Small, quiet, unnoticeable and unassuming. Made fairly decent qualifications for a burglar if Nori was to be honest with himself. The fact still remained, however, that Bilbo Baggins didn't have a thieving bone in his little soft body. Out of the interest of the quest, Nori knew what he had to do. One evening after they made camp, Nori followed the little one to where he was laying his pack down. Sensing him, Bilbo turned and offered him a little smile, and asked if he needed help.
"I don't, but you do." Nori said.
"I do?" Bilbo hoped he wouldn't start yakking about sword-fighting and what-have-you. Fili and Kili were still sore about what happened last Wednesday.
"Aye. You," Nori looked their burglar in the eye, "are no thief. I am gonna help you learn."
Bilbo longed to tell Nori he had no need, but he knew he was hired as a burglar and he also knew he didn't know how to steal. "Very well." he conceded, feeling sure his father was spinning in his grave.
Nori grinned and slammed a hand onto his back. "Great!"
"Now, you don't want to be too obvious." Nori explained in a whisper. They were at the back of the group and Bilbo was only too aware that Dori kept giving them suspicious glances. Several metres in front of them walked Nori's elder brother along with Oin. Neither could hear them, but Dori's looks made the Hobbit feel uneasy.
"Right." Bilbo mumbled.
"You have to be quiet on your feet and steady, for the last thing you want is the person you're trying to thieve off to turn around and catch you."
"So, I know you Halflings are quiet and light on your feet. So, what you, Master Baggins, have to do, is try not to look guilty."
"It's all very well for you to say, Master Ri."
"I have had more practice." Nori acknowledged. "Just pretend like you're not doing anything bad."
"How can I get practice in?"
"Look around you. You're surrounded by Dwarves to steal things from."
Bilbo gazed horrified at the Dwarf. "I can't steal from them!"
"Because I'm travelling with them!"
"So am I."
"Nori, you haven't..."
"Only to keep my skills sharp." Nori defended. "Now, enough worrying. When we stop next, go to the nearest Dwarf and attempt to take something."
"What if the nearest Dwarf is Dwalin?"
"Good point," Nori said. "You'd best start with easy targets I suppose. Go to one of the doddery ones, like Oin. He might be deaf, but he sleeps like a cat."
"But I like Oin."
"Don't worry. He'll think he's lost whatever and then you come in and give him it back. He'll be grateful to you."
Seeing no way out of it, Bilbo nodded. "Fine." His father was most certainly spinning.
The silver-haired healer stirred in his sleep. Bilbo couldn't believe he was actually going to do this. This was awful, this was despicable. As it was, he was now crouching by the Dwarf, hand hovering over the golden ear horn, facing the other (thankfully all sleeping) members of the Company, praying that Gandalf (who was on watch) would not turn and see what he was about to do.
'He sleeps like a cat'. Blasted Dwarf.
He felt eyes burning at him and looked up, anxious that it was Dwalin or, even worse, Thorin, glaring at him for stealing from a companion, especially gentle old Oin. It wasn't. It was Nori, who gave him a little nod as if to say 'don't give up now'.
Something Tookish agreed with this and suddenly the horn was in his hands He placed it not near his bedroll, but between Oin's and the large tree that occupied the forestry they slept in. He could make out Nori's pleased smile and felt his thudding heart slow. That wasn't so bad.
"WHERE is MY TRUMPET?!" Oin's loud question echoed around the forest.
"Oh, brother, not again." Gloin muttered. "WHERE did you LEAVE it LAST NIGHT?"
"MY SIDE!" Oin bellowed. "SOME BASTARD HAS STOLEN IT!"
Thorin sighed at the two. "Everyone look for Oin's trumpet." he commanded.
Gandalf looked straight at Bilbo, who felt nervous, but tried his best to look as though he didn't know anything of the disappearance. Gandalf wasn't fooled and Bilbo felt sure the wizard would state what he'd done, when suddenly the grey-robed Wizard smiled, almost proudly and went along to search too.
Well. This was good.
Bilbo found the trumpet by its hiding place and tapped the healer on the shoulder, who then beamed at his aid and proceeded to loudly thank him, before turning back to his bedroll.
"Very good." Nori praised. "Not bad. Didn't even look that guilty!"
"I feel terrible."
"Hey, he got his trumpet back. Just think of it as a..."
"Game?" Bilbo guessed.
"Yes!" Nori threw an arm around his shoulders. "Exactly that. Now, your next task I think should be young Ori."
"Your own little brother?"
"Yes. He sleeps deeper, but he's quite good at sensing if there's someone by him. Bloody good hearing too."
