*Author's Note: Hello all. Sorry for my insanely long absence. Life was great and sucked at the same time, and emotions are the worst idea living creatures ever came up with. For this story, all dialogue in normal font is khuzdul, since most of the story will be dwarrow interacting with each other, and it would be completely inefficient and ridiculous to write all khuzdul dialogue in actual khuzdul (also, I don't speak khuzdul. Only English and some conversational Auslan).

Normal Font = Khuzdul

Bold = Westron

Italics = Indicates mental dialogue, as usual. Since this story will always be from a dwarf's POV, all mental dialogue should be considered as being thought in khuzdul.

*Disclaimer: I do not own any characters in this story except any OCs that crop up. Vili technically belongs to the collective selected headcanons of other fanfiction authors, with a few tweaks of my own. All other characters belong to J. R, R, Tolkien, the gods rest his soul.

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Vili sighed as he packed up for the evening. He would have to leave soon and a part of him twinged in disappointment that he hadn't run into the beautiful dwarrowdam again. Her ruined cloak was still tucked away in the spare box he'd stored it in after she left. Some part of him just couldn't discard it. It was his one piece of proof she had been real. Two weeks had passed since she'd barrelled into his life and turned it topsy-turvy within the space of a few minutes. It didn't bother him that she hadn't paid him for the new cloak. He'd meant what he said about helping her being the right thing to do.
It was getting dark now; too dark to take down the marqueé he used to protect his wares – and his disguise – from the elements when on display. He would sleep in it again that night, before enlisting aid from some locals to dismantle it and pack it away on his horse-drawn cart. That was something he'd forgotten to do, he realised as he reclined, exhausted, in his bed of furs. He still needed to pay the owner of the town stable for taking care of his pony. Vili resolved to head there first thing in the morning.
As he had every night for the past fortnight, the golden dwarf dreamed of long black hair and dark, lively brown eyes smiling mischievously at him as she ran away through the crowded city streets.

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"This was due two days ago," said the dwarf, taking the bag of money Vili handed him with a scowl. "I'm sorry. This weather we've been having made things difficult," Vili replied. Glumir grunted and caught the attention of a slave boy skulking nearby, growling at him, "Salrith, get the tailor's pony. You remember which one it is?" The boy nodded sharply then darted off along the line of stalls, his bare feet slapping wetly on the muddy cobblestones. Vili was following the boy's movements as he picked up a halter and rope and opened a half door near the opposite end of the stable. As a result, he didn't notice her presence until he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder, and he spun around to find the dwarrowdam who had been haunting his every thought, standing in front of him wearing the cloak he had given her and holding a leather purse in one hand.
"Good morning," she greeted cheerily, before he could gather any words himself, "I've been a bit tied up with my responsibilities back home, but when I finally managed to come back you weren't there, and everything was all gone and I worried I wouldn't see you again. But then Erna saw your cart and told me you must have a pony and might be at the stables, and she was right, so here I am and here you go." With that, she grasped his wrist and pressed the purse into his palm.
"I… um… thank you, my lady…"
"Give him room to breathe, Dis," the dam Vili hadn't noticed until now laughed, tugging on Dis's elbow, "You have no idea of the effect you have on others."
"I… beg your pardon, my lady… I don't believe we've met?"
"Of course, pardon me. I am Lady Erna, and this is my friend, Lady Dis. It's a pleasure to meet you…?" The dwarrowdam who had introduced herself looked at him questioningly.
"Oh, yes, um… Vili, my lady… and my lady," he replied, dipping his head to both of them, embarrassed at his unintended rudeness.

"So, I hear you make excellent cloaks, Vili?" said Lady Erna, clearly attempting to strike up some form of civil conversation. Vili cleared his throat and tried to ignore the way Lady Dis was smiling at him as he replied, "I do my best, my lady. I make coats, belts, gowns, tunics, trousers, gloves and boots as well."

"A glover and a cobbler in addition to being a tailor then. I'm impressed," said Lady Erna. "If your gowns are half as good as your cloaks, I simply must have at least a dozen," declared Lady Dis, "But first you'll have to take up temporary residence in Erebor. I do not want to have to chase you down every time I need you to make me something. I'll go talk to grandfather about it right now. Erna, stay here and make sure he doesn't run away again."

Vili, who had been opening and closing his mouth like a fish ever since Dis mentioned the mountain fortress, gazed after the nobledam's rapidly retreating back in a dazed stupor. When he finally pulled himself together, Lady Erna was smiling at him in a sympathetic sort of way, as though her friend making life-changing decisions for complete strangers and running off to make arrangements was a common occurrence she had grown used to. Vili's mind was in an absolute turmoil. One word kept spinning round and round in his head, drowning out his fascination and replacing it with a creeping dread.

"Erebor?"

Even as he uttered it, Vili was unsure whether the word was directed toward Lady Erna or someone else - Mahal, perhaps; the creator of the dwarrow was prone to cruel pranks, if allowing Vili to be born with his golden-haired curse was any indication.

