Author's Note: Sorry for the delay, but I had some problems with how the story was progressing.
But after a nice long chat about the plot with my wonderful friend Katya Kolmakov, I'm back on track again!
I hope you'll enjoy the continuation!
Nenya was awakened by a light knock on the door.
How long had she slept? It was impossible for her to know since there were no windows in the bedroom, and she couldn't even remember how big the fire in the hearth was when she fell asleep. Yawning she stretched her arms over her head. It felt like she had only closed her eyes for a minute, but hours could have passed by as well. She reached over towards Thorin's side of the bed, not finding what she searched for, sighing when she remembered that he left earlier.
The light tapping on the door continued, it must be the servant Thorin said he would send to help her. She covered her naked body tightly with the duvet before telling the one outside to come in.
The door opened, and a girl in Nenya's age stepped inside. After a quick curtsey, with her face towards the floor, the girl started to talk in a low trembling tone, "My lady, I'm here to help you get dressed."
The girl looked familiar to Nenya. The black hair that was visible around the tightly tied shawl on the girl's head made Nenya sure. It was her best friend Mira that stood at the door. Nenya would have recognized her best friend even if it should have been years since they last saw each other.
Not even Thorin could have made Nenya feel better than she did right now, when Mira stood in front of her by the door. The extreme happiness she experienced was even greater than the one she felt when she spotted Thorin in the dining area in Rivnadahl.
She jumped out of bed, and walked towards Mira.
"Mira? Is it really you?" Mira raised her head and stared at Nenya with widened brown eyes and her mouth slightly open.
With a shout of joy Nenya hugged Mira around the neck. Mira didn't return the gesture. She just stood there with her arms hanging at the sides of her body, clearly shocked. Nenya was ecstatic, and she wondered if Thorin had had anything to do with this. She had, after all, told him about her lost friend.
"Nenya? What are you doing in the King's chambers?" Mira said while she slowly hugged Nenya back.
"I'll tell you soon, just let me enjoy having you here with me again," Nenya answered.
When they had finished embracing Nenya took Mira's hand and led her to the bed."Do you remember the dream I told you about a few years ago?" Nenya said. Mira nodded. "The man in it was Thorin." Nenya saw his face in front of her and smiled at the image. Without thinking about it she started to play with the bead he had given her earlier. The metal was cold against her fingers, and she thought back at the moment he had put it into her hair.
"What? Really?" Mira interrupted Nenya's thoughts and brought her back to reality again."Yes, it's hard to believe, isn't it?" Nenya said and let go of the bead.
She continued to tell Mira about the escape from Dorami; how she had met Thorin and instantly fell in love; why she left him and her journey to Rivnadahl; and finally how happy she'd been when she'd seen him again in Rivnadahl.
"Now you have heard my story, let me know yours. How is it possible for you to still be here? I thought that everyone, including the servants, was banished or killed?"
"No, not all of us. They needed people to take care of things before they could bring their own here. So they selected the ones that could be helpful, I was 'lucky' to be one of them." Mira looked unhappy at the memory. "Me and my family were allowed to stay in our quarters and serve the new King - but at that moment I would rather have left. I was terrified at the thought of working for him, but I didn't have a choice. When they had picked us out we were not allowed to do anything except what we were ordered to do, and guards followed our every step to make sure that we obeyed. And although I only heard rumors of it I was almost certain, had we tried to leave they would have killed us." Mira's voice was sad, and she sat with her shoulders hunched, looking down at her hands. They shook a bit and she was wringing her fingers. Nenya placed her hand on top of them and squeezed lightly, trying to comfort Mira, and let her know that she wasn't alone anymore.
"I hope that you know now that that is not going to happen, not as long as I am here with Thorin." Mira looked up at Nenya and smiled. But the smile didn't reach her eyes and Nenya knew that it would take time for Mira to get over her fears towards Thorin.
"Yes, I realize that now. But earlier today, when I was ordered to come to the King's chambers to help the future Queen to get dressed, I hoped with all my heart that the King would not be there. I am still afraid of him, even though he has never done anything to me personally. It's the aura around him that scares me the most, the all 'big and powerful man' thing, but since he's the King it's best to stay on his good side and don't make mistakes," Mira answered, the corners of her mouth twitching a bit as if she couldn't decide on what to do - cry or laugh. "But I would not in my wildest dreams think that I would find you here, Nenya. I thought that you were far away from here, or maybe even dead."
