C6: In Dreams
Druili turned towards Bilbo, who had joined her side when the path became wider.
"So?" She raised an eyebrow at him.
"The...Warg?" He looked back at her, hoping he didn't have to elaborate more.
"Ah." Druili remembered her promise.
After finding the path again, they found themselves on a steady declining bridge of sorts, that would take them directly into Rivendell. But again, they seemed to be a good twenty minute walk...maybe even an hour if they had to stop again for Bombur and Bofur to catch up.
"I wasn't born with these beautiful marks you know," she waved a hand in front of her face, "some kings and queens have to pay to look this good, hours having their make-up done and leeches and all sorts of lotions and potions applied."
Kili and Fili chuckled in front of her and Bilbo looked between them all, rather perplexed.
He'd noticed her scars, but none of the others really talked about it, so he never felt the need to ask. But he had observed and watched her some nights, as she slept.
The three, large red welts, spread across her face, went from the top of her head, to her cheek. One appeared to run down, straight her from her eyebrow, down across her eye and ending just before her nose. The other came to sit just on the side of her nose and could have been missed. But the most notable one sat straight across her lips. It ran vertically at a slant and it was deeper than the other two. SO much so, that it pulled her lips in a way she seemed to have a permanent pout going on.
"No," Druili chuckled and turned away from him, looking at the sky that was turning a beautiful cherry red, "as you've gathered...it was a Warg. I was...oh...Fourteen? Kili, how old was I?"
Kili turned fully towards them, but continued to walk backwards.
"Fourteen, because the year before, you broke the boys nose when he tried to kiss you during the festival."
"Oh yes," Druili smiled fondly to herself, "I remember now. Dancing, good food...mother having to apologize to another mother for me before I ran off and hid with you two under a table for the rest of the night."
Bilbo's eyes widened at the vague description.
"But anyway, you wanted to know," she cast a sideways glance at him again, "how I got my lovely looks?"
“Stupid Dunderhead, twitching, brother of mine.” Druili mumbled angrily and swatted at a nearby bush with her long twig, both out of boredom and frustration.
It'd been sometime since she'd found herself parted from her brothers and the little prank they had obviously pulled on her had obviously gone wrong since she was now genuinely lost. They'd just told her to walk towards the stream and find the treasure that was buried there.
She headed in the general direction she was sure they had come from, though it'd been over an hour and now, the smell she'd been following didn't smell like home anymore.
"Follow your nose they said," she spoke out loud, not caring if anyone did hear her talking to herself anymore, "it will always lead you home they said. All I can smell is...I don't know."
She stopped and took another sniff through her nose. There was something else she was smelling. When she'd started walking, she could smell the town scents. That became wild flowers and a smoky, cooking scent from an abandoned campfire. Now...she smelled something she'd never encountered before.
She couldn't quite put her finger on it. It was...wild...like fur. It smelled a little like one of Uncle Thorin' coats, when he left it against the chair too long, by the fireplace. And for some reason, it smelled damp.
A growl drew her attention. An inhuman growl she had never heard before.
Slowly, she craned her head over her shoulder and caught sight of a great beast, standing not far from her. She gasped and turned around.
'There is a Warg running loose the next town over. Be careful when you're out and DON'T stay out on your own.'
Dis had told all of them at breakfast just a few days ago and they'd spent an entire day going on a 'hunt', before forgetting about it the very next day.
And now, the beast slowly approached her. She remained perfectly still as sheer terror gripped hold of her. It came closer and closer and it's eyes never left hers.
She heard a slight crunch and quickly glanced down to see the stick, still clutched in her hand. It was thick enough that she had trouble breaking it with both her hands, hence why she'd been swatting at things as if it were a sword.
She glanced back up at the beast and slowly brought the other end of the stick to her other hand.
It was sharp enough, maybe. She knew she wouldn't be able to outrun it. She knew that there was no where to hide in this open field.
"I will not...I will not be afraid." She moved the stick to hold it tightly at the bottom, pointing it directly towards the creature. She waited. The beast stopped for a moment, observing her, before a deep, guttural growl escaped it's mouth and it charged at her. Her eyes widened in horror as it jumped the last distance and she raised her arms in the air, with the intention of bringing the stick down and whacking it on it's head. But she never got that far. The impact of the Warg flying into her knocked her clean off her feet and she fell hard on the ground. The wind was knocked out of her, but she barely had time to draw a breath, before the beast sank it's teeth into her side.
