Chapter 22: The Almost-All Welcome Inn
The (almost) All Welcome Inn
"Help me get him to his feet," Fili says to me eventually, his voice devoid of all emotion. I do so, and we help Kili up onto Fili's pony; I look around to find the Elven horse is already gone.
"Hold on to him," Fili tells me, kneeling a little and allowing me to use his thigh as a stepping stone up to the pony's back. I do so and fuss over Kili as he sits slumped on the pony; I put my hand to his shoulder and ask,
"Ki, how's your chest-?"
"I'm fine," he says sharply, shrugging me away and bowing down again, shivering against the cold. Fili takes hold of the reigns and clicks the beast onwards. The three of us begin the journey back down the road in the pouring rain, silent and disheartened.
"I'm sorry," I muster eventually, "if I hadn't turned up and freaked your pony, none of this would have happened-"
"Don't be ridiculous," Kili says dryly, "I shouldn't have been riding so close to the edge."
"It is not the fault of either of you," Fili says, "it is simply the product of unfortunate circumstance... besides, Kili is safe, and that's all that matters."
"We can't just go home," Kili says, shivering against the cold. "The embarrassment of it is enough of a reason not to." He bows his head. "Mother will be ashamed."
"Mother will be relieved that you are safe," Fili tries, "besides, we two were raised on tales of Erebor. I'll be damned if either of us are going to miss out on reclaiming our home. But uncle was right, Kili. You're not fit to travel-"
"I told you, I'm fine-!"
"Listen, damn you- you're not fit to travel at the moment. We will spend the night somewhere, a place where you can have a proper meal and sleep in a real bed rather than sleeping on the hard ground. You will catch your death if you do not get warm and dry; and then in the morning, if you are well enough, we shall take up after them."
Kili slumps a little lower on the back of the beast. "We should go now," he says. "I feel fine, really-"
"You do not look fine. Besides, we are fine trackers, the both of us, and if we travel through the night we shall meet with the rest of the company by daybreak. Agreed?"
Kili nods, still shivering. I wrap my arms around his middle to try and warm him a little, and this time he does not shrug me off. He trembles against the cold, sucking air in through his teeth; it becomes ever more apparent as we journey down the path that we need to get him somewhere dry as soon as possible. We come across a small inn on the road with a swinging sign which reads 'The All-Welcome Inn'. As the Elven palace is still so far and Fili isn't very keen on meeting up with the Elves again, we decide to go there to warm up and get Kili dry. Fili leads the pony towards the door and his brother and I get down from it; huddling under the shelter of the doorway, Fili hammers his fist against the door.
After a few minutes the eye of the landlord appears through a slit in the wood, and he searches left and right, unable to see his new guests.
"Down here," Kili says in a choked voice, and the inn-keeper follows the direction. He locks eyes with the three of us and shakes his head.
"Not today, thank you-"
He goes to pull the grate shut, but Kili demands,
"What do you mean, not today? The sign says you have vacancies-"
The inn keeper frowns. I'm starting to feel a little like Mary here.
"We don't accommodate your kind here," the inn-keeper barks through the peep hole. I glance back up at the name of the pub and roll my eyes. All-Welcome my arse.
"Well, we have money," Kili snaps, teeth chattering with both frustration and cold, "do you accommodate that?"
"We are cold, we are tired, and we are hungry," Fili says sharply to the inn keeper. "Give us a bed for the night and we will thank you handsomely, I can assure you."
The land lord looks unconvinced, but the smell of gold seems to have grasped a thread of his interest all the same. He squints again and grumbles,
"What is your name?"
"What does that matter?!" Kili barks, worked up now and exhausted by his earlier ordeal; Fili holds out an authoritative arm to silence him.
"Dàgar," the cooler brother says calmly, "son of Ràgan, of Old Moria."
Wow. Smooth lying skills. I wonder if he has been practicing this.
"What business do you have in these parts, Dàgar, son of Ràgan?"
"No business of yours," Kili growls, and Fili throws him another death glare.
"Pardon my brother. We are here to discuss trade with the nearby towns."
"And your trade?"
"What is this supposed to be?" I mumble under my breath, "twenty questions-?"
"Quietly, sister," Fili instructs, before answering the landlord politely.
"Our family are three generations of Blacksmiths."
"How many are you?"
"Just we three."
"And of what relation?"
"Siblings," Fili half-lies, "my brother, Hàgar, and my sister, Làin."
I feel the man's eyes on me specifically now, and do not halt my stare. "You brought your sister along with you, on business of trade?"
"She is... simple-minded," Fili says quietly, as though this will do me some kindness of restricting my hearing. "We could hardly leave her in the mountains with no one to care for her; we are the last of our blood-line, you see."
Definitely been practicing, I think- which means he's had me lined up as the 'simple-minded' one for quite some time now. Thanks a lot, Fili.
"You'll pay up front," the innkeeper demands. "And in full. I'll have none of this 'we're-half-the-size-so-we'll-pay-half-the-price' rubbish I get from the little Fallowhide folk who journey near here, neither."
