A/N: Hello new readers and old readers! For those of you who are new here, this is the rewritten version of my original Hobbit fanfiction, Finding Their Place. For those of you who aren't new here, I hope you enjoy the story just as much at the original!
It was not yet quite evening when the five dwarves entered Dale, but the skies were already dark. Heavy clouds hid the sun from view as they drenched the city and the surrounding lands with cool rain. Being still early in the year—by the reckoning of Men, at least—meant that the days were cold and the rains colder. Though the five had endured far worse conditions in their lives, it was still a rather unpleasant experience.
What managed to cheer them up a bit, however, was the sight of how well the city was coming along. As they rode their ponies through the streets, they could see that the buildings no longer looked like ancient ruins. In fact, many of them looked as if they had never seen dragonfire or the rages of battle—a vast improvement since the first time they had been in the town.
"It's only been eight years and it seems they've got most of the buildings repaired! Even after wandering around for a few days, we didn't see too many left untouched," the eldest dwarf in the group commented. "Of course, they've had help from us dwarrows to speed things along…Though, I'm sure their share of the treasure Thorin gave them was a big help as well." He sat up a little straighter in the saddle, narrowing his eyes slightly so he could see through the rain in his eyes. Flicking the reins, he and his pony led the group down a side street to their left.
Noticing the way he had sat up and looked around in slight confusion, another one of the dwarves cocked his brow. "Are you sure we're goin' the right way, Dori? I haven't seen many taverns or inns so far." As he tilted his head, some water sloshed out of his hat.
"Bofur, that's the fourth time you've asked me that since we left Erebor—of course I'm sure this is the right way!" Dori retorted, his voice betraying his pouting. "And if I'm wrong—which I'm not—Ori was sure to take down detailed directions the last time we were here. Didn't you, Ori?" He looked over at his youngest brother in time to see him readjusting his soaking wet hood.
"I was," Ori replied, giving up his efforts. "At this next fork, we take a right and it'll be the last building at the very end of the street."
Dori nodded his thanks before turning around to beam at the other dwarves. "See? He has it written down and memorized!" He wasn't about to admit it to the group, but he had been about to lead them around another left turn until Ori spoke up.
"Ori's always been a helpful bugger like that," the fourth member of their group commented. "Without him, you'd be lost with all o' your trade deals. You wouldn't be able t' tell who you trade fine salts with from who you trade wines with."
Again, a pout came to Dori's lips as they rounded the next corner. "You hush, Nori. I could too keep track o' all my business associates. It just…wouldn't be in as neat of a fashion."
"That's a big inn," the fifth member of their group suddenly said.
The other four looked at the very end of the street only to see a large, three-storied building with a courtyard. Like the rest of the city, its walls were painted harvest gold with a stripe of red and blue designs along the first and third floors. The windows of the first floor were glowing brightly with a warm, welcoming light and they could see people moving around inside.
Squinting through the dying light, the fifth dwarf was just barely able to make out the Westron letters spelling out the name of the inn. "The Full Tankard," he read aloud. "Sounds promisin'!" A grin spread across his lips at the thought of a tankard filled with good beer.
"Ah, an' you'll be glad to hear that it lives up to that promise," Nori grinned.
"Just don't go puttin' their hospitality to the test," Dori warned. "This is a nice, respectable establishment and the family that owns it are very nice people. I won't tolerate either of you two treatin' this as another Bag End visit!"
Bofur snorted, remembering how they had practically eaten their dear friend, Bilbo, out of house and home. "As if Bifur an' me would ever be anything but the pinnacle o' politeness an' respectability. Why, I'll have you know, Thorin thinks we're some o' the more polite members whenever the Company gets t'gether for drinks back at the Hammer 'n Nail!"
"Says the one who's always first t' burst out into bawdy songs," Nori grinned.
"Which he won't do here," Bifur said. "At least, not until someone else starts t' sing them first!"
Dori let out a heavy sigh and rolled his eyes at his companions. Though he knew they were just joking around and that they would be polite, he couldn't help but worry that the worst of their dwarvish manners would come out—especially if there would be never-empty tankards at hand.
