The change in temperature is what woke me at first. My personal dwarf oven had left and when he did he let in a gust of cold mountain air. No matter how many days we’ve already been in the mountain, I don’t think that I am ever going to get used to the mix of cold and moist air being blown in from the broken gates and doors.
“Where you goin’ Fee?” I mumble from my pillows with my hair in a nest around my head and am rewarded with the feeling of his facial hair gliding across my face and the small pecks of kisses trailing from his warm lips. I hear him give a little sigh as he sits back on the soft bed next to me. His kisses create a path to my lips where I gladly accept them on my own in my hazy, sleepy state. This is easily one of my favorite parts of the morning. These soft and warm kisses are placed all over my body to make me shiver and wish for him to come back to bed (and he sometimes does). His hands brush my shoulders as they drag the blanket down slowly revealing the cotton nightdress to his wandering eyes.
“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on,” he whispers lovingly, dragging his hands along my waist, bunching my nightgown around my hips. I feel my heart start to beat faster and faster while sleep still weights on my eyelids. I grab his hands, eyes still closed, and give a little groan while pushing his hands back down.
“I’m also a very tired woman,” I grunt with a stern expression. His chuckles tell me I’ve hit my mark. “I didn’t know there were meetings this early,” I change the topic on him. Now it’s his turn to grunt.
“I have to meet the first group of restorers for the mines and then I will see you later, and if not I will see you tonight,” he whispers tiredly, resting his head on the center of my chest. The pressure is firm but it’s nice and comforting knowing that he’d rather stay with me in bed than go to all of these meetings and events. I gently and tiredly comb through his sandy blonde locks being mindful of the braids so he doesn’t have to re-do them.
“You better,” I mumble a little on the threatening side. I give him a nod in ascent to his almost promise and give his arm a little squeeze before tugging the covers back up to my chin as the door quietly closes behind him. I drift in and out of a warm sleep, fitfully tossing and turning under the sheets.
In the back of my mind, I feel the blankets twisting around my legs, holding me in place, pinning me against the bed and pinning me to myself. The heat is growing around me as red saturates my eyes like a flash from a camera and I look down quickly to find my legs covered in deep red blood being held in deep by muck. My hands lurch out from the mud to claw at my legs and the dirt around me, but the mud is too deep, too thick, to uncover my legs. Nausea builds in my stomach as I lean forward to climb when the sudden sound of whooshing air next to my ear sends me falling backward, like getting hit all over again and being thrown against Kili’s hard chest. The double feeling of lying on my back and the strong chest startles me up in bed clutching the furs tightly and kicking the covers frantically to get my legs free from their restraining fibers. My grip is so tight that my knuckles turn white and start to ache while my breathing begins to even out slowly.
“Oh my god,” I pant with my hand now to my chest feeling my racing heartbeat. “I’m fine—I’m fine,” I repeat over and over as the sound of the whoosh also repeats itself faintly in my ears. I rub the spot right under my heart and feel the dull ache of the arrow still piercing me. Once my breath completely settles, I drop the covers on my lap and let my muscles relax before commanding them to contract again. ‘Time to get up for the day’ I think with a small sigh.
My heart is heavy from the lack of sleep and my stomach feels as if it’s turning sour in my body from the bitter after-effects of adrenaline and the horrible dreams that have been more common as of late, stealing me away in my dreams to shove me back into the battle. ‘As if I need a re-run of that mess’ I chirp cynically. The nightmares had never bothered me before but they are becoming a nightly occurrence ranging from dreams with Fili dying in front of my eyes or me being in the middle of the battle not being able to run fast enough to get away from the guts and muck. ‘Do I tell Fili?’ I wonder with a pinched brow, ‘I’ll tell him about it later’ I tell myself tiredly as I shove my brooding thoughts away.
The dwarves from the Iron Hills have been pouring in the mountain ever since the true winter had come leaving me surrounded by burly, short, and sometimes angry dwarrow as they apparently prefer being called. The weather is another challenge of its own with some flurries occur during the day while the night brings sub-zero temperatures and storms with white lightning in part with the heavy snow. ‘Fili wasn’t joking when he had said feet of snow’ I think in shock with a shiver that shakes my whole body and makes my hairs stand on edge.
I climb out of the warm bed to tread on the cold stone, slip on all of my layers today just like I have for the past week or so. The pants that Fili had found me earlier in the season were swapped for leather pants found in the guest quarters for humans while the sharing of tunics with Fili was abandoned due to climate, leaving me with finding my own tunic with fur sewn on the inside to keep me warm while walking the mountain halls.