"Yes, yes," Fili dismisses, and searches his pockets for his coins. He rummages with a frown for a few minutes before turning to Kili and exclaiming,
"Oh, Mahal... my gold was in my satchel, and the satchel was on your pony, the one we lost to the river. Hand me your gold, Ki- Hàgar."
"I haven't got any left," Kili tells him, "the only gold I had which wasn't with the pony I used to pay for that dress."
Fili lowers his head into his hands. "Well, then..."
Dress, I think; the inn-keeper goes to pull shut the grate on the door and I step forward.
"Wait!" I say, clutching the fabric of the white velvet dress, "you can have this!"
The inn-keeper narrows his eyes. "What would I want with that rag?"
"This isn't a rag," I tell him, smoothing down the white velvet, "this is of Elvish make." I look to Fili for some sort of support, and he knots his eyebrows. "...It's gotta be worth something- you can sell it or give it to your wife as a birthday present, or keep it for yourself and enter Miss Transvestite 2014. Do we have a deal?"
The innkeeper considers a while longer before murmuring, "Elvish, eh? Suppose it might sell well at one of the markets near Bree... go on then. Deal."
I agree with a smile, fingering the charm around my neck absently, and the inn keeper allows us inside; there is a fire burning on the hearth, a warm glow which makes the three of us feel instantly better. The downstairs room of the inn is a public house area, with one woman who, by the looks of her, is probably a prostitute waiting for the night's business to get up and running and two run-down barmaids sloshing drinks left and right and drunken men huddled in corners, singing away their blues and accosting said barmaids. The taller of the two, a red-haired woman in her thirties, smacks away a groping hand and slaps a drunken face as she tries to take a final order.
"Vessa!" the Inn-Keeper calls to her, "come and serve our guests, now!"
She turns to us from across the room and heads over, clearly surprised by our height. The woman tucks her frizzy red hair behind her ear and purrs,
"What can I get for you, then, my little dears?"
"Food, good lady," Fili beams up at her with a smile, "lots of it, and three stiff ales if it's not too much trouble."
"As you like it," she smiles half-heartedly. "Folk like you are a long way from home, I dare say... ooh, she is a beauty, isn't she?" The woman strokes her finger across my cheek and smiles at me. Looking up to Fili she smiles, "your wife?"
"Sister," Fili smiles, and the woman gives a vague smile as she saunters over to the kitchens. Fili watches her with a smile as she goes and I can't help but smirk, but decide not to pry.
"There are far worse things out there than trolls," Fili tells me, still watching the curvaceous Vessa out of the corner of his eye as she ties back her mane of red hair and pours out the mead with a whistle; I note that the conversation seems to come from nowhere. "I would never force the decision on you, but I think it may be better that you return to the Elves-" he gulps at the mere suggestion- "for your own protection, of course. Once this is over, you can visit us-"
"Hold your horses, your highness," I breathe, "I stole one of their horses, remember... and then lost it. And now I just sold their gifts to me for a night in this stuffy old inn... I don't think the Elves will want me back, to be honest." Plus I need to sleep with- wrong choice of words- your brother so that Josie and I don't have a comatose body to deal with, I think.
Fili nods. "As I say, it is up to you. We would miss your company- but, if we are to return to the company in the morning- and take you with us, of course- then you are going to have to learn to look after yourself.
I agree whole-heartedly. "How am I going to do that, though?"
"Well, we'll teach you," Kili says, clothes dried by the fire now; he seems much happier in the warm, and is far less pale.
I give him a little grin as Fili nods in agreement.
"And you pair are the experts, are you?"
"Well of course we are," Fili smirks, "we're royalty, we have to learn such things..." He slips from the table and over to the desk where Vessa is preparing the drinks for us. Whilst he is gone Kili says,
"You need to learn how to properly use a sword. How to handle one, how to put it to good use."
I nod, rubbing my hands against the fire. "I guess you will have to show me, then."
"I hardly think we know each other well enough for that-"
"Stop it, you," I scald, smacking his forearm from across the table. He gives me a tiny, wicked grin which sets alight a glint in his pitch eyes. "I'll have none of that funny business. Now come on, be serious. This is life and death here- my life and death. I pray you not to treat it so lightly."
"Of course, M'lady."
Fili returns, helping the chunky red-head to carry the plates and mugs as the woman giggles, batting her long eyelashes sweetly; I can't help but wonder how Thorin would feel about this across-race flirting. We thank Vessa as she deposits the goods, and I am about to tease Fili a little before Kili reaches over and plunges half of a pork pie into my mouth.
"Eat," he coaxes, "get your strength up."
I chew on the thick meat with a frown. Fili starts talking about weapons training again and acquiring the proper attire; Kili makes some joke comment about my skills with a weapon being about as useful as Ori's slingshot, and Fili scalds him for his teasing, though it is clear that he is giggling beneath his breath.
"Leave Ori alone, you pair," I scald them, "he's just as good as either of you." Not true, of course, but still-
"Ori carries a diary and wears little purple ribbons in his hair that his mother plaited," Kili says, not even attempting to restrain his laughter, "he is hardly adventurer material."
