Ro crawled into the bed her parents shared and pushed her way between them. Her mum made room easily while her da groaned and promptly pulled her and her mum into his arms.
“Bad dream, mizimith?” Her da asked, rubbing his beard against her cheek.
“It was cold,” she whispered into the night air. “Mum and you weren’t moving.”
Her da pressed a kiss to her nose. “Your mum is always moving, even when she’s asleep. And I will only stop moving if your Uncle Dori decides he wants to try cooking again. Sleep, little one.”
Ro pressed her nose against her da’s shoulder and fell promptly asleep.
“Well you’re no fun anymore,” Kíli groaned as Fíli dragged him back to their lessons. “Come on, just play hooky for one day!”
“There’s an important meeting with the Iron Hills, we need to review etiquette and protocol.”
Kíli rolled his eyes. “As I said before, no fun.”
The boys froze and in an instant they were met with a hobbit lass frazzled and barreling towards them. Soon, Kíli found Ro climbing up him and then atop his head to which she somehow was able to get to Fíli’s shoulders since the blond prince was slightly taller.
“Ro, what did you—” Fíli began.
“No time!” She grabbed onto Fíli’s braids and yanked them forward, causing him to yelp. “We need to get to the library. Quick! Quick! Quick!”
The three arrived quickly to the library. Kíli helped Ro down from Fíli’s shoulders while the golden haired prince began to swear under his breath in Khuzdul. Oh, Kíli was definitely going to tell their amad about that.
“Okay, Ro,” the brunet prince asked, “why are we at the library?”
“Ori’s being bullied again and they only laugh when I tell them to stop.” Her lower lip stuck out in an adorable little pout and stomped her tiny hairy foot on the ground for effect.
“Well Fí, I think some of our princely duties are to help the meek. I say it’s a good excuse to skip lessons.”
They followed Ro into the library. Soon enough, they came upon a group of dwarrow, most of whom were in either Kíli or Fíli’s classes, surrounding a sitting and cowering Ori. Kíli sighed. One would think that a person with Dwalin as a brother-in-law would have at least a little more of a spine.
Before he could stop her, Ro stormed over to the older dwarrow and began telling them off. One of them laughed down at her and another pinched her ear and then pushed her down onto the floor.
Anger bloomer in Kíli’s chest. How dare they. Tears began to spill down Ro’s cheeks. That was his limit.
He barely had time to take a step forward before Fíli stormed over and grabbed the one that had pushed Ro down by the collar and lifted him up.
“Pr-Prince Fíli!” He squawked.
“These two are Durinfolk. One is the apprentice of the chief advisor and the other is the daughter of our head guard. You owe them the respect afforded them.” Fíli all but growled at the other dwarf.
Kíli could only stare for just a moment before he helped Ro up and wiped her tears away with his thumbs. She buried her face against his hip. Kíli shuddered slightly. The Lion Prince had come to play it seemed.
“Now, get out. Your parents will be hearing from Master Balin shortly.”
The group of dwarrow fled quickly.
“Are you alright Ori?” Fíli asked gently.
“I’m fine,” the scribe said before glancing at his niece. “I told you to go home, not to find the princes.”
“It wasn’t fair.” She stomped her foot again, her voice muffled by Kíli’s tunic.
Fíli pinched his nose and sighed. He crouched down so he was eye level with Ro. “Are you okay?”
Ro nodded. She was probably rubbing snot on his tunic, but Kíli could honestly care less. He began to stroke her curls gently, ruffling the braids only slightly. She lifted her arms and he picked her up carefully.
“I’ll take her home,” Kíli said. “You keep studying Ori. And you go ahead to the lessons, Fí, you’re the crown prince anyway. They won’t care how I behave.”
He shifted Ro to his hip and bid his brother and friend goodbye.
“You really okay, Ro?”
She nodded again and pressed her button nose into his neck. “Is Fíli mad at me?”
“But he looked angry.”
“He was angry at those other dwarrow.” Kíli laughed. “I doubt he could ever be angry at you. You’re too cute to be angry with.”
She pushed away from him and leaned back to give him an impressive scowl. “I am not cute.”
Kíli sniggered. “You’re adorable.”
Kíli just laughed the rest of the way to Dwalin’s residence.
Fíli shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He didn’t mind his duties as his uncle’s heir. Sometimes he just wished he didn’t have to do all these things now. He glanced out the window at the gentle warm rain. Ro was probably playing outside at that very moment. She did love playing in the rain—which was apparently very odd for a hobbit. Kíli was probably out there as well.
“Does the rain bother you, Prince Fíli?” Adrina asked from his left.
He shifted his attention back to the late lunch provided for the Iron Hills delegation. Adrina was the daughter of one of Dain’s advisors. She and her family were apparently moving to Ered Luin as permanent representatives to the mountain. She was pretty. But her hair was too blonde and her eyes too blue.
“Not at all,” he replied. He remembered once, just after Ro returned to the mountain it had rained in the middle of the night and Ro had gone outside to play and returned to Fíli’s bed covered in mud with a gigantic frog in her hand. He woke up to said frog jumping onto his face. Fíli smiled at the memory. “I quite like it, actually.”
Adrina smiled back. “I heard there was a non-dwarf living in the Durin apartments. Is that true? I heard it was an elf child.” She said the second to last word quietly as though it were a swear word.
“No, she isn’t an elf. She has pointed ears so I guess some people might believe that. She’s what you would call a hobbit. Her people live south of here in a place called the Shire. You’ll meet a few if you continue to live here. We trade with them often.”
“Are her parents here too?”
“Not technically. Her birth parents died when she was young. She’s the adopted daughter of Balin’s younger brother and his One.”
“Oh. Didn’t her people want her?”
“They did, but she couldn’t part with Dwalin and Nori. I wasn’t there but apparently she screamed and cried until they turned around and went back for her. Her grandfather, the leader of the hobbits, was very understanding.” Fíli honestly didn’t know what would have happened if he had never gotten to see Ro again. He had felt hollow in his chest when she had left.
“Your family is very kind to take care of her.” Adrina smiled at him again. Fíli noticed how she leaned more closely to him. “It must be so hard for her to be alone in a place she wasn’t made for.”
The prince stiffened. “She was made for the mountains. She’s as capable as any dam her age.” He snorted. “Probably more so because she likes keeping my brother in line.”
“Oh!” She giggled. “I have heard your brother enjoys skipping off the line. Are they close in age?”
He blinked, confused. “There’s ten years between them.”
“That isn’t so bad. Perhaps they shall be Ones.” She beamed at her own ingenuity. “It would be wise politically since she is the granddaughter of her people’s leader and he is a prince. Oh, it would be so romantic!”
Something twisted in Fíli’s stomach. Ones? Kíli and Ro? He… He supposed it made some sense. But why didn’t it sit right with him?
“I believe Ro only sees Kíli as a brother,” Fíli said quickly. Did she? What did his brother think of her? “She’s only a child after all. I doubt she even thinks of things like that right now.”
Adrina hummed for a moment. “It isn’t as though she’ll be a child forever.”
“Of course.” That didn’t sit well with Fíli either. He didn’t want to imagine Ro growing up. She could decide to live in the Shire some day. She was to train with them for three years at one point after all. What if she liked it better there? What if she finds a hobbit lad…? No. He wasn’t going to think of that now.
“I hope we can be great friends, Prince Fíli.” Adrina smiled at him again. She was too close. “Perhaps you could show me around?”
Fíli smiled on reflex, his mind still on Ro—a future where Ro wasn’t close or a future where she only smiled at Kíli. He honestly didn’t know which was worse. “Perhaps.”