The great dining hall is a hum of life even this early in the morning, or at least I think it’s morning. Living in the mountain is one of the more challenging experiences that I've been in before without the real ability to tell time naturally. Everyone else didn’t seem to have a problem with it as though they have some sort of magical internal clock that can feel the sun through the mountain. In a way, it reminds me of the great hall in Hogwarts but without windows.
The long chamber has a head table for the royal family while there are rows upon rows of long tables for everyone else. The dwarves are constantly bustling, rebuilding, training, or finding some possible way to get an audience with the king or princes. I’m usually left to my own devices during the day since Fili is always stuck in meetings and I don’t know enough so I’m stuck on “learning duty” with Clara, but for now I have to worry about breakfast.
The kitchens are almost as hot as the forges I saw a few weeks ago as I pry the doors open looking for Bombur, now the leader of the kitchen, to grab a bite of food and then head down to the library. There is a mixture of steam and flour dust in the air from the constant baking of bread, but in all of the chaos, there’s a system. There are different stations for the preparation of certain foods like meat, bread, and vegetables. ‘At least they don’t use the same knife for everything’ I think to myself gratefully.
I stand to the side of the kitchen, skirting around the edges to avoid being in the way but is still bumped and nudged around by muscular dwarrow while they swear and curse the “beardless blonde” in khuzdul. I open my mouth to retort but the dwarf is already gone among the sea of them here. The insults that they mutter do hurt me but I try not to let it show as I spot Bombur, with relief, over a large pot stirring with a ladle so large I most likely couldn’t lift it myself.
He spots me weaving my way through the kitchen and beams a large and friendly smile toward me. “Good morning Lena! On your way to the library as usual?” he asks lightly with a chuckle. The men working next to him suddenly seem very interested in their own work instead of cursing me or sending me dirty looks for interrupting their cooking.
“Yeah, I’m going to read some more, learn some more, you know how it is,” I trail off with my own smile. “There’s a lot to learn and my brain is only so large,” I force a laugh even though I really hate all of the reading but I know it’s necessary. Bombur joins my chuckle before handing me a bowl of porridge with honey over the top and I accept it with another smile and a nod in thanks. “Thank you Bombur. I’ll let you get back to it so I don’t distract you any longer.” He gives me a grateful nod and turns back to his pot with powerful circles of his arms and the iron ladle.
The walk to the library is not too long but the view is much different than anywhere else. The doors to the library are from almost floor to the ceiling with large iron bolts holding the ancient planks together and are an intimidating sight to book lovers everywhere. I lean all of my weight on the door allowing it to swing open with more ease than the day before and take in the sight before me; Clara wearing comfy clothes sitting in one of the chairs with a pile of books surrounding her and another mountain of books a little further away. Every table, isle, and section are all surrounded by the easily fifteen-foot tall bookshelves covered with large leather books. It’s as if we’re sitting in a great valley of mountains made of books.
“There you are!” she calls from her nest of books, looking up with her own tired smile.
“It looks like you started without me,” I comment with a breath of a smile. I don’t have to worry about putting an exaggerated smile on after every one of my sentences with Clara, which I’m very happy for. There’s no need that I have to pretend I like waking up at dawn or reading ancient khuzdul laws that hurt my head and history for hours on end before moving to another subject to start the process all over again. It’s nice to not worry about saving face with someone at least. I even have to do it with Fili sometimes to not worry him and to not feel like I’m distracting him from his own duties.
“I asked Thorin last night what we should read about next and he suggested laws,” she utters with a reluctant groan. “I know, I know! I wanted to get here early and pick out the so called easy books and scrolls that Balin suggested too.” Her tone has a bit of annoyance to it and I raise my eyebrows questioningly at her tone, and she flops her arms in response. “It’s not that I don’t appreciate the help from them but this isn’t my forte! I work with animals not with books and constant reading and cramming of information.”
She looks around the room conspiratorially before looking back at me with her eyebrows raised and her eyes wide. “They follow Thorin everywhere. I mean everywhere! Dwalin and Balin are with him like every step that he takes and every meeting and sometimes even lunch with me. It’s me and my lover as well as his guard and advisor!” she whispers tersely and I scoff playfully back.
“I can understand that. I don’t think any of them are going to slow down until Erebor is running perfectly again the way they remember it,” I suggest. “I wonder what they really remember or if it will take another hundred years to get it going like they remember. At that point we’ll be dead and it will probably still smell like dragon.” The air has a certain scent to it of hot metal, dust, and the undeniable smell of an animal in one place for too long.
“What do you want to read about first? Jail sentencing, or execution and exile crimes?” Clara offers with a tight-lipped expression and a book in each hand.