As the five road into the courtyard, they could smell roast chicken and warm bread, the scents making their stomachs growl in hunger. From inside the building, they could hear laughter and, through a window, could see that there was a decent amount of people already dining in the common room.
"The food smells even better than last time," Ori chirped. Dismounting his pony, he pushed his hood up and out of his face once more. He looked at his companions, watching as they dismounted and also fought with their wet clothes a bit.
"Good evenin', masters!" A young man came out of a building to their right, holding an oilskin cloak over himself as he counted the number of ponies. "Five ponies is it? Bring 'em on in; there's plenty o' room for them tonight!"
Dori turned to the others. "Don't worry about the ponies—I'll take care of them. Nori, you make sure to get us a room or two. Ori, if I'm not back by the time our orders are taken, I'll have my usual." As his brothers nodded in understanding, he took the reins to their ponies while calling out for the other two to follow. Surprisingly, they obeyed and walked alongside the others.
The rest of the dwarves, meanwhile, hurried to the doorstep of the inn. There, they did their best to wring out as much water from their clothes as possible. Thankfully, the doorway was covered, making it so their efforts weren't in vain.
Entering the inn, they were greeted by a blast of warm air that smelled even stronger of fresh bread and roast chicken. Their stomachs started to growl; they had eaten before they set out from Erebor, but that had been nearly two hours ago now.
"Ah! Good evenin' t' ya, Masters Nori, Ori, an' friends!" They looked over at the bar where a giant of a man was using a white rag to clean out a wooden tankard. Covering the lower half of his face was a large, ashy-brown beard that could have made any dwarf proud. "What can I get for ya?"
"Evenin', Master Warren," Nori grinned. He led the other three towards the man. "We need room enough for five of us dwarves, as well as some warm food in our bellies."
Warren nodded, setting down the rag and tankard in favor of opening a large book. "An' how long is it that you'll be wantin' t' stay?" he questioned, looking over the room availability.
"Two weeks, if that's alright."
"Aye, that's quite doable!"
As Nori hashed out the details of their stay with the innkeeper, Bifur and Bofur looked around at the tables. Being a city of Men, the tables were filled with humans chatting away while they ate and drank. They could see that the hostesses were made up of three women: A tall, blonde-haired woman who had some years under her belt; a woman in her early twenties with bouncy, jet-black curls; and a rather short woman in her mid-to-late-twenties. Bifur wondered if she was related to the innkeeper, as her hair was almost the same color as his—it was just a bit lighter.
"Baylee!" Warren suddenly called out, startling Bifur and Bofur. "When you're done there, lass, come show these lads t' a table!"
"Aye, be just a tick!" the shorter woman called as she set down plates of food.
The innkeeper looked back down at the dwarves. "I'll have one of the lasses get your rooms ready an' show 'em to ya when she's done, alright? I'm afraid it may be a bit, though—as ya can see, it's a touch on the busy side."
"Ah, that's alright. I'm sure we'll be too busy stuffin' our faces with food t' notice the time passin' by," Bofur chirped as he hooked a thumb in his belt. He glanced over at the door as it opened and in came Dori, his clothes wrinkled in the places where he had tried to wring them out. "That was fast," he commented as the silver-haired dwarf came over to them.
"Yes, that stable lad is good and fast when it came to stabling the ponies," he chuckled. "Nori, did you get us some rooms?"
He nodded. "Aye, two rooms. Bifur and Bofur in one, an' us three in the other," he explained. "I put us down for two weeks, but Warren said it'll be alright if we need to extend our stay."
"Good, good…And, from the smells of it, they've got plenty of food to go around," Dori sighed. He tried to smooth the wrinkles out of the front of his tunic, but it was to no avail.
It was then Baylee, the shortest of the three women, came over, a pair of large, circular trays tucked under her arm and her cheeks slightly flushed from having been running around, serving people. "Sorry 'bout that wait, lads," she apologized, brushing some hair from her forehead. "Ah! Masters Dori, Nori, an' Ori! Good t' be seein' ya again," she smiled. Bofur and Bifur were more than a little surprised to see that she was only a few inches taller than them. "I see you've brought some friends o' yours this time around."
