A/N: I love how few of these one-shots remain actual ONE-shots :) When you ask for part two for a fic I'm starting to suspect you might actually enjoy them *disbelieving gasp* ;)
A/N#2: Thank you, Wynni, for this one, and you are right, the question of age for these two is a common aggro, but we can always suss something out, right? ;)
This one the continuation of the previous one, Chapter 12.
That time when Thorin was starting to believe in reincarnation, while Wren found herself arguing with a stubborn cart wheel.
It had been three years since the Battle of the Five Armies, and a winter more severe than the lands had ever seen came. Snow was covering the Valley of Erebor, in Dale firewood and warm clothes were given out to those in need, Erebor had to fight a new avalanche every week. Snow was sneaking inside the Kingdom Under the Mountain through every crack, the cold was seeping through the walls, and even the famous forges under the Mountain seemed to fail to provide enough warmth. Envoys from Dale and Esgaroth came to Erebor asking for assistance with coal and renovations, and it was given to them.
King Thorin II Oakenshield, son of Thrain, son of Thror, entered the city of Dale, wrapped in furs, accompanying a procession from the Mountain, bringing supplies. He wanted to see for himself how much the city was affected by the cold weather. Negotiations with King Bard were to be held regarding sharing the provisions as well, and King Thorin entered the house of the King of Men, shaking heaps of snow from his hood. The blizzard was raging outside, and he stomped his feet shaking white off his heavy boots.
He was met by screams and tumult, and he sighed. He could already guess that some new grief had befallen Dale. King Bard rushed to him and gave his a hasty bow.
"Forgive me, honourable King Under the Mountain, snow has broken the roof on the city infirmary, it collapsed... They say there are many wounded and killed..." Thorin pulled his fur mitts back.
"Let us go, the provisions can be unloaded without us. I have twenty capable men with me, I am certain you could use our help." His tone was gruff, but truth to be told the relationships between two men were almost amicable. They both understood the importance of sustaining peaceful and adjuvant relationships between their cities. And honestly speaking, Thorin liked the Man. Once they both came to power, they seemed to have developed genuine respect towards each other.
The infirmary was a large stone building, three-storied, probably of yellow stone. It stood one wing in ruins now, and Thorin saw people frantically running around. They carried stretchers, there were portable fire pits brought to give the place some warmth, the snow was coloured red, cries and moans of pain heard everywhere.
The wing now lying under the debris of the roof was the surgery ward, many people had been brought to the infirmary with frost bites, a barge had toppled on the river three days ago, some of its crew were still being treated and operated on. Several healers were killed, and Thorin watched the Chief Healer, an old grey haired man sitting to the side on a piece of a wall. Apparently fire had started after the roof collapsed, there were stoves and fire pits inside keeping the ailing warm, it was not put out right away. The burnt wounded added to those who were maimed by the roof and the walls.
Someone came up to the Chief Healer asking for guidance, but he only shook his head. Thorin recognized the hollow look in his eyes, they were the eyes of one broken by battle. He rarely saw it in his warriors, Dwarves were too resilient, but in his travels he saw it in Men. 'Soldier's heart' they called it. Too much pain, too much death, too little to be done...
"You have to move the wounded in the other wing," a strong young voice came from behind Thorin, and he turned to see a small figure wrapped in a thin cloak that surely couldn't provide enough warmth. He saw the hem of a healer's robe peeking from underneath. "Leave Master Healer, and do as I say." The young woman had immense authoritativeness in her voice, confident and calm, and people stirred and listened. At that moment another gush of snow filled wind almost threw Thorin off his feet. The woman keeled but managed to stay upright. The hood fell off her head, and he saw fiery curls and a young angular face. Thorin could not see well, thick snowfall was blinding him, and she quickly turned away and dashed to the stretchers by the wall. Someone called Thorin's name, and he shook off sudden stupour and followed his men.
They worked all day, moving pieces of the walls, putting out fires that would start again and again, the air was dry and the infirmary had a system of pipes of hot water going underneath floors, from large cauldrons in its basement. Now the fire from the large stoves was escaping, but they could not put them out completely, the wounded needed warmth. Only a half of all healers could tend to the wounded, many died under the collapsed roof, five were wounded and unconscious, several were nowhere to be found. Very quickly Thorin realized that though few, the healers were working deftly and efficiently, and he understood that they were following the orders of the young woman he saw earlier. He overheard a conversation of two of them, they were operating right on the snow, near a large firepit. The woman's name was Wren, she was apparently the Chief Healer's apprentice, and had no real power in the infirmary, and yet all obeyed her.
Thorin's boot slipped on wet boards, soot, snow and blood mixed on them. His warriors were trying to move the biggest pieces of the broken wall, their physical strength exceeding that of Men, when the floor collapsed under him, and he tumbled in some sort of a cellar. He stood up, hastily verifying that he was unscarthed, and now he was looking around trying to find a way to climb out, when he heard voices above him. He yelled to warn the people, but it was too late. A loud crushing noise came from above, and Thorin sharply turned away, shielding his head from pieces of wood raining on him. A body collapsed near him, and he heard a loud high pitched scream.
