Between a bear and a dark place

Chapter 30

Finding himself at the bottom of a tankard of ale in a local, yet out of the way tavern was of no surprise to Bofur, nor would it have been a surprise to anyone else that knew him. In the toymaker's mind, troubled times called for a sense numbing drink, usually of the potent kind, and now was indeed a troubled time, for him at least as well as several others.

The dwarf had been there since he had retreated from the house of Durin's line. The shadow of the terrible news that had been delivered had followed him the entire way and was now Bofur's only companion as he proceeded to try and forget everything that had happened in the past few days. At least, it had been his only companion until a long nosed and red bearded dwarf slipped into the chair across from him.

"And what brings you 'ere?" the ginger dwarf asked in a friendly, but slightly slurred tone.

Bofur shrugged. "Drowning my sorrows I suppose."

His new drinking partner sat back in his chair. "Well I'm 'ere to celebrate. Struck a new vein o' metal today. Been a while since we've found one."

"So that would account for the tavern being full," Bofur remarked, his hand loose on the handle of his tankard. "It would also account for why almost everyone is in such a cheerful mood."

"Aye," his new companion grinned, "Everyone 'cept you." The dwarf gave him a hard look. "What's got you down?"

Bofur sighed and rubbed his face, flicking his eyes up to the ceiling for a brief moment. "A friend was injured some days ago and it was finally starting to look like he was going to get better and then-"

"You got hit with the hard news." The slur in the ginger dwarf's voice was gone, the miner seeming to have sobered up in the midst of Bofur relaying his problems.

The toymaker tweaked the corner of his mouth. "You could say that." Bofur looked down into his drink. "It was…unexpected. It's not like he wasn't bad before, but I was so sure that he was going to finally pull through."

The miner across from Bofur frowned slightly. "Well, I'm no healer so all I can offer is the hope that he gets better, whoever he is."

Bofur smiled his first genuine smile at the ginger dwarf. There was a loud shout behind him and then some of the more drunken fellows in the tavern started singing. The toymaker's companion looked over his shoulder.

"I think I'll go and join in the merriment again, if it's all the same to you," he said, eyeing off the other miners. Bofur merely shrugged and watched him go.

Sighing, the toymaker took another swing of his ale, his hands gripped tight against the tankard. He slammed the object back down, the liquid inside sloshing as he did so.

"Give me a tankard of ale any day,

Whether the sky is blue, black or grey,

Whether you're about to leave or here to stay,

Give me a tankard of ale any day.

My sorrows from before are forgotten,

My joys and tears from yesterday are gone,

The dawn of morrow is not far away,

Yet from this tavern we shall not move on.

Give me a tankard of ale any day,

Whether the sky is blue, black or grey,

Whether you're about to leave or here to stay,

Give me a tankard of ale any day."

"I see the cheer of the miners is getting to you."

Bofur sealed his lips shut and mock glared at the dwarf above him. "At least I can sing."

Dwalin tweaked the corner of his mouth before letting his expression smooth into one of sadness once more. The warrior slowly sank into the seat across from the toymaker, filling it once again.

Bofur took in this swift change of mood. "He hasn't-"

Dwalin shook his head. "No, he's still here and fighting."

"Then why the troubled face?" Bofur asked with a frown. For a moment it looked as though the dwarf opposite him was not going to answer.

"Fili," Dwalin finally relented, the one word ringing with an undertone that Bofur found hard to place.

"What about him?" the toymaker asked. "It's natural that he is going to feel helpless and desperate given his brother's situation."

Dwalin looked down to where his hands were clasped tightly together. "What about anger?"

Bofur shrugged. "I suppose so," he answered. "I mean, anyone that felt helpless to help out their invalid kin would likely lash out, though whether it is at themselves or another depends on the situation. Usually they do not mean what they say though."

The toymaker gave Dwalin a hard look before excusing himself. He wove his way through the still singing miners to where the owner of the tavern resided. He exchanged pleasantries before returning to where he had left the despondent warrior and his own tankard of ale.

"Here," he said as he banged a new tankard on the table, "Drink. It will help."

Dwalin took the ale in one hand, staring down at it almost unseeingly. "Thanks."

Bofur tried not to look surprised at the word, though it had been nearly inaudible when spoken. Instead he merely nodded his head and shrugged, before sweeping his own tankard back up and beginning to sing again.

"There is no guilt or despair that can't go,

For when you first drink they will soon be gone,

The dawn of morrow is not far away,

Yet from this tavern we shall not move on.

Give me a tankard of ale any day,

Whether the sky is blue, black or grey,

Whether you're about to leave or here to stay,

Give me a tankard of ale any day."

Dwalin pushed up from the table with both hands, his chair flying out behind him. "I have some business to take care of." The warrior turned and began to weave his way through the crowd, heading for the door as he left his untouched ale behind him.

Bofur watched the dwarf go, a crease still present on his forehead. Sighing inwardly, the toymaker returned to his drink, allowing the last words of the miners' song to flow over him.

"Give me a tankard of ale any day,

Whether the sky is blue, black or grey,

Whether you're about to leave or here to stay,

Give me a tankard of ale any day."

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