"Bofur an' Bifur at your service," the two chorused as they bowed.
"An' Baylee Braddock at yours," she replied, giving a small curtsy. "Let's get ya soakin' wet lads over by the fire, aye? You've got t' be chilled t' the bone by now." She turned, moving to lead them across the room and towards the enormous fireplace.
Near to it, but not close enough to leave them scorching hot, was a rectangular table; it was a little lower than the others from what they could see, and for that they were a bit grateful. Usually, the chairs and stools in human establishments were a bit too tall for dwarven folk, so to have some dwarf-sized furniture was a pleasant surprise. The dwarves then removed their cloaks and coats, draping them over the backs of chairs or setting them on the hearth to dry. Bofur, however, kept his hat on.
Once they were all settled, Dori let out a content sigh. "What do you have on tap and on the menu for tonight, Miss Baylee?" he asked.
"For drinks, we've got the usuals o' beer, ale, an' wine, but since it's been so cold the past few days, we've also got some mulled wine an' warm, spiced cider," she answered. "As for food tonight, it's a choice between ham an' potato stew or roast chicken. There are also fresh rolls, sausages, baked vegetables, pan-roasted vegetables, cheeses…" Her eyes squinted slightly and she glanced towards the ceiling for a few seconds as she tried to remember if there was anything she may have forgotten. Deciding there wasn't, she smiled at them. "An' if there's anythin' else you're wantin', we'll do our best t' provide it."
"I don't know 'bout my companions, but I'll take a nice mug o' beer," Bofur said with a wide grin, "as well as a bowl of that stew, some rolls, an' some sausages." As he rested his arms on the tabletop, he was a bit surprised by the craftsmanship of the furniture: There was no wobbling to either his chair or the table and the decorative patterns carved into the table's edge were well defined; it was obvious to tell that they were little pinecones.
Dori held his hand up slightly, motioning that he was next. "A mug of your warm cider, a bowl of stew, some rolls, and a bit of cheese if you would."
"Ale, baked vegetables, an' chicken for me, please," Nori said.
"I'd like a beer, rolls, a plate o' sausages, and chicken please an' thank you," Bifur grinned.
Ori's cheeks turned a little pink. "I'd like a bit of mulled wine," he began, "as well as some stew, cheese, and some baked vegetables for me, too, please."
"Still no green veggies, though, aye?" Baylee questioned. When Ori nodded, she chuckled. "Alright then. It may take a few minutes t' get your orders together, but I'll have it out as soon as possible. Your drinks, though, I promise will be here in just a few minutes."
As she walked off, Dori leaned back in his seat, sighing in content. From inside his tunic, he produced a long-stemmed pipe and an oilskin pouch of pipe weed. "Soon, lads, we'll be having ourselves a miniature feast and you'll see just how good some humans can cook." Opening the pouch, he brought out a bit of the pipe weed and tucked it into the bowl of his pipe.
"I hope so—I'm starvin'," Bifur chuckled. He pulled out his own pipe and pouch of tobacco. "An' the smell of this place isn't making me any less hungry, either. I can only hope the food tastes as good as it smells." Once he had filled his pipe, he offered his tobacco pouch to Bofur who, yes, also brought out a pipe. He declined it, though, so Bifur tucked it away again.
Nori grinned, his braided-eyebrow rising. "When has something smelled good, but tasted bad?" he questioned, bringing out his own pipe. Unlike Dori, though, he didn't have his own pouch of tobacco; as such, he reached over and plucked Dori's right from his hand.
Ori, who wasn't going to partake in smoking like the rest of them, looked around the common room. The last time he and his brothers had been there, it had been packed with people for the Yuletide feast. Now, though, he could actually see all the way to other end of the room. Movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention and, looking over, he saw Baylee returning with their drinks.
"Here ya go, lads," she smiled, starting to set their drinks down. "Two beers, an ale, a warm cider, an' a bit o' mulled wine." Tucking the now-empty tray under her arm again, she blew a lock of hair from her face. "Would you lads like t' have the rolls an' cheese out now t' tide ya over while the rest cooks?"
