Actions

Work Header

Drake of the Weathered Hills

Chapter Text

Enna wondered if she would ever truly understand the 'value' of honor.

 

Sure, it was inspiring to many, especially during times of war. Generals and such inspiring soldiers and the like that so many stories told. But what use was it for a starving family? Could it conjure food, water and warmth?

 

Last Enna had ever seen, it hadn't.

 

'Why do you do the things you do?'

 

'You could find and work towards a craft?'

 

A short huff of a sigh left her nostrils and caused a few ripples in the water she had been sipping. It never seemed to help her to linger on such thoughts. She had heard a great many things from the very far few companions she knew in other towns about her preference of 'work.' She could take to the ways that her race's common ways. Grow up dedicated to a craft of her own or marry and have children for the sake of having a grounding family.

 

These were things she could do. Things she should do.

 

But when was the last time any man at looked at her without fear in their eyes? It was fine by her, really. It mean't less trouble for her in taverns, such as the one she was occupying.

 

'What would your family think?'

 

Her hand unconsciously gripped her mug tighter at the thought before chugging the rest of her water as if it were ale. As if she'd be caught doing that. And what did they know of her family!? SHE didn't even know of her family before...

 

A quick shake of her fiery-haired head shooed the thoughts from her mind. This wasn't the time to dwell on the past. She wasn't there to wallow in her misery as she assumed most of the patrons here were doing. She was here to do what she did best; keep an ear high and listen to anything that peeked her interest in this spit hole of a town.

 

The murmurs were low but she could hear them just fine. Mmm... Gossip, crude comments of woman’s bosoms and behinds and... Oh. Now that was interesting. Her lips quipped upwards into a lopsided smirk. Enna had hoped to have heard something to give her a lead into a job but this was something of proverbial gold. A quick and quiet whisper among drunkards. Who would have guess that she was nearby as she almost never lowered her cloak even whilst indoors.

 

'A price on me? I wonder if I should be flattered or annoyed?' It was a thought as she suppressed a chuckle within her chest that barely shook her shoulders.

 

Who would have the time to put her on a poster? It probably looked like some other poor soul. It wasn't her problem that no one seemed to ever get a good glance at her. Most either never saw her coming or never lived long enough to commit her face to a solid description. One thing she knew many got wrong was that they thought her to just be an short human or a hobbit.

 

A hobbit!? Hah!

 

Though her lack of a beard may have helped with those descriptions. Another attribute her 'people' seemed to keep in such high regards. Why, she didn't know nor give it much care to know.

 

But again, she wouldn't complain on the world of men's ability to figure she was actually a dwarf. So many knew the tales of dwarven women staying within the mountains and that one out and about, much less traveling the roads of Middle Earth, were rare and never heard of. And Enna was happy for the stories to stay just that. Stories. Myths. Tall tales.

 

Nothing hurt the business of a person so used to 'disposing' of others than a large reputation. Let alone one that held her appearance.

 

But still this news was nothing short of irritating, she decided.

 

Enna had mean't to visit her mother one last time before setting off for good from the region. She suppose she could return once the trace of her nicknames had left the area. Besides, she needed to act upon the early information she had received about a mountain to the east. Whispers upon whispers had been flitting about about that giant rock. Dragons, gold, dwarves... The Lonely Mountain many called it. She had heard her share of tales, both of youth told by her mother and rumors fluttering around taverns and among town wives.

 

Gold was all well and good but a dragon... A live dragon. The beasts were dangerous and cunning; sharpest minds in all Middle Earth and big to boot!

 

If she could get the blood of one... Oh the experiments she could test! A wicked smile nearly crept upon her face before she placed her mask of neutrality in place to keep herself well hidden from the eyes of the barmaid that accepted the coin she used to pay for the drink. She had been a bit miffed earlier about having to pay for water and how ridiculous it was but then again... This was Bree.

 

Few welcome or familiar faces to use to make it a free drink. Just men and hobbits drinking away their days.

 

With a light hop from the stool she had been occupying, she made her way towards the entrance of the tavern. Good, her pack and bow and arrows were still snugly hid behind someone else's pack, just as she had put it. Last thing she needed was for her supplies and weapon to go missing. Her daggers were always with her but she would have preferred to not have to invest in another bow and set of arrows.

 

And she especially didn't want to think about what would happen if someone managed to snatch up her pack. All her ingredients and herbs were in there. She really needed to figure out a way to carry some on her person. Maybe a sewn in pocket in her vest... That might work.

 

With a quick pull, she adjusted her pack for a more comfortable fit on her back while her quiver and bow rested on her left shoulder. She would need to make quick footwork if she was to find a clear path to the mountain with as little interruptions as possible. Who knew what others might have heard?

 

It shouldn't have surprised her to find the weather having turned sour while she had been inside. Rain wasn't exactly what she had had in mind for traveling. While it didn't bother her too much, at night it made it harder to keep her bearings about her. The lone dwarf made a quick adjustment of her quiver to sling it onto her back before tucking the edges of her cloak around her form.

 

Enna quickly ran her fingers through her hair to move them to the side as she exited the tavern and she was glad she had.

 

It seemed she was not alone. Really? The rain and now this? She didn't have time to deal with the couple of men that seemed to have found her more interesting then the pints of ale from the establishment they had all exited. How long had they been watching her? Had she slipped up some how in there? No. She didn't exclusively own the color of her hair or the blue of her eyes...

