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Chapter One: A Rivalry Is Born


“Oh Siv, she is beautiful,” said Dis as she took the newborn from her friends arms for a turn to cuddle the little girl. 


Fili watched as the two women cooed and fawned over the baby. Ever since the birth of their son Rorvi, Siv and her husband Rorin had been trying for years for another child. He knew that the arrival of a second child to his mother’s friend was exciting, but he could not help but feel resentment for the little bundle currently held in his mother's arms. 


Rorvi was Fili’s best friend, he was only a few months older than him and with their mothers being almost like sisters, it was only destiny that they would become best friends. They did everything together, training, hunting, playing, and of course their favorite; getting into trouble. Both Siv and Dis had each scolded the pair more times than they could count. The pair of them were unstoppable and almost inseparable. At least that was how life had been until now. 


Now Fili sat in the corner of the room, brooding with jealousy, as he watched the scene before him. Rorvi was standing proudly next to Dis as she held the baby, waiting cautiously and protectively as if anything were to happen, he would be there to save the day for his little sister. 


Fili thought back to almost a year ago when his own baby brother was born, and what feelings he had felt as a new brother. Despite the occasional fit of envy he felt from the lack of attention he received from his mother, he had easily adjusted to the new shared attention of his mother. 


He recalled the immediate, protective feeling he had for his brother. He himself had doted over Kili for several weeks after he was born just as Rorvi was doing with his younger sibling. But now as Fili watched his best friend dote over his sister, he felt the increased dislike for the new comer. It had been two days since she arrived and already he hardly saw Rorvi. He liked how his life had been exactly three days ago. But now as he watched everyone fawn over the baby girl, he became more and more dissatisfied with how everything was changing. 


“It is getting late,” announced Dis as she carefully passed the baby back to its mother. “Fili,” she said, drawing the attention of the young dwarf from his brooding thoughts, to the conversation of the room. “It's time to go, come on laddie.”


Disgruntled, Fili hopped from the stool he had been sitting on and dragged his feet over to the door. All the while, Dis picked up Kili who had been attempting to crawl up the stairs. He was halfway through the door before his mother called out to him. 


“Fili,” she said. He stopped and lazily bent his head backwards to look at his mother upside down without moving his foot from the threshold. “Don’t you want to say goodnight to Torvi?” 


No, his mind responded automatically, he did not want to say goodnight to Torvi. He did not want to say anything to her. Fili did his best to hold back the eye roll that threatened to reveal his displeasure to doing such a thing. 


Despite this being the opposite of what he wanted to do, he dragged his feet over to the chair that Siv sat in and for the first time, peeked at the sleeping baby in her arms. She was so small and innocent looking that Fili immediately felt guilty for the hateful feelings he had earlier. 


As he looked at the still baby, she began to move around. First her eyebrows furrowed, and then slowly, her eyelids began to open up to reveal a pair of large green eyes. 


Fili took in a breath. 


He had never seen such a vibrant green in someone's eyes before. They were the color of leaves when first budding in the spring, so full of life and promise. He stared down, while she stared up at him, her lips twitched as if to give him a smile and his mouth curved into an upward smile as well.  


“Isn’t she perfect?” said Rorvi proudly, as he walked up to stand next to Fili. “I don’t think I will ever leave her side.”


Any soft feelings that Fili was having towards Torvi evaporated as the jealous hatred came pouring back with this one sentence. Fili’s earlier smile that had come so easily quickly turned sour as he scowled down at the baby. It only lasted a moment before Fili composed himself into a mask that hid what his true feelings were. Only Siv and Dis noticed the change in his countenance, and they each looked at each other knowingly.  


“Come along Fili,” said Dis as she adjusted her hold on Kili so that she could free one of her arms to give Fili’s shoulder a squeeze. “Let’s get you to bed, we will come by tomorrow morning.” 


Fili mumbled a goodbye to Siv and Rorvi but only shot a steely glance down at the baby who was now sleeping again. He walked in front of his mother, opening the door for her and closing it behind them once he walked out into the cool night air. Dis took the lead down the worn path that led down to their own home, every once in awhile glancing back to check on Fili following behind. 


Fili dragged his boots across the ground as he followed his mother. Every so often he came across a rock which he would give a good hard kick, sending it skipping several feet across the ground before it rolled to a stop. There was no other sound to be heard but the light footsteps and skipping of the rocks as they walked. It was not until Fili kicked a particular rock that bounced off the back of Dis’ boot, that the silence was broken. 


“What is bothering you son?” asked Dis stopping and waiting for Fili to catch up to her. 


He looked up at her and gave a loud sigh. “Nothing,” he said in an unconvincing tone. After a few more steps he spoke again. “I don’t like Torvi,” he said in a huff. 


Dis frowned down at her son. “Now Fili, that is not how you were raised. Torvi has done nothing to you to earn your dislike.” 


“She took Rorvi,” he mumbled under his breath. “I lost my best friend because of her it's all her fault that Rorvi ignores me.” 


Dis did her best to suppress a smile as tried to console her son. “I know it is hard for you to be missing the attention of your friend but do not worry, soon the novelty of having a new sibling will die down. You two will be back to causing havoc all over Ered Luin in no time.”


Fili looked at his mother with his eyes narrowed as he thought over her answer, trying to decide if she was right or not. “How do you know that? All he has done today and yesterday was stand around her, he didn’t even answer me when I asked if he wanted to go outside and play.”


“Well if I recall you did the same thing to him when Kili was born.” replied Dis calmly. 


Fili looked down at his feet feeling guilty as he realized that she was right. “Well that was different. Kili is a boy.”


Dis looked at her son in surprise, not expecting this. “And what does that have to do with anything?”


“Well, when Kili gets old enough he can play and fight with us, we won’t have to always be watching out for him. But Torvi is a girl, she won’t be any fun to play with. I was hoping that Torvi would be a boy so that Kili could have a best friend like me with Rorvi. But Torvi messed it all up by being a girl,” he answered glumly. 


Dis smiled down at her son. It was sweet that Fili wanted his brother to be happy like he was, but she did not like the way he had already condemned Torvi. “Well maybe Torvi will be just that. No one ever said your best friend had to be a boy. I bet you anything the four of you will all get along splendidly. Who knows, you or even Kili may even grow up to marry her.” she said, giving him a nudge as they walked up the steps to the front door of their home. “I ended up marrying Thorin’s best friend, so why not Torvi marry Rorvi’s?”


Fili gave her a look of disgust. “Mother, I am not going to marry Torvi, she is a baby,” he said as he lifted the latch and opened the front door. 


Dis could not help but laugh. “And what were you when you were born? A goblin? She will not always be a baby, someday she will be a young lady and you will be a young man. You never know,” she said, giving her son a wink as she passed the threshold and watched as he shook his head and closed the door. 


“Well I am not going to marry her, Kili can do that.”


“Well then in that case you better learn to like her since she be your sister if that happens.” 


Fili just let out an exaggerated sigh of exhaustion as he walked down the hall leading to his room. “I suppose I can try again tomorrow,” he called back dramatically as he shut his door. Dis smiled and shook her head, Fili had so much to learn about life, it would be interesting to see what the future would bring. 


As promised, Fili did his best to change his attitude and for some time it worked. After a few months as his mother had said, Rorvi began to spend less time with his sister and went back to causing mischief and mayhem with Fili. 


It was not until Torvi was a year old and she was crawling on the floor while Siv visited Dis that things changed. 


Torvi had just found a small wooden toy that belonged to Fili long ago. His father had carved it for him before he had died and while never played with, it still held sentimental value. Just as Fili noticed her holding it, he heard a snap and watched as Torvi broke the head off of the small figure. Fili leapt to his feet, yelling as he snatched the broken toy from Torvi’s hands. 


Immediately she began to cry out large tears that weld up and fell down her face. Started by the sudden outburst of Fili and crying of Torvi, Dis and Siv intervened but it was too late, the rivalry had already begun. 


Twelve Years Later

“It wasn’t my fault!” cried Fili in defense. “She is the one who tripped me first!”


“I didn’t do it on purpose!” replied a mud caked Torvi. 


“You did too!” said Fili 


“Well you deserved it for putting a toad in my bed,” shot back Torvi. 


“How do you know it was me!” cried Fili “You have no proof.”


Both Dis and Siv stood sat at the kitchen table cutting vegetables for the evening meal that the two families would be sharing together. Dis let out a sigh of frustration as the two bickering children stood before them, each covered head to toe in mud. 


It had been twelve years since Torvi had been born. And ever since that momentous event, it had been twelve years of warfare between the two. 


Fili and Rorvi were best friends and like their siblings, Torvi and Kili, as Dis had predicted, had become best friends. Each older brother loved and cherished their younger sibling. In addition to that, Rorvi and Kili also shared a similar bond to that of siblings. However, that is where any other bonds of sibling or friends ended. Because for twelve years, Fili and Torvi were constantly fighting. Of course many times they would call a truce when the four of them played together, but the truce hardly ever lasted long enough for them to finish a full day of playing. 


Today in particular had only lasted until midday. Which was the very reason why both of them were standing in the kitchen, arguing with each other in front of both women.  


“Silence,” said Siv putting down her knife and standing up and walking over to stand before them. With her hands on her hips, she glared down at them. “I don’t care which one of you started it or what went on. It just has to stop! Honestly, I don’t understand why the two of you can’t ever get along!” Both children hung their heads as they were reprimanded. “Now I want the both of you to apologize to the other and then go outside and get along for the rest of the day.” Both kids looked at each other, waiting for the other one to make the first move. “NOW!” shouted Siv. 


“I am sorry,” said Fili through gritted teeth. 


Torvi glared at him but after catching a stern look from her mother put on a smile that failed to reach her eyes. “Me too,” she said, her tone as sharp as a knife. 


Satisfied that it was as good as she was going to get, Siv nodded at both of them. “Now,” she began as she ushered them out the back door. “Both of you go outside, and if I hear any bickering from either of you, it will be your bottoms that will be sorry.” She gave them each a shove that got them past the threshold and closed the door. She let out a small sigh as she watched them shoving each other through the kitchen window. She shook her head in defeat and walked back over the table to continue helping Dis with dinner. 


Dis let out a light chuckle as she paused to look up at her friend. “I believe our hopes of our children marrying are pointless. I don’t think I have ever witnessed two children that disagreed and fought so much in my life.”


“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure.” said Siv thoughtfully. “Most of the time these disputes happen because Fili is teasing Torvi. I remember she used to talk all about how she would someday grow up to marry Fili. Of course she would never admit it now but that girl was in love with him when she was younger. that is until he started teasing her about her looks.” She smiled at the thought. Dis became intrigued with what she was saying and listened more closely. “If there is anything I know about young love, it is that the one stricken with love will do everything in their power to make sure that the other one does not find out.”


“What are you getting at?” asked Dis. 


“All I am saying is that perhaps Fili teases her to hide his true feelings. And of course Torvi would never admit to liking someone who is so horrible to her. Perhaps once those two do a little more growing up and maturing they will grow out of this phase of childlike flirting and learn to admit their real feelings.”


Dis thought for awhile as she contemplated this theory. “I think you might be right,” she said. “I guess we'll just have to wait until they come of age and see what happens. But I have to admit, the sooner the better, I don’t think I can handle this bickering anymore.”


Both women chuckled as they thought about the idea of the two getting along. It would still be a long time before either of them came of age and both mothers dreaded the many more years of bickering to come and fights to break up. They sat happily together peeling and cutting vegetables, each imagining that happy day when the rivalry would stop, and peace would fall upon their homes. Both were happily oblivious as to just how quickly this day would come. But in their ignorant bliss, never did they imagine what circumstances would bring such a peace.  


Five Years Later

“I can’t believe you did that,” said Torvi as she hit Fili in the arm. “You made me look like a fool in front of everyone! Why can’t you ever just leave me alone.”


“You were already making yourself look like a fool, I just helped you see it for yourself. Besides none of those people even care about you, they only care about your status as a noble and tolerate your rude behavior because of that,” said Fili calmly as he continued to walk up the path. “As for leaving you alone, trust me, I try to avoid you as much as possible. I don’t enjoy spending time with spoiled brats. However, your mother asked me to come find you and bring you back. So I am doing this as a favor to her, not for the pleasure of being in your presence,” he said venomously.


Torvi glared at his back as she followed him up the slope to her home. He drove her crazy. No matter what she did, he always seemed to hate her ever since they were kids. They bickered less now but that was only because they were away from each other more often. When she was about fourteen years old, she had stopped hanging out with Rorvi and the prince brothers. She still spent time with Kili of course but that was different. Kili was her best friend, Fili was not. 


As a toddler she was always tagging along and trying to please them. She even remembered having the biggest crush on Fili when she was younger. Somehow she had convinced herself that she would marry him someday. But that fantasy quickly ended when he made it obvious that he detested her and thought her hideous with her uncontrollable wild red hair and freckles. 


As they grew older he seemed to be more civil towards her but she could tell it was only because she was Rorvi’s sister and Rorvi was protective. For Torvi, getting along with anyone was difficult. She did her best to try and fit in with her peers, but they were never honest and were always gossiping about each other. 


If Torvi was truthful, she hated all of the nobles her age. There was of course the exception of her own brother, Kili, and yes, sometimes she even liked Fili. Despite their constant arguing, Fili was still kind and generous to those who were less fortunate than himself. Always taking the time to exchange a few words of pleasantry, unlike the rest of the stuck up nobles who barely even looked at anyone who was below their station. 


Torvi was not one for following lady protocol. She often sought to do what she wanted to do versus what others thought she should do. This often made it difficult for her to get along with her peers as she was always breaking the rules of etiquette. This lead to name calling and backstabbing by both genders of her age. Little did she know, the majority of this teasing was often silenced or hidden from her by some choice words and threats given out by Rorvi and Fili.   


As they grew closer to her family's home, she became curious as to why she was even needed at home.  “Why are we meeting here anyways?” 


“I don’t know, I was just stuck with the honorable job of fetching you. All I was told is that we were all to meet at your house,” he said in a tone that hinted he was anything but honored, just peeved. 


Torvi rolled her eyes and let silence fall upon them as they finished the last little distance up the hill. Fili reached the door first, pushing up the latch, he opened it just enough to let himself in before shutting it in Trovi’s face.


Trovi stopped abruptly and let out a frustrated groan as she went to lift the latch herself. As she pulled up, the door latch stayed shut. She put more force on it, causing it to lift slightly before slamming down on her finger. She let out a cry of pain and kicked the door. 


“Fili you good for nothing dwarf, let me in,” she yelled as she pounded on the door. 


She heard a slight snicker of laughter before Fili’s muffled voice came through the door. “Aw common Torvi, be smarter than the door. All you have to do is lift up!”


Fili waited at the door, holding down the handle as he waited for a retort or another attempt by Torvi to open the door but nothing came. He waited a moment longer before opening the door a crack and peeked out. 


Torvi was gone. There was no one in sight. 


He opened it more and stuck his head out cautiously. “Torvi?” he said looking around. He opened the door all the way and took a step out. Just as he was about to step back into the house, two hands pushed on his back, sending him forward and onto the ground. 


As soon as he hit the dirt he rolled over just in time to see Torvi smirking down at him. “Honestly Fili, did you really think I would just stand there when I can just enter through the back door?” She gave him another triumphant smile before slamming the door shut. 


Torvi smiled to herself as she moved the lock into place. She clapped her hands together as if to brush off dust as she triumphantly took a step away from the door. Her foot was just about to take another step when a loud bang sounded at the door. 


Her smile curled wider with satisfaction. 


“Oh common Fili, it’s not that hard, you just have to lift the latch and open the door. Let’s be smarter than the door,” she mimicked. Another loud and harder bang sounded and Torvi rolled her eyes. “Forget it you lousy hackit. The only way you are getting through that door is if you bust it down.”   


“Torvi, if you don’t open this door this instant…”


Torvi’s stomach dropped as she heard her father's stern voice come through the door. 


Before he could finish his threat of what he would do if she did not open the door, she had the latch unlocked and the door wide open. 


As she opened the door, she saw her father and mother both standing in the doorway with Rorvi, Kili, Dis, and even Thorin waiting just behind them. Her eyes drifted and landed on Fili who was snorting with laughter as he watched the panic on her face. She stepped aside to let everyone trail into the front room, her eyes narrowing as Fili passed by giving her a wink and a smile.


Everyone was gathered into the front parlor sitting on chairs, tables, and stools. Torvi went and sat down at the windowsill with her arms crossed and blood boiling. She kept her glare on Fili who was sitting directly across the room on a stool. His bright blue eyes gleamed with joy as he obviously relished in his amusement of victory in their battle that had just occurred. She refused to move her eyes from his until her father stood before the group and cleared his throat, causing both to break eye contact and turn their attention to Rorin. 


“Thank you all for gathering, this is not easy to say,” he looked down at Siv and grabbed her hand. “It was not an easy decision but it is something Siv and I have thought about for a long time now. Although we have never been in want, our financial sources are drawing low and an opportunity has come about to change that.” He paused for a moment as everyone began to look around the room, exchanging confused looks. “I have written to my cousin in the Iron Hills who has done well for himself running the mines in the east. They are need of a foreman to make sure the mining tunnels are as safe as possible. With my knowledge in architecture, he has offered me the position which I have accepted.”


The room was silent for a moment until the reality hit each person one at a time. It was Rorvi who realized what his father was saying first and was the first to voice anything. “But that means…”


Rorin held up his hands to stop him and any others who had begun to speak up. “Yes; that means we are to move to the Iron Hills in a week's time.”


“Oh no,” said Dis. “Siv, are you sure about this?” she asked, turning her attention to her friend. 


Siv looked at her husband then back to Dis as she nodded her head in confirmation. “Yes; I am sure.”


“Why did you not come to me?” asked Thorin. “Perhaps we could help you or arrange something so that you can stay here.” 


Rorin just shook his head. “Do not think I thought about it, but I come from a long line of stubborn dwarves who will do everything in their power to provide for their families on their own. You have been good friends and good to my family Thorin, but cannot accept something that I did not earn on my own.” 


Rorvi watched Thorin nod his head in understanding but was not in agreement with the King. “Hang on, what about us? Don’t Torvi and I get a say in anything? Our lives are here, our friends, I begin my apprenticeship next month!” 


Rorin let out a sigh. “Your mother and I make the decisions for this family and when you become the head of this family then you will get a say!” he said sternly. Rorvi immediately stood up and walked out of the room in a huff. Rorin ran a hand through his hair as Siv stood to follow after her son. “No, stay here, I will speak with him. I should not have spoken so harshly,” he mumbled as he made his way to the kitchen and out the back door in pursuit of Rorvi. 


Fili watched as his mother went over to Siv and immediately started talking about plans for moving and other matters of business, such as friends to call on for help when they arrived in the Iron Hills. The two of them disappeared into the kitchen chatting away and speaking of how much they would miss each other. 


Thorin stood and recruited Kili to help find Rorvi. 


Fili soon found himself sitting alone in the front room until he realized that Torvi was still sitting on the windowsill her eyes focused on something outside. She had been so quiet the entire time he had forgotten she was there. Her face was hidden from view as a curtain of her wild red curls covered her face. The late afternoon sun was coming through the window, igniting her hair and making it look like hot coals in a fire. 


She moved her hand up to her face and wiped something off of her face. It was not until Fili heard the small, quiet sniff that he realized she was crying. He stood up, causing the stool he was sitting on to creak. 


Torvi jumped, obviously startled to realize someone was still in the room with her. She slid off the windowsill to her feet and faced him. Her eyes were red and her face stern, making it obvious that his presence was not wanted. But Fili could not help the overpowering feeling to comfort her wash over his body. He could not believe that after all these years of bickering, the thought of her being  gone made him panic. He had never really sought out her company, but the option had always been there. But now...


“What are you still doing here?” she asked bitterly, breaking Fili from his thoughts. 


“I am sorry I just thought you might want someone to talk to,” he stated. 


“And you thought that of all the people to talk to, you would be the one I would choose?” she snapped back. 


Fili was beginning to lose his patience and any thought of wanting to be nice to her. Why did she always have to be so bratty? he thought. Fili looked around the empty room and stretched out his arms, indicating the empty chairs. “Well last time I checked I was the only person still in the room.” 


“And since when did you start caring about how I feel?” she said angrily.


Fili rubbed a hand across his face to calm his patience that he was quickly losing. “You know what, you’re right. I don’t care, just forget I offered,” he spat out as he walked towards the door. 


“Don’t worry, I didn’t need it anyways,” she shot out as he ripped open the door and slammed it shut. 


Fuming, Torvi stormed off to her room to start packing her belongings. But as soon as she shut the door, her legs gave out and she sat on the ground, hugging her knees for comfort. Her life was here. Everything and everyone she had ever known, was here in the blue mountains and the thought of leaving it scared her. She wished that Fili had not left and she hated the fact that she wished for his presence which would soon never be an option.  


One Week Later

Torvi heard their voices long before she could even hear their dragging footsteps coming towards the door. Their voices were loud, slurred, and off key as the sung out the chorus of an old tavern song. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she threw the dress she was about to pack onto her bed as she moved to the front door. 


As predicted, she saw the three figures coming up the pathway. Kili in the middle, obviously tipsy but not completely wasted like the other two. Leaning on either side of Kili, who was supporting their staggering steps, was Rorvi and Fili. Each of them were belting out the song at the top of their lungs. It died down when Rorvi spotted Torvi standing in the doorway, tapping her foot in annoyance before she began to march down the path towards them. 


“Ah,” he shouted loudly. “My dear sis, there you are! You should have joined us. I have got to say, ale would definitely improve that scowl you are wearing. I would…” This was as far as he got before she began shushing him as she placed a hand over his mouth. 


“Shhhh,” she hissed. “What are you trying to do? Wake the entire mountain!” She gave them all a look over and shook her head disapprovingly as Rorvi and Fili began to burst out laughing, causing Kili to struggle holding them up. Torvi grabbed a hold of Rorvi and took his arm and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Goodness how much did you drink? You smell like you did more bathing in ale than drinking it.”

“I found them about an hour ago and they had already consumed thirteen pints each,” supplied Kili. 


Torvi looked over her friend with a soft sad smile. She was going to miss Kili. They had always stuck together dealing with their older brothers and the teasing of their peers. 


Like Torvi, Kili never really fit in. Things had changed a little bit as they had gotten older but not enough to really feel like they had any true friends among the others. Kili watched her with sad eyes as well, obviously thinking about the same things. 


Rorvi’s legs gave out, pulling Torvi down before she let him go and he dropped to the ground, letting out a gruff grunt. Kili deposited Fili next to the tree they were all standing under to help Torvi pick up her brother.  With Fili leaning against the tree, both Kili and Torvi lifted Rorvi together and began to carry him into the house. They dragged Rorvi into his room and let him fall onto his bed where he gave out a loud groan. 


“Oi! Careful, I think my head is beginning to sober up,” he said as he brought a hand to his temple and rubbed it. 


Ignoring his protests, Torvi roughly pushed his legs onto the bed and pulled off his boots. By the time she let them drop to the ground, he was already snoring loudly. She pulled a blanket over his body and blew out the lamp by his bedside table. With one brother safely tucked into bed Torvi and Kili walked back outside. They found Fili where they left him, busy humming to himself and looking as if he too was going to pass out at any moment.  


“Thanks for bringing Rorvi back,” she said finally as they reached the tree. “I suppose I will see you in the morning before we depart?”


Kili nodded and a sadness fell on her again as she both realized that this really was it. The end to their friendship and companionship. The end to the only person who knew more about her than anyone else except for maybe Rorvi. 


“Yeah, I guess so,” he said. 


She walked up to him and wrapped her arms around his neck giving him a tight hug. Kili hugged her back just as tightly. “Promise to write every once in awhile.”


They broke apart as Kili nodded. “Yeah I promise, and you promise to not let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything that you set your mind to,” he said as he gave her shoulder a small shove. 


She let out a light laugh as her mouth curved into a crooked grin. “You know I don’t have to promise you that. I am too stubborn to listen to anyone's opinion.”


He grinned as well. “Yeah I know. But don’t let your stubbornness get you into trouble either.”


“Now that I really can’t promise...but I will try,” she added as an afterthought. 


Kili laughed and pulled her into another bear hug. “I am going to miss you Torvi.” 


“I will miss you too,” she said more seriously. 


Their somber moment was cut short as Fili got to his feet and pushed himself in between them. “Alright that's enough, geez, why can’t you two say goodbye over a pint of ale like me and Rorvi. You would think you two were lovers.”


Kili let out a groan of annoyance as he grabbed Fili who was leaning heavily on Torvi to keep his balance. “Well I guess that ruins our romantic farewell,” said Kili sarcastically. “Goodluck Torvi, stay out of trouble and I will write when I can.” 


Torvi smiled and waved sadly before turning around and heading back up to her house. She took one last glance at the two figures making their way down the path. She laughed as she watched the taller figure, Kili, smack his brother upside the head before grabbing his arm and helping him steady his walk. She stared after them from the doorway for a while as Kili struggled to keep Fili from staggering too much. 


Once the chill of the night air began to sink in, she opened the door and closed it behind her. Torvi knew the house so well she needed no light to easily maneuver through the dark without running into anything. By the time she had gotten into her room she only had enough energy to kick off her boots and lazily fling a blanket over herself. She laid in bed and took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.


At first she thought the loud banging was the sound of her family waking up and finishing the packing. She opened her eyes feeling half asleep and groggy. She definitely did not feel like she got enough sleep. 


She looked around and realized that it was still pitch black. The sun was not even close to rising, as the moon was still high in the night sky. As she became more awake, she realized that the banging sound was coming from her window. She looked out and saw Fili standing outside, his fist raised to hit her window again. 


Fury and annoyance came over her in a wave as she jumped out of bed and half stumbled, half walked to the window. Why? Why did he still have to make her life miserable? Couldn’t he just let her have this one night to enjoy and cherish before she left? Of course not, he had to utilize every moment, down to the last second to continue his harassment.  


She shoved the window open, smacking Fili in the nose and causing him to grab it with his hand as he let out a groan of pain. Ignoring the pain she had just inflicted, she did her best to keep her anger at bay.


“What in Mahal’s name are you doing you jakey?” she loudly whispered. “Wake up the whole house!”


“I think it is you who's going to wake up the house if you don’t stop yelling,” he said as he winced. “Help me up,” he said as he began climbing clumsily through the window. 


“What are you doing?” she asked but offered him a hand anyways to help him in. 


He unsteadily swung a foot through the window and stumbled into her room. Tumbling forward, he collided with her and they both fell onto the ground. Torvi did her best to hold back a yelp as she hit the floor and Fili came down on top of her. 


“Get off of me,” she said as she threw him to the side. She got up, dragging him with her and directed him to the bed. “Now,” she began, putting her hands on her hips. “What are you doing here? Do you realize that it’s the middle of the night? Did Kili not get you guys home? Is he ok?”     


He stared at her, his mouth slightly apart as amusement danced in his eyes. She raised her eyebrows as if to indicate to him that she was running low on patience. “Did you know that your eyes almost glow in the dark when you get angry?” he said in a slurred voice. 


Torvi rolled her eyes she was tired of dealing with drunken dwarves for one night. “Fili, if you don’t get to the point of you being here in my bedroom within the next minute so help me…”


“Why do you have to drive me crazy so much?” he blurted out.  


Torvi was taken aback. Her eyebrows knitted together in confusion, she had not known what to expect to come out of his mouth but this was certainly not it. “What?”


Fili let out an exasperated growl. “You know I was perfectly happy with you being my best friends annoying little sister who always tagged along and ruined everything. It was so easy to brush you off and to forget about you but now…” he paused for a moment as he looked up at her and glared. 


Her face was one of confusion. It was written all over her face from her knitted eyebrows to her frowning mouth. He noticed that even in the moonlight he could she the numerous freckles that covered her nose and spread out to her cheeks. Her lips were in a small pout, looking soft and tempting almost as if they were inviting him. 


He let out an agitated sigh as he stood up and stepped closer to her. “This is what I mean, why is it that you're always on my mind? Why is it that everytime I see you with someone else I want to do everything possible to get them away from you? Why is it that I am jealous of my brother because he can spend all the time in the world with you and never get into an argument? Why is it that when I lay down to go to sleep you are all that I see when I close my eyes?” Fili was rambling, unaware that what was coming out of his mouth made no sense to Torvi.  


Torvi did not know what to say. 


She just stared, unsure as to why he was here. He was so close to her she could smell the alcohol on his breath, indicating the possibility that he was still drunk from the night's escapade with Rorvi. 


“Fili,” she started pushing on his chest a little to put some distance between them. “I think that you should go home and get some rest. You're not yourself. You will feel better in the morn…” 


Fili cut her off as he lifted a hand to her lips. 


She stopped talking and widened her eyes as she looked up to his face. His gaze was intense and his eyes shone in the moonlight with something she was not familiar with. The tips of his fingers brushed against her lips leaving a tingling sensation as he brought his hand away from her mouth and caressed her cheek. He took a step closer, pushing Torvi back until she was pressed against the wall. 


Torvi watched his face scrunch up as if he were angry at her, she went to move but his electric blue eyes stared down at her, keeping her body from doing as commanded. Her heart began to beat quickly. Unsure as to what was happening, she began counting the beats of her thumping heart. 


One beat, his eyes moved down from her eyes to her lips. 


Two beats, he took a step closer, his chest strong and firm. 


Three beats, his head lowered, and before she could count to four, his lips touched hers and her mind went blank. 


Her mind went from blank to acutely aware in a second. Fili was kissing her. Fili , was kissing her. 


The boy that teased her, picked on her, and constantly waged war on her was kissing her. The boy who made fun of her untamable curly hair and freckle splashed face was pressing his lips to hers! 


In an instant her body unfroze and her arms snapped into action as she pushed against his chest, breaking them apart and ending their kiss. 


“Fili! What are you doing?” she hissed, trying to keep her temper under control. 


He looked at her, his eyes were not intense like before. Instead they were glazed over and relaxed. He looked intoxicated all over again. After a while of looking at her, clarity slowly came to his eyes and he began to blush. “Torvi...I...I am sorry. I didn’t…” he stammered. 


“Fili it''s fine,” she wrapped her arms around herself and looked around the room, awkwardly avoiding his eyes. She could feel the heat rise in her own cheeks and her stomach began to churn as if she were going to be sick. 


Fili ran a hand through his golden hair as he scratched the back of his head. He looked at her and rubbed his head again as if trying to erase what he had just done. 


Was she really that revolting? Torvi thought. 


“I...I should go.” he finally said. 


Torvi just nodded her head as she watched him walk over to the window and crawl out. His golden hair disappeared as he dropped down to the ground. 


Torvi felt like she was suffocating and realized that she was holding her breath. Immediately, she took in a breath and filled her lungs with cool air. As she breathed out, it broke the absolute silence that had fallen upon the room. There was a cool breeze that came in through the open window that brought a slight chill. Torvi crossed the room and shut the shutters, instantly cutting off the source of cold air but not the chill that ran down her spine making her body shiver. 


Torvi fell onto her bed, staring at the ceiling as she laid wide awake, pondering what Fili meant by his actions. As she began to assess her emotions and feelings to understand his, a thought came to her mind. A realization, a reality, she was moving in the morning. Her and her family were leaving Ered Luin and going to the Iron Hills. If it meant anything, it did not matter. The chances of seeing Fili after tomorrow were slim.  


Fili was drunk, she was leaving, it meant nothing. That is what she kept telling herself as she fought off the urge to explore any deeper into her feelings on the subject. 


Torvi secured her pack to her pony when she spotted them coming up the pathway. Dis, Thorin, Kili walked together while Fili, taking up the rear, held his head as if it was about to explode. 


Siv let out a happy cheer as they made their way up to the departing family. 


“I just couldn’t let you leave without sending you off,” said Dis as she embraced Siv. 


“I am so happy you did,” replied Siv as yet another episode of tears began to fall from her face, causing Dis to tear up as well. 


Rorvi was standing next to Torvi, nursing his hangover when the two princes approached them. Thorin had gone over to Rorin to help him finish loading the last of their belongings into the cart as Rorvi had been useless to him all morning. 


As Torvi looked at Kili she smiled but when Fili caught her eye she felt her stomach twist and immediately became fixated with the fastening of her pack.   


“Well you look just as awful as I feel,” said Rorvi as he examined Fili. 


“Shush,” said Fili holding his head. “Not so loud. Mahal I am never drinking that much ever again. What even happened last night?”


Torvi could not ignore the mixed feelings that came flooding into her mind as she listened to his last remark. He didn’t remember anything? Didn’t remember that he woke her up in the middle of the night, crawled through her window, kissed her, then left her alone in a swirl of confusion? 


She cinched up her bag and turned around to glare at him. “You went out drinking in the tavern like a stunted jakey then brought my brother home completely wasted and dropped him off for me to take care of!” she shouted, unable to keep the anger out of her voice. 


All three of the dwarves looked at her in surprise and astonishment by her outburst. Torvi surprised herself as well, not quite sure as to why she was so angry. If anything she should be happy that Fili didn’t remember what happened last night. Unfortunately Torvi was now wishing it was her that did not remember. Of course Fili wouldn’t remember, he had no idea what he was doing, never in his right mind would he ever have those kinds of feelings for her. 


But that was ok because she didn’t either, she reminded herself. That is why she pushed him away, wasn’t it?


“Oi! What's got your britches in a bunch?” asked Rorvi. 


“Do you suppose it's that time of the…” Fili began. 


“Oh shove off!” cut in Torvi, knowing exactly where Fili was headed. “You're a real piece of work you know that Fili!” 


What was wrong with her? She could not stop herself which made her even more angry. 


In an attempt to keep herself from continuing to make a fool of herself, she grabbed the reigns of her pony and stomped off to where her mother and father were waiting for them to depart. Kili followed after her, leaving Rorvi and Fili to stand there in confusion. 


Rorvi looked at Fili with almost an apologetic glance. “You know, you’re not exactly the nicest to my sister but even I can’t find a reason for that.” 


“It must be her way of coping with the thought that she will never see my dashing face again. Everyone knows the Iron Hills just don’t breed as handsomely as we turned out,” Fili replied as Rorvi laughed and rolled his eyes.  


“You know, I could accept it as a truth that most dwarrow maids liked you but there will always be one that will never even consider you.” He slapped Fili on the back and pushed him forward to join the rest of the group. “And that my friend is my dear sister Torvi.”


The two of them laughed as they approached the group and each clapped each other on the arm before wrapping each other in a hug. When they broke apart, both of them were grinning but each smile did not quite reach the eyes. Rorvi mounted his pony and Rorin, seeing that everyone was ready, took the lead as the family departed eastward towards their new home. Dis and Thorin lingered for a short while, waving before they departed to attend to their duties for the day. Kili and Fili both stood together as they watched their friends, now small dots in the distance, continued to travel away from them. 


“Do you suppose we'll ever see them again?” asked Kili. 


Fili had been lost in his thoughts and failed to immediately answer his brother until Kili repeated the question. He thought for a while looking out towards towards the east. 


“I don’t know,” he finally said with a hint of sadness in his voice. He looked back at Kili who looked like how he felt. “I am sure some day we will meet them again,” he added, making Kili smile. 


“I look forward to that day,” said Kili


“Yeah me too,” agreed Fili. He knew he would miss Rorvi but what had surprised him was the sadness that had filled him as he watched Torvi walk away. Why had she been so angry with him? It was not how he wanted to part ways with her. He wanted to leave on good terms but perhaps it was for the best. Maybe Rorvi was right. It was her way of coping with the reality of moving. But that didn’t explain why he was feeling like he lost something. Sure he lost his best friend but there was something else missing, something he did not want to admit. 


They stood there for a little while longer. Silent and still until Fili wrapped an arm around Kili’s neck and started walking down the path. “Common brother let's go get drunk.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: Return to Erebor


Sixty Years Later

Slowly, Torvi drew an arrow from the quiver strapped to her back and notched it. The smell of earth filled her nostrils as she breathed in and out just as her father taught her to do before releasing the arrow. As the air left her lungs so did her arrow from her bow. 


She watched it fly through the trees and embed itself into the large buck. As soon as the arrow pierced its side, the deer took off into the brush. Lowering her bow, Torvi began running after the deer, following its tracks and blood trail. 

The trail led her for an hour through the forest until she came upon a small glade with a stream meandering through the middle. She spotted the deer lying still in the shallow water as a trail of red blood flowed from its side washing away as it seeped into the clear water. 


Torvi let out a sigh of relief as she approached the fallen body. She had been gone for three days and until now the hunting trip had not been as successful as others. With winter approaching, it was critical that this trip went well seeing as how it was most likely the last time she would be able to hunt before the first snowfall. 


So far she had only managed to catch a few squirrels that were far too small to be able to sell in the market. This deer had been the largest game she had spotted the entire time in the forest and her family depended on her sales to the butcher. Content with her hunt,Torvi felt that she could now return to her home in the Iron Hills.  


Having just dropped the meat she had salvaged with the butcher, Torvi walked down the street with her purse heavy with gold when Rorvi caught up with her. 


“Hey little sis,” he greeted. 


“What are you doing here?” she asked. “Shouldn’t you be on your shift in the mines?” 


Rorvi shook his head. “I got off early, mother sent a message that said I was urgently needed back at home.” 


“So why are you here and not back at home?” 


“The message also said that I needed to bring you back with me,” he said calmly. “I am glad you came back today because I was really not looking forward to traipsing through the forest looking for you. What took you so long? I was expecting you be home yesterday.”


“I hadn’t found any game except for a couple squirrels until earlier this morning,” she explained. “Why does mother need us so urgently?” she asked sounding a little more concerned. “Is everything alright?”


Rorvi shrugged. “I know as much as you do, so I suggest you stop asking questions and hurry up,” he said over his shoulder as he quickened his pace down the worn and muddy path. 


Torvi readjusted her hunting pack and followed after Rorvi as quickly as her legs would carry her. She did her best to try and not think about the possible reason for such an urgent summons from their mother but it was impossible. The last time something like this happened, they received the news that their father had been killed in a mining accident. With that memory seeping into her thoughts, she quickened her pace even more as the urgency gnawed at her mind.  


“We are moving!” said both siblings in unison.


“Yes,” said Siv patiently. 


“But this is where father is buried. We can’t just leave him!” stated Torvi.


Siv faltered at the mention of her late husband. It had been thirteen years since the accident and the wound felt just as fresh every time it was brought up. She did not like the thought of leaving the burial place of her husband but she had to think of what was best for her children. Rorin would have wanted it.


“I know it will not be easy, but Dis has requested that I join her in Erebor as a companion. She has even promised work for Rorvi as an apprentice as a blacksmith for the person in charge of the armory.”


“But I am not a blacksmith, I am a miner. I know nothing of the trade.”


Siv placed a hand on her temple and closed her eyes, trying to muster some more patience. “That is why you are to start out as an apprentice. The pay is better than what you are making now and the occupation is much safer. I will not have you working in those mines any longer. It is too dangerous, I will not have you suffer the same fate as your father.” Her words were sharper than she meant and she saw the hurt in her son's eyes as she uttered them. She had lost her husband but her children had lost their father and it was obvious to her that Rorvi still suffered as much as she did. He did well to hide it but every once in awhile it would show up. “Also, in addition to moving back to Erebor we will inherit the money that belonged to both my family and your fathers before Smaug took the mountain. This will be good for us, we will no longer have to scrimp and pinch to make ends meet”


Rorvi chewed on the inside of his lip as he thought deeply about their situation. It was true, despite their family moving here for financial gain, the last ten years had been a struggle. After their father had died they were able to make do with the small fortune they had built up. But once that ran out they became desperate. 


They had all worked together to survive but it was no way of living. He spent every day going down into the dark mines which was a struggle in itself as he worked in the mine that took his father's life. His mother had taken to giving out sewing lessons and Torvi helped an elderly woman out with her market stall. In addition to her job with the old woman, Torvi would also go hunting to help bring in some extra money and meat for the table. Every few weeks or so she went out by herself, a situation that Rorvi did not like at all. She was skilled with a bow and as the years went on, she became more and more talented. But she was a hunter not a fighter. 


Each time she went out on a hunting trip he worried for her safety. As an attempt to keep her safe he would join her on his days off but those were a rarity. Most of the time she went alone and every time he worried about her uncertain return. 


Yesterday he had been worried sick when he came home to find that she was still gone but there was not much he could do. Torvi did not like to be coddled like a child. Rorvi did his best to protect her without her knowing but she was too stubborn most of the time. But Torvi did this out of necessity. If there were not so desperate, there would be no need for her to go out alone. She could stay home, she would be safe.


As much as a struggle it was sixty years ago, Rorvi knew that his mother was doing this for the best of the family. He had to support her. “When will we leave?” He asked, earning a relieved and appreciative smile from his mother. 


“In two weeks,” said Siv. “That should give us enough time to settle anything we have here and pack.”


“But what am I going to do?” Asked Torvi. “What about my job at the market stall?”


“You will no longer need to work. With the extra income of Rorvi's new work and the large sum of money we will regain from our family line, we will not need the extra money. Instead you will be able to focus on more important things like becoming a lady of the court,” Siv replied, giving her daughter a disapproving look as Torvi slouched in a chair with her legs draped over the armrest and looking filthy from her hunting trip. “I know we have not been living like it lately, but we are still noble. You have done well to adjust and so willing to help out, especially after your father passed on, but Mahal has given us an opportunity to hold our heads more proudly about our heritage.”


“Since when did it become so important that I act like a lady?” Asked Torvi sounding skeptical. 


“Ever since you were born into a noble family, that is when,” Siv snapped sternly. “You will need to marry someday and a noble dwarf is not going to accept some hooligan as a wife.” Siv finished as she pushed Torvi's feet off the chair and to the ground, causing her to sit up right. 


“Married!” Cried Torvi. “But i just turned of age and you never seemed so concerned before! Why is it so important all of a sudden?”


Siv rubbed a hand across her face, praying to Mahal for patience. “Because before our situation was different. Because we have a chance to live better than we have in the past decade. Now that we will be reinstated into high society, we must act the part.”


“So now that we will have money all of a sudden we have the right to act better than others?” Argued Torvi. 


“Torvi that is enough, you know that is not what I mean. I know you have gotten used to the simple life but it is time you remember who you are and what duties that comes with. You are the daughter of Rorin, son of Roric who was a wealthy and highly esteemed noble. He was the right hand man to Thrane before Erebor fell to the dragon. Our family took a hard fall when we moved to the blue mountains and although you do not remember a time when we were wealthy, it is time you get used to it. You are a noble lady, therefore you are to act like one and live like one. That includes marriage.” 


Siv’s voice was lower than a yell but it was firm in conveying the message. Torvi’s eyes flashed in anger as she stood up quickly and walked towards the front door. She grabbed her bow and quiver as she passed by their resting place on the kitchen table. 


“Where do you think you are going?” Demanded Siv. 


“To hunt down a noble lord to marry!” She announced loudly as she waved her hand in the air. 


She opened the door and slammed it behind her as she walked out into the cool night air. 


Siv slumped against the table as she exhaled her frustration. Rorvi could see how upset she was and he did not like seeing his mother this way. He knew this was not easy for her to leave her husband's burial site but she was doing what was best for the family. Even if Torvi did not see it that way. He walked over and gave his mother a hug as she let a few tears escape her eyes. 


“Don't worry mother,” he said, giving her a tight squeeze. “I will go find her and talk to her, she will come around.” 


Siv pulled away from her son to take a look at him as she put a hand on his cheek. “You are a good boy Rorvi. You had to grow up faster than you should have but I appreciate everything you do for me and Torvi.” 


Rorvi gave her a smile and a kiss on the cheek before moving to go find Torvi. Grabbing his coat as he passed by the coat rack, he opened the door and followed after his sister, knowing exactly where to find her. 


Torvi was sitting on a rock, looking up at the stars with a small frown on her face when she heard the crack of a tree branch. Instinctively she grabbed her bow and swiftly notched an arrow as she stood up and faced the direction of the noise. 


Taking aim she held her breath as the brush began to move and Rorvi appeared from behind a tree, his arms up and a calm look on his face. As soon as he came into view, she relaxed and sat back down on the boulder. Rorvi took a seat next to her and looked up to the sky. 


“Do you remember when mother and father once talked about moving to the next village over when we still lived in the Blue Mountains?” he finally said, not looking away from the stars. Torvi gave a hum of confirmation but nothing else. “You were so convinced that your life would be miserable if we were to leave our home and friends. I remember you even managed to runaway to go live in the forest in an attempt to protest leaving that house.” He let out a laugh as he thought about the memory. “It didn’t take long for Fili and I to get the information out of Kili as to where you were hiding when we found out what had happened. We could only convince you to come back with us by telling you that mother and father had decided not to move, which thankfully they did by the time we got home, otherwise I think you would have taken off again. But then later down the road we really did move, and farther than the next village over. When we first arrived to the Iron Hills you were miserable for several weeks,” he paused for a moment, looking at her and watching as she played with a clump of moss that she had torn from the rock. “I know you don’t want to leave home but remember this used to not always be home.” Torvi shrugged her shoulders and dropped the moss to the ground as she brushed her hands to rid them of dirt. “I am not saying it will be immediate but someday Erebor will be home to you.” 


Torvi took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It’s not leaving here that I am afraid of Rorvi. In all honesty I could care less of where we live.”


Rorvi looked at her, confusion evident on his face. “Then why are you giving mother such a hard time? You know she hates the idea of leaving father but she is doing this for us.”


“I know. It's just…” she paused trying to find the right words. “I know mother means well. I am just afraid of the changes that are going to happen. When we lived in Ered Luin people knew we were of noble birth and they treated us as such. There was so much expectation and so many rules. Those not of noble birth treated us like we were better than them while others seemed to despise us because of it. Then there were the nobles. I know when I was born we were not as poor as we are now but I know other nobles saw it differently. They saw us as inferior. As if we were only tolerated because of our connections with the line of Durin. With grandfather having had such a high post, mother being friends with the King’s sister, and even our friendship with the heirs to the throne. I know I was still very young but I was not naive. It was like we didn’t fit anywhere. We were too noble to be common folk and too common to be nobles. But here no one treats us like that. We are accepted here for who we are, not who our forefathers were. I am just afraid that when we go back to Erebor, where nobles and common folk are more divided, things will go back to how it was. Our life here may be a struggle but it is simple and peaceful.” She let out a deep slow sigh. “Sometimes I wish I was not born into this family. Being noble is too complicated. I won’t be able to be myself when I have to always live up to others' expectations.” 


Rorvi listened closely to his sister, he had never realized just how much Torvi enjoyed the lifestyle here. He had never had to worry about such things because it came easily to him. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that since he was a man he could get away with things a lot more easily. 

For Torvi it was different. There was always a certain expectation of noble women.


“I know it is not going to be easy and you will have to adjust and change some of your habits, I will have to as well. But you’re smart Torvi, if there is anyone who could figure out a way to have both words, it would be you, that I do not doubt about you.” Torvi gave him a smile and bumped shoulders with him, giving him a silent thanks. “Either that or our mother will just have to accept the fact that her daughter will be an old maid,” he added jokingly. 


Torvi smacked him upside the head before pushing him off the rock where he landed on the ground. He gave out a grunt that quickly turned into a fit of laughter as Torvi slid down and crouched next to him. 


“If mother has to get used to anything, my dear brother, is that our family line will end with the both of us since we both know no lady will marry your horrid goblin face.” With that said she stood up and took off running as Rorvi chased her through the woods, yelling after her to take it back. 


Two Weeks Later     

Torvi stared in awe at the two large statues depicting dwarven warriors on either side of the wide entrance of Erebor. Their journey had gone quickly, which she was torn between being grateful and bitter about. With winter soon approaching the air was becoming cooler and the wind that blew from the north cut through her clothes and brought a chill that sank into her bones. 


Their journey had started in the late fall when the days were warm and only cooled down during the nights, but as their journey went on it warmed up less and less with each passing day. The cold made it miserable during the night which made her happy to finally see the entrance of Erebor. Tonight they would sleep in beds surrounded by thick mountain walls that would block out the wind. For once in the past two weeks, she would finally have the opportunity for her body finally stop shivering. 


Despite this pleasantry to come, Erebor was not home. Of course the Iron Hills had not once been her home either but it was where her father was buried it felt wrong to be starting anew without him. 


Torvi adjusted the scarf that she had wrapped around her neck and covered her head so that it blocked the wind from her numb ears. Her breath came out in a cloud as she exhaled and the warmth of her breath reacted with the cold air. She did her best to take in every sight and filed it away to her memory. Torvi had only ever heard descriptions of what Erebor had looked like, but now she was able to see just how grand Erebor was and it was far more superior than she had imagined. 


Siv walked in front as Torvi and Rorvi followed behind, leading the two ponies that carried what few possessions they could bring with them. The small family made their way to the opening in the mountain and Torvi’s stomach flipped with nerves as they passed through the threshold. The hustle and bustle of the numerous people coming and leaving the entranceway made it difficult to move through the crowd. Rorvi grabbed the reins of her pony, leading it closer to his own in an effort to keep them from being separated. 


She was busy looking up at the vaulted ceiling high above and the intricate carvings that decorated the towering pillars supporting the roof that she did not see it coming. As she gazed up at the architecture, her attention was quickly brought back from her admiring when a sturdy body bumped into her shoulder. She began to stumble backwards from the force but felt two strong hands catch her and steady her. Once she had her balance, the person kept moving as the dwarf mumbled a gruff and hurried apology. She looked back to see the dwarfs face but all she saw was a glimpse of blonde hair and medium build as he was swallowed up by the masses that surrounded them.  


“Torvi,” said Rorvi, grabbing her hand. “Stay close, I don’t want to get separated and spend the entire first day in Erebor looking for you.” 


Torvi gave him a sour look to show him that she did not appreciate being treated like a child, but she followed more closely behind him. She had the rest of her life to admire the halls and corridors of Erebor. 


As they went further into the mountain it became less and less crowded as they moved away from the high traffic parts of Erebor. Torvi watched as her mother looked around eagerly as they entered the grand hall and she caught sight of Dis standing in the middle of the room, eagerly watching the entrance way in which they had just walked through. Torvi removed the scarf she had hooded over her head as they entered the room, doing her best to tame her hair from being blown around earlier that morning.  


Her mother gave out a youthful squeal and both her and Dis, as lady like as they could, swiftly moved towards each other until they were both embracing. Torvi and Rorvi walked together until they caught up to where the two women were busy hugging and kissing each other on the cheek, both with tears in their eyes from the happy reunion. 


“Oh Siv, it has been too long,” said Dis. 


Torvi looked at her thoroughly and was happy to see that despite all the years that had passed, Dis looked the same as she had sixty years ago. The only real difference was the greying hairs that sprouted from her temples. Dis pulled away to take a good look at her best friend. Unlike Dis, Siv had changed a lot. The last few years had been difficult on all of them but none more than her. Not only did she lose her husband but without his income they had become accustomed to just scraping by with the necessities. She was thin and pale, the stress of losing her husband along with the financial hardship had resulted in several wrinkles near her eyes and mouth. Her hair was more grey than the light soft brown but her smile and green eyes were bright with life. 


“It has,” agreed Siv. “I would have come sooner, but we had a lot of things to take care of before we could depart for Erebor. 


Dis waved her hand in the air as if to show that it did not matter. “Well you are here now,” she said happily as her eyes wandered to the two young dwarves that stood just behind their mother. “Surely these two cannot be your children!” said Dis in surprise as she looked from the two siblings back to Siv. 


Siv gave her a nod and turned to face her children as she kept one arm wrapped around her friend and indicated with the other. “You remember my son Rorvi?” 


Rorvi gave her a small, polite smile as he nodded his head in a small bow. “Yes of course, I would be able to recognize him anywhere. He looks just like his father,” she said while giving Rorvi a good examination. He was of medium height with a strong build from the years of working in the mines. His hair was red and he had a thick but short beard that covered his face. “You are definitely not the small boy that used to get into trouble with my eldest son, that is for sure! You are quite handsome. I dare say you do not have any trouble with the ladies,” she added with joking wink. “Have you got yourself a lass?”


Rorvi’s cheeks brightened into a pale pink as he shook his head. “No. I dare say their was not much opportunity to meet many ladies in the mines of the Iron Hills, ma’am.” 


Dis gave him a smile as she looked over to Siv. “You raised him well mannered” said Dis. “Perhaps you will be able to rub off on my sons again and this time it will be for the better.”


Her gaze now moved onto Torvi. If she had not been standing with her family, Dis would hardly have recognized her. She was much taller than she last saw her by at least several inches. Her fire red hair that was once tight with untamable curls had turned into near shade of brown than red. But when in the right light, it seemed to gain a glimmer of red tint. The length of her auburn locks was much longer which seemed to weigh down her curls into a soft wave that cascaded down her back. Two small braids hung down on one side of her head. The first braid signifying her family and the second, indicating that she was of age. The first braid was decorated with a copper bead that held the family insignia while the second was only decorated with a simple strip of leather, indicating that she was not courting anyone at the moment. Something that made Dis happy to know. The freckles that had once covered Torvi’s entire face were fewer as they had faded over the years but as Dis looked more closely, there were still enough to give her that familiar look from when she was a child. 


As she examined her face there was one thing that stood out to Dis that had not changed since the day she was born, and that was Torvi’s eyes. Her eyes still shone with that beautiful shade of green that always reminded her new life. As she took in all of Torvi, there was no other way to put it, Torvi had matured into a beautiful young woman. Dis smiled widely at the girl who seemed to have become uncomfortable under her gaze.


“No need to tell me who this beautiful young lady is.” She took a step closer and cupped Torvi's face as she admired her more closely. “I always knew you would grow up to be beautiful but never did I think it was possible for a dwarrowmaid to be so strikingly beautiful.” 


Torvi did not know what to say, so she gave a weak, appreciative smile of thanks. 


She had never thought of herself as beautiful and had never really learned how to take it when people commented on it. For the first time, Torvi noticed a dark haired dwarf standing behind Dis and grinning mischievously. Torvi needed no introduction as soon as she spotted him. 


“Of course you all remember my youngest son Kili?” Dis said when she noticed Torvi’s attention shift. 


He gave Siv a handshake and a small bow then moved towards Torvi. Taking her up in a big hug and lifting her up, Kili caused her to expel a laugh as she hugged him back. After he let Torvi down he moved onto Rorvi who clapped Kili on the shoulder before giving him a hug as well. 


“I must apologize for my eldest’s absence. He was told to be here but I am afraid he has been detained in other matters,” she gave a small side glance towards Kili before painting a smile back on her face. “But perhaps you will be able to see him tonight if you would give us the honor of your presence. Tonight we are hosting a small dinner and would love to have you present. Although I would understand if you would rather get settled. I am sure it has been quite a journey.” 


“The honor would be ours as long as it is not too much trouble,” replied Siv, accepting the invitation. 


Dis waved her hand in the air. “It will be no trouble at all and it will give you a chance to become acquainted with some of the families who have returned to their mountain homes as you have. Speaking of which, I am sure you are eager to see your new home and get settled in. I unfortunately have a meeting to attend to but Kili will show you to your living quarters and stables in which you may keep your ponies.”


Kili grabbed one of the ponies reigns from Rorvi and put an arm around Torvi as Dis and Siv said a quick goodbye and assurance that they would catch up later. “Right, if you would please follow me, I will give you the best tour that any dwarf has to offer,” he said giving a cheeky smile and wink at Torvi. 


Torvi rolled her eyes and smiled, she was happy to see that Kili was still the same old Kili as before. It had been a long time since she had heard from him. When she first moved to the Iron Hills they both kept their promise and wrote as often as they could. But after a time, letters came less and less and eventually all corresponding ceased by the end of the fifth year. She had been nervous at first, not sure of how to act around him, but as they walked and talked, she soon found herself easing into the familiar interaction that they had always shared in their younger years. 


Kili first guided them through the marketplace where there was an assortment of shops and trades. Torvi did her best to memorize what it had to offer, making notes for future visits but it was so vast she soon gave up. 


At the end of the large hall was a makeshift stable where a stall was open for their two ponies. Once their ponies were happily munching on a pail of oats, Kili helped them unload and carry their belongings to a wide corridor with numerous doors staggered along the way. Each door leading into various family homes. Most homes were quiet as the majority of Erebor’s population was down in the mines or at the market but occasionally they walked past a home and heard the cries of a baby or laugh of a child. Finally Kili stopped just before a study oak door with an intricate handle made of copper. As Torvi looked more closely at the handle, she realized that it was in design of her family insignia. 


So this was truly their home, she thought. 


He opened the door and motioned for them to enter. “My mother thought that you would like to have the home that your family had before Smaug came,” he directed to Siv. “She had it cleaned for your arrival. There were some belongings left behind that she was not sure if you would still want or not but she instructed that they be left for you to decide what to do with them.” 


Torvi watched as her mother looked around the front room. Most of the furniture was old and some of it broken, most likely from the hasty way in which the family fled from the mountain. Despite these few setbacks, the home was grander than anything Torvi had ever seen. Several carvings and patterns covered the stone walls that were inlaid with gold and silver, making it look as if the walls had veins of precious metal that webbed all around the house. It was breathtaking and Torvi could not believe that it was theirs. 


“It is perfect,” whispered Siv. “It has been a long time since I have stepped into this house. I have so many fond memories of this place.” She walked over to the hearth on the far side of the front room and looked at the old portraits that hung above. She smiled as she picked up an old frame that held a painting of a dwarf that looked almost exactly like Rorvi. Torvi could only guess that it was an old painting of her father when he was about Rorvi’s age. 


Rorvi immediately made his way down the hall toward the bedrooms with his bag of belongings. “First come, first serve on bedrooms,” he said over his shoulder.   


Torvi felt a nudge on her side and looked over to Kili who was standing next to her, holding one of her own bags. “Come on, that sounded like a challenge and if he's anything like he used to be, we had better claim you a room before he decides to occupy all of them.”


Torvi smirked at his comment as she led the way down the hall. “I wish I could say that was true but unfortunately he has changed a lot,” she replied. 


Kili raised his eyebrows questioningly. “How so?”


“Oh it is the same characteristics and personality, just...amplified,” she explained as she motioned her hands as far apart as she could to make her point. Kili gave her a look as if not understanding. “Oh you know, more self absorbed, overly protective, bossy, obnoxious, big headed...” she continued to tick each attribute off on her fingers until she was interrupted by Rorvi, who stuck his head from one of the rooms down the hall. 


“Who you calling big headed?” asked Rorvi defensively. He walked down the hall towards them and grabbed Torvi around the neck and put her into a headlock. “Don’t believe anything she says Kili,” he said as Torvi let out a shriek and tried to push her brother off of her. “She has become the master of lies over the years,” he continued as he began rubbing her hair with his knuckles. Torvi began yelling at Rovi in protest as she pushed at his arm around her neck. Rorvi just grinned even wider as he did his best to keep his grip tight on his sister without hurting her too much. 


Kili watched the two siblings squirm around, doing his best to not laugh but as soon as Torvi became free and he took in her disheveled appearance of hair sticking up every which way and a scowl aimed at her brother, he let out a loud laugh. “You both haven’t changed at all.” The two siblings smiled at each other as they breathed heavily from their tussle and Rorvi gave Torvi a pat on the back. 


“The room at the end is free sis, leave the biggest for get the smallest since you're the youngest.” Rorvi gave her a shove towards the end of the hall before returning to his own room to unpack. 


Kili followed Torvi down the hall and into the room. Torvi glanced around the room and immediately felt content. It was small but perfect for what she needed. There was a single window on the far wall that flooded the small room with sunlight. On the opposite wall was a small table with a mirror above it that would be adequate enough to serve as a writing desk and vanity. And in the middle of the room was a double bed with a wooden chest at the end of it, giving her a place to put the rest of her belongings. 

Kili walked in behind her and placed the bag he was carrying on the bed as he watched Torvi examine the room. After a while as she set her own bag down and began pulling clothes from the pack and placing them into the chest at the end of the bed. Torvi had only put away a few things when she paused and looked thoughtfully at Kili who had already made himself comfortable on the bed.


“You know, I can finish this later. What do you say you show me around Erebor and we can catch up on sixty years of life?” she asked, feeling restless and full of energy, despite having just traveled for the past two weeks.   


It was as if she could say nothing else that would make him grin any wider. Kili pushed off the bed and was already headed out the door. “I thought you would never ask,” he exclaimed excitedly as Torvi tossed the shirt she was folding roughly into the chest and followed after. 


As they passed by Rorvi’s room, he stuck his head out. “Where are you two off to?” he asked suspiciously. 


“Kili is going to show me around Erebor,” replied Torvi. 


Rorvi’s eyes brightened and a mischievous glint appeared. He shut the door and followed after them. “Forget unpacking,” he said. “I am coming too”. 


The trio all left for the front room where Siv was busily rearranging the furniture and organizing the cupboards in the kitchen. “Kili is going to show us around Erebor. Do you need anything mother?” asked Rorvi. 


Siv shook her head and waved them on. “No I will go to the market in a little bit to fetch the things we need later. You three have fun...and stay out of trouble,” she added. 


 “We will” the three chorused as they headed out the door. 


”And be back by six o’clock sharp so that you can be ready for dinner tonight!” she shouted as the door began to shut behind Rorvi. 


From what Torvi first imagined her first day in Erebor to be like, it had turned out much better than expected. Kili had only showed them a small amount of the mountain and it had been astounding. As they wandered its vast halls, Kili set about introducing the two siblings to various people. Some familiar from her days in the blue mountains while others new faces varying from nobles to the lowest stations of common folk. They even had the honor to meet several members who were in the original company when Thorin reclaimed Erebor. 


By the end of the day Torvi had a large grin on her face until Rorvi announced it was time to go home and prepare for dinner. It was then that her happy smile seemed to fade. She was not in the mood for spending the evening with nobles. She was not quite mentally prepared to dive into that sort of lifestyle so soon. But the thought of having Kili there to make it endurable gave her a new initiative to return home and get ready. 


“Where have you two been? You are ten minutes late!” said Siv as soon as they came through the door. She shook her head and waved her hands in the air. “Never mind. Just go get ready for the night. Rorvi I already polished your boots and there is a new shirt and breeches for you to wear on your bed. Torvi same for you, I laid out your new dress so go get changed and then we can do something with your hair,” she instructed, pushing both of them down the hall towards their room. 


Sighing, Torvi marched the rest of the way to her room as she thought about what was to come. She did her best to calm herself by reminding that Kili would be there as well as Rorvi. But there was something inside of her that made her feel nervous, who else would be in attendance to this dinner?


Today was not the best of days. 


Fili had all but stormed out in the middle of a conversation with Thorin. Thorin would be angry with him but Fili would deal with that later, right now he needed some air, needed to be free with some peace and quiet of his own. The mountain had nowhere to provide that, which was the very reason why he was making his way out of the gates, towards the wooded area east of the mountain. He had been so focused on his thoughts that he had almost run over a poor dwarrowmaid as he had exited the front entrance. He had not even stopped to properly apologize and see if she were okay. Manners hardly escaped him, but at that moment he had been desperate to be alone. 


Now that he was alone in the secluded forest he couldn’t help but feel guilty for how gruff he had been and made a note to seek her out and give a proper apology. Unfortunately as this conclusion came to his mind, he realized that he had absolutely no idea what the girl had even looked like. He hadn’t gotten a look at her face and there had been a scarf hiding her hair. The only thing he really knew was that she smelt like pine and juniper. 


His thoughts of the girl lingered only for a moment as he reached the forest. The solitude and fresh air brought enough clarity that he was now willing to think over his conversation with Thorin.


They were in the meeting hall with a large, rectangular stone table where the king's council had just been adjourned. Many of the council were close friends and comrades such as Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Ori, Oin and Gloin. Also on the council were other various members of nobility which included his least favorite, Lord Ferer. 


Kili was present as well, although not officially a member of the council. However being next in line for the throne should anything happen to both him and Thorin, it was thought best that he be involved with the dealings of Erebor. He and Kili where just about to depart and go meet their mother when Thorin had asked him to stay behind. Kili gave a quick, sympathetic look before he promised to wait outside for him. 


Both of them had an idea to what this was about, Fili had been caught failing to pay attention to the discussions being talked about. Although Thorin had not said anything in front of everyone else, he would definitely say something now as this was not an uncommon event. Kili was just as guilty for the same thing but Thorin expected more of Fili. 


As soon as Kili shut the door behind him, Thorin sat back down, interlaced his fingers, and propped his arms up on the table looking thoughtful. 


Fili let out a sigh and ran a hand through his hair. “Thorin i’m sorry for not paying attention... again. I just…” he stopped speaking as Thorin held up a hand. 


“Come sit down for a minute,” he said pointing to the chair next to him. As Fili crossed the room he waited for Fili to sink into the empty chair before he spoke again. “Fili I know you have had a lot on your plate right now, and I know I don’t say this a lot but I appreciate your efforts in which you have been putting forth in learning everything. I have not been easy on you and what I am about to ask you to do is not going to make it easier ” Fili looked at him as he was trying to decipher where this conversation was going. “It has been brought to my attention that there is concern about the lack of a future queen.” He paused for a moment looking wearily at Fili. “Right now it has only been certain members of the council who have expressed their concern but the more I have thought about it, I see it becoming a concern for many more in the future years to come. Especially if there is no sign of change.”


Fili was now leaning forward, listening intently as he knitted his eyebrows together in confusion. “Thorin I am not sure I am quite following you. What are these concerns? Is there anything that I can do to help?”


Thorin gave a small smile of appreciation at the dedication his nephew had for the future of Erebor. He truly would be a great leader when the time came. Unfortunately Fili was not going to like what he was about to ask him. 


“Right now the people are content with me having you as my heir and you mother as a queen consort since I do not have a wife. But the concern is when you take my place as King that there will be no Queen at your side. It was convenient for me that I have you to take my place but you will need a wife to produce an heir.”


It hit Fili as to what Thorin was slowly saying. “Are you suggesting that I need to get married?”


Thorin let out a sigh. “It has become a concern that you have not been taking courtship into consideration and that you are not taking the role of heir as seriously as you should.”


“Since when did courtship become the defining act of my responsibility as heir? And whose concern is this? Ferer? It was Lord Ferer wasn’t it?” Fili snorted as he stood up swiftly and began to pace back and forth. “Do you agree with him?” he asked. Thorin did not say anything but looked down at his hands. Fili felt the heat rise in his chest, it was obvious what Thorin thought. “You honestly agree with Ferer? Of all the people to take council from it is him?”


“That is enough Fili. I am not saying that you have to get married immediately, but I just ask that you start making an effort in at least finding someone to consider courtship within the nobles that are present,” he said. 


“You jest? Have you met any of those girls? They are all dimwitted, selfish brats!”


“Fili that is not fair! You cannot just rule them all out because you think they act that way. I know you have not put any effort in trying to get to know any of those girls except to lead them on enough for you and Kili to get a good laugh.”


“That is because I have no interest in courting!”


“And that is the concern of the council!” Thorin rubbed his eyes in an effort to bring clarity on how to present the situation better. “Fili, I am not asking you to get married or even enter a courtship at the moment. All I am asking is that you at least show an effort to satisfy certain members for the time being. You still have a lot to learn about ruling and this is one of them. Can I ask you to do this for me?”


Fili stopped pacing and thought hard. “So all I have to do is pretend to make an effort? As if I don’t have enough on my plate, I have to put on a show just to satisfy a couple of nobles that don’t have anything better to do than try and manipulate me?”


Thorin gave out a sigh and rubbed his head. “Fili, you know I don’t agree with the way Lord Ferer tries to manipulate you a Kili but this is something I need you to do. And there would be no harm in taking it seriously since one day you will have to take a bride. But it short, yes, right now all I ask is that you make an effort at gatherings and social events to at least speak with some of the young ladies.” 


Thorin watched closely as Fili chewed on the inside of his lip. “Very well, I will do this since it is obviously so important above trying to learn how to run an entire kingdom,” he said sarcastically. “Now if you excuse me I have something to do.” Without waiting for a dismissal from Thorin, Fili turned his back on his uncle and ripped open the door. 


Fili burst through the door as his mind wandered over what he had just agreed to. Although he had calmed down on the outside he was still fuming. He passed by Kili who had been leaning against the wall when Fili came out of the council room. 


“Fili what happened?” he asked as he quickly pushed off the wall and began following his brother down the hall. 


“Apparently I have to get married that is what!” fumed Fili. He took the corridor that led down to the front gate, he needed air, he needed to think. 


“Fili, mother wanted to meet in the great hall to meet with Lord Rorin’s family. Where are you going?” he asked. 


“You go, I need some time alone,” he said as he ignored his brother's protests and quickened his pace. Kili made an attempt to follow but after awhile he gave up and left Fili to brood in his anger. 


Fili slowed down his pace when began to realize how heavily he was breathing from the combination of physical exertion and fury that had come back as he played the memory in his mind. He was angry with Thorin for being so weak to bend to the council's wants. In his opinion Thorin should have stood up for him but again Fili felt as though he was being manipulated as always by certain members of the council. What made it worse was that Thorin seemed to agree. He felt as if he would never be taken seriously.


It was several hours before Fili made his way back towards Erebor. After a great deal of reasoning, he had enlightened his mind that dulled the bitterness towards Thorin. As he thought about what he had to do, he was reminded about the dinner his mother had arranged for the night. 


Thorin had asked him to just put on the facade during social events. Although Fili had agreed and he was prepared to do as Thorin asked him, he was not ready to start so soon. A loud sigh escaped him as he walked up the ramp leading to the front gates. Maybe Thorin was right, perhaps he at least try to take it seriously. With every passing season, more and more families had come to the mountain to reclaim their homes. Perhaps one of these days the right person would eventually show up. There had to be at least one girl in the world in which he could tolerate and get along with. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: Reacquainted

 Torvi pulled at the fabric of her dress before receiving a sharp slap on her hand from her mother. 


“Stop that, you’re going to ruin your dress,” she snapped quietly as they waited outside the door to enter the Royal families dining hall.


“It itches, and it's too tight, I can barely breath,” she whispered back. 


“I am sorry but you very well couldn't have worn any of your old dresses and we didn’t have time to have you fitted and have a dress tailored in such little time, so you will just have to deal with this one for the time being,” hissed her mother.  


Torvi rolled her eyes and tried to breathe in small shallow breaths in an attempt to relieve some of the tightness of the dress. The dress was something that her mother had bought earlier that day and while it was beautiful, it was not practical. It was made for someone who was taller, smaller chested, and wider in the hips. In addition to wearing an uncomfortable dress, her mother had rebraided her hair in a more intricate fashion than the two small and simple braids she usually wore in her hair. Instead her mother had pulled the top portion of her hair back and up by twisting it together while the rest was left to fall down her back. It looked beautiful but the tightness was already beginning to give Torvi a headache. 


She had been tempted to skip the whole occasion as soon as she returned with Rorvi but she had already promised Kili she would be there to help him “keep his sanity” as he put it. It was because of that promise she was standing in line, waiting to be announced before entering into the dining hall. Her stomach growled loudly which earned her another disapproving look from her mother. 


“What,” she asked shrugging. “I can’t help it if I am hungry.” She tried to not sound grumpy but it was obvious by the warning look she received, her efforts were in vain. Torvi looked up at the ceiling and slouched her shoulders as she tried to muster patience for what she was about to enter into. 


“Torvi stand up straight,” said Siv as she straightened her daughter's shoulders. “We are next.”


Once they had entered and been announced, Torvi scanned the room for Kili as her mother moved from dwarf to dwarf, exchanging greetings and introductions to various nobles and their families. Rorvi had already disappeared to go and greet a pretty dwarrowmaid that he spotted standing alone on the far end of the room. As Torvi was not in the mood to watch her brother horrendously flirt with the girl, she resorted to following her mother around as she continued to look for Kili. She was pulled away from her search for Kili when she heard her mother say her name. 


“...and this is my daughter Torvi,” she said putting a delicate hand on Torvi’s back and nudging her forward.


Torvi turned her attention back to the conversation and quickly gave a curtsy when her mother cleared her throat. “Torvi this is Lord Ferer, his wife Drane, and their son Ferin.” 


Torvi looked up at the family she was being introduced to. 


Lord Ferer and his wife were both dressed impeccably and were both highly attractive for dwarves of their age. They stood stiffly as they gave her a nod of acknowledgement, each glowing with an air of importance and arrogance. She could already feel the dislike and disapproval emanating from Drane’s dark eyes. 


Their son was very much like his parents. He was around her age, perhaps a little closer to Rorvi. His hair was jet black and was sporting a similar colored beard that was thick like Rorvi’s but kept just slightly longer. Several braids adorned his beard and hair showing off his status and achievements as a warrior. Torvi could not help but notice how strikingly handsome he was but there was something about him that set her on edge. His eyes were dark. Black as a moonless night. They were unique, making him stand out as even more handsome than most. But Torvi could not help but notice that they made him look cold and cruel as well. 


Ferin gave her a wide, charming smile as he bowed and gave her hand a light kiss. It was odd and unexpected given the cold impression his mother had given her earlier.   


“Ah, it is so nice to finally meet you and your family Lady Siv,” said Drane finally. Her tone was something that said otherwise. “We have heard so much about you and your children from Lady Dis and her sons. Even the King himself speaks very highly of you and your husband. I am sorry to hear of his passing,” she noted, not sounding sympathetic at all. 


Torvi watched as her mother’s smile faltered just slightly at the mention of her husband but quickly adjusted her mouth into a charming smile. “The royal family have been good friends with our family for many decades now. I am sure they speak more highly than we deserve,” she said ignoring the mention of her late husband. “If you will excuse me I must say hello to Lord Balin.” 


Torvi was more than happy to follow after her mother and escape the disapproving looks Drane continued to give her. Just as they had greeted Lord Balin, Kili appeared from the crowd relieving Torvi from the duty of following her mother and meeting more people. Together they made their way over to the large table with an assortment of food and drink. With their plates heaping with food, they made their way as far from the majority of the guests. As they suped and conversed, Kili did his best to fill her in on all there was to know about the various people in attendance, who to avoid, who was always good for a laugh, who not to mention certain things to, and most importantly, who not to trust. 


After the long day and talk with Thorin for his disappearance earlier, Fili was not in the mood for spending the evening with a crowd of people he did not want to be around. He had arrived late and most guests had already eaten and were now sitting at tables with empty plates or standing around in circles talking with one another. 


Fili was in the process of looking for Kili when a crowd of nobles cut him off, all too eager to speak with him. After fifteen minutes of half heartedly making conversation with various dwarves while still scanning the room for his brother, Fili finally caught sight of Kili standing next to a dwarrowmaid that he was not familiar with. With her back to him there was no identifying her face, but there was something strangely familiar about her. The way she seemed to fidget with her hair as she pulled at one of the loose auburn curls as her hands clasped behind her back and she rocked on the balls of her feet. 


He could see Kili’s wide smile as he laughed at something she said. Fili instantly became intrigued as to who Kili would so easily socialize with. It was not like him to look so happy and at ease with a dwarrow maid. 


Determined to have an answer, Fili made his excuses to a slightly put off lord who was attempting to introduce his daughter and made his way over to his brother. As he approached, Kili looked up to him and gave him a nod, causing the dwarrowmaid to turn to see what had caught Kili's attention. 


Fili stopped short as she turned around and faced him with a wide smile on her face. There was something familiar about that crooked smile but he could not place it. Now that he could see her fully, he took this as an opportunity to get a better observation. She had a slim build but had a muscle tone in her arms that told him she was not weak. Her face was tanner than most dwarves, revealing that she must have recently made a long journey outside. But it was her bright green eyes that caught him off guard. They were wide and keen, as if she knew a secret that he did not. 


The memory of Thorin mentioning to him about several families arriving within the next week popped into his mind. She must have arrived with one of those families because he would have remembered seeing this dwarrowmaid. She was strikingly beautiful and he was eager to learn of her name and heritage. Giving his head a quick shake, Fili took in a deep breath and put on a cheeky smile as he moved his feet and finished walking the distance between them.  


“I was wondering when you would show up, “Kili chimed once he in speaking distance. “I have to ask, do you remember Lord Rorin’s daughter Torvi?”  


Fili had still yet to take his eyes off of the dwarrowmaid. “What?” he said distractedly as he took his eyes from the girl to his brother. “Oh yes, of course Rorvi's little sister. Annoying little thing, kind of bratty, always followed us around. If memory serves we used to call her Trollvi?” Kili’s eyes widened at his brother and began to try and signal to Fili to shut his mouth. To Kili’s horror, Fili failed to take notice of this and continued talking. “You greeted her and her family this morning didn't you? I haven't seen her tonight, didn't mother say she and Rorvi were going to be here? I saw Siv earlier but that was it.” 


Kili’s face was nearing purple as he seemed to have forgotten to breathe in his horror.


“Anyways,” Fili continued blindly, as he turned to Torvi. “I didn't come over here to discuss her. What I came her for is to find out who this lovely young lady was. You seemed to have forgotten to introduce her to me.” He gave Torvi a wink. “I must say you look awfully familiar but I don't think I could ever forget such a beautiful face. Fili at your service,” he said as he gave a bow and held out his hand in greeting. 


To Kili’s surprise, Torvi kept completely composed as Fili continued to unknowingly dig himself into a hole. No, not a hole, it was a pit. Each time Kili moved to interject, Torvi gave him a small shake of the head as she continued to smile widely up at Fili. As Kili watched her closely, his horror quickly turned into amusement as he watched his brother continue to make an ass of himself. The only change he could see in her was the darkening of her eyes as Fili continued to insult her but her mouth continued to curve upwards and even grow when Fili turned his attention to her. 


Torvi lifted her hand and placed it in Fili’s, giving a small curtsy as he placed a kiss on the back of her hand. “Pleased to meet you Fili,” she smiled even bigger. “I am Torvi daughter of Rorin and Siv, but you may know me by another name...” She was grinning now as she watched the color drain from Fili’s face and panic dance in his eyes. “What was it again Kili?” She asked turning to Kili who let out a snort as he burst into laughter.  


“I…think…” Kili tried to compose himself as another fit of laughter hit him. “I believe it was Trollvi” 


“Ah yes,” said Torvi looking back to Fili who was opening his mouth and shutting it again, making him look ever so much like a fish. “You may call me Trollvi if you wish.” 


“I… I am so sorry I didn't…you look...” Fili floundered for words but failed as his face turned bright red. “I didn’t recognize you. I meant no offense.”


Torvi continued to smile. “I know, it's okay. I was pretty horrid as a child but then again you were awfully horrid to me as well if I recall.” She gave him a playful elbow in the side as she winked at him. “You really shouldn’t feel too bad it has been sixty years and it looks as if both of us have done a lot of changing in those years.” She looked him up and down. “Anyways it was lovely seeing you again,” She said in a tone that could have easily either sincere or equally insincere. She turned to Kili. “I need to get back and finish unpacking, I will see you tomorrow?” She asked him. 


Kili nodded still grinning and laughing. “Yes I will drop by sometime in the morning.”


Torvi gave him a smile and nod before patting a stunned Fili on the shoulder and walking across the room to exit through the west door. 


Fili watched her walk away, unable to register what exactly had just happened. He kept staring even after she disappeared into the hall and it was not until he felt a slap on his back that he broke his attention to look at his laughing brother. 


Fili punched him in the arm and glared at him. “Why didn't you say anything!” He asked angrily. 


Kili let out a yelp of pain as he rubbed his arm. “Don't blame me for you stupidity. I asked you if you remembered her!”


Fili only felt even more annoyed, although he was not sure if it was with himself, his brother, or the situation. “Well you could of been more specific. I think the words ‘this is Torvi’ would have sufficed.” 


Kili threw up his hands in defense. “Hey it's not my fault you didn't recognize her and couldn't keep you big mouth shut. Besides, I feel like it was pretty obvious that I was introducing her.” He smiled widely which earned him a glare from his brother. “Oh come on, maybe it will teach you a lesson about skipping out on events like you did this morning when you were supposed to greet them with me and mother.” 


Fili shook his head and rolled his eyes, feeling no better about the situation. “I needed some time on my own,” he mumbled. 


Kili became a little more somber. “ I know it's been stressful the last little while with Thorin breathing down your neck, but you take it too seriously. You have to remember Thorin does not expect you to learn it all in one night.” Fili gave him a small but thankful smile. He he had still yet to explain in full of his extra “assignment” to Kili. Who was still under the impression that he had only gotten another speech about paying attention during meetings. As Kili watched his brother, his eyes brightened as an idea came to his mind. “Why don't you come with me tomorrow? I was going to spend the morning with Torvi before our meeting and show her Dale. You could come with us maybe see Rorvi as well.”


Fili thought about it. Associating with his best friends little sister did not sound at all what would remedy his bothered mind. But then his mind seemed to remind him that she was not so little anymore. Perhaps it would not be so bad. Just as long as he could forget the horrendous fool he had just made himself to be. As long as that was not brought up, he could possibly, dare he say, enjoy himself? Kili had seemed to be enjoying himself immensely before he had walked up to them. And there had been something in her eyes that seemed to hold promise. Of what he was not sure, but he was certainly curious to find out.


“Sure,” he said forcing a smile on his face. “Why not.”


Kili gave him a wide grin and clap on the arm as he walked away. Fili stood there alone for awhile until he saw a noble headed his way with what he could only assume was his daughter following closely behind. Fili rolled his eyes. It was as if they all knew of his and Thorin’s talk earlier that day. Without saying anything, he quickly moved toward the east door and snuck out before the Lord and his daughter could catch up to him. 


Fili let out an exasperated sigh as he walked out into the cool empty corridor. He had not realized how stifling hot the room had been until now. Eager to not let his solitude to be disrupted, he made his way to his rooms, taking the less traveled passageways that led to the royal family quarters. 


Once in his room, he kicked off his boots and fell down onto his bed. He stared up at the stone above him as he surveyed the marbled stone and gold that spread out like a spider web across the ceiling. He closed his eyes but sleep did not come to him. Instead a vision of Torvi came to his mind. She was looking up at him, her mouth turned up into a crooked smile and her green eyes shining brightly. 


His eyes snapped open as soon as the image flashed across his eyelids. How could he not have recognized her? He should have recognized those eyes the moment he saw them. Ever since he first laid eyes on her as a baby he had been drawn to her eyes. Since that moment, he had never seen eyes that could even compare to hers.  


He lay awake in his bed, running the incident over and over in his head until the fire in the hearth had gone out, leaving him in complete darkness. When he finally did fall asleep, it was full of strange dreams depicting himself climbing through a window and kissing someone in the dark. Just as he was about to look up at the face of the person he was kissing, Fili woke with a start as a pounding on his door reverberated through his room. 


The late morning sun shone through her window and into her eyes. Torvi blinked rapidly as the light blinded her momentarily. Once adjusted to the light, she stretched her arms and legs before sitting up and looking around the room. A small groan escaped her as she saw the mess she had left from unpacking the night before. She had managed to pull everything out of her bags but failed to put them away, resulting in an arrangement of clothes and a few trinkets to cover the floor and the end of her bed. 


Ignoring the mess she dug through her clothes, found an old worn dress and put it on. A dark green that was adorned with a simple gold trim around the sleeves and neck line. It fell down to just below the knee which she prefered as it kept her from tripping over the hem like the dress she was forced to wear the night before. She found one of her boots inside of the chest and after digging around in the pile of belongings she eventually found its match hidden beneath her bed. She gave her hair a quick brushing and rebraided her two side braids before heading out to the front room. 


As Torvi entered into the kitchen area where her mother was busy cleaning up the dishes from breakfast. She spotted a plate of food laid out on the table for her and immediately sat down, pulling the plate closer to her to eat. Siv looked up from her task as she heard the scraping of the chair and gave her daughter a small smile. 


“You sure slept in late.You are usually up before the sun is even peeking over the horizon, are you feeling alright?” she asked walking over and resting a hand on Torvi’s forehead. 


“I am fine. I just stayed up late to unpack and then had a hard time falling asleep,” she quickly assured before moving on to her own inquiry. “Has Kili come by already? We were supposed to go to Dale this morning, I hope I did not miss him. You should have woken me up earlier.”  


“I thought it best that you got some sleep after such a long journey and eventful day yesterday. Kili did not stop by but now that you mention it,” she pulled an envelope from the pocket of her apron. “A guard stopped by this morning to deliver this to you. I am assuming it must be from Kili.”


Forgetting her breakfast Torvi quickly stood and grabbed the envelope from her mother. With nimble hands she tore open the wax seal and began to read. 



I am in deep regret that I must cancel our trip to Dale today. Some unforeseen business has come up and I must travel to Mirkwood with a meeting with the elves. Since Thorin does not get along as well as I do, he has requested that I represent him. I promise I will make it up to you when I get back in a week's time. 

Your charming best friend,



As Torvi read the note Siv could not help but watch the disappointment slowly creep onto her daughter's face as she read farther into the note. “I take it your day in Dale had been canceled?” Siv finally asked. 


Torvi gave out a disappointed sigh. “It seems so. Kili left for a meeting and won't be back for a whole week. Now what am I supposed to do with myself?”


Siv thought for a moment. “Well you can always finish cleaning that mess in you room that has seemed to form overnight. Honestly Torvi I thought you went home early to unpack.”


“I did!” said Torvi defensively. “Well, I meant to but I got bored of it and I was tired.”


“Then perhaps it is best that Kili had to leave, it will give you some motivation,” replied Siv. “I am going to go meet Dis and several other ladies this afternoon. Perhaps you can join me and meet some of their daughters while we are there.” Torvi wrinkled her nose at this suggestion, to which Siv gave her a stern look. “Well I am not about to have you moping around the house all day doing nothing. If you won’t join me then at least take yourself down to the market and get fitted for some dresses that are more suitable for you,” she said, looking up and down at the worn dress that Torvi was wearing. 


Torvi gave her choices a careful debate as she weighed the pros and cons of each option. Finally deciding on the last option as she was not in the mood for sorting or chatting, she opted for going to the market. At least there she would be able to look around and perhaps find some additional items that she could keep herself busy with. “I think I will go to the market and get fitted for some dresses.” she finally said to her mother. 


Siv gave a happy smile and pulled a purse out of her pocket. She handed a handful of coins to her as she gave a quick kiss on Torvi’s head. “Good choice,” she said. “Make sure you stay out of trouble and try to act like a lady. I don’t want you running around the corridors. And try not to get lost,” she added as Torvi started for the door. 


“I will behave,” she said in a monotone habit than in an actual promise. 


As soon as Torvi was several corridors away from the living quarters, she took off in a light jog towards the market. It did not take her long to find a tailor and had herself fitted for two new dresses. She chose one simple design that was more comfortable than the formal dress but still suitable to her mother's taste. The second dress was for formal occasions since Torvi knew that last night would most likely be a recurring event and the thought of wearing the uncomfortable dress again made it easy to have a new one fashioned. With her single errand finished, Torvi was now at a loss as to what to do with the rest of her day. 


In an attempt to avoid going home before her mother left to meet with Dis, Torvi resorted to wandering up and down the rows of the market. Not long into her wandering, she paused at a fletcher to examine some arrows that he had on display. There was a vast arrangement of various arrows made of various woods and light metals. The fletchings came in variety as well. Torvi slowly scanned the table, some were elvish and human design but the majority were of dwarvish. 


Her eyes fell upon a single arrow that looked out of place. It was not a design she was familiar with. Intrigued, she picked it up to examine it more closely. Its shaft was slightly longer than that of dwarven design but the ruins that ran up and down it were definitely dwarven. The tip was thin and sharp like an elvish arrow head and the fletching was made of feathers normally used by humans but trimmed in dwarfish fashion.


“I see you found the odd one.”


Torvi startled slightly as she had been so focused on the strange design that she had failed to notice the fletcher come up to the front table. He was a thin and very tall man. If he were in Dale, Torvi was sure he could pass off as short human. His hair and beard were a dark chestnut brown which he kept long but well groomed. His blue eyes had a shade of gray to them around the edges. They shone with a soft kindness as he watched her closely, holding himself in a manner of pride for his craftsmanship. 


“I have to admit I am not familiar with this design. Where does it come from?” she finally asked after she had finished assessing the dwarf in front of her. 


“Ah, I assumed that is why you were so intrigued. Any dwarrow lass that comes by and picks out that specific arrow to admire is one that I could only assume is familiar with a bow,” he said as he looked at her closely. “A rare skill amongst dwarves and even rarer amongst ladies. But it is an admirable quality if I must say.” 


