"The Tin King"
Brain frozen with fear, Roni oddly didn't "feel" panicked. She didn't behave uncontrollably, didn't tremble, never fainted, never screamed. She didn't think she had the ability to scream. Once she tried with her less tomboyish cousin. They were in the fields, there was no one about, they came just for that purpose. And she couldn't. Her partner in mischief screamed like someone told her all meals after second breakfast were to be canceled for a week, but all Roni produced were some croaking yells and cough like sounds. Half of the time she just stood with mouth agape and waited for a couple of seconds, her neck straining and face turning red, before anything came out. She left the fields resignated and with the belief taking hold that she probably didn't have the necessary apparatus for it. She didn't scream earlier, when the goblins sprang from the back of the cave and herded them all before they could lift a hand. Gandalf solely was not taken, disappearing very much in what one would imagine a wizard's style: in the flash of light and with great thunder like bang. The rest of them were all captured after their tumble and ungracious landing (A thought about whether Thorin managed to land majestically enough on his bum or his big, handsome, head flashed through Roni's mind) and made to run along roughly hewn stone tunnels. She was grateful of all things that what she thought of as her luck again served her and she was not treated differently from the others. This insane thought to be had at such a time did not come completely out of the blue.
She has noticed that no one was giving her differential treatment on account of her gender. Not amongst the "bad guys" anyway. Not the trolls, and not the goblins now. Even elves thought her a child at first, not a woman.
Goblins certainly were not showing any special interest in her, just herded her along with the rest, their wip zipping over her head just as much as any of the others companions, and not getting as much contact only because Dwalin and Thorin pulled her between them to shield her. If she had any breath to spare and enough space in her brain unoccupied with the all encompassing panic she would have been astounded at such show of care from older dwarfs. But she saw that Dori and Nori did the same for Ori and Fili tried to do it for stubborn Kili, who refused to hide behind (or in front) of his brother. So, it looked like these actions were about the weaker ones that needed protecting, not about her being a female.
This was a thing that puzzled her, because she was always told that long travels, if any, are not for females and especially unattached and therefore unaccompanied by a husband who'd protected them ones. All sort of unspecified horrors could happen to such females. Which horrors exactly, she didn't know. Being killed and eaten by wild beasts or orcs wasn't horrible enough?! Roni didn't think she was naive (gullible maybe) but she also knew that she was not worldly, living the protected life in the Shire.
She remembered Kili's blunder with "fancying" the youthful looking elf who, although fair of features, turned out not to actually be of the so dubbed sex. She wondered if all these creatures surrounding them were male. If their females were different in appearance than males. It would be logical, almost all the living creatures she knew of had distinguishable gender features. Maybe it wasn't so with these. She did hear stories of dwarf ladies appearing the same as their male counterparts. But she didn't believe it. What would be achieved by that?
She thought her being of the female persuasion was evident enough. She might not be an attractive or very feminine one, but she had all the attributes. Goblins didn't seem to notice, or care.
They were brought to a halt in front of a raised dias and Roni tried to catch her breath, inhaling deeply and regretting it instantly. The air, if it could be called that at all, was stifling, hot, humid and with the rancid smell prevailing.
There were hundreds of goblins around and maybe some were females. There must have been some. Roni couldn't tell which ones they could be. Not that she wished to look closer. The fear added to her unwillingness to make direct eye contact.
"Who do we have here?" came a booming voice of the biggest of the goblins, sitting on some sort of dais.
The Goblin king (for the figure before them was unmistakably holder of authority in this place) was built like a smallish bear, with wide shoulders, log like arms, muscled thighs, with sickly green-grayish hide and googly, bloodshot, watery gray eyes , with thin strands of hair combed over his big head, that carried, what to Roni looked like tin (She was a hobbit, not a dwarf, what did she know about metallurgy?!) but was in actuality, as she was to find out much later, an iron circlet, representing, one would presume, his royal status among the goblin nation.
To her great trepidation, he noticed her and fixed her with his watery stare. He descended towards their group and Thorin and Dwalin stood their ground, chins raised and eyes narrowed.
The Goblin King paid them no mind it seemed and stopped in front of the hobbit. Roni tried to stay calm. When the goblin beaconed her with his clawed finger she gulped but moved closer, despite the protesting Fili and Kili. After inviting her to follow him with a few quiet words, leaning down a bit, the goblin had her escorted to a shed at the edge of the platform with his throne, leaning on one side to the almost straight cliff wall of the cavern they were in. Dwarfs all joined in protesting loudly and Fili, Kili and Ori no less, had to be restrained by Dwalin, Bifur and Dori beside them, lest they be battered by the goblin guards surrounding them. Looking back she gave her friends what she hoped was an encouraging smile and the last thing she saw before entering were several spears and similar very sharp looking things aimed at Thorin's chest and face, after he pushed off the nearest guard and tried to move forward.
Goblin king removed a filthy curtain that covered the entrance and in a mock gentlemanly manner let her walk in.