There are orphans in the wake of Azanulbizar.
Nori isn’t one, for she has a mother, still. And Nori is not a child, in any case, grew up fast. If she had still been a child herself she would not be allowed.
Dwalin comes back from the fighting with shadows in her eyes, her axes slung across her back, with mourning tattoo’s inked on her skin. weariness stamped across her face.
Nori comes to greet her with the rest, a wee pebble balanced on her hip. Tiny fingers, grimy and pudgy, are grasping at Nori’s russet hair, set wild but for the promise Dwalin has woven in. A promise that kept Dwalin sane out there in the battle-field, a promise of a brighter morrow, of someone waiting for her to come home, needing her to return.
Dwalin comes home to a Nori whose face is lit with a smile, not downturned in a frown as when they had said their goodbyes a lifetime ago. ‘And who’s this?’ Dwalin asks, looking at the pebble clinging to Nori, the pebble looking back at her wearily. A Ri-family braid woven into dark hair.
Nori’s arms are practised and sure, gentle as she resettles the fidgeting wee dwarfling on her narrow hip. ‘It’s… no one is coming for them. They have no-one, now.’
A battle-orphan, then. Dwalin tries not to think of the utter folly of their campaign, where so many of their people had already lost their lives at Erebor, their numbers so dwindled through privation during their wanderings in the wild, and even here in Ered Luin.
‘They have you,’ Dwalin says, stepping close, closer. ‘And me.’
There’s a catch in Nori’s throat as she speaks. ‘You have to mean that.’
She doesn’t need to say it. Should not. Ought not.
Dwalin cares not if the life she’s coming back to isn’t exactly like she left it, with Nori warming her bed, braiding silly love-knots in her hair when Dwalin wasn’t looking, kissing her goodnight and good morning. Dwalin isn’t exactly like she had been when she had left. The pebble on Nori’s hip is a hope that their people will prevail. The pebble is the child neither of them had had no hope of having, as they cannot quite believe in the tales of old, of working stone to carve out pebbles. The pebble makes Nori bright and happy, how can Dwalin resist that?
‘I do,’ Dwalin says, comes close as close can be and bends down to kiss Nori. It’s good to be home. ‘Seems I’ll need to put a new braid in your hair. Or two.’