Torvi gave him an appreciative smile. “I am no elf when it comes to archery but I would say that you are correct in saying that I am familiar with a bow.”


The fletcher gave her a wide grin as he nodded. “To answer your question about that arrows origins I have to disappoint you in telling you that it does not come from anywhere. It is of my own design, a hybrid of sorts. You see the point is that of elvish design, slim and sharp for piercing through the toughest of hides and armor. For the fletching I used an eagle feather like the humans. I find eagle feathers are more sturdy and hold their form better and the sturdiness prevents the fletching from become destroyed from normal wear and tear. But I used a dwarven design for the shape to give it the more true direction when released from the bow. The extra length is to help balance the tip and the shaft more evenly as well as give you more range while still being short enough to be used by a dwarven bow.” 


“It is beautiful.” she said when he was finished. “How many of these do you sell?” she asked. 


For the first time the fletchers smile faltered as Torvi asked her question. “To be honest lassie, I have yet to sell a single one. Most dwarves prefer to stick with tradition, they are too stubborn to give anything new a try, especially anything that has some sort of relation with elves,” he said somberly. 


Torvi thought for a while, continuing to examine the arrow as she chewed the inside of her cheek. She was intrigued by the arrow and was curious to see how it compared to what the fletcher had said to her. “How much?”


The fletcher's eyebrows lifted with surprise. “You mean you want to by it?” Torvi nodded. The somber look that had taken over the fletcher's face disappeared as his mouth split into a wide grin and his complexion began to glow with pride. “Tell you what lassie, you take that single arrow, free of charge and give it a try. If you’re pleased, come back here I will have more ready for you. Then we can talk about prices.”


Torvi shook her head. “I couldn’t accept this for free, let me pay you, even if it does not work as you say, the craftsmanship alone is of worth,” Torvi protested.


The fletcher smiled even wider as his face began to gain a faint tint of red from Torvi’s praise. “Lassie your praise and acknowledgment of my work is more than enough payment for now. You just give that one there a try and then come back to me if you still think it of value. Might I ask the name of such an admirer of my work?”


“Torvi daughter of Siv and Rorin,” she obliged with a small curtsy. 


The fletcher's eyes widened as he recognized her heritage. “The honor of your admiration grows even more in worth my lady. You come from an honorable family. I knew of your parents before Smaug came and forced us to flee from this mountain. I am Geeorn and I am at your service,” he said giving her a small bow. “I was saddened to hear the news of your father's death. He was a great customer of my father before I took over the trade and business. I can only assume he is the reason you have gained such knowledge and skill in archery,” he added as he took the arrow from her and began wrapping it up in a paper parcel.


“You are correct in your assumption. I thank you for the wonderful gift and I promise I will return for more once I have had an opportunity to try it. Something I intend to do as soon as possible.” 


“Then I will have more ready for you when you return,” he replied, giving her another wide grin. When he finished tying the parcel up with twine he handed it over to her. “Until you come back, Mahal be with you.”


“Thank you. Mahal be with you as well,” replied Torvi.


With the exchange of farewells and another promise to return, Torvi continued to make her way through the market again. It was not long after she left Geeorn’s stall that she found herself lost. She had not realized just how large the market place was and had stopped paying attention to where she was headed. Torvi began wandering aimlessly around the rows and rows of the various stalls in a hopeless attempt to somehow find her way back to the area she was familiar with. 


She soon found herself passing under a low archway into what she assumed was an extension of the market. As she walked through the small tunnel, she decided against going on as she noticed the lack of vendors and the increasing amount of odd looks coming from the men she was passing. Deciding to back track her steps, she turned to go back the way she came. Her body turned first then her head. She came up short and avoided running into someone's chest as she took a quick step back. 


“Watch out!” 


The very body she had just tried to avoid running into grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him as a large cart being pushed passed by the spot she had just been standing. Torvi looked up to her savior and was surprised to see Fili.


“Torvi!” he said in mutual surprise. “What are you doing here?” 


“Um shopping,” she said casually, not wanting to admit that she was lost and had no idea where she was now. 


Fili looked around at their surroundings then looked back down at her with one eyebrow raised, an amused smile hinting at his lips. “Shopping,” he parroted in an amused tone. “And what might I ask are you shopping for here?”


Torvi finally took the opportunity to look around at her surroundings. As she scanned the area it became quite apparent to her that she had been so focused on trying to find something familiar that she had failed to register her actual surroundings. 


To her dismay, she realized that she was no longer in the marketplace at all. Instead she found herself in a large room with rows and rows of a vast arrangements of weapons. On the far end of the room there were several small arenas where men were wrestling and sparring with various weapons. The room was filled with males and as far as Torvi could tell, she was the only female in the proximity. Most dwarves were minding their own business or too focused on selecting weapons and expecting them that she had gone unnoticed. But there were several curious glances and stares from some younger dwarves near the spot Fili and Torvi were now standing. She looked back to Fili who was grinning ear to ear as he watched her bemused face take in the scene around her.


“You know I have seen some pretty desperate maidens in the past few years do some crazy things to catch themselves a husband but never have I seen one actually go shopping for one,” he teased, giving her a wink which earned him a scowl that reminded him of the numerous scowls he received from her as a young lad. Normally this scowl would make him want to ignore her but for some reason, he found himself becoming gleeful at such a reaction. His eyes glimmered with amusement. 


“I am not here to find myself a husband,” she said flatly. “I was…” she paused not exactly sure how to explain her presence in such a place without admitting she was lost. For some reason she could not bring herself to admit it, especially to Fili. “I was just trying...I was just....”


“Shopping around?” Fili offered, becoming more amused. “You know it's ok to admit you're lost, it is of course only your second day here and it is a large mountain.” 


“I am not lost!” she said more firmly. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pick up a few things for my mother before heading home.” With that said, she began to walk past Fili and towards the corridor that was behind him. 


“Torvi,” Fili called out after she had taken only a few steps. She stopped and turned around to look at him. He folded his arms and took a stance as he watched her closely with a small smirk on his face. “The market is that way,” he said smoothly as he pointed behind him with his thumb in the opposite direction Torvi had been headed. “That corridor takes you down to the mines,” he added, pointing to where she had been headed. 


Fighting the urge to keep going the way she was headed, Torvi took in a breath and straightened her back to look as confident as she could. “I knew that,” she said haughty, as she passed by him again, now going in the right direction. 


“Of course you did,” he replied sarcastically as he watched her walk by him. 


As she made her way farther from him,an odd desire to follow her came to his mind. He still had two hours before he needed to meet with Thorin. Originally he had been eager to let out some of his stress with a good sparring with Dwalin but oddly, his desire was now replaced with a new one. He stood there for a moment looking down the way Torvi was going and then to where Dwalin was waiting for him near an arena. He debated for a few more minutes until he finally moved his feet. 


Torvi was just seeing the beginnings of the market place when she heard some quick footsteps approaching her from behind. She turned to move out of the way and was surprised to see Fili slowing down as he caught up with her. She gave him a suspicious look as he came to a stop next to her.


“Are you following me?” she asked. 


“Of course not, if I were following, I would stay behind you. I am joining you,” he clarified, then added, “Unless you would like to wander around again. Who knows, at the rate of your success in shopping someone will find you in two weeks at the heart of the mountain.” 


Torvi looked at him for a moment then finally gave a defeated sigh. “Alright, I may have possibly lost my way,” she admitted. 


“Then I accept,” said Fili.


“Accept what?” Torvi asked. 


“Your invitation to be your personal escort home,” he announced lightly as he began walking into the marketplace. 


“I never asked…”


“You didn’t have to,” he said over his shoulder with a wink. “Your eyes said it all.” Torvi stared after him as he slowed down and turned around. “Well are you going to come or should I send out a search party in an hour?”  


Without hesitation Torvi followed after Fili, loathing the smug smirk on his face but thankful for his presence all the same. Although she hated to admit it, she needed his help. They walked in silence for a short while, Torvi took in her surroundings, this time making notes of the course Fili was leading them in an effort to avoid getting lost ever again. 


Fili, however, kept his attention on Torvi the entire time. He watched her from the corner of his eye as she looked around at the stalls and vendors and hugged the long slim parcel in her arms.


“What is in the package?” he finally asked.


Torvi drew her attention from their surroundings and looked to Fili. His blue eyes shone with curiosity as he looked at her. “What? Oh this.” She looked at the brown paper that was in her arms. “It’s a gift from a recent friend,” she answered vaguely. She unsure as to why, but she wanted to keep the contents of the paper to herself. 


Fili nodded in understanding and smiled at her. He thought about apologizing again for what he said the night before but it seemed that Torvi had already forgotten all about it. Not wanting to remind her of his mistake, he decided on a different topic instead. “How are you settling into Erebor? Do you like it here?” he asked as he directed them down a long isle. 


Torvi thought for awhile. 


“I am not sure how to answer that question fairly. Perhaps if you ask me in a few weeks I will have enough to give a fair assessment of how I feel about it,” she finally said. She fell silent again as she looked at a basket weavers stall then turned back to him. “How do you like Erebor?” she asked curiously. “How are you settling in as being an heir to a throne that actually has a kingdom to rule?”


Fili was caught off guard by her question. No one had ever asked him how he felt about being an heir. “All my life I never thought much about my heritage and the importance of my existence until just before the quest to reclaim Erebor. Even then I am not sure if I ever actually thought my life would be different. But now...everything's different. In all honesty, I am not sure if I was born for this.” 


He paused in his explanation, surprised by what he had just admitted. He had never voiced it to anyone, not even Kili who knew more about what he felt than anyone. Yet here he was, admitting things that he rarely even admitted to himself to his friends little sister. He rationalized that it must be because he knew Torvi so well but the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he really did not know Torvi. Sixty years was a long time, he had no idea who this girl, nay, who this woman was. 


“I am sorry, I should not have told you that. If the wrong person were to hear me say that, the kingdom could fall to anarchy if they thought their future king did not even believe himself capable in leading them,” he said quickly as he looked around. 


Torvi gave a quick glance around them then gave him an assuring smile. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me,” she said as she grabbed his forearm assuringly before quickly letting go when Fili looked down at her hand on his arm. “Besides, I don’t think anyone is born to do what they are destined to be in life. They are raised to become what the world needs them to be. For you, that was to be King and I think you will make a great King someday.” 


Fili stopped walking for a moment and stared after her as she kept moving through the crowded market. He was surprised by what she said and so easily. It was as if she truly understood what he was feeling. 


Before she could notice of his lagging behind he moved in quick steps to catch up to her. “Thank you,” he said.


She gave him shrug as she continued to look around. “I am just saying what I think,” she said casually as she went on to the next vendor. “What really matters is what you think.”


Together they walked around the marketplace, occasionally stopping to look at something on display or to watch a performer entertaining a small crowd. Eventually they made their way to an area that Torvi recognized. They were now passing by the grocery area of the market. There was a wide assortment of bakeries, farmer stalls, cheese makers, butchers, and brewers with assortments of ale. The smell of food brought a rumble to Torvi’s stomach as she realised just how late in the day it was. 


“I was disappointed that I missed Rorvi last night. I was hoping to catch up with him today but Kili told me that he had to cancel our plans to spend the day in Dale when he had to leave.”


Torvi nodded. “I was disappointed to receive his letter this morning when I awoke. But Rorvi took advantage of it and decided to go a day early to his first lesson with Holden in the forges.”


Fili nodded. “That is right I had forgotten he was to apprentice with him. Holden is a good teacher, he is the one who taught Thorin. In fact it is the reason why Thorin put him in charge of the armory. Rorvi will do very well if he can follow in his teacher's ways. Is he excited about his new position, it is quite a step up from the mining job he was doing in the Iron Hills.”


Torvi gave a shrug of her shoulders. “I suppose he is. It was the best thing for the family which gives him a sense of pride in the work. Rorvi is not picky when it comes to work, he takes pride in everything.”


Fili laughed. “He always did. Not that everything he did was constructive when we were kids but I am glad he has not changed that part of him.”


“If I remember correctly it was not just him who took pride in the mischief and mayhem he created as a kid. I hate to say it, but I think Rorvi has made quite a few changes over the years.” Her face grew a little more serious. “He has grown more responsible and has become more serious. Not that he can’t still have his moments but they are less often. Hopefully Erebor can bring some of that back.”


Fili listened to her as he caught onto the sadness in her voice. “Well I am pretty sure he is not the only one who has done some growing up in the past years,” he said looking at her up and down. 


“No I suppose not.” she agreed. 


She looked at him closely for a while before looking around. They were now in the beginning of the market and back to the familiar area that Torvi knew. From here she knew exactly where to go to get home. “I guess I should thank you for the help. As much as I hate to admit it, you were probably correct when you said I would be found a week from now at the heart of the mountain.”


“It was my pleasure. I am always at your service,” he said with a bow. As he stood up he gave her a wink that made her roll her eyes. 


Torvi folded her arms and shook her head. “Does that honestly ever work with the ladies?” she asked. 


“Apparently not all,” he dryly. 


Torvi smiled and gave a small laugh. “Well I am sure I can find my way back from here,” she said, feeling a small awkwardness fall on them. 


Fili felt that same awkwardness as he looked down the corridor to the living quarters and scratched his head. “I guess this is where I leave you then?”


“I guess so. I will see you around,” she said.


For a moment they stood stiffly facing each other, not sure if to hug, shake hands, or just leave. It was Torvi who finally took the initiative and gave him a small wave and turned to go the opposite way Fili was headed. He watched her, pondering the weird sensations within his stomach. 


This was Torvi, he never felt weird around Torvi but then again he had never got along with Torvi either. It surprised him how much he enjoyed her company and now that she was no longer there, he missed her presence. The whole time they walked together he had forgotten about his worries but with her absence he was already beginning to feel the weight of his troubles bearing down on his shoulders again. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Four: Old Friends and New Friends 


Torvi woke up early when the night sky was just beginning to lighten with the sun's approach to the horizon. As she moved from her bed, a pile of clothes fell off the end of her bed and onto the stone floor. Her room was still a mess as she had failed yet again to finish putting away her belongings. After departing from Fili the previous day, Torvi had returned home with the full intention to finish putting away her things. But when Rorvi returned not long after she began, Torvi abandoned the chore to talk with her brother about his first day. 


As she became more alert, Torvi rolled out of bed and dug through her pile of belongings until she came up with a pair of pants, her boots, a shirt, and a thick coat. Once dressed, she grabbed the paper parcel and unwrapped the arrow Geeorn had given to her. It had taken her everything in her power of self control to not go out yesterday by promising herself she would go first thing in the morning. Once she had it unwrapped, she slid it into her quiver with the rest of the arrows she owned. It stood out from the rest with its size and design, making Torvi even more excited to see how it compared. She grabbed her bow and strapped it to her back back along with her quiver. Before leaving her room she grabbed a small side bag to carry a few provisions to get her through the day. 


Doing her best to not disturb Rorvi or her mother, Torvi quietly opened her door and tiptoed down the hall to the kitchen. She wrapped some bread and cheese in a towel and placed the bundle in her bag along with an apple and a flask of water. With her bag packed she grabbed a slice of bread and jam for breakfast. 


As she finished her meager meal, Torvi heard a door open and close. followed by the light footsteps of her mother. Torvi was in the process of putting the jar of preserves away into the cupboard when her mother entered the kitchen.


“Ah Torvi, I thought I heard someone out here,” she said in a quiet voice. 


Torvi turned around and grabbed the bag she had packed from the table and pulled it over her shoulder. “Sorry I didn’t mean to wake you,” she apologized as her mother lit a lantern. The room slowly became illuminated as Siv adjusted the flame of the lantern. 


As she finished her task, Siv took in the appearance of her daughter. Her eyebrows wrinkled together and she frowned slightly at the look of her appearance. “What are you doing dressed like that?” she then noticed the bow and quiver strapped to Torvi’s back and understanding came to her face followed by disapproval. “Oh no you don’t! You are not going to tramp through the forest and get yourself dirty and hurt.” 


Torvi was stunned by her mother's words, she had never forbidden Torvi from going hunting in her life. “What?” she asked in a shocked gasp. 


“You heard me. I thought I was very clear before we moved here that you would no longer be hunting.” 


“You said that I was not needed to go hunting, you never said that I couldn’t go,” argued Torvi, her voice almost sounding hysterical. Her heart was pounding in her chest at the thought of such a thing being forbidden. 


“Well I am saying it now. I said that you would have to make some changes and this is one of them. It is not proper for a woman of your standing. You can’t just spend your days dawdling around and doing nothing. You should make yourself useful; work on your sewing or get to know the other dwarrow maids in the mountain. But I will not have you wasting your time on frivolous activities!”


“If anything is a frivolous activity it should be sewing and gossiping with a bunch of silly girls!” shouted Torvi. The sound of a door being opened and quick footsteps came from down the hall as Rorvi appeared looking ready for anything. 


“What is going on?” he asked, sounding alarmed as he looked between Torvi and Siv. 


“Mother is forbidding me to go hunting,” Torvi answered, trying to calm herself down. 


Rorvi looked at his mother. “What is wrong with it?” he asked. 


Siv looked at him and answered his question. “It is not proper and it is no longer needed. She needs to realize that she needs to start acting like a lady.” 


Rorvi looked at Torvi who looked frozen in horror as she stood in the middle of the kitchen. Then he looked back at his mother. “What if I went with her?” he tried to compromise with his mother. 


Siv shook her head. “No you can't miss your second day of work nor leave early because of what your sister wants.” She looked at Torvi. “Go put those away and put on a proper dress. Today you will go with me and visit Dis and some other ladies of court. Perhaps being around them will show you how you should properly behave.” 


Torvi stared at her mother then looked to Rorvi who gave an apologetic shrug and half smile. She appreciated Rorvi for trying to take her side but couldn’t take in any condolence from him at the moment. She was devastated. She knew things would change but she was not ready for everything she had ever known to be gone and for her to change her behavior completely. 


With a quick glance back at her mother to check if she might look as if she would change her mind, Torvi let out a huff of frustration and stormed off down the hall. She unstrapped her bow and quiver and threw them on the bed. She stared at them for awhile, doing her best to ignore the burning in her eyes that threatened to produce tears. She walked towards her bed and stumbled over a dress that her foot had gotten caught in. Out of frustration she snatched it from the ground and threw it into the open chest. 


As the dress landed in the chest she bent down and grabbed another article of clothing then another. By the time she had everything in her room stuffed into the trunk, she stripped off her clothes and grabbed a dress sitting on the top of the pile and pulled it over her head. Once every button fastened, she moved to slam down the chest's lid and paused. Her bow and quiver were still sitting on her bed as if mocking her. Immediately she snatched them up and dug through her belongings until she uncovered the bottom and shoved them in. Once covered with the rest of her belongings she slammed down the lid and took in several deep breaths. Her heart beat fiercely in her chest, telling her that she needed to calm down. 


Thirty minutes later she came out of her room calm and serene on the outside, but still furious on the inside. She had done her best to mentally prepare herself for the start of a long line of bad days but knew that she would have to find a way of coping. As she walked into the front room, her mother was sitting in a chair with her embroidery hoop in her lap threading a needle. She looked up from her task as Torvi walked in and gave a satisfied smile which faded as she saw the stoney look on her daughter's face. It was not angry or happy, it was completely free of any emotion.  


She was about to comment on the wrinkled state of the dress Torvi wore but thought better about it. Torvi was in a dress and that was a start. “You look beautiful,” she said in an attempt to break away the contention between them. 


Torvi sat down in the chair next to her and pulled her feet underneath her as she grabbed a book and looked at the cover. “When do we leave to meet with the other ladies,” asked Torvi, sounding almost too calm. 


“In about an hour,” Siv replied, returning to her needlepoint. 


Torvi looked down at the book and opened it up to discover it was a book on medicine. For the next hour she lost herself in learning of various plants and their uses. The hour went by too quickly and Torvi soon found herself surrounded by several ladies, all chatting animatedly and discussing the gossip of those who were not present. Her mother prodded her to participate several times but each time she brought up a topic, the other women would stare at her as if she were speaking another language. After four attempts with the same results, Siv gave up and resorted to letting her daughter sit in silence. 


It was only four hours but to Torvi it felt like an eternity. She felt useless as she sat in the circle as they all sewed, knitted, and talked with each other. It took everything in her self control to not roll her eyes every time one of the younger girls closer to her age spoke. The things that seemed to matter so much to them seemed silly to Torvi. The only way she kept herself sane was by listening to the comments of the older dwarrowdam she was seated next to. 


Lady Mahuil was an aged widow that had lived through the thick and thin of everything. She was once highly esteemed and still was amongst the older ladies but Torvi could see the lack of respect from the younger girls. Something that made her dislike them even more. Lady Mahuil was the epitome of proper but was not one to hold her tongue. She was an artist when it came to needlework and Torvi had admiration for her work despite her distaste of the craft. 


Torvi was positioned right next to her in the circle and Lady Mahuil was quick to notice the oddness of Torvi. She was not like the other foolish girls, she had a smartness and common sense about her which she liked. But her mannerism and etiquette was all but nonexistent. Despite these flaws, she liked the young dwarrow maid. Manners could be taught but stupidity was not so easily remedied. As she sewed an intricate scene onto a handkerchief she could not help but be amused at Torvi’s lack of skill in needlepoint. 


Torvi let out a string of curses under her breath as she tangled her thread into a knot which she then managed to get her finger caught up as she tried to pull it apart. Her fingers ached from the numerous times she had stabbed herself and already had small droplets of blood staining the handkerchief in her hands. She was trying to stitch a simple design but her skills in sewing extending to mending a button which usually fell off the next time she wore the article of clothing. She was just about to throw it to the ground and storm out when Siv, noticing her daughters closeness to snapping, announced their take of leave. Never had Torvi been so thankful for her mother as when she uttered those words.


The week passed and Torvi was eager to hear word that Kili had returned. It had been an eternal week of boredom. Which despite her mother's encouragement, did not improve with time. Each day Torvi was subject to four hours of pointless chit chat and sewing. Lady Mahuil had taken it upon herself to try and teach Torvi needlepoint but there seemed to be no improvement. It was a blessing that Lady Mahuil enjoyed a challenge because any other person would have deemed her a hopeless mess. 


After each eternal gathering Torvi was always too restless to stay still and had would make an excuse to her mother for her need to leave the house. Most of the time she announced her intention to go to the library or the market as she knew her real intentions would displease Siv. Instead of doing what she had said, Torvi had made it a habit to go exploring. Wandering around corridors, poking her head through doors and exploring unoccupied rooms. There were several occasions where she found herself lost but she was getting better at navigating the mountain and learning to back track her steps. Each day Torvi became more and more aware of the massiveness of Erebor. Many sections of the mountain had still yet to be repaired and reused despite the several years that had passed since Erebor had been reclaimed. 


On one particular day, Torvi was headed home and decided to make a detour through the market so that she could pick up the dresses she had ordered on her second day. She was making her way through the grocery section of the market when she heard her name being called.


“Torvi?” came a voice from her left. 


Torvi looked around for a moment looking for the source of her name. As her eyes wandered around the area she noticed a butcher's stall and behind the front table was a large dwarf with dark curly hair. He had a white apron that was stained with blood and was wiping his hands off on a cloth as he walked out into the street. Torvi’s eyes lit up with excitement as she recognized the man. 




“So it is you lassie! I was hopin’ you would walk by some day. Ever since I heard ya family had travelled to the mountain I was hopin’ to run into to you!” He said as he untied his apron and threw it onto the counter.


“It is good to see you again my friend,” said Torvi, grabbing his hand as he offered his. As soon as she gave his hand a hardy clasp he pulled her in for a hug. Torvi had know Jorra for many years. He had been a butcher in the Iron Hills that she made most of her dealings with when she went hunting. They had become good friends over the many years of business up until he left the Iron Hills. He had been one of the firsts to leave for Erebor when it had been reclaimed, making it several years since they had seen each other. 


“It is good to see you as well lassie and doing so well,” he said as he took her in. “Come join me for awhile,” he beckoned as he made his way back to the table and pulled a stool out for her to sit on. Torvi was more than happy to oblige and took the seat and began talking with Jorra as continued his work while they conversed.


Fili was in the market with Thorin as they inspected the goods being traded within the kingdom.

For the past week they had done nothing but focus on trade and economy ever since Kili left for the Mirkwood. He was expected to come back today but a raven had been received that morning, letting them know that Kili would be delayed another week as negotiations were not going as smoothly as they had hoped. As a result of this, Thorin thought it would be best to see what the markets where bringing in and out of the mountain in an effort to come up with more options of tact in case Kili needed more to work with. 


They had just finished looking at weapons and armor and were now walking through the grocery district. As far as Fili was concerned, his day had been utterly boring and uninteresting. That was, until he caught sight of a certain dwarrow maid. 


At first it seemed normal as he watched Torvi make her way toward the butcher stall but when she greeted him like an uncle. The action peaked Fili’s interest. He watched the two from across the other side of the street while Thorin spoke with the baker managing the stall they were currently at.


As he watched Torvi sit down on the stool the butcher had offered her, he became even more intrigued. He had not seen her since the day he found her in the training grounds and ever since, he had been eager to speak with her again. He had ran into Rorvi the other day when making a trip to the armory and  they spent the evening at the tavern, catching up on the many years that had passed by. However, the whole time Fili spoke with Rorvi, there was a constant itch in the back of his mind to ask about Torvi but he had refrained from doing so. Now, as he watched Torvi start to stand and give another handshake to the butcher, Fili’s feet began to move, taking him closer to where Torvi was saying goodbye. 


“Fili where are you going?” asked Thorin as Fili started walking away. 


“I am going to say hello to a friend,” he explained doing his best to sound casual. 


Thorin looked behind Fili’s shoulder to where he saw Torvi beginning to walk away and nodded. Thorin smiled to himself as he watched Fili eagerly walk towards Torvi. He was not completely familiar with Torvi anymore, but he had always liked her as a child. She was good to Kili and she was always willing to challenge what she thought was wrong. 


However he was not sure if she was the same person she was as a child but by the stories he heard from Dis during the ladies hours, Torvi seemed to be different than the other girls her age. A fact he was happy to hear about, as his opinion of many of the younger noble ladies was not high. Too often he felt that they had a mentality of entitlement instead of a desire to work for what they earned. Perhaps when he was a young man of Fili’s age he would not have noticed this but after spending the majority of his reign as a blacksmith, he felt that all dwarves should not think anything below them. He had been worried about Fili when he saw how upset he had been about the request to seek out the young ladies of Erebor’s company, but now, as he watched Fili’s eager strides to catch up to Torvi, he got the impression that perhaps he did not need to worry as much. 


“Torvi,” said Fili as he caught up with her. 


Torvi turned around, searching for who was calling after her this time to be surprised again when Fili came into view. She gave him a friendly smile as he came up next to her. 


“Hello Fili, what brings you to the market today?” she asked politely. 


“Thorin and I are making our rounds and seeing how business and trade is faring within the mountain,” he explained. “How are you?”


“I am fine,” she said through a tight smile but there was something missing in her usually bright eyes. Something that told him she was not being completely truthful. “How is Kili? Did he get back alright? I was hoping he would stop by or send a note to meet up but I have not heard anything.” 


Fili gave her a sympathetic smile. “I am sorry I should have sent you a note as soon as we got the news. Kili’s trip to Mirkwood has been extended. Unfortunately, things are still a little rocky and an agreement has been difficult to achieve.”


“Oh,” said Torvi sounding disappointed. 


“Are you sure everything's all right?” asked Fili, looking concerned. 


Torvi looked up at him and gave him another, not so honest smile. “Yes. I guess I was just looking forward to having some time with Kili but no matter. You have no need to worry about me. You have more important things.” she said as she nodded to where Thorin was standing, busily speaking with a farmer while occasionally glancing over in their direction. 


Fili followed her gaze then looked back to her. “Oh he is okay, in fact he is probably happy that I am talking to you.” 


Torvi cocked her head to the side and looked at him questioningly. “Why is that?” she asked. 


Fili felt his stomach flip as he realized what he was talking about. “Oh,” he said as realized he did not mean to speak so openly. “He has just been encouraging me more often to the nobles my age.” 


“I see,” said Torvi, still confused. 


Fili cleared his throat. “Who was that dwarf you were speaking to earlier?”


“Who? Oh you mean Jorra?” she said pointing towards the butcher's stall. Fili nodded. “We lived in the same village before Erebor was reclaimed. We used to work together before he left to come live here.” 


“You worked for a butcher?” he asked. Fili was astonished by this, he knew from Rorvi that things were a struggle for them but he could not imagine Torvi working in a butcher shop. 


Torvi shook her head. “No, not exactly worked for him. I would provide him with game whenever I went hunting.”


“So you were more of business partners. You caught the game and he sold it.” 


“Yeah something like that,” she said, leaving Fili with a feeling that there was more to the story. “Anyways, when Erebor was reclaimed he moved here not long after so it has been quite some time since I have seen him. It was nice to see a familiar, friendly face. There are not a lot of familiar faces in this mountain and far fewer friends.” 


“Perhaps you could consider some of those new faces as friends,” came a voice from behind Torvi. 


Torvi caught a small disapproving frown as Fili looked behind her to the source of the eavesdropper. Torvi turned to see a young dark haired dwarf standing just a few steps away. He came closer when her eyes alighted on him. Instantly, Torvi recognized him as the son of one of the families she had met the first night in Erebor. 


“Forgive me for eavesdropping but I couldn't help but overhear. Your highness,” he said, looking over her head and giving a small nod of acknowledgment to Fili. Who in return only gave an even smaller nod of acceptance. The tension became heavier as the new arrival turned to her and gave her a dashing smile. “Lady Torvi if I remember correctly?”


“Just Torvi” she said, giving a small dip of a curtsy. 


He gave her another smile of perfectly white teeth. “Torvi it is then. We met at the dinner last week. I am Ferin.” 


Torvi nodded. “Yes I remember you and your family. Your parents are Lord Ferer and Lady Drane if I remember correctly?” 


“Your memory is as good as your looks,” he said, making Torvi feel both awkward and flattered by the compliment. “I have been hoping to run into you sometime soon. I wanted to apologize for any offense you might have taken from my mother’s behavior on the eve of our meeting. She is not exactly the most sympathetic or warm person towards people she does not know. But I wanted you to know that not all of my family is like that,” he said politely. 


“No offense was taken but thank you all the same. Perhaps you are correct in saying that I should befriend some new faces.” She gave him a shy smile. “After all, what is the point of new beginnings without new friends and acquaintances,” she added. 


Although she was still not sure about how she felt towards him, she could not ignore how strikingly handsome he was. But that was all she really knew about Ferin and she had learned over the years that looks were often deceiving.    


“I would be honored with a friendship with someone such as yourself,” Ferin replied easily. 


Fili could not help but roll his eyes at Ferin’s words. Ferin’s entire family was notorious for being two faced and manipulative and he was not happy with the fact that Torvi seemed to like his compliments. It took everything within him to not let out an exasperated snort every time he spoke. He hardly focused on the actual conversation between the two as he was too focused on watching Torvi’s face for any sign or signal of what she thought about Ferin.  


“Fili we need to move on,” came Thorin's voice as he put a hand on his shoulder. 


Fili had been so absorbed in watching Torvi that he had not realized that Thorin had joined them. Both Torvi and Ferin each broke their conversation as Thorin made his presence known. 


“Torvi,” said Thorin giving her a nod and a smile. “How are you settling into Erebor?”


“Very well thank you,” she said, giving a small curtsy at his approach.


“Good. Holden says that Rorvi is adjusting well to his apprenticeship. I hope he is enjoying the work as well.”


“Oh yes. It has been almost all he has talked about since starting.” 


“Very good,” nodded Thorin as he turned his attention to Ferin. “Ferin,” he said. “What brings you to the market today?” 


“Your highness,” he said, giving a small bow. “I had the day off and was actually hoping to run into Torvi here. I have been eager to get to know her since you speak so highly of her family.” 


Thorin did not smile at this reply but gave a nod to Ferin as he looked at him, searching the younger dwarfs eyes carefully before turning back to Torvi. “I must apologize but I will need to take Fili away from you. We have a lot to do but perhaps you two could finish your conversation some other time?” he suggested. 


Torvi nodded in understanding. “I am sure the two of you have a lot more important things to attend to. It was good seeing you again,” she added to Fili. 


Fili nodded and moved with his uncle farther down the market isle. He looked back to where he had left Torvi and felt a small flare of anger to see Ferin say something and offer an arm for her to take. He wrenched his attention forward before he could see her accept it, missing the look Torvi gave in his direction before hesitantly accepting Ferin’s arm and walking the opposite way. 


Thorin watched his nephew closely as he noted the sour attitude that he seemed to develop since speaking with Torvi. He had a suspicion that this new mood was caused by the fact that Ferin and Torvi were getting along so well when Thorin had approached the small group of younger dwarves. 


“Torvi seems to be getting along with Ferin,” said Thorin. “I am glad to see that she is getting acquainted with other families of the mountain,” he paused to catch a glimpse of Fili. Fili let out a humph and shook his head but said nothing. “You do not approve of her making friends.” 


This made Fili look up from the ground in front of him that he had been silently glaring at. “I do not think Ferin has any intention of being just friends with Torvi.”


“And what is wrong with that?” asked Thorin, doing his best to keep from smiling. He himself did not like Ferin’s family, and while Ferin seemed to be better than his parents, there was something he did not trust about the lad. There was something insincere about the way he presented himself. “Torvi is of age and has been for several years. Ferin has good standings and is a fierce warrior. He would provide well for her.” 


“Torvi is too good natured for him, he doesn't deserve her. He may have fooled you into thinking he is better than his parents but he has not fooled me. He does not go after anything unless it is a benefit for himself.” 


“Perhaps you have someone else in mind who would be better suited for her?” suggested Thorin as he watched Fili in the corner of his eye. “Since when did you become so concerned for the well-being and happiness of Torvi?” Fili’s head snapped up as he looked to Thorin. Thorin had stopped walking and was facing him now with his eyes raised and mouth sloped in a knowing smirk. “You wouldn’t be holding any interest of your own would you?”


“Of course not,” said Fili almost too quickly. “She is Rorvi’s little sister. If anything she is like a sister to me and I am only looking out for her to help my friend.”


“Ah, because you were always like a brother to her before she returned to Erebor,” said Thorin with the slightest of sarcasm in his voice. Fili opened his mouth to say something but the words would not form in his mouth. Thorin smirked as he hummed knowingly before continuing to walk to their next destination. 


Fili was left with no other option than to follow behind his uncle in silence. With only the jumbled sounds of the market to fill his ears, Fili soon found there was nothing to distract him from pondering what Torvi was doing with Ferin and if she could see past his erroneous mask or not. 


Torvi had felt a small twinge of panic as Fili left her alone with Ferin. She did not even hear what Ferin had said as he offered his arm until she looked back from where Fili was walking away and saw him standing there expectantly. With one last glance to Fili’s retreating back, she hesitantly accepted Ferin’s arm and gave him a small smile as he began leading the way and politely chatting with her. 


Torvi was not sure of what to think of Ferin. He was polite to her but she could see the small hint of contempt written in his eyes anytime someone of less fortune come too close. When he spoke with shopkeepers, he addressed them politeness but there was always an air of superiority in his voice that Torvi could not tell if it was real or of her own imagination. 


“I understand you grew up in the blue mountains in the same village as the royal family?” he said as they made their way from the market to the living quarters. 


“We did for the beginning of my life, but we moved to the Iron Hills before I even reached the age of twenty. It is there that I have spent most of my years,” she replied. 


“But you still have a close relationship with the royal family,” he added. 


“I suppose you could say that but it is not a firm as before. My mother is still very close to Lady Dis and visits with her everyday. Unfortunately, I myself am not as familiar with them anymore.”


Ferin’s face morphed into an expression that Torvi could not interpret. “That is not what I gathered from observing your interactions with Prince Kili at the dinner awhile back and again with Prince Fili today in the market just before I joined you,” he said factually. “The prince seemed very close to you, if it is not too bold of me to say. You would not happen to be reaching a courtship with him would you?” 


Torvi was beginning to feel uncomfortable with Ferin’s constant questions about her relationship with the royal family. The more she thought about it, their entire afternoon of conversation seemed to revolve around her and her family's relationship with the King’s family. 


“Oh no, not at all. Fili and I are just friends. In fact it has been a recent friendship since my family and I arrived to Erebor. I am not even sure you could even call it a friendship. I am close to Kili but I can only assume Fili speaks with me because of his friendship with my older brother. I can assure you that it is nothing even close to consider as a courtship.”


She watched him closely as she gave him her answer, trying to read him. 


“Well that is a relief to hear,” he said. “I must admit I did not think I would have any chance of getting to know you if you had the affections of a Prince.” He came to a stop under the archway that opened up to the long line of homes. “It is to my dismay that I must leave you here. I have some prior arrangements that I must attend to.” He held out his hand for her’s and gave a gentle kiss on her knuckles as she extended her hand to him. “If you would allow me to, I would love to call on you sometime.” He paused, waiting for an answer then continued when she gave him a half smile and a nod. “I look forward to our meeting again but until then, I hope you will be well.” With this said he gave her a bow before tuning to depart back down the hall they had recently come from.


Siv gone to bed early, leaving Rovi and Torvi alone in the parlor as they laid on the floor playing an old dwarven board game. Rorvi moved one of his pieces as he spoke. “I ran into Fili earlier today, he said you spent some time with Lord Ferer’s son.”


Torvi did not take her eyes off of the board as she moved her own piece and answered him. “I did. We met in the market and we spent a few hours together this afternoon.”


Rorvi’s head snapped up from the board as he looked at his sister. “You know, Fili warned me about him. He said that that you should not be left alone with him, he is not as honest as he seems,” he replied sternly. 


This time Torvi met Rorvi’s eyes and rolled her own as she saw his typical, protective brother expression. “You don’t need to worry Rorvi. I think I can make my own judgements and there is something about him that I do not trust. While he his charming, I definitely won't be letting my guard down around him anytime soon.” 


Rorvi looked slightly relieved but did not relax his shoulders completely. “Well I am glad to hear that but either way I don’t want you spending time with him alone.”


Torvi rolled her eyes. “Rorvi,” she said exasperatedly. “If it were up to you I wouldn’t be allowed to talk to any male dwarf until I was 170 years old.”


“Make that 180,” he said jokingly as he let out a small chuckle. “I can’t help it,” he said with a shrug. “It is my brotherly duty. Besides it is not that bad, I have no problem with you talking with Kili or Fili.”


“Gee thanks, I feel so privileged,” she said sarcastically as she moved another piece ending the game in victory. She smiled as Rorvi frowned at the board as he realized he had just lost. 


“Only the best for my little sister,” he said replacing his frown with a wide grin. He gave a large yawn and stretched his stiff joints from laying down on the floor for so long.  “I am off to bed, Holden asked me to come in an extra day tomorrow so we can finish an axe handle he was showing me how to make by using a new technique.” With those words he got up and stretched again. “Goodnight little sis, don’t stay up too late.” Torvi rolled her eyes and ignored his comment as she began to put away the game before going to bed herself.  

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: A Purpose in Life


It was almost a month and a half since Kili had left for his assignment in Mirkwood and Torvi was getting more and more restless. Day after day she was stuck for four miserable hours with a room full of gossiping women. Then forced to spend the rest of the day to preoccupy herself with other things that went through the approval of her mother. Despite her life becoming unmeasurably boring compared to life in the Iron Hills, Torvi did her best to make the most of it. It was not much, but it was enough to get her through each week of Kili’s absence.


To begin with, there was Mahuil who still continued to commit her tutelage to Torvi during the endless hours with the ladies. While Torvi was still a disaster at embroidery, she had mastered sewing the perfect line of stitches. Something that many of the young ladies had claimed they had known to do since they were twelve years but Torvi was proud of her work and Mahuil was quick to correct several of them of their own flaws in skill. Then there was of course the days Rorvi had off and they went to Dale or explored the surrounding areas. And of course Torvi made sure to make the occasional visit to Jorra to speak with her old friend at his shop. 


While all of these things did well to keep her sanity, the one thing that kept her spirits up the most were the occasional run ins she had with Fili. At first they seemed sporadic but as the days turned into weeks their run ins became more and more frequent. Fili began to pop up almost everywhere, in the market on the days she met with Jorra, on her way home from the ladies meetings, and even at her house. Each time he stopped by her house it was always with the intention to see Rorvi. An action Torvi thought odd since it was always before Rorvi ever finished with work. Despite this oddity she did not mind his company and it was nice to have someone to talk to other than her brother while Kili was away. 


While Torvi was doing her best to make the most of her new life, she still felt as if something were missing. She had no purpose. Nothing for her to do that would make her feel useful. As much as she enjoyed spending time with those who lifted her spirits, it was always discouraging when they had to leave because of their own duties. Torvi envied all of them. She felt as if she were wasting away as she lived her days in unfulfilled repetition. In spite of how she felt, Torvi did her best to hide any discouragement. To all those around her, she seemed perfectly happy and content with her life. 


It had been yet another repetitive day and Torvi was struggling more than usual to keep her spirits up. Mahuil was sick with a cold, resulting in her absence at the ladies meeting. While walking home with her mother, she decided on a visit to Jorra, knowing it would do her some good but he had been so busy with work orders, that she was only able to get a quick hello from him before going back to work. Now she was sitting at home waiting for the time to pass until she could go meet Rorvi for the end of his shift. Siv was standing at the stove in the kitchen while a knock at the door sounded.   


“Torvi could you get that?” asked her mother as she tasted the broth to take to Mahuil. 


“Sure,” said Torvi as she stood from the kitchen table. She had been flipping through a book while she was supposed to be helping her mother but closed it as she stood. 


As Torvi opened the door she was hit in the nose full force as the door was shoved open from the other side. Torvi instantly brought a hand to her face as she let out a cry of pain as Kili walked with gusto and threw open his arms. “Behold, the conquering hero has returned!” he announced loudly. Without warning, Kili excitedly wrapped his arms around Torvi, pushing her hand harder into her face as she was smashed into his body. Torvi’s eyes grew wide as Kili squeezed all the air out of her, causing her to let out a breathless gasp. 


Kili eventually let her go and she regained her breath as she took a step back to take him in. As her eyes ran over the image before her a happy grin grew on her face and she threw her arms around Kili’s neck to give him her own tight hug. “You’re finally back,” she squealed with glee. For the first time Torvi realised that Fili was also present and had been blocked from view by his younger brother until now. She gave Fili a welcoming smile over Kili’s shoulder as she hugged her dark haired friend to which Fili responded with his own. As Torvi released Kili’s neck she gave him a not so gentle punch on the shoulder. “It took you long enough!”


He let out a small laugh as he rubbed his shoulder. “I am sorry, I should have written but I was a little preoccupied with the King of Mirkwood,” he rolled his eyes and let out a sigh. “You would think that after siding together in battle it would form a little trust but six years later and there is still nothing!” he complained while throwing up his arms and entering all the way into the house. 


Some footsteps sounded as Siv came from the kitchen area to see what all the noise was about. “Oh Kili, I thought I heard your voice. So you are back from your trip finally,” she said, giving him a hug then putting an arm around Torvi. “Torvi didn’t let a day go by without complaining of your absence.”


“She is exaggerating,” Torvi disagreed, rolling her eyes to the ceiling.


Kili gave her a wide smile and a wink. “Oh its ok to admit you missed me. I don’t blame you. I am the best thing that ever happened to you.”


Torvi let out a snort of laughter then corrected herself when she saw Kili’s look of offense before his own mouth split into a wide grin. They were all soon laughing except for Fili who only gave a small half smile in order to join the others.


“We came by to see if you and Rovi wanted to spend the evening together,” Kili invited. “It has been a long time since all four of us were together. Although now that I think about it perhaps that won’t be such a good idea.” He pondered aloud as he looked between Torvi and Fili. 


Torvi walked up next to Fili and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. “Oh I think we can manage to get along for at least a few hours, can’t we Fili?” She gave a sly wink to Fili. “Believe it or not Kili, but while you were gone, Fili and I have managed to get along quite splendidly,” she added. 


“WHAT!?!?” said Kili in mock surprise. “I can’t believe it! How could this be?”


“Well when you best friend ditches you, you have to go to the next best thing,” said Torvi. 


Kili grinned. “Well I am back so no need for that. You can now have the best of the best.” 


“I don’t know, you were gone for an awfully long time. Who is to say Fili replaced your spot in my heart,” she teased playfully.


Kili looked narrowly at Fili who at this point had been silent since their arrival to the home. “So is it true? Have you stolen Torvi’s heart?” he accused as he puffed up his chest and crossed his arms. 


Fili had been so caught off guard that he looked at Kili, then Torvi, and back to Kili. “Uh…” he finally said. 


Kili looked at Torvi and raised an eyebrow making himself look unimpressed. “Somehow by that reaction I fail to believe I have been replaced.” 


Torvi grinned and returned to Kili’s side and looped her arm through his. “Well the ploy is up. You are the only man for me,” she exaggerated with a sigh. 


Kili feigned a look of nobleness. “Tis my burden to bare.” 


“And you bare it very well,” cut in Siv. “Now that is enough nonsense. Why don’t the three of you go meet up with Rorvi and spend a nice long evening together.” 


Before Siv had even finish speaking Torvi and Kili were already out the door and headed to the armory. 


“Well that was fast,” said Siv in surprise to the quiet Fili. She looked at the Prince and noticed the odd look on his face. “Is everything alright lad?” 


Fili was so lost in thought that he had not realized what Siv was asking him until she repeated herself. “What? Oh yes Lady Siv, I am alright...just tired from the day's tasks,” he casually brushed off. 


Siv nodded at him. “Well I suggest you hurry up otherwise those two will be gone with Rorvi before you even get there.” 


Fili nodded to Siv and followed after his brother and Torvi, his mind flooded with thoughts, making his footsteps heavy and slow as he walked down the corridor. Earlier, Fili had been eager to join Kili in his idea to spend the evening with Torvi and Rorvi. But the moment he watched Torvi become so excited at Kili’s presence his mood changed into something he had never felt before. It was small and subtle but nevertheless it was there and unfamiliar to him. It was like a small heat within his belly as if a dragon was inside his stomach, gnawing at his insides. As soon as she smiled at him from over Kili’s shoulder the strange feeling instantly disappeared and he smiled back at her. 


But later, as she left his side and linked arms with Kili that strange feeling came back again. It was as if he were angry at Kili but he had no reason. His breath became harsh and shallow and he felt his fingers curl into fists at his side. He could not explain the reason for such a change in his moods. It felt as if he were in a barrel again, riding down a rapid river. With each bump against a rock his mood changed into another emotional.  


Realizing that his thoughts were slowing him down, Fili shrugged it off and quickened his pace. By the time he caught up with them they were already in the armory and Rorvi was just getting off of his shift. His best friend gave him a wide grin and clapped him on the back in greeting. He returned the gesture just as heartily as his mood was improved with the presence of his friends smile.


Once their happy greeting was over, Rorvi clapped his hands together and looked expectantly around the circle the four dwarves had formed. “So what is on the agenda for tonight?” he asked.


“Oh I have just the idea,” said Kili with a devilish grin. “I hope none of you are afraid of getting in trouble if we get caught?” he said as he took off down towards the mines. 


They did get caught and they did get in trouble. 


In fact, two weeks had passed and they were all still paying for their pranks. It was Bofur who had caught them down in the mines. The had all been arguing over who got to light the fuse or not when he happened to run into them. Despite Kili’s argument that Bofur was overreacting they were still reported to Thorin. ‘ It would have only been a small explosion. Nothing more than the small fireworks Gandalf brought for the children last Durin’s Day festival,’ had been Kili’s argument. Unfortunately, Thorin was not persuaded by his rationalization either which led to both Siv and Dis to be summoned to the room that all four pranksters were being interrogated. After several versus what were you thinking, how could you be so foolish, and have you gone mental, the punishment was decided. 


All four of them were sentenced to three weeks of reporting to Ori and dedicating two hours each day to help sort out the contents of the library. When Erebor had been reclaimed, the rebuilding of walls, starting up the mines, and making Erebor habitable again had been priority. The result of this was that the library had been left neglected until the most recent years. But unlike the restarting of the mines, it had been a slow process as most dwarves had other duties and lack of interest in the scholarly field. This left Ori in a mess of books, maps, and ledgers that needed sorting with only himself and a handful of other scholarly dwarves. When he found out that he was to have four more additional dwarves for help, he was ecstatic. 


It was towards the end of the second week when all four of them were sitting at a table. As they sorted several maps in complete silence, a dwarf approached the table and cleared his throat. Torvi looked up to see Ferin standing next to where she was seated. 


“Torvi,” he said in surprise. “I did not expect to see you here. In fact, I am surprised to see you at all. I was beginning to think you were avoiding me,” he commented, looking at her then to the others. After seeing the displeasure written across each of the male dwarves faces, he turned his attention back to Torvi. “I hope I haven't done anything to warrant being written out of your good graces.”  


Torvi quickly forced her face into a smile. “Of course not,” she said quickly. “As you can see I have just been very busy.” She indicated the piles of scrolls on the table. 


In truth, she had been avoiding him but she could not bring herself to say it out loud. In her first few weeks in Erebor, Ferin had sought to truly become her friend. His visits and invitations to do things had become more and more frequent as they became more acquainted. But soon the constant comments on her beauty or other gestures of flattery began to make her worry that he was looking to become more than just friends. 


As a result of this fear she decided that perhaps some time apart would convince him that she was not interested in any courtship at the moment. With this in mind she had spent the past several weeks to make it a point to avoid the usual places that she ran into him, changing her course of direction each time she saw him coming her way, or making an excuse to leave any time they did happen to meet. But there were still times like this that were unavoidable.  


“Well I am glad to hear that we are still on good terms then,” he stated. “Perhaps I could drop by and call on you one of these evenings when you are not so busy?”


“Perhaps you could drop dead,” muttered Fili in a hushed tone before letting out a groan of pain as Torvi kicked him from underneath the table. 


Torvi glared at him then to Kili who was snickering behind the scroll he was pretending to read. She turned her mouth into another smile and looked back to Ferin. “I am sure that would be fine, I will let you know as soon as an evening becomes available,” she said politely.


Ferin smiled triumphantly then turned his attention to Fili who was glaring up at him with eyes full of nothing but loathing. He returned the same glare before picking up one of the scrolls on the table, giving it a quick survey before setting it back down and offering a condescending smile. “Never thought you as a scholar Prince Fili. However perhaps if you spent a little more time reading instead of sleeping through meetings you would figure out how to feed your people.” 


Fili quickly stood to his feet, his fists clenched and his eyes burning with anger. For a moment Torvi though Fili was going to punch Ferin but Kili was quick to react as well. He stood and put a hand on his brother's shoulder which seemed to calm Fili just ever so slightly. Kili’s eyes matched his brother’s in loathing as he looked at Ferin. “I think it would be best if you leave,” he said in a stiff tone. “And when you do, you might want to remind your father to not discuss matters of the council so openly with those who do not hold a significant place within the circle.”


Ferin’s face grew slightly pink at Kili’s remarks but kept himself composed. “Yes, perhaps it is best that I leave. It seems I have said something to have touched a nerve.” He turned his attention to Torvi and gave her a dashing smile that seemed out of place. “I look forward to that evening Torvi and I apologize for upsetting the mood. Have a good evening,” he said, giving her a bow before leaving.


Kili immediately sat down when Ferin moved to leave but Fili stayed standing and glaring at Ferin’s retreating back until he was no longer in sight. Finally, he took a seat and glared down at the paper letting out a heavy breath of air. 


Once Ferin had exited the library, Rorvi turned to his sister. “You honestly still aren't spending time with that windbag?” He said skeptically. “I thought you were done with your little fling with him. I know he has been labeled as the perfect specimen of a dashing and handsome dwarf by every other dwarrowmaid but that does not mean you should be accepting his courtship.”


Torvi looked up at him. “We are not courting. We are just friends.”


“Well you sure warmed up to him as soon as he flashed that charming two-faced smile at you,” he mumbled under his breath. 


Torvi glared. “It's called manners,” she mumbled, looking back to her work.


“So that is what the young people are calling it these days,” he said nudging her in the ribs.


Torvi swatted away his elbow as her face grew slightly warm. “I have no interest in him in that way. To be honest I have been avoiding him lately, although it is not as easy as it sounds. I don't know how he managed to find me here. Every time I have spoken with him he usually just talks about the battles he has been in or the people he knows. So I find it hard to believe he would have interest in anything within this library,” she said as she set down a boring scroll on harvest quotas from before Smaug.   


“That is the most accurate thing I have heard you say all day,” chimed in Kili. “I heard he can’t even read. But that is just a rumor,” he commented, sounding almost disappointed in the possibility that it was only a rumor. “But I can tell you one thing is for certain,” he added pointing a finger at Torvi. “There is no way in middle earth or the undying lands to the west that Ferin, son of Ferer, just wants to be friends with you.” Kili turned his attention to Fili and gave him a disappointed look. “All this time you have been spending with my best friend and you were letting her spend time with that sorry excuse for a dwarf?”


Fili looked up from his scroll to Kili. “Trust me had I known, I would have, however I did not know they were so friendly,” he said, throwing a look at Torvi that for some reason made her feel guilty. 


“Not to bring any of you from your high horses, but who said any of you three had a say in who I spend my time with?” she asked, becoming annoyed that the topic was still being discussed. 


“Seeing as how you're my sister…” said Rorvi making it sound as if he were stating the obvious. “I think I have plenty of say in who you spend your time with. Especially any potential suitors. As the man of the house, it is my duty to approve or disapprove anyone you could end up marrying.” 


“And I am your best friend,” added Kili. 


Torvi looked to Fili with her eyebrows expectantly for his own defense. 


“I…well...” he paused unsure of what defense to make. “I may not have any right to it. But as a person who knows Ferin and who knows you, I can honestly say that you deserve someone a lot better,” he said sincerely. “You deserve the best Torvi, in all honesty I don’t think I could ever approve of anyone for you.”   


The words were out of his mouth before Fili realized what he was saying. He looked around the table at his brother who had an odd expression on his face, then to Rorvi who was staring at him as if he had sprouted elf ears, and then finally back to Torvi who was staring at him with an expression that he could not read. It was quiet for a moment until Rorvi cleared his throat awkwardly and stood with a stack of sorted papers. 


“I am going to file these away,” he said as everyone else looked down to their own stacks. 


Rorvi walked away to a row of shelves and began placing them in their appropriate spots. Kili continued looking from his paper back to Fili, not knowing which one to address. All the while, Torvi kept her eyes on her paper and tried to focus on the words but failed miserably. She soon found herself lost in thought as she replayed what had happened in the past quarter of an hour. As she ran over Ferin’s approach and comments, something that Ferin said stood out to her. 


She wanted to ask about it but remembered how Fili had reacted earlier. She was torn between leaving it alone and feeding her curiosity. When Rorvi returned to the table for another pile of papers to file away, she could no longer hold it in. 


“Fili,” she said cautiously. His head shot up almost instantly at the sound of his name. For a moment Torvi hesitated again but the burning curiosity within her chest urged her to continue. “What did Ferin mean earlier?” 


At the mention of Ferin, Fili’s eyes darkened and a small frown appeared on his face. At first Torvi thought she had made him angry but then his eyes lightened just slightly as his eyebrows knitted together in confusion. “What do you mean?” he asked in a calm tone. 


Torvi made a quick glance over to Kili who was intently looking at her as well before returning her attention to Fili. “Earlier, Ferin made a comment about feeding your people…” she paused for a moment as she looked back to Kili who had shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What did he mean by that?” 


Fili let out a sigh and leaned back in his chair. His head turned to Kili and they silently exchanged a look before Fili leaned forward onto his elbows. “It seems that some of the lower families have been struggling to feed their families. Mostly widows from the battle of five armies or older folk that can no longer work.”


Torvi shot up straight in her chair looking astonished. She didn’t understand. How were people going hungry in a mountain with uncountable wealth? Her face showed her confusion as both princes watched her for a reaction. “But how? Why are you not helping them? Does not Erebor have enough gold to feed all of the seven kingdoms?”  


 “It’s complicated,” continued Fili looking slightly ashamed. “You would think that with a mountain full of gold, no one would go hungry but it is more complex than that. With the politics, economics, and classes of standard living, it is not that simple. 


“It seems simple enough to me,” she snapped suddenly. She had not noticed earlier until now that she was becoming angry with the situation. While she knew it was not either one's fault, she felt an annoyance to Fili and Kili. They were the heirs to the throne, how could they let this happen in their kingdom?


“Torvi,” said Kili in an attempt to settle her down. He knew she was beginning to get worked up and he did not want Fili to get worked up either and have them fighting. Although he didn’t believe it at first, but their friendship proved to be quite genuine over the past several days and he did not want them to have a reason to end it. There was something that he saw in Fili when they were around each other that told him he needed this friendship. “It is not as simple as just giving food or money to them. The politics of it makes it more difficult. If we were to start giving away money and food to them we would have a possible uprising of the entire mountain demanding their own shares as well. We have been trying to find a solution or loop hole for quite some time now but nothing can be agreed upon. I am sorry, I know you don’t understand, but...” 


“No,” she said in a dull tone as she cut him off. “You’re right, I don’t understand, because it seems like a simple fix, but yet again royals and nobles have to make everything complicated.” She quickly stood, knocking a couple of scrolls to the ground. With a groan she bent down and began picking them up. 


Fili moved from his seat and crouched down to her level. At first he was hesitant to do anything but after a moment, he moved to steady her hands as they moved about to collect old pieces of parchment. 


“Torvi,” he said quietly. She stopped moving and looked up to him. He was surprised to see that her eyes held heavy tears that were on the brink of overflowing onto her face. After she took a few calming breaths they slowly disappeared as she focused all her attention to his eyes. “I really am sorry. I wish there was something I could do to help them but it really is complicated. I wish it weren't. You would think as the future king of Erebor I would be able to do whatever I want but I can’t.” 


Torvi nodded after awhile and with some encouragement from Fili, she slowly rose to her feet. Fili gently guided her back to her seat before collecting the rest of the papers and setting them on the table. When finished, he too sat back down in his chair but none of them continued their work. They all stared down at the scrolls before them in silence. “I am sorry I got angry. I didn't mean to take it out on the two of you,” she finally said. “It is the situation that makes me angry not you.”


“It’s fine,” said Kili. 


Torvi gave him an appreciative smile before looking back down at the scroll she had before her. This time she began reading it. The content was not interesting. Just and old market ledger of various occupations and incomes. She was skimming through it when her eyes fell upon the word butcher. 


Immediately an idea popped into her head and in an instant was to her feet and moving. “I have to go,” she said quickly as both Fili and Kili looked up at her inquisitively. “Tell Ori I will make up an extra hour tomorrow,” she called back as she moved towards the door. 


Fili and Kili watched run to the exit and disappear. As soon as she was gone, Fili turned to face his brother with confusion written on his face. “Do you think we should follow after her?” He asked. 


Kili thought for a moment before shaking his head. “No, I think she will be fine.”


Rorvi came back from filing away his papers and looked from Torvi’s empty chair to the two princes. “Where did Torvi go?” He asked. 


Kili shrugged. “She just took off with no explanation. She was upset earlier but seemed fine up until she took off,” he said. 


Rorvi nodded and sat down to look through another stack of papers. The other two looked down and began working as well, leaving a small silence to fall on them. For the next hour the silence continued only to be disturbed by the occasional turn of a page or crinkle of a particularly old piece of parchment. 


Fili had spent that last hour rereading the same sentence on his scroll as his mind kept wandering to his earlier encounter with Ferin. His comment about people going hungry touched a nerve and for a moment he thought he was going to throttle him. He wanted to beat the smug smirk off his face. It was only thanks to Kili that he hadn’t done just that. It was a problem they had been facing more often as families continued to come to Erebor in hopes to improve their lives. While many did, there were still many who could not work or had too many mouths to feed for the amount of income they brought in. The council had been struggling to come up with a solution for several months now but could never come up with one they could agree on. One member in particular was Ferin’s father, making it ironic that Ferin thought to even bring up the topic. 


While this had made him angry, it was not what was still upsetting him. It was Ferin’s interaction with Torvi that had really made him so furious. He was happy when Ferin mentioned that he thought she was avoiding him, but her quickness to assure it was not so made his mood change just as quickly. Then it became even more sour when he brought up calling on her. Fili did not like the idea of Torvi spending time with Ferin. He had already warned Rorvi who in return assured him that Torvi herself had said she did not trust him fully. At the time, this was a comfort to him and he forgot all about worrying about Ferin until now. It was obvious that Ferin was intent on pursuing Torvi for courtship and the idea of Torvi courting Ferin made him sick.  


Once she was out of the library, Torvi made her way down to the marketplace. It was late in the evening and most shops were closing which encouraged Torvi to move even faster. She soon found herself approaching Jorra’s stall and to her relief, she saw the large dwarf finishing some final orders before locking up. 


“Jorra,” she said breathlessly as she approached the counter. 


The dark haired dwarf looked up from his work at the sound of his name and smiled as his eyes settled on her. “Torvi,” he said in a happy greeting. “I did not expect to see you here so late in the evening. Everything all right?”


“Yes, well no, but I am hoping to solve that.” She paused for a moment as Jorra pulled up a stool for her to sit on. 


“I see,” he said. “What seems to be the problem and is there anything I can do to ‘elp?” He added while abandoning his work to give her all his attention.


Torvi smiled appreciatively. “I was hoping you would say that.” She paused for a second, unsure as to where to start. “I just recently found out that there are families struggling to feed themselves here in Erebor.” She looked up to his face, searching for a confirmation.


Jorra’s usually cheery face fell into a more somber expression. “Aye lassie. I am sad to say that it is true.”


“I was wondering then, if I could make a proposition.” She sat down on the stool and faced him with a professional air. Jorra nodded and she continued. “How would you feel about starting where we left off before you left for Erebor?”


Jorra's face widened into a broad smile. “Nothing would be more of an honor than continue our business lassie.”


“Thank you, Jorra, you’re a good man.” Torvi smiled as she stood to her feet. “Like last time, I would still like to keep our bargain discreet. I don't want anyone knowing of it except for the two of us.”


“Of course, although I still don't understand why but I will comply to the same agreement as last time.”


Torvi smiled and held her hand out for his. Once they had shaken in agreement Torvi moved to leave. “I will leave the package at you stall in the morning. I hate to leave so quickly but I have a long night ahead of me,” she said, giving him a smile and a wink before taking off in a run.

Rorvi was still not home from the library when Torvi returned but her mother was in the parlor sitting up in her chair and sewing next to a low burning candle. She looked up from her work when Torvi entered.  


“Torvi!” She said surprised. “What are you doing home so early. Where is Rorvi? Is everything alright? You looked flushed.”


Torvi was warm from her rushed jog home and she held a hand to her cheeks to feel the warmth radiating from them and a small layer of sweat. “I came home early, I was not feeling well,” she lied as an excuse for her early arrival. “Rorvi is finishing up at the library and I will do an extra hour tomorrow.”


Siv stood and walked over to her daughter to feel her forehead. “Goodness you do feel warm. Perhaps you are coming down with a fever. Maybe you should go to the infirmary.”


“I will be alright, I think I just need some sleep,” she quickly said before heading down to her room. “If I don’t feel better in the morning I will go to the infirmary,” she added in an effort to keep her mother from becoming too involved. 


Once her mother nodded in agreement Torvi made her way down the hall and to her room. As soon she shut the door, she went to her trunk and opened the lid. She pulled off the green dress she had on and pulled out a tunic and a pair of trousers. Once she was redressed she reached into the bottom of the trunk, searching around until her hand wrapped around her bow and quiver. She withdrew them and put her dress back into trunk before closing it. Carefully, she placed the bow and quiver underneath her bed along with her small side pack and slid under the covers of her bed. As she laid down, she felt the thudding of heart race with anticipation for the next few hours to pass by and for her family to go to bed. 


Not long after she slipped into bed, she heard Rorvi come home and knock on her door. When she did not answer, he opened it a crack to peek in. Torvi felt the sliver of light fall on her face but kept her eyes shut, doing her best to feign sleep until she heard the door shut and Rorvi's footsteps retreat to his own room. She waited another two hours to be sure her family was fully asleep before she made her move. 


As soon as the house was silent Torvi threw the covers off of her and rearranged them to make it look as if she were still there. Pulling on her thick coat she carefully wrapped her bow and quiver in a blanket before she slowly opened her bedroom door and tiptoed her way to the front door. 


All of Erebor was dark and quiet with only the occasional torch to light the path she was taking. She meet no other soul along the way until she arrived to the front gates where two guards were standing watch. Before she came into view, she pulled her bow and quiver from the blanket and put it into the bag at her side. With her quiver strapped to her back she pulled her hood over her head and walked past the guards, giving them a nod as they looked her way. Her heart beat swiftly as she walked through the large doorway, she expected them to stop her at any moment, but they only nodded back and continued their conversation. 


For the first time since coming to Erebor, Torvi was alone and outside at the same time. The fresh air brought energy and excitement to her body as she breathed in the cool crisp air. There was a soft layer of snow that reflected the moonlight and lit up the night, giving her plenty of light to see. 


It was the perfect conditions for hunting as the snow would muffle her steps and the bright light from the moon let her see well enough to aim from far off. The farther from the mountain she walked, the more excited she became as the wilderness came into view. She wanted to take her time and savor this moment but she had to move fast and be back before her family would awaken, or the rest of the mountain for that matter. 


A smile formed on her face as she thought about what she was about to do. Life had been so different than she had grown accustomed to and it felt good to have something familiar again. She had felt useless since coming to Erebor but now she was ecstatic, she had a purpose again. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Six: Revelations


The warmth of the mountain hit her like a blast of hot air from a forge fire. Here entire body was numb from the winter night air, but Torvi had never felt so acutely aware of all of her senses. Her mind was full of clarity as she walked cautiously through the open gate of Erebor and towards the dark market. There was something eerie and haunting about the empty and dark market but Torvi could not help but find a peacefulness as well. As she made her way through the maze of shops and stalls she kept her ears and eyes alert for any sign of another soul. 


Her hunt had been more than successful to which she could only give credit to the mastery of Geeorn. What he had promised her in the market so many weeks ago was an understatement and her only complaint was that she only had the one arrow, something she was keen on fixing later in the day. There was a slight sound to her right and Torvi paused for a moment, hiding in the shadows of a tailor’s shop. 


She waited, listening for approaching footsteps or a rustle of clothing but heard nothing. Cautiously, she peeked around from her hiding spot and saw the source of the noise. It was a cat, sitting in the middle of the empty street sniffing at the ground. Torvi let out a relieved breath of air and moved from her hiding spot. The cat looked up at her with curious yellow eyes and watched her. Once no longer interested, it went back to sniffing the ground before quietly scampering off from its spot. Torvi made one more scan of the area before moving to the next row of shops to where Jorra’s butcher stand was. 


Torvi carefully unlatched and pulled open the side entrance of the stall and slipped in. The small stand was dark as all the shutters were pulled closed, but she used the light coming through the cracks of the walls and shutters to guide her to the front counter and unload the game she had managed to hunt. Once she had the door to the stand shut and resecured with the latch, Torvi picked up her pace in an effort to get home before the house began to stir. 


Exhaustion overwhelmed her as she lowered herself into her soft bed and Torvi let out a quiet sigh of content as she rested her head on her pillow. She had done it, she had pulled it off without getting caught. As long as her mother did not find out, she could do this. With that lingering thought, her eyelids grew heavy and pulled themselves closed as she was enveloped with a deep and restful sleep. 


The sun was already halfway to high noon when Torvi awoke. She was surprised that her mother had not woken her earlier but as she made her way to the kitchen, she found a note left on the table signed by her mother. 



I did not want to wake you while you rested. I hope you are feeling better this morning and that your fever has gone. I have already left for the Ladies meeting. If you are still faring poorly I beg of you to visit the infirmary . I will be home late as Dis has asked me to help with the birth of a farmer's wife on the far side of the mountain.




As Torvi read the note she could not help but feel a rush of joy come to her body as she realized she had the entire day free to herself. When she finished eating, she returned to her room to prepare for the day. Once bathed and cleaned from the nights ramblings through the snow and forest, Torvi dressed and departed her home. Her first item of business, was to meet with Geeorn and praise his work and procure more of his arrows.   


Geeorn was standing at his work table with his back to the street when Torvi approached his shop. She watched him for a while as he bent over his work, carefully attaching feathers to several arrow shafts. Torvi picked up a traditional dwarven arrow and examined it before she spoke. 


“I have to say you were not completely truthful about you arrow?” she said in a casual tone, causing him to turn around. 


Geeorn’s face was a look of confusion then as he recognized her it turned into a slight disappointment. “I am sorry to hear that. What was it that I said was untruthful?” he challenged while leaning up against the table and folding his arms as he spoke. 


Torvi did her best to keep a straight face. “It did not perform as well as you said,” she stated, watching him closely as he narrowed his eyes. 


“No?” he said. 


Torvi could no longer keep her face straight as her mouth split into a wide grin. “It was better.”


Geeorn’s hardened face softened and formed into a wide grin as his eyes lit up with pride. He gave her a bow. “That, my Lady, is something I have long waited to hear.” He pushed off from the table he was leaning on and moved to a cabinet near the back of his shop. From it he withdrew a bundle and set it on the table before waving Torvi over to join him. When she stood next to him he unwrapped the bundle to reveal more than enough arrows to fill Torvi’s quiver with extras to spare. 


“As promised, although I have to admit I had begun to doubt you would ever return.” 


Torvi nodded. “As did I. But if it brings you comfort not a day went by that I did not think about it. I apologize for taking so long but here I am,” she said looking apologetically, before running a hand over the large pile of arrows before her. “I have to admit, I believe you overdid yourself on your side of the bargain. If I were to put these all into my quiver, the seams would split.”


Geeorn let out a small chuckle. “I may have gotten a bit over excited when you left that day and I made more than needed, but let us assume they will all be put to good use,” he said, turning to her with a wink. 


“That I do not doubt.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a purse full of coins. “As you promised me, you would accept my payment this time.” 


Geeorn nodded. “That I did, but I still believe I have already been paid with your return to my shop.” 


Torvi forced the purse into his hands. “And I will continue to return as long as you are still here,” she said smiling. 


“Then I will always have a stock ready for you anytime you need more.” 


“Thank you,” she said, accepting the bundle. “Mahal bring prosperity to your life.” 


Shifting the bundle in her arms, Torvi left the shop and began making her way to another section of the market to check on Jorra and to see that he got her delivery. 


Two Months Later


Torvi was happy with her life, and her days were becoming exceedingly busy as she became more settled into Erebor. Even the Ladies meetings were no longer a damper on her spirits as Torvi learned to choose when and where to act like a lady. 


When she had first arrived to Erebor, her and Siv were constantly getting into small fights over her poor behavior and manners, but when Torvi began going out at night, she realized she needed to change her attitude. If she were to keep Siv from becoming too involved with her life, she would have to prove that she was adjusting to life as a noble. This meant getting along at the ladies meetings and attending banquets and parties with no complaints. This also included, much to Rorvi’s, Kili’s, and Fili’s displeasure, spending time with possible suitors. Which was summed up into one singular person, Ferin. 


Siv’s biggest argument at the beginning of their time in Erebor had been that Torvi was only spending time with the princes and Rorvi. Earlier, while Kili had been away, Siv could not help but notice the frequency that she saw her daughter together with the eldest of the two brothers, and for a short while she had stopped bothering Torvi. Siv could not help but hope that perhaps her long wish would be fulfilled each time she saw them together. 


She had noticed the way Fili seemed watch Torvi closely, and in her mind, affectionately. Never in her life did Siv think that she would see them get along for more than five minutes but with each visit that Fili paid to their home, she could not help but smile to herself and relay her feelings on the matter to Dis. 


Unfortunately, as soon as the two women began to hope that they would soon be discussing a courtship, Kili had returned and Torvi and Fili were hardly ever seen together unless in the company of either Kili or Rorvi. While both Siv and Dis would wish nothing more than for their families to be united, it seemed there was only friendship to be formed between their families.


With this realization, Siv had begun to pester Torvi with the subject of courting and meeting eligible dwarfs all over again. At gatherings, Torvi would be dragged around by her mother and introduced to a long line of young dwarfs that were eligible. Torvi was not entirely against being married, in fact she hoped for a husband and family someday. But at the moment that seemed far away from her present desires. But Torvi knew that Siv had other ideas and opinions on the matter. So in an effort to keep her mother from constantly badgering her to spend less time with her brother and Kili, she resorted to making an effort to spend time with Ferin. 


At first she struggled with it, but as time went on she was able to tolerate him a little better as he continued to prove himself not exactly like his parents. He was kind and charming, but there were still certain things about him that she was not sure about. The first and foremost was the way he seemed to hold the royal family with a certain lack of regard. Her relationship with Ferin was complicated. While she did not consider them as romantically involved, they were neither friends. Despite this, Siv only saw what Torvi intended her to see and that was a potential suitor. Torvi felt slightly guilty for the misleadings it was causing but it kept Siv distracted from her other activities.


Most of her free time was spent with Kili going to Dale or getting into mischief whenever he had free time as well. She was so busy with keeping up her charade with Ferin, staying awake during the day after being up most of her nights, and continuing to play the part of a well behaved noble in the watchful eyes of her mother, that Torvi hardly ever saw Fili anymore. It was an absence that oddly left her in wanting to have it filled again. 


After Kili’s return, Fili continued to pay visits to the house of Rorin, always with the intention to visit Rorvi but also for the hope to see Torvi. However, in more recent weeks that was not the case as she always seemed to be gone or rushing to and from her home. Where she was always rushing to was a mystery. It was strange, but he missed talking with her and their friendship. It seemed as if their developing friendship had all been in his head as he hardly ever saw her or spoke to her anymore. 


Kili often spoke of his time spent with her and with each mention, Fili could not help but feel a small amount of jealousy towards his brother. Several times her found himself wishing Thorin would send Kili away on a trip again with the hope that perhaps he could see more of Torvi, but each time these thoughts drifted into his mind. he quickly dismissed them. Fili loved his brother with such a capacity he would gladly give up his right to the throne and even his own life to protect Kili. With this in mind, it was frustrating to Fili as to why he suddenly wanted his brother to be more absent.     


Another conflicting problem in his life was the constant thoughts of Torvi herself. He could not understand why she always drifted into his mind but it was becoming such a problem that as he went through his days shadowing Thorin, even his uncle noticed that something was bothering him. When Thorin had confronted him about it, Fili was quick to deny that anything was bothering him. Fili was positive he did not convince his watchful uncle, but Thorin let it go and did not ask about it any further. 


With no solution for such problems, Fili did his best to distract his thoughts by trying to keep up with the numerous tasks that Thorin gave him. The ever growing stresses of his position were beginning to weigh down on his shoulders again and there was nowhere he could go and no one he could talk to, to relieve him of the burden.

  As soon as yet another meeting adjourned, Fili was to his feet and out the door before anyone could stop him. He heard Thorin’s voice call out for him, but he took advantage of already being out the door to pretend he did not hear him. 


He needed a break, he needed somewhere he could calm his mind and not think about politics, opinions of nobles, and what they all thought he should be doing. He needed a place to disappear, just for an hour so until he could clear his mind. 


He began to make his way quickly down various corridors, selecting his course of movement by random. After making several changes in direction to avoid oncoming nobles, guards, and workers, he finally found an empty corridor deep in the mountain that ended in a dead end. It was a simple corridor with no intricate designs on the walls. There were only a few doors at the end that he assumed served as extra storage closets that had yet to be reused since the reclaiming of Erebor. 


Taking in a breath he leaned against the cool stone wall and slid down to the ground as he exhaled. Fili let his eyelids close and concentrated on blocking out the muffled noise of Erebor that drifted down the corridor. It was not perfect but it would have to do. 


He had only sat there for two minutes when he heard light footsteps echoing down to where he was hiding. Internally he let out a groan, and prayed to Mahal that the person would not turn down the hallway he was currently occupying. Reluctantly he opened his eyes and gazed down the hall, waiting as the footsteps grew nearer, and silently hoped that it would be someone who would not recognize him. When the person finally did come into view it was debatable as to who was more surprised, him or Torvi. 


As soon as she rounded the corner, Torvi stopped dead in her tracks and her eyes widened with surprise. “What are you doing down here?” she asked, sounding almost accusingly. 


Fili was tempted to say something smart alecky back as he was not in the mood to be questioned. But a wave of exhaustion from the day's meetings and lessons hit him and he let his head fall back against the wall as he let out a loud sigh. “Hiding,” he said as he learned back. He turned his head to look at her. Her face looked sympathetic as she stepped forward until she was standing opposite of him and leaned against the wall. “Might I ask what you are doing down here?” 


She looked at him thoughtfully as she debated what to tell him. After a few moments she spoke. “I guess you could say I am hiding as well.” 


Fili let out a breathy laugh as he closely looked at her, trying to read her face. “What from?”  


“Nothing,” she shrugged. “You?”


Fili shook his head and smiled again. “Nothing” he replied, using her own allusive answer. 


He didn't want to admit to her, again, that he couldn't take the pressure or duties of being an heir to the throne. He knew that someday he would be king and that he would not be able to just run away from the issues that needing dealing with, but today had just been too much. He needed a break to clear his mind before he went insane. 


He couldn’t tell Thorin for fear of disappointing him. He couldn't tell his mother because she would tell Thorin that he was pushing Fili too hard. And he couldn’t tell Kili because Kili looked up to him. Kili looked to him to be the strong one who could handle anything. Earlier he was growing to feel like Torvi could be a confidant but ever since Kili had come back they had drifted apart. It was odd being alone with her right now, he did not know if they could pick up where they left off or if they were back to the beginning when they were practically strangers. He looked down at his hands and traced a scar on his thumb as he tried to think of what else to say.   


Torvi just smiled and shook her head as she stared down at him. “It’s not easy is it?” she remarked.


Fili looked up to her in surprise. It was as if she had just read his mind. “How…what's not easy?” he corrected. 


“Fili, every day I have to deal with two faced dwarrowdams who pretend to be my friend. I deal with my mother who is persistent in having me married off by next Durin’s day. Then I have boring pointless lessons on how to sit, eat, and sew. It’s enough to drive me mad after only half a day without a peaceful quiet moment and I am only the daughter of a poor noble family that is just now starting to regain its inheritance” she said before pointing to him. “You are the heir to the king. Your day is entirely planned out for you from the moment you wake up to when you go to bed. You have to deal with real issues that actually matter for an entire kingdom that you have to learn how to effectively run. On top of that, you have to deal with not just some nobles but all of them. It’s not hard to imagine just how much worse you are off.” 


When she finished, she looked at him with understanding in her face. They sat in silence and listened to the echoing noise that came from the more busy corridors nearby until finally Torvi broke the quiet that had settled between them. 


“So do you want to talk about it?” she finally asked. 


Fili let out a sigh and ran a hand over his face, rubbing his tired eyes as he thought. “Not really. In all honesty I just wanted to find a place that was quite of any noise, where I could just clear my mind and not think at all.” He turned his head and glared down to where the noise was echoing down to where they were. “Unfortunately, no such place exists in this mountain without being easily found and disrupted.” He looked back to her and watched her face as she surveyed him closely. 


He looked exhausted and stressed as Torvi took him in. She debated for a short while as to what she was about to offer but after watching him closely, she realized that he needed this. “Here follow me,” she said, pushing off the wall and waiting for him to stand. He just looked up at her quizzically and she rolled his eyes becoming impatient. “Com’on, trust me,” she pressed while extending a hand down to him. 


He hesitated for a moment before reaching up and pulling himself up. To his surprise and pleasure, she kept a hold of his hand while she directed him to the door at the very end of the corridor they were in. She let go of his hand and turned the knob but it was locked. Her face scrunched up in annoyance but she pulled a hairpin out of her hair and knelt down next to the keyhole. Fili watched as she effortlessly picked the lock and opened the door. 


“Where did you learn to do that?” he asked, sounding both impressed and a little shocked by how quickly she had the door unlocked and opened. 


“Rorvi, of course,” she said with a clever smile, as she pulled him into the room and shut the door behind them.


Upon entering, Fili took in his surroundings. He had been correct in assuming it was some sort of storage room, but it looked as if nothing had been added or removed since Smaug took over Erebor. Various boxes, broken furniture, and old rolls of parchment littered the floor and lined the wall. The room seemed to have been unfinished, while two sides of it were smoothed and squared off at the corners, the far wall was still rough and rounded, making it look more like a cavern than a room. Immediately, Fili had a flashback of when he and the company took refuge in a cavern, resulting in their capture by a mountain of goblins. His body let out a shiver at the memory and he did his best to push the memory from his mind, hoping that it did not show on his face. 


Once he gave the room another examination he looked at Torvi who was watching him closely. “So why exactly did you take me into a dark dusty room?” As he looked at her, he could not help but let a small smirk come to his face as a thought came into his mind. “Now Torvi, I know I am irresistible but I will not have you taking advantage of me.” He said jokingly. “What if someone where to find us, such a scandal. Such shame to my name. No my lady, I will not let you lay a hand on me until you make me an honest man,” he said with a tone of amusement as he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at her. 


Torvi tilted her head at looked at him with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. She did her best to look unamused but Fili could not help but notice the slightest of twitches at the corner of her mouth. “You have been spending too much time with Kili. I thought the older brother was supposed to be the example not the other way around?” she added before turning away from him again. 


“We Durin’s are not your typical functioning family,” he said matter-of-factly. 


“That you are not,” she said with an amused laugh, as she walked to the far wall. She grabbed onto a large wooden crate, but before moving it, she looked at him with a more serious face. “You have to remember I am only letting you borrow this and you have to promise me that you will never tell another soul about this.” 


“What is it?” he asked becoming curious. 


She shook her head. “I need your word first.” she said simply, still waiting for an answer before she moved the crate. 


He took a couple strides forward until he crossed the small room. Raising his hand to his chest, he made the motion of crossing his heart. “You have my word,” he said. 


Torvi waited a moment, searching his face for honesty. Once she was satisfied she gave a smirk and pushed the crate she was standing by. As it moved away from the wall, it revealed a deep crack, just barely large enough to allow a dwarf to crawl through it. “Follow me,” she instructed before crouching down and crawling through the opening in the wall. 


Fili followed close behind. It did not take long before he started to see a faint blue hue at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel lead about fifteen feet until he saw Torvi crawl out of the space and stand up. As he came to the opening he was taken aback by what they had just entered into. 


It was not a large cave, perhaps only twenty feet wide but the ceiling was tall, making the cavern look more spacious than it really was. Where the room they had just been in was cold and dark, this cavern was surprisingly warm and well lit. As his eyes adjusted to the light he looked around. Large stalactites hung down from the ceiling and the floor was littered with the occasional stalagmite protruding upward from the smooth and level ground. As he looked around in awe he noticed Torvi walking to the far end of the cavern to where the odd, glowing blue light was coming from. Fili followed after her and stopped halfway as the source of light was revealed. 


Hidden behind a wall that covered part of the cavern was a small shallow pool that was no less than ten feet in diameter. The pool glowed with an iridescent blue green light being emanated from the thermoluminescent minerals covering the bottom and sides of the pool. There was no other sound but the soothing, trickling sound of water and his footsteps as he turned to admire the cave in a three-sixty view. There were no words to describe it, it was beautiful, serene, peaceful. 


Fili gapped for a while until he felt Torvi’s gaze on him. She had a smug satisfied smile on her face as she watched him admire the cavern. Her eyes seemed to glow as the light from the pool reflected in them, lighting up her bright green eyes. “So what do you think?” she finally asked. 


“It’s perfect. When and how did you ever find this?”  


Torvi walked over to a protruding stalagmite and sat down, her back resting against the smooth stone. “I found it the second week that we moved here. Rorvi was busy with his new job and training he was hardly ever home. Ansd mother was still busy catching up with Dis that she was gone for the majority of the day which left a lot of free time for me. After I had memorized the markets, great hall, and upper levels of the mountain, I started exploring less familiar and busy halls. When I found the room with all the old crates, I became curious about what was in them so I started to open them. That is when I found the crack in the wall that brought me here. Now, every time I need a moment alone to clear my head of frivolous and nagging issues, I come here. There's something about this place that lets me be able to clear my mind of everything”


Fili walked over and sat next to her. “I see what you mean.” he said, as he leaned back and looked up at the ceiling. 


A silence enveloped them as they sat for a long time, listening to the calming trickle of water and marveled over the architecture it had created over the ages by eroding and depositing minerals to give the cavern its shape. Fili finally felt at peace, for the first time in several weeks he felt relaxed. It was as if the stresses of running an entire mountain were nothing he could not handle. 


He let a few more minutes pass by before gently nudging Torvi in the side and spoke up. “Thank you.” he said quietly. “Really, I needed this.” 


Torvi opened her eyes and looked at him with a knowing smile. “I figured as much. Anyways what kind of friend would I be if I did share.” Her face then turned more somber and sincere as she added. “You’re welcome.”


Fili smiled, happy to know that she considered him as her own friend and not a friend of her brother. It was a simple fact but it made all the difference. “So we are friends now, are we?”


“Well if you don’t want to…” she started to say but was cut off. 


“No, no, I want to. I just feel like I never see you anymore.” 


She turned her body, crossing her legs as she faced him. “I know, I have been so busy all of a sudden, what with lessons, trips to Dale with Kili, helping my mother with some of her responsibilities, Ferin....”


“You're still spending time with Ferin?” said Fili in surprise. He did his best to hide the sound despise in his voice but Torvi could still sense a small hint of bitterness. “Are you courting?” he said. As he voiced this, he felt a sickening feeling in his stomach as he dreading the possible answer, that would confirm this. 


“Mahal no!” Torvi answered quickly, making Fili feel more than satisfied by the way her tone objected to such an idea. “Sorry,” she said, realizing how quickly she blurted out her answer. “It’s nothing like that, it’’s complicated. I don’t really know how to explain it.”


Fili was now confused. “Try me.” 


She looked at him, trying to decide if she could confide in him. Eventually she came to the conclusion to only fill him in part of the way. “Well, my mother has been constantly pushing me to become more open with entering into a courtship. She keeps introducing me to all of these potential suitors but none of any interest to me. While Ferin is still not exactly of any interest to me in that way, he provides a...distraction for my mother…” she drifted off, unsure as to what Fili was thinking. “I know it is not right and it is awful to use him in such a wayーwhy are you laughing?” she quickly asked as Fili began to shake with silent laughter. 


He let out an amused audible laugh as he shook his head and waved his hands in the air. “I am sorry, but it is just funny. If there is anyone who deserves to be used, it is Ferin. He and his family don’t ever do anything unless it will benefit them. If there was ever a family that did nothing but use people for their own gain, it would be them,” he explained. “You shouldn’t feel bad at all.”


Torvi’s shoulders relaxed with relief as she realized that Fili did not judge her for what she was doing. “I still feel bad for lying to my mother.” 


“I wouldn’t let it bother you too much. There is nothing worse than being forced into finding your one,” he said more somberly. “I just hope you are careful. While Ferin may seem charming now, his family is dangerous. If you trifle with them, they will do everything in their power to ruin you.”


“You sound as if you know that from experience,” she observed. 


“Apparently a long time ago, their family was cheated by someone along the line of Durin and ever since, they have been bitter against my family. I don’t even think anyone even knows what happened or when the feud started. Now it is just a hatred that is passed down from parent to child like a treasured family heirloom.” 


“That explains a lot,” she said. Fili nodded and after a short while the subject of discussion had changed.  


After about an hour, Fili realized that he had been gone too long and that Thorin would be furious if he did not return soon. Together they stood up and walked across the cavern, Fili took one last glance around before climbing through the crack. As soon as he was through and had stood up, Torvi slid the crate back into place, hiding the passageway from view. They walked together through the maze of corridors, the sounds of the mountain life growing louder and louder as they grew closer to the more central part of Erebor. Torvi went to go towards the market and Fili realized that he had to go the opposite way.


“I am headed this way he said,” pointing towards the great hall while trying to hide the regret he had in his voice. He had enjoyed spending time with Torvi. She had changed a lot since their childhood and not just in appearance. Even now he could tell that in the few months she had been here, he was discovering more and more about her. He was not sure as to what was different, but he liked it. 


