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Gambling Games

Debt

It went on like this for a while. Round after round, the dwarves lost their money trying to figure out the trick. Every few turns, they would guess right but the triumph was soured by the defeats that followed. Eventually, in order to continue the game and attempt to win some of their money back, they had to start betting coins they did not have.

"I swear our friends have the gold. They're meeting us here and we'll get you the money then," Fili swore, having already lost all his pocket change and a few of his throwing knives to the gamble.

"How can I be so sure of that?" the woman asked skeptically.

Kili jumped to his feet and stood straight as a rod, trying to mimic his uncle's poise of authority as best he could. Crossing his fist over his heart, the young royal vowed, "As a decedent of the line of Durin and on my honor as a dwarf, I swear to you that we will pay back what is due." With his promise, he gave a formal bow, Fili copying the gesture.

The traveler mulled over the declaration for a while, unsure if she could trust their word alone. Soon she made up her mind with a sigh, hoping her choice wasn't as foolish as it seemed. "Fine, Master Dwarf, I believe you." She grinned. "Not many liars would be bold enough to swear on their family lineage. But until you can pay the debt you already owe, let's take a break from the gambling, shall we?"

The two brothers groaned but agreed it was for the best. Explaining the debt they were already in was going to earn them an earful from Thorin. No need to double the reason.

"Instead, how about I buy each of us a pint and you can tell me more about yourselves while we wait for friends to join us?"

They perked up at the mention of drinks but their optimism was short lived when a commotion by the Inn's front doors drew the attention of the patrons. A group of burly men had entered the establishment, glaring about like wolves searching for their prey. Pushing past the others, the sore loser from the earlier game took his place at the front of the assembly.

"There, that's her!" he shouted, pointed at the lady traveler. "The little vixen robbed me blind!"

"You sure that's her, Ord?" another one of the men asked. He was taller but obviously not as bright. "I mean, she's just a girl."

"Who took all my gold and threatened me with a sword!"

The young woman in question had a tight grip on her weapon, her eyes glaring at the aggressive group. The gold from her winnings was secured to her belt and the game pieces had been packed away in her traveling pack. She looked ready to make a hasty escape if necessary.

"Hey now," one of the men from the spectators' circle spoke up. "You lost that game and tried to give the lady trouble when you were forced to pay. Accept your loss and leave in peace."

"Damned if we will!" Ord declared, he and his men standing defiantly in the doorway. "Now get out of our way and let us deal with the little wench, this doesn't involve you."

"I don't believe I could stand by and let a sore loser and his companions attack a young woman with a clear conscience." The defending man and most of the other patrons stood in defense. Many of the meeker occupants discreetly found their way towards the exit. "We don't appreciate trouble makers in Bywater. This is your last chance; leave in peace or we'll make you."

"Not without my money!" Ord tried shove passed the Inn patrons but received a well-earned punch to the face for his efforts. His men rushed to his aid and the rest of the Inn joined in the fray. In just seconds, an all-out brawl had broken out at the Green Dragon Inn.

Meanwhile, Fili and Kili, who had avoided getting involved during the standoff, had weaved their way through the fighting crowd towards the doors. They were tempted to join in the scuffle but explaining a gambling debt and their involvement with a bar fight was not a conversation they wanted to have with their uncle.

They managed to sneak out the door, only having to throw a couple of punches to get there, and got outside without anyone noticing. Well, almost anyone.

"There you are," a voice cheered behind them. The dwarves turned to see the traveler lady responsible for the fight inside slipping out the doors. "I was wondering where you ran off to. I'm guessing your friends haven't arrived yet?"

"Uuum…" the two hummed, scanning the road for any signs of their company.

"You!" a much deeper voice yelled. Ord had found his way outside, after fighting tooth and nail to get through the crowd by the looks of him. One of his eyes was turning dark and swelling, some of his teeth were missing, and his nose was broken and crooked from the first punch.

"You aren't going anywhere until I get my money back!" he shouted, darting forward and snagging the hem of the woman's brown cloak.

"Get off me!" she demanded, snagging one of the knives she had won from Fili and slashing it across Ord's cheek. A vivid red line was left in its wake and the man stumbled back, clutching his bleeding face with a strangled cry.

"Daegal, cierran," she called with a chirping whistle. A brown horse with a wild mane and white nose broke away from the other mounts by the stables and galloped over to its master.

"I'm afraid my welcome here is overstayed, Master Dwarves," the lady concluded as she climbed onto her saddle. More of Ord's men were finding their way towards the door and not looking too happy about their predicament.

"The payment will have to wait till later. Meet me here at sunset and we can continue our business. I trust your friends will have joined you by then," she teased with a wink. The two dwarves tried to interject but were interrupt by Ord's men all rushing from the Inn's entrance.

"Until later, my good sirs, I bid you farewell." Nudging her horse with her heels, the stallion quickly galloped down the road, leaving the men to chase after on foot.

"Wait!" Kili tried to hail her back. "We'll be gone by sunset!" It was in vain, though. The woman they owed had already disappeared with pursuers hot on her trail.

Fili shrugged indifferently. "Well if she's gone, she's gone. We never agreed to meet her here anyways."

"No but we did promise to pay her back and that's going to be rather difficult if we've left," Kili countered.

"I think you're worrying too much. She'll forget about it in a few days' time and be on her way to some other town. Besides, it's not like she's hurting for money, you saw her winnings. She's a clever one, she is."

"Who's a clever one?" The young dwarves jumped when Gandalf suddenly appeared behind them leading a white horse of his own. If he had heard any of their conversation, he was choosing not to admit it.

"No one," they lied quickly. Gandalf question it no further, he was too busy watching the patrons of the Inn leaving battered and bruised.

"Dear me, seems there was a bit of a brawl." He glanced down at his short companions. "I sure hope you two had no part in it."

They shook their heads. "No, we've been outside waiting for you." They quickly smiled as innocently as possible. After years of trouble making, they had just about perfected the façade. Few could see through the disguise, their uncle unfortunately being one of them.

Gandalf glanced between them doubtfully for a moment then shrug. "Well alright then. Where is Thorin? We were expected to leave as soon as I arrived and yet here I am arrived with no party to leave with."

"They went to get some supplies. He said they'll be back soon," Fili explained quickly.

"Oh of course," Gandalf nodded in agreement. Sometimes the dwarves wondered if he was as wise a wizard as some said or if he really was just a forgetful old man in a pointed hat. "Ah I think I see them now. Come along, Fili, Kili. We have a long journey ahead and long journeys are best started early."

Sure enough, the rest of their company was approaching the Inn, each leading a pony weighed down with packs of food, clothes, and other supplies. Fili and Kili reluctantly followed the wizard to join their fellow dwarves whom were in the midst of a heated debate.

"No way is the burglar going to show," Nori was saying to the group as they distributed ponies. "He's as jumpy as a rabbit and twice as meek"

"He might come yet," Dori argued, stroking his braided beard thoughtfully. "What do you think Gandalf?"

"He will come, without a doubt," the old man assured them as he mounted his white horse. "Though he is running a bit later than I had anticipated."

Nori still wasn't convinced. "Ten coins says he won't come."

"I'll take that bet," Oin laughed. His redheaded brother nodded in agreement and soon wages were being passed amongst the company as they prepared to leave.

Fili and Kili, meanwhile, stayed quiet and to the back of the group, having had enough of gambling games for one day.

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