This story happens sometime between chapters 2 and 3 of "When Thorin Met Tauriel." Hope you enjoy!
Young Thorin in Love
"So," Tauriel said, settling down on her stool in front of the bars of his cell. "What shall we talk about tonight?"
Thorin watched her warily. She had an odd way of interrogating him, if interrogation this was. No threats, no beatings, just bland, pleasant questions from his jailer. It was sinister, really—and much more difficult for one of his temperament to endure than direct brutality.
The jail cell he had occupied for the past few days was small, no more than several paces in any direction. It had iron bars on three sides and a rough-hewn stone wall at the rear. The heavy bench he sat on was bolted to the wall. At mealtimes, like now, he was given his food on a wooden tray.
He was trapped, a prisoner of the elves with no hope of rescue or escape. And on the other side of the bars sat his elven jailer, trapped in this place by her duty to guard him.
He knew he ought to relax, be cool and patient. Let the circumstances develop naturally, without trying to force matters one way or the other. But patient was one thing Thorin was not. The waiting and uncertainty drew his nerves tauter than harp-strings. He couldn't even succumb to hopelessness and despair, because he was too stubborn – or too foolish – to give up hope. And so he fretted and he hoped, and did his best to answer her questions without giving too much away.
Tonight, she had brought him something new.
"What's this?" he asked, pointing to his cup.
"A treat," she replied. "I smuggled some beer out of the kitchens for you."
He rolled his eyes. "If you're planning to get me drunk, you'd better have more than that one cupful on hand."
"Don't drink it, then." She rested her elbows on her knees and propped her chin in her hands.
Defiantly, he took a swig. The beer was malty and sweet, with a final note of bitterness that burst upon his lips like a kiss. He savored that single mouthful, then set the cup down carefully. No more than one taste. He wasn't that simple.
He turned his attention to the usual bread and fruit they fed him. No meat, of course. Elves.
"I know what I wanted to ask," Tauriel said brightly. "Do dwarves have magic?"
Thorin shrugged and kept his mouth shut, but he knew it wouldn't do any good. Energetic though she was, Tauriel could wait endlessly. Elves were patient. Immortality did that to you, he thought; gave you the idea that there was no reason to hurry at all, and that everything would go your way if you just waited long enough.
It drove Thorin mad. He held on to his temper long enough to finish his meal, then sat back and crossed his arms. He glared at Tauriel. "Only such magic as comes with care and skill and effort. We dwarves work for our wonders."
She nodded. "So there are no Istari, no wizards, among dwarves the way there are among humans?"
"No. Well, not really. There are wise old ones among the dwarves who are said to have the power to perform miracles, heal the sick, and foretell the future, but I have my doubts."
"No reason. Probably just my basically skeptical nature." He looked at the cup of beer. It would be foolish to let it go to waste. He took another sip.
Tauriel sighed. "Tell me anyway. I don't have anything better to do right now."
He liked it when she got annoyed with him. Nice to know something penetrated her calm Elven superiority. "But what if I'm just making it all up? I could be telling you a complete pack of lies."
She grinned. "Better than no story at all."
"Suit yourself." He took another swallow of the beer. "Hmmm. When I was young, about 50, I met the Witch of Ered Luin."
"What you call the Blue Mountains. I—at that time, I had a friend who wanted to marry a particular dwarf maiden. He should have known better. He wasn't good husband material. Not the steady, reliable type. He was—hot-headed, a dreamer, a wanderer. Everyone called him Berkaf."
The elf frowned and shook her head. "And that means—"
Thorin squirmed a little on the hard bench. "It's hard to explain. The word means something like 'angry axe,' but—well, I suppose that's clear enough."
"Ah." She nodded solemnly. "Impatient, stubborn, strong-willed. I know the type. And did the dwarf maiden return your friend's affection?"
He took another swig of beer and dismissed the possibility with a wave of his hand. "Of course not."
"Then why did he bother with her? He should have found someone else to marry." Tauriel jumped up and went to the hallway. When she came back, she was carrying a pitcher.
"Not that simple with dwarves," Thorin said, watching her refill his cup. "There are not so many dwarven women to choose from, and nobody to equal her. Iduna was beautiful and good. She was apprenticed to a baker, and everything she baked was perfect and delicious—"
"Oh, now I understand! I'm liking her better now, too."
He glared at her. "Do you want to hear this story or not?"