The red haired healer was lying on the floor, a piece of wooden floor board sticking out of her side. Blood was gushing from another wound on her hip, and he dropped on his knees near her. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and she was taking shallow breaths with open mouth.
"Honourable healer..." He touched the side of her face, and her eyes flew open. And that was when he recognized her.
He was thirty eight then, not a child but not yet of battle age, and he and Frerin ran away from the house of Lord Girion to wander the streets of Dale. They were grounded for two moons for their disobedience after that, but then it seemed it was worth it. They had Dwalin with them, and they spent the day with two girls of Men they met while climbing over the fence of Lord Girion's house. One of them was skinny and red-haired, and that day Thorin had his first kiss. He never saw her since then, it was just one day, and with years he of course had forgotten about it. It was one hundred sixty one years ago.
"Wren..." He breathed out, and she blinked, fighting daze. Her eyes were slanted and of the same very colour he remembered, that of amber or tart apple mead, and he yelled up through the gap in the floor, "Help! I need help here!"
A surprisingly strong hand grasped his wrist. "Pull it out… The piece of wood… Pull it out and press your hands over it..." He met her eyes, they were burning, and he obeyed her without a moment of doubt. She screamed when the shard left her body, and he pressed his palms over the wound.
"There is another one… On your hip..." He heard men moving above them, judging by short frantic phrases exchanged by them, someone was coming down on a rope.
"It can wait..." Her voice was growing weaker, and he saw her face became wan under the dirt and blood smeared on her freckled cheeks.
"Wren! Stay with me!" He raised his voice, and her body jolted.
"Sakhkhmi astû galikh, uzbad-dashatuh," she murmured, her lips that had been red and bright in his memory growing paler. It is good to see you again, my prince. Thorin's heart was beating painfully in his chest. Crippling terror was crawling in his mind, she could not be the same girl, and yet she was, and he was losing her.
"Anamzu… hulwul… I remember..." Your lips… Sweet... Her eyes closed, and he was growling her name.
Wren opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. It was dark behind the large window to her left, and she took a cautious breath in. The pain in her side came just as she expected, she remembered the piece of wood entering it. And then she remembered a pair of blue eyes in front of her, and she blinked frantically. Could it be what her Nandhril had been talking about? Surely, the circumstances could have been less dramatic, Wren thought in irritation.
"Wren," a dark figure moved somewhere to her side, and she jerked. She stared into the dim shadows, and the Dwarf who was sitting on a chair near her bed leaned ahead. She saw the same blue eyes, and then a black beard and a noble profile. Nandhril was right, he was stunning.
Wren was seven, and she was sitting in the yard of her grandmother's house under a lilac bush. It was a hot Summer day, and her Nandhril, "maternal grandmother" in Sindarin, was brushing Wren's curls. It had been three years since Wren's mother had fallen ill and they buried her under a large oaken tree on the edge of the village. Since then Wren lived with her grandmother in a small house, full of drying herbs and jars of balms and oils.
"When I was your age, child, my mother told me what I will tell you. One day a man will come for you. He will be noble, and strong, and brave. You have to be ready, child, you have to learn his language, I will teach you, and you have to look after your hair. Do not cut it, he will recognize it, the curls have to shine, and it will have to be long for when he braids it on your wedding day. If time goes by and he still is not here, find a man who will not stay with you, bear his child but do not carry him in your heart. You will bear a daughter, her eyes of the same colour as yours, and her curls of the same fire, and you will pass your name to her, and when she is seven, tell her what I am telling you."
Wren sat and listened, and Nandhril started her language teaching, and Wren repeated the foreign throaty words, and that was the day when for the first time she heard the story that afterwards was repeated to her again and again, of a beautiful young prince with lips sweet as honey, and hands warm and tender, and a heart noble and strong. Wren listened, and learnt, and never forgot.
"Where am I?" Her voice was scratchy, and he moved closer and gently pressed a cup to her lips. She took a sip, watching him discreetly. She had to concede, she had always thought his merits had been vastly exaggerated through the endless repetition of the story, but he was indeed enthralling.
Unlike her mother, mild and pure, and her grandmother, stern and determined, Wren had a stubborn and defiant temper, and was well aware of it, and she held a certain amount of scepticism towards the customs of her family. Given, she had never even considered interrupting the line of red haired daughters, and she still remembered the lessons of what she now knew was Khuzdul, the language of severe Dwarves of Erebor. Unlike other women in her family, she had had lovers, and sometimes she would think she almost hoped he would not come, and she would choose some simple, agreeable man, bear her daughter and live in peace. Wren had to admit she was changing her mind now.
"It is the house of King Bard." Wren's grandmother had never mentioned the voice. Perhaps she was unaware, the story was old, and if indeed it was the same man all the women in her family were waiting for and saw in their dreams, on that one day in the city of Dale he was around fourteen in the years of Men. The voice probably had broken since then, and turned into the enticing velvet and rumble she was listening to now.