Bofur shook his head, answering for the group. "No, thank you, miss. We can wait for the full meal."
She chuckled. "Alright. If ya change your minds, just give a holler, aye?" She gave them a small smile before going off to tend to another table.
"Now this is some good beer." As Bifur set his tankard down, he sucked the foam out of his mustache. "Haven't had that good o' beer since we were back home in the Blue Mountains."
"Balin an' Dwalin said that the people o' Dale have always been good at making beer," Nori commented.
Ori's brow rose slightly. "But these people are from Laketown, not Dale."
Dori wiggled a finger at him as a bit of smoke puffed out of his nose. "Now remember, Ori, a fair number of people from Laketown can trace their lineage to those survivors who fled Dale." He took in another breath of smoke from his pipe before slowly exhaling. "It'd make sense that they brought their brewin' secrets to Laketown with them." Reaching down, he plucked up his tankard of spiced cider and took a small sip from it. "Mm…they've good cider, too." His brow rose as he watched Nori blow a smoke ring across the table. Before it could dissipate, he sent his own, smaller smoke ring through it.
"Cider's good sometimes," Bofur chuckled, "but the rest o' the times, ya can't beat a nice, foamin' mug o' beer." He raised his tankard slightly to the others before taking a drink. "Wine, though…? Don't know how ya can still drink the stuff, Ori. After ridin' in those barrels back in Mirkwood, I can't stand it. It's the only kind o' alcohol I won't drink."
"Which is sayin' something coming from the mouth of Bofur," Bifur snorted, "being that the main reason he joined the Company was because he heard there'd be free drinks."
At that, Bofur pouted slightly. "Hey, now—I heard about that after I signed my contract. It's Bombur who had to be lured into joinin' with the idea o' free food."
"Well, he did have six dwarrowlings at home," Ori reminded him. "He's the only one of us who has a family he needed to think of." He took a small sip of his mulled wine, enjoying how the mixture of warmth and spices helped to chase the cold away. He usually wasn't one for wine, but he did fancy a cup of it once in a great while. "Have he and Gerdi got any idea on if it'll be a girl or boy?" he then asked.
Bifur and Bofur shook their heads. "They prefer leaving it a surprise," Bifur answered. "Though, after havin' two girls in a row, they're fairly certain it'll be another boy."
"Now that you've said that, I'll wager ten gold pieces that it's a girl," Nori smirked. Grabbing his ale, he took a long drink from it.
Bofur shook his head as he quietly laughed. "Ah, that's not a wager I'll be willin' t' make," he admitted. "Mahal blessed Bombur by givin' him two wee lasses—if he were t' have a third, I'd be questionin' whether or not my own brother is Mahal incarnate."
At that, the others laughed. "Come now, Bofur—Mahal wouldn't want to be in a body like Bombur's for a mortal's lifetime," Dori snickered. "He'd be a mighty warrior like Thorin or Dwalin."
"You don't know that for sure," Bifur grinned. "For all we know, he could be wee lil' Ori over there!" He took a drink from his beer before taking a puff of his pipe.
Ori felt his cheeks grow pink. "U-uh, I don't think Mahal would take on a form like mine, either," he stammered, unconsciously fiddling with his gloves. "He wouldn't want to be a scholar—he's a creator, after all. He'd be some sort of smith."
Bofur shrugged, but wore a reassuring smile. "I don't know—scholar create things, don't they? They create great big compendiums on history or types o' rocks or types o' gems…Or they could be the type o' scholar who ends up weavin' new fairytales from the histories they've learned." As he spoke, smoke furled out of his mouth and wafted past the youngest Ri brother; it brought with it the delicate scent of cherries.
"Frankly, I don't think Mahal would waste his time comin' to Middle Earth," Nori stated. "He's too busy makin' things for the other Valar. If ever he came to Middle Earth, it'd probably be because one of the Seven Lords messed up big time and he'd need t' knock some sense into them."