Bilbo sighed, though he couldn't deny a part of him found this new task to be a thrilling idea indeed.
At Dori's insistence, Ori always took his scarf off before bed. In fact, at Dori's insistence, anyone with a scarf had to take it off before bed. He stepped closer to the auburn-haired Dwarrow and once again, crouched down. His fingers closed over the soft wool and he stood up, careful not to wake the Dwarf, when suddenly the other end of the article swung down and softly brushed over the scribe's face, coaxing a giggle from the slumbering Dwarf. Bilbo froze, but still little Ori slept on. He internally sighed with relief. Thank Yavanna. He wondered where to put it and spied a tree. An amusing plan came blossomed and the Halfling stepped closer to it, the soft creation still bundled in his arms.
"Dori, I can't find my scarf." Ori said the next morning.
"Oh, lad." Dori said, shaking his head. "I told you to be careful with it! Where did you put it?"
"On my bag." Ori mournfully replied.
"Here," said Gloin, gazing up at the tree in amazement. "Isn't that your scarf up there, young Ori?"
Ori stared, open-mouthed. "It is! How did it get up there?!"
"How indeed." Thorin voiced, looking at the branch, the scarf dangling like a bizarre ornament.
Gandalf shrugged. "Perhaps there was wind at some point last night."
"I was on watch last night." Kili said. "And I didn't feel so much as a breeze."
"It doesn't matter." Ori piped up as Dori wrapped the scarf around his neck. "I'd best put it in my bag from now on, I think."
"You did well." Nori told Bilbo.
"Did Ori make that scarf?"
"No, our mother did."
Bilbo bit his lip. He knew their mother had passed some time ago. "I'm sorry.."
"Don't. Really. It's hard to damage, that scarf is. Probably'll outlive us all. Right, next victim-"
"Do you have to say 'victim'?" Bilbo groaned.
Nori ignored this. "-will be dear Balin. Who sleeps deeper than a hibernating Troll, yet will gladly slice through anyone he deems as a threat."
Just how his life had gotten to the point he was now stealing from the loveliest Dwarves he'd ever known (not that there had been many), Bilbo couldn't even begin to guess.
Balin was, indeed a deep sleeper. In the dying light of the fire, Bilbo could see the Dwarf's spectacles, which he wore on a string round his neck in the day and took off at night. They were his target, but were nestled in his bag underneath the white-haired Dwarrow's head. This wasn't going to be easy. He slid his hand into the pack, feeling cold glass and slowly began drawing them out, grimacing every time the Dwarf breathed. Finally the glasses were free. Where to put them? He looked around and then saw Bofur, who was sleeping peacefully. His hat was still on his head and another amusing idea was born.
"Alright, boys, who stole my glasses? Own up now, I won't be angry."
"Someone stole your spectacles?" Nori asked.
"Aye. I'm not angry, now, just a tad annoyed."
"Aren't they in your pack?" Thorin asked.
"No. If they were, I'd have found them by now."
Thorin looked at the rest of the Company and then his eyes fell on Bofur. "Master Ur. What are those on your hat?"
"My hat?" Bofur repeated. "Why, fur I believe, Thorin."
Thorin strode forward and plucked the spectacles off the hat. "You shouldn't play jokes like this. All very amusing, I'm sure, but you should start acting more like an adult."
Bofur sputtered. "I didn't take them! Have I taken things before, my king?"
"No." Thorin admitted.
"I am no liar, Master Oakenshield. I never took them."
Bofur smiled, never one to bear a grudge. "It's alright."
"Fancy framing poor Bofur!" Nori mock-scolded. He laughed at the expression of the Hobbit. "You're doing well, Bilbo. I'm proud."
"See, it's not all that hard. But we are now upping the game. Your next target will be Bombur."
Bofur was going to skin him, if he caught him. That was how the game was upped, Bilbo knew. Bofur's protectiveness of his younger brother was legendary.
Bofur slept closely to Bombur. They always had done, ever since Bombur was a newborn Dwarfling. Bilbo saw one of Bombur's black mixing spoons shining in the moonlight. It was clenched tightly in the bejowled Dwarf's plump hand which had the wrist held by his elder brother. He crept closer. Slowly extracting it from the Dwarf's limp hold was simple, but a loud coughing unexpectedly filled the air. Bilbo dove for his bedroll, hastily covering himself with the blanket, hoping and praying that no one would see that he'd been out of his bedroll, that Bombur wouldn't realize that his spoon was now gone. Thankfully, the Dwarf didn't awaken. Bilbo placed it at the Dwarf's feet and lay back down for the rest of the night. He could make out Nori's mutinous little smile from where he lay.
"Bofur, my spoon is gone."
