He was in habit of weighing his options carefully before taking any action.
She could not remember the last time she looked before taking a leap.
He was created by Aulë, or Mahal as he was called by the Dwarrow, strong and meant to endure.
She swore by the Green Lady.
His hair was sheer gold.
Hers were the exact shade of a moonless night.
He was dynamic.
She was dramatic.
He was precise.
She was impulsive.
He stood amongst others with natural authority and strength, one who could draw attention and respect without trying.
She cared naught for her appearance.
He excelled in diplomacy.
She excelled in diplomacy, but often resorted to throwing punches instead.
He was amiable but composed.
She smiled and laughed without a care in the world.
He never had any romantic inclination in his life.
She hated romance in all forms, if it were directed towards her.
He was the future King of Erebor.
She wanted freedom to be her future.
For him the story began- as he would later speculate, when he was assigned with the task of training the next regiment of Hobbits who would late join the forces of Ered Luin and Erebor.
It began for her- she would later speculate, as booming clapping and cheers followed when Otho Sackville-Baggins attempted to kiss her and she turned her head in revulsion, tears of indignation burning in her blue eyes as she fixed them on the ancient Party Tree and considered various ways to escape this unexpected disaster.
But in the end, they both coincided- or rather she forced him to agree with her- that their story began with her 'Coming of Age'.
"Good evening, Mrs Higgins. I will have a pint please." Donnabell tried to smile, she really did. It came out more of a grimace but at the moment she couldn't bring herself to care.
"Happy Birthday, dearie! Wasn't this a wonderful day for you now? Hobbiton hasn't seen a party this magnificent since the coming of age of your own late mother, excellent affair that was- but why are you out so late, love?"
The very mention of the remarkable event that had just concluded aggravated Donnabell's already frayed nerves. Her ill temper must have shown up on her face, for inn-keeper's wife immediately reassured her that her order would arrive in time.
"Though it beats me why she'd be out tonight?" Mrs Higgins wondered to herself, as she bustled about the counter. "It's hardly proper as it is, now that she is of age. But aye, she's a Took through and through and Belladonna's daughter at that so such behavior can be expected though certainly it is not to be condoned, the lass hasn't yet grown out of her tweens as it seems-"
This trail of thought was rudely interrupted by the rap of the brass knocker on the inn's door. Mrs Higgins looked up in anticipation of more customers, not many were out that night.
Which was again quite expected. Mrs Higgins shot a grudging look at the occupant of the table placed on a distant corner, her party had cost Green Dragon's usual share of visitors.
The Dwarf, Nori as he was called, sauntered towards the counter. He had a very distinctive gait: a simultaneously lazy and businesslike, self possessing walk that suggested that wherever he might be, he would be just as comfortable somewhere else, and whoever he might see there was quite lucky that he came at all.
Without as much as a greeting, he told her gruffly. "Shall be needin' a room for a night or two. And I'll have a pint. The usual."
"I'll have everything prepared in a moment, Master Dwarf," Mrs Higgins graced him with her ever-present smile as he shoved few coins on the counter.
She didn't mind the lack of niceties, for Nori was one of her usual customers and always paid handsomely for his fare though the sight of his shabby travel garb suggested a not well-off background. But then, you never knew with Dwarves. Even after years of having dealt with Mahal's children, Mrs Higgins wasn't entirely accustomed to their oddities.
The Dwarves of Ered Luin used roads and paths leading through the Shire whenever they undertook journeys to Erebor or other areas. Green Dragon was famous spot for them to halt by and spend a couple of nights, and the inn had flourished as a result.
The Dwarves of the Shire ,though, were another matter entirely. Mrs Higgins didn't approve of them at first as she did so of the wayside travelers and the Rangers.
But she didn't dare to entirely disapprove of them either, for the arrangement was so by the King's order. And it had done much good for the Hobbits, although they had been highly dubious of the Dwarves at first. Now the two races co-existed as a single community, in complete harmony, as if they had resided with each other from the very beginning.
This Dwarf in particular immediately made for the table where Donnabell Took was seated, but it hardly came off as a surprise to Peony Higgins. It was perhaps not very respectable to mingle with shady travelers, especially if it were an unescorted female, out in an inn this late. Tooks though, were strange entities so none of the usual tutting followed, as it usually would have from the well-meaning Hobbit matron, who was somewhat of a busybody.
Donnabell glowered at Nori as he seated himself on the chair across from her, indecisive as to greet him or not. If he had failed to show up entirely, this day of all days, she would have disowned him as her best friend.
“Hello Nori, did you have a nice day?” Her tone pleasant and soft, so entirely opposed to her general disposition and the way her furious eyes flashed, didn’t bode well with the Dwarf. "I hope you didn't lose your way, that would've been terrible."