"If that were the case, then the knuckle-headed Ironfist clan would be a bit smarter, don't you think?" Bifur joked, making the others crack up. "Or maybe he would see how much of a blight they are an' simply wiped 'em out?"
Dori did his best to give him a bit of a scolding look, though his laughter made him fail. "Now, now—not all Ironfists are horrible dwarrows," he countered. "I used to have Ironfist contacts in the east who I did business with—spices, we traded. Sadly, it seems that family has died out, though, so I've had to switch over to a Blacklock family. I pay a bit steeper of a price, but the quality's still there."
"So that's why you charge so much for the cinnamon, ginseng, an' pink peppercorns," Bofur chuckled. "I always wondered why those were so much more expensive than some o' your other wares."
"I have to make a profit somehow, Bofur." He glanced over at the doorway to the kitchen, just in time to see Baylee and the older woman, who he knew to be her Aunt Demelza, approaching. Both were carrying two serving trays absolutely filled with food. "Ah, it looks like dinner's here, lads," he said with a broad smile.
The dwarves quickly cleared the table of their tobacco pouches as the women started to place their food.
"Sausages for those two," Baylee told her aunt, nodding at Bofur and Bifur while placing plates of chicken in front of Nori and Bifur. "Dori and Ori get the cheese." She set a large bowl of rolls in the center of the table. "Hope ya lads don't mind sharin' these from the same bowl."
"Not at all!" Dori assured her.
"It just leaves room for more food," Bofur joked.
"Which ones get the vegetables and the stews, Baylee?" Demelza asked, chuckling at Bofur's comment.
"Nori an' Ori get the veggies while Dori, Ori, and…" She paused for a second, looking at Bofur as she did her best to recollect whether he was Bifur or Bofur. "…Bifur?" she incorrectly guessed.
"Close," Bofur chuckled. He then pointed at his cousin. "That one's Bifur. I'm Bofur. Can't say I blame you, though—Look at all the food you had t' remember!" He grinned as he looked down at the bowl of stew Demelza set before him. It was larger than he was expecting, and seemed to have plenty of ham pieces in it.
Taking the second serving tray from her aunt, she watched as Demelza excused herself to hurry off back to the kitchen. "Ah, I'll have ya lads memorized by morning," Baylee chuckled, brushing some hair from her face. "Do any o' ya need refills on your drinks?" She was a little surprised when the unanimous answer was 'not quite yet'. "Alright then. Just give a holler if ya need anything." She tucked both trays under her arm and started to head back to the kitchen.
'I wonder if all of their meals are going to be that big?' she thought to herself. As Wenna came hurrying out of the kitchen, she weaved around her and chuckled quietly. "Steady there, Wenna—you're goin' t' spill the stew all over that tray!"
She pouted slightly. "I'm tryin' my best," she told her. "I don't know how you can get things t' the tables without spillin' a drop." Having started work at the inn only recently, she was still finding it quite difficult to serve anything liquid without sloshing it around.
"The trick is t' not look at the dishes—look at the table you're headin' to," she explained. "I'm not sure why it is, but that's what auntie an' my mum taught me an' Will when we were younger. Give it some practice and you'll get the hang of it soon enough. Oh—An' don't take short steps. Take longer ones; it helps ya move more fluidly."
Nodding, Wenna sighed. "I'll do my best t' remember. Thanks, 'Lee."
Baylee chuckled. "Now ya best get that stew over t' Bert. He's pretty hungry tonight." She rolled her eyes, but still wore a smile as Wenna turned and started to hurry off only to remember her advice halfway. 'She'll get the hang of it soon enough,' she thought.
Entering the kitchen, she was greeted by the smells of various food cooking and the sight of Galiene, the cook, stirring the cauldron of soup. Where her aunt had run off to, she wasn't sure—maybe up readying the rooms for the dwarves? Setting the trays on the counter, she moved to grab a thick dishtowel.
"How's it going out there, lassie?" Galiene asked. She glanced over her shoulder in time to see Baylee ducking down as she opened the oven door, letting the initial burst of heat fly over her head.
"It's startin' to quiet down, thankfully." She grabbed a wooden peel and used it to retrieve the last three loaves of bread from the depths of the oven. "How many roast chickens are left?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder at the cook.