“I’ll take execution and exile for five-hundred if you would,” I retort and she smirks. The runes on the inside of the dusty old book make my head hurt almost as soon as I open it, making me grimace. It’s like the letters go in through my eyes with icepicks, take a few sections to get translated, and then turn into words that finally make sense. It’s almost as if my brain vehemently doesn’t want to read in runes and characters. Besides all of the runes, the fact that it’s really a law book (a very old law book too) and not something like a storybook makes it even tougher to read. It’s like trying to read a textbook all day and retain everything because you might have to fall back on it in the future.
“So get this,” I start after reading for a bit, “that for execution there’s a real executioner.” I’m stunned a bit at this revelation as if I never expected that would be someone’s job. Back home it’s like living in prison but here they just chop your head off or send you away.
“Wait, Thorin or whoever the king is wouldn’t do it? Really?” She sounds shocked and I take the time to read over it once more before nodding my head to confirm what I said before.
“Yeah like the whole black hood, big ax, and everything. Well I mean maybe not an actual black hood but I’m pretty sure it would be the captain of the guard,” I mutter connecting the dots looking at her with wide eyes. “That would mean Dwalin would do it.” Silence is the only sound for a few moments before Clara nods her head.
“I guess it makes sense but isn’t he also the inquisitor and the captain of the guard too?” She smiles a little and then shakes her head. “There are a lot of roles that people have to do around here besides what they’re already assigned to,” she explains her thoughts and I nod back.
“Fili and Thorin are basically in charge of everything, or at least they have to point people in the right direction.” I think about how little I see of Fili now and wonder if Clara sees Thorin even less. “How often do you see Thorin now that they’re all working?” I ask.
Clara tilts her head back and forth thinking. “I would say maybe just in the morning and at night. Lately, he leaves before I’m awake and tries not to wake me up, so that means I only see him at night if Balin doesn’t have him filling out mountains of paperwork,” she says as she closes her large book and turns towards me. “It sucks a little but I don’t say anything because I know it’s stressful for him and he’s doing the best he can. They all are,” she shrugs.
I take a second to silently agree then I remember the nightmares. It’s like the silence grows larger and larger until it’s filling the entire library before I work up the nerve to tell her. “I’ve been having nightmares,” I say so quietly I almost hope she didn’t hear and I could forget about it until tonight.
She looks up from her book and crosses her legs on her seat. “Yeah?” she prompts me to continue. I shift around in my seat now that I've gotten this started.
“I dream that I’m back out there and I’m stuck in place and then when I’m finally about to be free I’m shot and wake up in bed,” I explain. “It’s like I can still feel them sometimes. The arrows. It’s like they’re stuck in me.” I say more to myself than to her, but now that I’m talking about my thoughts it’s like I can’t stop. It's word vomit. “I know I should tell Fili but he’s so busy and the last thing I want is to be a burden and have him worry about me or feel that he has to abandon his own responsibilities, or even worse have them all think less about me,” I pour out while Clara sits and listens. “We died.” The bluntness of the statement still shakes me to my core. The very end of my life with what feels like nothing on the other side.
“Yeah, we did.” The sadness and acceptance in her voice tell me that she feels the same way that I do.
“Do you dream about it?” I ask quietly. I look at her only to find her playing and distracting herself with her nails.
“I,” she stops and sighs heavily, “I don’t dream about it right now but I worry about it sometimes. It’s like one minute I’m fine and the next I feel like I could crawl out of my skin, burst into tears and I have to have Thorin near me,” she stresses that last part. “I think I can manage on my own just fine though. I just feel like a punching bag lately. Like we get hit with all of these big surprises, and even though I know they don’t expect us to be fine, I feel like there’s this pressure to be okay like before after everything we’ve been through. Like 'oh no one is severely injured so it doesn't matter anymore!'”
Her words sink in slowly like feet in wet sand and I realize that she’s right. They all have their homes back and have their own niche where they’re thriving whereas we’re just treading water for who knows how long, and I wonder when we’re not going to be able to go on.
“Have you tried keeping a journal or something?” she asks quietly. “That could help you work through the dreams and then you may not have them,” she suggests and I nod my head in acknowledgment. “You don’t even have to write consistently. You can just write when you want to work through something or whenever you want. You could keep it up in the room if you want to.”
I nod my head even though doubt hangs around in my chest. “That could help. I’ll give it a try.” Silence lapses in between us again and I open the book to continue reading.
