A/N: Are you ready, my lovelies, for a new turbulent adventure? :) Then hold on tight, and here we go! Allons-y! :)
The small time crook, known to most simply as Vole, is having a very bad day. He just returned to his inn with bread and wine his mates sent him for only to find the room they were occupying together empty. Not only they took the chest that contained all their latest loot, they also took his cloak and the spare pair of boots. What kind of filth takes his mate's boots? Vole sits on a chair and takes a big swig from the wine skin. He does not blame them. Given a chance he would have done the same. The problem is that the buyers will be in the inn within an hour, and Vole has a choice. He can either flee now, or face them without the jewellery they are coming here to purchase.
Vole pushes his hand into the pocket and pulls out a hair pin. While his mates were not looking, he pilfered it from the trunk. It just looked so beautiful, he could not help it. Never in his life had he seen anything like it, and that is given the last few years Vole has started finally running around with the big fish. Last year he even got his share of smuggling Elven swords, and these days this is as high as a thief can climb. But something about this pin made him put it in his pocket and constantly pat it to make sure it was not lost.
It is heavy, the prongs long, made for a woman with a great deal of hair, and Vole slides his finger along the silver plate decorated with the most intricate handiwork. When pushed in a do the pin would look like an opulent wreath of oak branches, with succulent acorns adorning it, each made of a single astonishing gem, green or brown, Vole cannot tell, the stones seem to be as if liquid, changing colours depending on the light or the way he twists the jewellery in his hands, unable to tear his eyes off it. He is no sentimental dimwit, but he cannot help by gently stroke the curves of the exquisite ornament.
He decides that there is no harm in trying to swindle his customers. He will go down and chat with them, perhaps he can convince them he still has the trunk and shake them down a bit. He stuffs the pin in his dirty waistcoat and goes down to the common room.
The patrons of the inn are rather muddled by now, there are loud conversations, and a fiddler in the corner is torturing his instrument. Vole winces irritated, he has an ear for music. The musician is all thumbs. Vole orders a mug of beer and waits for his clients. They are easy to descry as soon as they enter.
First Vole is certain they are Dwarves, the cloaks are definitely made by mountain dwellers but then he realizes they both are too narrow to be of the Stunted Ones. They are of the same height, one definitely male, with a scabbard on his back, heavier, still too slender for a Dwarf, and it becomes clear rather quickly that the other one is a lass. Vole chose a table in a corner, in a shade, and they sit in front of him.
They push the hoods back, off their faces, and it becomes evident that they are siblings. That is Vole's first and at the same time last thought. Any other vacate his head a soon as his eyes fall on the face of the maiden sitting in front of him. She sat her back to the common room, and now Vole understands why. That was the only way to avoid all inn staring at her. Striking, giant blue eyes, facial features fine, elegant, breath taking, and Vole clumsily puts his mug down, spilling his ale, and loudly gulps. His eyes are glued to her lips, full and pink. She smiles, and her companion chuckles.
"Namadel, you should have kept your face hidden. With his weak heart inherited from his father and excessive ale consumption he might not make it." As overwhelmed as Vole is by the beauty of the young woman sitting in front of him, he cannot help but notice the strange ambience around the male. Vole shifts his eyes and stares at the man. He has the same high cheekbones, narrow chin, but his eyes are strange, slanted, of the brightest green, one would not expect eyes to bear such colour at all, like grass or tree leaves, noble, proud profile, long bony nose. His eyes are distant, as if looking through Vole, and the crook shifts on his chair uncomfortably. The woman laughs, making Vole's whole body jolt, and answers something in an unfamiliar throaty language. The man smiles in return and focuses his mesmerizing eyes on Vole.
"Dain, son of Thorin, at your service, kindest sir." Vole has not seen such good manners for a longest time. He feels even more uncomfortable, he can hardly remember his real name, it has been so long.
"Vole, everyone calls me Vole..." The Dwarf, or still a man, Vole cannot decide, smiles absent-mindedly.
"A pleasure to meet you, kindest sir. This is my sister, Mira, daughter of Thorin." Vole swallows with difficulty and lifts his eyes at the woman. She has the same slightly aloof air around her but at least she does not seem to look at the wall behind him.