The pain was blinding and she couldn't breath. The grip on her chest was too much for her small body. A searing ache spread through her.
Had it not been for the beast suddenly jerking her about, she'd surely have blacked out. It felt like her small chest was being pushed together by two forces, desperately trying to break her.
Her survival kicked back in. Whilst the knock down had surprised her, she hadn't let go of the stick. Turning it towards herself, she felt for the sharper end and aimed it. Hitting the creature's head repeatedly, it didn't seem to have any effect. But on the fifth or sixth strike, she struck gold.
With one swift and hard thrust, she felt victorious when the sharp stick stuck swiftly in the beast's eye. She let go of it as the beast shook it's head and released her, desperately trying to remove the stick from it's eye.
Clutching her chest, she stood up quickly and tried to back away from the beast, but in it's flurry of panicked shaking, it struck out and she felt it's paw swipe heavily against her face. Stumbling backwards, she hadn't realized she was on the top of a slope and for a moment, she felt herself fly backwards through the air, before her back connected with the ground. The momentum and force caused her to roll down and away and she tumbled for a good ten seconds before managing to stop herself.
She lay in the dirt, still, hoping that if it saw her, it would just leave her be.
She glanced up and saw nothing. She could hear the whining and scurrying above her, but the beast did not come to her. The sounds began to drift away.
As she heard the sound of the howls of anguish drift faraway, she realized, that no amount of climbing would get her unstuck from her current situation. She settled herself down in the dirt and dare not look around her, for fear she'd encounter a spider or some snake in the grass.
She gently placed her hand over her face and felt the wound, wincing at the sting at the long gash that had formed due to the sharp claws. She glanced down at her chest and a sob escaped her before she could stop it. A gaping hole with mangled flesh hanging around it, punctured her side. Tiny other indentations had been made along the way, but not as bad as that. She gathered her skirts up and held them to herself, not wanting to look at the damage. For once, she'd agreed to a skirt over her trousers, just to appease her mother. And now, they could be used to stem the flow of the blood.
She looked around her and saw a stream. But she was exhausted and couldn't find the strength to move towards it to clean herself. Instead, she laid herself down and listened to the soft trickling.
She waited. She knew someone would come, eventually.
She just hoped her mother wouldn't be angry with her for being late.
That was her last thought before the blackness came across her vision and she fell asleep.
"And the next thing I remember, I woke up in my nice, warm bed. A week had passed and I was SO stiff and my entire head was covered in bandages and I smelled of so much ointment," Druili' face creased in recollection of the foul medicine she had been forced to take to help the healing process, "Mother was there of course, dashing back and forth to make sure I ate, drank and was clean. I just remember sleeping a lot for another week or two before I was allowed to walk around again."
Bilbo gazed at the girl sadly. He didn't pity her at all, but he remembered a similar story to one of the younger Hobbit girls' that was back in the shire. She'd received a nasty scar from an accident when she was younger and whilst she said it didn't bother her, he remembered her sweet, shy nature. Seemingly, he thought Druili was the complete opposite, but now, as she spoke, he saw something in her face that made him think of the other girl.
"Where Fili and Kili there to help?" Bilbo noticed the two in front of him glance back, having been listening to the story.
"Oh yes," She grinned at their backs, "Worse nursemaids on Middle Earth these two. Couldn't do my bandages up, spilled my tea and were more noisy than good. Still...they didn't know that I knew."
Fili turned around, confusion evident in his features.
"I may have been a little delirious from the medicine and fever, but I remember those days and nights you thought I was out of it," she gave her brother a tender smile, "I remember all those times you held my hand and cleaned my forehead when the medicine made me hotter. I was very grateful to you both for that."
Kili and Fili shared a look.
"...What?" Druili didn't like that one bit.
"That wasn't us. You had another permanent visitor."
Druili scoffed at them.
"Shut up, the only ones that I remember being there were you two, mam, Thorin and the doctor bloke," She turned to Bilbo as if he would show her support, "and I didn't see him holding my hand as he was a grumpy bugger."
She turned back to her brothers, who had both stopped and just looked at her.
