Last Update: May, 2021
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Heart of Gold 10The stack of books wobbled precariously in my arms, threatening to spill on the floor. I might have gone a bit overboard.The elven librarian steadied the pile to keep the precious books from getting damaged. “Do you require some assistance carrying these?”“No, now that I’m off bed rest I plan to tackle the heavy research I’ve been forced to put off.” I told him.I intended to savor every moment of my freedom and find myself a way off Middle Earth. After the argument with Thorin I had a lot of time to think about my situation and what would be best for me.For the time being, I had no plans to abandon the company but if I found a way home before we reached Erebor I had to take it. I felt a pang in my chest at the idea of leaving Bilbo.Bilbo always found a way to make me smile and I loved him for it. In a million years I never could have dreamed of this opportunity. To spend time with characters from one of my favorite book series and to actually befriend some of them, it was a dream come true for any booklover.Oblivious to my inner turmoil, the elf studied the scrap of paper I’d given him. “Travel between worlds is an unusual subject. I must warn you, that humans rarely travel to Valinor in anything but spirit.”“I’m not trying to get to Valinor.” I said impatient to get to work.What good would that do me? It’s not like Valinor is my home.“I fear the books I have given you are all the library has on world travel such as you speak of.” The librarian pursed his lips in thought. “You might consider visiting Lord Saruman. Wizards have more knowledge of certain spells.”Visit Saruman? Hell no! I thanked the librarian and moved over to the table I’d chosen, placing my books alongside a thick stack of parchment.The first book I selected had a red dyed leather cover, the gilt lettering cracked with age and barely visible.A cloud of dust erupted from the tome I opened causing me to sneeze. Scrubbing my fingers on my skirt I carefully placed my hands on the edge of the brittle page. My inner historian screamed at me about the oil on my hands damaging the pages. I wished I had cotton gloves to handle this antique properly.Smiling to myself, I closed my eyes and inhaled the familiar, comforting scent of old parchment and ink. It felt good to be doing something normal for once. How often had I haunted the college library at odd hours working on my dissertation? Or preparing lectures for my classes? The library was my haven, my hallowed hall of peace and tranquility.I spent the next several hours combing the pages carefully for any crumb of information that might relate to my problem. The librarian drifted around the main floor, shelving books, or dusting them.Elves drifted in and out all day, grabbing this book or that book. No one bothered me while I worked.By the time the sun set, my fingers were cramped from hours of writing. I had fifteen pages of notes front and back and no concrete answers. Most of the information seemed to detail accounts of elves who had vanished for a period of time before returning with tales of strange worlds.None of the worlds mentioned resembled Earth at any period in its vast history. You would think at least one of the travelers would have fallen into my world. I tapped my pen against the table and sighed. The structure of each account was written in an almost poetic form, making me dubious about the authenticity of the stories. They might just be myths or tales written for entertainment. Yet I hesitated to discount them completely when a grain of truth could be embedded in their words.Unfortunately, I was only a quarter of the way through the first book. I could not take shortcuts in my note taking without risking loss of crucial information.I made a notation on a fresh sheet of parchment of where I left off and gathered up my writing things before stopping at the librarian’s desk. “Is it alright if I leave the books on the table? I’ll be back in the morning.”The elf nodded with a curt smile. “No one will disturb your work.”A loud growl interrupted us. Blushing, I pressed a hand against my stomach. “I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. Can you direct me to the kitchen?”Following the librarian’s directions, I only got turned around once and quickly back tracked and found the right hallway. Through the closed door I heard the rattle of dishes and banging of pots and pans and shouting. Elves never shouted. I hugged my notes to my chest wary of taking another step toward the kitchen.Then a large hand emerged from a crack in the door and tossed something out.When a potato narrowly missed my nose and smacked into the wall I blinked rapidly.What the hell?“Oh, there you go wasting a perfectly good potato, Nori.” Bofur stuck his head out into the hall and noticed me. “Why, tis good to see you up and about Miss Adelaide.”“Uh, hello.”Just what were these clowns doing here? Weren’t they supposed to be dining with the elven court?Something heavy crashed in the kitchen and a line of stressed-looking elves streamed from the kitchen. Terrific. I turned to watch them scurry around the corner, no doubt to alert Lord Elrond to the problem.Bofur took me by the elbow. “Come join us.”