Ori's head felt curiously light, as if it might float off by itself and leave him behind. Somehow everything was twice as funny as it ought to have been and the chill evening air did not seem cool at all. Instead his face was aflame and every sip from the bottle warmed him some more. He took another gulp and passed it back to Fili.

'So did she ever actually arrive?'

'No, yeh, after I waited till I thought I would turn to stone, ' Fili continued with a dramatic eye-roll, 'Lady what-ever-her-name-was, finally arrives and just about walks right through the Southern gate and into town without me!'

Kili snickered and pinch the bottle his brother, 'Made she thought you was a statue!'

Ori giggled and Fili raised his voice to continue, 'Anyway, so I step right out in front of her, done my best bow, Kili at your service and all that, dead fancy like Amad taught us and all she does is look down at me like I'm a piece of grit fallen into her ore.'

Ori tutted and sniffed exactly like Dori would, shaking his with a matronly, 'How un-mannerly of her.'

'Oh wheest Ori, let me finish' said Fili with a grin. 'So I realise she doesn't recognise me, so I start to tell her that Thorin's my uncle but all I get to say is "Thorin Oakenshield-" before she cuts me off saying I should have told her earlier and tosses her coat and bag in my arms and tells me to take her to him. Pretty rude if you ask me, and I couldn't get a peep out of her the rest of the way, just turned up her nose and pretended not to hear. And then when we got to the Meeting Hall where uncle was to speak with her, she takes her stuff and gives me a silver piece! She thought I was a servant!'

'Well if you insist on going about with your hair unbound like a ruffian, with knives stuff into every crevice you can find - it's a wonder she didn't take you for a thief!' This time Ori's impression of Dori was so uncanny that all three young dwarves fell about laughing.

When they had recovered, Kili wiped his eyes and said 'So that's how you managed to pay for this gut-rot, then. Ha, at least we got something good out of her snooty-ness.'

Ori narrowed his eyes and tilted his head as he always did when thinking. 'So why was Thorin meeting with a some grand Lady from the Northern Range?'

Suddenly Fili and Kili looked incredibly sheepish, as if they had given a way a big secret. Fili started to say 'Well, uncle-'

But Kili cut him off, 'We promised not to tell! He said it might not happen anyway!'

'It's only Ori,' Fili countered, 'We can trust him.' Ori nodded his head enthusiastically, alway eager for news and gossip. Kili took a deep breath and said,


Ori's mouth hung open, 'What!?'

'Uncle says-'

'No, I heard you fine, I just can't believe it! Take back Erebor, what a quest! That story would last a thousand years! I could write it, I could record it, can I come too!?'

The brothers looked at one another, faces torn between embarrassment and amusement.

'It's a long way, Ori.'

'I'm good at walking!'

'It'll be dangerous.'

'I'm not afraid!'

'...You might have to fight.'

'I...' Ori looked away, face flaming redder under the alcohol-flush. 'I don't fight.'

'Oh Ori, we know, not everyone's a warrior, there's no shame in not being good at-' Kili bit his tongue to stop the insult that threatened to leap out of his mouth. Ori's mouth set in a thin hard line.

'It's not that I can't fight. I'm just...I'm scared that I'll hurt someone.'

Fili's face softened in a smile, 'Ori, you're so gentle I don't think you could hurt a single living thing.' He'd meant it as a compliment but Ori's face clouded and his eyes filled, as if he was reliving a bad memory.

'You don't understand.' Ori stood suddenly and walked swiftly back towards the entrance to the mountain. The brothers called apologies after him, but they only made his lip quiver and he did not turn back.