"It's true." Fili' eyes were as earnest as his tone.
"When we were told to let you rest and mother needed a help preparing your food...Thorin was the one who was with you."
Druili stopped so suddenly, she felt Bifur walk into her back. She quickly gathered herself back up and walked again, forcing Fili and Kili to walk too, but closer.
"What?" She demanded from that, genuinely interested in a part of the story she herself did not know.
"Should we tell her?" Fili looked at Kili with an incline of his head towards Thorin. Kili looked over to where his uncle was still leading at the front, deep in conversation with Gandalf.
"I think it's time."
“Have you found her yet?” Dis' wrung her hands in front of her, as if trying to keep them warm. Dwalin looked back at her and shook his head before walking back off down the path, turning in a direction he had not been yet.
Fili and Kili were standing behind their mother, trying to control their emotions. Fili had spoken in a while and his entire body was stiff and rigid as he lost himself to his thoughts. Kili meanwhile, had lost control of his tears, not caring who saw him.
"Boys," Dis turned to them but didn't bother to look at them as she walked by, "it will be all right. She'll be fine, it's just...you know it's not your fault."
"We should be out there looking for her with the others!" Fili barked out, not realizing the tone he had take with her and Dis couldn't find it in her heart to tell him off.
"It IS our fault, mum," Kili' lips quivered and he sniffed back more tears, "we thought...we thought it'd be funny and now, she's out there. Alone. With that THING on the loose."
"Just...Don't think about it," Dis shut her eyes tight and bowed her head low, "It'll be fine."
Dis had given up on attempting to clean to pass the time and occupy herself. Instead, she just paced back and forth and continuously probed Kili and Fili about the smallest details.
"And you're SURE she was east, by the river?" She stopped in front of Fili, who sighed and turned his head away, ashamed.
"Yes," He gulped recalling how he'd told her to go and find the treasure they'd buried, "we wanted her to get covered in mud so when she came home, you'd...you'd tell her off and she'd have to go to bed without her dessert. We wanted it for ourselves."
Kili suddenly slammed both his hands against the table and shook his head.
"It was so stupid! She'd be here if only-"Kili was cut off as they heard a shout from outside.
All three ran to the door, that was still wide open. Thorin marched up the path, his expression grave and his arms full with a small figure, covered in his coat.
"You found her!" Dis made to run out but stopped, noticing just how still her daughter was and how worried Thorin looked.
"Move aside, she needs the bedroom!" Thorin didn't need to yell, his commanding tone being enough. They all moved aside, but not away as Thorin marched straight by and into her bedroom. He carefully placed the figure down on the bed and turned to the boys.
"Fili, go get the healer, he should be home."
Fili didn't want to budge at first, but Dis carefully pushed him towards the door. His eyes glued to his sister' figure.
"Go, she's home." Dis whispered into his ear as he found himself walking out the door, before he broke into a run down the path.
"Kili, go fill a bowl with clean, hot water and grab a towel," Thorin turned to Dis and signaled her forward, "she's been asking for you."
Dis crouched down by the bed and began to removed the coat that covered the child.
Kili had never moved so fast in his life. He filled the bowl up from the stove in the kitchen, ready for that night's now forgotten dinner and he filled it enough that some of it splashed outside on the table when he moved hastily. He threw a clean cloth over his shoulder and walked quickly back to the room, glancing down at the bowl and back towards his sister' room, trying not to spill anymore. He made his way to the small bedside table, not paying attention at all to the figure's there, until Dis spoke.
"Oh, my poor baby." Dis sob broke through his concentration and as he set the bowl down on the table, he finally looked at his sister.
The coat had been pulled back and Kili felt sick just looking at the damage on her. Her entire torso was plastered with blood and her face and chest were covered in wounds. Any skin that wasn't dyed a deep red had turned a sickly white and for all Kili knew, he was looking at his first corpse.
"Dru," He sobbed anew as he stared down at his sister, "she's dead. It's all my fault."
Thorin reached around for the cloth on the boys shoulder and quickly dunked it into the water.
"No, she's not Kili," He said sternly, but his voice sounded different, "she's alive and she's home now."
Kili watched as Thorin hurriedly pressed the towel against the girl's face and sure enough, as the blood came away, Druili' undamaged eye flickered briefly open, before shutting again.
