Werna looked at the ring she held on her palm, it was of mithril of the most exquisite fineness, but at the same time it looked new. It was a simple band, with the engraving of oaken branches, with little acorns, running along it. It was elegant, and she quickly put it on her right index finger, the only one unoccupied with the rings already.
"I thank you, my lord. It is indeed a splendid gift," she gave the ring an evaluating look. Though endlessly simple, probably much less valuable that the smallest of her other ones, it contained a certain charm.
"I am glad you are enjoying it," something in his voice made her look up at him. He was looking at the sterling ribbon on her digit, and she felt slightly uneasy. The ring looked new, it could not possibly be an heirloom, she could not understand why it would make him emotional, and yet she could see he was affected.
And for the first time since that day in the throne room she realised that Thorin, son of Thrain was a King, an heir to the line of Durin, a warrior, a reknown smith, but also just a man as well. She had to admit she had resisted such thoughts before. Dwarven marriage was to be built on respect, compatibility of noble blood, on strict marriage contract, and shared property. A woman was expected to care for her husband and be his partner in everything, but she was not obliged to be sentimental towards him. Werna had been determined to become a good wife to him and the best Queen Erebor had seen. Dewy-eyed bathos was not part of her responsibilities. And yet, she could see he was disappointed in her reaction, and she wondered what she had missed, and then she acutely felt that there was so much of character in him, so much past behind him, hardships, pain, friendships, losses, victories, quests, and if she opened up to him now, she suddenly felt, he would flood and overwhelm her.
Werna's mother was one of those few Dwarven women who did not protect their independence and their heart in their marriage, she loved Werna's father ardently, mawkishly, and when he had not returned from the battle at the Gates of Moria she faded away in a course of a moon. In her nightmares Werna still sometimes saw her pale face and empty look of half-lidded eyes, the room, dimly lit with only one lamp, and her aunts mournfully shaking their heads. Werna was not intending to repeat her mother's mistake. And then the King got up, it was time to proceed to their first shared meal, and she saw slightly tense corners of his lips, and an almost unnoticeable crease between his black brows, and she got up as well and placed her hand on his forearm.
"I love your gift, my lord, it is unique, but I will be honest with you, I feel I am missing its significance," it took a lot of effort to pronounce it, she was never good at admitting an inadequacy. To be precise, she hardly had ever admitted any in her life. He looked down at her, she was short for a Longbeard, and his eyes softened.
"There is no significance, my lady. Just a trinket, just as I said," he spoke warmly, and she smiled to him. And then the understanding dawned. Acorns, oak... Oakenshield. He was right, it was a trinket, but somehow she felt it was… sweet. She quickly rose on her toes and pressed her lips to his cheek.
"I will wear it as my shield, my lord," she whispered quickly, and he jerked and met her eyes. They both looked slightly embarrassed, the whole situation was indeed rather too maudlin for the Khazad, and he cleared his throat, taking a step away from her. She unnecessarily straightened her opulent velvet skirts, and he looped his arm offering it to her.
"I ordered it from Master Flai from Ered Luin," the King spoke hastily. The aforementioned jeweller was well-known, legendary, already retired, it was an honour to receive a fruit of his craft. Obviously he could not have refused the King Under the Mountain. That explained the irregularity of the pattern, Master Flai was almost blind, and yet the band was exquisite. Werna threw a loving look at it. She did not lie, she loved it from the moment it slipped on her digit. And she would lie if she were to say she did not find the little acorns touching. She pushed her hand through his arm and could not help but lean into him a bit. There was heat coming off his body, and she prohibited herself to listen to what her blood was as much as singing. She would think about it later.
The midday meal was served in the next room, everything was according to the traditions, meat and vegetables, freshly baked bread and cheese, a lot of cheese. The platter with it was strategically put closer to the side where the King was to sit. It took two weeks for her and her aunts to plan the assortment of dishes, and the King's love for cheese was well-known. Messengers were sent in all possible cities, there was even a small block of cheese from Ithilien, and Werna personally oversaw the cook slicing it. Everything was to be perfect, the first meal was to be the test of the bride-to-be as a future mistress of the house, and Werna was so overtaxed from all these efforts that her hands would shake at the end of the day through all last week.