"I could have been dead. The soldiers came to our home to get rid of us, but my father begged on his knees for mercy. He and the general in charge made some kind of a deal, but I was too scared to even apprehend what they talked about. I put two and two together later when the same man came to claim my hand in marriage - lord Dorami. But we don't have to worry about him anymore; Thorin threw him out yesterday with a death sentence if he came back."
"So that was what everyone was gossiping about in the kitchen," Mira blurted out. "None of us saw it, but we heard that it was a big commotion in the courtyard when the King came back from Rivnadahl, and a high positioned counselor was banished." Mira looked overwhelmed when she realized that it all fitted together.
"Yes, that was Dorami's wave goodbye. I thought Thorin acted a little too rash, but I'm glad that he didn't let Dorami stay. There is something not right with that man, but I can't put my finger on it."
"I don't know who he is, but for your sake I'm glad too that he isn't still in Ereiabor," Mira said and gave Nenya a small smile. Her face was now calm and her hands laid still in her lap.
"You haven't missed anything by not knowing him. I only hope that I never see him again. But now I want to get dressed and go see Thorin." She missed him so much now that not even Mira's presence was enough anymore. And knowing that he might feel the same made her even more eager to get ready. "We have just been apart for a few hours, and it feels like it was an eternity since I had him here beside me. I want him to meet you, and for you to see that he isn't as bad as you think." Nenya rose from the bed. She let the duvet fall on the floor as she walked towards the bathroom. Or walked was an understatement, it was more like a running dance as she happily twirled and jumped around to get there as soon as possible.
"Slow down! I don't think he is going to disappear if it takes a few more minutes for you to get there!" Mira laughingly said when she caught up with Nenya outside the bathroom.
"I know, but I can't help it! It's like something is constantly pushing me to find him and be close to him when he isn't beside me. I have never felt such a strong attraction towards anyone before! When he is beside me everything is, well, perfect. Like two pieces that were destined to be together, I can't describe it in any other way." Nenya let out a small sigh when she thought about him, her soulmate, and a silly smile appeared on her lips.
When they stepped inside the bathroom Nenya saw flashes of the things that had happened last night - his blue eyes darkened with desire; holding her against the rim of the tub while his hand trailed downwards; him kissing her with such force that the room spun. She had to blink a few times to come back to reality again, but she could still perceive the feeling of his hands moving over her body as she walked over to the basin, her whole body reacting to the memories. She splashed cold water on her face in an attempt to cool down the growing fire inside.
"Are those scratch marks on your back? What happened?" Mira asked curiously as she held out a towel for Nenya.
"Well, the edges of the bathtub are a little rough if someone pushes you against them," Nenya answered in a low tone. She turned away; her cheeks felt a little hotter as a light blush started to spread across them.
"Why would anyone push you against the edges of the ba… Oh! So you and… here?" Nenya's face turned even warmer. She splashed some more water over her warm face. The two friends had never talked about that certain act before. Love they had discussed endless times, but physical love was something that a nice young lady wasn't supposed to talk about. Not even with her best friend.
"Um, no, but..." Nenya began.
"So you two never crossed the line?" Mira interrupted, just as Nenya was about to say that she'd rather not talk about that now. Nenya thought that it might have been better to put on a robe or something so Mira hadn't discovered the marks. And now Nenya didn't know whether or not she should say that they had done it or not. She didn't want to lie to Mira.
"Well, not in here anyway…" Nenya said, barely audibly. She looked pleadingly at Mira. "Can we please not talk about it?"
Mira must have understood immediately how Nenya felt when she looked at her. "I'm sorry… I was just curious… Let's leave that subject and get you dressed instead. I'll go and find something suitable while you freshen up, is that alright?" Nenya nodded and took the towel Mira handed her.
While Mira walked out of the bathroom Nenya put the soft towel over her face.
Usually they could talk about anything, but this was so new to Nenya that she needed time to process it before telling Mira more about it.
When Nenya stepped out of the bathroom she saw Mira next to the sofa, digging through a pile of dresses in different colors that laid there.
"I think that this one will suit you the best." She held up a green, long-sleeved velvet dress, the color matching Nenya's eyes; the embroidery that covered the end of the sleeves and the bottom of the dress was exquisite, looking like golden flames in different sizes.