“I am headed this way,” she said pointing to the market. “Mother wanted me to have a new dress made for the upcoming dinner because I have apparently ruined all of my nice dresses,” she said sarcastically. “She has this crazy notion that I go around crawling through dirty caves,” she added humorously with a wink. “Anyways, I will see you around,” with that said, she turned and headed towards her destination. Fili watched her go as her soft curls bounced with each step. He turned to make his own way when she called out to him. “Oh and Fili,” he turned and saw her making her way back towards him. She stopped just a few feet away from him and spoke just loud enough for him to hear. “You’re welcome to use that place as often as you want. Just remember to keep it between you and me.” Without waiting for a reply she turned around and retreated back to the market. 


Fili’s mood had significantly improved since Torvi had showed him the cave. Ever since she showed it to him and gave him permission to use it, he returned as often as he could. On some occasions she would already be there or would come while he was already there. Those visits to the cave were the best. Some days they sat in silence and others they talked and joked. Occasionally she would mention Ferin to which always put a damper on his mood but it was always improved when she spoke about her dislike of his unwanted persistence to pay her compliments and try to give her gifts. Each time she said anything that was against Ferin it was a small victory that Fili always celebrated. 


It was late, past late, it was more early morning than late at night. Fili had spent most of the night tossing and turning in his bed until he deemed it hopeless and left his room to walk around. Eventually exhaustion hit him and he decided that it would be best to return to his room and bed. As he tiredly dragged his feet, he rounded a corner to head towards the royal living quarters when it happened. Just as he turned, he looked up from his feet and came into collision with another person. 


At first he thought it was a small male but as the other person bounced off of his chest and fell to the ground, they let out a feminine groan of pain. There was a dull thud as she hit the floor and another clatter as a long bundle fell from her arms and onto the floor. 


“I am so sorry miss, please accept my apology. I did not see you.” he stammered as he held out a hand to help her up. She brushed her hands together and looked up at him, a pair of bright green eyes looked back at him. “Torvi?” he said in surprise as he recognized the person sitting on the ground. “What are you doing up at this hour in the morning?”


“I should say the same to you.” she grumbled as she accepted his helping hand. 


Fili pulled her up and as she stood herself up as well. The combined efforts caused Torvi to come up faster than expected and their bodies collided again. This time, Fili caught her around the middle and steadied her. 


For a moment their faces were only inches apart as he stared down at her. The surprise of being in such a close proximity caused her eyes to open wide and Fili could not help but get caught up in her stare. What little light provided by the few torches in the corridor was reflected in her irises, making them look as if they were dancing as the flames from the torches flicked in the light breeze traveling through the corridor. His attention traveled down to her lips and for a fleeting moment, he wanted to touch them with his own. 


Just as he was about to lean forward, she took a small step back and the moment had gone. He suddenly became aware of his hands still on her hips and without hesitation he let her go. He looked down at his feet and tapped his hands against his sides, unsure as to what to do with them. 


Torvi brought her own hand up to her hair and tucked it behind her ear as she looked around, avoiding his eyes. “So,” she said, causing him to look up at her. “What are you doing right now? Aside from going around and knocking down poor defenseless maidens to the ground.”


“I’m not…” he stopped as he caught her smile and let out a small chuckle. “Couldn’t sleep, thought I would take a walk and hopefully wear myself out.” She nodded, accepting his answer. He looked her up and down taking in the tunic and pants she was wearing, the bag at her side, and the blanket bundle near her feet. “And what, might I ask, are you doing up at this hour?” He finally asked, “And dressed like that…” his eyes drifted up to her hair and narrowed. He moved his arm up to her face, causing her to startle but she paused when he moved to her hair. “...and why do you have leaves in your hair?” he asked in a perplexed tone. He slowly pulled a small twig with two leaves attached to it and held it up for her to see. 


Her eyes darted from his hand holding the twig to his face. “How did that get there,” she said, trying her best to sound bewildered. Fili looked at her suspiciously. “What?” she demanded.


“You know, you were never a good liar,” he commented. 


Torvi let out a small laugh. “Trust me Fili, you have no idea.” 


“Ok” he said, crossing his arms and looking at her amused. “Try me.”  




“Explain to me how this branch,” he held up the branch, “got into your hair.”


Torvi rolled her eyes, “Goodnight Fili,” she said, bending down to pick up the object wrapped in the blanket. 


“Oh come on Torvi,” he grabbed her hand and stopped her. “You wouldn’t leave me out in the dark would you?” he said innocently while doing his best to pull off a face his brother would make. 


“Nice try, but begging does not suit a future king,” she dead panned, while patting him on the chest and moving further on down the hall. 


His body turned to watch her go. “You know, right when I think I have you all figured out, you prove me wrong,” he said to her retreating back. 


Torvi turned around, walking backwards as she spoke. “Sorry to disappoint but some things are just best kept secret.” She gave him a wink and turned back around to keep heading in the direction of her home. 


“I will figure it out eventually, Torvi. Mark my words, I will figure it out.”


She kept moving farther away while waving a hand in the air in acknowledgement. “Go to bed Fili. I will see you tomorrow at our usual place.”


Fili watched her as she kept walking while he shook his head, smiling to himself. As the hallway curved, she left his sight and Fili realized that he was still smiling. 


On his way home, he puzzled over what Torvi could be up to, but his thoughts became distracted when he began to envision her face, her eyes, her lips, then it hit him. It was as if her had been hit in the chest with a club swung by a cave troll. It all made sense, the jealous feelings towards Kili, the unusually deeper hatred towards Ferin, his inability to stop thinking about her, and of course earlier, when he had the desire to kiss her. 


His stomach churned as the thought crossed his mind. Could it be possible? It seemed so obvious now but at the same time, so instant. The more he pondered the idea, the more he realized that this perhaps it was not quite so instant as he thought. 


He stopped mid step to run a hand over his face and let out a groan. This was not good, she was Rorvi’s little sister. Rorvi would skin him alive if he ever mentioned this . The more he thought about it the more he realized he realized how terrible this was. How did this happen? He hadn’t even meant for it to happen. He wasn't even sure what this was. 


He let out another groan and kept walking. He needed to talk to someone, get some advice, and he knew just the expert to go to. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: What is Love


Fili thought that the morning would never come. Ever since the realization came into his mind, it took every bit of patience to not go immediately to his mother's room, break down the door, and begin flooding her with questions. Instead he forced himself to return to his room and wait for the morning. It was long and agonizing as he lay in bed waiting for the light of dawn to peek through his window. He had tried to pass the time by distracting himself with a book, but after reading the same line for the hundredth time, he flung it to the end of his bed and began to pacing his room. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, the first rays of the morning sun peeked above the horizon and Fili was headed for his mother’s room. 


While he had been so eager and restless all night for this moment, as soon as Fili was standing at the door, he immediately began to become hesitant. He stood facing the door with a fist poised to knock as he struggled to get his mind and body to cooperate and move. After a few calming breaths he forced his hand forward to rap at the heavy wooden door. He waited for a moment, listening closely, but there was no sign of movement within the room. He knocked one more time but after a few seconds he thought better of it and began to leave. Just as he turned, he heard the latch shift and a heavy scraping of wood against stone as the door was pulled open. 


“Fili?” asked his mother. “What are you doing here? It’s barely even morning.” She looked groggy as if she had just woken up. Her body was wrapped in a blue dressing robe and her eyes were half open as the light from the hallway caused her to squint at him from inside the darker room. 


“Mother, I am sorry I didn’t mean to wake you.” He scratched nervously at his beard and looked down the hall. “I didn’t mean to bother you. I just wanted to ask you something, to talk…” he looked at her again and tried to steady his hands at his side. “Never mind,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s not important I can figure it out myself.”


Dis’ eyebrows raised in surprise. She could not believe that Fili had come to talk with her, to share his thoughts. So many times in the past few years, in fact since he left for the journey to reclaim Erebor, she tried to get him to get him to open up but he always brushed it off, telling her he was doing fine. She gave up several years ago, trusting that he would eventually have enough sense to come to her when he really needed advice. 


“NO!” she said quickly as she reached out for his arm to stop him. “Come in, I was just about to get up anyways. Come in, talk to me son.” 


Fili nodded his head and followed his mother into her room, taking a seat in the armchair next to the fireplace. Dis went about the room lighting a few candles and stirring up the warm coals in the hearth before taking a seat opposite of him.


Fili looked at his mother, he admired the strength that seemed to always radiate from her. Ever since he could remember she did nothing but radiate that power and strength in front of him. 

There were only a few exceptions when that strength and power was replaced with vulnerability and sorrow. 


He remembered watching the life seem to evaporate from her eyes almost instantly as Thorin explained the death of her husband. He remembered her leaving the sitting room without a word and locking herself in her bedroom. Thorin stayed with him and Kili at that time, doing his best to comfort them in their mother's absence. His memory during that time was a bit fuzzy, he had been young and confused but he remembered the day when that strength and power returned vividly. It was what she always wore when around him or any others except for the few times when she thought no one was around. He could count on one hand the times he caught her silently crying over a small box she kept in her room. A small box which contained the last few reminders of her departed husband. 


As the years progressed away from his father's death, Fili witnessed these scenes less and less. He wondered if she still did it or if she truly had healed from her loss. He always heard about love and the impact it made when a dwarf found their one, but he did not understand it. He was not sure what it was supposed to feel like nor did he understand how powerful the bond was. This is why he was here, this is why he went to the one person he knew and understood the power of finding love.  


“How does love work?” he finally blurted out. “I know many talk about finding their one but I have also heard that it is just a myth.” 


Dis raised her eyebrows in surprise. She had several thoughts and reasons as to why Fili had come to talk, but this was not one of them. After a short survey and no conclusion as to what would bring about such a question, she focused more on how to answer his question. 


“That is a curious question for you to be asking,” she said suspiciously. “To give an answer to your question is difficult. It is true that many believe finding the one is a myth and I can see why. There was once a time when marriage only occurred when two people claimed to be eachothers one. But as the ages have passed that tradition has changed.” There was a sad tone to her words as she stated this. “The ways of men and elves have sadly corrupted such a sacred thing. Marriage for gain in money, power and political reasons, have slowly been adapted into the ways of dwarves. Despite this happening, I can tell you that it is still very real and happens even during this day and age,” she leaned closer to him. “I know from personal experience as your father was my one and can tell you that there is no other marriage that will serve at a better advantage than to your true one.”


“How did you know father was your one?” Fili asked curiously. 


“I just knew,” she said with a shrug as she leaned back. Fili’s face fell with disappointment making Dis yearn for a better way to answer him. “It is a difficult phenomenon to describe Fili. Every dwarf is born with a destined one but not every dwarf ever meets there one in their lifetime.”


“When was it when you knew father would be your one?”


Dis smiled as she thought about the memory. “It was from the moment I met him here in Erebor. I had just come of age when his family came from the Iron Hills to visit. Your grandfather had invited them to a private dinner while they were here. It was at that dinner that we meet and the moment I looked at him, I knew. Later on in our courtship your father admitted to the same experience,” she explained. 


As Fili listened to her story he felt a small twinge of disappointment come into his mind. He had known Torvi since the day she was born, he remembered looking at her for the first time, bundled up in a warm blanket and sleeping. In that moment as he looked at her as a baby, he remembered being nearly transfixed with her eyes, but it was but a fleeting moment. Nothing what he imagined love to feel like. Love should be enduring not fleeting. It was more of what he felt when he first saw Kili, an immediate protectiveness and concern for their wellbeing. 


Perhaps he was wrong about his feelings. Maybe he had mistaken the type of love he was feeling. Perhaps the love he felt for Torvi was more of what he would feel for a sister like he had always told himself. When he approached his mother's room he was dreading to find out the truth about his feelings for Torvi. 


If Torvi was his one, it would make everything complicated. He had initially hoped he was mistaking his friendship with Torvi for love. He could not help but recognize the disappointment within his heart at this thought. It almost felt painful as he thought about spending his life with someone else.  


“So it is when you first set eyes on your destined one that you know you have found your one?” he said, trying to keep the disappointment from his voice. 


Dis heard the dismay in her son's voice and shook her head as she answered him. “Not necessarily.” Fili looked up, his eyes brightening with anticipation, encouraging her to go on. “For every dwarf it is different, your father and I were a rarity when it comes to finding your one. For some dwarves it can be instant but for their counterpart it may take longer for them to get the feeling. There are some dwarves who know each other all their lives and it is not until much, much later that either of them get this affirmation. Sometimes the feeling is not instant, it is slow and gets stronger with time,” she paused, watching closely as Fili’s sat up even straighter and she began to form a new suspicion as to why Fili was here. “But there are also some examples, even more rare than my own.” she said in a more solemn tone. 


Fili’s attention was fully focused on his mother's words. The feeling of disappointment that he had earlier had left to be replaced with a twinge of hope as he mother explained the different scenarios. Perhaps he had been right in thinking that he had more than a sibling love for Torvi, perhaps it was destined. “And what is that?” he asked desperately. 


“There have been some rare cases in which a dwarf will find their one but the feeling is not reciprocated ever. These are the not so happy endings,” she said in a sad tone. 


Fili felt a small twinge of sickness enter his stomach. “How does that happen? I don’t understand, how could someone be your one but you not be theirs?”


Dis looked at him sadly. “No one knows. But I have my ideas.” She paused before continuing to explain her theory. “The Valar all have a planned destiny for us to fulfil, people for us to become. But sometimes destiny does not always play out the way it is written. For example, you uncle was the heir, the rightful king to Erebor but imagine if he had given up when Thror died. Imagine if I had given up when you father died. Do you not think that it would change the course of the future? Perhaps it would not change anything but say it could have? Had Thorin chosen to give up all hope of reclaiming Erebor and stayed content with our lives in the blue mountains, we would not be having this conversation in this room. Had Thror not fallen to greed, do you not think the dragon would not have come and Erebor would have never been lost in the first place?” 


Fili listened intently, it was an interesting thought and it made sense, but he was not sure how it pertained to finding his one. He nodded his head anyway, hoping she would get back on topic. “So you're saying that even though we have a destiny we still have a choice to follow it or not?” He said slowly. 


Dis nodded. “Exactly. It at least explains that rare occurrence I was talking about. We are destined to fall in love with our one but what if someone did not become who they were destined to be? Then you would never really meet the true one you were destined for. It explains why so many dwarves never seem to find their one.” 


Fili let this process in his mind. “It still does not explain why sometimes a persons one would fall in love with someone else. Wouldn't they just never find their one like so many other dwarves?”


“Ah,” said Dis with a small smile. “There are many answers for that. The first one being this new tradition of marrying for power or money. Some dwarves give up on finding love, and replace their destined one by marrying someone who gives them an advancement in a material or political sense. The other main reason is that destiny is a funny thing. If something is supposed to happen, then the Valar will make sure it will happen. But sometimes they have to replace the person who takes up the role to do their bidding.” She could see the confusion in Fili’s eyes. “Let's say Thror had not fallen to dragon sickness. But it was destined for Erebor to fall to the dragon. Perhaps later on down the line of Durin another would fall and the event would still occur, just later in time. If Thror had not been corrupted by greed, who is to say that another would not fall to the temptation. It could have been the corruption of Thorin or even you that led to the loss of Erebor.”


Fili’s eyes widened at the thought. 


“I know it seems extreme but who is to say that even the smallest of events change the future and can change a person.” Said Dis calmly. “You are not the same dwarf that you were before we regained Erebor,” she said pointing to him. “That journey changed you, it changed Kili as well. You are both different people than you were before.”


Fili processed this in his mind. It was a complicated idea to grasp but he understood it. He had always felt something for Torvi, even though he spent his entire childhood suppressing and ignoring those feelings he could acknowledge them know. But those feelings were nothing compared to now. From that moment since he saw her the night of her family's arrival to Erebor, he had felt that first pull to her. They had both changed over the years of being apart and it would make sense that now, when they had grown up and turned into different people, shaped and changed by the years, that he would get these feelings. 


“What does it feel like when you find your one?” Fili asked after another period of silence. 


Dis’s attention went to the glowing embers of the fire and an unfamiliar expression washed over her face. Fili was not certain but as he observed closely he could only interpret it as joy as his mother was lost to her thoughts. 


“It was subtle at first. It was like my heart had been strained and pulled all my life but as soon as I set my eyes on your father, it relaxed. As time went on it became stronger as if becoming physically connected with his. Your hearts beat at the same time to keep you both alive. As if you yourself are dependent on every breath that they take and they yours.” Her face fell into a deep expression of anguish as she went on. “When you father died I thought I would die along with him. I have never said this before but I think I already knew your father was dead before Thorin even told us. I remember the very moment, I had been hanging laundry up and I had a feeling that something horrible was wrong. At the time I had pushed it aside, ignored it because I was afraid to face the reality of it before I had to. But when Thorin told me of the news I felt my lungs collapse and my heart being crushed by them.”


Fili moved from his chair and took a seat next to his mother on the sofa. He took her hand in his In an effort to comfort her. “But you got better?” Said Fili in a quiet almost hopeful tone. 


Dis smiled sympathetically to her sons naivety. “No. It has never gotten better.”


“But you seem so well?” Remarked Fili. “You always seem so strong and put together as if his lose made you even more stronger and determined in life.”


Her hands came up and cupped his face gently. “I had you and Kili. The two of you were part of you father and it is what has kept me going.” She had tears in her eyes now and quickly wiped them away and cleared her throat. “Now, why don't you tell me the real reason why you are here. Why all these questions?” 


Fili looked down at his hands and thought. As his mother had described how she felt relaxed when she had first seen his father, he realized that is what he felt with Torvi. There was always a sense of peace within his mind and heart when he was with her. He looked back up at his mother. “I was just thinking...that maybe…”


Dis listened to Fili fumble over his words then in an instant it became completely clear as to why he was here. “Do you think you found your one?” she asked excitedly, cutting him off from his muttering. “Who is it?” She asked. Fili just stared at her and it was plain as day. “It's Torvi, isn't it.” 


Fili just stared at his mother, shocked that she had concluded so quickly. Was it that obvious to her? How was it not to him. “I don't know...maybe,” he let out a sigh and looked her straight in the eye. “Yes.” 


Dis’s face broke out into a large, wide grin. “Oh Fili you have no idea how long I have dreamt about this day. I always knew this would happen. Ever since I saw the look on your face when you looked at her that first day she was born. How long have you known? Have you two talked about courting already? Oh wait until Siv hears of this! Does she already know? If Torvi already told her I will be so angry with her that she did not share the news.”


Fili could not help but feel panic rush into his veins and force his body to respond. His hands went up waving frantically as his head shook in protest. “Mother, wait, hold up, no one else knows, I didn't even know for sure until last night when it dawned on me. To be honest I think I have known longer than I care to admit. But I was so caught up in our constant fighting as kids I let it get in the way of what I was truly feeling.”  He said regrettably with a sigh. “I was so caught up in my jealousy of her changing my life when she was born that I failed to notice my other feelings.”


“Has Torvi shown any signs of feeling the same way?” 


“I am not sure. Sometimes I think there is something there but I don't know if it is because she shares the same feelings for me or if it her just being kind. Last night I ran into her and for a moment, just for a moment, I thought I saw something in her eyes, but then she withdrew and went back to being her usual self.”


Dis thought for a moment. “It sounds as if she might be afraid or nervous. Committing to your one is not always easy. I have heard many stories, tragedies, of a dwarrows mistaking money and power for love and married for those reasons, only to find their one much later and far too late. From what I have gathered in my own observations and run ins with gossip, is that Lord Ferer’s son, Ferin, has been showing her signs of affection. Perhaps she is confused.”


Fili shook his head. “No she is just using him as a distraction to keep her mother from trying to push her into courtship. She has no romantic feelings for Ferin. At least that is what she told me and I do not believe she would lie about that.”


Dis looked astonished, alarmed, and even disappointed by this. “She is playing with fire in a wheat field during a drought. Is she not aware of the dangers of that family? Of the deceit? I fail to believe that the drive of young Ferin's pursuance is because of love.” 


“I have warned her but I am not sure she understands.”


Dis shook her head in frustration. “Well I hope she understands soon before something bad happens.” She thought on. “Well if that is not the reason why she is hesitant then perhaps something has happened in the past. Something that has forced her to become protective of her feelings.”


“Her father died not too long ago and Siv lost her one. It is a hard thing to go through and a hard thing to witness. I could see why one would give up finding their one in order to avoid experiencing the pain themselves.” She paused to let her mind explore other reasons. “That or she may have been hurt by someone that she thought was her one. False love happens all the time and while it is not as powerful as the love between your destined, it can still be painful,” she thought out loud. 


As Fili listened to this last part he had a flashback come across his mind, a memory from so long ago it felt more like a dream than an actual occurrence. Dis watched her sons face fall into a deep frown and a look of shock washed onto his face. His face drained of all color as he paled. Her eyebrows scrunched together in confusion as she witnessed the worry come to his eyes. 


“Fili,” she said in worry. “What is wrong.”


He opened his mouth and closed it as he let out a groan and brushed a hand over his face. “I think I may know why she may be distant with me,” he finally said. “It wasn't something that happened in the Iron Hills.”


Dis looked at him strangely. “Was it something that happened recently?”


Fili shook his head. “Quite the opposite in fact. And I know who it was, which will not make my situation any easier.”


“What was it that happened? Who was it?” She asked hesitantly. “It wasn't Kili was it?” She said sounding horrified. 


“No, he would never hurt her,” said Fili quickly before letting out another sigh. “It was me.”


A stillness hung over the air as Dis stared at him. “What happened?”


“Twas the night before her family left Ered Luin and Rorvi and I had been drinking. I barely even remember it. At the time I wasn't thinking, I was stupid. I visited her in the middle of the night, crawled through her window…”


“Fili!” Cut in Dis as she jumped to conclusions. 


Fili realized what she was thinking and was quick to dissuade her thoughts. “It's not what you think, let me finish.” He paused until she calmed herself and nodded for him to go on. “I climbed through her window and accused her of plaguing my mind with thoughts of her. Then I kissed her. For a moment it seemed blissful, perfect. At that point in my life I had never felt that peaceful and relaxed as I did in that moment, but then she pushed me away.” He fidgeted around with the ring on his finger before continuing. “I felt rejected, embarrassed and left immediately. The next morning I brushed it off and mentioned in front of her that I couldn't remember anything from the night before. I blamed it on my intoxication. I remember the hurt in her eyes and as usual she stormed off angry. Rorvi had blamed her behavior on them moving but I have always known it was something else. I hated myself for doing it when I watched them leave but soon forgot it because I figured I would never see her again.”


When he finished Dis was at a loss for words. “Has she ever mentioned it to you since coming back to the mountain?”


Fili shook his head. “No. But it would explain her aversion and quick to distance herself anytime I get too close.”


Dis nodded. “Well you have changed since then, she has changed. Perhaps she needs to see that as well and that you don't intend to hurt her, that you mean every good intention by your actions.”


“But how do I tell her? How do I get her to see that I am her one, that is even if I am her one.” He added dismally. 


Dis gave him a sharp look. “I did not raise you to be the man you are now without the intention of making you who you were destined to be. You are a good man Fili. You are kind and caring. You look after your brother and fight in defense of those not strong enough to do it themselves. You are protective and you will be a great king someday. You may have made mistakes in the past, but you have changed and if Torvi cannot see that she is a fool.”


“So do I tell her and just hope that she feels the same way?”


Dis shook her head. “No. You need to let her find her own revelation just as you did. All you can do now is to show her that you have changed and that you care. Telling someone you are their one is a very delicate subject, if you tell them before they feel it, it may scare them away. Even though your father and I realized we had found our one, it was some time before either of us said anything. Mostly because we were afraid that the other would reject us but also because we needed time to know for sure. For all we know Torvi has already realized this but she needs to have time to acknowledge it. It is unfortunate what happened so many years ago. You would think that the actions of a young fool confused with his feelings would not have lasting effects but it does. But do not lose hope Fili, I believe that Torvi will mend and see past that.”


“What do I do in the meantime, while I what for her? Sit around and do nothing? Continue as I have been doing?” 


“You need to show her you care about her, get to know her better, spend more time with her. Eventually she will begin to become more open herself.” She gave him a good long look. “Find out what her true desires are, what her real fears and hopes are, what is she passionate about. Show her you are not just another Ferin looking to gain advantage, that you pay attention to more than just her pretty looks and status.”


Fili nodded and looked out of the window to see the sun already past the horizon. He had not realized how long they had been talking. 


“I think you should be on your way, Thorin will be expecting you.” 


Slowly he stood up, followed by his mother. He looked at her, searching her face in hopes for more of an answer of what to do but it became apparent that she was done giving him advice. He wrapped his arms around his mother in a tight embrace. 


“Thank you,” he whispered softly before letting her go and started to leave. 


“Fili,” said Dis just as he reached the door. “You know as a mother, I want to carry you through life and tell you exactly what to do, but this is something you must do on your own. All I can do is give you advice but it is up to you to decide how to approach the situation. I will always be her to talk and answer questions but I won't tell you what to do. You must learn on your own.”


Fili gave her a warm smile and left. As he walked on to find Thorin, he became plagued with doubt. While he was grateful for the honest answers and guidance from his mother she had also provided new reasons for worry. What if he had not become Torvi's one? What if she always keeps herself distant and protective? 


He gave his head a shake, no, he couldn't think like that. His mother told him to not lose hope, to continue to show Torvi who he had become and that he cared about her. He needed to show her that he wanted nothing more than to always make sure she was safe and happy. With his new firmness and determination, Fili made the decision to do his best and take every opportunity to show her this. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Caught in the Act


In the past week, Torvi had found herself being joined by Fili almost every day during her habitual escapes to the cave  following supper. She was surprised at first by the sudden dedication that Fili had seemed to gain in their friendship. It was not that she minded his company, but she could not help but feel a twinge of anxiety every once in awhile. 


It had only been a week ago that he had ran into her as she headed home from hunting that night. She had been grateful that he had not run into her until after she made her drop in the market. It would have been much more difficult to brush off her behavior if she still had a sack full of wild game. While she was worried that his curiosity would lead him to find out the truth, it was not the full reason for her anxiety. Instead it was that moment during that encounter, when she had recognized a look in his eyes. It was the one she had seen so many years ago, just before he kissed her.


She knew Fili had been drunk. She knew that it was she that had pushed him away. She knew that Fili had immediately apologized before leaving. But despite this, she could not help but feel hurt when he couldn't remember it the next day. Being kissed by Fili had been something she had wished to happen so many times throughout her life. And her wish finally came true that night when he crawled through her window and accused her of plaguing his mind. Many a time she had imagined how her first kiss would be. Her day dreams had always varied and none of them were even close to what it actually was. However, there was one thing that always held true, it was a treasured and special moment for her. But to him, it seemed to have been a meaningless and an obvious, drunken mistake.     


As a child, she prayed to Mahal every night that he would share feelings for her. She had always fantasized as a child, that as they grew older, they would fall in love and get married. Despite how much she had denied it as they actually did grow older and their fighting and rivalry increased, she could not ignore the fact that for that one moment, she thought he had feelings for her. 


Now she could not help but guard herself, no matter how nice Fili was to her. It was the instinct of self preservation to keep her heart safe. To say she had been heartbroken may have been an exaggeration of her teenage self, but it hurt all the same. So she kept her defenses up, something that became increasingly difficult with the more time Fili sought to spend time with her. 


On this particular day, he had arrived at her home and invited her to walk down to the ‘cellars’ . A request which had earned a questioning look from her brother. Ignoring the suggestive looks she gained from her brother as she left, Fili avoided any eye contact all together. After grabbing her bag, they walked down together which led them to the present situation. Torvi leaning against the wall drawing, while Fili stared up at the ceiling and talked. 


“I have it. You are an avid gambler and had been at the tavern, slowly squandering your money away. But since your mother would not approve of such things, you must do it during the night,” theorized Fili as he lay sprawled out on the cavern floor. 


Torvi looked up from the parchment she was drawing on and let out a snort as she shook her head from side to side. “Nope,” she answered before looking back down to the drawing she was working on. 


Fili frowned as he thought of another idea. “Ok how about this, you are secretly一”


“You already made your guess for the day,” Torvi interrupted, not looking up from her work. 


“But I wasn’t being serious with that one,” he complained. 


“That's not my problem,” she replied, looking back up and pointing the piece of charcoal in her hand accusingly at him. “I told you one guess a day. Maybe tomorrow you will choose more wisely,” she chided, not meaning what she was saying. In fact she hoped that he would continue to make up ridiculous reasons. Or better yet, give up on it entirely. 


As promised, Fili had not let up on his pursuit to find out what she had been up to that night. Several times he had come quite close, but she brushed them off, scoffing and hoping she sounded as convincing as she was trying to sound. It was for that very reason she came up with the one guess a day rule. The only thing she had going for her was that he had thought it was a one time thing and had yet to catch her at it again. Something she desperately hoped to avoid. 


It was getting late and Torvi needed to get home and prepare for the night's hunt. She had found it was easier to get through the days if she slept a few hours before going out, which meant she needed to go to bed soon before it was time to get ready and sneak out. Slowly, she put her papers and charcoal into her bag and started to stand up. Her knees gave several loud pops as she straightened her stiff legs. 


“It's getting late, I should head back home,” she said as she stifled a yawn. 


“It’s not that late,” commented Fili. “Why are you always so tired? I don’t know how someone can go to bed so early everyday and still have dark circles around their eyes,” he commented. “To be frank it has been worrying me for some time.”


“All the better reason why I should be going to bed,” she said over her shoulder as she made her way to the exit. 


Fili scrambled to his feet. “It has something to do with what you were doing the other night, doesn't it.” 


Torvi stopped mid step and turned around quickly, doing her best to look as if the idea was preposterous. “Don't be ridiculous,” she scoffed.


Fili’s eyes lit up as he saw past her facade. “Nice try, but you can't get off that easy. It's another piece to the mystery, to which I intend to find out.” He gave her a wink as he passed by and exited the room before her. 


Torvi let out an exasperated sigh and followed after him. “Why do you care so much to find out what I am doing.”


“Why do you have to be so secretive. It's your avoidance that makes me concerned.”


“You don't have to worry about me, I already have plenty of people to do that for me,” she argued. 


Fili stopped as they walked up the hallway and turned around. His face was serious and somber. “Torvi, I care too much about you to not worry.”


Torvi stopped short and looked him in the eyes. Her own green eyes moved back and forth as they searched his blue. She did not know where this serious tone was coming from and she was looking for some glimmer of a joke. But it was only honesty that she found, meaning he truly did care. 


She softened her eyes as she formed her mouth into an assuring smile. “I appreciate the concern Fili, but trust me, you don’t need to worry. I can take care of myself.” He did not look satisfied, if anything almost disappointed, but not with her. The look did not linger as he gave her a smile and a nod. Seeing that he understood, she continued. “Now, I really need to be going, if I am not home soon my mother will have a fit.” 


Fili’s smile turned more genuine and amused as he opened his eyes wide with mock horror. “Mahal forbid you are out past your mother's curfew!” Torvi responded with an exasperated look. “Very well, run along now and don't forget to wash behind your ears,” he added in a tone that would only be used for a toddler. “I must be going as well, lots to do.” 


Torvi raised a questioning eyebrow. “And what pray tell, do you have to do this late in the evening that is so important?”


“Well obviously I have a lot of brainstorming to do in order to figure out what you have been up to.” He winked, earning him a measured look before Torvi rolled her eyes and departed. 


She was in a hurry as she had slept longer than usual .Now she was racing through the empty corridors and hallways that lead to the opening of the mountain. As she approached the front gate, she saw Thorin walking away from the entrance in her direction. With him was Dwalin walking beside him while Fili followed behind looking less interested in the topic being discussed. Her heart lurched as she immediately withdrew herself from the light and into the shadow of a large pillar. 


Thankfully she had seen them as soon as she turned the corner and they had been too busy talking to a guard to see her. She kept her back flat against the pillar as she slowly moved around it, keeping out of sight as she heard their voices near then pass by. Although she could not she them, she kept her eyes set in the direction of the noise in an effort to make sure she stayed out of sight. Once she heard their footsteps begin walking down the next corridor and Dwalin’s deep voice faded, she let out a sigh of relief and turned to continue to the gate. 


“Does your mother know you’re out and about and all alone?” 


Torvi clapped a hand over her mouth in an effort to keep in the screech that rose in her throat. She was successful in keeping the scream quiet, but it was not enough to keep her from dropping the blanket containing her bow and quiver to the ground as she stumbled backward until her back was pressed against the pillar. 


Standing a few feet behind her, leaning casually against the next pillar, was Fili. His arms were folded across his chest looking like that cat that got the cream. 


She stood in shock, her legs shaking from the adrenaline that was coursing through her body and she had to use the sturdy pillar behind her to support herself. 


Fili continued to smile, looking more and more triumphant the longer she stared wide eyed at him. After several deep breaths, her heart calmed down and she was able to steady herself. “I did you…” she was looking from him to the direction Thorin had just gone and then back to him. 


She didn’t think he could smile any wider but he did. 


She wanted to wipe that smug grin off his face, but was still too shaken to move. While she hated the fact she had been caught, she hated it even more that it was Fili who had caught her. 


She was never going to hear the end of it , she thought. 


He stood up straight and started walking towards her.“I just barely glimpsed you before you darted into the shadows. To be honest if I hadn’t seen your little conspicuous bundle, I wouldn’t have known it was you. But thanks to your identifier, I couldn’t help but lag behind and watch you lurk in the shadows. You have stealth,” he complimented as he bent down and picked up the blanket to examine the bundle. He looked back up at her just in time to watch her wide eyes dart down to his hands then back up to him. He let his smile grow even wider. “So what’s in here?” he said, weighing the bundle in his hands. Before she could say or do anything, he unwrapped the blanket to reveal her bow and arrows. His attention moved back to her and he gave her a questioning look before looking back to the gate entrance as he connected the dots. “Torvi!” he said in shock. “You really have been up to something.”


Moving into action, Torvi clapped a hand to his mouth and pushed him back into the shadows. “Shush. It’s not what you think,” she whispered loudly as she glared at him. 


He grabbed her hand away from his mouth and lowered it to rest on his chest. “Not what I think?” he said in surprise. “Let me get my facts in order. You are sneaking around Erebor in the dark, way past what I think your mother would dictate as a lady like hour of the night. You are carrying around weapons hidden in a blanket and this is not the first time I have found you in this situation. You can’t be headed to the training grounds as I know for a fact you know it is in the opposite direction. From all of these observations, I can only assume that you are headed for the front gate. Your sneaking out, aren't you?” he said in an amused, accusing tone. “Torvi, you are full of surprises. I have to admit, I had a lot of theories for what you were up to, but this is better than any of them,” he added sounding impressed. 


“You cannot tell anyone,” she said desperately. “Please, if my mother finds out she will never let me out of her sight! It’s all I have that has been keeping my sanity while abiding by her rules and manners through the day time.”


He looked at her eyes, bright green and pleading. He could see the desperation written in her irises as she stared beseechingly up at him. Fili felt his heart jump in his chest as he became aware of her body leaning against him from when she pushed him into the shadows. 


“You have my word that I will not tell anyone,” he said honestly. 


Torvi nodded as she took a step back, content that he would keep his promise. She accepted her bow and quiver from him and started to back away towards the gate. “Thank you,” she said gratefully before turning to leave. She had only taken two steps before she heard footsteps right behind her. She turned to see Fili just behind her who looked at her expectantly when she stopped. “What do you think you are you doing?” she questioned, becoming slightly annoyed by his obvious intention. 


“Coming with you of course,” he stated with a factual tone. “You didn’t think I would keep your promise without being able to join in on the fun, did you? Or perhaps maybe I should pay a visit to you at home...since that is where everyone else in the mountain expects you to be…” His voice trailed off, letting her guess as to what he was hinting at. 


Torvi’s eyes widened at the threat but with no other choice she let out a sigh and nodded her head in the direction of the gate, giving him an invitation. Fili smiled gleefully as he quickened his pace to catch up and walk alongside of her. She stayed quiet while giving a curt nod to the guards who normally ignored her but straightened up when they saw who was accompanying her.


It was not until they had put some distance between them and the mountain that she finally spoke again. “You know, I never would've thought that you of all people, would resort to blackmail to get his own way. I would expect it from Kili, but not you.” 


“How could you think so low of me,” he asked, sounding shocked and feigning innocence. Torvi tilted her head and gave him a sidelong look. Fili laughed. “You know I was just kidding, I had already given you my word to not tell a soul.”


“So if I had not allowed you to come you would not have went off a tattled on me like you threatened?” she asked. 


“Of course not,” he denied. “I would have come no matter what you said.” 


Torvi did her best to fight the smile that threatened to appear on her lips. “You know, I don’t ever remember you being stubborn.” 


“And I don’t remember you being such a pushover and easy to give in. If I remember right, you are the one who was always getting her way as a child. You wouldn’t have gone soft on me have you?”


Torvi smiled. “Oh trust me, I can be just as stubborn now as when I was a child. The only difference between then and now, is that I know when and where to put my foot down.” 


“So you wanted me to come with you?” Fili suggested as he examined her closely.


Torvi looked at him then gave a casual shrug. “I guess you could say I am indifferent on the matter.”


“Oh come on Torvi, its okay to admit you wanted me to come along. You can’t deny it. You have grown fond of my company.” He gave her a nudge with an elbow as he smiled down at her. “I don’t blame you either. Who wouldn’t want the most eligible and handsome bachelor bestowing his presence upon them.” 


Torvi let out a surprised laugh. “Careful your highness, if your head gets any bigger your crown won’t fit on your handsome head.” 


“So you think I am handsome do you,” said Fili, stepping ahead and turning around to face her. 


Torvi stopped and looked at him in the moonlight. “As easy as that is to answer, I would hate to feed your already apparently too big of an ego,” she said, earning a happy smile from him. She took a side step and walked around him, taking the lead towards the forest. “Besides, like you suggested, I have grown fond of your company, I would hate for something bad to happen to you. Now common, I will only allow you to join me if you can keep up.” 


Fili smiled, happy that he was making at least some kind of impression on Torvi. He had still yet to tell anyone else aside from his mother on his feelings. But he wanted to make sure Torvi felt the same way before he mentioned anything to anyone, especially Kili or Rorvi. 


There was a reason why only Jorra knew what she was doing and that was only because he was directly involved. She had made a great effort to make sure no one else would know for two reasons. The first being that if anyone where to find out, the chances of her mother finding out would increase. This was the main reason why she had not even told Kili or Rorvi about it. Not that she did not trust them to keep from tattling, but more of that she did not trust their loud mouths to keep from slipping up. 


The second reason why, was that it could cause questions. It was easier to keep people from inquiring about the real reason she was hunting, if they did not know she was hunting in the first place. It was not something she wanted people to know except for Jorra. She had her reasons to which she had explained to Jorra several times. While he accepted to keep it to himself, she was still sure he did not understand her reasons fully. 


It was for these two reasons that she had been horrified when Fili had caught her. But when he gave her his word that he would not tell anyone, that fear dissipated. There was something about him that made her know that he could be trusted even more so than her brother or Kili.  


Initially, Torvi was hesitant in letting Fili join her on her nightly hunts. It was something that she had kept from everyone, something that was only hers. She enjoyed the solitude and quiet. But as the night went on, she quickly learned that she rather enjoyed having his company with her. He also proved to be a great benefit to her by being able to help carry more meat and have an extra pair of eyes. The night went by fast but despite having been running behind earlier, Torvi found them walking back to Erebor earlier than normal with more meat than usual. Yet another benefit to Fili's addition, efficiency. 


When they dropped off the meat at Jorra’s stall, Fili gave her a questioning look at the odd behavior of her delivery. “Well I can’t take it home with me,” she said with a shrug. “Jorra was kind enough to let me make my deliveries discreetly and give me my payment later.” She explained. She was not sure how to exactly go about explaining her behavior without explaining everything. She did not like the idea of telling a lie to Fili, so instead she resorted to vagueness. He had accepted her answer and she was grateful that he did not ask for an explanation on how she received payment. 


To Torvi’s surprise and pleasure, Fili was waiting for her just outside the gate when she went out the next night. In fact, he was out there waiting for her every night following. Once she realized that this was something that he was not going to give up or grow tired of, she became expectant of his presence. 


On several occasions, she had almost told him of the full reason why she was hunting. But each time she meant to bring it up, there was something that held her back. She knew it was wrong but she was afraid it would upset him as it would remind him that there were people starving in his kingdom. She remembered how upset he had been in the library so many months ago and did not wish to see him like that again. 


“My father and mother have been talking and would like you to accompany us for dinner some time,” said Ferin. 


Torvi was so lost in thought that she had only heard part of what Ferin was saying. “Yeah that would be nice,” she responded automatically, not realizing what she had even agreed to. By the time her mind processed it, she snapped out of her thoughts and focused on him. “Wait what? Sorry I was not completely listening to you,” she admitted somewhat apologetically. 


Ferin gave a look of annoyance but quickly replaced it with a smile. “That is alright. You have been distracted quite a bit lately. I hope there is nothing bothering you.” 


Torvi thought about it. Yes it was true that she had been distracted all day, in fact all week. Her mind seemed plagued with thoughts of Fili and she was beginning to worry. She remembered when this happened last time and it ended with a hurt heart. While she knew Fili would not intentionally hurt her, at least not this time, she was worried that she was mistaking his friendship for something more. She was his best friends little sister, how could he ever feel more for her other than friendship. 


“No,” she finally said. “It is nothing, my mind just seems to be out of focus as of late. Perhaps I am just tired.” 


Ferin nodded. “Well now that I have your attention, perhaps I should re-extend my invitation. My mother and father have asked me to offer you an invitation to dinner sometime this week. They have been wanting to get to know you better since I have been spending so much time and interest in you.” 


Torvi did all she could to not cringe at the idea of spending an entire dinner with Lord Ferer and Lady Drane. Instead, she put on a smile and nodded. “I suppose it is only fair for you parents to know who your friends are.” She admitted, putting an emphasis on the word friends, to which Ferin gained a slight frown but nodded in agreement. 


They had spent the entire afternoon together in Dale as Ferin had suggested. Despite her initial thought of the idea, she had quite enjoyed herself. The sun had been shining, causing the unusually early spring warmth to warm the air and let her be able to shed her coat, which was now being carried by Ferin after several persistent insists that he let her do it. They had walked down just after lunch and spent a long time wandering around the market before taking a short walk down to the lake to walk along its shore for a short while before they began making their way back. 


As they entered Erebor through the gates, Ferin pulled her aside. “I need to head back to the training grounds. What day shall I tell my parents to expect you for dinner? Would tomorrow night be too soon?” He asked handing over her coat. 


Torvi felt the dislike rise up in her stomach again at the thought of sitting at a table and breaking bread with his parents. But it was something she felt she owed to Ferin. “Tomorrow night would be fine,” she said with a nod. Perhaps it would be better to get it done and over with sooner rather than later. 


Ferin gleamed down at her and gave a bow. “I shall pick you up tomorrow just before supper at your home.”


Torvi nodded and watched him leave. A shiver ran down her spine as she thought about the cold, disapproving state of his mother.

“Your what?” Asked Fili in surprise. “You do know what you agreed to right?”


Torvi let out a groan. “Of course I do.”


“Not only will you have to be stuck with Ferin for dinner but also his parents.”


“Yes Fili, I know exactly who will be there,” She said exhaustedly. She felt like she had been having this conversation for hours and Fili did not seem keen on letting it go. 


“And you are sure you want this? I don't know if you have noticed but I am quite close with the King, I am sure I could think of some royal decree that could keep you from having to go.” His words were meant to be light but they were delivered with barely a hint of amusement. He did not like this, he did not like this at all. Not only would she be with Ferin but she would not be able to easily leave if she wanted to. The thought of her being trapped and alone made him sick. 


“I will be fine,” Torvi insisted. “Now can you please let it go? I am attending and that's final”


Fili threw his hands up in the air in irritation. “Fine, but don't say I didn't try to help. I just want to add that I am pretty sure that entire family eats poison for breakfast. Mahal only knows what they eat for dinner. But go ahead, see if I care, when you keel over dead the next morning,” he ranted with an insincere tone. 


Torvi smiled and linked her arm with his as they walked to the forest line. “Aw, you can't mean that. You’re saying you wouldn't miss me even the least bit?” She asked batting her eyes up at him. She could not help but notice the warmth she felt radiating from his body as they walked along. While the days were getting warm with spring, the nights still had a small chill in the air. 


Fili pulled her closer to his side and wrapped his arm around her, hugging her close to his side. “Torvi I don't know what I would do with myself if anything were to happen to you,” he said in a more serious tone. “If I am completely honest I don't know how I managed to get through my days before your family moved back to Erebor.”


Torvi wrapped her own arm around his side and looked up to his face. He was smiling fondly at her and she gave him a smile back. His eyes shone in the light of the full moon and she felt pleasantly relaxed. “You really mean that don't you?” His head moved in a small nod and her arm tightened around him in a small gesture of a hug. “Who ever thought we would get along so well with a past like ours.” She said absentmindedly. There was a snap of a tree branch that caused them to each direct their attention to the forest as a doe passed by. 


Reluctantly, Torvi removed herself and withdrew an arrow, notching it into place. The deer’s ears perked up and it stood still, looking around until it stared straight at them. It’s muscles tensed before snapping into action as it pranced away. 


The two hunters took off at a run to track the deer as it disappeared into the brush, ending their conversation.

Chapter Text


Fili had once again offered to detain her on “official” Erebor business but she had declined. Now she was beginning to regret the decision as she sat at the table next to Ferin with his mother positioned across from her and positioned at the head of the long table was Lord Ferer. 


Their home was much grander than her own. While her family could now afford better things with the inheritance and Rorvi's new income, they had grown accustomed to simple living and had kept it that way. Only getting what they needed and using what had been abandoned in the home to decorate and furnish. 


Ferin’s family was quite the opposite.


 Despite there only being three occupants, their living quarters were larger than most of what she had seen of other families. As for furniture and decorations, it was obvious that no expense was held back. Everything was of the finest woods, metals, and granite. She had known the family to be wealthy but they seemed to live like kings. 


From what she had seen of Fili and Kili's living quarters, they themselves did not even live as lavishly. While they still had finery, they still had pieces that were plain and simple, reminders of how blessed they had become over the years. And the food being served was just as rich, making Torvi’s unaccustomed stomach to feel sick after only a few bites. 


Upon their arrival, there was a quick reintroduction by Ferin before being led to the dining room and seated at the table. As soon as Lord Ferer took his seat, he rang a bell and they were served the first course by a small group of servants. It was an odd feeling, being served by another. Even at the few banquets held by Thorin she was never served to this extent. As they ate, Torvi quietly sat, picking at her food while she listened to Lord Ferer began talking with his son about the progress of his training and rank. After Ferin finished his report a silence fell on them until Lady Drane addressed Torvi. 


“With all this talk of our son’s progress we have seemed to neglect our guest,” she said, turning to Torvi. “I must apologize for our rudeness. We invited you here to get to know you. Yet we seemed to have heard nothing of you. It is my understanding that you grew up in the Iron Hills but were born in Ered Luin?” She said in a sickly sweet tone. 


Torvi swallowed the food she had been chewing and placed her fork down before resting her hands in her lap to hide the tremors. There was something about her that made Torvi feel vulnerable. “Yes, that is correct. I spent my childhood in the blue mountains until my family moved to the Iron Hills”


“And what possessed your family to move such a distance?” She asked. 


“My father was offered a position. He was an architect, like my grandfather before the fall of Erebor,” she explained. “They thought his skills would be an asset to the mines. The position offered him a large sum of wages and my father was eager to reestablish the family with a better income.”   


“And did he?” She quickly questioned. 


Torvi was unsure of how to answer this. Yes their lives had been better and more plentiful. That is until things took a turn for the worst with her father's death. “Yes,” she said, hoping that Lady Drane had not heard of their more recent years. But all hope was crushed as Lady Drane spoke again. 


“If life was so well then why come to Erebor?” she pushed. “I heard from some of the other families that you came here with practically nothing. But perhaps I had heard wrong.”


Torvi’s face began to feel warm. She had never been embarrassed by her family's loss of money after her father's demise. But there was something about Lady Drane’s manner that forced an unfamiliar shame to the subject. She swallowed the shame and set her eyes firmly with Lady Drane. She was not going to let this woman belittle or stain her father's name. “My father accomplished what he had set out to do as any honorable dwarf,” she said firmly. “He restored prosperity to our family line for the remainder of his life,” she faltered as the next subject came up. “That is, until his untimely death came from an accident in the mine he worked in. After his death we all had to work together to sustain a way of life.”


Lady Drane pressed her lips in a thin line. “I see,” she said. “And what is it that your family had to do did you put it? Sustain a way of life?”


Torvi shifted in her seat and tried to sit up a little taller. She knew what Lady Drane was doing, and she was not going to let her get the satisfaction of belittling her family’s struggle in the past. She was proud of what they had done and accomplished in her lifetime. She understood what it was like to be hungry and to get her hands dirty. Is was more than Lady Drane could ever say she had ever accomplished. Although she knew nothing of the older dwarrowdam, she was still confident in her judgment. “My brother took a job as a miner while my mother started to teach sewing lessons and took in laundry and mending from some of the other noble families. I did what I could to contribute to the income as well.” 


“And what exactly did that entail?” asked Lady Drane. 


“I hunted in the nearby forest and sold what we didn’t need. While my sewing skills could not be put to use I did help my mother with the laundry she brought in. I also worked at a stall in the market place for a farmer’s wife when she needed help on market days,” replied Torvi, doing her best to keep up the confidence under the cold icy stare. With every word she uttered, Lady Drane’s eyes darkened with judgment as she explained her contributions. 


“So you were a shop girl before this?” Lady Drane intoned, not bothering to hide the disdain in her face. Torvi watched closely as she sent a dagger sharp look at her husband who, in return, gave a warning look at his wife with a slight twitch from side to side.  


After this odd exchange of looks, Lord Ferer turned to Torvi. “But with the reclaiming of Erebor and your family heritage, you are well set for a more than comfortable life.” He said, as if to try and make her feel assured, but there was an odd tone in his voice. “Not to mention your are in such good graces with the king and his family,” he said with a sharp smile. 


Torvi nodded. “Yes we have been blessed since moving to Erebor,” she said quietly. 


“And I am sure the Kings family has been giving you much sought after attention and care,” he added. “I am sure they listen to every opinion and idea you have. You would be a great asset to any argument you sided with, I am sure.”


Torvi could not help but start to feel uncomfortable. What was it with this family's fascination with her family's association with the royal family. “We receive no more political attention than any other family within the mountain. If that is what you are suggesting,” she informed, surprised by her own abruptness. “The only thing between our families is a long and good friendship between several generations.”


“Of course, of course,” Ferer casually brushed off, leaning back in his chair. “But I am sure that friendship can be helpful in many ways, no doubt,” he added, looking at her closely as he smiled in what he must have thought was a kind smile.


Torvi shifted under his stare, unsure of what to say. She looked to Ferin, who in return, was looking at her with an unreadable expression. She felt as if the atmosphere of the room was so cold it would not surprise her if ice crystals begin to form along the crystal sides of her wine glass.   


Lady Drane broke the silence as she clicked her tongue impatiently as she spoke. “So what was it like to live like a commoner?” asked Lady Drane obviously picking up where her husband had cut her off earlier.


“Mother!” hissed Ferin through clenched teeth. “That is hardly an appropriate question, I am sure Torvi does not like to be reminded of such a low point in her life.” He looked at Torvi nervously then to his father who looked at his wife with stern eyes. The air in the room grew thick with contention, but Lady Drane seemed to not notice and ignored her son's verbal warning nor her husbands silent ones.


“What?” she asked snidely. “I am sure Torvi does not mind answering. It is not as if her family is still living in such an abysmal manner. There is no more shame, I am just curious as to how a family could live so below their status.” 


Rage flooded her veins. Torvi no longer felt timid in this atmosphere, instead it was anger and fury that radiated through her and she immediately felt herself grow too warm. Her hands moved from her lap to the edge of her seat, where she gripped the hard mahogany in an effort to keep her temper contained. How could this family talk about being ashamed about the way her life was before she moved to Erebor. It was not just her family that suffered from poverty. She knew plenty of families that had similar stories of loss and regain of wealth. Thorin himself had an even further fall, but you did not see anyone speaking of his “shame” of being a blacksmith. She listened to the family continue to argue about what was “appropriate” and “shameful”. Lady Drane began speaking about the lack of class and honor that came with commoners and with each addition to the conversation she became even more angry. 


“How can you say there is no class and honor in being in poverty,  then say that there is no shame in once being poor? ” snapped Ferin. “If we were to lose even half of what we have, you would die of shame.” He said accusingly at his mother. “I know for a fact if we had lived in such a way, I would do everything in my power to hide such a stain in my past.”


Torvi’s eyes snapped up from her plate of half eaten roast to Ferin, who had a look of utter disgust on his face. She could not believe what he was saying. She knew he had a hint of arrogance in him but had thought him better than his parents. But right now, she almost thought him worse. “I am not ashamed for what my family did,” she blurted out suddenly. 


Ferin stopped talking, and all three pairs of dark eyes fell on her. Torvi ignored two of the pairs and focused on the ones closest to her. Ferin stared at her, his face quickly morphing away from its disgusted grimace. 


Once she had there attention she continued. “Aside from the mourning of my father, those years in poverty were the happiest I have ever been. When you have no money you appreciate things more often. The taste of stale bread, the feel of a new second hand coat, and the relief of a lumpy bed to rest after a hard day's work. It reminds me of how much better my life is now, it makes you appreciate the work done by those who you would claim below us.” She directed her attention to Lady Drane, who’s obsidian eyes were wide with shock. “You say there is no honor or class within those of the common folk, but the most honorable dwarves I know would fall within the class you would claim is “beneath” you. You say they are lower class but in truth, they are farther above than you or I will ever be.”  


Lady Drane gaped at her as if Torvi had slapped her across the face and spit on her family's graves. She narrowed her eyes and made to say something but was cut off by Ferin.


He took a quick glance to each of his parents as he spoke. “I am sorry, Torvi. We did not mean to offend you. In fact your honesty and point of view is refreshing. I am sure none of us have considered such things. I cannot speak for my parents but I can see your logic in the idea.”


Torvi looked at him, trying to read his face then to his parents. Lady Drane did not look as if she shared the same idea, but Lord Ferer  looked as if he might agree with his son. She looked back a Ferin, he seemed sincere in his words but tonight she had made a realization that Ferin was not what he seemed. Despite her skeptic thoughts, she nodded in acceptance of his apology anyways.   


He turned his attention to his father who was busy having a silent conversation with his wife across the table. He cleared his throat. “Now that all is settled, I think it is best we move away from this topic. Father, how are the preparations for the upcoming festival in Dale coming?” he asked. 


To Torvi’s relief, Lord Ferer turned to his son and spent the rest of the night talking about the preparations being made, keeping himself distracted with his talk and preventing his wife from speaking as well. 


He had several duties within the mountain and one of them was dealing with the men of Dale. The village they lived in before the reclaiming of Erebor was near a stronghold of the race of men and he often worked with them. It was for this reason he had been appointed the position to coordinate for the upcoming festival. 


While Ferin and is father spoke, Torvi caught Ferin’s eye who gave her a small nod and smile. Torvi only gave a half smile in return. While she was appreciative of the distraction of his parents, she could not stop thinking about what he had said earlier. Perhaps it was time that she stop playing this charade, before things become too complicated. Fili had been right. There was something off about this family and as much as Ferin claimed he differed from his parents, he was still their son. Something she had become acutely aware of tonight. Tonight she would be honest with him. While she had always been careful to refer to him as a friend as often as she could, she had never told him that she had no interest either. 


Lord Ferer’s words became a faint buzz for the remainder of the dinner as she was lost in her own thoughts. Within her mind, she planned the best way and time to tell Ferin he thoughts.   


As dinner was cleared away she was brought back to what was happening as a servant removed her plate. Torvi stood from the table and made her way towards the door as Ferin joined her by her side. 


“Give me a moment and I will walk you back to your home,” he said quietly in her ear before walking over to where his father beckoned him. 


Torvi waited at the door, while his father pulled him aside and spoke to him quietly. Torvi did her best to not look obvious as she watched them closely from the corner of her eye. She watched as Lord Ferer whispered into Ferin’s ear, Ferin nodded and Torvi could not help but notice his father place something in his hand. She scrunched her eyebrows in confusion but quickly put a smile on her face as Ferin approached her and offered an arm to her.  


“I hope my parents did not make you feel too uncomfortable. They can be a little too direct and unable to understand the struggles some families had to go through during the years of exile.” He said as they walked together. “I also want to apologize for what I said as well. As much as I want to deny that I am nothing like them, I was still raised by them and it is difficult to have my own opinions as they are so influential.”


“No need to apologize again. It is fine,” she said, bringing a smile to his face. 


“Well I thank you for accepting to do this. It means a lot to me and despite what my parents have done or said, they are quite agreed in my spending time with you.”


Torvi raised and eyebrow. “Well they could have fooled me because if that is the result, I think we both attended different dinners.” 


Just as they approached her home, Ferin stopped and surveyed the hall to make sure it was empty. “Torvi, there is something that I wanted to talk to you about.”


Torvi looked at him. “There is something that I have been wanting to talk to you about as well. I know that…”


 She was cut off as he lifted his hand. “Wait until I am finished, then you may speak.” 


Her mouth turned into a frown and she felt a sharp twinge of anger for his manor. Who was he to tell her when she could or could not speak. She felt her cheeks warm as she narrowed her eyes at him and took a step back. She was just about to open her mouth when he spoke and cut her off. 


“Sorry,” he said apologetically. “But I just need to say this now. Torvi, I know that we have been spending a lot of time together and I know that you consider me a friend,” he paused for a moment as he pulled something out of his pocket. “But I want you to know that while I value your friendship, I would also have you know that I seek more than just friendship.” He opened his hand, palm up, revealing a small gold bead. Not just any bead. It was one that matched the one at the end of his braid that represented his family. 


A courting bead. 


Torvi felt her stomach flip and her face burn. She was too late. She could not believe just how far her she had led Ferin. Her mouth opened several times in an attempt to say something but each time nothing came out and she closed it again. She stared at the bead as if it was a snake about to bite her, afraid to move or look away from it as if it would strike out at any moment. 


When he cleared his throat she raised her eyes to him and managed to finally speak. “Ferin...I am一I think you have been mistaken in our friendship. I admit that I am at fault, I should have said something earlier. In fact, I meant to talk to you about it tonight. It is only friendship that I was seeking between us. I just don’t think I am ready for a courtship.” His eyes darkened and his cheeks began to flame bright red. “It’s not just you,” she said quickly. “I am not ready to enter into any courtship with anyone at the moment.”


He nodded and as the redness disappeared he began to compose himself again. “Will you at least accept it?” he asked. “The bead I mean. You do not have to accept my offer and wear it, but at least promise me you will think about it, consider it,” he proposed in a steady tone. 


“Ferin, my mind will not change.” she said. 


“Take it,” he said abruptly. His eyes flashed warningly and Torvi became quickly aware that this was not a time to be stubborn. He looked dangerous, almost crazed as his eyes burned with rage. “Please,” he added quickly. 


Torvi already knew her answer but at this moment she was afraid to deny him again. With hesitation, she nodded her head and reached out to take the bead from his hand. As her hand wrapped around the cold metal, he wrapped his own around her smaller hand, causing her to look up into his eyes. They shined with triumph and desire as he smiled down at her. Torvi felt a wave of nausea overcome her and took a step back, withdrawing her hand from his. 


“Thank you,” he said. “Please, take your time. I would not want to push you into something you did not want.” She could tell he was trying to not make her feel trapped, but she could not ignore the possessive look in his eyes, nor the lack of sincerity in his voice. It was obvious he wanted to hear nothing than acceptance and a small fear crept into her mind as she worried that he might not accept anything else. He grabbed her hand and gave it a tight squeeze before bringing it up to his lips and giving it a kiss. With the release of her hand, he departed, leaving her standing alone in the hallway. 

Chapter Text


Torvi sat slouched at the kitchen table. Her head rested on her left arm as she watched the gold bead roll back and forth as she pushed it across the table with her finger. She let it roll to one side, catching it before it rolled off the edge, then directed it to the other side. She nudged it with the very tip of her finger, as if she were to touch it for too long it would burn her. For the past hour she had sat like this, stunned, shocked, and worried as to what had just happened. 


Her mother had left a note informing Torvi that she was with Dis for the evening and that Rorvi had left with Fili and Kili earlier in the evening. She was glad to find the house empty as she wanted to be alone. She didn't want to answer questions about the dinner or tell anyone about the proposal Ferin had made. She wanted to sit in solitude and silence as she thought about anything other than the evening's events. Unfortunately, there was nothing that she could think of to distract her from replaying the night's events. 


How had she gotten into this mess? 


She had only wanted to deter her mother from trying to tell her what to do. Had her mother not pushed her so much, she would not have sought the company of Ferin so often and she would not be in this mess. But as much as she wanted to believe this conclusion, Torvi knew that she could not blame her mother. 


She could have put her foot down earlier. Her mother would have not been happy about it but she would have eventually accept that Torvi knew what was best for herself, she always did. Her mother had not always been so controlling, but ever since the passing of her father, Siv had been a lot more involved with her children's welfare. It was a distraction from her loss and while her mother meant well, she didn't always understand what was best for her or Rorvi. It was not long after their father had died that Rorvi and herself had come to this conclusion. They had decided together that they both would have to be a little more giving when it came to this. While it had always been easier for Rorvi, Torvi tried to be less stubborn as often. It was for this reason that Torvi had led her mother to believe that Torvi was doing as she counseled. 


At the time it seemed harmless. Unfortunately, it was not so harmless anymore. Torvi thought about the threatening look she had seen in Ferin’s eyes. It was a pathetic hope to wish her eyes were playing tricks. But there was no disputing it, that danger was there. Ferin was dangerous, Fili had been right. She let out a sigh and tried to change her self pitying thoughts into a more constructive plan of action. How to get herself out of this mess. 


The bead made a dull ringing noise as it traveled across the table again. Torvi was so in depth with her thoughts and the distraction of the rolling bead, that she did not hear the turning of the front door handle. As the door burst open, she jumped up to her feet, knocking her chair over as Rorvi, Fili, and Kili marched in, laughing loudly. The chair crashed to the floor, catching the attention of the three dwarves. 


For a moment she stared at them until the metallic glint from the corner of her eye reminded her of the bead sitting on full display. Torvi snatched the courting bead up into her hand before any of them could notice, but it was too late. Her movement and hastiness caused them to all to look down the fist clenched around the small bead. Rorvi came closer, giving her a gleeful smile that told her, he was up to no good. 


“Whatcha got there sis?” He asked slyly. 


“Nothing. Where have you guys been?” She replied trying to subtly change the subject.


“We were at the pub in Dale,” said Kili sounding a little slurred. “We would have invited you but apparently you had some high and mighty dinner to attend to.”


Great, they are all drunk, thought Torvi. “It wasn't a high and mighty dinner. It was just with a friend and I couldn't get out of it.” She said, earning a scoff from Fili. She gave him a hard look. “Besides, I don't think mother would approve of me going and getting drunk with you three at the pub.”


The two princes snickered at her remark. “Since when did you start caring about what your mother claimed was lady like or not?” Asked Kili as he let out another snort of laughter and fell forward, only to me caught by Fili. 


While the two princes struggled to stay standing, Rorvi was still examining his sister closely. He let his mouth curl in amusement at the brothers, but his eyes narrowed as he surveyed her suspiciously. “Hang on now. Don't go changing the subject on us. We may be a little tipsy, but not that drunk. Answer the question from earlier, what's in your hand?” 


Torvi took a sidestep to her right, putting the kitchen table between her and the other three as she tucked her fisted hand behind her back. “It's nothing, don't worry about it.” 


Rorvi's eyes glinted with amusement. “Nice try little sis but I can read you and you have nothing but guilt written all over your face. Now show us what you have or are we going to have to come over there and make you.”


Her eyes darted from Rorvi who was inching closer with his hand outstretched. Then to Fili and Kili, who were smugly smirking at her as they waited. She dared to look down the hall for an escape but as soon as she moved her attention from them, she caught sight of Rorvi moving toward her. The moment Torvi’s peripheral vision caught Rorvi, she snapped into motion herself. 


She had just barely made it to the beginning of the hall, when Rorvi grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back. She let out a scream and struggled to get free but Fili and Kili had already joined Rorvi. She stamped down on Rorvi's foot causing him to loosen his grip but only enough to pass her onto Fili who wrapped his arms around her, causing her back to press up against his chest. She threw an elbow back, hitting him in the side but he only let out a breath of air, managing to keep his hold on her tight. Kili grabbed the arm she had just elbowed Fili with, while Rorvi grabbed the other and began attempting to pry her fingers open. 


Torvi let out a cry of rage, angry all of them as she firmly squeezed her hand shut. The bead pressed painfully into her palm but she held onto it tightly. Her feet began kicking at anything they could come in contact with. 


“Hurry up Rorvi,” cried Kili, as he groaned in pain from a kick to the shin from Torvi’s wild legs.


Rorvi gave up on trying to pry her fingers open and pressed a thumb to the underside of her arm, just below her wrist. Torvi tried to keep her hand shut but knew it was pointless. Too many times Rorvi had used this maneuver and it always resulted in the same way. As soon as he applied more pressure, Torvi let out a defeated groan as her hand slowly opened, revealing the bead sitting innocently in the middle of her palm. 


The moment her hand opened, Rorvi snatched it up. “Got it,” he said with a triumphant smile. Spinning away, he held it up proudly to show his success then brought it down to look at it. Immediately his smile faded as he realized what he was holding. He looked at Torvi, then to the princes who had released their hold on her and were now gaping at the bead as well. “Torvi,” said Rorvi quietly. “This is a courting bead.” He gave her a big grin. “Well, well my little sister has an admirer. Who, might I ask gave you this?” said Rorvi in a wicked tone. She stayed silent. “Oh common I need to know who my new brother is going to be.” His face and words were joking but Torvi could see a glint of anger was in his eyes. 


Torvi moved to snatch the bead from his hand but Rorvi was too quick. With ease, he lifted his hand higher in the air and placed a hand on her forehead to hold her at arm's length. She glared up at him, cursing his advantage of height and length. 


“Whose seal is on it?” Asked Fili in a monotone voice. 


Rorvi looked at it, but after a moment he shrugged his shoulders. “I don't know the family seals all that well.”


“Let me see it” said Fili quickly. Torvi made an attempt to grab it as Rorvi passed it to him but it was all in vain, they were too tall. Fili was already frowning when took the bead from Rorvi’s hand but as he examined it, Torvi noticed his frown morphed a scowl. “This is Ferin’s family seal.” He looked up at Torvi, his face sharp with anger. Torvi was taken aback by the stern look, she was not used to seeing Fili in this way. “Did Ferin give this to you?” He demanded quickly. He set his eyes on her, piercing into hers, as if he were trying to read her thoughts. She wanted to look away from his glare but was trapped by his blue orbs.  


“What!?!” Exclaimed Rorvi, interrupting Torvi’s opportunity to answer. “That pompous, arrogant dwarf?”


“Torvi, you didn’t actually accept his courtship did you?” asked Fili in a strange, stiff tone. At first she thought it was disappointment, but the more she focused on his face it was obvious, he was angry with her. 


Torvi grabbed the bead from Fili's loose grip and took a step back, trying to calm the burning blush that was crossing her face. “Of course not,” she said. Rorvi and Kili let out a sigh of relief. But Fili only continued to look at her closely. 


“Then why do you have it?” He demanded. 


Torvi flashed a quick look at him, nothing ever got past him . “You don't think I tried to give it back.” She said, throwing her hands in the air.  “I told him I did not want to accept it but wouldn't take it back unless I thought about it.” She was finding it difficult to look Fili straight in the eye and turned her attention to Rorvi. She did not like this overly concerned version of Fili. It was intimidating and made her feel guilty, as if she had personally hurt him. 


“Think about it!” Fili spurted out. “Torvi are you serious. I thought I was clear when I gave you those warnings about Ferin. I was not exaggerating, if anything I was understating what he is truly like.” 


Torvi whipped around and faced Fili. She couldn't help it as she narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms in an attempt to keep her hands from shaking. She was becoming irritated with Fili’s attitude to the situation. It was as if he thought she wanted this. Did he really think that little of her? 


“I already have an older brother who is overly protective,” she said pointing to Rorvi. “ I don't need you treating me like your little sister as well.”


Fili let out scoff, shaking his head as if he found this conversation amusing. He took a step forward. He towered over Torvi, she had never realized how powerful he was. “Trust me Torvi, I am far from seeing you as my little sister.” His tone was serious and stoney as he stared down at her. 


Her forehead creased in confusion. “What is that supposed to mean?” She demanded, her tone still harsh from earlier but she tried to soften her expression as she saw the small glint of hurt in his eyes.


“Nothing apparently,” he said in a dark tone that did not match him. 


Kili watched the pair closely. He was not sure what was going on with Fili or Torvi but there was a tension almost visible between them. A tension that was broken when Rorvi spoke up.   


“Torvi he is right,” agreed Rorvi, bringing the attention of his sister and friend back to the others in the room. “What is there to think about? Any courtship would be better than this! Mahal, Torvi! You would have been better off with your last offer!”


Fili removed his glare from Torvi to Rorvi. “Last offer?” His voice more demanding than questioning. 


Torvi looked at her brother through slitted eyes. “That last offer hardly counted, I didn’t even get to give my answer.” 


“When was this?” asked Kili becoming more curious as he watched his brother from the corner of his eyes. There was something wrong with Fili that went beyond Torvi being in a courtship with Ferin. There were only a few times when he saw his brother angry but this, this was something entirely different.  


Rorvi looked at Torvi, giving her an opportunity to explain but when she stayed silent, he spoke up. “It was a long time ago, in fact, Torvi still had several years before she would come of age and the farmer’s son was convinced that she was his one. So convinced in fact that he offered her a courtship bead,” he gave out a snort of laughter. “Father was so upset I am surprised that he didn’t wring that poor boy's neck. He was a good lad but I don’t think he realized that not only was Torvi not of age but she had never given any indication of feelings except for a couple exchanges of greetings in the market. Not long after he really did meet his one and they got married.” He turned his attention to Torvi. “But even he was a better option than Farin.”


Torvi threw her hands up into the air as she pushed passed Rorvi and started making her way down the hall. “I'm not even considering it. I already told you that I tried to tell him no, but you know Ferin,” she said, stopping and pointing to the princes. “He wouldn't let me go unless I would at least consider it.”


“What is there to consider?” demanded Rorvi in disbelief.


Torvi didn’t know why she was becoming so angry. Perhaps it was the angry look on Fili’s face or the seemingly recurrence of people wanting to boss her around all of a sudden. Whatever the reason she was she was becoming increasingly furious. “Well it’s not like I have any other options coming my way,” Torvi shouted angrily.  


Rorvi was taken aback. “Since when did you become concerned with marriage. You used to say you would rather be an old maid unless you found your one,” he said in shock. 


“Well maybe I have changed my mind since I was six years old. I am not even sure if I believe there is a one for me.” She shouted, causing Rorvi to look more hurt than shocked. Why was she so angry? She already knew she wouldn't say yes to Ferin. But after such a disastrous night and so many conflicting emotions as of late, she felt high strung. She wasn’t thinking about what she was saying. The burning sensation of threatening tears urged her to rub her eyes, but she ignored it.  


“You don't honestly believe that?” He said in a quiet disbelief. “How could you? After seeing father and mother, then watching mother lose her one? How could you not believe in it? You have seen how much mother has changed in the last few years. She is hardly the same person without him. How can you tell me that you don't believe in finding ones one knowing that?” he finished sternly. 


His words stung, but she was sure she had hurt him more with her own words. After several moments of silence she shook her head and let out a sigh as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Of course not,” she murmured. “I didn’t mean it, I am just...I just need to be alone.” She looked around the room to Kili and Rorvi then to Fili. She could not stand the looks they were giving her and moved to leave the room. 


 Rorvi grabbed her arm as she passed by. “Torvi, I am serious, you can’t accept it.” 


“Are you forbidding me?” she asked sounding irritated, as her anger began to come back. This was exactly why she did not want them to find out. She knew they would over react, it's not like she was actually considering it at all. Had she not already said this a hundred times! She got herself into this mess and she would get herself out, she could take care of herself. 


“Of course I am. Torvi, you don’t know what he is like, he is cruel and dishonest and that is putting it in light words. I would rather see you happy with a pauper than with him,” he said in a serious tone. 


Torvi did not need to be reminded of the flash of danger that she had seen earlier in Ferin’s eyes. She let out an exhausted sigh, releasing her earlier anger. She gave his arm a pat. “Don’t worry Rorvi, you don’t need to worry about it. I promise you, I will never settle with anyone but my one.” 


Rorvi’s shoulders relaxed and he let his hand loosen its grip on her arm, letting her continue down to the hall and into her room.


Fili watched silently as Torvi disappeared behind her bedroom door, she gave a glance back and noticed him watching her leave. She gave him a small smile to which he did not return. He felt his stomach twist and he felt sick. All his efforts and attempts to show affection seemed shattered and pointless. He was angry. Not just with Ferin but with her. He knew he should not have let her go. He should’ve had Thorin summon her for something, anything, to keep her away from Ferin. She had assured him so many times that she had the situation under control and that she felt nothing for Ferin. If that was the case, then why was she keeping his bead for consideration? Yes Ferin was persistent, but Torvi was stubborn. She was exceptional at making sure she didn't do anything she didn't want to... unless...dread crept into his mind with a sickening thought. What if this was something she wanted. Despite everything she had said, Fili could not help but let his jealousy feed his imagination. 


A new wave of anger and emotion washed over him and he walked out of the house without a word. His jaw was tight and his fists were clenched. He needed to release his frustrations, he needed to blow off some steam. Ignoring the voices of Rorvi and Kili from the house entrance, he let his feet take him straight to the training grounds.

There was a soft knock at the door. Torvi looked up from where she sat on her bed but said nothing. She assumed it was Rorvi or her mother and hoped that they would go away. Another knock sounded and she realized that hope was pointless. She stood up and walked over to the door and pulled it open. It was Kili who was standing before her and she stood to the side to let him in. 


“Kili, I am really not in the mood to talk about it,” she said as she joined him where he sat on the bed. 


“Talk about what,” he said innocently. 


Torvi gave him a sharp look and he smiled mischievously at her. 


“Ok, I won’t bring it up. I was just concerned for you. There is something more that is bothering you than what just happened.” 


Torvi searched his warm brown eyes. There were so many things he didn’t know about her, that she kept from him. When did she start keeping secrets from him? There was a time that she used to be able to tell him anything but that was a long time ago. As she surveyed Kili’s face and looked back into his eyes she realized that perhaps it was time she stop with her secrets, at least some of them anyways. 


She let out a sigh and opened her mouth to speak. “I don’t even know where to begin.”


Kili rolled over onto his stomach and faced her. “You can tell me anything.”


“I think I have gotten myself into trouble and I don’t know what to do.” She said. 


Kili sat up looking alarmed. “What is it?” His eyes were full of concern. “Torvi, you can tell me anything. I won’t judge and you have my word that I will not tell a soul if that is what you want.”


She looked at him, his face was so sincere and comforting that she could not help but feel tears threaten to fall from her eyes. She nodded and proceeded to tell him everything. First about her nightly hunts and deal with Jorra. She explained her reasoning for keeping it a secret and he nodded his head as if he wanted to say something but let her finish. She moved onto Ferin and her decision to use him as a distraction, the events of dinner, all the way down to the angry glint in Ferin’s eyes. 


“Torvi, why didn’t you say anything earlier?” he asked when she finished. 


“I thought I could handle it all, but everything got so complicated quickly,” she said quietly. 


Kili looked at her. “I know this all seems terrible, but we can fix this. Ferin can’t force you to accept his courtship and if he thinks he does, then I am sure Thorin would be more than happy to have a lovely chat with him.” 


He sounded confident but this was not the entire reason why Torvi was worried. She knew no matter how persistent Ferin was, she would not be forced against her will. No one, in the entire mountain would stand for it. No , it was not Ferin’s proposal that was making her so upset, it was something else.     


Kili watched closely as she gave him a smile and grabbed his hand. He could see the tears forming in her eyes and it broke his heart. She did not look entirely comforted by his words. He searched her face and his brain for a reason for her to look so distraught, so heart broken. Then in dawned on him. It was so obvious as he searched his memory of events and observations over the past several months. “That is not all that is bothering you, is it?” Her green eyes moved up to his face, In a flash it was all there, heartbreak. “What exactly is going on between you and Fili?” he asked slowly. 


Torvi should have been surprised by Kili’s quick and accurate assumption, but he had always been astute. “That is just it. I have no idea what is going on.” She looked up at him calculating his face as she spoke again. “Do you remember when I first told you I liked Fili.” 


Kili nodded. “Yes, it was on Durin’s day when we were eight. I remember because I was so excited I accidentally told Fili. Fili had laughed and made fun of you in front of everyone.” He looked at her looking a little guilty. “I thought you would never forgive me. But you did and then a few years later you told me that it was nothing but a crush.”


Torvi nodded. “At the time I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t like him. It's not easy having feelings for a person that can’t even stand to be in the same room as you. So instead I convinced myself that I didn’t like him. But in truth, I hadn’t lost my feelings for him.” She looked at him. “And I have never stopped.” 


She did not know what to expect from Kili, if he would be surprised, happy, angry, she was not sure what to expect. It was silent, Kili stared at her, his face completely unreadable. She was beginning to feel restless until there was a slight twitch of his mouth and his lips split into a wide grin. “This is brilliant!” 


“As much as I love the sound of that. I have to disagree with you.” When she saw his face turn into skeptic confusion, she explained her reasoning. “I have been stuck in love with a person that does not return those feelings for my entire life.” She played with the end of one of her braids, trying to keep her voice from shaking. “I had thought that my feelings for him had faded away when we moved to the Iron Hills. But the moment I saw him again they returned. That feeling of being drawn to him was instantly there. I have been pushing the feelings away but Fili has not made it easy. Especially the past few months. He seems to always be around and as hard as I work to keep suppressing those feelings, I still crave his presence when he is not around.”


“Why suppress your feelings and not share them with him?”


“Because my history with shared feelings with him have not been as optimistic as you make it seem. You know what happened last time!” She said. 


“Torvi that was decades ago. Fili was a twelve year old boy,” he said in an almost annoyed tone. “You can't honestly say that you are condemning the potential happiness of both of you because of an adolescent?”


Torvi shrugged. “Even if it were possible that he did feel the same way, I think I have ruined it. When he looked at me tonight there was nothing but anger. Even if he did share feelings for me, I will be amazed if he ever talks to me again. I have never seen him look at me in that way. It was as if he were disgusted with me.” 


Kili thought about her words, his eyes narrowed in thought as he recollected his brothers actions in that past several months. He had thought Fili’s behavior odd ever since her returned from his meeting with the elves. His eagerness to always join him when visiting Torvi, the sudden friendship, and his behavior and reaction earlier tonight. Torvi may have only thought Fili liked her but it was obvious to Kili. There was no denying it, Fili did not just like her it was a far deeper emotion. 


“Torvi I would not be so quick to condemn such a thing,” he said slowly. “I cannot speak for my brother as this is something between you and him, but I know my brother, I have never seen him so upset in my entire life as I did earlier. There is a reason and it is NOT because he hates you.” Torvi looked at him with eagerly desperate eyes. He could tell that there was much more than a simple admiration for Fili reflected in those eyes. “History may say that telling him your feelings will only result in heart ache but the past is in the past for a reason. Let it go, take advantage of the present so that you can have a future.”


Silence fell on them. Kili was not sure where his words came from but he knew they had an effect on her. Torvi glanced at the clock that was on her bedside table. 


“You are right, Kili,” she said with a look of new found confidence. She stood quickly and moved across the room to her desk and grabbed her bow and arrows. “I should go right now.” 


She paused at the door, hand on the handle. She turned around and moved back to Kili who was grinning to himself and standing from her bed. She gave him a tight hug and a whispered thanks before running off and leaving him alone in her room to let himself out. Kili smiled to himself, it was time he pay his mother a visit, Torvi had her nudge, it was now time for Fili's. 


It was at the training grounds that his mother found him late into the night, beating a poor defenseless sack of grain with his sword. He was alone and had been for quite some time. Dis watched him for awhile, waiting for him to notice but when it became apparent that he was oblivious to his onlooker, she spoke up. 


“I believe that dummy is no longer a danger to you,” she said loud enough for him to hear over his heavy breathing and the pounding of his swords. 


He looked up mid swing and Dis could she the pained defeat in his eyes. She walked over to a bench and sat down, patting the space next to her as she settled on the hardwood. 


With a small reluctance, Fili surrendered to his weariness and dropped his swords to the ground as he walked over. Dis patted him on the leg and she gave him a pained look as he sat down. She hated to see her son in such conflict. 


“Kili told me what happened today,” she said. “I tried to find you as soon as I heard.” He said nothing, keeping his eyes on the ground as he hung his head and breathed heavily. “Talk to me Fili.” 


He looked into her eyes and there was no longer a need for him to talk. She could see the dismay, frustration, and anger reflecting back to her. 


“She is actually considering him,” he said in a cold empty voice. 


Dis raised her eyebrows in surprise. By Kili’s account of the event, this is not what she had gathered, in fact it was the opposite. “Did she actually say this or is this what you have just decided to believe.”


“Why else would she have not returned the bead immediately?” 


“He is a very persistent lad. From what I gathered from Kili, Torvi said she had tried to give it back but he gave her no choice.” 


“She did, but I know Torvi and how stubborn she can be. If she didn't want it, she would have made sure he take it back,” he said bitterly. 


Dis thought for awhile. “You know of my disapproval of Torvi’s...efforts to distract her mother.” She struggled to put it into better words. “But I believe that she is now fully aware of the danger Ferin can be. Kili told me her description of the scene and it was not as simple as she had played it out to be.”


Fili looked at her, his eyes widening slightly from alarm. “What do you mean?” 


Dis looked at him compassionately. “Ferin may have been more threatening in his proposal of courtship than persistent. Torvi is a strong lass when needed but I believe she felt as if she is in over her head at the time. But like you said, Torvi is stubborn. I do not doubt that when the time comes, she will return the bead to its owner.”


Fili looked at her curiously. “How can you be so sure. I thought I knew her stance, but today was full of surprises and new information. I don't even think she even believes in finding her one.”


“Is this another thing she has said?” 


“Yes...well, she did but then took it back. But she still said it. Which means she must have doubts.” 


A sad expression fell onto Dis’s face. “We all have doubts from time to time.” She gave his hand a squeeze as a thought came to her mind. “Perhaps it is time I give you some hope and a little more advice.” She turned on the bench to face him. “I know you spend a lot of time with Torvi but I do as well. I see her everyday, surrounded in an environment completely foreign to her. It is something she was born into but was not raised for and had no reason for it until recently. She was miserable when she first moved here. Each time I saw her at our ladies meetings, I could tell. Despite the mask she wore that said otherwise, I could see she was miserable. Most people probably did not notice as she is very good at hiding it. It is a familiar mask that I have worn myself for many years.”


Fili pondered as he listened to his mother. He tried to recollect in his own mind of what his mother was describing and realized she was right. He had never noticed this at all, at least not to the extent described by his mother. “I didn't realize that until now,” he said guiltily.


Dis gave his hand a squeeze. “Most would not. Torvi has done well to keep her feelings hidden. She is quite skilled in keeping things secret, as I am sure you have noticed.”


Fili nodded in confirmation. “Yes. But I still don’t understand where you are going with this.” 


“I am telling you this because that mask is no longer there as of late. I don't know if you have noticed, but Torvi has been glowing with true happiness. Often I have observed her smiling to herself, deep in thought and my only assumption is that it’s because of a certain change in her life. I know that change is not Ferin, as I have seen that glow disappear at his approach.” She looked at her son with a knowing smile. “Knowing this, could you possibly think as to what has changed in her life that would cause such lift in her spirits?” Fili’s eyes, which had been so empty earlier, lit up. Dis smiled even wider and began to stand up. “Your efforts have made an impression on her. Keep that in mind Fili. Nothing is for sure yet and until then, you can always have hope.” 


She began to walk away and leave her son to think about what she had said. As an afterthought she stopped and turned. “Fili,” she said, causing him to turn in his seat and face her. “Just remember, if there is one thing I know that is definite, it is that if you give up now, she very well may consider Ferin.” With that said, she left Fili alone to his own thoughts and decision to do what he what he wanted with her advice. 


Fili sat alone, thinking over his mother's words. Originally, he had not planned to meet Torvi that night but as he sat there thinking over his mother's words, her observations, and her last remarks he realized that she was right. Not going would be giving up. Torvi would know that he was upset with her and while he was, he did not want to let her down. 


The lateness of the night dawned on him, he was usually already waiting outside for her by this time of night. With urgency, he shot up from the bench and ran to grab his discarded swords. Not bothering to secure them to his back, he took off towards the gate hoping that he was not too late.  

Her confidence and cheery attitude that Kili had ignited, quickly dissipated as she passed the gate guards and found that Fili was not in his usual waiting spot. Her heart sank but she did her best to stay optimistic. Perhaps she had arrived before him, she had left earlier than usual . Torvi sat down on the rock and waited, swinging her legs back and forth to help settle her nerves. 


A half hour passed by then an hour, and with the continued absence of Fili, any hope that Torvi had earlier was now gone. She fought the tears as she slid down from her perch and began to make her way towards the forest alone. There was no use in waiting any longer, he was not coming. While she could do nothing to stop the misery she was feeling, at least she could help relieve the suffering of others. 

Chapter Text


Fili dashed through the front gates and looked around. Eyes straining to scan the darkened slope of the mountain, he caught sight of a small figure heading into the forest. His heart was already pounding from exercise but his feet moved into action and he was running again. He needed to catch up, he needed to tell her. He called out her name several times in a futile attempt to get her attention, but she was already too far away and had already disappeared into the heavy woods. 


By the time Fili had reached the forest, he had no idea which was to go. He turned around in a slow circle as he searched for any movement in hopes to catch a glimpse of her. It was a worthless attempt in the dense woods but it was all he could think of at the moment. He let out a frustrated growl as he returned to his original starting point and kicked out at a branch. It made a cracking noise, as the branch snapped in half, one of the pieces flying away and landing a few feet from where he was standing. 


He glowered at the piece of wood until his eyes focused on something else next to the branch piece. In an instant his heart leapt as he eyed the small boot print embedded in the soft forest floor. Fili walked closer and bent down to examine it. His hands traced the outline of the print as he rubbed the soil between his fingers. It was the perfect size and shape of Torvi’s small feet. He searched the ground in the direction the foot print pointed and spotted another sign of Torvi’s presence. A small smile spread across his face and he began to follow after her trail.


He was impressed by her speed but was worried that he had not yet caught up to her. A small wave of doubt began to creep into his mind that he might not even have been following her trail, but it was all he had.  


Eventually, he came across a small stream. His eyes searched along the opposite shore he was standing on for the continuation but saw nothing. He began to walk up stream and noticed several tracks on the opposite side. His eyes narrowed at the amount of footprints. From where he was standing, it looked as if she had walked in and out of the stream multiple times. Curious, he crossed over the stream and crouched down to look closer. 


The few moments of rest had caused his heart to move to dull thud in his chest but as he neared the prints, his heart quickened and the acid taste of bile rose to his mouth. These were not Torvi’s tracks. He had seen these prints so many times before, memories came flooding into his mind as he looked down at the prints. They were definitely not Torvi’s, they were not even dwarven. 


“Goblins,” he whispered to himself. 


His heart raced and he began searching the goblin prints for any sign of a small dwarfs boot mixed in them. But there was nothing. He looked farther up the stream and saw where the goblins had come from farther up. They had not been following her trail but had they seen her? Her footprints disappeared at the edge of the stream. Had they caught her and carried her off?


He searched the prints again, looking for a sign that one of the goblins hadn’t been carrying something heavy but there was no such indication. A small twinge of relief settled in his mind, but his heart was still not eased. The goblins had turned south and moved away from the stream, that was obvious, but what direction did Torvi go?