Wren licked her lips and lay back down on the pillows. She smirked thinking of how her grandmother always made sure Wren's hair was brushed and scattered on her shoulders to show it in the best of light. It was tangled and dirty now, and Wren venomously wondered if he could even see what colour it was. She felt she was almost arguing with the old woman in her head, asking how exactly Wren were to entice the man in front of her if she was pale, in pain and probably smelt. She listened to her body and assumed she had probably run a fever for a few days, there had been severe blood loss, she felt weak and annoyed. If all those women before her wanted her to succeed, if indeed it was she who were to fulfill that purpose, surely the circumstances could have been at least more favourable.
"You have an interesting expression, Wren," she was not certain but she thought she heard a smile in his voice. She looked at him, but could not see well in the dimness of the room.
"I have several additional orifices in my body, forgive me if I am rather vexed," she bit back, in the habit developed over the years of serving with men and constant efforts to stand her right to be perceived as equal to them. She scolded herself, she was failing her heritage, but then she heard a soft chuckle.
"How are you feeling now, honourable healer?"
"I'll live," she mumbled and sighed. Surely, it should have been another Wren to meet him, she lacked patience and charm to be the one.
"I am glad," a seemingly courteous answer followed, and she pressed her lips.
"Are you mocking me, my lord?" That gained her another low chuckle.
"Nê ithi zai uslukh kêl," he muttered quietly. Never laugh at a live dragon. That was the time when perhaps she should have wisened up and kept her mouth shut, but again, Wren was just not that sort of a girl.
"Tatahi zai targ mamahrul." Do laugh at a burnt beard, she sneered back the expression her grandmother was very fond of, meaning "do add insult to the injury." Wren was surprised how easily the words she had not spoken for years slipped off her lips. He was watching her, she could feel his eyes on her cheek, she kept her face lowered, fidgeting with a corner of a cover.
"Your Khuzdul is very good, where did you learn it?" The question was quiet, and her heart fluttered from strange tension in it.
"My grandmother taught me." There was a pause, and with the next question he seemingly put everything in its place.
"Was she the one in Dale?" He knew then, she thought, and was certain she knew as well.
"No..." Her voice broke, and she cleared her throat, "It was a Wren before her."
She peeked from the corner of her eye and watched him slowly get up and sit on the edge of her bed. She lifted her eyes and looked at him defiantly. She lied to herself that nothing was set in stone. She was her own woman, she told herself, she could make her choices. And then she reminded herself of what neither of the red haired women before her even seemed to think about. What if he did not want her? She knew Khazad well enough by then, that would be unheard of. And she was so appallingly unattractive... And he had that one day... And she was not that girl...
Their eyes met, and then he softly smiled to her. She felt her lips tremble. She suddenly wanted it to be true. The desire and longing pierced her heart, and made her shudder. She saw in him the heart, and the will, and the temper, and the passion, and all of what her grandmother spoke, and all she had ever dreamt about.
His scorching palm she had daydreamed about for years cupped her face, and he leaned in and softly kissed her lips. It was a tender and chaste caress, and she gasped in his mouth. Her hands were trembling, and she pressed a palm over his strong beating heart under the velvet doublet. He moved away, and she marveled at the bright blue of his eyes.
"You are nothing like her," he whispered and smiled to her. The sarcastic 'sorry to disappoint you' stuck in her throat. She wanted to be the one. "I have been waiting for you for so long..." Her eyes flew up from his collar she was stubbornly studying, and she looked at him not daring to believe.
"Abâd." Here I am. Her usual lippy answer sounded rather unimpressive since her voice was trembling, tears pooled in her eyes, and she smiled to him shyly.
"Shamukh, idmi." Greetings and welcome. He whispered in her lips, they both laughed quietly, and then there was silence. Lips caressed lips, he was mindful of the injuries, she was silently thanking the women before her.
"Takhlibi mi razûkh lulkh," Clumsy idiot, Wren snarled, when the wheel of the cart she sat in once again caught on a lump of ice on the road. Thorin looked at her, she was bundled in opulent furs, only her nose, pink from the frost, peeking from the white sable collar. She looked peeved and gave the driver's back a glare. Thorin approached the cart on his pony and bent down. He received a side glance from the amber coloured eyes, and he pulled off his mitt and pushed his hand in her hood, with pleasure feeling the silk of her fiery curls. She lifted her face slightly for his convenience, and he smirked when pressing his lips to hers.
"How are your injuries, yasathuh?" He asked softly. Her cheeks were rosy, perhaps from the cold wind, but most likely from the hardly chaste kiss they had just exchanged.
"Will open again if this lulkh does not start driving better," she sounded irked, but nonetheless a small hand in a fluffy mitt snaked from under the covers, and she pulled him back to her lips.
As Thorin knew by now that was the only way to pacify her sharp tongue, and he happily proceeded to silence his future Queen.
A/N: yasathuh = (Khuzdul) my bride