It is a dreary day to be about walking, Kili thought to himself noting the persistent mist that has carried on through the morning. The young son of Durin had been wandering the marketplace at the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Rarely was he ever separated from his elder brother Fili, but this particular day the nine year old found himself on his own for the afternoon while his brother spent his time at their uncle's forge. There were, of course, limits to Kili's wandering.
'From here to the edge of Bofur's toy stand and not a leap further you understand boy.' Thorin had instructed before turning back to his hammer and anvil and Kili had nodded happily and flounced down the alleyway in search of some fun to pass the time. He loved the atmosphere of the market and loved to observe the strange other races that passed through on occasion. There were dwarves from all walks of life, warriors, toy makers, dignitaries, and jewelers. There were men who came to trade in game, produce and leathers for a sword of the best make. There had even been twin elves who had passed through the marketplace once-although their stay had not been for very long-and Kili had gawked up in amazement at the towering pair for what seemed like hours before Fìli had pulled him along down the street at the beckoning of their uncle.
Eventually Kili found himself already in front of Bofur stand and he huffed in frustration, kicking up dirt from the road. This earned some grumbling from a passing dwarf who fixed the youngling with a reprimanding stare, a stare that Kìli stubbornly returned, unapologetic.
'Staying out of trouble are you Kili?' remarks Bofur, who smiled happily over his toy stand. The dwarf was carving out a horse and a rider out of Oak wood.
'Trying to,' he replied admiring a toy Corsair ship that was fixed with black sails. 'Uncle Thorin still confines me from here to the forge.'
'Very well that he does lad, so as you don't go getting yourself lost in the streets.'
Kili's grimace turns to a frown; perhaps he should have just stayed in to watch Fìli take orders from costumers and heat metal. Turning to leave the youngling suddenly collided with the leg of man passing to his left almost leaving him to fall to the muddy ground.
'Steady there young one,' says a rough voice, as Kili felt a hand on his shoulders to keep him from falling. ' Deepest apologies I didn't see you.'
'Oi, watch where you're going man! You could have hurt the young lad.' says Bofur standing up from his work to ensure the young dwarf was unharmed.
Kili stared up at the man. He was much more rugged than the other merchants and hunters he had seen. Where the men he had seen looked to take comfort in a roof over their heads, this man looked to be of the harsh wilderness. He wore a dagger on his right, a long sword on his left and a bow and arrows strapped to his back. His dress consisting of hard dark leathers that protected him from the persisting mist and cold. Yes, wilderness, danger and the outside world clung to this man; Kili is fascinated.
'May I see your sword?' the dwarfling asks eyes honed in on the long weapon, completely deaf and blind to Bofur's worried inquires and glances. The man's expression turns from concern into a warm beaming smile, before throwing his head back to let out a boisterous laugh.
'Well young one, seeing as I nearly had you falling over in the streets a look at my sword seems to be an even trade.' The man says pulling the sword with its scabbard out from under his dark cloak. He kneels down in front of the dwarf, presenting the sword to Kili with both hands – as if a subject to a lord. Kili admires the weapon, letting his fingers grace the hilt.
'Without the scabbard please.' He demands politely looking up, hopeful, at the man who once again laughs.
'I fear that will not do young master dwarf. Pulling out a sword in the midst of a busy market is not proper, don't you think?' Kili's face fell in disappointment. 'However, a bow is simply a bow if one does not draw back an arrow. I can let you hold that.'
The prince glances with disinterest at the bow on the man's back. It was not a popular weapon among dwarves, for reasons Kili still knew naught. A bow certainly wasn't a sword, but the dwarfling had never held a bow before, so he vehemently agreed holding his hands out expectantly.
It didn't look like much. A piece of wood with a taut string, Kìli thought, but it was beautiful, the wood decorated with carvings he had never seen before.
'Looks to be the work of elves.' Bofur remarks quietly, still eyeing the man with a suspicious stare.
'Indeed master dwarf it is,' the man confirms. ' You can find no finer craftsmen of such a weapon.'
'I've made a few fine bows,' says Bofur. 'Of course bows are not exactly in demand among my cliental.'
The stranger only nods as he smiles down at Kili and instructs in the proper stance and technique to hold up the bow. It is much too big for the dwarfling but Kìli grins as the man helps him pull the bowstring back. When he releases the bowstring he can feel the wood sing through his bow arm. It's an exhilarating feeling for the young dwarf who is already reaching for the quiver on the man's back when a familiar voice booms out across the marketplace.
Kili looks up at the call of his name and sees his uncle striding down the street towards the pair. Thorin's frame is covered in soot and sweat, his arms are bared for all to see and his countenance dark; the picture of intimidation. Though surprisingly the stranger remains by Kili's side giving him a comforting pat on his shoulders before standing to face the dwarf.
Thorin does not spare the man a glance and instead turns his gaze down to his nephew. 'Kili, it is best you return to the forge, come along.'
Oddly the young dwarf hesitates absently gripping at the bow that is still in his hands. It does not go unnoticed by his uncle, 'Kili, we are going. Now give the weapon back the man and come along!' His nephew does not need to be told twice, but before he can return the bow the man has already held out his hand to Thorin in greeting.
'Well-met master dwarf, it is not often that I am in the presence of those of the Kingdom of Erebor.' Kili gawks up at the stranger, all three dwarves present are, needless to say, surprised.
Thorin fixes the man with an intimidating stare giving him a thorough once over, 'It's not often that the men of the Dùnedein come this far west into these parts. What is a Ranger of the North doing so far from the protection of the elves?'
The ranger smiles pleasantly, 'There are few of us Rangers who travel throughout Middle Earth to places we may be needed. To remind those with no allies that there are folk that still hold to the promise of the old alliance.'
'Is that so?' Thorin remarks unimpressed.
'I was just showing Kili my bow, he seems to be quite a natural at it already.' Says the ranger who grins down at the young dwarf. Kili happily reciprocates before catching his uncle's stare and immediately falters, dropping his gaze.
'I thank you, Ranger, for showing patience and kindness towards my nephew, but we must be along. Kili.'
The dwarfling sighs reluctantly handing the bow back to its master, 'Thank you Mister Ranger, for showing me your bow and your sword.' He says respectfully.
'It was an honor Master Kili.' The ranger says graciously with a small bow, 'I can already see you becoming a master archer, with enough practice and the right weapon.'
Kili's eyes widen when the man hands the bow back to him. 'For you young one, an elvish made weapon, given by a Ranger of the North, gifted to the House of Durin.'
The Ranger inclines his head to the elder dwarves before turning to leave, his silhouette slowly disappearing into the crowd and mist. Kili smiles all they way back to the forge, bursting with pride and showing his gift to Fili and all those who would see. The youngling speaks enthusiastically about the darkly clad Ranger of the North and swears to be the best archer that the realm would ever have. His uncle happily nods for his nephews sake, but doesn't encourage him.
When Kili turns ten and is gifted with a practice bow by Bofur, the toy maker shrugs off Thorin's disapproving glare.
'If the lad insists on being a marksmen he might as well use something crafted by his own kin.'
For now, Thorin doesn't have the will to take it away and decides to tolerate the stares and the whispers.