Tauriel set down the pitcher and folded her hands on her lap. "I'm sorry. Go on."
"As I was saying," Thorin watched Tauriel for a moment. Then, satisfied that she would not speak, he went on. "Iduna was a beauty of our kind. She went rarely outdoors, so her skin was soft and pale as alabaster. Her eyes were large and dark, her voice low and sweet as the cooing of a dove. She was plump and gentle, kind to everyone, and generous with scraps of the pastries she baked."
He looked at Tauriel, whose mobile features expressed only polite interest. He'd expected her to make some comment about Iduna's pastries, at least. But she was silent, so he took another sip of beer and struggled on with his story.
"She was warm, loving, and kind, and he just wasn't used to that. When he was around her, he felt peaceful. And so…he fell in love. More than her beauty, more than her skill, he hungered for her warmth and kindness. He wanted to be with her all the time.
"Of course, he couldn't be. He was a warrior, and had to follow his commander's orders. While he was away, he was in constant agony. He dreamt of her, longed for her. Jealous fantasies tormented him.
"And when he returned from battle, she was as she always was: Sweet, and kind, and remote. Still, she was a dwarf-woman, so above all she was
practical. Everyone knew warriors didn't make good husbands. She did not encourage his ardor at all."
Tauriel shook her head, but still didn't say anything. Thorin took a deep breath.
"So that was when my friend Dzon and I decided to visit the Witch of Ered Luin and buy a love potion."
Her eyebrows rose high on her forehead. "A love potion?"
"Yes. Well, we were young. A long way we traveled, through the dark tunnels and ways under the mountains. The routes are not always marked, not all safe. Sometimes we splashed through underground rivers or squeezed through tight passages. But there are also great wonders to be found deep in the heart of the earth, where the rock itself grows into fabulous gardens of stone."
She shuddered. "Deep in the earth."
"It's no place for an elf," he said smugly. "At length, we came to the lair of the witch. She dwelt in one of the most beautiful caverns I've ever seen—a huge dome with sunlight filtering in from high above, just enough to spark rainbows of splendor from the crystals and gold that grew out of the living walls of rock.
"And in the middle of all this loveliness was the ugliest dwarf I've ever seen. Snarled and matted hair, milky-white eyes and toothless mouth, stringy limbs covered in stained and spotted rags.
"Dzon and I stopped in our tracks, stunned and silent. In the center of the cave stood an iron brazier, and around it danced the witch. She didn't make a sound as she twirled and swept her arms in wide circles, gliding and swaying to some inner music that only she could hear. She turned and dipped low, round and round, in a movement that was strangely hypnotic. Her hands seemed to stir up invisible currents as they floated through the air, scooping up energy and letting it trail through her fingers until power glowed around her like a force.
"I couldn't help myself. 'Stop!' I cried, and stepped forward.
"She turned, not at all surprised. 'So, Prince Thorin. Is this how you approach me in my own domain?'
"She saw the look of consternation on my face, and answered my unspoken question. 'For days now, the caves and tunnels have echoed with the tidings of your approach. Why do you seek me out? What do you want from the witch of Ered Luin?'
"Bravely, I replied, 'I make no demands I cannot pay for.'
"She stared at me for a moment, then threw up her hands in disgust. 'Bah! What can you possibly have to offer me? Money? Jewels? I live surrounded by the greatest treasures in creation.'
"Which was true—I had brought worked gold with me, the finest our people could make, but she was surrounded by the work of the Valar themselves, unsurpassed by anything that could be made by mortal hands. Thinking quickly, I opened our pack of provisions. 'I have several loaves of bread here.'
"The old dwarf fell upon the food with delight and ate greedily. Dzon was not too happy with me since we would certainly have a hungry walk home, but it was all we had to offer.
"As she feasted upon the bread, I explained the problem—how my friend pined for Iduna, but her heart was as yet untouched. I begged the witch to make a love potion, to awaken Iduna's love for one who would willingly offer her his all.
"The witch laughed. 'Fool! And this seems like a good plan to you?'
"I explained that I had only the best of intentions. And then I pointed out that we had already paid for her services, with bread that had been baked by Iduna herself.
"'Your Iduna is a good baker. She will make a good wife someday.' The crone put her gnarled hands on her meager hips. 'But do you think that I'd brew a potion that would overset the will of the Valar?"
"Why would the Valar concern themselves over who Iduna marries?' I asked reasonably.
