he'll not hesitate to kill you.”

Nori nodded his thanks to the knitting Dwarf and explored his new domain. It was not such a bad jail. There was clean straw on the floors, the chamber pot was clean. There was even a pallet to sleep on, with a threadbare blanket folded neatly at the foot. Everything well worn, but clean. Compared to some places he'd stayed, this was almost homey.

“Feed us regular?” he asked.

“Twice a day,” his neighbor answered with a smile. “Simple fare but it fills you up.”

Nori settled in to wait.


Two nights later Nori climbed in the second story window Ori always kept unlocked for him. He paused once inside to let his eyes adjust to the increased darkness. It had been pitifully easy to escape the jail, once he knew the schedules of the guards.

Amazing, the things you could hide in your hair if you had enough of it, and Nori had lots of hair. It was almost surprising that nobody had picked up on that, yet. Did they think he kept this hairstyle because it was practical ?

His eyes adjusted, and he crept onward through the house.

“Nori?” Ori's voice carried out of his room, and Nori smiled.

“No, it's a burglar,” he answered.

Ori peeked out his bedroom door with a grin, and threw himself on his big brother. Nori steadied the lamp in his baby brother's hand so it didn't spill or light anything on fire.

“Careful... careful...” he murmured.

“Where have you been?” Ori's eyes gleamed as he lead Nori into his bedroom. “I want to hear everything!”

“I can't stay long,” Nori warned. “I have to get out of town, but I brought you this.” He pulled a new quill out of his sleeve. It was not as flashy as the first he'd stolen, but the best he could do on such short notice.

Ori took it reverently. “Oooh... Dori'll have a fit when he sees me with this," he purred. Nori laughed and kissed the top of his baby brother's head.

when did he get so tall?


Dwalin was the guardsman on duty in the morning. He ambled through the small jail for his morning rounds, checking that everything was as it should be. Nothing much had changed in the night, most of the prisoners were still sleeping. The cell he'd put that damn cocky star-headed thief in was empty.

Locked, though.

And the blanket was folded.

Dwalin finished his rounds and went to the front. He checked where the thief's belongings, the ones that weren't stolen, or at least not stolen in this town, had been kept. There were no belongings, so that must mean he'd been let out.

Dwalin had certainly not heard that the thief was being let out. He should have heard about it, unless the thief had some very important family connections who wanted it kept quiet, and Dwalin was pretty sure he would have known about those. The thief wasn't from any noble house he knew.

The last of the night guards were getting ready to go home, Dwalin approached the one most likely to know.

“Where did the thief go?” Dwalin asked. There was no point in being circumspect, no matter what Balin always tried to say.

The other guard looked confused, and Dwalin's stomach began to drop.

“The big-haired thief I brought in a few days ago is not in his cell. His things are gone. Where did he go!” Dwalin was aware that his volume had risen and all the guards in the room were staring at him.

Then there was pandemonium.

He was among the first to arrive back at the cell as the entire jail was being searched. Night staff guards and other criminals were being interrogated, but nobody had seen anything.

Dwalin opened the cell door and walked in. He waved everyone else back, searching the cell for any clues to how how the thief could have escaped.

The bars were all solid, of course they were solid they were Dwarf make. The lock worked perfectly, Dwarf make again, and there really was no way out. Yet the thief was not in the cell.

Dwalin sat down heavily on the pallet, utterly stumped.

how? how would I get out of jail?
one: don't steal anything
two: knock out whoever tries to put me in jail
three: if already in jail, knock someone out and steal the keys
four: get word to Balin to make it go away
five: pick the lock? with what? I searched the damn thief myself! he had nothing!
six: charm someone into letting me out? no. I know all the guards. nobody's that dense.
HOW!

Dwalin punched the bed beside him in frustration, and then paused. It was not something you would see unless you were sitting on the bed, but there was something peeking out from between the folds of the blanket. He gently picked it up with two big fingers.

A flower?

A miniscule flower knotted around a piece of straw in gray-green thread that looked exactly like...
Dwalin looked down at himself in shock. It looked and felt exactly like someone had pulled a single thread out of the weave of his tunic, but that really couldn't be. The thread must have come from somewhere else.

Still... Dwalin tucked the flower into an inner pocket of his clothes and determined to forget about it. Forget about it and the damn inexplicable thief and just go on with his day.


Dwalin pushed his way into Oin's shop, glowering at what few customers were there so ferociously that they cleared out. He pulled the flower out of his pocket and slammed it down in front of the shopkeeper, healer, and old-fashioned fusspot who knew more about knot language than anyone else Dwalin knew.

“What's it say?” he demanded.

Oin peered at it for a moment, eyebrows raised. He took out a jewelers glass and lifted it to his eyes, humming happily.

“Oh... work of a master, this... lovely, lovely...” he murmured, turning it over and over. “Such detail, extraordinary!”

“What's it say?” Dwalin had no patience.

Oin gave him an exasperated look, “Nothing, Master Dwalin. It says nothing, which is truly extraordinary. It takes a true master to string the knots in such a way that there is no meaning, even a garbled unintentional one.”

“He's laughing at me, damn him,” Dwalin growled. He shoved the flower back into his pocket and stalked back out of the shop.

He meant to throw the flower away.

He didn't.

It stayed in his pocket until his clothes needed washing, and then somehow ended up in the pocket of the clothes he changed into.

it's to make me remember to be angry, that's why I keep it
to stay angry and alert for that cocky thief who isn't even afraid, who smiles up at me when my axe is cutting into his throat, who disappears into thin air the instant I turn my back