 

Blue... Damn.

 

Her tattoo.

 

As much as she prized the ink that she had commissioned onto her skin, it seemed to hinder now more than any other feature she sported. Her cloak didn't always cover it and most didn't notice it. At least not enough to make any sort of connection between her and the 'Sapphire Serpent' that few spoke of. A dangerous woman with a similar tattoo that offered services from playing and telling tales in a tavern to providing extra inventory to local healers to supplying the service of 'taking care' of an individual for someone. She had limits on the latter but the other two were easier to hide behind.

 

Well, she would need to take care of these two but she was not in the mood to deal a bloody end to them. So a simple slipping away might have to do.

 

And she had just the brew in her pocket to help her to pull off such an act! And as much as she disliked the rain, it was going to come in handy.

 

Enna kept her ears pricked up whilst she kept up her pace through the alleyways, trying to take as many sharp turns as she could create. She needed to stall them as she recounted the many pockets that adorn her pack for a particular vial she had in mind of using. She was swiftly running out of alleys for her to try and loose these two down and it wasn't hard to tell that they had increased their pace and were nearly a foot or so from her.

 

Left outer pocket? No. Maybe... No, she had moved it from there to the front pouch of her pack. Her gaze slanted to the side as she tried to keep herself calm while making sure to be a few steps ahead of these persistent fellows.

 

Ah! That was right!

 

She retrieved the bottle from the right pocket of her undershirt. It took a bit more fumbling underneath her cloak than she had initially thought out but she grasped the vial in her hand. Good, she could continue with her plan and see just how far these two were willing to chase her or let her be on her merry way out of this town.

 

Oh, the many uses of fish oil.

 

She deftly uncorked the vial and readied it between her fingers. She cursed times like these that she was indeed born of the race she was. Short legs and short stature did not help in needing to make quick escapes. A short string of hopeful words perked up in her mind before she made a quick dash down the few alleys that she had left.

 

Mud and rain clung to her with every kick up of her sprint down the alley. With every splash of a puddle her boot met, a set followed soon after, letting her know of just how close her pursuers were. Time to buy herself some time.

 

With the last round about out of the alley, she poured the bottle out behind her and tucked the vial back in her shirt. Enna counted the few steps that followed before hearing a few series of howls leave the two men behind her in the mud. Oil, mud and rain did not make a good combination for them. Now to find a quick way out! Stables... She needed a horse.

 

Her head whipped from side to side to catch any familiarity of horses. Tracks. Hooves... There! The dwarf took off down the street, following the remnants washed away hoof marks that she hoped would lead her to their owner.

 

A small hand ran over her face to rid it of the rain water obstructing her vision of the signs above her. Her chest hurt, her feet were sore and her entire frame was drenched to her very bones. Damn the world of men! Damn these men in particular!

 

Not only would she be using coin that she desperately wanted to hold onto for emergencies, not one such as this but she had to waste more herbs to keep herself from catching death once she was free of them.

 

Enna quickly dug the heel of her hand against her nose, hoping she was wiping away more rain rather than the beginning of a sniffling nose as her feet continued to carry her through the pouring rain. To maker matters worse for her, she had started hearing the returning splashes of her followers behind her. They were off by a ways but the fact that they continued their pursuit was enough to make her nerves spark.

 

"Thank the gods above!" The breathy praise to the deities left her lips upon the sight of the ponies ahead of her.

 

It seemed the horse master had gone to bed for the night. Not a problem for her. At least she wouldn't make it much of a problem for the master of the ponies. She quickly checked behind her, hearing the rapidly approaching steps and made quick work cutting the ropes holding one of the mares to a post. The drenched dwarrow dug out a handful of coins, placed them on the water barrel closest to her. With a quick leaflet that she often left for her employers, to avoid more knowing her face, she hoisted herself upon the horse.

 

"Hya!" Enna gave her ride a quick whip of the reins and a squeeze to it's side and she was off like the wind itself.

 

She didn't have to look behind her to know how upset she had surely caused the two stalkers. Enna could hear their furious shouts of frustration over the pounding rain. She let out a triumphant snort under her breathe before focusing on the road ahead. "Just need to head east... Promise I'll get you an apple when I can."

 

It should have felt weird for her to make a promise to a horse but at least it didn't complain or try and hold a conversation with her. Maybe if she were to start running a fever but she would hope the all-too-common evening's chilly air wouldn't settle in after this down pour. Last thing she needed were fever dreams of talking horses.

 

The first order of business in her mind was to find some dry shelter. Next was to keep her mind clear enough to remember what drink she would need to take to keep herself from succumbing to a cold. With all those thoughts aside for a moment, she tried to catch the breathe she had nearly lost while fleeing from the men. Resting her forehead against the horse's saturated mane, her chest rose and fell with the need to get as much air as her lungs would allow before looking up at the road ahead.

 

She knew these lands better than any she had planned to travel to. Enna had heard many stories of the lands that lay to the east and beyond. She, herself, had even told and sang of some to earn a bit of coin on the side. And this was as good as any time in her life to head that particular way. As it seemed that she had outstayed her welcome with that town.

 

The mountains would be her best bet.

 

It would hide her best from any prying eyes and she could keep dry and clear of the dreary weather.

