“And what craft do you practice, my good dwarf?” Dwalin rumbled, hardly looking up from his list. Their makeshift table was scattered with paper. Dwarves had been visiting the inn all day to put their names down; already there were more than two hundred for the journey back to Erebor.
“I –” Enna flashed Bofur a helpless look.
Bofur, standing behind Dwalin, dropped a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I can vouch for him,” he said.
Dwalin frowned up at him, then at Enna – but acquiesced. “Very well, Mister Enna. Any family?”
Enna looked relieved. “A brother, Onna. Still a lad.”
“Pony or wagon?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“We won’t have many chances to restock, so be sure to bring supplies for a six-week journey. A wagon is best if you can come by one.”
When Enna had gone, Dwalin raised an eyebrow at Bofur, asking for an explanation.
“He’s a good dwarf,” Bofur said. “He works the upstairs at Alís’s tavern.” When Dwalin still looked blank, Bofur coughed and said, “Er, he provides services of a… discreet nature.”
“Oh!” said Dwalin. “He’s a whore then?”
Bofur paused, blinking at him.
“I made use of one once, if you’ll remember,” Dwalin grumbled. “I know it’s not just humans who do such things.” He scratched out a note on the manifest. “Dori will be pleased.”
Dwalin tilted his head at Bofur thoughtfully. “Sometimes I forget you weren’t born in Erebor,” he grunted.
Bofur waited patiently.
“Before Erebor fell, Dori was a courtesan for the royal court.”
Bofur stared at him. “Dori?”
“He was considered quite handsome in his youth,” Dwalin said, shrugging. “Still is, to some.”
“Dori?!” Bofur sputtered.
Dwalin grinned. “You do not agree?”
“I – he’s lovely, of course he is – I just can’t imagine –” Bofur paused. “You said he’d be pleased,” he said suspiciously.
“Yes. He keeps getting propositions and turning them down, and I heard him say to Nori that he wished some of the dwarves who came back to Erebor were interested in that line of work.”
“Well bless my beard,” Bofur said, shaking his head in amazement. “I’d never have guessed.” But he furrowed his brow, finally putting some things together in his head, and he turned wide eyes on Dwalin. “King Dain?!” he demanded.
Dwalin looked surprised, but then his eyes twinkled. “Of course, I can neither confirm nor deny who the King takes to his bed. But I can tell you he doesn’t share those that he does.”
“By Mahal!” Bofur murmured. Dori…
“I think Dori’s quite pleased with the arrangement, actually,” said Dwalin. “Of course, Dain will have to marry soon and that will put an end to it.”
“But Dori – he’s so proper – so fussy –”
Dwalin shrugged. “Maybe the King likes to be fussed over. In any case, Dori will be glad to have somewhere to send his unwanted suitors.”
“Uh, I don’t think Enna is quite what you might call a courtesan,” Bofur warned. “He’s, er, served a very different class of people here in Ered Luin.”
“If he’d like to move up in the world, the position is open. He’s pretty enough, isn’t he?”
Bofur raised an eyebrow. “You’re a better judge of what the upper classes think is pretty,” he teased.
“You think him pretty,” Dwalin said gently, and Bofur blushed. Trust Dwalin to notice that he hadn’t returned to the inn last night, and to go looking for him.
“I think he reminds me of Bombur,” said Bofur. When Dwalin blanched, he chuckled and added, “And I didn’t take him to bed, so you needn’t look so appalled.”
Dwalin gave him a smile that was pure sunshine, leaving Bofur reeling a bit.
He thought of declaring then – of dragging Dwalin somewhere private and asking permission to kiss him senseless – but another family of dwarves was approaching their table, and within two days they’d be on the road. Dwalin deserved a proper courtship, not one conducted in snatched moments between duties to the caravan.
And, well, if Dwalin refused… Bofur would rather be home and have a place to hide and nurse his wounds.