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On Omelettes

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"I'm telling you," Bombur was saying earnestly to Ori, sitting to one side of the campfire with the scribe apparently hanging off his every word. "If it's bludgeoning you want, there's nothing beats a good weight of a frying pan. A good, cast iron skillet with an arm behind it will stave an orc's skull in no problem."

Across the fire from them, Dwalin snorted. "Aye," he agreed, with some amusement. "Or the lad could go and get himself an actual weapon. Like a hammer, since he didn't prove too bad with mine. Or failing that, at least a good pickaxe like your brother's, or a rockcrusher like his brother's." He chuckled grimly. "No need to be messing up the cookpots, aye?"

Bombur glared, shifting a little as his spine stiffened in affront, and for a second Ori, caught in the middle, looked between them in alarm, his brothers stirring warily in their turn. Then an unexpected voice piped up, sleepy and thoughtful, and the dwarves turned as one to look at Bilbo, perched next to the fire and smiling slightly in Bombur's direction.

"Oh, I don't know," he said, with an odd little twinkle in his eye. "I think Bombur's got the right of it. After all, you can't cook breakfast in a hammer the morning after killing someone, can you? Seems an awful waste of space to have to carry two things when a frying pan will do both jobs just as well." He paused, and noted idly: "Though naturally you'd have to wash it properly in between. You don't want blood in your omelettes. Or not orc's blood, at least. Nasty stuff. Doesn't taste at all right."

There was a small pause, as several questions presented themselves to several people, and they took a minute to decide which ones they wanted to risk asking. After a minute, though, Ori took both his courage and his curiosity in hand, and asked:

"Er. What sort of blood does taste right, then?"

Bilbo grinned, his teeth bright and white around a borrowed pipe-stem, and several dwarves abruptly remembered a certain conversation between a hobbit and some trolls, and for the first time thought to wonder why a stressed Bilbo should have sounded so very knowledgeable about the correct way to cook recalcitrant dwarves.

"Ah, well," the hobbit murmured cheerfully. "I'm not a connoisseur, you understand, but I remember when I was a young lad, my aunt Mirabella used to make us wolfsblood omelettes for second breakfast in the big, sixteen-mouth skillet. They didn't have real wolfsblood in, of course, not fresh, but she used to say that you could still taste the stuff off the iron." He smiled distantly. "She'd killed two white wolves with it, you see. During the Fell Winter? Stove their skulls in, just like Bombur says. Said she never could get the stains out properly, so there was always just a taste of the blood in the eggs. We loved it, of course. I suppose you're always a little bloodthirsty when you're a wee thing."

He looked up, to find a ring of expressions around him ranging from enthralled to appalled, while Bombur, Dori and, bizarrely, Balin were simply nodding sagely along. Dwalin side-eyed his brother with a half alarmed expression, as if he didn't quite dare to ask, before the warrior dwarf turned back to Bilbo.

"She ... sounds like a quite the lass," he noted, with a weird half-gleam in his eyes that had Bilbo squinting suspiciously at him for a moment. But he nodded cheerfully enough after a minute, grinning with familial pride.

"She is," he agreed. "There's going to be a right war over who inherits that skillet, when the time comes. It's a bit banged up, of course. There's still a dent in the bottom from the wolf's skull. It used to gather up the eggs a treat, that dent. And it's ragged around the rim where the old handle snapped off. Left it buried the third wolf's throat, according to my uncle. He had it replaced for her, proper dwarven work and everything. She used to ... she used to tell my mother that there's no point having a husband if he can't even put a handle on your frying pan for you." He paused, frowning slightly. "I'm not sure if that means what I used to think it meant, now that I think about it ..."

There was a choked splutter from across the fire, and several of the younger dwarves stared in startled alarm as Glóin and Balin came down with sudden coughing fits, pressing their knuckles into their beards, and Óin simply forewent subtlety altogether and cackled outright. Dori pressed his lips together against his smile, while a look of vague horror slowly dawned on Thorin's face, and everyone else looked frankly confused.

Except for Bilbo, and Bombur, and Dwalin, who had other matters on their minds. Grinning at each other in the firelight, simultaneous mischief and the genuine appreciation of true craftsmen in their respective fields, they shared a moment of complete understanding with each other.

"Now that," said Bombur with all due reverence, as he patted lightly at the handle of his own frying pan and nodded appreciatively at Bilbo, "that would be an ancestral weapon."

And for all his earlier skepticism, Dwalin nodded a fervent, cheerful agreement.

"Aye," he said. "Aye, it would at that."