They sat down, and the meal started. The wine was served, and she pretended to sip. The conversation was proper, perfectly according to the customs the King had inquired over her current dwelling in Erebor, her household was placed in the most splendid halls, she answered politely, and then a strange thought came. It felt dull. Their previous conversing, though unnerving and frustrating, was stimulating, and now… Werna twirled a fork in her hand, suddenly feeling unenthusiastic over the food that she had been so looking forward to share with him. She had an exceptionally good appetite and was fond of sampling, cooking, choosing and planning various dishes. And now she poked the slice of cold smoked pork with her fork and started chewing, as if it were a mouthful of woodchips.
She quickly searched her mind for the next appropriate question, when the King suddenly asked, "If you could chose any place to live in, would you have chosen Erebor, my lady?" Werna froze with a still full goblet to her lips. She should be upset with his question, which once again felt like a test, but she suddenly felt merry.
"I cannot judge yet, my lord, we have only resided here for a moon. I have not seen much of the Kingdom yet."
"We should go for a trip then, to see it," there was pride laced into his tone, and she realised that he dearly loved his mountain. It should not have mattered but she suddenly hoped she would love it too. And then she immediately berated herself for the sentimentality.
"Perhaps, we could change our future itinerary again and incorporate such trip into one of our meetings," she suggested, and he smirked slightly.
"I thought you were not fond of such changes," there was teasing hidden under the politeness of his velvet voice, and he popped a piece of cheese into his mouth. To buy some time she elegantly put a piece in hers as well. Werna had to concede once again, she was not particularly fond of cheese. She deftly hid the leftover slice under her napkin. She knew he would not notice, he was busy staring at her lips. The question of her trying extensively hard not to stare at his, as well as the neck, the jaw under the black beard, and the strange noise humming in her head from the view of his throat bobbing in the swan collared velvet tunic, all of these odd unfamiliar sensations she found today in her body were to be properly considered when she was alone. She had no one to ask for advice but at least she needed to organise her thoughts.
"I think we could take some liberties with the assigned order of betrothal as long as the changes do not defile the purpose of the arrangement," she spoke in a strict voice, "Our first meeting is to give us a chance to learn each other in the moon to come, thus portraits and parchment and quills for letters. You, my lord, are to wear the beads as a reminder you have given a promise to me, I was to write to you to know you better." He was giving her an attentive look, probably trying to understand whether she was indeed upset. She was not. And she felt sudden cheekiness waking up. "Now I will remain ignorant to your many virtues, my lord, and will have nothing to remember you by, since you have not given me a portrait of yours. By our next meeting," she threw him a look from under her lashes, "Do not blame me if your face is to be slightly hazy in my memory."
Werna was testing a theory. She had a growing suspicion that the King was bored. Having accomplished everything his duty prescribed him, he seemed to be seeking some thrill. She knew he had not intended to take a wife, the throne was to belong to his sister-son after his passing, and she was starting to see that he chose her as he saw challenge in her. She was not certain how she felt about this knowledge, but against her better judgement, perhaps just a bit, she liked the mischievous merry King she would see when they would once again clash in their banter, as opposed to the severe, glum monarch she saw in the throne room that very first day.
"Perhaps you should have a better look today. Some memories might persevere," he cocked one brow, and she could not suppress a small giggle.
"Are you intending to oppugn the next moon's proceedings as well, my lord?" She asked biting into a slice of an apple. She was feeling rather uncomfortable under his gaze, especially when some curious heat would flash in his eyes, but it was yet another thing she would have to ponder in the privacy of her rooms.
"Well, do you not find the whole embroidery affair rather boring?" He asked with a chuckle, confirming her previous evaluation. He was seeking some merriment in his life. She could imagine ruling the Kingdom was quite a labourious task, but she had not become quite accustomed to this thought yet. Up until today she had had quite a different picture of her betrothal and her future marriage. Among other things she did not expect him to be that attentive towards her as a person. Or as a woman for that matter.