He stood up and moved back down to where her footprints had ended. He searched for any indication that she had backtracked but there was nothing. As he thought, an idea came into his mind. Perhaps she had seen them coming and moved downstream in an effort to keep from being followed. With this theory in mind, he began making his way down the stream, searching both sides of the shore for any sign of where she might have exited the water and moved on. 


Several minutes of a fast pace went by and Fili was again becoming panicked. He passed by a log halfway submerged in the water and paused, sweeping his eyes hurriedly over the ground before moving on. He had only taken a few more steps when he came to a sudden halt, slightly slipping on the smooth rocks beneath his feet as he quickly turned to face the log again. It lay on the ground, it’s thick trunk protruding from the overgrowth. Imbedded in the ground next to it and slightly hidden by the brush, was a small perfect footprint, identical to what he had been searching for. As he followed the direction it was headed he saw a few more farther away and other signs of broken ferns and branches, he had found his trail.  


Fili gave a prayer of gratitude to Mahal as he began to follow her trail again. The tracks were getting even more fresh and Fili quickened his pace, his feet pounding against the forest floor as he became more desperate to find her. She was alone and there were goblins in the area. She needed protection, he needed to keep her safe.


Torvi had heard them long before they were anywhere near her, but by the sound of their slowly increasing volume she could tell they were headed her way. She had never come across goblins intentionally and she didn’t feel like starting now. As she neared the stream she was quick to move in the opposite direction, using the stream as a means to hide her tracks. 


The screams and cries of the goblins caused goosebumps to rise on her arms and the hairs on the back of her neck to rise. As silently as she could, she made her way downstream, doing her best to keep the water from splashing too loudly as her feet carried her away from the noise. Thankfully she was already down wind and as long as they did not see her previous tracks, Torvi was confident she would be able to slip away undetected.


At one point she stopped to listen and calculate their advancement. She could still hear them but their screeches were growing fainter as they carried off in another direction. Her toes were numb from the cold running water and she was grateful to step out of the stream onto a nearby log. She walked along the log several feet before stepping off and walking into the forest. Taking a course that took her farther from the goblins screams. 


Instinct told her she should start heading back to Erebor but she still had nothing to leave for Jorra and did not want to return empty handed. She told herself she would stay out for one more hour and then return. With or without any kills. 


As if Mahal had heard her thoughts, a deer came into view several meters away. She moved to withdraw an arrow but branch snapped under her foot. The deer's ears perked up and its head twisted to look in her direction before skittering into the foliage and out of sight. She let out a quiet curse before following after as she readied her bow with an arrow. A few minutes later she found the deer again and was just about to release the arrow when a loud crash came from behind her. 


All thoughts of the deer were immediately abandoned and replaced with the fearful thoughts of what was coming quickly towards her. She spun around, heart pounding as she visualized the on coming goblins. It sounded like fewer than before. In fact it only sounded like one, perhaps a scout. This did not ease her worry. Where there was a scout there would be more to follow. A rush of stress and fear ran through her body. She was not trained to fight, she only had her bow. While she could take on a single goblin scout, she knew she would be defenseless against the rest that would follow. She could run, but for how long she was not sure.  


It was coming closer, it was too late to run, her hesitation had cost her opportunity. Torvi set her sights in the direction on the noise and prayed to Mahal that she could finish off the scout before it could alert the others. She could see the bushes moving and her hands began to sweat making it difficult to keep her hold. Adrenaline pulsed through her veins and her arms began to shake, she couldn’t keep her outstretched arm steady. 


The outline of a body came barreling from the brush, and she released the arrow. It shot forward and embedded itself into the trunk of the tree beside the oncomers head. Her adversary stopped short as Torvi cursed herself for missing. She withdrew another arrow, her hands shaking as she feebly tried to notch another arrow. Tears of frustration with herself and fear began to flow from her eyes, making it even more difficult to properly load her arrow. Blood pounded in her ears making it difficult to concentrate and focus until she heard a familiar male voice say her name. 


She looked up from her task and the figure took a cautious step forward, letting the sliver of moonlight illuminate his face. 


There before her was Fili, standing stunned next to tree she had just shot with her arrow. His face was pale but his horrified face relaxed into relief as his eyes grazed over her body. She paused mid breath and felt a wave of lightheadedness and exhaustion as the adrenaline rushed from her blood as she relaxed her arms and let out a choked sigh of relief. 


Fili could see her small figure ahead of him, she was standing in a group of thin trees facing away from him. There was a large rock to her left forming a short cliff that reflected the pale moonlight. He wanted to shout out but instinct kept him quiet as he was unsure as to how near the group of goblins were. He quickened his pace and watched her turn around to face him. He was so full of relief to see her safe that he failed to see the loaded arrow directed at him until she let it fly. He swiftly took a step back and he could feel the wind as the arrow thudded into the tree next to him. He let out a sharp breath and spoke her name as he threw his arms up. 


“Torvi,” he said as he stepped forward into the moonlight. 


She looked up from where she was struggling to load another arrow and he watched as panic and fear turned into relief. 


“Fili,” she said in a desperate frail tone. 


He watched as her shoulders relaxed and he began making his way towards her. He could see her chest moving in and out as she steadied herself and she began to take a few steps towards him. 


“I thought you were a goblin,” she said. “I heard a group of them coming my way. I thought you were a scout that had caught up to me. What in the world were you thinking, thundering around through the forest?”


“I am sorry, but I was worried something had happened to you,” he said quickly as he approached her and looked her over. “I saw you enter the forest alone and followed your trail until I hit the creek. That is when I came across the goblin tracks and I thought the worst until I found your trail farther downstream.” He cupped her face in his hands and gave it a stern examining, looking for any signs of harm or injury. “You should have waited for me.” 


Torvi’s heart, which had just finally calmed down began to beat faster as he touched her. She tilted her face up to look at him. “I didn’t think you would show up,” she replied meekly “I did wait, but after an hour I left when it seemed that you were not coming.”


“I am sorry, I was distracted but I am here now,” he said, letting her face go and dropping his hands to his side. 


Torvi smiled up at him. Her cheeks had grown warm from his touch and the night air felt like the bitter cold wind of winter with his warm hands gone. “Well despite you scaring me half to death, I am grateful you are here.” She shuffled her feet for a moment. Earlier she wanted to blurt out her feelings from the top of Erebor, but now that she was faced with the opportunity, it did not seem so easy. 


“I am sorry for earlier. We didn’t 一I didn’t mean to upset you. It just that…” he stopped when she began shaking her head. 


“No, no. It’s fine. I should not have been so upset, I don’t even know why I became so upset. You were just concerned and I understand that now. I know said somethings that I didn’t mean and I should not have tried to hide what had happened. I just didn’t want everyone to think that I was considering it and for it to get blown out of proportion. I should have taken you advice earlier and I am sorry,” she murmured, her voice growing faint as she looked down to her hands holding her bow. 


“Torvi, I wanted to talk to you about something.” He took a step forward and his heart began to race. This was it, he had to tell her and hope that she would react in the way he hoped. He reached out a took her hand, feeling her soft skin on his rough hands. 


Torvi felt her heart race, her hand tingled where his thumb rubbed against her skin. She needed to speak up, she needed to tell him how she felt. It was time to be honest. “Fili I need to say something as一”


There was a snap of a twig to their left and both of them startled. Fili withdrew one of his swords as he faced the direction of the noise. Torvi found herself being pulled her behind him, as Fili put himself in between her and the noise. A blood curdling screech sounded as half a dozen goblins appeared from the shadows. They were grinning at them with razor sharp teeth and their eyes gleamed with cruelty.  


“Torvi,” whispered Fili. “No matter what happens, when you get a chance, I want to you to run towards Erebor. Do you understand?” He gave her a quick glance while still watching the oncoming enemy.    


Torvi looked around. The cliff was behind them and all other sides were blocked as the goblins began to spread out, blocking any opening of escape. They were trapped there was no escape. 


“Fili,” she said quietly. 


But he too had already realized what the goblins had done. He looked around at each goblin, trying to come up with a plan of action. As he did, Torvi remembered the bow and arrow still in her hands. 


Slowly, cautiously she notched the arrow and began to pull it taut. The wood let out a quiet groan as she pulled the string tighter. It was barely a noise but it let Fili know she was ready. He gave her a slight nod and motioned with his eyes to the closest goblin. She moved her head just ever so slightly to indicate she understood and took in a steady breath. She would only have one chance to make the odds closer in their favor, she could not mess this up. 


The goblins had still yet to make their move they knew there was nowhere for the two dwarves to go and they wanted to take their time. Jeering at their victims, they let out gleeful cheers as they let their crude blades gleam threateningly in the moonlight. 


In one swift moment she raised her bow and let the arrow fly. There was a brief whistle before it hit pierced straight through her targets throat. The unfortunate goblin let out a strangled guttural noise before falling to its knees. After a moment of twitching and clutching its throat, the goblin fell face first onto the forest floor, quiet and motionless.  


Silence followed the dull thud of the goblins body hitting the ground. What felt like minutes passed by, but it was only seconds. The other five goblins stared in shock at the dead goblin then directed their attention to where Fili and Torvi stood. What used to be gleeful cheers turned into bone-chilling screams of outrage as the goblins began to snarl and bang their chests in rage. 


Slowly, they made an advance and Torvi felt herself being pushed back towards the cliff as Fili kept a small distance between them and the advancing enemy. They stopped when they hit the stone wall behind them and could not retreat any further. Her bow was now no longer useful as the goblins were too close.  


She felt something cold touch her hand and looked down to see Fili passing his other sword into her free hand. She wrapped her fingers around the metal, it felt heavy and foreign. She had never been good with a sword, nor ever had the proper training aside from duelling with Kili when she was only a kid. Even then it had only been a wooden sword and Kili was not trying to hurt her. 


Either way, it was better than nothing. 


Fili did not wait for them to close all the way in. In one fluid motion he burst forward and slashed the closest goblins belly open before moving onto the next goblin. Torvi tightened her grip and followed Fili’s advance doing her best to defend Fili’s back while he fought. It became obvious to the goblins that Fili was the stronger fighter and three of them surged forward to him while the remaining fourth goblin focused on Torvi.  


Fili brought down another goblin as his sword stabbed forward and embedded itself into the goblin's chest. But as he withdrew his sword from the goblins dead body, another goblin took advantage of his moment of defenseless state and sliced down with its jagged sword. Fili caught sight of the movement and moved to his left, tucking and rolling out of harm's way. The maneuver was successful in limiting the damage but he felt a sharp sting in his forearm, followed by a wet warmth that trickled down to his hand as the goblin's blade sliced his arm open. Fili gritted his teeth ignoring the pain as he stood up from his roll and glared at the goblin. Its eyes gleamed as Fili’s bright red blood dripped from its blade the second goblin joining in, next to the other. Then he looked past the two goblins and cursed to himself. While his maneuver prevented any serious injury, he had also separated himself from Torvi, putting the remaining three goblins in between them. 


He could see Torvi being pushed back against the wall as the third goblin advanced on her. She did her best to defend herself but it was obvious that she could not hold off the goblin forever. She raised her sword to deflect a blow but the goblins swing was strong and it flew from her grip and clanged to the ground. Her head flew back as the goblin brought its head forward to hers, stunning her. Her feet staggered back a few steps before the goblin caught her coat and threw her against the hard rock behind her. Fili watched in horror as Torvi’s head hit with a sickening crack and she fell to the ground.   


Anger rose in him and he charged forward. He swung his sword at the first goblin, taking off its head in one clean sweep. Using the same momentum, he spun around and pushed the sword into the next goblins belly. It let out a screech and gripped Fili’s shoulder as the life drained out of its eyes. Fili shoved the dead corpse away from him and ran to where the third and final goblin was. It was standing over her, its arms lifting as it raised its sword to deal a final blow to Torvi. A scream of rage escaped Fili’s mouth as he threw his blade at the goblin. 


A sharp ringing sounded as the blade spun in the air and ended with a dull thud as it lodged itself into the goblins back. Its body arched backwards as it let out a cry of pain before falling backwards. Fili ignored the goblins body as he ran to Torvi. He fell to his knees as he reached her and pulled her body up to lean against the rock.


“Torvi,” he said panicked as he cupped her face in his hands. She made no response as her body stayed still. “Torvi wake up,” he repeated, frantically patting her cheeks in an effort to wake her. Her eyes fluttered as she let out a small groan and slowly scrunched her face as she moved her head. Fili let out a sigh of relief and brushed her hair back from her face. There was a large bruise already forming on her forehead from where the goblin had head butted her, but there was no other sign of injury aside from dirt and a few minor scratches. Her eyes opened fully as his thumb stroked her cheek and she let out a weak smile. 


“Fili, I…” she began to speak and sit up but he cut her off. 


“Shhh,” he said gently. “Don’t speak, just take it easy.” 


She moved her head back and forth causing her eyes to blur but she ignored the pain that surged through from the back of her head. She could already feel a large bump beginning to form from where she had hit her head but the pain could be ignored, this could not. “Fili, I have to tell you something.” She said more firmly. “I have…” she was finding it difficult to find the right words as another surge of pain throbbed through her head and made her thoughts become fuzzy again. She closed her eyes trying to focus her mind on the words. She knew she should be more concerned about her injury but her mind was not working properly. For some reason logic was adamant that she tell him something important. “Fili you are..” Her mind went blank and a desire to fall asleep replaced all thoughts. 


“Torvi?” Said Fili, tapping her cheeks. “Torvi, wake up, you need to stay awake.”


Her eyes opened slightly but they were so heavy. He was saying something but she could not understand his words. She squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to clear her mind but felt her thoughts fade and her mind became black as she lost consciousness again. 


When it became obvious that she was not going to awaken again, Fili took his coat off and laid it over her body. She was breathing easily but he was still afraid to move her. When she had looked up at him, her pupils had been dilated and her inability to focus on what she was trying to say indicated that she had suffered from a minor concussion. Once he repositioned her comfortably on the ground, he set about clearing away the dead bodies, retrieving his first sword from the goblins back then his other from the ground where it had been knocked from Torvi’s grip. 


With the stink of the goblins gone, he set about building a small fire and watched over as Torvi slept. Her face was calm and peaceful, never had Fili seen anyone sleep so still. He was so used to Kili’s restless kicking and flopping around that if it were not for the slow, steady rise and fall of her chest, he would think her dead. 


He was angry with himself that he had let her get hurt, he should have been more aware, he should not have been angry with her and waited so long to catch up with her. The more he pondered this the more he realised that as much as he wished, it would not change what had happened. With this in mind, he watched her sleeping peacefully, swearing to himself that he would never let anything happen to her again. 


Torvi was not sure how long she had been out for, but when her eyes slowly parted she could see the sky was now a navy blue as the day dawn approached. She did not stir immediately, only opening her eyes enough to see her surroundings. She found herself lying on the ground next to a slowly dying fire. Her eyes focused for a moment on the glowing embers until her attention was drawn to the figure on the other side. Fili was was sitting on the ground, his eyes trained on the fire as his lids slowly lowered before he snapped them wide open again. She felt her lips slowly move into a smile as she looked at him. He looked tired, his face was weary and Torvi wondered if he had gotten any sleep at all. 


His blue eyes looked up from the glowing embers to her and straightened his posture when he saw that she was awake. In an instant he was at her side. Torvi brought a hand up to head as she began to push herself up. Fili grabbed her shoulders, gently helping her to lean against the rock wall they were near. She squeezed her eyes together and opened them as an instant headache pulsed through her head. Fili searched her eyes for anything that seemed to be wrong but they were normal again. 


“How long was I out for?” She asked as she began to bend her knees to stand. 


Fili helped her to her feet as he answered her. “About two hours. I would have taken you back to Erebor immediately but I was afraid to move you when you fell unconscious again.” She nodded her head slowly, as she looked around at her surroundings. Fili lifted his hand to her face and slowly tucked her soft hair behind her ear, causing her to look up into his face. “How are you feeling?” he asked, concern radiating from his face. 


“Fine, still have a headache but not as bad as earlier. My mind is more clear and the nausea has lessened.”      


Fili nodded, satisfied with her answer for now. His hand was still resting at her neck just below her ear, her smooth skin warm from the fire. He traced her jawline with his thumb and without thinking he pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her, her face was pressed into his chest and he rested his chin on the top of her head. When he finally released her, he only let her go just far enough to put a small space between them. He brought his hand back up to her face and focused his eyes on hers, they were firm but still full of tenderness. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.”


The cool dawn light and reflecting light from the dying fire where enough to let her clearly see his facial features. Torvi’s heart skipped as she looked up into his his face. There was that expression again, his mouth was in a soft smile while the rest of his face was relaxed and peaceful. 


“Fili,” she began quietly. She had remembered what she was trying to do before she lost consciousness and she needed to tell him now, but Fili had his own agenda.  


His face came closer and his lips pressed against hers, cutting her off from saying anything else. It started out gentle and soft. Torvi’s heart raced and all thoughts fled from her mind. 


She was only aware of his hand on her neck and the fullness of his lips. It was only for a moment before she felt him start to pull away but she was not ready for it to stop. She moved forward, kissing him back and he responded with the same action. What had began slow and soft became deeper and full of desperation. Torvi quickly found herself pushed up against the rock as Fili pushed his body towards her. His hand came to her waist as she wrapped her arms around his neck as several decades of suppressed emotions came rushing over them.


Torvi felt as if hours went by and she would have believed it if the dawn light had not changed when they finally pulled apart. Fili’s heart pounded in his chest as he pulled away. It was the opposite of what he wanted to do but he had to have some sort of restraint. Torvi’s chest rose and fell as she breathed heavily and looked up at him, her face radiating life. It was obvious neither needed to say anything, as everything was already communicated. Their feelings were mutual and Fili wanted to burst with happiness. 


“We should head back,” he said softly as he rested his head against hers before giving her another kiss. He bent down to retrieve his coat from the ground and Torvi’s bow and quiver. He handed over her things. While she accepted them and strapped them to her back as he put on his coat. When he saw that she was ready he took her hand in his and began guiding them north to Erebor. The only words they spoke were in silent communication as they glanced at each other every few steps and smiled.    

Chapter Text

The morning sun was already peeking over the horizon and illuminating the land with rich, spring sun when they reached the treeline of the forest. As the pair began their ascent up the mountain slope, Fili spoke up. 


“I suppose things will be changing drastically around the mountain now,” he said, focusing his attention to the gates of Erebor. “You will definitely have to start spending a lot more time with my mother.”  


Torvi looked at him, her eyes searching his face for the meaning of his words. “Why do you say that?” She finally asked after a few moments. 


A look of surprise developed over his face as he directed his attention to hers. “It’s been over a century since the Kingdom of Erebor had a living queen. With the heir to the throne courting and the potential of a future queen being in Erebor, there will be a lot of preparation needed to make sure you are ready.” He said, as if it should have been obvious. “From now on, people will not just see you as Torvi, daughter of Rorin, they will see you as their next queen.”


“Of course we will have to make a formal announcement of our courtship,” he continued in an off hand tone. “Then you will have to begin training as a princess. That is where my mother comes in since she is the one who has taken the role as queen consort while Thorin rules....” Fili continued on absentmindedly as he counted off the different steps and roles that would become Torvi’s. He listed them off his fingers, talking of formal dinners, celebrations, traditions, and other changes to the structure of Erebor’s runnings.   


Torvi’s feet slowed down until she was standing as still as a statue. She felt a slow, tingling sensation travel down her body, leaving her body cold and numb. Her skin was wet and clammy with cold sweat as the sensation slowly seeped from her head, down her arms, and ending in her toes where the feeling seemed to pool down around her feet like. It was as if a puddle of tar had formed around her boots, cementing her in place. 


It took several steps before Fili realized that she was no longer next to him. As he turned around, he was greeted with a frozen and pale Torvi staring at him. She looked like a startled deer, her eyes wide and vulnerable as she stared forward, green orbs glazed over and unfocused. 


“Torvi are you feeling alright?” He asked as he dropped the sack of rabbits he was carrying and warily approached her. 


She heard his words and in a stiff, slow gesture, she slowly nodded her head, too frozen to open her mouth and vocally reply. He reached out to her, grabbing her hand tightly in his. It felt hot against her skin and the warmth seemed to defrost her body from the cold that had enveloped her earlier. Her muscles began to loosen and relax as the warmth spread and she was able to shake her head and clear her mind. 


“Yes,” she whispered quietly when her jaw finally relaxed. “I just—Sometimes I forget that you are a prince. I never thought about what it would entail for me, if we were to…” Her words drifted off as Fili’s face became one of understanding. 


He took her hand delicately in his and raised it to his lips, giving it a kiss before lowering it down. He kept a hold of it, looking down at her small hand in his as he gave himself a moment to think. It had never occurred to him that Torvi did not realize what this, them being together meant. Not just for them but the entire mountain. He had been raised, always knowing that he would take the throne after Thorin. While as a child there was no kingdom to inherit, he still knew there would be the responsibility of the welfare of the people to inherit. Torvi on the other had did not grow up with this. Never had she ever had to worry about the welfare of others except for her family. He could see why such a change in responsibility could be so daunting.  


While he thought, Torvi watched Fili’s face become conflicted with emotion as he stared down at their entwined fingers. She wanted to say something to alleviate it, but she was already fighting a conflicting battle within herself. 


It had seemed so simple earlier. She felt a love for him to which he returned for her. She was not a princess, she did not even feel like a true lady of court. She could hardly even sit still for the four hours that made up the time with the ladies of the court. How was she supposed to sit still on a throne in front of the entirety of Erebor? She knew nothing of politics, policies, diplomacy, or anything to do with the running of a kingdom. She had her own views and opinions, but she did not know how to convert others to see her ideas, at least not in a diplomatic way. How was she supposed to lead others, when she couldn’t even relate with a room full of women? 


“I don’t think I can do this.” She looked up into his eyes. “I was not born to be a ruler,” she muttered softly, looking back down. She felt Fili’s warm hand on her cheek and she looked up into his blue eyes. Despite all of her worry and doubt, she saw nothing but confidence and assurance in them.


“Torvi, no one is born to be anything, they are raised and taught to become something of themselves. As for being a ruler, Erebor does not need rulers. They only need people who care for them and value each contribution to the mountain. I have seen you with Jorra and the way you interact with others. I can think of no other person who is better fit for the job.” He traced her jaw with a finger then continued. “I don’t know if we are exactly at the same level of affection, but I don’t want you to feel trapped or rushed at any point. Courtship is a big step for anyone of our race, but for us it would be a leap. I want you to be aware of my intentions, I want to speak with my uncle and in your case your brother, from there we will see where it goes. I won’t pretend to know the future and what it brings, only Mahal knows that.” He focused on her eyes, trying to transfer some sort of calmness on her mind. He finally had her, he did not want to lose her because of her lack of confidence in herself. “We will take this one step at a time. We can wait to make it public, we can wait to tell our families, although I have a suspicion some of them will already know.” He said, thinking of his mother and brother. 


She gave him a soft smile of gratitude. He was giving her quite a gift by being willing to keep it a secret because it was obvious that he wanted to do the opposite of postpone any plans. “I still fail to see what you see in me,” she said. “But I am willing to try and I suppose a couple of lessons with your mother would not hurt, we have to start somewhere.” She said, reaching up and giving his hand a squeeze. Fili smiled and watched her face falter just slightly as she thought. “Before we do anything or tell anyone, I will need to speak with Ferin. I need to return his courting bead and give him my answer...again.”  


Fili felt a twinge of resentment, but not for Torvi, it was entirely for Ferin. “I will go with you when you do it,” he said firmly. 


She shook her head. “No, I will do it alone. You being there would only make it worse.”


“There is no saying what he will do,” argued Fili. “I don’t like the idea of you being alone with him.”


“Fili, he hates you. You being there will only make the situation worse and he could get the idea that you and I are involved. When I initially rejected his offer, I told him that I was not interested in a courtship with anyone. If he thinks that I am involved with you, he will think that I was lying.”


“But we are involved,” said Fili with a sly wink, trying his best to restore the happy feelings he had earlier. 


Torvi rolled her eyes. “Yes, but at the time I had no idea what would happen in one night. And we have still yet to tell anyone and I do not want Ferin to be the first to know.” She folded her arms and looked at him sternly. “Trust me Fili, you being there is NOT a good idea.”


He stared hard at her but her face was set. An argument rose to the tip of his tongue but he had seen that face too many times. Instead, he swallowed his argument and nodded. “Very well,” he said unhappily. 


She gave him a grateful smile before they began to make their way to the front gates. “Besides, given the time of the morning, my mother is bound to have already noticed my absence. I might not even be alive long enough to even speak with him after she kills me.” She meant to put him at ease and while he smiled, she could still tell that he was still not happy with the situation. 


They entered through the front gates and made the usual stop by Jorra’s shop to drop off a small delivery of rabbits they had caught while making their way back through the woods. Jorra was already readying the stall for market and gave an inquisitive look to Torvi when he saw who was with her. He nodded to the prince as he accepted the dead animals from Torvi, but said nothing. As he looked at Torvi, his eyes lingered on her bruised forehead and disheveled state. His brown eyes narrowed as they darted between her a Fili. Torvi could see his mind working and gave a slight shake of her head to dissuade his thoughts. He gave her a stern look and Torvi nodded in understanding of his silent demand, she would owe him an explanation later. 


After their stop at market, Fili walked with Torvi to her home. Before they reached the door, Torvi knew that her assumption of her absence being noticed was correct. They could hear her mother before they had even opened the door and when Torvi finally did open it, her mother's voice became more audible as it echoed through the house to them. 


Siv was in the middle of a hysterical rant of worries and possible scenarios to explain Torvi’s absence. “She's run away Rorvi, I just know it! I pushed her too much, Mahal I just wanted the best for her and I ignored her! What if she gets killed or some man finds her. Her body will be found lying in a ditch two weeks from now.” She continued with her rants, each one becoming more elaborate than the previous. 


Torvi approached the kitchen area where she saw her mother pacing about the room as Rorvi sat casually at the kitchen table with his feet propped up, trying to calm her down. 


“I am sure Torvi did not run away. She may be wild, but she would never do that.” He looked up as Torvi appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. He smiled at her then looked inquisitively to Fili when he appeared in the doorway as well. “See mother,” he said pointing to where Torvi stood. “I told you she had not run away.”


Siv turned around and stopped her pacing. Her eyes were full of relief as she rushed to her daughter and wrapped her arms around her. Torvi could feel her mother's warm tears on her neck as they spilled from her eyes and she wrapped a comforting arm around her mother. 


When Siv pulled away, her relief was replaced with a glower. It was the look that from a young age, both Torvi and Rorvi learned to always avoid. It was a look that she had not seen for several decades. If she recalled correctly it was when she and Rorvi had managed to set fire to the oven when they tried to make mince pie and put too much rum in the sauce. 


“Do you have any idea what kind of stress you put me through! Rorvi is skipping work today because of you! He would be out with a search party right now if he had not told me to wait another hour! What possessed you一What in Mahal’s name did you have to do before the sun was already up. And look at the state of you! What happened to your head? Did anyone see you like this?”


Torvi rolled her eyes. So much for feeling bad for putting too much pressure on her. But at least she didn't know she had been out all night. Something she probably had Rorvi to thank. She made to open her mouth but Fili spoke up before she could give her excuses. 


“I am sorry Lady Siv, I believe it is my fault that she had to leave so early this morning.” Torvi whipped her head around to look at Fili, raising her eyebrows but Fili kept his eyes on Siv. 


For the first time, Siv noticed Fili’s presence. “And what in Mahal’s name where the two of you doing at such an ungodly hour to end up with you retuning my daughter bruised and dirty?” She demanded. 


Fili stayed firm under her stare and kept his face honest as he answered her. “I asked if she could help me with some training this morning. I apologize, it was my fault, she got hurt. I was not careful and accidently hit her in the head with the pommel of my sword.” He shifted uncomfortably and scratched his head, unsure if Siv was accepting his story. “Now I realize that perhaps I should have asked someone else to help me.” 


Torvi stood stalk still, she couldn't believe that Fili was lying for her but she was grateful. She would be in a lot more trouble if her mother knew the truth. 


“Foolish boy,” began Siv in an exasperated tone. “Honestly Fili, you should of had more common sense. I would expect this of Kili but I thought you would have been more thoughtful. Anyone else would have been better.” Fili looked down at his feet as Siv lectured him. She then turned her attention to Torvi. “And you should have known better as well Torvi. Leaving no note, sneaking around with a young man, and getting yourself into a mess of looks.” It was too much for Rorvi and he let out a muffled snort causing his mother to whirl around and glare at him. “And what are you laughing at?!? You knew, didn't you? That is why you were so calm this morning. Are you condoning such behavior!”


Rorvi’s face paled as he sat up straight in his chair and shook his head like a scolded child. “No, I swear I didn't know!”


Siv gave him a lingering dark look then turned to Torvi again. “You may as well stay home today, no sense in you coming today. Perhaps you should stay home and do chores.” Rorvi let out another snort as he pointed in mockery at Torvi but Siv turned around and continued. “And you can help her since you won't be going to work today.”


Rorvi’s grin faded and turned into a scowl towards Torvi as if she were to blame for his punishment. “Now, now mother let us not be hasty,” he said, raising his arms as he could calm his mother's wrath. “The day is still young and I can easily still go to work without missing too much.”  


Siv turned to him, narrowing her eyes at him before throwing her hands up in the air. “Very well, do whatever you want. Honestly this family has fallen to anarchy. I don’t even know why I bother with you two.” She turned to Torvi. “I want this house sparkling clean and every piece of silver, gold, and copper to be polished by the time I get home. Is that understood?” 


“Yes ma’am,” said Torvi in a meek tone. She knew this was not a time to try a provoke her mother. 


“Good,” said Siv. Satisfied that she had made a point, she grabbed a basket from the table and walked past Fili and Torvi to leave the house. 


“Well I am off to work before she comes back,” said Rorvi as he began to follow after his mother. 


As he started making his way toward the door, he stopped in front of Fili and put a hand on his shoulder. “Do try to be more careful with my sister, I only have one.” He then rubbed Torvi’s hair, who pushed him off, giving him a dirty look and looking even more disheveled than before. “Calm down there sister, how do you expect to get someone to fall in love with you if you make faces like that?” He then exited the house, missing the amused exchange of looks between Fili and Torvi. 


Just as Rorvi was closing the door behind him it burst open as a haggard Kili pushed it open and entered. Both Fili and Torvi stared at him in surprise as he stopped in front of them bent over and panting. “There you are!” He finally said in a winded voice, pointing an accusing finger at Fili. He stood up straight and looked them over. “Thorin has been having a fit since dawn this and he...” His words faltered as he saw the new glow in each pair of eyes that were looking at him. Then everything from the night before came flooding into his mind, replacing the urgency of Thorin’s request to find and return Fili before the rest of the council started to notice. He quickly leaned in to whisper quietly in Torvi’s ear. “Did you guys talk?” He asked, failing at being discreet. 


Fili let out a chuckle, causing Kili to step back and look at him. “I guess you will be the first to know,” started Fili. He took Torvi’s hand in his and smiled. “To answer you question, yes, we talked and our feelings are mutual.”


Fili pulled them both into a bone crushing hug. “This is fantastic!” He said as he let them go and they each took in a breath. “Just wait until mother finds out, and your mother,” he added, looking to Torvi. “What will Rorvi say? Do you think he will be angry?” He looked at Fili. “Thorin will be very pleased. This will take a lot off the table when it comes to dealing with Lord Ferer.” 


Torvi’s eyebrows furrowed at Kili’s last statement but was not able to say anything before Fili cut his brother off. 


“Hold up Kili. I am glad to hear you are happy for us but would you mind keeping it to yourself for a little while?” Fili looked to Torvi. “Torvi has a lot of adjusting to do with everything that comes from courting a prince. So we have decided to wait, just for a little while so she can process the idea.” 


Kili looked a little disappointed in having to keep the news a secret, he was never good at keeping them. But he understood where Torvi was coming from and nodded. His mind went back to Thorin, and his eyes widened. “Fili we need to go. Thorin told me to have you there half an hour ago.”


“Very well, I will be there in a moment.” He said turning to Torvi. When Kili did not leave, Fili turned his attention back to his brother and gave him an exasperated look and cleared his throat. “Kili, do you mind?” He said, directing his eyes to the door. 


Kili stood there watching them happily, completely oblivious to what Fili was hinting. Fili cleared his throat again, grabbing Kili’s attention and motioned his head towards the door. “Oh right, sorry, I will wait for you outside,” he said, catching on to Fili’s not so subtle hint. 


When the door closed behind Kili, Fili faced Torvi again. “I have to go, but I will see you later tonight when everything is done. Meet me in the cave.”


She nodded. “Fili, what did Kili mean about making things easier for Lord Ferer?” 


Fili shook his head. “It’s not really. I can tell you about it later if you want to.” She nodded in acceptance but he could tell she wanted and answer. “What will you do today?” He asked, in an attempt to get her to forget about Ferer. 


Torvi thought for a moment. “Well clean obviously. But after that my first priority will be to speak with Ferin. Then I owe Jorra an explanation. Since I will be in the market anyways, I will also need to get some more arrows from Geeorn as most of what I have left are damaged and I would like some new ones for tonight when we go out.” 


Fili frowned slightly. “I don’t think it is a good idea that we keep going out at night. At least not for a while until we know there are no more groups of goblins. I know how much you enjoy it, but perhaps last night should have been a warning. If it means that much to you, perhaps we can go once in awhile during the day when I have some free time to...”


Torvi was shaking her head before he had even finished his suggestion. “No, I cannot stop now.” 


He did not understand why she was so adamant about making it a nightly activity, surely she could stay in just a few nights. He wanted to protest but he didn’t want to start their relationship with a disagreement. “Very well, but we will make a compromise.” 


Torvi’s face turned hesitant as she watched him carefully from the corner of her eye. “What kind of compromise?”


Fili smiled. “We will continue our hunts, but you must learn how to better wield a sword.”


Torvi beamed up at him. No one had ever given her the opportunity to learn to use a sword. “It’s a deal.” She said holding up a hand. 


Fili pushed her hand away and took a step closer. “I think we should seal it with a kiss, it's more proper.” He said with a smile before leaning down and giving her a soft kiss on the lips. A knock at the door reminded them Kili was still waiting and they broke apart. He didn’t want to leave Torvi, but reality was waiting for him. “I will see you later tonight,” he whispered before pulling himself from her and left to attend to his duties.


Torvi rubbed her arms and rolled her sore shoulders as she made her way down the hall leading to Ferin’s home. Her arms ached after spending almost the entire day polishing and buffing any metallic object she could find in the house and her back ached from being thrown against the rock wall the night before. 


Once Fili had left she went straight to work with the punishment her mother had left her with. While it was not pleasant, Torvi did feel like she deserved it, given the fact that she had been lying to her mother. 


When everything was clean and tidy within the house, she had dressed in a simple blue dress and left to go find Ferin at the training grounds. She had a small hope that he would be too tired to try and resist her refusal if she caught him after his training session. To her disappointment, Ferin could not be found at the training ground. She had asked a few burly looking dwarves if they had seen him but was told that he had not showed up all day. Unwilling to give up, Torvi decided to try his home next. Being still early in the day, she was hoping that Ferin’s parents would be gone or at least Ferin would answer so she would not have to speak to either of them. 


When she approached the door she knocked on the door and waited. To her disappointment, it was Lord Ferer who answered. It was one step better than Ferin’s mother, but she still felt a slight twinge of nerves as he looked down at her from his tall stature.


“Lady Torvi, what a surprise and a pleasure to see you this morning,” he said with a wide smile. “You are looking well today.”  


“Thank you,” said Torvi in a quick reply, not believing a single word considering the bruise on her forehead she had only partially hidden with some powder and her hair. “I am looking for Ferin, I would like to speak with him.” 


“I figured as much,” he said as his smile widened even more. “But I am afraid that you have missed him and it will be a few days before you will be able to have that pleasure.” Torvi looked at him inquisitively, not understanding his meaning. 


“Apparently a small pack of goblin’s were spotted near the mountain early this morning. King Thorin thought it would be best to send out a small group of soldiers to scout the area in case there were more,” he explained. “Ferin was given the assignment and left this afternoon with the group. It will be two days at the least before he returns.” 


Torvi’s face fell into a look of disappointment to which Lord Ferer interpreted the meaning of her feelings incorrectly.


“Ferin was upset that he was unable to tell you himself but he had to leave immediately. We wouldn’t want our good farmers in any danger now would we?” 


Torvi shook her head. “No, of course not. I suppose I will look for his return to speak with him.” She turned to leave but Lord Ferer spoke again. 


“Torvi, I hope you know that my son highly admires you and despite our differences, I do as well. You are a good match for him, you will both do well together.” 


Torvi realized that he had the wrong idea of her call of Ferin. “My Lord I apologize but I believe you have it wrong.” She stepped back towards the doorway, her palms began to sweat under the dark stare of Lord Ferer. “I believe I am not mistaken in assuming that you thought I came here to accept your sons offer, but I am afraid I must assure you that is not the case. The purpose of my visit was to return his bead as I cannot accept it.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out the small gold bead. “I thought the sooner I told him the better, but it seems mahal had something different in mind.” She stretched out her hand to give the bead to the large dwarf. “Maybe it would be better if you gave it to him. I don't feel right keeping it any longer.”


Lord Ferer's large stature towered over her as he stepped forward. “I am sorry to hear that but he should hear it from you.” 


He gently pushed her hand away his eyes growing darker with disappointment, putting Torvi at unease. His expression was melancholy making it difficult for her to know what he was feeling. She didn't like it but she nodded her head in agreement. She recoiled her hand and put the bead back in her pocket. 


“I hope this does not ruin your friendship with him. You have a lot of potential Torvi, you are observant and smart. We could help each other very much in the future,” he said with a smile as he began to close the door. “I will see you around.”


I shiver ran down Torvi’s spine. She now knew where Ferin got his habit of empty flattery. 


When the door was closed, she left in a hurry, eager to leave the proximity and be in the presence of others. With hurried steps she let her feet take her from the upper levels down to the market. She did not let herself slow down until she could see Jorra working in his stall. He gave her a wave and a smile as he caught sight of her. 


“Hello Torvi, lemme just finish up this order,” greeted Jorra as she approached his stall.  


He wrapped a large slab of pork in some parchment then tied it closed with some string. With the parcel tied off, he passed it over to the dwarrowmaid waiting patiently and accepted the money offered in exchange. With no other customers waiting, he wiped his hands and pulled up a chair to sit down at the table with her. “I was surprised to see the young prince this morning.” Torvi smiled at felt her cheeks grow warm. Jorra smiled knowingly at her. “I know that look, I have been noticing it for quite some time but never knew who was the cause of it. I am happy for you,” he praised patting her on an arm. 


“Is it that obvious?” 


“Well, maybe not for most people. But I remember when my son met his one, he had that same glow about his face for the longest time.” His face faded in a lost memory and Torvi gave him a moment. 


Torvi had meet Jorra after the passing of his family and had never met them. He rarely talked about them and she never asked, it was a silent agreement they had as he never asked about her father in return. Each of them shared information in small segments at a time. Over the years of her friendship with him, she had gathered that his wife had died a few years before they met and their son had died several years before that. She had always thought he had died young but by this new information he was older than she had imagined. 


Jorra snapped out of his thoughts and looked at her. “Sorry about that lass, but I have to say I am glad you finally started telling people about our arrangement.” Torvi shifted uncomfortably in her chair and a look of guilt came on her face. “He doesn't know does he?” He said with a slouch of his shoulders. Torvi didn’t have to say anything as she looked even more guilty. “What does he think you are doing?” He asked in amazement. 


“Hunting and then selling what I hunt to you,” she said guiltily as she shrugged her shoulders. 


Jorra shook his head. “I just don’t understand you Torvi.”


“I know it’s wrong but I am worried it will make him feel bad.”


Jorra shook his head. “I just don’t think it’s right.”


“I know you don’t. If it makes you feel any better, I did tell Kili,” she added. 


“It helps but I still don’t feel right about it. But I will trust you tell Prince Fili before you get yourself into trouble,” he said with a sigh. 


“Thank you,” she said. The topic was dropped and she looked down at her hands, which were folded on the table. A silence fell on the two friends and Jorra found himself staring at her as she picked at a nail. 


“For someone who has just found love you don't seem to be as happy as you should,” she looked up at him. “Something else is bothering you.”


She gave him a grim smile. “You're too observant,” she complained. 


“You're just too readable.”


Torvi sat up and let her hands drag across the table and fall into her lap. “Do you ever think Mahal weaves a person's fate wrong?”


Jorra looked at her confused. “What do you mean?”


“I think Mahal messed up when he was weaving my tapestry of fate. Why else would he have Fili and I be woven together?”


“Mahal doesn't make mistakes,” he said firmly. 


“But Fili is a prince. Do you know what that will make me if…”


“You will be the future queen,” finished Jorra. 


She nodded. “I was so happy until I realized just what I was agreeing to. I love what Fili and I have together, but I have a feeling it will all change when it all becomes official. I have a hard enough time being a Lady of the court, how am I supposed to handle being a royal. I fear I will only disappoint Fili and he will eventually regret he chose me.”


Jorra let out a heavy sigh and rubbed his eyes. He leaned farther forward and looked her in the eyes. The wooden table gave a slight groan as he put more weight on it. “Torvi, we have been friends for a long time and I have grown to love you like I would my own daughter. It is because of this that I am going to say this. Take note that I mean no disrespect to your title or station but you need to hear this. I am only going to say this once.” 


His voice was deep and powerful. Torvi was not used to him having such command as she was used to his mild mannered and jolly cheer. If she didn't know any better she would think he was angry with her. 


“Now I admire you for many things. You are kind, generous, down to earth, and intelligent. But your judgment is impaired and your lack of confidence is always wavering. You have no regard for titles and that is your flaw. You say you are not qualified to be a queen and you are right, you are not.” 


Torvi was taken aback. If he was trying to convince her that she and Fili were meant to be together, he was doing it with an odd method of tact. Torvi moved to open her mouth but Jorra held up his hand to silence her. 


“Hang on, let me finish.” He lowered his hand and pointed to her. “At this very moment, the person you are right now, is not a queen. But you are not being crowned queen right now; are you?” He asked rhetorically. 


“If you want my opinion on if you can be a good queen; here it is. You have the potential to be a great queen. I would even be so bold as to say the greatest. You were born a noble, therefore no other noble will ever question your right to lead or have authority over them. The nobles will never see you as beneath them as you are already one of them. I have seen it in many other places in the world, where a peasant rose in station and was crowned. The results were catastrophic and there were revolts within the king's court.”   


“Now while you are a noble, you have lived and worked as a peasant. You understand the lifestyle. You treat the common folk with dignity and honor as if they are your equals. If you did not, we would not be having this conversation.” He smiled at her fondly. 


“Those are the reasons why I say that you have the potential to be one of the greatest. Because of it, you will be accepted and loved by all the people of Erebor not just your own kind. Understanding all ways of life will make you benevolent and give you insight to decisions.” He concluded his statement but his tone did not say that he was completely done speaking. 


“I say potential because that is what it is,” he said in a more serious tone. “Right now I believe you to be a good person but not one to be a ruler. You disregard your title and walk all over it as if it was worthless. It is a gift and a privilege given to you by birth from your ancestors. You insult others who do not have that honor by not using it. Because you don’t take any pride in your title, the nobles do not take you seriously and they will walk all over you. They will see you as weak. Politics is a game that adults play and you don’t even have a piece to place on the board. While you address issues, you pick and choose which ones to solve by what you deem as important. As a queen, people will expect you to solve all their problems no matter what. You worry too much of displeasing your family and friends so you keep them in the dark instead of consulting or confronting. Some things are best kept secret but you have too many. If you continue to live like that then you will never be a good queen.”


His words were brutally honest and Torvi would be lying if she said they did not hurt. But it was why she always sought after his council. 


“Thank you for your honesty,” she said quietly as she let what he said process. 


He looked at her sympathetically. “I don’t mean to bring you down lassie, but if you want to be a good queen, you need to change somethings in your life. You cannot hide away and coast through your days. You cannot hide your actions and live your life as a nobody. I know you don’t like attention, it's the real reason why you don’t let anyone know your feeding fifteen families.” 


Torvi’s eyes widened. “Is it really that many?” She asked in astonishment. 


Jorra let out a soft laugh. “This is what I mean. You don’t even know what kind of change you are bringing by your actions. By hiding your involvement, people cannot see that you care for them. I told you that you are a good person and you are, but you don’t let anyone else see it.”


Torvi was overwhelmed. She had always thought her title was a curse. So many times she had often wished it away, thinking that it was keeping her from her potential. But as she thought about Jorra’s words, she realized that he was right. She thought about Ferin’s family and other similar noble families. They were aggressive and forceful, she would never be able to compete at their level. At least not if she learned the game.


“I think I have a lot of learning to do,” she said quickly. 


Jorra nodded. “That you do lass. But remember, you are not alone and you have some wonderful skills to help you learn. You are stubborn Torvi, if you get an idea in your head you make sure it happens. Just get the idea that you want to be the greatest queen of Erebor and you will find a way to become just that.” 


“Will you help me become that person?” She asked. 


Jorra smiled. “Of course. The question is, where do we start?”


“I know exactly where to start.” She said causing Jorra to listen intently. “I told you the reason why I have not told Fili is because I don’t want to hurt him and that is true. But there is more to it...” 


She began to explain the situation of the politics keeping Fili and the rest of the council from doing anything. She explained that by keeping it quiet and by making it look like Jorra was doing it out of the kindness of his heart, she could at least help in some way. 


Jorra listened and when she was finished he scratched his head. “I don’t understand people. For one who just lectured you on not knowing politics I sure feel foolish.” 


“You should not feel foolish. It is the people who cannot see the goodness in helping others that are foolish.”


“Thanks lassie. But if you are truly passionate about this, I think this is where we need to start. You will not always be able to hunt night after night and I won’t always be alive to take the credit for you. We need something more permanent. Something that could be accepted into the running of Erebor. This won’t be easy but there must be a way.”


They began discussing different options and policies that could be presented. Customers came and went, interrupting their brainstorming every so often. They racked their brains but by the end of the day, they had nothing but two headaches and weary hearts. When it was time to close up shop, Torvi helped Jorra lock up and as they said their goodbyes, the only conclusion they could come to was that it would be more than just coming up with an idea. Torvi promised she would go to the library and begin to look into some books of laws and policies. Jorra committed to asking around the group of merchants that traveled to see if they had any input on matters such as this being addressed in other communities of the world.   


“Don’t worry Torvi, we will figure it out,” Jorra encouraged. 


Torvi gave him a tired smile and walked away to the upper levels. As he watched her go he watched her greeting shopkeepers and merchants as she walked through the market. Yes, she would be a great queen, she just needed to see it.

Chapter Text

Torvi landed on her back for what seemed like the one hundredth time that night. A loud clatter echoed through the cave as her sword fell from her hand onto the smooth cavern floor.  


“Keep your feet spaced,” instructed Fili. “You keep bringing them together and that's what throws you off balance.”


“I know,” grumbled Torvi under her breath. 


“Well you seem to forget every time I attack. And remember to keep a grip on your sword, not too tight but not too loose. There is nothing worse than being knocked to the ground and having to scramble for you sword as you get back up. By that time your enemy has probably kicked you or slit your throat.” 


Torvi let out a huff and pushed herself back up to her feet and took a stance. She raised her sword again and looked at him with determination.  


A slight smile stretched across Fili’s face as he looked at her. It was odd having these sessions. It was difficult for him to be hard on her as attacking her was the opposite of what he wanted to do. He hated watching her fall to the ground every time he pushed her, kicked her legs out from under her, or her own poor footwork caused her to trip. Each time he felt hesitation, he pushed himself to go hard on her, it would not do her any good if he went easy. 


She was definitely not a fighter, at least not yet. She had the ambition and drive, but she was too jerky on her movements. While she had improved in the last three sessions they had, there was still a lot to be done. She was used to a bow where strength was used to pull back and not push forward. This lack of strength to push forward made her attacks weak and too easy to deflect.  


Fili began to circle around her with his sword held loosely in his hand. Torvi’s cheeks were flushed red from the exercise and her chest heaved as she breathed in and out. At the start of their session her hair had been pulled into a neat, tight braid, but after an hour of training, the majority had fallen out of its weave in disarray. Seeing her like this was a new experience and there was something about her appearance that drove him mad with desire. His mouth curved into a smug side grin as he circled her, giving her a wink as moved around her.


Her face darkened with annoyance as he looked at her devilishly. It frustrated her that he did not take it as seriously as her. She wanted to improve and while it was only the third day of being instructed, she felt like she was not getting anywhere. Her and Jorra had not made any progress in solving their problem and Ferin had still yet to return. She was putting so much effort and time into trying to take Jorra’s advice but it seemed as if she was not progressing anywhere. 


She watched Fili carefully, looking for any movement that might give away his next attack. His left shoulder was facing her and she watched his right arm grip his sword hilt tighter. The attack was coming, she tensed her body and made sure her weight was balanced and her feet set apart, one foot slightly farther forward than the other. He fainted, taking a small quick step forward before drawing back into the position he had been in before. Instinctively she moved away from him, raising her sword up to deflect his blow, but the blow never came. Instead, Torvi’s left foot caught on her right as she stepped back and fell down onto the ground with a pained grunt. 


A chuckle escaped Fili’s lips as sauntered over to her and stood in front of her. “You brought your feet back together. If you’re going to step back, step with both feet or make your step larger.” 


Torvi looked up at him, narrowing her eyes. “I know,” she said in a frustrated tone. She ignored the hand he offered as help and pushed herself back up. She knew he was not to blame for her lack of skill. He was a good teacher, she was just a terrible student. She dusted herself off before getting back into a stance. “Again,” she said. 


Fili shook his head and walked over to her. He took his other dual sword she had been using from her hand. “I think that is enough for today. You're getting too frustrated and it’s messing you up.” 


She let out a sigh and rubbed her eyes. “Fine.” She wanted to keep going but he was right. She was exhausted and her backside was bruised and sore. 


He put his swords away and stepped closer to her. He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and her hard expression softened as she looked up at him. His eyes shone brightly and there was a soft smile on his face as he admired her. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You will eventually get there,” he comforted. 


She smiled in response and he responded by giving her a kiss. He reached down and grabbed her hand, guiding her the entrance of the cave. They walked up several levels without seeing another person. Just as Torvi was about to step out into a busy corridor, she felt a tug on her arm before being pulled back into the hall they had come from.  


Fili lead her down another, darker corridor and into a more narrow corridor. He pushed her against the wall with a gentle force. Her eyes widened as Fili made a quick look around the corner. 


“Fili! What are you doing!” she exclaimed in alarm. 


As she spoke his attention came back to her and his eyes shone. A sly smile came to his face as he stepped in closer, his hand going to her neck, and he bent his head down to kiss her. Torvi welcomed the kiss and their kiss deepened. She brought a hand up to his chest and he stepped closer, pinning her against the wall. She felt ecstatic as the heat of his body radiated from him and warmed hers. Her heartbeat raced and she could feel his beating in time with hers. Her brain couldn’t think and it was as if nothing else mattered just as long as their hearts continued to beat together. 




Torvi pushed Fili instantly away, his face was dazed but alarm quickly replaced it as he looked in the direction of the person's voice. Torvi didn’t need to look who was standing at the other end of the hall, she knew that voice, she lived with that voice. Heavy, stomping footsteps sounded and Torvi’s stomach flipped as she turned to face a furious look brother. 


His face was bright red and angry, but he was not looking at her. His eyes were pinned on Fili as he pointed an accusing finger at him. “What are you doing to my sister!” He exclaimed. 


Fili didn’t even resists as Rorvi pushed him up against the wall. 


“Rorvi, what are you doing!” Yelled Torvi as she tried to pull Rorvi off of Fili. Rorvi ignored her attempts and continued to glare at Fili. 


“What are you doing! I thought you were my friend, I thought I could trust you. Do you have any idea how happy I was that you two were getting along! Here you were pretending to watch out for her, warning her to stay away from Ferin. Well now I know why! It was so that you could horn in on her! It was YOU that I should have been watching out for.” 


“Rorvi! It’s not what you think!” Cried Torvi as she tried to force herself in between them. 


Rorvi pushed her away and pointed a finger at her. “Go home, I will deal with you later!”


He turned back to Fili, grabbing the collar of his coat again and pushing him against the wall. “How dare you take advantage of her, I thought she was safe with you. You may be a prince but you cannot go around taking what you want because you are the future king. Do you have any respect for yourself? Do you have and respect for Torvi? She is not just some tart you can fool around with and be done!”


Fili had been quiet the entire time of Rorvi’s rant, but at his last statement, Fili pushed Rorvi off of him and spoke sternly. “Rorvi, I promise you that is NOT what is happening here. I would never take advantage of your sister.”


“Then why are you pushing her up against the wall and putting your grimy hands all over her! Tell me what exactly am I seeing here!” Demanded Rorvi 


Slowly and cautiously, Fili put his hands out in front of him as he opened his mouth to explain. “I know this may come as a shock, but Torvi and I一I want to court her.”


Rorvi looked at Torvi then looked back to Fili with a brow raised. “Why?” He asked dumbly. 


Fili was taken aback by Rorvi’s question, he thought the reason would be a given. “Becauseーbecause I love her,” Fili responded, as if it were the most obvious thing. 


Rorvi’s clueless face quickly became one of astonishment as he gaped at Fili. Torvi herself felt a hitch in her breath as Fili stated the obvious. It was the first time either of them had actually ever said it. It was odd, she knew it was how he felt, but hearing it still made her heart skip a beat. 


“You what?” Asked Rorvi in a confused and dazed state. 


“I love her,” repeated Fili. This time more assertive. 


“And I love him,” Torvi added as she walked up and stood next to Fili. She felt his hand grab hers, causing her to look up at him and smiled. 


Rorvi looked as if he were watching the pendulum of a clock as he looked back and forth between the two. “Is this some kind of sick joke?” 


Fili let out a chuckle as he looked back to Rorvi. “No. It’s real. I was going to talk to you when we came closer to entering an official courtship. I should have talked to you earlier and I am sorry. But know that I would never do anything like this with just anyone, especially your sister unless I had good intentions.” 


Rorvi was still in a daze, he ran a hand his hand through his hair and started pacing back and forth. Fili and Torvi stood still, waiting quietly, unsure of what to do or say. Rorvi stopped pacing and faced them, opened his mouth, closed it, and began pacing again. After three more laps of his pacing, he finally stopped again. 


“I just can’tㅡwhen did this happen?” He asked. 


“Just the other day,” replied Torvi. “We would have told you sooner but I wanted to settle things with Ferin before we told anyone.” 


Rorvi nodded in understanding. 


“Rorvi,” started Fili cautiously. “You're my best friend and you know I would not do anything intentionally ruin that. I know I am probably the last person on earth you ever imagined your sister with which is why I ask this. Are you okay with this?”


Rorvi’s eyebrows rose high on his forehead. “You mean my best friend potentially becoming my brother in law?” He asked. 


Fili nodded and both he and Torvi waited with bated breath for his reply. 


Rorvi’s serious face broke into a wide grin. “I couldn’t think of anything better!” He said happily. 


Torvi jumped forward and wrapped her arms around her brother's neck, squeezing him with all her strength. He let out a chuckle as she released him and held her at arm's length, shaking his head at her. “I just want you to promise me that I get to be there when you tell mother. She will have a heart attack.” He looked to Fili and held out a hand. “Sorry I questioned your integrity.” 


Fili accepted his hand with a chuckle. “I would probably do the same thing if I had a sister and walked into the same situation.” 


Rorvi nodded then set his face firm and lowered his voice so only Fili could him. “Just remember, if you hurt her, I WILL push you off the summit of this mountain.” 


“I think that is only fair,” agreed Fili. 


Rorvi stepped back and took them both in. “You have my blessing!” He said happily before starting to walk away. When he was about to disappear into the connecting hallway he turned and faced them. “Just do me a favor, don’t let me see any of...that,” he pointed to where he had found them kissing, and an uncomfortable look came across his face, “again. I love you both, but it’s weird, and I may already be scarred for life.”


With that said, he disappeared around the corner, leaving the other two alone. Fili looked down to Torvi only to find that she was already looking at him. They stared at each other for a moment before breaking into a laugh. Fili wrapped his arms around her and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. 


“Well that could have gone better.” 


Torvi raised her eyes and laughed through her nose. “Are you kidding me! That could have gone a lot worse! To be honest, that went better than I ever expected.” 

Torvi slammed the large book she had been reading from with more force than she had been meaning to. A loud bang echoed through the library and a cloud of dust burst from its pages and into Torvi's face. She coughed several times as she rubbed her irritated eyes. When the dust settled she looked up to see Ori looking at her disapprovingly. She shot an apologetic smile at him and he looked back down to the large parchment he had been consulting earlier. 


Standing up from her chair she grabbed the large book and hefted it back to the shelf she had found it on. In the two weeks of punishment she served working in the library with Fili, Kili, and Rorvi, Torvi felt as if she had grown rather acquainted with the setup where everything was located. While this was true, the unfortunate reality was that she was not quite sure what she was looking for. 


She had started with looking in history for anything from past generations that had sought to fix the poverty within the kingdom. Where she had found some fascinating stories about the lonely mountain and even her own family line of ancestors, she had not found anything that was helpful. After several days of no success she moved on to laws and policies to which she struggled to search page after page of political jargon and nonsense. She had done her best to interpret most of it and with the help of Ori she had managed to acquire a basic knowledge to help identify if it was helpful to her cause or not. To her disdain none of it had been helpful. 


The particular passage she had been reading before slamming her book shut had been more of an ode of self praise to the wealth and wellbeing of the people of Erebor than a policy. It had been so infuriating and inaccurate it was what had caused her to slam to book shut. 


Once she placed the book back in its place on the shelf amongst the rest of unhelpful books she had been reading through in the past week, she began to walk down the aisles of books. Occasionally she would stop to read a title then move on. For some she even ventured to open and flip through it when a title caught her eye but each time returned it to the shelf when its contents proved to be unhelpful.  


With a heavy sigh, she put the current book she was looking at back on the shelf and rubbed her tired eyes. She was exhausted. The night before, her and Fili had stayed out much later than usual and then her mother had woken her early to help prepare a basket for a family that had just arrived a few days earlier. It was a young family of only one very young child. 


While Siv had visited with the mother, Torvi had taken it upon herself to entertain the young dwarf boy for several hours. By the afternoon she was dragging her feet to the library and two hours later she was exhausted. She still had a training session with Fili that evening and then of course hunting. As she thought about how tired she was feeling, she became tempted to go to the cave and sleep undisturbed until Fili showed up but there was still the open court to attend. 


The open court was nothing that had ever seemed important or relevant to Torvi until last week. It was a two hours session that allowed the citizens of Erebor noble or common, to approach the king and his council with requests, complaints, partitions, or propositions to be heard and considered. Torvi had never given it a thought until Jorra pointed out the benefit of attending or listening in. While most people who came where only coming for their opportunity to speak to the council, Torvi had found it quite eye opening. She had found an overlook with a balcony that was positioned high above the council that gave her a view of the entire council and the speaker but kept her out of view. 


It was not always the most entertaining and many of the subjects spoken about where nothing exceptional. But it was an insight for Torvi to get a better understanding of how things worked in the mountain. It was a complicated organization of positions and occupations that varied on the hierarchy of Erebor’s structure. She used to imagine the structure was like a pyramid but the more she learned, the more she realized that it was a spider web of overlapping structure. 


Soldiers were high in regard as they were what protected Erebor from any potential threat. After such a sacrifice to regain the mountain, Thorin had put forth an incentive for young dwarves to become soldiers and over the years of population growth and the high pay offered, the value and position of a soldier was high in stature. When Torvi had first moved to Erebor this is what she saw and while she admired their bravery it was not them she thought as the most essential. 


As Torvi looked more and more into the structure of Erebor, she realized that it was not the force but the labor of the mountain that kept it together. It was the farmers that brought food, the miners that collected the wealth, the traders that brought a profit, and the artisans that built the mountain. It was they who had a higher value in her opinion. The more she watched them approach the open council the more she saw how they loved their positions and valued the praise of their king. The soldiers varied in this aspect. There were some who truly lived to serve and protect but there were others who had only chosen to be a soldier for the spotlight and glory of being valued.   


Not only did the open court give her insight to the workings of Erebor, but it gave her an opportunity to get to know the council members better. She could tell what mattered and what was rated as important to them by watching their faces of interest, their manor in accepting the speaker, and their comments made during the council. If she had to deal with the council as a royal she wanted to know who she was truly dealing with. With no one aware that she would possibly be the future princess and queen, she had an advantage to see their true colors. The more she learned about them the more she could she what positions that each member would take in different situations. There was Lord Feror who of course favored military, Bifur favored the miners, and Balin surprised her by tending to favor the farmers. With each subject discussed, Torvi learned more and more about each member. 


As she made her way down the rows of books she saw Ori getting ready to depart. He was one of the members of the council. He was quiet and timid when it came to the open councils but he did comment, he had good opinions and solutions whenever he did speak up. His departure indicated that she should be getting ready to leave as well and take her spot on the overlook. Torvi began making her way to the front of the library to the door. As she passed the rows of books she stopped bothering to even look at the titles until one book caught her eye. 


She had almost passed by without a second look but there was something about the strange symbols that were written along the spin that reached out to her. The binding was a deep red with gold lettering. 


Slowly pulling it from the shelf, she ran a hand over the cover. It was smooth except where the letters were written in Westron. The title of the book was embossed in gold lettering: The Common Folk of the South , it read. The author's name was not familiar nor dwarven. 


The slam of the door startled her and she jumped where she stood. Without much thought about it, Torvi slid the book into her bag as she followed after Ori for the open council.

“All those in favor?” Came Thorin's strong voice. 


A chorus of “aye” rose up to the balcony rose up to where Torvi was seated on the floor and looking down at the courtroom. The farmer smiled and Thorin nodded to him. 


“We will take your farm proposal under consideration and will meet with you with our decision one week from today,” he said in an authoritative voice. 


The farmer bowed low and made his way to the exit as another dwarf stepped forward to take his place. He was covered in soot and grime and Torvi could only guess he was a miner. As he moved to open his mouth to make his appeal the sound of several heavy marching footsteps echoed into the large hall. 


Through the large entrance way a small group of soldiers marched into the courtroom. At the head of the group, looking tired and worn but still managing to radiate his usual put together mien, was Ferin. Torvi shot up from her slouched position against the arched balcony and stared down at him. He was back.  


It had been over a week since Ferin had left the mountain and she had almost forgotten about him...almost. Seeing him down there standing tall and large she began to feel a small twinge of nerves creep down her neck. She looked at Lord Feror who was smiling proudly at his son who stepped forward and gave a bow, his right hand crossing over his heart as he leaned forward. 


As Ferin straightened, his face curled into a smug smile for only a second as he glanced at Fili. Torvi watched as Fili’s face dimmed and his eyes narrowed at the captain addressing the court. Ferin's attention to Fili was only brief as his face straightened into the perfect soldier as he looked at Thorin and began to make a report. 


“Your highness, as requested my unit and I circled the mountain at a large radius. We did run into a small band of goblins near the base of the mountain on the far north side, but did not see any signs of any other threat to the mountain.”  


Thorin nodded. “Thank you for you report and service. I am glad to hear that the threat was not as I feared and to see you returned safely with all your men.” He smiled at the group of soldiers. “Take the week off and get some good food and ale. I am sure you are all ready for a well deserved rest.”


There was a chorus of appreciated cheers from the soldiers and a few of the council members. Ferin saluted Thorin again with his right arm to his chest and bowed. 


“Thank you your highness. It is an honor to serve.”


With that said, he nodded briefly to his father and exited with the group of men. As they grew nearer to the exit, their stiff soldier mannerism loosened as they began to speak loudly of their plans for their free time. Their voices soon faded as they moved away and the miner who had been interrupted began speaking of his appeal to the open court. Torvi tried to listen but after the arrival of Ferin she could not focus and left early. She had to speak with him and did not want to wait any longer. 

Chapter Text

Torvi didn't realize just how quickly a group of hungry and weary soldiers could move. She began by trying to cut them off in the main hall but had been unlucky. Her first thought was to go to his home on the chance that he would have gone there to unpack from his journey, but then there would be the off chance she would run into his mother. She saved the idea as a last resort.

Two hours passed by and Torvi had still yet to find Ferin. As she was out of any additional places to look, she decided that she would have to go to his home after all. Ferin’s home was located high up and towards the center of the mountain, far away from most of the commotion of the rest of the mountain. As Torvi made her way through the corridors and stairways, things began to grow more quiet as she neared his home. There was something disturbing about the eerie echo of her footsteps as she made her way down a particularly long hallway. She focused on her steps and listened to the echoes each time her boots landed on the floor. She lost herself in the repeated thump thump, letting her mind go blank at the dull sound until she became aware of an oddity in her steps. 


It did not take long for Torvi to realize that there were extra footsteps echoing from the direction she had come from. Torvi took a quick glance around to see who was approaching. To her surprise, it was Ferin who was striding towards her, his footsteps somewhat unsteadily as he walked down the hall towards her. His eyes were focused on his feet and he had not noticed her yet.


Relief of finally finding him washed over her. She had just started to think that she would have to delay this yet another day and she knew how much it bothered Fili that they had to keep things quiet. Torvi quickly started backtracking towards Ferin, clearing her throat to make her presence known to the still oblivious Ferin. 


At the sound, Ferin looked up from his feet. For a moment he squinted his eyes as if to focus better on who was approaching him. The moment she came into focus, he quickly let a smug smile come to his face. 


“Now that is a sight I have been missing for the last week,” he said, holding his arms out to embrace her. 


Torvi stopped short of his outstretched arms and looked at him closely. He did not seem as put together as usual. He took a step closer and the reason hit her in the face as he pulled her in for a tight hug. The smell of alcohol invaded her nostrils and she quickly pushed herself back to rid herself of the offensive smell. She took a slow breath in as she quickly calculated the best way to approach her objective. He had been drinking and she was unsure as to how much. 


Ferin retracted his arms, noticing her hesitation to be near him and quickly sobered himself, straightening his tunic and setting his feet firmly to prevent himself from swaying. “It is good to see you,” he said. “I must be honest I was not expecting to see you so soon. Not that I do not mind seeing you,” he quickly added. 


“I was beginning to think I would not see you until later either as well,” she admitted. “I have been wanting to talk to you since you left so when I saw that you were back, I sought you out. But I was having trouble finding you up until now.” 


“Yes, we unfortunately were gone for longer than planned but do not think a day went by that I did not think of you. I was eager to return and see if you have made your decision.”

Torvi shifted uncomfortably. “Ferin, that is actually why I was seeking you out.” She took in a deep breath. “I have done what you asked and thought about it. But I am sorry. I cannot accept your offer." She reached into the pocket of her dress and held out the golden bead for him to take.

He looked down at her outstretched hand. When he looked back up at her, she was taken aback by the darkness that stretched across his usually charismatic face. 


“Are you sure you thought this through?” He said coldly. 


Torvi quickly nodded and held her hand farther out, the golden bead gleaming from the torch light in the middle of her palm. “Yes,” she said firmly.


Ferin let out a slight laugh. “I don’t think you quite understand what you are giving up here. I could have any dwarrowmaid in this mountain. Your family would gain so much with our union. Your family has gone through enough embarrassment and struggle in your life with losing everything and living like the lowest of commoners. I have a cousin who lives in the Iron Hills, he told me of the way you lived the way your mother had to beg to take in laundry just so you could eat.” He looked her up and down, disgust on his face as if she were some filthy beggar on the street. “Everyone knows that the only reason why your mother was given a place her in Erebor and your brother given his apprenticeship is because the royal family pitied you. Now they are trying to make you feel as if you are of some importance. But your too ignorant to see that the nobles don’t need your family within the construct of politics anymore.”


 At this last sentence a strange look came to Ferin’s face. It was the expression that Torvi had seen Rorvi gain whenever he said something he was supposed to keep to himself. Ferin quickly straightened his face into a more calm and sincere face of what some would consider concern.


“Torvi, I don’t say this to hurt your feelings,” he quickly amended. “I say this so that you can see the mistake you are making. Don’t you want to have something that you actually earned instead of given out of pity. Don’t you want to feel like you are part of the system again, to be part of a family that knows how to live and act the way they were born and bred to do. Do you not understand the potenㅡ”


“That is enough,” she snapped.


Torvi had been timid at first by his dark demeanor but the more he spoke the less timid she became. A spark of anger ignited at some point in his rant and the more he went on, the more that flame grew until it was a roaring fire in her chest. She did her best to keep her temper in check, knowing that it would be unwise to say anything. She knew she should just let him speak then leave and be done with it. But the more words that flowed from his, the more offense he brought to her family, all care of returning the bead easily flew out the window and she snapped.


“If this is the way you truly see me then understand this,” she pointed a finger into his chest. “My family has never accepted anything that was not already rightfully ours or earned. Yes, Dis invited us to come live in Erebor but it was not out of pity for how far we had fallen. That home has belonged to my family long before yours was even considered a noble family. It is rightfully ours and that is why it was given to us. Yes, my brothers apprenticeship was given to him out of consideration  but he has not taken it lightly. He works hard to learn the craftsmanship and master the trade and that effort has paid off. He has earned the right to that apprenticeship.”


Her breathing was elevated and her shouting caused her to take in a deep breath before continuing. “You say my family is nothing, but you have seen nothing. My family was once, one of the greatest noble families within this mountain and while my family has not become fully immersed in the politics of this mountain, do not underestimate us. That time will come.  As for gaining anything from a union with your family, the only gain we would get is shame and dishonor for the family line. Any maiden foolish enough to accept a courtship from you or anyone in your family is a fool!”




Torvi’s head turned to the side and her eyesight went fuzzy as stars began to form in her vision. Her cheek burned from the force of his hand hitting her across the face. It took her a moment to reorganize her thoughts enough to process what had happened. Slowly, she turned back to face him, his hand was still raised in the air as if to threaten to strike her again.


“Shut your infernal mouth wench!” he bellowed. 


Torvi’s eyesight had gone red with fury. She felt a warm trickle of something wet trickle from her lip. The tip of her tongue protruded to the corner of her mouth and tasted the metallic flavor of blood. Before she react or retaliate, Ferin’s body whipped around in a forceful twirl then fell back into the corridor wall. 


Fili came into view, his face one of ferocity as he shook his hand from the hit he had just landed into Ferin’s face. 

The moment the meeting adjourned, Fili went off to find Torvi. He was positive that she knew nothing of Ferin’s return but he was sure she would find out quickly. While he knew he had agreed to let Torvi tell Ferin of her refusal alone, he was not about to let her do it unsupervised. Kili caught up with him not long after and following a short debate, it was agreed that Kili could accompany him as a backup in case Torvi tried to resist the idea. While Torvi was stubborn in her decisions, Kili could usually put up a good enough fight to at least get her to compromise. 


They made their way up the stairs towards the living quarters when they first heard Torvi’s voice coming from the hallway at the top of the steps. Her voice was muffled and although Fili could not make out her words, it was unmistakable as to how furious she was by the tone of her voice. 


Fili was hesitant to go further, in their younger years her temper was not one to take lightly and if he knew her enough now, he knew that temper would not be one to interfere. He looked back to Kili who looked just as hesitant to go further but the moment her words were cut off by the resounding echo of a hand against flesh, Fili’s head whipped back to face forward and the hesitation was replaced with alarm. 


He took the last few steps two at a time until the stairway opened up to the corridor where Torvi and Ferin where standing. Torvi’s cheek was bright red as she reached up with her hand to touch her cheek. 


At the look of physical hurt and shock on her face, Fili’s ears roared as blood pounded through his body and his vision turned red. Before he knew what he was doing, he had already crossed the small distance and grabbed ahold of Ferin’s shoulder. The shocked look on Ferin’s face told Fili that he had been oblivious of their presence. This surprise caused Fili to gain even more satisfaction as he brought his arm back and threw it forward into Ferin's face. There was a sickening crunch as Fili’s knuckles collided with his nose. Satisfaction filled him as blood poured from Ferin's nose like a raging waterfall. 


Ferin ignored the wet flow of blood and moved his hand up to block Fili's second punch. He caught Fili mid swing and pushed Fili back and away from him. With the given space, Ferin tucked himself low and charged at Fili, aiming his shoulder for his gut. 


Kili’s mind only stayed clear enough to see the danger Torvi was still in. Moving quickly, he grabbed Torvi and pulled her away just in time to avoid being tackled to the ground with the two other male dwarves as Ferin plowed into Fili's stomach. There was a loud thump that echoed as the two dwarves fell to the ground in a heap. Fili gasped for air as the air was knocked from his lungs while Ferin took advantage of Fili's hindrance, he sent two quick jabs into Fili's face causing Torvi to let out a scream of protest. 


“Stop it!” she screamed. 


Kili moved to help his brother but the moment he loosened his grip on Torvi, she moved forward as well. Knowing his brother would be more distracted if Torvi became involved, Kili quickly grabbed ahold of Torvi again and pulled her away from danger. 


“Kili let go of me!” she shouted at him as she swiveled her head around to face him. Using a move that Fili had taught her, she moved her hand in a downward motion as she quickly rotated her wrist.The moment Kili's hand opened to avoid twisting the wrong way, she pushed him away and moved towards the two fighting dwarves again. 


Fili heard Torvi's protest and felt a newly refreshed rage course through his body. He brought his knee up, striking Ferin in the stomach and causing him to let out a groan as he lost his breath. He brought his other leg up and pushed Ferin up and over his head. Ferin flew off of Fili and landed on his back. Not giving a moment's hesitation he rolled onto his stomach and pushed himself up with his arms only to fall to the ground as Ferin grabbed his ankles and pulled them out from under him. The pair were quickly entangled as they wrestled each other for the upper hand, each one taking their turn to throw a punch when the opportunity arose. 


The moment Kili felt himself being pushed back he braced his foot to stop the momentum from carrying him as far back. He had not expected Torvi to escape his grasp so easily. Obviously her lessons were going better than she let on. 


Just before Torvi was about to pounce on Ferin, Kili caught her around the middle and pulled her away. Her feet kicked out widely in the air but to no effect as Kili had the advantage in his height. Just as he felt he had her tightly, her elbow was thrown back towards his face. He saw the movement in the corner of his eye and bent his head to avoid a full blow to the face, only to catch her elbow with his jaw. A sharp pain radiated up the side of his face but he gritted his teeth and readjusted his hold to ensnare her flailing arms. Just as she bent forward to gain momentum in thrusting her head back into his, a loud deep voice caused both tussles to cease. 




All four dwarves froze. Kili, with his arms still wrapped around a stooped Torvi, turned around slowly to face the direction of the voice. Torvi’s entire body tightened as every muscle contracted in fear. Her feet dangled awkwardly above the stone floor by several inches. 


Fili, who at the moment was on top of Ferin, had his arm raised up in the air as he had been about to deal another fist into Ferin's face when the voice stopped him. He immediately froze and looked up from Ferin's face to the new comer. Beneath him, Ferin had his arms up on Fili's shoulders as he had been about to push him off but he too paused in his efforts. Twisting his head awkwardly from his position on the floor, he looked in the direction of the corridor entrance. 


Standing before them, still wearing his crown and looking mightier than ever, was Thorin. His face was pulled into a tight grimace as he took in the sight before him. Behind him was Lord Ferer, looking even more displeased with what was before him as he stared daggers at his son. 


Thorin’s blue gaze swept across each individual, sending a shiver down their spines as they individually fell under his gaze. He took his time surveying the scene before speaking again. 


“Kili would you please put Lady Torvi back on firm ground?” he requested in an eerily calm tone. In a hurry to obey the King's command, Kili quickly released his arms and let Torvi fall from her awkward suspended state to a standing position. Thorin nodded in satisfaction before turning his attention to Fili and Ferin on the ground. “Fili remove yourself from captain Ferin and captain, have some respect for your uniform and get up off the ground.” 


The two of them immediately removed themselves from each other and swiftly stood up. They dusted themselves off quickly as they each side stepped to put a larger distance between themselves, both sending each other one last threatening look before bringing their attention back to Thorin at the sound of his footsteps coming towards them. Thorin stopped when he took in Torvi's face. There was a red swell to her left cheek and there was a smear of dried blood at the corner of her mouth and chin. He frowned at the thought of how she had come to receive these injuries and quickly looked to Kili who too had a bruise beginning to form along his jawline. 


“Kili take yourself and Torvi to the infirmary. Make sure Oin sees to her injuries himself,” he instructed firmly.


Kili looked at his uncle and grabbed ahold of Torvi's arm. In a rushed pace, he began dragging her past Thorin and towards the entrance where Lord Ferer was still standing. He felt a slight resistance as Torvi looked back to where Fili stood, her eyes full of worry but Kili quickly whispered in her ear. At his words, she let herself be directed past Lord Ferer and down the stairwell. Lord Ferer set his eyes on her as she passed, a strange look of concern in his eyes as he took her in before he looked away to where his son stood. 


Fili watched as Torvi left with Kili. The growing swell on her cheek made his blood boil with fury again and he clenched his hands into tight fists in an effort to stay calm and steady. The moment she was out of sight he turned his attention back to his uncle as he spoke again. 


“You,” he said in a dark tone as he pointed a finger at him. “Come with me!” He added as he turned around and followed after Kili and Torvi. “Ferer,” he growled, in the same commanding tone. “I assume you can deal with your son?” he asked him. 


Lord Ferer glanced at his son, anger flashing across his face before turning back to Thorin and nodding. 


Thorin nodded in content then looked back to Ferin. “When you are finished seeing to that broken nose of yours, I expect you to report to Dwalin first thing. As you seem to not be weary from your journey anymore, I no longer see a reason for you to take a week off from your duties.”


Ferin’s face darkened as he sent a furious look at Fili before softening his face into an unreadable expression of a soldier. “Yes your majesty,” he submitted, bringing a hand to his chest in a salute while giving a small bow. The moment he straightened back up, he turned his gaze to his father as Thorin was already departing, Fili following close behind.

Thorin did not speak the entire time he led Fili through Erebor. At first Fili was unsure of where they were heading. For a while he thought and hoped they were headed towards the infirmary, but the moment Thorin turned down a main hall leading away from the section of Erebor that contained the infirmary, his hope dissipated. Several halls and stairways later, Fili quickly realized they were headed in the direction of Thorin's private study. He opened his mouth to say something but at the sight of his uncles tensed shoulders he thought better of it and kept the silence between them. When they arrived to his study, Thorin opened the door and entered, leaving it wide open for Fili to follow. 


“Shut the door,” Thorin said over his shoulder.


Fili quickly turned to shut the door. At the sound of the latch falling into place, Fili turned back around just in time to see Thorin point to the chair in front of his desk as he spoke again. 


“Sit,” he instructed as he circled around the large desk and sat in his own chair.


Thorin’s elbows rested against the hard stone as he watched intently as Fili lowered himself into the chair. He took in a deep breath and slowly let it out before he began in an authoritative and reprimanding tone. 


“Fili, you are the crowned prince. Do you know what that means?” Fili stayed silent, unsure if Thorin was asking rhetorically or wanted an answer. It did not take long for Fili to get clarity to his unsurety when Thorin quickly began speaking again. “Should anything happen to me, you will become King. I know I still have many years in my life before that happens naturally but it seems today that has become an apparent blessing as you have many years before you become a dwarf ready for such responsibility.” 


Fili moved to open his mouth but Thorin kept speaking, preventing Fili from forming a rebuttal.


“I am already struggling with many members of the council who have issues with your lack of interest in courtship. And it does not help that when not performing your duties, you are forming full on brawls with dwarrowmaids not just watching, but involved. You know better than that. And what in Mahal’s name was Torvi doing there in the first place? You are not children anymore. You cannot be playing your childish renditions of this constant fighting. You are adults now. Torvi is a woman, not just a woman, but a Lady. You and Kili should have known better. I know you do not like Ferin but squabbling with him in the middle of a corridor as if it were a tavern in Dale is bad form. This behaviour is not to be tolerated, is that understood?”


Fili wanted to defend himself, to explain. Usually Thorin was not so quick to reprimand him without hearing an explanation first. 


It was then that Fili realized just how weary his uncle was. He looked exhausted and tired as if he had not slept for several days. Instead of speaking up, he swallowed his protest and nodded.


“Yes, sir,” Fili replied in a monotone. 


Thorin nodded. “Good,” he said firmly, then his stony face softened and he sat back in his chair, a weary sigh expelling from his nostrils as he propped his elbows on the armrests and looked at his nephew with a pondering expression. “I know it is unfair to you to cast my judgement of how your behavior will be dealt without giving me your defense,” he said softly. “So will you please explain to me as to how I came across the scene in which Kili was handling Torvi like a rag doll and you were on the ground in a tussle with Lord Ferer’s son?” 


Gratitude for his uncle's grant of opportunity for him to defend himself came to his face and he began his explanation. “Kili and I were just about to enter the corridor when we heard raised voices. We heard Torvi shouting and were hesitant in interfere. That is until we heard Ferin strike her.”


Thorin’s eyes darkened at this. “And do you know the reason that caused him to act in such a way, not that there should ever be one,” he quickly added. “Abuse is not something we take lightly as dwarfs, especially the abuse of a woman. We are not like humans where others turn a blind eye to such happenings.”   


Fili nodded in agreement. “I do not know what exact words caused him to do such a thing, but I do believe I know the subject that was being discussed.“


“And what is that?”


Fili thought of how to best answer this question, eventually deciding to start with the beginning of how all of it all started. 


“Just before you sent Ferin off to scout around the mountain on patrol, Ferin presented Torvi with a courting bead. She tried to refuse initially but he asked her to think about it so she complied. But then…” He struggled to find the right words. While they had discussed telling people of their intended courtship and making it official, he and Torvi had not yet completely decided that now was the time. “...something changed and Torvi became determined to return the bead back to Ferin as soon as possible. I warned her not to do it alone as I was worried something bad would happen. The moment he came back and we departed from the open council, I knew I had to find her because she would seek him out. Unfortunately, word spread faster than I imagined and she had already sought out Ferin to confront him. I believe she was in the middle of that confrontation when Kili and I ran into them.” 


Fili’s face changed into one of determine as he continued the next part of his story. “When I heard him hit her I couldn’t help it, I was consumed by rage and before I even knew what was happening, we were on the ground. Kili was only holding Torvi the way he was because Torvi had tried to get involved. He was only trying to keep her from getting any more hurt. I know there are other ways to deal with such events but he hit her...” Fili tried to convey his rationale for his actions in his tone but was unsure if Thorin was even understanding, if he even could understand. “I know how it looked and I know my behavior was not one of the crowned prince as you say, but I don’t regret it. I would do it again or one hundred times again if such a thing happened.”   


Thorin listened to Fili’s explanation attentively. At first he was slightly disappointed in Fili’s actions and lack of regret in his voice but when Fili finished his last declaration his eyebrows raised as if he had been struck with a revelation. He thought back to the past few months especially the last two weeks. It was the tone in Fili’s voice, the determination and guardianship that emanated from his tone that confirmed it.


Thorin cleared his throat and sat forward, placing his fingertips together against his lips as he thought of how to address his notion on Fili’s behavior. “Fili,” he started, “I am going to ask you a question, and I want you to answer it honestly to me.” 


Fili swallowed, unsure of what his uncle was about to ask him. 


“What exactly is going on between you and Torvi?”

As much as he had been so sure about his theory of Fili’s feelings, Thorin was still surprised when Fili confirmed it to be true. While he had an inclining that when Torvi had first arrived Fili had a fondness for the girl, he did not expect it to grow much despite what Dis had mentioned on several occasions. That is until now. What surprised Thorin the most though, was Fili’s admission to having a desire to enter a courtship with her. This, he had not been expecting until a much more distant future.


“Well I can’t say that Torvi was wrong in wanting to wait before you two entered an official courtship,” admitted Thorin. “It is not kindly looked at when a dwarrow maid accepts a courtship until all other offers have been declined and severed. While this rarely happens, it has still occurred a few times in my lifetime. And they each had some unlucky consequences and repercussions as a result. Unfortunately it seems that there were some unavoidable consequences anyways. Does Ferin know of your intent and interest?”


Fili shook his head. “No, Torvi was adamant about him not finding out until after she had spoken with him.”


“She is a smart girl, I fear the results would have been worse had he known the additional reason for her refusal.” Thorin pondered for a moment. “When did you two plan on telling others? Are there any others who know?”


“Kili and mother know,” answered Fili. “And so does Rorvi.”


Thorin raised an eyebrow. “And Lady Siv?”


Fili shook his head. “No. Torvi was afraid that she would not be able to keep it quiet.”


Thorin smirked. “Yes, as much as I have always liked Siv, she has only perhaps kept a handful of things quiet in her lifetime. That woman has been dreaming of her daughters wedding since the day she was born.” Thorin leaned back in his chair and took on a more relaxed posture. “I never understood why dwarrowdams became obsessed with the thought of their daughters marrying but it seems to be a flaw within our race. I have seen some women go completely mental with the obsession. We have Mahal to thank that your mother only had sons. I don’t know if I could have withstood your mother if she had a daughter,” he added with a smile. 


For the first time since Fili had been in the presence of Thorin, Fili let his lips curl into amusement at his uncle's comment. 


“I will keep things quiet until you two are ready to make this courtship a proper and official one. I can understand Torvi’s hesitation but the longer you wait the more likely you will be found out by the wrong people.”


Fili nodded, his smirk becoming somber at the warning tone in Thorin’s voice. 


Thorin stood up from his chair. “Go join the others in the infirmary,” he said, coming around the table. “I will see to it personally that Ferin gets what he has earned.”

Kili quickly lead Torvi down through the maze of corridors and stairwells until they were at the door to the infirmary. He did not release his grip on her arm until they were inside and she was seated on a small exam table as he went to the back room to fetch Oin. 


The old healer was seated at a desk when Kili knocked on the open door to let his presence known. It took three knocks for Kili to finally give up and enter. He tapped heavily on the old dwarfs shoulder causing him to startle. 


“Mahal give me mercy!” he exclaimed. “Kili, don't you know you should make your presence known before you go around entering an old dwarfs private study?” 


Kili did his best to keep from rolling his eyes. “I'm sorry but Torvi needs your medical skills.” He said in a struggled calm tone. 


Oin looked at him in confusion as he grabbed the horn lying on his desk and lifted it up to his ear. “What was that laddie? Did you say you, tore me boar's mead kills? That does not even make sense. Have you been using some of Bofur’s special pipe weed again?” 


“Torvi!” Kili said louder. “Lady Torvi. She has been hurt and needs your attention.”


“Well no need to shout, laddie, I'm right here,” he said getting up from his chair and moving to the main infirmary room. 


This time Kili let his eyes roll all the way to the back of his head as he brought a hand across his face in frustration. Oin had always been hard of hearing ever since he could remember, but the past few years had not done him well. His mind was beginning to slip and while he still had a keen mind in his skills as a healer, Kili had a faint suspicion that sometimes he forgot that he was hard of hearing. 


The moment Oin took in the girl, he gave a disapproving look at Kili before turning back to Torvi and cupping her face in his gentle hands to get a better look at the injury. 


“How did you come by this lassie?” he asked sternly.


“Ferin, Lord Ferer’s son,” answered Kili for her, his tone dark and full of spite with each name uttered. 


Oin’s eyes narrowed as he shook his head at the thought. After turning her face once more to get another look from a different angle, he moved away to his apothecary table and immediately began grabbing bowls, jars, and herbs. As he started mixing various plants and liquids together Kili took several steps until he was standing next to Torvi. 


“Are you ok?” he whispered quietly. 


Torvi looked at him, her green eyes set firmly on her friend. “I am worried about Fili. What is Thorin going to do? I don't think I have ever seen him so angry yet calm,” she whispered back. 


“He will be fine,” he assured her. Torvi nodded but Kili was not sure as to how convincing he was. He himself did not believe his words entirely. Torvi had been right, Thorin had been calm, too calm. 


“I am sorry about hitting you in the jaw,” Torvi apologized as she looked at the purple bruise on the side of his face. 