"The old witch lifted one shaking hand to point at me. 'Hear me, Thorin. I will do as you ask, but know this: You shall not rest until you find your destiny in the forest. It is the will of the Valar, so do not think you can make it otherwise.'
"Now, that was a bit alarming, but still vague enough for me to dismiss as the maunderings of an ancient hag who barely lived in the ordinary world with the rest of us. And since the words 'marriage' and 'Iduna' had not figured into her pronouncement, I decided I could safely ignore the matter until another day.
"She made the potion for us, and the next day Dzon and I started home with our prize.
"When we returned, all we had to do was use the potion as the old witch had directed. We waited until the evening of a big feast, and poured the potion into the cup of mead that would be taken to her at the table. The servant carried it over, but then several late-arriving friends rushed in and greeted us, and we had no chance to see if the right cup had reached Iduna.
"It was infuriating. After all we'd been through—my friend was beside himself with anxiety. He turned hot and cold, his palms sweated. He could hardly tear his gaze from Iduna. He wanted to run up to her and ask if she would marry him that instant. He felt as if that terrible potion were coursing through his own veins.
"And then, the glorious miracle occurred. Iduna looked up, and her eyes sought his. In her gaze, he saw the answer to everything he'd ever wanted: Love, longing, and desire for him. She loved him. He saw her dark eyes swim with tears, and he wanted to leap to her side to wipe them away. But the feast was ending. The master baker summoned her, and she had to leave before they could speak.
"Now he was sure he would be married to Iduna and live happily ever after. The potion had worked, he had her love, and he was only days away from bliss. Joyfully, the next day he set to work making the most beautiful golden bracelet anyone had ever seen, intending to give it to her as a pledge of their union.
"He went to the baker's house and sought her out. Instead of flying into his arms, she came downstairs slowly and reluctantly. Her eyes were red from crying and her soft face even paler than ever. He showed her the bracelet, but she refused to take it.
"The pain I feel is more than I can bear,' she said. 'My whole heart cries out for you, but I cannot marry you.'
"Why not?' he demanded. 'You must!'
"I must not,' she said firmly. 'I need a settled life with a husband who is content to stay by my side and tend to our small, everyday tasks. You were meant for more than that—for danger and excitement and high deeds. I could never endure the long nights alone, not knowing if you will ever return. I love you so much, and right now I am so unhappy I could die.'"
Thorin stopped talking and stared at the floor.
Tauriel refilled his cup yet again. "So what happened after that?"
He took a long drink. "That was the end."
"No, I mean, did Iduna ever marry anyone?"
He raised his head. "She married Dzon. Best thing, really. He was the steady, reliable type."
"Dzon! That sly fellow." Tauriel snorted. "And what of your friend? Did he ever find the right person to marry?"
Thorin shook his head. He eyed the bottom of his empty cup, and drew in a deep breath. "But you know, the witch was right about one thing—her foretelling came true, just three years later."
Tauriel brightened up. "How?"
"I found my destiny in the forest, just like she said I would." He smiled a little lopsidedly. "Once a fighter, always a fighter, I guess. We were at the Battle of Azanulbizar, Dzon and me—he'd been conscripted to fight, even though he was not a regular soldier. The fighting was getting hot, and a goblin got in a lucky hit. Split Dzon's shield right down the middle.
"So I gave him mine, and chopped down a young sapling that happened to be right beside me. That tree worked even better than the shield, and as it turned out, we both survived the day. He went back to Iduna and his smithy in Ered Luin, and I—well, I kept busy doing this and that. My destiny." Thorin lay back on his bench and propped himself up on one elbow. He yawned mightily.
"Being a fighter isn't such a bad destiny," Tauriel remarked. "So what happened to the gold bracelet?"
He turned onto his side and closed his eyes. "I melted it down. Better not to keep it around."
She nodded thoughtfully. Thorin began to snore, and she got to her feet.
"Good night, Thorin Berkaf," she whispered.
"Oakenshield," he murmured. "I'm Thorin Oakenshield, now."
A/N: I made up a dwarvish word-berkaf. According to what I've read, berk is the singular for axe (barak is the plural). And since dwarvish is somewhat based on ancient Hebrew, I went looking for a Hebrew word to add to it. Some research revealed that "awph" or "aph" (which I assume is pronounced "af") means nose in ancient Hebrew-and that in that language, a nose is a metaphor for anger. So I put the two ideas together.