(FILI)

As the fates would have it that morning, I can't try to finish smoothing things over with Ula and her uncle. The goblin invasion has begun. I'm headed down to the deep caverns to join the forces against them.

My heart sinks when I my uncle Thorin pulls me aside and tells me that Connach is missing. Kili doesn't know yet because he's with Sayla in the protected inner chambers. He can do nothing to protect his first born son. We start back up the tunnels asking everyone we meet. We hear that he's been sighted with Ula and uncle sends me to watch over them both. I can hear that the battle has started behind me, and I take off as fast as I can.

(ULA)

The next day, my exuberant mood doesn't fit the somber one everyone else has at the news of a possible goblin invasion. How can I be in such conflict with the general mood of the place?

I hope to see Fili in the feasthall, but he must be in the last session of council or leading a patrol. So, I head to the kitchen to get my now usual ration of cookies. I see by the note left with the stacks of cookies, Connach's cookie addiction is now public knowledge.

Then I hear the shuffling outside. The nanny bursts into the kitchen, panic in her eyes as she asks if I've seen Connach. I reply that I haven't. She goes whiter than a ghost and blurts, "The goblins are at the deep caverns of this mountain. Help me find him, Lady Ula!"

We rush out of there and I shout to try the stables. It's about the time he and Fili usually go for a ride. Even the soldiers part ways for us as they march, so fierce is our manner.

We hear the boy talking to his horse, trying to get the creature to stay still so he can get up in the saddle.

"Connach!" I shout with evident desperation and it scares him. I try to calm myself so he doesn't bolt. "I need ye to come with Nanny and I."

"No! I want to ride!" he stubbornly persists trying to mount the horse on his own.

"Uncle Fili needs us to go back to the nursery, right now." I give an educated guess.

"No!"

"I have cookies..." I slide closer to him, hoping to be able to grab him before they start sounding the alarm horns of a defense breech.

He gets down and I scoop him up. "Where's my cookie!?" he protests.

"My dear, I can't give it to ye until we reach the nursery. We have to get there now!" I try hard to not let the knots in my stomach control my voice. The three of us take off and make a beeline for the safe haven of the inner rooms. My legs are shaking as I run. I see a war axe mounted on the wall and command the nanny to grab it. Mahal, please don't make us have to use it! This little one shouldn't have to see bloodshed so young.

Now the little guy really knows something is very wrong and he starts howling. There's nothing I can do to stop his terrified shrieking, so I hold him as tight as I can to try to give him some comfort.

We make it into the nursery and bolt the door. Only one way in or out. Mahal, hear our prayer - please don't let them find us. Let the army stop them.

My knees give out and I hit the floor with Connach still in my arms. He can feel me shaking from exertion and fright. "Need a cookie now?" I attempt an offer and manage to get a cookie out with out dropping it with my shaking hands.

He hangs on to it as if it was a treasured toy, instead of a munchie.

(FILI)
I don't dare stop to catch my breath. My legs burn every step I go up. I have to be there to protect them if the goblins would happen to make it that far.

I reach the nursery and the door is bolted, and I've not got the key with me. I start frantically trying to shove it open. When I hear a low voice in the room, I loose it and start throwing myself at the door.

(ULA)
Thundering boots bring me back to my ultra alert state and I hand the child off to the nanny, before picking up the battle axe. The Nanny takes him into the closet to hide.

Someone or something is trying hard to open the door. I steel myself and shout with as much bravado as I can muster in a low voice at our attacker, "We're armed with axes in here! I'll take off your head!"

Then I hear a familiar frantic voice repeating as the heavy thuds against the door start, "Connach!"

My heart skips a beat before I can answer, "Fili!

"Ula ye had me scared out of my wits! Let me in!" I can hear the relief in his words.

I let the axe head hit the floor and I work the bolt as quickly as my still shaking hands could manage.

(FILI)
I scramble in and re-bolt the door, as I pant. Ula flies over to me and throws her arms around my neck. After a second of shock, I gratefully return her embrace. I don't want to, but I pull back a moment later taking measure of the area to defend. A double take at the war axe and then at at her I ask, "Ye really did have a war axe...My great grand father's no less..."

"Sorry. We grabbed what we could find." She looks apologetic.

"No. It's an excellent choice. And ye were really ready to attack just now?"

She shuffles uneasy at the thought that she'd just threatened me a moment ago.

"I wish I could have seen that. I'll never be able to see that hanging up and think just of Grandfather now," I sighs with pride. I bet she was glorious...

The nanny hears us talking an emerges from the closet with her charge.

I change thoughts. "I was charged with defending you and my nephew. We heard you both might be in the same place, Cookie Lady." My teasing and waggling eyebrow draw a giggle from her despite the circumstances.

We move the furniture to barricade the door. And put the mattress from Connach's bed on the floor so we have one comfortable spot. It could be a while before we leave this room.

I perch on the edge of the mattress to keep watch, while the others try to sleep. She curls up behind me, with her back to my back and I lean on her for support. My hand rests on her shoulder and my fingers twirl her hair as we wait.

(ULA)
I can't sleep, but I find peace in his touch and leave my eyes closed.

After what must have been a few hours, the banging on the door has us both jumping off the bed and scrambling for our weapons. We automatically stand back to back with our axes raised. He glances back at me hefting his grandfather's weapon with an expression like he's just seen perfection, then focuses again on the task at hand.