Kili reached up and touched his jaw. He winced as a sharp pain shot out across his jaw at the touch of his fingers. He had not realized until now that she had caused so much damage when she elbowed him. He gave her a faint forgiving smile. “That's alright, I guess I learned my lesson in underestimating you.”


The pair fell silent as Oin turned back to them with a wet towel in one hand and bowl of foul smelling green paste in the other. He placed the bowl on the counter and began to gently wash away the smear of dry blood that was wiped across the corned or her mouth and chin. Once the blood had been washed away he began to smear the green paste across her cheek.


“This will help with the swelling and pain. Although there is nothing I can do about the color, only time will be able to heal that. It is not too bad so it will fade in a few days,” he said softly. 


Torvi immediately began to feel a cool relief as Oin spread the paste gently across the bruised area. After several moments the throbbing pain with took up the left side of her face had subsided as it began to tingle and numb.  


He finished covering her cheek and set his old eyes on her. “I don't want you coming in her again with any such injury; worse or less worse than this. As much as I love to see such a pretty face, I won’t be having us meet like this on habit,” he said sternly.  


Torvi nodded. “Yes sir.”


Oin looked at her again and shook his head in disapproval of the whole situation. He then looked at Kili and handed him the bowl with the last bit of green past. “Here laddie put that on your face. I don't even want to know how you got yours,” he said as he began walking away from the table to his study. 


Kili immediately began rubbing the paste on his jaw. He flinched with each dab and moved his hand across his jaw as he blindly applied the paste. Torvi watched him wince under his own rough touch. When he began applying it to the parts of his face that where unbruised she rolled her eyes and took the bowl away from him. 


“Let me do it before you start spreading it into your eyes,” she muttered. 


Kili quickly surrendered the task to her and immediately began feeling relief in his jaw as she gently dabbed the paste onto his bruise. 


“This is all my fault,” she sighed in dismay. “I should have listened to you and Fili and let you two just join me in the beginning. I just didn’t think he would―” 


Kili looked at her sternly. “Torvi this is not your fault! It's Ferin’s fault for lacking any decency to accept a decline with good graces.”


Torvi shrugged, still not looking any less guilty. She was about to reply when the door burst open and Fili appeared in the doorway. His eyes swept across the empty infirmary until they landed on her and moved towards her. Taking her face gently in his hands, his azure eyes began looking over her as if expecting to find more than just a bruise.


“Torvi I am so sorry, I should have intervened as soon as I―”


“I am ok, Fili. Honestly, it's just a bruise.” 


Fili’s face hardened. “No, it's not ok. Torvi he hit you intentionally. That is not acceptable and Thorin will be seeing that his punishment is severe.” 


Torvi did her best to read his face. It was serious, no hint of any remorse for Ferin. His face was far worse off than hers or Kili’s. There were bruises covering his entire left side and by the way he was stiffy holding his torso, she could tell he had several bruised ribs beneath his shirt. She touched his face tenderly then moved off of the table where she had been sitting.


“Sit,” she commanded as she gestured to where she had just been seated herself. Fili moved to protest but after a warning look he gave in and sat down. The moment he was seated she began to dab the remaining paste onto his face. Kili wandered back to Oin’s room to have him come look at Fili’s ribs while giving them a moment alone. 


As Torvi began to dab the paste onto his skin, Fili kept his eyes on hers, watching her closely. Torvi worked in silence until she caught Fili’s blue eyes staring at her. His face was relaxed as well as his eyelids, but his irises were alert and had a glint of amusement. 


Torvi paused in her work. “What?” She asked, a faint smile coming to her lips. 


Fili could not help but smile back. “You’re so beautiful.” 


A wave of warmth rose in Torvi’s cheeks at the compliment. She smiled even wider in appreciation before going back to the task at hand. Her face becoming sober as she worked. 


“Did you get into trouble?” she finally asked, curious as to what had happened after Fili had taken her away. 


“I got a harsh reprimand but once I explained, Thorin’s opinion of my behavior was quite reversed or at least softened. He is considering stripping Ferin of his captaincy, unfortunately while he may be the lowest of the low when it comes to being a decent dwarf, he is a good soldier and a better captain. So instead he will be getting the worst jobs and duties for quite awhile.” 


Torvi finished covering the last small bruise on his forehead and nodded. She wiped her hands on the towel and turned around to put the bowl back onto Oin’s apothecary but stopped when Fili grabbed her arm. 


“Torvi, he knows about us,” he said in an apologetic tone. “I am sorry but I had to tell Thorin.”     


Torvi brought her hand to his and grasped it, tangling her finger with his. She studied their hands for a moment before bringing her eyes level with his. 


“There is no need to apologize Fili. I know how much it has discouraged you in not being able to tell anyone and appreciate it. But I think it is time that we stop hiding it,” she said quietly. “I think it has caused enough trouble for the time being.” 


Fili smiled widely and pulled her in for a gentle kiss. When he pulled away, his face searched hers. “Are you sure about this?” he asked. 


Torvi nodded. At her nod, Fili let his smile grow to its full extent.   

Lord Ferer pulled his son roughly down the hall in the opposite direction of where everyone else had gone. Pushing him into an empty dark corridor, Ferin let out a groan as his back was slammed into the wall and his father grabbed a fistful of his shirt. There was nothing but pure outrage and menace in his father's face as his eyes bore into his son with a glare.

"What do you think you are doing," he hissed in a low tone. "You just possibly ruined everything!"

Ferin pushed his father away. "I was trying to do what you told me to do! She was trying to decline my offer what else was I supposed to do! You should be grateful I am even wasted my time with that girl! Honestly why is it so important that I marry her."

"You still don't understand!" his father shot back. "You're as stupid as she is. By marrying her, we have control over her. There is something about her and her family that has an influence on Thorin and his kin. By adding her to our family we can use her for our benefit."

Ferin let out a skeptic humph. "The same way you said we could easily manipulate her to marry me?" He pushed his father away. "I don't know if you have noticed but she refused." He tossed the golden courting bead in the air to his father. "If anything it was her who was manipulating us! Face it father, you are wasting your time in thinking that girl is of any use to us."

Lord Ferer caught the bead and rolled it in his hand, a look of amusement washed across his face. Ferin quickly became confused by his reaction. He had expected his father to become furious by his words.


"Don't be a fool Ferin,” Lord Ferer’s voice was calm and composed when he spoke. “Did you not think I had a backup plan? You don't think I didn't notice that golden haired boy take interest in her?"

Ferin looked at his father, questioning his thoughts. “What are you talking about?” 

Lord Ferer let out an amused laugh. "You didn’t notice? There is a reason why I was not surprised you did not succeed in gaining her favor. It is because that Prince has been showing her favoritism.” 


“You mean Fili and her are in a courtship?”


“No, of course not, don’t be stupid. If they were courting everyone would know about it and there would have been an announcement. But it will not surprise me if we hear of something soon. Thorin is not stupid, while they may have affection for each other, he won’t let this relationship go long without being announced properly.”


“How do you know this?” snapped Ferin. 


“I have been doing my own watching. I noticed them growing closer and the way they looked at each other when they thought no one was looking,” answered Ferer. 


“Well then our whole efforts have been pointless from the beginning. Why did you even have me bother wasting my time on her?” complained Ferin. 


Lord Ferer shook his head in exasperation. “Because I always have a backup plan,” he offered. “That girl is fickle and she knows nothing nor cares about anything that goes on in this mountain. You yourself should have noticed yourself if you had a brain in that thick head of yours. Torvi talks about the common folk and their well being but have you ever seen her do anything? She talks with them and is there friend but that does nothing for them. She has power and influence that is being wasted as she runs around making friends when she could be making followers. Her charisma could have been ours but you had to go and make a fool of yourself."

Ferin watched as his father began to pace back and forth, mumbling in thought.


"We may have lost our first chance but we can regain another. That is if you haven't ruined it with you stupid display back there," he shot a nasty look of contempt at his son. "Here is what needs to be―”.


“No,” cut in Ferin. “I am done with your stupid plan, I am done with trying to romance that girl. Sure I can admit I wouldn't mind her warming my bed for a few nights, but her self righteous attitude is intolerable. I won't stand it anymore. I am done,” he pointed at his father's chest. “If you want to use her then that's fine by me. Use her however you want, manipulate her, corrupt her, seduce her yourself, I don't care. But I am done being your pawn. I have my own agenda,” he said darkly before turning around and began walking away. 


Lord Ferer’s eyes blazed with fury and madness. If he had another son, he would strangle this one and be done with him. He reached out and grabbed his son, turning him around quickly. “Listen here boy! You will not be the reason why we do not regain our families rightful place in this mountain. Right now you don’t have to do a thing, but if you want to be the one who takes a seat on that throne after Thorin and his family falls, you will do as I say when the time comes. You are either with me or against me. And I will see to it personally that you will never be able to show your face in any dwarven dwelling again if it be the latter,” he threatened.  


Ferin glared at his father but it quickly faded when he realized the seriousness in his father's tone. His father had a mad glint in his eyes, one that he had only seen a few times but each time it struck fear in him. Lord Ferer did not make threats often, but when he did, he meant every word. Slowly, Ferin nodded his head in understanding and agreement. 

Chapter Text

Torvi unconsciously reached up and stroked the newly braided section of hair. Her fingers traced the weave of each section as her hand dropped down to the end of her hair. The tips of her fingers touched the cold metal of the golden bead holding the braid together and she smiled. Each time her hand did this she smiled. It was a new addition but it felt natural, as if the braid should have been there all her life. 

"If you keep doing that you will have every strand of hair pulled out of that braid by the end of the night," Fili mumbled sleepily as he lay outstretched on the cavern floor.

Torvi looked up from the page she was drawing on. Fili was peeking out at her from his half closed eyelids, a large smile spread across his lips. She let her hand quickly drop down to her lap and tried to focus back on the parchment she was drawing on. Despite the fact that they had already been there for half an hour, there was only a single small line drawn across the paper. Torvi was not even sure if she had even meant to draw that line or if it had been drawn on accident. Her mind had been nothing but a buzz since the announcement was made earlier that evening.


Earlier that evening...

Torvi had never felt more uncomfortable in her life as she stood before the vast majority of the Erebor’s population. Thorin stood on the raised platform and made the announcement of the courtship between the crowned prince and herself. Her stomach was tight in a knot and her legs felt like they were slowly becoming liquid as she felt her knees weaken under her weight. The moment Thorin said her name, everyone’s eyes turned to her. Had it not been for Fili’s encouraging arm around her, she was positive she would have ended up staring at the ceiling after fainting or ending up halfway to the Iron Hills after fleeing the grand hall. It was obvious that Fili knew this as he kept a firm hold on her, preventing her from doing either. 


Following the announcement came the banquet and celebrations. As tradition went, all citizens were invited to join in the festivities and all levels of the monarchy were set aside. It was then that Torvi was able to finally take a breath and relax. Large tables laden with an abundance of food were set up in long rows in the grand hall. All classes; noble, common, and royal sat together, intermingled in equal stations for the night. It was a sight Torvi drank in deeply, seeing lords and farmers sitting side by side as they drank ale and broke bread with each other. The hall was full of laughter and happy conversation as bellies were filled and goblets were emptied. There was of course a few noble families that segregated themselves at one table but Torvi was pleased to see the majority were spread throughout the tables. 


As she sat with Fili on one side and Kili on the other, they were joined by a mixture of friends and family. Several members of the original company, Rorvi, and Jorra were among those who shared their table. 


Throughout the meal several people came up to strike up conversations, give their congratulations, and join them as others moved from their seats to join other tables. As Bombur raised from his seat to go and check on how things were doing in the kitchen, his seat quickly claimed by Nori.    


“So Kili, when will we be celebrating your entrance into a courtship?” asked Nori as he sat down next to him, giving him a hearty slap on the back. 


Kili choked on the ale he was drinking as he was sent forward from the force of Nori’s nudge. 


“I could get used to these kinds of events,” continued Nori as he picked up a golden pepper shaker that was sitting on the table and began examining it. 


Kili rubbed the spilt ale from the front of his shirt with the edge of the table cloth. He shot Nori an unappreciative glare while he mumbled something under his breath. Nori ignored his remarks and polished the pepper shaker with his sleeve before stealthily pocketing it, his old habits still undying. 


Torvi watch with amusement but said nothing, Fili and Kili had told her plenty of the notorious thief and his old habits that failed to get rid of despite his abounding wealth from reclaiming Erebor. Nori nudge Kili in the ribs again and pointed to a pretty blonde dwarrowmaid who was seated farther down the table. 


“What about her?” he said in a suggestive tone. 


Kili looked in the direction Nori was pointing and quickly looked away. “Nah not my type. She’s a bit short for my liking and I prefer redheads.” 


“Well you might have a problem there as Fili has just taken the prettiest lass with red hair in the mountain. And if it's not too bold of me to say, I would even venture to say just the prettiest of all the lasses in the mountain!” said Bofur as he raised his goblet in the air towards Torvi. 


Torvi felt herself grow warm at the compliment but smiled gratefully for his kind words. A loud chorus of agreements from the rest of the section of their table erupted and Torvi felt her face grow even more warm. The sound of several stringed instruments and drums began to rise up over the roar of conversation. 


As if on cue, the scraping of wood against stone echoed over to them as a large number of dwarves worked together to clear a space free of tables. Soon dancing ensued and Torvi was quickly whisked away to the dance floor by an eager Bofur. When the dance ended there was another dwarf ready to take his place as her partner for the next dance. Torvi soon found herself bouncing around from person to person until Fili came to claim her as his partner with no intention of letting her dance with anyone else. It was not until Jorra approached and requested a dance did he finally surrender her.  


Her feet ached after dancing and she was grateful when she finally sat down. She was proud to say she had finally met each and every dwarf member of the original company that helped reclaim Erebor. It was an honor and pleasure as she was finally able to put faces to names from the numerous stories she heard from Fili and Kili. 


The evening was more than Torvi had ever imagined. Never in her life while living in the blue mountains nor the Iron Hills had she seen such a gathering. Courtship announcements that she had attended in the past had never been so exciting. The entire evening, Torvi could not keep her lips from remaining in a constant smile. 


There was only the brief moment when Lord Ferer approached with his family to give their congratulations did he smile falter. It was the first time she had seen Ferin since the incident over a week ago and deep down she was pleased to see he was not looking like his usual put together self. Despite this pleasure she still felt a knot of resentment form in her stomach as he laid his dark eyes on her. The moment they had approached she had felt Fili stiffen next to her and instinctively put himself slightly forward in a protective stance. To her relief, their congratulations was short with only Lord Ferer addressing them. He gave a quick few words before they quickly moved on, giving the next group opportunity to step forward and congratulate them. 


As the night went on, Fili sensed the weariness slowly growing in Torvi’s stance and face. He himself was beginning to grow tired but he wanted some time alone before they headed out to go hunting for the night. He had tried to convince her that they should skip a night but it did not work. She offered for him to stay behind, reminding him that he did not have to join her but he was not about to let her go alone. He watched her stifle a large yawn as Ori gave her the history of how the traditions of courtship celebrations came to be. It was then that he cut in and made excuses of wanting another dance before he stealthily snuck her out of the large hall that the gathering was taking place. They eventually ended up in the cavern after several delays of stopping to steal kisses in the dark parts of the hallways.

Now that all was peaceful and quiet again, Torvi could not help but feel rejuvenated. She was happy and content as they sat alone in solitude. Not needing to say anything as they enjoyed each other's presence. She stole a glance at Fili. He was still laying in his spot on the ground with his eyes closed, hands stretch up to form a pillow for his head, and the corners of his mouth tilted up in content. His hair was spread out on the ground, his own newly added braid that matched hers was fully visible and she could not help but smile to herself as she watched his hand touch the bead at the end, his smile becoming larger as he let out a relaxed breath. 


He looked so peaceful and happy laying there. She watched as his broad chest rose and fell with each breath. In an instant Torvi new exactly what to draw. As Fili drifted into a light sleep, Torvi let the piece of charcoal run across the parchment, stopping every once in awhile to compare the real image before her. This was how she wanted to always remember him. Happy and free of worry.

Torvi was running late to meet Fili in Dale. They had arranged to meet 30 minutes ago but she had found herself engrossed in a book. It had been promising in giving her some kind of idea or inspiration for the project she was working on with Jorra. Unfortunately, it ended up being a dead end. Not only was she furious that it gave her nothing of any use, she was now running late as well. It was almost a full month since their courtship had been announced and it seemed like she hardly saw Fili during the day anymore.

Ever since things had been announced her life had changed drastically. Instead of being able to make her way through the halls of Erebor going unnoticed, it seemed that everyone wanted to speak with her now. Most of the common folk did not bother her, only giving her bows and curtsies, but it was the nobles that annoyed her as they constantly stopped her to chat about frivolous things. 


She was also expected to learn the runnings of Erebor. Dis had taken it upon herself to spend more time with her and show her what was expected. Most of what Dis taught her was very helpful. She was learning the inner workings of Erebor much faster than she had been by attending open court or by reading any dusty book from the library. The only downside to the added teachings that Dis gave her, it hardly left her for anytime to work on the project with Jorra or spend any day time with Fili.

She let her feet take her down the cobblestone street turning left to make her way down to where Fili had instructed her to meet on the south side of the city. She only hoped he would still be there. As she looked down the street she caught a glimpse of a tall dark haired dwarf making his way towards her. At first she did not recognize him as he had a hood pulled up over his face until he looked in her direction. 


It was Kili. 


He looked up and down the street as if nervous about being followed. It was an odd behavior for Kili who was usually all about drawing as much attention to himself as possible. Torvi narrowed her eyebrows in confusion. What was he up to? He had not even noticed her as he looked in her direction of the street. She watched as he turned to go down another alley way and Torvi made a decision to follow. She was already late in meeting Fili and her curiosity dominated her drive to make up for her lack of promptness.

She picked up her pace into a small jog. As she turned the corner in a full sprint she was taken off guard when she ran straight into the sturdy build of another person. Instantly she was knocked off balance and fell onto the stone ground.

"Torvi?" came Kili’s voice.

Torvi looked up from the spot on the ground to see Kili staring down at her. A combination of surprise and fear on his face. Behind him was a tall elf maid with fire red hair cascading down over her shoulders to her waist. Torvi's eyes went from Kili to the elf then traveled down their arms to see their hands entwined with each others.

"Torvi what are you doing here!?" Kili quickly asked as he swiftly let go of the elf maids hand to help her up. "Aren't you supposed to be with Fili?"

"I am but I was running late," she explained. "However, I should be asking you the same thing. I thought you had told me that you were not going to be able to come to Dale because you were tied up with stuff for Thorin?"

Kili looked down at his feet, his face full of guilt. Torvi looked at the elf maid standing behind Kili. She too looked nervous and unsteady. Torvi gave her a small smile in an attempt to rid her of the worry that was on her face. Kili caught Torvi looking at her and stepped aside and grabbed the elf's hand.

"It's alright Tauriel, she is a friend,” he assured the elf when she gave him a look of uncertainty. “You won't have to worry about her saying anything. Right Torvi?" he asked as he turned back to Torvi.

Torvi looked from Tauriel to Kili. "You always know I will keep quiet about whatever you ask. But what exactly am I keeping quiet about?"

Before Kili even spoke the answer dawned on her. It was obvious. The recollection of his reference to preferring redheads now made sense as to why Kili had been so quick to dismiss the pretty dwarrow maid the evening of her courtship announcement. "Is this your red head?" she said in surprise as she pointed between them.

Kili hesitated then nodded. “Are you upset?”

She looked at him in astonishment. "No! Of course not, I am just startled that is all. I just don't understand why didn't you tell me before?" asked Torvi, a small hint of hurt in her voice.

Kili shrugged. "I wasn't sure how you would react. If you would approve or not."

Torvi felt slightly offended. "Why wouldn’t I approve of this?"


Kili gave her an exasperated look. “Torvi, you know it is frowned upon when dwarves mix with other species. Elves being the worst.”


Torvi rolled her eyes. “I think you could do a lot worse than an elf. Perhaps if she were a goblin or an orc I would be against it,” she suggested before looking at him with amusement. “I am curious though...when did you learn how to cast spells?”

Kili looked completely lost. “What?”


“Well, I don’t know how else you could have managed to trick her into a relationship without putting some sort of an enchantment over her.”


Tauriel’s lips quirked up at her comment but Kili only gave Torvi a reprimanding look. “I am being serious Torvi. If anyone other than yourself where to find out about us...” he drifted off.   

"I know,” she said more seriously. “I am sorry but I feel like it was a bit silly of you to think I would object to something that makes you happy.”


Kili let out a sigh. “I know but..." he tapered off with a casual shrug.

"What does Fili and Dis think? Or Thorin for that matter?" she added as the memory of his dislike of elves came to her mind.

"Ah, well, that um...that is kind of the reason why I need you to keep this a secret," he said looking slightly abashed.

Torvi's eyes widened! "You mean your family doesn't even know!?!?" she asked in surprise. "Kili, you can't keep things like this from your family!”

"Your one to talk!" he said defensively.

"I kept my relationship quiet for not even two weeks time. How long have you kept this quiet?" she argued back.

Kili folded his arms in a defensive stance. "Speaking of Fili, have you told him the real reason why you two go traipsing through the wilderness every night?"

Torvi opened her mouth to counter attack but was left without words. Kili smiled triumphantly. "Like I said you're one to talk. It's one thing to keep secrets from your family but it's another to keep secrets from your kurdu," he said firmly.

Torvi glared at him. It irked her just how much he always triumphed in any debate they ever had.

"Ok. You have me there," she admitted. "But Kili how do you..."

"Torvi?" came Fili's voice.

Torvi looked down the alley way to see Fili standing at the end slowly making his way towards them.

"What are you doing down here?" he demanded in a protective tone. From his point of view he could not see Kili or Tauriel. Only Torvi, standing in a dark secluded alleyway, talking to someone hidden in the shadows.

"Fili, I was just..." She glanced at Kili whose eyes were wide. "I am sorry I was running late, then I.." She searched her brain for some excuse for her being in the alley way.

Kili quickly stepped in and moved into view. "Sorry Fili, I saw her walking by and wanted to talk to her about something," he said quickly. Tauriel stayed in the shadows as they both started walking towards him.

Fili looked at them suspiciously. "And what was so important that you need to talk to her in the shadows of an alley like some sort of treacherous conspirators?"

Kili looked at Torvi and faked a defeated tone as he put a heavy hand on her shoulder. "I guess our plan to overthrow Fili when he becomes king have just been foiled." He gave her an exaggerated frown. "Too bad." His face turned into a quick jolly smile as he turned to Fili again. "Well I guess you will end up getting to rule over Erebor after all."

Kili clapped Torvi on the back, the force sending her forward. "Now he will never suspect us," he whispered loudly.

Fili rolled his eyes and Kili smiled at him again before he started backing away to the part of the alley that Tauriel was still standing. "I will see you later. You two go off and remember to behave yourselves. Don't do anything I wouldn't do," he added as he peeked his head around the corner before disappearing completely.

Torvi smiled and shook her head. When she turned back around she was met with the quizzical face of Fili. His arms folded and an eyebrow raised. "So you want to tell me what exactly you two were really up to?" he asked in a tone that sounded more like an interrogation than a question of curiosity.

"No idea," she said innocently. "It's Kili, for all I know he really was trying to recruit me to help overthrow the monarchy," she added with a shrug.

"Torvi, you have to be careful now," he said in a serious tone. "You can't just be wandering around Dale in the back alley ways."

Torvi's smile faltered at his seriousness. "Fili, it was not for very long and I was with Kili."

"I know that and he should know better."

"It's not his faul—"

"Torvi," he cut in. He paused for a moment, taking her hands in his as he looked down at them for an inspiration if words. "I know you are not new to this. You are a noble and while I know things have been relaxed and not as traditional in our lifetime as they were for the generations before us, but things are changing now. Nobility actually has a meaning again."

He looked pleadingly into her eyes. "There are threats. With you and I courting those threats are increased towards you. I know you are not one to be told what to do so that is why I am asking, will you please be more conscious in the future?"

Torvi hated it when he was right. This attitude of being conscious of dangers had become a habit of late. Ever since the announcement Fili seemed to be more protective. Most of the time it only annoyed Torvi, as everything thing seemed to now be a potential threat. While she understood some of his reasonings many of them seemed to breach the boundary between being aware and full paranoia. She had enjoyed the protective feelings at first, especially after the incident with Ferin, but as the weeks had gone by, it was beginning to wear her down. So much in fact, that she was beginning to mention where she was going or coming from less often in fear that she would receive another lecture.

"I am sorry Fili. You are right I should be more careful," she admitted.

Fili nodded then smiled.

"Why are you smiling?" She asked curiously. 


“Well it's not often that you ever admit that you are wrong,” he said. “I have to enjoy my triumphs, no matter how few I get.”

He grabbed her arm and looped it through his as he began to lead them both into the more busy streets of Dale. “Now, let's make the best of the time we have left of our day in Dale before returning to Erebor and go hunting.”


Together they spent the rest of the day wandering the streets and shops until the sun began to make its descent from the sky. It was a pleasant day but Torvi was at a constant distraction as thoughts of her friend kept invading her mind. It was an unfortunate situation and the more she thought of it the more she worried. She wanted Kili to have the same happiness she had, to be able to walk hand in hand with the person he loved in front of everyone. But it seemed so implausible. Was it possible for a dwarfs one to be of another species?  It was hard enough for some dwarves to even accept certain members of their own race, accepting an elf would be out of the question. 


She found herself wondering what Fili would think if he knew. Would he accept it? Would he support his brother? Or would he do as she expected so many others to do and spurn him?  

Chapter Text

Torvi watched Jorra from afar as he worked to fill his orders. Business seemed to have picked up significantly when compared to when Torvi had first arrived to Erebor. Something that Torvi was quite pleased with. Jorra deserved to be successful. He was kind, generous, and fair. According to Jorra when he had first arrived to Erebor, business had been a struggle. He had explained in a letter to Torvi just after he moved, that there were several other butchers who had come before him and had already established their customers. Just before she herself arrived to Erebor, she received another letter where he admitted to contemplating moving back to the Iron Hills, another reason why Torvi was not eager to move initially. But then just after her arrival, business picked up and it he was able to stay. He said the credit of his success was because of her, but Torvi failed to see the correlation and merely brushed it off as a coincidence to the growth in population when she arrived.


It had been quite some time since she had managed to find time to see him. But since Dis was sick and resting for the day, Torvi found her entire day free to do as she wished. With the whole day free of any obligations, she decided to pay the butcher a visit. As she made her way towards his shop she could already tell that he was behind on his orders. Piles of orders were stacked up, waiting to be delivered. Next to these deliveries, was a pile of small pieces of parchment with orders scribbled on them waiting to be filled. She thought about going to the library instead, as she did not want to distract him, but when he looked up from his work and waved her over she obeyed. 


“Mornin’ lass. It's been awhile since I have seen you around,” he commented as she came close enough to hear. “I think the last time I saw you was the night of your courtship celebration.”


Torvi gave him an apologetic smile. “I am sorry. I have really been meaning to stop by sooner but I have been so busy ever since then. I feel like I hardly ever have a spare moment anymore and when I do it usually goes towards time in the library.” 


Jorra nodded in understanding. “Any luck in finding anything.” 


Torvi let out a defeated sigh as she leaned her elbows on the table. “No.” She let her chin rest on her fist as she watched him work. “Have you found anything?” she asked hopefully. 


Jorra shook his head. “Nothing that would be a long term solution as you are wanting.” 


Torvi nodded. “You look exhausted.” 


He looked at the pile of deliveries then to what was still needed to be filled. “Aye. Business has been a little busy the past several weeks.” 


“You are working too much,” she said in a more worried tone. 


“Perhaps. But as me mother used to say, ‘work is like old age, it's the worse thing in the world except for the alternative’ .” 


Torvi gave him a faint smile. “Yes, I suppose she was right,” she replied.  


She watched in silence for a few minutes as Jorra finished cutting the meat for one order and pushed it aside before moving onto the next. He had several orders cut and pending to be wrapped for delivery. Without any thought, Torvi grabbed  a piece of parchment and began wrapping the order Jorra had just finished cutting. 


Jorra stopped his work and looked at her. “What are you doing lass?”


“Being your apprentice for the day,” she stated without looking at him as she finished tying off a bow and moving on to the next order. 


Jorra let out a hearty laugh. “I couldn’t have you help me wrap meat.”


“You never had a problem with it when I helped in the Iron Hills,” she argued. 


Jorra nodded. “Yes, but you were not the future princess then either. What would people think of you?”


Torvi shrugged. “To be honest, I think I would welcome the change in how people view me. It’s been a bit overwhelming lately with how highly people seem to view me all of a sudden.” 


Jorra chewed at his lip as he glanced back at the pile of work he had. He let out a sigh. “Very well,” he grabbed a clean apron and threw it towards her. “At least put that on. If you're going to be my apprentice then you might as well look like one. I will make the cuts if you wrap the orders, then we can make the deliveries together.”


Torvi caught the apron and quickly tied it around herself before getting back to work. Several hours later they were making their way through the living quarters, each heavily laden with parcels ready for delivery.  


“Fili seemed a little distressed the other day when he stopped by,” Jorra mentioned absentmindedly. 


Torvi looked at him confused. “Fili stopped by?”




“What for?” 


“Oh just wanted to ask me something. He his a good lad, might even be a better king than his uncle when the day comes.”


Torvi felt a spark of pride within her chest at his words. “Aye,” she agreed. “He has been worried lately. I fear her worries too much, especially for me.”


“He loves you, he can’t help it.” 


“Yes, I know. But sometimes I feel he obsesses over it. He can’t always be there to protect me but he needs to remember that I am not incapable of keeping myself safe,” she admitted. 


Jorra pursed his lips, unsure of how to console his friend. “Perhaps you should tell him that.”


Torvi let out a small laugh. “Trust me, I remind him every chance I get but he seems to never listen. Sometimes it's infuriating but other times it's endearing. It is good to know he wishes for my safety but he needs to know that I can stand on my own as well,” she said sturdily.


They arrived at the last home for delivery before Jorra could respond. After a quick transaction, they were on their way back to his shop and the subject had been dropped moving on towards ideas for their project. As they grew closer to his shop, Torvi began splitting away to head to the library before supper.   


"Before you go Torvi, I have something for ya," said Jorra. "Wait there, I will just be a moment."

Torvi nodded and watched as Jorra disappeared into his shop. When he came back out, Torvi saw a small folded cloth in his hand. He looked down at it then handed it towards her.

"I know it's nothing special or fancy" He held out the cloth for her to take.

There was something heavy folded inside of it. Carefully, she started to undo the folds to reveal a small carved stone with a leather cord tied around it. As she looked closer to the oval stone she realized it had several runes engraved across the pendants face. Torvi read the runes and smiled. When she looked up at him he was smiling fondly at her.

"I know it's not until tomorrow, but happy birthday. I figured those two princes would be keeping you preoccupied the whole day so I was happy when you stopped by today." 

"Jorra you didn't have to—" she caught Jorra's expression and changed her mind. Instead she threw her hands around his neck and gave him a tight hug. "Thank you. It's perfect."

Jorra hugged her back and let her go. "I can't believe how the years have gone by,” he said fondly. “I believe this next year will be the biggest one yet,” he added with a wink before turning around to finish closing up the shop.

Torvi looked back down and read the runes again before smiling and putting the necklace to her chest to cherish it. She remembered the day Jorra had quoted those runes to her. Her father had just passed away and he had found her sitting alone in an alleyway. It was the first time she had ever spoken to him and it was then that their friendship had begun. They were simple but they had been her motto since the day he uttered them to her. 


Hardship breeds challenge. Challenge breeds strength. 


It felt as if her head had just hit the pillow after getting back from hunting when there was a loud bang of the door and the curtains of her window where ripped open. A groan of objection to the intrude of light escaped her lips and she quickly pulled the covers over her head.

"Get up lazy! Don't you know we have an agenda today?" came Kili's too enthusiastic voice.

Torvi let out another groan in protest which turned into a loud whimper when her warm covers were rudely ripped from her body. Torvi cringed into a ball as the sudden crisp air in the room hit her body and the sunlight blinded her. She sent a murderous glare at Kili before hiding her face beneath her pillow.

"Come on, up at at em," said Kili as he started shaking her. "You're going to miss your birthday."

She peeked up at him from under her pillow. He was dressed in a simple travel outfit and grinning down at her. She let out a groan and rolled over to her belly as she tucked her legs underneath her for warmth. 


“Go away,” she mumbled from under her pillow. “It's my birthday I should be able to sleep.”


Kili shook the bed, causing Torvi to quickly sit up and grab onto the edge in an effort to keep from rolling off. She shot Kili a venomous look but could not keep it very long as she looked at her friends toothy grin. In the corner of her eye, she saw something lying on the floor and looked over to where two bags sat on the floor next to the doorway. Kili noticed her glance at them and began to make his way towards them.

"Come along," he said grabbing the bags and tossing one to her. "I already packed your bag, just get dressed so the traditions may begin."

Torvi peeked into the bag she had just barely caught before it hit her in the face. Inside she saw several sweets and pies flooding the other provisions inside. "Don't you think we are a bit old for this?" she asked as she pulled a ball of twine and a biscuit from the bag.

Kili let out an exaggerated gasp of shock. "Do you mean to tell me you stopped our traditions when you moved!’ He shook his head at her as if to spread shame upon her.  "Do I even want to know the last time you did such wonderful things?" he added in a horrified voice.

Torvi could not help but smile and shook her head as she stood from her bed and walked toward her friend. "Fear not Kili, I have kept our traditions strong even while in the Iron Hills, I made sure to practice our ways every year. Although they are not as adventurous when doing it alone." Kili beamed. "Now would you get out so I can get dressed," she demanded as she shooed him from her room.

It did not take her long to get dressed as she knew exactly what was to be worn. Dark brown pants, her boots, a forest green tunic, and a similar colored traveling cloak. They were simple clothes, perfect for blending in with the forest surroundings. Within minutes of kicking Kili out of her presence, she was joining him again. With their packs thrown over their shoulders, they made their way towards the entrance of Erebor.

While Kili's birthday always varied year to year in what they did, most years usually involving mischief that Torvi felt she could never handle yet always survived, her birthday traditions stayed the same. It was nothing dangerous or overly adventurous, but since the time they were old enough to reach the kitchen table and swipe anything that was more sugar than any other ingredient, they had repeated it every year for her birthday. 


On the morning of her birthday, they would raid the kitchen and depart before anyone else had arisen. The raiding was usually done by Kili since he was the tallest and could reach the sweets without climbing on chairs and chance waking anyone up with the ruckus. Once they were packed for the day, they would disappear into the wilderness for the majority of the day to go fishing. But it was never as easy as that. 


The first year they had done this, Kili was convinced that all they needed to bring where their sweets and a string tied to a stick. By the time they had reached the fishing hole they had already consumed their rations before the sun was even fully up. But Kili had been convinced that they would be able to survive the rest of the day by eating the fish they caught. By noon time they had yet to even get a nibble from a fish and rain had begun to pour down so hard they could hardly see far enough to make their way back home. Cold, tired, and hungry the two youngsters had began to use the string brought for fishing and built themselves a small lento to hid under until the rain ceased. By the time the rain had let up, the sun was already setting and it was dark when they finally returned home to worried mothers and a furious Rorin and Thorin. They were lectured then given two plates heaped with warm food to which they had no hesitation in filling their bellies with before being sent straight up to bed.

It was such a miserable failure that Kili was determined to repeat it until they could get it right. Each year they repeated the journey and each year they slowly perfected the art until the year Torvi's family moved. But even in the Iron Hills, Torvi continued to keep up traditions by herself. 


As she and Kili made their way towards the outskirts of the mountain to the forest, she was pleased to learn that he too kept up such traditions as well. As they made their way in the direction of the river, they shared stories of adventures they had accumulated while apart.

"One year, the spring had come late and it snowed," said Torvi. "Thankfully earlier that year, Rorvi had taught me how to start a fire with a couple of sticks. I was able to find a cave and I found refuge only to get snowed in for an entire night. By the time I got home, my father was organizing a search party for me."

Kili waved her off. "That's nothing, one time I came across three trolls and had to take them on single handedly by fashioning a sling with my twine and defending myself with it. Thankfully they were too stupid and I beat them in a game of wits by having them argue until daylight broke and turned them all to stone."

Torvi let out a skeptic snort causing Kili to frown.

"You don't believe me!" he said with indignation. She shook her head as she tried to stifle her laugh unsuccessfully. Kili turned his nose up into the air and began walking faster in the direction of the river. "I see there is no trust in this friendship anymore if you can't even believe my word!" he said with feigned hurt.

Torvi rolled her eyes and ran to catch up with him. "I am sorry but maybe next time you decide to use a story from a different event, you should choose one that every dwarf in middle earth does not have memorized." She linked her arm with his and when he turned to look at her she raised her eyebrows as if daring him to question her point.

"You think I stole that story!"

"Well it does sound awfully close to the one usually told with the fabled quest to reclaim the mountain. You know, the one where a certain small hobbit was the only one clever enough to preoccupy the minds of the trolls long enough for them to forget the coming of dawn."

Kili shook his head. "I don't know what you are talking about. But I see where our true friendship lies as you are so easily swayed to question my integrity!" he said in an offended tone.

Torvi looked at him with an incredulous side glance. "Kili," she began.

"Yes?” he said in a tone laced with sweetness. 

"Fili may be the next King of Erebor, but you are already the King of fibbing, and tricks, and of telling untruths without actually causing any harm,” she said flatly. “You have no integrity." 

Pride came to Kili’s face but he quickly morphed it into shocked innocence. "No integrity!" he exclaimed. "I will have you know that I have spent my life's work making sure I am constantly lying. If anything I am the most integritous person you know."

Torvi looked at him funny. "I don't think you really know what it means to have integrity."

"Of course I do!" he quickly chuffed. "It means to be firm with your honesty and I am honest with all my lies," he said proudly.

Finding no use arguing his rationality of integrity, Torvi shook her head and let the subject go. A happy silence fell between them, Torvi happy to be enjoying the warm air while Kili was content with having won the argument. As Torvi began to hear the rushing sound of the river she posed a question that had been on her mind ever since she followed him in Dale.

"Kili," she said hesitantly. "What do you and Tauriel plan to do?"

She watched him closely as she posed her question. The small frown and darkening of his happy completion failing to escape her notice.

"What do you mean?" he asked, even though it was obvious he clearly understood her meaning.

She looked at him with an apologetic expression and he let out a sigh.

"I don't know," he admitted. "We hoped with the new trades and better position of our two kingdoms we would see an opportunity but it is still..." he searched for the proper word, "...fragile," he said carefully.

Torvi nodded in understanding. "Is she your one?" She had not meant to ask, she was not even sure if it was possible with interspecies. But the question was out before she could stop herself. 

Kili bowed his head in deep thought, as if he himself was pondering the same things. "I love her. She is the last thing that I think of when I go to sleep and the first thing I think of when I wake up. My chest aches when we are apart and swells with burning when we are together. I know it is by Mahal that we are given our one and that Mahal is of the dwarves and not elves, but why would I feel such thing if she were not? If she is not my one then I cannot imagine that I have one."

They fell silent again, each deep in thought until Torvi put hand on his arm, stopping them from their steady pace to the river. Kili turned and looked down at her. He was so much taller than she was. He had always been taller but now, for the first time, Torvi realized just how much he towered over her. Her neck felt as if it were completely bent back in order to look at him.

"I think if you can't imagine yourself with anyone else, then she is your one. Mahal may be the God of dwarves and she may be an elf, but you are a dwarf. He would not give you such happiness if it were not meant to be," she said quietly.

Kili studied her honest face before giving her an appreciative smile. He broke the moment by nudging her playfully and lighting the tone. "Since when did you get all sappy and become a love guru?" he asked teasingly. "My brother has caused you to go soft. I remember you used to not even believe or be interested in having a one. Now look at you all grown up, courting my brother, and giving out advice as if you were Mahal himself."

"You're going to get your self struck down by lighting by saying such things," she warned him as they continued down a slope to where the river was.

When they arrived to the river, they stood on its ledge where the current slowed into a lazy meander. Torvi let her bag fall to the ground and stretched her shoulder as she sat down, letting her legs dangle over the water. Kili followed suit after he pulled out the twine and found two long sturdy sticks for poles. As he sat down next to her they began fashioning their hooks out of smaller branches and strings of twine. They had learned to make hooks from Torvi's father who had always loved fishing. It was a quick addition to her birthday the following year after their initial unsuccessful adventure of fishing the year before. 

"Speaking of my brother," started Kili as he began digging in his bag and pulling out a pastry. "When might we be hearing a bigger announcement? I know sneaking off to snog in dark corners of the mountain won't always satisfy the two of you and your raging hormones," he said suggestively, his eyebrows wiggling up and down at her.

Torvi felt her face grow red and she turned on him. "Kili!" she protested in shock.


"That is hardly any of your business!" she proclaimed. "We haven't even been in a courtship for two months. That is hardly enough time to know if we want to commit ourselves to each other forever."

"Oh come on! You have known each other for your entire lives and you already know he is your one!"

"Tradition says a courtship is to last an entire year before it is proper to marry," she said in a dull tone as if reciting from a text book of a hated subject.

"You sound as if you're disappointed," he commented. "We wouldn't be feeling resentment for having to wait to see my brother naked would we?"

Torvi's face flamed at his comment and she looked up from the water below. Her face a dark shade of scarlet.


"What?" he asked with a shrug and his hands in the air. "You can't tell me you haven't thought of it!" he said in disbelief. He tilted his head mischievously and put an arm around her shoulders, lowering his voice as if they were speaking in a crowded hall and didn’t want to be overheard. "I could draw you some pictures...I am no artist like you but it would be enough to..."


Kili emerged from the water below, spraying water everywhere as he shook his head. He let out a protest as Torvi smiled down at him from the ledge above where she had just pushed him from.

"What was that for!" he complained.

"I just thought you needed some cooling off," she said lazily as she smiled at him like a toddler getting away with something.

Kili planted his feet on the river bottom and stood up so the water only reached his belly. Torvi could not help but laugh at the way he glared up at her and fell back grabbing her stomach as it ached. Displeased with her lack of concern for his well being, Kili made his way up the river back to where she laid.

"You know, if anyone needs cooling off, it's you and your hot head!" he said threateningly as he climbed up onto the ledge of the river bank.

Torvi quickly got to her feet as see noticed the danger in his eyes. She spread her arms out straight in an attempt to keep distance between them.

"Now Kili, think of this rationally, do you really want to do this?" she questioned between fits of giggles. "What if I drown! You know I can't swim well! What would Fili say if you brought me back half drowned?" She spewed out several more rational questions in an effort to dissuade Kili from the idea but it was too late.

Kili wrapped his arms around her and hurtled her through the air. Her shriek was cut short as she plunged into the cold water with a splash. When she broke the surface she was greeted with a wild hollar as Kili hurtled himself back over the ledge and landed with a giant wave as he dove into the water next to her.

Fili had been pacing back and forth at the entrance of Erebor since mid afternoon. He had known Kili had plans with Torvi for the morning but he was growing nervous, it was nearing supper time and they had still yet to return. Kili would never let harm befall Torvi, Fili knew this. But despite this knowledge, and the addition of Rorvi's assurance that they were fine, he could not help but worry. Even with his own attempts to assure himself that they were okay could not stop the gnawing in the back of his mind that told him otherwise.

It was that spot in his mind that told him his brother was going to die on the table of Bard's home before the she elf showed up and worked her magic. It was the same spot that told him that Thorin would die and leave him unprepared for the throne when he was recovering from his wounds sustained from the battle of five armies. It was the same spot that when he watched Torvi and her family depart so many years ago that he would never see her again. It was his irrational spot and he knew as future king he would not be able to listen to it. But he was not a king yet, therefore he let it consume his worries. 

As change of guard for the evening shift occurred, he made out the figures making their way slowly up the hill. As they came closer, relief filled Fili as he stopped pacing and made out the tall figure of Kili walking next to the significantly smaller figure of Torvi. Both were grinning and both were sopping wet. As they came closer their laughter rose up to where he stood and he could not help but make his way towards them. At his approach, their laughter died down as they spotted him. Torvi waved happily as Kili grinned widely at him before saying something low to Torvi which caused her to frown and turn red. She smacked Kili upside the head before walking faster to meet Fili. Not caring about her sopping attire, Fili pulled her into a hug and gave her an eager kiss. When he pulled away, he took a step back from her to take her in as Kili caught up to them. 

He did his best to keep from showing any signs of the worry he had experienced before as he looked her over for any injuries. It was all he could do to keep himself from giving them both a lecture for staying out so late and coming back soaking wet. He knew Torvi hated it when he lectured her, something that he noticed he was doing more often, but it was like an instinct. As he thought about it, it made him sound like Thorin and as much as he admired Thorin, he did not want to become the lecturing uncle he was familiar with. It was because of that thought that he swallowed the lecture and smiled at the pair before him, his focus mostly on Torvi who was beaming ear to ear. 


He knew of their mysterious tradition every year on her birthday. While he had no clue as to the details, it was obvious it was something special to Torvi. He looked to Kili and nodded in gratitude for what his brother could do for her that he could not. While it frustrated him that he could not always provide exactly what Torvi needed, he was grateful for the people who could. 


Torvi had seemed to become frustrated over the past several weeks. Something was bothering her. She always seemed to be lost in thought and from what Ori reported, she had been spending several hours every day in the library. Mostly in the archives, but in other sections as well. He had tried to get her to talk about it a few weeks ago but only received a brushed off answer of doing some research for a friend. To which friend, he did not know. Either way, the tired, drained look that seemed to shadow her face constantly seemed almost erased from the day's events and that was all that mattered.

"It looks like you two have been up to no good," he commented as he looked them up and down. "Is this the year that I finally get to know where the two of you mysteriously disappear off to every year on this special day?"  he asked hopefully.

Torvi and Kili looked at each other. As if communicating with their minds they both shook their heads in sync with each other as they smiled mischievously.

"I am sorry brother but no matter how hard you fall for our lovely Torvi here, there are some things that you will always be left in the dark about," replied Kili in a mocked apologetic tone.

Fili let out a sigh and shrugged his shoulders. "I can always try." He was not expecting to get an answer but he had to admit his curiosity was prodded. He looked at Torvi who was slightly shivering in the cool air that was setting in with the sun. He could see tiny bumps beginning to rise on her skin in reaction to her wet body and cool air. Quickly taking off his coat, he wrapped it around her. Her shivering instantly stopping as he kept an arm around her.

"Well, do you mind if I have Torvi for the rest of the night?" he directed his question to Kili.

Kili grinned wickedly at Torvi. "That depends. What do you have planned for the evening?"

"Nothing that concerns you," said Fili firmly. "I would just like some time to spend alone for supper and then give her birthday present."

Kili's eyes gleamed. "Oh what did you end up getting?" he asked, a little too much excitement in his voice.

"That is for Torvi to find out tonight and to find out tomorrow," replied Fili calmly.

"Fine. Fine. I guess I will just have to wait." Kili shrugged. "I just wanted to do a pre screening, make sure she will like it," he defended, throwing his hands up in the air. "But if she doesn't like what you got her, just come to me. I have a suggestion of what to give her," he winked at Fili then turned his attention to Torvi with a mischievous smirk.

Torvi glared at him.

"What would that be?" asked Fili looking at Torvi expectantly.

"Absolutely nothing," she said warningly, not taking her eyes off of Kili who was now smiling gleefully as he made suggestive gestures behind his brothers back for only Torvi to see.

"Are you sur一" started Kili.

"Kili I think you have somewhere else to be!" cut in Torvi with an authoritative tone.

Kili let out a feline growl in response to her tone then skipped off gleefully towards the kingdom entrance. When she turned her attention back to Fili she was surprised to find him looking at her impressed.

She quickly softened her face as she was taken aback. "What?" She asked.

Fili shrugged. "I am just impressed with how well you can quickly switch from teasing to authoritative. You will be a force to reckon with should we rule Erebor together."

Torvi roller her eyes. "Come on, didn't you say you had a surprise for me?" she grabbed his hand and lead him to follow after Kili.


It was simple but perfect. Fili had found them a small picnic with all of Torvi's favorite foods. He had even had the ones that were not in even in season. She was unsure of how much effort he had to have gone through to get them but the effort did not go unnoticed. Everything was spread out on a blanket on the cavern floor that was now their place. As they finished their meal, Fili began to fidget nervously then spoke.

"I have to admit, I had to seek help in figuring out what to get you for your birthday."

"You didn't have to get me anything," she protested. She pointed to the food. "This here was eno—"

"I know, but I wanted to," he cut in. "That is why I had to seek out Jorra for help."

Torvi's mouth opened into an O shape as it now made sense as to why Jorra had said Fili stopped by.

"I tried for weeks, in fact even before we started courting I had strained my head for something that would be perfect. I spoke with my mother and she made a few suggestions but none of them seemed the right fit. Then I asked Rorvi and it was even worse."

Torvi let out a laugh. "Rorvi is the worst possible person to ask for gift advice."

Fili chuckled. "Yeah I found that out pretty quickly for myself when he suggested sewing needles. So I moved on to Kili who only had inappropriate things to suggest that I won't even mention." His face grew slightly red at the mention of this and Torvi could only imagine what Kili had suggested. "The moment I asked Jorra he had no hesitation."

Torvi was now grossly intrigued with what he had given her. She may have meant that he did not need to get her anything at first but the desire of the unknown was driving her mad. She watched closely as Fili pulled a long package that had been hiding beneath the blanket their picnic was on and held it out for her.

"Happy birthday," he said lovingly as he handed the package over.

With her hands shaking of anticipation, Torvi took the package into her own fingers.

It was heavier than expected. Her initial thought had been more arrows since the ones she had gotten from Geeorn were beginning to wear down but the weight was off. She looked up at him quizzically only find him watching her with bated breath. He gave her a smile which encouraged her to begin opening the package. As she unfolded the paper she took in a sharp breath of awe.

It was a sword. Beautifully crafted with a razor sharp edge. 


She quickly stood up to get a feel for it in her hands. It was as if it were made with exactness to be perfectly suited for her. Unlike the one she always borrowed from Fili during their training sessions, it was slightly shorter and lighter, making it easier for her to use. She let it soar through the air a few times before looking more closely at the details of the hilt and blade.

Where the blade met the hilt of the sword there was an engraving in the steel of her family seal, on the opposite side was the Royal seal, Fili's seal. She felt her stomach nervously twist. While it was a tradition to have one's family seal on weapons, it was unusual to have two different families, especially one that you were not yet a part of. By having this, it said a lot as to how Fili felt about them. 


Apart from the two different family seals on each side, the sword was like any other dwarven sword. With a wide blade, asymmetrical point, and geometric hilt. As Torvi happily examined it, her eyes just barely caught an engraved image in the dim light of the pool, another unique addition. It was of a plant, a strange vine winding its way along the entire ridge of the unsharpened side of the blade. She felt her eyes narrow as she searched her memory of such a plant. 

"What is this plant?" she asked him.

Fili had watched her nervously as she pulled the sword out from its wrappings. He was pleased by her surprise of finding a sword but he was still unsure of its design. He was not sure of how she would accept his seal being added on. It was Thorin’s idea but after he thought of it more, he agreed that it was a good idea. It showed how much she meant to him and that he had already dedicated his future to having her in it as well. The thing he was most nervous about was the addition of the plant, something only he knew the true reason for adding it aside from the addition of feminine design. 


"It is a vine that I came across while in Rivendell on our journey to Erebor,” he explained. “Although I am embarrassed to tell you that I don't remember it's name."

"It's beautiful," she commented, looking at the small flowers that bloomed along with the vine. 

"Yes it is. But the true reason I chose it is not visible." Torvi looked at him, her green eyes glowing brightly.

He smiled as he remembered the first time he had seen it. It was the morning they were departing to continue their journey into the misty mountains. The morning sun broke through the trees and lighted onto the vine as it crawled along the bridge where they were waiting for the rest of the group to join them. The moment the sun's rays illuminated the plants leaves, his thoughts  immediately went to Torvi. They were the exact shade of her eyes. Even though it was early fall the leaves still had the vibrant green color that most plants only had when first budding in the early spring. He had always loved the color of her eyes. 


As the image of her flashed in his mind, it took him off guard. It had been years since he had thought of her. As much as he denied that he ever had feelings for her, he could never reason with himself as to why she still plagued his mind. He blamed it on her always annoying him, but even in her absence after her family moved, she was still there in his mind. He did everything in his power for years to forget her and eventually, with time, she came to mind less and less. He had thought he had completely forgotten about her until that moment when he saw that plant. It was like a relapse and following that moment, she began to consume his thoughts again. 

"It only grows there in that valley. When I first saw it so many years ago my thoughts ran to you because of its color. It's the same as your eyes. It was the first time in several years that I had let my mind wander to you. Albeit it was not by decision but I believe it was a sign from Mahal, a reminder. I know it may seem strange, at the time it did not make sense to me, but now it all makes clear sense as to why. I wanted something that would set apart your sword from any other and this was all I could一”

His words were cut short by the impact of her body being thrust against his. "It makes perfect sense," she whispered in his ear.

Chapter Text

Lord Ferer was becoming increasingly agitated over the past several months. Nothing seemed to be going to plan. The lower class to which seemed to be half starved and about to revolt nearly a year ago, were now somehow managing to survive. He had been awaiting deaths and disease to begin spreading because of the malnourished paupers of Erebor, but nothing had happened so far. If anything, things had improved for the poor of Erebor in the last few months. 


Then his son failed to secure Torvi for courtship. This was something he had been prepared for with a backup plan until his son took matters into his own hands by attacking the girl. The boy had ruined everything because of his lack of controlled temper. While his plan had been ruined, it had not been destroyed. Unfortunately his refurbished plan was not working. In fact he had not even been given an opportunity to establish even the meager beginnings of it. 


He had been hoping that with the introduction of Torvi as the courtier of Fili, he would be seeing more of her. With her lack of experience as a noble within the workings of Erebor, he had been hoping to soon become a confidant to the girl. If the girl was as fickle as he thought, he could be whispering in her ear, telling her what to do and using her as a puppet. But to his infuriation, it was as if he saw her less and when he did, it was from a far. She seemed to almost disappear for hours on end to places unknown.

At the moment, he was in the lower levels of the kingdom where the lowest of income dwelled. He was making his rounds as a "concerned" noble of the people but his true intentions were only known to him. He needed to know why the people were not suffering. Somehow they were managing to get by. As he searched the faces of the inhabitants of this part of the mountain, he did not see the sad, oppressed, and starving images he expected. Instead, they were happy and healthy. Even the small children looked well fed and plump.

Dissatisfied with what he was seeing, Lord Ferer began making his way to depart from the presence of these inferior people. He was almost to the stairway that would take him to the level of the market when a strange sight caught his eye.

It was the large dwarf that Torvi was always visiting. While he was not surprised to see him in this part of the mountain as he already expected such low life to live here, it was what he was carrying that made it such an oddity. The butcher was heavily laden with several baskets in each hand. His first thought was that he was making deliveries, but who could afford meat in this part of the mountain? 


Lord Ferer stayed back in the shadows as Jorra came closer, oblivious to the nobles presence as he happily whistled his way down the stairs. As the butcher passed by, Lord Ferer caught a glimpse into one of the baskets. Within it was what he had first expected, large packages of meat, but it was the other contents that confused him. Various assortments of bread, vegetables, and cheese filled the baskets to the brim. Lord Ferer narrowed his eyes as he stayed hidden in his spot.


He watched carefully as the butcher approached a door and knocked. A small dwarf girl answered. Her chubby face grew into a large grin at the sight of the large dwarf. Behind the little girl popped two other children who eagerly jumped up and down while clapping their hands together at the sight of the butcher. The excited shrieks of the children rose up and their mother came to the door as well holding a small baby in her arms. She looked weary and tired. Lord Ferer immediately recognized her as the recent widow of a miner who had died in an accident several weeks ago.

At her approach, Jorra gave a happy but consoling greeting as he passed the basket over to the woman who gratefully accepted it with a bow. After a few more words, Jorra made his absence and the woman disappeared behind the door, basket in hand. Lord Ferer watched in disbelief as the butcher went on to the next home, the home of a crippled old dwarf and did the same thing. When he finished with the cripple he then went on to where a young boy just barely old enough or large enough to be called an adult accepted the basket on behalf of his five younger brothers. 


They were all the families that lord Ferer had expected to be suffering. Unable to work, too many mouths to feed, outcasts of the community. It now made sense as to why things were not as they should. The butcher was feeding them. But how? How could he afford so much? His business did well but to keep such a large quantity of people feed with only his income? It was not possible. Someone was helping him.

Before anyone could notice his presence, Lord Ferer departed up the stairs. A cruel smile came over his face. Finally, he had made some sort of progress. He was beginning to worry that the lower class was beginning to thrive on their own. But this was not the case. The were being enabled. Thriving he could not prevent, but enabling he could. Once they were cut off they would become the pathetic lives they were earlier when they had first arrived to this mountain. 


All he had to do was find the benefactor. Whoever was helping that butcher was smart. There were laws that prevented nobles from giving out money and handouts. It was an old law, one that Thorin and his followers tried to annul but had failed to do so thanks to his own followers and efforts. Thorin was trying to change too many things, he had become too empathetic in his days in Ered Luin. 


A noble could potentially be charged with treason and bribery if they were to give aid in certain ways. Whoever was helping Jorra must have known this, so they had found a loophole, something that the council would be quick to snuff out if they knew it was happening. Whoever was doing this must know that they would be stopped should the other nobles find out. Why else would they use the butcher? If it was a noble that was helping the butcher, he would put a stop to it immediately. Unfortunately he had a problem.

You can't stop the anonymous. He needed to know who was putting Jorra up to such deeds. He already had his suspicions but he needed proof. If he had proof, perhaps this could work into an advantage, his advantage. 

His knock echoed into the room behind the door as Fili rapped his knuckles on the entrance of Thorin’s private office. 


“Come in,” came Thorin’s deep voice behind the solid oak. 


Fili lifted the latch and walked in. Thorin sat behind his desk buried in documents and maps. He looked up from his work as Fili entered. 


“Balin said that you wanted to speak to me?” he asked hesitantly. 


Thorin nodded and waved Fili over and pointed to a chair. “Yes, I did.” 


Fili crossed the room and lowered himself into the chair as Thorin looked back down to the document he was reading. As Fili waited patiently, he watched as his uncle picked up a quill and signed his name at the bottom of the paper. As he finished the final touches of a wax seal next to his name, Thorin looked up at his nephew who sat expectantly at the edge of his seat. 


“I have received a reply back from our friend Mr. Baggins for our invitation for him to join us for the festivities of Durin's day,” he said lifting up an opened letter.


Fili smiled. “That is great news, it will be pleasant to see the hobbit again.”  


Thorin nodded in agreeance. “Yes it will.”


A slight frown of confusion came to Fili’s face as he thought of the idea. “Although, if he is to be here in time for Durin’s day, he would have needed to have left already.” 


“Yes, I initially thought of that as well. It is a good four month journey by pony and Durin’s Day is in just over a months time,” replied Thorin. “But his letter is addressed several months ago, I suppose there was a delay in it being sent. According to this letter and if Bilbo left when he said he did, he should be through the misty mountains by now.”


“That is even better news,” Fili said happily. 


“Yes. Which brings us to the reason why I asked you here,” continued Thorin. “According to his letter, Bilbo has planned his journey to arrive in Rivendell then take the North road the rest of the way.”


Thorin stood up from the chair and walked over to the window to look out. He kept his eyes on the mountain side slope as he spoke.  


“Because of the recent activity of goblins in the area, I would like you to act as an escort.” Thorin turned around to face him. “You are to depart this afternoon and hopefully meet up with him halfway on the North Road.”


Thorin watched his nephew closely as his nephew processed this. His face slowly changing at the realization came to him. 


“But that’s a fortnight's journey. I would be gone for an entire month.” Fili replied, his tone sounding upset. 


“Yes, I know and I understand what I am asking you to do but the rest of the company members are either too old to accomplish such a journey with such haste or cannot not leave their duties.”


“What about my duties? What about Torvi?” he argued. “I cannot leave her alone for a whole month. What if something happens to her?”


“She will be carefully watched over while you are gone, although I do not think she needs any watching over. Things have settled between her and Ferin and besides, he will not even be here for the majority of the time since he is on the assignment to escort Dain and his folk for the festivities.”


“Why can’t Kili go in my stead? He would be a better choice, Fili stated. 


“I have already spoken to Kili this morning. He will be going with you as well. I would prefer that the two of you are together when you go to meet Bilbo.” 


Fili racked his brain for another excuse, any excuse for him to stay but there was nothing. Nothing that was logical. He bowed his head and let out a deep sigh. 


“Fili, I know you do not want to leave but there are times when you will have to be apart from the ones you love. You know how much Bilbo has done for this kingdom, that is why I cannot just send anyone.” 


His tone was sympathetic as he spoke. Thorin knew he was asking a lot of the young man, but he could think of no other solution. The rest of the company could not leave their positions at such short notice and while it was important for Fili to be in Erebor, his duties could be taken up by himself and the others of the council.


Fili stood to his feet and looked his uncle in the eyes. 


“I will go,” he conceded. “But promise me you will watch over Torvi.”


Thorin nodded. “Although you should already know that I will, I give you my word that I will watch over her while you are gone.”


“Thank you.” 


Fili nodded in appreciation then swiftly departed. If he was to leave by midday, he would need to prepare quickly. 


Thorin watched as Fili left then shook his head as he sat back down to start working again. Fili was good to worry and care for Torvi, but it worried Thorin that he may concern himself too much. Torvi was smart and while she seemed to get into difficult situations, she was a survivor. She was also very clever. While her cleverness was hidden, even possibly to herself, Thorin could see by the way she observed, she was much more in tune with her surroundings than she led to be. 

The moment she caught sight of him, her eyes brightened and a large smile came across her face. Torvi jogged over to where Fili stood and threw her arms around his neck before kissing him. When she pulled away, she still had a large happy smile on her face. 


“I didn’t expect to see you until tonight,” she said happily. 


Fili gave her a smile and pulled her in for a kiss. He loved it when she was like this, carefree, happy and content. It was unfortunate that he was about to end this happy demeanor.  


“I thought so too until just an hour ago,” he said, trying not to sound too upset.


Torvi caught the tone he was trying to hide and tilted her head to the side as she studied him. 


“Why do I have the feeling you’re about to tell me some bad news?”


Fili let out a sigh. “Because I have bad news.”


She waited for him to explain further. 


“Bilbo Baggins is coming for Durin’s day and Thorin has asked me to go meet him on the North Road to escort him back.”


Torvi looked at him in confusion. “Why do you sound so morbid? That is great news, I have always wanted to meet the famous hobbit.” 


Clarity came to her mind before Fili could answer. 


“Wait, the North Road is a week's travel from here,” she said slowly. “How far down the North Road does he expect you to travel?”


Fili smiled grimly. “We are not sure exactly but it will be about a month’s time by the time I returned. Perhaps only three weeks if Bilbo is traveling faster than expected but if not, I will not return until just before Durin’s day.” 


Torvi’s face feel. “So you will be gone for a whole month?”


As much as he appreciated the disappointment she felt at the idea of not seeing him for such a long time period, Fili hated to see her like this. 


“Don’t worry, it will go by quickly. I am sure you will be so busy with my mother in making preparations that the month will pass by without you even noticing it.”  


A faint smile came across her lips at his words. 


“You're right,” she said, forcing her smile to grow. “And this may be good for us. I am sure there will be other times in the future when we are apart for longer periods of time. What is that phrase your mother used to always say? Absence makes the heart grow fonder?”


Fili smiled at the familiar words. As he looked at her, he realized that he needed to get going. 


“I have to go soon but before I go I need you to promise me something,” he said in a more serious tone. 


He watched her warily, not sure of how she was going to react. Torvi’s face stayed the same. Her eyes bright and her smile staying wide. 


“Of course. Whatever you need help with I would be more than happy to assist.” 


Fili grimaced. He knew for a fact that she was not going to be happy to do what he was about to ask. 


“I need you to promise me to not go hunting while I am away.” She froze at his request. “I know it means a lot to you but all I am asking is that you wait until I get back. I don’t want you out there during the night by yourself.”


As if melting from her frozen state, her head slowly moved from side to side. The more she shook her head the more vigorous and adamant it became.  


“Fili, I am sorry but I can’t do that. Missing one day is one thing, but you can’t expect me to miss an entire month.” 


Fili let out a sigh. “Torvi, I don't want you to get hurt while I am away.”


“I can protect myself,” she quickly said, her tone becoming panicked. “I will take my sword with me. You said yourself just the other day that I was almost as good as Kili now.”


Fili groaned, he knew this was not going to be easy. If she would just understand. 


“Torvi, I know you enjoy the freedom of leaving the mountain. But it's not safe. I wouldn’t be able to stop worrying about you the entire time I am gone. I am just asking you to do this one thing for me.”


Torvi continued to shake her head. 


“You don’t know what you’re asking,” she said in a hard voice. 


Fili’s eyebrows narrowed in frustration. He was becoming agitated with her failure to see it from his point of view.


“What if Kili came with me?” she asked desperately.  


He shook his head. 


“Kili is coming with me.” At the look of her dismay, he grabbed her hands and looked her in the eyes. “Torvi, all I am asking you to do is for once in your life to keep yourself safe.”


She yanked her hands from his. 


“I can already do that!” Her voice was becoming louder in her frustration. 


Fili let out a growl of frustration. “Why must you be so stubborn! I know you can protect yourself but understand it from my point of view. Please, just do this for me. I know how much you care about the freedom hunting gives you butㄧ”


“This is not about me Fili!” Torvi shouted in frustration as she cut him off. 


She ran a hand through her hair as she breath in and out, trying to calm herself so she could think of how to persuade him. Then the thought hit her. This was it. He needed to know the real reason. He had to know the true consequences of what he was asking. 


“Fili, you don’t understand what you are asking. I can’t promise you becauseㅡ”


Fili let out another loud frustrated growl as he raised his voice above hers. “Stop it, just stop. I do not want to hear it! Nothing you can say is going to change my mind You are not to go out until I return.”


“But if you justㅡ”


“Torvi!” His tone was weary and tired. It had been a long morning of packing and preparations. He was tired and still had a long journey to begin. He pinched the bridge of his nose as he tried to calm himself down. “Please, just promise me that you will not go out,” he finally said in a quiet plea. 


He looked at her as soon as he finished speaking to read her reaction. She stared at him for a long moment as she breathed through her nose heavily. She gritted her teeth then opened her mouth. 


“Good luck on your journey,” she quickly said before turning around and storming off. 


Fili watched as she quickly left him standing alone. He shouted her name several times but she kept walking. Fili moved to follow after her until he heard his own name being called. Fili turned to see Kili walking towards him. 


“Fili, we need to go,” he said urgently. 


Fili took one last glance to see Torvi disappear around the corner. He did not want to leave on such ill terms but Kili was right, they needed to go. He let out a sigh before nodding and following after Kili. He would just have to make it up to her when he got back. She would be angry with him for a few days, possibly the entire month, but as long as he knew she was safe, he could live with that. 

Chapter Text

It took Torvi the entire rest of the day to settle her temper down from her argument with Fili. When she walked away from him she soon found herself in the library. Unfortunately her frustration with Fili kept her from focusing on anything she read. After two hours of stomping around and slamming books shut, a disapproving Ori came from around the corner and kicked her out of the library for being disruptive. Giving Ori an undeserving eye roll, she took her bad mood home with her where she proceeded to snap at her brother the moment she entered the house. After receiving a mouthful from her mother for being disrespectful, she retreated to her room to be alone. 


She thought the first night would be the hardest. She lay in bed, tossing and turning without any success of falling asleep. Her body was restless and not used to sleeping at this time of night. 


Several times she sat up, made her way to her trunk, and opened it. Each time she reached for her hunting gear she stopped her hand mid reach, withdrew her hand from the chest, closed the lid, and laid back down to try and rest. Fili had asked her to not go out and she was doing her best to grant his wish. She loved him and she wanted to be considerate of him. 


When dawn finally came, she had still yet to gain any sleep. When she entered the kitchen in the morning her mother was setting out a plate of beans and toast for her while Rorvi was already seated as he munched on his fourth piece of toast. As she entered the room he looked up from the stack of toast he had been sizing up for future consuming. 


“You look awful,” he said bluntly. “Fili hasn't even been gone a whole day and you have let yourself go.”


Torvi kept silent of any remarks and instead resorted to smacking him upside the head as she passed by to take her seat at the table. Despite the satisfaction of being able to release some of her annoyance, it did not make her feel any better as her mother caught her actions and went straight to reprimanding her for hitting her brother. The rest of her day continued in the same fashion as nothing seemed to be going her way. 


By the time the sun fell behind the horizon and the moon rose in the sky, Torvi was exhausted from the tedious day. She dressed for bed in good faith that sleep would come to her and relieve her of her pent up agitation. Unfortunately her hopes continued to stay as an un-vocalised wish as she lay in bed with her eyes shut but completely alert. 


In the early morning of the third day following Fili’s departure, Torvi was granted the bittersweet pleasure of being able to doze off for a few hours. But her peaceful and well needed sleep was abruptly ended when Rorvi entered into her room early in the morning and jumped onto her bed. He had the good intention of inviting her to join him in Dale for his day off. But when she barked at him so ferociously that he looked as if he were about that face an entire pack of wargs armed with only wooden spoon, he quickly retreated. Torvi immediately felt terrible and was quick to apologize when she found him a few minutes later after she realized that there would be no falling back asleep. With some convincing and taking solemn oath to not snap at him again, Rorvi agreed to extend his offer for a second time.   


The day in Dale helped. In fact for several hours she did not think about how much she missed Fili or how angry she was with him. For the entire day she happily walked around and enjoyed her brothers company as they talked and caught up on their lives. It was amazing how two people living in the same house managed to fall so far behind. There had once been a time when they only had each other and they always knew what was going on in the other's life. But there was a point somewhere in the near past year when they had become too busy with their own lives that they hardly saw each other. 

Rorvi had made a lot of progress since their move to Erebor. He was no longer an apprentice and was now taking on his own individual requests from people who had a likening to his technique and skills. There was also a girl who worked at a bakery that he had taken a liking to but he had still yet to gain the courage to talk to her. 


By the end of the day Torvi was in good spirits as she happily walked back home with her brother. As they walked through the market the shops were slowly closing up for the evening. Several of them were already locked up and closed as the owner's headed home for supper. There were a few still in the progress of closing up and as they passed by a small bakery, Rorvi left her side to go and speak to the pretty maid standing behind the counter. 


Torvi grinned as she watched her red faced brother go up to her and act as if he was interested in purchasing a loaf of bread. She was happy to see the young blondes face light up at his approach and blush as she started making some suggestions. Still smiling she turned away and continued on down the grocery aisle nodding and smiling as familiar shopkeepers bid her hello. But as her eyes fell onto a woman with two small children holding onto their mother's dress her smile faltered. 


The woman was explaining to the shop keeper that she did not have enough money for the things she was purchasing. The shopkeeper sadly shook his head and began to put the items back behind the table. The woman, doing her best to not make a scene, nodded and sadly began walking away. Her eyes were full of unshed tears as she did her best to not show her dismay to her children. Torvi’s stomach twisted as a wave of guilt washed over her. The woman had just been trying to buy some food. Without hesitation she reached into her pocket and pulled out a few coins. With the coins in hand she hurried to catch up to the woman and tapped her gently on the shoulder as she approached.  


“Excuse me miss.” 


The woman turned to face her. Her grey eyes were free of any tears but her face still looked worried and distraught. 


“Lady Torvi,” she said in surprise while giving her a quick bow. 


Torvi ignored the awkwardness of the woman bowing and knowing her name while she had never even seen the women in her entire life. Instead, she held out her hand and showed her the two coins. 


“I think you dropped these back there.” She pointed back to the shop. “I saw them fall out of your purse when you pulled out your coins.”


The woman stared at the coins and a new wave of tears filled her eyes. She shook her head and looked away from her before answering. 


“I am sorry my lady but I can't accept your money.” Her voice was barely louder than a whisper as she avoided any direct eye contact with Torvi. 


Torvi frowned but kept her face sincere as she spoke. “It's not mine, it's yours.” Torvi tilted her head lower to meet the woman's gaze. “Like I said, I watched them fall out of your purse. It's your money,” she added, not taking her eyes off of the woman's. 


She raised her hand higher in the air, urging the woman to take the coins again. A small tear fell from the woman's eyes as she raised a shaking hand and grabbed the coins from her hand. She looked Torvi in the eyes and gave her a grateful choked sob of thanks. 


Torvi nodded to her and walked away, doing her best to keep her emotions under control as she watched the woman return to the shop and purchase the items she had wanted earlier. Torvi quickly turned away and began making her way back down to her house. The woman's gratitude was short lived in Torvi’s heart and mind as a wave of mixed emotions crashed into her chest. She was sad. She was angry. She was frustrated. She had to do something before she lost control. 


When she arrived home she went straight to her room and pulled her dress up and over her head. She flung it across the room and threw open the trunk at the end of the bed. She pulled out a pair of trousers, a shirt, her sturdy boots and quickly dressed. She grabbed her coat and pulled in on over her clothes then reached deeper into her chest. Her hand froze as it curled around her bow. She brought in a small breath and let it out slowly as the image of Fili's pleading face came to her mind. 


She shook her head and set her face into a more determined expression. She had tried, she had done her best to do as he asked but this was more important. 


She pulled her gear from the chest and strapped it onto herself. The sword that Fili gave her was the last to be pulled from the chest. With everything in place she kept her mind set and made her way from the house and outside. Fili had asked her to stay, but she never promised.


Lord Ferer could not help but whistle to himself as he made his way towards the great arching doors of Erebor. It was not your usual happy tune, but cryptic and cynical. It was late into the night but he had been paying a visit to an informant of his in Dale. While the informant was not able to supply him with the information he wanted, he was still in high spirits. Exactly one week ago, Fili had been sent by Thorin to pick up the halfling on the North Road. While it was a pleasant treat to have the young prince out of his life for a moment, it was not his absence that had put him in a good mood. 


On the day of Fili’s departure, Lord Ferer had been fortunate enough to overhear part of a heated discussion between the young prince and Lady Torvi. He didn’t quite understand the entirety of the argument, but he had overheard something about Fili asking her not to go hunting at night and her obvious negative acceptance to it. They had fought and left on bitter terms as far as he could see. In his observance, Torvi had sulked for the first few days but was seeming to improve over the weeks time. While he expected such things to happen, it was the knowledge he gained from their fight that he was pleased about. Their relationship had a weakness. It was a weakness that he needed to exploit.


A strong gust of wind built up and blew through the valley. It was surprisingly cold given the warmth of the earlier day. It was a sign that winter was coming. He rubbed his hands together and blew on them to regain feeling in the tips of his fingers. He looked up the hill to see how close he was to the entrance and immediately forgot about his discomfort.


Coming from the entrance was the image of the unmistakable body of a dwarrowdam walking out of the front gates and heading west to the forest. As the figure walked by the lit pillar that stood outside the gate, the flames of the fire illuminated the woman. 


Ferer smiled. 


Despite the scarf wrapped around her head and lower half of her face, there was no mistaking her identity. The green eyes that glowed in the night and the auburn curls that were poking out from under her makeshift hood were none other than the subject of his most recent interest, Torvi. 


She looked around at her surroundings but failed to see him coming up the hill on the moonless night. She had a bow and quiver on her back and the unmistakable glint of a metal sword strapped to her hips beneath her cloak shone in the fire light. This must be what Fili had been talking about when he asked her not to go hunting. 


What she was hunting for, he did not know. It could be for deer or orcs, either one making no sense, but it was not the why or what that mattered to him. Torvi was going against Fili’s command and that was all that mattered. 


Ferer’s smile widened. It would be a shame if Fili where to find out she disobeyed him. From what he had seen earlier that week, there was already a wedge between them, it would be a shame if someone were to drive that wedge even deeper. 


As she began sprinting off down the hill, she quickly disappeared into the night. Ferer watched the spot where she disappeared for several minutes as his mind whirled with ideas. He licked his lips and began whistling again as he strode the rest of the way to the gates. Everything was beginning to look much better, at least for him. 


“Alright what's bothering you?" Asked Kili in an annoyed tone.

Fili had just let out another huff of frustration for what seemed like the thousandth time in the course of the four days they had been traveling. He had been quiet and shut off. At first Kili thought it was because he was missing Torvi and that after a day he would get over it enough to be himself but his initial thought had been proven wrong. It was with this realization that he knew he would have to break the barrier as he was not about to spend the next month with a sulky Fili.

Fili looked at Kili who was walking beside him and looking at him expectantly. He had been completely focused on the conversation he had with Torvi the day of departure, running their argument over in his head. He had wanted things to go better than they had.

"I am afraid that I left with Torvi angry at me," he started. "And I am worried about how she will be when we return."

"Hmmm." Thought Kili. "Well I would like to say Torvi is the forgive and forget type but unfortunately she is not. She is more of the revenge and remember type, especially with your history." Fili frowned at his brother. His words of choice were not helping his predicament but Kili raised his finger in the air before Fili could speak. "However," he began. "Things have changed between you two since when we were kids so it may be different. What did you two fight about?"

"I asked her to stay within Erebor while I was gone and to not go out hunting until I got back."

Kili let out an 'oh' that sounded as if he were in pain and his face cringed at Fili's words.

"Was it a request or a demand?" he asked in hopes for some sort of small redemption for his brother.

"I started by asking her but when she refused things got a little heated and I might have forbid her to go."

Kili let out another sigh as he covered his face with his hands and shook his head while repeating his brother's name over and over. When he recovered he looked at his brother sympathetically and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Yeah definitely not the best idea telling Torvi what she can and cannot do," he said.

"Well what else was I supposed to do!?!" he asked throwing his hands in the air in frustration.

"Did you ever think that perhaps she could just continue without you?" Kili suggested.

Fili shook his head. "It's too dangerous. I can't have her risking herself without anyone there to protect her just so she can have her own way. She can survive missing a month of going."

"Did she give you a reason as to why she refused?"  Kili was doubtful that she had given him a true reason but he wanted to know for sure.

"She tried to but I didn't let her explain. I already knew what she was going to say."

"You did?" Asked Kili in surprise.

"Of course! She was going to give me any reason as to why she needed it to. Keeping her sanity and how she could protect herself and manage on her own."

Fili listed off several other reasons but nothing of any remote closeness to the true reason. Kili rolled his eyes at his brother's overbearing protectiveness. It was as if Fili were becoming paranoid. If Torvi had been a pile of gold instead of a living woman, he would argue that Fili had the sickness that had enveloped Thorin when they first arrived to the mountain. To this day Thorin still struggled with his obsession and paranoia although it seemed to be less and less as the years went by. 

"Did you ever think that Torvi doesn't need your protection as much as you think?"

Fili looked at him sharply and opened his mouth to reply but Kili quickly cut him off.

"I am just saying that Torvi had been doing perfectly fine on her own long before you started joining her. And by the sounds of it she is even more able to protect herself since you started teaching her," he said defensively.

Fili listened to his brother but it did not comfort him as much as it was intended. Kili had a point but knowing that Torvi was staying safe within the halls of Erebor was what helped him sleep each night. He appreciated his brothers attempt to help but he didn't understand what it was like to be away from his one.

Ferer’s eyes narrowed as he caught sight of the young dwarrowdam making her way towards the front gate. It was the fifth time he had seen the girl making her way outside of Erebor since he caught sight of her that night on his way back from Dale. Initially he thought it was an odd coincidence that he had managed to spot her on his way back from his office, but after spotting her the third time that week, he realized it was not coincidence. 


She was dressed in the same clothing, armed for hunting, and always departing around the same time each night he saw her. The biggest clue that made him aware was that this particular night made it the third night in a row that he was seeing her sneak outside of Erebor. As he thought more of the other nights he had not seen her, he had either left early or stayed later in his office. It dawned on him instantly that there was a good chance she had a repeating schedule. His dark eyes continued to watch her as she exited through the gates and disappeared. She was up to something and he intended to find out.  

It was early in the morning when Ferer finally spotted Torvi coming back into Erebor with a sack full of something that he could only assume was fresh game. She was cautious in watching her surroundings as she made her way towards the market but he was even more cautious in following her. He stopped several feet away to hide behind a closed bakers shop when she came up to her destination. He could just barely make out their voices from his hiding spot. 


As Torvi approached Jorra’s shop she was surprised to see that the butcher was already there and opening up his stall. 


“You're up awfully early, the baker has not even arrived to start his work day,” she said happily. 


Jorra turned around at the sound of her voice and waved her off. 


“And you lassie, are up awfully late,” he responded with a chuckle before offering a real answer to her confusion. “Thought I would get an early start this morning since I have been falling behind lately. With Durin’s day and then the Festival in Dale the day after, orders have been quite demanding with all of the preparations.” 


Torvi nodded as she gave out a large yawn. She pulled her bag from her shoulder and set it down on the table. 


“It’s not as much as usual but things are getting scarce with the change in seasons.” 


Jorra nodded as he opened the bag to examine it contents. He pulled out three rabbits and examined their size. “Aye, but they have a lot of meat on them so that makes up for it. There will still be plenty to go around after the others make their contributions as well,” he assured her. “I don’t know if I had told you yet but the baker over yonder just asked to help with contributing all the bread, he can’t sell by the end of the day as well.” 


Torvi’s eyes brightened with the news.


“That is wonderful, is he the one with the daughter about my age?” 


Jorra nodded in confirmation which made her smile even more. She was happy to know that the girl her brother had his eye on came from a good family. She let out another yawn. 


“You best be getting off to bed before you fall over in the middle of my shop.” 


She let out a small laugh but began making her way home after giving him a quick farewell. She was halfway home when she became aware of the footsteps coming up the hallway behind her. She turned around and startled, she took several steps back as Lord Ferer came into view. His eyes were dark and threatening as he stared at her. When he smiled, it did not make his face look any less intimidating. Instead, it reminded her of a wolf who had cornered its prey. 


“Lady Torvi,” he began. “What a surprise it is to see you up so early in the morning...or should I say up so late.” 


Her stomach dropped and she took another step back. His tone matched the color of his eyes, dark and empty of good intentions. 


“I couldn’t sleep so I thought some fresh air would do me some good,” she quickly replied. 


Ferer let out an amused huff of laughter that sent a chill down her spine.  


“You must be coming down with something if you can’t sleep for three days in a row,” he commented. “Perhaps it is the absence of our wonderful heir to the throne. I bet you are worried sick with his safety.” 


At his suggestion Torvi found herself quickly nodding in agreement but his next words had her head stopping mid nod. 


“Or maybe it is your way of trying to keep yourself from missing him as you both seem to enjoy the occasional midnight hunt.”


Her face drained and she no longer felt tired as the adrenaline of fear coursed through her body. He knew . With this realization, a strike of anger ignited in her chest. The small spark was enough to regain her courage as she spoke. 


“You followed me,” she accused. 


Ferer let out an amused laugh as he raised a hand to causally examine his nails as he spoke. “I am curious, was this your idea or the princes?” 


His eyes lifted from his nails and focused on her. He was pleased to see her body shaking despite her efforts to stay calm while she glared at him. It was obvious that despite her weak mask of bravery, she was terrified.  


“I am not doing anything wrong,” she said confidently. 


“You are playing with fire Torvi, you ought to be more careful, we wouldn’t want you to get burned,” he said in a sadistic tone. 


Torvi’s green eyes flashed with a glint of challenge. She did not like the underlying tones of threat and command hidden in his voice. She narrowed her eyes and straightened herself to her full height, the top of her head barely reaching his shoulder. 


“Burns can heal,” she said firmly.


Ferer’s amused smile left his face as it shifted into a sneer and pointed at her. “I can be your ally or I can be your enemy. I am going to warn you now, you do not want me as the latter.” 


He let his finger drop and began walking away, leaving Torvi standing alone and breathing heavily against the wall. Before disappearing from sight his voice echoed down the hall one last time before he turned the corner. 


“Stop now by your own choice or I will do it for you.”


His words echoed then faded. Torvi stood in silence, glaring at the empty corridor as he body shook with a combination of fear, anger, and weariness. Ferer was showing his true colors now. She now fully understood the warnings of Fili and Kili. She turned to continue home, making her journey at a slow pace as she walked on her unsteady feet. As she grew nearer to home, her steps became more steady as she became more determined. She was not going to stop, she was not going to let someone threaten her. 

It was early morning at the halfway mark of their expected journey when Fili and Kili had just begun their days trek when Bilbo seemed to appear out of nowhere. Each of them took their turn pulling him into a bone crushing hug before letting him go. By the time Kili let him go after his hug the poor hobbit was tenderly rubbing his ribs as he took in a deep breath.

"It's been too long Mr. Boggins!" cried Kili as he clapped him on the back.

"Yes," agreed Bilbo as he now rubbed his shoulder blade where Kili had slapped him. "I should have come many years earlier but I have recently been entrusted with the care of my nephew and have not been able to get away. But he is old enough now to be on his own for a few months and I have my gardener watching out for him who has a son his age."

"You should have brought him along with you!" replied Kili excitedly.

Bilbo let out a chuckle. "I think you have forgotten how I was when I first began our journey. Hobbits are not ones for traveling farther than the shire. You are considered an adventurer if you manage to go as far as Bree," he shook his head. "No it was best that boy stayed in Bag End while I was away."

Fili gave their friend a good look over. He looked much younger than he would have expected. It looked as if only a year had passed by and not ten. And it felt like it had nothing to do with a healthy diet and exercise. It was an unnatural look, as if something where preserving the hobbits body. Bilbo’s bright eyes caught sight of Fili staring at him. 


“Well, shall we head north to Erebor?” Asked Bilbo. “Thorin tells me you have a young lady that I am sure you are more than eager to return to.”


Fili’s cheeks were slightly reddened at the thought of Thorin telling others of his courtship but if he were honest with himself, he should not have been surprised. 


“Aye, and she is a handful. I think you will quite like her Bilbo,” answered Kili for his brother. 


Kili wrapped an arm around each of them and began to direct them back up the north road as he began to tell Bilbo all about Torvi and Fili as well as other subjects of interest regarding Erebor and the preparations for Durin’s day.

The weary travelers passed through the gates several days earlier than their expected arrival. They had been lucky in their journey and had not run into any delays while traveling. With the lack of delays combined with the eagerness of all three travelers to reach their destination, they had spent many days traveling all through the night with only a few hours of rest in an effort to shorten their journey. The moment they passed through the gates, a messenger was sent ahead to Thorin to inform him of their arrival.  

As the three of them made their way up through the halls to find Thorin, there was a blur that came from one of the side passageways and Fili was tackled by a small auburn haired assailant. Torvi wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his lips as Bilbo and Kili looked up at the ceiling, feeling uncomfortable. When she pulled away she was beaming from ear to ear and her eyes brightened with excitement. 


“TorーTorvi!” replied Fili as he got over his startlement. “How did you know we were already here? I don’t even think Thorin knows yet.”


Torvi pointed to the passageway she had come from. It was the hallway leading down into the library. Fili nodded, knowing of her recent habit over the past few months of spending all of her extra time in the library. It was odd but he never questioned it. 


“I didn’t, I was just headed home for supper when I saw you passing through the main hallway. At first I thought I was seeing things and almost passed by.”


Fili smiled as she spoke. He had not realized how much her truly missed her. While he had every inch of her face memorized and kept a mental picture in his head, the real image was more beautiful than he could imagine. He hair was down and cascaded around her face and shoulders, acting like a frame for her features. Her courtship braid fell down in front as the bead he had given her shone with richness. Her eyes were bright and shining, more lively than usual. In fact she seemed so overwhelmingly happy that it disturbed him. 


In a way he almost felt offended at hurt. He had spent that last month completely miserable without her. He had done his best not to show it for the sake of Bilbo and Kili but it had been draining. He knew it was silly but he felt as if his absence had done her some good. Fili did his best to ignore these thoughts. She was probably just energized by their early return and if not, he should still not wish that she was miserable in his absence.   


Fili cupped her face and looked into her eyes with adoration. He gave her a chaste kiss on her forehead before turning to face Bilbo, his hand wrapped around her waist while he gestured with the other. 