The quiet whine was almost inaudible, but Dis immediately began to stroke down Druili' hair.
"I'm here, my darling," She spoke through sobs, "I'm right here and I won't leave you."
"Dru...I'm sorry," Kili choked out as her wounds were cleaned and fresh blood seeped through, "I'm sorry."
"Dis, take over." Thorin pressed the damp towel into his sister's hand and stood up. He grabbed Kili firmly by the shoulder's and walk him backwards out of the room.
"Come away, lad," Thorin' grip wasn't rough, but he wouldn't relinquish his grip until they were standing outside the doorway, "Come away, you ca see her later."
Their attention was drawn back to Fili barreling in through the front door, followed by a gentleman following at a more sedate pace.
"I got him, I told him to come quickly, but I didn't know what was wrong, so I just said she was hurt and-" Fili came to stand before them in the doorway, but a cry emitted from the room.
They all turned to where Dis was holding onto her daughter's shoulders as Druili cried out again. She'd pulled aside the fabric of her dress the best she could, but in peeling away the layers, exposed the raw and open wound to the air. Druili cried out.
"Mam, it hurts!" Her eyes were shut but her mouth hung wide as she screamed.
Fili looked into the room, gasping at the sight of his sister. He stumbled back, but Thorin caught him and moved him aside as the healer walked straight by and into the room.
They watched wordlessly, as he walked over to the bed, deposited his pouch on a vacant chair and tapped Dis on the shoulder. They didn't hear what he said, but the next thing they knew, he walked over to the door and grabbed the handle.
"Stay close, you may be needed." He addressed Thorin before shutting the door, not really waiting for a response.
Whilst they were now shut off to the scene within the room, they could still hear the sound of Druili' gut wrenching sobs. Kili hadn't stopped sobbing, but Fili finally let his tears run down his face.
"She...she was only meant to get dirty," He gazed downwards as the tears poured down his face and into his beard, "I didn't want for this to happen."
"You couldn't know." Thorin gave his shoulder a tentative squeeze.
"She's going to die. She's going to die," Kili turned to Thorin and looked at him, "I won't be able to tell her I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything, I'm sorry for tricking her. I'm sorry for all the horrible tricks. I'm sorry-"
"You must NOT blame yourselves."
Thorin grasped both boys by one shoulder each, pulling them closer and forcing them to look at him, his gaze penetrating them.
"This is NO one's fault. She'll be all right."
Thorin' voice was husky, as if he was trying to restrain his own emotions.
"Fili...go fill up some more water from the well," He released his elder nephews shoulder, "Kili, go find Dwalin and any of the other's still searching and let them know she's been find. But don't wander off the path and come back soon." He released Kili also and gently pushed them in opposing directions.
As Kili fled out through the front of the house, Fili silently obeyed, grabbing a clean bucket from the floor. On any other day, he'd have hesitated and fought about getting water from the well, the walk tricky up and down the back path, but he did it without one word of complaint. He hurriedly dried his tears on his own sleeve and walked back, preparing for whatever was to happen.
They'd sat in their joined room, awaiting word for what felt like hours. They'd been relieved of their duties and Druili' frantic cries and screams had died down and everything in the house was hushed. The sun had set, Thorin had made the boys eat some bread and fruit and they didn't complain. They weren't even that hungry.
They heard the floorboards creak outside their room and a gentle tapping at the slightly open door. They both sat up as their mother appeared.
"Is she-" Kili got up, but stopped when he saw Dis' exhausted face.
"It's all right," she gave a weak smile, "she's sleeping. The doctor has gone home, but he's left us with medicine and instructions."
She wandered in, her small Chamberstick holding up a long candle as she approached her boy. Fili now stood with his brother and and looked at her.
"Can we see her?"
Dis looked set to say no, but she glanced between the two and realized, if she said no now, they wouldn't sleep at all tonight.
"Quickly, but you have to be quiet and not wake her," she turned to the two of them, her expression hardening, "the next few days are going to hard on all of us, so we're going to take it in turns to look after her. She'll need help eating, drinking, getting changed, taking her medicine and having her bandages changed. If it gets too hard...If it's too much for either of you, you have to tell me. Don't try to a stubborn male, you hear me?"
