- No Beta
“You’re looking at that letter very intently brother,” Dwalin said as he walked into the room and spotted his brother hunched over his desk with a letter in his hand.
“Hmmm,” Balin hummed not paying attention.
“That letter Balin, does it contain anything interesting?” The winter had been wetter than expected, in the mountains the Dwarrow had mostly been unaffected apart from their correspondence coming infrequently. The men at Bree who operated the postal service wouldn’t come out in the conditions; too dangerous the claimed.
However, after several weeks a bundle of letters had made it to them, among them were a few letters so soaked that the address had smudged into a nearly illegible inkblot. Fortunately, there weren’t many in the mountains expecting post and even fewer with short names beginning with B. Balin had, therefore, gained the water damaged letters which now had him so engrossed.
“Yes, it does. Do you perchance know if we have any cinnamon?” Balin replied absentmindedly still engrossed in the letter.
“Cinnamon? Why would we have cinnamon?”
“What on Arda are you talking about Dwalin? It’s an elvish thing not content to eat leaves they’ll have the bark too,” muttered Thorin as he entered the room behind Dwalin.
“I’m wondering why my brother has run mad. He seems to want cinnamon,” Thorin turned to stare at the still oblivious scribe along with Dwalin.
“Balin?” Thorin demanded after their combined staring failed to garner any response from the other Dwarrow.
“Oh, well the letters they’re not for me.”
“They’re not?” Thorin interrupted.
“Shush, we just got him speaking don’t distract him now,” Dwalin hissed as he watched his brother’s attention wander back towards the stack of letters.
“Hmm, No they seem to be to a chap called Bilbo, I can see how they ended up here though, considering the state of the name.”
“And you’re’ reading them anyway,” Thorin asked ignoring the glare Dwalin sent him.
“Yes, I figured they’d give me a clue who he was and how to get his letters back to him.”
“And has it?” Thorin continued with his questioning.
“Well, I believe he may be a Hobbit living within the Shire. Although I’m not entirely certain which district he’s from but I figured once they make it to the Shire they can sort the matter out with their local knowledge.”
“And it took you a dozen letter to figure this out while also necessitating note-taking?” Thorin asked doubtfully looking at the scrawled notes beside Balin.
“Well no,” Balin admitted looking slightly shamefaced. “But they are rather interesting. They make note of farming practices and you have to admit we’re not known for our agricultural talents and a bit of insider information would only serve the community here.”
“What has any of this to do with cinnamon,” Dwalin burst out unable to keep silent when his original question had been ignored for so long.
“Cinnamon? Oh, yes there’s a rather good sounding recipe for boozy baked apples, apparently cinnamon gives it an added warmth, very good for driving the damp chill off,” Balin said after quickly consulting the recipe. “It apparently works best with apples which have been stored long over winter and otherwise not looking too appetising. They rather appealed to me.”
“And you wanted some spices to make your own,” Thorin guessed.
“Well yes, I also thought I might send some to this Bilbo fellow as an apology for reading all his correspondence. There is, from what I’ve read, a bit of a shortage in the Shire. I figured that it would travel better than the mushrooms, which while a delicacy to the Shire-folk probably shouldn’t be trusted to the postal service. After all, they managed to get internal messages from the Shire all the way to the Blue Mountains which is an incredible feat of managerial mismanagement”
“Mushrooms,” Thorin said flatly giving Balin an unimpressed look.
“Yes, there’s a great discussion about them and the excitement of the Tooks taking a rather large shipment of them just before the Thain’s birthday. There was a rather large amount of speculation about whether they were gifts or dinner.”
“Who or what is a Thain? And are all the letters about food?” Dwalin asked trying to figure out how they could have engrossed his brother so much. Ballin had never shown a particular interest in cooking.
“Really Dwalin, didn’t you pay attention in your lessons, the Thain is the defacto king of the Hobbits and apparently this Bilbo’s grandfather,” Balin scolded as he gestured towards the letters.
“You mean you’ve been reading the private correspondence of a prince?” Dwalin asked looking horrified at the thought. “How likely are they to retaliate? How bad will it be? Do I need to put the guards onto a war footing?” Dwalin pelted Balin with questions while looking moments from darting out the door to rally a response.
“Well, I figure they shouldn’t mind too much. They seem rather civilised and not given to warfare as a people. But still, a nice little apology gift should soothe any ruffled feathers.”
“Mushrooms,” furiously hissed Thorin, who by the looks of it, had missed the last part of the conversation. “Halflings like mushrooms.”
“Err, yes,” Balin replied uncertainly.
“You mean every time we went to their settlements and tried to trade our goods with them only to be turned away, we could have taken the sodding undergrowth and made a fortune instead?”
“Well yes, although we would have to be careful about not over saturating the market… But considering fervent excitement they instil in the letter writers that could be difficult.”
“Well then, mushrooms they want and mushrooms they’ll get. I became a Blacksmith to feed my people I’ll bloody well become a grocer too. Balin get some cinnamon, from the elves if you have to, might as well sweeten the deal,” Thorin muttered stalking out the room with a dark look.
“That went well,” Balin said watching Thorin depart.
“You think? Though It does raise the question of who’s got your letters, and could they be reading them, and gleaning information about us from them,” Dwalin said.
“Well,” Balin flushed. “They’re all in Khuzdul and I doubt they’ll contain any great secret even if they could be read.”
“These didn’t have secrets either but still they opened up a whole new avenue to us. Let’s hope yours didn’t do the same for somebody else,” Dwalin gave his brother a pointed look making him blush even more behind his beard before he turned to leave the room.
He wondered if even his brother sometimes forgot he was more than just a guard, that he was too trained to be an advisor and tactician for the Durin line. He shrugged the thought off, what did it matter his brother loved him and didn’t judge him for the choices they’d all made to stay alive after the damn dragon had taken their home.
At least this time things had turned out well, they had a possible trade that would bring in necessary funds to their barren tunnels and ease the burden on Thorin and Dis’ shoulders. Also, those boozy apples had sounded good. If all went well maybe they could treat themselves.