Twelve year old Arinya sat within the small family cottage that she lived in with her father, mother, and older brother. She sat perched upon a wooden chair at the main table in the kitchen. Her legs dangled over the side of her seat, her feet just short of touching the cool floor. She watched her father with an interest as he moved about the kitchen, preparing dinner.
The sound of footsteps coming from just outside their home alerted her to the presence of someone heading towards the front entrance, her keen elven hearing picking up on it. Her father heard it as well and paused in his work to look towards the main door.
A moment later, the door swung open to admit Arandil, Arinya's elder brother. He strode through the door with the grace and elegance possessed by all elves. Arinya's brother shut the door securely behind him as he strode down the hall towards his father and sister, undoing the restraints the held a quiver of arrows to his back. As he entered the kitchen, he gently sat the quiver on a nearby chair and proceeded to take off the ash bow strung across his back and set it next to the quiver.
Arinya's father, Leyandril, frowned slightly. "Arandil, do not place your weapons where we eat," he sighed, turned back to preparing dinner.
Arandil arched and eyebrow as he took a seat next to his younger sister. "It is not on the table."
"Arandil," he warned, turning his head slightly to the side to look at his son out of the corner of his eye.
The boy put up his hands. "Very well." He reached over to the nearby chair, grabbed his bow and quiver, and set them gently upon the ground. "Are you pleased?" he asked with a smile.
"Very," Leyandril said without amusement. He turned his head back to the counter in front of him and continued his work.
Arandil looked around, searching for something. "Where is mother?"
"She went into Dale to sell some of the skins from her latest hunt. She'll be back before dark," their father answered.
Arandil nodded his understanding.
Arinya turned to her elder brother, not masking her eagerness and excitement to inquire about his hunt. "Did you catch anything?"
Her brother turned his head to look at her, a smile playing on his lips. He affectionately brushed away a few strands of unruly brown hair that had escaped her long braid. "Sadly no. One day, hopefully."
"It will happen. You just need to keep practicing," their father encouraged.
"But when?" he asked, turning his bright blue eyes to Leyandril.
"Patience. You will get there eventually." Leyandril turned and smiled at his son. He left his work on their dinner and came to join them at the table, pulling out a chair across from his children and sitting in it.
"I hope so," Arandil said with a touch of doubt.
Leyandril shifted his olive green eyes to his daughter. "What about you, dear one? Have you been practicing?" he asked, keeping his bright smile on his face.
Arinya nodded vigorously. "Of course. I believe I am getting better," she declared hopefully.
Leyandril chuckled. "I'm sure you are. Why don't you show me how far you've come after I am done here?"
Arinya shook her head. She began to trace her finger along the grooves and up and down the grain of the table. "I was actually hoping that I could go into the woods and explore." Her vivid green eyes flicked up to find her father's.
Arandil was the first to answer. He began to laugh. "Again? Are you entirely sure that you will not get lost?" he teased.
"You didn't get lost, so why should I? Besides, I have not gotten myself lost any of the other times I went out," she threw at him in a way that only a little sister could.
"There is always a first time," he smiled, brushing a stray lock of long blond hair behind his ear.
Leyandril folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair as he regarded his daughter thoughtfully. "I'm not sure that would be wise. It will be dark soon and I do not like the thought of you getting lost," he said with a frown.
"I'll be fine. I'll be sure to return before dark," Arinya reassured.
Her father extended his hand up and placed it thoughtfully on his chin. After a moment, he leaned forward, the old wooden chair creaking in protest, and sighed. "Very well. Just be sure to return before nightfall."
Grinning broadly, Arinya instantly jumped to her feet and skipped over to her father and pecked him on the cheek. Hurrying down the hall, the young elf girl grabbed her forest green cloak off the rack and quickly slung it over her shoulders. Swiftly, she pulled open the door and was greeted by a warm rush of air tinged with the cool of the coming of night. She threw a smile over her shoulder at her father and brother. "I'll be back later," she called.
"Be careful," Leyandril called back. "And be sure to be back before sundown."
With that, the door closed behind her as Arinya slipped out into the forest beyond.
A young Thorin anxiously paced up and down a long hallway in front of a massive closed wooden door. He tried to strain his ears to hear what was happening beyond the door, but to no avail. He continued walking, clasping his hands behind his back and playing with the large ring on his finger.
Suddenly, just as he was passing the large door for what had to be nearly the fortieth time, the door swung open. From out of the open door strode his father, Thrain. Thorin's father surveyed the hall for a moment before his hard eyes locked on his son's. He quickly walked over to Thorin, a small smile on his face.
When he reached his son, he clapped his hands on his shoulders and looked him squarely in the eye. "Your grandfather has approved your request," he said slowly. Thorin was about to celebrate when his father cut him off with a wave of his hand. "But, you must bring an armed escort. Two able soldiers at the bare minimum."
The young dwarf prince's jaw set in defiance. "That defeats the purpose, doesn't it?" he asked smartly.
