Prologue-Into the Unknown
"15, 16, 17, 18, 19...20! Coming ready or not!"
Anne skipped away from the large tree and set off in search of her friend. She looked around the large park of Puzzlewood. The vast amount of old trees provided excellent hiding places. There were nooks by the roots of the tree, hills to hide behind, not to mention up in the branches of the canopy above. Anne ran down the mud path, not caring that dirt was clogging around the edge of her old, batter, grey converses and on the edges of her jeans. The striped green and yellow jumper, round her waist, bobbed as she ran.
"Anne! Make sure you and Daisy be careful!"
Anne's mum laughed and shook her head as her dark-haired ran out of view. They'd been on holiday in Gloucestershire for a couple of weeks now. Just her, Anne and Anne's friend Daisy. The two 9-year old's absolutely loved the forest next to their holiday cottage. They'd played there everyday since they'd arrived, always coming back with mud in their hair and over their faces, grass stains on their elbows and knees. Daisy had even come back, one morning, with a large bruise on her cheek. When Anne's mum had told Daisy's mum about that, she had not been happy.
"DAISY?! Where are you?"
The young brunette girl looked around. She'd looked in all the normal places, but then it was Daisy and that blonde didn't choose normal places to hide.
Anne trudged around a bit more. A warm breeze floated through between the trees and Anne shivered as it grazed over her arms. A twig snapped behind her and her head whizzed round.
Silence followed until a squirrel scampered past and up a tree, nut in tow. Anne giggled and looked around.
A mop of messy blonde hair, dark jeans and red t-shirt landed on the brunette. Anne squealed as her best friend jumped on her.
"Daisy! Hahahaha no don't stop that tickles!"
Daisy sat on top of her friend and grinned triumphantly.
Her glasses were crooked on her face and she had a large smear of mud on her forehead. Anne laughed and rubbed her face with a grubby hand.
"Gerroff me Daisy!"
She the proceeded to shove her friend off, who then tumbled down the hill giggling. Anne followed her and rolled down the hill, catching Daisy's legs as she stood and causing the blonde to land on top of her back again.
"Hahahaha! That was really fun!"
"Yeah! Haha let's do it again!"
Daisy stood and brushed of her jeans, bending over to tie the laces of her trainers. Anne took this moment to jump on top her back and pushed the younger girl to the floor. Daisy landed on her stomach and the pair started laughing again. This soon started off a wrestling match which seemed to last a long while. Once they calmed down they looked about the trees. The day seemed to have flown by and the afternoon sun glowed orange as it descended westward. Anne sighed and Daisy adjusted her glasses so that they sat straight on her face.
"We'll have to head back now! Mum wanted us back for tea. It's sausages and beans tonight."
"Awww, but this was just getting fun!"
"But beans and sausages!"
Daisy pouted, but then they both heard the loud growl that came from her stomach and then the pair burst out laughing again. It appeared to be getting darker in the woods and they looked about. In the gloom, everything looked the same.
"Which way is it back?"
"Uh...this way...I think."
Nervously they held hands and set off up a hill. Daisy led the way and Anne trailed after her, clutching her friend's arm as if it were her life. They walked for what seem like forever when they eventually reached a clearing. Anne squeezed Daisy's hand.
"Where are we?"
The blonde shrugged. Anne could barely make out her silhouette in the dark. The sun had vanished very quickly, but they both refused to admit to the other about the bubbling fear within them.
"I dunno! It all looks the same!"
"Mum's gonna be mad at us!"
"I know. Anne..."
Daisy looked down at her feet and Anne gave her friend a hug. The faint light of the moon broke through the trees.
"So am I."
They looked about for something familiar.
"Maybe we should go this way..."
Daisy was just about to reply when a branch behind them snapped. The pair screamed and clung onto each other.
"What was that?!"
"A lion? A tiger? A bear?"
"They don't live in woods...I think!"