Both of them nodded and she smiled sadly at them.
"I heard you boys earlier, and you need not blame yourselves. You did everything you could to find her and you came to find me as soon as you couldn't."
Kili and Fili, still feeling the raw edges of guilt, merely nodded automatically.
"Very well...come on, let's go see her."
They made their way through the darkened house, Fili and Kili grabbing hold of one another's hands like they were still children themselves.
As they came to the door, Dis stepped to the side and signaled them in.
"Go. Quietly now."
As Fili and then Kili entered, she gave them each a tender gesture; a small pat on their head and a reassuring rub on their shoulder.
The room was lit only by the candle that now sat next to the bowl of water. The contents were no longer blood red, but green, dyed with the leaves that lay in the bottom.
Fili and Kili first cast a glance at their Uncle, who had pulled up a chair close to the bed, dabbing away at the girl's exposed forehead, before they approached the figure.
Neither said anything, but took in the sight of her.
Clean, white bed sheets and a fresh night shirt had replaced the blood soaked items from earlier, which now lay discarded at the bottom of the bed on the floor. Her arms were out of the sheets and surprisingly, unscathed and clean.
Druili' hair had been pulled back over the pillow, so as not to obstruct the passage of the bandages wrapped around half of her head. The eye closest to them was bandaged, so even if she had woken, she wouldn't of seen them straight away. The scar across her lips however, was on display and whilst it was small, it was deep enough for them to know that she'd have it forever.
For the second time in her life, she'd had to have her beard shaved down, so only some measly sideburns remained, as the bandages closed over one side of her face.
They couldn't see the rest of her dressing, the sheet covers pulled up to her collarbone, but they knew she'd be bandaged around her chest also.
Kili had run out of tears and shut his eyes tight as they burned with the want to cry more. Fili could only stare as her good eye, wanting her to open it and look at him, reassuring him she was in fact alive.
"Time for bed, boys." Thorin didn't turn around to address them, merely squeezed out the old water from the cloth into the bucket at his feet.
Kili turned around and looked at his mother, the soft glow of the candle beckoning to him to join her, out of this sad room.
On second thought, Kili quietly walked to the end of the bed and picked up the discarded and bloodied sheets and clothes at the bottom of the bed.
"I'll wash these tonight." He said quietly.
"Nay, son," Dis called softly to him, "tomorrow. They can wait until tomorrow just...put them in the basket in the kitchen. Come on."
He walked out towards his mother's outstretched hand and paused to turn back and look at Fili, who was still standing there, his back and shoulder's taught.
"Uncle...if we go to sleep, who will stay with her? What if she wakes in the night and needs something?" His voice whispered, more from fear that if he spoke louder, he would break into a sob again.
Thorin' hand came up and Fili watched as he placed his large hand over that of Druili', not being able to see his Uncle's face in the darkened room.
Druili didn't know that she'd stopped again until she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Dru," Bilbo gently shook her out of her day dream, "Dru, we're nearly there."
She turned to Bilbo and then back to her brother's, who had maintained walking whilst telling the story.
"And he did," Fili fiddled his his long hair with his back still turned to her, "He was still there next morning when mother set him off to his own house to sleep."
"Came back later, after his sleep to take over again," Kili kept turning back to her, walking backwards along the path, "that's how he spent the next week and a half, just...watching you, making sure you were ok and giving mother a break."
Druili's mouth hung open like a codfish.
"And we had to do all your chores for you." Fili scoffed at her, mock upset.
"I know. And yet, when we both got the flu, mother made us do all the laundry still."
"You mean, she made YOU do it," Fili quickly smirked at his little brother, "I had my head in a bucket most of the time."
"Boys!" Druili snapped at them, shaking her head in disbelief, "and you say I go off on a tangent when distracted!"
They both cast her looks before Kili smiled, almost sweetly at her.
"AND, I bet you didn't know, HE was the one who led the search party to find you."
"You're both having me on." She scowled, now feeling like they were taking the piss out of her.
"Oh, no lass," Balin turned round in front of Fili and Kili, addressing her directly, "What they say is true. Your Uncle borrowed a horse and searched within three miles, back and forth of the lake. Luckily, he was still fond of hunting so it was easier to find you...after he found the Warg."
