Author's Note: So, this is my second attempt to write about The Company more as a whole rather than about Kili and Fili, who have got so much attention from both me and many other writers who are much more talented, that the other dwarves are doubtless feeling a bit jealous. I wrote this because I thought the idea of Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur using their toy-making skills to supply the Company with funds was rather fun.
You can read certain bits of it as mildly slashy, or you can read it as just teasing. Up to you, really.
It was fun to write, I hope it's at least a little bit fun to read.
It was a small town, very small indeed, and had The Company's financial situation been a little less...unfortunate, they would doubtless have pressed straight on and ignored it.
But Gloin had, after spending a few minutes hunched over his abacus, announced to Thorin with all due respect that they were, more or less, out of money altogether.
Thorin, upon receiving this rather unpleasant news, had first something in dwarfish that needed no translation, and then went on to utter the eternal cry of all those whose lamentable fate it is to stand staring into an empty Funds Box.
"Where does it all go?"
But though more than one suspicious glance was sent in the emphatically protesting Nori's direction, there was nothing for it but to stop at the next town, take up residence in its finest (well, its only) inn, and then set about making a profit...
Fili kicked open the door of the room that the company had paid for and paused on the threshold to catch his breath.
"Thorin says we need more, lads," he said.
'Lads' consisted, in this instance, of Bofur, Bombur, and Bifur, who were the three dwarves who had been elected to remain in the inn plying their trade: toy-making.
They'd shoved most of the beds into one corner, and were sitting in the center of the room, whittling away at blocks of wood with what was, by now, the slightly exasperated air of those who consider themselves put upon.
All the other dwarves (and one rather reluctant hobbit) had been sent out to various parts of the town with a few hastily made toys each and strict instructions to sell them all and charge a good price.
All the others, that is, except for Nori, who had opted to stay and keep the toy-makers company. He was now, Fili saw, sitting back to back with Bofur, to whom he would occasionally pass fresh pieces of wood or offer a selection of carving tools.
They both looked up when he announced Thorin's impatience for more toys to be made, and neither looked too overjoyed at this news.
"How fast does he think we can work?" Bofur said, to no one in particular, as his usual grin faded away to be replaced by an incredulous expression.
"It's a delicate business," said Bombur, while Bifur nodded his agreement vigorously "Very delicate."
Fili, who, along with his brother, had spent the best part of his afternoon being used as a messenger by the other dwarves, was starting to feel a little exasperated.
"Fine," he said, testily "You can go downstairs and tell Thorin all about how delicate you have to be..."
None of the four dwarves had any intention of doing anything of the sort, but none of them were close to completing the toys they were laboring over, either.
"Alright, then," said Bofur, looking expectantly at Fili "Sit yourself down - pass him a knife, Nori - and start carving."
"If Thorin says we need more toys, we'll need more workers, right?"
Fili, who had always thought that his skills with wood consisted of chopping up logs for the fire, sat down beside Bifur and picked up a medium-sized bit of wood.
"But, I don't know anything about toy-making," he said, accepting a knife from Nori.
"Neither did we, when we started out," said Bofur, dismissing this fact with a shrug "And now's as good a time as any to learn. Try making an animal or something - those aren't too hard."
Fili didn't see any point in arguing, and instead began to gingerly chip away at the wood, frowning with concentration.
At first, conversation among the intently working dwarves was fairly trivial - limited to remarks such as 'Oi, mind passing me some more wood?', 'Watch where you're sticking that knife!'', and upon one occasion: 'I swear, Bofur, if you sing that stupid, repetitive ditty one more time I'll come over there and teach you a lesson you'll never forget!', but after a while it turned to slightly more serious matters.
"I've been wondering,' Fili began, taking a break to try and brush some wood chips out of his beard "You ever been in love, Nori?"