They scanned their dark surroundings and another branch snapped, some bushes rusted as well and the 9-year old's screamed again. Heavy footsteps trudged towards them and they backed into a tree. Anne hid her face in her friends chest and Daisy clenched her eyes shut, tears rolled down her cheeks. All of a sudden a light filled the clearing and seven bearded men tramped through the bushes. Both opening one eye, the girls squinted at the intruders. They were dressed really funny, wearing large furry coats and had lots of axes and swords. A few held torches and all peered at the girls. One with a large ginger beard marched forward, another with what looked like an axe in his head grunted. The ginger spoke.
"No Bifur! They're not Orcs! Just some girls!"
Murmurs erupted and the ginger barked in an odd language. The men silenced and one man walked forward past the ginger and knelt in front of Daisy and Anne. Anne hid her face in Daisy's t-shirt and Daisy went pale. The man had plaits in his long hair and a dark bushy beard, as well as a hat that made him look like a rabbit. He smiled at the girls.
"Now what are two lassies like you doing oot 'ere then eh?"
Anne tried to hide further and Daisy mumbled.
The man chuckled.
"Ah you poor things. What are yer names?"
Anne shook her head and mumbled.
"Mum says we're not allowed to talk to strangers."
The man raised a hairy eyebrow and chuckled.
"Well I'm Bofur...that's Gloin..."
He pointed at the grumpy red-head.
"Bifur is the one with the axe. That grey haired one is Oin and the others are Holis, Molis and Grolis! See now we ain't strangers..."
Daisy looked at them and Anne turned and stared at Bofur with large eyes.
"You have funny names!"
"Not really...what are you're names?"
"Daisy and Anne? Odd dwarf names...who's yer Amad?"
"What's an Amad?"
The men whispered and Bofur looked at the girls.
"Yer mum? Which dwarf is she?"
Daisy's nose crinkled as she frowned.
"I'm not a dwarf! I'm the tallest in my class!"
"Really now? Does yer mam live here in Ered Luin?"
Anne shook her head and Daisy raised an eyebrow. Bofur sighed and walked over to Gloin. They murmured to each other and Anne started releasing her friend. Bofur walked over and knelt down again. He smiled again at the girls.
"Right you two. Come with me...we'll see if we can find yer mum!"
Offering both his hands the girls took them warily. He gave them a squeeze and chuckled.
"Take them to Thorin Bofur."
"Will do Gloin! See ya later!"
The trio walked away from the men and a silence fell. Bofur looked down at the muddy girls.
"Why do you all have beards?"
He looked to the dark-haired and brown eyed girl. He smiled.
"'cause we're dwarves lass! All dwarves have beards!"
The girls mumbled their 'ohs' and 'ahs' and then begun to question him further. Who was Thorin? Why did he live in such a funny named place? Why was Gloin grumpy? Why was he dressed so funny? To that he chuckled and replied that they were dressed more oddly than he was. They were a curious pair, he gave them that. Soon a light filled the way ahead and they burst out of the forest and onto a path. The girl's' jaws dropped as they looked at the mountains around them and towards the market town ahead. Bofur led them through the bustling crowds.
Lots and lots of people were behind stalls selling jewels, swords, food and all other kinds of stuff. There was people everywhere. Some were giants compared to Bofur and the girls. Some were around the same height. Daisy and Anne were amazed by the dwarf-women that they spotted. They marvelled their beards and asked lots more questions. Soon they reached the foot of a mountain and Daisy craned her neck to look to the top. Bofur chuckled and the large stone doors creaked open.
"Look Daisy MORE ladies with beards!"
Some of the women stopped and cooed at the small girls, who then hid behind Bofur's legs with small blushes on their muddy cheeks. Leading them down hallways, past men in shiny suits (as Daisy called them) and through lots of big doors, they arrived in what Bofur called 'Thorin's Room'. Anne looked up at Bofur who was adjusting his hat.
"If Thorin is a king does he wear a crown?"
"No, he doesn't wear a crown?"
The blonde looked up.
"'cause he doesn't"
Bofur squeezed the pairs hands and led them towards where his king sat behind his desk. Dwalin, Dis, Dori and Balin were also in the room reading papers with bored interest. Large piles of papers were a mess around his desk and dark circles were under his eyes as Thorin studied a document when Bofur coughed.
"M'lord this is Daisy and Anne. We found these lassies whilst out 'unting. They say that there mams don't live round these parts, also they have nae idea how tae get home."