"He found the Warg?!" Druili gasped in astonishment, having never given a second thought to the beast that nearly took her life.
"Oh yes. You did a grand job there lass," Balin chuckled heartily, "he found it dying in a field from it's wound. Had to put the thing out of it's misery the state you left it in."
"...that was...my first kill?" Druili had remembered going hunting with her brother's later and killing other Warg' and beasts alike, but never knew she'd killed that particular Warg with nothing more than a stick, "and I didn't get a chance to cook it?!"
Fili and Kili burst into laughter and both faced Balin, who merely smiled and shook his head as they continued walking.
"She ALWAYS makes it come back to food somehow, doesn't she?" Fili patted his brother' shoulder, eliciting a chuckle from the younger dwarf.
"I mean, you've SEEN the way she eats, right? She gives Bombur a run for his money." Kili laughed much more loudly than he should have at that joke.
But Druili wasn't really listening to their ribbing. Bilbo observed as she worried her bottom lip between her teeth and spoke again, mostly to herself.
"He...held my hand?"
She looked up towards the front of the group, but Thorin could not hear them. In all the years since the attack, he'd never uttered a word to her about it, nor did he allow her to know that he'd had a fundamental part in finding her.
It seems, Thorin could be full of surprises.
When they finally arrived in Rivendell, they were still feeling very hostile towards this group of Elves, whom they'd never met before. They were greeted with open arms, promises of food and no ill will was felt at all.
Except, maybe for Thorin.
Druili just knew she was starving, tired and really wanted to sit down. She felt that, if the Elves wanted to use her to clean the toilets, she would be happy to oblige, as long as she got food beforehand.
But before the meal could start, everyone was whisked off to separate rooms.
Druili was walking with her brother', when a tall, slender female stepped out in front of her.
"Your room, my lady." She smiled sweetly and waved to an open door by her side.
Druili didn't even argue, merely looked towards her brother' who stood there and waited for the okay. She grunted and nodded at them, before turning and walking straight into the room, which had a very inviting smell about it.
She didn't really take in much. It was white, clean and bare except for a bed.
But her eyes were drawn to the opening at a side, which led onto a small garden.
"Your bath is ready for you, should you wish to use it."
She turned to the elf maiden, who nodded her head and slowly exited the room.
"Urm...thanks." Druili knew, if her mother was here, she'd have swatted at her about 'manners', but then, with all the stories that Thorin had told about the elves over the years, she still wasn't One hundred per cent certain about where they were.
When the door clicked shut, Druili turned back towards the garden and sure enough, built into the ground was a deep, large bath, the size of her bedroom floor. It was filled with soapy, hot water, steam rising steadily from the top.
Her eyes widened as she sniffed through her nose and a wave of peppermint hit her senses.
Her favorite smell.
"Maybe this place isn't so bad." She said to the room and immediately and messily threw her stuff into a pile on the bed. She Practically fought her way out of her boots, only undoing half the laces as she eagerly crept towards the bath.
Tying her hair back, she made a vow to take her time in washing it much later, when she'd have all the time in the world to soak it, brush it and allow the natural curls to dry in the warm air of the night.
Standing right by the edge, she dipped her toe in and gasped at how GOOD it felt. She didn't waste anymore time. Slipping into the water slowly, she found her feet only just touched the bottom whilst the water came up to her chin.
"Bliss." She hissed out the last bit as she swam around, allowing the calming waters to wash over her. Her relaxation was interrupted when her doors opened again, slowly.
"My lady." The Elf maid appeared again, stepping inside and shutting the door behind her, so no prying eyes could peek in.
"Oh...hello," Druili was wondering what she was supposed to do in this situation, "Urm...the bath is lovely. Great."
Eilonwy politely nodded her head, as if satisfied by this news, before moving over to the items on the bed. Druili noticed a long garment draped over her arm. She began to pick things up and move weapons and Armour to the side.
"What are doing? I can clean it up if you need me to?"
Eilonwy shook her head and carried on.
"My lady mustn't trouble herself," She unfolded the garment in her arm and let it fall down, "I will take these items for cleaning and you may have this one to wear this evening."