 

It felt close to an eternity before the angle at which her pony had begin trotting upwards gave away to her that they had finally reached the mountain. When had the rain stopped? That was not a good sign for her. A few pats to the horse's neck signaled for the beast to cease it's climb. The way up the mountain was narrower than she remembered. But then again, she had been smaller when she had visited the rock's edges with her mother back in those days. Even with the rain having stopped, the ground was still slick from moisture and the mud that had been previously caked on Enna's boots did not make the trek any less difficult.

 

“Shouldn't be much further... I hope.” With careful steps, she led her and her animal companion by the reign's along the mountain's edge higher and higher. It had been quite some time but, if her memory served her well, the cave her mother had showed her on the occasion should be up ahead. Whatever was coming over her, it made her boots feel like she was walking with stone feet and her pack felt like she were hauling about a whole 'nother person!

 

Her boots scraped against the rocks upon the ground, nearly causing her to fall forward a few times until she could finally make out the slight overhead of the familiar inlet of the mountain side. Her azure gaze squinted as she swore she could have made out some flickering lights against the boulder that had started obstructing her vision of the area ahead. There was no way. She blinked a few more times as she steadily came to a halt a good few feet away, feeling like her eyes were playing tricks on her and she did find it funny in the least.

 

She was privy to the knowledge that Orcs had started roaming these lands more often than most would like to admit and she was in no shape to be taking on such foes. If the chill and beginning tremor in her hands were a tell tale sign that she needed to down her concoction soon. Enna slipped her quiver down to her waist and gripped two arrows in her drawing hand as a precaution before dropping her pack rather noisily.

 

The very faint voices she had heard didn't sound orcish in any way but she could tell that there were indeed more than a few of them. Two arrows wasn't going to do her any good. She set her jaw before she braced her arrows on her bow. Who ever rounded the corner was close to her height, if not more than a head taller than her. Human? No. Well, probably a short one but they seemed too stout for such a structure of a man. Enna had half a mind to prick her finger to use the pain to keep her focused but she would have to settle with chewing the inside of her cheek. This fellow was indeed no man as her eyes recovered a bit. Shaved head and a stout figure that seemed to adorn many furs and metal. Dwarf. Great.

 

“Speak! Who are you?” A deep gruff voice called out to her, only making her pull the arrow tighter against her bow string.

 

“I... Would prefer to not say.” Her equally rough voice called back, the fever making it hard for her to keep her own deep rumble in check. “But I am no foe. It is up to you to make that decision.”

 

The dwarf made a step towards her and an arrow stuck itself close to the advancing foot. “I will promise you this. I know better than to waste a perfect shot. Do not give me a reason to do so again.” Despite her lack of having her whole mind clear and cognitive, she could still bluff as much as she could.

 

Another dwarf rounded and stood a step before the first dwarf. This one seemed to be around the same height but different in their own way. Long black hair, their body lined with almost an equal amount of furs and armor as the one behind him now but the only true thing that got Enna to lower her bow was the way he seemed to hold himself. Drawing himself to his own full height, she could almost tell. Almost. The gaze she had kept trained on him from under her hood narrowed to make out more features then she could make out a bit more of his face.

 

Ahh... Well, she had not anticipated see these dwarves for long, if at all, on her way.

 

“Lower your weapon. Now.” The deep command resonated against the stone around them.

 

Enna's gaze sharpened at the command but she did what the dwarf ordered of her. Her teeth clenched together at the on coming throb from the back of her head but she would not show that before these dwarves. She raised her chin to try and give off her own appearance of resilience, bow and arrow lowered but not unyielding completely.

 

“Fine. It is lowered. I am curious... What are dwarves doing in the Weather Hills, so far from ale and warm beds?” It was not hard to notice that there were a greater number than she had previously predicted of the company that were now standing behind the two.

 

“What business is that of yours?”

 

“Few come out here. Orcs have all scared many away from such an area and, from what I have heard, dwarves keep to the Blue Mountains now a days.” Oh she was certain she knew who these dwarrow were but she had only heard rumors. Nothing of significant description.

 

“And what does that say of you? What business do you have being out here?”

 

“Why, Master Dwarf, I am a resident of these rocks. My home is not far from these very hills and I often travel beyond to harvest plants that are past this region's weather and soil.” It wasn't an entirely false lie. Many of her plants seem to grow from the oddest places on the mountain, sticking out of crevices and cracks of the stones.

 

“Enough! Di' someone hire you to come up here?” Her eyes slid to the gruffer of the two dwarves. She shifted her stance to let herself lean against one of her legs. It wouldn't be too much longer til her body would start protesting more than it already was. Her mind was starting to haze over but she would keep this appearance up into her passing out, if she had to.

 

“Why? Are others after you? What would anyone gain from hiring someone to track a pack of dwarves down?” The string of words left her mouth but she feared it sounded unlike her strong demeanor she continued to try and keep up.

 

She thought she could hear them answer her but the blood that seemed to pound like war drums in her ears were drowning out their voices. Someone else had spoken up towards her as she fell to one knee, sticking the arrow into the ground to keep herself from meeting the hard ground. Several footsteps came closer and all she could do was let out a rather undignified growl and an order to stay back! Lack of food in her belly and preparation of heavier clothes had been her downfall for this day. But she would be damned if she was to give up just because her body felt like it was burning her from the inside out.