“Actually, I just wanted to get a plate and go back to my room.” I protested.“Nonsense. You’re part of the company.” Bofur beamed and drew me into the chaos unfolding in the kitchen. “Look who I found skulking around in the corridor.”Kili dragged me over to an empty stool sandwiched between him and his brother. “Bout time you emerged.”“You could have visited me.” I pointed out, a little miffed that he never made the effort to see me when I was confined to my room.Fili reached around me and smacked his brother on the head. “This dolt was too busy chasing after elf maids to spend time with his friends.”Kili grinned back, unrepentant.The elven cooks who hadn’t fled watched helplessly as the dwarves rampaged through their well-ordered kitchen.The sacking of Rome 3.0. I mused; grateful I was not responsible for cleaning up this kitchen at least.Bombur waddled out of the pantry a stack of giant cheese wheels six deep, a bottle of wine tucked into the waistband of his snug pants. A line of dwarves followed, including Dwalin and Balin who rolled out a keg of ale.Kili sloppily dumped a bottle of wine into an empty glass and pushed it over to me. “Here you are, Adelaide.” He leaned in close, dropping his voice to a whisper. “I must say, you look quite fetching in that dress. Green becomes you.”Aeriel only brought me dresses to wear so its not like I had a choice. Besides, it would be rude to complain and offend the sweet she elf who had looked after me while I was healing.I rolled my eyes. “Save it. We both know you aren’t attracted to me.”Kili clutched his chest in mock offense. “Please, I adore all beautiful women, yourself included.”“Stop flirting you idiot.” Fili dropped a basket of rolls onto my plate along with half a wheel of cheese, and a gallon of mashed potatoes.I’m surprised the delicate porcelain didn’t crack under the weight of the food. The dwarves often forgot I didn’t have the same appetite as they did.“What did you do that for, Fili? She’ll just waste all that perfectly good food.” Bombur complained.I reached for a clean knife and sliced a reasonable portion of cheese and grabbed two of the rolls, passing the rest on to the chubby dwarf. “Can someone pass me the salad?”Bofur made a disgusted face but complied with my request.“You can’t live on carbs, cheese, and meat.” I said as I scooped the salad onto a small plate and topped it with fresh strawberries. “Greens are good for your body.”“Give me a good plate of sausage and eggs any day.” Kili declared chomping down on the end of said purloined sausage, his eyes flickering over an elf maid entering the kitchen to collect a bottle of wine.He winked and the elf maid scurried away.Fili laughed. “You are out of luck, brother. These elf maids are not interested in dwarves.”Kili downed his ale and belched. “I am rather charming so tis their loss.”Setting my fork on my plate, I turned to face him. “No woman finds a lack of table manners charming. If you’re going to belch the night away at least have the decency to say, ‘excuse me’.”An uncomfortable since fell over the table after my outburst. Then Kili burst out laughing. “Tis not like we’re belching arias. You say it so bluntly with a straight face.” Still chuckling, he slapped me on the back. “You get me every time.”“I live to be the company’s jester.” I returned drily.“The only one you live to serve is yourself, lass.” Dwalin grumped.I cast a cold glare in the dwarf’s direction. “Shut up. I’ve had it up to here with your snide comments. If you can’t be civil, keep that hole in your head zipped shut.”“She’s right, Dwalin.” Thorin said entering the kitchen from the back door. “This has gone on long enough.”My jaw nearly dropped clean to the floor. Thorin was defending me? I must be dreaming. It’s the only explanation for this bizarre turn of events.“But Thorin, you know she is only getting in the way. One of us is going to be killed because of her incompetence.” Dwalin argued.“Miss Adelaide is a member of the company.” He rested his hands on the back of an empty chair. “We all have our parts to play and we should not respect hers any less.”Under his king’s piercing glare, Dwalin subsided. The dwarf attacked his meal with a sudden ferocious vigor, ripping the head off a poor fish with his teeth.Thorin inclined his head regally in my direction and I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t flutter a little. I pointed to an empty plate. “Join us. There’s plenty.”“In a moment. First, I would like a word with you.” He beckoned for me to follow him into the pantry.I gazed around. One row of shelves was empty. The dwarves had made a substantial dent in Rivendell’s stores.For better privacy we went to the back of the pantry. I perched on a barrel that stunk strongly of vinegar, mind churning. “So, what do you want to talk about?”This time I avoided having expectations. Discussions between the two of us were as volatile as gasoline and a match. All it takes is one spark to set one of us off.