A FEW HOURS LATER
“Aren’t you supposed to be reading?” A soft voice asks in the silence making me turn to see who it is and find Fili leaning against a bookshelf looking like some type of renaissance festival model for leather and furs with his blonde hair draping over his shoulders. He looks innocent up until the moment I meet his eyes. His blue eyes are smoldering underneath the surface and could set me on fire without a second thought. There’s obvious want in them and it distracts me from his question as my own desire begins to rise.
“W-w-what did you say just now?” I stutter a little trying to remember what his question was but I keep getting distracted by the smile that creeps up his face. Those perfect teeth framed by perfectly kissable lips, and facial hair that is truly impeccable. He walks his way up to the comfy chair I’m in to lean on the side of that as well and flash me a full, knowing smile of what he's doing.
“Aren’t you supposed to be reading instead dozing off?” he jokes lightly. I give him a dry laugh and a mock glare that only makes the playful grin on his face grow wider while my want matches that. 'I know that look' something deep in my mind hints but I brush it off for another time. 'He wouldn't. Not here' I tell myself as I think of how to answer his question.
“I was reading for hours earlier and all of that reading about executions and exiles has made me a bit bitter,” I explain with a nod toward the large volume on the table. He leans over me, creating a curtain of hair around us, to give me a deep kiss that skips right past gentle and teasing, leaving me wanting more from him and judging from his look he knows just what he’s done. He tugs me up to stand and then pins me to a bookshelf with his crazy dwarf strength. 'Damn.' I shiver in his hands.
“When is Clara due back?” he asks nuzzling the spot right behind my ear before sucking lightly and dragging his hands along my butt. The air seems harder to breathe the longer he continues but there’s something in the back of my mind telling me not to jump him here. Not in the library where being caught would be very easy. He gives me a rough squeeze to get my attention back.
“Um,” I worry my lip and look down at him with pleading eyes, begging him to do something or maybe nothing, yet he moves his hands up my tunic to rub at my bare back. “She went to see if Thorin was free for lunch. . .” I trail off and close my eyes as he leans back in and sucks just a bit harder making me pant at the new sensation. My mouth parts and my breath comes in deep gasps as he teases the hem of my pants.
I don't even have to see his face to know he's wearing a smirk proudly. “Then we have plenty of time love,” he purrs before coming forward to slowly press every inch of his body to mine, every inch of my body stuck against his and pinned between the bookshelf. “We have all the time in the world for this,” he whispers before pressing his lips to mine and guiding my arms to hang over his shoulders and one leg to his hips.
His body rocks smoothly against mine sending my blood boiling and my body moving back against his. My tongue is pushed against his in a swirling dance, ready to continue until I’m faint but that's not what he wants. He pulls away from my lips long enough to tug me into a small alcove sending both of us suddenly into the dark of the library.
My eyesight is still just as bad as when we were in Mirkwood which reminds me that Fili can still see me clearly while he starts to pry at my tunic, ripping at the buttons that don’t seem to want to come undone. He grunts in frustration before he simply takes both sides of my sweater in either hand and releases a small grunt as he rips it straight down sending the buttons flying every which way with small clinks, pings, and rolling stutters
My heart stops for a moment before beating double time out of my chest. “Fili!” I exclaim in both shock and surprise moving forward to get off of the cold wall and to push him back a little. My chest is revealed to the cold and I give one large shiver as my skin prickles. “I don’t have anything else to wear-,” I try to tell him but he pushes me back and kisses me breathless again while his hands roam over my free torso causing moans to slip out. My hands wind in his hair and tug sharply, almost as a way to get back at him for ripping my sweater. This time I’m not nearly as worried about the state of his braids as I grip him and tug him closer to me.
“Hush love,” he grins against my lips before descending on my revealed breasts and then placing his mouth against the skin as his hands begin working on the ties of my new pants. My heart pounds wildly in my chest while my head starts to feel light. He pushes down roughly on the leather until they fall far enough down to where he doesn't have to stop his first task.‘Oh we are so going to get caught’ I tell myself with a huff and a moan.
A WHILE LATER
“Fili, I’m going to have to get dressed somehow and you seem to have ripped all of my buttons out!” I argue with him while holding his own tunic against my chest and looking around the library. The doors opened a few minutes ago but there hasn’t been a voice or anyone that I would recognize so now I’m huddling against the bookshelf with the rest of our clothes on the ground while Fili has a stupid smirk on his face, looking like he doesn't have a care in the world.
“You have to admit this is a little funny love,” he smiles and I try to frown at him, I really do, but he flashes me his cocky smile and I can’t help but give him the same look back. “And it’s only the buttons that were damaged. Your tunic is fine to wrap around you. Surely it’s well enough to last you until we get back to our chambers,” he smirks with a saucy wink and a pat against my butt. I try to swat his hands away but he sneaks a quick kiss as he continues to grope me. He takes the edges of my tunic and holds them over each other and gives me a look that says 'I told you so'.
