Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 21

Bofur lifted his head as the door swung open, distracted from the toy he was carving. The dwarfling who had entered his shop smiled back at him, all teeth and hair. The toymaker placed his carving down.

"What can I do for you today, my Lady?" he asked. The dwarfling giggled and hid her grin behind two fists.

"Halvah has come to see your stock," the child's mother replied, "You have been closed a while."

"Family matter," Bofur replied with an apologetic grin, "Nothing that could be helped."

"And what family matter would that be?" his customer asked curiously, "If you don't mind me asking."

"It is not for me to say," Bofur said, his usual cheery self but his words filled with tightness. The female dwarf in front of him nodded in a slightly disappointed understanding before exclaiming a brief reprimand to Halvah.

"It's alright," Bofur smiled as he dove forward, catching the wooden figure before it could fully topple off the shelf. He then placed the object on a shelf higher than the one it had previously sat on. "May I interest you in a new doll, my dear?" the toymaker asked as he crouched beside Halvah. She proceeded to squeal in delight and run towards the row of rag-dolls.

"Have you heard about the nephew of Thorin Oakenshield?" the dwarfling's mother said conversationally, keeping a firm eye on her own child. Bofur, who had turned back to his chair, inhaled deeply, trying to maintain his composure. Slowly he breathed out again.

"Aye," he answered.

"An unfortunate situation. He is so young," the mother continued as though she had not paused and Bofur had not spoken, "Not too many bear attacks around here. Not too many people who survive-"

"Is that the doll you want, lassie?" Bofur interrupted, turning to his younger customer, "Are you sure? You can only choose once." Halvah nodded her head enthusiastically at the toymaker who beamed down at her and curled one end of his moustache. "Very well, I will wrap it for you."

It did not take long before both Halvah and her mother were walking out the door, the younger gurgling her goodbyes to the dwarf standing only a few feet away. Bofur responded with his own farewell before slouching back to his chair and picking up his tools to begin carving again.

The feel of the wood being manipulated by his knife soothed the dwarf, Bofur closing his eyes and empty his mind with each shaving of wood that he removed. Bifur had been in the store earlier that day creating his own toys to sell, using wood just as his cousin was using now. As Bofur breathed in, he could smell the wood dust that still lingered in the air. For a single moment everything was peaceful and then the door opened for a second time breaking the peace.

"Bofur?" a voice asked as the toymaker peeled his eyes open. The dwarf smiled and nodded his head back at the one who had asked.

"Aye," he answered, "What can I do for you, my lady?"

"Please, it's Dis," the female dwarf said, "As for what you can do, you have already done it."

Bofur blinked. "I don't understand. I haven't done anything."

This received a frown from Dis.

"First Dwalin and now you," she said heatedly, "I am here to thank you for your part in looking after my son."

"But I didn't do much," Bofur protested, splaying his hands out flat and almost dropping his carving knife.

"You looked after him when my brother couldn't, when I couldn't," came the answer.

Bofur sighed. "I suppose I can't argue with that."

A silence fell over the pair, one in which Dis pretended to inspect each of the items the toymaker had for sale. Bofur flailed around for something to say to the female dwarf, finding the wordless state the air was in to be overwhelming.

"How is the lad?" The question sprung unbidden from his lips, the toymaker's thoughts on the words his last customer had said.

"Not too many people who survive-"

Bofur didn't need magic to tell what the last word would have been.

"He woke just as Fili and I arrived," Dis answered, drawing the dwarf out of his hazy state.

"Was he in pain?"

Dis offered a small smile of comfort. "From what I could tell, some but not much."

"Do you mind if I…?" Bofur began.

"Not at all, not after what you have done for my family," Dis answered with a wider smile, "I need to fetch Oin in any case. Thorin would like him to look over Kili again to ensure everything is alright."

"It will be," Bofur said with a small smile of his own, his usual optimism peeking through his words, "He is a tough lad."

"He takes after his uncle," Dis said fondly.

"More so his mother," the dwarf in front of her correct. Dis flashed her teeth in appreciation before sealing her lips shut again.

"I should be going," she said finally, "You are welcome any time you wish to visit."

The female dwarf reached forward to touch the toymaker briefly on the shoulder before disappearing behind the swinging door. Bofur looked after her and heaved a sigh of relief. Things were beginning to look up.

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