"You are scarcely better on the mother front," Fili teases him, "carrying that rock of yours around. You may be audacious and skilled with a bow, little brother, but you are still a babe at heart."
"Ooh yes, I've heard all about this rock," I tease; Kili shrugs the conversation off, clearly embarrassed and offering his brother a scowl. Fili gives me a wink which quickly fades when Kili barks in retaliation,
"And we all know that you are the picture of independence, Sunshine."
Fili's cheeks turn a darker rouge and he half-hides his face behind his tankard.
"You're not getting away so easily," I taunt, "'Sunshine?' What's all that about?"
"Nothing," Fili says quickly, "It's nothing-"
"Oh, nothing indeed," Kili grins, beaming with sardonic success, "only Fili's nickname."
"'Sunshine?'" I grin again, trying not to laugh, "who calls you that?"
"Only our mother, and very rarely, too," Fili says.
"Because of his hair," Kili explains. I make a noise equivalent to one that might be made when searching youtube for cat videos, and Fili dives back behind the mug of mead.
The Inn-Keeper shows us to our rooms later on that evening, and we retire for a while before the noise of the customers downstairs, most of whom appear to be drunk out of their minds by now, gets too much and we decide to go down for one more drink before bed; I don't really fancy spending the night with a bunch of drunken ruffians, but I'd rather be with Fili and Kili than up here on my own listening to the sounds of what I can only assume is the prostitute we saw in the bar earlier scraping her living from one of the drunkards. Poor woman.
With a call of 'If you can't beat 'em, join em' I follow after the two brothers, the older of whom is reading off a seemingly pre-prepared list of rules for Kili and I. I murmur 'yes, Dad,' as he tells us both not to stray from his sight, that out there be monsters and suchlike, and he gives me a disapproving side-glance that would be better suited to the face of his uncle Thorin.
"You get any trouble 'round here, dearie, you just shout old Vessa," the barmaid says as the three of us descend the steps, tapping my shoulder fondly; I thank her with a smile and set myself down at the table where we were earlier. The inn-keeper comes over within ten minutes or so, asking about when he can have the dress; I tell him to hold his horses, that I'll give it to him in the morning once I've changed into the dress Kili has brought for me, and he demands my necklace now as a deposit; Kili tells him rather abruptly to stop pestering, which almost winds up to getting us kicked out before Fili intervenes; once he has another drink down his neck, Kili is satisfied. Both brothers are flushed in the cheeks; I myself have been avoiding the mead since we came down here and have instead stuck to the water Vessa has provided. I head up to the counter to ask her for a little more as the room heats up due to how stuffy and people-filled it is, and feel breath on my back.
"That dress," a half-drunk man says over my shoulder, "take it off."
A frown grasps my cheeks and I turn to him with an unamused drawl. "Excuse me?"
Behind me stands a thin man in his late thirties, with a head of shaggy blonde hair, a nose that is too small for his face and clothes which look as though he has been wearing them for half of his life. He looks like a living scarecrow.
"Your dress," he elaborates, swigging down his ale as he leans with one elbow on the bar counter, "it's Elvish make, is it not?"
I nod cautiously.
"Thought so. It'll sell for a pretty price, I'm tellin' you."
"Sorry, mate," I tell him with a smile, face buried in the nose of my cup, "it's already sold to the inn-keeper."
"You could take it off anyway," he jests, and I grimace. If this was Eastenders, my pint would be dripping down the front of his shirt by now... alas, I am not so bold. Instead I shrug it off with a laugh and make my way back over to the two Dwarf brothers. As I sit down, Kili's face is set into a scowl.
"He bothering you?"
"It's nothing," I say reassuringly, patting his hand briefly. He looks up at me, clearly not convinced, so I repeat my statement again and squeeze his palm. "it's nothing, Ki."
Fili leans closer to me with a slow, half-cut smile and drawls, "you are feigning being siblings. It hardly looks respectable when the pair of you are ogling for one another's affections across the dining table-"
"We're not 'oggling' for anything-"
"-I doubt even the half-witted ruffians here are in support of incest."
"Eww," I say, and Fili laughs; the three of us dip our heads back into our drinks as he rolls his eyes.
"Bed for you two, I think," Fili demands, "we have a long journey ahead of us, we shall have to leave early in the morning... and I, for one, have drunken quite enough. To sleep, all of us."
We down the dregs of our drinks, bid the robust barmaid goodnight and head back upstairs to our rooms.
AN: I AM SORRY IT HAS BEEN SO LATE SINCE I UPDATED
I really want to finish off the last few chapters of my other fic before i dedicate 100% writing-time to FRTLS, so... SOON. Regular updates :)
I will answer all PM's, etc, by the end of the week- i am useless with that sort of stuff.
Wow, such new cover image, such zombie unicorn dress, many facepalms! hmm... now we're past the doge, do you guys like the new cover? It's far more snazzy than the old one XD
Thanks for the reviews, guys! Can't wait to post the new chappie ;D