He directed his question specifically to Nori partly because he was the dwarf closest to hand and partly because Bombur was married and had more sons and daughters than Fili had ever been able to keep track of, Bofur wasn't likely to give a serious answer, and Bifur wasn't likely to give an understandable one.
It wasn't exactly a common question to be asked among dwarves, but it had come up once or twice already along the journey, during the long and occasionally tedious hours spent on the road.
"Oh, well, maybe," said Nori, and Fili immediately remembered why anyone rarely bothered to ask Nori searching questions; he tended to give evasive and vague answers.
"No, I mean, have you ever really been in love?"
"Well...to be completely honest...no."
Bombur and Bofur exchanged glances; they hadn't heard Nori talk about this particular subject before, and they (well, Bofur in particular) wondered if it might be profitable to take note of any further remarks in case they happened to be useful in teasing Nori later on.
"Have you ever, you know, thought about it, though?" Fili said, now asking more out of curiosity than just for the sake of something to say.
"Once or twice. I suppose if I ever met the right dwarf..." said Nori, finding it hard to stick to being evasive in the face of Fili's persistence.
"What sort of 'right dwarf'?" Fili asked, now starting to enjoy his companion's discomfort.
"Well...maybe someone with dark hair...a nice smile...sense of humor," Nori said, wondering if he should cause a diversion and hastily make his exit.
There was a short, pensive pause as the other dwarves present thought this one over.
"You mean like Bofur?" said Fili, grinning.
"No. I mean..." Nori twisted around to look at Bofur who was also grinning broadly "Well, yes. Yes, I suppose so."
"I see," Fili said, in the sort of tone that made Nori rather want to murder him.
It's hard to speculate just what might have been said next, and whether or not it might have lead to physical violence, because at that point Kili burst in, followed by Ori.
"Thorin told us to come fetch some more toys," Ori explained, apologetically "The townsfolk aren't willing to pay much for them..."
Kili nodded, then leaned over his brother's shoulder to get a better look at the toy that he was working on.
"What's that?" he asked, with an air of horrified fascination.
"It's a horse, you beardless half-wit!" snapped Fili, offended "Can't you see it's supposed to be a horse?"
"No, I can't," Kili said, bluntly, a bit stung by the 'beardless' bit.
"Try closing one eye and sort of squinting at it," suggested Bofur, as he helped Ori pack up a basket with what few toys they'd made.
Kili screwed up his face and peered at the unfortunate toy intently for a few moments, while Fili privately swore to exact revenge on his brother as soon as possible.
"Yes..." Kili said, at last "I can sort of see it now. That little pointy thing there is an ear, right?"
"We have a problem," said Bombur, speaking up for the first time since the two youngest dwarves had entered "We're almost out of wood."
And it was true; they were. Their once large pile of wood had been depleted until barely a few small pieces remained.
"Oh, is that it?" asked Kili, looking nonplussed "That's easily remedied."
The other dwarves looked at each other, then back at him. There were some people who, when they said things like 'that's easily remedied' in a casual fashion, could set warning bells ringing in your head almost instantly...
"What do you mean?" Ori asked, at last.
"Well," began Kili, looking at the fourteen small beds which were shoved together in the corner in a thoughtful sort of way "There's a lot of wood around, if you think about it..."
All seven dwarves looked at each other for a moment, understanding dawning, then as one they nodded. The end justified the means, and as long as The Company ended up well funded, it would all be fine, right?
"Innkeeper won't be too happy," Bofur said, as Fili jumped up, pulling out the larger of his two axes and tossing it to his brother.
Nori got up too, crossing to the room's one window and examining it with an air of practiced ease, as behind him Kili, Bifur, and Fili quickly set to work.
"It's not more than ten feet to the ground from here," he said, over the sound of splintering wood and grunts of exertion "We can be out of the window and gone before anyone even notices that a few bedsteads are missing..."
And sure enough, within an hour, The Company of Thorin Oakenshield was on its merry way, pockets jingling and spirits high.