Chapter 1: Cracking The Shell

Bree was a town for sons and daughters of men, dwarves were not often seen here, and were not often welcome. Thorin missed the splendor of Dale, where man and dwarf alike could live in peace and work side by side. In his exile he had to find work to provide for his people in the Blue Mountains, and so he went back to the anvil, working metal for men.

How far the prince had fallen, driven by need. Thorin worked uncomplaining at the heavy work. It kept his muscles strong, and gave him time to plan his return to Erebor. He would sit by his anvil day in and day out, sweating and working hard, dreaming of Erebor, of how things would be once he had regained his homeland. His pensive features scared off most company amongst men, but one person seemed unaffected, if not interested.

Thorin began to notice her as the days went on. She came to deliver him food, as a trade for his iron work. She worked at the inn in Bree, and they often needed repairs, or things to be done for guests. She never said a word to him, she merely came and placed his food nearby, giving a small curtsy before leaving. Did she know he was royalty?

Each day that she came and repeated her routine he noticed her more and more. Her hair was a chestnut brown, with natural loose spirals. It delicately framed her face, oval and fair. Her eyes were what surprised him most. On that day, when she left his food, she turned and looked him square in the eyes before standing up and beginning to leave. Her eyes were a sea blue, and they seemed to see right into his soul.

Finally, after a week Thorin addressed her. She came in and placed his food, something warm, steaming in the cold. She gently placed it down and did her curtsy, ready to leave when the prince spoke,

"I do not believe we have formally met." His voice was conversational, but had an air of regality he could not hide.

"No, I do not believe so." She said with a curt nod, a smile curling her beautiful thick lips at the corners before she began to leave.

"Wait. This can't go on like this. What is your name, my lady?" Thorin said, stopping his work and turning to face her.

"My lady?" She said with a little surprise, "No one has ever addressed me as 'my lady'" She said with a small laugh, "I am merely a worker at the inn, I deserve no such title." She said finally.

"All women deserve the title." Thorin said turning back to the anvil.

Lily began to walk out of the smith's shed when she stopped and turned her head to answer, "Lily. My name is Lily."

Thorin stopped his hammering and repeated it, "Lily. I am Thorin Oakenshield." He said, still not turning. Her answer surprised him,

"I know." She said softly, and walked away.

Thorin could not help himself, he turned to look at the beautiful figure floating away back towards the inn. After she disappeared from sight he turned to the hot meal, opening it to find a rich stew with fresh bread. He ate heartily and knew that she must have been the one to cook it. She had packed him a good deal of food.

The next day he awaited her to come again. True to form, she came at lunch time with his meal. She silently entered the shed wearing a deep crimson cape against the cold, it was sprinkled with white snow about her shoulders. The effect was angelic. Thorin stopped his hammering and watched her place his food down.

"My lady." He said with a nod.

"No more of this 'my lady' business. Call me Lily, please." She said humbly.

"Lily." He said with a small bow of his head.

"Thorin." She curtsied.

"I will have no more of that curtsying then." Thorin stated at her movement. Lily gave a small nod.

"Why do you curtsy?" He asked, looking into her beautiful eyes.

"I've heard that you are a dwarven royal." She admitted, looking at the food parcel on the table.

"You've heard correctly, but there is no need to make it evident here. It means nothing to these people." He said with a tinge of bitterness, "Here I am just Thorin, the blacksmith." He said, hammering a mighty blow to the metal on the anvil.

Lily looked to the exit and silently began to leave. Thorin stopped his work and spoke over his shoulder to Lily,

"Will you not eat with me tomorrow?" He asked gently.

"If you so wish." Lily responded softly.

"I do." Thorin said, turning back and hammering on.

That night Thorin lay in his bed inside the smith's barn and thought of the lovely lady in crimson. She did not look down at him, in fact, she knew he was royal, and tried to treat him as such. It was the first time he had made a connection with someone from the realm of man. He looked forward to their meal together tomorrow, he wanted to know more about her, she was the only constant acquaintance in his life.

The next day Thorin worked hard, sweat beading on his brow, but his thoughts were not of Erebor, instead they were of Lily. The way her mouth moved when she spoke, her long eye lashes over her beautiful blue eyes, her soft curls that he wanted to touch. Before he knew it, lunch time had come, and in she came, this time with two packages. Thorin stopped his work and smiled at her gently. He got up and cleared a nearby table, showing her a seat.

Lily sat down and opened their packages, laying out the dish of delicious, thick soup with yet another fresh bread and some wonderfully strong cheese. Thorin ate his meal with pleasure. After a few moments of silence Thorin began,

"So you work at the inn. Do you have family? A husband, children?" He asked curiously.

"No. I have nothing." She said, her eyes focusing on her soup. Thorin realized he may have hit a nerve.

"I'm sorry, I did not mean to pry, I just wanted to get to know you." He said, looking at her.

"No harm done. My parents died when I was young, and I was raised by a kindly lady who owned the inn. She did her best, but she too died when I was but 16. Her nephew took over the inn. He was not a kind man. He..." Lily trailed off, swallowing hard and looking away into the shed.

Thorin watched her pained face and did not like where this was going. What had he done to her? He sat quietly waiting for her to finish, if she could.

"He raped me..." She said, looking into the distance without blinking. He watched the muscles in her throat swallow as she stared at the empty landscape, "So that's why I never had a husband." She finished, looking back down at her soup, playing idly with her spoon.

Thorin was shocked at her answer. So she was unwed because the sons of men thought she was sullied. They never bothered to accuse her rapist, they pointed fingers at the victim, and now she was alone.

"Why do you continue to work at the inn?" Thorin asked confused.

"Her nephew got himself into such deep debt he had to sell the inn. It is under new ownership, kinder ownership that does not look to my past to judge." Lily explained. She finally lifted her beautiful eyes to meet Thorin's and he felt his breath catching in his lungs. How could anyone think she was tainted?

Lily sat quietly thinking of how the royal dwarf was judging her silently. She should not have said anything, but she was never one to lie about her circumstances. He would never want to dine with her again. She quietly packed up her own package and made to leave.

"Where are you going?" Thorin asked confused by her actions.

"Back to work. I'm sorry, I have stayed too long." She said, not looking at him.

"I hope I have not offended you?" Thorin said, standing up.

"No, you have been a most gracious host. Good afternoon Thorin." Lily said, looking at him briefly before heading out into the snow.

Thorin watched her leave and wished she would stay. He had hit a sensitive nerve, but hoped she would not stay away. He ate the rest of his meal in silence, hearing her voice telling her story in his head. If he ever met this nephew, he would not live to see another day. How dare anyone defile a young woman? Once he had finished his meal he returned to the anvil with a new energy, hammering harder at the thought of someone touching his delicate companion. He caught himself in the thought and realized he had formed an attachment to her, for the first time in centuries was he thinking of a woman and not Erebor.