Druili's eyes widened in horror as she gazed at the silky, white creation. It was long, flowing and perhaps one of the most beautiful dresses she had even seen. But she couldn't wear it. She never wore dresses when she was little because she didn't like them, but the Leather holster had made it almost impossible for her now. Some days, she longed for a certain dress, knowing full well she'd never be able to wear it without her Holster out and on show for everyone to see.
She shook her head clear and gulped down the growing panic.
"No, no," Druili came over to the side and felt around under the water for signs of steps or a ladder, "it's fine, really, I don't need new clothes."
"I'm afraid you do, my lady," Eilonwy gave her another polite bow, still picking up the items of clothing and trying to figure out what was clothes and what was...tatters, "your clothes are in desperate need of mending and washing."
Eilonwy carefully placed trousers, coat, tunic and leather pouch on her arm.
The last bit of Druili' dignity fled.
She quickly found the steps leading out of the tub and scrambled desperately up and out, not giving Eilonwy a chance to turn away or leave.
Druili was well aware she was naked, standing up in front of a stranger. A perfectly, beautiful stranger, who could most likely see her large scars. But she had to put her foot down.
"Please, what's your name?"
Eilonwy maintained eye contact and Druili could feel her own body turn bright red and the hot water had nothing to do with it.
"Eilonwy, my lady."
"Well...Eilonwy," Druili looked at her, aware her tone was borderline pleading, "please...don't take my clothes. If you must, take my Armour and clean it, by all means, but...not those. I can't wear a dress. I'm not even sure it'd fit me what with..differences and all." She waved her hand vaguely in the air and hoped that the elf would get the message.
Eilonwy' gaze fell slightly and quickly, but she maintained her sedate smile at Druili.
"I understand. I will clean your clothes and come back with them as soon as they are clean and then, you may join for the meal. Unless, you would like me to procure you a different dress for this evening?"
Druili smiled back and slowly lowered herself back into the tub.
"No, please, just my clothes. I don't...I don't DO dresses, really. I can't move around in them that well. Clumsy feet that trip over themselves. Arms with a tendency to dip into soups. And...thighs that need to be separated by at least one layer of fabric."
She chuckled slightly and whilst that last one was embarrassing to admit, her heart gave a little leap when Eilonwy actually cracked a real smile at her.
"Very well, my lady. No dresses. I promise."
"Thank you." She meant her thanks this time.
When Eilonwy left with the bundle still clutched in her arms, Dru sighed softly as she leaned her head against the back of the bath, her legs coming out in front of her as she floated up to the surface.
"DEFINITELY, not a bad place at all."
Eilonwy had kept her promise, returning not only with her original clothes clean and mended, her leather chest holster even buffed, but with an additional clean tunic and riding trousers, that she wondered how they had come by. They seemed an almost perfect fit for her.
"Mustn't offend our hosts." She pulled on the clothes and admired their softness and stitch work. She'd never been patient enough to sew together whole garments, only being able to mend coats and sew on buttons where they needed to go. She then carefully put her boots back on, reminding herself that all the hassle she was going through now with the laces, was her own fault, but that didn't seem to sour her mood at all.
Practically skipping out the room, she felt as if she'd washed at least a year's worth of dirt and grime.
"My lady." Eilonwy approached her and nodded her head in a low bow.
"Hello...and thank you," Druili held her arms out quickly, showing off the clothes, "truly...You didn't have to, but...the clean clothes are definitely a good change. So...thank you."
Eilonwy' eyes twinkled with amusement and she turned away, walking slowly down the hall.
"Your friends await, my lady."
Druili actually had to jog a little to keep up, because whilst Eilonwy was slow and graceful, she still had longer legs than her.
"You don't have to call me that, by the way," Druili tried to peek up at the face, but found she also had to look in front of her to stop herself from tripping, "You can just call me Druili. Or, Dru."
"Very well, my Lady Druili." Eilonwy cast a brief, sideways glance at the shorter women as they rounded the corner.
Druili just rolled her eyes.
"Sure, or that."
As they came into view, she spotted the other's gathered round in the open courtyard, the majority in freshly cleaned clothes also.
They turned to look at her and greeted her with cheers as if they had been waiting for her specific arrival.
"Dru...you're so clean." Kili clutched his chest, pretending to look shocked, but Druili merely threw him a sweet smile as she joined his side.
"I know, can you believe THIS is what it looks like, brother?" She reached over and grabbed hold of his cheeks in both hands.