“Torvi I would like to introduce you to Bilbo, the very reason why you are living in this mountain.”


The tips of Bilbo’s ears turned red with embarrassment as her attention fell on him. He could not help but admire her green eyes as she looked at him. She held out a small hand as she smiled. 


“Mr. Baggins it is a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said earnestly.


He accepted her hand and gave it a kiss instead of a handshake. “And I you Lady Torvi.”


Torvi’s lips curled in a slightly amused yet displeased expression. “Please just Torvi,” she replied. 


Bilbo nodded and gave her a smile as he tried her name out on his lips. “Torvi it is only if you return that favor and call me Bilbo.”


This time Torvi’s lips curled into an amused smile as she nodded in agreement to his terms. Before anyone could speak again, the sound of heavy footsteps coming their way caused them to turn towards the source of sound. Coming down the hallway came Thorin followed by Balin and Dwalin. Each had their own facial expressions but each said the same thing. They were happy to see the new arrival. 


Thorin had an uncharacteristic smile on his face as he beamed at Bilbo before giving him a hug. When he was released Balin gave him a firm handshake while Dwalin planted a firm slap on his back and sent the small hobbit forward several steps before catching himself. As Dwalin and Balin began to strike up a conversation with Bilbo, Thorin looked at Fili and Kili. 


“I am glad to see you two made it home safe, I trust their were no issues while on your trip seeing that you are back earlier than expected.”


Both Fili and Kili nodded at the same time. Thorin nodded then turned his attention to only Fili as he began to interrogate him of everything that happened on their journey. As Fili recited his report, Kili crept closely to Torvi’s side and spoke. 

"You seem to be in an awfully good mood with Fili," whispered Kili in her ear. 


Torvi started at his closeness then turned her head slowly as she looked at him curiously. “Why wouldn’t I be? You were gone for an entire month.”


Kili looked her straight in the eyes and searched for any hint of her thoughts but she had gotten very good at keeping a poker face since they were children and he found nothing. 


“Something is not adding up. I know Fili made you promise to stay in Erebor while he was gone,” he said suspiciously. “You're being too happy and not enough spiteful.” 


Torvi rolled her eyes. “Please, give me some credit. You honestly think that I would stay made for an entire month?”


“Yes,” replied Kili without hesitation. 


Torvi let out a sigh and rolled her eyes again. “I am not made at Fili,” she argued. 


Kili kept looking at her, she began to breakdown underneath his stare as she restlessly fidgeted. She brought a hand up to tuck a loose strand behind her ear, then he saw it. It was not easy to spot and it was only a small flicker, but it was enough. A small spark of guilt and then Kili knew exactly why Torvi was acting the way she was. He stepped closer and whispered even more quietly that she could barely hear him. 


“You went out, didnt you?” He kept his attention on her face for any source of reaction but she was back to keeping herself composed. “You broke your promise, that is why you are being extra nice.”


Torvi’s straightened to her full height and looked him directly in the eyes. Her green eyes bore into his brown ones as she kept her contact. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” she said in a flat tone. “I never promised anything.” 


Kili stared at her in disbelief but their conversation was interrupted when Fili came back over to them and joined Torvi at her side. Her face quickly lit up and she smiled at him as she took his hand in hers. 


“What were you two talking about so secretly?” he asked in a happy tone. 


Kili kept his eyes on Torvi but eventually looked away to answer his brother. 


“Nothing exciting, just telling her about our uneventful trip,” he said lightly. In the corner of his eye he saw a slight shift in Torvi’s shoulder as she relaxed and nodded in agreement when Fili looked at her.


“Well then I guess it would be alright if I steal you away?” he asked looking at her. 


Torvi nodded and after giving a quick goodbye to Kili they left together. Torvi snuck a quick glance back to Kili who was still watching her. When he saw her turn around he mouthed three words to her. 


You owe me.

"Fili!" came Ferer's voice as he caught up with him once the meeting was adjourned. 


Fili rolled his eyes in irritation. He was starving and wanted to get something to eat before he had to survey the lower mines with Thorin. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly before turning around to face him. 


“Lord Ferer, is there something I can help you with?” he asked in a blunt tone. He was not in the mood to play games nor beat around the bush. 


"No, no,” he said in a pleasant tone as he raised his hands in defense. He gave Fili a smile. “I just wanted to say how nice it is to have you back among us. You must be relieved to be reunited with Torvi. I know she was quiet down while you were gone. If I am completely honest, it is for her sake that I am relieved to have you back so soon as I was worried about her.”


Fili’s eyes narrowed as he tried to figure out what Ferer was up to. He never extended words to himself unless he had something to gain. “Worried?”


“Well, she seemed quite distressed when you first left but I was happy to see that she was able to find something to occupy herself while you were gone. She must be quite skilled in defense for you to be so confident and to let her go out on her own unprotected, especially so late at night."

Fili’s head snapped up at Ferer’s last comment and a look of alarm covered his face. "What do you mean?" he asked quickly.

Lord Ferer's smile faltered into a frown. "I am sorry I thought you knew...perhaps I was mistaken. Maybe it was not her that I saw," he quickly amended.

Fili kept his attention on Lord Ferer, doing his best to keep his temper at bay. "No, tell me what you saw,” Fili said sternly.

"Well I don't want to get the lass into trouble…” He hesitated for a moment before continuing. “I was concerned for her. It was a little less than a month ago when I was on my way back from Dale. It was then that I saw her walking out of the entrance. It was quite late into the night and that is what made me alarmed when she made her way down towards the forest." He paused, doing his best to keep his face posed as one of complete concern as he looked at Fili. "But like I said, it was dark and I may have mistaken her for someone else," he suggested. “Lady Torvi has a smart wit about her, she would know better than to wander off into danger.”

Fili focused on breathing through his nose as he tried to keep himself calm. She had lied to him. No wonder she had been so warm in her welcome when he returned. It had been too welcome.  

"Yes," he finally managed to say. "Perhaps you were mistaken."

Lord Ferer nodded in agreement as he watched Fili closely. Fili glanced down the hall then looked at him.

"I am sorry, I have to excuse myself. I have just remembered something that I needed to attend to," he said quickly before leaving without waiting for a response.

Lord Ferer watched Fili's retreating back. A large, menacing smile came to his face as his eyes glinted with glee.

"Yes, of course," he said quietly to himself as he continued to smirk. 

Chapter Text

Only the light sound of Ori's quill scratching on parchment and her light footsteps as she walked through the rows of the library filled her ears. She stopped when she approached an empty slot in the shelf and carefully slid the missing book back into its place. The library was a bitter sweet refuge for her. While she hated it for still failing to produce a solution for her problems, she had recently learned to appreciate the immediate and quiet solace that it provided unlike the cavern which took much longer to refuge to, increasing the risk of running into people she would rather avoid. With the book in its rightful place, Torvi moved on to return the next book that laid in her arms.

At first Ori was hesitant in her increased frequency of her attendance to the library. During the weeks of punishment that the princes', her brother, and herself served in the library, he had learned quickly that while they saved him work, their rowdy behavior was not welcomed. They had all been so disruptive that by the end of the punishment, he was happy to never see them again. However, this new found happiness of restored peace to his library was diminished when she showed up not long after. He was once again filled with dread and worry of what would become of his tranquil library he spent so much time in maintaining. But after the first month came around and she continued her habits, he began to appreciate her patriotism to the library as he found her much more quiet than her brother and the Durin’s. 


He did his best to help her find what she was searching for but too often she was vague with the specifics. Nevertheless, he soon began to catch on to themes she frequented and grew into the habit of having a pile for her already pulled and waiting for her when she decided to visit. In gratitude for his helpfulness, Torvi began to slip into the habit of returning the large stacks of books that accumulated on the various tables from other patrons to their rightful spots on the shelves.

As she stood on her toes to return a book to a higher shelf she startled at the sudden slamming of the library door followed by the thud of heavy boots. There was an interruption of the footsteps as Ori loudly shushed the offending footsteps to become silent. As his shushing faded into silence the person continued walking but with much more quiet and light steps. Torvi let out a silent laugh as she shook her head. As much as Ori valued silence in his library, he never seemed too worried about staying silent himself when it came to making others be quiet.

She moved on to the next aisle over and reached up to push the wide and battered book into place when a hand grabbed her wrist. Immediately she released the books in her arms as they crashed down to the stone floor with a clatter of dull thuds and the rustling of paper bending as the books fell open on top of each other. Her arm and leg muscles resisted automatically as she felt her body being pulled around and dragged away from the mess of books. Once she caught sight of the golden locks of the tall man and familiar royal blue clothing, she only relaxed enough to let herself be guided away from the mess as she stiffly followed Fili.

Fili's grip was tight around her arm as he maneuvered through the maze of bookshelves. A tingling began to creep into her hand as it began to fall asleep and she felt his nails bite into her skin as he continued to hold his vice like grip on her arm. She tried to question his motives but when he refused to answer her she instead tried to coax him into at least loosen his grip. He continued to stay silent, not even sparing her a glance but she did notice his grip loosen slightly as she felt the immediate relief of circulation back into her hand.

Silently she watched the back of his head and what little of his face she could see at the moment. The veins on his neck where pulsing and his cheeks were pulled tight as the corners of his mouth frowned down. 


What was going on? Was something wrong?  


Immediately Torvi began to run any and every scenario in her head that would cause Fili to act this way but nothing definite came to her mind.

Fili led them down several long aisles until they reached the farthest corner of the massive library where the dust was thicker than the books themselves. Only then did he pull her in front to face him.

His face was one of anger. His eyes were dilated in the dim light making them seem dark and piercing. Above them his eyebrows were drawn together causing deep wrinkles to form on his forehead. 


Torvi took a step back only to find herself backed against the cold wall. A chill ran through her body but she was positive it was not from the cold stone but instead from the cold look he was giving her. He took a step towards her, closing what little space they had already had between them. She looked up to his face, eyes wide and unsure as to what was happening. Her heart pounded painfully against her chest making her wonder if it were possible for her ribs to break against the wild force it took to pump her blood. The very blood that seemed to be draining from her head into her toes making her feel lightheaded and faint.

“I thought I made myself very clear before leaving.” His voice was low and controlled but Torvi could sense the struggle he was having in keeping calm and quiet.

“What are you talking about?” she asked is a shaky whisper.

Her ignorance only seemed to make him even more agitated. 


“I gave you clear instructions on not to go out at night without me. You gave me your word that you wouldn't,” he said lowly.

Dread washed over her and she was positive there was not a single drop of blood left in her face. But as quickly as the dread filled her she felt a heat rise in her abdomen, then to her chest, and finally her cheeks as they flushed with rejuvenated color. It was Torvi's turn to become angry as she realized what he was upset about. He knew that she had gone out. 


Trying to control her own anger she pushed against him just enough to let her stand to her full height. "If you remember correctly," she said steadily. "I made no such promise.”

This response was not what he expected nor did it do anything to calm Fili's temper. Torvi watched closely as Fili pinched the bridge of his nose and his face contorted as if he were suddenly feeling pain. At first a wave of concern came to her but his pain only seemed to bother him for a moment before he let his hand drop and set his glare back to her. The crease in his forehead deepened and the veins bulged even more as he lost control. The next words coming out of his mouth were at an uncontrolled volume. They started low but made a crescendo until he was bellowing.

“I told you not to go out and you deliberately disobeyed me! You could have gotten hurt Torvi! What were you thinking? If something had happened…”

He could not finish as Ori's loud shush overpowered his words, cutting him off. Before he could continue in a more controlled tone, Torvi took the opportunity to cut him off as her own fury blazed into a raging fire that burned through her body.

“I am not a child Fili. I can take care of myself! You never had issues with me going out before!”

“That's because I was going with you! You had someone to protect you,” he snapped back.

Another chorus of Ori's loud shushing filled the library causing them to each check themselves and take in a few deep breaths. 

“Who do you think was going with me before you started coming?!?” she snapped in a whisper. "I had been going out alone long before you ever started tagging along. Long before I ever came to this place."

She waited for an answer but he just continued to breath heavily. She felt the ends of her hair tickle her neck as it moved from the air. She resisted the urge to fidget and move it away from her skin as she kept her eyes concentrated on his. It felt as though they stood there silently for hours as they each refused to speak, letting their eyes do the communicating.

Finally Fili broke their silence as he spoke in a low warning. His hands found a place at either side of her head as he leaned her in to her level and whispered in her ear. “I am only going to say this once more Torvi. Never again will you go out at night by yourself.”

A tingle ran down her spine starting where his breath grazed against the skin of her neck. His tone said it all. This was not a request, it was a threat. Her mind raced. Throughout her life Fili had made Torvi feel the deepest and most varied emotions in her life. He had made her feel hatred, resentment, jealousy, love, passion, anger, lust, joy, sadness, anxiety, and almost everything else in between. But this emotion she was feeling now was new. One she had never expected to feel from him. 



She was scared. Scared of what was causing him to be so controlling, scared of what was growing between them, scared of the unspoken consequence if she were to disobey. As her mind raced she came to a sudden realization. There was no consequence. There was nothing he could do to keep her. There was no punishment he could give her that would be worse than what he was already trying to do. 


He was trying to confine her to this mountain. It was her greatest fear, confinement. Ever since she was little, small spaces that had no foreseeable end had been her fear. She had almost never discovered the hidden cavern far below most of Erebor had she not forced herself to push through her fear. As children, Rorvi, being such a loving brother, took it upon himself to constantly test her limits by wrapping her in blankets and sending her into a panic until either her mother or father yelled at him. While he had grown out of that phase of tormenting her, she had not grown out of her fear. 


She narrowed her eyes in determination. She moved her arms to his chest and pushed until he took a full step back. She stepped away from the wall, forcing him to take another step back.
“I can't promise to do that,” she said, her voice lowering as the anger came back to replace the fear. 


His eye twitched. “I am not asking, I am telling you. As a prince and heir to the throne I forbid you from leaving this mountain alone,” he said as he closed the space that she had just created between them.

His eyes locked with hers and he watched as hers widened in fury. He knew this would happen, he knew she would get angry, but if it meant she stayed safe he was okay with it. He watched her hands ball into fists from the corner of his eye.

Torvi felt her cheeks flush with heat as he commanded her. Never in their entire lives, not even when they were children, did Fili ever use his birthright to get his way. 


He had just stepped over the line. 


“You can't just command me to stay within the mountain. I have a right just like everybody else to come and go as I please!”

“Not anymore! You lost that right when you became selfish enough to wander out on your own. Do you know what kind of worry you have caused? What kind of agony you would have put upon others if something had happened when you were out there and alone? You need to stop being selfish and think of oth一”

That was as far as he got before she blew up. Her voice erupted over his and filled the empty library with her voice as it reverberated down each aisle filling all four corners of the library with her voice.

“You have no idea what you are saying! You know nothing about me and my life! You may think you do, but let me tell you Prince Fili!” She spat his title and name out as if it were poison. “Sixty years is a long time. People change! Just because you're next in line for the throne it does not make you always right.” 

They both stared at each other just mere inches away from each other's face. Torvi's chest moved in and out as she breathed heavily from her rant. Their eyes were locked together, each one daring the other to speak. It was not until the sound or angry footsteps followed by someone clearing their throat that they realized they were no longer alone.

Immediately Fili became aware as to just how closely they were standing together. He took a step back and looked at the person. It was Ori who was standing at the end of the aisle. He looked at them with an irritated annoyance as he stood with his hands on his hips looking more like his older brother than his young innocent self. Normally, he would be uneasy about walking in on two persons of known attraction so close together in a dark corner. But it was obvious his desire to keep a reverent library was stronger. Once he saw that he had their attention he spoke up.

“This is a library," he began in a stern tone. He raised a hand as he waved a cross finger at them. "Not an arena for fighting nor a place for intimate closeness of lovers."

They each bowed their heads towards the floor as he reprimanded them. Fili could see the faint blush on Torvi’s cheeks at Ori’s choice of words of suggesting what he thought was going on.

"Now, I would suggest you find somewhere else to finish whatever this..." he waved his hand around them, “, to somewhere else but we have are supposed to be in a meeting in five minutes," he said directing his attention to Fili.

Fili nodded. “Sorry Ori," he said sheepishly as he was already beginning to feel guilty for losing his temper. Why was he being so rash? He didn't know what was happening to him, he had never had such a problem before. It was as if something was blocking his mind, taking over his thoughts and driving him. A dull pain was throbbing in his head that he had not noticed before. 

"Thank you for the reminder Ori, I will be right there,” he looked back to Torvi who looked at Ori in a slight guilt but as her attention moved to his direction, her soft eyes turned into an unhappy glare.

“We will discuss this later,” he said trying to soften the tone of his voice at the realization of how badly this conversation had gone.

Torvi rolled her eyes and pushed past him knocking into his shoulder. “Don't bother,” she mumbled as she walked down the aisle and past Ori.

She gave the quiet scribe a kind smile or at least a as kind as she could muster, not wanting to direct her sour mood at anyone who did not deserve it. At the moment that entailed everyone in the mountain with the exception of Fili. He deserved no mercy. 


Well perhaps there was one other person she could let her ire mood be aimed at.  

“You told him!” she shouted from down the hall.

Lord Ferer turned around at the sound of the high pitched accusation directed at him. He stopped making his way home and instead, waited for her to come to him from the main hall. He displayed an innocent expression on his face as she neared.

“Whatever do you mean? I told what to whom?” he asked with an air of calmness that made Torvi nauseous. 

Her face twitched with annoyance. “You told Fili. How did you even know that I was not supposed to go out? Were you eavesdropping on us?”

His amusement of the situation quickly dissipated as he realized that this conversation was going to be futile. He was hungry and wanted to go home to supper. He took a few steps towards her to close the last distance she had left to travel. At his approach she came to an abrupt stop and slid her foot back a step taking on a defensive stance. He smiled at her hesitation.

“If you want your conversations to be hidden, you best not have them in the public view. You conducted your little argument in a well populated hallway, it is not my fault you were too stupid to hold your tongue and argue behind closed doors,” he said in an indignant tone.

Torvi’s eyes narrowed. “Why did you tell him? I know it was you.”

Ferer took a step closer, his light mood darkening as he spoke again. 


“I told you to stop helping your butcher friend,” he said in a vile tone. “You ignored that chance to do it yourself so I did it for you.”

“You can’t do this,” she growled with confidence.

Ferer’s eyebrows lifted and he let out a slight chuckle. “Oh my dear, I believe I just did,” he paused for a moment as he thought. "Or I guess I should say Fili is doing it for me. That is the wonderful thing about Durin's, when they find something to love, they are plagued with the thought of losing it. They will do everything in their power to keep it safe, keep it hidden, and keep it to themselves." 


He leaned in closely to her to whisper in her ear. He body screamed to distance herself from the man but his words kept her muscles frozen. 


"Be it a pretty girl such as yourself or a mountain of gold. It is all the same to these Durin's. Something to be kept locked away and never parted with. "

For the second time that day, Torvi shivered at his words uttered in a cold whisper. Smiling with satisfaction that he had unnerved the girl, Ferer stepped away. His eyes stayed black and cold as he spoke again.

"If that does not keep you from stopping then perhaps this will. I warned you once to stop this and I was lenient in my consequence to your actions. Now I am warning you again, to stop this now. If it does not I will not be as forgiving. Remember that Torvi, remember that any time you even think about aiding those unfortunate souls."

She glared back at him doing her best to hide that his words made her weak feeling. Ferer gave her his best charming smile and turned around to start walking away.

“You best find yourself another hobby Torvi,” he shouted over his shoulder as he made his way down the hall. "It's going to be a long winter."

She stood in the same place long after he had left, still frozen from his words. They echoed in her mind hauntingly.


Be it a pretty girl such as yourself or a mountain of gold. It is all the same for these Durin's. Something to be kept locked away and never parted with.

Torvi quickly packed her bag and departed from the house. She had not seen Fili all day since the fight and she was not ready to see him now. She knew he would try to stop her from leaving which is why she was leaving an hour earlier than usual. It was not as empty as usual but most passersby did not take any notice of her as they were all too weary to pay her any mind. Without any delays, she made it to the front gate and began to walk out of it. The two guards who usually paid her no mind did a double take at her approach then stepped in forward, blocking her way. Torvi stopped short and looked at them in confusion. 

“My Lady Torvi,” began the larger guard. “I am sorry but we have been instructed that you are not permitted to leave the mountain without a male escort.”

Her eyes flashed in his direction as he spoke. "What do you mean not permitted ?" she demanded.

When the guards failed to reply immediately she brought herself to her full height. While she still only came up to the shortest ones chest, her action still had the effect she was looking for. Each of their eyes had a tinge of fear enter them as she put on her best face of noble airs.

"Do you realize who you are talking to?" she said in a forced authoritative voice. "I am Lady Torvi, daughter of the late Lord Rorin and the Lady Siv. I have descended from a long line of nobles and betrothed to the heir to the throne. How do you have the authority to tell me what I can and cannot do!"

For the first time in her life Torvi had used her social standings as a means to an argument. The moment the words slipped from her mouth she felt sick. She was disgusted with herself.

"I am sorry Lady Torvi but we have been given an order and we must follow those orders."

She already had a feeling that this was their reason for refusing her departure and while she knew it was not their fault, she could not help feeling the familiar burning anger rise in her belly. She gritted her teeth in an effort to keep the rising flames from being expelled from her mouth in the form of angry words at the guards who had no other option but to stay firmly in place before her.

Letting out a quiet growl she quickly turned away and began to head away from the gate, taking the turns and stairways that would lead her back to the house. She was furious and she wanted to do nothing more than to march up to the royal wing and burst through Fili's door. But she knew better. He would be expecting it. It was the same way he knew that she would not stop unless strictly prohibited. He knew she would be upset and he knew she would come find him.

No , she would not give him the satisfaction of knowing he was successful in his venture. He may have stopped her for now but like any place inhabited, there was always more than one way of entry and if there was more than one way of entry, then  there was also more than one way to exit.

Fili was expecting a visit from Torvi that night. He knew the moment he instructed the guards to not allow her departure she would be at his door. He sat in his bed chambers beside a well lit fire as he read a book and waited for his door to be kicked in to reveal a raging Torvi.

What he was not expecting was a completely quiet and undisturbed night. He had purposely sat up by the fire awaiting her arrival. The clock above the mantel showed the usual time they would depart, he calculated that it would only take her fifteen minutes to reach his quarters give or take a few depending on just how angry she was. But fifteen minutes passed and no Torvi. By the time half an hour passed he became worried. His mind whirled with reasons as to why she did not show up.

What if the guards had not understood his orders? No, he had made his instructions very clear. 


Did she manage to sneak past without being seen? No, that would be impossible. 


What if she threatened them or used her charming self to persuade them to let her by? He sat up straight. No. He shook his head at the thought knowing good and well Torvi would never do that. Yet...she could be persuasive in many different ways.

Immediately he sprang from the chair and tossed his book aside. He had to be sure, she could already be outside the walls and hurt. He looked at the clock. Fifteen till, she could already be to the forest by now. He had to go, Torvi needed him.

"I thought my instructions were clear!" he said in a deep voice as he approached the guards. 


Both guards quickly snapped to attention from their casual stances and ceased their conversation as the golden prince approached them.

"I specifically said that Lady Torvi was not to be let out without myself as an escort," his eyes moved between the two guards as he came to a full stop.

"You highness," began the smaller guard nervously. "We did as you asked. Lady Torvi came over an hour ago and left immediately when we told her she couldn't leave without an escort."

Fili's anger quickly dissipated as the surprise overcame him. "You mean she has not left the mountain?" he asked as if not understanding the soldiers clear answer.

They both nodded.

"She didn't look happy," offered the second soldier. "It took us by surprise as well when she didn't put up much of a fight as you warned."

Fili had stopped listening already as his mind searched for an explanation. Why didn't she confront him them? Why had she not come raging into his room spewing fire of rage that would put Smaug's desolation to shame?

The clearing of the soldier throat brought him out of his thoughts. "Is everything alright your highness? Where we supposed to do anything else?

" you. You did well一you一I just thought..." He rambled off in answer before walking away mumbling to them and eventually to only himself.

As he made his departure from the entry corridor her scratched his head in confusion, unsure as to where to go or what to do. Did Torvi really give up that easily? Should he go find her know? Why was he disappointed in her absence and lack of display of fury? Was she truly not angry?

He let out a slight laugh at his thoughts.

Of course she was angry. But still, why was she not reacting the way he expected? Was she really right earlier when in the library? Did he really not know her?

He thought about all the years he had spent growing up with her and every moment since she stepped foot in Erebor. Most of his memories from their childhood where of them fighting and bickering. They weren't friends at all. Sure now that he acknowledged his attraction to her he understood why he did the things he did. He had ignored her tagging along with him and Rorvi only allowing her to come because of Kili. But even when her tagging along ceased, he had found himself annoying her, pranking her, and in some cases humiliating her in front of others. He understood this was because she had started to ignore him and the only way to get her attention was to do these things. Then when other boys gave her attention that she returned he could not help but get jealous. He was blindly in love with her then, now that he thought about it. But he did not truly know her back then as he had only sought out her attention not understanding.

His mind wandered onto the past months since her family arrived. He had gained so much knowledge of her but was it enough? How much could you really know about a person in less than a year? 


He let out a depressed sigh. 


Just a few months ago they seemed blissfully linked and in synchronization. Now it was as if they were back to the beginning. What was wrong with him? Why were his actions so possessive? Too many times he had found himself in a trance like state when he thought about her. But these moments where not...normal. Of course she was always on his mind to an extent but these...episodes where different. They were dark, obsessive, and most of the time they brought an edge to his thoughts that brought out the rage that rivaled what he had seen Thorin wield. It was as if something was lurking inside of him, trying to possess him. His stomach turned at the thought as if a scaly serpent was slithering within his bowels. 


His body shivered at the thought.

He ran a hand through his hair and slowly came back from his thoughts as he realized her was still standing where he had stopped earlier. He needed to get some rest, he was tired, that was the cause of these feelings. Swiftly he moved his feet, he needed some rest, he needed a clear mind. 


As much as he wanted to speak to Torvi immediately, he had to be content with the thought that she was safely inside the mountain. He hoped she had the sense to return home but either way, she would be safe from the dangers lurking outside the mountain. 

Chapter Text


There was a distant banging that echoed through the house and down the hall to Torvi's room. Someone was at the front door. She peeked out from under her covers to see that the sun was just barely beginning its ascent into the sky. She let out a frustrated groan and buried her head back under her pillow.

"Who in all of middle earth pays a visit this early in the morning!?" Her grumble was muffled by the pillow.

She did her best to ignore the pounding, refusing to be the one to answer the door. Not long after she heard the door of Rorvi's room open followed by his own grumbling and threats of murdering whomever was at the door.

When she heard the front door being opened she had hoped it would be the end to her disturbed morning. But that hope was snuffed out like a candle in the wind the moment she heard her brother explode in annoyance at the person visiting. His outburst to the intruder of the house was followed by her name being called.


She let out a groan but quickly checked herself. Maybe they would go away if they thought she was asleep. Rorvi shouted her name again. Again she stayed hidden beneath her covers as she silently prayed for Mahal to let her rest. She heard the front door being shut and sighed in content that her prayer was answered.

Not a moment later her peace of mind was shattered as her door rattled under the forced pounding coming from the other side. She sprang up from beneath her covers looking wide eyed at the door as it threatened to break in half. Her wide eyes quickly squinted as she was blinded by the sudden light as a voice not belonging to her brother called out to her.


It was Kili. His annoying chipper and happy voice sang out her name as he knocked loudly on her door.

"Tooorviiiiiii," he sang out again. "Are you awake?"

Torvi let out a groan.

"No," she answered as she let herself fall back as pulled the covers over her face.

"I heard that!" he shouted with another chorus of banging.

The squeak of the door handle being turned sounded and Torvi was grateful she had locked it before going to bed the night before.

"Come on Torvi let me in!" he complained.

There was a sound of Rorvi's door being opened echoed from further down the hall as he let out an irritated groan.

"Torvi!" He shouted. "Open the door so this bastard will shut up and the rest of us can continue sleeping in peace. It's my day off and I need my beauty rest."

His words were finalized as his door slammed shut. Torvi let out another groan as Kili began banging on her door again. It was not until her brother's voice erupted through the walls again, that she moved from her bed. Rorvi was still shouting while Kili continued to bang on the other side of her door when she reached the room. The moment the door swung open she ducked just in time to avoid receiving a fist to the face as Kili went to knock again. Instead of her face, he hit her shoulder causing her to let out a cry of pain.

"Torvi!" shouted Rorvi from his room. "Would you please keep it..."

"Shut up Rorvi! You could get three years of beauty rest and you would still wake up looking like an ogre!" she shouted back while rubbing her sore shoulder and batting Kili's hands away as he frantically apologized for hitting her.

She expected a response but the light snores coming from her brothers room indicated he had already fallen asleep. She rolled her eyes. It amazed her how easily he could fall asleep. Noting her business with Rorvi was over, she turned to Kili who was grinning at her. Her eyes narrowed but it only seemed to bring more gratification to his face.

"I missed your happy family," he said. "It makes me look forward to the day when our families become connected."

She rolled her eyes before moving across the room to crawl back into bed, leaving Kili alone at the door way. "What are you doing here? It's early," she complained as Kili closed the door and joined her on the bed.

"I wanted to see if you wanted to go to Dale with me today? We could go first thing this morning and get some breakfast at that bakery off the main road and then maybe go to that book store that you are always looking through but never buying from一"

Torvi let out a groan and threw a pillow into his face cutting him off.

"Kili just tell me the real reason why you are here." He hugged the pillow and looked at her innocently as she accused him. "Don't give me that look, I am may still be groggy but I am not stupid."

Kili let out a sigh. "Fine. Tauriel is there and it's the only chance I will get to see her for the next few months. She is being sent North on a patrol before the full winter sets in and I needed someone to cover for me while I was gone. So please don't be mad but I really just need you to go and say we were together the entire time. I even invited Bilbo to come so you won't be alone. I know he is not ideal...but I couldn't risk Fili coming know why, and I couldn't invite Rorvi because he might blab too..."

His words fell from his mouth in a jumble as he rambled on. Torvi rolled her eyes at his constant flow of words which seemed they would not cease anytime soon.

"Kiliii," she whined. "Of course I will go and of course Bilbo is fine and of course I am not mad."

Kili stopped his rant and looked at her, his mouth opened in surprise. "Oh," he let out casually. "Well that's a relief. I wasn't sure how to slip away without you noticing but this way I don't need to."

Torvi let out a sigh and brought a hand to her face as she shook her head. "You're an idiot," she muttered.

Kili smiled. "And you are an angel for doing this."

Without warning he tackled her in a bear hug. She let out a complaint and pushed him off the bed with a loud thud.

"Let me get dressed and I will meet you at the gates." He grinned at her. "Well hurry up before I change my mind!" she snapped when he did not immediately move from his spot on the floor.

He quickly jumped up from his spot and scurried from the room like a vermin escaping the claws of a predator. As the door slammed, she shook her head and rolled her eyes before throwing the covers off of her and began getting dressed.

When Fili woke up with the sun pouring through his window that day he felt better. He felt himself. As he stretched and began to bathe for the day he thought of his agenda. He had already gone over it in his head the night before.

He had been acting irrational yesterday and was not himself. He blamed these sudden irrational actions and temper on the fatigue of travel. The journey had not seemed difficult but perhaps he had misjudged his exertion, it was the only explanation for his actions.

Once dressed, he began to make his way to the living quarters below. His first item of business before breakfast was to speak with Torvi. He was tired of their constant spats and wanted this to go back to before he had left to retrieve Bilbo. When he reached her front door, he knocked on the door. When there was no immediate answer he knocked again. Following his third knock the sound of stomping feet and a string of khuzdul curses accompanied the stomping of bare feet. The door swung open to reveal a half asleep and half irritated Rorvi dressed in nothing but a pair of trousers.

"Kili for Mahal's sake you better have a—" he stopped his speech when his blurry eyes recognized that it was not Kili he was addressing but the dark prince's brother. His face quickly softened but only to a certain degree. "Oh Fili! Sorry I thought you were Kili again."

Fili's eyebrows knitted together with a slight confusion. There was something he was missing but he chose to ignore it at the moment. "I was hoping to speak to Torvi, is she home?"

Rorvi let out an exasperated sigh. "Of course you are. She seems to be everyone's item of business today." He shook his head. "Sorry but she is not her. I believe she went into Dale for the morning."

Fili felt his stomach churn as if something inside of him twitched. "With whom?" he said darkly.

Rorvi noticed his quick change in attitude. "Is everything okay?"

"Who did she go with?" Fili asked again, ignoring Rorvi's question of concern.

"With Kili," he said slowly. "And if I remember right they were taking Bilbo with them." He paused, watching his friend closely. "Fili is something—"

"I have to go," Fili quickly cut him off.

As he spoke he quickly turned and began walking away with long purposeful strides. Rorvi was left still standing alone in the doorway with a look of confusion as he watched him depart.

Torvi watched as Kili slipped away from her and Bilbo as they walked through the market. She watched as he happily approached the tall auburn haired woman, smiling at Tauriel with a joy that Torvi knew she herself could never bring to her best friends face. He truly did love her. It didn't make sense, but then again, love did not make sense. As the happy couple snuck off into the shadows to do what only Mahal knew what, she looked back to the small hobbit next to her as she tried not to imagine Kili doing anything with anyone.

"Where did Kili go?" Bilbo asked as paused from looking at a display of maps at a stall. His head moved around to look at the crowd gathered in the town square.

Torvi shrugged as she looked around as well, pretending she too had just noticed his absence.

"Who knows. It's Kili, I wouldn't worry about him too much he can take care of himself." She realized what she had just said. "Then again," she began with an afterthought. "It is Kili so maybe we should worry about him without supervision."

Bilbo chuckled at her words. He knew all too well that she was correct. He watched the young dwarf as she picked up a book from the stall they were standing at. She flipped through the book, giving it a scrutinizing look as she skimmed its contents. Slowly, a small frown fell on her lips as she seemed dissatisfied with its contents and set it back down with a sigh. She set her eyes on him instead, a cheerful and friendly smile brightening her face as she looked at him.

"Well I guess it is just you and I today." She placed her hands on her hips and gave him an eager look. "Tell me Master Baggins, what would you like to see. Today I will be your personal tour guide of Dale."

As exciting and new it was to hear and listen to Bilbo's version of the fabled tale of Erebor's reclaiming and smaug's defeat, Torvi was distracted. Her attention was zoning in and out of his words as she kept finding her mind wandering to how she would find a way out of the mountain. Leaving through the front gates was no longer an option and Fili had made it clear yesterday that he would not be allowing her out during the night unless possibly in his company. But at the moment, she was avoiding that option. She was still irritated with him. Which left her with the only option of finding another route.

They were walking along the lake now. They paused to stop and look up to the mountain that was reflected on the crystal water that formed the lake. Torvi could not help but admire the majesty of the mountain. Erebor truly was a Kingdom to behold.

"I remember the moment I first stepped foot into Erebor," commented Bilbo who had seemed to be thinking along the same lines as her. "It was a strange sensation entering into such a massive hollowing, being the first to set foot in decades," he paused as he thought of the memory. "And to think we had almost given up on that door..."

Torvi snapped her attention fully back to Bilbo's words. That was it. There was a door. How could she have forgotten. Her mind raced and before she could make a decision she had intercepted his narration.

"Bilbo, do you remember how to get to the door?" she asked eagerly.

He stalled in his sentence at her interruption. "Then I...huh...oh...yea—yes."

"Could you show it to me?" she asked trying not to seem too eager. "I mean, if it's not too much trouble. I am just trying to learn as much of the mountain as possible." Bilbo looked at her curiously. She did her best to look casual. "I have found a strange enjoyment in wandering the halls and finding its forgotten corners. I just thought..." she trailed off.

"Of course. I would be happy to show it to you. It's just..." he twitched his nose. "Well, it won't be anything exciting. Just a plain wall." Torvi looked at him in confusion. "Well the door only becomes visible on Durin's day at the end of the day. Then there is the key that is required...but Durin's day is not far off..." he trailed off as a look of disappointment came to her face. "Is something wrong?"

"You mean the door only opens once a year?" she asked for clarification.

Bilbo nodded. Her shoulders sank. There went that option. Her face fell into a grimace as she thought deeply for another option.

"Torvi are you alright?"

Her green orbs snapped up to his concerned face. His pale blue eyes moved across her face as her gently touched her elbow in concern.

She gave him a soft smile. "Sorry I just thought一I guess I never realized..."she let out a soft, nervous chuckle. "I just feel silly. I have heard the story a hundred times but just never realized how lucky the company was to accomplish what you did," she clarified.

He shrugged. "It truly was an adventure to remember." He looked up at the sky. "Its past high noon, we should probably head back and find Kili."

Torvi nodded in agreement and together they made their way up to Dale as they began to speak of the celebrations to come on the fast approaching Durin's day.

He spotted her in a large crowd mostly made up of mostly humans. Only the occasional dwarf or elf were mixed in with the crowd and next to her was the only hobbit within the region. In his journey to Dale, Fili had been able to calm down from the anger he had first felt when he found out Torvi had left the mountain. At least to a certain degree. But the moment he saw the hobbit and Torvi happily laughing with him, the scaled serpent that had gone dormant earlier erupted into his chest, splitting into two individual bodies. The first being the original flaming red serpent of rage, the second a new manifestation, a green serpent of envy.

Torvi's smile towards the hobbit was beautiful and genuine. Something he had not seen honestly since before he left to retrieve Bilbo. It used to be that all he had to do in order to see that smile was look at her. It was the smile that reached her eyes and did the impossible to brighten them even more. It was the smile that made him feel that as long as he could always see it, he could do whatever was expected of him. It was the smile that he looked forward to waking up to every morning for the rest of his life when they were married. The smile that made him feel as though the weight of his inheritance was lighter than air. He was seeing that smile right now but it was brought on by someone else. Someone that she had only met a few days ago.

He had never felt a single ill feeling towards Bilbo before but as he watched her smiling at him, he could not help but curse the entire lineage of Baggins, past, present, and future. His feet made a dull thud on the stone street as he marched towards the two persons in his line of direction. His head throbbed as he took each step but her ignored the pain.

Bilbo said something making Torvi laugh again and causing Fili's fists to ball up in frustration. Kili popped up beside her and she wrapped her arms around him in a hug. He watched as they exchanged hushed whispers that seemed to bring a shared happiness between them and Torvi gave him another hug at his words. She let him go and turned from his brother and faced forward, toward himself.

The moment her eyes connected with his her beautiful smile fell from her face and was replaced with a look of utter distaste. This reaction only made his insides twist and turn even more vehemence. He let out a slow, deep growl as he stomped towards them.

He noticed both Kili and Bilbo notice the change in Torvi's manor and turned to see what could cause such a change in her mood. The moment Kili saw his brother making his way towards them he stepped protectively in front of Torvi and dawned on a ghoulish grin in an attempt to either diffuse his brother's anger or act as a sacrifice to absorb some of the explosion that was about to erupt from his brother.

"Fili," he said, spreading his arms out wide. "How nice of you to join us. I would have invited you but it was a spur of the moment decision." His words were apologetic but his tone was too light to seem fully penitent for his lack of invitation.

Fili frowned at his words and pushed his brother aside. He did not have the patience for his lack of seriousness at the moment. Fili understood it was an attempt to calm him down but it only irked him more. He only spared a brief glance at his brother before setting his eyes on Torvi.

"What are you doing here?" It was in the form of a question but his tone made it into a demand.

All signs of her relaxed happiness that had existed before his arrival retracted from her face as a frown formed on her face and she narrowed her eyes. "Isn't it obvious?" she hissed between clenched teeth.

His jaw muscles clenched in agitation before relaxing just enough for him to open his mouth to let his words out. "I thought I was clear about you leaving Erebor?"

"Perfectly," she replied in a calm tone that caused Fili's jaw to tighten again. "You said I had to have an escort." She raised her hands, palms facing up as she indicated to both Bilbo and Kili standing beside her. "I have two. You should be ecstatic."

Fili did not miss the sarcasm that laced her voice as she flashed him a smug grin. He let out a scoff."I would hardly believe a hobbit to be considered as a full escort. They are called halflings for a reason."

She was taken aback by his words. Torvi spared a slight glance to the hobbit. His face had turned bright red at Fili's insult and he was staring abashedly at the ground as his feet shuffled nervously at a loose stone in the road. She moved her attention back to Fili staring at him as if he were a stranger. Never in her entire time since first learning the name Bilbo Baggins, had she ever heard someone speak negatively of him. He was a hero to dwarves and a friend to Durin's. By the slight intake of shocked breath to her left it was apparent that Kili was just as shocked as she was.

"Fili!" Kili's voice no longer had its usual cheer. The effect caused him to sound more like his uncle as his tone was filled with disapproval. "You of all people should know that Bilbo would never let any harm come Torvi. And had the unlikelihood of him becoming incapable of defending her, I was here as well. Or do you doubt my skills to protect Torvi as well?"

Fili's attention snapped to his brother at his words, his face showed no signs of remorse. His lips parted as the muscles in his face contorted in pure contempt. It was an expression Kili had never seen adorn his brothers face and it was one that did not do the golden princes features any improvement.

"I do not doubt your skills brother," Fili hissed the words through his teeth. "But your skills are useless in your absent from her side. So what, might I ask, was so important that you disregarded the safety of Torvi?"

Kili's face paled. He opened his mouth to speak but quickly closed it as he struggled to procure any words for his reasoning. As Kili struggled to produce a reason for his absence, Torvi's eyes narrowed at Fili. She pushed forward and placed herself between the two brothers.

"That's none of your business Fili. Kili did nothing wrong."

Fili raised his eyebrows at her exclamation but quickly raised a warning finger to her face forcing her to take a step back. "Do not," he began slowly in a deep tone, "defend him." He shot a narrowed glance past her shoulder to his brother before focusing back to her. He lowered his hand from her face and wrapped his fingers around her wrist. "Come on, we are going back to the mountain."

He took a step back, his hand pulling her arm forward with him as he turned to guide her through the street. After only a step he felt her arm go taut as she set her feet firmly in place. Annoyance shot through his system as he looked back to see Torvi with a firmly set jaw of defiance.

"No." Her voice was firm as she spoke and in an act to further confirm her stance she twisted her arm free of his grasp and took a step back. "I will go back when I decide I am done for the day." She took another step back. "And I am not done yet."

Kili watched their interaction closely. He was unsurprised by Torvi's defiance. She never did like being told what to do. Ever since they were little she was rebellious to anyone who tried to govern her. There were some occasions in which she was so resistant, that when a person was telling her to do something she wanted to do initially, she would do the opposite. It was counterproductive but it was what Torvi did. She liked to make her own decisions. It was only when she asked for advice or guidance did she follow another's suggestion.

From his standpoint behind her, Kili could not see the expression on her face. But it was not her that he was watching closely, it was Fili. The moment Fili had turned around to look back at Torvi, Kili's stomach gave a sickening lurch. He saw the way Fili's eyes transitioned from his usual bright azure to a darkened and feral look before quickly regaining their usual lighter tone. He sensed Bilbo shift slightly in unease as well and knew that he too had caught that foreign, yet familiar rage crazed gaze. It had only been a flash, but Kili recognized that look. It was years ago, but he had seen that look before. Except the last time it had been adorning another person's face.

"Torvi," Kili said her name slowly and cautiously, not taking his eyes from his brother as he watched him like a hawk. From the corner of his eye he sensed Torvi turn around to face him, her face inquisitive at his odd tone. "I think you should go back," he stated firmly.

He sensed her beginning to construct a defiant reply and moved his attention from Fili to her. "Perhaps we should all go," he quickly added as he shot a glance towards Bilbo who was nodding his own agreeance.

Torvi's eyes flashed between the two as she folded her arms in thought. Her right leg began to bounce as she tried to contain her agitation without making a scene. Kili could tell she was not wanting to give in and let Fili win. He did his best to desperately convey his plea through his eyes as he focused on her own, doing his best to silently converse with her. They were all still for several minutes with the exception of Torivi's bouncing leg. Kili had not even noticed he was holding his breath until a small frown finally adorned Torvi's lips. She let out a defeated sign.

"Fine," she said curtly.

A slight, satisfied, and triumphant smile came to Fili's lips as he stepped forward to take Torvi's arm again. At his movement Torvi turned her attention to him, her eyes narrowed as she caught his smug smile. As he extended his arm out for her to take, she retracted her arm further back. The smile quickly fled from his face at her movement and turned into a dissatisfied frown.

"I said I would go back, but I didn't say it would be with you," she snapped sharply.

She turned to Bilbo and linked her arm through his instead, making it a point to keep her eyes locked with his. The moment she caught his eye, it twitched in annoyance. Satisfied with the results of her action she smirked and looked away toward the street. With her arm secured tightly with Bilbo's, she began to drag the unfortunate hobbit along with her before he could make any protests. As she passed by, she kept her eyes forward to the street before her, refusing to spare Fili another glance.

Bilbo looked back to the two princes still standing in their wake as he was dragged along as an escort to Torvi. As Kili saw his conflicted face he could not decide if he should pity the poor hobbit for being abducted by an irate Torvi or envy him as he was left standing alone with a fuming Fili.

Fili stood with his hands clenched into fists and his teeth gritted together in a furious sneer as he watched Torvi's back. His rigidness dissipated moderately as a gentle hand fell on his shoulder causing him to startle. He looked to his left to meet his brothers eyes staring worriedly at him.

Kili opened his mouth, hesitant to speak as he was unsure if words would make the situation better or worse. "Come on, we can follow behind and still keep watch."

Fili's eyes looked back to where Bilbo and Torvi were now beginning to disappear in the growing foot traffic of the market. He nodded slowly and began to walk forward, his eyes never leaving the dwarrow maid and hobbit ahead of them.

The exit from the city of Dale was quick and silent. Fili had yet to utter a word or even acknowledge that Kili was walking along beside him. Instead he stared forward, keeping his eyes glued to the pair that they were stalking behind. Kili resorted to keeping up with Fili's pace as he kept them within twenty paces behind Torvi and Bilbo.

Occasionally he would have to steer Fili to the side by a soft push or pull to him to keep his brother from colliding with other pedestrians, as Fili was too preoccupied with keeping his attention on Torvi to be aware of his surroundings. Kili was not even sure if Fili even registered that he was being moved and if he did, he showed no acknowledgment of being moved.

As they passed out of Dale and began making their way up the path leading to Erebor's gates, Kili felt relieved as the crowd of traffic thinned, then dissipated leaving no one between them and the other two. Only the open rolling foothills surrounded them as the autumn sun warmed their skin from the cool open air. The open area seemed to put some ease to Fili's mind as his rigid march began relaxing to slow pace, putting more distance between them.

Torvi and Bilbo walked slowly up ahead. Kili could tell they were now conversing pleasantly as Torvi was now allowing Bilbo to naturally walk alongside her instead of being dragged along. Every so often he noticed Bilbo glance back to them while Torvi kept her attention directed only the the views ahead.

Taking advantage of the time alone and the slight change in Fili's mood Kili looked at his brother from the corner of his eye. He was no longer frowning nor was he smiling, instead he had a stoic expression as he continued to gaze ahead. By the relaxation in the corners of his eyes, Kili could tell that while Fili was still looking towards Bilbo and Torvi, he was no longer focused. Instead his eyes had a blank stare to them that told Kili his was lost in thought.

"Brother," he said gently.

Fili did not respond immediately to Kili's call to pull him from his thoughts, but the dark haired prince waited patiently. Finally a low hum of acknowledgment sounded in Fili's throat telling Kili he had his attention.

"Do you want to talk about what happened?"

Fili drew his eyes away from the walk ahead of them and focused on Kili. Kili watched as a sea of emotions moved across his face like a changing tide. With each wave, came a new emotion. He watched as his brother fought internally for words to voice an answer. To his disappointment his brother quickly looked forward again as the waves disappeared to calmness, not even leaving a ripple of emotion.

"No." Fili's voice was just as dry of emotion as his face.

Kili let out a sigh of disappointment. His brothers relationship was failing. Yet, it seemed as if Fili did not realize the danger he was in. Torvi was tolerating this behavior for now, at least to an extent, but he feared if Fili continued this behavior she would be pushed to the edge.

"You are treading in dangerous waters brother." At Kili's warning tone, Fili looked at him, his eyes full of an unvoiced inquiry. "You're pushing her too far, consuming her independence," Kili continued.

Fili remained silent as he looked forward again to stare vacantly ahead. Kili searched his older brothers profile, trying to understand what was going through his head but Fili remained unreadable. Kili to shook his head in frustration of his lack of success to get through to his brother. In an act of desperation he stepped in front of him with his arms crossed. Fili stopped abruptly. His eyes widened slightly in surprise before narrowing in scrutiny of Kili's action but the dark haired prince stood his ground and glared back.

"I don't know what is going on in your mind but something is off. You are not acting like yourself," he said in a low tone. "If you won't talk to me, then fine. But I am warning you now. Torvi chose you for you, not your title like most other girls. The people love her. She is accepted by the council because she is also of noble blood. That is a rarity in the life of any royalty. To be married to the woman you love, who is approved by all, and loves you for you. But Torvi only took this role for you alone. You could have been a pauper and she would have chosen you. But you aren't being YOU anymore and if you don't get your act together soon, you're going to lose her."

By the end of his speech Kili was breathing heavily and took a few deep breaths as he watched his brother for any kind of a sign that he was registering anything he was saying. To his dismay, Fili stayed the same as he did from beginning to end of Kili's rant.

As the silence lingered on for several minutes Fili finally made a motion. Unfortunately it was not what Kili was hoping for. The golden prince took one step to the side and a step forward so he was shoulder to shoulder with the younger dwarf. He kept his body facing forward but turned his head to speak into his ear.

"Torvi, is not going anywhere," he hissed darkly, causing a shiver to run through Kili's bones.

Without another word Fili walked on to the gates where Bilbo and Torvi where now entering through, this time at a quicker and more rigid pace than before. All the while, Kili was left in the dust feeling even worse than before. Something was terribly wrong with Fili. Something that went deeper than just his disgruntlement with Torvi's defiance. It scared him more than the idea of going into an unfavorable battle. At least with battle he knew what the enemy was, but here there was no enemy and yet, his gut told him the danger seemed just as high.

The moment Torvi bid Bilbo farewell at the mountain entrance she took off in search of solitude. She found it at an empty balcony that looked out over the market. It was not a familiar place that she would normally dwell which was the very reason why she chose it as her point of brooding. Fili knew her habits and she knew he would attempt to seek her out the moment he returned to the mountain.

As she traced a crack in the banister she was leaning on, a sickening feeling came to her mind as she registered her actions. Since when did she start avoiding Fili? This thought disturbed her. She loved Fili. She was in a courtship with Fili. She was on the path to marry Fili. Yet here she was, seeking to be away from him.

Her biggest fear of marriage was being caught up in a loveless marriage where she despised the man she was tied down to. It was the biggest reason she had originally wanted to never marry. She had seen it too often, especially among noble families. Two people only married for power, money, or as an arrangement. They put on a show in public, tolerating each other's company for the duration of the event before going their separate ways the moment they were out of the public view. She had a great aunt that was in the very same situation.

She had been old, grey, and bitter when she died. It was then that Torvi first gained her fear and swore she would never marry for any other reason but love. No matter who the man was. As she got older, she became more and more against marriage all together but then she fell in love with Fili. Now she didn't know what to think.

She loved Fili. The thought of not being married to him caused her chest to ache in pain at the idea. But whenever she thought of Fili she thought of the Fili she had first been reacquainted with at her arrival to Erebor. The Fili that was burdened by his duties as heir, the Fili that laughed with his brother, the Fili that always smiled when he looked at her, the Fili that was impressed by her efforts to be independent and self reliant, and most of all, the Fili that trusted her without question.

But that was nearly a year ago. Fili had changed, she had changed, they had changed. There was a time when she could hardly be apart from him. And now she was avoiding him. She couldn't remember the last time they kissed or even touched in an affectionate way. Had it been two or three days? All that came to mind was Fili pulling or tugging her along as he glared at her in anger. She herself acted the same, pushing him away at any of his attempts to touch her as she glared back.

She let out a long sigh and covered her face with her hands. She dug her palms into her eyes to stop the burning feeling of tears. She did not want to cry. She did not want to feel this way. But the more she fought it, the more the feeling grew. An image of her great aunt flashed across her mind. A permanent frown adorned her face as her auburn hair had been washed out into a dull grey. Her green eyes no longer the color of new life. They were faded. As if they had lost their luster long ago. Then, to her horror, she made a realization. Her aunt did not have green eyes. They had always been brown.

A wave of nausea came to Torvi as she realized this image was not her aunt, it was her. Those were her faded green eyes, her frown, her wrinkles, her grey hair, HER unhappiness. She snapped her eyes wide open as she shot up straight. The urge to expel the contents of her stomach was so strong it took everything in her to keep it down.

She forced herself to take in large gulps of air as she focused solely on not being sick. The sensation slowly dissipated leaving her feeling drained of all energy. Sweat beaded her forehead and she leaned forward to rest her head against the marbled banister. The cool stone revived her fractionally but she still felt weak. With no energy to expel unwanted thoughts she continued to ponder over the events of the past week. They were both equally at fault for many of their arguments but as she analyzed the events earlier that day, she could not find any fault with herself this time. She had followed his rules and yet he had still been angry.

The more she thought about it, the more angry she became and she soon found the thoughts of her old self being erased as she began to imagine Fili in fitting punishments for his actions. Her face was adorned with a scowl as she imagined smashing her fist into the triumphant smirk that had been on his face when she agreed to go back.

Thorin was walking down the hall when he spotted Torvi leaning on the wall overlooking the grand hall and looking thoroughly displeased.

He had always been fond of her when she was a young dwarfling. When her family arrived to the mountain he could tell that she was not the same, she had changed drastically, the whole family had. Even now while she was betrothed to his nephew he still did not know much about her.

Their desire to become betrothed did not surprise him whatsoever. Many times he had seen both Torvi and Fili walking together, smiling and exchanging pleasantries. He had seen the gradual change in his nephew since her family had come back. It was obvious that these two were undoubtedly in love with each other, meant for each other. No one could deny the fact that their fates had been woven together by Mahal himself. It was because of this and the few things in which his sister had relayed to him that he approved their desire to be married.

Since they had become betrothed he had seen her a little more often to know that she had a good heart and she truly made his nephew happy. In return he saw that his nephew made her just as happy. Every time she spotted him she lit up and continued to glow for as long as she was in his presence. It was endearing. Thorin had never had the experience to meet his one so instead he relished in watching his nephew experience it.

But there was something wrong as of late and it bothered him. There interaction and moods where foreign yet familiar. Had this been sixty years ago he would not even think twice about what was going on, but now it bothered him. He had noticed a dark cloud seemed to be lurking over his nephew, growing darker with each day that passed. He had become withdrawn. Always brooding in his unknown thoughts.

Torvi had changed as well. She did not glow when she around his nephew. He thought that perhaps the up coming Durin's day festivities might change their demeanor but it did nothing. If anything, they seemed even more distant. As he thought about the disturbance in their actions, he thought it best that he investigated. In a way it was partly his business therefore it was his duty to pry into their business. If this problem between them went on it could change their future marriage and even the kingdom.

Taking advantage of not needing to be anywhere at the moment, he walked over and leaned against the overlook next to her. When he spoke she was startled. She had obviously been unaware of his presence.

"You look as if you are contemplating murder," he stated casually.

Torvi looked up at him and sighed as she looked back out over rows of stalls and vendors. "I am afraid murder would be too kind for him."

Thorin hummed in acknowledgment. "Ah. And whom might I ask, has caused such an offense?"

She turned her head to look at him with an 'isn't it obvious' nodded in understanding.

"My guess would be Fili."

She nodded.

"You know I was just beginning to think your days of rivalry where past you two when you announced your intentions of courtship. Most people tend to like the person they are in a relationship with. I thought that is what happened over these many months but it seems I might have been mistaken."

Torvi looked back out to the moving citizens below and leaned her chin on her hand. "So did I until he decided that he needed to join everyone else in my life and tell me what I can and cannot do," she mumbled bitterly.

"And what was it that he tried to tell you to do?"

Her face darkened. He watched as she chewed the left side of her bottom lip as if she were contemplating on if she would tell him or not. She let out a sigh that seemed to be mixed with a subtle growl before she spoke. "He forbid me from going out of the mountain without an escort. He thinks I can't take care of myself and that I need protecting."

"He cares for your well being, that hardly seems crime enough to be so upset," commented Thorin. "And as one who also has your wellbeing at interest, I too strongly urge that you should have an escort. Perhaps it was not quite as necessary earlier but as a future queen you become a target to many," Thorin argued seeing no fault in Fili's action yet.

Torvi frowned at his lack of empathy to her dilemma. She scowled down at the market below as she contemplated if it was worth her words to try and gain his support to her side of the argument. Before she had fully decided she found herself speaking more of Fili's crimes.

"He instructed the guards to not let me leave the gates without a male escort. Both day and night. But then when I did leave the mountain during the day with not one, but two escorts, he became angry with me."

"Who were your escorts?" he asked curiously.

"Kili," she replied slowly as she drew her attention away from the crowd below to Thorin as she realized this would not just be a casual conversation.

At the mention of his youngest nephew's name Thorin raised an eyebrow as if to question if he really should sympathize with her. She gnawed at her lip even more as she realized that 'Kili' was not a strong argument to gain Thorin to see her side.

"And Bilbo," she added in a slight defense to strengthen her argument.

The look in which he gave her told her otherwise. Bilbo had gained an importance in the King's heart, he would trust his life with him but at the same time, he was still a small hobbit. He had his moments in heroism and courage but he was still not confident that the hobbit would be prepared for anything at anytime.

"I know that you value your freedom to do as your wish, we all do," he added thinking of his own wants to occasionally disappear for a day just to have some peace and quiet.

If he were honest, he looked forward to the day Fili would become prepared enough to take his position. Something he hoped for before his own death forced it upon his nephew. He would like to enjoy his last days with sought after peace.

"Perhaps his actions of instructing the guards may have been a little drastic but had he not would you have taken an escort?"

His question needed no verbal answer as a look of guilt passed over her face. He nodded in understanding.

"It may seem Fili is being unfair," he continued."But he is only doing what is best for you and in a long stretch what is best for Erebor." His tone was not reprimanding but it did have a tone which told her that she was nowhere near convincing him to see fault in Fili's actions.

"I understand that but he says I am being selfish by going out. He called me reckless and selfish but he does not understand that by forbidding me from leaving the mountain it is not me he is punishing its…" She stopped herself abruptly and looked up at Thorin with wide eyes who was now listening very intently.

Thorin was now highly intrigued as to what Torvi had to say. Earlier her complaints seemed juvenile but now, there was something in her tone and actions that seemed he was missing important information. He could tell by the worried look that came across her face when she stopped herself. His eyes narrowed as he surveyed her face with a thorough examination. She squirmed under his scrutiny and immediately faced back to the market below, now only allowing him to observe her profile. He could see the flash of green at the corner of her eye as she checked for his reaction. This only encouraged his desire to know what she was trying to hide.

"What do you mean not punishing you? Who is it hurting?" he asked in a steady voice.

Torvi's body was rigid as she continued to face forward but after a while slouched back down to the railing and began to pick at a crack in the stone.

"No one," she said decidedly. She paused, as if contemplating in changing her mind but after a long moment passed she shook her head. "It's nothing," she finally said in a defeated tone.

Thorin watched her more closely. He thought about pushing her more but let it go. It was obvious that there was more to this story but it was even more obvious that he would not be getting anything more now. If this were something that could end in trouble, he wanted to be someone she knew to trust and confide in. She needed someone who would not force her.

He had to admit her words had brought a certain awareness and worry, but there was nothing more to be said or done here. After a few minutes he made an excuse for his need to take leave and left her to brood in her thoughts. Just as he began to walk away, he stopped as she called out his name.


He turned back around to look at her. He could not help but take note of her conflicted emotions fluttering across her face. Her eyes were beginning to turn red as if they were irritated and her face looked tired. Dark circles lay beneath her vivid eyes and her lips were turned down in a conflicted frown.

"Yes?" he replied slowly.

"Do you…" Her words came out choked and she cleared her throat. "Do you ever regret never marrying?"

Thorin was taken aback by her question. No one had ever asked him about his love life, but it did not mean he did not think of it often. Yes he had wanted to marry. However, he had never had the opportunity. As he contemplated his answer, he became wary as to why she was asking. He searched her face but she had done well to hide what she was thinking. He raised his hand to his chin and rubbed it thoughtfully. He needed to be honest, but cautious as well. If she was contemplating what he was thinking, then he needed to tread lightly. He took a step back to the banister and absentmindedly traced the design carved into the stone.

"No, I do not." He looked at her face cautiously, taking in her reaction. For a moment there was a glimpse of relief in her eyes which disturbed him. "However, I would have sorely regretted it if I had ever had the opportunity. But I never found my one."

He turned to her.

"I do not know what it is that you are contemplating Torvi, but let me tell you this," he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Whatever is troubling you will pass. You and Fili are both strong and whatever it is that has driven a wedge between you, you will overcome it. But you will only overcome it together. I am not an oracle, but I do know that should you go through with what I think you considering, your misery will be worse by ten fold to what you are feeling now."

As he spoke, she failed to make eye contact only keeping her eyes set on his mouth as he spoke. He lifted her chin until her eyes met his before continuing.

"So I ask you this, would you bring such misery to yourself? Would you bring it to Fili?"

She looked down at the floor, a look of shame overcoming her composure. As she looked back up he saw her eyes were filled with unshed tears. His heart went out to the girl and he pulled her into a tight embrace. He felt her arms wrapped around his waist and grasp at the material of his coat as she squeezed him tightly.

"Promise me Torvi, that you will fight for your happiness," he said as he pulled her away to look down at her face.

Her eyes were on the brink of having her tears overflow but she fought to keep them back. He waited for a moment for her answer but only her lips trembled in a response. He exhaled a sigh before giving her a grim smile and began to walk away again.

"Thorin," her voice was barely above a whisper.

He paused and turned his head to look at her. He could see her tears were now running freely down her cheeks as her hands shook.

"Thank you," she said quietly. "You need not worry for Fili's happiness nor mine." She wiped away the tears quickly and raised her head to meet his eyes. She set jaw in determination as she did her best to convey her conviction in her voice. "I promise," she said firmly.

A grateful smile came to his lips as his eyes shone with a deep appreciation that Torvi understood. He said nothing but gave her a nod before leaving.

Chapter Text

Fili's head was pounding. It was the reason he had been in such a foul mood. At least, that is what he told himself to help rationalize his actions earlier. But in all honesty he did not know why he was so angry. Strictly speaking Torvi had done nothing wrong. He had instructed that she was not allowed outside the gates without an escort. That had been the rule, to have one escort with her. He had never stated the specifics of who counted as an escort. Today, not only did she abide by his rule and had an escort but she had two with her. Therefore he should not have been angry. Yet here he was. At this very moment he was just barely managing to keep from expressing the rage within as he walked up the slope to the entrance.

The moment he watched Torvi pass through the gates and separate from Bilbo he had felt a wave of relief wash through him. It left his body feeling drained but his mind felt rejuvenated with clarity. He could think rationally as the rage seemed to ebb away. Now free of the anger and resentment he had been feeling earlier, his mind began to realize just how irrational he had been. Something that seemed to be becoming a habit as of late.

After entering Erebor, he walked down the narrow and less trafficked hallways trying to find solitude. He did not have a destination in mind but his feet seemed to know where to be taking him so he let his instincts take over his body's movements and let his brain focus solely on his thoughts. As the last remnants of his earlier headache finally disappeared completely, he brought his hand to his stiff neck and rubbed. The muscles were sore from having been so tense earlier. As a sigh sounded in his throat, he let his eyes close momentarily as he let the relief of tension pass over him.

When he reopened his eyes he found himself alone in front of a lone door. He immediately recognized it as the door leading to the room with the passage to the cave. A grim smile came to his lips as he let his hand fall from his neck and reach out to the handle. Slowly, he made his way into the room. It was just as usual, dusty, cluttered, and held a musty aroma. He quickened his pace to cross the room and moved the large trunk that was in front of the opening in the wall. As he moved the heavy trunk away he noticed the disturbance of dust it left in its wake as it slid across the floor.

How long had it been since the trunk had been moved?

He could not remember the last time he had been to the cave. He usually only came with Torvi or to meet with Torvi. While she had offered it for him to use it whenever he pleased, he realized this was the first time he had ever been to the cave by himself without the knowledge that Torvi would be already there or joining my him shortly. He crouched down and made his way through the dark tunnel.

Slowly and steadily a faint blue glow began to light the end of the tunnel and he soon found himself standing in the large cavern, the warmth of the air brought some feeling back to his cold limbs and face. He had forgotten how comforting this place was.

He let his eyes wander around, taking in the familiar stone formations that jutted from the ceiling and floor. As he crossed over to the usual spot he and Torvi would occupy, a strange feeling overcame the usual relaxed and comforting aura the cavern usual contained.

It did not feel right, none of this felt right. Torvi had entrusted him when she showed him to the cave. She had given him this as a refuge from his worries and stresses of life. It was a gift she had bestowed upon him long before they had even reached a part of their relationship where they even owed such an action. Here he stood in a sanctuary from all the worries of his world as heir. Peace should have been in his mind but instead he felt guilt.

Torvi cherished this cavern but it was not her sanctuary, perhaps a shrine to her freedom but it was not as extensive to her, as it was for himself. Her sanctuary was not in this cave, it was not in this mountain. It was the wilderness where she could run freely without the burden of someone reprimanding or judging her actions. It was where she could be the person she was before she came to Erebor. The person she was her whole life and he had ripped it away from her. He had taken away her sanctuary because he did not trust her.

"But her sanctuary is not safe, she is not safe outside of the walls or Erebor".

A shiver ran down his spine, it was as if someone else had spoken within his mind. It was unnatural sounding, sinister and serpent like.

Fili ran a hand over his face only to feel a sheen of cold sweat across his brow. He rubbed his hand against his pants to try and dry them but they too were cold and clammy. His attempt to dry them was futile and he quickly gave up. The dull throb in his head came back so suddenly and forcefully he collapsed to the ground. He let out a groan of pain as he cradled his head.

Immediately his senses became disarrayed as they were enhanced and dulled all to varying degrees. His body became numb while his ears seemed to become heightened to even the smallest of sounds. A single drop of water sounded like rapid waves crashing against hardened rocks.

He could hear his own breath coming out raggedly and tried to focus on calming down but the pain was too much. He could not focus. He could not control anything as his body began to shake. The floor beneath him began to blur as his eyes watered and red spots began to manifest themselves before him.

Adrenaline flooded his body as his heart beat with ferocity and his mind fought for control as another presence forced its way. He saw flashes of Torvi smiling and laughing. At the sight, his body immediately began to relax at the vision. Unfortunately his moment of relief only lasted enough for one ragged breath before his vision expanded. It was as if he were standing at her side instead directly in front of her and she was smiling at someone else. The figure was clouded but he could see by the shape and masculine build it was another man.

Rage erupted in his core and his hands released his head, slamming into the stone ground. He gritted his teeth as he breathed heavily, small flecks of spit sprayed out of his mouth each time he expelled a violent breath but he ignored it. His vision was no longer blurred but he still could not acknowledge the sight outside his body as his thoughts blocked all knowledge of his outside environment. He was trapped a world within his mind. A world where he felt his consciousness being suffocated by a darkness that was slowly consuming him. It seemed foreign and separate and his instinct told him to keep it at bay, to fight it off.

"Don't fight me," coaxed a voice.

It had been voice from before.

"What are you?" The thought escaped into his mind as if he were speaking to another person.

"I am the same as you, yet different," replied the voice within head. "Your desire is mine. There is only one thing that separates us."

"What is that?" he wondered.

"I can do what you cannot," it slithered.

Another searing throb of pain surged through his head as the darkness tried to take another portion of his mind. Instinctively he threw up a mental barrier. He needed to fight it, he needed to keep clarity, he had to resist no matter how persuasive the voice sounded.

"I can keep her safe. I can keep her protected. I can control her," The voice tried again as it pushed further to overcome his mind.

He was not sure how he had the knowledge, but all Fili knew to be certain, was that he needed to keep fighting. He needed a grounding in reality.

"No," He thought in response.

It was as if he were having a conversation within his head.

"No?" The presence replied with a question. "Do you mean you want her to die?"

"No. I mean I will not let you in. I do not know what you are, but I will not give in."

A darkness passed through his mind as a menacing feeling emerged from the presence overtaking his mind. Instead of receiving a response, visions flashed before Fili's eyes, causing his fortitude to weaken just ever so slightly.

He was walking through a forest. There was an eerie silence that seemed to be suffocatingly dense. There were no sounds of wildlife. No rustling of bird wings as they flew or scrambling of creatures in the underbrush. Not even the scuttle of a beetle across the fallen leaves. He moved to take a step and stopped.

Before him lay a small opening in the forest. The grass growing in the opening was wild and untamed as it glistened with an early morning dew. As he studied the small droplets he noted the strange color the dew had. Immediately his stomach churned as the strong metallic scent of iron invaded his nostrils. He gagged the moment he realized it was not dew, but blood that stained the grass.

It was as if this new found knowledge changed the scene before him. The amount of blood that pooled in the blades of grass made it seem as the grass itself was red in color. The amount of blood was disturbing. Death hung in the air. Nothing could have survived such a large loss of blood.

He moved to turn and retreat from the clearing but something seemed to suddenly appear. It was as if an invisible barrier had been covering it from his sight earlier but at his movement, it was lifted, revealing what was hidden behind it.

A body lay in the middle of the field. Like the grass, it too was covered in blood. Despite his mind telling him not to go closer, his feet moved towards the body on their own accord.

It was a dwarf maid laying face down. Her hair was stained red from blood making her natural hair color indistinguishable. As he reached down, something in his gut told him not to look but it was as if he had no control of his body. He slowly rolled the girl's body around. It was icy as if the body had been void of life for a long period of time. The moment he saw half of the girls face his heart stopped. He retracted his hands away to avoid seeing anymore of her face but it was too late. The body was already in motion and gravity did the rest in forcing the girl to roll over with a sickening stiffness.

A sick realization came to him. While blood was matted in the tangles and snarls of the once soft curls, the color was in fact not changed by the blood.

Fili fell to his knees before the body, before her, before Torvi. His eyes roamed over her dead corpse taking in every scrape, bruise, and piercing that adorned her flesh. Blood covered every inch of her. Her dress was torn. No, not torn but shredded to pieces where various weapons had sliced into her body.

The vast majority of blood had come from a gaping hole in her abdomen. He became conscious of the wetness on his knees. He looked down to see he was kneeling in a pool of blood that Torvi was lying in, that she had created. His trousers were soaked with her blood. His hands shook violently as he tried to reach out to her. He wanted to help her, but there was nothing he could do.

"This could have been prevented." The voice broke the eerie silence that Fili had long forgotten about. "I could have kept her safe."

Fili looked around in search of the source of the voice but there was no one to be seen.

"Where are you?" The question came out weak and choked. When no reply came, Fili forced himself from his feet and scanned the surrounding trees. "Show yourself!" he bellowed to the silent woods.

"But I am already visible, you are just not looking in the right place. Look down."

Fili followed the instructions only to be greeted with a disturbing reflection of himself in the pool of blood he was standing in.

"There I am," the voice sounded again.

It was in this moment that Fili realized the voice was not sounding in his ears but between them. It was in his mind. Then another realization came to him. He remembered the eerie silence from before. His steps had never made a sound. Even the rustle of leaves from a slight breeze was silenced despite Fili seeing their slight movement. He looked up, he could see the leaves moving yet he could not feel the wind. The wind was not real, this was not real, it was an illusion. This was not Torvi before him, she was not dead.

He closed his eyes focusing his mind on voice's source. It was easy to detect as the dark and foreign presence had almost consumed everything.

"Get out," Fili commanded in his mind. "Leave me be and get out."

A hiss sounded from the darkness. "Are you sure? Are you sure you want her to die?" the voice questioned.

"She is not going to die! Leave me!" His thoughts came out strong like a verbal shout as if his mouth had actually voiced the words.

He thought he heard a muffled sound but the foreign presence was too much and he could not risk his focus being weakened by distraction. The presence was pushing itself forward but was met with resistance as Fili reasserted himself. He needed to gain control again and that meant he needed to regain control of his body. He put forth all efforts on trying to become aware of his surroundings again. He felt the hard stone digging into his knees and he focused on the pain. It was not pleasant but it anchored him to reality. He needed to get back to reality and out of his head. It was the only way he could win.

After a spout of effort he began to reap the rewards of his efforts. The soft trickle of water dripping from the spring echoed in his ears and he fought to open his eyes. He needed to open his eyes.

Something gentle and soft touched his left shoulder as he heard a muffled voice say his name. The contact startled him so much he flinched away. But as he gained more control, instinct told him that this physical contact and this voice was not a threat. It was safe. Someone else was here, someone else that was not the antagonistic presence within his mind. He used the knowledge of not being alone to fuel his next efforts to free himself. He took in a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak.

"Get out!" he shouted in a firm command as he wrenched his eyes open.

His vocal command to expel the ominous presence was successful. The moment he opened his eyes the presence was gone from his mind bringing back full clarity and awareness to his thoughts. His senses were still struggling as exhaustion replaced the adrenaline that he was relying heavily on. His vision was still blurry and his body shook with weakness. He tried to become aware of his position on the ground but his whole body was numb of any feeling.

Releasing his mind took a heavy toll on him physically, emotionally, and mentally. He tried to focus but everything was a blur. All he could make out was the hue of two vivid green orbs before his face. He tried to reach up and touch them but exhaustion took over and he slumped forward. His mind thought about Torvi and he tried to call out for her but blackness came over him and he lost consciousness.

Torvi remained alone at the balcony where Thorin left her for only a few more minutes as she did her best to reign in her emotions. She felt foolish and ashamed for her moment of weakness in contemplating the breaking of her courtship.

Thorin had been right. Some force had driven a wedge between her a Fili and they would have to work it out together in order to remove the wedge that separated them. She was already tired of fighting but even now she knew there was much more to come. Thorin had even said it himself that they would have to fight for themselves. Hopefully if things went in her favor, anymore fighting that was to be done would not be pitted against each other. Their bickering had to stop, they needed to ally themselves.

The first step would be to find Fili.

The first five places she sought Fili proved to be fruitless. With each place she became more agitated with herself, with Fili, and with the giant mass that Erebor was. She took a quick rest in a secluded corridor to brainstorm. Her body leaned against the cold stone which had a soothing effect on her mind as she closed her eyes and contemplated.

Where would Fili be?

Her eyes snapped open. The cave. The moment she thought of it she bitterly chastised herself for not thinking of it earlier.

As she began to make the fastest route to the entrance, a small smile came to her face. It seemed appropriate that they redeem their relationship where it seemed to have begun. Every moment and memory spent with him in the cave was a happy one. It seemed almost guaranteed that no matter what they had to discuss right now, it would go well if they were in the cave.

Her hopeful moral went up the moment she saw the disrupted chest that usually covered the hole in the wall.

Crouching down she began to make her way down the dark tunnel. She focused her mind to steady her breath, concentrating on the knowledge that there was an end and she would not get trapped. She had forgotten how much her body tried to shut itself down in fear of the small space. Closing her eyes, stopped to take in a calming breath.

She breathed in then slowly let the air out as she cleared her mind. As her heart began to slow down its hurried palpitations, her senses began to come back to her as the thudding of her heart no longer deafened her hearing. The moment she moved to continue on she froze mid crawl, one arm outstretched to make the next movement forward.

A faint groan echoed from further up the passageway. It sounded pained and sorrowed. Her heart immediately began to quicken back to its rapid beat from earlier but this time for different reasons.

Her fear of the condensed spaces no longer bothered her as she snapped into movement. She scurried across the stone like a rat fleeing a flooded sewer. Her hand grazed against a sharp rock and the sensation of warm wetness told her she was bleeding but she ignored it. Someone was in trouble ahead, and the only soul who could be that someone was Fili.

She finished the last stretch and stood fully as her eyes scanned the cavern. She stopped mid scan when she spotted Fili crouched on the ground. She ran to his side and slid down to the ground before him, unsure of what was happening.

His breathing was ragged and inconsistent. One moment he would be hyperventilating then the next he would hold his breath for far too long. He let out another groan and clenched his hands. She watched as his nails left bloody grooves in the sandstone. His groan turned into muttering nonsense. Soon she realized he was not even aware of her presence.

She reached out to his shoulder calling out his name but he retracted from her touch as if she had burned him. She called his name again but it still seemed like he was unaware of her presence. He was too focused on something else. She moved to touch him again but froze in the middle of her action when he spoke suddenly.

"Leave me." His tone was sharp and while the words seemed to be still only a murmur, they were the first words she had understood with clarity.

She snapped her hand to her chest feeling hurt from his words. They had been filled with a tone of despite and loathing. Her eyes burned as the tears from earlier threatened to come back. Perhaps he was aware of her presence.

"Fili?" her voice was barely audible as it ached with hurt.

His murmuring continued. She could not make out anything but a few syllables and a handful of words here and there. Nothing close enough to make any sense. She tried to call out to him again this time not making any physical contact with him. Her efforts seemed inevitable in breaking through to him until he said two words strongly and loudly.

"Get out!" he screamed.

His words caused her to move herself further away as she had not expected his outburst. She watched as his eyes snapped open the moment the last syllable left his lips. She could finally see the bright blue through his lashes but their was a haze to them. His head rose until his eyes were pointed directly at her. He squinted as if to focus but feel forward instead. She caught him before his head hit the stone floor and pulled him into her shaking arms.

"Torvi," he murmured quietly.

Whether he had said it in an act to call out for her or acknowledgement that she was there, she did not know. It did not matter. She hugged him tightly as tears fell from her face into his hair making it damp.

"I'm here," she whispered as she let her hand pet his head soothingly.

There was no response except for his labored breath seemed to become more rhythmic with her touch. He was no longer conscious. She frantically tried to decide what to do. She needed to get Fili help but she could not leave him, not in this state. She struggled to her knees as she kept him from falling from her embrace to the floor. In his unconscious state he was heavier and could do nothing to help support himself.

He brain raced with worry as to what to do, sending her body into full panic mode. She was on the breech of hysteria when another murmur of her name from Fili's lips brought her back enough to focus. She concentrated on that fraction of focus. She could not let herself worry about everything, she needed to take it one step at a time. She brought in a calming lung full of air and let it out.

Focus, she thought to herself.

Clarity came to her mind and became her ally. She needed to get Fili to Thorin, he would know what to do. A slight panic came to her as she thought about how heavy Fili was. She knew she had strength, she was not weak. However moving a dead carcass from hunting and moving a living person was different. A dead deer could be dragged along with rope or carelessly slung across her back. Fili was still alive and the thought of dragging him along the ground carelessly was not an option.

"You need to get him out of the cave before worrying about lifting him," her mind reminded her.

So took in another calming breath. Her rational mind was right. She would not be able to carry him on her back through the passageway. She focused on the first step to getting to her goal. She needed to get Fili out of the cave.

Her eyes dashed around the cavern in search for any inspiration. After finding nothing that would aid her, she rolled him onto his back and grabbed his arms, took a step, and pulled. He slid across the ground easily and the small flicker of hope encouraged her to take another step and pull.

The effort was laborious and slow. By the time she had managed to get him through the tunnel she was drenched in sweat and his clothes were torn and shredded from the occasional unsmooth surface of the cavern ground. Despite this fact she could not help but feel a small glimmer of hope as she focused on her next step. She needed to get Fili to Thorin. She let herself remain sitting on the ground to rest for a moment before moving into action again.

Once stable on her knees she hooked her arms beneath his and staggered to pull his weight up with her as she stood. Immediately his legs buckled and he began to fall forward, pushing her over as well. She quickly braced her feet and caught him. However, she could not move without dropping him or falling over herself. She let out a grunt of frustration. She needed to try something else.

As softly as she could she let his body slide back to the ground as she let her back leg fall down to a lunge as she supported his weight with her other leg. It was not as gentle as she wished but it was all she could manage. She looked to the door and thought of the many stairs and corridors that she would have to carry him through until they even got to the populated area. At the thought of other people his stomach dropped. She could not let anyone see Fili like this. At least not anyone who was not family or close with the royal family.

Desperation wreaked through her body as she tried to calm her uncontrolled tears that burst from her eyes at the thought. Her tears only ran for a moment before she abruptly shook herself. She needed to stay focused.

Once she was calmed, she moved back into action.

Shakily she pulled Fili to the wall and propped him up against it. She called out to him in an effort to snap him out of whatever kind of state he was in. Her hands slapped his cheeks lightly but she only received a small flutter of his eyes. Finally Torvi was rewarded with only a single glimpse of blue before his eyes closed again in exhaustion. She let out a cry of frustration and slapped him harder.

"Fili wake up!" she shouted.

Fili's eyes snapped open as he let out a shocked groan. He stared wildly at her as clarity came to his eyes for a moment. She watched as his lips formed her name but no sound came from his attempt to speak.

"I need you to focus. I need you to help me get up, can you do that?"

He stared at her vacantly. She watched has his eyes move to his arm as it twitched with an effort to move. Once it fell still, he let out a sigh and shook his head a fraction. She glared at him.

"Yes you can," she commanded.

She grabbed his arms and pulled him forward while she turned until he was leaning on her back. "I am not giving you a choice." She grumbled.

He gave no verbal reaction but she felt his head move up and down as he hummed and affirmative note. Slowly, with only a fraction of help from Fili, Torvi managed to stand. She stood hunched over, her back already aching for relief of its heavy burden but she ignored it.

"I need you to hold on as tight as you can," she said as she regarded his loose arms that looped over her shoulders and around her neck.

She felt his hold only tightened a small amount but it was enough to give her confidence he would not slip off. She grasped his forearms with an iron grip and took a step forward. Her thigh screamed from the exertion but she pushed onward and took another step.

You can do this, she told herself. You have to do this.

Torvi let them both fall down to the ground as she set her feet firmly at the top of the stairwell. Fili let out a groan as she dropped him from her back. She had meant to set him down carefully but her legs had given out and her sweaty hands had lost their hold on his arms. She was not even sure as to what the time was or how long it took her to get them this far. It had seemed like an eternity but she had managed to get them to the final corridor that would be free of any usual traffic and she could go no further.

Her eyes surveyed Fili as he leaned against the wall. He seemed to be fading in and out of consciousness. He looked to be in pain again. Not as much as before but she could see the subtle change in his fortitude. He was fighting something with in his mind again.

She frowned. This was taking too long she needed to leave him and go find help.

"Fili," she said softly.

His eyes flickered to hers. She studied them for a moment trying to decide if he was with her or not. Once she deemed him aware of her she spoke again.

"I need to go find help," she explained. "I have to leave you here ok. Don't go anywhere."

She felt her last request was foolish and pointless. Where would he go? He could hardly keep his eyelids open let alone move himself. She moved to stand but stopped when his arm flashed with lightning speed and grasped his hand around her forearm. She looked back to his face and saw a different countenance. His eyes looked dark and threatening but still seemed lost. As if he were not truly looking at her.


The sound of his name seemed to wake him from his strange actions and she felt his grip relax.

"No," he said gently. "Please, don't leave me."

She looked at him with worry. His eyes seemed so desperate as if he feared that something were to approach him if left alone. She placed her free hand on the hand that gripped her opposite arm.

"Fili, I will be back," she assured him. "I promise I will come back as soon as I find help. But I have to leave. Okay?"

His eyes still held that strange fear but slowly, hesitantly he nodded. She gave him a smile before grasping his hand and placed it in his lap. Before leaving she placed both hands on his cheeks and placed her forehead against his. He was just as sweaty as she was but his was cold and clammy against her own hot flush. She breathed in deeply and waited for him to match her calm breathing before gently placing a kiss against his brow and left.

It was all a blur in Torvi's mind. One moment she was racing through empty hallways, then she was racing through crowded streets of color and noise. Despite everything around her sending out sensory signals, she could not even distinguish a single word or color as she stumbled through the masses. Somehow she found herself before Thorin's study and was entering the room without so much as a knock or hesitation in her step.

Thorin, Bofur, and Dwalin all stood around a large stone desk inspecting several documents. All three males startled at her abrupt entrance. At first a look of annoyance and dissatisfaction flashed across each of their faces until they noticed Torvi's frantic state.

Her words came out like vomit, as her words spewed uncontrollably from her mouth. They were in such disarray they made no sense to the three men. Her panicked state escalated as she realized her failure to communicate. Dwalin stared at her with wide eyes as if she were a lunatic shouting in the streets. Bofur had a similar expression however she could sense a small hint of compassion as he looked at her with a firm face of concentration as he tried to decipher the meaning of her words.

Thorin was the first to move into action. He quickly stepped out from behind his desk and approached her. He firmly placed his hands on each of her arms to steady her. For the first time Torvi acknowledged how much her entire body was involuntarily shaking until his hold held her in place. Slowly, he lowered himself until he was at her eye level and looked straight into her irises.

"Torvi," his tone was gentle yet commanding, "you need to calm down. What is wrong?"

"'s Fili….he is not," she struggled to keep her words clear and concise, "he is not himself. I think he is sick."

While her words did not convey the full explanation, the urgency in her voice was enough to convey the severity of the situation. Without saying a word to Dwalin and Bofur, he immediately exited the room, with one hand still firmly placed on Torvi's right upper arm to steer her with him as he walked.

"Where is he?"

"The…the lower levels, just after the passage leading to the mines where the corridors have yet to be completely repaired."

Thorin's pace quickened as he lengthened his strides causing Torvi to stumble along at a jog. They had only made it down the hallway before Kili came from around the corner. He looked confused to see Thorin pulling Torvi along then worried as he saw the set jaw and frown adorning his uncle's face. Once he noticed Torvi's tear salted face and red eyes, his worry evolved into dread.

"Uncle, what is going…"

His question was cut short as the two reached him and Thorin latched his free hand to his left arm.

"Find Oín and take him to Fili's room, take the back passages and make sure no one knows where you are taking him," Thorin instructed.

His eyes bore into Kili, giving him a silent plea to do as he was told without question. Kili swallowed down the swarm of questions that he craved to ask and nodded instead. The moment his head made its motion, Thorin released him and made his way down the stairwell taking Torvi with him. Obediently, Kili moved into action making his way to the infirmary in search of Oín.

Thorin led Torvi through passageways and narrow stairwells that she had not even known existed. Before she could even register the newfound complexity of the mountains design, they were standing before Fili.

He was exactly where she had left him but he was not the same as she left him. He was worse. In fact, he was even worse than she had first found him. He sat on the ground staring vacantly ahead of him. He was obviously oblivious to their presence as he mumbled quietly to himself. Torvi moved forward and began to lower herself to him as she reached out to touch him.

"No," Thorin warned as he grabbed her arm to prevent her from touching Fili.

Torvi hesitated as she met Thorin's eye but eventually nodded and took a step back to let Thorin lower himself and take in the sorry state of his nephew. Torvi watched as Thorin silently surveyed his sister's son before finally moving to touch him. He was cautious at first, but when Fili continued to remain oblivious to his touch he firmly grasped Fili and dragged him to his feet. Fili immediately struggled against Thorin's grasp but his attempts were feeble against Thorin's iron grip.

Without a word to Torvi, he began making his way back through the hidden passageways leaving Torvi no choice but to silently follow behind in a nervous wreck. She wrung her hands frantically as she tried to bite back the words her mind begged to ask the questions she was not sure Thorin even had the answers for.

Fili continued to try and free himself, his mumbled words sounding more threatening but still indiscernible. Again everything became a blur for Torvi. They walked through a darkened passage taking random twists and turns. At one point she acknowledge their ascent up a spiraling staircase until it finished in a long hall that came to an end. Thorin pressed against the wall and she was blinded by torchlight as the wall opened up to reveal that they had arrived to the royal wing.

As she stepped out after Thorin, the wall swung shut behind her causing a rush of cold air to cause a shiver down her back. They had entered the hall just before Fili's bedroom door. Kili paced back and forth in front of the door as Oín stood rummaging within a bag. The moment the door shut with a loud thud Kili stopped mid pace and looked at them while Oín looked up from his bags contents.

