It had felt good to have a purpose and be on the road again, Balin mused as he watched Nori chat with some of the other dwarves that had answered the King’s call. In a deep part of his mind Balin was a bit disappointed at how few had shown up; but it had felt good to see his younger brother once again after so long. He could have done without the short comment though. Grumbling to himself he drank deeply from the tankard that sat before him eyeing the rest of what was to be the Company. Earlier he had watched as they all signed their separate contracts and now- well it was rather amusing to watch the Brothers Ri cautiously extend their hands to the Brothers Ur. Fili and Kili were, as usual, grabbing more drinks while openly talking to others, Man and Dwarf alike.
“I dunna like this.” Dwalin rumbled frowning deeply as he rubbed his knuckle dusters with a large hand. “We’re so close.”
Balin grimaced, downing yet more of his drink hoping to wash away some of the guilt. They were so close to the Shire, but they did not dare so much as step a foot outside Bree for fear of leaving Thorin on his own- they were his sworn protectors on this one way journey. It was a duty that they had taken from the younger royal siblings with the utmost gravity since they could not travel with the rest. Yet, that knowledge did nothing to ease the hot feeling that churned in his stomach. Dwalin had waited one hundred and fifty years to meet Billana and now they were little more than a day or two away and they dared not go.
“Aye. But you’re doin’ the right thing laddie.” He replied, biting back the other words he wished to say.
The warrior merely snorted in reply, downing the whole of his tankard in favor of voicing his thoughts.
“It would be cruel to tell tha lass that we’re goin’ on an adventure that’s likely to a one way venture.”
“I would not have her live this one life on her own- not after so long.” Such an admittance was great indeed, and Balin knew that if Dwalin had not tattooed his head in a display of the vow he had taken in front of Frerin and Dis, he surely would have been in the Shire by now.
Silently he clasped his hand on his brother’s shoulder in a show of silent support and slipped out of his chair to get another drink. “I’m goin ta be needin a great bit more ta keep this up.”
“Yer a bit off this evenin Master Balin.” Ah, so Nori had been watching their conversation despite being distracted by Bifur’s rather impressive spear. “Dwalin?”
Balin locked eyes with the barkeep and tapped his finger on his empty tankard, before turning his gaze to the dwarf that sat on the stool beside him. “What makes you say tha lad?”
“Yer wantin tha list?” Braided brows rose before a large hand engulfed in knitted fingerless gloves that blended in seamlessly with his clothes, rose to eye level. “First, tha ol’ Head Guardsman did nuh even glare at me when I walked on in.”
A finger went down as the dwarf continued, “Yer both lookin a might bit sour, wit yer lips bein more in a frown than a neutral or wary expression.”
Another finger joined the first and somewhere in the back of his mind, Balin not for the first time, admired the strength and swiftness of those fingers, “The Guard is sulkin’ better than Prince Kili did when he was little more than a dwarflin’.”
The third finger was quickly joined by the fourth and fifth as Nori’s list continued and the barkeep laid out another tankard just as the last finger curled into the thief's palm. “And yer deepenin yer cups faster tha Bifur on one o’ his rough nights.”
“Has anyone ever told yeh that you’re jus a wee bit too good at observing people?” Balin asked conversationally as he grabbed his tankard and headed back towards the back table they had accosted some hours before.
“It’s part of tha job Master Balin.” The ginger replied easily. “I wouldnuh be a very good Master Thief if I couldn’t see now would I? But sides that yer doing tha right thing- she won’t thank yah for it, but you are doing the right thing in the end. ”
It was odd, Balin mused, to hear Nori’s voice change, taking on a more cultured and proper tone the closer they got to Dori and than back to a thicker mountain accent as they moved nearer to his own kin.
“Aye. I suppose yer right on tha point laddie. I suppose yer right...”
It was well past any decent hour when Thorin Oakenshield walked into the Prancing Pony, finding only a few remaining drunks and two very familiar dwarves still up. Dark grey eyes met blue and the older warrior nodded to him before focusing once more on sharpening his axe. Balin handed him food and gently pried off his cloak and took it upstairs while he ate in the same seething silence that had stormed around him since he'd set off from the Council.
A few moments after a tired barmaid placed a tankard of mead in front of him, Balin retook his seat and asked the question that Thorin would have to answer once more when he met with the rest of the dwarves that intended to join him on this quest.
“They will not be coming. Dain says it is our quest and ours alone.”
The calming sound of whetstone against good steel paused for a moment before continuing, this time a little more vicious and with a bit more vigor than might be strictly necessary.
“Well… Might be for tha best. After all what are we? Merchant, miners, tinkers, toymakers. Hardly the stuff of legend.” Balin murmured with a self-depreciating laugh, trying to keep flagging spirits up as he sipped his own pint.
“There are a few warriors amongst us.” Thorin said, casting a fond look at the older dwarf.
“Old warriors.” Balin returned, his voice carrying far more weight than he carried in years, a consequence of far too many battles and not enough peace.
“I would take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them they answered.” Thorin scooting forward in his chair, moving completely into the light of the fire, sapphire eyes burning with pride. He continued on, voice grave and calm, though it rumbled lowly to keep the stray passerby from hearing “Loyalty, honor, and a willing heart- I can ask no more than that.”
“You don’t have to do this. You have a choice. You have done honorably by our people.” Balin returned, his protest gentle as he reminded his king, just what he had accomplished since their forced removal from the mountain. “You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains. A life of peace and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold in Erebor.”
Thorin’s blue eyes, so like his mother’s, darkened as he protested against Balin’s claim. “The dwarves of Erebor will reclaim their homeland. There is no choice Balin- not for me.”
Something mighty poured through the veins of the white haired advisor and for a moment he felt young once more. The idea of their home once more in their hands was a great temptation, but Balin now understood something that Thorin never would.
“Then we are with you laddie. We will see it done.” He patted the younger dwarf, who bore a determined gaze full of hope, lightly on the shoulder before heading off to retire for the night, leaving their King to stand by the large fire and steep in his thoughts, while his large and silent guard took first watch as he'd always done.