"Two, but one is being saved for your father. Would you like me t' save you the other or…?"
"No, thank-you. I'll have a bit o' stew in a little while." Using the flat of the peel, she closed the oven door before using the dishtowel to close the latch. "I take it auntie's up preparin' the rooms?"
Nodding, Galiene slathered a roll with some butter before leaning against the counter. "Aye, she is. Your da' said they were for a group o' dwarves, but I didn't believe him until that massive food order came in." She chuckled took a bite of the roll. "Thank goodness I've got Gawen here to help me now. There's not nearly as much chaos on busy nights with him helpin' out."
Baylee nodded in agreement as she hopped onto a clear bit of counter. "I'm just surprised a lad like him wanted t' come cook for us," she admitted. Grabbing a wooden cup from the shelf, she turned around and slid back to the floor. "Normally, a lad his age is wanting to learn a different sort o' trade—like woodworking or blacksmithing." She brushed a bit of flour from her dress before going to the stove.
"Ah, he's always been a bit of a strange lad, but the good sort of strange." The door to the kitchen opened and a young man in his late teens came waddling in, two large buckets of water in his hands. He bore a strong resemblance to Galiene, sharing the same brunette hair and almond-shaped eyes.
"Who's the good sort o' strange?" he asked, using his foot to close the door behind him.
"You," Baylee answered, filling her cup with spiced cider. "I was just tellin' Galiene how it's strange that ya wanted to be her apprentice instead o' learning some other trade."
A cheeky grin came to his face. "Why would I want a different trade when, as a cook, I get t' eat all day?" He set one of the buckets on the floor near the pantry door before carrying the other to a small counter in the corner. "And it's my aunt's cooking, no less, so it's even better!"
"Careful, lad," Baylee joked, "she may put ya on hostin' duties now. Then you won't have much time to eat."
Galiene nodded in agreement. "He may yet have t' go on hostin' duty if we get massively busy night."
His brows furrowed slightly. "How massive is massively busy?" he asked, a bit of caution in his voice.
"The sort o' busy where Baylee's havin' to balance a tray on her head as well as two on her hands." She took another bite of the roll, exhaling through her nose. "Those are the nights you'll come t' dislike. So many orders, you can hardly keep up…But, the end pay is worth it."
Gawen's head tilted ever so slightly. "Wait…" He looked at Baylee. "You can balance a tray on your head?"
Baylee nodded before taking a sip of the cider. "I don't like to, but I can. An' before ya ask, I usually avoid the fully-loaded trays." She took another, longer drink.
"Why don't you like it?"
"Well, for one, it's a wee bit dangerous, given I'm walking around with a tray of food atop my head," she laughed. "Secondly, havin' that much weight up there hurts after a while. You try having—" She was interrupted by a round of cheers from the common room; leaning forward slightly, she tried to peer past the doorway but it was to no avail.
"Sounds like those dwarves are enjoying themselves," Galiene chuckled, her brow rising. "I just hope they're not making much o' a mess."
"I'll go check on them," Baylee said. As she quickly drained her cup of the rest of its contents, another cheer arose from the common room. Snatching up a serving tray, she headed out there only to find Nori standing nearly ten feet away from the table, half a sausage in hand.
"You won't be able t' get it in his mouth from there," an old man, Bill, laughed. "Yeh were lucky enough t' get it in his mouth from just five feet away!"
There was a grin on Nori's face as he glanced over at the human. "Five coppers says I can," he replied. He was fully aware of the look of embarrassment on Dori's face, but chose to ignore it.
Bill chuckled, his brow raised. "Alright then. I'll take that wager." He glanced around as he heard a couple of the other men start placing their own wagers.
Taking careful aim, Nori threw the sausage and watched as it sailed through the air. He had been aiming for Bofur's mouth, but it looked like he might've aimed a bit too high. Bofur leaned back in an attempt to still catch the sausage, but he leaned so far back, he fell off the stool, bringing about a round of laughter.