"My pleasure, my lady," Vole chokes on his words.
"We were under the impression," the male continues, "That a certain trunk has come into your possession. We were interested in purchasing it. I believe our previous negotiations were conducted with your partner, but the price he has declared is acceptable. We are prepared to pay you at the spot."
Vole did not know his mates have discussed the price with these two already. Again, he does not blame them, dealing with Dwarves is a condemned affair, especially when it comes to smuggling their goods. Anything that came from under a hammer of a Dwarf, in the mind of a mountain dweller, belongs to Dwarves. And Vole thinks about the scabbard at the back of the man sitting in front of him. Vole is decent with a blade but something tells him he does not stand a chance. Probably, once his mates realized that the customers coming for the trunk are of the Dwarves they fled, leaving Vole to take the fall.
"I do not have it," Vole gives in and decides to choose the path of cowardice. After all, only because he so often does, he is still alive. "My mates took it, I do not have it anymore."
The siblings exchange looks, silent conversation quite obviously happening between them, and the woman rises. The man immediately jumps up, and for the first time in his life Vole cannot sit in the presence of a standing woman, he gets up clumsily as well and suddenly feels sad. The woman is not looking at him anymore, he stopped existing for her as soon as he mentioned that the trunk is elsewhere. She quietly says something to her companion, and he comfortingly pats her shoulder. She pulls the hood over her head, and the man throws a few coins on the table.
"For your troubles, kindest sir," his voice is still warm and friendly, and to his endless shock Vole hears his own voice.
"I can help you find it! I can..." The woman turns to him again, he can only the lower half of her face.
"We do not need the trunk, Vole," her lips wrap around his appellation, "We are looking for a single object."
Honestly speaking, Vole is not very smart, he knows it himself, and he is still alive hardly due to acute intuition or quick wit, perhaps just thanks to caution and loose morals, but suddenly he understands with a newly acquired astuteness that the object the two strangers are looking for is in Vole's waistcoat pocket. For an instant, he feels strange possessiveness and considers hiding it from them and keeping it to himself, and then he realizes the absurdness of it. It is just a jewel, like any other, and they are obviously prepared to pay generously for it.
"What object?" He decides that he seems to have advantage in this situation and sits back on his chair. The man looks at his sister and at the corner of his eye Vole catches the view of the man's right hand move in a complicated gesture. It is the silent language of the Dwarves, Iglishmek, and Vole feels suddenly uneasy. The beauty in front of him, with her slender body and luscious copper curls styled in an intricate do is no Dwarf. The man with auburn hair and green eyes could possibly considered a Dwarf but never has Vole seen such strange detached attitude in Dwarves. It is more characteristic for Elves with their odd obsession with stars and tree loving. The two strangers in front of Vole are a contradiction, and he is very, very worried. But the call of greed is louder.
"The object we are looking for is the silver hairpin of Queen Ugguninh, wife of Thorin II Oakenshield, Queen of Erebor," the woman voice is silver and honey, and it tickles Vole's spine, and he is once again overwhelmed with an absurd desire, this time to hand the jewel over to her without demanding remuneration. He gulps and tries to look indifferent.
"And what price are you prepared to pay for it? The same as for the trunk, I suppose, since the pin is the only object in it that interests you..."
At that moment some noise can be heard outside the entrance to the common room, and then the doors open. To be more precise, they burst open by the weight of two bodies flung through them. The two men hit the floor with loud thumps, and splayed on the floor they are whining, and Vole recognises his treacherous mates. He lifts his eyes from their scared faces and sees a Dwarf sauntering in. The common room is silent, and everyone is staring at the dark haired mountain dweller, in a light mithril chainmail, glowing in the candlelight, two battle axes clasped onto his back, his sleeves rolled up, and in Vole's opinion that is the scariest part, with an exuberant wide grin on his bearded face. This one is definitely a Dwarf, heavy and broad shouldered.
"Othin is hardly subtle," the woman called Mira chuckles, and her brother rolls his eyes.
"When is he ever?" The one called Dain shakes his head. "And he is smiling, that is never a good sign when he is smiling."
"He always does," she answers warmly.