 

“Stay ba-” She had started another warning before she felt a large cold hand meet her eyes and forehead. This... This was no dwarf hand. Long digits that felt old of age. This was the hand of a man.

 

The nearly searing contact of cold against her burning forehead made her freeze on the spot. This human did not shove her back nor pull her forward as his hand moved to bring her face upward as if to look towards the stars above through his hand. Her rain soaked hood fell back to expose the flattened curls of her amber hair.

 

“She is sick. Fever-ridden.” Another deep voice, old but crisp with wisdom. The man did not remove his hand but knelt down to try and match her height. “Do you need medicine?”

 

“I... I have mine. Pack... Forwa-No. Side pocket... Left. Pale green liquid.” There was a stillness about around her before she could hear the shuffle of light feet going towards her pack. Not boots but... Something else. Slippers? Feet? The thoughts of trying to figure out what exactly she was hearing turned into the feeling of someone taking a hammer to her very head.

 

The grip she had on her arrow grew tighter til she could feel the splintering of wood beneath her skin. Whoever had been digging in her pack seemed to have found what she had described and handed it to the man. “Thank you, Bilbo. Now here, what do you need.”

 

“Just give it here.” Her free arm that had clenched into a fist at the ground beside her bow flew up as an invitation. With the exchange of the bottle, the hand left her eyes. It seemed she was now surrounded by a good number of others. Well, this was the worst predicament she thought she could have ever gotten herself into. But they didn't seem to close in on her nor had tried to attack her from when she fell to her knees.

 

With a quick flick of her thumb, her uncorked the vial. She pressed her thumb over the top and shook it a few times. What she was about to down was not going to be kind to her. But it would stave off the effects and, soon after, rid her of her fever. And it seemed she was not in the dense company she had initially thought.

 

“What are you doin'!? Don' you know that stuff'll-” An elder dwarf with a hearing horn in his hand had begun to protest her choice in medicine.

 

“I am aware.” A hoarse venom of words left her lips before she downed the liquid in one swift motion. A gasp at the foul taste left her before she drew her gaze to the sputtering dwarf. “I made it.”

 

And here it came.

 

Her arrow broke in half at her grip from the flame that spread from her gut to her head. It smelt like mint, burned like thorns scratching the skin and soothed like lavender to the nose. Her senses cleared for a moment before she finally could breathe again. She had to remember to breath or risk herself passing out from lack of air. Enna's head came close to the ground before her mouth opened to drink down air into her lungs. The throbbing in her head had dulled to a rumble then the quake it had mustered up earlier. She felt less weighed down by an invisible force on her limbs.

 

A light trickle of blood leaked from her left nostril to the ground. She shut her eyes from the sight before drawing her mouth into a line and raising her head. “I am fine.”

 

There was no use in hiding under her hood again. She was sure they had seen her mark more so than the men she had escaped from in Bree. Enna was showing her face. Her one and true face. Hair as bright as fire, eyes as clear as an ocean and a mark upon her neck that labeled her as the very creature it portrayed.

 

“You... You are a dwarf.” She stayed knelt as the surrounding company looked upon her. What she had not expected was the question from a creature that was not commonly among dwarves.

 

“And you are a hobbit. Strange... I thought most stuck to the west of here... Favoring food and warmth to the outside world's harsh treatments.” If the situation had been different, she might have chuckled at the reddening expression that started to paint the halfling's face. She did let a twitch of a smirk quirk her lips before rolling her eyes back to the obvious leader of the group.

 

His face spoke all she needed to hear. Cold blue of his eyes told her he knew who she was but the open expression read surprise all over his face. And that seemed to be a widely spread expression across the others faces.

 

“You... Who...”

 

“I though' the Sapphire Serpent was a human!?” A blonde dwarf spoke up amongst the group.

 

“Sapphire what?”

 

“The Sapphire Serpent,” Her gaze had wondered to the other dwarves, taking in their expressions before shifting to a more comfortable sitting position on both her knees. She shook her hand free of the few left over slivers of wood from her now broken arrow. “Drake of the Weather Hills. I have heard of such a mercenary but for you to be... Why?”

 

“I do speak the truth in that no one hired me to come after you. Regardless of what you think of me, I have a policy that goes along with such a job. Scouting takes place before I even attempt contact. This meeting was... An accident.”

 

“Why should we believe you?”

 

“You shouldn't, if you believe the rumors, that is.” She confessed with a shrug. “And as for why, I have no interest in staying where I am not wanted.” Her head turned towards the direction of Bree before looking back amongst the group.

 

“Then why not return to the Blue Mountains?”

 

“That is not my home.” The sentence carried more bite than they probably expected of her. “I told you. My home is near but I am in no need of staying where I am chased by the men of Bree or my home to be taken by Orcs.” Again, not a complete lie.

 

“It seemed I had over stayed my welcome there... So here I am.” She rubbed the drying blood from her nose, leaving behind a smear across her top lip.

 

A contemplating hum came from the man, that she could now see a bit clearer. A wizard? So... Dwarves, a hobbit and a wizard... This was an interesting group she had stumbled upon.

 

“To be heading in such a direction... I have heard of your tales but I have heard far better rumors. A medicine woman living along the borders of the Weathered Hills. Travelers being given poultices and potions for ailments without payment...” Enna offered the best neutral mask she could muster as she narrowed her eyes at the prying old conjurer.