Both looked shocked from the state of Fili but neither questioned as they moved into action. Oín quickly opened the door as Kili took Fili's other side to help Thorin direct him into his room. Torvi followed after their wake but stopped as Thorin passed Fili on to Kili and blocked the doorway.

"Not you," he said with a shake of his head. "Stay out here."

"WHAT!?" Torvi questioned loudly, breaking out of her muted state. "NO! I need to be in there, I need to be with Fili, I need to know what is going on."

Thorin winced at the desperation that was in her voice but he knew he could not let her see Fili in this state. Fili would never forgive him.

"I am sorry Torvi, I promise I will explain later but right now it will be best if you just go home."

He kept his voice firm and did not meet her pleading eyes as he was afraid she would change his mind. Without another word, he swiftly shut the door. Torvi tried to move forward but it all happened too quickly. She was shaking her head in disagreement as she looked at a guilty looking Thorin then the wooden grain of the door when he shut the door. As the sound of the bolt being placed into its locked position rang in her ears she snapped out of her shock and moved into action. She slammed her hands against the door as her temper flared into action as she screamed and pleaded for Thorin to let her in.

Despite her pleas and threats, the door remained shut and after what seemed like hours her only reward was a hoarse voice. Exhaustion took over and she slumped against the door. Too tired to continue her pleas, she fell silent as she let silent tears fall from her eyes as she quietly listened to hushed voices with the occasional outburst as Fili shouted nonsense. She hugged her knees and bowed her head as she tried not to focus on Fili's accusations. Every once in while she could make out a word or two but soon it all became a distant echo as she succumbed to sleep in the empty hallway.

Chapter Text

The moment Torvi left his side he knew why he had feared her absence. Not a moment longer than she had disappeared around the corner, he had felt it encroaching in the back of his mind. It was not as strong or forceful as before but neither was he. He was tired and exhausted and it seemed as if the darkness could sense the weakness within him.

At first he had tried to fight. He put all of his strength into resisting any sort of acknowledgement to the presence but it did not take long for the darkness to begin to spread across his mind. It slithered slowly, taking its time to cover every corner of his consciousness. Not long after he was lost to the darkness, all he could acknowledge was within his mind.

It was for this reason that when he opened his eyes to find himself staring up at the familiar canopy above his bed, he was overwhelmed by a distorted confusion. He felt the sheets slide across his bare chest as he moved to sit up. Someone had removed his shirt. As he came to a full upright position, he was greeted by a swirl of dizziness that left him with a nauseous sensation. He felt himself fall backwards but found himself being held up by a sturdy embrace.

Once the dizziness settled and he felt his strength slowly come back, the tight hold around him loosened as Kili's worried face came into focus. A large bruise was forming along the bridge of his nose and beneath his eyes. His lower lip was split open but looked to have stopped bleeding a while ago. More confusion came to his mind as he searched for a reason for his brothers injuries. As Kili noticed that he was steady he let his hold go and gave him a half smile.

"Thank Mahal you're awake!" Kili breathed out. "We were so worried about you."

At the word we, Fili became aware of the two other presences within the room. Thorin sat looking weary at edge of his bed facing Fili. His face full of the same expression of relief and worry as Kili had adorning his face. The clink of glass caused Fili's attention to be drawn to the desk on the far side of his room. Oín stood arranging various vials back into a bag as he cleaned away the mess that took up the surface of the table top.

Fili searched his mind as to what would call the need of Oín's services. Had he been injured? He gave Kili another look over, taking in the damage to his face. Then gave himself a quick physical check of his own body.

His hands felt stiff and sore. As he examined them he noticed several knuckles were swollen with small abrasions. He flexed his hand to test for any broken bones but it seemed the extent was only the surface of his skin. Nothing else seemed damaged or hurt. Perhaps the remains of what had been a headache but nothing that would call for a master healer.

He could hardly recall anything that explained how he got here. He vaguely remembered a severe headache and a chilling darkness. He shivered at the thought but there was something else that remembered. Something that at the time gave him comfort and strength. As he silently observed the three dwarves within his room, small pieces began to trickle into his memories.

Disappointment immediately took over his had been with him earlier but why was she not here now? Worry came to his mind. Was Torvi ok? His memory was foggy but the longer he was awake the more that came back to him. Torvi had been helping him, he remembered her slapping him and begging him to stand. She had carried him but had grown too tired. Then she left to go get help. That must be how he had gotten here but where was she now?

"Where is Torvi?"

His question came out hoarse and immediately Kili handed him a glass of water. He accepted it but did not drink from it, instead he waited for an answer before quenching his thirst. Kili looked to Thorin to answer causing Fili to set his attention to his uncle as well.

Thorin shifted to face him fully. "Kili, Oín," he paused for a moment, "could you please give us a moment. I need to speak with Fili alone."

Both addressed dwarves nodded and obediently made their way towards the door to give privacy.

"Oh and Kili," Thorin looked away from his oldest to youngest nephew who had turned back to heed his uncle. "While she has been quiet for several hours, I doubt Torvi has been obedient and went back to her home. Should she still be in the hallway make sure she does not come in until we are finished."

Kili nodded then continued his way towards the door leading both himself and Oín to exit.

Once alone, Thorin turned to Fili who was sitting up straight in his bed. He took in a deep breath and began to explain the hard truth.

Torvi woke the moment she heard the bolt shift from its locked position on the other side of the door. She immediately sprang to her feet facing the door with an angry expression and waited for the door to open before she released the pent up emotions towards Thorin. She did not care if he was king. He had no right to separate her from Fili.

However, her angry words died in her throat as Kili, not Thorin opened the door. He seemed unphased to see her standing outside of the doorway and quickly slipped through the opening followed by Oín. Once Oín passed through Torvi moved forward to enter but was blocked by Kili.

"Sorry not yet," he said with an apologetic look. "Thorin needs to speak with Fili alone first."

Torvi glanced behind Kili to try and catch a glimpse but he had already snapped the door shut before she could see past his arm. She tried to be angry but knew it was useless. Defeated, she resumed her position on the floor. Kili followed suit and silently they sat together in a quiet solace.

Fili sat in silence as he let Thorin's words sink in.

Dragon Sickness
. That was what Thorin had said.

He was sitting up against the backboard of the bed with his elbows propped up on his knees. He ran a hand through his hair as he tried to comprehend what it all meant.

"I don't understand, how did it happen to me? I don't even...I am never even..."

"It seems your case of sickness is unique," Thorin answered, cutting off Fili as he registered his nephews thoughts. "I don't know why, but it seems as if Torvi seems to be your trigger for the sickness."

Fili's head shot up from its bow as he looked at his uncle in shock.


Thorin nodded. "She is the most precious thing to you in this world. It seems an odd manifestation of the sickness but given the ramblings I overheard while you were..." he paused and watched Fili's face closely, "...indisposed," he finished. "Also, by what has been reported to me in your actions lately, it can only seem to be the only explanation."

Fili covered his face with his hands as he let out a sigh of discouragement. How could one thing make no sense yet, still make complete sense at the same time. He had always been so careful, so paranoid, he would fall under the same fate as his ancestors that he made sure to never value gold. But despite all his efforts, he had still fallen under the same curse.

Silence fell heavily on the room as Thorin watched Fili closely. He knew of the burden that he had just placed on his nephew's shoulders. He himself had felt and still felt it every once in awhile. But at least this time Fili would have someone to guide him.

"Does it ever go away or weaken?"

Fili's voice was only above a whisper as he lifted his head to look at his uncle again. Thorin could see the desperation in his eyes. His nephew was begging him with silent pleas to alleviate the dark future he was visualizing. Thorin desperately wanted to grant his nephew's wishes but he could not lie. Thorin let out a sigh.

"No," he said grimly.

Fili's shoulders sank as he looked back down at his now shaking hands. He heard his uncle walk closer and felt the bed sag as Thorin joined his side. A strong hand fell on his shoulder then gave a tight squeeze. Fili looked up to meet his uncle's eyes. His eyes were soft, and for the first time, Fili realized just how much older Thorin looked. Creases were scattered along his face, mostly around his eyes and his skin did not contain its usual healthy glow that it once had. His beard was becoming increasingly more grey and in a few years the amount of silver would soon dominate the black.

"It does not grow weaker, but you will get stronger," he stated confidently. "It will be something you live with every day. But with each day, you become stronger than it. You have already escaped its grasp much quicker than I did, which means you are stronger than I ever was."

Fili looked away from his uncle. His recollection was becoming increasingly sharper and he was beginning to remember what had transpired.

Thorin had passed Fili onto Kili the moment they had entered the room. He had glanced Torvi coming behind them but saw that Thorin was now trying to keep her from entering the room. He had no control of his body, his muscles had moved on their own accord. His fist came in contact, again, and again. Fili had stood over his brother as Kili fell to the ground where he continued his beating until Thorin pulled him off.

He had attacked his brother, he had intended to hurt his brother. To what extent would he have gone? It was that unknown knowledge that scared him the most. It was still vague to him as to what happened after that and Thorin had still yet to explain, but he had a feeling that there had been more damage. The barely visible bruising along Thorin's jaw that was mostly hidden by his beard was a small hint.

"What if you are wrong?" Fili felt the heat of shame come to his face as the memory of his fists beating his brother came to his mind. "I attacked my own brother, what if next time I..."

"And I let a town burn with no thought or remorse after I purged the mountain of the dragon that brought the city's destruction. I let my kinsmen fight and die in a battle that I started without any regard. I nearly threw Bilbo from the ramparts in a rage," Thorin cut Fili off from his speculation, not wanting him to imagine anything more. "You cannot let the fear of losing the fight become a reality. I will work with you and teach you how to fight the sickness to the point that it becomes as natural as breathing. However, it will mean nothing if you let fear or hesitation plague your mind. It is the weakness that will allow the sickness to overtake you."

Fili remained silent as he listened to his uncle speak. He thought about the time many years ago, the way his uncle had acted in violence towards his friends and family when the sickness set in. He remembered losing hope in his uncle as he watched him wade through the piles of treasure. Finally, he remembered the conviction Thorin had gained when he finally appeared from the treasury below just before leading them into the battle frenzy that was taking place outside.

From that moment, Fili had never seen Thorin falter, not once. Until today he had thought Thorin had completely dispelled the sickness from his mind. Thorin had never given any indication of his struggles. He wondered how Thorin had managed to do such a thing by himself. He looked at the man who raised him as if he were his own son. Thorin had never promised an outcome that he could not produce. Fili had a firm faith in that knowledge and he would not stop believing now. He looked to Thorin and nodded.

"I can do it," he said firmly.

Thorin nodded, content with Fili's conviction.

"Then we shall start today. Starting with a certain young woman who has been threatening to break down the door along with many other displeasing threats that I am horrified to say came from a ladies lips for that past three hours," he said with a smile.

When Fili failed to show as much amusement as Thorin, he took a more serious tone. "Your first task is to let her free. You cannot dictate everything. She is not a child nor is she is incapable."

"I know," Fili said with a sigh.

"But does she know that?"

Thorin stood and began to walk to the door. "I will send her in a few minutes. I suggest you put on a shirt," he said casually. "It would not be entirely appropriate for you to be half naked in your room with a young lady that you are not married to, at least not yet."

Kili kept Torvi company while she waited for Thorin to come out. After waiting for three hours already, she was startled when the door rattled open much sooner than expected. Both dwarves looked up from the floor where they sat to look up at Thorin as he came through the doorway. Both stood in unison as they looked at Thorin, waiting for him to speak first.

"Fili would like to speak with you Torvi," he said without any other explanation.

She ignored the lack of explanation he had promised earlier as she moved forward, eager to see Fili and assure herself that he was okay. She was stopped when Thorin placed a hand on her shoulder as she passed by. His eyes were serious as well as his face when she looked up at him.

"I will give you two a few moments then I will need to speak with the both of you."

She nodded. When he lifted his hand from her shoulder she moved towards the door, opened it, then stepped in. The door closed with a loud snap as it shut behind her. It echoed lightly through the room then fell into a heavy silence. She looked to Fili who sat at the end of his bed looking at her.

Immediately she felt uncomfortable under his gaze. She had been so eager to be with him earlier but now she wanted to turn back around and run away. She lingered by the door, debating between her rational sense that told her to stay and her instinct to flee the room. In the end, her rational sense won and she moved forward until she was standing next to the bed. She fidgeted with the strings on the front of her dress as she stood awkwardly to the side of him.

"Can I sit?"

Fili had kept his eyes on her the entirety of her hesitation at the door and her journey across the room. Even now as she stood looking uncomfortable before him, he still kept his eyes set on her as he looked up from his seated position. The moment the question fell from her lips he quickly moved over while nodding as he blinked and looked away. Silently, Torvi sat next to him, leaving more than a foot of space between them. She placed her hands in her lap and looked forward, trying to figure out if she should speak first or wait for him to break the silence.

It was awkward to say the least. They sat side by side for what seemed like an eternity. Neither making direct eye contact but each taking turns to glance at the other from the corner of their eye.

"Are you ok?"

Her voice was meek as she spoke. Her question caused him to turn his attention from the mantle above the fire to her face. She was looking back at him, her face was partly hidden from the shadow but one side glowed from the dancing fire light that lit the room. As the flames flicked, the shadows shifted and danced, highlighting her features in various turns.

He nodded and Fili caught a shimmer of relief come to her eyes before she looked back down to her lap and fiddled with the ring on her forefinger. Fili slid a few inches closer and cautiously took her hand. She looked up with warmth in her eyes and Fili felt a tightening in his chest as his heart beat faster. It had been too long since she had looked at him like that.

"Fili what happened?" she asked in a hushed whisper.

Fili swallowed. He did not want to lie but he did not want to tell her the complete truth. He was afraid of what she would think. Did she know that he had attacked Kili? Did he apologize for his actions before giving her the cause or did he tell her the cause then apologize?

"Torvi," he began slowly, "I...I am so sorry for how things have gone between us. Iー"

His apology was cut short as Torvi became overwhelmed with her own sense of guilt. "I have been helping Jorra feed the families that are unable to feed themselves."

The words fell from her lips before she could even acknowledge what she had revealed. Fili stared at her blankly. As her words sank in and he began to make sense as to what they meant, he was shocked into silence. He stared at her in disbelief but as he thought more and more about it, it made sense. When he finally overcame the shock and began to process the entirety of her actions, he felt like a complete and utter moron.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Torvi looked down at their intertwined hands. "Because of that stupid law."

Fili frowned at the mention of the law. He knew exactly which law she was referring to. It was something that had been constantly discussed a while ago but recently the problem seemed to have fixed itself and slowly became less discussed in the council meetings.

The more he thought about it, he could not even remember the last time it had been brought up. The only explanation that was talked about for lack of discussion was that the topic had resolved itself. Balin had once mentioned that it must mean that the economy was growing and that even the poorest of families were beginning to profit from the mountain much to the council's pleasure. The only person who did not seem pleased was Lord Ferer. It seemed odd that he had dropped the subject begrudgingly since it meant people were no longer starving. But then again Lord Ferer seemed the type to not be joyous in anything that did not bring him any improvement as well. However disturbing the man's lack of enthusiasm on the topic was, the overall opinion in the council was that it was a sign of a prosperous kingdom being rebuilt.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I didn't want you to be involved. That is why I was so hesitant to let you come in the beginning. I remember what you and Kili had said about certain members of the council looking for a reason to blame you or find you at fault. But you were so persistent I decided that there was no harm in you coming as long as you didn't know the real reason. Then you would be able to claim ignorance should any one accuse you of breaking the law. Even though, technically it was not breaking the law as it was Jorra who was technically giving out the food, I knew if certain people knew, they would construe it to be used against you," she explained.

Fili nodded in understanding. He knew exactly who those certain people were. Lord Ferer and his followers. "How did you manage to completely resolve the issue though? The council thought that people were beginning to rely on themselves."

Torvi paused for a moment as she thought. "Well, Jorra and I have been well practiced from when we lived in the Iron Hills. The only difference between then and now is the knowledge that I am involved."

"If anyone should ask about me providing meat to him, we just explain that I am repaying a debt that I owe him from when we lived in the Iron Hills. We started out by him providing the extra meat to those who do not have anything else. As Jorra's charitable reputation grew people began to come to him more often and left him any extra money they could spare to help."

"Back in the Iron Hills he was able to make some deals with the local farmers and other shopkeepers. He gives them a discount if they chip in other provisions. At the moment he has been able to recruit a baker and vegetable farmer to the inner circle. The baker gives him everything he can't sell by the end of the day and the vegetable farmer provides an assortment for each basket delivered to each family. With the extra donations of money left by customers, Jorra is able to buy other items such as shoes, clothes, medicine, and anything else they may need."

As Torvi explained, her face became full of a warm sense of pride. It was astounding. He could not believe such a small action and sacrifice could cause such a chain reaction.

"And nobody knows that you are even remotely involved?"

Her glowing pride faded as a look of guilt washed over her. She bowed her head. "Lord Ferer knows."

"What!?" His exclamation made her wince. Catching her reaction, he softened his tone. "But he has not said anything within the council."

"I think it is because he knows that the law is not technically broken. And he knows that Thorin would defend any accusations that he would bring up," Torvi provided. "However, it does not mean he has not tried to put a stop to it."

Fili pondered her words. As they slowly registered in his mind as to what she was hinting at, his mind began to panic. He took her chin in his hand and forced her to look at him in the eye.

"What do you mean tried to put a stop to it?"

Her eyes danced back and forth as she took in his look of concern. "Before you left with Kili, he approached me. He told me that if I did not stop, he would be forced to stop me. As you know I continued. He must have seen me again or saw that things were continuing because when you returned he told you and you…"

"I banned you from leaving," Fili cut in with a bitter tone.

Torvi nodded.

Fili ran a hand through his hair. He had been used as a pawn in a game of chess. Ferer had manipulated him, knowing exactly what he would do. A cold chill ran through his body. How could he have been so blind and foolish. He was cut from his thoughts when a gentle hand grasped his knee.

"You cannot blame yourself," Torvi said softly.

Fili let out a sigh. He wanted to argue her point but she was right. He could not take back his actions, but he could fix them. "Torvi, I am sorry that I have been keeping you from such a task. However you must know the dangers of doing such things."

Torvi nodded. "I know. And I know that I cannot continue forever. That is why Jorra and I are working on another solution."

Fili looked at her curiously. "Another solution? What is it?"

Torvi shook her head. "That's just the problem. We haven't been able to find one. I have been searching the library nearly every day for some sort of loophole or past resolvement but I have found nothing. Jorra has been doing the same whenever he talks with the tradesmen in Dale but nothing has been successful."

Fili placed a hand on hers. "Then perhaps you need more brains. I shall help you."

Torvi could not help the warm swelling in her chest rise with pride. They were working together. "Thank you," she said, giving him a beaming smile.

"As far as hunting goes, I will no longer keep you from going. However, it would put my mind at ease if you would let me come with you. But, if there is a time that I cannot go with you, should you feel the need to go..." he paused in a moment of hesitation. He knew it was the sickness' influence and that is why he pushed on. "Should you feel the need to go, I will not stop you."

Torvi's smile grew even wider and Fili felt his heart flutter as she radiated complete joy. She wrapped her arms around him. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear.

Fili smiled into the nap of her neck as he curled into her embrace. The muscles in his face hurt at the action. It felt like a lifetime since he smiled and despite the ache of unused muscles, it felt good. Before he could fully enjoy the full splendor of their closeness she was pulling away too soon.

"Fili," she began. "What about Lord Ferer? If he is to find out…."

Fili placed a hand on her shoulder. "He won't, I promise. We will find a way that will make it impossible to know that you are continuing your involvement."

Torvi smiled gratefully and nodded in agreement. Fili returned her smile but it slowly faded as his mind reminded him of one other item that needed to be discussed. She had to know, she deserved to know what happened.

"There is something that I must tell you as well," he began.

Torvi looked at him with an expression that told him that she already knew what was about to be discussed. He cleared his throat and took in a deep breath as he prepared himself for a long explanation.

Fili had just finished explaining everything that had happened earlier. He told her about the voice and how he had fought against it and won. However, he left out the pieces of visions he had seen of her with another man and her lying in the glen dead. He also left out his brutal beating of Kili and other struggles he had earlier. He then told her about how the presence had returned not long after she had left to find help and how, in his weakened mental state, failed to push it away again. He told her how Thorin had tried to coax him out of his possessed state and when he failed, Oín had used a medicine that helped him relax into a sleep. When he awoke he was himself again. He explained how Thorin had explained it to him. That it was Dragon Sickness but manifested in an unusual way. At first he hesitated in telling her that she was the trigger for his sickness, he had worried that she would blame herself but he knew Torvi was not stupid. She knew the way he had been acting and it would be easy for her to make the connection. So instead he hesitantly explained that his sickness drove him to be overly obsessive over her instead of gold.

All the while, Torvi said nothing. She stayed still and silent as she kept her full attention on Fili, her face showing no indication of what she was thinking. As he finished he waited for her response, unsure of how she would take the news. A faint worry took over as she continued to remain silent.

Would she no longer want to be with him? Would she be afraid of him? Would she think him mad?

Finally after a long pause Torvi opened her mouth to speak. "Fili," her voice was soft, "do not think like that."

His face scrunched in confusion as he tried to recall what she would be referring to. "What do you mean?"

She gave him an incredulous look. "Do you honestly not know?"

Fili shook his head back and forth as he tried to decipher her meaning. She rolled her eyes but the hint of amusement in the small smile that came to her face let him know she was not completely annoyed with him.

"I do not think you realise how much of your thoughts are made visible on your face." She moved closer to him on the bed and slowly placed her hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look directly into her lively eyes. They were full of unspoken understanding and compassion. "I want to be with you always, I would and will never leave you, I will never fear you, and only a truly mad man denies his insanity."

His heart sang at her words and he released a heavy breath he had not realized he had been holding in for the duration of her speech. Slowly she pulled his face to hers and placed her soft lips on his. His arm immediately wrapped around her waist as he pulled her closer to himself. Her scent filled his nose and he relished in the sweet intoxicating scent. It had been too long since he had been able to truly enjoy her aroma. He felt her hands move from his face as she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling herself closer and deepening the kiss.

They were pressed firmly against each other, yet it did not feel close enough. Fili cradled her head with his free hand as he slowly lowered them down until she was no longer sitting but lying on the bed. He pulled away for a moment to gaze down at her as he leaned against her refusing to put his full weight on her. She gazed up at him, her eyes shining brightly with life and want. His eyes wandered to her lips. They were red and swollen, under his gaze she nervously bit her lip and Fili could no longer stand having so much space between his lips and hers.

Torvi saw the want, the need, the hunger in his eyes. She too felt the same longing within her and a spout of nerves coursed through her body. The moment she bit her lip to try and control her nerves she watched the small hunger in his eyes change to a ravenous starvation. Before she could take another breath he had swept in to satisfy that hunger. His kisses were consuming but she reciprocated with just as much enthusiasm as he. She felt his hand slide to her waist leaving a tingling trail along her side. She let out a soft sigh of content as his hand tightened around her hip and she felt him smile against her lips at his actions results.

Just as she moved her own hands to the hem of his shirt the loud knock against the heavy wooden door broke them out of their moment of passion. Panic at being caught, surged and powered Torvi as she placed her hands against Fili's chest and pushed him away from her as she shot up and frantically tried to rearrange her skirt which had been made askew. She felt her face burn and did her best to not look guilty as she faced to door to see who was entering. To her horror Thorin came through the door, a knowing smile planted on his face as he looked at them.

Torvi looked to Fili who was still looking dazedly around from where she had pushed him off of herself. His shirt and hair were disheveled and the lingering lust in his eyes had yet to fade. Her face burned hotter than a furnace as she realized if Fili looked so unkempt, surely her hair was no better. She frantically combed her hair down as subtly as she could but as she looked at Thorin whose knowing smirk only seemed to intensify, she knew she was only making it more obvious as to what he had just walked in on. She looked down at the floor, trying to concentrate on the tiles in an effort to calm her blush.

Thorin had known better than to open the door unannounced, he had been young once and if he remembered the raging hormones that once coursed through his body, he could only fathom what it would be like to have reconciled with someone he actually loved. As the door opened, a clear view of Torvi sitting at the edge of the bed a good four feet from Fili who, to say the least, looked utterly oblivious as he looked confused at the space between them. It was not until Fili looked from Torvi to spot Thorin that his face paled then turned bright red as he too took on a blush that ran from the tips of his ears to his collarbone.

Thorin could not help but smile at the pair. Both well matched in brilliant shades of red, disarrayed hair, and guilty faces. In the corner of his eye he caught Torvi trying to rearrange her hair and could not help but smile even more. He knew Fili would never let them take it too far, Dis had taught him better propriety than that. Despite this knowledge, he was truly tempted to say something in an effort to tease Fili. But, for the sake of Torvi's already mortified state, he thought it best to let it go for now. Perhaps later he would have his fun with his nephew.

"I am sorry to not leave you any more time to…speak, but I need to speak with the both of you as to a problem that has arisen," he said matter of factly.

The couple looked at each other then back to him and nodded in unison. Thorin bowed his head then moved over to the fireplace. He heard shuffling behind him as two pairs of footsteps followed him. He took a seat in the chair facing the door then indicated for them to sit on the couch across from him. They obediently followed his instruction and sat down next to each other. One pair of green eyes and one pair of blue eyes looked expectantly at him, waiting patiently for him to speak.

"Some things have been brought to my attention, certain things that I wish I would not need to bother you two with. But since you are both currently on the pathway to be ruling Erebor some day, I must speak it. At the moment I only have pieces of what seems to be a much elaborate puzzle. But I am hoping with time we will be able to make sense of it. In addition to this new information I also have a request to make to the both of you."

He paused to let the severity of what he was about to relay to them sink in before opening his mouth to divulge the recent news that he had been given. They each glanced at each other, Fili took Torvi's hand in his then looked straight into his uncle's eyes.

"What is it?"

Chapter Text

"There have been reports of slander being solicited against our family. The source of these solicitations coming mostly from Lord Ferer."

Fili let out a snort of amusement. He had been expecting to be told of something catastrophic. He had been expecting something to the extent of Erebor being on the brink of war. But instead Thorin was fretting over rumors and falsehoods like a girl during her school days.

"Since when is this news? Lord Ferer has never been one to hold back his opinions. Everyone knows that he dislikes our family."

Thorin gave a shake of his head. "It is different this time. Balin and Dwalin have been working with me exclusively but it is time to branch out to include you two since you are the future. There has to be some sort of deeper intention for his rumors, however we have not been able to understand goes beyond just Lord Ferer and his dislike for us. Accusations are being brought up that is being backed by several other supporters, some even being members of the council."

Fili sobered from his lack of concern quickly as he sensed the urgency in Thorin's tone. Something about it told him that this was not to be taken lightly. "What kind of accusations?" He inquired, his voice full of caution.

"Rumors that our family is perhaps not fit to lead Erebor anymore," Thorin said flatly.

It felt as if a bolt of lightning struck his insides as his innards burned with a surge of energy. Fili jumped to his feet as he brought himself to his full height. His fists clenched tightly cutting into the skin of his palms.

"If it were not for this family Erebor would still be under the domain of that serpent!"

Like thunder, his voice reverberated against all corners of the room as abrupt anger fueled his audibility. At his roar, Torvi startled but recovered quickly as she shot a hand up to his arm and grasped it. The moment she made contact he felt his anger subside and his clenched fist relaxed enough for her to slip her hand into his. He took a moment to glance at her.

It was obvious the news that Thorin had just informed them of bothered her as well. Her eyes burned with outrage but the rest of her seemed calm and collected. Her composure had a calming effect on him and he felt the ache of his shoulders become relieved as he let them relax. Her hand gave a small tug on his own and he lowered himself back down to the chair, chastising himself for losing his temper. It was still a new phenomenon that he was not used to.

"Sorry," he murmured lowly.

Thorin was unsure if Fili was apologizing to him or Torvi but either way he was happy with the resulting effect Torvi had on him. It would be useful in his struggle with the sickness.

Fili took in several calming breaths as he calmed himself. As he felt the anger subside to a mere annoyance he looked back up to Thorin. "What are they saying to back up their accusations? And how long has this been going on?" Fili's voice was much calmer as he spoke again but it still held a foreboding air.

"It has been going on for a couple years now, but this past year has been the strongest. I thought I could rid the rumors by stomping out the flames fueling their musings but it seems they only find other sparks to fan," Thorin explained. "Do you recall what I asked you to do around the time Torvi arrived?"

Fili thought for a second. It seemed so long ago since she had first showed up to Erebor. As his mind stretched for recollection the request Thorin had asked him finally came to his mind.

"You asked me to start making an effort or at least make it look like I was trying to start a courtship."

Thorin nodded, a slight smile coming to his face. "And you did far better than I requested and expected," he said making it a point to look at Torvi who was blushing slightly under his gaze.

Fili nodded and gave Torvi's hand a squeeze. "Well it hasn't been easy," he said playfully, earning himself a scowl. Fili could only smile once more before looking back to Thorin as his face took on a more serious appearance."But what does that have to do with our situation? Have I not done exactly what they wanted?"

"Yes, you did," Thorin agreed but Fili could detect there was something off in his agreement.

"Then what is the problem?"

"The announcement of your courtship did satiate the council's request. That is to say at first. However in recent times there have been certain questions and concerns brought up that calls attention to the legitimacy of your courtship."

"Legitimacy?!" Fili's exclamation was bordering on shouting.

Thorin held up a hand to calm his nephew. "If you would let me explain," Thorin said calmly while he waited for Fili to calm down.

Once Fili had taken a few deep breaths he nodded to Thorin that he was calm, despite the rigid state he was sitting in that said otherwise.

"As I said before I have been stomping out the flames one by one only to have someone fan the other embers. Word of Lord Ferer's son's offer of courtship has been circulating. They are saying that Torvi was firstly courting Ferin but when Fili offered his courtship she..." Thorin hesitated at the right choice of words, "...traded up, so to speak. They are saying that she only accepted to make a rise in her standings."

Fili glowered but it was Torvi who spoke in exasperation as her own patience to what Thorin was revealing was worn too thin.

"But I did not accept his courtship! I tried to decline him immediately and when he would not accept by decline, he forced me to think about it. I didn't even know my feelings for Fili or his intentions for myself! Our courtship was announced long after I had fully declined his offer!"

It was Fili's turn to temper her agitated state. She gave him a grateful smile then looked to Thorin.

"That is the problem with rumors. They don't have to be true to convince anyone. They just have to be believable and with the way you two have been acting as of late it seems to go with the rumors," he said sternly looking between the two. "It is easy to believe that you were courting Ferin but then when a better offer comes along and your mother's urgency for you to be married well, it makes sense."

Torvi gave him a confused look at his last statement. She was well aware of her mother's wishes for her to be married, her mother had talked about it even before they left the Iron Hills. However, as far as she knew, she had never voiced these wishes publicly and she had never mentioned anything about making an ambitious marriage. As much as she disagreed with her mother, she at least was thankful she knew how to hold her tongue unlike other mothers with in the court that seemed to auction off their daughters at any opportunity. Thorin caught her confusion and quickly explained.

"Apparently she had mentioned something in confidence to my sister during one of the mornings the ladies gather together. Despite her efforts to keep things only between herself and my sister, Lady Drane was close by and listening in. She of course interpreted it into something to be used against us."

Understanding came to Torvi's face and she nodded but now looked slightly disturbed by the fact. With her confusion cleared, Thorin continued back to the topic at hand.

"As we know, you chose on your own accord because it was what you wanted as you would never do anything that you did not want to do." Torvi nodded in agreement. "Unfortunately the rest of Erebor does not know that. Whether or not you chose for yourself or it was pressure from your family to marry up it does not matter. The fact is that the rumors being spread coincide with the fact that you two are no longer looking like a match made by Mahal but instead trapped in a bitter and loveless union."

Both parties being addressed looked down in guilt. "Now, we know that this is not true and hopefully you two have come to an understanding and have put your differences aside?"

Thorin paused for a both nodded causing Thorin to smile, pleased with their results.

"Good, because what I am about to ask you is a lot," he stood from his chair and began to pace back and forth before them as he spoke. "We need to present a united and stable front. We need people to be confident that you two are the absolute best for the future of Erebor. We need to show them stability."

He paused in his steps and looked to Fili.

"No one can know of your struggle. You have to keep everything under control. Looking into our family history and the events that have occurred following a member of our family with dragon sickness does not bode well with our right to stay on the throne. There are too many people who remember my grandfather's obsession that led to Smaug's attack. Despite the final outcome of defeating the orc great army, my own weakness led to an unnecessary battle against men and elves before uniting to fight our common enemy. Those cases are circulated frequently to those who might be persuaded to go against our family. If word were to get out about you…"

Thorin stalled in his words, not wanting to burden Fili more than he already was. After a moment of hesitation he concluded that sugar coating it would do him no justice. If he was to be king, he would have to be aware of the harsh realities.

"That knowledge may be the last straw to give the council reason to appoint a new heir. An heir that would not be of this family."

Fili nodded before swallowing the sick bile that had risen in his throat. At the mention of this a sickend feeling came to Torvi's own stomach. As she recalled the latest encounter with Lord Ferer.

It is all the same to these Durin's.

An unconscious shiver ran down her spine. Had he phrased that purposefully as a threat or was it just a coincidence. As far as she knew Fili had not shown anything that could have been interpreted to dragon sickness until this day. Sure he had been protective and perhaps a little irrational but could Ferer have picked up on the precursory signs? He had been around when Thror had gone mad. Did he find similarities with Fili and Thror? Did he interpret Fili's behavior so accurately? She was snapped out of her thoughts when Thorin continued to pace and speak.

"We will begin tomorrow at the Durins Day Festival." He looked back to Fili. "I know you are tired and you will be drained tomorrow but you cannot be absent, you have to appear as if you yourself are already king."

"I can do that," confirmed Fili with a strong confidence that he was not sure was completely honest.

"You will do well, remember I will be there, Torvi will be there, and so will Kili. We will all be keeping watch."

Fili gave him an appreciative nod. Satisfied in the more confident affirmation, Thorin moved on to his final request of the two young dwarves.

As Torvi followed Thorin down the hall after departing Fili's room when they had finalized the next day's proceedings, her mind wandered to an earlier thought she had in their discussion. Just as Thorin began to turn down another hall that was opposite of her own path home she decided that she needed to share her thoughts.

"Thorin," she began hesitantly. His blue eyes made her nervous as he set them on her. "I think...I think Lord Ferer might already suspect Fili is sick."

She watched Thorin pale slightly but his face stayed the same, unreadable personification he usually wore in political meetings.

"And what makes you think this?" he said steadily.

She bit nervously at her lip, as she began to explain the situation and recite the words that Ferer had spoken to her last. As she finished recalling her account, Thorin kept his face rigid and tight from showing any source of his current feeling towards the matter. He stared at a painting beside them as he let his mind ponder her information. Finally, after a long silence Thorin looked back to Torvi. His face softer and eyes set on her in a way that she never thought her King would look at her. They were full of a desperation that sang out to her in pleading, a plea that said she was his only hope.

"I need you to help him."

Torvi nodded.

"Thank you," he said gratefully, then added. "Do not tell Fili. It would not do him well to know this. Best keep it between the two of us."

"Yes sir," she said quietly. Not happy about already keeping secrets from him again.

Thorin seemed to sense this as he placed a hand on her shoulder. "Not all secrets are bad."

Torvi nodded. "I know I just hate lying."

Thorin debated her words. "You are not lying to him Torvi. You are protecting him."

With that said, he turned and left without waiting for a response.

Fili felt as if he were dressing for battle and not celebration for tonight's festivities. He finished fastening his belt and pulled on his coat before taking a moment to observe himself in the mirror that hung before him. The dwarf that looked back at him looked regal and he could barely believe that the dwarf before him was himself.

Everything he was wearing was brand new, something Thorin had instructed Dis to have commissioned for today's events. Gold threading embroidered into the hem and neckline stood out strikingly against the darker hue of the royal blue tunic he wore. The dark leather belt, also adorned with a brilliant golden buckle engraved with the Durin seal. It was odd wearing the color that Thorin usually wore instead of his own preferred brown hues but her could not deny it looked well on him. He ran a hand along the fur lined coat that complimented the tunic beneath it. It was light but warm enough for the proceedings of the festival.

Despite the oddity of the change in his usual attire, it had the right effect. At least the effect he assumed Thorin was going for. Despite the confidence Thorin and Torvi seemed to have in him, he could not help but feel as if his entire future depended on tonight. He could not disgrace his lineage, he could not fail. Determination would be his sword and love of Erebor would be his shield in the battle that was going to be raging until they could finally for once put a stop all the rumors and doubt.

A soft knock at his door brought him out of his thoughts. With one last glance in the mirror, he moved across the room and opened the door. His breath was taken from his lungs as he revealed Torvi standing on the other side.

She too was wearing new apparel that seemed to conspicuously match his. Her dress was the same deep blue as his tunic, hugging her body tightly until it fell into an elegant skirt that flowed from her hips. Her hair, was woven and pinned into an elegant bun just behind her left ear while small wisps of her hair curled loosely to frame her face. A floral head piece crafted of gold and accented with blue sapphires adorned her head, looking regal standing out against her auburn hair. As he took in the sight of her, he realized that this was on purpose as it gave the illusion that she was wearing a crown. While he mirrored Thorin's image, the image of a king, Torvi looked like a queen. Together they looked like rulers.

As Fili gaped at her, a tinge of red came to her cheeks, giving her a radiant color and completing the image of a beautiful queen. "You look stunning," he said in a hallowed whisper.

He reached out and slowly tucked a small curl behind her ear, his hand lingering at her neck as she looked down in an attempt to hide her blush that was quickly deepening. As he took a step forward, her eyes flicked upwards as her face angled itself to look up at him. Fili felt a stirring in stomach but nothing like he had been recently feeling. There was nothing serpentine or sickening about it. This time it was a fleeting flutter of nerves before it was replaced by a heated yearning. He wanted nothing more than to ensure her happiness, to make sure that she always looked that way. It was then, he made a vow to himself that should she ever have sorrow befall her, he would never be the cause.

"You look like a king," she said softly.

"Only because I have my queen beside me," he replied in a husky tone as he leaned down to kiss her.

Tonight was supposed to be a night of celebration and having no worries. For the rest of Erebor it would be. For them, it was the beginning of a strategic game. It felt like the first move in a chess game. Each side had their own strategy, their own way to victory but the moment the first move was made, everything would be changed and altered. This was that move and depending on how it would be countered, they would either win or lose.

Fili held out for her to grab. She looked at him. His face held a glimmer of his earlier smile but his eyes had nothing but a serious note to them. She took in a deep breath as she looped her arm through his.

"Ready?" he asked.

Setting her eyes forward she nodded.


The moment they stepped into the grand hall Torvi felt as if all her senses were suddenly over stimulated. What had been a steady growing noise as they neared the festivities exploded into a deafening roar as they crossed the threshold. The usually sparsely populated grand hall was packed with a sea of dwarves.

Far away a grey cloaked figure stood several heads higher than the rest of the population. Dwarves from all around middle earth had been slowly streaming into the mountain for the last few days to attend the famed Durin's day festivities and now they were all crammed into a single hall. With so many extra bodies, the temperature was significantly warmer than the corridor they had just entered from. A hot wave of heat rushed over her skin making her flushed as the temperature became instantly overwhelming. As they walked towards the long table set slightly higher than the rest of the tables lining the outer edges of the room. The aroma of roasted pig, baking bread, and rich wine filled her nostrils and made her stomach growl.

The crowd slowly parted for them as each attendee noticed their presence, several cries of salutations and late well wishes of their courtship were exchanged making their wake to the table slow and agonizing. Despite the discomfort of being over crowded and heated, the couple took their time making sure to give each person vying for their attention a moment of their time.

Torvi felt as if her cheeks would soon cramp up if she smiled anymore but she pushed through the burning as she continued to shake hands and greet their guests. She chanced a glance at Fili who looked as if he were feeling the same pain in his face as well. She felt her lips lift in a genuine smile of amusement as she saw his eye twitch from the strain. Unfortunately the genuine smile quickly faded as a presence came before the couple.

Before them was Lord Ferer, his wife Drane, and his son Ferin. Lord Ferer took them both in regard, his eyes moving from one to the other taking in their appearance as he appraised their image. His wife only passed a condescending glance at Torvi before she sniffed and looked away.

Ferin however kept his dark eyes locked with Fili's lighter ones for several long moments before they moved on to Torvi. As Ferin's eyes raked over her, the hatred that had been burning in his eyes faded into a lustful longing as he took her in. Torvi felt Fili stiffen next to her and she felt the faint pulse in the wrist she was grasping strengthen as it quickened with contempt.

She quickly moved her hand into his while with the other, gently placed it into the crook of his arm and pinched him subtly. Her attempt to distract Fili was effective as he flinched from the pain and ripped his eyes away from Ferin to look at Torvi. The moment he caught her eye, he understood her actions and immediately registered the anger that had quickly built up in him. Already there was a subtle ache in the back of his mind.

He quickly began the exercise Thorin had instructed him to do anytime he felt himself slipping. Slowly, he drew in a long breath as he concentrated on keeping his mind clear and focused. He thought of the first time Torvi had brought him to the cavern, he focused on the memory of her standing happily by the pool as she beckoned him to come closer. The pounding in his chest slowed until it was a steady beat and the ache in his head dissipated. He glanced into Torvi's eyes where he found her watching him closely. He gave her a small nod and a smile before looking back to Ferin. As he looked at the other man, he could not help but feel the triumph in his heart at fighting against the urge. His mouth curved into a smirk as he saw a glint of jealousy in the man's eyes.

"I have to say we missed you at yesterday's meeting." Lord Ferer's voice pulled Fili's attention away from the man's son to the man himself. A facade of concern was displayed across his face as he continued to speak. "I hope that nothing is encroaching upon you and keeping you from your duties." He gave Fili a tight lipped forced smile. "We would not want our future king to be incapable of his duties."

As difficult as it was, Fili forced a casual smile across his face as he concentrated on continuing the conversation while trying to focus on keeping calm. A bead of sweat formed at his temples as he strained to keep control.

"You are an admirable Lord to have my welfare placed so highly in your concern. It is comforting to know I have such loyalty within the council." His tone dripped with sarcasm. "But I assure you, I will not be kept from my duties. Thorin had assigned me other duties that could not be delayed, hence my absence."

Lord Ferer's lip twitched, threatening to sneer but he kept his composure. "Well I do hope not keep you away too often. You do have other problems arising in the city."

Fili gave him an unexpected smirk.

"And that is why we have the council is it not? To aid a king in making sure all things are dealt with properly, or are you suggesting your place in the council is pointless?" His eyes glinted with mirth as he continued. "For if that is the case, I would understand and gladly let you step down to let another take your place. No one would fault you for such an action. It is indeed a trying task for a man who has reached a certain...age in his life."

Lord Ferer's eyes widened and his face flushed with a crimson shade as his body visibly shook with rage. Fili angled his head slightly as he took pleasure in the sight before him. His smirk turned into a brimming smile as he heard Torvi let out a few strangled coughs as she struggled to hide the laughter threatening to escape her lips. Despite the amount of pleasure he felt, Fili knew better than to push his luck. He knew that he was still weak from the day before and knew that if he were to make it through the night, he could not waste any more energy in playing a verbal exchange of carefully strategized words with Lord Ferer.

"If you would excuse us, I believe we still have many others to greet before the night is over," he said with a bow before nudging Torvi to the side to approach a group of dwarves that had traveled from the blue mountains.

After what seemed like an eternity, the entire gathering was seated in the numerous long tables that took up the majority of the grand hall and were enjoying the banquet before them. Torvi sat at the raised table settled between Fili and Kili. Despite the anxiety of everything that had occurred in the past twenty-four hours, along with the wariness of what was to come, she could not help but feel a small happiness swell within her chest as she watched the scene before her. It was nearing the end of the banquet portion of the festivities. As food disappeared, sweet ale took its place, causing cheeks to become more rosy and tongues to become more loose as chatter and laughter became more boisterous.

Families mingled together with relatives and friends from other strongholds that had traveled far and wide to join in the festivities that Erebor hosted. She spotted Bifur and Bofur sitting with Bomber and his large family. A flow of children skipped up and down to greet them, all eager to speak with the toy makers as they handed out paper dolls and small wooden carvings to any child that approached them. Her eyes scanned out over the masses of chatting and laughing dwarves of all age and class.

As her eyes continued to rove a slight frown graced her lips as she caught sight of Lord Ferer and his family sitting stiffly beside a lower classified family. If she recalled, the man and his wife owned the bakery near Jorra's shop. She watched as the man's wife received a disgusted look from Lady Drane as one of their children spilt a goblet of water. As she witnessed the exchange she immediately pitied the unfortunate family that had to be forced to be in such unwelcoming company.

Not wanting to see anymore of Lady Drane's discourtesy and impatience, she continued her survey and recovered her smile as she caught sight of Jorra laughing joyfully at something Nori had whispered into his ear. By the cross and red faced Dori settled across from them, it was apparent that he had been the victim of their humor. A quiet breath of laughter escaped her lips as she watched Dori turn on their youngest brother Ori and reprimand him for being influenced by his brothers poor example. She felt a warm hand grab hers and she drew her attention to Fili who was looking at her curiously.

"What is so amusing?" he asked.

Torvi gave him a wide smile and shook her head. "It's nothing," she brushed off. Then added, "I am just happy."

At the sincerity in her voice, Fili smiled as well and gave her hand a squeeze as he watched her look out across the gathering again. He relished in the sight of her profile as she smiled softly at the sight before her. Her eyes shone with fondness and caring. She truly loved and cared for the people before her. He had fallen in love with her for many reasons but in this moment he could not help but believe that her concern and regard for other people's welfare was the biggest reason. Their happiness was her happiness.

He continued to take in the sight of her sitting happily next to him with her hand in his. She looked regal tonight. She sat with perfect posture, her head held high, and every part of her down to each hair was perfectly placed. She was the epitome of perfection this night. As if she sensed his eyes still on her she turned her head again to look at him, her eyes glowed with question as she tilted her head to the side. He watched as her lips slowly parted to speak but stopped as her eyes moved past him to Thorin who was beginning to stand with his hands raised to bring the congregation of dwarves to a slow silence.

As the roar of noise slowly quieted and chatter turned into hushed whispers of mothers quieting their children, Thorin moved around the table. He came to a stop at the edge of the dais as he looked out across the sea of people before him, all looking eagerly up at him awaiting his words. As a stillness settled over the room, Thorin took in a deep breath and opened his mouth to address his people and guests.

"Long ago Durin's day marked the end of our year and the approach of a new year. It caused us to reflect on our accomplishments and what our next success will be. Today we still drink to that but the value in it has become more. Durin's day no longer marks the renewal of our calendar but it also marks the beginning of a new era. It was less than a decade on this very day, that the pestilence that plagued this stronghold was eradicated. Even with Erebor reclaimed these past years have not been easy but as a nation we have prevailed."

He paused for a moment and looked back to where Fili and Torvi sat together. They each caught his eye and gave the slightest of nods as they prepared themselves. He looked back out to the crowded room of tables.

"I have been a most grateful and humbled man to have the opportunity to serve as your king and I look forward to continuing to serve as your king until the time comes that my nephew Fili takes my place upon the throne. He has worked hard to learn and know what is best for his people, I have great faith that he will continue to create a new Erebor, a stronger Erebor, and safe haven for its people. Never again shall this kingdom be lost. That faith is only strengthened with the knowledge that he will have a strong and worthy woman to take her place beside him as queen."

A low hum of murmurs instantly began to sound out with his last sentence. While everyone knew of the courtship and had no doubt that Torvi and Fili would be eventually married, the hint of their speculation being confirmed still brought an excitement.

Since their announcement of courtship was made, Torvi had become widely popular among those of Erebor. As she worked with Jorra frequently and began to make a better effort in acquainting herself with others within the many stations a positions within the mountain. Support of such a union was already approved by those who knew her family in the Iron Hills when the announcement was made and as time went on and good word spread, many others in other dwarven communities began to approve of her. Thorin gave them all a minute to whisper before lifting a hand in the air for silence again. As the murmurings died down enough for his voice to be heard, he proceeded to continue his announcement.

"I know by tradition they would be expected to wait a year after their official courtship before any official announcement would be made but as I said before. It is a new era, a new Erebor, and with that new traditions and customs."

He let his lips move into a warm and genuine smile. He had looked forward to making this announcement since that first time he watched Fili and Torvi interact. He had even feared not only a week ago that such an announcement would never take place. But now it seemed like such a silly thing to fear. Seeing them together last night, united in mind and ambition to do what was best for their people, he knew that their union was not just for them, but for everyone. Their union was what Erebor would need to move on to greater heights than it had ever been in the past. He even had a biased belief that perhaps Erebor would never escalate after their reign for he could not fathom any two people having more potential to raise a nation than their own. He knew they had their flaws and shortcomings, they were still very young, they were not perfect. At least not yet.

"It is my great honor to make this announcement that in four months time, when winter has ended, my nephew and heir will be married to Lady Torvi, daughter of the late Lord Rorin and his wife Lady Siv. With such a union, we would wish that all those who can make attendance be present to witness such an occasion."

Applause, shouts of glee, and several high pitched squeals of many ladies who had fantasies of such a union between the two, erupted over Thorin's voice keeping anything else that would depart his mouth from being heard.

As Torvi waited for the announcement to be made she felt Fili's hand grasp on hers tighten. His hand was warm and comforting. Earlier she had a fear that doubt would bloom within her as Thorin sealed their fate but she was pleased when nothing but pure joy swelled in her chest.

She beamed up at Fili as he stood and pulled her up to her feet as well. Together they moved around the table to stand just to the left and slightly behind Thorin. Thorin turned back to them with a glint of pride and relief in his eyes as he gestured for them to come forward and stand before him. As they walked forward, they both waved and smiled, taking several bows in appreciation of the support they received from the population. As Torvi straightened from a final bow, her eyes caught sight of the only person in the entire room that showed not even an attempt to feign support of such an announcement.

Lord Ferer sat with his fist clenched around a goblet while the other gripped the edge of the table as if he were about to upturn the entire setting. Even his wife and son, while not looking pleased at such an announcement, at least slowly brought their hands together in a feigned show of support. But Lord Ferer did not so much as twitch a finger in an effort to give them support. Instead his dark eyes bore into her, making her shiver slightly under his scrutiny. No longer did his black orbs send threats of danger. Instead they sent silent promises of utter peril from across the room.

When Thorin made the announcement of their union it had been received in several different ways. The first being a joyful occasion that brought hope to the masses. Many saw it as something to look forward to entertaining there gossip through the dreary months of winter. While others who had watched the couple over the past several months saw it as the perfect ending to a romantic tale. But to Lord Ferer it was seen as only one thing and one thing only. An act of war.

She looked to Fili to see him looking in the direction of Lord Ferer as well. He did well to not show his acknowledgment of the older dwarf as he continued to hold his smile, but when he turned to look down to Torvi his eyes said it all. They had taken a great risk in making this move. While they had caught him by surprise and may have stalled any plans he had been setting into motion, they had spurned him and given him more reason to be motivated. They had made their first move and now the game was in play.

Fili gave her a tight lipped smile and her hand a squeeze. As the applause began to die down and the sound of music began, Thorin gave them both a nudge towards the open area that had been left clear for dancing, reminding them that the night's festivities had only just begun.

Chapter Text

As they reached the middle of the dance floor, the tones that had rose and lowered in pitch just moments earlier as musicians tuned their instruments, seemed to instantly flow into a harmonized array of synchronized notes. As the musicians played the introduction to the waltz, Fili lifted their entwined hands and twirled Torvi around into his arms, stopping her with his other hand as he wrapped it around her waist. Following his lead, Torvi moved her free hand to his shoulder as they took their first steps.

Everyone was watching them. She felt odd being on display but she did her best to ignore it as she focused solely on Fili's blue eyes. Torvi knew that from this day forward the amount of attention would only increase as the wedding neared. And after that it would increase again as they neared the day Thorin would step down and grant Fili his inheritance. Even Fili seemed to be nervous under the onlookers gazes as his eyes continued to scan around the room. Every once in awhile he would nod his head and deepen his smile as he made eye contact with others who watched.

"Our friend Lord Ferer did not seem too pleased with the announcement," Torvi quietly sounded through her teeth as she donned on a smile.

Fili let out a slight snort at her understated words. "Yes," he said quietly, mimicking her style of subtle talk. "And I don't know if you noticed but I believe I know of two others who were not so pleased with the announcement as well."

Torvi's smile faulted as her eyes widened. Her stricken look only lasted for a moment before she quickly recovered and plastered a smile on her face again. Despite her quickness to recover, Fili caught the look of panic.

"Look over my left shoulder," Fili instructed. As Torvi's eyes wandered past him, she searched the group of dwarves within the vicinity of her line of sight. "Do you see the man with the long greying beard? He is wearing a pointy red hat and has a nose that is unusually large, even for a dwarf."

Torvi searched for the dwarf that fit Fili's description. The moment she caught sight of him she could not stop looking at his nose. Fighting the distraction of its gargantuan proportions to his face, she finally took the time to observe the rest of him. He did not look familiar. A golden pin with a family crest adorned the left breast pocket of his tunic was just barely visible above his crossed arms. She tried to make out the design but he was too far away for her to make any details of the insignia. As she moved her focus back to his face in an effort to try and place his features, she noticed the narrowing of his eyes and the corner of his lips dipping into a frown.

"Do you see him?" Fili finally asked her as she failed to confirm she had spotted him yet.

Torvi nodded in affirmation. "Yes, but I don't recognize him. Is he from Erebor?" she asked as she sent out a smile to a boisterous woman who was beside herself with giggles as she watched her and Fili dancing.

Fili shook his head just slightly enough for her to see. "His name is Ginarrbrik, his great grandfather was Lord Nikabrik. I believe his family once lived in Erebor but that was several generations back. He hails from a community not far from where Lord Ferer and his family settled after the exodus when Smaug came. He and Lord Ferer became well acquainted over those years and have worked together on many different deals," Fili explained. "When we first began rebuilding Erebor, he made several attempts to strike a deal with Thorin. It was not an honest deal and had no real benefit to the common people of Erebor so Thorin did not accept."

"What was the deal?" Asked Torvi curiously.

She saw Fili's brow come together slightly as a sign of his hidden frustration. "I will have to ask Thorin what it was about because I unfortunately did not pay attention at the time. However, I do remember Lord Ferer being quite supportive in accepting the deal. It would not surprise me if they were working together."

He spun Torvi out and away from his body then pulled her back, twirling her beneath his arm as he circled to the other side. As they came together she noticed he had switched their positions. Her back was now to Ginarribrik. Instinctively her eyes began to roam the onlookers as she searched for anyone else who could possibly be displeased with the news. Before she could identify anyone, Fili brought her attention to a specific man.

"Do you see the man standing three people to the right from where Gandalf is seated next to Bilbo?"

It did not take Torvi long to spot the wizard standing out over the crowd even when seated. The moment she found him she moved her attention slowly to the right counting until her eyes landed on a younger looking male dwarf who was quietly speaking with his neighbor. He did not look displeased as he made conversation with the older woman standing next to him. His red hair was uncommonly short and tightly curled around his head while a full beard that was just beginning to reach his chest covered the majority of his face. As he laughed amiably with the older woman his lips parted in a genuine smile as he displayed a row of perfectly straight teeth. She narrowed his eyes in confusion. As he continued to smile and laugh, Torvi came to the conclusion that she was looking at the wrong person. Instantly she brought her attention back to Gandalf and counted three people to the right again. As she reached three, her eyes fell back on the jolly ginger.

She looked to Fili to find him watching her closely. "Are you sure?" she said slowly as she looked back to find Gandalf and counted three people to his right for a third time. Again she found herself looking at the young man.

"I know what you are thinking, how could such an innocent and joyous man work with a man like Lord Ferer."

Torvi looked back to Fili to catch him looking at her in amusement. He let out a chuckle as he noticed Torvi's surprise of his confirmation.

"That red headed bundle of joy is charming, charismatic, and of all things manipulative. He makes Ferin and his father look like innocent lambs when it comes to deception."

Torvi's eyes flashed back to young man in surprise as she looked at him under different scrutiny. He was gently touching the older woman's elbow causing the woman to flush and bat her eyes at the young man.

"His name is Maugrim, I am surprised you haven't met him as he comes from the Iron Hills area. But then again, he usually does not seek the company of those such as yourself." Torvi gave him a confused look and Fili continued. "The woman next to him is Lady Strasa, she is a widow. Maugrim does not come from any significant lineage. In fact, I believe his family comes from a long line of farmers. But a simple life of farming seems to not be enough. He travels around from place to place seeking out older widows and spinsters of significant lineage and wealth. He then...entertains them and fills the void of loneliness by giving them attention at functions and within their beds."

Torvi wrinkled her nose in disgust. She found a sickening bitter taste rise in her throat as she watched the man lean in to whisper in the woman's ear. By the wide eyed expression and red tinge that flushed across her face and neck Torvi could only imagine what kind words he had whispered. As the woman batted playfully at Maugrim's chest with her fan and looked away to giggle to another older woman standing beside her, she watched as Maugrim's face contorted in annoyance for a moment before turning back into a charming smile as Lady Strasa looked back to him.

"So what is in it for him?" Torvi questioned after noticing his true feelings of being in the woman's presence. "It is obvious he does not enjoy being with these women."

Fili rotated them so that they could both watch from the side before answering. "He does it for the money and the political connections"

Torvi's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. "You mean these women pay him to sleep with them?! So he is nothing more than a common prostitute?"

"More or less," Fili replied. "Perhaps, escort would be a better choice of words. Its is not a simple as a general transaction. Sure some probably just give him money to pleasure them." Torvi cringed in disgust at his phrasing but Fili continued anyways. "However, most ladies of any standing would think it distasteful to simply pay for such things. Instead they shower him with expensive gifts and opportunities to introduce him to those higher in society. It may seem like a lot more work than it is worth but he seems to not mind, so long as he does not have to till the earth or harvest crops. He reaps what he sows in his own type of pastures."

Torvi struggled to keep her face from remaining in permanent disgust. The more she found out about this man the more she began to wonder how many women he had 'entertained' and if she knew any of them. In an effort to lessen her disgust she focused back to the main reason they had even breached the topic.

"So if he is just a commoner, with no title or real money of his own, why would Ferer seek out his support. I mean, would Lord Ferer even know who he is?" Torvi wondered aloud. "It is not like Lord Ferer to associate himself with those without a name to back them up."

"Honestly, I never suspected it until tonight. The moment Thorin made the announcement I had only just happened to be looking in Maugrim's direction and barely caught them exchange looks from across the room," he answered. "However, I can see Lord Ferer's reasoning. In fact it is a smart alliance on his part. None of Maugrim's...should we say...clients, would not give Ferer the time of day. None of them are truly interested in political affiliations. Also, Ferer does not exactly possess the charm or interest that these women are looking for. However, Maugrim does. He has their interest and their ear. All Maugrim has to do is whisper a little suggestion here and there while he pleasures them and Ferer automatically has their support."

"In other words, Maugrim is a dangerous threat to us," Torvi summed up.

Fili nodded. "Very."

Torvi let her mind process this, letting her body move automatically in the various steps and rotations that Fili led her as she thought. As the song came to an end, applause erupted from the spectators watching them, pulling Torvi from her thoughts and back to reality. Fili slowly brought her hand to his lips as he bowed to her. Torvi displayed a radiant smile as she returned his gesture with a curtsy.

Turning to the gathering around the dance floor as the musicians stuck up another tune, they repeated the gesture. Their bow sent out an invitation for the happy crowd to join them on the floor and immediately the open area was flooded with couples eager to dance. Before they could leave the floor or start to dance together again, Thorin and Dis were at their side. Thorin claiming a dance with Torvi, while Dis bullied her son into favoring her with a dance as well.

Torvi moved from dance partner to dance partner. After she danced with Thorin, Kili intercepted Fili before he could reclaim her, forcing Fili to dance another time with his mother. After finally reclaiming Torvi from Kili after two dances he presented her to Bofur who eagerly awaited a chance to dance with her. After five more sets with several other partners including her brother, Fili was finally able to reclaim her a third time but was only able to indulge in one more dance before Bilbo politely and timidly asked to be honored with only a single dance. His entreaty was so humble, Fili granted him permission to take two dances with Torvi, who was more than happy to oblige.

While Torvi danced with Bilbo, Fili took the opportunity to make his way to where Thorin was and struck up a quick conversation before moving on as he began to make his rounds in speaking with the guests. As the second dance sounded out its final notes Fili directed his attention to where Bilbo was happily escorting Torvi back to him. Fili felt his mouth curl up into a smile as he took in her radiant expression as she beamed at him. She smiled wider as she caught sight of him and lengthened her stride in an effort to reach him more quickly.

When she and Bilbo where only a few meters away, they were forced to come to an abrupt stop as a large body stepped into their path. Torvi looked up to see none other than Lord Ferer in all his ominous presence standing before her. His mouth was contorted into a sadistic smile, like a wolf grinning at a cornered rabbit.

"My lady Torvi," he said in a tone that seemed much too joyed to be addressing her. He looked down to the hobbit that she currently had her arm attached to. "Master Baggins," he added with a bow then turned back to Torvi. "I was wondering if you would give me the humble privilege of a dance?"

Bilbo looked frantic at her side. He had never met Lord Ferer but in the few numbered days he had been a guest in Erebor, he had heard enough about the man that he knew he could not just hand Torvi off to him.

Bilbo cleared his throat nervously. "I am sorry but I believe the next dance has already been reserved."

Lord Ferer's dark irises swept back to down to Bilbo and narrowed as if challenging the hobbit's audacity to decline his request. Finally after a stony silence his thin lips turned up to flash a row of white teeth as he smiled. To Torvi, it was more like a baring of fangs than a smile.

"And who would have such a high honor?" he asked.

"That would be me."

Lord Ferer's jaw tightened at the sound of Fili's voice but as he rotated to let Fili in his view while still keeping Torvi and Bilbo in his sights as well, he smiled.

"Well of course," he said with a slight bow of the head. "But perhaps you would not mind letting me jump the queue, I am very eager to indulge in our future queen's presence, perhaps have a few friendly words with her?" As he finished speaking he turned to Torvi and quirked an eyebrow in question as his tone influxed slightly in question.

Fili moved to deny the request but Torvi stepped forward. Laying a gentle hand on his arm, she gave him a reassuring smile.

"Well how could I deny such a humble request of such a friend to the crown," she said, keeping her eyes on Fili before turning to Lord Ferer. "I would be honored to accept your request," she said with a small bow of the head.

Surprised, but not unhappy with being granted his request, Lord Ferer looked up to Fili with a gleeful glint in his eye. "And you don't mind?"

Torvi felt Fili tense under her clutch on his arm and gave him a squeeze. She was positive she could hear his heart beating furiously beneath his tunic. She moved her head just enough to look at him from the corner of her eye. His stance was rigid and his jaw was tight but she was relieved to see a stiff smile on his face as his eyes stayed glued to Lord Ferer.

"Of course not," he said tersely through his tight smile.

At his words, Torvi moved forward to accept the arm extended out to her by Lord Ferer. Despite Fili's earlier words, she was prevented from leaving with him when she found Fili's grip still latched tightly onto her other arm. As her arm was pulled taut she looked at him. Hesitancy, fear, anxiety, and anger all flashed across his face in a moment.

Finally, after a long silent battle spoken with only their eyes, Fili finally let his grasp loosen then fall from her wrist. With a reassuring nod and smile, Torvi turned to Lord Ferer and dubiously accepted his outstretched hand and let him escort her back onto the dance floor.

Torvi stiffened the instant his hand touched her waist but despite the urge to put as much distance between herself and the older man, she did her best to not show her discomfort. She could not let him think he had any upper hand whatsoever. As the music began, Lord Ferer moved in the first step without a word as they began the simple waltz. Straightaway Torvi was thankful for the simplicity of the dance as it meant that she would not have to come any closer to the man before her. As they moved in the simple four steps, she began to wonder what exactly his motives were in claiming a dance. As if gifted with the ability to read her mind, the moment she began to contemplate his incentive, he spoke.

"I am surprised that Thorin would ask the two of you to hurry such an event as your wedding. It is a smart move on his part but I have to ask, what do you gain from such a thing?" he asked in a much too casual tone.

Torvi looked up to him to find that his attention was not on her but instead gazing out across the dance floor as he let his eyes wander around the room. As he sensed her gaze he looked down to her, his dark eyes glinting with mischief. He raised a dark brow as if to prod her to answer his question.

"Aside from the utter happiness of being married to the one person whom I love?" she countered.

Ferer smirked and let out an amused breath. "Yes, aside from that."

"What else would there be for me to gain? What else would I want?" She knew her answer was not satisfying the moment she caught the irked annoyance that seeped into the dark pools of his eyes. It was for that exact reason she had given it.

Ferer waited for a long moment as he continued to easily guide them through the waltz without any pause or stumble. She held his gaze, not willing to show cowardice or intimidation to the man. She knew the moment he saw either emotion he would pounce and she could not afford any mistakes tonight. Finally after a long silent war of neither willing to look away or blink, Lord Ferer gave her an amused smirk.

"I see Thorin has finally pulled you into his ranks. It is about time he put you to use. Perhaps he truly will come out as the victor now that he has you working with him. I know that is why I tried so hard to invite you into my own." Torvi tried to hide her surprise at his words. She had done well to school her expressions but not well enough as Ferer smiled widely as he caught her eyes widen a mere fraction.

"I saw your potential and usefulness from the very beginning of your arrival," he continued. "I had hoped we could have helped each other out but it seems I had read you wrong and went about it the wrong way. However, it surprised me that Thorin was successful in bringing you to his side in the same manner that I had attempted." Torvi's eyes narrowed as she tried to grasp what he was hinting at. "But then again I suppose he had perhaps more to offer you immediately than what I could offer you at the time. At that time my son did not come with a crown..."

At least not yet.

He did not voice the last part but it was innocently implied. Torvi glowered at him. She knew what he was doing. He was trying to place doubt in her. It was something he had used against her before and it had worked. She knew better now.

"The offer of a crown did not make my decision to reject your son. Something you know very well of despite the lies your wife have been spreading," she defended steadily. "Ferin could have been the king himself and I would not have accepted his offer of courtship."

To her dismay, her words did not have the effect she had wanted. Instead lord Ferer leaned closer. She flinched as his deep voice vibrated in her ear as he spoke. "Are you sure about that?" he questioned.

Torvi shifted herself as best she could to distance herself from the man without drawing the attention of the other dancers. Satisfied that he had instilled discomfort into her, Ferer moved back to his original posture as he smiled triumphantly down at her.

Grateful for the distance, Torvi managed to regain her fortitude and firmly set her eyes on him. "Your son has many qualities in which I could admire," she began. "I will be honest, there were many times I found myself contemplating the idea of perhaps courting one such as your son. However that brings up the one factor that I could never overlook."

Ferer tilted his head in an obvious display of integument. "At what, pray tell, would that one factor be?"

"He is your son and I could never make an allegiance to anyone who shared your blood," she stated flatly.

The only display of anger she detected was the strained muscle that flexed in his cheek as his jaw tightened but it was enough for her to know that she had struck a nerve. The song was coming to an end and Torvi could not have been more grateful to the final notes that seemed to ring out in victory as it was drowned out by the clapping of other patrons to the dance as they applauded the musicians.

Not wanting to exchange any more words with the man, Torvi turned to seek out Fili by herself rather than be escorted back by the man. As she took her first step to depart from his presence, she felt a strong cold hand wrap tightly around her wrist. She resisted the urge to yank her arm free and flee. Instead she calmly turned around to meet his dark eyes as they bore into her with threats and malice.

"As much as I admire your loyalty Lady Torvi, it would do you well to think carefully before you make you allegiance to anyone. We may not be sharpening swords, but there is still a war going on and in every war there are casualties. As things progress I will not be as merciless as Thorin." His eyes caught sight of something behind her and he leaned in to whisper more quietly. "I will give you time to rethink this Torvi, but I am warning you now, my actions have been kind in the past. Trust me, you do not want to be opposing me when things escalate."

His tone was not a malicious threat, in fact it held nothing but pure considerate warning. A tone not expected of his character. Despite the lack of ill intent, it still perturbed her more than if he had viciously threatened her. As he finished speaking, he took a step back and smiled, his eyes focused on something past the top of her head. As she watched his change in demeanor, she felt a gentle warm hand curl protectively around her upper arm. She angled her head slightly to see Fili standing behind her, his chest resting against her back as he looked over her head to Lord Ferer.

"Thank you again for letting me borrow your soon to be bride," Ferer greeted in a pleasantly silky tone. His dark eyes moved to Torvi. "I enjoyed our conversation immensely Lady Torvi," he said with a pleasant bow. "I hope our next one will be even more pleasing."

With another small bow, he turned and left them standing to watch him part through the wake of dwarves flooding onto the dance floor to cease the opportunity to enjoy the last dance of the night.

"Are you ok?" Fili's voice sounded in her ear.

Torvi looked at him, her eyes vacant. Her head moved up and down in a slothful nod but her disturbed look remained. Fili tilted his head to the side in skepticism but he disregarded the matter. He had faith in their newly founded trust and had confidence that if it bothered her deeply enough she would confide in him.

Slowly he took her hands and placed one on his shoulder and grasped the other before wrapping his free hand around her waist. As the musicians instruments began to start the first notes on the final song, Fili guided them into the dance. Torvi continued to stay quiet as she vacantly stared at his chest while Fili looked around giving nearby dancers nods and smiles all the while sparing her the occasional glance of concern. Finally, as the song met its halfway mark, the silence between them was broken.

"Will you make me a promise?" she asked suddenly.

Fili looked at her wearily. "That depends on the promise."

Torvi bit at her lower lip as she thought deeply. It was not Lord Ferer's warning that had disturbed her but it was the value in which he seemed to see in her. She did not know why, but he seemed to have an obsessive infatuation with her. She did not see it but Ferer seemed to believe her to be the key stone in his success. If she were of such worth to him she could not believe that he would just let her freely go on her way. She felt he would have ulterior intentions and plans for her role in his new world should he be successful. It was for this reason that she needed to acquire something from Fili.

"Should Ferer win this war and the Durin line is taken from the throne一" She began slowly but Fili kept her from finishing her thought.

"That is not going to一" Fili began to interject but was cut off in return.

"Promise me that I will go down with you," Torvi blurted out. "Promise me, that should we lose this screwed up war, that I will go down with you, that I will not be left standing."

Fili missed a step in their dance as he came to a halt. He stood in silence as he gazed into her eyes. What had Lord Ferer told her? And how could she make such a request of him? He wanted to ask her but the pleading look in her eyes kept him silent. He would have to save it for later, right now he needed to reassure her, he needed her to regain her grip.

Taking her face between his hands, her eyes stared straight into his as his own moved back and forth as he focused on her face. "We will not fall," he said strongly before placing a firm kiss on her lips.

He could feel a warm tear drop fall from her face and tickle his skin as it fell down her cheek to his hand on her jaw. Knowing that people would still be watching he pulled her close to his chest and began to direct them back into a slow movement of dance.

He looked out across the heads of numerous couples pulled tightly against each other as they danced. Husbands and wives clung to each other, widows danced with sons, and young couples blushed as they swayed closely together. For those not dancing they all laughed happily with friends at tables while supporting each other in drunken tipsiness as they slurred songs and exchanged tales of old. It was a successful night and Fili knew he should feel happy with such an accomplishment but Torvi's request of promise had disturbed him greatly.

He never thought he could deny her anything but in that moment he could not find it in his heart to give her requested promise. So he didn't. He had avoided it and he could only hope that Torvi did not notice. If his family were to fall he could not bring himself to let her fall with him. He could not do that to her. She had already struggled enough in life and he would not be the cause of any more hardship for her. It was with this thought in mind that he found himself making a different promise to her in his heart. He promised that he would not fail her, he would not fail his family, and he would not fail his kingdom.

Chapter Text

"Is it true that Master Baggins has departed on his journey home?" Jorra asked, breaking the relaxed silence that settled over the late market hours.

Torvi sat in the back of Jorra's shop on the lone stool as she watched him work. Despite the lack of back support and the hard surface causing her bottom to become numb, Torvi felt herself slowly being lulled to sleep as her legs swung back and forth in the air. She looked exhausted and felt it even more as heavy dark circles rested beneath her bloodshot eyes that were struggling to stay halfway open. With the approaching winter climate, wildlife would become scarce meaning her hunting days, or in better terms nights, were numbered. To make up for it, she had stayed out later than usual trying to get as much game as possible.

"Yes, he left just before daybreak. He wanted to stay longer but with the temperatures dropping abnormally early, he did not want to risk crossing the pass after the snow had already begun to fall."

Jorra nodded. "Well he best hurry, I heard rumors already that in the most northern areas, the passes are already blocked."

"King Bard has sent his son Bain and several others to escort him to Rivendell before they split south to Gondor," she informed while lazily propping her feet up on an overturned bucket while trying to settle more comfortably against the wall. She let out a large yawn without even attempting to stifle it with her hand as she let her eyes close with ease. "Not that he needs an escort. He may seem like a frail little creature but there is a unique strength in him. I would not doubt his abilities."

"Nor would I," agreed Jorra. "However I do doubt your abilities to keep from falling asleep instead of helping me preserve this meat for the winter months," he scolded.

Torvi opened an eye and peeked from under her lid to see Jorra standing before her, his hands planted firmly at his hips looking very much like an irritated mother than his usual jolly self. Without any disregard to his tone she closed her eye and folded her arms as she tried to settle back into a more comfortable arrangement.

"I caught it, you cook it," she said in a weary sing song tone.

A loud clang sounded as Jorra kicked the overturned bucket out from under her feet. Caught off balance, Torvi bolted up, eyes wide open as she caught herself from completely falling off the edge of her stool and toppling to the floor. She glared up at him.

"Hey!" She protested. "I was just getting comfortable."

Jorra bent over and gave her a wicked grin as he loomed over her.

"Pardon me your highness, I did not realize we had gotten so high and mighty. And to think you have not even been crowned."

Torvi scowled. She hated it when Jorra used any title to address her other than her name and he knew it. "You know I don't like it when you call me that," she growled.

Jorra flashed her another grin. "I know and I am going to keep calling you that until you either go home and stop getting in my way or you get off your high horse, or in this case stool, and help me," he suggested. "The choice is yours."

Torvi gave an exaggerated sigh and made an elaborate show of standing and walking over to begin cutting the large cuts of meat into smaller strips for drying. Jorra gave her a happy smile and patted her on the head.

"Now, that wasn't so hard now was it my queen," he said playfully. Torvi let the knife slam down on a piece of meat slightly harder than necessary at the use of the title. Jorra raised an eyebrow and gave her a side look before giving off a silent chuckle. He began walking back to the front of the shop. "Do try not to maim the meat. Remember it is already dead, no need to kill it twice," he chorused with a wave of a nonchalant hand.

"You will be begging me to kill you twice if you call me that again," she muttered lowly under her breath as Jorra continued to the front counter where he began to prepare the marinade for the meat.

"What was that?" he asked peering at her from over his shoulder.

She gave him an innocent smile. "Nothing," she said sweetly. "Just inspiring myself with motivational words."

Jorra smiled and let out an amused laugh. "I will miss these moments when you are married and too busy ruling a kingdom to visit a meager old butcher."

Torvi tilted her head and gave him a more genuine smile. "I would never be too busy to visit an old friend," she said honestly. "And besides, someone has to make sure you keep eating your vegetables, remember you can't live off of only meat cheese. It is not good for your heart."

Jorra let out a sceptical snort through his nose but gave her a fond nod and gentle smile anyways. "I will hold you to that kid," he replied.

As Jorra finished pouring the marinade into the large bucket and covered it to marinate overnight, Torvi began to clean up the mess left on the table. Working together they had the stall cleaned and prepped for the next days work in little time. As Torvi helped him latch the windows shut and they began to walk away he placed a heavy arm around her shoulders.

"It's been a long day, how 'bout we get ourselves some fresh stew from the new food stand? My treat," he offered.

Torvi was about to decline but was stopped when her stomach let out a loud growl. She looked up to find Jorra looking at her with an amused, twinkled expression. Without giving her a chance to speak Torvi found herself being steered in the direction of the stall.

As they neared the small eatery, the smell of stewing vegetables and beef wafted into her nostrils. Not long after they were both seated at one of the handful of tables set up outside the stall for patrons. With a bowl of hot stew placed before them they both began to eat in content silence as they filled their bellies. As her appetite became satiated, Torvi began to bring her attention to her surroundings.

It was a pleasant evening. Most shops were already closed for the day and the usual highly trafficked market was nearly empty with the exception of a few change of shifts for minors and guards. The light music of fiddles and flutes ebbed over from the more boisterous area of the market where the late night tavern was located to their more quiet section of the market. With the dimmed lanterns and a full belly Torvi soon found herself leaning against her hand as she propped her elbow next to her bowl and lazily watched the occasional passerby as she listened in to Jorra's conversation as he spoke with a middle aged guard seated with them at the table.

Her eyes followed a couple with a small child between them, happily skipping along side his parents as he held their hands. They talked quietly to each other above his head, leaving the boy to happily look around himself. The little boy caught sight of her watching him and flashed her a toothy grin. His front tooth was missing giving him an impish look. Torvi could not help but smile at him in return his smile before moving her eyes to the next passerby.

The moment she recognized the dark haired young man she felt her relaxed state become rigid as all tiredness washed away and was replaced by wariness.

Since the Durin's day festival he had become a frequent sight in the past week. With winter weather setting in early and the northern passes already becoming blocked for travel, all non local patrols had been recalled until the spring. This meant that Ferin was no longer assigned to those patrols and he was now a permanent presence within the mountain. She was relieved that he seemed to at least be somewhat distant, not seeking her out exclusively nor speaking to her directly. However, it did not mean she did not see him in passing.

After his lash out after she turned him down she had hardly seen him. Thanks to Thorin he had been out on patrols so long that she had nearly forgotten about it. At least up until now. With each sighting since his return she gained the same rigid panic of anxiety within herself each time. She hated and despised such cowardice but it was instinct. Like any other prey, she knew what potential danger she was in when in the presence of a predator.

As his dark eyes moved towards the array of tables that she was currently seated in, they swept across the area as if searching for something or someone. She moved her attention to Jorra and his companion of converse, pretending to listen in while still watching Ferin from the corner of her eye. Ferin's dark stature continued to progress closer to the small restaurant. Her panic heightened when he continued walking towards her without turning down the lane leading to the armory where she had been anticipating him to go.

She could feel her heart banging against her chest and the once comforting food in her stomach began to feel like stones grinding her insides as it began to churn and threaten to make it way back up her throat. But as he approached the tables, he immediately began to weave his way through the maze as he approached man behind the front counter. Her anxiety was immediately placed with curiosity and confusion as she watched him begin interacting with the older man.

At Ferin's approach, the chef gave him a wide welcoming smile, confusing Torvi. She knew the family was new to mountain but word of Ferin and his family was widely known both inside and outside Erebor's walls. Yet, there was no fear in this man's eyes. Only a warm welcome emanated from him towards the young Captain.

"My Lord," he greeted in a happy tone. "Will you be having the usual tonight?"

Ferin gave him a smile and a nod. Torvi's eyes widened as she took in the sight. She could only see part of his face but from what she could tell this was the first time she had seen a genuine smile come from Ferin. It was wide and toothy. The left side lifted slightly higher than the right giving him a goofy, carefree side grin. It was the most relaxed natural smile she had ever seen. Yet when displayed on this specific dwarfs face, it seemed to be one of the most unnatural things she had ever witnessed.

"Yes thank you Gafden. That would be great," he said as he handed over a few coins.

Gafden nodded and disappeared to the back leaving Ferin to stand alone while he waited. Ferin casually leaned against the counter and let his eyes search around the kitchen and stall as he strained his neck to search every visible corner. Seeming to be slightly disappointed, he moved his attention outward as he swept the tables.

His dark eyes locked with Torvi and instantly his demeanor changed as if noticing her presence in the vicinity for the first time. His eyes darkened and his relaxed posture stiffened as his eye twitched, and a faint redness came to his cheeks. He held her gaze for only a moment before giving a small nod of acknowledgement.

Taken aback by the gesture, she returned it hesitantly. But his eyes were already continuing to look over the tables before she could even register the exchange. At the sound of Gafden returning to the front with a steaming bowl of stew in hand, Ferin turned back to face him. Again Torvi watched as his countenance changed in the blink of an eye as Ferin took the bowl.

"Thank you Gafden," he said in honest gratitude. Then before leaving he added, "I see it is only you tonight, is your family well?"

Gafden gave him a knowing smile. "The misses caught a nasty cold so Hilda stayed home to take care of her," he informed. "Had Halfden with me earlier today for the lunch rush but it was a slow evening so I sent him home early."

Ferin nodded, a slight look of relief followed by a glum hint of disappointment graced his features.

"Give them my best to your wife and tell her I wish for her health to return soon."

Gafden bowed. "Aye my Lord. I am sure she will be pleased to hear that," he said, sending him a wink as he straightened back up.

With a meek nod and smile, Ferin moved away with his bowl of stew and sat down at the table farthest away from the rest of the patrons. His eyes glanced only once in Torvi's direction before he solely focused on his stew. He quickly ate then departed, leaving Torvi in complete confusion.

There were several things wrong with the events that had just transpired. The first being the most obvious, Ferin's interaction with the shopkeep. He had been genuinely polite to a commoner. Not just polite but familiar. It was not that she disapproved of such actions. In fact, she condoned and applauded such things. But this was Ferin. His family did not do such things. They did not interact with those considered beneath them unless under forced circumstances. And even then they were never friendly, civil but never friendly.

She glanced to Gafden and watched him as he walked over to collect Ferin's discarded bowl and wipe down the now empty table. That brought her to the second thing that was off with the situation. The fact that Ferin supped here. It was not uncommon for those in the military without families of their own to find their meals in the marketplace. This was due to the lack of kitchens in the barracks. But Ferin had family and he was not common military that lived in the barracks. Perhaps eating once or twice would be not unusual but Gafden made it seem as if Ferin regularly took his meals here. Ferin may still be a bachelor, but he was also an officer and a noble. That meant he was given the choice to live in his family living quarters. An option in which she knew he had taken. So for him to be eating regularly without his family at not at home was an oddity.

Finally, there was his overall behavior. She had seen so many different sides of Ferin that she thought him incapable. He had been genuine, respectful, and considerate. At one moment, he had even seemed bashful. It was as if he were another person. None of it coincided with his true self.

As Torvi ran through the scenario over and over, scrutinizing and calculating every moment, she became more and more convinced of the oddity of circumstance. Something was certainly up. Ferin was up to something but she had no idea what.

As she laid in bed that night after saying farewell to Jorra and promising him to help in the shop tomorrow evening, she failed to find sleep. Her mind was still preoccupied with finding an answer to Ferin's odd behavior. He was up to something and knowing his past motives, she could only determine that his father was behind it. Torvi narrowed her eyes as she stared up at the dark ceiling above her bed. She would certainly keep a vigilant eye out for anything that could possibly lead her to the true intention behind Ferin's odd behavior.

The sound of chatter filled the room as Torvi sat listening to the circle of ladies. Before, she would be too focused on her own thoughts to register what was being said. Their chatter easily tuned out to sound more like the chipping of a flock of birds in the early spring than a spoken language. But today was different. In fact, the past several weeks had been different.

Torvi once thought the ladies gathering ordeal was a waste of time but as of late she had discovered the usefulness of gossiping women. It was surprising how loosely women spoke of family matters, neighborhood rumors, and secrets when they thought it was intriguing enough to put them at the center of attention.

She kept her eyes on the daisy she was embroidering as she thoughtlessly poked the needle through the handkerchief then pulled the yellow floss forming the center of the flower through the other side. With her attention seemingly distracted, she focused on eavesdropping on a conversation between Lady Strasa and Lady Holis.

They were currently whispering to each other about certain endeavours with a specific red haired young man. They spoke freely and unfiltered as they were oblivious to the knowledge that anyone was listening in. For the most part Torvi found most of what she overheard repulsive and while she was not completely naive to what happened in the bedroom, much of what they said went beyond her basic knowledge. With each coital detail described, it took everything within her to keep herself from burning into a brilliant blush.

"Did I ever tell you that Lady Dias had him entertain her?" Lady Strasa whispered, earning an intake of shock from Lady Holis.

Just as equally shocked, Torvi let out a screech as she jabbed her needle into her thumb. Immediately the ladies stopped to look at her. Seeing their attention on her, she gave them a meek smile as she sucked the drop of blood on her finger. Hoping beyond hope that they only thought her surprise had been caused by her injury and not because she had been eavesdropping. They each gave her a sympathetic smile before going back to their whisperings.

Torvi immediately tried to ignore the throb in her largest digit as she tried to gain more information but unfortunately nothing more could be heard. Whether it was because they suspected her or they had just become more cautious, Torvi found the two ladies whispering more quietly than before. She gave up on trying to collect any more intel and focused more on processing her new found information.

Maugrim had entertained Lady Dais.

Most would usually turn a blind eye to such things, as they did with any other of Maugrim's 'clients'. However Lady Dais was a married woman. If such a thing got out she would be ruined. Not only her but her husband who was on council. He would be disgraced and ruined as well.

To dwarves, marriage was sacred. Or at least in the beginning of their existence it was. Things had become more relaxed over the centuries but if there was one thing that remained, it was that once married, you did not look for other sources of comfort. If you did, you did not get caught unless you wanted to suffer the harsh consequences.

In the time that Torvi had spent in the library reading on laws and the decorum in upholding those laws, she had become quite knowledgeable in the way they worked and the history behind them. Marriage laws were no exception of her recently acquired education. Unlike some of the southern, more liberal ways of humans, divorce was not an option for dwarves. The only way out was with the death of a spouse or your own. In the histories, Torvi had come across many cases in which a wife or husband had been put on trial for that very thing. That thing, being the cause of their spouses death.

For those trapped in an unwanted marriage and too afraid of being caught with murder or possessed morals which prevented them from taking another's life, they tended to resort to infidelity. From what Torvi had read in the history, the consequences to infidelity seemed worse than murder. In one case, where the wife had been caught with another man, the woman was beheaded and the husband, who had been turning a blind eye, was stripped of his title and land for failure to report his wife's illegal actions. From what she had deduced, infidelity was usually more lenient against the lower class. But Torvi had come to find that either such cases were rarely recorded or they hardly existed within the lower class. Her guess was the later because there was less drive to force a marriage within the lower classes of society. A silver lining to finding oneself within that circle of society.

As Torvi thought about the situation, she began to think about Lady Dais's husband. Lord Barden was a quiet and strange man but had a way of viewing everything in an unbiased view point. It was for this reason he held his position within the council and he held a lot of power and influence within the council because of this. Despite his worth in the council, he was still objectified as a very odd man. Torvi had only spoken to him on one occasion and it was a position she hoped to never find herself engaged with again. When speaking with him in a social atmosphere it was awkward as he lacked in social skills and tact. He was blatantly honest but not with the intention of hurt but to just be truthful. With the value of honesty aside, it still made for an uncomfortable conversation. He was detached from the world, seeking out privacy and seclusion instead of emotional ties with others. When it came down to personal conversation, he was a dunce. However, in a political and scholarly standpoint, he was a genius.

The more she thought about him the more she began to understand his wife's standpoint in seeking out infidelity. She was significantly younger than him with nearly fifty years between themselves. Their marriage had been arranged by her parents. She was from a significantly lower station and with him being higher up, marriage was expected of him. It was obvious that he had no interest in actually being married but he agreed to it because of his political obligations.

Torvi felt for Lady Dais. She was sweet and beautiful but it was obvious she was lonely and unhappy. Lord Barden did not like being around people and rarely made an appearance at events. It was no wonder she had sought out Maugrim's attentions. Despite her sympathy for the girl, Torvi already knew she was being foolish. If someone who really cared found out, her future would be dire. In a personal standpoint Barden would probably not even bat an eyelash at the knowledge of his wife's activities. But knowing his knowledge in the effects of such news politically, it would be a disaster should he find out. A disaster that could be manipulated to either serve or hurt the monarchy.