"Nevertheless, you will take an escort with you. You can set out anytime you want. Just be sure to return before nightfall," Thrain said. Clearly with nothing more to say, Thrain turned on his heel and began to head down the hall. Within seconds, he rounded a corner and disappeared from sight.
Thorin listened to the sound of his father's retreating footsteps until they passed beyond the range of his hearing and the hallway was enveloped in silence once more. Thorin gritted his teeth in frustration before he turned and headed down the hall, in the opposite direction of his father, to head to the barracks to find two soldiers to accompany him to Dale.
Thorin walked just in front of two heavily armed dwarven soldiers. He was content to humor his father and bring an escort. He understood the reason for it. Though, the point was to blend in so that he wouldn't stand out in the crowded streets of Dale. It was his first time outside the confines of the Lonely Mountain, after all. He wanted to observe the workings of the outside world without drawing the attention of the local people of Dale. Now it seems that wasn't possible. The people were bound to look at the young dwarf boy and his armed escort and wonder what dwarf would need such a thing. It wouldn't take them long to figure it out.
Thorin inwardly sighed. His bright blue eyes shifted to his left as he looked out over the rolling hills on the roots of the mountain, covered in a thick forest of pine, birch, ash, and oak trees. He stopped his walk towards the city of Dale to look at the forest.
The two guards looked at each other in confusion before taking a step towards the transfixed dwarf boy. "Is everything alright, m'lord?" one of them asked carefully.
The black haired boy nodded slightly before turned to face them. He pointed out towards the expanse of the forest. "Tell me. Is there a path through those woods that leads to the city of Dale, as well?"
The two dwarven soldiers exchanged a look before returning their gaze to their prince. "There is, but we thought you wished to head straight to Dale," one said slowly, obviously perplexed.
"I did. But now I wish to take a detour. Is that acceptable?" Thorin looked at them, waiting for an answer. He knew that they had to go along with his wishes, but he at least wanted them to have the option of voicing their opinion.
The two soldiers exchanged yet another look before returning their gaze to Thorin. "Whatever you wish to do, m'lord."
Thorin nodded. "Let us be off then."
So, with that, the three dwarves turned from their direct route to Dale and began to head to their left, following the path that lead into the forest.
They followed a barely visible dirt path through the heart of the wood. The soldiers remained vigilant as they searched for any sign of danger, their hands ever resting upon the pommels of their axes and swords. Thorin's eyes darted everywhere, not looking for danger but at the wonder of the forest. He had only ever seen it from a distance from the battlements or a window. He had never actually been walking in it and it was a sight to behold.
As they walked, the path twisted and turned, leading them though the treacherous maze of rocks, sheer cliffs, and steep hills. Thorin's bright blue eyes were drawn to the bright green of the trees and long blades of grass. He heard the shrill twitter of birds as they sang to one another. The prince breathed deep as a gust of warm air washed over him, smelling sweet like flowers. His eyes shifted skyward as he looked at the streams of sunlight that fought through the canopy above him to reach the forest floor.
Suddenly, as Thorin was looking up and not paying attention, a portion of the path gave way as the prince set his foot down upon it. In an instant, the dwarf boy was tumbling head over heels down a steep hill. The two guards let out exclamations of surprise and fear as they watched their prince tumble farther and farther away from them.
Thorin fell for what seemed like an endless amount of time before he finally slid to a stop at the bottom of the steep incline. He gingerly rose to his feet, looking himself over to make entirely certain he was unharmed. When no pain was felt, he straightened to his full height and brushed the dirt, leaves, and twigs from his clothes and hair.
"My Lord! Prince Thorin! Answer us!" the two forlorn and panicked dwarf soldiers called down the hill.
"I'm alright!" Thorin shouted up to them.
The prince could almost feel their sighs of relief as some of their initial panic subsided. "We're coming down to you," they called to him.
Thorin could hear a distant crunch of leaves as the two dwarves prepared to head down the hill. "No! Don't come down here! It's a miracle that I missed any of the trees and rocks during my fall! I fear you may not be as lucky!" Thorin called to them.
The footsteps stopped. "What would you have us do then?"
Thorin was silent for a moment as he thought it through. "Head to Dale and wait for me. I will be there as soon as I find a way back up to the path."
There was a brief moment of hesitation from the two guards. They obviously didn't like the idea of leaving their charge alone in the woods. "Are you entirely sure that is wise?" one of them called down to him, his tone cautious.
"It doesn't appear as though we have many alternatives. There is nothing you can do to help me. Just go on ahead to Dale and wait for me. I will be there as soon as I can," Thorin shouted to them, trying to make his tone reassuring.
There was yet another moment of hesitation from the dwarves. Then, one of them spoke up and said, "Alright. Be safe, my Lord." With that, Thorin could hear the sound of their footsteps slowly retreating down the path.
Thorin looked one last time up at the hill he had fallen down before turning to look at the woods behind him. Suddenly the forest looked more ominous and foreboding to him. The prince found himself feeling glad that he had elected to bring his sword and dagger along with him. He had a feeling he was going to need them. Setting his jaw in determination, the dwarf prince began his march into the woods in search of a way back to the main path. In mere seconds, he disappeared from sight.