Prologue

Being a sister of the heir to the Lonely Mountain had its benefits.

Chief among these was being able to slap him around when he did something stupid.

Dís had taken full advantage of this privilege as soon as he'd shown up on her doorstep, bruised and battered but belligerent as ever, and explained to her in reasonable tones how he'd thought it was a good idea to hunt down a party of trolls who'd been troubling the dwarves at the bottom of the mountain. Alone.

That had earned him a solid smack on the shoulder. (It would have been his head, but Dís could see the bandages under his hood, and the slightly unfocused look in his eyes.)

"You're lucky your skull is as thick as you are," she said, "or your getting concussed every couple of years would have me worried."

Thorin grunted. He'd always been so blessed with the gift of speech.

She sat him down on a stool and inspected his scrapes, and re-bandaged what needed re-bandaging, and cleaned what wounds needed cleaning.

"I'll see to your room," she called over her shoulder as she strode down the hallway towards the guest bedroom.

"What?"

"By Aulë," Dís muttered, then said again, louder, "Your room! I'm getting it ready so that His Highness doesn't have to sleep on the floor tonight!"

Thorin stuck his head into the hall. "Now, see here–"

"No, you see here, Thorin Oakenshield," said Dís, poking him in the chest. "You're my prisoner for two weeks, until I deem you fit and ready enough to go get yourself trod all over again."

"Two weeks?" growled Thorin. "I'm concussed, woman, not dying."

Dís slapped him a second time.

"Ow."

"When was the last time you took a break from all this running around?" she demanded.

Thorin scowled and rubbed his arm where she'd hit him.

She raised her brows pointedly. "Mm, that's what I thought. Business can wait, Thorin. I want you resting, properly resting, under my watch. It'll do you a world of good."

The heir to the Lonely Mountain was silent for a moment. Then he sighed, and folded his arms, and made a lovely show of looking irritated. "Fine," he said curtly. "Two weeks, not a day more."

"His Highness is ever gracious," Dís said, her tone dry. Then she smiled, the kind of smile that she'd worn as a child, about to get back at her brothers for some cruel prank. "The boys will be so happy to see you."

Thorin groaned and sagged against the wall. "Mahal help me."