“When I said its enough, I did not only refer to Dwalin and yourself.” Thorin seated himself on a wine barrel. “The two of us need to make peace. I would be remiss as a leader if I did not show respect to all of my company.”I scrutinized his words for any trick, finding none. “Why the change of heart? Why wave the white flag now?”Rubbing a hand over his beard, Thorin smiled faintly. “Balin. He pointed out something I had forgotten.”The dwarf king did not elaborate. I chose not to push the matter and decided to keep an open mind. “Dwalin is not… entirely wrong. I can be selfish and unreasonable sometimes. I say the first thing that comes to mind when I really should keep my mouth shut. I’m an adult. I know how to behave better than this. My grandmother would whip my behind for some of the things I’ve said.”Thorin appeared interested. “You have never mentioned your grandmother before.”I dropped my gaze and drew up my legs, wrapping my arms around my knees. “Talking about Grandma Rose is painful. She passed away ten years ago, from an illness.”I did not think Thorin would understand what pneumonia was. The moment I lost my grandmother is etched in my brain. Weeks in the hospital, watching her struggle to breath. The weak rattling cough that would jolt me out of the chair beside her bed in the middle of the night.Doctors and nurses going in and out of her room all the time. Watching helplessly, knowing there was nothing I could do. There’s nothing worse than watching someone you love die, knowing how useless you are.In her last moments, all I could do is hold her hand and tell her how much I loved her. Then…she was gone. I became an orphan at twenty-two years old.Tears blurred my vision. Ten years and it still felt like it happened yesterday. Grandma Rose used to be the most special person in my life, more mother than grandmother. Sometimes I missed her so much I thought my heart would shatter from the pain.While in this world, I had boxed away most of my memories of home. Forced myself to not dwell on the past, to put one foot in front of the other in order to return home.Swiveling around on the barrel, I put my back to Thorin, a faint trembling running through my body. I rubbed my eyes, willing the tears away but they kept flowing free. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I guess, I just got overwhelmed for a moment.”Thorin broke through my barriers like no one ever has. This is the second time he’s made me think of my grandmother. I always prided myself on how well I kept my personal life secret from others. Part of me was embarrassed for breaking down in front of him. I did not want Thorin to see me as weak.I sniffled into my sleeve, stiffening when a pair of strong arms encircled me from behind in a warm embrace.“I am sorry for your loss. Time does not erase the pain.” Thorin murmured gently, his chest pressed firmly against my back.“Thank you. I am sorry for your losses too. It cannot be easy to see the things you’ve seen.” I gave his hand a quick squeeze of gratitude for caring enough to hug me when I needed it, then drew away, sliding off the barrel.Wiping at my cheeks, I smiled up at him. “Let’s go back to dinner before Bombur eats everything.”Thorin chuckled appreciatively at my joke and I knew things were alright between us for the moment.Fili and Kili were scrambling back into their seats when we emerged from the pantry, so I knew they had been eavesdropping.I frowned at the pair but said nothing. They cared about their uncle and looked up to him. I did not blame them for wanting to check on Thorin. Family came first.In our absence, Bilbo had joined the table, smooshed between Balin and Dori. The hobbit gave me a brief wave before being drawn into conversation by the old dwarf.Looking down to find my plate empty, I sighed in exasperation. They really did eat everything.Kili slid the salad bowl down to me. “There are plenty of greens.”While the company, talked, laughed, and ate more food I reviewed my notes again, jotting down observations in the margins when necessary. Then I noticed something significant regarding the dates of the stories.A slow grin curled my lips. In the dates, a potential pattern had emerged. Things were looking up.
Heart of Gold 9A gentle breeze fluttered the curtains and I looked out the window with a sudden longing. Aelfric had condemned me to a week of bed rest for my foot. Any time I tried to hop out of the room, I was summarily escorted back and given a stern lecture.Since I was a guest, I held my tongue. The elves treated me like a precocious child, ready to make mischief once their backs were turned. I simply wished for a visit to the library to tackle the travel-between-worlds issue. Apparently, I asked for too much.Bilbo visited me each day bursting with stories about the elven city that filled me with envy and a strong case of wanderlust. I pushed into a sitting position and using one of the bedposts for balance stood.“What are you doing?” A familiar deep voice called across the room.Busted.I peered around the bedpost and met Thorin’s sparkling blue gaze. “I just wanted to get some fresh air.”What was he doing here? The company had been in Rivendell for three days now and Thorin never visited me once. Not that I expected it. The fact he was here at all surprised me.In favor of the warmer weather, Thorin had abandoned his surcoat and heavy padded tunic, for a loose blue cotton shirt with a v neck that showed the barest hint of a well-toned chest.