"Dear Mahal." Bofur shook his head. "Why are all of our brothers losing things? Master Dwalin will probably be next."
Nori looked thoughtful. Bilbo glared at Bofur, though the hatted Dwarrow didn't see. Cursed Dwarf.
"T'is by your bedroll, Bombur." Gandalf pointed.
"Ah." Bombur picked up the spoon, smiling. "Thank you, Gandalf."
"Nearly got caught last night." Nori teased.
"Thanks to you." Bilbo elbowed the Dwarf. "You are awful."
"Have to have the experience." Nori shrugged. "Now, though setting you on Dwalin was tempting, I am not that cruel. No. Your next source of talent-gaining shall be my dear older brother."
Should he get caught, Bilbo knew that Dori would have no qualms about dealing with it on the spot. He didn't wish to know how Dori dealt with things, nor did he wish to be one of those who got punished by the eldest Ri brother. There was a good reason Nori tried to stay out of annoying Dori. Well, usually he did. Sometimes.
He spied a pouch of Dori's tobacco, the stuff the three brothers coveted, though it looked and smelled and was vile. It was unfortunate that the only way he could reach it was by leaning right over him. He was close, so close...when Dori's eyes opened. They blinked at each other for some time, before Bilbo blurted out "I had a bad dream. Wargs.. Orcs and.. fire. It was awful."
"Oh, dear." Dori's face creased in sympathy and he pulled the Shireling close, so that Bilbo was lying on top of him, held tightly in Dori's protecting arms. "What happened?"
At least he could get lying practice in.
"That didn't go according to plan, did it?" Nori said, later that day.
"Actually," Bilbo held up the pouch. "It did."
Nori took the pouch, grinning. "I'm impressed, Master Bilbo. Think you could handle Kili tonight?"
The youngest heir of Durin slept like an old bear deep in hibernation. The fact that he slept entangled in his brother's arms made Bilbo's task difficult. He saw Kili's bag spare clasp sitting by his brother's head and picked it up, careful of the metallic objects inside. Then he saw Fili's comb.
'Why not kill two birds with one stone?' he decided.
"Alright!" Fili roared. "What tree-shagger has stolen my comb?"
"Fili, Uncle Thorin, someone has stolen my spare hair clasps!" Kili yowled, tugging on his despairing uncle's arm.
Thorin began massaging his forehead. "I don't know what's gotten into everyone! You're all misplacing your items and behaving idiotically! I swear to Durin..."
"Why is my comb in your boot?" Fili angrily asked Kili.
"What?!" Kili sprinted to his brother's boots and drew out his little bag from the left boot.
"You must have put them there yourselves." Thorin said, sounding annoyed.
As Fili, Kili and Thorin argued, Nori touched Bilbo's arm, grinning maniacally. "Good touch , that. Next one is Bifur."
Bilbo could hardly wait.
Bifur slept close to Bofur. He was as, if not, more protective of his younger cousins than Bofur was of Bombur. Bilbo looked down at the non-Westron speaker and wondered what to take. Bifur coveted his pipe, he knew. Which was currently in Bifur's mouth. He felt terrified as he worked it out. Bifur was surprisingly more tender-hearted than he looked, but he would be pissed if he woke up and saw what Bilbo was doing. Luckily, the Dwarf slept on.
"Oh, not you too, Bifur!" Bofur moaned.
Bifur gave his younger kin an unhappy look and continued his signing and speaking.
"He's lost his bloody pipe." Bofur explained to the others, before speaking the Khuz-Dul back, asking just where the pipe had last been.
"It's in there." Bombur pointed at Bifur's pack. The Dwarf walked over to peer at his pack and nodded, gently patting Bofur's shoulder as if to say the panic was over.
"Gloin." Nori mouthed.
A challenge indeed.
The Dwarf's adoration of his wife and son was well-known to all. Bilbo knew he had a locket that he carried with him and it was fiddly to unclasp it and very hard to take it quickly too. When it was done, he caught sight of Dwalin and the Tookish side of him told him, begged him to do something amusing, but incredibly dangerous.
"Oin? Brother, did you take that picture I have of Gimli and Neoma?"
"Hmm. I had it last night. Thorin, have you seen...Dwalin!"
"What?" Dwalin bellowed back.
"Might I have my portraits back?"
"I SAID," Gloin shouted "MIGHT I HAVE MY PORTRAITS BACK?"
Dwalin blinked at the silver locket lying by his bedroll. "Odd, that." he muttered before throwing it at the red-haired Dwarf. "Catch!"