"And it has a high neckline so you don't show too much cleavage, just in case a certain someone doesn't appreciate that everyone can see your assets," Mira stated while she brushed out a few wrinkles in the fabric.
"If I didn't know it first hand, then I might have guessed that you actually know him!" Nenya wasn't able to stop the small laughter that bubbled up inside her from slipping out, resulting in a snorting sound that made them both laugh.
Then Nenya remembered the possessive look in Thorin's eyes earlier. He didn't want anyone to see what was for his eyes only, and the joke wasn't funny to her anymore. Mira moved over to Nenya and laid a hand on her shoulder.
"I know how men can be, Nenya, and I don't think he is so much different from others in this case. Let's get you dressed now," Mira said and led Nenya over to the couch.
The fabric was soft against Nenya's skin, and not too heavy, reminding her of the dresses she had worn when she lived with her father. The outfits that Dorami had wanted her to wear were a torment, lots of lace that itched, and corsets that were so tight that it was almost impossible to breathe - just to show off her curves.
Mira brushed Nenya's hair, holding the braid with Thorin's bead out of the way to not ruin it. She stopped when the locks shone and flowed like a waterfall of gold from Nenya's head down to just below her buttocks.
Nenya put her feet into the shoes she had kicked off in a hurry last night, since they were the only ones she had, knowing that the dress would cover the worn state they were in. Mira opened the door for Nenya and side by side they started walking towards the council room.
They talked some more on the way about what had happened during their months apart, both of them trying to answer the other person's questions and ask their own, and soon they stood outside the double doors of their destination.
Nenya could hear a mumbling of voices from the inside and got nervous. She had no idea who she would find behind the door, except for Thorin, and she didn't want to make a bad first impression on some of the highly ranked persons that probably was in the room. But she wasn't alone; this would be even harder to do without Mira by her side.
Nenya collected what little bravery she could muster at the moment, moved towards the door, took a deep breath and opened it, stepping inside with her head held high.
She recognized some of the men around the table. They were the ones that she and Thorin had shared camp with on the way back from Rivnadahl.
They smiled and nodded their heads at her as she went past them, and she greeted them the same way.
There were a group of four finely dressed men further down the table, everyone of them followed her with their eyes as she passed by. They showed very little emotions, just giving her hard glares that made Nenya feel a little uncomfortable. They could easily have been mistaken for four stone figures if they had had gray clothes and gray paint on their skin. She had never seen them before, and when she nodded her head to greet them they didn't even blink an eye back.
Nenya turned her eyes away from them, not wanting them to make her feel like she didn't belong there, and looked towards the far end of the table.
Thorin was sitting there, in a big chair leaning his forehead in his hand. When she got closer she knew that something was wrong, his grip around the armrest was so tight that his knuckles had gone white - he was obviously trying to maintain control of his temper.
She kneeled beside the chair, to be able to look up into his face and to hide a bit.
Was it something she had done?
She heard him let out a sigh before he opened his eyes.
"We have a big problem, and a smaller one. The small one is that there have been rumors that Dorami never left yesterday, and that he is determined to get you back." He turned towards her; his eyes shone with anger. "He will not even get a chance to get close to you, I promise you that! I have already sent out men to search for him, but I doubt they will find him. He is sly as a fox when he needs to be, one of the traits that had been very useful in the past. And he can disappear whenever he needs to." He pushed the chair back and took her hands in his.
"But he will probably make a mistake at some point and we can catch him then, and right now he is a tiny problem - if you compare it to a dragon… For the first time in all my life I don't know what to do to protect my kingdom! It makes me feel so helpless, and that angers me more than anything else!"
"A dragon? But aren't they extinct?" Nenya asked.
"I thought so too, until I heard of the big, black beast that attacked Rivnadahl right after we left." Thorin lifted one of her hands and put it against his cheek, placing a kiss on her wrist. "There is nothing but dust and stone left of that city now…"
"Where is it now? Does anybody know?" What could they do if the dragon decided to come to Ereiabor? Nenya didn't know either. But oddly enough she somehow knew that it was going to be alright as long as she was beside Thorin.
She was afraid, but still she wasn't.
She raised her other hand, stroke it over his soft hair and looked into his eyes.
"It will be alright. I can't tell you why, I just know it will be."
After the last words she placed a kiss on his lips, and another one, followed by two more, feeling Thorin meet her movements and kiss her back every time. As their mouths parted they leaned their foreheads together, enjoying the closeness.