“The healer is annoyed with you.” He rumbled coming over to help me. “As amusing as I find it, the elf is correct about one thing.”I arched a brow. “And that is?”His large hands encircled my waist. “You should be resting your leg. Not causing yourself further injury.”I put a hand on his chest to shove him away. “You are not going to manhandle me. I simply wanted to sit out on the balcony which I can accomplish myself.” I stared at my fingers, so pale against his bronze chest and swallowed, suddenly uncomfortable. “Let go of me, please.”Thorin was being considerate again. I didn’t know what to do when he was considerate. He was easier to deal with when he was angry. Then I could be indignant right back. If I snapped at him when he was trying to help me, I’d be the asshole.We stood there gazing at each other uncertainly. Neither of us spoke. Thorin held on to me. I leaned against him when I should pull away, regardless if I jolted my bad ankle.The moment, whatever it was, held me captive, unable to move. I took a shaky breath to steady myself against the surge of unfamiliar emotion. “Why are you here?” I whispered.Thorin readjusted his grip on me, sliding one hand up my back to brace me so I didn’t tip backwards. “I came to see how you fared. In truth, I have a question to ask of you.”Curiosity superseded my annoyance. I tilted my head in the direction of the balcony. “Fine. First, help me outside. We can talk there.”Thorin helped me into a chair before plunking down in the one across from me. My belly squirmed nervously as I wondered what he’d say. If he asked me to leave the company, I don’t know what I would do. Remain in Rivendell? Return to the Shire? Go somewhere else. Gondor, Rohan, the possibilities were numerous but not endless.Twitching my skirts into place, I waited for Thorin to speak. Minas Tirith possessed a large archive. If I found nothing in Rivendell’s library, I might find something there. Or if I was daring enough, go to Lorien and beg Galadriel for help.Face pinched, he stared at my bandaged hand. “When we were on the plain battling the wargs and orcs. Do you remember how your hand became injured?”The bizarre question threw me for a loop. Of all the things to ask me. I did not anticipate him asking after my health!Absentmindedly, I rubbed a thumb lightly over the thick layer of bandages. “I think it was when we were hiding behind that boulder and the scout found us.”“It is as I feared.” Thorin murmured, looking grim. “When I slew the warg you were caught in the backlash.” He reached across the table for my injured hand. “I am sorry. This is my fault. I should have been more careful.”He looked so aggrieved my heart melted. To be so worked up over something not his fault. Perhaps, he did not despise me as much as I originally believed.I summoned up a smile to reassure him. “I appreciate the apology, but it is unnecessary. What happened was an accident. Besides, you got it worse than I did.”Bandages covered the left side of Thorin’s jaw and neck from where the acidic warg blood splashed him.“You are a gracious lady.” A relieved smile briefly caused his lips. “I confess, I have treated you unfairly. Running across the plain injured as you are, is nothing short of astonishing.”Warmth flooded me at his words, and I decided it would be safe to share just a little bit of myself with him. “Once when I was eight years old, my friend Josh dared me to climb a tree. I don’t remember the particulars, but he ended up punched in the face and when I clambered up into the tree, he threw a rock at me and I fell and broke my arm. So, an ankle sprain is really nothing.”“Interesting friendship.” Thorin murmured.“Our friendship didn’t last past the tree incident.” I assured him.My grandmother had been furious. She called the school, verbally lashed Josh’s parents. Sometimes being a girl came in handy because I never was punished for punching him.In the end, Josh left the school and I never saw him again.My grandmother forbade me to climb trees after that. Though I never knew my mother or father she had raised me as her own child and had been fiercely protective and loving. I never lacked for love with her around.Thorin bowed his head in a rare show of gratitude. “Thank you for your kindness in accepting my apology.”Smiling, I eased back in my chair. “Thorin Oakenshield, what has gotten into you? Keep tossing compliments my way and I might combust from the shock.”Alarm flashed across his face and I chuckled. “I’m fine. It’s a figure of speech.”Thorin cleared his throat awkwardly. “I see.” His eyes scanned the balcony area. “Where is Bilbo?”“He said something about visiting the stables. He misses Myrtle.” As I missed Stardust. “Why? Did you need to talk with him?”