Bombur entered his kitchen and halted. Something was wrong. He stared at the tin of cookies on the counter. It was half a finger-width to the left of where he had left it. Expecting the worst, Bombur opened the tin.
It was filled to the brim with assortment of cookies, brownies and sweets, filling the air with the delicious scent of freshly baked delicacies Bombur had created to give to his little Metta on her seventh birthday. Or rather, it was almost filled to the brim. Five brownies, ten cookies and seven sweets were missing. It was barely noticeable amongst the mass of food, but Bombur saw it at the first glance.
Thieves. Somebody had thought they could take advantage of his kindness and steal part of the present for his daughter.
Bombur went very still. He sniffed. Cheep pipeweed, Gadi's mushroom mix and a hint of expensive cologne.
He sighed. Of course. Bifur knew not to get into Bombur's cooking, even when he had one of his episodes and could barely remember his own name. Bofur should really know better than that by now too.
Bombur slipped to the other side of the kitchen more silently than anyone who looked at Bombur would think him capable of. He slid open the top drawer of his cupboard and took out the rolling pin. Without a sound, he left his kitchen, following the faint musty scent of mushrooms to Bofur's room.
He halted to listen to Nori's nearly soundless giggles mingling with Bofur's loud guffaws. He scowled. It wasn't often that Nori came over, but when he did, he often brought over a little bag of Gadi's mushroom mix and for the rest of the day, the only thing came from Bofur's room was their laughter and an occasional expedition to the kitchen.
Bombur tore open the door. Nori jumped, then collapsed into a heap of laughter.
"Mahal, Bombur! Don't scare me that way. I thought it was Dwalin and the guards."
Bofur needed a moment longer to react, blinking at Bombur for a moment, his pupils wide. Then realization dawned.
He stumbled to his feet, pulling Nori with him. "Run! Save yourself!"
Nori was halfway out the window by the time Bofur had even completely left his seat.
In any other circumstances, Bombur would have been impressed at the speed at which Nori reacted, even inhibited by mushrooms as he was. As it was, the only thing he felt was rage. The rolling pin left his hand before his mind had even fully formed the decision to throw it.
Nori cried out, clutching the back of his knee as he tumbled back into the room. Dragging Bofur by his braids, Bombur rushed over to Nori and grasped him by his beard.
"I told you it was a bad idea," Bofur whined. "Bombur always notices when something goes missing from his kitchen."
"What are you talking about?" Nori said, his face a perfect impression of innocence and confusion. "Did something go missing? Did you hear any strange sounds coming from the kitchen, Bofur?"
Bombur gave Nori's beard a sharp yank. "Don't mess with me. Or my kitchen."
"But we didn't…" Nori began, trying not to wince.
"Don't," Bofur groaned. "You're only making things worse."
"You didn't do what?" Bombur asked. "Steal and damage the birthday gift of a little dwarfling? Set an awful example for Metta and the other children? Lose all sense you might have had by consuming those disgusting mushrooms?"
Nori swallowed. "Look, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't mean to…"
"No, I'm sure you didn't mean to be caught. You just meant to steal from me and my daughter and get away with it."
"Please, don't hand us over to the guards," Nori pleaded. "You can't do that to your own brother."
"No, I don't think I will alert the guards," Bombur said thoughtfully.
Nori breathed a sigh of relief while Bofur tensed.
"No, since you were clearly so hungry, you must be thirsty too. I just bought some fresh goat milk you must try. I insist."
"Please, we'll replace the losses to your kitchen… and get Metta a wonderful present to make up for the treats we stole," Nori begged. "Just don't make us drink any goat milk. You know how it reacts with the mushrooms… Please, just let us compensate for our mistake!"
"I expect you to, or you will have the pleasure of finding out just how long it will take to regrow that ridiculous hairstyle of yours," Bombur said, patting the knife in his belt. "And now we'll get you that goat milk. Surely, you don't wish to insult me by refusing my hospitality?"
Dragging their feet and clearly still trying to think of ways to avoid their doom, Bofur and Nori were pulled into the kitchen by Bombur. He poured them both a large mug of goat milk and watched as they drank it, the dread plain on their faces.
As they slunk back towards Bofur's room, he could hear Nori whisper to Bofur.
"Mahal, and I always thought Bombur was kind and harmless. He's worse than the guards! And faster too! The way he threw that rolling pin…."
Bombur felt a sense of grim satisfaction when he heard the groans of discomfort drifting from Bofur's room later that evening. Perhaps the massive hangover the goat's milk caused in dwarves who had consumed those particular mushrooms would teach Nori and Bofur not to mess with Bombur's kitchen.
Bombur felt a smile spread across his face as he let the flour of finest quality run through his fingers and sniffed at the assortment of spices that had mysteriously shown up in his kitchen. He would have bet his best cooking spoon that they had not come from legal sources, but they would enrich his kitchen, so he certainly wasn't about to complain. And Metta loved the rocking horse that had been standing on their step on the morning of her birthday. Bombur nodded slightly. It seemed like he wouldn't have to shave off any beards after all.