The black haired man lowered the piece of paper and stood from his desk. The others that were in the room looked at the girls. Daisy shuffled behind Bofur and Anne frowned at the king. To them he looked even more grumpy than Gloin had.
"Daisy look he has a beard too!"
Daisy peeked from behind Bofur's legs and laughed.
"His is shorter than Gloin's but he looks more grumpy!"
"But that bald man has the biggest beard I ever seen!"
"What about that white beard? That's humongous!"
"OOH look Anne! That lady has a beard too!"
"She has a pretty beard!"
Dis got up and walked over smiling.
"Well aren't you two just the sweetest?"
Anne scrunched up her face.
"I'm not cute!...My mum says I'm a wee devil!"
Dis laughed and ruffled Anne's hair. Daisy smiled at the lady, she was nice. The white-haired old man got up and walked over.
"Not from here?"
"No Balin. Says they're from a place called Scotland."
The bald man huffed and growled.
"Never 'erd of it!"
Anne giggled at the bald man.
"What's so funny lass?"
"You talk funny!"
Dwalin blinked and Bofur and Balin tried to hide their smirks. The burly warrior went over to the small girl and glared softly at her. She held his stare with a sweet smile.
"You look funny lass!"
Anne giggled and Daisy walked over to Dori.
"What your name?"
The older dwarf smiled.
"Like my name! Dori and Daisy both have D's in them!"
Dis laughed and cooed the girls. Thorin rolled his eyes, he thought she was just like this round her own children.
"Aren't they adorable Thorin?"
"Yes Dis they're lovely...very nice!"
His sister slapped his chest and glared.
"Don't take that tone with me!"
The king flinched and lowered his eyes. He shot a glare at Dwalin, Balin and Bofur who all chuckled at the scolded king. Anne had now perched herself on Dwalin's knee and was stood tracing his tattoos on his head singing a weird song that went 'ABCDEFG...'. Daisy was standing by Dori's chair and was looking round the room. Her stomach growled and all eyes turned on her and her cheeks went red.
Dis smiled and ruffled her hair whilst Thorin looked exasperated. Dwalin was currently having his beard pulled by Anne and Balin was chuckling at him. Bofur lent on the desk.
"They'll need a place to stay till their parent's come a looking for them. I would say they could come with me, but I dinnae 'ave enough room fer two youngin's..."
"I would take them both as well, but I've already got my lads. Fili and Kili will be slightly older than them, but there isn't enough beds especially with Thorin in the house as well."
Thorin growled and looked to Balin.
"Well myself and Dwalin have room...I think maybe fer one."
At that Dwalin cried out as Anne slipped and her foot landed in a particularly sensitive area.
Even Thorin couldn't contain his laughter as Dwalin's face went red and he glared at the girl. His eyes met her large warm brown ones and something inside melted when the little girl yawned and leaned her head on his muscular chest. Balin chuckled and wiped his eyes.
"Well we'll take this lass..."
Dori shushed him and gestured to the blonde girl who'd snuggled up on his lap and fallen asleep. Her fist was tightly knitted in his tunic. Dis smiled.
"Poor dears...they've had a tiring day!"
All the dwarves nodded. Dwalin stood with Anne tucked safely in his bicep. He held her so delicately.
"I'll get this one home!"
With that the warrior left the room, shortly followed by his brother who was wearing a smug grin. Dori too stood with the blonde, who'd woken at his movement, rubbing her eyes sleepily. Thorin nodded to him and the grey-haired dwarf led the little girl from the room. Bofur put his hat back on his head and sighed.
"Cute un's aren't they? Well I'll see ye lot tomorrow...we'll get Nori to make inquiries about their parents in the morn'n."
Thorin and Dis nodded and then it was just the two of them. The dwarrowdam looked at her brother.
"What if we don't find their parents?"
"I don't know."
The female huffed and folded her arms.
"Well you'd better come up with something because I don't think that we will find dwarves or men like them round here. Now I'm off so that poor Bombur can head home after babysitting my boys, I'll leave the light on for you."
Thorin mumbled an 'ok' and then his sister headed home. It wasn't until later and after much thought that he too headed for bed.