Nori looked almost longingly at Dwalin, but shook his head. He wondered who else to set Bilbo on. He smiled as Bofur passed and then looked from the toymaker to Bilbo. Bilbo nodded.
Bofur was one of his most favourite people in the Company despite his tendency to tell tales of such detail and gore even Thorin groaned once. Still, now that Nori had told him he needed practice in stealing, which he did, he couldn't back off just because he liked Bofur so much. That wouldn't do at all.
The hat had to be the object of his thievery. It just couldn't be anything else. It was simple to take it. Just had to be careful of Bifur. Yes. He already knew the perfect place to put it.
"Oh, Master Gloin, please take off my hat."
"I don't know how it got there."
"It's alright." Bofur tried to soothe. "It's a fine hat, but, all of you, now, ask before borrowing if you don't mind. Thank you, Gloin."
"Don't know how the bugger got there, lad." Gloin said, furrowing his brows. "No idea."
"No worries." Bofur smiled.
"Are you ready for your biggest challenge yet?" Nori whispered.
"Yes." Bilbo breathed back.
"Your next target," Nori purred, "is our illustrious leader, who is still in the throes of adoration after you saved his hide from the Defiler."
'Throes of adoration'. Ridiculous Dwarf. His eye was on Thorin's ring. Undoubtedly, Thorin would be livid. But somehow, he wasn't afraid. He knew Thorin wouldn't kill him or maim him at any rate. Perhaps he'd get away with this too. He hoped so.
The thick, chunky ring was heavy in his palm. It was warm from Thorin's, frankly gigantic, hand and he shivered at the radiating heat. He knelt by Thorin's head and threaded the ring into one of the braids the exiled king wore. At least it wouldn't get lost.
"Who stole my ring?!"
"Oh, uncle," Kili batted his eyelashes in a show of mock-shock. "You must have lost it! Oh, we're all getting more and more idiotic-"
"Shh!" Fili warned, gazing at his uncle's fearful stare.
"When I find out who did this, I will have them flogged." Thorin vowed.
"Even if Ori did it?" Kili asked, making the young scribe squeak.
"Ori would do no such thing." Dori said, pulling his little brother close.
"Even if..." Kili looked around. His eyes fell on Bilbo. "-if Bilbo did it?"
"Do you honestly think he would?" Nori asked lazily. "Come on, Kili..."
"You're right. What about if-"
"That's enough now, lad." Balin said. "Thorin, what is that you've got in your hair?"
Thorin felt through the strands and sighed. "There it is." he murmured. "It has never been there before." he then defended at his nephew's look.
Bilbo knew who had to be next.
Dwalin was a light sleeper, a deadly warrior and had a temper like a Whizpopper. Bilbo didn't like to think of what would happen should he get caught. He was aiming for the warrior's knuckle-dusters this time and had just touched one, when Dwalin's hand wrapped itself around his wrist, making him freeze instantly. Behind him, a deep voice rumbled. "Hello, little thief."
Nori stared horror-struck as Bilbo's wrist was captured by Dwalin and gulped as Thorin greeted their Halfling in an all too casual manner. His sudden movement as he stood awoke Ori and then Dori.
"What're you doing, Nori?" Dori asked wearily.
"Go back to sleep." Nori hissed as he walked over towards the other three Dwarves. "Thorin!"
"Can I help you, Master Ri?"
"Look, this...it's not his fault." Nori swallowed. "I was teaching him how to steal.."
"You what?!" Dori's horrified voice echoed around the clearing, waking most of the Company.
"He didn't know how to thieve, so I helped him."
"So," Dwalin said. "You two," he pointed at Bilbo and Nori, "are the reasons that various things have gone missing."
"We had one innocent member!" Dori raged. "One innocent, polite little thing who isn't Ori and you ruined him!"
"I was helping him!" Nori shot back
"Some fine bloody help..." Dori muttered.
"Please don't... don't hurt him. Do whatever you want to me, but it's not his fault."
"You certainly taught him well." Thorin said, twisting his ring around. "Not many have gotten this close to stealing from Dwalin."
"Or you." Dwalin retorted, releasing Bilbo.
Thorin smiled slightly. "The pair of you are collecting the firewood for the rest of the week."
Well, that could've been worse.
"Don't stop your teachings, Nori." Thorin told him. "They are invaluable."
"Go back to your bedrolls."
Nori tugged Bilbo into his arms. "You're making a brilliant thief." he mumbled into Bilbo's coppery curls.
Bilbo smiled, hugging Nori tightly. "I have a good teacher."
There aren't enough fics with Nori and Bilbo. I'm not complaining about the others, of course, but there's a rare few out there. So I made one! Hope it made sense and was enjoyed!
Love from Shania. xx