"Yer angry with me," The Dwarf stated the obvious and tried not to flinch under her ferocious gaze. Donnabell, for all her beauty, had a truly terrible scowl- one that could instill fear in even the most battle-scarred warriors.
It was very useful to drive away potential suitors, or so she proclaimed. Nori had a fine scowl of his own, put into effect when he did not desire company- which was often. So frowning was his usual state of being. One would have thought that such practice through years would have him honed the art of 'death glare', but no, Donnabell still managed a better scowl than him.
It never failed to annoy the Dwarf.
"I know, I know I'm horribly late and - ya needn't glare at me so! Ya know better than most how Dori's like- always suspicious an' a worrywart- wouldn't let go of me until it was too la-"
"You need not rattle off that prepared speech." She cut in coldly. "I am immensely glad that you weren't here for my wretched party."
"Now- now, ya needn't act as-" Nori suddenly stopped and peered at her intently. "Somethin's off. Yer supposed to be in seven heaven's of delight, love, not lookin' like somethin' the cat dragged in."
The Hobbit's rich curve of lips quirked up in a sweet smile so obviously fake, that Nori's suspicions were instantly confirmed. He weighed his words, and asked cautiously, for years of maintainingg friendship with this particular Hobbit had him attuned to Donnabell's disposition. A mere careless word might end up, with him getting struck by that pint in her hands.
"So I take it, your comin' of age party didn't go well?"
"It was marvelous," She tittered, the mock smile still plastered on her lips. "Absolutely spectacular. The grandest affair that Hobbiton has ever hosted that will probably be talked off in coming nine, or rather ninety-nine days more likely. My beloved grandmother outdid herself."
Nori let out a groan, slamming a clenched wrist on the table. "Don't tell me, that old hag managed to ruin your party too? How could she do that!"
"Ruin?" Donnabell's face contorted, the smile falling off. Nori wasn't sure what was worse, seeing that mock copy of her truly wonderful smile or her eyes full of barely suppressed pain.
"She doomed me to eternal suffering! Nowi Wee, you currently behold the beloved betrothed of Otho Sackville Baggins, who is sitting in my chair and wearing my clothes. She even has the same name as I."
At this melodramatic declaration (and that ridiculous nickname she insisted on), Nori stiffened- then gawked at his best mate as if she had grown an extra head.
“How come? Ya never told me that ya were involved with-“
“I wasn't! You know well enough that I wasn’t!” Donnabell interrupted vehemently, shaking her disheveled curls out of her face. “I can’t be tied down by a wretched wedding of all things. I need to explore the world and live up to my mother’s name!”
“Your mother married.”
If Donnabell hadn't desperately needed to drown her woes in her drink, she would have definitely thrown it at his head. Nori thanked Mahal that she didn't, for years of playing conkers had her aim perfected.
“Thanks for informing me of that fact, Ri. I was wondering how I came into being." She gritted out. "But you’re missing the point completely! I wasn’t even aware of this- arrangement- until the time it was announced. In front of the whole gathering! And... and to that loathsome Otho- Green Lady have pity on me.”
“Otho-“ Nori twirled one of his auburn braids thoughtfully, and she hid her face in her trembling hands. “Isn’t he that toad who’s always boastin' 'bout his wealth in the market place? The one singularly obsessed in winning yer hand, and I bonked his head up for that?”
“The very one,” Donnabell looked up and nodded miserably. But suddenly her startling blue eyes grew determined and she shook her dark curls fiercely. “I won’t have it. I won’t be coerced into such a marriage, against my will.”
“That’s the spirit, Ravenprig.” Nori eyed her third pint warily. “What ya gonna do against the might of yer grandma though? Once she's set her mind on somethin', she usually isn’t the one to back down.”
“It’s my life,” Donnabell clenched her wrists. “I’ll talk to Uncle Isengrim. Even he was left in dark about this, and he certainly is not happy with this... arrangement.”
“Even so, the King doesn't condone such a practice. He spoke against such forced unions like his own." Her friend shrugged. "Ya can petition Lord Balin, when he drops by Great Smials next time- he's ridiculously fond of ya for reasons I can't fathom.”
"Git," Donnabell muttered. She ran a hand through her mass of curls. "The King did nothing to implement that, did he now? And do you think Lord Balin can make Grandma change her mind? She barely tolerates his presence as it is. Or of any Dwarf from Erebor for that matter."
Nori was surprised to her Donnabell speak against the King, she idolized him.
He squirmed uncomfortably. “Bell, ya know well enough that Erebor doesn't make every policy of the Shire. Especially, in matters of old customs and traditions- Erebor has nothing to with that.”
“Oh yes, that’s in the hands of the Thain- or in other words Grandmother Adamanta." She exhaled a cold sigh. "Oh how I wish Grandfather were still alive. He wouldn’t have let her do- this atrocity!”
