Nori woke the same time Dori did; the older brother cast an expression of worry his way as he sat up in his bed and listened to the muffled disturbance.
"Oh great not again!" Dori moaned and flopped back down, "Just go back to sleep Nori, they'll be quiet in a minute."
Nori however ignored his brother's advice and the young dwarf swung his legs over his bed and listened a moment more to the heated voices somewhere outside their small bed room.
"They're fighting again," He sighed, "They've been fighting a lot now."
Dori huffed and rolled onto his side; "Go back to sleep," He ordered again, "They'll be alright."
Nori sniffed and rose slowly; creeping to the door slowly and fully aware that Dori had rolled onto his other side to watch him.
Slowly, his small hand upon the knob, Nori opened the door just enough so that the candle light down the hall barely illuminated their cramped room and listened.
"It's the third time in a week! Going to that damn tavern and staying until almost dawn! It's humiliating!" shouted a voice, "I'm sick of hearing me friends talk about your…disgusting behavior!"
Nori's father's voice was tight and angry; though, the young dwarf knew, he was trying to keep his normally baritone voice low so as to not wake him or his half brother.
"Well what else do you expect me to do?" shouted his mother, obviously angry to the point of tears, "You not making enough money at the mills! We barely managed to pay the rent last month and this month! The boys need new boots; Nori's are worn to the soles!"
Guilt panged inside Nori's just and without realizing it, he started to shuffle one foot back and fourth on the smooth wooden floor.
"Come on back to bed," Dori pleaded softly, "Don't worry about it. Come on, if Mum catches you she'll hang you by the ears."
Still, opening the door just a bit more, Nori ignored him and continued to listen.
"Oh don't give me that bull Ari!" Spat his father, "You do what you do because you enjoy the attention and the money! You don't care a lick about those poor boys! How do you think it makes your son feel knowing that other's know he's a bastard?"
Nori grimaced and looked over his shoulder at Dori whom had rolled onto his back and shut his eyes tight.
"His father died!" Ari, their mother, countered "We were going to be married but he died in the mines! And don't you ever use that word against my son! Your son! Did you forget that when we finally do get married Dori will be just as much yours as Nori is?"
A stiff silence, followed by the hurried plod of feet, was all Nori could hear before a door, their bedroom door closed.
"See?" Dori sighed, "They're done for the night. Come on, brother, you've got your apprenticeship tomorrow."
Nori ignored him and crept from the room. Teetering on his toes he wandered to the closed door of his parent's bedroom and gracefully, carefully pressed his ear to the door.
"What do you mean?" Ari was demanding, her voice trembling while Nori caught the faintest sounds of sniffling. "You can't do this! Not now!"
"Ari," Nori heard his father sigh, "I can't take the whispers and the rumors anymore~"
"Wh-what about Nori?" Ari demanded shrilly, "What about Dori? He adores you! I'm begging you don't do this! It's only to do with money and nothing more!"
"It's not honest!" Nori's father countered, "It's not even decent! It's disgusting and I've tried, Ari, I really have tried to accept that that what you do is, in your mind, your profession but…bah! This is no good. I'm leaving."
"Dad no!" Nori shouted, bounding into the room and running up to his father. Tears filling his young eyes he grasped his father's thigh and shook him desperately.
"Nori get out of here!" His mother snapped, "Your father and I are talking and it's late!"
"Don't go!" Nori whimpered, "Don't go dad! I don't need new boots!"
His father pried his small hands from his pant leg and lifted the crying child off the ground into a tight hug.
"There, there my boy," His father said soothingly, "I'll be around. You'll see…I won't go far."
"Take me with you!" Nori sniffled into his father's shoulder, "I can be your apprentice! I don't want to work in some stuff shop!"
"Dori!" Ari called, "Dori could you come and get Nori please? Nori, your father and I are talking~" "We're through talking, actually," Nori's father countered calmly as he lowered a resistant Nori to stand on his own feet, "and I've got to pack."
Dori appeared in the door way then; looking from his parents then to his little sibling. "What's going on?" He asked, "Why are you packing, sir?"
"Dori," Ari sighed, "Take Nori and get back to bed. Now, before I have to get the belt."
Nori, clinging to his father's leg, had to be pried free by his brother and as he was led from their bedroom he turned to his mother and said coldly: "This is your entire fault."
Several Year's later:
"You shouldn't just blame Mum you know. She did try to get him to stay!"
Nori snorted and tossed another pebble into the river without acknowledging his brother behind him.
"Of course I can blame her!" Nori spat, "Once we get some kind of stability-some kind of happiness-she goes and ruins it; just like she has before!"
Dori sighed and wiped the sweat from his forehead and watched Nori pretend to ignore his lingering presence.
"Look," He sighed, "Bofur and his family can't keep putting up with you! You've been gone for almost three weeks and Mum's out of her mind with worry! Besides that, I need help with Ori now more than ever since….since, well…"
"Since Mum once again chose her business over another good and well-meaning gentleman?" Nori asked as he tossed another pebble, "Maybe little Ori will get lucky and he'll see his father again. Unlike me."
Nori observed the pebbles he still had held in his palm; Little Ori was still an infant. Good. At least, Nori told himself, the boy would never know his father and therefore not feel the emptiness and grief he had long carried secretly within himself.
"Well?" Dori demanded grumpily, "Are you coming or not?"
"Dori why are you always taking up for her?" Nori spat, throwing the handful of pebbles down and whirling around to face his older brother, "We should just take our leave of her!"
"She needs us!" Dori countered, almost laughing, "I can't believe you only think she's to blame for all of our troubles! Besides, she's always stayed and taken care of us, unlike some people."
"Oh please," Nori sneered, "She's already the village whore! Can't add bad mother to that, can she? It'd ruin her busy, busy business!"
Dori lunged and came within inches of his younger brother's face seething with rage.
Grasping Nori's tunic he yanked him closer still and hissed: "She-is-not-a-bad-mum! And who are you to stand in judgement? You seem to have no problem being called a thief!"
Nori looked Dori up and down slowly before wrenching free of his brother's grip; Straightening his clothing for a moment he met Dori's eyes one last time.
"What she does is considered a disgraceful way of earning a living," He argued, "Perhaps I'm only taking after her because I had no father to show me a proper way of earning a living. You can take up for her all you want Dori…I never will."
Stepping aside, Nori cast his brother one last look, and started off. Leaving the elder of the 'Ri' brother's to his thoughts.