"Yes, but if you can see his molars, there will be bloodshed." The male turns to the newcomer and calls him, "Nadad, we are in the middle of negotiations!" There is slight exasperation in his tone but there is hidden affection in it as well.
"These two kumun had the trunk and sold it!" The dark haired Dwarf walks towards their table, and Vole presses his back into the wall. The warrior approaching them is terrifying, ebony strands, thick braids on the sides of his face, black beard, and shiny icy blue eyes. There is immense grace in the movements of his massive body. He is shorter than the two copper haired siblings, but he is tall for his people. On his way he slightly kicks one of the crooks on the floor and barks, "Stay!" They whimper quite obviously agreeing, and he comes up to the siblings.
"Did they say whom they sold it to?" The auburn haired man asks softly, studying Vole's mates on the floor, his head slightly tilted.
"They were hazy on the details, I might have overdid it with the impressive entering," the dark haired Dwarf guffaws and waves to a barmaid asking for ale. The people in the room stir out of stupour and go back to their affairs. No one seems to be willing to address the question of two men still on the floor. "I am starving, can we have dinner?"
"Othin, we still need to find out whom they sold the trunk to," the woman softly reminds, but the one called Othin already picks up three mugs from the tray of a barmaid rushing by. He takes a big sip and licks his black whiskers.
"Well, go and ask them. They will tell you anything you want. Dain can go with you, they seem to be afraid of me for some reason," he shrugs and smiles widely to her. She tut-tuts and then to Voles' shock grabs his ears and kisses his cheek.
"Mim nadad," her tone is loving, and he pushes his head to her like cats do when they want to have their heads scratched. She softly laughs and pats his shoulder. "I know you are bored, Othin, but perhaps we do need to act subtly..." The one called Dain sighs theatrically.
"We have agreed we would do all talking, Othin, and now we have two crooks that are scared out of their mind and probably can not remember their own names now, to say nothing of the amad's pin." The dark haired Dwarf has finished the second mug already and makes an irritated noise.
"I still think your talking will do no good, Dain, and it also takes long, Thror gave us a moon for this vacation, we are expected back to Erebor by Friday." He topples the third mug in his mouth, and Vole watches in astonishment how ale disappears in the Dwarf's throat.
"Othin," the taller man's tone is slightly colder, "We promised Mira to find the pin, we need to try." The dark haired one throws a glance at the woman, and she nods softly. The Dwarf sighs and lowers his head.
"Forgive me, namad, it is just… Subtlety is never my strong point. Ask me to rough someone up, and I am here for you..." Suddenly he looks at Vole, and the latter feels very uncomfortable. "What about this one? Is he in cahoots with them?" Seemingly without his will, Vole's eyes fall on the Dwarf's massive fists.
At that moment one of Vole's mates, and Vole has always thought that some cogs were missing in the Gondorian's head, decides to dash to the doors. He jumps on his feet but after making only one step falls on the floor cut under his feet by a swift movement of the leg of the one called Dain. The red haired man is standing over Vole's mate pressing a wide Elven blade to his throat. Vole is no expert, but he can swear no one has seen a finer blade with the exception of those wielded for Elven royalty.
"Kindest sir, I would hate to soil my father's renown blade with your blood. Could you please remain where you are? Also, my brother has an unfortunate tendency to hurl his throwing axes first and ask question after, and as you can see yourself it is rather counterproductive and unpleasant for both sides. There will be splashes..." The woman wrinkles her delicate nose, and the one called Othin guffaws and bites into a lamb leg that has appeared in his hand at some point as if by magic.
That is when Vole decides the time of bravery has passed. He pulls the pin out of his waistcoat and stretches his hand towards the woman. "Here, take it, I do not need it, just leave me alone!"
Dain starts laughing warmly, Mira takes the pin in her hands, her eyes brilliant and face reverent, and Othin is already heading to the bar counter loudly ordering dinner. And ale for everyone because, as he vociferously announces, he is in an exceptionally good mood and is hoping his brother will pull a stick out of his arse at least for one evening.
And then Vole remembers something and asks the one called Dain in a shaky voice, "What do you mean I have inherited a weak heart from my father?"