 

“... Gold is pretty but word of mouth is more precious.” It was a line true to her heart that she tried her best to stick to when it came to her medicinal ways. The neighboring town did not help in any way.

 

“Always clad in a cloak, it seemed as well. Not much is known about your face.”

 

“Not good for business to scare off your customers.” A low chuckle left her chest at the short jest towards the other. She winced a margin at her gesture before hiding it. Her empty stomach and still throbbing temple were still evident, not so much the latter anymore.

 

“Hmmm, I suppose... And you are alone?”

 

“Never been one to take on companions in traveling. As it seems true to my appearance, trouble often follows me. Better to not drag other souls down with me.” With her hand now free of splinters, she ruffled her hair of as much rain water as she could. Her hair was already a mess and she would mess with it at a more appropriate time.

 

“Wait. So you are a dwarf?” Both Enna and the wizard looked over at the hobbit for a moment, a sigh leaving the taller of the two.

 

“I thought I had already answered that question. Yes. I am.”

 

“But you don't...” A brunette haired dwarf spoke up and gestured around the lower area of her face, more so her chin.

 

“Ah... That. Nearly forgot that Dwarves value those...” Oh, how was she going to put it. “Well, since I was small, I've been keeping it an almost non-existent length... I shave it.” Oh that had ruffled a good number of feathers from the lot around her.

 

Stuttering words and curses in a foreign language she did not understand. A dramatic rolling of her eyes went on to answering their surprised outburst at the knowledge of her lack of a beard. She resigned her face to arching an eyebrow at the party before rising to her feet. The ground was becoming rather uncomfortable. She lightly dusted her knees before messaging her temples with her thumbs.

 

“Whatever you are all saying, I'm sure it is dripping with complimentary words to my lack of honor or such but I am in need of rest. So, sorry to disturb you and your band of 'honor-bound' bearded oafs, halfling and wizard excluded of course.” That gave them a second pause as she pushed past the group to her pony that had began nibbling about her pack for the promised fruit from earlier.

 

She couldn't help the light smirk before digging amongst her bag. It was not hard to feel nearly all their eyes upon her as she fed the pony his apple while stroking his mane. She arched another brow at the dwarves.

 

“What? Lack of a beard will make you all chatter like gossiping fish wives but my lack of knowledge of the dwarfish tongue makes you all silent as the dead themselves?”

 

“You know not of Khuzdul?” Their leader spoke up amongst the whispers that had started up.

 

Such an inquiring lot this was. It wasn't like it was secret to her that she didn't know about her own races tongue. She knew it was kept just as secret and locked away as their women, she had heard. Few dwarves passed through Bree that had time to teach her and her mother had had neither the books nor the knowledge. Why would she?

 

Enna turned her head towards the mare again, letting her hand trail through the coarse hairs. “I did not grow up knowing such a thing. Westron is all I know.”

 

“So, feel free to keep spewing words. Not like I'll understand them anyways.” She waved her hand towards them without a glance. That had worked well enough to silence them for a moment, long enough for her to turn back around, walk over and retrieve her pack and bow from the spot she had dropped them to.

 

“Again, such a pleasure to meet you all,” She shuffled her pack more onto her back before giving the group a bow, sweeping her arms out dramatically. “But I would prefer to get rid of my fever completely without the voices of tongues I do not recognize speaking ill of my existence.” The venom that dripped from her words would have made quite a potent poison if it were able to.

 

She sniffled another threatening trickle of blood up her nose before gripping the straps of her pack and making her way through the bush and settle on the other side of the boulder of the area with her pony. A light 'tch' left her mouth after wiping another few drops of blood from her nose. Less than the dribble she had had but still a concern to have in the back of her mind. She made a loose knot of the reign's on the branch of a tree before she made to remove her dank cloak. Ugh... So much for using it as a pillow for the night.

 

At least she could say better about her clothes; her leather vest seemed to have kept a majority of the moisture from her chest and torso but her arms wore more than a few patches of dampness.

 

A quick riffling through her bag produced a dryer blanket that she more often used as her bedroll and a few strips of dried meats she had stored under her many bottles. The first bite made her grimace at the strong salty taste but she needed food in her belly if she was to sleep off what ever sickness had started to settle into her veins. A fire would need to come after her short meal but the blanket around her shoulders was good enough for now.

 

Despite having finally met the dwarven company she had heard so much about, impressive was not something she would label them to be. Sure, their number was intimidating but nothing beyond that from their first impression. And, of course, to recognize the King Under the Mountain was not hard. Thorin Oakenshield. Many a tale she had heard of him as most have. She had even sang a song or two about his battle of Moria.

 

The odd creature of their company did raise a question in her mind. A hobbit... The creatures of comfort and home. Out on the east road with a band of dwarves and a wizard. Truly a fellow out of his element. But what right did she really have to judge him? She was a beardless dwarf with no real home as she had left hers behind to keep herself safe. She didn't have anyone waiting for her to return nor any family to look forward to seeing in the coming days. But she was sure the others on the other side of the boulder did.

 

Home. No matter how much time she had spent away from the cottage she had been raised in, she couldn't deny missing the feeling of a warm hearth and the safety that came with walls. She would miss sleeping upon soft covers and warm sheets. She would just mourn the feeling of home but she knew better than to let it eat away at her. Elaine wouldn't have wanted that for her...

 

“Hello?”