Werna knew she was attractive, she had been used to receiving compliments, and she could see her own worth. She had always considered her allure just another asset in business. Men tended to be distracted by her looks during negotiations, she used it to her benefit. After all these years she had arrived to a decisive conviction that there were two kinds of men. Those ones who saw her appearance and those who saw her mind, she prefered the second kind. She loved intelligent conversation, tricky negotiations, and she loved to win in those. King Thorin II seemed to be curious about both. She once again needed time to ponder it, she felt she was rather unprepared for his astute eyes and insightful remarks.
"I have spent one moon on my gifts, my lord, they are half finished. I do not enjoy leaving my pursuits incomplete," she aimed for feigned stern tone, and he chortled, seeing through her false frown.
"Is it a shirt or a belt, my lady?" He asked lazily, and his eyes smiled to her over the rim of his goblet.
"You will have to wait a moon to find out, my lord," Werna made a mental note to herself that neither of the objects was to be given to the King. Whatever game they seemed to be starting to play, predictability was quite obviously the path to losing here. In the past moon she had finished embroidering the bed linen, that task was simple, just hours of tedious work, the hours she could have spent overseeing the reorganization of her brewery, she thought bitterly. She was good with needle and worked fast, but her heart was not into it. The upcoming moon she was to spend at least several hours a week in the company of Lady Dis, the King's sister, and her aunts embroidering a more personal piece for the King. She needed to choose her gift wisely.
Traditionally women of the family, and hers was now to unite with the royal family, would sit together, working and conversing, and as everyone was aware, these hours were to determine who was the mistress of the house after the wedding. Regarding this, Werna had very little doubt. She only hoped Lady Dis was ready to give up her reigns.
She would have to give her gift a good consideration. And there was also the question of what to put into rarkurmadkhur. She absentmindedly lifted the goblet to her lips, in a habitual action mimicking drinking. She had a strange for a Khuzd intolerance to brew, the mead from her brewery the only drink not causing muddled mind and excruciating headache the next morning in her.
"I would expect the wine to be to your liking, lady Werna, you have chosen it yourself after all," the King's low voice shook her out of her thoughtful state. She looked at him in astonishment, no one had previously seen through her pretense. She quickly gathered her wits.
"I have, and it is exceptional," she knew she could afford one sip, and it was the time. She took it and licked her lips. His eyes predictably fell on them. She had performed this trick so many time that she had almost expected the King to avoid falling for it. It was so simple, but after all he was a man too. "I decided I would not want you to alter the choice of your gifts next moon as well, my lord. I am in anticipation whether it will be a sword, or a battle axe, or perhaps even a hammer that I am receiving," she drew out, as if pensively, and took a deep wistful sigh. The King once again behaved like any other man, his eyes dropped from the lips on the Gondorian lace in the cut of her dress.
Between her breasts, on the very top of the embroidered bodice she had a pin with beryls and pearls. It was a kinglet, its wings open in a flight, it was her talisman. It was perhaps not perfectly fitting for the dress, the brooch was a bit too simple. It was a gift from her mother for the day when she reached her battle age. Her amad had been gone by then, the brooch was given to her by one of her aunts. Amad made it herself and it waited for Werna in the family vault, and Werna always felt it brought her luck. She had been so nervous this morning that she pinned it to her bodice, although her aunts did not approve. The dress was much more sumptuous, and the brooch stood out.
The King looked at it attentively, and she wanted to explain, but then pursed her lips. It was too personal, and she had been making concessions to him since the moment he came in. She was now feeling she needed to re-establish some boundaries.
"What is your weapon of choice, lady Werna?" the King asked lifting his eyes.
A/N: Any suggestions for her weapon of choice? :D Prompt time! Go wild, my lovelies! :P
A/N#2: Reviews por favor? :D
A/N#3: How did I do with your prompts so far, my darling dearreader, UKReader, Just4Me, and Wynni?
Fenjaicedragon, killthepain62, and EquusGold, your mirror, dagger and bottle are coming! :)
You are the best readers ever, my duckies! :D