"Ow, get off!" He slapped her hands away, but laughed with her and pulled her into a headlock as they walked with the rest of the group to the table that had been prepared for them.
"You took ages," Fili arched his brow at her as he took his seat, "couldn't find the right dress?"
"I will NOT wear a dress. Let alone one designed for...elves." She whispered the last word, not wanting to cause real offence when she had not had anything bad happen to her...yet.
"Oh, remember the time Uncle Thorin wanted you to help mother out and ordered you inside in the dress?"
Kili laughed at his brother' reminder.
"You threw a fit and ran straight into a mud puddle. The state of you."
Druili threw her brother a scowl, before smiling with malice at him.
"Yes, and I remember...wiping your smile off of your face when I brought you down with me."
Kili abruptly stopped laughing.
"That wasn't funny."
Fili meanwhile was laughing harder as the rest of the group joined in, listening to the story.
"It was! When she grabbed your hair and you cried for mother! I couldn't even help you I was laughing so hard."
Kili retaliated by giving his brother a sharp jab in the leg, but Fili managed to get him smiling.
Dwalin observed how Thorin seemed to be pointedly ignoring this group conversation, feigning great interest in what Gandalf was saying.
As the laughter died out and musicians began to play, a discontentment fell among the group. The music was not to their taste and neither was the food. Ori complained about the lack of chips and Dwalin the lack of meat. But it seemed, not everyone was complaining. Bombur and Druili picked at the food happily, but when she turned to Kili, she spotted him smiling and giving a playful wink to someone. Turning, she saw her maid, Eilonwy, slowly playing a harp and gazing at him with interest.
Turning back with disbelief evident on her features, she also caught Dwalin' scowl at his behavior, as had Kili.
"Really? Can't you ever leave a maiden alone in at least one place you visit?" She questioned her brother, knowing full well how he liked to flaunt his charms. Whilst the other dwarf women in his village had giggled at his lack of beard, there were some young human maidens that somehow found him irresistible.
Kili almost looked guilty as he addressed both her and Dwalin.
"I can't say I fancy Elves myself, too thin. They're all high cheekbones and creamy skin. Not enough facial hair for me." He tried to backtrack, but Druili wasn't having any of it. She turned to Fili and made a gagging motion before turning back to Kili, her hand absently reaching for a piece of vegetable that she popped into her mouth.
An elegant figure moved behind them and Kili lent to whisper conspiratorially with Bofur.
"Although," he gave a sort of wink as he tried to draw the others in to his 'beauty' spotting, "that one there's not bad." Kili turned to look at the figure along with the others. Druili was the first to notice. She turned around, slammed her head on the table and began to snort and shake.
"Is she having a fit?" Kili looked confused at the top of Druili's head.
Dwalin was the one to break the news to him.
"That's not an elf maid."
The figure turned around, revealing a male elf, playing the harp slowly, with a blank expression on his face. He was too close NOT to have heard the compliment directed at him.
Druili suddenly shot back up and began to snort louder, trying desperately to control her laughter as she chewed on her food. Her arms wrapped around her stomach and she seemed to be shaking so hard, she jostled Fili next to her. Dwalin didn't help the situation by winking at Kili, who in turn could only look embarrassed and slowly turn a lovely shade of red. The other members of the company began to laugh also and she finally let out a cackle, only to draw her breath in and forget she still had food in her mouth.
"That's funny." Kili looked shamefaced and she inhaled sharply as she tried to get air into her lungs.
She gasped as the item fell against her throat and began to pat herself on the chest, trying to dislodge it.
Fili had luckily seen this coming and with one almighty THWACK, directly between her shoulder blades, the food shot out with such force, it flew out of her mouth and hit Dwalin, directly on his arm.
A few deep, shuddering breaths later, Druili focused. Everyone was still laughing. She turned to Fili, giving him a small nod and looked around. Dwalin merely flicked the food off of his bicep, Kili was still looking at his plate and waiting for the ground to swallow him up, Bofur kept winking at him and Thorin...Thorin was laughing straight at Druili.
Druili beamed at him and began to laugh again and he didn't falter. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself and whilst she wasn't in anymore pain, she could feel something closing around her heart, squeezing, threatening to turn her laughter into happy tears.