 

Her right hand jerked to her boot, the hidden dagger's blade glinting in the dim star light leaking in against the shelter of the rock. The sharp glint in her eyes softened a margin as she recognized the silhouette belonged to the halfling of the company on the other side of the area. She examined the figure a bit more before pushing her dagger back into her boot. He did appear to be holding two bowls in his hands and his entire posture screamed panic and hesitation.

 

“Hobbits truly are masters of stealth.” She let her legs cross at the knee to let her rest her wrists against them as she peered up from the ground at the other. “Now, what brings you over to the more shameful side of this rock, Master Hobbit?” She made sure to increase the volume of her voice to carry it over. She swore she could hear a low chuckle.

 

“W-well... Gandalf had asked that I bring you something hot to help you...” That name. Her passive expression turned to one of shock as she realized who those dwarves were keeping their company with. Gandalf the Grey, wandering wizard.

 

The Gandalf the Grey? I did not think he kept such... Well. Anyways,” She cleared her throat to dismiss the open expression she must have been wearing. The smile that her guest had started showing was more annoy then unsettling. “A kind offer. Thank you.”

 

“You are awfully trusting for who you claim to be.” The comment was not unexpected but it did make her chuckle as the bowl was placed in her outstretched palm.

 

“I'm sure if that band over there really wanted to be rid of me, they had plenty of chances to do so. Especially the wizard.”

 

“You'd truly think Gandalf if capable of such a thing?”

 

“Wizards are just as wise as they are unpredictable, Master Hobbit. At least that is what I have heard.” Her smirk twitched before fading at the sight of the bowls contents. It smelled of food but certainly didn't look it.

 

“I... Know it isn't much but it's hot and fills the belly.” Azure eyes flickered up before returning to her bowl. Well, it was at least better than the over-salted meats she had been munching on.

 

And the halfling had been correct. The soothing heat of the stew warmed her with a pleasant buzz from her gut and spread out into her limbs. The bowl was rather helpful with warming her fingers. The hearty soup had a near perfect mixture of flavors. Almost as good as her own recipe she had modified from her mother's. An appreciating hum rumbled up from her chest before giving a nod.

 

“Your cook must be extraordinary over there. I have not had a stew quite like this in a while.” The smile the hobbit gave was soft and spoke of just how he had yet to train himself in making himself from looking so open.

 

“I'm sure Bombur would appreciate the compliment about his food.”

 

“And... They consented to you giving me a portion of there stew?” She knew that the wizard seemed to trust her a bit more than the others. It wasn't unwarranted. She would have been doing the same. But the hobbit seemed to be better at being the neutral party.

 

A quick nod was her answer before she took another spoonful of the meal into her mouth. “Well... More or less, yes.” Enna raised her hand before returning her meal to quiet him.

 

Enna tried her best to not devour the remainder of the meal as quickly as her stomach wanted her to. It hurt already from not having had even a few bits of bread in there so to try and consume a whole bowl of hot soup within a few seconds would earn her more pain than she would want.

 

It was a few moments before Enna peered up at the creature again. Poor thing seemed to be growing more and more uncomfortable by the moment. Seemed to be his bad luck that he was waiting for her to finish so he could return to more familiar faces. And she was not the best at conversations. At least in ones that didn't threaten or lead down more drearier roads.

 

But practice does make perfect, as she had heard more than once.

 

“While I am sure you are not allowed to tell me but... It is strange to see a hobbit away from home. I had often thought to pass through Hobbiton but never seemed to find the right time to do so.” She spoke between bites til she finished, cradling the bowl in both her hands. “I have heard how great the vegetables are from there.”

 

“Ah! Yes! Doubt you could find any better.” Easy to flatter as well. Well, she had picked an easier subject to start on.

 

“No doubt some were used in this.” She raised her bowl to the halfling and only getting to her feet once the bowl was taken from her.

 

“A-ah... Some, yes. Where are you going?” Enna blinked at him for a moment before moving to stand beside him.

 

“Well I thought it only customary to offer payment for the food. It was a goodhearted gesture but it is not sound to have charity out here.” She cupped her hands behind her back to offer a less intimidating stance when she met their faces again.

 

Enna peered at the many dwarves faces once more as she rounded the corner of the boulder with the hobbit coming around her left side. They seemed to soften, or at least a few of them did, upon seeing the halfling come into sight. She laid a hand on his arm to stop him before reaching into her pocket and pulled out a few coins.

 

“Since I do not know who is who, this is for the meal.”

 

Her fingers carefully opened the hobbits and places the coins in his palm before closing them with a light pat to his wrist. Enna gave the onlooking others a nod before walking back to her side of the area. A large hand lightly touching her arm stopped her from completing her return.

 

“I would assume it is cold over there, Miss Serpent.” Hah! She arched a brow at the name the old wizard used before looking over at her darker side of refuge.

 

“You would assume correctly. I have yet to get myself settled and I don't fancy trying to start a fire at this hour.” Her body turned towards him, arms crossed to be more of a way to keep her a bit warmer than to provide a more hostile position. “But I have survived harsher conditions.”

 

“I doubt you would want to.”

 

“So it is true with how wizards find amusement in meddling.”

 

“No truer words have been said.” She heard a mumble behind her and she had to keep a good hold on her down-cast calculating gaze before it threatened to break into a smirk. It didn't stop a few of the dwarves breaking out into a few snickers.