"...older in court are more traditional..."

"...could seek out alliances with the Lake Men…."

"...the elves might give support…."

"...not in internal affairs, they wouldn't."

"...the younger generations seem to be in support of us..."

"...Lord Ferer will definitely focus mostly on them however he holds a good standing among…."

Torvi was only half listening to the conversation that was taking place. She knew she should be listening to what the others were suggesting but her own ideas were accommodating her thoughts too much to fully pay attention.

Thorin had called a gathering within his office to discuss the next move in against Lord Ferer. It had been nearly a month since Durin's day and they had yet to detect any source of counter attack or move from Lord Ferer. It made Thorin uneasy. It made all of them the calm before the storm.

Seeing this as an opportunity to get ahead in the game, Thorin had called them together to discuss their next steps. Dwalin had already made the suggestion that perhaps Ferer had given up after the welcomed and supported announcement of the wedding but Thorin was no fool. He knew any plans Ferer had would not be stomped out in one single move, he always had three other plans to back up anything that would fail.

All those present were spread about the room as they all openly discussed different ideas. As they did, Thorin took note of each person within the room.

Dwalin was in the process of wearing a hole in the rug laid out in the middle of the room. His constant pacing back and forth was fueled by his agitation as the discussion ceased to make any progress.

Kili sat behind him on the window ledge, obviously not listening as he gazed longingly out the window as the flakes of snow fell from the sky, adding to the already accumulated snow drifts developing across the land. Thorin had noticed Kili had not been his usual self for quite some time now. Even with Torvi's efforts of encouragement, his enthusiasm only seemed half of what it usually was.

Balin sat in the chair to the right of his desk deep in thought or by the sounds of the steady heavy breathing coming from him, deep in sleep. Thorin did his best to keep down the chuckle threatening to sound in the hushed room. Balin was getting too old for such things but he had refused to give up an effort to help when offered to retire. He was a loyal man, always loyal to the crown and standing fast next to generations of kings and serving them constantly. He was grateful for the man, he wished for more men to be like him.

Ori was the newest addition to the circle of those informed on the possibility of usurping. He sat bent over writing vigorously as he made notes of everyone's ideas. Thorin was hesitant in bringing him into confidence. It was not for the lack of trust that made him hesitant but felt Ori would not be a necessary asset as he spent most of his days in solitude. But now he was glad for the addition. Ori had proven himself worthy as he brought up past texts of previous attempts to take the throne from direct descendants. In fact, it both unnerved and settled Thorin as to how many attempts had been accounted for in the past. It unnerved him to think that their holdings always seemed to be under attack and made him wonder just how many more attempts would be made in the future. Despite this, Thorin was still able to grasp a slight comfort in so many attempts. It meant that the Durin reign had held fast over centuries of constant attacks, giving Thorin optimism that this time would be no different.

In the corner of the room, Fili and Torvi sat next to each other on the small couch that sat below a large painting of the mountain. Fili sat at the edge of the chaise lounge with his elbows resting heavily on his knees as he bent over and stared down at the floor with blank eyes. His hands gripped his hair near his scalp before letting his finger loosen then tighten again. His golden hair was becoming matted from the constant grasping fingers but he seemed to not register the tangles. Thorin noticed his breathing in and out slowly in their exercises that he himself had taught Fili to do.

He had done well during the festival, better than Thorin had expected given the events of the day prior. Since then, he had only faltered slightly, usually when he was stressed or overwhelmed like he was at this moment. Lately his mood still seemed to sway like a pendulum as he moved back and forth to being in control and losing control. Thankfully Torvi was still dutifully at his side more often than she was a month ago. Her presence seemed to help Fili reach a mild equilibrium during these times, not completely himself but at least balanced in between blind rage and complete bliss. After each meeting like this they would go off together. Thorin had no clue as to where but wherever it was, it seemed to help. Fili always seemed to be more on the complete bliss side of the spectrum after their disappearances.

Finally, Thorin moved on to Torvi. She was usually quiet during these meetings, not contributing a lot. More often than not, she would be more focused on keeping Fili calm but today was different. Her brow was drawn together, causing several lines to form across her forehead as she focused, deep in thought. Usually she kept attentive but today was different. Thorin watched her face closely, as if trying to see the inner workings of her mind whirl as the cogs in her head rotated. In an instant, her entire appearance changed as a sudden look of insight bloomed across her face. Her green eyes seemed to light up and her body straightened up as if the thought itself had a physical effect on her. Knowing she would need encouragement to share, Thorin decided to inquire of her thoughts.

"Torvi," he said finally, cutting Dwalin off from his muttering of the probability of a 'mining accident' happening that would result in Lord Ferer's demise. At the sound of her name, Torvi startled slightly as she was pulled her focus to the rest of the room. "Do you have an idea?"

Torvi's eyes bounced around the room, taking note of each person staring back at her. Thorin was sitting up in his chair, looking expectantly at her with his hands clasped in front of his face as he rested his elbows on the cold surface of his desk. Kili's silhouette, which was framed by the window was no longer angled away from the room as he turned to look at her. Dwalin had stopped pacing and looked at her with an odd expression. Ori's quill paused in its scratching against parchment as he looked up from his writing. Even Balin woke from his nap at the sound of Throin's question and spared her a glance. Next to her, Fili let go of his hair and raised his head, his hair disheveled and eyes glazed over and weary. Nervously, she sat up straight and cleared her throat, nodding to Thorin in confirmation.

"I was just thinking…" she began, unsure of how to bring up her idea. With an encouraging nod from Thorin she continued on, this time more sure and confident. "Well, we keep discussing who Lord Ferer, might try to have side with him and who might side with us. But what if we focused on the problem of allies from a different direction?"

Intrigued but not understanding her meaning Thorin let his hands fall down to his desk as he learned forward. "Go on."

"I have been thinking about Maugrim a lot since Fili pointed him out to me." Fili's head snapped in her direction, a displeased look on his face. Without pause she put a hand on his leg, but gave him no other attention as she continued to explain. "Maugrim seems the type to care more of himself than really politics themselves. His ambition to work his way up the ladder seems to be motivated by want of physical gain than that of real political power. He wants money, land, and title but not a voice in the courts. He wants the lifestyle of a noble, not the actual life."

Several hums of agreement to her conclusion sounded throughout the room.

"Yes that seems to be his motivation," Thorin answered before giving her another curious look to ask where she was going with her observation.

She turned to Fili as she lifted a finger to her mouth in thought. His eyes connected with hers as they moved back and forth as the earlier look of jealousy transformed into intrigue. She let the slim digit tap several times against her lips before speaking again directing her attention to Fili only.

"You said he was a clever man, which I can agree with. He is not stupid. He knows that one day, his looks will fade and he will no longer be able to entertain the women as he does. At the moment that is the only thing he has going for him." Fili nodded in agreement before she continued. "So it is obvious that Lord Ferer has promised him a back up plan. Most likely a title or possibly seat on the council when一if," she corrected, "if, he is successful."

Dwalin let out a snort at the idea. "That bastard sitting in the council," he let out another scoff, "as if."

Torvi frowned and shot him a pointed look at being interrupted but brushed aside his remarks all the same. It was a valid disgust but at the moment her mind was working and she did not like to have her thoughts interrupted. "What if…" she began slowly as she began to continue to think aloud. "What if Maugrim where not against us, but instead with us. Would he still be just as dangerous to Ferer as he is to us."

Thorin's brow quirked in thought as he debated her question. "Definitely," he said firmly, then added, "In fact, he might even be more dangerous to Ferer than ourselves. Unfortunately, it seems that Ferer got to him first."

It seemed apparent that this was the extent of her musings and Thorin was beginning to feel a sprout of disappointment since asking about her thoughts. Her face looked so optimistic he was sure she would have had something better. By the looks of every other man in the room, it seemed they felt the same way as they all grunted and mumbled in agreement to the unfortunate timing. Yet Torvi did not seem as perturbed as anyone else. Before Thorin could move things back to other ideas she had already broken the silence.

"Perhaps it is not too late for us to gain his support," she pondered out loud.

At her statement she had regained all of the others attention again.

"You think that Lord Ferer has not struck a deal yet?"

Torvi shook her head. "No, I have no doubt that they have already made a deal. But I don't think it is too late." Seeing that no one was following her train of thought, Torvi stood up and began to pace as she expounded. "Maugrim is already a deceitful man and obviously only loyal to what is going to bring him immediate promise. At the moment, Lord Ferer has given him the best offer. Naturally this is why he has sided with him. However, Ferer can only give him possibility it is indefinite." She slowly stood still and faced Thorin. "However, you can give him definite and immediate."

Catching onto what she was now thinking Thorin sat up, his eyes glinting with restored hope as he mulled over the idea. "So you are suggesting that I gave him a place in court in exchange for loyalty?" he asked, making sure he was in fact understanding her idea fully.

It seemed like a sound idea, but Thorin did not like the thought of letting such riff raff into court just to take away a single supporter of Lord Ferer. He did not know Maugrim personally but he had heard enough to know that the man had no values. Loyalty required morals and Maugrim had none. By the look he saw on everyone else in the room aside from Torvi, it seemed they had the same thoughts.

"It is a sound idea, one that I am sure would rattle Ferer, but I do not see it having the effect you are wanting," Thorin finally said, doing his best to let the young maid's idea down with ease. "If it were someone else I would consider the idea but I don't like the idea of having him here in court. He would be more trouble than it's worth and there would still be the possibility of him siding with Ferer later on if things were to change."

Torvi stepped forward, shaking her head.

"Then don't give him a place in court. All he wants is to feel important. Give him some land and a small title and he would be happy, anything would be a step up from what he is now. A glorified prostitute. You still have lands in the blue mountains. Give him a small estate of no real importance. Perhaps farming since that is what he grew up around. That way it does not seem suspicious, it would be validated and he would be far away from Ferer."

Thorin tilted his head to the side as he considered this. Perhaps he had been wrong. This idea was beginning to gain his favor again.

Dwalin was still pessimistic about the idea but could see that Thorin was slowly becoming persuaded. He scoffed, drawing everyone's attention to him before he spoke. "You can't be seriously considering this? To let a low life like Maugrim take your land after doing nothing for one measly vote of support that would not make a difference?"

Torvi's head whipped back around to face Thorin the moment Dwalin had finished, her green eyes glowing with optimism and hope. "You're not just getting one vote. You are getting handfuls, possibly dozens. Who knows how many women of nobility Maugrim has under his influence. Remember what you said earlier? Maugrim is more dangerous to Ferer than he is to us. Give him the land today and he will be making his way west, spreading praise to all those women who have nothing else to do but please the man pleasing them."

Thorin frowned at her last expressed thoughts. He did not like the idea of knowingly letting this man go around and defiling women. Torvi caught on to exactly what he was thinking and voiced her own opinion of the matter.

"He is going to do what he is doing already whether you approve of it or not. And besides, these are grown women, they know what he is doing. They know he is taking advantage of them but they don't care. They have lost husbands to war, disease, and hardship. They deserve a little distraction and enjoyment in their lonely lives. It gives them something to feel alive. Its not like he is going around taking advantage of maidens like myself." At this sentence she could hear Fili shifting in his seat, obviously not happy with the idea but she ignored it. She needed Thorin to understand. "These are grown women, if they find comfort in being entertained by a low life such as him so be it. But right now, you need their support, you need any ally you can get, you need Maugrim."

As she finished her rant, the room fell silent as everyone awaited Thorin's final decision. Only the sound of Torvi's slightly heavy breaths sounded as she recovered from her long winded speech. Finally, after a long silence, Thorin nodded.

"Then Maugrim we shall have," he said sturdily. He looked to Ori. "Have a look at all the estates we have in the blue mountains. Do as Torvi suggested, find a small insignificant farming estate that he can manage. Who knows, perhaps he possibly retained something from his childhood and he won't run it to the ground," he added with a shrug.

Torvi smiled and gave Thorin an appreciative smile. She felt proud in the accomplishment. Several times in the past month she had felt discouragement in her lack of contribution. She had gained what she felt was intel but not enough to be useful or applied. At least up until now.

Not long after some finalizations to their plan, Thorin dismissed them all. Torvi took her time to depart. As she began to leave, she noticed Fili was waiting for her, still sitting on the couch looking exhausted. Cautiously, she approached him and set a gentle hand on his face.

At her touch he looked up to her. He looked exhausted. The past month had taken a toll on him. She felt he was making progress but Fili felt it was not fast enough. Even Thorin assured him he was doing better than himself in keeping things under control but he could not be convinced.

Torvi slowly kneeled down to look at him at eye level. "Common," she encouraged softly. "Let's go."

Without resistance Fili followed her as she led him down to the cave.

Chapter Text

Lord Ferer opted to pace back and forth instead of soil his clothes by sitting in the dusty and varnish peeling chairs provided within the back room of the tavern. The room was terribly dim. The lack of windows left only a single sooty lantern set in the middle of the room to provide a meager flame of illumination, making it difficult to see anyone's face. Half a dozen men sat around the room discussing the change of events.

The attendance was irksome to Lord Ferer. There should have been more present at this meeting. Two months ago it would have been nearly three times the amount. But in recent weeks they had been losing supporters faster than they were even given the chance to speak with any potential recruits. It had all started with the Durin's day festival. By the end of the night, after Thorin's announcement, two people had declared their resignation from the cause. They were nothing of importance and Ferer knew them to be fence sitters to begin with. Their loss was insignificant. All he would have to do was tilt the odds back in his favor and they would be crawling back to him.

At first he played with the idea of letting them fall along with the Durin's when he was successful but then the first week passed and two more left the group without giving any reasons. Over the past month they had lost a few more all giving various reasons for their withdraw. But the hardest hit to their ranks came this past week. They had lost Maugrim. He had been their best recruiter in gaining support. However when he found himself being presented a dismal plot of land far in the west, he was quick to accept the terms in which Thorin had set before him. He had disappeared before Ferer could even have a chance to either saccharinely persuade him back to their cause or force him back with threats. Lord Ferer hated to admit it, but the boy was more valuable than he had thought. With his departure so did any financial benefactors that he had managed to gain from his clients disappeared as well.

Ferer was beyond furious. One month ago, it felt as if he were holding the arkenstone itself firmly within his hand. But it was as if that stone instantly turned to sand and slipped through the cracks of his fingers leaving him with nothing but a few grains left in his palm. Like the draining sand in an hourglass the waning amount left in his hand signified one thing. He was running out of time, they needed to make a move.

"Where is Dedrick?" Ginarrbrik asked from his corner of the room. "Have we lost him as well?"

The thought of losing Lord Dedrick was not pleasant to Ferer's mind. Thankfully, he had already expected his absence.

"He will not be in attendance today," answered Ferer. "He set out for the Iron Hills last week to meet with someone, he should be back within a fortnight."

There was an audible sigh of relief that sounded from several others in the room but there was still one who did not seem relieved. Ginarrbrik still frowned around his pipe that protruded from his lips. "And your son? Where is he?"

It was a question he himself had been pondering but he knew better than to voice it. It did not do him well to announce to his men that his own son could not be accounted for. Despite his own worry, Ferer did not hesitate in his answer. "He is on an assignment tonight. His absence has been accounted for as well and there is no reason to worry."

This lie seemed to suffice Ginarrbrik's worry, at least for now. However Ferer continued to let the worry fester in the back of his mind. Ferin's absence had become a common thing within his own household. At first he thought nothing of it but now that he was missing an important meeting he knew better than to brush it off. It was his first object of business the moment this meeting was over. But until then, he needed to keep the rest from knowing his concerns regarding his son. Not wanting anyone else to raise any questions that may cause doubt within their cause, Ferer knew it was time to begin the meeting.

"We need to discuss our next move. Winter is soon approaching which means it is our best time to move forward with our next step," Ferer began.

"And what exactly is that next step?" A voice to his right questioned.

Ferer turned to face a middle aged man with a receding hairline. "The same one that has been on our agenda for quite sometime now. We need to cause an unbalance within those of the lower class, we need to plant doubt. And what feeds doubt?"

"If you are still speaking of starving out the lower group then you need a new plan. We have that precious princess to thank for failure in that plan," interrupted Ginarrbrik.

Ferer turned away from the middle aged man to look at Ginarrbrik. "Torvi is no longer a problem. I took care of that awhile ago."

"You say this but yet just this past week I took a stroll in the lower living quarters and saw a baby fatter than my own mother," countered Ginarrbrik. "Obviously your words have failed to stop her. We need to take another course of action."

"Torvi has not left the mountain at night for a month now. I had a nice chat with a well paid guard and he has informed me that she has not been hunting. Most likely they are gathering their own food but winter is coming and soon food to be foraged will become scarce. It is only a matter of time," argued Ferer.

"Time that we don't have. The wedding will be here by the time the effects of starvation start to even begin to take its toll. By then it will be too late. We need to break prince Fili. If what you say is true and he has the sickness and it is fueled by her, then the math is simple. The girl needs to be eliminated. With her gone you will surely have a mad prince for all to see."

At Ginarrbrik's proposal a roar of agreeance erupted in the room from the others.

"No," snapped Ferer. "We need Torvi, she just needs more time. I just need to find the right leverage to move her to our side."

"That girl is more self righteous and loyal to Durin's line than Durin himself," came another reply to his left. "Ginarrbrik is right, she needs to just be eliminated."

"The population needs someone to love and worship, especially when the time comes to change the chain of command. Torvi is that person. Without her, our rule would only be seen as corruption taking over being led by a tyrant. People would be unhappy and leave, our allies would not tolerate a government of tyranny," Ferer took in several deep breaths to try and stay calm.

He had explained this dilemma when they had first began talking about taking over three years ago. They needed someone to keep the kingdom and power stable with transition. It was the reason they had not put forth any real intention until they could find their stabilizer. But things changed this past year when Torvi showed up last winter.

"Remember," Ferer continued slowly. "If we are to replace rule, we need to keep that rule. If we become a tyranny, then it would not be long after that we would have Dain and his army or some other kingdom on our doorstep waiting to free the oppressed people," Ferer paused for a moment to make sure that all were understanding her value.

Since Torvi first arrived to the mountain Ferer knew that she would be the key to success. Torvi was their stabilizer. However, she turned out to be more resistant than he first thought. He had thought she would be malleable but over time he was beginning to realize she was not as easily manipulated. He observed a couple heads nodding and took the lack of any counter objection to her value as a sign that all were understanding in her essentiality to their plan.

"We cannot afford to eliminate her from the board." He gave a stern look to Ginarrbrik. "However, I agree that persuading her to our cause may not be an option. She needs to be broken. Broken and drained of any fight until there is nothing but an empty shell of a girl."

"And then what?" asked the man to his right.

"Then we tie strings and make ourselves a puppet," he replied with a leer.

There was a time when Fili did not care for the formal gatherings as much as he did now. Sure he had always enjoyed a good celebration with ale and good food but formal dinners where something else. However, he was beginning to gain a newfound appreciation for them and that new found reason had just walked through the door.

Watching her arrival was quickly becoming his favorite past time. Each time she would be wearing a new dress, a sight he learned to relish as any would there favorite dessert. He had seen her dressed in simple garb drenched in mud and still thought she was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. But there was something different when she dressed for these events. Something about the fine materials and their perfectly tailored cut created an illusion of delicacy.

Before her arrival, Fili kept his eyes glued to the entryway as he awaited for the moment that she would appear. Whether it was done intentionally or not, there was always a moment of meek shyness she would express just before coming into full view. It was that moment, just before entering within the doorway, when she would pause in the shadows and observe the contents of the room she was about to enter. Her eyes would gaze around, flickering as they caught small rays of light that managed to reach the hallway. Then in one single breath, the vulnerability was gone as a new conviction came to her face. Her jaw became set in determination while her eyes became alert and observing.

As she took her first step into the room, Fili felt his feet move on their own accord as he walked forward. The moment he reached her side, he felt whole. Her arm automatically linked with his, bringing an immediate warmth that he had not realized was missing. He looked down at her to find a gentle smile adorning her lips as she gazed out around the room while leaning into him for comfort.

"You look beautiful tonight," he said softly.

Her eyes moved from the surrounding room to focus solely on him. She let out a gentle laugh as she rolled her eyes. "You always say that."

He took her wrist and turned her arm until her hand laid open, palm up. He gave it a chaste kiss before replying. "And I always mean it."

It was the routine they had fallen into for everything they attended and this evening was no different. Once a month the council would gather together for a formal dinner. It was a private affair for council members only with the exception of their spouses who were permitted to accompany as well. Torvi, while not officially Fili's wife, was also an exception to the roster of guest since the announcement of their intended marriage. Since her presence became an addition to these events, Fili had found himself not minding the dreary political dinners.

Torvi found herself standing alone, a small distance from the fireplace as Fili failed to return with a refreshment of drinks after being caught by a portly old lady with stark white hair. Torvi failed to suppress a smile as she watched Fili's attention glaze over as he politely listened to the woman's yammering as she talked to him about her grandchildren that he had never met. She watched him attempt to make an excuse to leave the woman's side only to get trapped into another subject of her choosing regarding her collection of dried flowers. She watched as his shoulders sagged in defeat as he realized there would be no escape any time soon. Stealthily he shot her an apologetic glance, notifying her that it would be a while before he would return to her side. Torvi only returned it with a mocking smirk that made him narrow his eyes before sending her a side grin and returned his attention to the older lady who had failed to see she had lost his attention for the moment.

Torvi watched Fili for a while, content with seeing him happy. He was improving and hardly needed her when things became a bit dark for him. After awhile she moved her attention to her closer surroundings and found Lord Barden standing in the corner by the fireplace. His wife was absent from his side but Lord Ferer was standing beside him, speaking to him in hushed tones.

She watched their faces, trying to decipher the topic but only Barden's face was visible as Ferer's back was turned to her, preventing her from seeing his face or reading his lips. Barden listened closely to whatever was being said with a face of indifference. Finally after a few moments, he opened his mouth and Torvi made out the words consider and later being formed on his lips. The moment he finished speaking, he turned to lean against the fireplace mantel and stared out across the room, no longer looking in Ferer's direction. It was an obvious gesture that he was done talking.

Torvi watched as Ferer's back tensed slightly at Barden's actions. But nevertheless, he made to move away from the dwarfs side. As he turned, she caught his profiled expression. It was obvious he was unhappy about something as his face grimaced with displeasure. As if sensing her eyes on him he turned slightly to look directly at her. His dark eyes locked with hers, making her feel frozen under his scrutiny. Slowly his face morphed from displeasure to a sly smile as he nodded to her as if they shared a silent secret. Torvi paid no acknowledgment to the gesture as she stayed completely motionless under his gaze. Only when he turned away to return to his wife's side did she manage to cast a glance to Lord Barden.

Lord Barden still stood quietly in his corner as his eyes slowly rove across the room. Torvi followed his line of sight seeing that he was watching Thorin with deep contemplation, then after several long moments he moved on to Fili and observed him, and then following after Fili, they moved to Ferer. It was obvious he was thinking deeply.

Apart from his wandering eyes, the only movement that he made was to lift his goblet to his lips for an occasional sip of wine. It did not take long for Torvi to conclude what he and Lord Ferer had been discussing. With the conclusion now in her mind an unsettling dread pooled within her bowels. It had never been brought up in the discussion that Lord Barden would be a potential recruit of Ferer's as he never seemed to be one of taking unnecessary risk. However, by the look of things, it seemed to Torvi that he was actually contemplating an offer from Ferer. While she was not sure as to what the offer was, she could make a well placed guest. And if she was wrong, it was still an offer from Lord Ferer. And any offer coming from him would severely damage the Durin side of this war.

Torvi glanced around to see Fili still engaged with the old woman who let out an amused chuckle that sounded more like the cawing of a crow than a laugh. Then she moved her attention to Lady Dais who was happily speaking with several ladies on the opposite side of the room. Knowing the rarity in which Lady Dais was allowed to do such things, Torvi knew she would not be returning to her husband's side any time soon. It was a sad thought in Torvi's mind, but it was a truth to the reality of the woman's life. Seeing no one else in the vicinity who would possibly make their way over to either herself of Lord Barden as well, Torvi moved her feet and slowly made her way over to his side.

"Lord Barden, how are you enjoying the evening?" she asked upon her approach.

He looked at her with a dour expression. There were two reasons why people ignored him at most occasions. The first being his awkward conversation and the second being his dislike of others company. For him to be approached by one person was a nuisance, but Torvi was now the second person to approach him this evening and it was obvious by the look on his face that she was more than a nuisance, she was a vexation.

"I am not," he said monotonously without sparing her a glance.

Despite her knowledge about the man, his bluntness still took her for surprise. "Oh, I am sorry to hear that. Perhaps there is something一"

"Is there something that you wished to discuss with me," he interrupted slowly turning his attention to her. "Lady Torvi," he added with a raise of his eyebrows.

"Oh um," Torvi faltered in her polite conversation as she was taken aback by his abrupt directness.

Her initial tactic had only been to strike up a conversation before slowly beating around the bush to confirm her suspicion of Lord Ferer's purpose with speaking with him. Obviously she had been sorely mistaken in her tactic and she immediately berated herself for not thinking fully. She should have known better than to think he would want to talk with her. But here she was, floundering for words as he looked at her with annoyance. He was a smart man, a genius who valued his own thoughts above anyone else. The idea to turn around and walk away without a word was just about to become her actions when a thought popped into her mind. She looked at him closely as he continued to stare at her, waiting for her reply with apparent annoyance.

"I am curious," she began. "What is your opinion of me?"

"That question can be answered in many different ways depending on how you want to be scored as," he responded with a scholarly tone. "If you are asking me about your overall general personification, I would rate you highly. You seem to be a likable person. It is easy for you to fall into the good graces of others by your charm and kindness. You are a genuine person. That is commendable. Too many people put forth a personification that their heart is in the right place but more than often they drop that act as soon as it fulfills their purpose. You want what is best for everyone, you want a happy result with every decision you make. "

Torvi let his words sink in as she contemplated what to say next. Finally she noticed his odd wording and decided to inquire of it. "You said that was my general personification. What would your assessment be of me as something more specific."

"What specification would you request?" he inquired

"As a potential leader of Erebor," she replied without hesitation.

Barden raised an eyebrow. "By that you mean as Queen of Erebor?" he confirmed.

Torvi nodded and Barden looked at her for the first time since approaching her with honest curiosity and observance. She stood still awhile as she waited for him to finish with his mental deliberation and calculations as he looked at her with an intense examination.

He looked down at his wine glass and swirled the red liquid around as he spoke. "In my political opinion, you are not suited for the job."

Torvi physically flinched at his words. She did not know why it stung so harshly coming from him. She herself had constantly had these thoughts but there was something different, more definite about the statement as it came from someone else. So many people had assured her she was perfectly suited for the task in the past months that she herself was beginning to gain confidence and push away her self doubt. But Lord Barden was not one to say meaningless words. He only spoke his honest opinion. An opinion in which many others relied on.

"May I ask what your reasoning is for such a conclusion?" she asked as she did her best to keep her voice steady under the strain she was feeling in the tightness of her throat.

If Lord Barden sensed the hurt his words had caused, he made no show of remorse or pity.

"Of course," he said with a bow of his head before continuing. "You lack guile to do things that are not necessarily correct in morality but what is best for the Kingdom. You are too soft and you let your empathy and desire to make everyone happy get in the way of getting things done. While I do sense a certain bravery and loyalty in you, it is overshadowed by one thing."

"And what would that be?" Torvi managed to ask as she tried to keep the heat of shame from blossoming across her face.

"You are spineless Torvi, you are too soft to do the dark things that every ruler must occasionally do. It does not seem ideal to have a ruler who dabs on the darker side of things but it is reality. A reality that you, my lady Torvi cannot live in."

His final words caused a strange stirring within Torvi. She kept her face void of showing any emotion or manifestation of the strange feeling within her. Her brain was telling her everything he had said was correct but something inside her begged to differ. It was as if her body was rejecting his assessment the way it would try to reject a poison. Like a primitive instinct that seemed to protest against her intellectual instinct to agree with him. She tried to ignore the strange feeling as she tried to keep her wits about her but it was a laborious task.

Finally, with much difficulty she looked him in the eye. "Thank you for your honesty," she said in a strangled tone.

He nodded and looked away from her. Taking this as a silent dismissal, she turned to walk away but before she could take a step her body froze and as if moving on it own accord, she turned back around to face him. Her movement regained his attention and he looked back at her with an impatient stare. Unsure of why she was still there as well, her body seemed to take its own action as her mouth opened and words fell from her lips of their own accord.

"Unfortunately, you have must have full knowledge of what I am and am not capable of in order to make a correct assessment. And in this case, I must inform you that you are wrong as you do not know what I am capable of."

Her words seemed to have no effect on him whatsoever as he stared at her for a long moment with his normal indifferent complexion.

"For the sake of Erebor I hope you are right," he said calmly. "Others seem to have that same opinion but I for one have not been convinced. A queen is a very important role within the Kingdom, they have power where many would not look. Next to the right King, you can be quite an asset. You yourself have those qualities of power, but only if paired with the correct King. Your influence on the masses is that asset but your reluctance to get your hands dirty counters that. Fili has the potential to be a great King and with you by his side he could be greater."

"Could?" Torvi asked

"Aye, could," he confirmed looking down at his goblet as he casually swirled the red liquid within in, speaking in a tone just as casual as his actions. "You have too much influence on him and that means you would keep him from performing those certain dark tasks that leaders must do. However, if you were perhaps paired with another, someone not quite so dependant on your good opinion, you would be the greatest asset a Kingdom could ask for," he mused.

His eyes flashed up to look at her. They held a strange expression within them as he stared down at her. His brow just barely frowning in what Torvi thought was anger.

"Unfortunately, you are not at the moment. Right now, you are only a waste of great potential bringing down another. So, Lady Torvi, you will forgive me for not giving you my support until I witness evidence that proves otherwise."

His tone was not its usual monotonous drawl but instead full of something else. Something that sounded almost like disappointment. It was the most emotion she had ever heard come from his mouth.

She did not know what to expect to happen from her words but this result was not what she wanted to hear. If he lacked faith in her, there would be no telling what would happen if Lord Barden thought the Kingdom would be better off in other hands. It seemed as if the only thing standing between him and loyalty to the current crown was herself. Should she become completely tied to the Durin line in matrimony there would be no telling what that would set off. Did others see her as a weak link as well?

Without a reply or gesture of goodbye, she began to walk back to her original spot with her mood doused with depression. She had only managed a short retreat when a sudden idea flooded her mind. It was an idea so wild and obtuse from her usual thoughts, it shocked her to a dead stop. It consumed her mind, ridding it of any earlier thoughts of doubt and worry.

Her natural instinct was to brush aside such an idea. Normally any idea of such decorum would be instantly dismissed but something caused her dismissal to falter as she contemplated such an idea. Something within her moved and she felt a rush of excitement at the thought of actually acting out the idea. Before she had even made the full decision to execute her plan, her mind slowly became aware that her body was already moving of it own accord. Her feet moving unconsciously in a different direction than her earlier destination. As she acknowledged this, she realized she was headed for the opposite side of the room.

Her feet stopped when she was directly in front of Thorin who had just finished speaking with Dwalin before the later made a departure from his side. Thorin's face instantly looked at her inquisitively at the odd expression on her face. She looked dazed as if in a trance but there was an underlying of hurt and anger hidden in her eyes.

"Torvi is everything alright?" he asked with concern.

Her eyes shot up to him as she was pulled from her thoughts. She stared at him mutely only to realize he was looking at her with expectation as he waited for an answer.

"Huh, ah yes. Yes I am fine," she finally managed.

His concerned look changed to curiosity. "Is there something you needed? Or did you just come over here because you like my personality?" he asked with a small influx of humor as he tried to break the tension that seemed to be emanating from her.

Her green eyes moved back and forth as she took turns gazing into each of his. "Should a crime arise against Lady Dais, would you grant her immunity?" she spat out quickly.

Thorin's eyes raised in surprise at her sudden outburst and request. "What law has she broken?" he requested slowly.

Thorin watched as Torvi nervously fidgeted under his stare. It was obvious that she was hesitant to speak. "Um..." She began then looked down at her feet.

Thorin placed a hand on her shoulder causing her to look up at him. "Should anything arise, I shall grant her immunity" he consented.

Torvi was taken aback. Not only by how quickly he granted her request but mostly by the fact he had not forced her to tell him why. She did not want to share Lady Dais's indiscretions but she had expected that he would not grant it unless he knew. She smiled at him gratefully.

"Tha一 thank you," she said gratefully. As she turned to depart from his side she hesitated. Slowly she looked back to him.

"Is there something else?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"Is there something wrong then?" he inquired further.

"I just," she began not knowing exactly why she was questioning his decision to grant her request. "I was just wondering why you granted my request without any further information?"

Thorin raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying you want me to require it of you?"

She shook her head quickly. "No, I just…"

Thorin took a step forward and rested a hand on her shoulder. "I trust your judgement, whatever the reason you wish to grant her immunity I can only assume it serves a purpose for a greater good. Am I correct?"

Torvi nodded. Thorin gave her a nod and let his hand fall back to his side.

"Then you have no need to give me more details," he continued. "However, whatever you have planned, should it fail, you will be the one to reap the consequences."

Torvi swallowed at his warning but forced herself to nod confidently before turning around and directing herself back towards the corner of the room where Lord Barden continued to stand in solitude.

To say Lord Barden looked annoyed at her approach was an understatement. His usual cool and collective state melted like a wax candle thrown into a smithers fire. His forehead creased as his brows came together and his mouth turned down into the deepest frown Torvi had ever witnessed.

"If you are here because you were hurt by my earlier remarks you might as well save your breath. You asked for my opinion and I gave it, so please let me be."

Torvi stood her ground and raised herself to as tall as she could manage. "I am not here for that," she assured with a shake of her head.

"Then why are you bothering me again?"

"I want you to swear fealty to the Durin line," she stated in a demanding tone.

His eyebrows raised in surprise. "Am I not already a loyal subject of Erebor and its King?"

She conceded to give him the smallest of nods in agreement. "Yes, at the moment you are. However, I am aware of Lord Ferer's intentions when he approached you earlier," she answered bluntly.

Barden kept his face unreadable. "Do you now," he replied matter of factly. "And what exactly do you think一"

"You are not an ignorant man so please do not patronize me and feign oblivity towards what is happening within the government of this mountain," she interrupted in a tone that mocked his own usual way of speaking.

At her abrupt interruption, his attitude turned to one he usually reserved for the open council meetings. "Very well," he said in a tone to match hers. "I will not play ignorance. However, I will play innocent for that is what I am."

Torvi felt a surge of bravery and took a step forward closing the space between them as she made sure to speak no louder than at a volume only he could hear. "Then see that is stays that way Lord Barden. Swear that your allegiance will always stay with the Durin's whether I become queen or not."

"And if there is no Durin on the throne to support?" he asked with slow calculation.

"If you give me your allegiance you won't need to worry about that," she responded with vigor.

"You sound sure of yourself," he said with a hint of amusement before continuing. "I commend you for your attempt to try and act the queen you could one day be but I believe you have forgotten something important."

Torvi quirked an eyebrow. "And what, pray tell, would that be?"

Lord Barden leaned forward, his face coming only inches from her face before he spoke. "What is it in for me? You have forgotten the most important rule to political diplomacy. If you expect something, you must offer something in return," he said before moving back to his original distance. "So my Lady, what do you offer me."

Torvi let a few moments pass in silence as she prepared herself for what she was about to be exchanged. She felt it was a good bagainship but she did not fully understand Lord Barden. His arrangement of priorities in his life was a mystery to Torvi and her plan relied heavily in what she could only guess as to what that arrangement was. It was a risk, a great risk, but the consequences were too great if she did nothing.

"I will be frank, I have nothing to offer that would add to your life. But I can offer you homeostasis with your current situation." He raised an eyebrow but gave no verbal inquire, so Torvi continued on. "I promise that your Lordship will remain protected."

Barden let out an odd sounding laugh before speaking. "Since when was my title in danger?"

"From the moment your wife decided to sleep with other men," Torvi countered.

It was obvious that the fact that his wife was sleeping with other men was no news to him. However, it was also obvious that he was unaware of others knowing. He let out a low curse under his breath and sent a dark look in the direction of his wife.

"You are a man of scholar, so I am sure you are aware of the potential consequences of your wife's infidelity?" she asked.

Lord Barden nodded. "Aye, I am aware of the cases that have been brought before trial in the past," he confirmed sounding none too pleased with the topic being discussed.

Torvi nodded contently towards his answer. "Then correct me if I am being too presumptuous but while I know you care nothing for your wife, I do feel like the knowledge of such a scandal would hurt that status of yours that you hold on a pedestal?"

Lord Barden remained silent as he stared at her. Torvi felt her heart beating against her rib cage as she waited for a reaction. She watched slowly as Barden's face flushed red with what she could only assume was anger. When he spoke there was a change in his continence and his tone was one of what Torvi could only place as admiration.

"I stand corrected saying you would not dabble on the dark side of politics. I am impressed. I did not think you capable of blackmail," he stated.

Torvi frowned at his words. She did not like the idea of blackmailing. It was not her, it was not what she had meant to do. "I am protecting, not blackmailing," she asserted.

"Call it what you will but you have earned my newfound respect," he said, raising his goblet in a simple salute. "If this is how you can deal with things in protecting the kingdom then yes, I can stand by and continue to support the Durin line of reigning."

Not sure if she was completely happy with the outcome, there was one thing she was certain of. She had been successful in her initial goal. She nodded her head in a single movement and turned to leave. But as an afterthought came to mind she pivoted and faced him again.

"Lord Barden," she called gaining his attention. When he gave her a hum of acknowledgement she spoke again. "I will have you know that I will not tolerate any consequences coming from you to your wife. Yes she has committed an act that is not honest but had it not been for your poor treatment of her she may not have gone to such lengths to seek out comfort.

"I suggest, for your sake and reputation, you act differently. I protected you this time but I cannot always promise it. Should other instances occur and someone else where to find out, I can only save so much. I do not expect you to change your personality or way of life. That would be pointless as you are an asset to the kingdom as is. But do not restrict her so. You thrive in solitude she does not. If you cannot provide simple attentions to her then at least permit her to socialize with others. Give her an opportunity to go alone and represent in your stead to events you do not wish to attend or find a waste of your time. Like you said before, a queen has hidden powers but so does your wife. You may be surprised by her talents and gifts she may bring to your family name."

He said nothing in reply but as Torvi made to leave she noticed the subtle glance he gave in the direction of his wife. As he watched her, the usual analytical expression came to his face as he observed her. It was not much, but it told Torvi that he was perhaps considering her advice.

She looked around to find Fili and noticed Lord Ferer watching her from the side. His eyes were slightly narrowed in suspicion as he watched her, occasionally glancing behind her where Lord Barden remained alone. Whether she was feeling overly confident from the high of her success or just feeling extra courageous, she flashed him a beaming smile as she nodded in his direction. Confusion spread across his face before he managed to recover and bow his head slightly in reply.

Torvi smirked and re-established her gaze to a more appealing and welcoming sight as she watched Fili finally escape the elder dwarrowdam and make his way towards her. His face beaming with relief to finally return to her side.

Chapter Text

Torvi dug to the bottom of her trunk and pulled out her bow, quiver, and sword before placing them on the bed and returning to the trunk. Again she dug through the mess that had become the contents of her belongings as her days became more and more busy, leaving her little time to keep it neat. She pulled out her heavy boots and one of her thicker coats.

Pulling her arms through the sleeves, she attempted to simultaneously smash one of her feet into a boot but only succeeded to trip herself and fall down onto the bed. Seeing that her efforts to hurry was only going to take longer, she changed her tactics and put on each article of clothing one item at a time.

Once dressed she quickly strapped her quiver and bow to her back and moved to place her sword to her hip. But before she managed to wrap the belt around her waist she paused. She stared down at the sheath fondly as she let a hand run across the length of it until her fingers met with the cold metallic hilt. Wrapping a gentle grip around it, she gave a gentle pull. A slow methodical ring filled the room as she revealed the sharp blade. She smiled down at the design Fili had engraved. She loved this sword and while she had still yet to even come close to perfecting her skills with it, she always felt a deep connection with it.

A loud snore from her brother on the other side of the wall snapped her from her admiring and she quickly moved to fasten the sword around herself. For the third and final time she returned to chest at the end of her bed and procured a long and sturdy rope. Carefully tying it to the foot of her bed in a secure knot Fili had taught her to make, she moved to the window and released it. The rope fell down into the darkness as she grabbed the bag resting by the window and dropped it out the window as well. She heard the muffled thump as it hit the ground and then began to climb out the window herself.

It was a plan both her and Fili had devised since Ferer's latest threat. They knew it was too risky to go through the front as Fili was confident one of the guards was already being paid off by Ferer to keep a watchful eye out and report any comings and goings of Torvi. Fili had been inspired when listening to Nori tell a story of a time he once got cornered in a house he was burglarizing. Nori had resorted to climbing out of the window with bed sheets and had successfully escaped undetected. Fili came up with a similar idea only using a much better material than flimsy sheets to use as her way to exit the mountain without being seen. That was the first resolution to their problem.

The second was that anything hunted was left in a hollowed fallen tree at the end of each night for Jorra to pick up in the morning. Then Torvi would collect her bag again later the next day before heading out for another hunt.

The third and final thing they had changed was their frequency. While Torvi was not using the front way, Fili was still forced to use it as his living quarters were located in the upper regions of Erebor. While most of the time he made excuses of checking patrols, he still had to limit how often he could go out without bringing unwanted attention from Ferer's spies. This resulted in forcing Fili to resort to only joining Torvi every two or three days.

At first Fili suggested that Torvi limit herself as well and only go when he was permitted. But she of course had objections to this suggestion as the weather became colder and game became scarce meant that their time left to hunt was limited. So they made a compromise. Torvi only went four days a week and on the nights Fili did go they set up traps to help compensate for the lost days. Fili had once mentioned that if he could go more often if he left through her window as well they would be able to go nearly every night. However, Torvi was quick to remind him that mount doom would freeze over before her mother would be ok with him entering her room in the late hours of the night, only to leave in the early hours of the morning. He had then proceeded to feign innocence as he inquired as to why it would be such an objection. It was a charade that only earned him and well placed slap on the arm followed by a quick peck on the cheek.

There methods where drastic measures and not ideal, but they had agreed that it was all for the best, at least until they could think of a more final solution.

The night was oddly warmer than the past few nights had been. An oddity in which Torvi was grateful as she climbed down the rope with only slightly numb fingers. Her feet had barely touched the ground when a pair of arms wrapped around her. She let out a yelp and immediately wriggled to free herself when a hand clamped over her mouth to silence her. Panic filled her body until a gentle voice sounded in her left ear.

"Shhh, Torvi, it's me calm down," Fili whispered, his voice sounding strained as he tried to keep her still.

The moment he felt her body relax he gently released her, allowing her to turn around with a scolding stare. "Mahal, Fili!" she hissed. "You nearly made me die of a heart attack! I thought you were some goblin trying to attack me!"

He let out a scoff before throwing his arms in the air and pointed to the window twenty feet above them.

"You almost died!" he said in an exaggerated tone. "How about you nearly hit me over the head with your bag when you dropped it!"

Torvi rolled her eyes as she bent down to retrieve said bag.

"Oh please, it's empty. It would not have even hurt," she said, her voice duly lacking in sympathy.

Fili put a hand on his hip and pointed a finger her at her. His stance and attitude mimicking his younger brother perfectly. "You don't know that! The strap could have wrapped around my neck and choked me," he said in a dramatic tone that again mimicked his brothers usual knack for composing a far fetched outcome.

Torvi only watched him with an entertained smirk as she casually folded her arms and leaned against the mountainside. As Fili finished his impersonation she let out a snort.

"Yeah Okay Kili," she said sarcastically.

Satisfied that he had achieved what he had meant to do, he closed the distance between them.

"You don't believe me?" He accused in a husky voice, dropping his earlier tone.

Torvi shivered as his hand gently slid around her waist and his breath tickled her ear. She did her best to keep her wits as she let out a strangled hum that confirmed her disbelief. He leaned in closer, his eyes glinting mischievously as he looked at her with a smirk. Slowly, he leaned his head into the crook of her neck and gently placed a single kiss where the artery pulsed beneath in rhythm with her quickened heart. Her eyes rolled shut as she failed to hold in the subtle moan of pleasure from the sensation. She could feel Fili smirk against her skin as he lifted his mouth up to her ear.

"Are you sure?" he asked, closing the already minuscule amount of distance between them.

Torvi opened her mouth to respond but struggled to let anything leave her lips except the haggard breath she was struggling to keep steady. She felt the light headedness settle in leaving her weak at the knees and feeling faint. Then she felt the smooth sensation of a hand weave itself between the hairs on the back of her neck as she felt her head slowly being tilted upwards. Through half lidded eyes she looked up to Fili who looked at her with hunger. He smiled down at her as he gazed into her eyes.

"Mahal give me strength to resist these urges," he said.

Torvi felt herself agreeing in her head but knew this would be her chance to turn the tables with his confession of weakness. She opened her eyes fully and let her lashes slowly flutter a few times before giving him a coy smile.

"Why resist," she said in an enticing tone.

She watched as his eyes widened slightly at her suggestion. Slowly she stood on her tippy toes as she let her hands trail inside his coat and brush gently against his tunic. She smiled to herself as she felt him shiver under her touch. She let out a soft breath against his neck just before she reached his ear. Fili's own breath went ragged breath, the condensation forming in the cold air encircling them as he turned rigid.

"Gotcha," she whispered quietly before quickly pulling herself away and ducking under his arm to escape his entrapment.

As she grinned gleefully he let out a groan sounding almost agitated as he spun to face her.

"Not fair Torvi," he grumbled. "That is playing dirty."

She raised an eyebrow. "And you weren't?" she countered.

The ghost of a smile graced his lips. "Of course not. I am a prince. I can do as I please with no fault as I have special privileges."

Torvi placed a hand on her hip. "Is that so?" she challenged.

He smiled and took a step forward his hand loosely wrapped around her wrist and pulled her until she stepped forward. "Uh huh," he confirmed confidently.

She gave him a rye look. "What kind of special privileges?"

He smiled and bent down to give the crown of her head a gentle kiss. "I am the only one allowed to do that," he stated.


He kissed her brow. "And I am the only one who can do that," he said moving to her cheek and placing a kiss on it. "And this," he kissed her other cheek.

His hand moved to her chin and drew it up.

"And I am most definitely the only person to do this," he said in a serious tone before crushing his lips to hers in a none too gentle, nor chaste kiss.

Despite the cold air she felt overly warm as she felt his tongue graze against her lips before deepening the kiss all together. Both his hands cupped her face as her arms wrapped around his neck to pull herself closer into him. Much too quickly he pulled away, his lips shining as he licked them, savoring the lingering taste of her lips, before smiling down at her. She moved to kiss him again but was stopped when he kept her a slight distance away with a gentle hand on her chest.

"Come on," he said bending down to grab the bag she had unconsciously dropped earlier. "We need to get going."

Without waiting for her, he began to walk away only to have his lips smile widely to himself as he heard a groan of frustration. He was always pleased to know she struggled just as much as he did when it came to keeping things appropriate. Already there had been too many times that he was positive she would have not stopped him if he pushed her any further, a fact the he was worried about. It was was still just under three months before the wedding and he was not sure how much more self control he could continue to muster.

Ferin made his way to the familiar stall that was snugly placed on the far east end of the market. He could already smell the sweet aroma of fresh honey rolls just removed from the oven as well as the enticing smell of beef stew wafting into his nostrils. As enticing as the aroma of food was, it was not the sweet rolls that had brought him here so late in the evening. It was something of a different sweetness.

He spotted Gafden enter the front of the stall from behind the frayed curtain that blocked the cooking area from view. The older man looked around the small area for a place to set the heavy pot of stew he was holding. Finding a cleared space on the long counter that ran across the side of the stall, he walked over and set down the large pot with a heavy thud.

Gafden took a moment to take in a few labored breaths before wiping an arm across his brow. When he had recovered from the small exertion, he looked up and immediately smiled as he caught sight of Ferin making his way towards him. He sent the young Lord a wave to which Ferin heartily returned with his own genuine smile.

"Been wondrin' when you'd show up today," Gafden commented when Ferin neared. "I was just beginnin' to think you would not come today and was fixin' to close up shop. I am glad I delayed."

"I apologize," Ferin replied guiltily. "I had extensive training today and wanted to wash up before I came. I did not wish to soil your establishment. However, I do not wish to inconvenience you and delay your departure to return home."

Gafden waved off his apology with a casual hand. "Nonsense, should I even be closed I would not turn away a hungry soldier. Will it be the usual today?"

Ferin nodded causing Gafden to smile even wider.

"I 'ave to pull some loaves of bread out of the o'vn but I will 'ave Hilda come out and get ya a plate ready," he said with a smile.

Ferin felt his stomach clench and flip with both excitement and dread at the announcement. He felt a faint warmth come his face and gather in his cheeks, but he did his best to stay composed as he gave the old man a nod of consent.

Seeming to be happy with this response, Gafden called out for his daughter and not a moment later, a small young dwarrowmaid stepped out from the back.

"Would you fix Lord Ferin 'ere a plate up while I pull the bread out of the ov'n?" Gafden asked his daughter the moment the curtain fell back into place behind her.

Her honey eyes had immediately directed themselves to Ferin but moved to her father as he addressed her. She gave him a small nod that sent Gafden into quick strides that took him to the doorway before disappearing behind the curtain leaving the two alone. The moment her father disappeared, she moved over to the counter where she grabbed a bowl and carefully ladled a generous amount of stew into the dish. She set the bowl onto a tray before moving over to a basket of rolls and selected the largest and placed it alongside the bowl on the tray.

Normally, Ferin would have immediately seated himself while he waited, but he could not find it in himself to let his eyes miss watching her move around the kitchen while she prepared his plate. She moved with fluid motions, like water across a smooth stone. He loved watching her hair swing in a gentle bounce as she turned her body this way and that to collect the things she needed. As she finished producing a spoon from a large pile of miscellaneous cutlery, she turned herself to face him with tray in hand.

The moment she caught him watching her, she let her mouth curl up into the smile she had inherited from her father. "You do not need to wait there, you can sit down and I will bring your food over," she said in a soft tone.

Ferin could not help but let the corners of his mouth twitch upwards at her infectious smile."I don't mind taking the tray myself," he said gently. "I don't want to be a burden and add extra work."

She placed the tray on the counter separating them and looked up to him. Her shoulders moved up in a small shrug. "If you insist," she said in a collected manner. "But you should know you are not a burden."

Ferin smiled and wanted to comment that perhaps his father would disagree but he kept his mouth shut and slowly grabbed the tray as he looked at her face. A small smudge of flour dusted her right cheek. Without warning nor recognition that his body had moved on its own accord, he lifted his hand and gently wiped her cheek with the pad of his thumb. The moment he felt her warm skin beneath his, he immediately withdrew his hand as his eyes widened. He had caught the surprise on her face as well and immediately felt his face burn with embarrassment.

"Sorry," he quickly admonished. "YouーI should not haveーit's just thatー" His mind was too busy chastising his hand for moving on its own that he struggled to speak clearly. Finally he found himself pointing to his own face as her face turned from startelement to confusion as she struggled to understand what he was trying to say. "You have flour on your face."

His words caused her own hand to instantly mirror his as she let out a quick exclamation and began to rub vigorously at her face, her face flushed red as she angled her face from his. "Oh, sorry I was just preparing for tomorrow," she quickly stammered. "I guess I should be more careful when tossing around the flour."

Ferin let out a small chuckle causing her to stop in her vigorous rubbing and look up at him. A small look of awe coming across her face as she watched him try to contain his laughter. He failed to hold it in when he caught sight of the deep red mark that marred her cheek.

"It is quite alright," Ferin quickly assured her in an effort to save her any further embarrassment. He was not sure why it would cause her such humiliation but it seemed to have bothered her enough. In his own opinion he had quite liked the look of it. It showed that she had been too hard at work to be bothered with keeping herself clean. "It is nothing to be embarrassed about, it is part of your job, I myself have found myself to come home and look at myself in the mirror only to find that I have walked around all day caked in mud and had been completely oblivious."

His words seemed to calm her composure as her shoulders seemed to relax back to her usual calming stature. She gave him an appreciative smile. "If you would like to take that to a table I can get you a fresh ale and bring it over to you in a moment," she said as she pointed to the tray.

Ferin nodded and without a word, grabbed the tray and moved over to the closests table. It seemed he was the only person there at the moment. He thought it odd as usually most of the tables were full when he came but then he remembered the lateness of the night.

He sat down and absentmindedly stirred his stew with his spoon as he thought about how soft and smooth her skin had felt beneath his weathered and calloused thumb. It had only been a faint touch that had not even lasted more than a second, but already Ferin was craving the sensation again. He was drawn from his thoughts as a large tankard of ale was placed before him. Thin fingers of two small hands grasped around the large cup and his eyes followed the wrist and arms attached to eventually look up to see Hilda looking down at him. She had a warmth that seemed to radiate more heat than the sun during the summer equinox.

A small look of hesitancy came across her face before she lowered herself down into the empty chair beside him. "May I ask you a question?" she said slowly.

Ferin paused in his stirring of stew and looked at her. "Of course," he responded almost too eagerly.

Her lips quirked in a small smile. "Why do you always sit alone?" she asked curiously. "I do not think I have ever seen you with anyone before."

Ferin thought about her question. It was not that he avoided sitting by others because he disliked them, it was more he disliked their reactions to him being in close proximity. Anytime he was near someone they seemed to be tense and on edge. The atmosphere would change and conversation became less casual and more frigid. He had few friends, and even then he was not sure if he could really call them friends. They were merely comrades of the same rank. Realizing she was waiting for an answer he gave a short shrug of the shoulders before looking down at his food which he had yet to start eating.

"I prefer solitude. I usually do not care for others company," he finally explained. In a way it was the truth.

"Oh," she said sounding slightly put off. "Well, I suppose I better get back to work and let you be. Enjoy your meal."

Ferin heard the hurt in her voice and quickly looked up to see her face slightly downcast as she moved to stand. His reflex's kicked in and he quickly wrapped his hand around her wrist. "Wait," he quickly said, stopping her mid stand. "But I do enjoy your company."

His quick amendment to his statement made her face light up as her spirits seemed to raise at his words. Ferin looked down at his bowl again, suddenly feeling bashful.

"Would you mind keeping me company?" He peeked up at her to find her mouth now curved into a full smile as she nodded.

"It would be my pleasure," she said happily as she let herself settle back down in her seat.

The pair quickly moved into simple conversation as Ferin's food turned cold as it was forgotten. They spoke for an hour, Ferin's hand still gently wrapped around her wrist as they spoke. It was not until a call from Gafden came from the kitchen that Ferin realized he was still holding her arm. They each startled and he quickly let go, his hand feeling a dull emptiness the moment he no longer held her warmth as Hilda stood to answer her father's bidding.

When she had disappeared behind the kitchen, Ferin looked down to remember he had still not taken a bite of his now stone cold stew. It was then that he realized how late it was and he quickly stood to return home. Despite his lack of eating, Ferin left the table with his food untouched as he felt he had already received his fill of something entirely better and satisfying than food.

Ferer paced back and forth in front of the fireplace that was set on the far side of the living area of his home. He had just returned from an unproductive meeting at the tavern in Dale. A meeting in which his son had been, yet again, absent from. He had made an excuse as usual but he could tell by the faces of the others present at the meeting that his excuses were not as convincing as they had once been before.

His jaw erupted into a painful ache causing him to become aware as to how tightly he had been gritting his teeth. In an effort to keep from breaking his jaw, he pulled out his pipe and sat down in the chair that was positioned to the right of the fireplace, its high back facing the rest of the room.

He lit his pipe and let the soothing smoke fill his lungs as the heat of the fire seeped into his clothes and warmed him. He let out an exhale of smoke as he stared into the hypnotic flames and let his mind wander and muse about what his next steps would be. That, and the answer as to where his son had been detained the entire evening to keep him from joining in the meeting.

After the second time Ferin had missed a meeting, Ferer decided that it would be best to see what was so important. So, he had his son followed and the news in which his spy reported did not make sense. It had been reported that his son had taken a late supper at a small restaurant located in the market of Erebor. A habit in which apparently his son had fallen into. This revelation explained why his son had been missing family meals but it still failed to make sense.

He understood the want for his son to perhaps become more independent in his living situation. He himself had gone through the same things when he was growing up, taking separate meals, sleeping in the barracks, and spending more time away from home. But what did not make sense, was why this would cause his sons absence at important meetings. At least this was the case until Ferer himself decided to pay a visit to the family owned stall.

It was a shabby excuse of an eating experience with communal seating and mediocre food. At least that is way he judged it by looking at the menu and observing only what he would consider peasant food being served. He did not actually taste it. At first Ferer had thought his trip had been futile, until he caught a glimpse of what could only be the owners daughter.

She was a meek girl, several years younger than his own son but despite her youthful face, it was more than obvious that this was the reason his son had been frequenting such an abysmal place. Her figure was lithe as she moved around the tables, laying food before the guests and collecting empty plates from others. Her smile was bright a contagious as it spread all the way up her face and manifested in her shimmering honey eyes. Her hair was kept back from her face with a leather strap to let her long brown hair fall down her back in a neat waterfall of soft curls. While her dress was plain and simple, it still fit well around her curves and hips and anything more extravagant would only compliment not add to the girl's appearance.

She was beautiful, Ferer would give her that. But there was one problem. She was beneath him which meant she was beneath his son. Ferer knew the value of those beneath him. He was not ignorant. Those of the lower class all served an abundance of purposes that kept the world rotating and running. Unfortunately, it seemed that this girl seemed to be only serving one purpose in Ferer's eyes, and that purpose was a distraction. A distraction his son did not need.

Ferin slowed down his pace as he entered his family halls. He had lost track of time and had an early morning mandatory training but he had found himself distracted and before he knew it, it was nearly midnight. As he reached the front door of his family home he slowly and carefully lifted the latch. He knew his parents would be sleeping by now but he did not want to risk them waking up to hear him come home at such a late time. It would draw questions he was not ready nor sure if he knew how to answer.

The well oiled door made no noise as it opened easily, much to Ferin's relief. Only the faint click of the latch falling back into place as he closed it made noise. He paused for a moment to listen and make sure the noise had not disrupted his parents. Convinced that he had not been detected, he began to creep towards the hall, the dying embers of the fire in the sitting area giving him just enough light to keep from tripping over the rug laid out before the hall.

"Where have you been?"

At the sound of his father's voice coming from somewhere in the shadows, he startled and snapped his body to face the fireplace just as the large silhouette of his father rose from the tall chair that had been hiding him from view. Like the moon eclipsing the sun, his father was nothing but a dark shape against the fire place, his features masked by shadows.

Despite the disability to see his expression, Ferin already knew what his father looked like by the tone of his voice. It was a look he had seen many times, dark eyes, deep frown, and eyebrows drawn together in anger. It was during these times that Ferin realized just how large his father still was, despite his age and many years of retirement from being a soldier. He had done well to always keep the habit to train often to keep his physique pristine. Not so much as a means of keeping his abilities as a swordsman, but as a means of keeping himself as the ominous intimidation that he had only ever seen his father as.

Even if Ferer did not keep up with his exercises, Ferin was positive that it really did not make a difference. His father would always possess the power to make others feel inferior. It was natural to him. He exuded nothing but overbearing power that reaped respect from others. It was a feature he had always admired and strived to achieve while growing up.

His father had been disappointed when he failed to breed such a trait into Ferin, so instead he had tried to beat it into him until it became a natural ability. But somehow, despite Ferer's tireless efforts, Ferin had always fell short of his father's expectation. As a boy he had always wanted to command such respect from others as his father did and he worked day in and day out to grasp even the smallest amount. But that had been before. As of late, Ferin had been given a the smallest of insights regarding the matter. The truth of it was, that in hindsight, Ferer did not gain respect. He gained fear. His entire family demanded fear and he was beginning to grow weary of seeing it in other people's eyes.

It had been when he met Gafden that he realized this. For he was the first man to look at him in a long time that did not reflect fear or disappointment.

At the time he did not realize what it was that was different about the way the man looked at him. It confused him at first but then he realized, it was the first time he had ever witnessed respect being directed to him. Respect and not fear. He had liked it but it was not until he had met the man's daughter that he realized for the first time in his life he did not want to be anything like his father.

Hilda was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen and it was not just her physical self but the entire aura that she seemed to radiate to the world. She was soft and gentle, everything his mother was not. She gave her attention to everyone who wandered into their kitchens. She would patiently listen to an elderly man's rambling story with rapture and undivided attention despite it being the same story he had shared with her no less than two nights prior. Her pockets were always supplied with small candies for children and she seemed to always have a listening ear for a worn out woman complaining of never having a moments peace in her family.

In many ways she reminded him of Torvi. But he had never felt a pull towards Torvi the way he felt drawn to Hilda. It was as if she emitted a gravitational pull that only he seemed to be affected by. He had always been okay with his father's plan to have Torvi by his side but that content was dispelled the moment he let his eyes fall on Hilda. For the first time in his life, Ferin felt as if he had found something that he truly desired that served no purpose other than to bring about an unattainable happiness.

He had still yet to make any advance towards Hilda but he had his reasons. The first being, he never knew what to say. He wanted to converse with her, learn her wants, and understand her thoughts but his words always seemed to fail him. He became tongue tied each time he opened his mouth, so he refrained from speaking except to utter a whispered thank you each time she cleared his plate. It was only this very night that he could even say he had actually been able to form an entire sentence. But his small success was overshadowed by the second reason he had yet to truly attempt any type of relationship with her, and that very reason was now glowering him in the shadowed living room.

"You going to answer me boy?"

His father's harsh words brought Ferin from his frozen state and he quickly snapped to attention the way a soldier would to his commander.

"I am sorry sir," he said quickly. "I lost track of the hour and did not realize how late it was."

Ferin waited, his heart beating so fiercely he feared his father would hear it pounding against his ribs and know that there was more. Finally after a long period of only the burning logs making a sound, his father finally spoke.

"You missed another meeting."


The moment the question fell from his lips, Ferin knew he had made a mistake. He had forgotten about the meeting...again. A heavy sigh that sounded more like a growling wolf came from his father's throat.

"I am sorry father," Ferin quickly moved to amend his mistake. "I had meant to go but the time was lost to me and I forgot about it. I promise it will not happen again."

His father's heavy steps thudded until he was standing over his son. "And what was it that had you so distracted to forget such a thing?" Ferer asked in a dark tone.

Ferin tried to think of a valid reason as he feared to admit the truth. "I was with friends," he said keeping some truth in his reply.

A resounding slap echoed through the room as Ferer brought the back of his hand across his son's face. Ferin's face flew to the side as his cheek stung hotly.

"You are no longer a boy," Ferer said darkly. "You are a man, so be a man and start taking responsibility. You have already failed our plan once causing us an inconvenient delay. We should have been sitting on the throne by now! It is almost as if you don't want what we are building. Should our plan succeed I will be king, do you know what that means?"

Ferin kept his eyes locked with the carpet beneath their feet, his head still angled away from his father. "Yes sir," he said quietly.

"What?" Ferer asked sternly. "Look at me when I am speaking to you."

Ferin moved his head and lifted his eyes until they were focused on his father's chin. "I understand," he said more loudly.

Ferer let out a scoff. "I don't think you do. I will be king soon enough, that means one day you will take my place. That means you need to be seen as a leader, not an empty chair at a meeting."

Ferin nodded.

"What friend was this?" He asked sternly.

Ferin paled. He could not let his father know about Hilda. However, he had an inkling that his father might already know. He would have to tread carefully in his answer.

"Just some girl, nobody important," he quickly answered.

He knew his father would not like it but he would like it less if he knew the truth. The truth being that Hilda was important. Or at least he wanted her to be. She already brought about a welling in his chest that gave him reason to go on with each day. Even if it was from a distance, Hilda brought him a peace that Ferin had never experienced before. He could not even fathom what it would be like should he develop even the smallest of friendship, let alone a relationship with her. But there were too many complications. He did not want her involved nor make her presence known to his father. He did not need his father seeing her as a problem.

Ferer sneered. "See that she stays that way, you know your duties and your role. YOU may have failed with your assignment with Torvi, but I will not. If you are harvesting any notion that she is no longer in your future, you are wrong. Torvi is the key to making sure you have a stable throne to sit on, therefore you need to see to it that she can pledge herself and trust you," Ferer warned while jabbing finger into his son's chest.

"But what if..."Ferin faltered in his words.

"But what if what?" Ferer demanded.

Ferin fidgeted. He was about to ask if their plan did not work. He was about to question the validity and sense of the plan. At one time he was committed to being linked to the future princess but not anymore. That notion died when he felt like he came to understand her resilience of her rejection of his advances. He now understood why they were drawn to one another. They worked well together, they complimented each other. Together, they would be great rulers and Ferin did not want to challenge that. He once thought being a ruler only meant you had to be powerful, but their was more to it. It was a calling bestowed to certain people by Mahal. There was a reason why the Durin line had been rulers for so long. They were born for it.

"Fili is Torvi's one, she would never forgive me nor side with me should something happen to Fili. She won't be forced, we already tried that," Ferin supplied his voice just barely sounding hopeful that his words could possibly dissuade his father.

Ferer's mouth grew thin as he pursed his lips in grim displeasure. His eyes darkened and narrowed until Ferin could no longer see the whites of his eyes. Only the cold dark abyss glared down at him.

"Having a One is nothing but a myth. You will be wise to tell yourself that the next time you see your friend. Torvi has only been manipulated into their loyalty. And if she can be manipulated once she can be manipulated again. If not, I have plenty of means of persuasion," he said in a dark tone. "Had you been to any of the meetings lately you would know that."

Ferer stepped forward again, leaving hardly any space between himself and his son as he lowered his voice darkly.

"See that you rearrange your outlook on who stands beside you in the future. If I ever think even for so much as a moment you do not visualize Torvi, I will see to it that the other person is erased."

His warning sent a shiver down Ferin's back as the face Hilda's welcoming smile and warm eyes flashed across his mind.

"Are we at an understanding?" Ferer asked slowly.

At his father's question Ferin look up into his eyes and saw nothing but crazed illusion. That was when Ferin realized, this man was madder than King Thror in a room full of arkenstones. Ferin did his best to keep his expression stoic as he raised his chin up and squared his shoulders.

"Perfectly," Ferin replied. "I understand completely as to what I must do."

Ferer gave a sadistic smile. "Excellent," he said in satisfaction, his teeth grinning widely like a fox in a hen house.

Ferer moved towards the hallway that led to his bed chambers.

"I suggest you go to bed, I believe you have some threads to sever and new ties to make tomorrow," he called over his shoulder without stopping.

Ferin watched his father disappear into the darkness. His palms felt sticky and wet and when he looked at them, he realized he had dug his nails in so deeply they had formed small slivers that deep crimson droplets where now seeping from. He relaxed his hands as best he could but still felt tense. He certainly had some connections to severe and build but they were the ones to protect the people he cared for. And he did not care for his father in the slightest.

Chapter Text

There was a knock at the door just as Torvi finished the final stitch to mend the hole that Jorra had noticed in her game bag this morning. She looked up at the clock that sat on top of the mantel and frowned. It was only half past noon, she was not expecting Fili for another half hour. Despite this slight oddity, she was not about to complain in having him earlier than expected.

Not bothering to put the bag away, she flung it onto the empty chair beside her and nearly skipped over to the door. Her hand firmly wrapped its fingers around the latch and swung the door open, her face smothered in a happy grin. The instant her eyes settled on the person before her, the smile was replaced by a wary and hardened look. Ferin stood before her, his hands clinging to the front of his tunic. He looked nearly nervous and she would have believed it if it had been anyone else.

"Why are you here?" her tone was harsher than she had meant but she felt no remorse when she saw his eyes flinch at the brashness of her voice.

"I was hoping I might be able to speak with you," he said in a soft tone. It was difficult believing it was his voice that produced such a sound.

Torvi studied him with a hard expression as she contemplated on whether or not to grant his request. She looked behind herself, the house was empty and she was not about to let him inside while she was alone. She then surveyed corridor. It was empty but she could at least hear others within their homes and voices echoing down from other areas nearby. At least outside she could be heard if she called out. Slowly, with hesitation she nodded. He moved to take a step forward but was stopped as Torvi stuck an arm across the doorway, blocking him from entering.

"Outside," she said firmly. "You may speak with me, but you are not welcome in my home."

Ferin frowned. "This is a matter that would be best spoken privately and not in such a public place," Ferin contested.

Torvi did not hesitate as her arm stayed firmly across the doorway. "Then you may as well be on your way," Torvi countered, her voice staying firm with conviction. "You may either speak with me outside or not at all. I will heed your concerns under my terms and my terms only."

It was obvious that this was not what he was wanting by his dissatisfied look but after looking to his left and right and seeing the corridor empty he relented with a nod. Torvi stepped out from the doorway and securely latched it shut before folding her arms and looking at him expectantly.

"Well," she began when he failed to speak immediately. "What did you want to speak with me about."

"I am sure it comes as no surprise to you if I told you that my father is planning to take the power from the Durin's?" Ferin asked.

While of course the news was not surprising, hearing it being confirmed from the lips of Ferer's own son was. Torvi did well to hide the majority of her surprise brought upon by his statement but given the twitch of a single eyebrow, Ferin detected that he had her interest.

"Aye," she said before crossing her arms across her chest. "And are you here to bid me an offer? If so, you might as well save your breath. I believe I have already made my position of which side I will be taking clear to your father. But feel free to pass the message on again, I will not take part in anything that would oppose the line of Durin. Now please remove yourself from my doorstep and never return."

With her dismissal firmly said, Torvi moved to reopen her door, not taking any regard as to whether or not Ferin was listening to her words. She was stopped when his hand wound itself around her wrist.

"Wait," he said hurriedly.

Torvi paused and looked down to his hand clasped around her appendage. It was not a tight grip like the last time he had his hands on her. It was loose enough that she would have been able to easily pull herself free. It was a gesture to pause her departure, not stop. She looked up from his grasp to meet his eye. There was no malice in his face, only a faint look of pleading desperation. The expression was only there for a moment before he quickly looked down at his feet and released his grasp.

"My apologies," he said with a stiff bow before looking back up at her. His face now one of renewed conviction. "I know you have strong reasons to distrust me, but I must ask you to at least believe me when I say I have not come here on my father's accord but only of my own reasons. I have not come to ask you to join against the Durin's but instead, I have come to offer my own services. I wish to extend an entente between us."

Torvi stared at him, her mind blank as she was at a loss for words. Ferin was standing before her, offering his services, offering an alliance. She searched his face for any hint of deception or trickery on his part. But his eyes, while still holding their usual dark hue, where soft and innocent. Everything about his stature and composure confirmed his aback by the change in his usual continuance, Torvi let her arms fall to her sides from her earlier guarded stance as she looked at him. He stared at her, his chest moving steadily in and out as he waited for her answer. Despite the honesty that seemed to emanate from him, Torvi knew better than to promptly give him immediate trust. She had learned her lesson already.

It was like standing at the edge of an unfamiliar river passing. The water looked smooth and calm but there was no telling of what lay beneath the steady flow. Traitorous undercurrents that could sweep a person off their feet, sudden drop offs that could find someone submerged under dark waters, or harsh rocks that could cut deeply into the soles of a crossers feet. There was only one way in which a person could cross uncharted waters. Slowly and cautiously.

Torvi took in a deep breath as she closed her eyes and contemplated the decision before her. As she let out the breath, she slowly let her eyelids lift as she looked at the dwarf before her. Her mind was made up and as she opened her mouth she felt as if she were taking the first step to ford that unfamiliar river. With one word, she dipped her toes into the water.

"Why," she asked.


"Why would you go against your father? Your own blood?" she clarified.

"Because I have other desires for my future than what my father plans," he said matter of factly.

Torvi let her eyes move back and forth for a moment as she contemplated her next question. "Why are you coming to me?" she asked, her voice one of genuine curiosity. "If you wish to pledge yourself to the Durin's then why are you not seeking out the Durin's yourselves?"

Ferin seemed to contemplate her answer as he stared blankly at her. It was a valid question, but he had his reason for not seeking out the Durin's. He knew approaching Torvi did not seem to support his cause, but when it came down to it, there truly was no other option. He looked at her and caught the distinct look of wary distrust hidden under her placid expression. He had to admit, she had changed a lot in the past few months. A feat that he had not anticipated in dealing with when he made the decision to seek her out. It was that underlying look that told him complete honesty was his only chance of success.

"If I were to approach King Thorin, it would not go unnoticed by my father. He would have his suspicions and I cannot risk him thinking I am going against him. My father would see to it that dire consequences would be enacted."

Torvi contemplated his reasoning when the implication of his words dawned on her. A look of pitied shock came across her face. But despite her feeling sorry for the man, she was not about to accept this as a full answer.

"Why not Fili then?"

At this, Ferin released a skeptical snort of bitter amusement. "You really think Fili would have even given me even a moment of his time?"

Torvi grimaced at the truth of his words. "I suppose not," she agreed.

"And even if he were to let me speak with him, it would still be took risky. I cannot take any chances." His tone was more solemn than before as he spoke with his eyes cast down at his folded arms. A small gap of silence filled itself between them before he looked back up to her, his dark eyes connecting with hers. "That is why I sought out you first. I offer my service to them, but I need you vouch for me."

Torvi tilted her head to the side as she stared at him. "And you thought that I would be the first one to trust you?" her tone had a sharp bite of bitterness that caused a look of doubt come across Ferin's face. "Why, of all people under this mountain, am I the one you would think would vouch for you? After what you have done? After what your father has done and plans to do?"

A familiar darkened look of contempt came to his face at her last words. "I am NOT my father," he growled sternly.

His tone caused Torvi to visibly startle and he could see the slight fear cast across her face. Seeing this, Ferin quickly softened his face and uncrossed his arms to look less threatening. His shoulders sagged as he let out a heavy sigh. "I apologize," he said in a strained tone as he attempted to keep his voice soft. A practice in which he was still learning.

Torvi witnessed his change in contenance, noting his effort and his quickness to defuse the tension that had seemed to easily build within him. When he looked back up to her, his eyes had lost their hardness. It made her nervous and uneasy. Was he struggling to keep calm because this was merely an act and he was slipping? Or was it only because he was truly trying to change his ways and he was struggling to keep from falling back into his old ways?

"I came to you because I know you see the goodness in people. I know I am undeserving of your good word of me. But I was hoping you would give me a chance. I do not deny that history does not play in my favor nor does reputation but I have found that I wish to wash myself of such things. I am seeking out to cleanse myself and become a renewed person. I know I do not contain a pure heart and I doubt I will ever have a heart as clean as yours but I do know I am not like my father. If he has a heart, it would be one of blackness. One so dark that it consumes anything that is light. I do not wish to have such a thing confined within my chest. I already know it is tainted but I have hope that not all it lost."

Ferin's tone was that of a man before his maker as he pleaded penitence from his sins. As he spoke, Torvi found nothing but sincerity in his face. Despite this, she kept her own face passive as she acknowledged his words with calculation instead of emotion as she usually found herself doing. However, her attempt failed when he made his next move. Slowly, he kneeled to the ground his face bowed and eyes cast down to her feet.

"I believe you to be a forgiving person Torvi, so I ask you," he began humbly as he slowly raised his head but remained on his knees. "Will you look past our differences and past struggles and let myself prove to you that I wish for change."

Silence followed his words as they stared back at each other. Torvi's eyes were wide with shock and she was completely oblivious to her mouth hanging agape. Minutes passed as Torvi stared down at him in shock by his action. Ferin was bowing before her in humility, an action she thought he was physically incapable of doing or feeling. Her mind ran wild and frantic while she strived to find a response. As her mind began to settle, Fili came to her thoughts and his many warnings. Her natural instinct told her that his actions were genuine but she knew Fili would not be so easily trusting. She needed more. Slowly she reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Get up," she said in a neutral tone.

At her touch he looked up at her, his face searching for a hint to what her response would be while he slowly rose back to his feet.

"You are correct in your assumption of me being forgiving. I do grant forgiveness to those who earn it," she stated clearly causing a glimmer of hope to come to Ferin's eyes. "However," she continued, "Fili is not, and while Thorin will always do what is best for his Kingdom, he is cautious in trusting those who have wronged him."

The glimmer of hope that had reached his eyes dulled and faded at her words. He lowered his head. "I see," he said quietly before looking back to her. "Then I suppose I will take my leave, thank you for your time."

He gave her a small bow before pivoting to walk away.


At her call for him to stop, Ferin froze and slowly turned back around to face her. Torvi chewed on her lip, her mind in deep thought as she crossed her arms. A minute passed before she finally looked up to meet his eye.

"I did not say they would not accept you. I will speak with them. But I need to know why you have changed your mind," she demanded.

"If what you say of your father is true, why would you go against him. From what I know, you are a selfish person, you yourself admitted that you are not wanting to follow your father because his desires are not yours. However, preserving you life seems out of character. You implied dire consequences for going against your father and I would not put it past him to destroy his own kin and heir. So why not take a more neutral course, Thorin would not punish you for actions of your father. He is not that kind of a King. So I ask you again, Ferin son of Ferer, why are you really doing this? What is in it for you? What do you expect from Thorin as payment?"

Ferin listened all the while she spoke and while her words were true about his father he could not agree that her words of truth did not apply when regarding himself. Yes he was going against his father because it was not what he wanted but it was more. For the first time in his life, he was making a decision for the sake of another not his. He could care less about what happened to him at the moment just as long. At the end of her assessment a long pause of silence passed by before Ferin finally began to speak.

"While I would agree that many of your words are ones of truth, I cannot agree with all," he began quietly, his voice mild. "I have always made my decisions based on what was always best for me. But for this decision I have made it completely with only the wellbeing of another in consideration."

He looked at her, looking for any sign that she understood his meaning before he continued on. As he looked at her, a thought came to his mind. A thought that had been running through his mind quite frequently in the past few weeks.

"May I ask you a personal question?" he prompted.

Torvi thought for awhile. It was obvious he was taking a detour in giving an explanation but her curiosity cause her to allow it. "You may ask," she said.

"Do you—is Fili," he struggled to find the right words as he rubbed the back of his neck and kicked the ground lightly with his toes. "Do you believe in having a One?"

Torvi's head tilted to the side as she looked at him up and down. She was trying to figure out why he was suddenly acting so nervous. For a fleeting moment she thought he was about to confess to her, then her mind changed course as a red flag warning popped into her mind as this could be a trick. Had his father sent him here? Was he here under false pretenses? It would not be the first time. But everything about him seemed genuinely hesitant and it reminded her vaguely of one other time she had seen Ferin like this. It was that night at the restaurant she had gone to with Jorra nearly over a month ago. Keeping this in mind, she decided to proceed with high caution.

"Yes," she said honesty.

"Fili," he said firmly, not as an accusation but more of a confirmation.

"Aye," Torvi confirmed. "Fili is my One."

Ferin nodded but still seemed as if he wanted more. Torvi felt as if she where looking at a book written in elvish that suddenly changed into Khazad. She had never been able to read Ferin before but suddenly it was as if everything made sense as she looked at his face.

"You met your one, haven't you," she said as a surprised statement rather than a question.

Ferin's head popped up from looking down at the ground, his eyes wildly looking at her in desperation. "I—I have absolutely no idea," he admitted. "I grew up being told it was only a myth, I always believed it to be only a myth. But then—"

"It's the cook's daughter, isn't it?" She asked suddenly cutting him off.

Ferin looked at her in confusion. "How did you—"

"I saw you awhile back at the restaurant. I saw the way you had spoken with her father and your reaction when he had mentioned her," Torvi explained. "I thought it was odd how you had interacted with him, it was just…different."

Ferin gave a shrug. "They look at me differently. I suppose it is because they are new to the mountain and have not learned or heard of the reputation that seems to proceed my family. Their mistake in my character made me want to be that person."

Torvi thought for a moment as she recalled the interaction she had seen what felt like so long ago.

"You're wrong." At her words he gave her a confused look. Her green eyes bore into his as she spoke the truth. "The person they see is your true character. You cannot fake what I saw that day, it was genuine," Torvi quickly spoke.

Her words took, not only Ferin off guard, but herself as well. It worried her that she seemed to be already allowing him into her inner circle. A sense of trust had been what made her do it so. But she had spoken what her mind and heart had said was the truth. Ferin's face which had been full of surprise, slowly morphed into one of gratitude. He gave her a soft smile, one which she recognized to be the rare genuine one she had only ever seen once before.

"Thank you," he said quietly. Slowly he put a hesitant hand on her shoulder. It felt awkward and by the look on his face, Torvi could tell that he too felt uncomfortable about the gesture but he continued to bare his smile as he nodded to her. "You really were meant to be a queen."

They stood there for a prolonged moment. Each of them unsure as to what to do or say. However their quiet moment was abruptly broken when footsteps sounded from down the hall. They each looked to the side to see who was approaching. Dread pooled and flooded Torvi, she felt Ferin's arm quickly retract from her shoulder but it was too late.

Fili stood frozen as he stared down the hall to where they stood near the entrance way of her home. While his feet were frozen and planted to the floor, his entire body quivered as his muscles tightened. Torvi noticed his hands clenched tightly, his knuckles already turning an ashen white while they shook with tremors. Her eyes wandered up his shaking arms to his tense shoulders and strained neck muscles. His jaw was clenched, forcing his cheeks to flex and twitch as he ground his teeth together behind the deep frown that adorned his face. The last thing her eyes settled on where his own. The once bright blue orbs that she had always had a fondness for where gone as they were consumed by the black abyss that shadowed any other color as they dilated to their maximum capacity.

Torvi swallowed. Fili's eyes were locked on Ferin and they spoke nothing other than murder. She needed to act quickly. They were in too public of a place and she could not risk Fili losing control now. Not here, not where so many prying eyes could witness. He had been doing so well the past month that she was beginning to believe that the sickness was gone, she had even chanced the thought it had all been her imagination. But at this moment, it was very real and very close to taking over.

Faster than she thought she was physically able to move, she was standing in front of him. His eyes and attention did not even register her close proximity and when she called out his name he only continued to glare past her head to where Ferin was still standing. Torvi reached her hands to his face and tentatively placed one on each side of his face as she tried to coax his attention to her.

She called out his name several times again but still his attention remained locked on Ferin. Torvi slowly looked behind her shoulder to where Ferin was standing, his eyes curious as he watched them.

"Ferin," she called, gaining his attention. She knew him being here was not ideal but she could not let him leave. At least not yet. They still had things to discuss and he had already seen too much to just let him be on his way. "Go inside, the door is unlocked," she instructed as she cast her eyes in the direction of her home's door.

Hesitantly, Ferin finally moved toward the door as Torvi turned back to look at Fili. His eyes for the first time moved but only to follow Ferin's movement and the moment she heard the door close, his eyes stayed glued to the point were Ferin had disappeared. His eyes narrowed just slightly as if straining to see past the thick wood to where Ferin was now being hidden from view.

"Fili," she said softly. When he made no show of casting his eyes downward she pulled more firmly on his face to angle it towards her as she spoke more sternly. "Fili!"

His heavy breaths seemed to quicken as his head slowly lowered but his eyes remained unwavering from the door. Torvi let the pad of her thumb slowly caress his cheek.

"Fili," she said softly in a plea.

Finally, Fili's eyes slowly moved down to look at her. The moment his attention was pulled to her she could sense the tension ebb away if only at miniscule proportions. The thin ring of blue grew thicker as his earlier consuming pupils shrank and the tension in his body relaxed just enough that he no longer felt as if made from granite. Torvi let out a small sigh as she sensed the attack receding. It had been awhile since he had one that bad.

"We need to get you inside," she said.

The amount of worried concern in her voice seemed to be enough to bring Fili back over the edge just enough that he was able to give her a slow, but stiff nod. Torvi gave him a faint strained smile before taking his hands and began to guide him towards the door. Fili followed her in a stumbled trudge, his face pulled in concentration as he tried to focus on calming breaths as he knew what would happen the moment he saw Ferin inside of Torvi's home. He would have another strained attack. He hated that knowledge but it was the bitter truth. As anyone with knowledge in battle and war, he prepared his strategy for the next wave of mind altering emotions.

Ferin was standing awkwardly in the space that transitioned from the front sitting room to the kitchen as he was unsure as to what to do or why he was still here. His mind was not given enough time to really contemplate as to where he should sit and wait before the grinding sound of wood against stone sounded and Torvi entered the house with Fili in transic tow. He watched Fili closely noting the purposeful avoidance of Fili's eyes as he kept his attention plastered to Torvi as she looked behind herself to keep from bumping into anything.

Torvi guided Fili to the kitchen table where she forced him to take a seat. It was only when he was sitting that Ferin noticed Fili's entire body shook with tremors and his breathing was ragged and fast as if he had just finished a prolonged spare. Ferin could not help but watch with awe as Torvi gently let the back of her hand run down the side of his face as she took a seat next to him.

Fili looked strained as he kept his eyes glued to the wooden table and focused closely on breathing in and out. It was as if he were oblivious to the world as he seemed to be preoccupied and focused on something that neither he nor Torvi could see. Fili closed his eyes tightly as his hands clenched tightly to the edge of the table.

"So it really is true! He is sick!"

The words fell out of his mouth before he could stop himself. But what he was witnessing was unexpected. When his father spoke of Fili having the sickness he was skeptical. He had never seen anything that would truly hint to madness but seeing him now he realized. Durin's were good at keeping things hidden.

Fili's eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice. Ferin watched with fascination as his eyes wavered between black and blue as his pupils seemed to expand and retract uncontrollably.

"I am not sick," growled Fili through clenched teeth. "What are you doing here anyways!"

A gentle arm on his shoulder caused him to flinch as Torvi tried to soothe his anger. "Fili," she said quietly. "Ferin has a proposition to make with you. I think that you should listen to what he has to say."

At her words he snapped his head around to look at her in shock. "Are you serious!" He shouted.

Ferin was taken aback by Fili's harsh words directed to his fiancée but Torvi seem unperturbed. Either because she was used to such reactions or she knew better than to take it to heart when he was in this state of mind. Which ever the reason, Ferin was intrigued by the interaction.

Torvi let her eyes flash to Ferin for a moment as she re-evaluated his words. It was but a moment before she knew it would be worth it. She looked back to Fili who was looking at her with an odd expression. A halfway point between hunger and weariness.

"You just have to listen," she said in a calm whisper. "He has an offer that could ultimately let us bring down this usurping."

His eyes moved back and forth between hers as he contemplated her words. He was worried that Torvi was yet again failing to see dangers that others could bring but this was something different this time. He could see it. Her eyes had been calculative and guarded.

"Very well," he said begrudgingly. Without looking at Ferin he pointed to the chair opposite of him and Torvi. "Sit," Fili commanded.

Ferin moved across the short distance and pulled out the chair indicated by Fili from under the table. It made a horrible screech as the legs ran across the floor but the sound only seemed to bother himself and Torvi as Fili kept his eyes locked onto Torvi. Ferin sat down and with quiet reserve, he waited patiently for Fili to acknowledge him.

It seemed like an hour passed by in utter silence as Ferin watched Fili, who stared at Torvi and avoided him, while Torvi looked between himself and Fili nervously. Finally Fili moved, disrupting the silence as he situated himself to face forward and ever so slowly, let his eyes lift up to match Ferin's.


With Fili's command, Ferin opened his mouth and proceeded to speak. "I would like to propose a deal," he began. "I will give you all the information and future information of my fathers plans in exchange for protection."

Fili snorted. "What you can't protect yourself from daddy?" Fili remarked snidely.

Ferin's jaw tensed but he ignored the bitter comeback and continued to speak calmly. "The protection is not for me…"

Fili listened to Torvi exchange a few promises of confidentiality between herself and Ferin before closing the door after they each swore to keep the things seen and discussed disclosed for the time being. Fili remained seated at the kitchen table but no longer sat rigid nor upright. Instead he slouched in his chair while he let his head bend backwards over the back of the chair. He ignored the slight discomfort in his neck as he stared up at the ceiling.

He felt exha