The following morning their presence was requested at the Master's house for breakfast. The rain had eased up overnight and now the streets just smelled of wet wood. The townsfolk were still in their houses but they were still singing and praising the dwarves. Bilbo's head cold had hit him hard in the night and he was struggling to even breathe with his stuffy head. Oin had wished him to stay in bed but the Master's messenger had assured the local healer would be able to help. So, weary and a little stiff, they headed down to the Master's house. Airelotwen's hand was clasped firmly in Thorin's, the dwarf seemingly not caring that the company were exchanging smug looks.
"Ah, good morning! Good morning!" The Master called happily. "Come, take a seat! Eat! Eat! Eat and then we shall see you doctored!" The Master, it seemed to Aire, was almost too cheerful that morning. But she was hungry and kept quiet as she helped herself to breakfast. She doubted the dwarves would be invited to breakfast again; their table manners were severely lacking. Aire guessed that it had something to do with their lifted spirits at being close to home once more. "There shall be another feast in your honour tonight! You will sit with me at my table and dine more finely than your first night. There will be drinking and dancing and singing. Will you come Thorin, son of Thrain?"
"Yes!" Kili answered for his uncle, seemingly taken by the idea of more drinks. Thorin shot his nephew a look but did not rebuke him.
"And will the Lady Airelotwen be joining us?" the Master of the town leaned forwards a little so he could look at Aire.
"Of course she'll be coming." Thorin's reply was indignant. "Why would she not?"
"I was not sure if a half-elf would wish to celebrate among dwarves and humans."
"Why would I not?" Aire asked, her brow furrowing. "And how do you know of my heritage?"
"The elven guards who were here upon your arrival informed me of who you and Master Baggins were. Speaking of Master Baggins, I believe we should have you seen too. Who is your company healer?"
"I am." Oin called. The Master nodded in his direction.
"Would you like to accompany my man-servant, Alfrid, to the healing house so you can tend to your burglar?" Oin nodded, rising to his feet. Bilbo and Alfrid left the room with him, leaving Aire to watch them go. She didn't much like the Master and would much rather be with his man-servant, no matter how creepy he seemed. "How have you found your first few days with us?" he turned his attention back to Thorin.
"You have a good training field." Was the reply.
The Master smiled. "I thought you'd find use of that. All of the town's features are at your disposal of course." Aire glanced up at the emphasis of the word, having a good feeling she knew what he was getting at. The Master glanced across at her, a form of reluctance in his eyes. "Should you have needs that need to be attended to."
"That will not be needed." Thorin's voice was heated and he glared at the taller man, angered at his implication. An uncomfortable silence settled over the group until a guard entered, breaking the tension.
"Miss Sandhelm?" he approached Aire cautiously, trying not to see the look Thorin was shooting him. ""Prince Legolas of Mirkwood sent this down." The guard held out a long, cloth wrapped parcel to Airelotwen who took it with a smile.
"What is it?" the Master demanded.
"I believe that it was sent for me." Aire said over her shoulder, unwrapping the parcel and removed her blade. "Send him my thanks?" She looked up at the guard, discreetly tucking an attached note into her pocket. The guard nodded before turning on his heel and leaving the room.
"How do you get your blade back?" Gloin huffed, leaning over her shoulder
"Perhaps it's because my manners were nicer than yours." Aire laughed. "Legolas saw me as a friend and besides, it does not do to let your kin go into danger unarmed." Dwalin muttered something at the word 'kin' and Aire glared at him. "I am as much their kin as I am yours, Dwalin. Any doubt you have about my heritage should've been settled when I aided your escape and betrayed the trust of four new friends." Dwalin mumbled an apology and the matter was settled. The dwarves may have had their doubts about Aire but they never uttered their opinions aloud again.
"Perhaps it is time we departed for the day." Balin suggested. "We have much to do and will not detain you from your duties any further." The other agreed, getting to their feet and bowing politely to the master of the town. They hurried back to their house, Aire sandwiched between the heirs of Durin. It was apparent that the master of the town had offended them all.
"The nerve!" Dwalin growled, slamming the front door behind him.
"Unbelievable!" Bofur agreed.
"What type of man says something like that?" Bombur grumbled, heading towards the living room. Aire had to run ahead to avoid being trampled by him.
"And in the presence of a woman, too!" Fili was seething as he paced over to the window.
"And that woman just happens to be the woman Thorin's courting!" Kili agreed, joining his brother. Apparently the other dwarves did know of their relationship status a none of them reacted to it.
Aire decided it was time to intervene. "And that woman is still in the room and didn't take that much offence by it!" the dwarves stopped and turned to face her.
"How could you not?" Balin asked, seeming a little confused by her reaction. "He implied that Thorin-"
"Yes, I'm well aware of what he implied." Aire cut him off, not needing to have it explained to her. "The Master of the town may or may not have meant it to be an insult, but there's no need to get all up in arms about it. Just let it slide."
"You're not even a little offended by it?" Kili asked curiously. He'd come to stand by his uncle who looked both furious and intrigued.
"Of course I am, but there's no need for you to make another enemy. Especially one that lives on your doorstep. The goblins will no doubt be after your heads after Gandalf killed their King and we already know that Azog and his wargs are on your tail. The elves of Mirkwood will likely want a word with you at some point too. There's no need to offend another race when you're living in their care. I would like to be able to sleep somewhat peacefully at night."
The dwarves grumbled but agreed with her. Thorin moved away from his youngest nephew and headed to the door, motioning for Aire to follow him. She followed him up the stairs to his room, slipping inside and waiting quietly for him to speak first. He led her gently over to the window, sitting himself opposite her on the window seat. He tilted his head before speaking. "What troubles you?" Aire blinked, unsure of what he meant. Lots troubled her, but she wasn't sure if he was asking about a specific thing. "At night. What worries you so much that you don't sleep too peacefully at night?"
Aire shrugged. "The past. Orcs, wargs, goblins, being stuck in a barrel in the darkness. The usual."
"The barrel scarred you?" Thorin looked genuinely worried.
"A thin layer of wood in a raging stream, previously trapped in the dark and the cold, then being thrown down raging rapids in the open air, all the while sharing the experience with one of the most hormonal dwarves known to live. Yes, I can say it was a pretty terrifying experience." She laughed, nudging Thorin playfully with her foot. The dwarf managed a small smile before reaching across the gap between them and pulling her gently towards him. He angled her so that she was leaning against his chest, his legs either side of her. His arms held her tightly, cheek resting on her head.
"I'm sorry about what the Master of the town said this morning."
"Not your fault." Aire shrugged, wrapping her arms around his waist. "And there's nothing you can do about it."
Thorin huffed but dropped the subject. "If you do have trouble sleeping you will come to me, won't you? No matter the time."
"Of course." Aire smiled against his chest.
Apparently Stephen Fry's been picked to play the Master of Lake-town. I can honestly say I didn't imagine him in the part. Luke Evans will be playing Bard though. I can live with that!
Just a little fluff to end the chapter. We will find out about the note in the next one.