 

“Perhaps,” The twinkling that the old conjurer held made her purse her lips together as she turned back to path pack to her pony and backpack. “But I wager, as it seems you are heading in the same direction, that having numbers is a far better idea when facing orcs?”

 

It was... An interesting offer. She had faced orcs before and their numbers were one of their strengths. And she didn't really have to tell them her destination. Her eyes slid over towards the rest of the camp, fluttering from one face to the next.

 

“Again, tempting. But I highly doubt you speak for the company here.” She tilted her head towards the onlooking dwarves. “Especially his highness over there, if the earlier reaction gave any indication about my presence.” Her head gave a light jerk towards the dwarf that had been resting against the rocks before she had made her way over.

 

A barely audible huff that could have been a snort came from behind her again. The halfling was getting quite a kick out of her quips with the wizard. And she didn't need to turn her head to feel the glare she had garnered from the King Under the Mountain from across the camp. She could feel it and it did give her a small itch in wanting to return it but she resisted with a subtle click of her tongue. She left her arms relax at her sides as she felt she had won this little exchange of words...

 

“And is that how she raised you to be? Walking around on the opinions of others.”

 

Oh. Oh no.

 

Her fingers curled into fists. Her tongue ran along the edge of her teeth before setting a line on her lips to cast a glare that she'd seen cause visible shivers to most that met it. But the wizard didn't seem too faze by it if his idle gesture of retrieving his smoke pipe said anything.

 

“And what manner do you have to speak of her? As if you knew what she was like?” Her tone had hushed to barely above a whisper, the low flames of the fire made her eyes a near steely blue.

 

“I wander, Miss Serpent, it is what I do. I have met her several times traversing to and from the region. Before you, of course but I know she would not wish misfortune upon you, most of all.”

 

Her jaw was starting to hurt from how hard she had been clenching it. How dare this old man use such ammunition against her? The worst of it was that she knew, that if she were to ask Elaine to this day, that it would be true. She wouldn't want her to travel alone anymore. She had been alone for some number of years... A gurgle of a growl grew in her throat before marching over to her area.

 

“To think I would be goaded by some old conjurer! By the Valar...” She let her voice carry into a mumble as she gathered her things to bring over to the other area. “And to use such a thing against me?” She thought about dropping her things directly upon the wizard's feet but resist the urge. She allowed a hearty huff to leave her mouth instead.

 

After retrieving her cloak she had hoisted up on the rock to dry, she made her way back to Gandalf. “I expect you are in charge of papers?” If she raised her brow any higher, it may have completely disappeared into the curls of her bangs.

 

“Ah, that would be Master Balin.” A light puff of smoke left his mouth as he answered with his free hand to gesture to the elder dwarf with the white forked beard.

 

At least he had been polite enough for a small bow. “Greetings.”

 

Enna returned the gesture before reaching a hand into her pack, finding the appropriate pocket and pulled out a folded leaflet of parchment. “Just a recount of what I offer.” She had noticed the hesitation to give an explanation. “It is something I do when I am approached for a job as this is something akin to it and answers a few questions without the need to ask them.”

 

“And what would you want in return?”

 

“Nothing.” The response drew up a few gazes to her.

 

“Nothing? Nothing at all?” Balin lowered the parchment to join in the entourage of eyes now staring at her back while she arranged her cloak onto the rock to continue drying.

 

“While gold keeps me well fed and often helps in my sleeping arrangements, that is all it does for me.” She made a conscious effort to not drop her bag beside Gandalf before making her way to settle on a rock in front of the fire. Enna had all but ignored her slowly numbing fingers so the fire was a welcome sight and drew her body in like a moth.

 

“If I was truly searching for riches, I wouldn't bother taking jobs other than the one I seem to be famous for.”

 

The warmth of the fire seemed to visibly melt the tension in her shoulders and she thought she might even be the tiniest bit civil at this point. The biting words she had exchanged with Gandalf had done little to make her want to be in the company of anyone but they seemed to respect her space while the elder dwarf that had her parchment rounded the camp to bring it to the two taller dwarves. A long exchange of whispers in the foreign language of their people ensued. It was fine for Enna, she needed time to let her clothes dry and for heat to return to most of her body

 

A small tickling sensation in her nose brought her back from her relaxing consumption of warmth that made her huff a light sigh. She raised the back of her hand to her nose and saw a few flecks of blood after drawing it back.

 

“I have something for that, lass.” The dwarf from earlier that had tried to warn her of her own medicine. Without even waiting for her to reply, he had begun to dig in his own satchel and pulled out a small bottle of ointment. “Here.”

 

Enna looked from the bottle up to the dwarf for a moment before nodding, accepting the bottle and opening it. “My thanks.” She knew of this. The near clear-yellowish color gave it away. “I take it you brew this yourself?”

 

The dwarf held up his ear trumpet once more. “Oh no, I had to buy the herbs. No time for my own garden but I did brew it myself.” Enna's brows drew up with a nod before taking a few drops on her fingers and tilted her head backwards to let the drops drift down each nostril, the left a little more than the right, before handing it back.

 

“Hes got a bit of a hearin' problem.” The dwarf that seemed to be sporting a rather ridiculous looking hat leaned over a bit, pointing to his ear.