The poor nanny, tries not to wake Connach as she scoops him up, but fails. She heads to the closet and tries to shush him. At least she thought to grab my reticule with the cookies. That must work, because he calms.

Fili must hear someone he recognizes outside because he hollers, "In here!" and lets his axe down. And I take my queue from him. We undo the barricade, not bothering to arrange the furniture and both give our thanks it's over. Fili puts his arm around me as we walk out the door, relief making us weary - but a joy in both of our hearts. I lean my head on his shoulder and don't give a care if it's proper or not.

When I'm delivered back to my Uncle about dawn, I can barely stand up to walk. I lean on him and whisper to him, "It's time Uncle."

"Ye're sure it's him?"

I'm too tired to restrain my tongue or have any sense in my head as I respond, "Yes. After I've thrown myself at him, slept beside him and worn his bathrobe, he better be." I can't stop the laughter as the sheer exhaustion makes it all seem so funny.

My uncle's eyebrow lifts, telling me I'd better explain the first two items. So after my giggles subside, I tell him about the last evening in the nursery. He takes my head in his hands and kisses my head as a tear rolls down his cheek. The lack of words spoke volumes to me about how proud my uncle was and how happy he was for me.

(FILI)

I don't think anyone under the mountain was awake before noon, except me. I lay there unable to go back to sleep after being awake almost all night. Might as well get ready for the day.

I cleaned up and my mind went to the events of the night before. The teasing I got from my brother and Sayla as I told them what happened overnight was so worth having hope in my heart again.

A servant announces King Dain as he enters with a meek smile, "Is this too early an hour?"

I bid him in and ask him to sit, but he's obviously a little nervous and politely declines a seat. He asks if I'd be ready to discuss her requirements for a bride price and if I wanted to fetch my family. I am ready and don't need to fetch them - they're likely sleeping. So he hands me the scroll with her list on top of my robe. She really made HIM return the robe? I look away a little chagrined and put down the robe that almost got she and I into serious trouble. But I eagerly open the list. She really could ask for anything, and I'd pay it. She could even get away with attempting to ask for the Arkenstone for a bridal price.

Kili barges in to check in on me at the very moment I finish reading the letter. He looks at the paper, at Dain, then back at my face and I can tell he's excited for me, "Brother, ye're gobsmacked. What did she ask of ye?"

Dain is worried he's been watching my expressions like a hawk, "Did she ask too much of ye? I expected to have to negotiate."

I shake my head in disbelief and manage, "Mahal's sweet valkyries...I'm na sure I can believe it. Kili, read it aloud so I know I'm not dreaming."

Dain steps over to read it over Kili's shoulder as Kili reads it aloud.

"Dearest Fili,

It is my deepest hope that ye can agree to this list of requirements for my hand in marriage.

One ring fashioned of pure gold made by your hand to be delivered our wedding day.

Time. It seems to be as precious in yer life as gold. Before I leave to prepare for the wedding, I require 72 hours where ye have no responsibilities what so ever, save 1. being with me 2. lounging in yer robe for an hour each morning. (Of course I'd like more time, but I'll be reasonable. I'd also like to meet your newest nephew too.) When we are married I ask that ye will never be so burdened that we lack time together. Ye constantly give of yerself and it's one of the things I love about ye. But I and the children we have someday will have need to ye too.

Personal lessons in fighting with an axe. I want ye to look at me that way again.

Yer robe back when I leave. I'm rather fond of it after our misadventures.

Please let my uncle know if these conditions meet with yer approval.

Sincerely,

Ula"

I look at Dain after Kili finishes, "How could I even think of negotiations? She's worth more than I could ever give her."

Kili looks up at me with the look that warns me I'm about to be ribbed umercifully, "The troll won the fair lady's heart after all...Congratulations Brother!" and slugs my arm to say he told me so, before hugging me. I know there's more jibes to come later. Dain slaps me heartily on the back and heads back to tell Ula my reply. I ask Kili to cancel my appointments for the next 3 days and he rushes off to tell Sayla and my uncle.

I dutifully pull on my robe - but in my overjoyed daze I don't notice it's over my current clothes - and collapse to rest in my favorite chair with my eyes closed. I'm daydreaming about the time I'll be spending with her.

-
(ULA)

Four days later . Again my emotions are so conflicting. I know the heart of the one I love - so I have joy unspeakable. But I have to leave to get ready for the wedding - for it will be back home. It's down right painful to leave.

But he surprises me with a farewell gift - his grandfather's axe. Evidently I need practice with it. There's also the package with something fabric in it that he tells me to open later. I hug it and smell of him at that spice (I know it's anise now) and know it's his robe with out even opening the package.

Little Connach brought me some cookies for the road, since I'd never gotten to taste a single one of those I gathered for him. The little scamp hugs me hard and won't let go, and it knocks me off balance. Fili in his grace saves me again, by moving in to kiss me goodbye. It may not be proper amongst my people to show affection publicly like this. But I wouldn't trade that kiss for the world.

Later I secretly read the message tucked away in the robe. "Will ye wear this on our wedding night? I'm counting down the days. 32 to go."


Author's notes:

Let me know what you thought of the story. Thanks!

(songs: Pacific Rim sound track title song, Steampunk Dog Fight by Escape the Clouds, May It Be from Celtic Woman)