“Not as such. I merely thought, as your suitor he would be close by.”I burst out laughing. “Bilbo, my boyfriend? Where did you get that ridiculous idea?”It was so absurd, I doubled over howling, tears streaming down my face. My god, Bilbo as my boyfriend? His pedantic nature would drive me insane!Thorin’s eyes flashed dangerously. “I am ridiculous? Mahal woman, you get under my skin!” Surging to his feet, he let out an angry huff. “You are always clinging to him! How else am I to interrupt your relationship?”I giggled, wiping tears from my eyes. “We are friends. That’s all.”“Are you certain the hobbit feels the same?”I stiffened at his words and my head snapped up all trace of humor gone. “I hope you aren’t implying I’m a liar.” I said icily.“No, but perhaps you now understand how misleading you can be.”“Why do you care?” I snapped, frustrated. “My personal life is none of your business, so I’ll thank you to stay out of it.”“Very well.” Thorin returned coldly, drawing his cloak of imperiousness around him. “I will leave you to your rest, Miss Adelaide.” The dwarf king stormed off and soon the bedroom door slammed hard enough to rattle the glass panels in the window.Unbelievable how quickly things fell apart.I dug my fingers into my temples. “Ugh! He drives me crazy!”Finally, we were having a civil conversation then he just had to piss me off! What was the matter with Thorin? It was like a compulsion with him.My blood boiled, his accusations ringing in my ears. Misleading Bilbo! I had done nothing to make the hobbit believe I harbored feelings for him. Bilbo never gave the impression we were anything besides friends.More puzzling, Thorin barely tolerated Bilbo. Why did he suddenly care about the hobbit’s feelings? They never mattered before.I slumped back in my chair. I never mattered before. What the hell is going on with Thorin? Did being around these elves drive him over the edge?Well, whatever his problem was, he better get his crap together before we left Rivendell.*************************************************************************************Thorin blew through the corridors like a thunderstorm. The elves scattered out of his way before he bowled them over. That woman! She was so aggravating and impossible!He stalked into an empty alcove and paced back and forth like a caged beast, combing his fingers roughly through his hair. She dared laugh at him for suggesting a romance existed between her and the hobbit. What other conclusion was he to draw with the way she behaved around him?It took him a good ten minutes for his temper to cool and for him to realize he might have overreacted.Thorin cursed under his breath. Why in Durin’s name did he bring up the hobbit? He visited Adelaide to ascertain the cause behind the burns on her hand, not interrogate her about her romantic entanglements. Though he now had an answer to the question that plagued him ever since the company’s encounter with the trolls.His original intentions were to make peace. Instead, Thorin drove a deeper wedge between them. His hands clenched convulsively. Adelaide drove him to madness! Truly, a more aggravating woman did not exist! Everything he did provoked her and in turn she set him off. A never-ending cycle of bickering.Pulling out his pipe, Thorin packed tobacco into the bowl, and settled down on a cushioned bench to think. Smoking always helped to clear his head and sooth his temper.More frustrating, Thorin had to swallow his pride and find a way to repair the damage. And apologize again!“Here you are, lad.” Balin entered the alcove, long beard trailing into his belt. “Things with our scribe did not go well, it seems.”Thorin cast a cool look at his friend. “I do not recall mentioning the scribe.”“Come now, tis obvious Miss Adelaide has something to do with your current mood.” Balin said.The old dwarf could always read Thorin too well. He exhaled a cloud of smoke. “I believe this time the error is mine.” He confessed.Balin, ever patient, listened while Thorin briefly explained what occurred. A twinkle appeared in his dark eyes. “Can you not see what the problem is?”Thorin gestured at the other dwarf with his pipe impatiently. “Balin, speak plainly.”Giving him a pointed look over his craggy nose, Balin patted him on the shoulder. “You are jealous, laddie.”Thorin balked. “Jealous? I am not jealous over a human female and a hobbit.”Shaking his head, the old dwarf chuckled. “You cannot fool me. I have been around long enough to know the signs. You like her, though you cannot admit the truth.”A complication Thorin did not need.“We dwarves are fierce when we love and do whatever we must to hold onto that love no matter the cost.”“I do not love her.” Of that Thorin was certain.“Perhaps not, but she stirs something in your heart. Otherwise, you would not seek her out and try to win her respect.” Balin said.Thorin softened. He did admire Adelaide’s courage and kindness. Though the company had treated her poorly, she hung on with every shred of will she possessed. He tapped a layer of ash free from his pipe. “It matters not. I will not lose sight of my goal.”“When you have gathered your thoughts, speak with her again. Our journey is dangerous enough without us being at odds with one another.” Balin soon departed, leaving Thorin to brood over his advice.
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