 

“So it seems.” She pinched the bridge of her nose as she kept her head held back for a few moments. After lifting her head back up, she let out a light sigh through her mouth with a shake of her head. The ointment reeked of a strong tree sap with hints of honey to soothe the bite in her nose.

 

“I am surprised you took that there drink.”

 

A low grunt came from her before she could focus on commenting back on the observation of the hearing-impaired dwarf. “It was a quick solution. I may add honey the next time I make it. That ointment is exceptional, by the by, Master Dwarf.” She found not flatter when it came to drinks and poultices.

 

“It truly isn't much. But thank you.” They gave each other a polite nod before Enna's eyes returned to the conversing dwarves in the corner of their camp.

 

The little council that had been going on with the Exiled King, the dwarf she had first encountered and Balin were taking their time. But she supposed it was a good idea. If she continued to assume who this lot was, it was a warranted effort to keep others from learning of such a quest to the Lonely Mountain.

 

“If it will make your deliberation any easier, I could sign something? I often do for my jobs as assurance to the client.” Three pairs of eyes landed on her as she continued to warm her hands from the camp fire. She took her time with moving her gaze up to theirs. She was in no hurry as it seemed this lot was.

 

“And what would the word of a honor-less dwarf be good to us any more than a signature?” Another appropriate question if not a venomous accusation from a different dwarf of the party, he shared a near close fire-red hair color she did. Enna gave a slow nod as she looked off in contemplation, her fingers idly picking at the gunk from underneath her nails.

 

“I will give my full name, something I would like to be kept within the party for security reasons and you have a wizard with you, do you not? I doubt I'd get far with him around.”

 

For a few moments the only noises that could be heard were the subtle crackles of the camp fire before she heard a hushed rush of Khuzdul from the group, the deep tone told her it was the King-to-be, before Balin returned to her with his own folded up parchment. It looked at least three times as long as hers and for good reason. It seemed she had been handed a contract. “Oooh, you lot are formal.” She turned the paper around as she unraveled it with a smirk.

 

“That a problem, lass?” The familiar gruff tone called from the other side of the fire from the heavily built dwarf. She could now see that tattoos adorned his head and smirked at him before returning to reading through the lengthy legal papers.

 

“No, no. I have dealt with the business of men perhaps too long. Words seem to work for them just fine, most of the time...” The contract could have just as easily been mistaken for a book with how long it folded out to.

 

And it was no less thorough in damages, funeral preparation, blah blah blah... Dismemberment, decapitation. Yes, yes, this she knew of and she knew of that! It was standard, at least to her. And, in her opinion, this was a rather generous contract as she continued to skim the material. Enna could only imagine what the poor halflings reaction must have been.

 

“I do hope someone here has a quill and ink for this.” Her inquiry went out as she continued to read towards the end of the parchment, placing her hand out for said objects.

 

There was a soft shuffle of boots before she felt the cold flat bottom of a bottle and the light flutter of a feather resting in her palm. She drew her eyes away from her reading for a moment to regard the dwarf that presented her with the needed writing instruments. A young lad with chestnut hair, shorter than the rest it seemed, and mittens that she could only assume were quite warm in such weather as this.

 

She offered the faintest smile and nod before bringing a leg to rest at an angle on the other for a make-shift surface. She plucked the stopper from the ink bottle, wedging it between her pinky and ring finger while steadying the bottom with her thumb and fore finger. It was tricky but she managed a rather nice signature. It wasn't anything fancy like the two signatures above hers.

 

After returning the stopper to it's proper place in the ink bottle and dabbling the rest of ink on the back of her hand, she offered the ink and quill back to the rather polite dwarf with the same smile she had given him. Her fingers grasped the edge of the contract and brought it up towards Balin's direction. “I have signed it, Master Balin.”

 

“It's just Balin, lass, we are not that formal.” Enna noted a smile in the expression both in voice and his face.

 

“An old habit, I'm afraid but I will try... Balin.” She had to catch herself before she repeated the polite title once more. That was going to be needing some practice.

 

Enna watched as the elder dwarf inspected her signature and the rest of the parchment with an eyeglass of sorts before stuffing it back into his pocket and the contract in another. “Everything seems to be correct. Welcome, Enna Terrwyn, Daughter of Elaine, to the company of Thorin Oakenshield.”

 

The title that he spoke was strange but she figured she should write her signature like him and their leader had done. Just seemed weird for someone else to say her mothers name beside her own in such a way... With the contract signed and the legal business taken care of, she resigned to check her cloak to find that most of the rain had dried up and left her with a less worried churning in her gut. Nothing was worse than sleeping cold at night.

 

“Then I suppose I will finally rest. I still have something to cure before the morning comes.”A nod was given to the group before she settled herself against the rock, her pack between her and Gandalf. “Wake me when it is my turn for watch.” She murmured, huddling her cloak around her with a yawn.

 

“With that sniffling nose, I doubt they'll wake you til morning.” The light whisper came from where she knew the wizard was still seated.

 

“I am not so easily taken down by a light cold, Gandalf.” Her answer was rushed but she gave in a bit with her eyes starting to finally grow heavy of exhaustion and allowed the sight of a soft smile from the resulting chuckle.

 

“No, I suppose not. She would have taught you to be strong.”

 

“She did.” Not a bad thought to go to sleep on.

 

The smiling image of a mother long since passed. Sad to most but to her, she would have no other way of passing into the realm of dreams.