“Now, now-" Nori suddenly snatched the mug of ale from her trembling hands, this brew was potent stuff as he knew very well and though Donnabell could hold her beer much better than other lasses of the Shire, three pints, in one go, were far too much. It wouldn’t do her any favor to return to Great Smials in such a state.
“Give it back!”
“Oh, be reasonable for once ya dunderhead! Ya’ll most certainly get drunk and we all know what happened last time that happened.”
“I’m staying at Prim’s place- do you know that toad threatened to make them leave Bag End? Because with our union, it would come under his control!”
“Don, calm down now. Yer makin' a fuss for nothin'.” Nori tried to soothe her, though he knew that wouldn't work. Nothing worked when Donnabell was in one of her 'moods' and Nori wasn't very skilled in this art anyway. He knew at the moment the words left his mouth that they could hurt instead of comfort but he didn’t know how to comfort with words.
But still he made another attempt. “Hobbit engagements aren’t bindin', there’ll be a way out of this. Don’t, er, lose hope.”
“Hope?” She sighed. “There wasn’t much hope for me from the beginning. My life is a graveyard of buried hopes.”
It was so exactly a Donnbell thing to say that Nori burst out laughing. He soon stopped though, for she had reclaimed her mug.
“Yer not gonna drink that, Ravenprig!”
“You’re going to patronize me?” There was challenge in her eyes.
Nori racked his brain for something that would- oh. He quickly pulled up his travel pack from where it slumped on the floor in front of his booted feet, well out of reach of petty thieves. Ironic, really, as he was one himself. “Before ya get wholly drunk and outta yer wits, I brought somethin' for ya.” He brought out a poorly packed gift, tentatively. He had not found the time before or enough paper for that matter to properly wrap it, but now he really wished he had taken a moment to do so-
Donnabell’s face split into a truly delighted smile, her eyes crinkling at corners. “You brought me a gift? Oh Nori, you didn't have to- you're the sweetest Dwarf to grace Arda!”
“Who am I competin' with?” The Dwarf teased, relieved partially from the fact he had managed to drag her (hypothetically) out of her grim mood and that she appreciated the gift. It was good to know that not every relation with another being in his life was messed up. “Lobelia Bracegirdle?”
“Oh, stop spoiling this moment with your mouth.” Donnabell's deft fingers tore off the wrapping paper, and she gazed starry eyed at the tomes within.
Gifts to Donnabell Took never needed to be impressive, expensive or creative. For one thing, Hobbits gave gifts to others on their birthdays. For another she cared nothing for jewels or ornaments, but coveted books as a Dwarf coveted gold. Or so the Tree-shaggers or the Men would say.
“You’re the most wonderful Dwarf to grace Middle Earth.” Donnabell declared again, her eyes still occupied in gazing ardently at the books he brought for her.
Nori huffed a quiet laugh. “After King Thorin, I suppose.” He swept a quick glance around, registering that the inn was noticeably emptier and the hour was indeed very late. “Ya better go, now. It'd be dark outside, and I never trust ya with findin' the right way in night. Or even in sunlight for that matter.”
“You’ll be still here in the morning?” She inquired anxiously, refusing to rise to the bait- even though she could her find her way around the Shire in the dark just fine, thank you very much.
“Of course, idjit. Where do ya suppose I’ll wander off ta this late?”
“One can never be sure with you, son of Ri.” She laughed softly, as Nori accompanied her to the door of the Green Dragon.
“Isn’t the night sky simply ravishing?" Donnabell remarked, stepping outside and tilting her head upwards. "The stars look like tiny diamonds against dark velvet and-”
“You’re such an unromantic soul. You could've been a kindred spirit, but no- you had to go and be so cynical and dry.” She huffed. “To think my best friend isn’t a kindred spirit.”
"I hope ya get over it."
Accustomed as he was to her every little mannerism, Nori didn't miss the undertone of hysterics in her voice or her tensed shoulders- or how her normally fluid gait was now unsteady. Donnabell had likely shown no such emotion nor displeasure at her engagement to others, she was too prideful and stubborn to do so.
But he knew it was surely gnawing away at her heart from inside. She needed a good friend and confident to let out this burden, and although Nori was her best friend, he would be lying if he was confident he had the capability of being one. Nori had no idea of how to deal with a miserable, depressed Donnabell.
So he said. “Don’t do anything foolish.” He shouldn't have. Idiot. She was sure to do something stupid now.
She gave him a smile in return, that might have fooled others but certainly did not fool him. With books tucked under her arm, the Hobbit waved goodbye and bounded away towards the path leading to Bag Shot Row.
Nori sighed. He had been looking forwards to a night of uninterrupted sleep that he never got in Ered Luin. But now he knew he wasn't going to get a wink this night with the knowledge of what had transpired with his best mate.
He knew that she wasn't going to sleep either.