But then he popped back up, the sausage in his mouth and his arms thrown up in victory. The common room burst out into cheers once more. Nori walked over to the old man in order to collected his earnings.
"So that's why it got loud all o' a sudden," Baylee chuckled, her brow rising as she approached the table.
"I apologize for the disturbance, Miss Braddock," Dori said quickly, his voice filled with embarrassment. "I promise you, my brother and his friends are normally better behaved than this."
"It's alright, Master Dori," she assured him, a smile on her lips. "It was a bit too quiet in here anyway." She looked at their plates and bowls, seeing that a good portion of the food was gone—and that their drinks were getting low. "Can I get any o' you a refill? Or maybe a wee bit more food?"
Ori, who had been in the middle of finishing off his wine, sheepishly held his cup out. "A drink refill would be lovely, miss," he said before adding, "please and thank you."
Taking his cup, Baylee set it on her tray. "Anyone else?" It didn't surprise her when all five of them requested refills.
"Could we also get more rolls, please?" Bifur asked as he handed her his tankard. "They went faster than we expected."
"Of course ya can," she replied, smiling as she took the empty drinking vessels from them. She then grabbed the empty roll bowl, setting it in the middle of her tray.
"An' is there any of that stew left?" Bofur questioned. "Because I'd like a second bowl o' that if there is."
"Oh, yes, another bowl for me, too, please," Dori agreed with a nod.
"Two stews an' some rolls? Aye, I can do that." As the bowls were handed to her, she added them to the tray. Movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention and she looked over at the stairs to see Wenna and Demelza coming down. "Ah, it looks like your rooms are all ready for you, lads."
Wenna nodded, brushing some curls from her face. "Aye, that they are," she said with a tired smile. "If one or two of you would like t' follow me, I can show you where you'll be staying."
Bofur and Dori rose from their seats so they could follow after her. Before Bofur took two steps, however, he turned around and pointed a stern finger at those remaining seated. "No stealin' my sausages," he told them. Then, turning back around, he hurried after Wenna and Dori.
Bifur, of course, reached over and stole one the second his cousin had turned his back, earning a small giggle from Baylee, who then left to go refill their drinks. As she walked past the table where Bill and another elderly man were sitting, she was stopped, however.
"Baylee, lass," the second old man said, "is there any stew left?"
"Aye, there's plenty left," she answered, her brow rising. "But you've had two bowls already—are ya sure ya want a third, Abbot?"
"O' course I do, lassie!" he chuckled. "Galiene makes the best soups in the whole city! In fact, she made the best soups in the whole of Laketown, too. I could eat ten bowls of the stuff if I could!"
Bill shook his head as he laughed. "You're goin' to eat yourself sick again, ya old coot. Stop while you're ahead!" He looked up at Baylee, half sighing, half laughing. "I don't suppose you've any pies left? Or maybe some of those little fruit cakes?"
A small frown came to her lips as she shook her head. "No, I'm afraid not," she replied. "We're waiting on the traders t' get back from Dorwinion so I can get back to makin' those. We do have some honey cakes and seed cakes, though, if you'd like one o' those instead."
He nodded slowly in understanding, a small sigh leaving his mouth. "I thought that may have been the case…I hope those lads return soon—an' safely—because I certainly am missin' that bread." He then chuckled. "But, for now, I'll take two honey cakes."
"Two honey cakes, coming right up," she smiled before looking at Abbot. "An' were ya sure you wanted a third bowl o' the stew?" From the the corner of her eye, she could see her aunt cleaned a table of its contents.
With a sheepish smile, he held his bowl up to her. "If you'd be so kind, lassie. An' take your time—we know you've got other customers t' deal with."
Taking the bowl, she set it on the tray. "Be back in a jiffy," she smiled before walking off. She headed into the kitchen, setting the platter down before rearranging its contents a bit. Making sure to keep Abbot's bowl away from Bofur and Dori's bowls, she blew a lock of hair from her face and grabbed a ladle. She used it to fill the three bowls up nearly to the brim.
"So you're the reason this stew is going faster than expected," Galiene chuckled as she walked over. "I don't normally fill the bowls up that much—mostly for your sake, mind you. I don't want ya slopping it all over the place."