“Fine then,” I mutter under my breath standing up from the clothes and slipping my own back on. “Let’s at least try to sneak out of here before anyone can see us cuddling on the floor.” I get dressed, walk out of the isle of books with Fili behind me putting on his clothes and tying his pants and what I see makes me blush from my head to my toes. Sweet, gentle, young Ori is standing there with his mouth gaping and his own matching blush spread across his face. His eyes meet mine before he lets out a squeak.
“I-I-I’m s-so-,” he stutters with his mouth agape before whipping around with his arms crossed over his chest still clutching the books, “I didn’t see anything miss Lena!” he practically yells out.
I turn to look at Fili with my shock but he smirks as he adjusts the last part of his shirt and winks at me. “Ori it’s perfectly alright!” he laughs with a smile and the blushing scribe turns around to only look at the floor rather than the two lovers emerging from the books. I give him a sharp elbow as I stand there slightly frozen with embarrassment. “We were simply enjoying the pleasure of the library,” he amends with emphasis on pleasure and I flash him a wicked glare before I give up my fight.
“It’s fine Ori,” I sigh tiredly. “I have to get back to reading anyway so some decent company wouldn’t be frowned upon,” I tell him giving Fili’s offended face another pointed look and a pointed finger. “You, on the other hand, I will see you later and not in the fun way you’re thinking of,” I lower my voice at the end to nearly growl at him. His eyes practically glow with the thought of a later before he shakes his head and smiles.
“I’ll look forward ‘to later’ very much. Have fun reading about. . .” he trails off in a question and I heave another sigh.
“Sentencing and laws,” I explain. He nods his head and with one last peck on the lips, he struts out of the library leaving me alone once again with the books and ghosts of long-dead librarians.
“Again I am so sorry Lena,” Ori offers up and I shake my head dismissively.
“You had no idea so it’s fine. There’s no reason to be embarrassed,” I assure him even though I’m a bit embarrassed myself and almost wonder what he heard from our tryst. “Have you had lunch yet?” He shakes his head no. “Would you like to have lunch with me?” He’s hesitant for a moment before shaking his head with a sorry expression.
“I cannot, I’m sorry. Balin sent me to put away these volumes of the mines and to look for more, and then after that, I’m to catalog more of the books here.” My heart falls at hearing that but I try not to let him see that.
“That sounds great. Well, then I’ll let you get to it,” I assure him. He nods and turns back to his books leaving me alone with my thoughts. ‘I wonder what I’m going to do now.’ I decide to leave the library and head back up to the room to change or at the very least sew the buttons back on. The room isn’t too cold when I come in because there are bits of embers in the fireplace that I feed with another log of wood until the flames start to take hold of it and burn brightly. I decide not to change into another sweater but just go with another thicker tunic with a few more layers of leathers and a plain corset. I finally get the last layer before there is a knock at the door.
“Come in!” I call and the door gently opens to reveal a tired looking Balin carrying a mountain of paperwork along with him and he looks very relieved to see me.
“Just who I was looking for,” he pants while flashing me a tense smile. “The king-,” he stops himself for a second, “Thorin would like to see you and Clara in the meeting room along with Dwalin.”
“May I ask why?” I wonder cautiously. Something flashes across his face but he covers it before I fully see the expression. Whenever Dwalin is involved there is usually something that's wrong or at least serious and Balin doesn't usually do summons. 'Something is not right.'
“Let us wait for Thorin and my strong headed brother to tell you about that,” he hints and yet doesn’t say anything of substance as he continues to avoid my question. He starts to walk out of the room, probably expecting me to follow him but I put a hand on his should that causes him to halt.
My brow knits and I know that I must look worried. “Balin, what’s wrong?” He takes a pause and then smiles around the edges of his mouth but it doesn't reach his eyes. 'Definitely wrong' I tell myself.
“I should call you strong headed as well,” he jokes and then puts his tough hand over mine before continuing, “There is nothing wrong dearie just making sure that you stay both stay safe while you’re here.” 'Lie.' I rack my brain trying to think of anything that could mean anything like that but nothing comes back. “Let’s meet them and they will explain everything, I promise.” He touches my shoulder and tugs me along a little although his grip is surprisingly tough.
“Alright then. I wouldn’t want to keep them waiting if they are,” I tell him with shrug of my shoulders. I have a feeling this is more than just wanting to keep us safe in Erebor this time.