"I'm surprised you haven't been there already," Lady Erna mused, "The demand for fine wares such as yours is endless in the Mountain. We experience an odd dearth of talented craftsmen, considering." Lady Erna's tone was light, but Vili detected a note of genuine confusion. Was it possible she didn't know the reputation of the dwarrow nobility among craftsmen? They were notoriously impatient, fussy, oblivious to the existence of other customers, and prone to abusive behaviour if the craftsman was running even a little behind schedule. Anyone attempting to sell to nobledwarves in their domain never stayed long.

"I hope that is remedied soon, my lady. Wouldn't want to keep nobility waiting," Vili said, allowing just a little bit of sarcasm to creep into his tone. Lady Erna just smiled back brightly, "Quite. So how soon can you move everything and get set up again, do you think? I'm certain we can spare some slaves from the Mountain to come and assist you. They're typically well behaved so there's no need to worry about them damaging anything."

Luckily, Vili was saved from having to answer immediately. The stable boy was back with his pony and coughed lightly to get Vili's attention. Vili turned, took the rope, and thanked him in Westron. The boy bowed quickly but deeply to both Vili and Lady Erna, then fled back inside.

"It was a pleasure meeting you, my lady. Please pass on my good wishes to Lady Dis," said Vili. Her name felt like satin on his tongue. "I am afraid I cannot take the good lady up on her generous offer though. I must keep moving. I am expected in Esgaroth tomorrow, and there are other places I need go after that. May we meet again with the grace of Mahal."

"May we meet again with the grace of Mahal," Lady Erna returned the formal farewell, then added, "She's not one to give up, you know. Once she sets her mind to something, few can deny her."

Vili had no idea what to say to that, so he just forced himself to smile at her as he and his pony walked back up the road toward his marqueé.

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"Ho, merchant!" A gruff though not unfriendly voice called out.

Vili was in the middle of unpacking his cart after arriving in Esgaroth the night previous. Several crates and boxes already lay neatly stacked over where he'd been given permission to set up. He looked up with as polite a smile as he could manage at this hour of the morning plastered on his face. The brightly coloured rugs he had laid out for the floor of his shop, the rugs he had spent hours scrubbing clean during the pack up in Dale, were now already covered in muddy boot prints again. The culprits were a small yet intimidating group of dwarves in polished armour that shone in the rising sun. The light also glinted off the numerous weapons strapped to their belts and held in fearsome gauntlets. Their livery sported the King's insignia, and Vili felt his heart sink. These were members of the Royal Guard. What were they doing all the way out here, talking to him?

The guard who had addressed him smiled reassuringly at him, though his presence and that of his comrades were anything but reassuring. He had the most stunning green eyes Vili had ever seen, and a small part of him was mentally drawing up a whole selection of far more flattering attire to bring out those eyes before he could catch himself.

"Are you the tailor known as Vili?"

There was no use denying it. He had signed in with the local merchant guild, and they had clearly pointed these dwarves in his direction.

"I am. How can I be of service?"

"I bring good news. The King himself has requested you, specifically, as the replacement for the royal family's personal tailor. You're expected for an appointment with His Majesty and his kin tomorrow morning."

Vili opened his mouth to... politely decline the offer? He wasn't sure. Something about the dwarf's words and the way they had been said seemed less like an offer and more like he was under arrest. His suspicions were backed up when the green-eyed guard made a gesture to the others and they started picking up his crates and boxes, tossing them back on his cart with little thought or care for efficiency or neatness. Their behaviour was impossible to misconstrue. They were not giving him a choice in the matter and he knew better at this point than to resist a powerful family's armed thugs.

They were taking him to Erebor.

Once the guards had thrown the now terribly muddy rugs roughly on top of his wares – Vili winced and clenched his jaw to avoid snapping at them – the green-eyed dwarf placed an unwelcome hand on Vili's shoulder and steered him to the front of the cart, still talking in that overly-friendly tone, "Don't worry about accommodations. Your chambers have already been set up for you. We need to get back as soon as possible if you're to be ready in time to meet with the King."

They were taking him to Erebor.

Green-Eyes glanced pointedly at Vili, who suppressed a sigh and clambered back up into his seat, mumbling an apology to his poor pony before gently tugging on the reins and clicking his tongue. Nausea gurgled in the pit of his stomach and his heart pounded in his chest as the guards formed up around him.

They were taking him to Erebor.

The questioning murmurs of other merchants – who had stopped setting up their own stalls to watch the unusual proceedings – followed them as the guards escorted him out of the market and back onto the main road.

They were taking him to Erebor.

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*Author's Note: Please leave a review if you can. Reviews keep me writing (most of the time; sometimes life shit happens). Constructive criticism is welcome. Flames will be ignored.

Khuzdul Translation:

Salrith – slave (masculine, singular)

Much gratitude to Dwarrowscholar (not a Fanfiction pen name by the way; look them up on the general internet) who spent so much time putting together an actual English-Khuzdul DICTIONARY, which is what I used here.