Baylee handed her the bowl that had once held some rolls. "Could ya fill this up with rolls, please?" she asked. "An' ya don't have to worry about me spilling anything; auntie an' mum taught me how t' carry trays without spilling anything, remember?" Once the bowls were refilled, she grabbed Ori's cup and refilled it with the warm, mulled wine. After that, Dori's cup was refilled with the spiced cider.
"That may be so, but you never know when you'll trip or have to make a sudden movement to avoid runnin' into someone." She heaped the bowl with rolls, many of them still warm thanks to resting near the oven. "Anything else, lass?"
"Two honey cakes, please. An' I know, but for the most part, I'm fairly good 'bout not spilling." Taking the bowl of rolls, she placed it in the center of the tray. "It's Wenna you've got t' worry about." She glanced over her shoulder, seeing Gawen in the corner, washing dishes, while his aunt grabbed the honey cakes.
"She's learning, though, and she's learning fast," Galiene said. "Which is fairly good, considerin' that she only just started two months ago."
Baylee nodded in agreement. "Aye. She'll get the hang o' it soon enough." Thanking the cook as she was handed the small plate of honey cakes, she lifted the platter and left the kitchen. She went over to the bar and made quick work of refilling the rest of the empty tankards before heading back out onto the floor.
"Two honey cakes and a third bowl o' stew," she chirped, setting Bill and Abbot's orders down in front of them. "Anything else, sirs?"
"This should be good for now," Abbot told her. "Thank you, 'Lee." As he started to eat, she walked off to deliver the dwarves their drinks.
"Here you go, lads," she said upon reaching their table. She started to set their drinks down. "So, may I inquire as t' what brings you all t' Dale?" Despite the close proximity to Erebor, it wasn't too common for groups of dwarves to come to the city just yet—they normally came alone or in pairs.
Ori took a drink of his wine. "My brothers an' I are following up on some leads for potential business partners," he explained, "while Bifur an' Bofur are here to scout out locations for a toy shop."
At that, she perked. "A toy shop?" she repeated, and, seeing Bifur nod, her grin grew a bit. "Oh, that'll make all the children happy—there isn't one here yet, so the woodworkers guild has been trying to make toys for the tots. While their hearts are in the right places…they're not the best at makin' toys."
"Well, hopefully that won't last much longer," Bifur smiled. "Bofur and I have quite the stockpile saved up from the last eight years. We just need to find the right location."
She thought for a moment. "I know most o' the shops in the marketplace have been taken up already," she told him, "but there are a couple o' buildings on main street that haven't been claimed yet. I'm afraid they also haven't been cleaned up just yet, so if ya do go for one of those, you might have t' do some handiwork."
"That's fine by us. We had a feeling we'd have t' do some renovation an' restoring when we discussed opening a shop," he explained. "But thank you muchly for the information 'bout the main street shops! I'm sure it'll come in quite handy when we start lookin'."
"You don't happen to know anythin' about the Lightfoot family, would you?" Nori then asked. "They're one o' our potential partners."
"Oh, aye! The Lightfoot family is actually good friends o' ours," she replied with a smile, tucking her now-empty tray under arm. "We get a lot o' our imported goods through them. I don't know quite as much 'bout the business side o' things as my da', but I do know enough that they're quite fair when it comes to makin' deals."
"Talking business are you?" Dori sat down in his chair, Bofur soon following suit.
Nori shrugged. "Was just asking Miss Baylee if she knew about the Lightfoot family. Apparently, they're quite good."
Baylee nodded. "If you'd like t' know more about their business practices, you'll have t' ask my da'. He's the one who—"
"Oi! Which one o' you cads ate my sausages!?" Bofur suddenly interjected. He had left a neat stack of three sausages on his plate, but now, only half of one remained. Holding up the last bit of sausage, he half-pouted, half-glared at his companions.
Nori, Ori, and Bifur all pointed at one another, their eyes wide. "Wasn't me!" one of them defended.
"It was him!"
"Was not, you buffoon! It was him that ate 'em!"
"Not me! Not me!"